Here’s the Buzz on Either/Or Films – Part 1

Published On May 15, 2011 | By admin | film production, Filmmaker, Independent Film, Q&A

Since joining Twitter about two years ago I’ve been a fan of Buzz McLaughlin from @EitherOrFilms, so I thought it was time for Filmmakers Notebook to find out more about the man, his films and his company in a Q&A.  Posted below is Part 1.

What has made you want to produce indie dramas like “The Sensation of Sight” and “Someplace Like America”?

I’ve always leaned toward unique stories that have something serious to say about life and the struggles we all confront.  And although there’s room out there for every kind of tale imaginable, my preference is to get behind those that meet the central character or characters where they’re at in their struggle—even if that’s a very dark place– and then have them take us on a journey to a place of healing and light.  In my experience, there’s room for a lot more of these kind of stories and the films I get behind and get excited about are these kind of films.    

We always hear how important it is to work with people you trust.  You and Aaron Wiederspahn have been producing partners for a while, so what is it you value most from this relationship? 

Buzz, Aaron & David

I think the biggest connection between us is that we both come to filmmaking as writers who have this desire to produce work that ultimately enriches audiences, leaving them in a better place when they leave the theatre than when they came in.  And of course it doesn’t hurt that Aaron is one of the most gifted writer/directors I’ve ever met.  Artistically I trust him totally.  We’re able to work together as well as we do because of this mutual respect we have for each other and the fact that we share this common overall goal of producing films that have something meaningful to say.   

What have you learned from making “The Sensation of Sight” that you will be taking with you into this new project? 

At the top of the list would be making sure we’ve raised enough money in order to make the film we want to make—especially building in a substantial reserve for the unexpected overages, especially when those overages hit you in post.  Of course, this is easier said than done when you’re out pounding the pavement every day trying to convince investors to write their checks so you can reach that magic number. 

Anyway, with Sensation (www.thesensationofsight.com), for example, we capitalized at $950k—a sum we thought would do the trick.  Alas, it didn’t and we had to find a good chunk more cash to get the film ready to launch.  And even after securing these extra funds to cover overages, we still had to back away from a final re-edit that ultimately would have happened if we could have afforded it.  I love the film as is—its look, pace and tone–but had the money been available we would have gone back into it one more time.  

Also, although our festival premiere was at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain (one of the biggest and best, especially for first-time directors), I think if we were to do it over again I would have argued for more patience and sat on the film and submitted to Sundance first—six months later than our submission to San Sebastian.  We were eager and excited to get the film out there (me as much as anyone) in the hopes of selling the film and I must say that the San Sebastian experience was fabulous.  However, Sensation is a different kind of American film and could have possibly made some waves if its world premiere had been here in this country.  In hindsight, I think it would have been worth the wait to find out.  I don’t have any regrets with the path the film has taken, but I’ve learned that six months in this business is nothing when it comes to positioning your film most favorably for its entrance into the world.  

It stated on your website that “Someplace Like America” is based on two books.  What advice would you give to other producers who want to produce films based on material created by other people? 

Someplace Like America (www.facebook.com/someplacelikeamericathefilm) is more inspired by the two Dale Maharidge/Michael Williamson books than based on them.  We do hold the screen rights to both (Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass and Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression), but our film is an original fiction narrative that draws its spirit from these non-fiction books—both which take an in-depth look at joblessness and the disenfranchised in our country over the last twenty-five years. 

My advice is get to know personally the authors of your source material.  Dale and Michael have been a true inspiration for us as we have worked to get the film made.  They’ve also become part of our team and very good friends.  The second book Someplace Like America (www.facebook.com/someplacelikeamericathebook) hits bookstores in early June with an introduction by Bruce Springsteen, who has been very supportive of the project.  We’re making every effort to use this current “action” and accompanying promo for the book to keep momentum going for the film and Dale and Michael are helping coordinate all of that.  It’s a real win-win.     

I read that you are also involved in making a documentary about the homeless.  Do you want to continue making documentaries along with your narrative films? 

We’ve had a special opportunity with Someplace Like America to have documentarian Ron Wyman actually working with Dale and Michael (who, by the way, have three Pulitzer Prizes between them) shooting a doc on their investigative journalism around the country reporting on the homeless and unemployed.  My company Either/Or Films (www.eitherorfilms.com) is co-producing this with Ron and the project is in progress now (www.facebook.com/someplacelikeamericanthedoc).  Ron did the Making Of doc for Sensation and will be doing another one for Someplace in addition to this doc with Dale and Michael.  We see Ron’s work with us on Someplace—especially the doc with Dale and Michael—as a bonus for us and as part of the overall project that includes the new book, the doc, and the feature film. 

Is there any difference in the type of satisfaction you get from making a documentary versus a narrative film? 

My interest is in producing narrative features.  I love good documentaries, but my ongoing passion is to make films that tell good fictional stories that speak to our times.

Follow Either/Or Films on Twitter @EitherOrFilms and stay tuned for Part 2 of our Q&A with Buzz later this week.

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