Dream to Screen | Filmmaking | Interviews

Fostering the Indie Spirit

1 Nov , 2005  

Written by Elaine Mak | Posted by:

Creator and Producer of 'Indie Spirit,' Sam Colson talks about his new television show aiming to expose audiences to the unique and artistic works of new independent filmmakers on the scene today.

Sam Colson is a busy man these days. He spends his time juggling work as a stern man on a Maine lobster boat with a part-time job at an independent movie theater, with freelance video production work on the side. Colson is now also working on producing "Indie Spirit," his television program designed to give new filmmakers the chance to screen their works to the public.

The creation of each episode of Colson’s hour-long television show will involve showcasing each selected film to a live studio audience, concluding the screening with a taped question and answer session between the filmmaker and the audience. The format of each episode of "Indie Spirit" will begin with an introduction by the filmmaker, followed by the selected independent film, edited to less than 40 minutes. The show will conclude with the question and answer session between the audience and the filmmaker, to give viewers some insight on the inspiration and process of the selected film.

NewEnglandFilm.com recently spoke to Colson about his experience with balancing his day job with his film projects, his background in film, and his future plans for the launch of "Indie Spirit."

Elaine Mak:  What’s the "Indie Spirit" pitch?

Sam Colson: "Indie Spirit" is a television program designed to showcase films produced by first-time filmmakers who have not yet had the opportunity to screen their films in front of an audience on a big screen.

EM:  I know that you are a lobster fisherman by trade.  How do you work your schedule to make time to work on this show?

Colson: My primary source of income comes from working as a stern man on a lobster boat in Maine. I also work part-time at a small local independently owned and operated movie theatre called Eveningstar Cinema, and finally I work part-time for myself doing video production. I have produced TV commercials, TV programs, marketing promos, and a few short films. It is an incredibly challenging juggling act to try to find the time to do all of these things; however I have discovered that if you really want to do something you can make the time. It has definitely come with a great deal of sacrifice, but I believe that the things we value most usually do.

EM:  What is your background in film?

Colson: I began pursuing my dream of producing films by volunteering at a local public access cable TV station. I took advantage of every opportunity there to learn as much as I could and to build a repertoire of work. I was hired to do some local gig’s that helped me to learn more and get my name out there. I have joined some trade groups like the ‘Media Artists Group’ in Portland, Maine and have talked to other striving filmmakers to get a feel of what other people are doing and which direction the film industry is going.

I coordinated an avant-garde film festival that was successful in bringing filmmakers from many different places in the U.S. and Canada, and was very pleased to see that there were still ‘film artists’ out there who were not compromising their vision to make a few bucks. Independent film used to be a term to describe films that were produced independent of the mainstream movie making industry in Hollywood, but somehow in the last few years, Hollywood has infiltrated this style of maverick filmmaking and has made independent film just a specific genre of movies… so when we had our avant-garde film festival, it was a pleasure to meet with and discuss the ‘artistry’ of filmmaking with people who shared my passion.

I was using some consumer grade PC based video editing software on my computer and trying to create the images I had imagined for my particular projects, and was feeling quite limited. I entered a contest with the Sundance Channel last year and won the grand prize which consisted of some great professional editing resources. This not only gave me the limitless ability to realize my dreams, but in a much quicker and professional manner.

EM:  What inspired you to create this show?

Colson: Similar programs have been produced in the past that have showcased independent film and/or filmmakers; however, I am trying to specifically find the beginning or striving film artist. Probably my biggest inspiration as a filmmaker has been David Lynch. He is what we call a true ‘auteur.’ He not only tells a story in a dark and original method, but he involves himself in the entire process of the film. He has created his own music, set designs, costume designs, etc. in order to realize his entire vision for a particular project. You walk away from one of his films with a certain feeling whether it is a comfortable feeling or not. He truly creates certain moods that give you a sense of what the characters are feeling. As an example, in "The Grandmother" he painted the house completely black. The walls, floors, and ceilings, and even some of the props that were not critical to the plot. It gave you a foreboding sense of the miserable life that this kid was living with his abusive parents.

In the film festival that we had a year ago, there was a film called "Spaceman Dan’s 243rd Flight." The filmmaker did an excellent job creating a certain mood that helped you as an audience get a real sense of how the characters were feeling, and like David Lynch, he gave his audience some credit for formulating their own conclusions.

There are so many films that explain too much and you walk away feeling like you were spoon fed. I hope to encourage other filmmakers to stick with their unique style and not feel pressured into following a predetermined pattern of filmmaking. If Tarantino had ‘played by the rules’ we wouldn’t have "Pulp Fiction" or "Reservoir Dogs."

EM:  What kinds of films are you planning on showcasing on "Indie Spirit?"

Colson: I don’t want to sound vague here, but I would like to attempt not to create too many boundaries. I guess to answer your question; I am looking for films that are truly the vision of the filmmaker.

EM:  What is your method for film selection for your show?

Colson: Myself, and the host [Nick Stevens] will screen the films that are submitted and discuss whether or not we feel it fits into what we are trying to accomplish; however, I do not want anyone to think that their particular films would not be considered. I can not emphasize enough that we are looking to showcase the true artistic vision of the independent filmmaker, so I would rather be vague than to imply restrictions.

EM:  Ideally, what kind of audiences would you like your show to reach?

Colson: The person who appreciates art. Recently I had a discussion with the owner of the cinema about a particular film that he showed. At the end of the conversation, he commented on the fact that we had just talked about this film for a lengthy amount of time, and that that was the mark of a good film. I would have to agree. I have heard people criticize a movie for many different reasons, and thought to myself, "wow, if it caused them to have that kind of a passionate feeling about it, than perhaps the filmmaker was successful in achieving his vision."

EM:  Who else are you working with on this project?  What are their roles?

Colson: We are keeping it relatively simple for now. I will film and edit the program. Nick Stevens, a charismatic and witty friend of mine will host the program. But I am very open to any ideas that people have and any help that anyone is willing to give. I want this program to be about the art of the film. If that means that someone comes along who can do it better than myself, and with the same kind of passion, I am all for handing over the reigns. 

EM:  Do you have any sponsors?  If so, who?

Colson: As of right now, the only real sponsor we have is John Favreau who is the owner of the Eveningstar Cinema. Without his cooperation in letting us produce the program at his theatre this would probably not have the same kind of effect. I am looking for sponsorship from persons and/or businesses that can offer some kind of resource or encouragement to the striving indie filmmaker. Interested potential sponsors can reach us by the same means as the filmmakers.

EM:  What kind of guidelines are you looking for in film submissions? 

Colson: We are definitely interested in looking at any film that is an expression of the filmmaker. It can be anything from a documentary to an animated short to a feature length dramatic story. We are keeping this open to any filmmakers regardless of where they live; however, the idea of the program is to have the filmmaker, or at least someone closely connected to the film, present for the screening for the purpose of interviewing them and allowing the audience to ask questions. We would prefer a film that is at least 15 to 20 minutes long up to as much as two hours long. If a film is longer than 40 minutes, it would have to be edited down for the sake of the television audience.

Colson is currently preparing to produce pilot episodes of "Indie Spirit" for presentation to PBS and other similar broadcasting systems. He plans to launch his program between late November and early December. Filmmakers interested in having their films considered for "Indie Spirit" should submit DVD or VHS screeners with $15 non-refundable submission fees to:

"Indie Spirit"
C/O Feed The Dog Productions
P.O. Box 5
Orr’s Island, Maine 04066

Optional return requests should be specified with self-addressed, postage-paid envelopes. Colson can be reached by e-mail at feedthedog@midmaine.net with the words "Indie Spirit" in the subject line.

Colson is currently preparing to produce pilot episodes of 'Indie Spirit' for presentation to PBS and other similar broadcasting systems. He plans to launch his program between late November and early December. Filmmakers interested in having their films considered for 'Indie Spirit' should submit DVD or VHS screeners with $15 non-refundable submission fees to: 'Indie Spirit' C/O Feed The Dog Productions P.O. Box 5 Orr's Island, Maine 04066 Optional return requests should be specified with self-addressed, postage-paid envelopes. Colson can be reached by e-mail at feedthedog@midmaine.net with the words 'Indie Spirit' in the subject line.