It’s not without irony that I find myself, in the midst of making a film about existential crisis, in an “edit-stential crisis.” I’ve got about 5 or 6 versions edited, all of which I like, but I can’t decide which route I want to go. It’s a real Kierkegaardian Either/Or dilemma.
Predestination explores the concepts of instinct, habit, and free will. It would rightly fall into the genre of philosophical film, if that’s a genre. (Yep, it is.) Over the past year I’ve directed three short films, and this one is by far the best.
BETTER (AND CHEAPER) THAN FILM SCHOOL: SHORT FILMS
To anyone wanting to learn how to make films, here’s a tip: go out and start making short films. The great thing about shorts is they are a wonderful medium to experiment with. They are much cheaper to make than feature films, and take far less time. I believe experimentation is the key to finding one’s style, and ultimately the key to making great films. The reason why Hollywood films are so stagnant is lack of experimentation. Hollywood films almost have to be formulaic because so much money is dumped into them, the investors feel they have a right to hedge their bet. A multi-million dollar investment is not seen as a great way to experiment and try new things.
On the other hand, if you make a short film, and you don’t like it, you not only don’t have corporate investors on your back, you have just learned more about filmmaking than any film school can teach you. And if you keep doing your own thing, and experimenting, chances are you will become much better than Hollywood filmmakers who don’t have the freedom to experiment. Making films on the cheap is the way to rise above the Hollywood mediocrity. Unfortunately there seems to be a pattern: filmmakers go out and experiment and make great stuff, subsequently get “discovered” by Hollywood, then with bigger budgets and more constraints go out and make worse films.
I’d like to buck that pattern. “Hollywood clout” isn’t everything. In fact, my filmmaking heroes are not the Hollywood heavyweights, but maverick filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch and foreign artists like Federico Fellini.
COMING SOON TO A FESTIVAL NEAR YOU
I’ve decided to take a different approach to this film than I have in the past. Rather than a straight-to-internet launch, I’m going to let it live in the festival circuit first, and once its festival life has come to an end, let it loose in cyberspace. So most likely the internet launch will be in 2014. I’ve chosen to do this for a couple of reasons.
1. Films are meant to be discussed
First, I feel like film festivals are the right forum for this type of film. In the past, I’ve gotten little to no substantive feedback or criticism via the internet. The internet is just too impersonal. For the most part, it’s not really a place where people give deep and meaningful feedback on films. People watch a video, and then are on to the next one. I’ve always felt like the best way to talk about films is in person. At Sundance, I’ve had some meaningful conversations with filmmakers about their films during the open panel after the film, and afterwards, just mingling and meeting in person. (Gramado, in Brazil, on the other hand was disappointing in that the filmmakers were not present after the film. That kind of destroys the whole purpose of having a film festival, in my opinion. Nevertheless, I do plan to submit Predestination to Gramado, since it was filmed just down the road from there in Porto Alegre.)
2. The opportunity to connect
The other reason is that film festivals are a great place for filmmakers to connect with other filmmakers, actors, investors, and fans. Again, for the most part, cyberspace is a very cold impersonal place. However, I have been fortunate to connect with some very exceptional filmmakers through the internet, such as Dale Kamp and Patryk Kizny. But I want to take it to the next level, and perhaps even do what Jared Hess did and find a financial backer. For those unfamiliar with the story, Jared Hess was a BYU film student here in Provo, Utah, who submitted his short film Peluca to Sundance. While at Sundance, he was approached by MTV to direct a feature version of his short, which he did, and it was called Napoleon Dynamite. Great film, but bad example because it’s nothing like my films. However, so far, I haven’t had any investors see a short film of mine on the internet and come pounding on my door wanting to back a feature. (They also haven’t seen this one yet…so let’s not count our chickens before they hatch.)
All in all, while the internet is a great tool which I plan to continue to use to great advantage, I feel that festivals are still a great avenue for filmmakers to take. At least, that’s the theory I plan to test. Stick around to see if I still believe that a year from now, or whether it will go back to being all internet for me.
With or without investors like MTV, I’m set to make a no-budget feature, which I shall presently call “M,” for fear of having my film title ripped off again. So stay tuned, more news on Predestination and “M” to come