I am going to introduce myself because the odds are you haven’t heard of me. My name is Pablo Pappano, and in 2010 I made a documentary called Clickin’ for Love. I have loved movies since I was a young kid. I knew that the only thing I wanted to do when I grew up was to be a filmmaker. I went to film school without a back up plan and was certain I would be the star of my class by the time graduation came around.
I hit a road block in the first semester of my sophomore year. What, you might ask, was the road block…no money for school…poor grades? No, it was cancer. I found out I had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. I was derailed by the illness for over two years, but eventually I came charging back into film school. Having cancer made me a better filmmaker because it was a life experience that I could draw from for my movies. Like most student filmmakers, my whole life was stolen memories of other filmmakers’ movies. Sure I had funny experiences and friends that shaped my life, but the only ideas I had were riffs on other peoples stories – not my own. Throughout this time I was using the internet to meet women. This was before Match and eHarmony were major brand names in the industry – this was back in the days when AOL reigned supreme. I was always a shy person when it came to speaking with the opposite sex so the internet was an easy way for me to express myself. I didn’t have a thriving dating life in high school so I made up for lost time my college years and was a serial dater/dumper. After analyzing some of the strange personalities I was attracting / encountering on AOL, I realized that I was living the makings of a film.
For my thesis film, I made a documentary about my grandpa entitled Trinidad. I liked the idea of doing a doc because the naïve filmmaker in me thought it would be easier.
One of the things I learned in film school after producing my own films and others films was that you only need a small crew of people. The larger the crew, the more mouths you have to feed, and in film school you’re surrounded by other so-called directors so it’s tons of unwanted opinions and criticism. I’ve since designed my projects to be shot in locations that I have access to and with as small a crew and cast as possible.
In the modern film world, we need to think like this because the average public is not as inclined to spend their hard earned money on a film with no stars and a minimal budget.
My friends started talking about their own strange internet hook up stories, and I thought about getting my bros together under the influence of some alcohol and recording our grittiest dating stories. I loved this idea…no one else had made a film about internet dating especially in a documentary format. There still is not a dearth of films about the subject. A lot of my friends weren’t interested in telling their stories on film so I shelved the idea. One day I had the idea to put ads on Craigslist, and that’s how I found most of the people in the film.
I shot the film over a few months, but the total amount of shooting days is about a week. The editing was a whole other process that took over a year. My style of documentary filmmaking is to have an idea and to assemble the interviews and then find the structure in editing. I had 20 hours of footage to toil through to find what the structure of the film would be. Luckily, I had a great editor, Vance Crofoot. It helped to have another set of eyes and opinions because you get too attached to things that you know were either difficult to set up or expensive but have little or no value to the film. Clickin’ was both of our first documentary feature projects, and it’s by no means a perfect film, but I think we came away with a fun light-hearted doc.
One of the things you learn after you make the film is that there is a whole other battle that you are going to have to wage, and that battle is marketing. With this film, I tried to do it myself, which is really a waste of time unless you come from the marketing world. The smartest thing is to make your film for as cheap as you can and put a majority of your money into marketing / publicity and paying an aggregator to get your film on itunes.
I spent way too much money traveling to poorly attended film fests that didn’t help publicize my film one iota. There is merit in winning prizes and putting laurel leaf graphics on box art because this may persuade someone to purchase your film by setting your film apart as an award winner, but this doesn’t matter if no one sees the film.
The thing I have to come to realize is that however much you think you know about filmmaking, you will only learn more with each film. I think there is an old proverb or Buddist saying that the truly wise person knows they will never stop learning because they don’t know anything at all. The golden rule of indie filmmaking for me is just get your film made – there is no defined path you have to follow. The key is getting your film done by any legal means necessary – even if it means doing something out of your comfort zone like shooting a scene because you can’t find a cameraman to show up or taking an acting role in the film. The filmmaking process is hard. I can’t say it’s courageous to make a film – a better adjective would be foolish. Everybody now can make a film because equipment is a lot more affordable, but few of those finish their film, and even fewer of those films are really even good. If you’re going to be a filmmaker, do it because you love it and you have a desire that keeps you up nights to tell a story. The fame and fortune may come later or never at all, but the true reward has to be the ability to share your stories with an audience. Now finding that an audience is a whole other challenge…
Check out the review from FilmThreat here.
Purchase Clickin’ For Love here.
Pablo Pappano went to the film school at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where he directed the short films Sick (narrative) and Trinidad (documentary). He was a co-writer of the film Creepshow III for the segment titled “The Call Girl” for Taurus Films. Recently, Pablo directed a speculative commercial for eHarmony.com after being a longtime member. He currently works as the Vice President of Operations at his family’s exterior maintenance company and spends his free time pursuing his dream of making films.