With his latest film, A Brilliant Monster, in the can and its world premiere at the famous Chinese Theater coming up fast, I figured writer/director F.C. Rabbath would be busy pressing the flesh, attending swanky Hollywood parties, and basically living the glamorous, glitzy life of excess that every independent filmmaker enjoys*. As it turns out, though, Fred Rabbath is a Man of the People and was happy to answer a few questions we had about life as an indie film director…
What filmmakers do you keep a close eye on these days and/or inspire you?
I would say overall and not just these days: Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Hitchcock and M. Night Shyamalan. I really enjoyed seeing what they did and loved their perspectives especially in their earlier works.
How do you get financing for your productions? Crowdfunding? Investors? Lottery winnings?
Mostly I fund them myself. Commercial work, day job, etc. But recently we tried crowdfunding for A Brilliant Monster. Sadly the results were very small – so we went back to self funding. Still trying to find a better way to do it, I’ll keep you posted if I do!
You seem to be able to do a lot with what you have. Do you have any tricks for stretching your budget?
I’d say it’s important to do favors for businesses and people. Whether it is make a commercial for their business to use their location for filming or use the money they give you for your film. Either way, be friendly with everyone and make a good deal. Offer to show their products, or even cast them for minor roles. People love movies, and are fascinated by you being crazy enough to do it.
How do you get your films distributed? What’s that like?
This is the scariest part of filmmaking to be honest. Because all of your work can be stolen if you give it to the wrong person/company. Which has happened.
If you do plan to sell to a distributor please ask the other filmmakers that have already sold to them about their experiences. They would be more than willing to vent to you. So do research. Do not take the distributor’s recommendations on who to ask.
It’s truly frightening, but I highly recommend self distribution as you control the rights if it’s a very small film with no name and no festival selections. It’s good to experiment. However, if your film has a great festival run and you meet a great distributor, then it’s magic.
As an independent director, what do you think of the new BlumHouse/A24/IFC Midnight environment where small budget movies hit it big? Does that add more pressure or provide more opportunities?
I think it provides more opportunities. The market is starving for GOOD material. If you do a good job you now have more channels to go through. One of the things I would change is how these companies find true/new talent.
There is a huge wall and not everyone is savvy enough to get a sales agent. It requires a lot of work to get connected to the right people.
Which is sad because we could be missing out on some great talent. Since not everyone who is talented has good representation or knows where to begin – we need a match.com for filmmakers and distributors. Communication is key!
I noticed you’ve got quite a few short films in your portfolio. With a few of them like Listen (2007), Scarlet’s Witch (2008), and Dead Meat (2015) — which became the excellent A Brilliant Monster — you returned to their stories years later to expand them into feature-length films.
How do short films fit into what you do? Do you see them as proofs-of-concept for possible feature films? Are they mainly for experimentation/practice? Or something else?
A little bit of everything. It’s good to see how people react. Some stories however are good only in short form, and this is a good test for that.
It also allows me to make all my mistakes on a small scale in that particular story. Everyone is going to fail, fail small so you can learn from it and apply the lessons learned on the feature version.
Back in the day (which I can say because I’m old), movie critics were few and far between. Pretty much, your options were to read reviews in the paper or catch Siskel and Ebert on TV. Consequently, movie reviews could really effect the success of a film.
These days, since literally anyone can be a reviewer (even me!) and it’s completely just someone’s opinion, do filmmakers worry much about the actual reviews or is it more just a good way to get the word out about their movies?
I think it’s great that there are more critics as it gives your projects a chance to thrive with a difference kind of audience.
Mainstream critics like…main stream projects, so this gives everyone a chance to grow and get encouraged.
As a follow-up question, how big of a role does the film festival circuit play in determining the fate of a movie?
Huge role. It is a rite of passage for the film and also increases it’s value for buyers. Especially if your film has no big names. It gives merit and credibility for a potential distributor to take a chance on it. It’s a high risk game in every direction.
What’s your next project and when will we get another F.C. Rabbath horror movie?
I have two upcoming feature films, The Waiting, a horror/romance. And Mr. Calculator which is a sci-fi drama comedy.
I try not to stay in one genre as you need to exercise every bone in your film body. Because mixing genres is a good way to keep things fresh and each genre has its pros and cons.
Is there anything else you’d like to like to share with our readers?
Give indie films a chance. If you’re tired of Spiderman part 35 you need to give smaller films your attention so new content/new talent can get the funds to really achieve that. Money you spend on tickets/streaming is like voting, so vote accordingly. Hollywood will stop making the same movie if you stop watching the same movie. Hollywood is a business after all and it’s hard to blame any business for playing it safe. So it’s up to us (the audience) to change that.
As avid fans of indie horror and independent films in general, the Scariest Things crüe couldn’t agree more.
A hearty thanks to Mr. Rabbath for taking the time to answer our questions! If any of you Scariest Things readers happen to be near the Chinese Theater in Hollywood on the night of June 16th, you should definitely take in the world premiere of A Brilliant Monster. Follow this link for tickets and get some pictures of the event. We’d love to see ’em!
*I’m 14.8% positive this is true.