Producer Calvin Maltin, industry professionals talk finding fame in film
Produced by Arielle Berze and Guillermo Barraza
Calgarians run on a nine-to-five work schedule. The colour and melody of arts and entertainment is mostly drowned out by the mechanical buzz of a labour system geared for efficiency.
Deep in the system, there are radicals who work to produce escapism through film.
Among them is 21-year-old Calgary independent filmmaker, Calvin Maltin.
For almost five years, Maltin has worked to write, develop and produce his very first full-length film, Eli Regrets. Currently, he's working on getting his name out as a new, passionate and dedicated filmmaker in an industry he says is a necessary part of life.
"Food, clothing, water, [and] shelter are your four basic needs," says Maltin "But, the fifth one, in my opinion, is entertainment. You can't live without entertainment."
Sitting down for an interview in an empty theatre at Mount Royal University, Maltin looks around as if it's a personal challenge to one day be able to fill such a venue.
At 16, Maltin realized he was meant to make movies. He was drawn in by the artistic direction of Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson.
He dropped out of Medicine Hat High School at 17, moved to Calgary and focused all his attention on writing his first film.
"I knew that if I stayed and rode the wave, I wouldn't be the tide-maker."
With youth on his side, Maltin took to writing his first production, taking personal experience and injecting them into a script.
Eli Regrets was inspired by Maltin's life experiences, blended with some random humour that speaks to the charisma of the man behind the curtain.
The film follows the life of Eli, a recent high school graduate who is struggling to find direction and meaning in his life. After getting a job at a grocery store, Eli becomes enamored by Sarah, a fellow cashier.
As they get to know each other, Eli realized that Sarah isn't who she appears to be, and he's taken on a revealing roller coaster of her darkest secrets.
The trouble of money
Eli Regrets had an initial budget of $200,000 — a projected cost that took into account the rental or purchase of equipment, as well as payment for locales and actors.
After lots of deliberation, the budget was adjusted severely to accommodate Maltin's actual earning and relative inexperience.
"When you wake up to put your clothes on and all your hopes are dissipating on your toothbrush, you realize that $200,000 is a ton of money," says Maltin. "So [the film] ended up costing $30,000."
Calgary producer and filmmaker Matt Watterworth has worked on Canadian TV shows like Heartland and has just been picked up by the Discovery Channel on a series called Klondike.
Being in the trenches for a number of years, Watterworth recognizes that money is a big issue in Canadian independent productions.
"The biggest struggle that I faced was money," says Watterworth. "It's incredibly difficult to get financing for a production that's important to you as an artist."
Luckily, there are grants and other sources of funding available through the government, although there is a lot of competition.
Maltin worked on the oil sands in Fort McMurray and roofing jobs around Calgary to help fund Eli Regrets. The film was mostly paid for from his own pocket, with small contributions from friends and independent grant sites like Indiegogo.
Eli Regrets debuted Jan. 5, 2012, to a small audience of friends at The Plaza Theatre in Kensington.
The Calgary street hustle
Following Maltin around the eclectic neighbourhood of Kensington as he tries to sell his movie, you get a glimpse of his showmanship and how he pitches his film.
Trotting up and down the block, a black and white knapsack strapped to his back — his street-hustle bag — he fearlessly approaches people to check out his movie. He smiles broadly as he approaches, and he always gets their attention.
In the two hours that he spends hustling DVDs from his bag in front of the Plaza Theatre, the very theatre he debuted his film, Maltin sells one DVD. He walks away with a total of $10.
"The most I've sold in a day is five, and I'm out there anywhere from three to six hours in a day."
Maltin is far from selling the 4,000 copies he needs to even make back what he spent on his film, but that neither discourages him nor slows him down.
"I love it — people who have the drive and passion that Calvin seems to have," says Watterworth after hearing of Maltin's initiative. "If you have people who are hustlers and getting off their feet and pounding the pavement to get their work out, I think it's only good for the industry."
"I think if you're an independent filmmaker, the Holy Grail for you is distribution," says Watterworth.
The Internet and technology is making it easier for newcomers to the industry to get their work out there and their names recognized.
"It seems a lot more approachable, and a lot more accessible for first-time filmmakers to go near the idea of making a movie," says Yvonne Abusow from the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers. "People are doing cell-phone films."
"If you've got a good story, the picture can be forgiven," she says.
A future in film
Maltin says the hardships of making the movie are not easily forgotten, but best put behind him. He says that looking towards what comes next is the important part.
"It's made," says Maltin while holding a copy of his DVD. "You know, when you run a marathon you get thirsty and sometimes you cramp up. Do you stop? No. You don't stop.
"Nothing can stop me. Nothing will stop me. I'm going to warp your minds with my movies," says Maltin.
As of March 31, Maltin has put Eli Regrets on YouTube in low-quality resolution. The high definition film is still available online for $5 a view.
Maltin will soon be launching a YouTube series to wet the appetite of future fans.
"I have a bunch of delectable movies and TV shows written for people to enjoy," says Maltin. "That's the only word I can think to describe them: delectable."
- By Arielle Berze and Guillermo Barraza