Wednesday, 26 August 2015 10:29

Becoming a Filmmaker

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Jenny Dixon, Derek Manson, Jake Sampson Jenny Dixon, Derek Manson, Jake Sampson


Becoming a filmmaker by sheer force of will is what sets the dreamers and the succeeders apart from all the rest…

For the last few weeks I have been helping my dear young friend Jake Sampson with his lovely short film, ‘That’s Me, Mr Fantastic.’ 

Fresh of the boat from the UK, Jake had one thing and one thing only on his mind from the minute he arrived…his movie.

Jake worked with me in the UK on a couple of projects years ago, when he was a teenager, and has kept his passion alive over the years, writing and publishing novellas and adapting his own work into screenplays.

He tried to shoot this short before in the UK, but it never quite got off the ground for him and when he made the choice to come to LA he reworked the script for the US and arrived with a glint in his eye and a very specific vision in mind.

I love that…when someone has a vision, a passion, an idea that they just can’t get out of their mind…until it’s out in front of a camera.

I helped him set up a casting and suggested a few actors I already knew. We worked with a micro crew, to keep things simple, and used some really great locations, most of which I have used before for one thing or another…yay North Hollywood!!!

Jake is the kind of filmmaker who gets back after a long day of shooting, sits down at his laptop and cuts his footage immediately…amazing…he even had trailers ready the first day of shooting.

A musician and composer he has written his own incredible soundtrack, ADR’d all by himself, cut the sound etc. He’s just an amazing, driven and supremely talented young man who I am privileged to help in any way I can…

I read an explanation of the different kinds of filmmakers the other day, it was one of those less than inspiring things on Facebook that you think is going to be interesting but really is a rehash of something else that you have read over and over again but it did get me thinking.

There are so many ways to be a filmmaker now, to call yourself a filmmaker, when anyone asks what you do. Indie Filmmaker, Entrepreneurial Filmmaker, micro budget filmmaker, web based filmmaker….and on and on.

I usually just say I am a writer and a filmmaker, which I feel comfortable saying, and which doesn’t doesn't limit me in any way. Being an ‘independent filmmaker’ isn't really a very precise or accurate term anymore. Indie filming isn’t really ‘indie’ in the same way it was. The budgets have got silly and therefore the expectation of raising millions instead of thousands is instilled into the zeitgeist and all that money brings control and agendas and stifles the creativity and variety of what is produced. And for me it’s not about creating something that can be monetized, to use a horribly overused term. If it were then I would never being to make anything if I’m honest.

Working with no budget but with an excellent camera and the best darn actors you can find is the best position to be in I think. We are lucky enough to have a gorgeous camera and a network of wonderful LA actors to help us bring stories to life in the most creative and authentic way possible. I think from an actors perspective working with micro to zero budget films give them the freedom to really act, rather than hit their mark and not get int he way, which is what most film acting is really like.

I have a lot of friends who are actors and are producing their own work, which isn’t always fantastic because not everyone can be good at everything after all. But it does keep the work flowing, the creativity firing and the side streets full of tiny little film shoots with tiny little budgets and big big hearts.

It’s also great to get dragged into things, even in the ridiculous LA heat. It reminds you what it is you love about filming. The intense pleasure of getting something right, something shot and people energized in front of and behind the camera. It’s inspiring to watch Jake realize a vision and to grow in confidence and ability as a director and as a writer.

So what did you do on Sunday? Me I shot ‘It’s Me, Mr Fantastic’ in Hollywood and North Hollywood with great friends and new friends and we made some magic in the heat and made each other very, very happy in the process. Jake has already mostly finished the film, all 20 minutes of it….we have high hopes and he is already planning the next adventure…how ‘fantastic!’

Read 2788 times Last modified on Wednesday, 26 August 2015 15:18
Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros is a British writer, director, filmmaker and photographer living in North Hollywood. In 2012 she was involved in the unprecedented project 52 Films/52 Weeks: A Year in Filmmaking, where she and her partners, wrote, directed, produced and edited a film a week for an entire year. She currently has several independent projects in development, runs a music video production company as well as a budget conscious photography business for the hard working actor. You can reach her at samronceros@gmail.com.

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