Archive for independent film

Dealing with Current Realities Or Am I Related to Francis Ford Coppolla?

Posted in Greenspoke, Making Movies, Non-profit filmmaking, reelheart with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Filmmaking has been a passion of mine for many years, supported financially by me through my corporate employment. When I was at the 2008 ReelHeART International Film Festival (RHIFF) with my short film two julias, I received a phone call from my employer of 6 years letting me know they were laying off several people in my department and that I was one of them.  The ironic timing of the call did not go unnoticed since I had made my first film as part of an employee filmmaking contest there. They let me go while I was on vacation at the first film festival to show one of my films in competition.

RHIFF is a great filmmaker-friendly festival and definitely worth the submission fee – I have entered again for 2010. However my overall festival submission strategy has definitely changed since then. I tended to take a shotgun approach before.  I research the festivals more and take advantage of early bird submission rates where I can to save money. If you use withoutabox.com, use their search and watch list functions rather than waiting for their e-mail notifications. Most of the e-mail notifications are for the higher fee late or final deadlines. More money for WAB and the festival but not the best use of limited filmmaker bucks.

I took a leap of faith and used my severance to fund Greenspoke, a project that was already in pre-production before my layoff.   I do not regret making that decision – that project kept me sane through what I thought would be a couple of months seeking employment. Greenspoke has done well so far, showing in four festivals and getting a good review in The Seattle Weekly. Oddly my layoff from a high profile employer and continued filmmaking also led to a small piece in The Seattle Times as well. Unfortunately the article makes it sound like the layoff somehow helped my filmmaking career – that is not the case. That story came up in a job interview I had shortly after the article came out.

As I have been searching for a web editor job over the last 15 months, I have had to adjust my expectations as a filmmaker to line up with current realities. Before I would have gone ahead with a project even if funding was iffy — that just isn’t possible anymore.  I can’t proceed with any production activities until firm money in place. I set up non-profit Smiling Z Studios as a means of soliciting tax-deductible donations. When many of your previous supporters are also out of work or worried about losing their jobs, it is tough to make the pitch that a non-profit  independent film production is a great place to make their charitable donations. We do pay all of our cast and crew, many of whom are struggling financially, as part of the studio’s mission. However,  if a potential donor is on the fence between supporting our projects vs making a donation to a food bank or the Red Cross, I would not want them to choose the studio.

Most of us wonder what we would do if we won the lottery. I often think about what it would be like to make that transition from mostly self-funded director/producer to working as a director with full production support and investors who believe in me and my abilities enough to finance my projects. While that is not out of the realm of possibility, I do believe the odds are better to win the lottery and give these feelings the same kind of weight. I think most artists sans trust fund or those who lack a family connection to Francis Ford Coppolla struggle with how they are going to pay for their art.

So what do I do while I’m sorting this all out? Work on the things I can. Besides checking in with friends and former co-workers (again) who may be able to help me find work, I’ve redoubled my efforts to seek gainful employment. There do seem to be more jobs out there in my field and I’ve even had a couple of promising interviews.  I’ve also started working on storyboards for my feature length screenplay The Smiling Zombie, which was a finalist in the 2009 ReelHeART International Film Festival Screenplay Competition. The Smiling Zombie is about Jack, a successful musical theatre performer whose career is cut short by multiple sclerosis. With the support of his HIV+ partner, Jack attempts a comeback of sorts with a featured extra role in a no-budget zombie film. Making the best out of a bad situation seems to be a theme here?

Paper and pens I got, and storyboards help me to really think through the script, its problems and strengths, and what the overall look and feel will be. If I work on the things I can, I’ll be ready with a new job and a solid script and storyboards when things turn around. And who knows, maybe I am related to Francis Ford Coppolla?

Filmmaker or not, what are you doing to keep your passions going during these tough times?

The Smiling Zombie AND The Karma Stone Made the Finals at RHIFF

Posted in Making Movies, reelheart, screenwriting, Toronto with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Two of my feature length screenplays have made it into the finals of the 2009 ReelHeART International Film Festival (RHIFF) Screenplay Competition. I’m still processing this information but I can say that I am thrilled.  These scripts also were semi-finalists in the WriteMovies International Writing Competition. At a time when I am struggling to find another day job (I was laid off from my job at Washington Mutual last June), it’s great to get this encouragement and recognition. Like most artists out there of all stripes and sensibilities, I am trying to figure out how to make my way in the world and still feed my passion. Finding that elusive mix where they are one and the same is what keeps me submitting films and scripts to festivals and writing competitions.

What are your secrets to reaching the next level? What challenges are you facing?

Discount Available on Our DVD Titles

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2009 by Tom McIntire

We currently have two DVDs available on createspace.com. Enter this 15% discount code when you check out: J84B5NPP

two julias: A young woman looking for love online gets entangled in a counter-terrorism specialist’s kinky sex game. His mind should really be on his work.
http://www.createspace.com/Store/ShowEStore.jsp?id=250395

Uncomfortably Personal: sportscaster Belle Rosen’s job is on the line with an in-depth profile of eating champion Nikki Angel
http://www.createspace.com/Store/ShowEStore.jsp?id=252787

Greenspoke Principal Photography Redux

Posted in Greenspoke with tags , , , on January 5, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Who would think that shooting a film with several exterior scenes in Seattle in December was a good idea? No one. The weather in Seattle in December is unpredictable, giving everything from snow storms to spring-like days to tropical storms dumping warmish rain. Luckily for Greenspoke, the weather cooperated. Thank you Jim Castillo. I had great plans to give you a blow-by-blow account of the shoot. Hah! Here are some highlights.

Day 1: Beach and parking lot scenes
Location: Golden Gardens Park

I wanted to get the toughest scenes out of the way first. We rented the Bathhouse at Golden Gardens for makeup and to give everyone a place to eat and warm up. This was our first day and Tess Malone utilized her 10+ years in film and television to get us working together well. I spent the first hour or so running around checking things until Tess chained me to the monitor. We spent too much time on the parking lot shots but they look great. About 8 hours of usable daylight this time of year, so I could actually say “we’re burning daylight people” and it meant something.   We had some frantic moments as the sun sank into the West as we tried to get it all done.

Actors and background performers (Tess used this term for extras – much nicer huh?) leapt into Puget Sound (which is cold all year round). Leading man Tim Gouran went in 3 times and he is still speaking to me. If anyone has to jump in again, I’ve committed to jumping in too. Brrr. Luckily the beach footage is cutting together nicely.

Day 2: The shower and living room scenes
Location: Our house (eek)

Greenspoke had the largest film crew I have worked with so far. Doors came off, furniture went in all kinds of new positions and a month later things are still not all back in place. The shower is a vintage affair that fairly drowned the actors before getting way too hot – then for the first time in years we ran out of hot water. To top it off, I had carefully placed two large bathsheets on the counter for the actors to dry off – these got scooped up when the set was being dressed and got dumped in the laundry hamper.  I had to give two cold mostly naked wet people every hand towel in the house and a hair dryer to dry off and warm up.

Day 3: Governor’s bedroom and bath
Location: Shafer Baillie Mansion

This was a great day. Indoors, mostly dry, excellent location for the scenes with plenty of room to move around.

Day 4: Street biking scene, newscaster report, dream sequence
Locations: West Seattle street, Lee’s Martial Arts in West Seattle

My dp Ryan Purcell HATED the dream sequence location. Securing locations is right up there with getting music clearances on my list of things that make me want to pull my brain out through my nose and smack it around. Once Ryan got that I was firm on shooting at the martial arts studio, he dove in and got me some really nice footage. I dove in and tried to show the actors how I wanted them to fall. Bad idea.

Day 5: Laboratory scenes
Location: Seattle Central Community College

I stepped out of the shower and had a completely immobilizing pain in my back and hips. After standing in place for what seemed like 5 minutes, I started moving very slowly to get myself dried off and dressed. When I finally made it downstairs, Kurt and Tess were both sympathetic and concerned. I figured out that I could move faster if I used an old cane that we had sitting by the front door. This made for a grand though slow entrance when we arrived on set.

Kate Sowell, our location contact and technical advisor, had agreed to play the lab technician in the opening sequence. I wanted someone who knew how a pipette worked and didn’t get the lab geeks in the audience hissing. She did a great job, although I think she got a little frustrated when we had to knock a styrofoam cup off a counter 30 times before the dumbass director was happy with it.

Day 6: Emissions Station
Location: South Seattle Emissions Station

My back was definitely on the mend thanks to some wonderful heating pad thingies that Tess recommended. Our technical advisor and location host Bart Richter helped keep us safe and helped our actors understand what the machines did and how they worked. He even got in a car for on of the scenes. The weather was cold and we had a few weird moments of sunshine that will need to be eradicated in post.

Day 7: Protest and presentation scenes
Location: North Seattle Community College

School was still in session (they were having finals) and we were going to shoot a protest scene outside the library. Only about half of the extras showed up, so many of the protesters were cast members.  My favorite protester is our 2nd AC Staci Bernstein. Totally focused and into what she was doing. Then it was on to the presentation scene about the Greenspoke project, held in a nicer lecture hall. Ryan and crew did a great job lighting the space and hiding the blackboard to make it less school-y.

Day 8: Exterior Ruri’s apartment, John’s bedroom
Location: Capitol Hill and Greenwood neighborhoods of Seattle

Our last day and the first day that we got any significant rainfall. EZ-ups (tent-like structures) on the sidewalk helped somewhat, but it was really cold being out there for hours. Buses, jets and traffic noise were giving our sound guy fits. Chris Swenson and his crew from the Seattle Office of Film and Music came by and cheered us on. After that we headed to my friends Patty and Austin’s house in Greenwood to completely disrupt their lives and drop a very strange man in their bed. They were good sports as always and Patty will even make it into the blooper reel.

Overall impressions

There’s nothing like hearing your words and images come to life with a good crew and actors. Working with the RED footage in Final Cut Pro has been OK but is really straining my poor MacBook Pro. A much-loved tool (the Trim Edit window) in FC Pro crashes every time I try to use it with this higher res footage. I’m working around that but the finish edit will be tricky. I’ve completed a very rough cut and have played around in Apple Motion a bit to try it out for some of the simple visual effects. The trick now is to keep moving forward toward a finished product. It’s easy to get bogged down in all the details.

Thanks to all of you who worked on the project or supported me in this effort. Some things I love about making movies are the collaboration with smart fun people, the creative “greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts” and our shared excitement over seeing something new emerge from a script and a stack of drawings.

Greenspoke Starts Shooting December 2nd!

Posted in Greenspoke, Shriekfest, Toronto with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2008 by Tom McIntire

Scientists aim a green bullet at climate change. Bullets ricochet.

For those of you who know me, the start of principal photography on Greenspoke is not a big surprise. I’ve been asking you for everything from car parts to textbooks to time in your bedroom – and you’ve all been very accommodating! Things have been coming together pretty well and I’m looking forward to finally getting started.

Greenspoke was a semi-finalist in the short sci-fi screenplay category at Shriekfest 2008. The script has been massaged a bit, locations nailed down, a strong crew is in place and we have an excellent cast that I am proud to be directing. On top of all that, my fellow ReelHeART International Film Festival 2008 participant (and short/long form fiction winner!) Tess Malone is flying in from London to help out. How fun is that? And I get to work with production manager Michi Murayama from my days as a devious killer on Japanese network television.

Mikano Fukaya and Tim Gouran head up my hardy cast which includes two julias alums and Seattle stage and film notables. I met today with our director of photography, Ryan Purcell, to go over shot lists. It’s interesting to see where I am willing to give because of budget and time constraints – it’s yet another creative process to figure out how to stay true to the original intent while managing the costs. The manic panic of 48 Hour Film contests helped me hone this skill – if you respect the story and the process, there are lots of ways to say the same thing effectively. That dolly shot would be cool but does it really add that much to the storytelling? Yes but not enough to warrant the cost. Driven pragmatism.