Friends (with benefits) vs. No Strings Attached

First off…sorry for the lack of updates…we’re getting COLOR ME OBSESSED ready for its sound mix, and time has been short…but I promise to continue on Sunday.

But first, since so many have asked, I wanted to repost these two post from the FWB IMDB board…

The first comes from someone whom I do not know, her IMDB name is Estella2. In a post titled “why isn’t this getting a main stream release?” she writes:

“okay….so why is it that two horrible movies with big main stream casts with basically the same story line are getting released within the next month or so…but this isn’t? this was a hell of a lot better. was this idea like stolen from someone and sent to hollywood? or did this guy sell it and agree with not having to have his name credited at all…..it just seems weird.
“no strings attached” with natalie portman with a very very similar story line and characters. even had the same original title “F*u*c*k* buddies” and no mention of the writer of this film having anything to do with it. “friends with benefits” mila kunis. also a very similar story line and no mention of this writer.

was this just some sick coincidence or what? if not, then as an independent artist i feel pretty small and hopeless right now.

what’s the point, if hollywood steals everything and turns it into garbage? if we have to keep seeing natalie portman ashton kutcher justin timberlake and mila kunis then why even try to have other actors out there? we can just have all of hollywood recycle themselves over and over until they die or become paralyzed from too much plastic surgery. there used to be such a thing as “new talent.” guess that died a long time ago along with celluloid film.”

This was my response:

“It is frustrating. I wrote this as a spec script called “Fuck Buddies” back in 1999. It was shopped around, but because of the more controversial sections of the film (pretty sure you know what I mean if you’ve seen it), eventually no one purchased it. (I was asked to take those out, but I declined.)

Now, the young lady who wrote No String Attached (also originally called “Fuck Buddies”, then called “Friends With Benefits”) went to Yale shortly after my agents began shopping the script around. What does seem a little strange to me was that my wife employed a bunch of Yalies at the time, and we were friends with a lot of people in the New Haven scene…so I’m pretty sure word got around as to what I was working on (as I was pretty well-known in New Haven at the time due to my books and older horror films)…

That there are SO many similarities in the script is upsetting. (Funny, what’s bothered me most is that the Justin version actually has an orange logo! Really?!?! There was no other color. And it’s not like they didn’t know about my film. Our URL is FWBmovie.com, theirs is FWB-movie.com. I mean…c’mon.)

So yes, it feels like I did all the work. As for it being a coincidence…there’s no such thing as coincidences! (And I never secretly sold any rights to this story.)

As for your closing…I believe the gap between indie and hollywood is larger than ever. We just need to keep to our side and keep putting out worthwhile projects. Let’s face it, an Ashton fan probably wouldn’t enjoy a true indie film anyway. So, let them have their bad copies…we know where the originality lies. We can see the difference. Never give up hope (or your dream). ”

NOW…after having seen NO STRINGS ATTACHED, I can honestly say aside from the premise, original title, and the fact that Natalie is a doc, there is very little stolen from FWB. But what is annoying about the film is their tag line “Can Best Friends Be Sex Friends?” That would work perfectly for our film, but not for theirs. The two main characters are strangers. It’s not a friends with benefits situation, it’s a two strangers having sex situation, i.e. THEY’RE DATING. As for their “rules,” well we have Brad’s Rules…and there’s no comparison. And so much for the female empowerment crap. Sure she makes the decision at first, but she’s also the one who comes crawling back begging his forgiveness. As for raunch…please. It’s a typical Hollywood romantic comedy. The cast and crew of FWB know raunch! (Oh, but they do have two girls kissing! And anyone who’s seen my FWB knows what I have to say about that!) Look, it’s a middle of the road romantic comedy. Nothing more, nothing less. I’d say that no matter what. If this were any other film and my wife and I were watching this at home on DVD, I’d have started reading the NY Times five minutes in, and she would have taken it off after about 15 minutes. And she LOVES rom-coms.

I will say one positive thing about NSA, and that is that Greta Gerwig is great. I wish she were the lead. She steals the show, and makes you want to go and watch her other films.

That’s all…thanks for listening to me vent. I look at it this way, because of this film, and the Justin/Mila version coming in the summer, we’ve gotten a LOT more exposure than we could have ever hoped for. Riding the coattails of the big publicity machine. It all works out in the end…

If you haven’t, watch FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) now for free…and decide for yourself!

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The FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) interview…

Some questions and my answers to a little interview I did recently for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS):

Poster designed by Sarah Hajtol

1. What would you say to someone sitting down to watch this film for the first time, knowing nothing about it?

To please put all preconveived notions about what sex and romance should be, to crank up the volume, and get ready to laugh and be turned-on…

A scene from FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) filmed at Cafe 9 in New Haven

2. What was the inspiration for writing the story for this film? Is it autobiographical at all?

Well, yes, back in my college days, I had a few long-term friends with benefits, of course, we called them fuck buddies back then. Which was the original name for the script, when I first penned it back in 1999. But I was finding that none of my actors wanted a film called fuck buddies on their resume. I’ve always felt it was an interesting aspect to any friendship, especially male/female friendships. How can you not want to be with a person with whom you have a lot in common?

A scene from FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) filmed at Willoughby's Coffee & Tea in Branford, CT

3. How did the project come together? Was it difficult to get this film off the ground and into production? What were the major challenges?

The biggest challenges are always fund raising and casting. I raised about half the money pretty quickly, based on the script. I found matching funds from a group interested in also putting the film out on DVD. A win-win, until they started giving me script notes. I’m beyond the point of taking script notes from investment bankers and accountants. My feeling is, you want to invest in the film, great. But you have no say. Life is too short to deal with assholes who think because they have money they know anything about story development. So, the minute they brought up script notes, I told them what they could do with their matching funds, and moved on to the lower budget I had already prepared. (I always have backup lower budgets.)

Anne Petersen, Margaret Laney, Lynn Mancinelli

4. How was the casting process? Any surprises in the cast you finally got together?

Well, Margaret Laney was onboard first…she was friends with Jake Alexander…who knew Brendan Bradley…who knew Anne Petersen. Then Jake remembered an old friend from Boston, Alex Brown. So that was 5/6 of our lead cast. It was the final role which took a while, and eventually went to Lynn Mancinelli. The leads rocked. It helped that a number of them knew each other, but it also helped that we rehearsed once a week for going on 6 months because filling shooting. They all seem like good friends. The chemistry is there. I couldn’t ask for more. And likewise, there’s no one else I’d picture in the lead roles. They own them. But, as always, finding supporting players was a lot harder. No real surprises, except for perhaps Tara Stiles, who plays one of the webcam girls. She’s an uber-famous yoga instructor now. She rocked that small part. Wish we had seen more of both her, and the coffee shop girl, played by Rooney Mara.

Alex Brown, Brendan Bradley, Jake Alexander

5. How was Rooney Mara to work with? What do you think of her casting in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

I’ve been friends with Rooney for a long time. I originally cast her as the Ilona, the Daughter of God, in the intended film version of my first novel, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told. In fact you can see her on the cover of the paperback reprint. But when I walked away from $2 million in funding (same reason as above), I moved on to FWB. But Rooney looked too young at the time to play any of the lead roles. I think she’s going to kick ass in Dragon Tattoo. I’m proud of her. Can’t wait to one day get Second Greatest Story off the ground.

The band: START MISSING EVERYBODY

6. Any memorable moments on set?

It was a tough shoot. We had a lot of locations and only 18 days. And there are many times I’m a 20-take director. So we don’t have much down time. Scratch that, we have no down time. But that said, my favorite day of shooting was the, well, without giving away too much, let’s just call it the orgy scene. It was very tight quarters. We shot that in an attic, so the ceiling where we placed the camera and crew was about 3 feet high. It was in the 90s, that day. No A/C. And yet, there’s one particular shot in which that scene all comes together. It wasn’t planned. It was as if the god if indie films was shining down upon us and it all just clicked. But you’ll know it because what you never expect to happen, happens.

Adrian Correia, Gorman Bechard

7. Are there any particular scenes you like the best, or that you’d like audiences to really take note of?

I have two favorite scenes in the movie that still to this day give me goosebumps because they feel so real. Both are between Chloe and Owen. The first is the kiss on up East Rock park, when they first talk about what they want to be when they grow up. The other is the dance at their senior prom, when he puts his jacket around her shoulders. The looks they give each other are beyond perfect. I made the film and yet I believe in those moments they are in love.

A scene from FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) filmed at East Rock Park in New Haven, CT

8. How about any scenes that were particularly challenging to shoot?

The East Rock scenes…on those nights it would either be raining, or freezing, or both. NEVER shoot exterior scenes in low budget films. It’s suicide. Also the bar scenes. 21 pages in about 22 hours, with band performances, shooting overnight for two nights while the bar (Cafe Nine, in New Haven) was closed.

Poster used in film.

9. What would you say is the overall message you’d like people to take away from the film?

Sex is something different for everyone. We all have our kinks, whatever they might be. Instead of discriminating against people because of differences, we should learn to embrace and enjoy those differences. It might just turn you on like you’ve never been turned on before.

You can watch FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) now on Fancast or Babelgum. Or you can purchase the DVD (with tons of extras) at Amazon.

Happy Holidays to all…

The making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 5

OK…you want to work in the film business.  You want to work on a set.  You want to be crew.  First off, understand that you’re nuts.  Crazy.  Certifiable.  Once you’ve gotten that realization out of the way you can proceed…do not pass go…and there ain’t a chance in hell you’ll be making $200 on a low budget set.  (Well, maybe per week…if you’re lucky.)

Which brings me to what makes a great crew member… 

My example of perfection: Jodi Baldwin, my costume designer on both YOU ARE ALONE and FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS)

What makes Jodi so amazing?  Well, her planning is meticulous.  She understands not only the script, but the individual characters, and gives each an arch through their wardrobe.  She can make the actor feel comfortable, beautiful, loved, listened to.  She makes me, the director, feel as if she understands exactly what I’m looking for.  She makes me, the producer, confident that not only will she deliver everything I ask for, but she’ll come in under budget.  And she makes herself, the costume designer, shine with realistic looks, clothing that the characters would actually wear.  She makes the movie that much more believable.  Everyone is happy.

Her work ethic is beyond reproach.  I’ve seen her sewing late into the night.  I’ve seen her continue on despite a family emergency.  Everything is organized, color-coded, steamed, and ready to go.  She is always upbeat, good natured, never complains.  And somehow, despite her brilliance, she manages to check her ego at the door.  She understands that her art is part of a larger picture.  And she does everything in her power to make the larger picture shine.

That is a GREAT crew member.

The ego checking thing…it’s especially hard for a lot of people who want to work in this business.  Usually people who have no business even having an ego in the first place.  But really, unless you’re the director, or you’re putting up all the cash for the production, or you’re some star with actual box office value, there’s no room for your ego.  The set isn’t big enough.  Do everyone a favor and leave it at home.  This is a job.  Might be a cool job, but it’s a job nonetheless.  Treat it as one.  Treat those above you with respect, as you would any boss.  You’ll get a good reputation, and word of mouth will travel quickly, you’re someone worth hiring.  That’s how you succeed in this business.

Now…with the Seattle premiere of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) coming up quickly, I felt it was time for another trailer.  And while I still have yet to complete the long trailer, y’know the one which will tell the story of the film in three minutes or less, I have come up with a fun tease, based around Brad’s Rules. 

Give me 57 seconds of your time to get you hooked:

And of course there’s the toe sucking contest:

(Rules and such are in my last blog entry.)

Ok…all for now.  Really trying to finish up the new novel before getting on a plane to Seattle…

The making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 2

Friends (with benefits) shot for a total of 18 days, beginning on April 18th, 2007.  So, we’ve really been editing it, tweaking it, playing with the song selection, and score, and titles, and color correction, for going on two years now.  (The original assembly was 125 minutes without end credits, the final cut runs 94 minutes complete.)  Doesn’t seem like that long has passed, but then again perhaps it does.  I think once you see the film, you’ll understand why so much time was spent on editing.  We tried to do something a little different here.  (The producers rep who ultimately took on the film called the editing “ground breaking.”  And while I don’t know about that, we’ll certainly take the compliment!)

           

As a novelist (my website, GormanBechard.com has all the info you could possibly need on that), I thought we’d bring a little of that feel to the film, thus in my mind it’s “a novel with moving pictures.”  While all films on DVD are broken into “chapters” I thought we’d take that one step further and actually break the film down into real chapters.  But no one wants to watch a book.  So, how to make it move fast . . . real fast? 

 

Well, originally I wanted the film, especially the dialog, to movie at a breakneck speed, like “His Girl, Friday.”  But there are two truisms in film.  The one that fits here is, and I’m paraphrasing: “There’s the film you write, the film you shoot, and the film you edit.”  Anyone who’s ever directed a film knows they are three very separate beasts, each with a mind of their own.

 

So, while that breakneck pace seemed great in concept (and even in rehearsals), the realities of casting and filming got in the way.  Until editing, that is.  We threw out the rule book.  And decided that we would not allow the audience time to blink (at least for a part of the film…when need be, as a director I am a big believer in giving the performances room to breathe.)  

 

(FYI: I never used the rule book when writing my novels, hell, I flunked English 101 in college, and likewise, for any of you who’ve seen my last feature YOU ARE ALONE, you know I don’t “do” the “master/over-shoulder/over-shoulder reverse” coverage.  It’s boring, it’s lazy, it shows not one iota of originality or belief in your script, or your ability as a director…it’s movie-of-the-week.  Really, just put a bullet in my head and shoot me now.  So, yeah, I certainly wasn’t going to start following the rules now.)

 

The Friends (with benefits) secret weapon?  Split screens.  If two stories were happening concurrently, why not show them?  Adjust the timing here and there, and let the characters on the right answer the characters on the left.  It was just an experiment at first.  Tried it in one bar scene where two male characters are conversing about the same subject as two female characters.  What do you know?  It clicked.  It worked.  Jokes came faster.  You didn’t have time to blink and you were laughing again.  Or in a few cases, the inherent sadness of a friendship perhaps destroyed was given an even greater emotional impact.

 

Watching and using the split screens, co-editor Ashley McGarry and I just knew in our guts this was right for the film. 

 

And that’s what it comes down to for me.  That gut feeling.  Whether holding on someone’s expression for a beat longer than you might think necessary, because in reality sometimes we need that extra moment of reflection.  Or inserting a list of “rules” as a text scroll to make a scene go where it needed it to go.  Or dozens of other little examples in this film.  (Some big examples: cutting a huge emotional scene down to one line because I felt the rest made one character just a hair less likable, cutting scenes because I found an actors blocking distracting, sacrificing a few amazing shots that ultimately did nothing to move the story along, or reducing characters down to a few lines because either the story wasn’t really about them, or I felt their performance distracting.)  You go with your gut.  In the end, as director, it’s your name signed at the bottom of the canvas.  And after a horrible bigger-budget filmmaking experience back in 2002 (read the blog entry titled “Just say no to Billy Zane” from September 2008), I promised myself I would never again sign my name to a film or book I wasn’t proud of. 

 

Well, I’m ready to sign my name to Friends (with benefits).  Come see it at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival on June 12th, and you’ll see why.

 

P.S. An aside.  OK…I did not sign my name to my last novel UNWOUND.  It was published under the pseudonym Jonathan Baine.  But not because I wasn’t proud of the book.  I actually love the book.  The name change was quite simply to trick the computers at Barnes & Noble.  See, the big chains, like B&N, preorder copies of your new book based upon the sales of your last book.  Now, most of my novels have had a first printing of between 5,000 and 20,000 copies.  The first printing for UNWOUND was going to be 146,000 copies. Thus the publisher wanted the B&Ns of the world to order a lot more than what they ordered and sold of my previous titles.  Smile.  You just learned something about the publishing business.

The making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 1

As both the completion of my newest feature, FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) …and the start of its film festival run nears, I thought now would be a good time to turn the main subject of this blog over to the making of my newest film.

 

I start with BRAD’S RULES.  Or at least 99 of them.  The rules were not a part of the original script.  They were born out of necessity, when during the editing process we needed to get from point A to point F in a very long scene that was just slowing down the first act, and do so in a way that was both organic to the script and also funny.  And since Brad, one of the main characters in the film, was always mouthing off about his rules, we thought inserting those rules into the film might just work.  Thus the actual list of 100 rules was born.

 

You’ll have to judge for yourself, but I think they provide one of the biggest laughs in the film. 

 

But here now are the rules…live by them, and life will be good (which I guess is a rule in and of itself):

 

100. Friends don’t let friends fuck ugly people 

99. Try everything twice, the first time you might have been doing it wrong 

98. Fat girls give the best head because they’re always hungry 

97. Cologne: overrated…Deodorant: a must 

96. Blondes are usually too dumb to realize they’re having more fun 

95. After puberty, that’s not “baby fat”

94. ATM = the Holy Grail 

93. All hippie chicks deep throat, but few vegans swallow 

92. Women like shoes. They will look at yours; purchase accordingly 

91. BBBJ or why bother? 

90. Women cannot parallel park 

89. If you wanna fuck it, you’ve got to be willing to lick it

88. Ass, stomach, legs, boobs – in that order 

87. If it’s not dirty, you’re doing something wrong 

86. If a friend’s apartment is running low on toilet paper, you’re required to use it all 

85. Cheerleaders are overrated 

84. Under no circumstance may two men share an umbrella 

83. Never allow a conversation with a woman to go on longer than you are able to have sex with her 

82. Other than in February, the 14th of every month is Pizza and Blowjob Night 

81. Dogs are better than cats…period 

80. Bigger is never better when they’re fake 

79. Don’t leave the house if you’re not camera ready

78. A period does not equal a week off from sex 

77. Mustaches and hunting are gay 

76. Sucking your best friend’s dick, that’s priceless 

75. You are not accountable if you bring ugly people home, unless you fuck them again in the

morning 

74. If her mom isn’t a MILF, chances are she won’t be one either 

73. Fake orgasms count, as long as they’re not yours 

72. The G-spot does not exist 

71. There is NOTHING sexy about pregnant women 

70. Persistence gets you laid 

69. Never give yourself a haircut while drunk 

68. No panties = a good night 

67. Drinks hard liquor = a great night 

66. Tongue piercing = God loves you! 

65. Saliva isn’t always the best lubricant, just the most fun to apply 

64. White cotton panties and knee socks.  Enough said!

63. Never lend money to friends 

62. Never lend books, CDs, or DVDs to anyone 

61. The month you finish paying for your car, it will break down 

60. Elvis is not dead 

59. Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone 

58. What’s good for you does not always taste better.  Example: processed peanut butter vs. the all-natural kind 

57. People who don’t use turn signals deserve mandatory prison sentences 

56. Never let a girl shave your balls 

55. Porn saves lives 

54. Republicans are better at…well…nothing 

53. If you’ve never had New Haven brick oven pizza, you’ve never had pizza.  There is no pizza in New York or Chicago.  Don’t argue, you’ll just sound foolish 

52. Old country = cool  Alt-country = really cool  New country = sucks 

51. Condition your hair once a day 

50. Masturbate twice a day 

49. Eat three square meals every day 

48. Women should never cut their hair, unless they’re going to play for the other team 

47. Crying is blackmail 

46. Your choice: spay or neuter your pet…or yourself  

45. If she sleeps in your bed, sex is a given 

44. If a girl leaves her dirty panties lying around, she wants you to sniff them 

43. There’s no such thing as giving 110% 

42. Halloween is the only holiday that matters 

41. Sympathy sex trumps make-up sex 

40. Body hair just gets in the way 

39. Rip bread, don’t slice it 

38. Every man should learn how to dance, but no other man should know he can 

37. Men have no right to speak on the subject of abortion 

36. Every decade gives us only one great double album: The White Album, Exile On Main Street, London Calling, Being There, and Cold Roses. 

35. Chivalry is not dead, but she has to earn it 

34. Watch Carnival Of Souls at least once in your lifetime 

33. If your pubic hair is blond or red, shaving is optional 

32. You can cheat on girls with hairy legs 

31. If they don’t answer, it means yes 

30. Never turn down a chance to sleep with a celebrity 

29. Sex is better in warmer climates 

28. Emo guys = gay; emo gals = easy marks 

27. Never trust people who don’t drink coffee 

26. Springsteen really is The Boss 

25. If there’s a problem, talk it out 

24. If you can’t talk it out: fuck, then try again 

23. Never lease what you can buy 

22. Never break up using a post-it note, her biker friends will hurt you for it 

21. Never say “no” to a green-eyed girl 

20. Live life as if The Catcher In The Rye were your bible 

19. Don’t lie, you will get caught 

18. Admit that the 1986 Mets were the greatest baseball team of all time and life will be easier

17. Know the legal age of consent in every place you visit 

16. Wild animals belong in the wild, not in zoos, fairs, or roadside attractions 

15. Pussy farts are charming 

14. Only wear a bra if you’re going to offend me 

13. Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder 

12. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye 

11. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups 

10. When in doubt, mumble 

9. Masturbation is overrated 

8. Small boobs are misunderstood

7. Better to be feared than loved, but even better to have your love feared 

6. Handcuffs are the ultimate sex toy 

5. If you can’t convince them, confuse them 

4. Quiet girls are the most likely to toss your salad 

3.  Women do not understand remote controls, there is no exception to this rule

2. Never overthink 

 

Of course, if you want to know the number one rule, you’re gonna have to watch the film.

 

The official website is: www.FWBmovie.com 

 

Check back often for more stories from the front lines of making FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS)…

 

Friends (with benefits) POSTER
Friends (with benefits) POSTER

 

P.S. Remember my horror/comedy PSYCHOS IN LOVE will be released on DVD (complete with a boatload of extras) next Tuesday, April 28th.  You can get it at BestBuy, Netflix, or preorder it here at Amazon.com

 

I guess in a way, PSYCHOS IN LOVE had its own set of rules:

 

I hate grapes.

I can’t stand grapes.

I loathe grapes. 

All kinds of grapes.

I hate purple grapes. 

I hate green grapes. 

I hate grapes with seeds. 

I hate grapes without seeds. 

I hate them peeled and non-peeled. 

I hate grapes in bunches, one at a time, or in groups of twos and threes.

I fucking hate grapes.