In looking at our company’s mandate, it is understandably easy to say “Well everyone wants to make films economically with market value, what sets you apart?”. The difference to me is quite obvious – we actually intend to do it and do it well. Strong words for sure, fighting words even, but ones we intend to keep by putting in the work, understanding our own limitations, and delegating accordingly.
There’s no lack of ambition in this business or great ideas or talent but there is often times a lack of willingness to work within restrictions, however obvious or esoteric they may be. While I wouldn’t say we “relish” the limitations and restrictions, we do understand them and are ready to work within them. As a friend and mentor filmmaker once told me, “the limitations expected and unexpected can often lead to the best material in a film.”
The three of us all have significant experience in the independent film world. David and James through their own production backgrounds and their experience at Vox3 and myself through a stint at the Cinetic Media family that was a crash course in the realities of film economics and the changing landscape, as well as my own production experience. We’ve seen what practices have sunken films and filmmakers and we know how to put in place an infrastructure and plan to avoid them. Easier said than done and as Murphy’s Law is always most apparent on a film shoot, we know we have our work cut out for us. The good thing is, we are excited to do it in some strange pseudo-masochistic way.
This brings me to our first project – LAST WINTER (working title). Six months ago David and I grabbed lunch after he was a panelist at a crowdfunding event and we discussed LAST WINTER. I hadn’t even met James at this point and though the project sounded ambitious, I was sold on trying to do it. It’s a film we see as a Twilight Zone-esque setup with greater depth of character and a more avant-garde sensibility in its aesthetic. It’s a film with post apocalyptic themes we know and love but it’s also equal parts emotionally draining (and satisfying as a result) and grounded in modern reality.
The project presents a lot of challenges for us as producers which you will hear more about as the process heats up but most obvious are seasonal and actor dependent. Basically, we need winter, summer, spring, and fall in this film. Oh, we also need Manhattan completely buried in snow… And our lead character plays two parts – one bearded, the other clean shaven.
So there’s that but that’s just the tip of the iceberg and we’ve surrounded ourselves with a team of people as excited about this film’s potential as we are. Our approach is nothing new with regards to cutting costs. We aren’t paying ourselves (yet), we are reverse engineering every possible scene to utilize locations we can get for free, we’re using our own camera and rig, and we are only paying what we absolutely cannot avoid paying. Nothing new here but it’s the other part of the equation where we begin to set ourselves apart.
We can produce this film for very little and have budgeted and scheduled accordingly but it’s integral to us that we build our audience early and have defined metrics to present to our investors and potential distribution partners to demonstrate the value of what we are doing. We may not have the name recognition of someone like Shane Carruth but we understand the modes of production and distribution as well as anyone and seek to emulate much of his DIY mentality in this film’s production and dissemination.
To this end we plan on utilizing targeted surveys surrounding the film to obtain data regarding audience interest including demographic information, what distribution platforms they would be most likely to watch the film on, the level of interest and viability of transmedia properties surrounding the film, and in the bluntest terms possible – how much do you want to see this film? Through the use of concept art, one-sheets, and mood reels, we intend to build the brand of this film (and Young Gunner’s as well) before we hit the streets to sell the film or if we feel especially ambitious, self distribute the film ourselves through portals such as Quiver or Gumroad. We want to give any appropriate partner as few reasons to say NO as possible.
A producer friend of mine once said to me that his personal mantra towards producing a film is;
“We can either talk about making a 4M dollar film or actually make a 2M dollar film.”
I think that’s a pretty salient point and while it certainly can’t apply to all films or filmmakers, in the current market and media landscape, there is a lot to be taken from such an approach. What do you know you have and if everything were to go to hell, what could you do with it? A large part of our approach to LAST WINTER and the company itself is oriented around this mindset. We’re ready to go to hell and come back with the best possible film. That may not be unique to us but various aspects of our approach are. You’ll hear more about all of this in the coming months, believe me.
We don’t want to talk about making films, we want to make films and make them well. We are prepared to struggle, we expect it even, and that’s okay with us. If filmmaking was easy, everyone would do it and though more people than ever are, not all of them are doing it right.
We intend to.