Hey all, I’m Joe Raffa. I’m a screenwriter and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, CA. I’m getting ready to debut my latest feature, “Downeast,” which premieres at the Garden State Film Festival on March 27. Happy to answer any questions about writing, filmmaking, finance, film festivals, etc... You can find me at @joeraffa on Instagram, or the film at @downeast. You can watch the virtual premiere screening anywhere in the world. More info here: https://www.gsff.org/tickets/.

Trailer: https://youtu.be/rgPlBtwzboc

Downeast Synopsis: Set in the underbelly of Maine, the film follows Emma Maddox (Dylan Silver) as she returns to her hometown years following the mysterious death of her brother. As she reconnects with his best friend Tommy (Greg Finley), Emma begins to uncover the web of lies the town has been keeping and must ultimately decide if she will fall victim to the town’s unsettling ways. Written and directed by Raffa, the film combines crime, revenge, and the hope for a new life. The film also stars Judson Mills (“Walker, Texas Ranger”), Kirk Fox (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), and Gareth Williams (“Dawson’s Creek”). “Downeast” will premiere at the Garden State Film Festival in March 2021.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/ihiulzm3k2m61.jpg

Comments: 254 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

JZPotter109 karma

As someone who lives in Maine, uh... what underbelly? We have wannabe hicks/rednecks and cold winters. Most exciting thing for us is Stephen King and being in a movie haha.

joeraf131312 karma

Man I love Stephen King...

Downeast, while 100% fictional, focuses on the city of Portland specifically. I'm not from Maine, but I fell in love with the city the first time I visited. And while it's not a city with a high crime rate by any means, it is a port city. We kind of take that idea and run with it.

HolyHand_Grenade76 karma

What inspired you to use rural Maine as your backdrop?

Edit: just watched the trailer and it looks like you used Portland and Boston as a backdrop for a small city vibe, and then named it after a rural part of the state. I'm sure the people at the film fest won't know the difference but just so you know, Downeast Maine is the rural coast much further north of Portland.

joeraf131318 karma

Downeast focuses on the city of Portland and Old Orchard Beach. Actor/Producer Greg Finley was born and raised in Maine. When we met, he was very passionate about shooting a film there and had been living with this idea and character for a long time. I was honored that he trusted me enough to write it.

CowboyFleeborg37 karma

I have a feeling that you confuse Portland with Boston. Have you ever been there (other than for filming)?

Also, why do they all have Boston accents?

joeraf131317 karma

I've been to both cities. And our film does have characters that travel to Portland from the North End of Boston. I think the Maine accent is so nuanced that it's hard to really lock down if you're not born and raised there. And when making a film, you want it to feel as authentic as possible so you can do the setting justice. A lot of members of our production, from producers to actors to crew members, are from Maine, so I leaned on them for their insights. But at the end of the day, you're telling the best version of your story. And decisions are made to make Downeast the best fictional movie it can be, not the best documentary. I hope people from Portland can be proud that Downeast was shot there, and understand that we did everything we can to showcase the city with our limited budget.

LeanOnTheSquare32 karma

How much does it cost to submit work for a film festival?

joeraf131329 karma

Anywhere between $25 - $90 dollars depending on the festival and deadline. Make sure you meet those early deadlines, you'll save a lot of money because the fees are cheaper.

hiphopottomiss7 karma

How do you, or what are some tips you might have, to help someone get started on a story (or a play, a book, a series, etc.), who’s having a difficult time putting their thoughts and their ideas on paper?

I know what it looks like, who the characters are, and where and when it all takes place, I just don’t know exactly how to start it all off,

joeraf131314 karma

Everyone's process is different. I like to outline the entire story knowing that it will most likely change as I write the script. Often, my endings are unrecognizable from the outline, but without the outline I'd never get past page 10 of the screenplay. If outlining isn't for you, and you don't know where to start, just write the scene you have in your head, even if it's in the middle of the story, and see where that takes you. Hopefully, things will start to snowball. Happy writing!

sanyc7 karma

How do you deal with failure?

I imagine everybody who writes professionally has written a dud. What was that process like, and how did you recover professionally and learn from the critics? In the same vein, have you ever written something that you still like, but was panned at the time?

joeraf131313 karma

When my first few projects didn't achieve the level of success I had hoped for, I self-sabotaged myself for a while. I didn't want to put myself out there as a writer/director. It took me a while to realize that your development is a process, and you will fail many many many times. I focus on the process now, not the results. And I try not to think in terms of my films or script being "good," but rather "effective."

YourManArctic5 karma

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

joeraf131315 karma

This may be an unpopular opinion, but it has to be vanilla. It's a complimentary flavor that goes well with so many things. I'm also a big fan of anything Ben and Jerry's puts out, I can kill any one of their pints in less than 10 minutes.

GobbleBlabby3 karma

What's your favorite water ice flavor 😉

joeraf13133 karma

I’m a classic lemon kind of guy.

MovieNewsJunkie5 karma

The trailer looks fantastic!

I'm sure rolling out a feature film in the midst of a pandemic presented myriad challenges. In what ways did that impact production and in hindsight did the adverse conditions provide any silver linings?

joeraf13136 karma

Luckily, we were able to wrap production right before we went into lockdown. However, post-production did present challenges because we had to work virtually for the most part. We relied on our strong working relationships to get through it. This wasn't the first time I worked with editor Meredith Mantik and sound mixer Luke Bechthold on a feature. I leaned on their brilliance and inspiration and never felt the virtual workflow hindered the final product. Had we not collaborated previously, it might have been a different story.

mithyyyy4 karma

What are some of the best ways to break writer's block, from your own experience?

joeraf13136 karma

As a writer, I think it's important to understand that you can't really control when the "good stuff" comes. If you wait to be inspired, you can go months, or even years, without writing. I make sure I schedule time everyday to write, knowing that some days will be better than others. It's just important you write something. Anything. The more you write, the faster the inspiration will come.

AndrewIsSmokingMids2 karma

Hi Joe, Just a local south jersey guy that went to Ann a Mullen- just wanted to let you know you are a huge inspiration and keep up the great work! Are there any good cheesesteak spots in LA? Also is there a Wawa equivalent ??

joeraf13131 karma

Thank you! I really appreciate the kind words. It means a lot. The best cheesesteak I had in LA is from a place called “Philly’s Best.” They ship the Amoroso rolls out here from the east coast. But there is nothing that comes close to Wawa...

FuriCL2 karma

How much can you bench?

joeraf13131 karma

1,000,000 lbs.

Nixplosion2 karma

What part of the writing process did you find most difficult?

You obviously had the spark of an idea but filling out details had to be tough. How did you get past, not writer's block but maybe fatigue?

joeraf13135 karma

For me, the second draft of a screenplay is always the toughest. Nothing is ever written, it is re-written. And sometimes getting draft one of a script done feels daunting, then you realize you have to do it all over again!

DaDacheBack1 karma

Favorite movie?

joeraf13131 karma


monkeyhind1 karma

Hey, Joe. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to ask you questions. In a nutshell, what are the special challenges of being both writer and director on a project?

Also, as director, did you have control over casting, or did you have to share that responsibility with producers?

joeraf13132 karma

Film is always a collaborative effort. For Downeast, we had amazing casting directors Christy Faison and Jami Rudofsky who made the casting process really easy for us. They brought in amazing talent. As a writer/director, I have a vision for the story I want to tell, but it's important that I embrace everyone's ideas to enhance that story. The challenge is making sure that everyone involved is telling the same story. If you build a strong foundation and everyone is on the same page, you should never feel threatened by another person's idea, and the story will only become more effective through that collaboration.

Im_a_wet_towel1 karma

Gotta tell ya, when I first saw this AMA, I thought it was another movie I would never be interested in.

I love the "small town" crime stuff though...so I'm glad I know this exists.

Anyway, when will the movie be available for the general public?

joeraf13131 karma

Thanks for your interest in our film! It screens virtually on March 27th at 1:30pm EST. You can go to GSFF.org to get a ticket.

melock161 karma

How did you secure funding/pay for this/convince people to believe in your project?

joeraf13131 karma

It all started with Greg Finley (Actor/Producer) and Edwin Stevens (DP/Producer). They were both born and raised in Maine and had a passion to shoot a film there. Ed is the founder of APS Films, which had secured financing for this film among several others. The company has been extremely prolific the past few years.

morefetus1 karma

How do you find a producer? It looks like you have 10 producers.

joeraf13131 karma

The longer you work in this industry, the better you get at determining who wants to pretend to be a producer and who actually wants to produce. Actual producers are worth their weight in gold. Making a film takes a village, you can never have enough help (or actual producers). I'm so thankful to the producers that made Downeast possible.

tasker_morris1 karma

As a writer/director, how much say do you find yourself having over choosing other creative folks like cinematographers and composers to work on your films?

joeraf13132 karma

The best thing about working with APS Films is they have such a great network of talented individuals that they collaborate with often. Half the battle is surrounding yourself with the right people, and trusting that they're bringing in the right people. As a writer/director, I just try and provide a space for everyone to do their best work, and if someone has a toxic personality or bad work ethic, we won't work with them again. Downeast didn't have a single bad egg, which is rare to find in this industry, so we were very blessed. Moving forward, I would love to work with the entire cast and crew again. And if I was hired to do a project for a major studio, I would campaign to have as many people from this production involved as possible.

cerulean941 karma

This is awesome and thanks for doing this!

From getting into writing and directing at a fairly late age, what do you recommend as a starting point for drafting out your ideas into a script and going from there? I already have done photography and have been working a bit in filming but aside from shorts and indies, getting funding and moving the ball on ideas seem to be a tough phase for a somewhat beginner.

Thank you and can't wait for this film!

joeraf13133 karma

Everyone's process is different. I like to outline the entire story knowing that it will most likely change as I write the script. Often, my endings are unrecognizable from the outline, but without the outline I'd never get past page 10 of the screenplay.

Getting your film made is another beast entirely. Trying to find financing is a full time job, and the rejection can be discouraging. You have to really be passionate about the story you're telling or it might be too easy to give up.

Mannyga751 karma

I’ve been very interested in trying my hand at making short films, what advice would you have for someone who comes from a very culturally impoverished area? (No film clubs, theaters, etc in my area)

joeraf13133 karma

Read as much as you can about filmmaking. And if you want to write your own stories, read and write as many scripts as possible. When you're ready to put the things you've learned into practice, the equipment you use isn't as important as the story you're telling. Story is king. If you tell a specific story from your unique perspective, you'll be well on your way. Also understand, that you may have to try and fail many times before your work starts to reflect who you are as an artist. Don't give up.

AngelP88231 karma

I am an aspiring filmmaker, what is your opinion on film school do you think everyone should go or is it a waste of time/money?

joeraf13133 karma

I did not finish film school because it was not the right setting for me personally. And it was expensive. That being said, if you're someone that needs a classroom setting to learn, film school could be the way to go. It's a low-pressure environment that offers the opportunity for you to build relationships. I had more of an entrepreneurial spirit and used the money I saved for college to make my first feature. I got a crash course in filmmaking that way. It's important to be honest with yourself and understand what works for you.

The_lost_Code1 karma

I just checked out your trailer (half). Looks good. Btw do you feel like the trailer is giving away lot of the movie?

Also congratulations and good luck on your future ventures.

joeraf13130 karma

Thanks for watching! I agree with Stephen King when he says, "It's impossible to spoil a good story."

Jinjonator910 karma

Uno mas?

joeraf13132 karma

ALWAYS!!! :)

JacksonCM0 karma

Who are some of your favorite complex villains?

(The ones who do terrible things but you’re almost forced to empathize with them ... Joker for example)

joeraf13133 karma

Tony Soprano is my all time favorite character, and I consider him a villain if not an anti-hero. I also think Marvel did an amazing job with Thanos recently.

OilCanBoyd4260 karma

Joe- congrats on getting the film made. Great subject (north east crime drama) that is refreshingly not in Boston. I liked Blow the Man Down, another Maine crime drama. Could you describe the process of securing funding ($500K?) and how you went about it? Thanks!

joeraf13131 karma

I was very fortunate to be able to focus on Downeast from a creative standpoint, it already had financing behind it. Generally, I can say getting financing is extremely difficult (thanks captain obvious). In my opinion, when you're starting out and making smaller films you want to find investors who are emotionally invested in a project. Find someone who wants to see this specific project get made for reasons that aren't financial because most films lose money.

Simyst-4 karma

Why haven't I watched this thing you've made?

joeraf13132 karma

You can watch it virtually on March 27th! Visit GSFF.org for tickets and info!