December 7, 2012

Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis ft: Robert Mann on the Revolution in Independent Film Making. {Dutch Kills}

> Participate in the Journey: Like “Dutch Kills” on Facebook.

“After serving time in prison for a heist gone wrong four best friends reunite to do one last job. But in ‘Dutch Kills,’ love, loyalty and devotion won’t get you very far…”

> Support this expression of the Independent, Community-based Revolution in Film Making: Indiegogo for “Dutch Kills.

“$1, $5, $10, any donation is a fantastic donation. We have Producer credits on a film that is already close to completion. Do you know anyone in the industry thats just starting out and needs a credit? Share Please, help ‘Dutch Kills’ gain momentum again. We need massive views and small donations! Thanks!”

The amazing thing about “Dutch Kills” is that it’s already been shot, the film is in the can, we are in the early stages of editing and need your help finishing strong through post production.

Dutch Kills: Video Teaser.

Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis:

Robert Mann on a Grassroots Revolution in Crowdfunded, Independent Film-making. {Dutch Kills}

I’ve known Robert Mann since we were boys.

His older brother, Noel, was my best friend. Robert and I have been good pals over the years—but we’ve also fallen out of touch, occasionally, sometimes for a few years at a time. We’ve been busy—me building elephant, him acting and, now, film making.

Given his perspective as an indie filmmaker, surfing the wave of technology into newfound artistic independence, I thought it’d be fascinating to learn about the creation of his new (nearly finished) film, and how he’s done it without the go-ahead of the studios, or external financing, or to this point, the support of crowdsourcing engines like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

We sat down at The Cup in Boulder, Colorado, where he was visiting his family for a week via Greenpoint, NY. ~ ed.


Waylon Lewis

So! Robert! So you’ve been writing and acting and directing, is that right?

Robert Mann

Yeah, I’ve been in the throes of independent film making for the last four years. It started a bit slow with a couple short films, and then this year, wrapped a feature based out of Queens.

Waylon Lewis

So we all have a bunch of friends who’ve created a documentary or something, funding it via Kickstarter. And that’s incredible and exciting—to see folks be able to self-fund with help from their friends via technology. As an artist, I hugely value being able to create…

art without permission

…without the permission of one or two or 10 folks with fat wallets.

But you’ve gone a step further—you’re making a feature film, a drama, not a documentary (which is comparatively cheap to produce).

And you haven’t crowdfunded any of it, and you’re nearly done with it. Can you tell us how that process has been? Sounds like a huge amount of work! Sounds intimidating! Who, and what films inspired you to achieve this?

Robert Mann

The structure we followed for “Dutch Kills” has, I’m sure, helped in keeping our budget well under $20,000.

The style of film making we’ve set out to do is based off of a “run and gun” technique. My film hero right now is Ed Burns, who is an innovator of low budget film making. Moreover, he lets the good story speak for itself.

Where some productions might factor in a budget for interesting shots, we just get creative and steal em’.  We cheat it to look like amazing production value, but we don’t pay for a fancy “crane” shot—we use an escalator (for free) and no one knows the difference (we hope)…

We use the landscape around us to make it look like a high budget film. But in reality, our overhead is almost nothing. Finding locations where you don’t have to pay $10,000 (a day) makes a huge difference in your budget.

One of the great lessons I’ve taken from Ed Burns is to…

call in all favors.

…Moreover, he lets the good story speak for itself, and seems to care far less about how fancy it is.

Story telling…the final product is important, but comes second to the journey of telling it and creating it.

Waylon Lewis

What films do you recommend we check out by Ed Burns?

Why didn’t you Kickstarter or Indiegogo to begin with? Are you planning a campaign?

Robert Mann

As far as how we financed, it took me about two years of putting a little away every week…ha.

I’ve always been pretty bad about asking for help

…so with this film in particular, I thought I’d see if we as a team could do it ourselves. We got most the way.

Ed Burns has a few great movies—I first realized how possible it was to be a film maker independent of the studio system when I first saw “The Brothers McMullen.” “Newlyweds” is one of his recents that set the tone for “low budget.”

Waylon Lewis

Nice. Low budget, yet they penetrated or connected with the mainstream.

So what’s your film about? I understand you’re not just about getting the film out, but doing it right, the process?

Robert Mann

The most important thing I’ve learned from “Dutch Kills” was about the process. Because we are trying to do something so difficult and innovative, the people involved are everything. The most important aspect to creating a world of independent film making is the people you work with. Because so much of the process is about favors, your “family” has to be really strong and supportive.

Dutch Kills is a small neighborhood in Queens, New York.  We chose this neighborhood because it’s off the beaten path. That helps our production costs, but also adds a “lonely” quality to the film. The basic story is: “after serving time in prison for a heist gone wrong, four best friends reunite to do one last job.  But in “Dutch Kills” love, loyalty and devotion won’t get you very far…

Waylon Lewis

This is your first screenplay?

Robert Mann

This is the first feature we set out to film. I’ve written a couple others that are shelved…I’ve written a number of shorts and directed a couple as well.

Waylon Lewis

So what’s the process like–you’re wearing a bunch of hats, producing, funding, writing, acting…how do you keep everyone working in harmony, overall, and keep everything moving forward?

Robert Mann

Patience…a gentle touch. So many of us are doing this for the love of story telling, and have invested days, weeks, months (years for me) of their time, all for free.

People who work for free deserve nothing but respect. It’s a family, so we bicker at times, but at the end of the day we lean on each other.

As far as “hats,” it’s tough for sure. I think with every film I make in the future I’ll wear each hat with a little more pride and confidence. Right now, my strengths and weaknesses are obvious.

Waylon Lewis

What’s different about you from other film makers?

Robert Mann

Well, I don’t know if this separates me, but I truly believe…

you don’t have to be rich to be a storyteller.

So much money goes into film making, whether that’s a studio film or independent. And that’s an industry that does very well; I’ve no intention of interfering with it.

But I also believe that making a good movie should not be reliant on piles of cash and special effects. And I don’t believe people should put all their artistic ambitions in the hands of others. I’m a huge supporter of chasing your dreams, despite the financial burdens. In my opinion, film making—or any art for that matter—should never be about the final product…the final product is what everyone will see; so obviously you want a polished gorgeous film.

But that comes second to the journey of creating it.

Waylon Lewis

[Regarding the video teaser] Folks will see the quality of what you’ve put together. Along with crowdfunding, topnotch equipment is newly accessible, affordable. So…

it’s a revolutionary time, no exaggeration, in film making

—is that right?

Robert Mann

Absolutely. I set out to begin a career in film making because of the time we live in. We no longer need anyone’s permission to be story tellers, and we can do it for relatively cheap. If you have a great story, an awesome camera, and most importantly a solid group of like minded people, a feature-length film can be made.

Waylon Lewis

So how can we help? I want to see this!

Robert Mann

Like I said before, I’ve always been humbled when needing to ask for help. But if anyone is interested, we really could use help for the tail end of post-production. There is an indiegogo link attached that shows the “teaser” and little back round from the four producers.

Waylon Lewis


it’s attractive to give to those who are independent and don’t ask for help straight out.

You’ve already practically finished the film, a real quality film. And your indiegogo campaign allows us to give in small or medium or big amounts, and to get something back–so it’s all good. I’ll be selfishly contributing–I want to support indie filmmaking, and see the movie!

Robert Mann

Suggestions to other low budget film makers: with low budget films, don’t be afraid to call in all favors. People really do want to help. I was amazed how many people showed up through out this process. And most importantly, again—it’s not about the final product.

It’s about the journey to the final product.

Waylon Lewis

What do you mean by that? I mean, everyone wants to make a great film. But you’re saying it’s more about the process?

Robert Mann

The journey of creating a world through a script, to film, to edit, to music, to packaging—every step takes someone putting in hard work. Every step is important to the film. If everyone feels good about the portion they contributed, the final product will most likely work in your favor.

But if the journey to the final product is aggressive, or rushed…we will end up paying for it somewhere. Basically, I would take a fruitful process that is uplifted and constructive with a weak final product over a rockin’ final product that was a bloody process getting there.

Waylon Lewis

Amen. And probably an ultimately sane, fun, genuine process will result in a better film, nine times out of 10.

Robert Mann

I’ve been an artistic collaborator for almost 15 years, and I think it’s safe to say at this point that being genuine and kind in sharing art is the way to be. Running a business is tough, but that’s no excuse for treating people poorly. The “Hollywood” attitude of  the dog eat dog mentality is the reason I stopped pursuing film making in the mainstream.  Not trying to bash the mainstream—

—it’s just not how I roll.

Waylon Lewis

Why’s storytelling so important to you?

Robert Mann

I was fortunate to have grown up with a community that placed a huge importance on tribal values.  Sitting around a campfire, trading stories, was a part of my upbringing. Holding respect for elders and working toward the betterment of one’s community was a simple part of life.

We live in a time where people have a three-minute attention span, can’t pull their faces away from a digital screen, and our culture has become ravenous for gadgets. As much as I wish I could spend the rest of my days trading stories over the camp fire with my elders and sangha [community], I have to relate to the time in which I live.

I feel the medium of “low budget” film making is as close as I can get to fulfilling that passion.  The team in which I work, the viewers, the festivals, all of it is a community that grows and thrives together. Though Dutch Kills” is a grim tale, there is so much heart and basic goodness in the story…lessons, morals, all the wonderful things that campfire stories told by the elders are the focal points of my future stories.

Waylon Lewis

Awesome. Why I’m psyched to know and hopefully be a small part of supporting your path as you’ve done mine. Thanks man—can’t wait to see the entire film!

Support this expression of the Independent, Community-based Revolution in Storytelling: Indiegogo for Dutch Kills.

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