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An Interview with Anthony Sabanskis, Director of Independent Dreams

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2018

Anthony Sabanskis on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Independent Dreams - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Other than directly quoting our pitch Iíd say, itís an independent documentary, made by an independent film-maker, and itís about two people making their own independent productions; all about the indie.

Itís light-hearted, mostly, but, it also portrays what it can be like in film-making with no real money - without seeming cruel, Iíd also add, itís a film about what itís like in independent filmmaking if youíre not properly prepared.

 

How did the project come into being in the first place, and who came up with the idea to have this journey chronicled?

 

Iíd just done a short film where David Christopher-Turner [David Christopher-Turner interview - click here] had played a lead role, so I knew he was planning something that would be classed as a big project, so I asked him to keep me updated if he wanted a lift with it etc. So, one day he phoned me and asked if I wanted to do a behind-the-scenes type doc. After Iíd had a think, I got back to him saying I didnít want to do just a behind-the scenes doc to put on as an extra on the DVD, or as promotion to his film, if I was to do a doc it would have to be its own film. I sort of had the idea it would probably be fun to watch it getting made, and watching people running around like headless chickens can be fun at times, canít it? Or is that just me? J

Alex De Luca [Alex De Luca interview - click here] was involved with Daveís project so was automatically factored in. Although, Alex had his own project (Storm Warrior) and like a true salesman I couldnít get him to stop dropping that fact in, so the doc started to evolve into a 2 man show, with separate productions that they were both involved in. At first I was concerned it was going to be confusing, but I have a good grasp of how to edit a narrative, so started to feel better as things progressed.

 

Let's talk about the two projects Independent Dreams is based on for a bit, Dream Finder and Storm Warrior - what are they about, and what are the key challenges bringing them to the screen?

 

Dream Finder is a fantasy epic adopted from a book written in the late 80ís, so, talking animals, big sword fights, wizards, all the expected from the time it was written and the genre. Storm Warrior was a viking TV series, which changed to 5 series, which changed into a film, which changed into 3 films.

 

David Christopher-Turner

Alex De Luca

I figure when you started making Independent Dreams you expected the outcome of your projects to be quite different - so how has the documentary evolved over time?

 

I did have a plan from the start, straight after the first interview with Dave [David Christopher-Turner interview - click here] where he mentioned how he was a fan of Quentin Tarantino. So, I thought the best way to approach it would be in a similar format to a film heíd done, with acts and playing with the sound track etc. but working in a chronological order; that way I could separate big chunks of the film but still allow it to flow. 

Although, after a few high expectations on what budget they could secure, and the reality, which was working with their savings and own money, I must admit I was expecting them to give up, or to at least admit defeat at some point, which they didnít; whether that was the right move or not is still to be decided. As for me, if I know Iíve tried to pull something off I didnít think Iíd be able to finish, I would move on and take on another project Ė not waste too much time, or other time. Though, that will probably come with experience - not that Iíve had a vast amount of experience, but Iíve had enough to know what is possible or not on the resources I can get.

 

As far as the interviews and following days, getting Dave and his family to open up was relatively easy; heís an actor so I suppose it comes natural. We did agree at the start that honesty was the only policy, and he kept to his word. He was going through possibly more financial difficulty than was portrayed, but I decided not to delve too much into that, as it was more personal than the film needed to be. I suppose I could tell he was holding back some anger and frustration at times, but he did let go ever so often.

Daveís wife (Sam), was reluctant to interview at first. But she eventually agreed, and I followed her while working her second job Ė which was also an element of the film, as Dave was struggling for work at that point. After the initial couple of questions and getting used to me following her with the camera, she vented with a fury. She just let go really, everything came out about how she was feeling with what Dave was trying to do, and his overall goal Ė and if it was achievable; and with only 2 minutes left on my card, she broke down a little and cried - it was great footage. I know that sounds mean, but as a filmmaker it was great because it really absorbs you into their world Ė things arenít always perfect and this showed it. I had agreed with Dave to show him all footage in large unedited chunks, but I held Samís footage back until she was okay with Dave seeing it. This section of the film brings mixed opinions. I spoke to a few people that have watched it and said ďOh that poor woman, how does she copeĒ and then Iíve spoken to others, mainly actors, which have said ďShe should be more supportiveĒ. Myself, Iím in the middle Ė itís easier there.

Alex [Alex De Luca interview - click here], was a different egg altogether, and was harder to crack. He did live quite a distance away from me so it was harder to get a bigger picture than I did. Heís still quite an enigma now, I still donít know much about his past-life and I think he prefers it that way. Heís like a mystery man. He might be a serial killer? He did threaten to stab me on more than one occasion Ė in jest, most times!

 

Any filmmaking stories that didn't make it into the final cut of Independent Dreams?

 

From what I witnessed, there seemed to be quite a lot of people attached to the guys' projects, in my opinion, I didnít really see them being pro-active enough with production meetings, and overall planning, it was almost like a lot of people were playing the Hollywood game but didnít want to do the Hollywood work first. So, I was trying to sew that in as I did stir the pot, but, I didnít in the end as I had a feeling it would have upset some of the film community that Dave [David Christopher-Turner interview - click here] and Alex were working with Ė and after all, my expectations from people Iím working with would be different.

 

What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

When doing a doc like this you have no idea where itís going, itís more difficult to control than a planned doc. So you do rely on thinking on-the-spot, and expect changes and your original thoughts to waver at times. When I interview I ask a lot of personal questions to try and get them to open up, I try to pick up points I think are relevant to what I want, without leading them. I also try to find something completely off topic to talk about, and maybe cut the answers differently in the edit. No, I donít do that really.

Another one, and a big one, I didnít get involved too much when things went pear-shaped. There were times I could have helped significantly. Thereís a scene where the cameraman/DOP that the guys had got on last minute was confused as to why his screen had gone blue when the location was full of lovely fluffy-white snow, I so wanted to just shout ďSort your white balance out ya foolĒ - I did feel a bit bad that I didnít, but as agreed at the start I was there to document and observe, so thatís what I did and I didnít involve myself with their side of the filming; which, when youíre the type of person that canít help but share your glorious knowledge, and masses of experience, at any given opportunity, is very hard.

 

With all the experience you've gathered during the course of making Independent Dreams, what's be some solid pieces of advice to give aspiring indie filmmakers?

 

Hmmm - difficult question. I did my degree on screenwriting and production and it helped a lot. I did have some good industry experience in music and music videos previously, but at university it was different. It helps you experiment without anybody judging too much, and helps you spread your creative legs, gives you time; but when you get out into the big-bad real-world you donít have the excuse youíre a student filmmaker, expectations are either ďheís just messing aboutĒ type attitude, or ďthis had better be good if heís spending this much time on itĒ type attitude. Fact is, I never stop being a student of film, and you have to really live film to make them Ė just as I had previously with music. You have to watch films, dissect them, where are the points/scenes that are interesting or hold the story, the beats! I have watched 100ís of documentaries, and for a good amount I literally have break-down sheets I made to give me an idea of the structure, and how they got emotion through etc. Thatís quite important, be analytical of others and you will be of yourself ..., well hopefully.

 

When youíve finished a feature length film there is a sense of satisfaction, but you always know how it could have been better, or what you could have done more. So, theyíre never really finished, just abandoned. My overall tip would be, experiment with shorts before you try something too big to handle, and watch films, for Godís sake watch lots of films, preferably in the genre youíre thinking of making your own in. Itís a must. 

Also, donít get bogged down with camera quality and stuff like that. Yes itís important you try and make it the best quality you can, but Iíve seen films that have been shot very badly, or poor quality, but because of the nature of the film it works. I often heard people talking about 4k, ďshoot everything on 4kĒ. For me, whatís the point at the minute? If youíre doing a low-budget film, whatís the chance of it getting broadcast, aired or played at the cinema in 4k? - Low, very low. Itís hard to deal with the footage size and processor requirements, itís just a ball-ache, and as far as I know the only cinemaís that show 4k are specific, like the IMAX, and online platforms like Netflix etc. Iím not being funny but youíd need a quick internet connection, mine still drops res on HD. I just donít think weíre there yet. The argument always comes back with Ďfuture-readyí, but I watch films from all periods and never really expect the quality to be any better than it was then. So, the whole 4k darkle seems a bit pointless for me, for now.

 

Another tip would be: donít try to do everything on your own, but also donít rely on others. If youíre lucky you can connect with someone who has a similar vision, passion and drive, and then take it from there. If you donít need a big crew, donít get one. If you donít really need a massive amount of kit, donít get one. I see a lot of indie filmmakers trying to arrange massive crews and exotic locations then blow their wad on one shoot. If you have no money and little chance of getting any, work with what you have. If your cheap films are good youíll start to build a reputation, then try for funding.

Also, leave your ego at the door; no one needs it at the indie level Ė save it for when youíre Hollywood level. Then you can have people killed for not bringing you hot coffee or your favorite selection of cheese on set. True story, but Iíll leave that for another time.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Independent Dreams?

 

Up to now itís had a good reception. It doesnít try to oversell itself and is an honest little film. Very low budget, obviously, but does what it says on the tin. 

Weíve had some reviews where they have said the film is a brilliant mockumentary, thinking that itís a construct, but it wasnít. Yes, the editing was done with film-grammar in mind, but what isnít. It is nice though, to think: wow, they think itís a mockumentary/comedy. Thatís nice when you aim for something to be fun and it works better than you expect.

 

Let's return to Dream Finder and Storm Warrior for a bit - are those still in the making/how far along have they gotten since the documentary has been shot?

 

Nowhere, donít let them tell you any different J 

They have started new projects which are at the beginning stages. Again, I think one of the guys (not saying which one) might be trying something a little too much to take on and make, properly, but, I might be wrong. Would probably make a good documentary to find out J

 

Any other future projects you'd like to share?

 

Iím just in the last stages of post-production on a comedy web-series pilot, about a British conservative podcaster (think a British version of Alex Jones). Thatís going to a US distributor I have a couple of short films distributed through, probably by the end of the month.

 

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Iím also currently in principal photography of on my next documentary/mockumentary feature, titled Randolph Tempest: A Documentary (Iím not great with titles). Itís the story of a once great, but overlooked, actor, and his journey chasing his 2nd chance at the big time. Thatís probably going to get wrapped near the end of 2018. But, itís going to be good. Iím working with a comedy-character actor that I have worked with previously on a short; which we actually won a couple of short film awards for. So itís going to be relatively painless making it. So look out for that.

 

Iíve started another couple of projects but it doesnít look like theyíre going to get to the finish line at the moment, so theyíve been hard-shelved. My eggs are in the feature basket at the minute and I like them there. Iíve done my time with shorts, webseries, trans-media projects, and I want to make films that have a proper outlet, which unfortunately shorts and the like donít. There are a few online V.O.D. places, but generally thatís more a film community market. Although like I say, shorts are great for experimenting with Ė a prime example of what I mean would be a short comedy film I made about a guy with a talking penis, itís a fun little film which was quite sexist, but also fun. Love to do more one day, but I have the bug for features for now.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

@BrianRockMan Ė parody/comedy - webseries updates.

@CustardRoom Ė Randolph Tempest - film updates.

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Iíve waffled on for far too long, but, I would just like to add: If people would please watch and leave a rating or review on the film; thatíd be much appreciated, support is something independent filmmakers rely on. Thanks.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thank you for your time and for supporting us.

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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