Happy Friday everyone! I have always loved Fridays because of, well, the weekend. However, these Creator Spotlights have give me another reason to love the final day of the work week!
This week I got to speak with filmmaker Kris Serold. I met Kris on Twitter and had a great time getting to know each other. Kris is currently working on a film called Texas Tall Tales. I hope you enjoy the excellent chat we had this week!
An Interview With Kris Serold
Aaron Iara: Thank you for taking the time to come on Effective Nerd! Could you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?
Kris Serold: My name is Kris Serold. I grew up in sunny San Antonio, Texas. I started my journey in Digital Film and Video Production during high school in the RTVF program at Brackenridge. I started a web series with my best friend called Kris and JD’s Radcast, may JD rest with The Force. It was short skits, mock commercials, and funny vignettes that we’d write up and shoot. JD was really the catalyst for me wanting to do what I do know, make films…and teach. Haha!
I worked with JD at the Aztec theatre where our mutual friend, Niko (the guitar wailing version of Thor), got us into the video team for the San Antonio Rose Live Classic Country Music Show. Very talented, fun people that made classic country music accessible. I probably knew about a hand full of songs but gained so much more. Ernest Tubb songs come in handy when a bunch of drunk cowboys want to beat up a brown boy. Same goes for Slipknot songs and Vato Metal Heads. You gotta navigate San Antonio some how…Tacos help too
After Aztec, I worked with a non-profit news organization, NOWCastSA, covering hyper-local news in San Antonio. That really showed me how San Antonio worked, and not worked. It really became a part of my mission, to bring artistic integrity and social awareness in San Antonio with my passion. Went back to school and was the first graduate of the Digital Film and Video Production Program at the Art Institute of San Antonio (No pressure, right?) I toiled away for a private company making instructional videos to train their employees for a couple of years while I went to school.
After graduating, I transitioned to teaching Video Editing at San Antonio College for the past couple of years. The teaching part wasn’t part of the plan, originally, but when you’re paid to talk about something that you love, well, I can’t say no to that. While teaching this past year, a couple of local filmmakers and I teamed up to make a feature film, Texas Tall Tales.
Aaron Iara: Wow. That is quite the history! How long have you been working at this craft?
Kris Serold: I’ve been practicing video production since 2004.
Aaron Iara: Personally, the concept of making a film seems incredibly daunting. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Could you please tell me about your creative process and the steps involved in making a movie?
Kris Serold: It starts with a passion. There’s something special that you can make with the visual medias of television, movies, and film. Yeah, there’s a difference between movies and film. ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is a film where as ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ is a movie. Now the great thing about that is, there are some people that would argue for Plan 9 being a film.
Then you need an idea. James Cameron dreamt of a metal face and that turned into Terminator. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Rami joked about supernatural exterminators and that turned in Ghostbusters (which is totally a film). Haha!
After that it’s the writing game. You can jump into the murky waters of writing and take your chances in those tides (Ye Who Pass Beware) IT IS A PROCESS. No matter who you are, you got to find your process. There’s many techniques but its a buffet. Take what works for you and leave the rest. OR you can pay someone (or bribe them with food) to write it for you.
You breakdown the script. Figure out EVERYTHING YOU NEED. And then you make a budget. Find a way to fund that budget. Obtain the funds. AND FINALLY! YOU CAN START SHOOTING YOUR MOVIE!
Then you go through post. Editing, sound design, mastering, finalizing. When most people hear that it’s in one ear and out the other. When a filmmaker hears that, they should be hearing that money running up on them. Those are all specialized jobs that can make or break a film. You could have the best looking shots, and lighting, everything clicking and then…(FART NOISE). Your sound sucks, the editing sucks, it’s not the way it should sound in theaters. So many factors that can take an audience out of the film.
Filmmaking is a fickle mistress. Grow some tough skin, take the criticism, and grow. You’re never going to stop learning because what you learned on this project is not going to necessarily translate to the next project. Each one is a unique puzzle that someone else could arrange completely differently.
4. Who are some of your biggest influences (film makers or otherwise)?
Steven Spielberg. Robert Zemeckis. Chris Columbus. Sofia Coppola. Alfonso Cuaron. Guillermo Del Torro. Key and Peele. Edgar Wright. Simon Pegg. Aaron Mahnke from the Lore Podcast. Mary Shelley. and Rod Serling (the father of modern day sci-fi and storytelling).
Aaron Iara: I stand corrected. All of that seems incredibly simple. I also wish sarcasm looked better in text, haha. I have nothing but respect for filmmakers. It seems like one of the most intensive creative processes.
There are so many factors that go into cinematography (lighting, camera settings, angles, etc.). Each of these aspects can take a lifetime to learn. How do you balance all of these components?
Kris Serold: Most of all ,you have to learn and execute out of necessity. It comes back to passion. I want my project to look and sound a certain way, how do I do that!? What’s changed very recently is accessibility to the knowledge and the equipment that can deliver that quality. A lesson most filmmakers refuse to accept is that you can’t do it all…forever. It’s just not sustainable. You’d drive yourself mad. As you first start that journey, it may just be you playing two characters and stitching the frames together. (JD was always great at that. He played the characters full on. That’s something that really helps me with directing these days.)
You have to be proactive and seek out people that can cover those jobs as you’re going to your next project (and you can at least sound somewhat knowledgeable about it since you studied up, out of necessity). There is a lot of thought, and sweat, and tears in the process. It can go south quickly. Learn to adapt quickly and think on your feet. You can come up with the solution that makes it ten times better, make the mediocre version, or just go home.
Aaron Iara: That makes sense. Skill progression is an important aspect of any craft.
Film making seems like it would be one of the most expensive art forms to get into. Do you agree with this? Do you have any tips for getting over this monetary barrier?
Kris Serold: Back to accessibility to the knowledge (when in doubt, go to YouTube) and the equipment that can deliver that quality. It’s sitting in your pocket right now. With the right lighting and your phone, you can make that shot look like a million bucks. Doesn’t mean you’ll make a million bucks of that, but you’re getting that quality. And look, quality helps but doesn’t mean much if your story is lacking. I’d rather see a rough, poorly shot project with tons of heart and story than a project with a billion bucks worth of production and a crap story.
Aaron Iara: You make a great point. In most mediums, creativity can overcome budget limitations.
Making movies is a process that often involves many other people. Do you have any specific methods for collaborating with others?
Kris Serold: Filmmaking is a team sport. One thing moviegoers should know by now, with all the Marvel movies and having to sit through credits to get to the post-credits scenes, is that making a film, or movie, takes TONS OF PEOPLE. Those credits are pretty damn long! Granted their budgets are massive but it still takes a lot of people, relative to budget.
Working you’re way through sets and different gigs, typically as an unpaid P.A., you see how certain people work and act on the job. You take note and think, I don’t want that on MY set…if I ever have one. Haha! Working with so many people, I just try and treat everyone as I would want to be treated. Professionally with respect but light enough to have fun, because what’s the point if you ain’t having fun. (Don’t get me wrong, there will be days where nothing is going right and you want to curl into a dark corner while slamming to some Joni Mitchel)
Aaron Iara: Social skills seem to come in handy when it comes to filmmaking!
Do you have any advice for those who want to begin filmmaking?
Kris Serold: There’s filmmaking “the art” and filmmaking “the business“. To keep creating that art, you have to find marketability and your audience. Your niche. Big Hollywood studios have the big-tent umbrella stuff all sewn up. Where they aren’t venturing anymore is true Indie film and movies. Three million to ten million dollar budget is considered “Indie Film” now. You can make a “No-Budget Film” and have a quality product with the know-how, connections, and pro-bono work.
Every step of the process of filmmaking is fraught with peril. But what I’ve seen lately is that filmmakers can complete a project (short film, feature, or pilot) and get no where in marketing (Amazon, or movie website). Who’s watching it? How do I get more viewers? A filmmaker wants to get to the next project thats burning in the noggin. Not learn the marketing game. Film school doesn’t really give you that aspect. That’s the missing piece I see. That’s what I’m deep into learning right now.
Aaron Iara: I have noticed that with many of the creators I talk to. They put so much energy and time into their work that their marketing game is lacking. I wish more aspiring professional creators understood that the website, social media, and branding is part of the package.
Do you have any upcoming projects or events you would like to discuss?
Kris Serold: We’re currently finishing our feature film, Texas Tall Tales. A horror anthology featuring local Texas talent and crew. Our budget was around 10k, which we all pitched in and pieced together (in some way). Just to kind of show what the San Antonio film community could do as a collective. The quality, the know-how, and the personnel. Truth be told, we kind of did it “All-The-Wrong-Way”. We had thirty-two actors, like ten plus locations, four child actors, animals, and a moving car sequence.
It goes back to my renegade days shooting gorilla-style shorts and skits from 2008 to 2011. S.A. Punks were down to shoot some crazy stuff. FX Dave (back then Dingy Dave) got me some squibs with fake-blood and I brought the Black Cat fireworks. He strapped that, with a fashioned cover, to a drunk Donnie’s head (cool punk guy). While the punk show was going on, we were shooting a scene about a psycho-kinetic killer on the loose. Fireworks going off, punk show going on, sirens going off because the cops were trying to figure out where the fireworks were coming from. Good times. We couldn’t use the footage because Donnie couldn’t stop smiling. Haha!
Aaron Iara: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me !Tell the readers where they can find you and your work.
Kris Serold: The readers can check out the trailer for the movie and also support us through our store on our website.
Thank you, Aaron.
A huge thank you to Kris Serold for hanging out with us this week! He was our first (but not the last) interview in the world of television and movies. Make sure you keep an eye out for his movie The Texas Tall Tales coming in the future.
Are you an independent creator? Effective Nerd wants to talk to you! Regardless of your craft, we want to hear about your story and creative process. Hit me up on social media or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great weekend everyone! Come back on Monday where we will we will be starting a new theme!