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John Sayles Self-Financed 'Go For Sisters,' Paints Gloomy Portrait Of Indie Filmmaking, More...

by Tambay A. Obenson
November 4, 2013 11:11 AM
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Yolonda Ross In 'Go For Sisters' - Best Supporting Female Nominee

Pretty much impossible. This is another film I self- financed. Right now, the budgets are lower and lower. I write a lot of screenplays for other people, and build up a war chest. I don't think there's an independent movie business anymore, there are only a few distributors, and they are not financing the films; they only agree to distribute them. The business part is kind of mythical. But you really can't complain if you're lucky enough to make any movies at all. I actually feel we had a good, lucky run with our timing, I started making movies when there was an indie business, and the timing was good. It's a volatile thing even in the mainstream business.

A piece from a longer Newsday interview with director John Sayles, on his latest effort, the drama/thriller Go For Sisters, which stars LisaGay Hamilton and Yolonda Ross. The above is in response to a question the interviewer asks about the challenges Sayles faces in raising funds for his indie films today.

I had no idea he self-financed Go For Sisters, and thought it was worth mentioning here. The film's budget isn't public information, but I'd assume it was in the 6 figures, or very low 7 figures. He could've certainly taken to crowdfunding services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo as a few of his comrades have done this year, successfully. 

But it's a gloomy interview he gave to Newsday; some would say, realistic. He paints a rather discouraging portrait of the business (although he's certainly not been the first to do that and likely won't be the last - Spielberg, Lucas, and Soderbergh have all chimed in this year on what is believed the be an industry in demise) - especially from an independent filmmaker's POV - an indie filmmaker who has been able to exist in both worlds (making smaller films for himself, and occasionally taking writing jobs, polishing up studio scripts).

For example, when asked for advice for young filmmakers, here's what Sayles had to say:

I can't give them ideas on how to make a living at it. Unless you get discovered by the mainstream, I'm not sure there's a living to be made by making indie films anymore.

Jai interviewed the stars of Go For Sisters (LisaGay Hamilton and Yolonda Ross) last week - a conversation that was published on this blog this evening HERE.

Check out the full Newsday interview with director Sayles HERE.

Variance Films will release Go For Sisters, in theaters on November 8 in NY, followed by LA on November 15, and additional expansion afterward, with a DVD/digital release in 2014. 

SXSW 2013 selection, the borderland-set film's ethnically diverse cast of character actors includes LisaGay Hamilton, Yolonda Ross, Edward James OlmosHarold PerrineauHector ElizondoIsaiah Washington and Jacob Vargas.

Its full synopsis follows: 

The plot concerns two friends, Bernice and Fontayne, who grow up so close they ‘go for sisters’, but then lose track of each other for twenty years. They are reunited when Bernice is assigned as the parole officer for Fontayne, who is fresh out of prison and fighting heroin addiction. But Bernice has an even more threatening problem. With a budget well under a million dollars and four weeks to shoot, this will be a return to the guerilla style of filmmaking familiar to Sayles from his early 80’s films Return of the Secaucus Seven, Lianna and Brother from Another Planet. 

I've seen the film and will be publishing a review this week, ahead of its November 8 debut. 

This marks the second time Variance and Sayles have teamed up to release a John Sayles film. They previously paired up on the 2011 release of Sayles’ Phillippine-American war film Amigo.

The first full release trailer for Go For Sisters has arrived, and is embedded below:

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • balashi | November 14, 2013 12:28 PMReply

    Figures that right when I'm just about close enough to enter into the ass end of the film industry, it is about to implode! But, I guess the two elements go hand and hand - I'm close to making my first indy film because it's easier than it's ever been for anyone to do so... but the fact that "anyone can do so" is a big part of what's killing the industry! Kind of like our actual country, where most people are falling into the poor bracket, while the rest are climbing up into the rich and the middle is disappearing. In film, you either have the mega-bucks to do blockbusters, or you're like every other Average Joe making cheap DV movies that you and your friends think are cool, but no one else will ever stop to watch!

  • Topal | November 6, 2013 6:34 PMReply

    Wow, go John Sayles for telling it like it is. When will people wake up and see that our culture is in dismay?

  • Peggy | November 5, 2013 10:26 PMReply

    I get tired of everyone telling everyone to go do TV. TV is NOT FILM. One is an artform, the other is a mode of communication. In TV, you have censors or TV execs that you have to please. Or toilet paper commercials interrupting your story. In FILM, you are much freer to be an artist. If the film business is dying, and I don't think it is, then true filmmakers need to fight for it. And not give up and head to an inferior medium.

  • Topal | November 6, 2013 6:36 PM

    True filmmakers? I assume you dont mean the ones who churn out propaganda for the mainstream? And, as John Sayles is saying, that's the only work there is. But you are correct, TV is not film. TV is a mild diversion before you go to bed on a weeknight. I would hope that film would be something more than that.

  • that dude | November 4, 2013 10:48 PMReply

    Sayles would get bigger audiences and more support if he turned stories like this into cable television series. That's where complex and interesting storytelling of nontraditional American lives exists now, not in feature films. I would have loved to see Sayles' LONE STAR as a television series. This trailer looks great, but the reality is I'll probably see this movie on a TV screen, not a theater.

  • D.A. | November 5, 2013 1:08 PM

    Add 'Honeydripper' to that list and I agree wholeheartedly that he should focus on developing tv series. Just like he said when it was the right time to do indie films, now is the time to do television. But we also have to keep in mind that not everyone has the time nor the patience to deal with developing a television series. I'm sure there are more factors, but some aspects are hard to deal with.

  • Rania | November 5, 2013 10:10 AM

    Interesting that you say that, because as I watched this (very good) film, I thought it could be turned into a television series. And by the way, Yolanda Ross is noteworthy.

  • Kamenwati | November 5, 2013 9:31 AM

    That's a good point. That does seem to be the future of such forms of story telling, that and netflix and similar services.

  • Daryl | November 4, 2013 6:57 PMReply

    Anothe rone of my favorite directors who made films his way. He is right about the indie film, but it's like that in the movie business as a whole. That's why I tell people just make the films you want to make for the love of making movies if it happens your able to make a living doing this it happens. Films are getting so saturated with everybody trying to make a film that you got millions upon millions of people trying to fit in a small window to get people's attention. EX: Just go to facebook and see how many people post stuff and how hard it is to get you to pay
    attention to their stuff with so much stuff coming at you at once.

  • Donella | November 4, 2013 6:37 PMReply

    Cast lineup looks real good. I definitely want to watch.

  • Etomi | November 4, 2013 12:50 PMReply

    I will definitely go to see that. It will probably not come to Delaware, but Philly is close. Thanks so much for the info. I'm looking forward to your review!

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