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In Praise of the Independents
by Spotlight Mike

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Mike O'Dea - Project GHOSTMAN

Mike O'Dea - Project GHOSTMAN

Want to see a real movie?

No multi-million-dollar budget, no visual effects, no special make-up, no mega-superstars, no IMAX, no 3D. Just a good story and good actors.

Well, step away from the Latest Releases section of your Big Box video store; get out of the video store completely, and hit your Internets box. There’s a special Land out there where hungry actors and hungry writers are cranking out some solid, basic movie making. Mostly because they love the preserve the purity of their art, but primarily because they don’t have - and usually don’t want - the money of the Hollywood Machine soiling their work.

Very recently, this writer has discovered the world of the independent filmmaker. In a previous lifetime, my main requirement for my entertainment fix was - and I quote - I wanna see sumpin’ nekked and sumpin’ blowin’ up. However, after reviewing the works of several indie filmmakers over the past year, well, I’m not just quite ready to don the ascot and sip herbal tea, but I’ve developed an appreciation for a good story performed by hungry actors.

A million dollar movie does not necessarily require a million dollar budget. Most of these films are done on a threadbare budget, with the film maker maxing out their credit cards, getting outside support from family, friends, and generous supporters, bleeding out all of the details, without the luxury of casting directors, production assistants, public relations managers, and all the extraneous expenses that that is the Hollywood Machine.

Like the movie makers of the Fifties and Sixties, during the time after the Hollywood Mogul System ended and before the Mega-Movie Studio era began, these movie makers travel from city to city, from film festival to film festival,
Frank T. Ziede - Project NO TOMORROW

Frank T. Ziede - Project NO TOMORROW
previewing their wares to potential clients, hoping to get distribution deal.

As a tribute to these true filmmakers, I’d like to showcase some of the ones I have met (via email and through interviews) who are their own producers, directors, actors, chief cook and bottle washers, whom their next, or first project, if not successful, could, in worse case scenarios, make them homeless:

Mike O’Dea: Independent Writer, Producer and Director, has a short, TOWNIES, that is listed in IMDB, and has a few projects down the pike, his main project now being the anti-superhero film, GHOSTMAN, through his production company, Shamrock Films. He is making his project come to life through individual contributions, and whatever support he can get from his home town of Boston.

Frank T. Ziede: Independent filmmaker, he has his own production company, Power Forward Films, where he has produced a number of sort films. His latest project is the zombie apocalypse film, NO TOMORROW.

Jose Montesinos: San Francisco resident ad Independent Filmmaker, who has several films shorts and a few feature films to his credit, including some contacted directorial projects and his own crime drama, which received critical acclaim, OWNED, was well received, showcasing the side of San Francisco that’s not exactly on the city
Jose Montesinos - Project BERT - the EMOTION PICTURE

Jose Montesinos - Project BERT - the EMOTION PICTURE
tours. His production company, Montanick Films, is working on his latest project, BERT, the EMOTION PICTURE.

Fon Davis: Formerly an FX supervisor and Model Maker for Industrial Light and Magic, he has formed his own production company, Fonco, and is working on a live-action feature film of his original comic book series MORAV.

Steven Goldenberg: Independent Filmmaker, whose latest project, LIZARDMAN, was actually cast over Facebook. The film was shot on a shoestring budget and is currently awaiting a release date.

Brook Silva-Braga, former producer for the HBO series "Inside the NFL,” until he left to travel and film documentaries all over the world. Armed with just a camera and no production entourage, he documents the human condition. His latest project, The CHINA QUESTION, chronicles the evolution of China from Third World Country to a financial World Power, is available now.

Jason W. Schaver and Ken Gayton: Filmmaking team behind the production company Adjusted Gratuity, has two features under their belt, the comedy, The TRUTH ABOUT AVERAGE GUYS, and the black comedy, S.O.L. (yes, it means THAT). At their last info, the duo was working on pitching a sketch comedy for cable.

These Gypsies mostly have day jobs, writing at night, planning on weekends, and when they’ve scrounged up enough money, film the next piece of their film. They don’t do it for the money; they’d like the money and
Brook Silva-Braga - Project The CHINA QUESTION

Brook Silva-Braga - Project The CHINA QUESTION
hope some day their hard work will land them their payday. But one would assume that was their primary goal, they would all admit that’s not their short game. The goal is their vision, unsullied by the Hollywood Committee Mill, to be shown to an appreciative audience who understand what they are watching. Many of the filmmakers showcased here solicit support from an independent filmmakers website called Indiegogo. If you’d like to help any of these filmmakers and possibly get a producer’s credit on their film, look them up and contribute to a vision.

If there were people or details I’ve left out or are out of date, I humbly apologize. The only common denominator between Hollywood and the Independent Film Community is change. And because this writer also has a day job, it not to hard to lose track of all the activity in this Community. Because for every MGM or every 20th Century Fox, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of independent filmmakers, living on lentils, having their actors sleep on their couches, jeopardizing their credit ratings, so that 90 minutes of their lives can be splayed upon a silver screen in a darkened theater to an appreciative audience. It sounds romantic, struggling against all odds to fulfill your vision, but I’m very sure that it gets old faster than most expect.

Yet, they persevere, so that we can laugh, cry, cringe, and marvel at true, pure filmmaking, a vision that has a distinct, individual signature, the pure cinematic event of a singular visionary.


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Nov 4, 2011 8:18 AM
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I've worked on three films here in Charlotte with a very talented and creative young director/producer/writer. I've learned many new techniques and lots of patience. He's a perfectionist andlikes retakes
Mike Thomas
Nov 4, 2011 11:53 AM
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Thanks for your comments, Jon. I had forgotten you are a working actor also.

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I Could Be Wrong
Every other Wednesday

Until I find my footing, I'd like to vent on the state of today's movies. I will occasionally praise a movie that piques my fancy. But it's a whole lot more fun railing against a person's work who makes more money on a single project than I would make if I lived 500 years. Oh, I will usually make observations on movies rather than films. The difference? Films are critically acclaimed, while movies are just darned good fun.

Other Columns
Other columns by Spotlight Mike:

Adventures in WonderCon

In Praise of the Movie Producer

The Life of a Film Reviewer



All Columns

Spotlight Mike
Born in the Fifties with an extreme phobia for movies in general, I became obsessed with movies when I broke that phobia with the first movie I actually enjoyed, “The Ten Commandments.” I particularly like the kind of movie where you can put your brain on hold. I get enough reality and drama in my everyday life; I refuse to pay someone to subject me to the same.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Spotlight Mike by clicking here.

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