The film industry is notorious for being one of (if not the) most difficult industries to break into. The industry itself deals in dreams, and the road to success within is paved with the shattered and broken. It has always been a “who” you know, and not “what” you know, career path. Of course there are the driven, dedicated and passionate who deny these fundamentals and seek their dreams anyway. Those are typically the newcomers who change the industry – forever. Their Dreams refuse to shatter against the many perils and pitfalls of the industry. That’s when the world stands up and takes note. It has long been the goal of Dawnrunner to fight within the confines of the industry, and break down those barriers to entry. The entertainment industry is difficult enough without those additional hurdles. As such we have geared everything we do towards this philosophy which I’ve listed below:
1: Our biggest focus was to provide educational outreach for youths. We strongly feel that exposure to set, and acting experience at a young age is a critical way to develop the skills and confidence required to excel in the industry. The Feature Film Experience is a strategic partnership with our long time friends in the Children’s Art Education Non-Profit sector – Starting Arts. This allowed us to do exactly what we had set out to do – and hey, we made some Award-Winning, Festival-Screened, amazing films along the way; including THE DARKEST MATTER, our feature film that world premiered at Seattle International Film Festival! Not bad for a 90 minute film produced with no budget, 12 volunteer crew, 20 production days and 20 amazingly talented youths!
2: The biggest barrier to entry in the industry, at least in my experience, is money. The equipment, the rates of talented people, the props, locations, make up, wardrobe, special effects, etc. etc. etc. The list is endless and daunting. For a first time filmmaker it can be next to impossible to get the money in hand to get the production off the ground – regardless how amazing a concept it is. Its the unfortunate truth that amazing, Earth-shattering scripts are written everyday – that will never see anything other than the insides of a desk. High quality HD Cinema camera systems like the Red One, and Red Epic have narrowed the gap in regards to camera quality a considerable amount – but productions are still considered “low budget” up to $2 Million! In order to combat the overwhelming costs of production, Dawnrunner has adopted a fully digital workflow that utilizes hardware and applications in a way that is both cost effective, efficient and full of safeguards which protect the integrity of the production. To date, these solutions have been the secret weapon in the Dawnrunner Studio but sometime soon we plan to launch an initiative to make these solutions available to other productions, filmmakers both studio and indie, and film schools.
3: One thing that I as the CEO decided very early on was; Dawnrunner was going to be accessible. We were not going to be this fortress nestled into some remote location under such heavy guard as to make Area-51 blush. I wanted a place to foster creativity and allow access from the outside. Being exposed to filmmaking is by far the best way to learn. I strongly encourage everyone, with any interest in filmmaking, to get on set or get involved in the process and learn. You can ask any member of the DR Team, we learned more in one day of set than we did in one month at school. Not that film school is unimportant, without the strong foundation that my time at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco gave me, the industry would be too large to tackle. This barrier is just as challenging as the previous for us. There are a lot of moving parts in filmmaking and by adding more and more people that we mentor and teach, we are constantly in a state of “teaching.” It’s a unique challenge to work efficiently while teaching. The benefits of finding talent which otherwise would not have had the opportunity, and thus not been exposed to filmmaking, far outweighs the loss of time. Our door is open, within reason, and our heart is in teaching those who are willing to learn.
4: Production is risky business. Not just financially, but in every aspect. That is why most production companies try to utilize as much previous work as possible. Spend time figuring out something, and then use it over and over again – which is a great business practice! You get dividends on the time investment, which ultimately means you’re making future projects faster, and making more money. Dawnrunner doesn’t play that way. We approach every project with a die-hard mentality of, “What don’t we know and want to learn?” Which means we are building new skills on each project. Even simple projects, that we could really do quickly at this point, we complicate and test new equipment and/or processes on. We take more risks than most. This is an effort to push the industry, and ourselves, into the next level – and stay at the bleeding edge. “This is how it’s done normally. How are WE going to do it?” Is something that gets asked repeatedly throughout every aspect of production. Sometimes there is no better way. We want to make sure of that. By paving our own road we get to find speed-ups or quality enhancers that have been missed by people just following the way people have gone before.
5: Finally, our aim is to build a community (family centered) of talented people to call Dawnrunner. We love our jobs, and we respect each others work and what has to go into it. We help each other. We support each other. We collaborate, and everyone’s opinion matters. This is not just a job to us, this is an undertaking of epic proportions. We will not fail because we care about those that are counting on us too much. We do what needs to be done, and we know that each and every other person on the crew is doing the same. That sense of collaboration (much like a football team, or military unit) is increasingly rare in the business world today. Dawnrunner firmly believes that without Loyalty and Integrity the passion for the business cannot reach it’s full potential. We show that passion with every project that passes through our hands, regardless of budget or time restrictions. If we’re not proud of it, how can we expect you to be? This helps us shatter the barrier to entry from the client side.
Obviously there are great places to work, and great companies, within the industry. Yet, I hope this sheds some insight on why Dawnrunner does some of the things we do. We are a small company with big dreams, and we attack those dreams with a fervor bordering on fanaticism.