The TV Spot

This past Wednesday, Cooper and I shot our television appearance on WHC-TV in West Hartford, CT.  It’s a local public access station, but it will also be available on the internet on the station’s web site and it’s still publicity!  It was also a lot of fun.

During my stand up days, I did quite a bit of public access TV as well as a few interviews on the local news.  Thus, I was very comfortable with the interview.  Cooper’s only prior television work had been on soaps and not any talk show type situations, so she was a bit nervous.  She relaxed the second we started and handled it like the pro she is.  There was never a doubt in my mind that she would.

We got a nice full twenty minute spot, more than enough time to cover everything we wanted to.  We talked about our backgrounds in writing, and mine in stand up and hers in acting.  The story of how we met in our old screenwriting group and became partners came up and we also related our similar tastes in movies and how well we work together.

Then we talked about ISN’T ROMANTIC?, how much fun we had, what we learned and how it’s doing now.  They will add a clip from the film in the final edit.  We chose the scene in the kitchen where Diana confronts Danny about her despair over the lack of romance in their marriage.  It’s a good scene that gives a feel for the film without giving anything away.

We segued to MY SPIRITED SISTER by talking about how impressed with were with the work its three young stars did in their appearance in the opening scene of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?   We wrapped up by talking about the story and our crowd funding campaign.

It went very well.  The host, the director and the crew were very nice and they did a great job, very professional.  The host is also an actor and I told him to send me a headshot and resume, I”m always on the lookout for talent.  After the show, Cooper and I talked to him about what it’s like to pursue a show business career.  He had many questions about New York versus LA.  I of course, am from New York and Cooper has lived in both cities so we were able to help him out.

The show is called A MOMENT WITH JON FRANCOIS.  It will air in July on Comcast Cable, just in time for the launch of our campaign.  I’ll post the web site link when it’s available for those who are curious.  We also booked our three stars to make an appearance on the show next month.  PR is so important and as I have stated, I’m going to do all I can in that vein.

After spending so much time preparing for and doing interviews, on Thursday, Cooper and I were able to get back to writing.  We’re finishing up our revisions to prepare the script for production.  So much to do to be ready for our October shooting start.  It will be here before we know it.  We are so excited!  Making a film is so much fun.

The First Interview

Yesterday, Cooper and I met with a young reporter from the Danbury News-Times for our interview.  We sat in a Starbucks, sipping ice tea and discussing our lives as artists.  I feel it went well.  We prepared for it, getting together the day before and going over the points we wished to express.  We are leaving nothing to chance.  It’s important to take full advantage of every tool at our disposal.

One of the things that has drawn us together as partners and friends is the fact that we have traveled remarkably similar paths in life.  That was confirmed yesterday.  As we talked about the aspirations and passions we developed as children and how they carried us to the current point in our lives, the reporter commented on that similarity.  It’s funny.  I absolutely don’t believe in fate, but we are amazingly well suited to be creative partners.  Almost like it was designed that way.

We also talked about ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?, how it developed, the work we put in, what we learned and how it’s doing now.  We then discussed MY SPIRITED SISTER. That was our main reason for doing the interview.  We need to get the word out about our upcoming IndieGoGo campaign.  We want to raise more money than last time and make an even better film with better production values.

We talked about the young stars of the upcoming movie.  The three of them appeared in the opening scene of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  These girls were amazing, talented, enthusiastic and so full of energy.  They had an impact on everyone who was on set that day.  The veteran actors commented on the effect the kids had on them.

They’ve been studying acting for some time and it shows.  We had no dialogue written for them in the scene, so I told them to improvise. It worked beautifully.  They were comfortable and natural and shared the screen like pros.  The scene really works well and they are completely believable.

Cooper and I are really looking forward to working with them again, this time giving them lead roles.  I’ve said this before, casting is vital.  Choose the right actors and your job as a director becomes much easier.  We did just that on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and we’re well on our way to doing it again.

In the interview, we also took the time to acknowledge how pleased with were with the effort we got from the crew on IIR.  We had a mix of experience including people who had never been on a film set.  The enthusiasm was high though and everyone made their contribution.

The reporter thanked us at the end.  He’s young and up and coming and appreciated the opportunity.  We equally appreciated the publicity.  Earlier in our lives, when Cooper was in LA pursuing her acting career and I was in New York doing stand up, neither of us promoted ourselves the way we should have.  A little too humble.  Nothing wrong with humble, but to get anywhere in this business, you’ve got to let the world know you’re here.  That’s what we’re doing now.  We’re talented and dedicated and we’re going to shout it from the rooftops.

On This Date in History …

… the prophecy was fulfilled.  The savior of comedy was born in Brooklyn, NY.  (Yes, I’m talking about me!  Exaggerating of course.  A little bit.)

At any rate, today is my birthday, another year older and all that, but I am having a really good day.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Cooper and I have two media interviews set up.  The newspaper appointment is tomorrow at one o’clock.  It will run in July in the Sunday magazine section of four different papers.  Nice, huh?

I spoke to the reporter yesterday and he’s excited.  He thanked me for agreeing to the interview.  As I told him, there is mutual benefit.  He needs the story and we need the publicity.  That’s how the media and show business work hand in hand.  A symbiotic relationship.

Cooper and I met today to prepare for the interview.  She bought me breakfast for my birthday.  (She’s really a terrific friend as well as the best creative partner I’ve ever had.)  We went over the most important points we’d like to get across.  It’s exciting.  Publicity is part of the business and we’re embracing it and eager to get started.

We’re hoping to give a nice boost to our IndieGoGo campaign, which launches July 17.  We’re learning how to play the game and I’m proud of how we’re doing.  I’m in a reflective mood today with this being my birthday and I’m pleased with the course my life has taken over the last couple of years.  I took a long time getting here, but I feel like I’m finally well on my way to becoming the person I always should have been.  I feel better than I have in a long time.  I hesitate to use the dreaded “h” word, but I may be on the verge of being happy.  Remarkable.

So, happy birthday to me!  My first one as a director.  Full speed ahead into the next project.  The life of an artist is not for everyone, but I love it.  Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Publicity!

There are a number of areas in which we are aiming to improve our performance on our current film.  One of the most important is publicity.  I did make an attempt at this on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  It was the reason, after all, that I started this blog.  I never really got the hang of it though.

Early in preproduction, I had a member of my team assigned to handle our social media.  He had some problems with his computer but honestly, was not making much of an effort anyway.  For this individual, filmmaking is a hobby, just a way to satisfy his curiosity about how movies are made.  I ended up handling all of it myself.

It’s not difficult, just time consuming and with everything else a director must do, there isn’t much time left over to really do the job effectively.  I also was new to both Facebook and Twitter.  I have done considerable studying and also have learned from my past experience.  I’m trying to manage my time better and make room for PR.   I’m off to a better start on MY SPIRITED SISTER. 

With our IndieGoGo campaign going live next month, it is crucial to get the word out about the film and our crowd funding goals.  I’m much more adept with social media, for example, in the use of hashtags.  I’m doing a much better job in reaching more people.  This time around, I am also using traditional media, as recommended by mentors I trust.

I contacted the arts editor of the Danbury, CT News-Times and a reporter is going to write a feature article.  He’ll interview Cooper and me about our lives as independent filmmakers and also about MY SPIRITED SISTER.  It will be a great way to reach out to our local community and let them know what two of their fellow citizens are doing and how they can be a part of it.

I’ve also booked an interview for us on a public access television program in West Hartford.  I’m very excited.  I did a fair amount of television in my stand up days, public access and interviews on local news stations.  It’s a lot of fun and I’m very comfortable doing it.  We’re also planning to book our three young stars on the show in a few weeks to help give the campaign a boost at the midpoint.

It’s very exciting and I’m proud that we’re taking such big steps forward.  We’re hoping to raise a significantly greater amount of money for this film.  We want to make a better movie and would love to be able to pay everyone involved at least something for their efforts.  We’ll also be able to rent more and better equipment and have a bigger budget for set design and wardrobe.

I’m feeling proud of myself.  I’ve always picked things up very quickly and that seems to be holding true thus far for my filmmaking career.  My confidence is at a very high level and my self esteem has never been better.  Pretty good for a neurotic kid who never went to film school.  Like my fictional counterpart from ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? Danny Kresky, I’m no ordinary schmuck.

Revisions

As I related in my last post, Cooper and I sat with with our editor and DP, Matt to get his feedback on the script for MY SPIRITED SISTER. His comments proved helpful, but perhaps not in the way he anticipated.  Through his critique, we were able to get Matt’s interpretation and see where it differed from what we were trying to say.  He made some good suggestions but they did not all fit our story.  However, in seeing where we failed to clearly get the point across, we are now able to fix those problems and clarify the story we want to tell.

We began the process yesterday.  An excellent point that Matt made was that he felt the story peaked too soon and was kind of flat thereafter.  That lead to a brainstorming session in which we added depth to the storyline.  We are very excited by the direction in which we’ve taken it.  This script is a considerable improvement over ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? which was very good.

Being able to utilize feedback to improve a script while staying true to one’s vision is tricky yet essential.  Frankly, it is a strength I have always had and Cooper does it pretty well too.  It comes down to confidence in one’s own ability.  Having a partner helps greatly.  Mutual support is a nice thing to have.  I cannot wait to shoot this film.  It will represent a big step forward in our development as filmmakers.

 

Our First Meeting

Yesterday, my partner, Cooper and I got together with our editor, Matt to discuss the script and our plans for MY SPIRITED SISTER. It was the first of what will become dozens of meetings as we make our second film.  Matt also cut ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and did a great job with it.  He’s a terrific editor and the three of us are also good friends.  We all met at the first meeting of our former screenwriting group in 2011.  I honestly knew that day that I had met two extremely talented people and that I wanted to work with both of them.  Mission accomplished in that regard.  We already have one short under our belts and number two is on the way.

I find it very helpful to have my editor involved in the entire filmmaking process, not just in post production.  It goes a long way toward ensuring that we get all the shots we need to put together a solid film.  In this case, Matt is also going to shoot the film.  He’s got a better camera than we used on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?, along with a lens kit and solid experience.  He’s very creative as well.  I needed to make a change in the director of photography position.  I am pleased with the visuals in ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? but it was not at all a good fit with the DP I used.  The director/DP relationship is essential.  That one adjustment will make a huge difference.  Cooper, Matt and I have mutual respect and the ability to work together for the overall good of the project.  That’s the main concern of all three of us: the quality of the finished film.

Matt liked the script we wrote and gave us just a few notes on things he thought would improve it.  We’ll do some revising.  In the meantime, the tasks of creating the schedule, budget, putting together the production team and fund raising are now upon us.  The start of a new project.  So exciting.

We’re Underway

As I mentioned previously, my partner and I finished the production draft of MY SPIRITED SISTER last week.  We’re now on the verge of preproduction and took the first steps this week.

On Tuesday, we came up with a schedule, setting the oh-so-important deadlines.  We’ll be launching our IndieGoGo campaign on July 17 and it will run through August 30.  That’s forty-five days, which statistics have shown is the optimal time frame.  We will then begin preproduction on September 3, the day after Labor Day, which will put us on track to begin shooting the last weekend in October.  Those dates are tentative as there are numerous factors to consider when scheduling shooting dates.  It is still good to have an overall time frame.

Today, we did our script breakdown.  That entails getting a page count for each scene and highlighting essential elements of each scene, cast members, extras, props, set dressings, etc.  This information is entered onto forms, one for each scene.  Using these forms, reports can be generated for all the necessary aspects of production.  In this way, we can make sure we have everything we need on set the day we shoot that scene.

Breaking down the script this way is also essential to creating the schedule.  It is common knowledge that films are generally not shot in sequence.  Scenes are scheduled to make the shoot faster and less expensive.  When all of the information for each scene is organized as I described, it is much easier to plan the schedule.

The job of script breakdown generally falls to the first assistant  director or the unit production manager and there is software available to do it.  The software is fairly expensive and we are still on a very low budget.  I did the breakdown myself, manually for ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?.  The books and mentors that I have consulted on directing recommend up and coming directors do the breakdown themselves in this manner in order to become familiar with the process.  Directing is like any other manager’s job.  It is very helpful to understand what everyone else does.

This time, since Cooper and I are co-directing, I had help.  Doing the breakdown manually is more time consuming, but it’s not difficult or tedious.  I honestly find it to be fun.  Perhaps my opinion will change with experience, but for now, it’s enjoyable.  We use colored pencils to underline the elements in each scene, using a different color for each category.  It kind of reminds me of arts and crafts from elementary school.

It’s also enjoyable because it signals the shift from writing to filmmaking.  I love both, but it gives me great pleasure to know that a script we have labored over will end up on the screen.  I enjoy the collaboration and camaraderie on set.  I also love the hectic atmosphere.  There are always curveballs popping up and being able to think on one’s feet and apply creative solutions is essential.  I love the challenge.

We will also continue to write throughout the entire process.  We’ve got to write the expanded screenplay that will enable us to turn MY SPIRITED SISTER into a feature someday.  So much fun being able to work hard on something we love.