31 May 2011

Memorial Day Wrap-Up



While a lot of people take Memorial Day weekend off (and for good reason), we don't. Actually, we posted quite a bit of content. And since someone asked, I'm guessing other people might appreciate it being, well, summarized for them, especially since some of it has fallen off the front page. So…

Video

Part Five of our interview with Kris & Lindy Boustedt, an interview that at least I found really fascinating and helpful.



Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Articles

+ A Visit With Kevin Fox -- Without a single review from a film critic and virtually no festival buzz, Kevin Fox is successfully self-distributing DVDs from his house. And he's doing it with magazines. Yes, magazines.

+ Look At Me, I'm Popular!!! -- Just for fun, we took a look at our most-viewed content at the 3-month mark.

+ Day 1 of Kris & Lindy Boustedt's THE SUMMER HOME -- We're a little slow starting this, and it's really Day 0, but it's our introduction to this short that filmed on Lopez Island.

+ Seattle International Film Festival -- In which I snuck into one of the largest festivals in North America, then snuck into the VIP section, got drunk with Phil Seneker, and took pictures of actual VIPs (and a movie star).

+ VOD, FTW? -- I took a look at the process behind putting one of my own films on VOD, with the hopes that it might help someone else wade through the muck.

Photos

+ The Greatest People in the World #8
+ I Slept Here #25
+ I Slept Here #26
+ I Slept Here #27


Oh, and I travelled across the country. I'm now in Delaware.

And you are now caught up. Stay tuned!

30 May 2011

Seattle International Film Festival



Old friend (and project regular, it seems) Phil Seneker sends me a message on Twitter saying he's got an extra ticket to the Opening Night of the Seattle International Film Festival, if I'm going to be in town and feel like going. I've got a couple of days until I have to be at the next project, so I figure what the hell.

The plan is to meet him at the event's Will Call area and the webpage says the event starts at 5:30, so I spend the day editing UP COUNTRY in some Seattle coffee shops. Around 3pm, I give Phil a call, but there's no answer. 4pm, no answer. I jump on a bus and head downtown to the event (which is more or less next to the Space Needle). I walk by the Red Carpet, where Ty Migota (THE SUMMER HOME) is shooting footage for something, but no Phil. Nor is he at Will Call. His phone rings and rings. No answer. Twenty minutes or so pass. Nothing.

Huh.



Finally, I figure Phil's not going to show and go looking for someone who's working, which isn't actually that hard. They pass me up the line. I explain who I am and who I write for and, simple as that, I've got a General Admission pass and two free drink tickets. Because, really, if I can't talk my way into a film festival, then there's really something wrong with me.

I'm inside maybe 5 minutes when I run into Phil, who's headed out to give me my ticket. Turns out he's actually working the event.



I figure I might as well help him out, since he's actually working, which involves very little. Mostly I keep track of his shotgun mic for him and point it at the podium during the introductory speeches.





One pretty interesting thing they're doing this year is partnering with Starbucks to offer a selection of SIFF shorts over Starbuck's in-store digital network around the country. Essentially, until the end of the festival (June 12), you can go to any Starbucks. Log into their Wifi and it'll take you to the digital network (it's easy. I do it pretty much every day) and you can watch SIFF shorts right there. It's a pretty fantastic way to get some of the shorts out there to a wider audience and actually provide some additional value for filmmakers.

SIFF's Opening Night Film is Justin Chadwick's THE FIRST GRADER. Phil and I duck out as it starts, fully intending to watch at least part of it…until we realize that the VIP section is still open and still serving.



The movie ends (oops) and the VIP section fills up with, well, VIPs. I take a bunch of photos and Phil shoots some b-roll. When you walk around a VIP section with a camera, people pose for lots of photos. They figure you're supposed to be there. And I guess, in a way, I was.

Tom Skerritt & Friends

From what I can tell, it's not a bad festival they put on at SIFF. It's not really the sort of thing that seems, from the schedule, to program a lot of indies, but if you're in Seattle, it's a nice way to see a lot of world cinema all in one place.

And, hell, I still have my drink tickets.



Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

Day 1 of Kris & Lindy Boustedt's THE SUMMER HOME



If you've been following along from the start, you'll remember that earlier this year I took a ferry out to Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Maine, to work on Andrew Brotzman's NOR'EASTER. It was very cold in the North Atlantic Ocean in February, and I think everyone pretty much assumed that would be our only ferry film. Because, really, how many people film on remote islands?

That's why it was a little surprising to find myself back on a ferry mere weeks later, this time heading for an island off the coast of Washington State. Is it a sign of a new island film movement in indie film? Were we all so enamored with LOST that we just had to find our own little Dharma Initiative?

Probably not. My guess is it's just a coincidence.



The West Coast film in question is Kris and Lindy Boustedt's THE SUMMER HOME. Written by the Boustedt's and lead actress Wonder Russell (CONNECT TO), it's a small character drama revolving around two nomadic characters who come across a house on the ocean.

We're filming on Lopez Island (but the film isn't necessarily set on an island. I think we just need a shore), hence the ferry, in the summer home of someone in Wonder Russell's family. The cast and crew arrives on two different ferries. In the first one: myself, co-director Kris Boustedt, DP Ty Migota, and AC Nicholas Davis. None of us have ever seen this location before, or anything beyond a couple of photos of the exterior.

Think about that for a minute. How many times do you check out a location before you start filming? Three? Four? But if the location is decently far away and you're working on a short turnaround, you might not be able to do a proper location scout. And without a proper location scout, you're pretty much just flying blind.

And the house is, well, it's pink. Really, really pink. Grandma pink. I'm not sure photographs could have done it justice, even if we had them, but here's one.



The schedule calls for our first shot on Day 1 to be a single person on a dock at sunrise, only the dock is a little different than we thought--chiefly there's a big huge post in the middle of it. The sort of thing you can't exactly shoot around to get the effect they're looking for. Well, not easily. So maybe shooting around it isn't the best idea. Maybe you use it to your advantage.



It's pretty clear that despite not having seen the actual location, these guys are well-prepared. I sat in on a couple of pre-production meetings and watched them go over and over the script, trying to squeeze every last bit out of it.

So maybe that's a decent substitute for not seeing the location. Sure, it's a hassle, but you have to compensate by scouting out the emotional locations until you know them like the back of your hand.

Will it work? We'll see.





Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

27 May 2011

Conversations with Lucas: Kris & Lindy Boustedt (part 5)



Married co-directors Kris & Lindy Boustedt talk more about the emotions of their $200,000 feature film falling apart and how they channeled that into something productive with their new short THE SUMMER HOME.

A Visit With Kevin Fox

Maybe because it's I just launched a VOD rental of a film, or maybe it's because VOD was the subject of the recent #filmin140 panel, or maybe it's because it's just a coincidence, but I feel like selling your work has really been the topic of the week. And so it's fitting that I'm writing this from the living room of a filmmaker who's actually having some success selling his work online.

Kind of karmic, if you ask me.

The question then, is how is this filmmaker selling stuff? What are they doing that you can, in turn, do yourself? Let's find out.

Kevin Fox of Kevin Fox Films was on of our more vocal supporters during the Kickstarter campaign, which automatically puts him high on the list of people I want to try and meet. He lives pretty close to San Francisco, so with some time to kill, it seemed like the perfect chance to take him up on his offer to visit.

Kevin lives in "cowboy country", which is an important thing to note.



Every year he makes a short doc related to a rodeo that comes through town. He then sells said rodeo-themed doc to the western audience--a decidedly niche audience, to be sure. He describes the films as "not exactly CITIZEN KANE". So it's easy to disregard his sales as a fluke, but that would be a mistake.

There's a ton of videos in this market that are essentially "how-to" videos about roping or steering or whatever it is that cowboys do, so Kevin knew that he'd have to go an extra step to set his doc apart from those videos. He got on Withoutabox and started searching for a festival that catered to western content. But rather than just scatter-shot all of them, he dug deeper, looking for a festival that was young enough to be easy to work with and close enough that he could easily attend.

He got himself into the Modesto Reel Food Festival, packed the audience, and took home an audience choice award.

From there, he burned some screeners and sent them to people of note. But not who you and I would think of as people of note. People in the rodeo business. Places like Western Horseman magazine. Stuff like that.

Honestly, it's a pretty old-school approach. But think about the audience. I don't imagine cowboys are reading Ted Hope's blog out on the range. They have better things to do (nothing against Ted, of course). So in a way, he's catering his approach to how his audience lives--lots of stuff in print, whenever possible. Not because he isn't active on Twitter or Facebook or whatever (he is), but because his audience maybe isn't so much.

What he is able to do is use all that technology on the back-end. Anything he can teach himself to do at a professional level, he does. Everything else he outsources. He does all the fulfillment himself because his research has shown that he can be cheaper, faster, and more efficient than anyone he'd hire.

I know what you're thinking: that sounds awful. But it doesn't have to be, provided you get it down to something of a science. You also end up being on a first name basis with your mailman.

Kevin's approach is rather deceptively simple: he takes the lo-fi aspects of self-distribution and combines them with a Web 2.0 sensibility. He contacts people on Facebook to get inclusion in their print media. And, more importantly, he's much more likely to quote positive comments by his audience than he is by any critic or any festival or, really, anyone his audience hasn't heard of. But they have heard of each other--fellow fans, people in the rodeo industry--and that's who's opinion they trust. And so he plays to that strength. And he interacts with them not as a company that's putting out DVDs but as a human being, because people would much rather talk to a human being than a company.

He made an interesting point that on Twitter, he's much more likely to follow @lmcnelly than he is to follow @YearWithoutRent (for example), even if the content is really similar.

It's such a simple concept that it's easy to dismiss. But, you know what? Almost every time he goes to his computer, there's a new sale.

So maybe sometimes the old approach isn't such a bad idea.



Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

26 May 2011

Conversations with Lucas: Kris & Lindy Boustedt (part 4)


Kris and Lindy talk pretty candidly about how their feature project fell apart, from dealing with investors to their emotions as it happened.

VOD, FTW?

Blanc-Poster-Web

If I'm going to be accused of being nothing but a self-promotional whore, I figure I might as well do it right. Kind of like the idea that if you get in trouble for something, you might as well go ahead and do it, you know?

Of course, the flip side is 98% of people think I'm not a self-promotional whore, so let's see if we can't find some value here while we're at it.

Pretty much every filmmaker I know these days is pondering the idea of digital distribution. The festival model is dead. Theatrical distribution is dead. The old world is crumbling all around us and if you're waiting for some studio executive to swoop in and give you a three-picture deal, you're out of your mind.

This is pretty much old news.

It's one thing to know the system is fucked. Any anarchist can tell you that. But it's something else entirely to figure out what to do about it. We're all still trying to find audiences and we're all still trying to figure out how to pay the rent (well, not all of us). And for every Ross Pruden who seems to have figured something out, the rest of us are just pretty much guessing, and very few people want to be the guinea pig.

Thing is, I've got a feature film that was pretty much designed to be a guinea pig, so I have no problem using it to try things out.

BLANC DE BLANC

Shot and edited in two weeks (on a budget of $970) as part of Reid Gershbein's #2wkfilm project, BLANC DE BLANC is best described as "a mystery born out of a dare--a jigsaw puzzle of a film that has confounded and delighted audiences around the world." At least, that's what we say about it.

Like most indie films, some people like it and some people don't.



VOD

There's a bunch of different places you can put your film. You can do Distribber, which lots of people I respect speak very highly of. However, when your film's budget is under $1,000, you become kind of wary of throwing $1,300 at distribution. Might we, going forward? Maybe, but I just don't see it happening. However, if you're budgeting a "proper" micro-budget film, I think it makes a lot of sense to work Distribber into your budget, if at all possible.

With the plan being to use a service that only took a cut, without any up-front money, we looked at a bunch of sites. Some of them looked good. Some of them looked like shit. You can probably guess which ones. The ones we seriously considered (and/or are considering) are:

YouTube

Personally, I think YouTube rentals are a pretty good option. They let you upload a 20GB file, which is convenient in terms of compression. Thing is, you have to be part of their partner program to get involved (as of now). I'm not in their partner program as of yet, although I'm working on it.

Open Film

I have an Open Film Pro account. It hasn't really been working, which is bad. However, last week their CEO took the time to reach out and talk to me personally about my issues, which he is now attempting to resolve. I'll post an update to that here when I get one.

I do know that they're working on a few very interesting things that I don't think are public yet.



On the tech side, they have a nice-looking player (see above) that's tweak-able in a couple of different directions. The website has a built-in donation button and you can set up your videos with buy/rent options.

Uploads via the web can be up to 2GB in size and works pretty seamlessly and has the benefit of giving you specs. You can upload a 5GB file via FTP (which never works for me) or send in a DVD (which strikes me as kind of a 2005 option). They will split ad revenue with you 50/50, but that's one of the other things I've never been able to get to work.

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 10.22.20 PM

Dynamo

Used by Edward Burns and recently written up over at Ted Hope's blog, Dynamo seems to be the hip new thing. It's still in Beta, so you have to submit your project for acceptance. They say that takes 24 hours. It took maybe 1.

The uploader is pretty self-explanatory. I haven't seen a limit on the file size, but it let me upload a 4.78GB file without any trouble (other than how long something like that takes).

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 10.27.24 PM

The access period ranges from 6 hours to 30 days. Down below you're asked for a description, some basic tagging info, and some basic credits. Once uploaded, you'll get this:

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 10.32.12 PM

Not a lot of surprises here. You can bundle a couple of videos, in case you wanted to rent a full season of a serialized program. You can add a preview that viewers can watch before they rent. GeoBlocking let's you select who can and cannot watch your film, based on DVD Region, Continent, or Country. Ours says "yes" because I went in and actually selected yes on everything, just to be safe. There isn't really an explanation of what "Viewer Emails" does, but I'm guessing it's an automated email you can send to your viewers. I wrote a really basic one, so hopefully someone will rent it and report back on if they got an automated email.

From there, you can embed your video pretty much anywhere, kind of like this:



If the size isn't a good match for what you need, you can change it manually, which is kind of a hassle and the Facebook integration could be a lot smoother, but the video player looks nice and, above all, looks professional. For a Beta release, those strike me as pretty small issues.

As for stats, we haven't been live for long enough to get a pretty graph or anything, but the reports pretty much break down like this and seems to update more or less in real-time, unlike some other sites like Amazon, where I'm told it can take weeks for a content creator to get any data.

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 10.54.39 PM

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 10.55.23 PM

Obviously, it's way too soon to see any real numbers from this. It'd be nice if the share options were more robust and one could see, for example, what sort of success rate Facebook posts get vs. Twitter updates. Stuff like that.

We'll see how it works. For now, myself and the rest of the BLANC DE BLANC team will see if we can't get some traction on these rentals. Because, you know, it'd be nice to figure out ways to make this work.



Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

25 May 2011

BLANC DE BLANC is available online....NOW

For rental, but still.

Swag



A question I pretty much never get is "how can I spend more money?" It just doesn't seem to come up, and for good reason. The economy kind of sucks.

But a question I do get is "how's the budget holding up?". It's a smart question, because (idiots aside) most people realize that traveling around the country for a year on $12,000 (minus Kickstarter fees) isn't exactly a situation where you can channel your inner Scrooge McDuck.

So we look for ways to raise $$, mostly to keep the car on the road. It also helps if that method can be more or less passive on my part, as I don't really have time to deal with fulfillment issues.

So...behold: A Cafe Press Store where you can go and buy stuff and then finally fill a tiny, tiny little hole in your life. Or not.

You could also just buy a button or a sticker or something. Maybe a fellow follower of this crazy journey will spot you in a coffee shop and you can become friends. Or, even better, maybe he/she will be hot and you can hook up. And if that happens, you have to let us know.



Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

Three Months in, an interview with Film Courage

A little bit after the 3 month mark for this little odyssey, I caught up with David and Karen over at Film Courage to give a sort of status update.



Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

Conversations with Lucas: Kris & Lindy Boustedt (part 3)

Remember all of those cancellations? The ones that really screwed up our schedule? Well, I tracked down one of them. ;

24 May 2011

Conversations with Lucas: Kris & Lindy Boustedt (part 2)

In part 2, Kris and Lindy talk about the value of adding collaborators to your team, be it editors or writers or whatnot, and trusting them to add something valuable to the process.

23 May 2011

Conversations with Lucas: Kris and Lindy Boustedt

Fresh off the filming of THE SUMMER HOME, I sat down with the co-directors to talk about a variety of things related to this, and other projects.

21 May 2011

A Shot List on the fly

THE SUMMER HOME is being shot on an island. Only, neither the director(s) or the DP has seen the location. So, they've got to come up with one the night before.

Vancouver Craft Beer Week



The most common production we hear from here at A Year Without Rent is documentaries that are in editing. It makes sense--docs take forever to edit. Thing is, it's not really that visually interesting to watch someone stare at a computer screen. So generally speaking, we always tell people to get back to us when they have something specific in their editing schedule (maybe a re-shoot? or vocal dubbing? foley work? something concrete, with dates). Or, if the project sounds really compelling, we see if we'll be in their neighborhood and can just stop by.



One of those projects is Michael Babiarz's HICKS ON STICKS, a documentary about a Canadian skateboarding tour twelve years (12!) in the making. Michael lives in Vancouver, so it was always in the back of our minds that if we found our way to Vancouver, then we should definitely get in touch.

Mike, being the go-getter that he was, beat us to the punch, tweeting that he was pretty sure he could get tickets to Vancouver Craft Beer Week, if I was so inclined.



As soon as we got to the event, it became clear that Mike did not, in fact, have tickets to the event (that we were an hour late for, due to a very close hockey game). Actually, the owner of the bar (pictured below) was under the impression that we were videotaping the event, which was news to both of us. But, I had a camera, and he had a camera, and so we videotaped the event. And by videotaped, I mean that we took pictures and capitalized on plenty of chances to drink free craft beer.



No one had a clue. The owner of the bar pretended he had heard about me somehow (we didn't believe him). We got pretty drunk on free beer, and the next day, Mike showed me the Super 8 setup for HICKS ON STICKS.









Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

HICKS ON STICKS, eh

You think your film is taking forever? Mike has been working on HICKS ON STICKS for 12 years. 12!

Super 8

A very hung-over Michael Babiarz shows us his Super 8 workflow for HICKS ON STICKS and explains why he does this instead of using a fancy new DSLR.

19 May 2011

Back in the U.S.A.

Really, they should make it easier to get to the Duty Free Shop. How am I supposed to buy cheap booze if I can't get there?

18 May 2011

Vancouver Craft Beer Week



The most common production we hear from here at A Year Without Rent is documentaries that are in editing. It makes sense--docs take forever to edit. Thing is, it's not really that visually interesting to watch someone stare at a computer screen. So generally speaking, we always tell people to get back to us when they have something specific in their editing schedule (maybe a re-shoot? or vocal dubbing? foley work? something concrete, with dates). Or, if the project sounds really compelling, we see if we'll be in their neighborhood and can just stop by.



One of those projects is Michael Babiarz's HICKS ON STICKS, a documentary about a Canadian skateboarding tour twelve years (12!) in the making. Michael lives in Vancouver, so it was always in the back of our minds that if we found our way to Vancouver, then we should definitely get in touch.

Mike, being the go-getter that he was, beat us to the punch, tweeting that he was pretty sure he could get tickets to Vancouver Craft Beer Week, if I was so inclined.



As soon as we got to the event, it became clear that Mike did not, in fact, have tickets to the event (that we were an hour late for, due to a very close hockey game). Actually, the owner of the bar (pictured below) was under the impression that we were videotaping the event, which was news to both of us. But, I had a camera, and he had a camera, and so we videotaped the event. And by videotaped, I mean that we took pictures and capitalized on plenty of chances to drink free craft beer.



No one had a clue. The owner of the bar pretended he had heard about me somehow (we didn't believe him). We got pretty drunk on free beer, and the next day, Mike showed me the Super 8 setup for HICKS ON STICKS.



[more video coming…]



Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

Vancouver Craft Beer Week, eh?

A drunk Michael Babiarz (PLAY WITH FIRE, HICKS ON STICKS) and I have somehow managed to crash a $50 a ticket event during Vancouver Craft Beer Week. They think we're filming the event. We aren't.

15 May 2011

Dust Bowl Blues

Can you create the look of dust with common, every day objects you find in a house you're borrowing?
Maybe?

10 May 2011

My Not-So-Valid Passport, Part 2

So how hard is it to get a passport when you're on the other side of the country and have to drive to Canada the next day?

09 May 2011

Filmmaker Magazine

The second Filmmaker Magazine post is up. You should go read it. But if you need convincing, here's a sample...

As the costs of production come down, and the barriers to distribution fall, it’ll be interesting to see how filmmakers react. Sure, all the walls are crumbling, but so are all the built-in excuses. You can’t blame your budget anymore. Or the programmers at Sundance. It’s just you and your work on a screen somewhere. No place to hide.


Read the rest here.



Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

My Not-So-Valid Passport

While I'm sure living out of a car seems really glamorous, there's issues at play that you wouldn't normally think about. Like, what happens when the interior of your car gets wet somehow and destroys stuff? Then what do you do?

06 May 2011

LAMB


You know what's fun? Voting for stuff. You know what's even more fun? Winning stuff.

The LAMB (Large Association of Movie Blogs) awards are running again. They're pretty cool. You get a banner and yadda yadda yadda. We can apparently make For Your Consideration posters, but I've got enough work to do already, so that's probably not going to happen.

But it would be fun to win and/or be nominated. So, best I can tell, this blog is eligible in the following categories:

Best Blog (duh)
Best Design (but I wouldn't vote for me)
Best Blog Name
Most Prolific (again, probably wouldn't vote for me)
Funniest Writer (does cursing at people on Twitter count?)
Brainiac Award (really depends on how low your intelligence standards are)
Best Running Feature (ok, so A Year Without Rent could easily contend here)
Best Festival/Awards Coverage (I guess I do a little bit of that)

So if I were you and felt like nominating me, I'd pick these categories:

Best Blog
Best Running Feature (A Year Without Rent)
Brainiac Award


Or don't.

Either way, the link to the ballot is below:

http://www.misterpoll.com/polls/521956


merci

Dawn Mikkelson's SMOOCH

boom

I'm standing on Rick Vaicius' lawn in Pepin, Wisconsin, eating a brat and drinking beer when he asks what the next project is.

"Oh, it's this documentary in Minneapolis about kissing."

"You mean SMOOCH?"

"Yeah."

"That's not about kissing."

Such is the tenuous grasp I sometimes have on what these films I'm working on are about. I get the gist of it and I usually remember part of it. Anyway, what's important is that I show up at the right place at the right time. Beyond that, I don't really need to know what's going on. It doesn't affect what I'm going to do anyway.

Anyway, Rick was right. SMOOCH is not about kissing. And I was right, it sort of is.

You see, there's The Smooch Project, a "heart-lifting effort to collect 10,000 photographs of the affectionately-inclined from around the world." Go to the webpage. There's lots of cute pictures.

full room

An off-shoot of that is Dawn Mikkelson's documentary SMOOCH, a film that aims to show "stories of reconciliation, forgiveness and healing from some of the most conflict-ridden nations in the world."



I'm in town for the documentary part.

The team for the day (other than myself) is pretty small: director (and proud backer) Dawn Mikkelson and interns Monte Swann and Heidi Tungseth, and that's probably for the best because we're in the storage unit of an apartment complex. Yes, the storage unit.



As people come through the building's art crawl to get their Smooch pictures taken, we tell them about the documentary and try and convince them to come back into the scary room to talk about forgiveness on-camera. It's pretty simple, really. The trick is just convincing normal people to do something like this.

heidi and dawn

Once we've loaded in, there isn't a whole lot to it. The talking head interviews are pretty straightforward. As long as people stay on their marks and don't do anything weird, it's just a matter of capturing emotions and asking the right questions.

republicans

It was all pretty basic stuff--fodder for the YouTube channel--and then a middle aged woman in a wheelchair rolled in and blew us away. You could feel the film exploding all around the room. I don't want to get into the details, but it was a powerful, powerful story. You could easily do a whole film on her. And that's awesome, but it doesn't really fit with the narrative the film has been following.

So what then does a documentary do when the world it has built implodes? I guess we'll see.





Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

05 May 2011

Day 3 of Dave Bullis' GAME OVER

aspiring dj

Lots of films have bad days. Some of them are just slightly annoying, while others end up being a full-fledged clusterfuck. You can't get rid of them entirely, you just have to hope it isn't too bad and doesn't have a domino effect on the whole project, as one really terrible day can kill a film.

Assuming you survive, one of the big tests is how the production responds. Does it rally, making up the difference and then some? Or does it kind of sputter along, not making things worse, but not really fixing anything either?

You may recall that Day 2 on GAME OVER was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Very little went well and, honestly, I thought we were minutes away from a meltdown at a couple of different points. So how did the production respond? Let's take a look.

The Night Before

As soon as filming wrapped for the night, there was an impromptu meeting far from earshot between several production heads. I don't imagine it was a pleasant conversation.

Which is how myself, director Dave Bullis, 1st AD Zach Zimmerman, 2nd AD Michael O'Donnell, and the only PA worth a damn (Eric Torbio) ended up in Dave's living room, trying to sort thing out over cheesesteaks.

My theory: the production lacks a motor to keep all the different departments moving forward. A number of times in Day 2, things got bogged down (or stopped completely) for no reason whatsoever. That's not good.

I offer to be more assertive on-set when things start to slow down.

swan

Day 3

One thing discussed at the meeting the night before was the utter worthlessness of several of the film's PA's (other than Eric). Apparently, they were recruited from a local high school and essentially spent the entire day leaning up against a wall, doing whatever it is kids do these days. This isn't entirely their fault, as I'm pretty sure no one was really in charge of them. That's part of it, but I know for a fact they were given things to do and just didn't feel like it.

So, since they weren't doing anything, every time I walked by a PA leaning up against a wall, I gave them something to do. Some of it was important. Some of it wasn't. I had one PA tape a trail from the set to the Green Room, since people were constantly getting lost. They spent a lot of time running messages back to the Green Room for us, stuff like how long until we'd need an actor. They were mostly ok with it, except for this exchange:

Me: "You a PA?"
PA: "Yeah"
Me: "I need you to get [coffee order] for the DP and AC."
He started to chuckle.
Me: "It's not fucking funny. Go. Now."

He got the message (but screwed up the coffee order). More importantly, it scared him into be slightly helpful, instead of just one more mouth to feed. And when I told Dave that I had started yelling at his PAs, he smiled.

"Awesome."

Sometimes you've just got to have a bad guy, and who better than the person who's leaving town as soon as the production is over?

Motivation is high, as everyone knows that the production is under the gun, time-wise. Things move at a decent clip, not frenetic, not slow. New on set for day 3 is photographer and cinematographer Marvin Burwell, who loans me a wide-angle lens to play with.

dj1

And so, not really knowing how to shoot effectively with a wide-angle lens (this is why I get a cinematographer), I wander around until actress Tammy Jean (who's playing the DJ in the party for the new video game system) gives me a few pointers. Then, Marvin checks in to give me a few more.

I don't think a whole lot of it until a couple of days later when I do my standard basic research of everyone I might potentially write about (I find some interesting tidbits that way), and discover that Tammy was (is?) a Playboy model, something no one bothered to tell me. I'll let you do the NSFW Googling at your discretion.

tammy jean2

The day moves along. The time for lunch comes and goes. We keep filming. Finally, we break for lunch. Only, there is no lunch. The crew wanders around the holding area, snacking on carrots and whatnot. 15 minutes. Still no lunch. The producers don't know where it is. Neither does the director. No one does. I lay down on a wrestling mat they were using for some stunt practice. 30 minutes passes. It's 40 minutes before the decision is made to start setting up for the first post-lunch shot. 5 minutes later the food shows up. All that momentum gained during the day is lost. A ravenous crew eats and rushes back to work. By this point, the day is almost over. We won't get our pages. Obviously, another day of filming is going to be needed, but when?

officer down

Actor Kenneth McGregor has to leave in 20 minutes, but his big stunt move is still left. He starts taking over, making sure they get it before he has to leave, directing the other actors. Clearly he's done this before. We get the stunt. Kenneth runs to the car. We shoot a few more setups and then we have to be out. In no way are they done.

Will it cut together? Honestly, I don't know. They'll need at least another day of filming, maybe more. As for me, I've got to be on the road. So while that's not a wrap for GAME OVER, it is for me.

wade is beat


Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.
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