Filmmaker Spotlight: Scott Storm

 

Writer, Director, and Animator Scott Storm shares with us his natural path to storytelling and the inspiration behind his short The Apple Tree.

When did you begin filmmaking?

Like many children of the 70’s, Star Wars had a profound effect on me and I was obsessed with it.  I started making films at the age of 11, making a stop-motion clay animated film on a subject I know nothing about; world politics.  Several other animated efforts followed before I made the leap to live-action in 1982 with a surreal little film called Dreamer.

Where did you attend film school?

I am from New Scotland, New York, which is a small town just outside of Albany, the state capital.  I attended high school in Voorheesville, New York, where I made friends with people who would shape the course of my filmmaking life.  Yvonne Perry, an actress best known for As The World Turns, was my first thespian.  She starred in all my early works when I worked in the medium of Super-8 film.  I’m afraid that dates me.  I met my best friend, animator and NYU professor Dean Kalman Lennert at a film program in Buffalo, New York in the summer of 1982.  He and I share a great love of nature and animation and he has been my closest confidant and supporter for nearly 35 years. Also just before leaving high school, I met Joe Kraemer, who has also acted for me and scored every film I have ever made. He most recently hit the big time with the score for Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation, which is currently in theaters and the #1 movie in America.  Go Joe!

I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City as a freshman. It was here that I met a young man named Bryan Singer.  I correctly predicted that out of any of the rest of us, he would hit the big time. He is the director of The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie, Superman Returns and many of the X-MEN films. It bears mentioning that he also tied for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1993 with his first feature, Public Access.  He continues to be a good friend, fan and supporter to this day.

Who has been an inspiration to you?

Other than my dear friends, my parents were always my most loyal and fierce supporters. Mom chaperoned us when we ran about the woods shooting off guns filled with blanks and making sure we didn’t injure ourselves…and Dad selflessly bank rolled my output, always telling me to never give up doing what you love.  On the professional side, I’ve had great inspiration from directors Peter Weir and Terrence Malick, both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

When I was color timing my first feature film, Burn, at Deluxe Studios, merely by chance I noticed that the person that signed in before me was none other than Peter Weir, who was color timing The Truman Show in the theater next to us.  I saw him in the courtyard having a cigarette with his DP and my producer, Anthony Miller, told me that “If you don’t talk to him, you’ll regret it the rest of your life.”  I did so and found him to be the most charming and honest man I’d ever met.  When I told him how nervous I was…he said.  "It never changes.  Never take on any project that doesn’t scare the hell out of you.“

He followed up by saying "I’d love to see your film!”

I answered..(thinking he’d give me an address to send a screener)  "I’d love that!  How can I make that happen?“

His answer:  "Get a distributor.”

Burn sadly remains undistributed to this day.

 

Tell me about the short that brought you to HollyShorts:

The Apple Tree  is an idea I’ve carried around with me for the better part of 20 years.  Since coming to Hollywood, there have been many ups and downs. As we all know, it is extremely difficult to find financing for low budget independent films…or any film for that matter. After several stumbling blocks with larger projects, I told myself “I’d better sit down and work on this so I have something so show for however many years it will take.  So I did just that. I sat down at my computer in the winter of 2010 and just began working. I completed the film exactly five years later in 2015.  I have a deep love of nature and an extreme displeasure of people to disrespect it. The Apple Tree  is my statement about that.

What sparked you to begin telling the story of the boy in The Apple Tree?

I came upon the very scene depicted in the film on a walk in the woods many years ago. It made me angry and stayed with me a long time. At a point when getting projects off the ground was proving to challenging, I decided to sit down and start work on it in the winter of 2010. Having been a lifelong lover of nature and the forests of the northeast, in general, it seemed a very natural story for me to tell.  Hopefully, it was not too preachy.  It’s more a love letter to being young and mischievous and capturing a moment in time than anything else. I’m very proud of it.

You write, direct, produce and animate, which is your favorite role and why?

I only write occasionally, as it is a process I find daunting and stressful.  If I’m close enough to the material, I’ll write it.  More often than not, I leave that to someone more qualified.  Directing is my favorite aspect when working in live action because I love to collaborate and see what others can bring to the vision I have.  You have to be open to the fact that one or more of your team members may have an idea that’s even better than your own.  You’re all in service to the movie, so that’s an important part of that process.  I animate purely for my own artistic satisfaction and I work entirely alone.  Since I have no aspirations to work professionally as an animator, it is akin to writing a book.  You are solitary and you answer to no one.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

What are you working on next?

I have several projects going on at the same time.  You never know what’s going to hit next or gain momentum, so it’s always good to stay busy.  First, there is Custodian, another animated short with a medieval theme.  I used to play in the Society for Creative Anachronism and have always harbored a deep love of the middle ages.  My creative time and I have also been prepping a modern noir thriller called Straight Razor Jazz, screenplay by David Scott Hayand produced by Anthony Miller.  It is rather ambitious and may be further down the line for that reason.  I did create an animated sizzle reel for this project which is available to view on my website, www.scottstorm.net.

On a smaller scale, we are preparing OPPO, a political thriller set in Chicago, which was written by Glenn Jeffers.  Just last month I completed an outline for a survival thriller called Rim Of The World, which I will hopefully co-write with someone at some point.

What advice do you have to your fellow filmmakers?

Be tenacious.  Watch a lot of movies.  Listen to your peers (if you respect them) and learn from them.   Don’t believe everything everyone tells you in this business.  Most of it is well-meant bullshit.  And don’t let that discourage you.  Above all, keep dreaming…keep creating.  Never stop.

Writer and Director, Louis Mansfield, and Producer Chrissy McDermott team up with Illustrator, Mike Wohlberg and Animator, Jason Melcher, to tell the story of an old man reminiscing of a life he never had until he meets a French woman who helps him bring his dreams come true in their short: Wine, Women & Cognac. Today, they are working on turning their short into a feature Old Man In France and more with their production company FFR (Federal Film Reserve).

Old Man In France is a story of a grumpy old man at odds with his retirement home pretends to have been a gentleman of international success. When a beautiful French woman moves in, he finds a new opportunity for love, adventure, and companionship.

How did you two meet?

We met on a micro-budget feature film that Louis wrote and directed, Birth Of Separation. I was working as the camera assistant on the film. After the shoot had wrapped, a group of us from the production stayed close friends and continued to work on other projects together.

After the feature, Louis wanted to start directing short films while developing a second feature film with a larger budget, at which point he asked if I’d be interested in trying my hand at producing. I was very eager to get more involved with independent productions, particularly with pre-production and development, so I jumped at the opportunity. We’ve been working together as a producing/directing team ever since.

Tell me about yourselves:

Louis: I grew up bouncing around military bases and was involved in promoting and playing music in his early to mid-twenties. He decided to focus on film when he realized that he had the resources to make a feature film with a small budget like he had always wanted.

Chrissy: I began my career in filmmaking while at Temple University when I started working as an assistant camera on a variety of productions throughout the North East. After working on my first feature in 2009, I began producing short films working with Louis. At that point, I made the switch to producing and have loved the chaotic challenges of running a film production. Currently we’re developing two features, one live action film, Old Man In France, and one animated film, The Death Of The Boogeyman.

What made you want to get into animation?

Chrissy: Louis wrote a feature film script, Old Man in France, and we thought that since the beginning of a script should really pull the reader into the story, we would animate the first ten pages into a short film to communicate the wit and charm of Old Man in France. With the help of Jason Melcher’s animation and Mike Wohlberg’s illustration, we were able to bring the beginning of Old Man in France alive in our short film, Wine, Women, & Cognac. The short has been a great tool when presenting the film to potential financiers and production companies. We’ve received some really positive feedback about the style and the endearing nature of the story.

What was the short that brought you to HollyShorts?

Chrissy: We were first brought to HollyShorts with our short film, Whom God Helps, which is an unconventional supernatural/horror film with lots of practical make-up FX. The film screened in a cinematography block and was a great experience. The thing that really got us excited beyond the screenings, however, were the panel discussions. We literally were being informed of the ways digital distribution platforms would be changing the film industry several years before it happened. Thinking back, every panel we went to we were given valuable insight and advice. The one piece of information that stuck with us the most was that film financing is not an exact science and that we need to approach funding from several different avenues. This was one of the reasons we decided to make a short for feature film in the first place and it has been a key element of our film’s pitch package.

What made you want to tell the story of the old man?

Louis: I wrote Old Man in France in a time where a lot of things seemed uncertain. I didn’t know if I’d be able to make feature film with a respectable budget, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to live in another country, and I wasn’t sure if filmmaking didn’t work out that I’d live a happy life. There are clearly more serious issues to have but when you’re working years towards a goal that seems to become further and further away some introspection is almost mandatory.

I thought about all of those things quite a bit until one day I imagined an old man who regretted never accomplishing the things he had wanted to do. An old man who instead of pursuing at least some of the things later in life just bitterly shut himself off from the outside world and lived in a fantasy where he had traveled to far off lands living an overindulgent lifestyle. I’m fairly modest so that aspect was a fun embellishment. I also thought of the people that he would interact with many of them not liking him very much as he is quite grumpy. He would have only one friend who happened to be a young British man who worked at the retirement home and had traveled all over Europe.

After creating these ideas the only other thought was to turn this old man’s life upside down with a new resident in the retirement home who happened to be a lovely elderly French woman who lived the life the old man had always desired. After representing himself as a man of international success his two worlds of wonderful fantasy and disappointing reality collide.

The biggest and best thing Chrissy has ever done for me is encourage the writing of Old Man in France. I think she recognized that it was not only a project to work on together but was also a cathartic light at the end of a tunnel in an uncertain time. All in all, I think what made me want to tell a story about an old man is that I wanted to give myself hope that while I may not experience life in my ideal way that with love and friendship happiness isn’t very far away.

What is next for you two?

We’ve been developing the feature for about two and a half years now and are currently seeking funding and talent. About a year ago we partnered with a young, ambitious independent production company based in LA, Buffalo 8, whom we’ve been working with to package the film. Buffalo 8’s key role is to connect us with potential financiers, sales companies, and talent agents. Currently, we have Evan Jonigkeit (X-Men: Days of Futures Past) and George Newton (Paddington) attached and we’re speaking with a few sales and production companies.

We’re also in the early stage development for another feature, Death Of The Boogeyman, which is an animated children’s horror film comparable to ParaNorman and the children’s television series, Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends.

Death Of The Boogeyman is a story of an adventurous little boy, his naive big sister, and precarious best friend who are on the run from a ferocious boogeyman after an innocent prank goes horribly wrong.

Our production company, The FFR, also completed production on our most recent short film, a live action and animated comedy called The Proper Etiquette For Being Alone. For the film, we handcrafted eight large, wearable bobble heads during the three months of pre-production and shot the film over the course of four days. The bobble heads worn by actors and shot with only tracking markers on the faces which will have animated facial features added in post production. We started post in April and plan for another festival run for this short in 2016.

What is your advice on collaborating together?

When collaborating don’t forget to have fun and laugh together. Laugh as much as possible and I mean big loud laughs that would make people in a movie theater annoyed. Care and love what you’re doing and be the person the other can lean on in times of need. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that a lot and that’s when things can become stressful.

When working on any team, make your goal to be a utilitarian, invaluable team member. Not only will that help you get the best, most fulfilling experience from any collaboration or production but you’ll likely in turn have that support when you need it. While we believe having a protocol and a structured way of making movies together is essential, the biggest and best thing we can do for our fellow filmmakers is encourage them.

Any advice to your fellow filmmakers?

We’ve noticed that getting our assets together like budget, proposal, script, breakdown, schedule, etc. has definitely helped communicate our film in financial and creative ways. With all of our package materials well prepared, we were able to partner with a production company which has granted us access to resources me might not have had on our own. We’ve be fortunate to have worked with Buffalo 8 Productions and as a result, have had our film put in front of potential financiers, production and sales companies, and agents.

Making our short film, Wine, Women, & Cognac, as a visual representation of our feature film has enticed potential investors and gained a good amount of positive attention for our project as well. We haven’t found our perfect financing match yet, but it’s been great to receive positive feedback on our short and the business proposal. We’ve also learned the value of having video content to supplement our film package, specifically a short or trailer for feature. Wine, Women, & Cognac is a short that’s an adaption of the first ten pages of the feature script which was created by animating the storyboard illustrated panels.


HollyShorts Monthly Screening Series Thu. June 25, 2015 7:00 PMHollyShorts Film Festival HollyShorts Monthly Screening series is an annual monthly film showcase highlighting various films from all genres. Now 10 years running and 8-9 screenings a year around the HollyShorts Film Festival in August. In Los Angeles, the screenings will take place at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres.  6801 Hollywood Blvd 7:00PM Short Film Program:   Family On Board Prima Vera Blake Chandler Psychic Investigator Radio Gamers Count To A Hundred TIEBREAKER Zack & Luc Wheelz Rules of Reduction HollyShorts Monthly Screening series is an annual monthly film showcase highlighting various films from all genres. Now 10 years running and 8-9 screenings a year around the HollyShorts Film Festival in August. In Los Angeles, the screenings will take place at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres.  6801 Hollywood Blvd 9:30pm Feature film presentation: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEB Synopsis:  After a girls’ night out, endearingly awkward Deb wakes up in the apartment of the most attractive guy in Portland, Maine.  She’s thrilled, but she can’t remember much of what got her there.  Pretty boy Ryan only knows it was a mistake and ushers her out the door… into a full-scale zombie apocalypse. Now, a walk of shame becomes a fight for survival as the mismatched pair discovers that the only thing scarier than trusting someone with your life… is trusting them with your heart.

HollyShorts Monthly Screening Series

Thu. June 25, 2015 7:00 PMHollyShorts Film Festival

HollyShorts Monthly Screening series is an annual monthly film showcase highlighting various films from all genres. Now 10 years running and 8-9 screenings a year around the HollyShorts Film Festival in August. In Los Angeles, the screenings will take place at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres.  6801 Hollywood Blvd 7:00PM Short Film Program:   Family On Board Prima Vera Blake Chandler Psychic Investigator Radio Gamers Count To A Hundred
TIEBREAKER
Zack & Luc
Wheelz
Rules of Reduction

HollyShorts Monthly Screening series is an annual monthly film showcase highlighting various films from all genres. Now 10 years running and 8-9 screenings a year around the HollyShorts Film Festival in August. In Los Angeles, the screenings will take place at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres.  6801 Hollywood Blvd

9:30pm Feature film presentation:

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEB

Synopsis:  After a girls’ night out, endearingly awkward Deb wakes up in the apartment of the most attractive guy in Portland, Maine.  She’s thrilled, but she can’t remember much of what got her there.  Pretty boy Ryan only knows it was a mistake and ushers her out the door… into a full-scale zombie apocalypse. Now, a walk of shame becomes a fight for survival as the mismatched pair discovers that the only thing scarier than trusting someone with your life… is trusting them with your heart.

$15,000 Cash Prize Confirmed for HollyShorts Film Festival’s 2015 Overall Winner Courtesy of @ZYPE



Festival Deadline is this Friday, June 5th  


Hollywood, California, June 2nd 2015 - This Friday, June 5th 2015 will mark the final deadline for any submissions for the upcoming 11th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival and the organizers are announcing today the Grand Prize for this year’s overall winner will be a $15,000 cash prize courtesy of HollyShorts sponsor, Zype.


Zype is a cloud platform for video publishing and distribution. Zype makes it easy for anyone to build and make money from their own branded streaming destinations. Zype most recently won the SXSW 2015 Accelerator competition for Entertainment and Content Technologies.

HollyShorts Film Festival is an annual short film festival showcasing the best and brightest short films from around the globe. HollyShorts is devoted to the advancement of filmmakers through screenings, Q&A sessions and networking events. The HollyShorts Film festival showcases the top short films produced 40 minutes or less. Categories include Short Animation, Short Live Action, Short Documentary, Music Video, Webisode, Commercials, Trailers, 3D Shorts, Youth Film and Digital Microbudget.


This year’s HollyShorts Film Festival takes place at the TCL Chinese Theatres in the Heart of Hollywood from August 13th to August 22nd. A representative from Zype will be onsite at the Festival’s Awards program on August 20th to present the award and the $15,000 cash prize.


All submissions for this final deadline need to be postmarked or electronically submitted no later than11:59pm Pacific Standard time on Friday, June 5th 2015. For details, visit www.Hollyshorts.com/submissions for submission requirements.