Mark Hosack recently finished his first 35mm feature Pale Blue Moon, which he wrote/directed/produced/edited. The independent film won Best Texas Feature at the 2002 Deep Ellum Film Festival, and was an official selection of the 2003 Kansas City Jubilee Director’s Series, the 2003 Dances With Films festival in Santa Monica and the 2004 Magnolia Film Festival in Mississippi. The film is being distributed internationally by H3O Filmed Entertainment (www.h3ofilm.com). Mark taught himself filmmaking in Dallas, TX where he learned his craft by making a short film, “hinterland,” and his current film, Pale Blue Moon. Currently working in Los Angeles as an editor and assistant director, Mark took some time from his busy schedule to talk to Film Threat about the making of Pale Blue Moon.
Okay – I’ve got to know – how did you find someone who would let you use his steer, and how did you convince an actor to get on it?
Ahhh, the steer. There’s a man named Ron Sitton out of Ft. Worth, Texas; a true cowboy, that owns the steer and takes pictures of tourists on top of the steer at the Ft. Worth Stockades. In the original script, the steer was actually a cow grazing in a field that Simon stumbles upon. But getting a cow was more difficult than we thought, so when the day came for the shoot and a steer with a saddle showed up, I told Ice Mrozek (who plays Simon Applewhite), “Oh hell, you’re crazy, just ride up to John (played by Johnny Sneed, the detective in the story) on it and do your thing.” And we reworked the scene around that moment on the day of the shoot, around a man and his steer out to save the human race. It wasn’t difficult to convince Ice to do it. Riding a steer in a leopard skin cowboy hat had always been a dream of his.
Why shoot 35mm instead of 16mm, or go the digital video route?
Because we were too naïve to realize how much 35mm cost and what a huge undertaking making a 35mm feature is. Which ended up being a good thing, a film like Pale Blue Moon wouldn’t work on DV, 16mm maybe. When we shot the film, we spent everything we had on the shoot and spent the next two years scrambling for money to cover the cost of 35mm. We cut the negative, struck prints, it was hard but the final result was worth it. Brad Walker, our DP, was fantastic and really did some nice work. Our colorist, Steve Franko, did a great coloring job on the Spirit Telecine. Brad, Steve and I ended up spending almost 40 hours coloring the movie. The final look Brad and Steve came up with became a character on its own, a kind of de-saturated, cold, distant look. And we changed the coloring as the mood of the scenes and movie progressed. Since the film does jump around in tone, the color scheme changes according to what’s going on thematically, like the music. Very subtle, but hopefully it sinks in with the viewer on some subconscious level. Had we shot on DV or 16mm, we wouldn’t have the same movie. It’s a trade off, I spent four years of my life actually making an independent 35mm feature. I could have made two DV features in that same time. So you just kind of have to figure out what you want your final project to be, figure out if you have it in you to reach that end product and then do whatever it takes to get there.
I’m assuming you’ve had other ideas – what motivated you to shoot this script?
My brother Ray and I had just finished making a short film called “hinterland,” that played pretty well with audiences. So we figured, well, now we have to make another. I had started to write this script which was originally called “The Man on the Moon,” which then had to change because of Jim Carrey, to “Moonies,” which we eventually changed to “Pale Blue Moon.” At the time, it was the only script we had that we thought we could feasibly shoot for the budget we had in mind. So we settled on this story. It’s also a good resume film because it does cover all the genres from Comedy, Drama, Suspense/Horror and Sci-Fi. Which makes it hell to sell to video. Unfortunately, when I started the film I was never worried about selling it, just making it. I’ll never make another movie with that mentality again. Making a film is as much if not more business than storytelling. This is the most important thing for first time filmmakers to understand, especially the ones who, like me, had no money, had no connections and plans on making the film by begging and stealing. If your goal is to make a living as a filmmaker, make the movie that’s going to allow you to make your second. Make a film you’re going to be able to sell, not the one you think is going to win Sundance. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a good film, that it can’t win Sundance. But nowadays the people that are truly independent filmmakers, that have never stepped foot into Hollywood, that are using unknown actors and have little to no money, have to go up against films with millions of dollars behind them, produced by Focus Features and Fox Searchlight and the like. These are the companies producing films that win at Sundance and Cannes and Berlin and Toronto. I read on boxofficemojo.com that Lost In Translation only cost around 4 million dollars to make. The film is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, it won at the Venice Film Festival. First of all, 4 million is big “only” for an independent filmmaker. Second of all, attaching the likes of Bill Murray, shooting in Japan and having the support of the Coppola clan isn’t going to happen for an independent filmmaker out of Pensacola, FL. The ’80s and ’90s are over. The big studios saw that, with the rise of these big independents, Blood Simple, Evil Dead, “Sex, Lies and Videotapes,” Pi, Blair Witch, Clerks, “El Mariachi,” that there’s a market for good independent films. So why not make them. Now we have the equivalents: Cabin Fever, Punch-Drunk Love, “All the Real Girls,” One Hour Photo, Narc, Lost in Translation. They all have big actors or small studios behind them or with real money and real connections. These are becoming the new, “Independent” films. This is the competition for the truly independent filmmaker who only owns a mini-DV camera, an idea and his or her parent’s credit card. Today, in my opinion, the goal for an independent filmmaker should be to make a film that will get the attention of these small studios so that they can take the leap into making these types of films. And to do that you have to make a film that will be marketable so the film will actually get out there and be seen and gain an audience. Lets face it, the films these smaller studios are putting out are going to be better than 95% of the movies being made by you and me. Because they have money. They have PT Anderson. They have Robin Williams. They have the Coppollas. They have Ray Liotta. They have the time, money and people while you and I have, well, time and the belief that we have what it takes to do what they do. Think Distribution: Playing film festivals isn’t distribution. It’s a step towards distribution. Festivals are a means of getting attention. So don’t aim for festivals. Aim for a theater or (more likely) a video shelf near you and understand that most festivals are just as political as a studio. None of this is bad, mind you. It’s just a different playing ground and TRULY independent filmmakers, the ones with their parent’s credit cards in their pockets, have to have a different mentality in order to compete, keep up with the big boys and hopefully start making films with these small studios, with name actors, so that they can get the money and connections to make a better film.
Why shoot a feature, as opposed to another short film?
Short films are great resumes, great for learning filmmaking, a great means of expression, but to make that leap into making films for a living sooner or later you have to make a feature. If a studio gives you a feature based on a short you made, great, more power to you. But the chances of that happening are few and far between. With a feature, you can sell it and people tend to take you more seriously. You also learn a lot more about the business of filmmaking because writing, producing and selling a feature takes you all the way through the process. It’s a great learning experience, probably better than film school. I have a lot of friends who went to film school and they never even shot a short. They had to do it on their own, outside of school. That’s terrible unless you really only want to be in film academia. Or okay, maybe if you get into NYU or AFI or an equivalent school that offers a solid filmmaking education. Beyond that, what’s the point? Filmmaking isn’t chemical engineering. Watch movies. Meet independent filmmakers in your community. I think every state has a film commission, call them, get a book of professionals in your area and start calling and asking to PA. Make a short. Learn the trade hands on. Films are made by experience, money and the gut instincts of your cast and crew. Not a degree.
How did you finance the film?
My brother Ray and I financed the film through friends, family (God bless all of them) and our own money. I worked at post houses as a shipper and a receptionist to use their post equipment. My friend and cinematographer, Brad Walker, let me edit the film for free on his Final Cut Pro system. We begged and borrowed to raise the money to make the film, which had a budget that I could have bought a relatively nice trailer with. We saved a lot of money because of my supportive, generous employers, Video Post and Transfer and Frames per Second out of Dallas. Without these people that offered their services, from cast to crew to employers, we wouldn’t have been able to make the film with the money we raised to make it.
How did you locate your actors? They were almost universally excellent, something of a rarity in indie film.
We found our actors through casting. All of which were non-union, local actors in Dallas. We just lucked out really. Ice Mrozek and Johnny Sneed, the two leads are great. Eleni Stevens, Frank Ford, Thurmond Moss, Brittany Parvin, Conner Pate, Robert Meadows, they were all really good. Which goes to show you that just because you’re casting outside of Hollywood and New York, it doesn’t mean you can’t find good actors. There’s talent to be discovered and we were really lucky to get everyone on board. A lot of the actors are moving on and doing great things. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to work with them again.
The interview continues in part two of MARK HOSACK: THE MAN ON THE “PALE BLUE MOON”>>>