Tuesday, August 21, 2012

48 Hour Film Festival - The Aftermath

Photos by Brent Turner - BLT Productions

With the production company I partnered with, 3 Grunts Productions, we survived 48 hours together and cranked out a nice little film.  I will say this 48 contest has been the most relaxed set I've been on. We were only about an hour behind schedule the whole time but we took hard breaks for lunch and in between production moves. My goal was to go in with a huge collaborative mindset this time around. I had a lot of folks drop out on me but I also gained a lot of the right people.

I'm a true believer in if people know their assigned role, production goes super smooth.  Know your job - roles and responsibilities are clear and communicated. This is the opposite of having too many directors on set.  The grip is just as import to the mission as the director.  This was the case for the most part, we knew our roles. We had a lot of multi-hatted folks and of those some were novice. I hope everyone learned a lot on this set.  From my military days, ORGANIZE, TRAIN and EQUIP (let me add COMMUNICATE) and you'll be successful in your mission and we definitely were this time around.  ORGANIZE: Leading up to the 48 we had a few pre-production meetings among the producers. We assigned taskers and solicited the folks needed. Sure there were some last minute drop outs but we could always write whatever scale of a story we wanted so having at least one actor is all that's required. Even the Friday evening kick-off we lost an actor and had to rewrite the scene.   TRAIN: most of the training happened on set. We had a true novice and I think most of us more experienced folks took the time to show him something. Patience is a virtue. Just keep telling yourself at the end of the day lives aren't lost, what's the worst that could happen if you don't finish, at this level the answer is nothing.  I hope he came out of the experience a little more knowledgable. As far as training for myself, I broke out the camera the week before that had been sitting unused since October and I took it through the paces. Went through the entire work flow from soup to nuts.  EQUIP: We rented some gear, owned some gear and borrowed some gear. We had everthing we needed to make a film. We also had a costumer on hand in the off chance we drew the dreaded western or period piece - Plan for the unknown. And most importantly we were familiar with the equipment on hand.

So the kick-off happened on a Friday evening. My cowriter and I sat at HQ while the two producers went to the movie theater to draw our genre. We sat at the table anxiously waiting for the call.  The phone finally rang and the genre was... DRAMA. My cowriter was hoping for at least comedy. I turned to her and said, "Drama is perfect."  Comedy is drama, drama is comedy.  I personally think I excel at dramatic stories. Life is hard, let's capture a glimpse of that.  So we tossed around a couple of ideas, nothing really stuck that was simple and compelling at the same time. My goal was a simple story, well told.  After taking a step back and looking at our stable of available actors, I wanted to use them all (which we did!), coupled with the locations we were locked to, a really cool story emerged.  From a directing standpoint, I wanted to try something different as it relates to style (save that for a different blog post).  So we beat out the story points together and the cowriter (she should be called the head writer at this point) wrote the lion's share of the script, kudos to her. Every so often she'd grab me while I was solidifying our actors and we'd agree or disagree on the story points but eventually came to a consensus. I'd take that section and start on a shot list. (Which I got all my shots in the can on Saturday, no reshoots)  There were a couple of set backs: A crucial actor dropped out and we couldn't find a replacement so there was a significant rewrite. Rather, I told the head writer, I'm pretty sure we won't get a replacement by morning so go ahead and rewrite that part now - Always looking FORWARD, always problem solving.  A key prop was not available to us given the short time frame despite the hard work of our wonderful production manager.  But we pressed, always be FLEXIBLE. We had a finished script by 9 pm and sent out the call sheets to the cast and crew.  COMMUNICATION is crucial.  Your folks need to know what's going on. They may not need to know the minutiae of every trivial detail but you need to communicate the goals, the schedule, what happens next, etc.  Anyway, I think I went to bed after finishing the shot list at around 2 am.

The day of production started promptly at 8 am that Saturday with a safety briefing (ok not really but we should've had sunscreen on set). Our first actress, who I highly recommend (actually I highly recommend everyone you see in the credits of this film), showed early with dialogue memorized... a god send to a tired, caffeine deprived director. The crew showed on time and we got started. The only set back was consistently inconsistent cloud cover where we had to wait for the clouds to move before each take. Other than that it was a perfect first scene. We broke for lunch and the next few scenes went off fairly well. We worked with three very talented actors, two of them being kids. And the final sequence with the last two actors kicked off around 5 pm where we finished probably around 10 pm with a break for dinner in the middle.  My director of photography was another god send. He really complemented my style. For those of you paying attention after watching the film, we shot out of order.  Plan your shots as efficiently as possible which sometimes means shooting out of order.

Around 11 pm after a beer with the head writer and production manager, I took over from the assistant editor who had been logging footage all day. I think I got exactly 2.5 hours of sleep but by Sunday morning we had a complete roughcut. After getting picture lock there was a decision point. I could spend more time on a SFX shot or I could invest that precious time fixing the audio. I chose the latter as I know a more complete, watchable film has consistent audio that's audible.  I'm glad I did that.  I firmly believe AUDIO is probably the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of a film. You can forgive an out of focus picture but when you can't hear what's going on you lose your audience quickly.  So that's why I always take that extra time during production to make sure to get good audio, your editor will thank you.

Fast forward to 5 pm, the crew saw the final version. There were laughs, smiles and tears.  So I promptly exported that sucker. We all ate a leisurely dinner and packed up the equipment. Took a nice group photo and around 6:30 pm we left to turn in the final files. At 7:05 we strolled into the movie theater and turned in 25 min before the deadline.

I truly believe filmmaking is like a military operation with a lot of moving parts. With that said, you can plan and plan and plan some more but when that first shot is in the can, those plans can go out the window.  It's all about minimizing variables from that point forward.   Overall, I'm glad I had a few grunts on my team this year.

Below is the final film.

"Homecoming" - Three stories converge on Thanksgiving Day.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

48 Hour Film Festival

Next week is our city's 48.  The film festival revolves around picking a genre, character and line of dialogue then you have 48 hours to write, shoot, cut and turn in a short film. A daunting task, with the help of some great producers -- 3 Grunts Productions. We assembled an amazing team this year.  My goal is to have fun, keep it simple and no guns, no violent death.  I really want to experience a true 48 so we've really kept story brainstorming to a minimum. More to come as I'll post pictures and the final film.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Screenplay Finally Finished

Well I've finished co-writing a feature length screenplay which had the majority of my attention since November. In that time I didn't touch my camera once but I did write about a dozen shorts to combat writer's block.

Anyway, I'm working on the beginnings of feature screenplay #4 and prepare for the 48 hour film fest this summer.  Also, I hope to shoot at least one short film before then.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Post Production - Bad Pumpkin

I'm currently finishing up post production for the director's cut of Bad Pumpkin.  Just need to do a re-edit.   I've had to cut one of my babies with the opening scene. As much as I liked it as written, the final product didn't do it justice.  It really boiled to location.  I could reshoot it but at this point I don't believe the effort to do that would add much to the story. It's a horror comedy and taking out a couple chuckles at the beginning and getting right to the story is the better way to go.

Here's the poster.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Bad Pumpkin"

Pre-production has begun on, "Bad Pumpkin", a short film that we decided to put together at the last minute. The last short film we put together at the last minute didn't turn out as expected.
The story is horror/comedy about a couple who pick out a haunted pumpkin that terrorizes those who do not celebrate Halloween.
The plan is to shoot sometime this month which is an extremely short timeline.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tulsa - Kinship

I'm headed to the Tulsa International Film Fest (TIFF) here soon. I must say they've rolled out the red carpet even though it's their first year.  Let you know how it shows.  Not much else to report....except...


Kinship got selected to the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival!!!! I got you kinda!

What an honor!

Underneath Cincinnati Finals!

Well, as the last few film festivals make there decision I  have some mixed news on Kinship our flagship short film.  It got into the finals of Underneath Cincinnati where it will compete head to head with the other 8 films from the 2010 - 2011 season. Very exciting!

However, some festival I took a chance on rejected us, our first rejection.  Cincinnati International Film Festival regretfully did not select Kinship this year.  Oh well, can't win them all.