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.

 

 

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This Is It!

Today was quite hectic.  It is now about 8 PM.  I just ate dinner.  I arrived home about an hour ago after running around the state of Connecticut since about 7 this morning.  Last minute details.  I had to go to pick up my prop camera, pick up a rental van, pick up my DP,  pick up the equipment we rented and get to my location.  Everyone one of those places in a different town.  I’m tired but happy.  We got our set ready to go and we’ll get off to a good start tomorrow.

As I looked around at the lights, C-stands, silks, flags and other equipment, I experienced some of that surreal feeling I had last night while shooting the marquee at the Warner Theater.  I’ve observed the action on film sets a few times in my life, but this was different.  This was my set.  This time, I’m the guy calling the shots and a huge responsibility sits on my shoulders.  I walked around, moving through the blocking for the scene, imagining what it will feel like when I’m performing and directing for real.

How many times have I thought about this?  Wondering what it would be like, if I would ever get the opportunity.  How would I handle it?  It’s been a long time coming, but the last several weeks flew by.  It’s pretty incredible how much we accomplished in a pre-production period that lasted only eight weeks.  My director of photography told me he thought what I’ve done is amazing, that he thought it was impossible to prepare for production that quickly.  Nice to be able to amaze.

Huge day tomorrow.  Not only do I have to direct my cast and crew, I’ve got to play my part well.  I want to make a great film.  I feel the pressure and the enormity of the situation.  It’s quite a load to carry, but when I push past the layers of insecurity, the little neuroses and get right down to my core, the truth is clear.  This thing is in the bag!  Like I have my entire life, when the heat is on, I will rise to the occasion and deliver the goods.

Production Has Begun

The opening shot of “Isn’t It Romantic?”

Although our first shooting day with the full crew is not until Saturday, October 13, production on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  technically began tonight when my director of photography and I took a trip to our movie theater location, the beautiful Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut, to get the opening shots.  The head of maintenance at the theater graciously dressed the marquee for us to display the title of Danny Kresky’s latest film along with my fictional counterpart’s name.  It was a cool but clear night and it went off without a hitch.  We got terrific shots of the marquee from several angles.  It will be a nice way to start the film.

I experienced a true thrill when we pulled up in front of the theater and I got a look at the marquee.  Throughout pre-production, although the majority of my attention was focused on the film, it still felt abstract.  It was all planning and as busy as I was, I never truly registered exactly what was happening.  Tonight, as I stood behind the camera, looking at the shot on the monitor, it all sunk in.  It was actually happening.  I was there capturing the first ever images for my first ever film.

Kind of a surreal moment.  How does one describe the feeling of finally experiencing a long time dream?  I was a bit overwhelmed and I wished my still photographer had been there to record the moment, at least for me.  But, no matter.  The sight of that gorgeous marquee lit up against the night sky displaying an image that I had created and placed on paper is permanently burned into my mind’s eye.

This is not only the first film I am directing, it is also the first of my screenplays to be produced and it will be my film acting debut.  As a writer, I got a charge out of seeing a scene in front of me that previously had only existed in my imagination.  It was different.  Much better than I initially saw it.  The theater I envisioned when I wrote the script was just that: a theater.  I ended up shooting it at a movie palace.  Very nice upgrade.

Saturday will take things to the next level.  We are shooting the longest and most complex scene of the film and I will have my actors and my crew to direct as well as my role to play.  A challenge to be sure, but one I eagerly await.  No matter what I accomplish in my filmmaking career, this first one will always be special.  I want to remember this thrill, the childlike feeling of a new and exciting experience and let it carry me in all my future work.

I’m not dreaming.  I’m really making a movie.

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.

Our Other Location

Warner Theater

The beautiful and historic Warner Theater in Torrington, CT, the location for the opening scene of “Isn’t It Romantic?”

 

The photo above is an approximation of the opening shot of the short film I am shooting, ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  The marquee displays the title of the fictitious film written and directed by the protagonist, Danny Kresky.  (For the record, SOUL MATE is the title of a feature screenplay of mine, a romantic comedy that has been generating some interest.  It was a contest finalist and one way or the other, it will be on the screen some day.)

The opening scene of our comedy short takes place at a movie theater.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was not able to get in touch with anyone at the theater two blocks from my house, or receive any help from the local film commission.  I was very fortunate.  That theater is a nice little venue, but look at that photo.  The Warner is gorgeous!

Built in the 30’s by Warner Brothers, and restored decades later, it is seriously one of the nicest theaters in the entire Northeast.  My co-writer, my director of photography and I took a tour of the incredible facility yesterday.  The scene is very brief and takes place in the lobby.  We were very tempted to rewrite it and include the auditorium.

The Warner has a number of programs to promote and support local performing artists.  Stage shows, concerts and programs for children are regularly held.  They were very receptive to allowing us to shoot there and are letting us do it for free.  That’s the kind of support independent filmmakers need to create original and entertaining movies.  The executive director was incredibly generous.  They are going to set up the marquee for us.  (It was photoshopped in the picture above)  They are also going to provide us with some extras for the background of the scene, and a place for the actors to rest and for us to set up our craft service tables.

We were so deeply moved by this show of generosity.  I feel as though our production has been blessed.  Things are going so well.  We have two truly beautiful locations that will add greatly to the production value.  I’ve got a great cast and crew.  An entire team working hard and dedicated to making a great film.

This whole venture is succeeding beyond anything I could have imagined.  The heat is on.  All the elements are in place.  No excuses.  I’ve got to guide this team and bring it home.  Luckily for me, I thrive under pressure.

Did anyone notice my absence?

I haven’t posted anything in awhile.  That has most likely gone unnoticed, and in fact, there’s a very good chance no one is reading this now.  But, on the off chance that some poor soul who reached an extreme state of boredom was looking for a post from me, I apologize.  Directing a movie is quite a task.  Particularly on a micro budget, when you have to do multiple jobs.  I just have not had the time.

We shoot in less than six weeks.  Things have been going amazingly well.  But for every element that slides neatly into place, there seem to be three others that still need to located.  It’s like climbing a mountain and every time you get to the top, it grows another hundred feet.

I’ll catch you up quickly in this post.  I’ve got a production meeting in a few hours.  I’ll try to get a more entertaining post up later.  (I know.  The movie stuff is boring.  You want details of my issues and how I’m dealing with them.)

We’ve got our crowd funding campaign up on IndieGoGo. www.indiegogo.com/Isnt-It-Romantic?  We’ve gotten three donations so far, which is not a bad start considering we launched over Labor Day weekend.  I placed an ad on Facebook for our fan page and we’re picking up some likes.

This Saturday, we are shooting a short promotional video for IndieGoGo and we will probably put it on YouTube.  Sunday is auditions at a rented studio in the Theater District.  Pretty cool, huh?  We placed an online ad on BackStage and we have gotten submissions from some really good actors who are willing to work free.  We’re going to have a good cast.  That’s essential.

I’m working on organizing our meetings better.  We’ve got so much to do in so little time.  We actually need to be better organized and prepared than a studio production.  We don’t have the resources or manpower to do reshoots or fix problems that a big production would, so everything has to be in place.

We’ve also found a movie theater for our opening scene.  There’s a theater two blocks from my house that has a classic Art Deco movie house look.  We are not using that one.  The town I live in has a film commission, but they are only interested when Hollywood comes calling.  They are terrible about returning phone calls and emails.  I tried to contact the movie theater directly.  Same problem.  I will NEVER shoot a frame of anything in this town.  In fact, my goal is to someday shoot a feature with one scene in every town that borders on the one in which I currently live.

As I said, we do have a theater.  I sent an email to the executive director of the Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut, a beautiful and historic building.  He answered in half an hour, said it was doable, let’s talk.  Now, there’s support for local independent filmmakers!

Now, on to the other million things I need to do.  Better posts coming.  I promise.