Tuesday, August 16, 2011

31 Questions for New Filmmakers - Part IV

The fourth series of questions posed by Ted Hope deal with The Structure of the Business.

Is the film business fair? Why or why not? How do you make the apparatus work for you?

I’m going to pass on this question, as I think it is a personal question – not an industry question. It’s fair if you work hard and produce good material. I have scripts I think are amazing that haven’t broken through – do I blame the system?  No, it just hasn’t hit the right eyes yet. It has nothing to do with race, color, religion, sex, etc…

Is it the filmmaker’s responsibility to find and develop your audience? Why do you feel that way? How will you collaborate with your audience, and how won’t you?

Yes, it is.  Even if your film lands at a studio with an eight figure marketing budget – why would you abandon it when it needs you most? You can be out there on social media talking about it, engaging your audience, giving interviews, soliciting press, doing whatever you can to get eyeballs on your product. You can’t rely on anyone to do your job for you. Don’t regret anything.

I will make myself as available as I can to my audience. I am a pretty private person (this blog is fairly open, but if you know me – you know I’m very quiet, go about my business, etc…), but if you are a creator of any kind – you have to deal with the fact that you are now in the public eye and people may want to know about you, your life, etc… The best part about going to conventions and stuff isn’t talking about my book per se, it is just talking to like minded people and making connections. That’s really hard for me because I am not super out-going, but I’m open and excited about people. I’m not the type of person that looks down at the audience, I am my audience to a certain degree.  I’m a fan and I know what I want/expect as a fan – and hope to provide the same in return.

What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I can only answer this as an audience member myself.  I usually want one of two things – to escape life for an hour or two or to experience a new culture/society/part of the world. Yes, I think it is our responsibility to worry about that, only because if you don’t deliver on one of those two then why exactly are you telling your story?

Is it possible to sell out? What would that mean to you and would you like it to happen or not? What do you do to encourage the professional approach you want?

Yes, taking on any project for money.

Sometimes it is necessary to actually live and pay the bills.  As long as you are aware of this, and don’t ever forget it – you could be okay. John Sayles has made a career out of getting big bucks for studio writing work and then using that money to make his own movies. I’ve been broke for so long I don’t know what it is like to have money, so recently I put a movie into production as a cash grab.  It had also been 3 years since I have produced a film, so the clock was ticking. It was a necessity. I still want that film to be the best it can be and have made it my top priority. If I’m going to do something, I try to at least give it my all. I am pretty confident I won’t get sucked into being a sell out though.

If I was asked what was the most important advice I could give a filmmaker starting out, it would be “Try to manage your life so that you will feel as good about the film industry in fifteen years as you do now.” In your experience, is that true, and what can filmmakers do to achieve that challenge?

I don’t think I’m experienced enough to answer this question. I guess I can say that if I ever do this to make money, rather than because I love film – then yes, I would agree. 

What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

My early film life was more immersed in the festival world. I watched a lot of shorts and indies at festivals from college through grad school and my early film career, working at Snoot and looking for projects/directors. I found the short The Freak – by the director of the short Terra, which later became my first feature film as a producer, Battle for Terra, at a film festival.

I don’t spend much time at them now, but they are necessary curators of projects, especially now that everyone has access to a camera and editing equipment. Some  (eventual) mainstream movies start at small festivals and grow from there.  Where would those films wind up without that exposure or launching pad? 

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