Lessons in Getting By - Filmmaking Advice from Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet
When Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet, makers of The Way We Get By, first met, they were both living in Michigan, working at (different) TV news stations, and hoping to become filmmakers. It was on Gita’s first trip to Aron’s childhood home in Maine, to meet his mother when they fell into their first filmmaking opportunity.
Aron’s mother was part of a group of people who greeted soldiers coming through the airport in Bangor en route to, or from, Iraq. Aron’s mom was called to meet a 2am flight and Aron and Gita went with her – bringing their cameras along. Thus began production of The Way We Get By.
As part of the Center for Social Media’s visiting filmmaker series, Gita and Aron screened the film and hosted a master class for American University film students. The husband and wife duo acknowledged that none of their methods were “cookie cutters,” and relayed details of some of the good (and not so good) choices they made during the filmmaking process.
Here are some of the lessons learned by the filmmakers:
- The filmmakers struggled to find funding but persevered. Potential funders told them, time and again, that the film would not do well because there was no audience. Gita and Aron disagreed and continued making their film – they found their subjects to be captivating and were dedicated to following them. The filmmakers also agreed they would not go into debt making the film. They flew from Michigan to Maine to shoot only when money was available. Eventually they moved to Boston to be closer to their subjects, and, over time they were able to find funding from individuals as well as sponsorships from organizations who had some connection to the subject matter.
- If you have a beautiful film, don’t distribute it with a bad website, as the website is really a storefront for the business of the film. Gita and Aron spent some time searching through websites for other independent films/filmmakers and were not impressed. They realized they would need a compelling website to be taken seriously. Not having the money for such an endeavor, they worked with the web designers to negotiate a discounted rate.
- Figure out how much money your film can make, and then make the film for less. In other words, treat each movie like its own small business. Don’t make them film for more money than you can bring in, and similarly don’t sell the distribution rights for far less than the film will bring in. Determine the film’s value and use that number to make well informed business choices.
- Don’t be afraid to be persistent. Regardless of if you’re asking for help, or just reaching out with updates. (Though avoid harassing or stalking people.) If your film earns an award or gets a great review in a big outlet, share that with your listserv. (Though don’t get into the habit of oversharing.) Additionally, don’t hesitate to ask for help, nor take the first or second or third no for an answer. When you do ask for help, be sure to make it clear, why it’s a mutually beneficial situation, for both you and the person/company you’re asking. Don’t expect anyone to help you “just because” – but if you share a common goal, you should make that evident.
Helping People Make Media That Matters
We investigate, showcase and set standards for socially engaged media-making. We organize conferences and convenings, publish research, create codes of best practices, and incubate media strategies. More...