month I went up to the Tower Theater and covered their Open
Mic Night film festival. This week we’re talking
to one of the winners of the festival. Amanda Stoddard took in
her short film called “Float
a music video for local band The
and walked away with the Judge’s Choice award. I got a chance
to talk with her about the making of the film, Open Mic Night,
projects she’s currently doing, and a few other questions here and
there for the winning director. All to the majestic sounds of
speeding cars going 55 off the light on South Temple during lunch.
What’s with you people?!?
Gavin: So tell us a little about yourself and how you got into filmmaking.
Amanda: I went to school at the University of Utah and went through their film school, and since graduating in 2001 I’ve just been working around town professionally. I’ve been cutting pieces for industrials and commercials and all that kind of stuff. Recently I’ve been producing my own material like The Mollies video and a friend of mine who’s been doing sports videos. Just trying to establish myself as a producer.
Gavin: How was the program at the U?
Amanda: It’s good. It’s very geared towards creating artistic film, and I think that’s where I learned my artistry and developed a love for the art of filming.
Gavin: Do you think of yourself as more independent or work with people more frequently?
Amanda: Well film is so hard to do, you can’t do it on your own. It’s expensive, you have to buy so much stuff and so much gear, you can’t even haul all the equipment yourself without breaking your back. So you have to have people that you work with and you have to have people that trust you. I have a crew of maybe ten people that I work with professionally and also artistically depending on the project, you have to have those people around.
Gavin: How did the idea for “Float My Boat” come about?
Amanda: One of the guys that’s in The Mollies is a friend of mine. We got to talking and he played the song for me and I thought it was great so let’s make a video.
Gavin: How long did it take you to set everything up and film it?
Amanda: Well, I came up with the script and the band approved it and then about two weeks later we shot it. We did one day of shooting with all the stuff in the kitchen and outside of it, and then we went out on Christmas morning and shot the stuff with the cake downtown so the streets would be empty. So it was basically a day and a half of shooting.
Gavin: Where was the kitchen stuff filmed?
Amanda: It’s my house. We just painted the kitchen and dressed it up a little bit.
Gavin: Now with the effect of the reverse tearing apart of the cake, how long did that take to do?
Amanda: Not long, it’s so easy now with Final Cut Pro and the technology, you can just throw a filter on it and you can do whatever you want. In that part of the song it just needed something different so we decided to do the reverse cake stuff.
Gavin: Cool. When you finally finished the product, did you show it to an audience before Open Mic or a private type thing? What was the reception to it before hand?
Amanda: I of course showed it to the band, and then they went and showed it to all their friends and family and everyone they knew. Then I showed it to people I knew. But the great thing about Open Mic is that you get to see your film on the big screen and then you get an honest reaction from the crowd as they watch it. So that was really the first time I watched the film with a bunch of people who didn’t see it before and who didn’t know me and weren’t friends or family. So that was the first night.
Gavin: How did you hear about Open Mic Night?
Amanda: I’d known they had been doing it for a while, and I always kind of keep track of what the Film Society is doing. And the Utah Foreign Video Center used to do something similar when I was in college, and it’s a really cool experience to see your film with a bunch of other people. So I was hoping someone else in town would do that and found out that Patrick and David and the Tower people put it together. So yeah, I had heard about it through the film community.
Gavin: What was your reaction to seeing it there and hearing the audience reaction?
Amanda: It’s hard to say. I think everybody liked it, it didn’t get as much of a reaction as I had hoped, like people didn’t laugh at some of the things I thought were funny, but I think people really enjoyed it and were really interested in talking about it afterward. It was different than some of the films I’ve done in the past that have a little more shock value, this one is just kind of sweet and friendly and gives everyone a warm-fuzzy feeling when they watch it, you know?
Gavin: How did it feel being the Judge’s Selection winner?
Amanda: It’s awesome! It was really cool. I read Jeremy Matthews reviews and I agree with his view on film and think he’s very knowledgeable on film. So to have him pick mine was really validating and a neat experience because I really respect that guy a lot.
Gavin: Speaking of which, what are some of the previous films you’ve done?
Amanda: A lot of the ones I’ve done personally have been made with friends as art projects. There’s one online called “Divine Hibiscus”, and then recently I’ve been doing these short documentaries for this guy named Chris Waddell. He’s going to be the first paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. The first one is a little bit older, I did it a few years ago. Then I worked for a production company for about a year so most of the stuff I did then was for another company. The one for Chris we just finished this fall. It’s really cool and it’s getting great reviews, it actually looks like he’s going to pull the money together to do the trip to Kilimanjaro, so we’re going to do several more of these short documentaries to cover his training and the process of getting ready to do this trip. So I’m finishing up one now that should be on his blog and online next week or maybe two weeks.
Gavin: What would you say are the top films that have had an influence on you?
Amanda: It’s so hard to say because it changes everyday. I loved “There Will Be Blood”, but there are several films that I watch over and over again but they’re not like, the most popular or artistic and they’re kinda girly. I like “Pride & Prejudice”, I really like Ang Lee and everything he’s done. And I like some of the new directors from the past ten years like Soderberg and Paul Thomas Anderson and their recent films.
Gavin: If you had to pick an influential director, who would you say is the most influential on you?
Amanda: Well there are certain films that really changed the way I look at film and I would say that some of Bergman’s films, especially “Persona”, that one really changed the way I thought about it. And a lot of the more recent ones, one was “Run Lola Run”, it kind of came out when I was trying to decide whether to be a film student, and it was the cool film about this girl with crazy hair and it really meant something to me. I don’t know, it changes all the time, but I would say “Persona” at least definitely, it was one of the first films I saw and I was totally blown away.
Gavin: Do you plan on being more of a producer or a director down the road?
Amanda: I’ve found to really have that artistic influence over what you do you need to be producing your own work. I love directing and really want to direct, but on the short-film level in order to have that influence and have the last say, you need to be producing. So I’m doing both right now.
Gavin: Any local directors you feel are at the top of their game?
Amanda: Well, we kind of have those people around who you see around town such as Trent Harris. It’s good to see them around and know that he’s always trying to produce something and always putting stuff together. Another person I see around town who has been here for years making films is Diane Andrews, she does documentaries and if you ever run into her at a coffee shop she’s always willing to talk about film.
Gavin: Any hint you want to give toward the next film or keep it hush-hush?
Amanda: Well right now I’m doing the sports stuff for Chris. I would love to do more music videos, I haven’t decided anything yet and it’s just going to be finding the right band and the right song. And then I’m going to be doing the 48 hour film festival coming up next month. Then we’ll see what happens after that.
Gavin: Any final thoughts you wanna voice?
Amanda: I think the Open Mic thing is a really good opportunity for filmmakers to see their film in a theater and anybody that’s about town should be putting their films in that competition because you just don’t get that opportunity for short films.