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Low Budget Legends

Archive for July, 2010

Nina Paley Interview Part 5

Nina Paley is one of our heroes. We met her at a theater in the town of Apt, in southern France, during the Avignon film festival. After seeing “Sita Sings the Blues” that night in that beautiful mountain town, we realized were in the presence of the Jimi Hendrix of modern animators – a truly talented virtuoso.

It has been our privilege to talk and hang with Nina over the last two years. We finally prevailed upon her to share her thoughts with us and the world on low-budget filmmaking, free culture and the system.

Visit her truly awesome website to see more of her work and her menagerie of cool ideas and causes: http://www.ninapaley.com

Enjoy!

13BIT:

So, okay, this is a little off topic.  I guess it — and I don’t even know if it has anything to do with Sita really.  Do you have any thoughts on the film video debate?

NINA PALEY:

Well, I think that — you mean, when you say 35 millimeter. It’s not very affordable or practical. It’s changing rapidly.  I mean Sita had its first festival screening in 2008 which is just over two years ago.  And it had to be on film for this particular cinema.  I’m sure that’s not the case now.  I mean, this 3-D — this independent 3-D film screening I went to — they had a 3-D digital projector.  Like, they were projecting on DCP.  They didn’t even have to use two projectors.  So it’s a lot cheaper.  Not saying it’s better.  But, you know what, prints of Sita Sings the Blues get pretty bashed up.

13BIT:

Film prints.

NINA PALEY:

Yeah, there’s the — I mean, quality’s a problem —
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Nina Paley Interview Part 4

Nina Paley is one of our heroes. We met her at a theater in the town of Apt, in southern France, during the Avignon film festival. After seeing “Sita Sings the Blues” that night in that beautiful mountain town, we realized were in the presence of the Jimi Hendrix of modern animators – a truly talented virtuoso.

It has been our privilege to talk and hang with Nina over the last two years. We finally prevailed upon her to share her thoughts with us and the world on low-budget filmmaking, free culture and the system.

Visit her truly awesome website to see more of her work and her menagerie of cool ideas and causes: http://www.ninapaley.com

Enjoy!

13BIT:
So what do you think are the advantages to low-budget filmmaking?
NINA PALEY:
Low-budgets?
13BIT:
–low-budgets. Like, in filmmaking, what’s a good thing about complete creative control.
NINA PALEY:
Well, as a culture, there’s more diversity of media when people can take risks and experiment. I’ve met a number of people who make films just for the sheer pleasure of making films. They’re not pandering to an audience. They’re doing it because it is pleasure for them. So at the very least, you are getting, you know, a mode of pleasure. A mode of pleasure is available to people. That’s pretty cool. But yeah, I think, you know, there’s just, like, so much diversity. And when people can take risks you get cultural progress that you don’t get otherwise.
13BIT:
Cultural progress. That’s noble actually.
NINA PALEY:
I’m so noble.
13BIT:
What’s the disadvantages of —
NINA PALEY:
Well, okay, so, you know, 98 percent of everything is crap. And low-budget filmmaking just means that there’s an explosion of films and 99 percent of them are still going to be crap. So there’s more crap. But there’s also much more good stuff. The disadvantage for people that don’t know how to filter is that there’s more crap. And they’re, like, “Help, help. There’s all this crap.” But filters are quite natural. I mean, an open internet works as a filter. And people share stuff that they like. And so the good stuff will eventually reach you. And they don’t share stuff that they don’t like. So the bad stuff has a much lesser chance of reaching you. That filter only works if the internet is open.
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Nina Paley Interview Part 3

Nina Paley is one of our heroes. We met her at a theater in the town of Apt, in southern France, during the Avignon film festival. After seeing “Sita Sings the Blues” that night in that beautiful mountain town, we realized were in the presence of the Jimi Hendrix of modern animators – a truly talented virtuoso.

It has been our privilege to talk and hang with Nina over the last two years. We finally prevailed upon her to share her thoughts with us and the world on low-budget filmmaking, free culture and the system.

Visit her truly awesome website to see more of her work and her menagerie of cool ideas and causes: http://www.ninapaley.com

Enjoy!

13BIT:
I like that. I like that. So what do you think about distribution for indies and low-budget films?
NINA PALEY:
Sita has conventional distributors. Or not conventional. But Sita has, you know, regular film distributors. People that distributed on 35 millimeter film. And they do have a monopoly on their own prints. I call it a natural monopoly. I mean, there’s only so many prints that exist. They’re a scarce good. And these distributors control those prints as they are entitled do and should do. And I’m really glad that they do it. That’s why Sita can be in theatres. It’s hard work distributing a physical print of a film and they do that.

They were both open-minded enough to — this the domestic — so there are two domestic distributors of Sita. One is east of the Mississippi, one is west of the Mississippi. And they were both open-minded enough to try this experiment of distributing a film that does not have a monopoly on the content.

And they’re both doing fine. I mean, it’s performing just fine as an independent film. They’re independent, you know, they’re very small distributors. So it’s not, like, it has a giant distributor behind it. But it’s behaving well. And the whole fact that it’s — the content itself is free has only helped it. I know at least one of the distributors has actually said, you know, they wrote me a thing saying, “Well, we were worried about it. And we thought this was hurting. But then actually it picked up. And now we think it’s helping.” So yeah.
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Nina Paley Interview Part 2

Nina Paley is one of our heroes. We met her at a theater in the town of Apt, in southern France, during the Avignon film festival. After seeing “Sita Sings the Blues” that night in that beautiful mountain town, we realized were in the presence of the Jimi Hendrix of modern animators – a truly talented virtuoso.

It has been our privilege to talk and hang with Nina over the last two years. We finally prevailed upon her to share her thoughts with us and the world on low-budget filmmaking, free culture and the system.

Visit her truly awesome website to see more of her work and her menagerie of cool ideas and causes: http://www.ninapaley.com

Enjoy!


13BIT:
The musical rights?
NINA PALEY:
Yeah, the music rights. So to add — you know, so that brings it up to $270,000. The thing is that $20,000 of that was just transaction costs because I could not get any estimates or any communication at all from the corporations that controlled the licenses without going through a paid intermediary. We tried and tried and they do not return your phone calls if they don’t know you. So you have to pay someone.

They expect you to have a music supervisor, who is somebody that you pay basically because they have relationships to these corporations. And you can’t reach them any other way. Or you can use a lawyer. And I initially used a lawyer and then switched to a rights clearance house. So all those transaction costs were about $20,000. Which is a bargain because I was getting, you know, super low rates for some of it. And, you know, people going above and beyond.

So that was — and of course it cost a year of time — of my time because they were so slow in responding. And there were the whole festival license things. Because they negotiate with you — once they return your phone calls, the first thing they say is, “Pay us $500 immediately.” And that is to give you the right for one year to show the film in festivals and promise not to make a profit. So, in return for your $500 you sign a piece of paper promising that you’re not going to make a profit. So it cost me $5,500 to sign promises to not make any money which makes no economic sense whatsoever and was only the beginning of the topsy-turvy Kafka-esque world of music licensing.

Yeah, but anyway, and I should say for the $70,000 — or whatever, the $20,000 plus $50,000, the music isn’t fully cleared. For every 5,000 DVDs sold, I have to make additional payments. And, for every $1 million the film makes at the box office I have to pay another $50,000. But it’s not going to make $1 million at the box office. But it has sold more than 5,000 DVDs. Or will sell more than 5,000 DVDs. So, we have to keep track of this and at some point, payments have to be made. And every downstream distributor of the film has to set aside that money. It’s about — it’s, like, $1.85 a DVD has to be set aside. Which is certainly more than I’m getting from the downstream distributors.
13BIT:
Who verifies the numbers sold?
NINA PALEY:
That falls on me but then it falls on my distributors. Like, everyone who’s distributing it has to keep track.
13BIT:
Yeah. And keep records. And are they checked by — who is it? RIAA?
NINA PALEY:
No, it won’t be RIAA. It’ll be all the individual companies. But I’m pretty sure it falls on me. So basically —
13BIT:
Just curious.
NINA PALEY:
–I, you know, I’m very good at keeping track of the ones that I sell. I haven’t sold 5,000 yet. We actually need to do a reckoning of this pretty soon. And some of my distributors haven’t come back with numbers. They’re very, very slow. Like, some of the downstream distributors haven’t paid me anything yet. And this is not at all uncommon.
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Nina Paley Interview Part 1

Nina Paley is one of our heroes. We met her at a theater in the town of Apt, in southern France, during the Avignon film festival. After seeing “Sita Sings the Blues” that night in that beautiful mountain town, we realized were in the presence of the Jimi Hendrix of modern animators – a truly talented virtuoso.

It has been our privilege to talk and hang with Nina over the last two years. We finally prevailed upon her to share her thoughts with us and the world on low-budget filmmaking, free culture and the system.

Visit her truly awesome website to see more of her work and her menagerie of cool ideas and causes: http://www.ninapaley.com

Enjoy!


13BIT:
Okay, so Nina, how did you get involved in filmmaking?
NINA PALEY:
How did I get involved in filmmaking? Well, I have been an illustrator and cartoonist my whole life, I guess. And that led into animation. So I guess I got into filmmaking as an animator. And I still don’t really think of myself as a filmmaker because animation is such a different process than conventional filmmaking.
13BIT:
So it was not always what you wanted to do. But, did you always want to be a cartoonist or an illustrator?
NINA PALEY:
Yeah. Well, when I was very little I wanted to be an artist. Yes, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I also wanted to be a pink and purple giraffe. But that was when I was very young. And actually when I was, like, 13 and 14 I borrowed a neighbor’s Super 8 camera. And got into animation. But I was already into drawing.

And then I abandoned that after a couple years because there was nowhere to go with that in Central Illinois. And all the books that I read pretty much indicated that you could you do your amateur Super 8 thing. And if you wanted to do something good, then you needed an audio department and this and that – engineer and a whole production thing – and it got really expensive. And you needed a camera stand and lots of money. And that was, you know, just not viable. So then I got more into comics, sequential art. But when I was very young I thought the best artists were the ones that drew most realistically. And —
13BIT:
But you were poorly guided in that decision by budget constraints?
NINA PALEY:
Yes. I mean, if — had I grown up 20 years later it would have been a different story.
13BIT:
Right, right, right.
NINA PALEY:
But it simply was not possible at the time. But, you know, it’s good because the cartooning which I could do alone, and I could control entire worlds myself with just ink and paper — that was the best background for doing filmmaking later. Like, there’s no storytelling challenge like a three panel or four panel comic strip. You really have to learn how to make a point and be concise. And, you know, visual storytelling, all that stuff.

So if I started — yeah, if I started when I was younger than 15, and started doing animation when I was almost 35. So yeah, 20 years of being a cartoonist helped a lot when I started doing the films.
13BIT:
So did you storyboard Sita?
NINA PALEY:
No.
13BIT:
Interesting.
13BIT:
Yeah, you know what, it’s (LAUGH) not strictly just filmmaking. We may branch out into just low budget everything.
NINA PALEY:
Yeah, low budget everything. Like what? Like, sewing, knitting?
13BIT:
Exactly. If it’s low budget, we are —
NINA PALEY:
That’s my life. I mean, it’s, like —
13BIT:
–low budget people.
NINA PALEY:
–yeah, low budget —
NINA PALEY:
–it’s what we all do.
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