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Spotlight: M.A.F.I.A.

Posted: Tue, 27th Jan 2004, 12:30pm

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Simon K Jones

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Rating: +5 members AJ 'ajjax44' Rickert-Epstein and Chris 'CX3' Cowan have been gradually building a strong body of work in the Cinema under the Cobra Productions banner, most recently releasing the dark Faustian drama Fallen Angel. With other chart-topping shorts including The Matrix: An Untold Story and the classic Fingerman: First Blood, they are fast establishing a reputation for innovative, entertaining and well-produced films, crossing genres from comedy to drama to action.

Big ideas
Not one to rest on his laurels, AJ is currently in the process of realising a much bigger vision - setting up and establishing M.A.F.I.A. No, not everyone's favourite gangsters but a new filmmaking organisation based at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio - the Miami Association of Filmmakers and Independent Actors, to be precise. "The goal is to help other student filmmakers like us by creating a community of filmmakers, actors, writers, cinematographers, and producers," explains AJ. M.A.F.I.A. organises funding, provides equipment and keeps its members (now comprising several hundred individuals) informed of all the latest festival and lecture news.

AJ formed M.A.F.I.A. early in 2003 with Brandon Lea and Sam Mechling, other students whom had become similarly frustrated by the university's lack of support for aspiring filmmakers. "We realised that there were no organisations or departments that specialised or even facilitated filmmaking at Miami," recalls AJ. The three decided to improve the situation themselves by creating a group that would function as something of a production company, with members providing scripts and skills and M.A.F.I.A. helping with the funding and equipment.

Thankfully the powers-that-be were supportive of the idea, offering a substantial grant of $10,000 to help get M.A.F.I.A. on its feet. The Matrix: An Untold Story became the trailer for the newly formed outfit and the membership soon started to build.

If all this has whetted your appetite and you're thinking that perhaps you might like to set up a similar organisation, AJ has a few words of wisdom: "Give it all you've got and you'll be successful. Keep in mind that if you want your organisation to stay alive for years and years, you have to set up a system that can be passed down to new leaders with ease. Develop an organized paperwork system right away. Be on time to each meeting and always come prepared. Dress up and show respect. Be passionate and let them see your passion." According to AJ, if you "stay focused and complete the paperwork, the fun will follow."

Old times
But what of Cobra Productions? With Chris at Ohio State University in Columbus and AJ at Miami, their locations are not quite as convenient as they once were. "Chris and I have been friends since we were freshmen in high school. Before I met Chris, not many of my friends were really interested in spending their free time working on movies," AJ recalls. "Chris and I first started making films after I asked him to be in one of my movies - about six years ago. Since then, we've been able to work very efficiently and effectively as a team." As such, they're not the sort to let a couple hundred miles get in the way of their filmmaking, and plan to collaborate at every given chance.

Among other creations, we can expect the long-awaited Fingerman sequels, which should serve to answer some of the questions left over from the original. "They will be using a great deal of effects from CSB and the FXhome community. The two most intense sequences that we have planned for Fingerman 2 and 3 are going to require a large number of effects. We're trying to find some 3D artists interested in helping with the two major action sequences."

Meanwhile, Chris will be working on X3i, an X-Men-inspired action show for which he is going to be performing acting, directing and editing duties. All of the MAFIA projects sound intriguing, but perhaps the one we can all look forward to the most is the curiously titled Just Another FXhome Movie. Promising to be a (mostly!) affectionate parody of the big guns, it should be a real treat for all the regulars. As Chris explains, "the only people that will understand the movie are the members on this site, so the movie is for you all."

Moving forward
It would seem that AJ and his team have already got M.A.F.I.A. off to a great start, but where does he hope it will be a few years from now? "Alive. Thriving. Productive. With and without me. For now, we are doing everything we can to ensure the survival of this program after we graduate," he says. Evidently there is a long-term plan at work. "Our ultimate goal is to attract more dedicated filmmakers and actors to Miami University so maybe sometime in the future they will change the curriculum and add film production to its list of courses." It sounds like an offer they can't refuse.

We wish AJ, Chris and M.A.F.I.A. the best of luck with the future and look forward to their future productions. Be sure to check out their current movies and the M.A.F.I.A. website using the links below.

Want to know more?
M.A.F.I.A. website
Fallen Angel
The Matrix: An Untold Story
Fingerman: First Blood
Cobra Productions full cinema listing

Brandon and Chris in action

Chris tells the truth

Brandon offers a Faustian pact

AJ focused

Eric and AJ at a festival
Posted: Tue, 27th Jan 2004, 1:02pm

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great written! M.A.F.I.A is one with a couple of other "studios" here that actully make movies, not test and stuff but movies, and great one to, they really deserv this spotligt! Good Luck in the future
Posted: Tue, 27th Jan 2004, 3:41pm

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Great job Tarn on anether spotlight!

I was realy amszed with there last movie "Fallen angel" and I have been woching it alot. Graet work and keep it comin wink
Posted: Tue, 27th Jan 2004, 6:55pm

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You guys sound exactly like me and Marek. Well at least the starting out part. We met as freshmans in highschool and it is just the two of us. No one that says that they will actually make a movie with us ever does it, and yeah. We sound alot like you guys when you were younger.
Posted: Wed, 28th Jan 2004, 1:48pm

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Good, but I didn't find it informative enough about other processes involved in setting up/maintaining a society, & practicalities such as sources of equipment etc. I'm sure other people would find that information useful. I certainly would, as I've just set up a filmmaking society at my university. The only part that I find useful was the tip to establish a blueprint for future students to keep the society going, but this is something I've already acknowledged the importance of.

I have emailed A.J but he told me about this Spotlight & told me that it would answer the questions I had...but it hasn't really.

Other than that, it is a good read & I look forward to your forthcoming productions
Posted: Wed, 28th Jan 2004, 2:13pm

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Simon K Jones

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The entire ins-and-outs of setting up a society/production company are beyond the scope of this article. Perhaps AJ could post some more tips in this thread if he has the time.
Posted: Wed, 28th Jan 2004, 7:23pm

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I hope the PM I sent you was sufficient enough to answer the questions you were looking for. As for anyone else, if you would like to know more, pm me and I'd be glad to help. To the other three guys who responded, thanks for the comments! Keep an eye out for our new films over the next couple of months!



TARN = Badazz

Last edited Thu, 29th Jan 2004, 11:04pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Wed, 28th Jan 2004, 9:38pm

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Yes, thank you for giving me some helpful tips. Setting up such an organisation can be more complex than you might think & its good to have other existing groups to look at and use as an example of how you might want to function, & just share experiences I suppose of how you may have done things differently.
Posted: Fri, 26th Mar 2004, 10:54pm

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AJ, it's Ken. Nice on the spotlight. Hope you enjoyed NY; wish i coulda been up there. We did casting this week for my short and we'll be shootin it soon, maybe ill post it up on here. Anyways, I'm lovin what I'm seeing man, keep on shootin bro, i'll be sure to do the same. peace