I recently had the opportunity to interview Russ Pond, who’s the co-producer behind the intensely entertaining feature film “Infiltrators.” The story: An ‘urban explorer’ is blackmailed into infiltrating a derelict building on the eve of its demolition in the hope he can recover a forgotten treasure. You can watch the eye-gripping trailer below, then read what Russ had to say about his team’s huge project in our interesting Q and A.
1. What’s the story behind you wanting to develop “Infiltrators” into a feature film?
I’d like to call it an opportunity project. We had a very interesting opportunity arise with some local Dallas folks regarding the Praetorian Building in downtown Dallas. It was built in 1909, and was deemed the first skyscraper in Dallas, and they were bringing it down. We learned about the building from some folks, and they allowed us to develop and shoot a movie around this building coming down.
Immediately, we started brainstorming on what kind of movie we could make that would tell a fun and interesting story. Writer and director, Michael Stokes, and the production team made frequent trips to the old building to think through what kind of story could be told. We wanted to focus on an action movie, which is a genre we love and which is very popular, including in the foreign markets. In just a few weeks, Michael had the story in his head, and he started writing it. Very quickly, we had a script.
2. Who is involved with the film project?
I was one of two primary producers on the project. Sally Helppie was the other producer. She works as an entertainment lawyer, and she’s produced a couple of indie films, including Exit Speed and The Beacon. Her husband, Michael Stokes, who has dozens of produced feature films and regularly works in television, was the writer and director for the project. We pulled in Alan Lefebvre as our DP. He was the DP on my film, Fissure. Frank Ceglia, our special effects coordinator, and John Cann, our stunt coordinator, both worked on Sally’s prior films. Our production designer, Eric Whitney, has worked on previous films for both Sally and me, as did a number of our other crew members.
3. What are your core goals for the film?
As with any venture, the primary goal for this film is to generate a profit. That starts with a good story and a strong production team. The script was written as an action genre, which we know sells well in the foreign markets. We cast it with solid actors who bring the story to life. We were able to shoot the film on the Arri Alexa camera, the most popular digital camera in Hollywood, and the film looks phenomenal! Each step we took in our production was to make this film a prime candidate for solid distribution.
4. What have been your biggest project challenges and struggles to date?
We had some specific timelines we had to hit because the site was an active demolition. They didn’t slow down for us. We had to work around them. They would work on prepping the building between 6am and 6pm, and then we’d shoot inside the building from 6pm to 6am. It was quite the juggling act. We also had other locations, including those that had to be shot during daytime hours, which made scheduling a challenge. And, of course, most of the film was shot during the hottest part of the year in Dallas.
5. How did you manage the project work flow?
We had a great production team. We worked well together, even under the crazy conditions. We were able to pull together key department heads who had solid experience in running a movie production. Working with an experienced production team helped keep our production on schedule and under budget.
6. You are going to the infamous Cannes Film Festival in May, what do you hope comes from that trip overseas?
We are actually attending the Cannes Film Market, not the Festival. At the Film Market, we’ll have a foreign sales agent to shop the film to the foreign buyers. We also will be marketing the domestic distribution. We’re already getting requests from potential sales agents and distributors based on the trailer alone.
7. Since releasing the film’s trailer, what has been the biggest surprise?
The trailer has been released for under a month, and we’re starting to get high-level distribution proposals on the trailer alone. That has been a wonderful surprise.
8. Do you have any tips for creating and producing a feature film?
It’s really all about the team you pull together. A solid team with good production experience is key. I don’t claim to know everything about movie production. What I do claim is that I know people who know everything about film production, and I get them to join me on these adventures in filmmaking.
9. Where can we watch your film’s trailer, and get more information about it?
We thank Russ for his insightful answers for filmmakers, screenwriters, directors, and actors to learn from! And wish him and his team all the best with their amazing film project going forward.
Enjoy this insightful interview? Great! Then subscribe to our blog via email as we will be doing more of these fun interviews in the future with other amazingly talented video creators, filmmakers, actors, writers, directors, and producers from Spidvid.
And if you are a web series, TV, short film or feature film creator or producer and want your story and content featured here, then reach out to us and lets discuss.
We are back with one of our top Spidcast episodes to date this month (listen in below and subscribe to “Spidcast” on iTunes) with a focus on Keanu Reeves, web series, filmmaking, impersonations, directing, following your passions, and other interesting sound bites! October’s Spidcast features incredible guests; Chris Kenneally and Maurizio/Melanie Minichino. They are our amazingly talented, passionate, and insightful guests for our 19th episode of Spidcast on October 11th, 2012.
Listen to Spidcast #19 by clicking the play button below
Melanie Minichino is a first generation Italian, born in New York. She started acting/comedy at eight years old, by making fun of her Italian father and all his buddies. She worked on shows in New York such as “The Sopranos,” “Law and Order,” was host for the “Speed Channel,” and various commercials while performing in plays and improv. She fell into the voice over world and started doing promos, commercials, and eventually cartoons. In 2009 she landed a job being the voice of Disney Junior, which brought her to Los Angeles.
Melanie is currently writing, producing, and starring in The Maurizio Show, a semi-scripted comedy web series in which she portrays her own Italian born father. Some of the artists who inspire the actress are: Larry David, Ricky Gervais, Woody Allen, Tina Fey, and Lucille Ball. Being inspired by such greatness is the best motivation for Melanie’s creative process. Her ultimate goal is to be able to make the whole world laugh.
We thank Chris, Melanie, and Maurizio for being such fun and inspirational guests!
If you’re interested in sponsoring next month’s Spidcast show, then get in touch and let’s discuss a deal. If you have something to say with regards to what Chris and Melanie talked about, then post a comment below, send out a tweet, or share around the social web to continue the conversation. Thanks for listening, and be sure to share this show with anyone in your network who can get value from it!
Full Show Transcript Below
Michael London: I am Michael London and welcome to Spidcast, the future of collaborative video production brought to you by Indie Source Magazine where they believe free is better. On this episode, we’ll visit with the writer and director of “Side by Side”, Chris Kenneally and we’ll also have a very special guest. He’s an actor, a personality, a great cook and all around cool cat plus the creator, writer and actor of “The Maurizio Show”, Melanie Minichino. Thanks for being with us today on Spidcast.
First up is Chris Kenneally. Chris, welcome to Spidcast.
Chris Kenneally: Thanks for having me on. I’m happy to be here.
Michael London: So, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Chris Kenneally: I’ve been working in the film business in New York City for about 13 years. I’ve done a lot of post production supervision and also I made a documentary a few years back called “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating.” And my most recent movie is “Side by Side” that it’s a documentary about the art, science and impact of digital technology on movie making.
Michael London: And Chris, tell us about how collaboration has benefited you in your projects specifically “Side by Side”.
Chris Kenneally: Yes, at the most recent project, “Side by Side” partnered with Keanu Reeves and the idea for the movie really developed out of conversion he and I were having just about moviemaking and the way the technology is changed and the impact that’s having all across the board on work flow. So, it was a good partnership because having Keanu’s name obviously helped us be taken a little bit more seriously when we were reaching out to get interviews especially when we have people like Martin Scorsese or James Cameron or David Lynch.
I’m sure Keanu’s name goes a little bit further than mine but also Keanu is on other projects which he had to entrust a lot of the directing and writing part to the job to me. So, I think we both work really well together.
Michael London: And so how was it working with Keanu Reeves in a different capacity than an actor?
Chris Kenneally: Keanu produced the movie and he was the first one who, during the conversation we’re having and said, “Hey, Chris, why don’t you and I should make a documentary about this topic and go out and grab interviews with these people?” And that just kind of, I don’t people know really that side of Keanu but he’s really serious kind of scientific brain that really wants to know how everything works. We’re working on a movie called “Henry’s Crime” that he was acting and producing and I was the post supervisor on it and while we were working there, he wanted to know how everything works in the lab, the Technicolor and how the mix works and the color correction and all of that stuff. So, he’s a really good producer and I think it’s a side of him, people will see in this movie that probably didn’t know before.
Michael London: Terrific and I know there’s a back story prior to you working with a name like Keanu. So, tell us a little bit about your journey?
Chris Kenneally: So, I was in Boston after college and I was writing, trying to write short stories and things like that and had a chance to up write a script for someone’s college film school movie and working with them on that, I really realized that this is something I wanted to do at my life. So, I started volunteering at this place Boston Film and Video where I would answer the phones but then I would also get to be the TA on classes and I got to learn cinematography and things like that and use all their equipment.
I started making short films and then I moved to New York and worked for free as an intern at a place called The Shooting Gallery and they eventually hired me on to be a post production coordinator and that gave me the opportunity to work with a bunch of different directors on independent films and really work closely between the director and the producer and become post production supervisor. And all during that time, I was making from short films for my own and like I said, before I made a documentary called “Crazy Legs Conti” which ended up doing pretty well and getting into a bunch of film festivals Tribeca and Los Angeles and Australia and we ended up selling that to A&E in America and Channel 5 in the UK.
So, I continued to make short films while working as a post production supervisor and the reason I was able to meet and work with Keanu is I was post supervising the movie that he was acting in and producing. So, it hasn’t been an overnight success but it’s kind of been a steady climb in doing whatever I had to do to be in the game, I guess.
Michael London: And would you say that that path is still available to those jumping into the business today?
Chris Kenneally: I think so, yes. I mean, it’s somewhat of a sacrifice but if it’s something you’re passionate about, I think working as an intern for a company that you respect that’s making the kind of movies you like if you work really hard, hopefully, you get a chance. I mean you get a chance hopefully, you can prove yourself. I was bartending at night and working for free during the day and if I hadn’t gotten that break, I don’t know really where I would be today but I think it’s worth it and you can learn about the business and you can learn whether it’s something you actually want to do or not.
But working for free is tough but it’s definitely a way in the dark. I had to hire some people to work on this film “Side by Side” and we are really lucky with the guys we worked with but there’s always space for somebody that works hard and gets the job done and is responsible and follows through on what they say. I mean there’s nothing better for me to be able to task someone with a project and feel confident that at the end of the day, they’re going to come back to me with an update that it’s done and they’re not going to drop the ball. I mean those types of people are always in demand.
Michael London: You know, Chris, I think there’s a misconception that the moviemaking is filled with a junk of flakes and guffaws, but in reality, there are some very responsible hardworking people who do what they said they’re going to do, right?
Chris Kenneally: Absolutely. I think it’s a highly competitive field. Not everyone but a lot of people come out of college. Don’t even go to college. A lot of people want to be in the entertainment industry, in the film and movie industry and that’s one of the reasons they can get people to work these crazy hours and work for free as they’re coming up. So, I think it’s a very competitive field and therefore, the people that stick around and make it are the people who are hardworking, smart, competent people. It’s a total meritocracy. There’s really no room for anybody who screws up or wants to make it a big party and not do what they say. You’re not going to last very long.
Michael London: And so what advice would you have for someone just jumping into the filmmaking business right now?
Chris Kenneally: I would tell someone jumping today to just be passionate about it, do the work. If you have an idea for a movie or a short set of dates that you’re going to shoot it, this is the day we’re going to do it and you’ll be surprised how motivated you can make yourself and also it sounds like a cliché, but the harder you work, the luckier you’d get. Once you set things in motion, there are so many other people out there who want to be involved in projects, a good project, the bad project. It doesn’t matter. People, once they see that you’re serious. You have a little thing that you want to shoot. You have an idea. You have a camera. People will jump in and help you.
Sometimes, very professional people, everyone is looking for a good project. It’s not always, so he isn’t always looking to make a bunch of money. Sometimes, it’s exciting to work with a young person who’s passionate and has an idea and it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes or it comes out like crap, that’s part of the process and when you’re making mistakes, you’re learning and as long as you’re out there doing it, you’re going to get better and better.
And then when someone comes along, like in my case, like Keanu, hey, he saw that I had made a documentary before. He got a chance to watch that and I think that’s why he approached me. If I hadn’t been kind of in trenches all those years, still trying to make shorts and learning the craft, I might not have been in the position where someone would actually put their trust in me for a bigger project. So, just go out there and do it and enjoy while you’re doing it and good things will happen to you if you work hard.
Michael London: So, where can we see some of your stuff, Chris?
Chris Kenneally: The “Crazy Legs” documentary, I believe is on Netflix and “Side by Side” should be in a bunch of film festivals this summer all around the world, in the United States and then in August, they’ll be kind of a limited theatrical release, I believe and then a big VOD on cable, Video on Demand, and then some of the other movies I’ve post supervised, I’m sure they’re on Netflix and places like that.
Michael London: Excellent. So, Chris, so by listening to this podcast today, we’ll say to someone else, “Hey, I’d just heard this and it’s a great piece of advice,” give us some great words of wisdom.
Chris Kenneally: My great words of wisdom that I want to be remembered by, I guess, work hard and have a positive attitude and be responsible and really try to enjoy what you’re doing. It just makes the work better and it makes life better for you and everybody.
Michael London: Chris, thank you so much for joining us today on Spidcast.
Chris Kenneally: Thanks. I feel like, I just gave a motivational speech. So that was fun.
Michael London: Spidcast, brought to you by Indie Source Magazine, the fastest growing independent filmmaker resource and the only free publication of its kind. Their mission is to bring you not only stories of the industries highly celebrated but also stories and insights from players in all areas of the media creation process. At Indie Source, they believe free is better and we agree. Visit them at indiesourcemag.com
We continue now with a special guest. He has his own web series. Welcome Maurizio.
Maurizio: Oh, how are you? It’s so nice to be here. Before we start, I have a question and what is this podcast? I’m on the radio right now or I’m on television?
Michael London: Well, actually, you are on television without the pictures.
Maurizio: Good, because I get so worried but I dressed all up so nice right now for you but I realized you’re not seeing me, right?
Michael London: Maurizio, I can assure our audience that you are very, very handsome fellow.
Maurizio: Yes, right now. We’re really nice, suit the (masculino) shoes, you’ll love these and I’m making a sauce right now so if I seem a little distracted, don’t worry, I’m making the sauce.
Michael London: Well, then that takes us to another topic. Is it sauce or is it gravy?
Maurizio: Oh, see, this is the problem. Gravy, you will never call this gravy in Italy. We call La Salsa.
Michael London: Got it, La Salsa.
Maurizio: Sometimes, American Italian call it gravy, it’s okay. And as long as it tastes good, it’s fine with me.
Michael London: Well, that’s fine with me too. So, tell us a bit about your story, Maurizio.
Maurizio: I come from Italy. I moved here to United States to go to Juilliard. I’m a piano player, you did not know? I play the piano very nice and I meet my wife, Nanette. She’s beautiful. She has a beautiful leg, this lady. She’s beautiful. So I stay here, United States because this country have so much to offer like a grill, like you grill on a Sunday time. The Americans grill or the hamburger, I love this and you get the best deals in United States. So, they decide to do show about me, I don’t know why, but I’m very happy about this.
Michael London: As well you should be. And I hear that your show is based on true stories, all things that have happened to you, is that right?
Maurizio: Yes, yes. This is these things. If you watch this season, in one episode, I play soccer and I lose one ball but this happened. This is true. One time I played so hard, I lose the ball. So, now, I take good care of the one I have left if you know what I mean, right? So, this happened in my life and like, for example, in another episode, I make a deal with the car dealership like I go lower and he’d go higher and then I go even lower but this is how Italians, we like to make the best deal. But I don’t understand. Everybody loves this show. They make a big deal but all Italians are like these. All Italians are like these so in Italy, this is normal, you know what I mean?
Michael London: So, wait a second, now you’re trying to make a deal for the car, are you a Ferrari man or a Lamborghini man?
Maurizio: You know what? I tell you what I really love, Alfa Romeo, you know this car?
Michael London: Yes, absolutely.
Maurizio: Yes, this is my favorite car, the two-seater speeder, Alfa Romeo is the best car. I love this car.
Michael London: That work for me. So, where do you see your series headed in the future?
Maurizio: Well, you want to know the truth, I probably see Maurizio series coming to like a big TV station like HBO Original Series. It would be like Maurizio Show and then it’d be me the star with all my friends. Also, I see in the future all the ladies love Maurizio. Oh, sorry, my wife, she’s listening. Sorry, Nanette, they look but no touch.
Michael London: Look but no touch, a good policy I’d say. So, Maurizio, I hear you had an interesting experience at the LA Web Series Festival.
Maurizio: Oh, yes. I go because I don’t know if I win award, if I don’t, I just want to have a good time. So, they asked Maurizio to be on this panel for women in their web series and they get confused when I show up because I’m not a woman. But it’s okay because I make everybody laugh. I was running around all over the place having a good time and everybody loves Maurizio. Everybody get a kick out of me, they laughed. We have a good time. Actually, we won the two big awards. We won the Best Comedy Web Series and the Best Actress in the Comedy Web Series. Again, I’m confused why they say actress but it’s okay because it’s an award.
Michael London: Well, congratulations on that. And tell us about the other stuff—
Maurizio: Hold on to me, but I forgot, I have a salsa on the stove. Oh, (Italian language) I’m sorry. I have to go and check on the salsa right now. I think I burn, you know what I pass the phone over to my daughter, Melanie, okay? I come back, okay?
Michael London: Okay, Maurizio. Take care, now.
Maurizio: Ciao. Ciao, ciao. Here, take the phone, Mel.
Melanie Minichino: Hello?
Michael London: Melanie?
Melanie Minichino: Hi, Michael. Thanks for having me on.
Michael London: You’re quite welcome. Your buddy there is quite the pistol.
Melanie Minichino: You know what? He is quite the character and he is just like nonstop while he’s a walking show so please excuse him if he’s a little all over the place.
Michael London: He is full of life. So, tell us, is his sauce excellent or what?
Melanie Minichino: I have to say that his sauce is the best sauce in the world and I would go home every Sunday and we’d have dinner and I’d have pasta and some meatballs and I’d be like heaven. I miss it.
Michael London: Sounds wonderful. So, Melanie, tell us a bit about your history with Maurizio.
Melanie Minichino: Okay, well, Maurizio is, I’m portraying my father, my real Italian father and I kind of grew up imitating him because he’s such a character and he really liked, people think I over exaggerate and then when they meet him, they’re like, “Wow, you’re actually not over exaggerating him at all.” He’s even like worse than how I portray him, not worse but he’s more of a character.
So, it was pretty much ingrained in me. So, it’s easy for me to step into that character.
Michael London: I know I got to ask, what does dad think about all this?
Melanie Minichino: At first, when he saw the series, my mom told me that he would watch it really closely and be like, “(Drivel,) is that me? Like is that really how I act?” But then he really, in the Maurizio fashion, really got a kick out of it and showed all his friends and was like, he kind of is like a mini celebrity amongst his group of friends even though it’s not him in it. He really enjoys it and he doesn’t take offense to it and he sometimes even calls me and will tell me stories of things that happened to like incorporate into the show. So, I think he’s kind of thinking as a producer on the show sometimes.
Michael London: A producer, yes. Probably waiting for a check as we speak.
Melanie Minichino: Yes, right? He’s waiting for his commission. He’s like, “When do I get my 10%?” I’m like when do I get mine?
Michael London: So, now, in one of the episodes, Maurizio does standup comedy. Have you ever done standup?
Melanie Minichino: I have never done standup and to be honest, it really scares me a lot. I give standup comedian so much credit because it’s so hard even when we did the episode when Maurizio did standup, it was easier because when you’re in character, it gives you creative freedom to really do anything but it’s still really hard because it’s just you up there and everyone is like just sitting there and waiting for you to make them laugh. So, it really scares me. Maybe one day, I’ll attempt it but I don’t know. I highly doubt it.
Michael London: So, no standup but tell us about the things you have done.
Melanie Minichino: Well, so I’m from New York, born and raised in New York and with Italian background. We actually lived in Italy when I was a little girl so I learned Italian and we spoke it in the house and I started, I think when I was about 8 and I was on and off. I was really shy as a kid so I didn’t get really far because I get to auditions and then like not say a word. So, I didn’t get hired a lot.
But then I started acting again after high school and I was doing pretty well in New York. I did like the New York shows, The Sopranos and Law and Order and things like that and then I started doing voice-overs which I kind of totally fell into and I auditioned for the promo voice of the Disney Junior Channel from New York and I got it and I had to move to LA for it which is really hard for me because my family and friends are all in New York but I did it. I took the plunge. I figured what’s so bad about going to LA with a job?
So, I came here and I’ve been here for about two years now and we started the Maurizio Show, I’d say about a year ago and we’d have 14 episodes and it’s got a lot of really good press and it’s opened a lot of doors for me. So, that’s kind of where I’m at now.
Michael London: Very cool and you know what? There is still a huge fan base so please tell us, what do we see you as on The Sopranos?
Melanie Minichino: Oh, I was actually in the very last episode which was so cool to be in the last episode. I was actually in the last casting session that they ever had for The Sopranos and I played Bobby Bacala. If you watched the show, you know who he is. (He’s missed). And at the end, he dies. So, if you didn’t watch it, sorry, you should have watched it but he dies and I’m at a funeral and I have a scene with everyone, Meadow and A.J. and it was really cool to be there for the last episode too because everyone was like really emotional and that was just a really cool experience.
Michael London: Oh, man, what a wonderful experience to be part of that filmmaking history.
Melanie Minichino: Yes, yes. It really, really was and David Chase directed us and it was really cool.
Michael London: So, Melanie, share with us a bit about you venturing into the online video world.
Melanie Minichino: Well, when I first got to LA, everyone has been doing web series for a really long time and my manager, Dan Cotoia was like, “I really want you to do something and showcase your comedy because no one knows that you’re funny.” He introduced me to another partner of his which is Brian Bellinkoff who shoots and edits The Maurizio Show and we had a little meeting and I had had this idea for a while to play my father just because I just knew it so well. And we were like, you know what? Let’s just start shooting, just me and Brian, we would write an episode—not really write out the episode but write the plot points, write the (arc) and then kind of just improvise from there because I found the improvising was much easier for me and we found a lot like the gold from improvising and we just literally, the next week, started shooting and started going in public and being like let’s try this in public because there’s a big public element to most episodes that we shoot kind of like hidden camera style.
And we were pleasantly surprised with what came out. I mean I didn’t know. I didn’t think—I didn’t know if it was going to be a total disaster or if it was going to be a real success and it turned out to be really funny and people seemed to really, really like Maurizio and he’s a really endearing character.
Michael London: He is indeed that and what would you say to people who are just thinking about getting into filmmaking?
Melanie Minichino: Well, when people asked me that, I usually say just to start, because that’s the hardest part is just to get on your feet and start, whether it’d be starting to write, starting to just shoot, starting to, if you have character you want to play, starting to just go shopping for character’s clothes and start experimenting with that character or videotaping yourself just to start because once you get that ball rolling and you never look back. And I’ve tried it, that’s the hardest part. People do a lot of talking, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to try this. I think this is a good idea,” and if you just do it, really you could find out what works and what doesn’t work.
Michael London: Great advice, Melanie. How has collaboration helped in your projects?
Melanie Minichino: Well, we’ve collaborated with a couple like Taryn Southern, she has a really big online presence. I’m sure you guys know who she is and Catie Upton who is more of a model and some other people along the way but the best thing about collaborating is just cross promotion especially to get people to watch your stuff and then for your audience to watch whoever you’re collaborating with. So, it really benefits both people because I doubt people who are checking out Catie Upton that’s like bikini model, are looking for this like Italian man. But then when they watched it, they realized, oh, this is actually really funny and vice versa.
So, I suggest that to any web creators to cross promote and find people that they want to work with and also when you work with other artists, it’s just fun. It’s interesting. They add another flavor whatever it’s that you’re doing.
Michael London: And tell us about some things you have coming up.
Melanie Minichino: I just did an episode of Kung Fu Panda which is a cartoon wherein I know they have the movie but I just did an episode. I play a snow leopard and we’re also developing couple other web series. One web series where I play like a Latina like Latina singer kind who’s ready to drop her single, so, that is to me we’re working on and then another web series that’s, I can’t really talk about too much about it we haven’t released a lot of information but I’ll be playing lots of different characters probably like about 10 characters and that also will have another kind of public hidden-camera element to it as well. So, you can look out for that.
Michael London: All right, chance to give a little shameless plug here. Where can we see all things Melanie?
Melanie Minichino: Oh, well, you can see all things Melanie, you can go to, I have a website, it’s melanieminichino.com and you can see what’s going on. You can also see The Maurizio Show at themaurizioshow.com as well and those sites, there’s Twitter and Facebook links to all that and you can check that out.
Michael London: Melanie Minichino, thank you for joining us today on Spidcast.
Melanie Minichino: Thank you so much. Oh, you know what, actually, Maurizio is looking at me right now. He’s like giving me a look that he wants to say goodbye. Can you hold on a second? I want to give the phone to him.
Michael London: Absolutely.
Maurizio: So, sorry. So, sorry, I was making the sauce, I thought I forgot. I have a question for you now, Michael. I see this people on this Spidcast with the sticker that says, Spidcast. I would like one of these stickers, is this a possibility?
Michael London: Yes. I usually trade stickers for pasta dinners.
Maurizio: You are very smart man. Okay, I give you this. You come over here, I make you a nice pasta, maybe a little salchicha (Bolognese), I don’t know. Also, I give you the secret, okay? But only between you and me, okay?
Michael London: Well, that’s an offer I can’t refuse. Maurizio, thank you so much for joining us today on Spidcast.
Maurizio: No, thank you very much. I’m so excited to see, to hear this, to see myself on TV.
Michael London: TV without pictures.
Maurizio: Oh, yes, that’s right, oh good. That’s right, I forget. Yes, I’m so excited.
Michael London: Thanks for listening to our Spidcast show. We appreciate your time and attention. You can now join the conversion at spidvid.com or on our Spidvid blog and you can join our collaborative filmmaking community at spidvid.com. Tune in next month for another entertaining and informative episode of Spidcast.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Anthony Marinelli who’s an extremely talented screenwriter, director, editor, and producer of films. He’s also a full time editor at Shooters NYC. Check out Anthony’s romantic short film, “Subway” below, and then read what Anthony had to say in our interesting Q and A.
1. What’s the story behind you wanting to develop video for the web?
I haven’t been developing video specifically for the web, although I find it a tremendously valuable distribution model and a great way to build a fan base and a wider audience. I have thought about creating web series, and would certainly be open to doing it, if the right project presented itself.
2. What have been your biggest challenges and struggles to date?
The biggest challenges are always monetary. Thankfully, there are more ways to raise money now (through crowdfunding, etc.) than ever before, so the excuses not to do something don’t fly. The example with “Subway” is perfect. I basically took a camera, a PA and two actors, went on the train and started shooting. Was there a risk involved in being found out by the MTA? Sure. In fact, there was an MTA worker sitting in the seat right next to where I was shooting, but she was probably on her way home and didn’t bother with us (either that or she really just thought we were tourists or something). I love that “Subway” has been so well received. It’s a 2 minute short and it’s really a sweet story that actually kind of mirrors real life (the two actors, Patrick Avella and Rosa Rodriguez, were a couple before, but were broken up during the shoot. They’ve since gotten back together and are now engaged.)
3. You are now creating a feature film called “Eventually Yours.” What has that experience been like for you and your team?
Anyone will tell you that making an independent film is like “Fitzcarraldo” pulling the steamer over a mountain. There are nothing but hurdles to overcome, particularly where money is concerned. However, I have a fantastic group of actors who have been working with me for five years in developing the script. So the time it’s taking has been a mixed blessing in that that I’ve had the opportunity to dig deeper and make the script stronger. Back in November we did a staged reading so I was able to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t And, of course, this being a comedy, I wanted to make sure it got some laughs. It did. What I love about this film and the reason I’m so passionate about it is, not only do I have a wonderful cast with amazing chemistry — I mean, these people have been working together for at least five years, so they really know their characters – the film actually has something to say about people searching for the right person, the right job, the right life, to get what they want, only to find that, as human beings, we always want more.
4. Where do you draw ideas and inspiration for your video projects?
I get inspired by movies, art and music, but really, it’s people that inspire me most. I’m most interested in what makes people tick; human nature. My tastes in books, movies, plays all reflect that sensibility and, if there’s a common theme in my work so far, it’s people trying to make a connection. It’s a wonderful metaphor in “Subway” and it’s true of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” (which I directed on stage a couple of years ago), and it’s true of “Eventually Yours.” That’s what interests me and inspires me most: the desire for people to form connections that are lasting and meaningful.
5. Do you have any tips for creating and producing videos for the online audience?
I’ve had great success at finding the right people, for whatever projects I’ve done, on Facebook. It actually can work very well as a networking tool. When I was putting together my first stage production (Sam Shepard’s “Fool For Love”) I didn’t know anyone in theater personally, but I had a network of “friends” who helped me find the right people to put it together. I followed suit the following year when I did “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.” There are so many resources and ways to meet the right people for whatever project you’re doing. Spidvid being another great example. I hope to be utilizing your site to build a team for my next project!
Enjoy this insightful interview? Great! Then subscribe to our blog via email as we will be doing more of these fun interviews in the future with other amazingly talented video creators, filmmakers, and producers from our Spidvid community.
We are back with quite possibly our best Spidcast episode to date this month (listen in below and subscribe on iTunes) with a focus on the early days of web series and traditional filmmaking too. October’s Spidcast features the incredible co-creator of Lonelygirl15, Mesh Flinders, and James Chressanthis has had 2 Emmy nominations for his cinematography, among many other elite accolades. They are our amazing guests for Spidcast 12, October 2011 which you can listen to below.
Mesh Flinders is a filmmaker and the co-creator, writer, and director of the ground breaking web series Lonelygirl15.
His latest short film, Further Lane, has played numerous national and international film festivals including Palm Springs International Shorts Fest, the Hamptons International Film Festival and Indie Shorts London, where it was nominated for the Grand Prix.
Mesh also gives talks on the intersection of film and social media on his website social-film.com.
James Chressanthis, ASC is a filmmaker who has earned a diverse range of nearly forty credits since the early 1990s, including studio motion pictures, independent features, television movies episodic drama series and documentaries. His cinematography has been nominated for an Emmy® twice: Four Minutes Roger Bannister’s quest to break the four minute mile barrier and the acclaimed mini-series Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows. He also shot critical additional 1st Unit photography on the Oscar® – winning Chicago. Other notable credits include Urban Legend, the controversial mini-series The Reagans, “3” (The Dale Earnhardt Story), The Music Man, Eloise at the Plaza and Eloise at Christmastime (both with Julie Andrews), Judas Kiss and Brian’s Song.
Chressanthis began his film career shooting break-through and first music videos for such artists as NWA, Dr. Dre, John Wesley Harding, Hammer, and Bobby McFerrin as well as James Brown and a Grammy® nominated clip Smells Like Nirvana for “Weird Al” Yankovic. More recently Chressanthis has been a director and cinematographer of the popular CBS dramatic series Ghost Whisperer completing five seasons and over 100 one-hour episodes. His feature film directing debut No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos about the legendary Hungarian cinematographers and the American New Wave, premiered as an official selection of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and has been seen in more than twenty-five film festivals worldwide culminating with a national broadcast on PBS and his third Emmy® Nomination: Outstanding Arts & Culture Programming.
James Chressanthis trained as a sculptor and today exhibits large mixed media digital prints and paintings when he is not shooting films.
If you’re interested in sponsoring next month’s Spidcast show with a product or service you sell that’s filmmaking related, then please get in touch. If you have something to say with regards to what Mesh and James talked about, then please post a comment below to continue the conversation. Thanks for listening, and be sure to share this show with anyone in your network who can get value from its content!
Full show transcript below
Michael: Hi. I’m Michael London and welcome to Spidcast, the future of collaborative video production brought to you by Spidvid.com. On this episode, we’re visiting with James Chressanthis, cinematographer and director, and also indie filmmaker, Mesh Flinders. Twice nominated for Emmy awards for cinematography using James’ work on the miniseries “The Reagans,” the film “Chicago” and breakthrough videos for “NWA”, “Dr. Dre”, and also Weird Al’s “Smells Like Nirvana.”
Mesh Flinders credits include being the co-creator of the massively successful web series “Lonelygirl15” which got him widespread media coverage from “Time” and “Newsweek” magazines to the “Times of London” and the “New York Times”, to the “NBC Nightly News”, ABC’s “Nightline”, the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and the “Daily Show”. A wonderful Spidcast on tapped today, settle in. Here we go.
First up is James Chressanthis, ACS. James, welcome to Spidcast.
James: Hey. Hi, Michael
Michael: So tell us a bit about yourself so people can get to know you about how you came to be an award nominated cinematographer.
James: Well, I grew up in kind of modest circumstances in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The L Train was my earliest memory. Not a place close to Hollywood but I was always interested in photography and my father and mother encouraged me in that and so I’ve been taking photographs since the age of 10 and then I started making films in college but very slowly moved toward movies. I studied Fine Arts, black and white photography and sculpture and drawing and so I had a very, very strong Fine Arts education.
And then at that point, I started making little films and one thing led to another but it took me like a 10-year odyssey to finally go to Hollywood.
Michael: Wow. Well, take us, Reader’s Digest style now through those 10 years.
James: I did sculpture and drawing very strong Fine Arts. I actually did bronze casting, did a lot of life drawing. I started doing multimedia installations and I started with shooting film and video with those and doing projection pieces, stuffs of dance and performance. I was sort of on the periphery of movies but then I started making, I made a couple of student films in 16mm and they started to get noticed.
But even then to make a living, to work in Hollywood didn’t seem like possible to me so I made this documentary about a Greek mountain village, a life of a Greek mountain village from the end of winter to the summer wheat harvest and that film got on PBS and it was in a festival in Houston, I think, and the director Bill Richert who did “Winter Kills” was there and he said, “So, kid, you directed the film. You shot the film. You edited the film. You mixed the sound. You cut the negative yourself. You promoted it and got it on PBS and you’re teaching college in Michigan? So, kid, they pay you to do that work out in Hollywood.” So, at age 30, I packed up and went to the American Film Institute and chucked my job and starved for a bit and then started shooting out here in Los Angeles.
Michael: And what was that film? Can we see that somewhere?
James: The film? Gee, it’s on YouTube. I put it on YouTube. That film was “Remembrance of a Journey to the Village,” 1980.
Michael: Now, as I understand that it was your time at AFI when you really blossomed?
James: What happened at the American Film Institute, that was the first time I really started collaborating and working with crews and not working in a solitary fashion and I had the good fortune to be the intern to Vilmos Zsigmond on “The Witches of Eastwick.” And at the end of the show after working on it for 100 days, Vilmos had me shoot some pickup shots and some inserts and some special effects inserts for the movie. So, I went from intern to kind of second unit (DP), in one fell swoop and then I started doing music videos and I shot the music videos of Bobby McFerrin, Hammer, NWA, Dr. Dre. I did about 80 music videos in that period and had a Grammy nomination with “Weird Al” Yankovic in “Smells Like Nirvana.
So, that was a great training ground doing the music videos but especially doing the west coast rap and hip hop artists being right at the beginning of that was very, very nice and then I moved into narrative features and movies and television from there.
Michael: And these music videos must have been really great training for you?
James: Yes, Rupert Wainwright, the director and I, we had a great collaboration and we always tried to do narrative. We always tried narrative music videos, not just performance related videos. I think the business changed a bit and the record companies who were very powerful at that time, they didn’t really want narrative videos. They just wanted simple performance-related showpieces for their music artists but we were always trying to do a narrative and we did an amazing Hammer video called “Turn This Mutha Out” which was terrific and also the video “Straight Outta Compton” which Rupert and I co-directed which was about the gangbangers and the kids in South Central LA being profiled and being arrested for no reason though wouldn’t premiere on the MTV. It premiered on Nightline because it was so controversial.
And then a few months after that, we had the “LA Riots” and “Rodney King” and so forth. So, it was actually a very timely piece and I enjoyed working with NWA. They were great.
Michael: Now, you bring up an interesting term and I want the young filmmakers to really understand this. You said you wanted to make the music videos with a narrative. I’m guessing that came from your documentary background.
James: My documentary background shooting real people, real things, not the phony reality TV we have today which is actually scripted, most people should realize. Most reality television is scripted and manipulated. It’s not real at all, far from it. So, my documentary background shooting real people observing reality, real observing from his life and then trying to visually portray it, it was really useful. When I did, “Straight Outta Compton” we were trying to show what happened on the streets of LA in (East) Compton if you’re a black teenager.
So, that was, I think bringing that sense of reality from my documentary background was very useful in narrative cinema and again, a great narrative film makes you think it completely suspends your disbelief, makes you think it’s real, completely real. It’s happening in front of you and you’re completely subjective in with the characters and a great documentary also has terrific narrative thread, narrative structure strength so you are really invested in the characters that you’re seeing but in this case, it’s their lives.
Michael: So, advice to those just getting into this business in regards to telling the story is what?
James: Any filmmaker, you should really learn the basics of narrative storytelling. This is what you do in documentary is we’re doing dramatic work. Know your Billy Shakespeare, right? I remember when I was in school, Sam Shepherd, the actor and playwright and a great writer came to our school and the kids were all asking him, “Sam, what writers have influenced you?” And of course, they were all expecting 20th century writers to be listed and he looked at us on and he said Sophocles.
So, knowing about drama and dramatic structure is probably one of the most important things a filmmaker can know and also just having a great liberal arts education and knowing about the world. I mean, I really don’t—everything you can learn technically about filmmaking, you can learn in two or three years but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is do you have a story to tell and do you know how tell that story?
Some students asked me, “How do you decide how you shoot something?” And I said it’s very simple. The camera is pointing device. The camera is a pointing device. You point it at what’s important and a lot of young filmmakers don’t do that. They point the camera every which way. You got to know what the story is about whether it’s a music video, a documentary or a narrative piece.
And in terms of technology, I mean, I’m doing, as I said before we got on the interview, I’m going off to Russia and Mongolia here in my living room is some DSLR’s and a sound package and a backpack. So, I’m going to do a whole documentary narrative feature out of that backpack with my laptop and hard drives and so forth. I just recently shot something on the iPhone and I’ll use the iPhone as a backup camera.
So, the technology is tangible. It keeps moving and changing. Probably what doesn’t change is your sense, again, that’s why I talked about narrative and storytelling a structure and the other thing that really is fundamental is do you know aesthetics and composition? Have you developed your aesthetic sense? That’s very, very important. A cinematographer should know or a director should know the history of art of all people of all times. Now, that’s sort of an impossible task but you should be familiar and conversant in art from all through the ages, not just films and photography of this past century but from all time and all culture. If you have that kind of knowledge, you’re going to enrich the kind of movies you make.
Michael: James, you touched a moment ago on emerging technologies and such. Give us your thoughts on collaborative venues like Spidvid.
James: Oh, I don’t know. I think, it’s sorts of anything you need to know is out there and I think it’s what’s valuable is if, unless someone is listening now, they want to see MC Hammer’s “Turn This Mutha Out” they can go on YouTube and see four or five versions of it, various levels of quality. I mean, I think the social media and just the internet in general is useful as an educational tool and as a way of opening our eyes and seeing how other cultures work.
And the project I’m doing in Asia involves film students in Russia and Mongolia and they’re making a little two-minute films and I’m asking them to limit their films to very, very short lengths and we’re constructing a mosaic of images of the work they create and I’m in turn of doing training my cameras on them and doing the documentary about the making of these films and their view of the world because the world is in a tough place right now. So, that’s what my film is about. So, the social media, I think is very, very important. I think all of this is still influx and still there’s a lot of newness to it and it’s basically interesting to see how it all settles out.
Michael: And if you would please tell us about your latest finished film?
James: Well, you need to see, “No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos” a featured documentary that I did. It was kind of a 20-year dream come true. I made it about Vilmos Zsigmond and Laszlo Kovacs, the great Hungarian cinematographers who as film students filmed the Hungarian revolution and the subsequent crushing of their revolt by the Russians and with overwhelming force and their tanks and then they decided to smuggle that film out of Hungary to the west. No YouTube in those days so they had to physically take the film out.
And they were nearly killed and they left all their friends and country behind and they had to decide what they were going to do and they said, “Well, we’re without country, we’re broke, what should we do? We’re cinematographers. We should go to Hollywood.” And that’s what they did and they (tourist)-changed world cinema with films like “Easy Rider,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Paper Moon,” “Deliverance.” They shot 140 American movies and really changed the landscape in the forefront of the American new wave.
So, but what was also interesting was they had an amazing loyalty and friendship then they helped each other through their immigrant experience and helped each other climb out of the underbelly of Hollywood where they were working. Since the film has premiered at Cannes and it went on to about 35 film festivals worldwide and still showing today, and it won an Emmy Nomination for its run on PBS in the television version and Vilmos Zsigmond and I, together, and sometimes I by myself have given master cinematography classes all over the world; Argentina, Chicago, Greece, Poland, Romania, Moscow, Russian, Ulam Bator, Mongolia and the list goes on.
Michael: And where can see that film now?
James: Laszloandvilmos.com. You can Google “No Subtitles Necessary” and it will come up first, the film website and it’s also on Facebook at No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlou and Vilmos.
Michael: Fantastic and I know that people listening will want to learn more about James Chressanthis. Where do we do that?
James: Chressanthis.com is my website and you can link to all these other things.
Michael: Thank you so much, James. Safe travels.
Next up is independent filmmaker Mesh Flinders. Mesh, welcome to Spidcast.
Mesh: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Michael: So, let’s start out with a quick overview of Mesh Flinders.
Mesh: I was raised in a small community in Northern California and I was isolated from media almost entirely, didn’t have television. Obviously, we didn’t have the internet in those days and it made me very curious about the world outside of the community where I grew up. First films and television shows that I saw sort of seemed like messages from another planet because I didn’t know about high school or elementary or anything. I was pretty isolated and that’s how I became fascinated with films.
The first films that I saw that made a big impression on me were “Goodfellas,” well, “(Strada)” the “Indiana Jones” films, so kind of a wide variety of stuffs when I was like 13, 14. At first, I really wanted to be in them, I wanted to be an actor and actually started writing screenplays as a way of creating roles for myself in high school, roles that I wanted to play.
When I was 20, I moved to Los Angeles. I went to Occidental College and I quickly lost interest in acting and started writing screenplays and directing short films. After college, I worked as an assistant to several filmmakers. My first sort of break came when I was 25 and I was hired to write a horror script for a company called Blue Omega. I was 25 and all of the sudden, I was a professional screenwriter and I thought this is not hard. What’s everyone complaining about? But then, of course, reality set in and the movie didn’t get made and pretty quickly, I was not getting writing work. It was early 2006 and I was sort of struggling, didn’t really know what I was going to do next and that’s when I met Miles Beckett who have this idea of creating a fictional blogger on YouTube and sort of having in despair. I also met Greg Goodfried and his wife, Amanda Goodfried around this time and together we created “Lonelygirl15.”
I actually didn’t know very much about YouTube at that time. Miles was very passionate on online video and had been experimenting with web video. Before then, Greg was also very passionate about the space. What really excited me about the project was the chance to create this character that had to be totally real, that had to be completely believable. I thought that was a really interesting challenge and to try to kind of create a voice that was authentic enough that people would really think this is a real person.
Michael: Excellent. Now, take us back in time a bit and tell us about that very first thing you wrote that did go into production.
Mesh: The first thing that I was able to produce was until college and it was called, “In the Time of my Undoing” and I think you can actually find it online, if not I’ll put it up on my blog so people listening can just look at it. It was a film made of Occidental College and it was extremely ambitious. It was around that time that “American Beauty” came out and I was really inspired by that and so you’ll see a lot of similarities to “American Beauty”. I was a big fan of that and it was just a short film with actors that I cast from, I think it was a freshman and I cast actors in my class and just went and shot it and I was pretty pleased with it. It was on video. It was pretty early days of videos and not even like high-def, I don’t think, but it was a fun project and that was the first film I ever made.
Michael: Now, if you would, Mesh, take us back to that time of you being the co-creator of the smash web series “Lonelygirl15.”
Mesh: Well, at the beginning, it was like being on a roller coaster. I was surprised by how quickly the show garnered an audience and a really passionate following among its fans. After meeting Miles and Greg and writing, I think, just a few episodes, we very quickly set out to cast it and found Jessica and Yousef and shot these episodes and put them up, it was like June 16th 2006, I think, was the first episode.
What was the most fun for me in those early days was being part of this really tight-knit creative family. I mean, we did everything together. We were all working so hard on the shows. There was so much to do. We basically were working around the clock from dawn until late into the night everyday and I think every young filmmakers should have that experience at least one in their life of going all in on something and then seeing it worked seeing it really catch on.
After about three months of the show growing popularity, fans writing back and forth to “Lonelygirl” everyday, us posting videos probably three or four days a week there in the early stages so really a very fast-paced production schedule. After about three months, we’ve had a very difficult choice to make. So there was a lot of buzz in the press in those first three months of the show and we were faced with a very difficult decision to make which was we could have staged sort of behind the curtain but the pressure was mounting to come out and say that we were doing this and that it was not a real teenage girl and that was a surreal experience.
I thought everyone would hate us and some people did but for the most part, after we came out which was almost exactly three months after the show had premiered, it was September 14, 2006, I believe, for the most part, people were just excited that we pulled it off and wanted to know what the experience was like.
Michael: So, all that buzz and frenzy, what effect did it have on your career going forward?
Mesh: In terms of my career, to date, the “Lonelygirl” is by far the project that I’ve the most success with and so it was very difficult to leave. We work together on the show while I was there for almost two years and in that time, we produced, I believed something like 250 episodes together and so it was like a family and it was just a ton of work really satisfying work. I think the most satisfying thing for my career was that it was instant response to your work. You’re writing something, you’re directing something, you’re editing it all within about a week and then it goes up and the next thing you know people are responding to it. They’re talking about it and its part of this longer sort of bigger narrative and that was incredibly satisfying.
So, and then also just having all that press, I mean, I was able to leave and go do what I initially really wanted to do which was to make films and by the end of 2007, beginning of 2008, I was ready to do that. I was really burned out and I wanted to try a different medium. So, I left and I took a long break from web video and I threw myself into film.
I made a short film and I traveled the world with it to many film festivals and I tried for two and a half years to put together my first feature but it was right up to the economic collapse and in hindsight, I was probably asking for too large of a budget and about a year ago, I finally let go of that project. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but it needed to be done and it really let to where I’m at today.
Michael: Well, and then that, of course, begs the question, where are you today? What is going on?
Mesh: Well, I forced myself to take a really long, hard look, when I put this film down and decided I wasn’t going to try to make it. I’ve been on it for almost two and a half years at that point. I took a really long, hard look at where film is today and why it’s so difficult to get specific kinds of work produced. Projects that don’t rely on already existing fan bases like sequels or adaptations, these are the kinds of films that I love and it’s very hard for these films to get made. It’s hard for them to find audiences and I sort of came to this conclusion that in the 20th century film was arguably the most powerful medium in the world and it just isn’t anymore and that’s very hard for filmmakers to accept.
In the ‘90s, a lot of us came of age; a lot of my generation came of age almost what he talked about. It was the de facto water cooler conversation. Did you see this over the weekend? Did you see that? What did you think of it? And that (isn’t) the case anymore and film is having a hard time adjusting from it.
So, the more that I talked with my colleagues and friends, the more I realized that I really needed to throw myself back again to social media and the more that I talked with my friends, I realized that this was where I needed to be, that the web video world was where the innovation was taking place, that it was where new models were being experimented with. I think that social media gives you the power to find people with similar passions, interests and speak directly to them.
You don’t have to have these big marketing dollars. Going back to “Lonelygirl”, we never had a billboard on Santa Monica Boulevard but we managed to get our work out to millions of people. So, about a year ago, I started consulting on web series. At first, it was honestly, I was more of a student than a teacher because I was so behind. I had so much to learn. I’ve been focusing exclusively on film for almost two years. I owe a lot of friends like Kathleen Grace and Wilson Cleveland who were colleagues and real influencers in the space and it really helped me to see what’s possible and helped me find my passion for that space again, the web video space.
And so in the last year, I’ve worked on a variety of web video projects for clients everywhere from American Express and (AMC) to About.com. I’ve worked for agencies like DigiTalks and like (artists) and I’m directing my first feature next year but the thing that’s really exciting about my feature that it’s actually grown out of social media not the other way around. I think that the mistake I made with the feature that I was trying to put together about a year and a half ago was that I created my dream project and then looked around and said, okay, how is this on social?”
In this I’m taking the opposite approach. I’m starting with social media and sort of filmed it up from that. In addition to that, I recently started a blog that covers filmmakers. We’re using social media in like really interesting ways. This is called social-film.com and there’s like an interview every week with a new filmmaker and new content everyday.
Michael: Now, Mesh, a moment ago you mentioned that you never had a billboard on Sunset Boulevard. How does someone producing content for the web get noticed?
Mesh: First and foremost, content creators have to be aware that as more and more content moves online, they’re competing for eyeballs with professionally produced show and so you have less money. You have less resources but audiences are not going to be distinguishing between your work and “30 Rock” because they’re going to be watching them on the same box.
What we do have, what levels of playing field is our social networks and I think that content creators like Felicia Day, Freddie Wong, iJustine, I think they’ve done a brilliant job of this on YouTube, of creating a large, engaged social following and then of course, on the independent film side, you got people like Kevin Smith, Joe Lamberg, independent names that certainly aren’t as well known as Felicia and Freddie but they have a dedicated social following, a large social network and they leveraged that to give themselves freedom to produce what they want because they know that they don’t need to go through Universal or Paramount to find their audience, that their audience is right there online literally at their fingertips.
And I think that this is potentially incredibly liberating for filmmakers. It’s not—there isn’t one model, there isn’t a one-side fits all model there right now and fill this highly experimental space and of all six of those people that I just mentioned, they’re all actually doing very different things with it but I think what they’ve done has been very effective so I think they’re good examples. There’s a lot of experimenting going on and new models sort of being rolled out everyday.
Michael: Wonderful advice. Young and new filmmakers have a lot so they can learn from you. Where do we find out more about Mesh Flinders?
Mesh: You can go to my website, social-film.com.
Michael: That’s it for this show. Thanks for listening to Spidcast. We appreciate your time and attention. You can now join the conversation at spidvid.com or on our Spidvid blog and you can join our collaborative filmmaking community at spidvid.com. Tune in next month for another entertaining and informative episode of Spidcast.
Every once in awhile I’m presented with a great opportunity to help fund a very worthwhile film by a talented filmmaker. Today I take a look at a feature film with loads of potential named “Man-Child” by filmmaker Ryan Koo (pictured above) of NoFilmSchool.
Ryan has opted to use Kickstarter as his platform for raising money to create the film. His stats to date are most impressive as he has 1,200 funders, and has raised $71,010 to date out with his end goal being $115,000. Among the funders is 11-time NBA champion coach, Phil Jackson!
But there’s just 7 days left, so please check out the Man-Child Kickstarter page now to watch Koo’s brilliant pitch video (also embedded below), learn more about the intriguing film, how the money will be spent, and perhaps most importantly what you receive as rewards for donating.
More about the Man-Child film project below from Ryan
Man-child is an independent fiction film (not a documentary) that takes place in the surprisingly high-stakes world of youth basketball. I hope to shoot it independently in North Carolina (where I grew up playing basketball) next summer. My entire life has been leading up to this point, and so I’m asking for your help!
In 2009, the NCAA lowered the age limit on who can be considered an official basketball “prospect” to include 7th graders. While there have been a number of basketball films made about high school, college, or pro athletes, today’s recruiting — legal and illegal — begins much earlier. It’s a fascinating and treacherous world which often leaves big decisions in the hands of little kids.
The film explores sports, education, religion, and sex in America through the eyes of a talented 13 year-old basketball player (sexuality, I should note, is not presented in any sort of exploitative manner, and factors organically into the “learning personal responsibility” storyline). While it is narrative fiction, it explores a very real world.
HERE’S A SYNOPSIS OF THE PLOT:
An amateur video of 13 year-old Terran “TJ” Jackson playing basketball hits the internet and turns his life upside down. TJ is soon nationally ranked among other 7th graders and declared to be “the next Dwayne Wade” despite being in middle school.
As a result of this exposure, free athletic gear and various hangers-on find their way to the doorstep of his small, predominantly-black Christian school. While TJ navigates the religious curriculum — and simultaneously a sexually active relationship with his girlfriend — he learns about the youth basketball world and the recruiting machine that powers it. With his newfound fame, he must choose between educational institutes, father figures, and belief systems.
A few years from now TJ could be a millionaire, but right now all he has is basketball. It’s a lot for anyone to handle — much less a 13 year-old.
Is it going to be good?
It’s totally going to be good! I’m very happy to share that the script for “Man-child” was just accepted to IFP’s Emerging Narrative Program, which provides mentorship and access to producers. Around 350 scripts applied and only 20 were accepted, so I would like to think this is a solid step toward Not Sucking (percentage wise, that’s harder than getting into Harvard. Just saying!). I’m also honored to have been selected as one of 25 filmmakers invited to participate in the inaugural Emerging Visions program at the Film Society of Lincoln Center this October — also because of this script.
For the IFP event, an oft-requested supplement is a “lookbook,” wherein writers pull still images from existing sources in order to convey what they want the movie to look like. Instead of using still images, however, I decided to make a multimedia look book: a collage of film and TV clips to demonstrate the aesthetic of Man-child. Because it’s intended for producers, it gets a bit technical, but I hope you’ll find it interesting. At the very least, I hope you like the 1970s basketball clip — short shorts are always funny:
If this fundraising campaign is successful, with the help of the IFP and Lincoln Center programs I hope to be able to bring the right personnel on board to make this film as good as it can possibly be, and to reach a wide audience with the film as well.
I talk about myself plenty in the video, but if you’d like a bio of what I’ve done film-wise so far in my life, here’s a third-person bio.
How can I help produce the film?
The goal of this campaign is to raise $115,000. See the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) at the bottom of this page for exactly where all this money will go — it’s NOT going to me, it’s going to the production of the film. As far as movies go — especially sports movies — this is a very small amount of money with which to make a feature film.
The campaign has a hard deadline of 11:59pm on September 23rd.
If you decide to help, you pledge whatever you want in exchange for cool rewards (for example, a DVD of the film when it’s done, an HD download, your name in the credits, a blog post on my web site NoFilmSchool… the list goes on!).
The more you pledge, the better the rewards! Take a look at the column on the right to see what’s available.
If I make the goal by the deadline, your credit card is charged what you pledged (but not until then). I get to make the movie, you get your rewards, and everyone’s happy. I’d be more than happy, obviously — I’ll be more ecstatic than I’ve ever been in my life, and hopefully you’ll feel good too.
If I don’t make the goal by the deadline (falling even a penny short), your credit card is not charged, I get nothing, you don’t get any reward(s), and the world doesn’t find out what it’s like to be 13 year-old, basketball-playing Terran “TJ” Jackson.
What is this 1 frame per dollar thing?
An 80 minute film is 115,000 frames [24 frames per second X 60 seconds a minute X 80 minutes = 115,200].
If the movie is longer than 80 minutes — which it’s 99.9999% certain to be — each dollar will actually equal MORE than 1 frame. I’m estimating a short 80 minute runtime to ensure you’re sponsoring at least one unique frame for every dollar pledged.
No matter what amount you pledge, you will be sent the UNIQUE frames of the movie that you made happen. 5 bucks = 5 frames, 24 bucks = one second of the film (and the full DVD with special features!).
Another way you can participate (other than backing the project) is to SPREAD THE WORD about the project! E-mail a friend, share it on facebook, post it to an online forum, make smoke signals… any way you can get the word out is a HUGE help.