While staying with my dad for Thanksgiving, I met with some filmmakers local to St. Louis. These are both people who came from southern California but found St Louis to be a better place (for them) to pursue their career as independent filmmakers.
Carson Minow is owner and Managing Director of First Punch Films. She is from southern California, and had a strong interest in ethnomusicology. “I had a big vision but I didn’t know if I had the ability to do it, so I got a camera and went to Ethiopia.” She and a friend who did audio recorded video of the music and life there. With that footage, she made an experimental documentary on four different cultures, titled Ethiopia: Tesfay Alem.
“That experience let me see that I am capable of doing it, creating my vision.” She came to St Louis to edit the film and ended up staying and attending film school at Webster. “A running joke is that I’m the only person from southern California who moved to St Louis to pursue film. Strange as it seems, it’s a nice place to make a career in film.”
In addition to client work and helping on other film productions, First Punch Film Production has a number of TV shows they are pitching. Carson told me she is sworn to secrecy about them, but that selling one of their concepts is part of their plan. “The company does all sorts of things for work now, next is TV, and then features.”
Carson talked about their “faith-based approach” to life and work. “We’re confident in our abilities and talent, and we work hard to help others see it too.”
While I was visiting First Punch I also talked to Matt Amato from The Masses. He is currently editing his first feature, a love story called The Makings of You.
“I grew up in St Louis and returned to make this movie and fell into the vibrant filmmaking scene here.” Matt has an office in LA with his partner, Jack Richardson, the producing half of The Masses. “But when I came back in June for locations and crew, it was a constant rediscovery of where I grew up. As a storyteller, my emotional associations are deeper here — my family, my history. I’m very romantic about America, and here in St Louis I can feel the source of the stories I need to tell. With this movie in particular, all these characters have feelings about ‘the river’, its a great symbol for so many things — like love, it’s a continuum.”
Matt wrote the script for his film many years ago, based on the characters. “I did what they told me, and I’m still in service of who they are.” The film is about the nature of love, real love vs romantic love. “It’s not the kind of film that usually gets financing, there’s no sex, no violence. It’s so easy to do that, you get tempted by certain jobs and certain budgets.” But he held fast to his vision and to his principles. They shot in an astounding 50 locations in only 28 days.
There was an investor who had shown some interest in The Masses for about five years. After many discussions, this investor offered to finance the movie, and is now a large shareholder in the company. “For our next movies, we want to keep mining stories about people, about America. We might do an adaptation of an American classic.”
“Now that I’m here in this office with these beautiful filmmaker friends, I couldn’t be happier. I didn’t skip a beat moving from LA to St Louis.”