Dianna Fuemana at Killer Films NYC Blog #3

FEATURE: 14 JUNE 2012


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“The secret to building an eclectic slate is to remain open to new ideas. Adaptability has something to do with it.”  Pam Koffler

My blog is a little late because I was infected with a stomach bug two weeks ago, then the wretched flu a week later. I’m not usually a sickly person but this month has been a tester! Having headspace to blog-out was impossible. I could only manage the office, hustle and life. But alas, I am 85% better and writing my Killer life from the past month. It’s full up, mate!

I’ve had a good result with all the ‘upfront’ encouragement. The last time I blogged I was hustling a project in development back home. I now have one set of notes from Killer, TWO sets of notes with packaging advice coming in from one of the most prestigious talent agencies in America and even a fat cat financier looking it over who will provide advice too. It’s pretty phenomenal from where I’m sitting, in an office with no windows. In the meantime, we have an excellent lead with where we’re going with the next draft with some insight from the eye of the international market peeps. I think at this point, more people in NYC have read our script than in New Zealand! What I know for sure is – it’s all about laying your eggs in various ‘best nests’ and waiting to see which one hatches. One must take these types of risks to progress the life of their project, but not withstanding the fact that it’s an excellent way to start forming new relationships while in New York. Like most, I’m in for the long game, not just a good time. Come on New York!

Over the past month Killer has been in the midst of their busiest ever production cycle and has unleashed a number of prestige titles into the market in the past month. The slate: On the back of Kill Your Darlings wrap, Christine and David do the mad dash to Chile to camp on the set of the Untitled Sebastian Silva Project, a psycho-thriller that wrapped a few weeks ago. This was one of the first films I read when I arrived. I found it to be very cheeky with a wonderful cultural grit that I found familiar. Rituals that seem foreign to the western eye but not so with the people of the land, gives it the thriller feel to some extent. It marks the Chilean director Sebastian Silva’s first English-language feature. The dailies liberate the beauty of Chile’s landscape, it’s breathtaking! Deep Powder was Killer’s first feature to go into production this year and is produced with former Disney chief Michael Eisner’s Vuguru new media platform. Mo Ogrodnik’s real-life love story is in post and follows a group of students who get busted for drugs in South America. Shiloh Fernandez and Haley Bennett are the stars. Pam asked a couple of us for some direct feed back on the edit they had just completed. I was engrossed with the love story = Shiloh and Haley are total bankable babes! The theme of a single mother trying to cope with a young family struck a chord with me too. I reported back to Pam and she was still digesting my notes the last time we spoke. Next on the slate is Hilary Brougher’s Innocence. It begins shooting next week with stars Kelly Reilly and Sophie Curtis in the tale of a private school that houses a vampire sect. Ron Curtis is producing with Killer. I was halfway through reading the script one day when Julia asked me across the desk what the names of the characters were. I was so absorbed in the story I got a fright and couldn’t answer her question. I could see all the characters but totally forgot their names. Julia was on the phone with an actor’s agency trying to figure out who was who for which character. It took five seconds to pull out of the story and trawl the script for who it was I was freaking out over. Ha! The call came in just as I discovered who the vampire was. Finally, Killer is serving as Executive Producers on two more titles. Inescapable a father-daughter thriller from Ruba Nadda that stars Marisa Tomei, shot in South Africa in post and Bluebird, a tragic Maine-set story starring John Slattery from first-time director Lance Edmands, also in post. Christine highlighted the importance of tenacity and patience. “We’ve been trying really hard to make some of these projects for a long time and sometimes it’s just a question of putting something on the shelf and waiting for it to come round. There are a lot of financiers out there who have really great taste.” Killer finds the kind of high-quality productions that attract A-list talent. It reminds you of how big the pool is here. I’m curious as to why people who are in a position at home to finance films aren’t stepping up with their own ‘great taste’ and investing in films made by our filmmakers, oh well – hei aha.

During the work bustle I’ve been assisting David in the Goat director search, as per first blog. I’ve sat in on meetings with a few potential directors which has been enlightening. It’s interesting to see how filmmakers present their ideas about an existing script and themselves when faced with Killer. David is very generous and has a way of putting people at ease ‘when required’- even over Skype when we talk with an Australian director who instantly recognizes my Kiwi accent. This director ends up expressing all the points that David and I have agreed upon when it comes to whose story it is and the style of attack. On point mate! One of my ‘highlight’ meetings I attend is with an upcoming screenwriter/director after I do ‘rush coverage’ on his screenplay – which means one day to read, write up synopsis and general notes that cover the script with my thoughts -it’s my new Ninja skill. This particular script comes with its own song list that I listen to as I read through. It’s amazing how music brings you straight into the world of the film when you’re reading.  It took three and half hours to get through the work and another four and half to translate the vision into three pages so David gets an opportunity to get another POV before he sets down to read and before we both meet with the filmmaker. What strikes me about this particular filmmaker is that he is relatively young, has his first feature film just about to be released in LA, is aiming for the script I have just read to go into pre production early next year, is humble, measured and just moved to NYC from LA. From reading his script it’s clear he has a mature sensibility with acute life observational skills. It’s refreshing to hear someone in their mid twenties speak on how they perceive their parents and how there comes a time when one has to begin to see them as people. The desire to want nice things but saying ‘No’ to the big studio offers until one has found one’s own voice in the cinema, the fear with what comes with studio money and the excitement of finally breaking into the film market. Sitting in on burgeoning X factor talent is somewhat intimidating, a wake up call and mos def a reality in the Killer den.  I can’t help but feel a little emulous after we wrap the meeting. I grab a coffee and wish out loud my American Samoan mother had shipped us all to California instead of following my Niuean father to New Zealand. David over hears my wish grumble and assures me, ‘Dianna, everyone has their own journey.’ Awww, I took it back as soon as I wished it. I love that I was born and raised in Aukalani! But the pace of a filmmaker’s career and how it can shoot through the roof if you ‘got what it takes’ in America continues to stifle me. Talented bastards! Cough, cough – It’s great, inspiring at every turn in fact. It’s getting HOT up in here!

Other than the several Killer screenplays in development I have read, supplied notes towards, recommended, not recommended – life has sprung forth the inescapable fate of meeting and making new connections with other independent film companies, talent agencies and filmmakers through friends and people I have met here. I.E I have a meet and greet date the next time I’m in LA with independent film producer Christine K Walker. She took an hour out of her day to get to know me a little by reading my own ‘wee’ short film and providing notes and a brief inside to her journey into film. This connection came via my darling American Samoan visual artist friend Dan, who we both have in common. He was visiting NYC for the biannual art fairs and insisted I meet her as we strolled through the Cloisters in search of May’s super moon. I connected with American avant-garde filmmaker Su Friedrich on a 20th floor balcony in the West Village over looking the Hudson River celebrating the acquisition of a new art work a friend of a friend had just purchased. I get schooled on her early experiences in filmmaking here and abroad. I’m looking forward to being a guest at the World Premier of her documentary Gut Renovation a film about Williamsburg opening at the Brooklyn Film Festival on Friday.

Back in the office I look through my acute observational skill lens. David Hinojosa and Julia Oh are like Film Glue Super Heroes.  They save the day a lot around here. They mend the pieces required on the ‘ground’ in order for the company to function seamlessly, to make the lives of our ‘main ladies’ that little bit easier, to inject the pace of a Killer life within it’s interns and to support each other with what seems to be an endless stream of script development, managing, interviews, phone calls, meetings, budgets and contracts. It’s impressive, I’ve increased my knowledge in the art of switch change personality, complain don’t complain, head down arse up attitude and don’t ask questions just do it, like a Nike ad. As focused as they are, there is a loose way of being that pulls them through the day. It’s a requirement in the business here – not taking oneself too seriously and getting to the gym at the end of a hard day that doesn’t really end. One must take each film’s universe in their stride, even if you are working across several. Beyond the talent David has in the world of screenplay and development and the efficiency Julia brings to managing our Killer office, they make it clear by their actions that this business is about relationships and not being fake or being mean, just because. David has excellent intuition for seeing through people, I can attest to this savvy in action, as I like to think I have the same powers. This is my shout out to both of them as my time here winds up. I feel lucky to have had this opportunity at Killer on their watch. Until my next Killer BLOG-OUT, keep warm Aotearoa!

Dianna Fuemana

This internship is made possible with the support of the Film Investment Corporation Foundation and the New Zealand Film Commission.