The Wild Road to Filmmaking

Michelle:  Behind most indie films you’ll find a unique story of how each one came to be made. Inspiration and a strong will can pave a highly effective road, usually full of bizarre twists and harrowing turns. To the public (and sometimes friends and family!) the filmmaking journey can seem like a series of completely insane and random decisions but, in truth, those crazy choices make perfect sense to the filmmaker.

For example, Robert Rodriguez sold his body to science to fund the making of his debut film El Mariachi, which he later turned into the Antonio Banderas hit Desperado. Creators of the 2008 cult classic The Foot Fist Way, Jody Hill and Danny McBride, tried to make it in LA but moved back home to North Carolina where they applied for as many credit cards as they could, promptly maxed them out, then borrowed money from Jody’s brother to complete their film. Risky? Sure. But the payoff was quite worth it.

So, what of the The Young Invincibles? Sarah and Aaron were living and working as actors in New York City when a March meeting lead to a December proposal (fyi – she said yes). Some casual conversations and personal experience turned into a solid idea for a feature film, a story they wanted to tell. The next year was spent working and planning for the wedding while doing research for the film. In an effort to slow things down and focus on the script, Sarah and Aaron left the city that never sleeps for the sleepy little town of Avon, North Carolina. Living off their savings, they spent several months in a house by the beach to write (and rewrite) the script that would become The Young Invincibles.

They decided to stay on the beach for the summer to put together the business and production plan for the film (which you can read about here). To pay the bills, Aaron worked as a wild horse tour guide, a waiter, and a wedding caterer while Sarah also worked catering jobs and founded a wedding cake stand company (check it out here).

In the diverse world of independent films, there isn’t one way to make a movie. There’s no corporate ladder or trade apprenticeship hierarchy to climb until mastery is achieved. Some movie makers attempt to work their way up the entertainment food chain in Hollywood or New York City, while others spend years saving up enough money in the cubical army to finally have the freedom to work on a personal project. But, in the end, every filmmaker must set out on their own movie-making trail, blindly and doggedly following their inspiration no matter where it takes them.

So…What’s Your Film About?

Michelle:  Whether at a high-profile meeting or at a laid back cocktail party, the creators of most art forms are perpetually prompted to describe their idea by likening it to existing, well-known pieces in order to gain legitimacy and respect from their peers. The results usually end up in very absurd territory. Example?

Boy at a Party: You should check out my band sometime. Our sound is a Flaming Lips/Guns and Roses love child that was raised by Ani DiFranco.

Potentially Interested Girl: (giggle) Wow, that sounds…pretty neat actually. Tell me more!

Humans like categorizing. It helps us make sense of the world around us, especially the parts of the world containing different and unfamiliar ideas. While some artists shun this practice for fear of labeling their omg totally original art, it’s a necessary evil in generating any interest or curiosity about a project. The film industry is rife with this sort of quick referencing.

Random Human: So…what’s your film about?

James Cameron: Well, Avatar is kinda like Dances with Wolves in space.

Random Human: Oh, okay. I guess that makes sense…Wait, what?

 

We are not making this shit up. Read all about it here and here.

It’s also been said that Titanic = Romeo and Juliet on a boat. Which goes to show that even after you’ve made two of the highest grossing films in history an artist must still quip cheesy-ass pigeonholing references to make potential audiences, investors, and critics feel just enough familiarity but with its own creative spin.

A couple of other delightful examples:

St. Elmo’s Fire group dynamic meets a Hackers universe = The Social Network.

Monty Python tomfoolery + witty Sherlock Holmes whodunit = Clue.

There are obvious pros and cons to this sort of labeling. Comparisons to glory may give off an inflated sense of ego, but mass recognition referencing undeniably garners a nodding, “Oh, I think I get it” type of reaction. A reaction that hopefully contains the magical mixture of comfortable recognition and show-worthy appeal.

Random Human: So…what’s your film about?

The YI: The Young Invincibles is an independent fictional story (not a documentary!) in Traffic-style storytelling with Reality Bites characters.

Get it? Good. Sound appealing? We sure hope so!

10 Q&A’s: DanaTina, Designer Extraordinaire

Michelle:  Dana, of DanaTina Graphic Design, is the talented artist who created the teaser poster for The Young Invincibles. This week I had the pleasure of getting to know her professional and fanciful inclinations a little bit better.
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1. How did you become involved with The Young Invincibles, and what made you want to work with a project about young adults with cancer?
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DanaTina: I found the project on an online posting and it immediately caught my attention, especially because it is an independent film.  I love independent movies and am always eager to support their making. After I found out its subject and read the script, I was inspired by this character-driven story; I saw the need to portray the hardships and challenges of life paralleled by cancer. Family experience made me quite sensitive to the movie’s subject as well. To be honest with you the script made me tear up. And that was my sign: THIS is my project!

2. What was the process in creating the teaser poster?

DanaTina: The process from start to end was quite smooth. It is a pleasure working with Sarah and Aaron. They are warm people and are able to express and exemplify their vision. The communication between us was clear and this is something that is valued in any collaboration.

I constructed a visual concept around the medical bracelet, an item that all people who have been in a hospital have in common. Although it identifies you, it doesn’t say who you are outside of the hospital.  As many things in graphic design/visual arts, it breaks down to the representation of the common denominator of which all people can understand. Just as a smile is recognized across all cultures to be a sign of joy, so the hospital bracelet understood to be a symbol of medical care in a hospital just as other universal symbols such as gender specification on the bathroom door, or the arrow pointing for safety during a fire, or the crosswalk light that guides us safely through the intersection.

The poster’s execution started with a photo-shoot, which thanks to my model, Ana, turned out fabulous. After the best shot was chosen, it was a question of choosing the right typeface and editing the images digitally so that everything comes together perfectly. Working with Bhati Beads really made the difference in the finishing touches of the poster; it shows the elegance in the bohemian style of facing the seriousness of life head-on with a triumphant attitude. I love the bracelets; they are really fashionable and bring out the spirit of today’s youth. Working with the company was really great, a smooth collaboration, no complaints. 🙂

3. Do you sing in the shower, in the car, or both?

DanaTina: Neither, haha… unless my husbands does and I join him. I do sing when I cook though, and randomly burst into singing while moving around the apartment.

The YI: Funny you should say that. Apparently Sarah has similar singing habits!

4. How did you get into the visual design business?

DanaTina: I was always attracted to visuals. When I was in high school I wanted to go into advertising. I was fascinated by it. But after working with an advertising agency in college, I saw the process of art change into something solely commercial and sales-oriented. I found my passion directing me somewhere else.

Having always created visual presentations for various purposes, I naturally found myself in the field of photography, quite amateurishly, but with great results. For some reason I thought it would be challenging to establish myself solely as a photographer, however I found myself incorporating my photographs into various layouts using different artistic techniques. It was a natural evolution into the realm of what I call broad-spectrum visual design.

5. If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be and why?

DanaTina: hmmm… I have so many favorite fruits… It’s hard. Raspberry: tastes great and is healthy, looks hard but is delicate to the touch, grows wild and independent, it is hard to get rid of, but who would want to anyway? What else… Bears love them!!!

The YI: That’s one of the best answers I’ve ever heard to that question. High Five!

6. Is being an artist in New York difficult or easy?

DanaTina: It is not easy, although easier than other places, probably. People in NYC are open to artistry and they appreciate it. One of the good things about being an artist in NYC is that you have the opportunity to let your individual style flourish.  Plus there is so much inspiration all around you! What is hard about being a graphic artist is the fact that work is sometimes taken for granted and not appreciated at its real value. However, if one is passionate and dedicated, that won’t slow them down; if anything that will make them even more determined.

7. Browsing your website you’ve worked with a wide variety of projects and organizations, which is pretty awesome. Care to tell us a bit more about your work?

DanaTina: Yes, I love variety! I am what I like to call a broad spectrum designer. While others strive to find a niche to be successful, I feel that variety is good for the soul and keeps your skill-set sharp and fresh; experimentation with one mode of working expands one’s understanding of the others, integrating knowledge and unique creativity. Also, it is the nature of freelance work that allows you to expand into new territories  with an vast array of people from all walks of life and cultures.

8. What 5 people, alive or dead, would you want to have over for a dinner party?

DanaTina: My husband, Karl Jung, Paolo Coelho, Buddha, DaVinci.

9. Do you have a favorite piece you’ve made, professional or otherwise?

DanaTina: Yes, I knew that would come up in conversation …besides the teaser poster for The Young Invincibles you mean? I think one of my favorites would be “Geisha” –  an illustration I created based on a novel that I love, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I read the book when it first came out and I kept a fond memory of it. The movie made it more popular, I assume. It was a project I worked on with a lot of passion.

10. Do you have a favorite quote?

DanaTina: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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The YI: Awesome, Dana. Thank you so much for sharing your time and answers with us!

DanaTina: Thank you, Michelle! It’s been a pleasure.

Fundraising and Questions

Huzzah! The YI has officially started our active fundraising campaign. It’s an exciting yet nerve-racking time where all the hard work of putting the film’s vision into a well-organized plan is distributed and hopefully deemed worthy enough for donors to contribute to the project.

Feedback has been positive, but as we tell more people about the film two main questions keep popping up:

  • If The Young Invincibles is a feature film, not a documentary, how are tax-deductible donations possible?
  • If this film is about young adults with cancer why not make a documentary?

Isolation and lack of media presence are two of the main issues within the young adult cancer community, and The Young Invincibles aims to change that. Since the young adult cancer community is underrepresented, we know there is a need and therefore an audience for this film. And, while many other countries have allotted funds for the arts, particularly projects attached to a good cause, Northern American artists have traditionally been funded by private investors or donors. We decided to work with Fractured Atlas because it makes sense that the same audience that would want to see this film would also help fund it, and offering a tax-deductible donation option would help make such funding possible.

So, why not a documentary? The YI’s goal is to create an intimate, entertaining look into the world of the young adult (YA) cancer community. Humans naturally love the story telling process, being able to make a meaningful connection with characters while following their journey to its end. While talking to Aaron about this he said, “Following someone around with a camera changes the nature of the person being filmed.” The reality tv phenomena clearly proves Aaron’s statement true, and is the opposite of what The Young Invincibles hopes to capture. It’s rather impossible to access the most impactful moments in the YA cancer experience in real-time, such as receiving the initial cancer diagnosis or breaking the news to friends and family. In the spirit of independent filmmaking, The YI aims to break ground for both the movie industry and the young adult cancer community!

Curious about Sarah and Aaron’s vision for The Young Invincibles and how they plan to make the film? Check out the Prospectus, and feel free to pass it along to anyone that might be interested in donating.

A Facelift, a Facebook, and a Twitter (oh my!)

Michelle:   Apologies for the lack of updates as of late. The YI team has been quite busy behind the scenes developing our site’s snazzy new look and laying the groundwork for the exciting months ahead of fundraising and film shooting preparation. Among the fancy features we’ve added to the site, check out the full Synopsis and enhanced Donation info sections.

Special thanks to Dana of Dana Tina Graphic Design for the awesome teaser poster and otherwise visual badassery.

We also just launched Facebook and Twitter accounts for The Young Invincibles. Friend us for exclusive content and news!

Funding: Going Non-Profit

Michelle: As a child I loved the visual image of the term “seed money,”  watching a street performer plant a couple of his own dollars in a tip jar, hoping that his talent would persuade appreciative onlookers to nourish the money pot, making it flourish into bushel of green cash. Film makers have a vision of how a story should be shared with the masses, and seed money is the funding that is needed to begin making that kind of tangible, quality storytelling possible. In a previous post, Aaron mentioned that many burgeoning films struggle with finding initial funding. The Young Invincibles is Sarah and Aaron’s first foray into film making, a film we hope will in part bring awareness to the youth cancer survivor community. With any new project it is important to get solid advice from experienced sources, particularly in how to seek and obtain different kinds of funding and donations.

Enter: Fractured Atlas. A friend of Sarah’s recommended this organization after having worked with Fractured Atlas to get her NYC based theater company, Down Payment Productions, up and running. Fractured Atlas is a not for profit group that works with artists in all disciplines and types of projects to more efficiently manage their projects as a business. Accepted applicants are then fiscally sponsored,  gaining access to funding generally available only to non-profit organizations. Fractured Atlas also supports the arts community with a spectrum of resources, from networking and online education to liability insurance.

Through their fiscal sponsorship program, projects such as The Young Invincibles are able to receive benefits similar to non-profit groups. Therefore, it is my pleasure to announce that The Young Invincibles is now able to receive grants and tax-deductible contributions that will make this film a reality. Hooray!

The Chicken or the Egg?

Sarah: Pre-production on The Young Invincibles has officially begun! We still have some minor tweaks to make on the script but we have also started trying to figure out our game plan for getting the movie made. So, what exactly does that entail? Money. Do we use our own funds? Or, do we find people to invest? The actual making of a film is a lot more business than artistic creativity so I’ll admit this is not the most exciting phase. But, it’s a must and I’m throwing myself full force into the process.

Our main quandary right now is figuring out how much money we will need.  We have to create a shooting schedule and take into consideration all the details of what we will need to pay for to get the film in the can and edited. Except, how do we do that if we don’t know how much money we will have to work with? There are the ‘what-ifs’ that make this nearly impossible. What if we buy our own camera to shoot with? What if we hire name actors to be in the film? These costs will vary depending on the answers to these questions. But, if we only have a small amount of money to work with than that will place limitations on our choices. Oh, it’s confusing!

I wonder how other filmmakers deal with this dilemma. Do they decide on a budget first and then work within those parameters? Or, do they hire the talent and plan the shooting schedule and then see what that final, holy number is going to be?