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Interview with two local filmmakers

Want to make a movie? Want to know what it is like to make a movie? No money? No experience? Read the interview below to learn more!
Last night, I had the opportunity to discuss "Monday Night Gig", the newest full length feature film from Ian and Tyson Smith. They are two local filmmakers and brothers here in Portland and they will be premiering the film this weekend at the Hollywood Theatre. I was motivated to talk to them about their film because they did it completely independent. This is the second full length feature film for the two brothers. They discuss the process, what they've learned from the first film, and other relevant issues with DIY filmmaking.

Here are some helpful links:



The interview was conducted over IRC. Ian is using the nickname "SuperPantsTwo" and Tyson is using the nickname "hihat". Enjoy!

[21:44] <secret> when did the process start? What was the first thing that started the process?
[21:44] <hihat> are we both answering every question?
[21:45] <secret> hmm, you can take turns or answer it from your POV
[21:45] <SuperPantsTwo> 2-3 years ago. An idea that stuck? I thought that the story of Guided by Voices would be a great movie. But then I didn't write that.
[21:45] <secret> i imagine it started differently for the both of you
[21:45] <hihat> Well Ian doesn't let me see the script until he's got the first draft complete
[21:45] <secret> so the GBV story resonated with you
[21:46] <SuperPantsTwo> Yes. Probably because I'd been working in underground popular culture for so long.
[21:46] <SuperPantsTwo> They were a band that made good after 10 years in the basement.
[21:47] <secret> is that typical for most bands you think?
[21:47] <SuperPantsTwo> Hahahaha
[21:47] <SuperPantsTwo> no
[21:47] <SuperPantsTwo> Most crash and burn in a most spectacular fashion
[21:48] <secret> at what point did you share the story idea with your brother
[21:48] <hihat> I wouldn't know too much about bands, I connected to the movie on a different level. What it's like to have a dream, and to go after it.
[21:48] <SuperPantsTwo> Hmmm
[21:48] <SuperPantsTwo> when it's ready
[21:49] <SuperPantsTwo> Sometimes it's instant
[21:49] <SuperPantsTwo> sometimes the script is done
[21:51] <secret> hihat-what were your thoughts on the story when you first read it
[21:52] <hihat> Well I really liked it, and thought it was a good direction to go from our first film.
[21:52] <secret> yes, the first film
[21:53] <secret> was it tough to decide to make a second film
[21:53] <hihat> not at all, we knew that we wanted to make more films, and grow as filmmakers
[21:53] <SuperPantsTwo> The decision was easy... the process is exhilerating. But it just took a while to get the first one behind us.
[21:53] <secret> did either one of you go to film school
[21:54] <hihat> It was after we screened at the first Longbaugh Film Festival, and got a great response that gave us the energy we needed to move onto our next project.
[21:54] <SuperPantsTwo> We each took 1 class
[21:54] <secret> what was that one class
[21:54] <SuperPantsTwo> I took sound. 1 hour intensive seminar.
[21:54] <hihat> not even a class, a seminar at the film school. Mine was for lighting techniques.
[21:54] <hihat> And I was 30 minutes late, luckily nobody had any questions, so he went over, what I missed.
[21:54] <secret> how did you two fund the second film
[21:55] <SuperPantsTwo> saved money
[21:55] <hihat> out of pocket
[21:55] <SuperPantsTwo> and unemployment
[21:55] <secret> government checks?
[21:55] <SuperPantsTwo> partly
[21:56] <SuperPantsTwo> We cut our costs by 2/3rd since the first film
[21:56] <SuperPantsTwo> roughly
[21:56] <secret> nice!
[21:56] <hihat> And improved our technology and crew skills.
[21:56] <secret> did you all get money from friends or parents?
[21:57] <hihat> nope just ian and I
[21:57] <SuperPantsTwo> nope, totally self funded
[21:57] <secret> that is awesome
[21:57] <SuperPantsTwo> burn, hollywood, burn
[21:57] <hihat> So when it makes millions of dollars, we get to keep it all! haha
[21:58] <hihat> Just like Mel Gibson
[21:58] <SuperPantsTwo> Passion of the Bands
[21:58] <hihat> we should of done the film in latin
[21:58] <SuperPantsTwo> More bloods
[21:58] <SuperPantsTwo> of the rightous
[21:58] <SuperPantsTwo> and stuff
[21:59] <secret> maybe it can get translated to latin?
[21:59] <secret> an audience of two or three?
[22:00] <SuperPantsTwo> Well, the audio engineer Rich does speak Latin
[22:00] <secret> so did you guys pay anyone that worked on your film?
[22:00] <SuperPantsTwo> Yes
[22:00] <secret> how was that decision made?
[22:00] <SuperPantsTwo> Not much, most folks were willing to work on deferrment
[22:00] <SuperPantsTwo> Very painfully
[22:01] <SuperPantsTwo> We had to weight what would bring us the most production value
[22:01] <secret> i heard you all ran into some trouble with an actors union?
[22:01] <SuperPantsTwo> Yeah, they shook us down
[22:02] <SuperPantsTwo> SAG
[22:02] <SuperPantsTwo> Just doing their job
[22:02] <hihat> and we did ours
[22:02] <SuperPantsTwo> No ill feelings
[22:03] <secret> could the actors have said that they were volunteers
[22:03] <SuperPantsTwo> No
[22:03] <hihat> nope
[22:03] <SuperPantsTwo> Oregon has very strict labor laws
[22:03] <SuperPantsTwo> what we did could be construed as illegal
[22:03] <secret> are you prepared to go to jail for MNG
[22:04] <SuperPantsTwo> Even if someone is willing to work for deferrement, the State will not let them. Officially.
[22:04] <SuperPantsTwo> Sure.
[22:04] <SuperPantsTwo> Free publicity
[22:04] <hihat> Ian wouldn't last a day in jail
[22:04] <hihat> they don't have stumptown coffee in jail
[22:04] <SuperPantsTwo> I'd send CK.
[22:04] <hihat> that would work, he'd do it
[22:05] <secret> i'd bring you coffee (maybe)
[22:05] <SuperPantsTwo> A cake?
[22:05] <secret> i'd visit you in the big house
[22:05] <secret> bring you coffee and cigs
[22:06] <SuperPantsTwo> well, I'm set then.
[22:06] <hihat> I have to check out in about 10 minutes
[22:06] <secret> back to MNG......
[22:06] <secret> do you want to finish this another time
[22:07] <SuperPantsTwo> naw, let's get it done now
[22:07] <hihat> it doesn't matter too much, Ian can finish for me
[22:07] <secret> ok
[22:07] <SuperPantsTwo> Who cares what the fancy book smarts director says anyway?
[22:07] <secret> umm, i think you need him right?
[22:08] <secret> direct a movie, maybe a kidney some day?
[22:08] <hihat> he won't want my kidneys
[22:08] <SuperPantsTwo> he'll want mine
[22:08] <secret> so a question on locations
[22:08] <secret> how did you all find locations?
[22:09] <SuperPantsTwo> We asked, basically
[22:09] <hihat> A combined effort
[22:09] <secret> was it hard to coordinate?
[22:09] <SuperPantsTwo> Most people are accomodating
[22:09] <hihat> CK, Our producer did a lot of the talking to establishments
[22:09] <SuperPantsTwo> Much easier this time... we could show people The Sexy Chef, and that opened some doors.
[22:09] <secret> did you find most were supportive
[22:09] <SuperPantsTwo> Definately
[22:09] <hihat> everyone but the Public access station
[22:09] <SuperPantsTwo> yeah
[22:10] <SuperPantsTwo> there's always one troublemaker
[22:10] <secret> ahh yes, i heard about that
[22:10] <hihat> they were afraid we were going to make fun of them
[22:10] <secret> but you ended up going to mt hood cable access right?
[22:10] <SuperPantsTwo> Yeah, they really came through
[22:10] <SuperPantsTwo> we got that location the day of the shoot
[22:10] <hihat> Mount Hood Community College
[22:11] <secret> any unexpected glitches? like a fire at a location?
[22:11] <SuperPantsTwo> No fires this time.
[22:11] <hihat> hmm, no fires this time
[22:11] <SuperPantsTwo> The cops didn't like us filming by train tracks.
[22:11] <secret> really?
[22:11] <SuperPantsTwo> Evidently, that made us terrorists.
[22:11] <hihat> yeah we looked like terrorists
[22:11] <SuperPantsTwo> Yep.
[22:11] <SuperPantsTwo> That was our only run in with the cops.
[22:11] <SuperPantsTwo> Hightened security around the tracks.
[22:11] <secret> did you end up leaving the site
[22:12] <SuperPantsTwo> We were run off, but we got all the shots.
[22:12] <hihat> we found out it was best to get the wide shots first, then go back later to cheat the close-ups
[22:12] <secret> do you think someone called it in? like reported covert activity?
[22:12] <SuperPantsTwo> Probably the railroad workers.
[22:13] <SuperPantsTwo> They really do have more Homeland Security stuff around tracks.
[22:13] <secret> hihat-before you leave
[22:13] <hihat> yah?
[22:13] <secret> any tips or wisdom for people wanting to make a movie
[22:14] <secret> full length completely DIY?
[22:14] <hihat> Well I think one of the best things you can do is give yourself a long pre-production period
[22:14] <hihat> and surround yourself with people that are fun to be around, and are working for the same goal
[22:15] <hihat> that out weighs experience, a lot of times
[22:15] <hihat> and keep your crew fed!
[22:15] <secret> would you do it again?
[22:16] <hihat> yep, hopefully soon
[22:16] <secret> anything in the works?
[22:16] <SuperPantsTwo> A few projects.
[22:16] <SuperPantsTwo> Maybe some based on our comic related stuffs.
[22:17] <secret> do you enjoy doing creative projects DIY?
[22:18] <hihat> yeah, I wouldn't have it any other way.
[22:18] <hihat> and on that, I bid you all adieau
[22:18] <SuperPantsTwo> L8
[22:18] <secret> thanks again
[22:18] <hihat> thank you
[22:18] <hihat> and good bye
[22:18] <secret> np
[22:19] *** hihat has quit (Quit: hihat)
[22:19] <secret> mr pants
[22:19] <secret> are you ready for the tough questions?
[22:19] <SuperPantsTwo> sure
[22:19] <SuperPantsTwo> I've had two beers.
[22:19] <secret> so from start to finish, how long did it take
[22:20] <secret> and are you still making your own beer?
[22:20] <SuperPantsTwo> Script took a while to form. Writing took about 4-6 months
[22:20] <SuperPantsTwo> Production took about a year.
[22:20] <SuperPantsTwo> Yes, still making beer.
[22:21] <secret> how long did the first film take
[22:21] <SuperPantsTwo> about 4 years
[22:21] <secret> why was it shorter the second time around
[22:22] <SuperPantsTwo> Technology and experience mostly.
[22:23] <secret> do you like the faster turn around time
[22:23] <SuperPantsTwo> Oh yes.
[22:23] <SuperPantsTwo> Much better.
[22:23] <SuperPantsTwo> Much less agonizing, and general computer smacking.
[22:24] <secret> with the premiere being a few days away....what are you working on today, or this week
[22:25] <SuperPantsTwo> Just getting last minute promotions done.
[22:25] <SuperPantsTwo> And last minute futzing.
[22:25] <secret> what format are you handing over to the theatre
[22:26] <secret> to show it
[22:26] <SuperPantsTwo> DVCAM
[22:26] <secret> was it tough getting the venue
[22:26] <SuperPantsTwo> Not too bad, but the Hollywood likes us.
[22:27] <secret> are you getting money from ticket sales?
[22:27] <SuperPantsTwo> Everything we make will go toward festival fees... but we have a pretty big invite list.
[22:27] <SuperPantsTwo> Er, guest list.
[22:28] <secret> so most will not be paying to get in
[22:28] <SuperPantsTwo> well, that depends on how many show up!
[22:28] <secret> have you gotten much publicity?
[22:29] <SuperPantsTwo> The Willamete Week gave us a review
[22:29] <SuperPantsTwo> And the Mercury didn't like it.
[22:29] <secret> did you send them press releases? Any advanced screenings?
[22:30] <SuperPantsTwo> Yes
[22:30] <secret> any plans with the movie after the premiere?
[22:31] <SuperPantsTwo> We'll, we'll send it out
[22:31] <SuperPantsTwo> Probably self produce DVDs.
[22:31] <secret> send it out to where/who?
[22:32] <SuperPantsTwo> Festivals, um, Big Rollers?
[22:32] <secret> what kind of festivals?
[22:32] <SuperPantsTwo> Smaller ones... uncorrupted ones.
[22:33] <secret> what is an example of an uncorrupted festival
[22:34] <SuperPantsTwo> One that Hollywood hasn't bought.
[22:34] <secret> ahh ok
[22:34] <secret> is this the typical route for an independent film
[22:34] <SuperPantsTwo> there is no typical route, I don't think.
[22:35] <SuperPantsTwo> No real established 'way'.
[22:37] <secret> have you made any arrangements to have it shown at independent theaters around the country
[22:37] <SuperPantsTwo> Not yet.
[22:38] <secret> anything else you want to say but that i haven't asked you yet?
[22:38] <SuperPantsTwo> Hmmm...
[22:38] <SuperPantsTwo> not really.
[22:39] <secret> any tips or words of wisdom for folks wanting to DIY a feature length film
[22:39] <SuperPantsTwo> Make it! It's so cheap, no excuse!
[22:40] <secret> what was the biggest expense making the film?
[22:40] <SuperPantsTwo> The editing system, and our crew. Food is pretty big.
[22:41] <secret> food keeps people happy
[22:42] <secret> thanks again for doing this
[22:43] *** SuperPantsTwo has quit (Quit: SuperPantsTwo)