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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 11

Over the holidays last year, two old friends joined the production team: Dean Falcone, whom I’ve known for about three decades, and who co-wrote the score for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS), and Ed Valauskas, whom I first met when he played bass so many eons ago in amazing band Gravel Pit. Both have countless connections in the music industry. They would get us to many of the rockers who would so make this film work.

Our second day of filming interviews for COLOR ME OBSESSED was actually set up by Ed. Wednesday, January 27, 2010. Heading north this time, up to Boston. Five interviews in all, three of them taking place at the Q Division Studios. (Thank you very much!)

Only Adrian and I would make trip up. It being a weekday, Jim needed to work. It would actually be just Adrian and myself for a while, or at least until Sarah said, “I want to learn about video.”

The first interview would take place at 11 AM…so we hit the road at 7:30, just in case there was traffic or construction in and around Boston. (Like that could ever happen.)

First up: George Skaubitis, who worked radio promotions for Warner Brothers. George was very quiet and subdued, but he gave me one amazing quote, part of which you can see in the second trailer right here, calling the band a “glorious mess.” It was a short interview, but I’ll always take quality over quantity.

Next up was Dave Minehan of The Neighborhoods…

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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 10

(It’s been a week…sorry about that, besides being on the road, I had to create an M&E for Friends With Benefits. That’s a music and effects track for foreign sales, which will allow for dubbing. But since most all of our sound was recorded live, all of the effects are surrounded by dialog. It basically meant I had to go in and pull or re-create every sound in the film, i.e. when Shirley puts a glass down on the bar, we need to hear the glass touching the bar, and not whatever Shirley might be saying. Tedious, so say the least. It was sort of like having your away-at-college kid show up unexpectedly for a weekend visit, and damn if you hadn’t turned their room into a music room, or screening room, or whatever your pleasure. Unexpected, but still you realized it was nice to see the brat.)

Ok…time to get sidetracked, as I was just in Cleveland for a few last minute cmo interviews and I finally had the opportunity to visit the rock n roll hall of fame, and ok, look, the Springsteen section was amazing, to see his old Tele (the one from the cover of Born To Run) was like seeing Van Gogh’s Starry Night for the first time. Goddamn, did I want to touch it. The blacken neck gave me goosebumps. Every crack in the body’s finish seemed to bleed rock and roll. In my opinion it’s the most important guitar of all time. And I feel honored to have stood in its presence.

And look, sure it’s a gorgeous building, right on the lake, etc., and so forth…but we’ve all seen museums before. This one is supposed to be special! But aside from the Springsteen exhibit, which was inspiring (and the Bowie and Les Paul’s original electric displays as well), I was left wanting more. A LOT MORE. And y’know why? The punk section was closed because of remodeling, so no Clash, no Costello, no Sex Pistols, NO REPLACEMENTS, and yet I would still see shit like Steven Tyler’s or Stevie Nicks’ stage costumes, and countless FM radio crap, that all fell into the same genre. I’m sure that whomever creamed over the Lynyrd Skynyrd display likewise gushed over the ZZ Top. They were covered. But to put the most important movement in rock on the back burner because of remodeling. Fuck! Kill the goddamn Doors display. Or does anyone really care about Pink Floyd’s The Wall? Obviously, the powers that be at the Hall of Fame are as biased as the reporters on Fox News. And as always, the smart minority gets fucked. (Really now, you couldn’t have found room for even a hint of punk? Shame on you!)

Supposedly the remodeling will be complete in 2012, so anyone thinking of visiting should wait.

Ultimately was as the Hall of Fame disappointing? Yes. But would I go back? Sure, I’d give it one more chance to get it right.

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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 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:

IMDB.com

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.

blue-car-poster

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.

Blue%20Car%20poster

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 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…

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The making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 4

The sound mix for FWB ate my life for the past week and a half…but all is wonderful…thanks to the pros at DuArt in New York (Matt Gundy and Carmen Borgia, to be specific), who once again rocked in every way shape and form. 

Before I get to what makes a great crew member, I need to devote a little time to the upcoming premiere at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival in less than 4 weeks: June 12th at 7 PM!

So, in the very funny and uber-kinky spirit of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS)…with a nod to co-composer Stephen Harris for suggesting the idea…I present the official FWB Toe Sucking Contest.

Watch the video, and all will be explained:

Here is all the official information:

To help celebrate the World Premiere of our new film FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) we are searching for the world’s greatest toe suckers. (That’s sucking your OWN toes!) 

So, get cracking…take a shower (or not)…and post your best toe sucking online for all the world to see.

C’mon…you know you want to…

Whip out your cams, take off your shoes, and let the world see what you can do.

We want you to post videos of your dirty deed.

And we will be pick the ultimate Toe Sucker! (Comments by viewers will certainly sway us, so get your friends to support your effort!)

Make us laugh, cringe, turn us on…SUCK YOUR TOES!

There will be three winners in this contest:

First Place gets a fantastic What Were We Thinking Films merch package, including three DVDs: Psychos In Love, You Are Alone, and of course, Friends (with benefits), plus a Friends (with benefits) baseball cap, t-shirt and poster, and a Psychos In Love “I Hate Grapes” t-shirt!

Second place gets: a Friends (with benefits) baseball cap, t-shirt and poster.

Third place gets: a Friends (with benefits) baseball cap

Winners will be announced on October 1st, 2009

You can enter as many times as you want. Decision of the judges is final.

So, get cracking…take a shower (or not)…and post your best toe sucking online for all the world to see.

C’mon…you know you want to…

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