So the film was locked on February 6th, 2011. Final running time: 123 minutes, 7 seconds, 6 frames.
I outputted the audio to OMFs, and created an uncompressed quicktime file of the film without sound. I copied these, along with any extra sound effects or music I felt we might need, onto a portable hard drive. And the next morning, Monday, Feb. 7th, I took a train to NYC, and hand-delivered them to Matt Gundy at DuArt Film and Video. He wanted everything a day before the mix to make sure the files worked properly.
DuArt is the famous old film lab where every New York filmmaker, from Woody Allen on down, has had their films developed. I’ve gone there since my making my first 16mm short as a part time film student at the New School for Social Research in 1982.
I also mixed the sound of my old horror comedy PSYCHOS IN LOVE there in 1986. So in 2005 when looking for a studio where we could mix YOU ARE ALONE, I once again turned to DuArt. One meeting with Carmen Borgia, who runs the sound dept. and sound mixer Matt Gundy, and I knew we found a home. Carmen understood we were indie and on a budget. And Matt took the time to watch the film and actually seemed to get what we going for.
The mix took four days (four days was all we could afford), yet somehow Matt cleaned up some truly awful background noise. I loved our main location on that film, the Hotel Duncan on Chapel Street in new Haven. But I didn’t love the constant barrage of sirens and hip-hop beats that seemed to find their way onto our soundtrack every time our mics were aimed towards the front of the building. Matt made them all disappear. Magically? Perhaps. It didn’t matter, Whether he knew it or not, he had formed a partnership for life.
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…
In the commentary to my film YOU ARE ALONE, I said that making a movie was the hardest thing to do. Period.
Though there’s hardly anything simple about it. Dealing with the egos, the tantrums, the hysteria that goes with no sleep, no food, too much coffee, stress, stress, stress. Sorry. There are few things in life of which I’m certain, but this IS one of them. Directing a film is the most difficult task a human can perform. Any if you’re reading this and shaking you’re head, well then, you obviously have never directed a film. So, you really have no clue.
If you’re nodding, going, HELL, YEAH. Then read on . . .
Protein. Yeah, that was one of the big complaints on the set of Friends (with benefits). Despite the more seasoned pros on the set claiming we had the best food and coffee they’d ever had on ANY movie set. (I do believe in feeding people well, especially when I can’t pay union wages, and in many cases Pas are working for little or less, good food and coffee is the one thing I CAN and WILL provide.) There were the very vocal few who felt there wasn’t enough protein during breakfast. Of course, in most cases these were the people who did the least amount of work. Why is it that the most useless people complain the most? Do they have nothing else better to do? Obviously. They’re not really working. They’re just looking to create drama. That is what they do best.
These are the people that need to be stepped on like bugs on a movie set. I don’t care if they’re your friends. All they do is breed hostility. They make what could be an otherwise happy set, miserable. And why? Because they need some fucking protein in their breakfast? No, because they’re lazy assholes to begin with. GET RID OF THEM.
One of the worst “problems” on the FWB set was a young woman who claimed to be vegan. Who complained at every meal. Who never once asked nicely if we could perhaps have something different for breakfast. (Asking nice goes a LONG way.) But instead spread her nasty attitude like a virus through the set, even infecting the cast. She was worthless on crew. And because of her attitude, I absolutely refused to even listen. Then one day I saw her eating a plate of scrambled eggs. The vegan eating eggs. Snagged. You know what she could do with her protein complaints from that point forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I love most of the filmmaking process. Especially writing and editing. My least favorite part would be the actual filming. Mainly because of the one or two rotten apples that spoil it for everybody. Every set has them. I wish I knew how to get rid of them. All I can do is report them to a few line producers I know after the shoot. (I do, believe me . . . and yes, there are list of “unhirable” people out there, both crew AND cast) It’s a small community. Eventually word gets around. And word really gets around with it’s a department head who’s causing the problems.
Unfortunately, because you’re shooting for just a few weeks, and usually not dealing with unions, finding a quick replacement is impossible. (Especially if you’re not in New York or LA.) So, do you cut off your nose to spite your face? (We did that a few times on FWB, and usually the work would fall onto either my shoulders, or more often than not the shoulders of Ashley McGarry, who shared the writing, editing and producing credits with me, and who ultimately ended up also earning the title of Production Manager, because she, well, managed the production when those that were hired to do so either didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, whatever. She did what was needed to get the film made. I did likewise. But there’s only so much two people can do.) So, no. You try to ignore the morons, hope they get a tiny bit of work done, that their department heads actually whips them into shape, and focus on the task at hand: making a movie.
And there are bright sides. When all goes well during a day of shooting, it’s becomes the greatest day of your life. Hands down, it’s one of the greatest highs. Despite the exhaustion and stress, you are flying.
And don’t get me wrong, this entry is about the FEW, the not so PROUD.
Seventy-five percent of the Friends crew were stellar, hard working professionals, who did a great job, and rarely complained. Really, in addition to the aforementioned Ms. McGarry, who went above and beyond and probably deserved another dozen titles, my dream crew would certainly include Adrian Correia as my cinematographer, Dave Groman as my sound recordist, Jodi Baldwin (one of only two people I asked over from the You Are Alone crew) on costumes, Stefani Rae Fisher and Mara Palumbo on makeup and hair, to name just a few.
It’s the other twenty-five percent I’m ranting about. Actually…it’s the really just the bottom ten percent: protein girl, vomit guy, wrong contract dude, and those who can’t schedule or telephone extras (etc., and so on) despite the fact that it’s their job. (If you EVER find a first AD that you love…when the film ends, keep them chained in your basement and never let them go. Great Assistant Directors are the holy grail of the independent film world.)
It’s that ten percent which, in a perfect world, would be sacrificed to the Gods at the wrap party. Burned alive at the stakes, as we danced around the fire, drinks in hand. I’d gladly light the fire. It would be our gift to other independent filmmakers. Freedom from ever having to work with these certain few.
(I mentioned the You Are Alone crew. I guess that only two people from YAA were asked to come work on Friends With Benefits pretty much says it loud and clear. The rest is on that DVD’s commentary. But yeah, that would have been one huge fire.)
Next time I’ll address what makes a great crew member, a great collaborator, in this most difficult artform.
ALSO…the official Friends (with Benefits) site has tons of fun new links (DELETED SCENES!!!)…and it’s even iPhone compatible. Also check out the Gorman Bechard site, my personal site, for everything on the books and films, if you haven’t already.
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.
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.
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
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 = coolAlt-country = really coolNew 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.
Check back often for more stories from the front lines of making FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS)…
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.
Just wanted to update everyone on the long awaited US DVD release of my film PSYCHOS IN LOVE. Besides this being a pristine and beautiful transfer of the film, this DVD is LOADED (scream “LOADED” from the rooftops) with extras.
Here is the complete list:
Feature Commentary with Gorman Bechard (from 2009)
Feature Commentary with Gorman Bechard and Carmine Capobianco (from 2005)
Making Psychos in Love
Photo Gallery (make that a HUGE photo gallery)
Highlights from Psychos in Love: The Stageplay
As well as three of my short films:
Bartholomew the Strangler, Short Film (1983)
The Only Take, Short Film (1983)
Objects in the Mirror are Further Than They Appear, Short Film (2003)
Trailers from my last two features:
You Are Alone, Trailer (2005)
Friends with Benefits, Trailer (2009)
And a very cool video promo for my last novel:
Unwound, Promo (2007)