Fernanda RossiFernanda Rossi collaborates with filmmakers in all areas of storytelling, from development to fine cut. As an author, international speaker and story analyst she has doctored over 300 documentaries, fiction scripts and fundraising samples, including two nominated for an Academy Award®. Author of Trailer Mechanics: How to Make Your Documentary Fundraising Demo. More info at documentarydoctor.com. Follow Fernanda at facebook.com/storydoctoring.

Film Anatomy: Felix Austria!

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Fernanda Rossi dissects the making of Felix Austria! by filmmaker Christine Beebe for the fifth post in the “Film Anatomy” series.

The first thing I noticed when I talked to Christine Beebe was her communication skills — she’s a great listener, she asked great questions. We started working on her cut of Felix Austria! with her extraordinary editor, Bella Erikson, present during most sessions. When I finally saw the film at Hot Docs earlier this year, it felt as if I were seeing it for the first time — that’s how much their work and creative power shined through.

Felix Austria!
Director/Producer: Christine Beebe
Length: 76 min.
URL: http://www.felixaustriafilm.com

Film Vitals

Logline:
American aesthete Felix Pfeifle sets out to find and save the last heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but along the way discovers that the real ticking time bomb is his own mortality.

Select Festivals, Screenings & Awards

  • Hot Docs 2013 (Premiere)

Shooting Locations:

  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Austria
  • Germany
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina

Production Timeline:

  • 6 years from the first day of shooting to a locked picture.
  • 2 years of intensive work on the film — gathering archival footage and images, traveling and shooting principal photography.
  • Edited in fits and starts. (4.5 months editing in total, including music.)
  • 1 year off.
  • 4 weeks of post-production and finishing.

Money Talk:

  • The total budget: $185,000.
  • All of this was raised through private investors.
  • There were two big rounds of fundraising: one at the onset of shooting and a second at the end of editing.

The Filmmaker

Film School:
CalArts, M.F.A. in Film Directing.

Other Studies:
New York University Summer Film Program to test the waters and see whether she wanted to leave advertising for filmmaking.

For a Living:
Beebe teaches film, which she finds energizing, and she supplements her doc work by working for other people. She primarily produces and directs short content for agencies.

Survival Strategy:
Beebe had a clear arrangement with her then-wife: She worked on the film while raising the kids, and her wife brought in the hard cash. “I had the best of both worlds — seeing my kids all the time and fulfilling my creative drive,” she said.

Previous Films:

  • Felix Austria! is Beebe’s directorial debut.
  • She also co-produced the documentary F— by Steve Anderson.
  • She’s worked in the art department for fiction films, such as Mira Nair’s Hysterical Blindness and James Mangold’s Kate & Leopold.

Christine’s Smart Move
“Making a film is such an intensely collaborative process, and landing a stellar creative team is essential,” said Christine Beebe.

She has a unique voice and point of view, so she had to find a team that could support her choices. “The smart moves happened every day when I didn’t listen to folks who simply didn’t get what I was trying to do — and there were lots of them!”

Never Again

“Never again invite your subject to move into your house so that you can work on the film 24/7 together. (I wish I were kidding!) No, seriously, Felix and I remain good friends and we have a very collaborative relationship, but the line between subject and director is a very fine one.”

Memorable Moments

Beebe will never forget a dream come true. That dream was to have the almost whole crew celebrate in style, meaning literally in the style of a Kaiser Ball, in keeping with the film’s theme.

“There’s nothing like throwing the best party in town to celebrate the birth of a film. Felix, me and our lovely crew, all wearing wigs and masks, dancing the night away at the most talked about party of Hot Docs.”

There was also a lot of laughter that took the pressure off the intense schedule and shooting. “Felix’s sense of humor is one of the brightest. Because of the things he’s been through in his life he has the wonderful ability to laugh.”

Will She Relapse and Make Another Film?

The minute Christine Beebe realized how a documentary consumes one’s life, she promised never ever to make a documentary again. But, of course, nobody believed her, me least of all.

“I’m already at it again,” she confessed. She’s teamed up with Amy Cargill Scott (one of the talented editor’s on Felix Austria!) and Lenny Beckerman to share their love for Hal Ashby in a feature documentary, Once I Was: The Hal Ashby Story.

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Fernanda Rossi
Fernanda Rossi
Fernanda Rossi collaborates with filmmakers in all areas of storytelling, from development to fine cut. As an author, international speaker and story analyst she has doctored over 300 documentaries, fiction scripts and fundraising samples, including two nominated for an Academy Award®. Author of Trailer Mechanics: How to Make Your Documentary Fundraising Demo. More info at www.documentarydoctor.com. Follow Fernanda at facebook.com/storydoctoring.