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#RealWorldArt: Brian Padian.

6 Nov

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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.

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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.

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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.
-Liam

Understanding The Work: The distribution of ‘Future Perfect.’

29 Sep

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On Saturday, ‘Future Perfect’ premiered on Seed and Spark. I wanted to take a few minutes and write about how the film got from having no audience to being on an amazing platform like S&S.

Just about 2 years ago, I successfully raised funds on kickstarter to make the film. It was my first film with a budget of any kind, but like many first-timers, I hadn’t thought too much about the most important thing: distribution. I just wanted to make the movie. I hadn’t questioned, or considered, how I would get it seen.

Prior to ‘Future Perfect,’ I had had a few short films in festivals but nothing major. I assumed that was the only way to get your work out: get into a film festival, and that would be it.

Two things happened when I was in film school that made challenge my rather simplistic ideas about distribution. I’m glad they did. The first was having to come up with a topic for a presentation in my producing class, and I choose four-walling, which got me thinking about the idea of screening your film when and where you could.

The second was talking having a class with the wonderful Nancy Gerstman of Zeitgeist Films, who was the first to distribute films by Christopher Nolan and Todd Haynes. She has also distributed films by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Guy Madden, and Margarethe von Trotta. Nancy offered sound advice, but beyond that, brought in wonderful guests like Rachel Grady, who self-distributed Detropia. It was master class in learning how individual filmmakers looked at their options and made bold choices.

All of this was happening while I was incredibly stressed. As often happens, I had run out of money to finish the film, and didn’t know where finishing funds would come from.

As I brainstormed how to handle the problem, I realized that what I was going through perhaps could be solved by screening the film as a work-in-progress.

But I needed an audience. Who would want to see my film?

During crowdfunding, I had called my hometown newspaper and they had done an article about me, which got some attention. I decided to try my luck again. This time, I contacted my local library, who agreed to screen the film. I screened the film and solicited donations to make the film. More importantly, the local newspaper did another piece about me, which will come in handy when I’m trying to get word out about my feature film.

I also contacted the NYC alumni branch of The University of New Hampshire, which I had joined the fall prior. They were eager and enthusiastic to screen the film, and we did a screening with the cast and crew, followed by a Q and A.

These screenings resulted in a little cash to help get the film through sound and color, but, more importantly, the response to the film was mostly strong. For the first time, a group of people had assembled to solely to see my work. And then asked me questions afterwards. It was thrilling, fun, and incredibly validating.

Then the festival rejections start piling in.

I started ambitiously. ‘No’ from Sundance, ‘No’ from Busan, ‘No’ from NYFF, and, most crushingly, ‘No’ from the New Hampshire Film Festival, where I had some connections. The head programmer sent me a note about how much she liked the film, but they had received many more submission than previous years (this was a common refrain).

The film continued to receive rejections, even from festivals with an Asian or Asian-American focus. I began to wonder if it was a crappy film. I became incredibly insecure.

At the end of the day, what I realized is that the film has a precarious problem at it’s core: it’s a film that deals with issues central to the immigrant experience (visas, etc.) but not made by an immigrant, which I think is significant.  I believe this tension, as well as it’s slow pace and lack of closure, make it a difficult film to program. In my mind, it’s well made, but problematic film with a tricky audience.

I also realized I can’t critique my work based on festival acceptance.

In December of 2013, frustrated with reaching for bigger festivals, I submitted the film to IndieWorks, which is a local event in the city hosted by filmmakers I know. They loved the film, and not only screened it at their event, but invited to be part of an online competition to screen at their end of year Best of Fest event. The film won the online contest, and screened with several amazing films at the event. I got to speak about the film, meet other filmmakers. It was a blessing. As a young filmmaker, being recognized by your peers feels great.

I wanted to keep the momentum going, because it’s much better to feel positive about your work than negative, so I began submitting to more film nights. The film screened at Encore IndieFilm Showcase in Portland, Oregon. Encore is programmed by Jason and Jeanne of Heliorana film, and they were nice enough to let me submit a brief Q and A video as well.

I also submitted the film to Portsmouth Short Film Night, run by Michael and Catherine of Film Unbound. I was able to go up to visit for that one, speak at the Q and A, and spend the weekend walking around Portsmouth, my college town, with my girlfriend. I took a screening and turned it into mini-vacation.

In July, the film screened at Videology in Williamsburg. Around that time, I was contacted by Seed and Spark about putting the film on the site, based on the recommendation of the programmers at IndieWorks.

I’m very proud of the road Future Perfect’ has taken. It has taught me some valuable lessons. Most importantly,

1)Know your audience and know your distribution goals before making a film.
2)Festival acceptance can say nothing about how good (or bad) your film is
3)The most important thing is getting eyes on your film, especially as an up-and-coming filmmaker with a short film.

Finally, Don’t wait for festivals. Show your film when and where you can. Make your audience, and get them ready for the next film.

I am in pre-production on that next film a family drama called The Cape House. It will shoot on Cape Cod next year, and I’ve already begun planning my distribution strategy and researching the press and people I want to get involved with the film. I need to make a good film, but I need to know how it’s going to get out there.

So keep your eyes peeled for that. In the meantime, watch the trailer for Future Perfect and please watch it, along with a slew of other amazing films, on Seed&Spark.

A brief update.

22 Sep

Hey all,

September has been a busy month, but BIG NEWS is coming this week.

A few changes have been made on the site:

I’ve streamlined the site, only making division between my personal films and media I’ve made for others.

I’ve also added a few freelance gigs I did over the past few months and will be adding more shortly. On the film side, I’ve added my short film Purple to the site. Purple has a lot in common with my feature, The Cape House, so I hope you enjoy it.

Also, a new #RealWorldArt will be making it’s way to you before the end of the month, with podcast (!!!) to follow.

Until then, enjoy this beautiful shot of my neighborhood from Saturday morning. I was on my way to help Michael DiBiasio and Rebecca De Ornelas finish their first feature, The Videoblogs.

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Liam.

Understanding The Work: How I’m learning to love storytelling.

29 Aug

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Coffee and note cards: my keys to writing.

I don’t know what made me want to be a filmmaker. I know a big part of it was feeling a kinship with the imagination of Terminator-era James Cameron and Spielberg. I know that I saw H-Man as a young kid and remained hypnotized by it. I saw Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and talked about it for 3 months, much to the daily chagrin of my fellow swimming students. I later became obsessed with all things Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese, and, of course, Tarantino.
I think the sheer scope of cinema and the emotions it elicited were central. However, I never fully fell in love with storytelling. While I think many of my favorite films tell great stories, for me it was always about the interaction of people, which is probably what inspired me to go out and become a theater director. I loved working worth actors and helping to craft performances. Theatre is beautiful in that, to me, it’s purely about actors and a stage. It’s a performance and driven by that necessity (That’s not to say it isn’t by story, but my interest was always in character and interaction).
I think my transition to film, which started when I moved to New York City in 2008 (also the summer where I spent an entire 4 month period in awe of a new Batman film, this time by Christopher Nolan), has been rocky. I’ve spent a great deal of time in my late 20’s and early 30’s watching films from Eastern Europe and abroad. Films that are driven much more by feeling and relationships. I wasn’t as concerned with story as I should have been (probably being too naive to realize that all of these elements must go hand in hand).

But, recently, something has shifted, and it’s come about for a variety of reasons.

What happened?

It could be the book I’m reading. It could be my ongoing difficulty in finding ways to comfortably define myself as a filmmaker. I’m not sure. Mostly, I think it’s the script I’m writing, which is the reason most of my posts this summer have been about other people.

As those you who have read this blog in the past know, I spent a long period of time struggling with my first feature film. After coming to the conclusion that I was just battling the realities of art as process, I took the advice of Richard Linklater and began slowing down my approach to writing. I remembered that, on my last film, the structure of that film came to me when I stopped working on the screenplay and started tossing around notes on notes cards.

So I did the same here. I walked over to Rite Aid and spent $15 on notecards. I had blue note cards, yellow note cards,  orange note cards, red note cards, green note cards, and pink note cards. I gave each character (my film features 3 major characters) a set of note cards for general notes, and finally, I took the 4 days the film takes place over, and gave them each a color (I had lots of colors).

Some of these cards saw no writing. Most of them did. I wrote the film out, scene by scene. From notecards, I went to my notebook, writing down extra details and creating internal monologues for each character based on each scene. After doing this for a few weeks, I sat down to create a true outline to expand on my notecards. What happened instead was a first draft of my script, over a month before my planned first outline and 3 months before my first script draft. And it wasn’t bad.

So why was this different?

Well, for one thing, I’d learned some lessons. But, I think, most importantly, I let myself sit in my experience. I didn’t rush to get to the end of the script. I didn’t become (too) impatient. I understood that there needs to be a methodical meaningful process to how I work. This is narrative. This was the  narrative of how I wrote my script. It was storytelling. I was telling myself a story of how to write my script. In telling my story, I surprised myself: I got through a first version of my script with a fair amount of ease and focus. I built a sense of momentum and I followed it through. By creating a system (the notecards) and deepening it (the monologues), I was able to create a narrative for my film and myself.

I teach editing at BRIC House in Brooklyn, and the material we use is some material for a program about a cooking store. On day one, once they have the basics, they being to create an assembly of the footage. Often they will begin adding cuts and making decisions, and I encourage them to wait until the material is fully assembled. ‘Why?’ they often ask. “Because you don’t know what you don’t know?” I often say back. You have to let the material work on you, and that requires working on the material.

So what’s next?

Last week I finished the first draft of my script, and decided to let it sit for a few days. By the time you read this, hopefully I’ll be back to it, and with the same sense of need to build a narrative around it: to create a process that leads to a deep investment, and then to surprise myself with where the story takes me.

I’ll update this soon. Have a great weekend.

Best,

Liam

‘The Videoblogs’ is FUNDED and then some.

15 Aug

Hello,

As many of you know, I’ve spent the past few weeks talking a lot about The Videoblogs, a film being made by my pals Michael and Rebecca. I’m lucky enough to be serving as a consulting producer, so I did what I could to get the word out: tweeted, sent some e-mails, and posted an interview with Michael and Rebecca, respectively.

The interviews were a quick and dirty affair (crowdfunding doesn’t leave you a lot of time), but I loved both their answers and was thrilled to have them on my blog.

Well, I’m happy to report, through the hard work of Michael and Rebecca, that The Videoblogs is over 100% funded with time to spare!

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This is exciting news. I’m very proud of MIchael and Rebecca, and their plans and reasons for making this film give me hope for the future of micro-budgeted indiefilm.

If you can, please check out the Seed and Spark site, and pre-purchase the film. I’ve read it, and I know it’s going to be a great film. Crowdfunding is an incredible way to get your voice and dollars behind the work you’d like to get made.

That’s all for now. I have a business plan to begin to write, and a script to work on! Talk soon.

Best,
Liam.

I shot a monologue for my pals Michael DiBiasio and Rebecca DeOrnelas. Watch it.

8 Aug

Hey all,

What a busy week. I posted an interview yesterday with Michael DiBiasio, and today I post a monologue I shot for this #VideoblogsFilm crowdfunding campaign. It was a real pleasure to work with Rebecca and Kari on this. Take a watch, and check out Michael and Rebecca’s campaign!

Have a great weekend!

-Liam

#RealWorldArt: Filmmaker/Writer Michael DiBiasio.

7 Aug

Hello readers,
This is an exciting post.
Several months ago, I began joining in on Seed & Spark’s (oh, by the way, congrats!) weekly #FilmCurious chats. It was there I encountered @MichaelDiBiasio, a fiilmmaker/writer with some great opinions. We connected and actually hung out in person, which seemed weird before it happened, but then wasn’t weird at all. Then we became friends. A few months later, 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 Michael asked me to guest blog on the topic. The response was so good that I’ve decided to conduct interviews with working artists on a semi-regular basis.
Michael has become an excellent guy to throw ideas at, drink beer with, and chat about our mutual passion for filmmaking. I admire his passion and intelligence. I fully admit from using him as an inspiration in how I conduct myself online. He’s just that good.
Michael and his awesome creative partner/wife, Rebecca, have just released their film Multiverse and are crowdfunding for The Videoblogs, their first feature film. Their crowdfunding campaign has been awesome. Please check it out, and join in with a donation as small as $5.

I’ll let Michael take it from here.

liam_sscampMichael and Rebecca talking #VideoblogsFilm

First off, who are you and what are you working on now?
I am Michael, aka The Furious Romantic. I’m a writer and filmmaker in Brooklyn, NY. I grew up in Rhode Island and I am a Pisces. Right now, I’m working on my first feature film, The Videoblogs. I’m also seeking to distribute my recent short, Multiverse, as widely as possible as a sort of thematic proof-of-concept for The Videoblogs, for which we’re seeking the minimum amount of funds necessary to shoot via a crowdfunding campaign.

Have you always wanted to be a filmmakers, or did you evolve into it? How did it come about?
I evolved into filmmaking. I have been writing for basically my whole life. At the same time, I also always loved movies. Without realizing it, my writing as I matured became much more visual. When I started trying to do it professionally — and by that I mean sticking with it once I got to college — I got a lot of feedback that compared my storytelling to filmmakers or films.
When I published my first short story, that same situation occurred. Several people told me it felt like a movie. I agreed. I happened to mention this to an alum of my fraternity at Columbia who is an independent filmmaker and he offered to let me borrow his equipment to make a short film out of the story if I ever felt like trying it. I took him up on the offer and produced my first short while still an undergrad and that was it. Bug caught, after that.
10409395_10101365047296072_810061210270520593_nThe Videoblogs: Crowdfunding now on Seed & Spark.

What role does your day job (or jobs) play in your creativity? How has being a producer shaped your own work?
My day job has been a source a stability. It took some time to get to that point, and for me to fully understand and appreciate this, but I feel very grateful to be able to mostly make ends meet and yet still find the time to create. It’s still a sacrifice. I work on my stuff through my lunch hour every day, and get most of my creative work done early mornings, nights and, historically, on weekends. It’s also allowed me to grow as a filmmaker. I create marketing videos and communications videos by day, which is still an exercise in storytelling if you’re doing it right, and avoiding cynicism about that type of work. I even think my daytime work has impacted my style. I’m quicker to take a more “classic” approach, and depend on the people on screen to tell the story and make an emotional connection, than to get overly fancy with the camera. I focus on creating a good composition and on getting the right take.
I produce by necessity. I don’t mind it, except that at my budget level it’s too often much more work than I’d like to be juggling while also directing. But it’s a good question, because producing my own work has been invaluable in a couple of key ways. First, it allows me to always keep working, on my own schedule. Similarly, my producer is always available to me. Finally — and this took some major trial and error to learn — having an intimate knowledge of the practical limitations of any given production make it easier to create organicsolutions to challenges of budget and circumstance.
Watch Rebecca and Michael’s film Multiverse.

As a married couple and collaborators, how do you balance making art and living your everyday life? What tactics have you come up?
We’re constantly working at this — more so lately. I’ve been guilty of not striking the right balance in the past. I think I’m better at it now. It’s very hard. In certain terms, being married to someone who understands how important the artistic process is to you — it’s a blessing. But that can be a double-edged sword. It can be isolating. Sometimes, usually not at the same time, we just want to be more like a “normal” couple. Then again, it truly can be special sharing the experience of doing something you love and feel compelled towards, with the person you love most and want to be around more than anyone else. Balance is the right word. It’s a never-ending dance. I never was very comfortable with dancing before I met Rebecca, though.

So, there ya have it. Great answers. Thanks, Michael.
Rebecca and Michael will be crowdfunding for a few more days. Help them out when you can! A little bit goes a long way.

I’ll be back later in the month with a personal post.

Until then,

Liam.

 

#RealWorldArt: Producer/Actor Rebecca De Ornelas.

1 Aug
This month's subject is our pal Rebecca De Ornelas. You can watch her in Multiverse right now.

This month’s #RealWorldArt subject is our pal Rebecca De Ornelas. You can watch her in Multiverse right now.


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.
I’m very excited about my subject for July, Rebecca De Ornelas. Rebecca is an actor and producer from Brooklyn, and she happens to also be married to Michael. Rebecca and Michael just released their short film, Multiverse,’ and are crowdfunding (with our awesome pals) Seed and Spark for their first feature,  ‘ The Videoblogs.I’ve been involved as a consulting producer on the film, and I thought having a husband and wife team answer these questions would bring a new meaning to #RealWorldArt. Here are Rebecca’s answers, and I hope to get Michael’s out to you in August. As you may expect, they are busy people.

I’ll let Rebecca take it from here.

First off, who are you and what are you working on now?
I’m Rebecca and I’m an actor and producer from Brooklyn, New York. I’ve also co-produced two films (a featurette and a short) with my husband, Michael, and now we are working on our first feature, The Videoblogs. I do plays, too (currently rehearsing The Showoff with OnTheRoad Rep). I pretty much only work on things I love and feel passionate about and that’s pretty awesom

Have you always wanted to be a filmmakers, or did you evolve into it? How did it come about?

Nope. No way. Nuh-uh. I don’t think I ever thought I’d be where I am right now doing what I do. I guess what got me here is the fact that I will pretty much say YES to anything. Want to quit our jobs and make a movie that will make us famous? YES. Want to move to RI into Michael’s old bedroom to save us money while we make said movie? YES. Want to move back to New York and live in your old bedroom with your parents while we self-distribute? NO… Wait, YES. And that’s actually how our first film was born and raised. And it took us SIX years to get back to a place financially/emotionally/spiritually where we could make another one. This time, the rehab wasn’t so bad and so we are making another one two years later. Soon, we will pop them out like…TIC TACS.

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What role does your day job (or jobs) play in your creativity? How has being a producer shaped your own work?

I think of my day job as a growing pain. I’ve never not had to have one and it a.) Makes me fully appreciate the time I do get to work on projects I love and b.) Builds my personal character. Sure, I know that’s what everyone tells you adversity does but really my life is so much riper with material because I’ve had my foot in multiple industries. Bits of every character I will ever play I have waited on or worked with in some capacity. As an actor, I study relationships and the greater the diversity and reach I can have in that respect, the more informed I can be to honestly depict those relationships and people.

Being a producer has helped me to see a much bigger picture. Film is not the actor’s medium, for sure, because there is so much else going on that an actor is of service to. That’s not to say the acting in a film isn’t important but it’s just one part of all these multiple moving pieces. Producing has helped me to realize that as an actor, I just have one job: to be fully present at all times. And that’s it. The rest is the film’s responsibility. The actor does not have control over… anything, really. And that’s liberating.
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As a married couple and collaborators, how do you balance making art and living your everyday life? What tactics have you come up?

Balance is something every person tries to achieve but I don’t believe can do so perfectly for any extended period of time. I like to think of aiming for balance as rolling down a hill in a giant see-through ball. Not much can be done because you’re subject to the constant of gravity (in this case, the not-so constancy of life) but if you see a rock coming you can veer to the side to avoid it. Then maybe because you were trying to avoid the rock, you hit a tree but that’s okay because the ball is made of hard stuff and you just hit the tree, bounce off and go the other way. Am I making any sense? Point is, achieving balance sounds a little to me like striving to be perfect. You can aim for it but really you just have to stay malleable and open to change.

That being said, our tactic is to veer to the right when we have gone too far left and the goal is straight ahead.
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Seriously, don’t get frozen. Back #VideoblogsFilm on Seed and Spark today.

Thanks, Rebecca! Looking forward to Michael’s answers. Please be sure to check in next week. I’m also planning another ‘Understanding The Work’ post for August, which will revolve around my burgeoning love for good old fashioned storytelling. Also planning a film to be shot this fall.

Lots of exciting news on its way. To stayed updated, join my mailing list or  just follow the blog!

Thank you for your continued support.

Best,
Liam.

Screenings Next week!

9 Jul

Screening ad

As luck would have it, two of my films (and the two I like the best) are both screening next week in New York City! Come on out to Videology on Monday and People’s Lounge on Wednesday! I’ll be in attendance at both events to chat! If you come to both, you’re going to get a pretty cool gift courtesy of Louis Phillips, the author featured prominently in Future Perfect.

Special thanks to the people at Videology and my wonderful friends at Congested Cat for the opportunity!

Best,
Liam.

#RealWorldArt: Nicole Solomon

30 Jun

10269402_10154128980515354_5692496379377031608_n
This week’s #RealWorldArt subject
: filmmaker and writer Nicole Solomon.

 

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.

June ended up being a busy month. I was out of town for an entire week doing a workshop with I Was There Film Workshops, and other than that, hard at work on the new version of my first feature film. In addition, I spent a few days working on an article about some of my favorite independent films of the 21st century, which will be released soon. As a result, I haven’t had a chance to update the site much, but I didn’t want to get out of June without releasing my #RealWorldArt interview with Nicole Solomon.

Nicole is a filmmaker, writer, and all around excellent person. She’s working closely with me on my feature film, and was one of the first people I asked to participate in my #RealWorldArt series. She has a lot of interesting things to say stories to tell. I hope you enjoy them.

I’ll be back next week after the holiday with a general update on all things filmmaking. I’ll be in Chicago this weekend for the 4th of July. Expect plenty of instagrams.

Also, take a minute and join the mailing list! I’ll be sending out my film Future Perfect to anyone who joins!

Take it away, Nicole!


Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker, or did you evolve into it? How did it come about?

I don’t think I understood what being a filmmaker meant when I was a kid. I didn’t get that “director” was a job. I wanted to create other, fictional worlds, and was always doing that. My sisters and I would record radio dramas on our Fischer Price  tape recorder. I was always writing, sometimes screenplays. Weird, kid screenplays. In middle school I started but sadly never finished an adaptation of Ann. M. Martin’s Slambook.

In high school there was one quarter where you could take photography or video, so I took video and I loved it. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to take that class. My teacher, Karl Madden, was great. He suggested that I do some program for highschoolers at one of the colleges in the area. To be blunt, I was pretty depressed and wasn’t going to pursue something like that.

After high school I went to Eugene Lang and majored in cultural studies. I missed video.  I did do a couple projects when I went home on vacation with my sisters, including an hour long (terrible) movie, but then it was a few years before I did anything filmmake-y again.

I took an intro to digital video workshop at DCTV, and then applied for a two day a week internship so I could take almost unlimited workshops for free. At this time I had an intentionally weird and flexible work schedule, so I could give two normal work days a week to this in exchange for classes. I got a Panasonic DVX-100 on a credit card and Final Cut from a friend and started making videos alone and in collaboration with others. I mostly did music and activist/social justice related stuff.

I don’t know that I thought of myself as a filmmaker until I started thinking about going back to school to study film, which as you know I did in 2011 at CCNY, as we were in the same class and that is why we know each other. I’ve been making films both professionally and not for awhile and now I even have a degree in filmmaking so I guess I’m a filmmaker.

 

229978_371106829620918_2039357229_nNicole shooting.

 

How have your expectations changed the longer you’ve been making art, and how has the art you’ve made changed?

Not to sound conceited, but in elementary school I was awesome at creative writing. “Writing” was always my favorite subject in school–it was obviously the most fun, it came to me easily, and I did well. The teacher would approve the best works in class to be “published”–which meant some kid’s mom (I’m not sexistly generalizing, it was always a mom) took your handwritten masterpiece home and typed it up on a typewriter and bound it in a wallpaper sample of the author’s choice. Every story I ever turned in got published. Until one day in second grade, when I turned in a first draft of a story I’d been mulling over for months about some alternate universe with a unicorn in it that I was really excited about. I’m sure the execution was lacking and all, but I was passionate about this story. My teacher wasn’t having it, and said “Nicole, not every story needs to be published.” Which is true, and an important lesson. Not every fucking story should be published. But my main takeaway at the time was that I was not necessarily going to agree with other people (gatekeepers or otherwise) about which stories should be published, and that the stories I most thought should be published might be the ones least valued by others. So that was an important change in expectations.

Otherwise…despite the fact that it is increasingly difficult to make a living doing the things that I think I do best, I have come to expect to be compensated in some way for most creative work that I do that is not a personal passion project. Beyond childhood daydreams of being a famous writer or movie star when I grew up, I never even had a goal of making a living off of making art until I was well into my 20s. I always assumed I’d have to have a day job. And I still do, at least sometimes. But there are pockets where you can actually get paid to do work you both enjoy and feel good about, that is fulfilling. That was a revelation.

It was also an intense experience to direct Small Talk. I’d barely directed actors before, let alone a crew that large. And it is the most fun thing to do in the world. Directing a film like that, a film that you care about and requires all these other people, is basically like playing pretend or whatever as a kid, except that you are supposed to boss everyone else around and everyone is there to play exactly what you tell them. Directing a non-documentary film is basically getting to be the most selfish, bratty kid who makes all their friends do exactly what they say when they come over with their Star Wars action figures. And that’s a job people get paid to do. It’s kind of ridiculous. I did not understand how awesome directing is until I started doing it.

 481535_10152357211960354_1296658884_nTalking shots on the set of Small Talk with cinematographer Jeanette Sears.

 

What role does your day job (or jobs) play in your creativity?

I’m trying to mostly have my day jobs be creative at this point, which is great. For the past year or so (since I graduated from  CCNY) I’ve been mostly doing freelance work of some sort, and a lot of it was work that was exciting and rewarding. I recently completed a long term project with a wonderful Jewish feminist organization called Ma’yan who have a research internship for teenage girls. The last group of interns decided to research the impact of sexist media on girls and make a documentary about their findings. Ma’yan brought me on as a consultant. I helped figure out how to execute the project, developed educational materials for the interns and gave them a kind of crash course in advocacy documentary filmmaking. I also helped with the production and ultimately edited the thing. It was very important to me, Ma’yan and the interns that this really be the interns’ film–they were the directors and I was there to serve their vision as an editor. I brought a lot of ideas to the table, many of which we used, but many of which we didn’t. It was a new and challenging experience, one from which I gained a lot.

The first job I had after graduating college that I could stand for more than a few months was as a phone sex operator, which was a creativity-requiring job. It wasn’t usually creatively fulfilling, but it felt better than most of my other viable employment options in part because it was creative. Also, once I started working from home and part time, it was just an incredibly flexible way to have a steady income stream. I could do all kinds of housekeeping and busywork–record keeping, light research, etc while I was on calls. My apartment was so well organized back then, it was great.

How do you balance making art and dealing with your everyday life, job, and responsibilities?

Making art is pretty integrated into the rest of my life. My life partner is a musician, so he gets it and and we don’t have any of the tension artists and other people with careers/passions that can take a lot of emotional energy and cause your schedule to become bizarre sometimes have. I try to have day jobs that are creative and I feel good about as much as I can, and I try to have the less-great paid work be flexible. If I can possibly afford to, I try to have a work schedule that will allow me to work on my own and other people’s film projects, and have time to write things I’m not getting paid for and get enough sleep, if possible. It’s a hard balance to strike, and one I don’t always strike. Sometimes I run myself ragged in a way that is not healthy or sustainable for me.

I also make sure to build things like exercising, cooking (it is so easy to have a schedule with no time to cook and thus eat terribly and/or rack up unaffordable takeout bills), experiencing art in a focused way (like going out to a movie or museum or sitting and really listening to an album rather than having it on in the background while I do other things) and calling my grandmother regularly into my weekly schedule. Some of the ultimately most important things to do can be the easiest to put off when there’s no deadline. It’s a cliché, but it’s true that if you wait ‘til you find time, you’ll never have it. You have to make it where you can, if you’ve determined something is a priority..

What’s next for you?

If all goes well, heading to festivals with my short film Small Talk. I’m submitting to a lot of different places, hopefully some will go for it.. In terms of new projects, I am just starting work on a feature script that will be directed by my friend (and Small Talk producer) Flavio Alves, which I’m very excited about. I’m working on some personal projects, including a television pilot. I’m finishing up editing a music video I directed for “The Promise” by The Shondes that might be out by the time this runs. I’m also working on a cookbook that I’m hoping will be out in spring 2015. I’ve been in a writers’ group for years (we meet weekly to give one another feedback on our work) that is developing now into a publishing collective called Stone Crow Press. We just launched a website and blog (www.stonedcrowpress.com) that will hopefully contain useful resources for other writers as well as feature just good, smart, funny writing that anyone who enjoys such a thing might like.

 

537690_10152360068975354_1983389834_nThanks Nicole!