Angelo Bell is a writer, director and an award-winning independent
filmmaker in California whose professional goal is to create engaging,
entertaining and commercially viable films. He has won awards for
Best Director, Best-in-Festival and set a new benchmark at the Los
Angeles International Shorts Festival in 2007 when he had four short
films premiere at the festival. His films have screened at festivals
in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Italy, the UK, Canada and South
Carolina. Other projects have aired on television via Simply ME TV,
ZillionTV, AMGTV and IFC-TV. Angelo has been quoted in Filmmaker
Magazine Online and he also blogs about DIY filmmaking, distribution,
working the studio system, film finance/funding, and crowdfunding. He
also maintains a film column on Yahoo! Movie News.
Angelo's film, “Broken Hearts Club” is available on DVD from Amazon,
IndieFlix, and as an application (app) on iTunes. The film is also
available as a multi-part web series on FetchTV.com. In 2010 Angelo
embraced genre filmmaking with the production of, “Resurrection of
Serious Rogers,” a neo-noir action thriller, which will be released in
2012. Currently Angelo is reaching for the next level with his epic,
fantasy martial arts adventure, “Legend of Black Lotus.” This project
embraces the themes of powerful films like "Crouching Tiger Hidden
Dragon", "Hero" and "Lord of the Rings."
Angelo is deeply committed to the independent film movement and
supports indie filmmakers with their creative endeavors, through
his blog, and through Social Media.
What is the current project you are working on?
Currently I’m working on a fantasy martial-arts adventure titled, “Legend of Black Lotus.” It’s a story that takes place in feudal China/Japan and involves an Asian empress who magically gives birth to a Black daughter, of whom the empress has had a vision that the child will unite two kingdoms at war. It’s a bit of a spin/twist on the Mulan fairy tale with the enchantment of “Lord of the Rings” and the martial-arts and romance of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. You can learn more about it here: http://wp.me/Ppea6-43
How do you handle rejection?
I try not to look at “it” as rejection. I take constructive criticism very well I believe, although it always stings. I am constantly trying to improve my talent, my abilities, and myself so I need to know the reason behind the "no". If no one is willing to give me that knowledge, he should keep his rejection or criticism to himself.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I have wanted to be a writer since I was in the third grade. In fact I remember the exact moment I said to myself, “I’m going to be a writer.”
What inspired you to become a writer?
I read books all the time as a child. My mother signed me up for numerous
book subscriptions and I’d rush to finish my books before the next one arrived. Also, watching movies as a child I felt as though I was transported to another place, time and universe. Movies and books were my way of getting away from the harsh realities of life. I never forgot those good feelings and I wanted to be able to create them myself.
What is the best thing about being one?
The best thing about being a writer is knowing that we have power. One day the page is blank and the next day you’ve created a brand new world with people, a history and a future. It never gets old.
What is the worst thing about being one?
The worst thing about being a writer is the inherent desire for perfection. We want our words to be perfect, our created worlds to be perfect, and our characters to be perfectly imperfect. As such, we’re always trying to get it right. It’s a tireless pursuit of which there is no true finish line goal.
What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on?
As a writer I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many projects I’ve worked on. I’ve written screenplays, manuscripts for paperbacks, Teleplays, magazine articles, short stories, poems, whatever I could. As far as films, I’ve worked at least 14 as writer, director, producer, editor, etc.
Who is your favorite filmmaker?
The answer is plural. I have many favorite filmmakers. A small list would include Tony Scott, Ridley Scott, Antoine Fuqua, F. Gary Gray, Steven Spielberg, Michael Mann, Michael Bay and many more.
How has your life changed since you became a writer?
For me, writing gave birth to directing and becoming a filmmaker so now my life has changed in that I don’t solely want to write words, I want to create a vision/interpretation of those words. Basically I am always-always-always writing or working on something as a result of writing.
What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to make it in the movie business?
First, I suggest working with mentors who are doing or have done exactly what you want to do. If you need help making a film, connect with people who have already made a film. Ignore folks who only talk about making films. Do your due diligence. Real filmmakers have a track record of accomplishment in making films. Seek out those people. Second, get out there and shoot something. It doesn’t matter if you shoot a short or a feature just get something done. I wrote, directed, shot, edited and produced my first couple of films because I wanted to learn those areas. Also, it was easier because I didn’t have to wait for someone else’s availability to make my movies. I no longer shoot anything I make because my skills as a DP suck, but because I have operated a camera and edited the footage I shot, I know the mechanics of getting the shot I want. Lastly, I say, “Be fearless.” Many people will try to talk you out of getting into the business.
What do you like to do besides writing?
I direct my films as well. I also produce but, thus far, it has been purely out of necessity. However, with “Legend of Black Lotus” I’m beginning to see the allure of producing a project from conception through production.
Have you had any other jobs before you decided to become a writer?
My previously “jobs” include the Marine Corps, a few years on Wall Street, and then Network Administration. Now I am a fulltime writer/filmmaker.
What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?
My taste in films is all over the place. I am not a typical filmmaker film snob. I like low-budget horror, foreign movies, popcorn movies, kung fu cinema, noir, rom-coms, cheesy action flicks, creature feature…everything.
How would you describe your film education?
My film education is ongoing. In regards to filmmaking “mechanics,” I am self-taught. However I have many mentors who have guided me through the nuances of filmmaking. Before I made my first film, “Get Spielberg” I spent a year studying and learning all about indie filmmaking. I knew nothing about cameras, angles, production language, directing, or anything else. I bought a camera picked up a few books and searched the Internet. Once I had enough info I set a deadline to make a movie and I did it. Once I’d made one or two movies I went on a one-year crash course, during which time I made six movies in a calendar year. It was my way of expediting the learning curve.
How would you describe the film "scene" where you live?
I’m in southern California, which I believe is the proverbial hub of the indie film scene.
How has social media changed the independent film industry?
The jury is out on how social media has changed the industry. For one, it has helped filmmakers connect with other filmmakers, but I haven’t seen irrefutable proof that Social Media has made connecting with audiences and film fans easier.
What's your opinion on crowdfunding?
I think that there are projects you can crowdfund that will be very successful in every sense. I think the benefits of crowdfunding becomes a little gray when filmmakers aspire for bigger budgets and discover that the time investment in becoming an expert at crowdfunding provides little to know help when it’s time to find investors or partners for a $3M film.
How does independent film differ from the mainstream?
I have to clarify that I think independent filmmaker differs from “studio filmmaking” in that the process is usually more personal and intimate. Studio filmmaking involves “the machine” cranking out new product. Indie filmmaking is usually about the journey. But make no mistake, if a filmmaker is producing a genre film (horror, action,) they are more like a studio than an indie even though the film is being made independently.
What's your favorite movie quote and why?
My favorite movie quote is “I’m trying to make a movie, not a film” uttered by Eddie Murphy in “Bowfinger.” I think it epitomizes the difference in mindsets and perceptions about filmmaking as an art and filmmaking as a business.
What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?
From a business standpoint, I absolutely understand and agree with the strategy of franchise films and sequels. However, I think Hollywood should understand that, with few exceptions, good stories and great acting (regardless of A list star status) is ultimately what brings the audience to the theater.
What is your opinion on book to movie adaptions?
I think that audiences need to understand what an “adaptation” is meant to be. Films made from books aren’t meant to be simple visual transcriptions of the book. It bugs me when someone says, “The movie wasn’t like the book at all.”
Thanks for doing the interview Angelo. Best of luck with “Legend of Black Lotus.”