Hello. I’m director/editor Frank Stamm. A few years ago I challenged myself. I decided that with no prior experience making films I would become a world-class director within ten Youtube videos. I am past the mid-point on my way to the tenth video. If you have an interest in no-budget filmmaking, won’t you join me on my journey to becoming a world-class director? Here, walk with me. I will catalog my filmic efforts and tell you what’s gone right, and what’s gone wrong. Join me in my march to be known worldwide as “Sodock’s (hick town in Western New York State) Mad Director”.
The first of my ten films:
My first film/video was a 3 minute goof called “Living Simply” (2008). My original plan was to release a number of short comedy videos on Youtube hoping that one of them would go viral. I lost interest in that pursuit quickly. “Living Simply” starred Del Rivers (soon to become ever-present in my films), and the basic script was provided by Vice Admiral Richard Gagnier, who asked not to receive credit for it. The film was shot with a borrowed video camera that had fairly grainy resolution.
The second of my ten films:
For my second film, “Erin Go Braughless” (10 minutes, 2008), I wanted to make something that flowed like a film, with a number of scenes, and dialogue between actors, etc. I began filming though I only had a very rough script drawn, the concept provided by Vice Admiral Richard Gagnier, with me scripting the thing on the fly. I figured with a shitty camera and actors who were amateur level, it didn’t make a lot of sense to script something complicated and intelligently, because there was no way the film was going to work out to be something complicated and intelligent. The script concept had to do with an Irish factory town where the workers have no pride, because they’re in the business of manufacturing training bras. About midway through the film they decide to manufacture bras of steel.
One of the best things I can say about this film is that music was provided by a local indie band, at that time called The Shiloh Wild Band, now called Fudge Club. I have reused the Irishy music they provided for this video in other videos of mine, such as over the end credits in “The Blind Neighbor”. Something else good thing about the film was that it added to my stable of actors Craig Watkins.
The third of my ten films:
My third film was a remake of my second, this time around called “Cotton No More” (10 minutes, 2009), and set in America rather than in Ireland. The film was meant to feel grittier than its predecessor. Rich scripted dialogue for the film this time, and he has continued to script dialogue for my films. On these early films I was basically formalizing working arrangements with a screenplay writer, certain musicians, and certain actors.
The fourth of my ten films:
My fourth, “Dictator for Hire” (3 minutes, 2009), was a monologue that I wrote on the way to work one day, with only a couple lines adjusted by Rich. Del again starred in this one. The character outlined in this video would be expanded on for my next film.
The fifth of my ten films:
“Cypress Springs” (2010) was 35 minutes long, longer than the first four videos together. It has lot of mistakes in it, but it was the one that really made a filmmaker out of me. It’s not hard to keep a viewer’s attention for ten minutes, but pretty difficult to keep it for over 20 minutes. You really have to think about story and flow.
“Cypress” included all the actors from my other films (Del Rivers – from all my prior films, Craig Watkins – from “Erin Go Braughless”, and James Greco from “Cotton No More”), as well as additional actors. It would be the last film I’d make with a home video camera. I couldn’t see editing something for months when the quality of the video image was lacking to begin with.
“Cypress” is a mess, with unwanted wind and traffic noise in parts (I didn’t have a mic with a windscreen at the time), and crooked images due to a sub-par tripod without a level, and a missing line of dialogue that makes one conversation a little senseless, but I also believe the film contains about 20 – 30% of one of the great films of our times. It’s a comedy, but it’s also about an America in decline, and a longing for the simple black and whites of our youth. Maybe one day I’ll remake it the right way. I outlined this one, with Rich scripting. Here is "Cypress Springs" in five parts: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.
A scene from "Cypress Springs" with an audience reacting to it can be found in an overview of films #5 thru #8.
The sixth of my ten films:
“The Blind Neighbor” (7 minutes, 2011) has funny history. It was actually filmed years earlier by a film student (Jamie Bulmahn) who had a decent camera. I edited and co-directed, and came up with the initial concept, with Rich scripting. In terms of image quality, it was the best thing I’d released, but in terms of script, it was written in the "Cotton No More" era, more or less. I got around to editing it following “Cypress”, and so it was released after “Cypress”. It debuted on July 25th, 2011, at Rochester's Little Theater's “Emerging Filmmakers Series”. I deleted a line from it I thought might hurt its chances of being shown at The Little. There is also a version of this film online that includes audio of an audience reacting to it in Sodock, New York, at my first film retrospective.
The seventh of my ten films:
“Sandwich” (5 minutes, 2012) -- When "The Blind Neighbor” played at a local movie theater, one of the audience members said he’d like to see a sequel. That’s all the encouragement I need apparently. I was walking in a forested area called Corbett’s Glen and had an idea about being pursued by a wild animal in that setting. I then thought about placing the two characters from "The Blind Neighbor" in that situation. The film was shot very quickly. The first day we tried to film we were rained out basically, so we tried once more on another day – when the rain seemed about to pour any second. We rushed through our takes as quickly as possible. The film isn’t what you’d call a step beyond “The Blind Neighbor", but is a pretty respectable sequel. WLGZ deejay Chuck McCoy buoys both films with his comic delivery.
A scene from "Sandwich" with an audience reacting to it can be found in an overview of films #5 thru #8.
“The Norm Karsh Profile” (11 minutes, 2012) was a miracle film, in that any reasonable person wouldn’t have finished it. During the editing of the film, computers broke down, editing programs also stopped working, computers were purchased and returned, new programs were installed/tried/uninstalled, new edits were built from the ground up, there were many technical issues, more. In the end the film is a little bit of madness that opened the floodgates to my working bluer (more risqué) material into future films. Has its faults but it was only the first of two "Western New York Artist Profiles", the second profile being a much smoother product. "The Norm Karsh Profile" played at Rochester’s Little Theater on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 and Saturday, July 28th, 2012 as part of their "Filmmakers Quarterly" series.
The ninth of my ten films:
The second Western New York Artist profile: "The Fudge Club Profile" (38 minutes, 2013). This film, my longest to date, and with much higher production values than the next longest ("Cypress Springs") debuted on June 8th, 2013 at Rochester's South Presbyterian Church. This film may be considered my first real film -- the first not to have any distracting technical errors. I may work on a shorter version of the film as well for festival submissions.
The tenth and eleventh of my ten films:
Video #11, “The Astronaut Upstairs”, is my biggest project so far, is ultra scripted and a project that will take more than 2 years to complete. In the time it takes to complete, I will have also begun and finished any number of smaller projects, such as “The Norm Karsh Profile”, “Sandwich”, and more. Video #10 (“Ben Hur”) is sort of the flip side of Video #11: it’s something that wasn’t fully scripted and is being allowed to grow as it goes. It’s a video for ‘blowing off steam’ while working on the more major “Astronaut” and smaller scripted projects such as “Karsh” and “Sandwich”. And, in a way, #10 is almost the perfect video to cap off my early years making films – It’s a combination of a number of forms I’ve been working on these last few years: music videos, nonfiction pieces, and narrative work. In fact, you’d have some idea for what “Ben Hur” will feel like if you watched my music video “Duesenberg (All the Way)” followed by my video of a presentation by Kenyatta DaCosta, followed by one of my narrative pieces such as “Sandwich”. If you can imagine those things somehow hung together – or shoved together in small container and microwaved, you’d have some idea where “Ben Hur” is going.
I have also worked on some nonfiction projects/experiments over the years I’ve been working on the films described above. These can be found on Youtube. They include music videos for the band Fudge Club.