Tuesday 26 March 2013

Five Question Interview With Writer/Director GARY KING

Last year, at the Raindance Film Festival, there was a definite buzz about the film 'How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song'. On top of that, a bunch of my friends told me that I just had to see it. And then, because I'm a stupid idiot who reacts badly to being told what to do, I skipped it. And then it went on to win Best Film at the festival. 

It seems that the writer/director, GARY KING, has forgiven me after all - and is now here to tell us a bit more about his movie. 

We missed each other at Raindance. I went and saw something else when I had the opportunity to see your movie --- I didn't like that film and yours went on to win best film! Tell me a little about what I missed and what your experience was like in the UK.

I'm sorry we missed each other. We'll have to change that on my next visit out there.

I like to think of our film as a realistic portrayal of the life of a struggling artist and how he deals with balancing relationships and artistic integrity, told through the backdrop of Broadway.  Audiences love seeing it on the big screen and always compare it to going to a Broadway show. I'm very proud of the songs and performances the actors all give.

My wife (Susie King), Christina Rose (lead actress) and myself truly enjoyed our London visit and screening at Raindance. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience culminating in winning the Film of the Festival. We never expected that to happen. One of the best parts of the festival was meeting the festival organizers and programmers, the wonderful audiences and other filmmakers.

I love the trailer. Did you cut it yourself? I think it's really hard for trailers to capture indie films; because they don't tend to have those obvious moments like the bigger movies-- y'know, the car crashes and explosions. How was your trailer put together?

Thanks for the kind words. I did cut it myself.  To me, the trailer is a whole other art form where different rules and aesthetics apply.  Its philosophy and approach totally contrast the narrative long form. I definitely watch a ton of trailers and bookmark the ones that stand out to me. I studied. their structure, taking note of how many music cues there are, when dialogue is spoken, pacing, length of shots. There were two articles that served as great resources for me:


I think we're in an interesting era for film directors. A director can finish a feature and then go and do a short, as you're doing -- and then maybe work on something very different. The world is changing and the rules are constantly being broken. What has inspired you most about this era we're in-- and what has scared you the most?

I remember having a meeting with film producer Ted Hope a few years ago where he gave some good advice about not being stuck in one "format" of storytelling that could limit your potential audience reach. He suggested that along with features, not to be afraid of going back to short form storytelling; be it in film, a web series and/or other creative outlets.

I'm very lucky that following SCHERMANN SONG, I was approached to direct a short film.  At first, I was hesitant about going back to shorts having done features... but seeing many high-profile feature film directors tackle short films, commercials and other things it made me think twice about my attitude. And it's actually tough -- maybe even almost tougher -- to tell an effective story in a short amount of time, which was a challenge I welcomed. The problem with a lot of short films is the filmmaker is just dying to make a feature and its running time shows that. For me, having made features, I don't have that issue anymore, so my goal is to be short and sweet.

Kickstarter had only been around a year or so when you used it to fund your movie. Do you think you could have made the film without it? And where did most of the money come from -- was it friends, or strangers? Do you have any tips for people setting out to raise money by crowdfunding?

We were very lucky in that we had our campaign very early on where people didn't even know what Kickstarter was. I think literally there were less than 10 film campaigns when we did ours. Thankfully my creative team and I have a fairly large social media network, so we never personally met the majority of our generous backers. It was pretty amazing and humbling to get that kind of support.

The crowdfunding landscape has changed so much that I don't feel I can give proper advice on what to do. I can offer that one has to be very genuine and really show that they care about their project. I see many campaigns now where it seems that just by launching them online they expect money to come rolling in... and that rarely happens.

Do you think the success of your film has given you more opportunities? People have this idea of the 'big break', which I always think people need to be cautious about -- but I'd love to hear your views.

I've been making films for 9 years and feel that SCHERMANN SONG has just gotten my big toe in the door -- at least the doors are opening now.  Thanks to the film's success, I definitely have been meeting more and more people interested in what I'm doing now.

And it's a wonderful feeling to have investors come on board believing in the next project I'm planning to shoot this summer.  I have a long way to go to be where I want to be both career wise and creatively as a filmmaker. However, I'm getting paid to do what I love, so there's nothing better than that. 

Support independent film and Purchase/Rent 'How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song'. It's available on DVD, Blu-ray, iTunes, Games Consoles, Netflix, and many more places. You can get the film HERE

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Sunday 24 March 2013

Concentration, And Other Things, Probably

It's so hard these days, to watch a movie, to read a book, to hold a conversation. I want to run so fast into so many corners; climb the hills and dive into ideas and scramble through every ambition I find I have.

Every film is so long, I want them over in two minutes so I can be on to the next thing. But two minutes is so short, I want to watch a twenty hour movie. I want to watch a twenty hour movie and at the same time make twenty movies and write fifteen screenplays and argue with the girl I like and sleep but stay awake the whole time because there's just so many things I want to do.

And most days, I feel like there's nothing I want to do. What do I really want to achieve? I don't know. But then we go for coffee and I tell you I want to move to New York and move to Australia and explore Africa and cycle in Amsterdam. I want to write a film, direct a web-series, produce a TV show. Sometimes I want to do it all so much, other times I want to sink away because I don't know what I want to do with life.

And most of the time I'm achieving nothing. Until someone reminds me I've achieved so much of everything.

So I think about doing less, so I can focus on more. But other times I'm almost sure I'm doing nothing and need to put more thought into absolutely everything.

It's good to look back. What were you doing three years or only three months ago? How far have you come? What new stuff do you know?

I write better I eat better and I care better. And slowly things make more sense, even though often they make less sense.

I have no clarity mixed with absolute and complete clarity.

I want to meditate. I want to relax. I want a beach.

But I want to edit in the morning, direct in the afternoon, write before dinner and then have a meeting for dessert. I want it all. I want nothing. I don't know and I don't know and do I ever know?

Care to share?

Monday 11 March 2013

The Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Tour

So, I knew the Globe wasn't really the Globe, but I thought it was at least on the original site. It turns out that the real Globe was down the road somewhere but they decided to build the replica by the water because, as our tour guide explained, "we quite like being by the Thames actually".

That was the tour guide's biggest insight of the thirty minutes we were graced with her presence. 

See, it wasn't actually a tour at all. Rehearsals were going on inside, so the chirpy guide told us we were not allowed to talk or take pictures when inside the theatre.

So most of it happened outside of the replica Globe. We all gathered in front of a coffee stand while she explained a little --- and by a little I mean, very little, about the theatre and its history.  

Then we went into the Globe and watched rehearsals for five minutes, after which we were shuffled out; silenced and pictureless.

She explained a few more things, like where to find the gift shop.

Then, sensing we were all disgruntled, she allowed us to trundle back inside to sit and watch for five more minutes. The actors were gone, but a drummer was testing his kit as a another guy drilled something into the side of the stage.

Then we were bundled out into the cold. Tour over.

When you pay for a tour, you have a level of expectation, like maybe you'll get shown around. Everything she told us about the site happened outside, afterwards. Sure, it's interesting to hear about the origins of the pillars and the thatched roof-- but not when you're cornered off by the gift shop without even a photograph to refer to.

Maybe the tour is always this bad. Or maybe their freedom of movement is severely limited during rehearsals but they still want to make a buck.

I can deal with the fact that there is no evidence of Shakespeare's writing or authorship. I can handle the fact that this incarnation of the Globe is a fake, in a random spot, based on a mere guess as to what the Globe was like. I would be able to deal with all of that stuff, if they would at least give us a decent tour. If we could at least ask questions inside the theatre. 

Apparently, back in the Shakespeare's heyday, entrance to see a play cost one penny. In this day and age, of course, you can't expect to see a performance for that price. But for the Globe tour? It's probably about right. 

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Sunday 3 March 2013

Blogging Much Less

I used to be known for being prolific. When that happens, you want to keep up appearances, you want to keep showing how great you are at churning out content. Not that quantity equals quality, but I'm happy with most of what I've written on this site. I haven't lost interest, I've changed changed my approach to it.

I used to want to be the best blogger out there. I wanted to get the best interviews, write the best content, and be some kind of authority on creativity and the world of independent film. There's nothing wrong with goals like that, except that they become extremely pressurising. 

For all my adult life, people have asked me, "has watching films been ruined for you because you also work in film?" The answer was always no. Until more recently, when it became true. I wasn't loving movies. In fact, often I actively didn't want to sit through them. 

We love films because we get to escape. We get to be entertained. We get to make new best friends and enemies for two hours. We get to be a part of something. But I wasn't part of it. I guess you could say; I was distracted from it.

Distracted because; I'd always want to write, always want to have something to say. Always want to put my 'kid in the front row' spin on what the film was about, or what was going on in the industry. These thoughts would be rampaging through my brain during every film I watched.

Creativity is fragile. About 2% of artists I know are actively creating. The rest are trapped. It's like a wrestler has them in a headlock and won't let go. I was getting like that. It's not just because of the blog, but it's a good example of it. It was the same in all my creative endeavours. Passion is good. But sometimes it leads to obsessiveness. It leads to habitually trying to write even when there's nothing to say, even when it's time to sleep, even when it's time to turn up somewhere for a friend or do something with a loved one. Your brain is elsewhere, on your work, on your ideas.

But your ideas aren't even there. The ones you force out suck. You get too obsessed with trying to be productive. You end up bashing your head against a wall a million times over. 

So I stopped. For a while, I totally stopped watching films. Now, I'm loving them again, and I don't feel the pressure to blog about them, to have something unique or witty or interesting to say. 

The greatest thing about watching a movie is watching a movie. 

I no longer want to be the best blogger or any such thing. Turns out there are hundreds of great film bloggers on the internet. The pie is not so small that I need to be near the top, I'm just one slice that you get to sample when I'm in the mood to write and you're in the mood to read. That's enough for me, that's why I'm here. 

I've watched tons of films recently and I feel no need to write about them, which is refreshing. I'm watching films just to watch films, the way it's meant to be. 

I've lost my obsessive need to be productive, to be competitive. Now I'm just loving what I love; which is movies.  

Care to share?

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Be Supportive To Fledgling Artists

It is SO EASY to be dismissive and condescending. It's the easiest thing in the world to be a critic, an angry tweeter, an armchair blogger.

But those people who create art; be it good or bad, you have no idea how hard it is, to put yourself out there.

It's why most people create nothing. The fear of ridicule and rejection is too high.

And guess what, when you create your script or film or whatever it is, you will be criticised, heavily. In obvious ways, "you suck", and in clever condescending ways "aww your little project is really nice, it's so good you are dabbling in film".

Being the critical type, the belittler, the one-who-thinks-they-know-why-it's-bad, it's the easiest thing in the world. I think it's part of human nature, to try keep people down. To jump to the negative first.

I've been that critic myself, despite how much I hate it. I think we all have at some point. We're always battling jealousy, insecurity, I-know-bestness. We've all been that guy because of how easy it is. You watch someone's work and your brain is given a ton of easy answers - but so many of them are negative. 

And I get what your excuse is, that people need to be criticised so that they'll learn and improve. I get that.

But criticism comes from all corners, every day. Being the one who says "hey, I really like what you're doing" makes you a rare kind. And that stuff makes people feel good, it makes them believe in themselves.

Artists want to connect. They want to inspire, they want to be loved through their work. It's important to know that; how deeply personal it is. It's life and death for the artist.

I'm not saying you need to feed egos or prop up the talentless.

I'm just saying maybe you could occasionally focus on the good dialogue rather than the bad lighting. Comment on the great bit of acting in the first scene rather than the fuck up in the sixth scene.

Every great writer, director, actor; they have a story of someone who supported them, believed in them, understood the context of their mistakes.

Nobody in the industry has more than a handful of these people, because everyone is too busy being the judgemental friend, the cynical co-worker, the sarcastic blogger.

People are capable of SO MUCH when they're believed in. When they're praised. When they're not pressured to immediately justify their right to be artists.

Go tell someone what they're doing right. I guarantee they need to hear it. 

Care to share?