Sunday, April 22, 2007

Day One

We wrapped our first day of shooting early. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it means the director's not getting enough coverage. Today it was a good thing. We had a great crew, including some college-age volunteers who showed up for four-hour shifts and ended up staying for the entire day. The worst thing was that we couldn't book any walkies for the weekend, so the ADs were miffed and had to use their outside voices inside (not that ADs have inside voices, really).

We had a smoke effect guy for today and he was awesome, helped with the load-in, blew some incredible dense smoke, dealt with the b.s. of having to shout through a door over a loud fan because of the no walkies situation, and the footage looked really scary. I'm happy. The only thing that went over was craft service. :-) My DP was happy, the Gaffer looked a little peeved because we had a problem with one of the lights. It actually shorted out all over the floor. Scared the heck out of me, but, of course, the guys just kicked the sparks out of the way and started hacking away at the light with little metal screwdrivers....

This Thursday we're shooting the stuff in the moving car, then Friday, Saturday, Sunday we are back in the location we used tonight. I'm trying to rest up for Sunday which is the day we have the firetruck, ambulance and cop car and shoot until 3am. I'm going to bed now. I've been up since 4AM, not counting all the startles I had making sure we didn't forget anything major. I'm crashing now, so I'll write more later this week.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I See Kinos...

Went to pick up the equipment today, very exciting. I'm off to buy expendables tomorrow and to strong arm some volunteers. In order to get a break on our location fee, we agreed to split the shoot into two pieces. We shoot one day on Sunday which requires a full load-in and load-out of all the equipment and props, then we are off for four days, we shoot the interior of a moving vehicle, then we're back in the location for three days. The last day we are doing a small "company move" from interior to exterior.

The "company move" for folks who haven't worked in production is exactly what it sounds -- the entire production from craft services (food) to video village (director's chair, video playback monitors) moves to a new location. In our case we will be moving from the nice cozy inside of a loft to the parking lot below. To save money on the shoot, we agreed to vacate the interior by a certain time (not that the owner could rent it out anyway, but he's a skinflint with high hopes).

OK, I've got stuff screaming to be done (namely the dog needs a walk). Ciao.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Diva and the 3-Ton Truck

We start shooting on Sunday. Today I finished putting in our equipment order. The woman who runs the equipment house has been an angel and gave us everything we wanted on a 1-week rental (even though it is technically a 10-day period) for 40% off and then rented us a 3-ton truck for cost. This is why movie-making in Hollywood got me so excited when I first moved here. Below-the-line folks are very work-product oriented. Sharp contrast to executive types who are much more concerned with prestige and having a nice trailer. And that's no exaggeration. I once worked with a producer who told me he considered "set work" to be blue collar and that the real work of producing happened "in town" putting the films together.

I can't deny that there is a lot of work you must do before you get to set, but, for me, the work of making a movie is in... the work of making a movie. Picking your crew, pulling together insurance, making deals for the location, chatting up the guy who owns the firetruck so he'll throw in extra axes and gear.... I do miss blowing up helicopters though, but some day I'll make another film that costs more than my car. :-)

The reason we were able to get such a great deal is that our DP had a great relationship with a Gaffer who knew a Best Boy (Girl? She's a woman) who had opened a rental house. He treated her well, we treated him well, and, through the transitive property of Hollywood friendships, we get to enjoy her largess. Oh, yeah, one catch. This is a short film, so, no teamsters. I'm breaking out my trucker cap and getting ready to haul ass across town. If you knew me better you'd realize how truly frightening this is... for other drivers. Just a little warning if you find yourself in front of a 3-ton being driven by a gal with a cell phone plugged into her head.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

No Gaffer? No problem!!

We are five days out from our first day of production. I've been nailing down disparate details left and right. Yesterday I booked a firetruck that comes with three firemen, and tomorrow I'm getting an ambulance and a police car. My brain is mush, so I won't embarrass myself by trying form any coherent thoughts here. My newest headache is that the DP emailed me to say the gaffer bailed. Oh well, at least I've got my firemen to console me. :-)

UPDATED: OK, I was a little slap-happy last night, I did NOT mean to post that pic twice (although it was nice to see....)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tiny Bubbles

NPR : Hawaiian Entertainer Don Ho Dies at 76

My family is from Hawaii, so I grew up listening to Don Ho, watching specials featuring him, and singing along with him. Aloha Don.

In short film news, we are closing our location agreement today. There was a lot of back and forth to get the rate down (and I still think we should scrap it and go low-tech), but we're finally about to close. We have insurance, I'm renting a fire truck that comes with four outfitted firemen, I have an ambulance and a cop car on standby, and a nice stretch limo with tinted windows. Hmmm.... Now I have to deal with catering, the electrician, set decorating, getting a fire marshall and lining up some dang PAs. I have a pickup truck which I can't drive because it's a manual transmission, so every time I need it I have to find someone who can drive for me. Seems like it would be simpler to just learn how to get out of first on a hill, right? Maybe next year.

Anyway, the shooting schedule is done, I'm updating the budget and I have to talk to the sound guy to make sure he has every thing he needs. The problem with short films is that if you offer folks some help, they ask for things that cost money. I better get some good payback for this one.

For my own short film, the one I'm planning to direct, I found a really great community-based theater with some incredibly well-trained actors to help me stage a reading next month. I randomly went to drinks with a friend from film school and mentioned the topic of my short and he offered to grandfather me into the group that he works with. I'm excited to be getting back into it.

My pilot is almost ready for public consumption. I received excellent notes from the indie director I worked with last summer. He finished shooting a TV pilot last month and was out here for another TV thing, so we talked on the phone about the script, I turned around the notes he gave me and he re-read the draft, gave me some adjustments and when I finish those I'm going out to managers and agents. I have a few people on the line from the last few months, so we'll see. I'm totally out of season on this and probably will end up not getting read until summer, but a few folks have said they will call in favors on my behalf. It's funny for me to be both producing and sending my spec out into the world. On the one hand, I'm telling middle-aged men to calm down and let me handle things, and on the other, I'm having crazy stress dreams about being asked to leave cruise ships because I booked my tickets too late....

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Some Changes Around Here

I'm sitting here surrounded by paper, covered in paper cuts, watching a crappy movie that is being remade for waaaay too much money. I took a freelance gig with this director to pay back some of my Hawaii debt. So, instead of doing my work I'm blogging. Figures.

I finally went through and added links to some folks who link to me, put up some of the resources I refer folks to and that I use myself. I hope you all like them. Feel free to drop a comment in the box if you have a question, objection, etc.. I will link to folks who link to me, I just may not be entirely aware of who you are, so please give a shout out. I've been thinking about changing the look of the blog and going with something more like

The short film just got a kick in the pants. We are scheduled to start shooting in the next month because the location we want to use has an opening. They are raping us on the location fee, but because it's full service we decided the better part of valor was to lay back and think of England. At this point, we are having our first full production meeting on Friday. All the department heads are set, most of them are pros/semi-pros (meaning they've worked on a few projects, but may not have actually run a department). I'm left with some crappy work -- like getting the catering together, finding out how much this is actually costing us (I've got ten thousand emails that have to be added up and stuffed into an excel spreadsheet), and then herding all the cats into the center of the room for the next three weeks.

We've gone over the shooting schedule ad nauseum. The director is doing a production rewrite in preparation for the shooting script. The biggest issue is that we have to hurry up all of the equipment rentals and gathering of the free props and set dressing items. Details, details, details!!! Production marches forward on deadlines and details. And I haven't even gotten into the smoke effect we are planning to use on the set.... Ugh, did you know fire marshalls in LA get paid $120 per hour and you have to hire them for an eight-hour minimum!!!

I like to break down my production work in sections. Right now I'm trying to finish everything that requires expenditures of money. That means I have to finish up the budget, make the calls about the catering, and figure out how the heck I'm going to smoke up this hallway and then later have a firetruck, an ambulance and a cop car with full lights strobing at night without having to hire a cop to babysit the set. These things can take on a life of their own, and I don't want them to take over the show since, rightfully, they are there to set the stage and to allow the director to have a piece that has high production values.

Enough stalling. I have to get back to stripping off pieces of my soul so I can make my rent at the end of the month....

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Agency Pitches

I'm back in Los Angeles after two weeks in Hawaii. I had a great time, got some writing done, browned a bit, ate a ton of tropical fruit, and started planning for my next big trip sometime this summer. Don't know where it will be, probably Italy since I haven't been there yet. ANYWAY....
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she mentioned attending an agency pitch session. Agency pitches are meetings in which executives and agents play speed dating with writer/director/actor careers. Basically, the agency comes over en masse to meet with all the executives at a network/studio and they "pitch" clients for various open assignments. These meetings typically take place monthly for film studios, and roughly quarterly for television.

In the case of a film studio (although it works exactly the same in television), the head of the studio and the head of the agency talk in advance about what projects are a priority. Then, the agents all come to the lot, sit down and pitch their clients. If an agency doesn't have a strong client list, then the meetings are icily polite. For the A-list agencies, the biggest agents don't typically show up with all the minnows, but they will send a number of senior level agents over to play footsie. When the agents come, they bring some kind of resume book with each client's credits and sometimes a short bio (especially for less established talent).

That part is pretty dry, but the real purpose of these meetings is to get good gossip: Who is dating whom, who just got divorced, which writers/directors/actors are recovering from drug addictions. Assignments do get filled this way, an executive makes a comment, an agent remembers a client's words in passing about a love of ballooning, or time spent as an arctic explorer and the next thing you know... summer home in Crete! A girl can dream....

Sorry for the sparse posting. I got back from Maui and have been immersed in putting together information for the short film I'm producing which is finally SHOOTING in two weeks. I can't wait!!! I'll blog about the process this month starting later today!

First post: herding cats aka how to get disparate folks on the same page during production. Mmm, producer fun.