DIY FILMMAKERS: KARL T. HIRSH AND “GREEN”

DIY FILMMAKERS: KARL T. HIRSH AND “GREEN”

[ THE FILM: “GREEN (AKA WHATEVER)” ] ^ 16mm b/w, color, animation. Four slackers in Phoenix explore their internal problems while under the influence of homemade hallucinogens. In production from 1993 to 1997, screened at 1997 IFFM, 1997 Austin Film Festival, SlamDunk 98, Newport Beach, Sedona, Saguaro, Atlanta, Victoria BC, a date with the Flixtour, and the upcoming Cracked Lens Screening Series in Portland, OR, and the Oshawa-Durham Film Festival in Ontario. Also currently in self-distribution, where it just finished a month-long run at Tempe’s Valley Art Theatre. ^
[ THE FILMMAKERS: ] ^ Karl T. Hirsch (writer, director, editor, producer, actor)D. Evan Long (cinematographer/animator, producer) ^
[ SO, WHAT’S YOUR STORY? ] ^ Dave and I met in 1992 doing a short film at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. In 1993, we became partners, and began making a series of four cheap short films together which were to function as both a tool for us to learn about how to make pictures, and ultimately serve as resume pieces. Four stories about coming-of-age in your twenties, four stories about learning about the patterns we all tend to adhere to, why we have adopted certain patterns, how we lie to ourselves, and, ultimately, the moment when we realize we’ve been conducting our lives mistakenly. ^
We never had any money to begin with, we just kind of started, not really knowing the scope of what we were getting into. About halfway through, we decided to try to bookend the movie with a hook and an even larger theme, and tie it all up together in a feature-length format, which worked out really well. It took almost 4 years to complete the project, which included black and white, color, live-action and animation, but ultimately we ended up with our first feature-length film, “Whatever” (we ended up changing the title to “Green” because Susan Skoog’s film “Whatever” got picked up by Sony last fall).
We’ve been on the festival circuit since last September when we went to the IFFM in 1997. We have not found a distributor yet, and currently in self-distribution.
[ WHAT WAS LEFT ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR? ] ^ Oh, man, are you kidding? A TON of stuff. Because we went for a feature instead of four short pieces, things had to move at a different pace, and I ended up slicing out some really great bits. For example, we had shot an entire sequence in four locations and with about twelve actors dedicated to Uma Thurman. It was a collage of men explaining who their perfect woman was, and each one of them ultimately mentioned that it was, in fact, Uma Thurman. There was also another hysterical sequence in which a 15-year-old female transient (played by Treva Jackson) tries to explain why women are so obsessed with their weight — it’s all about Jane Fonda in “Barbarella”. There was another cool sequence that Dave did which was ultimately cut, where we double-exposed headlines and photos of “philisophical” people over a shot of a spinning wheel, kind of like an old Frank Capra film or something. It took days to shoot that, and now, well, it’s just gone. I could easily go on, because it was in the editing process that a lot of this film was figured out. Furthermore, about 1/4 of this film was reshoots of material that didn’t work — most of it being the stuff that I was in. ^
[ BUDGET, SCHEDULE, STATUS? ] ^ Although post and printing was paid for by quite altruistic outside investors, the production funding was all out-of-pocket from my video store job. This is why it took so damned long to actually shoot the movie. Since the film’s schedule was staggered over weekends and varied free days for everybody over a three-year time span, it’s amost an irrelevant question. The whole vibe was like, “Hey, we have $200. Can we do Scene 12 next week?” Our gear was donated by Scottsdale Comminuty College, save a weird lens now and again and the scene in which we practically had to build an entire street (which sucked, let me tell you). We also got a lot of help from Ron Walker in Cave Creek, our mentor. SCC was great, and always helped whenever we needed help. They also were integral in providing personnel when the original crew got sick and tired of me. ^
[ DID YOU HAVE TO SACRIFICE ANYTHING BECAUSE OF THE BUDGET? ] ^ Well, we originally wanted to shoot it on 70MM, and include this sequence where alien life invades, and the entire city of Phoenix explodes. It was quite detailed, with fire and lasers and battle cruisers and everything. And it was set in the year 3005. And we wanted Richard Dreyfuss to play the lead alien, Gene Siskel to play the President of France, and Kate Winslet to play dueling twins who were both in love with me. Otherwise, no. ^
[ WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE MAKING THE FILM? ] ^ It’s a loaded question since we’re in Year 5. I think the toughest part of it was working with my friends. You see, when it was just my friends, who were not getting paid, there seemed to be a certain lackadaisical attitude amongst them. Surely, the only people who were putting anything on the line with the film were me and Dave and the actors. So, many times, I had to crack the whip on them. This is a very difficult thing to do when you’re not the type of person to boss people around, especially your buddies. I sometimes think I lost few of them through the process. The re-editing process was also hard — I made a two-hour cut that I swore, up and down, was the final film. But I ended up doing test screenings, and sent it to professionals for their opinion. They all said it was way too long, certain things needed to be reshot. Man, that sucked to hear, because A) I was out of money and patience and energy, and B) so many people said the same thing, I had a responsibility to step away and listen, instead of blow off any negative opinion. Ends up the film was not finished until a year after that, and now it is an INSANELY better picture. But it was hard to go back when I thought it was locked. REALLY hard. ^
[ WHY DID YOU DO IT THEN? ] ^ Because I’m psychotic. ^
[ WHAT’S THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE PICTURE? ] ^ We FINALLY got a theatrical premiere in Phoenix over the July 4 weekend, and we got some great reviews and have been doing well. I’m looking into expanding into theatrical runs around the country, at little indie theatres that are willing to take a chance on the film. Things have been going slowly, but well. I’m now in talks with a new foreign distributor that looks really good, and there’s still a possibility of a limited theatrical beyond Arizona. Still haven’t locked a video deal yet. ^
Thing is, this film was a first-time shot for everybody, and everyone affiliated with the film has gone on to do better things because of it. Hyrum Patterson has been cast in two higher-budget short films, Tara Veneruso’s CHEMICAL GENERATION and Amy French’s JACK AND JILL; Matt Gallagher is in advanced negotiations to be in an MTV pilot; Dana Millican has gotten some good commercial and off-Broadway theatre work; Dave Long is the director of animation for MTV’s new show, NORMAL JOE; and I’m slated to direct another movie soon. So, I guess this pretty much makes the entire veture a success.
[ ANY ADVICE OR PEARLS OF BRILLIANT FILMMAKING WISDOM? ] ^ Yeah. Like Ben Stiller says in that bit with Casey Kasem in the restaurant, “Do it.” Don’t talk about how you’d like to do it, just go out there and make it happen, and once you start, see it through until it’s done. I know so many filmmakers who don’t make films, and others who start and quit. It’s so counterproductive, and creatively self-destructive. Just follow your nose, and make your picture. That alone is a big deal — and even if you aren’t the next Edward Burns or whatever, you’ll hopefully get a ton of future-carreer-type mileage out of it. And Arthur Borman’s right — try really hard not to use your own money. ^
[ WAS IT WORTH IT? ] ^ Completely. I feel like I’ve learned more about this industry and the process of making a film than I could have in school. And I am still learning things, I am still f–king up, and I am still driving forward. No one told me what to do, it was pretty much under my control. Now, the film serves as a guage of my sensibilities in regards to audiences, and it serves as a tool through which I can build upon my screenplays and further projects. I found that I was wrong A LOT in the writing, directorial, and editorial decisions I made. Sometimes I was on the money, but many times I was wrong. And I’ve learned quite a bit from making these mistakes. Plus, I’ve met some really great and inspiring people since finishing the film, including a few writers and directors whom I idolize and cower to. ^
[ WHAT NEXT? ] ^ I was recently hired by a company here in LA to do a new film. It’s not something I generated, but was attached to and/or hired to do. It’s a really, really fun and funny project. I’m excited about it. We’re in casting and other stages of pre-production now.
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Posted on August 17, 1998 in Interviews by
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