Tuesday, May 17, 2011

California Love

The Los Angeles premiere of south loop is Monday, May 30th at 7pm at the Downtown Independent.

Actor/Producer Juan Ramirez will be there for a probing, detailed Q&A after the screening. Make sure to ask him about taking his pants off in between takes.

And he'll be selling DVDs. Of south loop.

Friday, May 6, 2011

He's Really Not That Angry

Kelley Baker, known as the Angry Filmmaker, just put up his interview with me on the making of south loop.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Writing on a Micro-Budget Doesn’t Have to be so Hard

As I write a draft of the screenplay for my current feature Measure (based on the work of Trevor Thomas), I am reminded of something I tell my students all the time – rewriting is hard. It’s harder than the moment the idea comes to you. It’s harder than getting the first draft done. It’s harder than reading your first draft and realizing how awful it really is.

But it is in the rewriting where the movie becomes a movie.

Rewriting a micro-budget feature is additionally difficult because it is almost impossible to ignore the producer in your head constantly reminding you that he can’t afford the location you just added in the last scene. Now, the writer in your head has no problem ignoring the producer because the story is what matters most, right?

As a way to get around this particular brand of schizophrenia, I tried a new approach (well, at least new to me) on my last film south loop.

Once I knew I was going to produce and finance my own movie (along with my producing partner Juan Diego Ramirez), I made a list of everything I knew I could get for free. That included locations, actors, crewmembers, musicians, props, and so on. I also included the streets of Chicago because, as a guerrilla filmmaker, I could. I included family members that might be willing to cook for the production. I also, with some fatherly hesitation, included my children in case the story I generated needed some toddlers.

So I ended up with a long and diverse list of resources. And a quick glance over the list made me realize I could effectively set a story in the world of real estate. And by effectively I mean that I could develop a narrative and shoot it in a way that allows the audience to buy into that world. Now, if my list had been a lot shorter I might have ended up producing a movie that took place entirely in my apartment. And while there are plenty of movies that tell great stories visually primarily in one location (see Dogtooth), my list of resources took me in a different direction.

As for Measure, the previous drafts were written with these restrictions in mind so I inherited a script that already takes advantage of the resources our production has in hand. And that’s a good thing. Still, I find myself trying to strike a balance between the producer and writer in my head. While I am not adding helicopter chase scenes to the script, I am still adding scenes that require resources we don’t have currently.

For example, I have added a scene that takes place in a banquet hall. The scene is significant for establishing our protagonist in the way she deals with the politics of her job. Again, no helicopters needed. And it’s set in a banquet hall because that particular context adds to the subtext of the scene (or at least that’s the hope). So, at least in this case, the writer in my head wins because, ultimately, story really is what matters most.

But let’s say we never get access to a banquet hall. That will hardly hamstring us because the mechanics of the scene – people talking to each other and the staging of characters – can easily take place in another location. If we have to stage the scene in a restaurant or someone’s home the script will simply be rewritten to reflect that change in context. Rewriting that won’t be so hard. Well, at least not as hard as turning a helicopter chase into a conversation at a bar.