ALTERNATE ROUTES: Harnessing Your Home State – Film Collectives and the Nutmeg Institute

Film collectives are popping up around the country. Marty Lang shares information about a new collective dedicated to filmmaking in the Nutmeg State that gives state residents a place to go to help make their projects happen, a place they call the Nutmeg Institute.

Marty Lang is a screenwriter, filmmaker, journalist and educator. His feature writing/directing debut, RISING STAR, was acquired for worldwide distribution by Content Film in 2013. His producing credits include the 2016 Independent Spirit Award-nominated OUT OF MY HAND, and BEING MICHAEL MADSEN, starring Michael Madsen, Virginia Madsen and Daryl Hannah. Twitter: @marty_lang.

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Film collectives are popping up around the country. Marty Lang shares information about a new collective dedicated to filmmaking in the Nutmeg State that gives state residents a place to go to help make their projects happen, a place they call the Nutmeg Institute.

A team-oriented approach to making independent film and television is a strong way to increase your resources, find collaborators, and develop a regional cast and crew base. In a previous column, I reported on many of the film collectives popping up around the country. In December, three filmmaking friends in Connecticut decided to forge a similar path, combining their talents and efforts to create a new collective dedicated to filmmaking in the Nutmeg State. They want to give state residents a place to go to help make their projects happen, a place they call the Nutmeg Institute.

The idea for the Institute began a year ago, when CEO Trish Clark and Director of Outreach Patrick Whalen were helping produce the Independent Film and TV Festival in Manchester, Vermont. As Connecticut residents, they were interested in creating something at home. Which made sense, because they’re heavily involved in the state independent film scene; Clark has been the director of the New Haven, Connecticut 48 Hour Film Project since 2010, and Whalen has worked on a number of web series shot in the state. So they brought in Creative Director Michael Field, a writer/director/producer, to discuss how they could do so. They also spent time talking with folks at the San Diego Film Consortium, Detroit Film Society and Austin Film Society to learn more about the types of benefits the collective could provide.

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Their early conversations centered around helping new storytellers come up in the film community.

“In talking about what we wanted, having conversations with working creatives and filmmakers, and learning what was missing we started to formulate the ideas for Nutmeg,” Whalen explained. “It became not just about filmmaking or bringing filmmaking back or being a film festival, but about preparing and helping creators to tell stories in this age of new media.”

So they decided their new venture would focus on creating a community of filmmakers and storytellers, giving strangers a chance to become friends and collaborators.

“When you’re with a group of creatives, the atmosphere is electric with possibility,” Whalen said. “I think if we can build a place where people are comfortable working together and finding common ground, we’ve succeeded.”

Field also stressed that the practical challenges of filmmaking were something he wanted to address.

“When I first started telling stories in the early 90s, there wasn’t an organization in place that could help me with the questions I had,” he said. “Where to rent equipment? What does a crew consist of? How to get talent? Simple, filmmaking questions. This is what I want Nutmeg to become. A beacon in the state for emerging filmmakers looking to tell their stories in whatever format.”

Field knows of what he speaks. He was nominated for a Writers Guild Award last year for Outstanding Writing in New Media, is a 2015 Nicholl semi-finalist, and created two Web series and a feature. He feels the Institute can provide exposure and guidance for new Connecticut writers.

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“As a screenwriter, what helps me is hearing from other screenwriters and how they tackle challenges,” he said. “What their writing process consists of, so I don’t feel weird when I’m tacking notecards to walls and making outlines. I’d like to see Nutmeg host writing workshops throughout the state. I like the idea of having small writing contests with little-to-no fee, just to expose all of us to the writing in the state.”

More than just a writing resource, however, the Institute aims to connect Connecticut filmmakers with resources specific to the state. As Clark notes, the area has all four seasons, and the state has every location you think of, from farms to mansions. She also sees an opportunity to differentiate Connecticut from states that rely on big-budget productions.

“We can be creating smaller budget works with local crew and businesses,” Clark said. “It will take time, but if we all put in the effort and work together, this could be the ‘Hollywood East’ that has been talked about for years.”

This idea of “Hollywood East” is one that many east coast states have tried to build over the years, with tax credits and state government efforts to make production easier for films and television shows. New York and Massachusetts, for example, both states bordering Connecticut, have active film production communities, and Whalen thinks it’s important not to insulate filmmakers from opportunities outside their state’s borders.

“A lot of our filmmakers and creators travel to those surrounding areas for work,” he explained. “We need to embrace what’s around us and how they make it work and adapt for our own purposes. We have a ton of filmmakers come from other states for the New Haven 48-Hour Film Project, and they come for the camaraderie and meeting other people. That level of community is something we need.”

Whalen says that through the 48-Hour Film Project, they’ve been able to connect with local film commissions, along with the state Office of Film, Television and Digital Media. They also look to emulate the efforts of one particularly successful film state.

“Eventually, we would like to emulate what Georgia does with their Camera Ready Communities,” he said. “They’ve created a sustainable film industry down there, not by getting lucky but by being prepared in all corners of their state.”

In the short term, the Institute plans to reach out to film festivals that take place in the state, along with an educational company called Skills 21, which provides film curriculum to state high schools. They’re also starting with small events, like monthly movie brunches (their first one is January 14 where they’re showing DIE HARD). Their first educational event will be with screenwriter/professor Richard Krevolin in March, partly focused on screenwriting and partly on storytelling for businesses (since we all need to pay the bills while chasing our dreams).

Now here’s the most interesting thing about this collective: all three members of the executive team have full-time jobs! They’re not full-time film professionals, but they love telling stories enough to put the energy into making these connections and providing these opportunities. In your local area, there are similar organizations and groups that you could partner up with. If you have a story that just needs to be told, maybe creating your own collective can be the way to make it a reality.

(And if you do, let me know about it so I can write about it in a future column!)

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