Travis is a filmmaker whose short film about North Korea, which is being funded by The Film Fund, is in pre-production. We asked Travis some questions about filmmaking, his current projects, and the world of independently funded films.
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Why do you write, direct, or produce?
Well, I do all three, and that is for several reasons. One, because the days of being a sole practitioner are over, you now must be able to multitask, if not multi-career. So we might as well add editor and sound tech to that list as well. That is not to say that doing all these tasks in your own films is wise. I still believe in hiring the right people to do each job, but the reality today is that there is the same pool of $$$, but a LOT more competition, so to get your films off the ground (development phase) you have to do a lot of the other roles yourself until the real funding comes through.
Two: but why do I write, direct, and produce films and in particular for me documentaries? Well, I struggle to contain my inner voice of objection to an issue, or highlight the minority, or expose the unjust, or follow the interesting character. This is just how my mind functions; I can’t help it. Stories need to be told, and I think that I am a reliable vehicle for that journey to travel via.
Who are some of your favorite auteurs, and which of them inspire you the most? How?
Adam Curtis. He makes films that I wish I could if I had access to the resources he has. And he has an analytical yet anthropological approach to his commentary that is concise. Louis Theroux: he is the ultimate passive antagonist. The silence he leaves in a room compels the character to dump their most reserved thoughts.
What’s your toughest challenge when raising funding for a film project?
Market placement. Convincing funding bodies to invest in the development of a film or series is not impossible, but getting a broadcaster, production house, or funding body to commit to taking on your film BEFORE you have the production finance is very hard. It is the classic chicken and egg. They want production funding secured and likewise, the funding bodies want the broadcaster or production house on board before they share funds.
And to top it off, COVID has put a lot of commercial filmmakers out of work, so in their desperation, they too are seeking a piece of this pie, so there are now more people competing for the same amount of pie…
What are you working on right now?
Ha, well, a lot, but they are all in very different phases of production:
- My 2nd film about Afghanistan: Financing stage
- A film about North Korea: Funded by The Film Fund, in the pre-production phase
- A TV series about living off-grid in Tasmania, in the development phase
- A film about 30 years after COVID, in the development phase
- A book about my 7 years in Afghanistan [motorcycle odyssey]
- A fiction book about a long-distance love story before the internet
- My band PPP is releasing a 3 volume album this year
- And my other band Major Delay is recording this year.
What do you like about The Film Fund?
I love the concept, taking out all the bureaucratic hoops that institutional funding bodies make us jump through in order to secure funding. Sure, their pools of funding are sometimes larger, but you are looking at 3- 6 months to get an answer, and if you do receive a rejection, you NEVER get feedback on why.
How are filmmakers meant to learn their craft without feedback? The Film Fund is an innovative format to produce lower budget short films that still can deliver worthy content to the platforms.
What’s your advice for filmmakers who are just starting their careers?
Multitask! Sure, specialize in an area in your study years, but make sure you learn the basics in other areas because you will be expected to do more than just direct. Make as many films as you can, and submit them to film festivals and/or competitions. The more runs on the board you have, the easier it gets. Be ready for 250 rejections from funding bodies before winning one. But when you do finally win one, it will get easier from then on.
If you can avoid the commercial world of film making as much as possible, then do, [as] it can taint your creativity and lead you to work other jobs outside the industry (which is not always a bad thing). Give yourself enough time in the week to be creative and enough time working to pay the bills. Find that magical balance. Lastly, be ready to go through poor times and never follow this career path if you are seeking fortune. Do it because you want to create, not get rich and famous.