Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Interview with 'Ink' Filmmaker Jamin Winans

On this awe-inspiring inauguration day where many of us feel a new hope, I am proud to unveil this new interview with a filmmaker that I admire, an artist who is passionate about his craft, and one who raises the bar for all of us in the world of independent cinema.

Jamin Winans has just completed his second feature film, Ink, a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Action Thriller about the people who come out at night and give us dreams and nightmares. It is the allegorical story of good and evil and those trapped in between. No matter how safe you feel, evil may find you. But no matter how far you've fallen, redemption is possible. (To really understand what this all means, the Must See Movie Trailer is Below)

Ink
premieres January 23rd, 29th, and 30th at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. It is one of a handful of films in competition. For screening information, please click here, Ink Showtimes

Filmmaker Jamin Winans on the set of Ink

Tell us one thing about yourself that no one really knows?

I really wanted to be a ventriloquist for most of my childhood, but I found filmmaking was a lot more versatile. No joke, I collected 5 or 6 very sophisticated ventriloquist dolls and got pretty good at it. Retired around 10 or 11 years old…okay, it was last week.

Are there any books you consider invaluable to your process as a writer and director?

Reading books and interviews of other filmmakers in general has been really helpful psychologically. They remind you that everyone struggles and that you’re not alone. My all time favorite is of course Rebel Without A Crew by Robert Rodriguez. It’s just a reminder that anything’s possible.

What area of filmmaking do you feel filmmakers often overlook? Something that comes back to bite you in the ass if you aren't careful?

From a technical standpoint, sound is often overlooked, but yet extremely important. I would argue that good sound is almost more important than a good picture. For some reason we’re a lot more annoyed when something isn’t audibly clear or strong. Yet new filmmakers almost always underestimate this.

But from a thematic standpoint, story is really overlooked. A film can be phenomenal from a technical standpoint, but if the story just isn’t strong, it’s all for nothing.

There is the creative side of film and there is the business side of film. From developing the idea, to final cut of the film, to getting people to be interested in your project and having them pay to see it, which has been the toughest phase for you?

Sadly, it’s all very hard. I think production itself is probably the hardest on me because of the ticking clock and overwhelming pressure. There’s a constant sense that any one mistake will ruin your film, which is sometimes true. Once the film is in the can, it’s definitely easier to relax, but I can’t say I never feel a real sense of contentment.

Often times in the independent movie world, we see a filmmaker make his first feature film, then we never hear from him again. What is your reaction to that?

More power to them. Filmmaking is a horrible endevour with varying degrees of pain and humiliation. The glamorous perception of filmmaking is nothing like reality, especially indie filmmaking. It requires unreal perseverance and huge sacrifices. I think a lot of filmmakers just realize they would rather actually live life than go through that process again. If I didn’t feel so compelled to keep going no matter what the cost, I would easily walk away and do something else.

Congratulations on completing your second feature film. What were some of the lessons you learned in making your first feature film that you carried over into the making of your second feature?

Thanks! I’m sure there were a lot of bits of wisdom I took from the 11:59 (my first feature) filmmaking process, but the most I learned was in the distribution process. Going through distribution, you realize how shady the industry really is. There’s countless bloodsuckers out there just waiting to take advantage of new filmmakers who are desperate for distribution. There are producer reps who will take advantage of you and there are distributors who will never pay you. I’ve found that shady distributors are almost the norm. Filmmakers have to talk to each other and check references on anyone they deal with. That’s the only way to avoid being screwed no matter how big and successful the film.

The-Storytellers - Eme-Ikwuakor, Jeremy Make, Jennifer Batter, and Shelby Malone

Taking a moment to reflect on both of your professional features, which of the two was harder to make, the first or the second? Why?

Ink, the second film, was definitely the hardest. We shot 11:59 in about 30-35 days, but Ink was 83 days. My feeling going in was that it would be so nice to have all that extra time to really shoot what I wanted, but it turns out Ink was so logistically complicated, it still didn’t feel like enough time. And shooting that long with such a small budget becomes a test of sheer will to just keep going. I was dying after day three and I realized I still had 3 months to go. Some of the crew started falling apart and people were getting pissed. It was hard physically, mentally, but most of all emotionally.

Was it easier to raise money for "Ink" with your proven track record of quality films and a successful feature already in the books?

It was easier. 11:59 helped a lot, and to my surprise our short, Spin helped a lot as well. We met a lot of people and made a lot of good friends on the path of those two films. A few of those people really supported us on Ink from the get go. It was still a task, but we weren’t looking for too much money, which certainly makes it easier.

How did you go about financing Ink?

We wrote a business plan and really thought through the film’s marketable attributes. We talked to our friends and contacts we had made from the other films and about half a year later, we had enough money to go.

The most important thing we did was set a date and commit to shooting the film no matter what. If we couldn’t get any money, we would shoot the film with a camera, no lighting and no crew. As it turned out, we did get a little money, and that just made the film a little easier. But committing to do it no matter was the key. When people know something is going to happen with or without their help, they’re more confident about getting involved.

Quinn Hunchar as Emma, Jessica Duffy as Liev, and Ink-travel to The Collector

With "11:59" you said it was tough on you because it didn't fit into one genre. It had a bit of everything. Looks like "Ink" is a clear cut Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller. Was this a conscious decision?

Ink is actually a hybrid of genres too, but it’s a lot more marketable than 11:59. It has a lot of action and suspense, but there’s also a deeper dramatic story at the root.

Ink was already in the works before 11:59 was out, so it didn’t really influence the decisions I made regarding story and genre. Regardless, I’m happy it is what it is because it’s already been an easier path than 11:59 on the festival and distribution route.

How long did you work on the script to Ink? What was the process like? What was the germinating seed? What was it about this story that drove you to make this film?

The story of Ink was in my head for years. It was all based on a creature I was convinced I saw in my bedroom when I was about four years old. After completing 11:59 I knew I wanted to tackle a more extravagant fantasy film, but I wanted to approach it in a grittier and more authentic manner than anything I had seen in regards to fantasy/sci-fi. I started with the memory of the creature in my bedroom and branched off into an idea of people who give us dreams and nightmares while we sleep. Thematically I was really interested in the idea of redemption and that became the core in which the story was built around.

I outlined the story heavily over the course of about a year. Ink has a very complicated structure and an unformulated build, which is always risky. So during the outlining and early drafts I focused more on structure than anything else. I probably went through six or seven drafts of the script before I really had the characters fleshed out. My wife and producer, Kiowa Winans and the lead actor, Chris Kelly, were really helpful with feedback and suggestions as I moved through the drafts.

Not only did you Write and Direct Ink, you also serve as Composer and Editor. Which of these is the most fun for you? Which is the toughest?

I would say both are the most enjoyable parts of the filmmaking process. Editing is really rewarding because you’re seeing the story and all the hard work coming together. Composing is probably the most fun because it’s something I don’t take very seriously. I never set out to be a composer and I’ve accepted I’m sort of a hack, so I haven’t ruined the process by trying to be perfect at it.

"The-Incubi" from Jamin Winan's Ink

What was the most challenging thing you had to face with this project?

The fear that I was somehow making something totally ridiculous and didn’t know it. It wasn’t until the last leg of the edit that I felt entirely confident with what we had created. We took a lot of risks and when you do that, you can bomb really hard.

What did you love most about being involved with this production?

It was a real team effort with my wife. We struggled a lot, but we struggled together which turned out to be a great thing.



You have released a kick ass HD Trailer for Ink, but what we really want to know, is the full length film better than the trailer?

I appreciate you saying so. It’s tough to compare a trailer to a film. One is an advertisement and one is a story. So the question really is, “Does the trailer represent the film accurately?” I would say it’s about 80 percent accurate. The feedback I’ve heard on the trailer is that it’s reading more horror/scary than I would like. The film does have it’s very dark elements, but it’s a dark modern fantasy, not a horror movie.

Personally, the film plays a lot stronger for me than the trailer because it’s much more complex, emotional, and rich. The trailer shows just a fraction of what the story actually is. But it will be up to the viewer to decide.

What are you hoping audiences take away from this film?

I hope they walk away thinking about the power of humility.

What are your goals for Ink?

I would love to make our investors money back and I would love for the right people to see the film. Beyond that, I’m happy with anything.

Will you share this film with your Mom?

Absolutely. There’s a lot of bad language in the film, but she forgives me for that.

What does this film have that you will not find in a big Studio release?

A story you won’t be able to predict the ending to in the first 20 minutes.

What makes this a 'must see' movie?

It’s totally unique, it’s moving, and it offers perspective on your dreams and the possibility of unseen influences in our lives. Well, that and there’s some guy with a huge nose running up an invisible staircase.

For the very latest on Jamin Winans, Ink, and Double Edge Films, please visit www.doubleedgefilms.com

You can also visit Jamin's brand new blog where he chronicles his journey www.doubleedgefilms.blogspot.com

2 comments:

MRValSalva said...

Jamin is a genius. Best drama in years!

Andrzej said...

I saw Ink, I then read up on Jamin.
I heard the score from Ink.
I saw Spin.
I saw Uncle Jack.
I read this interview and I am impressed with all Jamin did, still does and have high hopes for what I will see/hear in future.

Great job and keep it up Jamin!