Presenting a WEBINAR working with Editors Recorded: Wednesday, April 7, 2021
with Peter Rhodes, documentary film and video editor.
Presenting a WEBINAR working with Editors Recorded: Wednesday, April 7, 2021
with Peter Rhodes, documentary film and video editor.
Presenting a WEBINAR with the Film Festival Alliance Recorded: Wednesday, March 17, 2021
with Executive Director Lela Meadow-Conner, Associate Director Barbara Twist and Director of Communications Gray Rodriquez.
“Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” is a 56 minute narrated film, directed by FC member Kim Smith, that unfolds along the shores of Cape Ann and in the heart of Mexico’s forested volcanic mountains. Every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle is experienced in vibrant close-up, from mating to egg to caterpillar to adult, and set against the backdrop of sea and forest, sun and wind. “Beauty on the Wing” was recently screened as part of the 2020 New Haven Documentary Film Festival and will soon be distributed online and for educational use by American Public Television Worldwide.
Kim Smith is a documentary filmmaker, environmental conservationist, photojournalist, author, illustrator and an award winning landscape designer. We recently chatted with her about her path to becoming a filmmaker and her passion the natural beauty to be found on the northern coast of Massachusetts.
How did you come be a filmmaker?
I love writing and telling stories about people and about the wildlife found in my Cape Ann community and have for many years through books, photography, blogging, and illustrating. Filmmaking was a natural progression in a way. I am also a landscape designer and specialize in creating wildlife habitats for butterflies and birds. Through daily observation I am fortunate to witness some of the most beautiful creatures imaginable and have become spellbound by the wildlife that is found right here in our own backyards and along the shoreline, at the edge of the of the Atlantic Ocean.
How did the idea for “Beauty on the Wing” come about?
In 2006 I was photographing Monarch butterflies for a children’s book I was writing and illustrating. It was a phenomenal migration that year. The Monarchs were pouring across Massachusetts Bay and because of the wind conditions, they stayed and stayed and stayed; the butterfly’s numbers multiplied daily. I promised myself that if I were ever able to witness such an extraordinary event again, I was going to have the ability to document through film as well.
How did you go about teaching yourself to shoot and edit?
I purchased a Canon video camera and set about teaching myself how to operate the camera. I made many shorts, experimenting and learning along the way. I know how to compose shots from painting and photography and could write as well. Filmmaking combines all the things I care deeply about and love to do, which is conserving wildlife, protecting habitats, storytelling, cinematography, working with natural light, and then pulling it all together through editing.
Did you have any role models in the genre of nature documentary filmmakers?
Although not a filmmaker, I am very inspired by Rachel Carson. She was a true visionary and witness for nature. Despite great personal hardship, she wrote beautifully of our troubled environment and her work has profoundly influenced the environmental movement.
What were the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of making the film?
The most challenging aspect was fundraising. I find it very difficult to ask people and organizations for money. But I did learn that friends and followers want to be supportive and be a part of something beautiful and educational. People were very generous and gave what they could, from $5.00 to $10,000.00. I feel very fortunate to have had these kind, helping hands in making “Beauty on the Wing”.
The rewarding aspects are many. I love when the light is perfect and rich and you know you captured a scene beautifully. Or when you stand in a field for hours waiting for a butterfly to fly by in just the right direction, and it does (the opening scene, when a Monarch sails by the lighthouse). I loved especially the scenes with my ‘butterfly kids,’ and trying to capture their joy and excitement in seeing the butterflies emerge from their chrysalides. Traveling to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserves in Mexico, both trips, in 2014 and in 2019, each in their own way were memorable, rewarding, and made my film better beyond any expectation. I made life long connections and hope to return to the sanctuaries many times. Finishing Beauty on the Wing with Eric Masunaga at Modulus Studios was also deeply rewarding, to learn from his expertise, and to see the film coming together after years of documenting the Monarchs.
Do you have any particular plans for distribution?
Yes! I am very excited to share that I just signed an agreement with American Public Television World Wide for educational and online distribution, a dream come true for Beauty on the Wing!
How did you come to know about and work with FC and how has being a member benefited you as a filmmaker?
I learned about FC through my friend, fellow filmmaker, and FC member Nubar Alexanian.
Becoming a member of FC has probably been one of the greatest strokes of good fortune for my documentary. FC has handled the fiscal aspect of fundraising impeccably. I have called countless times asking Laura and Kathleen for advice and they always respond immediately. The workshops and webinars have been an invaluable aid in understanding filmmaking beyond creating the film and in learning how to launch a film out to your audience.
With our June 4 Webinar (12:30pm to 1:30pm, ET) on film distribution, featuring the insights of IndieFlix CEO Scilla Andreen, fast approaching, we caught up with Scilla to discuss IndieFlix and how she approaches her work! And, remember, there’s still time to sign up for the webinar.
Please share a bit about how your career as a creative led you to form IndieFlix.
To be clear I am not a super fan of indies like people think. Don’t get me wrong, I love indies but mostly I love well-crafted, engaging stories. I don’t care who is in them, I just never ever want to be bored. I was blessed to work on amazing TV shows like The Wonder Years, Party Of Five, Dawson’s Creek, Smallville and more. During my hiatus I would produce and direct short films and eventually feature films. I traveled the festival circuit and met talented filmmakers with movies no one could see. I knew that Hollywood had only so much bandwidth to pick up films from the festivals. So, I naïvely started IndieFlix with my producing partner thinking it would be as simple as hanging a shingle and an “OPEN” sign in the window of the Internet. I spent the next 10 years learning about raising money, running teams, marketing, reports, royalties, costs, spend etc.. At one point we had over 12K titles with worldwide rights but I didn’t feel like watching anything other than my favorites. So, I pivoted to content for a purpose. I also didn’t see the point in trying to compete with the Netflix, Amazon and Hulu’s of the world. I love those services and support them all wholeheartedly.
How did the mission of IndieFlix evolve?
Movies and TV shaped my life. It is the medium I use to express myself and filmmakers are my people. I wanted to help all filmmakers which is hard to do. IndieFlix started out as your source for independent film and then evolved into connecting people through movies. Carlo, my producing partner, and I started the company together but he stepped back about 6 months in. He handed me the keys with 6 weeks of funding and wished me the best. From that moment forward I became a sponge, learning everything I could on every level. Over the years the mission has always been pretty much the same. We want to do good in the world with stories. We want to connect people through movies and that’s exactly what we do. I recently scrubbed 7000 titles from our library in order to focus the company on content for a purpose. It’s what I care about.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic produced challenges and opportunities for IndieFlix?
IndieFlix is a subscription based streaming service and an off-line community screening service that books screenings in schools and corporations. The streaming side of the business is growing. With the community screening side, prior to the pandemic our trilogy of mental health films have had over 10,000 screenings in school auditoriums, corporate screening rooms, community centers and private theatres spanning 90 countries – hosted by a moderated panel of experts, students, parents and educators. We talked about mental health from all angles. The conversation flowed! It was community therapy. On March 15, 2020, it came to a complete halt. Fortunately, we were quick to pivot and have been perfecting our live webinar screening events since the quarantine, and have found that people are adapting to this new normal. We are now able to share, almost as well, through online community events as we did in person.
What do you think independent filmmakers need to know about IndieFlix and why?
We started IndieFlix back in 2005 as a DVD on demand service to help filmmakers get their films to market. It required working together to market. Over the years so much has changed. We’ve had to pivot to stay in the game and to keep it interesting. We have made some really great decisions and some not so great ones, like every platform, but we are still standing. We are a small team of 9 people. We are honest. We work hard. We answer our phones. We want all filmmakers to make money and we keep working at how to make that happen. What I really want filmmakers to know is that we are now a platform of content of a purpose. We focus on edutainment. I turned the brand around to be content for independent thinkers. We want to connect people through movies and make the world a better place.
What are your thoughts, broadly, on greater competition among streaming services and how IndieFlix distinguishes itself?
It is a great time for filmmakers as the demand is high. And with so many players in the space there will have to be some merging and acquiring that will take place. I’m positioning IndieFlix to be complementary to the Netflix, Amazon and Hulu’s of the world. We now stream over 5000 titles (shorts, features, docs and TV). We focus on edutainment. Soon we will be launching curated collections focusing on such topics as climate change, empowerment, mental health etc.. I am so excited to grow our library of content and watch it all.
Sheila Curran Bernard is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning writer and filmmaker with credits on nearly 50 hours of prime time broadcast and theatrical programming, work that is often leveraged to serve as the centerpiece of public engagement and education efforts. She produced, directed and wrote two films for the acclaimed civil rights history, Eyes on the Prize; was series writer on the six-hour history I’ll Make Me a World; series development writer on the six-hour This Far by Faith; and writer of the four-hour series School: The Story of American Public Education. Bernard also wrote the feature documentary Slavery by Another Name, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas A. Blackmon.
Kenn Rabin is an internationally recognized expert on the use of archival materials in film storytelling. His credits include the dramatic features Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant; Good Night, and Good Luck, directed by George Clooney; and The Good German, directed by Steven Soderbergh, in addition to a number of acclaimed archival television series, including the 13-hour Vietnam: A Television History and the 14-hour Eyes on the Prize, for which he was nominated for an Emmy.
Together, Sheila and Kenn, authored the book Archival Storytelling, which examines the challenges media makers face in finding and licensing third-party visuals and music — with a second edition to be published Spring 2020. On May 7, both filmmakers will be hosting a Filmmakers Collaborative webinar covering an array of issues pertaining to Archival Storytelling.
We recently chatted with Sheila (SCB) and Kenn (KR) about their work in this vital aspect of filmmaking.
How did the idea for the book “Archival Storytelling” come about?
SCB: As a filmmaker, I was involved in the production of a number of archival documentaries, and I’d written a different book, Documentary Storytelling, for which I’m now preparing a fifth edition. Kenn and I had both worked at Blackside, which was rigorous in its use of archival materials as evidence of the past, subject to fact checking, and Kenn had previously worked on Vietnam: A Television History (1983). And so it seemed natural to turn to him to see if we could help filmmakers navigate not only the complexity of rights and licenses, but also the creative, ethical, and at times journalistic issues involved in their use. The first edition of our book came out in 2008, and of course a lot has changed since then.
KR: I had been thinking for a long time about writing a book about what I do, partly as a way of “giving back” to young filmmakers all the knowledge and experience that I had acquired over the years. My original concept was more anecdotal, less meant as a textbook and more a general-purpose book for filmmakers. Sheila brought in the (very necessary) academic rigors that make the book valuable in undergraduate and graduate film, history, and sometimes even law school classes. As a result, it covered a wider canvas but in detail, and yet we were still able to retain some of the anecdotal quality I was hoping for.
As you look at the various ways that third-party materials are used by professional and amateur filmmakers, how do you think they might benefit from the insights your book and work as a filmmaker provides?
SCB: There are so many ways that media makers, working in fiction and nonfiction, rely on third-party materials, which simply means images, music, sounds, etc. that they themselves did not create. Sometimes these films or series strive to tell historical stories; sometimes they’re present day stories that just want to use a soundtrack of current hits or rely on contemporary media for verisimilitude. It’s a really, really complicated landscape, and hopefully the book helps people to navigate it.
KR: And not only traditional filmmakers, whether fiction or nonfiction, but also experimental filmmakers, media mash-up makers and others increasingly use pre-existing material, sometimes in a meta-historical or meta-cultural way that probably dates back to David Holtzman’s Diary and other such films. In documentary, it dates back almost to the beginnings of film, with archival users such as Esfir Schub in the Soviet Union. Culture is formed by the culture that came before it, and archival is an increasingly important part of that, in our digital, audiovisual age.
Can you share a bit about how the process of researching and obtaining rights to archival visuals and music has changed throughout your filmmaking careers?
KR: So much has changed that it’s almost an overwhelming question. When researching the Vietnam series, of course, there was no internet, so no searching online for material. The internet has changed the lives of every filmmaker, every researcher– everyone.
Another big change is that archival materials are now considered “assets,” with big corporations buying up archives as an investment. It used to be that archives were run by people (usually middle-aged men, in fact!) who knew their collection intimately and loved old film. Researchers like me would visit an archive in person, screen reels and reels of film on a Moviola or Steenbeck, and “cord off” in and out cues for sections of a film to be duplicated by an optical film lab. Those long-gone archivists were essential; often they would say, “How about this?” and pull some long-lost gem off the shelves. They taught me everything I know about film stocks, winds, sound elements—all those film-based things that have become irrelevant now, except to the actual archives that are digitizing their collections.
As assets, with prices and contracts often driven by practices more common in the advertising industry, licensing has also become a great deal more complicated. In the past, these old-school archivists would make handshake deals for rights. There would be a piece of paper–usually only one–and prices were always negotiable based on the filmmaker’s budget and even how engaged the archivist became in a film’s subject. Archival materials, then, wouldn’t bust people’s budgets. Today, they’re a big part of a project’s overall cost.
Technological changes, however, have favored filmmakers. In the past, the whole process of getting workprints and masters, synching things, going through answer prints, etc. was much slower and much more expensive. In a chemical process, things like color and gamma correction means making a whole new print, waiting three days to see how it came out, and then maybe making adjustments and waiting another three days to see the results. This “answer print” process alone would add about $5,000 (in 1980s dollars) to a film’s budget. Nowadays, you can sit in the editing room, tweak a joystick, and get instant color correction. The first time I ever saw that done, I was flabbergasted.
SCB: And of course, with film budgets and schedules shrinking over the past several years, a lot of filmmakers are choosing NOT to use authentic archival materials, especially music, because licensing can be so time-consuming and expensive. Either they use cheaper generic alternatives or–and this is ethically problematic–they create what appears to be actual archival material without making the audience aware that it’s not. With that said, of course the existence of archival materials alone doesn’t mandate its use. There are lots of creative alternatives, including animation and reenactments. It’s a real issue, though, when filmmakers want to access materials but realistically can’t.
In addition to filmmakers, what audiences do you hope this book reaches?
SCB: As someone who has taught in a department of history for the past decade, with a focus on public history, I hope the information contained in this book will be of interest to those creating content for museums and historic sites. I also hope that it will help to inform the growing number of academics (at all levels) who use audiovisual materials in their teaching and scholarship. What you see and hear is not always what actually happened–media literacy is more important than ever, in this age of deep-fakes–but it’s always been important. Whether material is from 1906 or 2016, it’s important to know who created it, for what purpose, to reach what audience? Does it line up with other authoritative research on this person or event?
KR: Yes, we’ve greatly expanded our sections about provenance, deep-fakes, and the importance of knowing the context in which the film was made or distributed. My hope is that this book is also able to reach nonfiction and fiction writers as well: the historians and biographers who need to know how to find and clear still images to illustrate their books, the historical novelists who want to examine photos or film or music from an era as background research to get details right in their stories. Of course the book is meant for film researchers as well, and to promote the art and craft of film research and to promote activism in the arena of copyright reform.
“Lucky Milo” is the story of former US Marine Milo Imrie ( pictured below) and his post-active duty struggles with PTSD and mental health issues. The film’s writer/director, Edmund Milligan Marcus, grew up with Milo and has directed several prize-winning shorts. He is currently in post-production on two feature films. As a freelance documentarian and videographer he has worked for numerous arts organizations and theater companies. Edmund is directing and editing “Lucky Milo,” working with his co-producers Donald Marcus (Edmund’s father) and Lisa Milligan.
We recently chatted with Edmund about how the film is coming together.
FC Academy is an educational program created by Filmmakers Collaborative that is geared toward teaching students ages 8 – 18 how to make short films.
We believe that introducing kids to the latest technology and filmmaking techniques – as well as giving them a vehicle for expressing themselves creatively – will provide them with invaluable tools for their academic futures and beyond.
Reporting to the Executive Director, the FC Academy Filmmaking Instructor will provide
instruction to students in cities and towns throughout Greater Boston (potentially including
Cape Cod) on the filmmaking process.
This is a contract position that will run from July 6 – August 28, 2020. Classes also available to teach over the April school vacation week from April 21-24, 2020.
QUALIFICATIONS & EXPERIENCE
• You MUST like working with kids. Working with this age group is fun but exhausting!
• Expertise in film production
• Competence in Adobe Premiere
• Strong communication skills, attention to detail, and a commitment to quality
• Must have a car or access to transportation to each of the class locations
• Teach the film process: brainstorming, storyboarding, writing scripts, shooting, lighting and sound
production and editing with Adobe Premiere Software
• Inspire thoughtful, creative and fun films that students will be proud to screen in front of family and
• Help design instruction and implement curriculum
• Finalize all films made in the program and upload to google drive for screening at BIKFF
COMPENSATION: Commensurate with experience
TIME COMMITMENT: each Monday – Friday, 9am – 3pm, July 8 – August 28, 2020
HOW TO APPLY: Please send resume and letter to
Laura Azevedo, Executive Director, Filmmakers Collaborative
To label Gabriel Polonsky an artist and illustrator is an understatement (as you’ll discover as you read on!) According to the Facebook book page for his company, GP Studio Arts, Gabriel “was born at a very young age into a family of artists. His father made etchings in the bathtub with nitric acid. He taught himself to draw by copying Leonardo DaVinci and MAD Magazine. His Super-8 films and artwork was winning national awards while I was getting thrown out of school for drawing caricatures of teachers on the desk in permanent marker. It all kind of took off from there…”
We’re thrilled that Gabriel has recently joined the FC Marketplace (https://filmmakerscollab.org/marketplace/) and we recently caught up with Gabriel to ask him about the origins of his artistic pursuits and the nature of his work.
What kind of service do you offer the filmmaking community?
GP Studio Arts in Belmont, MA, is an animation, mixed media, film, and illustration studio that I started in 1993. I am an Emmy nominated freelance animation director, designer, producer, and an accomplished illustrator, storyboard artist, fine artist, and sculptor. I work with everyone from local indie filmmakers and individuals to large companies like Arnold Worldwide, PBS, and Cartoon Network.
What areas of creativity bring you the most joy and why?
I enjoy working in many different genres and techniques, but what brings me the most joy is simply drawing pictures. I would draw all day and night if I could (actually I do sometimes). I am not sure why I feel this way, maybe it’s genetic. Art runs in my family and I’ve been drawing since I was three. All of my projects start with a drawing, whether it is an animated cartoon, realistic portrait, storyboard, or sculpture. It is where creative solutions are worked out and the project comes to life. I also enjoy sketching out ideas for my clients in brainstorming sessions. As they say ‘a picture is worth 1000 words.’
Can you name any creative role models that influenced you to pursue this vocation?
Instead of hiring a babysitter my mother used to bring me to her life drawing classes when I was little, and I would draw the model. Robert Crumb, Leonardo DaVinci, MC Escher, and MAD Magazine were also early role models. After seeing their work I decided to become an illustrator, and taught myself to draw by copying them. When I was five my father gave me and my brother Plasteline clay and an 8mm movie camera. Our first clay animation was called ‘Blob Day.” We made many other films, and some of them won awards and got into festivals. That led to my professional animation career at Olive Jar Animation. It was a really cool animation studio in Brookline. I learned so much by working there with amazingly talented people. All of these experiences solidified my decision to pursue a multiple career path as an illustrator, fine artist, animator, filmmaker, and teacher.
What exciting projects are you currently working on?
I am always working on something new, whether it’s my own artwork or a project for a client. I am currently working on a documentary feature film called “Release from Reason,” About the life, times, and work of my father Arthur Polonsky (www.releasefromreason.com). He was regarded as one of the most important Boston painters of the 20th century. The film tells the story of his amazing artwork, immense influence, eccentric genius, and significant role in creating Boston Expressionism, a major American art movement.
What else would you like FC members to know about you and your work?
All of my life I’ve enjoyed the challenge of working in a variety of styles and mediums. It keeps me moving forward and excited about my work. It is an on-going evolution. I am grateful that working this way has allowed me to collaborate with so many talented people from high profile companies to independent filmmakers and individuals.
Paul van der Walt, FC member and FC Marketplace advertiser, writes music and creates sound design for films, games, television, commercials and various music libraries. He also releases music as Watermark High and Kinoh.
Although musically self-taught with over a decade of live performance and writing experience, Paul studied Sound Design and Music For The Media at Thinkspace, under the tutelage of British composer Douglas Black Heaton. He also completed his studies of game audio implementation in Wwise through the School of Video Game Audio, guided by industry veteran Leonard Paul.
Paul’s debut feature documentary score for “Sustainable Nation” will be released in 2020 along with the film. His music has also been heard in various international indie film projects including the documentary “Make“, as well as various Noclip video game documentaries. It’s also been featured in reality TV shows like “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” as well as the work of numerous online content creators.
We recently chatted with Paul and asked him to introduce himself to the FC community.
“I’m a freelance music composer with skills and experience in production, mixing and mastering. I work across various genres and mediums: film, TV, video games, commercials, web series etc.
“I love writing music to picture, because it’s essentially creative problem solving and it usually encourages me to approach things differently and to write outside of my comfort zone. I find writing to a brief enjoyable and exciting, because of the diversity in genres and executions that I get to explore.
“My role models mostly (unintentionally) include contemporary composers who do not come from traditional musical backgrounds, much like myself: Trent Reznor, Clint Mansell, Ben Frost, Cliff Martinez etc. I find artists who merge modern music technology and electronics with tried and tested orchestral composition the most inspiring.
“I’m currently restructuring and mixing a score I did for a feature documentary called “Sustainable Nation”. It’s about sustainable innovations in water conservation. The soundtrack will be released later this year. Other than that, this year, I’m working on more original music to be released commercially, between custom music projects.
I moved to Boston from Johannesburg (South Africa) in mid-2019 so I’m currently trying to connect with fellow filmmakers. I enjoy pitching, so be sure to get in touch if you need music for your project or to just have a discussion about music. I work with a wide range of projects and budgets.”
You can learn more about Paul and his work by visiting www.paulvanderwalt.com