Thursday, September 29, 2011

Brett Eichenberger on "Light of Mine"

What was your filmmaking background before making Light of Mine?

BRETT: I had directed a few short films and documentaries going back about 15 years. One of my short films, The Leeward Tide, played in over 35 national and international film festivals. I also do corporate video, music videos and commercials to pay the bills -- which is a great way to hone the filmmaking skills.

What was your involvement in the writing process -- did the script come to you finished or did you work with the writer?

BRETT: Light of Mine was initially my concept. A few years ago while daydreaming I had wondered if it were conceivable to be a blind photographer - even though it's an oxymoron.

I did a bit of research and sure enough, there are a bunch of blind photographers, all of which have different degrees of blindness. Some of them have lost vision progressively (and were photographers before) while others were born blind and picked up a camera later in life.

I brought this idea of a photographer, who's at the beginning of his career and losing his sight, to my wife Jill, who has written several great screenplays. Jill took the idea and turned it into a 25-page outline. I massaged it here and there and chose to shoot the outline because I wanted to work in a more intimate improvisational way.

I also felt that a script could be intimidating to my lesser-experienced actors. It was a different way to work, but it was liberating because we were able to be a bit more honest with the material which really serves the subject matter and film well.

Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?

BRETT: We did a few different things to raise the budget, including Kickstarter, a fundraiser and we were finally approached by an investor who really wanted to be a part of our project.

Our plan for recouping the costs involves going the festival route to earn some praise and buzz for the film. Light of Mine isn't the most marketable film, but we feel there is an audience out there that is really thirsty for a film like this.

We'd like to work with a Producer's Rep and a Foreign Sales Agent to get it out there, but we don't have anyone we're working with at the moment.

What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it?

BRETT: We shot on DSLRs and an old 16mm Arriflex for a dream sequence. With our shooting schedule and budget I decided I wanted two competent DP's on board to run two cameras simultaneously. It's a very visual-heavy film, therefore I wanted guys who didn't need a tremendous amount of direction from me while we were in the thick of it.

The camera models we used were: Canon 7D, 5D Mark 2, T2i, and a GoPro HD. This was a film that couldn't have been made on really any other cameras. We were afforded a "stealth mode" while we shot in Yellowstone without a permit. The DSLRs also gave us the ability to set this guy in a "photographic" world by varying lenses and depths of field. I don't think any video camera could've conveyed the visual feeling that the DSLRs did - which gives the film depth, warmth and intimacy.

Did the movie change much during the editing process, and if so, how?

BRETT: I don't think it changed too much. I was also the editor on the film, which is good and bad of course. Being an editor for almost 20 years I had a great idea as to how I wanted to cut it while we were shooting.

There were some surprises as I went through the footage though. Mostly because I couldn't monitor the feeds of both cameras while in Yellowstone etc. I was able to take those surprises and punch up the emotion in places I didn't think I could.

I also approached the edit from the heart as well. I'm much more of a logical heady editor, so it was a bit of a transition to move into this different style if you will. Most importantly, I wanted the film to feel organic. We shot the film in an organic way, much the same way I've read Terrence Malick works (which there's not much information on out there). Malick's films have this honest beauty and natural organic flow to them. I wanted Light of Mine to have that same type feel.

What is your distribution plan and how did you develop it?

BRETT: Our distribution plan is still forthcoming. With the market changing as fast as it is, we're researching a few different options. Its a big screen film with lots of nature, vistas and travel shots, I would love to make sure it gets at least a bit of a theatrical run.

We've discussed four-walling (self theatrical run) and other options. Again, we're just not sure that it will be picked up by a major because it lacks big stars and high-end production value - but it's got a good story etc. so we never say never.

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

BRETT: The smartest thing I did during production was trust my instincts. They're there for you to trust. If you want to connect to your audience in an emotional way, then go with your first thought. Don't over think something, that's the equivalent of sending your idea back for rewrites, which can ruin something pure and raw.

The dumbest thing I did was not trusting my instincts. Overall I felt very prepared going into this film after working towards it for many years.

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

BRETT: The most important lesson I learned was that you can never stop believing in your project. There was a time I really felt like I should archive the footage and move on.

We had some early edits go out to a few people and the feedback wasn't where I was hoping it would be. I felt that our "grand experiment" went wrong, so chalk it up as experience. Jill, the writer, reminded me of something that I'll take with me on every film from now on, she said: "People need this film". That really hit me.

Her comment didn't resonate to me from a personal perspective, but more from a global perspective. There really is an audience that needs this film, because they need to feel that no matter how bad life can be, there is a light, and there are people who love you who will help you to see that light. This is our goal henceforth, to show people the Light of Mine.

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