Something is happening in Miami – aside of the buying up of South Florida by the Canadians, Brazilians and the Europeans. Or the enormous success of art ventures like Art Basel and the New World Symphony. Young people are not leaving for greener metaphorical pastures, not only that, talent is moving here. In the past four years, the tides have somehow shifted and in the sleepy, backwards South Florida, we began to talk and beget start-ups, art house theaters, coffee shops, festivals, collectives, small businesses, may be even bigger businesses.
These are heady times and we are sitting up waving our believe in self-reliance, DIY regional filmmaking, hoping that it defines the future of the Southeastern US. Partially because we need it to be true, we want the ability to create where we want, not where we are told we can. Also, we fell in love with the white beaches, the foreboding swamplands and the quirky residents, how are we to leave this petri dish of great stories.
“The virtue of most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion.” Ralf W Emersen
It makes sense. One of our favorite examples of changing moors, is independent filmmaker Kenny Riches, who grew up in Utah but forsake Sundance, Slamdance and the majestic mountains to participate in the wild Miami ride. He is about to screen his feature MUST COME DOWN at the LOCALLY GROWN film series, a collaboration of Indie Film Club Miami and Soho Beach House.
How would you describe MUST COME DOWN?
Must Come Down is about a guy in his late-twenties who is struggling with what he should be doing with his life. He returns to the town he grew up in to break into his childhood home in search of some adventure. Along the way he meets a girl in her early-twenties who is in a similar point in life. They form a strong bond and do some childish stuff together. For me, my early-twenties and late-twenties were confusing because I felt the most pressure to figure out life during those early years and then I realized that much of what I was doing was not what I actually wanted out of life, so I had to start over in my late-twenties.
Is this your first feature? What lessons did you learn?
This is my first feature film. I studied art and didn’t go to film school, but instead spent time visiting my friend on large sets and then I started making short films, so I had a lot to learn. I entered this production with a lot of ideas of how I wanted the film to look, but ultimately was stretched so thin that I had to sacrifice a lot of visuals. I hope to slow down on my next film and get everything a bit more dialed in pre-production. Although, I think I learned most about writing while shooting. I had to cut scenes that didn’t work or rewrite scenes during shooting and I don’t want to do either of those things next time. We’ll see though!
Do you have fantasies of breaking into people’s houses?
Haha! I got this question quite a bit during the festival circuit. I’ve always been obsessed with other people’s living spaces. I write about that personal space a lot. As far as fantasizing it, my friends and I broke into a few houses when I was a kid and it was terrifying and totally regrettable, but that was a different life.
Something tragic happened this winter, are you somewhat relieved that you have a bit of David left with you, captured on the screen?
David (editor note: Fetzer, the film’s leading actor) passed away in December and it’s been the most difficult thing I’ve ever been faced with. I’m happy that I have Must Come Down, mostly for other people though. I actually haven’t watched it since we premiered it at Cinequest over a year ago. Now I’m not sure when I’ll watch it again, eventually when things get easier. I get emails from David’s classmates and friends who are very grateful it exists. I’m happy about that.
What is the best thing about being an indie filmmaker, the worst?
The best thing is creating a world in your head and realizing it on the big screen. When those little scenes or visuals work the way you wanted, it’s an amazing feeling. The worst? Worrying about funding maybe. I think organizations like Indie Film Club Miami is a necessity. It helps build community, which will only help more independent films get produced here. I’m really impressed with the programming IFCM does and the partnerships are amazing. Along with the great indie theaters we have, IFCM is really helping independent film blossom here.
What is your next project?
My next feature will be shot here in Miami next March. It’s about a Cuban strongman. It’ll be a little fantastical and pretty Miami-centric. Before that film happens, I’m working on a few short films that were written by David back when we were roommates in the early 2000s.
How does Miami inspire you in your projects?
Miami is an amazing place. It’s unlike any place in the US that I’ve been. I’ve been coming to Miami for six years in the winters and now I live here, but my experiences over those years, mixed with conversations with friends who grew up here, have really shaped the story. Miami is changing so fast though. There are elements written into the film that are no longer a reality here, but I’m still including. I need to write faster.
Can Miami have a film community, does it?
I’m from Utah and obviously Sundance, Slamdance, and SLC film fest have a huge influence on the film community. But I think it’s generational, some years there are filmmakers that are more ambitious than other years. I don’t know Miami’s film scene as well, but it seems similar. People here are thirsty to see good films coming out of Miami that aren’t about stereotypical storylines like the mob and cocaine or whatever, but instead stories that are maybe a little more relatable.
What would you tell a budding filmmaker, about to embark on their first feature? Is it worth it to join a local film club, take advantage of negotiated discounts and production insurance, have a support group?
I guess I would tell them to concentrate on creating an interesting story. The rest will follow. Technology is out of control right now, so getting a film to look good is no longer an issue. Good story and good sound, those things are crucial. I think it’s important be a part of film clubs, for the discounts, but especially for the support. Filmmaking is a group effort. It takes a lot of people to make movies and any extra help you can get is awesome and totally necessary.
What was the most challenging part about making MUST COME DOWN?
Money of course! We had a decent budget, but one of my producers kept reassuring me that we will raise finishing funds after shooting is over and that we should use all of the budget for production. When the money was gone, we had to find more for post-production and it was really stressful. It worked out, but I regret not sticking to my initial budget.
Difference between Utah and Florida?
Fucking everything is different between Utah and Florida! Climate, elevation, landscape, culture, demographics, wealth distribution, Utah is the Wild West, but Miami is so much wilder.
What do you hope to achieve at your screening at SOHO BEACH HOUSE?
I guess sharing Must Come Down and giving people the opportunity to watch David.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Keep on keeping on. I’m already living the life I’d hoped to live, so hopefully I’ll have a few more films completed and a lot more art shows.