Monday, 16 April 2012

Interview with Nate Golon

Last February I received an e-mail from a young filmmaker who asked me to feature a short film, he'd just made, on this blog. The film was Briefcase, a six minute short which opens with a night-time shot of a guy inflating a tyre at a service station. I'd been in that exact position, pumping up tyres at a local service station, many times. The view looked so familiar I assumed the film had been made in Adelaide.
   In fact it had been made in Los Angeles, as I realised later. The filmmaker was Nate Golon. He has more front than Ned Kelly, as we used to say; a traditional Australian virtue. So I ran the film. I admire a bit of chutzpah
   Then I forgot about it, until I received another e-mail from him, this time telling me he'd engineered a unique outcomehe'd sold his film to Netflix (something we don't have access to in Australia), while still retaining control of it. I felt there was nothing else for me to do: I had to ask him some questions.

* What's the story with your Netflix deal?
Netflix now offers a VOD feature in most new TVs, and they were looking for a cinematic-looking short film that they could use in retail stores worldwide, as an "example" of what kind of quality movies Netflix offers, even though Netflix won't offer Briefcase as a rental. It's really a win-win, because I can still develop the concept into a feature film, and keep it online.

* Is that it, for Briefcase, or will you continue to develop it?
I'm planning on developing Briefcase into a feature film. I'm also going to develop a different concept, a thriller/action trilogy, with each film being five minutes long, that I will star in.

* Anything else you're working on?
I'm currently starring in a play in Los Angeles. 

* What show is that?
Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts at the Edgemar Center for the Arts. It runs through the end of May. It's a five character play, and I'm one of the two leads. It's a challenging piece, one that takes a lot of focus and energy.  

[If you're in the LA area, all the details for the show are here:]

Your upbringing might best be described as ‘trans-American.’ How did your childhood help you prosper in Hollywood?
I hated my childhood when I was living it. My family moved all the time, and I grew up on the West Coast, East Coast, and then in various places in Colorado through high school. It was hard to make good friends, because just when I'd start to make some, we would move.
   Looking back now, it really had some advantages. I had to be outgoing, because I was always coming to a new place and being the new kid. I also was needing to reinvent myself all the time. Some of the areas we lived in were nice, some were not. I grew up around people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels, and I had to find a way to constantly fit in. It's made it so that these days, no one is ever a stranger to me, and I'll talk to anyone. It's also a huge benefit in acting, as I find it easier to understand where characters are coming from, no matter what their background is. I can always find something about that character to relate to.

Evel Knievel
*  You first appeared in a biography, as Evel Knievel. What was that like?
It was great!  I was living in Seattle, and had just been bitten by the acting bug. I knew little about acting at the time, and auditioned for the role from a post I saw on Craigslist. It was a History Channel reenactment of Evel Knievel's life, hosted by Matthew McConaughey. I played Evel Knievel in his young, wild days, when he was robbing banks, getting arrested for kidnapping his estranged wife, and starting to make a name for himself. The producers let me watch a whole bunch of interview footage of Evel, and the guy was a trip.

Lucy Honigman
*  I notice that you claim to be able to do an Australian accent. Meryl Streep failed that test. (Her attempt was painful to Australian ears.) Americans attempting to sound like Australians usually come over as Cockneys with a bad cold. Have any Australians approved your claim?
There's an Australian actress (Lucy Honigman) in my play, Ghosts, and she says my Australian accent does sound like a Cockney with a bad cold. Oh well.

Briefcase wasn’t your first attempt at filmmaking. What was the background to that?
Before I created the film, I wrote, produced, and starred in a comedic web series, called Workshop, that follows six struggling actors trying to make it in Hollywood. We released Season 1 of Workshop online in 2009, as thirteen episodes, 7-10 minutes each. The show was nominated for five Best Web Series awards. 
   I learned a ton from doing that, which was the first thing I had ever written or produced. From what I learned from that first season, I wrote a second season in 2010. Season 2 ended up being six episodes of 22 minutes, and debuted on Hulu in April 2011 as the first ever independently produced half-hour comedy ever to air on the site. 
 [Both seasons of Workshop can be found at]

*  What have you learned about making webseries TV?
What I learned from doing those two seasons of Workshop was that for something to be successful online, it needs to have a short, concise story that moves quickly. People do not have the attention spans when they are online that they do when watching TV or film. If a video online is slow or boring, people can click away, and there's lots of other content. 
   When I created Briefcase, I had a few goals in mind. Most importantly, it had to tell a cohesive story in six minutes or less. In my opinion, when someone clicks a video that they're unfamiliar with, and it's over six minutes, they are less likely to watch it. 
   I also wanted to create a project that makes you want to watch it twice to figure out exactly what's going on. All the answers to what is happening in Briefcase are there, but it's up to the audience to figure it out. 
   Finally, I wanted there to be no wasted time in its six minute run-time. Credits are unnecessary with a film this short. If someone is interested enough to want to know about the cast and crew, they can either scroll down and read the video details, or click on the film's Facebook or Twitter link. When I see short films that have 30 seconds or a minute of slow moving credits to start, and nothing is really happening in the film, I guarantee they are losing viewers.

*  What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as a film producer?
The biggest mistake I made with Briefcase was that I actually lost the briefcase we were using the day before our last day of shooting. It was a nightmare. It took me several weeks to track down an exact replica, and more than anything, I felt like an idiot.

*  What are some of the shortcuts you’ve learned in filmmaking?
Some good ways of making it easier on one-self as a writer and producer is to make the scenes and locations not too complicated, and to be flexible. Sometimes my friends will send me their scripts, and they'll have scenes that require tons of background actors or really tough-to-get locations. 
   Season 2 of Workshop had 130 co-star and guest star roles, and 100 locations, but I specifically wrote the locations as places that wouldn't be impossible to get. 
   Sometimes I was flexible when a location fell through. One hard-to-get location in Workshop Season 2 was when I had written two of the female leads being models at a car show, being harassed by car show gawkers. I had locked down a car showroom at a car dealership, but the day before we were supposed to shoot, the dealership backed out, and I was left scrambling. I ended up tweaking the scene slightly so that the same scene took place, but in an underground parking lot, where the actresses were getting out of their cars on their way to the car show. 
   With Briefcase, I made it easy on myself and only wrote four locations.

Audra Marie and Leanne Wilson of Workshop, in that parking lot.
*  How do you find actors to appear in your films?
Since I'm an actor, I am fortunate to know a ton of great actors in L.A., from the different acting classes I've taken, shows I've done, workshops I've taken, etc. If you're in a smaller market city, Craigslist is a good place to start, and also whatever colleges are in town. Hit up their drama departments. In bigger cities, there are various actor sites that you can post auditions.

*  How do you find scripts to produce?
If I'm going to produce something, I like doing my own projects first, before I look for other scripts. I work with a director and filmmaker all the time on everything, Andre Welsh, and when he writes something, I produce and sometimes act in his projects too. Andre directed Briefcase, both seasons of Workshop, and the pilot for my other project I starred in back in early 2011, Generation U.

*  Do you have any tips on fund-raising?
For fundraising, Kickstarter and IndieGogo are great tools. I used Kickstarter to raise the money to shoot Workshop Season 2, and it also helped raise awareness that I was going into production, etc., of the show.

*  What one book would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Adelaide
I would recommend The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. I found it immensely helpful not only as a writer, but as an actor as well. It really teaches you about storytelling, and figuring out the characters and what they represent inside the story.

*  Name your ten favourite movies of all time.
Fight Club (1999)
The Game (1997)
The Sting (1973)
Gattaca (1997)
Point Break (1991)
Snatch (2000)

Here's the trailer for Workshop, Season 2.

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