Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Interview: A Director's Take on the 6th Annual Macon Film Festival

I am always interested in what is going on in film. When I heard a fellow student in the Converse College low-residency MFA program directed independent films, I was instantly curious and decided to inquire for an interview.

Introduction to Interviewee:

Kasey Ray-Stokes is the Director of Development for JamesWorks Entertainment. According to the company's website, they produce "socially-conscious films." I interviewed Kasey about her attendance and involvement with the 6th Annual Macon Film Festival (February 17-20, 2011).


1. What is the Macon Film Festival?
The Macon Film Festival is an international festival in its sixth year, and despite its young age, it is really getting a lot of buzz in the industry. They show over 100 films in four days in several locations around Macon, GA. We, at JamesWorks Entertainment, have attended the festival three years in a row, and this year we had three films accepted into the festival (a personal record for us and for that festival). 

2. Describe your personal experience with the festival:
I serve as JamesWorks Entertainment's Director of Development, and make up 1/3 of the company, along with my business partners James Kicklighter and Mark Ezra Stokes. The three of us go to festivals primarily to give our films an audience and hopefully snag a distribution deal, but -- just as importantly -- we go to connect with other filmmakers, as well as other people in the industry, to make connections and look for future collaborations on upcoming projects.  

3. What is your favorite facet of the festival?
It's hard to say, but I suppose my favorite facet of the Macon Film Festival is the fact that we feel so at home there. We recently shot a short film, Followed (a socially-conscious zombie movie), in Macon this past December, and it felt really good to go there and reconnect with our Macon friends and business partners. We couldn't go to lunch without about 10 people walking by and pulling up a chair to talk, or walk down the street without recognizing a ton of people. Also, the film commission board have to be the nicest bunch of people I have ever met. They hooked us up with a ton of press, and we really feel supported by them. It's a love-love relationship.

4. What do you think about the genre of independent film?  Recently, has it changed?
It's clear that independent filmmaking is booming right now. I believe the reason is because the cost of decent film equipment is dropping, and more people can now go out and shoot a movie without a huge budget. We saw one film at this festival that cost $10 to make. That's amazing. If you've got a compelling story and a crew that knows what they are doing, you can make a quality movie without a Hollywood studio, and have a bat's chance of making money on it, too. 

5. What are the pros and cons of directing such films?
The pros of choosing to be an independent filmmaker are really endless. You have complete creative control of your story, you can work with whomever you choose, you can promote it in new and innovative ways, and you can tell your story, your way. The only real con to this method, I suppose, would be money. You have to really hustle in this industry to raise the funds for your project, and you don't get paid the salary that you would on a Hollywood production. However, for me at least, I will be a fan and champion of the independent film industry for as long as I can swing it.

6. Any advice for script writers and/or independent film producers interested in this genre?
My advice for script writers would be to attend and promote film festivals in your area, or those that you can get to so that you can make the connections you need to get someone to look at your script. Most production companies, like mine, do not accept unsolicited scripts (for legal reasons), so it's best you make face-to-face contact with filmmakers. My advice for people looking to be an independent film producer would be to check out our website! We would love to talk to you about producing our next film! There are some great tax incentives happening in Georgia right now, so now's the time to get your feet wet. Funding independent film is truly rewarding, and what other investment promises a guarantee of 30%? None.

If you would like to write to Kasey, you can reach her through her blog No More Hydrangeas.