Renowned filmmaker and Television host Del Weston is known for saying it like it is, and with his new book on independent filmmaking, Weston’s tongue remains true to his nature.
The Top 100 Indie Filmmakers In The World Part 1, now available on iTunes, showcases the world’s best independent filmmakers in a way never before seen in print or otherwise. Their hopes, their dreams, their work along with links to the people who have molded them and their craft are explored and revealed.
Weston, the creator of the AOF Festival and host of Del Weston On Film, gets feverishly and entertainingly honest in the read-this-before-shooting manual.
What kind of opportunities has filmmaking given you? Is it a rewarding profession?
The opportunities that filmmaking has given me range from the ability to help others, to being able to tell stories I want to tell. It has also allowed me to meet people from around the world and to create friends, great relationships and amazing connections that I could have never made in my previous lives in Night Club Management, Restaurant General Management or Consulting.
As for rewarding, to be able to express myself as a storyteller, television host and writer/director is all I want to do. I cannot think of a better job for anyone.
Most indie filmmakers seem to jump into it because they want to make the next “Saw”. But how rare is that?
First of all, ‘most’ indie filmmakers don’t have a million dollars. They don’t have distribution and worst of all, they will probably leave one of the key elements in the creation of a great franchise out. These elements include; a great story or concept, incredible production, cinematography and sound, worldwide celebrity appeal, a great team, promotion, enough funding and connections. I’m not saying that it can’t be done; I’m saying that if you are missing any key elements, it’s a hard road.
Besides, a lot of it is luck. Look at The Blair Witch Project. How often do you hear about the team and stars behind that film? If you’re doing it for the money and not the love of film and storytelling, you should go into another line of work.
And is that what you wanted to dispel in the book?
No, not quite. The book is an introduction of a group of fantastic people whom I believe are going to do big things in the world of film. Every one of them is doing what they do for the love of film. They don’t do it for fame or money. They do it for the love of the medium and for the love of story telling.
Very few of the people I know -and that is tens of thousands- do it to make the next Saw or Cabin Fever. By the way, I hate those films, I won’t watch them. They are torture porn and made for the lowest common denominator of film audience. Films like that bring art and talent to a new low. How many kids watch that garbage and say I can’t wait to be the new Eli Roth? Please, Eli Roth doesn’t want to be Eli Roth. ‘Hey mom and dad, I just made a new film where a German Shepard bites a guy’s dick off. It’s going to do really well in Bulgaria, it’s really cool, check it out. We get to see EVERYTHING and then we rape a girl and stab her sixty times, it’s going to great!’
Please, the world is violent enough already, do we really need to lay waste to what’s left of humanity? I think not.
How did you decide on which filmmakers should be in the book?
A lot of soul searching went into the process of choosing the filmmakers in the book. I have of course met thousands and thousands of filmmakers over the last thirty years and many more via the Action On International Film Festivals but it came down to a few key elements. Can they make a great film? Are they willing to risk everything for the love of their project and the desire to finish it? Do they respect the medium? Would I suggest them to work with someone who needed a director? How do they treat others? Do they know the art and techniques behind the medium? Those are just a few of the questions asked of them. Filmmaking is a community effort, sure some people do everything on their own but their films are not as good as they could be. So, the questions and experiences are simple but to me, they are very important.
How long did it take to write it?
The book started over three years ago but the selection process took so long that I had to keep pushing back as the people who belonged in the book kept changing. I think the process is fair but it took a while.
In addition, this is a book that cannot be a traditional type of book that you’d find at Amazon or any other bookstore. Because of the technology behind it, it had to be done on the iBook Author platform. You can actually meet the people, see their work on video and get a real feel for them and for what I describe. It’s pretty amazing.
As we know from your show, you’re a very honest and sometimes confronting interviewer. Did any of your interviewees – for the book – not respond as well as you’d hoped?
Some of the filmmakers wouldn’t answer some of the questions so they were immediately removed from the book. I don’t have a lot of time for bullshit. Have a heart attack and you change in ways you can’t imagine. Pretty girls aren’t so pretty anymore. That car you wanted, you could care less about and someone’s vanity means less to you than the poor service you got and the .50c tip you left at some dive restaurant. And yes, I’ve done that and then berated the waitress / waiter for ruining my meal and wasting my time. I used to be a waiter. Trust me, it isn’t that hard a job.
Filmmakers believe that they are special. They ask for everything that they can get for free, equipment, locations, submission fees to film festivals, money, it doesn’t stop. It’s like a musician on a sidewalk playing; at least you get to hear them before you drop a buck in their jar.
With filmmakers in this book, it’s different. What people don’t understand is that the people in this book don’t do that. They take their lumps. They raise their own money. You hear the music before they ask for that tip. That’s part of being a great filmmaker.
A well-known actor once asked me for $5,000.00 for his new film. I gave him the money, two weeks later I got a call from a mutual friend telling me that the actor was at a party talking about what an asshole I was because I didn’t give him the $10,000 he wanted.
Yes, I’m confrontational because this business makes you that way. Entitlement is a strange thing. If I owe you something before I’ve met you, before I’ve seen your film, before I know what you’re about; then we’ve got a problem.
I love George Clooney but I saw him on Charlie Rose with his partner recently. He was talking about how hard it was for him to raise money and guarantee distribution so he had to give his actors SAG Minimums and then give them a part of the film’s backend. I wanted to jump through the screen and kick the shit out of him. At his level he’s acting like a pauper. That is so much bullshit that it makes me hate the entertainment machine and yes, it makes you cynical and confrontational. If this is happening with the biggest star in the world, how do you think some kid from Jersey is going to act when he hears Clooney did it? A lot of people are going to get screwed on that kid’s set, guaranteed. And the problem is, they kid will think he’s doing the right thing, after all, Clooney did it. Right?
This business tends to eat its own. Don’t believe me? Do an Internet search of lawsuits in Hollywood. Everyone is suing everybody. Pascal and Rudin at Sony have made hundreds of millions if not billions from the work of Angelina Jolie, yet still they bad mouth and insult her in private over the pettiest things. It’s sad. I’m sad for her and definitely sad for them. At that position in life immaturity is still coursing their veins. It’s disgusting.
Which is your favorite in the book?
I’ll put it this way, I have two children, if someone told me I’d have to let one go in a storm to save the other, it’d go like this. A. We’d all survive or B. We’d all die.
These filmmakers, all of them are equal in my eyes. Either you’re in the book or you’re out. No sales pitches, no favorites, no ups, no downs, no extras.
Is it hard to get distribution for an independent film or with the advances in technology, and the expansion of streaming services like Netflix, is it now easier than ever to find films a home?
I wouldn’t say it’s easier, I’d say it’s much tougher to get a good deal for distribution. Bad deals are as plentiful as girls who think they can put on a blonde wig and look like Marilyn Monroe on Halloween. The technology, Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and their counterparts make it easier for shitty movies to crowd out some of the better ones.
Filmmakers are so desperate to claim distribution as if it is a badge of honor that they make bad deals that gain some funds for distributors and nothing for the filmmakers and those down the line.
New platforms that promise you 100% of profit forget to mention that their deal is front loaded with costs that make them rich while you’re still trying to get your family to buy 200 downloads to make the film ‘profitable.’ The filmmaker gets banged out no matter what. If you don’t sell that film for a profit, it’s a hard road for anyone. I know of a film that was made for $30 million dollars, the producers got $4 million on sale and they were thrilled. Add in the incentives and tax credits and they lost $20 million and they were happy.
Now, there are the success stories, a great AOF Filmmaker or AOFer, Aaron Kurmey made a film on the cheap. We introduced him to Sean Haley at Multivisionnaire Distribution, they made a deal, they both made money and no they are on to their next feature. It’s a case-by-case business.
You run the AOFF, you host a web series, and you make movies. When do you rest?
Like I said, I got sick, really ill. I’ll rest when I’m dead. The Action On Film Festival is my heart. The Television Show, Del Weston’s Action On Film is now running in twenty markets around the country and steadily growing. My latest film, Sunny and Rayray starring Harry Lennix, Carmen Argenziano and Bobbie Eakes is just coming out of a small battle and back to me where I can exploit it properly for the new owners. There is a new television show in the works and we’ve shot the first seven weeks.
I love this business, I love the work, I love the people, I love the challenges, and I’ll rest when I’m dead.
Thank you for your time and for the great questions!