A few months ago, my friend David Formentin was talking to me over beers at Shake Shack about this film he wanted to create. He wanted to utilize social media and the Internet to spread the word and was asking me where to begin. For someone who would say his social media skills are not up to par, Birds of Paradise has gone above and beyond his funding goal on Kickstarter, raising $5,000 with 9 days to spare. Today is the final day for donations and before David becomes famous for an award-winning film, I wanted to ask him how he got to this point of seeing his idea become a reality.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am from Connecticut, I went to Hofstra, I lived in California once, I work in New York on commercials and tv shows and films sometimes, and I drive the equipment truck a lot and pick up film equipment and it’s proven to be really great exercise. I scribble all the time in many different disciplines, and this film is the first collection of scribbles that I felt confident enough to write into an entire film.
Tell us about Birds of Paradise, what the heck is it about?
Birds of Paradise is about a person who is not a complete asshole but could be a nicer person. He’s fairly selfish, but we’re all pretty selfish. It all takes place in about 36 hours. He gets it in his head that he’s dying, and since he’s been laid off, his insurance lapsed and won’t cover the huge test he just had done, so he’s decided to move out of LA with no place in mind to go. He’s not exactly thinking it through. His sister is also in town for the day and he doesn’t tell her any of this.
Why did you pick the title “Birds of Paradise?”
That title comes from many places. A close friend of mine who is a really talented, brilliant writer called a one-act play of his “Birds of Paradise” many years ago and I loved it so much that I stole it by accident years later. I haven’t seen him in a long time, he’s not around anymore. He’s not dead, but he’s not here. There were also bird of paradise flowers outside my apartment building in Los Angeles, and because it’s plural it’s a great way to describe a movie where people aren’t very nice to each other.
How long have you had the idea for this film in your head?
It started as a very different story maybe 3 years ago but the way it looks now is less than a year old. I was outlining it on my one legal pad before I moved back to the East Coast last summer. How is it I’ve used this same legal pad for 2 years?
I don’t know, I go through four a year. What is the importance in making this film now, what with the unemployment rate skyrocketing, fewer entry-level jobs, and yet more people wanting to invest in their independent projects?
From an egocentric perspective, I’m making this film now because I realized no one is ever going to just let me make a film, and there’s no “right time” to wait for before you do something. Nobody ever accomplished anything valuable by waiting for something good to roll near their shoes. So I saved all of my money and bothered people and emailed people and decided that now was the time. I’ll never be able to do something so risky and foolhardy again, so I’m going to do it now, and then hope I can find some sort of normal job when it’s done and hope for the best.
Out of everyone you know (yourself included), which person’s life is most reflected in this film?
I don’t really know. Mine. Yours. It’s more about the feeling of living in a place and feeling disconnected enough to give your surroundings human attributes so you can be mad at them instead of yourself. Which is silly, but anyone who lives in one of the big cities feels that from time to time.
Why did you use Kickstarter to fund your film?
Do you mean Kickstarter specifically or crowd-sourcing in general? I have an answer for both. I used Kickstarter rather than their rival IndieGoGo
because of brand recognition. They do the almost the same thing, and while there are reasons both are great, Kickstarter is more recognizable. And I chose to crowd-source because it’s new-ish and it’s gained legitimacy in the past 6 months. In 2010 it was a baby idea and in 2012 people will be over it. Also, to be clear, the Kickstarter money is slightly less than half the total budget, I’m not sure you can make a quality (quality being the key word) film for $5,000 and I don’t recommend trying to.
Which contribution (monetarily or anything else) to the making of this film meant the most to you?
Without question, the reason we’re able to do this is my partner, Sarah Gerard. She wrote the script with me, and without our collaborating on it, the film would still be a terribly truncated 10 page outline. And now we are sharing all of this work, all the phone calls, emails, favors, Facebook, logistics… without her I’d be nowhere, we’d be nowhere. And without all of our supporters on Kickstarter, we’d also be nowhere. And Hillary Spera, the cinematographer, she’s amazing and invaluable to the project. Basically, anyone that has contributed anything to this project, all of this means the most to me. It’s been fantastic. And now we get to make a movie.
What are your plans for this film when it is complete?
Submit to as many festivals I can afford to submit to and wait for the entirety of fall to hear back from the festivals. And we’ve already started working on another script, it’s a big one, so I’d like to push that as far as I can as well.
I love them both equally. New York is way dirtier and in LA you lose track of time, but they’re both great. And I don’t care what anyone says, New York traffic is so much worse. So much worse. Yuck.
Tell us about your film crew.
There are very few at the moment, but they are amazing, just amazing. Hillary, the cinematographer, is just a really excellent person and really easy to work with and she is great at what she does. Then there is Sarah, who I gushed about earlier, though I neglected to mention that besides producing and writing the film with me she is also acting in it. As far as crew goes, that’s it so far, we’re still building our roster, which will be easier when we get to LA.
Are you coming to my party in July?
UGH no, we’ll be shooting in July! Why didn’t tell me before?