Wikinews interviews author and filmmaker John Gaspard
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Wikinews held an exclusive interview with author and filmmaker John Gaspard. His films Resident Alien, Beyond Bob and Grown Men, besides opening to positive critical response, were all made on very low budgets; costing around US$30,000. He says this is because "I despise the process of trying to raise money to finance movies."
He has also written several books on filmmaking, most notably Digital Filmmaking 101. He says that it was "originally.....a series of notes to ourselves, to remind us of the steps we took to make a feature for very little money. We later expanded those notes into a complete book to provide beginning filmmakers with the tools they would need to make a feature for what most Hollywood films spend on coffee and rolls."
Gaspard has written two other books as well. Fast, Cheap and Under Control: Lessons Learned From the Greatest Low-Budget Movie of All Time features interviews with some of the world's most well known low budget filmmakers, including B-movie king Roger Corman and actor-turned-director Tom Noonan. Fast, Cheap and Written that Way: Top Screenwriters on Writing for Low-Budget Movies features interviews with successful screenwriters who have written for low budget films.
Wikinews: You've directed three films (Resident Alien, Beyond Bob and Grown Men). Tell us about them.
- Mr. Gaspard: Since I despise the process of trying to raise money to finance movies, each movie was written specifically to be shot on an ultra-low budget.
- Resident Alien and Beyond Bob were produced on 16mm film, and each cost a little under $30,000 to produce.
- Resident Alien, a science fiction-comedy feature film, is the story of a UFO crash that changes the lives of two down-on-their-luck people in a small Midwestern town. The Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper said, "Resident Alien is the best low-budget project to come out of the area."
- Beyond Bob, an award-winning comedy from the other side, is a story of love and friendship, of passion from beyond the grave, of a love that was made in heaven ... and was just too darned important to stay there. Beyond Bob was recently awarded the "Best Feature" award at the Forx Film Festival; it also received an Honorable Mention at the Seventh Annual George Lindsey UNA Film Festival, and a Bronze Award at the WorldFest Houston.
- Grown Men is a digital feature, consisting of five interlocking stories from four Minnesota writers: Rewired by David Fields, It’s A Date and The Late Mrs. Boynton by John Gaspard, The $1,000 Wedding by Tom Poole, and Red Velvet Handcuffs by Matthew G. Anderson.
- Grown Men premiered at the Ashland Independent Film Festival. It was named "Best of the Fest - Best Feature Screenplay" at the Black Point Film Festival in Lake Geneva. It was also featured at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival; the Waterfront Film Festival; the Oxford Film Festival; and the Tambay Film Festival.
WN: You're the author and co-author of several books, most notably Digital Filmmaking 101. Tell us about them. What inspires you to write?
- Mr. Gaspard: We wrote Digital Filmmaking 101 originally as a series of notes to ourselves, to remind us of the steps we took to make a feature for very little money. We later expanded those notes into a complete book to provide beginning filmmakers with the tools they would need to make a feature for what most Hollywood films spend on coffee and rolls.
- My second book, Fast, Cheap and Under Control: Lessons Learned From the Greatest Low-Budget Movie of All Time, was designed to help keep new filmmakers from re-inventing the wheel every time they go out to make a feature. There is a wealth of knowledge in the low-budget movies that have come before ours, and it's a foolish filmmaker who doesn't heed those lessons. In the book I talked to both old-school low-budget filmmakers (like Roger Corman) and people from the current generation (Swingers, The Blair Witch Project, Open Water, etc.).
- The latest book, Fast, Cheap and Written that Way: Top Screenwriters on Writing for Low-Budget Movies, does just what the title suggests. I spoke to over twenty top screenwriters who had previously worked on low-budget films and got their secrets on how to write for a tiny budget. Interviewees included George Romero, Tom DiCillo, Stuart Gordon, Bob Clark and Kenneth Lonnergan, among others.
WN: Your films were made on very low budgets. Grown Men cost under $13,000. How did you manage this?
- Mr. Gaspard: Well, as soon as you realize that you won't be paying anyone, that cuts your costs significantly. Second, you should write the script to conform to locations and props that you can get for free. Third, you should shoot as quickly as you can -- 12 to 15 pages of script a day is not uncommon.
- The main reason to make a movie for such little money is not just to save money -- it's also to help you maintain control of the movie. Without backers breathing down your neck, you can make the movie you want at the pace you want. You may never see that money again -- a high percentage of low-budget movies never see the light of day, let along turn a profit -- but the satisfaction of making the movie YOU wanted to make greatly outweighs the cost.
WN: Will you be doing anymore films in the near future?
- Mr. Gaspard: We're mulling over some script ideas, but currently don't have anything we're dying to do.
WN: Do you have any advice for the amateur filmmakers reading this?
- Mr. Gaspard: See as many movies as you can -- low-budget independent films, Hollywood films, classic movies from the Golden Era. You can learn something valuable from every movie you watch, so the more you see the more you learn.
- Read scripts to learn how to write one. And I mean real scripts, not transcriptions of finished movies. Learn what the words look like on the page and how that gets translated into images on the screen.
- And, most important, don't ever try to fund your movie with credit cards. Don't believe what you read about other filmmakers doing this -- it flat out doesn't work.
- Happy filmmaking!