Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rex Sikes' Movie Beat Host

Rex Sikes is an actor (SAG/AFTRA), a producer (EP, creative & line), UPM a director, 1st AD, a seminar leader, keynote presenter and a professional coach for speakers & actors. He looks to add value & contribute to productions in front of & behind camera. Contact Rex to discuss how he can help you.

Rex speaks to the film community on producing, directing & acting. His topics included what to do and what not to do to get your film, TV or web project made on time and under budget. He addresses how producers, directors, cast & crew need to work and interact in order to have the smoothest shoot possible.

Rex Sikes' Movie Beat "Conversations with Filmmakers" is a master class in filmmaking! Listen as Rex talks with celebrities, professional filmmakers and friends on how to make movies and TV. Rex's guests share their goals, challenges, surprises, advice, tips and secrets to help filmmakers get their projects made faster, more easily, less expensively and to advance their own careers. The official website is rexsikes.com - listen in to these fabulous interviews today.

Visit Rex Sikes' MOVIE BEAT  "conversations with filmmakers" and tune into live and archived interviews, movie news and blogs. All interviews record live and then are archived at rexsikes.com at the INTERVIEWS blog which stores guest biographies you can read and the links you use to listen to live or archived shows All Rex Sikes' Movie Beat shows are also available as podcasts from Itunes. Be sure to listen today. Video interviews Rex conducts are available here and at his website or facebook profile and on youtube.

What is the current project you are working on?

Rex: First let me say thanks for taking the time to invite me to answer these questions. I appreciate that very much. I’m involved in a number of projects besides, my Rex Sikes’ Movie Beat, which is a website and show devoted to educating filmmakers and performers in the business aspects of show business.

Let me digress. When I was younger I always wished I had a mentor who could guide my career and mold me and educate me in what to do and what not to do. A mentor is necessary and worth his or her weight in gold. In those days when I was a young actor there were no schools or educational outlets offerings teaching the business side to an acting or filmmaking career. Since I had no one to guide me in business I focused only on “the” craft. That is lopsided – we are in show BUSINESS – we need to be good at the show and educated and smart about the business. Not knowing the business side is unfortunate because success leaves clues. If you can find out what others do to be successful and what they avoid doing then you can re-create that effort and apply it to your own aspirations but you need someone or someway to learn to know what to do.

SO I devoted my show to helping people on both sides of the camera learn the business so they can be successful and accomplish their dreams. My pet phrase, and partial title of my forthcoming book is “Movie Making is about more than making movies”. It is about knowing the business, being professional and networking, connecting and developing long-lasting win/win relationships. It is about contributing to others first so that they can contribute to you too.

Now as to what projects I have currently –I have the 1st ever live action, motion capture, animated sit com TV pilot in post, another TV pilot in development and we are shooting a test show, an indie feature in post that I was a producer on and star in, another indie horror film I co-produced and line produced, a short I am about to direct, and three other specific feature projects in development among other things. I have numerous films I star in or appear in coming out or being released on DVD.

Did you always want to be the host of your own show?

Rex: Not really, never thought about it until I decided someone needed to do something. I have been on camera host for some web shows, some TV, and a front person for a few festivals and conventions. I have also been an entertainer since a child, doing after dinner, corporate and college programs and a seminar leader, trainer and coach for professional speakers and actors – so I suppose hosting my own show was a natural transition. The point behind my show is to do what makes one successful, replicate that, follow the formula in your own unique way (no one needs another copy) and don’t do the stupid things (that I did) that inhibit success of make the likelihood less assured. I have no issue with being self-deprecating I did some pretty bone head things as a young talent, I wasted lots of time and energy not knowing what to do and if I can help only one person to do better than I did in that fashion than I have succeeded.

My goal is to hand someone the information, the skills, the football (so to speak) and let them make the touchdown on their own having run with what they know, using what they know, then they make their own successes. I may be the catalyst by pointing the way and providing the necessary skills and or education but it is by them applying it smartly that THEY make the difference and create their own success. SO I love the position I am in as host because I play the intermediary between the listener and the person I am connecting them up with. I am the party host who makes the introduction.

Put another way my ultimate goal is to provide value, to be a resource and connect them up in ways they may not otherwise have access. I do truly enjoy having this show, so many incredible guests and wonderful listeners. PLUS I have some interviews on a YouTube channel and I was asked to put my show on live Ustream by a producer friend, we have talked briefly about that and hopefully we will continue to explore it soon.

My program is available online at the web address at the INTERVIEWS blog page. Scroll through archives, or search guest name. Read biographies and within biography is link to listen live or archived. All interviews are also podcasts available from the Itunes store.

What inspired you to become involved in the independent film industry?

Rex: I have been an actor and filmmaker since a child, as well as a child entertainer, and whether independent or studio projects I love this business. It pretty much is all I ate, drank, slept and dreamt about since childhood. I loved living in Los Angeles because it is the home and it  has the history of this industry that I enjoy and love. If I could I would live and work everyday in L A.

What is the best thing having your own talk show?

Rex: One is that I am the person who connects the workers with the hopefuls. My listeners are from all over the world and at all levels of the profession. From A- list listeners to newbie filmmakers and film fans. My show is nuts and bolts what to do and what not to do show. I started it by asking friends to come on and talk about what they do and how they do it. So I get to have friends and acquaintances on my show, professional people who are doing it, making it happen, who have their own successful careers, and celebrity. I occasionally have newer talent or filmmakers on so listeners can hear and learn from their accomplishments and their struggles too. All of us have both highs and lows no matter where we are on our career ladder.

What is the worst thing about having your own talk show?

Rex: That, at this stage, I am married to it, I have to be there when I say I will, I schedule my guests, do the web site and promotion pretty much all on my own and that makes it another full-time job. I’d rather leave the set and do the show having it all already in place and taken care of for me. Some day, some day soon I hope.

What is your process when choosing the guests you want to have on your show?

Rex: Who are they, what have they done professionally, credits, how are they known what is their reputation, do we know each other personally– are we friends. By their reputation ... Reputation and what value they can add to the listener’s experience.  My goal, as stated in my materials, is to have everyone from Executive Producer to Craft Service behind the camera, all the collateral people, agents, managers, publicists, etc., and on camera celebrity talent as my guests. I want listeners to hear from professionals who are in the trenches. I want professionals who are in the trenches everyday doing what others want to be doing. I want everyone above the line, the directors, writers, producers and actors but I really want all the below the line crew too – the grips, gaffers, construction workers, PAs. I want everyone to have a voice and to describe what they do and how they do it on air to others. I want to do this with each position. For example, I want grips to be able to listen to another grip talk about what their experience is like. I want someone who doesn’t know what a grip is to be able to find out and I want the person who wants to become a grip to get an idea of what to expect.

Movie making is a collaborative effort and all parts and peoples are necessary. The reason why crew size is as large as it gets, besides union involvement and requirements IS because each person or position is necessary. It evolved – someone one day had to send someone out to get plants for the set and decided in the future it would be wiser, easier and more cost-effective to just have a greens person. Necessity is the mother and father of development and innovation. Hence, each position is a position to be respected – AND – respect the person in that position NO MATTER WHAT IT IS. Everyone on the team from the person who puts it up on the screen to the person sweeping up cigarette butts IS important and to be valued because if you don’t have someone sweeping the butts up – you are going to have to do it so you better appreciate and respect the person doing it for you.

What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on?

Rex: I have no idea. Truly, IMDB lists partial credits not all, half I have forgotten, then there are those you work on that never go anywhere or disappear at different stages of development, etc. I don’t know, but there have been many, not as many as some people and probably more than some other people.

Who is your favorite filmmaker?

Rex: I cannot answer. When I was younger I would say this person or that person – now I appreciate different aspects of different individuals rather than simply revering one complete person.

How has your life changed since you became the host of your own show?

Rex: I’m busier all around, I spend more time doing the show and not doing other things and vice versa, and I am enriched and lucky. I have great friends and acquaintances and am delighted and honored when anyone wants to come on the air with me.

People come out of the woodwork too. I get lots of requests for me to interview them. I find that amusing. Someone I do not know or know about will email me and say they would like for me to interview them – now I like that and I find it funny. Now I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone but the question that always enters my mind is WHY? Why should I interview you? What have you done? What value do you add to the discussions I have? Are you interested in sharing your expertise with others and help them get ahead or do you just want to hear your own voice over the air and say you were interviewed? NOW I know that sounds harsh but I do have to have some objective qualifying standards. Personally, I might like to hear from everyone but I don’t have the time to interview everyone and I have to keep my listeners in mind. SO I have to think about what kind of interview adds value to my listeners AND what kind of interview adds value to my guest. So, it is a fine and tricky balance and if I learn about someone I may include that person in the upcoming roster.

People send me books, CDs, screeners all the time to introduce themselves as possible guests and that is fine. At least I can see their work, written or film and get an idea. Some things I get are very, rough or not very professional, so Id’ have to ask what will my listeners get from an interview with this person – and honestly they might get lots of good things or perhaps not. If the material is outstanding or from a professional who we may know or not but they have been doing it credibly for years – well again they might contribute lots to the listeners or not much at all. Fortunately, I have been lucky in choosing and have enjoyed most if not all of my guests immensely. I think I also have a good sense because my structure is in providing mentors to listeners.

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who wants to make it in the movie business?

Rex: DO it and do it smart. Listen to my show and find people who are doing what want to do and WHO are already successful and model what they do – copy their efforts while remaining true to who you are. I mentioned this earlier. NO one wants a copy – but a true maverick has a difficult road too. You know that all artists die poor but their estates may become rich because now the artist is gone and their works now become rare. Well, in the same way as unknown talent no one knows who you are, many won’t even care about you – that is just the fact of it. SO follow the formula – use the formula – embrace the formula – because that is what people are already familiar with and want – BUT be unique, be yourself.

What do I mean? Okay a horror film that genre has certain elements everyone expects – they are familiar with how a horror flick is supposed to be – so do it – give them that but make it a great story, different from whatever has been written, novel new, with a twist but fit it into the accepted format. The same is true about westerns, romance, romantic comedies etc. If you say you are doing a TV show shoot it like a TV show is shot – not like a feature film – because they are different. Do what is already working but put your own spin on it, your own signature. Then you have an easier time.

Consider this too – there is no Elvis impersonator who is as famous, successful or rich as Elvis and that is because we don’t want or need another one. We don’t want a copy – we want the original. The copy is amusing, talented but it is a copy. SOOOO be yourself, be original but take the well travel path to success, do what works, while remaining true to who you are. Ta Da! I hope this concept is clear inside this brief description of what I mean. Let your passion, love, and enthusiasm drive you and stay with it. An over night success truly is 10 years or more in the making. Check IMDB credits if you think I am not spot on with this point.

What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

Rex: I Go back to – I appreciate different aspects of different shows but I will for the purpose of actually answering one of these questions give you some of my favorites film and TV.  Twin Peaks, Casablanca, Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, Picket Fences, Rebel Without A Cause, Rescue Me, Entourage, Eureka, The Shield, Man in A Glass Booth, Alien, The Nitwits, Duck Soup, and so many more I can’t begin to name – but if you look into the list perhaps a glimmer of why I chose these may become obvious… maybe not…  think quirky, gritty, multifaceted, bizarre, twisted, but good story driven, good acting, good production value (all things considered) … ok

How would you describe your film education?

Grew up loving film, making film, became a professional by 18, took film classes in L A and became a professional acting workshopee – meaning if I was not working on a film or play I was studying or acting in an acting workshop. Most of my experience is practical not theoretical. My degree is in communication not film. The bottom line is I am still learning and my gawd there is so much more out there to learn, I am barely scratching the surface.

How would you describe the film "scene" where you live?

It is a struggle of talents. The downside - It is competitive and fragmented, when it should be a healthy community. It is yet to become that. It tends to be clicky and snobby. People here need to learn to support each other and help each other. As with other locales and people if someone announces a project other filmmakers may be quick to dismiss them, OR to envy and wish them ill.

My goal has been try to help or assist on any number of projects just to help them get done. And in doing that I have had great connections and fun, met wonderful people and enjoyed so much and been benefited while attempting to benefit others. I have also been abused and burned. Sometimes because someone is a novice and doesn’t know any better (although the should) and other times because that was just the kind of person/s they were. Everything we do provides us the opportunity to learn. I have been doing this for over 40 years and I am still learning and still making mistakes. When I take myself too seriously that is a much larger mistake so I try not to do that or hold grudges either.

I believe that you are known by whether you keep your word or not and by who some of your friends are. I have recently trusted people I should not have. NOW I don’t tell you that so you say “poor Rex” but rather to illuminate us all to the idea that anyone can make mistakes at anytime. Could I have avoided these situations, most probably, could I have insisted on certain guarantees, yes but since I did not – I take my lumps and learn to do things somewhat different for the future.

Since this is not an industry state as is California – most people seem to be part-time, and or want to leave and go to L A. People come and go here because there is no professional industry to work in – which is how it is in most of this country’s local areas.  Since there is no “real” industry people don’t keep commitments as they ought to in any business. Since many projects are low, micro or no-budget projects some people don’t give their all as they would in Hollywood. There are few to none professional examples here so people just don’t know. Most have never been on a professional set or a union shoot so they don’t know how things operate or can operate.

We had state tax credits that helped attract movie businesses into our state but then the state stopped the program and movie businesses stopped coming as well. Incentives and state politics are area of interest for me which we can discuss some other time.

Having stated the down side of where I currently reside, there are also some incredibly talented, marvelous, wonderful, people here trying to make films or act in some fashion. They struggle to find financing and cast and crew, but they do the best they can. Being in an area of limited professional resources these people become more driven and innovative. So there are some dedicated, creative, insightful, hardworking people. ON the down side we have less summer here than the west coast but we have all four seasons to shoot in. We have rural areas and larger cities. We have forests, bluffs, and a great big lake. There are many advantages to being here and if we had tax credits that invited outside businesses in to work AND were applicable for locals to take advantage of we would be a powerhouse of film, TV and content manufacturing.

So the situation is a mix - upside and downside. We need to build a strong, co-operative community where people help each other, support each other, encourage each other and we need to create more resources and work for everyone. We need to decide do we want a film industry here and if so work hard to create that industry as opposed to just having some filmmakers here. I want to see the industry grow. I'd like to see people treat this as a business whether they get paid or not, instead of as a hobby. We have had people not show up to sets because something else came up and they did not even bother to call. We DO have incredible people here too, and nice people who, if we all work together, can raise the standards and develop something truly fabulous. This is what I would like to see happen and I am doing everything I can think of to assist in this creation. We need to elevate people not bring them down and in doing so we can make our dreams come true. It is actually all about adding value and contributing and sharing more than anything else.

How has social media changed the independent film industry?

Rex: It has emphasized the community aspect of our industry.It has connected us up with big fish and small all around the world in ways we have never been socializing before. It has allowed us access to people, ideas, information and resources that we could probably not ever imagined having two decades ago. It allows us to collaborate with people we would not have known. It levels the playing field, and it allows for two-way communication, it allows us to associate with people we can add value to and who can add value to us.

At the same time it increases the noise to signal ratio. Since anyone can make a blog, a podcast, a wall, a website it has given rise to imitators and quacks as well as legitimate professionals. It has given us outlets for entertainment and communication and provided for us a huge waste of time. It is kind of like when you prepare an incredible meal – there are things you throw out. It is incredible – that which you eat – and you don’t eat everything.

Anyone can now make a movie and promote it through social means. That is fantastic and it means more bad projects get made and promoted along with the good ones. Ultimately, things get sorted out even without an official gatekeeper. There is so much to discuss on this question alone wow.

Social media is an incredible opportunity and not all of it is good. It is up to each of us to monitor how, when and why we use it so that it is the best and most productive use of our time and resources instead of a waste.

The Internet allows us access to more information than ever before – yet sadly the good stuff is buried behind pages of corporate advertising disguised as both pro and con articles. It means we have to become smarter and wiser again – and that is a good thing. It allows me to reach untold numbers of people worldwide and create friendships and exchanges as never before in history – at low-cost in real-time, so WOW how incredibly cool is that? Very cool!

What is the interview process like?

Rex: I ask they answer. I never try to trick or make a guest look bad. We discuss what we will talk about prior to the show. I tell them my wishes and ask them theirs. I want to hear what they have to say – so I try not to talk too much. Some times I talk more than at other times because really these are conversations. The official subtitle of my show is “conversations with filmmakers” so it is an exchange predicated on asking questions and getting clarification. I add to the conversation when I believe it is relevant, or when I can provide an anecdotal example, or if I ask a question from the chat room. The chat is open during the show so people can ask questions they can also email them in – in advance. Not that many people take advantage of emailing questions but some do.

How does independent film differ from the mainstream?

Rex: Well I could go on for quite sometime – for the quick answer - both have different access to funding and resources. Currently, we see a lot of blockbuster CGI animated movies involving super heroes with ultra large budgets and the reason for this is that the studios CAN do this. It is their niche and so they do it because no one else can. It is far too costly. So independent movies tend to be smaller, character and story driven and fewer screens. There are many other aspects we can compare and contrast at another time.

You could go back in time and see any classic film being made. Which film would it be and why?

Rex: For different reasons – Citizen Cane – because it is so myth laden it would be nice to know what really happened. I’d have wanted to be on the set of George Stevens The Nitwits because I love Wheeler and Woolsey. Now for the more current – mostly television, Twin Peaks – I do really like David Lynch and would enjoy working with him at any opportunity. I would have like to have been on the set of a few series – working or witnessing – Buffy the series, The Shield and Rescue Me. Because I think TV has matured and been providing us in some cases with better entertainment than many recent feature films. Nowadays movies are remaking television more frequently and not doing a very good job while television is providing us with some incredible cable series.

 What do you think about sequels and remakes?

Enough already in many cases – but I have favorite detective series I read and hope the author keeps writing. Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes but brought him back due to public outcry. So yes it has its place JUST DO IT WELL. A sequel should be better than the original in my opinion – it should get better not worse – but usually those trying to capitalize on the franchise sacrifice quality for getting it out, or because they think we all want CGI or for whatever reason, other than making it good. My take on this, as I mentioned in the beginning, is that we are in SHOW business. The SHOW people need to learn the business – but the BUSINESS people need to learn what makes a good SHOW. As it is, the show is frequently what the current business people forget all about. They spend their time on packaging, merchandising and ancillary revenue instead of on making it an outstanding movie. It becomes too much about the business deal or package than it is about the show being a great story we’d love to watch.

The studios have been taken over by business people who know NOTHING about good show.  You need both – bring back the days of the studio heads whose names were above the doors – not corporate faceless entities without accountability. When your name is on something hopefully that inspires you to seek to provide value – to make something worthwhile and something good. When it is a faceless corporate sales force with no one person accountable nothing good can come of this. Bring back the Mayers, the Warners, The Goldwyns, The Selzniks, The Thalburgs who while not everything was a hit or great, at least they seemed to try – if for no other reason than it was their reputation at stake. Reputation and money should guide us not only money.

What's your opinion on crowdfunding?

Rex: I think it is great. It has opened up avenues that never before existed, it puts interested parties directly in contact with the filmmakers and the project.  Crowdfunding generates a new level of interest because people have the opportunity to participate in the project. It is give and give – win/win when done correctly filmmakers return items, limited editions and opportunities to the contributors – it is an exchange – not a donation. Crowdfunding opens the possibility of a dialogue, a two-way street, an exchange of goods or services, a relationship begins so it is exciting at so many levels and we have yet to see what it will evolve into and what opportunities are yet to come.

I have assisted some campaigns in reaching their goals, a few very directly and some others more at the periphery. I try to be supportive of all I see on Twitter or Facebook whenever I can because I know how hard it is to raise money or make movies. That does not mean I am donating to every or any particular campaign. Rather, I am mentioning all the ones of which I am aware, even ones I may know anything about. I am trying to draw attention to them so people can check them out and make the decision to be involved or not. If I do know a filmmaker or their project is worthy I will shout that from the treetops. I have had some filmmakers on my show who were running campaigns who got very near or actually made their goal while on the air with me. That is very exciting.

In examining campaigns, and having been involved even more directly in one particular campaign than I just described I do think there is a great amount of responsibility on the filmmaker to make it work successfully or not. It is like a telethon, a carnival barker – it is how you work it, what you give away, what you offer in exchange, the perceived value in the filmmakers and/or in the finished project, the trust that exists. Again it is the creation of a relationship. One campaign I worked on I do not think it would have been nearly as successful as it was because the filmmakers didn’t do much – they were “busy”. So I tweeted and Facebooked and brought attention to it – and I was involved so some people donated because of me.

I can tell you how much I appreciate those people who did it for that reason. Thanks!

You could be any animal. Which would you be and why?

Rex: Human – I am still endeavoring to be simply human

You could have any super power. What would it be?

Rex: To eat when hungry and sleep when tired.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Rex: Yes, I love people, I love movies and I enjoy helping anyone I can. It doesn’t mean everyone I have met I have liked but I try to. I try to emphasize the positive until proven otherwise. EVEN then I try to maintain a learning mode from an abuse rather than merely blame the other for being injurious. There is a knack to doing this and I am not always successful and what I am trying to say is this – I was recently on a movie that was a total cluster f--- a horrible experience for me – and yet all through it a couple thoughts made it more tolerable. One was – “if it is this bad for me how bad must it be for X”? The person whose project it was. This helped me not take it so personally. The other was “we are making a movie! WE ARE MAKING A MOVIE!” I love making movies and sometimes it is tough, sometimes very tough you just have to take the good with the bad. Hang in there and realize you are doing what you hoped to do. Even if the film comes out and is not what you hoped it would be – you worked it and made it happen – whatever your role or position. You are in the movie business and it is not all glamour. Try to be realistic, stay positive, treat people well, be honest, loyal, helpful and add value. There is no one more appreciated than someone who knows what to do, when to do it and does it without being asked. Make yourself irreplaceable by being the person people go to when then want or need something, OR when they want or need to feel better. Inspire others. Never be a door map, respect yourself , honor yourself and respect and honor and like others. Network and build your community – filmmaking is a collaborative effort – no one does it alone so build your community. In this community no one is too big AND no one is too small.  Today’s office assistant, or grip or PA is tomorrow’s investor, producer or distributor. Honor others first, invite them into your community, treat them really well, be there for them when they need it – and in return the can be there for you when you need it. Most important – and all these ideas are in my forthcoming book – do these things because that is the kind of person you are not because you want something from others. Do it because you really mean it. Do it from your heart.

People can tell when it is not real. When you do it because that is who you are then it is genuine not obsequious. If you aren’t that kind of person – then you should find another line of work. The movie business is a people business made up of teams working together to get a project completed.

People like and say yes to people that they. SO be likeable and like people. Heck, love them. Love making movies. Have fun and enjoy it. No matter what find the positive side. Find that place inside you that decides you can make it happen even if the going is tough. Inspire yourself and inspire others. Be thrilled and feel lucky that you get to do this because we are truly lucky when we can. Make your movies. Complete your projects and make your dreams come true. That is a wrap!

Thanks for doing the interview Rex. I'm a fan of you and your show. I always visit your site to stay update to date on your show. Keep me posted on the progress of the T.V. pilots, short and features.