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Actor/producer Mark White.

Back in 2012, I got the chance to meet, and chat extensively with, actor/producer Mark White. At the Revelation Perth Film Festival, his latest feature The Caretaker was on display for critics and cinema-goers to take in. The movie, dropping a bunch of ordinary people in a vampiric apocalypse, pushes the very best of Australian genre cinema to the edge. With a restrained budget, cast, and crew on offer, the production was lauded as being valuable and intrinsic to the Australian film industry. Calling Victoria home, Mark White graciously agreed to an interview about his motivations, the feature, and everything concerning the industry today.

How did you begin your career in film-making ?

IT WAS A VERY FLUID PROCESS FOR ME. AS A DANCE STUDENT I TOOK ALL THE TELEVISION COMMERCIALS AND BIT PARTS I COULD GET TO HELP KEEP A ROOF OVER MY HEAD. OVERR THE YEARS THE WORK BECAME MORE SOPHISTICATED AND I BEGAN TO GRASP THE VAST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THEATRE AND RECORDED MEDIA, AND THE VERY DIFFERENT TYPES AND INTENSITY OF PERFORMANCE FROM ONE TO THE OTHER. AS MY DANCE SKILLS DEVELOPED OPPORTUNITIES TO CHOREOGRAPH AROSE, INTRODUCING ME TO PRODUCTION. AT THAT TIME I WORKED ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY WITH SILVER-SCREEN AND JEFF DIXON BEGAN TO ASK ME TO CAST UPCOMING PRODUCTIONS. IVE HAD NO FORMAL TRAINING AT ALL.

As producer, how did you finance The Caretaker?

INDIE FILM IS ABOUT AD TOUGH AS IT GETS. I CAN YELL YOU THAT IT IS EASIER TO RAISE $20 MILLION THAN IT IS TO RAISE $200 THOUSAND. I’M CONSTANTLY STUNNED BY THE PERCENTAGE OF ARTLESS CRAP COMING OUT OF THE BIG MONEY END OF THIS INDUSTRY. EASY COME EASY GO I GUESS. I BEGIN EVRY INDEPENDENT FILM, BY BEGINNING! THERE WAS NO MONEY AT ALL. SO WE PULLED IN A FEW FAVOURS, ASSEMBLED A SKELETON CREW HIT THE ROAD TO MAKE THE TRAILER FOR THE FILM. IN MY OPINION THAT IS THE WAY TO GO. SHOW POTENTIAL BACKERS WHAT IT IS GOING TO BE, THE STYLE AND FEEL, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY….THAT YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU SAY! PEOPLE SAW THE TRAILER AND WROTE US CHECKS. THE FIRST THREE PEOPLE WE SHOWED IT GAVE US $345,000. I DONATED FOUR YEARS TO THE PROJECT AS WELL AS SHAVING COSTS BY ACTING – IN REAL TERMS, THAT REPRESENTS A MINIMUM OF $1 MILLION, AND THE DIRECTOR’S CONTRIBUTION WOULD BE THE SAME. THIS IS WHAT CAM BE SO MISLEADING ABOUT INDIE FILM. THE REAL COST IF YOU INCLUDE THE PRODUCER/STAR/WRITER/DIRECTOR/EDITOR ETC WOULD BE CLOSER TO $3 MILLION.

What are the major challenges with financing a film such as this in the Australian film Industry?

I’LL BE FRANK. THE VAST BULK OF AUSSIE FILMS THIS SIZE NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY, OFTEN SHELVED WITHOUT BEING COMPLETED. THEN IF YOU GET THERE IT’s DAMN TOUGH TO GET AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTORS AND AGENTS TO CONSIDER YOU. THE CARETAKER IS IN THE UK, NORTH AMERICA, CANADA, JAPAN, SPAIN, GERMANY AND MORE…PRETTY MUCH EVERYWHERE, EXCEPT AUSTRALIA. NOT ONE DISTRIBUTOR WAS INTERESTED. WHILE IT’s NOT EXCLUSIVE TO AUSTRALIA, THERE IS A GATEKEEPER MENTALITY IN MOST ARTS COMMUNITIES HERE, SO THAT INSTEAD OF ENTHUSIASTICALLY SUPPORTING THE TENACITY OF DYI NEWCOMERS AND EMERGING TALENT THEY ARE OFTEN IGNORED

You not only produce but play an important character in the film, what is it like to work with such a close group of people during the film’s conception?

EXHAUSTING. I WOULD HAVE BEEN THE MOST EXPERIENCED PERFORMER BY TWENTY YEARS AT LEAST. IN ADDITION OF COURSE ITS MY DUTY AS PRODUCER TO INSURE THAT PRODUCTION ORBITS MY PERSONA IN SUCH A WAY AS TO PROTECT THE DIRECTOR AND HIS VISION. IN ORDER TO ENSURE THAT THE ACTORS NEVER FELT THAT THEY WERE FILMING A SCENE WITH THE BOSS I HAD TO REDESIGN MY PRODUCER ROLE INTO ONE MORE PLIANT…NO DOWN TIME.

How did/do you distribute your films?

AS YOU’D BE AWARE. THE INDUSTRY IS AT THE MERCY OF SUCCESSIVE REVOLUTIONS IN MEDIA TECHNOLOGY AND INTERACTIVITY. ANYONE DISTRIBUTING FILM WITHIN PIRACY BEING FRONT AND CENTRE IN THEIR STRATEGY WILL FAIL. SO GIVING A DISTRIBUTOR NEARLY HALF OF YOUR REVENUE WHEN THE FILM IS ON EVERYONE’s COMPUTER BEFORE THE RELEASE DATE AINT GONNA CUT IT. THIS WAS PROBABLY THE LAST FILM THAT I WOULD DISTRIBUTE TRADITIONALLY. THAT SAID, THERE WAS NOTHING TRADITIONAL ABOUT OUR PROCESS. RANDOMS SUBMITTING UNSOLICITED FILMS TO DISTRIBUTORS IS SIMPLY NOT DONE. BUT YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN EHAT YOU DO, AND CONVEY THAT BELIEF. WE HAD THREE SOLID OFFERS FOR DISTRIBUTION AND A GLOBAL AGENT WITHIN A MONTH OF COMPLETION.

How important to you is the fan base that it now has?

ONE OF THE ADVANTAGES OF STARTING SO YOUNG AND GROWING UP IN THE BUSINESS IS A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ARTIST AND AUDIENCE. A STRONG AND GROWING FAN BASE IS AN INDICATION THAT YOU ARE MOSTLY GETTING YOUR JOB RIGHT. NOT PERFECT, BUT RIGHT. ALSO, NOW MORE THAN EVER WE NEED THE FAN BASE TO VALUE THE FILM, BECAUSE MOST OF THEM TORRENTED IT. THE FUTURE OF THIS RELATIONSHIP WILL RELY ON THE END USER CHOOSING TO GIVE THE PRODUCER MONEY.

How do you see social media outlets aiding the distribution and advertising of independent films such as yours?

DIFFICULT. WITHOUT THE MANPOWER AND CAPITAL FOR A SUSTAINED BLAST TO ALL AVENUES OF SOCIAL MEDIA IT IS DIFFICULT TO REACH CRITICAL MASS. SO, AGAIN WE HAD TO DO WHAT WE COULD AND THEN LEAVE OURSELVES IN THE HANDS OF THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY. FB FANS ARE JOW GROWING OF THEIR OWN ACCORD, MANY OF THEM TORRENTED THE FILM, BUT DECIDED IT WAS WORTH SUPPORTING.

How important are national film festivals to independent film-makers such as yourselves?

HAVING A HANDFUL OF LAUREL LEAVES TO PLASTER OVER THE FRONT OF YOUR MATERIAL IS A GOOD ATTENTION GRABBER iIN TERMS OF BOTH AGENTS/DISTRIBUTORS AND AUDIENCE. I HAVE MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT FESTIVALS. ONE NEEDS TO BE AWARE OF HOW MANY COPIES OF THE FILM ARE OUT THERE. IM CERTAIN SOME OF THE SHONKIER ‘FESTIVALS’ ARE NOT MUCH MORE THAN A FRONT FOR PIRATE BAY. WHILE THE A LISTS ARE A QUAGMIRE OF NEPOTISM. AS FOR THE B AND C LIST…IF YOU ARENT CERTAIN YOULL TAKE OUT BEST FEATURE, WHY BOTHER? THE EXPECTED ANIMOSITY BETWEEN MAINSTREAM AND ALTERNATIVE FESTIVALS OFTEN MEANS LIMITED UPWARD NETWORK MOBILITY. IF YOURE NOT GOING TO WIN, DONT PUT IT IN.

What is your next project?

HAHAHA. THAT WOULD BE TELLING! BUT I CAN SAY THAT IT IS CONFIRMED AND FULLY FUNDED AT MANY TIMES THE BUDGET OF THE LAST. AND THAT I WILL BE WORKING WITH THE SAME DIRECTOR ONCE AGAIN. I ANTICIPATE THAT WE WILL HAVE COMPLETED PRODUCTION BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR.

Has anything in the industry, major or minor, changed in the industry over the past to years?

EVERYTHING IN THE INDUSTRY HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS. TECHNOLOGY….ON ONE SIDE AS RELENTLESS WAVES OF TECHNICAL REVOLUTION CRASH OVER THE INDUSTRY IT GETS EASIER TO DO MORE FOR LESS, WHICH IS GOOD, BECAUSE ON THE OTHER SIDE-THOSE SAME WAVES CRASH OVER THE MARKET AND MAKES IT EASIER TO TAKE EVERYTHING AND PAY NOTHING. TWENTY YEARS FROM NOW CELLPHONE CAMS WILL HAVE THE SCOPE AND CAPACITY FOR FEATURES. WE HAVE ENTERED A PERIOD WHERE ALMOST ALL THE TECHNICAL HARDWARE FROM EVERY DEPARTMENT IS REDUNDANT BY THE END OF EACH PROJECT, WITH BETTER, CHEAPER VERSIONS WAITING FOR THE NEXT.

Official website: The Caretaker


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