My name is Yotam Dor and I live in Toronto, Canada. I’ve worn many hats as an editor, compositor, writer, director and producer. I’ve loved the web ever since I could get on-line with my 14.4 dial up modem. I strongly believe the web is today’s premier storytelling medium. I’m just waiting for everyone else to agree.
TF: Hey Yot, Thanks for chatting with us. To start out would you mind introducing our readers to who you are and what it is you do.
My name is Yotam Dor and I live in Toronto, Canada. As a once-upon-a-time animator, then editor, then compositor, then turned producer I have a deep rooted interest in storytelling. The web is today’s storytelling medium. There are few mediums around today that can trump the 100 year old story telling technology (much perfected since film’s flammable beginnings).
As a filmmaker I love collaboration and working with a team. While studying at the Savannah College of Art and Design I co-founded an organization that fostered collaboration across multiple disciplines and put creatives in touch with each other using on-line tools. This creative collaborative hub allowed me find a job immediately after graduating within the field of innovation and collaboration. I’ve since left Savannah to pursue producing and online film distribution endeavors in Toronto, Canada.
TF: When were you first drawn to the arts and what drew you?
Immediately! The first two things I was able to do were draw and talk. I was born in Israel so my first language is Hebrew. We moved to Canada at an early age, so I took great liberties with the English language; call it language arts. Also, in Hebrew you read from right to left so that affected the way I interpreted information. As a young talker, (I think I was 3 days old when I was stringing together complex sentences) the only way my parents could get me to shut up was putting a marker and some paper in my hand. So art-time became “mommy-rests-her-head-time” in our house. My father is a non-practicing artist, with a tremendous natural ability. I wish I inherited more of his raw skills, I’d probably still be drawing today. Because I felt I couldn’t draw as well as him I was attracted to stop motion animation. I’ve always loved watching animation. I used to wake up at 5am waiting for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to come on TV, meanwhile imagining that the animators were putting their final touches on their drawings with papers strewn about like a busy news room. The problem for me was classic animation was too time consuming and I always want to get my results quicker.
We had a Pentium 75 computer and I remember getting a program called 3DMovieMaker by Microsoft Kids.This program changed everything I’ve ever done since. I probably spent thousands of hours making movies in every possible genre. The 3D characters were all pre-rendered and had a set of keyframable actions. You had so many choices, including adding camera angles and crazy sets. I would invite friends over to play different characters, and cast my parents as… parents. Eventually I yearned for more freedom and I got into 3D Studio Max and Adobe After Effects. From there I also got deeply into editing and that pretty much describes my life as an “artist”… until I arrived to art school.
TF: What do you most enjoy about Savannah?
I’ll speak about what I enjoy about Savannah as if I still live there.
Savannah is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s also the craziest. Literally crazy, but that’s a whole different thing. I had the pleasure of living right behind Jones Street on the Lane (I love how in Savannah an ally is called a lane) in a cozy studio apartment. I still love showing people what Jones looks like with its gigantic live oaks, beautiful Spanish Moss and cobbled streets using google maps. I usually try not to describe the smell of horse manure, but I do mention the sound of carriage tours taking you back eons. I also enjoyed the drinking culture in Savannah. This is a town that appreciates a “beverage” or three, and every March 17th she certainly shows off in style during St. Patty’s.
TF: Where do you find inspiration?
For the first two years of my life in Savannah I only rode a bike. Without fail I would pull over at every sunset and take a photo. Each time the photo barely captured how beautiful the light wrapped around the ivy covered homes or moss draped tree branches, but I would still pull to the side of the road and try again. To say the environment alone is inspiration enough in Savannah is an insult to the wonderful group of people that make up the community. I understand why so many artists stick around to continue working on their craft. There’s so much visual beauty that you just rarely find in most other places.
The people surrounding me are usually my source of inspiration because I prefer to work collaboratively these days. The largest collaborative network of course is the world wide web and I spend A LOT of time reading and not enough time writing. I’ve made a presentation on how I consume content and how I go about filing it away for reference. I think some of the virtual goddies out on the web are often trampled and overlooked because of the aggressive and careless ways we consume content these days. I’m guilty of this as well, and it seems like unless thousands of people comment on something it can be forgotten. Moving back a step I basically use a combination of tools to get my inspiration-on: Google Reader (RSS), Twitter, Evernote, Facebook, Readitlater, Spool, and Feedly to mention a few methods.
TF: How did you decide to attend SCAD and what was your experience there like?
My SCAD story is unique only up until the point when I arrived on a SCAD Day and got hooked…
Allow me to back up. I was editing most nights in Toronto, and I hated it. I didn’t get to work with people so much and I was looking to get more deeply involved in the storytelling process. I really bought into the Walter Murch philosophy of editing and not so much into the reality of editing (long hours in front of a screen). I started to get back into title design because I always considered myself more of an animator than an editor. I felt editing was too technical and not as artistic as title design. I was freelancing on the side as a title designer and I found this amazing blog that later became motionographer. I wrote to the blog runner, Justin Cone and asked him where he went to school and he told me all about SCAD. I applied thinking no one will ever get back to me and left to Europe with the little cash I had saved up from working. I needed to get away from the darkness of the editing room and find inspiration in Europe. Smash cut forward: I remember hearing that I was accepted and then losing my mind in Amsterdam while staring at a Van Gough (I’m not sure if I was already losing my mind regardless of the news).
Refreshed from my trek through the old world I was simply enchanted by Savannah once I got there. Keep in mind I just spent several months gallivanting all over Europe and this tiny spot in Georgia was blowing-my-mind-skull! Then, I saw the gear the film department had and as a tech-savvy individual I immediately forgot about the motion graphics departments and headed directly into film. Both Savannah, and SCAD’s departmental powerhouse enchanted me sending my heart a flutter.
TF: You’ve worn a lot of hats at SCAD producing, writing, directing, founding a film collective, and eventually working at the Collaborative Learning Center, what is it that pulls you towards these endeavors?
I like trying everything out at least once and trying to master that thing to the best of my ability. I have a very entrepreneurial motor that fools my brain into thinking, “I should try that” even though my ego screams, “you’re gonna SUCK!”. I don’t think I was a great artist and that took me some time to realize because I can get so myopic about my own work. Thankfully, I quickly recognized talent in other people at SCAD. I wanted to be part of their incredible abilities and filmmaking is one of the rare arenas that requires an army to get anything done. I realized that my greatest skillset is connecting people and convincing them that “we should all do a movie together”. Making movies is the craziest thing ever. It makes no sense at all, yet an entire behemoth of an industry is devoted to making them. There is so much time and effort put into making even a short film that the idea of making a movie should simply exhaust you.
I knew I didn’t have the core skills to take on a production role right away and that meant only post production would be available to me if I wanted to make movies at SCAD. Editing was the furthest place from my mind so I decided to give producing a try, and everyone with any real skills hated producing. I had no idea what it even was because it sounded like you take on none of the roles yet you’re supposed to be the boss. I knew what being the boss looked like so I dressed the part, but it took me a few quick projects and failures to understand the complexity of the role.
I’d describe producing like this: it’s a political soap opera played in super fast speed through a destruction derby 10,000 miles across the desert. But you have to get through it all under budget and on time. Good luck to you.
After a few productions I wanted to try my hand at directing and I was awful my first try. I was thinking too much like a producer and I couldn’t keep my mind on the art of it all. Producing is so addictive because of the rush you get when you complete a day on time, or a week underbuget that it becomes a game. In order to direct I had to turn on the parts that I loved about producing and refocus that energy toward the actors. The same politics involved in producing can be applied to working with an actor. Actors are the most difficult people on earth to work with because they are usually crazy in touch with their emotions, which makes them simply crazy. It’s easy to understand why actors get a bad rap if you consider the audition process an actor has to go through and ego damage they must endure to even make a freaking student film. I don’t wish it upon my worst enemy, yet millions of blessed fools want to do it. Bless those courageous actors!
The pleasure of my life has been working with a great group of actors in my last few projects since I’ve left SCAD. When it’s working, it’s amazing, and when it’s not you need to turn that brain on real quick to analyze what you’re doing wrong because when you are the director, it’s ALWAYS your fault.
There’s something relaxing about producing when you consider the fact that you have no real single responsibility. Every department has a key person in charge of something specific so you can always blame bad sound on someone. Then, it hits you that when your movie is bad and you don’t make your investor’s money back… that bad sound is your responsibility. Thankfully, I’ve only worked with amazing sound crews!
TF: Could you tell us a bit about your experience producing films at SCAD, how you found your projects and assembled your creative teams? What drove you to found the 16 by 9: Film Collective, and what was your experience like starting it?
When I first got to SCAD I didn’t understand how movies were made. I understood post, but not preproduction or production. I would get frustrated when I saw cliques of filmmakers who stuck together because I couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t play with others. That’s actually what inspired me to join Tyler Reid when he first pitched me on a film collective (later becoming 16 by 9). I wanted to be involved because I didn’t know anyone and I assumed you needed a couple of people to make a movie. I found out real quick why those “cliques” stuck together. There is so much on the line during each production that you need to be a cohesive unit to make it all work. Therefore, 16 by 9 was born from two major realizations:
1. Film is a team sport and you need to pick better teams
2. You need to know more than just crew and cast to make a movie, you need to know how to get things done
Selfishly, I wanted to build a repository of everyone at SCAD and in the Savannah film community so that I could make better movies. Tyler and I also wanted to crowdsource all of the information that was walking out the door with every graduating year so we built a wiki and a database (this was cool in 2008). Things got more complex as we started to handle more data and the group got very large very quick.
Another reality is that Savannah’s campus is extremely fragmented with various departments scattered about the city. On paper, SCAD has the entire Hollywood system in a few square miles, but the reality was that not every department was working together. Sometimes it was just because no one ever tried, and other times it was because word got around that the film department will burn you (there are no guarantees in this business). So we took it upon ourselves to go around and try to connect the dots. Everyone loved it because it was student led and it was for a good cause: collaboration and art! In the process we got to know a lot about a lot of things and who was out there to help us make movies. The interaction with all the various department chairs and deans groomed me for a job I would later take on at the Collaborative Learning Center.
TF: What do you think is important in putting a good team together?
Drive is the first determining factor in finding any candidate for a collaborative team. If you don’t have drive, you won’t cut it. The second factor is compassion. If you’re all go without a moment to pause you’ll break the entire chain. Finding people with a good balance is what makes successful team building a chemistry experiment. After you build a lot of teams you begin to anticipate the challenges and look for specific people to pre-solve a problem like a Swiss army knife.
TF: What exactly is the Creative Learning Center and how did you find yourself involved with it?
The CLC is born from SCAD’s long standing history with industry partnerships. For film students the industrial design program seems like a distant planet (due to its distance), but those students are up to amazing things with huge companies. In order to get several departments together a tight strategy is required and the CLC is in charge of getting multiple departments together to solve complex industry challenges. Only students selected by the faculty leading a CLC course can take the class (an intense process). The students get to work with industry leaders on really cool projects to garner collaborative experience from other departments, real world experience from industry partners and academic merit from the course itself. All in all, it’s the coolest experience I’ve had at SCAD and I’m sad I didn’t get to experience it from a student’s perspective.
As of December 2011, I’ve left the Collaborative Learning Center to return to my family in Toronto, Canada. In my stay the amazing Josh Lind (also a film and television alumni and also a producer) is leading the charge on some great projects. You can check it all out here!
TF: Upon graduation what was your experience coming out of SCAD?
I almost immediately got the job at the CLC. I thought I was going to be doing something very different and I ended up doing something completely different. I’m a very poor fortune teller.
TF: How do you see the world of student and independent filmmaking shifting in the next few years?
We are witnessing a rebirth in smaller films. The technology to make amazing looking projects is so cheap it’s amazing. You can argue about how wasteful digital filmmakers have become, but I believe that trend is changing for the better and we are seeing bigger risks being taken. Longer one shots are being explored as young compositors learn how to stitch shots together or remove errand boom mics. By learning a lot of the parlor tricks early and in some cases inventing on top of the current cinematic language we are just privy to the next generation of filmmakers. I’m extremely jealous of the film faculty some of the time because they get to influence a lot of what’s to come.
TF: What roles do you think technology and digital distribution will play in future artists’s endeavors?
I think that the role of the theater is about to shift dramatically. We are going to see a lot more caution when it comes to what will be screened in theaters because of the costs associated with marketing films to drive the audience to the cinema. With this we will also see more mega theaters going out of business, a trend you’re probably already witnessing. The good news is that VOD (video on demand) will become less of a sore spot for filmmakers as it becomes the new norm. Limited release plays coupled with VOD to taste the audience’s appetite will become the smartest business model. Only certain types of films need to be in the theater anyway, and I think the audience is starting to recognize that. I really hope that 3D technology starts improving soon because I’m hating it right now. I wear glasses all the time, so the idea of putting a pair of sunglasses on my glasses in a dark theater… for twice the price is the worst advent ever! Story telling will always prevail, but good marketing and fewer restrictions on films will win the race.
TF: In regards to your own work how do you define or view success?
I have yet to attain success by my own terms. I certainly strive for it often, and feel so very far from it. That mentality keeps me hungry. I plan on finding great people to work with on future projects and to continue to have fun in the process. But, when I get there you’ll be the first to know.
TF: What advice would you offer to young filmmakers just starting out?
No one knows anything. Seriously! I’ve told people their movie sucks in the script form and they pull out a masterpiece and I’ve seen great scripts go to crap. Keep making stuff because that’s the only way to learn how to do anything. Fail early to succeed sooner is a beautiful mantra. I know it hurts when you fall down, but you find that you fall down less and less as you do it. Eventually, you’re on stage accepting an award for your film. Way to go you!
Also, analyze the crap out of movies and be as annoying as you want while you’re in film school. Because the second you’re done, no one will want to hear your pretentious views. Sorry, that’s true. Do it now! You will be thankful that you did because the great works of brilliant directors probably won’t flow through you like osmosis, but you will be able to steal a few tricks for your own work. Sorry, borrow. It’s fair use, right?
TF: What do you hope to explore next?
I just got back to Toronto and I’ve been visiting with friends and family mostly. I’ve been reacquainting myself with the city and just how vast it is in comparison with Savannah. I’ve taken a lot of meetings with various creative groups and I’m on the hunt to find what’s right for me. In the mean time I’m freelancing to keep busy, and reading like a banshee about everything web distribution and VOD. The most amazing thing is happening right now with social media and storytelling, and I want to be part of it. Also, if you want to hire me you can contact me here.