“The production intern of today is the potential DP, producer, or director of tomorrow.” So says Jeremiah Kipp, and he knows from experience.
Jeremiah’s story is one you might expect to see a movie about. He grew up in a lower income family nestled in the woods of Rhode Island, making zombie movies in his back yard at the age of twelve. He knew he wanted to go to film school, so he busted is arse researching grants and scholarships, ending up at his film school of choice: NYU. Then he graduated — and was deeply in debt (dun-dun duuuunnnn!). So he got a full-time job at IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project) doing membership coordination.
I can totally see this scene in a film: young guy in a cubicle, being asked to make photocopies, enter data, file files…he sneaks a peek at a website advertising the Canon 7D (can you say product placement??) before his boss interrupts asking where his half-caff vanilla cappuccino is (with a stern look). Our hero is running this errand at the local cafe when he runs into Bjorn, the odd Swedish guy from the conferences department. Bjorn suggests they rent some equipment and make some movies on Sundays, and they create the “Sunday Club”. (Okay, I embellished that story a bit…full-time at IFP, a Swedish guy, and the Sunday Club are all true though!)
Jeremiah built his resume in that club, doing sound, AD, camera, editing…you name it. He realized that he prefers working with the crew to working with equipment, and pursued work as an AD. “I was always saying yes, if I don’t know how to do it I’ll learn it,” he says. He was part-time from 1999-2005, then parachuted into freelance, paying his rent by ADing on shorts, commercials, and features.
Nowadays Jeremiah spends about 80% of his time directing and only 20% ADing. On any given day, he might be building a schedule for the crew, finalizing locations for a commercial, pitching ideas, casting, or on set. Every day is different and there’s no day off.
Jeremiah has an interesting point of view on festivals and competitions. He sent a film around to Cannes (where he won awards and cash prizes) and lots of other festivals. “It was topical, controversial, it had kids in it…in addition to winning awards, it got noticed by Canon and they hired me for commercials, corporate videos, etc.” More recently his pet projects are on the internet. He uploads them to Vimeo and uses social networking and other marketing techniques. He now finds that he gets more work from online networking (getting written up in blog posts, tweeted about — basically getting people to see his movies) is more helpful to his career.
I asked Jeremiah for his advice for young filmmakers. “Don’t do it! It’s a very tough lifestyle, you have to have a passion for it, surrender your life to it.” He said that most people who graduate from film school don’t work in film — that’s how tough it is. “But if you’re really committed there’s always a way. No two ways are the same..it’s not a strategy, more of an attitude: I’m going to find the door to the next level and if there’s no door I’ll take a hammer and smash my own door.”
What’s Jeremiah working on now? “I have a short film called ‘The Days God Slept’ that had a very successful Kickstarter campaign, so we’re shooting in February. I’m also directing a watch commercial for a European company and pulling together my second feature.”