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FILMMAKER INTERVIEW: ARLIN GODWIN, DIRECTOR OF “THE MAN IN 813″

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by Zander Sirlin

I had the opportunity to interview another local filmmaker, Arlin Godwin. In addition to making short films, Godwin has long worked in television and is an electronic music artist with four albums and three EPs under his belt.

Both intriguing and original, Godwin’s “The Man in 813” details the mundane, weird, unexplainable, and sometimes disturbing things occurring in one apartment building over the course of a 24-hour period.

What first got you interested in film?

My grandfather gave me a still camera when I was around ten years old. I learned how to shoot, develop and print pictures. Around age 12, I was given a little 8mm motion picture camera and from then on it was a major obsession of mine.

Is there any real story that inspired the making of the film?

My film is about the weird things that might be going on in the various units of an apartment building and I suppose it was inspired by the fact that I live in one. I hear things sometimes through the walls and it kind of gets your mind wondering.

How would you describe your background in film?

I did a little time in film school but my real education comes from having watched thousands of films, some of them 30 or 40 times. I think I’ve seen David Fincher’s “Fight Club” and “Seven” and even “The Social Network” each more than 50 times. Probably have watched Kubrick’s “2001″ over a hundred times in my life. Some films don’t get old. They just keep teaching you things. With DVDs and Blu-ray you can rent your own “film school” from Netflix. No excuse these days not to see everything.

What advice do you have for students interested in film?

Honestly my advice is, “Don’t bother with film school.” Get a camera. Shoot movies. Read every book you can find. Learn how to write. Learn to think in terms of stories first and then get into the technical things. Don’t get the cameras and lights in the way of learning about characters and what actors do. Understand drama, pacing, thee or four-act structure. Get Final Cut or some other editing program on your computer and start learning how to edit. In other words there is no substitute for doing it all yourself. That experience is beyond anything you’ll get at any film school because it’s your own personal trip.

How would you describe the DC film scene?

DC seems to have a fairly active film scene. Certainly the DC Shorts Film Festival is a pretty big deal with filmmakers coming in from all over the world. I hope to meet a lot of the local film people and look forward to seeing the movies of course.

What place has most impacted your film or style of filmmaking?

I was born and raised in Florida but I’ve lived in Washington for decades so DC is really more an influence than any other place.

Who or what do you cite as major inspirations for your work? This does not necessarily have to be from cinema.

My biggest influences would be writers of great books, great stories—like Dickens and also a number of filmmakers…people whose work I admire like Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Sidney Lumet and the one and only Stanley Kubrick.

How would you describe your filmmaking process?

I kind of work like a person who makes a sculpture out of clay in that I’ll write, then shoot what I’ve written, cut that and see what’s missing or what could be developed more and then go back and do pick-ups and keep tweaking and fixing things until I’m satisfied. The new film I’m working on now was started without a finished script–just because when you’re doing it yourself you can afford the time. But I won’t do that again. There’s no substitute for a completed and thorough script that really shows you where you’re going. Young filmmakers need to learn to be writers first—then get out the camera. If you can’t write then find someone who can. Without a story there’s no need to shoot anything.

What technology/programs did you use to make your film?

I shot on a Canon T2i HDSLR, edited on Apple’s Final Cut Pro Studio. Used Cineform for transcoding camera files to ProRes 4:2:2. Used the newly released Technicolor software in the camera to add a few stops of latitude to the dynamic range. Everything you need to make a feature film is available now from your local Best Buy. Seriously.

What was your film’s budget? How was it financed?

What budget? The only real budget would have been the cost of the camera and editing software. Basically for several thousand dollars you can create your own film studio at home and make movies whenever you want.

Did you make the film for anyone in particular? What audience did you have in mind?

I literally made “The Man in 813” as a practice exercise never ever imagining I would end up in a festival. The film has now been officially selected by two festivals which is beyond anything I was thinking about during the production.

Do you have any other advice for aspiring filmmakers? Anything for people from the area?

Read everything you can about film. Watch movies constantly and don’t just watch—take notes. Think about what you’re looking at. Also don’t neglect the sound. I actually think sound is more important to the success of a film than images. Great sound is important and bad sound will ruin all your pretty pictures.

Where can readers view your work and learn more about you?

My official web site is at www.arlingodwin.com.

“The Man in 813” is playing with eight other great short films in DC Shorts Showcase #1.

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