Interview with We Make Movies
Updated: Feb 4, 2022
Here's a recent interview with We Make Movies. A film collective I've been a member of since 2014.
1. Hi David, I know that you have a MFA in acting and have extensive experience in theater. Can you talk about your background a little? That's right, in 2005, I got my MFA from UC Davis in theater performance. However, I've been working in theater since 1993 and I made my first short film in 1997. In those days I was shooting on 8mm, 16mm and 35mm. It was a painstaking process. I remember buying my first reel to reel and actually cutting the film and taping it together with an adhesive. And for most of us those days are over, however, it's worth giving a special shout out to Pro8mm in Burbank for keeping the film dream alive! However, I must say, in today's age, it's great to be a filmmaker. I'm grateful to have had the experience of cutting actual film to know the difference. I've gone through the progression of film, video, mini DV, Hi8, digital and having created at least one film project every year since 1997, I've worked in a lot of mediums. They are all unique, but we are, by far, living in the best time possible for filmmakers. 2. How did you find out about We Make Movies, Inc.? I went to see a play at The Road Theater in North Hollywood and during intermission was talking to a friend and mentioned I was actively searching for a community of likeminded artists who wanted to collaborate. In fact, I was thinking of starting a group myself because no artist is an island in this business, we need people who understand the struggle. We need friends and colleagues who provide a healthy support system. It isn't nobility, heroism or talent that makes a working artist, but a whole network of helping hands that give the artist the support to keep going. And my friend said, "You should check out We Make Movies. It's a film collective and I think they are everything you are describing". And so he suggested I reach out to a mutual friend, Chad Kukahiko, who was involved in the group. Next thing you know, I went to one of the Wednesday night meetings and I've been going every since. That was six years ago. 3. Being someone that comes from the theater what made you want to get into filmmaking? Actually, I don't think of filmmaking as being that much different than theater. My attraction to both comes from the same creative foundation: A group of people coming together with their respective talent and unique point of view to create a project with the intention to be truthful. That's pretty much it. In fact, the way I approach independent film is very similar to how I create theater because for me it's about relationships and collaboration. It's about each artist making a contribution to the interpretation of the story. The medium might be different but the motivation is the same. 4. You had two different projects in the festival. One was a short film, named PORTRAIT OF A SKELETON and the other was an episode from a web series you created called THE WASTELAND. What was the inspiration for each of these projects and what was your process in developing them? Portrait of a Skeleton came directly out of a necessity to be creative during the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown. I wrote, shot, edited and performed several episodes of this quirky love story between a man and a skeleton. My co-star, Charlene, is a plastic skeleton who really is the star of the show. It's very off beat, funny and weird. But living alone during quarantine either forces you to get really creative or drive you completely nuts. I think this series represents the best of both.
The Wasteland began with a short script I wrote based on TS Eliot's poem, The Waste Land. That script sat on my shelf for years, undeveloped, until I simply allowed specific themes of the poem to inspire me rather than a literal interpretation. In short, the poem reflects a modern world that has lost it's fertility and suffers from some kind of spiritual wound. I used that as a jumping off point to create a future dystopian world where government and technology have taken over our lives. As a result I began to expand the world and include ideas from dystopian writers like Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood and George Orwell. Also, I began to explore government, technology, social media and the damage it has caused to today's society, exploiting people for financial gain through surveillance capitalism and data mining, not to mention social media's effect on mental health, spreading conspiracy theories and aiding hate groups. All of which are ripe with inspiration for a future dystopian world. Or perhaps a current dystopian world. My approach to The Wasteland is also driven by my love of DIY filmmaking which includes production design, building sets, props and costumes. The Wasteland has several steampunk inspired, sci-fi elements. Building the set pieces myself is the reason I do it. It's not out of necessity or lack of money, but because I enjoy the building process. Inspired by artists like Aaron Hawks, I like working with my hands to create something akin to an art installation. In fact, many ideas start with looking at an empty space and imagining what I might be able to build in that space. It's a very theatrical approach and undoubtably comes from my background in theater.
In addition, I write in a very pragmatic way. I look around at what I have available which often starts with a location. My feature film, Surviving New Year's, was written based on the fact I was living in a three bedroom house. I wrote each scene maximizing the use of every room, garage, backyard and front yard. Same was true for the series Lien On Me, where we shot 12 episodes over the course of a year in the same house, maximizing every square inch. And for the series GET SPY, we shot all over LA, in apartments, back alleys, San Gabriel mountains and The Abbey San Encino, which was our prime location. All of which I knew I had available before I wrote the scene. Writing the Wasteland was no different. I looked at what I had available: My one bedroom apartment. Then, using a little imagination I transformed the space into 15 different locations creating the world of a sci-fi dystopian future.
5. How have you used We Make Movies to develop your films and how have you utilized WMM in the production process? We Make Movies has been a invaluable resource over the years. I've used each workshop for specific reasons, attended webinars, listened to podcasts, recommended friends for film insurance and rental equipment including cameras, lights, sound and iPhone adaptors for mobile shoots. However, I find the workshops to be the most valuable resource provided by We Make Movies because they provide a professional atmosphere of creatives where working relationships are forged and friendships are made. The writer's night focuses on the script, allowing a writer to hear their words out loud in front of an informed audience. The actors at We Make Moves are pro and give each character a full life, honoring what is written on the page. And on occasion a writer might find the perfect actor for a role in their film. The screening series gives filmmakers the opportunity to screen their movie specifically for the purpose of feedback. This night also focuses on films that are not yet completed, allowing filmmakers to find collaborators in the audience. Or maybe just a recommendation. Either way this is where team building happens or how creative relationships begin which lead to a lifetime of collaboration. The performance workshop allows actors and directors the opportunity to stage a performance, test new material and get feedback from the audience. Overall it's a night of performance, driven largely by actors, however, this is where We Make Moves thrives in building professional relationships. Giving people an opportunity to perform in front of an audience provides an invaluable creative bond between artists. It's vulnerable, electrifying, immediate, builds confidence, and trust. Furthermore, it reinforces the fact that no artist is an island. We need each other to create. We all need a team. A company. A collective. A team. Teamwork makes the dreamwork. 6. What is next for you? I'm writing a feature film and a one act play. Due to quarantine and social distancing, it's hard to say when exactly either will get produced but when the world returns to normal, I'll be ready!