Interview With Paul Brenno, Director Of Covid-19 vs The Magic City



Why do you make films?


One of the main reason's I make films, is I love the work as Producer, Director to Cinematographer and Editor, but also to tell stories. From an early age, I was so into films/videos, tv series, even broadcasting to a degree. When going to the movies as a kid, I just loved how the movies I saw took me into a different world, the sites, sounds and effects, seeing different worlds, cities and place, it just was a draw for me.


How did you start making film and what was your first film project and how did it go?


I grew up in a small rural city, so there were no film or video schools or classes to take anywhere, so the only thing I had was still photographs, so I just started in shooting stills and leaning how to shooting 35mm Kodak film. My very short narrative short film was in film school at Montana State School of Film in Bozeman, shooting my Junior project called "The Personal Ad". The film was in b/w and first time I was able to work with actors from the acting department at MSU. I was shooting on Kodak 16mm film stock, on Arri BL.


Now, these were projects as a student, but as a professional, it wasn't until 2016 that I was on a freelance video shoot for a non profit project, when this young lady approached me and we talked about making a video for her dance group. As we talked, I envisioned a short documentary, not just a video or news feature. This video I wanted to be "cinematic" as I could, so we shot her dance group called "Magic Tap Cloggers", which turned out to be my very first national documentary award winning film, winning awards for Best Cinematography from film fests in Arizona, LA to Houston World-Fest, plus made national newspapers around the country from an article written by Allan Blanks, picked up by the AP and sent to newspapers in Miami, Kansas City, Lexington KY to Washington Times.


We were both working day jobs, so this film was a great creative outlet, so happy for the awards


What kind of films inspired you as a director?


There are so many for different reasons, but first would be Orson Welles for Citizen Kane, Stanley Kubrick "2001: A Space Odyssey", Richard Donner "Superman: The Movie", to Kevin Costner "Dances with Wolves" to Christopher Nolan "Interstellar", among so many others like Clint Eastwood, etc


What genre of filmmaking are you trying to work on as a filmmaker?


I'd like to work on ANY genre honestly, not just be categorized by just one. In my career, I've been Producer/Editor on commercials to documentaries, music videos to 1/2 hour weekly programs, so it's great being able to show a variety.


Please name three of your most favorite directors?


Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Christopher Nolan


What is the most challenging thing about making indie films?


The 2 biggest so far, that I've experienced, is finding money to make films and being a one man band (not having a crew). I think all filmmakers can relate to this, even those famous filmmakers who have made many successful films and making a good living. Stories, finding the right story, getting actors to give their time or a business wanting to make films to help promote their business is one of the biggest challenges.


Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker?


I'd like to consider myself a Filmmaker, not be categorized, as I just love being a Filmmaker.


Do you plan to continue working independently as a filmmaker?


My plans are to just continue to work, whether it's independent or not, my passion and love is always as a Cinematographer first, being overall as a Director or Producer/Editor, hope I can continue on as a Filmmaker, work in every area.


Covid 19 vs The Magic City, how did current event affect the cinematic language of the film?


This film came about in early to mid March 2020. I was a Photojournalist for a few years in my career, do follow current events. I was at a local restaurant, began to notice the sections of the restaurant were slowly being closed, every time I went there. One day I went in, mid-March, this is when the business starting closing down for Take Out Only, noticed the staff were just sitting around, so I knew the news was serious about this pandemic. A week later, I went back, looked around and the closed off sections which were then in full force, and it looked to me like a sci fi film or like an apocalyptic film. I then began thinking, "this looks like something out of a disaster film". That following week, I began to think about making a short film about this covid 19, thinking initially to shoot a short narrative, but thought, as I knew of no actors here I could call, a short documentary film would be better.


My hometown went through a major flood in 2011, which affected the lower valley of our city, but with this pandemic, it's affecting ALL business, as the flood was a natural disaster, this was more of a government controlled disaster, where business' are being affected not just certain areas. I wanted to highlight a number of businesses, maybe 5-7, not making it too long, but short enough to keep the audience interested. I wanted to also show as many different businesses as I could, from a church, a health/fitness club, a restaurant, education center to even a gun shop. It was great the response I got, wanted to only talk about the negative element for a short piece, but focus mostly on the positive, see how the businesses would see the future after gone through this.


How do you plan to find a larger audience for your short films and what do you think about the distribution of short films in the film industry?


Honestly, I never though about distributing the film, since I'd never done that before. I'd sure be open to it, but my main focus were film festivals from around the country, especially since was a no budget film. I've been so surprised, almost shocked at the great response from film festivals so far.


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© Toronto Film Mag I 2020