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.

A Hit in Wales!

Today, at 4:45 PM local time, ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? made its world premiere.  My editor was there and he reported that the film was well received.  The audience laughed, they were engaged and thoroughly enjoyed it.  After, there was a brief Q and A and he answered several questions about our team, the making of the film and how we raised the money.

What a terrific feeling!  My co-writer and I were emailing and texting each other around the time of the screening and we were very excited when we received the report.  So exciting to know that the project we work and sweated over, pouring in our talent and passion got out there in the world and did what it was supposed to: entertain a group of people.

This continues to be an amazing experience.  My hopes were to appeal to an international audience.  Domestic success alone is no longer enough to thrive in the film industry.  We reached a European audience.  Fantastic.

We’ve submitted to three other festivals thus far and have a list of others we will also try.  Next on tap is the New York International Shorts Festival.  They’ve got our film and the notification date is April 19.  I would love to get into that one.  Great festival in the biggest market in the country, which also happens to be my home town.  I will be there for that one if we’re accepted.

My writing partner and I are also working on the next project.  We plan to have the script finished by the end of the month at which point we’ll begin fund raising.  The life of an indie filmmaker.  Easy?  No.  Rewarding?  So far, very!

An Amazing Day for “Isn’t It Romantic?” and Me

Diana and Danny Scene 4

Today, April 4, 2013 will be a day I will never forget.  Two terrific events occurred.  The first was a nice surprise that we all worked to earn.  The second was something I never thought would happen again.

About three weeks ago, I sent a copy of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? to film critic Phil Hall of FilmThreat.com.  FilmThreat is a well established site that covers movies, particularly independent films.  A friend and fellow writer ran into Phil and told him about my project.  Phil was interested and told my friend he would like to review it.  So when it was finished, I took him up on his offer.

The review was posted today.  You can read it here: FilmThreat.com Review  Not only did Mr. Hall take the time to watch ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and review it, he also stopped by our Facebook page, liked it and posted the link to the review with a positive comment.  I am truly grateful.

A very exciting moment.  The first review of my first film.  And it’s a good one.  I’m humbled.  Phil Hall is an experienced and respected critic and film actor who has had his work published in “The New York Times” and “The New York Daily News” and has written several books.  It’s a great feeling to know that something that I poured my passion and sweat into has proven to be entertaining.

From the moment I came up with the concept, it was my intention to make a good film.  There is a growing body of evidence that says, “We did”.

The second event may seem ordinary to most of you, but it was remarkable to me.  For the first time since August of 1997, I went on a date.  I seriously never thought that would happen again in my lifetime.  I spent a very pleasant afternoon with a lovely woman.  Bright, attractive and a lot of fun, we truly enjoyed each other’s company.  I feel like a sports team that has finally made the playoffs after a long stretch of losing seasons.

I came home feeling better than I have in ages, then I find the review.  April 4, 2013.  A day that will live in … well, not infamy … but you get the idea.

“Isn’t It Romantic?”‘s World Premiere

The official selection laurel of the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival.

The official selection laurel of the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival.

With ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?’ now completely finished, the only task left is promotion, marketing and distribution.  I say “only”, but it is a very big task.  So far, it is going very well.

Ten days from today, April 10, our quirky, funny romantic comedy short makes its world premiere at the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival in  Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales.  It’s a very exciting time for all of us who worked on the film.  We’ve shown it to the cast and crew as well as selected family and friends, but this will be the first time it will be viewed by an actual impartial audience.

The venue is the Stradey Park Hotel, a beautiful building, at least from the pictures I’ve seen.  I would love to be able to attend with my co-writer, but logistics dictate that we can’t.  However, my editor has family in Wales and will be attending with his wife and daughter.  He’s going to represent us and handle the Q & A session.  So we’re in very capable hands.

We’ve also begun submitting to other festivals.  We’re shooting for exposure in major cities, both domestic and international where we will have a chance for industry professionals to see the movie.  We’re very proud of what we accomplished.  My co-writer and I have a new script that we are developing for our next project, which we plan to shoot late summer.

I’ll keep you up to date on the progress of both projects.

The movie is now listed on IMDB.  Take a look.  ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? on IMDB

In the Home Stretch

My onscreen directing credit for "Isn't It Romantic?"

My onscreen directing credit for “Isn’t It Romantic?”

There it is, boys and girls.  My actual directing credit, captured from the final cut of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  One of my long time dreams come true.  My editor took my basic white letters on black and tweaked it nicely.  The sign is part of the marquee of the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT where we shot the opening scene.  Woody Allen-ish, but my own unique take.  Very nice.

This past Tuesday, we had the first public screening of the movie.  It was for my cast, crew and family and friends.  The film is still not quite finished, it still needs a sound mix and color correction, but we have picture lock and the team was anxious to see it.  We had a little party and projected it onto a screen, the only way a movie should be seen.

It was a nice night, a success.  The film got a good round of applause and we watched it twice.  I got a rush of adrenaline I haven’t felt since my stand up days.  It was wonderful seeing the team again and reveling in our achievement.  Great to reminisce about the fun we had making it.

We had a professional sound mixer who was going to do the mix for free.  He was a friend of my cowriter.  Unfortunately, he had to drop out due to other commitments.  No problem at all.  I am really getting the hang of filmmaking.  Networking is rapidly becoming one of my skills.  I put out some feelers and picked up a number of candidates.  Today, we chose a very good mixer who is going to do the job for a price that fits the budget.  We also received a very generous donation from one of Tuesday night’s guests to pay for the mixer.  This project has been blessed.

Needless to say, I am feeling very good indeed.  I am expanding my skill set and my contacts.  I feel very good about my future in filmmaking.  My cowriter and I are working on a feature length romantic comedy and we also have a short in the works to shoot later this year, most likely late spring or summer.  I am even thinking of shooting two shorts this year, maybe another in the fall.

“ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?” is going to get plenty of festival exposure.  We have already been accepted to one.  We are going to be reviewed by an online film magazine and I am looking into several avenues of distribution.  My goal from day one was not merely to make a movie, but to make a good movie.  Mission accomplished.  I now have something nice to show potential investors for future projects.  Projects about which I will blog.  Can’t let down my loyal fans.

I am truly thrilled.  So nice to finally see that directed by credit. 

 

Caption Contest!

Caption this photo to win a signed poster that was used in "Isn't It Romantic?"

Caption this photo to win a signed poster that was used in “Isn’t It Romantic?”

As post production continues on ISNT’ IT ROMANTIC?, I’m also making efforts to promote the film.  It’s actually starting to take on a life of its own and we’re generating a little buzz.  I would like to make that buzz bigger.  So I came up with an idea.

We are running a contest on the movie’s Facebook fan page.  The photo above is a screen capture taken from the film’s footage.  Interestingly, it did not occur during a take, so it’s not an interaction between characters, but rather between director and actor.  I thought the body English and facial expressions were interesting, so I chose it for the contest.

Visitors to the FB page can leave a caption as a comment.  The contest runs until January 31.  The writer of the best caption will receive a poster for Danny Kresky’s fictitious film, SOUL MATE.  The poster was used as set dressing in the opening scene of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and it will be signed by yours truly and Cooper Campbell, pictured here with me.  So, you essentially get six autographs, the two writers, the two lead actors, the main producer and the director!  What a prize!

Margie Ferris (left) and Madeline Jaye rehearse their scene on the set on Day 2.  In the background is the prize poster.

Margie Ferris (left) and Madeline Jaye rehearse their scene on the set on Day 2. In the background is the prize poster.

So check out our fan page.  Enter the contest, look at the outtakes and like us!  Who knows, you may end up with a piece of movie memorabilia.  ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? is rapidly nearing completion and will be hitting the festival circuit very soon.

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!

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.

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.

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.