Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day #15: Moment to Moment

Another amazing day of auditions! After only two long (looooong) 8-hour sessions, I'm confident we can cast all the lead roles!

We saw some fantastic Scotts and amazing Dougs with many strong and varying interpretations. And damn, there are so many good Angelas -- we have no choice but to turn away some professional and talented actresses who look the part. We're going to have to choose between the top 5%!

Had a proud director moment today -- I discovered a great intention while listening to an actress who was rushing through the scene:
Angela has never been in a warm, loving home like Scott's. Savor every moment you have in this safe space until you have to pull the trigger.
I loved it so much, I used it all day!

But there's so much more ahead of us:
  • finishing shot lists and production book
  • cinematography meeting
  • sound meeting
  • location tech scout
  • making equipment deals
  • preparing and scheduling for greenlight meetings in 2 weeks
  • making film processing and telecine deals
While I could stay up all night working on those, I'm heading straight to bed and getting up early for the big pitch to Panavision tomorrow. Fingers crossed! Afterwards, we'll be meeting with Cheryl our casting director, going over the tapes, and scheduling callbacks.

If all goes well, Panavision will donate us a top-of-the-line camera package for free. Stay tuned tomorrow and see what happens!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Day #14: Entertaining Angelas


I have never seen so many talented actors and actresses in such a short period of time. So, yes, the auditions went quite well!

We saw some amazing Angelas and Dougs today. A handful of great Scotts. But there's more work to be had tomorrow.

I also noticed that I'm a bit rusty with directing. Need to get some oil in the gears. When I find a fellow filmmaker with a passion for characters, I tend to blab on and on...

But a director's whole life is about condensing! So with several talented actors playing Scott, I gave the following intention:
When Angela pulls a gun on you, as a father, your first thought is not of your own life, but to save Kaylie's life. She will have no mother to turn to, you're dead, and she'll wind up in a terrible foster home. So do everything you can to break down Angela's emotional barriers to get through to her and make her put down the gun to save Kaylie's life.
And a lot of actors did their best but left the audition confused by the overload of information. My fault. But when I used this:
swallow your pride and beg for your life
The actor's performance just came to life. Liz, one of my producers, literally performed a victory dance after the actor left the room.

More auditions tomorrow! Rumors of more locations found. More staying up and working on shot lists and production books!

Well I guess that it makes it two weeks straight of daily blogging! Just 50 more short weeks to go!

Stay tuned tomorrow -- I think we'll find our top candidates for Angela, Scott, and Doug tomorrow! Then it's off to pitching Panavision, callbacks, and more!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day# 13: Quiet Before the Storm


In just a few short hours, fifty actors and actresses will descend upon a small room in the USC film school to try out for the lead roles in Another Life.

I have spent most of today reading the script over and over and coming up with a few short adjustments to give the actors/actresses after their cold reading. The Dougs will be reading their only scene (threatening Angela to kill or be killed) and the Scotts and Angelas will be reading the date scene followed by the shooting on the balcony. Here are some adjustment ideas:
  • Doug: You just killed someone not ten feet away from her. She's a scared, shivering little bird in her your hand. Toy with her. Watch her squirm.
  • Scott: swallow your pride and beg for your life. Beg for Kaylie's life.
  • Angela: Tom loved you. He gave his life for you. If you don't pull the trigger, if you let Scott live, then Tom died for nothing. Get through this, survive, then you can start over and do something with your life that would make Tom proud.
A director has to get used to the fact that your whole day's hard work gets condensed into tiny little snippets. And they have to count.

I also did some human things today too. Spent a few hours with my brother and father. Cooked a nice dinner with my wife. Washed some dishes. Watched Magnificent Seven again. These ordinary activities are necessary to my sanity.

I will be staying up all night working on the production book some more. I know it's late, but I'll have it done by Wednesday, when I'm meeting with Jay.

Stay tuned tomorrow to hear how 50 thespians fared in 9 hours!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Day #12: Shaman in Central Park

...and even less luck today.

As a back-up, we can use my producer Mitsuyo's back room as Int. Angela's Apartment NIGHT. But then we'd have paint walls, change furniture, add fake walls... lots of time, effort, and money.

But today's production insanity was all my fault. A while back, I told my Dad that we could go see a Dodgers game two weeks from now... and completely forgot to put it up on the calendar. Now I have created a conflict for our biweekly production meeting.

FRAK.

So after a flurry of calls, emails, texts, and g-chats for several hours, my super-awesome producer Liz was able to reschedule a production meeting for Tuesday morning before the second round of auditions.

But with the game tomorrow and auditions early Monday morning, I have to get a lot of work done tonight:
  • actors' intentions for auditions
  • production book
  • shot lists
Because we'll be doing auditions all day Monday, rehearsing our pitch for Panavision Tuesday morning, more auditions Tusday afternoon and evening, doing the pitch Wednesday morning, and having a full-crew production meeting Wednesday afternoon. Busy much?

Someone smart once said that being a film director is like being a wise old hermit in the middle of a bustling city. You need to be available to every member of the cast and crew to answer their questions at all times, so they can keep the production moving along, but you also need to shut yourself off from the world, go deep into your Fortress of Solitude, battle your inner demons, and come back with a perfect, beautiful, and cohesive vision for the film.

So tonight I will be calling upon my muse to guide me to the perfect tone and shots for Another Life. But I have to keep my phone on :)

Stay tuned tomorrow to read some intentions for actors in auditions!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day #11: A View to a Kill


Not so much luck today. We did get one location though!

After ample discussion on physical production issues from parking to sound recording to the actual quality of the filmed scene, we decided to shoot the Ext Balcony NIGHT scene at the USC-owned parking lot just east of the 110 freeway.

A daytime view from the "balcony" can be seen above.

At a privately owned balcony, we'd have to pay a police officer to monitor the prop gun use and the crew's safety for $1,000 a day.

But at this USC parking lot, the parking, permits, and safety costs are free (no police officer required). I think we can construct a fake balcony and rent quality sound equipment for well under $1,000.

But the Int. Angela's Apartment NIGHT location still eludes us: small, grubby studio-style apartment with cool colors in a film friendly environment at student discount prices. Not easy to come by.

So my producer Mitsuyo just woke up from a nap and we're checking one last apartment possibility tonight. After that, I am heading home to work on some "Under 5" character breakdowns and enjoy a night out with the wife :)

Stay tuned tomorrow when we lock our locations!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day #10: A Whirlwind of Awesome


An hour after my last post, my producer Mitsuyo called to tell me about her progress with our ideal bar location: the owner agreed to let us shoot there for free and at any time we wanted.

Good producers are so, so, SO good.

It gets better. We went to the Iraqi House Location this morning -- a house in East L.A. that caught fire in a meth lab explosion. And as you can see in the pictures below, it's perfect for an Iraq War flashback. The owner will only be charging us a little over $200 -- a steal since we're getting so many locations for free.

As we were having breakfast, Mitsuyo mentioned that she talked to the owner of an auto body shop near her apartment. She knows the owner really well and he'd let us shoot there on a slow day like Saturday. And I took a look at it. And I loved it.

And all of this before noon!

So now we have 6 out of 8 locations! Pictures below:

Scott's House (Kaylie's Room still needs photographing):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherlifefilm/sets/72157618424784522/

Sketchy Sidewalk:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherlifefilm/sets/72157620375256433/

Drab Law Office:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherlifefilm/sets/72157620375875451/

Bar:
http://picasaweb.google.com/thresholdmovie/McMurphyS#

Iraqi War-Torn House:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/filmanotherlife/sets/72157620561972846/

Seedy Garage:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherlifefilm/sets/72157620563201616/

I just finished watching Battlestar Galactica: Razor and made over 60 screenshots. Now I just need to compile them all into the production book and get started on the shot lists. I could also finish off the "Under 5" character breakdowns and camera house submissions...

Just 2 more locations to go! And it's only Thursday!

Stay tuned tomorrow. I've got a strong feeling we'll be locking locations before Friday night!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day #9: That Could Be Iraq


Two down, five more to go! My producer Mitsuyo and I continued the hunt for locations, and with her mighty filmmaking powers, she found us Ext. Sketchy Sidewalk DAY and Ext. Drab Law Office DAY.

Here are pictures of the Sketchy Sidewalk:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherlifefilm/sets/72157620375256433/

And pictures of the Drab Law Office:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherlifefilm/sets/72157620375875451/


We still need to find the seedy garage, iraqi house, apartment, bar, and balcony. But we have so many leads!

Tomorrow morning at 8 AM (ugh!) I will be seeing two bombed out buildings (I think one blew up in a meth lab fire!) in South Pasadena that could pass for Iraqi war-torn homes.

Also, Mitsuyo and I made our rounds these past two days for the other locations and we're expecting to hear back from the owners of the perfect balcony, the perfect apartment, and the perfect bar tomorrow. In fact, Mitsuyo is checking out the bar and a potential seedy garage later tonight.

I'm watching Battlestar Galactica: Razor now, pulling snapshots for the production binder. My cinematographer Jay gave me until Tuesday to present the shot lists and production binder to him. I also need to do some grunt work on updating the Panavision/Kodak/Clairmont submission materials.

As I was driving Mitsuyo home at the end of the day, she leaned across the dashboard and pointed out the sketchiest parking lot in L.A. and said, "That could be Iraq." With the enthusiasm of a 12-year-old boy at the Transformers premiere, I pulled the car over and gleefully wrote down the address and contact info for a barb-wired vacant lot.

Filmmaking does weird things to my brain.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day #8: 36 Views of Mt. Los Angeles



The great Japanese artist Hokusai created over 100 color prints of differing views of Mt. Fuji. They continue to be popular today as a serene, powerful meditation on the great site's cultural significance.

Today, I encountered many differing views of L.A., all the while meditating on the "cultural significance" of my journey. How are we gonna make THIS GUY let us shoot here? And for cheap?

The Location Scout went relatively well today. No fantastic miracles just yet. But we have a lot of definite maybes. Allow me to go into more detail:
  1. Int./Ext. Scott's House- Day AND Night - locked already. My Dad's House. He rocks.
  2. Int. Seedy Garage NIGHT - we could use my Dad's garage out in Calabasas, my producer Mitsuyo's garage in the Silverlake area, or use a sound stage at USC. Not 100% satisfied with all of those possibilities and will continue looking. Mitsuyo insists we find the sketchy sidewalk nearby.
  3. Ext. Sketchy Sidewalk DAY - found a few perfect ones in Silverlake. We just need to call Film LA and get the permit!
  4. Ext. Law Office DAY - not a lot of luck yet. We tried some places downtown, but they all look very expensive (one place required police and fire officers even though it's a dialogue scene! Then again, 24 shot there last week).
  5. Int. Angela's Apt NIGHT - Mitsuyo has a few friends who have yet to get back to her. Found a complex with the right look and jotted down their number. We'll keep looking.
  6. Ext. Iraqi Home DAY - No luck so far. Waiting on a call from a referral on a previous USC film that took place in Iraq.
  7. Ext. Balcony NIGHT - Two beautiful up-close views of downtown! We'll be seeing one apartment manager who will be trying to let us shoot there for free and one house owner who seemed very film friendly. Fingers crossed!
  8. Int. Bar DAY/NIGHT - Mitsuyo is at McMurphy's in Pasadena right now, chatting up the bar's manager :)
Also got 15 -- FIFTEEN -- emails from producer Liz today going over many simultaneous filmmaking tasks, which now means I have to finish the following items before or by Wednesday, July 1st, seven days from now:
  • locations, locked
  • "Under 5" character breakdowns
  • audition preparations (actors intentions, etc.)
  • production book
  • shot lists
  • submission materials for Panavision New Filmamker Program
  • submission materials for Kodak Studnet Filmmaker Grant
That's because we have to lock locations Saturday, have a production meeting Sunday, have our first auditions Monday and Tuesday, and pitch for Panavision and Kodak on Wednesday.

And THAT is why I'm drinking a Full Throttle right now.

Tomorrow, more location hunting news!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day #7: Location, Location, Location

And the madness begins.

I was watching a movie, researching for the right look for Another Life, when I checked my To Do List for the week on our google calendar. That's when I discovered we have less than 30 days until we must have several "greenlight" meetings.

No later than July 20th, we have to meet with all of the moguls of the USC film school see that we have met all the deadlines for readiness, safety, schedule, budget, crew, cast etc. and are fully prepared to make the thesis film in two weeks.

We still need 7 out of 8 locations, a locked schedule, an accurate budget, a full cast, a full crew, all the equipment, and the post-production flow locked into place.

And none of that work can begin until we lock locations.

So I'm staying up late tonight working on the cinematography production book (I'll put all the pics up on a flickr page on Wednesday). I will be scouting locations all day tomorrow.

For the rest of the week, I will make sure to location scout with producer(s) by day and draw up shot lists by night. Alas, poor slumber, I knew him well.

This marks Week #1 of my year long-pledge to blog daily on the making of Another Life. Just 51 more weeks to go!

Tomorrow I'll tell you about our first location scout!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day #6: No Rest for the Wicked

... or film directors. Got up at 5 AM to put together the following sets of pictures for the production design meeting this morning:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherlifefilm/sets/72157617303410361/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherlifefilm/sets/72157618424784522/

The meeting went pretty darn well. It was very good to see Jill after such a long time. Glad to see we are still on the same page with the look of the film. We went into great detail as to how to get that look just right with set design elements and props -- but so much is relying on the already installed "look" that we will find in our locations. For example, there's not much we're going to add to the bar for set design except for giving it some warm lighting and hide the signage.

There were also pockets of a production meeting with the producers in the midst of the meeting. Top priority: locations. We have 30 days now till our Greenlight meeting with USC faculty. Everything will need to be in place: cast, crew, budget, schedule, locations, all key transactions -- everything. We've got a lot of work ahead of us and we are developing a cohesive plan to get it done in time.

But today is Father's Day. So I have to go do that have fun with my dad thing.

Tomorrow, I'll be putting together pictures for the cinematography production book -- color, quality of light, composition, camera movement, and lenses for all 23 scenes.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day #5: The Glory of Google Images


Nothing glamorous today. Laundry. Dishes. Getting an oil change. Buying gifts for father's day. Going on a date with my wife. Directors have to at least try to live an oridnary life.

But not a day goes by in pre-production where a director isn't working. Tomorrow, I have a meeting with the production designer, Jill. This will be our first meeting since May when we shared our initial ideas of how Another Life would look. That was about 5 or so drafts of the script ago. So I will be preparing for that meeting the same way I prepared for the costume designer interviews.

Here are the pictures that I brought with me to the costume design interviews. These are just my initial impressions of the characters costumes and leitmotifs for color, fabric, texture, and cuts of the costumes. These pictures aren't to be seen as the final product, but great conversation-starters for how best to use costume to enhance the story:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherlifefilm/sets/72157619931163073/

And in the same way, I'll be preparing for the production design meeting tomorrow by spending all day finding pictures that best represent my initial set design and prop ideas in each scene of Another Life.

Casting's going quite well. Auditions set for May 29th and 30th. Producers are hunting down locations and getting accurate price quotes for the budget. And after tomorrow, I'll be building the production book for Wednesday's meeting. Chugging right along...

Tomorrow, see how I balance a full schedule of making a cohesive production design plan as well as having a good Father's Day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Day #4: Exploding Shirts Are Expensive

So I met with two costume designers today, both of whom have years of experience in the wardrobe department from big budget studio blockbuster films to shoestring budget student films -- and they're both extremely excited at the opportunity to work on Another Life. Why?

Two simple answers: they loved the script and I was fully prepared for the meeting.

As you can read about in previous posts (Day #2: How to Get 1,000 Casting Submissions), I spent a lot of time on the script. 17 full drafts. And to be honest, once I'm rehearsing with the cast, it might be 20 drafts to get the dialogue just right.

Having a great script as well as a great logline has, is, and always will be the best selling tool to bring on talented, skilled professionals on your crew. If they're passionate about the story, they will jump at the opportunity to work hard on your film. If they're not passionate about the story, they will only work on your film if the money is good.

As for my preparation for the meeting, there's never too much. You of course want to ask the standard interview questions: why do you want to be a filmmaker? What excited you abotu this project? What costumes seem fun for you to make? Etc. And there's the standard logistics questions of availability and conflicts, their daily rate, budget for their department, assistants, etc. All essential to get to know your potential costume designer and see if they are the right fit for the film as well as for the crew.

But the proof in the pudding is in two sets of questions: ask your potential costume designer how they view the film and view the costumes. Listen very intently. Be open to their suggestions.

Then tell them your ideas. I brought a whole host of pictures that I found online (I will post them soon!). Ideas for Angela's clothes at the poker game, when she meets scott at the bar, when she goes to his house to kill him, and on the date. And what Scott's wearing when he's at work and when he's on the date. Suits, ties, shirts, coats, shoes, dresses. And talk about the color palette and cut of material... clean, grubby, trendy, bland, formal, casual... go into great detail... I've developed a visual leitmotif that Angela's world is dark with low-key lighting and navy blue, cold, desatured color palette while Scott's world is warm, high-key lighting and bright yellow satured color palette. And through the film the costumes can subtly show their two world blending together... angela's dress at the date could be a vibrant light blue where she was wearing a dark blue jeans and a gray hoodie before... scott starts to wear a little blue at the date...

The great thing is both costume designers listened and had great ideas to enhance my first impressions. The tricky thing now is to choose which one! And of course there are a few costume designers that are getting back to us now...

Stay tuned tomorrow as I prepare the production book for a production design meeting on Sunday. And oh yeah... if an actor "gets shot" in a scene, especially when he's wearing a military uniform, you need to have a brand new shirt for each take. And that is where exploding shirts can get expensive... and how a smart costume designer can save you money :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day #3: A Few Fried Vegetables for $1,000


So I promised you costuming pictures and advice... and they're not ready yet. I took a meeting this afternoon and learned that this line from my script could cost me $1,000:
INT. SCOTT'S HOUSE - KITCHEN - NIGHT

Scott fries vegetables in the pan -- oil HISSES and POPS --
How could a 15-second shot of frying vegetables cost the production $1,000? The answer to that leads me to...

Film Prep Lesson #5
Know your logistics! Plan out every moment of every day of the principle photography schedule. Coordinate every minor technical detail until an hour-by-hour day is planned out in the most minute detail. Safety and timeliness are of the utmost concern -- and when filmmakers are rushing without a plan, they often make very unsafe decisions.

This afternoon I took a meeting with Joe, a higher-up at USC School of Cinematic Arts who broke down the script for me in terms of saving time and money as well as stressing the importance of careful production planning and safety. He pointed out the most time-consuming and challenging aspects of the production:
  • every time a prop gun is used in a public location for a film shoot, within view of any civilian outside the film crew, an on-site police officer must be present. Their discounted student rate runs around $1,000/day.
  • special permits have to be applied for and purchased for the use of a prop gun in a public location. This includes apartments with windows where civilians can see the prop gun being used and mistake it as criminal activity. Flyers have to be posted all over the area that notify filming is taking place. Authorities must be notified.
  • If the story demands that a prop gun have moving parts -- the audience sees the gun recoiling and the muzzle flashing -- a "non-gun" is a recommended rental. However, the filmmaker must keep in mind that the actors must be trained in the use of the non-guns and that every charge fired by the non-gun costs $8 a pop. Which can get quite expensive take after take.
  • A certified stunt coordinator must be present for all use of prop weapons.
  • If the story demands we see a character get "hit" by a bullet and blood gushes out at that moment, a film prop called a "squib" must be purchased, an electric charge the detonates a small packet of fake blood underneath the actor's costume. Also, the services of a Class A Powder Certified Squib Technician. And they are not cheap either.
  • A note on squibs: the use of a squib destroys a costume. For every take in which the squibs go off, a new and identical costume must be produced. Which can get quite expensive take after take.
  • For the use of any of the props mentioned above with moving parts -- guns, squibs, etc. -- a plexi-glass shield must be rented to guard the camera just in case. Ear plugs must be purchased for the entire crew for non-gun noises, which can be deafening in close quarters.
  • A production assisstant must be hired who's sole responsibility is to guard the prop guns. Actors get bored between takes. Prop guns are fun to play with. Actors will naturally be inclined to play with the prop guns between takes. But prop guns are not toys. They can hurt people. They can also make the cops show up to a set who think your fictional bank robbery is an actual bank robbery. They can also make the police open fire on the actors if they do not drop the "weapon" immediately (this scenario has actually happened to a USC film crew!)
  • A child actor will be playing Kaylie. Six-year olds actors in the state of California can only work so many hours in a day before it becomes child slave labor. A Studio Teacher must be hired at a daily rate to supervise the child actor's legal rights. The child actor's state-certified credentials as a legitimated minor with a working permit must also be on file.
  • Actors cannot actually cut up vegetables on film with a sharp knife. An actor will be concentrating on his performance and the director's notes and not on his or her physical safety. The vegetables can be "scored" or pre-cut so that a dull prop knife could easily be used by the actor to cut the vegetables.
And the moment of truth:
  • the use of any fire, on or off screen, for the dramatic purposes of filmmaking requires the purchase of an on-set fire extinguisher and the presence of a certified Fire Marshal. This includes (especially) the use of fire in candles for a romantic candlelit dinner scene... as well as off-screen flames cooking vegetables in a pan. The average student film discounted rate for a Fire Marshal on set for one day is $1,000.
I'm sure to a lot of you, all of this sounds tedious and obnoxiously overbearing. I'm just trying to make a movie! Why are you making everything so difficult for me! Let me create! But no one deserves to get hurt in the name of "your vision." In any filmmaking experience, the cast and crew is intensely focused on making the best film possible... or a perfect cast and crew at least. Whether you want to admit it or not, there are plenty of people on your crew just waiting to get this over with and go home. But my point is this: no one on set is actively thinking, "How can I make this safer?" That's why all the safety aspects of a film production must be predetermined to the point of meticulous, scaredy-cat insanity. That way, in case there are any accidents, minimal or no damage takes place to equipment or cast and crew members.

So after 17 or so drafts of rewriting the script from the writer-director's perspective, I have spent most of today working on another draft from the budget-conscious producer's perspective... Until today, I thought cooking vegetables would be one of the easier things to film.

Oh yeah, and I have to stay up late tonight drafting up notes, pictures, and sketches for potential costume designers. There may be art in Hollywood, but there is no sleep for directors.

But tomorrow it all hangs in the balance -- find out this time how my producer Liz and I will successfully interview and woo a costume designer to join our crew on a limited budget!


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day #2: How To Get 1,000 Casting Submissions


Great news! Late last night, I got an e-mail from Cheryl, our casting director, reporting that we had just received 1,000 casting submissions for Another Life. And hundreds more are pouring in!

I've never had this much success with a casting notice before. And to be honest, I think this is because of two reasons: I have a fantastic casting director and great loglines and character descriptions. Which leads me to my two next lessons...

Film Prep Lesson #3
Find a great casting director. And Cheryl is a dream to work with. She's had years of experience in the industry with tons of great connections. She came from acting, dancing, and choreography, so she knows all the pain and hard work that actors go through when it comes to auditions. What's great is she's willing to work with students like us because of her work with actors -- she's seen so many reels that are just a collection of "featured" roles of men in uniform on CSI or weeping mothers on SVU. And she's excited to help find talented rising stars who are hungry for the challenge of a full, meaty role!

And with a great cast and crew, I think we have a great shot at the big league film festivals. And what casting director doesn't want their film to win "Best Ensemble" at Sundance?

Film Prep Lesson #4
Spend far too much time crafting good loglines and character descriptions. I don't mean just scratching your chin, sipping a coffee, then giving it a good, college try and being done with it. I spent an entire weekend working only on the title. I spent a full week wrestling down a 14-page script and transforming it into one sentence -- just the first draft of the logline. Then I spent every free moment over the past month turning it into the best possible logline. You know you've done the hard work when you spend hours looking up just the right words in the thesaurus to describe a character. Then, you need to write slightly expanded version in just three sentences. And you start rummaging through the thesaurus again...

But to get it right, every logline has to have irony. A contradiction. Something you don't expect -- but you can believe. A family man settles down to become a police chief in small island town -- but then has to protect it from a killer shark. Believable, inevitable surprise.

Just as important, every logline falls into an archetypal pattern: a) a character who b) has a particular status quo, then c) has a sudden turn of events, and d) struggles to choose between change and her status quo, and then give a hint of e) a thrilling climax.

But most importantly, can you see your movie in that logline? What are the key scenes in your film? What are the moments that the audience will never forget when they leave the theater? Those moments have to be in your logline!

If you want to find a great logline to learn from, open up a TV Guide or go to any movie tickets site. They have to sum up a whole two hour movie in a few sentences and convince you to pay those $10 and get out of your house and (gasp!) away from your computer! That's a lot to pack into less than 30 words!

To see what's been working for us so well, check out our loglines and character breakdowns at our film's website:
http://www.anotherlifefilm.com/

But the daily grind goes on...

We had a great production meeting today with Jay, our cinematographer. Not only is an extremely talented and easy-to-get-along-with filmmaker, he has lots of connections to camera and equipment houses that are more than willing to cut him (and our film) a deal. We're so blessed!

But most of the meeting was logistics (and they should be! So we can be creative all week long!). Jay and the producers will be calling up equipment and camera houses to get more accurate quotes for prices on rentals so we can update the budget with real figures. Mitsuyo, one of our producers, has recently come back from a long out-of-town gig and is working hard on finding our locations. And all producers are putting their feelers out there for a 2nd AD, make-up and hair, stunt coordinator, prop master, and art assistants.

I'm meeting with two potential costume designers on Friday and Jill, the production designer, on Saturday. So I will be up late tonight finding, collecting, and organizing pictures of costumes, set design, and props.

Stay tuned tomorrow when I show you how I'm planning to woo a talented costume designer to join our crew with a limited budget!


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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day #1: Worth a Thousand Words


Of course, the first day of my 24/7/365 blog pledge, I break the #1 rule: Don't post about your cat!

Yesterday, my wife Alexis and I adopted a kitten. She is sitting on a blanket next to me right now, content with being petted every so often as I type away. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

But on to filmmaking -- our casting has gone live! Our casting director Cheryl has informed us that within minutes of posting our notice last night, we received literally hundreds of submissions! Far more than she expected around 9 PM on a Monday! I'm very glad to see that the material is generating so much interest among young actors today :)

Tomorrow is our first Production Meeting with crew members. Jay, our profoundly talented cinematographer, will be meeting with us to lock down the schedule as well as begin some early discussions on pre-visualization. So I have been doing some creative research and preparing a Production Book.

Film Prep Lesson #1

Every good film in pre-production needs a Production Book, which is a binder that organizes every creative idea that goes into the film using movie stills, photographs, sketches, and even hyperlinks to clips of movies. For example, in the cinematographer's section, you break down every scene into every conceivable element: color, lighting, composition, camera movement, actor movement, exposure, lens plot, shutter speed, etc. And you provide a picture for every single idea. In costume design section, sketches of all the character's costumes. In production design, pictures of similar locations from movies and images of potential props and later on sketches of the ideal locations. And so on. Which leads me to...

Film Prep Lesson #2

Always have website. Very soon (tomorrow maybe!) the website will go live and you can see some Production Book pictures and download the script!

Thursday, I'll be meeting a potential costume designer as well as Joe, a higher-up at USC who oversees every student film's production. He'll be giving us lots of great guidelines on safety, scheduling, and finding film-friendly locations.

But today has mostly been made up of "homework." Lots of reading about acting and cinematography to get my head in the right thought process, just jotting down ideas that come to mind about characters and shots, but not committing to anything this early in the process. I've also agreed to help out our producers who are bit strapped looking for locations, and I've been calling lots of friends and asking for referrals for locations.

But so much hangs on tomorrow's meeting: we either lose two weeks from our prep schedule and start shooting July 31st, or we lose a great location for Scott's House. I'll let you know tomorrow.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Filmmaking 24/7/365


For those of you just now joining in, I am directing a short drama film Another Life set to start shooting in early August 2009, and from now on, I will be posting daily.

That's right: Every. Single. Day.

There are tons of great filmmaker blogs out there like My Boring-Ass Life, Jason Reitman's Blog, and John August.com . But none of those blogs give you the daily life of a film director for one whole year.

Between now and June 15 2010, I will show you my daily process in directing a film's pre-production, principle photography, editing, sound design, and distribution to film festivals around the world.

So if you want to get inside a film director's head, see what it's like to turn a script into a screening at a packed a festival audience, then this is the only place on the net to catch it.

I will see you all tomorrow.


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Script Lock!


At last! After seventeen (17!) full drafts of the script, not counting the many, many iterations of the balcony scene I've been writing since college, I have finally locked the script.

It's kind of eerie how quickly I switched into director mode -- I just started reading Larry Moss' "Intent to Live" and doing my homework on the characters' given circumstances and superobjectives, as if some stranger had written the script.

Just recently, I've figured out how easy it is to plan out my days as a film director. For a rehearsal, I'll does all the same homework on the characters that the actors do. For a cinematography meeting, I'll comes up with storyboards, lens plots, clips from films to show preferred camera work, etc. Basically, for whatever meeting I go into -- cinematography, production design, costume, make-up, etc. -- I'll do the exact same preparation that every single one of my fellow filmmakers are doing and compare notes.

I said it was easy to find out what to do. Not that I will be getting sleep... because putting together the production book with the crew will be so much fun!

Many other happy things to announce -- for one we have an AMAZING casting director, Cheryl, who has already been getting our film out there to some great talent and recognizable faces. I'm amazed that we're moving so quickly -- we might have our first casting session in the next two weeks or less! Even just over the past few days, it's been such a delight to work with her.

Also, very happy to have Amy on board to complete our production sound team. It is a recorded fact that Amy is simply one of the best :)

Now the great trial before us is getting all these locations in the script... nine total... sketchy neighborhood sidewalk, nice neighborhood sidewalk, int. seedy garage, int. run-down apartment, int. cheesy bar, ext. balcony with a view, ext. Iraqi storefront (yikes!), and int/ext cute suburban home. We have a lock on a great suburban home (for free!) so long as we shoot there August 3rd and 4th at the latest... and don't get me started on the schedule right now.