indieactivity: Give a background of your personal experience with the story, writing, production and marketing
Stacey Maltin: I had this idea percolating in my head about a girl who is homeless but doesn’t look like society’s typical idea of homelessness. She gets by crashing on people’s couches who, either like her or want to take care of her and she stays until she wears out her welcome. As I was writing I started volunteering in homeless shelters around New York City and did a lot of research with homeless young people and especially young women which really helped with the authenticity in the story.
I showed the script to my partner Dani Tenenbaum who is my fellow filmmaker on the project and director of the film. He really responded to the story and began volunteering with me. Because of our desire to shed light on the homeless population not just through art but also through action we ended up partnering with the Midnight Mission Shelter in Los Angeles during our festival release to drive people to action by donating and volunteering with them after seeing the film.
indieactivity: Did you start writing with a cast (You or any) in mind?
Stacey Maltin: I come from an acting background. I’ve been acting since I was a little kid. Even though Chrissie’s story isn’t told through a personal lens they say you always write yourself and there is a lot of me infused into the character. I did write her with me in mind to play her but it was definitely scary to take that on. I was lucky that Dani believed in me as a performer and even when I doubted myself he never wanted to cast anyone else. I always had Jay DeYonker in mind to play Avi. He’s been a close friend and collaborator for years and I knew he would bring humour and fun to those scenes.
Our casting directors were super important for the rest of the lead roles. They suggested Ben Rappaport as David and as soon as we saw his work in Outsourced we knew that he was right for the all-American romantic leading man. They also suggested E’dena Hines for Cece and when she stepped into the audition room and the two of us read together we had a chemistry right away that Dani was so excited about.
indieactivity: How long did you take to complete the script? (Do you have a writing process?)
Stacey Maltin: It took about two months to complete a first draft of the script. After that it evolved first with notes from Dani and then notes from our producers. When the cast was on board things came up in rehearsal that I then edited and changed and fit to the personalities of the people who were now living and breathing these characters. When I’m writing I start with an idea and a general outline and then I just start going with it. I don’t map out all the scenes ahead of time, I just sort of run with where the characters take me.
indieactivity: During production, what scene (that made the cut) was the hardest to shoot?
Stacey Maltin: The homeless shelter scenes were the hardest personally for me. We had to shoot a lot in only two days and the scenes had a lot of levels emotionally for both myself and E’dena. At some point we were pressed for time and didn’t pick up as much b-roll as we wanted to use later in editing. I do think that our connection in those scenes is really strong and that’s what carries them along.
indieactivity: You wrote and acted in the film, what measure of input did it take to don these hats?
Stacey Maltin: On the one hand it made it easy because I felt like I understood my character and her desires on such a deep level. On the other hand wearing so many hats on set is always a challenge but I’m lucky that I have a collaborator like Dani who I trust so completely as a director and a lead producer like Marzy Hart who I trusted to handle the set. Having a good team makes independent filmmaking work.
indieactivity: Is there anything about the independent filmmaking business you still struggle with?
Stacey Maltin: So many things! As a filmmaker I feel like I’m constantly learning new parts of the craft. It’s an exciting journey.
indieactivity: Where do you think your strengths line as a filmmaker?
Stacey Maltin: I think I see scripts in terms of images. Filmmaking is a visual medium so when I write I try to layer in the world of the film that people can see in their heads. They say a picture can speak a thousand words and I really believe it’s true. I don’t think you have to have pages and pages of dialogue or description if clear images will do the same trick. I like my audience to feel viscerally what my characters are going through and serve that through the cinematography.
indieactivity: Let’s talk finance, How did you get finance for a film?
Stacey Maltin: We pieced it together through a mix of investors, tax credits, donations, in kind barters, and our own money.
indieactivity: How important is marketing? Do you think a project can make any dent without it these days?
Stacey Maltin: Marketing is super important. I absolutely think that independent filmmakers have to utilize social media. Our audience really enjoyed and responded to being let in on our filmmaking process and the fact that we had so much behind the scenes documented with cast interviews and more from set really helped when we got distribution. Some of that footage was used on outlets like CNN, Cheddar, and Broadway World. If we hadn’t had it I don’t know if they would have been as interested.
indieactivity: Can you tell us about your marketing activities on the project – and how it’s gone for you?
Stacey Maltin: We were really lucky that there was so much interest in the project. Dani, Ben, and I were interviewed on Cheddar Network on the floor of the NYSE as well as on iheartRadio q104.3. Dani and I did a live interview on CNN which focused on the homeless aspect of the film. I think all of this propelled the film to be in the top ten independent films on iTunes with other films that were much bigger than ours. Our publicist Heather Burgett was really on her game and we’re so lucky to have had her as a part of our strategy.
indieactivity: What do you hope audiences get from your film?
Stacey Maltin: I think these days there is so much polarization in America. People tend to see things in very stark black and white terms. Is something good or bad? Are you left or right? ‘Landing Up’ lives in shades of grey. We love and root for the characters but they do things that could be construed as morally unethical. I want people to take away from the film that people are complicated. Life is complicated. There is often more to a story than what meets the eye.
indieactivity: What else have you got in the works?
Stacey Maltin: Our next feature film ‘Head’ is currently in development and we hope to film in 2019. It’s the story of a queer millennial in a changing world. I also have a series called ‘Linked’ in development. We shot a pilot and are now in the process of pitching the series to a variety of places.
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