I kept a running list of general notes throughout the conference; Rough ideas,
discarded gum wrappers, and random tidbits all got thrown into the pile. Here's the condensed version:
Following the experience with my 2015 short film Nora I'd kinda given up on the idea of seriously leading another narrative short film. Considering the amount of money and resources I'd dumped into that short, the return on investment just wasn't there. "Boo-hoo" and "woe-is-me," but I learned quite a bit in the process and had a great time making something with good friends. But again, I spent too much of my own money. 2016 brought an opportunity to direct a 48 Hour Film Project in Oklahoma City. That short, Illustrator's Anonymous, – again alongside Producer Amanda Hyden – was a much better experience, WAY the hell cheaper, and garnered a much better reception.
All that being said, being around such incredible creatives who're out making stuff and pushing forward was the prodding I needed to not give up on story. It's about time I get my nonsense together and move towards another narrative project with my name somewhere on it.
- Connect with production companies
Surely to those in the know, this is a given. Oklahoma is a small market and production companies hiring out freelancers isn't a thriving thing here – at least in my experience. The majority of my DP, Director, and/or Production work comes directly through ad agencies, PR firms, and directly from businesses and non-profits. I get the random contact from out of state production companies for work now and then, but those are the outliers. More often than not those groups are phoning in their direction and I'm a "one-man-band" or simply running a 2-3 person crew.
Moving forward, I plan to keep the work and take the phone calls I'm already getting, but I absolutely see the value and built in infrastructure associated with production companies that are more than one or two people who got a bank loan for some gear and became a "Production Company" – i.e. Tanner Herriott Productions, LLC.
This goes without saying. I was on a shoot not long ago where the client asked me directly if I'd "worked with (insert specific thing)." I'd literally worked with (insert specific thing) for the first time the day before so I wasn't "technically" lying, but I was for sure sewing the parachute together after jumping out of the plane on that project. Looking back at it now, that was exactly what needed to have been said and the project turned out well.
Robert Legato was the opening speaker and is a VFX Supervisory wizard. He's been on major films like Jungle Book, Hugo, and Titanic. He pulled back the curtain on some of the technology used in those major motion pictures. He also talked about how "making something that's meaningful to you [being] at the heart of what we do" and "doing your thing and hoping someone likes it." In the end, "If they don't, well...that sucks." There was also the well-earned wisdom of "figuring out your 'work around' to get to the level you're wanting to reach. If something's on a high shelf, you build a ladder."
DP Laura Merians Goncalves's first of two breakout sessions focused on the creative- and career-oriented side of cinematography. Everything seemed to focus on being patient and kind to yourself throughout the process. Please keep in mind that anything that'll last is not built overnight. Looking again through my notes I highlighted "Just keep shooting" and "Rest well and keep going." There's also the point of "You've got to get out there and make connections and maintain those relationships," an important fact with which I'm constantly struggling. There's more in my notes below if you're up to check them out.
The breakout session from the Evolve Studios leadership further pushed the importance of a production company. They spoke about growing slowly and having the "infrastructure in place to further your career and get bigger opportunities." They also stressed how as a professional creative, you're in the service industry. "Protect your clients' interests and they'll keep hiring you."
Franklin Leonard of The Black List fame basically did his own thing and blew up any idea of what we expected to hear from a speaker at an event like this. You don't need me to tell you, but America is in an unusual time in its history with all that's going on politically, racially, socially, etc, and in no way was Franklin Leonard there to make us feel comfortable with what's going on. You could hear a pin drop as he spoke the truth in love to a roomful of creatives who're able to contribute to the needed change in the industry and otherwise.
"If I keep talking about how dirty [the world] is out here, someone is going to clean it up." - Tupac Shakur
Q: "As a white male filmmaker, how can I contribute to change?"
A: "Step out of the circle of people who look like you and invest in other people... Talent isn't concentrated among the people who are just like you."
Q: "Should someone from a majority race approach telling stories of minorities?"
A: "It's important to 'write what you know,' but equally as important to 'write what you research.'"
Again, seriously a solid event that I hope continues to grow and help shape this generation of filmmakers and creatives. Already looking forward to next year's conference.