Thursday, December 20, 2012

Company Move Hell

On CALIFORNIA SOLO, we shot at 30 different locations in 21 days--all in and around Los Angeles. That's an average of 1.4 company moves per day. It was, um, not the funnest thing I've ever done. And yet, we made it through--gracefully and alive!

Special thanks to location manager David Flannery, assistant location manager Dan Eason, co-producer Ross Girard, line producer Matthew Medlin, and 1st AD Nicolas Harvard!

Read all about how we did it in the L.A. Times:
'California Solo' showcases L.A.'s less familiar scenes

And go see the movie--it's a New York Times Critics' Pick!  It opened in NY on 11/30, L.A. on 12/7, and is now making its way to a theater new you.  Next stops: San Diego and San Francisco!

Children of Invention, Together Again

Here's a nice Filmmaker Magazine piece by Kishori Rajan about Tze Chun's forthcoming thriller, EYE OF WINTER (update: now called "COLD COMES THE NIGHT"), which I produced. It was great to work with good ol' Chundance again!


Second-Time Director: Tze Chun and Eye of Winter

Tze Chun on set

At Filmmaker we continuously cover the struggles of first-time directors to make their debut pictures. But the second film comes with its own set of unique challenges, issues that will be explored in this five-part series by Kishori Rajan. Below is the first installment, chronicling Filmmaker 25 New Face Tze Chun’s move from the microbudget character drama Children of Invention to a thriller with stars like Bryan Cranston. Look for further articles in the weeks ahead. — SM
The late producer Laura Ziskin once remarked that movies “aren’t made, but forced into existence,” an expression never more apt than when talking about a director and his first feature film. Producing a movie on a micro budget – an arguably necessary move for the risky first feature – is an aggressively scrappy process, one that turns Kickstarter donations into funding, parents’ living rooms into sets, and producers into impromptu PAs.

>> Read more

Friday, November 30, 2012

Finally, I Can Quit Producing Now

So something pretty crazy just happened...I was nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards' Piaget Producers Award, along with two amazing producers: my friend Alicia Van Couvering and the legendary Derrick Tseng.

I'm totally honored and grateful for the recognition! So many producers whom I admire and who have mentored me have received this honor, like Scott Macaulay, Mary Jane Skalski, Mike S. Ryan, Paul Mezey, and Gill Holland. It's a milestone that I never thought I'd achieve. As such, I feel like I can finally quit producing now! It's hard and I'm exhausted! Haha, just kidding. Well, not about the "hard" or "exhausted" part.

What's kind of cool is that there's a 66% chance that by next year, Asian Americans will have won the Producers Award four years in a row, starting with Karin Chien, Anish Savjani, and Sophia Lin. The first Asian American producer to win the award was Gina Kwon, so thanks for kicking it off for the rest of us, Gina!  Check out the other Asian American Spirit Awards nominees this year.  Who says we're all math and science geeks? (Tiger moms, take note.)

I want to thank all of the writer-directors I have worked with for entrusting me with their brainchildren and helping me become a better producer. When I was shortlisted, I was asked to submit two recent films, and I sent in Marshall Lewy's "California Solo" (opening today in NYC!) and P. Benoit's "Stones in the Sun." But it wasn't these 2 films alone that got me the nomination, so I also want to give big shout-outs to Tze Chun ("Children of Invention," "Silver Sling," and "Cold Comes the Night"), Olivia Silver ("Arcadia"), Andrew Bujalski ("Mutual Appreciation"), Doug Karr ("Art Machine"), Ishai Setton ("The Kitchen"), and the 13 other filmmakers I've worked with. THANK YOU. Without you, there's no me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Latest Project: "Eye of Winter"

I'm excited to announce that a new crime thriller I produced, EYE OF WINTER  (update: now called "COLD COMES THE NIGHT"), directed by Tze Chun, is in the can!  Below is the official press release I sent to Variety, which published a shortened version here.

And here is the IMDb page for the film.

November 19, 2012


Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), and Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) star in EYE OF WINTER, a feature film directed by Tze Chun (Children of Invention), who co-wrote the script with Osgood Perkins and Nick Simon (Removal).

The film also stars Ursula Parker (Louie) and Leo Fitzpatrick (The Wire).  Mynette Louie (California Solo) of Syncopated Films and Trevor Sagan of Sasquatch Films are producing with co-producer Terry Leonard.

Eve plays a struggling motel owner who, along with her daughter, is taken hostage by a nearly blind career criminal (Cranston) to be his eyes as he attempts to retrieve his cash package from a crooked cop (Marshall-Green).

Chun previously wrote and directed the critically acclaimed CHILDREN OF INVENTION, also produced by Louie and Sagan, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was distributed in 2010.

EYE OF WINTER is financed by Three Point Capital, Whitewater Films, and Cherry Sky Films, and executive produced by Scott Halle, Rick Rosenthal, Nick Morton, and Jacob Pechenik.  Principal photography has commenced in the Catskills, New York.

Bec Smith of UTA and André Des Rochers of Gray Krauss Stratford Des Rochers represent the film. Eve is repped at UTA, Untitled, and ARG; Cranston is repped at UTA; Marshall-Green is repped at CAA and 3 Arts; and Chun is repped at WME and Gramercy Park.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Film Investing for Dummies

Like most working independent film producers, I’ve pitched my projects to more potential financiers than I can remember.  I’m always relieved when they’re seasoned film investors because then I can focus on the creative aspects of the project, the production and distribution plan, and the recoupment structure.  When I pitch to someone who hasn’t invested in film before, most of my time is spent explaining how film investment works, the typical life cycle of a film, and the current industry landscape (often with historical context!).

I genuinely love educating people about “how film works.” It’s great to shatter the US Weekly version of the film world, and show people that it’s a serious manufacturing industry comprised of hardworking creative and technical professionals.  But honestly, how many more times am I going to have to explain this on an individual basis?  A girl’s gotta sleep (oh, and actually make movies too)... [Read More]

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Call to Producers: Innovate or Die

Summit of independent creative producers hosted by MoMA, Indiewire, and Zipline Entertainment in December 2009.
I’m very fortunate to be friends with many accomplished independent film producers–people whose films have screened at the best festivals, won significant awards, gotten picked up by major distributors, earned healthy gross receipts, and received accolades in the mainstream press.  We hang out sometimes, one-on-one or in groups, to catch each other up on our projects, share recent experiences, exchange opinions on companies and people we’ve worked with, etc.  But essentially, we get together for emotional support against an industry and an economy hostile to our work.  At any given time, half of us will have one foot out the door, ready to escape an occupation in which the appreciation and financial rewards we get have zero correlation with the insanely hard work we do and intense emotional stress we endure... [Read More]

"California Solo" Travels the World

Lachlan's going back to the UK!  California Solo begins its international film festival run
 with Edinburgh, Slovakia, and Moscow.  We are playing all three festivals this month.  Writer-director Marshall Lewy, I, and Robert Carlyle himself will be present at our Edinburgh screenings on 6/28 and 6/30.  Robert is also doing a rare live one-on-one interview at the festival on 6/24.

Additionally, California Solo has been picked up by Hexagon for Japan, and Viasat for Scandanavia.  And the film began airing in May on the Sundance Channel International in 
Dutch Benelux, Poland, Greece, Malta, Eastern Europe, Spain, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. 

Stay tuned for our fall theatrical release date back home in the U.S....

Monday, May 14, 2012

12 Key Traits of the “Indie-Friendly” Director

Video Village, Indie-Style
Not every director is suited for low-budget indie filmmaking, and that’s OK if you’re Terrence Malick or David Fincher. But chances are, you’re not…or not yet, anyway. I get a fair number of calls from biggish directors and producers who are having trouble raising money for their films and want to explore how to make them on the super-cheap. I’ve entertained some of these requests, collecting funny anecdotes along the way, like the director who wanted to fly in stars from another country and rent large trailers for them, but forego unions and production insurance. Or the producer who wanted to cast an actor whose agent demanded $12,000 worth of perks, when our entire costume budget was just $4,000. As much as I want to work with these namey folks, I usually end up politely declining because I know that it will be difficult for them (and for me, especially) to make a movie on a fraction of the budgets to which they’re accustomed...  [Read More]

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Film Project Markets, Dissected

Film Independent's Fast Track
Sometimes I feel like a traveling salesman, going from festival to festival selling my finished films, and from market to market pitching my new projects.  I recently participated in my ninth project market on the “filmmaker” side, and I’ve done four of them on the “industry” side, so I figured I’d write about my experiences with project markets to try to demystify them a bit... [Read More]

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You: 'California Solo'!

I have some great news to share: 'California Solo' has been picked up for US 
distribution by Strand Releasing!

Some amazing films have been 
released by Strand, including Cannes Palme d'Or winner 'Uncle Boonmee'; Sundance/Toronto selection & BAFTA winner 'Tyrannosaur'; and films by Gaspar Noé, Lodge Kerrigan, Hal Hartley, François Ozon, and Gregg Araki.  We're honored to be in such esteemed company!

We will have a theatrical release this fall in NY, L.A., and other 
cities. See the official press release here, and coverage below:

We'll also be screening at film festivals this March and April in 
Cleveland, Chicago, Nashville, and Philadelphia. If you live in one of those cities, go see an early preview of the film! More info on screenings here.

As always, we want to thank our cast & crew for their hard work, and our supporters for their faith. We can't wait to show the world the fruits of their labor & love!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Three Tips For First-Time Producers (Plus a Panel)

I'll be on a panel (yes, again) called "Independent Producing: What Is It, Who Does It?" on Monday, 3/26, 7pm at The New School, Wollman Hall, 65 W. 11th St, 5th Floor.

Also speaking will be Lisa Cortes and Amy Hobby, with moderator Anne Hubbell. It's co-sponsored by the Tribeca Film Institute and the New School, and it's FREE, so please come! More info here.

Leading up to the panel, Lisa and I each posted 3 tips for baby producers on Tribeca's site. Here are mine:

1. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You may feel overwhelmed or insecure about not knowing everything, but it is your job to ask questions, even if you think they may be dumb. I guarantee you'll find most of the time that someone else has the same question; the producer needs to be the one brave enough to ask it.

2. Listen to feedback from others, but be firm in your own decisions. Every decision you make should be a well-considered one that welcomes input from your director, cast, crew, attorney, agent, financier, etc. But remember that, perhaps apart from the director, all of them have a narrower focus than you and will try to get what they want, which will not always be compatible with what someone else wants. So never let the cacophony of voices make you forget that the buck stops with you. Every decision you make should be one that's best for the film, that you can enforce, and that you can live with. If you end up making the wrong decision, acknowledge it, fix it, and move on. There will be many, by the way, that will be wrong. Given that a producer can make hundreds of decisions daily during prep and production--just be sure to learn from them!

3. Respect your director, and make sure he or she respects you. Directors and producers just starting out are often confused about the proper division of responsibilities and oversight. It's important to remember that the director is the creative head of the film, and must answer for all the creative decisions. The public will hold him or her responsible for how the film turns out. It's also important to remember that you are the business head of the film, and must answer for all the business decisions. Your investors will hold you responsible for the film being done well, on time, and on budget, and launched into the world in the best (and most profitable) way possible. Producer and director must respect each other's realm and figure out the best way to mesh them to ensure an equitable and fruitful partnership, and ultimately, a great film.

Read the rest of the original post here.

Spring Screenings Galore

Alexia Rasmussen and Robert Carlyle in California Solo.

Hey America, 3 films I produced may be coming your way this spring. Please check them out if you live in New York, Sarasota, Cleveland, Nashville, or Philadelphia!

CALIFORNIA SOLO by Marshall Lewy, starring Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Full Monty, 28 Weeks Later, and ABC's Once Upon a Time), will be screening at the Cleveland International Film Festival on March 30 & April 1, in competition at the Nashville Film Festival in late April, and at the new XPM Music Film Festival by the Philadelphia Film Society, also in late April. The film made its world premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in January.

ARCADIA by Olivia Silver, starring John Hawkes (Winter's Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Surrogate, and HBO's Deadwood), will make its US premiere in competition at the Sarasota Film Festival on April 20 & 21. The film made its world premiere in February at the 2012 Berlinale Film Festival, where it won the Crystal Bear.

STONES IN THE SUN by P. Benoit, starring Edwidge Danticat (MacArthur Genius grant winner and author of Brother, I'm Dying; The Farming of Bones; Krik? Krak!; and Breath, Eyes, Memory) in her acting debut, will make its world premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival on April 22. It will also screen on April 25 & 28.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Privilege of Representation

Elderly Chinese folks in Chinatown's Columbus Park. We tried to get these guys
to audition for 
Children of Invention. They thought we were crazy.

Here's my first monthly post for IFP, in which I make my case for casting minority actors and share my experiences with "community casting":
The Privilege of Representation

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Film Festivals Focusing on People of Color

We all know about Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, L.A. Film Festival, Toronto, and other such major film festivals, but there are a whole lot of very good smaller American and Canadian festivals that focus on work by and featuring people of color. These festivals are a great way to discover actors, directors, writers, and producers from underrepresented groups. Here are a few you should check out. Special thanks to writer-directors Cruz Angeles and Alrick Brown for helping me with this list!

Latino Film Festivals
New York International Latino Film Festival 
Loisaida Cortos Latino Film Festival (NYC)
Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
San Francisco Latino Film Festival
Chicago Latino Film Festival
Boston Latino International Film Festival
San Diego Latino Film Festival
CineFestival, San Antonio, TX
Cine Las Americas, Austin, TX

African American Film Festivals
Urbanworld Film Fesitval (New York)
African Diaspora Film Festival (New York)
Panafrican Film Festival (Los Angeles) 
Hollywood Black Film Festival
Langston Hughes African American Film Festival (Seattle)
BronzeLens Film Festival (Atlanta)
American Black Film Festival (Miami)
Reel Black (Philladelphia)
San Diego Black Film Festival
Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival

Asian American Film Festivals
Asian American International Film Festival (New York)
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
San Diego Asian Film Festival
DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival
Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival
Chicago Asian American Showcase
Boston Asian American Film Festival 
Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival (Pittsburgh)
DisOrient Film Festival (Eugene, OR)
Vancouver Asian Film Festival
Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
(Also see Hawaii International Film Festival below)

Native American & Pacific Islander Film Festivals
Native American Film + Video Festival (New York)
imagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival (Toronto)
All Roads Film Festival (DC)
American Indian Film Festival (San Francisco)
Native Voices Film Festival (Seattle)
Festival of Native Film & Culture   (Palm Springs, CA)
Indigenous Film and Arts Festival (Denver)
Native Cinema Showcase (Sante Fe)
Red Fork Native American Film Festival (Tulsa, OK)
First Peoples' Film Festival (Montreal)
Dreamspeakers Film Festival (Edmonton, Canada)

Hawaii International Film Festival (Honolulu)
(Also see Cine Las Americas in Latino Film Festivals. Pacific Islanders: also see Asian American festivals)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Musings of Yesteryear

Hey, I'm back (after a very long hiatus)! I'm going to be blogging for IFP, so I thought I'd put together a little collection of some of my musings over the last few years so you'll have an idea of who I am and what I'm about--although it's weird reading these old statements of mine since I disagree with some of them now. But hey, since they're already floating around out there in cyber-eternity anyway...

Check back for more posts to come. I'll be republishing my monthly IFP posts here, and perhaps blogging in between those as well. In the meantime, c'mon and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. I'd be much obliged!