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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Interview with Matthew Thayer of Kitty’s 9 Lives

by Lynnaire MacDonald

The quirky semi-romantic short comedy Kitty’s 9 Lives by Speropictures is now crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Kitty, an eccentric and single 30-something, attends the birthday BBQ of her brother-in-law and pregnant sister. During the course of the day, she meets various different men and falls into daydreams about what her life would be like with each of these eligible suitors, with hilarious results!

Speropictures is based out of Redding, California. Since 2010 they have been producing content that has been recognized locally and across the US. For Kitty’s 9 Lives, Speropictures is teaming up with Red Gryphon Pictures. Red Gryphon successfully crowdfunded their film Sands of Ikkera via Kickstarter earlier this year. In addition to Red Gryphon, other local film-makers have come on board to collaborate.

I recently spoke with Matthew Thayer, Head Director and Executive Producer at Speropictures about Kitty’s 9 Lives, crowdfunding, and the northern Californian film community.

You’re currently in crowdfunding mode on Kickstarter for Kitty’s 9 Lives. How are you feeling right now?

We are very excited. We have a lot of momentum behind us going in to the middle of our campaign. We have been absolutely blown away and humbled at the amount of support Kitty’s 9 Lives has gotten from the global Independent Film community. It’s exciting to hear the enthusiasm people have for what we are creating. We have been featured on Limited Release, the From Page 2 Screen podcast with Stuart Bannerman and have been recently highlighted as Project of the Day on Not to mention, everything behind the scenes is coming together. The team is in place, the locations are being arranged, the stage is being set, so to speak. Our cast is coming togther brilliantly. We have some amazing actors signing on to this project and our casting updates have been gaining a lot of attention. This whole process has just been a lot of fun. 

Red Gryphon Pictures is collaborating with you on Kitty’s 9 Lives. Have they given you any advice about crowdfunding that you’ve been able to use for the Kitty’s campaign?

We learned a lot. You know, RGP ran a brilliant campaign for Sands. They got a lot of local support & press. A lot of people got behind them and made it happen. We were right there with them every step of the way, encouraging them and doing whatever we could to to help. I even ran most of the Twitter side of their campaign. It was a fun process to be involved in for sure.

One of the things we learned was to start building relationships with people long before you campaign by reaching out and offering to help others become successful. People are far more willing to help you succeed if you are genuinly investing in their success as well. For the most part, this is the way we live our life anyway. We teach a film class here locally and for the past several years we have poured countless hours into our students – campioning them, encouraging them, giving them someone to cry their frustrations to, helping them grind their projects out at the last minute so they can make a festival deadline, as well as in some cases standing there in the audience applauding them as they win awards.

So I started reaching out through social media to other filmakers, retweeting their campaigns, offering and asking advice about crowdfunding, posting stuff about how to make great movies on a low budget and great filmmakers I found inspiring -you know, stuff I would find intresting and useful if I were on the other end. In the process, I’ve made some wonderful friends! Obviously, we met you and Indie Film Sprites! You have been amazing! Damien Auhir over at Limited Release has been a legend of support and encouragement. Stuart Bannerman at From Page 2 Screen has been equally as legendary with his time and resources. Henrick Vartanian at Brave New Hollywood has been a source encouragement and wisdom during the casting process, helping us take our casting to the next level. Adrea Holle at Mobile Motion Film Fest was an incredible resource for information about crowdfunding platforms and a wonderful champion of us and what we are doing. Like I said we have met such wonderful people. People we could see developing long term working and personal friendships with. I could go on and on. (laughs)

What drives you creatively?

Personally, I want to bring people hope and joy. That may sound cheesy, but it’s true. People go to movies to have a good time.  Sure people get deep things and different perspectives from films all the time and film is a powerful medium to evoke people to change, but for the most part they go to a movie to be entertained. They want great stories told to them by great storytellers. I hope to be one of those great storytellers. I love directors like Christopher Nolan, Francis Ford Coppola, Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino for that reason – they tell a hell of a good story. I want our audience to walk away from our projects with the same response – that was great story and a lot of fun. If people get to see life a little differently because they’ve had a glimpse of how I see the world in the process, then that just makes me even happier. But I am the happiest guy in the world when I hear: “your movie made me smile”.

You and your wife, Joy, (Head Producer and ‘Chief Mama Bear’ at Speropictures) teach a film-making class out of your home. What prompted you to do this?

We have always been passionate about filmmaking. The whole process facinates us. We also love to teach and empower other to follow their dreams. When we were asked to help head up the filmmaking class at a local school, it just felt like the right thing to do. Not to mention, you learn a lot when you teach. I don’t think I would be where I am today if we hadn’t have tought that class. If the students have learned one thing, I’ve learned at least 3. Not to mention, much of the team we are working with now has come out of our “student body”, so to speak. We have made relationships that will last a lifetime. I can see us working with these people for many, many years to come.

What’s the best thing anyone could say to you after seeing Kitty’s 9 Lives once it’s been completed?

That they had fun watching it. It’s a great little story and very, very funny.  Our screenwriters Denise Churchill and Karen Alderidge are undiscovered gems. They truly are stunning at their craft. It’s wonderful to have them on our side. If screenwriters are arcitects in the movie world, they have given us a small skyscraper. This movie is a mile a minute hilarious and so easy for me to visualize. Audiences everywhere are going to love it.

Why should people back Kitty’s 9 Lives?

Honestly, people should back Kitty’s 9 Lives because this is just one of the projects we have in the works. We are approaching Kitty’s as it’s own project and we are putting our full creative weight behind it, but we are also using this fundraising campagn as a way to build awarness of our filmmaking community as well. We have a five to ten year plan as a group to bring many, many more projects to the screen, all from different directors. All of them are equally if not more fun and more amazing as  Kitty’s. By supporting Kitty’s people will be helping us reach those goals as well. By supporting Kitty’s people are getting a lot of bang for their buck. By supporting this project we will be positioned with the equipment we need to continue teaching our classes as well as a great starting point for the other future projects we have in mind. We plan on entertaining people for many, many years to come.

Kickstarter Campaign: 

Reservoir Dogs

Lets go back to where it all started. To a diner with a group of working class thieves wearing black suits and talking about Madona's big dick. We had no idea that what we were watching would help to change the course of modern film making but we knew we were witnessing something special.

I discovered Reservoir Dogs on VHS. It was one of those movies that got passed around my circle of friends. This is before VOD and only one video store in my town carried it and they only had one copy. So it took me what felt like forever to catch up with this one. I was one of the last of my friends to see it and I even lied about having seen it when people would talk about it. I said that I thought it was just ok better than average but nothing great. It was no Terminator or Bloodsport. I was an 80s action/martial arts junkie I didn't really give a shit about this dog movie. When Directors Chair finally got in a copy I had no idea what was in store for my 14 year old brain. It was like discovering punk rock when I'd been raised on glam metal. I found something real and raw that cracked my skull and opened my mind.

The film is very special to me. There is a clear before and after in my film taste. Within a few months I was watching films like Stranger Than Paradise and Koyaanisqatsi and while I still have a deep affection for the big dumb action films of my youth after seeing Reservoir Dogs I wanted something more.

The film itself is more than just a riff on City on Fire. Tarantino has the ability to make films that are deeply influenced by other works but still come across as wholly original. He takes somewhat familiar concepts, structures and characters and injects them with his dialogue and in turn makes something timeless and special that will be opening minds for generations to come.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pulp Fiction stills holds up and should be revisited

I graduated High School the same year Pulp Fiction was released. That was the same year The Shawshank Redemption, The Professional, Natural Born Killers, True Lies, The Hudsucker Proxy, Serial Mom, The Crow, Forest Gump, Killing Zoe, Quiz Show and Ed Wood were all released. Something had changed in Hollywood. All these strange little "Art House" films started getting wide releases, nominated for Oscars and they were financially viable. It felt like we were in a golden era of film and we where. It was the explosion of independent cinema and Pulp Fiction was at the center of the eruption.

Its easy to focus on the time a film is made. The political climate or social unrest that influences a film but a film be able to stand outside its time and be judged on its own merit. The only reason I listed all the films above was to illustrate how tough the competition was at the box office and the awards ballot box that year. Do awards shows use ballot boxes? Probably not, lets move on. With all the competition listed above Pulp Fiction was still a huge hit with both critics and movie goers. Its rare that a film can truly appease both. PF was everywhere in 94. When I saw it the third or fourth time theatrically I was seated next to man that had to of been in his 70's. I was watching man on man rape next to my grandpa and it was great. Not the man on man rape but that real films were getting such a wide audience.

The film was huge, If I'm not mistaken it was the first independent film to cross the $100 mil threshold. But was it good? Does it hold up? Yes and Yes. Time has been quite kind to Tarantino's second film. I saw Pulp Fiction at least 20 times by the time the 2000s rolled around and I needed to take a little break. I recently became reacquainted with Mr Tarantino's film and I glad I took 15 years off from the film. I knew it forwards and backwards but I had given it enough time to watch it while it was happening. I wasn't waiting for my favorite scene or distracting myself in any way, I was fully engaged with this great film.

If you are like me and you killed yourself on Pulp Fiction you might want to look up your old friend again. If you haven't seen one another in a few years you guys should catch up. Sure he is telling you the same stories you've heard a thousand times but you may have changed since the last time you heard them and his stories are really good.

Pulp Fiction is currently streaming on Netflix

Jackie Brown the most under rated Tarantino film

Jackie Brown is by far the most under rated Tarantino film. Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are near perfect films with tons of supporters so I don't really need to shed a light on how important and wonderful those films are and the same goes for Kill Bill and Inglorious Bastards. It feels like Jakie Brown has been forgotten and that is a damn shame.

I first saw Jackie Brown on Christmas day back in 1997 and the film has remained my favorite film of Tarantino's since that day. The man has done some remarkable work since but his best film has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle of the last 17 years. Tarantino has said Jackie Brown is the least favorite of his films but I'm fairly certain that's because it was an adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, he didn't create the characters so he doesn't hold them as close to his heart.

The film takes over the hill forgotten characters and makes them cool as hell. In a lesser film the stars of Jackie Brown would be ancillary charactertures tossed to the side, laughed at and then forgotten. Pam Grier and Robert Forester are cool and Robert De Niro is more or less a chump in this world. What a strange and wonderful world it is to visit.

The music in the film is also the best of any Tarantino project to date. The opening song by Bobby Womack is remarkable and it plays beautifully against the long tracking shot of Pam Grier.

You have never been that cool and you never will be. In the reality of the film Pam Grier is a forgotten flight attendant working for the worst airline in the business but the opening shot gives us a glimpse into how QT views her. His adoration drips from the screen and its infectious. When he looks at her he hears Bobbly Womack and that's why she is far more bad ass than you. When people look at me they probably hear The Girl From Ipanema.

This film is a love letter to the explotation films of the 1970's. I was barely alive in the 70's so the films don't carry the same punch for me as QT. Shaft, Super Fly and The Mack being exceptions. Being a fan of those films isn't a requirement for enjoyment of Jackie Brown. Sure when people like Sid Heig have a cameo its a nice nod to those films but that knowledge  neither adds or detracts form the overall experience of watching it.

Samuel L Jackson, Micheal Keaton and Chris Tucker all give great performances but this is the Pam and Robert show. If you haven't seen it, remedy that as soon as possible. Jackie Brown is streaming on Netflix.

Guardians Of The Galaxy nothing new or special

Get off my lawn you darn kids! So, yes its official I am a grumpy old man. I thought Guardians of the Galaxy was a charming, funny, thrilling big budget extravaganza and it more or less bored the shit out of me. I get it. This is not like Transformers 4. GOTG is a well made film but I didn't care about anything on screen. The villains in the Marvel movies are getting worse and worse and the stakes are constantly so high that I think I've been burned out and don't care what happens to any of the characters.

The villains. Who are they? What are they doing? I have no idea. I pay attention and try to follow the story but the big blue guys and the petite blue woman are so devoid of nuance or subtext that you don't really need to pay attention to follow the story. They want to blow up the universe, spoiler alert. That's all you need to know. The rest of it is a bunch space talk that sounds like nonsensical garbage to my ears. Look I'm aware that I am rarely if ever the smartest man in the room but I'm not dumbest and this shit makes no sense. The plots in these movies are so interchangeable that its easy to forget what men in tights summer smackdown you are watching.

Side note; why are fanboys the ones who seem to be so crazily obsessed with spoilers? How can they tell the difference between these ridiculous movies? How would finding out that the big blue guys want to blow up the galaxy with shinny rocks or that the big tree guy doesn't die in the end be a spoiler? It wouldn't be and it can't be because Marvel has let us know what characters will have movies for the next 50 years. That's great for them. I'm really glad they have a plan for this multi-billion dollar business but when you let us in on the plan it kind of kills the stakes. We know that Captain America will make it out of this one intact because he will be in the next Two Avengers movies.

Where was I? Villains. A good villain should be scary or intimidating but they shouldn't see themselves as a villain. In the 214 Marvel films thus far the only memorable villains are Loki and Sir Ben's Mandarin. The rest of the villains in the 212 films are utterly forgettable. Something about a villain should crawl under your skin or at the very least you should want to see them get their comeuppance in the end. The Villains in GOTG are big blue and boring, I watched the film last night and I can't remember one of their names, I can remember the names of all the heroes but none of the villains, that's a bad sign. 

Just so its perfectly clear. I am not trolling. I sort of liked this movie. If this movie would have come out prior to the other Marvel films I probably would have loved the film. Its the repeated formula of the 9 other marvel movies that killed this one for me. They let us in behind the curtain and it killed the tension. I just don't care about these characters and sadly they are the best Marvel characters to date.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Interview with Andrew Sayre

I asked Andrew Sayre to do an interview with Following Films to help raise awareness of his indiegogo project, The Song the Zombie Sang based on a short story by Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg.   

How are you today?

I'm fine, thanks.

Where are you from?

New Hampshire originally.  I grew up there and went to school there, and after school I spent fourteen years in Boston where I was active in the film community, both working on the films of others and making my own.  After I made my first feature in 2010, I moved down to New York to continue my filmmaking career.

Are your parents involved in the arts?

My father is retired Air Force and my Mom is in computers.  They are very cultured people, though, and have always been very supportive of me and what I do.

When did you discover film?

I remember the night when our family got its first VCR when I wasvery young.  And the first movie we ever watched was 2001: a Space Odyssey.  I was only five years old, so grasping the finer details of the movie was well beyond me, but i still was completely captivated by the film.  I actually fell asleep before it finished because we started so late, but the next day I forced my Dad to set up the VCR again so I could watch it.  So I guess it was kind of inevitable. 

What was the first film that made you feel like you could be a film maker?

For the longest time I was running around talking about all these things I want to do and can do, but having no way to prove it.  And you see a lot of people doing this.  Everybody can be a great filmmaker if you just take their word for it.  And one day I realized this is what I had been doing, and I was sick of it.  So I cobbled together what little I could on my own and I made my first feature, Whatever Makes You Happy.  And the fact that I was able to make this film on virtually nothing, and its not just watchable but very good.  So when I was able to tell people what I can do, and what I wanted to do, and then point to this film showing that I can in fact do it, that might be the moment when I knew myself that I could be a filmmaker.

When did you first read The Song The Zombie Sang?

I first read this story in high school, and its been with me ever since.  Whenever I read something, I always tend to think about how or even if I could make it into a film.  And just like with any of the countless ideas I've ever had for something, most of the time they die on the vine pretty quick.  But this one stuck, and has been dancing around in my head for over twenty years.  Its been a dream of mine to be able to someday make this film.  And I'm as shocked as anyone is that I'm actually getting a chance to do it now.

What are the challenges in adapting an existing property for film?

Adaptations are a tricky feat.  Many of the things that a writer will do to get their idea through on the written page simply do not translate to film because the tools at your disposal are so different.  Books can have long detailed inner monologues, for example.  If you try to do that in film it wouldn't work, and if you just cut it out completely then you can lose incredible chunks of what makes the story worthwhile.  And a lot of great works just should never be tried.  I love Thomas Pynchon, but I'd never in a million years try to script out one of his books.  I wouldn't even know how to approach the second half of Gravity's Rainbow.
And as much as you need to remain faithful to the original story, and you absolutely do, there has to be something in the story that you feel would benefit from the other medium, and you have to have an idea of how you could work to bring that out.  Or perhaps you just want to put a different wrinkle on what the original author had done.  

What camera will you shoot the film on?

That's up in the air.  We could go for the full RED package, or we could go for a DSLR as we did for the pitch video.  A lot of that is going to depend on the success of the campaign, to show us how good a set up we can afford to use.  Not to mention a lot of the decision is going to be based on a long detailed conversation between myself and my DP.   Ultimately its what he needs or what he wants that counts.  having a good DP is more important than having great equipment, because a great DP can work wonders with anything- a bad one can't do anything no matter what you give him/ her to work with.  Fortunately I have  great DP to work with on this project.

Why have you chosen to crowd fund your project?

I've tried to go the more traditional route with this to start, but I wasn't getting anywhere with that, for whatever reason.  Getting in touch with the right people is a long, and difficult process, and frankly half their job must be to keep people like me from finding them.  So I scaled down the scope of what I'm trying to do, and decided to take it straight to the people, so to speak.  Crowdfunding is an amazing new tool to try and get your foot through the door and utilize the worldwide community to help you make your dreams come true.  

Do you have a cast and crew for the film in place?

The only crew member I have in place is my DP, Jonathan Salvo, who was my gaffer/ grip on my last feature.  He's an incredibly skilled and talented cameraman, and I feel like to have him on board.

Do you have any other projects you are currently working on?

Just this one.  I am laser focused on getting this film made, and all other ideas are on hold until that happens

This is the Pitch for Andrews project. Give it a look and show him some support however you can.


Do you want to see the JJ Abrams Superman movie?

This movie would have been directed by Brett (shrimp cocktail) Ratner based on a screenplay by JJ Abrams