Changeover, hushpuppies rising in a dog-eat-dog world.

| April 19, 2013 | 1 Comment

Casting Carolina talked with Estes Tarver and Tripp Green to get inside the minds of the North Carolina film makers who are “going for it” and making what they feel will be an emotionally powerful film, using crowd funding as a means to achieve the films budget. The film’s cast includes some seasoned actors. Among them, Andre Gower who is a veteran actor who has worked with  Jason Bateman, George C. Scott, Madeline Khan and others.  Estes Tarver will direct and also star in the film and Tripp Green is the Director of Photography.

Madeline Taylor, Estes Tarver, Andre Gower and Carter Godwin

Madeline Taylor, Estes Tarver, Andre Gower and Carter Godwin










Estes and Tripp have both worked behind and in front of the camera amassing a great amount of experience.  The experiences of these two professionals would seem to make a great foundation from which to launch an ambitious and quality project such as the film they have decided to create.

The pair met in a coffee shop in Raleigh at the behest of Tripp’s mother a few years back. Estes had been looking for someone to share a studio space with. The two meshed and a partnership was born. They began work collaborating on production of commercials, music videos etc.,  putting their earnings back into their newly formed venture and over time began acquiring some good equipment which as they tell us, has enabled them to do a lot for a little financially.

CC: We see more and more films being crowd-funded by sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. What prompted you to seek crowd funding and how difficult was it to get to the point where you had your Indiegogo page all set to raise money?

E: Well, we have other sources for funding other than Indiegogo, but it is always a good idea to bring in whatever you can from crowd funding. Especially if you don’t have a name in the industry as a filmmaker. Every little bit helps when you’re making a low budget film. And if a lot of people will kick in a little, you might have a budget. But it still requires either an amazing campaign, or personal connections. People have to want to either invest in the project, or you.

As far as creating the page goes, it requires some work to do it right. This is the place to show what you can do and appeal to the audience that will fund your project.

Your video has to look professional for something like a feature. If you wanna get funding for something, you have to have a sample of your work that lets people know you aren’t just making a film on a lark. People need to see that their money is going towards something legitimate. Also, So many people wanna tell you about a script they have. You have to show people what you are doing. They have to see the quality in something to know if they are willing to support it financially. Also, you have to rack your brain to think of all the other things in the project that might add to its credibility. Do you have quality cast with good credits, are there themes in the film that might connect to the public, what else makes your project worth someone’s money.

I saw a campaign on there about a music video for a girl who’s brother made a video to raise money for his sister (small amt. 3,000) But they got it. Smart. Appealed to my heart strings, but also, THE GIRL COULD SING. I might not have donated if she couldn’t sing. Makes a difference.

T: As for creating the actual page and the media on it, we went from nothing to a complete page in about a week. This included shooting, editing, and coloring the teaser as well as writing all the copy and creating/organizing all the stills. Doing it that fast is not for the faint of heart though. Of course, neither is shooting a feature. We worked around the clock to meet the deadlines we had announced for the page’s launch. It was good to impose a deadline on ourselves though. It’s easy in a creative field like film to put off writing this, or shooting that, etc, until one day you realize it’s been a year and you have nothing to show for it. You have to make it happen. Get it done. That doesn’t mean to compromise the quality, but don’t let a lack of crew, money, equipment, whatever, become an excuse. Make the best product you can with what you have, and put all the returns back into your art.

CC: What kind of film are you making?

E: This film is a drama that deals with many things. It is about family, loss, and moving on from tragedy. It is about a girl who witnesses the death of her parents in a car accident and must go live with her Uncle (a middle class divorced tennis pro, and his 8 year old son) . The film has a positive message about moving on from a huge tragedy. It deals with teen suicide, PTSD, anxiety issues, and general mental health issues.

CC: Is it a short film or a full length feature?

Feature..Approx 90-100 min.

CC: Who are Estes Tarver and Tripp Green?

Estes Tarver and  Tripp Green

Estes Tarver and Tripp Green

Estes Tarver is a Raleigh based Actor/Director/Producer/Acting Coach…etc. He has been acting for 20 years on stage and film/TV. He started writing and directing more in the last 7 years and loves the variety of the business. He has acted in Network Television, Soap Operas, on stage in NYC and regionally. Estes has written commercials for Walgreens, Hasbro, et al… he was a tennis player and coach through the first half of his life while starting to build a career in the entertainment business. Estes has a masters in Acting from UNC Chapel Hill (PlayMakers Repertory Company).

Tripp Green is a Raleigh based cinematographer specializing in DSLR and RED acquisition for commercial, industrial, and narrative projects. After years working as an actor in front of the camera, Tripp made the transition to crewing after attending UNCW in Film Studies. He has shot commercials and promos for brands such as Wrangler, AARP, and Bret Michaels’ Thorns and Roses cologne among others. His narrative work includes the Secrets films distributed by Bridgestone Media and the upcoming urban drama Hit a Lick.

CC: What is your film about? Where did the story come from and what makes it special?

E: Changeover is about a 16 yr old girl (Haley) who loses her parents in a car accident while she is in the back seat. She is forced to move in with her Tennis pro uncle and his 8 year old son. After a suicide attempt shortly following the funeral, Haley must spend 72 hrs in a hospital. After leaving the hospital she starts dealing with PTSD symptoms among other tough psychological issues. What we also learn is that Haley is a brilliant pianist who refuses to play because the piano has become a huge source of anxiety for her. Her mother taught her to play so it is overwhelming after the tragedy. As the Movie unfolds we watch as Haley learns to deal with her demons and we see how a tennis pro might also make an interesting guardian.

E: This story is kind of a blend from several parts of my life. I played and coached tennis for 30 years so I have always wanted to find a way to incorporate it into film. But Tennis is not really a great movie sport. So I realized making him a tennis coach/Pro is a better way to do that. It is not central to the storyline, however, we do see a little of what that life is like. I also struggled with depression in my twenties. And I have coached actors and athletes who have struggled with many things such as eating disorders, depression, et al… I think there are some interesting life lessons I have learned that are in this script as well. So in general I’d say it came from all of these life experiences. I also got the Idea while coaching Maddie Taylor (Haley) for an audition. That was another catalyst that helped it get going.

CC: What are some of the ways you are getting the word out about your project and setting it apart from the rest?

E: We are exploring every outlet to publicize the project from friends and social media, to reaching out to organizations that deal with issues that the film touches on. We would love to see the project make a social difference as well as provide hope for anyone dealing with loss, trauma, and struggle. I think the way any project sets it self apart from the rest is by making sure the quality is there in every way. From the storytelling to the cinematography to the performances to the art direction…etc…It ALL has to be there to make a great film. And you have to be producing it with people who love the work. That is vital.

CC: What kind of release/distribution might we expect see with the film?

E: We are hoping for Festivals to help it get a life and then who knows…It is intended for Theatrical release but would love to see it get out there however it can. DVD…whatever audience we can get it to.

CC: Have you and your partner made films in the past? If so what have been some of the lessons learned and key experiences that will help make this project a success?

E: This is our first feature together but we have both worked on films in the past. Tripp has shot three features in the past year (Hit A Lick, Secrets in the Snow, and it’s sequel, Secrets in the Fall) . He is an amazing cinematographer. I have produced shorts in the past and worked as an actor in Feature Film, but this is my debut as a Director. I have written other features however.
I was also very lucky to study under Emmy Winning Director Joan Darling (Mash, Mary Tyler Moore, Mary Hartman, Magnum P.I., Doogie Houser..etc..) This I think has definitely given me a leg up as a story teller as she is just a genius and I feel very lucky to have worked with her.
I think everyone learns to do this stuff better through experience. We both have shot a lot of things and succeeded and failed…and done it again. This to me is always what makes a good filmmaker. I think my audition coaching has also helped me to really understand how to get key performances out of actors. And Tripp is brilliant. That is also a big factor. He cannot turn a camera on without making something look amazing. But I think Tripp and I compliment each other so well as a Filmmaking Team. Together we have a very strong creative side as well as a strong technical side. You need that great collaboration to make a good film. That, I think is our main strength in everything we do.

T: I have learned a ton over past few years, and one of the biggest tips I could give someone who wants to direct or DP is to edit. You will learn more about coverage, performance, and camera work this way than you would ever expect. Also, be learning every single day. Read every camera forum, every blog, every spec sheet. Story will always be the core of a successful film, but nobody would hire a DP if the minutia of the image didn’t matter. Learn about lens design, about sensor design, etc. This stuff won’t, and shouldn’t be on your mind when shooting, but it builds a foundation that will allow you to make smart choices and set yourself up to make a beautiful film. You have to stay on top of the technology and the trends. Doctors read case studies, actors observe human nature, DP’s should research imaging. The industry is undergoing a huge transition, from tech to distribution, and you better be ready to ride that wave. There are so many more things I could list here, but one of the biggest is just to be a chill person, as simple as that sounds. Be great at what you do, never stop learning, and be chill.

CC:  From the sidelines, watching you raise money looks a bit like a suspenseful drama before you even get started with the film. Is it hard not to watch the clock with trepidation as you struggle to raise your goal amount?

E: Haha… Some. But we also have a couple of avenues to raise money with. This has helped us as we are doing some workshops and have other producers involved in the project. So the more ways to raise money you put out there, the better possibility you have that one or more of them will come through. We have seen enough to know that there will be a movie made and we are continuing to try to reach our ultimate funding goal so we can do everything we’d like with the feature.

T: There are things we would like to do that more money will make easier, but we have shot and sold commercials with basically no budget at all, so we are prepared to make a great product with whatever we have.

We love the canine theme on your Indiegogo page and see that it stems from your production company name “Hushpuppy” what is the origin of this?

E: Tripp and I were coming up with a name and we started spitballing southern things as we are based in the south. One of us said Hushpuppy and we both went…”yup”.

CC:  It looks like you have pieced together an experienced cast. Casting is said to be perhaps the most critical part of any film, can you tell us some of your experiences with the casting process and what was your approach?

E:  Casting is so important. Can make it or break it I think most of the time. I (Estes) am also an acting coach and I work with a lot of actors so lots of times as I write I have an actor in mind. This makes casting easier as I get down to it because I sometimes already know a very qualified actor that I basically wrote the part for. I coach some kids who are working a lot in film and television so that is such a great resource for me. We do have a few more parts to cast. We have some people in mind but may put out a call in early May to finish it off. I love casting though. Such a fun process to watch different actors read the roles. But we also try and make sure Tripp and I agree on the actors. Sometimes I will like someone and he won’t. Not because of their ability necessarily. But just for what is right for the part. So we try to look till we agree on something. That tends to work out. We both also know a lot of actors that we like so we will sometimes just spitball, agree on them, and give them a call.

If you would like to be involved, visit their Indiegogo page


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About the Author ()

Jason Saucier was born in Burbank, California and raised in and around New Orleans which is his family's native home. He began working in the film industry in the mid 1980's and has been residing in North Carolina since the turn of the century.

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  1. Beau Scheier says:

    Great story about a GREAT film!

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