An Interview with Wayne Clingman – By Duane L. Martin

I’ve known Wayne Clingman sine 1996 when I did the website for the first It Came From Lake Michigan film festival. Wayne’s involved in everything from independent film to pod casting to green energy to local farming and even city and state wide political issues. I recently had the chance to interview Wayne about some of these various projects he’s involved with.

* * *

Duane: I’ve known you for…jeez, like five years now, and while many in the industry know you, or know of you, let’s start off by having you introduce yourself to those who don’t.

Wayne: My name is Wayne Clingman and I’m from Racine, WI. I do a podcast called Indy Film Wisconsin and I ran the It Came From Lake Michigan Film Fest for two years, the first one I organized myself with the help of a lot of great people, and for the second I partnered up with Bill Zenobia.
Best of all, I started the effort that brought film tax Incentives to Wisconsin, called Film Wisconsin. Film Wisconsin brought between 35 and 70 million dollars in investments to the state of Wisconsin, from Films like Baraboo and Public Enemy.

Duane: Let’s go back to before we met. You were already active in trying to promote indie film in Wisconsin and the mid-west in general. Tell us about some of the things you were involved in back then, and what really got you involved in indie film in the first place?

Wayne: Well what started the whole ball of wax was when I read in the Milwaukee paper that our then Governor Jim Doyle was going to kill the State Film Office. I called my state representatives and found out that who we had in office then simply had no clue, so I knew that since I did have a clue, that I could help in some way. The State Film Office introduced me to a great guy named Scott Robbe, and both he and I knew if it was going to be, it was us that were going to have to get it done.
At the same time I had just been asked to serve on the City of Racine Cable Commission, where my job was to bring the station on line

That was a very busy time for me! I had to hit the ground running to learn what I needed to on how to run a cable access station and how Wisconsin state government works.

I found that Wisconsin is blessed with a lot of great folks in both local and state government and that both parties want to help. At the same time, I also met some real nut cases that just simply had no clue. Some in fact felt that jobs in film only paid minimum wage. My promoting Film Wisconsin took me all over the state, speaking to groups from 5 to 50 in an effort to move the bill along. Gathering political support was critical, and I was able to get both Democrats and Republicans to sponsor the bill. Due to my efforts, major unions such as the Teamsters signed a letter of support, showing to then Governor Doyle that the state wanted to see movies made here.

Duane: Moving up to 2005/2006 now, you got the idea to put together the first of two film festivals called It Came From Lake Michigan. Putting a film festival together is a huge commitment. What made you want to take on such a huge task, and how did you, with little to no experience, manage to pull it all together?

Wayne: Why did I do it? Easy. I got fucked IMHO by the Milwaukee International Film Festival (now gone), and knew I could do a far better job than they had done. I had been basically told by the people behind The Milwaukee International Film Festival that I sucked, which was not a good thing obviously, and something that would anger pretty much anyone. It was around this time that I was talking with Will Edwards of Wild Hawk Entrainment and we discussed the fact that we needed a genre film fest dealing with horror and sci-fi films and that far too many of these horror events existed simply to remove money from the fans pockets. It was then that I decided that I wanted to do something to bring horror films back to the fans.

I went to a few of the other festivals and saw for myself, first hand, what strange events they were. From charging a ton of money to simply talk to a "star", to what were IMHO rigged contests so that a major sponsor could keep prizes in house, I really couldn’t believe the kinds of things that were going on to soak the fans. Folks who are buying the films, posters, etc… deserve far, far more, and I thought I could deliver it.

How was I able to do it? I had some really great help. You for one :), and the great web page you did for both festivals. Bill Zenobia is a wonderful guy and really saved me in year one, when no one else could.

Our local tourism board was led by Mr. Dave Blank, and he helped us out in various ways as well. Also, a few great fans of film worked there asses off at the events and fund raisers for the fest.

I also had to grow thick skin, as a few went out of their way to try and kill it before it even started, and some just seemed to get off on being hateful after year one, which is always a tough one for any film festival just getting started. Hell durning the first year someone even removed one of the DVDs removed from a player so their film could be shown twice! There was lots of crap to deal with. By year two, things went a lot smoother, as we had applied many of the lessons learned from year one.

IMHO anyone doing a fest needs a lot of help from loyal friends and good community connections.

Duane: After doing two film festivals in 2006 and 2007, you’ve taken a few years off from it. Recently however, you had expressed to me that you’d like to try to put a new one together at some point. It would have a new name, but aside from that, what else would you like to do differently this time around and what form do you envision it taking?

Wayne: More of a film series then a fest really. Classes held on a monthly bases like we did with the Film Wisconsin workshops.

The film series would be set up in a way that would allow indie film makers to have folks be able to see their films and provide feedback so the directors could see what fans liked and what they didn’t.

No stars as guests, just those who wanted to show up like any other average Joe fan. Think of a "meet up" but with films being shown and much discussion going on.

Duane: You were a driving force behind getting a law passed in Wisconsin that gave tax breaks and other incentives to entice film makers to come to Wisconsin to make their films. Tell us about that, what you had to go through to get it passed and what subsequently happened to it because of short sighted politicians.

Wayne: In a nut shell, I had to travel the State explaining how Film Wisconsin would help to bring jobs and investments to the state. I put over 3,000 miles on my car and talked to 20-30 groups from film school classes to union heads

The Bill creating the Incentives got bi-partisan support and passed overwhelmingly. By the way, I was the only member of the team to have contacted every elected office from the mayor to state rep to get them to support the bill.

From day one after the bill was signed, we had to deal with numerous issues ranging from what month the law would go into effect, to the State Dept of Commerce IMHO lying about the investments coming to the state. No one knew why this shit was going on, but we soon would. IMHO, Govneor Doyle gutted Film Wisconsin to get back at the Lt. Governor Lawton in a petty act. God only knows why. It made no sense to lose out on the potential investment in our state, the jobs and the resulting tourism.

Fact of the matter is, I was told that the gutting of the tax bill was coming, and I let others know about it. IMHO, the paid leaders of Film Wisconsin did not believe me. After all, the leadership consisted of hard core Democratic Party members, and they trusted the Govenor. They would soon learn better.

Duane: Now let’s move ahead to the present. You’ve been doing, actually, several radio shows on Blog Talk Radio. You started with a local political one, then created the one we’ll be talking about here, Indy Film Wisconsin, and then yet another about sustainable food growth and environmental issues. Before we get to the film related one, let me just ask you about the political one real quick. You’ve never been afraid to speak your mind and tell it like it is, and you ruffled some feathers on the local political scene with your show didn’t you? Tell us about that.

Wayne: Thanks for asking! Basically, I see something going on and it’s not right, and I say something. We have a paper that does not report on the petty corruption in Racine, or the high crime rates, so I do.

I’ve gotten some interesting phones calls telling me to stop, and I understand that the mayor does not like my podcast and thinks I should go off the air.

Also, the fact is that by calling attention to the BS, sometimes it can be stopped. Educating the voters on the issues is the last thing "City Hall" wants. I say FIGHT THE POWER, and the first step to doing that is know what is going on, and to vote.

Duane: Now let’s talk about your film related show, Indy Film Wisconsin. This show’s been running for a long time now, and you’ve had a wide variety of guests from the indie film world, including actors and actresses, film makers and I’ve made several appearances on your show as well. You started out with a small audience, but now every time do you do a show, you get quite a lot of listeners tuning in. Has that been intimidating in any way, and in what ways has it caused you to change and improve the show over time?

Wayne: The show’s really a lot of fun, and it allows me to interact with indie film folks on a one on one level with little pressure. I think of it as just a chat on the phone.

God, if I ever thought, "Here I am talking to X, who’s made some great films, or talking to Ms. Y, a fantastic star," I’d be a mass of nerves. From time to time, I have gone all fan boy when I have chatted with some of the beautiful actresses I have had on the show. I try hard to ask the questions I think others would like to ask if they could.

Duane: I know there’s two things in particular that you’ve had to deal with in doing the show, and I’d like to talk about how you deal with them. The first issue is when you have guests flake on you at the last minute, or just don’t call in at all, leaving you with no guests and a show’s worth of time to fill. How do you handle that?

Wayne: Sometimes I have been lucky in getting a fast replacement guest, and it that can happen, great! The show goes on. If the guest does not call in though and I can’t find a replacement in time, I simply delete the show try to find out what happend. If I can I redo the show with them at a later time, I try to arrange that. If not, I just move on ahead to the next guest and schedule a new show. There’s not much else you can do.

Duane: The second issue, that you and probably ever other host in the world who does interview shows is when you have a guest who’s just non-responsive. I know I’ve had to deal with this in written interviews in the past, but when you’re doing a live show and your guest is just literally giving you almost nothing as far as responses, it leaves you with a lot of dead air and time to fill. How do you deal with situations like that?

Wayne: I ask God to kill me. Its only happened a few times fortunately. When it does happen, I do the only thing I can do. I try to find questions they will respond to. If the show just sucks I just end it and delete it off the page.

I truly do not know why anyone want to be part of a broadcast just to sit there and give yes or no answers to everything. It makes them look like a fool, or worse, like they don’t care enough about the fans to give any thought or consideration to their answers. That, in my opinion is far worse and it’s only hurting themselves. The fans want to know what is going on with whatever it is you’re working on, and if all you can be bothered to do is give yes or no answers to everything, don’t expect the fans to rush out to buy your next DVD or poster, or to in fact care the slightest bit about anything you’re working on now or in the future. People respond when they can hear excitement and passion in your answers. If you don’t have that passion about your projects, no one else will either.

Duane: How often do you do your shows, and generally how long do they run on average?

Wayne: At least once a week, and they go for an hour, though Blog Talk Radio has recently announced that unless you pay them a monthly fee, the shows will be limited to a half hour. Even at an hour, it makes doing round tables difficult, because time flies by so fast that it’s hard to let everyone have as much say on the topics as they’d like, but they’re still well worth doing simply because they’re so entertaining, and it’s great to hear what the folks in the trenches of the indie world have to say on various topics.

Planing the shows takes a lot more time. Arranging it around my guest’s schedule can be difficult at times, and I also have to make sure I know all about the projects and topics they’d like to talk about.

Duane: Tell us about some of the topics you’ve covered on your show that you think are really important to the film industry. I know you’ve had round table discussions on many of these topics as well. How did those go? Was it hard to handle that many people discussing an issue, or do the conversations usually flow pretty well?

Wayne: From basic film making ideas and how to get into the business, to the big topic these days…transmedia. Using social networking and media in promoting your films is a huge topic, and another big one involves self distribution. Then there’s the ever present and much discussed topic of fund raising.

Round tables can be hard to manage, if only because each guest has lots of great info to share, and if we have a difference of opinion during the show, we can end up with some really wild discussions.

Guests talking over each other happens a lot mostly because I have no way to cue who’s up next. The guests are usually respectful of one another however, so things typically go pretty well.

Duane: Who have been some of your favorite guests on the show? People who just knocked it out of the park when they appeared?

Wayne: The show that was the most fun was the round table on using nudity in horror films, and discussing if that was simply lazy film making.

A lot of the film folks have been very cool, but if I had to pick only a few…
Erica Rhodes
Lance Weller
Tisha Rivera !!!!!!!!!!!!

Duane: Tell us how you see the current state of the indie film industry? What’s improved over the years and what things can still be done to improve the industry and move it along to greater heights?

Wayne: Indie Film makers still do not understand that they have far more control over their project than they think. We need to quit thinking that Hollywood is the only way to go. Far too many of us will sign any deal that’s put in front of us, not even bothering to read it, or better yet, have a laywer read it for us, because we think, "This is my big chance!", only to later end up getting a bill, or worse yet, a bill and an understanding that we are truly fucked. I just do not understand why we do not at least try self distribution.

There are far too many who worry about what others think. It’s your project. If others do not like it, why should you care? It’s the same with other projects. Why bad mouth? Simply do not help and do not see it. IMHO, its bull to fall for the old, "we got to sick together" bit. If Mr. X is someone you do not get along with or is acting in a way that you dislike simply stay away. If Mr. X is unethical in his dealings with people, it’s your call whether or not to say something publicly about it, but if you’re SURE Mr. X is doing bad things IMHO you do owe it to others to speak out about it and tell them what you know. Only, however, if you KNOW…not think.

Duane: Who in your eyes are some of the biggest stars of the indie film industry right now, both in front of and behind the camera, who are really doing their utmost to show what the indie film industry is really capable of?

Wayne: Lance Weller is paving the way in transmedia and self distribution.

Some of the stars I really like are Erika Rhodes (L.A.), Jeffefer Prettyman (Midwest) and Sarah Nicklin (East Coast). And also a star that really understands horror film…Kitsie Dincan.

Duane: What’s the best piece of advice you could give to anyone thinking about entering the world of independent film?

Wayne: Easy. Get going, read Rouge Cinema and The Workbook Project and find some local projects that are currently in production and help them out in anyway you can. Also, check out your local tech schools and take classes. Many community colleges offer good classes on a range of subjects useful for film making. I just recently found out that many music shops are happy to train others on sound mixing as well, and for far less then you might think, this is a very critcal skill, and one that is widely needed.

If you want to make your own films it is absolutely critical that you take basic business classes as well. Again, your local community colleges and tech schools are the place to start.

But the #1 thing really is, get off your ass and do it!

Duane: Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?

Wayne: The media world is changing every day. The “Hollywood way” is dead and gone. Read the blogs online and interact with others. If anyone wants to, feel free to contact me and I’ll be glad to help out if I can.