I haven't written about it, but as I continue development on the script, I have started on pre-production. Here's a snapshot of where I'm at:
Schedule: Hillary and I went through dates and the weekends that work both of us are April 7/8 and April 28/29. Her's has an exterior scene, so we're going to put it a little later, when the weather should be warmer. That means my shoot is April 7/8. While we originally talked about two day shoot, it is apparent to me right now that I *need* to do this in one. This will mean trying to shed 2 pages off my script (uhhh) and really be conservative with my shot list.
Budget: The reason I need to do this shoot in one day is because I really don't have money. I am planning on keeping things low-key and trading favors with friends and other Filmshoppers for crew and even cast (other than a few actors I have been watching online and know I want to reach out to -- but can still offer trades). But that's still their time and asking people for two days (a whole weekend) seems a bit much. But the other reason is the location...
(Will come back to budget at the end).
Location: I need a good looking gallery. With a good prototypical set, everything else on camera will be elevated. I have started looking at spaces on Peerspace and those which were recommended to me via online community messageboards, etc. There are some amazing options, but f*$k they cost money. I think I will be spending at least 500 on this. Even that is low. The option I am currently most interested in is 750, and even that is dropped from what was originally asked. This is already over halfway of what I am trying to spend on this entire production. Ugh.
Cast: (7) Artist, Gallery Owner, Groupie, Groupie Friend, Potential Purchaser, Reporter, Instigator. For all the reasons I just whined about, I can't afford to go SAG. That usually seems fine when casting actors in their teens/20s, but once people reach their 30s/40s, a lot of the talent has gone union. But, not all! I actually really love casting. In another life, I'd happily be a casting director. I really enjoy spending hours on Backstage, watching reels and getting a sense of people and their potential. Sometimes I put out a call and look through the results, but I also just really love just perusing the stock. I have a tag entitled 'Good' for people that I know I'll want to come back to in the future. (This is how I cast the amazing and hilarious Emma Rogering in last year's "The PA Stays in the Picture.") The characters in this "Unfinished Business" short are fun and wacky. I have a few cast in mind I already know, a few tagged 'Good', and plenty of good feelings about finding the rest. Unfortunately, going back to budget, because I have six cast members (not to mention will need a bunch of backgrounds) even a stipend will set me back. Hopefully I can strike a deal with each cast member so I provide something helpful in exchange for their service.
Production Design: A really important part of the set in this short is the art itself. It is integral to the plot. I figure I'll need at least six paintings to make it feel like a real art show, and unfortunately what's also important is that they are basically life-size standing portraits. I want something like this portrait by John Singer Sargent, which I saw sometime in the last couple years at the Met and which has never escaped me. Obviously, that's going to be hard / cost money / ugh. It crossed my mind to talk to artist friend's about using something from someone who has paintings like that. I still might do that, *but* another important plot point is that the paintings would have to be altered (essentially covered up here and there). Because I can't do that to real paintings, it would mean some annoying post work -- also potentially expensive if it got to the point of rotoscoping and other things I wouldn't so myself. SO, all this in mind, my plan is to create the portraits by collaging them in Photostop, filtering them so they look like paintings, and printing them on canves. A quick search brought back numbers like $150 for 6 2' x 5' panoramic prints. There goes that production cost -- up! I will continue to talk to people, and also *maybe* see about sponsorship from a print house? Wishful thinking, but we'll see. Add it to the goal list. In an ideal world, I would have someone doing PD (perhaps my amazingly talented friend Estefania, who did my short Acting Her Age) but photoshopping a bunch of portraits is a huge ask. I've got, I think, a decent idea of how to attack, and will probably just go about myself.
Equipment: So, this is where I am going to cut back. Usually, I want to use a great camera and make sure everything is lit well. But.... this project represents trying something different. I was recently inspired by a friend who asked me to shoot his short. He wrote a funny script with him in it and one other character. It's set in his apartment. He's directing, and we are shooting Mar. 10th. The extent to which he is not being precious about it, to which he wants to make it as an experiment, is just great. This could be a whole other post, but one thing I learned about myself as a director on the last few projects is that I need to practice directing, not making shit look good. So, of course I want to make this look good, but I am focusing more on directing actors, figuring out how to get what I want, figuring out how to all play together and make it funny. This is in part why I want a good location and good PD. So I can rest on those laurels a bit, and shoot something in there that doesn't necessarily look glossy but makes a convincing argument. So, I am considering the cameras I have access to and are free. This obviously also connects to the selection of a DP. And, on that note, I am actually thinking about shooting this myself. I really don't know, and this actually could be a whole other post, but the thing is -- I shoot a lot, and when I do, I am intuitive, know what I want, get it, figure out what I want to be a bit different, get it. It is a serious skill set to communicate this information well to another person, and I want to continue to hone that, as I have really enjoyed working with DPs in the past (particularly Randy, as he's one of my best friends, and we've shared a whole range of emotions and know how to get on the same page at this point). Yet it is so hard, and also affects me in some way where I lose the intuitiveness and intelligence that is baked in when I point my own camera at something. So, though I shoot a lot, I have never shot scripted narrative, really, and I am curious how it would go. People say it is a lot to manage at once, but I have this weird feeling that I will be more in touch with what's going on in front of the camera when I am actually on camera, the same way when I shoot other action, like BTS, fashion or architecture installations. It might just be the perfect time to experiment, complemented by the fact that I am a free DP! I also really love my little Blackmagic Pocket, and it could be the right, nimble little camera for this project. I want to think on this and might end up going a different direction, but right now am comfortable with my less-technical, more intuitive approach to shooting, to make something maybe a little scrappier than I have in the past. The other thing about equipment, related to my location, is lights. I want to take a really conservative approach to lighting. Get in a space as well-lit on its own as possible, and roll. The story takes place at a gallery opening. These are usually on Thursday nights. It makes sense that the story takes place at night, which is great for not having to worry about light changing, but the two spaces I am most interested in (and will look at next week) both have cool windows. I know galleries tend not to have windows because of the art, but I'm willing to not care in the name of a better-looking shot. Maybe I can do the same thing with the story, and have the art opening be in the afternoon. In any case, my goal is to get a space that is relatively good for lighting, and keep lighting to a minimum, like one or two light mats that we pull in for CUs. I think I can borrow these from a friend (more on that later). A huge benefit of all this is avoiding expensive production insurance, as of course the annual policy Randy and I share runs out April 5th, two days before I plan to shoot! On that note...
Budget: We meet again. So, let's say 750 for the space, 150 for PD, 250 for food + crafty, 100 for transpo, and 20% contingency. We are looking at 1500. Ugh. That's 500 more than I said what my maximum would be, and I'm not even paying anyone. (Here's hoping someone lets me use their lavs).
Crew: I guess before I spit out a random food/crafty cost, I should think about how many people I'll be feeding breakfast, lunch and snacks. Myself, cast (7), Producer (Hillary), AD(seeking, though Hillary suggested she could do this too), Production Mixer (seeking - will prob run boom too...), DP (maybe), gaffer (seeking), PA. That would be really cool to keep the crew this small (6 if no DP; 12 with cast) plus 8-10 or so backgrounds... It is worth looking into sponsored meals. I keep hearing about Chipotle providing free meals for small film shoots? Will look into this and other options.