Roundtable with Film Connection mentors Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett
Providing great, real-world education, opportunities, and support is something we take very seriously at RRFC. In order to ensure we continually set our students and mentors up for success, we recently started having bi-monthly meetings in which RRFC mentors come into our “headquarters” in Los Angeles for a roundtable conversation with our Admissions and Academic Facilitators team members. Here are a few informative excerpts from our conversation with the super-dedicated, power-duo Film Connection mentors, Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett of Dream Team Directors (Coldplay, P. Diddy, Mark Ruffalo, Bella Hadid, Adidas, Atlantic Records, Chrome Hearts).
Wanna learn something? Read on!
RRFC Team: How far and how soon do you delve into the business-side of the film business with the students you mentor?
Daniel: “I went to a school that was one of the top film schools but they were not completely open about what it takes to succeed in this industry. The business side is about 80% of it, to be honest. You can’t make a film if you can’t convince an investor to give you money. You can’t go to a distributor with a film and when they say, ‘Great, do you have this, this, and this on the list?’ If you don’t have that, then you don’t get your film distributed.
So I tell them right up front, the way that we’re different from most programs is the one-on-one and the staff. You guys really care about them and are there for them. Another thing is that we teach you the skills you really need to actually make money in this industry. Not just to get a degree, but to actually be working in it. So I tell them upfront, ‘This is what it’s going to involve. You’re going to learn about this, this, and this. You’re going to learn about marketing, how to build your brand as a filmmaker, all these things.
Basically I tell them that it’s an awesome program, but the more they put into it, the more they’re going to get out of it.”
Bayou: “To answer more of your question, for example, we had a student, Katz [Carter]. He wanted to direct his own film. So I showed him all of the things that we had done before, like all of our business plans. [As a result], he got his film funded and did a one-take feature film… It’s amazing because he literally took our materials and just duplicated them. Then, he went out and got the funding. Now he’s talking to the camera department about helping promote it even more. Right now, I’m showing him the next level, which is film festivals (learn more). So it kind of depends on the student and where we are and what we’re doing. Sometimes we’ll be like, ‘Are you interested in learning how to do a contract? Come on in the office. We’re doing one right now for a commercial.’”
RRFC Team: Your recently graduated extern, Isabella “Bella” Jones, got hired by you, is that correct?
Daniel: We’re working with her almost on a daily basis. We’ve hired her and she’s getting paid work.
Bayou: We just did a commercial with her. (More on Isabella’s amazing, career-building experience.)
RRFC Team: What are you looking for in the students you accept as externs?
Daniel: “[We’re] looking for really good communication skills, a willingness to learn. [We ask them] what they want to get out of the program, like what would make it a homerun for them, and whether they have previous experience. This is just my personal viewpoint. I might be completely wrong, but I feel like it can be a very strong shift in reality when you have this one idea of what it is to be a filmmaker or making films, it could be very romantic, looking at movies and watching movies and watching the credits and hearing directors talk. Then, when you actually go to work on a set, when you actually go on a production, it can be a shock like it was for me when I first did it in 1998. It’s tough… It’s a journey and that you have to be willing to go on the journey and you have to be willing to find what your voice is and what you really want to do in this industry. And it might not come right away, and so we just prepare them [for that].”
Bayou: “So Daniel does that side and then I do the other side, like we tag team. I [remind] them that it’s the most exhilarating thing to see your film on a screen, and people are actually laughing when you want them to laugh or crying when you want them to cry. So, then I give them that side, too. All that hard work, like I got chills talking about it, it’s the best paid job in the world.”
Learn more about Film Connection for filmmaking, editing, cinematography, and more!