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Interview of Todd M Jones (Throws of Passion) – Soho International Film Festival NYC 2010

Written by: FFT Webmaster | March 11th, 2010

Soho International Film Festival 2010

Luis Pedron was the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the recently concluded Soho International Film Festival NYC 2010.

Todd M JonesTodd M Jones
Director and Producer of “Throws of Passion” an Official Selection to the Soho International Film Festival NYC 2010.

Luis Pedron:  In your press kit, it says this was a $1000 budget feature film, explain to us what this means? Is that at all possible?

Todd M. Jones: We made a really low-budget flick.  I already owned my own equipment and editing software, so the bulk of our budget was spent on the 53 hours worth of tape that we shot on, some of the expenses for our biggest shooting day (food, drinks, etc.) and the expenses we had for our trip to Toronto to visit the World RPS Championships.  Its a very possible number if you work with people who believe in the project and if you work around your collaborators’ schedules.  Patience is the key to such a low budget.

Luis Pedron: Throughout the years you have become a director of comedy films, was that a choice and why?

Todd M Jones: THROWS OF PASSION is my first feature.  The shorts that I’ve worked on were produced as a way to learn as much as possible.  It was my film school experience.  In the course of doing the shorts, it was comedy that I found myself drawn to and that I had something of an aptitude for as a director.  I love comedy because it allows you to tell dynamic stories, it really challenges the actors you’re working with, and at the end of the day it allows for maximum creative input from everyone involved.

Luis Pedron:  Who are your inspirations as a director and as a writer of comedy films?

Todd M Jones: I like a wide range of comedies and comedic directors.  THROWS OF PASSION is a mockumentary, so clearly Christopher Guest is a big influence on the way I approached the movie.  I also love directors like James L. Brooks, Mel Brooks, John Hughes and the Coen Brothers.

Luis Pedron: What was the wackiest anecdotes you have about shooting this film?

Todd M Jones: Getting the chance to actually visit and shoot some stuff at the World Championships was a great experience.  I also had the opportunity to work with all three of my brothers and one of them, my brother Jeff, was really willing to do a lot of heavy lifting when it came to physical comedy.  And when you’re working with actors, it really is an advantage to be related to them when a scene involves an overly affectionate dog.  And when the dog loses its interest, its an advantage to be related to the actor when you need to put a little peanut butter on his arm to get the dog to shoot just one more shot.

Luis Pedron: You have your own Oceans 11 crew that you put in your films each and every time, is that your formula to your success  or a great sample of successful collaboration and why?

Todd M Jones:  I love to work with people I’ve previously collaborated with.  There’s such a familiarity and it really does make putting a no-budget project like ours together so much more efficient.  Strangely, the key to working with previous collaborators is to add new ones as well.  It adds an enthusiasm and fresh perspective that allows everyone to walk away from their effort with something new and satisfying, which is what you need to convince people to come back.

Luis Pedron: How easy or hard was it to create a mockumentary?

Todd M Jones: If you’re working with the right people, making a mockumentary is such a joy.  I had the opportunity to work with a group of people who wanted nothing more than to make sure that what they put on screen was as funny as possible.  One aspect of the mockumentary that I wanted to focus on was that it really reflect documentaries, not the other mockumentaries that are out there, which I think mocks, as a subgenre, are starting to do.  And as far as the look and feel of the movie goes, I think we accomplished that.

Luis Pedron: Is there really a Rock Paper Scissors Tournament anywhere in the world?

Todd M Jones: Oh, RPS is a very real endeavor for a lot of people out there.  We had the opportunity to pick up a few shots at the World RPS Championships in Toronto a few years ago and there are great little tournaments springing up all over the country. The World RPS Society is a great place to learn more if you want to.  There are some great folks over there who really have struck the right tone with what they’ve been striving to put together.

Luis Pedron: What are your future plans for Throws of Passion?

Todd M Jones: We’re a little $1,000 comedy.  I think we have that independent spirit that all filmmakers aspire to capture when they start to work on their first feature.  I hope we find festivals and venues that share that spirit with us.  We understand that being selected by a festival is a privilege and having seen the movie connect with the audiences it has been shown to, I believe that as a movie and as a cast & crew, we would be ideal representatives for what those independent festivals stand for.

Luis Pedron: What’s next for Todd M Jones?

Todd M Jones: I’m looking forward to the opportunity to travel with the movie a bit and to support it as best I can.  I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish and because I believe in the effort that the people I worked with put in, I feel like its my responsibility to be the biggest booster for THROWS OF PASSION that I can possibly be.  In the near future, I’m looking to shoot a short so that I can iron out a few ideas that I’ve had and use it as preparation for a feature idea that’s been rolling around in my head for a while.

Luis Pedron: Did you have some hurdles and lesson learned stories shooting and editing Throws of Passion?

Todd M Jones: I produced the movie with guys I’ve been making short films with for years.  We’ve never been primarily filmmakers (as cool as that would be).  We were making the movie on weekends and during vacations.  I was in law school, as were two of the other producers.  Two of the other guys were MBA candidates during production and post-production.  In the course of a few months, I graduated law school, my first child was born, I took the bar exam, and we finished the first cut of the movie.  And the rest of the cast and crew were busy having kids, relocating for jobs, getting married, and living their lives.  I think the story of the movie is that all of these talented people believed in the project enough to find the time in their busy lives to see the project through to completion.

Luis Pedron:  Do you have any advice to filmmakers out there who are about to shoot their first feature film?

Todd M Jones: The best advice I can give to someone about to shoot their first feature is to make sure you love the project.  Don’t worry about any of the business or the glamour or the other silliness that sucks so many people into filmmaking.  The only thing you have control over is the effort and focus you put into your project.  If you lose sight of those things you’re truly in control of, you’re going to find that the end product suffers.  Additionally, its important to remember that as the director, the most important thing you can do is to support the people who have committed to working with you.  If something threatens the work that your collaborators are putting into the project, its your duty to tend to that immediately.

Soho International Film Festival NYC 2010 – related Questions

Luis Pedron: How was your experience at Soho International Film Festival NYC 2010?

Todd M Jones: The Soho International Film Festival NYC 2010 was an extraordinary experience.  Their inaugural effort was head and shoulders above many of the experiences I’ve had with other festivals, so I am quite sure that this festival is only going to get better as the organizers determine what worked and what didn’t. The opportunity to premiere in the heart of New York City is one that I don’t think any filmmaker could pass up.

Luis Pedron: Did you meet interesting filmmakers and watched interesting films?

Todd M Jones: The best part of the experience was meeting the other filmmakers.  In particular, the opportunity to meet Ricardo Sean Thompson, writer/director of A KISS OF CHAOS and the creative team behind ONE IN THE GUN, Rolfe Kanefsky, Steven Man, and Esther Goldstein was invaluable.  They all had more experience as filmmakers than I do and were more than willing to share what they’ve learned and are genuinely interested in what it is you’re trying to bring to the table.  Not to mention their movies were fantastic.

Luis Pedron: You seem to be prolific in marketing through the different social media? Do you mind sharing some of your secrets?

Todd M Jones: Social media is an opportunity for people to learn about you and your project.  The key is to remember that the internet is  not a bulletin board.  Any effort you make on sites like facebook, twitter, or myspace needs to be personal.  Its an opportunity for people to learn what you’re about and what you have to offer.  Its also an opportunity to learn from other people, which makes it another collaborative experience that you can have as a filmmaker.  If there’s one thing to learn from independent film right now, its that no one is entitled to anything.  Being a director means you’re the biggest advocate for your movie.  Anyone else – producers, publicists, festival directors – they are simply resources. They can be great people (and many of them are), but they can’t make the case for your movie better than you can.

Luis Pedron: You  have a large fanbase in facebook and had a sold out screening, what is your secret?

Todd M Jones:  I think the secret to building any degree of interest in an independent movie is to put yourself out there as much as possible.  If you’re making a movie, then odds are that you love movies, but most people see them as an entertaining distraction or a possible outlet on a Saturday night.  So when people get behind your movie – no matter how big or small – and invest their time and effort into supporting the movie, its important to realize that they’ve invested in the filmmakers and actors as well. There’s a personal component to marketing and distributing your movie that I think is lost on a lot of filmmakers out there.

Luis Pedron: You had tons and tons of laughs, did you expect that and were you happy during your World Premiere screening at Soho International Film Festival NYC 2010 and why?

Todd M Jones: I’m not a nervous guy, necessarily, but as a director I’ve found that I can’t stay in my seat during the playing of a movie I’ve made, so I spent a good amount of time pacing outside.  We made a comedy, which means we were looking for a very measurable and tangible response from our audience as the movie played.  So when the audience responded so favorably to every single gag we put out there, it really was a satisfying experience.  I can’t say I was surprised, because the movie is designed to elicit a particular response, but it was a relief to know that we landed the punches we threw.

The Soho International  Film Festival NYC 2010 really does go out of its way to make sure that the cast & crew of every movie involved has a special experience with their film.  For a movie as small as THROWS OF PASSION, the experience really is a small reward in a lot of ways.  The opportunity for people to come out and support the movie, to take pictures on a red carpet, and to do interviews with different media outlets really is worth more than the application fee.  In the end, a festival is an opportunity to let people know about your movie.  Festivals set themselves apart when they partner with filmmakers in that endeavor.  So many festivals simply take the fee, the box office receipts, and close their doors.  The Soho International Film Festival NYC 2010 clearly wanted to be as big an advocate for our movie as we did and that support really meant a lot to us.

Luis Pedron:  Any advice to filmmakers out there how to enjoy their film festival experience? What is the advantage of doing the festival circuit?

Todd M Jones: The best way to approach the festival experience is to keep your goals in perspective and focus on setting one or two goals for each festival.  Its not 1994.  Miramax barely exists anymore, so they’re not going to be at your festival to make you the next Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, or Robert Rodriguez.  Today, festivals are a relatively cheap way to get your film to play at least once in a particular market.  Build your audience step by step.  Try to connect with the 10 or 200 people that show up for your screening and let your movie be the center of that experience.  Your movie is an opportunity to introduce yourself to people before you even speak to them.  Just let that work speak for you.  And be ready for the questions and inquiries that might follow.  And there will be all sorts of questions – take it from a guy who made a movie about rock, paper, scissors.

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