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Don’t Let Fear Freeze You: An Interview with Indie Producer Patricia L. Carpenter

DSC_0094-0001Patricia Carpenter is not your average independent film producer, even in a indie film world full of unlikely producers. A mother of three grown children living far outside of Hollywood, she got fed up with the content she was watching on television. But instead of moaning, she put her money where her mouth was, actively seeking out “a clean country story about the power of love.” The result is the movie Red Wing, an epic romance that follows an orphan boy (Austin Herrod, and later Glen Powell) who is taken under the wing of a neighboring rancher’s wife (Breann Johnson). The movie also features some recognizable faces (Bill Paxton, Luke Perry) and, oh yeah, director Terrence Malick and his wife Alexandra were also producers.

In her first outing as a producer and an executive producer, Carpenter learned a great deal. She graciously shared some of her hard-won knowledge in an email interview…

Making the Movie: What got you interested in filmmaking?

Patricia L. Carpenter: I saw — and still see — the need for more wholesome family entertainment. There are many trying to provide this and I want (need) to be a part of it. I became excited to lend my talents to this great field of creativity.

I think I was born with a natural love for good entertainment. I can still recall as a child, all six of us children would be allowed to gather around the television on Sunday and watch whatever Disney movie was playing that evening. My parents knew that this channel’s programming would be appropriate for their young family to view. I remember so clearly being mesmerized with little “Tinker Bell” and how different she was from anything I had ever seen on television.

Later, as I became a mother raising three children, I noticed a difference in the quality and quantity of options that became available on TV. I noticed how much the shows had diminished in content, so we stopped watching TV all together, and I began buying VHSs, then DVDs. To this day (now all of our children are grown) the only TV my husband and I watch is some news.

MTM: How did you come to be involved with Red Wing?

PLC: Red Wing was an amazing collision of divine destiny and a young director Will Wallace, that had been looking for a long time for the right group of talent and a financier that could put the story on the big screen. We met, and our journey began.

DSC_0015-0001This story had been commissioned by Terrence Malick ten years earlier. He hired Kathleen Orillion to write a screenplay from the French novella, Francois le champi. I then bought the screenplay from Terrence Malick and Ed Pressman, partners in Sunflower Productions. After reading other scripts, it was very easy to choose this screenplay. It’s a clean country story about the power of love. The screenwriter, who came with the story, is a delightful lady — and a gifted writer, as you will see when you view the film.

MTM: How did you go about raising financing for the film? Any advice for other independent filmmakers going through this process?

PLC: My company funded the film and it took some time to accumulate enough funds. Thankfully, I am very good at running a budget, and I had a great line production team, headed up by Mark Rickard.

As for advice, I would say, don’t be afraid! Pray often. Be smart. Be prepared to jump in with both hands ready to work hard and to spend long hours. Having a good dream is always a beautiful thing, but selling your soul to bring it to life will never be worth it.

MTM: Tell me about the budgeting process. I understand you may not be comfortable sharing exact numbers, but this is an area that is often shrouded in mystery, so any light you can shed will be welcome.

PLC: I was daily monitoring the budget. With this being my first film and being my money, I felt a great need to keep it close to my reach. I had no desire to go over budget. Yes, it was a smaller budget then your typical Hollywood film, and I will let its exact amount remain in the shadows. The named talent was a large part of the budget and of course, the food. Travel expenses for named talent. First class isn‘t cheap…

MTM: I understand the director is the step-son of Terrence Malick. What was Malick’s involvement as an Executive Producer? Did his name open some doors?

PLC: Yes, Will Wallace is the step-son of Terrence Malick. Terrence was responsible for the great script that I purchased from Sunflower Productions. Terrence also recognized the talent in Kathleen Orillion, the screenwriter. Terrence Malick’s name created the opportunity to meet his lovely wife Alexandra Malick. She is actually a co-producer on this project.

MTM: Tell me about the shoot. What were some challenges you faced?

PLC: Well, being the fact that this was my first feature film, I really wanted to be deeply involved in every aspect of the production. I, along with the director and a few of the work crew, ended up getting to the location in [Whitewright,] Texas a week earlier than the others. I also stayed a week longer after most had left for home. I wanted to make sure we were cleaned up and closed out completely. I felt a sense of love towards the local people we had met in Whitewright, and I didn’t want to miss a goodbye to anyone.

The biggest challenge for us: the hot Texas sun. There were days in the 115 to 120 degree range. We started watching out for one another and making sure we all stayed hydrated.

MTM: Any challenges during post production?

PLC: For me in particular, it seemed that it took forever to get the editing stage done. I think I was so excited to see it as a whole. Later, I realized we had shot enough footage to make three films. That’s a lot of film to get through. Sound was another step that took a lot of time, but I really enjoyed getting to sit in on the sound at Post Haste Sound‘s studio and be a real part of creating sound for the film. Very fun step for me.

I think what is most refreshing is to learn the post production crew each have great talents that we needed to bring the film’s story to life.

MTM: The movie opens very soon. What is the distribution plan?

PLC: Red Wing will be opening in theaters October 4th. If you keep updated on our
Facebook site or redwingmovie.com, you can see where each screening will be. Red Wing will have to earn its way forward through many different areas. We cannot do a large blanket release. After theatrical, all of the distribution plans are still on the table.

IMG_2314-0001MTM: If you had it to do over again, what would you change? What are you most proud of with Red Wing?

PLC: Well, first and foremost, I feel my learning curve would be much better. With this being my first feature film I had a lot to learn and people were gracious and very patient with me. I wanted answers to all of my questions and 100% of the time my whole cast and crew were delighted to teach me. I was so proud of this team, or as eventually I dubbed them all my “Red Wing Family.” We really came to know and appreciate each other as friends. I had many private moments when watching the crew late into the evenings — people that didn’t slow down, people that didn’t get grumpy. Rather, I saw people that were committed to seeing this story make the big screen.

MTM: What is next for you? Any other producing projects?

PLC: Every filmmaker (I have learned) wants their next gig. I am writing a story and it’s a good one! It’s about a little girl that nearly dies as a young child and the amazing thing that has spared her life… An adventure of how one lady’s existence can change the way we look at heroes. I will be producing this project as well.

MTM: What advice would you give to a filmmaker who is just starting out?

PLC: Whatever your dream is, don’t let fear freeze you. Look at all things as a golden opportunity. If you need to ask for help ask, don’t let pride destroy chances to learn something you don‘t know. It is a reality that none of us has the ability to do everything. An open door to a good opportunity? Walk though. Most important: pray each day for guidance.

1 Comment

  1. I love reading about new and upcoming filmmakers and how they got started. I’m looking to get into this myself and this article really helps!

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