Take, for example, Filmingo Films, an Salt Lake City-based production company that has been creating commercials for big-name companies, while at the same time producing its own short docs and creative pieces for people to check out. The group of friends have been going strong at it for two years now, with a body of work rivaling that of local TV stations and indie filmmakers. Today, I chat with the trio of founders about starting the company up and projects they are working on, along with their thoughts on the local film scene. (All pictures courtesy of Filmingo Films.)
(L-R) Chris Mills, Cameron Goold and Curtis Woodbury (with Parker in red)
Gavin: Hey, guys. First off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Cam: I was born in Boston, moved to Chicago but have spent most of my time in Utah. I have always loved art. When I was in kindergarten, we were assigned to draw something, I chose to draw a basketball game. I think this was the moment that someone noticed that I was, in at least one way, different from other kids. I took the time to draw each fan in the crowd in detail, with noses and eyes and ears. From day one, I have enjoyed art.
Chris: I am Utah-born-and-raised. I love to read, and I have turned that passion to writing, both creative and non-fiction. I am currently going to the University of Utah and majoring in journalism.
Curtis: My name is Curtis Woodbury. I was born in Mesa, Arizona, but then quickly moved to Utah, where I’ve spent the majority of my life. I got introduced to photography during my junior year at high school, and have since moved on into the realm of video making.
Gavin: How did each of you first take an interest in filmmaking, and what were some early influences on you?
Cam: I mean, I always loved movies. I can remember what Disney movies could make me cry as a kid. From very early on, I loved when a movie could "make me feel." I would say the moment that I actually knew that I wanted to make movies was in seventh-grade ceramics class. We had to watch the behind-the-scenes video for Finding Nemo and I was absolutely entranced. I knew from that moment on I wanted to be involved in film. As far as influences, I think I had very little exposure to films growing up. My influences were limited to the movies that my family had, and my parents aren't exactly the "movie watching" type. So, I was limited to Forest Gump and Seinfeld, so honestly, those have been some of the most influential stuff in my life as far as film goes. I had trouble with insomnia as a kid and I would watch Forest Gump or Seinfeld when I would try to fall asleep. It became sort of a ritual for me, and so I have seen Forest Gump and every episode of Seinfeld many, many times. Curtis, Chris and I started making stupid little videos trying to be funny when we were probably 11-12 years old. We kept making video throughout high school and entered a few video contests and made a few videos for school projects.
Chris: My interest in film began with my love of stories. I love any media that can provide me with a good, evocative story. I began with writing short stories, and then those stories slowly grew into novellas and more. Now, I enjoy writing for film. The process of taking an idea and turning it into something we can put on the screen is a fascinating experience for me that I find very fulfilling, even if the film is just a 30-second commercial.
Curtis: Personally, I got into filmmaking because I felt that photography a was less promising career path, and because I enjoyed telling a story through video more than capturing still images. And with the introduction of HD video on DSLR cameras, I knew that this was my chance to get my feet wet and, hopefully, make some great films.
Gavin: Did each of you go to college to study film, or were you more self-taught?
Curtis: Chris is a student at the U and majoring in journalism. Cam is a student at Salt Lake Community College and is finishing his associate's -- hasn’t taken any film classes, but is planning on going to the U of U film school in the fall; I'm absolutely against film school.
Gavin: When did the three of you all meet and become friends?
Cam: We met when we were about eight years old. We met through Boy Scouts and became lifelong friends. We all live on the same block so we have all been really close growing up.
Gavin: What kind of films had you created as a group prior to formally making a company?
Cam: As I said earlier, it was pretty much limited to school projects and our own stupid little videos. At the beginning of last year, we won an online video contest for Breyer's Ice Cream, filmed a few events -- weddings and parties of a sort. We filmed a little commercial for a guy who lives in our neighborhood. After we became a legit LLC, we started doing lots of commercials and music videos.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up a production company, and where did the name Filmingo come from?
Cam: Like I said, I knew from a pretty young age that film was what I wanted to do. I was in Brazil on an LDS mission and I had developed a game plan to start making films when I got home. Curtis returned from his mission in Switzerland a few months prior to me, and by the time I got home, he had already purchased a camera and the rest just kind of came together. Curtis, Chris and I sat down a few weeks after I got back and we made it "official" and we came up with our game plan and the name of Filmingo Films.
Curtis: How we came up with the name "Filmingo Films" is a long story. In our youth, our group of friends wanted to create a fort, like most young boys do, but none of our yards had a tree large enough to build a tree house. Forts on the ground are much too boring for a group of rowdy 12-year-old boys, so we decided that instead of building the fort up in the air, how about under the ground? We began digging in Chris’ backyard, expanding a small pit that had been previously dug. We spent multiple summers digging what would become labeled as “The Pit,” each year expanding the size of the pit and our plans. We were going to build an underground club called “Club Flamingo” and hang a neon sign on the door. It would be the ultimate hangout spot, with a TV, various video-game consoles, a mini fridge and, randomly, a pizza oven. With the goal in mind, we expanded the pit to its largest size: 10 feet long, 6 feet deep and 6 feet across. After years of digging, we were ready to begin building. We built a wooden platform to act as the floor, and on the day to lower it into the pit, it did not fit. After hours of struggling the floor finally slid into place, but not nearly as perfectly as originally planned. Eventually, a roof was added, and as a christening moment we decided to give the pizza oven a test drive. The major flaw in this plan was that the chimney was made out of PVC, which we did not know was incredibly flammable. After almost burning the entire project to the ground and the near death of multiple members of our crew via severe smoke inhalation, the dream of Club Flamingo was tarnished. The clubhouse never recovered. But, the dream lived on. The name of the club carried over to our other ventures, and when we sat down to come up with a name, we decided upon Filmingo Films, combining our youthful dream and our future film projects into one.
Gavin: What was it like getting the equipment together and establishing yourselves as a company?
Cam: Using money in our savings accounts, and generous loans from parents, we were able to procure a camera and a laptop with video-editing software, which allowed us to start out. In the beginning, we were desperate for work. We looked on Craigslist, we filmed weddings, we participated in video contests; anything that came our way took. However, we looked forward to the day where we could finally decline jobs that didn’t interest us.
Gavin: What were some of the first pieces you put together for people, and what was the public reaction to their release?
Cam: One of the first things we did after officially becoming an LLC was a music video for Hurris and Gig, a local rap duo. I met Hurris at a party and we got talking about a music video. Later, we met with them and came up with an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sort of themed music video. It was a lot of fun and we learned a ton, mostly how much work it takes to make a music video. People loved it and I think that might have been the first piece we did that actually started earning respect for us. We also got invited to participate in a video assignment for Clinique. The idea Clinique wanted us to capture was. "How do you make someone happy?" We conceptualized and storyboarded an idea we really liked. It included using my sister in-law's grandfather, who is 97 years old. From there, it just kept getting better and better.
Gavin: How did you get involved with filming commercials for companies, and how does that work differ for you compared to filming short videos or films?
Cam: Lots of the jobs to film commercials have come via a site called Poptent. It hosts various video assignments for some of the biggest brands in the world. At first, we only had access to the assignments that were open to the public, but as time passed and we were proving ourselves more and more, we started to get to work on "invite-only" assignments, and so now, we are starting to work one on one with various brands.
Gavin: What are some more famous commercials people may have seen that you've put together for national companies?
Curtis: We’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of national companies, including Breyer’s Ice Cream, Clinique, and Abbott Pharmaceuticals. Our spot for Breyer’s was shown on national television, Clinique shared our video via social media to all of its followers, and over 600,000 people watched our video entitled The Struggle: A Man Facing Addiction, which we shared on our YouTube channel; it was also the most popular video on YouTube for two days in a row.
Gavin: Some of your shorter pieces have been humorous, like Our Love and Bucket List, but then you hit powerful themes, like The Struggle. How do you decide what kind of films you wish to make?
Cam: Most of our personal video ideas come when we are just hanging out with our friends -- road trips, parties, playing Xbox, etc. We just think of a funny idea, or a funny character or a funny voice, and our imaginations run wild. After laughing about it for a half an hour or so, one of us will say, "We should make this into a video."
Gavin: What's the process like for all of you when creating a new film, from concept to final product?
Cam: Usually, the process starts with us getting a creative brief from the client -- outlining purpose, tone, length, audience, etc -- then Curtis, Chris and I get together and start just bouncing ideas off of each other. We tend to brainstorm in our office or over a game of pool. Lots of times, we will all have a pen and paper, we will turn on some music that fits the tone and listen -- like, no talking for 15 minutes -- and write what comes to our heads. It is great to have our three minds working together and to see the ideas being conceived and then improved. After we get an idea, we make sure that it is feasible for us to film -- budget, time, locations, etc. -- and from there we start storyboarding. I usually end up drawing some really rough sketches. We start contacting actors, locations, any music licensing we may need and any rentals we may need. From there, we put together a schedule and a shot list. Then, we shoot it. After it is shot, Curtis and I will sit down and edit it together. We cut, decide on color, foley, titles and all that stuff. Then, we submit and wait for feedback. Then, we make any requested revisions.
Gavin: Currently in the works you have a film called Iron Cowboy about James La Wrence. Tell us about the film and the progress on it.
Cam: Iron Cowboy is a short documentary about triathlete James Lawrence and his story. In December 2012, he set the world record for the most Iron-distance triathlons run in one year as he crossed the finish line in Palm Springs, Calif., officially completing his 30th of the year. He shares his struggles, triumphs, and insights from his accomplishments and invites everyone to reach for their dreams. It is currently a work in progress and we hope to have it completed this summer.
Gavin: What are your hopes for Filmingo over the next few years, and what do you hope to achieve with the company?
Cam: Over the next few years, we hope to be making unforgettable films for some of the most renowned brands on the planet -- especially Nike. We hope to work with some incredible people, we hope to travel to the world, we hope to continue to get recognized and improve our skills, we hope to upgrade our gear. Over the next few years, we will be mainly focusing on commercials; however, that is not where we want to end up. Although I am hesitant to say it because people love to tell you that it won't happen, our end game is in feature films. And the moment that we will be able to say, "Okay, we have reached our goal," is when we are onstage accepting our Academy Award. That is where we want to end up, and we are determined to make it happen.
Gavin: Going local, what’s your opinion of the our film scene, both good and bad?
Cam: The local film scene in Utah is awesome! It’s very tight-knit, and we’ve been able to make some great connections thanks to very friendly individuals within. We run into the same awesome people all the time. Something that we’ve enjoyed is that it isn’t overpopulated like you might expect to find in places such as L.A. or New York. We’ve had a chance to make our presence known and progress instead of getting lost in an ocean of filmmakers. A major downside would be that there are less tools available here, as opposed to other places.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Curtis: A few things come to mind. Give local films more attention at Sundance. Improve/more funding to the film schools at the U of U, BYU, and UVU; I have heard some really disappointing things about our university film schools in Utah. I know in Georgia, the state government made some serious tax breaks for Hollywood production companies to film out there, which attracted a lot of TV and feature films. Utah could do something similar, because as it stands, basically, the only thing attracting Hollywood to Utah at the moment is the scenery of southern Utah.
Gavin: Are there any other local companies or directors you feel are at the top of their game right now?
Cam: I hate to say it, but no. Most of the local production companies that I know of make some really annoying stuff. There may be someone here who is great, but I don’t know of them. I really don't want to sound like a douche here or that we think we are better than anyone else. The local stuff that I know of has just been really disappointing.
Gavin: What's your take on the film festivals that make their way to Utah, both national and local, and the impact they have on the film community here?
Chris: As far as local film festivals, excluding Sundance, I really am not too familiar with them. As far as Sundance goes, I am so glad that Utah AT LEAST has Sundance to help put us on the map. However, I wish that Sundance was more beneficial to the local film scene.
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you and Filmingo the rest of the year?
Cam: You can expect plenty of commercials, some tourism videos, probably a music video or two, a short film, and a short doc in Iron Cowboy. To sum it all up, though, you can expect us to be working like crazy, to make some touching, funny and unforgettable stuff.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Cam: Iron Cowboy is the only thing that comes to mind, but we don’t have a release date established yet.
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