FILMMAKER: Lance Karasti
BIO: Lance is from Duluth, MN. After high school he moved to LA to go to film school, but he is now back in his hometown in pre-production for his debut feature film The Cat.Filmmaker is his thesis film. He made it when I was 19 but didn’t tell anyone his age until the last day of shooting and they were shocked. He shot on real film, and I didn’t want people to think his lack of experience, or living life would affect the product.
He’s been making movies since he was 3. Paul Thomas Anderson is his favorite filmmaker. The furthest Lance has traveled to shoot a film is 3000 miles from his hometown in Minnesota to Hollywood.
In reference to film festivals, Lance says, “I made my film [Filmmaker] with the big screen in mind. Where else do you get to show a short film on a big screen? It is the ultimate cinematic experience. Filmmaker has very subtle humor and it works so much better when it is experienced with an audience at a theater. Of course there is the exposure. There is also this sense of “my movie is real now,” you know? Like, people I have never met in my life have seen this. It has been in a film fest. It feels good to share your work.”
And share his work he did. Right here in California’s Gold Country, just outside of Yosemite National Park for the 2011 ITSA Film Festival in Sonora and Groveland, California. Filmmaker was featured prominently alongside many other short films, including 2 films that have already screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
So let’s find out more about this budding young filmmaker.
|Still from “Filmmaker”|
When asked which film he is most proud of and why: Filmmaker — I knew exactly what I wanted to make and I made it. I was only 19, living away from home for the first time (in Hollywood) and I was not doing that well in film school. I knew this film was everything and I had to go all out on it and I feel like I did. Nothing could have stopped me. I’ve never felt that kind of artistic motivation before. I had to produce the film myself and I came down with strep-throat during Pre-production crunch time, but I worked through it. It was the toughest week of my life. I was so sleep deprived and sick that at one point I hit two stationary objects with my car within an hour of each other. I wasn’t taking care of myself, there was no time. I wasn’t even worried about my health, it didn’t matter; all that mattered was making this movie. It was one of the only times in my life I can say I felt bliss. I’ve never had to climb a mountain like that before or felt that kind of tremendous sense of accomplishment. In order to make something good I felt like I had to treat it like it was going to be the greatest thing ever, even if it wasn’t. In my mind I lived up to my own goal. That’s just how I am. I romanticize, it helps me work. I am proud that I was able to make it no matter what people end up thinking about it. I was involved in every part of production. I can’t imagine how amazing getting to work on my upcoming feature The Cat is going to be.
Lance shared with us how he tackles filmmaking problems: I think the biggest problem in making Filmmaker was the cost of shooting on film. I had a small limited budget and I wanted to make this on super 16mm film. I was so close to having to shoot this digitally and I feel like it would have completely ruined the movie. I mean, it has “Film” in the title! But it is a 14 minute short. How can you justify spending thousands of dollars to do that? My DP Sean Finnegan and I came up with a game plan. We over-preprared. I planned every single shot of the movie. I story-boarded the movie for how I would edit it. Every shot you see in the movie was done with stick figures the exact same way a couple months before shooting. Sean and I spent days talking about it. We made a notebook of stills from other movies to help explain our ideas. Then we hit the town. We went to meetings at Kodak, Fotokem, and Panavision, and it worked. We were passionate and honest so we got amazing discounts and could afford to shoot on film. I would have made another movie if we weren’t able to do this. Filmmaker would not exist without Sean Finnegan.
Some filmmakers have a ‘process’ and many don’t. Do you have a process?
Tough question. I’m not quite sure what it is asking. I consider myself a writer and director. I can’t separate the two. I write things that I want to direct. I write for directing. I can plan things that no director would be able to do unless he were the writer as well. I consider editing part of writing. So really, I write, direct, and edit. It allows me to make something I don’t think would be possible if these jobs were all done seperatly. I trust my vision. I want to protect it. On The Cat I’m also going to act. I really hope I can get investors for that soon, I need to make it. I guess my process is to just be involved as much as I can from the beginning to the end. I’ve never done things differently. I grew up making little VHS movies with my friends and I was the only one who knew what they were doing. I had to do everything. That is the way I’ve always worked since I was 5. I’m completely open to collaboration. I am constantly taking ideas and listening to everyone’s opinions and I’ve been swayed many times, but at the end of the day I am most responsible for how this turns out so I have to be on top of everything.
Where marketing and advertising is concerned: Filmmaker can be seen on YouTube right now. Watch Filmmaker
Synopsis of Filmmaker: Martin Scorsese spends the night drinking with a gun on an abandoned film set where he contemplates the murder of the studio head who is forcing him to cut the end of his masterpiece “Taxi Driver.” Based on the infamous Scorsese rumor.
“I haven’t really done any advertising for it. I just post it on some facebook groups once in a while,” Lance continues, “I’ve also been sending the link to some filmmakers and critics on twitter and it has been retweeted a couple times. Reaching out works. Having comedian Kassem G in it doesn’t hurt either. I’ve actually already planned the teaser trailer for “The Cat,” but I can’t say anything about that.”
Have you ever met or worked with anyone famous? Kassem Gharaibeh is the number 18th most subscribed to comedian of all time on YouTube. He is extremely talented and hard working. Right now most of his fame is on the internet, but if he decides to do film I am confident that he will become a very famous actor. The thing is, he does all of these really funny youtube videos, but he is a great performer. His role at the end of Filmmaker as the assistant is humorous but I tried to write it as a real person, and Kassem brought that to life. I would love to work with him again, he was such a blast to have on set. It was only 3 minutes of screen time but he took it very seriously. I really hope he gets more intensive roles in the future. I’d love to see him become the next Daniel Day Lewis.
Money is no object: who’s your leading actor and actress? Why? Anton Yelchin. This guy is going places. He’s already been places! He is my first choice to play the main character in The Cat. I can’t really give much away, but the character is this Senior in High school named Roy who has some kind of antisocial disorder. His angst increases the closer they get to graduation and he becomes extremely curious about this insane secret his best friend Robby tells him. It is a dark character piece, and it works a lot like Taxi Driver or There Will Be Blood. The Cat examines the rivalry between Roy and his best friend and it turns into this thriller/horror film in the third act. I think Anton would be perfect for it. He has already demonstrated so much range. I would love to see him play a character who slowly loses his mind. Who starts out as someone we can relate to and then starts breaking down. It’s really a twisted John hughes movie. I would love to get him, It really depends on the budget, and if I can get ahold of him. I honestly cannot imagine Roy as anyone else. Not only does he fit the part perfectly, but he seems like a really cool guy who cares a lot about his acting. Someone with his passion would make Roy an iconic character. Rooney Mara can have any female roll in any of my movies. She is amazing. After working with Fincher twice she has to more experience than anyone her age. I would love for her to play Roy’s girlfriend. Her character is unnamed but so are all of the female rolls for Hitchcock-esque purposes. Mara is amazing. The character is a real character. She has to deal with a lot: Highschool, college essays, the idea that her boyfriend might be insane, and on top of that she’s got a fun personality, she has a smart-ass sense of humor. Rooney would be so perfect. She could totally make this character real. She has the talent to balance all of these elements.
Lance opens up to us about his filmmaking journey: Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite filmmakers. I found out he hung out at this place in Hollywood called Amoeba Music. It’s a very cool DVD and record store. I went to check it out on my first day living in Hollywood. I fell in love with the place. I went there at least twice a week just to browse the Criterion Collection or check out the movie posters. A couple months later I was heading to see Kick-Ass at the Arclight, but I’m super obsessive about being on time to movies so I left like two hours early and needed something to do. I walked down the block to Amoeba and started flipping through some movies. I found Godard’s “Pierrot le Fou,” so I was ready to go, but I decided to stick around and just look at some more movies. A couple minutes later he walks by me. The man, himself. My hero: Quentin Tarantino. This is someone who has taught me more about film from interviews than film school ever could. It took me half an hour to work out what I was going to say to him. I was so nervous and I couldn’t figure out how wanted to present myself to him. I so badly wanted to walk up to him and talk to him about my projects. I wanted to talk to him as if he were a co-worker. I wanted to have a conversation. I wanted to act like it wasn’t a big deal for me, but it was. We couldn’t have a conversation, he doesn’t have time and I’m sure he gets people he doesn’t know trying to do that all the time. And really, we are in no way co-workers. He is working on a much higher level then me. He doesn’t care about my projects, he’s got no idea who I am. Eventually I just walked up to him, shook his hand, and said “I’m a big fan of your movies.” That’s all I was at that point in my life. I wasn’t a fellow filmmaker on the same level as him. I was a just a fan of his. He replied with “Good on ya, mate!” I hope I run into him again somehow in a year, once The Cat is done. Maybe then we can have that conversation.
Thank you Lance for talking to us about your work. We look forward to seeing your next film.