Tuesday, September 08, 2009

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?



KYLE SEAGO, Class of 2007 (with Robin Williams)

In May of 2007, after three extremely productive years in the Ballard high School video productions program, I was accepted into Loyola Marymount University’s film school, arguably the 3rd best undergraduate film school in Los Angeles. An honor? Yes. Exciting? Absolutely. A dreadful commitment to spending upwards of $160,000 in order to receive a piece of paper that may have nothing to do with making movies? No question.

I arrived at LMU in the Fall of 2007, and I quickly noticed that I was far ahead of the curve. While most students were searching for a camera’s record button I was logging tapes of footage that my friends and I had shot. As every one else sat through hour upon hour of analytical cinema courses – creating classrooms full of “artists” and “auteurs” – I spent my days working on projects and learning the ins and outs of being on set with the people I would be working with in the future, not the aging professors who hadn’t worked on a set since the Cold War.

Because of the foundation set by Mr. Lawrence and the BHS Video Production Program, I was able to navigate my way around a set like a mouse in a cheese maze. Although I started out working as a production assistant, I quickly gained a reputation as “the kid who never sleeps” because I was constantly working. By December, I was receiving offers to produce senior and graduate thesis films and work on outside, paid projects. Although I had entered school wanting to study cinematography, my interests shifted towards producing once I realized I could spend other people’s money and get away with it!

In the spring of 2008, I produced two major senior thesis films. They ended up screening at festivals such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and The SXSW Film and Video Festival. Through producing these projects, I was introduced to the person who drafted the blueprints on how to produce films at LMU – Dane Lillegard. We began to co-produce projects together, completing two commercials and a short film by July. I then returned home to work on a feature film in Seattle starring Robin Williams, called World’s Greatest Dad. I could go on for days about how working on this film helped to jump-start my career. It was a tremendous experience working on a quality indie film with an amazing cast and crew. Working on the film proved to me that the best way to learn about the industry is to be embedded in the industry. While you can learn in the classroom, you can experience through hands-on work.

After completing World’s Greatest Dad, I went back down to LA for my second year of school. However, upon arrival, I came to the conclusion that LMU and the film school life in general was probably not the best investment of my time, hard work, and money. My situation was somewhat unique, I had made numerous contacts in the previous 4 years of doing film work and decided to bypass my final three years of school and enter the industry.

Fortunately, my plan worked out (for the most part). I was able to land a few gigs – one on a TV show for MTV and another on an indie feature in LA – and in the time I wasn’t working on set, I was putting in time with Dane trying to develop a new production/finance company.

As a result of the economic downturn, most studios have stopped making the 10-30 million dollar films and are putting most of their faith in the larger, “tent-pole” movies such as Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean. This is due to the fact that when studios make smaller-budget movies, their production values fall off dramatically because, as studios, they are still under contract to pay their actors exorbitant salaries. When a smaller production company, such as Lions Gate or Overture Films, makes a $20 million dollar movie they can make it look like they spent $100 million because they can pay the cast less and don’t have any studio overhead costs.

This is where the idea for IPE, the company I currently work for, came from. IPE, which stands for Inner Primary Entertainment, is an executive production and finance company. In a nutshell, IPE accepts packaged projects – scripts that have big actors/directors/producers attached. We then present the projects to various investors we have relations with and act as the investor’s advocate. We do full analysis of every project we greenlight, conducting foreign and domestic market research to outline every return on investment scenario for the investor, fully vetting every script as to its creative and financial potential, and all the while being fully transparent so that all potential investors see all of the pros and cons of each project they may choose to invest in.

It all sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. We basically present a project to an investor, and if they like it and think they can make money from it, they pay for it. Then we oversee production and make sure the film stays on budget, that the budget is being spent properly and then, once the film is distributed, that the investor recoups their investment and begins to make money.

The job is great, one that no 20-year-old (including me) should ever be blessed with. It’s a lot of work, but it’s the kind of thing I love to do. I love being entrenched in the business, learning new things everyday. I’m learning more than I ever could have learned in film school, and I’m actually getting paid for it. And I can honestly say, I wouldn’t be at this position in life or anywhere near here if the foundation for my career hadn’t been built in the BHS Video Program. I’m very fortunate to have been exposed to that kind of film industry education at a young age, which has allowed me to already achieve some of the goals I had set for myself. There’s still a lot of work yet to be done, but because of the chances I’ve been given, navigating the road ahead will be a lot more manageable.