Indie-Craft Interview #3: Kim Sherman
Kim Sherman is a really busy person. So busy that I thought for sure she’d never get around to this “interview.” Not only did Kim prove me wrong, but she went above and beyond the call of duty by contributing the many interesting bits of information you find below the picture I lifted from her Facebook profile. There’s indie filmmaking and indie rock-making she does, filling every open slot on her calendar. She used to head the music scheduling at True/False before returning this year with both a film to screen (V/H/S) and busking gigs for her band, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, to fulfill.
Speaking of True/False, it was suggested that Kim was the real story of this year’s fest. How often does someone go from volunteering/working for a major film festival to a contributing filmmaker? This doesn’t even mention Jerusalem and the Starbaskets’ thrilling set at one of the fest’s showcases following a year where the band found some well-deserved acclaim for their album, Dost. In other words, Kim is a big part of the best thing that happens in Middle Missouri.
All of this makes Kim Sherman an ideal subject for the Indie-Craft Interview series…
1. Describe your craft(s).
I am an independent filmmaker and the drummer for Jerusalem and the Starbaskets. My day job is producing for feature films. In independent cinema, this usually involves being pretty hands on in all aspects of the creation of a film. My role and job shape shift a bit, depending on the project and my relationship with the project’s director. For some director’s, I deal more with the practical aspects of the project. Things like hiring cast and crew, working with unions, securing permission for locations. Really, the things no one likes to do on a film set. For other director’s, I work in a more collaborative sense, and help guide the story with them. In either case, I work very hard to make sure the director has everything they need to tell the story, and that they have the space and freedom to insert their voice in that story. If the audience takes something away from the film, hopefully a strong emotional or academic response, and the director feels like people really understand what they were trying to convey, I feel like I did a good job. Though, it helps when the film sells and everyone involved makes money.
2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
Choosing Independent Filmmaking was really easy for me, being from the Midwest. I wasn’t exposed to studios, early on, and I never really dreamed of working for a studio. Though, I respect that the industry needs both halves to survive. Some of my favorite films came out of studios. I know that “independent film” meant something different in the 90’s, when that meant a film cost less than $3 million. Now there is a much wider range for independent financing, so films are made for under 10K pretty regularly and with great success. Technology and talent are available in abundance at all levels of that financial spectrum. So for me, the biggest reason for staying in the Independent realm, is simply being able to work on stories that I find interesting, that I feel are important, and that maybe break the rules a bit.
I still want all the world to see my work, and that is certainly easier to achieve in the studio system. But the more overhead a film is associated with, the more money it has to make just to break even. The more money a film has to make, the more creative decisions are made solely on that point. The more a film compromises just to make money, the more contained the vision becomes. Its hard to do something different when you are only thinking about the people that are happy to see the same story over and over again. As a filmmaker and an audience member, I want to see stories that are maybe dirtier, darker, and that challenge the way life is portrayed on television and in theaters.
3. How does your craft contribute to society?
Independent Filmmaking, as I stated, can allow for more freedom of storytelling. The actual filmmaking process has become more accessible to more people, which opens the medium up for interpretations by various cultures. The idea is that independent film and audiences will gravitate towards stories that haven’t been told and recycled a million times over.
Until recently, I had been working mostly in horror films. I was fortunate to work with a few friends that know the genre very deeply, and wanted to see the old conventions given new life. They developed stories with a woman as the central protagonists. The women in these films survive where others would break. I really loved this element. I recognize that Horror is an inherently sexist genre, but I do see more and more audiences growing tired of watching women mercilessly tortured. There is a trend towards women overcoming the demons, serial killers, mutant rapists, and abusive spouses from another planet, and not just because they are pure and virginal. Horror, like sci-fi and other genre work, is a great way to point out the evils of society and hopefully make a path to the solution of these evils.
More recently, I have been involved with dramas that feature women on the verge of falling out of society. Caught between their crimes and the reality of the punishment, I ran towards these stories for their polarizing central characters. This is an idea that had been reserved for male characters, with women playing sidekick and savior. I love being a part of something that provides strong and challenging roles for women.
Beyond just women too, I hope to always work on films that push forward groups that would otherwise be marginalized in film, on and off the screen. Hopefully these stories won’t seem so fringe, in the very near future. In this way, I feel like my craft contributes to society.
4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
Several times a year, I record and tour with my bandmates, Jeremy Freeze and John Garland, as the drummer for Jerusalem and the Starbaskets. My bandmates are like family, and I very sincerely love the music we make. I’ll sometimes blush when I hear it playing in Uprise or other public spaces, but I really do love listening to our albums always. Jeremy Freeze is one of my favorite songwriters, and I never get sick of listening to his voice and lyrics.
When I work on films, I spend a lot of time on my computer. I have a hard time concentrating if I’m not listening to music. It’s better for my brain than coffee even.
Recently, Jeremy and John contributed music to a film I produced. For me, it was the start of something I have been working up to. I want to combine my two loves, film and music. I am currently co-writing a film with Jeremy, that we are hoping to make late in 2013.
5. What is your dream of success?
I have more immediate goals for success, that include sustainability. It’s hard for people in my profession to balance time and money. It’s especially hard when you work in micro-budget independent films. Long term, I am starting to get back to directing, and it is my hope that I can find a successful balance between directing, producing, and drumming. If I can do this, live comfortably off of the things I have dedicated my life to, and still be there for my friends and community, I will feel like a huge success.
If you get a chance, check out Kim’s work. V/H/S hits On Demand and theaters this fall. Dost is available in exchange for your dollars. And I’m sure Kim has something else up her sleeve in the meantime.
[Full disclosure: Kim is the only person to ever call me a journalist. This can be both good and bad. Make of it what you will.]