Every month, we interview filmmakers who are part of the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles screenings held at Sunset Gower Studios. This month, we've taken time to do a Q&A with Christopher Tillman, Writer/Producer of the film, The Distance Between. Get to know Tillman as we ask about his latest film, future projects, goals and lessons learned.
Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it.
The Distance Between is a love story about two people not quite sure how to get out of their own way in order to make a connection. It's very idealized and romantic and the director Emily Ting understood that well and did a great job of capturing my intentions in the script. The short stars Amber Stevens & Andrew J West who could not have done a better job.
We started working on this project around August of 2011 and had a finished product around May of this year. However, I had written the script mid 2010. I tried on several occasions to get the project going, but it wasn't till Emily Ting came on board that it was able to happen.
Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping out with this film?
We raised the funds to produce this short on Kickstarter, so we would like to thank everyone who supported us there. Also Dave Ting and Helen Jen who let us film in their apartment. I still don't think they understood what they agreed to.
How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?
I'm thrilled. The last short I did we had to go through the entire festival run before we had an LA screening. With this short we are starting in LA with NewFilmmakers. It's fun to travel to other festivals but I think every filmmaker wants a big LA premiere like NewFilmmakers.
What inspires you?
I think I'm more inspired by movies I don't like then by ones I do. If I like a movie and I want to do something similar to it I find all my ideas are just carbon copies of the thing I liked, nothing original. But if I don't like something I try to find the idea in it that was good and see where I think they went wrong and then say "What would I have done." or "What if it went this way instead." I find most of my ideas come from that.
Who are your influences and who do you admire?
As a writer I'm heavenly influenced by Aaron Sorkin. The first thing I ever wrote was in college after staying up late and watching reruns of Sports Night. I love the flow of his dialogue, I wanted to try and recreate that so I wrote a one act play in his style. Everything I've written since then is an attempt to hide the Sorkin influence.
What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?
Don't wait for things to happen, make things happen. The trick of the industry is to make it look like you're not working hard, but the truth is, rewards go to the proactive. My first short got me a part in an independent feature, that feature got me the contacts to make my second short. Work breeds work, and if work isn't coming your way, you make your own work.
If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
I'm a big fan of Edgar Wright as a director. Loved Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim. I'd like to work with him because he's such a visually distinctive director I'd like to see him visualize something I had written.
What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?
Getting over myself. I graduate with a BA in theatre and after putting in four years in college I felt like I didn't need to put any work into my career, I thought things would just come to me. I wasted a lot of time waiting for something to come to me. It took being dropped by my agent and having no prospects before I decided to do something for myself and write and produce my first short film.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
Make it shorter. The first short I wrote came in at 17 pages and I thought it was the shortest and tightest I could get it. When I met the man who would be the director of the short he said to me, "I like it, but it's got to be shorter." I didn't think that was possible but through a series of meetings we got the shooting script down to 14 pages and even then we lost a scene in editing to get it down to under 13 minutes.
This advice is obviously intended for short films, but I think it applies to every movie. Know the story you want to tell and focus on that, don't wander. The point is; get in, tell the story and get out. I recently showed my latest short to a friend and when it ended she said, "That's it? I want more." and I thought to my self, better wanting more than asking "Is it over yet?"
What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?
A lot of our profession in based on luck, however as my high school basketball coach would say, "Luck is when opportunity meets preparation." You may not be able to do anything about opportunity coming your way, but you can make sure you are prepared when it does. As a matter of fact if you are sitting around waiting for it, you may have missed your opportunity because you were not prepared for it. Have a pitch ready, have a script on hand, have a DVD of your latest film/reel in your bag.
I was at a festival where my short film was playing and got to meet some great people. I invited them to the screening of my movie, but they already had plans to see something else. I almost let the opportunity drop because I had already done everything I could by inviting them, but then I remembered I had DVDs in my car. I ran out to my car and grabbed all I had to make sure I could put it into people's hands. If they didn't watch my movie after that it wasn't because I didn't do everything I could to show it.
Where can we expect to see you next?
I'm prepping an action short with director Rajeev Dassani called Early Retirement. You can follow the progress at Facebook.com/earlyretirementfilm
Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Bacon. I always add bacon.
For more information, visit: http://www.newfilmmakersla.com/
About the Author
Formerly an editor at Demand Media, writer at Citysearch, The Examiner, LA Youth Newspaper and proofreader at The Los Angeles Daily News, Christy Buena decided to start Disarray Magazine because she missed writing what she wanted. From hiring writers, to contacting publicists and making assignments, Christy is responsible for the editorial strategy of Disarray Magazine. Get to know the team of talented contributors.
Questions, comments or suggestions?