FA Filmmaker Profile: Matthew Harrison

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Courtesy October Films

Matthew Harrison and Kevin Corrigan.

Recently Film Anthropology flew out to Los Angeles to interview filmmaker, artist and television director Matthew Harrison, about his life and career. From his roots in the New York underground art scene to his achievements at some of the world’s most influential film festivals, Matt Harrison tells all. He talks about starting out shooting super 8 as a child and winning his first award at the New York Downtown Film Festival, which encouraged him to bring up his game and how he went on to win the jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Matthew elaborates on working with Super 8, 16mm, his first union experience and how he came to work with Martin Scorsese on his feature studio picture Kicked In The Head.

Matthew’s film My Little Hollywood, which he shot in the mid-1990’s was recently completed and has spent the past year in the 2012 and 2013 festival circuit.

 

Direct Link URL: http://youtu.be/kZ-R3jufBss

Matthew’s Official Website: http://www.filmcrash.com/

About Filmmaker Profiles: This video is the first in a brand new incarnation of the Filmmaker Profiles series, a collection of interviews that Eric originally started at the Anthology Film Archives when he volunteered with the NewFilmmakers series.

The Indie Film Community

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Sometimes douchbags come out of nowhere and nearly destroy a truly good thing without an ounce of remorse for the damage they leave in their wake, for no other reason than political, financial or other unseen gain. For several years now I have made a conscious effort to build up the independent film community in New York by volunteering at various film festivals, interviewing filmmakers and essentially networking the hell out of the artists who live and work here. At its core, the goal has been to connect every single one of us in a way where we don’t have to function as strangers or fear each other’s success, which seems to be an unspoken part of film culture.  Filmmakers tend to treat their peers like they’re competition. Art is so drastically different, especially at the independent level, that it’s infuriating to think indie filmmakers are in competition with one another. I have applied this logic when working with film festivals, uniting many of them by introduction or bridging them together through programming.

This month, some of the festivals I’ve worked with to solidify their involvement in the indie film community have come under attack for no other reason than because they’re low budget and don’t have notable sponsorships.

indiewirescreenshotOn July 30th, IndieWire.com published an extremely venomous article written by borderline asshat and full on sociopath: JASON GUERRASIO.  It’s called “Is This Film Festival A Scam? Sometimes, It’s Not So Obvious“.  The title was changed the following day to “Can You Trust This Film Festival” after a notice was posted on the message board, by a lawyer citing that the title crosses the line from free speech to defamation.

I screened with MFF in 2012 and have been working with their founder, Philip J. Nelson for about a year to help with the branding of the festival and find new ways to build it as a service to the indie film community.  When I met Phil last year at the 6th annual festival, I gauged right away that he was a good man who believed in the future of independent film and wanted to be a part of many filmmakers’ successes. That is why, upon seeing Guerrasio’s ridiculous article, I flipped a lid. I initially responded to the article with a very well thought out comment that was four paragraphs long. It was polite and offered a very good argument to why the article is inappropriate and biased. The comment has since disappeared from the site.

My missing comment aside, I find Guerrasio’s article suspicious to say the least, mainly because this “journalist” managed to pinpoint the top most troublesome filmmakers of the past two years and tell their “horror” stories to the indie film world, only to do the entire indie film community a disservice.  It turns out, after some light investigation, that Jason is actually an employee at the Tribeca Film Institute, which as you all know, is an affiliate of the Tribeca Film Festival as well as Tribeca Cinemas.  This is important information for later.  The first part of the article I would like to comment on revolves around Mira Gibson, a rather young and somewhat naive filmmaker who made a movie called “Warfield“:

Article excerpt:

“It was a fucking nightmare.” That’s how Mira Gibson described the premiere of her film “Warfield” at the Manhattan Film Festival last year. Certain it wouldn’t be accepted at the New York Film Festival or Tribeca, the Brooklynite wanted to screen in the city and thought MFF would be a good fit. (Editor’s note: Manhattan Film Festival should not be confused with the Manhattan Short Film Festival, a completely separate organization.)

She submitted her film and entry fee through online service Withoutabox; when the film was accepted, Gibson hustled to put the final touches in post. About 10 weeks before the 2012 MFF, she sent “Warfield” in the form of a thumb drive, along with specs.

When her big night arrived, Gibson was anxious—and not because she was about to unveil a film that she’d been hyping for months to her agent, manager, family, friends, cast and crew. The venue wasn’t readymade for a movie premiere: That year, the festival was screening films at The Producer’s Club, a Times Square space more suited for theater work.

It proved to be an omen of things to come.

As the lights went down and the picture came up, Gibson was horrified. “It’s the wrong one!” she yelled out. Her first audience was watching the version she’d submitted for acceptance—a work-in-progress with no color or audio correction, no credits or the score.

I remember Gibson from the 2012 season. I remember her wigging out at her screening because she didn’t like the venue and felt embarrassed that it was being held at the Producer’s Club. This was the same venue I got to screen my film, Caroline of Virginia, and I had no complaints. My cast and family had no complaints either. In fact, none of the filmmakers that screened in my block had complaints, ‘nor did most of the filmmakers of the other blocks I sat in on. In 2012 I attended almost all of the screenings, between the first Sunday of the festival and the last and she was maybe one of two filmmakers who pitched a fit about the quality of the projection.  Phil responded by re-programming the film on another day at another venue, the Hunger College Lang Auditiorium.

This woman doesn't look too unhappy, judging by the tweet and the pic she attached.

This woman doesn’t look too unhappy, judging by the tweet and the pic she attached.

I had the pleasure of talking to Mira again, at her second screening. She was in a relatively good mood and told me she was “impressed” by the festival and by their response to the situation. I tried to talk to her about the film, but she didn’t seem to want to talk to me about it. Her film was about a child rapist getting let out of prison so I thought it warranted some sort of discussion on the social ramifications of the subject, but she didn’t seem to have the ammo to go there. It’s strange that she was so angry about not having a Q&A.

It should be noted that Mira responded to the article on the comments section, regarding her interview with Guerrasio.  Gibson responded to me directly, insisting that she did not remember me and that she had plenty of nice things to say about MFF but Guerrasio chose not to use them.  Her comment has also disappeared from the website.

Article Excerpt:

On the surface, the festival sounds like a hidden gem among the thousands. However, after seven years, its profile remains very low (although for its first four years, its name was Independent Features Film Festival). And all the filmmakers interviewed for this story — whether they enjoyed the festival or not—commented on its rampant disorganization, lack of communication and screening ineptitude.

Seems like the writer, who works for the organization that works side by side with the Tribeca Film Festival, is throwing words around the MFF name to discredit it and keep it from growing.  Festivals start small – you can’t expect a festival that doesn’t have Bobby DeNiro as its mascot, to operate on that level do you?  Seriously, it’s an INDIE FILM festival!  It’s small, it operates on a very tight, out of pocket budget and it has kept a low profile because that’s the intention of its founder.  Just because a festival is high profile, does not make it a good festival, at least, not for independent film.

Article excerpt:

L.A.-based filmmaker Timothy L. Anderson screened his debut feature, the Coolio-starring dark comedy “Two Hundred Thousand Dirty,” at the 2013 MFF. Only available to fly to town on the day of his screening, Anderson was having lunch with a friend in midtown and prepared to do a final social media blast about the premiere when he got a call from his AD that the location on their Screen Booker page suddenly changed from the East Village’s Quad Cinema to Hunter College on the Upper East Side.”I was never emailed or called at all,” said Anderson about the change.

Panic ensued: Unable to get in touch with his festival contact over the phone, Anderson rushed to the Quad for answers and found only volunteers and staff who had none. Anderson then spent two hours waiting in the lobby until Nelson showed up, who only explained that there were booking problems.

“We did postcards saying it was at the Quad and they were right next to him as we were talking,” said Anderson. “So no one at the festival saw these and saw they were wrong? My lead actor was at the opening night party, no one said anything to him about it. I told [Nelson], ‘If you walk to the Quad and find out the film is now uptown, you’re just going to go to a bar.’” With only three hours before his screening, Anderson suggested a shuttle service.

“There were such repeated instances of clusterfuck.” 

Philip went above and beyond to correct this mis-communication and initially I was appalled that the filmmaker had cooperated with the interviewer, until I had been informed, by the filmmaker, that Guerrasio had omitted a very important piece of information: the filmmaker never felt scammed, and still doesn’t.  Philip paid for limo rides to the Hunter College venue, out of his own pocket, to keep things on an even keel.

You can see Anderson’s response posted in the gallery at the bottom of this article as an un-edited screen shot.

SUBMISSIONS

As I stated before, I was a selected filmmaker at the 2012 film festival. Yes, I won an award. It might not mean much to the main stream film industry, but it sure the heck meant a lot to me and it still does. Someone liked my work enough to give me a screening and on top of that, a plaque. Call it ego, or whatever the hell you want, but when you’ve gone through what I did to get my films made – and seen – an ego stroke is one hell of welcome thing. Mind you, the same film had been rejected from almost every other independent film festival in New York because of its awkward running time. At 40 minutes most film festivals were unwilling to try and fit it into their program. Phil took the challenge and made it work. He has since acquired the reputation of being able to accept medium length films that other festivals are so unwilling to take a good look at.  My invitation to submit to the 2012 festival was done so because I had submitted to the 2011 festival and Philip couldn’t fit it into that year’s program because of the awkward run time that I mentioned.  He invited me to resubmit because he truly believed in the film, regardless of its run time.

As of this year, at my recommendation, it is now MFF policy to invite filmmakers who have been rejected from the current season’s acceptance list, to invite them to resubmit their films the following season with a fee waiver – in an effort to strengthen the relationship between the festival and the filmmakers – whether they screen or not.

RECENT INVOLVEMENT

This year I had the pleasure of advising Philip on programming at MFF on top of his festival’s branding. I introduced a lot of filmmakers to Phil and the festival. Why didn’t Jason interview any of them? Or any of the other filmmakers who were happy with the festival this year?  I would have done an interview. I know lots of happier filmmakers who would have and they’re not too difficult to locate.

THE TRIBECA MONOPOLY

SkyscrapersMonopolies in New York City are nothing new, especially when it comes to the film and television industries. In fact, the Los Angeles film industry wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for turds like Edison, who held patents on many of the technologies filmmakers needed to achieve their works.  Filmmakers responded by heading out west, where the long arm of Edison couldn’t easily reach them.  Without the need for city permits or the worry of wealthy and powerful men like those from the Edison company, film making in California thrived.

Tribeca is a massive organization that dominates many aspects of the film industry in New York and the tri-state area and is growing at an alarming rate.  For an organization that’s only about a decade old, Tribeca is massive and powerful.  This is disconcerting because of their influence in city politics, specifically with the Office of Film, Theater & Broadcasting.  For Tribeca to openly allow one of their staffers to publish defamatory and slanderous content against the smaller indie fests like this, is a slap in the face to the independent film community that I’ve worked so hard to strengthen.  Organizations like Tribeca often overlook films that don’t have celebrities or bigger budgets in the hundreds of thousands.  MFF on the other hand has no bias when it comes to a film’s budget, shooting format or whether or not it can appeal to academia.  If Phil and his programming advisers feel it has any level of value or true indie spirit, it will be seriously considered.  He’s taken films I don’t particular have an interest in, but has also taken films he doesn’t have an interest in, at my suggestion.  He’s advised by many filmmakers and promoters, from all facets of the industry, both indie and mainstream.  As far as programming goes, Philip Nelson is one of the most honest programmers I know.

This isn’t the first time that Tribeca has committed a misdeed toward Phil and MFF.  In 2010 Phil was forced to file a lawsuit against the Tribeca Film Festival for theft of his innovative interactive concepts.  You can read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/jul/07/new-york-tribeca-film-festival

Tribeca Cineams vs. The Quad

In his article, Guerrasio insinuates that any festival that uses the Quad Cinemas is likely a scam.  This just isn’t true and is further proof of Guerrasio’s ultimate intention with this article.  It is clear to me that Guerassio, seemingly on behalf of Tribeca, is making a play to destroy the reputation of the Quad and any festival that rents the facility.  This makes sense when you realize that the TFI is affiliated with Tribeca Cinemas, another NYC movie theater.  It too is often rented by smaller film festivals.

Under The Bus

What’s of bigger concern is that the filmmakers Guerrasio interviewed were more than willing to throw the festival under the bus, because they didn’t get their way or were in some way, unhappy with their experience.  They failed to see the bigger picture or have an ounce of respect for the local indie film community, which depends on lower tier festivals, like MFF, to thrive.  I know many of you filmmakers will disregard or elect to not comment on this article because you want to stand a chance at gaining entry as an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival, but everyone needs to understand why speaking out is more important than yourselves and why this cause is bigger than you.  People like Guerrasio and the other people over at Tribeca cannot be the only ones responsible for your future, you have to take control and not give them the satisfaction of putting this perfectly legitimate film festival out of commission.  They cannot be allowed to become the only people who have the authority to say what is good and what is bad in filmmaking.  They cannot be allowed to become the only people who have the credentials to dictate what is good or bad independent cinema.

MFF is a good festival run by a good person, Philip Nelson, who truly means well.  I’ve known him since the 2012 festival, it’s not long, but long enough for me to know that he’s an individual truly dedicated to independent cinema and the success of filmmakers worldwide.  Tribeca’s goal is growth and sponsorship,  that’s it.  Truly independent cinema doesn’t matter to them, I assure you.  If it did, they wouldn’t make such a blatant effort to destroy the reputation of a person they’ve never met and a festival they’ve never attended.

It is time that filmmakers take control of the indie film world in New York and tell Tribeca to leave the boutique film festivals alone.  This is not the first festival Guerrasio attacked and it won’t be the last.  This article is part of a series he has started in an effort to further rip apart the community of independent filmmakers and the festivals that support them.  In addition, Tribeca needs to pressure its staffers to not post defamatory media about other festivals and organizations, as it reflects badly on the part of Tribeca.  If Tribeca truly wants to contribute to independent film culture in a positive way, they’ll order Guerrasio to issue a retraction and cease with his ridiculous series of articles that explore the “underbelly of the film festival world“.  By publishing these articles, IndieWire has done a lot of damage to the festival and to the filmmakers whom the festival has supported.

Shit Happens – Get Used To It

It seems like some of these filmmakers haven’t been around the festival circuit much and aren’t aware that they need to come prepared and ready for anything.  Filmmakers need to understand that circumstances change and sometimes events don’t go as perfectly as they should. Festivals aren’t locked down. I’ve seen Tribeca change show times, venues and even cut Q&A’s. This is COMMON practice.  I don’t see Guerrasio calling Tribeca out on this.  But I KNOW it happens because I know a lot of filmmakers who have screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. I am friends with filmmakers who have won awards at Sundance and picked up like recognition at Cannes.  These same people have also  screened at MFF and saw what took place there to be common with boutique film festivals.  It is not a scam, it doesn’t make it non-trustworthy, it just is what it is.

The author of the article insists that its not honest to boot a filmmaker from a festival and that a legit festival would never do anything like that. This is complete BS. The author’s own employer, Tribeca, has engaged in similar acts, even going as far as to booting ticket holders from a screening because they were asking difficult questions to the filmmakers.  Check out the details of that situation at the New York Times website: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/22/tribeca-film-festival-turns-away-protesters-who-had-tickets-to-gasland-sequel/

Other Festivals & Sponsors:

It’s important that I inform all of you that some of the festivals that the filmmakers that Guerrasio interviewed have had major successes at, also have similar complaints. Solvan Naim, the musician that made the movie Full Circle, claims that he’ll only screen at festivals with sponsors.  Solvan Naim did well at this year’s NYCIFF, but if you look them up on RipOff Report, they’ve got a complaint from another filmmaker who had the same problem that Mira had with MFF: he was pissed off that he had been programmed at the Producer’s Club.  In addition, other complaints included screenings being canceled and awards being given to people that had previously been affiliated with the festival’s founder/director.  Mind you, I only found it because I was reading Solvan’s Ripoff Report against MFF. Guess what? NYCIFF has Paramount Pictures on their step & repeat.  Does this make a person’s complaint any less important than those complaing about MFF? Sponsorship mean nothing.  Although I’ve never attended NYCIFF ‘nor have I talked with any filmmaker who has screened there about their experience, I would never assume that the festival or its founding directors had any other intention but good intentions when they decided they wanted to screen films on an annual basis.

The people involved in the defamation of MFF and the other festivals Guerrasio has targed are a vicious circle of filmmakers and film promoters who have nothing but selfish intentions. Or maybe they want to bully Phil into giving up the MFF name.  Who knows.  One thing is for sure, this guy Guerrasio, while heavily credentialed to write about Hollywood, is clearly not qualified to write about independent film and IndieWire is clearly not trustworthy a source of true independent filmmakers.

I urge everyone in the indie film community in New York and abroad to do your research and ask around before submitting your work to any film festivals.  Don’t go on Guerrasio’s article alone – from a filmmaker who has extensive experience with MFF, I can assure all of you that this festival is GOOD and operated by a phenomenal person and his amazing family.

Thanks for the ear,

-Eric Norcross | 2012 MFF Selected Filmmaker turned Volunteer

Mira Gibson tweet during her MFF event.

Mira Gibson tweet during her MFF event.

Tim Anderson Response

Jason 2Jason 3

Jason 1

Radioman at Anthology Film Archives

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Radioman with Filmmaker Eric NorcrossThe world famous Radioman made an appearance at the Anthology Film Archives this week to support a documentary film focusing on his life and career, aptly titled: RADIOMAN. The movie was followed by a Q&A with the famous NYC extra and day player, supported by a few of his friends who he has worked with on various film sets.

Radioman is a character actor, day player and movie extra that has more than 100 films under his belt, has worked for some of the most powerful directors in Hollywood including Steven Spielberg, Ben Stiller, Martin Scorsese and exchanged lines of dialog with some of the film industry’s most expensive and sought after actors, including Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell and the list goes on.

Radioman Doc

Radioman Doc

Radio began his career as a heckler, sitting on the sidelines of publicly accessible NYC film sets. Beloved by the crews, the filmmakers began putting him in their movies and he has since become a staple of the NYC film industry. Some directors won’t wrap their productions until he agrees to make an appearance.

The documentary has picked up awards and honorable mentions at festivals in Europe and the Middle East and will be released in theaters in March 2013. You can find the film on Facebook (under the category public figure) and more media on the screening is available on the NewFilmmakers New York Facebook page.

You can view photos from the event at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/newfilmmakersny/sets/72157632420936819/

Likewise, here’ is a highlights video from the Radioman Q&A on the NewFilmmakers YouTube Channel:

Direct Link URL: http://youtu.be/xbFM4uXqk0k

Q&A with Glenn Camhi (dir) THE BUNGLERS

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The Bunglers One SheetTHE BUNGLERS is a movie that I happened to catch at this year’s Manhattan Film Festival (2012).  It is phenomenally funny with high production value.  A medium length short, the film has pulled in a number of well deserved awards.  The movie is directed by filmmaker Glenn Camhi. The movie stood out to me, not just for production value, but writing, acting and it just seemed to be a well organized indie film production all around.  I’m not the only one who has noticed the film, after all, look at all the laurels on the one-sheet poster. At last count, 17 and probably more will be added by the end of 2012.  Speaking of which, I’m happy to find out that The Bunglers will be closing the 2012 Boston Film Festival and so I thought it was time to do a Q&A with Glenn, on his background, the making of his film and what he went through to get the movie to the audience.

Production:

FilmAnthropology (FA):  That hardest part for most filmmakers is actually getting going, so if you can, please tell me how your project came to be and how long was it from conception, through development and after you were ready to shoot, what was the process and timeline for “getting your act together” and actually making it happen?

Glenn Camhi (GC):  The germ of THE BUNGLERS came to me, like most story ideas, while jogging to music. A Gipsy Kings song inspired the image of a beautiful flamenco dancer getting the best of two guys trying to shoot her, despite having nothing at hand but a pair of maracas and a cymbal. It made me laugh, and I tucked it away. A week later I heard Lena Horne’s killer rendition of “It Had Better Be Tonight,” and a vision of that same dancer appeared, this time trying to seduce one of the guys with the song. I couldn’t figure out why she’d be doing that, but I had to know. Thus the story was born.

Once I sat down to write, it went fast. I’d been saving up to make a short for about 7 years, long before I had the idea. Just wanted to be ready to do it right. Directing features I’ve written is where I’m headed, so this short is my calling card.

It took a year total from script to screen. The longest periods were prep/crew gathering, and post. I wanted a top notch crew, so coordinating schedules with all their shows and movies took some doing. But it allowed my dynamite lead actress a couple months of flamenco training. Post took all summer, in large part because to save money I had to master the art and science of color grading and visual effects, neither of which I’d ever done. Great fun. Really just another stage of the writing process, to me.

The biggest challenge was finding our main location, a nightclub where most of the action goes down. Due to some tricky negotiations, we only nailed it down 2 days before production! But it was perfect — a historic venue that had been closed a quarter century but was about to reopen the week after we shot. Best of all, its dimensions happened to fall within a few inches of the unusual nightclub I made up and had drawn in my animatic storyboards.

Apart from cast, getting my DP was the biggest step that got things rolling. I’d met the super-talented Stephan Dalyai before, and we hit it off with very similar taste in cinematography. He loved the script, and when I started telling him which color palettes and lenses I had in mind for the different characters, he was finishing my sentences with the same thoughts, even though none of it was in the script. We have a terrific working relationship.

For some strange reason, everyone around me had more confidence than I did early on, so finding suckers — er, talented cast and crew — to go along with and enhance my vision was surprisingly easy.  I loved and would work with them again in a heartbeat.  I couldn’t have done it without my fellow producers Kyle Fischer and Samm Barnes. Amazing people, on and off set. Even seasoned crew members said it was the most delightful set they’d worked on, which made me as happy as the final film itself.

Tyler always hits her mark

Tyler always hits her mark.

FA: How do you develop your characters and how involved are your actors in the development of the characters.

GC:  I do a lot of work developing my characters, working out their backstories and often writing faux interviews or conversations with them. I need to know where they came from, what music they listen to, what they do in their off time and obviously, what drives and inhibits them — and why.

But then I cast carefully, and trust my actors to take their characters and run with them. I offer my written backstories early on if they want them (and they do), but once they really dig in, it’s their turn to discover who they really are.

I love working with actors who have solid improv chops. I encourage improvisation during some table reads, which can lead to rewrites. On set, I run what’s written first, then often ask them to “play” with certain bits if they wish. I figure that by the time we’re shooting, they’ve lived in their characters’ skins more deeply than I have and truth comes naturally. As diligently as I planned, many of my favorite moments in the film are bits I never envisioned. I’m open to anything that works better for the story than what I originally wrote alone at my desk — whether from the actors, the camera crew, or really anyone.

Glenn Camhi and Tyler McClain

Glenn Camhi directing the incredibly talented lead actress Tyler McClain in the climatic shootout scene.

FA: Casting process – do you write for actors you already know/have a rapport with or do you audition for each character?

GC: I often have an actor in mind when writing, whether a star I’d never get but who helps me visualize the character, or an actor with whom I have a rapport or think I could cast. In the case of THE BUNGLERS, I wrote the two male leads (Danny and Luther) specifically for the brilliant Stephen Kearin and Floyd VanBuskirk. I’d been fans of their stage work for years and have worked with them doing improv. Their characters are nothing like them, but I knew they’d knock it out of the park.

A wonderful actress I know was my muse when writing the lead female, Isabella, but she was unavailable. When Tyler McClain walked through the door during our open casting call, it took 10 seconds for my fellow producers and I to recognize she was our Isabella. She simply lit up the room. That night I listened to that Gipsy Kings song again and could only picture her in the role.

I had no one in mind for our villain, Joe Danzer. I asked a great actor I know, Brian Lohmann, to help out with the initial table read so I could hear the script on its feet before polishing, and 2 lines in, I saw my Joe Danzer. At the end of the read, fortunately he asked me if I’ve cast the role yet and if he could have it.

Danny and Luther take aim

Danny and Luther take aim.

Background and Education and Future Projects:

FA: Can you tell me about your experience at the AFI Conservatory? What did you take from it?

GC: I went to AFI for screenwriting. Best thing I got out of it was the visiting filmmaker series. Unlike the usual PR stops that writers, directors and producers do when press is around, they gave us utterly candid reports of their entire process. For example, the brilliant Ed Zwick showed us scenes he’d severed from his then-latest great film that he knew were godawful and would never again see the light of day — just to show us that even when you’re at the top of your game you can make big mistakes during writing or production phases, but that a good filmmaker recognizes what works and what doesn’t in the editing bay. It was most reassuring.

FA: What’s your next project and what will you do the same and/or differently from this – or: what did you learn from making THE BUNGLERS that will motivate you to do something different on your next project?

GC:  Either of two features is up next, whichever anyone wants to back me on first! Both are similar to THE BUNGLERS in that they’re comedies with some action, but they differ notably in story and tone. One’s crazy dark, but with a sweet love story at its core (actually, a couple love stories), the other is more straightforward comedy with a satirical edge. After those, I have a semi-futuristic balls-to-the-wall action pic I’d love to do.

Two things I’ll do differently: I won’t schedule a 10-day shoot for 6 days! And I’ll devote more time to prep with my department heads. We were rushed for budgetary reasons. I’m big on efficiency, but not so big on rushing.

One thing I’ll do the same that I never thought I’d do: produce. Loved it. Hadn’t known my brain works that way.


Festival Submission Process:

the bunglers - climax scene setup 1 photo by juan goossens

Climax scene setup 1
Photo by Juan Goossens

FA:  What was your experience with film festivals before making this film?

GC:  I’d only been to some festival screenings prior, never taken the time to do a whole festival before. Stupid, really.  They’re a blast.

FA:  Did you find getting The Bunglers into the festival circuit to be difficult, expensive, stressful or the complete opposite?

GC:  I wasn’t sure we’d get into any festivals, given that most programmers prefer shorts under 10 or 15 minutes so they can pack more into a 90 minute block. It’s unfortunate, though it makes some sense. Moreover, it’s especially hard for a longish comedy, since most festivals that will program longer shorts tend to reserve those slots for films they feel are “meatier.” Not always, but usually.

I knew this going in, but as much as I want people to see and enjoy THE BUNGLERS, I didn’t make it primarily for festivals. This was the story that excited me enough to shoot. I wanted to tell a story with multiple twists, believable romance and shifting character relationships, which you just can’t do in 5-10 minutes. I prefer comedy that stems from character. The biggest laughs and applause THE BUNGLERS gets is during a silent, stationary 18-second shot of 2 characters merely looking at each other. It works because we’ve gotten to know their characters sufficiently. I’ve seen some fantastic, clever short shorts, but I tend to prefer those that take the time to delve more into character and story, with some breathing room.

I was pleasantly surprised when the acceptance emails started coming in… and even more so when we started winning major awards. Especially after a handful of early rejections. I did find we got more traction with festivals once we got a little notice. I wish I’d strategized more accordingly.

It’s expensive and stressful, but the stress is far outweighed by the unparalleled joy of getting to sit in a theater listening to a packed house of strangers laugh, gasp and clap in all the right places — plus a few you hadn’t anticipated.
FA:  What surprised you about the festival submission system? 

GC:  Mainly that it’s a full time job!  Just researching the approximately 1.4 billion festivals out there to discern which are worthwhile and good potential fits, and accept films of your length/type, and don’t conflict with other festival’s premiere requirements, yet don’t have completion date deadlines that disqualify you from next year, etc., is a job. My spreadsheets had spreadsheets.

Then there’s the constant redesign of all your promotional materials as you get screenings and awards. You become a one-stop graphic design house, PR firm, web guru and post office supporter.

I was deeply disappointed to discover some major festivals rely on selection viewers who have nothing whatsoever to do with filmmaking. One Academy-accredited festival I won’t name uses a law student, a political science professor, a couple folks who’ve worked on corporate videos, and someone who blogs about her diets and would love to write a screenplay someday. Seriously. How woefully disrespectful of our hard work and submission fees.

But most festivals care, and do it right.

FA:  What festivals stood out for your so far, as being on par with your expectations or above your expectations?

GC:  I could say something great about each of them so far. All the festival directors I’ve met and spoken with are wonderfully passionate about what they do, and just want to help the filmmakers and to bring new films to eager audiences. Love them.

The folks at the Action On Film Int’l Film Festival stood out for going out of their way to help promote films and filmmakers — even the shorts, which not all fests do. They do local tv interviews with filmmakers weeks before the fest, which they edit and give you to use. And if you win an award, they do a live reporter interview with you fresh off the podium, which they also give you. (The interview, not the podium.) Del Weston really makes you feel welcome, from the moment they receive your submission to long after the festival’s over.

The Central Florida Film Festival was also wonderfully organized. As you arrive at the official hotel, you’re knee deep in the festival: a flatscreen tv in the lobby is playing trailers for the features and shorts 24 hours a day, there are social/networking events every night, and posters advertising films are constantly projected onscreen between screenings. Bob and Ginger Cook are ever-present and there to help.

I especially love the fests that do Q&As for shorts. Few do. It’s wonderful for both the filmmakers and the audiences. I’ve gotten something major out of every one I’ve done and seen.

The Bunglers - Isabella and the band

Isabella and the band

FA: What’s next for THE BUNGLERS?

GC:  The great Boston Film Festival is up next: Sept 20-24.  I’m so honored that my film is playing on closing night — one of just three shorts to do so.  Plus, it’s my onetime hometown, so I’m excited as hell to go back.  Also this weekend is a festival we were invited to on the spot without submitting, when the festival director saw us at Action On Film: the Movieville Int’l. Film Festival in Sarasota, FL.

Then it’s the Ft. Lauderdale Int’l. Film Festival in October (Florida, that’s fest #3, we love you too!), and Costa Rica Int’l. Film Festival in November.  That’s our 10th festival, not including a few we were finalists with but didn’t screen at.  And we’re still waiting to hear from a few more.

All screening details at http://www.thebunglersmovie.com/screenings/.