The Independent



Independent– not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.  Thinking or acting for oneself.

Film –to photograph with a motion picture camera.

Combine the two and you get independent film.  However, I could not find independent film in the dictionary.  There was no definition for independent film.  So, I started asking around, what is an independent film?  I got twenty different definitions.  It’s hard to promote something when people can’t define it.  I soon discovered that film festivals had the same issue.

Juan Diego Ramirez and friends at the 5/30/11 Film Courage Interactive screening of SOUTH LOOP

I co-produced and co-financed a so called independent film, “South Loop.”  We shot the film over 15 days in Chicago on a shoestring budget, a very thin shoe string.  Once the film was completed, we began our film festival run, because that’s what you do when you make an “independent film.”  So there we were, spending an average of $50.00 an application applying to the film festivals that we believed we should be applying to.  You know those film festivals that welcomed and championed independent films.

Juan Diego Ramirez and friends at the 5/30/11 Film Courage Interactive screening of SOUTH LOOP
Well, we soon began receiving the very personal email rejection notices. We made an independent film that independent film festivals did not want to program.  Just as I was self medicating my wounds of rejection with bottles of Modelo, I received a notice that we were an official selection of the Seattle True Independent Film Festival.  Finally, a film festival with some taste, a true independent film festival and most importantly a film festival that would program “South Loop.”  I flew out to Seattle to attend the screening of my film and discovered there were more people working behind the concession stand than they were inside the theater where “south loop” was playing.  Wait a minute, what’s going on here?  This isn’t the way it’s supposed to work out.  My film got into a film festival.  This is where my film is supposed to be discovered and become a critical darling.  Welcome to the reality of making an independent film.
Inside the theater at the 5/30/11 Film Courage Interactive screening of SOUTH LOOP

Look film festivals have been around a lot longer than I have been making films.  They know what they’re doing when it comes to programming.  They want and need to make money in order to survive.  So they are going to program the films that they think people will come out and see.  They want more people in the theater than behind the concession stand.  So, I don’t understand why I was surprised that a do it yourself film wasn’t packing in an audience on a late Sunday night at an obscure Film Festival.

Outside The Downtown Independent theater at the 5/30/11 Film Courage Interactive screening of SOUTH LOOP

I know I made a good film and as many film festival programmers have told me getting your film rejected from a film festival does not mean you’ve made a bad film.  So what next?  I made a movie that I want people to see, how do I do it?  Hello, Film Courage.

Q & A with Juan Diego Ramirez during the 5/30/11 Film Courage Interactive screening of SOUTH LOOP

On 16 occasions, Film Courage, has screened “independent films.” And now “South Loop” was going to be number 17.  So you mean to tell me, I can screen my film without being in a film festival?  In a theater?  I didn’t need to spend all this money applying to film festivals, instead I could have used that money to rent out a theater and hold my own screening and do my own promotion?  Why didn’t anybody tell me this sooner?

So I was given the screening date of May 30th.  Great, this is awesome.  Wait a minute, May 30th?  But that’s Memorial Day?  Who’s going to come see my movie on Memorial Day?  At that point, I either could have declined the offer or made the best of it.  Well, I decided to make the best of it.

Juan Diego Ramirez surveys the crowd of early gatherers at the 5/30/11 Film Courage Interactive screening of SOUTH LOOP

So, I got on Facebook, created an event for my screening, pushed it out to all my friends.  I told my friends to push it out to their friends.  I started a twitter account for “South Loop.”  I started tweeting.  I called everyone I knew.  I went everywhere I could to promote what I was calling the “South Loop” L.A. Premiere.  I decided I was going to turn this into a big event that people wanted to go to.  I got a red carpet, a backdrop, a photographer and I blackmailed a DJ to play the event.   Now I just needed people to show up and watch the film.

There I was nervously standing in the lobby on Memorial Day as I watched people slowly walk up to the theater.  By the time the movie started, there was over a hundred people watching a do it yourself film on a major holiday in Downtown L.A.  How did I make this happen?  Easy, I just looked up the definition of independent film and I photographed with a motion picture camera and made sure I was not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.  I just thought and  acted for myself.

Juan Diego Ramirez is an actor, producer, and award-winning playright.  He has performed throughout Southern California.  He recently performed his one man show, ‘The Whitest Mexican” at the REDCAT.  Juan’s performance on his play “Revalations” was named one of the year’s best by the O.C. Weekly in 2007.  In 2008, “Revelations” played off Broadway and was named best play of Teatro La Tea’s “Asi Somos” Theatre Festival with his performance in the play being recognized as one of the best of the festival.  His other plays, “Latino 101,” “Public Speaker,” “Mr. V-Neck,” and “One Out of Six” premiered at Fullerton Colleges Director’s Festival.  “One Out of Six” was named best of the fest in 2006.  Juan has also appeared in the award-winning short films, “Someone to Love” and “An Assignment.”  The latter aired on Showtime and won an Imagen Award for best short film.  He will be seen in the independent feature film “The One Nighter.”

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