Sunday, April 26, 2015

Are you a frustrated filmmaker because you live in the middle of nowhere?

Are you a frustrated filmmaker because you live in the middle of nowhere?

    Some cities are rich with industry production: LA, NYC, ATL, and a few others.  However, we all don’t live there.  So what are to do: Move?  Sometimes that is just not possible.  Quit - NEVER!  Instead try this - Organize.  You can start an indie film group.  That’s what we did, and I am constantly amazed at the results.

Our Story

    In 2005, I heard that a person in our community named Christopher Forbes was producing an indie film.  It was so rare that anyone in our area ever did anything, so I decided to get involved.  Upfront, I was told I wouldn't be paid anything, but that was okay, because doing something is better than doing nothing.  Besides, if he had any money, he wouldn't be doing the movie here.  His “production office” was the back room of a friend’s bar.  Chris told me his camera guy had told him he might not make it to the shoot on Saturday.  However, Chris had heard about some other guy in Aiken, SC who had three Canon GL-1s.  I told Chris to forget the guy who said, “might” and call the guy with the GL-1s.

    Two days later I arrived on location.  It was a Civil War reenactment.  Chris was shooting a film using the production value of the reenactment as a background.  Parked ahead of me was the guy with the GL-1’s.  I walked up to the little trailer behind his pickup truck.  He turned, handed me a GL-1 and said, “Chris wants you to shoot those guys over there”, and that’s how I met Rick Kelly.

    As it turned out, somebody else I knew who was working in corporate production showed up with his Canon XL-1.   Across the field was a sound guy, Dan Keaton.  The bar owner, Brad Owens, showed up, wearing a Civil War uniform.  It turned out to be a pretty good day.   So the production continued for a few months, mainly shooting on weekends.  Admittedly the film was not in Oscar contention, but it didn't matter.  What did matter was that we were all making a movie, “The Battle of Aiken”.

    After a few months, the production ended.  It seemed as if our little group of filmmakers was going to drift apart, as there wasn't another film to hold us together.  We were trying to decide what type of film to produce next, but I quickly realized we would never agree on what film to make.  Somehow the process of developing ourselves as filmmakers had to be separate from the process of making a film.  So I came up with a mission statement.   “AugustaFilm is a social network for people who actively pursue the art and craft of filmmaking.  AugustaFilm does not produce films; its members do.”


    With the mission statement in place we were able to focus on the craft of filmmaking, not on a product.  We started to attract new members.  We decided have our meetings once a month, on the third Tuesday at 7 PM.  Occasionally, there would only be three people at the meeting. But it didn't matter.  Then we were having 10 people show up regularly, then 15.  Soon people from 70 miles away in Columbia, South Carolina started to attending our meetings.  People in Charleston, SC were getting into contact with me.  I introduced two people in Charleston that wished they could attend our meetings; they lived a mile from each other.  Our group established Chapters in Columbia and Charleston, and AugustaFilm became Southeastern Filmmakers, .  We now have over 300 members.

The Benefits

    In the decade that followed, good things have happened to the people in our group.  Rick Kelly expanded his equipment into , the area’s only grip and lighting rental house.  Rick has lit 3 Presidents and Oprah.  Dan Keaton left his computer support job at the local newspaper and now works for Convergent Design, , as their international and national sales director.  Brad Owens and the City government are now in the process of trying to attract industry level productions to our area.  Chris Forbes has had several low-budget films picked up for distribution.  It amazes me when a distributor sends in a Hollywood “name” actor to Augusta, and I get to light them.  I’ve worked on so many low budget film productions and entered numerous contests, I’ve gotten lots of practice.  This makes me a better teacher. 

Best Regards, and remember the first three rules of production: safety, safety, safety.

Michael G. Hennessy

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