Thursday, July 23, 2015

Joe Gawalis on "Around Every Corner"

What was your filmmaking background before making Around Every Corner?

JOE: I graduated from Film school in 2007, so like everyone else I took jobs as a P.A. on music videos, television productions etc, occasionally making short films.  After a while I decided that I would concentrate my time on writing scripts, as I could start to develop my style the more scripts I wrote. 

Eventually I started gaining momentum, with my short films winning various awards in New York City, developing strong relationships with actors, casting directors and producers in the city.  My next film, which I wrote and will be directing, has gained the attention of some solid named talent.

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

JOE: Around Every Corner was a completely different experience in writing for me.  The script was not something written in spec with the hopes to obtain financing or attracting a well-known production company to opinion the script. 

I wrote Around Every Corner knowing my company would be producing the project for a set amount of money. I am also very fortunate to have very close relationships with some amazing talent in the New York City Area.  I was speaking with my associate producer and we came up with a list of eight actors that we had the upmost respect for that are just at the point to really break out in the independent film world and approached them with the idea.  They were all very interested so I knew I had my principal cast. 

I was at a film festival with three of the other leads Michael Voight, Emilio Vitolo, and Vanessa Koppel.  We took a picture together and noticed that we all really had great chemistry together and the look to be a family.  So I knew I wanted the script focused around a family unit. 

With all that in mind it was time to start writing around locations. I didn’t want to get into a situation where the script is complete on a limited budget, and we can’t get the locations I had in mind.  So I looked at what I knew we had.  I am very fortunate to have a friend who owns a magnificent restaurant in Little Italy, a casting director who has an office in New York City, some apartments throughout the city, a lake house and boat in New Jersey etc. 

It was a great experience writing with the limitations that were in front of me as it gave me experience as a writer, forming a script for someone rather than just my unbounded imagination.  If a producer wanted me to write a script for them within limitations of the budget etc., I know I have no problems doing that. 

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

JOE: They say when you want something done you do it yourself and that’s exactly what I did, and my company put up the money for the entire production.  I knew we had a window of time for production, post, etc. which was very short. 

Production of my next film, Memoirs from the Streets of New York, will be starting soon so I didn’t have time to approach investors etc. It’s not always easy putting your own money into something, but when you have a vision and passion behind it, you know what you need to do.  I am also single with no children, so putting my own money forward just affects myself. I am not leveraging a house or using money that my children need to eat.  With that freedom, comes certain advantages when it comes to film. 

As for recouping costs, we are fortunate that I was able to keep the budget from soaring high. We worked with a minimal crew that was very dedicated. Everyone, including the crew and the actors, have a percentage of the film.  For every day someone worked be it an actor, crew member, a location manager etc., they would receive  x number of points in the film.  

We also have a very successful online marketing campaign for an independent film.  With no named talent attached, we were able to already gain over 16,000 followers on Facebook, have articles written about us in Examiner, and our Youtube page--which was launched only a month ago--already has had over 10,000 hits and climbing every day. Our fans are dedicated and excited to see the film.

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

JOE: We shot on canon DSLR cameras for two reasons.  At first I was speaking with the cinematographer and we both were weighing the benefits of shooting 4k raw and going with two Black Magic Production Cameras that produce a beautiful image. The only problem was the cost of doing a feature film in raw 4k would skyrocket our budget. 

4k is very affordable to shoot out of the box now, but storage and post gets expensive.   I wasn’t going to allow us to go over the budget we set from the start.  Even if you are footing the bill yourself, the second you compromise and let that budget move up once, it becomes so easy to do it again and again.  You will find an excuse to keep putting a little more in. 

The second reason I wanted to shoot on a DSLR is because in the independent film scene, I am always hearing my fellow filmmakers who have such talent talking about their films.  Talking and waiting, waiting to secure that huge budget, waiting to make sure they have a top of the line Alexa, etc.  So they go on and keep talking about their films and nothing happens and years go by. 

We are filmmakers…artists; a filmmaker should be making films, no matter what limitations are in front of them.  A painter wouldn’t stop painting because they don’t have access to the best paints, they just need their canvas.  As filmmakers our canvas is cinema and I want to keep pushing the message out there to create, don’t let excuses get in our way as filmmakers.  If people believe in that, the door to some amazing talent will be open and more amazing films will be seen.  

You wore a lot of hats on the production -- writer, director, actor, producer. What's the upside and the downside of doing that?

JOE: It was interesting wearing so many hats in this production, but I made sure the keys around me all the time where fantastic.  We had such a solid team that had worked together on many projects before, so we flowed together seamlessly.  Tim Reeves, Hector Soria and Enrique Williams are three people that I have the utmost respect for and we fill in the gaps each of us are missing and strengthen each other constantly. 

The only downside I see to wearing all those hats would be the lack of sleep. I love this business and craft more than anything. It’s my passion so I enjoy the long hard hours; it’s just on the off days when you feel it. 

What was your process for directing yourself?

JOE: Directing myself was an interesting process. I felt going into this as a performer and director the key would be building the scenes with the other actors.  When we would discuss the scene their characters motivation, psyche etc., I would slowly allow myself as a performer to sink into the world of John Cambioti (my character). 

Once the other actors were in their place, we melded together and something magical happened. I was very blessed to be around such amazing talent, that the dance between all of us was so give and take.  No one was interested in over stepping, there was always an understanding of the scene, not just ourselves, and it allowed something special to happen.   

I did have a few situations in the film where my character is alone and that’s where it was a very interesting situation, as there was no more following with another performer.   What I found really brought me into my character's world then was music.  I would create a list of songs based on the mood of the scene and even more specific for my character's arc for that particular moment and his internal conflict.  That would get me to where I needed to be. 

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

JOE: I learned that if you surround yourself with amazing people, you can accomplish goals and objectives.  When the team is passionate, your support system cares and everyone is working together for each other not just their own personal goals, something fantastic can happen. 

I’m grateful to everyone involved with Around Every Corner and want to always be sure to take that attitude to every project I work on, including the appreciation for the talent and people around you.  Filmmaking is a collaboration process; let’s start really looking at it that way.

1 comment:

Andy Bowles said...

Great read!!! Awesome Joe!!!