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.