TONIA CARRIER: Saginaw Filmmaker Opens the Lens With Her First Full Length Feature Film ‘Selling Stupid’ & Offers a Unique Chance to Become an ‘Extra’ and Enjoy Unique Live Entertainment at Whistling Idiots Theatre in Bay City

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 787   By: Robert E Martin

13th March, 2014     0

‘Intuition is the key to everything in filmmaking. I think you could have an intellectual ability, but if you can sharpen your intuition, which they say is emotion and intellect joining together, then a knowingness occurs.’       - Director & Writer David Lynch

Tonia Carrier is a young female filmmaker hailing from Saginaw possessing both a vision, a keen determination, and an eye to weave together memorable imagery on the screen that both captures the zeitgeist of life for contemporary women, while carving fresh consciousness about the numerous challenges they face filtered through the lens of humor.

Over the past few years she has been fortunate to work on a variety of film projects, mostly shot in Detroit and Chicago; but two years ago she took the step into writing, producing & directing her own debut short film called Techno Babble – A Cautionary Tale, which won the Audience Award at the 2013 Riverside Saginaw Film Festival. This short was filmed entirely in Saginaw and all her cast & crew were from the Mid-Michigan area.

Since then Tonia has been working on a new full-length feature film project with her friend Amy Austin, who is based in Bay City. The duo have written a full-length, family-friendly comedy called Selling Stupid which she plans to shoot in the Spring & Summer of 2014.

“This is a female driven film, which is a rarity and something I am very proud of,” explains Tonia. “Slated to appear in the film are actor friends from all over the country, including Randy Jones (the ‘cowboy’ from the world famous group The Village People) who will portray the role of a video game creator.  Actor/singer Richard Pryor, Jr. will also have a role along with many other actor friends from Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City who are slated to appear.

Additionally, Carrier is using artwork from Breckenridge High School’s art class and local musician Jeff Schrems has written and recorded the film’s original theme song, with members of Grammy award winning group The Verve Pipe performing on the track.

While Carrier is remarkable organized, motivated and excited about her new project, many things need to occur before she is ready to start full filming – most notably, establishing the budget, which is why she has adopted a novel approach to funding her film through a pair of campaigns she is staging throughout the Great Lakes Bay area.

She has commenced an Indie GoGo campaign for Selling Stupid that runs through March 17th and offers many opportunities to help fund and invest in the project that can be found on her website at www.sellingstupidthemovie.com.

But her key fundraising event is a unique approach that allows participants to actually become extras in the film’s finale, which will be shot in Bay City at The Whistling Idiots Theatre on May 18th from 6:00 – 9:00 PM.  For a $30.00 contribution to the film’s campaign people can become an extra in the film. After they obtain all their needed shots, as a ‘thank you’ to contributors, live entertainment will be provided by musician/singer Jeff Schrems, talented singer & actor Richard Pryor, Jr., and legendary original cowboy from The Village People Randy Jones.

“It’s easy to buy a ticket,” explains Tonia. “All people need to do is go the www.sellingstupidthemovie.comand click on the ‘How to Help’ tab to go to the Indie GoGo campaign site.  Or if they wish to take an easier approach to purchasing tickets, people can phone Tonia at 989-450-2713 and order tickets via phone.

Tonia started developing her interest in filmmaking about four years ago, starting with hair & make-up. With the industry starting to pop up in Michigan she quickly became with numerous Indie projects in Detroit & Chicago. “I wanted to suck up as much energy and information as I could get on any set that I worked upon,” she explains, and now has credits for 14 different projects, including work as an ‘extra’ in Low Winter Sun.

“A couple years ago I got the bug and decided to write and direct something that would tell my own story,” she continues. “So I enlisted the aid of my friend Amy Austin and Rick Moreau from Vassar, and we created Techno Babble, which won the Audience Award at the Riverside Film Festival, which was incredibly inspiring. I usually write my scripts with specific characters and people in mind.”

“With the May 18th event at Whistling Idiots Theatre, we will have 200 seats available and for their $30.00 contribution we will get lots of audience shots, so people participating have a good chance of being an extra in that film, plus it will be a great time to shoot the finale part of the film and also enjoy some stellar musical entertainment.”

Tonia explains that the setting for Selling Stupid takes place at an Advertising Agency in the Mid-Michigan area. “It was an agency once run by a nice guy only now his jerky sexist son is running the operation, so he separates the girls from the guys and give each of them seven days to come up with a fresh campaign for a new video game created by a well-known and philanthropic character who will be played by Randy Jones from The Village People. Because they only have a week to develop this video game campaign through this competition, the boys approach it from a cocky perspective and believe they have the contest in the bag. The girls are not so confident, so they go see their mentor who tells them to find out why people love the product and ideas for the campaign will come quickly to them.  The girls end up meeting one nut job after another and the finale of the film will come at the launch of the video game, which is what we’ll be filming at Whistling Idiots on May 18th.”

When asked about influences that have informed her Directorial style, Tonia talks about first hand experience. “Over the last few years I’ve been involved with about 25 different projects and what I like to focus on most is organization and how people are being treated. Organization is very important to me, being on a small budget.  If you have people working on a film and not getting paid for their time, organization is a sign of respect for the people that come out to help you. If you have them working 18 hours a day when it could be 8 hours if a project was better organized, that simply isn’t right. I’ve experienced that first hand – where a simple shot could have been done in 1 hour instead of 4 if it was better organized”

“But in terms of directors and filmmakers that impress me, I enjoy Indie films and a bit of everything. And while I’m not some staunch feminist, I admire Catherine Bigelow a lot because she was the first female director to win an Oscar a few years ago, which is pretty crazy when you think about it.”

Why did Tonia decide to pick the video game theme for the thread to tie Selling Stupid together? “My first short film Techno Babble was all about how technology is not necessarily as good as we think it is because it creates shorter attention spans. Plus it cuts down on inter-personal communication. I love it when people text one another while living in the same house, or a woman will text her family that dinner is ready.  I think the subject is ripe with comedy.”

In terms of her writing, Tonia says that she views it as a means to an end. “I’m a writer because of the story that I want to tell and I definitely wanted to tell my stories through film and not through writing a novel, because I love everything that has to do with film,” she explains.

Once she completes Selling Stupid the next step involved is distribution. “Every Indie filmmaker usually will go to festivals as a way to shop their film and I was just in a movie that sold out at the Sundance Film Festival, “ she reflects. “I do have some leads for distribution, so am crossing my fingers that people will like the finished project. The best-case scenario is that somebody will buy the film and distribute it; and unfortunately a lot of movies just sit there. But I do plan on doing film festivals as well.”

“It’s amazing how active the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ type thing exists in the world of film,” notes Tonia. “You meet one person who knows another person and before you know it you’ve developed a network of ten varied talents.”

“The most challenging component is definitely the fundraising,” concludes Tonia. “I had to prioritize the budget with this project to make it happen and pare things down to what was essential. I love to pay extras with gas cards and take care of them a little bit because I know what it’s like to do ‘extra’ work for free, so any money that you have for props is like getting icing on the cake.  I’ve been in films with budgets ranging from $200.00 to $1 million and think there is definitely something to be said for a small and well organized and well placed number of people coming together on a set.  There does come a time when you have too many people standing around telling another person to do something, rather than making it happen – so I always try to avoid that at all cost.”

“In all honesty, I’m tremendously excited about this project and hope people come out to help us realize this dream and become a part of this film.  We really cannot do it properly without their support.”

If you are interested in attending the May 18th fundraising event and finale film shooting experience that will also feature live musical performances by Jeff Schrems, Randy Jones of The Village People, and Richard Pryor, Jr, go to www.sellingstupidthemovie.com and click the ‘How to Help’ button, or phone 989-450-2713 and order tickets by phone. Tickets are only $30.00.

If you are interested in opportunities for ownership of a part of the film, you can be a producer and own a part of any future profits. Tonia also has on-screen advertisement opportunities available for your business.  You can write her at sellingstupidthemovie@yahoo.com.

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