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Digital Cinema Cafe Podcast – Sam Mestman & We Make Movies

Published On March 16, 2014 | By Mike Carroll | Digital Cinema Cafe, Fellow Naked Filmmakers, Podcast

“The future is coming at us faster than we can escape it.” – Terry Gilliam

I love Chris Fenwick and his podcasts. I’ve written about on this site in the past. I first learned of him through Carl Olson’s Digital Convergence Podcast. Chris was first a guest and then became a regular co-host, then formed his own podcast, The Digital Cinema Café, with Alex McLean (who can be found on Twitter @alexm13). Chris recently started doing an entirely new podcast called the FCP X Grill (or just “The Grill” as it’s coming to be known) – a podcast devoted entirely to Apple’s latest iteration of Final Cut Pro.

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Through my work as a TV news cameraman at KCRA-TV in Sacramento, California, I have been using Adobe Premier Pro for the past year, because that’s what we use to edit the news. I’ve been extremely happy with the Adobe suite, but listening to Chris Fenwick and his enthusiasm on what the latest version of Final Cut Pro has evolved into has made me extremely curious. So much so that I’m probably going to try the free 30-day trial and give it a demo. After all, where else can you get such a massively powerful nonlinear editing program for a mere $300!!

(I’d do it now except my 3+ year old MacBook Pro had just bitten the dust & I’m trying to figure out my next step. Probably a 13″ MacBook Air.)

FCPX Grill

I had to write this blog post because I was listening to a recent addition of The Digital Cinema Café episode #042 with his guest Sam Mestman, of We Make Movies at wemakemovies.org.

Sam is an independent filmmaker based in LA and hearing him talk about his views on indie filmmaking is exactly what I’ve been saying for so long — to mostly deaf ears — about the state of indie filmmaking, film festivals and the independent distribution scene as it exists today.

In this episode Sam makes the very valid point that getting into a film festival is one thing — it’s exciting and a tremendous shot in the arm. But also very expensive! First, you have to pay the entry fee to submit your film. Then your costs really go through the roof because you have to get your film in the format that they desire for projection — and every festival is different. Add to that posters, publicity cards, travel expenses, food, lodging, everything. And from this all that you receive is the vanity reward of seeing your film projected up onto a big screen — for maybe a hundred people, maybe ten people. Will this help you to get your film seen by the larger viewing public? The flat out answer is: NO.

BOTTOM LINE: Film festivals don’t make the filmmaker money. They cost money.

When I get accepted into a festival my first reaction is: “Great! We made it into a festival!” My next reaction is: “Crap! Now I’ve got to spend all this money!!!”

Also, filmmakers make no money from the screening. That all goes back into the film festival. Which is, admittedly, very expensive in the first place and a big risk to put on.

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A terrific thing about the We Make Movies group in Los Angeles is that they would like to partner with other filmmaking groups across the country to help promote better filmmaking, teaching, learning, films, screenings & indie distribution.

At one point in the podcast Chris start talking about “the indie filmmaker imaginary paradigm” of making a movie, getting it into a film festival, getting picked up for distribution, getting a movie contract, and winding up on the red carpet and being interviewed by E-Hollywood — in the vein of the success of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith.

But Sam Mestman was quick to point out that those are all success stories from the 1990s — nearly twenty years ago. That doesn’t exist anymore.

True, there are exceptions, such as Lena Dunham and Tiny Furniture and her success with Girls on HBO. But Lena’s success is the exception– NOT the rule! And nothing to peg your dreams of a career in the movies and worth risking your 401K or your parents’ 401K retirement savings!!!

Sam’s words made me think of when I was first discovering  movies as a kid and then early teenager in the 1960s. Twenty years before that the filmmaking model would have been the 1940s when film directors worked under long-term contracts to studios and would work Monday through Friday 8 to 6 cranking out one movie after another the likes of Darrell F. Zanuck or Louis B. Mayer or Jack L. Warner. If I had been a 1960s filmmaker dreaming of a career like that, it would have been complete Folly – because that Hollywood had already long ceased to exist. Movies and the movie business had changed so drastically. In the 1940s studios were making Andy Hardy movies. By the 1960s they were making Myra Breckenridge and The Wild Bunch.

The movie studios of the 1940s had not only completely changed by the 1960s, but many of them were literally being demolitioned so the real estate could be sold off to make way for office buildings and parking lots.

In this podcast independent filmmaker Sam Messman gives some very sobering assessments to the current state of independent filmmaking, film festivals and independent distribution for the new wave of filmmakers – for people striving to become a part of today’s film world.

I will confess that what I like so much about hearing Chris Fenwick’s and Sam Messman conversation is that so much of what they are talking about is what I have been talking about and writing about for years.

To make a film and have a play in a festival and get picked up for theatrical distribution is almost like trying to find a phone with a rotary dial. A thing of the past.

A very interesting and thing about Sam Massman and the We Make Movies filmmaking group in Los Angeles is that they are like-minded individuals who do table reads of scripts, help out on each other’s films, and even have an annual Kickstarter campaign that raises a few thousand dollars to help filmmakers to help them make a short film.

A very worthwhile episode to listen to from a very worthwhile podcast – Digital Cinema Café – digitalcinemacafe.com.

On this subject I will strongly be recommending this group to the local groups here in the Sacramento area — CFAA (California Film Arts Alliance) and the Sac VIPs (Sacramento Video Industry Professionals).

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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

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