Interview with Dave Cote, the Winner of War of Films (October)
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"The biggest obstacle was people in the industry telling me that it was impossible to make a feature film without a budget. I overcame this obstacle with blind, naive Faith." - Dave Cote.
Congratulations to Dave Cote for winning the War of Films with his film Windup. We had the chance to ask the filmmaker some questions about his film, and we're sure that his story will inspire many filmmakers to make their first feature even if they don't have a significant budget.
F.A. How did you come up with the story for the film?
D.C. I became an actor on a fateful whim, leaving behind a corporate government job with a secure income. One day I realized that I couldn't do the 9 to 5 grind anymore, and I found myself drawn to media. I realized that the TV set was the new religion, and so I thought, if I was going to bring anything at all to the world, I should do it through that box. Naturally, I first tried a film agent. Serendipity brought me success and some immediate bookings in film, TV, and commercials. However, I started to realize after about 6 months that I was not going to have any real "effect" in a positive way as a bit part actor in Vancouver. So I thought: "...how does one get a lead on a big film?" It was then that I decided to write my own movies. "Windup" was my first effort, and I wrote it with a friend, Kevin Doner. I had an idea about this guy, named Bernie who didn’t have much going on for him (Think of the dad in Gremlins who sold smokeless ashtrays... crossed with Jack Lemon in Glengarry Glen Ross). Kevin had a short about a twisted older couple, Reg and Audrey, who sit around reminiscing about nothing. Finally, Doner and I came up with a story about a kitchen, as we had both worked at the "back of the house" in restaurants. People working in that industry are crazy, sometimes the "dish pit kid" would pull a knife on you as you walked by... young and crazy life... not to mention the cook, who is usually older and has been doing it for YEARS and has a lot of cuts and burns and bad jokes and threats. This began “Windup,” a Jack Lemmon-ish Bernie, selling a useless (and strangely useful) product, who is actually a Loser in most people's eyes. Bernie grew up with summers at Uncle Reg and Audry's place, and their strange behavior and youthful stories of exploit and wartime adventures inspire Bernie to follow his dreams. That coupled with a tragic event where his dead flashlight (as a kid) results in the death of his grandmother, has Bernie determined to create a product that would have avoided Grandma's death: a flashlight with batteries that couldn't die (a WINDUP Flashlight!).
F.A. How big was your crew and budget?
D.C. My crew was small, starting with Doner and myself. He would do crafty for the actors and lighting, and I would help and do the rest (camera, directing, set decoration, etc). We initially began with two camera girls from Shoreline studios, but they were adamant on using a tripod at all times. I didn’t' like that, so I chose to learn the camera myself. Over time, we drew attention and support, and in the end we actually had a crew of around 10. Add another 20 people for postproduction. So I'd give a full crew number of 30.
The budget for Windup was non-existent. Initially, I was lent a camera (Panasonic industry standard at the time 720x480), and lights came through Kevin Doner, who worked at Paladin Show Services. We really lucked out there, as we got lights and gear, and even the truck, for free, every weekend for 3 months! Now, don't get me wrong, I spent on gas, and on supplies. I think I spent around $4000 out of my own measly savings, and Doner put in another $500-700. We actually got an endorsement from my first acting teacher, Dot Bristow for $1000.
Once the film was complete, I would estimate the budget at somewhere between $7000 and $10,000. If you take out gas from driving, and food for actors, then the budget is actually near Zero.
F.A.How long did it take you to complete the film and what were some of the obstacles you had to overcome during the production, if there were any?
D.C. Writing took about three months, then another two for rewrites. Casting took a few weeks. Shooting took 3 months of solid weekends (and some pickups a few months later). Weekdays I spent prepping, finding locations, calling actors, borrowing stuff, sewing costumes, and editing. So...to approximate: Script: 5 months; Pre-production: 4 months; Post: a year. Post took long because I had to learn how to edit.
Overall, Windup took 2 years to complete, from conception to packaging. The biggest obstacle was people in the industry telling me that it was impossible to make a feature film without a budget. I overcame this obstacle with blind, naive Faith. I was naive, and so I just didn't realize the work that I was going to end up putting into this thing! I tried to think only of the task at hand, and when doubt came to me, I would tell myself "I don't care if it's just a bunch of talking heads and a camera recording it on sticks, I'm going to shoot this feature-length film!" Another obstacle was editing, as raw footage, in my opinion, looks like crap. I mean, it was lit well and all, but never having seen a "scene" outside the scope of an edited and scored film, it just looked bad to me. So, getting the editing right was tricky.
F.A. How was the reaction to the movie from the festival and the internet crowd?
D.C. The reaction of my crew, family, and friends was not the greatest, as I was eager to show them every new edit, so that by the time Windup was finished, they knew the lines inside out, and they were basically tired of watching it. The film was selected to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival Short Corner (non-competitive), and although it was merely a screening, their rules for allowing the films in were strict. I re-edited a 59 min. version to qualify for the Short Corner. Feedback was great. I actually experienced an anti-climax, when Windup was done. I didn't want to show it to anyone. So when the Cannes thing came along, and I was traveling in Europe, I was surprised when people all seemed to like Windup. Just like when I saw how well Windup was doing here, on Film Annex, I was very pleasantly surprised.
F.A. What did you do to promote the film on Film Annex?
D.C. I told all my friends to have a look at Windup on Film Annex, friends by phone, friends in person, and friends on Facebook. Every single person told me they loved the film!