US in Progress #1
“We are in a weird place because we are making small films in the US”
by Claire La Combe
- Cineuropa sat down with Sebastian Pardo, Carson Mell, Riel Roch Decter, Logan Sandler and Mortimer Canepa at US in Progress Paris to discuss their views on US indie films and bridges with Europe
At US in Progress Paris, Cineuropa met up with the first two American teams to present their projects to European professionals. Sebastian Pardo (producer of Another Evil and MA), Carson Mell (director of Another Evil), Riel Roch Decter (producer of Another Evil and MA), Logan Sandler (director of Live Cargo) and Mortimer Canepa (producer of Live Cargo) agreed to sit down together to share their views on US indie films and bridges with Europe.
Cineuropa: You are all here in Paris to present your “US indie” film in progress. Why do we call it “independent”?
Riel Roch Decter: Because we basically financed the movie ourselves. There is no financier; there is no studio or distribution company or even a foreign sales agent involved in the film.
Where does the money spent come from?
RRD: Sebastian and I have a production company, and we had enough money to get involved in the project, and Carson believed in himself, so…
Carson Mell: So I brought money. I write for TV, so I have saved up for a couple of years. I didn’t upgrade my life so…
RRD: Instead of buying a car…
CM: Yes, it was either a BMW or a movie, so I went for the movie!
Logan Sandler: Our money comes from friends and family, families of friends…
Have you considered co-producers?
Sebastian Pardo: There are no co-productions in the US, really; there is no government money either… There are regional tax credits in the States, but they are for over the million-dollar budget, so we cannot access them. Self-financing movies is a growing part of the industry, but there are also up to $15 million movies that are “independent” because there are no studios involved, but they have international sales.
May I ask what your final budget is?
RRD: That’s a question no one really wants to answer… We would say under a million. Now you can make movies that don’t look as cheap as they are. The quality you can make for the money it costs is better than ever, so it’s kind of becoming a more viable place to make movies more risky.
Do you see any similarity between US indies and European films?
SP: We don’t have any co-production treaties with any other country in the world… We are in a weird place because we are making small movies in the US when everyone else in the world just assumes that there is money in the US because the dominant films in the world are made in Hollywood. Our office is in Hollywood, too, but we need help.
Mortimer Canepa: Yes, in the US, you are on your own.
SP: In the States, there is more of a philanthropic thing that happens: people want to give money to the arts; rich people who want to give back.
LS: In the US, the answer is: if you want to make a film, you can; you just need to kind of spend every resource you have. You know, with blood, sweat and tears.
CM: It took me a long time to figure out how I could write a movie that I could afford to make. Another Evil was shot in my family’s house, and I knew I was going to write a piece with two people. It took a lot of practice as a writer to be able to pare it down to that.
Do you mean that as an author, you already have to be budget-conscious?
CM: Yes. When I was younger, I never wrote thinking about the budget, but now I always do.
LS: Yes, it is a necessity, because you know you will be limited by your budget.
Regarding sales, do you think it is important that your film is circulated in Europe?
LS: It is definitely one of the reasons we are here because our film, Live Cargo, has a lot to do with the European sensibility. Europe is a market. By going out there for post-production with US in Progress, it made it possible for us to look for European circulation. If it weren’t for that programme, we’d be here, but I don’t know if we would be searching…
RRD: Another Evil is a comedy-horror; our main actor is famous in the US for shows, but it’s hard for us to know if those shows are popular in Europe, or if the comedy comes across to a national audience… We don’t know! For a lot of reasons, our film doesn’t have a European sensibility; the European market is a big question mark for us!
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