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.

The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 9

My main issue with IndieGoGo.com (aside from how it’s now copied everything great about KickStarter) honestly stems from seeing one of its founders speak at a conference a while back in NYC. He was speaking about selling dvds, and why would anyone want to go with a distributor where sure you might sell 10,000 copies, but only receive $1 per unit, when you could sell them yourself, perhaps sell only 1,000 copies, but receive $10 per unit? To him it was still a profit of $10K, but you only had to move 1,000 units to get there.

I argued from the audience that his notion was idiotic. As an artist you wanted to build an audience, and it was certainly better to have 10,000 people buy your dvd as opposed to one tenth that number. NO MATTER THE PROFIT. That no one making an indie film was getting rich, but that we were hopefully developing a fan base. And certainly 10,000 fans was better than 1,000 fans. A number of people in the audience got it. He didn’t.

If you got into this business to make money, please leave now. There are enough whores in the entertainment industry. But if you’re here because you believe you have a story to tell, a story you have to tell, you will find your audience (or your audience will find you), and perhaps a fan base and career will eventually grow out of your passion.

(I once had an argument with another writer who explained he was livid whenever he found one of his books in a used book store, to which I replied, I loved seeing my books in used book stores, that it was certainly better than the original owner tossing it, and it might turn someone new into a fan, someone who might not be able to buy books at full price. He didn’t understand. All he cared about was the royalty he would not be receiving.)

This is art, not product. And the moment you become more concerned with the profits you make on each unit sold versus reaching out and touching someone new, well then, yes, you have become another entertainment industry whore.

The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 4

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

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

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

The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 2

It happened like this. Hansi Oppenheimer was making a film about fans of The Replacements called COLOR ME OBSESSED. One evening a few years back now, I received an email from her asking for help. It more or less said she had no way to finish the film, and no rights to the music, so she was probably just going to post a thirty minute version for free online, and be done. Could I think of any way to help save the project?

Now I had always wanted to make a documentary. But I would only do one on a subject about which I was profoundly passionate. I really only have three: animals, new haven brick oven pizza, and rock music, most specifically, The Replacements. But I really didn’t want to do something VH1-ish, y’know “where are they now?” And I could think of no film on an extinct band that was anything more than that. The best music docs followed their subjects around in the here and now. I needed to come up with a unique take.

It didn’t take long.

That night while lying in bed with my wife Kristine, I started thinking how the Mats were Gods in my eyes. And though I don’t believe in God, a lot of people sure seem to. Yet it’s all blind faith, they never see or hear God. “What if I make a documentary where we never see or hear the band?” I spoke out loud to my wife who was reading a health magazine. “What if I give them God-like treatment, and make the viewer believe?” I honestly don’t remember her response. I think at that point I became lost in the possibilities of the myth. It was a crazy idea. And the more I thought about it, the more I loved it.

The making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 6

First things first, reviews:

from IMDB

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

Now the BLOG…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

List of Extras on the PSYCHOS IN LOVE dvd…

 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)
Original Trailer
Alternate Opening
Making Psychos in Love
Photo Gallery (make that a HUGE photo gallery)
Extended Scenes
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)

Not bad for under twenty bucks!

Pre-Order the film HERE
Visit the offical PSYCHOS IN LOVE website HERE
And please remember: grapes do kill people, because we kill people who eat grapes!
Original promo card.
Original promo card.

Lily Allen’s cover of STRAIGHT TO HELL by the Clash – a review

OK…first off, the 5 stars are for Lily Allen’s cover of STRAIGHT TO HELL.  And so you know where I am coming from.  I am not a huge fan of Ms. Allen.  Don’t really know her music.  Not my cup of tea.  I am however a huge Clash fan.  Saw them live 15 times from their first US gig to their last tour.  I’d rank them as one of the two greatest bands of all time.  (The other is the Replacements.)  Their music to me is sacred.  It should be respected, never covered.  And STRAIGHT TO HELL is one of my three favorite Clash songs.  Having said all that…

 

Ms. Allen cover of STRAIGHT TO HELL on the WAR CHILD PRESENTS HEROES compilation cd is the best song we will hear this year.  She and Mick Jones have taken his and Strummer’s brilliant melody, riff and lyric and somehow (I don’t know how) taken it to a level where few musicians ever get to even see, let alone attain.

 

From the opening da-da-da-da’s which sound so much like Strummer (I wish I knew for certain if they were, or if it was Jones), through to Ms. Allen’s phrasing, which is Billie Holiday-perfect, as are the production and the instrumentation, the song had been reinvented, re-envisioned.

 

And when Ms. Allen hits the bridge and sings “so mamma-san says” and the da-da-da-da’s start up again, I find the goosebumps coming and the tears welling. 

 

This really is the song she was born to sing.  It will make everything else that follows this year seem unimportant and unoriginal. 

 

As for the rest, well honestly I’d give the cd 2 stars out of 5 at best.  What we have are really bad covers of great songs (The Hold Steady, whom I like, doing injustice to ATLANTIC CITY), just misses (The TV On The Radio cover of HEROES is close, as is Beck doing Dylan), a number of what-were-these-people-thinking (really, you never cover the Ramones or Blondie, not because they’re the greatest songs ever written, but because you sound stupid even trying), a few that make you want to hear the originals and how they’re really done (The Kinks and the Costello songs) and the rest is just who-cares?

 

But all that said, listen to the Lilly Allen/Mick Jones track.  And genuflect in the presence of genius.

Book outweighs Blog, Blog fills up Paper, Paper covers Rock…

Sorry…been working on the new novel, so blogging takes a back seat.

However, there is a half hour interview with me which you can watch by clicking HERE.

And you can pre-order your jam-packed-with-extras version of the PSYCHOS IN LOVE dvd by clicking HERE.  The trailer for PSYCHOS is on the film’s FACEBOOK FAN PAGE.

More soon…

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Psychos In Love

Forgot to mention, my crazy cult horror comedy from 1986 — PSYCHOS IN LOVE — is about to get a top notch dvd release from Media-Blasters. Tons of extras, including two commentaries (one I’m doing now, and one from a few years back with me and Carmine). a behind-the-scenes, the original trailer, a huge photo gallery, trailers for my two most recent films (You Are Alone and Friends With Benefits), a promo video I did for my last book UNWOUND (written under the pseudonym Jonathan Baine), and two shorts, one old (The Only Take) and the last short I made (Objects In The Mirror Are Further Than They Appear)…and perhaps even a few other suprises.

Not to mention, this will be a new transfer off the original film…so it should look pristine!

It’ll be available on March 31, 2009…and you can pre-order your copy of the PSYCHOS IN LOVE dvd by clicking HERE!

originalvideoboxcover