Film blogger turned filmmaker Ruth Maramis of Flixchatter talks to Top 10 Films about Hearts Wants, a short film she’s written and produced that is currently seeking a funding boost courtesy of Kickstarter.
Top 10 Films editor Dan Stephens chats with Ruth Maramis about Hearts Want, a new short film she’s written and produced that is currently seeking a Kickstarter funding boost.
Ruth tells us about what brought about the move from film blogging to filmmaking, the development of the script, getting the cast and crew together, the challenges of film production, and why Kickstarter will help the film achieve its potential now that principle photography has wrapped.
- Apart from an obvious love of film, what inspired the move from film blogging to filmmaking?
Well, having been blogging about film the past decade enabled me to meet various filmmakers and actors but I think the filmmaking bug has been with me all along. So I think the inspiration has been slowly building for me which sort of reached a tipping point after I finished my script in the Summer 2016. I got the opportunity to to do a script reading with local talents last January that I couldn’t pass up. That reading then lead to another opportunity to make a short film version and here we are.
- Where did the idea for Hearts Want come from? Is this your first screenplay or have you written before?
Whilst blogging I had also been writing various film concepts over the years, but Hearts Want is the first full script that I finally completed. I actually had been working on a novel on and off for years, but I sort of lost interest in it and decided to take a stab at screenwriting instead. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan and Persuasion is my favorite of her novels, so my story is partly inspired by that. I’ve always been fascinated by the world of theatre and I thought setting story around a play would work well for a romantic drama. Being the Anglophile that I am, I also wanted my story set in the UK and I researched a town with a theatre that’s connected to the West End. So in my feature script, the story takes place mostly in Chichester, a coastal city in West Sussex in Southern England.
- Can you tell us about the process of writing the screenplay and getting it ready for shooting?
It’s actually quite an arduous process the fact that I had finished the feature script but I pretty much had to rewrite it for a short film format. The thing is you can’t simply retrofit a 90+ minute story into a 10+ minute film. I knew that I had to write something that is a subset of the feature (with the same setting and same characters), but would also work as a standalone story. That process took about 3 months where I had to work on the script practically every day. Once I secured a director less than a month prior to filming we continued working on it… simplifying it, making the dialog shorter, punchier, etc. We’re still tinkering with the script even on the day of filming. It’s a constant rework which can be both exciting and frustrating.
- Hearts Want is a romantic drama but what makes it different from what audiences might have seen before?
I knew I’ve always wanted to create an original story, even if the concept is familiar. Hearts Want is a contemporary story but deals with a timeless theme of lost love and second chance as I think everyone can identify with being in love and feeling the sting of heartbreak. I feel like Hollywood either does rom-coms or romantic tragedy/ thrillers these days, but we don’t see unabashedly romantic dramas much anymore. The fact that there is a play-within-a-film that plays a huge role in the plot is something rarely done but adds a layer of enchanting mystery to the story. The last romance drama I saw recently was Age of Adeline, and I love that it’s focused on the female character’s journey and also set in period as well a contemporary times.
- Getting a film off the ground is notoriously difficult. Where did you start when it came to developing Hearts Wants – who did you bring on board to help the production?
Yes indeed getting a short film off the ground is difficult, you just have to be absolutely passionate about the project and knew it will demand everything you’ve got. Well, I may not have the experience nor talent but I sure have the sheer determination to make up for it, ha! I knew that we had to seize the moment and not wait too long to make this film. So the first thing my husband and I did was figure out how we’re going to pay for the film and we realize we had to self-fund at least the principal photography portion.
Two wonderful women who helped organize the reading signed on to be the film producers and they helped me assemble some of the crew. We then contacted an attorney and worked out the legal details, and I also began working on the SAG contract for Peter as early as February. Once we figured out a set budget (what we could afford), I immediately started working on finding the right director whom I can collaborate with. That’s a tricky process as well because of the set filming dates and the fact that many creative elements (casting, etc) have been predefined.
- Can you tell us about casting, what work has already been done and at what stage is the production at?
Well, we’re blessed that we had already found two amazing actors to read for our leads Jacques and Lily so casting was easy. Sam Simmons and Peter Christian Hansen have such a lovely chemistry even during the reading that I knew they’d be great together on screen. Sam actually suggested the idea of doing the short, which happens exactly a week after the reading over brunch! I knew we both wanted Peter to play Jacques and fortunately he agreed to reprise his role the same day I emailed him. I wanted as many people from the reading to be a part of my short film, so I hired another MN-based actor Noah Gillett as Jacques’ understudy and a couple other actors became featured extras in the film as well. At that point all we had were the actors and filming location, but no director nor crew.
- How about the setting for the film? How did you find the location?
I knew right away I wanted the film to be shot in a real theatre. So I immediately started scouring a bunch of theaters in town, luckily there are plenty of those in the Twin Cities which rival even NYC. I called at least a couple of dozens of them before I found Southern Theatre via Google!! Once I did a quick tour of their space (which was built in 1910), I immediately booked the place for a shoot in the Spring. It’s such a busy performance space so even getting two days in mid April was quite a feat. It’s good that we found film setting but that also means the filming dates is pretty much set and there’s not much wiggle room. Over the course of pre-production, my director and I also figured that we need to find a different location for the dressing room scene as the one in Southern Theatre is too cramped. I found that dressing room within a week which is quite a miracle in itself, and it happens to be available on the day we needed it! Having a company move adds an extra layer of complexity to an already grueling 2-day schedule but we somehow managed to make it work.
- How did your crew come together?
Once I found my director Jason P. Schumacher, we quickly assembled the rest of the crew. Most of the crew such as the three camera guys, gaffer, production assistants and assistant director were people he had worked with in the past. I feel strongly that the director would work with people he knew in order to have an efficient, seamless production. My two producers helped secure other members of the crew such as the sound guy, art director, wardrobe supervisor, makeup artist, etc. Out of the 19-crew members, 10 of them were women. It’s so gratifying to work with so many talented women, most of whom are active and thriving in the MN film community.
- Can you tell us about your Kickstarter campaign – what will the money be used for and how will external financial backing help the film reach its potential and its audience?
ALL of the funding will go towards the film and paying our crew. None of it will go to our own pockets, this is a labor of love for us. The money will go towards completing the film:
- Post-production cost – editing, sound, color correction, music, etc.
- Studio rental – for VO and music recording
- Marketing expenses – making a poster, cutting a trailer, etc.
- Film festival submissions – the fees add up the more organizations we submit to
- Kickstarter – Up to 10% is taken from donations in processing fees ($500)
- What’s your ambition for Hearts Want – ie. film festivals, potential to develop into a feature, getting your work out there to pursue a career in film writing or producing etc.?
Well the ultimate dream is to turn Hearts Want into a feature film, so the idea for the short is to serve as a teaser if you will, for potential financiers to see our vision and what we could do with a limited budget. Our goal is to submit the film to various film festivals around the country and hopefully gain traction from there.
I have to say I’ve been bitten by filmmaking bug right now so I know I’ll continue writing and hopefully produce other films as well, not necessarily my own. I never thought I’d ever want to be a film producer but I quite enjoy the producing aspect of the filmmaking process. Who knew where this will lead but I sure would like to keep working in the film industry.