Featured Filmmaker: Christopher Kontoes (Part 2)August 15th, 2013 | Posted by in IndieFlix filmmaker | Interview
We were lucky enough to have a long and thought-provoking recent conversation with our current featured filmmaker, Christopher Kontoes. In the second part of the interview Kontoes talks about his experience with film festivals, finding inspiration in the work of John Sayles and Jim Jarmusch, and his new films American Gun Killers and When My Wife Died. (You can read the first part of the interview here.)
Christopher Kontoes: I wanted to step away from traditional narrative; I wanted to have a set of feelings. For American Gun Killers, I was falling in love for the first time in a long while and it was all very exciting and beautiful. So a lot of what was shot was when she was around and my life changed, my world changed. It’s about how you choose to look at things; you decide consciously how things will make you feel. It’s a matter of perception. When you look to see things and try to see things, you [can] realize how gorgeous just about everything is. That’s what it’s about in a very vague sense. I was really trying to not be literal, to have a visceral experience on film. I tried to find things first through stills then film that registered, I didn’t know why they worked but the more I did it I just knew how things were translating. It’s extremely abstract– life is abstract. It was a pure experiment in whether I can translate how I feel in a nonliteral way and have a narrative still present that a viewer can follow.
IF: Some would consider your work to be for a niche market. What was your experience like on the festival circuit?
CK: We don’t do film festivals [anymore]. This one guy who runs a major New England film festival wanted to hire me to do some still work for him; he seemed very nice and offered to help me get started in film. We once had a conversation about a film that we both agreed was horrible, and he said to me, “Yes, that film was really bad, but it had so many local actors in it that we know it would be popular locally and would sell out the theater and pay for the rental costs. So we accepted it.” I just thought to myself, someone made a fantastic film and didn’t get it and is thinking they are terrible. But this star vehicle that wasn’t good by any measure got in. From that day forth I felt if that was indicative of all film festivals, I didn’t want to be part of it. Now with Withoutabox you get an anonymous email saying “Sorry, better luck next time.” It’s not useful for anybody. I’m done kissing ass for an anonymous panel of assholes who claim to know what good art is or what’s appropriate.
IF: What has your experience been like with IndieFlix?
CK: I love Indieflix. All that I want to do is make pictures for IndieFlix. It works so well for me because you like my work and I don’t have to beg and plead, I can just do this stuff. That’s all I do, and I love it. It’s not work. I can’t sleep at night for all the right reasons because I just want to get up and start over again.
It’s the most beautiful experience I have ever had to be respected by an organization regarding our work. It was immediate and they pay attention to you and care about your work and finding the audience. They want you to succeed. I know that if I work hard and stick to being as truthful as I can, and [have high] production value, I stand a good shot at working with IndieFlix and being [creatively] free. I can continue to experiment because I don’t have to answer to executives and it’s amazing. My producers are thrilled, my team is thrilled.
If it wasn’t for IndieFlix there would be no Social Distance films. I don’t want to make the films one has to make to succeed in the business, I think they are pointless. It’s nepotism. It’s politicized. I didn’t want to do that. I saw people like John Sayles who have always operated outside the mainstream and make absolutely gorgeous films. Jim Jarmusch makes films that are completely against the type of films that were coming out back then. That’s what I want to do, and IndieFlix likes what we are doing. They don’t judge what we do. I’ve never met a group of people that are more supportive.
IF: What would your advice be to other filmmakers?
CK: Do it yourself. If you have good credit, take out a small business loan and buy professional grade stuff. Take chances and say what you want to say. It’s a head game, but who cares about any of that? Just get a film made and get it seen. And there are things like IndieFlix… just make a good film. You have no other excuses; they are filmmakers who love film. You would be insane not to take advantage of it! If you mean what you are doing its going to get recognized if you are making films or doing anything for the right reasons and being truthful you will be recognized and you’re going to be happier because of it.
IF: What is next for you and Social Distance Films?
CK: I really like what I’m doing. I’m finding I like working with people who have no acting experience. If you make the set fun and feed everyone, you take care of people, they are usually really into it. I’ve loved the experience. Right now I have zero interest in doing anything other than making small personal films that are really a beautiful experience to make.