Sunday, April 24, 2005

The helmet, uh, in action?

The Wrong Line and How It Shaped Our Movie

So I hinted in the last post that we had the wrong line of dialog. It’s all my fault. In my crazed state of first time producer, director and all around smart guy, I couldn’t find the sheet that had the line of dialog. If that line was even a little off the film would not be eligible for the competition. A dozen people were starting to file into my house and I needed that damn, I mean darn, piece of paper.

Long story short, I called my co-worker’s team and asked for the line of dialog. Their producer said, “I’m not sure, I think it’s ‘I wasn’t always like this,’” or something like that. I can’t say for sure because, as I mentioned, I was crazed. It was not a malicious act to give us the wrong line, and in the long run it was good for us.

I doubt we would have gone with a time travel story if we had the line right. We decided that if you weren’t always like this, somehow you had to have gone back in time to make a change. With the collected brilliance in my living room, I’m sure we would have come up with something. But because we had the line wrong, we definitely were thinking about things other teams were not.

I woke up on time Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the lack of sleep made it very difficult to get out of bed. I’m not saying I slept in, but I planned to be at Boston Costume the second it opened at 9AM but ended up getting there sometime soon after 9. This would have been a symbol of the coming of a long, bad day, except of course, someone pulled out of the parking space directly in front of the store. One illegal U-turn and if I believed in fate, I would have agreed that it was on my side.

In my clouded mind’s eye I saw astronaut flight suits for my two 1950’s actors on the set of their ‘space-age’ mouthwash commercial. I knew Boston Costume was the place to go and it was. It was, that is if you wanted to drop $75 American on a 3-day rental for each suit. I had assumed a pricey rental cost so my back up plan was two $10 "Tyvek style" painter’s suits from Home Depot. Not to leave empty handed, they showed me the broken helmet for one of the space suits and offered to sell it to me for $20. It was a steal (and hardly broken). Later in the shoot day, friends Emily and Jen ‘futurized’ the Tyvek suits with colored electric tape, stencils and tin foil. The helmet topped off the ensemble and for under $50 bucks I had two original costumes that were better than I could have ever dreamed. (I have considered offering to sell them to Boston Costume.)

I also learned an important directing lesson here. I was no where near the costume design because I was on set trying to rally the troops and get something down on tape. I trusted the eye of two very talented people and was rewarded. I didn’t meddle or even have any instructions after I told my wife what to tell them. They ran with it and made amazing costumes. This is why I hate the term ‘independent film’. Collaboration is the key to making a film, of any length, scope or under any deadline. A huge team made a movie that one person could not have made.

More later…

Just trying to keep up... and scheming to take the credit.

The stars, in it from the beginning.

Yes, we are that bright.

As you can see beer fueled our creativity.

We put the 'storm' in brainstorm.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

So know I know what I wanna be when I grow up.

So here’s what happened last weekend. Sorry, I was out of town… and I mean OUT of town. I was in Clarksburg, WV and then West Palm Beach, FL for work.

I couldn’t update.

I couldn’t rest.

I couldn’t obsess and watch my new short film over and over again.
(I’ve done all three since.)

Last weekend’s ridiculous, rushed, concentrated madness was the most creatively exhilarating 48 (ish) hours of my life. The back-story is that I’ve made films in college, a couple of short silly things on my own. Recently, I’ve been slaving over a keyboard for the last year plus trying to write something worth producing and directing on my own. The biggest surprise in the process was that this time I wasn’t on my own. Plenty of excited volunteers influenced, assisted and saved me in every stage of the process.

I always knew I wanted to write and direct, but last weekend I actually did. The finished product came out well and I enjoyed the work and the responsibility. I told actors, ‘try this’. I asked the DP, ‘shoot it like this’. I made tough decisions when time was short. It was great. I’m addicted.

So here’s what happened.

I spent the week before gathering a crew, scouting costume shops and trying to think of kernels of ideas that would fit each of the genres that I could possibly get. I also made a ridiculous production schedule that should not have been at all helpful, but actually was. My Saturday plan was 9 to 12 noon, buy props and gather equipment. Noon to ??? get the crew together and shoot. This actually worked, even though we had no script or idea of what the short was going to be about. Unfortunately, the ‘???’ meant midnight.

Friday night at Boston Beer Works we got our genre, our character, our line and our prop. Genre = Sci Fi, Character = J. Withers, Former Child Actor, Prop = A String of Pearls, Line of Dialog = I’m not really like this.

I must admit I had an idea of what I wanted to do if I got Sci Fi. Actually I really just had a thematic idea of what I wanted. I’ve always loved retro ideas of what the future is going to be like. I kept that under wraps for the brainstorming meeting from 8pm to 11:30pm on Friday night. About 10 people came over and we threw around ideas about how we could use the required elements and make a story that uses those elements well. I wanted crazy ideas. Stuff I wouldn’t come up with. The hours flew by as our story took shape. Either through subliminal steering of the conversations or by pure chance, we ended up with a story that involved the retro element that I wanted from the beginning. My producer friend Jen took notes and then hammered out an outline that more than helped; it was the framework for the midnight to 3am writing process.

Exhausted and wired I went to bed at 3am. I think I fell asleep at about 4. The plan was to wake up at 8 and head out to buy props. 8am came quick.

And oh yeah, did I mention we had the wrong line of dialog.

To be continued…

Monday, April 11, 2005

The AfterMath

48 Hours and we have a short film. I'm stuck in West Virginia (no really) and will have limited opportunities to post. I will have a recap when I can sit down at a computer think. Now I'm just tired and far from home.

I enjoyed myself and will try to do it again.


Friday, April 08, 2005

12:48 AM

Only just over 40 hours to go. Writing the script, trying to stay awake. More later... probably much later.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

... But I'm not.

I probably should be stressing and getting loose ends tied up tonight. I will later, but right now I'm going to watch TV. I would have loved to have gotten more feedback from my email calling together the troops, but I have a core group and that and a good idea are enough for me.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

48 til 48

I just sent out a ‘who’s in’ email. Got some great immediate responses. I’m very excited. Two days of pre-pro left… have I forgotten anything? Yes, I’m sure I’ve forgotten tons. What can I do about it? Not much, unfortunately. So I’m not going to stress out about it.

I’m also leaning towards not going into the weekend with too many pre-planned ideas. The benefit of being a guy with that thinks too much is that I have a huge storeroom between my ears that is filled with discarded plans. There is hardly a genre of film that I, at some point, hadn’t had a ‘great’ concept for. Some of the ideas were left because they weren’t enough to fill the 90 plus minutes of a feature. Some were abandoned because something very similar to it appeared in theaters. Some sucked. Mostly they never came to fruition because I lacked the motivation.

I misplace, I forget, I get lost. What I do not do is stop thinking.

My brain in a nutshell.

I watched the DVD of last year’s winners. Some of those films were unbelievably good. Some were unbelievably epic. Some were unbelievably bad. It seems that the judges were interested in the best use of the format. Specifically, what can you do with this genre, this line of dialog, this prop and this amount of time? When you see the lesser films you think, man, the competition isn’t so fierce, but some of the great films demand respect.

I hope to hear from more people tonight. There isn’t much I can do now. Will try not to freak out. Will try to get some rest.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Got an Editor & Some Big Giant Brains

So things are coming together for my crazy weekend of creativity. I have quite a few people on my crew. I am also trying to grab another few people with limited experience but tons of energy and a love for filmmaking.

Thankfully, all of my concerns, my grave, grave concerns about the complicated world of postproduction were washed away last night by one wonderful phone call. I now have an editor with an Avid loaded laptop. He is going to meet us toward the end of the shoot and begin to digitize the stuff we’ve shot, on location. This is huge. Not only will we be ahead of the game for the planned Sunday editing, we will also be very mobile as opposed to tied to a bricks and mortar post house.

Getting an editor is very important, but even bigger is the fact that my editor also produced an indie feature in 2000. He dispensed sage advice. He was very cautious not to dissuade me or frighten me with the mess that I was getting myself into, but he did offer some great insight. It was energizing because he had a million ideas and suggestions that are only going to help. But more importantly he was excited about working on the project. I also got this energy from another guy who had been on board from the beginning (meaning last week), but a conversation today confirmed his desire to be a big part of the project. They were both genuinely interested in making this a quality production. That is more than I could have ever dreamed. I feel a great weight has been lighted off my shoulders. Now it only feels like a half ton of bricks.

I also talked to my animator. He agreed to create the 20 to 30 second opening credits and to write an original song. He uses Mac’s GarageBand program to great effect. He is another excited assistant who has made my life easier and will make my film better.

I can not stress this enough:

I have good friends. And by good I mean they are extremely talented and more importantly they want to help.

First time producer lesson of the day: when you want something, just ask. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t worry about asking for too much. People who want to help, will help. People who don’t, won’t.

During the day I am nervous but probably not as scared as I should be, but last night I woke up no fewer than three times, completely freaked out about what I am getting myself into. Yipes!

Now if I can only get the Red Sox to win a game. I was worried that the World Championship would ruin the Sox and end the constant stress and aggravation that they have brought to my life, but two games in (two losses in) I realized that those bastards will always be here to ruin my life.

Thank god.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Look, I'm not making it up!

Another 48 Hours

More about the 48 Hour Film Project, which is basically all I am thinking about during free time and work time… don’t worry I’m not an air traffic controller and this week, actually, is pretty slow in the work department.

Just to get you up to speed:

Here’s a quick explanation from the website:

"The premise? Filmmaking teams have just one weekend
to make a short film. All creativity - writing,
shooting, editing and adding a musical soundtrack -
must occur in a 48 hour window beginning Friday
evening at 7 and ending Sunday at 7. The following
week, the completed films are screened to an eager

I am very excited. Why? Mostly because by this time next week I will have a completed a short film. Now, I know it’s going to be hell between now and then. Without this crazy contest, I would probably be watching baseball and drinking beer this weekend. I have my whole life to do that. Hopefully this exciting challenge will spark the motivation to match my creativity and access to talent and equipment. This weekend is the ultimate excuse crusher.

I hope.

I am competing against 60+ teams. One team, that I was briefly a part of, is staffed with a real life producer, a real life director and assorted real life production crew. I will have a bunch of pros on my team… no complaints really, hell I point a camera at people for a living. What I wish I had was a producer.

I mean I can get things done.

I run the financials of my 3-unit condo association.

But the team that I was on has had like three meetings already. They’re using our company’s conference rooms, they’ve sent outlook meeting invitations. I’m mostly emailing people and hoping they respond. Fear not, tonight I’m going to make some calls to shore up locations, crew, equipment and actors. Right now I have some production jack-of-all-trades, a few interested editors and a couple of actors. I’m still looking to nail down a place to edit. The pre-pro scares me much more than the actual filmmaking.

One reason I’m making this short, with its rules and restrictions, is as a dry run for a feature or another short film. If I can make this movie, if I can get it all together and show some people (on my team or elsewhere), hey look what we can do. When everything comes together, under these constraints, imagine what we can do with all the time in the world, a well thought out idea and more than 48 hours to achieve it.

I hope.

I went to Boston Costumes to check out what they had to offer. It was inspiring. They open at 9am on Saturday and my costume/prop people or myself are going to head over there sometime between when we write the script and start shooting. Other important places to get props will probably be Home Depot, the various Walmarts and Targets, and You-Do-It Electronics… don’t ask.

I’m going to use this site as a way to document this project for now.

Oh, yeah, the short version of this post is that I haven’t worked on the script.