What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make Blue Ridge?
VINCE: I was comfortable with cameras since I had done P.I. related video surveillance work early in my life, which somehow led me to eventually shoot a couple of no-budget horror features for someone else as the film's cinematographer; this was one stressful way to learn some of the basics beyond just the technical, but was a lot cheaper than film school. I had also made one experimental short film a few years before, as a crew of one, and that was about it.
What was the genesis for the script and what was the writing process like?
VINCE: I'm not 100% sure other than a fascination with very instinct-driven, rural lifestyles, which I'd get to occasionally observe and even live close to over the years before writing it. I also knew that I'd have little money to film with and this can guide a story in many ways by itself, especially since I was coming from a technical standpoint and knew what I couldn't do ahead of time.
The writing process was painful and long. The hardest part was getting negative feedback from industry people and realizing I still had a long way to go. A year went by before I submitted the script to anyone again, after tweaking it over and over, and that time I finally had some very positive feedback. It ended up as a finalist for the Governor's award and this helped me feel that it was more ready for public viewing in film form.
Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?
VINCE: Sorry I can't talk about that. It was long and not very fun.
What camera did you use and what did you love and hate about it?
VINCE: We used an Aaton LTR54 Super 16mm camera. I loved that it shot film, which was needed for this story, and that it was simple, reliable and recorded more overall image information than any digital camera could dream of. I hated the fact that it sometimes made noise but mostly that it costs money when it was on!
My next one will likely be on film as well, it still looks most like a story to me and compromising image makes no sense to me. I talked more tech stuff on this Kodak article: http://motion.kodak.com/motion/Publications/In_Camera/Q_and_A/vincentSweeney.htm
Did the movie change much in the editing, and if so, how?
VINCE: It did change a little, but this was mostly in cutting scenes that made it go on a little too long. I was also able to change the order around of some scenes to help the opening hit a little harder. You really get to see how much a script can/should be trimmed down in the editing process.
What is your marketing plan for the movie and how have your results been so far?
VINCE: For a small film with no studio support, this is hard to answer and if I did go through everything I have done to get it out there, it won't be very useful to anyone else as the playing field just keeps changing.
These days, directors have to accept that 99% of small films aren't going to make it very far. Most don't go past being seen at a festival, and most of those festivals have never been heard of outside of filmmaking circles. Even media-loved fests like Sundance don't seem to mean much anymore when it comes to getting the title out there, other than to the lucky 1%.
If anyone wants their little film to be seen, figure in a large marketing budget of your own, make a film that can be seen (entertaining, well made, real actors), budget in getting it rated, hope for a good festival showing and start making deals on your own with the help of a theater booking guy immediately. Buy up some banner ad spaces in well thought-out places, get as many reviews as you can (most critics will ignore you) and work on that for a solid year and get help doing it. Concentrate on the VOD deal while you are doing this. Having any play at all in a theater greatly increases chances of it being accepted across the board.
What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?
VINCE: Smartest: Shooting on film, picking perfectly fitting, quiet locations and casting well.
Dumbest: Making a drama, which in indie film doesn't count as a "genre" unless you landed a true A-list talent. People and distributors simply want guns, slight twists on old love story formulas, family films or $100 million spectacles.
What did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?
VINCE: See the answer to "The dumbest?" above.
I also learned, oddly enough, that no one returns phone calls or emails in LA, even when you are trying to show them a movie you already completed and aren't asking for anything other than feedback.
And: The toughest part truly starts after the final cut is done.