PARK CITY 2000 INTERVIEW: Jim McKay Answers Your Questions
by Anne Hubble and Eugene Hernandez / indieWIRE
For the past few days, Sundance dramatic competition filmmaker Jim McKay “Our Song,” has agreed to participate in a unique interview where indieWIRE readers e-mail questions to the director which he will answer over the next few days. Here is a sneak peak at the first installment:
Readers can e-mail questions to Jim at: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Questions and answers will be published by indieWIRE.com]
Introduction by Jim:
We had our sixth and final screening of Our Song today and I’m looking forward to being here for the next few days with no screenings of my own and, hopefully, seeing some movies that other people made. Films that I’ve managed to miss so far and that I’m hoping are still playing in the next few days are: Sound and Fury, Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack, Dark Days, Songcatcher, a French film called Bad Company, The Tao of Steve, Legacy, Paragraph 175, El Valley Centro, and Committed. Films that I saw were Compensation, Girlfight, Spring Forward, and Love and Basketball. My favorite was Spring Forward, though I’m ridiculously biased, as I’m a producer on the film. Nevertheless, I think it’s a smart, brave film that’s thoughtful and beautiful and humanistic, the last quality being in short supply these days. So anyway, outside the nepotism realm, I think Compensation was my favorite film of the week, though I liked everything I saw. Compensation is a film unlike anything else here at the festival and the challenges that it presents the viewer with are at the same time its greatest rewards. More on this film later….
Question: What advice regarding financing would you give to a first time writer/director who is nearing completion of a short/promo which consists of fourteen pages from his feature screenplay? – From Tony Milch
To Tony Milch: One of the best avenues for a first-timer who has a short or trailer is to go to the Independent Feature Film Market in New York in September. It probably won’t be the place where you make a million dollar deal, but it will be the place where you can meet other filmmakers, go to great, educational panels, and get a good sense of the landscape for your work. The other community of filmmakers that I would encourage you to enter is via membership in AIVF (Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers). It’s a nationwide organization that provides makers with tools to get their work made and seen, not in a direct, show-you-how way, but mostly through information resources, advocacy work, and their excellent magazine, The Independent. They also have regional salons where you can hook up with other makers in your area and share you knowledge. Good luck with your trailer.
Question: According to Trevor Groth’s review, Our Song appears to be more like a
documentary than a fictitious piece. How much research and of what kind did
you do in order to take “these characters’ worlds and lives and…translate them” to film?
– Toby White.
To Toby White: Our Song is very much a fictitious piece, but there are definitely elements of documentary in it, mostly surrounding the marching band in the film. I wrote a full script about three friends and then saw the Jackie Robinson Steppers Marching Band play in a parade and knew right away that I wanted to incorporate the band into the story. So I spent a year visiting the band and hanging out at their rehearsals, going with them to parades, etc, in an attempt to get to know them, get to know their neighborhood, and learn more about the kids in the band. The characters in the film and their stories are fictitious, but I think the way we made the film (stylistically) helps to make the film feel “real” or documentary style. Oftentimes, I think documentaries tell better stories than fiction films (“Tell the truth – it’s a good story”, Dennis Banks, A.I.M.). My personal favorite of all the documentarians out there is Frederick Wiseman, who is having a retrospective of his work this month in NYC at Walter Reade Theater. I highly recommend that anyone interested in exploring new worlds check out this work.
Question: What was the budget for your film and how did you get it financed?
To Sonya Alexander: Our budget was low. We shot for 20 days with a 12-15 person crew (all of whom were paid, and fairly well) on 16mm, then we edited for four months on a cheap rented Avid. With that information, a filmmaker should be able to do the math and come up with a close estimate…. The film was financed by a small group of people close to the project who invested anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 each during the shoot. Once we started editing and had some footage together, we showed it to Caroline Kaplan and Jonathan Sehring at IFC and they came in with finishing funds which will allow us to remix the sound and blow the film up to 35mm. None of the money invested came with strings attached, creatively speaking.
Question: Actually, this isn’t really a question…but it was the only way I probably got you to open up this letter (lol). But I would just like to say that I think you are a terrific director! I just loved your movie Girls Town and I can’t wait to see this one Our Song! I remember auditioning for this film actually when you held an open call in Manhattan …well, congratulations and good luck! I know it will do well! :) – K Suspiria
To K Suspiria: You auditioned for Our Song? Interesting. One of our three lead actors, Anna Simpson, also came in to an open call, having seen the flyer on the wall at her high school. She had never acted before, but after Our Song, I believe she will again soon.