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Posts Tagged ‘Travelin Trains’

Sunshine Superman

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here, but we’ve had some ups and downs in these changing media times. In fact, many days it’s felt like the photo above from the documentary “Sunshine Superman.” One Big Leap of Faith.

A special shout out to this heart racing doc “Sunshine Superman,” directed by Marah Strauch that Magnolia Pictures/Universal is releasing theatrically on May 22. The awe-inspiring story is about Carl Boenish, the father of the BASE jumping movement, whose early passion for skydiving and filmmaking led him to even more spectacular – and dangerous – feats of foot-launched human flight. I was the Line Producer for the Los Angeles portions of the film.
Nice mini review from Rolling Stone Magazine. In fact it’s been getting great reviews everywhere. See the trailer and follow the film on Facebook.

Another project I recently Line Produced/Produced was Nicholl Fellowship winner Alan Roth’s directorial debut “Jersey City Story” for Lexus. The dramatic short film is now available on the Lexus website, L Studio.

Our original comedy series “Love & Loathing: Adventures in Divorce Land” premiered February 14th through Mi Shorts distribution as part of Dailymotion The series questions if two middle-aged romantics can find true love flowering through the cracks of divorce? It’s pretty funny. Written and created by Tony Soltis (“The Shield”) and produced by myself, Tony and Mark Manos. I directed 3 of the episodes. The series stars Bonnie Burroughs and Christopher Hatfield. Love to hear your comments and thoughts. Watch it on the Love and Loathing Series site. Follow us on Facebook   Twitter @Divorceland

Inspired by these online showings and viral sharing, we’ve released some previous projects now for FREE online viewing. Many that I’ve written about on this site in the past. Check it out.

The Emmy Documentary on oil and the American men and women that make energy their business “Houston We Have A Problem” on Vimeo

My multi-award winning short narrative blues film, “Travelin’ Trains” Click on “Screening.” Also, the thought provoking short film I produced in 2005 starring Willie Garson and Misha Collins “The Crux”. Directed by Jeff Seckendorf​, Cinematography from Tom Houghton, ASC,​ Production Design from Edward L. Rubin.​ I think you’ll like both films.

The award winning 13 episode PBS series “Senior Year” on 12 young people in their last year of high school at Fairfax High School are now all available at a special Siteroll web site, SeniorYearShow . Also, from Displaced Films our documentary on race relations in the south “Displaced in the New South” continues to play on the wonderful preserve of documentaries on American roots, Folkstreams.

The documentary, “Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District” has been airing on PBS stations across the country since last May, 2014. The true stories of those hard working people in education; Teachers, advisers, students, etc. My favorite is the piece I directed on the janitor, Felix Lopez. Find us on Facebook for updates.

A television pilot “Kids2Kids” about children and their parents making a difference in their communities. Facebook

Enjoy and certainly spread the word! I promise to be back to the blog more often, but first you’ve got some watching to do!

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I am honored to be the featured filmmaker and to present my short film TRAVELIN TRAINS, this Friday, 8pm, June 4, 2010 as part of the RAW: Natural Born Artists event at the great Hollywood screening venue, CINESPACE.  RAW Artists is a multi-faceted arts organization showcasing handpicked artistic talents in the avenues of film, fashion, music, art, DJs, models, photography and performing arts. Each month there is a party event promoting the artists and their work.  It’s an invite only, cocktail affair.  If you want, you can order your tickets by following this link HERE.

They posted an interview with me on their site, but I wanted to take this opportunity to expand on some of those comments and offer direct links below.

Q- Tell us about yourself.

I’m a Filmmaker that’s been based in Los Angeles since 1994. Before that I lived and worked in Atlanta for 10 years. I was born in New England. I went to Emerson College.

Q- How did you first get started in film?
I started making Super 8 films when I was 10 years old. Lots of three minute in camera editing. I loved going to movies and would emulate the stories with my friends that we saw at the theater. Recently, I’ve reconnected with some of them on Facebook and it’s been fun to share these films from our youth. When I was in college I started shooting in 16mm and video. Haven’t stopped since.

Q- Tell us about TRAVELIN’ TRAINS

TRAVELIN’ TRAINS is a short 16mm black and white film I made a few years back (well, actually more then a few) about a young man in search of his father in depression-era Georgia and the blues music that both joins and separates them.  We shot it in Atlanta, grant supported. Most of the script was written in a local Atlanta blues club, “Blind Willies.”  I’m excited that people are going to get to see the film on a bigger screen, because these days it is mostly watched on DVD. I think it is the best example of my work as a filmmaker because unlike other projects I’ve done that have producers, actors, clients involved, all the decisions, both good and bad, were my own. I take full responsibility.

Here’s a youtube link to the Trailer for TRAVELIN’ TRAINS

And here’s a link to “Freight Train Blues” scene from the film.

Q- Any other films you’ve produced?
I now work professionally as a producer and director after more than twenty years as an Assistant Director for film and television. Not to say I wouldn’t AD again, if the right project financially came along. I still love to AD commercials, but you do a couple of long term projects and you fall out of the loop quickly.

I recently directed a five-camera DVD live concert of David Arkenstone and his new band, Mandala. A couple of years ago, I produced the live action segments to the EA video game, “Need for Speed: Undercover.”  Directed by Joseph Hodges and photographed by DP Jeff Seckendorf, you can see some clips on my company website, Unconventional Media.

TALES FROM THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF ELVIS continues its award winning film festival run recently winning Best Microbudget Feature Film at The Cannes Independent Film Festival in May. I produced this “shocking” true tale of a Catholic school girl in Las Vegas! Part “Canterbury Tales” meets “PeeWee’s Playhouse,” writer, co-director and lead actress Mercy Malick narrates, as a communal theater experience leeps off the stage and onto the streets of the City of Sin.

The acclaimed documentary on the USA domestic energy crisis that I produced with director Nicole Torre, HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM has also been playing the film festivals, including this week at The Barcelona International Environmental Film Festival and opening at the Downtown Independent in July. I also just returned from a great trip to Western Ireland after producing for writer/producer Diane Namm, a documentary-comedy hybrid,  WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE DINGLE.

Q- From where do you draw inspiration for your work?

I’m drawn to music projects. Music is a huge inspiration. I can’t play so maybe that’s why I love music so much, some of my best ideas happen when I’m at concerts. I also like travel, history and true stories. For some reason, I have never been interested in love stories.

Q- From start to finish, explain your process; what does a typical film-making day look like for you?
If I’m not working for someone else or shooting a project, then the ideal day starts with emails and reading web updates on Twitter. Lots of good leads and information so I have to watch out that I don’t get sucked in and spoil the whole day riding the internet highway. So, next thing I do is take a walk for an hour, listen to music, to clear my head for some writing. It can be writing a screenplay or writing a one-sheet pitch. Sometimes instead of writing, I’m editing a project. Sometimes I’m editing stuff I shot years ago. I’m convinced that something that you put aside at one point is the focus of your interest another time. Your old films are your assets. I’ve got lots of plans for my old footage.

In the evening, I like to have a glass of wine and read the newspaper. If the news doesn’t get me too angry, I check emails again, but sometimes I get lost on the internet trying to get more information. I don’t trust just one news source anymore. I’ve got to know the WHOLE story. At night, I either catch some live music or watch a movie or show on television. I’ve got a big pile of books that I want to read by my bed, but rarely get there early enough to get in some good quality reading. If I do, then I consider that to be an exceptional day.

Q- All time favorite film?
MODERN TIMES – Charlie Chaplin

Q- Are there any filmmakers–past or present–who strongly inform and influence your work?
There are many filmmakers that have influenced my work, but I’m most attracted to the filmmakers that try different styles, take some risks with different genres, sometimes successfully, other times not as much. I think a filmmaker is limiting themselves as an artist if they keep doing the same style over and over again. Stanley Kubrick, John Huston are good examples of directors that did different kinds of films. I think Clint Eastwood is proving to be a pretty diverse filmmaker.

Q- Are there any specific reoccurring themes or subjects that you explore and deal with most in your work?
Not really. As stated above I like diversity.

Q- Any previous films/collaborations that you are most proud of?
In 1999/2000, I co-produced with director/producer David Zeiger, the 13 part documentary series for PBS,SENIOR YEAR. We are about to release it on DVD and it’s amazing how after 10 years so many of these issues are still the issues of High School kids. It feels very contemporary. I wish more people had seen it and I hope with the DVD release they will. It was a pretty amazing series. We introduced a lot of cinema verite techniques, like diary cams, time lapse, that you see on most reality series now.

David is also talking about releasing on DVD the documentary we both produced and directed in 1995, DISPLACED IN THE NEW SOUTH.  The film explores the cultural collision between Asian and Hispanic immigrants and the suburban communities near Atlanta where they settled. It was the inspiration for the Indigo Girls song, “Shame on You.” You can see clips from our film in the music video. The interesting thing is the documentary covered issues still being debated in Arizona and the rest of the country.

That’s what I mean when I talk about filmmakers keeping their assets, their films. You never know when an interest will come again, look at TRAVELIN’ TRAINS.

Q- Why showcase with RAW?
Any opportunity to show some of your work on a big screen to a new audience is exciting. I’m honored to be a part of a show at a great venue with a group of artists I didn’t know before.

Q- Any current rising stars within the genre that you would recommend we look out for?
So many of the projects I’ve been involved with as a Producer lately have had limited funds. I wouldn’t make the commitment to help the Directors if I didn’t believe they were rising stars. I’m honored to have been able to help facilitate the directing visions of Mercy Malick, Diane Namm, David Zeiger, Nicole Torre, Stefan Rhys, Joseph Hodges, BrandU

But I should add, I still consider myself a rising star. I’d still like to direct a feature film. I’ve been trying to find financing for my narrative film, PRESS>PLAY and a couple of times we’ve almost had the money in place. In 2006, I was supposed to direct another feature. We had a cast and location and everything, but at the last minute, the money went dry. I’ve been developing a documentary film on Arborglyphs since 1992 with visual artist/musician Sandy Corley, entitled WITNESS TREES. Now that 3D programming for television is becoming a reality, there is renewed interest. So you never know where it’s going to come from. Just keep working on the projects that inspire you. I guess that’s the “artist” part of me. Thanks for having me.

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I am honored and excited to announce that the feature documentary that I produced with director Nicole Torre, “Houston We Have a Problem” has been invited to the Documentary Fortnight at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. This is a high profile event, so we hope to have a good crowd for both the 1pm and 3pm showings on February 20th, 2010.

For those of you that don’t know, “Houston We Have a Problem” is a feature film, shot on HD, about the history and future of US domestic energy policies beginning with the Wildcatter’s discovery of oil in the late 1800’s. The film premiered at AFI-DALLAS in March 2009 and has gone on to play at over a dozen festivals to critical acclaim, nationally and internationally, including the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam.

That following day, February 21st, the feature comedy that I produced, “Tales from the Catholic Church of Elvis” will be in competition at the Big Muddy Film Festival in Southern Illinois. I’m glad to have the film playing there since this is the very same film festival that I won my very first film award 22 years ago for “Travelin’ Trains” (Best Narrative Film) That film can now be viewed on IMDB.

I’m also excited to announce the world premiere in March of another comedy I produced, directed by Diane Namm, “Telemafia” at the Dingle Film Festival in Ireland.

In regard to upcoming projects, I am reviewing a few proposals, but like for most of us, funding is tight. I’m still trying to get my documentary feature “Witness Trees” and narrative feature “Press>Play” financed, but am also producing/line producing and Assistant Directing for other production companies again. I have also partnered with Jeff Seckendorf for commerical productions at Snaproll Films. Check out the body of work at the website.

Luckily, I also do have some post production rentals coming in to Unconventional Media through Stefan Rhys, a terrific editor. Check out his reel at www.CoffeeCartProductions.com We are also starting to see a return on the 4-hour DVD of the “BrandU – Conscious Entrepreneur Experience” presentation and talk show that I produced and directed through Unconventional Media last year. You can get a ten minute taste of the show at www.BrandU.com/FreeCEE

I also continue mentoring new filmmakers with the OneOnOne Film Training program and have been scheduled to teach another one of my week long workshops on Line Producing/PM/AD work in Rockport, Maine at the Maine Media Workshops in late June.

Looking forward to a productive 2010. As always, you can get updates at my website, EricMofford.com

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It’s a lot of time and energy to keep up your profile on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linkedin, Ning sites and dozens of other social networking sites. However, if you’re trying to make a living in the creative arts, be it an independent filmmaker, musician, artist, then you’ve got to look at it as part of the job.

Here’s just one recent example with my short film “Travelin’ Trains.” A few weeks back I notice Greg Sarni has become a Facebook friend with my sister Lindsay Mofford. Now I remember Greg, not well, but I remember drinking beer and hanging out with him at Emerson College. We reconnect, become online friends. On his Facebook site are photographs and notes about his days running the Boston Blues Festival. I mention “Travelin’ Trains,” my short blues film about a boy in search of his father in the Depression-era South. It’s full of traditional, acoustic blues. He wants to see it, especially because one of the stars is Chicago Bob Nelson.  A few years back, Bob collected the Blues Trust Lifetime Achievement Award. Greg is a fan of his music and makes mention of the prize and film in his online newsletter, Blues Trust. He also adds the Cacchi link where you can see my film for free.  The film gets a jump in views including a recommendation on Twitter by the famous Ash Grove bar in Los Angeles. I see the text and Twitter back that we need to do a documentary on the history of one of the most important folk clubs in the country. Discussions and developments begin. Thanks Greg.

Do you see where I’m going with all this? At Unconventional South in Nashville, we are constantly talking to an incredible roster of talented musicians who know that the old ways of creating an audience no longer apply.  Brian Adams knows this and is developing the network television series “Stone Cold Sober in Music City” with an online home base. You can read more about that venture in a previous blog.  We’ve also been exploring that with Billy Falcon, his daughter Rose Falcon and The Sowing Circle on Ustream.  A wonderful write up at indiemusictech.com covers what a musician has to do these days to get their music heard.  It was also a big issue of discussion at the SXSW music conference as referenced in Wired magazine.

Mashable.com is a wealth of information of guidelines, with success and failure stories of what works for artists and entrepreneurs. The write up about Ning job networks and entrepreneur networks are two of my favorite resources. How do I know when there is a new article? I follow them on Twitter. When a new story is online, they’ll put a link on Twitter. I can access it if I’m interested. This process is exactly the same for all us artists. You release a new song, photograph, film, art show and let people know it is there. The fans decide if they want to access it or not. They hear or see it and your network spreads the word. If they’re not spreading the word then something isn’t grabbing their attention.

Now everyone has their own set of rules of what and how they want to communicate via the web. I use MySpace mostly for listening to new bands and keeping track of gigs via bulletins. I reserve Facebook for my actual friends, mainly because I’ve got some friends on there that I’ve known since Junior High School.  I’d rather not share those old stories with someone I just met at a networking event. In those cases, I stay linked to the business contacts, new and old, via LinkedIn. And for me, Twitter is all about the RSS feed. I’m following you because either I like what you have to say, play, write or communicate. If you’ve got a suggestion, I want the link. I hope those that follow me feel the same way about my “tweets.”

Now I know there are dozens of other social networks including “Ning” sites like my Brother-in-Laws site, All Hands on Board, which can be very specialized. I just don’t feel like I need to be on all of them.  It might look like some sort of desperate need to be noticed. You see, there is a fine line and only you can decide what is needed to get the word out and what is too much.  We each make our own rules and that, my online friend, has got to be one of the greatest things about social networks.

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rippedbannerThe music/reality television pilot “Stone Cold Sober…In Music City” is picking up steam and it looks like we’re headed into production later this Spring.  I’m excited because this is a project I’ve really wanted see get off the ground ever since Michael Catalano introduced me to Brian Adams and Jared Blake over six months ago.  In fact, it was my trip to Nashville to meet these guys and the band, The Levees, last summer that I decided to open Unconventional South.  I’ve always loved the music energy of Nashville, ever since I was working there doing music videos with Think Pictures (Martin Kahan and Venetia Mayhew) in the late ’80s and early ’90s.  I’m glad to be back.

Check out the Stone Cold Sober Music website and you’ll hear what an amazing roster of musicians creator Brian Adams has gathered for this series.  Anyone that has seen my film “Travelin’ Trains” knows my love of Americana roots music and with this show, we plan on delivering not only the music, but the stories of the struggles to get the music heard.  When talking about “Stone Cold,” I keep referring to documentarian James Szalapski’s late 70’s film, “Heartworn Highways,” which followed artists like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, Steve Young and Steve Earle before any of these guys were household names.  They’re all so young, sitting around the living rooms and small studios, smoking cigarettes and drinking, playing music and espousing the importance of the back-to-basics movement  in Country.  This is intercut with performances by the Charlie Daniels Band and David Allan Coe in sparkly outfits.  I think of “Stone Cold Sober…In Music City” as a retelling, but now it’s thirty years later.  The show will touch on all the dramatic aspects of a musician’s life— including the secrets, challenges, competitiveness, successes and failures.  The struggle to get your music heard has not changed, only the musicians.

Brian Adams has been the catalyst in keeping the momentum of this project moving forward.  Unlike so many good ideas that fall away without a champion, Brian has lead the charge and continues to ignite interest in the possibilities of the show.  Adams comes from a financial background and has always specialized in managing projects from the development stages, but I’ve worked with many that call themselves “producers” and I truly believe Brian has found his calling.

Brian recently brought on Jennifer Rachidi, Owner and Brand Developer for TRUST, to provide promotion and branding.  The plan now is to line up shows throughout the Southeastern United States for Spring 2009.  The reality tour series targets a wide range of venues, sponsors, and fans.  As Brian said in the Press Release, “I felt drawn to expose the public and fans to the secrets and developments of a singer/songwriter on their way to a star career. It’s the untold and unseen sides of a performer that will be exposed.”  Audiences will be able to watch clips and interviews via online streaming, adding comments and ideas, during this phase of the production.  Public involvement at this stage will be the key to the success of the completed show.  Check out the MySpace site to hear the music and become a Friend.  It’s going to be a wild ride.

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Catholic Church of Elvis

Catholic Church of Elvis

The Sundance Film Festival of 2009 wraps up this weekend.  I almost went this year.  I even purchased a festival pass, but after watching the Inauguration Tuesday on television, I don’t think Park City, Utah was the place to be this week!  Of course, I didn’t know that last month when I changed my plans to attend the festival.  Family and work commitments forced me to pay out the 20% cancellation fee.

I will admit, I was also a little disappointed that none of the three films I produced were accepted this year into the festival.  Yes, I did fantasize about walking the slope of Main Street with three Sundance Premieres.  I suspected the quirky, very funny, but very low budget, DVD indie feature “Tales from the Catholic Church of Elvis” written, co-directed and starring Mercy Malick was not really the kind of film the Festival schedules anymore, especially when it’s still a work in progress.  And we did receive a wonderfully supportive letter for the uncompleted documentary, “Houston, We Have a Problem” that I’m producing with Producer/Director Nicole Torre.  The film is about the oil crisis from the independent oilman’s perspective and their exploration into alternative sources of energy.  Sundance’s loss, the issue is too important for us to wait a full year to resubmit.  The big surprise for me was that the terrific short film “The Sacrifice,” written and directed by Diane Namm and starring Chris Mulkey, Darby Stanchfield, Jon Lindstrom and Molly Quinn, didn’t get in.  It’s “Big Love” gone bad.  Maybe the issues of incest and polygamy were too close to home.

Of course, I’ve never really had great luck with Sundance, even back when it was the USA Film Festival in the mid-80’s.  It was one of the few festival’s that rejected “Travelin’ Trains.”  I’ve entered my script “Press>Play” a few times, both for the Screenplay lab and the Producing lab, never being accepted.  We’ve had a little more positive feedback for the project “Witness Trees,” but mostly because of the involvement of American Indian visual artist/musician Sandy Corley.

I know this reads like I’m very jaded about Sundance, but I’ve always believed in their mentoring philosophy.  What I find the most exciting these last few years is how they’ve embraced new media to communicate and educate.  You really no longer have to go to Sundance to enjoy the festival.  The homepage has videos and audio podcasts each day from Park City.  They’ve now added on Itunes short festival films and podcasts of panel discussions.  It’s a great resource for anyone that is considering making an independent film, in fact these days, (since hardly anyone is buying films any more), it might be the best part of Sundance.

The Sundance Festival website now has a section entitled, “Storytime,” for people to write memories of past festivals.  Fascinating, to see how things have changed through the years.  I’ve got my own memories, some very good.  My first time at the festival was in 1989 for just one day to see the screening of “Daughters of the Dust” directed by Julie Dash.  We had all worked very hard, for little money, on that film and really wanted to see how audiences would react.  I was the Location Manager and was extremely proud that the film won Best Cinematography that year.  In January 1993, I bought a pass to the festival for the first half, but stayed for the full 10 days.  I had been involved in the very early stages of prep for Victor Nunez‘s film “Ruby in Paradise,” produced by my friend and “Travelin’ Train” producer Keith Crofford.  When the buzz started to build for the film and I had the opportunity to escort a beautiful, young actress named Ashley Judd to screenings, I decided to stay.  A wonderful week of films capped by “Ruby” winning the Grand Jury Dramatic award.  I had such a great time that I went the following year with unpleasant results.  I had no pass, was just another filmmaker looking for attention, couldn’t get into any parties and froze my ass off.

I avoided the festival for over 10 years, partly because I moved to Los Angeles and didn’t see why I needed to go to Park City to make contacts.  In 2005, I had some cash and decided to go just for fun.  Things certainly had changed.  More venues, more people, more advertising and more traffic.  I shared a condo with DP Marty Ollstein, caught dozens of movies, sometimes 5 in one day, (I’ve since decided 4 is my limit).  Heard a great debate between Werner Herzog and Frederick Wiseman on the definition of “Cinema Verite”.  Saw people I kept promising to meet up with in Los Angeles, saw some old New York friends and made many new ones.  Saw an amazing concert by Yo La Tango.  I even went snowboarding.  My one and only time.  Even on the Park City powder, I feel that throwing myself up and landing directly on my back, on concrete, would be more pleasant.

This year, I’m there virtually, checking out the resources available online, catching some short films and staying warm.  For Unconventional Media, maybe that makes more sense.

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It’s close to Thanksgiving, but I’m not thankful, I’m distracted.  I’m “reworking” the budget for my script “Press>Play” from 3.5 million down to 1 million.  “Press>Play,” is an erotic journey of obsession, a drama about manipulation. Paul Beck is a video vulture, exaggerates news stories, edits images and facts to generate entertainment. Vivian DeBeche is an aspiring actress with little talent, playing out roles from old movies. A modern day couple that communicates, emotional and sexually, using a camera and Internet voyeurism as their tools.  I wrote the first draft in 1990.  At that time it was more science fiction, then slice of life.  Check out the website, PressPlayMovie.com.

When talking about new media and unconventional films, I think this project fits the bill.  So does the producer at Blue Horseshoe Productions, just not at 3.5 million, not in today’s economy, not if you’re making a non-genre independent film.  I’m sure you’ve heard the stories, they’re grim.  Seems every day there is another article in the Hollywood Reporter or Variety about the economy taking it’s toll on making independent films.  In the Sunday, November 23rd issue of the Los Angeles Times, Rachel Abramowitz writes how as funding gets scarce, filmmakers must become more creative.  Last week at the American Film Market (AFM) everyone looked dazed and disappointed.  Few people were buying.  I guess this talk of how difficult it has become to sell an indie film started with CEO of The Film Department (and former President of Miramax) Mark Gill’s now famous “the sky is falling” speech at the Los Angeles Film FestivalIndiewire still has it posted up on their website.  Basically, Gill lists Paramount folding Paramount Vantage, Warner Brothers closing Warner Independent Pictures and Picturehouse, many other smaller companies laying off employees or closing their doors as just a small sampling of the dying breath of indie film.  The glut of films and high costs of advertising are also destroying the business.  In a world with too many choices, companies can’t risk the marketing money on most movies.  Now, the credit crunch has further squeezed the independent filmmaker.  Many banks have just stopped giving money to films.

So what is someone that has a project like my feature, “Press>Play” to do.  Well, one of the things Gill believes has hurt independent movies is all the other forms of alternative entertainment that exist today, iPods to Xboxes to Tivos to YouTube videos and excellent cable television shows.  Well, isn’t that the Unconventional Media mantra.  If we can’t beat them, let’s join them.  That’s what makes a film like “Press>Play” so perfect for this day and age.  It’s a film that uses these alternatives as part of its story.  We will also use this new media to promote and distribute.  It just won’t be made in Los Angeles because there are no financial incentives like there are in most of the other States.  As I chip away at the budget, I’ve got to make a bunch of compromises, location being one of the first.  It’s depressing, but I want to see the film get made.

In the October 30 issue of indiewire, Anthony Kaufman writes about the cash crunch and the difficulty of raising funds, but some producers are still getting movies made, and new financiers have appeared.  He believes the real problem is in distribution.  There just aren’t as many places to go anymore and the distributors that do still exist are being very careful.  That’s what I was seeing at AFM.  No risk taking.  And why should they, not when it takes a huge publicity and advertising budget, sometimes more then it cost to make the movie, to get seats filled in a theater.  Certainly, the distribution strategy can’t be that your film is going to win at Sundance and then get picked up, because even some of the winners are not playing theatrically anymore.  Independent distributors are even promoting the idea that getting your feature film on the Internet is better for your film then a theatrical run.  Yikes, how can our investors make their money back?

Mark Gill believes “if you decide to make a movie budgeted under $10 million on your own tomorrow, you have a 99.9% chance of failure.”  Thankfully, Stacy Parks offers some more positive solutions through her terrific organization, Film Specific.  It is her belief that any budget over 5 million needs a name attached and studio backing, so keep the budget low and hire up and coming actors, terrific, future names.  In fact if you’re lucky, maybe they’ll be a name by the time your film is completed.  I found it interesting that she warns against shooting DV tape because of the difficulty to sell the film overseas.  An Independent film has such a slim chance of success without global sales, so this is important information.  As indicated in previous posts, I’ve become a huge proponent of the RED camera which I think may change up these odds and still keep the budget low.

Parks also warns against inflated numbers, keep the sales projections realistic.  It is very unlikely that your independent film will make millions, so don’t lie to your investors.  You just want to show that the film will make a profit.  This can be done by finding niche markets on-line and elsewhere.  If you want to do the work, you can also self distribute, which has a much better chance of higher return.  I’ve been experimenting with this idea recently with my short film, Travelin’ Trains.  Searching out the other train websites, fansites, etc and leaving a link to the website for my film.  It seems to be working.  I think Arin Crumley and Susan Buice did this brilliantly with their Slamdance feature film winner, “Four Eyed Monsters.”  They showed the film at festivals, created websites, even edited the film into webisodes for YouTube.  Their experience is really a how-to on self distribution, too bad they didn’t make much money.

So I’m now back to reworking the budget.  It’s a lot of work.  I guess Mark Gill is right, “it’s not enough to have access to the moviemaking process. Talent matters more.”  I’ve had great reactions to the screenplay, many envision a good film.  Now, if I could only get the damn thing made and seen, it will be worth the 18 years I’ve spent developing the project.

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