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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Occupy the Filmmaking Revolution

A couple days ago, Eric Kohn had this great little interview with Anton Yelchin. For me, the most important bit of the piece was where Yelchin talks about how his experience making Like Crazy made him interested in helping to fund microindies:

So the fact that there’s technology and means available to edit something at home and to shoot it on a consumer-level camera for no money with 10 people on the crew, a small group of really dedicated people—I can’t say that enough—how fundamental it is to the evolution of the industry and the development of filmmaking outside of spectacle filmmaking. I’m a huge supporter of it. I was talking with a buddy of mine about pitching in and making small movies for like five grand, 10 grand.

What Yelchin is talking about here is exactly what Ted Hope has been preaching about forever, this idea of indie filmmaking as a community, the give and take. The ability to make small movies for five or 10 thousand dollars. Which, let me tell you, really can only happen if you’re shooting with your friends as the film crew and they’re all working for free, because if you’re shooting even a low budget indie and hiring (and paying) outside professional crew, there’s no way in hell you’re making a feature film for that cash.

This is partly why I chose the specific people I chose for my crew for Bunker. I was looking not just to pay a bunch of hired guns for this one shoot (although we are paying our crew, and it’s not cheap), but to start building a community of film crew that I’d like to work with in the long haul. You see a ton of that in LA and NY and Seattle and other little pockets of creative filmmaking, these small groups of filmmaking collectives, as it were, taking turns writing and directing and editing and producing each others’ movies, the same crew members rotating around, squeezing in passion projects for friends around their commercial work. This is one way to get small films made off the grid, so to speak.

You’ll probably still have to dig into your savings, or beg from friends and family, or run a crowdfunding campaign, to pay for all the things you can’t get completely for free. Maybe you’ll have to shoot your film on weekends when your friends are available over months or years. But at the end of the day, you’ll get it done, and your friends will get their films done, and hopefully you won’t completely break the bank while doing it, and end up with a film worth submitting to some fests, that will garner some attention from someone who wants to give you money to get your next project done.

This is the other reason we started Catawampus! Productions. Every dollar we have that we can scrounge out of our household finances will be going back to the company. Anything we make off our work in this realm, short of our frugal living expenses, goes back into the company. And eventually, we’d like to be in a position also to help finance smaller films, both for filmmakers we work with regularly, and filmmakers whose work we believe in. It will take a while, and a lot of work, to get there. But if you believe in filmmaking as being of value to society, of having value as an art form, and you are fortunate enough to be able to actually make something resembling a living while working in this business, I believe strongly you have an obligation to give back by helping other filmmakers you believe in get their start, too.

I know a great many folks on the technical side of this industry who already give back with their work. They take on lucrative commercial work to pay their bills, so that they can work for free or a seriously cut rate on passion indie projects. This is a way of giving back to the art form. A lot of successful actors do this as well — do a studio project for the cash, then an indie project for the love of film. But just imagine if actors, directors and producers who’ve been very successful made it a practice to give back to the film community by setting aside a percentage of their profits off each project into a fund specifically for funding microindie projects that help other filmmakers get a leg up. Filmmakers who’ve shown promise, or the dedication to getting a project done and seeing it through.

Occupy Filmmaking? What would that look like, to have real, viable support for filmmakers working outside the studio system? Maybe that would be great, or maybe it would just mean fest programmers would have an even bigger glut of amateuristic films to slog through. Feel free to sound off with your thoughts below.

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2 Responses to “Occupy the Filmmaking Revolution”

  1. Scott says:

    Starting a film collective group — sort of like what Sean Durkin and Brit Marling are doing — is what Seattle needs. The story crisis doesn’t just exist in Hollywood; it extends to the indie world as well. But the collective must have talent — duh! — but it’s true. It’s all about the nature and distribution of talent. And with microindies becoming easier and easier to make with the wide range of fantastic equipment readily available, it still, as Kubrick said, comes down to the pencil and paper level.

  2. Kim,

    This is a great article, (and link to the original interview), that I think speaks to a fire that’s igniting in filmmaking communities all over the country and globe. The cheap costs, yet better quality in technology and camera gear, as well as the doors that are swinging open to get films in front of people (re: vimeo, youtube, etc) are tearing down barriers that all but ruined independant filmmakers in previous decades.

    This is exactly what we’re doing in Tulsa, OK. No longer are we hindered by the cost of stock or the failure of our project if it’s not accepted into a major fest. Or by the roadblock of major funding or investors. Instead, with the low cost of production, the passion of the filmmakers and artists, as well as the support of friends and interested parties a film can be made for literally no money (as is the case with a film I’m currently making, save for money for food for crew etc).

    In order to make this happen, I, along with every one of our crew and cast, work full time jobs elsewhere, I freelance as well as work a full time job and have been able to gather a sufficient amount of production gear to eliminate the overhead of rentals. Our only major hiccup is scheduling and a lot of that is aleviated by the passion and excitement our cast and crew has for our project. And there are several others just here in Tulsa pouring that same passion and energy into their films. We all have a passion for the films we’re making and we rest at nothing to see them acheive their utmost potential.

    The quality of these films shouldn’t have to suffer due to the low overhead of cost and production. The films of true merit and quality will still rise above the mediocrity and “glut” of the influx of films made with this aesthetic. It seems that several festivals have already started taking an interest in this small footprint style of filmmaking, including Sundance’s >Next< program.

    I think the occupation is already underway, but just like the movement you reference, it needs more vocal and, to a greater extent, more prominent supporters like Mr. Yelchin to get behind these filmmakers and their small projects. No longer should the bottom line of box office returns and PA be a concern. When the film's entire budget, including sag minimum can be brought in for under 25k$ (this is guessing of course) then films such as "Like Crazy" or edward burns "newylweds" or Lena Dunham's "Tiny Furniture" should be the norm instead of the exception.

    good luck on Bunker, I look forward to seeing it on whatever avenue you're able to get it out on. And keep writing articles like this one. They offer a great and unique insight into an industry that is significantly shifting (much like Mr. Hope preaches about) from an outmoded and stifled model to one that is still as yet being redefined.

    Charles Elmore

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon