In Focus: Joshua Tate on Love Land

Filmmaker Joshua Tate

Filmmaker Joshua Tate


 SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grant Winner; $35,000 for postproduction, Fall 2013.

What was the inspiration for this story?

This story emerged from the many personal accounts I heard while making a short documentary in 2007 about Texas institutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (known as "State Schools" or "State Supported Living Centers").

Each person I met who lived in these institutions clearly had something real and valuable to offer society, and, with the right support and services, was highly capable of thriving in an integrated community setting. Some of these people wanted to live in the community; others were hesitant to leave the place they had lived their entire lives; but across the board, when it came to where and how they lived, rarely were they truly empowered to speak for themselves.

My cousin has Down syndrome, and ensuring community integration and empowerment for her has always been a priority for my family. I've been chomping at the bit for years to make a movie that explored this world, its themes, and its questions.


What do you see as the greatest challenges for filmmakers today? 

One of the greatest challenges for filmmakers today is being able to make films and not go broke, much less make some semblance of a living off of it. The democratization of professional filmmaking tools has inspired so many people to pursue filmmaking, and that's wonderful for the art form, but the saturation of the market also makes for an elusive and unsustainable business model.

Most of the filmmakers I know are bi-vocational to some extent in order to make a living. They make the films they make because it's what they love, and usually they're spending more money on the projects than they're making off of them. It's more of an expensive hobby than a career, and that's problematic, especially if it excludes so many potential voices that aren't independently wealthy. That may just be the nature of a high-cost collaborative medium (democratized tools or not, production value means money), and it's true that new distribution opportunities are creating new ways to earn revenue, but the challenge of commercial sustainability for an exploding new population of filmmakers remains to be considered and tackled. 

Don't take this as despair: I have high hopes that solutions will present themselves in time, and I'm thrilled to have some small place in its evolution. This art form is, after all, still in its infancy.


What new opportunities are making the biggest difference to your filmmaking process?

As I mentioned above, the wide expansion of distribution options for independent film is a new opportunity that's making a big difference in everyone's filmmaking process, including mine. Opportunities to form a relationship with a core audience from conception through distribution (like what Emily Best and her team are doing at Seed&Spark) is changing the way we see and create movies, and it's a beautiful thing. It's much more intimate now. As a filmmaker, there's a sense of freedom that comes with knowing that there's a dedicated audience out there for nearly anything. It enables you to take risks and grow as an artist rather than worry about reaching the broadest audience possible. Being one of many voices in a growing market of films and ideas can be terrifying, but that's how art flourishes and moves forward. Directing a feature today may not bring as much money as it used to (or, in many cases, any money at all), but the current environment makes for a greater number of artists who serve to challenge one another and still potentially live off the work they live for.


Describe what impact San Francisco Film Society support has had on the film.

Receiving support from SFFS has elevated the journey of making this feature to heights I could never have imagined. After the announcement of the SFFS / KRF grant recipients, our project went from being a relatively obscure and experimental grassroots feature to being a contender in the international festival scene. The financial support from SFFS has allowed us to go to top-notch finishing houses, as well. A year ago, I never would have dreamed that we would be taking this film to houses like Skywalker Sound in Marin County and Spy Post in San Francisco. SFFS took a risk with us, and my team and I have a great deal of respect for their commitment to new and unproven voices.

The Spring 2014 SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grant round is currently open to apply!

The Film Society has established an excellent track record of success with the 37 projects previously funded by SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grants, with supported films winning top honors at the world’s premier festivals, garnering critical and popular acclaim and capturing the imaginations of audiences worldwide. As the grant program continues to grow, more and more exceptional independent features will join the distinguished company of such films as Short Term 12, Destin Cretton’s sophomore feature which won both the Narrative Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at South by Southwest 2013; Ryan Coogler’s debut feature Fruitvale Station, which won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the narrative category at Sundance 2013 and is an Oscar hopeful in multiple categories; and Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin’s debut phenomenon which won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and Cannes’ Camera d’Or in 2012 and earned four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture).