The Doorpost Film Project—listed by MovieMaker as one of the 25 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee—truly is unique in the world of short film festivals. It receives hundreds of submissions, and from those selects 10 finalists. Here’s the good part: The finalists then receive a $30,000 budget to create a new film. The winner of this championship round receives a $100,000 cash prize.
But, as moviemaker Brent McCorkle knows, Doorpost isn’t all about the money: It’s also about the support and encouragement you receive, both from the contest staff and fellow moviemakers. McCorkle, whose short film The Rift made it to the top 10, took the time to answer some of MovieMaker’s questions about his film and the festival. Learn more about the festival, and view McCorkle’s film, at www.thedoorpost.com.
Rebecca Pahle (MM): You’re an award-winning moviemaker who has had success at film festivals in the past. How does the Doorpost Film Project compare to other film festivals?
Brent McCorkle (BM): There is truly no comparison. The Doorpost has gone out of their way to place the filmmaker at the heart of everything they do. The amount of encouragement and support I received from this experience is unprecedented. You get a degree of exposure at every festival you participate in, which is definitely beneficial… but how many festivals truly empower filmmakers to do better work?
As a Doorpost finalist, this is the first time in my career where I’ve been awarded money from a festival to actually go out and make a new film… and it’s the first time I haven’t had to pick up the tab on a short! Most indie filmmakers (including myself) have a wonderful support group, people who strongly believe in you and what you’re doing. This element is so important to me as filmmaker. It’s where it all starts, and it’s what’s gotten me this far. But where many of us begin crashing into brick walls is when we launch out on a search for people to believe in us with their checkbooks!
The Doorpost serves the filmmaker in both arenas. They not only encourage the filmmaker on a personal and artistic level, but they also get behind you with the much needed tangible resources that are quite difficult to come by. Let’s face it, getting financed is the one crucial element that severely limits many, many talented people in this business.
So because of their generosity, The Doorpost has enabled me to make the best film of my career thus far. In your magazine last year, The Doorpost made the “25 Festivals Worth the Fee” list. Speaking as an insider, I can’t say enough good things about my experience with these guys.
MM: The Doorpost Film Project encourages moviemakers to create pieces of meaningful art, not just bits of mindless entertainment. You examine some interesting issues in The Rift, notable among them child abuse. What compelled you to explore this in your film?
BM: I really appreciate this question and the opportunity to respond.
I will preface my answer by saying that a good film has to work on the surface level as a standalone piece of engaging entertainment. If you can pull this off, then hopefully you are afforded the privilege of introducing deeper thematics into your narrative. For instance, Finding Nemo is a film about parenting, but the surface narrative alone is such an amazing piece of storytelling; it reaches everyone from 3-year-olds to great-grandparents.
I have been going to school on this—the idea of a surface story that works, coupled with a strong social theme. I still have a long way to go, but I think I’ve gotten the closest to it with The Rift. But here is the deep and personal reasons behind why I wanted to tell this particular story…
In the world that we live in today, I see countless numbers of children trapped in a hell that they can’t break free from. Slavery, sex-trafficking, abuse, neglect, abandonment… just to start. I’m a young guy and I haven’t been around the world by any means. But even in my limited experience, I’ve personally met kids who were raped, molested by their own father, beaten, had their parents murdered in front of them… and that’s just here in “civilized” America.
Everyday, I wake up in a world where lost and abandoned children have no voice of their own and hardly enough adults advocating for them.
So, thinking in terms of social-mirroring, I became very intrigued with the idea of a creating a story where a child has apparently been sent to Hell—even though she didn’t deserve it—and how an adult character, trapped in this same reality, might respond if he encountered a child.
I think if we could magically transport every American to Darfur right now, we would return to our lives realizing how superfluous and meaningless so much of our existence has become. I know that I have been definitely going through this realization in my own life, understanding how much I need to change. I’m really making a personal effort to make my life count for something good—trying to make a positive difference in the world in whatever way I can.
One of the key elements I was really trying to explore within The Rift is the concept of hope. I think it’s one of the most powerful things we have on this planet. It exists where you wouldn’t expect that it could. This also became an interesting storytelling concept—an attempt to find hope in Hell of all places. To me, hope is most evident where there is despair, and that’s the main idea I wanted to explore in the film.
Another metaphor I examined within The Rift was the undeniable beauty of our world, even amidst all of this darkness—the interplay of darkness and light, good and evil, hope and despair and how all of these elements manage to coexist somehow. I tried to acknowledge this reality inside The Rift as best as I could. I don’t think everyone interprets the film’s themes the same way I do, but that is honestly exciting to me. Hopefully, the story is universal and has the ability to connect with people from all walks of life.
Honestly, my personal inspiration for writing this story stems from the idea of adopting children, kids who have never known any true love or kindness. My wife and I are planning to adopt a child in the near future. I think it’s one of the most powerful things we can do to make a positive difference on this planet.
MM: The winner of the Doorpost Film Project wins $100,000. Having $100,000 for the budget of one’s next film is obviously a huge advantage, but what are some of the other benefits of being one of the 10 finalists?
BM: Seriously, if you make it into the finals of The Doorpost, you have already won. I received a $30,000 grant to make a new short film! This is by far the biggest short film budget I’ve ever had. The last short I wrote and shot was self-funded for $700! That was all that we could afford. My career just took a quantum leap forward, simply because I was able to make The Rift. This film would not exist without the tangible support of The Doorpost.
There are many other benefits to becoming part of The Doorpost community. They pay to fly you out to attend workshops and symposiums (free) that will make you a better filmmaker. They are active in helping you continue to hone your craft. Get this: They also pay for you to enter your Doorpost film into other additional film festivals all over the world. They put me in contact with a RED ONE camera specialist for shooting and post-production workflow issues. They provided script consultants during the final round—two highly successful screenwriters who gave me valuable story feedback on the The Rift. They created the logo and poster for The Rift free of charge. Because of my involvement with The Doorpost, I have met and continue to meet with individuals who have the knowledge and ability to help me begin to fund feature projects.
The Doorpost is so much more than a short film festival; it’s truly an online community. I have met so many talented filmmakers, actors and crew on the Website. Once you get on the site, you’ll notice that it’s a social network. It’s linked up to Twitter, you can update your status, add friends, etc. I have made many new friends as well as business connections on the site. And anyone can join. You don’t have to be a filmmaker or a finalist. It’s a wonderful community that is an extension of The Doorpost’s commitment to creating an encouraging atmosphere for filmmakers.
MM: Have you had much interaction with other Doorpost moviemakers? What kind of encouragement have you received, both from the other moviemakers and from the contest organizers
BM: I have had a lot of positive interaction with the other filmmakers.
The first Doorpost event that I attended was the official kick-off meeting for the 10 finalists. They put us all up in this really posh hotel on the East Coast, cooked for us and provided many opportunities for us to hang out and get to know each other. It was an incredible time. I met some amazing folks; quite honestly, people that I now consider friends. True peers, brothers and sisters in arms… not to mention the wonderful Doorpost staff.
The level of encouragement in this particular fest is unrivaled. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a more encouraging festival experience anywhere.
We were plagued with many, many production problems on The Rift… serious problems that threatened to shut us down on more than one occasion. The Doorpost people caught wind of it, and before I knew it, the president of The Doorpost was on a plane, headed to Texas… just to be with us, to encourage us and to lend a hand on set if needed. We were all so blown away and humbled by this gesture. These are the kind of folks that you hang out with for a day or two and quickly begin to realize that you are making lifelong friends. I am forever connected to these guys, the festival and their mission.
Also during the week of shooting on The Rift, I was blown away when one of my “direct competitors” (another Doorpost finalist) showed up on my set, along with his cinematographer and producer. As I directed my scenes that night, I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were working with the art department, moving set pieces, carrying gear. It was truly a beautiful thing to behold. These are the kind of people that you meet within this community. We are already discussing the possibility of working together in the future. This is the true nature and spirit of The Doorpost.
Filmmaking is a team sport. I hate the idea of filmmaking being a cutthroat competition of some kind—that you’re out to crush the other teams. It’s not about that to me, and to many of the other filmmakers for that matter. The Doorpost experience transcends the idea of winners and losers. Many of us believe that film has the power to inspire and affect positive change in our world. When that happens, then we all win. This is the essence of what I take from my experience with The Doorpost.
MM: Do you have any ideas in the works for upcoming projects?
BM: I am writing a really cool kids film right now, very much in the tradition of The Goonies with a bit of a supernatural thread spliced in. We are really excited and looking forward to getting started on this one. Like The Rift, it has a lot of heart.
We have also been taking a very serious look at expanding The Rift into a feature. It originated as a feature idea and much of the response to the film has been pushing us in this direction as well.
Because of my involvement with The Doorpost, we are also receiving invitations to take a look at other scripts as well.
Learn more about the festival, and view McCorkle’s film, at www.thedoorpost.com.