DIY FILMMAKERS: BRENT SIMS AND "GUTTER PUNKS" Image

[ THE SCOOP: ] ^ An upfront and in-your-face documentary about youth on the streets of New Orleans. Homeless and hungry, the nomadic wanderers reveal themselves intimately, providing insights into their day-to-day struggle to find food, shelter, a good tattoo, love and, ultimately, a future. ^
[ BUDGET, SCHEDULE, STATUS: ] ^ $5,000 out of my pocket, it was my tuition for my last two years of college. I was dying to make this film back in 1995, and behind my dad’s back I took the money out of the bank and told him I found investors, he eventually found out, but after I went to a fest he said, “Do what you have to do”. Later I found a video production company, owned by Ted Baldwin, using most of their equipment on a deferred basis, and I used just about every favor I had, and with Ted on board as my Executive Producer, I used all his favors as well. I started shooting the film at the end of 1995, and had a rough cut for Sundance in 1996, 110 min cut, but the film was far from complete. The film finished its final edit toward the end of 1997 at 82 minutes. So far the film has shown at the 1997 Hamptons International Film Festival, Cinequest San Jose Film Festival, and just debuted a new series of docs at for the FAF, Film Arts Foundation of San Francisco, True Stories. The festivals have treated me great, since I can’t afford the entry fees as I’m paying my way through college. If they like GP and will show it, they waive my fees. Which for me, allows me to pay my meal plan at school. We are currently talking with about three pretty good distributors right now, its taken a while to get the word out. I’ve been blessed with people that are happy to help spread the word, they know who they are, thanks. ^
[ WHY DID YOU MAKE IT? ] ^ After the death of my girlfriend in 1991, who was homeless for a brief period of time after she had been abused at home, I avoided New Orleans like the plague. I graduated high school, started college, worked part time on movie sets and production companies, and full time marketing for a national corporation to pay the bills. Forward to 1995, I was finishing up two of my scripts with my friend and partner, John Taylor, and wanted to just get off my ass and shoot something. I heard on the radio the problem the city was having with the homeless teens, so I drove down there, and eventually found out that it wasn’t the kids but the city and cops abusing the teens’ rights. I wanted to make a movie and see what it was like to enter festivals, get rejected by festivals, and go to festivals. I wanted to get my name out there, and I wanted to prove that someone young could make a movie about something so serious. ^
[ WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE MAKING THIS FILM? ] ^ The best three years of my life. It wasn’t easy, there were days when I would come home and just look in the refrigerator and see nothing much to eat, since the day before I had bought another case of tapes. It was tough for me, filmmaking is about hard work and drive. I think it taught me a lot about myself in working with the homeless teens. It taught me humilitiy, it taught me to be thankful for my home life and the way I was raised. The thing that was great about the project was working with the teens, their since of hope and passion for life. At the same time extremely depressing at times, when I’m packing up to go home to a warm house, they’re sleeping on the streets or in cold buildings. I walked away with a sense of how the indie part of Hollywood works and the festivals. You can read about it all you want, but until you’re doing it, you don’t get the whole picture. This was my first documentary, I had directed, national commercials, two shorts, and theater, but never a doc. The rules of the game are changed a bit. ^
[ WHAT SACRIFICES DID YOU MAKE ALONG THE WAY? ] ^ A lot of my personal life, and the money I had to finish up my degree. I look at it this way — you have to take a risk in life, you have to be bold, go out and get what you want, if you want to make movies — make a movie. It’s all about sacrifices, I sacrificed lots of things. I sacrificed getting an interview with one of our teens after he was arrested, two days after an interview. After going through the mayors office I still couldn’t get around the red tape of the police. ^
[ WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FILM? ] ^ Distribution: which I’m currently working on, but it’s tough being a one man publicist and producer’s rep, thanks to word of mouth, I’ve had some interest as of late, a couple of serious offers, which is cool. I think I’m shooting for television and then to video, since “Gutter Punks” is a digital movie, and most docs are so limited in the release. But the market is huge for this topic, it’s a film for the crowd that loved “Kids”. ^
Festivals: Waiting on a ton, we have some that have told us that they love the film, but we’ll know when everyone else finds out. Now I’m concentrating on distribution, and working with my partner, John Taylor, who I’ve opened an indie production company, Cactus Pudding Productions. We are developing five scripts right now, three romantic comedies which are completed. A gothic comic book which we just obtained the rights to. A post vietnam vet road movie due to shot in the fall, we may co-produce with a bigger company. Based on three of our treatments and one completed script, we have had some serious interest, it’s kind of taken us by storm in the last week, it’s amazing how word travels.
[ ANY PEARLS OF WISDOM? ] ^ One word: Persistence. People in this world are pretty negative, talking about how hard things are and the odds. I’m kind of like Han Solo, “NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS!” Don’t be afraid of the word “NO”, I heard it about 5 billion times in the last three years, but I still finished my movie. Don’t be afraid of rejections, I was rejected by dozens of festivals, until some people in the industry found “Gutter Punks” and fell in love with it, they gave the film a chance and me a chance. If you want to become an indie filmmaker, learn to write, read scripts, read about the business, remember no matter how independent you are, filmmaking is a business, but never lose sight of your artistic vision for money, they co-exist! Concentrate on what you personally need to do to get you to where you want to end up, and you’ll figure it out. ^
[ WAS IT WORTH IT? ] ^ After the first showing at a festival and people came up to me and said they loved the film, that one good remark made it worth it. At least now I can say I got up and did it, instead of sitting at home still wondering what it would be like. I’ve been able to visit cities and festivals that have been wonderful, industry people who have been nothing but kind and supportive, and the audiences have been wonderful. It has been pretty cool at festivals, but there aren’t many of us around, the 23 year-olds and younger…I’ve met about three besides me. For us, it’s the chance to get our names out there, showcase our films, talk about future projects, build business and creative relationships, and just have fun in life. ^
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