Rick Schmidt on set of Mirage
(Santa Fe, NM '04 Feature Workshop). Photo by David Kaufman
Interview with Rick at FILMMAKING STUFF
Writer/director Rick Schmidt, author of Feature
Filmmaking At Used Car Prices
, has more than a decade of experience
conducting moviemaking workshops. Each workshop produces a full-length
feature in just 10 days. To date, Feature Workshops movies have had over
20 international screenings and Chetzemoka's Curse
was the first film with a woman co-signer/director to be awarded the
(Dogme #10). See the full workshop
Feature Workshops Mailing List
You can stay up-to-date with Rick's Feature Workshops by
subscribing to the Feature Workshops mailing list:
"One of the most fascinating and exciting experiences of my life. I would
highly recommend this workshop to anyone even remotely interested in movie
making. With no previous experience required, you will be able to contribute in
many areas of filmmaking, including helping to write, produce, act, and edit!
Instead of taking your next nice two-week vacation to Hawaii, and coming home
with a few hula girl trinkets, do Rick Schmidt's workshop and go home with a
feature movie that you helped make! Then your next trip may be to attend a film
festival as a badge-wearing real filmmaker!"
-Tom Secor, Software Engineer. San Luis Obispo, Ca. (attended
Dec. '04 Santa Fe Feature Workshop)
"I'm sure Mike will still be talking about his time in Santa Fe for
months. His dad and I are so glad it was such a positive experience for
him. When he opted not to go away to college a few years ago we were
crushed, but we know he marches to a different drummer. He was always on
the lookout for film school options, so we looked at this experience as a way
to further his education and help him pursue his dream."
-Barbara Saliba (mother of participant, Dec. '04 Santa Fe
Feature Workshops Schedule
Beginning in January, 2004, Rick has decided that he will
also offer ONE-ON-ONE workshops in addition to his group Feature Workshops,
which means that he will accept only participants who want to co-produce
(co-direct/co-write/co-shoot) a feature-length DV movie in a two-person
Rick's Feature Workshops are limited to 10 persons, who collaborate on
a full-length DV production. All DV production costs are included (participants
cover their own airfare/travel expenses, plus food and lodging). All Feature
Workshop shoots are limited to ten collaborators at a cost of $3500 per
person, unless otherwise indicated. See What You'll
Do At Your Feature Workshop
for more information.
Rick's ONE-ON-ONE workshops ($15,000) will demand a more intensive approach to
the shooting process, but, at the same time, offer a more relaxed
post-production editing timetable. Rick and the participant will be responsible
for forming a story concept, scouting locations, selecting actors, shooting the
DV camera, creating shots/scenes, maintaining top-quality sound, and ultimately
editing the movies to completion over the months that follow.
With the advent of professional yet low-cost editing software (Final Cut
Pro/Avid DV) coupled with powerful home computers, the movies can be edited
over a longer period than just the 10-day format of past feature workshops.
Rick has recently spent periods of time during the last 9 months editing last
summer's workshop feature, RELEASE THE HEAD
completion (produced with participant John Barnum of Arkansas and actor Stephen
W. Gillard of Port Townsend). Depending on the circumstances, a participant may
become the central editor of the footage, sending occasional mini-DV tapes to
Rick for preview and experimentation. or vise versa. In any event, movies will
be edited and finalized by Rick and participant after the shoot is over.
Feature Workshops is offering only a maximum of six one-on-one shoots offered
in 2004, the dates of production determined by the convenience of the
participants and Rick's schedule. The year's schedule will consist of just one
shoot every two months or so. This means a first-come-first-served attitude
will prevail. Only after Rick has received a participant's application
(half-page real-life story" and basic info...SEE BELOW) and the full payment of
$15,000 should a participant consider that their shoot is a "GO" (watch for
your shoot & location listed at this website page for final
confirmation...) Early registration is encouraged for the serious moviemaker
who wishes to collaborate with Rick in this exciting manner.
This process of DV "workshop" moviemaking will be a seat-of-the-pants
operation. Either taking place in Port Townsend, Washington or the participants
home town, and using either Rick's "Dogme 95" style lightweight DV gear or the
participants DV camera/sound gear, the actual moviemaking process will be
something like this:
Decide story concept either beforehand, or once the participant and Rick
Schmidt meet at the location (RELEASE THE HEAD
storyline was determined after breakfast of the first day of production...).
Select actors/non-actors from the local pool of real people/available talent,
grabbing friends "off the street," enlisting relatives, whatever it takes to
get a cast.
Allow a story emerge from "just starting" (no pre-scripting).
Let the material and skills of Rick and participant determine shooting style
and look of the DV feature, during the flow of production.
Build scenes through improvisational dialogue (using the "freeze" technique for
halting actors midstream and adding new dialogue/new action/instructions, as
described in Rick's book, "Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car prices," Penguin
Evaluate what has been accomplished each day during the moviemaking flow, to
determine which new scenes are necessary to fulfill a story structure essential
for editing (determining a good ending scene by Day-10).
(This 6-step approach is the exact same method Rick and co-writers/co-directors
used to create the Feature Workshops production, CHETZEMOKA'S
[DOGME #10], and many other recent features [see Rick's on-line
], shot in both DV and film.)
Together, Rick-and-participant will cover all the bases necessary to produce a
DV feature capable of competing in the world's marketplace. While the roles may
vary on different shoots -- sometimes Rick will shoot, other times the
participant will perform cinematographic duties, direct actors, think up new
scenes or become a lead actor, - the end result will be "a DV by Rick Schmidt
and __your name here___, with major profit points (the 85% remaining after
reserving 5% for Feature Workshops and 10% for an investor's blow up to 35MM)
shared equally between Rick, participant, and perhaps one all-involved lead
actor (as was the case for RELEASE THE HEAD
So, if you are either a complete novice (never shot DV) or a indie veteran
filmmaker with professional DV gear and a filmography, here's an opportunity to
break the ice on creating a new, cutting-edge improv DV feature, working with
an indie maverick who "wrote the book" and has 18+ low/no budget features to
his credit (his first two-man collaboration with director Wayne Wang, A MAN, A
WOMAN, AND A KILLER, helped begin that major director's career, as his book did
for Kevin Smith/CLERKS some twenty years later). At any rate, Rick will look
forward to shooting in your town, helping you make a movie with your contacts,
your special & great locations, and high enthusiasm!
One collaborative position is available for each ONE-ON-ONE shoot. The
collaborative position covers only the cost of the workshop-not airfare/travel
expenses or food/lodging.
The Feature Workshops Experience
"Thanks, Rick!! I fired my shrink. Who the hell needs
therapy when I can make art? Who would have thought a 53-year-old lawyer could
help make a movie (Chetzemoka's Curse
that will actually be screened at a festival somewhere?"
, Port Townsend lawyer, author, and... movie star!
Steve Gillard was one of the lead actors in the Feature
Workshops production of Chetzemoka's Curse. His wife Susan and children Jessica
and Joey shared the screen with him, playing his movie family. Steve shares his
feelings about the experience.
You love movies, right? You spend way more than you should
at your local theater, on DVD and VHS rentals, even subscribing to those
ridiculous movie magazines. You have every available cable movie channel, even
the premium ones, and especially IFC. You sit through four hours of gawdawful
speeches at the Oscars every year, because you wouldn't miss a minute,
especially the hour, right after, where Barbara Wahwah asks dumb questions of
some movie star sitting in their foofed up living room, stroking them with that
kiss-up voice she uses.
Maybe you've even gone to the next level and started
figuring out how to make your own movies. After all, the technology out there
is unbelievable: For a few hundred bucks you can buy a digital camera capable
of making incredibly fine images, for a few hundred more you can get pretty
good sound hardware, and a few hundred more gets you software that can help you
edit like a pro.
Perhaps you've even made a movie or two, perhaps you've even
been able to show it to someone besides your friends and family. Indeed, if you
are already making movies that are getting into film festivals or other public
venues, then don't waste your time reading further. This ain't necessarily for
But, if you're like me, you mostly watch movies and daydream
about making one or maybe even being in one. What if I told you that for less
money than you'll spend on your next two-week vacation you could make a movie
with a nationally recognized indie filmmaker and author, whose book,
Feature Filmmaking At Used Car Prices
, has sold 80,000 copies and changed
life? (He said so, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.)
What if you knew that this guy has gotten every single one
of his movies into international film fests? (Or, for you actors, what if I
told you that you could be in this movie-your face, on the screen, in Portugal
or Berlin or New York?)
I have been in two such movies. I still pinch myself, every
day, because it all still seems like a dream.
I live in Port Townsend, I'm a low-key lawyer working out of
my house, and for someone living in the prettiest place I've ever been, I spend
way too much time indoors... watching movies. When I found out that moviemaker
and author Rick Schmidt lived in the same town as me, and that his movie,
Morgan's Cake, got to Sundance and got a full page review by Janet Maslin-a
good review-I couldn't wait to cross paths with him. It took a couple of years,
but our kids ended up in the same drumming class and I finally met him. I found
out about his book, and I found out that he loved to make movies with regular
people in his Feature Workshops, where 8 or 10 people get together and shoot
and edit a full length feature film in 10 days!! Somehow it works. I've seen
them. Unbelievable, these movies he gets from 10 days! (I shouldn't really be
surprised: This is a guy that
, professor of Film and American Studies at Boston University,
has written about as one of the handful of top "guerrilla filmmakers" in the
world, one of the 3 jazz artists of cinema.)
In the beginning, my wife and I begged Rick for just a
"gofer" spot on his crew. Nice guy, Rick, but he never really came through with
the "gofer" job. Then came the Chetzemoka's Curse shoot. (A film later
certified by Lars Von Trier, et al, as only the second American Dogme 95 film!)
Rick was shooting "Curse" in Port Townsend, and let us hang around. We weren't
among the Workshop participants, but we were pretty good friends by now, and he
found a way of putting every single member of my family in that movie! Get
this: I, Steve Gillard, smalltown lawyer and regular person, am in a movie that
has been mentioned in Variety and The New York Times, and, and, and...
Now get this: You can be, too. If you don't want to be in
the movie, but would like to help write it, direct it, edit it, then just sign
up for the next Feature Film Workshop. There are at least four of them every
year, and there is nothing to prevent you from being in the next one.... if you
I've been in another Workshop movie since Chetzemoka's
Curse: a movie with a working title of Release the Head, still being edited.
This last time around I got to freaking be one of the stars!! Unbelievable.
And, may I say it: The movie is fantastic! The sound track alone is worth what
will be the price of admission, and will have its own CD. (I guess I can't
really be objective, but I'm telling Rick to book us for Sundance.)
For the 10 days of this last Workshop, when I was there
every day, in so many great locations, Rick shooting the hell out of gorgeous
Port Townsend, it was like I was seeing my town for the first time. I was doing
things I would never do, if I wasn't "acting." I was so goddamn high from being
in front of the camera, working with Rick, watching the dailies, meeting with
the other actor/director/writers, helping feel out the next scenes, etc., etc.,
etc., that I still haven't come down. Rick lets me come by his editing studio
when he's there and watch bits of the movie and listen to the sound track. I
can hardly stand to leave and go back to the "real world." (Maybe, if this
movie is as good as it looks and sounds... maybe I will be able to spend less
time in the "real world.")
In the years I have known Rick, and watched his movies and
been in his movies, I have never, ever, heard of another filmmaking opportunity
like his Feature Workshops. Never. It is astounding to me that for something
around $3,500 it's possible to help make a feature film, act in it, help edit
it, not to mention, have a copy of your movie to show family, friends,
neighbors... forever! Then, you get to stand by and watch your movie start to
get attention from film festivals, critics, entertainment writers. I swear,
it"s completely surrealistic, like the best dream imaginable.
You tell me: Have you ever heard of anything like it?
Making these movies with Rick Schmidt, in his Feature
Workshps, has been, without question, the biggest thing that's happened for me
since the birth of my last child. (Well, I guess moving to Port Townsend comes
close.) I can't believe Rick has to promote these Workshops! I can't believe
that word of mouth hasn't filled the Workshops into the next decade.
Steve Gillard, Movie Star.
What You'll Do At Your Feature Workshop
Aspiring independent filmmakers, stage and screen directors,
scriptwriters, novelists, video producers, media enthusiasts, film students,
film buffs, between the ages of 18 and 81.
Participants will be selected for workshops based on their
varied life experiences and intensity of purpose. Each perspective filmmaker
will be asked to fill in information about their background and education
(college degrees, film/video/writing experience, or life experience/school of
hard knocks) and write a short page (100 words) on "The best real-life story I
know that relates to my own family history," with a space supplied for their
copyright protection, date and signature This story will not only help Rick to
determine who can express his or herself in an honest, straightforward way, but
get the participant to understand that the real riches they should mine for
their own feature-length projects lie right at their own feet.
Port Townsend, Washington, is Feature Workshops home base,
offering an array of locations, from natural scenes of water and mountains to a
timeless town. Feature Workshops will occasionally be conducted in other
cities/locations that offer good visual and conceptual possibilities (like our
Death Valley and Berkeley shoots).
"The preservation of Port Townsend's commercial core and
supporting residential community (over 200 registered Victorian buildings...)
presents a remarkable picture of life in the 1880's."
-Peter Simpson, CITY OF DREAMS (Bay Press,
Port Townsend is a 2 hour commute from the Seattle airport.
The route combines a 1/2 hour drive-on ferry ride from downtown Seattle to
Bainbridge Island (Winslow), with a scenic 1 hour drive, island hopping past
Poulsbo, across the Hood Canal bridge, up the Olympic Peninsula to Port
Townsend. Ferries also offer access from Victoria, B.C., and Whidbey Island.
$3500 for the 10-day workshop, $15,000 for one-on-one
10-day shoot with Rick Schmidt (results to be edited over a several month
period). Applicants are responsible for their own transportation to Port
Townsend, Washington (or the location of the workshop), and food and lodging
during the workshop production.
"Rick Schmidt and FEATURE WORKSHOPS gave me exactly what
I've been dreaming of-knowledge, experience, and the courage to try."
-Barry R. Norman
"It totally demystified the entire filmmaking process.
Inspirational, well laid out, and easy to understand. Well worth the money
"An enriching experience with maximum work and intensity. I
learned that I can now make my own films."
"FEATURE WORKSHOPS gave me exactly what I hoped it would-the
real-life, real-time experience."
"Too many cooks didn't spoil this film!"
-Greg Gerson, (speaking about "someone like me," the 80
minute, Color, 16MM feature created at Aug. '97 FEATURE WORKSHOPS by 11
Cinematographer Gary Rohan (on dolly) shoots "someone
like me" (80 min., Color, 16MM) at the Aug. 1997 Berkeley workshop. (A Film by:
Doreen L. Alexander, Ned Barth, Mark Fogarty, Greg Gerson, Steve Heffner,
Andrew Hettinger, Virginia Saenz McCarthy, James O'Brien, Mark Toscani, Robert
J. Weythman, and Rick Schmidt). Photo by Chandra Clarke.
"I applied, I got in, I paid the money, I got on a plane and
I'm here-and now that I'm here I've got to shoot it! The details are
taken care of!"
"It confirms that risks are well worth taking."
-Virginia Saenz McCarthy
Bottom line, though, is that by the time a workshop is
completed EVERYONE is a veteran of at least one feature. Now they know how it
all works (the set, directing, editing...), how it feels under pressure as a
low-budget feature filmmaker. I'm sure they will quickly save back ALL the
money spent of a workshop when they launch into their own production. Just on
the people-connections part alone it's worth it (half of the Aug. '97 group
went on to shoot a movie together, and most remain in touch with me...). It's a
win-win situation as far as I can tell.
A Brief History of Feature Workshops
In 1993, Rick Schmidt founded his feature workshops,
believing that he could make a professional no-budget feature by collaboration,
bringing in other filmmakers (scriptwriters, video enthusiasts, etc.) to work
with him over a 10 day period to write, direct, shoot, edit, and co-produce a
75 minute film in 16MM. For 1998, he had added cutting-edge Pro-DVCAM shoots to
his list of collaborative productions, believing that DIGITAL VIDEO must no
longer be ignored as a viable no-budget method of producing feature-length
There's an old adage from the silent era of filmmaking that
went something like this-"He can't do anything-let him direct! "If a new guy
showed up on the set who couldn't do anything technical (couldn't hand-crank,
load, or set exposure on the camera, wasn't a writer of scripts, couldn't light
the scenes or paint backdrops, wasn't pretty enough to be an actor!), they gave
him the one job that required no expertise-DIRECTOR. In a sense this is still
true at Feature Workshops.
At recent feature-length productions we've had an opera
singer, airline steward, security guard, editor of a corporate newsletter,
house-painter, high school drama teacher, psychologist, corporate consultant,
fast-food clerk, Eagle scout, liberal arts student, graphics artist (you name
it!) write & direct movies, while our top-notch technical crews backed them
up. The difference between the silent movie era and now, though, is that most
of us have been exposed to over 8,000 hours of movies on TV and at theatres,
and WE KNOW HOW TO USE MOVIES TO EXPRESS PERSONAL IDEAS. This expression is
especially possible through the on-the-set development of a story-line, one
that is "written as it goes along" (like CASABLANCA... you know... with
Humphrey Bogart). The everyday person with a MOVIE-MAKING DREAM (and NO
filmmaking background), is able to jump into our productions, make up scenes
(have ideas), "write & direct" just fine. In fact, they enrich our movies
because of their diverse backgrounds. By the time 10 days are up, you'll be
able to write and direct a movie in collaboration with myself and others, using
my book, Feature Filmmaking At Used Car Prices
, as a guide.
In 1998, several Workshops were conducted using the Sony
DSR-200 Pro-DVCAM digital video camera. Morgan Schmidt-Feng's (Rick's son-see
) Bay Area indie production company, Filmsight Productions (firstname.lastname@example.org
supplied a Pro-DVCAM package, plus helped Rick co-produce the 1998 Pro-DVCAM
and 16MM workshops (Morgan co-produced the Aug. '97 workshop feature "someone
BLUES FOR THE AVATAR
1/2 min., B&W, ©1995), the first feature created by a workshop, was
presented at the IFFM (Independent Feature Film Market) in New York City in
September, 1996. Schmidt and his collaborators, Barry Norman, Michelle Kulstad,
Anthony Pesce, Trudie Dearinger, and Eric Magun are proud that their
collaborative feature was selected by Slamdance International Film Festival
(Park City, Utah) for a World Premiere, had its European Premiere at Portugal's
Figueira da Foz International, and won a SILVER award at Houston's Worldfest
International Film Festival,1996.
Each participant supplied a workshop fee (their economic
share of the budget), and was responsible for writing/directing during the 3
1/2 day shoot, and 6 day crash edit. To complete the film as a composite 16MM
print, Schmidt along with Barry Norman and Kent Nussbaum, each picked up
investment points in the project by funding the last expenditures of sound mix,
titles, conforming of original, and "answer" print.
CHETZEMOKA'S CURSE is 2nd officially certified
American Dogme 95 movie (after JULIEN DONKEY-BOY)
One of the first no-budget DV features conceived, cast,
shot, and completed in the year 2000, Chetzemoka's Curse
, a collaborative feature from Rick Schmidt's Feature Workshops, has just been
officially certified as "Dogme NO. 10" by the Danish Dogme 95 Secretariat. Six
collaborators; Maya Berthoud, Morgan Schmidt-Feng, Dave Nold, Lawrence Pado (www.pado3d.com/curse/
Rick Schmidt, and Chris Tow, (and Schmidt's teenage son Marlon Schmidt who
wrote/directed a scene for the movie), created the 10-day feature in Port
Townsend, Washington, location of Schmidt's 1992 feature
(Rotterdam, Seattle Intl.). Schmidt's son, Morgan
who was the lead actor of Schmidt's $15,000 Morgan's
(New Directors/New Films, Berlin Intl., Sundance Dramatic
Competition'89, SF International, etc.), was Director of Photography for the
movie (also co-director/co-writer), following the strict
Dogme 95 Vow of Chastity
guidelines. The e-filmmakers have offered 10% of
the gross profit points in return for an investment to blow up the 81 minute
feature to 35mm for theatrical distribution. If interested please contact