#RealWorldArt: Brian Padian.

6 Nov

directing tbs

Brian Padian directs his actors in The Black Sea.

Whenever I read about artists who are successful at making their own work, I always wonder ‘how the hell did they do this and live a real life while doing so?’ As a working artist, I find achieving a life/art balance to be incredibly difficult. I am always on the lookout for advice about how to do it. When my former theater professors at the University of New Hampshire asked me to speak to a group of artists about life post-school, I went to social media to get new perspectives. Over 40 people commented, and my friend (and blogger/filmmaker extraordinaire) Michael DiBiasio asked me to guest blog. The response was so good that I’ve decided to conduct interviews with working artists on a semi-regular basis.
November was supposed to be October’s subject, but October ended up so busy I didn’t get a chance to update the blog in all that time. I will be doing an update soon about the work that keeps me so busy, but in the meantime, check out my interview with Brian Padian! Brian is a filmmaker based in Portland I met on Twitter, and we’ve struck up a few convos. His first feature, The Black Sea, is currently out to Festivals. I interviewed Brian to hear about the film scene in Portland, his life in LA, and, as always, how he manages live and work.

There will be a follow up podcast interview with Brian in the coming weeks. Until then, take it away, Brian!

Liam (LB):Why did you decide to study film and become a filmmaker? What was it about the medium that spoke to you?

Brian Padian(BP): I always loved movies from a young age. I have profound memory of seeing certain films as a child in Manitowoc WI  (E.T., Annie, For Your Eyes Only, Star Trek 2) and the memory of watching them in the theater sometimes stands out more than the movies themselves. Film combines the best part of other forms – music, theater, writing, design – and when it works there is no better or more thrilling sensation. I’ve had feelings watching great films that no other form has matched. I also think there is something powerful about the shared experience of watching a film with others.

dinnerA scene from The Black Sea.

LB:Why did you leave LA to live in Portland? Is it easier to make films there?

BP: I was in LA for 7 years. After graduating from AFI I spent years in and around the film industry and writing and peddling spec scripts that never took hold (note: this is the norm for most). Despite my MFA in Screenwriting and despite a spec screenplay that got me repped and a lot of meetings, I was making the exact same amount of money (read: very little) and feeling just as much of an outsider looking in as I did the day I arrived in LA.  Success for an aspirant screenwriter in LA is a war of attrition and demands endurance but after all this time I began to see the importance of quality of life. I got tired of the daily grind in LA: the endless quest for parking, moving the car for the streetsweepers, the sunny polish of every person at every party, the thick smog of ambition that leaches into most aspects of social life. Plus traffic. For all these reasons (and for the sake of my marriage) we left Los Angeles for Portland. I’ve never looked back or regretted the decision. Portland is a smaller town (or ‘market’ depending on who you’re talking to) so the resources and opportunities are not as robust but the trade-off is a warm and mostly open community of actors, artists, and filmmakers willing to suport one another. It is a more relaxed environment to be sure. This is an oversimplification but in Portland the importance and quality of daily life exists peaceably alongside film/artistic pursuits, instead of being overwhelmed by them. It is a much better fit for me.

3) How does your day job help (or hurt) your ability to make films?

 BP: My day job is in City government and demonstrably non-creative. That said, it’s not the kind of job I take home with me or worry about at all outside business hours. This gives me a lot of freedom to write screenplays and make films while also providing a steady paycheck and benefits. For me there is a huge benefit to doing something non-film-related to pay the bills. Were I say teaching screenwriting for a living it would be just close enough to what I want to do creatively that it would trick me into thinking I was doing something creative when I was in fact doing the opposite,  if you follow that. The stark and arid nature of my day job (to put it generously) is a reminder of what I want to do in film and in that regard it gives me something to constantly push against. I am also in my early 40s not my early 20s so being rash and impulsive or being willing to sleep on floors and couches to hustle toward some artistic shimmer in the distance is a faint memory. Just not possible now.

The Black Sea.

4) Between work, your projects, your family, how do you create a balance in your life?

BP: Without the support and understanding of my my wife – writer Margaret Malone – I would not be able to. She has been my stalwart ally and support through the years and gave me the freedom and space to write/direct/inhabit ‘the black sea’ for all the years it took, as well as all the short films I wrote/directed before hand. A lot of this is the dumb luck of who you marry/partner with. We’ve been fortunate to change/mature at the same rate and still share the same ideals and aspirations as our younger selves. It also doesn’t hurt that we both have artistic pursuits and goals and share an understanding of the process and what’s required in terms of time and energy. That said, we have two small kids at present so anything creative currently takes a backseat to more immediate demands. One example: I am only able to see a handful of films per year now and only a couple of those in the theater. Another: writing for uninterrupted stretches of time is not possible. I don’t want to imply that family is detrimental to being an artist because I think in the long term it’s the opposite: family forces an immediate widening of compassion and empthy and changes the contours of how you see the world. (Of course you’re too exhausted to do or make anything with that information in the short term.) So for me balance comes in accepting the present imbalance and having faith that one day equilibrium will return. Some days this is easier said than done.

film camera2
Brian’s a badass who shot 16mm on The Black Sea. 

5) What’s going on with your film?

BP: I am thrilled about the black sea, both with how it turned out and that we pulled off a feature on Super 16 with the smallest of budgets. And especially proud that the great work of the actors and my collaborators can now be seen and heard and appreciated. It took a long time to make this movie and it resonates on a such deep personal level for me that it’s difficult to be objective about. I suspect certain parts of the narrative and tone will be polarizing or off-putting but those are the types of movies I love.. We are now out to film festivals and waiting to hear if/where we get in. The film’s reception will dictate my next move with regard to theatrical/online distribution etc. All that stuff is new to me and there is a learning curve, especially with business models/options changing seemingly by the hour. Now that the movie is done I am lining up my next project/s – I have several feature scripts ready to shoot – and very excited to get them up on their feet. I am actively seeking producers and/or money, preferably both. Meantime I am also a founding member of Great Notion, a new Portland-based film collective comprised of myself and 3 other directors (Scott Ballard, Dicky Dahl, Edward P. Davee) which aims to support the work of its members and their narrative feature films. Each of us has a feature coming out in the next year or so. It’s an exciting time!

Thanks, Brian! We’ll be back with more from Brian next week! Until then, please check out the trailer for ‘The Black Sea.’

Finally, selfless plug: My film Future Perfect is streaming on Seed&Spark. Give it a watch, and check out a slew of other films. You can watch the trailer and the film HERE.
Thanks all! I’ll be back soon with a personal update about how my #RealWorldArt is going.