I feel honored being a reviewer, I get to watch all sorts of great movies. Big Media entreats us to see the latest Harry Potter, or Spider-Man, and indeed millions do. I get invitations to Press Screenings all the time, most of which I politely decline. I much prefer the world of the Independent Movie. Often made on amazingly small budgets they are created as labors of love, not for straight commercial gain. And inevitably that ‘love’ shows through.

I had the opportunity to preview Canvas, which will be going on sale on January 29th. I was completely blown away with Canvas. The quality of the film making is outstanding, and when was the last time you came across an Independent that features an Oscar winning actress? Well Marcia Gay Harden plays the female lead, and  Joe Pantoliano the male lead, although in someways he is given a run for his money by youngster Devon Gearhart who plays the part of son Chris.

When you also add into the mix first time Writer, turned Director Joe Greco, and first time producer Sharon Lane, I was intrigued to say the least.

Mental illness is not a subject that gets a lot of media interest. Most of us wear ‘blinkers’ and prefer to ignore it, rather than understand it. Canvas takes us into the very strange world of schizophrenia, and how it affects not just the sufferer but those close to them.

Producer Sharon Lane graciously agreed to an interview.

Sharon, thank you for taking time out to talk with us. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I actually got started in the industry on the other side of the camera.  I appeared in many commercials, several guest spots and a few films.  During college, I began exploring film making.  I then worked in advertising, went on to become a production coordinator and later was a development executive at an independent film company.  I developed strong bonds on the talent side of development, and years later, began managing the careers of some exceptional young actors. I can proudly say that their careers are now flourishing.

Is “Canvas” your first foray into the movie world? It is so technically perfect, it seems more like a major studio effort than Indie.

Many years ago, I wrote and produced my first pilot for a television series.  Midway through editing, I decided to cut my losses.  Shots were missing, there were major sound issues, and the lighting was inconsistent; hence, the footage was nearly impossible to edit.  But I learned a lot, the hard way, and it all came in handy when we made “Canvas.”

One thing I’d learned was that the success of the project would largely be in the hands of our crew, so I set out to assemble the very best people available.  Our DP/Cameraman, Rob Sweeney, is truly an artist.  His lighting and camerawork beautifully captured the essence of our scenes. While the film was indeed shot on a low budget, cinematography was one area where I did spend money.  We used Panavision cameras and shot on 35mm film.

It is often a tough proposition making an Indie movie. Was funding an issue?

Yes!  I was a first-time producer holding the script of a first-time writer who wanted to be a first-time director.  But what I did have was very real. “Canvas” is a story of love and hope, inspired by the writer’s own life, neither commercialized nor glorified. It was my goal to preserve its integrity and produce a true character-driven story.  Fortunately, character-driven stories attract star talent to Indie projects, as did “Canvas,” which allowed us to attach Joe Pantoliano and Marcia Gay Harden.  With a low estimated budget in place, a detailed analysis on marketability, top crewmembers onboard and letters of interest from star talent, finding investors became slightly less difficult.

How long did it take to put “Canvas” together? And how did you get involved with it?

When I first read “Canvas,” I was passionate about the realism of the script.  I had grown up with mental illness in my family, and I had lost my father to Alzheimer’s disease just months before.  The story somehow gave me a sense of comfort and peace.  I was no longer alone in that dark place I never spoke about, because Joe Greco, the writer of “Canvas,” had made it public.  I was compelled to help Joe bring this script to the screen.

Within months, I was handling my first writer client under my management company.  Joe would be attached to this project as writer and director.  I attempted to get backing from numerous film companies and networks to no avail.  Not only were they contemplating the work of a first-time writer, but a first-time director as well. So, after three very frustrating years, I decided to put on a different hat and undertake the role of Producer.  After extensive research, I put together a marketing plan, tentative budget and got letters of intent from cast and crew. My husband (and Executive Producer), Alan Rolnick, oversaw all legal affairs and prepared contracts.  It took us another two years to secure financing and roll cameras.

When I am not annoying movie producers, I actually have a real job! I work with the homeless, and most studies I have read claim that almost 1/3rd suffer from some kind of Mental issue. Schizophrenia being one of the more common. I see it daily. It would have been easy to turn “Canvas” into a ‘horror show’, yet you took a very understated position, one that balanced the issues with the facts. Was this a deliberate choice?

There are plenty of high-concept, commercial films made in Hollywood.  In my opinion, there is a shortage of meaningful, quality films that are thought provoking and can truly affect viewers in a positive way.

The movie industry is a tough one. There are so many great movies, but most people only get to watch whatever is playing at the local ‘MegaPlex’. I for one would not have heard about “Canvas” had it not been for the fact that I reviewed the novel “Landmark Status” by your husband Alan Rolnick, and during the interview he mentioned “Canvas” because he is also involved in the project. What needs to change in the movie industry to get great movies like “Canvas” in front of the audience?

Audiences thirst for that quick fix at the theatres, whether it’s an adrenaline rush or guttural laugh. These highly commercial films bring in big commercial revenues, so distributors and studios are willing to put up big P&A monies to advertise.

Smaller films that are not perceived as being highly commercial have limited advertising possibilities.  Advertising is very expensive and distributors are always leery of spending P&A monies they might not recoup. We have relied more on a grassroots marketing campaign based on our reviews and festival awards. The chance to discuss “Canvas” with you in a forum like “Blogger News” is one big step in the right direction.

Where can our readers get more information about Canvas?

Just visit www.CanvasTheFilm.com

Many people are referring to the internet as the next big media market. What are your thoughts?

I recently brought my nine-year-old son to the WGA picket lines with me.  Even as we speak, the writers are still fighting for residuals on streaming video.  One of my clients is a series regular on “Grey’s Anatomy”.  I put my son to bed as “Grey’s” is airing, so I watch all of her episodes via Internet the following morning.  I completely support the WGA.  We have only begun to tap into the huge potential of the Internet.

Authors, Film Makers, and Musicians share one common trait, there is always a next project! So what is yours?

Some of my clients are now in a position to green light films because of their audience following.  I will be moving forward with them on several independent scripts currently in development.  I am also working to bring a wonderful script entitled “Lessons from the Gypsy Camp” into production.  The story is in the vein of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and has certainly won my heart.

I really want to thank you for taking time to talk with me. I know that all the readers of Blogger News will find this interview interesting.

Thank you for the opportunity, Simon. It was a pleasure.

Canvas hits the streets, on January 29th, if you are looking for a great evenings entertainment run out to Blockbuster and buy or rent a copy. You will not be disapointed. You can also order it online through Amazon.

Simon Barrett


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