On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, I was granted the opportunity to sit down with Zach Weintraub, director of “Bummer Summer” after the it’s first showing at the Cinequest Film festival in San Jose, CA and here is what he had to say:
Zach: Realistically not every type of film can be made independently. In my case it (Bummer Summer) was. I went to NYU. The whole time I was in film school I had no idea of what I wanted to do when I got out. They say you are supposed to make a short film when you leave and bring it to festivals and hopefully people will want to buy the scripts you wrote, directed and produced. I said to myself, “ok…this is what I have to do, ” but it can be really scary doing an independent film for the first time.
Amadeuz: How do you handle making a movie without a budget?
Zach: Well I’m from a small town, Olympia, WA, and we really kind of failed at raising money. Luckily, the film was cheap to make. The budget was only $7,000, including all of the equipment, which I now own. I wish we had a bigger budget because it still felt like we were in film school, you know, just kids, and we really couldn’t pay anyone. People deserve to be paid. You can really only do that once.
Amadeuz: What did you shoot it on?
Zach: The Canon 5D Mark II, a digital still camera that had just came out when we started shooting the film. Its basically a still camera that has video capability. Everyone told us “no….you can do that!” but we did. The camera definitely has its limitations, but for what we did with it, it was perfect.
Amadeuz: What about lighting?
Zach: Well there was really only one scene that required a lot of lighting. Thats why the camera was so amazing because its really light sensitive and things look naturally beautiful on it. Its a great camera when you don’t have a budget or a lot of time.
Amadeuz: What was your biggest challenge?
Zach: Laziness. I mean, it was hard because we wanted to have this really rigorous rehearsal schedule, and wanted to work out everything with the actors. We did, but it was a little hard working with the actors because they were just kids our age. It took some work getting everyone together.
Amadeuz: Do you think it was easier to work with a smaller staff?
Zach: Definitely. We spent about 2 months shooting, which was good because as soon as we started things started to kind of fall apart. One girl dropped out and we had to find and re-rehearse with a new one. When it was all done, we had 4- 5 weeks, which is good for a movie that has over 100 shots. I think we had 106 shots in the movie. It was easy to work with these actors because they didn’t have any expectations, but the first rehearsals were a little scary because the actors had to warm up at first.
Amadeuz: What about editing?
Zach: One of my good friends from school edited it. I actually went out to New York and stayed on his couch for a few weeks. Sometimes its hard when you have friends edit for you, because they lag, but the fact that I was living there helped a lot. We had the first cut in a couple weeks, showed it around, and made some minor changes. There was a lot more character depth than was shown in the final cut, especially with Lila’s character. Things got cut because the improvisation was too loose at times to really be that interesting.
Amadeuz: What would you have done differently?
Zach: Well I love the way the movie looks. I shot in in 30p. My next film I will try to work a lot more with the actors and concentrate on each scene, maybe even write some stuff down in terms of dialogue (laughs). Equally beautiful, equally composed, a little more connected with the characters.
Amadeuz: What challenges did you have shooting location wise?
Zach: None really. We didn’t need any permits. We definitely got denied from certain locations, but a lot of scenes were filmed at night so the places we used were closed. I think that is the benefit of shooting in a small town…less issues. We didn’t have any real problems. We shot in a month, though it took a few months of planning. Had we had a real staff, it would have been shorter.
Amadeuz: What kind of films do you see yourself making in the future?
Zach: Very similar. I don’t know if I will ever make a movie that is commercially viable (laughing) but I have such a broad way of thinking that I don’t know. The next one I’m planning will take place in Argentina and will be similar to this one, hopefully I can get a bigger budget.