Product placement, crew changes, and in-kind donations/loans

The past week has included relentless e-mailing. Lots of back and forth with the product placement agencies. There are a few leads. Several agencies requested the script. Some have requested that we contact them approximately four weeks from production to see what they can do at that time, once the cast is confirmed.

Most product placement companies only want to deal with movies that have guaranteed distribution and/or have a celebrity attached to the project. Also, the agencies’ agenda does not generally include monetary outlay. They focus on supplying products to movies to defer costs (i.e. free food lowers the budget).

A lot of crew changes happened as well. Leeanna unfortunately had to drop out of the casting director position due to her spring academic program. Ahreum Kim also had to defer the cinematography position due to personal reasons.

I contacted a friend’s sister who was interested in casting, but she was also unable to commit. Not knowing anyone else, national postings for the casting director position came into play. Through trying posting/e-mailing the blurb all over the internet, a few promising responses have started to trickle in, so hopefully we will have the right person on the project by the end of the week.

Also, my talented friend, John Arturo is interested in writing and directing as a career, and he is thinking about collaborating on the project as a cinematographer/camera operator. He has a great personality, an incredible work ethic, and we have a lot of the same sensibilities. The only drawback to his taking the position would be taking a semester off of school, so he has to work out the logistics to see if that would be possible.

A few more professors were kind enough to meet and discuss the movie. Each had a lot of advice on financing that I am pursuing. One suggested avenue was to contact equipment companies to see if they would donate/lend/reduce the price of equipment in return for brand placement in the credits, advertising their arts support in the movie on their company’s website, and possibly pitching their products to the school.

Sennheiser, an audio equipment company has been responsive, so we will see how things turn out. Over the weekend a lot of e-mails went out, so maybe this week some other arrangements will materialize.

Finally, there was a job posting to draft a business plan for a Jewish arts/film project. If it fits into my schedule, it might be a good networking opportunity. I e-mailed requesting more information about it tonight.


January 2008 - a picture

January 2008 - a picture - new year reminder - every month will feature a picture of me. Not for vanity, but as an experiment to document the change of a person over the years of making a movie.

January 2008 - All caught up

We’re up to date! Hopefully there will be at least one post a week, but we’ll see. Posting during production might be difficult, but from here on out, check back from time to time to see how things are going, or “follow” this blog (use the link on the right). Thanks for reading!

January 2008 - Product Placement

Back to school again.

Still trying to raise money, the turn to product placement has to happen. Online there is a list of every product placement agency in Hollywood. After creating a product placement proposal explaining the project and including location-specific and product-specific opportunities, I sent it to all the agencies.

Responses started trickling in. Some with no interest, but several leads came about as well. It’s a lot of back and forth coming up with arrangements that would benefit the production and reduce the budget (i.e. a company provides food, so we put them in the movie). Each arrangement has to be worth it to the company to sacrifice a little of the film’s integrity by including products, but brands are a part of the world we live in, so it’s not as big of a deal as I once thought, and it could really help with the film’s budget.

Next week, I will generate client-specific proposals for individual agencies and expect to hear back from some agencies to whom the script has been sent.

January 2008 - David Gordon Green

David Gordon Green has become one of my heroes over the past year. He is a filmmaker who has created some of the best films around. If you’ve never heard of him, you should watch all of his films. Every one is a gem. His most recognizable film is Pineapple Express, which is a departure from his more intimate preceding films. His films and philosophies on life and movies are a huge inspiration, and I had tried to get in touch with him for the past couple months.

After contacting everyone around him, his fantastic composer, David Wingo got back and said he would be happy to forward a message to David Green. I just wanted to tell him how his movies had inspired me. Note: in the script there are characters David Lindale, Daylen Gordon, and Delia Greenly. Can you find “David Gordon Green”?

Hopefully the message will go through to him. I would love to get his verbal support in the movie.

January 2008 - The Crew

During the contacting process, a lot of my closest friends were generous enough to offer their help on the project. One friend, Travis, is a fashion designer and offered the use of his dresses in the project. And many others offered rain checks on the project. It’s going to take a lot of people to pull this thing off.

Enlisting the long-term, stable crew was also a priority. My long-time friend, Riley spoke to me about his sister’s trying to start in entertainment law in LA, and he talked me up to her and told me to contact her. Her name is Abbott, and she was very enthusiastic about the project. Currently she has to check with the Judge whom she’s working for to see if legal consulting on this project is possible, but it’s looking very likely that she will be able to help on it, and I’m very excited about it.

Following up with her interest in casting, I talked again to Leeanna to see if she was still interested. I had been vague on the casting process because I didn’t know how far in advance to start the process. After finishing the script and understanding the time/financial commitments of actors, it might be best to start the casting sooner rather than later. She is in a demanding program this spring and is currently not sure whether or not she will have time to do it, but we’ll see how things turn go.

The third potential associate contacted was Ahreum Kim. She was my T.A. in our Film and Video I class. She was always enthusiastic, kind, knowledgeable, good with equipment, incredibly motivated, and always gave good feedback. One of her life goals is to be a member of the highly-competitive American Society of Cinematographers. Since our film class, she had been in my mind as someone who’s going places, and I thought we would work well together well and that she might like to be a cinematographer on a feature film. She was very enthusiastic about it, but naturally had a few private reservations about the time commitment and other matters.

The fourth contact is my long-term friend, DJ. We were both workaholics at the local movie theater, and I asked if he would like to be the sound man on the film. He has outstanding work ethic, he’s a quick learner, he’s been looking for an opportunity to shine, and we are really good friends and trust each other. He is also looking in to personal matters to get the logistics together for taking said amount of time off.

If all goes through, the main people to contact now will be casting, explosives technicians, and getting together all the logistics involved (locations, casting, costumes, food, and props). And of course, continuing to find financing.

December 2008 - PR, Logistic, and the Radio

Exhausted from writing and not-yet-recovered from the semester, I had to put the engine into idle. I took a semi-break from the movie-watching drought, and started multitasking. DVD commentaries are kind of like listening to the radio, which works well for monotonous tasks …like e-mailing hundreds of producers. So, several days were spent getting on Facebook and going further down lists of people to contact. By the way, DVD commentaries are excellent for anyone interested in filmmaking.

With the limited success of the “spreading the word” campaign, the inevitable turn to product placement seemed necessary. Also, with the logistical details needing organization, I broke down every scene in the script by scene title, scene description, scene purpose, characters, costumes, location, location pre-planning required, props, set details, people to help, product placement opportunities, time of day, time to film, time to set up equipment, time to rehearse, and time on screen. This was a way to really get organized and go through and assimilate which companies to pursue for product placement. The list took close to a week to put together.

December 2008 - Writing

Writing…The other half. My personal deadline for finishing the screenplay was Christmas. I was deadly behind. Going into break, only ¼ of the story was complete. The main problem is writer’s procrastination and never having enough time to buckle down and get to it. Also, American University is not an inspiring place to write.

SO! The only way to do it was through strict discipline. I would write for an un-interrupted four hours a day. To make sure there were four solid hours, I got a stopwatch and made sure there would be no distractions for that amount of time. It didn’t matter if I was staring at the ceiling thinking about the story, there would be no multi-tasking. So, after getting organized and sifting through 17,689 words of notes (statistics and numbers give life meaning maybe?), the outline was complete in 9 days. Taking notes and thinking is key to writing. I had all the moments and ideas down, but they weren’t organized in any coherent fashion. As was mentioned before, the notes and thinking had been going on for 9 months, so it wasn’t just coming up with an outline out of nowhere. But the sitting down and putting it all down on paper is hard.

From the outline, writing the script is just filling in the missing holes. From the end of the outline to a finished first draft only took 12 days. After reading over the draft several times and making sure it was as polished as I could make it, I sent it to about 30 friends who had mentioned they were interested in reading it. I AM INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL FOR EVERYONE WHO TOOK THE TIME TO READ IT!!!!!!!! To make sure everyone was as critical as possible, the script was sent with a feedback questionnaire guiding critical responses.

Even though the script was 6 days late, things could have been worse.

Pictures of writing in the basement. Moving to every location in the house was a good way to not get bored in any one place. This it the script laid out.

A close up of the cards - lots of writing on each.

December 2008 - Facebook

Facebook…That halfway defines this month. The only way to spread the word about the project was to reluctantly start a Facebook account…but it’s for the movie…so it’s not like REALLY having a Facebook…right? Anyway, I set up an account and sent personalized messages to every single person I know to try to catch up for all those lost years, to inform them about the project, and to get them to watch the video.

The original idea was that everyone I knew would donate a little bit and it would be the piecemeal film of the century…No. There was limited success, but at least I got to catch up with a lot of people I’ve missed. After the “everyone I know” Facebook approach, I figured that on every movie has a few hundred people working on it, so who better to tell about the movie than those people? So I contacted several hundred people that way, again with limited success. The next and more intelligent approach was contacting the producers on my favorite films. Thus far, a few producers have replied, but, realistically, nobody’s going to put their neck out for someone they don’t know. Also, Facebook is not the most professional of mediums, but the plan was all about quantity over quality. Maybe it was the wrong way to go about it, but the idea was that the website was effective and the message wouldn’t matter as much, so getting the word out to as many people as possible was the way to go about it.

December 2008 - a picture

December 2008 - a picture

November 2008 - PR

School was very time-consuming and draining at this point, so I wasn’t in a place to work any more on the other 3 stories, and at the same time the clock was ticking on getting the money for the film.

My original goal for having finances was November because the back-order on the Red camera was six months (no longer backordered). As being behind schedule is no good, the money problem became priority number one (if there’s no money, there’s no movie, and if there’s no movie then what’s the point of the story?).

I started dotting my i’s and crossting my t’s. The website needed a lot of work. If someone wants to give money, how are they going to do it? If it’s not easy, it won’t happen. So I added Pay Pal links through the website to accept donations, loans, and investments. I made up flyers that my friend, Blake, put up in a few local Starbucks, flyered 600 cars, and wrote several drafts of a general letter for anyone to read and be interested in the project.

My mom suggested making a video to tell people about the project in a few minutes without having to read. After a few days of thinking, she was right. So, I buckled down and made a four-minute explanatory, promotional video explaining the project. Ideally, it could have been a higher quality video, but the end of the semester time crunch didn’t leave any more time than being able to animate some photoshop stuff together and adding computerized voices together. It’s not a video to be particularly proud of, but it does its job in explaining the project.

Several professors gave feedback on the video and the drafted letter. They gave me the “looks good,” so I took posted the video and took letters around to a couple hundred houses around the D.C. area. Before returning for Christmas break, my friend, Kelley, and I flyered a handful of cars, and I contacted every television and radio station in my hometown to see if they would be interested in running a story on the project.

November 2008 - a picture

November 2008 - a picture

October 2008 - Non-profit status, a business plan, taxes, and the story

After finding a few grants that are designed to collect tax-deductible donations on the behalf of the film, I filled out the paper work and submitted to a few.

I met with a dean of the business school who suggested to make a business plan and talk to a tax-specialist professor. This was good advice, so I made a 22-page business plan covering all aspects of why this project is possible and how it’s going to happen and be a real movie that everyone’s going to want to watch.

The tax professor was very nice and basically told me that if I can’t get the non-profit grant to forget the non-profit status because the IRS stipulations get too complicated.

This month, I wrote David’s treatment and script. A treatment is basically the script with limited dialogue and in a less-formal, more-readable, story-esque format. If the treatment is well written, the script simply falls into place. The feedback from my writing class teacher was very helpful throughout the entire process, and her suggestions were helpful in making the story understandable to wider audiences.

October 2008 - two pictures (bonus!)

October 2008 - two pictures

The close up.

PJs, headphones, and a laptop. A large portion of life.

September 2008 - Work Work Work

Serious work on the outline began this month. Because four stories take place simultaneously, the outline can get quite overwhelming, and it is very time consuming.

To make sure the psychological analysis of the main character was correct (as the whole story contends on his motivations), I spoke with a psychology professor on campus to get his feedback. He helped hammer out a feasible reason that the main character does what he does. He also pointed me in the right direction to finding solutions to other story devices involving drugs (to knock out characters).

Additionally, I spoke with my finance professor to see if he had ideas on how to raise money. He told me to get non-profit status to entice investors. Immediately I began searching for how to make that happen.

At this point, realizing that getting money was harder than originally thought, I took the bare-bones approach to budgeting and whittled it down to $80,000.

As far as the story goes, at this point the characters were pretty much developed. Extensive text-book character studies were made for the main characters. The film takes place as four stories: the main kidnapping scenarios, the kidnapper’s’ backstory (David Lindale), and the two victims’ backstories (Maggie Anderson and Daylen Gordon).

For a class in school, one of our major projects was developing a 30-minute script. For that 30 minute script, completing David's story (1/4 of the 120 page script) seemed like a logical choice since his motivations are key to the film’s believability. This month, I made the outline for his story.

September 2008 - a picture

September 2008 - a picture

Late August 2008 - Research, Grants, and the Budget

This month, I started looking into film grants as well as continuing research on the film, production, and the budget.

Several friends were very helpful in throwing around ideas for the premise and character motivations. They were invaluable in filtering and suggesting new ideas. I worked more on fine-tuning the premise and character motivations. I wrote a letter to ask for financing from a select few people, and contacted two qualified people to be the producer on the film. A few leads were generated, but they all fizzled out.

In passing, I mentioned the film to one of my friends, Leeanna, who is an extremely devoted thespian. She expressed her interest in casting which I thought was great, but didn’t know when that process would start...

Back to school.

August 2008 - The Premise

After running through countless ideas for the movie, the premises began sifting down to one that was solid and could really work as both a marketable and meaningful film. The main stipulations that constricted the story ideas were as follows:

1. must be logistically possible with such a tiny crew and cast

2. must take place outside (outdoor lighting is free and less-time consuming (important with a tiny crew))

3. must take place in desolate, surreal locations (under our budget, set design will be constricted, and to sell the movie, cinematic scapes must be used to give the film high production values which will eventually sell the film)

4. only a few main characters (due to casting and travel considerations)

Augusts 2008 - a picture - whoops, no picture

Nobody took my picture this month. Apologies.

July 2008 - Research and a Budget

Research and inspirational movie watching continued. I developed a first draft of a budget (originally approximately $150,000) which continues to be tweaked to minimize costs.

July 2008 - a picture

July 2008 - a picture

June 2008 - More Movies and Research

After finishing up in LA, I came home to recharge and research. I watched about 300 movies (of which 60 were commentaried films). Again, commentaries offer so much. They include film tricks, technical terms, stories, and jokes.

My research included learning about different equipment options and researching stories, articles, and websites for story ideas and character details.

June 2008 - a picture

June 2008 - a picture

Late May 2008 - Interning

I started an internship in LA at a movie marketing company called The Ant Farm (www.theantfarm.net). They make movie trailers, posters, and theatrical standees. It was a very good experience to see the LA landmarks, city, and culture and to see behind the scenes of major-release motion picture work.

Even though I don’t think LA is the right place for me right now, it was great to see the city first hand for an extended period of time, and working for the company was a great time.

Anyone reading this who’s interested in interning, try not to limit yourself to where you go. All you have to do is have a position in mind and go after it yourself.

May 2008 - a picture

May 2008 - a picture.

May 2008 - Film Commentaries and Re-watching

As a move obsession grew over the course of several years, my goal was initially to watch as many possible films as possible. I knew what the story was, and watching a film for the second time would be meaningless. However, after seeing too many movies, the story lines started blending together and just watching any old movie became boring.

In 2007, I started re-watching some of my favorites to make me feel the way I knew I would feel when watching t hem. Anyway, the point is that I now watch fewer movies and enjoy watching my favorites more than once to learn. The second point is that in May, I dove into studying my favorite films, watching many of them again to refresh myself, then again with the commentary tracks to hear about the movie from the source.

Commentaries are a fantastic tool for anyone interested in films on any level (practical or recreational). If you’re interested in commentaries, to start, I’d recommend David Gordon Green’s (write/director) films, Requiem for a Dream, and Black Snake Moan. And for the whole commentary/special feature package, the Criterion collection is a great place to start (esp. Wes Anderson’s and Traffic). Also, Robert Rodriguez, David Fincher, and Ridley Scott usually put together some of the best DVDs around.

April 2008 - a picture

April 2008 - a picture. Strange expression, but it's the only close up taken during the month.

April 2008 - Student Short Film is done

“Student Short Film” is done. It was a long process that began in the summer of 2007 and ended up taking 800 hours of work (yes, hours were logged). If you haven’t seen it yet, you can. It’s free and it’s online.

In any case, there were a two very small screenings on campus for the cast and friends, and it was nice to be finished with the project. Before leaving campus, preparations were made to submit the film to film festivals over summer.

Look at the pictures of the screenings below.

April 2008 - Student Short Film Pics

The premiere.

The computer lab, or an alternate residence for the semester. The film was made mostly in this room. The lab staff in the New Media Center (NMC) was very helpful, and the film could not have been made without their support and knowledge.

And more specifically... on the dual-monitor computer in the center. It's called "Evil Bill & Ted."

And the second screening. For those who couldn't make the first one. In Cassie's and Marissa's dorm room on the small screen.

March 10, 2008 Making a Movie is Easy

On Monday, March 10, 2008, in auditorium number five (in the middle, on the left side), while watching the Bank Job, my mind was wandered. I was thinking about a short film I was working on and thinking about the production differences between the current project and The Bank Job (or any movie for that matter). I thought more and more about it and realized that the differences between a short film and a legitimate movie are not as great as many people might imagine.

In the most basic sense, the only difference between a short film and a movie (at least in my mind at that time) were the camera that is used, the actors involved, the length, and the time available to spent fine-tuning the story, acting, sets, costumes, editing, and music.

At that time I had thought a lot about my future and how dissatisfied a 9-5 job would be. School was not very satisfying, so the alternative to continuing education or entering the workforce was simply “making a movie.”

From that night forward my mind would at least have a direction to wander: the logistics of making it happen, what will the story be about, and documenting thoughts, interactions, moments, and conversations witnessed to create a dynamic movie.

March 2008 picture

March 2008 - a picture - the day before March 10.

The First Post

Hi everyone and welcome to the blog. I’ve never kept a public log of any kind, but it’s okay to make an exception to document the very long process of making this movie.

Because work on the project in March 2008, and the blog is starting today, quite a few back-posts should catch you up to date. This is going to take you from the idea of making a movie all the way to the end.

Also, as an experiment to document the change of a person over the course of making the project, every month will include a picture of me. It may not be flattering, but it will be me at some point during that month.

Here goes, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Excuse the poor phrasing, and bear with the “I”’s. It’s not egotism, only bad writing.