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.

Day 3 Is Done and I Got My Gray Skies!

Today was the third day of production on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and despite a late start and a shorthanded crew, things went extremely well.  We shot all exteriors and got excellent footage.  Overall, I would say it was our best day so far.  And the weather cooperated!

The first shots we captured were of Danny and Diana departing their home in their car and arriving at and entering the inn.  As I posted before, both locations in the same house.  My first day shooting exteriors, my car’s film debut and my first time driving in a film.  We got terrific shots of all the car stuff.  There’s one I particularly like with the car parked in front of the inn.  Diana is seen through the passenger side window, while Danny leans down to open her door.  Reflected in one side of the window is the inn, on the other side, Danny’s face.  It’s a really creative and beautiful shot and credit for it has to go to my DP.  Very well done.

We planned to shoot the Kreskys departing their home in the back entrance to our location property.  It didn’t look that nice though.  The house next door had beautiful pillars and looked really nice.  The owner of that home very graciously allowed us to get the shots of the car exiting his driveway.  Very nice.

I felt even more on top of things as a director than I did previously, despite the fact that I also had to act.  I felt much happier with my performance as well.  We shot the final scene where Danny and Diana argue and then make up.  It looked beautiful!  There were still nicely colored leaves on the trees, my sky was gray and it was all hazy and romantic.  The light was so beautiful, I almost cried!

I did pay a price for my gray skies.  It was cold!  I was in a mock turtleneck with sleeves rolled up and no jacket.  Just what the script called for.  It was cold  but I tried to tough it out, even when my co-star wrapped herself in a sound blanket between takes.  And she was wearing a jacket!  I told everyone how I was like the players on my favorite football team, the Giants, when they played in the 2007 NFC Championship game in Green Bay and it was forty below and they were in short sleeves.   The cold did get to me eventually and I took my script supervisor’s advice when she insisted I use a sound blanket as well.

Lots of fun too.  For the first time, we had a few forgotten and blown lines by both of us, which is always funny.  The crew also got a big kick of of my failed attempts to charge down a steep, stone staircase into the argument.  Much tougher than I thought it would be.  You know how you when you watch the outtakes of a film, it looks like they’re having so much fun?  Let me tell you, we do!

I also shot my first onscreen kiss and I was much more nervous than I would have anticipated.  I’ve done stage kisses before and normally never get nervous while performing, but I was tense all day.  My co-writer and co-star noticed it when I was talking non-stop.  As she well knows, I chatter at top speed when I’m nervous.  When we broke for lunch, I realized I was uptight about the kiss.  The problem is I am really attracted to my co-star and have been for a long time.  We’re just friends and I’m fine with that, but I can’t help but feel what I feel and it’s taking me some time to get over her.

I spent some time alone during lunch getting myself together.  When we were set up to shoot the scene with the kiss, my co-star, realizing what was happening, teased me about it.  That actually helped relax me, and after a few takes, I settled in and did the scene pretty well I thought.  It’s an authentic looking fight and love scene if I do say so myself and now I feel really good about it.  I even finally confessed to my friend and colleague how attractive I find her.  It was good to finally get that out of me and now I can relax and enjoy our friendship.

Good day for food too.  We have typical low budget indie meals, cold cuts and stuff.  But the owner of the house made us a big pot of lentil ham soup that was delicious!  Very pleasant surprise on a cold day.  After the shoot, I took my DP, 1st AD and Script Supervisor out to dinner and we had a great time.

We wrap tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to another great day and getting production done so we can move on to post and a finished film.  I will miss the shooting part of it though.  Making a movie is hard work but it is so much fun!

Gray Skies Part 2

My favorite sky over the beauty of autumn leaves.

In an earlier post, I discussed how I prefer gray skies in films and in life.  In just six days we resume production on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  Weather permitting, all the shooting will be exteriors and that includes the climatic final scene.  There is a hurricane that is supposed to move through our area early next week.  We should see quite a bit of rain.  It’s supposed to be gone well before we shoot on Friday.  I certainly hope so.  But, I so badly want it to leave the overcast behind.

I went into this in a fair amount of detail in the other post.  However, I went for a long walk this morning and took a good look at my surroundings.  I snapped some photos with my cell camera.  I’m in another one of my melancholy moods.  Not depressed at all, and honestly, I’m in really good spirits overall.  I’m very pleased with the way the movie is going and excited to get back to it.  I’ve also started a feature screenplay with my writing partner.  We’re off to a great start and I am very excited about that project as well.  My future abounds with possibilities.  It’s just the contrast between what’s happening in my movie, to what happens in my life.

As I looked through the haze at the warmly colored leaves under the gray expanse of clouds, I thought more about why this atmospheric condition affects me the way it does.  Why do I associate love and romance with what other people would consider dreary weather?

More beautiful foliage under a melancholy sky.

Fall for me, has always been a melancholy time of year.  Summer is my favorite season and seeing it end makes me feel a little sad.  As a child, summer was a season of freedom, and although I loved learning, the return of school was a loss of that freedom.  So autumn has always made me a little blue.  Over the last decade or so, I’ve grown to really appreciate the beauty of the changing leaves and even enjoy the brisk cooler weather that fall brings.  Also the anticipation of the start of the holiday season beginning with Thanksgiving.  Still, though, the sadness lingers.

I was originally planning to shoot ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  in the summer.  For financial and logistical reasons, that wasn’t possible.  I’m glad it worked out that way because I’m much more satisfied with the story taking place against the backdrop of fall.  Today, I dug further into my thoughts and feelings and came up with more reasons for why I like overcast days.

What do people think of when they hear the words “love” and “romance”?  For many, I suppose it’s reasonable to say they would think of a spouse or significant other, the person they love.  Others might think of traditional symbols, hearts, flowers, candlelight, moonlight.  I’m sure weather wise,  most people think of the warmth of the sun, blue skies and clear nights, traditionally happy conditions.

I can’t think of a significant other when I hear those words because I don’t have one.  I’ve never been married and I haven’t had a girlfriend in a long, long time.  To be perfectly honest, it’s unlikely that I ever will again.  So for me, romance is an abstract concept.  Actually more than abstract, it’s fictional.  It only exists in literature, plays and films.  Only in my dreams.  That’s what gray, hazy and overcast days do.  They impart a dreamlike quality to everything.  That’s why I need that in my film.  It’s pure fantasy, a dream.  I need it to look that way because what happens in the movie is so implausible.  It could never happen in real life.

It’s such an important part of why I do what I do.  I’ve always had little fantasies.  We all do.  I just need to play them out someplace.  That’s why I write and why I’ve started making films.  I have all this stuff inside of me, things that I feel uncomfortable sharing.  I have to get them out.  If I put them on the screen, it won’t change my life, but at least I can do something positive with them.  Entertain people and maybe make a slight difference in somebody’s life.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.  No rain on November 2, but please give me my gray sky.

Taking Stock

The handful of you who actually follow my blog (I don’t know how you do it, even I get sick of me!) know that I’ve been in a melancholy mood lately.  I’ve been allowing myself to be overly affected by a little roller coaster ride I’ve been on for almost a year now.  I keep looking at the film I’m shooting and seeing all the things I have yet to accomplish.  It’s a bad habit I have.  I tend to look at the goals ahead of me and worry about what I haven’t done.  At least once in awhile, I need to take a look back at everything that I have accomplished.  I’m not doing so bad.

Since I was in high school, I’ve wanted to make a movie.  I would think about it, what it would be like, how exciting it would be.  I’ve waited a long time for that and now it’s happening.  I realized I’ve already accomplished a lot.  I’ve got two absolutely beautiful locations that will greatly add to the production value of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  We are using them at a cost that easily fits our budget.  I managed that with my passion and personality.

I’ve got an excellent cast.  We’re not talking friends and family or community theater actors.  I’ve got four, experienced well-trained, professional actors.  As for me, I’m a stand up comic.  I can do anything!  I’ll be great in my part.  My cast likes the script.  They’re eager to go.  I have no doubt they will do an outstanding job.

Of course, I have plenty of help.  My production team is working hard and they are dedicated.  I realized that I motivated them.  They liked my script, they believe in me.  They picked up on my passion and energy.  I’m doing what a good director is supposed to do.  Leading my team.

Four weeks ago when we started preproduction there was a huge list of details that I sweated.  There were questions about whether or not eight weeks was enough time to get ready.  That list is now considerably smaller.  We are right on track and as long as everyone is diligent, we will be ready for production on October 13.

I may not have everything I want, but I am living out a life long dream.  How many people can say that?  And who knows?  If this film comes out as well as I hope, I just might be able get what I want the most.  Sorry, I can’t reveal what that is.  Let’s just say it would blow away the gray skies and I would be genuinely happy.

Melancholia: Why My Skies Are Always Gray

Things continue to progress nicely for ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  Tomorrow, I’ll finish my shot list and storyboards and Sunday afternoon, I have a meeting with my director of photography, editor and first assistant director.  We’ll put together the schedule for each day of shooting.  Once we have that level of preparation, the shoot will go smoother.  We will be better able to handle any curveballs that may be tossed our way.

Other members of my team met today to work on set design, wardrobe and props.  I have a team of dedicated and talented individuals who believe in this project every bit as much as I do.  Just about everything is in place.  Of course, one thing that we can’t control is the weather.  We can only hope it cooperates during our exterior scenes.

Shooting in October in the Northeast will give us the beautiful colors of fall on the trees.  The final scene of the movie takes place outside, and there are numerous trees on the private estate where we’re shooting.  It should be beautiful, especially for a film about romance.  Naturally, we are hoping for no rain and mild temperatures.  Personally, I am also rooting for gray skies.

A bright, blue sky with a  few puffy clouds is the standard “perfect” weather scenario.  But I’ve seen enough movies in my day to know that a gray sky with a little haze adds a much more romantic feel to a movie.  It’s wistful, just a little melancholy.  It adds a dreamlike feel to the film.  After all, movies are often compared to dreams, and they sure as hell are nothing like real life.

I love gray skies in real life as well.  I feel as though they are the backdrop of my life.  They define my most common mood.  Blue and sunny doesn’t cut it, nor does dark and stormy.  Just gray, with the sun occasionally looking like it will break through, but it never does.  Melancholy.  That’s me.

I’m in a reflective mood tonight, so bear with me.  I know I’m rambling, but that’s my style.  I’m just throwing my thoughts down.  I’ve always loved going to the movies.  It’s about escape for me.  In the darkness of a movie theater, I am able to get my mind off all the things I don’t want to think about.  It’s the only place that happens.  It’s what I hope my films can provide for someone out there like me.

It’s often a difficult transition when the movie is over.  I watch a comedy where the smart, funny guy wins the girl; beats the really good looking jerk.  It’s a good feeling.  Then the lights come up and I look at the empty seat next to me.  It’s back to reality, where things like that NEVER happen.  Melancholy.  Gray skies.

Now, I’m directing my first film and also playing the lead.  I’m playing a married man with an amazing wife.  It’s more escapism.  That will never happen to me in real life.  What will it feel like when we’re finished with the film?  When reality rears it’s ugly head again.  No matter how well this film does, deep inside, I won’t be truly happy.  I will never be.

I’m very fortunate in that I’m a tough little bastard.  This would destroy a lesser man.