pictured above: an image from "Here. My Explosion...", Director Reid Gershbein
" “Here. My Explosion…” was made as soon as I decided that I am never going to pursue film financing ever again. All my films will either be self-financed or I’ll use money if people offer, but I’m never going to ask someone for a single penny to make a film."
- Reid Gershbein
Director, "Here. My Explosion..."
Indie Filmmaking Without Indiewood Illusions
"Here.My Explosion...", a feature length film by Reid Gershbein, became available to view on the internet this week. Here is a conversation with Gershbein about, among other matters, his approach to filmmaking & distribution, the film itself, The Two Week Film Collective, & coming up with a distinct look for the film using a consumer grade HD camera:
Sujewa: What's with the title - "Here. My Explosion..." - it is an unusual one for a movie. How did it come about, what does it mean, what can you tell us?
Reid: Actually, the full title is “Here. My Explosion happened when I totally stopped doing some things that I completely hated and was free to do what made me be. A story. A magic trick. And a burn. I thought it would be fun to have the second half be a long Western, and it would have been, but it totally didn't fit in, so I ended with a longer hope. Yes, Hope of what you want to do. Hope, Dreams. In It. Life.”. This whole film was about not self-censoring, completely following my own creative muse without constraint, and writing about whatever felt right at the time rather than creating a structure and making the pieces exactly fit together. The first part “My Explosion happened…” really described the writing flow and output that just came out of me when I threw away previous film and script constraints. The first part of the title just describes how I felt at the time. Then I kept on adding things to the title as I continued to write which described things that I was thinking either personally, thematically, or just ideas. The title is a snapshot of the ideas and emotions that I had when I wrote it. A self-reflective title, I guess. Unfortunately, once you start production and talking about a film then it really slows down discussions (and emails, tweets, etc.) when you have a super long title. So, it eventually just because “Here. My Explosion…” in discussions. So now I actually don’t know which one is the real name of the film.
Sujewa: What's the movie about (characters, plots, themes, etc.)?
Reid: The best way to describe what the film is about is to describe the initial ideas that I wanted to discuss and drive the creation of the film, this way people can watch the film to see how these ideas manifested and morphed. The initial ideas are about the social and economic temptations and expectations placed on artists and entrepreneurs who live in a capitalistic society that is slightly altered by magical realism.
Sujewa: Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?
Reid: I’m just one of the masses whose passion has always been to write stories and make films. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do since I was eleven or twelve. I’ve been thinking about it 24 hours a day, seven days a week since then. When I was that age I saw “War Games” and saw how it empowered someone my age and then saw that computers were going to be a tool that would allow feature films to be made by a single person. So, I pursued Computer Science and Computer Graphics to get the technology to that point or at least understand it to make my own films. I was hoping it was going to happen earlier but I’m glad it didn’t because it gave me a lot more time to write and throw away my worst writing (not that I’m claiming that what’s left shouldn't be thrown out too).
Sujewa: Why did you decide to make "Here. My Explosion..." now?
Reid: “Here. My Explosion…” was made as soon as I decided that I am never going to pursue film financing ever again. All my films will either be self-financed or I’ll use money if people offer, but I’m never going to ask someone for a single penny to make a film. I raised about $2M for an animation company that I started back in 2000, raised money for my last feature “Broken Arrows”, and then I was raising money for a new live-action studio until I finally figured out that I was spending too much time raising money and not enough time making films. So, “Here. My Explosion…” was made now because I’m making films now and not raising money for films anymore.
Sujewa: How do you feel about, and what are some of your thoughts & possible solutions regarding, the current state of independent (real independent, not indiewood) filmmaking & distribution in the US?
Reid: The dividing line between the true independent filmmakers and all other filmmakers is money. Either your primary motivation is to make films to express yourself and make art, or it’s to make money and a career through the film industry. This is the best time in history for the true independent film community because you can make and distribute, digitally, films for essentially nothing with the potential of millions of people seeing and being affected by your films.
Sujewa: What are your current distribution plans for the film?
Reid: “Here. My Explosion…” is released under a Creative Commons license so that anyone can freely copy and distribute it for non-commercial purposes. We have it up on our site and other sites to be viewed and downloaded for free. We’ll also have super cheap DVDs and Blu-Ray disks that people can buy on our site without copy protection so that everyone can copy and distribute the film. All we ask is that if you like the film, what we are doing, or just like us then it would be fantastic if you could support us by buying some Imaginary Invisible Air (aka a donation) on our site. I have faith in the generosity of people since people have been proving it to me all my life.
Sujewa: What's the 2 Week Film project & how did that come about? And what's your role in that project?
Reid: The Two Week Film Collective is an open call to make a film, from first day of shooting to final cut, in Two Weeks. I’ve been thinking about making a feature over a long weekend, but I found an amazing amount of inspiration in talking to other filmmakers on Twitter. So, I thought that the best way to pursue something would be to have a more public and community based collective doing it together. I threw out the two week film idea to another filmmaker, he agreed, and then it took on a life of its own. I find that constraints like those found in Dogme 95 or “The Five Obstructions” movie really help inspire me by limiting tangential directions and devices when making films. It is also a great way to not get too attached to your films. If you only make one film every five years you might not be able to get the perspective on when to move on, if you are constantly making films then you might be able to have a broader sense of what the individual films mean to you. If nothing else, I see the Two Week Film Collective as a great exercise to see what you can and can’t do within these constraints and it will influence and inform future productions.
Sujewa: I feel that a lot of film bloggers who review movies, also a lot of professional film critics to some degree, are just frustrated filmmakers & or are just attempting to impose their will on the art form/shape the art form through words & not by actually making movies & or are just attacking their peers for no good reason - which I see as a caustic, unproductive & borderline evil/self-destructive, scene/industry-destructive activity. How do you feel about the current state of both professional film writing & DIY film writing?
Reid: Ironically, I’m a frustrated film critic who became a filmmaker. ☺ Personally, professional critics and reviewers aren’t interested in the films that interest me so thank god for DIY film writing! A lot of my favorite films are small, independent films & are ones that I only hear about because a single DIY film writer has written something about it. If these people didn’t exist I never would have found out about these films. DIY film writing has greatly enriched my life because it helps me find the jewels in the rough. Honestly, even negative reviews get me interested in watching a film if the reviewer hates it for the same reasons I might love it. So, even though a review might be “bad” it might be a “good” review for me and make me want to watch the film.
Sujewa: On the bright side, I think this is the best time in the entire known history of the planet to be an independent filmmaker (because we can make good movies for $0 to $1000 or less, if we have to) & with the web we can let at least some people know about the existence of the movies & how to buy them - what do you think? Is now a good time to be an indie filmmaker?
Reid: This is the best time in history to be an independent filmmaker because of everything you said. Now with absolutely zero money you can make and distribute a film that is actually seen by millions of people if people really react to it. That has never been possible before.
Sujewa: Indiewood is dead & or dying & professional film criticism is also dying - in a way both of those areas of activity were never very interested in real indie filmmakers so they do not really matter to me - but at the same time real indie filmmaking & distribution is being done in ever greater numbers. But, unfortunately a lot of these real indie filmmakers are not community minded or are not about building & helping others build viable businesses or non-profits around their filmmaking but are looking for Hollywood/Indiewood legitimacy & approval or for some "legitimate" blogger/critic/whatever to say that their depressing low budget sci-fi knock off movie is a great work of art, etc :) (actually, that's not a bad thing come to think of it, wanting someone to say your movie is a great work of art - but, my point is that it is not necessary to seek that kind of approval, once you make it you should know what you have...) So, even though we are now free to make movies & distribute & collaborate as we wish a lot of people still behave like we are living in 1984 or 1994 (where the right festival & the right review leads to a distribution deal & a career for like 1 in 500 indie filmmakers or something, where the open & supportive & collaborative spirit is sorely lacking). Which is kind of frustrating. Have you experienced anything like this/encountered this mentality & if so, how do you deal with it?
Reid: Absolutely. 99% of “independent” filmmakers are still talking about the independent film festival and critic buzz explosion path that died a decade and a half ago. Luckily, there are people out there who really are interested in building communities and helping each other, and the new social media networks make it a lot easier for these people to find each other. It’s also easy to ignore people who don’t share your same views and move on if you can extract your ego from the scene of the crime.
Sujewa: Any thoughts on independent film festivals? Are they mostly the real indie filmmaker's friend or are they mostly a distraction from the business of making & distributing movies? As far as you can tell now?
Reid: Honestly, I have little experience with the independent film festivals so I can’t say. All of the “top” film festivals are Hollywood and star driven, so they aren’t independent at all. I’m a huge fan of every film festival that doesn’t charge submission fees, but all of the other film festivals that charge filmmakers to submit films are not interesting to me anymore.
Sujewa: Were you a one person crew? If so, how did you capture excellent sound (dialogue, etc.)? Also, how did you do that select focus effect on the "Here. My Explosion..." trailer?
Reid: On a few days of the shoot I was a one-person crew, but in general there was usually at least one other person helping with carrying things around and helping out doing a little bit of everything. In order to get good sound without another person, I used two wireless lavs on the actors and everything worked out really well. The selective focus was all done in post using a tilt-shift technique that I tried out on some visual tests that I experimented with and liked. Essentially, I just made sure that I got good exposure when shooting, then I saturated the image, put a matte (with blended edged) on the area in focus, and then blurred out the image behind. I also tended to saturate the blurred out image more than the in-focus areas. I wanted to come up with a fairly unique look using a consumer HD video camera.
Sujewa: Who are some of your favorite filmmakers? What are some of your favorite films (that may have been sources of inspiration for "Here. My Explosion...")? What other art or just stuff in the world & life do you like & love?
Reid: The filmmakers that inspire me are all independent filmmakers who make no-budget films (including the Mumblecore filmmakers) and all of the independent filmmakers who are interested in dialogues and building communities online. I really liked “Quiet City”, “Dogville”, “Mutual Appreciation”, and other non-traditional films that helped validate following the unique muse I followed for this film. The most inspiring television show to me is “Slings & Arrows”, and I also love the writings of the theater (and film) director Peter Brook. Lots of philosophers ranging from Seneca to Foucault, and writers of my favorite plays such as Edward Albee and Samuel Beckett also filled my mind during this production.
Sujewa: Where can my readers (buy & or donate some $s & or for free) see some or all of "Here. My Explosion..." right now?
Reid: Go here (http://www.royalbaronialtheatre.com/blog/here-my-explosion-film-details.html) to watch and or support these massive creative forces. ☺ Thanks!
Thanks Reid! Good luck with "Here. My Explosion..." & the 2 Week Film Project!