Gary King on How Films Beget Films
FILMS BEGET FILMS
One of the most common questions people ask me is how do I get my films funded? I’m going to take it one step further and answer that along with detailing the path of what each film did for me in terms of growing my career. I like to think of what film producer Ted Hope reminded me the first time I met him: “work begets work”. In this case, films can beget films with a little dedication and perseverance. Let’s follow the trail of my feature films to see how creating and exhibiting them always led to the next project.
People are going to love and hate your film. Just do the work. Keep making them.
— Gary King (@grking) January 10, 2014
With each film project I take on, I like to set myself some major goals on how its success will be defined. Of course, “success” is defined differently by everyone and in my case, each film had a very different set of objectives.
While there are the rare and wonderful examples of a filmmaker who finds success with their first feature, for me it’s been a journey that began with my first short way back in 2003 (which I’ll never show publicly – it’s bad, trust me on this). However, I never went to film school…so with each movie I make, it’s a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow on both the creative as well as the business side.
To me, not having time or money is not an excuse. I find the time. And I scale up or down the scope of the film I make based on the budget that is raised. I left my corporate job in 2006 and moved from the Silicon Valley to New York in order to pursue filmmaking full time. It took me 2 years to develop strong friendships and network enough in my new East Coast surroundings to crew up and cast my first feature film.
NEW YORK LATELY (2009) – Everyone knew it was a passion project and there wasn’t a lot of money to be made. However everyone also knew my main goal was to attract attention in order to make “bigger” films.
- Funding: self-financed by cashing out my 401K + fundraiser event + family/friends donation
- Goals: Festival play; critical acclaim; general awareness and exposure for everyone involved
- Outcome: Screened at film festivals. One distribution offer (didn’t sign). Self-distributed on DVD and now VOD (Vimeo). Attended Flyway Film Festival where I made new filmmaker friendships and met a future investor. Built relationships with crew and cast for future collaborations. Gained new fans (there’s even a fan site!)/supporters from screenings.
DISMAL (2009) – While in post-production for NEW YORK LATELY (NYL), I applied for a directing gig via MySpace (yes, this was a while ago). I’d been pretty active on social media and had been promoting a sizzle teaser for a film that I wanted to make – but didn’t exist yet – titled GRIT. I shot the promotional video (using locations in both NY and Vegas) in hopes of finding investors. Fearmakers saw the trailer and knew I also had one feature film already under my belt, so they hired me.
- Funding: a paid for-hire gig
- Goals: Learn how to work for other producers with a script I didn’t write. Gain experience working with a large crew while on location.
- Outcome: I learned that not having creative control is a fine balance about what battles to pick…this is a tough thing, but my brother gave me good advice about it, which I ended up writing into HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG. Experienced working with a crew of 30 people. Shot on location in Georgia. Made new friendships with wonderful people that last to today.
WHAT’S UP LOVELY (2010) – While waiting for feedback from festivals about screening NYL in the circuit, I had a phone call with my DP Jason Varner (who had moved to Denver after filming NYL) expressing frustration about mumblecore. Everyone was filming movies very lo-fi: minimal lighting with actors just sitting in their apartments. “How come they can do that and we’re not?” I asked – he responded with “well, I have JetBlue miles.” Upon hearing that, I quickly contacted the immensely talented Jenn Dees (whom I worked previously with on NYL) about collaborating on a film together from the inception. She enthusiastically came on board and we were off to the races.
- Funding: self-financed for $2000
- Goals: Challenge ourselves to make a film with “no money” and without a formalized script (we ended up with an 8-page treatment). Gain exposure via film festivals. Network with more people in NYC.
- Outcome: We spent a year shaping the story (inspired by ALICE IN WONDERLAND) in post. Jenn wrote the majority of the amazing, poetic voiceover in the film, which in turn inspired me to shape the film in a way I wouldn’t have done myself. Artistically gratifying.
The trailer caught the attention of filmmaker Zak Forsman who invited me to contribute to The Workbook Project’s NEW BREED and screen it in Los Angeles as part of his CINEFIST screening series. This brought me a lot of great exposure. At the screening, I also connected with many actors and filmmakers who are my friends to this day.
There were no distribution offers. Self-distributed DVDs and now VOD (Vimeo).
The film has seemed to strike a chord with female teens which I am extremely happy about – that it resonates with people. I had someone tell me it was their favorite indie film of all time…yeah pretty humbling and rad.
Side note: My makeup/wardrobe girl (Anna Scheumann) and lead actor (Aidan Kane) met on this set and are now married.
DEATH OF THE DEAD (2011): I was in post for LOVELY when the Fearmakers producers (Bo Buckley, Justin Soponis) contacted me about directing another film for them. This time an action/comedy with zombies. They wanted a movie like AIRPLANE meets 28 DAYS LATER. The script was funny and I needed the money.
- Funding: a paid for-hire gig
- Goals: Work on a film with stunts & fight choreography (yes, I researched and stole shots from my favorite Van Damme film HARD TARGET); learn to navigate and obtain more creative control this time around with a for-hire situation
- Outcome: very satisfied with the final cut (I shot 3 endings: the original script version and then 2 of my own ideas. The producers used one of mine); collaborated with Christina Rose and learned she had a musical theater background; Ain’t It Cool reviewed it and loved it
HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG (2012): A musical was on my wish-list of films to make. Mark DiConzo (of NYL) knew this and introduced me to Joe Schermann, and I fell in love with his music. After previously working with Christina Rose (and learning about her musical background), I knew I had my 2 leads and what my next film would be. I had been on the fence about Kickstarter (which was very new at the time), but Christina was the one that pushed me to go ahead with it.
- Funding: crowdfunding + private investors (introduced to me from a connection I made at the Flyway Film Festival I met 2 years before)
- Goals: Gain high-level exposure from festivals and film sites; secure a distribution deal with a high-profile company. Learn to move a story forward without dialogue.
- Outcome: successfully ran 2 crowdfunding campaigns to raise approximately $50K to make the film (paid the cast/crew but not myself); signed a distribution deal with Cinetic/FilmBuff who released the film worldwide; reviewed by indieWIRE, TWITCH and EMPIRE MAGAZINE among others; award winner at 7 festivals (including UK’s Raindance, Phoenix Film Festival, Flyway Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale Int Film Festival); connected with filmmakers (among them Chad McClarnon and Marty Lang who became collaborators on my next film) and new fans around the world.
UNNERVED (2014): I want to create a horror film which, I feel, really represents me as a filmmaker. The success of SCHERMANN SONG gave me the ability to approach investors and showcase my abilities to make a good product and secure a distribution deal.
- Funding: private investors + crowdfunding for post
- Goals: pay back investors; play at high profile festivals to gain exposure; secure a favorable distribution deal with a strong domestic Theatrical/Day & Date VOD model; secure as many international territories as possible
Filmmaking to me is ultimately about finding people in my life that I connect with and being inspired by their talents to create with them
— Gary King (@grking) March 3, 2012
Ok so that’s the path to where I am today. Every film I’ve done has led to the next work in some shape or form. With every movie, I challenge myself in doing something I haven’t done yet. Some things will work and hit with audiences. Some things won’t. Believe me I know. But I keep working.
Everyone’s path will be different. But then everyone’s destination is different.
If you haven’t noticed, this post is definitely aimed to light a fire under those who are sitting and waiting for someone to come help make their film. It all starts with you.
Bio: Gary King is an award-winning filmmaker whose work is known for powerful performances with an emphasis on a strong, visual style. He has written, directed and produced several critically acclaimed feature films.
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