On February 29th, 2020, Women in Film and Video New England (WIFVNE) hosted the event “Bringing Hollywood Home” at the WSCA Radio Station in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The event was moderated by WIFVNE NH State Chair Christine Altan (pictured below, far right). The event centered on two special guests: Knives Out production managers and independent film producers Chris Stinson and Amy Greene. Chris and Amy spoke candidly on various topics such as their focus on bringing film work into New England, their process as independent filmmakers, for aspiring filmmakers and anecdotes of their film set experiences.
Chris Stinson transferred from working exclusively in Los Angeles for over 20 years to creating his own production company Live Free or Die Films in New Hampshire. After a strenuous burnout from working on big budget films as a stunt double and producer, Amy Greene met and joined Chris. Together they began to produce independent films in New England. As they set their foot onto their new pathway in filmmaking, they made a clear focus to not only produce films in the area but to also bring in work from external sources.
The two producers explained the beginning stages for their production process. “It starts with breaking down scripts and the locations. We try to find locations in New England that could work for films,” Amy details, while Chris adds that they “acquire scripts and ‘selfishly’ want them to be set in New England.” Chris anecdotes a script being reworked to fit their needs as New England producers. “A script was written for New Mexico, but the writer was convinced to re-write it for Massachusetts.” This course of action exemplifies Stinson and Greene’s determination to not let New England be forgotten as a staple of opportunities for the film industry. Chris detailed that he focuses “on a smaller scale.” He initiates talks with production companies to have them work in New England for small production days such as three days or a week. For example, parts of the film Woodshock starring Kirsten Dunst, in which Stinson worked as a line producer, was filmed in Redwood, Massachusetts.
And in the same fashion as the film Woodshock, many other projects have veered into New England over the course of the years, something that as film producers Greene and Stinson find very pleasing. In fact, 2020 is only starting and Massachusetts’s agenda is already on a “booked and busy” status. Chris delightedly mentions “We got a lot of work happening; four movies, a couple of a tv show pilots.” *
The conversation turned to an inside look of the environment of independent filmmaking. According to Stinson, indie films allow the crew members to know each other much better, and this leads to better opportunities for networking and collaborating. It is something to think about, it is much easier to remember the names and faces of a crew of 50 than one of 250. And when it comes to choosing projects, as producers, Amy voiced that they are pulled into scripts that have a “more human story.” The two expressed their openness to unsolicited script submissions. “Just email our secretary,” Chris joked.
Not only did Chris and Amy provide insight to their process, but they came in with valuable information and advice. To aspiring filmmakers or anyone who wants to work in the film industry, Chris advises “[to not] be lazy… There are a lot of lazy people and those who work will rise up much more quickly.” And to the surprise of many in the audience, the two mentioned that film school is not a must, as “a lot of things can be self-taught.” Good work ethic along with networking is a sure way to climb up the ladder, according to Stinson. “It’s about knowing people, network but be nice. Nice people are what they want.” Greene adds to that advice, that those who did not or will not attend film school are to “learn every department in film productions” which they can “achieve by starting out as a production assistant.”
After working in the industry for 20+ years, the producers assured the audience that to this day, they still feel the same excitement they felt years ago when they first stepped into a film set. “I feel it a lot. Getting overpaid for something that I love is cool,” Amy joked. “I love being an environment where 50 people all love doing what they’re doing,” Chris added. When it comes to motivation and passion, Chris makes it clear his are as intact as they were years ago: “It is not about the money for me, as long as my rent is paid and I love the script, then sure I’ll do it.”
It was exciting and refreshing to hear the two touch up on one of the most prolific agendas: diversity. Chris detailed how he and Amy take part in this agenda. “I’d walk into a room full of white men and I’m like okay, let’s get more resumes of women.” Chris adds, “We’re actively making that happen. This industry is all white men and we need more diversity.” Not only are the two pushing for more changes behind the camera, they keep in mind the representations of minorities in front of it as well. In one of their projects, a character was deaf; Amy said that they actively looked for and hired real deaf actors to take part in the project, as it was important to have that representation cemented into the film.
To end the night, the two producers expressed that although independent filmmaking has taken center stage in their lives, they still jump on board with bigger projects if the script pulls them in. In fact, the two shared their latest project will be set in New York alongside none other than Ray Romano, who will be debuting as a writer and director.
“Bringing Hollywood Home” was a small and cozy event, with a “get together” vibe rather than that of a formal panel. At the end, Chris and Amy were very welcoming and approachable, as they took their time to answer each and every question anyone had even after the Q&A session on the panel had culminated. The two even invited everyone to continue networking at a nearby bar.
*Most productions in New England are currently on hold due to precautions relating to COVID-19.