Moving Closer to a Finished Film

Me (left) with my editor, Matt Epstein, on location at the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT on Day 2 of production on "Isn't It Romantic?"

Me (left) with my editor, Matt Epstein, on location at the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT on Day 2 of production on “Isn’t It Romantic?”

As I reported in my previous post, the rough cut I put together looked pretty good.  There were a few issues which I was confident I could work out with my editor.  I met with him today and we discussed his  rough cut, which is about 75% finished.  He told me that the early scenes are working well.  That is even better news for the film, as he has twenty years experience, so if he says it works, I can bet on that.

There are two main issues we have to deal with, but we’ve got ideas on how to do so.  First, there is a transition from the set up of the story into the middle section, what in a feature length script would be the break from Act I to Act II.  With the footage I shot, it is not clear to the audience what my protagonist is doing.  Danny comes up with a plan but with the way I shot it, there is no inkling of what that plan is, or that he even has one.  I proposed adding a voice over.  My editor took that idea and expanded on it.

Voice overs are commonly used to patch plot holes in movies in exactly this situation.  It can be a very weak device if not used creatively.  My editor proposed that we add a voice over, not only to the scene that’s unclear, but also at the beginning and end of the story.  Just some brief lines to open the story and then wrap it up.  I love  this idea.  By doing so, we integrate the technique as a part of the film and establish it early.  In that way, the audience will accept it as a method organic to the movie’s style.  I also have to admit that I like it because it’s a device Woody Allen commonly utilizes.  When done well, it’s very effective.

The other issue we have is in the movie’s longest scene.  It’s extremely important to the plot and it involves a passage of several hours.  In the rough cut that I put together, I tried using dissolves between sections of the scene to indicate time passing.  I wasn’t really all that happy with the result.  Dissolves are very outdated and I didn’t get a feeling of hours having elapsed.  The pacing of the scene was much too fast.  My editor has some ideas and is going to experiment by putting the scene together in different ways.  I have great confidence in his ability and I am sure we will come up with a suitable solution.

So, there we are.  We’re getting much closer to a finished film, I would say early January, in time to make the deadline for the “Love Actually Film Festival”, which takes place in the city of my birth, New York, and showcases short films that deal with love, sex and romance.  I think we just might have what they’re looking for.  It takes place on Valentine’s Day, which means that if we get in, I will finally have something to do on that holiday other than celebrate the fact that February is half over!

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The Rough Cut Looks Good!

Danny smiles in at Diana with the reflection of the inn they've traveled to in the car window.

Danny smiles in at Diana with the reflection of the inn they’ve traveled to in the car window.

Another big step forward in the filmmaking process.  Over the weekend, I completed a rough cut of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  It is, admittedly, a very rough cut.  I don’t have the sound we recorded, only my editor has it, I used the in camera sound, which is of inferior quality.  I also only have a basic knowledge of editing techniques, but I must say, the cut looks “pretty darn good”.  My co-writer agrees with me and in fact, the words in quotes are hers.

We are very excited.  My editor has twenty years of experience and is creative and talented.  When he does his cut and we polish it, using the quality sound, color correction and other post production techniques, we’re going to have a very good film.  It will get into festivals.  There is not a doubt in my mind.

This is quite different from how I felt just a few weeks ago when I was having panic attacks worrying about the quality of the finished film. At that point, I hadn’t gotten a look at everything we had and was experiencing the type of self-doubt many artists go through.  Now, with all of the footage at my disposal and sufficient distance from production, I have a bit more objectivity.

I’ve been making efforts to promote the film as well.  I’m posting updates and outtakes on IIR’s Facebook page and on YouTube.  I’ve also been adverting it on LinkedIn.  We have several festivals targeted so far.  SAG has invited us to submit it to their short film showcase.  We’ve also been invited to submit to a film festival in Wales.  That is quite exciting.  Another venue is the Love Actually Film Festival, which takes place in Ridgewood, NY on Valentine’s Day.  It’s specifically for short films about love, sex and romance.  It’s right up our alley and I really hope to get into that one.  It will give me something to do on Valentine’s Day other than celebrate the fact that February is half over.

Media Available on the Facebook Fan Page

Diana finally spells out the problem to her clueless husband, Danny.

ISN’T ROMANTIC? is now full steam in post production and we should have a finished film sometime in January.  We are all very excited and already have a few festivals we are planning to enter.  One we definitely want to submit to is the Litchfield Hills Film Festival which is held at the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT.  It would be fun to see it screened there since we shot the opening scene at the Warner.

As the film nears completion, I am stepping up my efforts to promote it.  It’s going to be a nice movie, sweet, quirky and very funny.  The film has a Facebook fan page and I am now placing content on it regularly.  I have production stills, updates, screen captures (like the one above) and I’ve placed a very funny outtake on the site.  The outtake seems to be quite popular and I have more I am planning to post as time goes on.

There are actually a fair number of people looking forward to seeing the film, which is encouraging.  I have no delusions about making money from it, but it would be great if a large number of people could enjoy it.  It would be very helpful to me moving forward to build a following that will look forward to future projects.

The screen capture shown here features me, with my co-writer, producer and co-star (I’m not the only one who did multiple tasks!) Cooper Campbell as Danny and Diana.  Here, a frustrated Diana, after locking herself in the bedroom has popped out to make clear to her husband just what is lacking in their marriage.  The T-shirt I’m wearing is a tribute to my Brooklyn heritage.  I like this shot and I think it captures the basic story of the movie.

I would encourage those of you who read my blog to check out the Facebook page @ www.facebook.com/isntitromanticmovie .  The outtake I posted yesterday is very funny.  I also have interesting little facts included in the captions of the photos discussing the inside story.

Diana struggles with the groceries getting no help from Danny.

Diana struggles with the groceries getting no help from Danny.

Here’s another screen capture showing that for Diana, being married to the greatest maker of romantic comedies in the country is not the experience Danny’s female fans believe it to be.  This was a fun film to make and it will be equally fun to watch.  I honestly believe that.  Take a look and tell your family and friends.

Upon Further Review …

My fantasy onscreen credit

My fantasy onscreen credit

The picture above is something I threw together months ago while the screenplay for ISNT’ IT ROMANTIC? was still in development and before I brought in my writing partner to help me add depth to the script.  It’s the Windsor font, the one Woody Allen uses.  It was a fantasy, just a fun, little device to help motivate me.  Seeing my name onscreen in a writing and directing credit was a dream.  It’s now just about upon me.

The actual credit will be different.  I would never use Woody’s trademark font (although I am planning simple, elegant white titles on a black screen).  I want to develop my own unique style.  I also can’t use the “written and directed by” credit, since I have a co-writer.  It will actually be “story by” me, “screenplay by” me and my partner and then “directed by” me.  No matter, it will be a thrill to see it.

My prior update was premature and I now have a whole new outlook on the quality of IIR.  Until this week, I had only had a cursory look at the footage we shot.  My editor is busy with other projects, so we have had phone conversations but haven’t sat down to look at the film yet.  The only look I had was when my DP briefly showed me some of the raw footage.  Based on that brief look, I was worried that I did not have enough coverage.

I now have all of the footage on my computer.  I’ve seen everything and started putting some scenes together.  This is going to be a good movie.  There is one scene that has a few gaps, but my editor and I are confident we can work around them.  I am feeling very good about this project.

I also now have a little distance and can judge my performance better.  Many people have assured me that I did a good job.  I will never be able to see myself the way others do, but I think I did a satisfactory job and my comedic timing is right on the money.  (Honestly, there was never a doubt about that).

I’m looking forward to finishing the film and getting to show if off a bit.  It will be thrilling to see that “directed by” credit on the screen.

Happy Birthday Mom and Woody

Today, December 1st, is a significant day for me.  It’s the birthday of my idol, the comedic genius, brilliant writer and director, Woody Allen.  It’s also the birthday of Audrey Rothbart, who gave birth to a comedic genius, brilliant writer and on his way to becoming a brilliant director.  Yes, I’m talking about my mother.  Let’s face it, you have to admire my trademark humility.

My brother, my son and I celebrated with my mother.  We got her a cake, cards, some nice presents and bought her dinner.  She’s a terrific person and is just happy to have her family around her.  She is a great mother who pretty much raised her three children alone.  She always made sacrifices for us and encourages me constantly.  I admire her strength.  My father passed away a little over a year ago and she has handled it much better than we could have anticipated.

As far as Woody goes, I celebrated with a mini-marathon.  I watched ANNIE HALL, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, the three films for which he won Best Original Screenplay (ANNIE HALL also earned him Best Director) at the Academy Awards.  Later, I’m going to watch MANHATTAN because it’s my favorite film of all time and I don’t need an excuse to view it.

There is so much to be learned from watching great movies and reading well-written scripts.  (You can learn as much, if not more, from watching terrible movies and reading awful scripts, but today is about celebration.)  I have other influences, the main ones being Neil Simon and the late Nora Ephron, but Woody is first.  Always.

So happy birthday, Mom.  Your oldest appreciates everything you do for your family.  It’s good to know that even if everyone else hates ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? you will love it!

Happy birthday to you too, Woody.  Love your work, all of it.  Not just the films.  Thanks for inspiring me and showing me that a short, homely, neurotic guy from Brooklyn can succeed with his intellect, talent and wit.

Status Update

It’s been almost a month since production wrapped on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and quite awhile since I’ve posted.  I guess I’m overdue to bring everyone (okay, the three of you that actually read my blog) up to speed.  We’re still in post production and there is a considerable amount of work to be done.

I’ve gotten a look at the footage.  We’ve got some good stuff, but there are some gaps in coverage that will take creative solutions to make the scenes work.  I’m not happy with myself for allowing that to happen.  Granted, this is my first film, but it’s difficult.  I set very high standards for myself and it bothers me when I don’t live up to them.  My editor is confident that we can work around the problems.  He has over twenty years of experience and is very creative and talented.  He’s also a good friend who helps me stay calm when I start to freak out.

I”m a neurotic mess much of the time.  It’s very helpful in that I feel it’s the source of my creativity and talent.  It provides me with energy and inspires original story concepts.  It also makes me crazy sometimes.  For example, I find my performance in the film to be abysmal.  Other members of my team tell me otherwise, that I did a solid job.  My editor used the words, “Pretty damn good”.  Most actors don’t like to watch themselves and it’s so hard to be objective when watching oneself.  Nonetheless, watching me in a scene with the experienced and terrific actors in my cast looks to me like a high school pitcher trying to get major league hitters out.

I think part of the problem is I can’t buy into my character, Danny Kresky.  I look at the screen and I don’t see Danny.  I see me.  It makes everything else hard to buy.  I can’t get into the story because I know I’m not a highly successful writer/director (and probably never will be).  I’m not married to an amazing woman (and definitely never will be!)  I know, I should be looking at the overall story, but it is hard.

On the plus side, the sound is very good.  Poor audio is one of the major problems independent films face.  I hired a very good sound man and eliminated that issue.  I had two beautiful locations, four of my five main actors were excellent and my background actors were terrific.  We also had an excellent script from which to work.  As my idol Woody Allen said, “Experience has shown me that if you have a good script, you can do a miserable job of directing and still get a pretty good movie …”  I didn’t do a brilliant job, but it certainly wasn’t miserable either.  I did pretty well, I thought.  So I think we will end up with a pretty good movie.

SAG has invited us to submit it to their Short Film Showcase.  So glad we did it under a SAG contract for a number of reasons and this is now another.  It’s free to enter and if we get in, there’s a free screening at the SAG office in New York with a Q and A with the director and producers after.  That would be really nice exposure for us.  There is also a local film festival that we are almost sure to get into.  So, there are things to which we can look forward.

In the meantime, I am once again attempting to market my feature screenplay, SOUL MATE.  It’s a great script, the best thing I’ve written to date and I’ve got to get it on the screen.  If I have to, I will shoot it myself one day.  I’ve also started work on a new feature with my writing partner.  I’m very excited about that too.  We have a good story concept and our work on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? has shown both of us that we are capable of great things together.

Sorry for the long layoff on the updates.  (Like anyone is paying attention.)  I’ll keep you apprised of new developments.  Hopefully, we’ll have a finished film sometime early in the new year.