The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 9

9. Editing – part 1

To put it mildly: Editing is the most important part of filmmaking. You can have the greatest script, the most talented cast and crew, but if your editor isn’t brilliant and completely in sync with you, the film will suffer and most likely fail.

Probably the truest statement I can think of regarding filmmaking comes from David Mamet, who said, and I’m paraphrasing, “There’s the movie you write, the movie you film, and the movie you edit.” After making films for going on three decades I have never found a film that doesn’t hold true to this statement.

You can write the most beautiful, perfect script in the world. But once you get to the filming stage (and this goes for any budget $25K to $250 million, doesn’t matter), it will change. The words you wrote will inevitably stick in an actor’s mouth, it will rain when you need sun, or it will never rain, never snow (stay away from exteriors). Something, many things, will be out of your control, and your beautiful, perfect script will change. Then you will get into the editing room. And I do truly believe filmmakers should edit their own films, or have an editor who can read the filmmaker’s mind, who knows everything about his/her aesthetic, has a similar taste in film, can SPEAK film. But in the editing room, that second version of your movie, the one you shot based off that beautiful, perfect script, will morph into yet another form. Hopefully, the story you originally wanted to tell.

I’ll use the first bar scene with all six leads from FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) as an example. Wrote a kick-ass funny scene with some wicked dialog. In rehearsals I had the actors deliver the dialog during the group scenes at a breakneck HIS GIRL FRIDAY clip. It was fast, it was funny, it rocked. Then we get on set. Throw in the intricacies of lights, sounds, camera moves, dolly tracks, extras, blocking, egos, attitudes, who’s just having a bad day, overnight shooting, and of course, time constraints, and things begin to change. And seventeen takes later of a nine page scene with a slow dolly creep past the table of six friends, we have a really solid oner — a one-take master of the entire scene that could potentially work on It’s own.

I love oners. But thankfully I had the wherewithal to go into closeups on the six leads. Because once I got into the editing room, the scene though funny as a whole, just slowed down the first act, and along with other too-long scenes, pushed the end of the first act to the 40 minute mark. About 12 to 15 minutes too long. (If your first act is more than 30 minutes, you film will fail in every way. It will suck. No one will care. Period. End of story. That’s just the way it is. As soon as you figure out a way to live without oxygen I’ll listen to your arguments as to why I’m wrong.) The problem with the scene was that the writing made one thought flow into the next, with a lot of very real “cutting off” of lines when people were speaking. Which made chopping it up a bit of a task.

And then one day in the shower (don’t we all come up with our most brilliant ideas in the shower?) I came up with Brad’s Rules…or how to really use them in the film.

All through the film, the character of Brad, played to perfection by Brendon Bradley, talks about his rules – rules of sex, rules of friendship, rules of life. (I’ll post the entire list at the end of this entry.) And at one point during the early part of the bar scene he comment that something wouldn’t happen “if you just followed my rules.” And it came to me. List the rules. Actually put in a list. White letters on a black background. A hundred rules in all. Scrolling past, super fast, with the cheesiest of music.

That would allow me to then cut further into the scene. The flow had already been broken. People would be laughing. It would appear seemless.

I put out an email to everyone I knew with a sense of humor and got back some great responses as to what Brad’s rules could be. And it so worked. And I was able to cut the 9 plus minute scene down to under 4 minutes.

But was this use of the list anything I thought of during the writing process, or during filming? No, never. Not for a second. This was the editing version of my film.

More on editing in the next installment.

My filmography.

Here now, Brad’s Rules (warning, they are obnoxious and hardly PC . . . and note #56 has always been my favorite):

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 + Hunting = Gay

76. Sucking your best friend’s dick = 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 blonde 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

1. Friends don’t fuck

The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 29

After watching the film through, Matt and I compare notes…

I should point out first that he began the day telling me he found three albums from The Replacements that I’d given him at the end of the FWB mix. “Let It Be, Tim, and Pleased To Meet Me?” I venture. He replies in the affirmative. And that he began playing them non-stop since working on the film. I promise him that I’ll complete his collection once we’re done.

Back to mix notes: they’re pretty much the same. A few spots are driving us crazy. And honestly I won’t mention them because I think that Matt and the HM3K did such and amazing job of smoothing them out, that Matt and I (and the HM3K) are really the only two people (and machine) in the world who would ever know what they were.

Volumes are adjusted in a few spots. One word playing just a little too loud. A few a little too soft. The background feedback and noise (from Dean Falcone) likewise a little too loud in spots, too quiet in others, and let’s swap out a few of the non-tunings with better choices from the tracks I brought with me.

By around 2 PM the tweaking is over. There’s nothing more left to do, except output the film, which is done in real time. So, I get to watch it again. Proud at what we’ve done. Hell, what Matt and the HM3K have done. My sound no longer requires apologies.

The mix is transferred to the drives I brought with me. Two drives, so I have two separate copies. Yeah, I’m anal that way. (And yes, I hear people who know me quoting Woody Allen, “Anal is a nice word for what you are.”)

And we’re done. I thank Matt and Carmen and tell them about the next projects, PIZZA, A LOVE STORY, my doc on the history of Sally’s, Pepe’s, and Modern, the three greatest pizza (appiza!) joints in the galaxy, and parts two and three of my Alone Trilogy: the horror film ONE NIGHT STAND and the dark road drama BROKEN SIDE OF TIME. Which will see the darkness of DuArt’s mixing suite and the genius of Matt Gundy next is anyone’s guess.

The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 24

In 2009, different film, FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS), much better sound, but a new set of problems (music, music, more music, creating crowds sounds out of nothing, and leveling out the rapid fire dialog of six characters talking over each other in a bar). But still, the outcome was the same. Four days of mixing. Brilliant results.

I went home on that Monday after dropping off the drive. Took many deep breaths. Tried to relax. This was it. There were no more changes. No more interviews. No graphics, title cards. This was the final version of the film I would present to the world.

I felt sad, in a way. The people in the film become your friends, your playmates, during the editing process. And they are just like friends, they can make us laugh, cry. They can annoy the piss out of you. Or give you goosebumps when they hand you exactly what you need, often times when you didn’t even know you needed it. That’s a great friend.

But that was over. On Tuesday very early morning, I’d make another trek to NYC, this time staying through to the end of the week. Four days. And now we’d get all technical. The editing was over. The mix was about to begin.

The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 18

Back to filming COLOR ME OBSESSED. Our third day of shooting.

After Jesse Malin, whom we shot in the East Village, we were scheduled to do an interview on the upper West Side, then two in Brooklyn. Unfortunately Jesse’s interview ran long, so short of my Jeep suddenly morphing into a helicopter, there was just no way.

With only two of us working (me asking questions, Adrian manning two cameras), we couldn’t give the upper west side interviewee a respectable heads up. I called the moment the interview was over, and got voicemail. He was unfortunately on the subway, already headed towards his apartment. We he returned the call, I tried to explain, apologized profusely, but he was pissed, and we lost his interview for good. Lesson learned. We allowed a lot more time between interviews. And Neil, if you’re reading this, once again, sorry. In over 140 interviews, it never did happen again.

Next, Adrian and I scurried to Brooklyn to interview one of our Executive Producers, Diane Welsh and her son Brendan. Now a little backstory, Diane is the queen of outbidding you for rare Mats items on eBay. If you’ve lost an item you thought you had in the bag, mostly likely it’s in Diane’s amazing shrine to the band.

A few years back when I finally found a PLEASE TO MEET ME mobile on eBay, I bid well over what I thought it would sell for, into the hundreds. An hour before the auction it looked like I would have it for $45, give or take. Of course when I checked later, after the auction had closed, I had been outbid, by none other than the woman who would in so many respects become the angel for CMO.

Of course, the next time a PTMM mobile appeared, I put in some crazy high bid of around a thousand dollars, and ended up paying only around $40. There was no Diane to outbid me…

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!

The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 17

OK…holidays over, and I hope everyone’s was safe and merry…

…but before I get back to that second NYC shoot…let me state once again and for the record, and so there’s no confusion. Since I have been involved with this film (well over 2 years now), there has never been a time when I considered, even for a second, putting music in the film. We have never approached The Replacements about using their music. We have never approached the band members for interviews. We have never approached the band members about anything, period. That is not and never was (or will be) the film I’m making. Go back to part 2 of this “making of” and hopefully you’ll understand why. I wanted to do something different, an original take on the rockumentary, a genre that’s seen almost everything, except well, this…my ode to what I believe to be the greatest band of all time. I like taking chances…you never know what you’re going to get. (Sort of like with The Replacements, right?) And can there ever be greatness without risk?

The Best Music & Films of 2010

Best & Worst of 2010

I’ll be the first to admit that because I was making a documentary on The Replacements, I listened to them probably more than all other musicians combined. I rediscovered SORRY MA, FORGOT TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH, hearing things that I had somehow never heard before (perhaps I previously focused a little too much on LET IT BE, TIM, and PLEASED TO MEET ME). And I probably played IF ONLY YOU WERE LONELY more than any other song. If was like an old friend, whispering over my shoulder, giving me encouragement and at times enlightenment.

That said, here are what I believe to be the best albums of 2010, in order:

1. Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses – JUNKY STAR – If his voice doesn’t get you, the song writing certainly will. (Or at least the dirtiest guitar sound I’ve heard in a few years.) It was as if Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams had a kid, Eric Bachman was his older brother, and Paul Westerberg his obnoxious uncle. If that description doesn’t have you opening another browser window to order this damn thing now, then go and listen to HALLELUJAH (No, not the one we’d heard a million times over, another HALLELUJAH). I’ve given this album to a good half dozen people. The first word out of their mouths after one listen: “Hallelujah.” Then something like “wow.” Yeah, “wow,” says it best. This is a fucking great record, without a flaw.

2. Joanna Newsom – HAVE ONE ON ME – A three cd set that really defies description and begs to be heard from start to finish. A modern folk opera. Brilliant, certainly not for everyone, but if you give it a chance.

3. The Whigs – IN THE DARK – My favorite straight out rock album of the year. The closest thing I could find in the purest spirit of the Mats (that was actually worth listening to). KILL ME CAROLYNE is hands down my favorite song of the year.

4. Superchunk – MAJESTY SHREDDING – Shame on Mac and company for making us wait this long for another release, but one of the two best bands of the 90s (you know the Archers of Loaf was the other), returns to solid form with a record that sounds as if it could have been released in their heyday. LEARNED TO SURF is as good as rock gets in this decade.

5. Frightened Rabbit – THE WINTER OF MIXED DRINKS – An album of rousing anthems about drinking and screwing and all the things rock songs should be about. It’s one of those albums that just kept getting better on every listen. And that they can pull off the songs live was an eye-opener.

6. Ida Maria – KATLA – Last year she topped the list EASILY. And while this is nowhere the masterpiece of FORTRESS ROUND MY HEART, the gal from Norway nonetheless delivers 9 sucker punches. For anyone who thinks girls stopped rocking with Bikini Kill, give her a listen. Her lyrics are funny, sexy and the growl will make you weak in the knees.

7. Spoon – TRANSFERENCE – After writing these guys off because of their hideously lame GA GA GA cd from a few years back, Spoon returned to what they do best: catchy rock songs with good guitar licks. I know a bunch of people who wrote off this band after GA, take a chance and revisit them. While not as spectacular as GIRLS CAN TELL or KILL THE MOONLIGHT, still in a year of limp-doodle rock, it was damn refreshing.

8. Titus Andronicus – MONITOR – A concept album that may or may not be about the civil war. But who cares. It’s a rowdy collection of tunes that owe a lot to the spirit of The Replacements, and I can’t give a band higher praise.

9. The Gaslight Anthem – AMERICAN SLANG – Likewise Brian Fallon and company owe a bunch to the spirit of the Mats…with a little Springsteen tossed in. A solid rock album, a perfect summer driving record. Leading to…

10. Bruce Springsteen – THE PROMISE – outtakes from his best rock album (I’ll probably still take NEBRASKA over DARKNESS), his “punk” album if you will, are the sort of songs most rocker would die to write. Sure, it’s like reliving a time when rock music was exciting and vibrant, and it shook our worlds. Hmmm…because of that perhaps this should be in the number one slot.

The best songs of 2010 (in no particular order):
KILL ME CAROLYNE – The Whigs
CLEMENTINE – Sarah Jaffe
HURRICANE J – The Hold Steady
HALLELUJAH – Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses
LANTERN – Josh Ritter
PRECIOUS STONE – Pete Yorn
THE LONELINESS AND THE SCREAM – Frightened Rabbit
ANYBODY LOOKING FOR GOD – Grandpaboy

The most disappointing album:
THE SUBURBS – Arcade Fire – After the brilliance of NEON BIBLE my expectations were damn high. And at first listen I loved everything about this record. But by the fourth or fifth go around I was getting bored. And within a week it was removed from my playlist. I’ve never gone back. Have never even wanted to. Maybe it’s me.

MOVIES

Best Documentary: EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (WAS IT REAL? Who cares? It was entertaining as hell, and Banksy proved himself one of the art geniuses of modern times.)

Best Film: THE TOWN (Riveting, edge-of-your-seat drama from Ben Affleck. BEN AFFLECK! A rare gem in which you find yourself rooting for the bad guys. Rebecca Hall is heartbreakingly great.)

Most Enjoyable Film of 2010:
KICK-ASS (a movie that proved a beautifully foul-mouth 12-year-old girl could quite possibly be the greatest movie super hero of all time)

Guilty Pleasure Film of 2010:
CHLOE (two words: Amanda Seyfried)

Runners Up (In no particular order):
WINTER’S BONE
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE

Worst Film of 2010
SOMEWHERE (I truly loved Sofia Coppola’s LOST IN TRANSLATION. But I don’t know what happened here. I kept waiting for something to happen. Kept waiting to feel something for any of these characters. Still waiting. So utterly boring.)

That’s my list. It’s subject to change. Having spent most of the year filming and editing, I certainly didn’t get to see everything. I’ll update it as I do…

To a rockin’ Replacements New Year!