Part 2 of Q&A with “Shooting April” Producer/Director Tod Lancaster
Producer/Director Tod Lancaster shares more information about the production of his new independent film “Shooting April” in Part 2 of his Q&A with Filmmakers Notebook.
What’s the most valuable lesson you learned from making “Shooting April”?
The most important thing I’ve learned from all this is that making a movie is only the first half of the filmmaking process. That’s counter-intuitive to wannabe filmmakers; all they want to deal with is the creative part of the process. But those days are gone.
The most important thing by far, aside from making a good movie, is to have your shit together—and I mean really together—when it comes to getting your movie out to the public. If you are dreaming of having your movie scooped up by an eager acquisitions exec from Warner Brothers, there’s an excellent chance you’re deluding yourself.
You have to approach it like a bride planning a wedding; every single thing matters, down to how the napkins are folded. Even if your film is great and it does eventually get picked up by Warner Brothers, part of their motivation for doing so will have come from knowing that most of the work has been done. Nobody in this business wants to hold your hand.
Aside from entering “Shooting April” in film festivals do you have a marketing and distribution strategy set up for the film?
Definitely. In fact, this isn’t a classic festival piece. It’s got some really unsettling elements, including some very difficult violence. I’m being pretty careful when it comes to parting with rights to the film. Rather than shoot for an overall deal, we’re looking to carve out the various types of rights and maximize each as much as we can. We just signed on with Gravitas Ventures, which is a company that aggregates VOD rights, and so the distribution ball has started rolling. We’re weighing options daily.
Do you think an independent film like this one will do better finding a distributor or through trying self-distribution?
I’ve consulted with indie distribution guru Peter Broderick on that exact question. In fact, he’s fairly well-known as someone who advocates carving out your rights and overseeing distribution yourself. That’s what we’re doing with “Shooting April”.
However, there are few things that maximize a film’s potential more than obtaining some sort of traditional distribution. It doesn’t mean it helps the filmmaker necessarily—you’re giving away a large piece of the pie—but there is no way an independent filmmaker can do what a traditional distributor does.
So the important thing—and I learned this from Broderick—is to formulate a hybrid strategy. Keep certain rights, farm others out piecemeal to traditional players and handle the things you know you can do on your own.
One caveat, however, many distribution companies will not even consider your film if they don’t get multiple rights for a certain territory. For instance, they won’t do a DVD release if they can’t also have VOD. That’s something to be aware of.
What inspires and challenges you most about directing and do you prefer it to being a producer?
In the independent world, and especially with this film, directing and producing are very difficult to separate. I really, really enjoy working with actors. I admire them immensely, and I respect the process they go through and the fact that they’re putting themselves on the line every time the camera starts to roll.
But I get a deep sense of fulfillment from having connected all the dots and gone through the hell it takes to produce a film. They’re like conjoined twins to me; I really can’t separate them properly.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to direct?
There is so much I’d love to say to anyone who wants to be a director. My first impulse is to parrot Robert Rodriquez, and say “pick up a camera and make a movie”. He’s absolutely right; anyone can make a movie these days, and making small movies is a great proving ground for a future as a director.
But perhaps I’ll go a bit deeper and say that, at the most rudimentary level, you need to look inward and to try to understand what your own motivation is. If it arises from a mere overabundance of creativity, there are a lot of creative capacities within the filmmaking process to choose from other than directing. Likewise, if the motivation comes from a misguided notion of glamour or stardom, I promise you will be disappointed.
The only two guarantees this industry offers budding directors are that their chances of commercial success are miniscule and that those who do succeed will find that they have had to work much harder than they ever thought was necessary. So be honest with yourself, and know what your capabilities and limitations are, and be willing to commit years of your life to this endeavor.
There will be a lot of unforeseen obstacles, so if you really think you can do it, you have to make up your mind from the beginning that you will be relentless, that nothing will stop you, not even failure.
Especially failure, in fact.
Do you have a new project on the drawing board already?
Yes, actually, we have a project that is considerably past the drawing-board stage. We’re in the development process for an entirely different kind of movie: a larger-budget action movie called “Redemption”. And I don’t mean “development” in the bastardized sense in which people often use it, where they really just have a script and a dream; I mean we have some serious interest from some heavy-hitters in the industry. We’re close to being able to announce something, but I can’t just yet. I’ll be producing with director Thomas DeWier. As it stands right now, we could begin shooting next year.
For more information about “Shooting April” go to their website at www.shootingapril.com or “Like” them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/shootingapril. You can also follow them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ShootingApril.