How About a $100 Check From Your Mom?

by Sarah Flores

Hello everyone. My name is Sarah Flores and welcome to my brain. I am a student, cinema freak, popcorn goddess, junior projectionist extraordinaire and your friendly box officer. I am also currently working as a staff intern on Saltwater. I have been working in film exhibition for the past decade, as well as studying Cinema history and production at San Francisco City College. I have worked on a few different projects, most recently as the Production Manager on a micro-budget feature entitled Cheated.


I used to think that there were only two ways to make a movie; either you are a slick Hollywood production with a row of talent trailers and a craft services table a mile long or… you are a low budget renegade, building sets in your mom’s backyard and feeding the crew with left over popcorn. The big questions here are what sacrifices are being made for these different productions? If you are backed by a mainstream production company is there a risk of loosing creative control? If you go it alone, and remain independent, do you risk loosing production value? I feel as if I have found the perfect balance between a streamlined production, and the renegade spirit, in my involvement with Saltwater. We are utilizing a wealth of community resources to make a film that reflects highly crafted production values without engaging in the mainstream production system.


With any project there is always a feeling of reflection, you know the after glow of having a project in the proverbial can. This reflection often leads to great realizations on the project just completed. In hindsight, the key to any successful film production is a well-orchestrated pre-production planning process. Though we always tell ourselves that we are as prepared as we can be, there will always be issues and much needed solutions that pop up and need to be dealt with on the spot. I am currently taking a class in the Cinema Department with SF Film Commissioner and professional production manager Debbie Brubaker, her main message being that you can endure anything with a solid pre-production foundation. By this I mean a thoroughly planned project, with all of your I’s dotted ant T’s crossed. These precautions will ensure success because the initial foundation of a solid production is planned with meticulous precision.


Though I treasure all of the low budget projects that I have had the pleasure to work on, I always leave feeling that there was something that I forgot. Though I have felt rushed and unprepared I have always left with a better understand of what needs to be done next time. As I learn both in and out of school, I gain a little more confidence in my abilities as a media maker (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) from every project I work on. Filmmaking is a process of trial and error. The more that I learn the more that I crave larger sets, casts and crews. You know, MANIFEST DESTINY or something like that.


In the course of my filmmaking I have experienced many different, and exciting productions. I have pumped colored corn syrup through a two foot tube while an actor has his heart ripped from his chest (no actors were harmed ), ran around in Zombie makeup for days on end, battled for locations and herded extras through the fifteenth take of a scene that probably won’t make the final cut. But the one thing that I have never done is write a grant or a business plan. I have never given myself enough time to properly plan my projects. This yearning for practical planning experience is one of the first things that attracted my to working on Saltwater.
The biggest conundrum is how to turn strapped resources into a heartbreaking tale of infinite recognition or adoration or… a 100 dollar check from your mom. Careful planning can solve this problem by providing a solid game plan for making a film project work. With Saltwater, we are giving ourselves plenty of time to gather funding, gear and a talented crew. Our recent visit to The Foundation Center was a real eye opener for me. I realized that even with the best of intentions and scripts, to gain grant resources you need to dig further and really analyze the project. This process allows the filmmaker to isolate the different points of interest in the screenplay and find out who is interested in funding or offering in-kind support for the main issues represented in the film.


The truth is filmmaking is a team sport. It takes an enormous amount of resources and manpower to execute a project of any size. Going through the Saltwater process will prepare me as a stronger filmmaker because I will be walking away with a greater knowledge of how to seek out different resources and make the most of them.