Thanks to everyone who joined us last Thursday for our big screening extravaganza and helped sell out the Cinematheque. The night went extremely smoothly and it was great to finally see the products of everyone’s hard work up on the big screen. Extra big congratulations go out to Lisa Newell and Gayatri Bajpai whose film “Maintenance Man” was picked as the resounding crowd favorite and walked away with 2000′ of 35mm film stock as their Audience Award. Thanks also go out to Driftwood Beer and DJ Relig!on for helping fuel the afterparty that went until around midnight.
Needless to say, we here at Cineworks are pretty jazzed about how well everything went with this, so don’t be surprised to hear another contest announcement sooner than later.
With the screening less than 48 hrs away now, it’s time to reflect a bit on the past few months and the great work all of our teams did. It’s been a lot of fun seeing the projects take shape from the script stage and slowly work their way through production until they become their own self-contained films ready to be shared with the world. The filmmakers’ blogs on this page are a great insight into this process, so if you’re just getting started in the field be sure to read through them and pick out the gems from what they’ve learned. Thursday night should be a lot of fun so we hope you can all join us, and keep an eye on our twitter feed (@cineworks) for your chance to answer some trivia questions and win free tickets.
As the crew from “Maintenance Man” has just recently discovered, even a well-planned production can run into challenges from the unexpected, but it’s how you deal with it that makes the difference. Reading producer Lisa Newell’s notes on the shoot are an excellent reminder of the importance of cast/crew dynamics and how collaborative the filmmaking process is. Because everyone stayed focused on the task at hand, kept their cool and more importantly their senses of humour, their film is in the can and being edited as we speak. Re-reading that Wim Wenders quote I posted a few weeks ago about the value which a challenging production process adds to the final product, makes me very optimistic that MM and the other three films are going to turn out great. Don’t forget,the screening is May 31 at the Pacific Cinematheque, our BDTH shorts start at 7pm and the 35mm presentation of “Highway 61″ is at 8:30pm. Cash bar and reception to follow the screenings.
Like a well-oiled machine, the juggernaut known as Back Down the Highway is picking up momentum. Skate on Alicia has completed their principal photography on time and on budget- as if they had a choice – and now the Maintenance Man team takes over, while SoA director Jayme Cowley settles into his new home away from home – the edit suite. Let’s see if our friend Frank Hauser has any pearls of wisdom to offer for this part of the process:
Please, PLEASE, be decisive As the director you have three weapons “Yes”,”No”, and “I don’t know”. Use them. Don’t dither; you can always change your mind later. Nobody minds that, but what they do mind is the two hours of agonizing when all an actor has asked is “Do I get up now?”
Proper audience focus is the key to an effective joke A genuinely funny line wasn’t laughed at. Why? Someone may have moved, coughed or otherwise stolen the audience’s attention at an inopportune moment.
After weeks of planning and preparation, the crew for “Skate on Alicia” picked up their gear yesterday morning, and have begun the first of their planned four days of shooting today. Good luck folks, we look forward to seeing some updates on your page.
In the meantime, carrying on from last week’s post, here are some pearls of wisdom from Frank Hauser’s “Notes on Directing”.
Every actor has a tell A tell is what an actor does when he doesn’t know what to do. It is a habitual behaviour that is completely irrelevant to the tack at and and reveals itself at times of insecurity, fear, or lack of focus or imagination. Look for stock postures, reliance on melodious or heightened vocal inflections, repetitious movements or cliched gestures. If it strikes you as false, you’re probably witnessing a tell.
Talk to the character, not the actor When actors don’t seem to have the right idea – close but no cigar – it is okay to say what they did was good because of the quality you were looking for but didn’t get.
A friend of mine recently lent me this pretty excellent book on working with actors and constructing stories. Although the book’s authors work in the theatre, I’ve found a number of really interesting parallels to the work we do in film, and the lessons are just as relevant. Frank Hauser directed plays in the UK for several decades through the Eighties, and over that time had compiled his wisdom into a document of 130 notes which he would sometimes bestow on up and coming directors. This book is that compilation, with the ideas further fleshed out, and over the next couple of weeks I’m going to share some of Hauser’s pearls with you in no particular order:
Read each character’s part as though you were playing it Skip the scenes you are not in and concentrate on your own lines. This often gives you a more vivid idea of the character and can help with casting.
Don’t try to please everybody Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know the formula for success, but I do the formula for failure; trying to please everybody”. With both the authority and responsibility to stage the play well, you will inevitably have to make some unpopular decisions. Accept the grumbling. Be strong and calm in the face of opposition – and realize that normal conversation includes a good portion of complaint.
All the teams gathered again at Cineworks HQ this past weekend to send some time talking about the third and fourth scripts to go into production, Bull by the Horns and Dancing in Ashes. We were very lucky to welcome short-film guru Kellie Ann Benz this week as guest story editor and it was definitely interesting to watch the contrast in styles between her approach and our work the previous week with Daniel Conrad. Especially refreshing was Kellie’s manifesto that short films should be regarded as works of art unto themselves and not only as stepping stones towards making a feature. Kellie blogs extensively on the subject on her site The Shorts Report. Thanks Kellie.
This BDTH contest is an exercise in restrictions and the challenge is to creatively find solutions around a) making a film in two weeks b) basing it on a chunk of someone else’s dialogue c)not having any control about the equipment you’ll be using. Here’s a great quote from director Wim Wenders on why restrictions help the creative process:
I think it’s very rare that you make a film where there are no obstacles to overcome an everything runs smoothly. And it’s very rare that such experiences turn into a good movie. In my own experience, those films where you stood in front of a mountain of problems and had to overcome huge difficulties, where you were heartbroken that you couldn’t do things and you had to come up with ideas in order to cover up for something – those are the interesting films….I think that the films that break your heart in between also have the potential to break other people’s.
As the old saying goes, writing is all about re-writing, so in that spirit we’re doing some workshopping sessions with our filmmakers in order to get their scripts as polished as possible before they go to camera. Big thanks to director Daniel Conrad and actors Nathalie and Phil for volunteering their time to come work with us. Here’s what it looked like.
While our teams are hunkered down and getting ready for a first round of script workshops happening this weekend with the help of director Daniel Conrad, we thought we’d take a moment to acknowledge our funders, as well as the industry partners who are helping us pull this off.
We kicked off the production process for BDTH this week with an orientation meeting for the teams, to give them an opportunity to meet each other and to take care of some housekeeping details before they get started in earnest. Everyone’s chomping at the bit to get started and here’s the order they’ll be shooting in:
Two Skaters – April 9-15
Maintenance Man – April 16 – 22
Dancing in the Ashes – April 23 – 29
Bull by the Horns – April 30 – May 6
Please stay tuned to these pages to follow the teams’ production process and don’t be afraid to get involved through the crew call page!