IFW: NEW TERRITORY
I am Ron Simons, an independent film producer based in NYC.
I haven’t been a producer very long, having come into the role not quite by accident but certainly not as a childhood dream either. In fact, if you’d asked me five years to define the role of a film producer I would have been hard pressed to come up with a response that included half of what I presently do.
By way of background, I’m an actor by training having spent a few years at University of Washington earning an MFA in acting from the Professional Actor Training Program. Before that I was a marketing executive at Microsoft marketing electronic mail (before the days of ubiquitous systems such as AOL). And before that I was a Knowledge Engineer developing Artificial Intelligence systems for F500 companies. That, in turn, was proceeded by my working for the software and hardware companies like HP and IBM. In short, I’m a closet geek.
I got into producing simply because, as an actor, I wasn’t often compelled by the work that I and my actor, writer and directing friends were getting paid to do. Yet all the while I was seeing their really good work bypassed. So I thought “why don’t you start generating and find funding for, or fund, work that you like?” That was in 2009.
Now two years later I’ve had my first two films premier in competition at the Sundance Film Festival, receive theatrical distribution and I have gotten to work with exciting new filmmakers on really cool subjects including characters like former Black Panthers (Night Catches Us), and transgendering teens (Gun Hill Road). So I guess others share my aesthetic — at least for the moment.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is I’m still trying to figure out how to make a sustainable living as an indie filmmaker.
Last year IFP was the conduit through which Gun Hill Road met a funding entity who loved the project and wanted to help with the finishing funds. Though ultimately we decided to go in another direction, that introduction and many others, helped introduce the director and me to a number of sales, distribution and festival entities with whom I have relationships to this day. Perhaps more importantly, it introduced me to a number of other filmmakers with whom I can seek advice, assistance and occasionally a drinking buddy when the inevitable hair-raising or hair-pulling (if I had hair) episodes in trying make an indie film.
This year I return to IFP with two projects, both feature-length dramas. Highway to Nowhere: a tense drama about a man who struggles with his identity brought into focus through his job as a border patrol officer and Salvage: a tale of how one feisty salvage yard owner must deal with a world of changing mores, technology and values.
I look forward to finding, and/or reuniting with, funders, festivals and fellow filmmakers who can help the films move forward into their next stages of development or build bridges that could reap benefits for the films when we arrive at future project stages.