Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Coming soon...

In a couple days I'll be posting the first project I've directed in over ten years. Its a PSA (public service announcement) style short film called "How To Vote" - a get out the vote project that is my first contribution to Group 101 Films.

(danger: the following paragraph has info already spelled out a couple posts prior)
Group 101, as I've mentioned before, offers little to its members except for a little structure and encouragement. Its like AA for lazy filmmakers. At every meeting we'll screen the films we've made, and then be given a theme for the project we need to make for the following months meeting. The theme for our first film was "FIRST TIME". I knew that I wanted to start slow, so I decided right away that I wanted to do something documentary style, so I didn't need to rent lights or worry about securing locations or anything more than a couple crew members. I also wanted an excuse to do something about the election. A "How To" guide for "first time" voters felt like a suitable match.

The procrastinator that I am, I decided to try and recruit someone else to write the project for me. So, I wrote to my favorite blogger, and, to my surprise, he replied quickly with a fast yes. I grew worried when a week later he hadn't sent me anything to work with, and was about to start writing my own, when I logged onto his site and, lo and behold, there it was: my script in blog post form.

It was better than I imagined, funnier, more poignant, and definitely fresher and truer than I could have asked for.

I knew immediately how to adapt it, and immediately began calling a diverse range of my actor friends, and posted an ad on CraigsList seeking additional "types". I wanted old people, young people, middle aged people, black people, white people, asian people, native american people, male people, female people, pretty people, and interesting looking people. I can't avoid it - all my people are HOT. But, I quickly found that I had TOO MANY people. Everyone who heard the idea of a "get out the vote" project dug it... and then when people read the script, they LOVED it. My plan called for having everyone read different lines from the script that would eventually all be edited together - not the mos

On a short schedule, I hired a d.p. without even looking at her reel. And the price was right - she'd do this for free! I booked my cast without auditions. And less than four days later, I was shooting my first take in Burbank, CA. For two days, Carlis and I rolled around L.A., visiting a Vietnam Vet (three tours) in North Hollywood, a nursing mother in Hollywood, an ex-girlfriend of mine at the La Brea Tar Pits, and a pair of dominatrixes in Highland Park. We shot at a carwash, a TV Guide Emmy after party, and even here at Chateau El Cerrito. My biggest success was getting a 90 year old man who lives at the building here to be part - although Claire actually is the one who did the leg work on this.

I also got lucky and hired an editor without seeing his reel, based on a referral from Jeff Bacon. Also free. I passed off all of my tapes - over two hours of footage - and let him play with it for the next few days.

In the meantime, I began regretting every shot I didn't get, I began kicking myself for things I should have done differently. I think this is natural for any filmmaker, as waiting to see what the editor will come up will drive you insane. Some filmmakers try and partake in the editing process as much as possible. To begin with, my favorite part of production is the collaboration of different crafts, so I wanted the editor time to work with it on his own. Secondly, he lives in downtown L.A., and he'd probably kill me if I was breathing over his shoulder as he made his first pass of the film. Finally, he did most of the editing while on a short vacation to the mid-West, using his laptop and the top of the line Avid editing program.

He called me from Iowa late in the afternoon on Tuesday to say he was emailing me a rough version, and within five minutes I was able to watch...

And, a rough cut it was, indeed. But my worrying was over. It already looks awesome. The actors are great. It has an overall flow and momentum. And it treats the material with justice.

Alas, it is over 3 minutes long, and I need to trim it by over a full minute. This will be painful. I've already decided on 30 seconds to cut, but I know the rest will take a lot of nail biting. It needs the typical polishing, fine tuning cuts between shots to the milli-second, blending dialogue from one cut to the next, adding credits, and, oh yeah - adding music.

As mentioned in a previous post, I also booked an awesome musician to score it. For free. Music can almost always make any video project better - Kari's stuff will make it scream.

So, be sure to return to this blog in the next couple days to see the completed project.

suggested online viewing: a video from November 2 .org with a similar concept... its been linked everywhere, but for good reason: for those who missed it you MUST watch "This Land Is Your Land" from the guys at Jib Jab... a great Daily Show produced video about George Bush (stolen from Melting Dolls)...