During my first semester of film school I remember going to a KCRW event in downtown L.A. called "Conversations through Music." Film director Jason Reitman (Juno, Young Adult, Men, Women & Children) and turntablist Cut Chemist were there to discuss songs that have inspired them and their creative process, as well as to promote the film "Young Adult."
After the interview I walked up to Jason Reitman and introduced myself, I told him I was a film student and asked if he had any advice. He told me to start writing all my crappy screenplays now and get them out of the way, to master my shots and cuts, and to go to as many film festivals as I can to meet people and network. He gave me very sound advice that I still use today,
Since then, I've had the privilege of going to various film festivals, whether to have a project I worked on screened or to go for networking purposes. Though it is fun to see other people's work and to get inspired by them, there is such an exciting/nerve wracking feeling inside when it comes to having your own project screened, that I wouldn't trade it for the world.
One event that I was more than excited to have a project screened at, was the Highland Park Independent Film Festival. Previously I had submitted projects back in 2012 and 2013, but unfortunately they didn't make the cut. But in 2014, I decided to give it one last try with my short film "Culture", and I'm proud to say that it got in.
Being a part of this festival mean't a great deal because I was born and raised in Northeast L.A. To have a project screened in a theater that I've been going to ever since I was a kid, is pretty mind blowing. I knew I was a step closer to reaching my goals as a filmmaker.
My short film touches on a sensitive subject, if anything it pokes fun at it while bringing awareness to the matter. The subject I'm speaking of is gentrification, which has been a hot issue over the years, especially in my neighborhood. Seeing that most of the audience watching were going to be hipsters, I was curious to see what their reaction would be.
As "Culture" screened during the festival, I remember sitting with my friends wondering,"Will the audience get it, does the story makes sense, is anyone going to get upset about the hipster jokes?" As the film progressed, the audience stayed silent, I tried to read them but I had no luck.
It wasn't until the big twist at the end, that the audience finally began to show signs of life. Did they yell or scream in protest? Nope, instead they bursted out in laughter. Whether they wanted to admit it or not, the points and jokes being made about hipsters, could be related to someone they knew or to themselves.
Afterwards, we began to exit to the lobby, we began to compliment each other's work as well as having our own personal Q&A. Basically, we geeked out, I guess that's what movie nerds do.
By the end of the 4 day festival we had an award ceremony at The York in Highland Park. It was there that I was able to meet more of the filmmakers and pick their brains. It was nice to hear how they got their start in the industry and what future projects they were working on or trying to develop.
Unfortunately my short film didn't win any awards, but honestly I didn't go there for that, I just wanted to be among other filmmakers and learn from them. Plus, I was able to make some new friends as well as make some new networking connections.
This year the call for entrees for the HPIFF are out and I am still trying to decide if I want to submit something I already made or film a new project. I guess time will tell.
- Manuel Montanez
Keep up to date with my journey into the world of Filmmaking.