Archive for smiling zombie

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?

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“two julias” to play at the International Film Festival Ireland in Galway, Sept 2009

Posted in festivals, two julias with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2009 by Tom McIntire

I was excited when Greenspoke was made an official selection of the International Film Festival Ireland. It’s our first festival acceptance (the film was completed in March 2009) and you never forget your first. Galway is also the home town of two julias‘ actress Órla McGovern, so I sent our award-winning short on as well. From the title of this post, you can guess what came next. I’m excited for everyone involved in the two productions and hope to be able to make it to Galway in September for the festival. Thanks to those of you who follow this blog too – your support and encouragement mean a lot.

Seattle locals – save the date for a double feature at the Central Cinema on August 4 at 9:30pm. two julias and Greenspoke will be screened, plus we’ll have hors d’oeuvres and film-related merchandise available. This event will be a fundraiser for the new nonprofit film studio  – Smiling Z Studios.

Greenspoke an Official Selection at International Film Festival Ireland – Galway

Posted in festivals, Greenspoke, Making Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Good news – Greenspoke is an official selection of the International Film Festival Ireland (IFFI). The fest runs from Sept 8-12 2009 in beautiful Galway, Ireland.

What’s next? Check out our new nonprofit film studio, Smiling Z Studios.

Why Is That Z Smiling? A new approach to supporting filmmaking

Posted in Making Movies, screenwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2009 by Tom McIntire

I was thinking about how what I do producing and directing low budget films like Greenspoke is similar to a nonprofit live theatre group like Washington Ensemble Theatre. We raise the money we need (or in my case pay for it myself), hire the cast and crew and create a show. Then we try to get it out to the public, either by ticket sales in the case of live theatre or by festival submissions and distribution for films. The main difference is I have a finished product that can be seen again and again. And the live theatre teams rarely have much cash to pay anyone. I started to see many parallels and ways for us to work together to support eachother’s efforts. Many of the actors and crew I hired were struggling to make ends meet and grateful for even the small amount I was able to pay them. The loss of my day job last year and my subsequent difficulty finding other employment led me to think about alternative means of funding my filmmaking passion. These thoughts all ran through my mind as the idea to create the nonprofit Smiling Z Studios was formed. Don’t know if this is an original idea but it’s a new way of thinking for me.

Here’s the official pitch:

Smiling Z Studios feeds the artists while feeding the art. Local actors and crew often are called upon to work for nothing to help struggling filmmakers. While this may get a film made, it creates an environment where creative work is not valued and compensated. We like to think of what we are doing as fair trade film. Here’s how we are different:
1. With few exceptions, everyone who works on our productions gets paid.
2. We raise enough money to run professional productions even when working with a limited crew.
3. We use talent from many of the local live theatre groups and schedule in such a way as to maximize their availability for other work.
4. We schedule our crew during slow times to ensure we don’t conflict with higher paying commercial and industrial gigs. This has the added bonus of making equipment rentals more affordable.

Smiling Z Studios is a non-profit corporation that evolved out of Tom McIntire’s for-profit concern, Smiling Zombie Productions. We decided to become a non-profit film studio because our focus is on the work and the artists. While many of our colleagues leave the Northwest to pursue their film careers in Los Angeles, we believe we have the talent and the skill base here to do extraordinary work that helps everyone involved in the productions. Quality work that will be recognized with festival screenings and distribution, and ultimately help fund future productions.

Your support now will help us build a stronger, more sustainable filmmaking community here in the Pacific Northwest. To kickoff the 2009-2010 schedule, Smiling Z will produce Tom’s award-winning dramatic feature script, The Smiling Zombie. Successful musical theatre performer Jack Alcott’s career is cut short by multiple sclerosis. With the support of his HIV+ partner, he attempts a comeback of sorts with a featured extra role in a no-budget zombie film. A bittersweet human portrait inspired by actual events, The Smiling Zombie examines the performer forced to turn his attention inward and confront his own mortality.

Official pitch ends here.

So what do you think? Check us out at http://smilingz.org – if you want to help out through donations, helping with fundraising or working on our projects, let me know. We’re going to do some fundraising that puts the fun back in fundraising. Stay tuned.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Posted in Greenspoke, Making Movies, screenwriting, Toronto, two julias with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Tom Petty lyrics aside, the end of a project is when it all is beginning. Greenspoke, my environmentally themed short sci fi piece, is entered in several film festivals, including the Seattle International Film Festival. No official selections yet but by early May we’ll start hearing how it is being received by the festival programmers. After spending months and months on a project you want people to see it. And distribute it. And fund that feature you want to produce next.

Speaking of features, there was a delay in judging in the 2009 ReelHeART International Screenplay Competition. Two of my scripts, The Karma Stone and The Smiling Zombie are finalists (as followers of this blog already know). I was amazed and thrilled to have TWO scripts in the running. Out of six finalists, three were chosen as the top three, and will receive a live, rehearsed reading at the festival. Judging was by a prominent agency. Eek! This led to much checking of e-mail, wringing of hands, self doubt and consoling by friends. I sometimes think I am not very competitive but deep down I am. Unfortunately neither script made it into the top three. The festival director was nice enough to call me and let me know.

If you have not participated in ReelHeART (RHIFF) in Toronto, it is a wonderful experience for filmmakers and audiences alike.  They treat filmmakers with care, respect and make it fun to boot. My short two julias premiered there last year, winning a Director’s Pick and Honorable Mention. We also got a distribution offer from Toronto-based Ouat! Media. Even if you don’t have anything in the festival, if you are in Toronto there are lots of filmmaker-focused events.

Greenspoke Post-Production Continues

Posted in Greenspoke, Making Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Greenspoke post-production marches on. Or crawls on I should say. My laptop was purchased as a writing machine and evolved into my editing, sound and special effects unit. Dreams of Mac Pro towers on are on hold until I find a new day job. Which has not been going well. But that’s another blog post.

I’m editing in Final Cut Pro and am enjoying those wonderful surprises you get when you work with newer formats like those from the RED camera we used for Greenspoke. Like the Trim Edit window crashing my machine consistently, taking away one of the niftier features of FC Pro. I’m still able to do fine edits but it is more of a dance than a simple step. I’m using Apple Motion for some of the special effects and to add simple camera movements to some of the static shots – lots of interesting freezes, crashes and a frightening fan noise that makes me shut the machine down so it can go have a cigarette. Disk speed is something I’d prefer not to think about but it is on my mind right now.

Why is he babbling on again about technology? Technology is what makes it possible for me to be a filmmaker at this stage of my life. The tools are amazing – the Red workflow uses no tapes, what seem like huge hard drives fill up with high resolution video footage, being able to go from raw footage to finished product almost entirely on my MacBook Pro – even down to burning DVDs for festival and distributor screeners. What’s tricky is not letting the technology take over the creative process. When I’m having trouble getting the exact edit I want because the system is crashing, it takes away from the time and energy and thought that I could be putting into the piece. And unless you have resources like Charlie Chaplin earned from his early work, you can’t spend years working on each (later) piece as he did. Well, you can, but if you are just getting started it means you are not getting your work and your name out there.

Now back to the cutting…

Greenspoke starts shooting on 8/23

Posted in Greenspoke with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2008 by Tom McIntire

It’s been a busy few weeks. I’ve neglected the blog since we got back from Toronto. My former employer has decided that we need to see other people, so I’m looking for Web or video editing jobs in Seattle or telecommuting – let me know if you have any leads.

Our next short, Greenspoke, what my producer Will Chase calls an eco-terror sci-fi thriller, is chugging along. We have a great cast in place, a 9-shooting day schedule (all on weekends), HD equipment lined up thanks to our line producer Lucien Flynn, a crew forming magically, and my good friends and collaborators Michael Lorefice and Paul Yoo sharing dp duties.

Starting a new project is always an anxious moment for me. Will it suck? Will we have good weather when we need it? Do I have the right insurance? Will we be able to get the right locations? Will has been helping ease some of this anxiety because he is handling alot of the things I used to do myself. But there is still the nagging worry that all these people are counting on me, the writer and director, to put something together that we will all be proud of. I also know that we’ve been down this path before and it is a fascinating (if nerve-wracking) trip.

Seeing actors bring your words to life is one of the most thrilling moments for a writer. Seeing something fresh and unexpected from the actors’ interpretations keeps you thinking of other ways to tell the story, and other stories that evolve from your original idea. Getting the right mood with an overall connectedness of the disparate pieces is a wonderful puzzle to solve as a director. Skilled artists and technicians get the lighting right, makeup artists create amazing illusions, video teams create and refine their piece with alternate angles and truly moving pictures as dollies whiz the camera about, production teams create schedules that flow and allow for the expected unexpected issues. Long way of saying it is an organic, collaborative labor of love.