Thursday, May 30, 2013

David Gaz on “The Good Virus”

What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make The Good Virus?

DAVID: My background is in photography rather than film, but about ten years ago my wife and I co-directed a narrative feature that I wrote and screwed the whole thing up. I naively thought that after doing big budget photoshoots for people like Levi's Sony and Disney that making a feature film would be an easy transition. Boy was I wrong!

After that I co-directed three other films and that was my film school. Good Virus is my solo debut!

What was the inspiration for making The Good Virus?

DAVID: My wife told me that a lot of the things I was doing, although socially conscious, were very negative and suggested that I do something positive for a change. I said "absolutely! I'm going to do a film all about being nice!!!"

Then I was reading an article by James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis in Discover Magazine about the infectious nature of kindness and the whole thing gelled.

What was writing process like -- how did you decide who to interview and which direction to head?

DAVID: My plan was to shoot 3 types of sequences:

One where I ask people what is the nicest thing that anyone ever did for you?"

Two, really smart people, scientists and authors mostly, who specialized in the arena of kindness.

And Three, people who were making a difference by doing kind things for others.

As for the direction, I began with James Fowler (fortunately he agreed to let me interview him) as he was the spark that started it all and then that interview led me to others and I followed the path laid out by these great minds.


What is your process for approaching the editing of a documentary?

DAVID: I came to the conclusion during editing that I have an Edisonian process to my work (I think it took him 1,000 or so tries to get the light bulb right).

Some people know what they want and make it that way, I know what I want, but have to go through tons of iterations until it looks right to me. It's an awful way to work and very stressful. I wish I was among the former group.

How did the movie change after your interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde (Pay It Forward)?

DAVID: I think she grounded the science, gave some humanity to it. Pay it forward is based on mathematics, but as a fiction writer she gave the math a human face and transformed the numbers into characters. So I chose to lead with that and I think now, once you are in the film, the other scientists are more accessible.

Then, most significantly, she has such authority in her voice that having her narrate the film gives it such presence that it is infinitely better as a result.

What camera(s) did you use and what did you love and hate about it?

DAVID: I used the 5D mk2 and mk3 cameras and loved almost everything about them. The shallow depth of field made the people that I interviewed look like they were swimming in butter, just gorgeous.

I also liked the small size and appearance of the cameras, especially for the street interviews. Most people aren't comfortable with a big film or broadcast camera in their face, but the 5Ds look just like the cameras we all grew up with so there is a familiarity about them that doesn't intimidate people.

The only drawback I saw was due to the incredibly shallow depth of field you can get. You have to be very careful with focus as the image can go soft very easily.

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

DAVID: The smartest thing I did was do a film on being nice, it was so easy to get interviews and people were immediately relaxed when talking about such a positive subject.

The dumbest thing I did was do a Kickstarter page without the proper research or planning. I got some big donations offline as a result, but I feel like there is a stigma of a failed Kickstarter campaign out there that I wish would go away.

What do you hope audiences will take away from the movie?

DAVID: I hope that the main premise holds true. That each kind act inspires one to do four more kind acts. So if we reach a decent sized audience, the film should have quite a ripple effect in terms of kindness in the world.

What's next for you?

DAVID: A book. I took photos of each of the people we interviewed right after asking them "what is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?" and I am in the process of making a book with the photos and answer side by side. It's amazing to look at -- the people all have this indescribable glow.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Matthew Walters "Ready 4 Whatever"



What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make Ready 4 Whatever?

MATTHEW: I worked with a production company called Resource Base and did odd things from radio documentaries for the BBC to science based film projects, such as the Color Coded Film Project that we did for the Wellcome Trust. Meanwhile I was working on my own scripts because I really just wanted to make films


What was the inspiration for making this short?

MATTHEW: What I wanted to do was start with stories I'm familiar with. I have a criminal background, which, luckily enough, people find entertaining. So I just wanted to take advantage of being able to draw on real experiences while making a connection with my core, target audience.

Then as I gradually step away from drawing exclusively on personal experiences and begin to write more grandiose scripts to make bigger films, like a Lord Of The Rings for instance, then I figure I'll be able to grow that core audience and take them on a journey.

People like Jay-Z and 50 Cent inspire me. How they went from Reasonable Doubt and How To Rob, taking their fans on the journey to where they are today. That's my inspiration mainly for making Ready 4 Whatever. I want people to be able to look back and see how I went from one stage to the next and I want to inspire someone the way the people I looked up to inspired me. 


What was your writing process like?

MATTHEW: I had a conversation with my producer and he was like, “Just write a short script with a max of two locations.” I find it very difficult to be succinct, so it took me a while to figure how I was gonna pull that off.

So I spent a lot of time just thinking to begin with. Going for walks and playing music loud until my subconscious pushed something forward that I could work with. Once I had the idea, I just mapped it out and kept mapping it out until my fingers began to write dialogue and basically the story wrote itself after the dialogue hit the page.


How did you go about casting the movie?

MATTHEW: Nicola Duke and Ivan, my producers, were the machine behind making that whole process work. I wrote out the character descriptions and they put the word out through different casting websites and from the responses Nicola emailed me the time slots that she assigned to each auditioner.

I put the word out using my phone -- I did a Blackberry broadcast and Nicola's email address info for people to get their time slots. I had a bit of trouble casting the main character, so that guy who plays the main character is actually my little cousin. He nailed it for me. We almost lost him, literally, because he got stabbed a week before the shoot. He had two major operations and we literally picked him up from the hospital and brought him straight to the shoot. The guy is a soldier. 


What camera(s) did you use and what did you love and hate about it?

MATTHEW: To be honest with you, I don’t have any idea about all that technical stuff. What I did was look in the viewfinder and say, "yup, looks good." I worked with the actors; I referred to my storyboard and wherever the storyboard conflicted with the layout of the actual location I visualized how I wanted it shot, then I talked with the camera operators. Gave it a few dummy runs then shot it. I just kept my eye on the viewfinder and just tried concentrate on what the audience would be seeing as opposed to concentrating on what camera was being used. 


What was the process for getting the movie in Cannes and what was your reaction when you learned you got in??

MATTHEW: Again, I gotta thank Ivan for that and when I found out I was going to Cannes, I quietly gave myself a pat on the back because I really didn't know if I was going to be able to even see the film at all, never mind going to Cannes.

I just really appreciate being able to live. I can’t explain how it feels. The way my case looked, I really didn’t know if I was gonna be free or in jail on a 10 year sentence. So to be going to Cannes after 16 months of being on bail facing that kind of time, and going with a film I wrote and directed ... there isn't words for that when you think of the worst case scenario.


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

MATTHEW: The smartest thing I did was to have a back up for the exterior location. I went to someone I knew for years to ask if we could shoot the exterior. They signed the release form and everything, but then after we shot the interior scenes that morning, I get a call that the exterior pulled out, just as we were loading up to make our way there. So we had a mini crisis. The crew came from all over the country to be apart of the shoot and they would have had to go home right after that first morning.

The dumbest thing ... I was on bail facing crazy time. I wanted to get as much living done in case the worst happened, so any girl that was on location that I liked the look of I was huggin’ up on all of them, smooth talking and acting a damn fool when I was supposed to be 110% focused on directing the damn film. I would be showing off.

Looking back, I was just stupid but I could also understand why. The only thing I can say about that is that you will see the difference between this project and my next project.

Going back to looking at my inspirations, 50 Cent and Jay, I want to be the first to admit that R4W has a mixtape quality. My next project, which I've written already, will have an album quality. It's going to be a LOT more cinematic. The difference is going to be night and day, I promise!


What do you hope audiences will take away from the movie?

MATTHEW: I want audience to take two things away from R4W. Actually one thing, because the circumstances the film was made under with the stabbing and the drugs charge, and the story the film itself tells are basically the same thing. It all blends together to tell a story of a really grimy existence, where people can end up on drugs charges, where you can get stabbed, shot, have misunderstandings that can have you life, safety and freedom hanging in the balance.

So for those who are surrounded by that, if you can get out of that, get out of it. It sounds funny that I keep mentioning Jay and 50, but Jay had that incident where he came very close to never being heard of when the police pulled him over and he had drugs in his car. 50 was almost never heard of when he was shot 9 times. These two guys when on to do great things in their careers and they inspired me.

I know how much that little bit of inspiration meant to me and I want to be that inspiration for someone also. Leave the bulls**t behind and let’s take it to a new level. 


What's next for you?

MATTHEW: My next project, I've written the script already. It's going to be a 50-minute piece. It has another 2pac song as its title, Picture me Rollin’. All I can say about that project I'm going to be making a Guinness world record attempt. I can't say what record just yet, but the wheels are in motion on that already. I'm gonna star in it too.

I also have the script for my feature film written already… and that also has a 2pac song as its title but I wont say what that is yet.

I’m not going to rush into my next script, but the new script is where I'm going to begin to break away from stories that come directly from my own experiences or from the experiences of people I know. It's going to be a big one. I want it so that if I don’t have to get hauled off an ICU after it's finished, then I know I didn't work hard enough making it the best project I can make, and that applies to Picture me Rollin’ as well. Hard in the paint until it kills me. 100mph.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

J.T. O'Neal "Au Pair, Kansas" (aka "The Soccer Nanny")

What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make Au Pair, Kansas?

J.T.: I graduated with a degree in history of art from Kansas University, though did my junior year "abroad" at USC film school, but returned to Kansas to complete pre-med. Then I got an MD from Kansas, an MPH (masters of public health) from Harvard, then eventually an MFA (masters of fine arts) in screenwriting from UCLA in 2004.

Au Pair, Kansas was the last script I wrote while in grad school at UCLA (which, by the way, is an absolutely amazing place to learn about screenwriting. NYU's okay for directing, USC's okay for producing, but UCLA ROCKS for screenwriting.) I made 5 short films while living in LA (one cost less than $10, and played at about 25 festivals around the world.) Luckily I made the major mistakes on the shorts, so I didn't really screw anything up on the feature.

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

J.T.: One of my scripts was a finalist in the screenplay competition at Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, CA, and I attended the festival in 2004. The opening night feature, United, was about this funny Norwegian soccer player dreaming of turning pro. The star, Havard Lilleheie, was in attendance, and I met him at the opening night party, and invited him to lunch the next day.

He was such a great screen presence, I knew I had to do a project for him. So before the luncheon meeting, I tried to figure out how I could come up with an idea for Havard to star in a movie. How could I get a Norwegian soccer player to the US? Why not make him a male au pair, that teaches the kids soccer? Why a male au pair? Maybe the father died and the family needed a father figure. And that's what I pitched to him. He said something like "yah, sure you will write me a movie" and just smiled.

I returned to UCLA the next week, pitched this idea about a Norwegian soccer playing coming to a small town in Kansas to be a male au pair and help a recently widowed woman raise her two sons. The class (and teacher) just looked at me like what planet were you from. Ten weeks later I had the first draft. Then I moved back home to Kansas to make regionally-based movies, spent a week in Oslo rewriting with Havard, then rewrote again, then the script placed as a semi-finalist at the Austin Film Festival screenplay competition, and that got buzz enough to get some investors interested, and I shot the movie.


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

J.T.: I raised $200K from private investors. You never know who will invest in your movie. I was in this antique shop (knick knacks, not really antiques) in Lindsborg, Kansas, a great little Swedish town in central Kansas, and this elderly man overhead me talking about location scouting for a potential movie. I sent him a copy of the script. He loved it. Said he'd invest a small amount. Two years later he contacts me and says he really wants to see this movie made, and writes a check for $100K.

Within two weeks I found the rest of the money, and two months later we were shooting the movie in Lindsborg (and my Angel investor, Ron, had a supporting part in the movie.)

I have no idea if I'll get money back on the movie. At this point, I have an international distribution deal (TV and dvd), but the distributor has to sell about $125K before the company sees anything back. Probably won't see anything from international sales. I'm currently working on some domestic deals.

Theatrical was way too expensive. I had great interest for theatrical distribution in Germany (the acquisitions person for the top art cinema chain there loved Au Pair, Kansas, but deliverables, including dubbing and 35mm and high def prints, etc, would have been $100K. Not going to happen, and it didn't.) Who knew making the movie was the easiest part of the whole process. It took me three times as long to get the deliverables together for distribution than to actually shoot the movie (which we did in 18 days.)

What camera did you use and what did you love and hate about it?

J.T.: I used a Red One (it was hot shit back in Dec 2008.) I loved it. Amazing camera (even with the older chip.) I can't imagine how good the new smaller Reds are.


Why did the movie's title change and what was the thinking behind that?

J.T.: For international distribution I decided to change the title of the movie from Au Pair, Kansas to The Soccer Nanny. It's just too hard to translate a French term into other languages, and very few people understood what it meant. Even in the US, lots of people (well, from the Midwest at least) didn't know what an au pair was.

The Soccer Nanny just sounds fun (and it's actually a family movie). If the main character had been playing football or basketball (American football that is), the movie would not have been picked up for international distribution. It's much better marketing internationally, to have soccer in the title, than either Kansas or au pair.


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

J.T.: The smartest thing I learned was to get the best actors you can. I was initially going to use all local talent in Kansas. Then a friend from London (great indie screenwriter and director Sean McConville), said it's too good of script, get it to a casting director in Hollywood, there are all sorts of great actresses over 40 who would love the part.

So I did, and got the script to a casting director he used on his move The Deadline, and the casting director (Cathy Henderson Martin, who is fantastic, by the way) liked the script and got it to Traci Lords' manager, who loved the script, and got it to Traci, who loved the script, and she signed on.

Then with Traci attached, all sorts of other actors (including the amazing Spencer Daniels, who played the young Benjamin Button) signed on. I can not believe what experienced actors bring to their parts. I can still watch the movie and be surprised. Traci is one of the most professional actresses I've ever seen (I didn't realize how truly amazing she was until editing, when my editor and I discovered that she matched perfectly on all continuity issues, sipping tea, turning head, standing up, looking, etc. This is a true professional. I've spent a lot of time on regular Hollywood movies--my best friend, Peter James, is an A league Hollywood cinematographer, and I take my vacations and sit in his DP's chair on movies. The only actress I've seen that hit marks better than Traci was Kathy Bates. I can not express how professional and wonderful Traci was on set and in the movie.)

The dumbest thing I did was hire an immigration lawyer from NYC who said she knew how to get work visas through for actors. Nine months after I started, and one day before shooting was to start, I finally got the US to issue a work permit so Havard could come from Norway to star in the movie. We had to delay his first scene by a day, since he arrived later than planned. A few days before we were to start filming, I didn't know if I'd get my lead actor. It was a nightmare. I should have just used someone experienced in LA (but I was living in NY at the time.) It cost me more than twice as much for the work permit and fees than Havard got paid to act in the movie!


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

 J.T.: I learned that I loved making a movie (writing and directing) and hated producing. They are totally different things. I'll never make another movie without an experienced producer to help. The best thing you can do as a director is find a great producer. It's over four year since shooting, and I'm still (today, in fact) working with the accountant to do taxes for 2012 so I can get statements to the investors. NIGHTMARE.

On the other hand, I probably shouldn't complain, as at least I got the movie made, and it has some type of distribution deal, and people have actually liked the movie. Oh, I forgot about that, I LOVE the movie (of course, I'm biased), and I had the pleasure of making the movie I wanted to make, how I wanted to make it.

Lastly, I paid for all cost overages (I call it UBO, United Bank of O'Neal), and I'll probably never see any of that money back (I could have bought two new Lexus cars, or five houses in Detroit). But I got it done.

I may never make another movie, but the proudest I've ever been was hearing that's a wrap called out and the cast and crew cheering. The main lesson I want to take to other projects: Don't use your own money to make your movie!
Au Pair Kansas Trailer from Splice Here on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Liam Brady on Seed&Spark

Give me you elevator speech for Seed&Spark.

LIAM: Seed&Spark is an audience-building platform for filmmakers to crowdfund and distribute their films. Audience members earn Sparks for supporting films in the Studio, and they use Sparks to watch them in the Cinema. Filmmakers crowdfund using a custom-made Wishlist, which is like a wedding registry for film productions.

Movie projects that crowdfund in our Studio take home more of the money they raise than on Seed&Spark than any other crowdfunding platform. No merchant account required. If a filmmaker chooses to release their finished film in our Cinema, they take home 80% of their streaming revenue. We call this model Fair Trade Filmmaking.

What makes your site different from other internet options for filmmakers?

LIAM: Right off the bat, filmmakers are excited to learn that on Seed&Spark that they'll walk away with around 95% of the money they raise if their campaign is successful. That's because we pass along credit card fees instead of requiring a merchant account, but also because we put a little button at customer checkout that says "Cover Filmmaker's Fee." It turns out that people love this button! Supporting a film through the Wishlist on Seed&Spark feels like shopping online. My theory is that online shoppers are so used to paying sales tax and shipping, so without those add-ons, voluntarily adding 5% as an extra benefit for the filmmaker feels natural.

The biggest difference about Seed&Spark is that it's dedicated to movies at all stages of the process. The Wishlist format on the crowdfunding side simulates a really cool shopping experience for supporters and movie audiences. Each supporter gets a unique and individual story about how exactly they’re helping to make your film. When it's time to start spreading the word and asking people to watch your movie, those supporters have a story they can tell to others. You want your supporters to feel that sense of ownership and pride. You want them out there talking about this movie they helped to make.

Also, it should be mentioned that supporters can loan you an item or items from your Wishlist. If you accept the loan, that supporter will be credited for the value of their support, and your little campaign speedometer will show the equivalent amount of progress toward the success of your campaign.

In building the site, the key for us was to give filmmakers a tool that would support them in making their film no matter what, and to provide them with opportunities to engage their future audiences as much as possible along the way.

What is the process for choosing projects to help seed?

LIAM: On the Studio side, we select for quality of content, ability to communicate a story, willingness to promote your project, and most importantly: passion. If you know how to tell a good story now about why you’re making your film, we figure you'll also do a good job when it comes time to tell the story in your actual film.

We also take a look at your team, your past work if you have any, and the proportion of the scale of the budget you’re trying to raise to your filmmaking experience and your current following (if you have any).

Successfully funded Studio projects are guaranteed the ability to release their finished film in the Cinema, so it's important to us that we're selective in our process.

Why would someone with a finished movie want to approach you?

LIAM: Our audience is growing every day, and right now there are 1000s of unused Sparks that our audience members have earned for supporting films and are eager to use. By the way, we still pay filmmakers a small sum for Sparks views.

There are so many great films out there, shorts and features, that have played at film festivals and even won awards but that are now sitting on filmmakers' shelves somewhere, or that got picked up for distribution but the distributor did nothing with the film or the terms are up and rights have returned to the filmmaker. We are making a home for those films and building an audience for them. We want to build a vast ecosystem of filmmakers and audiences, and even if you're an experienced filmmaker without a crowdfunding project at the moment, you can still be a part of it.

Also, since we’re still really new, right now is a great time to jump in with your film because you’re more likely to land on our homepage. Right now, when a new film comes out, we’re able to send a notice to our entire mailing list announcing it.

Is marketing entirely up to the filmmaker when it comes to bringing viewers to the site?

LIAM: I think we’ve done a really good job so far helping filmmakers spread the word, especially on social media but also through more traditional media outlets. Our earliest filmmakers were given access to our publicity resources, and really soon we’re going to be able to group films by genre or affinity group or what have you reach the audiences for those films more directly. But if by marketing you mean spending tons of money on advertising for individual films (sometimes even more money than it took to make the film!), then no, that’s not where we think anyone should be putting their resources.

We built Seed&Spark with a new model in mind. Films that begin in our Studio have the advantage of months and months during their crowdfunding and production phases to gather hundreds of dedicated followers. When it's time to release a film in the Cinema, there are so many untapped and virtually free ways that you can transform a core community of support into a paying audience in the 10,000s or more. And if you're a filmmaker with a new project in the Studio, it’s extremely beneficial for you to have a movie or two in the Cinema. Our recommendation metrics give top priority to projects and movies by the same filmmaker, so your efforts in fundraising will have the direct benefit of driving viewership toward your films in the Cinema, and vice versa.

I also want to mention that we’re planning some very exciting initiatives and partnerships that go even further beyond what I’ve already described to help filmmakers spread the word about their movie, but I can’t tell you anything about that yet. Standby!

Can you provide some background on the people behind Seed&Spark?


LIAM: All of us are filmmakers. We met on a location shoot two summers ago. Our CEO Emily Best was the producer of the film. I was the first AD. Our Chief Creative Officer Eve Cohen was the DP.

I'm a writer and director myself, and as a filmmaker who’s gained some experience in this brave new world of crowdfunding and building an audience from scratch, I wanted to help develop a platform that really works for the needs of my film and my team, but also for the community that inevitably emerges around every film project.

My short film Fog City was one of the pilot projects on the site, and my Wishlist campaign was the first to get the Greenlight in the Seed&Spark Studio. It's pretty cool getting to build something new and then be one of the first to actually test drive it. I’m using Seed&Spark as the single pipeline for Fog City, from beginning to end. And by “end” I mean the place where someone will actually pay a little something to watch my movie.

How do you see Seed&Spark growing in the future?

LIAM: Steadily and sure-handedly. We're meeting new filmmakers every day, many of whom who have already heard of us, and those who haven't always get the concept right away.

I'm really excited for when we start to have handfuls of Studio projects in the same geographic area working on their films at the same time. I think we're going to see filmmakers working together through the Wishlist and helping each other in ways that weren’t possible before.

I'm also extremely excited for the day when our Founding Filmmakers who launched the first crop of Studio projects with us begin to release their finished movies in the Cinema. Some of those projects have already wrapped shooting or are getting very close. It's so cool to follow their progress as they continue to post updates and grow a following for their film. Presumably some of these films will do a nice festival run first, but once they become available in the Seed&Spark Cinema, that's when we'll get to see what Seed&Spark can really do.

The Future of Filmmaking from Seed&Spark on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Jared Moshe on "Dead Man's Burden"

What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make Dead Man's Burden?

JARED: I'd produced a number of independent films and documentaries including Corman's World, Silver Tongues, Beautiful Losers and Kurt Cobain About a Son. Dead Man's Burden is my first time behind the camera as a writer/director though. I had never really directed shorts or plays or anything else.

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

JARED: The idea for Dead Man's Burden came from the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  After the War, America manufactured the Western as a myth to reunite the North and the South by looking west for a fresh start. The result was we whitewashed over a lot of wounds and left them festering beneath the surface. I wanted to tell a story that explores those wounds.


The writing process was fast - the first draft was finished in a month. The reason it was fast was I sat down to write knowing I wanted to make the film by the end of the year come hell or high-water. So I seized on my experiences as a producer to create certain rules that would allow me to do period drama for a budget. Limited locations, cast, extras, etc. But as much as you can make rules, a script will take on a life of its own. 

As I wrote I came to realize that the choices I wanted the characters to make were not necessarily the choices they would make. In the end, what was supposed to be a story of reunification became a tragedy of ideology.


Why did you decide to tackle a western and what do you think were the pros and cons of that decision?

JARED: I love Westerns, and in stepping behind the camera for the first time there was no question in my mind on the genre. In this industry you better make what you love because you never know if you're going to get another chance. 

What I didn't realize was that making a western was living a western. We shot on location at the end of a two-mile dirt road that became a mud pit every time it rained. There was no cell phone reception, a limited amount of film, and I had to figure out how to be timely and efficient in directing actors in period costumes, who were riding horses, shooting guns and doing some of their own stunts. 

Thankfully I had an incredibly talented and dedicated cast and crew, and together we overcame everything that was thrown at us.


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

JARED: When we set out to raise our budget my producer Veronica Nickel and I agreed on a strategy to keep the costs low, as the market for independent films is soft, and we wanted to give our investors the best chance of recoupment. At the same time we understood that there is a large market for westerns in the US, and it's an underserved market, so we knew we had a core audience we could reach. 


We did as much research as we could to get numbers on recently released westerns (both in theaters and on DVD) and used that to come up with what we thought was a reasonable budget level. With my background as a producer I had investors I worked with before, and Veronica and my other producers were able to put together the rest of the budget using private equity and the New Mexico tax incentives. 

Once the film was in the can we had a team working hard on outreach to the Western loving audiences so that when our sales agent Josh Braun brought the film to market at Los Angeles Film Festival we had information we could present about who would see this film and how to reach them.


What camera(s) did you use and what did you love and hate about it?

JARED: We used a single Panavision Platinum 2-perf 35mm camera with a Panaflex G2 as a backup. I loved that we were shooting film. In fact that was one of the most important decisions I made early on in the process. We were going to shoot 35mm no matter what.  As much as I think HD can create beautiful images, it lacks the ability to capture the depth and scope of landscapes, and in any good western the landscape is a character. 

In our case the endless of the landscape offered a sense of hope, a blank canvas where our characters could re-create their lives, but it was also a mote that kept Martha and Heck isolated away from the world. To have not captured it on film would have been to shoot ourselves in the foot from day one. Of course the downside of shooting on film is that you have to be incredibly frugal in your set ups, number of takes and how long you let the camera roll. I can't tell you how many times I wished I had extra film to get one more angle or additional b-roll. 



How did you and your DP, Robert Hauer, decide on (and execute) the look of the movie?

JARED: We really wanted a look that respects the rich history of the Western. First and foremost that meant shooting on 35mm film. We chose 2 perf 35mm because that created a natural widescreen look. Second it meant seizing on the tropes of the genre. Rob and I both indulged in watching numerous westerns: High Noon, Unforgiven, Once Upon a Time in the West, and most importantly The Searchers, as I wanted Dead Man's Burden to be a film that evoked John Ford. 

At the same time we needed to make the look work for the modern eye, and to that end Rob and I decided to embrace everything that was natural about our location; capturing the harshness of the light and the landscape which contrasted with the warm tones that were natural to the environment. 

How did the movie change in the editing and why did you feel the changes were important?

JARED: The biggest change in the edit involved the structure of the first act. In the script I really established Martha and her world before introducing Wade. In the finished film although we see Martha in the opening, Wade is the first character we really get to know. What this accomplished was to establish Martha and Wade as equally important to the story and not favor one over the other. 

The reason why this change was important is that I want my audience to come away identifying two very different points of view. The tragedy of Dead Man's Burden is that both Wade and Martha are very right and very wrong in their beliefs and the question that drives the film is: will they be able to see past their differences.



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


JARED: The smartest thing I did during production was to put together a talented team of collaborators who I trusted to help me learn what I didn't know and enhance my vision for the film. Given that we were such a low budget production I knew we had limited time on set, so it was incredibly important to get my key cast and crew on board as early as possible. This allowed for everyone to discuss and share ideas before we got into the hurried and stressful on-set environment, and it allowed for my collaborators to take a sense of ownership in the film.

The dumbest thing I did was probably choose to step behind the camera for the first time ever -  I hadn't made shorts or directed plays or actors before this - and go make a period piece shot on location and on film, with horses, guns and stunts, and do it all in 18 days on a shoestring budget.

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

JARED: What didn't I learn from making this film? I tend to believe you're always learning if you're willing to listen and after Dead Man's Burden I have a better understanding of how to embrace the realism of production design from Ruth De Jong; how light can enhance character thanks to Rob Hauer; how fabrics make a costume thanks to Courtney Hoffman; how a cut can twist a point of view thanks to Jeff Israel; and, well, the list goes on and on. 

Everything I've learned I hope will make me a better collaborator on the next film.