Filmmaking 101

Filmmakers, listen up. The three-act structure exists for a reason. Ignore it and your film will SUCK. There are NO exceptions to this rule. (Really, take even the most indie of indie no-budget films, and guess what, if it’s any good, it’s following the three act structure.) If you think there are films that work outside of the three-act structure, you are a fucking MORON and should have your filmmaking license revoked. (I am so sick of seeing great ideas destroyed by bad filmmakers and editors, especially you documentary filmmakers out there who have amazing footage and an amazing subject, and you haven’t a fucking clue as to what to do with it.) The three-act structure is the very foundation of story-telling. Embrace it, or SUCK.

My next music doc!

The other day I came up with what really should be my next music documentary. A companion piece, if you will, to Color Me Obsessed. Me and a crew of three other camera-people each assigned one member of the band Vampire Weekend. We stalk them. We harass them. He break into their homes. We are there when they eat, sleep, call their mommies. We make their lives miserable. And all we ever do is pose the question: “Why do you suck so much?” Over and over again. “WHY DO YOU SUCK SO MUCH?”

I would see it almost as my gift to the rock ‘n’ roll world as the confrontations would inevitably force the band members to get hopefully angry, turn to alcohol, or better yet, hard drugs, to finally take off the white V-neck sweaters grandma knitted, grow into angry punks, growing some actual balls in the process. It could only help their sound. They’d ditch the rinky-dink keyboards, opting instead for barely in-tune fenders, taking out their frustration on the unknowing strings. (I could almost hear the Fenders whispering to one another at night. “This was supposed to be an easy gig. Never a scratch. Fuck! We should have gone home with Taylor Swift instead.”)

It could be a transformation caught for everyone to see on camera, turning the wimpiest band in history into something raw and potentially brilliant. (Okay, brilliant might be pushing it for these guys, but at least something that wasn’t vomit inducing.) But just picture them breaking down, stealing old ladies purses, screaming at stranger in the street, urinating in public!

Or of course it could backfire. We could so distress their gentle egos that they’d instead shrivel up and wither away.

Either way, it would make for great film.

And their fans really would have nothing to worry about, as I’m sure there’d be many other set of silly silly hipsters waiting to take their place, with an iPod commercial song and a Honda commercial song already in the can.

P.S. Before all the VW fans get their panties in a bunch, let me point out that it isn’t just about this band. But they are the poster child for hipster lame, for hipster wimp. This could just as easily be about dozens (hundreds!) of other bands, many from Brooklyn. They’re all so easily interchangeable you’d think someone would be embarrassed. Though I’m not sure that’s anything they teach you at hipster school.

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!

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 COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 1

It’s been a long time, but I have good reason: COLOR ME OBSESSED, my feature-length documentary on The Replacements. Over the next many months I will try to take a look at the film, my process, my motivation, etc and so forth. I’ll begin by trying to answer the question I’ve thus far asked 139 times: Why The Replacements?

I could say something simple and to the point, that they are the greatest rock band of all time. That their music is timeless. Their rock purity unmatched. But it’s more than that. The Replacements transcend simple greatness. They are the cure for my cancer. (They’ve cured my cancer many times over.) They’ve kept love alive. They’ve re-invented my life. They walk on water, feed the multitudes with a single loaf of bread, and cry tears of blood. They are my religion. Jesus Christ didn’t write Here Comes A Regular. He didn’t play the guitar solo on Color Me Impressed. And he certainly didn’t sing If Only You Were Lonely. It’s the Replacements who gave my life clearer meaning, who gave me something in which to believe. So, yes, when the opportunity arose to make a film about the band, I jumped. It was like being born again.

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.

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.)