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    INTERVIEWS 2: From the Winners Circle
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    DVXFest Promo Guru Rodney V. Smith's Avatar
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    Fat Monster Films

    Mark Johnson, Tim Hyten and Luis Sinibaldi

    1. How many DVXFests have you been involved with?

    Three of us (Mark Johnson, Tim Hyten and Luis Sinibaldi) are the principals of Fat Monster Films. We also have a close association with several other Los Angeles DVXUSERs including Blaine Golden, Matty Garret, Geoff Reisner and Oliver Nobel. We all have a long involvement with prior DVXFests with Tim Hyten's participation going all the way back to the original Zombie Fest in the Fall of 2005.

    Tim and Mark first worked together with Blaine on a DramaFest entry (*Threading the Needle*) in 2007. The first true Fat Monster Films entry was *Where the Heart Lies* for LoveFest in 2008 (placing third). We then followed with *O2* for TimeFest in 2008 as well (placing first). We took a hiatus and finally entered again in 2009 for MonsterFest with *Dispatch* (placing first).

    2. How has being involved in the DVXFests helped your own work. Have you benefitted in any way?

    We all agree that DVXUSER and, more specifically, the DVXFests have been extraordinarily helpful to our personal and professional development. Most serious filmmakers know that there is simply no substitute for shooting and the Fests provide an incredibly valuable structure to help develop the discipline and experience that makes one a better filmmaker.

    One of the biggest benefits we have received has come from our policy of opening our sets to any DVXUSERs who can make it to L.A. for a shoot. We provide a floor or couch and meals for those willing to work on our productions. As a result, we've met some amazingly talented people who we have continued to call on for other productions.

    We also learned that we could reap considerable rewards by upgrading our casting to include actors with active working careers. Hollywood operates on networking and working actors understand that helping those who hire them is one of the best ways to insure future work. Thus, Anna Alexander keeps *O2* and *Where the Heart Lies* on her iPhone and shows it to producers and agents whenever she gets the chance. It's led to several calls and some work for us as a result.

    Tim Abell has tirelessly promoted Fat Monster from the day he starred in *O2*. Within a month of wrapping he arranged for us to take meetings at HD Films / Warner Bros. and at STARZ with several for-pay projects resulting. The same networking led us to GunMetal Productions and the chance to shoot *With Angels and Fire* with Tom Sizemore and Tim Abell.

    I should also mention the benefits we received from being willing to really commit to do what it took to shoot the sci-fi short *O2*. It took a lot of schmoozing to get the Laurel Canyon spaceship set and the help of propmaster Dragon Dronet (Terminator, Star Trek etc.) We simply wouldn't take "no" and when we finally had the location and props locked down it led to Barry Green and Jack Stanley coming on board (we gave Barry the use of the set for his own cinematography DVD project and he, in turn, allowed us to use Levie Isaacks, ASC, to lens our film. We worked our butts off to make that film happen on a shoestring budget, but the dividends have been enormous.

    3. What was one of the most enjoyable things about making your film for the DVXFest?

    We are grateful to have so many people help us make our visions reality. Without exception, every shoot we've had has been extraordinary simply because of the enthusiasm, joy and sweat of DVXUSERs. There is nothing like making a film with people who share a common desire to make the best film they possibly can.

    4. Any secrets to your success?

    We all agree that whatever success we have had has come from the diverse talents and the strong bonds of friendship the three of us have together. Each of us have very different skillsets and very different opinions. This has allowed us to have very productive creative and pre-production meetings. It also has allowed us to divide up work efficiently. We can't imagine being able to do what we do without having the three of us as co-principals.


    5. Walk us through your process of creating a film.

    A simplified answer to what is a rather large question would be: 1) We believe in dividing work from the outset. 2) We take pre-production seriously and schedule regular meetings to discuss progress and delegate work. 3) We seek notes and critiques for creative decisions among each other. We don't pull punches and have developed thick skins. 4) We share responsibility for casting and selecting actors. 5) Most important of all, from our beginning we instituted this rule: "If we say we will shoot something we have to complete it." As a result, we force ourselves to live up to the responsibility of completing every project we agree to take on. We see too many people who drop the ball or lose interest because they hit a tough spot. We don't want to allow ourselves the option of giving up and it's served us well so far.

    6. Has the feedback here on DVXFest been useful in shaping the final shape of your film? Has it been similar to feedback you hear professionally?

    The feedback here is amazingly useful. It's been invaluable to us. Feedback professionally has been inherently different because it usually comes from someone paying the bills and having authority over the production. Feedback from one's peers can be much more helpful, but its also important to learn how to work under the direction of others in an efficient and respectful manner.

    7. Coming from the winner's circle, did you take your film into other festivals? How were they received there?

    *O2* has won several awards in its limited festival run. We were invited to present a panel with Jack Stanley in Louisville last year with great results. We held off entering several festivals because we were negotiating a sale of the short, which fell through. Thus, we'll be entering it in several more festivals this year. *Dispatch* has yet to start its festival run but it has been accepted in several festivals this spring and summer.

    8. What's the hardest thing about making a film for the DVXFest? The easiest?

    Deadlines are the hardest. It is really difficult to make a GOOD film in the four months that these Fests give you. If we didn't have lives and careers it would be a lot easier The easiest aspect is assembling our crew. We've made a practice of doing favors here for anybody we can. As a result, we are able to call in those favors any time we need to shoot.

    9. Is filmmaking your fulltime profession?

    We shoot plates and footage for forensic cases under a separate company name. Tim does a lot of freelance editing outside of FM. If you consider forensic film / video and animation as part of filmmaking then we are fulltime professionals.

    10. What's the source for your inspiration?

    We all have our own inspirations. Tim was fortunate to have the chance to be mentored by the great director Curtis Harrington and he has drawn much inspiration from those experiences. Luis is inspired by the work of others and the examples of powerful storytelling that allow some films to transcend mere entertainment. Mark gets particular inspiration from his 15-year old son who avidly watches films with him and who wants to be a writer himself some day.

    11. Any words of advice?

    Pay attention to Jack Stanley and make a point to get to know him. He's an amazing talent and a real asset here on the forum. Few people do as much with so little as good old JDS.

    12. Anything else you'd like to add?

    We are very grateful to this community for putting up with us.
    Last edited by Rodney V. Smith; 03-05-2010 at 10:08 PM.

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    Interview 2 - Winner of Twilightfest - Darkline "Broadcast
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    DVXFest Promo Guru Rodney V. Smith's Avatar
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    DARKLINE

    WINNER of TWILIGHTFEST with "BROADCAST"

    http://www.darklineonline.co.uk/broadcast.html

    1. How many DVXFests have you been involved with?

    Two. Horrorfest and Twilightfest.

    2. How has being involved in the DVXFests helped your own work. Have you benefitted in any way?

    Yes, a number of ways. I think it has given me some confidence that im not totally crap at this. It's a nice boost to do well here. Also I'm better with deadlines than i am with free will. Tell me I've got a year to make a film and I'd start it in the last week. It's the same with these fests. Without them those shorts would have stayed in a notepad and never left it. So I owe a lot to DVXfests.

    The competition between fellow members of the community is really fun, and drives you to be better, moreso that just submitting a film to another festival. You always start out thinking 'right, im gonna show em'. Although its done with your tongue in your cheek, it's a good mentality to have. I think that process has carried over into anything else Ive written.

    When I was a kid I could never write a story unless my mum gave me a random title first - then id go away and write it based on the title. So I love these fests for having a theme. It sparks ideas and that limit always helps me to get started writing.

    3. What was one of the most enjoyable things about making your film for the DVXFest?

    Its a close one between just making something, and the few days after the film goes live and the feedback comes in, you sit to watch the competition. It's exciting, the best part for sure. It's like you've actually made the film for a waiting audience, rather than making a film in search of an audience. Thats a big distinction, having a cinema full of people waiting for the curtains to go up, and you know they'll all have an opinion.


    4. Any secrets to your success?

    Like most here Im a jack of all trades, I don't do any one discapline really well but I do a lot to an ok standard. I think you have to at this level. Our crew is small, 3/4 people who are also doing any job that needs it on set. Im a control freak, I'd do everything if i could :-/ That stems from having little to no confidence when I started and thinking 'who the hell would want to work with me?'. To some degree that's still part of how I think, so it meant I had to make sure I could do everything myself to a decent level. My real job kinda fits that description too.

    So its important to work with people that know you and understand what you're going for; I spend lots of time in prep and post to get it right. Everything is storyboarded and I've normally edited the movie in my head before I shoot a frame. The plus side is my mates also dont like to shoot anything that looks too shoddy. With 'Broadcast' we spent about an hour just twiddling with the rim light in the studio shots. So it's not just me, sometimes I'm ready to roll and one of the crew is asking for time to put ND on one of the windows. Its great to have people that care so much about the quality, but at some point you have to shoot.

    That level of detail we try to put into every part of the short and that's the only thing I can think of.

    5. Walk us through your process of creating a film.

    I dont normally start with a narrative, but a mood. I think of how Im going to interpret the theme. How can I make it relevant to the things I'm interested in. I think of the pacing, and the feeling i'd like to invoke at the end. What do I want the audience to take away from it. How does the look and feel evolve to the climax, and what techniques am I going to use to achieve the mood I want. The story is often guided by those things and the theme I settle on.

    I think of sound technique from the start, how can I have fun with it or enhcance what I'm trying to achieve.

    People talk about the script being the most important part, and yes it is, absolutely, but cinema to me is more than that. Especially short films where Im keen to experiment. Im not interested in people talking their way through a short, or it playing out like theatre. I would aim to make an experience you couldn't get reading a book, so my starting point is to always think visually. Then I concentrate on a narrative. I think of a few key images to complimpent the theme - never hurts to have one or two images people will take away from the film. The eye candy.

    Then I go back and do the whole thing again util Im happy. It's really back and forth. Then normally I shelve the idea and never make it. lol. But if not, the next step is doing fx tests. If they work out then the projet is on and I start to look at cast/props etc.

    With Lossfest I wrote a short called 'Element 394', it was set aboard an exploration spaceship which was freezing as it drifted out of the solar system and time became fractured as they got closer to a black hole. I did a lot of work on the script and finding somewhere to shoot full body greenscreen keys. As we had no spaceship set, the idea was to build it all in 3D. We did a few fx tests involving a bit of 3d modelling and 3d camera tracking to matchmove the sets into moving jib shots of the characters. They actually looked really promising but I realised to do it at the quality I wanted to, it would be a massive project that could take a year; so sadly that idea was shelved too. I normally have a script for every fest, but they rarely get made due to time or cost. I'll only put a thread up now if im very sure I can do it. I hope to make the sci-fi short someday but if I'm going to put a year into a project it should be a feature, not a short. I always admire the simple but effective shorts in the DVXfests.


    6. Has the feedback here on DVXFest been useful in shaping the final shape of your film? Has it been similar to feedback you hear professionally?

    No not the final film. I never go back and change it but I take the advice for my next film. While im stubborn at the time of my film and explaining why I made the decisions I did, I've actually gone back and read the comments months later with much more openess and often said 'yeh you're actually right there'. So some advice has been really helpful, even to the point other memebrs have come up with better ideas than I did making it. It's fun.

    Its very different from real world feedback, because we're all filmakers and that's a good thing. People outside this forum don't think the same way. They just watch it and it's great or it's toss. I think that point of view is needed also. A gut reaction is as important as a detailed breakdown. Most normal viewers generally dont give you pointers on your overexposed windows or how you could have shot the scene with a wider lens. So I think it's good to get a mix of both.

    But mainly it's different because it's so sugar coated here its hard to see what's underneath the comments. Sometimes it feels like it's everyones mum commenting on all the threads. Professionally the outside review world is a much harsher place, and we dont gear people up for real world criticism. I dont agree that people should be complimented because they figured out how to use a microphone, but everything else was appauling. If we were 12 years old, maybe.

    I think if you put any piece of art up for viewing you should be prepared for anything. For me, if I have time I now only comment on the films I liked because I dont want to be the baddy going round say 'wow, this was a new level of turd'. I think people should be encouraged, but not pandered to. If some shorts are really really bad - then the best thing for the maker to hear in the long run, is that they are, and why.

    But I guess you could say their overall score will reflect that, and to their credit some members out there are pretty honest.

    7. Coming from the winner's circle, did you take your film into other festivals? How were they received there?

    Broadcast has never been submitted anywhere else. Not because I don't like it but because I dont know of any festivals it would be suitable for. I may send it off this year to a few in London. However 'Halfway' (which came third) was shown at Screamfest in LA, NYC Horror Fest, Fightfest in London and aired on the Zone horror channel in the UK after it came third in the short film compeition there too.


    8. What's the hardest thing about making a film for the DVXFest? The easiest?

    its been so long I cant remember. The hardest thing for me is commiting to a project. I always have doubts, but once the ball is rolling and shooting begins it somehow gets made.

    9. Is filmmaking your fulltime profession?
    [/COLOR][/B]
    No, I work in corporate/event video. I guess the only benefit is you're a one-stop shop mostly. So the job does train you up in a lot of areas from camerawork, lighting, sound to post production and motion graphics/animations. If you supply a low quality product you don't get any work so its a very good technical training ground, if not boring as hell.

    One day I hope to leave it behind. The crew I make shorts with all work in the same field and we sometimes work on corporate jobs together.

    10. What's the source for your inspiration?

    I watch all sorts of cinema really from all over the world so its hard to pinpoint. My roots are in old horror films, I grew up with 'Nightmare On Elm Street' as my favourite movie. As I got a bit older I had seen so much more cinema that what I wanted to make changed. Im often torn about what I would like to make still because I see merit in many genres and cultures.

    So early in my life John Carpenter was a huge influence, but now it might be someone like Michael Haneke.

    11. Any words of advice?

    Find your own take on things. When I first started I emulated films and directors I liked. We all essentially nick ideas from films, but you have to put that together in your own way.

    When I see a short start with someone tied to a chair with a guy holding a knife, or people in suits wearing shades holding guns, I generally turn off. It smacks of desperation to be current or cool and ends up being the opposite. Simply because the camera doesnt stop spinning and people dont stop shouting doesnt mean it's interesting.

    I should take my own advice and make something simple, but deep. If I did I might have more to show than two entries in the last three years.

    I try to imagine Im sat in the cinema and the lights have just dimmed. What it is I would love to watch right now? What are you fed up of seeing, and what would you do to change that? Don't make what you think people want to see. I tried that to some degree with Halfway and it was a cliche flick-book of styles. With Twilightfest I had already written 2 scripts which were very commercial fare; then I wrote Broadcast I knew it wouldn't be everyones taste. I remember saying to my friend Mark 'this wont win, but Id much rather make it than the others'. So it really suprised me when we did and taught me a bit of a lesson about trying to make what I thought people wanted.

    For a site with so much opinion flying around on how they would do things differently, it's amazing the amount of films that end up doing things the same predictable way. If you have a unique opinion, then show us in your films. Do it with as much attention to detail as you can find the time to.

    Oh and dont have bad sound, I would turn off in 15 seconds if you did :-/

    12. Anything else you'd like to add?

    Hopefully I'll be back, I miss the fests.
    Last edited by Rodney V. Smith; 03-14-2010 at 07:57 PM.

    Rodney Smith - Flyin' Monkey Films
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    #3
    DVXFest Promo Guru Rodney V. Smith's Avatar
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    reserved for interview 3

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    #4
    DVXFest Promo Guru Rodney V. Smith's Avatar
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    reserved for interview 4

    Rodney Smith - Flyin' Monkey Films
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    Senior Member RodThompson's Avatar
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    That was, by far, one of the more informative interviews for me. Thanks to the guys at FM for taking the time!


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    in the interview they said that fest deadlines are usually 4 months, does that mean that there's 3 fests per year? And if so, does that mean that the next fest will already be announced soon?


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    Senior Member Tom Shortridge's Avatar
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    Three per year - winter, summer, fall. The next fest's theme is announced when they announce the winners of this fest.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Shortridge View Post
    Three per year - winter, summer, fall. The next fest's theme is announced when they announce the winners of this fest.
    ah thanks. that's good to know.


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    #9
    DVXFest Promo Guru Rodney V. Smith's Avatar
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    Trying to get Solomon Chase to tell us a little about his film "Night Light" which won Questfest and was shot on the GH1 with some lenses that he actually made/altered himself. Serious low light capabilities there. SHould be a good interview.

    Rodney Smith - Flyin' Monkey Films
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    Producer Mod Brandon Rice's Avatar
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    Cool interview!
    Please subscribe to my YOUTUBE CHANNEL to see all of my projects.

    New short film THE APPOINTMENT now available to see!


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