Sunday, July 30, 2006

Steps toward writing

The stated goal: To remove the filmmaker's hat and replace it (temporarily) with a writer's hat. So many films and ideas inside that need to get out. Today was another step toward that end. I attended another meeting of one of the local screenwriter's groups and hit most of the local used book stores in search of screenwriting books. I gladly shelled out for Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434 and Michael Hauge's Writing Screenplays That Sell and am ashamed to admit that I didn't already own copies of each. They now grace my shelves and will soon grace my mind.

Writing...bring it on.

"Preserve Me A Seat" screening

Went out tonight (Thursday 07/27) and caught Jim Field's most recent documentary "Preserve Me A Seat" at the Dundee Theatre. First off I want to say how much I like the Dundee and its atmosphere and that I'm ashamed of myself for not going there more often since it's literally less than a mile from my house. Now that I've unburdened my conscience, I'll talk about the film.

The main focus of this documentary was initially spawned by the process of saving the glorious Indian Hills Theater right in the middle of Omaha. Remembering the theater well and the great times I had going to see movies there, it brought back a lot of memories for me, seeing the committee that was formed go through the motions of trying to save this theater from its inevitable destruction, thus making way for some beautiful parking stalls. The documentary also included a lot of history on the architecture of the theater and I learned a lot about how its design was conceived and even the fact that this type of theater was only one of three in the world, and according to the architect, the culmination and perfection of his original dream after building the first two. I also remember the last several times I saw movies at the Indian Hills and how terrible the staff and service was and that made me sad to think of as well, knowing that I didn't go back to the theater after two movies in a row where there were technical difficulties with the films and the fact that the management staff at the time didn't really seem to care. A great idea, a great theater, run into the ground, figuratively, then literally. Such a tragedy.

The documentary also highlighted other theaters around the country that had similar fates decided for them through various other bureaucratic reasons and raised the question of preservation of historic buildings or landmarks and whether or not a building less than 30 years old could ever be considered "historic" or if a building's uniqueness or design could warrant preservation.

All in all an interesting and well done film that brought back a lot of memories for me. It's too bad it wasn't completed in time for this year's Omaha Film Festival, we would have loved to have premiered it there.

Check out Jim's work Apartment 101 Films.

Good job Jim.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

"Random" - it's a wrap

How many film projects can you reasonably have in the can before you edit out a finished film? Right now, my number is three. May there not be a fourth.

Principal photography wrapped late yesterday afternoon for our latest film project "Random". So I guess I'll start with the obligatory "thank you's". Firstly, a major thank you to Timothy Thares for providing an absolutely perfect location. I had a set designed in my head (as filmmakers always do) when planning the shots that I would have built on a sound stage if we had a million dollar budget, which we clearly did not. As it turned out, the location that we shot was actually better than what I had envisioned. Mr. Thares was gracious from top to bottom, from not running any power equipment while we were shooting, to helping us clean up after the shoot, to providing bathroom facilities for clean-up when our actors were bleeding from head to toe (literally). And all for the price of a case of beer. Best bargain I've had in a long time. Additional props to Chris and his uncle for finding this magnificent location as well.

The second set of thank you's goes to our actors Stef Tapio and Nate Styles for bringing excellent performances off of the page and into the lens. The fury and violence toward the end of the script (I'm not giving anything away here) gave me goose bumps. A definition of actors who "brought it". Thank you so much. My apologies for any lingering psychological trauma that you guys endure throughout the rest of your lives. Blood stains eventually fade, but psychological scars can last a lifetime. If significant therapy bills are incurred, send them to me and I will graciously forward them to Chris (since it would clearly be his fault). An additional thank you to the guest actors at the end of the film. Sadly their performances weren't what I'd hoped for, but you get what you pay for. Their services were still appreciated.

Lastly, and these thank you's were in no particular order, I want to throw out a huge thank you to the crew. Trace, you will always have rights of first refusal on my upcoming projects and I look forward to seeing where your filmmaking career takes you. I am a fan. Chris J, once again brings so much to a shoot, a true go-to guy who can do it all (if you want me to punch your boss at work, the offer is still on the table). Thanks again for all you do, and if I ever need a girl duct taped to a chair, for whatever reason, I know who to call. Matt, even in your limited physical condition (only two more weeks!), your assistance and vision are always very much appreciated. Hopefully soon we'll get a project with a bigger budget and we can share the wealth. In the mean time, I'm looking forward to "Off Broadway". Special thanks goes to Courtney for being our designated woman on set. You were tremendously helpful and made some of the "special" clean-up a little more comfortable for the various parties involved. Hopefully your sunburn fades soon. And lastly, thanks a ton to Luis and Rick for their on-set assistance. Hopefully you were both able to learn at least a little bit about the filmmaking experience and will consider me when you start working on your own projects.

Chris Z, the thank you's go without saying, but I'll say them anyway. Thanks for bringing me a cool script to shoot and thanks for all of your ideas. Project number two is in the books, here's to many more.

For those that made it to the wrap party, thank you very much, I had a blast.

Onward and upward toward the next project. Either that or maybe I should direct my focus and attention to completing the edits on the last three projects. Yeah, I'll do that.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"Random" update

We're two days away from principal photography and everything is lining up nicely. Chris has had some great luck regarding the very important props that we'll be using and the other wardrobe and props have been falling into place over the last several days. Nate and Stef continue to work on their lines and I understand that the two special guest actors have mastered their dialog as well.

Three additional crew members have officially signed on for the project:
Matt Harrell - Script Supervisor, Continuity Director (thank you for all of your help through the audition and rehearsal process)
Chris Jonak - Camera Assistant, Assistant Director
Luis Jimenez - Production Assistant

A few other crew personnel are on the bubble and will hopefully commit within the next 48 hours (or clearly it will be too late).

In Omaha Film Festival news, Jeremy, Jason and I went out to the PS Collective tonight and set up everything for our special screenings Thursday night. We've got some very entertaining films so hopefully a lot of people will come out this week.

Monday, July 17, 2006

"Random" rehearsal & location news

Today was a long day. Our rehearsal started at 2:00pm with Nate and Stef performing and myself, Chris and Matt working behind the camera. I went in to today somewhat cautious and quite frankly a bit nervous. As of yesterday, we still didn't have a location, and I was wondering how difficult it would be to nail down all of Nate's character's movements throughout the full fifteen minutes of the scene.

I'll start with the location. So, if you've been following along, you know that a location is something that we've been having a very difficult time with. It really seemed like this would be an easy one, but it's proved more difficult that I would have thought. In talking to Jeremy the other day, he mentioned that he knew someone who had done a lot of location scouting in the area for other films and he gave me her contact info. I shot her an e-mail on Friday introducing myself and crossing my fingers. She got back to me Saturday afternoon and said she'd be willing to help so I sent her a copy of the script and told her what we were looking for. Within a few hours, she sent me back several pictures of various locations (all of which looked perfect by the way) and had contact information for some of them. The response time and the specific locations themselves absolutely blew me away and truly impressed me with her ability to put together that amount of information so quickly. Knowing that we had our preproduction meeting today before the rehearsal, I forwarded the photos to Chris so he could look at them and we could discuss and make a decision. Well, late last night, Chris called and he had found a location as well (when it rains, it pours). He brought the photos of his find over today and they work perfectly for what I want to shoot, so I'm very pleased and feel a tremendous weight lifted off of my shoulders. So, with that, I want to send out a very special thank you to Sharon Seim for all of her help in such short notice. I promise we will work together on a project.

So, with that weight lifted, my nervousness had an opportunity to switch over to the choreography of our film. Since Matt is still on crutches, he has offered to script supervise and map and watch the character movements. His stage directing experience proved valuable and we were able to get all of the necessary actions down in a few hours' time. After arduously going through all of the necessary motions and documenting them so as to have continuity between the various camera angles, and just as importantly, to have the actors in comfortable, natural positions, we put Nate and Stef back in front of the camera to run the scene one last time and to my surprise and complete happiness, the actions that Nate did matched both my notes and Matt's notes. The whole process was a lot easier than I thought it would be, though it did take a fair amount of time, but ultimately it was worth it. Now, when we get on set on Saturday, we won't have to worry about movement, that's already been taken care of.

Nate and Stef have been doing a tremendous job with their characters and I'm excited (once again) to get this thing shot and in the can. Now I just need to figure out all of the coverage and close-ups that I'll need and we're ready to go.

Movie night was fun too. The film for the evening was "Magnolia". I will give no opinions at this point on my feelings about the movie other than to say it was probably twice as long as it needed to be. Read into that as you will.

Friday, July 14, 2006

"Random" rehearsals

We are scheduled to do our first full rehearsal for "Random" on Sunday. The script is extremely dialog heavy for Nate so it will be fun to see how many of Chris' words he can pack into his brain at one time. I'm personally glad I don't have to memorize one of Chris' scripts (no offense CZ).

Choreography will be a huge part of the rehearsal since the whole thing plays in such a confined space and my mind has the film shot from at least a dozen angles. Continuity will be a fun process. Thanks in advance to Alex Ferrari ("Broken"), Wong Kar-Wai ("The Follow", "2046", & "The Hand") and Tony Scott ("Domino") for some inspired camera angles and lighting which I will be borrowing.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Omaha Film Festival screening number 1

Tonight's OFF special screening went extremely well. We showed some great films and everyone in attendance really seemed to enjoy what we showed. Of course we picked the best of the best to show, so how could they not like it, right?

It was cool for me to see so many people from various parts of my life in once place together. At various times during the evening I had to stop and think before I introduced people to each other... hmm, do they already know each other or not? Interesting scenario and lots of fun.

The shorts we showed were "Spin", "Mantis Parable" and "End of a Dog". I've seen "Spin" and "Mantis Parable" literally twenty times each and love them each time. I've probably seen "End of a Dog" a half dozen times and it still cracks me up. Great short films. I'm proud to have had them at our festival this year.

The features we showed were "Scared New World" and "Half Nelson". I've seen "Scared New World" four times now and enjoy it every time. Having met yahn soon (writer/producer/lead actor) makes the film even more enjoyable. The soundtrack is absolutely amazing and the cinematography in some of the scenes is outstanding. Very enjoyable film and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. Since "Half Nelson" is a new Think Film release, I hadn't seen it yet but really enjoyed that as well. Ryan Gosling proves again how great of an actor he is, but as amazing as he was, he met his match with his young co-star Shareeka Epps. I'm sure we will be hearing much more from this young lady in years to come.

I'm looking forward to next week's screenings as well. Should be lots of fun. Thanks to all who came out tonight and I look forward to seeing you back next week. For those that couldn't make it, make sure you come next week. How often do you get a chance to sit on a couch, eating pizza and having a waitress refilling the beverage of your choice, while watching fantastic movies on the big screen?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Various project updates

"Random" - a short film written by Chris Zech to be directed by Marc Longbrake. Still in preproduction - planned for completion in July. Trace will be the DP.

"Sorry" - a music video by singer/songwriter extraordinaire Brad Hoshaw to be directed by Marc Longbrake. In preproduction. Casting is half way completed, the shot list is ready to go, location scouting is ongoing and we're waiting to complete "Random" before diving head-first into this one. Trace will DP this one as well.

"Hero Alley" - a short film (+/-45 minutes) written and directed by Chris Zech, Produced and AD'd by Marc Longbrake, DP'd by Bob Vranes and Lou Moulton. Early stages of post production. The goal is still to have this project completed by September so we can get our screening party underway!

"Wisdom" - a short film (+/-20 minutes) written by Pete Myhr, directed by Marc Longbrake and DP'd by Trace. Fairly deep into post production. A new editor has just come on board (thank you Jason) so that should not only help expedite the process, but will probably make the overall film better. Here's hoping. We need to have THAT screening party too!

"Heart of the City" - a feature length film written and directed by Jeff Saxton, produced and AD'd by Marc Longbrake, DP'd by Mike Hartzell. Jeff is in the process of making some significant improvements to the current cut of the film based on several screenings held over the last couple of months. Bids are out for a final sound edit and a final online edit. Donations are welcome. (it's hard to type this with my fingers crossed with the upcoming powerball drawing).

As I look at my wall, there are seven other projects waiting. Waiting for attention. Waiting to be written. Waiting for me to finish the projects listed above.

"Random" preproduction meeting

Chris and I had another preproduction meeting for our upcoming short film "Random" this evening. The more I plan and think about this project, the more excited I get. This should be the coolest and most interesting looking film I've done to date (at least that's the way it is in my head). Because of the subject matter and the action of the characters, the script is just begging to be shot in a visually stimulating manner. I've got about a hundred different shots and angles that I want requiring various different apparatus, none of which I can afford at this point. That being said, there is plenty that can be done with the budget that we do have so it should turn out to be a very interesting film.

Broken record time - we still don't have a filming location. How hard can it be? We need a barn. And we're in Nebraska. It's a work in progress.

Hopefully principal photography will begin and end sometime in July. That's the goal. Rehearsals will be scheduled over the next couple of weeks and then...
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