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A Tale Of Three California Films At FIND Forum

Film Independent

By: Marjorie Galas

Getting a film up and off the ground takes dedication, determination,  a healthy dose of grit, and above all, a location.  During the recent FIND Forum, presented by Film Independent, three very different productions that found locations in California were highlighted in a special panel – “Filming in L.A.”

Stephanie Allain, Los Angeles Film Festival director who’s also served as a producer on films including “Peeples” and “Hustle & Flow,” moderated the panel.  While the highlighted films,  “The Sessions,” “Mamitas” and “Afternoon Delight” differed in subject matter and scope, she found each film had a key plot point that united them.

“There was some sex about in these films,” said Allain.  “Maybe that’s why I liked them so much.”

In addition to the risque subject matter, the three films did not receive any production incentives from California.  Because the California Film Commission still works on a lottery system to award their incentive allotment, very few independent features shooting in California receive incentives.  While producers always try to obtain this money, each one of the panelist found ways to appeal for the dollars needed to complete their production.

“The Session’s”  Australian producers Ben Lewin and Judi Levine couldn’t afford to shoot the production in Australia due to the poor exchange rate of the American dollar at the time of production.  They were unable to shoot in the scripts setting of Berkeley California as well, due to hefty location and permit fees.  Fortunately, their location scout found settings that were perfect doubles for Berkeley architecture.  Having secured John Hawkes  and Helen Hunt for the lead roles, the production became locked into a time frame: they had to meet their budget and get the production started or lose their  leads due to scheduling conflicts.

“We had to hit up friends and family,” said Lewin.  “It felt hopeless, the script about a paraplegic losing his virginity was a tough sell.  We asked people who were realators and other folks to contribute $5,000 each and we pieced the budget together.  Everyone who invested  got their money back, and made a profit.”

“Afternoon Delight,”  originally written with a Chicago backdrop, was set in LA once actors were attached.  Sebastian Dungan, producer of “Afternoon Delight,” used funds from another film that fell through as seed money to get the Sundance favorite  off the ground.  He also reached out to industry contacts and friends to help fund the film.

“There is no other way than bribing people, begging them to give you money,” said Dungan.  “It was like a rolling stone.  We used another production’s money to get the ball rolling, and once we had a name attached, we were able to get more money.  You have to appeal to people to make them seem like they are patrons of lthe arts.  Tell them not to buy a painting.  Investing in a movie is like falling in love with art.”

Nick Ozeki, writer and director of “Mamitas,” a script highlighting a group of young teenagers in West L.A., emphasised the importance of screening films in film festivals and using the attention the film generates in these settings to support future projects.  “Mamitas” began as a short while Ozeki was a film student.  The short was nominated for a number of awards during its fest circuit run in 2007-2008, including wins at Angelus Awards Student Film Festival, Cinequest San Jose Film Festival and Victoria Independent Film & Video Festival, Canada.

” When we were part of the LA Film Festival, I was really excited,” said Ozeki.  “I was excited to be screening the film in LA, and felt the city would support it.  We were able to secure a sales rep for the film through that screening, so it was very important.”

In addition to discussing locations and funding, Allain addressed teh emotions the producers felt throughout the experience of getting their film off the ground, from the point of realization that they had a great script, thrugh casting, through the first days of produciton.  The panel was recorded and will be available to Film Independent members.

To learn more about this session and future offerings at Film Independent, please visit their website.: