The Limelight Index: Vincent Grashaw – Writer/Director

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Vincent Grashaw is a filmmaker from LA who recently completed directing his successful debut feature film Coldwater. Here, we talk about how he got there, the film and his plans for the future.

When did you first become interested in filmmaking?

I started out in junior high, 1994. This was more or less the beginning of the impressionable years, where you’d absorb all of an artist’s work – for me this was movies. From 14 to 18, a lot of the movies I watched really had an effect on me even if they weren’t necessarily the best movies. I was young and used to ‘hack’ projects that’d I’d seen, using similar elements, pulling stuff from it for my own scripts. Sometimes you even do it subconsciously. So at some point you stop hacking films you love and start to come up with your own film aesthetics, style, and vision. So I suppose it was never a bad thing because I knew the creative wheels were turning and that film was something I really wanted to do. It was my schooling process since I never went to college. The movies I watched at that time molded the kinds I want to make and who I am as a filmmaker.

What kind of films do you like to watch?

I have so many different movies I like to watch, the ones I can watch over and over are completely different to my favourite movies. For example, I could watch What About Bob, The Witches, Stand By Me or The Big Lebowski over and over. These movies I connected within and they are comforting and humoring, however these are very different to what films I actually make.

Am I right in thinking your movies lend themselves to violence?

Yeah, I tend to gravitate towards the darker subjects in movies. I have a couple of movies to make that aren’t violent in the pipeline that I intend to make.  I’m not harnessing myself to just one genre.

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What’s your opinion on directors who stick to one genre?

It depends on the director.  If a filmmaker only makes horror films then that’s their thing, I don’t have a problem with that at all. Filmmaking is such a personal thing that it has to be relevant to the filmmaker… it’s a huge release as an artist.

You acted in and produced in one of last years acclaimed indie movies ‘Bellflower’, how did you get involved with this?

Evan Glodlell, the director, is a good friend of mine and we used to make short films together. The film was a very long process; Evan had been working on the script for a while. We shot the movie in 2008 on a tiny budget. Initially, we weren’t sure how to proceed, but we had a little bit of money and just went for it.  We became obsessed with getting things done, at ALL costs. We did many things, most illegal to make that happen.  The only reason I was acting in it was because he couldn’t find anyone to play the role, and we’d acted in each other’s shorts, so I just did it.

Are your short films online anywhere?

Its funny, once Bellflower got into Sundance, we pretty much took all our stuff off the net. We used to make ridiculous stuff, it was outrageous and weird, and we didn’t want it out there! One day, some of it might be re-released, maybe through a compilation Dvd.

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When did ‘Coldwater’ become a reality?

I had the project on my plate throughout my entire 20’s. I had a loose connection to a kid who was abducted one night, so this was where the idea originally came from. However, it wasn’t until several times trying to get the film made that it came through.  Trying to make the film was basically my film school; I’d meet lots of different types of producers, some who were absolute weasels, playing wannabes, and some who were just in over their head. It’s definitely better it wasn’t made back then because over 13 years I learned a lot more about the reality behind the movie as well, which lends to its credibility. All these elements combined drove the film into what it is today.

What is your take on crowdfunding for indie filmmakers?

I just produced a movie in September with the guys who I made Bellflower with. It’s a gritty, turf-war action movie; we crowdfunded this film using Indiegogo and raised about $180,000. We then partnered with a couple of production companies who funded the rest. So, crowdfunding was great for this movie because we obtained a following with Bellflower, so it was a great way to get things going.

Are there any other projects in the works for you?

I recently acquired a script for the next feature I will be directing, which is a psychological horror movie.  I’m very excited about this. We are currently aiming to shoot around spring/summer 2014.

Any release dates planned yet?

In some cases, in the indie world you don’t really know where your going to be until you do it. It’s not like the studio system where you can set dates years in advance. We’ll take the film to a festival and it will hopefully sell there, unless we presale the movie because of the actors I attach.

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What’s your favourite thing about filmmaking? 

All the drama and bullshit that coincides with filmmaking really has nothing to do with it. There’s a key relationship with everyone involved, it’s like being family. You come together for a period in your life and then it’s all over and you get a new family. Filmmaking is so much fun and, for me, actually a very peaceful experience. It’s a very collaborative art, even though at the end of the day the director has to make the ultimate decision. It is a very fun process, I mean why else would I be doing this? It’s not like we’re all getting fat and foolish from all the money we’re making!

Any advice for filmmakers starting out?  

There’s a lot of advice I could give, but I have a couple of main things. Always stay humble, there will be a lot of things you’re married to in your script, but things will evolve and you’ll have to accept changes. Being open to this process is very important; nothing will be exactly as you pictured it in your head. Basically I am saying that your project evolves into many forms throughout the process and instead of fighting it, embrace it and see what transpires.

Secondly, don’t look at the business as a competitive thing. It can appear so competitive on the surface, which is overwhelming.  Don’t let that affect anything because at the end of the day it’s just you and your film.  People will try and knock you down, tell you that you’re doing something wrong, or unconventional. Before everything took off for me, the month before Bellflower took off, I think we were all in the darkest phase because we were getting all of this negative energy and feedback from people we should’ve never been listening to in the first place. So find a group of people you can trust with your material for honest criticism. Potentially from other artists who are relevant to what you’re trying to say; no one knows your material better than you.

Check out the trailer for Coldwater below:

Visit the movies website.

The Limelight Index: Neil Oseman – Director/Cinematographer

Neil directing The Dark Side of the Earth

So, I came across this blog with this guy who’s made an entire feature film for only 26 grand and posted it online for us all to see, this guy is Neil Oseman. Neil is a British filmmaker battling through the world of independent moviemaking and sharing some truly insightful knowledge on the craft. Featured below is an interview I did with Neil to find out a bit more about him and his approach to making films.

When did you first get interested in filmmaking?

When I was a teenager I had a piece of software called Deluxe Paint that could do very crude animations. One day, one of them got put onto a video for some presentation in school. This got me interested, and I managed to borrow my Granddad’s camcorder and started putting live-action with the animation. The live-action gradually took over.

Which filmmakers/movies influence your work?

The two big influences on me when I was starting out were the Back to the Future films that I still absolutely love and Jurassic Park. I grew up in the age of VHS when cinema attendance was down so my parents never really took me to the cinema. So, going to see Jurassic Park at the cinema had a huge impact on me. I sought out The Making of Jurassic Park, which was the first time that I really had any understanding of how a film was made.

Are there any other books on the subject that stand out to you?

I think the Guerilla filmmaker’s handbooks are essential, I’ve definitely learnt a lot from these. However, they can get a little depressing in places because they constantly hammer home the reality of making films! Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez is also highly influential. I just love to collect books on filmmaking, there’s plenty out there.

Ray Bullock Jnr in Soul Searcher

Can you tell us more about your feature film ‘Soul Searcher’?

Yeah. Well, firstly the whole thing is online at YouTube now, which is linked via my blog. There is also a making of featurette you can watch too and I recently put up a twenty-minute video that breaks down the finances, what everything was spent on and the various distribution deals.

The film originally started off as a short film that I made in 2000 when I was twenty. A couple of years later I developed this into a feature length script with a friend of mine. We tried approaching TV and film companies for funding, but we didn’t get anywhere. So in the end we just decided to make it on the absolute minimum. I’d had a good year and put two or three grand in, I managed to convince friends and relatives to help us out too and gradually we obtained enough money.

It was a six-week shoot in the autumn of 2003. It was also a night shoot so it was very cold and lots went wrong, which is all covered in the documentary. But, amazingly everyone who worked on it said that they had a really good time!

You must have had good spirit on set?

Yeah I think so. Morale is definitely important. When you work on a low-budget film you really don’t know if it’s going to be any good or not. So, anything you can do to keep people motivated, for example showing people the dailies or letting them see the monitor during the shoot. I cut a trailer halfway through the six weeks of shooting Soul Searcher that was a huge motivator for the crew.

Filming Soul Searcher

What has led you to specialising in cinematography?

Well I still direct, but I just end up doing more cinematography as it takes a lot less time to work this way than starting up your own project. I’ll be directing a short soon in Nottingham for a writer I work with, so I think after this I’ll decide on what the next step will be for me.

Have you got any big plans for the near future?

Earlier this year, I finished a short called Stop/Eject which is currently doing its film festival circuit. The guy who wrote this is currently working on a feature script that might be a future project. I also have a science fiction piece that was written for me this year, which would be quite a big-budget short. So, lots of different things to be working on!

What’s your approach to crowdfunding?  

I used it for Stop/Eject so I’ll probably use it again for future projects. It is difficult and it’s becoming hugely over saturated; you need to have something about your project to really make it stand out. A subject matter that has a strong interest group for example, documentaries tend to be more successful at the moment.

Oliver Park and Georgina Sherrington in Stop-Eject

What’s your favourite thing about filmmaking?

I just like creating stuff. It’s in my blood; I need to keep making stuff. I like to be able to take an audience into another world. Reality dramas interest me less as I’m very interested in sci-fi and fantasy elements of the imagination.

Any advice to filmmakers starting out?

It’s so easy now to just go out and make films. Everyone has access to a camera. So teach yourself, but also try and work on other people’s films. Then you’ll be forced to work to the standards they demand, which may raise your game when you go back to doing your own projects. Try and get involved as much as possible, even if it means making tea!

Watch Neil’s feature film below!


Visit Neil’s blog

 

The Limelight Index: Mark Tapio Kines – Writer/Director

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Mark Tapio Kines (above) has made 2 feature films and a number of shorts. He has also worked as a web designer for Paramount Pictures and is currently hosting a screenwriting course on lynda.com. I got the chance to chat to Mark about his filmmaking career and what we can expect in the near future:

When did you first get interested in filmmaking?

I was probably about 16 or 17. At first, I was interested in animation; one of my friends had asked me to join him on an animation course, which was a lot of fun. However, he also had a super 8 camera, so we played around with that too.

The following year, I got hold of a video camera in my German class. My classmates and I wrote a script – a kind of spoof on these old ‘60s German training films. This was the first bit of live-action shooting I ever did. It was the point when I really realized I want to do this for the rest of my life – but more importantly, that I can do this.

You’ve now made 2 features and a number of shorts. Regarding your first feature, Foreign Correspondents, how did the idea originate?

It’s a two-story film. The first story I’d had in mind for several years, which was all about what happens if you find a letter in your mailbox meant for the previous tenant. I was obsessed with the concept that you can’t open a letter, but you can look at a postcard, so what happens if you find a postcard that happens to have something very passionate written on it? So, the story came from this relationship between two strangers who live on opposite sides of the world. This came out as a 40 to 50-page script, which I knew wouldn’t be commercially viable.

I therefore decided to pair this script with another story that had similar themes of pen pals and such, which was actually based on a personal experience. I had a friend who lived in London; she was an au pair from Yugoslavia and working for this wealthy London family. They flew me out to discuss marrying her so that she would not have to go back to her homeland. The real story was just so beyond belief that I actually had to fictionalize it a bit to make it believable. For the film, I changed it to a British character coming over to California. It was cheaper to shoot it this way!

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You are the first person to ever raise funds for a film online. Did you have high hopes or was this a last resort for the film? 

It was sort of a last resort. At the time I thought to myself, if it’s going to take ten years to raise the money via my day job, then I’ll do it just to get it finished. I hate having unfinished films, especially if you’ve already spent 100,000 dollars on it. I made the website hoping that the word would get out there – at this time there was no crowdfunding, no established sites like Kickstarter, etc. It was pure marketing and self-promotion. A lot of the money I received was actually investments – not like today, where money is literally given away. This would’ve been unheard of back then!

The crowdfunding got me some press at the time, but since no one did it right after me, it sort of vanished from the radar. No one was talking about it. I’d even forgotten about my connection to it myself, until recently, with all this buzz around crowdfunding platforms. I realized: ‘Oh wait, was I really the first person to do this?’ So I looked at the Wikipedia article for crowdfunding, and it said that the first film ever crowdfunded was a 2004 picture. Not true! I beat this by six years! I now ‘claim my crown’.

What’s your opinion about platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter?

They are useful for filmmakers. I help out a few friends raising funds, which is my way of giving back. I have this third feature film ready to shoot now, which I wrote the script for several years ago. So, I’m thinking about going back to this financing method for the film.

Can you give away any more details about this new project?

It’s called Dial 9 to Get Out. It’s another thriller in the same vein as my second feature, Claustrophobia. So many years have passed. I feel I’m a better filmmaker, and technology has progressed, so I’m really excited about this. There have been a couple of close calls getting funded through the traditional roots of production companies. They fell apart, like it often does in Hollywood. But after my most recent run in, I thought, why not just try it independently? So in February, I’m thinking about independently starting this project up. I’ve been doing a lot of networking, plotting out strategies, but who knows what might happen.

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Are your stories personal to you?

All my stories are personal to me in one way or another. One of the stories in Foreign Correspondents was very personal and Claustrophobia was based around the essence of a dream I had as a teenager. Ideas will often just pop up here or there, but it can take years for the actual idea to gel into a good storyline. In the meantime, if I get an idea, I’ll write it down and then later I may come across it and have the answer.

Are there any filmmakers in particular who have influenced you?

Influence is always a hard word. When you ask this, it always makes it sound like: ‘Whom did you copy?’ Filmmakers that I like – ones I’m rarely disappointed by – include Zhang Yimou, best known for films like House of Flying Daggers and Hero. These are slick martial arts films, but I like him more for his dramas like Shanghai Triad, which are very well plotted and executed. There are many others, but Alfred Hitchcock is probably my all time favourite.

It’s hard though, to find filmmakers in today’s cinema with a really pronounced style. Chan-wook Park is one I can think of. Stoker is a rare example of a mediocre script being elevated by great direction. Usually a director can’t save a mediocre script, but Park is so idiosyncratic and odd that what he brought to the camera was far more interesting than the pedestrian script. I always get excited about his stuff.

What’s your favourite thing about filmmaking?

Editing. I love editing. You get such immediate results. You can instantly see whether a cut works or not, and when it does, it’s beautiful. With writing, you’re always thinking, ‘This is just the beginning’, which is always far more stressful and time constricting. Seeing a film come together in the editing room is the best and most satisfying part. Production is, of course, great fun, but also very stressful. I’ve been doing a lot of short films recently to get stuff produced with little stress and, ultimately, get more stories told.

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Any advice for young filmmakers today?

Learn how to tell a good story. This sounds like a no-brainer. But everybody today seems to be avoiding story and focusing on technology. I would love it if people could really take the time to craft suspenseful stories. By this I mean, anything where the goal should be having your audience ask what’s happening next – a ‘page turner’, as they say in literature. There’s no similar term for this in cinema. Maybe ‘bladder stretcher’?

Thanks Mark.

It was a pleasure to interview such a friendly guy with a warm heart for cinema. There is a lot of useful content here for writers and directors; I like how Mark takes us back to basics suggesting that we shouldn’t get sidetracked by technology and focus primarily on our stories. Do that extra draft of your screenplay or look up the new iPhone app for filmmakers?

Visit Mark’s website here.

The Limelight Index: Kevin Slack – Writer/Director

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Above is Kevin Slack, a filmmaker whose latest short film was selected by Ridley Scott and Michael Fassbender to screen at Venice Film Festival. I caught up with Kevin who tells me how he got started out in film, where the future lies and that you should always “keep shooting.”

Hi Kevin, when did you first get into filmmaking?

I first started making movies in high school with my best friend.  These were mainly “Jackass” inspired sketches that nobody laughed at but us.  Then in my high school video class I had to recreate a scene from Scarface and I completely fell in love with filmmaking.  After that, my best friend and I wrote and shot a feature film one summer and the rest is history. That feature film will never be seen by another soul though, it’s horrible.

Did you always want to be a director?

As soon as I realized that “being a director” was actually something people did then yes.  I didn’t know that was really a job until I was at the end of my high school career.  Up until then, I just thought movies were kind of magically made without knowing how.  I also love editing and operating camera, but I have always wanted to be the director on a project, the main creative source.

Who are your influences?

Unfortunately I have a horrible memory, so I don’t have the backlog of knowledge that a guy like Scorsese has.  I tend to be influenced by more modern filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson, Steve McQueen, David Fincher, Darren Aronofsky, the Coen Brothers, Spike Jonze, Nicolas Winding Refn, David O Russell etc.  However I find myself referencing the greats like Hitchcock, Robert Altman, Kubrick, Spielberg a lot to.  I’m really influenced by the painter Edward Hopper.  I’m always going back to his work at the beginning of my projects. I’d also like to mention that these guys are more inspiration than an influence.  I do my best not to imitate, no matter how inevitable it is to do something others have already done.  I try to be inspired by those filmmakers and use their work as motivation to create something beautiful.

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Your short film, The Drought, has been widely successful, how did this project start?

That project was born really organically in my apartment.  I saw a news reporter interviewing an umbrella salesman in Manhattan and that night I had a rough draft done.  It all just happened so quick and so easy.  That film was really a blessing because it brought me on such an amazing journey all the way to Venice, Italy where it screened for Michael Fassbender and Ridley Scott.  It aired on PBS, played at numerous film festivals and has around 100,000 views online.  That film is still my favorite project I’ve done and the most fun I’ve had making a film to date.

What’s your take on online distribution platforms?

Part of me is a total traditionalist where I believe every movie should be seen on a big screen in a dark room with strangers projected on film.  I don’t think any setting can replicate how magical that situation is.  I still try to go to the cinema every Sunday, even by myself to see a film.  I was a projectionist for a while in college as well, so I really have a place in my heart for it.  However, the majority of people are seeing content online or on demand in some way now.  It’s great for smaller films that don’t have the funds to do a traditional marketing campaign.  It’s really expensive and risky to do a theatrical run for films.  Take a guy like Ed Burns who makes his movie for a few thousand dollars and then puts it right on iTunes.  He always makes his money back and then some.  It works really well for some filmmakers.  I think it gives a voice to some films and filmmakers that otherwise wouldn’t have been seen.  I like to think when I make a feature that it will be in the theatres, but when it comes down to it, I’m just thrilled to get eyes on something I make.

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Can we expect any big projects in the works?

Right now I am writing a feature, directing a comedic short next month and always writing treatments for music videos and commercials.  Nothing too big that I can talk about right now, but you’ll be hearing from me!

What’s your favourite thing about filmmaking?

My favorite part of filmmaking is the collaborative process between myself and the cast and crew.  It’s a really special environment that is hard to describe to people that haven’t been through it.  Even just being on set with people for four days can create this magical bond that is really sad to let go of when the shoot is over.  In terms of specific parts of the process I love being on set directing and then editing.  If it was up to me, I’d write the script and 2 days later I’d be on set shooting.

Any parting advice on the craft and, or, industry?

Keep shooting.  The best way to learn is to make some seriously bad mistakes.  It’s a good thing to make bad movies at first.  Also just watch as many films as you can.  Try to constantly surround yourself with people more talented and experienced than you on set.  That way when they come up with an amazing idea, you’ll get the credit for it.

Watch The Drought below:

Kevin’s website.

The Limelight Index: Victoria Mather – Multimedia Artist

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I was delighted to get in touch with Victoria Mathers, a very talented multimedia artist (illustrator, animator, graphics designer, filmmaker) who’s debut short film animation has gained over 82 thousand views on Vimeo alone and been a big hit at film festivals worldwide. Here, she tells us a bit more about this success and how she got started out in the creative industries.

Can you tell us a bit more about what you do as an art director and illustrator?

I have art directed Children’s TV series and Illustrated various things mainly in development so I can’t really talk about them – how boring I know!

What influenced you to take this career path, any noteworthy directors, designers?

When I was 17, I got my first job on a feature film working for Art Director Brian Savegar (Dinosaurs, A Room with a View) at Ealing Studios. He taught me a lot and the experience definitely sparked my interest in the industry early on. The crew encouraged me to go to university, so I took their advice.

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You come from a background in art and design; did this lend itself to your interest in film?

Yes absolutely, I always did painting, photography and illustration. I also loved short stories and did a bit of animation. To be honest, I was interested in most forms of creative expression and craft. Naturally animation made a lot of sense to me since it combines all of these things.

Your short film, Stanley Pickle, has achieved 33 notable awards to date. Were you expecting the film to be this incredibly successful?

At the time it was a relief to complete everything and I was more concerned with actually getting it selected for festivals, since the technique I had decided to use falls between live action and animation. I therefore thought we might run in to issues trying to clarify it. When we won our first prize after premiering at Edinburgh International Film Festival the ball started rolling and it didn’t stop; now the film is available in up to 7000 schools in the UK and abroad via the British Council. After our epic festival run it really is the best result ever.

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How did the project and this extraordinary idea come about?

The idea came up a year before film school and was a loosely developed story intended as a 3-minute stop motion puppet film. After a year at film school I realized that this project, with the right crew, could be something much bigger and more interesting. From here, I was luckily in the right place at the right time.

The technique was something I had experimented with prior to making Stanley Pickle. It made perfect sense to use pixilation since it lends itself to that clockwork feel perfectly.

Can you explain a bit about the process you had to go through in achieving this spectacular stop-motion animation?

My brief to the actors was – ‘think of this like a very long and slightly painful Yoga session.’ The actors, who were all very well trained, held each position a frame at a time with direction from me. Occasionally, with the parent characters, we had an assistant run in to the shot and move the clockwork keys a frame at a time.

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How many animators were involved? 

Me for the most part, but I hired my friend, Andy Biddle, who was working on Fantastic Mr. Fox to do the bird flying animation. A couple of other friends did some standby running in and out of shots to move objects. There was a lot going on, so we needed quite a few members of crew running around.

Do you have any more of your own projects in the firing line, a feature film perhaps?

We have written a feature version of Stanley Pickle, but that still needs a lot of work. I’ve made a few commercials and another very quick turnaround short live action film that was a new insightful experience. At the moment I intend to just keep on keeping on!

Any advice you’d want to give to upcoming filmmakers, designers (all artists alike) on the current state of this creative industry? Any tips?

Make sure you can afford it. It’s not the most economical profession and you really do have to love it to live it. The opportunity to tell a story (which I believe we all have in us) is an excellent one, and the more people who express themselves in this way, the more we can all learn from each other.

Thank you.

Visit Victoria’s website for her portfolio and more about what she does.

Watch Stanley Pickle below:

The Limelight Index: Jim Ojala – Writer/Director/FX Artist

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After searching around for interesting projects on Kickstarter, I recently came across Jim Ojala who is making his debut feature film, Strange Nature, behind the director’s wheel. However, he has vast credits of work in the industry and it was an absolute pleasure to catch up with him about his filmmaking career, special effects, the industry and the state of crowdfunding.

When did you first get interested in filmmaking?

I’ve been a fan of movies since I was a child. I was kind of a loner kid, so film acted as an outlet for me. After graduating from high school, I started experimenting with cameras and took a course at the local public access station. Once I realized that you could put whatever you create uncensored on the air, my friends and I start developing a show. That show was called My Three Scums, a horror/comedy about a family of misfits and monsters that try to get by in (and get back at) society. Sort of Munsters on crack!  Seeing the reaction (both very good and very bad) from the public told me that this is what I need to do. Episodes played in a couple different festivals also. When a film of yours plays for an audience of strangers and they love it… there’s no better feeling in the world. That show got me a crack at working with Troma, which launched my career.

Who are your influences in the industry?

Taxi Driver is my all time favorite film, so early Scorsese is a pretty big influence. Kubrick of course. Some of the lesser known influences are directors like Lloyd Kaufman, which is why working with him on Citizen Toxie was such a mind blowing deal for me at the time. Buddy Giovinazzo is another one. His gritty film, Combat Shock still blows my mind and somehow that guy still has not received his due. Someone who I just discovered over the last few years is Alejandro Jodorowsky. His films are so unique, beautiful and disturbing all at the same time. I really love how his films can be shocking without being mean spirited… in fact they are uplifting. I’m also a really big fan of Romero’s earlier films. Martin is such an honest, scary and heart breaking film, it’s such a shame more people haven’t seen it.

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What attracted you about specializing in FX make-up?

I had already done some experimenting with makeup FX as a kid and on My Three Scums. Every horror movie kid in the 80’s/90’s had either a book or VHS of Tom Savini’s horror FX makeup. On my second day interning for Troma on Citizen Toxie they said there was an opening in the Makeup FX dept. I jumped at the chance! Tim Considine of Direct FX took me under his wing and taught me the basics and I eagerly picked it up quickly and worked my ass off, many times averaging 20 hour work days. By the end of the film, Tim offered me a full time assisting position. I loved working on practical makeup/creature FX, so I thought that would be a great niche to be in while I pursued my filmmaking career.

You got to work with experimental film director Mike Kuchar. Did this open you up to new ways of thinking about the medium?

Mike was awesome. He was teaching at Millennium Film Workshop in Manhattan where I took a course. Mike actually taught me how to shoot on 16mm film. Mike didn’t seem to have any interest in the business side of it… he and his brother are pure filmmakers making films simply because they love to. He reminded me that it’s okay to film something simply because you find it interesting.

What made you finally decide on the move to Hollywood in 2001?

I had a really good run in New York getting to work on Saturday Night Live, Broadway shows and even with horror film auteur Larry Fessenden on his film Wendigo. However, after 9/11, everything stopped. I couldn’t even get a temporary job. It was a really bad scene. I had run out of money and was getting desperate. My girlfriend and I decided to visit friends in Los Angeles for a week and see what it was like. Lloyd Kaufman referred me to Rob Hall at Almost Human FX. I visited them while in LA and Rob had just got the TV show, Angel, he hired me on the spot. I stayed and worked whilst my girlfriend went back to New York to pack up our life there and move out to LA.

You set up your film production company Ojala films in 2005, what is your direction for the business?

My direction is to keep it half film production and half makeup/creature FX with a digital FX person as well.  I’ve directed several shorts and music videos and now it’s time for my first feature, Strange Nature. The film will hopefully lead to more features, which we will create all the FX for in-house.

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Your debut feature film Strange Nature is currently in production. Tell us more about this project.

In 1995 news of deformed frog outbreaks started being reported in my home state of Minnesota. The deformities were hideous; extra misshapen limbs, missing limbs, misplaced eyes, etc. It was something in the water but no definite cause was found.

When it came time to make my first feature film I looked into those cases again as it is a great catalyst for a story. I was shocked to find that to this day the deformities are still being found with no definite cause yet. In fact the deformities have spread across the country. This year a research team found a population of frogs in Oregon 100% deformed… a first.

When I discovered no one has made a film about this phenomenon I knew I needed to. Strange Nature is an Eco Thriller that shows the dangerous places this may lead. All of this is seen through the eyes of a single mother and her 11-year-old son. I also knew I needed to bring my FX talents to the table to help the project stand out. That way I’m not just another guy with a script.

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The film is currently raising funds on Kickstarter, was this always the intended route for funding?

No, but a bigger film studio won’t touch a project like this. In fact if you aren’t making a film that is a sequel, remake or based on some type of existing franchise you are probably not going to be financed anywhere. It’s pretty sad really, filmmakers are actually discouraged today from original material. I’ve had interest from independent producers to shoot the film in Louisiana and even Bulgaria for the tax breaks/cheap labor, but I’m sticking to my gun that the film is a Minnesota story and that’s where it needs to be shot. Crowdfunding is a way that will allow me to keep complete creative control of the project.

What is your opinion on the recent surge of celebrities using the independent crowdfunding platform?

Honestly, I think it will be part of the downfall of crowdfunding. Little guys like me kill ourselves to get any kind of media attention while celebrities can simply announce their project and they instantly get the front page of every entertainment site and are pretty much guaranteed to make their goal regardless of how big it is. Indie filmmakers simply cannot compete with that, so we have to take to social networking to get our word out and it’s becoming saturated.

The unfortunate fact is that most people are just not interested in your project unless there’s an A-list celebrity attached. I believe within 2 years tops, crowdfunding will change dramatically. My prediction is that film studios will start using crowdfunding to get their films made. Why risk their money if they can just charge the fans to pay for it? That way they win twice.

You recently got a chance to do special effects on Pacific Rim, what exactly did your role entail?

I was working for Legacy FX Studio. I mainly worked on molding the robot suits and running their parts. I also worked on Thor and The Watch at Legacy.

Any big dates planned for Strange Nature, or any other projects we should know about?

The Strange Nature Kickstarter campaign ends on October 10th, 2013. We have 30 hours to go and we are 74% funded! Please take a look at the campaign here and consider pledging. Rewards range from your name in the credits to actually getting one of the deformed animal puppets from the film.

There’s also a very cool horror/comedy themed TV show that I’m directing a pilot for and will be shopping around in January. Unfortunately, I can’t talk more about that, but when I can you’ll be the first to know.

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Any parting advice for young filmmakers out there?

Independent film investors have dried up. Don’t wait. If you have a good unique project and you have a solid social network then try getting your film crowdfunded. However, if you don’t have any big celebrities you should try to keep your goal as close to $10,000 as possible. Very few ever make it above that. If you’re just starting out wanting to get in the film industry I highly suggest interning on a film. You’ll make valuable contacts and if you work hard and learn fast then those contacts will come in handy very soon.

Thanks Jim and good luck with the campaign! 

Link to Jim’s Kickstarter campaign here.

Find Strange Nature on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit http://www.strangenaturemovie.com for even more info.
I think it’s really interesting what Jim mentioned about the Kuchar brothers telling him that it’s okay to film something just because you find it interesting. I think, this is the notion that you should make art to be happy with it yourself, don’t worry if others don’t buy into it. Also, shoot lots of stuff, don’t limit yourself to specific shooting schedules. This is the documentary approach I guess, but can nevertheless always be entwined into narratives.

Also, the opinion that studios will dominate the crowdfunding platforms is becoming more widely acknowledged. It’s a scary thought what Jim picks up on, but I have hope that it may swing the other way and bring more people to the limelight of independent filmmakers. Surely, more traffic can be good traffic? Lets hope so.

Jim has obviously worked hard to get to where he’s got, so give him a couple of dollars towards this invigorating project. It’s only a bit of pocket change!