Starting from scratch: looking at filmmaking from a different view

22 08 2011

I know I haven’t posted in a few days, and I have to write reviews for Gen Silent as well as the Closing Gala film, Different From Whom? but after last night, things have changed a bit.

Although I wasn’t expecting to win either of the two awards of the evening, of course I would’ve liked to.  I knew Jason Karman and his fantastic short I’m in the Mood for Love was going to win the Gerry Brunet Award, but the Hot Pink Shorts Award was still up in the air.  At the same time though, my sister told me that it’s really a popularity contest since the award is voted by audiences, and since I’m fairly unpopular, it didn’t surprise me when it turned out to be a three-way tie between Mette Bach’s B.A.B.S. which was clearly an audience favourite, and two other shorts.

I’ve been frustrated and have a love-hate relationship with these awards– yes, they are a fantastic opportunity to local filmmakers and I’ve so happy and glad they even exist.  At the same time, the Gerry is usually given to a film that looks great overall and ostensibly was made with some sort of budget.  But it’s a catch-22: how do you get the money to make a great film when  you have no budget to make the film that would help you make the great film?  I’ve been lucky enough to make two short films with virtually no budget and though I’m satisfied with the final films, I can’t help but feel like they’re B-list, average movies.  Sure, money would’ve helped but I didn’t have any sources of funding and I had to make-do with the resources and people available, and I’m grateful for everyone that’s helped me along the way.

But after last night, I felt like I needed to change my entire process of filmmaking and how I look at films.  Stay and Cure(d) were both simple shorts that I quickly put together and submitted to the Queer Film Fest, but I have other scripts that are more complex, more artistic that I don’t want to throw together quickly and submit.  I’ve thought of a few things I want to change for future projects:

1.  Take your time.

Like I said, I made the two mentioned films above in a hurry because of the deadlines, and though they’re good as they are since they’re simple, I want to really take my time with my next film planning everything– and I mean everything– out.  I want every shot to mean something; I want my actors to have rehearsed plenty before the shoot; I want to explore different angles and transitions with my cinematographer; and most importantly, I don’t want to feel pressured to finish something in time for the festival.

2.  Research shooting formats.

I’ve been shooting on digital for my last two shorts, mainly because it’s convenient and easy to handle.  But I want to take the time to look at other formats, like film, that show different textures and give the film a different feel.  I want to use format as a way to create atmosphere and mood instead of relying on dialogue or lighting, but using format to enhance it further.

3.  Find a producer.

So many times, I’ve tried to find funding sources but more likely than not, they require the applicant to not be an undergrad student, and despite the fact that I’ve graduated from Vancouver Film School with a background in film, it doesn’t seem to matter since I’m still a student at the moment.  What would really help is finding someone I can trust to help fund my film, who would aid in assisting the process.  I’ve never put down any producing credit for any of my films because, frankly, it wasn’t made with any money, and there wasn’t really a producer.

I also am now willing to spend money to make my films, now that I have a job.  I’m willing to go and rent cameras, lights, equipment to see that the project is given the proper artistic respect as it’s realized.  It’s all within reason though.  I have to research all of that.

If anyone out there is remotely interested in doing some producing work or knows of someone who might be willing to help me, let me know!

4. Network?

I’m not the social type.  I don’t go up to random people and just start chatting away, which may be my downfall.  I’m just a quiet, kind of shy guy making movies and getting into an industry that is heavily relient on extroverted, charismatic people who know how to talk to other people.  It’s who I am, and I can’t help it.  I think I just need to man-up and go and talk with strangers.

For a few years, I was writing songs and going out and performing around the city.  It was a great time and I felt like it was what I really wanted to do for a while.  But then I started feeling like it wasn’t working– after shows, people would go and talk with the performers while I sort of loitered around awkwardly.  I don’t know if no one simply wanted to talk to me or if it was because I was the only piano player while everyone else was a guitarist but eventually, I realized that I probably was never going to have the level of success and popularity that I wanted for myself.  So I turned to filmmaking.

And now I’m starting to feel the same way.

I don’t feel as bad because I’ve gotten a lot more support than I did with my music, especially from the folks from Out on Screen and the Queer Film Festival (the awesome and lovely Amber Dawn in particular who keeps surprising me by being incredibly supportive) and I feel like I’m reaching a lot more people by making films than with music.  But there’s always that fear in my mind: what if all I’m going to be is an average, B-list filmmaker who comes to the Queer Film Fest every year and nothing happens?  What if this is as good as it will ever get?

I know.  If I don’t try, I’ll never know.  To parallel another event, I’m a super fan of Vanessa Carlton.  After her third album, she sat down and thought about her process of music, songwriting, and recording.  Eventually, she went to the English countryside and wrote and recorded her next, entirely self-financed album.  She said everything was organic and was exactly the kind of record she wanted to make.  Every lyric in every song was thought out carefully and went through drafts.

And I guess I feel that way too.  After Cure(d), I think I need to sit down and think for a while, to look at every possible option out there that would help me make the best possible film.

As usual, I welcome any thoughts anyone might have.  In the meantime, I’ll be sending out Cure(d) around to festivals and seeing how that goes.

Finally, I just want to quickly thank everyone who’s ever supported me in anything creative I’ve done.  It’s helped me more than you’ll ever know.


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