Sunday, June 28, 2015

Q&A with Director Sean Ackerman about His New Documentary on Kelley Gibson

Sean Ackerman and I have known each other for about 15 years. I can't believe it's been that long. It feels like yesterday when we met on the production of Todd Solondz's film Storytelling. We have lots of stories about that production but that's for another day.

Director Sean Ackerman

In those 15 years, Sean and I have made two feature films together: Straight Line and The Diary of Preston Plummer. And during that time, Sean went to medical school too. He is now a child psychiatrist/indie filmmaker. I love working with him because he brings such a well-rounded vision to anything he does. His life isn't solely about filmmaking, which is nice. And he's a new dad!

On top of all of that, Sean recently told me he was going to make a documentary. I was really happy to hear this as I love doing both narrative and documentaries. It's nice to know others who like to create both kinds of films.

And he recently launched a Kickstarter for the film, which is doing really well. They are in the home stretch of reaching their $40k goal. I suggested that as he nears the deadline for his crowdfunding campaign that we talk about the project here.

So that's what we're going to do. Let's talk about the film he wants to make about Kelley Gibson - a really remarkable young man.

Kelley Gibson
But before you read the Q&A, watch Sean's Kickstarter video - it will tell you all about the story he wants to tell:


Q&A with Sean Ackerman

Tell us about your new project and why you want to tell this story.

I've spent the bulk of the last 9 years training to be a child psychiatrist. In that time, I've seen a lot of good being done by the mental health system in this country, but obviously there is also a lot to be desired that isn't being done. This story does great job not only pointing out what usually isn't done, but it also provides a way forward. That is, it's not a story that just complains about gaps in health care, instead it offers real solutions. Plus, it's just an amazing and entertaining story, and from a filmmaking perspective, that's the first thing.

You're a medical doctor and filmmaker. Do you see this project as the perfect marriage of both of your skills?

Perhaps? But when you make a movie, you're mostly just making a movie. I'm really just a filmmaker when I create this documentary. However, my medical/psychiatric knowledge, I hope, will bring some authenticity/authority to it that another filmmaker could not. These are really, really complicated issues, and I hope I can do them justice.

There's a strong music element to the story. Can you describe why music is so important to this story?

Well, music is important for a lot of reasons. Broadly, it represents the idea that people who struggle with mental health issues are way more than their diagnosis. In the past Kelley has been given diagnoses of bipolar I and autism. Those are the sort of things doctors like myself tend to focus on. But it's not what really matters. What matters is that Kelley is happy and active, and in part for Kelley that is due to music. Beyond that though, on a pure science level, there is strong evidence that playing music actually changes the brain, and being a musician can actually help people improve focus and mood. On a whole other level, in this story music is important to Kelley's family. Kelley's father, Eric, is one of the most popular and accomplished bluegrass musicians in the country. Bluegrass is a family thing, and family is more important than psychiatric medication. Family can help you recover, and family can tear you apart. So, music really stands in for a lot in this story: Kelley's personal identity, Kelley's family, and it also literally impacts the structure of his brain.

This project is a documentary but you have also directed narrative films. How is making a documentary different from a narrative film? Do you like one over the other?

From a creative perspective, I'd way rather shoot a narrative project. There is more freedom. However, from a public policy perspective, I think real life is more powerful. This project is in part about offering some ideas to improve outcomes in mental health, and so I think it's important to stay 100% in the real world. Thus, a documentary.

What are your hopes for this film?

First, I want it to be super entertaining because that is the first rule of storytelling. The ultimate goal though is for it to be seen by the important stakeholders and policy makers in mental health, and to hopefully influence those people a bit. Essentially, I would like to see mental health shift more towards helping people find their strengths and deal with their environments, and have less emphasis on acute interventions and medications. I mean, medications can be very important, but for most people, they are only a small part of the puzzle. For some, medications solve everything, but that's not the norm. Most people who suffer from mental illness have something going on in their lives that contributes to their psychiatric issues, and we need to spend more time working on those issues while also helping people build their natural strengths.

Why crowdfunding?

We are doing crowdfunding for a couple reasons. First: I wanted to see if the story resonated with people before I broke my back to make the movie. With that in mind, I didn't really put much effort into the Kickstarter video itself because I just wanted to see if people liked the feel of the raw story. Second reason: because we'd like for a big chunk of the profit to go to a charity, if we have fewer investors to pay back, we have more moola to give to our charity of choice.

What advice can you give up-and-coming indie filmmakers?

Know what you want. I have a weird career as a doctor and indie filmmaker. It's not easy to make work but I've made it work because I've been clear about what it is that I wanted for a long time. So know what you want and then you'll figure the rest out.

Click on the box below to check out Sean's Kickstarter campaign. I hope you can contribute and spread the word. This story needs to be told. Good luck Sean and Kelley!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Our Emotions Halfway Through Our Feature Film Crowdfunding Campaign

What a whirlwind of emotion! Moviemaking is emotional as it is. Throw a crowdfunding campaign in the mix and it's a hotbed of anxiety, stress, joy, and gratefulness.

We are just over the halfway point in our crowdfunding campaign for our new film Pitching Tents. I thought it would be fun or torturous - take your pick - to run through all the emotions that our crowdfunding campaign has stirred up.

1) Fear. 

It's really scary to launch a crowdfunding campaign. What if no one contributes? What if I fail to reach my goal? What if I look like a loser? What if my friends and family get so annoyed by my constant search for money in order to make movies that they write me off forever? I know that sounds silly but it's irrational thoughts like these that a crowdfunding campaign can elicit. These feelings can be so strong that some filmmakers never run a campaign.

In these moments of fear, here's what I tell myself: I have chosen to be an independent filmmaker and it's a reality I will be on the eternal search for money to make movies. Never expect anyone to contribute to my films, but jump for joy when they do. The only way I can receive any funding is if I ask for it. I need to work as hard as I possibly can for each and every dime put into my films - it's the only way to achieve success. Never rest on my laurels. I will always be pushing to get my titles in front of an audience. That is my life. I must accept my choice and learn how to overcome my fear of what it takes to be an independent filmmaker. How do I do that? Go into everything I do with good intentions and create a foundation for each project whereby everyone gains - both emotionally and financially. With good intentions and humility and grace, I can overcome all obstacles, including fear.

2) Anxiety.

It's really hard to fall asleep at night wondering about the future of your crowdfunding campaign. Anxiety is always lurking, threatening to choke you. You feel the watchful eye of the world on your every move and you hope they aren't rolling their eyes. But again, that's irrational, because in reality, when you launch your campaign, you're already winning. You have committed to your project and you are taking control of its future. You aren't sitting back waiting for someone to hand you the means for making your film. Believe in yourself and your project and hopefully any anxiety can be quelled by the knowledge that you are doing everything in your power to make your film a success.

3) Joy.

Each and every contribution or act of support brings us closer to our goal and the amount of joy associated is immeasurable. These moments make it all worthwhile. Revel in the joy and work hard for these moments.

4) Thankfulness.

I can't even begin to describe how grateful I am each and every time someone contributes, does a shout out, pats us on the back, shares the campaign with friends/family, listens to me prattle on about my movies, deals with all my Facebook statuses and tweeting - the list goes on. Each and every day, I wake up feeling such immense appreciation and love for everyone in my life. And what a positive way to wake up. It feels glorious. And in turn, I know that I am there for everyone in my life. I will go to the ends of the earth to support my friends/family/fellow filmmakers. It's a two way street. And I love knowing that we are all in this crazy thing we call life, together. That truly makes me thankful.

5) Stress.

The stress associated with running a crowdfunding campaign is huge. I could literally be working on it 24/7. But I know that I can't. It's physically impossible to do everything you want to do. That's why it's so important to build a team who will become your film family, who will help carry the weight of the campaign and the making of the film. I know I've said it before, but it truly takes a village. When I start to feel the tight grip of stress, I take a deep breath and I call my teammates and we talk it out. We share the stress. Exercise and hugs help too.

6) Inspired. 

Seeing all of the support that comes in during a crowdfunding campaign is absolutely inspiring. It makes you want to go out and do great things - to show your supporters that they're belief in you is worth it. Being inspired is a huge motivator for success. I love being inspired!

7) Proud.

I am so proud of the work we do on our films. This is our career and our lives. We work so hard to make everything we do, the best it can possibly be. We take what we do seriously. Film has so much power to inspire laughter and tears and even change. There are many films that changed me forever. So we take our strong work ethic and we apply it to our crowdfunding campaigns too. Because we're proud of the work we do and we want our audience to feel something from our stories. Essentially, the pride grows each day as we lay a solid foundation for our indie film.

8) Guilt.

How does one feeling guilty when running a crowdfunding campaign? I think it's the idea of asking people for money. And wishing you didn't have to. Wishing it were easier to get indie films made. Wishing you didn't have to struggle when making each and every film and do multiple crowdfunding campaigns. I know we are asking for money in exchange for a perk and involvement in making a film - something many people want. And I know we are going to put every dollar to good use. But it's still never easy to ask others for money and admit that the process of making a film is challenging and truly takes a village. Having to lean on others is inherently a tough realization that can make us feel guilty. But know that you are contributing toward something important - you are helping to keep indie film alive. The arts are truly important for the well-being of mankind. We need to laugh and cry and share our stories. So stop feeling guilty and get out there and make something special that can help make another person's day a little better.

9) Surprised.

I don't know if "surprised" is the right word because I'm not surprised that people can be generous. The generosity is absolutely astounding. I can't even express the gratitude I feel for every contribution and act of support. I think the feelings of surprise are that all these people want to help YOU. Why do you deserve the money that you are being given? In response, I would say, let's turn that question around, why don't you deserve the money you're being given? You're making a movie with which you plan to entertain each and every contributor. You're providing a fun perk that they can enjoy and you're giving each person the ability to take part in making a movie. Not everyone has the opportunity to take part in making a movie. You are giving that person an experience. In the end, I think it all comes back to good intentions and old-fashioned hard work. You aren't taking other people's money to just blow it. You're working really, really hard for the money they are giving you. You are providing them with a piece of the journey. And that's worth something. So don't feel surprised. Instead, work hard for the money you're given.

10) Relief. 

There is a huge wave of relief that washes over you as you see the amount of funding grow. Suddenly all of the anxiety of being able to afford to make the film eases a bit. You realize that you will have the funding to make it happen and you're growing the audience for the film before it's even made. And that, my friends, it's the greatest feeling in the world and what you set out to do when you hit that Launch the Campaign button.

A crowdfunding campaign is about believing in yourself and your film. There's no shame in wanting to bring people together in the common cause of getting your film made. And know that every filmmaker who runs a crowdfunding campaign experiences each and every emotion discussed above. Even those filmmakers who seem to have raised the funding for their projects so easily. I guarantee they had moments of anxiety and joy and thankfulness and even pangs of guilt (am I worthy?). All you can do is deal with the emotions and find ways of working through them. Exercise is a great way of working through your emotions. In fact, I'm heading out for a walk after I finish this entry.

It's true that you will likely fail more times than you succeed. But with each failure, you learn to be stronger and better. There is something positive that comes out of everything you do. So get out there and don't be afraid to ride the roller coaster of life and moviemaking and experience the good and the bad of it all. When you do take chances, you're living.

When it's all said and done, whether or not we reach our goal of raising $75k, we will have won. Every dollar will be used to make our film better and stronger. And the amount of people we have engaged in our campaign and who now know about our film is worth its weight in gold. So thank you to everyone who has stirred up all these emotions. We couldn't be more grateful.

We hope you check out our campaign while it's still going. Just click here on the box and you will be taken to our IndieGoGo page. Thanks everyone! Let's get emotional together.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Q&A with Christopher Hansen, Writer/Director of Where We Started

Writer/Director Chris Hansen
Photo by: Minerva House

1) Tell us about your film Where We Started.
Where We Started is a very contained story of what happens when two strangers connect with one another while they’re both stopping for the night at a motel.  Their initial attraction deepens as the night goes on – but they’re both married, and the events of the night force them to confront the realities of their respective marital situations.  It’s a romantic drama that deals with questions of fidelity and attraction, about what drives people to have affairs when they clearly know they shouldn’t.

Check out the trailer here:

Where We Started (official trailer) from Chris Hansen on Vimeo.

2) What was your inspiration behind the story of Where We Started?
There were a couple of things that inspired me. First, my wife and I had known a lot of couples that had gone through divorces.  There were various reasons, but infidelity was definitely one of those reasons that came up several times.  And so I’d just been thinking about that.  And about that time I had read an article, some time after the death of filmmaker John Hughes, about a project of his that never got made.  It had something to do with two people who connected over musical taste and other things during a night when they were stranded in a motel.  So I kind of put those two things together in my mind and created a story.  And I layered in a bunch of references to John Hughes movies as a nod to the inspiration for this story and also to the role his movies played in my life when I was younger.

3) What made you decide to make it independently?
Where We Started was my third feature as a writer/director, and I’ve made all of them independently.  I’m based in Texas (and I have my family here as well) – so it’s hard for me to try to sell stuff to Hollywood. I tried that for a number of years before focusing on making my own stuff when it became a lot easier to do so thanks to the digital revolution.  Part of it, then, is necessity, and the other part is creative control.  I really like being able to make what I want and not have anyone forcing it to be something else.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have collaborators or that I don’t take creative advice from others; I do!  I just choose them carefully, and we’re all in on what we’re trying to do together.  The downside, of course, is that my films have all been done on really small budgets.

4) How did you cast your lead actors, Matthew Brumlow and Cora Vander
Matthew and I went to college together.  We lost touch (back in the days before email and Facebook), but he pursued acting as a grad student at Northwestern, and ended up building a solid career as a theatre actor in the Chicago area.  A mutual friend read a script of mine and suggested I see if Matt was interested.  That project was my second feature, Endings, and Matt was one of the three leads.  He was really good, and the experience of working with someone with whom I already had a great relationship was so good that I immediately knew we’d want to work together again.  He married Cora soon after the Endings shoot was done, and since she was a well-regarded stage actor, too, I thought it would be great to do something together. So the project was really written specifically for them.

5) What was the best experience making Where We Started
The best part of it was the way we worked on it from concept to production.  Rather than me writing a script, casting actors, and going into production, I involved Matt and Cora all the way back at the concept stage.  They contributed notes and ideas as well as character backgrounds, some of which they pulled from their own lives and experiences. I felt I needed to credit them with some of the dialogue, because several key lines or speeches came directly from them or were seriously revised by them.  And once a solid draft was done, I went out to visit them and we spent a long weekend workshopping and rehearsing the script.  It improved dramatically from that session.  I was able to see easily some things in both action and dialogue that were killing momentum or that seemed really too abstract and theoretical.  The whole collaboration made it one of the best creative experiences of my life.

6) What was the most challenging part of creating Where We Started?
Any micro-budget indie film shoot is a nightmare.  Ours was particularly challenging.  We had several things go wrong that made us think we were cursed.  For example, our motel interior was on a soundstage, but the exterior was a nearby motel.  We had booked I think six nights shooting exterior scenes there.  These were to all be overnight shoots.  It doesn’t get dark in the summer in Texas until nearly 10pm, so we would prep and then shoot from 10pm to about 5:30am.  On the second night of shooting exteriors at the motel, the owner revoked the deal because we were disturbing what we believed to be some… ahem… illegal business dealings in a particular room. And short of bringing a lawsuit, we just didn’t have any recourse even though we had a signed agreement.  He gave us the rest of that night to shoot five more nights worth of scenes.  It was a moment of sheer panic. But thanks to a very calm producer, a dedicated crew, and actors who were ready to go, we shot a ton of material that night (sometimes with just a single setup instead of doing coverage).  Several of those scenes ended up being my favorite things in the film. But I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone.

7) How did you finance your film?
A combination of methods.  I launched a Kickstarter – which failed.  We fell short of the money we were trying to raise, but I emailed all of the backers and explained we were going to make the film anyway and just asked if they’d be willing to donate the money they had pledged.  Almost all of them still sent the money.  I teach film at Baylor University (and I’m currently the chair of the Film & Digital Media Department, though I wasn’t back when we shot Where We Started), so we used some department funds that were set aside for faculty film projects as well. And Baylor has internal grants for faculty projects of all sorts, so I secured some funding there.  We used Baylor film students as most of our crew, hiring professional department heads to teach them and make sure the key things were getting done.

8) How did you secure distribution and where can we see your film?
We initially went out to festivals, hoping maybe we’d get into one of the prestigious ones. When that didn’t happen, we still wanted to screen at some good regional fests, many of which I’ve screened at before with past films.  After that, I explored a number of options before working with Linda Nelson and Michael Madison at Indie Rights.  They’re very filmmaker friendly in terms of the profit split, and they got the film distributed in several places.  After a one-week run at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood and positive reviews from LA Weekly and The Village Voice, we launched online at Amazon and Google Play.  It’ll be up on iTunes soon as well.

Watch the film on Amazon Prime here.

Watch on Google Play here.

9) What's next for you in independent film?
I’m in postproduction on my fourth feature, a drama called Blur Circle that tells the story of a woman dealing with the grief over the disappearance of her young son two years ago.  When a mysterious man with a camera and his own tragic past comes into her life, it changes both of them in significant ways.  And I’m going to be directing a documentary about the British sci-fi show Doctor Who, specifically focused on fans who have done extraordinary things with their lives or for other people as a result of the influence of the long running show.

10) What made you want to write/direct a movie?
Because I’m a glutton for punishment?

Seriously – it’s a punishing experience at times, but it can be incredibly rewarding.  I have always wanted to tell stories, ever since I was a kid, through the time I was an English major in college, through film school. My focus has always been storytelling.  At some point I realized that the stories and storytellers I had started to really idolize were filmmakers.  I remember standing on the set of my first film, moments after we’d done the last take of the final shot of the entire shoot, thinking, “I did it.”

I was so wrong, though.  I hadn’t done it yet.  I’d just gotten through production.  
Thinking you’ve done it because you got through production is like equating a wedding to a marriage.  The wedding is just the opening act.  The marriage is where the work starts.

11) What advice can you give up and coming independent filmmakers?
Where should I start?!  I’ve learned a lot from making these films.  Some of what I’ve learned has been about filmmaking itself.  None of my films are downright bad, but it wasn’t until I’d made a couple that it really started to all click.  Much of what I learned has been about the process and about the marketing. 

In terms of process: I’ve learned to focus (or to TRY to focus) on the journey and not just the end product.  Where We Started taught me that I should be trying to make the process one that is creative and collaborative and enjoyable.  If that happens, the product itself will improve, but that can’t be the sole motive.  If I’m going to spend months in production and post production and then a year on the festival circuit etc., I need to enjoy what I’m doing. 

In terms of marketing: I’ve learned that marketing the film is the hardest part of the process, and it’s the part that indie filmmakers talk and know the least about (myself included). As much as we might denigrate the marketing efforts of various films, the fact is that it’s extremely difficult to sell films to an audience unless there’s some really obvious draw.  What are the obvious draws?  Recognizable actors, genres, things like that.  If you make a movie like Where We Started, a small, contained drama with actors who are not known to the general public, you face a huge uphill climb. I was told more than once by a festival programmer that they loved it but were facing pushback because it wasn’t going to bring people into the theaters the way a film with a bigger name or more excitement around it would.  You can argue until you’re blue in the face about why it’s wrong for festivals to do that, that they should support good indie filmmaking, but it won’t do you any good. Festivals have to keep the doors open, too, so they have to get butts in the seats.  I’m not happy about it, but there it is. Again – it’s all in the marketing.

I could make films all the time if I didn’t have to worry about marketing and distribution.  These things wear you down.  If I could just hand the completed work off to someone to begin marketing, with me commenting on the plans, that would be ideal.  But that’s not reality.  So you just keep doing it. 

The past month, on my next film, we’ve been trying to deal with workflow issues between our editor, our visual effects artist, and our colorist.  At the same time, I’ve been trying to get Where We Started properly prepped for iTunes, which is a very technically-oriented task.  Some audio wasn’t in stereo, some files were exported in the wrong codec, the closed-captioning file (which is now required by the FCC for all films being distributed online) wasn’t complete.  It feels like one emergency after another, but there’s nothing you can do.  If you decide you’re too worn out to deal with it, it just won’t get done.  So you dig in, get it done, and hold your breath until the next problem comes along, and you hope you can solve it or know someone who can!

I don’t mean to paint a picture of futility.  I am very fortunate in that I get to make films, and I’ve made four features now.  Not many people can say that.  I’d like them to find bigger audiences, and Where We Started has probably found the biggest audience of any of my films thanks to its availability on Amazon Prime.  I feel my job as a filmmaker is to keep building my audience a little at time so that some people are anticipating the next film I’ll make.

Track Our Co-writer/producer Jayme Petrille on His Road Trip to Set!

Our co-writer/producer of our new teen comedy Pitching Tents is on a road trip from LA to Connecticut, where we will be filming next month!

Jayme has worked in Hollywood a long time and he is finally seeing his script Pitching Tents being made. It's a really special time for all of us to have this film greenlit for production. It's been a long time coming.

And in honor of it, Jayme and his wife and kids have embarked on a cross-country journey from LA to Connecticut to set.

We are also mid-crowdfunding for the film. We hope you check out our campaign and join us on this adventure!

Check out his journey here:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Q&A with Sam Lloyd, Writer/Director of Baby Shoes

Sam Lloyd is a writer/director from the UK. He is putting together a film titled Baby Shoes. He currently has a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to make it. Let's learn more about Sam and his film:

1) Tell us about your film Baby Shoes:
Baby Shoes is a film I've been writing over the last twelve months. It explores themes such as homelessness, happiness and the challenges we face in our lives. The film tells the story of a man called Paul. He loses his job, his home and all of his possessions in a fire and winds up in a homeless shelter where he meets a man called James. James is a strange man with a complicated background but, despite their differences, the duo build an unconventional friendship. They must travel to the other side of the country to get Paul's home and life and encounter several unfortunate occurrences along the way. And, unbeknown to Paul, James has an ulterior motive for their long journey.

2) What was your inspiration behind the story of Baby Shoes?
I got the idea for Baby Shoes one day last year. I was on a photography assignment and while I was shooting I met a homeless man. We got talking and he told me his life story. He'd been made redundant, he was kicked out of his home and was disowned by his family. His life had completely fallen apart. So he traveled 600 miles to his home town of Hastings (where I live) by hitchhiking, stealing rides, he even stowed away in the back of a lorry just to get home. I found his story very emotional because I'd recently had a rough time in my personal life. His story seemed to run parallel to my life. So I told him that his story would make an excellent film and he said if I ever got the opportunity to make a film about him, do it. So I went home and started writing Baby Shoes.

3) What made you decide to make this film?
The story. The story really makes any good film. If you don't have a good, emotionally engaging story then what's the point? I find a lot of films lately are very much style over substance and would I'd like to see that change.

4) What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I wanted to make films from childhood. Most of my time when I was a kid was spent watching films and I think it was the storytelling aspect of it that interested me. I think making films is a great way to connect with a lot of very interesting and diverse people. Not necessarily like-minded, but people who are passionate about telling a story.

Sam as a Toddler

5) Who else is on your filmmaking team and why do you enjoy working with them?
Currently I am getting a great team together to make Baby Shoes with me. I'm looking for people who are as passionate as me about independent films and the diversity they bring. I've been inundated with requests from actors to be in Baby Shoes so I'm sure whoever gets cast will be excellent.

6) What is the filmmaking community like in the UK?
Film-making is HUGE in the UK. I am so lucky to be among such passionate and creative people. Of course, we benefit from having many of the world's most successful film studios here who have produced some of the most popular films ever made; The 007 films, Lawrence of Arabia, Monty Python etc. So, yes I'm very lucky to live in such a thriving community for filmmakers. Indie films are huge here too, I have an independent picture house down the road from me and love watching a huge range of films that chain-cinemas won't screen.

7) What made you decide to run a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter?
I think it's a great way of getting like-minded creative people together. You know that only people who are truly passionate about your project will back you. So its the community that drew me towards crowd-funding Baby Shoes.

8) What have been the challenges of your crowdfunding campaign and how are you attempting to overcome them?
Getting people to give you their money! That's the most challenging part. You have to convince backers that you're qualified to produce your film/music/art/invention etc when you get the funding you need. You need to be competent.

9) What are your distribution plans for Baby Shoes?
If Baby Shoes is funded successfully we will be hosting a private screening for our backers. After that it will be entered into various film festivals in Britain and the US and released on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD in 2017.

10) What advice can you give up and coming independent filmmakers?
Just find a story you're passionate about. It's SO hard to get the idea, to get the story. It has to mean something to you. If you don't have a story that you personally relate to it will be very hard to make the film. It's also a good idea to get involved in the community. Help out other filmmakers near you, reach out to film festivals with your work. You never know what opportunities may be around the corner.