Scott Upshur Serves up Starchy Horror in THE LOCAL’S BITE

22 Jan

The Locals Bite

Tight deadlines have a way of clearing the mind of clutter and forcing you to focus on the essentials. As you’ll see from Scott Upshur’s story below, they can also lead to resourceful filmmaking. Read on for more…

Briefly tell us your background.

15 years of film/tv/photography production experience (and still learning, every shoot). I have a bachelors degree in Film Production from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Since then, I’ve been a part of some of the biggest international film/tv campaigns and some of the smallest one-man-band videos. I’ve worked with some of the most influential and notable people in the world to some of the most interesting people that almost nobody has heard of. Recently, I’ve been putting my expertise to work for my own projects and have had small successes that I intent to build into larger ones.

What current or recent project are you working on, and what is your role?

I am currently producing a travel web-series; a series of environmental PSA’s; another short film; finishing a music video; shopping one feature script and working on two more. I continuously work as a free-lancer in numerous capacities for a broad spectrum of commercials, movies, and music video/live performances in Colorado, LA, and New York.

What are some of the things you had to do to personally prepare for this role, especially as it relates to getting the project off the ground?

After 15 years of learning how everyone else made their projects – I was prepared to invest my time and energies back into my own project. THE LOCAL’S BITE was intended to go to a local horror movie festival, the Telluride Horror Show. I asked the director of the festival, a friend of mine, if I made a local film using local actors and crew, would he put it in the festival. He said, sure, and I immediately started brainstorming a few ideas. I was trying to filter the project through parameters that included: a small budget; a story that would connect with the community; a tight deadline — four weeks.

How much time would you estimate you have devoted to this project?

From conception through post production we spent four weeks — which people who know, know that: unless you are making a “straight-to-YouTube-hit”, it is very, very difficult to make a project in four weeks — a good one, at least.

What was the most difficult challenge you had in bringing this project to fruition?

The short deadline was very difficult to deal with. When you start out with the clock beating on you, things can easily start to snowball. For instance: the less time you have to produce the project, the more quickly you need things — and to get them on time, you need more shipping and faster… Your expenses go up — making you less effective in other areas of the production — like affording walkie-talkies for complicated shots — making you give more time to complicated shots — taking away from time from the little detail shots or more takes for the actors — things that create moments that really make a film memorable.

What was the best part of the project for you personally?

The best part was the audience reaction at the festival. The room was packed and the audience screamed and reacted exactly where intended. It was, in my mind, a success. Equally, it was interesting to see the reaction from a audience on the other side of the world, with an almost completely different reaction. The film had it’s Official World Premiere in Korea at Pifan (the largest “Genre Festival” in Asia) had an audience who’s reaction was very different from the local Colorado crowd, who rode the gondola (a central part of the film) to work everyday. The Asian audiences screamed at the main scary moment, but missed a lot of the smaller moments that were set-up for a local (Western) audience. Many people reacted to other moments that I didn’t expect anyone to notice, instead. Ultimately, it was most interesting to see your project go out into the world and, like a child, interact and change.

What’s the biggest thing or things you learned from doing this project?

I learned that putting my experience to work for me was ultimate what I should be doing. Not that I am against working for or “with” other people — that’s where you can learn a lot without much risk — but, I do think that filmmaking is A TON of work and risk, and it takes more than just a normal sense of dedication; so, to give that to yourself, is very fulfilling (of course, after it is extremely stressful sometimes).

What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a project like this and/or a career like yours?

Know why you are doing it. It is very easy to lose control of a project that involves 30-40 (or more) people; so, you have to maintain focus while all those people are asking you what they are supposed to be doing. You get a lot of questions thrown at you at once and you must have the experience to answer those questions as accurately and precisely as possible; otherwise more problems arise — and snowball. That takes focus; and true focus takes confidence in what you are doing; and that takes either complete delusion and luck; or, in my case (as I saw it), patience and experience.

What’s next for you after this project?

As I mentioned before, at the moment I’ve got a lot to work on — yikes!

Related links

Trailer for THE LOCAL’S BITE
Direct digital purchase of THE LOCAL’s BITE
Starch official site

Ryan Van Duzer Explores the World on DuzerTV

30 Dec

ryan-van-duzerWhen you live in Boulder as I do, you frequently run across world class athletes, adventurers and people who take the outdoors seriously. Ryan Van Duzer is what most Boulderites aspire to be. A graduate of the University of Colorado, upon matriculation Ryan set about creating and documenting a life of adventure. He epitomizes the filmmaker-as-entrepreneur ethic of bootstrapping, creating a vision and pursuing it with passion. Recently I was fortunate to meet Ryan at a holiday party and I immediately asked to feature him here on MakingFlix.com. Read on to see how Ryan has created an amazing lifestyle doing what he loves.

 What current or recent project are you working on, and what is your role?

I’m currently working on an adventure video series for Men’s Journal called Remote and Refined.  My role in this project is host, so I basically get to have fun all day in the great outdoors.  I’m also hosting a new TV show called Paradise Hunter where I travel the world searching out beautiful pockets of paradise, I know it sounds horrible but someone has to do it.  I just finished a short film called Mama Picchu that premiered at the Adventure Film Festival.  My role with that was director/editor.

What are some of the things you had to do to personally prepare for this role, especially as it relates to getting the project off the ground?

I started at the very bottom, producing content for cable access in Boulder.  I didn’t make any money but it gave me the opportunity to learn editing and presenting skills.  I’ve created a brand for myself and this has been a very fun process, I went from cable access to local newspaper to Travel Channel, Nat Geo and many other production companies.

How much time would you estimate you have devoted to this project?

Most of my time is devoted to this…but I love it so it’s totally ok.

What was the most difficult challenge you had in bringing this project to fruition?

I always have many projects going at one time.  The most difficult part is finding funding.

What was the best part of the project for you personally?

The best part is that I get to live an incredibly life and share my stories with the world.  My goal with all my content is to inspire people to get out and enjoy this beautiful world.

What’s the biggest thing or things you learned from doing this project?

I learned that with hard work and relentless determination you can make all your dream comes true.

What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a project like this and/or a career like yours?

My advice is to stick with it and when you get knocked down (you will) jump back up and keep following that dream.

Will we get a chance to see this project on screen? How and where?

Paradise Hunter will be on TV in fall 2013, most all my other stuff can be found on my website, www.duzertv.com.

What’s next for you after this project?

I’m always on the hunt for adventures and compelling stories…not sure exactly what’s next but it will be epic!

Related links

Ryan’s official web site: www.duzertv.com
Ryan’s Facebook page: Facebook.com/duzertv
Ryan’s IMDB filmography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3175266/
Ryan’s Men’s Journal series Remote and Refined
Mama Picchu, directed and edited by Ryan

Podcast interview with Anthony Ferreri of DIYFilmSchool.net

7 Dec

This is an extended interview (37 minutes) with Anthony Ferreri of DIYFilmSchool.net

Note that this is our very first audio interview so don’t expect a lot of bells & whistles. In fact, don’t expect any bells and whistles at all except for great words of wisdom from Anthony.

I’m really excited that he’s the first interviewee because he has a lot of great info for newbies like me.

This is a follow up to our original questions post.


You can download the mp3 here.

Megan Sweeney explores Tech Startups and Music

4 Dec

Megan SweeneyGiven my background as a tech entrepreneur and my day gig working at a TechStars company, Megan Sweeney was at the top of my list of interview subjects. Video has become a must-have tool for practically all companies with a significant web presence, and it’s great to see people like Megan bringing an artful sensibility to an area that has historically been, well, just plain dull. (I mean come on, what does the phrase “industrial film” bring to mind for you?) Fortunately Megan is out there rethinking what’s possible and bringing the passion of a devoted filmmaker to an equally passionate group of entrepreneurs and musicians.

Briefly tell us your background

I’m originally from outside Philadelphia, PA but headed west as soon as I graduated high school.  I studied Cinema/TV with an emphasis in Production at the University of Southern California and loved it.  Since then I moved to Colorado where I continue to shoot & edit all sorts of videos.  I’m very appreciative that I can do what I love.

What current or recent project are you working on, and what is your role? 

I work for TechStars, a startup accelerator program with mentorship from hundreds of the best entrepreneurs in the world, and am finishing up a project I shot all summer and am currently editing, a documentary web series called The Founders.  It follows the adventures of startups as they go through TechStars and pursue their dreams.  I’m also working with Christy Kruzick on a music web series called The Window Seat, which is basically our love letter to music.  The Window Seat is a variety of videos all around music

How much time would you estimate you’ve devoted to this project?

For The Founders web series, shooting started in early May 2012 and there was a little time before to prepare.  The program I was documenting ended August 10th 2012 but I’ve continued to film some interviews and the last episode will be posted December 13th.

What was the most difficult challenge you had in bringing this project to fruition?

I ended up with about 700 GB/1,900 minutes/31 hours of footage which wasn’t too much considering I was working on another big project while filming.  It was challenging but fun & rewarding to organize the footage into 11 (5-6) minute episodes.

What was the best part of the project for you personally?

For The Founders, I absolutely love meeting and filming the people.  TechStars attracts some extremely smart, funny, hard working & interesting people.  I learn so much from them and it’s an honor to film a glimpse of their life.
For The Window Seat, I love working with Christy and she introduces me to so much new music.  There are no rules so it’s just having fun with music.

What’s the biggest thing or things you learned from doing this project?

The Founders web series has been very time consuming and tiring at moments.  I’m filming people that are working on their own projects and taking major risks, working extremely long hours while keeping a positive outlook.  Attitude is important.  Even if something isn’t going well or is simply hard, have a sense of humor and a good attitude.

What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a project like this and/or a career like yours?

If you don’t try you won’t succeed.  Like the Grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine says “A real loser is someone who’s so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try.”  Easier said than done, I know.

What’s next for you?

I’m continuing to create content with Christy for The Window Seat and there will be new & exciting videos for TechStars TV.

Related links

Anthony Ferreri teaches you to fish at DIYFilmSchool.net

4 Dec

DIY Film School

Briefly tell us your background

10 years in the entertainment industry; primary roles – Producer, Director, “clutch player”, consultant. Started in radio producing live broadcasts and commercials, moved into television production, working on several shows for WE TV, opted for freelance for less-constricting work; moved into managing a small production company –marketing, social media, newletters, production, scheduling, delivery, customer service, etc.; in 2010, began producing and primarily working on feature films.

What current or recent project are you working on, and what is your role? 

I just wrapped a two-day shoot for Jaguar/Land Rover as a producer of content for national and international news outlets and internal media. In the majority of the other time I have, I’m cultivating and creating content for DIYFilmSchool.net. I’m also wrapping up a feature that’s set to be released in 2013. I’m like Caine in “Kung Fu”, just wandering the country helping people.

What are some of the things you had to do to personally prepare for this role, especially as it relates to getting the project off the ground?

Pray. At first all I had was a book that God had given me to write, So You Want to Be a Production Assistant. I just wanted to put it on Amazon and be done with it, to get to the second and third books. The second one is going to be hugely valuable to people who want to make movies but have no theoretical or practical understanding of the process. Naturally, that one is called “GO MAKE MOVIES”, but it won’t be out for a little while.

Filmmaking is a malleable business, with technology constantly improving. I tend to specialize in fundamentals, but even with that, I have a wealth of knowledge and experience, so my biggest challenge so far has been determining how in-depth to go for my readers.

I’ve had to learn a slew of things I thought I’d have little use for — social media, marketing, SEO, PPC, etc. I have a voracious desire to learn and know the truth, but it’s been a strange transition picking up and learning how to traverse the various media outlets available to businesses. Each has their own rules, guidelines and principles.

What was the most difficult challenge you had in bringing this project to fruition?

Probably getting over the hump that I have information to share and people actually would want to hear what I have to say. As the months have passed, I have visible results, not only with the growth of the site and the brand’s web presence, but also in terms of my clients and their work.

What was the best part of the project for you personally?
Helping people. I really don’t care too much about what happens to me in the Industry because I feel as though I may have done enough at this point – radio, TV, film, commercials, all sorts of things. Plus, I’ve never put much stock in a “title.” I get a bigger charge out of helping people succeed and teaching others than I do pretending I care about Hollywood, so this kind of a thing seems to have been a natural progression for me.

What’s the biggest thing or things you learned from doing this project?
I’ve had to learn a slew of skills that I wouldn’t have cared to learn otherwise – social media, marketing, creating an infrastructure. There’s a lot of things to do in the background before I can actually do anything. A lot of people see a video and may think that it’s no big deal to put it out, but they totally miss everything that had to happen beforehand – topic creation, media collection, if it’s an interview, scheduling – plus editing takes time. I have spent several days assembling, rendering (there’s a time-suck!) and export, but people only take into consideration the product. But, that tends to be the same with people who cast off a bad film. Okay, you think it sucks, but could you pull something off that’s better than that?

I’ve also learned of some rigid, societal conformism regarding education and filmmaking, like it’s a big friggin’ myth or some set way that you have to do things. Get out there and do it; quit waiting for some “guru” to show you your path. People still think they need a degree to accomplish something. What you need is perseverance, determination and fundamentals. [DS - sounds like you need to be an entrepreneur to me!]

What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a project like this and/or a career like yours?
If you’re going to work in the Industry you need to define for yourself why it is you want to be in it. It’s not glamorous. There are some cool perks sometimes, but it’s a job just like working in an office is a job or being a video game store clerk is a job. What sets apart the cream from the crop is the reason why a person is in it. Can you find a real reason why you’re in the Industry? Your driving force, Can you honestly say you could do something other than being a filmmaker (or whatever it is you want to do)?

Once you find that thing, that raison d’etre, just keep saying yes. Do a great job, be punctual, be kind, ask questions and ALWAYS be learning!

There are more details to this and more traits to have that I cover in So You Want to Be a Production Assistant, and I feel like this is a topic better suited for a discussion, teleconference or webinar. I do have one planned for the near future; maybe I can find a place for it there. Or make a video; one of the two.

Will we get a chance to see this project on screen? How and where?
You can see DIYFilmSchool online all day, every day on YouTube, Quora, Twitter and of course at DIYFilmSchool.net. You can still catch some of the TV shows I’ve worked on on WE TV, Biography, TLC, Speed Network and a few of the movies I’ve worked on or helped produce are on Netflix. The only thing I can tell you about the film that’s in post right now is that it’s going to be released in 2013. A theatrical release would be awesome; I think it’s going to play the festivals – Sundance, LA Film Fest, etc. It’s really up to the director and executive producer.

What’s next for you after this project?
Sleep. 
Just kidding…

While I haven’t confirmed it as of this writing, I’m slated to speak at the Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival next year, I have an interview (probably a series of discussions) slated soon with one of my clients who went from zero-to-expert in about three months, plus I’m putting together the 2012 Holiday Gear Guide with my friend Daniel Jacobs, which will be awesome. Aside from that, I’m constantly thinking up things to talk about, getting info out to the world and figuring out ways to help people. As we expand, we’re going to have a series of books and/or audio programs that cover various aspects and roles in the Industry; real-world advice and info that you can’t get in film school from people who are excellent at what they do for a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay for tuition.

If you have questions about how to make a film or how to break in to the Industry, you’re welcome to contact us at info@diyfilmschool.net, and on Quora. Twitter and YouTube, to me, don’t really afford the luxury of discussions. I’m planning on rolling out a consulting program in the near future, probably by the beginning of the New Year, so people can take advantage of unparalleled access to me as they get their projects off the ground. Basically, I’ll spill my guts in a way that you can’t necessarily get in a book or video (though those are quality) for a reasonable fee. Details will emerge when it’s ready. Sign up for the DIY Newsletter at www.DIYFilmSchool.net to be kept in the loop.

Related links

Joe Avella is the “Master of Inventions”

26 Nov

A while back I had the epiphany that filmmakers are entrepreneurs. Joe Avella epitomizes this in every way. I originally stumbled across him on a post called Minimum Viable Movie. Since I come from a tech startup background, the title of that entry alone was enough to tell me that I had to feature this guy on MakingFlix.com. This interview is really inspiring to read because it captures the essence of what it takes to start a company create a movie from scratch. 

Briefly tell us about yourself.

I’m a filmmaker, writer, actor, and comedian of sorts here in Chicago. Some of my stuff has appeared on the IFC, Spike TV, and WTTW’s Image Union, which all sounds a lot fancier than it actually is. I’ve also had my work screened at several festivals including the SXSW Film Festival, also more impressive sounding than actually is.  I tweet as @joeavella and can be emailed at joeavella@gmail.com

 What current or recent project are you working on, and what is your role?

I’m usually working on a million different things, but most notable is getting people aware of my recent feature film Master of Inventions. It’s a low budget comedy I release earlier this year. You can watch it online for free. My role was everything: produced, wrote, directed, co-stared, edited, did all pre-production and post-production. Now that it’s finished I’m the marketing team. Everything.

What were the circumstances leading up to this project? What did you hope to accomplish?

Well, let me back up a few years. I’d been making shorts films with my friends for several years and was just another guy making short films. Occasionally they’d get some big views, but by and large nothing was happening. My career aspirations were limited because I thought the only way to move forward was to have a viral hit of some sort. You know the story: viral on YouTube, get the attention of the industry, get offered a deal, make something super awesome with their money, breakthrough, mega success, cocaine, sports car in the pool, etc. pretty ridiculous, I know.

For some reason my short Scatterbrained! got into the 2009 SXSW Film Festival. I went down to Austin thinking this was going to be my big break. To my surprise the film fest was a bust. No industry. No agents. Just a lot of rude filmmakers who didn’t want to talk to me.

I did, however, get a chance to spend time in the interactive portion of the festival and I was amazed. I met so many young entrepreneurs who were very successful with their own businesses and in most cases built them from the ground up. The question I was constantly asked was “Why haven’t you made a feature film?” to which I would respond something to the effect of “I can’t because I don’t have the resources, luck, money, etc…” to which they would point out they too had nothing when they started, but look at them now.

With a taste of the entrepreneurial spirit, and the foolish notion of getting “discovered” dead and buried, I returned to Chicago with a new plan. I wanted to see if it was possible to make a feature length film for no money, the same way I made my shorts. If I could do it using all the resources available to me now, for free, and spend no money, I could release it for free online, and use it as potential leverage to get better resources for future projects, and start building a fan base. All in an effort to get the film career I wanted started on my terms.

I took stock of everything I had to work with: talent, equipment, locations, everything. I wrote script around those things, borrowed old camera equipment, started a production blog and got cracking.

It took me about 3 years but I finally released Master of Inventions in May of this year. I’m very happy with it and my god it was totally worth it.

What was the most difficult challenge you had in bringing this project to fruition?

Sticking with it. I love to make films but had never worked on such a big project. And I was a one-man crew, for all areas of production, so I had a lot on my plate. Also, a majority of the technical or behind-the-scenes tasks I’d never done before, so I was teaching myself as I went along. It was a lot to take on.

I knew it would take a long time, and the desire to quit would creep up on me a lot, so I added certain elements into the process to make it fun and also harder to quit. I blogged about the entire process, released finished scenes and outtakes of the film as I went along, and used those bits to build an audience for the film as I was making it.

The film became a content generating machine, so although it took 3 years to finish, I didn’t disappear. Staying in constant contact with my fan base made it harder to walk away.

What was the best part of the project for you personally?

I think the editing process, seeing it all come together. Writing it too. It’s very satisfying to finishing writing something really big, like a screenplay, because you obsess over it and work on it for so long. Everyone who’s ever written anything can tell you: writing is hard. When the movie was being finished up, I had the same satisfying feeling. After all those years of obsessing over details and working on little bits, I had a feature film. It was very exciting when all the pieces were shot and laid out. Yeah, the last month of post was the best.

What’s the biggest thing or things you learned from doing this project?

The biggest thing was that’s it’s possible to make a feature with limited resources. The excitement I feel now that I know I can do it on my own is very rewarding and kind of powerful. I, like most creative people, had felt for years that it was impossible to make movies unless I had Hollywood connections and luck and natural talent, etc. But it wasn’t until I started making this film I realized with a little bit of outside the box thinking I could make it, and get people to see it.

Like I learned at SXSW and later reading books like The Lean Startup or Gary V’s Crush It, it’s possible to start off with nothing, use the audience as a guide for your work, and build an audience if you put the time and effort in. Yes, it’s very difficult to make a movie and yes it’s very difficult to reach people online, but now I know it’s possible and it’s a fight I think is worth fighting. Best of all it’s not about luck, it’s about hard work and making things people want. Which has nothing to do with being young, rich, connected, etc.

 What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a project like this and/or a career like yours?

Why only one?! Well, if it’s just one, I’d say you should definitely do it, your thing, whatever it may be. Get it going. It’s easy to plan and fantasize, paralysis by analysis and all that. But once you actually start, things start falling into place.  Here’s some more advice: look around at what you have available to you now and use it, and don’t spend any money. Make the process as fun as possible, and public so you have added pressure to not give up.

What’s next for you after this project?

Just released this music video that’s awesome and totally crazy.

Now I’m working on a web series called Delivery Dudes.

Related links

Kryssa Schemmerling and “The West Begins at Fifth Avenue”

24 Nov

I connected with Kryssa through Donald Gray, a close friend and college buddy of mine who was co-creator of this project. I was thrilled when Kryssa agreed to do this interview because she was the first creator I had reached out to. It’s fair to say I may not have created MakingFlix.com if Kryssa had not said yes, or at least not as quickly. And I particularly like the tips Kryssa shares for shooting on a shoestring budget. Take it away, Kryssa!

Briefly tell us your name and background.

I received an MFA in film from Columbia University. I currently teach screenwriting in the the undergraduate film department at NYU. I’ve made two dramatic shorts and am currently shooting my third. I have also made a feature-length documentary and written several screenplays, a couple of which have been optioned but never filmed.

What current or recent project are you working on, and what is your role? 

I just finished up principal photography on a dramatic short called “The West Begins at Fifth Avenue.” It is a period drama that imagines the 19th-century childhood of one of America’s most notorious criminals.

What are some of the things you had to do to personally prepare for this role, especially as it relates to getting the project off the ground?

After working for what seemed like forever on a documentary, I had the itch to make a fiction film again. Partly, I think, because I had begun teaching screenwriting at NYU. In my class sophomores were writing short scripts and I was screening and analyzing short films every week. Suddenly, the idea of making a short again didn’t seem so foreign. And now with the internet, there are ways besides festivals to get a short seen. Another factor was that I had recently inherited a very small chunk of money. I knew we would have to raise more through grants and donations, but I had enough to get started.

So I called up my old friend Donald Gray and suggested we do an idea we had for a feature as a 15-minute short, since, realistically, the chances of us ever being able to make it as a feature were pretty much nil. “The West Begins at Fifth Avenue” is a story we had conceived years ago, but life and other projects had intervened and we never got beyond the research stage. We dug up all the old material we had gathered and from that we were able to write the script pretty quickly. One of the things that attracted me to it again was that the film involves a lot of children. I thought, I have an 8-year-old who is taking acting classes, knows other kids who are into acting. I figured I could round up a bunch of kids pretty easily, which I certainly couldn’t have done years ago. And because the film doesn’t have sync sound, we didn’t need to worry about the kids learning lines or that they weren’t professional actors.

How much time would you estimate you have devoted to this project? 

Between pre-production and production, about a year so far. We haven’t started editing yet.

What was the most difficult challenge you had in bringing this project to fruition?

Well, initially I think it was finding people to work on it. When I was in film school it was easy. Your classmates were your crew. Then the second short I made after graduating from film school was commissioned by a producer and completely financed by him. So we were able to hire crew. But now I was in a situation where I couldn’t pay people and I didn’t have a lot of classmates who owed me favors because I had worked on their films. I was still in touch with, Ben Wolf, the cinematographer who had shot my other films, and I was hoping to work with him again. But other than Ben I was mostly out touch with the film world.

Luckily, my producer Claire Beckman came on board. I met her when my son was in Dreama, an acting program she runs for kids. She is also the director of a Brooklyn-based, grown-up theater company called Brave New World and so had access to actors and other artists we needed, such as a costume designer, art director, fight choreographer, and production assistants. She became our casting director and brought in almost all of the actors. Don and I could not have gotten this film off the ground without Ben and Claire’s involvement.

What was the best part of the project for you personally?

Watching the actors, cinematographer, costume designer and set designer bring the characters and images in my head to life. Also, being able, even in a tiny way, to recreate the lost world of 19th-century New York in all its beauty, horror and strangeness. It’s really hard to do period films on a micro-budget and it’s easy to get discouraged by the limitations, but I also enjoy the challenge of it. It forces you to be creative and resourceful in ways that big budget films don’t have to be. One of the solutions we came up with was to use as a locations living history museums like the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and Historic Richmond Town in Staten Island. This gave us fully dressed sets we could just walk into and shoot. We didn’t have to build sets from scratch or rent a massive amounts of period-correct props, which would have been impossible on our budget and with our tiny crew. Those locations weren’t cheap, but not having to rent trucks (except once), work space, or feed a large art department made it cost effective and way less labor intensive.

What’s the biggest thing or things you learned from doing this project?

That props and locations are a lot cheaper in New Jersey than they are in New York City even after you factor in travel costs! Also, more importantly, that during every project there are periods when everything seems to be going to hell. And that in those moments you have to keep it together and just keep doggedly going forward because only then do you have a chance of coming out the other side. Actually, that is something I re-learn every time I make a film.

What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a project like this and/or a career like yours?

Making is a film can be so punishing on so many levels that you need to make sure you are really passionate about and totally committed to your idea and the material. That is what will carry you through when you feel like giving up. You should be making the film that you want to see. If you truly love it, chances are someone else will too. But you have to also be realistic about what you can achieve given your resources. For us, not having sync sound except in one scene made the shoot doable. We didn’t have to worry about the noise factor on location or deal with sound equipment. It made us able to shoot a lot faster, and time in filmmaking is money.

Will we get a chance to see this project on screen? How and where?

We just finished shooting and will probably start editing in January. Late spring or summer of 2013 is probably the earliest we can get it ready to premier. We hope to have screenings around New York, maybe at some of the places we filmed, like the Lower East Side Tenement Museum or in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I like the idea of an art/life connection.

What’s next for you after this project?

I’m not sure. Last year I wrote a feature-length screenplay about surfers in Rockaway Beach, Queens circa 1970 that is loosely based on the surf documentary I did. I would love to direct that.

Related links for “The West Begins at Fifth Avenue”

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