Jim Cliffe directs Danny Glover in first feature

Here’s the most recent post from Jason Brubaker at FilmmakingStuff.com:

Jim Cliffe directs Danny Glover in first feature

As a filmmaker, it is essential that you have a crystal clear vision for your movie. From there, you must take the necessary steps to make your imaginings your reality. For first time feature filmmaker Jim Cliffe, this involved working with Danny Glover and Bruce Greenwood. In the following filmmaking interview, he shares insight on how he was able to make his dream a reality.

Jason Brubaker
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?

Jim Cliffe
My name’s Jim Cliffe. I am a writer and director in Canada, and just finished my first feature, Donovan’s Echo. It is a supernatural mystery, starring Danny Glover.

Jason Brubaker
Before your feature, how did you get started in filmmaking?

Jim Cliffe
Filmmaking has always been a passion, but it never seemed like an attainable goal growing up. Instead, I funneled my creative love of movies into art which later led to a career. I made a lot of video shorts as a kid, trying to mimic sequences from movies like Indiana Jones, figuring out how they made a scene work.

Jason Brubaker
That sounds like a great start. When did you start thinking about filmmaking professionally?

Jim Cliffe
With the indie film boom of the 90’s, it started seeming like it might possible to somehow break in. I studied film in post-secondary, got involved with my community’s independent filmmaking society, went to film festivals, workshops, volunteered on other people’s projects, and when I thought I was ready, I made my first professional short, Tomorrow’s Memoir, for a budget of $2000.

Jason Brubaker
And how was Tomorrow’s Memoir received?

Jim Cliffe
Tomorrow’s Memoir went on to win an award at the San Diego Comic-Con and got some great reviews along the way. From there, I set out to try and make the leap from a short film to a feature, knowing I’d have to write something myself and that it would have to be good enough for people to get behind.

Jason Brubaker
And that was Donovan’s Echo?

Jim Cliffe
Yes. Prior to the Donovan’s Echo, I have had a career as professional artist, mostly comic-style illustration and a little bit of animation. I’ve also done some storyboarding for other film projects.

Jason Brubaker
What inspired you to make Donovan’s Echo?

Jim Cliffe
The idea sparked after a moment of déjà vu. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that there may be an interesting concept to explore – why do we experience déjà vu, what does it mean? I discussed an idea with my then-girlfriend (who is now my wife), Melodie, who is a writer. I asked if she wanted to get involved, and we started fleshing out a story.

Jason Brubaker
What is your story about?

Jim Cliffe
Donovan’s Echo is a story about a man, Donovan (Danny Glover), who returns home 30 years after the tragic death of his family. As the anniversary of that fateful week approaches, he begins to find eerie similarities between current events involving a young neighbor girl (Natasha Calis), and events from his past. He becomes obsessed with trying to understand a pattern within the déjà vu experiences, so he can prevent a similar tragedy.

Jason Brubaker
Sounds mysterious. What about Bruce Greenwood? What role does he play?

Jim Cliffe
Bruce Greenwood’s character is an old friend who questions his sanity. It’s a movie about loss and redemption that takes it’s time to unfold. There are some nice twists and turns, a bit of humor and heart.

Jason Brubaker
With all indie films, getting financing is a challenge. Did budget constraints alter the script at all?

Jim Cliffe
There were minimal changes due to budget. For example, a conversation scene in a coffee shop became a scene on a front porch. But considering we originally wrote the script with a small budget in mind, we really didn’t change too much.

Jason Brubaker
That’s always the trick… To bring production value to the screen.

Jim Cliffe
The story did present logistical challenges as we had so many locations, stunts and time periods, which was pretty ambitious for a film of our size (just under $3M) with a 20-day shooting schedule. But our producers were pretty savvy, and we somehow pulled it off.

Jason Brubaker
Outside of money, what was your biggest challenge?

Jim Cliffe
The biggest challenge was mostly time, which I suppose indirectly ties into money. You can only do so many setups and takes before you have to move on. It means you not only have to hustle, but you’re also not going to get the opportunity to be as creative as you’d like.

Jason Brubaker
What did you do in prep to keep your production efficient?

Jim Cliffe
I had storyboarded the movie and came up with some elaborate sequences, but I just didn’t have the luxury of time. Fortunately, our cinematographer, Bob Aschmann, did a fantastic job maintaining the style and aesthetic I was after. A lot of people think our movie is bigger than it was as a result.

Jason Brubaker
Did Danny Glover and Bruce Greenwood let you ‘direct’?

Jim Cliffe
Danny and Bruce were fantastic. They both responded to the material and were willing to take a chance on me as a first-time filmmaker. They both treated me with respect and would listen to my suggestions. But the truth is guys like that don’t require much direction. They bring a lot to the scene as talented professionals.

Jason Brubaker
What advice do you have for filmmakers who want to do what you’re doing?

Jim Cliffe
Develop a thick skin, and realize you’re going to have way more rejections than those willing to help you get your movie made. It’s a very tough industry to break in, but my advice would be to pay your dues, hone your craft, broaden your network, and don’t rush your good ideas – take the time to nurture them. You only get one chance to pitch an idea or a script, so make sure it’s as fine-tuned as it can be. Ask for constructive feedback, but don’t get defensive. If 3 out of 5 people are bringing up the same points, then maybe you should listen. It’s a long road and there’s no specific path, but where there’s a will, there’s often a way.

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Jim Cliffe is a writer and director based in Canada. He just finished my first feature, Donovan’s Echo. It is a supernatural mystery, starring Danny Glover and Bruce Greenwood.

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About Jason Brubaker

Jason Brubaker is a Hollywood based Independent Motion Picture Producer and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. He is focused on helping YOU make, market and sell movies more easily by growing your fan base, building buzz and creating community around your title. He is also available for speaking engagements.

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