Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rockers as Aliens

Today I wandered across bunch of Daft Punk music videos on YouTube.

I later confirmed my suspicion that the videos were from Interstella 5555, Daft Punk's 2003 anime movie.

The plot of the film revolves around a group of four rockers from an alien planet who are abducted, brainwashed and dropped on earth to profit an evil and mysterious man in a tux.

As a somewhat embarassingly devoted fan of P-Funk, I was immediately reminded of the cosmic and indecipherable mythology of that group (it involves, among other things, secrets of Funk hidden amongst the pyramid until a time when Earth would become more groovy).

Of course, it takes three to make a pattern, so I racked my brain until I remembered David Bowie (of course!), specifically The Man Who Fell to Earth.

The plot of 1976 movie, which the makers of Interstella 5555 have certainly seen, revolves around an alien who comes to Earth to save his family from a drought on their planet but becomes distracted by Earthly treasures.

Whenever I meet a girl who loves Labyrinth, I wait until she grows in to a woman and then I tell her to watch The Man Who Fell to Earth (I may have mentioned this once before.)

Why this connection between rockers and aliens?

Music is a subtle way to introduce us to another world, one that can emerge from a single creator and absorb us in a way that goes beyond the limits of, say, a two-hour movie. It's why the original Walkman became so popular - our own private soundtracks created our own private worlds, shared only with their creators.

Maybe being able to express a coherent vision of a world this way lets musicians understand how different they are from the people around them. These are not exactly The Pippettes we're talking about. P-Funk, Daft Punk and David Bowie are all weird enough to be from another planet. Maybe they're just letting us know that they understand that, too.

Three Movies in Three Weeks: Epilogue

Since we finished shooting "Proud Mary," I'd been having the strangest dreams.

I couldn't quite place them. I just remembered a lot of people, a lot of stuff going on, some sort of grand direction to things, and the unmistakable feeling of big things being organized.

This morning, I realized that I had been dreaming - literally dreaming - about making movies. Imagine that. Three weeks of implacable dreams about making movies. How undeniably significant.

In a single three-week period, I made a movie for a friend that was low-responsibility and a lot of fun, a a movie that I did entirely on my own that I couldn't have been able to make a year ago, and a long-term project that was a real test of my abilities but ultimitely gratifying.

Something for a friend, something of my own and a challenge - if I make nothing but one of those three movies for the rest of my life, I'll be happy.

In my last post, I kept having to keep myself from writing "I went out a boy, and came home a man."

There is something of the war-movie cliche to making movies - chaos, comradery, structure, pressure. I felt transformed by the end of "Mary." For maybe the first time, I had both a proven skill - making movies - and a sense of direction, a clear path to how I would use it.

Now, I'm unemployed, but it's the good kind of unemployed. I can see how I can get the skills I'm missing as a producer, I know what sort of projects I want to do and with who, and I have a lot of confidence in both being able to make movies, and being able to do them better than a lot of other people.

Now that I know I can do something, all that remains is to see what it is I do.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Three Movies in Three Weeks: Proud Mary Part Three

In which we shoot a movie, and a glorious transformation occurs.

We left New York for wonderful Princeton, N.J. at a noticably early hour of the morning. It's weird, but by the beginning of the shoot, when almost everyone else on the crew is beginning their work on the shoot, the producer's job is sort of done. Preproduction is arguably where a producer makes a movie.

Luckily, I had a lot of other jobs to keep myself occupied on set. At one point, I made a list with Reemes, our sound guy, of all my jobs on "Proud Mary."

Assistant Director
Location Manager
Key Grip
Transportation Coordinator
Head of Craft Services
Production Manager
Production Coordinator
Production Accountant

Just to ruin any tension I may have built up by writing 5,200 words on this so far, I should say our little shoot went really well. We had just the right number of crew members, were ahead of schedule every day, got all our footage, more or less hit our budget, ate good food and were all happy. One thing did light on fire, but it was only a China ball and I wasn't on set at the time.

That said, I should remind you that I had a lot at stake in "Proud Mary." At 19 pages, this was the longest thing I'd ever produced, and some of the challenges I faced (having to shoot in Jersey, having no budget, doing the production work all on my own) made it eerily similar to a short film I'd done before where nobody was happy with me or my work as a producer.

This wasn't an easy shoot, either. Nadine probably got the worst of it since she was running both camera and electric and so never got a break. Nick got sick. So did Clyde, although not until right after the shoot. Our lead, Zoe, who was in every scene, managed to stay healthy by sleeping for almost all the time we weren't working.

Things went wrong, but we had talked about how to do things so many times that we never hit anything we couldn't work around. We had a big advantage on keeping to schedule because Nick knew exactly what he wanted and when, just like a good director should. It's like naval warfare - if you have a battle plan going in, it tilts the battle in your favor - even if you abandon the plan the moment you have contact with the enemy.

At a couple of points we got snowed out. This was very surprising, because the forecast (which we checked relentlessly) never called for snow, and it certainly didn't seem cold enough.

Nevertheless, there it was, unmistakable white flakes right in the middle of our frame. So we went and got our interiors and then came back to get the dolly outdoors. We were fighting the light by the end of the day, but we were fighting the light at the end of every day, and always to get ourselves as ahead of schedule as we could.

We were working smoothly enough that we were even able to turn some surprises to our advantage.

We shot a full day at the sketchiest motel in the Princeton area or maybe ever. When we got our room, we were surprised because it wasn't one of the rooms we'd seen during our scout. Its most prominent feature was a bright red jacuzzi with brown mold growing on the bottom (Reemes checked the taps - no water). Its next most prominent feature was three mirrored walls and a mirrored ceiling.

This room was, as you can imagine, amazing. It was perfect for the character. At first, though, Nadine refused to shoot there. The problem was all those mirrors - at first glance, there was nowhere to put a light, or even the camera, so it wouldn't show up in the frame.

Nick was so excited about the room, though, that he went around finding all sorts of angles and places to hide the camera - shooting the characters in the mirrors, erecting a pyramid of beercans (or "beeramid") to block one camera placement, shooting from really low, etc.

Man, was that room amazing. Nadine and our gaffer had to spend the night there. They were terrified.

So "Mary" was ultimately a triumph. I came back from that shoot much more confident in my abilities and feeling much more capable of living my life and doing the work I wanted to do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Three Movies in Three Weeks: A Multitude of Sins Part 3

In which I achieve personal glory at the last minute, and including a small note about actors

It turns out I love to abuse actors. I never really knew for sure because before, I just got to watch actors take abuse, but now, after being the director and having the power to abuse them myself, I understand the true depth of my thesbimasocism.

Let me explain.

Because it took me awhile to commit to the script of "Sins" I ended up using, and because I had "Mary" coming up for later in the month, I had to shoot most of what I shot for "Sins" on the coldest weekend of March.

Because of continuity and a couple of other factors (like I really wanted this one actress' midriff in the dream sequence) every single one of my actors found themselves working outside in the cold without a coat for a significant amount of time, like enough that nobody would be surprised if they had ended up getting a cough.

Now, you'll remember that my first surprise upon my first day as a no-crew, no-budget movie director was that being a director isn't all that tough. It is, at its root, just another set skill.

My second surprise was that people took me seriously, or at least seriously enough to do what I asked.

Why were my actors willing to stand in the cold for me? What did I really have to offer them? Why do people sacrifice themselves just to make a movie? And, more importantly, why do I feel such a sick instinct to take advantage of that?

Maybe it's just a test of how bad they want it. I've acted before (better than my acting in this, even), and I decided it wasn't the best way to break in to the film business. In fact, I decided it was an idiotic way to try to break in to the film business.

Actors rarely work, almost never get paid, and have to do probably the most creative work of anyone on a film set under circumstances that are trying for everybody.

On the other hand, they don't have to know how to coil cable, they don't have to carry four 12-bank PAR light frames up six flights of stairs, they don't have to deal with the stalled car or the trash or the locals. They don't have the toughest jobs on a film set, but they do end up with a lot of the glory.

Basically, an actor has to want it. I just like to know how much.

In any case, I discovered I loved making my actors stand in the cold. I was never abusive, I was never unreasonable, and I always made sure they could put on their coats as often as possible and tried to keep them at least warm enough to talk and think, but once I needed those cameras to roll, those actors had better be ready to freeze their asses off and look like they were enjoying it.

I couldn't tell you why, but my actors put up with the cold, and me, and they made a great movie. Vaughn got the worst of it, the poor kid - in his first movie and dressed like a cowboy for two straight weeks on the streets of New York. The day after we finished shooting he cut his hair short and started dressing like Jon Voight at the end of the movie.

The way the audience film works, you get a month to do the thing from start to finish. With all the other shit I had going on, I ended up cutting that particular deadline preeety close. For example, there are a few story-critical shots, like the flight from Houston to New York, that I shot maybe three hours before the screening.

In fact, I finished editing "Sins" about a half-hour before the show. By then, I had My Cousin the Revolutionary with me, and we frantically outputted it to DVD and made it to the show minutes after they started. I handed off my DVD to the projectionist and took a seat in the theater.

At some point, I realized that fifty other human beings were going to see a film that up until then had been screened only by me and a man who still thought Trotsky may have had the right idea. It was then that I started to get nervous. Not too much - I was sitting next to Vaughn, for one thing, and I didn't want to freak him out by freaking out, if nothing else - but just a tad nervous.

Audience films screen right at the end, so we had to get through the whole program first. Finally, Jay and Victor introduce my movie. They say roll the movie. The movie rolls.

There is no picture.

At this point, I do not panic. I was late getting to the theater so we didn't have a chance to make sure the DVD played, they had to switch over from the DV tape, and I had sort of expected this in a worst-case scenario kind of way.

They try a couple of different things. Still, we hear the opening lines of my movie, but see no picture. The crowd, many of whom came to see Vaughn in his screen debut, is becoming restless.

I quickly and quietly make my way towards the projection room. Victor calls me out from the front of the theater as I stand at the back door and asks me if I have a backup version of my film. I bashfully admit that I don't. I slip out.

In the theater, Victor, a stand-up veteran, is covering for us with the crowd despite still being in a completely darkened theater. Thank god for Victor.

Jay and I are in the projection room. It's like we're behind the Wizard's curtain. The projectionist is running around, trying the various DVD players. There's a loose wire somewhere, but she doesn't have time to run it down. I know the DVD is working because we can see it on a TV in the booth, it just isn't making it out to the theater. At some point, we get picture but no sound.

I can't really do anything but watch and wait while this turns in to the longest period of dead air in First Sundays history.

I only think the words "abject failure" once, when Jay proposes pushing my film back two days to the special Tuesday show we're having for the fifth anniversary. The projectionist says she's close. We wait. Finally, sound and picture play in the theater.

I return to the theater. My movie is playing on the screen, meeting my only real goal for this project.

My movie is funny. My editing is weird, but it's sort of an underskilled and twisted version of the cartoony style I was originally going for, and it's also funny, so I decide I'm okay with that. Some of my shots are hokey, but it's a comedy and that's why I can get away with that. My directing had actually improved by the second half of shooting as I'd gotten more comfortable with Vaughn and learned how to use the camera and watch the acting at the same time.

People like the movie. People laugh. I kept my credits short, but people clap all the way through and more. It's more than I could ever ask for.

Jay and Victor call us down and ask us questions. Vaughn says "it was certainly educational." I explain to everyone about how cold the actors were.

We go to the after party. At each successive First Sundays after party, I feel like more and more of a hero. The world of New York short film and internet video is small and largely trivial, but for one night each month, the people in it are not quite sure if I might not be some sort of a big deal. It's not much, but it's mine, and although I can't resist taking it with a grain of salt, I also can't resist soaking it up like a sponge.

The biggest upward trend at these after parties is how many people want to talk to me. At this last party, coming off my heroic no-budget, no-crew, in the cold, strong-narrative film-making experience, enough people want to talk to me that for close to an hour, I do not have a chance to get myself a much-needed drink.

Finally, I retreat to the upstairs bar in the hopes of a beer and perhaps a moment's quiet. There, I run in to Victor, who introduces me to the bartender, who, it turns out, is also an actress. I talk to the bartender, but I also get my drink.

There is more to this story - of not singing Yellow Submarine, of becoming inebriated, and of falling asleep during Korean monster movies, but I prefer to leave it here. Me, drink in hand, living in the glory that only deeply personal achievement before the devoted public of an extremely limited world can grant me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Three Movies in Three Weeks: Proud Mary Part Two

In Which Everything Starts to Go Wrong
About two weeks before we were going to shoot "Proud Mary," everything started to go wrong.

I'd just gotten pre-production in to a place I was comfortable with - we had the schedule settled and our cast together - and I had enough work left to do that I could just get it done before we started shooting if I worked solidly until the shoot.

Our first problem was that we were having a lot of trouble finding a full crew: it was midterm-time at NYU, and Easter Weekend, and, because I had been stuck in pre-pro, I had sort of fallen behind on the favor-trading (you work my set, I'll work yours) that is in many ways the life blood of independent film production. We were shuffling crew until literally the day before the shoot.

But the biggest problem was that, just as we'd gotten our cast finalized, one of our lead's moms got sick and he had to leave the country. I arranged some quick auditions, and we found a good replacement, but, just before his callback, his aunt got sick and he suddenly had to go take care of her on Long Island for the weekend.

So we replaced him with someone who'd had a so-so audition, but then he got two days of paid soap work and decided he wanted to spend Sunday with his family, so he dropped out.

After the second and third guy dropped out just before we were going to pick up the equipment, I decided that if anything was going to go seriously wrong with this production, it wouldn't be my fault.

This was a big moment for me - deciding that, after all the work I'd put in, and the number of factors I had working against me - the budget, working alone, the casting and crew problems, shooting in New Jersey, the complications of the schedule - I really had no choice but to forgive myself if things weren't perfectly button-up when it came time to make our movie.

At the last minute (we literally auditioned him during our equipment pickup, hours before our table read) I found an actor who could play our second male lead, a friend from college who was available during our shoot days. Crisis masterfully averted, thanks to y.t.

Okay! Logistics arranged, budget estimated, actors in place, crew committed, New Jersey Transit tickets purchased, catering menus settled and priced out, fucking brilliant table read accomplished. I called Nadine.

"Hey, Nadine," I said. "What are we doing tomorrow?"

"Making a movie?"

"That's right," I said. "We're making a movie."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Three Movies in Three Weeks: A Multitude of Sins Part 2

In which I make many phone calls, and a movie.

Once I'd decided to go with the script I had, I started making phone calls (producing consists almost entirely of phone calls). I wouldn't be using a crew, but I had some actresses in mind and I had to check their availability, and I had to make sure Codename Bronco was down to put his truck in my movie since that would have broken it.

Much scheduling later, I was ready to shoot. I had decided to start with the scenes of just Vaughn and his friend in his friend's apartment, which were relatively simple and would let Vaughn get comfortable with the process.

My first surprise on what was arguably my first day as a director was that being a director was, in many ways, a technical job. On a film set, the film "technical departments" refer to the camera, sound, grip and electric departments - the people responsible for handling the equipment used to make the movie. Then there's the creative departments - art direction, props, hair, makeup and waredrobe.

Aside from movie stars, directors have the most rareified position on a film set. They are ultimately in charge of everything, and it's their creative vision that ends up on screen, and blah blah blah.

Thing is, the main responsibility of a director is to know what shots he needs to get in order to tell a story. I'd argue that this is a technical requirement. At least, it operates by a system of rules that can be learned and require organized thinking.

I don't know, maybe this is a weak argument, or a pointless one. What I'm saying is that directing took a different type of thinking than the type I had expected. Like many of the other crew positions I've learned in the past, I felt like I could pick up the basics quickly, and I would be able to master the rest with enough time.

Once we started shooting, I immediately began to regret not bringing in a DP. I should have known from the directing I'd done in school, but I really needed to have someone else to explain things to.

As it was, I would change my mind half way through a shot as to what I was trying to get, and then I'd get confused as to what I had. I also didn't get to watch the actors' performances since I was so focused on the framing of the shot.

A lot of the time that I said I got something and let's move on or I didn't and do it again, I felt like I was guessing. A director needs to make firm decisions or people start to lose confidence in him - I've seen it on lots of sets, with first-time directors especially.

There were a few spots where I'd overlooked things that first day, and doing things so off the cuff really brought home the need to do my homework next time (story boards, location scouting, shot list, etc.).

That said, I think I represented myself pretty well during the shoot. My most desperate time was when our first location in the park was snowed out; I was working with four actors (two is ideal); we were in a restaurant that was poorly lit and that I'd never seen before; the people at the bar wouldn't shut up and I was genuinely worried we'd have to do it all again.

Even then, no one came up to me and said "you don't belong here, you can't do this, you're just faking it, you need to go home," which is what I was secretly afraid of.

Three Movies in Three Weeks: Mr. September

In which I have a brilliant time and generally make a fool of myself.

While I was in the midst of shooting "Sins" and doing pre-pro for "Mary," I had a three-day commitment to my good friend Nadine to do her film, "Mr. September." September was about a guy who loses his job and starts working out to try to keep his girlfriend.

I was grip and electric on this film, a job I've been getting more and more comfortable with, especially on smaller shoots. If production is becoming my self-educated film school major, grip + electric is becoming my minor (with directing, I am hoping for extra credit).

So I was comfortable, I was on my own turf, but, best of all, I wasn't responsible for anything. After the frenzy of "Mary" and "Sins," this was just about the most liberating thing that could've happened to me. I had a great time just going around, doing my stuff and not being responsible for anything.

Some of the fun stuff I got away with:

Room Tone Dance
For editing purposes, the sound department has to record about 30 seconds of silence ("room tone") in every location of the film. Ideally, you'd want everyone to be in the exact positions they were in when you were shooting the scene, because everything from which lights are on to where the bodies are in the scene affects the nature of the silence you record.

However, room tone is often overlooked until just after everything else is shot, and actors run away to deal with important business and whatever.

So, we were about to record room tone and I volunteered to sit in the actor's seat. Now, 30 seconds is a long time. I quickly realized that the camera was focused on me, and then I realized that no one would be allowed to stop me from doing whatever I wanted (or make any noise at all, for that matter.)

It was then that I invented room tone dance.

Room tone dance is a unique and highly modern dance designed to get the crew of the movie to laugh and ruin the take. I'd show you, but that video would cross the globe like a bullet that killed an Archduke. Maybe some day I won't care - I did post the link to that Milkshake movie, after all.

I managed maybe two or three really good goes at a room tone dance. Each and every one was well worth the three days of unpaid labor I needed to do to get them.


I Convince an Extra I'm Crazy
We had just lit a scene where the two main characters talk after an exercise class, and Nadine had a bunch of extras standing around with their bags pretending to talk.

I say pretending to talk, because, on a film set, everyone must remain absolutely silent except for the main characters in the scene. Their dialogue has to be recorded as cleanly as possible, and then whatever crowd noises or what have you are added during the editing process. Whenever you see, say, a bunch of people talking in a restaurant in the background of a scene, they're faking it.

Okay, so all the extras were placed in the scene, but one girl didn't have anyone to pretend to talk to. Nadine asked me to stand just outside of frame to pretend to talk to her.

So I could be seen by only the crew and this one girl, I was just out of frame so I wasn't being picked up by the camera and no one was allowed to talk. I decided this would be a good time to teach my captive extra how to bake a cake.

We did two long takes. During that time, and using only my natural enthusiasm and the medium of mime, I showed my extra how to shop for ingredients, how to mix them, how to spice and pour the mixture, how to place the cake in the pre-heated oven, about how long to leave the cake and, once the cake was done, how to throw it in to the air and shoot it with a shotgun.

I am not sure how much of my recipe got across.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Three Movies in Three Weeks: A Multitude of Sins Part 1

In which I decide to make a movie.

While pre-production for "Proud Mary" was getting under way, I was taking on some new responsibilities at First Sundays, the monthly short comedy film festival that I'd been screening movies for since about a year back.

One of my new responsibilities was to produce a film each month for the next month's festival.

First Sundays shows about an hour and a half of short comedy on the first sunday of each month. At the end of each month's show, brave members of the audience tick a box at the bottom of their ballots to enter their names in a drawing. The winning audience member gets to star in a film for the next month. The audience then suggests a title.

I had starred in an audience film in November, "Smooth Milkshake," (which, look at that, is now online), and I'd produced maybe three projects, only one of which made people angry at me, and then there was some stuff I'd done at school, and I hadn't really found anyone else to do it and I'd just finished reading Rebel Without a Crew.

Long story short, I decided to direct the March for April audience film myself.

The title I got was "A Multitude of Sins," and my actor was a tall, gorgeous North Carolina import and male housekeeper named Vaughn. We talked at the afterparty about the various sins we'd committed, and I came up with an idea.

Now, before I went in to the show to find out my title and actor, I knew I wanted to do a few things. I knew I wanted someone to get hit by a truck because I had gotten hit by a truck outside my apartment and that's the kind of experience that sticks with you. And I knew I wanted a lot of movement and action and a lot of plot crammed in to my six minutes, almost a breakneck pace.

And then I didn't want to have to ask anyone else for help.

My script was about a Texan who falls in love with his cousin and follows her to New York City, but then it turns out she's a lesbian and he ends up with the girl reporter who's better for him because they're not related.

About midway through writing the script, I figured out that the real love triangle was between the Texan, his cousin and his truck.

I also worked in a lot of ideas from my conversations with Vaughn - living in a closet, moving to New York City from the south and falling in love with the place, etc.

Now, at this point in my career, I considered myself an expert on thinking on a budget. The key, as any good independent film director will tell you, are using the resources you already have available to you. For example, before Victor writes a movie, he has everyone on the cast and crew write out the locations they can get access to. Very smart.

I thought Codename Bronco had a truck I could use, so I felt comfortable using that in the script. I had a Southerner, and he made himself available any time he wasn't working, so I could drag him all over the city. I had my beautiful actresses who I thought would be down for this sort of thing. I set everything during the day because I didn't have any lights and I wasn't sure if we would be able to see anything if I shot at night.

Then I had myself - I hadn't exactly directed before, but I'd been successful at organizing these things, and I felt confident that if I kept my crew as small and mobile as possible (i.e., it was just me), I could handle the logistics of the shoot.

What I didn't have was a lot of time. I wrote the script within four days of meeting Vaughn, but I agonized it for about a week after that because it seemed like such a dumb idea, just because of that problem.

I mean, the script was fine - a little weird, a little funny, very strong story arc - but I had lots of locations and people getting knocked down by killer trucks and lots of odd little moments that, all together, made things pretty complicated. So I sent it to Jay.

Jay asked me if I was crazy. He said it was way too complicated. He admitted that I might be able to do it if I had a truck and all the locations in the script, but, yeah, he still thought I was crazy.

I looked at my script again. My instincts were the same as Jay's. I thought about starting over - the current script was too ambitious for an audience film, with the crazy running all over the city and the story arcs and everything, but I decided that this was just my writing style, and I didn't want to just scrap the whole script.

I looked at my script again. There wasn't any particular part of the script I didn't think was beyond my abilities to do on my own. It was just the confluence of all these little moving parts that could prove to be too much, like how ninjas can kill you with 1,000 paper cuts.

Like a good producer, I started breaking down the script. I divided it in to four different categories of things I could shoot together. It didn't look impossible when I did it that way. At some point, I decided to go ahead with the script I had.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Three Movies in Three Weeks: Proud Mary Part One

In which things happen really slowly for awhile.

I got back from New Orleans in early January determined to get more work, a new apartment and a cat before the end of the year.

I am still in the same apartment.

The cat is fine.

As for work, I decided to become an independent producer of no-budget films. Partly this was because it was the path of least resistance. To be self-employed, I didn't have to ask anyone for help, I didn't have to go to any interviews, I just had to find some projects.

Partly, it was because of Marlon Brando.

Brando revolutionized his medium, but he lost his focus. I saw an interview with a biographer of Brando's where he said "you just want to tell him, 'you're good at making movies. That brings people joy. Why not do that?'"

After I did Ballots Over Broadway, I figured I was good at making short, no-budget movies, so I'd better go ahead and do that.

Not long after that, Nadine, director of Ballots, came to me with a project. It was a great script by an NYU Junior named Nick Koenig about a girl who's shit-head boyfriend convinces her to do an amateur porn with an overweight local.

I saw immediately that Mary was going to be a challenge. We were shooting in Jersey, which is always a struggle because I have to get everybody out there and we'd all have to sleep over; it was longer than any script I'd done before; and Nick had created some interesting challenges for himself and his actors with the script. It was really going to have to be done well to be done at all.

But, man, what a script. I decided it was going to be worth the challenge. It was exactly the kind of project I was looking for, and I took it.

We scouted locations in Jersey. We did a lot of casting. I tried to figure out how we were going to put this thing together.

For awhile, things happened really slowly. It was my fault, really - when I'm my own boss, it's great because there's no one telling me what to do, but it's awful for the same reason.

I struggled with trying to keep myself motivated, keep myself moving. A couple of times I thought about quitting, but never too seriously. By the time I had said "yes," I had a lot at stake in "Proud Mary." I had to see how far I could go. I was in it for keeps.

At some point, I added up my calendar and realized I was going to be doing three movies in the next three weeks. I'd made just enough progress on pre-production for Mary that I'd be ready if I worked really, really hard. It was time to get organizized.

Three Movies in Three Weeks: Introduction

In which I reveal why I've neglected this blog a bit this past month.

Exactly one month ago, I realized I was going to have to make three movies in the next three weeks: "Mr. September," a short film I was gripping for my friend, Nadine; "A Multitude of Sins," a First Sundays audience film I was writing and directing myself; and "Proud Mary," a short student film that I was producing which was a bit more ambitious than anything I'd ever done before.

Making this many movies in this short a time is, for lack of a better phrase, stupid. Movies are tiring. Film crews work long hours (12-hour days are the norm) and it can be trying, stressful work. And it wasn't like I was just crewing these movies - "Sins" I did completely on my own, and "Mary" I was producing, so I was ultimately in charge of everything for both those films. These were ambitious projects on their own - together, they would have broken a lesser man.

I want to write about each of my three movies, but for now, I just want to say that I did it. I survived. I did a good job - everyone was happy and well fed, I did my job, we got the footage, we made our deadlines, and I couldn't have expected any more out of myself. That alone is cause for celebration. I celebrated by sleeping for a week. Then I cleaned my apartment. I haven't been happier.

Making all these movies in such a short time, along with all the time I've spent as an independent, no-budget film producer (since about mid-January) has taught me a lot about where my skills are, what I'm capable of, what I've learned from a year in the business, and, more importantly, what I don't know, what my options are, where I go from here.

Trying to go back and write about my experience from the beginning is going to be a little tricky, like starting a story with the epilogue. I'm not expecting too much out of myself, but I hope to at least tell you about where I've been and what I've been up to. It's been a hell of a ride.