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September 17, 2013 > Hey mom, I made a movie... now what?

Hey mom, I made a movie... now what?

The world of film can be rewarding or extremely frustrating but for Fremont film director Amy Do it has been a continuous adventure. "I got my start in film/media at Ohlone Community College," says Do. Capturing over 150 hours of footage for a film class at University of Southern California, Do documented rabbit enthusiasts at a American Rabbit Breeder's Association National Convention. Her initial 20-minute film was extended to feature-length and premiered in 2011 at the Bal Theatre in San Leandro and the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. A film review was featured in Tri-City Voice February 15, 2011 (page 6).

Amy has worked at Lucasfilm Ltd. in Northern California, shooting and editing documentary footage of Director George Lucas for behind-the-scenes documentaries for Star Wars: Episode III and as Video Producer at a division of FOX Interactive Media creating videogame-related features for IGN.com.

Rabbit Fever has now resurfaced with airings on KQED (Truly CA). It was broadcast on September 15 and will be rebroadcast Tuesday, September 17 at 11 p.m., Wednesday, September 18 at 5 a.m. and Sunday, September 22 at 12 p.m.

TCV asked Amy about her experiences in the film industry.

TCV: What happened between the first airing and now to bring this film to KQED? Is there additional footage, editing or has the film been passed around to producers until someone decided to use it?

DO: After the film screened as a work-in-progress in San Francisco at the Roxie Theater (as part of the SF International Documentary Film Festival), the film officially premiered at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis and various other festivals thereafter. That was when I started getting offers from distributors who wanted to help me get the film out there to a mass audience. However, instead of seeking traditional distribution rights (i.e. theatrical, then DVD, then maybe TV), I noticed that I was getting more offers for digital distribution rights (i.e. web streaming, cable-on-demand, instant download) for platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, cable providers, etc. This type of deal seemed ideal to me, because for several years now, I've been a proponent of watching television shows and movies strictly online myself.

I ended up signing with SnagFilms and they're handling my digital distribution for me. As for DVD rights, I decided to self-publish the discs on my own, and because I have such a loyal fanbase of indie doc lovers, rabbit breeders and 4-H kids out there, I was able to make back a little of what I put into the film financially by selling the DVDs directly from the official website. I did talk to PBS Home Video to see if they were interested in the DVD rights, and that's when they suggested I cut down the film so they could easily package it into a broadcast television hour for PBS Plus, their national network. I also submitted the film to our local PBS station, KQED, for consideration in the Truly CA program, which is an Emmy award-winning showcase of indie documentaries about life in California. I was ecstatic when I found out the film was accepted. There were only five slots and I got one of them - I feel so honored!

The hardest part of the process though was cutting the film down to an hour (a requirement for all Truly CA films) and making sure we didn't lose the heart of the story and characters.

TCV: What have you been doing professionally since Rabbit Fever? How do you support yourself?

Since I finished Rabbit Fever, I've come to learn that once you're finished with a film, you need to be prepared to live with it for a lot longer than you expected. In film school, they teach you all these things about production techniques and theory and then they push you out into the world expecting you to fly. But really, that's only half the battle, especially if you don't have the funds to hire a proper lawyer and agent to help you tackle the business side of the industry. That's part of the reason why it took me so long to finally finish Rabbit Fever, because I was financing the film from my own pocket, I had to maintain a full-time job to help pay for it and also learn a few hard lessons about how to sell the film along the way. So in many ways, making Rabbit Fever was like my form of graduate school.

TCV: How does someone interested in this career survive until discovered?

Do: Honestly, the only way to become "discovered" is to just go out there and make a film. Prove yourself, before you ask others to believe in you. Enter your film in festivals, screen it at a local theater, share it on YouTube - anything to get eyeballs on it. If it sucks, learn from that experience and make another one. If it's good, you'll receive the attention it deserves. And then hopefully, after you've gained the respect of other professionals in the industry, they'll be the ones to help you realize your next film in the future. Luckily, with today's readily available technology, there's no excuse for someone NOT to be able to tell a story using inexpensive camera equipment and home software. In this industry, you make your own luck, and you have to be hungry for it (literally, sometimes, because you'll be funding your own projects)! That means, working unpaid gigs to gain experience and make contacts, building a reel, continually learning new skills and techniques, and most importantly, not just talk about a project, but actually go out and make it happen!

TCV: What does airing of the film on KQED mean, if anything, to your career?

DO: It's a big honor to be accepted into KQED's Emmy-award winning program. There were only five slots and I'm honored that Rabbit Fever was selected by the committee to be one of them! Aside from the simple pleasure of having more eyes on a project that I poured my heart into, the exposure I receive from these broadcasts will hopefully boost DVD and web streaming sales through word-of-mouth. Also, this is my first television broadcast so it's a learning experience that I can apply to future projects as well.

TCV: Are you currently working on any film projects? How are they financed?

DO: Right now, I'm just doing freelance video and graphics work.

TCV: Others interested in a career such as yours are probably asking the same questions. A bit of background about yourself would be good - why you chose this career, critical training and tips.

DO: I became interested in filmmaking when I was a 10 years old and started making my own home movies using my dad's camcorder. Because editing video digitally on a computer was not readily available for consumers at the time, I actually practiced in-camera editing (shooting scenes and different angles sequentially), as well as editing the tape-to-tape method using two VCRs. I would often be on my own, so I would not only shoot the movies, but a lot of the times, I would star in them as well... which is why I would never show anybody those embarrassing videos now! When I got older, I started taking some television and film classes at Ohlone Community College, and that's when I decided to pursue filmmaking as a career.

I believe film school builds a very solid foundation for anybody who is serious about pursuing a career in the industry. You learn to collaborate with like-minded individuals and discover different career paths you can take, whether it be screen writing, editing, producing, cinematography or audio engineering... if you want to be a director, I think it's important to understand all these facets of the pipeline. More importantly though, don't let all that schooling go to waste after you graduate. Do everything you can to apply what you've learned in the real world. Most likely, you'll start off small like me, as an intern somewhere, but if you have the drive, then you will work yourself up the ladder and eventually be able to direct and produce your own productions.

"Possibly the greatest rabbit movie ever made! I love this." - Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me
https://twitter.com/MorganSpurlock/status/317381161255055361

"RABBIT FEVER sheds light on a world I never knew about...sincere, intimate...Amy Do's film is one-of-a-kind." - Leonard Maltin, critic and author of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide
https://twitter.com/leonardmaltin/status/375547903697506304

Rabbit Fever showtimes on KQED:
Tue, Sep 17: 11:00 p.m.
Wed, Sep 18: 5:00 a.m.
Sun, Sep 22: 12:00 p.m.

http://www.kqed.org/arts/programs/trulyca/episode.jsp?epid=277331

Rabbit Fever website: http://www.rabbitfever.com

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