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How to Face Your Fear and Finish Your Indie Film with Theo Hogben

We have all been there. A film project that just goes on and on and doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. While you are waiting for the punishment to finish your life starts to take a downward spiral into a black hole. You look up and five years have passed and you wondered what the hell happened? That is exactly what happened to today’s guest filmmaker Theo Hogben.

Theo reached out to me to tell me his story in an almost 2000 word email, by the way, please do not send me long emails I just don’t have the time to read them. For whatever reason, I started to read his email and his story of his five-year odyssey making his short film, A Most Savage Beast, caught my ear. His journey down the dark rabbit-hole of filmmaking is a story I know many members of the IFH Tribe have gone or are going through right now.

I hope his story will inspire you to start or finish that film you’ve always wanted to do. To finish the screenplay you’ve been noodling around with for years. Get up off your butt and make it happen for yourself. Theo’s story is one of a phoenix rising. We all get knocked down but this business is all about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

Check out the trailer to the finish short film A Most Savage Beast below.

Enjoy my conversation with Theo Hogben.

BTW, here is the EPIC email that Theo sent me:

So here is the story of the five-year short. It’s not an inspiring one but it is my weird tale none the less.

I used to live in Norway in my early twenties, I have a film degree, which barely got me any jobs and the ones I did get I made so many mistakes on set. It took me ages to learn how to be a normal person and humble. I was a terrible young man to work with. Anyway, all these opportunities passed me by due to my attitude, a lesson that was hard to learn.

Back one feverish night while I was living in Norway, I wrote a short script to a feature I had already written. Not being the confident chap, it sat dormant for a while as most projects do. One day I was doing some video work for a friend of mine, she is an artist, and now lives in LA, I believe she is doing quite well there. Anyway, after seeing how good I was at making these short music video vlogs, I had been doing she suggested I should make a short. I bashfully protested a little, I wanted to make it but just did not know anyone or how to even begin, I have the skills to do it myself but not the confidence.

Anyway Annie the artist said she would help me out by casting a few actors she knew from around the area, I thought that’s a good start. At the sometime my roommate introduced me to a funding company in Norway, being a foreigner there I half-heartedly filled in the application not expecting anything. But to my surprise a week later I got a contact from the organization granting me funding for the project. The film was now becoming a thing as it had money behind it.

My plan was to rent a small camera and shoot the thing in the locations around the city I knew I could get access to. In my world, this is bars, which I had in abundance. Everything seemed to be going smoothly. At this point, I contacted an old DOP I knew and asked if he could do the camera work for me. He told me he couldn’t but knew a guy who could. This guy was called Robert, who essentially is a godsend.

So I sent Robert the script and loved it and we decided to meet and start planning the film. I had no idea what would happen next as the film erupted. At this point, I had a few friends here and there working on the project. We only really had the budget for the equipment, set and food, so I wanted to keep everything small. What I didn’t know was that Robert was a lecturer at a local film school. He had a wave of students all ready to film something over the summer to improve their skills. All these students were 10 times more talented and knowledgeable than me.

Over the course of the next week, the crew went form around five of us to twenty-six. (Remember this is my first real film.) So we ended up going the whole nine yard building a really detailed set (Which I had never done) getting a great camera, which turned out to be an Arri Alexa, we used the lights and the dollies from the school he worked at. The film was becoming massive and I probably the least experienced person there was at the head of it all. Robert knew what he was doing when it came to camera work. I had never seen anything this organized before, I was used to the run and gun world of film making, not these amazingly organized sets.

Anyway, the shots sets actors and locations were now organized and we shot the film over a week in Oslo at the different locations. I was not used to being in the director’s chair and found myself trying to help out on set but seemly just getting in the way. I learned after a while to glue myself to the monitor and drink as much coffee as a human pessary. Oh and never feed your cast and crew pizza, that was a big one.

Anyway… We did a good shoot. I luckily had done a lot of rehearsals with the actors so when it came to it on the day everything went quite smooth. We wrapped the last day with a 20-hour shoot and we were ready to go.

So we are nowhere with the principal photography done. The total length of the making of the film at this point was at about a month or so. I sent the rushes to the girl who said she would do the editing for me. This was the first film for her, but I had seen a few things that she had done before so I knew she would do a good job.

We made a few rough cuts and some weeks went by. The film was almost there. Then my editor said, she could no longer do it as it was getting in the way of school and other things. She was also very tied, she was the kind of person that put everything into what she did. (I can say now that all that paid off eventually and she is now is a great job.) But at this point, she was burned out. I told ‘no worries’ I would finish the edit. I carried on editing it for a while longer. For some reason, I could not get the thing right. Then the shit hit the fan. My computer broke, now remember I am someone who works in bars, I can’t afford to get a new computer, this is Norway, its not cheap.

So I asked around for an editor, no luck. A few said they could do it, Robert said to give him the drive. I figured he knew everyone and would find someone. So I did.

What happened next was a bit strange. So one day I rang him and could not get hold of him. I was not able to get hold of him for several weeks. I was getting a bit worried…I mean shit, he has my film.  So eventually I get through to him. Turns out he has been working on Snowman, (which was a massive flop in the end). He was becoming really hard to contact. But then I got dragged in and I also began working on Snowman in between my other jobs. Because of this, we were not able to get hold drive for another six months.

Also at this point all the people who I wanted to work on the project were not taking my calls as it had been so long, I couldn’t blame them, it was getting ridiculous.

When I got the drive I was in full-time work and was not able to make the time for the project. My personal life was also deteriorating in the chaos which meant I was either working or arguing not a great combination. Eventually, the project sat on a shelf gathering dust. I thought about the project every day, I wanted to finish it, it was short for crying out loud, how hard could it have been.

During this time I moved to several different places and eventually back to the UK where I am from, it was never my choice to come back by I came anyway. While back here I fell into a deep depression. It was not my choice to move back. I had sporadic work, no job opportunities. I had not lived in the UK as an adult and it was depressing compared to the mountains of Norway. I had basically lost all hope, working at a factory earring minimum wage. I was so down, I felt I had destroyed every opportunity I had ever received at this point.

Then… And don’t get too cocky, I heard your podcast, it helped me more than you know.

It was telling me to get off my ass, not be such a winy little bitch force myself to rise above. The drive sat on my shelf still unfinished. I bought a copy of ‘Rebel Without a Crew’ I listened to every podcast possible. I kept learning, I saved and got a new computer. At that time I made my first feature doc (didn’t go anywhere). Every aspect of my life now became devoted to film. I go to the gym every day. I never felt better.

I got the edit back up and finished it, I had tried a few times over the years borrowing friends computers and such but, I couldn’t even look at the thing it was almost hatred for the film I had once admired. I was becoming more like myself at this point, no more complaining, no more wine. I finished the edit. I learned after-effects to sort out some of the problems. I started going to film festivals and meeting people. One girl helped me film the last part of my film which I needed for a TV replacement part of the film. It was looking up.

One thing I was terrible at tho was coloring, I had tried to learn it so many times. I don’t know why I just was never happy with my work. An old friend I had been talking to was a high profile colorist and he offered to do it. Unfortunately, he kept the drive for three months then changed his mind. I can’t blame him sometimes people have the stuff to do and he was doing this as a favor.

Eventually, I got someone who I contacted through Instagram that offered to help me. She did an amazing job and the film was finished. Now we are at around five years after the initial shoot. There are loads more things that happen but that is the main story.

Where am I now? I work for the BBC, I have a feature doc under my belt, that short is going into festivals around the planet. I just got a film grant that is more than I make in a year. I’m happy again. I owe it to you. I honestly had been close to giving up, my passion was like a spark in snow but eventually, it caught fire again. Now here I am with a lot of lessons learned writing my first feature in a cafe ready to go again.

If you want to watch the film it is my first and I would love your opinion. (I can imagine you get sent shorts all the time.) So sorry for the massive email.

Never stop what you are doing because there are a million people out there like me that will be there now and in the future looking for that push.

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