Archive for July, 2008

Short Films vs. Features and Other Stuff

July 29, 2008

Your Angry Filmmaker Tip of the Day.

If you're convinced that a major feature is your future, it’s imperative that you start with short films, to learn your craft and build a track record.

Short films should be really short. In the 3 – 8 minute range. I can do 5 or 6 short films for what many people spend on a 25 minute film, which means I'm learning a lot more about my craft and I have 5 different films out in the real world working for me, while other people only have one.
— from The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide (coming really soon)

You don’t go to medical school and upon graduation walk in to an operating room and start cutting away on patients. A new mechanic doesn’t tear a new car apart on his first day on the job. If you want to be a pilot you don’t jump into a 747 and say “okay, let’s take off. I can drive a car how much harder can this be?”

Yet most people think they can make a feature when they’ve never made any films??? I don’t understand this.

If you have been to my workshops you know that I stress over and over again that if you want to make features you need to start by making short films. Filmmaking, like so many other things is a craft. The more you do it, the better you get. You learn by trial and error.

When I was in film school I made some horrible films. I made some good ones too, but my bad ones were really bad. And I learned more from the bad films I made then from the good ones. I usually was trying something new and different, something I had never done before. And when I failed I could go back and see why I failed. What did I do wrong and what will I try again in the future.

I always tell people its okay to fail when you’re in school or when you’re making short films. If they’re really bad you will have a short period where you’re humbled and humiliated and then it’s done. You go on and make another short. If you make a bad feature, that sticks with you. People remember bad features, they rarely remember bad shorts.

By making short films you learn about budgeting, script breakdowns, scheduling, casting, working with actors, working with crew and how long it can take to do lighting set ups. Which part of this doesn’t translate in to making features?

Whenever I made my short films I was always looking at something new to learn in addition to making the short. How many set ups could I do in a single day? How much coverage could I get without moving the lights? Was it faster to shoot exteriors or interiors? Lights versus reflectors? What about permits? How can I schedule things better and more efficiently?

I can look at any one of my short films and point to what I learned on each one. On one of my films I was working with actors for the first time and I‘ve never felt like it worked. I learned that if you want good acting you couldn’t just set up the camera and tell the actors what you wanted. You had to work with them long before you ever set foot on the set. I learned on one short that the entire crew and the equipment had to be in as few vehicles as possible. That way no one would get lost, again…

I learned about how important good food is to a crew if you wanted to keep them working. I learned how to put together a good shooting schedule through trial and error, and what to do if you lose a location, or an actor on the day of the shoot.

I learned how to look like a big professional crew when I wanted to, and how to look like a bunch of amateurs when I needed to. I can make a small crew work like a big one and as one of my DP’s likes to say, “I can be one of the best Director/Assistant Cameramen in the business.”

If you have this vision of yourself in front of a big crew sitting on your director’s chair telling everyone what to do and then watching video playback you are in the wrong business.

What making short films has taught me is that I can take very little money and make it look like a lot more on the screen. I can have a crew work really hard and efficient and still have fun. I am relaxed on the set because I know what to do when things go wrong, and sooner or later things will go wrong. I have an alternate plan for all occasions because nothing ever goes exactly the way you planned. If I am relaxed so is the crew. They know that I am on control and no matter what happens it’ll get taken care of.

Making short films gave me the confidence to make a feature when I finally did it. I knew enough about my craft that I could get myself out of any problems that might come up. I wouldn’t have known that without making those 8 short films.

I let my crews do what they do best and I don’t micro manage them because I know what they do best and I have done most of those jobs myself.

When you finally get to make your feature you have to approach it as though it might be the only one you ever get to make. Give it everything you have, and if you have learned your lessons from earlier films, you’ll be just fine.

Other stuff.

Happy Birthday Dad! I hope your day is a good one.

Internet Special!!!!
Go to http://www.angryfilmmaker.com and check out my films. Between now and August 1st, 2008 if you order any 2 of my DVDs I will send you my Sound Work Book for free! If you want to know about the three types of microphones or what the most important element in Sound Design is then you need this book. It is crammed full of tips on Sound for films. Order any 2 DVDs and you get my knowledge and sound tips for free. Two DVDs will set you back $20 + $10 shipping and handling and for that you get the Sound Work Book (a $10 value) for free. Now that’s a deal!

And just a reminder, I am available to consult on your films.

What do you get out of the deal? You get the best value and advice in making your film. No matter what stage you’re in. I’ve been in the business for 25 years, working on everything from animation to live action, Independent features, Real Independent features, Hollywood studio stuff, and documentaries. If you check out my bio and filmography (www.angryfilmmaker.com/who.htm) you’ll see I’ve worked on award winning films, and films that never got distribution.

I will look at your work honestly and objectively. If there are problems, I’ll point them out, in a constructive way. No one wants to hear, “This sucks!” My goal is to guide you through the process, so that you can see what the problems are, and we’ll come up with ways to fix them. Check out (www.angryfilmmaker.com/consulting.htm.)

Talk later.

Kelley

http://www.angryfilmmaker.com
http://www.facebook.com
http://www.myspace.com/theangryfilmmaker
http://www.youtube.com/theangryfilmmaker

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Your Screenplay Sucks! Wikipedia and other Stuff

July 25, 2008

Hey Everybody,

Your Screenplay Sucks is the name of a new book by William M. Akers. Actually its whole title is, Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great. (ISBN 978-1-932907-45-2 Go to http://www.yourscreenplaysucks.com.)

There are so many books out there on screenwriting these days it’s hard to tell the good ones from the bad. This is one of the good ones. William Akers walks you through so many common mistakes that all writers make, not just first timers. Akers book talks to the novice writer and the experienced one. He has information for people who want to make Hollywood films, and for Independents. In his book it all comes down to the same thing, having a good story and telling it well.

This book is am amazing resource for any writer and to top it all off, it’s funny! Akers has a great sense of humor. In addition to learning, I was laughing. He has an engaging writing style and although he takes his subject seriously, you can tell he doesn’t take himself seriously. He has fun with this book. He also reprints things from the web, certain scripts, and he recounts conversations with other writers and filmmakers. What were they thinking when they were working on something? What were the problems they encountered and how did they over come them?
Check out my complete review of Akers book on my blog, http://angryfilmmaker.blogspot.com. Or you can order Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great. (ISBN 978-1-932907-45-2) through Akers website, http://www.yourscreenplaysucks.com.
Other stuff.

Internet Special!!!!
Go to http://www.angryfilmmaker.com and check out my films. Between now and August 1st, 2008 if you order any 2 of my DVDs I will send you my Sound Work Book for free! If you want to know about the three types of microphones or what the most important element in Sound Design is then you need this book. It is crammed full of tips on Sound for films. Order any 2 DVDs and you get my knowledge and sound tips for free. Two DVDs will set you back $20 + $10 shipping and handling and for that you get the Sound Work Book (a $10 value) for free. Now that’s a deal!

I am on Wikipedia! Check it out, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelley_baker.

The Fall Tour is steaming along. I am excited to be promoting my new book, The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide: Making the Extreme No-Budget Film. The book will be out shortly and my tour kicks off on September 9th at Creative Alliance in Baltimore. Moses and I will be on the road for 2 months. There are still dates available so if you want to book me send me a note, angryfilminfo@aol.com.

And just a reminder, I am available to consult on your films.

What do you get out of the deal? You get the best value and advice in making your film. No matter what stage you’re in. I’ve been in the business for 25 years, working on everything from animation to live action, Independent features, Real Independent features, Hollywood studio stuff, and documentaries. If you check out my bio and filmography (www.angryfilmmaker.com/who.htm) you’ll see I’ve worked on award winning films, and films that never got distribution.

I will look at your work honestly and objectively. If there are problems, I’ll point them out, in a constructive way. No one wants to hear, “This sucks!” My goal is to guide you through the process, so that you can see what the problems are, and we’ll come up with ways to fix them. Check out (www.angryfilmmaker.com/consulting.htm.)

As always,

Talk later,

Kelley

http://www.angryfilmmaker.com
http://www.myspace.com/theangryfilmmaker
http://www.youtube.com/theangryfilmmaker

Your Screenplay Sucks!

July 21, 2008

How many times have we heard that? But this time it’s different.

Your Screenplay Sucks is the name of a new book by William M. Akers. Actually its whole title is, Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great. (ISBN 978-1-932907-45-2 Go to www.yourscreenplaysucks.com.)

There are so many books out there on screenwriting these days it’s hard to tell the good ones from the bad. This is one of the good ones. William Akers walks you through so many common mistakes that all writers make, not just first timers. Akers book talks to the novice writer and the experienced one. He has information for people who want to make Hollywood films, and for Independents. In his book it all comes down to the same thing, having a good story and telling it well.

Here is one passage I found extremely interesting.

“You are asking upwards of $100,000 for said work. You’re asking someone to spend from $100,000 to $100,000,000 to produce something you just made up. You need to get this stuff right. You need scene description that sings. You need to have lively minor characters. You need to run your spellcheck. Like that. What I’m telling you is simple to execute. It has nothing to do with talent or mythic story structure or round characters. I’m not telling you “how to write a great script.” There are plenty of good books for that. What I am giving you are guidelines to make sure the reader keeps reading.

I once sat next to a producer on a plane and watched her read six pages and put a script down. That writer spent months and months on his script but, for some reason, blew his chance by page six. Probably for a long list of reasons”

In William Akers world it doesn’t matter what kind of a film you are writing and what you intend to do with it, you need to make it original and interesting.

Akers wants us to tell good stories, whether we sell them to Hollywood, or make them ourselves.

He understands the writing process because he is a writer. Akers has written and sold scripts, and he teaches writing and filmmaking at Vanderbilt University. He teaches the craft of writing every day. He knows what works, and what doesn’t. But the best part is that over they years William has seen people make the same mistakes over and over. He takes those common mistakes and he addresses them.

Among the 100 things in this book are:

You picked the wrong main character! We have no rooting interest in your hero! Your Bad Guy isn’t great! Your characters do stupid things to move the story forward, a.k.a., they do stuff because you make them! You don’t have enough tension! You haven’t cut the first or last lines from as many scenes as possible! You have Q & A dialogue! Too many of your characters have names! And, You haven’t cut as many “thes” and “thats” as possible!

Akers doesn’t just point these out and tell you to do them; he goes in to great detail telling us why we need to make these changes. Then he spends time giving us examples of movies that have followed these rules. And he doesn’t use obscure foreign films or independent films that we’ve never heard of. He uses examples of movies we are all familiar with. He breaks it all down so that we can see why these writers did what they did and how it helped the story.

It is a known fact that in Hollywood, readers have to read entire scripts (they’re supposed to anyway), but producers and executives are looking for excuses to put your script down. If they can put it down before they finish it, then they don’t have to think about making it. I lived in LA long enough to know that no executive ever gets fired for saying “NO!” They get fired for saying yes. They say yes to a movie and it doesn’t do well at the box office, they’re fired. We all know the story of Verna Fields at Universal rejecting George Lucas’ script for Star Wars. And as the legend goes, she was promoted.

William offers insight in to the way readers, producers, and executives look at screenplays. He helps you avoid mistakes that would make these people put your scripts down without finishing them.

This book is am amazing resource for any writer and to top it all off, it’s funny! Akers has a great sense of humor. In addition to learning, I was laughing. He has an engaging writing style and although he takes his subject seriously, you can tell he doesn’t take himself seriously. He has fun with this book. He also reprints things from the web, certain scripts, and he recounts conversations with other writers and filmmakers. What were they thinking when they were working on something? What were the problems they encountered and how did they over come them?

Ultimately William gets you to think about the writing process, and he makes you take a hard look at anything that you’ve written and see what you could have done to improve it. I have written quite a few screenplays and made a few of them in to films, and I found myself learning new things with ever page turn, or being reminded of things I was taught so many years ago.

Akers wants to help you write something great from your title page to the end. He spends quite a few pages talking about titles, the very first thing people see when they read your screenplay.

“You haven’t spent enough time thinking up a fantastic title!

Is your title a good title or a stupid title? Does it give no hint about your story? Is it a title no one will understand and no one will care about? Is it so weird that it’s going to be off-putting? Is it the main character’s name? Is it hard to pronounce or spell?

If you have a less-than-stellar title, change it.”

It is rare that I enjoy a book from cover to cover, let alone a book about writing. I blasted through this book and I’m keeping it next to my computer, the easier to look at when I am writing. I don’t want to give anyone else the opportunity to tell me “Your Screenplay Sucks!”

If you don’t believe me that this is a good book, maybe you’ll believe these people…

“A book about screenwriting that reads like a good screenplay. It is so full of great stories, examples and advice that I couldn’t put it down.” – – Tom Schulman, Academy Award winning Screenwriter:  Dead Poets Society, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, What About Bob?

If you want a pat-you-on-the-back, feel good book on writing, read Chicken Soup For The Writer’s Soul.  If you want the sucker-punch-you-in-your-throat, down and dirty truth about screenwriting for Hollywood, read Your Screenplay Sucks!. – – Linda McCullough, Columbia College Chicago

“Don’t take it personal, your screenplay does SUCK.  Almost all screenplays suck until you beat them into shape.  William M. Akers’s book is an excellent guide through the pitfalls and easy mistakes that first time screenwriters face.  His advice is honest and simple.  He will make your screenplay suck less… As long as you’re willing to do the work.” – – Larry Karaszewski, writer: Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man On The Moon

You can order Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great. (ISBN 978-1-932907-45-2) through Akers website, www.yourscreenplaysucks.com.

In my opinion, it’s a great fucking book!

Other stuff.

Internet Special!!!!

Go to www.angryfilmmaker.com and check out my films. Between now and August 1st, 2008 if you order any 2 of my DVDs I will send you my Sound Work Book for free! If you want to know about the three types of microphones or what the most important element in Sound Design is then you need this book. It is crammed full of tips on Sound for films. Order any 2 DVDs and you get my knowledge and sound tips for free. Two DVDs will set you back $20 + $10 shipping and handling and for that you get the Sound Work Book (a $10 value) for free. Now that’s a deal!

And just a reminder, I am available to consult on your films.

What do you get out of the deal? You get the best value and advice in making your film. No matter what stage you’re in. I’ve been in the business for 25 years, working on everything from animation to live action, Independent features, Real Independent features, Hollywood studio stuff, and documentaries. If you check out my bio and filmography (www.angryfilmmaker.com/who.htm) you’ll see I’ve worked on award winning films, and films that never got distribution.

I will look at your work honestly and objectively. If there are problems, I’ll point them out, in a constructive way. No one wants to hear, “This sucks!” My goal is to guide you through the process, so that you can see what the problems are, and we’ll come up with ways to fix them. Check out (www.angryfilmmaker.com/consulting.htm.)

My Masters Class, Making the Extreme Low Budget Film has been re-scheduled for August 18th thru September 5th in Franklin, Indiana. Check out www.independentcinema.net for more information as it becomes available.

Oh and Your Angry Filmmaker tip?

Buy William Akers book, Your Screenplay Sucks! Trust me, it’s worth it.

As always,

Talk later,

Kelley

www.angryfilmmaker.com
www.myspace.com/theangryfilmmaker
www.youtube.com/theangryfilmmaker

Brian Wilson/Classic Film Ignorance/Other Stuff

July 18, 2008

I was going through an old box a couple weeks ago throwing stuff out as I am trying to get rid of my storage space. I came across a program from my first concert, The Beach Boys in 1967. Ouch! That was a long time ago. I just finished watching Brian Wilson on Tour and found it a pretty amazing film. Not as good as Don Was’ documentary, Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (1995). If you want to see an amazing doc that’s one you have to check out.

This guy is so damaged and yet he has created so many amazing songs. You forget how far ahead of everyone he was when it came to song writing and arranging. And you look at him now and you can see he is so heavily medicated and yet his backing band is amazing with all of the arrangements. Check out both movies if you want to see something amazing.

Your Angry Filmmaker Tip.

When I was in Film School, I realized that film was so much more than I thought. It wasn’t just a way to tell a story (which is still important); it was a way to truly communicate with an audience. To use film as a way of saying things. To protest, to educate, to enlighten.

– – from The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide (coming really soon)

When I first went to film school I had modest goals, I just wanted to make Hollywood films, like the ones that I grew up with. When I got there I was thrown in with all of these people who said they were influenced by Godard, Fellini, Bergman and others. Film was considered an art form to these people and they all seemed very serious about what they wanted to do. When I had to get up in front of the class and say that I just wanted to make films to entertain you could’ve heard a pin drop. The faculty and a lot of the other students wrote me off at that moment. I had a few instructors that I couldn’t buy a decent grade from, because I was that guy “who just wanted to entertain”.

It was while I was in school and watching films that were not only assigned but were also being screened for other classes, or on weekends that I truly realized what film was all about. I had a conversion if you will. I realized that I didn’t know shit about film, film history or anything that was important. (Although I still think that Citizen Kane is not only NOT the best movie ever made, but it’s not even Welles best film.)

I felt like I was playing catch up the whole time I was there, and even the first few years I was out of school and working. Growing up I didn’t watch films, I watched movies. \Lots of westerns and war movies with my Father who rarely talked about fighting in WWII. If he did talk it was usually because we had just seen something in a film that he either agreed with or laughed at.

I don’t think the filmmakers of today have any knowledge of the past when it comes to films. They don’t believe that any films were made before 1985 and if any films were made they’re in black and white and boring. I think that’s why most of the mainstream movies are so bad today. Its one thing to know that the people who run the studios also have no knowledge of film history, but the fact that the filmmakers themselves are nothing more than “Commercial Directors” is something that really bothers me.

Directors are lauded for doing things with special effects and not for using film as a means of expression. It’s bad enough that young filmmakers today idolize filmmakers who aren’t very talented, (Yes I’m talking about you Michael Bay). I know that films have always been a business and the moguls would make commercial films to make money so that they can make movies that they felt were important, but when was the last time a film came out of Hollywood that was really important?

I love mindless entertainment as well as the next person, and I will go see Hell Boy 2 just because I thought the first one was a lot of fun. But I am getting sick and tired of being fed junk food by a bunch of people who wouldn’t know a smart and important film if it bit them in the … you know what I’m saying.

If you are serious about making films, then learn your film history. See classic and foreign films and draw inspiration from them. Don’t draw inspiration from bad TV shows you grew up watching, or from toys and computer games.

Give us a reason to go to the theater and not just so you can take our $10 and try to over whelm us with loud noise and special effects. After a while even the hungriest kid gets tired of nothing but Twinkies.

Other stuff.

Internet Special!!!!

Go to www.angryfilmmaker.com and check out The Angry Filmmaker Work Books. They are packed with lots of good info and are a real bargain at a mere $10 each or the set of three for $25 (plus S&H). If you order all three work books, (Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production) before July 15th, 2008 I will send you a free DVD copy of Kicking Bird. That’s all three books plus a Kicking Bird DVD for $25 + $9 S&H.

This special has gone so well that I am going to extend it to July 20th, 2008!!!

And just a reminder, I am available to consult on your films.

What do you get out of the deal? You get the best value and advice in making your film. No matter what stage you’re in. I’ve been in the business for 25 years, working on everything from animation to live action, Independent features, Real Independent features, Hollywood studio stuff, and documentaries. If you check out my bio and filmography (www.angryfilmmaker.com/who.htm) you’ll see I’ve worked on award winning films, and films that never got distribution.

I will look at your work honestly and objectively. If there are problems, I’ll point them out, in a constructive way. No one wants to hear, “This sucks!” My goal is to guide you through the process, so that you can see what the problems are, and we’ll come up with ways to fix them. Check out (www.angryfilmmaker.com/consulting.htm.)

My Masters Class, Making the Extreme Low Budget Film has been re-scheduled for August 18th thru September 5th in Franklin, Indiana. Check out www.independentcinema.net for more information as it becomes available.

As always,

Talk later,

Kelley

www.angryfilmmaker.com

www.myspace.com/theangryfilmmaker

www.youtube.com/theangryfilmmaker

Why I Tour.

July 16, 2008

“WHY I TOUR…”

I open my eyes, slowly. I peek my head out of my sleeping bag and look out the van window. I can’t see more than a few feet. I am fogged in. Where am I? I’m trying to remember. My dog Moses is sleeping soundly on the floor. Think… It was late last night when I pulled in. Cambridge. That’s right, Cambridge — Ohio. Right about now I wish it was Cambridge in England.

I am sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot.


I am on my way to Baltimore to judge a 48 Hour Film Festival for Creative Alliance. I left my home in Portland, Oregon 4 days ago on my Fall Tour. I remember driving last night until it started getting really foggy. I was lucky to find an exit so I could re-fuel and grab some dinner. After dinner at an “all you can eat” Chinese buffet, I took Moses twice around the parking lot so he could get some exercise before we called it a night. I parked next to two big motor homes and crawled in to my sleeping bag.

Around 11 PM a semi truck pulled up near us. I kept waiting for him to shut his engine off, but he didn’t. After 40 minutes, I look out and see he is watching TV. I realize he isn’t going to shut his truck off.

I get out of my sleeping bag, and head for where I think the Wal-Mart is. The parking lot is so foggy I can’t see more than 30 feet. It is 6:30 in the morning and I am in search of a rest room.

This is the glamorous part of our business — life on the road.

I have been touring the US with my movies for 5 years. In the early years, I would fly in to a city, rent a car and do a giant loop around that state for 2 – 3 weeks, showing my films at media art centers, art house cinemas, and colleges and universities. I would end up back near the airport I had flown in to, return the car and fly home. On all of these trips I broke even. I wasn’t making any money, but I wasn’t losing any either. After doing this for 3 years, I realized that if I wanted to make money I was going to have to make some changes.

It’s a very strange time in our business. In my opinion there is no such thing as “Independent Film” anymore. It has all been co-opted and turned in to a marketing phrase. Hollywood stars working on $10 million dollar movies is not independent — I don’t care what their ad campaigns say! The promise of the 80’s and real independent filmmaking is over.

The small maverick distributors have either been eaten by the big companies or have become part of them. Unless you make a movie that costs millions and have famous actors slumming in them, or you are an actor making your directorial debut, or even a former independent filmmaker making cheap movies because you can afford to, you are never going to get any decent kind of distribution.

Film distributors and marketers have gotten extremely lazy. Unless they can sell your movie easily, they don’t want it. The distributors want famous names associated with your movie. Nothing else matters! They say they can sell a movie with William Macy, Parker Posey, or Bill Murray, but don’t give them something with a good plot, witty dialog, and an unknown cast. They can’t help you.

Unless, of course, you are in your mid twenties, made your movie on credit cards, got it in to Sundance and won. But even those types of movies don’t show up anymore. Sundance has gotten so famous and full of itself that they have forgotten why they started in the first place.

Standing in a Wal-Mart at 6 AM, I am trying to remember why I do this.

It’s because of my love of movies. If I don’t distribute my own films, who will? I spend between 5 and 6 months on the road each year. I drive 40,000 miles, speak to thousands of film students and aspiring filmmakers. I screen my movies and teach workshops where ever I can. At every stop, I try and sell as many of my DVD’s and T-shirts as possible. On some days I make money. On other days I won’t. I will sleep on friends couches and floors, as well as in strangers’ spare bedrooms. These strangers will become my friends and I know that next year when I am back this way again, I’ll sleep in one less Wal-Mart parking lot.

Life on the road has it’s own rhythm. When you have been on the road for even just a few weeks, your internal clock gets totally out of whack, as do your relationships.

When I go out on the road people ask, is it fun? Sometimes. Sometimes it’s boring. Sometimes it’s horrifying. Snow, dense fog, hail, down pours, ice, high winds, and that was just a few hours in Wyoming. I have driven through rain storms for 3 hours where I could barely see the truck in front of me! Once outside of Chicago, I pulled over in to a rest area as a storm went past. Even the truckers were off the highway.

When it’s fun, it’s great! I was at West Virginia State University a couple years ago. The professor who brought me there is a great filmmaker and a professional wrestler. Danny Boyd (aka Professor Danger) not only had me lecture to his classes, he had me accompany him to one of his practice sessions for an upcoming match. Like all good filmmakers, I took my camera to film the event. The next thing I know I am standing in the ring with Death Falcon Zero, and Danny is behind my camera. I got my butt kicked! I also learned different moves and that professional wrestling hurts! The Death Falcon was gentle – if there is such a thing.

After a screening in Montgomery, Alabama, I found myself in a cemetery having beers at the grave of Hank Williams, Sr. Apparently, there is a tradition to have a beer with Hank around midnight. Our group included musicians, civil rights attorneys, journalists, and someone who was introduced as an heiress. We spent the night talking about film, civil rights, politics and race relationships. It was amazing. I still think I heard some noises coming from the ground.

I have spoken at many colleges and with few exceptions, I have found students eager to learn about filmmaking. I teach four workshops, but sometimes students want me to just talk about what it’s like to be an independent filmmaker – how it was working on some of the famous independent films that I worked on, and why I turned my back on the money and success to make my own movies and hit the road.

I talk to them about the lies, the deceit, and the commercialism of the art form. I tell them not to even bother applying to Sundance and some of the other so-called independent film festivals. Just look at the films they have been showing these last few years, and you will see that we no longer fit in. But people like Jake Paltrow do.

I get asked about the promise of the Independent Film movement of the 80s and I have to tell them it no longer exists. The filmmakers of the 70s and 80s have become part of the establishment. With few exceptions, they have joined the companies they fought against and now seem to be making sure that other filmmakers don’t have the same opportunities they had.

I tell them to cheer people like John Sayles who continues to make the films that he wants to make. He does it on his own time frame and he doesn’t seem to care about the marketing. That’s a wonderful position.

There are others besides Sayles that march to their own drummer, unfortunately we aren’t seeing much from them anymore. Where are Ross McElwee, Steven Okazaki, and Les Blank?

It is no longer about the work, it is about the opening weekend. It doesn’t matter how good your film might be. If it doesn’t open strong the first weekend, it usually won’t be around for a second. Just like in Hollywood. When did all this happen? The very nature of independent movies means that they usually take time to get discovered. They have to find their audience. And they do that best by word of mouth. Not all of us can afford to open our movies in New York or LA and take out ads in the papers there.

Finding an audience is still what it’s all about. Ani DeFranco had it right. If the powers that be don’t want your work, and you believe in it, then take it to the people. I tour like a punk band, minus the punks and the music! I take my movies out and you know what I learned?

The distributors are wrong!

People do want to see good movies without stars. They want to see things that are different from the crap they are being fed. If they get the opportunity to talk to a filmmaker, they like that even more. People come to my shows and when I go back, the people who saw me before bring their friends. I am building my audience base just like a band. And it is rewarding.

If Fine Line sells 10,000 DVDs of one of their movies, they would consider it a failure. But if I sell 10,000 that is a huge hit for me.

For some reason, filmmakers don’t feel they have to get their work out in the same way that other artists do. Musicians tour. Actors & Comedians tour. Why do Filmmakers think they are special and that the audience will come to them? I tell all filmmakers the same thing. Get off your asses and get your movies out there. You are not special! You have to do the work like every other artist. Too many people fall for the press releases from Sundance and other places. They are waiting to be discovered. I have been in this business for a long time, and trust me when I say, “The probability of getting discovered sitting on your ass at home is right up there with getting struck by lightning or winning the lottery.” Good luck with that.

Me? I’ll be hoping that Map Quest is indeed right and the exit I want is just a few miles ahead. Now, if I can only see through this dense fog and get out of this Wal-Mart parking lot!

See you on the road.

Kelley

http://www.angryfilmmaker.com