It was a glum day in Brooklyn when I decided to meet up with A.V. Rockwell and Amy Collado; the director and producer (respectively) of independent film series, Open City Mixtape. The series, shot entirely in black and white, is a collection of short stories of New York City life in its rawest form, something that touched a chord with me personally as a native New Yorker.
In this feature, we get to know the ladies a little better, and the steps they have taken to make to bring Open City Mixtape into fruition.
…it’s really cool that what we’ve done in some ways is document what New York was like in this era in time. – A.V. Rockwell
How did you ladies initially start working together?
A.V.: I’ve been freelancing as a filmmaker and videographer for the past few years. Around the time that we had started to work on Open City, I had just officially decided that I wanted to work on a project. I had known Amy at that point for almost a year, and I had asked her to be a part of the first short film that we shot, and it just snowballed from there. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do, and it just grew over time.
Amy: I stumbled into filmmaking. My way in was when I decided to work with A.V.; she asked me to come on board, as she mentioned. I was really inspired by her work, and her work ethic, and it was just like “Whatever you need need me to do, I’m there”. Before that, I was always very free-spirited, very “go-with-the-flow”. I was the friend that people would call if they were having a photoshoot and they needed someone to handle lighting, or jump in front of the camera, so you know, it was something I was really excited to be a part of. We would have never guessed that the crazy cool things that have happened.
Give us more background on Open City Mixtape as a project, and how you anticipate its growth in the not-too-distant future.
A.V.: It’s an idea I had started to think about in late 2011/beginning of 2012. I just thought it would be really cool to take the concept of a mixtape and apply that to what I do, as somebody who is aspiring to one day be a feature filmmaker. Recording artists use mixtapes to get from where they are, to where they want to be with a studio album, so I thought it would be something cool to experiment with. I was really busy at the time doing videography, on the road alot, but when I came back to New York I said, “I have the time now to get it off the ground”, even though I didn’t have a lot of resources, I was determined to still make it happen. So I was like, “You know what, we’ll just tell these short, sweet stories, and if people mess with it, cool, if not, it’s still something that I can use as a tool to grow with as a filmmaker.
You used crowd-funding sources to help aid in the completion of the project. How important do you foresee crowd-funding sites being in the creative future?
Amy: I think its inevitable. I think people going into creative fields know that financing, or raising funds for anything is difficult. We’ve learned that it’s an ongoing thing. It would be great to have a start-up with a set budget, whether you’re an artist trying to do something at a gallery, or film, it’s [fundraising] something that you have to get used to.
A.V.: The best part about crowd-funding is that you really let people be a part of what you’re doing. It makes people feel like, “Wow! I really made a difference”, or “I was really a part of getting that project off the ground”. As far as filmmaking overall, I don’t see it going away any time soon. Filmmaking as industry is changing so much, especially independent cinema. We live in age where it’s not as challenging to make a film on your own as it was thirty years ago. With resources, there’s just so much more accessibility and in line with that, people no longer have to search and beg for these investors to fund their films. Crowd-funding is another way of bridging the gap.
Any advice you would give to young, aspiring filmmakers?
A.V.: In the past two years alone, a lot of doors have opened up for women and there is a lot of interest in the female perspective; we’re just as talented and versatile as our male counterparts. There’s definitely a lot more industry interest in female directors, and I think that’s cool. There’s a lot of diversity both in front of the camera, and behind the camera, even in writing. You have Shonda Rhimes who is basically owning television right now, and Lena Dunham. There’s a lot of great people in all facets of the medium.
Amy: I would say to be patient. I know it sounds corny, but keeping that mentality of having your “eyes on the prize”; finishing what you start. Go in it for the right reasons too. If you’re going to capture a story, or have a story to tell, try to stay true to that.
A.V.: Focus on telling stories that really mean something to you, and aren’t things that have been done over and over.
*Photo by Britt Sense