Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 1

The last of the projects I've been working on over the last three years fell through yesterday. I guess it was a long time coming really, I just finally accept defeat. So everything has come up empty, a ton of shorts, TV show ideas, feature film scripts. I still have Derelict on the way of course. But nothing for the future. I had two main projects I had hoped to continue with, Iscariot, which I was working on with my old writing partner, Thomas Kennedy, but after three years of writing endless treatments and beat sheets and going around in dizzying circles to the point where we had no idea what we were writing anymore, we realised that it was going nowhere and so stopped.

The main project, which fell through yesterday, was a book by one of my favourite authors. The opportunity came up to buy the film option, so I went for it with gusto and very nearly had it. But it just proved to be too much money at the wrong time. I was loathed to let it go, but I had no choice. So, for the first time since I started trying to make films I have a clean slate. I'm at square one again.

I must admit I've been feeling pretty low about it the last couple of weeks. I'm sure if you read my rant below you'll know it began with a great deal of anger and resentment. Then came despondency and the feeling that I wanted to quit. But I knew I wouldn't. I have decided not to keep trying in Ireland. It's just proven futile. It's a small place and it seems all positions have been filled. But that's OK. I'm hoping to move soon anyway. Yesterday I felt pretty miserable. Writing the email to the author was hard. I had been working on the project for almost a year, and even though I didn't have the rights, I was reading the book over and over, making notes, making plans, drafting in people, researching, and all the things you do at the start of a project.

I could have gone through with it, if I could have had a guarantee of development funding from somewhere. The Film Board expressed an interest and encouraged me to apply, saying they like to reward this kind of effort, but they have proved that they can't be relied upon. I just couldn't trust them enough to take the risk and I wasn't sure where else that kind of money would come from. A friend of mine, long in the film industry, said an interesting thing to me after the IFB rejected Derelict, "It doesn't take much to encourage", it's true, had they even given me one fifth of the small amount I was asking for I'd be in a very different frame of mind, and situation, right now. But there you have it, nothing to be done.

So, I hit send and sunk into a deep depression... well, that is to say, I moped around for the rest of the day! My wife was very nice to me, cooked a nice meal, bought me some nice beer, said I could watch whatever I wanted on TV, bathed our daughter and put her to bed, all while I was moping around down stairs. I watched Grand Designs, it was one I hadn't seen before, so that cheered me up and I went to bed in better form. A thought had started to form.

Then this morning I woke up to a lovely email from the author, understanding and encouraging, as ever, as he has been through this entire process. He has always had my back, which was lovely coming from someone I admire so much. I felt the somber mood lift quite quickly then and I was left with the realisation that - I'm free. I am no longer tied to anything. For the first time since I sat out to make films ten years ago I have a clean slate. I can go make whatever the hell I want.

So this is Day 1.

From here on out I'm starting anew. The last ten years has been film school. I'm walking out the front gates a graduate of life lessons. Derelict was my theses film and now I'm starting my career proper. No more bullshit. No more relying on other people. If  I've learned one thing over the past decade it's that, you can only rely on yourself. People just get in the way, stall and stop you. So I'm going it alone, I'm producing my own stuff, as I always have, but most definitely and defiantly from now on. I think what's held me back in the past is my reliance on other people, or the thought that I needed other people to open certain doors for me. I've proven, to myself, I don't need other people. I can open my own doors.

So I'm feeling good about it. Excited. I feel like I did when I started, like anything was possible and no one was going to stop me. Of course, back then, I was green, I needed help and so asked the wrong people and allowed them to stop me. No more. I have ten years experience. I have six films under my belt. And I know a little bit more about the world.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pushing Hands.

Raise My Hands has a busy June, with screenings at the Maui Film Festival, the San Francisco Black Film Festival and currently at the Short Shorts Film Festival Asia in Tokyo, with a screening just passed and two more to come - on the 23rd and the 28th.

Elliot Kotek truly is the man behind this little film, while based on Scott McDermott's incredible idea and images, Elliot was the driving force behind the project as in film form, and has remained so for over two years, even when I thought any chance of it getting out there was lost, he was the brave one who said "To hell with the rules - Let's send it."

The idea for the film came after I'd seen Scott's exhibition and it reminded me of an idea for a documentary I once had to only filming hands and tell the story of the persons life while watching the hands - so say - a midwife's hands - "these hands have brought a thousand babies into the world" - that kind of thing. I mentioned this to Elliot and he suggested asking Scott about it, I had grand ideas of getting the stellar cast back together for a live shoot... eh! Yeah right! Elliot suggested just using the photos to create a montage.

If I remember correctly I suggested Elliot writing a piece for it, as he is a poet, and he and a female narrate over the images. So he went off an did that, sent me a beautiful poem with two recordings of himself and Celia Amandaz-Fox and I cut the film together against a stunning track form Dermot O'Mahony, who has scored my last 4 films and is a genius!

Elliot's poem talked about the people on the screen. So my challenge was to connect them to Mandela, to find a through line that would also tell Mandela's own story. I always had the idea of moving the photos around the screen, pulling in and out, cropping them, creating abstract shapes, to give movement. Then I landed on the idea of using titles on the screen, which was graphically interest but allowed me to solve my problem, to find the connection, and so I picked certain words in the poem that also touched on aspects of Mandela's life, hinting at a history before seeing the man.
Quincy Jones
Image Copyright Scott McDermott © 2012

I'm proud of this film. I'm glad I was a part of it. And I'm thrilled it's been seen around the world, thanks to Mr. Kotek's dedication. I'm going to take a leaf out of his book for my next film.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Looking for Balance

The Original 'Fawlty Towers' rejcetion letter -
Sometimes, the people in the know - Don't know shit!
Yes, trying to find some balance. The scale has certainly been tipped one particular way for a very long time. How to remain hopeful when the odds are stacked against you is our eternal struggle, isn't it? Everyone's going through it. So I can't expect things to change just because for me, I don't, I just hit a wall last week. I'm still leaning up against it, catching my breath having slammed into it. The thing about hitting a wall is it forces you stop, think and reevaluate, maybe even change direction. New strategies are needed. A new plan of attack. A new line of defense. Time to regroup.

What I have been reminded of though is the amount of good will out there and the amount of people behind me, pushing me on, wishing me well. I had a huge, and very encouraging, response to my outburst. A lot of people reminding me that they're on my side and have belief in me. Which is very nice to know.

It reminded me too of the amount of support I've had here in Drogheda too, my hometown. From family, friends, the community, the local newspapers and radio station, the council and arts organisations, both Create Louth and the Arts Centre. And a lot of individuals who can always be relied upon to show up at fundraising events, even if just for five minutes to push a twenty or a fifty into my hand and wish me luck. I can't, nor should I, stay grumpy for too long knowing that that kind of support has followed me. And I am eternally grateful to all those people.

I would say to any filmmaker starting out, first look to your local community, the list mentioned above, friends, family, local council, arts funding, community fundrasiers. Let the local media know you're out there doing stuff. Don't get to bogged down in the national stuff, by all means apply, but don't rely. Keep moving forward and prepare for disappointment and frustration, it's all part of the game. At some point you will feel like quitting. But if you love film enough, that feeling wont last long and you'll be on to your next project, reinvigorated and raring to go.

One film I had hoped to make was a werewolf film. An old school monster movie, set over three nights about a group of people thrown together and trying to survive the weekend. It cheers me up every time I'm feeling down. The script is about 6 years old, so it's been in my head a long time, and because it's set in my hometown I have it visualised to no end. Every angle. Every set piece. And when I'm feeling a bit down I go for a walk to all the locations and I visualise the action and it makes me very happy indeed. Nothing like visualising giant wolves tearing people apart to make you feel better :)

For know, I'll lick my wounds a little longer. Get up off the wall. Climb back up the hill and see if I can find another way in. Write a few scripts. Shoot a few indies.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Film is Dead. Long Live Film.

Change is in the air. It has been for a while. But in the whirl wind it was hard to see how thinks might be after the storm. Now things are starting to land and a reshaped landscape is beginning to emerge.

For a start; fans are now financing films. They're cutting out the middle men. They're cutting out the bullshit. They're taking film back. Seeing it as art once again, rather than a business. The people who have stood in the way, as the authority, are being side stepped and we, the artists, are going straight to our audience, with help from our audience and they're saying 'Yay' or 'Nay' with their credit cards. Up front and in person.

Kickstarter, and websites like it, have exploded and have, perhaps unexpectedly, changed how we do things. Just as the internet did. Just as digital technology did. It's incredibly exciting. Paul Schrader (writer of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) is even on Kickstarter for his new film 'The Canyons', written by Bret Easton Ellis (writer of American Psycho). He has described this moment as "how film was a hundred years ago." It's a new frontier, and we're inventing as we go. The old ways are fading. The dinosaurs are dying out. A new species is taking over. One that's online, and independent.

No one really knows how things are going to pan out. How the landscape will look next year, let alone in two, five or ten years. We know it will be different. Perhaps completely different.  With new ways of doing things and different platforms for making and selling different kinds of films. Maybe we will be able to co-exist. Instead of all chasing the same dream and going after the same money and opportunities as everyone else, taking the bus to Hollywood, so to speak, we'll be able to realise fully our own dreams and create our own opportunities. Having to go no further then our computer and our online community.

I posted the link to Schrader's Kickstarter campaign on facebook and a friend said he didn't like it, he thought it took away from the little guy - I disagree. I think people like Schrader realise the potential and see the future. They're aware things are changing and they're joining the charge.

Schrader especially is a filmmaker who has always been on the outside, on the art side, out on a limb and I imagine someone who still struggles to get his films made, even though he's responsible for some of the most important and groundbreaking films in Hollywood, the afore mentioned among them. So he, like many I'm sure, can see that going down this route cuts out the middle men, the suits, the people in glass towers trying to make their jobs mean something, those who delay scripts for years and years eventually killing them, just because the keep wanting to have their say. When really they should just shut the fuck up and let the filmmaker be a filmmaker and make a fucking film once in a while.

As I said, Kickstarter puts the power back into the hands of the filmmaker. It's goes from the filmmaker to the audience, directly, and it's the audience who are paying for the film, up front, because they believe in the artist or the film or both and want to support them. And I don't think it's even about the perks. A lot of people who have donated to me just want to see the film get made, regardless of whether or not they get a signed poster or DVD. They're inspired to help, the be a part of something. There seems to be a hunger for it, so rather than be handed a fast food version of a movie and told by some executive in LA this is what they're supposed to like, they're say 'No, that's not what I want,' and they're choosing to help make what they really want instead.

And I don't think that the likes of Paul Schrader stepping into the realm of Kickstarter will take away from the smaller filmmakers either. The little guy, me for example, I fundraise within my own social network. The hundreds or thousands of people who are friends on facebook, follow me on twitter and are in my inbox. Some might be lucky and reach outside that. But generally I think we smaller filmmakers stay within our own circles. The people who give do so because they believe in me and my project. They want to see me do well. The want to support that. It's goodwill, and being on the independent side of filmmaking, I've come to realise there is actually a lot of goodwill out there!

I love seeing projects making, or far exceeding, their goals on Kickstarter, even if they are by well known artists, check out Amanda Palmers recent drive! Amazing! She wanted $100,000, alot to ask, but she got it - plus a Million on top! I love it! It shows there's a hunger out there for unique films, not the homogenised studio system drivel made to look and sound like every other movie out there. It's not to make money, not to cash in on a sequel, prequel or remake with some empty effects driven piece of junk food, it's to see something new and original.

People love good stories well told. Somewhere along the line they stopped allowing a certain kind of story to be told, or maybe a certain kind of storyteller to speak. But a new door has opened and the storytellers are finding their way back. I think we're entering a new age of film. I think we're going to see braver films get made from now on. And I for one, am very exited it's happening and even more excited to be a part of it.

Film is Dead. Long Live Film.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Official Trailer

Here at last, is a glimpse at the film, with the first Official Trailer.

I cut this one myself. Though I hope to have another, longer, trailer cut when the film is complete, with full grade and sound mix. But in the meantime, I wanted people to have a little look. It's been a long time coming! Hope you enjoy.

You can also find a HD version of the trailer on Vimeo.