Friday, November 04, 2005

Interview with Filmmaker Jamin Winans



FS: What are your beginnings in pursuing film? What made you get started? What keeps you going?

JW: I was interested in filmmaking since I was 10. We didn’t have a television most of my childhood, so naturally I was very interested in it. I started making movies with friends and by the time I was 13 I was hooked. Like a lot of kids I made a lot of really fun and really bad short films by shooting VHS and editing on two VCRs. But by the time I was 17 I was attempting a lot more dramatic work and made my first VHS feature film.

I’ve kept going because there’s nothing I enjoy more than storytelling and the art of filmmaking. Almost every part of the process is painful, but there’s something incredible about making your dreams a reality.

FS: Storytellers know that great stories are found in drama. Before we move forward with everything exciting you have going on right now, take us back to the times where you were struggling. What adversity have you overcome? What obstacles do you still face?

JW: That’s pretty funny. Back when I was struggling… you mean now? I would say the struggle now is as prominent as ever. The first big struggle is raising money, it took us 5 years to get a very small amount of capital to make our first feature, “11:59”. We handed out business plans to every breathing soul we knew, and everyone in the world laughed in our face. So in the meantime we made short films that ended up getting us some critical acclaim and press and helped us to secure financing for “11:59”.


------------On the set of Jamin Winan's "Spin"

FS: Your latest film, a short project entitled "Spin" (One of the more creative short films we have seen) has blown up all over the internet. It's been seen by more viewers than we can count and isn't slowing down. For those unfamiliar with it, can you tell us what it is about? How did you come up with the idea?

JW: “Spin” is an 8 minute film about a DJ who has the power to fix tragic events with his turn tables. I was at a hip hop show to see my friend Hayz II scratching records. Hayz played a part in “11:59” and we had gotten to be friends. When I was at the show, I became really interested in the emotional power a DJ has at the tip of his fingers. The idea started there and I played with it for a couple months before I came up with the script for “Spin”. I asked Hayz if he would play the lead and we were off.

--------------------

FS: What was the shooting schedule like? What was the budget, what did you shoot on, how large was your crew?

JW: I made “Spin” completely out of pocket. Generally short films don’t make any money, so it’s very hard to get investment. So we only spent a little over $500 making it. I have a couple of very good producers and a lot of very good friends with resources. Everyone donated their time for a couple of weekends and we got it done.

We shot the “film” on the new Sony HDV camera which is a high definition camera. Our crew was made up of about 7-10 people depending on the day.


FS: What we find fascinating is that you made "Spin" after your feature film, “11:59as a way to generate more support for "11:59." Did you imagine before you shot "Spin" that it would generate as much buzz as it has? It appears that "Spin" has accomplished what you wanted and then some. What is the very latest news with Spin?

JW: Yeah, we shot “Spin” as a way to generate attention for our work, primarily “11:59”. It’s taken a very long time to finish and release “11:59” so we wanted to give our fan base something to watch in the meantime. We released “Spin” on our site thinking that maybe around 10,000 to 30,000 people would watch it. Within a week of it’s release, at least a half million to a million people watched it and crashed our server. There was a point where you couldn’t get on our site because 300 other people were watching “Spin” at the same time. It was ridiculous.

Fortunately AtomFilms was more than happy to take some of the traffic and soon after we released it on Ifilm. We have no idea how many people have watched it, but we think it’s probably between 5-10 million by now. So yeah, it definitely did more for us than we ever expected.


FS: You completed your feature film, "11:59" in 2005, it premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival, won the Narrative Feature Audience Film Festival Award at the Kansas International Film Festival and will play at the Annapolis Film Festival
in November. Was this your first feature film? What is its premise?

JW: “11:59” is about a jaded young TV photojournalist who has just broken one of the year’s top stories. He’s at the top of his career when suddenly he wakes up in the middle of nowhere and has no idea how he got there. It turns out he’s been missing for the past 24 hours and now he has to piece together what happened in the lost time.

“11:59” is my official first feature. I made two other “features” as a one man crew on VHS and two VCRs when I was 17 and 19, but I don’t think I can really count those.

--------------------
---------------Click on the Poster to view the 11:59 Movie Trailer

FS: It was a 7 year journey to complete "11:59." How does it feel now that it is completed and to have it receiving positive response from the audiences who have seen it? Which is more important to you, completing the project or it receiving praise?

JW: To have the film completed is a relief, but all new pressure begins once your film is completed. The distribution struggle begins and that’s almost more exhausting than the filmmaking itself.

Receiving praise is always nice though I never expect it. I try as hard as I can to not worry about the audience and just make the film I want to see. Once that’s done, I’m always happy if it’s the film other people want to see too. If not, well at least I still got to see a good film.




FS: What is the very latest on “11:59
”? What is happening with it and what do you have planned?

JW: Currently we’re trying to get a few different distribution deals. It’s a tough sell because it’s considered a no-name “hybrid”. In other words, we have a film with no big name actors and no specific genre. Our film has elements of action, drama, and suspense, but it doesn’t fall into any one genre. Most distributors are looking for name actors and horror, action, or erotic genre films. They want something they don’t have to work hard on or spend a lot of money to market. They want to throw the film into a bloody looking box, throw a star on the front and walk away.

I don’t think the distributors are wrong in doing this. Filmmaking is a very high risk business and the only sure things are stars and genres. However, there is a huge thinking audience out there that wants to see something different and non-formulated and that’s what a lot of us independent filmmakers are trying to give them.

If we don’t get the distribution deal we want, we plan to 4-wall the film, meaning we’ll distribute the film ourselves one theater at a time starting in Denver, probably in February or March of 2006.


FS: What kinds of films do you aspire to make? Please elaborate.

JW: I love films that don’t spell things out. The problem with a lot of the current blockbusters is that they totally underestimate the intelligence of the audience. I like films that you don’t totally understand until you’ve gone home and thought about it for a while, or you have to watch more than once. So I hope to have that quality in all the films I make.



FS: What are your upcoming plans? Future projects?

JW: For the next couple of months we’re focusing on exhibiting “11:59”. We have a couple of shorts we’re planning to make, but not for a few months. Our big project is another feature that we’re currently calling “Ink”. It’s a fantasy/drama about the nature of evil. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen so stay tuned.

FS: Please leave us with your thoughts to young filmmakers who cannot get themselves out of neutral. What advice can you give, what experience do you have that you can pass on?

JW: The first advice I would give other new filmmakers is to be absolutely sure this is something you want to dedicate your life to. Filmmaking isn’t like pursuing a normal career, it’s highly competitive and if you don’t pursue it 200% then you’re wasting your time. If you like making fun little movies with your friends, keep it at that. But if you want to make a career of it, jump in with both feet and persist, because it’s not something you can be lukewarm about.

Aside from my disclaimer, my overall advice (as if I’m in the position to give it) is to be persistent, live as clean a life as you can, and never let anyone tell you what you can’t do. They’re all wrong.


468C

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