Every brief that comes across a filmmaker or agency’s desk provides a choice. In that moment, you can choose to pay the bills or work on a project you love. If you’re one of the lucky ones, those two overlap. That was the case for the team at Blue Ox Films when they got a brief from The CW. It didn’t have everything planned out, and that was a beautiful thing.
Director/Writer Ricky Staub and Producer/Writer Dan Walser are the founding team behind Neighborhood Film Co., a production team who recently released their first feature film Concrete Cowboy. On the other side of the table, we have famed producers Jeff Waxman and Jen Madeloff, who besides producing Concrete Cowboy, have worked on Vice, John Wick: Chapter 3, Mother!, and dozens more.
We’ve talked many times about creative constraints and their value, but sometimes as filmmakers we don’t have the luxury of constraints. As they say, there’s nothing scarier than a blank page, and that’s just what Director Josh McGowan was faced with in his production of Cadillac’s Oscar spot.
In filmmaking, it’s really easy for a project not to make it off the ground. At the beginning of pre-production, there’s a laundry list of things that can make you stumble out of the gate, which makes the production of Park Stories’ 8 part docu-series Prodigy even more astonishing.
Amanda is the director of integrated production at Wunderman Thompson in Chicago. If you don’t know what that title means, it roughly translates to “person who does just about everything.” Our conversation about her producing philosophies is an apt reminder that if you’re in the film industry, you’re a creative. You have to be. She’s a veteran in an industry that’s always changing—and she seems comfortable riding the wave of that change way out in front.
There are a lot of action-sports films out there. A lot. Maybe that’s because in extreme sports the drama is baked in. High stakes (failure, injury, death), conflict (man vs. nature, man vs. skate park, man vs. gravity), and dynamic characters (who does this stuff anyway?). But despite all of this, these films often lack the basic element for a lasting effect: relatability. They are awe-inspiring, yes, but don’t connect. Spellbinding, sure, but hard to remember. They are — not always, but often — lightning minus the thunder.
The hardest part of making a film isn’t the grueling days, the logistical Rubik’s Cube, or the 10,000 problems that arise over the course of production. The very hardest part is getting started in the first place. How do you go from having an idea to doing something about it? And then how do you keep doing something about it? The great garbage heap of abandoned ideas is both deep and wide. We’ve all contributed to it. But at some point, if we’re ever going to make the film we want to make, then we’re going to have to actually make it.
Prospect isn’t just a good film for first-time directors. It’s a good film, period, which is a rare feat for any filmmaker, especially those who haven’t tackled a feature before. So, when we saw the immersive, haunting sci-fi film, we decided to track down its two directors, Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell, to see what they had to share about their experience. Luckily for us, it turns out there was quite a bit.