Thursday, January 26, 2012

Zack Parker on "Scalene"

What was your filmmaking background before making Scalene?

ZACK PARKER: Scalene is actually my third feature. My first, Inexchange, was released in early 2006, and my second, Quench, in late 2008.

I've been making films since age 11, starting with my family's home video camera at the time, a Sony Super 8 Handycam. Filmmaking is pretty much the only endeavor I have ever pursued or had any interest in. I studied film at Ball State University for two years, before transferring to a Professional Film Studies Program at UCLA. Every job I've ever had has been, in some way, film related. From working as an usher and projectionist at a movie theatre, to working at Blockbuster, Suncoast, film critic for a newspaper, Production Assistant for Roger Corman, and on up to where I am now.

Where did the idea come from and what was the writing process like?

ZACK PARKER: The idea essentially came about through reactions of my previous two films, both of which received incredibly polarized responses. I found it fascinating that two people could watch the same film and see something completely different. This really got me thinking about human perception, and that I had never really seen that portrayed in a narrative form before. We've seen a lot of films about perspective, but not perception.

I co-wrote the film with Brandon Owens, who I've known since about seventh grade. We have worked on several films together, in one way or another. This was the first time I collaborated on a script and it was a wonderful process. It was great to have someone to bounce ideas off of, but not only that, someone who would challenge your ideas. We were always pushing each other to make the story better.

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

ZACK PARKER: Like all of my films, the financing was raised completely privately. I had the good fortune of working with my Executive Producer Mike Khamis, as well as my Producing partner Carlos Jimenez Flores. It was a very grassroots campaign of calling everyone we knew, and a lot that we didn't. Many people said "no," but enough said "yes" to get us where we needed to be.

I actually get a lot of indie filmmakers asking me about financing, "How do you raise money for a film?" I always tell them they are asking the wrong question. What you must ask is how can YOU raise money for a film. We all come from different backgrounds with different contacts, resources, experiences, etc.

I think the key to raising money is being realistic with yourself. Look around and see what you have, what you can get, what you need to spend money on, and what you can get for free. Then come up with a story that you have a passion for that fits within those boundaries that can also show off who you are as a filmmaker.

As far as recouping goes, I have decided to experiment with a new form of hybrid distribution with Scalene. We are doing a kind of "roll-out" release, making the film available in more and more places, and on more and more platforms, over the course of several months.

We received a few offers from some distributors, but none felt particularly right. Many were concerned about the marketability of the film, since it did not fall into a specific genre and that its niche wasn't obvious, they were unsure how to sell it to an audience. What this is really saying is that the film is unique. This is what it has been the most applauded for, and is what I am most proud of. So, I decided that the best way to sell this film to audiences was for me to get out there and sell it to them myself.

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

ZACK PARKER: We shot on the Red One. I thought it was a remarkable camera, capable of capturing beautiful images. I often describe Scalene as the first movie I've made that I don't have to convince audiences is a movie. What I mean by this is, from the first frame, they accept they are watching a movie. With my previous films, while shooting on lesser video formats, I had to depend on the audience to forgive the video look and hopefully get involved with the story, fooling them into thinking they were watching a movie.

Only downside is that the camera does overheat a lot, and this slows things down immensely. But we used a first generation, I've heard this has gotten better.

You wore a lot of hats on the production -- producing, writing, directing, editing. What's the upside and downside of doing that?

ZACK PARKER: Upside is obviously total control, which I think most filmmakers strive for. Also I just feel that all of those positions is actually one job. That's just being a filmmaker. They are all intertwined for me, closely related. One has everything to do with the others. When you are writing a script, you are picking locations, cast, determining budget, crew needed, etc. Obviously the script is the first rough cut of the film in regard to editing. I just don't see any way of separating them.

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

ZACK PARKER: By far the smartest thing I did was convincing amazing actors to be my leads in the film.

The dumbest was not hiring a stunt double for a 60 year old actress.

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

ZACK PARKER: That I want to make another one.

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