All About Giant Women - an Interview with Jason Kartalian
I was preparing an interview for a magazine about my doc Giant Women, Micro-Budget leading up to our Los Angeles premiere March 2019 at the Firstglance Film Festival. Thought I'd share the raw questions and answers on this blog. Enjoy:
Tell us about your project:
I think that Giant Women, Micro-Budget is an inspirational story about what a filmmaker can do with limited resources and a big imagination. This documentary follows the filmmaking exploits of Jeff Leroy who has been making -movies that have been released through major outlet such as Walmart and Redbox and sold internationally all over the world. So there is a way to use your talent and make films with almost no money that people want to see. Moreover, I think that beginning filmmakers are always instructed to limit their locations and choices, this doc shows that you can do the opposite and get truly unique results.
What had you done project wise in the lead up to this?
I have a very eclectic output, I have made feature films, short films, and Giant Women, Micro-Budget is my first true documentary. I consider myself a narrative filmmaker, but I always like to work in different genres. Feature wise, I have made Neo Noir: PEDESTRIAN, I have made Horror: DRILLER, and and a dark drama: SEAHORSES. I’m not limited to genre, I just always want to tell compelling stories.
Who has done what on the film?
As per production of the doc, the film was basically myself as a one man band, shooting and following around filmmaker Jeff Leroy his crew DP Tom Newth and his cast Tasha Tacosa, Vlada Fox, Rachel Riley and all the rest. I shot with a simple point and shoot mirrorless Sony, I ran out of memory and I had to continue the shoot with my iPhone. I cut the film on Premiere pro and worked and had my favorite composer Kenji Ueda compose an epic score inspired by Nino Rota. Post sound was cleaned up by Klint Macro and Brendan Larter. I had to make sure the sound was good because we have played the film in some big theatrical screens at film festivals, so sound plays an important role.
And how did that utilise your individual skills?
I really enjoyed doing most of the filmmaking myself, shooting and editing, because I was really able to stretch my creative muscles. When I have made narrative films, I have rather large crews, so every task is delegated. When you are doing it all on you own, it is very challenging but also very rewarding.
So what's the film about?
It is about one crazy day on the rooftop of an apartment in Long Beach, where director Jeff Leroy is shooting his latest masterpiece, a movie about destructive giant women battling a giant fembot. A great deal of destruction takes place on practical sets that were created by Jeff Leroy. His film is entitled Giantess Attacks Vs Mechafembot. We meet Jeff, his crew and his talented actresses Tasha Tacosa (Tasha is also a producer Giantess Attacks vs Mechafembot) Rachel Riley and Vlada Fox. I was on the roof with these creative souls documenting the action, and thus creating a making of film entitled Giant Women, Micro-Budget. It was like being on the set of a Godzilla movie.
Who wrote it and what inspired that?
I was inspired by the work of these talented people, Jeff Leroy and his crew Tom Newth, Eric Fenner and actresses Tasha Tacosa, Rachel Riley and Vlada Fox. Their work inspired me into making this documentary as special as it became. I really wanted to show people what it was like being up on that roof and the madness that ensued. With documentaries, the story comes from the editing room. During the shoot, you just try to capture moments and have a general curiosity about what is going on. But really you just shoot and shoot and shoot, and hope that you get everything that happens. Then you take the hours of footage and start making sense of it in the editing room. Hopefully things start to take shape and a story and point of view emerge.
And who produced it and pulled the project together?
The cool thing about documentaries, is you can bring people to a fascination place, and meet amazing people. Sometimes you don’t need a producer, you just need a camera, an iPhone, some kind of recording device and a thirst to tell a story.
Did you have much in the way of money to play with?
I spent a little bit of money finishing it for theatrical exhibition. Other than than, very little money was used in the creation of Giant Women, Micro-Budget.
And what were your kit choices for this film?
Since I was a one man crew, I went with a very simple kit, a powered Rode VideoMicPro attached to a Tascam recorder recorded the sound. I grabbed some time-lapse on a GoPro Hero5 and my main camera was the Sony RX100V and the iPhone X. I have a little rig I created with a Noga arm and a hand grip so I can hold it steady for long periods of time. Since it was all during the day, there was no issue with light, and I was quite impressed with how the images and video held up when projected in some rather large theatrical screens.
Where does it sit alongside the rest of your portfolio of work?
I really don’t know, I make films about interesting things, whether it is narrative short, feature or doc. I follow my muse and focus on the story and the characters that inspire me.
So where are you with the film right now?
It has been screening at film festivals all around the USA. It was a nominee for Best Documentary at FilmQuest Film Festival, won the audience award at Another Hole In the Head for Best Documentary and in March it is having its Los Angeles premiere at the Firstglance Film Festival.
How is it looking at this stage in the game?
Things are great, the doc will be included in the commercial release of the Jeff Leroy film Giantess Attacks vs Mecha Fembot. So I look forward to a fun commercial release of the doc!
And how do you plan to promote it given that this is such a competitive marketplace?
I am a natural promotion machine, and social media has been very kind to Giant Women, Micro-Budget! The subject matter is so easy to promote, when we played San Francisco at the Another Hole in the Head film festival, we photoshopped giant women around the Golden Gate bridge and other Bay Area locations - a perfect way to promote on Instagram, and other visual social media platforms. Jeff Leroy and actresses of Giant Women, Tasha, Vlada, and Rachel have also been super supportive and it really helps when the talent is on the same page and help promote as well.
Can you tell us about the other projects you've been working on?
I have a feature, a psychologic thriller entitled Nightshade that I will be shooting this year. It is a dark film about belief and superstition. I recently completed a narrative short film entitled THE LAST CALLBACK starring Tasha Tacosa and Rachel Riley (that I met on the Giantess Attack set) that will do a film festival run this year.
How do they differ from this one?
They are narrative as this is a documentary. There is something exciting and fun about both narratives and docs.
What is your favourite genre and why?
I like films that transcend genre, stylish films that show the world in a different way, be it the social commentary of George Romero, or the Freudian freak out of Nicolas Roeg or the body transformation of David Cronenberg.
Are there other genres that you'd like to tackle?
I would love to make a full on space opera/sci fi movie. I feel that Giant Women, Micro-Budget and the work of Jeff Leroy really inspire me to make one on a low budget
So what is the filmmaking climate like in your neck of the woods?
I am in the epicenter, Los Angeles where there is the largest concentration of creative professionals thrive. It is the best place to put together a crew and cast, because there are so many people here who are at the top of their profession. Many filmmakers help each other as well, my entire crew of THE LAST CALLBACK was a bunch of directors doing other roles for me.
So where do you see this filmmaking route taking you in the future?
I don’t know where the future will take me, and that is what makes filmmaking so exciting and harrowing. I feel best in my skin when I am creating, so I am aways putting myself in a position to do so. Thank you so much for helping me spread the word about Giant Women, Micro Budget.