Hunter Weeks is an up and coming indie filmmaker whose first film, 10 MPH, chronicled Hunter and a friend attempting to travel from Seattle to Boston on a Segway. You can check out the official site for that movie here. It's expected to be released on DVD in late May and I'd urge you to give it a look.
Hunter's new project is wildly divergent but just as interesting. He's tackling the crazy world of fantasy football and the men and women who play it. After his first movie I knew we had to talk about this project, partly because I admire his work and more selfishly because I'm a fantasy football addict. After meeting Hunter I can say with certainty that this guy is going to be a hit. Eventually someone will steal him from the indie film world, but I say we enjoy him while we've got him. Here's the scoop on his current project, 10 Yards (official website here), which chronicles the ins, outs, relationships, and insanity of fantasy football.
What's the biggest obstacle in making 10 Yards?
Turning an online game and phenomenon into a cinematic experience. We obviously don't want to have 90 minutes of people sitting around looking at computers and watching football. To conquer this, we decided to get very aggressive with our travel schedule, uncover some unique stories, and peek into the real worlds of the subjects we are following.
What do you think the state of independent film is in general?
Indie film is huge, primarily because of the digital age. It's quite remarkable to think that people like myself can shoot hundreds of hours of DV (10 MPH) or HDV (10 Yards) and then grab a Mac to make a feature-length movie with Final Cut Pro. Besides filmmaking tools being available at an affordable price, the Internet allows indie filmmakers easy access to information on how to make a film and offers countless online sites that aid you in producing, presenting, and distributing your material (like you guys at Film.com).
Is the big studio system flawed?
The studio system is having to adapt to the changing market. There are always going to be the blockbusters, and more often than not, it'll be a big studio behind the film. Many of the big studios have opened up subsidiary studios that are positioned to compete more in the indie market (i.e., Fox Searchlight, Picturehouse, and Sony Pictures Classics). There is no doubt that independent film has every executive in the big studios thinking about ways to leverage the independent boom. A film like 10 Yards and 10 MPH could be picked up for 'pennies' from a big studio and become highly successful (and therefore profitable) if marketed correctly. This is why you see many independent films vying for the opportunity to screen at big film festivals, like Sundance and SXSW, which all the big studios are tapped into and looking for the hidden gems.
What's it like always traveling?
I love traveling, but it does take its toll after a while. I was on the road for 10 Yards for the entire 2006 NFL season, with about 10 days at my home in Denver (where I was still working). We shot footage in Miami, New York, Minnesota, Birmingham, San Diego, Seattle, Oakland, New Orleans, Puerto Penasco (Mexico), and several other places.
What did you learn during the process of 10 MPH?
Tons. I don't know where to begin. Jumping in and doing something will teach you everything you need to know. Besides all the creative stuff, like operating cameras, editing, shot selection, and working with natural light (for documentaries), I learned a lot about the business of filmmaking. Knowing the way things work is essential. For example, with 10 MPH, we waited until the film was a "final" cut before we started looking for distribution. Honestly, that was too late. We almost gave up on making sure the film was what it needed to be. We ended up making a few more "final" cuts and finally had a product that distributors were interested in and that could win awards at film festivals. Also, we learned ways to appeal to sponsors more and how to develop relationships with companies that will be potentially very valuable when it comes time for distribution. This is what gives us an edge in the indie filmmaking market. We've got Crocs, Rock Bottom Breweries, Old Chicago, CBS SportsLine, and Chipotle all ready to promote 10 Yards when it is released.
Any updates with 10 MPH in terms of distribution?
We have finalized a nationwide DVD deal and are pretty confident we’ll have a cable deal to announce in the next few weeks. 10 MPH currently has a street date of May 29.
Do you want to get 10 Yards into the film festival circuit at some point?
I had a lot of fun at festivals, and I think it's a great way to initiate interest in a film and reward yourself for countless hours, days, weeks, and months of work. Being at festivals is invigorating. So, I'd love to do the festival circuit with 10 Yards. But, fantasy football is such a hot topic that I could see 10 Yards getting a quick distribution opportunity and not playing at too many festivals. Ideally, I dream of kicking it off at Toronto in the fall, which coincides with the start of football season, and having a great year of promoting it at festivals until it releases.
Talk about some of the things being on a shoestring budget means.
I've heard you have to beg, borrow, and steal to make an indie film. It's true. I've done all those. It's expensive making films, especially when you try to travel a lot. Thankfully, technological advances have made filmmaking a lot more affordable. We continue to squeak by and to push our funds to the max. We're always checking out Orbitz for the best deal we can find on flights, leaving as much flexibility as we can on timing and locations. We do all kinds of things like this to maximize our budget and sometimes the experiences in the film. Also, with friends, they start to all work for you for free -- or in our case for free IZZEs and Chipotle burritos and the eventual hope that the dream comes true. It's all kind of like a big hustling game, but with promise for an exciting outcome.
And with that our time was up. Hunter's in the editing portion of 10 Yards. I'll keep everyone updated on his quest to get the movie shown in a theater near you.------------------------------------------------
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