Archive for reelheart

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?

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Aug 4 Fundraiser Screening Plus Live Music at Central Cinema – tix at brownpapertickets.com

Posted in acting, Greenspoke, Making Movies, reelheart, screenwriting, Seattle events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Smiling Z Studios

Two award-winning  short films, snacks, live music from The Daguerreotypes and a no-host bar – come see Tom McIntire’s award-winning political satire “two julias”, plus be a part of the first super secret preview screening of his latest, the sci-fi thriller “Greenspoke”.

two julias: Much to the delight of his kinky girlfriend, a counter-terrorism agent abuses his authority by spying on single women just for fun. A young woman looking for love online and a lecherous married salesman get entangled in their games. A darkly comedic political satire. Break a heart in seven languages! Winner honorable mention and director’s pick 2008 ReelHeART International Film Festival and recently nominated for Best USA Film under 25 Minutes at International Film Festival Ireland.

Greenspoke: A beautiful Japanese translator and a world-weary vehicle emissions technician awaken profoundly changed by the work of a brilliant scientist who believes he has found the solution to climate change. Winner of the Accolade Award of Merit: Short Film and nominated for Best International Film under 50 Munutes at International Film Festival Ireland.

The Daguerreotypes: Their quirky music is featured in both films – come hear this great band live!

Net proceeds benefit Smiling Z Studios, the nonprofit film studio dedicated to providing paid cast and crew positions in quality Seattle film productions

NOTE: No one under 21 years old will be admitted.

Feel free to share this info with your friends, including the discount code for your poor friends. Enter the discount code “blog” and get in at the cast and crew price of $12. Make your rich friends pay at the higher levels listed on brownpapertickets – purchases at the $25 and $50 levels include a portion that is tax-deductible, plus some thank you gifts.

I hope you can make it!

two julias and Greenspoke have both been nominated for awards

two julias and Greenspoke have both been nominated for awards

Greenspoke won an Award of Merit for Short Film

Greenspoke won an Award of Merit for Short Film

two julias won an honorable mention and a director's pick

two julias won an honorable mention and a director's pick

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.

Greenspoke Starts Shooting December 2nd!

Posted in Greenspoke, Shriekfest, Toronto with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2008 by Tom McIntire

Scientists aim a green bullet at climate change. Bullets ricochet.

For those of you who know me, the start of principal photography on Greenspoke is not a big surprise. I’ve been asking you for everything from car parts to textbooks to time in your bedroom – and you’ve all been very accommodating! Things have been coming together pretty well and I’m looking forward to finally getting started.

Greenspoke was a semi-finalist in the short sci-fi screenplay category at Shriekfest 2008. The script has been massaged a bit, locations nailed down, a strong crew is in place and we have an excellent cast that I am proud to be directing. On top of all that, my fellow ReelHeART International Film Festival 2008 participant (and short/long form fiction winner!) Tess Malone is flying in from London to help out. How fun is that? And I get to work with production manager Michi Murayama from my days as a devious killer on Japanese network television.

Mikano Fukaya and Tim Gouran head up my hardy cast which includes two julias alums and Seattle stage and film notables. I met today with our director of photography, Ryan Purcell, to go over shot lists. It’s interesting to see where I am willing to give because of budget and time constraints – it’s yet another creative process to figure out how to stay true to the original intent while managing the costs. The manic panic of 48 Hour Film contests helped me hone this skill – if you respect the story and the process, there are lots of ways to say the same thing effectively. That dolly shot would be cool but does it really add that much to the storytelling? Yes but not enough to warrant the cost. Driven pragmatism.

Lessons Learned in L.A.

Posted in Greenspoke, screenwriting, Shriekfest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2008 by Tom McIntire

My recent trip to Shriekfest was supposed to be about networking with other filmmakers, producers and potential investors. While I did do some networking (and gnoshing) with fellow filmmakers Paul Yoo, William Lu and David Shin, I felt like a fish out of water at the two Shriekfest screenings I attended. After some reflection, I’ve come to these conclusions to make my next outing more productive:

  1. Plan ahead – what are you trying to accomplish on this trip? Have you done your research and legwork to make sure you connect with the people who can help you?
  2. Be prepared – a variation on #1. Do you have your pitch ready? If you have 2 minutes of a producer’s time, will your glorious script grab their attention or will they wish you luck and move on?
  3. Choose the right festivals – if a festival is focused on a specific genre – do you work in that genre? Are you enthusiastic about it? When you watch the films at a particular festival, how would you feel about your work in juxtaposition to the other films you are seeing?
  4. Be open to speaking to people who may not be in a position to help now. I’ve learned so much from other people who are also starting out. We’re dealing with the same issues – commiserate, encourage and stay in touch. When you have a time when you are feeling a little overwhelmed or discouraged, these are the people who can help you understand that it is not you it is just the way this highly competitive business works.
  5. Be honest with yourself about your work – if you are having trouble explaining a script to someone else, is there a problem with the script? We get close to the work we do and can turn a blind eye to glaring problems in the concept or execution. A great story should be easy for you to pitch enthusiastically.
  6. Have fun – you don’t do this for the money – at least not yet anyway. Enjoy the cast of characters you meet from writers to actors to producers to directors to film lovers.
  7. Celebrate your own victories – finishing a script is a major accomplishment. So many people out there are talking about being a writer or a filmmaker. Sitting down and DOING the work to get there is something to be proud of.

OK, so I’m not a party animal

Posted in Movie reviews, Shriekfest with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2008 by Tom McIntire

I was beat last night and skipped opening night of Shriekfest. I did head out today (Saturday) to see the first set of shorts and I finally got to meet the heart and soul of Shriekfest, Denise Gossett. The venue is gorgeous – the screening room at the Raleigh Studios (formerly the Chaplin Studios). Comfy seating for 170, full size screen and across the street from Paramount. I had to sign in at the gate and get a daily visitor pass (which I forgot to return). The Closer is filmed at Raleigh – how do I know? It was painted on the concrete parking space stops, so it must be true.

Standout shorts included:

The Procedure – a cash-hungry man gets a job that becomes more and more frightening. The ending is unexpected and totally satisfying. A great script well-executed. Literally.

Side Effect – nicely realized script with a few surprises. An overworked baby sitter takes a drug to help her get more done. It does.

After the shorts came Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, which chronicles the peculiar, troubled life of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The film includes interviews with Guillermo del Toro and John Carpenter and several current writers. It is at once entertaining and intellectual, finding the humor and humanity of Lovecraft amidst the bizarre world he created. I especially liked the discussion about the impact that such a strong imaginative vision can have on some people, creating something akin to a new religion. This film is accessible enough that people who may not be fans or even aware of Lovecraft can still enjoy learning about the artist’s journey.

If you’re a horror or sci-fi fan in Los Angeles, Shriekfest is definitely worth checking out. Screenings continue today and through Sunday. You can buy tickets at the door and get to meet some interesting people like feature screenplay finalists (each with two scripts!) Tom Manning and fellow ReelHeART 2008 alum Diana Kemp-Jones.

two julias has been launched

Posted in Toronto with tags , , , , , , on June 19, 2008 by Tom McIntire

Met with Nathan (the projectionist) about the sound and aspect ratio a few minutes before start time. Shannon Kelly held the start time until she could get there to kick things off properly. Brian did a lovely song and dance and kept us amused while we waited. I talked about writing the script two years ago in response to the privacy abuses of the Patriot Act.

Opening film in the group was a beautiful, poetic piece called Ismeriatwo julias was next. I didn’t notice how overly bright it was until the movie was actually running. It looked blown out on the large screen TV. 25 or so enthusiastic viewers seemed to enjoy it – laughed in most of the right places. I had great support from filmmakers David Shin (Soul 37), Will Lu (Asian Task Force) and Cosmos Kiindarius (The Quickie). I’ll be bugging them for feedback tomorrow.

Kurt and I wound up leaving during Susan For Now. It was making me physically ill (literally) – too much actual blood (it was a documentary about S/M sex clubs in Seattle). I had to leave when they started lighting alcohol on a woman’s back. It’s too bad because the rest of the program sounded interesting but I needed to keep that yummy dinner down.

Now we can relax a bit and enjoy the rest of the fest.