Filmmaker Kentucker Audley started garnering buzz for his films in 2007 with his widely acclaimed low-budget feature. “Team Picture.” That film earned him a spot on Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces” and he’s been earning praise for his films since while continuing to act in several films a year.
Audley has also come into the fold of other ultra low-budget filmmakers who share equipment, actors, ideas and a similar aesthetic to create their work. Without getting into a crazy flowchart of who did what for whose films, Audley has worked with people like Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz and Sophia Takal in various capacities and has continued to build a fine filmography of his own, writing and directing the films “Holy Land” and “Open Five,” both in 2010.
Yet it’s Audley’s other big project we’re here to talk about today. In 2011, Audley launched “NoBudge” a website that initially featured his films (“Team Picture,” “Holy Land”) which streamed for free and since its debut, has steadily added other films from low-budget filmmakers that have toured the festival circuit but failed to find a home once that road comes to an end. NoBudge is completely free and features no ads on the site, save for ones from the films being shown. You don’t even have to sign up to check out what the site has it offer. It just… is.
This week (July 11-13, 2012) NoBudge is rolling out “Frank V. Ross Week” wherein the site will stream for free Ross’ films “Audrey the Trainwreck,” “Present Company” and a sneak-peek of his latest, “Tiger Tail in Blue.” As a friend and fan of Frank Ross I can honestly say if you’re interested in independent film and want to see a filmmaker who’s growing steadily and making excellent, personal films, you don’t want to miss these screenings. For as great as Ross’ films are, the filmmaker himself is tough to nail down as he has no website, no facebook and no twitter. In short, once his films disappear from the festival circuit, it’s difficult to track them down again.
Audley and I did a brief email interview about NoBudge, Frank V. Ross and the state of independent distribution below.
Many interviews about you and NoBudge are from when you were streaming your films and just getting started. How is the experiment/distribution business going so far?
I think it’s going well; I know it’s been very fulfilling for me. I never intended it to be a traditional distribution company and it isn’t. As of now, it’s not even a business. As such, I have extreme flexibility to operate it in a very personal way, which mirrors the way I make films.
What does NoBudge offer a filmmaker with a small film that say, YouTube or their own personal website streaming of the film can’t offer? Or as it grows, what do you hope it offers filmmakers?
We can’t provide much. I’m just trying to support films I think are being missed by film festivals. Hopefully, my taste means something in that regard. And we don’t take any rights to the films, so filmmakers are free to post on their personal website or other pages as well.
I wanna keep my goals loose so the site can stay flexible, and not make unrealistic promises. I would love to offer filmmakers money but it may not be possible for the types of films I’m curating.
How are films chosen for NoBudge? Are there any particular paths or rules a filmmaker needs to follow to be considered?
I personally chose all the films. The only ground rules are that it’s over 5 minutes and it’s not a direct genre film.
While I totally love your site and the idea of a curated platform for undiscovered films, it’s still not a way for filmmakers (or, you) to make money. With digital distribution changing so rapidly, do you see anything on the horizon where filmmakers can at least make a little money. And I don’t mean ads on YouTube, more like a general plan or idea to generate cash?
NoBudge exists to give credibility to films that probably can’t make money. This is a missing link in independent cinema. The only films you hear about or take seriously are ones that can make money. This doesn’t seem right. We’re talking about art here. How can we accept being exposed only to cinema with commercial prospects?
Don’t get me wrong, I wanna make a living in film. But then again if I wanna crowdfund $10,000 to make a tiny film and then give it away for free, something like NoBudge can be there for that. It’s like making mixtapes before people know you.
Also, I think it’s important for young filmmakers to know it’s nearly impossible to make money in indie film, and that shouldn’t be their motivation. I had the same fantasy: that I’d make one film, and then be thrust into indie significance and financial gain, but it’s a fantasy, and I’m glad I’m over that. I’ve had other jobs this whole time. I’ve never made any money directing films. Of course, it’s possible, but there’s so many other reasons to make a film.
Since none of the films on NoBudge are distributed by a larger distributer, have you found this to be due to lack of offers or lack of GOOD offers? For example, your film “Team Picture” garnered a ton of buzz on the film festival circuit. Were you not offered distribution or were the offers just really bad?
“Team Picture” was put out on DVD through Benten Films (which is now defunct). It was a great offer in terms of DVD presentation but not a lot of money. My next two films “Holy Land” and “Open Five” never had an offer.
What are your feelings about the distributors out there now? I have a doc that gained distribution and it seems that on every quarterly report, they’ve made no money with it and neither have we. Which begs the question– how are they in business?!? But honestly….is the current film distribution model set-up to help filmmakers or would you encourage a filmmaker to go a route like NoBudge?
Factory 25 is one place putting out interesting micro-budget work consistently. It’s a wonderful label with great taste, packaging, etc. But it’s a rare thing they’re doing, putting personal enthusiasm into edgy films without a wide appeal.
Other than a couple bright spots, it’s a pretty dismal distribution scene, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend self-distribution. I don’t know what to recommend. I’m just trying to figure it all out.
Frank V. Ross is a great guy, a real talent and a friend of mine. I also love his films and have literally seen him grow as a filmmaker with each effort. Yet, the guy is incredibly enigmatic. He runs in the same circles as many more “popular” filmmakers of his age and style (he’s featured in Joe Swanberg’s “Young American Bodies” and some of his other films as well) yet seems to manage to be almost as disconnected from the internet as anyone. ANYONE…not just filmmakers. He has no website, no Twitter, no Facebook. What’s up with that?
I don’t know him well so I can’t speak to that. But I certainly understand the appeal of staying disconnected. I’ve gone the opposite direction but equally relate to his approach.
But seriously, as a filmmaker who is growing in stature I think a site like NoBudge is a total win for Frank and his films. Up to this point, his films have only been seen at festivals and small, indie art house runs. What do you hope to achieve with “Frank V. Ross Week” on NoBudge?
I just want him to be recognized as a significant young filmmaker. Just so the record is straight. He’s been making films for 10 years, influencing people all over, including myself, and he’s gotten almost no credit. Not that I think I can sway the indie establishment, but if I can be a voice of validation and introduce some new people to his work, I’ll be happy.
If you were going to tell someone unfamiliar with his work what to expect from a Frank V. Ross film, what would you say? What do you like about his films?
His films have no exposition and no plot, but they are rich with authentic human behavior. Personality and interaction are vital and he leaves out the “hand-holding” most people call plot development, lets you observe. This is actually rare, and something to cherish when done convincingly.
Even though I was sort of joking and messing with Frank about his lack of online presence, do you think choosing to forgo what would seem to be truly independent filmmaker’s only way of marketing (social networking, a blog or YouTube channel, a website), that they can survive? Buzz for Franks films has been due to how good they are and writers and fellow filmmakers taking up on his behalf, but if not for them, what becomes of a talent like Frank V. Ross?
Yeah, it’s an interesting question. I think there’s truth to it – Frank’s lack of online presence may be contributing to his obscurity. It’s easy to forget someone who isn’t connected into your day-to-day existence.
Honestly, that happened with me – I kinda forgot about him for a second and then realized he’s not online reminding me to think about him. If he’s not gonna talk himself up, somebody has to.
On the flipside, are filmmakers better off just focusing on their work (and family or day job, etc.) and letting their films find a home and not clogging up the internet with self promotion? Getting tweets and Facebook posts all day about a filmmaker and his/her film can be a real turn off. How do you personally walk that line?
It’s a tricky line. It’s embarrassing to turn yourself into a commercial but also you want people to read and know about you. I guess I try to mix it up, post recommendations, pictures, or observations, unrelated to my films. And also, when I self-promote, I try to keep within my personality. But absolutely, self-promotion can become a turn off; I’ve probably crossed the line.
What’s next for NoBudge? Would you encourage filmmakers to submit to your site or would you prefer to reach out to them yourself? If you’re looking for submissions, what should filmmakers keep in mind beforehand and what’s the process?
Like I said, I’m keeping my aims loose. I’ve thought about having guest curators, but for now, it’s the same grind: trying to find new films I’m excited about. Frank Ross Week made complete sense; I’m sure I’ll have more ideas like that. Just trying to keep it personal and specific.
Yes, I welcome submissions. Take a look through our site to get a sense of my taste, but I tend toward realistic character-based, non-genre films. Send links to nobudgefilms[at]gmail.com.
Kentucker Audley’s follow up to “Open Five,” “Open Five 2” is in post-production so keep an eye on the upcoming festival circuit for it’s debut.