Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Road to Sundance 2013: GUN, directed by Spencer Gillis

Spencer Gillis


Poster
GUN Production Still















Tell us about your film
The film is called GUN and was part of the shorts competition at Sundance (Shorts Program 4).  It is a character study about a young father named Roy who buys a handgun to protect his home and family after they experience a terrifying break-in. The newfound sense of power that Roy feels when carrying the gun becomes an obsession that leads him down a path that may have serious consequences.

What inspired you to make it?
Two things inspired GUN.  First, I grew up in the small town in Kansas where my mother was a police officer.  She used to take me with her to the pistol range to watch her practice shooting.  Eventually I learned to shoot, and I've always been impressed with the sense of empowerment and responsibility that comes with handling a handgun. The second thing was my own personal experience one night when I thought someone was breaking into my suburban home. My pregnant wife was asleep next to me and my primal instinct to protect kicked in. Thankfully it was a false alarm, but it got me thinking about what I would do if someone was breaking in. Those two ideas collided, creating the concept for GUN.

What do you love about your film?
I love that it doesn't push a political agenda. Instead, it challenges the audience to re-examine the way they look at the issues surrounding gun ownership.  In fact, the film isn't really about guns - it's about the influence of power on the human mind.  

How long did it take you to make your film?
We shot the film over three days about 14 months ago.  Our entire post-production process took about a year because we all had full time jobs and personal responsibilities that made the editing, coloring, sound design, and mix a slow process.  But we got it done in time for Sundance - so it was a happy ending.

How did you finance your film?
I used my own personal savings to shoot the film, then we raised about nine-thousand dollars on Kickstarter to cover the post production, festival run, and publicity costs.

What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process and how did you overcome it?
Overall, the shoot went very well. The most challenging part of the process was post production - finding the time and the resources to get it done was a struggle. The editors and myself have day jobs, and we asked a lot of favors.  We are extremely grateful for the favors we were able to get, but part of the deal with favors is that you are subject to when facilities are available if you want a discount.
 
Tell us about your experience getting into Sundance. 
When I got the call I thought it was a friend playing some kind of sick joke. I truly didn't believe it at first. Even after going to the festival and having the most amazing time of my life, I don't think the fact that my film was in Sundance has completely settled in. It’s something you work for your entire career, so it's a bit surreal when it happens.

If you had to make the film all over again, would you do anything different?
I wouldn't change a frame of the film, but there are always little things during the shooting or in post I could have done to be more efficient.  The entire process was an incredible learning experience that will make me better next time around.

What’s next for your film? Do you have distribution? If so, when and how can people see it and if not, what are your hopes for the film?
We plan to run the festival circuit for the next year to play the film in a theatrical setting as much as possible.  We've been approached by a few different online distribution channels, which we'll pursue after the festivals have run their course.

Can you provide any advice to other filmmakers who dream of getting their films made and into Sundance?
Tell a great story that you are passionate about and surround yourself with good people who are great at their jobs.  Be fearless and don't give up.  90% of getting a film made is perseverance. 

Watch the trailer for GUN here:


Saturday, January 26, 2013

My New Short Film with Sam Jaeger: Plain Clothes

Writer/Director Sam Jaeger

Writer/Director Sam Jaeger (also known as Joel on the TV show Parenthood) and I are teaming up again to make a movie! I am so excited. This short film will be the first film I am producing under my new banner Meritage Pictures.

Our new short film is called "Plain Clothes." It's the story of a 35-year-old cop trying to make sense of the brutality he sees at work and the struggle not to bring it home. Inspired by accounts from real police officers, "Plain Clothes" is an unflinching look at the emotional toll paid by the men and women in blue.  

Ever since Sam and I made Take Me Home together, I have been looking forward to our next project together. Sam is such a talented and kind person and his positive attitude permeates the set. It's such a joy to work with him. And now I can do it again!

Of course it's never easy to afford to make new films so we have started an IndieGoGo campaign to help afford to make it. We hope any of you who enjoy my blog would be willing to contribute toward the making of this new film. It would mean a great deal to me, Sam and the film. Thank you for any support you can provide.

You can click on the below IndieGoGo widget to contribute. Keep on reading as Sam has answered a few questions I posed to him about the project below. Cheers!


Our IndieGoGo Campaign:





Questions for Sam Jaeger:


What inspired you to write Plain Clothes?

Initially, various conversations I've had with officers.  I know being a father also played a role.  There's something strange that went off in my brain when my son was born.  I felt like I had to "man up", so to speak.  Which I took to mean stuffing my emotions down in an effort to be the great protector.  And even though that's kind of horse shit, I see it happen to new dads.  We end up pushing things way down.  And so I thought, "If I'm holding back like this, what must it be like for someone in a really harrowing line of work?"  And so in these discussions, I saw that, sure enough, there's a lot of emotions that these men and women struggle to make peace with.  PTSD doesn't just affect soldiers.  And it surely does affect spouses.

So the idea of an officer at some sort of impasse in his life, where he can't keep all he's dealing with bottled up, finds himself in a life threatening situation.  And how does it change him, and how does it change his wife?  That was fascinating to me.

Why have you decided to make a short film instead of a full feature?  

I've tried to sit down to write with fewer expectations on myself lately, and so I wrote the first draft of this in an afternoon.  And then I let it sit for a while because I had this sense after Take Me Home that I wasn't going back to shorts.  That they were in my past or some nonsense.  But I think that was actually a way of keeping myself safe.  Because getting back on the horse after making a feature can be a pretty daunting task.  But if it's a story that moves me, that I think will move others, then the only thing standing in my way is fear.  And the most worthwhile things in my life have often been the most terrifying.

You wrote and directed the feature film Take Me Home (www.takemehomemovie.com). What did you learn from making that film that you want to apply to this new project?

I learned how many remarkable people there are in this business.  It's kind of an industry of gypsies, in a good way.  We're all trying to find our way, from paycheck to paycheck.  But the good ones, and there are a ton of them, the good ones make time because they love being a part of something greater.  And I really love to see how those collaborations, like Take Me Home for example, affected us all in such a positive way.

What is your hope for the future of this film and your future as a filmmaker?

Well, I hope to keep making films like this throughout the rest of my career.  I think there's something to be said for making a kind of film that isn't Transformers.  I think if you make movies that don't cost a third world country, and if you fill them with vivid characters in dire situations, you can build a long career.  Of course, that means never getting to work with Optimus Prime, but I hear that guy's an asshole anyway.

How can people contribute to Plain Clothes?

I feel like this film is an expansion of what Take Me Home is.  It's a growing community of people who want to help tell a good story.  And just committing whatever they can, twenty bucks or whatever, that goes a long way.  Maybe passing along our story to others.  It's been fun to share Take Me Home with the people who made it happen, and now I just want to expand that family of storytellers.


Our IndieGoGo Campaign Video (what do you think?):


Road to Sundance 2013: Circles (Krugovi), directed by Srdan Golubovic

Srdan Golubovic










Tell us about your film.
Circles (Krugovi) is screened in World Dramatic competition. Circles is film about consequences of one heroic act. About the struggle of people who were witnesses and participants of one tragic event and their need to step out from the shadow of the accident which changed their lives. The film is inspired by true event.

What inspired you to make it?
The fact that there was no many positive stories from the bloody wars in ex Yugoslavia. Six years ago I read the story about Serbian soldier Srdjan Aleksic who saved life of his neighbor Muslim civilian and was beaten to death by other Serbian soldiers. Then I started to think together with my scriptwriters Melina Pota Koljevic and Srdjan Koljevic how to build up the story around that human act. We decided to tell the story that happens today and is talking about forgiveness, redemption, sacrificing and private catharsis of the characters of the movie. During the war I lived 100 kilometers from the war frontline and I wasn’t directly involved with it. I was demonstrating against all crimes and madness that happened near to us. We did nothing to stop that bloody war and probably we couldn’t do anything. That’s why I felt that working on this film is my private reconciliation with the time I lived in and my private catharsis.

What do you love about your film?
I love simplicity of the film language, which is totally focused on characters and their destinies. I love very much how actors brought with authentic and lively performance the world to which their characters belong to and how silence and emptiness is coloring the atmosphere of the film.

How long did it take you to make your film?
Very long. We started to develop the idea almost 6 years ago. It was very  hard and challenging process.

How did you finance your film?
Circles is co-production between Serbia, Germany, France, Croatia and Slovenia. Film is also supported by European film fund Eurimages and Arte France and Zdf Arte. Total budget was 2 mil euros and the money that we got from Serbian film fund was 350.000 euros. With German coproducer I worked on my previous film The Trap (2007). It was very important and challenging to have ex-Yugoslav countries Croatia and Slovenia in this film. Story about Srdjan Aleksic is something what united all ex-Yugoslav countries in feeling that his heroic act is something what is above war conflicts and misunderstandings. That’s one of the stories that is opening the way for reconciliation and forgiveness.

What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process and how did you overcome it?
To make the story that is connected with war in ex-Yugoslavia and which is universal and not political. The film that is honest and is a private piece of my world.

Tell us about your experience getting into Sundance. 
I'm very happy and proud to be at Sundance. The atmosphere of the festival is great. It's one of the rare festival where directors and programmers are in everyday and close communication with the authors. I like very much audience at Sundance who are very opened and curious.

If you had to make the film all over again, would you do anything different? 
Making the film is the thing of moment. Probably many things would be different in the way how I would make it. The idea and intention why I wanted to make this film would stay the same.
  
What’s next for your film? Do you have distribution? If so, when and how can people see it and if not, what are your hopes for the film? 
Next is Berlinale Forum.  I am very happy to be at Berlinale again, my previous film The Trap (Klopka) from 2007 was there. I hope that audience from all over the world will understand and emotionally connect with this movie. Circles is universal story that can happen everywhere.

Can you provide any advice to other filmmakers who dream of getting their films made and into Sundance?
To put in their films their own dreams and never ever to step out from that.

Road to Sundance 2013: Google and the World Brain, directed by Ben Lewis

Ben Lewis 




Tell us about your film. What inspired you to make it? My film is called "Google and the World Brain" and it is in the World Documentary competition in Sundance 2013. I was really looking for a subject through which I could explore the dreams, dangers and dilemmas of the internet. The various projects to create a universal digital library, of which Google Books is the biggest, just struck me as such a fantastic story - it was at once an ancient dream, to create a universal library with every book ever written by man, and a very contemporary technological story - it was only now that it could be done thanks to the internet. Google had scanned ten to twenty million books, but six million of them had been in copyright - here we had something which juxtaposed the themes of the common good against the rights of the individual. And it was a totally international story.  
What do you love about your film?
I love the way I was able to realise the film visually by shooting in some of the world's most futuristic libraries, places which few people really know much about like the National Library of China, which looks like a massive circuit board, and the Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City, where the book shelves seem to float in the air, as if they were in a zero-gravity spaceship. I love the fact that this is a story which brings together one of the world's most ancient technologies of knowledge, the library and book, with the world's lastest, the internet and scanner. I love the fact that this is a story not many people know about. I love the fact that it is a totally international story and I switch locations as fast as in a James Bond movie, from a Spanish monastery to a Chinese book scanning factory to a panorama of Silicon Valley. And I just love libraries.
 
How long did it take you to make your film?
It took three years to make this film. Two years to develop the idea and raise finance from many TV channels in Europe, and then a little less than a year in production. 
 
How did you finance your film?
In Europe, there are all these amazing TV channels like BBC4 in Britain and Arte in France/Germany, DR in Denmark and VPRO in Holland and they invest money in documentaries. What one does is one goes round pitching the film at documentary festival pitching forums, trying to persuade these TV channels to invest in ones film proposal.  Then one gets an additional grant from the European Union media fund, which is a complete lifesaver! That way we raised half a million dollars, €400k, and then we made the film. 
 
What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process and how did you overcome it?
There were so many challenges - one of the greatest is how to make a film about the internet visually interesting - that was why I chose a story about libraries and scanning, because I immediately had unusual images to play with. Another big challenge, as usual, was persuading people to take part in the film, especially the internet thinkers like Lanier and Kelly. These people are soooooo busy and get so many requests for media stuff, and at first they didn't reply to me - only when I wrote that I had read their book 3 times and that I would happily exchange any body part of which I owned two for an interview, did I catch their attention! 
Tell us about your experience getting into Sundance
Well that was a huge deal. We were sitting in IDFA, the A'dam documentary festival in November and we knew they had rejected our film. And we were sitting around thinking our film willl be a flop, we haven't heard from Sundance, we're not going to get anywhere - and the invitations to Sundance were already in the spam folder of one of our producers. We just leapt for joy when I started getting emails and text messages from the programmers of Sundance asking us why we hadn't replied to them 
 
If you had to make the film all over again, would you do anything different?
No. If I could do it all again, I would do it all again. I got everything I wanted into this film. I crossed and recrossed the globe on cheap flights, shooting some interviews myself, when we ran short of money. I had an amazing DOP for the libraries and many interviews - Frank Peter Lehmann. I had producers who placed an enormous amount of trust in me, when I went over-budget, and supported every decision I made. I couldn't have done this film better or done it with better people. 
 
What’s next for your film? Do you have distribution? If so, when and how can people see it and if not, what are your hopes for the film?
Well, our film will be shown in around 40 festivals and on TV channels all over Europe. Film Transit are handling the distribution and we are looking for a fantastic US broadcaster to pick up the film and for theatrical release in America and elsewhere if possible.
 
Can you provide any advice to other filmmakers who dream of getting their films made and into Sundance?
Plenty of advice - no room to put it here. Do half an hour of yoga everyday, because this is a very stressful way to live, earn money and make art. Make sure you have a good story. Remember you are story-teller. Tell new stories in interesting ways. Film-making is not about guesswork and genius - it is about structure and hard work.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Road to Sundance 2013: "In Hanford' (short), directed by Chris Mars



Tell us about your film. What inspired you to make it?
It is an animated short film, 2- and 3-D augmented with live action called “In Hanford”.  It is inspired by the true story of nuclear contamination in the area of Hanford, Washington from a cold-war era munitions site, or rather is inspired by the true story of the residents of Hanford and the horrors they have had to - and still – endure.  While the plant is now closed, the grounds of the factory remain highly contaminated with radio active waste.  I was inspired to tell the story of this little known man-made disaster.

What do you love about your film?
I work primarily as a visual artist, and I feel my particular visual language of surrealism mixed with expressionism tells the tale effectively, emotionally. I created it from my heart, and am pleased the film has seen recognition that will get this story out there.   

How long did it take you to make your film?
I completed it over the course of about a year.

How did you finance your film?
I financed it myself. It was created on my fairly powerful home computer with various programs - and a lot of hours. 

What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process and how did you overcome it?

It was also challenging researching the story, learning of all the suffering people were going through – their loss of loved ones, of health; of faith...their battle for retribution was fought with the government for years and years and years. They continue to fight a battle to clean up the area, to let others know what happened there. The other challenges were the technical ones - keeping track of over one hundred layers of information in After Effects, an Adobe Software program.    

Tell us about your experience getting into Sundance. 
I received a call on Thanksgiving Day from the festival - I was beside myself when I learned that "In Hanford" had made it in. I wasn’t sure if I had heard correctly. What a great holiday! I am very appreciative to have my work and this story recognized.  

If you had to make the film all over again, would you do anything different?
No, I believe it turned out the way I intended it to.  

What’s next for your film? Do you have distribution? If so, when and how can people see it and if not, what are your hopes for the film?

My hope is if the film can create awareness about the disaster that still persists - perhaps the light can stay on it, more can be done, and we as a culture can learn from it. It was also made in remembrance of all who suffered through the fallout, and those who still have to deal with the contamination and its perils. 

Can you provide any advice to other filmmakers who dream of getting their films made and into Sundance?

Keep creating and never ever give up whether you make it to Sundance or not. Express yourself with your unique voice. Art is its own reward.

Watch the trailer of "In Hanford" here:


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Road to Sundance 2013: Jiseul, directed by O Muel

O Muel



Jiseul Production Still

Jiseul Production Still

Jiseul Production Still

Tell us about your film. 

The film Jiseul is selected at World Cinema Dramatic Competition in Sundance. This film is made by the needs of re-consideration for the ineffaceable historical pain in Jeju Island and also by my personal trauma based on my originality.

This film is based on the true story of the townsfolk that took sanctuary in a cave during an uprising on the island in April 1948. The Jeju 4.3 Incident, as it later became known, was sparked when the American military regime incited social strife and subsequent conflicts that lasted until September 1954. Almost 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed–most of them civilians. This film reenacts some part of the incident and reveals the hidden history to the World.
  
What do you love about your film?

I am proud of having been able to complete this whole film only with the support of the Jeju residents to show the history of Jeju Island which has been ignored by country. Also I feel moved since some of the actors in this film are descendants of the people who actually experienced this history. I also have the relatives who experienced it, so this film could be very true in regards to reenacting our tragedy in history. 

How long did it take you to make your film?

One year and 7 months

How did you finance your film?

I made the half of production cost, and some part of the rest was made by the support of citizens and local film committee.

(I am running troupe in Jeju Island, so I borrowed some money from the management, and it still needs to be returned.)

What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process and how did you overcome it?

Since the tragedy of Jeju 4.3 Incident, more than 60 years have been passed without any opportunity to re-consider due to the ignorance from Korea and the world.

To bring the terrible memories up into the film caused huge pressure in regards to many things. As well as getting the financial support, the biggest pressure was that I had a duty to make great film enough to satisfy the local residence in Jeju Island.

This tragedy is still ineffaceable pain to them and the period of Jeju 4.3 Incident was the era of huge grudge for them so they wanted this film to show their anger in the most effective way. So it was the biggest pressure for me. However, to describe the history with anger is very dangerous way so I had to find another method to release it. It was the most important mission.

To make the financial support and to complete this film, the individual supporters have contributed with essential help. And this help, in other words, means their hope to bring this history out to public.

Tell us about your experience getting into Sundance

I feel the prestige of Sundance by the expectations from my surrounders. And due to the aftereffect of over-cost of production, I feel pressure on the expense for Sundance trip.

If you had to make the film all over again, would you do anything different?

No. I don’t want to make the film again. I don’t regret.

What’s next for your film? Do you have distribution? If so, when and how can people see it and if not, what are your hopes for the film?

The next film will be about female diver called ‘Haenyeo’ which is very exclusive culture of Jeju Island. For the film, there is no distribution or production company yet, but I would like to try to make it with my own. I plan to shoot it by early next year and the screening could be made at later next year. I have a hope to build the base for the independent filmmaking not having commercial filmmaking system.
Can you provide any advice to other filmmakers who dream of getting their films made and into Sundance?

I didn’t make the film for the purpose of Sundance. Going to the film festival is another story. It should follow with a fortune. I hope the filmmakers make a film for film itself not for film festivals.

Watch the Jiseul trailer here:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Road to Sundance 2013: Palimpsest (short), directed by Michael Tyburski

Michael Tyburski


Palimpsest Production Still

Palimpsest Production Still

Tell us about your film.

"Palimpsest" (Shorts Program 5) is a film about the subtle forces at play in relationships and the tangible remnants of memory. Peter, a successful house tuner in New York City, meets Ellen while consulting on her apartment. As a house tuner, Peter offers his clients a unique form of therapy that examines minute details in living spaces that sometimes reveal more about a person’s past than they intended.

What inspired you to make it?

Ben originally wrote an outline for a much longer story involving a character in New York who has many different unique jobs. The house tuner being one of them. We took that one aspect of the character and turned that into the working draft for our short story. We're both very fascinated with the mostly subconscious audio landscapes that make up our daily routines, and building a story around that idea was very intriguing to us. 

What do you love about your film?

There's a fair amount of ambiguity in our story, and I like the idea of it opening up more questions than answers. In a good way. 

How long did it take you to make your film?

We shot the film over 7 days during a not so rare July heat wave in New York. We prepped the script for several months prior, and edited throughout the fall.

How did you finance your film?

Ben and I both work together on commercial jobs, and we both set aside a portion of our personal funds to finance our fiction piece.

What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process and how did you overcome it?

Honestly we didn't really hit any real roadblocks with the film. Ok, we did all get ticketed once for shooting in the subway without a permit, but in terms of real challenges it was probably more in the writing process, and just trying to tie together loose ends. Once you wrangle a talented group of people together, it's mainly just about getting everyone on the same page creatively and then just keeping everyone hydrated and cool in the summer heat.  

Tell us about your experience getting into Sundance. 

We did everything people warned us against…we submitted to the VERY LATE deadline, and also submitted a short film with a longish running time. The odds were against us, but I guess we should put the credit to the programmers for being so thorough with their selection process (and liking our film). 

If you had to make the film all over again, would you do anything different?

I don't think there's ever been a scene or a shot that I've looked at after months of editing and not wished that I could do it a little bit better or change one small detail. But at the end of the day, I think it's important to walk away at a certain point and be satisfied with what you were able to make under the war like circumstances that is typically film production. 

What’s next for your film? Do you have distribution? If so, when and how can people see it and if not, what are your hopes for the film?

Right now we're just going to ride out the festival run for a bit and try to get as many people to see it in theaters while it's still possible. We're developing the story into a feature script. People finish the film wanting to know more about our characters, and that seems like a solid indication that the project has some authenticity and resonance. We want to explore this further.

Can you provide any advice to other filmmakers who dream of getting their films made and into Sundance?
That's a difficult question. We'll tell you in about 10 days.