Collaboration Makes Films



Photo: Peter Lundquist (blonde with sunglasses on), CFC Co-Founder Joe Gressis, and Mark Wagner

When I first moved to LA, I swore I’d never work with a writing partner. “I have a unique and beautiful voice!” I crowed to myself while cleaning my kitchen counter over and over instead of writing. A couple times per week I’d pirouette over to my computer, peck out a third of a pilot outline, and call it a day.

Later, by sheer accident, I was asked to develop some web series– FOR MONEY! Excited, I made myself a cup of coffee, drank it while staring at an empty text document “brainstorming,” and then made myself another cup of coffee. That was the day I changed my mind about writing partners.

That moment– the moment you realize that no one in this industry is an island– is what the CFC is all about.

This is my first year working on the CFC (or Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge, as only its mom calls it). It’s an LA film contest in its second year. We hold an orientation where we reveal a theme quote meant to inspire the year’s films, pair everyone with two more filmmakers, and give out loads of free or discounted resources (like music, script consultations, editing, and casting). Then we send them off for two weeks to make their very own short films. Our judges, including Matthew Lillard, Kurt Loder, and Slamdance president Peter Baxter, pick the best of the bunch. Then we screen them at the Harmony Gold Theatre in Hollywood, hand out over $10,000 in cash and prizes, and throw a big, weird party.

Think this sounds good? Well, great, that means I don’t need to convince you! The tough part about explaining the CFC to people is that creative people, like I was (and often still am!), are incredibly stubborn. As soon as we find something that works, we follow it through any old rabbit hole it takes us. That’s part of what makes us creative: other people don’t have our tenacious insistence on finding the right word or melody or shot.

But despite all the best efforts of every artist to ever live, creativity and industry are not one and the same. When I blew two hours drinking coffee and refreshing my email instead of writing on that fateful Day Of The Writing Partner, it was because my creativity had gone AWOL when my industry needed it most. When you’re stuck; when you’re six hours behind schedule and just lost your lead; when your editor quits over “creative differences in color correction”; when you have to pitch three shows tomorrow and so far have written “maybe something with clowns”: you need help, and the more people you can call, the better.

Right now, this year’s entrants are working on films inspired by Emiliano Zapata’s quote, “It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.” Each and every one is reaching out of that creative shell and picking up new connections in the most practical way possible: by actually making movies with them. (Hopefully, this means nobody gets stuck alone with an empty text document and a deadline ever again.)

We at the CFC aim to be a breeding ground for new relationships. Next time you find yourself neck-deep in the mud of this strange and messy industry, I hope we helped you find the person who can pull you out.


Peter is a writer, producer, and surprisingly good cook. His writing has been published in Black Swan, Gangsters in Concrete, THREAD, Gauge, on, and in book form by the Hampshire College Press. He is a co-producer on Joe’s web series Oishi High School Battle, and his current job is to know everything about the CFC. (Please test him on this frequently.)

ROLE: As the CFC’s coordinator, Peter will answer all questions regarding rules, production, deadlines, sponsorships, and anything else, up to and including his deepest secrets. Contact him at