Archive for filmmaking

Dealing with Current Realities Or Am I Related to Francis Ford Coppolla?

Posted in Greenspoke, Making Movies, Non-profit filmmaking, reelheart with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Filmmaking has been a passion of mine for many years, supported financially by me through my corporate employment. When I was at the 2008 ReelHeART International Film Festival (RHIFF) with my short film two julias, I received a phone call from my employer of 6 years letting me know they were laying off several people in my department and that I was one of them.  The ironic timing of the call did not go unnoticed since I had made my first film as part of an employee filmmaking contest there. They let me go while I was on vacation at the first film festival to show one of my films in competition.

RHIFF is a great filmmaker-friendly festival and definitely worth the submission fee – I have entered again for 2010. However my overall festival submission strategy has definitely changed since then. I tended to take a shotgun approach before.  I research the festivals more and take advantage of early bird submission rates where I can to save money. If you use withoutabox.com, use their search and watch list functions rather than waiting for their e-mail notifications. Most of the e-mail notifications are for the higher fee late or final deadlines. More money for WAB and the festival but not the best use of limited filmmaker bucks.

I took a leap of faith and used my severance to fund Greenspoke, a project that was already in pre-production before my layoff.   I do not regret making that decision – that project kept me sane through what I thought would be a couple of months seeking employment. Greenspoke has done well so far, showing in four festivals and getting a good review in The Seattle Weekly. Oddly my layoff from a high profile employer and continued filmmaking also led to a small piece in The Seattle Times as well. Unfortunately the article makes it sound like the layoff somehow helped my filmmaking career – that is not the case. That story came up in a job interview I had shortly after the article came out.

As I have been searching for a web editor job over the last 15 months, I have had to adjust my expectations as a filmmaker to line up with current realities. Before I would have gone ahead with a project even if funding was iffy — that just isn’t possible anymore.  I can’t proceed with any production activities until firm money in place. I set up non-profit Smiling Z Studios as a means of soliciting tax-deductible donations. When many of your previous supporters are also out of work or worried about losing their jobs, it is tough to make the pitch that a non-profit  independent film production is a great place to make their charitable donations. We do pay all of our cast and crew, many of whom are struggling financially, as part of the studio’s mission. However,  if a potential donor is on the fence between supporting our projects vs making a donation to a food bank or the Red Cross, I would not want them to choose the studio.

Most of us wonder what we would do if we won the lottery. I often think about what it would be like to make that transition from mostly self-funded director/producer to working as a director with full production support and investors who believe in me and my abilities enough to finance my projects. While that is not out of the realm of possibility, I do believe the odds are better to win the lottery and give these feelings the same kind of weight. I think most artists sans trust fund or those who lack a family connection to Francis Ford Coppolla struggle with how they are going to pay for their art.

So what do I do while I’m sorting this all out? Work on the things I can. Besides checking in with friends and former co-workers (again) who may be able to help me find work, I’ve redoubled my efforts to seek gainful employment. There do seem to be more jobs out there in my field and I’ve even had a couple of promising interviews.  I’ve also started working on storyboards for my feature length screenplay The Smiling Zombie, which was a finalist in the 2009 ReelHeART International Film Festival Screenplay Competition. The Smiling Zombie is about Jack, a successful musical theatre performer whose career is cut short by multiple sclerosis. With the support of his HIV+ partner, Jack attempts a comeback of sorts with a featured extra role in a no-budget zombie film. Making the best out of a bad situation seems to be a theme here?

Paper and pens I got, and storyboards help me to really think through the script, its problems and strengths, and what the overall look and feel will be. If I work on the things I can, I’ll be ready with a new job and a solid script and storyboards when things turn around. And who knows, maybe I am related to Francis Ford Coppolla?

Filmmaker or not, what are you doing to keep your passions going during these tough times?

Greenspoke screenings in the Seattle/Tacoma area in Sept-Oct

Posted in festivals, Greenspoke, Making Movies, Seattle events with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2009 by Tom McIntire

GreenspokeTom McIntire’s award-winning short Greenspoke will be screening in several Seattle-area festivals in Sept and Oct. Check it out!

Upcoming Seattle/Tacoma screenings:

Greenspoke premieres at Bumbershoot
Monday Sept 7 at 8pm
SIFF Cinema.

International Film Festival Ireland (Clonmel) – Sept 9

Maelstrom International Festival of Fantastic Films (Seattle) – Sept 18-20 (also at SIFF Cinema)

Tacoma Film Festival – Oct 6 at 9:30pm at the Grand Cinema

Other upcoming screenings:

Greenspoke will also be screening at the International Film Festival Ireland on Wed Sept 9 in Clonmel, Tiperarry.

Thanks again to all of you who came out for the Aug 4th preview!

P.S. We have all kinds of fun Greenspoke merchandise available on the official site:
http://greenspokethemovie.com

Withoutabox and Sundance – Pay Attention Filmmakers!

Posted in festivals, Making Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2009 by Tom McIntire

If you’re like me on Withoutabox, you crank in several festival entries, print out the instructions and mail off one or two DVDs to the festivals of your choice. Easy peasy. But read the instructions! Usually I just check to see how many DVDs they want, burn ’em, label ’em and stuff them in hopefully the right envelope before cycling off to the post office. I noticed that Sundance had lots more instructobabble than the others. I see my chances of getting into Sundance on a par with winning the lottery but you can’t win if you don’t play. The worst thing to do when entering any festival (or submitting your work to an agent, grant agency, production company or management team) is to give them an excuse to toss your entry in the trash. They are getting swamped with entries – your musical version of Citizen Kane may be the next big thing but it won’t be if you don’t follow their instructions. No one will see it except the guys at the landfill. I wound up tearing open my entry and redoing it to meet their standards. Now at least I know that I didn’t just toss that entry fee into the fire.

I’m not going to tell you how Sundance is different because you should read the most up-to-date instructions when you submit your project. What I will say is they use received dates rather than postmark dates AND it is much cheaper to enter now than later – but there’s more that you need to watch. Spend your entry fee money wisely.

“two julias” to play at the International Film Festival Ireland in Galway, Sept 2009

Posted in festivals, two julias with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2009 by Tom McIntire

I was excited when Greenspoke was made an official selection of the International Film Festival Ireland. It’s our first festival acceptance (the film was completed in March 2009) and you never forget your first. Galway is also the home town of two julias‘ actress Órla McGovern, so I sent our award-winning short on as well. From the title of this post, you can guess what came next. I’m excited for everyone involved in the two productions and hope to be able to make it to Galway in September for the festival. Thanks to those of you who follow this blog too – your support and encouragement mean a lot.

Seattle locals – save the date for a double feature at the Central Cinema on August 4 at 9:30pm. two julias and Greenspoke will be screened, plus we’ll have hors d’oeuvres and film-related merchandise available. This event will be a fundraiser for the new nonprofit film studio  – Smiling Z Studios.

Heckler – watch this documentary

Posted in Movie reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Anyone else tired of the level of discourse that passes for film and theatre criticism? I am impressed with anyone who has the balls to put themselves out there as a performer, writer, filmmaker or any other kind of artist. When interviewed in Heckler, George Lucas talks about wanting to be around the doers who create things, not the destroyers. I couldn’t agree more.

Heckler is a thoughtful, insightful look at heckling in all its forms, from the drunken assholes who disrupt live performances to the self-anointed film experts who savage performers personally rather than offering any helpful or constructive criticism. Director Mike Addis and Jamie Kennedy created this documentary about heckling but it is about much more than that. The lack of civility and empathy that is rampant in our culture has been magnified a thousand times over by the anonymity and lack of filtering that the internet allows. Jamie Kennedy does what many would like to do – talk face-to-face with some of the critics, most of whom don’t have the courage to stand behind the vile things they wrote. “I wasn’t talking about you personally.”  Really? Kennedy’s restraint in dealing with a couple of these guys is admirable.

An affirming and engrossing documentary, Heckler has great interviews with other doers and some unnerving footage of heckling incidents. Nice work Mike and Jamie!

Greenspoke an Official Selection at International Film Festival Ireland – Galway

Posted in festivals, Greenspoke, Making Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Good news – Greenspoke is an official selection of the International Film Festival Ireland (IFFI). The fest runs from Sept 8-12 2009 in beautiful Galway, Ireland.

What’s next? Check out our new nonprofit film studio, Smiling Z Studios.

Why Is That Z Smiling? A new approach to supporting filmmaking

Posted in Making Movies, screenwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2009 by Tom McIntire

I was thinking about how what I do producing and directing low budget films like Greenspoke is similar to a nonprofit live theatre group like Washington Ensemble Theatre. We raise the money we need (or in my case pay for it myself), hire the cast and crew and create a show. Then we try to get it out to the public, either by ticket sales in the case of live theatre or by festival submissions and distribution for films. The main difference is I have a finished product that can be seen again and again. And the live theatre teams rarely have much cash to pay anyone. I started to see many parallels and ways for us to work together to support eachother’s efforts. Many of the actors and crew I hired were struggling to make ends meet and grateful for even the small amount I was able to pay them. The loss of my day job last year and my subsequent difficulty finding other employment led me to think about alternative means of funding my filmmaking passion. These thoughts all ran through my mind as the idea to create the nonprofit Smiling Z Studios was formed. Don’t know if this is an original idea but it’s a new way of thinking for me.

Here’s the official pitch:

Smiling Z Studios feeds the artists while feeding the art. Local actors and crew often are called upon to work for nothing to help struggling filmmakers. While this may get a film made, it creates an environment where creative work is not valued and compensated. We like to think of what we are doing as fair trade film. Here’s how we are different:
1. With few exceptions, everyone who works on our productions gets paid.
2. We raise enough money to run professional productions even when working with a limited crew.
3. We use talent from many of the local live theatre groups and schedule in such a way as to maximize their availability for other work.
4. We schedule our crew during slow times to ensure we don’t conflict with higher paying commercial and industrial gigs. This has the added bonus of making equipment rentals more affordable.

Smiling Z Studios is a non-profit corporation that evolved out of Tom McIntire’s for-profit concern, Smiling Zombie Productions. We decided to become a non-profit film studio because our focus is on the work and the artists. While many of our colleagues leave the Northwest to pursue their film careers in Los Angeles, we believe we have the talent and the skill base here to do extraordinary work that helps everyone involved in the productions. Quality work that will be recognized with festival screenings and distribution, and ultimately help fund future productions.

Your support now will help us build a stronger, more sustainable filmmaking community here in the Pacific Northwest. To kickoff the 2009-2010 schedule, Smiling Z will produce Tom’s award-winning dramatic feature script, The Smiling Zombie. Successful musical theatre performer Jack Alcott’s career is cut short by multiple sclerosis. With the support of his HIV+ partner, he attempts a comeback of sorts with a featured extra role in a no-budget zombie film. A bittersweet human portrait inspired by actual events, The Smiling Zombie examines the performer forced to turn his attention inward and confront his own mortality.

Official pitch ends here.

So what do you think? Check us out at http://smilingz.org – if you want to help out through donations, helping with fundraising or working on our projects, let me know. We’re going to do some fundraising that puts the fun back in fundraising. Stay tuned.