We’re big fans of Riley Hooper’s work. Her first short documentary, FLO, played at festivals around the country last year and became a NYTimes OpDoc. It’s finally up on Vimeo – where Riley actually works as Content + Community Manager – watch above!
I had the chance to chat with Riley recently about new projects, collaborative filmmaking and exciting tends in self-distribution.
B: Tell me about the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective.
R: I joined last spring, so I’ve been a part of the collective for a year. We meet once a week and workshop our works-in-progress for 2-3 hours. There are about 50 members in all. It’s opened me up to a whole new world of filmmakers in Brooklyn and new resources for collaborating. I’ve workshopped three different pieces – including my new doc about the world’s longest yard sale.
ELVIS LOSES HIS EXCESS & OTHER TALES FROM THE WORLD’S LONGEST YARD SALE trailer
B: How did you start that project?
R: That film was a collaboration between me and my roommate/friend Katrina Sorrentino. She and I shot the film, and we brought two sound recordists along as well. One of them, Bryan Chang, is actually in BFC, so it was my first BFC collaboration… and really my first collaborative project. I normally work alone, so that was an interesting experience for me.
B: Tell me about working alone vs. working on a collaborative project.
R: I’ve made a few other short documentaries, and those films I essentially made all by myself. I enjoy working alone. I’m very particular and such a perfectionist that it was a challenge for me to open up my creative process to include others. On this yard sale film, I had a sound designer, title designer, colorist… They all did an incredible job. Collaboration is definitely something that I want to do more of because it gives you a chance to learn what your strengths are, and where others excel beyond your capabilities.
B: What’s it like working at Vimeo, and how has it helped you?
R: I’ve been working at Vimeo for almost three years. It’s such a fun work environment, I work with the greatest human beings. But it’s a full time job, so my filmmaking happens in the evenings, on weekends, and when I can take time off. I’m lucky that my managers are supportive in letting me take time off to be able to shoot films and go to festivals. Most of my friends are freelance, and I think about taking that route sometimes, but I do also appreciate that the money I make and my creative work are completely separate. Working at Vimeo is also great for me as a filmmaker because I’m learning a lot about online distribution — which is changing so fast. It’s amazing to be a part of that and to observe it so closely from the inside.
B: What does online distribution look like from a Vimeo perspective?
R: We’re investing a lot of time and energy into Vimeo On Demand which is a self-distribution platform. Like Netflix, you can either rent or download film titles. But the interesting thing is you do it all yourself. You put it out yourself, and you take 90% of the profits after transaction fees. As it stands now, most documentary filmmakers aren’t making money off their films. It seems like there are so many middlemen who take a cut of the profits. So it’s kind of exciting to have a platform where you can reclaim some ownership. But it’s also a challenge because then you have to be a really good self-promoter. It’s all so new. It’s exciting to see where it goes.
B: What did you learn from making and releasing your first film, FLO?
R: I’ve learned so much. FLO was my first film to play at festivals, so after two years of doing that circuit and winning some awards, I feel I have a much better grasp on that world. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s really important to actually attend the festivals that you screen at. The benefit is going and meeting people and making those connections. It opens up new opportunities that you could have never imagined. Also, you just get to meet cool people and have new friends. Documentary filmmakers are the most fun.
B: What are you working on now?
R: I’m working on a new short doc. It’s about an 89 year-old skier named Henry Bendinelli. I actually met him through Vimeo! He has an account and he wrote in to support, and I helped him. Then I saw that he was from Oregon, which is where I’m from, and I saw that he posted all these videos of himself skiing. We started chatting about Oregon and it turned out that he knew some of my family members. Then he invited me to go skiing with him next time I was home. I said sure! And can I also make a film on you?
B: When will we see that film?
R: He turns 90 in August, so I’m thinking that might be a good release date!
Find out more about Riley Hooper
and her work on her website
rileymakesdocs.com and on