Research Recap: La Grande Illusion.

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Before I became a film director…first and foremost, I was a fan of the movies. That remains the case. I love movies. And when I first watch a film, the “fan” in me dominates the working artist. It’s as if the kid in me rises up and orders the eager professional side of me to sit down, shut up and enjoy the ride. Sure, I notice a few things here and there that go above and beyond how I experienced a film for the first time when I popped in those ancient VHS tapes as a youngster. But I’m not one of these artists who feels that peeking behind the curtain has somehow eliminated the magic of a filmgoing experience. No. If anything, I feel like appreciate movies more now (and I definitely have more respect for the credit scroll, seeing just how many collaborators it takes to make the film, knowing how hard they worked).

But now that I’m prepping this second feature, I need to watch movies not just for fun, not just as a fan, but for inspiration and to better understand the mechanics of shotmaking, story and character that might be applicable to my own film. So I’m trying to consciously ask myself a few questions about each film I watch in preparation to make “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” We’ll see if this works for me in identifying some specifics about the way the films I research are crafted and in improving my own film.

So for each film, I force myself to answer the following questions: Why are you choosing this film as part of your research? What was your favorite shot? Why? Who was your favorite character? What did that character add to the film? What was your favorite scene? Why did it work for you? What was your favorite moment in terms of the acting? Why? What is your favorite piece of dialogue? Why?

The following answers are from the film “Le Grande Illusion” (1937), directed by Jean Renoir.

 

Why are you including this film as part of your research? I knew I had to see Renior’s “The River” since it was one of the first studio films to shoot in color in India and my film also takes place partially in India. So I saw “The River” and really enjoyed it and decided it would be worthwhile to then take a look at “La Grande Illusion.”

Favorite shot: The opening shot. We open on a shot of the record player, then tilt up to a medium of our protagonist, who starts singing along to the record as soon as he hits the frame. As he’s singing, we see (out of focus) a few guys sit down to play cards in the background and another guy passes through the frame (this part is crucial – it helps to set up the bar location even in a medium). Then, the camera pans to the right as our hero walks in that direction and becomes a wider shot of the bar accommodating about 10 French soldiers between the soldiers we see now and those we saw in the blurry background previously. Our hero has a brief conversation with the bartender, then heads back towards the record player as another soldier walks in the door. We follow the new soldier back to the record player, where our protagonist has already settled and the shot becomes a two-shot as our hero takes one step back to frame it up (we still haven’t cut). They have another brief conversation. Then the camera pans right once more to follow these guys as they leave the bar. The shot runs about 55 seconds.

Why I like it and what can be learned from it: It’s just classy when an opening shot of a film runs a minute without cutting, managing to seamlessly sneak in a shot of a record player, a medium of our hero, a wide and a two-shot all in the same continuous shot. Somehow, in a very subtle way, such a shot announces to the audience: you’re in the hands of a master who’s thought things through…and this is a film worth watching from start to finish. Buckle in. On a story level, I feel like the shot sets up our protagonist’s relationship to his group – his fellow soldiers. This fluid shot establishes him as an individual who has a voice (indeed, a voice that sings) yet he’s inextricably connected to the group of soldiers. Lt. Marechal can’t just break away from the army, any more than the actor playing him can break away from this shot. It contains him for a full minute. And by the way, there is nothing expensive whatsoever about that shot. It’s all ingenuity in the design and perhaps some good ole fashioned trial and error on the set to get the timing, blocking and focus exactly right.

Favorite character: I personally loved the Lt. Rosenthal character, played by Marcel Dalio, perhaps because I related to him most.

What does this character add to the film: Rosenthal is a former Vaudeville performer stuck in the army, who even produces a drag show in the barracks. [Side note: Certainly the most provocative scene in the film is when a young man enters dressed as a woman and the entire barracks falls completely silent as the other guys (presumably) cycle through feelings of both attraction and consternation at being attracted to a pretty boy dressed as a girl.] And that expressive element of the men captured just would not have been possible without the character of Lt. Rosenthal. His humor, his showmanship and his almost annoyingly upbeat energy opens the door to a sense of fun in spite of danger that the movie needs. It also reminds me of the “Orchestration of Character” chapter in Lajos Egri’s book about playwriting. Lt. Rosenthal balances out the traditional aristocracy of Captain Boeldieu and the salt of the Earth Lt. Marechal.

Favorite scene: Erich von Stroheim’s character bemusedly calling out the guys for previous escape attempts. I know it’s not the most profound or gripping scene in the film, but it’s a soldiers’ spin on the “honor among thieves” in the sense that every military officer prides himself on his valiant attempts at escape from the opposing side’s prison camp, something von Stroheim’s character can appreciate, even if it’s his duty to make sure these guys stay locked up.

Favorite moment in the acting: This movie would be a treasured French film, rather than an international classic, without Erich von Stroheim. His humanizing performance as the German captain is not only the best in the film, but effectively empowers Renoir to depict a world in which opposing soldiers have more in common than what divides them by circumstance. To this end, I could easily have picked von Stroheim’s brilliant moments of wry humor mixed with self-confidence in the previously described scene where he reads off all these escape attempts of his captives. But instead, I will choose his touching moments at the bedside of his dying French counterpart, Captain Boeldieu.

Why that acting moment? First of all, it’s the small touches that sometimes make for a great moment. Erich von Stroheim captures all of the physical pain of his character, the war injuries, in his stiff movements towards the bed. There’s even a slight grimace of pain as he sits down next to Boeldieu, which he hides even from himself. Those details make the moment when he tenderly touches Boeldieu’s shoulder even more moving. He says his first line of dialogue here, “Forgive me,” with the simple tones of someone who means it, no extra dramatics to call attention to the weight of the statement.

What was your favorite piece of dialogue in the film: Well, I don’t speak French, full disclosure. So, I’m sure some of the subtle humor in certain moments of the dialogue was lost on me. But, just a few hours after watching it, I only clearly remember one line of dialogue. [SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT] It’s the scene when, after Boeldieu is shot, he tells the German captain who shoots him, “I would have done the same.”

Why I liked that bit of dialogue: First off, it obviously stayed with me. Also, it just drives home this feeling that war is absurd, even more than tragic. If one side isn’t morally superior to the other or more just than the other, then it seems so stupid that they’re fighting in the first place. I mean, if all you learn after years of war and escape attempts and lost lives is, “The other guy is just like me,” then that seems both cruel and an undeniable step towards enlightenment.

Best Takeaway for my Own Film: That opening shot. Finding just a few cheap, fascinating shots that have that sort of variation and purpose, uninterrupted, would be pretty rad for my own film.

Feel free to let me know in the comments other aspects of a film that are worth serious thought and observation as you’re prepping your shot list.

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker and actor living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink. His current feature film Guys Reading Poems is touring film festivals and this blog is dedicated to the process of making his second feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).

 

 

Selling vs. The Work

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I’m going to admit one of my biggest sources of frustration as an artist: the balance between creating work and promoting it.

Some artists appear to only care about creating work and delegate all responsibilities of promoting themselves and their work to others (agents, managers, publicists, publishers, distributors, etc). And I really envy those artists, even if I’m sure it’s an illusion that they are free from the responsibilities of promoting their work. After all, even if you delegate to a publicist, you still have to pay the publicist.

salesman-iooiNonetheless, very established artists do seem more free from the idea of having to “sell yourself” to get through the door. Which – in my mind – frees up their energy to focus even more on creative pursuits, sharpening their skills as artists. On the other hand, the unestablished artist must spend a fair amount of time on promotion, taking away valuable time for creating and enhancing your work. Most unestablished artists can’t afford to hire someone to shoulder these responsibilities, either. And the work is all the more difficult because promoting a known quantity is far easier than promoting a new artist, even for a skilled publicist. So the promotional aspect is not only more for the unestablished artist in terms of doing the work herself, it’s also more challenging work with fewer results. It’s easy to feel both overworked and perpetually behind. In my case, fears abound that I’ll never catch up to my more established counterparts. The flip side of that fear is the scary notion that I might be a phony for spending too much time promoting work at the expense of investing time and resources into creating better work. And the fear underlying both is the ole, “Well, perhaps they are just better artists than you are and that’s why success comes easy to them.”

So…what to do?

I’ve asked myself this question a lot and the answer seems to be the very unmagical response of, “Keep creating work and keep promoting said work to the best of your ability.”

Sometimes, I add to that, “Shame for not having financial success as an artist is not productive or even an indicator of long-term success.” Many artists who were popular in their time are now long-forgotten Emperors in New Clothes. And many unheralded artists rose significantly in their fields well into their old age or even after death. This knowledge is difficult, but freeing and brings up a challenging but pertinent silver lining. When you feel badly about yourself for not being as established as you want to be, remember the strategic benefits of your position as well. The unestablished artist may have more work and harder work to do, but at least he is free in a different way, free from the hubris that seems a byproduct of conventional success. Hubris can blind one to the truth of oneself and the culture at large. Conventional success almost certainly is isolating while struggle forces a confrontation with the self and others.

I don’t think it’s prudent for unestablished artists not to use social media and conventional networking to forward their career. I sometimes feel that more established artists are looking down on me for doing so, but I really try not to care anymore. I was recently told by a well-established sales agent that my art film could secure a meeting with a major distributor if I could prove we have 100,000 social media followers regularly tuned in. It may not be my favorite to build up those kinds of numbers, but if it helps me make the films I love and return capital to the brave investors who believe in them, I’ll build that online audience. And if somebody important at some prestigious institution snickers at me for it, oh well. Building a social media following is just too important to ignore, even if it’s out of my comfort zone.

That being said, at the end of the day, as artists, we must be willing to sacrifice self-promotion for the sake of the work. Just this past month, I missed almost all my self-imposed deadlines for writing blog posts right here at insideoutthefilm.com. That’s because I’ve been rewriting the film. And I had to prioritize that. I just didn’t have the energy for both and I had to choose. Rightly, I chose “the work” not promoting the work. Now, I’m shotlisting. I shotlist at least one scene every day, come hell or high water. If it’s between shotlisting and a tweet, I choose the shotlist. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to have a presence on Twitter and Instagram and work on building that up, too.

If anyone has ideas on this subject or practical suggestions for how artists can manage the balance between selling and creative work, please leave your comments below.

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker and actor living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink. His current feature film Guys Reading Poems is touring film festivals and this blog is dedicated to the process of making his second feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).

 

 

 

 

Rewrite.

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What a difference four years can make…

Originally, as many of you know who’ve been following the development of this film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In” was supposed to be my feature film directorial debut. Instead, I got very lucky to get a different feature off the ground, Guys Reading Poems, which is currently touring the festival circuit. Now that I’m returning to a script I began writing four years ago, I see that changes are necessary. Sigh. Rewrite.

First of all, major developments in our political landscape render the original draft looking a bit outdated after only a relatively short time. For starters, the fact that gay marriage is now the law of the land will have a big impact on the gay couple in the screenplay. I’m left with the choice of updating the script or keeping it as a “period piece” that takes place….in 2012. Updating the script is smarter.

Putting the gay marriage issue aside, I also see that there are opportunities to make pragmatic adjustments to the plot. The film tackles conflicts within the media business and a few more years going through the process of making a feature film (not to mention hearing new industry gossip) empowers me to better understand a world that I now occupy as well as observe.

And then, there’s my online philosophy class. For better or worse, all this talk of existentialism and the meaning of life really got my head spinning about some of the themes in the script. I do feel that there’s symbolic content floating around the edges of the screenplay that I may skillfully make a bit more conscious with a little luck, hard work and caffeine. So I’m going to try.

My process for rewriting always includes some unspecified amount of time existing as a sponge, internalizing ideas, inspiring works of art and music (and that online philosophy class). It’s kinda like the Time Machine for Mac computers. Somewhere in the background, without being noticed, my system is working to catalogue. But one of the hardest aspects of re-writing is moving beyond an abstract phase and actually conquering the previous draft with a red pen. Basically, my soak-up-the-ether-time with this script has been going on for the last eight to eleven months. The question then becomes, how do I start squeezing that sponge into the content of the screenplay? Where to (re) start?

For some reason, I was drawn to my favorite Shakespeare play, “Romeo & Juliet.” [Yes, my pug’s name is Romeo, too]. I really just wanted to read the prologue of the play. Since it’s so good (and in the public domain), I’ll copy/paste it for you:

“Two households, both alike in dignity. (In fair Verona, where we lay our scene), From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, Whose misadventured piteous overthrows doth with their death bury their parents’ strife. The fearful passage of their death-marked love and the continuance of their parents’ rage, Which, but their children’s end, naught could remove, Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage— The which, if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.”

The famous balcony of Romeo and Juliet in Verona, Italy . Juliet's balcony

The famous balcony of Romeo and Juliet in Verona, Italy. Juliet’s balcony

So that got me going and I decided to write a prologue to “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” I was surprised by just how quickly I was able to get it down on paper. The first new words to “Inside-Out, Outside-In” in more than three years…and effective words, too. Maybe all the sponging worked. Satisfying.

The new prologue clearly tips its proverbial hat to “Romeo and Juliet”and I’m okay with that. If you’re writing a romantic drama, you could do worse that align yourself with the most iconic star-crossed lovers of all-time.

Who knows if I’ll be able to use it? But – as an exercise – it forced me to at least attempt to sum up the script and make it exciting for audiences on page one. It forced me to find a comparison for the film. (Now, I can be one of those Hollywood douches who says….it’s “Romeo and Juliet” meets ?????? ). It forced me to start the rewrite. Several days later, my insomnia inspired me to write an epilogue, too.

Now, it’s just a matter of the 93 pages in between.

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker and actor living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink. His current feature film Guys Reading Poems is touring film festivals and this blog is dedicated to the process of making his second feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).

 

Fail better.

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As I watch the U.S. Open, I’m reminded of Samuel Beckett’s insight from “Westward Ho” every time I see a medium shot of (now) finalist Stan Wawrinka. The quote goes like this, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

stan-tattooI think of it when I see Wawrinka because it’s tattooed on his left forearm.

Four years ago, I set out to direct the feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” The film never got made. Simply put, I failed. (Or at minimum, did not succeed on my timeline). Ouch.

To be fair to myself, I did direct another feature film in this time frame that’s currently touring film festivals, the neo-noir poetry mindbender Guys Reading Poems. But the achievements of that film don’t remove the stubborn reality that I wanted to make “Inside-Out, Outside-In” and it didn’t happen.

Failure seems especially daunting in a culture dominated by a materialism that has even managed somehow to take over spirituality (VISUALIZE IT AND THE MILLIONS ARE COMING, DUE TO SPIRITUALITY!). We expect materialism with the Kardashians and reality television and, more cynically, in a corrupt political system. But now, even many self-help gurus and ministers peddle the idea that financial success and empowerment come to those who pray (correctly) and really believe it. So failure can feel not only like a setback, but also like the sign of a moral and spiritual shortcoming (YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN YOURSELF OR IN THE POWER OF THE UNIVERSE ENOUGH!).

Also, for those of us who identify with the struggling artist motif, there’s a shadow side to failure that sees in it not only moral shortcomings, but also moral superiority. After all, it’s easier to embrace failure if we think of those who’ve succeeded to higher levels than ourselves as cheaters or sociopaths or spiritually bankrupt lawyers (and indeed some of them are). The danger in thinking that way is that a failure can reinforce a false narrative that you failed because you’re too good to succeed, akin to the mantra “only the good die young” – which implies that the old among us are not so good. In this case, we can harbor thoughts of “only the good go unrecognized and fight on as starving artists” which implies that “only the corrupt (or sellouts) succeed.”

Neither of these strains of thought works for me anymore. Self-help gurus craft good soundbite, but I guarantee that 99% of them could not direct a feature film and pull it off. In fact, most of them wouldn’t get past dealing with SAG-AFTRA. And struggling artists holding onto their purity and embracing failure’s more noble undertones sometimes sell their passion project and then they buy condo’s, too. I’ve seen it happen.

My thinking now is that failure – especially failure in terms of the materialistic world – is just not that grandiose. In itself, it doesn’t show much about who we are as people. Some amazing artists never succeed financially and some do. Some extremely successful people got there because they cheated, lied and manipulated their way to the top. Others worked really hard and conscientiously extend a helping hand to those on the way up.

The quote implies that if you’re NOT failing it’s because you’re not trying. The only way you can’t fail is by having no aspirations at all in your life. And that’s the ultimate losing approach to being human.

This week, I set up our Google Drive and re-ordered all the folders with regards to “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” I called the first meeting of the few people involved with the project at this stage – my manager Bradley R. Bernstein, my brother J. Parker Buell and longtime Fatelink collaborator Camille Carida, who was in the reading of the material way back in 2013 and has been a constant source of encouragement on the script. We talked about our system of naming files, scanning receipts, recruiting producers, investors and talent, creating talking points for the film and organizing a reading of the revised script in November. Afterwards, Bradley said it was the best meeting I’ve ever run. For now, the film is like that. It’s just meetings and lonely hours at coffee shops rewriting and determining file naming conventions with the hopes that it’ll save us effort six months later when the team expands from four to 124. To the extent that I succeeded in this one meeting, I attribute to a willingness to try again, fail again, fail better. Thank you, Samuel Beckett for your wisdom. And Stan for enduring the pain of a tattoo (and for being amazing enough at tennis that we all get to see it).

Tomorrow, I’m heading to a very successful friend’s condo to watch the Stan Wawrinka-Novak Djokovic final (to save money, I don’t have a television or cable subscription right now). I love Djoker, but I’m pulling for Stan. I hope I catch a shot of his tattoo.

On Monday, I get back to work on “Inside-Out, Outside-In.”

Scene 10 Shot B - Inside-Out, Outside-In

Nathaniel is taken aback by Jason’s performance. Note: It’s a solo shot, unlike the other two auditions. (storyboard drawn by Monte Patterson).

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker living and working in Los Angeles. His feature film, Guys Reading Poems, is currently on the film festival circuit and will screen at the Breckenridge Film Festival on Friday, September 16th. His favorite tennis players are Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic.

If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).

INFP filmmakers: Top Ten Strategies to Lead your Team

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Some of the most creative minds on the planet – now and in the past – have been INFP on the Myers Briggs personality index. Artists and philosophers like Bjork, Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Kurt Cobain, Soren Kierkegaard, Albert Camus, George Orwell and even William Shakespeare are reputed to be our fellow INFPs. We are, by many reports, a rare type – around 2% of the population at large (although some stats show us at more like 4%) and are alternately described as “dreamers,” “visionaries,” “healers,” and “imaginative idealists.”

By contrast, the classic “CEO” personality type is widely considered to be ESTJ. Yep, that is pretty much the polar opposite of the INFP type.

So that begs the question…INFPs may have vision and insight and empathy…but can we lead?

As a feature film director of Guys Reading Poems, I’ve found that the answer is “yes.” However, we INFPs are by nature a different kind of leader than other types. Here are some steps I suggest for maximizing your potential as a team leader. After all, sometimes having a dream is not enough. You have to rally others to executive your vision!

"I could never work with a team member who questioned my decision to shoot the film in black-and-white," says Hunter Lee Hughes. Luke Judy as The Boy. Photo by Michael Marius Pessah

“I could never work with a team member who questioned my decision to shoot the film in black-and-white,” says Hunter Lee Hughes. Luke Judy as The Boy. Photo by Michael Marius Pessah

1. Select the right team. This is more important for INFPs than for any other type, I would argue. We are focused internally through feeling so if someone on the team simply does not agree with our values for the project – or at least respect them – conflict is inevitable. Avoiding these sorts of power struggles is imperative because it takes more energy for INFPs than other types to deal with conflict. So making sure you hire folks who respect your vision and values is the most important way you will set yourself up for success as a team leader. (I would be remiss not to acknowledge that I had the most wonderful cast and creative team on this film that I could possibly imagine. Truly. )

2. Use your intuition to spot potential. One of the best ways to shore up an alliance is to spot someone’s hidden potential and nurture it. INFPs are good at encouraging and nurturing and, as a team leader, that asset can be used for the benefit of the project by bringing out untapped potential in your team members. The rewards for you and the project will be better work and greater loyalty down the line.

3. Lead by example as much as humanly possible. INFPs are not the type that gets a thrill out of barking orders at people. But we are perfectionists by nature so use this to your advantage. Put in the long hours and make sure that your team is impressed with your output and presentations to the group. Even without being told to work harder and longer, you may spark the competitive spirit in them and find that they work a little harder to make sure their work stands up to your own.

4. Accept that not everyone will be as passionate and perfectionistic about the project as you. INFPs are known for being internally motivated and highly perfectionistic. But you have to accept that not everyone on the team is like that. Others may need a different kind of motivation that might not occur naturally to you. Maybe it’s time to take members of your team out to dinner or a beer. Or highlight them on your social media feed so they have some bragging rights. Or make an introduction that might help their career. And of course, some people see their job as just a job and financial motivation is far and away the biggest for them. As INFP leaders, it’s highly likely that you will care more about your project than anyone else. If you start getting angry with others on the team that they don’t feel as passionately about it as you do, that will spell disaster. Instead, remember that you are working with a number of different personality types and it’s perfectly normal that they may need some additional forms of motivation!

5. Compliment with feeling. You are a natural empathizer and know when someone went the extra mile to accomplish something for the project. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge a team member with your feelings behind it. If you are moved by their effort, acknowledge that to the team with feeling! Sometimes, it seems like “feeling” has no place in business. But, after all, people feel great about themselves when their work is received warmly, especially if that warmth is genuine and deeply felt, as is often the case with us INFPs. The only downside to this is sometimes you may get carried away complimenting one person on the team and don’t do the same for another. But keep an eye on this and over time, things will even out. People love to feel valued and it makes their commitment and work on the project better!

In the film, Christos Vasilopoulos plays 'The Director.' But how are INFPs at leading projects?

In the film, Christos Vasilopoulos plays ‘The Director.’ But how are INFPs at leading projects? Photo by Michael Marius Pessah.

6. Try to articulate the things about your project that are not negotiable. Because we are quiet leaders who are capable of listening well, some on the team may think everything is negotiable with an INFP leader. This would never be assumed with a more traditional CEO-type like an ESTJ and it is not true for an INFP leader either. INFPs are perceivers rather than judgers and can be very open to the stories and experiences of others. This makes it doubly confounding for your team when suddenly they find you extremely inflexible about certain aspects of the work. We know as INFPs that our intrinsic values and feelings will not be crossed without a serious fight, but other personality types may not understand why a certain value of the project is not negotiable while other aspects of the project are open for collaboration. As a leader, you have to be honest with yourself and your team about the areas where you are not flexible….or at least give them subtle clues. If necessary, you may have to remind the team of the core values of the project and stand firm on those. You may get pushback at first, but it’s important that you stand up for yourself and, more importantly, the project!

7. Communicate through email and google documents. INFPs are naturally strong at writing and can be more clear and precise with our observations through writing than in person communication. Take advantage of this by sometimes articulating your positions in email rather than in person. We are quiet leaders. The power of personality is sometimes with another person in the room. However, just because someone else may speak the best or the loudest on an issue does not mean they are correct. Articulating your thoughts through writing them down may bring out the merit in your ideas that might go missing in a meeting.

8. Empower the extroverts on your team as ambassadors. Once you feel secure that you’ve hired a team that understands and appreciates your vision of the project, empower the extroverts as ambassadors for the project. Encourage them in their own communication style (which is probably better than yours anyway!). Strategic alliances are important and to be valued. As INFPs, we often are most comfortable working alone or with a small group of people we already know. So it’s important to empower those who naturally reach out to others to make sure your project has the broad base of support and skill sets it needs.

9. Don’t be afraid of the words….’I have decided.’ As perceivers and empathizers, we find it relatively easy to understand another’s point of view or feelings on a matter, even when we completely disagree. It’s an asset that others feel understood with you. But, after all, you are the leader and know the variables of the project the best so don’t be afraid of the words, “I have decided…” after you’ve had a chance to listen to all the input and make a decision. Chances are, it will be a good one knowing how much you wrestle with any decision!

10. Reserve the most passion and empathy for the project, not any one person. As INFPs, we can easily begin to identify with the feelings and problems of others. This can be helpful as a leader if you need to step in and solve a problem that relates to interpersonal issues. However, let’s be honest, it can also be a distraction. There’s work to be done after all! This is why I advise fellow INFP leaders to put their most passion and empathy towards the project itself rather than any one individual. Think of the project as a human being with whom you empathize. Yes, the people working on the project are all important. But if getting wrapped up in the whirlwind of one person’s drama will distract you from taking care of the project, you need to check yourself.

OK, so are there any other INFP leaders out there with thoughts on effective team building, project management and such? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Hunter Lee Hughes wrote and directed the upcoming feature film ‘Guys Reading Poems.’ He founded Fatelink Productions in 2004 and its creative consulting division StoryAtlas in 2013. He is the proud father of a pug – Romeo. If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).

 

Hunter Lee Hughes with Romeo. Photo credit: Obvious selfie.

Hunter Lee Hughes with Romeo. Photo credit: Obvious selfie.

 

Remember: Your film is someone’s first job…

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For years, you’ve been struggling. Rewriting your script between jobs. Drawing up a business plan. Raising money. Meeting actors. Shotlisting. Rewriting your script again. The list is seemingly endless, but you finally get your first feature film off the ground. You’re on set, feeling proud if somewhat overwhelmed. You look around. Spot a production assistant. You realize that although you’ve paid years worth of dues that your film is someone else’s very first day on the job. And that realization helps you remember why you’re on set in the first place.

photo (1)In my case, that somebody was Sergio Cardenas. He’s originally from Peru, studied music at Shepherd University. His long-term goals include producing films and also composing music for movies. After the shoot, we caught up and traded notes about our experience.

Hunter: How many film sets had you worked on before Guys Reading Poems?

Sergio: Guys Reading Poems was my first experience…and I was so nervous because I had no idea what I was supposed to do.

Hunter: What was it like to be on set?

Sergio: Really nice. Personally, I really like it a lot. One thing that I enjoyed from Guys Reading Poems was that a lot of people knew each other before, so you were able to see that there was a nice flow, a good working environment, but also creative because you have to do things on the spot sometimes. People were really considerate of other people’s feelings and situations. I mean, sometimes there were problems but people worked to make things go smoothly. Just the fact of being on the set, watching the camera, seeing how the crew moved, the rhythm. One thing that surprised me a lot was that you have to be there for like 12 hours. I was like, “What?!?!” And it started on Sunday until Friday and we had Saturday off. In Peru, my schedule was different. You start on Monday and end on Friday, you start at 8 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. In that way, it was a change.

Hunter: What did you learn from working on a movie set?

Sergio: Many things. For example, the first thing is teamwork. The whole thing is a result of each department – the people who are doing the electricity, the lighting, the set, the camera, the costumes – it’s amazing. All that has to work on time because there are time limits. You have to finish in one day a certain amount of the script. If you go beyond that, you’re done. You understand that being nice with people makes things smoother than being a douchebag, you know? Just be nice with people and communicate. Listen. That’s very important. There is a lot of trust, which is important. I’m getting to work on Guys Reading Poems and none of you know me at all. But the people who don’t know you at all give you the trust to have the keys to their car, give you the money to go to the store or whatever. Coming from where I come from, in South America, it’s a jungle. But in a different way. It’s hard to trust people because people cheat a lot.

american flagAlso, I like how efficient Americans are. They are super efficient, but they’re not like the Germans. Efficient but not robotic. Not rigid. They also chill out, but doing their thing good and responsible. I really like that. People come, do their thing, do it good and it’s like, “Wow.”

Hunter: What made you decide to try to work in the movie business?

Sergio: At the beginning, it was kind of unconscious. I was not aware of what I was doing. I always liked movies so I found these posts looking for production assistants for making a film and then I said, “Why not?” Let’s discover the process. To that post, I got contacted through Jason [Fracaro]. He wrote me back and called me and asked me some questions and after all that process he said, “Welcome to the club” and that’s how it started.

Hunter: There are a lot of people out there curious to work in the movie business who haven’t quite made the plunge yet. What would you say to them?

Sergio: Try it. Try. Definitely. We grow in a society that is always telling you, “Don’t do this. Do that,” for whatever the reason but the only way if you will know if something resonates with you is if you really try it. You have to experiment. I wouldn’t tell that person try it only once. What if the first time was a bad experience? In that way, I’m lucky because my first time was a good experience. But what if your first experience was bad? You have to give it a few shots and then depending on how you feel and what you think, you take your own decision.

Hunter: What was your favorite moment on set?

Sergio: Many things. The magic when you would say “action” and the silence would come and the actors would start to take life. It’s a movie. It’s not real life anymore. Watching Patricia [Velasquez] and all of a sudden we hear, “Action” and she’s so intense. The movie is coming alive and it’s so intense. I like it a lot.

Hunter: What’s next for you and how will you take the lessons you learned on Guys Reading Poems and apply it to future jobs?

Sergio: For me, keep doing what I’m doing. Working on sets. Knowing people because this is teamwork, so you can’t do it all by yourself. You need a lot of collaboration. Getting more clear on what types of movies I would like to do and finding a way to make it. I still don’t have – “This is the path.” I have a general idea and I’m working how to achieve all that. That’s the stage I’m in now.

Sergio Cardenas

Sergio Cardenas

Talking with Sergio is a good reminder for all of us as filmmakers: if your film is someone’s first job, do you care how they remember it? How it shapes them?

Sergio is a proud freelancer and can be contacted for production work at: universusxxi@gmail.com

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker and actor living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink. His current feature film Guys Reading Poems is touring film festivals and this blog is dedicated to the process of making his second feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).

Crowdfunding: Prep and Execution

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Probably the most common question I receive from fellow independent filmmakers is, ‘How do we make crowdfunding work for our project?’

I had the same question for my first feature film, Guys Reading Poems, and – luckily – I was able to ask Leah Cevoli, an expert in the field. She helped us navigate strategy and effective execution within the crowdfunding space and gave practical pointers to maximize our chances. Ultimately, we were successful in our raise, which has made all the difference in the life of our film. So since so many folks have questions about crowdfunding for their films, I thought I’d return to Ms. Cevoli and see what she had to say!

Leah Cevoli

Leah Cevoli

Hunter: So Leah, I consulted with you on Guys Reading Poems Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. I can honestly say that without your help, we would have died on the vine. So thank you for that. Crowdfunding is probably the number one topic that filmmakers bring up when they speak to me. They recognize its potential value to their lives, but are sometimes a little lost and overwhelmed with it. And sometimes I see that look in their eyes that says – FREE MONEY!!!! – and I worry. What would you say is the biggest misperception people have about crowdfunding for webseries, short films and feature films?

Leah: You’re welcome.  I was truly impressed with how you absorbed all of the information I gave you AND put it into action for such a strong finish! Congrats!

The biggest misperception is that most filmmakers, inventors, etc think that if you have a great concept, you can put it up on a crowdfunding platform and it will get funded.  The second biggest misperception is that if you have a great concept, cool rewards, and a great video you can place it on a crowdfunding platform and people will just find it and fund it.

Hunter: You mention inventors. Some people have expressed that – going forward – crowdfunding will be more effective for new consumer products and apps rather than filmed entertainment. I guess the theory is that people are essentially pre-buying items they can use rather than sort of angel gifting for an artist. Do you agree with this theory? How can films continue to expand in the crowdfunding space?

Leah: I do think that we will see more and more products, inventions if you will. Crowdfunding gives so many people that otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to fund the next chia pet, snuggies, or pet rock a platform to get their idea out there.   However, I don’t see it dying down for filmed entertainment either.  If anything, it gives the consumer a better and more varied option of the entertainment choices they can view.  And in effect, it’s a pre-buy for the film’s dvd, poster etc.  Speaking of pre-buys, I believe if musicians paid more attention to crowdfunding, they could take much of the power back into their hands that was lost with the breakdown of record labels and online file sharing.

Hunter: That makes sense. And musicians have tour tickets to offer as well! If you had to narrow it down to a couple variables, what are the biggest differences between a campaign that is successful and a campaign that is unsuccessful?

Leah: Preparation, outreach to their personal friends and family, backer communications, and non-stop social media content.

Hunter: Very true. In our campaign, although it may’ve seemed like it was taking place ‘online’ I was making lots of personal phone calls to colleagues, friends and family members, lobbying them to back us. We held Kickstarter fundraisers – large and small. We arranged for potential substantial backers to tour our office and view some of our creative work. Online crowdfunding doesn’t take away your responsibility as a filmmaker to ask people for money in person or on the phone. You have to do it, in my opinion. So knowing that crowdfunding campaigns are sometimes more than meets the eye…what kind of prep time do you suggest for campaigns? Does that change depending on the amount of money being raised?

Leah: It depends on the team.  Not so much the goal amount, but more so the size of their social networks, and the number of team members that are fully vested. It also depends on the skill-sets of the team; do they need to hire a video editor, a graphics person, a social media assistant? On average, I would say at least a month prep time, but in reality it’s probably more like three months.

Hunter: Where do you lean – Kickstarter or IndieGogo or another option?
Leah: I prefer Kickstarter for a number of reasons; the urgency of all or nothing is appealing to me and to most others, and the back-end is much more user friendly when communicating with backers. I do like IndieGogo, and have coached a dozen or so campaigns over there, but I prefer Kickstarter.

Hunter: What has been your happiest moment on a crowdfunding campaign?

Leah: Aw man, this is a tough one.  I’ve had ecstatic moments on so many campaigns. I’ve appeared on the 11:00 news with the team of the feature film Blood Kiss. I’ve pulled all-nighters with clients. I’ve had major A-list celebs and magazines mention clients.  There are a lot of happy moments. In a nutshell, every win has been a happy moment.

Hunter: Finally, you are a woman of many talents, including acting. How is your acting going? Does your expertise in crowdfunding help you in your acting or does it cause others to think you are “less serious” as an actress? Many of our readers have more than one talent and sometimes one is related to “business” and the other to “creative.” How do you balance the two in terms of your life and how you present yourself to others?

Leah: Thank you!  I’ve got some really great projects coming out this year.  I recently voiced two characters for the feature film The Grid Zombie: Outlet Maul, shot a lead role in the horror flick Killcast, and will soon be voicing a character in The Sultana Documentary, executive produced by Jim Michaels and Sean Astin. I’m also attached in various acting and producing capacities to quite a few projects who are scheduled to shoot in 2015.

I’ve been a member of SAG (now SAG-AFTRA) since 2005.  I launched my crowdfunding business in 2013.  I’ve been acting a lot longer, and have built up a name for myself, with some really great credits on my resume, yet I absolutely have struggled with the fear of not being seen as an actor if people see me as a crowdfunding manager. As artists, we never want people to associate us with anything but our artistic career, no one ever wants to talk about their waitress job, for fear of not seeming like a talented actor.  For most of this time, crowdfunding has been my “waitress” job, and I didn’t really want to talk about. My clients have all been word of mouth, referrals and I’ve been happy with that.  This year, 2015, I’m structuring it more like a business, speaking at more events and workshops, and boldly talking about my business outside of acting. I’m making it work for me, and to be honest, the majority of projects I’ve been cast in this year have been in some way related to crowdfunding. I’m leveraging my skills at raising funds, to align with better projects and teams. I think it’s becoming much more acceptable and frankly necessary, to have multiple streams of income based on your skillsets. Yes, I’m a damn good actress, but I’m also a wiz at crowdfunding and I’m embracing that, as should anyone else who’s reading this and concerned that one of their skills may diminish another.  It’s just not true anymore.

Hunter: Agree with you 100%. Becoming a more savvy businessperson does not mean you are less of an artist. In fact, it’s empowering and that can help bring additional solidity to the creative side that’s then more free to experiment and take risks. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us, Leah! And thanks for helping us with Guys Reading Poems. If we decide to crowdfund for Inside-Out, Outside-In, you’ll be hearing from me again…

For those of you interested in working with Leah, she has generously offered a 10% discount to readers of this blog. Let her know that you’re from InsideOut film blog and she will apply the discount!

Crowdfunding Contact Info:
www.leahcevoli.com/crowdfunding-packages

Leah Cevoli

Leah Cevoli

Also, you may be able to glean more gratis info from Leah on crowdfunding by connecting to her social media networks…

Social Media Info:                               www.twitter.com/Leah_Cevoli            www.facebook.com/LeahCevoli                    www.imdb.me/LeahCevoli

 

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker and actor living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink. His current feature film Guys Reading Poems is touring film festivals and this blog is dedicated to the process of making his second feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).

Top 10 Inspiring Performances (You May’ve Missed) in 2014

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One of the parts of my job as a filmmaker that I love the most is discovering new work that inspires me….or even makes me curious. And I must admit, the burgeoning film snob in me loves to appreciate work that has not yet appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly or People magazine.

So here are 10 incredible performances that may have slipped under your radar this yet. If you’re curious, check out the trailers, then do a little legwork to figure out how to see them…

1. Juliette Binoche – Clouds of Sils Maria. Binoche gives a master class in acting as an aging actress challenged to play “against type” as a victimized, closeted lesbian opposite a much younger and much more “industry relevant” rising star. Binoche’s character Maria Enders initially shies away from the role, but eventually can’t turn down the challenge to play a character as downtrodden and burdened as Enders is celebrated and free-spirited. Perhaps as she fears, exploring this new creative terrain brings up unwelcome truths and unresolved conflicts in Maria’s life. Binoche got plaudits at Cannes and AFI Film Festival for her role, but somehow the film has not gotten traction Stateside. That’s too bad – it’s an incredible film anchored by Bionche’s layered, dare-I-say flawless portrayal of Maria.

2. Pierre Deladonchamps – Stranger by the Lake. Mr. Deladonchamps gives a haunting performance of a young man drawn not only to a cruise-y, secluded beach but to its most dangerous, seductive visitors. His palpable sexual desire, vulnerability and drive to align himself with a power player in the community of sorts are all well-drawn and deeply realized. At moments, you want to scream at the character that he’s acting against his own best interests, but Deladonchamps’ embodiment of youthful sexuality that’s progressed from blossoming to all-consuming makes you understand…and relate.

3. Valeria Golino – Like the Wind. Collaborating with the visually innovative director Marco Puccioni, Golino delivers a realistic, satisfying portrayal of an Italian prison warden. The exhaustion of her responsibilities and their toll on personal relationships meets Golino’s inherent resilience for a worthy exploration of the human spirit under duress.

4. Jeremie Renier – Waste Land. Renier has already made his mark in international cinema with a role in Olivier Assayas’ brilliant and understated Summer Hours and returns to top form as a somewhat masochistic detective in Waste Land. Renier bulked up for the role, but his masculine appearance is interestingly commingled with a self-cutting habit when his character Leo struggles to solve a homicide while at the same time convincing his pregnant girlfriend not to abort their baby.

5. Zhong Lu – Red Amnesia (Chaung ru Zhe). Perhaps it’s fitting that we have to turn to China to find the most layered portrayal of an elderly person in cinema in 2014. So often, the depiction of older folks on screen in the United States relies on either a half-baked sentimentality or our own Western culture’s terror of the aging process. But in Red Amnesia, Zhong Lu brings to life an aging woman who wants to resolve her own moral culpability before it’s too late, only there’s a problem. She can’t shake her own inherent survival instinct, which may be threatened if she truly admits to herself and others the scope and breadth of the damage she’s caused. A brilliant and totally underrated contribution to film acting.

6. Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent Year. There’s clearly a reason why Lucas and Co. have turned to Mr. Isaac for the next Star Wars iteration. He’s a purist example of an actor inhabiting a role without judging the character he’s playing, so much so that it’s very hard for the audience to reject his character Abel Morales, despite questionable behavior.

7. Raphael Personnaz – The Gate. In 1970s Cambodia, the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge sweeps up a French researcher into their prison camp, with a suspicion that he’s supplying information to the enemy. Personnaz’s character Bizot benefits from an unlikely friendship with his prison camp’s leader Douch (Phoeung Kompheak), who prides himself on administering the Khmer Rouge form of justice even-handedly (no matter how warped that system operates or how many it kills). Bizot is bewildered by his special treatment by Douch and has his life to thank for it, but many others are not so lucky.

8. Scarlett Johansson – Under the Skin. Obviously, Ms. Johansson needs no introduction. She’s spooky good here.

9. Julianne Cote – Tu Dors Nicole. If the movie industry operated out of Quebec, Julianne Cote might just be in Shailine Woodley’s shoes. She’s great in this coming of age film.

10. Leila Hatami – What’s the Time in Your World? Hatami gained a lot of fans with her work in the Academy Award-winning film, “A Separation.” What’s the Time in Your World? is a much lighter film that nevertheless allows Ms. Hatami to act as a stand-in to Persian audiences who are open-minded, curious and nervous to reconnect with their roots. She’s delightful.

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker and actor living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink. His current feature film Guys Reading Poems is touring film festivals and this blog is dedicated to the process of making his second feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).

Inspiring Performances 2014 – Supporting Roles

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It’s about that time of the year – the time when lists come out that describe the greatest performances and films of the year. I don’t feel comfortable declaring the great performances of the year from on high, but I can with some confidence describe the performances that inspired me. As a filmmaker, I think it’s useful to identify these sorts of things because it helps one understand and refine a personal taste in the craft of screen acting. So I suggest it as a great exercise for everyone making films, whether as a director, actor, screenwriter or producer.  If you’re so inclined, leave your own Top Ten Supporting Performances in the Comments section and let’s get the discussion going!

These actors played supporting roles in films this year. I thought about splitting up the lists in terms of gender but then thought….why? The Hollywood awards season splitting up “contestants” in terms of their gender has puzzled me for a while now. This is not track & field, where it makes sense that males would be unfair competition to females (maybe, in acting, it’s us males who are scared….hmmmm).

Another caveat: No, I haven’t seen every single “important” film to hit theaters in 2014, but this is a blog. So I reserve the right to tinker with this list as the final films of the season come out.

Most Inspiring Supporting Performances of 2014 (to Hunter at least….)

1. Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer. Full disclosure: I’ve seen a LOT of Tilda Swinton films in my time. And I’ve ALWAYS respected her. But this performance…when it was over…I tilda - snowthought, “Wow. I didn’t know Tilda had it in her….” She makes a radical physical transformation, takes a lot of risks on her character choices (to the point that she’s almost unrecognizable), yet somehow manages to also retain emotional authenticity in a VERY high stakes environment. Not easy to do AT ALL and she pulled it off.

2. Adam Pearson – Under the Skin. If Tilda Swinton inspired me by physically transforming into a character, Adam Pearson inspired me by bravely revealing his own disfigurement – and the emotional cost of same – on the screen. Pearson suffers from neurofibromatosis, something everyone who sees the young man can’t help but notice within milliseconds of meeting him. In the film, Pearson’s picked up by Scarlett Johansson’s character, but quickly becomes skeptical of her seductive posturing towards him. On the one hand, he’s clearly always wanted sexual attention, but the years of constant ridicule for his appearance causes him to seriously doubt the advances of a mysterious and beautiful woman. It’s a great example of the internal “push and pull” that causes the audience to become totally in sync with the character they’re watching. Pearson bore his soul for this role and the results are searing, unforgettable, heartbreaking. You’re inspired by him too? You can check out his Twitter feed here: @adam_pearson

3. Emma Stone – Birdman. Most lived-in 80-year olds aren’t as grounded as the 26-year old Emma Stone in Birdman. Her character’s speech questioning her father’s extraordinary privilege was just flawless. It’s the rare 26-year old who’ll make you believe that her desire for sobriety was not only hard-earned, but also sincere.

4. Kristin Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria. Who can more than hold their own against Jodie Foster and now Juliette Binoche? Judging by the placement of this sentence on this list, Kristin Stewart in "Clouds of Sils Maria"I’m guessing you know the answer. I loved that Ms. Stewart filled in every moment of her performance with subtext that hinted at the complicated, passionate relationship at hand and the power game threatening to psychologically upend both women.

5. Ethan Hawke – Boyhood. A lot of the buzz on this film is about Patricia Arquette’s work, but I found Hawke to be at a career best here. I related to his character, torn between his duty as a father and his drive to live authentically with limited means. We see the young protagonist grow from six to 18 during the film, but it’s Hawke’s character who struck me as the one who does the most growing up.

6. Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler. It’s hard to describe the merits of Riz Ahmed’s performance without giving away spoilers of a totally awesome film. But, in his final scene, Ahmed reminds me of William Hurt’s hopelessly outmatched character in Body Heat. It’s a great example of a character who legitimately has a revelation before our eyes.

7. Kang-Ho Song – Snowpiercer. Okay, if there is a sentimental choice on my list, maybe it’s Mr. Kang-Ho Song. He’s one of the unsung heroes of modern film acting who’s Kang-Ho Song in Snowpiercerdelivered one master class after another with Memories of Murder, The Host and more. In Snowpiercer, he continues his streak of somehow being endlessly entertaining while never striking a false note.

8. Natalya Surkova – The Fool. In a film that is the Eastern bloc’s counterpart to A Most Violent Year, this Russian actress made me fully believe that her corrupt character not only did what she had to do to survive (and make herself rich) but also had enough obstacles along the way that she legitimately felt badly about it (sometimes). Many times, actors forget to layer both the drive and their obstacles into the performance, but not Ms. Surkova.

9. Babetida Sadjo – Waste Land. When I see actors in their 20s, I’m impressed if I see an authentic drive for their goal, along with some emotional depth. What I don’t normally expect from young actors is extraordinary range – that usually comes with Babetida Sadjotime, life experience and confidence. That’s why I was absolutely blown away by Babetida Sadjo in Waste Land. She’s seductive and vulnerable in some moments, enraged in others. She’s victimized horribly but also is herself manipulative at times. Her grief and loneliness expose themselves not only in moments where we see her sadness, but in her childlike experimentation with the power she holds as a beautiful woman.

10. Lars Eidinger – Clouds of Sils Maria. His performance is so good that it’s hard to realize that his character Klaus Diesterweg is the wizard behind the curtain because Eidinger has the confidence to never fully reveal his character. But watch closely…and the game is there. A very underrated performance in one of the best films of the year. A must-see for actors.

There were so many amazing supporting performances this year that I’m not sure listing only ten feels complete, so I also want to mention the following performers whose work I found to be excellent: Edward Norton as a respected, unhinged Broadway actor in Birdman, JK Simmons as an intimidating jazz teacher in Whiplash, Agata Kulesza as a Jewish holocaust survivor dismayed that her niece is about to take vows as a nun in Ida, Rene Russo as a morally bankrupt news producer in Nightcrawler, Jessica Chastain as a mobster’s daughter in A Most Violent Year, Keira Knightley as Alan Turing’s fellow codebreaker and quasi-romantic interest in The Imitation Game, Carrie Coon as a thorough detective in Gone Girl and Marc-Andre Grondin as a slacker musician with a personality problem in Tu Dors Nicole.

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker and actor living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink. His current feature film Guys Reading Poems is touring film festivals and this blog is dedicated to the process of making his second feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).

Thanksgiving 2014: Time for Some Gratitude from Indie Filmmakers…

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Sometimes, I get all “Midnight in Paris” and wish I was making movies back in the 1990s when indie filmmakers could actually make a decent living. Or if time travel was affordable, safe and legal, maybe I’d wander back and shoot character-driven films on 35mm film back in the 1970s. Or perhaps direct silent films in the early 1920s before burdensome sound equipment and studio executives with provincial taste.

But, you know, it’s Thanksgiving and I’m in 2014 Los Angeles where we develop our spiritual practice and live in the moment and all. So here’s my shot to articulate the top ten things that indie filmmakers should be grateful for right here, right now.

1. Laptops – Can you imagine how boring it was to write screenplays at home or in the office on a personal computer (or even more cumbersome, a typewriter…)? Lame. That’s right motherf$#$ker, I am sipping a latte with my sunglasses on while writing this synopsis at Intelligentsia. In the 90s, if you wanted to go out for coffee, you were taking paper and retyping that shit later. Or your ass was at home, bored and decaffeinated.

2. Better actors – Yeah, yeah, yeah, there were some amazing actors in the 1930s. There were also some pretty arch, fake-ass performers back then, too. So let’s break it down – for the most part, actors are much better trained now than they were in the past. There’s so much more competition in the field of acting that actors have been forced to improve to continue to book jobs. Even big stars have the humility to coach with svengali’s in our field, oftentimes with good results. And it’s not just the stars who are talented, dedicated and skilled. Working actors across the board have gotten better to the point that I think it’s pretty rare that you see a laughably bad performance in a major film, which used to happen with more regularity. Before people blow up leaving comments refuting this, EXCEPTIONS EXIST. But most of the times when I see a bad performance these days, I blame the director. Either he/she doesn’t know how to get a performance out of an actor or has incredibly bad taste to either choose a bad actor or choose a bad take from a good actor. I also believe that – per capita – there are more good looking actors now than in the past. Admittedly, this is not a scientific study, but it seems like it. A lot more six-pack abs, etc.

3. Google – Imagine the wealth of information available to you that filmmakers in the 1950s had to learn by trial and error, by finding a mentor, by moving to Los Angeles or New York and hearing what was going on in the business. Everything from writing tips to video content to technology how-to’s to film theory to primers on the film festival circuit is far more accessible than it was to previous generations who minimally had to get to a bookstore, local cinema or library (now the problem becomes sorting through too much information but that’s a topic for another day). If you want to learn about filmmaking, there’s really no financial or access-based excuse not to make progress.

4. Come on, you really CAN make a feature film for less than $200,000 – Making a film is a huge undertaking that can take years and the work of dozens of people. I realize that making a quality film is never inexpensive in terms of resources or time. But, in this era, digital cameras and online editing technology make it possible to make a feature film for less than $200,000. Most Americans still believe they can earn enough money to buy a condo, townhouse or home, many of which are valued at far greater than $200,000. So instead of a home, if you’re willing to work and save, you can put your money towards a movie. When films shot on 35mm and had to go through a telecine process and then spit out prints, those numbers were a lot higher.

5. There’s an app for that – Scheduling used to be done by cutting little strips of paper and arranging them on a board. Ledgers were once used to track the complicated accounts created by the varied expenses involved in filmmaking. Polaroids were taken for continuity pictures. Wow, things have changed. Now there are programs that let you snap a picture with your smart phone and attach it to all the scenes in which it applies. You can enter in this same program how much the costume costs to rent and keep track of how many days and which days you’ll need it. All in the same program. That’s pretty incredible.

6. You don’t have to only make films about straight, white people – In the 1940s, if you wanted to create an interesting role for an ethnic or religious minority or someone in the LGBT community, good luck! Now, at least you have a chance to develop interesting characters from a much broader spectrum.

7. On-set selfies – Come on, you know you do it.

8. YOURNAMEHERE.com – It’ll probably cost you around the same amount of money to register YOURFILMNAMEHERE.com as it cost NBC to register NBC.com. And if you take some wordpress classes, I bet you can make your site look almost as good or even better. This is a huge competitive advantage for the “little guys” of filmmaking compared to the control over the means of distribution and promotion that the “big guys” had in the past.

9. Social media – so many people talk about how annoying it is and yet…so many people discover content they want to see through a tweet, post or blog article. And you don’t have to spend a fortune on it (although it helps if you do….).

10. Kombucha – maybe it existed before, but it’s only had its positive effects on sets all over Los Angeles in recent times.

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker and actor living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink. His current feature film Guys Reading Poems is touring film festivals and this blog is dedicated to the process of making his second feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).