Thursday, October 28, 2010

Zach Clark on "Modern Love is Automatic"

What was your filmmaking background before making Modern Love is Automatic?

ZACH: I went to film school in North Carolina. I made some student films and a little one hour black & white teensploitation movie about Satan-worshipping rock-n-roll juvenile delinquents.

Where did the idea for Modern Love is Automatic come from? What was the writing process like?

ZACH: I possibly subconsciously ripped it off from Paul Bartel's The Naughty Nurse. And Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. The writing process was two years long.

How did you fund the film?

ZACH: Some family members pitched in and helped with about a third of the budget. The rest was me. We shot the movie for a long time, on weekends over six months. So, I would work, save up money and then we'd shoot for a weekend and I'd spend it all. Then we'd wait a few more weeks so I could save up some more money, etc, etc.

What sort of camera did you use for production and what were the best and worst things about it?

ZACH: We used the Panasonic HVX. I like that camera a lot. The DVX, too. I kinda want to shoot another movie on a DVX. I think video looks really pretty.

You wore several hats on the production -- writer, director, producer, editor. What's the upside and the downside to doing that?

ZACH: It wasn't that bad, they were pretty separate. I wrote it, then I produced it, then I directed it, then I edited it. It wasn't like I was editing or rewriting between takes or anything. It's more direct, you don't have to answer to anyone, which can be good and bad. I liked it, though I keep telling myself I'm going to do less and less producing and I keep doing more and more of it.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

ZACH: I made a rule that we had to shoot in all actual locations, or change the script to suit the locations if we couldn't find what the script was calling for. Instant production design. You never have to worry whether or not the location will look right, because it is right. We only broke that rule once, and that was the day we accidentally smashed a pinball machine. Not our fault, but still.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?

ZACH: There's an answer for this, but it’s either too big or too small for me to articulate what it is.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Robert Bella on “Colin Fitz Lives!”

What was your filmmaking background before making Colin Fitz Lives!?

ROBERT: Prior to making Colin Fitz Lives! I had never made a feature film, a short film or even a home movie. I have never taken any film classes, but I love movies. I was then and am still now an avid filmgoer.

What attracted you to the script?

ROBERT: Tom Morrissey's writing made me laugh outloud - which is a great thing. It still makes me laugh today after all these years.

How did you fund the film?

ROBERT: I reached out to a handful of friends who had an interest in being involved with independent film. Ultimately, I wound up maxing out 20 credits cards to get the film to Sundance. So I guess you could say that Visa, Mastercard and American Express are investors too. :)

What was your Sundance experience like?

ROBERT: Sundance was an incredible whirlwind of emotions all bundled up in winter wear and wild days and nights. It was an exciting ride that I will never forget. I was and still am honored that the film was invited to be a part of it all.

You used your credit cards to finish the film -- would you recommend that approach to other filmmakers?

ROBERT: OPM - Other People's Money.

Why did it take so long -- is it 13 years? -- for the film to be released?

ROBERT: So many vendors worked for little or no pay to help keep the initial costs down. The idea was that when the film sold they would be paid back. But the sales offers were never enough to cover all of the film's deferments and debt. So I had to buy the film out of hock over the last 14 ears before I could put it back out in the marketplace.

What was the smartest thing you did during the making of the film? The dumbest?

ROBERT: The smartest thing I did was surround myself with very talented and creative people and then let them do their jobs. The dumbest thing was using my own money.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?

ROBERT: Perseverance. Humility. Courage under fire. Respect for the contributions of others. Faith.

Follow Colin Fitz Lives! on Twitter @CFLives and on Facebook.

Available via Cable On Demand at IFC Films.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kate Madison on “Born of Hope”

What was your filmmaking background before making Born of Hope?

KATE: When I first came up with the idea of doing Born of Hope, in about 2003, I actually didn't really have any filmmaking experience, apart from filming some stage shows. However in 2005 I got involved in a filmmaking group in Cambridge UK and made a number of short films with them, two of which I directed. When the ideas started to dry up, I decided to do a trailer shoot for Born of Hope and then never looked back.

Where did the idea come from?

KATE: Back in 2003, around the time of the Return of the King at the movies, I saw that a convention in Seattle was going to hold a fan film competition. This triggered the idea of making a Lord of the Rings fan film. However that small idea snowballed into what eventually became the feature film.

I just really wanted to have a go at making movies and the opportunity seemed to present itself. I had also really enjoyed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and wanted to explore that world and those characters further.

What was the writing process like?

KATE: When I first had the idea back in 2003, I wrote a short script. That was changed and rewritten by a friend. That script was the one used for the test shoot in 2006.

I then got to work improving the script and ended up in contact with Paula DiSante, a script editor from the USA, plus Christopher Dane, the actor playing Arathorn, also got involved in writing. After going back and forth a number of times between the three of us, with Paula giving notes and Chris and I trying to write, I decided it would probably be better to swap roles. So all the different script drafts and versions were given to Paula to try to put together into one script and then we would bounce back and forth again with me giving notes.

We worked on the script for the whole of 2007 before we had the script we would use for filming. Even then, however, the script was a constantly evolving thing. Scenes and dialogue were changed and altered and once the editing started the structure of the film changed again and scenes were cut and new ones added. The final film script was about 45 pages long.

Did you need to deal with copyright permissions from the Tolkien estate, and if so, how was that handled?

KATE: As we were making a fan film and never planned to make any money from the project or to put it out in a commercial way, we didn't approach anyone about it. However, when we got a bit of publicity during filming I was contacted by Tolkien Enterprises who own the rights to making LOTRs movies. We came to an understanding, that I could continue to make the film as long as met with certain requests.

How did you fund the film?

KATE: The budget for the production was £25,000. There was no chance of trying to get any sort of film funding, so I started digging into my savings. When they started to run out we turned to the fans for help. People donated money to help us finished the project and in the end about 2/3 of the budget can from the fans.

What sort of camera did you use for production and what were the best and worst things about it?

KATE: We shot the film using a couple of different cameras, Panasonic MVX200 HD and Sony FX1/Z1 HDV cameras, sometimes with a 35mm adapter. About ten different people operated cameras over the production and we just used whatever equipment we could borrow. Very little was hired, unless it was really necessary. Obviously the problem with not having a DOP and working with different cameras and operators was that we had to do some work in the colour correction to get them all to match.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

KATE: This is really hard to answer. There certainly were a lot of things that I could have done better and differently.

One of the smartest things was asking a pregnant friend if they would be interested in having their baby play Aragorn. She said yes and we managed to have a two-week old baby play the newborn Aragorn for the first scene we ever shot for the film. We also managed to persuade some members of the public to loan us their baby for the introduction scene, instead of having to use just a bundle of cloth.

I'd say the dumbest thing or at least something I would change for a new project would be to allow loads of time for planning and pre production, and having a team to help with that. I was wearing a lot of different hats and things often became rushed or were really close to the wire. Finalised costumes were often only seen when an actor came up to set and the wigs from China only arrived the day before and actually Gilraen's didn't arrive in time and two scenes were done with a different wig! More prep!

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?

KATE: I learnt so much from making this film it's almost hard to pin point any one thing. I think the best way to learn is to go out and do it and the entire journey of making Born of Hope was a learning experience and despite the low points I wouldn't change a thing!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dan Futterman on "Capote"

Where did the idea to write Capote come from?

DAN FUTTERMAN: I got interested in Truman Capote in sort of an oblique way, and it was almost incidental that it ended up being specifically about Truman Capote.

There was a book that my Mom, who's a shrink, gave me called
The Journalist and The Murderer, by Janet Malcolm. It's about a case in California where a doctor named Jeffrey MacDonald was eventually convicted of killing his wife and children. Joe McGinniss was writing a book about him and eventually, when the book came out -- it was called Fatal Vision -- Jeffrey MacDonald sued Joe McGinniss for fraud and breach of contract.

Malcolm’s book is sort of a meditation on how could this happen. How could a convicted triple murderer sue the writer who's writing about his life? How could he convince himself that the writer was going to write something good about him? It dealt with the fact that the journalist is posing as a friend to get the subject to talk, and that the subject has hopes that he's going to be portrayed in a good light, and that the journalist is always playing off of that desire. The relationship is premised on a basic lie that's it's a natural relationship, and it's not, it's a transactional relationship.

That seemed interesting to me, and had there not been a TV movie made about that incident, I might have written about that.

Some years later I picked it up again and read it -- it's a pretty short book and I recommend it -- and just on the heals of reading that I read Gerald Clarke's biography of Capote, called
Capote, and there are two or three chapters that deal with the period in his life where he was writing In Cold Blood and his relationship with Perry Smith.

I wanted to write about that kind of relationship and deal with those kinds of questions. The fact that it was Truman Capote was an extremely lucky accident, because he's fascinating in so many ways and he's so verbal and also was a man who was struggling with some real demons, I think, and that made the work I was doing that much more interesting and deeper.

You had the distinct advantage, as a beginning writer, of being married to a working writer. How did she help you in this process?

DAN FUTTERMAN: Although it doesn't seem like there's a lot of plot in the movie -- it's about a guy writing a book about an event that already happened -- but it is quite plotty when you get down to it. And she was clear and strict with me, saying "If there are any scenes where people are just talking about something that you think is going to be interesting, cut it, because if it's not moving the plot forward it doesn't belong in the script." And that was important to learn. And it was something that I had never considered.

I did an outline, somewhere between twenty and twenty-five pages with a paragraph for each scene, with dialogue suggestions. And the script came out probably 80% tied to that outline.

Did you take any classes or read any books on screenwriting before you sat down and wrote the outline?

DAN FUTTERMAN: No, I didn't take any classes. I read the Robert McKee book (
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting) that I guess everybody reads, and I found that pretty helpful --- his clarity about story. I think that was an important lesson for me to learn over and over again, that story is primary. Clever dialogue is not what it's about. It's got to ride on the story, and then you can hang stuff off of that.

And then it was just a matter of trial and error. And the lucky fact of having a subject who has been quoted as having said a lot of funny things, of which I put as many as possible into the screenplay.