With hundreds of careers and opportunities, the filmmaking industry can be a unique experience for a filmmaker. Options include pitching an idea, or a commission through screenwriting, casting, shooting, editing, and screening your project. Filmtools decided to take a deeper look into the world of a Filmmaker. This week, we had the opportunity to speak to Filmmaker Evan Russell about his work. This is what he said:
Where are you from?
Evan Russell: Atlanta, Georgia
How did you get interested in Filmmaking?
Evan Russell: As early as I can remember I was recreating things I had seen in movies and then wanted to take those stories and characters further. When I was little, movies were a way to see the universe right from my living room. I saw a world beyond the driveway and fell in love with the idea that somewhere out there, people were experiencing these incredible things, and I wanted to live these amazing stories too. I made home movies with my brother Josh (who with his wife Sierra, now runs a special makeup effects company in Burbank). Halloween was a huge deal in our house. Store-bought costumes were never good enough. Our mother encouraged and helped us make our own costumes that were always better than what was readily available. We wanted it to be like we saw in the movies, so that’s what we did, and from the age of 5 and up we could see the detail on the screen. We knew what looked good and what didn’t. We also had (have) the same problem with toys/action figures. If it wasn’t screen accurate, we didn’t want it. It wasn’t until around 9th grade that I realized that making movies was an actual job that people have. My parents wake up and go to the office. Others people’s parents wake up and go to set. That’s when it clicked. So I started making original films in high school and never stopped.
What inspires you?
Evan Russell: A compelling story. Meaning and heart. It drives everything I do. People and their journey inspire me. What it means to be human, and what it feels like to experience heartache, joy, friends, family, foes, love, hate, etc. Whether it’s down the street or a world we’ve never seen, it’s the struggle that matters. That’s what makes us feel less alone.
What is your role typically on set?
Evan Russell: I’m most often an Assistant Director, non-union.
How did you break into this industry?
Evan Russell: I went to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts School of Filmmaking. The alumni base in LA is so vast that right as I landed here in the fall of 2015, I was on a set 2nd ADing a feature within the first week of moving here.
You walk onto set, what three items do you bring with you?
Evan Russell: Here are my three things.
- My leather portfolio that I use as a knock off GoldFold. I actually found it abandoned during my time at School of the Arts. It’s 100% hand made and looks as though Indiana Jones picked it up on a street market in Africa back in the 40’s. At least that’s my backstory for it. It always puts a smile on my face.
- My 2011 MacBook Pro, which is quickly becoming a dinosaur that I keep Frankenstein-ing to keep up with the times. (I’m a little attached to it now because it has a disc drive!)
- Pens. Everyone needs them. No one has them. And neither do I by the end of the day.
When you walk onto set, what’s the first thing you do?
Evan Russell: Shake hands. I try to set a positive, open tone very quickly, no matter my position. I want to be approachable and available. My worst professional fear is someone being intimidated to come talk to me.
Do you have a piece of essential gear that you don’t leave without?
Evan Russell: It would really be my knock off GoldFold because I can’t afford a real one. Ha.
How do you balance your work with life?
Evan Russell: It’s difficult finding a balance, especially in freelance. I feel like all my time is spent either working or looking for work. Every once in a while I can take a couple days off without guilt, but they are few and far between. Inevitably though, you have to take care of yourself. You need to be able to give yourself to your work and to fully do that, you have to give yourself to yourself from time to time. It’s a strange bit of mental gymnastics, but I believe it to be true.
How important is networking in this field? How do you go out and find these people?
Evan Russell: It’s everything. I usually find that its friends of friends of friends, down the chain. Everyone’s connected in some way. I hear about people from friends and eventually, I’m on set with them either by coincidence or direct connection, and you never know where that leads. Example: I was 2nd ADing a feature where I knew no one. The DP happened to know someone who had been to School of the Arts for a period of time. He put us in contact. The next month I’m coordinating for them, on set with an Oscar-winning director, interviewing Jay Leno for a Netflix series. Everyone’s connected. No small jobs.
What advice do you give to people working in this industry?
Evan Russell: Be nice. It costs you nothing, and you stand to gain everything.
How do you deal with challenges on set?
Evan Russell: By keeping negative emotions at the door. If I’m not directing, I’m not feeling- I’m thinking. And that doesn’t mean I’m cold either. There’s just no reason to get upset. There’s no use in it. It’s wasted energy that I’d rather put into solving a problem or laughing. On the flip side, I find every reason I can to be excited and positive. That will buy you more than money ever could in terms of investment from your crew. I find that 9 times out of 10, crew want to have a good time and do their absolute best work IF they feel valued, respected, and equal. I try to find ways to elicit that kind of reaction. In short, negative emotion can only impact you negatively. Positive emotion can impact you positively.
Where can people follow you on social, or check out your work?
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