Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Go Trojans!

Swag mug.  Nice.

I'm a Bruins fan by default.  My husband went to USC and my daughter was born at the UCLA medical center.  Despite this loyalty, last night, Jennifer Westin and I headed to USC on behalf of one of our THE LAKE EFFECT interns, (the very talented, very smart, very lovely) Arielle Zakowski, to speak to her film fraternity.

It was a fun, casual event that preceded their monthly meeting and served two purposes:  to inform the undergrads about what it means to be an independent filmmaker and to remind us of how good and bad and crazy and silly this roller coaster journey is.

We answered questions about a wide range of stuff - everything from international distribution to YouTube to directing and micro budget filmmaking. 

One of the most interesting moments came after a question about the path for a writer/director right out of school.  While we discussed the benefits of shooting a short film and developing a feature script, one student asked, “What did you see as the benefit of submitting your short to festivals versus just putting your short on youtube?”  I had to explain that when I shot my last short, we didn’t have YouTube!!!!  HA! 

It's amazing and exciting how quickly things are transforming.  Thanks to the internets, these guys have access to truly independent distribution.  They don't need a festival to get 90,000 people to see their movie.  That's awesome.   Things like that will determine the future of our modes of entertainment and the students we spoke to last night will determine what film will transform into in the coming years.  (When I mentioned that I'd be begging them all for jobs in ten years, they laughed because it's true!)  

The very last question of the night was:  If there is one thing that you’ve learned that you wish you knew when you started out, what would it be?

My answer was:  When an investor wants to give you a million dollars for your movie, take it – don’t haggle over a piddily script option price, just smile and nod and go get a job at Mc Donald’s if you have to support yourself during the two years you’ll be committing to making your first movie. 

I believe Jennifer's answer was:
If you already know specifically what you want to do (i.e. write half hour sit coms) be ready to be hired by graduation day.  She encouraged students to spend this time getting their feature script or their reel or their TV spec scripts ready to go.  

On our way to the car, though – we both thought of a truer answer to that question. 

I wish we had imparted to the group that there will be so many times that you feel like you are on the verge of making it.  You set bars for yourself – “If I sell a screenplay, get an agent, make a movie… then I will have made it.”  So you do it -  you sell a screenplay, you get the agent, you make a movie… and then you need to sell that movie. You need to write and sell another screenplay, you need to manage your agent (or get a bigger one), you need to finance another movie, you need to sell that movie…  In other words, you have to KEEP making it.

Despite the stories we read about someone getting their big break – those big breaks happen after years of little breaks and lots of pushing.   This might sound daunting but the challenge is part of what all filmmakers love. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Luckily, we’re not a group that hunted down this career because it’s easy.

Thanks again to Arielle for having us out and to the great group of students who came to listen!  Hope it was as fun for you as it was for us.

For the benefit of the students, I’m re-posting my short SMACKERS, which is now on You Tube, here: 
And here’s the trailer that Arielle cut for us for THE LAKE EFFECT

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