Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Catch 22 Theory (Locations UGH!!)

The Catch 22 Theory goes like this:

-Shooting a film in LA/NY/Big City: You pay for locations, permits, etc... BUT cast, crew, and resources to work for dirt cheap are a dime a dozen.

-Shooting in Hickory: You pay nothing for anything. Don't need permits... BUT, finding cast and crew, resources, (in general,) are impossible.

"The reason I think we should shoot it here is because I can square down locations for free and that ultimately keeps the low budget," I said to Ryan.

"I don't give a shit where you shoot it." he replied.

"I've got two locations in mind... Shouldn't be a problem."

...........AH, Garrick and his big fat mouth..... Ol’ and lets not forget I haven’t opened the crew can of worms yet. Ol’ and lets not forget, I haven’t opened the crew can of worms yet.

Since losing Viewmont Square before I ever even had it, pre-production has halted to a stand still. As more leads and more leads dwindle, I begin to worry that we may not find what we are looking for. People are telling me I am over analyzing the situation by fighting to find an "All in One Location," and ruling out possible different locations for the different scenes in the final sequence of the film. I understand the “Beggar can’t be Chooser,” attitude, but you gotta’ also remember, I have 4 days to shoot this picture and in order to be able to fight to pay crew and cast, I’ve narrowed the Gaffer’s services to the two big days. The two big days being the:

1)Downtown Night Exteriors
2) The Apartment Finale Sequence

Both of these days will take all night to shoot, especially if we include the actual dialogued scenes at the end of the script that takes place in the apartment.

Let’s breakdown the dilemma:


Scene 11 – EXT. APARTMENT - ENTRANCE (Can’t be shot during day or faked) Dana walks up the stairs, slams her key into the outside door and enters. Henry follows.

Scene 12 – INT. APARTMENT – LOBBY (Could be faked if shot close with lack of windows at location) Dana walks into common room and into elevator. Henry follows behind.

Scene 12A – INT.APARTMENT - ELEVATOR – (Could be faked and we should build a replica elevator for this scene to have full control over lighting, etc. You can’t use lights in elevator unless you can shut it completely down. At the rate we’re going, we’re not going to have that luxury. The alternative is another set up as well as added dollars to the budget.)

Scene 12A - INT./EXT. APARTMENT – ELEVATOR - HALLWAY – (Could be faked with lack of Windows) MAN gets off elevator leaving Dana and Henry

Scene – 12A – INT. APARTMENT – ELEVATOR (**See above) Dana exits elevator and down the hall to her apartment. Enters the key and enters the room. Henry follows from elevator, tackling her into her Apartment

Scene – 12B/13 - INT.APARTMENT - HALLWAY – (Gonna’ be real hard to fake on a low budget film) Dana and Henry wrestle around

Scene – 14 INT. APARTMENT – DANA’S – (**See above) The final scene with the cops etc…

Every one of those Scenes requires a sort of different location so to speak. Even so much as that extra floor needed so that the Extra Man in the elevator can get off was to be a location. All this has to be taken under consideration when we are on a four day shoot.

OK, so here’s how, “The Pieces of Location Theory” can ruin a low budget film.

Alternate locations I’ve been looking at have ranged from the Abbey Apartments to Broughton Hospital. Where Broughton has a couple perfect exteriors, they do not allow shooting on the inside of any building. The Abbey has the elevator, hallway to the apartment and maybe even apartment itself, but its hallways are very narrow, making it hard to light and it is an actual functional apartment complex where we won’t control the elevator, (seven stories of tenants to pick up through out the shoot.) There is no common room. The door opens into the elevator… That’s it. OK, so let’s just say The Abbey allows us a free empty apartment. So we have Scene _____ taken care of. What do we have now?

EXT. Broughton – Outside Apartment
INT. Apartment – The Abbey
INT. Elevator – A Set (Built Elevator using Flats) OR
INT. First Plaza - ** First Plaza on Tate has an elevator is closed after hours with a 24 hour security guard. That would be a key place to ask for, to get an elevatore we could shut down. If we get it, we have to find an elevator similar to that one that has the hallway leading into a row of apartments on at least a 3rd Floor. This location has yet to be found. Let’s just say for the sake of arguing: Viewmont Square turns over a new leaf and allows us the hallway needed to complete the sequence. Now we have:

EXT. Broughton
INT. Apartment – The Abbey
INT. Elevator – First Plaza
INT. Viewmont Square – Hallway

Now, let’s say I SETTLE to do it this way.

BOTTOM LINE: We’re looking at 2 to 3 hours to move, setup, breakdown for each small shot list for each location. Not only is doing this scene this way going to kill our budget and time, it’s going to interrupt the creative flow for the crew and cast. (Let’s not forget, the time spent in the editing room trying to conceal the little differences between the locations. The lighting will not be the same, nor can I imagine the elevators being identical.) If we get delayed in one location, it may screw us up in the location after, especially if somebody would be taking their free time to let us in to do the shoot. If I had two weeks to shoot, I would do it this way and that’s only IF I HAD TO. This system cannot be done efficiently on our budget and time constraints. Since beginning this entry, I have found a very kind gentleman that has offered his erray of hotels. I have also discovered another building in downtown that has an old school elevator and 4 floors to it. I am constructing a letter to the owner to see if maybe, he may be open to letting us use it. I toured the Hickory hotels over the weekend and have found a possible match. It isn’t at all what I envisioned, but may be a close enough match to justify taking it on.

In the end, I will withdraw my comments of saying that securing locations in the Piedmont area is one of the easiest parts of filming in the area. I will restate that using Public Property is a dream here in Hickory. Teresa Randle and the wonderful people of the city make my job easy. Using private property…. Ouch! The Charlotte Film Commission… Wonderful. Sent me dozens of locations that suited my needs, but I couldn’t fathom going to Salsbury to shoot my film and maybe before Leatherheads you could get away with a cheap location, but not now. Clooney slung some cash. Lane wouldn’t stand a chance this soon after of scoring what I needed. (And again, moving the location there boosts my room and board costs by 3.)

By next week, I plan on having this situation completely resolved and moving on with production. Anybody have any great ideas, you know where to find me. I’m all outta’ them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sausage and Eggs with a side of Meter

Another Pair of Steak Knives is sure to be the outcome, but it would be surely cool to go up to WV and check out my movie on the big screen again. I'll be shooting a wedding and nursing a little man(if he ever comes!!!), so anybody in the Huntington Area, stop by the Appalachian Film Festival and check out my film. It's playing right after you gulf down you sausage and eggs on Friday Morning. (10:30am)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Crew Status and The Movie List

**CAST & CREW UPDATE: I have received many resumes for crew around NC. Nobody has been contacted yet, because I want to have the location debacle completely aced before I begin that process so anybody wondering why they have not been contacted.... Don't worry. I have contacted nobody.

I am a HUGE Michael Mann fan. Most people know this. It's unfortunate sometimes because the people that don't like Meter compare my film to Collateral, which was... Directed by Michael Mann and involves a Cab Driver and Man wielding a gun. So when they hear I get my influences from Mann then they really rake me over the coals. I've been out of the "lighting" game for quite sometime. I can easily tell you what I want Jeopardy to look like, but when it comes to actually picking out the gear needed to accomplish that look, I don't know so much. I have in the past productions given cast and crew a small list of films to watch to inspire, grab ideas from, and well get cultured. The list is usually different but similar films that have inspired the film we are working on. It may be the camera work, costumes, lighting, lens work, pace... May be a lot of things, but the movies all have a little bit of influence on how I want MY movie to look. Here is the Movie List for Jeopardy. If you guys get time, watch a couple of these. These are the little things that tie into one big one.

1. Miami Vice
2. Heat
3. The Brave One
4. Collateral
5. The Maltese Falcon
6. Touch of Evil
7. Casino
8. Chinatown
9. Mean Streets

If you watch these films take a good look at the surroundings. The lighting, location and art direction. I want to to go with a real cool, but colorful look with hard shadows on buildings, down hallways. These films have some of what has influenced this movie. Take a look a couple of them and tell me what you come up with.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Cast is Set

Phil Vaglia will play "Henry." Phil was the Cinematographer for "Meter" as well as played the lead role in "Easy Mark." He wrote the script for "Mark" as well. It was based off a Talmage Powell story. As well as film, Phil wrote, starred, produced, and directed a hilarious internet sitcom entitled, "Phil TV." You can still check out all the episodes on his You Tube channel. Ol and I almost forgot, Phil also is a great musician. He used to be my boss and our collaboration began when I edited "Easy Mark." Phil was originally going to put as a producer, co-director for Jeopardy, but then things and elements kind of transformed for the best.

Phil’s Acting Reel

Mark Alton Rose will play "Captain Odem." If you keep up with me, you know Mark and he needs no introduction. Mark graduated from LR with a Bachelor in Theater. He’s been in several films and plays throughout his career. Since playing Charles in Meter, he’s appeared in feature films such as, ‘April Fools Day’ and ‘Harmony Ranch.’ He’s appeared in Sprint and Food Lion commercials and sometime way back when, this guy wrote a book entitled, ‘Especially for Christians.’ Ol and I almost forgot he was a voice personality on radio for many years…. Anything else?… Sure, but my fingers are starting to hurt. Mark was my original pick to play Henry, but Rick's story and vision of Henry, didn't match Mark's appearance or demeanor, (unless we had a tons of money to sink into makeup and prosthetics.) I took the liberty of changing Henry's appearance to a skinny, sleep deprivated, and pasty guy.

Mark from Meter

Then there was my promise to Rick to stay true to his story. I realized when I was writing the fictitious Captain Odem, (he does not appear in the story,) I was picturing Mark in a trench coat, slim tie, deep voice….

I made a decision and went back on my word to Mark. I called Mark and begged him for forgiveness and ask him if he had a problem changing roles. I sold him on the fact that Odem had as many lines as Henry and he only, (again for the second film in a row,) had to put up with me for one night as opposed to four. Mark graciously forgave me and accepted the role which meant I would lose Phil from the crew, but make a perfect “Henry” in Rick’s eyes.

When I was reading the story for the first time I did not envision Dana. The story is a Third Person Narration from Henry’s POV so you really never “saw” Dana close up. Then as I wrote the script I honestly still couldn’t envision her, (which is terrible considering it’s my movie.) In fact when I began drawing my storyboards, I had no idea what Dana was to look like, so all my boards misrepresent her completely. I thought small frame, glasses, great style, and athletic. That’s all.

As I began to really begin working on this film and getting in the mindset of doing it, a TV pilot contest came up that Freddy wanted to do with his, ‘Platters’ sitcom. A couple Sunday’s later we were shooting. I had seen almost all 10 actors’ headshots that were appearing in ‘Platters’ from the ‘Tag Along’ process but had not met any of them. The week before that Sunday, I had probably had one of the worst weeks recorded in 2007. I was working on two hours of sleep and no vision or prep on how I was going to shoot this pilot. So to make a long story short, (as I need to figure out how to do more often,) I didn’t talk nor get to know anybody in that room that day.

Christina Cupo was one of the girls who appeared in that sitcom. She was like the hippy-type, liberal, who didn’t believe in fighting and stayed on a yoga strict schedule. As I was editing Platters, I was like, “who is this girl?” I opened up the folder on my CPU that had all the old photo/headshots compiled from Tag Along and found her headshot. Her head shot looked completely different. Not in a feature kind of way but more attitude. In her headshot she’s beautiful, professional and confident. Then the girl she plays in Platters is cute, bubbly, and a little insecure. No makeup. No fancy pose and I was like, man… “There’s Dana!” Then I think, (I don’t remember exactly,) but I believe that night an email from Mark came through that read: “Hey, that Christina girl would be great to play Dana.” I had to smile. I emailed her and the rest is history.

Christina’s IMDB Page

Platters Clip

With the switch around that took place Freddy got kind of screwed because he went from Odem to Newspaper Vendor, but then it came up that Freddy may not be in town when we shoot the film. So to mend the situation, I am writing a bit speaking role for a second Detective who walks up to Odem and gives him a little more information and if Freddy’s here, we’re going to shoot it. If not, we are going to keep the script the way it is.

As far as the other small roles in Jeopardy such as the Newspaper Vendor, Man in the Elevator, Dana’s Friend and the Detectives, it was always my idea to put different crew people in the small brief roles. If we can get Rick down from West Virginia, I wanted to have him be the Third Man in the Elevator, maybe have me be the Newspaper Vendor. We’ll burn that bridge when the time comes.

As far as Pre-Production goes…. I’m at a dead stop. The NC Film Commission, Mark and I are trying to find a replacement location for the key final scene. I haven’t made any additional big moves, awaiting the outcome. We may end up moving the whole shoot to Charlotte or Asheville depending. In between those times, I’m trying to finish storyboards and fake magazines.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Keeping The Dream Alive

Meter recieved a rave review back in October from a still anoyomous source who saw the film at the last festival Meter was selected for. Since then Meter had fallen short of being selected for the short film competition in many small and medium sized festivals in Greensboro, Philly, and California. I was beginning to think that the review had jinxed our winning streak which had before that been four fests, four selections. My other thought is that Meter's small production had been sort of a fluke where my film had been selected to the festivals strictly on the "new" and "made in North Carolina," principle and had been placed to fill the quota of North Carolina Produced films required for their sponsors to let the actual festival take place. These theories may actually still be true, I don't know. Another theory is: We know the four festivals back to back we didn't get into were run by film students. With that said, the technical flaws of our $500 production hurt us in the overall score because TRUST ME, I know film students. Most of them are pretentious, over induldgent, and worst of all, most of them think their piece of shit film they made their junior year would give Alfred Hitcock's skills a run for the money. If nothing else, I have my theory: My film had great aspects from the acting, to the script to even so far as to saying, the editing saved it from being boring. My directing, audio, lighting to mention a few were flawed which has hurt us. On top of those aspects, there is the situation we kind of ran into at the Real to Reel Film Festival where we were not given the Grand Prize, because, the big guys who sponsored and paid for the festival did not like the content and thought it would look bad on all the people involved and image of the festival if a film of this nature was to win, (or even show for that matter,) at the film festival. Who knows? All I know is we went 4-0 to 4-4. Yes, I think with submission fees being anywhere from $20 to $50, we should receive at least a copy of the score card, reviews etc of the judges if rejected from the fest. At least then I could have a better sense of where I failed, but again.... "In a perfect world...."

At the beginning of this year I had my sights set on four more festivals for the year and then with Jeopardy in full swing, was planning to hang up the festival run for Meter. The fests were River Run, Appalachian Film Festival in West Virginia, Charlotte and Asheville. River Run was the fourth on the rejected count, so I was starting to wonder if maybe spending $40 on Charlotte and Asheville would just be burning money I could be using to feed my kids. Then I got an email last night that changed my mind. The little bastard film that could had reached the finals in the short competition at the Appalachian Film Festival in Huntington, West Virginia. The drought was over and we were back to a winning record. I won't be able to attend due to River's arrival and weddings to shoot that weekend, but this push will be enough to get me to fill out two more checks and burn two more copies of my film for the Charlotte and Asheville Festival before graduating Meter to an All Access Internet Pass. I plan to bring home nothing more than a set of steak knives from the show, but can take pride that Meter's record has improved to 5-4. To finish 7-4, I could PROBABLY be content in hanging up the reins on Meter's arduous, but fulfilling two year journey.

My fellow West Virginians in and around Huntington go see my movie. Let me know how it tests.

Click on this picture to view the festival's website although as of April 2nd, they have not updated the information yet.

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