Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. – Doris Lessing

Go forth into the unknown, explore the caves of your unconscious, fear not your “dark side,” find the gold.

— Robin Hoffman (@AuthorAlchemy)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Young Filmmakers Waltz to Success on Kickstarter

KICKSTARTER.COM, billing itself as the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world, says “Every week, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.”

I am one such donor, and now I've had the thrill of seeing the first creative results. For a short film project entitled A Waltz, I made a donation online—along with 85 other backers—to help fund its production costs.

There were various rewards for being a backer on this project, depending on the amount. My donation will reward me with “warm fuzzies, special thanks in the credits and a copy of the DVD.”

On Kickstarter, your project does not get funded until you reach your funding goal. For production company Pickled Amygdala this meant raising $3,500 in 45 days. Backers pledged a total of $4,010 and the project was funded on April 3, 2011.

The next challenge was for director Dillon Wall to orchestrate a shooting schedule during a timeframe when all crew members and the two actors would be available. This took until October to be realized, but the planning and the waiting was worth it. Dillon and his team had a phenomenal experience shooting the film, which you can read about at the link provided at the end of this post.

Meanwhile, Dillon has kindly agreed to answer some questions for Boonies about his experience.

Welcome, Dillon. Thanks for speaking with us. First, what did you learn from the Kickstarter process?

One thing I learned from the Kickstarter process is that budgeting and fundraising are absolutely essential to making a good film. They aren't necessarily what you think of when you first jump into the industry, but the business side of art (especially in a medium as commercial and expensive as film) is crucial to the success of the artistic process.

It also affects the project in ways I didn't expect. We have way more people genuinely invested in the film's progress, which keeps us motivated and keeps the production moving. It starts to feel like you have a huge support group behind you, and everyone wants the movie to succeed. That's a really important thing to remember during the hectic hustle and bustle on set. Keeps everything in perspective.

What did you learn from your three days of shooting the film?

I've been on sets before, but never as a producer/director combo. From that vantage point, this set actually taught me a lot. First of all, everyone looks to you to maintain a positive atmosphere on set. If the director/producer is happy, then everyone else can feel happy. If the director/producer is throwing a fit, the set can go to a very dark place very quickly.

So I found it important to remember to keep my cool, even when we lose twenty minutes as a really long freight train passes by, or when we have five minutes of sunlight left and some teenagers decide to get into a honking battle in the parking lot next door. These things are out of our control, and the only thing we can do is shoot the best film possible, and have fun doing it. When we have fun, it shows up in the footage.

Cinematographer Brandon Fraley

What was your favorite moment of the entire process up till now?

My favorite moment in the entire process. . . . Well, when Mom (writer Judy Clement Wall, see below) first finished the script and I read through it, I got this crystal clear image of one of the shots I wanted towards the end. When they are dancing on the train station, I wanted a (time for some technical jargon) counter dolly shot to track with them from left to right and wind up looking at the sunset with our main actors in the foreground.

My cinematographer told me he was skeptical at best that we would be able to get the shot with our budget and time constraints. I told him we were going to try it anyway. Sure enough, the final shot of the final day of shooting, with about thirty minutes of sunlight left, our crew set up the dolly and we got three takes of my dream shot. And they looked absolutely amazing.

My hat goes off to the cast and crew and especially my cinematographer Brandon Fraley for pulling off a shot that none of us have ever seen in a movie before. Very cool to see. I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day.

What is your best advice to other young filmmakers who are trying to find their groove?

My advice to young filmmakers is to make friends. You can't do this alone. When I was starting out I was often writer, director, producer, cinematographer, and editor; I know a lot of young filmmakers start out that way.

It's tough to get to the point where you are confident enough in your vision to articulate it to another artist but, believe me, when you surround yourself with other creative and professional people (and trust me, they are out there), the job is already half-done for you. It's easy to get down on yourself when you try to carry all the responsibility on your own shoulders. But if you get a couple people together, and everyone takes the piece that they love to do, that's when magic happens.

The waltz moment. Actors Edward Hightower and Emily Cary.

Next, I interviewed Judy Clement Wall (known to her friends as j) about her role as screenwriter.

Welcome, j. What was your process for developing the story idea?

Dillon told me about an image that flashed through his mind of a man and a woman in a train station. The man was giving the woman a scarf. He said he just had that image, but no story. I said, "Let me write a story for you," and he said okay. (He's great like that.) I guess I wrote the script answering three questions that immediately came to mind. Who is the man? Who is the woman? Why would he give her a scarf? From that the rest was born - and it helps that the movie is very short. A snapshot in time, two people at a crossroads.

How do you feel about screenwriting now that you've stumbled into trying it?

It was really fun . . . and challenging. A whole different kind of writing. In my fiction, I spend a great deal of time in my character's heads - stuff you can't translate easily to film. I want to write some flash fiction pieces for Pickled Amygdala, in part so I can challenge myself to communicate a story in visuals and dialog. It requires a writer to be very clear, very precise. I like that.

Thanks to Dillon and j for their awesome responses to my questions.

Dillon and team: Best of luck during post-production and all the steps after that. Can't wait to watch my own DVD of A Waltz. :~)

Photos used with permission from Dillon Wall and Pickled Amygdala


Read Dillon's exciting post about their final day on set:

Update #13: Finished Shooting!

Watch the video that helped raise funds for the production costs:


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Thanks for commenting on my blog! ~ Milli