Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Molding a Balanced Brain

I wonder what type of person I’d be if Donald Trump was my father? Apart from the duck lips and the thinning hair, I imagine I’d be quite business savvy. Sure, I probably would’ve spent the majority of my summers at a boarding camp and my social circle would be a scene out of School Ties, but I imagine my life would be drastically different.

Don’t get me wrong. My dad’s one of a kind. He’s allowed me to be as creative as I wanted, bought me my first camcorder when I was 7, and encouraged me to chase my filmmaking dreams. However, as I push forward with A Boy’s Life, I’m continuously forced to develop myself as a creator and a businessman (I mean, it’s called show business, right?). Yet, coming straight from film school where I was strictly educated in the creative aspect of filmmaking, the business part of my brain isn’t only an ongoing battle… it’s an obstacle.

As an independent filmmaker, it’s my sole mission to soak up as much knowledge as humanly possible. Such a small percentage of making a movie is creative. I’ve come to learn, more and more each day, that a business plan is essential. From funding to distribution, I’m beginning to better understand the game and will continue to develop myself as a businessman for many years to come. Fortunately, I’ve met many mentors along the way who have been willing to teach me, and I never plan to stop learning. My teachers surround me. I work with them, tweet them, and drink cocktails with them year-round.

My life is a school.

Do I wish Donald Trump was my father? Nope. That thought has faded. My charisma, passion, and dedication isn't something I learned, but was essentially handed down. My dad did that (with much help from my mom). My childhood molded me into the person I am today, and those traits will undoubtedly follow throughout my filmmaking career… With a full head of hair to boot.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Short Film's Sell-By Date - The Festival Circuit

Short Films have the shelf life of a year. Or at least that’s what I force myself to believe. Once the film’s wrapped, sealed, and slapped with a bow, it has exactly one year to make the festival run before it starts to curdle. Therefore, with this self-inflicted time clock, it’s critical for me to map out a path that’s both strategic and realistic.

Initially, I hit up the top Tiers first. The crème-de-la-crème. The Holy Grails of the festival circuit. Anything in the same family as Sundance and Cannes would constitute A-Level -- submitted with the most jaded grain of salt. I’m a realist and understand the likelihood of acceptance, however my cynicism is usually overshadowed by two things: Pride and Determination. I make these projects because I’m proud of them and if I’m not willing to take a chance, then what the hell am I doing in this industry?

Next stop on the Festival journey: The Tier B festivals (Sedona, San Francisco, etc). The Susan Lucci’s of the bunch. The festivals that receive an exponentially large turnout, exposure, and critical praise, though may not have the same amount of prestige as the aforementioned tier.

The final submissions usually consist of genre specifics (gay & lesbian, experimental, etc.), International festivals, and frankly, any festival that’ll waive their submission fee (festivals are expensive!).

So there you have it -- my personal road map for Short Films. Do they have shelf lives? Like I said, yes, I believe they do… even feature films do. Do they ever die? Not in the slightest. I, along with many other people, put our souls in these little projects. The amount of love contributed into each frame is so diligent it becomes much more than just a movie…

… It becomes timeless.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Casting Commences - The Search for Max

Joslyn Sifuentes, Dylan Jury, Allison Vanore, & Stephanie Rabinowitz at our second casting session of the production.

Ah, the lovely casting phase. It’s the time of the production where you’re forced to wipe the character’s physical image you so effortlessly created within your imagination and replace it with an actual person. However, sifting through the countless headshots, it’s not just an image we’re casting. It’s a feeling. An embodiment of everything you’d so hope to illustrate on screen.

This past weekend, our Casting Director (Dylan Jury) put together an amazing casting session consisting of over thirty boys, accompanying parents, and a bottle of Advil. In the span of three hours, we auditioned for the part of Max and couldn’t be happier with the options. Sure, a few boys stood out, but I felt fortunate to have as many choices as we did.

As far as the casting process goes, I’m still a bit shaky. Perhaps it’s because I’ve yet to work with child actors, but the direction and vocabulary used for these kids is completely different than you would with adults. I learned the more succinct and visual I was, the better they’d understand. Not for nothing, but the special features for Close Encounters were more than just an entertaining passing glance…

What happens now? We have a handful of boys left to see until we make a final decision, and then, with much excitement and anticipation, onto Loraine.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On Your Marks...

Can someone please explain to me where November thinks it’s going? It seems like October just packed her bag, and now November rushes passed me like a self-important diva. I don’t think so. I’m not done with her yet!

As this month passes the half-point, I’m thrilled to report several exciting happenings to the little movie. First, we’d like to welcome another Producer to the project. Her name’s Melanie Wagor and we couldn’t be more excited to have her part of the team. She’s an extremely talented Producer/UPM and will bring this project to a whole new level.

Fundraising has taken on a life of its own. In fact, we’re proud to premiere our Boy’s Life teaser trailer (click HERE). It gives you a glimpse of the fun we’re about to embark on. Please visit our IndieGoGo site and consider donating to the film. We only have 60 days, but with your help it's completely doable. There are tons of perks with each donation, plus the chance to win some amazing memorabilia from Jon Favreau’s upcoming film, Cowboys & Aliens. Plus, your donation will push us one step closer to making this film a reality! Even if you're unable to make a donations (times are tough), please spread the word.

As November circles the corner, I’m forced to accept the fact that the year is nearly over as well. While I’m completely grateful for everything 2010 has given me, I know for a fact – deep down – that even bigger things are waiting on the other side. All we have to do is prepare ourselves, hand-in-hand, and the rest will take care of itself.

Click HERE to visit our IndieGoGo site and PLEASE consider making a donation.

*Teaser created by Editor Frank Mohler

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Cinematic Solute

You don’t slave away for twelve hours a day, five days a week, on a fast-paced film set without picking up a thing or two about the industry. A) Never leave Starbucks without confirming the correct orders (ugh, coffee). B) Eat shit with a smile. And C) It takes an army to make a film.

Alright, these aren’t exactly genius “epiphanies”…

It does, however, take an army to make a film. If this short were stationed in Afghanistan, the crew would be sharing a bunk with sixteen twin beds and picture lock would be our victory. That being said, one point holds true -- soldiers wouldn’t be the brave fighters they are without the support from their home. It’s them who contribute significantly to the film’s inner core. The support and love from family, friends, and colleagues may not physically create the content, but the movie wouldn’t exist without them. It couldn’t.

Personally, my support group drives me to be the best artist I know how to be. They’re my fuel. My spine. The fire under my butt that pushes me to be, not just good, but exceptional. Without them, it’d just be habit and motion. What’s the fun in that?

So this post is for you - the contributors (either monetary or emotional) - who are the driving force behind the scenes. We couldn’t do any of this without you and couldn’t ask for a better safety net to fall on.

We’re in for an adventure, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Just don’t ask me to get coffee…

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Let the Rain Pour Down

When it rains, it pours. Literally. This past week, Los Angeles has been flooded with an unnatural and rare occurrence. Rain! A few days a year we’re graced with this downpour which spawns a completely unexpected chain of events. Traffic halts, Hollywood moves indoors, and I’m given the gift of time.

The past few weeks, I’ve dived into my creative work and poured over another version of the script (alright, fine. Enough with the “rain” puns). Beyond that, we’ve set down a few casting dates in November and are gearing up for another auditioning adventure! Our Casting Director (Dylan Jury) has already released the breakdown and Allison has settled all paperwork with the Screen Actors Guild. Now we wait... Hope... Pray that an amazingly talented cast is formed.

Now for the really exciting news… we’ve found a Director of Photography! In this industry, the team is a key component on what type of product you’re creating. A lackluster crew will ultimately lead to a lackluster film (it’s not exactly rocket science). Or, like A Note to Etienne, you surround yourself with people who care as much about the film as you do. Then something really amazing is created.

Since we’re shooting on the RED camera (i.e. ‘Mecca’ in the Digital Photography world), I wanted to find a cinematographer who wasn’t only well-verse in the technology, but passionate about the story and shared the same vision I did.

And boy did I ever! Welcome Aaron Moorhead to the team! Below is his reel to see some of his fantastic work.

Cinematography Reel 2010 - Aaron Moorhead from Aaron Moorhead on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Illustrious Image Board

Ah, the beginning phase of film production. The magic. The wonder. The possibilities. It’s the moment during the movie-making process where the film’s merely an idea and even the stars are reachable.

That’s where I’m at right now… the illustrious image board phase. Sure, each filmmaker begins the process differently. I mean, Tim Burton probably does a few lines of coke then heads to Barbados. Me? I create image boards (well, not so much "create", but scour the Internet for an inkling of inspiration). I compile an array of images that have some sort of color connection, design, and (above all else) feeling that inspires whomever is observing.

During the pre-production process, I aspire to connect with my collaborators and hopefully interject some sort of visual and emotional response from a simple image.

Please reference Exhibit A (Image Board #1). The images below are the first batch I’ve pieced together and, to me, evoke a few of the many feelings I’m hoping to have in this short film. Note the dark colors, ornate texture, and eerie shades of grays, blues, and yellows. Gorgeous, I know. :)

Don’t worry, I’m not about to spell my thought process out to you. I mean, my intention isn’t to explain the feeling, but instead let these images speak for themselves. To allow the magic, wonder, and possibilities not be just an "idea", but something much more tangible. The stars perhaps?

I certainly hope it comes across that way. Otherwise, Mr. Burton may need to make room for me on his charter to Barbados.

Image Board #1

Monday, October 4, 2010

So you're making a SHORT film?

Short. A word often used to describe my somewhat less-than-tall stature. To be honest, and a bit dramatic, I hated this word for the last twenty-faux years. Ugh, short. I’ve probably caused myself some kind of permanent neck strain from my constant craning… just for that additional 2 centimeters. Short. I hated that word.

With such animosity towards that word, why would I want to make a (dare I say it?) short film? Maybe it’s a form of therapeutic retribution? Or maybe it’s because features are just too damn expensive?

Seriously, though, a common question often asked to filmmakers… why are you making a short film? Although this question can elicit different possible answers, mine is simple: To get my work noticed. Non-feature films (*cough* short) are often used as calling cards for filmmakers that can potentially lead to agents, managers, or possible creative deals. Steven Spielberg made Amblin. Darren Aronofsky made Protozoa. And the list can go on and on.

With that in mind, I’m able to take this opportunity to treat these short films as professionally as possible. It’s essentially a microcosm of a full-fledged film -- a learning experience that allows me to stretch my creative muscles and treat every step with same amount of diligence and care as I would a feature film. With this level of professionalism, the entire creative team can collaborate on a project and be proud of what we worked so closely on.

Short. Sure, a certain amount of disdain is associated with the word, but it’s shaped me to who I am today and I think I’m a better person because of it. Short. If you repeat it enough, maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe, for the last twenty-faux years it’s been entirely in my overly analytical head. Or maybe, like a short film, it’s not a hindrance, but something to be proud of.

Yeah, I think I’ll go with the latter.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What's in a Name? - Choosing a TItle

I envy writers who have the talent to just come up with story titles. Do they partake in secret night classes where the syllabus largely consists of title breakdowns? Or maybe they throw a bunch of words on a page and hope for the best. To be honest, I’m convinced the guy who came up w/ Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was high on crack because nobody of a sound nature can be that genius.

While writing this screenplay, my self-diagnosed “title blockage” caused me just as much frustration. Initially, I worked w/ Untitled Monster Project (Untitled… If that doesn’t deserve the Pulitzer, I don’t know what does.) However, my obsession with Steven Spielberg not only inspired the story, but also its title.

For the past year, I’ve been soaking in as much Spielberg as humanly possible – collecting all his movies, watching special features, and I’m finally circling the corner on his Biography.

Through this research, I learned while making E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial he and his crew conjured up a working title for confidentiality purposes.

“Fearing a TV movie rip-off, Spielberg shot E.T. under a false title, A Boy’s Life. Deliberately causing confusion with Spielberg’s announced project Growing Up, the company simply described A Boy’s Life as a ‘Comedy about antics and lifestyles of boys living in southern California today’”.

After reading this passage, I switched out my Untitled w/ this new one and it’s grown on me since. Is it the most thought-provoking? Maybe not. However, I’m a firm believer of fate, and as I sat at my desk writing a hugely inspired Spielberg short, I owed it to myself (and the film) not to ignore the signs.

A Boy’s Life it is.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Boy's Life - Another Film Journey

Ladies. Gentlemen. Monsters. Let me begin my very first blog by welcoming you on yet another filmmaking adventure. About a year ago, I (and many talented people) created my first 16mm film beyond graduation (a French drama entitled A Note to Etienne that you can learn more about here). A year later, I'm back in gear and ready to conquer another short -- this time, less subtitles... more slobber.

With the help of many amazing donors (which primarily consist of family, friends, and proud parents), we were able to make our budget and get A Note To Etienne made. Collaborators ranging from an awesome crew and amazing cast all worked together to create something we all could be proud of. I'm hoping this next short will be just as successful.

A bit about me. Since last year, I’ve moved from my job at a film agency, and onto an actual film set! I’m currently working as an office PA on the Jon Favreau film Cowboys & Aliens. I know what you’re thinking... that sounds made up. It’s real, I promise! The film stars Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, takes place in the “Old West”, and is being filmed on the Universal back lot.

A bit about the project. Planned for around 10 minutes, A Boy’s Life is a drama about a boy named Max and the monster in his bedroom. Through his father’s absence, Max attempts to prove to his disbelieving mother that the monster beneath his bed is real.

Through a few contacts, I was able to get the screenplay read by the former Vice President of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment with positive feedback. In fact, she described it as an homage to the Twilight Zone. Yes, Twilight Zone! I'm a huge fan of the series and watch The Twilight Zone Movie often (I mean, hello! It's SPIELBERG!).

Anyway, before I write a novel, I invite you to check back periodically, kick off your shoes, and follow alongisde me during this cinematic journey. Though, a word of advice... be sure to leave a night light on...