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Ask the Filmmakers

Elizabeth Mims

Elizabeth Mims took your questions live on Tuesday, July 16, but you can catch the recap of the chat below. Learn more about the making of Only the Young.

POV: Welcome to POV's live chat with Filmmaker Elizabeth Mims from Only the Young. We'll get started at 7:30pm ET (4:30pm PT).

POV: Please feel free to post your questions ahead of time.

POV: We're going to get started now. Welcome, Elizabeth. Thank you for joining us.

Elizabeth Mims: Hello! I'm excited to take your questions.

POV: How did you meet your subjects? What initially drew you to Garrison, Skye, and Kevin?

Elizabeth Mims: We first met Kevin and Garrison at a skatepark in Valencia. Jason grew up there so he wanted to visit it once again. Just walking around the park Garrison approached us asking if we had lost keys to a Jaguar... which we hadn't. I think Jason was wearing cut-off jeans...in any case they stood out to us. Mostly because kids from your high school would have thrown them over the fence. Garrison was dating Skye at the time so we met her a little later into filming. She was so dynamic and a romance was developing so we felt we might have a feature film.

POV: How did you establish trust?

Elizabeth Mims: We spent a great deal of time with these kids. There were incidents right away where we bonded. We were chased by bees the first day we filmed with the kids... these kinds of things seemed to keep happening. So we grew close.

Comment From Eleanor: Great film, Elizabeth. I just happened upon it on PBS and was glued to it. Did you have any reservations about filming the kids at such a sensitive stage in their lives? Were they open to having their stories told from the start?

Elizabeth Mims: Thank you! We wanted to make a film about this age in particular. Not being much older than our subjects...we felt we wanted to make a film about something close to us kind of like "writing what you know." We also were so passionate about each of them that we felt we could make this film with their best interest in mind. They were really open to telling us what was going on with them... and if there were things they didn't want to talk about we wouldn't push them. We'd wait and eventually if they wanted to they would tell us.

Comment From Jon: Who ran sound for you?

Elizabeth Mims: I ran sound and Jason handled the camera. We agreed on a style from the beginning for cinematography. With the two of us we were able to keep an intimate crew so the kids didn't feel like different people were showing up each day.

Comment From Lia:Are Garrison, Skye and Kevin still in touch with one another?

Elizabeth Mims: Kevin and Garrison are still close...I think Skye has separated a little from the boys. Garrison and Kevin still skate frequently and have spoken about train hopping to Portland. We were tempted to make a sequel after hearing about their trip plans. Kevin decided to stay in Canyon Country and get a job. His parents did move however and sell their house. He seems happy with his decision and I'm happy he's still around to hang out with Garrison. Just the other day we did an interview on the radio with "Word of Mouth" and Kevin was calling from Garrison's home phone line.

POV: Did Skye ever get in contact with her "mother"? Does she still have a relationship with her father?

Elizabeth Mims: Skye decided that she can't handle getting in touch with her mom at this point as far as I know. She has just finished graduating from high school and although she is an incredibly strong person... she can't have her in her life now. She is in touch with her father they spent a good amount of time together when he was released, but unfortunately he has returned to prison at the moment. However she is happy living with her Grandfather in a new house and will venture to Europe this summer.

POV: Considering Garrison’s new plan of action at the end of the film, is he still conservative as he once was?

Elizabeth Mims: Garrison is still very much the same. I think that he has ventured out of his comfort zone here and there but every time I speak to him he's the same Garrison.

Comment From CINEMATIQmag: What camera did you use? I'm watching the film now as I follow the convo. It was nicely shot. The sound is immaculate.

Elizabeth Mims: Thank you so much! We used the Canon 7D with Zeiss prime lenses.

POV: Can you describe your process working with co-director Jason Tippet?

Elizabeth Mims: Making a film with a co-director for ONLY THE YOUNG was so important. We were both completely engaged in completing the film and the days that were hard we were able to struggle through together. We would both watch the footage at the end of each day and pick out the moments that felt most powerful. Often we would come up with questions the night before and when it came time for shooting we both would ask follow up questions. There were some things I would miss and Jason would catch and visa-versa. We had worked together before on a short so we had already developed a supportive work ethic with each other’s ideas.

POV: What recommendations do you have for other filmmakers working in a Co-Director role?

Elizabeth Mims: Each of you will have your different ideas for what should happen and the miracle of digital editing means you can see both versions play out. Often I had watched a cut so many times it didn't seem possible to change it...and Jason would want to...and eventually usually a day later I would realize he was right. This version is better…

Elizabeth Mims: I know it sounds like a cheese ball thing to say... but do stay open minded. Or your film could suffer. Or more importantly you will suffer.

Comment From CINEMATIQmag: Watching hours of footage at the end of each day is serious commitment. Wow.

Elizabeth Mims: I know...there were tiny moments though that I think we would have missed if we weren't taking the time right away. We shot about three days a week for a year and half.

POV: Your previous film that you made with Tippet, Thompson, was an accomplished short that won Jury Award at SXSW (2009) and played at Sundance (2010). What did the two of you learn while making that film that you later applied to Only the Young?

Elizabeth Mims: We learned that we both really loved films about friendship and seeing Kevin and Garrison seemed like a red flag for us to start shooting. We also developed a style. All shot on tripod and mostly in two shots. We realized with shooting in two shots you could watch an interaction develop without cutting from single to single. We also learned that you just have to start making things on your own. With Thompson we learned that cutting with b-roll and avoiding talking heads was something we wanted to do as much as possible.

Elizabeth Mims: The tough thing we learned was just because your film plays Sundance it doesn't mean that money will be thrown at you to make a feature.

POV: Do you have any tips for first time filmmakers?

Elizabeth Mims: I think mostly what I touched on before making things on your own... getting a camera and starting something. You can make a film with two people which is really exciting. Try not to make limits for yourself. There are usually a lot of people around you that are willing to help. Also people might not see the final film you have in mind so you can't get discouraged by those who just don't understand.

Comment From Guest : Will you be filming anymore together?

Elizabeth Mims: We'll see...at the moment we are working on different projects.

POV: What kind of budget were you working with on Thompson, and then with Only the Young? What advice do you have for filmmakers working on low-budget films?

Elizabeth Mims: For Thompson we were given a grant from CalArts for six hundred dollars which mostly went to hard drive space. We used the schools equipment... and borrowed a friends camera for part of the time. With Only the Young both Jason and I were fortunate enough to have very supportive parents. They helped us buy a camera, computer and sound equipment (still under $8,000). When it came time to find funding for our music licensing we used kickstarter to help us. With our network of friends and family we were able to raise enough ($22,000).

POV: Thinking back to the production of Only the Young, what was the biggest challenge making the film? Were there any preventable mistakes?

Elizabeth Mims: I think that looking back it would have been better at the beginning to take our time shooting the first interviews. There were some problems with footage we couldn't include because we didn't take the time to get the shots we wanted. Also I think we could have been more mindful of the music licensing issue...realizing that we would need someone who has dealt with this issue in particular before.

POV: What are you and Jason working on now? What new projects do you have going on?

Elizabeth Mims: Jason is currently working as an editor on a new feature documentary. I'm not sure what it is titled just yet but I'm sure it will be fantastic. I'm wrapping up to short narrative films at the moment.. a slight change from documentary but I plan on making docs in the future.

Elizabeth Mims: One of the narrative films I'm wrapping up now is based on the relationship between me and my brother... how we used to never say "I love you" but rather would go out of our way to do things for each other. I was lucky enough to cast my friend I grew up with (so I can write the way she speaks) Alex Gerhing and Sam Dillion who was in the Arcade Fire film Scenes from the Suburbs.

POV: Do you see yourself as more of a narrative or documentary filmmaker?

Elizabeth Mims: I'm not sure...I go back and forth. I think that no matter I will always want to edit and create films in a more linear/narrative way...I enjoy lots of different kinds of documentaries but more so films like "Billy the Kid" where we see a relationship develop. In the end I hope to make both.

POV: We are extremely grateful to have you, Elizabeth. Thank you for joining us today. Our live chat will be ending now. Is there anything else you want to say to our viewers?

Elizabeth Mims: Thank you so much for your support! I'm excited to be able to share our film with you.

POV: Thanks to everyone who wrote in! Great questions tonight.

POV: Thank you again for your insightful answers, Elizabeth. We're excited that Only the Young will be available for full streaming online starting today until August 14, 2013 on the POV website: http://www.pbs.org/pov/onlytheyoung/full.php

POV: Visit Only the Young‘s POV companion site to go behind the lens with the filmmakers, and learn tips about getting started in documentary filmmaking from a variety of filmmakers and filmmaking organizations, including Elizabeth: http://www.pbs.org/pov/onlytheyoung/

POV: In tandem with the broadcast of Only the Young, participant in POV’s #myHSsoundtrack. If there was a documentary about your high school school experience, what songs would be on the soundtrack? Get inspired, break out those old mix tapes, 8-tracks, LPs and CDs and create your own on Spotify. Then share the link on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtags #myHSsoundtrack and ‪#‎OnlyTheYoung‬! Skye, Garrison and Kevin (main characters from the POV documentary Only the Young) have gotten us started. Check it out: http://www.pbs.org/pov/onlytheyoung/my-high-school-soundtrack.php

POV: This chat will be archived at http://www.pbs.org/pov/onlytheyoung/ask_the_filmmaker.php





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