With White Reindeer, director Zach Clark has crafted a twisted take on the familiar home-for-the-holidays formula. In the dark comedy, Suzanne (Anna Margaret Hollyman) has to somehow cope the with her husband’s murder right around Christmas, imbuing a macabre fog over what’s normally a festive, heartwarming genre. The movie , Clark’s third feature, struck gold with critics at last year’s SXSW and opens this Friday at the IFC Center in New York, with expansions across the country the following two weeks. Clark is a Virginia native who edits and writes all of his features, and makes the kind of movies that he wants to make. We asked Clark to let us in on his secret blueprint for getting a movie made, which is a very hard thing to do.
1. Tell everyone you know that you are going to make a movie and when you are going to start making it. Impose as many arbitrary external pressures on yourself as possible.
2. Steal as much as possible from real life. Reveal deep personal secrets about yourself. Borrow freely from the lives of your friends and loved ones.
3. But change it all around so people think you made it up.
4. Think of things that you can point a camera at that are free for you, but add a lot of production value to the movie. Beautiful places, seasonal decorations, cool road signs, whatever. Write them into the script so you don’t forget about them, so they take on a larger significance.
5. Exhaust all available resources, call in all favors, and be constantly appreciative of every single person who is going out of their way to help you. They do not have to do this.
6. Work with people who are nice and fun to be around. One jerk can ruin a whole set. Don’t forget that you have lots of amazing, talented friends. Directing a movie is essentially about establishing a tone on set wherein the cast and crew can do their best work.
7. Feed everyone really, really well. Ask people what they like to eat beforehand. After you’ve shot for a week, ask people what they liked and didn’t like and bring back the popular dishes.
8. Wrap on time as much as possible. It’s better to shoot all the scenes than to spend way too much time focusing on one set-up, scene, etc and losing time, missing things you wanted.
9. Be ready to totally throw the script out the window if it isn’t working on set. But also don’t forget what you really love about what you wrote and be as true to it as possible.
10. The scene you think sums up the entire point of movie, the scene you poured your heart into the most, that you can’t fathom the movie existing without, will probably get cut out. This is good. If you’ve done your job well enough, you won’t need to spell anything out.