Filmmaker David Spaltro is Winning Awards with “Things I Don’t Understand” – Part 2
Part 2 of the Filmmakers Notebook Q&A with Filmmaker David Spaltro discussing more about his career and “Things I Don’t Understand.”
Now that the film has won several awards on the festival circuit, has that changed the way you look at it?
I always wanted the best from the film and the great work of those involved to be recognized and honored. I was encouraged by early feedback not just to the screenplay but also early cuts of the film showed to friends, colleagues and test screenings we had. I never could have imagined not only the amount of festivals we were selected to participate in, but also how often we were honored or celebrated at them. The awards and critical acclaim have definitely been a motivating factor in moving forward with getting the film out there, taking it on the road and trying to find it the best viable home for viewing to audiences. I knew that I had tapped into something special by working with just the best possible people you could collaborate with on this film, which has always been my biggest secret towards creating something memorable. Having also watched the film with different audiences all around the country I’ve been able to see it in different ways, catching new moments or universal truths that seemed to transcend both geographical areas and spiritual backgrounds. It was also particularly sweet to see Molly Ryman get the acclaim for her work in this film as there were certain negative people along the way that didn’t understand my casting choice or believe she could tackle a role so completely different then the type-casting she had been a part of over her career. It was a lot of work to create “Violet” for her and she really ran with the opportunity and people have taken notice at how fully formed the character is and the layers and depth that I knew only Molly could really bring to it from the get go. Also how much Grace Folsom has been acknowledging for bringing so much maturity and soul to the role of “Sarah” and being almost the film’s emotional core as a balance while Violet finds her way.
What has been the greatest challenge to you personally as far as writing and directing “Things I Don’t Understand?”
I think working on a budget and that meaning less time when shooting and having to work out those kinks and scenarios are usually what is the most difficult. With this film I was really trying to push myself harder without compromising then I did on “…Around” to get things perfectly, but still working at a similar budget and with one less shooting day (20) than that film. We pushed both the cast and crew with some very long and arduous days, but they were more than up for the task and I think treating them like a family and the set like a home, giving them something they felt they were really “part of” encouraged them to put in that kind of care and work. I can personally there were at least ten straight days in the middle of the shoot while dealing with the film and some personal issues that I did not sleep at all and that took a long time to bounce back from. You find this inner well of resolve and strength, usually bolstered by the people you’re collaborating with to get through it. After almost a year of pre-production and a month of shooting, I definitely had at least a week of straight decompression in bed after we wrapped and before I dove into post production which then became another few months of work.
You mentioned that you are now in the process of negotiating a distribution deal. What do you consider your greatest challenge in this area?
I think with the economy the way it is right now, the oversaturation in media choices and options, changing distribution landscape, foreign markets and tastes, not having a “bankable, well known name” or being a straight up genre film that is easily sold in a simplistic tagline, we’ve made the road to having a larger entity take a chance on us for distribution much more difficult. At the same time the work I’ve put into the film in it’s quality and making it something original, as well as getting it reviewed and scene in festivals across the country has given us a bit of a buzz and word of mouth. If at the end of the day we have to put the film out ourselves I’m more than confidant that it will find it’s audience and connect as it’s been doing in the grass roots incarnation myself and my producer Lee Gillentine have been doing with over the last year. We live in a great age where anyone can go out and tell their story and have it be seen in a multitude or formats and the real x-factor is always going to be how creative you’re going to be in getting it out there and how hard you’re going to work to promote it and make it known. I’ve been blessed to have some great supporters in our sales agents at Empress Road Films, some critics and programmers who’ve passed the film around and given it some acclaim, and the audiences that have turned out and championed our work along the way. Seeing the special story we have that I could not be prouder of and how much it means to all the incredible people involved in the gas to me making sure the world sees this film and we get to make at least one more.
Based on your experiences what actions would you recommend other filmmakers in this situation take?
I think there’s an individual choice and compromise that every artist has to make for themselves when they negotiate the business and commerce side of what they do, particularly film which is one of the more costly mediums to work in. I would say there are definitely opportunities and choices I could have made that would have made my life easier or added to financial gain that I turned down because they didn’t feel right to me. I told someone once that an “opportunity is only an opportunity if it’s an opportunity” (so deep, I know)—meaning you really have to know what you end goal is. If you’re trying to just have financial success or name cache value then there are different roads you’d take versus telling an original and personal story that only you can tell and hoping it finds its audience. With the work I’ve done I’ve consistently tried to stay true to my own creative voice while also repping some great unknown talent and I’ve always felt I ended up with a better film and product for it. I couldn’t think of a worse fate for myself then just making something for the sake of making something without putting any love or myself and ideals into it. If that was the success I was interested I’d make different decisions or probably be pursuing a completely different field. Again, it’s a very personal decision every artist has to make for themselves and can always change as they progress, but it always starts with being honest with yourself and what you really want to put out there and get out of it. You then have to take stock of what you have and think outside the box and carve your own path to bring the film or your work to the largest audience possible, and that might take time and years to build, but, if you’re persistent, you can do it.
For more info about “Things I Don’t Understand” visit the film”s website at http://www.tidu-film.com or check out David on Twitter @thedavidspaltro.
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