Monday, September 23, 2013

There's no right way to make a film.....right?

~Wow! Wrote this a month ago and totally forgot to post it! At the time there was a lot of articles floating around about how to make films for your audience so I wrote this. Although I feel this will always be relevant anyway so, enjoy!~

It's been a while since I've written a post. I somehow thought I'd be able to finish post production on a feature, work, run a fundraising campaign, and still find time to update the blog! Time hasn't been afforded to me freely enough to update regularly but something has been bugging me and I just have to get it out there.

It seems lately I've been hearing a lot about crowd sourcing projects and writing for a known audience in order to get funding for your projects and insure it has a life after its made. Now don't get me wrong I find this very interesting as a social experiment and it seems like a viable business strategy for many kinds of films but not as a valid method of creating ALL film. I'm curious if other disciplines view this as a good thing, but I'm concerned with filmmaking, so this is why I feel it could hold back progress in the long run. 

Collaboration is key in any group endeavor and filmmaking is no exception. I feel some of the most amazing discoveries we find as storytellers are those we stumble upon with our collaborators. The thing I find disturbing about tailoring a project to a group or creating the film by committee is the loss of any singularity in the project. When we collaborate on a film we might have a great conversation with the the DP or a production designer and an idea will come out of that and will vastly improve the way the story is being told that might never have happened. This is awesome and some of my favorite moments making films and moments in the films I've made have happened this way and its a miracle. 

Now on the other side of the coin if there's an idea proposed by someone on set, and lets say everyone loves it, but the director doesn't feel it goes with the themes of what their trying to do. Remember the director keeps the whole story, themes, and pace of the picture in their head and every decision they make serves what they are trying to achieve. Traditionally the director or producer, can veto the idea and continue with what they feel will tell the story better. Analogously, if things start being made by committee to serve an end and all those people that like that idea think it should stay, then it does. Who's to say what idea is better, that's not what concerns me. I'm afraid we'll loose our singular voices. If a mob is making a film then the ideas in that film might be diluted and generalized to cater to a mass of people. Sound familiar? This is the same way that some Hollywood blockbusters are made. Executives try to make films that will appeal to everyone so they can sell as many tickets as they can. In the process we are presented with a safe copy of every other watered down blockbuster lacking vision. 

If this starts to happen with independent films just because we need the money to make them I fear we will loose those unique voices that independent film has always fostered. Sometimes we need those voices to be reminded of different perspectives and keep our views open. When everyone says something at once all we hear is noise and thats what can happen if this becomes the new norm. Sure this will benefit certain projects and if your film organically has a built in audience of course market to them, but catering your writing to a predetermined audience just doesn't seem genuine to me. If you follow the truth in your story audiences will respond to that and the films that have always stood out to me are the ones that have a unique voice and make me see something from a new perspective. 

So lets not be afraid of telling the stories we want to tell. We make indie films because we want to share our perspective not conform to everyone else's. Sometimes I feel its a method of control for the current gatekeepers who seem a little too scared to hand over the keys to the new generation. When we start to make films for a predetermined audience we are basically going down the road of Hollywood, no? 

Again, there are totally films and genres and projects that this kind of thing is really awesome for, I'm not disputing that. I'm disputing the idea that this is the only way to move forward in all independent film. Remember anyone can make a film and put it out there. The democratization of film doesn't mean our tastes should be democratized. I mean it works okay for governments to run things (debatable) but not for artistic expression. So instead of making five films with all the same voice, lets make 500 films with independent voices.

Make what you want gorilla filmmakers, it will be beautiful in its singularity. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Oliver Stones got stones!

Oliver Stone talks about his methods of filmmaking.

I'm steeped up to my head in post production so when reading this article I was really interested in a section under the Iraq war were he basically sums up why we made our film Brooklyn Unemployed. (nothing to do with the war) It represents a part of our social class that we don't like to think about because its depressing, but there are great stories to be told in this slice of societal pie.

He says;

"In America, that's why more and more subject matter is completely remote from reality, because we can't deal with reality. Reality is too tough. Many people have said this, I'm not the first, but how many films have you seen about unemployed people? Not that people want to be depressed, but maybe we could find a way to show pictures about people who are actually in our economy, blue collar or white collar, and they're working, and we'd like to see their struggles, but in a way that's entertaining and that lifts us and that makes us see something that we don't normally see in the daily newspaper that grinds us down."

Check out the full article here

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Game Changer for Film Investment ?

Slated has created a website for investors and filmmakers alike. Five years in the making the site mirrors the real world of film investment but streamlines it for film investors on the web. Seems like it could be a great asset to get filmmakers connected to serious investors. Now you just have to either be invited or hang on the wait list until you've proven your metal.

Check out the article over at no film school

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Being unemployed in "Brooklyn Unemployed"

After sitting through the rough cut of "Brooklyn Unemployed," as a test before the actual test screenings, I was thinking about where to possibly start with the influences blog post for the film. It's tricky because this film came about from a need to work and also kind of as a reaction. Every script I tried to get produced the money would fall through at some point, or we'd have half the budget but couldn't get the rest and it just never lined up perfectly. I started reading a lot about no-budget filmmaking at the nofilmschool blog and thought a no-budget film could be something I could get into. Plus if all else failed at least I'd be honing my craft or getting some experience.

So I took a small investment left over from one of my failed projects (with the consent of the investor of course) and bought as much equipment as I could. Then came the hard part, actually shooting something!

I decided to do a series of three shorts and tie them into a feature that would explore three different NY experiences from three different characters points of view. We shot the first one which is the short I talked about in an earlier post, "Follow the Woman." The next was about an unemployed comic artist who can't get any work done on his comic. I wanted to cast my long time friend Tommy Busch who really is a cartoonist as well as a general jack of all arts. Once we started shooting we just kept on going, and the project morphed into this feature made with the aid of many unemployed or underemployed filmmakers just wanting to work on stuff.

We worked from an outline as opposed to a script which really freed us up from being locked into any one idea or specific dialogue. Coming from film school and learning a structured method of filmmaking this felt quite liberating in a way. We ended up shooting a couple days a week over three months including a hiatus after hurricane Sandy postponed a trip to Texas to shoot the last act of the film (for another blog post).

Stay tuned for a lot more postings about the film as we have test screenings coming up soon and are getting ready to shoot a post production fundraising campaign. Gorilla, no budget filmmakers, lets do this!

     Anna Nordeen and Tommy Busch in "Brooklyn Unemployed"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Influences of films: "Follow the Woman"

I've been thinking a lot about where the ideas for projects come from lately. I think all this chatter about the film business dying has got me trying to remember why we even deal with it in the first place.

I remembered why I wanted to make the short film "Follow the Woman." Not too long ago while reading Richard Brody's book "Everything is Cinema," recalling the history of Jean Luc Godard's filmmaking, I read an interview he gave. To sum it up, Godard explained he felt women could not create art or philosophically contemplate our existence because of her unavoidable compulsion to have children. I thought this was astounding to say the least. From my perspective this was preposterous, if anything I feel a woman's ability to create life would give her a distinct intuitive advantage into understanding it. Nonetheless I was intrigued how brazen Godard was and how women artists were viewed at the time. I felt compelled to explore this view, and this is how "Follow the Woman," was born.

The story is about a man and woman having an affair, after having sex they simply have a conversation. I gave the man Godards perspective and the female character the opposite. It's an homage to that era and Godards style and was really fun to make.

We shot two days in the summer in a really old NYC apartment with no AC. Photographed by the wonderful AFI fellow Kay Hung and sound recorded by Ryan DeRosa. The film has been sitting on the side while we shot and edited the feature "Brooklyn Unemployed." So we are just now starting post production so look for more stills, bios, and footage soon!

It's always interesting to look back at the seed of an idea and see how the project evolves to its finish. What are some of the things that inspired your work?

The State of the Film Biz

So it seems after Soderbergh's speech on the film business going to shit there has been a lot of follow up about it online. Some big folks (indie folks) are finally admitting the business isn't all its cracked up to be anymore.

Check out a few links below. 

Starting with Soderbergh's speech itself of course.

Ted Hope chimed in with a list of 17 things you should now about the business that should influence your behavior. He pretty much talks about how a sustainable life cannot be had anymore as a filmmaker and proposes a few things you should know to help you navigate through this business, and gives you a warning about how this might make you feel too. 

"WARNING: taking any of these points out of context, could create unnecessary fear or depression. If you want to tackle reality, you need to know what ground you walk on.  Some truths are hard to accept but once you do, you can move forward and to a different place.  Adding Film Biz realities to Culture truths, and building Best Filmmaker Practices on those understandings could provide a Design For Sustainable Collective Creation.  Or at least that’s this Hope’s hope."

This is good advice if you want to survive as a filmmaker in the business as it stands now, but propagating the system is no way to change it for the future of cinema. Our reality is what we make it so lets actually make the films we think no one will want to watch but secretly wish we could make, no safety net, no marketing talk, just make what you want and put it out yourself and see what happens maybe? 

This leads me to a wonderful interview with Francis Ford Coppola. Somehow I missed this article when it first came out but its relative to the state of film talks because its an ideal that creators can forget about when a whole lot of numbers are thrown at them.

All of these guys make great points within their articles but what Francis Ford Coppola has to say about art just resonates. 

Soderbergh's address

Ted Hopes 17 Things

Francis Ford Coppola: On Risk, Money, Creative Collaboration

How do you feel future filmmakers will be able to sustain themselves? 

Friday, May 3, 2013

On Soderbergh's state of film address

After watching the state of film address from Steven Soderbergh at the 56th SFFF I immediately sunk into a deep depression. Cinema is dead? Does this mean everything I've done to prepare for a career in film has been for nothing and now I have to move to Iowa and sell oriental rugs for the rest of my life? How could this have happened? There must be a way forward.

Soderbergh's address was brilliant in the way it laid out why everything seems to be going to pot with specific details and numbers to back it up. Its all there and it makes complete sense. So why was I left with a feeling of despair after listening to this address? I should have felt motivated because of the transparency of it all, yet it had the opposite reaction in me. Then I remembered something he said that gives him hope.  He said, "while we sit here, somebody out there somewhere is making something cool, that we’re going to love, and that keeps me going." This fucking terrified me! If someone as respected and successful and forward thinking as Soderbergh hopes someone else is doing something awesome out there, then we truly are fucked.

I started to think about hope as a basic idea. Hope is wonderful if we are also active in seeking out something we are hopeful for; a new direction in government, a new way of distributing films, a better job. However from my no-budget filmmaker perspective with the minimalist of resources, hope can be a dangerous word. It makes it easier for us to leave it in other people's hands. We do this all the time, we make our films and send it off to festivals and "hope for the best!' We send it to whatever connects we have and "hope someone likes it!" In all this we are still leaving the power to do something about our careers in the hands and tastes of someone else. Going back to that amazing new thing someone out there is doing, I sure as shit hope so but I have the feeling most people are making something they think some festival or executive or whatever connect they have might want to see. I mean lets face it, we all want our shit to be seen. So of course we should still send our films around but continue to move forward as if we are the only ones that get it done.

Maybe what needs to change is filmmakers definition of success. So maybe films will play to smaller audiences and we'll get less money back, so what. If we change our standards of what we expect a successful filmmakers life to be we'd focus more on getting more films out there and less time trying to get money back to sustain an impossible standard. Of course this means less eyes on our films but at least they would exist to be seen at all.

Don't get me wrong, what the leader's in the independent film community are doing is wonderful and they should keep doing it. They have the resources to put things in motion and hope for the best. Us no-budget filmmakers can't just wait around until someone figures something out. All those models are designed for large returns to sustain a shrinking but even still bloated machine.  Hope, but continue moving forward at any cost, pave the way for the new era of cinema that for some strange reason no one can define.

What I'm suggesting is that cinema as defined by Soderbergh no longer belongs to that ilk of filmmaker. It can belong to the blu-collar filmmaker who just keeps making work and doesn't need a large return on their films. Hell, maybe everyone should move to smaller communities that need help cultivating a film or art scene and build our bases there instead of hanging in the already cultured centers of this country. At least that way we'd be creating audiences for future generations of cinema and maybe even save it in the long run.

So I say we reevaluate how we make films and distribute them all together. Make smaller films so we don't have to convince some executive how good something is. Just make it, live humbly, and deprive the studios of as much talent as possible. Now the work to be done is to figure out how to even make enough money to eek by.

Don't resign yourself to hoping someone else is going to figure it out for you. There's help along the way but by large its up to you to get your film seen.

Okay, so now I'm going to send my film to every festival and secretly hope it gets in.