My mother always told me: “You can do anything you put your mind to.” That’s what I tell people when asked how I’ve accomplished so much with so very little.
My first film, Liberty Bound, was self-funded on my husband’s middle-class income, produced without connections to any influential persons “in the business,” shot on a consumer-grade camcorder, edited with packaged software on my desktop computer and marketed through my own efforts via the Internet.
When I started in December of 2002, I had no experience as a moviemaker, no crew and no budget. But I did have a strong desire to explore what was happening in the post-9/11 United States and, since my degrees in English rendered me virtually unemployable, a lot of time on my hands. So I decided to take the advice of a fellow IndieClub (www.indieclub.com) member to heart and just make my movie.
I learned as I progressed in the process, reading books on making documentaries, editing music videos with my home movies and talking with other indie moviemakers on the Internet. I guess the one thing I didn’t learn was that making an interesting, entertaining documentary without funding, connections or expensive equipment was impossible.
|Moviemaker Christine Rose sets up a shot.|
I spent countless hours researching current events and 9/11 discrepancies through alternative and foreign media sources. I found dozens of people who suffered civil liberty violations since (and before) 9/11 and quickly worked to schedule interviews with them, as well as with some of the great thinkers of our time. All this—along with finding a composer, a graphic designer and a research assistant—was accomplished via the Internet.
My husband and I had little money in savings, but coupled with the opportunity to see my ill grandfather in Ohio one last time, I was able to justify the use of it for a cross-country trip. I took the train from Sacramento to Ohio and then drove up to Boston to interview renowned historian Howard Zinn, circled around to visit Ground Zero in New York City and the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, then headed back home. In hindsight, the choice of taking the train (which was just as expensive as flying and took four days instead of four hours) was an invaluable one. Initially, I thought it would provide some travel footage of the United States, which it did, but it also gave me the time to speak with other Americans. Most importantly, it provided a significant scene in the documentary: The interrogation of “Winston” by the Denver police, for having a philosophical conversation, which I literally (and accidentally) walked in on. Fortunately for the movie, I had the nerve to stay (although my heart was racing), put my headphones on (hoping it would look like I was minding my own business) and press “record” on the camcorder. It became the most compelling part of the movie.
When I returned home from the production trip, I began cataloguing the footage and editing it into shape. Since I lacked the resources to do any extra filming, I purchased inexpensive stock footage on eBay, licensed some news footage through CNN and used public domain footage whenever possible to keep costs down (a great resource for this is www.archive.org). It was a long process involving months of working late into the night. (I often joked that, had I realized the amount of work involved in making a film, I never would’ve started. Of course, I’m now working on my third!)
Through the editing process, I quickly came to realize the power I had as a moviemaker. I could arrange things in a way to purposely manipulate my audience, if I so desired. This realization imprinted me with a very serious sense of responsibility to tell the truth and to reference my sources, just as I would do in a research paper in graduate school. My goal in making this film was to show the audience things they didn’t hear on the evening news or through the mainstream media, not convince them of my views.
Before the project was completed, I was introduced to executive producer Lorraine Evanoff by a mutual friend. Her professionalism and drive encouraged me to bring her on board immediately. She took the rough cut to the Cannes Film Market in May 2003. To my astonishment, I received a call from Lorraine, who shouted into my disbelieving ear, “We sold the film! We sold the film!” She closed the deal with a French distributor, Take Off, on her third day there. Through this company, Liberty Bound has gained worldwide press and audiences, starting with a theatrical premiere in Paris in June of 2004 and continuing on through the more recent European DVD release in November of 2005.
After over a year of seeking domestic distribution for Liberty Bound, and with the 2004 Presidential election quickly approaching, I decided to stop waiting for conventional distribution to happen and do it myself. I had thousands of DVDs made at my own expense, booked a nationwide tour by finding and cultivating contacts on the Internet, set up a Web-based store for the sale of the DVDs (with the help of PayPal) and hit the road. I traveled a meandering path from Nova Scotia, Canada (where we were renovating a house) to the west coast and back again, ending up in Texas. I financed my travels with the profits from DVDs sold at the screenings. Audiences loved it. I would often stay for an hour or more afterwards at the Q&A sessions discussing moviemaking, politics and conspiracy theories. At the end of the 40-city tour, I was exhausted—but I had shown my movie to thousands of people.
I’ve had the honor and fortune of having Liberty Bound screen at the first annual Artivist Film Festival in Hollywood and the 2005 Gothenburg Film Festival in Sweden. At one of the two sold-out screenings in Sweden, Academy Award-winner Alexander Payne showed up, much to my surprise and delight. After having spoken in front of countless audiences on the tour, I was suddenly tongue-tied!
Finally, with great thanks to Andre Lazare, Patrick Gimenez and (especially) Manuel Guyon of Take Off, I enjoyed my own theatrical premiere at the Epace St. Michel theater in Paris, directly across from Notre Dame Cathedral. The subsequent international press from that event gave Liberty Bound the validity that helped me to eventually sign a domestic distribution contract with M&L Banks of New York following the 2005 Cannes Market for both Liberty Bound and my second feature, Internationally Speaking.
The Internet is an incredible tool, without which I would not have been able to conduct research, make contacts, schedule a tour or enjoy this success. I continue to work—now on my third feature length film, Nesting Habits of the Feral Hippie, a mockumentary slated for a 2006 release. The secret to my relative success, despite a lack of celebrity connections or financing, is hard work, perseverance and an overwhelming desire to make interesting and entertaining films. MM
For more information on Christine Rose or Liberty Bound, visit www.bluemoosefilms.com.