Brandon Bennett from The Indie Film Revue asks Scott five questions about indie filmmaking in Indiana.
FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2011
the Mini-View Featuring Scott Schirmer
Over the last ten years, Scott has written and directed six short films and features in various genres. His work has been selected and shown at the Pride, Dark Carnival, Cinephile, and Hometown film festivals. In 2006, Scott’s ten-minute supernatural short, The Day Joe Left, was a top ten finalist in Kevin Spacey and Budweiser’s Triggerstreet.com on-line short film festival.
Scott currently works as video producer for a large publishing company and is gearing up for his next feature film shoot, Todd Rigney’s dark coming-of-age story, Found.
I love a lot of movies, and I was very impressionable as a kid and a young adult, so a lot of movies helped shape me. My parents told me The Rescuers was my first movie, but the first movie I remember seeing was Star Wars, and after The Empire Strikes Back was released, I made up my mind. I wanted to be a filmmaker, because I wanted to be part of that craft, that art, that showmanship. I’m definitely a product of the Lucas/Spielberg era, but I’ve also been inspired by countless other films and filmmakers. As I grew up, I really latched onto the work of Peter Weir. The Mosquito Coast, Fearless, and Dead Poets Society are among my favorites. And these day’s I’m really fascinated by David O. Russell and Julie Taymor. The challenge growing up is to not let your heroes or idols influence you too much, or you’ll just wind up a pale imitation of them. You have to find your own voice, and at some point start carving out your own niche. I think if you keep working at it, if you follow your muse, it’ll happen. And you might be surprised where you end up. Twelve years ago, I had no idea that I’d get into horror the way I have, but here I am. It feels right for me, for now. And as much as my heroes and idols from the movies have inspired and influenced me, I’m really excited about developing my own voice and my own style right now.
I don’t feel limited by making movies in Indiana. I mean, obviously, Indiana isn’t Hollywood, and we don’t have access to many stars or any industry movers and shakers, but if you’re a no-budget or low-budget independent, you can’t really afford take advantage of Hollywood’s resources anyway. And Hollywood doesn’t give anything without taking a lot in return. It’s political. It’s a game. Things rarely ever come to fruition there, and if they do, you don’t usually have much control over how they turn out. I have friends who work in Hollywood and I’ve heard a lot of their stories, and it’s madness. I don’t want to fight to get permission to make the movie I want to make. I don’t want to have to convince anyone of its legitimacy, and I certainly don’t want them interfering with how it’s made. I just want to make the damned thing, and I want to make it my way. And you can do that in Indiana just as easily as you can do it anywhere. I lived in Los Angeles for a few years, and people would occasionally see my movies out there, and they liked them. And then I’d tell them I made these movies with pocket change and tax return checks in Indiana, and their jaws would drop. If you have no money, or very little money as I do, Indiana is where you want to be. People in Indiana are generally very curious and enthusiastic about helping on a movie shoot, and there are a lot of talented people who are eager to build their portfolios or resumes for nothing more than credit and kindness. Hoosiers also have a remarkable work ethic. In L.A., people told me they loved hiring mid-westerners because their work ethic is so much better than other people’s. There’s something great about working with people who take pride in their work, people who have something to prove. That energy and enthusiasm can infect your whole movie, and you’re less likely to find it in a Hollywood crew that’s there to get a paycheck.
Indiana University gives grants for undergraduate research. I saw a post about the grants outside the office of the Individualized Major Program, which I was part of for a short time, before I switched my major to Sociology. I don’t know if they still do this, but at the time, you could propose a project or study, and the board would determine which projects or studies they would fund. Since my project was a movie that would employ students, and it dealt with themes of tolerance and diversity, the board decided to give us the grant. I believe it was for $1,500. We used it to buy a steadicam for the IMP’s camcorder (we were using VHS back then!) and it also covered a lot of script printing and copying. The movie was called “Variations,” which we finally completed and showed on campus a year or two later. It was a great learning experience, and I’m grateful to the university, particularly to Joan Hawkins, associate professor in the Department of Communications and Culture, for supporting me in that and many other study projects.