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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 15

Before we continue with the interview process, I want to stress to any people making films out there, or thinking of making a film:

1. You’re out of your freaking mind!

2. You need a poster and a website NOW.

It’s one of the first things I do. Even if nothing has been filmed. Because when you speak about the movie you are planning to make, people will inevitably want to check it (something) out online. Thus, Sarah Hajtol initially set up a simple site for Color Me Obsessed, which was the poster you see below, and a bunch of simple HTML links on the side: what’s new, director’s site, pages for my last film, and the one before it, facebook, twitter, etc., and so on. SOMETHING.

But how exactly did we arrive at the poster? Well, I basically drove Sarah crazy (as I always do), telling her to forget everything she learned in school and go nuts. Now, enjoy this poster while you can, because a new one is in the works (see the plaid one at the bottom of this post).

But in the meantime, let me show you a few of the designs that never made it past their embryonic stage…

Before we went plaid, we were aiming for something based upon the old Let It Be house…

…or a speaker, as in the Bastards Of Young video.

…or a volume knob…

Until one day I thought…plaid pants…and sent Sarah every plaid background I could find…and voila, she made magic:

(P.S. We are missing names from the credits above…but that will be corrected on the new version.)


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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 8

Now I had tried before for another project. It’s a place where you put your project online, and seek backers. NOT investors. Backers. People who donate money to your film in return for a dvd, a poster, an associate producer credit, a day on set, a role as an extra, anything you can think of really. But unlike investors, they do not own any part of your finished film. They own no part of the profits. They will never be paid back. And likewise you do not have to register with state banking commissions, you do not need a securities lawyer. (Filmmakers, if you’re looking for investors, be careful and check with the laws of individual state. Fines are not fun.) If you can find people who believe in your project this is very much the way to go. But to be honest, I had no luck with indiegogo, and I think most people who tried them at the start were in the same boat. Checking their site now, they seem to have completely changed format, basically copying the much more successful

When I first put up COLOR ME OBSESSED on KickStarter back in October 2009, it was mostly an exclusive club. You needed either an invite from one of the people who had projects on the site, or from one of the site’s founders. So I sent said founders an email, explaining who I was, and what I was making, and within a few days received an invite to make CMO a KickStarter project.

You can see the original CMO KickStarter page here, including the listing of what I was offering backers at what price. As you can see it proved tremendously successful. And I knew that when time came to find Mats fans outside of the tri-state area in which I resided, I be able to pack up my crew and go.

As an aside, I can’t say enough great things about KickStater. Everything about it is professional, well thought out, and easy to use. They truly have some amazing projects, and have helped many artists like myself achieve goals which might have otherwise been out of reach. KickStarter rocks!

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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 7

Somehow almost a year went by, as I needed to finish up the tax credit paperwork (don’t get me started) for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS), complete the film, do the sound mix, begin submitting to film festivals, then actually hit the road on the festival circuit. (I could blog about that, but instead watch the amazing indie film OFFICIAL REJECTION, and you’ll learn more than you will ever need to know about film festivals.)

But in August 2009 I posted an ad on Craigslist stating that I was looking for a co-producer. I got one worthwhile response from Jim Leftwich, who not only wanted to learn about production but was a huge fan of The Replacements. We sat down over pizza at Pepe’s and hashed it out. Jim would work the East Coast interview schedule.

I believe Adrian Correia, my cinematographer on FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) had always been on board. I had been turning Adrian on to new bands since hiring him to shoot that last film. Despite no up-front pay, Adrian jumped at the chance to work on CMO.

Sarah, Jan, Jim, Adrian…that was my crew at the start. It would change as we moved along…but for now, everything clicked.

And…yes, no up-front pay. Everyone including myself would own a chunk of the back end. If the film did well, we all did well. I did not want to spent months (or more) looking for investors. I didn’t want to do all this work on another film, and then when it finally sold not see a dime. And luckily a new web startup would help me achieve that goal.

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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 6

I knew I would need help in the making of this film, specifically in finding the right people to interview, and arranging what would hopefully be a grueling schedule. A good but small and dedicated crew would be essential. Finding the right crew who could understand and would support my vision.

I started with a poster, as having an image, then getting a website up quickly, is more important than I could possibly explain in a short blog entry. It’s like this: if you don’t have a site, you don’t exist. So as soon as I began talking with Hansi, I turned to Sarah Hajtol who designed my FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) poster. Not only was she interested, but she asked if she could design the CMO website as part of her thesis. She didn’t have to ask twice.

Then during the summer of 2008 (August 21st, to be precise), I contacted an old friend, Jan Radder. At the age of 15, Jan worked as a production assistant on my film PSYCHOS IN LOVE. You can read his account of that gig on his blog (and hopefully one day in full detail in his memoir). Many years back, Jan moved to Minneapolis, but we’ve always stayed in touch, having music as a common bond. At first I asked him simply to get a photo of the Let It Be house that Sarah might manipulate for the poster.

That poster idea didn’t work, but within a month I wrote: “I want to talk to you as well, as I feel you have a lot to offer on this, if you want to come on board in a co-producer fashion.”

To which Jan replied: “Wow. I’d totally be interested. Let me know what you’re thinking.”

Little did I realize at this point just how important Jan and Sarah would become to the film…

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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 4

Jack Rabid. He popped my documentary cherry. I had never interviewed anyone on film before. And honestly it had been over 25 years since I’d interviewed anyone at all. (My past as a music “journalist,” using the word lightly, creeps up.) So well-spoken, he recanted tales of this band that I so loved. This band that had probably saved my life, more than once. I wasn’t alone. There was other intelligent life on this otherwise seemingly barren planet. (Musically barren, at least. And I was in Brooklyn, currently home to the worst rock scene the galaxy’s ever known.) He talked about their first NYC gigs, the first time he heard the song Hootenanny, and concluded (as you can see in the first trailer), “Sure, they were just a band. But weren’t the Rolling Stones just a band?”

And listen, I know from a sales and cultural viewpoint, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan should stand alone. But they don’t. There’s a fourth member to that elusive group. And here’s why. The Replacements rocked harder than the Stones ever could, they epitomized what rock always was, always would be. They could out fuck-you Mick and company to a laughable degree. Likewise, Paul, Tommy, Bob, and Chris had personalities as distinct as John, Paul, George, and Ringo. And like that band, they could break your heart one minute, then rock your soul the next. And as great as Dylan was with the word-play, Paul Westerberg could beat him at what was seemingly his game any day of the week.

They were just that good. Perhaps this film will help everyone understand that.

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The making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 7

First off, the FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) screenings…

September 6th and 11th, 7 PM, New Jersey Film Festival, Rutgers University

First weekend of October (date to be announced), Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival, Bay City, MI

October 16th, 10 PM, Royal Flush Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, NYC

October 24th, 7:30 PM, First Glance Philadelphia

…and the reviews:

Now my reality:

I’m a control freak. Especially when it comes to my films. Even my books don’t generate the blind passion, the rage, the knitpicking. But of course, I’ve never had a book destroyed by an idiot editor. Sure, I might have disliked the cover of GOOD NEIGHBORS or the cover copy on UNWOUND. But still what was between the covers remained mine one hundred percent.

I’m not even talking so much about production here. Because there are certainly people I’ve worked with to whom I give pretty close to free reign. I’ve mentioned them a few entries back. I’m talking about once the film is done…when I’m ready to sign my name to it and show it to the world. That’s when I become a raging lunatic. And BLUE CAR is the example as to why.

BLUE CAR is a beautifully haunting and depressing film about a troubled high school student played by Agnes Bruckner and the teacher who takes advantage of her. Bruckner is startling in the role which is brimming with heartbreak and despair. This is a dark, deep, near perfect film.

But you’d never guess that from the cover of the DVD which makes it look like a teen sex comedy. Hot body, ripped jeans, belly shirt. Hell, I’ve recommended this movie to people who wouldn’t even pick the box off the video store shelf because of the cover.


Now the reason I bring this up. I would have gone ballistic if this were my film. I would have been arrested for what I would have done to whomever was in charge of the DVD cover. Not an exaggeration, I would have fucking nuts. Granted, the original cover, a blue-tinted shot of Bruckner’s face, was far from perfect or intriguing, but at least it made you wonder about the film.


The DVD box not so much. Despite the quotes, you’re pretty damn certain it’s a National Lampoon-type summer sex romp. Or perhaps it’s at least the kinkier version of AMERICAN BEAUTY, where Kevin Spacey gets to actually bang the cheerleader.

I use this example whenever negotiating a dvd deal. It’s the reason why I insist on approval over the cover artwork, or at least a clause stating they can only use the artwork which I provide. It’s one of my biggest sticking points. C’mon, how easy would it have been for some sleazebag distributor to re-title YOU ARE ALONE as SCHOOLGIRL ESCORTS GONE WILD, slapping a suggestive photo of lead actress Jessica Bohl posed in her schoolgirl uniform on the cover? How easy would it be for a distributor to focus on the sex of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) and not the story? They’d argue it would be to sell more titles. Unfortunately they’d be selling more titles to the wrong people.

Anyone bringing home BLUE CAR looking for some soft-core fun would have been sadly disappointed. SPOILER ALERT: Brucker gets molested by her teacher. Her kid sister kills herself for Christ’s sake! What the fuck was the cover designer thinking? Did they even see the damn movie? Probably not!

Likewise, anyone looking for a devastatingly deep, perfectly acted drama would have never gone near the box. Sorry, belly shirt does not scream depression. It screams titillation.

Thus the film was never given a chance to find the audience it so deserved. And everyone loses.

I guess the point of this rant is that just because you’re film is finished, and perhaps you were lucky enough to find a distributor, make sure you’re not signing away your soul for the sake of that distribution deal. If your film is mishandled, it can be more damaging to your career than if it was never released at all.

I’ve seen too many filmmakers say they were just glad to finish a film. But finishing a film isn’t enough. This is your child. You need to watch over it, protect it, nurture it for the rest of your life. You need to make sure it’s as perfect as it can possibly be. And you need to help guide it into the hands of the audience for which it was made. Then and only then will word of mouth will be your friend.


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The making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 6

First things first, reviews:

from IMDB

from the Seattle True Independent Film Festival  (click reviews about half way down page)

Now the BLOG…

One of the biggest mistakes most indie filmmakers make (aside from not being organized, which I’ll get to at another point) is in casting.  The wrong line delivery can make or break a film.  Like that.  A snap of the finger and you’ve lost the audience.

Ashley McGarry and I spent months casting Friends (with benefits).  And I don’t just mean the six leads.  I mean every supporting role.  We were looking for actors who would make the characters come alive, and when needed we adapted the script to fit the actor.  (If an actor really has trouble with a line, change it.  Move the words around.   Make them comfortable, make it real.  Don’t be married to every word.  Be married to the story you’re telling.)

So what makes a great actor, at least in my opinion?  Or at least what makes them great to work with?  Aside from talent, and fitting the role in question, which are obvious necessities.  I would say the most important aspect would be the ability to recall blocking.  The example I’ll give here is Alex Brown, who plays Owen in FWB.  Now I LOVE oners.  Long takes, that never seem to end.  Life is a oner.  At the end of a five minute take, I could go over to Alex, tell him to scratch his nose four minutes in when he says such-and-such a line, but do everything else the same, and he would nail it, perfectly.  I know, you’re thinking, well isn’t that the actor’s job?  Yes, it is.  But actors that precise are few and far between.  And when you’re not shooting a oner, when you want to match your close up to your wide shot, an actor whose blocking is off will drive you crazy in the editing room.  If they’re holding their drink with their right hand in the close up, and using their left in the wide, good luck cutting.  And granted the script supervisor should be aware of this, but some things do fall through the cracks.  Having an actor that remembers blocking, and makes the blocking look natural, is a god-send.

Next, what is the actor bringing to the role?  When casting, sometimes you just know.  An actor reads and there it is!  Your character jumps off the page and is suddenly alive.  Anne Petersen came in to read for the role of Alison.  That was it.  We had other readings scheduled that day, and I would never cancel on such short notice, but we knew at the end of her audition that Anne had the part.  We gave the all of the other scheduled actresses the opportunity to audition, but in the long run just ended up comparing everyone to Anne.  She brought a spark to the character that didn’t yet exist on the page.  She made her funny, charming.   She made her real.

The ability to ad lib in character.  Brendan Bradley who plays Brad and Jake Alexander who plays Jeff were brilliant at quick comic ad libs, many of which made it into the finished film.  This helps when an actor really knows their character.  The example I’ll give.  Last day of shooting, overnight in a bar.  We were all exhausted.  It was a scene where the four friends, Brad, Jeff, Alison and Shirley (played by Lynn Mancinelli) are wondering where Chloe and Owen are, though they secretly know.  The scene as written was just not working.  Ashley and I could not seem to fix it, no matter how hard we tried.  Finally I said to the actors, run with it.  Do the scene as if this were really happening in your life right now.  They added a few lines, which made all the difference in the world, and nailed it a few takes in, AS A ONER! 

That said, an actor also needs to understand that not every ad lib is brilliant, not every ad lib works.  And when the director says to return to the script, that what you need to do.  Read the Billy Zane blog from last year, but really, throwing a hissy fit when the director won’t let you ad lib, or do the scene your way, those are not the creatures you want on your movie set.  There’s no time to argue on an indie set.  And if you really have questions or issues with the script, take it up in rehearsal.  (I do a lot of rehearsals just for that reason.)  If you don’t, you’ve lost the opportunity, it’s time to do what the director says.  Honestly, yes , it’s a collaborative medium.  No doubt about it.  But ultimately, one person is at the helm.  Everyone needs to be onboard the same ship.  I can give an actor room for improvisation, but it is also completely in my right to take it away.  The actor must understand that, and not take it personally.  As director I need to have a view of the bigger picture, I know what I’m looking for.  Trust me, as I’m trusting you with our words.

Next: the actor that goes above and beyond.  We really wanted the band in the film to feel like a really band.  I so hate when people are playing guitar in movies and it’s painfully obvious they couldn’t strum a G-chord to save their life.  Margaret Laney, who plays Chloe, started taking guitar lessons from the moment she was cast.  And it really makes a difference.  I have had musician friends ask if Start Missing Everybody was a REAL band.  Bringing that sort of reality to the film should be a no-brainers, but it rarely is.  Margaret’s lessons really paid off beautifully.  (And while that’s not her playing guitar on the soundtrack, that is her singing.  And again, she worked to rock out her voice.  Making it real.)

Lastly, I love when an actor brings an air of mystery to the role.  When a look reveals so much more than a line.  When you can see into their soul.  And Lynn Mancinelli did that and so much more.  She infused Shirley with a depth that was not on the page.  She makes us want to know more about the character.  She makes us care.  She breaks our hearts with one look. 

Now working with actors.  Wow.  Everyone is different.  Some just come on set and are ready to rock.  Some need hand holding.  And of course other can be difficult.  I try to give the actor as much freedom as possible, taking care of any kinks during rehearsals. 

Sometimes an actor will ask to add an extra line at the beginning of a scene to get them into it.  Y’know, if you’re shooting digitally, and not way behind in time, let them do it.  It’s a few seconds.  They’re be happy, and you might even have a line you can use in the film.  If not, no big deal.  Helping the actor get into character is more important.

One of the most difficult aspects of working with actors is when you give direction, and it’s just not coming through.  It’s like your speaking a different language.  I usually try to pull the actor aside and bring them to another place.  Pull up something I know about them personally.  Help them find the moment.  (I certainly did this a lot with Jessica Bohl in You Are Alone.)

And of course, there are just actors that you want to shoot (again, see Zane blog).  And once film has rolled, and you’re committed, you need to make the set as comfortable as possible.  Not always a reality, but you do the best you can.  And hopefully the other actors are on your side, realizing you’re trying to make the best film possible.

We were SAGindie on this film, which meant we could use both union and non-union players.  Half of our six leads are union.  In terms of the quality of actors, I don’t know that I saw a difference in either ability or professionalism.  In fact the one supporting player who cancelled on us the morning of her first scene was SAG.  Luckily Ashley saw it coming, and we had the role re-cast within a few hours. 

It’s certainly an art form trying to juggle all the hats required to make a feature.  I listed them a few entries back.  A few things go without saying, don’t give roles to your friends or family members.   Unless they’re actors…like people who go out on auditions.  It’ll just take the audience out of your film.  Get everything in writing. Have those contracts signed.  If you have a nude scene, make sure the actor is comfortable with nudity.  How: ask them to take off their clothes on a callback.  (Obviously let them know ahead of time what will be expected.)  Otherwise you will get burnt when they decide (or their boyfriend/girlfriend decides for them) that it’s not a good idea…as you’re a week into shooting.

Also…back to SAG for a moment.  Lots of paperwork.  You need a great first or second AD to be on top of that.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in the position Ashley and I did, having to send our time sheets out to the actors to be signed after the production wrapped.  We thought these were being taken care of.  We were wrong.  Apparently flirting with extras was more important.  (Yeah, go back to part three of this series.)

Ultimately what I’m saying: take your time in casting.  Bring in your actors to read against each other.  Tape everything.  Watch the tapes over.  You wrote or found a script you love.  You will be spending a year or more working on this project.  Find people who will bring your vision to life, as Alex, Lynn, Jake, Margaret, Brendan and Anne did for Friends (with benefits).  To paraphrase a line from the film, they rock!  And in doing so, they make the film rock!

P.S. Reworked the FILMS page on the Gorman Bechard website.  Take a look by clicking HERE.  (If you’ve never seen my short film THE PRETTY GIRL, take 6 minutes.  I think you’ll like it.)

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