New York filmmaker Gary King, one of two Idyllwild CinemaFest 2013 honorees, spent five years in the corporate world of Silicon Valley before deciding to build a career doing what had always been his passion — storytelling, writing and making movies.
He ditched the West Coast technology hub and moved with his wife to the Big Apple to make films. “I spent the first two years in New York networking, getting to know the area and the local artists,” King recounted. “I took odd jobs editing and doing web commercials. I cashed out my 401k to make my first feature, ‘New York Lately.’ Each film got me into the next.” King said he has not looked back since.
He is bringing his fifth feature to ICF 2013, “How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song,” a film about the creation of an off-Broadway musical that took two years to make. There are not many indie filmmakers who attempt the complexity of a feature film musical, since, at least with Schermann, the project involves acting, dance, music, lyrics, score, full orchestral backing and New York City location shooting. “At times I felt my career was on hold, since it was taking so long to make,” said King.
In making five features, he has managed to dip into different genres, with the result that each of his films has a different look, beautifully shot and framed, but conceptually different. Three of the films he both wrote and directed. Two were written and produced by others and he served only as director. “I subscribe to the one for me and one for them approach,” he said, noting that he makes both his own “personal” films as well as those for hire.
Mentioning Steven Soderbergh as one of his favorite directors, and a model for covering many genres, King said he did not want to brand himself as a one-style-only filmmaker. Prior to Schermann, King’s other features covered drama, horror, psychological drama and an action-comedy-horror film.
“I come from a very movie-driven family,” said King. “On weekends, we’d rent five films. Over time we ran out of new releases, so my parents suggested viewing films they’d grown up with, “Rear Window,” “The Music Man,” and many other classics across a broad genre base.” King related how seeing those different film genres as a kid influenced how he decided what to make as an adult. “Watching those different styles, I paid attention to the process, how the filmmakers would shoot. Then when DVD’s came around, with director commentary, I learned even more about the process.”
Making “How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song” proved to be King’s ambitious project, a two-year odyssey in which he wore many hats — writer, director, producer, cinematographer and editor. King noted his five-year corporate stint in Silicon Valley in HR management served him well. “I’m very well versed in project management,” he said of his experience. “I learned how to keep track of numbers and get things done.”
Asked why he decided to take on such a multi-layered project, King said, “I’ve always been interested in Broadway musicals. I grew up watching them with my parents and was always in awe of the sheer talent of the actors on the screen. I’m thrilled to make a film in a genre that does not get much recognition anymore and I believe there is an audience out there that is still hungry for unique musicals.”
Schermann has already won festival awards, proving King right about audience need for and enjoyment of this genre. At the United Kingdom’s London Raindance Film Festival, Schermann won the prestigious Film of the Festival award. At the Phoenix (Arizona) Film Festival, it won the Cox Audience Award along with the Dan Harkins Breakthrough Filmmaker Award for King. Schermann is currently making the festival circuit rounds.
King said one of his great pleasures as a director is working with actors, especially in his latest project where actors had to be what are called on Broadway, “triple threats” (who can sing, dance and act). “I just find it so inspiring to see people who can sing, dance and act, which is something rarely done on screen nowadays at the truly independent level.”
King cautions that Schermann is not the typical “song and dance” musical reminiscent of the MGM musicals of the ’30s and ’40s. “The goal of the film is not spectacle,” he said, “but rather a more intimate tale about an aspiring Broadway songwriter (real life songwriter Joe Schermann) who jeopardizes his relationships and budding career after showing interest in a talented singer.”
King noted that with success comes the challenge to acquire greater resources to make more films. “Coming up with more time, more money and more resources is getting harder.”
King released his first feature in 2006. He said the six-year ride since then has been amazing. “For me, one of my dreams was to see people lining up for a film I’ve made, seeing a room full of strangers taking the ride you’ve created for them. I wake up every day wanting to create. There’s always something of me [in each movie] that I’m expressing.”