CALL ME KUCHU Filmmakers Weigh In on Lessons Learned
So you want to make a movie but aren’t exactly sure where to start? Don't fret! The options are fairly simple and filmmakers always fall in one of two categories: they go to film school or they buy a camera and start shooting. Both have their benefits and while learning on the fly with just you and a camera is a bit cheaper, film school will hopefully provide tools for students through both knowledge and practice to not face the same avoidable confusion as their filmmaking predecessors. The finest example of ‘learning from those who have gone before you’ is seen through Professor John Douglass’s Master Class at AU. With a different visitng filmmaker every week, graduate students, in the midst of their thesis projects, have the opportunity to pick the brains of filmmakers who are the best of the best.
This fall, I was fortunate to sit in on the last Master Class, taught by Katherine Fairfax-Wright and Malika Zhouli-Worral, co-directors of Call Me Kuchu. They were in town for the screening of their film at the Human Rights Film Series. Equipped with a detailed PowerPoint, the women filled the 2.5-hour class with what they did right, what they would do differently, and how their film’s success was a risky labor of love. Here are my key take-aways;
Understand the value of foundation money.
Family foundations have money that they have to give away. Find one who’s mission is closely inline with the topic of your film and reach out to them. Their money is often “no strings attached” and they will be excited to hear about your project.
Film people with agency, not just victims.
A captivating story is driven by its characters. Focusing on characters without the drive to change their circumstances won’t entice an audience to be interested or involved in the story.
Have a malleable logline that you like on paper AND spoken out loud.
Your elevator pitch may read great typed up, but what about when you say it out loud? Create an elevator pitch that says what your film is about in as few words as possible, paying attention to cadence.
Invest in the 'Doc Network'.
From listservs on D-Word or DocuLink, connecting with other filmmakers and people who make films happen is critical. Labs are invaluable and having people champion your film from the first rough trailer can ensure things will line up down the road.
From finding a composer, to starting your social media campaign, to taking still shots throughout production, think long term, as though you KNOW this film will be wildly successful (because it will be if you paid attention to the above advice!)
Of course, these are just tidbits of the advice they offered the students. For the full run down, think about film school! Or pick up a camera and within a few years you too will be teaching a Master Class. Like all of our Master Classes, the students left this session inspired by the filmmakers' experiences, eager to apply the new-found advice to their own projects, and (maybe most importantly) having a few new names in their rolodexs.
Learn more about our Visiting Filmmakers Series that is in partnership with the Human Rights Film Series!
Photo: Malika and Katherine with students from AU's LGBT group on campus before the screening
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