The Only Other Job I Think I Would Want

I am happy. I have a great mission in front of me. I can't think of anything else I would rather be doing. Well, except running Manohla's studio with her:

""If I were running a studio (ha!), I would take the money that I’d set aside for the next bad idea (like a remake of “Total Recall”) and give a handful of directors, tested and less so — Todd Haynes, Barry Jenkins, Kelly Reichardt, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Aaron Katz, Benh Zeitlin, Damien Chazelle — $10 million apiece to make whatever they want, as long as the results come in with an R rating or below and don’t run over two hours."

Although I have to confess, I may not be quite so permissive...

Believe In DIY: Believing in The Taqwcores

Guest post from filmmaker Eyad Zahra,  discussing his DIY experience with his first feature film “The Taqwacores.” “The Taqwacores” world premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and it will be opening in New York City at the East Village Cinema on October 22nd. To learn more, visit www.punkislam.com. My first feature film, The Taqwacores, opens in New York City tomorrow (Oct 22nd) at the Village East Cinema. It’s been one heck of a grind to get it to this point, with so many people helping along the way, at nearly every stage of the process. This was a true DIY film, made with the help of Cleveland’s punk community, and produced out of the basement of my parents house with the help of my filmschool friends.

Let me pause a second to give a big shout-out to the key players of my team: Allison Carter (Co-Producer/Line Producer), Michael Muhammad Knight (Co-Producer, Co-Writer), Nahal Ameri (Associate Producer/Production Legal), Joshua Rosenfield (Editor/Post-Supervisor/Trailer Editor), and JP Perry (Director of Photography, Colorist).

Let our film be a sign of hope to other filmmakers. If our ultra low budget movie about a subculture, of a subculture (punk Muslims) can play in thirty international film festival and land solid distribution deals in the US, France, and UK, that means anything can happen. Don’t get bogged down by the negative stuff out there, this really is an incredible time to be an indie filmmaker.

I remember back in September of 2007, I was hanging out with my Florida State University film school alumni pals, which included Adele Romasnki and Justin Barber. Over hummus and carrots, we were discussing the kinds of movies we wanted to make, and how we were gonna pull them off. All three of us, eventually went out and made our films, and all three films were able to get distribution deals. Justin produced Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melencholy (IFC), Adele produced David Robert Mitchell’s The Myth of The American Sleepover (IFC), and I produced and directed The Taqwacores (Strand Releasing).

What our films had going for them was the fact that they were all very original, and all were made at a very high quality level. I think we all preferred making our films in this DIY manner, as we were all in control of our visions, and we didn’t have any sort of studio-like executives telling how to do things. In a way, we actually were at a place where it takes some filmmakers years in their careers to arrive at. We were making personal films that had great commercial value, and we had final cut rights.

What more could a filmmaker want?

We need to do a better job of educating filmmakers on this DIY style of making films, film schools especially. Every major film school should be teaching how to make these kinds of films. Today, filmmakers can easily be coming out of film schools with features, and not just shorts. The technology has become beyond affordable for curriculums to support that.

Thankfully Ted’s blog is also an incredible resource for DIY filmmaking. I gotta take a second to thank Ted for sharing his life-long knowledge on the craft, and his willingness to constantly explore fresh, new ideas of the filmmaking frontiers. We need more blogs like Ted’s out there.

We need to empower, encourage, and excite tomorrows filmmakers. We can’t be stuck in the rut of saying things are not the same as they used to be. I can only see things getting better.

Eyad gives an in-depth presentation about the do and don’ts of DIY indie filmmaking through a workshop he has created called “DIY NOW”. He has presented “DIY NOW” at USC and most recently at the ABU DHABI FILM FESTIVAL. To learn more about DIY NOW, contact EYAD at info@rumanni.com

Ten* Filmmakers I Would Crowd Fund*

In celebration of Arin Crumley & Keiran Masterton's success using Kickstarter to fund development of OpenIndie.com, I thought I would launch my annual grants. Or rather my annual promise of grants. Money! $ For Films! Free!*

If any of the following filmmakers had a crowd funding page for their next film (provided the film was $300K neg.cost or less), I would donate some money to get it made. And I would encourage others to do so.
Who would you fund?
I know there are more than ten* I could have listed, but I thought this was a good start, and you have to draw the line somewhere. Plus, being an indie film producer in a land that does not demonstrate that it values what I do, I don't have enough cash to go beyond this list! And even still, my contribution would not be significant financially; it would be more of a vote of support in hopes that others would be encourage to support the culture they want. I would give in order to become part of their team, to hear what they are up to, to get updates.
I listed artists who have are all early in their careers -- but have already directed a feature. I listed filmmakers whom I was confident could deliver a whole lot for a little. I listed filmmakers whom I am not already involved with.
Yet before I gave to any of these filmmakers, I would want to see a commitment to building audiences PRIOR to filming -- say a pledge to not commence until they had collected 5000 unique fans. I would want to know that they had a plan to market and release their film that went beyond bringing it to festivals and hoping for the best. I would want to know that they would set up an e-commerce site on their websites -- and that they had a website (which they refreshed with regular content). And of course I wouldn't transfer the money until they had reached their goal in pledges. Then I would gladly give money to them to get that next film made (and not ask for anything in return other than the satisfaction of having helped).

It Could Be Getting So Much Better All The Time #2: Keep Filmmaking Local

I got this comment from filmmaker and blogger Eric Escobar and felt it was right on.  When I started out there was much talk in indie circles about the regional film movement.  Traveling around film festivals and seeing movies from the community, that captures their authenticity, is a specific pleasure that can't be duplicated.  HUMPDAY for Seattle, MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY for San Francisco.  This is a list that can and should and will be expanded.  Thanks Eric, for this comment -- I just had to bump it to a post:

The suck of talent, hope and energy to the production centers of LA, NYC and Vancouver leads to boring filmmaking.

The promise of potential work on the assembly line of the filmmaking factory makes artists make bad movies in the hopes of proving their factory-worth.

Build incentives for filmmakers to stay local, like what the SFFS is starting to do in San Francisco with office space and direct cash grants.

Let the communities of actors, writers and filmmakers flourish, and have them artistically accountable to telling stories about who they are and where they're from.

LA has ruined so many imaginations in the pursuit of a decent monthly check. And I really don't want to see another movie about Brooklyn made by a filmmaker who moved there last week.

Ted adds: if you haven't read Eric's "Dear Indie Filmmaker" post, don't delay!