Yup. You can see Martin Donovan's debut feature on the big screen next week (October 7th) if you are in Manchester, UK. Yup, this is the very same film that David Morse won the Best Actor Award for in Karlovy Vary. And it is the same one that I developed and Executive Produced. Let me know if you go. I think you'll dig it. And if you don't like it, send me your receipt, and I will reimburse you!
People once hid in their office. If you knew them from hanging out at the bar you had a unique relationship. Still it was damn hard to make connections, no matter where you were on the totem pole. But now those totem poles have been burned down to the ground. The old ways are over and 1000 phoenixes rise from the ashes daily.
The fact is we've learned how to speak to each other. We may not always speak the same language but we speak. And that's fucking awesome.
COLLABORATOR opens theatrically in LA at The Egyptian today.
Friday, July 20 – 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM
Saturday, July 21 – 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM
Sunday, July 22 – 4:00 PM
Monday, July 23 – 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM
Tuesday, July 24 – 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM
Wednesday, July 25 – 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM
Thursday, July 26 - 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM
By Julien Favre With the world economy on the brink, the current environment has rarely been so tough for independent filmmakers. To get our films made and, even more so, to see them sold and/or distributed, is getting incredibly challenging. Foreign sales estimates for low budget independent films are a tenth of what they used to be pre-2008, and let's not be fooled by the numbers. We will be happy if we sell at all, even for symbolic numbers. From a filmmaker's perspective, we have entered a dichotomous world: a shrinking pool of independent films do well; most don't make any significant business. It is now as if there is only room for one indie hit per year. If you are not that film that everybody wants, you barely exist and your business footprint will be close to zero.
Now, you can look at this situation in two different ways. One way is to adjust to the market and give it what it wants, or can economically bare. This means making genre films that still have somewhat of a market and will recoup as long as they are technically sound and are made for the right price. You can also continue to make "art house" films (for lack of a better word) as long as you don't spend more than $80,000 making them, since this is what you can realistically hope to net from world wide sales if the film turns out okay and has a decent festival run.
But the other way to look at these dire market conditions is to ask ourselves: does the world really need another decent film? The elephant in the room is that most films are bad or average. Back when the economy was strong and there was a theatrical and DVD market for indie films, decent films used to do well enough to justify the venture from a business standpoint, but not anymore.
Even if no filmmaker or producer sets out to make yet another average film, we would be lying to ourselves if we were claiming that we never went in production on a film knowing full well that the script needed another pass, or praying that an average director would turn a good script into a great film, or that we would be able to cut around bad performance.
But the reality is that there is no room for average films anymore. There isn't even much room for good movies unless they are backed by heavyweight distributors. We can lament about how unfair, how scandalous it is that our labour-of-love films don't sell and nobody sees themt. Or we can accept the reality of the market and raise the bar of what we produce.
A month or so ago, someone asked me WHY i was a producer. I am so used to people asking me WHAT a producer is, but I was taken aback by this very simple question, and I didn't know what to say. Producing is so much part of me that I cannot contemplate doing anything else, but that doesn't answer the question.
But I realized after the fact that the WHY question is fundamental, and even more so considering the difficulties the indie film world is facing today. Since we are certainly not doing it for the money (and in most cases unfortunately not even for our investors' money), then why are we doing it? Not for the hours, obviously. Producing is not the healthiest or stress-free occupation. And from a human standpoint, it is rarely satisfying either. As a function of what we do, we are at the receiving end of all grievances and rarely get any recognition when things do go well because, you know, all is normal then…
So why are we doing it?
Because there is nothing like the experience of watching an amazing film and being devastated, blown away, changed by it. For me, it started with Akira Kurosawa's Ran. I remember being unable to speak for the rest of the day, and trying to find a way to merge with that world, keep it alive in my head, escape in it.
So deep down, this is what has been driving me: I want to hurt the audience with beauty, emotionally wreck the viewers by exposing them to true art. This is the WHY. This is why I want to make movies. But I guess this is very easy to lose sight of this as we struggle with the reality of the business, and making a living, and deal with the pressure of "producing something" to justify being a producer.
In an oft-quoted letter to his friend Oskar Pollak, Franz Kafka wrote: "I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us."
Of course, creating truly great art is incredibly difficult, and depends on so many factors, most of them beyond our control as producers. It is likely beyond most producers' or filmmakers' ability actually. There are plenty of competent people, but true talent is scarce. And even with the best intentions, the highest artistic integrity, there is never any guarantee of success.
But our responsibility, more than ever, is to try, to be intransigeant with content, to look at our slate with a cold heart and ask ourselves: does this movie really need to be made? And why? Would I honestly go see it if I wasn't the producer? It is so hard to get something made that making something, anything, seems like an achievement in itself. But it is not good enough, not anymore.
And in answering these questions, let's be honest. If what we read is not truly great, not really original, not inspired, if the demo-reel we are watching is average, if the ending doesn't quite work, let's keep working, let's keep writing, let's keep looking for the right creative partners and the right elements.
So rather than lament the lack of opportunities, our response as producers to these dire times should be to try and make better films, make great films, not just good ones. Films that will get seen, and distributed, regardless of the market conditions, the weather, venus' transit or what other movie is being released that week.
There is no room for good anymore, but simply making good movies is not why we got into this anyways, so maybe this is our opportunity to become who we always wanted to be, and do what we always aspired to: make films that break the frozen sea inside.
Julien Favre is a producer at DViant Films, an independent film company based in Los Angeles and Toronto. The company's latest release, Martin Donovan's Collaborator, opens at the Egyptian in Los Angeles this Friday.
COLLABORATOR opens theatrically in Los Angeles tomorrow (Friday, July 20th) for a limited one week run. Screening times here.
As of this writing COLLABORATOR is 82% "Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes.
How To Watch Collaborator:
If you couldn't make it to the IFC Center in NYC on June 18th, you missed having Hal Hartley moderate a Q&A session with Martin Donovan, David Morse, Melissa Auf der Meur, and myself on how Martin wrote, directed, and got his debut feature made.
Ah, but no worries, the glory that is the internet brings the past back to you for your eternal enjoyment. COLLABORATOR is currently available on VOD and will return to the IFC Center tomorrow July 6th, and then the Egyptian in LA on July 20th. Please check it out.
Certain highlights to check out:
Hal Hartley & Martin Donvan on "What is directing" approximately 1745- 2250
David Morse, Hal Hartley, Martin Donovan, and me (Ted Hope): "What makes a director someone an actor (or producer) wants to work with" approx 25:00 - 31:00
For more of Martin's secrets, check out his interview with Marshall Fine here.
This June COLLABORATOR will have two special screenings here in New York City before its July theatrical release. The first is June 18th at the IFC center, and the second is on June 19th at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. Hal Hartley will be there to present on the 18th, and Martin Donovan, David Morse, and Ted Hope will be there to answer your questions on both nights.
June 18th IFC Center 7pm Buy tickets online.
June 19th Museum of the Moving Image Buy tickets online.
Find out more about Collaborator on Prescreen.
Collaborator premiered at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, winning several awards including best actor for David Morse.
Read director, writer, and star, Martin Donovan's thoughts on creating Collaborator.
Available nationwide on Cable VOD, iTunes, Amazon - June 19 Opening in select theaters - July 6
Robert Longfellow (Martin Donovan, THE OPPOSITE OF SEX, "Boss", Weeds") is a famous playwright who can't seem to catch a break. His recent Broadway play was met with horrible reviews and an early cancellation, and his marriage is being tested as an old flame (Olivia Williams, THE GHOST WRITER, RUSHMORE) has reentered his life during a particular moment of weakness. Retreating back to his childhood home to visit his mother (Katherine Helmond, BRAZIL), Robert crosses paths with his childhood neighbor, Gus (David Morse, THE GREEN MILE, DANCER IN THE DARK, "Treme"). A right-wing, ex-con who still lives at home with his mother, Gus is Robert's polar opposite in every possible way. When Gus holds Robert hostage at gunpoint during a drunken reunion gone terribly wrong, the drama unfolds as social status, celebrity and the imminent threat of violence converge, building up to a climax that will leave both men forever changed.
Did you know I Executive Produced this years Best Actor & Critic Prize Winning Film at the world's oldest film festival? Martin Donovan's COLLABORATOR is that film. My guess is you did not get over to the Czech Republic last month to see it. But you know what? It will be playing around the USA this fall. Soon we should be announcing those next steps, and then the ones that follow. But if you need a fix, perhaps this will do.
I am very proud of this film. It was one of those great experiences where you get to help a friend realize their dream, and you (i.e. me) benefit from it too. I think anyone desiring ambitious cinema of quality, ideas, and humor will dig it. I hope that is you!
You can watch the press conference right here. I think it demonstrates well what a producer does at such a press conference. Producers don't get asked questions -- but it doesn't mean you can't answer them. A Producer still has to make sure that the right messages get out there.
And if you have a moment, please check out COLLABORATOR's Facebook page. I know most of you have not yet seen it, but if you "like" it, you will be privy to early news on where it is screening and other such stuff.
And if you aren't already, you can follow our writer, director and star, Martin Donovan on Twitter @breakneckfilms.
I set a lot of goals for myself that I can't reach. I feel I have a really good understanding of many of the steps that one must take to transform good work into something better. I long lists on what can be done to help a film from being overlooked. But I am human. I can't do all I want. I come from modest means. I have bills to pay. I have made commitments and honor my responsibilities and relationships. On any movie, there's a great deal that I want to do that will never get done. It doesn't stop me from trying to inspire others to do more though. How do we transform desire into something concrete and permanent? When I was in film school I met a lot of people who had big dreams. Few were the sort of dreams I wanted to be part of. I did learn though that by throwing some of my energy, thoughts, labor, and other aspects & attributes of myself into others' work, I could make a serious difference in what dreams get made into films. It is a tremendous gift this collaboration. This past year, I was thrilled to be able to do it for a long time friend and associate. How funny that it became a movie entitled COLLABORATOR. Today, the writer, director, and star, Martin Donovan of that film, one I Executive Produced, guests blogs on how he found himself in the unique position of having made a first feature.
I’ve had a life long battle with reality. I have a terrible time defining it for myself. “I” constantly doubt what my visual system tells me about the photons hitting my retina (I have better relations with my auditory system). And now to make matters worse, I find myself trying to wrap my head around the realization that this film called Collaborator exists, which I wrote, directed and played one of the leads. There are several dozen people alive today who will testify in court that they were involved in the making of this film. I’ve attended screenings of said film where other people were present (I’m pretty sure they were there because other people confirmed that those other people were there and vice versa) and they seemed to be reacting to this film as it played. Then I found myself listening to their reactions to the film and there were other people standing there nodding their heads in assent. This could be defined as a shared reality. Rational people would say this is independent verification of my experience. So I’m going go out on a limb here and state that I have in fact made a film. I made a film. I got a film made. There, I said it…
Ted has asked those of us involved in the making of Collaborator to blog about our experiences. At first I was reluctant. I didn’t feel qualified to add something of value to the dialectic of filmmaking. But then Ted put it this way: “Come at it as the eternal student in a world so devoid of legitimate teachers that we have to share our knowledge.” I confess that got me. What follows is more a very brief sketch of personal experience than knowledge per se. But here it is:
I’ve had time to reflect on the making of Collaborator and I still struggle to find a way to describe what happened. As my opening suggests I’m in shock. How and why did this film get made? I can only speculate. I’m not being cute. This is an honest description of what lingers for me as the film makes its debut. I’m not going to deny that the goal of getting the film made took on significance in my life that was at times unbalanced and frightening. My very existence seemed to rest on its completion. There was an enormous amount of will applied to its creation. But at a certain point, perhaps after Ted read it and agreed to help it get made, it took on a life of its own and I became merely its guardian. I’m hardly comfortable with the notion of destiny but I can’t think of a better explanation for what happened. Is this not how everything looks in hindsight?
Sometime in the late 90’s when the existing economics of independent filmmaking was in the process of coming unraveled I was sitting across from Ted in his office at Good Machine. He was painting a grim picture of the independent film business. This didn’t dissuade me. I told him how badly I wanted to direct. I mumbled something about needing to find a script when he broke in sternly with “You’re not going to find one.” Enough said.
A draft of a screenplay was banged out in 2003 as I sat fuming over war. Something about another US war of aggression threatened to cause me to spontaneously combust. I showed it to a couple of filmmaker friends. They were polite. I shelved it but I knew I was ready to write. (I was in my teens when I attempted my first screenplay. I was in my late forties before I completed the task.)
After about a year I dove back in. The only thing that survived the first draft was one scene between the two main characters with the protagonist having been given another line of work and entirely different life circumstances. Again, a couple of gracious writer friends (who I hadn’t bothered with the first attempt) read subsequent drafts and gave me notes. Yes, I was one of those people. I foisted my script on screenwriters I knew. I can’t help but wonder where I would be if I had approached Josh Olson. By the spring of 2005 I was comfortable sending it to Ted. I’m well aware of the huge advantage I had in having direct access to Ted Hope with my first screenplay. In fact, both our relationship and knowing I could get the thing to him and he’d give it a serious read were crucial in giving me the strength to write the thing at all. Within a couple of weeks of sending it I got an email from him that began with this: “It's a good read. Strong characters and situations. Large ambitions and a great mix of humor with issues and weight. I like it.”
Six years, several drafts and many agonizing twists, turns and unexplained phenomena later Collaborator has arrived.
-- Martin Donovan
Martin Donovan is an actor. He and Ted Hope met on Hal Hartley’s “Trust.” “Collaborator” is Martin’s first screenplay and directorial debut.
COLLABORATOR premieres in competition at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival this July 4th. It's never too early to tell your local exhibitor to screen it (They have a FB page, don't they?) or fave distro to get it.