We interviewed Random Acts of Romance‘s executive producer, Avi Federgreen, by phone from his Toronto home. We asked him about his role in the film and it evolved into a very intriguing and inspiring conversation about the realities of the Canadian Film industry and what it means for audiences as well as people working in film.
Here is the second half of that interview:
S: I get the sense you’re quite a champion of independent filmmaking here in Canada.
AF: A friend recently said that if you look up “I can do that” and “I don’t give a shit what you think” in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of me. Nobody believes it more than me. I’ll be 50 in January, I’m divorced with two children, I live in a basement apartment…I am barely earning enough money to sustain a meager existence. People say, ‘Why the hell do you do this?’ Well, because it runs through my veins. If somebody told me I couldn’t do this anymore, I don’t know what I would do. .
It’s not about money for me, it never has been about money. If I can put food on the table, and pay my little basement apartment rent, and help provide for my children, I’ve done what I want to do and I get to wake up every morning saying ‘I’m lucky to be able to do what I love to do.’ And that’s all that matters to me.
It’s not about money, it’s not about fame, it’s not about trophies, it’s not about any of that shit. It’s about a fire burning in my belly.
S: There are a lot of people who must be thankful you’re there to help them out.
AF: Well, look, you have a choice to make in your life: do what you want to do because you’re empowered to do it, or go and find something that does that to you. I don’t think anybody’s forcing a gun at any of our heads to do what we’re doing for a living. And if you’re doing something that you’re miserable with, then you’re settling, and I’ve never believed in settling for anything.
S: I can see why you and Katrin get along so well. You’ve both got that scrappy attitude. It’s really cool.
AF: Well, she’s a spitfire. I admire her because if she wasn’t like that, then I wouldn’t want to be involved in her project. She’s fighting for everything. She’s fighting because she’s a woman filmmaker. She’s fighting because she’s telling stories that people are scared to tell. She’s got a heart of gold, she cares deeply about doing a good job. She’d give of herself before she’d take. She’s put a lot on the line to make this movie, and I have a huge amount of respect for her for doing so.
And good on Darren for giving that opportunity to her. I have a huge amount of respect for him as well. He is learning a lot about producing. And, for a second time out of the gate, he is doing a great job.
If it wasn’t for people like Katrin and Darren and many others who were involved, this film would not happen. Period.
We have to fight for our indigenous lives. We’re not getting any help from Harper. If Harper had his way, the film industry would be dead. Just like the music industry, books, and sculpting and poetry …all that stuff is getting clobbered every day, none of us in the cultural industry are any different than the next. And if we’re going to do our projects, and if this is what it takes to do it, well then I guess that’s what we have to do.
S: Are you also a filmmaker?
AF: Yes. Well, I’m a producer. Have I directed, no. But have I thought about directing? People ask me that all the time. If the right project was pushed in front of me, and I felt that I was the right person for the job, I’d do it. It would have to be something where I couldn’t sleep at night, because I was thinking about it so much.
S: How did you become a distributor? That takes a lot of contacts, doesn’t it?
AF:. Whatever it takes. People need to see our films.
S: I’m just wondering from the point of view of other filmmakers who are going to be reading this, what does it take?
AF: It starts with a good movie. If you have a good movie, and you know who your audience is — I tell people: if you’re making a movie for the sake of making a movie, don’t make the movie. If you know who your audience is, you know that this audience goes to see movies, and you know you can get an audience to go see this movie, then you make it.
And then you work goddamn hard to get people to go see it.
Since November when I announced that I was opening up my own distribution company, I’ve received and watched probably 70 films. And I’ve taken on a couple. That’s it.
S: There’s only so much you can do, eh?
AF: Well, I mean, if I felt that I could do a theatrical, great, I’d do it. Sometimes these films have already pre-sold to television, which makes it difficult for me to actually get paid any money, because that’s the only place to make money. Because I’m not going to make any money at the box office, and most films have no life on DVD.
But, you know, Moon Point, made for $75,000, got multiple theatrical releases. I sold it to Air Canada, sold it to TMN, and I have the largest DVD distribution company in North America, Anchor Bay, who’s going to release it on DVD. And they don’t even do these types of movies. They typically do genre movies.
I can tell you, if you believe in it enough, you can make it happen. If at the end of the day, Random Acts of Romance is a good film, then we’ll get people to go see it. Katrin and Darren have already sold it to PAY TV, it deserves some life in theatrical, and if we can get it out on DVD and digital distribution and get international sales, well, that’s what we want to do.
There’s no point in making a movie unless people see it. You want as many people to see it as possible.
S: Are you seeing the digital side, like Netflix, pick up more?
AF: Well, Netflix in Canada is in the early days. It’s nowhere near Netflix U.S., and what they pay for an indie Canadian film is not great. I went to SXSW in Austin , Texas this year and learned so much about the digital interactive world, and I think that as part of making a film, you have to also think how do you monetize your film. Like, what other things can you do to make money from your film – things like soundtracks, books, merchandise? You want to create the best chance to make money and succeed.
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Thank you for reading our two-part interview with Avi Federgreen. Avi is an executive producer based in Toronto. You can contact him at email@example.com. His distribution contact is firstname.lastname@example.org.