Interview with director/producer Rawn Erickson II

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I was sneaking into movie theaters since I was young. I think I’ve watched at least a film a day since I was a kid. It never occurred to me that I could do it until I got a cheap hi8 camera and started shooting. Being able to take an idea or moment in life and trap it in time for the first time was empowering and set me into a life in media.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Absolutely not. There are so many tools now to bring stories to life. Our phones are cameras and social media our theaters. What film school gives you is an opportunity to focus and hone technical skills, and a
network of people to work with once you’re done. But “success” doesn’t come from technical skills, although they help, it comes from action, creating with what you have at your disposal, learning from mistakes. Rinse and repeat.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

To keep going. There is rejection, massive effort, failed execution. There is a reason so many people drop out of a life in the arts. You’re putting your ideas out for everyone to see and criticize. And more often than not it will fall on deaf ears and fail to make an impact. To execute your first idea is magic. To continue to weather the storm over and over takes a very strong constitution.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

Have a hot tub on set. It changes the game.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

I wanted to have lush green nature, but it was also the middle of winter. Finding somewhere with no snow was tough. We ended up in Santa Cruz hundred of miles from where I live in Los Angeles. Upon arrival our Airbnb lost power in a windstorm and we had to find a hotel late at night to accommodate us, we got 2 hours of sleep. The makeup took longer than expected (8 hours) and by the time we were done half of our shooting day was gone. We had to throw our whole schedule out the window and shoot
extremely fast. Then a global pandemic and I was editing over zoom from my bathtub.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Choosing the locations. Everything was gorgeous picking a spot that was pretty and accessible was tough.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Most of my friends are artists which makes it easy. Everyone else is sourced from their recommendations. Trusting is the way to keep everything cool. Trusting people’s abilities giving them space to do what they do, allows them to do their best work and a have strong feeling of ownership over the project.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Audiences want to laugh, cry, Connect, and question. beyond that I don’t think people want anything more specific, just whatever will delivers these things. And It is our role to worry. The creation of art is for an audience It’s a trap to try and predict trends, but it’s important to have a strong message and to communicate it succinctly.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Film Festivals have been great fun. Before Covid it was a great place to meet other creators and see things you wouldn’t ordinarily get to see. 3rd party validation is cool and all but filmmaking is a collaboration all around we need support and to see other perspectives. Festival Curators and organizers are the chefs and to get the the most out of it is to enjoy the meal and the company.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think the two are not mutually exclusive.

  • What qualities or attributes do you look for in people you are looking to employ or work with?

Down to earth, passionate but calm, and great listeners and communicators. Fragile ego is the death of Creativity and enjoyment so get that away from me.

  • Would you recommend writers think like a producer when writing their script? Or, just write with reckless abandon and then worry about the cost, or whatever, after they’ve grabbed a producer’s attention.

I work in literary management and production. So I see both sides. Both takes have value. The reality is there are 2500 movies made a year around the world, around 700 in the US, 150 are studios films a small fraction of those are blockbuster budget films. 50,000+ registered screenplays per year. As a new writer show casing your abilities is important. But creating boundaries in genre and scope focus your chances so much more. Most high budget films are written by proven ‘guns for hire’ just to put it in

  • How involved in the writing of a project do you get? Are you more involved in the initial development?

I like to as much of everything…as long as it serves the end project and not my ego.

  • If you had an unlimited budget at your disposal, what would be your dream production project?

Surf Beavers.

  • What does the future of film look like?

Film will go the way of the opera. A niche art form.