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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Eastern College Filmmaker Interview

Eastern College
Picture copyright respected holders.

Interview With director James Francis Flynn By Chris 22/9/09

Eastern College is another great indie college comedy with great acting, good directing and great writing. I wanted to know so I did.

Eastern College Website

1. How did the film come about?

In the summer of 2006, I worked on my friend AJ Rickert-Epstein’s movie, “Fingerman”. It was an action/comedy movie about a young man who suddenly discovers the ability to shoot invisible bullets from his fingers. AJ and I wrote the screenplay together based on a short film he’d done several years prior. I had written several screenplays before then, but this one was the first one that had gotten produced. It was also the first time I had written anything comedic.

I had a small bit part in “Fingerman” and was around the set quite a bit. The thing that I discovered is that making a low-budget comedy is a lot of fun. It was more fun, I imagined, than making a low-budget drama. With that in mind, I went back home to Chicago after spending the summer shooting “Fingerman” in Ohio and wrote a comedy about college.

There were three main reasons for this: 1) I knew I could go back to my hometown, a small college town in Ohio, and shoot the movie cheaply; 2) the interdisciplinary degree I got from my university was being phased out, and I wanted to address some of the emotions I had about that; 3) and finally, I had enjoyed my time in college quit a bit and I knew there were many stories from my journals that I could mine for laughs.

2. What was the inspiration behind the story?

The above pretty well addresses this question.

3. How long did it take to film the movie?

Almost exactly a month. We started in Chicago in late June 2007 and shot all of July.

4. How was the process of choosing the actors for the film like?

Most of the actors were folks I knew either from growing up or from college, and I wrote several of the characters specifically for those actors. The character Nathan was played by Jonathan Dominic, who I remembered from seeing on stage at Miami University. Chris Cowan was the lead in “Fingerman”, and I wanted to cast him in a completely different role from his nerdy character in that film. Noah Applebaum is someone I grew up with and have known since kindergarten; I wrote that part for him; Brandon Lea is another childhood friend who has done lots of theatre and short films.

Lauren Parkinson was another Miami University actresses; Jonathan Dominic recommended her after a Chicago actress I knew had to drop out. Laure-Lyne Zbinden was someone I found on Craigslist; she had no prior acting experience. Hannah Phelps is a friend from Chicago. Christina Napier had been in “Fingerman”, as had Darren Bailey. “Low Ride” was played by Nicole Bailey, who is Darren’s wife. And finally, Elizabeth Laidlaw, who plays the bad guy in the movie, is a Chicago actress who I worked with on a short film at Chicago Filmmakers, a local co-op.

5. Was it hard to edit the film to make the story flow?

No, the editing was fun. AJ and I sweated in out in his small apartment in the San Fernando Valley in September of 2007. We stuck pretty closely to the screenplay, and the flow wasn’t hard to maintain because of the small amount of coverage we shot.

What was difficult was keeping the length of the film down. There was quite a bit of improvisation on set that was hard to cut, and, being this was my first film, I did the typical rookie mistake wherein I wrote too much story for what the movie needed to be. It took several more months of tweaking the film to get the cut down to a reasonable length, because it is really hard to kill your babies.

6. Has the film had much international sales yet?

We’re in negotiations right now.

7. How have americans taken to the film?

I’ve had some minor success on the film festival circuit. I premiered in my hometown, where we shot the film. The town is Oxford, Ohio, where Miami University is located. The film one the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature, and then went on to play festivals in Los Angeles, New York, and Iowa. We’ve picked up a few awards here and there, had several other screenings of the film not affiliated with film festivals, and got the film picked up by a distributor for worldwide distribution. For such a low-budget film with no stars, I consider this a success.

8. Were you happy the way the film turned out?

That’s a difficult question to answer. I’m proud of the film and I’m happy that I made it, and I think it is a good stepping-stone. That said, I believe I can make much better films than this, and I intend to.

9. Was it hard to make the film with the budget you had?

Not especially. We designed the film, both in the writing and in the prep, to be shot for a very small amount. I mainly wish that we had had more money just to pay the cast and crew.

10. What have been the responses so far to the film been like?

Generally, I think peope find the movie funny. If so, mission accomplished.

11. Was it hard to get finance for the film?

There were two small investors, and considering they were family, they were not difficult to get. The rest of the money came from me, which was also not hard to get!

I’m working on financing my next movie independently. This is proving to be trickier.

12. What did you learn from making of this film that you can use for
future features?

Too many things to mention.

13. Has the internet played a good part in promoting the film and
generating sales?

Yes. Between Facebook groups, having the movie on Amazon.com for pre-order, having an email list to notify cast and crew of screenings, and many more things, the internet hs been invaluable to the making and promoting of this film.

14. What was the editing process like for the film?

I answered this partially above, but to go into more detail, I slept on part of a sectional couch in a small apartment in North Hollywood for a month. AJ and I would wake up every day in the late morning, make breakfast, and cut for about 12 hours a day. Then we’d play video games and drink beer. Then we’d do it all again the next day.


We did an assembly while we did the main edit. In other words, we’d usually go chronogically through the story, and I’d pick the takes and the direct the shape of the scenes, and AJ would put it all together and make it look professional.

We spent about a month doing this, at which point we had a 2:15 cut. A month later, AJ came to Chicago and we cut 12 more minutes out of the movie. We cut another 15 minutes out of the film before our world premire, and then another 6 minutes out by the time the film was released on DVD. These subsequent cuts were mostly from reactions of friends who had seen the movie, audience reactions from film festival screenings, and just sitting with the movie for many months and getting a sense of what worked and what didn’t.

15. Is their anything you wouldn’t do next time that you did this
time in regards to making of the film?

Again, there are many things that I learned, but they are too lengthy to get into in depth. The point of making this movie was just to hop in head-long and give myself a filmmaking bootcamp — to go from the academic, intellectual idea of what making a film is, to the practical, nitty-gritty of what it is actually like. The pressure of being on set, of answering myriad questions that the cast and crew have, making split decisions, creatively collaborating. When you do that, you’re going to learn a lot, and I did.

16. What next for yourself?

I’m prepping a new feature, “The Stick-Up Kid”, to shoot in Chicago this autumn. The movie is about Montgomery Greene, a mugger in Chicago who is trying to give up the criminal life and return to his first love: playing saxophone in a Motown-style R&B/soul band. The plan is to have a cut done in the winter, premiere the film at a festival, and then immediately start touring the film with a live band accompanying the action on-screen.

17. Did the actors stay pretty much to the script or was improv allowed?

It depended on the scene. I actually sometime write in the script a description of scene but no dialogue, forcing them to improvise. There were several scenes with Noah Applebaum where I did this, because he’s very good at improv and whatever he did would be funnier than anything I could write. But sometimes, the actors would improv, and I would gently lead them back to the written lines.

18. Were their any major problems when making the film?

There were several things: the original main house location fell through and we had to find a new one; we didn’t prep the movie enough so we were stressed during the shooting, and there was constant hair-pulling about getting the movie cut down to a proper length.

19. Is it hard to make an independent film in this day and age?

I think it is easier to make a film than it has ever been.

20. What advice can you give to some one wanting to make a independent film?

I have conflicting advice here: if you want to make a film, go out and make one! That’s the best way to do it.


At the same time, there are too many films being made right now; the market is flooded with bad movies. So, I also think you need to really know what you’re doing before you do it. Take the time to learn your craft — go to film school, work as a PA on other people’s work, watch a LOT of films, read a lot of books, study acting and screenplay and story structure (this is key), write and write and rewrite and rewrite again, study the independent film market and where your movie fits into it, go to film festivals and meet other filmmakers and learn about the business, and make short films before you make features. Do not hop right into features — you aren’t ready.

Like David Foster Wallace said, “I wish you way more than luck.”

Director John Putch Interview

John Putch at work with Dana Delany
Picture copyright respected holders.

Interview With director John Putch By Chris 21/9/09

John Putch has directors some great movies including one of my favorites Bachelorman, I intervewed him about his newest movies Rout 30 and Mojave Phone Booth both worth checking out so read on.

John Website Website

1. How did the film come about?

I was sick of being back seat directed by companies. watch this short for more info. http://mojavephonebooth.net/MPB_BTS_MOVIE.html

2. What was the inspiration behind the story?

MPB: fight back and make a thought provoking film that had no ties to sales or making money.
RT30: go back out there and have more fun and make it even lighter than MPB. plus i had some personal stuff i wanted to get off my chest.

3. How long did it take to film the movie?

MPB: 15 day shoot, 9 months to finish.
RT30: 18 day shoot, 9 months to finish

4. How was the process of choosing the actors for the film like?

I cast both films out of my phone book. all actors in both films I’ve either worked with before or are friends with.

5. Was it hard to edit the film to make the story flow?

i love editing. the more films you make the more you realize you can do just about anything in editorial later if you have an open mind. I’m a big fan of chopping the fat out right away. I do not linger on anything that I don’t think will hold anyone’s interest. some might say to a fault.

6. Has the film had much international sales yet?

MPB’s foreign sales are lackluster. dark dramas are not in favor apparently. RT30 however shows greater promise because it is labeled as a comedy. HBO central europe has bought it for a 2 year run starting this summer.

8. Were you happy the way the film turned out?

I love how RT30 turned out. when i show it, it touches and pleases everyone. they leave the theater feeling good, warm. MPB is a darker horse. I find it has a more limited appeal. but that is not a bad thing. I did not set out to make these films for someone else. Like a painting or a sculpture, these little movies are gems that were not made for hire.

9. Was it hard to make the film with a very little budget?

yes and no. but in the end no. i find that the less you have, the easier it is because decisions are automatically made for you because everything is based on ‘what you can accomplish’ with what little you have. it also focuses the story automatically for you. if there are too many choices or ways to skin a cat, then you end up not committing to any one way. this equals vanilla to me. so the less you have, the easier it is. logistially, these micro budget movies are only hard if you are not an organized person. you have to be hyper organized, and you have to get off on being that way.

10. What have been the responses so far to the film been like?

MPB: 51 festivals and 15 awards
RT30 45 festivals and 16 awards

I find the response i most receive is astonishment that they cost so little and look and sound so great. with professional actors, director and screenplay, your movie does not have to cost several million bucks to be valid or viable. The big secret about the movie and TV biz is everyone is ripping each other off with what things cost and how much we get paid. I’ve often thought if there was a salary cap instituted in show business, and folks actually had to toil a bit more for their pay, 75% of the riff raff would drop off. all that would be left are the people who love to make movies and tell stories.

11. Was it hard to get finance for the film?

MPB was financed by me. I put up 40K, but in the end the movie really cost around 50-52 with all the expenses that occurred after shooting.

RT30 to date is weighing in around 65K. In this case, i offered my distributor from MPB a share in the participation pool for half the start up. which was 25K. I have financed the rest. My finance partner is now a shareholder and has the exclusive right to distribute the picture. This makes sense for me since I do not have to search for a distributor now. and it behooves him to sell the movie so he can get his share back plus profits.

12. What did you learn from making of this film that you can use for
future features?

smaller the better. less professional more fun. find a way to keep doing it. don’t let anyone infect your mind about who should be in your film and why it won’t sell if you don’t make it this or that.

13. Has the internet played a good part in promoting the film and
generating sales?

good lord yes! the internet is all we have. the more festivals you can place your film in, the more hits the title will generate on a search engine. this is the backbone of internet awareness. its also so easy to get a review now. before you had to beg a news paper to run a story or a review on your film when it played at a fest. now its easy.

14. What was the editing process like for the film?

supremely enjoyable. i sit here in my home office with my macpro and firewire hard drives and happily cut away.

15. Is their anything you wouldn’t do next time that you did this
time in regards to making of the film?

i will try to avoid car driving interiors. even on little movies with little cameras, they are a pain i the ass. I want to try all driving, day or night using green screen. it will be fun to test the limits of that. 5 years ago before HD a low buget movie could never attempt GS because you needed to hire an FX company to composite the shots. today, i can do this here on my mac using motion, or after effects or even FcP in a pinch. its fantastic.

16. What next for yourself?

I’ve decided i’m not done with South central Pennsylvania yet and will make ROUTE 30 a trilogy. the 2nd script is already written and cast. I just need to find some cash to get it shot. on the job front, i just completed directing Universal’s popular franchise AMERICAN PIE: book of love (7). and i’m back to Ugly Betty and Scrubs in the fall.

17. Did the actors stay pretty much to the script or was improv allowed?

improve is allowed, but not encouraged. if someone comes up with a great line or thing to do, then by all means i want them to do it. but i do not want to deviate from the script too much. coming from a theater background, the script ruled and should be respected.

18. Were their any major problems when making the film?

RT30: we had a drought and had to have water trucked in to one of the residences where we were shooting and staying.

19. Is it hard to make an independent film in this day and age?

Not if you have the right attitude. most people need to get over themselves and just concentrate on the story. but i’ve found that the mystery, power and allure of filmmaking turns normal people into monsters. and i can spot them a mile away. how do i know this? I used to be one of those idiots. don’t get me started on new film makers who think their shit don’t smell. they all learn the lesson at the hand of humiliation soon enough.

20. What advice can you give to some one wanting to make a independent film?

stop finding ways to convince yourself that your film is not valid or viable. don’t judge yourself. get a camera, some actors and go off and shoot some stuff. you can practice anytime with a cheap HD camera and completely post it in FCP.

also- decide why you are making the film. are you a whore who wants to be famous? are you an artist who wants to express something? are you doing it for money? you need to decide who you are and why you are needing to do it. I find that most people think they want to make movies cause they’ve watched them all their lives and the glamour is too powerful to ignore. then when they get into it, they see its not so glamourous and they lose interest. by that time, money and time has been wasted. if you are not from the creative arts world, then making a film will probably be a disappointing endeavor for you. most folks don’t realize you need talent for this, and if they discover they do not have the talent, become frustrated and depressed. but i guess that last comment could be applied to any profession.