Preproduction

Now that we have our funding, Cooper and I are moving on to the next phase in the filmmaking process for MY SPIRITED SISTER, preproduction. This is a vital stage in the process, where we will make sure we have everything we need to shoot this film when principal photography starts.

Those of you who were reading my blog last year may remember many of the steps in the preparation of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? We will be once again using the standard eight week time frame. Preproduction officially starts this Tuesday, September 3rd when we meet with our Line Producer/Unit Production Manager and Director of Photography, but we’ve already started the work. I actually began the day after the crowd funding campaign ended.

Although production is my favorite part of filmmaking, I really enjoy every phase. There are many chores in preproduction that are not necessarily difficult or tedious, they’re just not especially fun. For example, the first chore is putting together the budget. Last year, I hired someone to do it, but I’ve learned a lot since then, so Cooper and I are doing it ourselves. It’s really not that hard, just a necessary task. It’s one of what I call the “paperwork” tasks, along with obtaining insurance, setting up the contract with SAG/AFTRA and creating the many documents needed.

My favorite part of preproduction is casting. I really like meeting new people and I love actors, so it’s natural that I would enjoy casting. It’s also fun because that’s when the characters we created start to come to life. As we did last year in ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?we already have our leads cast, but we do have other roles to fill. We’ll take our time doing it and run a professional casting session. I’ll discuss it in greater detail when we get there, but it really is fun.

Location scouting is another task I really enjoy. Much like casting, we get to see the environments of the movie take shape. We also get to meet more new people. We do have one location already chosen, We’ll be shooting a scene at Jimmy and Cooper’s house. This week, Cooper and I were doing some polishing on the script and it was pretty cool when we were working on that scene, while sitting in the location where we’ll shoot it. Things like that amuse me!

Analyzing the script is also great fun. It’s hard work but it’s a chance to be very creative. We’ll go over it with a microscope, visualizing the entire film and planning the shots, as well as preparing notes for our actors. With the help of floor plans and photos of the locations, we’ll create our shot lists. Our DP wants storyboards. You may remember my frustration last year with my failed attempts to draw stick figure storyboards. I’m not even going to attempt it this time. There is software for storyboard creation and that’s how we plan to do it. I have many talents, but drawing is not one of them. I will be better able to hold on to my sanity.

Filling out the crew is another fun task. Again, we get to meet people. I always chat with anyone that we consider bringing on to the team. I need to get a feel for their personalities to make sure we can work together even after long, tiring hours. There were a couple of personality conflicts last year that were very distracting. This time, we’re going to put together a more experienced and dedicated crew. 

Time for me to get back to work on the budget. Stay tuned, boys and girls. This is where the fun starts. The making of MY SPIRITED SISTER. I’ll be bringing it to you as it happens.

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.