A New Approach to Filmmaking: Talking to Kylie Eddy
by Claire White
When I first met Kylie Eddy, we shared an Uber. Instead of waiting half an hour for a train after an event in Brunswick, she insisted on ordering us an Uber so that I could be dropped off in the city with her. We had just left a female and non-binary filmmakers of Melbourne event, designed for fellow filmmakers to meet, discuss their creative goals for the year, and find potential collaborators. New to screenwriting, I was content to sit back and listen as Kylie, a beautiful combination of vibrant, positive and supportive energy, facilitated our tiny group of screenwriters. In our car ride together, though, she helped me refocus my feature concept from a series of half-thoughts and uncertainty into something more tangible, along with the advice which I have come to understand to be her true north: just start writing.
A writer, director and producer, she was General Manager at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in marketing at Walt Disney Studios. She loves to create Instagram stories, used to run Australia’s largest filmmaker meetup group, and is currently writing a book. In addition to this impressive list, she is Co-founder of Lean Filmmaking, a company she runs with her brother, David, to help filmmakers with their indie features.
When I greet Kylie again, her energy and enthusiasm is infectious.
Claire White: Hi Kylie, thank you so much for letting me interview you!
Kylie Eddy: You’re more than welcome, it’s so nice to hear from you!
CW: When we were setting up this interview earlier, you said brother is coming to stay with you tonight. Is this David, who you run Lean Filmmaking with?
KE: I’m so excited! Yes, he’s my only brother. He’s based in Perth, so he’s flying over for a few days.
CW: Is it difficult co-running this business together with him so far away?
KE: You know what, it’s not so much the distance, it’s the time difference. Three hours is a lot. The timing is really hard to make it work. He has a full-time job, I have a full-time job, so there’s lots of things that make it hard, but we keep persisting regardless. Like most creative projects, you have to find a way around life in general while earning an income and paying your rent.
CW: Because you do this with your brother, and you say you have to make time for it outside your full-time work, is Lean Filmmaking a passion project for you?
KE: Lean Filmmaking is definitely a passion project, and because we’re trying a new process for making films, it’s about introducing this new process to people, so for us it’s definitely at that stage where it is driven by our own passion. I love working with him, and we are both really fortunate in being able to find a way for our skills to really combine in this pretty weird and fantastic way.
CW: Your brother is not a filmmaker, but you are. How did the idea of combining his background in the Lean model for software into filmmaking come about?
KE: Ten years ago, when I made my micro-budget feature film, things were very different. I went through the making of my feature like it was a Hollywood film, because there was no real model to follow. What that means is that I spent a few years part time writing my script, I applied for funding, I was rejected, I got a little bit of money, and I went to traditional investors. So it was made in a very traditional way, and it played at international festivals, and I sold it to a distributor in the US, but it was very difficult to sell it to any other territories, very difficult to sell it in Australia. Finding an audience was heartbreaking. I don’t regret making my film, but it did not get me more jobs. David thought, “the way you talk about filmmaking is very similar to how software used to be made, and now we’re using these other techniques, this other philosophy, maybe we can apply it to filmmaking.” Then we just started running experiments to see if we could do that, and five years later, here we are, still running experiments.
CW: What is the foundation of Lean Filmmaking?
KE: It’s broken down into four key values:
1. Embrace filmmaking as a collaborative art.
2. Focus on the story before adding production values.
3. Build deep audience connections first.
4. Learn by doing, rather than by extensive planning.
It’s an agile process that is collaborative, iterative and audience driven method of producing films. You don’t need to postpone some of the big decisions like how much money you’re going to spend, you can focus on the idea and building a team first. It’s about finding the right collaborators, then finding an audience, which doesn’t cost money. It costs time, but you can start for zero dollars to make your feature project now.
CW: You have been in a film industry for a while, working in a wide array of roles, such as writer, director, producer, at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and even a stint at Walt Disney Studios. As someone who has worked in so many different capacities, how would you describe the Australian film industry, and how it works?
KE: The Australian film industry is a cottage industry, it’s very small, and the style of our filmmaking is perpetuated by our subsidy model. Because the industry is so focused on the government funding model, as filmmakers we feel very powerless because we feel like our fates are determined by things beyond our control. We spend so much time looking at funding applications and for funding, and five years ago, definitely ten years ago when I made my micro-budget feature, that really did feel like the only opportunity to make films. Whereas now, that is definitely not the case. Now, there is crowdfunding, there is Patreon, YouTube, other social media platforms, Vimeo Pro, podcasting. There is no excuse to not to be able to reach your audience and make your content, and you do not need to wait for funding for that. Let’s take America, for example, where it is not a government funded model. They are out hustling because they have always had to be that, always had to be business savvy, and find their own ways of funding. So the US are killing it, whereas we’re still waiting for people to give us money.
CW: I agree with that. Just looking at what is receiving funding and what is coming out in Australia, it is all very similar in the values or themes, which I feel like does limit people. People are going to try and create films that are Screen Australia films, and not what they may actually want to create.
KE: And I guess this is definitely what we talk about in Lean Filmmaking. I don’t think there is anything inherently bad or wrong with government funding. If you’re successfully already doing it, and some people are very successful at that, it is awesome. I’m just saying there are other ways of doing it. If you’re looking at government funding, your audience is actually the funding bodies. But now, the internet exists! With the internet, the whole model has shifted. YouTube is an excellent example. People who are really successful have found a way to access an underserviced market, and really connect deeply with their audience.
CW: So is this something you definitely want to push towards for emerging filmmakers, or people who find entering the industry quite daunting, so to speak, to look for these other platforms such as YouTube?
KE: Absolutely. I understand why it could be quite terrifying to put yourself out there in public, and seeing what is and isn’t working, but that’s what happens with a short film as well, you just don’t feel the immediate effects of it. My advice is to try and make a video a week on YouTube for a year, then try to make your short film.
CW: What do you suggest these videos be? Are they to be used to explore creating narrative content, or as a way to get a handle on the camera?
KE: I’m suggesting it literally doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s a video once a week, and you will learn what you need to learn. And this is a huge part of Lean Filmmaking, you learn by doing, not by planning or thinking.
CW: This interview is for the Melbourne Women in Film Festival, and we originally met at a female and non-binary identifying filmmakers of Melbourne event. In your own experience, how would you describe the female filmmaker community in this industry?
KE: I think the important thing to focus on is often when we talk about funding and often when we talk about the Film Industry with a capital F and I, is that we are giving away our power to this perceived notion of other gate keepers and decision makers, who give us permission to make films. So as women, we need to take that permission for ourselves and just start making films. What that does mean is that we might have to challenge our perception of what it means to be funded or what kind of films we’re making and start in other ways. We need to give ourselves permission to just get out there and start making stuff, and then build our own version of what the film industry is.
Kylie Eddy is CEO of Lean Filmmaking, and a panellist at the Money Matters: Making a Film on a Micro-Budget panel at MWFF. Saturday 24th of February, 12pm – 1pm at ACMI.
You can learn more about Lean Filmmaking on their website: http://leanfilmmaking.com/