filmmakers

A Q&A With NYFA LA’s Chair of Documentary Filmmaking Barbara Multer-Wellin

Chair of Documentary Barbara Multer-Wellin recently sat down with NYFA reporter Joelle Smith to discuss the current state of non-fiction media content, her long love of filmmaking, and why Los Angeles is a great city for doc. Barbara Multer-Wellin has produced two films for the acclaimed PBS documentary series Independent Lens: “Taking The Heat: The First Women Firefighters of New York City,” narrated by Susan Sarandon and “Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire,” about the legendary editorial cartoonist. She won a 2013 Emmy for her work on the series television and web series “Your Turn To Care,” which was also the recipient of the Gracie Award.

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Joelle: How did you first get started in doc?

Barbara Multer-Wellin: Good question. I was always a political person. I was always very politically minded. I’ve been politically minded since high school.  I went to school for acting and political theater.

When I got out I happened to realize that political theater had a very limited reach. I happened to get hired as a researcher in HBO at Sheila Nevin’s (producer of “Cobain: Montage of Heck,” “Going Clear: Scientology Prison or Belief,” and “Citzenfour.”) department in my early twenties. That was an amazing experience. I was there for six or seven years.

I began to love documentary not just for its political message but also because documentary is such a wide tent. You can do romantic stories, you can cover history, you can do a portrait of a person or an event. For anyone who is curious about the world, documentary is the ultimate playground.

Joelle: When did you first fall in love with the craft of documentary?

Multer-Wellin: One of the early ones that really shook me was “Hoop Dreams.” There are several scenes in the film following the same families for six or seven years during a very tumultuous time in their lives.

Their kids had been recruited to suburban high schools to play basketball.  These two young men both hoped for careers in the NBA. They were being bussed out to the suburbs to play for these much, much wealthier schools.

It wasn’t easy. Their families were going through great difficulties. One marriage had broken up. The father had developed a drug problem and left the family. There’s a scene in the film where the mother of the family turns to filmmaker Steve James and says, “You don’t know what it’s like to try and raise a family on the amount that I get from public assistance. We don’t have heat and they’ve turned out the lights. How do I do this?”

My blood ran cold because I thought, ‘This is what real documentary is about.”

This is the relationship between a filmmaker and a subject that’s completely honest. That you may not have an answer for but you’re not dealing with an actor here. You’re dealing with someone who is actually struggling in their lives.  How do you portray that honestly? How do you not use that?

“Hoop Dreams” was one that made me realize the responsibility of the documentary filmmaker. Many years later I heard Mr. James speak and it’s true he still has relationships with those families. It goes beyond an actor who comes in for a day’s work and then goes home. You have a moral responsibility and an ethical responsibility not just to your subject but to your audience.

It’s such a multilayered relationship involved. I think it’s fascinating, tough, and beautiful all at the same time.

Joelle: How do you impart the ethical responsibility of the subject to your students here at the New York Film Academy?

Multer-Wellin: One of the first things we talk about in the documentary project is if you’re making a documentary about someone you’re either interviewing someone about the most difficult moment of their life or they’ve experienced history in a way that it’s probably the most important thing that’s ever happened to them.

You have to be first of all aware of that. Second of all, it is almost like the doctor’s oath, “First do no harm.”  Ask yourself, “Is anything in this film going to hurt the person when it gets out there?” Be very transparent about what the film is going to be and what you expect from your subject. You’re really making a film together.   

Now, I’m not talking about investigative films when you’re up again a big corporation or someone with great wealth and power. They have their own means to get to the press and protect themselves.

But if you are focusing on someone who is not a member of the public, is not a famous person, and has allowed you the great honor of sharing their story, you need to take that responsibility seriously.

Joelle: For students wondering how to break into the industry, what makes a great subject? How can students stand out?

Multer-Wellin: I think at this point that non-fiction content of all kind is in many ways, the most happening and most sellable content there is.

There are so many different ways to use the skills you develop in documentary. Whether you’re working for the NY or LA Times to make non-fiction media content or for so many non-profit organizations using non-fiction media. Do I need to mention Vice?  Nonfiction, on so many different platforms, is being watched more than ever before.

You know, when I was coming up people would say don’t use the “D-word.” Don’t call it a documentary.  That prejudice is dying hard but it’s dying fast.

If documentary isn’t the big seller in theaters it certainly is on television. In many ways I think it’s easier to break into documentary than fictional filmmaking.

Joelle: What roads would you encourage students to take as they’re breaking into the industry?

Multer-Wellin: Well, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to students about building social media profiles and about how to use crowd-funding platforms to support their work.

There’s the 1,000 fan theory that says if you can connect with at least a thousand people who will support your career, not just one project, but the entire scope of your career, then you’ll be able to fundraise and do your own projects. That’s not an easy thing to do so there’s got to be a balance between creating your own work and working for others.

Joelle: What advice do you have for people going out there and launching their projects?

Multer-Wellin: First of all, I think these days it’s necessary to have some sort of visual reel. In the old days, you could sell a concept off a piece of paper but those days are in the past.

Even if it is just a Skype interview with a really fascinating character, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the slickest thing.  But you do have to show people what you have in mind.

One good thing I think is really helpful is to try niche marketing. Find people who have a natural interest in your subject.  I have a friend who made a very successful film about mountain bikes and the history of mountain biking.  Mountain bikes were developed by a bunch of hippies in Marin County, California who were just riding around the hills up there. They developed a bike with the broader tire specifically for that purpose, which has really spawned this huge industry.

The filmmakers were able to talk to all the biking magazines, bike shops, and bike meet-up groups and put together a series of screenings across the country just starting with these bike enthusiasts and then it sort of graduated out from there. The film did extremely well and it gave them enough money to start their next project.

It’s enough to start with a niche market and build out. No matter what your subject is, it’s smart to find people who will always be interested in the subject. Reach out to organizations that want to support your topic and build from there.

Joelle: What are you doing here at NYFA that makes our program unique from others?

Multer-Wellin: I want to first say that a lot of people don’t normally think of Los Angeles as a documentary town. They think of us as Hollywood, but the truth is the International Documentary Association is headquartered here in Los Angeles. Many documentary filmmakers live here, Davis Guggenheim, Werner Herzog, Jessica Yu, Rory Kennedy and Penelope Spheeris, to name a few.

So, we have access to all of that. We go to many of the IDA events. We also have documentary filmmakers here at school all the time who come and screen their films. We have access to lawyers who deal with fair use and clearance experts who deal with finding and clearing footage. Not to mention distributors, producers, cinematographers, composers who work primarily in non-fiction.  The list goes on and on. All of that exists here in Los Angeles.

We try to keep a very professional sense of what we’re doing. We have just initiated a class in the second year of the MFA program where students produce pieces for a network or production company so before they leave they’ll have a professional credit along with their thesis films. There’s a lot going on here in LA.

Joelle: Final question: Which films would you suggest future NYFA students watch before they come to school?

Multer-Wellin: That’s a really hard question because there are so many. We have a history of documentary course that shows everything from “Nanook of the North to films that came out this year.

It’s important to understand there are many different ways to make a documentary and there are many different documentaries that can be made about the same subject.

There are things you need to learn about yourself as a filmmaker. There are questions of access. We talk a lot about how to specialize something; how to make it yours. I would come to NYFA with ideas and a sense of how you can explore that idea deeply.  We’ll help you take it from there.  

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Barbara Multer-Wellin for sharing her expertise with our community. If you’re interested in learning more about the documentary filmmaking program at NYFA, click here.

Study How to Make Movie Musicals Like “La La Land” at NYFA

As BroadwayWorld.com recently put it: “La La Land isn’t the only vehicle opening the door for a new era of movie musicals. NYFA’s original productions feature Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (Hamilton, Aladdin), Tony Award nominee Charlotte d’Amboise (Pippin, A Chorus Line), Jen Perry (Kinky Boots) and others.” With “La La Land” breaking Oscar-nomination records, movie musicals are in the spotlight. And NYFA is the only school in the world where students can learn to perform in professionally produced original movie musicals. It’s not only an option but an explicit opportunity, and we a write up in The Huffington Post to prove it. 

Mike Olsen, who chairs NYFA’s musical theatre program, stresses that making movie musicals at NYFA is an incomparable experience: “Imagine being a student of musical theatre and having a team of professionals gather to collaborate with you on the creation of an original movie musical,” he says, “Where the character you portray is written for you, the songs are devised around your unique sound and capability, the movement and dance elements reflect your personal wheelhouse, and the whole endeavor is a highly professional journey that culminates in a fully edited, professionally engineered final half-hour movie musical that gets submitted to festivals across the country.

 

 

“No other training academy has our unique capacity to bring filmmaking and musical theatre together to create such a practical and highly professional educational experience,” Olsen continues. “We are on the cutting edge of this and if I were a young musical theatre talent, and while this popularity swells, I would jump at the chance to get this valuable training.”

Today, the critically-acclaimed movie musical everybody’s talking about in Hollywood and beyond is, of course, “La La Land.” The movie made headlines once again after scoring 14 Oscar nominations.

“While this has been percolating recently in our culture, the recent film ‘La La Land’ has tipped the scales,” says Olsen. “Film producers are now putting movie musicals in their top priority file. As America experiences a new renaissance of the movie musical, it is an exceptional piece of good fortune that the musical theatre program at the New York Film Academy is on the cutting edge of training young talent to meet this new demand.”

Olsen isn’t the only one to point out the cultural relevance of movie musicals. New York Times writer Manohla Dargis recently penned a piece about how “La La Land” gives musicals new importance.

At NYFA, students can merge stage talent with the technical training necessary to bring an original musical vision to the big screen.

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“While the primary training focus of the Musical Theater Department remains rooted in the traditional elements of solid stagecraft, NYFA is also uniquely in the lead when it comes to getting movie musical experience,” says Olsen. “Students in the advanced stages of their training enjoy an unprecedented chance to collaborate with the creative process of writing a movie musical, working in a professional studio to lay down vocal tracks, and being on set and on location, acting and performing, in a fully realized movie making experience.”

Picture this: You and your NYFA classmates making the next “La La Land.” It could happen! Apply for our musical theatre program today.

5 Times the Oscars Made History

The Oscars are the most important and coveted awards in cinematic history and eagerly watched by millions all over the world. But as you wait for this year’s nominees to be announced and wonder if your favorite actors have made the cut, we bring you a list of five pivotal moments when the Academy Awards indeed made history — by honouring those marginalized or neglected, alerting the audience to social inequality and recognizing genuine talent that had been shunned erstwhile.

1.  When Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Best Director Award at the Oscars in 2010.  

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Despite it being the 21st century, gender inequality is still rampant in Hollywood, especially when it comes to women filmmakers. Which is why Kathryn Bigelow literally made history by being the first-ever woman to win the much-coveted Best Director Award for her low-budget war thriller “The Hurt Locker,” about a bomb disposal team — winning over her former husband and industry favorite James Cameron’s 3D extravaganza “Avatar.”  She dedicated her win to the servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan and added, “May they come home safe.”

2. When Marlon Brando refused the Best Actor Award at the Oscars in 1973. 

Marlon Brando created a huge controversy when he refused the Award for the Best Actor for his role as Vito Corleone in the mafia film “The Godfather.” Not only did he boycott the ceremony, he sent actress Sacheen Littlefeather in his place. She waved away the Oscar and read out a letter saying that Brando  “very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry –” Given the way America has maltreated and ostracized and even culturally appropriated the Native American community, Brando’s refusal was a powerful and ground-breaking move to raise awareness.

3. When Charlie Chaplin Received His 12 Minute Standing Ovation at the Oscars in 1972.

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Chaplin is a worldwide icon and a pioneer in the field of silent comedy, but after he was labelled a communist he was not allowed to return to the United States for 20 years. Thus his Honorary Oscar Win was important not only because Hollywood finally realized his great contribution to the industry, but also because his presence at the award ceremony marked his first return to the United States. He received a 12-minute standing ovation from the audience, which is still the longest standing ovation in Oscar history.

4. When Halle Berry became the first African-American woman to win the Best Actress Award at the Oscars in 2002.

Halle Berry created history by becoming the first black woman to win the prestigious Best Actress Award for her role in “Monster’s Ball.”  She was so full of tears that she was unable to speak for a minute and when she finally did, she acknowledged the importance of the moment and said, “This moment is for all the nameless, faceless women of color who now have a chance because this door tonight has been opened.” The night was made even more special when fellow African-American actor Denzel Washington also took home the Best Actor Award for the film “Training Day.”

5. When Patricia Arquette won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the Oscars in 2015.

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When Patricia Arquette won the Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in the Richard Linklater film “Boyhood,” she used the opportunity to champion women’s rights across the country. In her acceptance speech, she said, To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

So which are your favorite Oscar history-making moments from the list? Did we miss anything? And what are your expectations for this year’s Academy Awards? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Inspirational Quotes From Filmmakers and Actors to Get You Jazzed for the New Year

As the year comes to a close, it’s normal to experience a certain amount of sadness, regret, and plain old exhaustion. As a film student, you may have fallen short of more than a few personal expectations that have left you feeling a little glum. Did you not finish your script in time? Mess up a crucial shot while filming? Project your film when it could’ve been more meticulously edited?

Chin up. No matter how much talent, creativity, and discipline you possess, you’re still human. Maybe 2016 was not all you hoped it would be, but there are all kinds of reasons why you may not have accomplished all that you hoped you would. And, honestly, at least a couple were beyond your control. And one year? Well, that’s kind of an arbitrary deadline. Life doesn’t fit neatly into calendars, even though Hollywood happy endings may sometimes trick us into buying the “just in time” trope…especially in those darn Christmas blockbusters and made-for-TV specials.

Here are inspirational quotes from filmmakers and actors to infuse you with the positivity you need. May they give you some of the strength you need to succeed in your filmmaking endeavors in 2017!

1. “Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee.” -James Cameron

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2. “If you want to be a writer, then write.” –I. Marlene King

3. “Goals on the road to achievement cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency.” –Denzel Washington

4. “When I was a kid, there was no collaboration; it’s you with a camera bossing your friends around. But as an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.” –Steven Spielberg

5. “To make a film is easy; to make a good film is war. To make a very good film is a miracle.” -Alejandro González Iñárritu

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6. “If you can see yourself doing anything else and being happy, by all means, go and do it. But if you cannot, if you cannot see yourself doing anything else, then you should go for it and not let anybody tell you no.” –Kristin Chenoweth

7. “If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.” –Kathryn Bigelow

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8. “It’s cool to be a nerd. There’s a general understanding that smartphones didn’t come from jocks. The digital age was foreseen by a group of short-sleeved, button-downed, white-shirted guys and their female equivalents designing the very stuff that’s now ubiquitous.” –J.J. Abrams

9. “The biggest thing I have realized was that you have to choose your collaborators very carefully, and that not everybody can like you. The process of filmmaking is so difficult, there’s no point in doing it unless you can do it the way you want.” –Peter Capaldi

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10. “Filmmaking a chance to live many lifetimes.” –Robert Altman

11. “’May the Force by with you’ is charming, but it’s not important. What’s important is that you become the Force—for yourself and perhaps for other people.” –Harrison Ford

12. “Filmmakers are going to make films, just like painters are going to paint.” –Richard Linklater

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13. “I’ve always approached things with hunger and just enough fear. Plenty of confidence, you know, but just enough fear to work extra hard. Paralyzing fear does nothing, but the kind of fear that makes you nervous enough to really be aware and focused? I like that kind of fear.” –Queen Latifah

What are your favorite inspiring quotes for the New Year? Let us know in the comments below!

The Value of a Filmmaking Degree

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The right filmmaking degree or certificate sets you apart. With the advent of online streaming services, social media, and other new technologies, film is becoming a bigger part of our lives. It is now easier than ever to watch hundreds of films in various formats and on many kinds of platforms from the comfort of our homes, cars, or mobile devices, and then talk about them with friends and fellow film enthusiasts online.

The result: more aspiring filmmakers with a hunger to become the next great cinematic storyteller. Filmmaking is more than a dream; it’s a discipline, an artform, and a craft. The right filmmaking degree or certificate can help. Becoming a filmmaker requires a great deal of talent, training, and hard work, which is why a dedicated period of study in an intensive, hands-on filmmaking program like those at NYFA can be the first step toward turning the dream of filmmaking into a reality. There must be some reason why industry professionals, people who know what it takes to make it in the film business, send their children to our film school.

Continue reading to learn why graduating from a filmmaking degree or certificate program can be the first step toward pursuing a vital career in one of the most creative industries on the planet — and can help you get a leg up on your competition.

The Right Film Program Puts You Behind The Camera From the Start

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If you’re considering a degree or a course in filmmaking, chances are you’ve already been behind a camera before. Whether you were capturing a special family moment, a high school project, or a short film idea of your own, you discovered the joys and challenges of filmmaking.

Since the only way to become a better filmmaker is by making films, a good film program is designed to give you extensive experience — and will help you learn by doing. NYFA’s filmmaking programs put students behind the camera the very first day of class. We understand that only through hands-on experience can one learn how to master the art and craft of visual storytelling. Thanks to a good balance of hands-on workshops and actual directing instruction, students leave NYFA programs prepared to tell powerful cinematic stories. A film degree or program can leave you with more direct filmmaking experience than you imagined possible in that relatively short, dedicated amount of time.

The Right Film Program Prepares You For Many Career Paths

Graduates with filmmaking degrees or certificates are ready to pursue several different career paths in the industry. One of the most demanding and most longed-for jobs that film students dream of is that of director. Since directors usually have a hand in all aspects of production, aspiring filmmakers need to learn more than just how to handle a camera. Directors need to understand each role in the crew, how the equipment works, and what their team needs in order to succeed on a shoot. Filmmaking students learn leadership, collaboration, and technical skills that are vital in managing or participating in real-world working sets. And even if directing was the original goal, a good program can expose students to new roles and specialties within the field and expand their horizons — and potential careers.

For this reason, NYFA’s acclaimed filmmaking programs offer instruction on the fundamentals of directing, cinematography, editing, and postproduction sound design. There’s also training available in acting, screenwriting, digital video production, and digital editing. This teaches our students the tools they need to function at the professional level not just directors but as filmmakers — whether that means they pursue work as cinematographers, producers, screenwriters, editors, and more.

The Right Film Program Surrounds You With Other Filmmakers

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If there’s one thing that can be said about the filmmaking industry, it’s that it is one of the most collaborative environments out there. There’s a reason why most movies today have lengthy end credits that list the cast and crew responsible for bringing what was once an idea to the big screen. Making films is truly a team effort and depends upon a strong network of capable, passionate professionals who are able to cooperate with each other in service of a bigger story. A filmmaking degree or certificate shows that you’ve had a taste of this process while working with other students, and that you’re ready to contribute and cooperate in the real world.

More importantly, a film program challenges you to learn from both seasoned instructors and other aspiring filmmakers with different preferences and backgrounds. Such an environment can help you develop your own style while trying out unique tools that fellow peers recommend. You may also make connections that become future collaborations long after graduation. Often, filmmaking school is where you begin to build your own professional network. So it’s wise to approach your time in film school with the professionalism you hope to make a part of your lasting reputation.

The Right Filmmaking Program Makes You More Attractive To Employers

As the film industry continues to grow, so does the number of people who want to be a part of it. This means that graduates are facing more competition for jobs than ever before. With only so many positions available and countless applicants, production companies often look at experience to decide which applicants to select.

Experience is exactly what you’ll get at film school, and it comes in the form of all the student projects you work on during your time studying. Our two-year program alone has students write, shoot, direct, and edit more than 11 films, while students working toward a BFA have an entire year to focus on their thesis film production. Being able to walk into an interview with plenty of projects under your belt — and actual footage to show for it — will separate you from the crowd of applicants who don’t have any solid filmmaking experience.

The Right Film Program Lets You Learn From Professionals

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The best film schools offer a faculty of instructors with experience in the filming industry. This allows students to get hands-on training from people who actually know what it’s like to work on the set of today’s biggest movies and shows, and who are still involved and in tune with changing industry trends. There’s nothing more valuable than having a diverse team of instructors ready to pass their knowledge onto others, including common mistakes to avoid, insights from real projects, contacts in the industry, and hard-won expertise.

Students enrolled in NYFA filmmaking programs also gain access to special talks with some of the most luminous icons in the business. Recent visits include award-winning directors like Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Seth Rogen, and Doug Liman. Plenty of acclaimed actors and actresses also come as guest speakers to share with students what it’s like working in Hollywood.

Studying at the right film school is not the only way to become a filmmaker, but it is certainly one of the most respected, direct, sure-fire ways to develop your skills and knowledge to the level of a professional. Your filmmaking degree or certificate can become your professional calling card.

How have your filmmaking studies enriched your own creative work and professional goals? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Things We Can Learn From New Director Richard Tanne

The year 2016 has been very kind to Richard Tanne. In January he debuted his first feature, “Southside With You,” an unauthorized bio-pic of White House royalty; the current first couple’s first date. He secured two up-and-coming actors, Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyer, to portray the young Obamas. Tanne even got the film into John Legend’s hands: Legend signed on to executive produce and wrote a song for the film entitled “Start,” coming off his Oscar win for “Glory,” a song he wrote with rapper Common for the film “Selma.

Tanne is on a roll, and there’s a lot aspiring filmmakers, writers, and producers can learn from the actor-turned-director. If you are an aspiring filmmaker looking to learn, we always recommend a combination of learning by doing, and learning from the best. There is always some wisdom to be gleaned from the successes of others. Here are five simple, universal lessons we think our students can learn from Richard Tanne’s recent project, “Southside with You.”

1. Follow Your Passion

Tanne first heard the Obama’s love story during the 2008 election, but it wasn’t until he fell in love himself that he began to revisit the story. “There’s something special about the way the president and the first lady look at each other, and it’s something we’ve seen since the beginning of their rise to prominence. Their connection seems authentic and deep and vibrant. That’s a rare thing in life, and I think it’s an even more rare thing for public figures.”

Years later, after falling in love himself, Tanne realized, “…it wasn’t just kind of a meet-cute story about falling in love. It was also about finding that person who makes you a better version of yourself.”

Producer Robert Teitel said, “When I first met Rich, I remember telling him: ‘I think you were born to do this movie.’ I sensed very early on that the film had been completed in his head for such a long time. There’s nobody but Rich who could tackle it.”

Tanne took the opportunity and ran. He started searching for partners to produce the film with him, which leads us to another valuable lesson…

2. Share Your Work

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Tanne began to pitch the character of Michelle Robinson to Tika Sumpter. He sent her a one-page, handwritten outline, and Sumpter was instantly interested. The actress says of that time, “I don’t care if I play Michelle or not. My main goal was to get the film made.” But, if Sumpter did get the role, she already knew whom she wanted to play her character’s mother.

She had been friends with Vanessa Bell Calloway for some time. At one point Sumpter drove over two hours to see Calloway perform her one-woman play “Letters from Zora: In Her Own Words.”

The two actresses had been told over and over again how similar they looked to one another. It seemed like a natural fit.

Once Calloway read the script, she flew herself to Los Angeles for a sit-down meeting with Tanne, saying, “If you think anyone else is playing this part you’re crazy.” Tanne couldn’t believe Calloway was still auditioning. “Just look at ‘Coming to America,’” he said, “look at ‘Love Don’t Cost a Thing.’” Tanne cast her and, with just Mr. Obama left to cast, most of the hard casting work had already been done for him.

3. Work With What You’re Given

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Speaking of micro-budgets, it’s rare to do a period piece on a small budget. Even more scarce is a good period piece done with little money. “Southside With You” is set in the summer of 1989 in Chicago. Tanne’s hands were tied as far as locations. The date was real and many people know all the stops the first couple made. The museum was easy enough to retro-fit, as museums often don’t really change. The old community center and movie theater are, for the most part, fixed in look, too.

But what really sells the era is the soundtrack. “Since we didn’t have the money for tons of period details,” Tanne said, “We had to evoke the period in subtler ways. One way to do that was to make the movie look and sound like a movie from the 1980s, so you’d already be in the space.”   

“We knew we wouldn’t have large crane shots, showing us whole neighborhoods where we would need tons of kids wearing retro clothing and streets lined with vintage cars. We just had smaller moments, smaller details to evoke the period, everything from the blanket fabrics on Barack’s chair or Michelle’s family’s couch to the cassette tapes in Barack’s car. We used the 1980s-era Baskin’ Robbins sign in the ice cream store. And there are certain parts of the city that have not changed at all.”

4. Be Prepared

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Tanne knew time was going to be of the essence. Shooting a feature on location, with a micro-budget, in 17 days, meant that not one second could be spared. He asked the actors to be off book weeks before they came to set. Across continents, the actors rehearsed over Skype. When they came to set everyone was prepared. Instead of covering two to three pages a day, they were able to cover 10. The film finished on time and on budget.

5. Use Your Success as a Springboard

Tanne isn’t resting on his laurels.

Yes, “Southside With You” won big at Sundance. It’s Tanne’s first feature. It’s hitting theaters this weekend, and many might be tempted to kick up their heels and revel in their success — but Tanne is already working on two new projects.

First, Tanne is working on an unannounced Pixar film that he has been writing for the past couple of years. Second, Tanne is already writing his next feature, “The Roman,” about Julius Cesar. IMDB describes the project as, “An origin story in the vein of ‘Batman Begins’ that envisions the future dictator as a young general in the Roman army in a rarely discussed period of his life. Kidnapped by Cilician pirates and enslaved on their prison island, Caesar escapes with his men, and the decisions he makes during this time directly affect the political and social upheaval happening in Rome.”

Any more great insights for new directors? Share your tips in the comments below!

 

Brooklyn Girl Film Festival

Brooklyn Girl FF

Here is something for the female filmmakers at the New York Film Academy. The 4th Annual Brooklyn Girl Film Festival, which runs from March 26-28, 2015, is now open for submissions. Brooklyn Girl Film Festival’s mission is to showcase the work of women filmmakers from around the world, and bring these artists together for networking in a fun, informative and supportive environment. In a seemingly male dominated industry, the BGFF Films are sought in which a woman plays a key role as a director, writer, or lead animator. Features, documentaries, shorts, music videos, experimental and animated works are all considered. All genres are welcome as well.

For efficiency, all submissions are accepted through Withoutabox at http://tinyurl.com/3n639ne or Film Freeway at https://filmfreeway.com/festival/brooklyngirl.

Official Selections will be in competition for an Audience Choice Award in two different categories, feature film and short film.

Deadlines For All Submissions:

  • Regular Deadline: November 22, 2014
  • Late Deadline: December 12, 2014 
  • Extended Deadline: December 19, 2014

A three-day annual event that takes place in March, BGFF features screenings that include filmmaker Q&A, workshops, an opening night reception, special events and an awards ceremony. BGFF attendees include local filmmakers as well as those from around the country and the world. Programs and events are designed not only for filmmakers, but anyone interested in the moving image.

What Filmmakers Have Said About the Brooklyn Girl Film Festival:

“Brooklyn Girl Film Festival is a fantastic festival. They communicate with and care about the filmmakers and provide a warm place to showcase work by women filmmakers. We had a wonderful time at the Festival!” – Amanda Melby – director of “Kerry and Angie

“I was really blown away by the films that screened at Brooklyn Girl Film Festival. These are film Makers that have big careers ahead of them, many very established already and really very cool people doing very important work. April, The festival director and the festival team made the whole experience enjoyable as a filmmaker and an audience member. The talent here was pretty amazing! The Brooklyn Girl festival has the pulse of upcoming film makers from all over the world!!!” – Megan Corry, Director “The Smell of Sand