29 August 2012

23 August 2012

22 August 2012

21 August 2012

17 August 2012

15 August 2012

23 July 2012

Behind the Scenes with 4 OF A KIND: Day 7

As promised, I'm back with a look behind the scenes of the campaign for Jack Marchetti's 4 OF A KIND.

When we were prepping to launch this campaign, we went back and forth on how long the campaign should be, with the link ranging between 32 and 39 days. We knew we wanted to end on a Friday (depending on which time zone you're in), so the real question was, which day do we launch? We settled on 39 days for the simple reason that we thought we might need a little more time for momentum to build, considering that Jack doesn't have an established audience.

If you're a "name", it's more likely that you can get off to a strong start, like Joke & Biagio did. If you aren't, it's going to be a slower build. It's going to take long for you to find your potential backers. You can't just email the 500 dedicated fans on your mailing list. Still, it's going slower than we'd like.

4ofakind bts 2

You don't need me to tell you the red line should be higher. Am I worried? Yes and no.

Obviously, we want it to be higher. But we're building a base. And there's chances to catch up. There's days where the model thinks we'll raise as little as $400. So we don't need to panic…yet.

Right now we're running at $51/backer, up a tick from Friday when it was $48/backer. That's a little low. We want to be around $70/backer. We knew that by putting the download at $5 that we'd have trouble getting up to $90/backer that a lot of film campaigns get, but that's kind of by design. Jack being an unknown, we figured we wanted to make backing the campaign as low-risk as possible. You get to see the movie for $5. That's a pretty good value. But, of course that's going to drive down the average pledge.

So when I saw we were tracking at $48/backer, I started looking for ways to get that number up.


During the campaign, we've been making eye charts with the names of our backers on them, as a personalized thank you. It's not a perk, just something we're doing in the hopes that people will use them to spread the word about the campaign (and they are). They've been more popular than expected. So on Friday we added them to the perk list at $75. We'll still do them for every backer, but at $75 Jack will turn a slightly fancier version of it into a poster for you, which he'll sign. It's some nicely personalized swag. Part of the hope is that'll up-sell a bunch of the $50 backers, or even some of the $5 backers.

We added this on Friday, which was a really slow day for obvious reasons. The news out of Aurora sucked all of the air out of the room. Suddenly we're faced with a gun tragedy and a Kickstarter campaign with a stylized image of a gun as the key art. Not good. My first thought was maybe we should pull the image and replace it with something else. I ran it by Jack, who had this to say,

If it does offend some people, I'd rather fail at this, then take down some imagery that had nothing to do with something as some sort of an implicit recognition that gun imagery on a poster would aid some psychopath into shooting a room full of strangers.

He's right. I'm not sure I would have had the guts to keep the image.

So we keep battling, because Jack is still battling and if you can't get behind the cause of someone using what little time they have to make an independent film, then what can you get behind? This is why we have a community, to make things like this possible.

Lucas McNelly is the filmmaker behind A YEAR WITHOUT RENT, UP COUNTRY, BLANC DE BLANC, and GRAVIDA. He hasn't lived anywhere in a long time.

16 July 2012

Behind the Scenes with FOUR OF A KIND: Day 1

It's really easy to talk about a campaign from a distance, or with the benefit of hindsight. Any idiot can do that. But being a Monday Morning Quarterback is only helpful up to a point. Because as much as you research and plan and plot and scheme a Kickstarter campaign, it's like a game plan for a boxer. It all goes out the window as soon as the other guy punches you in the nose.

So I thought I'd take you behind the scenes of the campaign as it happens, a peek behind the curtain.

I'm helping run the campaign, so I'll be here until the (hopefully not) bitter end. I'll make some mistakes. We all will. But we'll learn from it.


The Campaign

Four of a Kind is a noir film out of Chicago by Jack Marchetti that just happens to have a pretty compelling side story: Jack is going blind. Obviously, that's a narrative that kind of tells itself. There's a longer version, but with a crowdfunding campaign, you want to think in Twitter-sized sound bytes. Nuance will get lost.

This is Jack's Twitter account. He has, as of right now, 368 followers. That's not very many. It's not nearly enough to raise the money he needs to raise, unless they've all got a lot of spare cash laying around.

So part of the challenge is figuring out how to create a social media presence more or less out of nothing.

Enter…the community.

This is Leilani. She doesn't know Jack. Jack doesn't know her. But I slept on Leilani's couch (well…guest bed) when I was in London. Ergo...Leilani is the "Pimp of the Day" for Day 1.

The premise is simple: the campaign is 39 days long. We line up 39 different people who are willing to get behind the campaign. Each day, one of them tweets a bunch of stuff about the campaign to all their followers. We then write up a thing about what they do in the campaign updates. The theory is that every day we'll hit a different circle of people. They'll overlap, sure, but we should have 39 different voices talking about the campaign. That should create a pretty strong base of support.

The Eye Chart

You don't want to know how long this took to figure out. Hell, we're still working on it. We wanted something that would visually capture the idea behind Jack's unique campaign. So why not one of those charts they have at the eye doctor? Simple right? Well, kind of. It's a lot of questions with formatting and wording and all that. We're trying to figure out a way to do it with people's name in it, but the problem is that there's just soooo much variance in the number of letters in people's names. This will work for now (we think).


Put it on blogs, Facebook, wherever.

The goal is to get something that people will want to share, as that makes the story that much easier to spread organically. We know we have a good story and we don't need to come out of the gate fast. We have lots of potential for growth. That's one reason we opted for 39 days over 32. It gives us one more week to expand the story.

Other Charts

But how do you know if you're growing too slowly? Are you on pace? What happens when Jack starts to panic on Day 15?

Jack EV

If you click it, it'll get bigger.

This is a chart that takes the curves of a number of successful film campaigns, runs them through a formula and system I created, and tells you roughly where you would expect to be at each day in the campaign. The dotted lines are the Expected Range, which on the low end will take us to just over $95K at the end. If we're below that line, that's bad.

Obviously, every campaign is different and every campaign has it's own ups and downs, so you don't want to overreact if you're below the line on Day 3. But if you're below the line on Day 15? Yeah, you want to worry. But this gives us an idea of where we are.

Cross your fingers for us. Oh, and help us out.


Lucas McNelly is the filmmaker behind A YEAR WITHOUT RENT, UP COUNTRY, BLANC DE BLANC, and GRAVIDA. He consults on Kickstarter campaigns for a living. He hasn't lived anywhere in a long time.

02 July 2012

The Crowdfunding Compilation (2 July 2012)

This is a list of the independent film crowdfunding campaigns that either just launched this week or are ending this week, provided I either happened to notice them or they used the hashtag #twitfund to pitch it.

Want to be on the list? Give a Twitter Pitch (which is like an elevator pitch, only shorter). Put the hashtag at the end. Easy as that.

Don't see yours? Well, that's because no one told me about it.

Ending Soon

Sunday Morning

Filmmakers: Brian O'Toole and Arthur Mulhern

The Pitch: Our story takes place through the eyes of Kiva - a bright and mischievous little girl. She is running wild around her palatial house on a Sunday morning. Her escapades grow more dangerous and we begin to fear for her safety. Clues around the house suggest that her absent parents are linked with organized crime. After a scary experience in the swimming pool, Kiva has an encounter with a visiting window cleaner. But can he be trusted? And where are her parents?

Goal: $5,000

Ends: Monday, 02 July at 11:59PM PT

All or Nothing? No.

Those Lighter Fluid Days

Filmmakers: M.J. Slide (@MJ_Slide

The Pitch

It's been almost two years since 19 year old Bree March's Mother passed away and the entire family is struggling to keep their heads above water. Todd, her Father drowns his grief in cheap beer, leaving the responsibility of caring for 7 year old, Taylor, her younger sister, completely to Bree.

The Goal: $9,500

Ends: Sunday, 08 July, 11:59PM PT

All or Nothing? No

Just Launched

Citizen - The web-series pilot

Filmmakers: Matt Campbell, Amanda Verhagen, and Cole Hewlett

The Pitch:

Two Canadian operatives are deep cover in a perfect small town in mid-America. Things go wrong and they are hunted by the citizens of the town as they work to uncover the secrets behind their madness . The ultimate "big brother" technology and insurmountable threats combine to create an action thriller series along the same vein as the "Bourne" movies.

The Goal: $20,000

Ends: Tuesday, 31 July at 11:59pm PT

All or Nothing? No

The Zero One Mandate

Filmmakers: Kareem N. Gray

The Pitch:

The film follows Devon Owens;  a man that has discovered something amazing hidden in the data streams of the internet. We follow Devon as he becomes something greater. He becomes the hero an unsuspecting world needs. 

The Goal: $20,000

Ends: Saturday, 18 August at 9:57pm EDT

All or Nothing? YES

Lucas McNelly is the filmmaker behind A YEAR WITHOUT RENT, UP COUNTRY, BLANC DE BLANC, and GRAVIDA. He consults on Kickstarter campaigns for a living. He hasn't lived anywhere in a long time.

25 June 2012

The Crowdfunding Compilation (25 June 2012)

This is a list of the independent film crowdfunding campaigns that either just launched this week or are ending this week, provided I either happened to notice them or they used the hashtag #twitfund to pitch it.

Why only indie films? Because you have to draw a line somewhere. Otherwise, it gets overwhelming.

Want to be on the list? Give a Twitter Pitch (which is like an elevator pitch, only shorter). Put the hashtag at the end. Easy as that.

Disclaimer: Being listed here does not mean I worked on the campaign or endorse the campaign or even like the campaign. It simply means the campaign exists.

Ending Soon

You're What I Want Wrong With Me | The Sick of Sarah Movie

Filmmakers: J. Reuben Appelman (@jreub)

The Pitch

You're What I Want Wrong With Me | The Sick of Sarah Movie follows the working class, all-girl band from Minneapolis, Sick of Sarah, a phenomenon in the 13-30 demographic with no major record label but over two million downloads of their latest album, 2205. 

The Goal: $20,000

Ends: Friday, 29 June, 1:58PM EDT

All or Nothing? YES

A Life Not To Follow

Filmmakers: Christopher Di Nunzio

The Pitch: A trilogy of Neo-Noir films: Eric is a dead man and he knows it. Death is imminent and he must make amends for his past sins, by killing those who wronged him, no matter the price: A wiseguy willing to do anything to move up in the world must now make the ultimate sacrifice. He must kill his best friend or in turn be killed: An F.B.I.agent turned P.I. is on the trail of a missing girl. In his long search for her he comes face to face with a host of unsavory characters who will lead him to perdition or salvation.

Goal: $3,000

Ends: Monday, 25 June at 11:59PM PT

All or Nothing? No.

Andretti Dante presents Insomniac Theatre

Filmmakers: Andretti Dante (@AndrettiDante)

The Pitch:

This isn't just a movie that we're trying to create but an event...An event that is designed to evoke and enhance all of your viewing pleasures by situating you in an arena of darkness that has been occupied and haunted by millions, the American Theater.  While in this historical attraction, you will be introduced to twelve gruesome stories all jam packed into one terrifying and mind altering movie.  Each story builds into the next, acting as puzzle pieces if you will, that when put together form an eerie and frieghtning picture that will push your imagination to the brink.

Goal: $20,000

Ends: Sunday, 1 July at 6:30PM EDT

All or Nothing? YES

Just Launched

No One Knows - A short film about secrets

Filmmakers: Bunee Tomlinson (@Buneetomlinson), Daniel Hoyos (@danielhoyos), and Jamie Livingston-Dierks

The Pitch:

A story about family, public perceptions, and secrets. What would you do to keep your secret? 

The Smiths could be any family. They could be your neighbors. When twelve-year old Jason looks in his neighbor’s window at , he learns he’s not the only kid living in an abusive environment. What he learns will change his life.

The Goal: $7,000

Ends: Tuesday, 17 July at 11:59pm PT

Lucas McNelly is the filmmaker behind A YEAR WITHOUT RENT, UP COUNTRY, BLANC DE BLANC, and GRAVIDA. He consults on Kickstarter campaigns for a living. He hasn't lived anywhere in a long time.

24 June 2012


There's a lot of reasons for a crowdfunding campaign to succeed or fail. Some are valid. People run bad campaigns all the time. But one of the worst ways to fail is simply because people don't know about it. Let's fix that.

We can rally the community, but the community needs lead time. People are busy. We all travel a lot. We're on sets. We're at festivals. We're often drunk (well, I'm often drunk).

So we're going to try this. I started a hashtag #twitfund. Pitch your campaign there as it enters the final week. I'll collect them all and run them here Monday mornings (or, as soon as my schedule permits). Plus, any others I see. Also, when it launches, same thing. TELL US.

Maybe people will fund it, maybe they won't. It can't hurt.

And don't spam the hashtag. Pitch your actual project.

Lucas McNelly is the filmmaker behind A YEAR WITHOUT RENT, UP COUNTRY, BLANC DE BLANC, and GRAVIDA. He consults on Kickstarter campaigns for a living. He hasn't lived anywhere in a long time.

15 March 2012

How to correctly budget your crowdfunding campaign

The other day, I posted the results of a survey I'm working on as an on-going project to get a better sense of how perks are distributed across Kickstarter campaigns. I won't bore you with the details, but basically it's a survey of almost every successful Film & Video Kickstarter campaign since August of last year (it took a loooong time to finish). Then, I spit out the numbers, put them online, and went back to drinking.

Easy, right?

Well, what I forgot to factor in is that not everyone shares my affinity for statistics. You see, I'm kind of a stat nerd. I grew up obsessing over baseball statistics and pretty much taught myself Excel in high school as a means of winning my fantasy baseball league. I was always good at math. I took AP Calculus in high school and even considered minoring in Math for a bit. I minored in Writing instead. And Pre-Law.

Anyway, after posting the data, I kind of assumed that everyone would know what to do with it, but of course not everyone does. So, here we go. This might get a little nerdy. But it's worth it.

The first thing you need to understand is the concept of Expected Value (ooohhh…Probability Theory). I came across EV (that's what we call it) when I used to play poker for a living, where it's a really big deal.

EV in gambling kind of works like this: Let's say I offer you a bet. We'll roll a standard 6-sided dice. When "4" comes up, I'll pay you $6. When any other number comes up, you pay me $1. Do you take the bet? (Yes.) The reason you do is because if we do this 6 times (or 600), chances are that the "4" will come up once and you will make $6. But the other 5 numbers will also probably come up once each, and that'll cost you a total of $5. Ergo, you will net $1, so your Expected Value of that 1 throw of the dice is $0.17. Every single time we make that bet, you can expect to make $0.17, even though you never actually will make exactly that amount on a single bet. But you can't worry about the results of that 1 throw, because you can't control that. You can only control the decision you make with that 1 bet.

This comes up a lot in poker. Poker players play tens of thousands of hands a month, which means that the exact same situations come up a lot, especially stuff like flush and straight draws. Over enough time, the "luck" all evens out and that total EV will converge with your actual winnings. So you train yourself to not be so worried about one individual river card. Of course, if you're on ESPN and you're trying to win the World Series of Poker, the EV calculation changes and maybe you give up a positive EV situation to wait for a better one, since there's the risk of elimination.

You see this more than you think. Nate Silver (who used to post in the same poker forum I used to post in) of FiveThirtyEight uses this a lot (along with a number of other things). After a while, the whole world becomes a series of EV calculations.

So let's see how we're going to apply this to crowdfunding and Perk Distribution. Here's the numbers after 717 campaigns:

Screen shot 2012-03-15 at 9.26.22 AM

After that many campaigns, the average backer amount comes to $95.50, so if you're hoping to raise $15,000, you can expect to have 157.1 backers. Will you have that many? Probably not. You might have more. You might have less. But at the end of the day, this is the best estimate you've got. The rest is kind of easy. 7.15% of 157.1 is 11.2 and so on.

Then, you want to figure out what your perks are going to cost to fulfill. And here I'm just making up some numbers. (This is a more updated version from the previous image)

Kickstarter campaigns (all) fixed

Remember, for total EV, your $25 backers are also your $50 backers and your $500 backers and so on. $$ Cost is the cost of fulfilling the perk. $$ EV is just the $$ Cost times the Total EV. Here you should spend roughly $117.64 fulfilling your $5 perk. Again, it might be more, it might be less. But on average it should come in around here.

So you want to raise $15K? Great. First of all, make sure you can actually get the film done for $15K. Then…

Amazon and Kickstarter take, on average, 8%. 8% of $15,000 is $1,200. Now we re-run the numbers for our new goal of $16,200. That takes our perk cost to $492.17. (I'm not going to re-post the image. You're smart enough to figure that out.) Let's call it an even $500. Now you're looking at $16,700. To be safe, let's make our new goal $17,000. That's your actual goal.

Of course, since we're dealing with percentages, everything else moves. Our fees back to Kickstarter and Amazon are now $1360.00 and our perks now cost $516.47, which leaves us $15,123.53 to make the movie. And if you've budgeted the film correctly, that's what you actually need. Had you gone with your original $15K, you would have actually gotten $13,344. I'm guessing your budget is tight enough already without having to cut over $1,600.

Lucas McNelly is a cynical filmmaker who recently spent a year sleeping on couches around the world and has somehow fallen into teaching people how to run crowdfunding campaigns. You can hire him, if you want to. Also, you should follow him on Twitter.

29 February 2012

Kickstarter Perk Distribution

As of right now, this is over 500 successful film & video Kickstarter campaigns. It should update as more are added. Perks are grouped, when needed, into the correct bin (i.e. $25 perks include anything in the $20-$35 range).

If you want, I can break this down for you further. Email me (lmcnelly [at] gmail [dot] com) for more info.

16 February 2012

Day 4 of Nicolas Citton's DECORATION

There's no call sheet, but call time for day 4 is 9:30am. True to form, that doesn't happen. We leave at 10:12am and head back to Nooner's house to shoot the final day there.

Nooner has no idea we're coming. He thought we were done. So, of course, he's started to put his house back together. Luckily, he's pretty easy-going, so it's no problem to take his house back over.

Just like yesterday, we have to clean the house out completely to shoot the scene, but unlike yesterday, we don't have to re-set it later, other than to put the house back together for Nooner and take our props out completely. Why didn't we shoot the two empty house scenes back-to-back on the last day? I have no idea.

And you know, it'd be easy to go on a rant about this, but I think you see between the lines here.

Instead, let's talk about the crew, because sometimes when the top of the hierarchy isn't ideally organized, that pulls focus from the fantastic work being done by the rest of the crew, and DECORATION has a very good crew.

Today's challenge is to rotate the camera a full 360 degrees on the x-axis as Cheryl Nichols stands on her head. There's gear that does this, of course, but they've got none of it. So, Josh Jones and Stew Yost come up with the idea to try and strap a 5D to a tripod head. This gives them the rotation they need, but takes away access to all the buttons and controls of the camera, so they've got to figure out everything, then set the controls, and then strap it in.

Only, if you don't strap it in correctly, you get a kind of oblong rotation that's less than ideal.

Oh, and they're trying to do it on a tight shot with an actress who's standing on her head, meaning you can't have her sit there for anything longer than a few seconds to line everything up.

Eventually, they come up with a solution that requires a collapsed tripod laying flat on a bed of sandbags (to give it a little bit of height off the ground, thus allowing the rotation). They have Cheryl stand on her head, then make a note of where on the wall that is and where her hands are to establish the base for that shot. Set the frame, then try and repeat the head stand as close as possible to the last one. Then, they have to get a smooth rotation out of it.

It takes a couple of tries, but they get it.

From there, we move down the hill to a semi truck that's been borrowed for a sequence where Rick Dacey climbs on it in a bit of childish wonder. It's a 2 camera shot, one on the ground and one on more of an eye line thanks to a long lens on a hill.

Then it's some car mount driving shots to finish out the day. Only, when we get the camera mounted on the hood, it's moving around way too much for anyone's taste. Enter grip/AC/PA Jimmy, who sticks a empty water bottle under the lens. And you know what? It works. It's the perfect height. A little gaff tape later, and it's set. DP Stew Yost jumps in the bed of the truck to shoot Rick on the other side of the scene, and once they double check to make sure the cameras aren't seeing each other, they're off.

And that's day 4, the second-to-last day of principal photography. All that's left is to shoot the Decoration ceremony. You know, the scene the title comes from.

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.

14 February 2012

12 January 2012

Day 3 of Nicolas Citton's DECORATION

We're up for a 9am shoot on a bridge. It's a small scene, meant to exist near the end of the film, so I'm not going to talk about it too much, other than to say we all drove out there and shot a scene near the water. The rest isn't all that important. Nothing complicated. Nothing exciting.

From there, we head back to the cabin we're all staying in for quick turnaround. The word that goes out is "10 minutes". Someone sits down. The TV goes on, and before you know it, we've been watching Skip Bayless talk about Tim Tebow for over an hour.

Skip Bayless really likes Tim Tebow.

I have no idea what the cause of the delay is.

Eventually, we pile in the vehicles and head back to Story and our primary location of Nooner's house. The second unit splits off to shoot some B Unit stuff.

As for me? Well, I'm being asked by the director to sit in the van. But, the sun is out and it's kind of warm out, so instead myself and Chris the sound guy find some chairs on the porch and sit there while they block the scene inside. I eat an orange and work on write-ups for other films.

It's not exactly a closed set. The director and actors are in there, of course. As is the DP and the grip and Jimmy, who's a hybrid grip/PA/whatever. Basically, everyone but myself and the sound guy. But whatever. I have work to do.

Eventually, the director comes out and asks if I could take some pictures of the area around the couch for continuity. It's a simple enough thing to do. There's a couch there and a bookshelf with a bunch of books on it. So I take pictures of everything and, as requested, start moving everything out to the porch. I pull the books out in stacks, being careful to keep them in order, the assumption being that we're going to want to reset the scene back to the original configuration. And while a lot of the books and magazines are scattered around the floor and coffee table, they're at least in distinct piles, and those that are on the bookshelf are in a specific order.

It's a little thing, but if you can pull 10 books off a shelf and keep them all together as you move them around, it saves time when you have to put them back. There's no trying to use photos to recreate the order. All you have to know is that this stack goes on the top shelf, over to the left. The rest takes care of itself.

We pull everything, stripping the area completely. But by the time that's finished, the director has gone ahead and done the same with the entire house.

There are no photos for the rest of the house. None.

They film the scene and then we have to reset the house for a night scene. But there's no photos, so when the time comes to see the parts of the house that aren't the general couch area, there's nothing to go by, other than the consensus memory of the cast and crew. Ever tried to remember every little detail about a room? It's not easy. People's memories conflict. Say you've got two framed images of birds. Was the cardinal the one higher up or the bluejay? How sure are you?

And sure it's a small thing, but those things add up. Flip one bird image and whatever. These things happen. But do it over and over again and it starts to pull people from your story. It becomes a drinking game, and when that happens, no one's going to be sober for your emotional third act.

What the production does have is footage from scenes previously shot in the house. But think of how time-consuming that is. You've gotta get out the hard drive and computer, boot it up, and search through all that footage, just to figure out if it was the cardinal or the bluejay on top. And that's a best case scenario. That's if you can find the footage you need, if it's nearby or, say, back in the cabin where everyone's staying.

This is why you get a Script Supervisor, because they'll be damned sure if it was the cardinal or the bluejay. Hell, they'll even tell you if it was hung straight. And it won't take them all night to figure it out.

And if you don't have the budget for the Script Supervisor? Well, then you make sure you get photos of the entire house before you start moving things.

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 0 of Brea Grant's BEST FRIENDS FOREVER

I've never really heard of Marfa, Texas until a couple of weeks ago, but apparently the place is mythical. Everywhere I've been--Wisconsin, Kansas, Arkansas, Dallas, Austin--I keep hearing the same thing: "Oh, you'll love Marfa."

I'm not really sure why.

Marfa is this tiny, tiny town in West Texas. The census bureau has the population at 1,900 people, which seems high. Real cowboy country. They shot THERE WILL BE BLOOD here, as well as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and the one thing 1st AC Brian Nelligan (who I picked up in Austin) try and figure out as we drive into town is, where the hell did they put everyone? They shot two decently big movies in the same town at the same time and there aren't exactly a bunch of hotels all over the place. Our theory is that Daniel Day Lewis just camped out near set in a tent that he made himself.

The first thing we notice as we drive through town is that the roads don't match up with my GPS, so it takes a bit of driving around to find the house we're looking for. I call the producer, Stacey Storey, but she's not in town yet, after some sort of issue with the grip truck breaking down on the way from LA. Apparently they're still in Arizona. We start shooting tomorrow.

We find some other crew people, and we all head to a bar to find everyone else. Introductions all around. Brea's there, along with AD John-Michael Thomas and DP Michelle Lawler, trying to figure out how to shoot the first day with a grip truck that may or may not show up on time.

Your first thought is that you'll have to cancel the day, or at least part of it, and no one wants to do that. You put yourself in the hole on day 1 and run the risk of spending the entire shoot trying to catch up. On the other hand, if the truck shows up late, you've got some real chaos on your hands, and that's not the best way to start a shoot either.

Eventually, the decision is made to turn day 1 into a prep day, which feels like the right call. The truck shows up with Stacey and gaffer Phil Matarese already exhausted from driving all night. And the prep time is helpful. Things need to be unloaded and sorted. Plus, it gives the various crew members time to get to know each other a little bit before the actual work starts. An opportunity to ease into things, if you will.

After an hour, we've completely taken over the yard and part of the street, which attracts the attention of a neighborhood cat. He starts looking around for food and before anyone realizes it, he's ripped into a bag of bagels and eaten part of one. I didn't even know a cat would eat a bagel.

No one knows where he came from exactly, but he's apparently been inside the house 3 times already.

Before long, he even has a name: Lonestar Bagels Sebastian III.

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.

04 January 2012

Day 2 of Nicolas Citton's DECORATION

Call time for my second day on DECORATION is 9:30am. I'm ready to go a little before then, call it 9:20. Call time comes and goes. Nothing happens. And by that I mean nothing. People aren't ready, and why should they be? We aren't moving.

10am comes and goes. People start to emerge. They make breakfast. Get coffee. The director has gone for a walk. It was like this yesterday too, but it being my first day, I chalked it up to an aberration. Now it's looking more like a trend.

When you join a production near the end, there's a period where you try and figure out the pace of things. Every production operates on its own speed (for better or worse) and when you join one mid-stream, there's an adjustment, kind of like merging onto the highway. The more times you do this, the easier it gets, and after a while you can sometimes tell before you even hit the on-ramp.

After a week or so, every production becomes what it'll eventually be, which is to say that things don't change all that much beyond a point. Sure, in the first couple of days, stuff gets addressed and things change, but eventually it all settles into a routine. Very little changes past that point. Crews know that. Hell, they're the first ones to figure it out and adjust accordingly. So if you're on a set and the call is 9:30 and no one in the crew is ready to go at 9:30, that probably means that call time is a myth. Grips aren't giving up a hour of sleep if you aren't going to be ready to go on time. They aren't stupid. A good way to see if something is an aberration or the norm is to see how the crew reacts. Or, you ask them. And then a pause is all you need.

So we finally leave at 11:08am (I know because I wrote it down) after a 9:30 call and head to the police station to shoot the other half of the scene we shot yesterday. This requires a car mount on a police car. Then, we wait while they drive around filming a scene. They come back and we re-mount the camera in a different spot on the car. Nothing crazy complicated, just a question of building the safest thing imaginable with what we've got on hand. The car mount is easy enough, because we've got one of those, but putting the camera behind the back seat is a little trickier. DP Stew Yost settles on a tower of apple boxes and sandbags, with the camera wedged in-between the top 2 sandbags and the director sitting next to it to ensure the whole thing doesn't tip over.

From there, we head over to the tiny town of Story, Arkansas where the house location is. In the story, our two main characters (Cheryl Nichols and Rick Dacey) return home from LA when their father dies back in Arkansas. This is his house, a tiny one bedroom structure on a hill. It's a building badly in need of repair, which makes it a perfect location.

We move some stuff around a shoot a couple scenes, nothing all that complicated. It starts raining and things need to be adjusted accordingly, but all in all, we get everything. We wrap around 6pm.

It's Stew's birthday and someone has bought him a pellet gun. The crew spends the evening setting up empty beer bottles. By morning there's a pile of broken glass on the ground.

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.