One of our favorite locations to film at was the “Italian Villa” which was an amazing home located only about 15 minutes south of downtown…we could not have asked for a better place to shoot our Italy scenes. The funny thing was, we filmed the family home in “Chicago” right across the street, that’s how diverse some of the neighborhoods are in Kansas City.
It’s not everyday that an independent film gets a deal with the AMC Independent program. But that’s exactly what Kansas City filmmakers Sandra Martin (SM), writer/director and Isaac Alongi (IA), cinematographer have done. Their film, Trust Fund, opens in KC on January 8 at AMC Theatres. We invited Martin and Alongi to be the January KC film spotlight to celebrate the release. Congratulations to these incredible KC film talents and to all the cast and crew!
KCFMO: How did you film KC as Chicago and Italy? Tell us about your location selections.
SM & IA: One of the things that makes Kansas City a great city to film in is the incredible diversity of locations, our downtown is beautiful and full of character, it has both modern and classic architecture and from one street to the next you can shoot for almost any major city in America. One of our favorite locations to film at was the “Italian Villa” which was an amazing home located only about 15 minutes south of downtown. It was built almost 100 years ago mostly out of stone and had beautiful landscaping, gardens, pool, patio and stone pizza oven, we could not have asked for a better place to shoot our Italy scenes. The funny thing was, we filmed the family home in “Chicago” right across the street, that’s how diverse some of the neighborhoods are in Kansas City. We also have really fantastic restaurants here that not only look amazing on camera but are film friendly and let us in at 6am to completely take over the space, lighting it for the camera and giving our actors plenty of time to nail each scene.
…Kansas City a great city to film in is the incredible diversity of locations, our downtown is beautiful and full of character, it has both modern and classic architecture and from one street to the next you can shoot for almost any major city in America.
KCFMO: What is it about Kansas City that made you choose to film here rather than in Chicago or other cities?
SM & IA: Kansas City is our hometown but its all about attitude, every little thing can be a struggle when filming in some other cities, just blocking off a sidewalk can really put people in a bad mood, haha! In Kansas City people are really excited about whats happening here and are really supportive, it’s just fun to see places you go everyday, show up in a movie. A lot of it is about locations, in larger cities where lots of filming takes place it’s really difficult to connect with business owners or even private home owners unless you can offer them a lot of money which is not really an option for smaller indie films. We were really fortunate to find people who were just excited to help out and be a part of the project! It’s also about crew and talent, this town is full of highly capable gaffers, on set sound people, grips, makeup stylists, location scouts, production designers etc. as well as really great actors who have honed their craft, are super professional and just fun to work with.
KCFMO: Tell us about your deal with AMC Independent.
SM & IA: AMC Independent is an amazing program, they are so supportive of indie films, we submitted our movie almost 5 months ago but i think they get over 300 films submitted every month, we are so thrilled to be chosen for exhibition. It’s a incredible opportunity to have our film seen, all they ask is that we market it. That’s truly a challenge with indie films. we are working hard to get the word out though social media and community groups etc., but we still feel like word of mouth is the best way to spread the word. We hope people like Trust Fund and tell a friend.
KCFMO: Did you learn anything about the feature filmmaking process? What would you do differently if anything?
SM & IA: Trust Fund is our first film so it felt like a super intense film school, but I think if you ask anyone in the business they will tell you that with every project no matter how much experience you have it will be a learning opportunity. Making a film is a team effort, it’s so important to surround yourself with the right people. Kansas City has so many super talented film crews that are not only good at what they do but are excited to be there and go the extra mile to make things happen. Always work with the best actors you can afford, they are the ones truly brining your story to life. We certainly learned that the magic is in the pre-production, of course you can’t control everything but being as prepared as possible will ensure a successful shoot and try to stay flexible, there were many times we had to film night for day in an office or whatever which was always a fun challenge with the lighting etc.
We are so excited to have a KC Film office, on our next film we plan to engage with them early on to help with logistics and finding locations, crew, etc. A film is really made in the Pre-Production, once you start shooting it’s just full speed ahead, but don’t forget to treat your crew really well and they will do anything for you.
…in Kansas City people are really excited about whats happening here and are really supportive, its just fun to see places you go everyday, show up in a movie.
KCFMO: What advice would you give other filmmakers hoping to widen their films reach?
SM & IA: Absolutely know your audience, who will want to see your film? Where do those people hang out online, what are their interests? Go into the whole process knowing who will want to see your movie and then make the movie they want to see. Looking back I would almost start from a marketing viewpoint and then work forwards from that mindset. Even when shooting the movie, I think getting some social media “stars” in the film, or finding some sponsors, etc will help widen your audience. Also take lots of behind the scenes photos and every time you setup at a new location take a minute and shoot some stills of your actors that you can use for poster artwork and social media etc. I am starting to understand why movie studios spend the same amount on marketing as they do on production, if no one knows about your movie, no one will see your movie. The last thing is execution, story is king but even with a great script you have to execute it well, which means production value. Too often film makers put a lot of thought, money and effort behind the camera with big crews and fancy cameras / lenses, we filmed TRUST FUND on an old used zoom lens that i bought off eBay, we wanted our budget to be spent in front of the camera with great clothing for the actors, great locations, good hair / make up styling by professionals One of our best decisions was hiring a talented production designer who knew just how to make things look amazing on camera. It’s also really important to find the right cinematographer for your project, the overall look and quality of a film is directly related to the skills and talent of your cinematographer (director of photography). Lighting is hard and it’s not something you will be good at your first or second time. The bar is pretty high, many TV shows are being shot like big budget feature films now so to reach people its important to execute your story with excellence!
As a director your vision has to be given to your key crew members early on, the cinematographer, production designer, and wardrobe.
KCFMO: When and where will we be able to see Trust Fund?
SM & IA: Trust Fund opens with AMC on January 8th in Kansas City, we are booked with regular showtimes the 8th – 14th at Leawood Town Center, Olathe, Independence and Barrywoods. If the movie does well we will expand to a longer schedule and other cities! You can see the Trailer and buy tickets at TrustFundMovie.com