A Life in the Project with Andrew Gramsch

When you’re living in place like Queensland’s Gold Coast there comes an abundance of talent that goes unseen. Thankfully, we had the chance to catch up with one of the film industries rising stars. Meet Andrew Gramsch, a young producer/director behind Precis Films A.M.G. With numerous projects in the works, and one on the verge of completion, we sat down with the Man-of-a-Thousand-Ideas and learned just what it takes to work in the film industry as he shared the wisdom.

*

Who is Andrew Gramsch?

Andrew: Ah. Andrew Gramsch is a thirty year old, single dad from Robina, on the Gold Coast.

Why is this question so difficult for you to answer?

Andrew: I have a thing about ego. I have a no ego policy. So it’s something that I’ve adopted for a couple of years now, it’s basically kept everything in check for what I do in work and my life, and kept what I do in my everyday life separate from work. It’s basically, Check your ego when you’re at the door or get out.

What are you doing at the moment? What does Andrew do?

Andrew: Work wise, I work for the New York Film Academy (NYFA) at the Village Roadshow Studio lot in Oxenford. There I’m a T.A., which is like a Teacher’s Assistant/Technical Assistant, kind of both. It’s about helping to keep the school efficient in filmmaking, working along side the actors, and filming the actors. We’re basically the support network for the school and we assist in making it run proficiently. We assist the lecturers; keep everything running along the curriculum, everything that requires filmmaking fulfills my role.

And that ties in with what you do outside of work, doesn’t it?

Andrew: That’s right. So outside of work I’m very passionate about filmmaking. Coming from an acting background, over the years I developed a liking for working behind the camera and decided to venture out and learn that sort of craft. It’s manifested over the years to the point where now I’m able to produce and direct my own projects, and get them off the ground.

Which must be awesome.

Andrew: It is. It is a dream come true, or coming true. As you know we have a few really cool projects that everyone is hearing about, or has heard about for a while, and I’m happy to say that these projects are solidifying. At least one is approaching completion, and we’re really happy about the next couple that we want to do as well because they are projects that will help to lift the area, Gold Coast and Queensland in particular, in industry standard a little. I feel as though it might have dropped, and even now, as we have international projects coming in – especially at the studio lot, we’ve got Pirates of the Caribbean, we’ve had San Andreas, before that we had Unbroken – there are things in the media suggesting movement but most can just be speculation that leads to nothing.

Andrew: For me especially it’s really important, something that I’ve always wanted to do and always dreamed of doing is giving back to the industry that started me off. And to provide opportunities, or at least an outlet for creative people, whether it’s in front or behind the lens.

So you had a background in acting and that changed to wanting to be behind the lens?

Andrew: Yeah, so a quick story. Ever since I was a young boy I always wanted to dive into acting. My Mum actually suggested I do it because I was so good with my emotions and what not.

So you were a theatrical kid?

Andrew: Definitely.

LAUGHS

Andrew: I used to run-a-muck but do it in a theatrical way, but in an entertaining way. I could act up quite well. So she suggested it and I followed through with it. So I approached a few private acting mentors on the Gold Coast, I’d just finished high school and I thought ‘You know what, I’m just going to go out there and do it’ because that’s just how people do it, you know, they just do it. I went out, started getting into whatever I could, and took a few short courses here and there.

Andrew: Then I teamed up with a good friend of mine, and we decided to create our own showreels. And we had our scenes down pat but we were thinking ‘Well who’s going to film it for us?’ At the time the only thing I had was a handy cam.

Andrew: So, armed with a handy cam and a script, no lighting, just the tenacity and the courage to take everything on board myself, I quickly learned how to point a camera and make it look cinematic, as well as import it into editing software – something I knew absolutely nothing about – and cut together some pretty cool showreels for myself and my friend. We started sending them out to whoever we could find in the industry that would look at it, which included Tom McSweeny. Post that we were able to score a few meetings with him and he said to us ‘Who filmed this? The content’s good, but who filmed this stuff? Who put it together?’ And, you know, I said ‘I did’, I scored it, I built it all up, edited it, put the DVD together and all that, and he said to me ‘You should be out there doing filmmaking.’ He said, ‘You should write yourselves a short film and shoot the puppy’. I think that would have been about 2006.

Andrew: So that’s exactly what we did, we put our heads together, created a short film, did it all ourselves, it starred us, we did special effects, collaborated to get music in it, and we managed to get it into Event Cinemas in Robina and we even got onto the Sunrise program where Nelson, the international correspondent from the U.S., did an interview with us and talked about us on air. From the Event Cinemas event we collaborated with other filmmakers and had a whole sold out night of showcasing films. It was the beginning of everything to come.

So you owe it to ol’ McSweeny.

Andrew: I think I actually owe it to my Mum. She was the one who put the idea in my head that there isn’t just one job out there for me.

Is there anywhere we could go to find this short film or the showreels?

Andrew: Ooh. I think I actually still have a copy of the showreels somewhere. There’s nothing online, its all been taking down because Youtube has a way of keeping files and I think that we’ve managed to figure out how to delete them.

Ah. Smart.

Andrew: Yeah.

LAUGHS

Especially with new projects coming up, you don’t want people to be judging you based on amateur showreels. C’mon.

Andrew: Yeah. The thing about that project was that it taught me a few things. One. I’ve got this other saying that I’ve been using ever since I came to this industry and it goes Where does it say in the rulebook? If you can show me the rulebook, then I’ll keep quite and do everything the same way everyone else is. But until you can show me the rulebook then I’ll continue to keep knocking down doors whichever way I can, open doors, put my foot in the door. I’ll make ground because I believe I can, and I believe other people can too.

Andrew: And that’s what we learnt from that project. When we were getting our film into cinemas, getting interviewed on Sunrise, and-what-not, we we’re just two guys going about business chasing down a dream all because we had belief in ourselves, and what we were doing. And it was good knowing we were inspiring other people to come on this journey with us and that’s really what I’m trying to continue doing now, to continue inspiring people because its an industry that needs a lot of like-minded individuals all working together toward a common goal rather than just individuals fighting against one another.

What has working in the industry taught you that you can go and apply to your personal projects?

Andrew: Yeah, so working for the NYFA has allowed me to continuously harness my skills and strengthen my knowledge, while developing them. So where I thought I might have had certain inadequacies it gives me the opportunity to work on them and improve. I like to look at my strengths rather than focus on my weaknesses though, because in the industry you can’t do everything yourself, you need a team, and no one is equipped to do everything. So that’s why we have specialty areas. What I find is people try to cover too many areas rather than specialize. So working where I do has helped me to figure out in what area I want to specialize in.

Andrew: One of the biggest things I’ve discovered, and that is probably my niche now, is in directing and producing. I spent several years working alongside a lot of individuals assisting, camera operating, grouping, gaffing, sound booming, but what I find I’m really drawn to is, not being a technician anymore, being the one in charge of the creative and development side of a project. You know, like grasping the vision and exploring the vision, taking it right from the initial seed all the way through to make it grow, all the way to the end product, which is a film.

What can you tell us about Precis Films A.M.G.?

Andrew: So Precis Films A.M.G is something that I started with my sister, Michele, and it basically encompasses our conceptualization process. For us it’s all about a good idea and exploring that good idea. One thing that we’re passionate about is content that has substance. I feel as though that there can be projects that have great technicians and have fantastic cinematography and sound development, and have a really good team working together, however the content is like an empty shell. So what we’re trying to do is fill that emptiness. To create something that has a little more strength, to be a little more juicy and vibrant.

Andrew: It was just something that we wanted where we could take our own ideas, and other’s, and really cultivate them. We do use a paid writer, so we use a very intensive form of scripting, script supervision, and re-writing. We like to look at projects from a different angle and try and work outside the box a little bit more. I feel as though a lot of projects are recycling themselves over and over without bringing anything new to the game, so we really want to break that trend and create something more substantial.

Andrew: And I feel like we’ve already started that process with three of our projects.

What technology is Precis Films A.M.G. using at the moment?

Andrew: We’ve specifically been using Red Digital Cinema Technology, the Red Cameras, Red Dragon – 6K Red Dragon. The Red technology is up there with the industry standard, but when you start getting into camera talk it all comes down to personal preference. But Red Digital Cinema Cameras is where we work, and it’s always provided a nice, beautiful image and workflow for us. We are, well maybe, going to be Red for life. At this stage.

LAUGHS.

What can you tell us about what you’re working on at the moment?

Andrew: At the minimum, we have three projects in the works. They’re all in development though one is currently in pre-production. We have a short film and two feature films.

Andrew: The short film is a Viking film … that is centred around Norse mythology … it’s set in Scandinavia at around 793AD.

You’re speaking of Seidr, and I’m guessing the details are very exclusive at the moment?

Andrew: It is.

LAUGHS

Andrew: It is because I’m trying to un-Hollywood-ize Vikings. I feel as though Vikings have been over done to a particular standard. Though, I’m really excited because we have ventured out and received costumes from America, props from Spain and the U.K., Bulgaria, Romania. We’re working with really good people in the industry that have really nice credits behind them, it’s a multi-cam shoot  and will include fight sequences. Also, we are working with the Australian Institute of Creative Design and have twelve make-up artists from there working on our project. I’m using a lot of awesome, talented crew from the NYFA, some are fellow colleagues and have just come from working on Pirates of the Caribbean. The script is a fantastic little piece too, written by another local, our paid writer Steven Hammon, from Screenwriting U.

You mentioned three projects, so we’ve just spoken about your short film – Seidr – but there is another project, quite infamous if you’ve been following Precis Films A.M.G. over the months. It’s an old concept, if I remember correctly, so I ask: Is there anything you can tell us about the Crusader Condition?

Andrew: Okay, sure. So the Crusader Condition is a trilogy of films. It’s unique, in the sense, where the trilogy goes backwards. So we start in the present day and then there will be two prequels. The idea started back in 2001, it was an idea we [Michele and I] thought that was just too good but we just needed the skill set in order to execute it, something which at the time we were so far away from. Through the years with my developments in my career, and building relationships with people in the industry both in Australia and abroad, I’ve been able to develop the project along with it. Right now we’ve have some really cool developments. The story has been elevated numerous times, it’s gone to a place that we’re really happy with right now.

Andrew: I can confirm that we have attached Jean-Claude Van Damme’s son, Kristopher Van Damme, to the lead role. We’ve communicated, digitally, quite frequently over the last couple of months, as he’s based in L.A. in the U.S.

That must be an amazing feeling.

Andrew: It is because we’ve always known that we had something special, it was just trying to get that something special out there. I mean, there are a lot of people that have great stories and projects but a lot of those projects are sitting in the pages of people’s diaries and aren’t seeing the light of day, and we’ve managed to at least get ours looked at. And that is pretty special.

I assume Kris Van Damme has read the script, or heard enough to know the details?

Andrew: We’ve had some really intensive discussion regarding the characters, the story, and the developments of where we’re sitting at. He’s currently awaiting our next draft and he’s actually signed an agreement to be attached to the Crusader Condition project and agreed to assign his name to advertising and so forth, so you’re right, it’s a great feeling.

Andrew: And that there is a very valuable asset to the project. Since speaking with Kris I have had some time to speak with another producer, who I can’t name at the moment, who has worked on some major projects with some A-list actors, and there’s further developments to be had there.

Andrew: Once again, our writer has played a big part in the past year in making the project come together and he’s had a lot of patience. Well, everyone has had a lot of patience, and if people want to find out more they can follow the Facebook page.

Thanks for your time, Andrew. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Andrew: Sure. I think that it’s really important that for people that are interested in the film industry to be aware of a couple things. First, it’s a fantastic industry to be apart of. It has an amazing group of people who are all fed with different expertise and jobs, and do all these different things. But it can also be a very ruthless place. I consider it to be one of the toughest industries to be professional in, and to make an impact. One thing I have learned over the years is you need to be a realist yet you have to continue to persevere. I feel as though a lot of people don’t get that combination right. There are some tough lessons to be learned in this industry and it’s just being aware of things like ‘going through the trenches to survive’ that young actors need to adapt to. You’re going to have to be able to put up with the worst scenarios, and stories, and go through all that to really understand just what it is to be like the people that are in Hollywood, which is the dream for most actors. And for the people on the other side of the lens, they also need to treat the business like the business it is. It’s called show business. It’s not fun and games, if you can get the business to work and surround yourself with the right people, and have the right attitude, you will be able to achieve what you desire. Because where did it say in the rulebook that you can’t?

*

Feature Photo by Sam Hawleywood | @samhawleywood

Published by Us Wayfarers, issue 1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.