I'm You, Dickhead: producer Renee Crea talks about making a hit and career pathways
Renee Crea is the producer of the witty short film I'm You, Dickhead, which has amassed over 117,000 views on YouTube in two weeks.
How did you get into producing and what was your career path?
I’ve always been interested in film. I studied film theory and production as a part of my Creative Arts degree. I experimented with weird little Super 8 and 16mm films that have never, and will never, see the light of day!
My career path meandered but I will give you the major plot points. I did an internship in a start up production company, where I production managed my first short film. From there I production managed another four shorts for AFTRS students before getting the opportunity to produce a short at AFTRS as well (Invasion, 2008). My second short film I’m You, Dickhead, has just been released online after having a good run at festivals over the past year. In between, to pay the bills, I’ve worked in screen industry marketing, publicity and communications. I now work in Development and Production at Screen NSW.
Where did this project begin and where did the idea come from?
A couple of years ago, I caught up with the director Lucas Testro for a drink. I production managed Street Angel, which was his graduating short at AFTRS. He mentioned he wanted to make another short and gave me the logline for Dickhead. I loved it immediately and offered to co-produce it without even reading the script. Big relief when I read the script and it was amazing! I recently asked the writer Larry Boxshall where he got the inspiration from and he said, “Regret.” So much funny from so much disappointment!
When did you get started on the film?
I got on board and everything happened really quickly. I think I agreed to produce in October 2013. We financed in November, and then we shot and post-produced very quickly in January through March, in order to make a MIFF 2014 deadline. Luckily we did, because we were accepted into MIFF!
How did you approach producing from the outset?
I was quite passionate about this film. I’d only produced one very serious drama before, and was excited to work on a comedy. I hopefully let that passion come through in my dealings with everyone I worked with. That’s what I mostly wanted to do – work on something that inspired me, and inspire others to do good work.
What challenges did you face putting together the film and how did you overcome them?
We did this on a shoestring budget, like every other independent filmmaker who ever drew breath. We raised $12,000 through Kickstarter, which was sensational but doesn’t go very far in the end.
That always presents challenges as you try to put together cast and crew from volunteers, and then support them in their roles with limited resources. (ALDI is every short film caterer’s best friend. As is the local BBQ chicken shop!).
We shot over two weekends so as to not conflict with regular work hours for people with day jobs.
Everything else we called in favours from anyone we could – friends gave Lucas their house for the weekend, that’s where we shot the birthday party scenes. I worked at Screenrights at the time, and my boss kindly agreed to let us film the Time Travel Clinic scenes in their spanking new offices, which fit with our mildly futuristic aesthetic.
Our key creatives were quite legendary – thrifty, passionate, dedicated. Across the board, we had a level of professionalism from our volunteer cast and crew that made me proud as punch every day.
We had to turn around post-production in four weeks to make the MIFF entry deadline. I don’t think Lucas slept much. We ended up using two Sound Designers when the schedule got too tight for just one. We were pretty determined to make the cut off and I’m so glad we did, because MIFF was a definite highlight in our festival run.
How did you manage the budget and how did you fund it?
We ran a Kickstarter campaign, which raised just over $12,000. We also applied for a Metro Screen Jumpstart subsidy, and we received $3,000 worth of hire and services. All the cast and crew worked on full deferrals. Come to think of it, I honestly don’t know how we managed it and it’s giving me heart palpitations! I need to calm down and remind myself the film is complete and in distribution.
What was the reaction to the film and what have you done to promote it?
The reaction to the film has been overwhelmingly positive. We identified key festivals to enter into, and it played at Palm Springs International Short Fest, MIFF, Fantasia, Austin Film Festival, DC Shorts and Flickerfest. It got into heaps more, but once it started its run we were contacted from other festival programmers who invited us to screen. I think Palm Springs is an important festival for North America, because programmers attend and work from that catalogue. And our film seems to have resonated with the North American audience. They like the genre and the sense of humor has struck a chord. Other than Italy, we haven’t had any traction in Europe, or the UK.
We released it on YouTube this month (August, 2015). Lucas and I spent a lot of time and effort developing an online strategy – which went completely out the window and the film has gone viral all by itself! We pitched the media release into outlets that we identified as key influencers, and only a couple of those outlets picked it up – but then someone posted it on Reddit, and that thread was seen by a pop culture - YouTube star in the States, who then promoted us to his 500k+ followers across his various social media channels. In the words of Dickhead’s character Larry, ‘I think that’s what happened,’
Why did you decide to make the film available for free?
We just wanted to reach as large an audience as possible. The commercial opportunities for a short film are limited anyway, so why not? We also have a sales agent that we have signed with on a non-exclusive basis, so they’re repping us internationally and we’ve had a couple of sales so far.
The film has recently had 100,000 hits on YouTube, how did you achieve this and has this lead to any new opportunities?
As previously mentioned, the film has gone viral. Word of mouth is still the strongest marketing tool there is and it’s so hard to quantify. You can try to generate it, but it happens naturally if the film works. It helps that Lucas (the director) knows his audience really well – the comic book, action movie, ComicCon crowd. I think it’s appealing to that audience segment because Lucas is one of them and and wrote and directed it with those fans in mind. He’s littered the film with time travel Easter Eggs that everyone is having a good time ferreting out. Dickhead found its audience. People like it, they think it’s funny and they want to share it with their friends. Hopefully it will lead to more opportunities but it’s still to early to say.
What do you hope to get out of the experience with the film?
With this film, I really wanted to entertain an audience. I think that achievement is unlocked! In future, I want to work more in a comedy space as a producer, so this is helping me step in that direction.
Any final tips?
It’s like, “before you can love others, you have to love yourself.” Be passionate about the story you’re telling. You can’t expect other people to love it unless you do. Filmmaking is very challenging, so the only thing that will keep you going is a genuine love of what you’re making.