Box Talks: Catalyst Film Collective

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Funnelbox talks with Eva Moss about Catalyst Film Collective and their mission to diversify the film industry.

Watch a snippet of our conversation, read the full interview below, and find out more about Catalyst Film Collective and the Script to Screen filmmakers grant.

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FULL INTERVIEW

 

Christian: Okay. Let’s start off with having you say your name and your role at Catalyst.

Eva: My name is Eva Moss, and I am a co-founder and current president of Catalyst Film Collective.

Christian: Let’s talk about the mission of Catalyst Film Collective.

Eva: So, we are a local nonprofit in Portland, and we focus on diversifying the film industry here. And so, what that looks like is we do workshops, we do… Our central program is called Script to Screen. So, it’s a learning set, where we have an incredibly diverse cast and crew, and we choose a script that supports the mission, meaning, like, it’s passes the Bechdel test, and tells a story that, from underrepresented voices perspective, and we do all kinds of other networking things, and working with other partners in town to educate people who aren’t aware yet of the fact that it’s so important that we have a diverse group of storytellers telling the stories that we all get to see.

Christian: Great. Some people might know that Catalyst used to be Couch Film Collective. Do you wanna talk a bit about, like, the transition, and why it’s now Catalyst?

Eva: Sure. So, originally, when we started nine years ago, we were called Couch Film Collective, and that was a tongue-in-cheek name, after the street, in Portland, which sort of centered us here, but also because a lot of the original concept was supporting women in film, women in narrative film specifically, which, there wasn’t a lot being done in town around that. But as we pretty quickly realized that it’s important to be intersectional, and, like, just supporting women in film was ignoring a bunch of other underrepresented voices. And so, now, over the years, we’ve made it equally part of the mission to support women in film, LGBT people in film, BIPOC people in film, and expanding on that, to any other groups that are underrepresented, disabled people, immigrants, etc. And we don’t limit ourselves to one specific group, because every group matters, and that is the point of the organization, is to break down barriers for anyone who needs them broken down. And so, in the last few years, we realized the name wasn’t really representative of what we did anymore, and so we did a public survey of all of our members, and the public at large, to try to figure out a new name, and with the limiting factor that we wanted to keep the initials. So, yeah. So, we were looking for a C word, basically, that could really represent what we actually did, and we all came up with the… I don’t remember who came up with it. Someone on our board came up with the idea of Catalyst, which was just absolutely perfect, and we kind of all knew it right away that that was the one.

 

“Each person, each set, can only do so much, but everything has a ripple effect. And so, Catalyst, to me, means that whatever small thing we’re able to do, whoever individually we’re able to impact, that person goes on to impact more people and more people and more people. And so, if we can be a spark that helps create larger change, then we’re doing our job.”

 

Christian: What does that mean to you? The Catalyst Film Collective…

Eva: Yeah. I think, so, each person, each set, can only do so much, but everything has a ripple effect. And so, Catalyst, to me, means that whatever small thing we’re able to do, whoever individually we’re able to impact, that person goes on to impact more people and more people and more people. And so, if we can be a spark that helps create larger change, then we’re doing our job.

Christian: That’s beautiful. Let’s talk about Catalyst Film Collective’s connection to Funnelbox, and how that came to be and what that looks like right now.

Eva: Yeah. So, we were so lucky to have been reached out to by Joel and Mike, the owners of Funnelbox, back in 2020. And it was pretty random. I don’t even know exactly how they knew what we were doing, but they just emailed us and said, “We really love the work you’re doing. We wanna support it.” And so, ever since then, we’ve been supported by Funnelbox, both with donations, as well as gear donations, which is incredibly important in this industry. Funnelbox has a full gear truck, which is prohibitive for a lot of independent filmmakers. I think a lot of the difference between professional-looking and amateur-looking film is lighting. And so, I think having access to beautiful lighting has made a difference in our productions, in our Script to Screen productions, and Funnelbox has even given access to our members, to use in their own individual productions as well, and I think that’s helped really give a leg up to let independent underrepresented filmmakers show what they can actually accomplish when they’re given the resources that other people have.

Christian: What do you think makes, I guess, the match or pairing between Funnelbox and Catalyst, like, such a good match? Because I feel like some other group could have come along and, like, given you money, but I feel like our mission and values align with Catalyst. We’re both serving a very similar mission, but doing differently, doing that in different ways.

Eva: Yeah. Yeah, totally. I think Funnelbox, as a B Corp, I think it’s central to everything that you all do, that you are thinking about justice, and thinking about how to make the world better. And so, I think, not only in the projects that Funnelbox takes on, but in the way that everyone working there walks the walk. And it’s just very clear to the whole community at large here that Funnelbox is doing great things within the work that they’re doing, within the ways that they’re supporting the community, within the ways they’re speaking out about these values, and we feel very lucky to have been singled out by Funnelbox as a group that they wanna support.

One of the things that we’re trying to do as an organization is just get people, production companies and people who’ve been working in film, to stop and think. Every step along the way, you’re making choices. So, a lot of times, if you’re not spending time to think, you’re gonna just do what everybody’s done before. So, you’re gonna hire the same people, you’re gonna be comfortable with the same crew, you’re gonna be comfortable with people who look like you, and you’re not gonna be thinking about all the little ways that those choices impact representation, and the world at large, and so I think one thing that’s so wonderful about Funnelbox, that we also do at Catalyst, is, like, like, I know Funnelbox, when they were looking for voiceover artists, they’re like, “Hey, it’s all White men out there, and some White women, and that’s not what the world looks like.” And so, we’re gonna put in that extra effort to find voiceover actors who are diverse. And that’s just something that a lot of production companies aren’t doing.

And that’s not because they’re intentionally trying to keep all voiceover actors White, but I think it takes that extra bit of thinking and stopping, and, like, not just doing what everybody else has been doing, to make that change. And so, I love seeing Funnelbox do all of those little things that we can do. When you’re hiring, I know Funnelbox is also thinking about that, you know, for all the employees at Funnelbox. Again, not just hiring Joe, so-and-so’s friend, who we’ve worked one time together, and he’s a cool dude, you know? No. We’re gonna do a fair hiring process. We’re actually gonna look at all of the people who are qualified, and take a risk on interviewing and getting to know someone who isn’t within our regular circle, and who is equally talented, maybe more so, and maybe more deserving of the job. So, it just takes a little bit of extra time and effort, and that’s something Funnelbox is doing every day in all the work that they’re doing, and that’s something that we, as an organization, are trying to educate other production companies on, how just that tiny little bit of extra time and effort can make a real difference in individuals’ lives, and in the community at large.

Christian: Yeah. I mean, it goes back to what you were saying about that ripple effect, just stopping to think, could have such a huge impact on someone’s career, if they could just get an opportunity to get in somewhere.

Eva: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. I think, with our Script to Screen program, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Like, we are looking for crew outside of the regular places. And so, that is not only introducing people to film, or giving them their first opportunity on-set. It’s also giving someone who’s had some amount of opportunity an opportunity to mentor someone else. And, it just means that more people who want to work in this field can, because the barrier to entry is high. And it’s a field, in particular, that, it’s storytelling. And so, we don’t want to just hear from the same person over and over again. It’s really important that the stories we tell are representing the people in the world.

Christian: Great. So, let’s talk about the Script to Screen program. Just, like, what is it, first of all?

Eva: Yeah. So, Script to Screen was developed pretty early on in our organization, because we were kind of sick of a lot of non-profits and film groups sitting around kind of complaining about how much it sucks that how little diversity there is in film. Which is fair and true, but we were really intent on being action-oriented from the beginning. So we were like, okay, what can we do that will actually make a difference with this situation that we don’t want anymore? So, we decided that if we could create a short film production, and do it the way, a little bit of exaggerated, but the way that it’s not being done, we could not only train up a new generation, but kind of, like, test this out. Like, what does it look like when you’re on set with, like, 90% women and non-binary people, and, like, 60% BIPOC people? Like, how does that play out? How does that change all of the toxic atmosphere that is normally on a film set? And what happens when you have a woman director? What happens…you know? And so, we got to, we’ve been, for the last nine years, seeing that concept proved, of how much better the work is, how incredible the environment is, how welcome everyone feels on set, and it’s pretty wonderful to see. The only negative effect I would say is that people’s standards, then, are so high for what a set can be like that it can be hard to then go to a regular old set, and just see the contrast there.

Christian: Yeah. I’ve heard that from people. So many white dudes.

Eva: Oh, my god. It’s all, yeah. In stop motion. It’s everywhere. Like, it’s everywhere in film, you know. It’s not just in narrative film. That’s our focus, but it’s everywhere where there’s a barrier to entry, and there’s, like, access gatekeeping, you know? And that’s in a lot of aspects of film, because it’s a fun job. People wanna do it, you know?

Christian: So this year’s grant is pretty unique and special because there’s more money.

 

“we’re super excited that the 2024 Script to Screen grant is going to be $10,000, which is exponentially more than we’ve ever been able to give before, thanks to the support of Funnelbox, as well as Oregon Film.”

 

Eva: Yeah. I think it’s a really unique grant, because it’s not just giving someone money to use as they wish on their production. It definitely comes along with this requirement that they have this mentor set, this learning set, and they use as much of our collective members as possible, and we help in a lot of ways. So, there’s a lot of opportunity for newer filmmakers, as well, which is also unusual compared to other grants, where it’s just like, somebody gives you money, but then what do you do with it? But yeah, we’re really excited that over the last nine years, the grant amount has increased exponentially. So, our first year, I think our first grant was, like, $550 or something like that, and that was just from our own fundraising that we did. And then, it’s just gone up every year. So, it went up to, like, $1000, and then $2000, and then I think it was $4,000, and then $5,600, and then last year, was $7,500. And then, this next year, in 2024, it’s gonna be $10,000. So, that’s really, really exciting.

That’s due to the support of Funnelbox, as well as the Oregon Film. So, I think that is still not enough to actually pay people properly for a short film production, but it’s definitely getting a lot closer, and we have as a rule that no one can be an unpaid laborer on our sets. So, even if it’s just a $50 or $100 stipend, like, everyone gets paid. That’s always been the case. And so, we’ve always, everyone’s been underpaid, but it’s sort of, we’ve created a hierarchy budget that we share with our winners, so that they know, like, okay, department heads should get this much, compared to the non-department heads, compared to, like, an intern or a PA. But, everyone needs to get paid.

Christian: Do you feel like, from those crews, are any of them taking any of their learnings into other sets? 

Eva: Oh, yeah. Oh, my gosh. Yeah.

I was so excited recently. I went down to Bend, and was watching a short film program, and met this woman, McKayla, who I’d actually never met in person, but then when I introduced her and said my name, she said, “Oh, you gave me my first ever job on a film set.” And I was like, “Oh, really?” And she had worked on “Again and Again,” one of our Script to Screen winners, and she had gone through the program of Outside the Frame. So, she was actually a former houseless person who had gone through the Outside the Frame program, and had learned about filmmaking, and then, on a Catalyst Film Collective Script to Screen set, had been given her first hired job on film, and then, when I met her, she had gone on to become a DP, a commercial DP, and she had screened a short film that she, or a short commercial that she had made for Gatorade, I believe. So, that was a pretty good success story.

Christian: That’s awesome. Yeah. So, like, it only takes a little bit to catapult you up. 

Eva: Yeah. So, we’re super excited that the 2024 Script to Screen grant is going to be $10,000, which is exponentially more than we’ve ever been able to give before, thanks to the support of Funnelbox, as well as Oregon Film. And the grant opens February 1st, and then closes March 31st at midnight. And you can check out our website, catalystfilmcollective.org/grants to see all the fine print about what that means, but we are currently searching for the next script to produce and to support. So, all you screenwriters out there, get writing, and yeah, make sure to check us out, because we’d love to discover your story and voice, and help make it a reality.

Christian: Do you wanna say a little bit about this grant being specifically a call to action to screenwriters, versus the directors or producers?

Eva: Yes. Yes. Good point. Yeah, so, one, another unusual thing about the Script to Screen grant is that the winner is the screenwriter. So, most grants go to producers or directors, and we understand that a story begins with a script. You can’t make a good story without a good script. And so, and sometimes those people are the same. Sometimes you’re a producer and a writer, or a director and a writer. We’ve had a lot of people who, once they win, want to go on to direct their short, but we’ve had people who wanted to DP, who hadn’t been given an opportunity to DP. They’d been AC’ing a bunch of stuff, but realized that in order to get that first DP job, they were gonna have to make it happen themselves. And that’s kind of, like, what our organization does, right? It’s like, a lot of times, people aren’t giving underrepresented people these opportunities. And so, we just decided to make it ourselves. And so, whatever role you wanna do, that you haven’t gotten a chance to do, you can write a great script, and you can make that happen for yourself. So, we’ve also had someone who wanted to edit and script supervise. She wasn’t interested in directing, but she did wanna be involved in, like, making sure the story came out the way that she had originally written it. So, those are the roles that she chose.

And then, most recently, our most recent winner at first only considered herself a writer, but after she won our grant, and in discussing what would actually be supportive of her interests and potential career path, she decided she did wanna co-direct it, but we found an incredible local director as well, to co-direct with her, who also had never been given a chance to direct anything before, but had been on sets many times, is an amazing producer and an actor. So, the two of them together, with this, like, powerhouse team, who had never gotten that title before but were clearly totally capable of the job.

Christian: Right. Awesome. And how can people apply? 

Eva: Yeah. Yeah. So, all the details are on our website. And, yeah, so, just a quick overview. We know $10,000 isn’t enough, so we wanna make sure that we’re limiting the production value needed. So we have a 10-page limit. We have, like, a limited number of speaking roles, limited number of locations, and then our judges will consider just the producibility of it. So, even if it’s 10 pages and have limited speaking, but it has, like, 25 huge VFX, then it’s probably not gonna get picked. So, the way that it works is we have a panel of professional screenwriters, most of them local, some of them beyond Portland, and all of those people read all of the selections, or all of the submissions, and everyone gets feedback on their script.

So, that’s another thing that’s really unusual for a lot of screenwriting competitions. You might get, if you get anything at all, you might get, like, one line from one judge in a screenwriting competition, but every person who submits gets at least four different judges’ feedback on their script, and they’re pretty significant notes as well that they get. So, it’s actually really helpful just to apply if you’re workshopping a script, because you’re gonna get a professional screenwriter, four professional screenwriters, telling you things that might improve your script, even if you don’t make it down to the top three. And then, so, that panel narrows it down to the top three, and then, because we’re a collective, we all have equal voice in what project we wanna make. And so, we have this pitch party, where everyone who is interested in our work, whether they’re a formal member or not, can show up and vote, and then all of our members also can vote online, over the next week after the pitch party, and so that also gives an opportunity for screenwriters to get a chance to pitch their project in public, which is an important part of screenwriting as well. And then, yeah. Then we all vote, and whoever gets the most votes wins.

Christian: What are Catalyst’s future plans? What’s in the works?

Eva: So, our key program over the years has been Script to Screen, and we’re really excited about our new program that we’re developing, called Post to Premiere, which is gonna help bridge that gap from filming something, to finishing something, to getting it seen by audiences.

In the history of our organization, a lot of our focus, and a lot of the focus of people interested in film in general, has been on production. So, we’ve done workshops in Script to Screen, which is production-heavy. But that’s just a tiny piece of actually what filmmaking is. There’s this whole other arm called post-production, that is equally important to making quality film and to getting things done and actually seen by audiences. And so, one of the things, one of the places where we’re headed next as an organization, is to take advantage of that opportunity for this community. And we have some exciting things, the programming that we’re working out related to that, as well as the step after that, which is the screening and bringing audiences together, which is also where filmmaking can actually make a difference to a broader community and world, is it’s only through it being watched, and talked about, and calls to action. And I think, even in narrative filmmaking, I think documentary, it’s often very obvious what the call to action is for the film, but the best narrative filmmaking is also meant to create change and make people think. And so, yeah, as an organization, we’re really interested in helping facilitate that happening, helping connect audiences to filmmakers, helping, from all along the way, pre-production, production, post-production, and screening. And so, our organization is moving in the direction of having different programming for each of those very equally important aspects of filmmaking.

Christian: Wonderful.

.LEARN MORE ABOUT CATALYST FILM COLLECTIVE

 

CATALYSTFILMCOLLECTIVE.ORG

SCRIPT TO SCREEN GRANT PROGRAM

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