Thursday, March 20, 2014

Jake Oelman on "Dear Sidewalk"

What was your filmmaking background before making Dear Sidewalk?

JAKE: I got my start producing and shooting snowboard films and ended up doing a lot of work in the action sports arena. My first love you could say. My focus gradually shifted to music and I worked on a ton of music videos and big live shows in various capacities. These days I feel like being a jack-of-all-trades is essential to survival in the film business and it helps give you an all-encompassing view of the craft.

In 2011 I produced a concert documentary called the Electric Daisy Carnival and after that point I finally felt like I was ready to make a run at being an indie film director. Itʼs funny how once youʼre at peace with the path youʼre going to take all these cosmic events start to happen which is how I found Dear Sidewalk.

What attracted you to Jake Limbert's script?

JAKE: I was about to go into production on a short film and my cousin Ford stopped me in my tracks and said you need to read this. I remember thinking to myself this is a really sweet movie that doesnʼt have a bad bone in its body. I think thereʼs a big lack of feel good movies in the market place but beyond that I connected with the material on a fundamental level.

With the filmʼs protagonist shackled by his own ego and immaturities needing to take the necessary steps to discover the world again played to my sensabilities. I enjoy seeing people find their flesh and blood again and this was always at the heart of Limbertʼs script.

How did you cast the movie and did the script change much once you had your cast in place?

JAKE: I think we were blessed with our casting. Susan Paley Abrambson did our LA casting and she introduced us to Josh Fadem who plays ʻCalvinʼ in the film and that was the spark that opened up the casting process to us. We met Joe Mazzello shortly after that and being a filmmaker himself he related to what we wanted to do and knew how challenging it can be to do a small movie like this.

Michelle Forbes was the last of our leads to come aboard and it just clicked. Michelle has an impressive body of work and often times she plays these very dark characters and we were able to sell her on the fact that the movie was going to be fun and cheery and bright and that idea really appealed to her.

After I first read the script we spent about 6 months fine tuning it and getting it to the place where we were going out to actors. Once the cast signed on we knew the script had to be both flexible as well as incorporate our actors strengths. The ʻGardnerʼ and ʻPaigeʼ characters didnʼt change much but with Josh and Calvinʼs character we wanted to give him more freedom to improv because youʼre always going to get something unique on every take and thatʼs a big help in the edit with a film like this.

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

JAKE: The budget was initially raised by my cousin and I putting in a good chunk of our own money. I’m a firm believer of investing in yourself. You have to be the first person to bet on yourself because if not you canʼt expect anyone else to be willing to bet on you. Things cascaded from there and we were able to raise the rest of our funds through private equity.

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

JAKE: We shot the film on the Canon C300 with a little bit of second angle stuff on a Canon Mark 3. I really liked working with the C300. The dynamic range of the camera coupled with the high mpbs in camera, great color reproduction, and a low pro form factor worked for our fast schedule.

To be honest the only thing I hated about it was having to return it at the end of the shoot. We even had a couple of our clips make the Canon Cinema Showreel (Min 2:00).

Did the movie change much in the editing and, if so, why did you make those changes?

JAKE: The movie changed quite a bit during the post process and the big reasons for that really had more to do with financial limitations as opposed to creative decisions. Of course these problems all have to be solved creatively and we had to do a lot of shuffling to navigate what we couldnʼt afford to shoot. When you canʼt shoot the entire script you have to focus on the main themes of the film so that the story still comes across in the end. Itʼs not always fun to make these types of decisions but doing whatʼs best for the film was always the priority.

What was the smartest thing you did during production?

JAKE: The smartest thing I always do during production is listen to my instincts and conversely when I forget to listen is when the floor falls out beneath me.

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

JAKE: What I learned from Dear Sidewalk that I have since taken to other projects is the importance of embracing my own voice so that I can better crystalize my approach to filmmaking. Knowing what type of artist I want to become is a big step in a long journey for me.

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