I have a pet theory about “training” for filmmakers. Many film students who go to ritzy schools graduate and are a dime a dozen out in Hollywood. The people who do end up doing great work are artists who draw from a wide variety of skill sets. They don’t necessarily have degrees and diplomas, but they have grit and determination.
Filmmaker Carl Bachmann is one of these people. He has experience as a member of the US Navy, has traveled extensively, and discovered his passion for movie making organically. He had a consumer camera and began to make polished home movies that lead to him trying his hand at the real thing.
Carl has answered a few questions for us about the making of his first feature Party Slashers. Aspiring filmmakers, pay close attention to Carl’s answers about crowdfunding. His Kickstarter link is also at the bottom of the page; why not toss him a few bucks?
Okay, Carl Bachmann, please tell us who you are in a few simple sentences.
I’m a US navy veteran, I’ve traveled to 36 countries, I’m a rugby enthusiast, self-taught filmmaker with an unrelated college degree, married to a stand-up comedian and living with a dog named Mr. Jeff Goldblum.
What are some of your formative film experiences? Was there a certain movie that made you want to grow up and be a filmmaker? What are some of the movies that you loved (and possibly still love?)
Some films that left lasting impressions on me were Fight Club, The Matrix, Alien, Apocalypse now, Ghostbusters, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and countless others, the list could go on. To me these tales were so unique and went against the grain in many regards. A lot of these movies were met with a lot of resistance by studios but the filmmakers truly believed in these stories and once the chance was taken to make them, turns out that they resonated with millions, including myself. I’ve always loved movies, but no movie made me want to become a filmmaker. I was working as a deckhand on a yacht in Malaysia, and I started chronicling my experiences, and made a little fake Pirates of the Caribbean type-trailer on a small digital consumer camera, and decided to share it with people. The positive response I got struck a unique chord in me, and I wanted to explore it more. If anything, I’d wish that it had happened before I went off to college so I could change my major!
What is your relationship with the horror genre? What excites you about working in that medium?
Horror, to me, explores a darker side of the human mind. It’s often a side that disturbs most people, and many people try to suppress it, but it is an aspect that is present in all of us. I think it is something that should be analyzed by everyone. What attracted me to the script of my first short film, Miracle on Metal Street, was that it revolved around a character who drew inspiration from a darker side of himself to create something beautiful. That’s also why I’m thankful for Halloween, because to me it’s a celebration of a darker side in people.
What excites me about this genre, is that it does not restrict itself of sensitive subjects or explicit material. It exploits it to the fullest degree, and exacerbates emotions such as fear or anguish in people that serves as a great reminder that it feels good to be alive! My reason for choosing horror-comedy though, is to mend my darker side with the important life-coping mechanism of comedy. The blend of comedy and horror emits a sense of absurdity, which is very central in my type of humor. To me it reflection of several absurd truths that are omnipresent in the world. Just read the news! I bet you can find several headlines that are the epitome of absurdity. It is a genre that is not fully explored and very hard to pull off, but it attracted me so much, and one big advantage of being an independent filmmaker is that we can express ourselves without being confined to marketing concerns to optimize box office revenue.
Will you tell us a bit about your filmmaking background up until this point? Are there shorts you have worked on? Was film school a part of your life?
My filmmaking is for the most part, self-taught. As I said earlier, my first experience was creating small digital films and comedic music videos with a digital consumer camera I had. That expanded to me taking one formal class for a semester, (intro to filmmaking) where they had us film and edit both in super 8mm as well as shooting little shorts with a Sony Handycam. It was a fun experience, I won a couple of awards at a small festival my school put on, but a lot of aspects in filmmaking were glossed over. I was itching to get more professional. Also during school, I was a production assistant in the art department in an indie feature film shooting in Oakland, CA, which was a horrible disorganized shoot, but was great because it taught me so much of what NOT to do! So after I graduated I moved down to LA and started freelancing on any film that would take me. The pay was low/non-existent, and the hours were long, but the experience was invaluable. I got quite a few gigs because I owned a pickup truck, which is great for transporting props/equipment. I freelanced in all different departments to learn and respect the separate crafts, which was quintessential to me being a more effective director. My other short, which has just wrapped up it’s festival run is Miracle On Metal Street, a dark-comedy musical about an introverted album cover artist, who runs behind deadline on a heavy metal album cover and is then visited by a bi-polar demon from hell to help inspire him make the best heavy metal album cover ever. In fact I’m offering the film to anyone who backs Party Slashers, regardless of how much they donate.
You are deep in the preproduction of your first feature Party Slashers. Give us the pitch!
Party Slashers is a Horror-Comedy about a Mr. Popular wannabe has to team up with his introverted ex-best friend for survival during a high school Halloween Party crashed by undead mass murderers whom were accidentally summoned during a Dungeons & Dragons game.
You are using crowd funding (specifically Kickstarter) to raise at least part of your budget. What is the biggest obstacles filmmakers face when crowdfunding?
Self-doubt and the doubt of others. But then try to imagine yourself settling for less in life. This will help you hold up your middle finger to these obstacles and march on.
Would you give us an inside scoop on what that process has been like? How is it going? How do you attract attention to a campaign? (My filmmaking readers will be fascinated…me included.)
The process is long and grueling, but exciting at the same time. Some people think that you can just put a project proposal up and have it be discovered by everyone and it goes viral and you get all this free money, but that’s not the case. My weaknesses in drawing funds from complete strangers is that I didn’t have A-list actors attached to this, I was not making something based on existing content with a built-in audience, nor did I have the amount of clout that some of these million dollar raising campaigns had. I had an idea, a vision and a drive. I knew that my content is my strongest selling point, so I had to show people as much as I could to have them be attuned with the content. That’s why I filmed a scene from the script so people had a better idea of what the tone of this film was like.
Once it was filmed I was anxious to get it online, and as soon as it was cut I originally wanted to give myself 2 weeks to get it ready. But I got cautious, read some literature about crowdfunding, and realized that there was so much I didn’t know! Many people state that you should be preparing months for a crowdfunding campaign. You have to develop a fan base to get people amped for the launch, establish a rapport with bloggers covering your genre, building marketing material, thinking up clever incentives (No one wants a damn mug, post card or pen featuring the film’s logo), that were desirable and at the same time didn’t eat into the money that you raised. Many projects don’t anticipate manufacturing and shipping costs of their rewards, and find out that a good portion of their budget is dissolved by reward costs. I spent a long time compiling a list of over 600 websites, bloggers, twitter/fb users that are horror enthusiasts.
The next hard part is cold-emailing people. This requires you to craft a clever and personal email that is concise but captures a person’s attention that is already committed to several other things. This is where the rapport can help you. I figured October was the best month to launch this thing considering the time of year, which is only half true. Yes, people are in the mood for horror, but most of the bloggers I’m trying to reach are in the mood for horror all year long! So in October, most of them are in hyperdrive and are consuming and posting so much content that is ALREADY MADE, which makes it difficult for them to pay attention to my project that may never be made. All I can do is be personal and genuine with them. There has been lots of ignoring, lots of rejection, but the more people I contact, the more earnest I am about myself, I will eventually find people who are interested in what I have to offer. Yourself included!
Then you launch it, and it becomes a full time job contacting people, blasting stuff on social media, etc. Sometimes it’s depressing that you have so far to go with your goal, amidst all the rejection, but then, you find your audience! People like your stuff, and they show support! This has been a bit of cycle so far during this campaign. But I roll with the punches, stay true to my vision and press on!
What are your plans beyond Party Slashers? (I know this is a somewhat obvious question, but indulge me…) Is there a dream project that you have? A script stashed away in your desk that you can’t wait to make?
Every director has to accept that they will put their time, money and soul into some projects, and it will never see the light of day. You accept this, and move on to the next project. My current objective is to build my audience, and expand myself beyond just the format of feature films. The current climate of motion picture entertainment is shifting rapidly with the changing behavior of how people consume content. Big game changers are streaming sites, youtube, mobile devices, and excellent video game content that can have you glued to your seat for months! I want to explore creating content for youtube, I want to continue making shorts, as well as explore other genres besides horror and comedy.
My lofty dream would either be directing a space odyssey (Kudos to Nolan for getting to this point) or a sci-fi adventure set in the realm of cyberpunk (What is that? Think Blade Runner). These are big budget dreams, so I’ve got some work to do in the meantime!
Anything else we should know about you?
I’m left-handed, people always seem to be stunned by that...I also speak Japanese.
Please help Carl realize his dream of making a feature.
The Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1454237333/party-slashers-a-horror-comedy-see-test-scene