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Zina Brown
"The Butterflies Director"


A passionate filmmaker.

I very much enjoy the collaboration with all the other kinds of individuals that it makes to make a film - it's always amazing to me that so many people can come together to create a single work of art. And they're all important


 
 

 

The Film Reporter interviewed  Zina Brown regarding his film "Dreams of the Last Butterflies"

Q: What was your overall role?
I was the main creative force behind the project, as both writer and director.

Q: Did you always want to be in the film Industry?
Actually, yes - even when I was a kid I would use our old family VCR video camera to make all sorts of weird made-up stories. I've always been a huge movie fan and have been immensely influenced by films in my life, so it seemed natural for me to want to be a part of that creative world.

Q: Tell us how Dreams of the Last Butterflies evolved.
Butterflies are fascinating to me, and their beauty as well as their incredible process of transformation has not only inspired me, but many throughout history. Unfortunately now they are facing habitat loss, pollution and pesticides, invasive species and increasing temperatures, and many butterflies of this world are endangered or quickly disappearing. I wanted to create an "environmental faerie tale" that not only entertains, but that shows the butterflies' side of the story and helps raise awareness of the dangers they face.

Q: Did you have any unusual difficulties during filming?
Figuring out how to create our massive butterfly wings for the costumes proved to be quite challenging! In the end, we chose to use super high-resolution photographs of actual butterfly wings, and large-scale printed them on special fabric. We then had to custom-design individual harnesses and interior fitting rods for each of the 8 Butterfly Queens' wings so they would keep their shape and fit the performers comfortably. It was a huge undertaking, but they turned out spectacularly!

Q: Will winning awards help promotes the film? How so?
Absolutely! Even casual film-watches tend to be more interested and more likely to want to see a film if it has won awards. It's a recognition that the film is deserving of attention.

Q: How much money did the film cost?
Around $60,000+ US.

Q: How did you finance that?
We ran a successful Kickstarter crowd sourcing campaign for the pre-production and production funds, and raised over $36,000 from 372 generous donors. Most of the remaining post-production funds were self-financed.

Q: Where were the locations?
We shot the entire film in a massive, sprawling former garbage processing plant in Brooklyn, New York, USA - over only 2 days!

Q: To what audience is Dreams of the Last Butterflies suited?
Young and old alike - my intention was to make a film that would be enjoyable for both kids and adults, and anyone that has ever appreciated the beauty of a butterfly.

Q: Any bites yet from distributors?
Because we believe the film has an important message, we always planned to release it online for free this spring after our festival run - so that's not something we pursued.

Q: Are you working on any new projects?
Yes, I'm currently hard at work writing a new short film about a subject I'm very passionate about - though it is a bit controversial in the world at large.

Q: Tell us about your own background. Where you were born? Where did you study film? What was your first movie? What was your previous job? Are you a full-time filmmaker?
I've been a short film and music video director/writer/producer for over 15 years, and have been lucky enough to work with an incredible community of artists and performers here in New York to help bring my stories to life. I was born in the American Midwest in South Dakota in a small town out in the middle of nowhere. My first real short film was a kind of surreal black and white 16mm film I shot in the Badlands National Park - it was nearly 100 degrees F and my car kept breaking down, but it was a great learning experience! I studied film at New York University and graduated from the Tisch School of Arts Film program, which was great for me and where I met a lot a creative collaborators. I've had all sorts of jobs in addition to my film work - at one point I was selling home heating oil to suburban families over the phone. You do what you gotta do!

Q: What was your first award? And how did you feel at that time?
For my very first music video I directed, I won an award for "Best Music Video" at a film festival - it was very encouraging that I was on the right path.

Q: What was the best part of the project?
I very much enjoy the collaboration with all the other kinds of individuals that it makes to make a film - it's always amazing to me that so many people can come together to create a single work of art. And they're all important - whether it's listening to advice from your Producer or discussing the color of a wall with your Art Director, every moment is a chance to make your film better. I was lucky to have an amazing cast and crew on Dreams of the Last Butterflies, and most of them are friends as well, so it was a true pleasure to work with all of them to bring this to life.

Q: Are you pleased with the overall outcome?
Very much so!

Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the film?
One dream has already happened, because we've had a tremendous film festival run this year and were already accepted at 33 film festivals in 10 countries. Which of course we are thrilled about! The next step is to release the film online for free this spring, and it's my hope then that the film will really "take off" and been seen by many people across the world on the internet.

Q: How long did it take to complete the film?

About 2 years, from our extensive pre-production to finished film. I think you can see how much work was needed when you see the film!

Q: How do you feel to have won awards in the Filmmakers World Festival 2015?
I'm most proud of this award than any other we've received. Not only did we win "Best Film", but the fact that it was appreciated and understood in Indonesia, literally on the other side of the world from where I live, is amazing - and I'd love to visit Indonesia someday!

Q: Does this film send the message you intended?
Based on the reaction from our viewers, and especially all the Environmental film festivals we've been accepted at, I believe so. Because story and message are so important to me, considering the audience for my films to reach is of course very important as well. If I can't affect the viewer on some level, I'm not doing my job as a filmmaker. Part of being an artist, at least for me, is the satisfaction of knowing you've enriched someone's experience of the world, or at least given them a moment of wonder or delight or introspection - even if you never meet that person, even if that person is seeing your creation many years from now.

Q: Why the title "Dreams of the Last Butterflies"?
Well, it's exactly what the film is - what happens in the dreams of the last Butterfly Queens on earth.

Q: Advice to others who might like to follow in your footsteps?
Keep making films, no matter what! And surround yourself with other collaborators who are as passionate about art as you are.

Q: Is this a film that young people, college or high school students could benefit from?
Yes, very much I hope, as I made the film with youth in mind - because it is an environmental film at heart, and it will be the youth of this world that can make the changes that help the planet most of all.

Q: How do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
I've been working on a story for a feature film the last few years, and it's the best idea I've ever had. To see it coming to life would definitely be my dream project. I've love to collaborate with many of the same amazing artists and performers I know now, and hopefully a lot of new ones I haven't met yet!

 

Related links:

  • Ilchi Lee: The Spiritualist

  • Cheryl Halpern: The Woman Fighter

  • Yunus Shahul: The Future Assassin

  • Joon Bai: Labor of Love

  • Iara Lee: The Suffering Grasses

  • Trevor Graham: The Hummus Warrior

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    The Film Reporter 2013-2015