Open Dialogue Productions'
ALLEN C. GARDNER
(click each poster for trailers and more info)
May 30th, 2016
by Mark Schwab
We are very proud here at Diamond in the Rough to debut our new online series, ISO 100. ISO is a light reading that most indie filmmakers strive for - especially in DSLR filming. The lower the ISO reading, the clearer and sharper your image gets. At higher ISO's, you can get an image in a pinch but you will get the dreaded "noise" that prickly online critics like to point to as a sign of amateur work. In general, ISO 100 is ideal but you need the proper lighting set up and a quick lens to achieve those gorgeous deep blacks and noiseless imagery which can be a challenge for budget-strapped filmmakers. So even if we can't always achieve ISO 100 on set, we can certainly do it in an online blogosphere.
In our monthly ISO 100 series, we will attempt to get the sharpest and clearest picture of the current independent filmmaking universe through the filmmakers themselves and how they fight tooth and claw to get films made. It is also designed to encourage you to seek and support these filmmaker's works out at film festivals, online and even in a real theatrical run. You can trust us on this because our ISO: 100 profiles are solicited and discovered by us - the profiled filmmakers give us nothing but the generosity of their time and insights.
We are very proud to debut this series with an indie filmmaker which really caught our attention in 2014 with his truly awesome feature BEING AWESOME. His movies have played (and won awards) at film festivals all over the world and he has consistently been building a reputation as a quality filmmaker without needing to sell out his integrity. Our first ISO: 100 profile is the most excellent Writer, Producer, Director and Actor (a true "Fourgy"!) - ALLEN C. GARDNER. His most recent film "BAD BAD MEN" has its world premiere at the 2016 Dances With Films Festival on Sunday June 5th at the TCL Theaters in Hollywod at 7:15pm and his earlier work "WE GOT LUCKY" will be available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play on June 14th.
1) Thank you so much for being our first indie filmmaker for ISO 100. Let's get right to some of the questions we get asked all the time as independent filmmkers. First one - are you now a full-time filmmaker to the point where you can support yourself?
"I’m ALMOST there! Right now I’m only having to put in about a day a week on writing commercial treatments in order to stay afloat and help fund our movies. I’ve worked all kinds of day jobs in the past, though, and the key for me has always been finding gigs that require minimal hours and that are very flexible in terms of scheduling. When you’re an actor, writer, filmmaker, or any kind of artist who might not initially be able to make a living through the work that you do, it’s so important to engineer your life in a way that keeps the wide majority of your time free to develop and create. I think it can be easy for some people to get sucked into a career that they don’t wholeheartedly want and to allow that job to sidetrack them from doing what they love. You have to be vigilant and focused on your craft, and you have to get extremely good at managing your time. That’s crucial. I’m happy with all of the work-related choices that I’ve made and grateful for the position that I’m in now. You just have to steer the course and not cave, regardless of how daunting things can be or how many “sacrifices” you have to make."
2) Have you done crowdfunding campaigns for all of your feature films?
"No, just two of them. We did campaigns for “Being Awesome” and “Bad, Bad Men”, Kickstarter for both and also indiegogo for “Awesome”."
3) Are indie filmmakers crazy/naive if they don't use crowdfunding campaigns?
"I feel like crowdfunding is a wonderful resource and a cool way for indie filmmakers to connect with an audience early on and get people excited, but I can understand why someone might be reluctant to pursue that option. I certainly don’t think it would hurt to launch at least one campaign, though. It’s definitely something to strongly consider, and I’m glad that we seized those opportunities in the past. In regards to financing in general, I think a common problem that filmmakers run into is not being clear on what they truly need in order to bring their movies to life. I’ve seen a lot of people not make certain films because they’d become fixated on needing x amount of dollars, certain actors attached, or any number of unattained things that ultimately just proved to be road blocks between them and the stories that they want to tell. It sounds trite, but if you figure out what you ACTUALLY need in order to bring your movie to life and then just decide to pull all of that together and make it happen, it will happen. Don’t let anything be a deterrent or a distraction. In regards to crowdfunding specifically, set goals that you can achieve and then just be willing to keep putting the word out there and driving towards those goals. Depending on your budget, it might not be best to try to get essentially all of your financing from crowdfunding. A lot of projects fall apart because the filmmakers set an amount on Kickstarter that the team couldn’t get anywhere near to generating. Most of those projects then got put on the back burner and have yet to happen. With the campaigns that we launched, we primarily looked for funds that would augment our finances in necessary ways as opposed to seeking the bulk of our funding from them. They were definitely beneficial, though, and we really appreciate everyone who chipped in and helped us cross the finish line with those movies. So, yeah, look into crowdfunding as an option, but just figure out the best way to utilize it for your needs."
4) As a writer, producer, director and actor, which one is the easiest, which one is the hardest, which one do you enjoy the most and which one do you think you've been most personally successful at so far?
"They can all be difficult in their own ways, and none of those jobs are easy. I love them all equally, though, and can’t imagine ever retiring from any of them. I’ve always described writing and acting as being a singer/songwriter who’s just working in a different medium. For me, directing and producing are extensions of writing. The storytelling process continues throughout pre-production (Putting the pieces together and hiring the team that will help bring the movie to life is a big part of it all.), production, and post, and I love further refining each story the whole way through. The more experience that I’ve gained doing each of those jobs, the more I’ve been able to juggle them all. You’re always learning (as you should be) and growing, but, at this point, all of those jobs are tied into one another when I’m working on one of our movies. One reinforces the other, so there’s a natural flow to it all. As a bonus, when I’m working on another team’s movie as an actor or in any of those capacities, I’m able to have a lot of empathy for everyone else involved and better know how to help them achieve their goals because I understand the process. As for which one I’ve felt the most successful at, I’d say that, in each of those fields, I’ve felt both successful and like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing in equal measure."
5) Your new feature "BAD BAD MEN" is starting out on the festival circuit - other than budget, how was making this film different from the process on BEING AWESOME and WE GOT LUCKY?
"The budgets for BAD, BAD MEN and BEING AWESOME were actually very similar but wanted a bit more of a polished look and feel for BAD, BAD MEN because of the genre and tone. I wanted BEING AWESOME and WE GOT LUCKY to feel as raw and almost documentary-like as possible. The biggest differences for me with BAD, BAD MEN are that I directed it with my longtime friend and collaborator Brad Ellis, and we brought in the wonderful Laura Jean Hocking to edit the movie. I directed BEING AWESOME and WE GOT LUCKY solo and cut those myself. Brad and I both edit, but, since we co-directed, we thought it could be great to bring in an outside editor, kind of as a mediator. It wound up being a really awesome collaboration with Laura Jean. Outside of sharing those responsibilities, the process was very similar. My Open Dialogue producing partner and close friend, Gabe Arredondo, and I had amazing teams on all of those movies. Our shooting schedules on each of them were very tight, and our resources were extremely limited, but we had a blast on all of them and are proud of the work that everyone did."
6) You seem to have a lot of projects in different stages of development at all times. How did BAD BAD MEN beat out the other projects to get to the top of the slate?
"A few factors led me to want to make BAD, BAD MEN at that point in time, including my desire to do another straight up comedy. For a few years, I’d had scraps of ideas for a movie that dealt with the male ego and modern day masculinity. When I decided that I wanted to write a new comedy, I dove back into those ideas, started shaping the characters and the story, and got really excited about it all. From the outset, my intention was to write a script for Brad and I to co-direct. We started our company Old School Pictures back in high school with our amazing friends Mark Norris and Matt Weatherly, so Brad and I have now been working together for twenty-one years. We hadn’t directed together before, though, and I knew it was time and that it would be a really great process. Also, I wanted Brad, Gabe, and I to produce one together, and I wanted to make a new movie with quite a few of our friends who we’d worked with before. I do always have multiple projects in various stages of development, which is exactly how I like it and how it will always be. I just never want to stop! With BAD, BAD MEN, everything really just added up to me needing to tell that story and have that experience with those people as soon as possible."
7) For the people who saw BEING AWESOME and WE GOT LUCKY, what might they be surprised by in BAD BAD MEN?
"I wanted BEING AWESOME and WE GOT LUCKY to feel completely grounded in reality, and I’ve described BAD, BAD MEN as being tethered to reality by Silly String. Yeah, that sounds about right. Ha! The core emotions and themes of BAD, BAD MEN are still very relatable, though, that was always important. It just exists in a slightly more exaggerated world. For people who have only seen the last two, they might be surprised by the more overtly comedic nature of this movie, but then they might be surprised again when they hopefully find themselves connecting with the characters and becoming invested in their relationships and struggles."
8) It's excellent that BAD BAD MEN is premiering at Dances With Films in Los Angeles. Has BAD BAD MEN been an easier "sell" than BEING AWESOME or WE GOT LUCKY? If so, why do you think that is?
"We’re still in the early stages of things with getting the movie out there and having those conversations with people in the industry, but I imagine that BAD, BAD MEN will be a slightly easier sell just because it happens to be a comedy. If that winds up being the case, great, but I never want to make a movie just because I think it will be marketable. Heading into a project with that mentality just wouldn’t inspire me, and I need to be inspired in order to see these movies through. I have to be fired up about the story and the characters, I have to love it all and feel that unshakable need to make it happen. Otherwise, and just speaking for myself, what’s the point? So, yeah, we’ll see if BAD, BAD MEN is an easier sell, but what’s important is that we know exactly why we made the movie and can proudly stand behind those reasons. I think that every filmmaker should feel that way about each movie that they put out there. The only way to really connect with an audience is to make movies that are true and pure in the sense that they’re indicative of the people who made them and what they have to say. You just have to trust in the fact that every story that means something to you is truly worth telling. If a movie is honest in that way, it’ll find its audience."
9) You started making - and continue to make - movies in Memphis. Are you still based there?
"I’ve actually lived in L.A. for over 16 years now, which is hard to believe! I still shoot movies in Memphis fairly frequently because I have amazing collaborators who live there and it’s such an awesome community. Plus, it’s always a great reason to go see family and friends out there. I love shooting in Los Angeles, too, and I’ll keep making movies both here and in Memphis. It just depends on the project and where each story needs to be told."
10) Where is a good spot on the web where filmmakers can learn more about you and all the cool projects you have coming up?
"Check out www.wegotluckymovie.com, www.badbadmen.com, www.beingawesomemovie.com and www.opendialogueproductions.com.On each of those sites, you can also find links to our Facebook pages, Twitter and Instagram accounts, and ways to get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you!"
11) Finally, for all of the filmmakers out there feeling overwhelmed/frustrated/ discouraged, what words of encouragement/hope/insight do you have for them?
"I get it. Whenever you put yourself out there and truly care about the work that you’re doing, things can get tough. The only alternative, though, is to hold back and not say what you have to say, and that’s an option that you can’t be willing to take. Plus, that option just sucks. Seriously, it’s no fun at all! But as frustrating as it can be, making movies is and damn well should be a source of so much joy and excitement, almost to a crazy degree. I mean, you started doing it in the first place because it lit you up and helped you find your voice, helped you let the world know more and more just exactly who you are. Always keep that in mind, and always stay vulnerable and risk feeling like a fool. In the end, no one is going to care about what kind of car you drove or how big your house was, they’ll care about what kind of person you were, how much conviction you had, and how passionately you lived your life. So, yeah, be inspiring! Connect with people both in your personal life and through your work, let one influence the other and help people feel more understood in whatever way that you can. Stay honest, stay focused, and don’t make any excuses. Also, blast “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers whenever you need to - always a good thing."
12) Any closing thoughts? We'd like to know!
"Relationships are what matter most. Everything that I do as a storyteller is in service of understanding, appreciating, and honoring my relationships and figuring out how I can nurture and strengthen them more. With that in mind, I think everyone should team up with people who they truly love and respect. I’m insanely fortunate to constantly be working with some of my closest friends. Doing so has always been a top priority for me, and, when I think about the movies that we’ve made and the plays that we’ve staged, the fact that we’ve built all of that together makes me ridiculously happy and beyond proud. Thank you, guys, and thanks to all of our families and friends who have supported us along the way. I’m about to hug each and every one of you so hard and somehow just never let go… So, yeah, sorry about that!"