Short of the Week is about more than just highlighting the best in bite-sized narratives—it’s also about fostering a dialogue amongst the innovative creators telling earth-shattering stories in new and interesting ways. And, what better time to do that than the week of the 2013 Short of Week Awards? All week, we’ll be having roundtable interviews with the award winners to learn more about their creative process as well as the broader storytelling landscape where short films are proving to be the leaders in the industry. Today we reach out to our LIVE-ACTION winners
A big thanks goes out to all the great filmmakers who participated—please be sure to follow them and learn more about their next projects at the end of this post. Also, as a note, all the interviews were conducted individually and then organized into this discussion for your convenience.
How has this film impacted your film career?
ARIEL SCHULMAN—This film has actually got us more attention than our last two features. It’s inspired ad agencies and commercial work, including a few rip-offs, and inspired a few feature film concepts of our own. We had a good time with this style of narration/imagery and would like to try it again.
DANE & LINSEY—Before Long Branch we were solely writers. This was the first short we directed together so the first way it impacted our career was by starting a new chapter of it. Now we love directing and seeing a project from beginning to end is a really satisfying experience.
The second way it impacted our career has been through you guys. The day Long Branch went up on Short Of The Week, Vimeo noticed it and made it a Staff Pick. From there we’ve been fortunate enough and amazed to have professionals we respect in LA reach out and want to know more about us. (We’re Canadian so this is extra cool.)
DOUG NICHOL—It made me happy that people liked it and responded to John Benet’s thoughts. It caused a bit of controversy with our advertising careers, but so it goes… John and I are collaborating on a follow-up project.
JOSH SOSKIN–The truth is I think I’m still finding out how this film has impacted my career. Every week I seem to get an interesting email, asking me to screen the film in a far off country, or somebody offering to intern for us because they loved it– its really coo in that sense. I’m pitching on a few commercial projects right now and one of them was pretty much directly tied to some things they liked in Takahashi. So, like everything I’ve invested in creatively, it eventually pays itself off. And then some.
ALAN SPEARMAN–My film career is still developing. I’ve recently committed to a shift from the confines of photojournalism to the wilds of filmmaking, but my filmmaking is completely informed by the experiences I’ve had as photojournalist. As I Am is unique because it successfully merged styles and content in a way that was appealing to people. That recognition and feedback has validated ideas that I have been cultivating and it’s given Mark Adams (co-producer) and I a big momentum boost to move forward on future projects like Ground, a narrative feature I’ve written in collaboration with my friend, writer/director Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow).
In short, As I Am has opened doors for us and has reinforced our resolve to move forward with projects we’ve been developing for the past year.
How have you seen filmmaking change or evolve over the past year?
DOUG NICHOL—With the proliferation of DSLRs the quality of both shorts and feature films by independents has really taken off. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, there is nothing keeping people from telling stories. In the past, money for equipment and film processing was always the barrier.
ALAN SPEARMAN—For me personally, the exposure we’ve had on Vimeo has allowed many more people to experience As I Am than would have seen it on The Commercial Appeal’s website (the Memphis newspaper that funded the project) or if we would have taken the traditional film festival path and hoped for distribution. The possibilities for collaboration on Vimeo blow my mind. A big goal for Mark and I this year is to collaborate with people we admire and meet on Vimeo. All of these spaces allowing different possibilities for mashups between filmmakers, journalists, musicians, producers, ad agencies and content creators that were never possible before global online social communities makes me feel really lucky to be alive right now.
DANE & LINSEY—We’ve noticed that the filmmaking community has started taking the Internet and digital more seriously. Whether it be VOD or iTunes, the business is learning how to monetize their products online instead of it just being a place where your film goes to die. Now WE haven’t see any money ourselves but it feels like its heading in an optimistic direction which could give filmmakers hope and rent money in the future.
What would you like to see change in the industry in the coming year?
DANE & LINSEY—We want to see some of these great filmmakers who are making films with heart on their own dime, get a chance to keep telling their stories with a real budget while keeping the integrity of their vision intact. Oh, and more Gary Busey movies.
ARIEL SCHULMAN—We always prefer story and information over mood and atmosphere. We’d like to see filmmakers trust the audience with more info.
DOUG NICHOL—I’d like to see a better link between iTunes, Vimeo, Netflix, etc.. where filmmakers can get their independently produced works seen and find a way to profit from them at the same time.
ALAN SPEARMAN—I’m fascinated with the blending of media.
I think industries in general are in a state of decay and on those edges are enormous potential for new forms to arise and to me the Internet and stop-offs like Vimeo are the beautiful flowers growing in the muck.
I’d love it if we could more easily align funders/advertisers/organizations that want intelligent content with the artists that want to create jaw-dropping work. For instance, we currently have four of the world’s best dancers that want to join us for a shoot in Iceland on a project we’re calling Monster. I need somebody that can say, “Hey these guys are rollin’ to Iceland and going to make new imagery. Do you have any interest in getting in on that as a participant?” snap. We could just sync up with each other, move quickly and use a greater portion of our resources for executing the concept, rather than agencies and representation eating up funds that could better be used to push the limits of creativity and storytelling.
JOSH SOSKIN—This is going to sound cliche as hell, but I just want to see more risk taking industry wide. I suppose television is already evolving in that way a little but I’d like the feature film world to follow suit. I tend to look back at the “glory days” of independent cinema sometimes and wonder where the fuck did the movies disappear to? The amount of films that grab me by the balls and don’t let go dwindles on a yearly basis. I think the ideas are out there– I think the studios, festivals, powers that be, etc just need to embrace them. We’ll all be better off for it. And I of course see the same thing in the commercial world all the time, people terrified to take a risk on somebody for fear of it not coming out exactly how they’ve planned it. From what I hear about Netflix’s relationship with Fincher on House of Cards they really embraced that– just empowering a talented filmmaker and letting him go for it. Leave it to the tech dudes to nurture creatives—of course.
What’s next for you?
ARIEL SCHULMAN—We’re adapting the cult classic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang into a feature film.
DANE & LINSEY—We’re in post production on our first micro budget feature, I Put a Hit On You. If the world accepts it half as much as they accepted Long Branch, we’ll be thrilled.
JOSH SOSKIN—I just finished a few commercial things (that’s how I make a living) and I’m putting all my efforts into getting the feature film I wrote this year (Smuggler) into production. It’s been hell writing it but I’m excited to finally make it. It’s quite different than Takahashi but like I said above, it’s all about taking risks.
DOUG NICHOL—I’m finishing a feature doc that I made in the same way I did Sunshine. It’s about people connected by typewriters and this last little typewriter shop in Berkeley, California. Tom Hanks, John Mayer, Sam Shepard, David McCullough and a bunch of unique characters are in it.
ALAN SPEARMAN—In 2013, we are shooting the feature film Ground, and producing a cross media experiment called Monster. We are also developing a number of other projects including another narrative feature set in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
Going beyond simply making films, we want our work to benefit the people and communities that we work within. The exposure As I Am is getting has created an opportunity to assist three people in the films- all of them are from Memphis’ roughest neighborhoods. Chris Dean, 20, (As I Am) dreams of becoming a psychologist, Faith Jackson, 9, (April) dreams to become a veterinarian and Kevione Austin,12, (As I Am) dreams to become a singer. Mark and I have partnered with The Woman’s Foundation of Greater Memphis and are working to put together a campaign to help them bridge economic gaps and fulfill their educational goals. If you watch the films and you are moved and would like to help, feel free to contact us at www.AsIAmFilm.com for more information.
What is the best way to follow you?
JOSH SOSKIN—My facebook and twitter accounts tend to lie dormant, but I do love me some Instagram. I’m big into film photography and like to post on there. username: joshsoskin. I also put all my new work up on www.joshsoskin.com
I’ll have a new commercial/short film hybrid that I just directed titled Milk Run on there very soon.
ARIEL SCHULMAN—In a car. And our Facebook page, Henry and Rel.
DOUG NICHOL—My Instagram.
ALAN SPEARMAN—I recently started using instagram and you’ll see imagery there related to my research and current projects. I also post updates on my projects via twitter and facebook – for example – people could watch the development of As I Am (still photos of finding the participants, 8mm app video tests) here when we were making the film. My website is a good place to see more developed work from the past and I’ll put new content there as well. We will of course continue to use and love Vimeo to platform new work. Mark also updates using his social media and we will be announcing a collaborative site and name for our new company soon. @jalanspearman | Instagram | Facebook | Website