Dan Mirvish Interview
Dan Mirvish has been at the forefront of independent cinema for over twenty years as both a director, writer and co-founder of the world renowned Slamdance Film Festival. We spoke to Dan about his film BERNARD AND HUEY, which won Best Screenplay at MANIFF2018 and independent cinema as a whole.
What was it that made you want to make BERNARD AND HUEY?
After hearing a rumor that Oscar/Pulitzer-winner Jules Feiffer had several unproduced screenplays, I reached out to him, but he didn't know where they were. So we searched for a year and a half, and finally found BERNARD AND HUEY (which Feiffer had written in 1986, based on his cartoon characters that go back to 1957) at the Academy of Motion Pictures Library in LA.
It took another year and a half to make sure we could get all the rights sorted out. By then, I figured I had to make the movie! But also, I'm about the same age as the characters in the film, and about the same age as Feiffer was when he first wrote the screenplay. So the material was definitely something I could relate to personally.
How was the process of making the film?
Once we got the rights all squared away, it was a relatively straightforward process: We raised initial money on Kickstarter, then started casting and raising more money. We were shooting within a little more than a year.
The shoot itself was quick and efficient: 14 days in LA and 2 days in New York. Of course, there were the usual problems with locations and money, but overall it went pretty smoothly. We had a terrific cast and crew!
What advice would you give to filmmakers working in independent film?
Marry well! And even if you do, you should still read my book, THE CHEERFUL SUBVERSIVE'S GUIDE TO INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING (Focal Press/Routledge), which is a step-by-step guide on developing, shooting, finishing and promoting indie films. There's a whole section just on film festivals which says to go to cool places, and I clearly followed my own advice by coming to Manchester!
A someone who has worked in independent film for over twenty years how do you see the current state of independent cinema?
I think a lot less has changed than people think. Yes, digital production and exhibition has meant a lower barrier of entry into making films and showing them, but there's also a lot more people doing both. So that means it's still just a handful of films every year that get "meaningful distribution." Which means most filmmakers are still hustling their hearts out, strapping on a virtual (and in my case, a literal) sandwich board to promote their films once they're done.
While it's easier now to get your film out to people digitally, that doesn't mean they'll all know about it. So I think the festival circuit is now more important than ever as a venue to show your films in front of real audiences and engage them in a face-to-face way.
Do you think streaming services have helped independent film and independent filmmakers?
The answer to that changes every couple of months as they keep changing their business models. For a while, these streaming services were paying good money for finished indie films. But then they switched to all their own in-house films and now aren't paying a dime for finished films.
For the filmmakers that can get their films made from Netflix or Amazon or the like, the budgets and creative freedom can be great, but there's no guarantee anyone is going to actually see the films. Just because you have a film on Netflix, doesn't mean anyone knows you have a film on Netflix.
What is next for you and where can people check out BERNARD AND HUEY?
Well I'm still hustling to get BERNARD AND HUEY out to the world! In large part because of my trip to MANIFF, I was able to secure a respected London-based international foreign sales company to sell the film outside of the US. I know they've already sold it to over 33 countries in the Middle East, Latin America and China. But we're still doing deliverables on the film, so it hasn't started playing anywhere yet.
Meanwhile, in the States, we've been doing an extended theatrical release of the film since June as well as having the film available on iTunes and other VOD. I've been touring with the film around the US and doing a lot of guest lectures at film schools and universities, which has been a lot of fun.
At the same time, I'm working with a couple partners on writing a new script that will be a period piece about the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon. We might start shooting as early as next spring.
To keep up with my adventures, stay tuned to www.DanMirvish.com. You can also check out www.BernardAndHueyMovie.com for a lot of behind-the-scenes material and you can listen to my directors commentary for free on Soundcloud:danmirvish/bernard-and-huey-directors-commentary-with-dan-mirvish