(In Order of Page Views)
Film Courage would like to thank all artists who have written FilmCourage.com articles and Q & A’s in 2014. We are incredibily grateful for the sharing of their creativity. Honorable mentions (in order of views) go to Sean Hartofilis, Elizabeth Sandy, Rebecca Weaver, Russ Pond (tied) / Mark Marshall (tied), and Evan Kidd.
Below are the Top 10 Most Read posts for 2014 (in order of page views)…
ROBERT SAITZYK – The Last Beat
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Film Courage: What do you believe is society’s fascination with tragic, public figures (giving way to the ’27 club’ and other glorification of self-destruction)?
Robert Saitzyk: I hate to say it, but I think it’s maybe something as morbid as being tied to us as spectators in a Roman coliseum watching someone, especially if that someone is a known figure, get ripped to shreds by a lion or tiger, or whatever. American culture is obsessed with death in a very unhealthy way, and strangely the modern media, just exacerbates all of this — it doesn’t explore any deeper meaning to people’s unfortunate downward spirals, depression, or why they are self-destructing, it only wants to mention it repeatedly, 24/7 on every and any platform available.
There’s a difference when a culture wants to honor, or is saddened, by the passing of a public figure, especially if it’s an artist, than when it just wants to display the body, so to speak, for all to see. We have a line from the script that is straight from a poem our character Jay writes — "You all want my bones, not my brain…"
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KYLE FRITZ VALLE – Mirage
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Film Courage: Where was the shoot? How long was it?
Kyle Valle: We shot ‘Mirage’ in Santa Clarita, CA at Army Trucks, Inc. This being an extremely high-end facility, handling mainly studio features such as ‘Independence Day,’‘Scorpion King,’ and ‘Terminator 3’ and 4 just to name a few. We were only able to secure it for one day, so we had about 7 hours to shoot the entire film; this made it imperative that I organize the shoot down to the minute, building in time for snags. The crew was incredible and made a huge difference in us staying on schedule. Just like anything else in this world that involves team work; your only as good as your weakest link.
TOM WILTON – ProjectBootleg.com
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(Excerpt from Tom Wilton’s post)
But instead, with my year of shooting movies, I realized that I had to think about making films differently if I were to get it all done. So, when it comes
to no-budget features, whilst we might not have the money and the equipment we want, we can more than make up for it with time and passion. It might have taken me a few goes to get the formula right (for me at least), but being able to look at the film, writing it as it was coming together was a blessing that money couldn’t provide.
I know that if I hadn’t worked and tweaked Let It Go as we went, it wouldn’t have turned out the way I wanted it to. Beyond even Pale Horses or Nina Nobody, I’ve made too many films in the past that have had the pressure of time attached because, well, that’s how you do it. And yes – I can see the irony – I had the false time pressure to make my third film inside of a year.
However, in writing, shooting and cutting, I allowed myself to refine it without disrupting everybody’s lives after the fact, or worse, abandoning the film for it being not what I was hoping for.
ALEXIA ANASTASIO – Little Fishes
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Let’s try a few scenarios for taking action:
Action Item 1: Create daring and interesting work. Take risks in your art and be as open and relatable as possible. Get really specific with your WHY.
My example, I asked myself: Why do I make films?
Adventures In Plymptoons! (now on Hulu), my first feature documentary, I put together because I wanted to learn and show artists a success story, animator Bill Plympton and how he survives and is a full time artist. He was a great example of someone who is daring with his work and makes a living from his art. Bill’s studio in New York employs 90% women artists (and always has been true) to make his animation come to life. People who found out that I directed Adventures In Plymptoons! were shocked to find out that a woman was directing, and in the piece you can see just how many women shape Bill’s life and work. Like Bill, I must get up ever morning and create. That is what a creative person does. And guess what? Why? Because it is a must. So when you come to your WHY and the answer is clear – I MUST – that empowers you. No more excuses. You have to create it. Now you MUST show it to the world. Yes, I admit, this scares me, too. But your audience will notice that need.
JOHN CHI – Tentacle 8
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Months go by. Years can go by. After hundreds of unsolicited e-mails later, sitting in your apartment waiting for that e-mail to magically appear in your inbox, you have a choice to make. You can continue to wait for that producer, financier, actor, screenwriter, agent, “you fill in the blank” person, to give you permission to move forward, or you take things into your own hands.
How badly do you want it?
GOING TO FILM SCHOOL
I left a moderately successful career as a Management Consultant to go to film school at USC, and quickly realized that crafting interesting stories based on made up stuff wasn’t that different than the movie business. For me, the greatest thing about film school, no question, was the people I met. It’s a place where you’ll meet your future partners and collaborators, and an opportunity to figure out what kind of filmmaker you want to be. I met one my closest friends and my future producing partner, Casey Poh, in film school. Together we developed a shared language, and a common set of experiences that I think all film school students can relate to. Team building is one of the most important things you can do, and while film school can’t teach you how to do it, it will give you a few opportunities to see what kind of collaborator you are, and who you work well with. This is tremendously valuable, maybe more so than any student film you may or may not make.
KIRSTEN RUSSELL – Universal Language
And here’s the reason why every filmmaker should try guerrilla filmmaking once…because it tests your boundaries of needing to be safe. To be in control. To make a "good" film…because potentially this could suck. It makes you sit in whatever your fears are, whether they are not being creative enough or talented enough or having everyone think you’re an idiot because you are just good old fashioned lost. And I mean that literally and figuratively. Lost, because you don’t know how you’re going to battle the forces of nature. And lost cause you don’t know where the hell you are. And really lost because you wonder what you’re doing with your life that you ended up here…and maybe this was a really bad idea. Funny enough, this is a movie that follows a guy who is lost…literally and figuratively. And I guess I needed to be just that to shoot it.
In the end, all one can do is simply "show up" with all the carnival funny-house-of-mirrors reflecting your contorted images, whether they be true or not, and just shoot the stupid thing.
And I did. And you will. Because the alternative means the distortions where correct. And f*ck that.
If your production is REALLY short of production funds, you can always go gray. Ever notice how some camera stores advertise new gear for WAY less that the others? That’s because it’s usually what is called “gray market’, meaning this product was designed for sale overseas and has been imported by someone other than an authorized distributor or agent.
Gray market cameras often have no factory warranty and receive no support from the manufacturer so you won’t be able to get firmware or software updates.
But they are new products and usually much, much cheaper than the same items sold through the manufacturer and their representatives. But, buyer beware!
There are, of course, many other ways I teach my students on how to stretch their production dollars when making a documentary film. For more information please visit DocumentaryFilmClass.com.
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Sarah: Research and observation. Men and women have different communication styles and motivations. Sometimes, I’ll call up a guy friend and get his insight as if he was the character I was writing for. At other times discreet people-watching might also be useful inspiration. Male or female, we share certain human characteristics. Characters feel real because they transcend archetypes. You have to write in ways that you yourself can identify with your characters. For me this means that I put myself into their shoes to figure out their next actions from backstories and motivations. Menschen challenged me to learn to think like a soldier of the time. I never served in the military, consulting veterans and military historians was an essential part of my process. There’s an old adage in screenwriting to “write what you know”, and you can only know your story world intimately enough to write believable characters through dedicated research regardless of their gender.
Anastasia: Ahhh, that question…This year in the industry there has been so much discussion about women writer-directors in mainstream Hollywood. There are so many male directors and writers behind female-protagonist driven works, but their ability is not brought into question. The beauty of film is that it is a collaborative endeavor. Men and women have to work hand in hand to produce one final work, gender should have nothing to do with it. Bringing any character to life on screen has to be achieved through understanding.
RB: Networking with influential people in the entertainment industry takes many years of knocking on doors and sometimes just being in the right place at the right time.
Never give up.
More great video interviews on the Film Courage