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Sunday, August 29, 2010

On our way...

Monsters in the Woods is pulling out of Los Angeles and heading to Big Bear for a few days. Wish us luck. Or to break a leg, or whatever you wish upon a movie company.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Prepping to Direct or to be Direct.

There’s so much preparation that goes into directing a movie, technical and creative. In my next few posts will concern the creative prep that goes into directing actors. Over the years, I’ve developed an ever growing and changing method that works pretty good for me.

Script Analysis

There are many aspects to script analysis. Right now I’m going to go over one of my general starting techniques in prepping to deal with the actors and characters. As a director I feel it’s necessary to know all the characters as well as the actors portraying them. But you also have to be willing to let go of any preconceived notions when an actor challenges you with an idea that may work better or flat out superior to yours. Ego can kill creativity.

This is only one step in my process:

I try to understand each character’s through-line. Judith Weston in “Directing Actors” describes a through-line as “the way actors believably connect to the characters emotional reality.” Two key elements to this are OBJECTIVE (what the characters want) and INTENT (what the character does to achieve it).

So I 1st create a list of all the characters in my script major and minor and try to discover the overall objective and intent for each one.
Below is an example from Monsters…from 6 of the characters. *You’ll note there is some overlap in objectives, these overlaps may be construed as themes in the script.

1. Jayson: Objective – To gain personal and professional respect from others
Intent – To finish his movie. To be able to sell it. He also belittles others to fell superior.

2. Ashley: Objective: to be adored/loved. Famous.
Intent – gain a role in a feature. makes men desire her.

3. Guy: Objective – be happy. Be Jayson
Intent – find a girlfriend wife. Support jayson.

4. Ariel: Objective – get back home. Get back to her love and normal life.
Intent – stop bravo in order to go home.

5. Maria: Objective – get bravo to notice and love her.
Intent – do this movie. Make others look bad.

6. Script Girl: Objective - to become more independent. Money.
Intent – Get on better movie. Make money.
Then I’ll go scene by scene and layout the objective and intent for each character for THAT scene. I’m always careful to take note of any contradictions between the characters objective in the scene and their overall objective in order to keep the core of the character consistent.

I don’t usually share this info with the actors unless they need it, ask for it or a conflict arises between my vision and their interpretation of the character. When such conflicts arise, as long as they have a good/solid reason and it doesn’t compromise the narrative or other characters, I will side with the actor and let them decide which way to go. Of course just like with all other aspects of directing, there are exceptions.

That’s all I got to say about that for now…

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"The Big One"

I’m 7 days away from production on what could very well be “the big one.” I guess I should take a second to explain what I mean by “the big one.” (It’s not sexual).

For different moviemakers “the big one” means many different things. For some it’s the movie that makes them rich and or famous. Not me. I mean, that would be cool and all, but I’m not quiet egomaniacal enough to count on that. No, for me “the big one” as nothing to do with riches or fame, it’s about doing what I love and only what I love for a living. It’s about quitting the 9 to 5 and working full time making MY movies. So far, this dream as eluded me.

I’ve made money on my movies, but not enough to quit the day gig. So “the big one” for me is the movie that sets me on the path to financial independence. A movie that makes enough money for me to not only finance my next, but also put enough in my pocket to pay my rent at the end of the month. That’s it. No fancy cars or houses. Just maintaining my current lifestyle while making movies. With Monster in the Woods, I honestly think I’m closer than ever before to reaching my goal.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monsters in the Woods gobbles up its final three cast members.

Alonzo Jones, Hilliary Barbour and Linda Bella complete the cast for Monsters in the Woods.

The truly stunning and talented Linda Bella will be playing the pivotal role of Ashley. This was absolutely the hardest part to cast, but I also think it will be one of the most interesting for both Linda and audience. I’m really excited to see her bring this complex character to life.

Alonzo Jones…what can I say? I can’t make a movie without him. Had to put him in somewhere. But I promise, no “motherF*&##ers” this time.

Hilliary is the final piece of the puzzle. Beautiful, resourceful and hella smart, she has also come on as a producer.

That’s all I got to say about that….

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Delivery Nightmares or What the hell is a Title Report Anyways??

Let this stand as a cautionary tale. I shot a movie four years ago. We sold it and begun delivery in April of 2008. Today, over 2 years later there are still delivery problems with the title.

Sometimes on a low budget production there are certain legal items the production cannot afford, such as E&O insurance. Now a distributor will not put a movie out without said insurance and it is the producer’s responsibility to get it. However, if a distributor wants the movie, many times they will pony up the cash for the insurance and it will come out of the producer’s backend. Cool right? Well, this still doesn’t absolve the producer of the other responsibilities. For example, he still has to obtain a Title Report, this is a report that needs to be drawn up by a lawyer in order for a movie to obtain E&O. It’s not free, but also not overly expensive. You also have to get a Copyright Report, not
to be confused with the Copyright Registration. Not to mention cast/crew contracts (they really do look at them), certificate of origin, letter of restrictions, statement of unions used, ect, ect, ect, ect...

These two little forms (copyright and title) still continue to plague the delivery of the movie I shot four years ago. Why didn’t you just take care it you may ask? Well, I didn’t know. I had a producer who was telling me that it was being handled, it was handled, I’ll handle it. Not necessarily in that order.
Well, it hasn’t been handled and now the US distributor of the movie is withholding royalty reports (big whoop) and royalties (wait! That’s my money.)

I made the huge mistake of believing my ex-producer when he said "they're being taken care of."

As a writer/director I don’t want to be involved in the legal aspects of delivery. I don’t want to be involved in delivery at all. But, on low budget productions we have to wear many hats we don’t want to. It’s all part of the deal. I could’ve and should’ve been more involved with the delivery items and have been since. I no longer take I’ll handle it as an answer, I now need to see proof of these transactions and in a timely manner.

It’s good to be able to trust and count on people, but you have to choose wisely and until you do completely trust your partner or producer, you have to double-check everything.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

3 Weeks and Counting or Bye-Bye Personal Life or What I did this Week.

This week’s incredibly exciting agenda complete with play by play for everything up to Tuesday, because that's today and these things already happened. Woah!

Monday
1. Set agenda for Tuesday’s production meeting. (meeting didn’t happen as planned. We had to squeeze it in between the lovely auditioning actresses.)
2. Pre-pare for auditions. Go over sides. Go over submissions.
3. Send last minute invites to late signing up actresses.
4. Work on script rewrites.
5. Print “special” scripts for stars. (their parts only.)
6. Print new director’s script. Mine is 4 versions old.

Tuesday
1. Auditions at 10 am. (Some of the best 1st reads I’ve ever had. Plus, I’ve been a part of several casting calls, but have never seen more beautiful women in one place. Good for me.)
2. Deliberate over auditions. (this is a tough one. Not only were all the girls lovely, most of them were rock-em-sock-em honest to god real actors. Aces! It’s really going to come down to personality. Final interviews are next week.

Wednesday
1. Lock cast/crew logistics for Big Bear. (who’s getting there with who and where they’ll stay.)
2. Lock script. It’s good. Time to leave it alone.
3. Go over props and set design with my set designing prop master/actor Blaine Cade. Hey, he’s a total renaissance man!

Thursday
1. Create shot list for Big Bear.
2. Host an “Over the Top” movie viewing party/arm-wrestling tournament. (It’s not as gay as it sounds.)

Friday
1. Continue shot list work.
2. Take a little break; maybe work on the shot list at the beach.

Saturday
1. Cry in my pillow. (Hey, production work is lonely work and it’s a been a hard month.)

Sunday
1. Production Meeting with Bravo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fixing Production woes using the Script

So, we’ve shot a major sequence of Monsters in the Woods already. It was difficult to shoot and cost a good portion of the budget. An actor featured in said scene features prominently in several scenes that we are shooting in Big Bear in 3 weeks now has a major scheduling conflict and can’t make the Big Bear shoot. For several reasons the Big Bear dates cannot be changed. So we either, re-shoot the sequence in the can with a new actor (which we A: Can’t afford and B: like having this particular actor in the movie), shoot the big bear scenes with a stand-in, or make some creative script changes to compensate for the character’s absence in the Big Bear Scenes.

I’ve chosen the later. Luckily this particular character disappears anyway in the midst of the 1st act and doesn’t resurface until midway through the 2nd act. 90% of the Big Bear stuff takes place in the 1st act. However, there are still three major scenes that have to be shot there and feature the character in question.

In order to fix this, I’ve created a new character to shoulder the necessary dialog and action for those scenes and that lasts through the duration of the 1st act. Then the original character comes back as planned in the 2nd act.

Due to the non-tradition structure of the script (the 1st and 2nd acts take place concurrently), this plan actually works better than it sounds. It also gives me some space to create a new fun character for one of my favorite actors to play. Now I get to work with both actors and maintain the integrity of the script.

Another plus is the already meta nature of the script allows me to directly comment on the situation through this new character. Hell, the movie’s about the making of a micro-budget movie. So I just insert real circumstances and obstacles facing this very production into the narrative. It’s actually kind of fun. In the end, these “problems” end up creating a richer script and movie.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Troubles in the Woods? Nah...

“Independent filmmaking is not for pussies.” William H. Macy on the set of Edmond.

Crazy week.

We went from the excited pre-production "we're making a rocking-sweet movie" to the abysmal “sad, we’re going to have to scrap production” to the "everything’s aces again."

We had a little funding scare when our enigmatic, middle investor pulled out this week to the tune of almost 5 thousand dollars. Those of you who’ve worked on productions such as this know that’s no small amount.

With less than 24 hrs to go until a large chunk of this money needed to be spent, we were stressed to say the least. But luckily we found a last minute replacement investor who’s ponied up almost all of the missing cash and we’ve been able to talk the others into making up the difference. So, long story short, the movies still on.
Everything is good.

Also went through a bit of personal strife this week. (I actually wrote it down, but then read it and realized how truly silly it all is and it all worked out for the better anyway, so I won’t bore my 4 readers with the details. I only say this... I may be white, but I'm hella pretty)

I’ve scheduled auditions for the "hard to cast" role of Ashley. Because of the difficult nature of some of the later Malibu shoot dates (it’s a difficult hike) I’ve tired to cast the role from my regular pool of actresses, but for differing reasons, no one excepted the role. I’m actually a little baffled by it. Sure there is sexuality involved, but no nudity. It’s a complex, non-cookie cutter part with an arc that’s both challenging and unexpected. Eh.. we have over 200 submissions for the auditions, I know we’ll find someone good.

So onto daily business, all to be wrapped up before noon…

1. rewrite script to adjust for an actress that can’t make the big bear shoot.
2. Finish sides for Ashley audition
3. Book audition space
4. Pick under 30 actresses to audition from the 200 plus submissions

I’ll go into a little more detail on the script rewrite in my next blog on writing…
So you got that to look forward to.