Guest Post: Just Do It: One Woman’s Journey to Making a Feature

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by Kim Cummings
March 20, 2012 10:12 AM
22 Comments
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I wish someone had told me when I started out that if you want to make a feature, you need to find a way to do it.  Don’t wait for permission.  Don’t wait for someone to recognize your brilliance and hand you money.  Use what you’ve got and make it.

When I started out almost 15 years ago, I only wanted to write.  I wrote several feature scripts, entered all the competitions, made semi-finals with some of my scripts, had a lovely conversation with Joan Micklin-Silver (director of “Crossing Delancy”) about one of them, sent scripts to agents, producers and managers.  I had passion, drive and a willingness to work hard.  How difficult could it be to jump start a career in screenwriting? Turns out, a lot harder than I’d expected. 

After several years, everyone said that if you want to sell a script, you need to make a short film.  I had some idea how since I’d earned a Certificate in Film from NYU and I had money that I’d made from consulting.  I discovered The Sunday Club, a group of filmmakers who crewed for each other so everyone could practice directing.  The group was a lifeline.  We worked on many films together. They comprised most of my crew on “Weeki Wachee Girls,” a 16-mm short which went on to play in over 70 festivals around the world and won 3 best-of awards. Now I had a good short and a feature script.  And…  Zilch. What’s wrong with me, I thought?  Why doesn’t anyone want to hear what I have to say?  I took meetings, I sent out scripts, I submitted to competitions.  Then, I gave birth to twins.

Don’t let anyone tell you that kids won’t slow you down.  They do.  They have to.  Even if you have a day nanny (which I did) and a night nanny (which I didn’t), you will be tired.  They will need you.  They will need you when you’re right in the middle of a big project that you need to finish.  They will need you in the middle of the night, long past the age where they are supposed to sleep like “babies.” But, they won’t slow you down forever.  After 5 years, I was ready to start thinking about a feature.  This time I knew that no one was going to hand me a million dollars to make it.  No private producer.  No grant organization.  It wasn’t sexy enough, edgy enough or male enough.  So I got a professional development grant to work with a consultant to create a fundraising plan.  I held a fundraiser.  I raised $6000.  Then the bottom dropped out of the financial market and my husband almost lost his job.  (He worked for Lehman Brothers.  If you’re interested, he’s the bald skinny guy in a suit carrying a box in that picture they publish every time they talk about Lehman’s collapse.)

I started over.  If I wanted to make a feature, I needed to change strategies.  I thought about the resources I had (a great apartment in Queens, a hotel room in Montauk and a little money).  I came up with “In Montauk.”  My good friend and cinematographer, Brian Dilg talked about cheap ways to film it and still have it look good. Another good friend, Jeremiah Kipp, signed on to co-produce.  I workshopped the script and had several readings.  I put together a crew of 7 a cast of 6 and headed out to Montauk to film it.  We all filled several roles on set.  Everyone (except me) got paid something.  Everyone ate well.  We never went over 12 hours (okay, maybe once).  And we shot a film in 10 days.  After two years the film is finally finished.  I’ve been submitting to festivals since October.  30 to date.  Not a single acceptance yet.  In my sneak preview screening, several women came up to me and said it was the best movie they’d seen in a long time.  And it came to me, not only did I need to make the film, I needed to find my own audience. 

So expect to hear from me.  And go out and make your film!
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Kim Cummings is the award-winning writer/director of “Weeki Wachee Girls.”  “In Montauk” is her first feature.  Find out more about “In Montauk” and follow on Facebook.

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22 Comments

  • annette apitz | April 3, 2012 8:40 PMReply

    Hi Kim,
    Love this post, and love your film! Both are inspiring.

  • Kim | April 12, 2012 11:26 AM

    Thank you, Annette! You have been an inspiration to me as well! I thought I was the only crazy indie woman filmmaker with twins, and then I discovered you! I loved your film, "Fighting Fish" and am glad there's room in the world for all of our stories.

  • Zsa Zsa Gershick | March 26, 2012 4:49 PMReply

    Right on, Kim! I couldn't agree with you more: Get in there, Ladies, and do it! By the way, I saw the "Weeki Wachee Girls" at Outfest and loved it! Many blessings to you!

  • Kim | April 12, 2012 11:24 AM

    Thank you, Zsa Zsa! "Weeki Wachee Girls" was my first labor of love. So glad you enjoyed it! It's going strong after 10 years, believe it or not and it looks like there will be a new distribution venue for it soon. (It's on buskfilms now).

  • MJ Steinsvold | March 26, 2012 1:24 AMReply

    Great post Kim! Keep doing what you love!

  • Kim | April 12, 2012 11:22 AM

    Thanks, MJ! You as well! It's not always easy, but easier than the alternative, which is to stop doing it.

  • Marian | March 24, 2012 7:40 AMReply

    I love this post. Want to see 'In Montauk' asap!

  • Kim | April 12, 2012 11:22 AM

    Thanks for your continued support, Marian! I'm working on it!

  • Julie | March 22, 2012 3:57 PMReply

    Fantastic post, and an inspiration to other women to find our audience.

  • Kim | April 12, 2012 11:21 AM

    Thanks, Julie. I've definitely found inspiration from other women who've been incredibly supportive along the way. And it's also made me much more aware of what I watch! My first question now when I want to go see a movie is "what's out there that's been directed by a woman!"

  • Amber | March 21, 2012 5:02 PMReply

    Kim - I totally agree! Both on the "make it yourself" idea, and also about kids slowing you down.. I've made two features myself now, neither of them have made me any money, but they've both made me very proud. And the kid, while slowing me down a lot, brings me immeasurable joy! Great hearing your story...

  • Kim | March 22, 2012 11:34 AM

    Thanks, Amber! I'm impressed that you've made two features with a child! I find doing both frustrating & rewarding at the same time and wouldn't have it any other way. Good luck with your films!

  • Carol Woodliff | March 20, 2012 4:47 PMReply

    I think this is a great story about whatever we want to do in life. Just find a way to do it. With the internet, there are more channels now than ever to reach your audience. Thanks for inspiring this author to stop looking for the publisher, the industry etc to help and just get on with my mission! Best of luck with your film. And let us know when we can see it.

  • Guest | April 16, 2012 12:38 AM

    Point well taken about the internet. (Apparently it's not, as Avenue Q points out, just for pr_n.) I wonder if anyone has had a look at the phenomenon of "crowd-sourcing," which is most famously exemplified by the site Kickstarter.com. Not an employee or promoter of Kickstarter myself but just wanted to throw that out there as a possible venue for future endeavours in the post-"2.0" era.

    Best of luck with your film, Kim, or is it with behind-the-scenes people too that we say "break a leg"? (I guess you wouldn't want to literally if handling the camera!) :-)

  • Kim | March 21, 2012 10:52 AM

    Thanks, Carol! It's true that there are many avenues for authors as well. Look at the story of the rise of "Anthropology of An American Girl!"
    I update my facebook page regularly and will hopefully have some screening news soon! You can find it at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/In-Montauk-the-movie/180068012699
    Good writing and good luck!

  • Gina | March 20, 2012 1:24 PMReply

    Great post. Good advice. Now give us more! Like how you plan to distribute and lessons you learn from that experience.

  • Jessica Vecc | March 20, 2012 11:23 AMReply

    Great Post. Inspiring! Thanks.

  • Kim | March 20, 2012 12:30 PM

    Thanks for reading, Jessica!

  • Maria | March 20, 2012 10:58 AMReply

    Awesome guest post, Kim!! Thanks for sharing your story :)

  • Kim | March 20, 2012 11:30 AM

    Thanks, Maria! I really wish I'd gotten this advice early on. Of course, there's no guarantee that I would have listened!

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