An Interview with Independent Filmmaker Trina Demattei

Posted: November 16, 2010 in interviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Today Sick Of  ‘Em took the time to interview Trina Demattei independent filmmaker. Trina is the director of the upcoming feature length documentary film- Finding The Beat. A few of Sick Of ‘Em’s regular contributors happen to be subjects in this film or contributors to the films blog on their site. Including myself (Edaurdo Jones). I found it necessary to allow Ms. Demattei to answers some questions about her film, to explain the mission of her film. To learn more about the film, how to help with fundraising, or if you are interested in being a contributor to the films blog, or possibly becoming a subject in the film, check out their site here Findingthebeatmovie.com For more information on The Things we leave behind visit the film site here http://thingsweleavebehindblog.wordpress.com/ To learn morre about filmmaker Trina Demattei  visit her site here www.trinademattei.com

Sick Of ‘Em-How long have you been a film maker?

Trina Dimattei- I have been working professionally in film for 3 1/2 years.

SOE- What made you want to work in film

TD-I was twelve years old and a friend and I went one afternoon to see The Dead Poets Society. If you have seen the movie then you know that it deals with some pretty intense situations. In the weeks before I had seen the movie my brothers best friend had killed himself. How can I explain it? The air in our house was changed after that and I was so young that I did not know how to express my feelings. So, I sat for two hours in a darkened theatre and I can honestly say that I was changed by the time the credits rolled. I was allowed to have feelings in the theatre that I wasn’t allowed to have in the outside world. I remember thinking, “Some day I want to do that”. I was not sure at the time what “that” was. But I do know now. Film has the ability to change thoughts, feelings, opinions and on a larger scale, lives. Or it at least gives each person two hours to take them away from their every day troubles, which at times can be overwhelming.

SOE- I hear people complain a lot that people want them to work in film for free to start or just for credit as they say in the industry. Can you please explain why this is, and when one starts getting paid? How long did you have to work just for credit and how did you land your first paid job in the industry.

TD-The film industry is extremely competitive and it is a career a lot of people would love to have but the reality of being a filmmaker is much different from the fantasy. As a freelance filmmaker, you are selling yourself to get work. And to get work you need experience and credits. So when you are first starting out and you have neither, experience or credits, then often you work on films for free or for gas/food. I have never had the luxury of working for long periods of time for nothing, so I have never taken an internship. Yet, a lot of people prepare financially so that after film school or after their move to LA/NYC they can afford to intern with companies they hope to work for.

In terms of personal projects, you are always working for free. Well, until you raise the money to pay yourself. But typically your personal projects are so near and dear to your heart the last thing you think of is getting paid. The key is to figure out what your skill is: Production, Camera, Editing, Sound and work enough paid gigs to sustain yourself and earn your credits and hopefully get time to work on your own projects. In terms of how long before you get a paid job that depends on the person and the skill. I know Art Department and Sound people who were getting paid work while we were in film school. But if you are a writer or director or producer then you will have to pay your dues, helping other people get their projects off the ground with the hopes of gaining experience and earning credits.

SOE- What project/ projects are you currently working on?

TD- Right now I am currently working on two personal film projects and sending out resumes at a feverish pitch to land another paid gig.

Project #1 is Finding The Beat, a feature documentary in search of a Modern Beat Generation. The second is also a documentary, The Things We Leave Behind , this project is very new and is about transracial adoption (I am a transracial adoptee) and the search for my birth parents which I have just begun.

SOE-How did these film some about?

TD-Finding The Beat came about over a cup of coffee with my co-producer, Jinx Rhodes. We sat talking late into the night about how we had read “On The Road” in high school and how we had both gone on the road at a young age and how those experiences changed us. We decided to see if other artists would had been similarly inspired.

The Things We Leave Behind has been a film I have wanted to make my whole life. The subject is a very personal one (obviously) and I had to be at a certain level of maturity to start the project.

SOE- What is the mission of your films?

TD- Finding The Beat’s mission is to prove that a legacy to the Beat generation exists and to highlight the similarities and differences between the two. We also are extremely passionate about finding little heard/read literary voices around the world, who we feel, have the power to shape another generation of writers.

The Things We Leave Behind’s mission is to follow my own personal search paired alongside interviews with other transracial adoptees. I want to highlight the central issues at the heart of transracial adoption: race, identity and culture.

SOE – As an independent filmmaker- What are the steps you need to take to raise funds for a feature length film? Assuming you aren’t a multimillionaire, or have an investor who is one. (I know one of the answers to the question above will be fiscal sponsorship)  Could you explain what Fiscal sponsorship is, how it works and how you obtained it.

TD-Wow, this  a very broad question. So, I will answer this in the simplest way I know how. First and foremost, what kind of film are you making? If it is a narrative film then to get it off the ground you will need an investors or investors. Investors want to know that they will be getting a return on their investment. One of the ways to get investors is to have  a top notch crew, stellar cast and a smart marketing plan. But here is where the Catch-22 comes, to get the crew and stellar cast you need money first. So, it tends to be a balancing act between what you can attain not already being a “name” director/producer and working with next to nothing to get your first film off the ground. The idea being that once you have a feature film under your belt the second film will come to fruition easier.

Documentaries have it a tad bit easier (but not quite). Documentaries do not tend to have private investors because they are not as commercially marketable. Many documentaries are made to highlight social causes or to educate and investors do not see these types of films as mainstream or reaching a wide audience. The truth is, up until very recently documentaries were not known to reach mainstream audiences. So, what to do? If people give money to film they are, in fact, investors. This is where fiscal sponsorship comes in. You see, non-profits can receive donations and the donators in turn can receive tax writes offs. Well, it takes time to get non-profit status. So, film producers can apply for fiscal sponsorship with a entity which is already a non-profit and that will act as a “umbrella non-profit” for the film. Once this is granted, all donations given to the film are then tax-deductible through the governing entity.

This is what we did with Finding The Beat. A lot of organizations grant fiscal sponsorship to films. We chose to apply with The San Francisco Film Society because the selection process is competitive, it is one of the oldest and most respected film societies in the world and because it is close to home. We applied in June of 2010 and by September of 2010 we had re-written, re-formatted and re-submitted our proposal per their suggestions three times. Let’s just say they made us work for it. But in the end we came out victorious and SFFS is our fiscal sponsor. Any donations made to the film (through SFFS) are tax-deductible. This also means we can apply for grants. There is a ton of grants (so many its kind of overwhelming) throughout the US that give grant money. These foundations will not even consider your grant application unless you are fiscally sponsored.

SOE- The name of your project finding the beat is a little misleading, are you looking for prose with the mechanics and language of the Beat generation or are you looking for new styles more up to date with the times as far as content and styles go?

TD-We believe that a legacy to the Beat Generation exists. But a legacy is not a copy cat or remake of an original; it just means that inspiration exists. Just as Kerouac was inspired by Proust and Hemingway was inspired by Twain. As a filmmaker, I am constantly inspired by other great filmmakers, how can I not be? Everything you see and read leads to inspiration. We are on a quest for a modern day literary generation. We intend to showcase the great writes/artists of this generation who will inspire the next. So, the subjects of our film and the contributors to our blog do not need to be “Beat” or even consider themselves “Beat”. We are not looking for the next Ginsberg or Burroughs. First and foremost, that would be impossible. What we are looking for is the original voices of our generation. What I love about the Original Beats is they walked the walk. They were DIY to the extreme. They wrote what they wanted to write and when they could not get published they published themselves. The modern day artist indeed needs to be DIY. So we are attracted to subjects and contributors who strive to be heard. If you have an original voice and you have something to say, come say it to me.

SOE- What is the process you go through to select subjects of the film and contributors to the site?

TD- So far we have only really had a call out for contributors two times. We have had a pretty steady stream of new contributors since beginning the blog in May. Most of our contributors come from referrals from subjects and contributors. In terms of selection, we are open to any style of writing and genre. We are also open for other art forms besides literature like music and photography.

SOE- What separates a subject from a contributor?

TD-The difference between the contributors and subjects is that the subjects are going to be interviewed and showcased in the movie.  A subject has to be someone whose life would be interesting on camera and who would have similarities with the other subjects so we can tell an intertwined story. We want to highlight the next generation of writers who we feel will influence the generations after.

SOE- What’s been the most challenging aspect of Finding the Beat thus far?

TD-Money, Hands down, not having the money to pay people for their services or to travel to meet our subjects. We’ve had a lot of help from amazing people so far. Our website design by Adrian Cousens, who is working on the hope of payment,  Nathan Glomb who has done some initial set photography and Sean Pettis, who has generously agreed to shoot what we need because he likes the topic. Our one sheet design by our friend Chris Caballero-Enberg and all the marketing and publicity that has been done by the subjects themselves and friends who spread the word. We are forever grateful. But the truth is we need money to make a movie. Part of me wants to hop in a car and hit the road and get what we can get. But honestly I do not have the money to pay out of pocket and everyone deserve to be paid for their work. Our hope is to raise enough money to get all the subjects interviewed and then continue to raise funds for post-production. To make a great movie you need a great story. We have that, we just need to get on the road.

SOE- How much money do you need as of now to start interviewing subjects?

TD-Not actually that much. $5,000 and we could get to 2-3 of the subjects (depending on the route we decide to go). We have the camera, we have the crew. We just need the money for travel expenses, food and salary. We could of course get on the road with less. But it would be more cost effective to interview more than one subject at a time.

SOE- What are some upcoming fundraisers you have planned?

TD-We have a Jazz fundraiser in the works with local Jazz bands, more of a wine and cheese affair. We also would like to have an art/music show with local bands. Ideally we would do this in SF and LA. Online fundraisers through Indie Go Go have netted a small amount of money. We are looking into applying for grants as well.

SOE-You’re subjects so far, have very different styles ranging from extremely experimental, to a darker view on the American dream to more intellectual prose. It seems you have a nice cross section of a generation so far, are there any styles or types of subjects you really are trying to find? From a filmmakers stand point to make this a well rounded group…

TD-Well, finding our subjects has almost been instinctual. You know it when you see it. First and foremost, the person has to have a great personal story. Story is THE most aspect of any film. Second, the subjects’ story has to (somewhat) intertwine with our other subjects, so that we can weave a common thread. Also, there are archetypes which we are looking for. Right now we have a very diverse group which we are very excited about. We are less concerned with style of writing or their personal art form. We are not at all concerned with how they identify themselves. They don’t have to be “Beat”. I would like a musician, I will tell the truth. Also, someone who dabbles in spoken word would be great. We need a broad range of subjects who represent different socioeconomic backgrounds and lifestyles. We have been lucky so far.

SOE-What is your mission as a director?

TD-In the larger picture, to tell an engaging and entertaining story. To offer a glimpse into private worlds where for two hours an audience feels connected to lives other then their own. On a more personal note, I want to work the rest of my life in film. I don’t think I will ever retire. Why would I? I am constantly amazed at the wonderful people I get a chance to work with and I learn so much on a daily basis. Every day spent in film has been a new adventure and it is only just beginning.

SOE- If you were not working in film what would you be doing?

TD-I’d be a travel agent or tour guide. Travel is equal to film in the importance of my life. I love planning trips for people.

SOE-If you could spend a night with drinking with one person live or dead, who would it be and why?

TD- Mark Twain, hands down. He had a honest and plain speaking view on America and everyday life. Oh the stories I would get to hear! Chased, of course, with whiskey.

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