Movie screens are down, over 35 independent movies of every length and genre are moving on to their next festival and over 65 directors, stars, screenwriters, producers, and actors are engaged in new projects. The seventh Fort Myers Beach Film Festival, a week of Hollywood glitz, beach style, is over.
When the movie memories have settled, aspiring producers, actors, writers and the creative people in the movie business return to their projects renewed and enthused by the range of possibilities. The Fort Myers Beach Film Festival was more than the movies, it was a prime opportunity to network and learn.
The Filmmaker’s Workshop, held at Junkanoo over a tasty lunch, was a fund-raising event for the Festival. Filmmaking from inception to marketing was covered in the grittiest details by a star-studded panel followed by sharp audience questions. This nuts and bolts session told the truth about independent filmmaking.
Modern technology has created opportunities for a proliferation of independent films. The bottom line, however, is paid when the movie receives the public screening it needs, the five-star reviews and theater distribution. One key fact: the budget film producer wears multiple hats, sometimes those of an entire crew.
Thomas L. Phillips, Steve Tatone, Billy DaMora, Danielle White, Ruth Paul and Kyle Thompson provided the clues to success from writing a story that audiences want to hear to cutting any location or background details that don’t move a story forward.
“Let the actors create,” said Steve Tatone who indicated a finished film might be far removed from the original script with the input from the production process.
Kyle Thompson pointed out the importance of a director who understands the script. “I’m not funny,” he said, “so I’m not directing funny movies. Get a director who shares the vision.”
All presenters emphasized the joy of independent filmmaking: breaking filmmaking rules. While filmmaking tools may be taught in school, creativity may be another matter. Budget considerations impact the script from location to entire scenes; the ability to make quick decisions is crucial.
Union membership advantages that benefit all concerned was stressed by Ruth Paul, Screen Actors Guild Representative. Working with professionals is possible, even for low budget films.
Many panelists stressed the importance of a sense of humor as filmmaking is full of surprises. Has Hollywood arrived in Fort Myers Beach? Many of the actors present were from stage and screen, television and hit movies. Jo Marie Payton of “Family Matters” asked critical questions.
Sharing memories of Liz Taylor, Marvin Hamlisch, Otto Preminger, Charles Durning and more, Stewart Jacobson of Stewart Jacobson productions tied the local filmmaking scene to Hollywood with humor, personal anecdotes and photographs with the stars. He cautioned that a professional presentation can make or break a production and he inspired the panel and audience to not settle for less than success.
Cinematographer Thomas L. Phillips, summed up filmmaking. “There needs to be a reason for every shot. It’s a piece of art. Think about color. Great moments and amazing scenes occur when you just let the actors go.”