Monday, September 16, 2013

Kickstarting a One Day Feature Film Shoot

Kickstarting a One Day Feature Film Shoot

The question of how long does it take to shoot a feature film has come up many times during the last year or so at this blog. Today I would like to introduce you to a project that is to be shot in one day.

The name of the film is The Movie Zombie. (The Movie Zombie is a found footage comedy project where two filmmakers strike out with a hundred dollars in their pockets and shoot a feature... in one day. Part horror film, part mockumentary, The Movie Zombie defies the conventional wisdom that you need big bucks to make a feature. Leaving production value at the door and focusing just on pure entertainment, The Movie Zombie is one found footage film that will be so terrible it will be hilariously good times. )

Reading that description led to me asking for and to get an interview with the film maker
Michael T. Snyder. Michael is full time video production specialist and photographer for a
Pittsburgh based consumer electronics company. You can visit his blog Machinations into Madness by clicking here.   Or his personal blog by clicking here.

Okay let’s get to the interview.

The first question is of course what is The Movie Zombie about?

-The story behind The Movie Zombie is pretty basic. It plays on a lot of cliches found behind zombie and found footage films. The movie opens with four people driving down the road where their car breaks down, they find shelter in a cabin in the woods, then they are slowly picked off as the zombie element introduces itself. However we also introduce the behind the scenes right along with the film's narrative. So this film offers many layers to it. The zombie angle, the film making angle along with the filmmakers who are trying to complete this film in one day, because well they think they are awesome enough to do it. We take liberties with breaking the immersion behind the plot. In the beginning the filmmakers say "what you're about to watch is absolutely true", you know, like what every other found footage film out there says. However throughout the film the audience sees the crew. -

The movie inside a movie thing has been done, but rarely as a comedy and I do not believe that it has ever been done in the found footage genre. What is the inspiration for this project?

-To really appreciate and understand why we are producing the Movie Zombie, it's important to know who I am and the journey as a filmmaker I've taken. In all of the productions I produced myself, I always had a stern eye towards the best possible looking film. I mean, who wouldn't want their finished product looking the best it could? However the trade off to that is it's expensive not to mention exhausting. I always wanted to produce my own feature. I think as a filmmaker, that is something we all want to do. I've never done it so far as I knew I couldn't quite pull off the sort of film I would be proud of. However that all changed when me and my film school buddy Donnie Kenney thought of the "Movie Zombie". This project really is about going back to basics. I have many great memories in film school and just taking a camera and going on a shoot. of course those videos were terrible, but it didn't matter. We were having fun and creating something we wanted to laugh at. The Movie Zombie allows us to do that. We leave production value at the door for sake of just pure fun while making the film. In a way, we poke fun at ourselves as filmmakers. -

During the past four months I have being using my free time to work on an ebook about making found footage films. This means that I have seen over a hundred of these films this year alone. I made the mistake of watch Rec and Rec 2 first (great little horror films) and then it was quickly down hill from there, Apollo 18 anyone heard of it? Do you go into this genre with a love of genre or a wish that someday something will come along new and original?

-As a general rule of thumb, I hate found footage films. I hate how they are presented as true, but clearly they are fake. I watched Paranormal Activity with a friend of mine. He kept asking me "is this real?" Over and over I told him "no, it's not real". There are only a few found footage films that I've actually enjoyed; Chronicle for the multi-camera angles they use throughout the film, and the Quarantine movies. Apollo 18 was OK, but I don't really remember anything from it. So that must say something about how I enjoyed it.-

-I feel sorry you've had to subject yourself to so many found footage films. Hopefully the Movie Zombie isn't the one that does you in.-

Two film makers, one hundred dollars and one day; it will be that way on film, but are you going to actually attempt a shooting schedule that insane?

-Yes, we really are going to shoot the whole thing in one day. From sun up till midnight - that is our filming schedule.-

Again, for everyone reading this. You are going to make this happen in one shooting day? This will be feature length?

-Our shooting schedule is one day. That's it. You could say it's our gimmick to try and get people to watch our abomination. But really, it's just a fun day of shooting film. Since this is a comedy, we can get away with low production values. We will be shooting only in one take per scene, then moving on to the next scene. It's sort of like an orchestrated play. -

Many look at comedy and think that it can be made up as you go along, but it is usually as scripted in the same way as action sequences. What percentage is going to be scripted and how much is going to be improv?

-My film buddy Donnie Kenney and myself went to a McDonalds a few weeks ago. There we spent five hours developing the outline for the feature on note cards. We don't have a script. We really don't know what to expect on shoot day. For instance, we don't know how many actors will show up. So we will need to be flexible enough to shoot on the fly, just like back in our film school days. So really, most of this movie will be improved. Our pitch video was completely improved along with a lot of comedy that we've done in the past. We just outline the scene, then let Hell break loose.-

Being the director of the film and the star of the film has been done as far back as Buster Keaton, but rarely in this genre. Will this be your first time acting and who will be playing the other film maker in the film?

-I love to act, but I'm terrible at it. When you watch our pitch video for the Movie Zombie, I'm "Silent Screws". I've acted a lot in previous film projects, mostly all from college. Biggest challenge I have with acting is that I feel that everyone is judging me, so that makes me nervous. I've gotten better at it, but I certainly don't submit to casting calls. The actor playing the other filmmaker is Donnie Kenney. Unlike me, he IS an actor, so he'll feel right at home in front of the camera. He knows about film production so he will be right up there with me producing this monster. -

Dslr cameras have their place in the film making world, but for an one day feature film shoot I would think camcorder based upon battery life and ease of use. What camera are you going to be using to shoot this film?

-I will be using a Canon 60D mounted on a shoulder rig. I have a pistol grip with a AA battery adapter so I'm not concerned with battery life. I also got lots of SD cards so I'm not worried about memory. Really, we are going to moving pretty quickly through this thing, so there's no time for nature shots. I really love shooting with DSLRs. They are a pretty cheap means of capturing a scene and their colors are typically amazing. If we had the budget, I would really love to look into the Black Magic Cinema camera. From what I've seen from that camera, it's pretty sexy. -

How many other films have you worked on?

-I've been working on film for the past six years. In that time I have worked over 15 shorts films, either my own or someone elses. I've also worked on four features including "Unstoppable" with Denzel Washington, "Dark Knight Rises" with Christian Bale, "Out of the Furnace" with Christian Bale, and the indie movie "Enter the Zombie".-

I understand that you went to film school. Can you learn to be a quality film maker without it? Also did you learn more in school or working on a film set?

-I realized halfway through school that I was merely putting in time to get a piece of paper saying I graduated. I thought about quitting, but to be honest, if someone is looking for a full time job in production, most companies want that piece of paper. Now most of what I learned, I learned on set. Theory is all fine and all or even school projects, but when your on a legit set and you find yourself an hour behind schedule, you learn to think on your feet. Since a lot of these usually work with the director, or I'm the director myself, there is one thing that no director should ever say on set... "I don't know". There was only ever one time I thought about walking off set. That was when the director had no idea what they were doing and was just shooting every idea that came to them "for coverage". -

-I see film school as a means for people to go to school to pay for professional grade classes to learn a new hobby.-

Since I am interviewing a director I have to ask who is your favorite director? Also is there a director that you find yourself learning new things from every time you see there work?

-I really like Quinton Tarantino's style. Tarantino really is the only director that I ever went to the movies to see what he was doing. I'm bit of a introverted indie filmmaker. I do what I like, versus trying to mimic what other people have done. -

Bonus question coming. You were working on a post apocalyptic film at one time. This is a genre that needs to be revitalized. I hope that it will be next year with the release of the new Mad Max film. Do you have a must see movie in that genre? I have two, Damnation Alley and Metalstorm The Destruction of Jared-Syn (I saw it in 3d, in a 600 seat theater with 3 other people on its second day in theaters.) I forgot the anime Highschool of the Dead.

-I love post apocalyptic movies. My top three must sees would be "Mad Max", "Book of Eli", and "the Road". Post apocalyptic films really let a filmmaker tell a story set in a alternate modern time. As you mentioned, I was working on a post apocalyptic film. I really felt that we were onto something there. At some point down the road, I really want to revisit that broken United States in my dreams. Perhaps on screen, perhaps in a graphic novel. I feel it's a story worth telling and sharing with others. -

Thank you Michael for taking the time to do this interview. If anyone would like to get involved there is still time to contribute to the crowdfunding campaign by clicking here clicking here and visiting the Kickstarter page or by sharing the link.

That will be it for today. I am still looking for trailers for my trailers page so if anyone out there has a good one or has seen a good one let me know by leaving a comment.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Digital Filmmaking, Social Media Marketing

The second biggest part of being a indie film maker is learning to market yourself and your work. This comes second only to the actual making of your film.

Yes, I understand that there are still studios and distributors out there, but the competition for both gets stiffer each years. Your best bet is to become good at this part of the job or find someone who is willing to help you.

 The good news in this regard is that you can learn to do this over time. Even if you are an introvert and a maverick like me there is hope.

It amazes me to this day that there are still so many digital film makers who do not take advantage of the free options that exist for them to market themselves and their work. Allow me to go over a few that are obvious.

Facebook and Myspace (yeah, myspace is making a comeback) are two great places to build a page around your production and to develop a following.

Google plus is a great way to keep in touch with other film makers and followers. You can set up weekly or monthly Google hangout meeting for those that you wish to interact with.

Twitter is a place where you can keep those interested in your project constantly updated on what is happening day by day.

Pinterest is a great place to share stills from your project and is perhaps the most overlooked place to market your work.

If you want to build a website dedicated to your project you do not have to purchase a domain and host, although if the film is going to be a part of your life for years you might want to consider doing this. A wordpress site can be impressive both to visitors and those you wish to do business with. If you do not know how to build your own website from scratch you are in luck, that is one of the skills that I market. If you want to learn how to construct a wordpress site from start to finish you can click here and visit a page will a few video instructional.

If on the other hand you want to construct a site for free you can go to blogspot and build a blooger website like this one. It is totally free to use and easy to set up.

There are so many other social sites out there like typepad and Tumblr that you can use to reach people.

Once you have set up a series of social media accounts then the next thing to do is to connect them under one umbrella. The reason that you will want to do this is so that if you post at one site it is syndicated to all of them. This saves you a lot of time and effort.

The two sites that can help you with this is Rebelmouse. You can see a quick tutorial video about it below. The video is narrated by the great indie film maker David P. Baker.

 Since David is promoting his film Screen, I thought that I would post his six minute preview.
"SCREEN" HORROR FILM ( 1st SIX MINS) from David Baker on Vimeo.

 The second site is Onlywire. I like onlywire and have used it not only to connect my social media, but to get backlinks for this blog. Backlinks are important if you are interested in improving the page ranking of your main website. It has gotten this blog to page one in multiple google keyword searches. Quick tutorials on onlywire.


 Remember that Onlywire gives you a real free trial for one month. I would suggest, if you are on a budget, to use their free trial during a big promotional or fund raising month.

 Promote Your Blog 

 The lesson I want to leave you with today is to use ever tool possible to promote yourself and your work. You do not get a do over in life. This is it and you got one shot at getting it right so give it your all. Spread the word about your project if you have to stand on a street corner handing out flyers. If you do not have a budget for promotion then social media is your best tool. You can expand your reach by tens of thousands of people if you master this part of the game. Hollywood does not have all the answers. The truth is that many micro budget film makers are already ahead of them in this part of the advertising and promotes game. Through social media we will become an industry that will someday compete head to head with the major studios. If you want to be a success at this business and what I mean by success is making enough money to finance the next project and keeping the lights on and the pets feed then you are going to have learn more about this area of the business. It will not be harder than learning about blocking and lighting. It will be far easier than learning how to edit.

Good luck with your project and please take a moment to help me with my social media. Stumble us on stumbleupon, add me to your googleplus and share this post with a friend by using my share button. That is social media in action.

4 All Memory - 100% Compatible

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Me + You, Interview Part 2

Me + You, Interview Part 2

The is the second part of my interview with Iyin Landre, the film maker behind Me + & You.
If you would like to help with her Kick starter campaign you can do so by  clicking here .

Q8. You wrote the script. There are a lot of ways to write a script. Some start from a outline or even a narrative story and then craft the script. Others just sit in front of a blank screen and do not stop writing until the rough draft is done. How do you approach the screen writing process and how long did this script take to write?

A8: I actually finished writing my first draft as a result of taking a screenwriting class. The first week we went in with a logline – mine was, “An American girl travels to Brazil and some f**ked up sh*t happens.” After that, I wrote 10 pages a week and in a couple of months I finished the script. I would say that my writing style is to have a basic outline in terms of major story arcs, but I usually just write according to how I feel the scenes should flow.

Q9: Hollywood prides itself on diversity. Film makers looking at the industry town from the outside would point out that they may achieve diversity in the form of cast and or crews at times, in thought and content it is still a industry built upon types and type casting. There are films that will never get made, stories that will never be considered and actors never hired because they do not fit the world view of what they believe will sell.

For the first time since Jackie Chan did Rush Hour (and his part in that film fit perfectly with the type casting that the Industry does) a major studio summer release had an asian actress, Rinko Kikuchi, as the co-lead and that movie was Pacific Rim. A film directed and produced by one of the world’s greatest film makers, Guillermo del Toro, who has never officially worked inside the Hollywood system so he did not get the memo saying that casting choices like that are not done around here.
You are an Asian actress in Hollywood, would someone from your background ever had been considered for the lead in a film like your's even if it was specified in the script?

A9: I think if I were an already established actress with some clout, then yes, my name maybe would’ve been thrown in the mix. But since I’m not, the possibility of me being cast in my own film was probably slim to none. But to be frank, there just aren’t many Asian or Asian-American actors playing lead roles in films outside of Asia. I remember reading an article where Lucy Liu (our most notable actress) said that she’s not approached to play the lead in romantic comedies because people don’t see her in those roles, like they do Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock for example. In my opinion, I think we need more Asian-American filmmakers, more people behind the scenes writing, directing, producing films in order to see change. You can’t just complain of seeing stereotypical portrayals in the media and not do anything about it – because to instill change, you actually have to go out there and create new images, stories to replace the old ones.

Q10: If the parts are not being written or casting directors are not willing to consider all types as being equal options for any given role is it going to be up to actors to create roles for themselves?

A10: I can’t speak for other actors, but for me it’s always been the case. I wanted to do more than play the Asian masseuse with an awful pan-Asian accent, or even play the doctor or lawyer – I wanted to be play dark gritty characters with depth, complexity, characters that dove head first into danger, action. And seeing as how I was rarely called in for roles that excited me to that length, I realized I had to write them myself, for myself.

Q11: Have you decided on the camera and the equipment that will be used on this production? Have you settled upon a DP?

A11: Have been looking into cameras that will fit my budget – may do the Red Scarlet, and also have a Black Magic 4K or Mark III in tow for scenes in the favela, for better motion and movement. Have not decided on a DP, will most likely crew up in Brazil this way I can save on production/travel costs. But the style of cinematography I’m looking for is a cross between City of God/Y Tu Mama TambiĆ©n/Elite Squad – fluid motion mostly steadicammed or hand-held.

Q12: How much of the movie will be shot here and how much in Brazil?

A12: All of it will be shot in Brazil!

Q13: Since you are an actor by trade I think that the film makers out there would like to
know what is it that actors expect from them? There are going to be productions where there is no pay or the pay will have to be deferred. Where the film maker is just starting out and all that they have is a good script and a borrowed Dslr camera. Should they approach who they believe to be the best possible actor or actress available or should they lower their expectations?

A13: Yes I say always approach who you want first. I read an article where Hugh Jackman did some student shorts not too long ago. As an actor, I expect the director to know what he/she wants, to have a very clear vision but also be able to collaborate and listen to those around him/her. But I think most of all, it’s to foster a safe environment for the actors, where you gently shape their creative expression into how you see fit for the story.

Q14: When starting work on a new project what are the things that are going to impress an actor and what sends signals that the film maker is not up to the job?

A14: I would say wishy-washiness and lack of preparation. If the film maker isn’t sure of what he/she wants, or doesn’t have a plan when we get on set – it makes me doubt the final product.

Q15: Okay back to the subject of your project. You have set a goal of seventy five thousand dollars. If you do not reach your goal the first time around will you press forward? Will this move get made no matter what?

A15: Yes we are making this film no matter what. With Brazil set to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, timing will be an important factor to the degree of “heat” on our movie – so we’re plowing full steam ahead.

Q16: It is said that you know that you are doing what you were meant to do when you feel a kind of freedom that goes beyond words. That the thing that you are doing is effortless. When you were in a foreign land, surrounded by people who spoke a language that you did not understand yet, shooting scene for your trailer, did you find that kind of effortless freedom?

A16: I hadn’t thought of the word freedom to describe what I felt, but I think that’s a very astute description. Because there were so many unknowns – the city, the language, the culture, not having a cast or crew – I really had to believe in what I was doing or else I had absolutely nothing. And in starting from zero and building from the ground up, I had to slough off any pretensions, any fluff and ask myself whether or not I could do it at all. I think in being so single-minded, it helped me to realize that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do.

Again, thank you for doing this interview Iyin. I wish you the best of luck with your campaign and the production of the film. I look forward to posting the trailer for the finish film.

Okay guys I am going to be taking a few days off from posting. I have a ebook to edit. I think that the up coming posts will be about using your own social media to help market you work. The other post will be on the topic of how many independent film makers narrowly define being indie as having to fit into certain categories. By far the most success indie film maker of the last eight years is not mention much or show much respect by the larger indie universe. Think about who I could be talking about, I bet that no one guesses right.

That is it for today guy, thank you for visiting and please take a moment to share this post with a friend and to stumble us on stumbleupon.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From Trailer to Feature, Me + You, Interview Part 1

From Trailer to Feature, Me + You, Interview Part 1

There are a lot of ways to approach raising money for your first feature film.
Crowd funding has become one of the most popular ways. Most of the films that I have spotlighted here and film makers that I have interviewed have gone through the crowd funding process during at least one level of production.

One of the more popular ways for digital film makers to begin the crowd funding process has been to shoot a quick trailer to show what they have in mind and to show off their qualifications to get the movie made. The campaign for the movie “Me + You” for me at least stood out amongst many others that had chosen this path. The actress/film maker, Iyin Landre, dropped everything and headed off to the country where her film is set, Brazil, to shoot the trailer. The idea of traveling to a location where we do not speech the language to pull together a crew and to work with people that we have never met before would be more steps than most of us would be willing to take when working on our first feature.

If you want to know more about what was involved and to get involved in her Kickstarter campaign you can do so by clicking here.  This year I have highlighted about half a dozen crowd funding campaigns and the cool part was that each of them had different financial goals and for different aspects of the film making process. Some were for post, some for general production and some for the entire production. The ones that have reached their goals did not do it all from first hand involvement. The person who visits and reads about the campaign is not usually the one who donates. The money usually comes from shares. Your involvement does not have to be cash. Post a campaign on your facebook. Share it on twitter and Google Plus. However many people that you are directly connected to you can times that by ten through the reach of your social media. If you like a campaign then take a moment to hit that share button.

Okay let's look at part one of my interview with Iyin Landre.

First I would like to thank Iyin Landre for agreeing to do this interview about her film Me + You, and the Kickstarter campaign for it.

Thanks for reaching out Rodney, great to have people like you blogging about independent film.

Q1: The first question has to be what is “Me + You” about?

A1: It’s a thriller about an American girl who travels to Brazil and falls in love with a drug dealer from the favelas.

Q2: Many low budget film makers have gone the route of shooting a great trailer for their project in hopes of raising money for the production itself. You went a step further by going on location to Brazil to shoot the footage for your trailer. Where did the inspiration for that come from?

A2: Honestly, a few friends of mine suggested that I just shoot it in LA, but I knew in my heart there was no way I could “fake” Brazil. I had been saving some airline miles for years, and after I finished writing the first draft, I realized that the only way I was going to get funding was if people saw what the movie looked like, felt like. So I decided to cash in my miles and fly down there for a month.

Q3: Did you have your shoot mapped out before you left or did you figure it all out after you arrived in Brazil?

A3: I had written a 5 page script for the trailer itself, but I really didn’t map anything out. A friend of mine passed on two email contacts, and with that I decided to just take a leap of faith and fly down there, hoping that cast, crew, everything would sort itself out. However, I remember arriving at 4:30AM in Rio and looking out the taxi window, thinking to myself -- what the hell was I doing in Brazil by myself? But every time that
anxiety swelled, I just focused on the end result—an amazing trailer that will raise funding for the feature.

Q4: I understand that you have shot a few short films, do you believe that is good prep for a feature or do you find feature film making to be a completely different universe?

A4: I think that it was decent prep. I believe with each short, I became a better storyteller, whether through the writing process, or the directing process or the editing process. At the same time, I realize I have never been to film school, but I don’t believe that everyone has to. Everyone’s path is different, and the only thing I can do is go with my gut. And right now, it’s telling me to shoot this feature.

Q5: I am going to ask you a few hat questions now. You are going to be wearing multiple hats on this production; producer, director, writer and actress. As the producer are you prepared for the times when you may have to tell the director that cuts and compromises will have to be made during the production? Every low to micro budget film producer will answer every single question the same way. “There is no money for that. Find a work around.” After about ten days of production most producers are asking is there any way that coffee grounds can be recycled. As you prep to go into full production mode do you find yourself going over ever possible way to squeeze more production value out of each and every dollar?

A5: Good thing Brazil has amazing coffee! Yes, the producer in me is already squeezing every dollar from production. And to my surprise, because of the Kickstarter campaign, we’ve already had a number of Brazilians reach out to me saying that they’d love to be a part of the film in some way, offering their services for free because they love the project.

Q6: This question goes to the young lady wearing the director’s hat. When you put on the directors hat for the first time did it feel like it was something that you should have been doing all along or was it like putting on the sorting hat from Harry Potter?

Did it take a while to get use to it?

A6: Well, the first time I directed was a short film I made in 2009, called “Homo.” With all the Prop 8 protests against gay marriage in California at the time, I wondered what if the tables were turned – what if two heterosexual lovers fall in love in a homosexual world, only to be torn apart by society? With that film, I would say I didn’t know the first thing about directing, about composition, angles, how to direct actors, anything really. But after that I took a directing class at UCLA Extension, and though still limited, it gave me a skill set, streamlined my ideas and helped me to find my directing style. And since then, I’ve directed more short films, music videos, etc. But I have to mention that I will not be directing “Me + You.” As much as I’d love to, I think it would be too overwhelming for my first feature, to both star and direct.

Q7: Who are your favorite directors?

A7: Darren Aronofsky for sure. I would say that he was my film school. I’ve been tweeting him, so if you read this Darren, call me! Also Danny Boyle with “Trainspotting,” Guillermo del Toro with “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and Asghar Farhadi who also wore many hats in “A Separation.”

The second half of this interview will be publish tomorrow. If you would like to visit the film’s website you can do so by clicking here.

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