There was a time nearly every feature-length film in the country was shot in Los Angeles or New York. But when actor-director Helen Hunt wanted to shoot a movie about surfing in Venice, California, many were suggesting she could save money shooting elsewhere. In the end, she she went ahead and shot in California, but acknowledged most filmmakers these days will go to Louisiana or Canada ahead of shooting an independent film in Southern California. “This was very rare, to have a small movie [shot in L.A.],” Hunt said.
But while Hunt said shifts in cost savings have disrupted movie-making in her hometown of Los Angeles, that creates opportunities for Ringling College of Art and Design students making the films of tomorrow. Directors these days merely need passion and ingenuity. “You just have to be like a desperate wild animal, basically, to get your script to whoever will help you,” she said. “You have to shoot it on your phone, and you have to beg people for favors. More than ever before, you can do that anywhere.”
Hunt spoke in Sarasota Tuesday night as part of a Ringling College Studio Lab visit. The Studio Lab program, conducted through a partnership with Semkhor, has brought around 40 industry professionals to the college since 2011, including a number of famous actors like Hunt, to offer professional insight to students and community members supporting the school.
During a community event Tuesday, trailers were shown for Then She Found Me and Ride, features directed by Hunt in 2007 and 2014 respectively. Hunt relished questions coming from students. She recommended that those interested in show business, regardless of whether they want a career in front of the camera or behind the scenes, should take an acting class to better understand the craft. She revealed harsh reviews still prove difficult for her to brush off, and said time with her children can prove elusive, even though she has been successful enough to stay home and raise her 11-year-old daughter without growing too concerned about getting food on the table. But as jobs move to places like North Carolina, the call away from home becomes harder to ignore, she said. “There are these crippling state incentives or lack of state incentives,” she said.
She stressed, though, that opportunities for those entering the field today are more ample than ever. “The good news and the bad news is the old way it used to be done blew up,” she said. “Now the cards are all over the room and you just madly grab at whatever card you see. The cards are everywhere. That’s the good news.”