31 Questions for New Filmmakers – Part IV

The fourth series of questions posed by Ted Hope deal with The Structure of the Business.

Is the film business fair? Why or why not? How do you make theapparatus work for you?
I’m going to pass on this question,as I think it is a personal question – not an industry question. It’s fair ifyou work hard and produce good material. I have scripts I think are amazingthat haven’t broken through – do I blame the system?  No, it just hasn’t hit the right eyes yet. Ithas nothing to do with race, color, religion, sex, etc…
Is it the filmmaker’s responsibility to find and develop youraudience? Why do you feel that way? How will you collaborate with your audience,and how won’t you?
Yes, it is.  Even if your film lands at a studio with aneight figure marketing budget – why would you abandon it when it needs youmost? You can be out there on social media talking about it, engaging youraudience, giving interviews, soliciting press, doing whatever you can to geteyeballs on your product. You can’t rely on anyone to do your job for you.Don’t regret anything.
I will make myself as available as Ican to my audience. I am a pretty private person (this blog is fairly open, butif you know me – you know I’m very quiet, go about my business, etc…), but ifyou are a creator of any kind – you have to deal with the fact that you are nowin the public eye and people may want to know about you, your life, etc… Thebest part about going to conventions and stuff isn’t talking about my book perse, it is just talking to like minded people and making connections. That’sreally hard for me because I am not super out-going, but I’m open and excitedabout people. I’m not the type of person that looks down at the audience, I ammy audience to a certain degree.  I’m afan and I know what I want/expect as a fan – and hope to provide the same inreturn.
What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role toworry about that?
I can only answer this as anaudience member myself.  I usually wantone of two things – to escape life for an hour or two or to experience a newculture/society/part of the world. Yes, I think it is our responsibility toworry about that, only because if you don’t deliver on one of those two thenwhy exactly are you telling your story?
Is it possible to sell out? What would that mean to you andwould you like it to happen or not? What do you do to encourage theprofessional approach you want?
Yes, taking on any project formoney.
Sometimes it is necessary toactually live and pay the bills.  As longas you are aware of this, and don’t ever forget it – you could be okay. JohnSayles has made a career out of getting big bucks for studio writing work andthen using that money to make his own movies. I’ve been broke for so long Idon’t know what it is like to have money, so recently I put a movie intoproduction as a cash grab.  It had alsobeen 3 years since I have produced a film, so the clock was ticking. It was anecessity. I still want that film to be the best it can be and have made it mytop priority. If I’m going to do something, I try to at least give it my all. Iam pretty confident I won’t get sucked into being a sell out though.
If I was asked what was the most important advice I couldgive a filmmaker starting out, it would be “Try to manage your life so that youwill feel as good about the film industry in fifteen years as you do now.” Inyour experience, is that true, and what can filmmakers do to achieve thatchallenge?
I don’t think I’m experienced enoughto answer this question. I guess I can say that if I ever do this to makemoney, rather than because I love film – then yes, I would agree. 
What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Whyare they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?
My early film life was more immersedin the festival world. I watched a lot of shorts and indies at festivals fromcollege through grad school and my early film career, working at Snoot andlooking for projects/directors. I found the short The Freak – by the directorof the short Terra, which later became my first feature film as a producer,Battle for Terra, at a film festival.
I don’t spend much time at them now,but they are necessary curators of projects, especially now that everyone hasaccess to a camera and editing equipment. Some (eventual) mainstream movies start at small festivals and grow fromthere.  Where would those films wind upwithout that exposure or launching pad? 

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