Featured Arts A La Carte Interview
Award Winner Filmmaker Laura Newman
Laura Newman, an up and coming Independent filmmaker is currently making head way with her latest film, "We Are The Hartmans", starring film and TV star's Richard Chamberlain, Ben Curtis and Jennifer Restivo.
"We Are The Hartmans" is a bittersweet comedy that will leave you mixed with emotions. Laura Newman has managed to blend all the right ingredients that should go into the making of a film and its clear that this film does not leave you hanging. It is also quite obvious that with the combination of the cast and crew, together, they have pulled off the makings of an award winning film.
A La Cool Rating - 10
Find out more about Laura Newman and "We Are The Hartmans" with Arts A La Carte Featured Interview. Enjoy!
ARTS A LA CARTE - How did you get involved with independent Films? What type of training did you do to prepare? What meaning of being part of Indie films brought to your life so far? Was there anything that you didn't anticipate?
Laura Newman - I started in theater and attended New York University. I was an actor first and soon found directing to be my main passion. For a long time I worked in theater and film but then realized film is my true calling because it is the most powerful form of storytelling in the culture now, especially because we are such a global society. I was a producer and shooter on the Oscar nominated Gasland and that was a true testament to the power film can have politically. Being an indie filmmaker has brought me an incredible community. The conversations we have about storytelling and business are really incredible. I didn't anticipate that distribution would be such a complex, confusing, fluctuating thing. As a filmmaker I didn't anticipate I'd have to be interested in marketing, PR and finding audiences. The majority of indie films in this country don't get bought by a distributor. Sundance accepts about 1% of the feature films submitted and only a fraction of those 1% make a deal. The rest of us have to innovate and create DIY strategies.
ARTS A LA CARTE -Tell us about some of the short films that you have done? How was your experience?
Laura Newman - I've directed many shorts, the biggest budget one being Sexy Clown Bitch, a black comedy about a hospital clown that is hated by children and falls in love with a drug addict in the elevator as she leaves work one day. I also have a series of pirate bicycle shorts that I've made with friends and I make a lot of content for New York University's Materials Science Research and Engineering Department as well as Reverend Billy's Church of Stop Shopping.
ARTS A LA CARTE -How did you come up with the idea for "We Are The Hartmans". Please give us a synopsis about this film?
Laura Newman - WE ARE THE HARTMANS was, is and will always be a community project. It began in the summer of 2009 as an experiment in collaborative improvisational screenplay writing. A group of actors, writer and directors met once a week, inventing characters and writing a story about a beloved teacher named Mr. Hartman. Well, first he was called Mr. Ellerman, then Mr. Clover and let's just say we threw out about 35 drafts of the script before finally completing the film in April 2011.
I decided to set the story in a rock club in a small town that has been killed economically, culturally and socially by "Big-Box-Mart", our fictitious name for the Wal-Marts, K-Marts and other chains that are dominating the USA. All across the country main streets are shuttered, their local stores put out of business by these behemoths. The country is quickly being homogenized to the point where there isn't much difference between Carson City and Toledo. Even in New York City where I live, many historical districts like Astor Place have been taken over by K-mart, Starbucks, Kinkos and McDonalds. I wanted to tell a story about a town that is on the brink of losing all its local character. Fairview is a small town where the only local place left is a rock club. Hartman's rock club seemed like the perfect setting to bring together all these wacky, diverse characters that the actors had created in rehearsal. Plus, it would have a tense environment where all the groups that use Hartmans club on different nights (the punks, hip-hop musicians, country music lovers, and the LGBT community) have to talk to each other for the first time. The stakes are high, because if the club closes, the town will die, losing all its culture.
ARTS A LA CARTE - Can you tell us about some of the people that played in this film? How did you cast them?
Laura Newman - Ben Curtis, Jonah Spear, Chris Cook, Audrey Sawaya, Brie Eley and Dylan Clements where all part of the original improv group and worked on the film for over a year before filming actually started. Jen Restivo, Joy Suprano and Richard Chamberlain can to us through our incredible casting director Eve Battaglia. They were cast only a month before principle photography began.
ARTS A LA CARTE - What was the most challenging part of making "We ARE The Hartmans". While filming, what are the most memorable moments?
Laura Newman - The most challenging part was learning to work fast. We were on a very limited budget and thus, limited time. I had to get most of my shots in 3 takes or less so there was little room for error. For most of us this was our first feature so we were struggling with a new level of time constraints. You CAN'T get behind because the whole 22 days is scheduled out. We had one day where there were some lighting problems that delayed us and then I was working with kid actors, which always takes a bit longer than one anticipates. For the final scene of that day we had 45 minutes to shoot something we had planned 4 hours of time for. It was nuts and the whole crew was hustling like mad. It was the only day I really yelled a lot, but we made the day.
ARTS A LA CARTE - Where did you film "We Are the Hartmans"? How long did it take to shoot?
Laura Newman - We shot most of the film in New York. The interiors of the club are fantastic Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan. The exteriors were shot in Peekskill NY, East Hampton NY and Jersey City.
ARTS A LA CARTE - What kind of cameras did you use to film? How long did it take to edit?
Laura Newman - We used the EX1 with lens adaptors. It was a 2 camera shoot for most of the film. We edited for 8 months with a few breaks in the middle. After our initial 4 months of editing we did a few test screenings for audiences and realized we had some problems with the film, so we went back and shot 3 new scenes adding about 10 minutes to the film (as well as cutting an additional 8 minutes.)
ARTS A LA CARTE - Did the film come out the way you anticipated it? If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be and why?
Laura Newman - The film started out as a dramatic improv film about a high school reunion where the lead character tries to kill himself, so yes, I'd say it came out WAY different. I love the film as it is, even the parts I consider mistakes or things I would re-shoot. It's sort of like an old quirky friend. After a few years with it, you love the bad with the good.
ARTS A LA CARTE -What's next for "We Are The Hartmans"? Are you just running it on the film festival circuit or do you have plans for distribution? How are you promoting it?
Laura Newman -We are about to sign a distribution deal for home video, DVD and streaming so that is an exciting step toward getting it out in the world. We also plan to be at festivals over the next year and are planning a national tour of the film to Occupy Wall Street’s all over the country. Occupy Cinema (a working group in NYC) has chosen the film to be part of a program that will tour with Reverend Billy. I'm really excited about the collaboration.
ARTS A LA CARTE -Do you have any projects in the works? If so, can you tell us?
Laura Newman - I have 2 other feature scripts I've been working on, including a really funny one about a summer camp for ultra-right-wing conservative teens that want to take over the world. I'm also pitching a reality TV show to networks called Sex Ed, about Sex Education for adults.
ARTS A LA CARTE -Where can people find out more information about you and your film "We Are The Hartmans"?
ARTS A LA CARTE -Do you have any last words for the viewers?
Laura Newman - Support indie film by going to sites like Kickstarter and Indigogo! Crowd-source funding is the future of the arts in this country and is democratizing the funding process.