SAVAGE SPONSORSHIP: a unique opportunity for indie filmmakers
Achieving high production values on a tight budget is a struggle indie filmmakers know all too well. Tom Savige, Gaffer/Grip and owner of Savage Film Services, has created a sponsorship program that promises to be a game changer for the Melbourne indie filmmaking community. It is the first of its kind, and offers a unique opportunity for indie productions that are strapped for cash. We talked to Tom about his career and the philosophy behind ‘Sponsorships by Savage’.
How did you get your start in the film industry?
I got my start in the industry like many other Melbourne filmmakers, working on whatever I could, whenever I could. My goal was to never say “no” to any shoots. It did get difficult balancing my day job with the unpaid shoots, but after 3+ years of volunteering, I was able to say goodbye to my day job just before they fired me… Now, SAVAGE Film Services does over 15 jobs per week.
I find that the key to making it in this industry is persistence. When you are starting out, there are so many people who want to do exactly what you want to do, but as people are faced with the disappointment, rejection and lack of acknowledgement for hard work, many people drop off. If you can hang on through all those obstacles for just five years, you will guarantee yourself a place in the industry. “Doing your time” also gives you a chance to really ask yourself if working in this industry really is for you. If the answer is “yes”, then all the hard work will be worth it.
You have grown a successful business from the ground up in a very competitive industry. What unique approach did you take when building SAVAGE Film Services?
When starting SAVAGE Film Services, I stayed persistent and stuck to my vision. I knew that what I was setting out to create was unlike anything anyone else was offering in the local industry. That vision was all I needed to keep going. While working freelance on shoots, I always made sure to network, so I had a pool of industry connections I could eventually draw from.
From my time spent on set, I was able to see firsthand what producers and clients are after when they hire crew and gear. I also learnt the value of having patience and treating everyone on set with kindness and respect.
Why is supporting Indie Filmmaking so important to you?
That’s where I started out, so it feels great to be able to give back now. I learnt most of what I do today from my first three years working on indie shoots. While film schools are a great way to advance your skills, I found the best way that I learned was through being on set. So it’s my belief that Indie filmmaking plays a vital role in professional filmmaking. Everyone started somewhere and without indie filmmakers, there would be no professional filmmakers.
Our industry is changing rapidly, with new developments in technology and the growth of online distribution platforms such as Netflix and Stan, the viewer now has many options on how they choose to entertain themselves and don’t just watch whatever is on Seven, Nine or Ten anymore. It is my belief that if we want to establish ourselves as a region that creates entertaining content, we just need to start shooting stuff and putting it out there. In places like Vancouver and LA people are filming things independently all the time, making more and more content. Part of this is having easy access to gear through their large film industries. If we can make it easier for independent filmmakers to access the gear here then hopefully we can create an environment where people are always thinking about their next project, shooting content, improving as filmmakers, and putting Melbourne on the map as a hot spot for content creation.
Tell us the thought process behind Sponsorships by Savage? Why are you doing this?
I remember being an indie filmmaker myself and wishing that I could have all the gear I needed for a production. I’m now in a position where I can offer this to the next generation, so why not?
Our Sponsorship Initiative is really all about giving filmmakers access to the best, industry standard equipment.
It’s always heartbreaking when you watch a short which has a great concept, but the production values let it down. A lot of the times this means it could be shut out of the prestige film festivals, who usually favour shorts with higher production values.
Our aim with this initiative is to remove that barrier.
Can you explain a little bit about how the Sponsorship process works?
There are three tiers:
Platinum, which is free lighting and gripping gear to the value of $5000, along with two years platinum membership at SAVAGE Rentals.
Gold, which is 50% off all lighting and gripping gear and two years gold membership at SAVAGE Rentals.
Silver, which is 20% off all lighting and gripping gear, plus two years silver membership at SAVAGE Rentals.
After receiving the application, our group of assessors will carefully read every entry to decide who the best person is to win the Platinum Sponsorship and then distribute Gold and Silver to all our other applicants depending on which films would benefit most from this service. Everyone will get something for entering; after all, this really is about helping filmmakers make films.
What are you looking for in applicants? What projects appeal to you?
We are aiming to sponsor short films but can make exceptions for other projects. As long as you are making content that has a clear voice and original vision, we want to help you make your project the best it possibly can be.
What’s the most important piece of advice for student filmmakers looking to collaborate with industry professionals like yourself?
Working with professional filmmakers isn’t hard. I remember when I was in high school, scrolling through Film Victoria’s production listing and emailing everyone I could… Producers, Production Managers, DOP’s, Gaffers, anyone! Turns out no-one was overly interested in hiring a 16-year-old for insurance purposes, but the point is to still try. Whatever your approach is to getting work, make sure it’s unique and original. That way they will remember you. I still work with many people today that I met when I was 16 years old.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build the door,” – Milton Berle.
Another idea I should drill in is “persistence, persistence, persistence”. It’s not a thing of talent, more a thing of hanging on for the longest. Don’t give up. This industry can be cruel and riddled with rejection and heartbreak, but for whatever reason, you are drawn to it and if it is something you want to do, then it is something you have to do. Sometimes when working on set, I like to take a moment and look around at everyone I am working with, and remind myself that, ‘everyone I worked with has chosen to work in film and worked hard for this’. No one falls into it. Knowing that keeps me inspired every day on set.
What one film in cinema history would you have loved to have worked on?
Forrest Gump, it was the first film where I was actively aware of how much technically would have been going on behind the scenes. My brother and I wore out our DVD watching all the bonus features and learning how the filmmakers brought the film to life.
For more information about the Sponsorship initiative, or to apply, visit the Savage Rentals website at:
Applications close on the 12th June 2017.