Happy New Year!

It's been a whirlwind 2011. In some ways, the months have flown by like lightning. In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was blogging about how to make a movie cheaply.  A lot has happened since then, from crowd-funding on Kickstarter to scrambling  for a new location at the last-minute during our shoot. I've had the pleasure of collaborating with some amazing people from producers to actors to blog readers. This has been a monumentally massive group effort to see this film made. With the loyal following of this blog, we managed to finance the film, start shooting, and spread the word about Passing Harold Blumenthal.

I am immensely grateful for all of the support we've had from our reader base as well as the actual producing team and crew who realized this film with me. An extra special thank you to my producers in the trenches with me. Garrett P. Fennelly and his awesome team at Act Zero Films deserve a medal or something, I want a Nicole Ansari app for my iPhone, Jesse Ozeri is a lesson in the value of chutzpah, and Alex Cendese could probably encourage me to move a mountain. It's a good year's work, everyone. Congrats.

I am so excited to share this movie with the world.  Just a few more finishing touches over the next couple months and it'll be good to go! Thank you all for being patient. We will be releasing some press stills later this month, so stay tuned!

 

Anniversary

A year ago, I wrote the first blog post for WatchMeMakeaMovie.com. It was a minor effort that said very little. I had spent so many hours going through the technical setup of the site that when it finally came time to write something, I started with just a small introduction. It was a simple beginning to a journey I was determined to take. If that journey proved to not to be one of making a film, so be it. It would at least be a worthy attempt.  But even now that the movie is nearing completion, the word "trying" comes to mind often.

Of course the filmmaking process can be trying, but that is not the actual meaning that has been striking me. The kind of trying I am speaking of is that of the attempt.  From the very beginning, I have been trying one thing after another trying to write, trying to fundraise, trying to produce, trying to direct. The reason this has been on my mind as of late is that I look back on the whole process as just a matter of doing all these things. There were tasks before me and I executed them. Simple as that, right?  Well, at this one year anniversary of my chronicling the experience of my first feature film, I am reminded that these were actually all just attempts to do something I hadn't done before. I had no certainty that anything would ever get done. In fact, all I had was the worry that it wouldn't get done.

Well it did get done. So far.

Thanks for following along, everyone. There is still more to come. More obstacles, more work, more trying.

Shout Out

Thanks to the awesome Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker Magazine (@FilmmakerMag), Watch Me Make a Movie was featured in a sweet article on their website. With our sudden boost in traffic and subscriptions in the past couple of days, I'd like to welcome all you new readers that have stumbled upon the blog. To bring you up to speed, we just wrapped shooting a few weeks ago and are now in the midst of the editing phase. Please feel free to scroll back to the "Shooting Diary" for some behind-the-scenes videos of the indie insanity.

For everyone else, be sure to check out Filmmaker Magazine's excellent articles, blog, and interviews. If you are looking to be inspired or educated, it's a great resource.

Who Wrote This Thing?

I can't see the forest for the trees. This initial assembly has me banging my head against the wall at times. I find I am battling my own judgement at every turn.

The first time I tackle the edit of a scene it tends to be with the mind-set of the scene and that scene alone. I tend to approach my scene edits like this: I sync the audio, and while doing so I get a feel and a reminder of what I shot and how many takes I have of each angle. After syncing, I usually pull up a PDF of the screenplay and revisit the words on the page as I go. I'll also usually watch one take of a wide shot or a "master" shot to get a feel for the overall flow.. From there I begin telling the story of the scene line by line. The first cut of a scene in the assembly process tends to be very "cutty". By that, I mean that almost each time a someone speaks, I cut to them or to a new shot. This is generally not a helpful editing approach, but at this point in the process I really need it. This is the only way I know for sure whether or not I have real options for how to shape a scene when I come back to it. So, sometimes I'll finish a scene and think, "That looks okay, but I can see that I have a world of options that will help me make it great down the road." Other times I'll finish a scene and think, "That was a pain in the ass to get through, and I really only had one option for each cut. Crap, this scene is as good as it's going to be and it's mediocre." (That last part is particularly true of scenes where there is not coverage, but only one long shot.)

Back to the issue of my own judgement. Each scene assembled ends with me loving or hating it. But the truth is, I can't rightly have any opinions yet. I am looking for the projected version of my film in the footage-- the best lines, the funniest looks, the slickest camera move, etc. That should be a fair approach except that these things have little to do with the final film as a whole. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not editing a whole bunch of short films, but one big film. These are all pieces of a greater whole whose edits need to be made based on the overall shape, not the overall quality of the vignettes. With a feature, the scenes cannot exist in a vacuum, only in context with the whole.

There's my problem. I still don't have a whole. In many ways, this first assembly is taking even more muscle than the original "Muscle Draft". Once I have a whole, I can let myself judge more freely. Then I can shape, mold, salvage, and  re-shoot (hopefully not, who's paying?). Easier said than done on suspending one's own judgement. I'm nothing if not judgement concentrate. Then again, this may all just be convenient logic to let me kick the can of worries into the next month of editing.

For now, I'm almost done with the first assembly. I'll be sure to report back any epiphanies or rashes that may break out.

 

Wrapping Harold Blumenthal

Thank you for humoring me while I took some time off from everything. Although, I haven't been blogging or shooting anything in the past week, there has been plenty going on with wrapping Passing Harold Blumenthal. The team at Act Zero has been closing out all of the paperwork and payroll and nuts and bolts of the operation, while myself and my boy Ryan Young have been working to map out the post-production plan.

Post-production is something that is traditionally planned out and budgeted for ahead of time, along with everything else. My approach for this project, for better or worse, was always to throw as much money and production value onto the screen as possible during principal photography and worry about post later. I don't want to offend any post-production artists or technicians and undermine the importance of their work, but to quote Edward Burns, "When I have money, then I have respect." For now, whatever I can get for free is what will suffice.

Some might be critical of that approach but I believe that, although not ideal, it is the smartest way to capitalize on the current affordable technologies as well as the flexible timeline. In production, everything has to happen at the same time for the same consecutive period of time. Everything must be paid for up-front and together. In other words, I can't film a movie on location with a twenty-person crew with my laptop. I can, however, edit the movie with my laptop.

I'll go into the technical process of beginning the edit in our next post, but suffice it to say I am very glad to have taken some time away from the footage and filming experience to clear my head. Part of filming a movie feels like a step forward, but another part just feels like you've lost something. I though I knew what  I had in my screenplay. I could read it, imagine it, and romanticize its potential. Now, I have about 45 hours of footage that needs to be organized and re-purposed for the screen. In some ways, I feel like I dropped my screenplay on the ground and it broke into a million little pieces. Now I have to put those pieces back together from memory and based on what I can reclaim and re-imagine. Don't get me wrong. The footage looks gorgeous and I think we have a great movie on our hands, but there is much to relearn and rediscover as  I venture into the edit. Excited to see what we come up with!

Welcome back, everyone.

Keep Talking

On our final day of shooting, I received a private message through this blog from a young filmmaker in New York. I have been asked a variety of questions since launching the blog, but something about the timing  and subject of this particular one really caught my attention and landed with me. The "asker" has been kind enough to let me repost some of his message below followed by my response. Seth,

I am an 18 year old aspiring filmmaker in NYC! I just wanted to first say that I truly admire what you are doing. Not only are you embarking on your first feature film that you've probably worked your fingers to the bone for, but you are documenting every step of the process so people like me can learn more about the quest of making an independent feature film!

My question for you is this: Once you've written a script that you are passionate about and believe in, how do you get it off the ground? I am astounded by your success in networking and finding funding, and only hope that the project I have been working on can get off the ground. After reading your posts you seem like a perfect example of someone who is living the young filmmaker's dream!

...I want to thank you for documenting this process, as it is really inspiring for me to watch a young filmmaker like myself out at work.

Can't wait to see "Passing Harold Blumenthal"!

Sam

Hi Sam. Thanks for the kind words and support. It was one of my original hopes for this blog that it might be of some use to other filmmakers out there, and I'm thrilled to have you following the journey. As I'm not technically done with my movie and have no real idea as to whether or not I've done my job well yet, I'll just give you my take on getting to the point I'm at now with the film.

Sam: "Once you've written a script that you are passionate about and believe in, how do you get it off the ground?"

It's a good thing you asked this question now, because I really only realized I had an answer a few days ago. Sitting on set and looking around at all the people, equipment, locations, etc. I thought to myself, why are all these people here? What are they doing? Do they know this is just some stupid story I made up while sitting in my underwear at the computer? Why would anyone agree to do this thing with me? How did I ever get this off the ground?"

I think the simplest answer is to not get hung up on the question of "how". In the "About" sections of the blog (which I reread today for the first time since November), It says it doesn't matter how I do it, but only that I'm doing it. I think that has held up better than I meant it to.

There are a million ways to make a movie. A million ways to finance it, write it, shoot it, edit it, and sell it. None of them are easy or predictable. I have found that simply stating out loud that you are going to do something goes a long way. So long as you don't get hung up or stalled by any of the obstacles of industry standards, you can get your film made. You just have to be prepared to do it regardless of how difficult it might be or how small it might be.

If June would have come and I hadn't raised any money, I was prepared to make this movie for whatever I had in my savings account. It would have been a different movie. It wouldn't have looked as good and would have been a hell of a lot harder and I would have slept even less. Nevertheless, I was ready to do it that way. That was all the empowerment I needed.

If you have a script you love and believe in, pick a date and mark it on your calendar. Give yourself some time, but not too much time. Keep the excitement as fresh as you can. The way you keep yourself excited is to talk about it. Tell everyone what you are doing. Once you've told everyone you know, go and find people you don't know who might be interested. Every time you talk to someone, have them make an introduction to someone else who might listen to you talk about your movie.  Talk talk talk. You never have to beg anyone for anything, because you don't really need them (remember, you are prepared to do it by yourself right?).

The specific path is always different and unpredictable, but so long as you have the constant backup plan of doing the movie with your Canon T2i and shooting in your mom's house, you will speak only with confidence. Once you declare your intentions to make the movie, the train has left the station. Once that happens, people will want to get on the train with you.  Why? Because your making a movie and movies are awesome.

So, Sam, just keep talking and keep doing. If you are truly prepared to do the whole thing alone, I guarantee you that one day you will find yourself sitting on the set of your own movie calling "Action!" and watching your filmmaker dream literally come to life.

What to Say?

 

I'm having a tough time coming up with something worth blogging about. What can I say? I didn't make a movie today. After the past few weeks, a day spent not making a movie feels strange. I suppose this is the transition into post-production.

The technical game plan of post-production is in the works. As things start to develop and I get some momentum with the edit, I will keep you all up to date on the details. For now, the movie is sitting on two hard drives in two different locations. This little movie is trapped in there, waiting to be edited. It reminds me of that large storage facility in Ghostbusters that stores the ghosts. I guess this has a more positive connotation than that. Funny movie, though.

People have been asking, "How do you feel, Seth?" It's funny. I thought I'd feel a greater sense of accomplishment after wrapping. I do feel good. But I think "accomplishment" is a tough one to swallow right now. Finishing production is certainly a milestone, but the movie is still far from being done. We are making this movie not just to have made a movie, but so that people can ultimately watch it. Getting someone to feel something in the theater while watching it...now that sounds like an accomplishment.

Editing will be the final writing stage for me. I'm eager to see everything we captured from the script and everything extra that came up in the moment. Although we definitely shot the script as it was written, there is always a good deal that comes up fresh when shooting a scene.  Now that we have all of those little surprises, I'll have more to tackle in the edit.