Cindy Mich Interviews Paul Odgren, Filmmaker, Indie Award-Winning Films Honest Cocktail, Concession

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Interview with Indie Filmmaker Paul Odgren

Composed By: Cindy Mich

1. Making movies in 2023 is more challenging due to post pandemic predicaments. The director runs the show and steers the ship, and therefore, how did you navigate a set with such strife? Do you believe that anything positive came from these three years as far as the film industry?

The pandemic definitely made production more difficult and shut down a lot of productions. I was planning to direct a feature film in 2021, which then became impossible on our indie budget due to COVID-19 protocols. Safety comes first, so we decided to postpone production. Smaller indie productions were especially vulnerable because they did not have the deep pockets of studios and streamers to foot the bill for COVID-related expenses.

On the bright side, the pandemic forced many film festivals, collectives, and other industry events to offer virtual options that make it much easier to participate remotely. For example, being able to watch Sundance and Tribeca movies from home is a huge benefit. Before the pandemic, we’d have to fly to Utah or New York and buy an expensive pass. This would essentially price out some filmmakers, students, and many other people who’d love to participate – but couldn’t afford travel, lodging, and event prices. A lot of industry panels and networking events went virtual too, which made them a lot more accessible. That said, being able to do them in person again is really nice!


2. Let us talk about writing for a moment. You have penned three short films – so one could assume you prefer this form vs. feature films? Two of these are dramatic in nature – hence, are you an author that prefers to offer viewers more complex stories that fuel feelings instead of simplistic and short pieces? Curious to also ask how long a screenplay takes for you to complete?

Actually no – I prefer writing pilots and features. I’ve done quite a bit of longer form writing; it’s my favorite. Short films are a great way to do something small in scope that I can actually get made within a reasonable budget and time frame. This format allows me as a director to quickly get a lot of experience with different genres and collaborators. They’re also a great vehicle to industry connections through film festival screenings, which helps to get subsequent projects made.

I like to tackle stories that feel original and meaningful, that we don’t usually see on the screen. I have a huge variety of interests in many narrative genres and documentaries, so the plan is to bring all that experience to features and television.

The amount of time it takes to complete a screenplay totally depends on the project. Some come together very quickly, i.e. a few days or weeks for the bulk of it to materialize. Other times, it can take years to develop. Getting feedback and work shopping scripts with other great writers is key to knowing when something is “ready” to share or make. I put “ready” in quotes because of course it will continue to evolve through rehearsal, production, and post-production.

3. One of the many titles you carry is musical composer. It has been said that music can craft the atmosphere of a motion picture. Tell me how your lyrical creations helped to enhance the visual and emotional experiences in film and video?

Yes, I love writing music. Music sets the tone. In my short film, Concession, it creates the feeling of past memories surfacing that the main character Michael is sharing with Steph. It’s a feeling that words can’t capture; more of a subconscious function of score in that scene. Very fun to do.

For over a year I ran the video production and post production department at the world-class Heifetz Music Institute. In that time, I met a ton of students and faculty from all over the world: Juilliard, New England Conservatory, and almost every other continent. Those friendships allowed me to bring on some phenomenal musicians to perform the string piece I wrote for Concession. We recorded it in Juilliard’s studio in New York. Since I was friends with the musicians, they gave me a really good deal to fit my tiny passion project budget. So fun!

4. You are the Owner of Parallax Pictures, which is a video production company based in Worcester, Massachusetts. Please elaborate on how your business differs from others in the field, and what has been your biggest accomplishment to date? Relative to clientele, can you describe the type of projects you take? Is there a typical lead time one can expect?

I bring storytelling to my projects in a way that usually doesn’t happen with firms or agencies that are focused exclusively on certain forms of marketing. I work frequently in narrative film and documentary film, but I’ve also been hired by The Innocence Project, Duke University, Pfizer and many other clients who need a custom approach that doesn’t fit the formulaic mold we often see.

The lead time can be anywhere from a few days to a few months. I’ve shot some projects that span multiple cities and countries, including Spain and Canada. Those take more time and planning to execute. Others are short notice and need to be captured immediately, or a time-sensitive event that can’t be delayed. This happens frequently in a documentary, especially with high-profile or celebrity subjects you only have for a limited window of time.

5. Many times have I heard that it is within the editing room that a film is actually found. Would you agree with this assessment? Secondly, when you perform editing on projects that are not your own – how do you ensure that your vision and that of the creator aligns? Finally, might you offer some suggestions on the best software to use, as well as a few helpful hints on how to save time editing without sacrificing quality?

Yes! That’s often true. Essentially, once you shoot your film – the script no longer exists. You now only have the footage, and that becomes the material you’re using to create the story. What used to be on the page in preproduction and production is only a blueprint.


Getting hired as an editor and aligning your vision is really about lots of conversations with the director and producers, listening to each other, and understanding one another’s aims. It’s also important to know when to lean into the vision of the team, and when to push for changes that may benefit the end product and are harder for a writer/director to see when they’re close to a project. Good collaborators know that process and can find a balance together.

I edit in Adobe Premiere although I’m considering switching to Resolve to streamline the process of prepping for color grades when we hire outside colorists.

6. Your recent comedic film, Honest Cocktail, seems to be winning over audiences across the festival circuit. Share for us a small summary, along with where the initial inspiration for the film was found. Had you ever been concerned that the themes touched on would be considered a bit over the top? If Paul had a bit too much of whiskey, what might we learn about him?

Honest Cocktail is a comedic short film about Andrea and Greg, who are both twenty-somethings on their first Tinder date that decide to order a drink called the “Honest Cocktail.” They ignore the warning that it will force them both to tell the truth! We feel that since people are often expected by society not to publicly say what’s on their minds, it would be good comedy to create a scenario that forces out the truth at lightning speed.

We agree with our co-writer and lead actor Abby that women are often pressured to be “presentable,” so we wanted to push back by depicting flawed, messy, hilarious situations and characters who are still ultimately accepted for their genuine selves.

We are really happy that it has gotten a pretty amazing response from audiences across the country. Our team has gone from Los Angeles to New York to Boston, and we’ve had crowds actually laughing over lines and missing jokes from beginning to end. This is the best possible scenario for a comedy! The real test is getting it in a theater in front of total strangers, which is definitely nerve-wracking the first time – but extremely satisfying when it’s working and people are laughing.

The themes are just basic truths we all wrestle within the early stages of dating, so they don’t feel particularly “over the top.” Hopefully, the presentation is over the top, that’s what makes for good comedy! Particularly in a short film, you have to get to the “good stuff” right away.

Great question, having a bit too much whisky is always a way to learn things about people! What you’d learn depends on what you ask me. I am always up for it. Open invitation!

7. Presently, what are you working on? If anyone reading this article wants to view your past or present work, how would they do so? Lastly, are you open to collaboration with fellow creatives?

Right now, I’m prepping to direct two short films this summer – one of my own and one I am being hired to direct. We’re shooting the first called Maeve’s Mirror on 16mm film. It’s a very fun and exciting fantasy/horror story. The other film, Passing the Bar, (working title) is a fast-paced drama about problems in the financial industry- specifically it’s about how lack of diversity has broad economic consequences for all working-class Americans. I’m writing the film with a Korean-American woman who spent her career as a lawyer in the financial sector. We’re also interested in developing it into a TV pilot. Additionally I’m writing a satirical comedy feature script about problems in America I’d love to make in Massachusetts next year.

As for viewing my work:. a feature I produced called The Lost Footage of Leigh Sullivan is available across many VOD platforms. I was DP for most of the U.S.-based shoots on the documentary, The Price of Freedom. The story centers around a former NBA star and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Enes Freedom. The film was broadcast on Swiss TV to roughly a million live viewers and is available here: NBA feuert Basketballstar – Enes Kanter Freedoms Kampf für Menschenrechte | Reportage | SRF – YouTube

 

I directed, shot, and edited this multicamera live concert video of SoHyun Ko during my time at Heifetz- she was twelve years old when she performed this!! She and so many others there are truly amazing talents, it was a joy to watch them perform every day.

 

For fun, here’s a Star Wars recut I co-produced which was the #1 viewed prequel recut in the world with millions of views. Eventually, it was taken down for obvious and slightly hilarious copyright reasons. Star Wars: A Vergence in the Force

Honest Cocktail is still on its festival run, so it hasn’t been publicly shared. We’ll find distribution when it finishes with festivals this fall. Stay tuned, as I’m looking forward to sharing! Thanks so much for the great questions.

To learn more about Paul Odgren and his projects, visit the links below.

IMDB: https://www.imdb.me/paulodgren

FB: Honest Cocktail Film | Worcester MA | Facebook


IG: Honest Cocktail (@honestcocktail) on Instagram

Banner Image: Paul Odgren. Image Credit – Cindy Mich


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Cindy Mich

Cindy Mich is an award-winning journalist/media personality who is also a filmmaker and Founder of the independent film festival, Art is Alive, now in its seventh year. Her total listening audience is at 205,000 to date. In print, she currently contributes to various digital publications, along with having owned and operated her own publication, The Art is Alive Magazine. After eight issues, her readership was at 78,000. She performs the duties of a professional film judge, having screened over 800 films in the last few years - along with covering various film festivals as accredited media. Further, she has taught in both the public and private sector. In 2023, Cindy is adding a distribution arm to her film festival, and soon will be releasing her made for television series on medical misdiagnosis, Hurt by Healthcare.

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