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January 5, 2016

The Cinereach blog is all-new, but here we excerpt some timeless words of advice and inspiration that we just couldn’t take offline. They come from posts written by Cinereach supported filmmakers over the years, and cover five recurring themes that arose in their stories of filmmaking challenges and triumphs.

1) To Shoot or Not to Shoot?

Call Me Kuchu (2013)

…When the money’s not there:

“[Circumstance] was too provocative and too lesbian for Middle Eastern investors, too non-commercial for film investors… The financing of Circumstance often felt like The Amazing Race — Maryam, Melissa and I in last place, and the production budget in first. We were constantly raising money to catch up to our spend. For the first time, I broke a major producing rule of mine — never go into production without all the money raised — but we knew we had to. With the massive social and political change about to rock the Middle East, this was the time to tell this story. Even two weeks before our Sundance premiere, we were still locking in another equity investor.”
— Karin Chien, Producer of Circumstance (2011)

…When a subject is indicted:

“A few months after our premiere at SXSW, two of our main characters were indicted on federal marijuana charges, and prohibited from using the defense that producing medical marijuana was legal in their home state of Montana. One of them faced a minimum mandatory sentence of more than 80 years in prison. We were determined to document the effects of this injustice on our protagonists and their families so we started filming again, launched a Kickstarter campaign, raised enough money to re-edit, and went back in to update the film.”
— Rebecca Richman Cohen,  Director & Producer of Code of the West (2012)

…When a subject is murdered:

It took only moments to realize what we had to do—in fact, there was no question. Having spent this much time filming David [Kato], we felt a profound responsibility to continue documenting his life and legacy, and to make a film that showed the David we had come to know—in all his intricacies. David had always been a passionate believer in the power of documentation, and we knew he would want this moment to be filmed. We knew we had to get back to Uganda as soon as possible to do just that.”
— Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright, co-directors of Call Me Kuchu (2013)


2) Everyone’s a critic!

Before You Know It (2014)

…When your film breaks the mold:

“It’s easy to make movies that people already want to see, but it’s not very interesting. Make the movies that people don’t know they want yet. And train yourself to recognize bad advice. There’s no one way to make a movie. To borrow an old saw, there are two kinds of movies: good ones and the rest. There’s no way to guarantee you’ll make a good movie, but it’s easy to guarantee you won’t. When someone says you can’t do something in a movie, it usually means you’re on the right track.”
— Brian L. Frye, Producer of Our Nixon (2013)

…When you’re told to give up:

“If I had stopped working on this film the moment anyone in the film industry expressed doubt or disinterest, this film would have been dead in the water at the idea phase…People love to tell you what they think about your film (good or bad) and of course everyone is entitled to their opinion. But don’t let the bad comments discourage you. Have faith in your vision. Of course constructive criticism can always be helpful if it’s just that, constructive.”
— PJ Raval, Director of Before You Know It (2014)

…When there’s darkness and light:

“Some people have asked, “where is the hope?” But in its essence Sunlight Jr. is a love story. And there is no greater hope than love. Love can exist anywhere and under any circumstance. It can grow even when everything around us falls apart. Love is hope and love is a miracle. That is also the story I wanted to tell.”
— Laurie Collyer, Writer & Director of Sunlight Jr.  (2013)


3) Portraying complexity…

The Great Invisible (2014)

…When your subjects surprise you:

“When we shot a scene with oil executives drinking whiskey and smoking cigars, the [crew] was surprised by how much these executives were thinking about all the things that we think they don’t think about. They do care about the destruction caused by environmental disasters. They don’t oppose alternative energy.”
— Margaret Brown, Director & Producer of The Great Invisible (2014)

…When a man becomes a myth:

“Since his murder, David [Kato] had understandably been somewhat mythologized by the international community and media…While it was encouraging to see such widespread outrage about his murder, it was also bizarre to see David reduced to a martyr for a cause.. We’d had the opportunity to capture a more intimate side of David. He was a courageous human rights activist, certainly, but he was also incredibly charismatic, comically foul-mouthed, and at times, so fearful for his safety that he was afraid to sleep alone at night. We were compelled to share what we had seen of his quotidian life so that people could understand that David wasn’t a superhuman hero, but rather a normal man who went to astounding lengths in his work to liberate Uganda’s LGBT community.”
— Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright, co-directors of Call Me Kuchu (2013)

…When there’s no simple answer:

“The film doesn’t answer the questions it raises. I wanted, instead, to invite the audience to engage with and wrestle with those questions on their own. After our premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, I walked across the street to have dinner and overheard two different tables where people were yelling at each other about issues we had raised in the film. A documentary filmmaker’s dream come true.”
— Marshall Curry, Director of Point and Shoot (2014)


4) Savoring the details…

E-Team (2014)

…When you’re in a rush:

“Sometimes, in the effort to make the film move quickly, there can be a tendency to edit out those small moments that illustrate character but are not technically “necessary” to the story. Both of us felt that character was king (and queen) in E-TEAM and so we spent lots of time salvaging those small moments and finding space for them in the film.”
— Katy Chevigny and Ross Kauffman, Directors of E-Team (2014)

…When you meet a stranger:

“A taxi driver asked me what my film was called and I said, Look, Stranger. He asked what it was about and I said, strangers looking at each other. We looked at each other.”
— Arielle Javitch, Writer & Director of Look Stranger (2010)

…When your star is eleven years old:

“Silas [Yelich] worked very hard on every scene and was exceedingly thorough in the details of his performance, often recognizing after a take that he wanted to do it again because he hadn’t gotten across what he’d intended. He’d never force a reaction or robotically go through the motions; he was always conscious and specific about what he was doing. Often that focus was fueled by an entire box of Skittles and a Mountain Dew, but every artist has his process.”
— Tom Gilroy, Writer & Director of The Cold Lands


5) Reaching an audience…

Aqui y Alla (2012)

…When you’re bridging a gap:

“There are nearly 500 million Spanish-speakers worldwide, and 50 million in the US — more, in fact, than in Spain, and second only to Mexico. The Hispanic demographic in the US is also the strongest filmgoing audience per capita in the US. All of this notwithstanding, the industry in the US is far behind the curve in creating and distributing quality content that will speak directly to the Hispanic audience. There are lots of reasons why, but they have little to do with supply and demand. For starters, there’s the mainstream approach in filmmaking and the wide-release mentality of distribution…We took significant risks making a film in a language other than English, casting only non-professional actors, filming in a remote mountain region of Mexico, and in the filmmaking approach in general.”  
– Tim Hobbs, Producer of Aqui y Allá (2013)

…When the audience gets mad:

“Audiences members are often outraged to witness [in our film] some of the more disturbing aspects of the underbelly of the modeling and fashion industries — the illegal working conditions, the manipulation and exploitation of young, malleable girls. Some want a space to participate in discussions, events or actions around these problems, and to learn how they can hold the responsible parties accountable. This inspired us to create an outlet for these reactions as we strategized the film’s distribution. We conducted a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to raise an outreach budget, and began fueling conversations about Girl Model’s themes in social media and beyond.  Raising awareness and media literacy among young boys and girls has become a major focus of our efforts.”
— Ashley Sabin and David Redmon, Directors of Girl Model (2012)

…When you know they’re out there:

“Whether or not you get that golden ticket from a traditional distributor, if you want your film to get seen, it’s imperative that you understand the commitment you’ll need to make during distribution…Thankfully, we are living in the era of “creative distribution,” and filmmakers are fully embracing any and every opportunity available to get a film out to audiences. The tools are in place to bypass traditional distributors altogether, by crowdfunding distribution campaigns, using online distribution platforms, and offering theatrical screenings on demand. In some cases these filmmaker-driven options may actually serve a film better…You don’t need MOST PEOPLE, you need your “core audience.”
— PJ Raval, Director of Before You Know It (2014)