Published on February 22nd, 2019 | by Biz Books
Crazy8s2019: Producer Spotlight – Pawan Deol and Thomas Affolter
BizBooks.net is pleased to support Crazy8s2019.
In this interview, we talked to Pawan Deol and Thomas Affolter about producing their Crazy8s films, Unkept and Idols Never Die.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about you and the film you are involved with?
Pawan Deol: I’ve spent my life dabbling in a lot of things. So far, my life has been a mixed bag of experiences. From working with the RCMP to starting a PR company in Rwanda to researching female foeticide in India to finishing a Master of Journalism degree at Carleton University in Ottawa, I’ve always sought out new experiences that put me outside of my comfort zone. The only thing that has been constant throughout my life is writing.
The film I co-wrote and produced is called Unkept. It is a story that is informed by my real life experiences. Growing up as a first-generation Indian girl in a rural BC town was a unique experience. I was raised in a culture where long hair was part of my identity, but it kept me from fitting in with the people around me. I was constantly weighing my traditional roots with my Canadian upbringing. I faced a lot of unique challenges that made me question myself and the way I look. I spent a lot of my life not being okay with who I was. I’m still in the process of feeling a sense of belonging, and I think this film has been a big part of my healing journey.
Thomas Affolter: My name is Thomas Affolter, I’m a local writer/producer/director and I normally work with my three brothers through our indie production company Foreshadow Films. We specialize in both live-action and animated content. The Crazy8s film I’m involved with is called “Idols Never Die”, directed by Jerome Yoo and written by Jerome Yoo and Andrea Bang, and I’m just one of the members of the producing team (the others being Mike Johnston, our lead, as well as Lawrence Le Lam and Derek Kwan – all talented filmmakers themselves – plus our Associate Producer Rana Sowdaey). The film is about the hardcore fans of a K-Pop star, named N.D. (short for Never Die), who tragically passes away, and then go on a hilarious and heartfelt journey to fulfill his dying wish.
As a producer, what have been your duties on the film?
Pawan Deol: Haha, it’s definitely not a glamorous role! When people ask me what I do as a producer, I always chuckle. It’s one of those positions where you do everything and anything, and the more I explain what I do, the more confusing it is to people. For Unkept, I was the cheerleader, the administrator, the enforcer, the caretaker, the coordinator, the project manager, the accountant, the problem solver. Anything that goes wrong, I’m responsible for resolving. I think if the job is done properly, then you are literally doing everything.
One thing is for certain, as a producer you have to be cool-headed and calm hearted to ensure that the team gets to the finish line. Since the first day we got Crazy8s, I’ve had to be in go mode. I can’t stop because if I stop, then everything stops.
Thomas Affolter: Basically a little bit of everything – handling the budget and financials, helping to put together the team, helping to manage the in’s and out’s of logistics related to producing a film in 8 days, basically you name it and all of us Producers on the film have done some of it. Producing is a mixed bag of jobs – a lot of emails, phone calls, reaching out to your own friends and support networks within the industry asking for help – and you do a bit of it all. Most rewarding though is just being able to help facilitate the vision of the director. They’ve got a creative vision for how the story should be told, and it’s your job to try and bring their vision to life by enabling. Get the best crew you can (the crew ultimately are the ones who dictate the level of quality of the film), get them the best equipment you can (equipment goes a long way, never underestimate how important it is), and generally just be as supportive and encouraging and positive as possible for your Director and their team!
What was the most memorable moment for you in the Crazy8s process?
Pawan Deol: A few days after we did our in-person pitch, I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I didn’t pick it up. About 10 minutes later, I got a call from Michael (the director of Unkept), saying that we made Top 6, but that we couldn’t share it with the public. We had an entire day to really savour the moment before things got crazy. For me, that was such a surreal moment. Our story was so subtle, and our film was so naturalistic. It isn’t something that stands out in the way other “big” ideas do. It was such an affirming moment because throughout the process, we never compromised our idea. We had worked so hard for so many months, and in that moment, it finally felt like everything was coming together.
Thomas Affolter: We had a pretty spectacular cast of non-actors on this one. The entire film is in the Korean-language, so the pool of actors (though very very wide and immensely talented for English-language productions) is pretty slim in Vancouver regarding actors who are Korean and can fluidly speak the language. Thus, Jerome had to rely on “street casting” – basically casting as wide a net as possible and hoping to find talent even if they’ve never acted before – and it worked! The four leads in the film, Catherine Shim, Jessica Kim, Jenny Jeon, and Sophia Nam are really wonderful. The highlight of the entire production was just marvelling at how nuanced, subtle, and effective their performances were throughout our three days of filming. So much natural talent!
What would your advice be for other producers considering Crazy8s?
Pawan Deol: Crazy8s requires grit. It is grueling at times, and the pressure can be overwhelming. My advice is to find small moments for yourself to breathe, to centre, to do whatever it is you need to stay grounded. And feed yourself good, nutritious food! Breathing deeply and healthy food does wonders!!
When I felt particularly challenged, I reminded myself of how lucky I was to have this opportunity. Reminding myself of this helped me push forward. It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity when things are pressurized. Moments of gratitude energized me when I was feeling low.
Thomas Affolter: The trick to Crazy8s is entirely in preproduction. See, you’re supposed to “make a film in 8 days” but really that only applies to production and postproduction. 3 days shooting, 5 days posting. You have almost a full month of preproduction leading up to that, which is HUGE for you as a producer. Make a plan, take care of everything you possibly can leading up to the 8 “crazy* days, and the 8 days won’t necessarily be that crazy, because all you’re doing is executing the plan you had in place. Sure, there’s always a few fires to put out last minute, or some things go wrong along the way (no production is flawless, that’s not possible in this industry) but if you’ve worked your tail off in preproduction you truly make your life a lot easier when it comes time to shoot and post the film. It’s preproduction FTW, in my opinion!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career thus far?
Pawan Deol: For a while there, I wanted to do things on my own in an attempt to prove myself. So much of what we do is individualistic. It felt easier to get things done by myself than with other people. But the important lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t feel a sense of success when I’m doing things on my own. There’s this beautiful African proverb that I come back to over and over again: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I’m tired of going fast and being on my own, so now it’s all about collaboration with the incredible people around me. It’s changed the way I approach my projects!
Thomas Affolter: Probably to never let other people tell you what you should or shouldn’t make. There are a lot of grants and contests and such around Vancouver that allow filmmakers to make shorts (and other content) including but not limited to Crazy8s. But sadly some people feel like if they don’t get the grant, or they don’t win the contest, or they don’t get whatever it is they need to finance or make their film now, that their passion fades on the project and they don’t ever end up making the film later. My brothers and I made a western Crazy8s film two years ago, called “The Undertaker’s Son”, and it was one of our most successful projects ever in many different ways. But that film actually lost a film contest about 3-4 years earlier, being the runner-up in the Hot Shot Shorts Contest, and we could’ve just walked away from it thinking “oh well, no one wants to make this film”. But the fact that we never let our passion fade on the film, and then entered it into Crazy8s many years later, was the very reason why we – eventually, finally – ended up making it. It was a solid lesson, for sure. Just because someone else doesn’t see what you see in your project, doesn’t mean it’s not great – it just means that YOU, the filmmaker, know your story best. And you should never, ever give up trying to make something that you truly believe deserves to be made. If you think it should be made, then it SHOULD be made. End of story.
What books would be valuable for a producer to have read before participating in Crazy8s?
Pawan Deol: Honestly, I would recommend The Four Agreements. It’s a practical guide that is so useful in all aspects of my life. For me, it’s a code of conduct that I can apply during all phases of filmmaking. Making a film is so much about people. As a producer, we have to assemble a team, manage personalities, coordinate schedules, uplift the group when things are challenging. This book has transformed the way I engage with people.
Thomas Affolter: Honestly most of the most influential books I’ve read in throughout my film education (which is always ongoing, since we never stop learning) have been related to writing and directing, since that’s what I do more often than produce. “Story” by Robert McKee is basically the scriptwriting bible. “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder is invaluable in teaching you basic Hollywood story structure (which you don’t have to follow – but the old adage of learning the rules before you start breaking the rules is very true). “On Directing” by Harold Clurman is more pointed towards theatre, but directing theatre and film are very similar in so many ways, especially with regards to the overlap in directing performance. “Making Movies” by Sidney Lumet is probably my favourite book written by a legendary film director. And finally Eisenstein’s duo of “Film Form” and “Film Sense” are brilliant because… well, Eisenstein was one of the only true genius filmmakers in history. He and Orson Welles and Akira Kurosawa essentially build the foundation of everything we do today, in a nutshell.
What other projects are you working on and where can we find out more about you?
Pawan Deol: I took time away from my wellness business Living Atman when we got Crazy8s. I’ll return to my business until another project comes along. For me, filmmaking and storytelling is about exploring the truth that connects us all. I’m particularly drawn to themes of love, healing, identity and brown-ness. If the right project crosses my path, I’d be happy to take it on as a producer. I have an idea for a feature that I’ve been trying to write for a couple of years. I shelved it a while back, but after Crazy8s, I’m feeling inspired to look at it again. Anything feels possible after this experience!
Thomas Affolter: Sure thing! My brothers and I are writing a couple features that we can’t talk much about, as well as having a couple animated TV series in development with some pretty big studios I can’t name – but anything we actually can talk about is always posted on our social media (@foreshadowfilms) and on our website www.foreshadowfilms.com. This week’s exciting news is that we just shot what is hopefully going to be a pretty powerful music video for the brilliant music artist Krystle Dos Santos which starred Mayumi Yoshida and David Kaye (who are both wonderful and insanely talented actors here in Van), and a project we co-produced and did the stop-motion animation for just got nominated for a prestigious Prism Prize – Said the Whale’s video for “Unamerican” which the amazing Johnny Jansen directed – and that can be viewed on YouTube at this very moment! Lots of exciting stuff coming in the future – I just feel so very blessed to get to work so constantly with other amazing filmmakers and dream team film crews. Thank you!
Thanks to Pawan Deol and Thomas Affolter for speaking with us!
You can check out Unkept, Idols Never Die and the rest of the Crazy8s films on February 23rd as part of the Crazy8s2019 gala.
For more information, please visit Crazy8s.film.