Week One Tasks

The first week of preproduction is now well underway. Cooper and I are up to our elbows in work, but we’re off to a great start and on track. Her organizational skills are vital to this partnership. I contribute boundless energy, dogged tenacity and the ability to do more than one thing at a time. I do need to have someone help put my focus in the right place., which takes us back to Coop. Complimentary skill sets, just like when we’re writing.

We formed a new production company. Last year, we called it Chegg Productions, a name coined by our editor Matt, a combination of “chicken” and “egg”, as in, which comes first. We are now 202 Productions, named after Cafe 202, a coffee shop on Route 202 where we did a lot of the writing of MY SPIRITED SISTER. 202 Productions is officially registered as a business, and we’ve got a business bank account for our funding. Much better for keeping track of the budget.

We’ve also got the first draft of our budget. In films, budgets are revised, just as scripts are. We have almost double the funding we had last year, but we still need to spend it wisely. Using what we learned while making ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? has been a huge help.

We also have our shooting dates locked in. Six day shoot, the first three weekends in November. No three week break in between like we had last year. What a momentum killer that was. So glad we don’t have to do that again.

We’ve got our Line Producer/Unit Production Manager, Director of Photography, Editor, Gaffer, Sound Recordist, Post Production Sound Mixer, Hair and Make up artist and our 1st assistant director for the first weekend. It’s a great start. We’ve got feelers out for a Script Supervisor, Production Coordinator and Production Assistants.

We’ve started discussing casting and a couple of actors have asked us for the opportunity to audition. Very nice. It’s a great project and people are interested. It’s always helpful when your cast and crew are excited about the film.

Casting is really one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire filmmaking process. Cooper and I both love it. We were very excited to discuss it today in a phone call. We’re really eager to start seeing actors as well as begin rehearsals.

Location scouting is also one the tasks we are starting. It’s fun too and essential to our success. We’re also hoping to find an art director/production designer. That was one of the areas where ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? was lacking. This time, we don’t want to neglect that aspect of production.

That’s enough of my rambling. You’re up to date. Nothing truly exciting has happened, but it will. Stay tuned.

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Day 2

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?”

Sorry for the delay on this post.  There are so many things to do each day, even on non-shooting days.  I’ve finally found some time to file a report.  Day 2 went well, less hectic, but the inexperienced crew members have a few things to learn.

This Sunday, we shot the opening scene of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? at the Warner Theater.  It was a much shorter day as the scene will only run about thirty seconds and it required fewer shots.  Additionally, I’m not in that scene so I was able to focus all of my attention on directing.

Things went very well.  I made a change on the fly on Day 2 as well.  Not nearly as dramatic as my move to get us back on schedule on Day 1, but I did substitute a different set up for the purpose of a smoother transition in editing.  Flexibility is always important in filmmaking and I am fortunate to have my editor on set to advise me in these matters.  That’s an important part of being a good director.  Listening to your department heads when it comes to their fields of expertise.  Unfortunately, you also sometimes get advice from non-experts who wish to help.

I have a number of crew members who have solid experience on movie sets.  I trust their judgement and listen carefully to what they have to say.  The final decisions are always mine, and they understand that.  The less experienced members of my crew are a different.  I need to speak to them at our next production meeting before we resume shooting.  They mean well, but cause distractions.

My 1st assistant director is terrific.  He’s been involved in filmmaking for forty years and gives me the space I need.  I need to instruct everyone in protocol.  A movie set is not a democracy.  The director is the emperor and his or her word is law.  There is a chain of command, much like in the military with a movie crew.  Any questions or concerns are addressed to one’s department head.  The department head reports to the 1st AD, who then goes to the director if necessary.

Sunday was not too bad.  Saturday was worse.  I had inexperienced people following me around commenting on whether or not I had enough make up on, telling they didn’t hear a line when they were twenty feet away in another room.  That kind of thing.  It was worse that day because I had my role to play as well as direct.  I’m going to tactfully go over set etiquette.  I’m sure they will respond well.

Margie Ferris (left) and Madeline Jaye rehearse their scene on the set on Day 2.

Sunday was a very pleasant shooting day.  My actors were terrific and so nice to work with.  They told me how much they enjoyed working with me and complimented my directorial style.  Not bad for a rookie.  I had a nice group of background actors too.  My co-star and writer brought a group of teenage girls who were so excited to be in a movie.  The kids were amazing.  I let them improvise some dialogue and they were natural and energetic and added so much to the scene.  It warmed my heart to see the joy on their faces.

I felt very good all day.  I was so excited after Day 1 that I only got about two hours of sleep, but my adrenaline keep me going.  I was on my feet all day, no director’s chair for me.  I was really comfortable with the whole process.  I’ve always picked things up quickly and directing seems to be following suit.

I’m really looking forward to resuming shooting on November 2.  Many things for me to do in the meantime.  I want to plan some nice camera moves for the rest of the film and I’m in every scene that we shoot from here on out.  More rehearsal time.  On November 2, we shoot my first onscreen kiss.  Lucky for me it’s in front of the camera.  I’ll have no problem because I’m performing.  In real life, I would be terrified.

At any rate, I’m pleased overall at how things are going.  There’s room for improvement and I plan to have an even better Day 3 and 4.  I’ve got to do this again.  It’s so much fun.

 

 

A Delicate Balance

I’ve already discussed the differences between writing and directing.  When writing, the sky is limit.  I can create anything my little heart desires.  Staging all those wonderful things and capturing them on camera is another story, especially when money and time are limited.

It is a balancing act.  I am staying true to my original concept for ISN’T ROMANTIC?, but I’ve got to plan my shots within the parameters of what we can afford and what can be done in a reasonable amount of time.  It’s not easy, but with the right effort, it is possible.  The key is effective communication and respect between myself and key members of my team.  Things are going beautifully in that regard.

I had a meeting this afternoon with my director of photography and my first assistant director, two of the most important members of my crew.  The DP is the eyes of a film and using his technical and creative skills, gives a director the images needed to tell the story in the way the director envisions.  The DP is the second highest ranking person on set and runs the crew.  The 1st AD runs the set.  He calls crew and cast to the set, calls for quiet and keeps everything running so the director can focus on the creative aspects of the film.  And in my case, playing my role.

The two guys I have in those positions are terrific.  Both are much more experienced than I am. They offer advice and suggestions without being condescending and with respect for my vision for the film.  They always explain why they are proposing their ideas and what the benefits would be.  They’re much more tech savvy than I am and understand visual storytelling.   I enjoyed myself very much at the meeting, learned more things about lighting and we are closer to being ready for production, which begins in a mere three weeks.

On a less positive note, we’ve had our first glitch.  I knew it was coming sooner or later, things were going much too smoothly.  The family who owns the house we are shooting in, will be out of town on the last scheduled day of our shoot.  A problem to be sure, but just a speed bump.  A good director solves problems and always has a plan B.  I proposed a couple of solutions to my guys, and my AD came up with a good alternate schedule.  It will push back the finish of production a couple of weeks, but will actually make things easier and give us more time to get things right.  And not cost us any more money.  I’ve got to run it by the team at our production meeting Tuesday night.

A huge positive is that we are in excellent shape financially.  I’m going to bring this movie in considerably under budget.  A very good thing for a director to be able to do, especially since I would like to make a movie with a big budget for a big production company some day.  Always a plus when you can save them some money.

Money, time, creativity.  It’s a juggling act.  So far, I’ve got all the balls still in the air.  I think I’m getting the hang of this.