When I saw J.J. Abrams’ SUPER 8 it rekindled that youthful exuberance I had for making movies when I was a kid. I really connected with that film’s characters and its zeitgeist since I grew up in the 70’s (okay, yeah, I’m dating myself) and basically was those kids in that movie making films in the 1979 suburbs of Chicago with the very cameras they used in that picture, reading the very same Super8Filmmaker magazines (in fact I believe I have the exact issue featured in the movie on a shelf in my office… the same shelf I have my old super-8 cameras on display. I call it my “museum”). I even built model train sets in my parent’s basement, blew them up with M-80s, and filmed the destruction (a much more “innocent” time before the advent of video games). And just like the teenage director character Charles Kaznyk in the film, I had an obsession with “Production Value!” that carries on to this day.
The only difference is that I, thankfully, didn’t experience a train crash in real life and a monster didn’t steal my wannabe girlfriend — though my girlfriend a number of years later actually played the monster during the production of my first feature film (that project took 2-1/2 years to shoot and she was the only one on set who could fit into the rubber suit after the child actor we cast grew out of it over one summer. Yeah, she was a great sport.)
Anyway, J.J. nailed my childhood, and of course Steven Spielberg inspired it, so I came away from SUPER 8 with a renewed sense of youthful enthusiasm and idealism, something working in Hollywood can tend to strip away while trying to make a living doing what you love. It reminded me that filmmaking is in my blood.
Like a pathogen.
And as such, it wants to spread.
After two-plus decades of experience (sheesh, has it been that long?) both inside Hollywood and out, I thought it time to shake some nuggets of wisdom out of my head and share a bit of what I’ve learned along this journey (and of course, avoid some screenwriting, as the current script I’m developing has been kicking my ass).
So in honor of Charles Kaznyk’s and my “Production Value!” obsession, and as a way to help other aspiring filmmakers out there, check out this interview I did recently with directing guru Mark W. Travis: http://www.markwtravis.com/2012/09/increasing-your-films-production-value-an-interview-with-ken-mader/
In many ways life hasn’t changed that much for me since those Super-8 days back in ’79. The tools are bigger and more expensive, the backlot is the new train set, but my enthusiasm for making films remains. Here’s hoping all of us can keep that sense of youthful exuberance and idealism that helps fuel creativity, and ultimately, one’s soul.
Thanks J.J. and Steven.
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Kenneth Mader is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and self-determined dreammaker. Much to the chagrin of his ex-wife, certain family members, and the “committee” in his head.
His award-winning feature film DISPLACEMENT was released theatrically in Spring 2017, was acquired by A+E Networks for broadcast on Lifetime, and is now available on VOD and DVD. For more info click here.
He is the founder and operator of Maderfilm Studios, a full-service boutique production studio specializing in high-quality films and entertainment projects. He was named one of the “Top 100 Indie Filmmakers in the World” in the book by Action On Film’s Del Weston.
He is also available for consulting on scripts and film projects. Contact him here.