Category: Interviews

Interview with Director Matt Roberts, on his film ‘Masters of Love’

We’re so proud that 2 films that screened at Raindance have made it to the BIFA’s Raindance Discovery Award long-list, including Masters of Love, an amusing romantic comedy directed by Matt Roberts. We sat down and asked Matt a few questions about his creation and process.

What inspired the idea behind Masters of Love?

I’d say it’s a pretty personal film. There’s nothing directly autobiographical in there but I’m in my thirties living in London, so it’s definitely an interpretation of what that feels like. There was a couple of things I wanted to explore specifically. The first was how we navigate love in the modern world – with the barrage of seemingly endless options for partners and lifestyles how do we manage to feel satisfied with what we have? I was interested in how the instant gratification we’ve all become so accustomed to is effecting long term relationships – be that partners, friends or family.The second aspect was this second ‘coming of age’ that seems to happen to everyone in their thirties. Nearly everyone I know has gone through a transition in their early thirties when they start questioning their place in the world – and thrown together with modern love I thought is was fertile ground for (dark) comedy.  

What is the most difficult challenge when directing a comedy?

The biggest challenge on this film was that we set ourselves the rule of filming every scene in a single shot. This meant there was no ability to manipulate the energy and rhythm of the comedy in the edit – I either used the entire take or I didn’t.To be honest it was a bit of an experiment – all my short films have plenty of coverage – but (luckily) I think it was the right decision for this film as it created a sense of tension and realism that was in line with the tone of comedy I wanted. I always intended for it to be on the dramatic side of comedy (Alexander Payne, Noah Boumbach and ‘Transparent’ were tonal touchstones), so we were always looking for the truth of the scene rather than playing the comedy – you then hope the comedy naturally reveals itself in the performances and writing. We are always asked at Q&A’s if it was improvised but nothing was, it’s all scripted, it’s just that the technique of single shots creates very naturalistic performances.  

What is it like to film in London?

Amazing and bloody difficult. Amazing because you have a huge amount of production value for free. If you can keep your crew very small it’s pretty simple to film on London streets and soak up all the incredible texture and energy it gives you.Bloody difficult because all that amazing texture and energy is full of unpredictability – planes, cars, unwanted extras – which makes it quite tough to schedule. 

How does it feel to be long listed for the BIFA 2019 Raindance Discovery Award?

Incredible. Masters of Love was made for a tiny budget with a bunch of amazingly talented, generous people, so to be recognised amongst such a strong long list is a real honour.  

What is your next project?

I’m writing a couple of films that are at different stages of development. One is a buddy cop movie set in Merthyr Tydfil and the other is a modern British epic set in Blackpool. I’m also developing a comedy series for TV.  

What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker?

Firstly, make stuff! There’s no better way to learn than making work. If you can afford an iPhone and a few lapel mics you can make a short film. The ability to make work for next to no money also means when someone finally gives you a nice healthy budget you’ll have got a lot of your mistakes out the way already – without blowing other people’s hard earned cash.I would also say don’t be in too much of a rush. It’s a very natural instinct to think about festivals and awards before you’ve even shot your first frame but try and take them out of the equation and just focus on finding your voice – then the festivals and awards will follow. If you’re serious about being a film maker for life you have to learn to be patient. Features take years to get off the ground and often years to complete so enjoy experimenting at the start of your career.And finally, start networking early, find other collaborators and nurture those relationships. Film making is a hugely collaborative process so try and surround yourself with people who are better at their jobs than you.  Congratulations and best of luck Matt and team, and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Filed under: Filmmaking, Interviews

Interview with Rishi Pelham, Director of HILDA

We are proud to announce that Hilda, an incredible film we’ve had the honour of premiering at Raindance 2019, has been included in the BIFA 2019 Raindance Discovery Award long-list! We sat down with the director, Rishi, to ask a few questions about his ideas and processes. 

How did the idea for the film come about? Who inspired this strong woman character?

I wanted to tell the story of a young woman who lives for her craft, and the result of her creativity being snatched away. I guess Hilda is an amalgamation of many people. On hindsight, I see a lot of those closest to me in her character, alongside the people I met during the writing process who shared their stories with me.

How did you find Megan Purvis? Was it easy to cast Hilda’s role? And how did you direct an actor into such a complex character?

We found Hilda towards the final round of auditions. It was extremely difficult casting her role, we spent about 6 months going around different cities in the UK scouting for the right Hilda. Megan Purvis rocked up at a Tortilla restaurant for an audition in the final month. She blew my mind, and was the only person who I felt really understood the essence of the character, who I could see transitioning from a young school-kid into a manifestation of the hell around her.Once casted, Megan and I workshopped non-stop. In-between learning how to bellydance and researching her history, we would roam the streets of London in the dead of night. Megan would constantly be in character, exploring the Jazz clubs of Dalston, getting lost in nightclubs and staying up all night in parking lots. It was a sleepless and intense, but very joyful process. She is such a versatile actor, and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever come across.

How difficult it is to be a first time director in the current industry? What are the challenges you had to overcome in order to make the film?

It was fucking terrifying.. I kind of just launched myself into it. As a kid I felt that film could capture anything the mind could. I think I brought that naivety with me into the production process. With a small budget and tiny crew, it was very trying on all of us. We had producers and members of the industry calling us up during the process, telling us this film could not be made, that it wouldn’t go anywhere and was too ambitious considering our small budget. We also managed to gather individuals like Tim Roth on board who gave us the confidence to keep pushing through the mud.The cast and crew felt like a family by the end. We were all living in the same house we were shooting in. By night it was an overcrowded squat and by day it was Hilda’s family home.

How does it feel to be longlisted for the BIFA 2019 Raindance Discovery Award?

Pretty overwhelming, it is truly such a privilege to be noted amongst such incredible filmmakers.

What is your next project?

Hilda is part of a non-linear trilogy, all of which are character-driven stories of individuals growing up in suffocating climates. I can’t give too much away just yet, but it’s a film I’ve had in mind for quite some time and feel ready to take on next. I’ll be moving to the Middle East for a bit in January to start the development process.

Tomos Roberts, producer on Hilda, is also about to embark on his first feature film – a chilling, dark comedy set in the heart of London. It’s one to look out for, and I intend to be working with Tom next year on bringing the story to life.

Remember to keep up with Rishi and his films as they continue down their road of success, and good luck with BIFA!https://www.hildamovie.com/

Filed under: Filmmaking Career, Interviews

Can You Actually Make Money From An Indie Film?

Creatives generally don’t make great entrepreneurs because most of them have their heads firmly in the clouds which, frankly, is exactly where they should be. Subsequently scriptwriters and directors are often not much cop at the ‘business’ part of show business. The problem is that low budget filmmakers often have to straddle both worlds, as I found out when I both wrote and produced my first feature film ‘Trick or Treat’. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) for me I used to be a banker and so I didn’t find it too difficult to grasp the financial side of making a film and, even more importantly, could give potential investors the impression that I did! I always asked myself this question: “Can you actually make money from an indie film?

Can you actually make money from an indie film?

Whist film investors often want to get involved in movies for the kudos and fun, the reality is that most still want to turn a profit. Aspiring filmmakers need to get comfortable with the requisite ‘bread-head’ lingo and be able to answer all the tricky questions that will come their way when they’re presenting their business plan. I believe the lessons I learnt from my recent film-making experience will help newcomers to this industry make their investors a return – which after all may well be a pre-requisite to getting the opportunity to make a second film!

As far as I can see, the simple way to make investors make a profit is to create a brilliant film with the highest possible production values and the most well-known cast for the least amount of money. Of course, this is a little easier said than done! However, my seven-point plan below may just make this lofty goal slightly less impossible:

1 Script

This may sound blindingly obvious but the only way you’re going to attract stars (who you’re going to need in order to attract finance) to work on a low budget film is if they love the script, so don’t do anything until you’re absolutely 100% happy with it. We only managed to get the likes of Frances Barber, Jason Flemyng and Shaun Parkes involved because they saw the screenplay’s potential.

2. Plot

For God’s sake try to avoid period pieces, dinosaurs, car chases and explosions! In fact, try to have as few actors and locations as possible. As screenwriting legend William Goldman said, you need a valid reason to have ‘fifty camels in central park’.

3. Tax breaks

Make sure the special purpose limited company you set up to produce your film is SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) approved (or EIS if you’re after more cash and are making several films). SEIS gives investors 50% relief on their income tax as well as other tax breaks that actually mean only 11.5% of their capital is at risk (but unfortunately the amount you can raise is limited to £150K). And don’t forget to utilize the UK tax credit (offsetting 20% of legitimate production costs) and make damn sure your company is VAT-registered too.

4.Favours

Call in as many favours as you possibly can from friends, family, film students and actors you once met in a pub. This may well be a trick you can only pull once, so use it wisely!

5.Auto-exploitation

Forget about paying yourself or your co-producers up front on your first film. Your debut movie is your calling card, or as they say call it in the retail industry, a loss-leader.

6. Deferrals and points

Try to pay cast and crew with as high a percentage of deferred payments and points (e.g. % of future profits) as possible BUT be scrupulously honest in dishing them out if your film shoots the lights out.

7.Get a great team

There are certain crew who will be vital in keeping costs low. They are worth spending decent money on because, if they’re any good, they will actually save you money. A tight-fisted, imaginative line producer and First AD are worth their weight in gold.

So, to use a real-life example to illustrate what a British indie film needs to do in order to make a return, let’s look at my movie Trick or Treat, which cost £400K to make. That cash came from the following sources:

Cash Raised 
  
High New Worth Individuals’ equity investment (SEIS)150,000
HNWs’ loans120,000
Tax credit70,000
Deferred post-production fees (to be paid by future sales)60,000
 400,000
Which was spent on the following things: 
  
Crew (incl. food & expenses)190,000
Cast (incl. expenses, excl. deferrals/points)30,000
Equipment (including damage)30,000
Locations (including hotels/travel)30,000
Insurance/finance/legal20,000
Post-production (incl. score/editing)70,000
Misc (props/costumes/petty cash etc)30,000
 400,000
  

Taking into account our sales agent’s commission and their marketing costs, my spoddy spreadsheet tells me Trick or Treat needs to make gross revenues of £350K to give my investors the 20% return I ‘promised’ them (taking into account the 50% tax break they’ve already received). It’s a long shot but, with the right headwind, it might just work!

Trick or Treat is headlining the Marbella Film Festival and will be out in UK Cinemas from 25th October and then our fantastic sales agent will be selling it internationally at the American Film Market with a digital UK release to follow early next year. It’s too early to say whether it will make a profit for our investors (and the BFI stats suggest only 1 in 10 British indie films do actually ‘make money’) but all I know is that we’ve done everything we can to make sure it does… now only time will tell.

If it’s good news I’ll report back but if it’s not… this may well be the last time you hear from me!

Geraint Anderson is pleased to announce that since he wrote this article his movie ‘Trick or Treat’ has won the award for best feature film at The Marbella International Film Festival and that Evolutionary Films have secured a cinema release (Vue & Odeon) on 25th October (pre-order Book online here)

Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, Interviews

Interview with Susanne Heinrich, director of Aren’t You Happy

The director of our closing night film, Susanne Heinrich, chats to us about what it’s like to have her first feature film Aren’t You Happy? as Closing Night Film for the 27th Raindance Film Festival.

This is a fantastic debut film. Congratulations! Could you tell us how the idea for your first feature came about?

Thank you. I didn’t have this one idea. I have wanted to find a language for the discomfort I felt in society for a long time. People kept talking about the great freedom that reigned here in the western liberal societies – but I just didn’t feel it. I had my first marriage and my career as a writer behind me and felt blocked, disconnected, paralysed. I was diagnosed with depression – like so many other young women around me. At about the same time, I got involved in student’s protests at my university against the neoliberalisation of our film school, started reading theory and felt the urge to get engaged with feminism after a seminar on the unequal opportunities in film business and the frightening reaction of female students to these facts („Maybe we just have to make better movies“). Reading about us being „entrepreneurs of our self“ in „emotional capitalism“ made sense of my feeling of non-agency and fatigue. Stumbling across a queer theorist that tried to write about the social and political dimensions of depression instead of regarding it as a private issue, a personal failure or a „disease as every other“ that can be cured with medicine, made me shiver of excitement. I would frame this phase as the time I learned to recognise structures and systematics. Strangely enough, it didn’t solely lead to desperation. Quite the contrary: I no longer saw the oh-so-individual stories. Instead, things took on a model-like, serial and comparable form. With this perspective came humour. At a certain point it suddenly was there, the voice I had been looking for for years, and I was able to write the script within a few days.

In the film you talk about gender, social roles, feminism in a very ironic and absurd way giving the audience your judgement on these matters. Can you outline the message you are conveying to the viewers?If I would have wanted to convey a simple message, I would have written a pamphlet. I’m quite hesitant towards an understanding of art, where the artistic medium is supposed to carry a message. And at the same time I’m a priest’s daughter and the film is probably quite didactic and full of convictions. Maybe a few small hints: A large part of the statement is in the form. At a time when half of all films look as if they could have been produced by bots, when there seems to be no alternative to narrativity and psychologisation and when politics merely appear as content, form criticism is more important than ever. And perhaps the film makes a few things addressable that are not (any longer) addressed by a forgetful contemporary pop feminism that mostly deals with everyday sexism and linguistic deconstruction.   

How difficult was it to make a first film as a female director nowadays? Do you think it is getting easier for female directors or is it still a struggle – bigger than a struggle a debut male director would have to go through?

The first movie is not the problem. Anyone who studies at a film school can make a graduation film. It gets harder later. The statistics show that 80% of the key positions in the film industry are still occupied by men. There are numerous reasons for this, including the fact that the film business is still strongly organised trough affiliations between men, and that the working conditions are unfriendly to families. It is absurd that in 2019, for the first time in Germany, childcare on the set can be charged as production costs and that not a single film festival offers childcare or additional flights for small children and caregivers. It is clear who will suffer structurally as a result. This is also the case in other cultural industries: It is not those who make the best art who survive, but those who are best able to adapt to the demands of the lifestyle. Most of them are, of course, men, because they have different resources and less responsibility in care relationships. Equally interesting is the question of why women’s films win fewer prizes and, according to statistics, enjoy less public trust. I find it rather depressing that millions are still pumped into films that span bombastic, sentimental narratives about the ageing of neurotic, privileged white males, but I can hardly imagine that a fragmentary film about the daily struggles of a single mother is celebrated as great cinema. I find the question interesting whether there are certain aesthetics of capitalist patriarchy that render other cinematic forms and topics subaltern or peripheric. For me, the current hype of films and series that address pop feminist discourses in content but are highly problematic in regards to form is part of the problem. 

Could you tell us a bit of your method of working with actors and directing them to achieve the hilarious yet dramatic deadpan performances in Aren’t You Happy?

We took a lot of time to rehearse. This is unusual in film-making, because this is where money is saved. One of the advantages of a student production, where everyone who gets involved knows that there is no money and has other reasons to participate. We have worked with poetry recitations and an exact choreography. It was important that I used a mechanical vocabulary, to not invite the actors to produce affects. So not: “Be sad”, but “Lean your head 45 degrees”. A leitmotif for us was this sentence by Brecht: “Instead of wanting to create the impression that he is improvising, the actor should rather show what the truth is: he quotes.”  Which filmmakers are you inspired by and you think influenced your pronounced style?

I don’t know for sure. I take in all sorts of things, but I can’t say where that will continue to have an effect. Of course I love Godard’s films, but I also love Jacques Demy. I especially love the films of the new women’s movement, Uli Stöckl and Helke Sander, and so many others. Farocki, Straub-Huillet, but also Chantal Ackerman. But even if the aesthetics of the melancholic girl are comparable in the end, they are not oriented towards role models, but are developed strictly from the text. For example, we took this sentence: “If this were a film …”, and considered how we could make the breaking of the 4th wall clear on all levels of the film. So we let her look straight into the camera and address the audience, for instance. The sets we designed anti-naturalistic, not like authentic inhabited environments but rather like artificial theme rooms. On the sound level we dubbed everything and worked with a foley artist. When a character leaves the frame, you don’t hear her steps continuing endlessly. Instead, you hear an actress going three more steps and stopping close to the camera. We wanted to produce the feeling that the filmic world does not continue outside of the frame. By that, we establish a distance between the audience and the screen that enables a critical way of watching and relating to the shown situations in different ways than in classical narrative film.

Is there a plan for a second film?

Oh, yeah. But I’m not talking about it yet so as not to raise expectations. Just this much: I will devote myself even more to the form of the musical film.  Book your ticket for Aren’t You Happy? followed by a Q&A with Susanne Heinrich and our Closing Night after party.

Filed under: Interviews, Raindance Film Festival

Director Matthew Lutton on ‘Encountering Otherness’ in Solaris

Based on the classic 1961 polish sci- fi novel by Stanislaw Lem, and most notably adapted by film giants Andrei Tarkovsky and Steven Soderbergh, Solaris is both lauded and loved by sci- fi and film fans alike. This October will see a major new stage production open at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, adapted by David Greig from Lem’s novel. 

Director Matthew Lutton discusses the story of Solaris and our relationship with otherness.

Solaris is a story partly about history haunting us, and partly about making new connections with others and otherness in the future. 

In my first encounter with Solaris, I recall being entranced by the mystery and moved by its imagery of dreams bursting to life. This was the film adaptation by the cinema master, Tarkovsky, and it cast me under a spell that I could not escape. Years later, I re-encountered the story through the book written by Stanisław Lem. The book was entirely different to the film. It was faster, scarier, full of a unique and dense philosophy; yet equally compelling. It broadened my understanding of the story, and told me that this is a story that could be told in many different ways. 

The idea of science fiction on stage has always appealed to me. Not staging alien battles or light speed travel, but because the genre allows us all to imagine alternative realities. It allows us to explore outer space, and the future, with all its imagined terror and beauty. In the case of Solaris, it also allows us to explore an alternate reality where we are reacquainted with our past, years after we left it, and where we encounter an otherness that is truly unknowable. 

As a director, I am attracted to stories that we might consider impossible to stage. When I considered that Solaris was a story about four characters trapped on a space station, I realised this was a concise theatrical thriller set entirely in one location. The stage therefore provides a perfect vehicle for these four characters to be placed under the microscope. 

The story of Solaris is driven by Kris Kelvin. She arrives on a space station that has lost communication with Earth and discovers that the planet is behaving in extraordinary ways. It is bringing memories to life. But why is it doing this? Is it behaving like a child, a god, a predator, or a fool? Is it all of these things? Or is it an otherness beyond our human understanding? How do we respond to an otherness that doesn’t reflect ourselves is one of Lem’s big provocations? Does otherness bring out our desire to exoticise, control, destroy or befriend? Can we truly connect with others and otherness? 

These are some of the mysteries and questions of Solaris, that Lem, and now David Greig in his stage adaptation, invite us into. Solaris is a mystery brimming with questions.’

Solaris opens at The Lyric Hammersmith Theatre on 10 Oct. Book tickets here

Filed under: In Our Opinion, Interviews

Interview with Gina Hole Lazarowich, director of Krow’s Transformation

Ahead of the World Premiere of Raindance Film Festival 2019 Opening Night Film Krow’s Transformation, we sat down with director Gina Hole Lazarowich to talk about the film. 

Let’s talk about how the idea for the film came about and how you met Krow?

 I had been in the film industry for over 25 years, but after having kids I stepped off of the long hours on set and started producing photo & video shoots, specializing in fashion shoots. When Krow decided to transition, his mom Lisa reached out to me one day, out of the blue, and asked me if I could produce Krow’s very last photo shoot in his female body, prior to transitioning. I said ‘of course!’ and that I could put together a great photo team, as we were all so proud of Krow for becoming his true authentic self (the fashion industry is like a big family of support), and hung up and got to work on producing that shoot….but I thought about it all night, inspired by how brave a move Krow was making, and thought, ‘wouldn’t this be amazing to document this transition from BEFORE his transition to after?!’ So the next day I contacted Lisa & Krow and put forward the idea of the documentary to them. He had to think about it as it is not an easy position to be in to then to be always known as a ‘Trans Male’ instead of just trying to blend into society as a man. My hat’s off to Krow for accepting my idea and challenge, which was not an easy one! You can see this ‘final female’ shoot in the documentary as well as his very first photo shoot as a male model. 

How did you manage to get so close to such am intimate and life changing chapter in Krow’s life?

 I was very adamant that Krow and I had to be in touch every step of the way to be authentic, every appointment, every ‘life event’, everything that involved transitioning, I needed to be a part of, tough for him as what an invasion of privacy! So everything you see in the film is authentic, I always referred to it along the way as a ‘how to transition’ so there was no steps missed. I always had a vision of who our  audience was, maybe a young person -who potentially did not have any support- who could at least see all of the ‘steps’ of transitioning (female to male) and to see that just maybe it wasn’t ‘as scary’ as they had imagined. Krow tackled every step with such joy (of course mixed with a lot anxiety as well for sure!), that the documentary started to shape itself as a real ‘metaphor for happiness’. I also call it a film of ‘one-take wonders’ as every scene is real and only one take, we didn’t talk prior to each shooting day (texts/emails only to coordinate) as I wanted to ‘save it all for on camera’, it got be be a bit of a joke between us all, ‘shhh, save it for on camera!’, Krow would end up always saying, ‘I know, I know, save it for camera right?!’, we did talk about the weather though, lol! 

It seems Canada is quite progressive in accepting transgender people but Krow was bullied as a teenager before even understanding his true sexual identity. Have you made this film to help promoting a cause, to support those who, after transitioning, find it hard to be accepted? 

 Yes absolutely I made the film to promote the cause. Canada is extremely accepting, especially in our Province of BC where the Government changed the Human Right Code of Conduct to include Gender Identity and Expression (so rights are protected) as well as our medical covers both top and bottom surgeries now for free…but even Canada has a long way to go on understanding, and that is why I made this film, to help people understand transitioning a bit easier, as with knowledge becomes understanding. I see the Transgender community as some of the most marginalized people in society, bullied by people’s own opinions of what and who THEY think they are or ‘should be’, instead of just simply empathizing. One common thread of feedback I have consistently received after people screen the film from the Heterosexual community AND even some of the Queer community is, “Gina I didn’t know!”. I hope we get this message delivered far and wide to spread the word of empathy, that the bullying must stop and caring begins with your heart, they are going through a tough enough journey alone, they need our support! 

I personally found the idea very challenging and stimulating but why did you choose a fashion model to represent this cause?

 I didn’t really choose it, they reached out to me! I knew immediately it was an amazing story that should be documented, and honoured they allowed me to do so, to spread the word to children and adults alike. What I did NOT know was how it would affect the Cisgender community as well, which it really has taken on a life of its own there. We started this film for kids in schools but it has grown to so much more. I believe this was because when interviewing I put myself in the position of the parent who’s kid was coming out to them, and formulated my questions that way (‘what would I want to know as a parent?!’), so this answers a lot of questions sort of everyone has. 

Have any of the big fashion brands become involved with the project? Why?

 Well it is no secret Louis Vuitton is a big part of Krow’s final journey in the film! It’s a fairytale ending (or as I said as the filmmaker, a ‘What the F*@#?’! story ending) that NONE of us saw coming! This only unfolded at the end of year 3 shooting, I was TRYING to get him into Men’s New York Fashion Week but I kept getting shut down but the top model agencies in New York, they didn’t want to touch a Trans Male Model on camera, all until I introduced him to the fortuitous Canadian Agent Liz Bell, who submitted him for Louis Vuitton’s great vision of casting Trans Men in their women’s Paris Fashion Week show, and the rest is HIStory…now he is everywhere and has some of the leading and forward-thinking agents worldwide who have steered his career to becoming the 1st “Trans Male Super Model” in the world….who would have ever thought this to be our outcome of this film and ESPECIALLY Krow’s career, I still am in disbelief…what an amazing role model he has become for Trans kids, teens and men, in fact for the entire community. Book your ticket for the premiere of Krow’s Transformation at the Opening Night Gala of Raindance Film Festival 2019, followed by a Q&A with Gina Hole Lazarowich and the main subjects, Krow Kian, Kas Baker, Emily Seal, and Ashton Sciacallo, followed by an after party.

Filed under: Interviews, Raindance Film Festival

Understanding Post-Production with Lawrence Jordan

In Los Angeles last weekend, the 1st ACE TechFest took place, which is a festival for post-production and those interested in editing in the LA area. Featuring talks by industry professionals and editing software companies, it’s a great opportunity for people in the area to be able to see the up and coming technologies being developed in the editing field. One veteran editor, Lawrence Jordan has worked on over 45 feature films and television, as well as running his own course in editing and post-production called Master The Workflow. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to him over Skype about the festival, his course, how one gets into the field of editing in the first place and what it takes to succeed!

 

IVAN: Thanks for reaching out and agreeing to me interviewing you. It’s fantastic to be able to talk to someone who has worked in the industry for such a long time with such an obvious passion for the craft of editing and post-production. I would like to start by asking you about the difference between these terms; for me editing is a term which is distinct in terms of a visual specialisation, while post-production is a catch-all term for editing, sound, vfx etc. Would you say that’s accurate?

LARRY: Yes, I think it is very accurate. The world of post-production is a very broad spectrum and it’s growing all the time with the development of new tools and technologies… Editing is the specific task of managing the content and creating stories. In my particular case, thematic or comedic stories that will play in the feature film or television format. So post-production involves everything from ingesting the film, preparing it for an editor, editing. As well as the other departments that you work with, such as sound, visual effects, music, colour correction, finishing, mastering and preparing for delivery.

IVAN: I wanted to ask you about skills and qualities that you might want to look for in someone who wanted to get into editing. Do you think that it can all be taught or is there a particular aspect of editing which is an inbuilt talent?

LARRY: I think that it’s both. You can have an instinctual talent towards the creative arts, and… might have a more natural inclination towards editing than someone who might gravitate towards a more left-brain field. I do think that the skill of editing can be taught and anyone who has the attachment to film can get good at editing over time. The actual editing, the creative part is a whole other side of the editing field that quite often we don’t even discuss. I like to believe that we discuss it particularly in our course. We teach about the interpersonal relationships between the directors, the producers, the rest of the crew as that’s a very big part of being an editor. You have to know how to work with the rest of your team in a diplomatic way because you work with a lot of creative individuals and as an editor, you’re not running the show. You’re providing a service to the director, producers and of course the studio. So there’s an art to that and I think that’s something that people don’t get a lot of information about when they’re looking at becoming a professional editor.

IVAN: I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more about Master The Workflow and if you think that the course that you created is a kind of alternative to a more traditional film school experience?

LARRY:  I would never discount a film school education. It’s a wonderful thing to have the ability to spend three or four years or so studying film, studying filmmakers and learning storytelling, as it’s invaluable. However, film editing is a craft and a trade. There are very specific steps that transpire in the film editing process and there’s also a well-established path to becoming a film editor. Again, this isn’t true in all cases, there are people who become film editors, maybe teaching themselves how to edit, then somehow meeting a director who sees their work and boom they’re on their way. Unfortunately in Hollywood, the studios are reticent to hire people without some kind of track-record of credits, so you obtain these credits by working your way up the ladder. You become a post-production PA, show your drive, passion and dedication and you’ll become an assistant editor. Then depending on the kind of relationships that you can develop with your editor… sometimes that editor sees your abilities and says… ‘here, I’ve got too much on my plate, you take this thing and give it a shot’. They go over the material with you, and give you notes and it’s really a sort of dry run of what you’ll actually be doing when you become an editor with a director. I would say that’s the kind of path that happens the majority of the time but… there are all kinds of exceptions to the rule.

IVAN: I would like to move on to how someone gets into a career in editing. Is it still a case of ‘It’s who you know, not what you know’, are there alternative ways of getting know or getting interesting projects?

LARRY: It’s changed a lot since I got into the business and it used to be, not just in editing but all the crafts, it really was – ‘do you a relative or contact which can get your foot in the door’? It was kind of a closed network. Of course, with digital technology it’s put the power of editing and cinematography, for that matter, in so many more people’s hands. So the industry has had to adapt and open the doors to a much larger group of people, and also by necessity because so much more content is being created… So the whole thing is really is going where the work is, going where the filmmakers are, so of course that’s Los Angeles, New York, London, Sydney, ‘where are the films being made’? If you want to work on long form dramatic projects, features and television. We like to believe that… our course is a real specific set of instructions that will teach you the workflow as it is practiced in on feature films and television. I’ve made over 45 films and television shows, Richard Sanchez who I co-developed the course with, has worked with over 20 shows. It’s an interesting contrast between Richard and I because he came in through a program which allowed people who have not traditionally been able to get their foot in the door and he’s done exceptionally well. He was most recently the visual effects editor on Catch-22, the mini-series produced by George Clooney, and he didn’t know anyone in the business but through networking and his desire to become a film editor he was able to do it. So it’s networking, it’s going to industry events, it’s being on the specific facebook groups and other internet forums, where you’re going to build your network. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen overnight it’s a slow process, but the older I get the more I realise that it’s not such a slow process, it’s just the path of someone’s career and I’ve been doing this for 40 years, I’m still making new contacts, I’m still learning new things and I still have a passion for film editing and filmmaking in general. I get a thrill when I get a project which I’ve just done coming of Netflix, and that’s the kind of thing you need to have, to not get demoralised because things aren’t happening as possible, you just have to stay creative and figure out what’s your next step.

IVAN: I can imagine. There must be distinct challenges when it comes to just organising what each person does and making sure it all runs on time.

LARRY: Well, the film industry has evolved into a fairly specific workflow… The way it’s traditionally organised and the way I work is I have a first assistant who’s like my right hand person who will filter out all the tasks which need to be done to all the rest of the assistants and quite often to the other departments. I’m usually in the bunker with the director trying to cut the film and that can be quite time consuming in itself. So, for example, my first assistant will start out doing the dailies, doing production, getting the material to cut scene by scene. It’s just like a tree, it grows out from there. Once visual effects start coming in, there’s a visual effects editor… they’ll be assigning tasks to the assistant to help them be sure that the workflow continues to move forward. Then there are other tasks when there’s such a huge workload. For example, the film that I’m working on for Netflix has over 200 hours of source material for a 90-minute film. There’s just not enough hours in the day for one assistant to manage that amount of material. Plus, having to make outputs for the studio, for producers, the director and managing all that takes a lot of people power.

IVAN: Moving on, I wanted to congratulate you on upcoming talk at the ACE TechFest. One of the fantastic things about the film industry, as you were saying before, is that we’re almost fuelled by these new developments and new changes in the industry as it is an essential part of the way films and TV are made. Are there any new applications or developments that stick out at you at the festival and what can young people interested in editing expect to find there?

LARRY: The ACE TechFest was created as a way for people working in the Los Angeles area to get an inside track on what happened at the NAB show at Las Vegas, because a lot of us don’t have a week or so to take off and go find out about all the new fantastic technologies and toys. So the folks over at ACE decided to hold this conference at Universal Studios this weekend to let people know whats happening… Avid will be showing a completely revamped version of their media composer, which is the primary tool of the majority of editors in Hollywood. Adobe will be there showing all their new tools, they’re making a lot of inroads in features and television… they haven’t been the industry standard for a long time but adobe has some great product and really want to meet the needs of editors. Blackmagic will be there. These are the major sponsors and then there will be some other new technologies about how editors can be working remotely. There’s a new company called Evercast, which was developed by an editor and I think that’s something that we’ll see more of on the horizon, as that’s just the way things are going. People work in all different parts of the world, and editors are in one place, and directors are in another place and production is in another place, so I think remote editing is an interesting thing. Editing in the cloud will be an interesting thing to see a little more about.

IVAN: Great, I just have one last question. Are there any particular projects or moments in your career that stick out to you as highlights?

LARRY: Well, there are so many. And there are as many as an assistant editor as there are as an editor. I’ve worked with so many talented directors and producers. As an assistant I worked on Back to The Future, my boss won the academy award for supervising sound editor. Going to Amblin studios, screening the film and having Steven Spielberg come in after the first cut is a thrill that I’ll never forget. Another experience as an assistant was working on War of The Roses for Lynzee Klingman, (academy award winning editor) and Danny Devito was the director and he was such a fun guy to work with and just made the experience, and it was such a hard experience! We worked a lot of hours and it was a complex film and Danny would install a lunch table in backyard where we were working and he would put in a Cinzano umbrella on top and order food Italian food from New York delis. And as an editor, cutting a film for Kiefer Sutherland and being in the preview and still back the film days and hoping that the splices wouldn’t fall apart and there are so many experiences that I can’t remember them all.

IVAN: Well thank you for your time, good luck with the release of your new Netflix film as well as your talk at ACE TechFest!

 

*This interview has been edited for brevity and time constraints

Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, Interviews, Post-Production, Technical CraftTagged with: , , , ,

Interview with Gareth Ellis-Unwin, Producer of Steel Country

Ahead of his Steel Country Masterclass on 18th April and of the upcoming release of Steel Country, we sat down with Academy Awards and BAFTA-winning producer Gareth Ellis-Unwin (The King’s Speech).

What intrigued you most reading the script of Steel Country? Did the original script undergo any significant changes throughout the production process? 

When Simon Fellows (the director) first brought me the script, what struck me was this underlying principle of “a good story told well”. At the time I first read Steel Country, I was getting pitched about 20-30 ideas a week at Bedlam Film Productions. Some fully formed screenplays, others just treatments and concepts. So many would perform these incredible written gymnastics but ultimately fail as a good story. An unsatisfying read. It was the clarity and focus of the story that attracted me. A 9 piece jigsaw, as Simon puts it.

What are the factors you consider when selecting the right director for a project and what did it bring you to work with Simon Fellows?

It was Simon’s project so he sorta came with the script ! We had however known each other from before, I had (during my 1st AD phase of career) budgeted and scheduled his film Malice in Wonderland, sadly dates and production schedules meant I couldn’t work on the film. But we remained close and he pitched me Steel Country some 8 years later. It just goes to show how persistence is important in our industry.

The town that contributes to the atmosphere of Steel Country is Griffin, Georgia (USA). How did you choose this location and did you have to face any challenges during the shootings? 

The main reason we shot in Georgia was the cash incentive and the fact it was a great match to Pennsylvania where the script was set. They have a very robust tax credit available for filming, and knowing a few friends working on The Walking Dead I knew the crews were great. It also satisfied a long-held ambition of mine which was to get to shoot a movie in the U. S. of A. We worked closely with the Georgia Film Academy – it’s important to me that every production of mine works towards creating opportunities for the next generation of filmmakers, and after scouting we landed on Griffin. It’s an amazing town, in many ways down on its luck – the textile industry left 50+ years ago  leaving the town now with 2nd and 3rd generation poor families, but a brilliant sense of commitment to returning to former glories. It warms me to know we had a positive impact on the town.

What do you look for in a story? Do you have any tips for screenwriters who would like to pitch you their scripts?

Audience. Audience. Audience. If I can’t understand from reading the script who it is going to appeal to, it’s dead before it’s started. The writer has to tell me who the audience is going to be. I have to feel and know who the film will play well to, who is likely to finance it, and what the thing is likely to (or should) cost to see into production.

Given your experience, what are the most common mistakes a producer should avoid?

Forgetting to be a decent human being. Thankfully we are emerging from a period of time where bullying behavior, getting the shot at all costs, and a fairly toxic working atmosphere was the norm. We tell stories, that’s all we do. No different from the minstrel or the jester in the town square 200 years ago. We are not saving lives. I know we play a high stakes game, but I always chuckle when I remember what a wizened studio exec once said to me: “Son, you make movies. If they remember your movie in 5 years, you get to call it a film. If they remember it after 20 years … then it’s fucking cinema.”

With an unlimited budget at your disposal, what would your dream production project be?

Without being contrary, I don’t think I’d want a limitless budget. Budget seems to drive how big or bold you can make the movie, but does more money available guarantee an increase in quality?  It might take away some of the funding nightmares and getting to a successful financial close. But what are you going to do? Pay the actors even more? Blow more shit up? Spend a load more on VFX or even better … craft service?  If I had that much money I’d spend it on creating a time machine… and get to be the 3rd AD on Jaws, ET or Jean de Florette.

Don’t miss Gareth’s Steel Country Masterclass on 18th April, followed by a preview screening of the film and Q&A with special guests.

Filed under: Interviews, ProducingTagged with: , , , ,

Interview with Joaquín Cambre, Director of A Trip to the Moon

Ahead of its UK release at the ICA this March, we sat down with Joaquín Cambre, director of Argentinian coming-of-age film A Trip to the Moon, which had its World Premiere at Raindance 2017.

Trip to the Moon is your debute feature film, but you had a long career in directing videoclips and commercials before that. Which are the perks of coming from this experience and what essential lesson did you take from that? Were there any challenges you had to face?

I am essentially a music video director and that has become an amazing exercise for me. I mean, narratively speaking I´m used to tell stories in three minutes and to be fast in filming them. That filming muscle allowed me to shoot my film in twenty days. Beside that, I used to work with well-known musicians and dealing with their egos. So when I have to face an actor I am always confident. Filming a feature is more challenging in the post-production part or even in trying to manage my anxiety. I am used to a short production process and being patient was a big learning. Kind of a zen learning.

 

Would you share any suggestion with filmmakers that come from a similar background and are trying to direct their first feature film?

I will tell them “do it”. I realised by making my film that this will become part of my life. I loved it. I enjoyed every day of my 20 shooting days. I was very well driven, so focused on the project. I will only suggest that they get a producer, a partner who shares the same vision. I didn´t have that and post-production was a painful process because I had to do it by my own.

 

The moon with a girl face that peeps out in the film, the magical journey of Tomas and, of course, the title of your movie, immediately bring to mind George Méliès and his A Trip to the Moon. Was he an important source of inspiration and do you think that early cinema is still inspiring for young filmmakers?

Of course! I grew up watching Buster Keaton and Méliès. They have the essence of what I am right know. I think at that era things were more diverse and experimental. You didn´t have to be “narrative” to be a director. Films could be magical or experimental. We lost that. Cinema has become Narrative or Documentary, losing the third, and most interesting for me, “magical” part. My film is narrative of course, but I’m trying to share an experience, not only a story. I know that people crave for stories, but when you surprise the audience, that feeling is bigger than just telling a story.

 

In the film, Tomas finds his way to cope with a trauma taking refuge in his own world and forcing his family to follow him, while adults and psychologists are not of real help. Do you think that phantasy, artistic creation and identification can play an important role in dealing with mental issues and in real life?

Personal passions, dream and art are always part of the deal. Creativity is the key for go through this tough life. But you can´t do it without your family and friends. That´s why Tomas needs to involve his family in it. He needs his family to understand his interest and creativity. This is a very delicate topic, but I´m positive about the importance of friends and parents.

 

Trip to the Moon is a coming-of-age of a peculiar kid. Tell us more about how you developed the subject. Did you look at other filmmakers’ works in portraying trobuled adolescence or did you rely more on your personal experience?

Well, I really built this character with my own experiences and having chats with friends and psychoanalysts. Most of all, my aunt who is the president of the IPA, helped me a lot to develop Tomas character. The only film reference to build that was Gus Van Sant´s films. His films are amazing in building adolescent characters just through the framing and not with dialogue. Finally, the soundtrack was for me the great achievement in my film. I worked almost a year with Emilio Haro and Gabriel Barredo trying to get that childish, dramatic and twitched atmosphere.

 

Which was the best part and the most challenging aspect of working with really young actors? How did you prepared them for the role?

Not challenging at all. Working with young actors is a blessing. They are great, vivid, happy. They have the world ahead. I really did a good casting and worked with the family as a family in the rehearsals. I just knew that if I could build this group of diverse actors as I family, I would get good performances in the young actors.

 

What are your next projects? Are you going to explore again the themes of A Trip to the Moon or are you aiming at something different?

I will explore mental health or madness, call it as you like. It’s one of my obsessions. I´m working on a new film called Laundry with only three characters locked in a Laundromat, exploring mental issues, racial discrimination and violence. And in the teenage context, I´m about to film a teaser for a TV series called LFD (Last First Day), a teenage thriller.

Don’t miss the special screening of A Trip to the Moon followed by a Q&A with the director at the ICA on 22nd March. Find out more about the film here.

Filed under: Interviews, Raindance Film FestivalTagged with: , , , ,

How to Use Personal Experience to Create Stories that Connect Universally

In my early twenties, I went on a first date that went so well, we walked around the city for fourteen hours. I was smitten, he was too. Small problem. He “sort of” already had a girlfriend, and had just been online dating to “take one last look at what was out there before he committed.”

The only way I knew how to respond was “I am putting this absolute bellend in a screenplay” – and here we are today, with Relationshit out in the world.

Had I just written down the actual events, it would have made a painfully boring show. But with a little bit of work, I was able to use this experience to inspire an interesting plot. Here’s what you need to consider in order to do the same.

Is this the right story and the right medium?

If your experience largely took place inside your own head, it may be better suited for literature. If there was a ton of conversation – perhaps it should be a play. Film is a visual medium and needs stories that can be told visually. Only choose film if you want to make use of film’s unique aspects.

The Difference between real life and dramatic storytelling

“Wouldn’t it be so romantic to have a stalker?!” …No. It would be terrifying. What makes for interesting TV would be a deeply stressful life; at the same time, the problems that keep you up at night worrying, probably wouldn’t keep you up all night bingeing an entire season about it.

In real life, you want solutions. For a good story, you want drama. High stakes. Structure.

In film, you should arrive at a satisfying conclusion after a series of twists and turns. This workbook  is helpful for beginners, with a beat sheet – also called the Hollywood Formula – starting on page 32.

In TV, you want to keep spinning new problems, you want every answer to ask a new question. Writing The Pilot by Willian Rabkin is my recommendation here.

Really learn dramatic structure and plot your story accordingly.

The higher the stakes, the better: Instead of being rejected from a gig you really wanted and now you’re sad, maybe your character has spent all of their savings and risked their reputation to try for this, and if they fail they won’t be able to afford care for their sick family member.

Notice how people in movies organise meetings without naming time and place? That’s because you want to cut out all filler information and focus tightly on what’s important.  

Find the theme

Fear not: Many writers only realise what the “theme” of their script is after they’ve written their first draft. Look at your experience as a narrative – beginning, middle, end – and see if you can find a theme or a lesson that can inspire the rest of your project or create a thread that runs through different storylines.

Relationshit has three characters, each dealing in some way with the idea of “other people” – thus unifying the three plots. Zoe’s love interest is torn between her and his girlfriend, Roman’s long distance girlfriend wants to try an open relationship, June’s girlfriend has a crazy stalker ex.

Macro vs Micro

Instead of using your artistic medium like a journal, look for themes that are revealed in your personal experience and amplify that. This can be done in a big picture way, or you can dramatise your real experience as above.

In Relationshit’s case, two elements I had were “someone becoming attached to someone they just met”, and “someone torn between two lovers.”

I pushed that to the extreme, so that my main character goes to the ends of the earth trying to convince this guy she barely knows that they’re meant for each other, and comically screws up her life in the process. Indecision is, by definition, the most boring thing to watch – so instead, her love interest takes action and finds trouble.

Alternatively, look at the universal theme that’s revealed in your experience and use that as a jumping off point for further exploration. Maybe now you know the true meaning of ambition. Maybe now you understand why someone would dedicate their life to a higher cause.

You don’t have to replicate the details: You just have to replicate the feeling.

Be Unafraid

If you have inhibitions about your story, it will show. Nobody wants to watch a perfect character make perfect choices, and no real human is a perfect human.

The best creative work is made when the creator gets vulnerable. Write your truth and don’t flinch.

Relationshit is now out on Amazon in the UK & US, and on Vimeo On Demand globally, with a Q&A on the website and a Podcast on Mentorless.

To stay in the loop, follow @relationshitTV on Twitter, like the Facebook page, or sign up to the mailing list on relationshit.tv.

Filed under: Filmmaking, Interviews, Screenwriting, Web Series