Slamdance co-founder Mirvish shares filmmaking advice in new book
Author will appear at Dolly’s Bookstore
January 20, 2017
Dan Mirvish, co-founder of Slamdance, has experienced a lot as a filmmaker during the past 23 years.
He has done it all. Mirvish writes screenplays. He finds backers and casts his films. He also produces, directs, edits, hits film festivals and self distributes.
While doing so, he mentally compiled a bunch of stories and advice that he made into a book, "The Cheerful Subversive's guide to Independent Filmmaking," which came out last August.
Mirvish will sign his book during Film Festival week from 2-3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at Dolly's Bookstore, 510 Main St. The event is free and open to the public.
The book, published by Focal Press, which is part of the Routeledge Press family, started as a bunch of articles Mirvish wrote for an array of filmmaking and entertainment publications.
"What I have seen in the past with me and other filmmakers is that the best way to self promote your film is to give back to the filmmaking community," Mirvish told The Park Record. "The last film I did, 'Between Us,' which was screened at Slamdance a couple of years ago, had me writing a lot of articles to promote the film."
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One was an article about casting and how he got Julia Styles and Taye Diggs to act into a micro-budget film.
"Then I wrote about how to direct these great actors once you get them, as well as other topics such as what is the secret of film festivals and things like that," he said. "So, with all of these articles, I felt like I had almost enough to use for a book."
Focal Press was the second publishing house Mirvish approached.
"They thought the book could be a big help for a lot of other filmmakers," he said. "And since Routeledge is mostly an academic publisher, so, they've been marketing the book to a lot of film schools.
"That is nice because in the past couple of years, I've been guest lecturing at some universities and telling a lot of the stories," he said.
Although Mirvish had a stack of articles, there was still quite a bit he had to write before the book was print ready.
"This nicely dovetailed into the new film I'm doing, because during pre production, I found myself at coffee shops, and realized that I hadn't written much about post-production, the editing process," he said.
Still deciding what to include in the book was a daunting task.
"The editors at the publishing house were helpful, as were some of my filmmaking colleagues, who are in academics [and] helped me out, too," Mirvish said. "But when you look at things, it's not that complicated in the sense that a film starts with a screenplay, then into casting, financing, production, post-production, film festivals and then distribution.
"All of those things made a pretty good outline," he said. "Then it was just the question of how to put all this stuff into the sections of the book."
Another of the book's components is called Namedroppers, which are short anecdotes Mirvish has learned from other filmmakers, industry insiders and stars, including Christopher Nolan and the late Harold Ramis.
"A large part of my own filmmaking career has been intertwined with Slamdance and Park City," he said. "While, honestly, I'm not a very famous filmmaker and not many people have seen my films, but in the course of the past 23 years in my own career, I have had brushes with greatness, and most of those encounters have been in Park City.
So, I wanted to put these experiences in the book as well."
While writing the book, Mirvish also found himself learning from his own advice.
"Even something as simple as rereading my chapter on what to do on the first day was really helpful when it came my first day on my new film," he said.
The experience also helped Mirvish look at his profession differently.
"If I had to boil it down, the overall concept of the book is that independent films today isn't a viable business model," he said. "People have been trying for 100 years to get investors to invest with the film with the promise that they will make money.
"The investors more than always come away disappointed and come break your knee-caps," Mirvish said. "Then you get back out there and have to find new investors for your new film."
This is where crowd funding comes in.
"Today, we no longer think of investing in a film," Mirvish said. "You think more in terms of backing a film. And because of that, it makes more sense to incorporate nonprofits, 501 (c) 3, into your fundraising strategies."
This paradigm has been around in arts organizations — symphonies, public radio — except for films, for years.
"Now, there seems to be a shift to where we think of film as another one of those art forms where you will get a tote bag and a mug if you donate money," Mirvish said. "That's the only way independent film can be fully sustainable."
Mirvish hopes the book will help other independent filmmakers.
"I know there are those who know all about what to on set or how to film, but they don't know about how to self-distribute their films," he said. "Or there are those who are good screenwriters but have never done the film-festival circuit.
"Since I've done it all, although I may not have done it well, I think I have some expertise in what I'm writing about," he said with a laugh.
Slamdance co-founder Dan Mirvish, author of "The Cheerful Subversive's Guild to Independent Filmmaking," will sign his book from 2-3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at Dolly's Bookstore, 510 Main St. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit dollysbookstore.com/sundance-2017-author-events.