Getting an independent film made is a hard thing. I have yet to meet an independent filmmaker who isn’t at least 1% crazy. The road is littered with high risks that may never be rewarded.
Financially, you pretty much plow every penny you have made into one project after another, determined to see one of them lift off. Emotionally, you ride a roller coaster of ups and downs commensurate to the false starts and blunt ends to project after project. Even more, on an emotional level, everyone who cares about you goes on that roller coaster as well, further heightening your awareness of the path you’ve chosen.
And this just scratches the surface.
What all of this means, though, is that when you do get a project off the ground, you are going to be damn sure to surround yourself with other filmmakers who are equal to the challenges you will face as you bring your dream to fruition. These people become extra shoulders upon which your vision rests as squarely as your own. I have been fortunate to be able to place my film on some strong pairs of shoulders over the last 18 months. One such pair of shoulders is Joe Van Wie, his company, JVW inc., and the incredible production crew he assembled. Collectively, they are a very broad and talented pair of shoulders I was able to lean upon throughout the process of shooting The Paragon Cortex.
Every phase of getting an independent film made is difficult and JVW inc. played a crucial role in several of them. In Pre-Production you put all of the elements (talent, crew, locations, equipment, etc.) in place to shoot a movie. In Production you work really long days, under severe schedule and budget constraints while you shoot the film. So much of your work is dictated by the fact “that was as good as we could do with the money we had, in the time we had at the location, on that day.” Every moment becomes crucial. Every moment, everyone must be operating at as high a level as possible, or the story could, quite literally, be lost as you lose shots and scenes. This places tremendous pressure, in particular, on an independent film, which doesn’t have money to throw at a problem when it arises – and they will.
As a producer, the first measure you take to face this reality in Pre-Production is to hire a talented, motivated Line Producer. In short, a Line Producer oversees that all of the line items in a film’s budget are put in place. More simply, they are tasked with putting the infrastructure required to shoot a film in place AND doing so within the budget numbers the Producers have deemed acceptable. This is not an easy job.
For this important role, I looked to Joe Van Wie. I had seen the work he did on Forged, the passion and acumen he has for filmmaking and his ability to deliver on the highest level in extremely restrictive, independent conditions. When I left the first meeting I had with Joe about engaging him as a Line Producer, my first thought was “This movie is going to happen.” Think about this in the context of what I said at the start of this blog. That’s a powerful moment for an independent filmmaker. From that second forward, it was like getting a freight train up to speed and running with the throttle open. Joe and my fellow Producer, Christian Huennebeck, meshed seamlessly as we worked to make the film a reality. Their work was instrumental in providing me a platform upon which to direct.
Of course, the platform for Directing is Production. It means Pre-Production has been successfully navigated (survived!) and you’re ready to roll cameras. This ties back to the “as good as we could at the time” idea referenced above. The only way Production can function at a high level, at all times, is if a project is blessed with an exceptional crew. A crew who, despite low departmental budgets and low salaries, will buy into a philosophy I adopted on a film I produced several years ago – Professionalism is a mentality and it has nothing to do with budget level. The protocols and operations should remain the same on a $500,000 film as they would on a $150,000,000 film.
To adhere to this notion the crew has to be motivated, passionate, dedicated and creative in how they tackle what seem to be the insurmountable, unending demands of independent filmmaking. This means the crew you assemble is integral and will determine the success or failure of Production. In this regard, JVW inc., despite my expecting nothing but excellence from Joe and his staff, surpassed all hopes and expectations. They assembled a crew with just the right the blend of experience and raw talent necessary to possess both the skills and the drive to ensure every moment is treated as the only moment to capture what we need. This vigilance, and their positivity, enabled the actors and I to focus solely on the story and their performances. It enabled the cinematographers and I to be creative and innovative in our approach to the visual style of the film.
The crew, made up of a number of NEPA residents and JVW inc. staff combined with a German camera crew, shouldered the weight of production for us to really tell a story. They did so in a professional manner found on a Hollywood set. Budget level did not hinder us at any time from pursuing excellence.
As the Line Producer and Line Producing entity, Joe Van Wie and JVW inc. were responsible for assembling the majority of our magnificent crew.
Very broad shoulders indeed. Joe and JVW inc. played a massive role in making The Paragon Cortex possible. I applaud their excellence and I am thankful to them for exceeding my already demanding expectations.
Water Gap Pictures, Inc.
Director, Writer, Producer
The Paragon Cortex