Casting, second cameras, film festivals

The horror. The horror.

Ever seen American Movie? It’s a funny documentary about a filmmaker who is trying to finish his first feature.

It’s inspiring, funny, endearing, and worth watching.

I’ve gotten a space at Shetler Studios in NYC on Sunday for our first round of casting, and I’m nervous as hell. Not NERVOUS, like I have the shakes or something, or I feel like I’m gonna just go belly up…

Casting is a strange process. Particularly when you’re attempting to cast multiple roles with people you know. Separating the business side from the acquaintance/friendship side is not easy. I don’t have a lot of experience with actors, but I do have experience with hurt feelings and disappointment.

I say that because I know actors must understand that the quality of the project is key, and that choices are based solely on that. Or the possibilities of sex. Either one, really.

Being in a position to have final say on a project is intense. Not knowing the actors has to be infinitely easier. But, I’ve met so many talented people over the last year… I’m confident we’ll find the right people for the roles.

There’s a strange dichotomy with being a director. You know that filmmaking is a group effort, but you’re also responsible for the end product, since you’re the decision maker.

I read a great story on Kubrick a couple of weeks/months ago. I believe it was during the filming of Barry Lyndon, but don’t quote me. He requested that everyone and anyone be given the script during production. Even the guy sweeping the floors. The person relaying the story had asked him why, and Kubrick had replied that you never know who was going to have a good idea at any particular moment. He wasn’t concerned about where the idea came from because, in the end, everyone knew who was in charge.

That’s a paraphrase, but it’s the basic gist. Not having enough experience, and having done most of the work on my projects (no offense to Producer Julie, who is invaluable), I’ve gotten used to having control over things… and NOT getting that help unless I ask for it. That happened, in particular, during 8 for Vegas. I should have been more open to ideas, truth be told…

This was a relatively new discovery on my part, the Kubrick anecdote. I will be keeping it at the forefront of my mind in the future.

In other news, I started putting together sides for the actors and something very strange happened. One of the two main characters, her lines were not as strong as the other characters. It was an interesting way to find that out, particularly since we had a reading of the script.

So, it’s a bit back to the drawing board for me on that character, which is good. It was a glaring issue, at least to me, and I’m happy to fix it so there’s more balance between the two main characters. Having a pretty face is one thing, particularly when that face has the opportunity to be expressive when reacting to another actor, but having a balance of comedic lines is important. Unless, you know, they’re mute.

The project is a mockumentary, which is a scripted show in documentary format. Spinal Tap, Best in Show, The Office, Parks and Recreation and, most recently, Modern Family.

Having a single camera is ok. We did it for 8 for Vegas. In fact, our first or second day of shooting we had a second camera, and it was a pain in the ass to be concerned with both… if only because 8 for Vegas was our first time shooting anything.

This time around, I think it’s important to have that second camera. A guy from Off Off who did the behind-the-scenes featurette, Paul Garofalo, has graciously come on to help. Should be awesome. He has a 60d, which will match up with our 7d quite well, footage wise.

And, last but not least, today is Friday the 15th of February. It’s a day I thought we’d be receiving some wonderful news from the Soho International Film Festival here in NYC about our short 5AM.

On WithoutaBox.com it states that their notification date is February 15th. On their site, it states ‘end of February.’

Sigh.

It’s nerve wracking, the waiting. I hope we get in. I hope we get in to all of the festivals we submitted to. It would be a wonderful push that would solidify our determination to become successful in this endeavor of ours.

I mean, shit. We just got business cards printed.

Here’s a couple of shorts I thought you might like.

Successful Alcoholics from Jordan Vogt-Roberts on Vimeo.

Finally, this is a trailer for a fascinating documentary. Cannot wait to see this film.

Thanks for reading,

John

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The process continues

Not sure where to begin. It’s late Sunday or early Monday morning. 12:30am. I had a nap today, so I figure I’ll be up for a while.

Casting. Choices abound. Sunday, February 17th we’ll be finalizing some roles for the pilot. Should be fun.

5AM. Our first screener, out to the Soho International Film Festival, didn’t want to work. A harbinger, if I’ve ever heard of one. I sent them the link to my private online screener. Fingers crossed.

Working on two projects in two weeks. More of The Thing and Internet Affairs. Should be fun.

I think I have a paying gig tomorrow night. I have to get some details tomorrow. Should help.

Still trying to score some work. There are just so many people out there with cameras and knowledge and know-how. And I thought the life of a graphic designer was tough. I’ve been applying for extra work, but can’t seem to get my foot in that door.

Speaking of extras, I started watching Ricky Gervais’ HBO series Extras. It’s so hysterical. I loved, and continue to love, the UK version of The Office. I re-watched the Christmas episodes every time I’m in need of a pick-me-up.

Tonight I watched, for the third time, the short film The Gate, which you can see below.

THE GATE (CUTDOWN VERSION) from Joyrider Films on Vimeo.

It’s quite a well done short. Nice CG, acting, story. Supposedly it’s being made into a feature film.

I also watched this music video the other day.

My Recurring Dream from André Chocron // Frokost Film on Vimeo.

I love watching videos that people are making all over the world. I get inspired by them. If you’re a filmmaker and you read this, I hope you do, too.

I’m going back to watching Extras now. Enjoy the short and the music video.

John

Casting

It’s Friday, around 9:30 in the evening, and I should be either drunk or close to drunk, having hung out with my friends all afternoon. Unfortunately, the storm came about and ruined our plans.

Tonight was supposed to be a casting discussion for the pilot. Too bad.

So, this evening I edited the script, tried to help Lynn and Katie, who are my co-producer and AD respectively, in their efforts to help cast this monstrosity of a 25 page script.

The ‘no one said it was going to be easy’ route doesn’t really work here because… up until this point, everything’s been pretty fucking easy.

According to Lynn, we have roughly 30 characters. I had no idea I’d written that many. I’ll take her word for it.

So, I broke down some of the characters, gave them a history, etc. Tried my best to give them all names that would allow one to extrapolate a generic character idea from them… and we’ll see if that was helpful. Everyone’s been very patient, so I suppose I’ll see a ‘this is a great start!’ email in the morning.

Time is slowly catching up on us, and I have to get paperwork started. Everyone’s got wonderful projects happening in the near future, so I have to schedule their precious time accordingly.

Let’s see. What else.

I put 5AM out to another festival today. Fingers crossed. Luckily, so many of the future festivals come after we should have heard from at least 3 of the ones that the short’s already been sent out to. So, we will either be spending more money, or saving money. Which is depressing.

I’ve been so wrapped up with 5AM that I have been neglecting my 8 for Vegas duties, which is a shame. But, I pieced together episode 5 over the last two days or so, and was happy with quite a bit of it.

Here it is, for those of you interested:

One more episode to go. I had a lot of fun on that shoot. Both seasons, and learned a lot. Hope you enjoy it.

I will leave you with a clever kickstarter video I recently saw, from Reddit.

HELP KENNY GEE NOW from Kenny Gee on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading!

John

The Difference Between

After a year, Julie and I finally decided to release The Difference Between.

You can view it below:

The Difference Between – Chapter 1 – Invitations from John Painz on Vimeo.

The first incarnation of The Difference Between came about as my first screenplay, written on an electric typewriter in 1995 or so. Inspired by Pulp Fiction, I created my own three part script that wove the tales of three individuals together, all of whom were not connected. One of the characters, Curtis Jones, found his way into my second script, Multiples.

The Difference Between was to be my first movie. In 1996 or so I took it upon myself to find some people to help me make a 30-minute short, on 16mm film. I bought the stock, I rented a camera, I found a crew, a cast, some locations… all by the seat of my pants.

To make a long story short (too late), the entire project was a disaster, and I didn’t touch film production again for fifteen years. Roughly.

I couldn’t tell you why. Perhaps, at the time, I did not have someone to say ‘you’re quitting? What the fuck? That’s it?’ That’s not to say people were not supportive… but, back then, filmmaking was just that. With film. And it was very expensive. At the time, the quality of camcorders had not reached a point where the quality was comparable. At least, not in a prosumer camera.

I picked up writing full-time after that. I pretty much stopped being an artist. I don’t know why. I think, if I put my mind to it, that TDB was my first failure, and I took it so hard that I decided it was better to quit.

I almost did the same thing with 8 for Vegas…but I’ve told that story before.

After finishing out the season of 8 for Vegas in 2011, Julie and I were trying to figure out our next project. I started writing about a serial killer who was preparing for an annual convention of serial killers in New York City. It was an introductory episode, with all voice over, slowly building to a terrible realization.

I wrote 5 more episodes, each detailing a different killer, each having found their way into the city.

I had just recently purchased a camera and some other equipment, and was eager to take it out and get started. We called upon Drew Jeeves, who was in 8 for Vegas, to help us with the shoot.

On a very cold day in February last year we started filming in Union Square. Traveling up the 6 line to 95th Street, walking over to 5th avenue and back down to the Met, we shot footage on the fly. I wasn’t 100% certain what I was looking for, as so much of the footage would be considered b-roll. Traveling from A to B, so many shots can occur between the two, so we just shot for as much coverage as we could.

From the Met we traveled down 5th to the New York Public Library where we shot my favorite scene of the entire episode.

Days later we would meet at Julie’s and my friend Genever’s home to shoot the remainder of the episode, along with some lower east side footage.

The Difference Between, Episode 1, was my first foray into stylized shooting/directing. 8 for Vegas, being in a documentary style, was very much point and shoot.

One of the issues with an episode full of voiceover is that you can pretty much film anything. So, while it’s stylized, it’s not really DIRECTING, directing. Telling someone to do action, but not acting… there’s a discernable difference there. In the end, then, you concentrate on the imagery, and hope it’s compelling enough for your audience.

We have plans to shoot more episodes of TDB this year. With such an onslaught of actors coming through from other projects, we have had an easy time coming up with casting choices. At the time of our shooting, we did not know any SAG actors. Now that an entire year has passed between the pilot episode and future episodes, we’ll be starting up production again after we put through the paperwork for new cast members, and start shooting some time in March or April.

Should be fun.

I hope you enjoy the episode. It was a lot of fun to work on. We hope to bring the entire series to fruition.

In other news, 5AM is out at four festivals at present. Fingers crossed.

We finished shooting episode 7 of The Thing. We’ll be moving on to episode 8 some time in the near future. On, well, shit, some day last week, we went to the Axis Theater and had a great time with Lynn Mancinelli, Marc Palmieri, James Honderich and Michael Keyloun. It was a productive day. Looking forward to continuing the series.

Thanks for reading. I’d like to leave you with a clever short that I saw the other day. It’s called Voice Over, which is ironic.

VOICE OVER (English subtitles) from Kamel Films on Vimeo.

5AM, Film festivals, and Cabaret

Today I sent out the first of four DVDs of Producer Julie’s and my first short film, 5AM. It was very exciting and exhausting. I have the remainder to send out tomorrow, and quite a few more in the coming month.

Those ‘quite a few more’ might dwindle, of course, if we don’t succeed in getting into any of the four festivals, but… I’m confident. It’s a solid short, if I do say so myself, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

Today was the SOHO International Film Festival. We have Be Film, the Hoboken festival, and the London Sci-Fi festival to send off.

I’m excited about it all.

Tonight, Julie and I went to the Ziegfeld Theater in NYC to see the 40th anniversary release of Cabaret. Liza Minnelli was there, along with Joel Grey and Michael York, and Marisa Berenson. They did a quick q/a, and then we were shown a film I’d never seen before.

I get a lot of free screener notifications, but this one jumped out at me. Supposedly, they turned away about 400-500 people. For an 1,100 seat theater, that’s saying something.

It was a very well made film. Great acting, a very interesting story. Some great numbers.

But I don’t think anyone on this planet will ever be able to convince me that this film was better directed than The Godfather. That is just my personal opinion. Clearly quite a few people thought (and still think) differently.

Regardless, it was an enormous treat to see the film on the big screen, truly. I’m so glad that Julie and I made it in.

It’s late. Such a long day.

We shot some of episode 7 of The Thing today, and it came out quite nice. We were lucky to have Michael Keyloun helping us out today. He’s a very talented guy.

Other than that, waiting on line for an hour in the cold, stressing out this morning about burning a workable DVD for the festivals, etc… a pretty normal day.

I’d like to leave you with an interesting animated short from Disney. Very cute, very well done:

Thanks for reading!

John