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Interview With The Director Of LA Blues Ian Gurvitz By Chris 18/5/09
LA Blues is a great indie film with real characters,real people, great dialog and a film that was financed by the director himself. The blurb of the film got my attention, so an interview was needed.
So read on.
1) How did the film come about?
I had just written a pilot for one of the networks that wasn’t picked up, meaning they commissioned
a script but decided not to shoot it. It was about a group of guys who hung out together and bitched
at each other while talking about the shit going on in their lives. The network thought it was too dark, so
instead of lightening it up, I made it darker and expanded it into a feature, setting it in the bar.
2) See #1.
3) How long did it take to film?
The shoot lasted 15 days. Twelve days in a studio and three days on location.
4) What was casting like?
I shot the movie in June of 2006. I began casting a year earlier, with a casting
director. We tried to go after name talent and giving ourselves a year I thought
would be enough lead time. The way it works is that if you can rope in one name
that will entice others, at least in theory. We weren’t paying much at all so if someone
signed on, it would have to be because they loved the part.
After 6 months of submissions, and waiting for agents to return calls and for clients
to read the script, we came up empty handed. Many good reactions but no one ready
to sign. So, we decided a couple months into the new year to open casting offices and begin traditional
casting: having readings and meetings with those actors who are too big to read.
That began a process that took a few months and we made our last deal about a week
5) Was it hard to edit the film?
The editor I worked with had an office in his house about 45 minutes away from me. And
he had a day job. He worked on his cut at night, sent me dvds, I emailed him back notes,
and eventually after we had a rough cut, we began working together on the weekends. There’s
not much action in the movie. It’s mostly dialogue and it’s divided into about 6 segments, so
each one had to be its own little movie — beginning, middle, and end. Plus we had to weave
story lines for each character throughout.
6) Int’l sales.
It’s been on the market for a couple years and some sales have been made though not as
many as I would have liked. It’s a dialogue-heavy movie which doesn’t naturally translate to
the foreign audience, which is used to more traditional American genre movies. Horror. Crime.
Violence. Naked women.
The entire cast was very professional. They had a lot of dialogue to learn, on a very tight
schedule, with no room for many mistakes. They all came ready to go. Dave Foley was
great. As was Anthony Michael Hall. All of them.
8) Was I happy with how it turned out?
Mostly. Looking back there were changes I should have made. Cuts I could have made
to pace it up a bit. The idea for the music was there but it didn’t completely play as I
had envisioned it, with a dynamic house band punctuating some of the scenes. I loved
the music I put in but if I’d met the musician whose songs I bought before I shot, I would
have had his band in the movie.
9) Was it hard to make low budget?
Yes and no. Much of it is in the bar so once we accepted that, we tried to make it as
interesting as possible. A fifteen-day shoot for a feature is pretty lean so we had to
work quickly and efficiently. Most of us came from the TV world and had worked together
so that came naturally. I would have liked to incorporate a more stylish feel to some of the
scenes but it became a matter of getting the lines and performances so some of the looser
passes we had mapped out had to get scrapped. We needed the words, the moments, with
the right coverage.
10) Responses to the film.
Mostly good, I think. It’s not a typical movie so I think some of the younger audience didn’t
respond. Oddly, I assumed it would strike a chord with men — a guy movie — yet many positive
responses came from women, who enjoyed the “fly on the wall” aspect to male conversation, as
well as some of the more emotional stories.
11) Was it hard to finance?
Not when you pay for it yourself, which is what I did.
12) What did I learn?
Don’t pay for your own movie.
13) Had the internet played a part in sales?
Only to the extent of having a website, myspace page, etc. I had some
communication via myspace but it was not the main marketing tool.
14) The editing process. See above.
15) Anything I wouldn’t do next time.
As I said, don’t self finance, unless you can spend a ridiculously small
amount of money. The marketplace for indies right now is bleak, as is the
dvd market. Getting theatrical distribution is the longest of longshots, so
you’re left with dvd sales and foreign. Given that, don’t try to give the
foreign market something it doesn’t want.
Creatively, I wouldn’t have a firm shoot date and then back everything up
against it. I would try to cast it first, at least with a strong lead, and then
try to build the production around that person. It’s still very dicey, but there’s
less risk. In this case, I decided I was going to make the movie, that we
were shooting starting the first week of June and that wasn’t changing.
I also would’ve been more disciplined and more objective during editing.
I think in hindsight, I held on to some things I should have let go of.
16) What’s next?
I have another script floating around town, through traditional channels.
I’m working on a 2nd book, having published a book about tv writing a
few years ago. Working on a variety of projects, and will follow whatever
17) Did the actors stay on script?
Mostly, yes. There were occasional ad libs and when they fit the moment it
was great. One actress, though, came with the intent of playing with much of
her dialogue, so I was left with two choices: force her to read it as written, which
can lead to bad feeling and a stilted performance, or play it out and rewrite on the
fly. I chose the second option. The scenes were contained, with one other actor,
and he was game, so we played around. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes I asked
for lines as written. In editing, we used some of everything. I thought her attitude coming
in was a bit presumptuous, but I decided to see where it went. When I saw that they
had some chemistry together, and that she was engaging, I let it happen.
18) Any major problems making the film?
Not really. Once we got going, we shot like mad for 15 days and finished on time and
on budget. No major disasters. Which was lucky, as one would’ve completely derailed us.
19) Is it hard to make an indie film?
No. Although we shot on Super 16 film, with digital cameras and actors dying to work,
most anyone with money or actor friends can make a movie. The hard part is selling it. Because of
computer editing, and the wealth of professional equipment in just about everyone’s hands,
more movies are being made, but most never see the light of day. It’s supply and demand.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of film festivals to show at, if you get in, but those are
mostly for exposure and vanity. They don’t often lead to sales.
20) What advice would I give someone wanting to make an indie?
Depends who they are and where they are. In the states, everything is star driven. Get a
big name actor and you can get some traction and exposure. Even for foreign sales, they
look for names. That’s all I heard during the sales process — NAMES. However, look at
films like Slumdog Millionaire, or Once. Granted, one was a studio movie, but with no stars.
The other, a quiet little indie with no names but great performances and haunting music.
I guess the advice is follow your passion but first check out the marketplace. Get educated.
I didn’t. I jumped in blind, then figured it out later. We made distribution deals for foreign and
dvd but the money isn’t exactly rolling back in. Know the world you’re walking into. Go to
film festivals, and film markets. Talk to people. Get a sense of the business side of things
because you’ll have to deal with it eventually if you’re going it alone.
Oh, and get someone else to pay for it.
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Interview With The Director Of Goodbye Baby Daniel Schechter By Chris 18/5/09
Goodbye Baby is one of those great indie films, with a great storyline and a great cast. The Film
‘s Director Daniel Schechter has been getting praise for his good work. He a name to watch out for and expect a review soon on the site.
So read on.
1. How did the film come about?
After my previous film, THE BIG BAD SWIM, which I wrote a produced was done, I was sorta dying to direct. Somehow, I managed to hammer out a script in 2 months or so (very fast for my speed) because I was so eager to prove I could do it. As luck would have it (and I mean LUCK) I hooked up with a buddy Tim Duff (an intern on SWIM, where we met), who became my producer and raised all the financing through an independent source.
2. What was the inspiration behind the story?
There was an Elmore Leonard novel called PAGAN BABIES I was really interested in adapting, but who am I, right? So there was a character in that novel who was a female stand up comic I was very attracted to (that was very different from my lead character, I promise). So I decided to just go with that and make the movie all about a high school graduate who couldn’t afford to go to college like her friends, so she gets a job at a comedy club in NYC and decides she wants to give it a try.
3. How long did it take to film the movie?
Not long, like 4 shooting weeks. Felt like the blink of an eye it was so much fun. I always look at finally directing a film as a reward for suffering through writing it.
4. How was the process of choosing the actors for the film like?
Half auditions, half “offers” (which if you don’t know, means just cold sending a contract to an agent of someone relatively famous and praying they say yes.) Most of the people you don’t recognize in the film – Auditions… If you know them, Offers. Pretty simple. Luckily for auditions, my casting director, Stephanie Holbrook, definitely made it so I basically got to see the best NYC has to offer and I didn’t sit through too many stinkers.
5. Was it hard to edit the film to make the story flow?
Yes and no. We had to rush to get a cut done for a festival submission, so I never really got the chance to do the process in one smooth block of time. So then, we had to go back and cut down the movie some more and now I’m really happy with the length, flow, tone, performances, everything. I love editing and learned A LOT on BABY. I’m not particularly precious about my lines or scenes, so I suspect its easier for me than most.
6. What was it like having Alan Ruck in the picture?
Alan was amazing. It’s really intimidating/exciting to have someone so iconic from my film-viewing life in my film. I had a lot of experiences like that on this, with Kevin Corrigan, Fred Armisen, Jerry Adler and Donnell Rawlings… and then, there’s the added excitement of them giving you the respect a director gets and wanting your approval despite their level of success… its very humbling. But all actors have a common denominator in that they love to act and want to please, for the most part. Actors get a bad rep, I think. I think they’re amazing. With Alan, especially, it was nice to see him do something so dramatic and hit it so far out of the park. I don’t think we could’ve done better.
7. Was it hard to make the film with a very little budget?
No. I always say if this movie sucks, it’s my fault. Thanks to my producers, I had everything I needed. Cast, equipment, crew, you name it. And that doesn’t mean we had all the money in the world, but we just had smart people who knew how/where to spend it and it made my job so much easier.
8. How has the feedback from the film been at festival like?
Great, always great. That’s why fests are so addictive really. There’s always a very sweet elderly woman in the audience, INSISTING this movie NEEDS wider distribution and it’s quite the ego boost. I love festivals. It’s the closest films like this come to theatrical distribution nowadays. Plus, we won some awards and heck, I’ll take ’em.
9. Were you happy the way the film turned out?
Yeah, I really am. It did unbelievably well for me. I won awards for both writing and directing. I got repped by a great management company and agency. I met UNBELIEVABLE actors and crew-members and it was the beginning of a great creative partnership with Tim Duff, my producer. The movie gets real laughs and tears and I’m genuinely proud to show it around (which is saying a lot for me.) Check it out, judge for yourself.
10. How did Cinevolve Studios get involved with the film?
A lot of distribution companies were interested and Cinevolve made us a pitch that was very against the mold… it was a much more personal, aggressive and creative approach to releasing the film and I’m glad we chose them. Plus, they do Blu-Ray.
11. What have been the responses so far to the film been like?
Everyone except my mother seems to like it. But you can’t please everyone.
12. Was it hard to get finance for the film?
I’m embarrassed to say it wasn’t. My producer took care of business (for more details listen to audio commentary, yo).
13. What did you learn from making of this film that you can use for future features?
More than I can explain here. Let’s see: Always go with best actor, when possible. Really ask yourself what scenes will get cut BEFORE you shoot. Shoot less master shot takes and more close ups. When avoidable, don’t yell at people, they don’t like it. Micro-manage, don’t let people tell you you’re a control freak, it’s the job — Plus, even though everyone cares about their job, you’re the one who has to watch this film a billion times, so make sure it’s your decision in the end). But also, be collaborative.
14. Has the internet played a good part in promoting the film and generating sales?
15. What next for yourself?
A Thriller called THE KING OF PRUSSIA starring Ryan Phillippe that we’re shooting Fall of ’09.
16. Did the actors stay pretty much to the script or was improv allowed?
These questions seem out of order… It was 80% scripted, and some actors were very, very good with improv (Corrigan, Vincent Piazza, Kane Manera, Christine Evangelista) and I let them go.
17. Were their any major problems when making the film?
One actor walked off set for no good reason and took his name off. Do the math and you can figure out who.
18. Is it hard to make an independent film in this day and age?
Its DEFINITELY not had to MAKE an indie. In fact, its getting quite easy. But if you can figure out how to release one and make money, let me know.
19. What advice can you give to some one wanting to make a independent film?
REALLY ask yourself if YOU should be doing this. If the answer is still yes, do it cheap.
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Interview With Michelle Hines By Chris 18/5/09
Michelle Hines is an jazz singer songwriter who I saw play with an artist I was working with at the time.
I like what I heard and an interview was a must
So read on.
1. Are you happy how the album turned out?
Yeah, I am. It was the first time the songs had been played with other instrumentation, so it was great to hear the tunes fleshed out. I think there is a lot of variety on the album which is good for the listener. This is probably due to the fact that the songs are a culmination of my writing over the past 10 years and there has been some change and development over that time in my style. There were different musos playing on the tracks too, which also contributed to the album’s varied sound.
2. What was the inspiration for the album?
I’d been writing songs for approx 10 years and hadn’t got anything down (in a formal way). I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it. It’s hard to know where to start when it’s just you and the guitar. So I guess the impetus was to create a cache of work encompassing the first 10 years of ‘Michelle’, to be heard and finally put out there. I was also going through a break up too, which sounds a bit cliche but it’s true. There were some people close to me who didn’t entirely believe I had what it took to get my music off the ground (what ever that means!). So in part, I was really inspired to produce something I was really happy with and “get it off the ground”!! It was more to prove it to myself than to anyone else.
3. what inspires you when writing music?
I generally have to be in a good mood to be inspired creatively. I don’t understand how some people can be at their most creative when they feel shithouse. If I’m feeling low, I have to wait until “after the fact” before I can use those feelings for any creative benefit. Sometimes my songs are responses to people or situations that I can’t( or choose not to ) respond to at the time (sounds passive aggressive!… it probably is) It’s good to have the outlet of song to express all those socially inappropriate things you don’t say in life.
A good chord progression with a funky groove always inspires me!
4. has the internet help with getting your music out there?
Yeah, for sure. Actually that’s how the album got produced. The producer caught wind of a few of my home recorded demos on myspace and contacted me. You meet a lot of people over the internet and discuss music/gig related stuff. It’s a bit odd having continued dialogue with people and not meet them in the flesh. I think you need to spend a long time on the internet to really use it for the networking tool that it is. Facebook, triple J unearthed, myspace etc. I can’t keep up with it all.
5. What do you think of major record labels and the new 360 deals?
To be honest I don’t know a lot about them. With my music, I have taken one step at a time and have focussed on what is needed for that step. Otherwise it gets too overwhelming. Sure I would love some recogntion for my music in the form of a record deal, but I haven’t fully investigated what that would actually mean for me and the music.
6. How did the recording of the album go?
It was originally meant to be only an EP. But I wanted to re-record a few tracks and thought I might as well get some others down too. Hence, it was spread out over several months and had different musicians playing on it.
It was a new experience for me. Prior to this I had only played solo, so communicating what I wanted with the songs was a challenge. The songs had been screaming for a band for quite some time, so they were happy!
I found I really had to go with my instincts as to what I thought worked or not. At times my ideas were in conflict with others who had much more recording and music experience than I, and I felt myself being “swayed”. Of course I am open to other people’s ideas, especially if they are experienced, but sometimes it wasn’t right for me to do so, and it was good for me to recognise this.
7. what is next for yourself?
I’m working on some “budget” film clip ideas for one of the tracks on the album. Does anyone have any spare puppets?
Some more recording at a friend’s recording studio.
I’ve recently invested in a lightweight amp and are going to take the tunes to the streets!
I would like a manager.
8. have you had much interest from labels and industry people about your music?
Most industry people I’ve sent the album to have responded favourably. I have also had a good wrap for my live performances. But for things to take off you need more than just a favourable response. Labels as yet, no.
9. What do you hope the album will do for your music career?
Help increase my profile mainly, so the music can progress and help pay for itself. Getting a solid hearty audience to every gig is a challenge for most musos I know. Most venues don’t really care what the quality of the music is like as long as you get the drinkers in. There seems to be an inverse correlation with the degree people like my music and the amount they drink! At least they’re sober and still dig it!
10. What has been the response like to the music you make?
Groovy, funky, sexy, soulful. Most people seem to dig it which is great. That’s what’s kept me going I suppose. “Real” artists shouldn’t rely on external feedback to keep it going, but I probably would have hung the guitar and my vocal chords up ages ago if I didn’t have the response I’ve had.
11. Who have you enjoyed playing with the most?
Until last year most of my gigs have been solo. I prefer the band, it’s much groovier. Any one who has a good groove and who I feel comfortable expressing myself with.
12. How did you get into music?
I only got into playing music approx 10 years ago. It was a nice surprise. I sometimes wonder what I was doing with my time before I started writing and singing. I grew up with my dad being in a trad jazz band called “The Hot B Hines”. He would often sit on the end of my bed and lull me to sleep with a trad jazz number on the banjo. No wonder I’ve developed sleeping issues! So even though I didn’t think I was interested in playing music as a child, something insidious was happening.
I started playing around with the guitar when I was traveling and for the want of a more original expression “one thing led to another” I wouldn’t have thought ten years ago that I would have done an album.
13. What don’t you like about the music industry?
That there are so many really talented people who work hard but still need a healthcare card.