Category Archives: Production

No Waiting: Filmmaker Christina Raia

Christina Raia9441

After a bit of a break, Coffee with Creatives is back and ready to inspire you in 2016. The first episode of the new year is with Filmmaker Christina Raia, who I first met on Twitter and then in person when Multiverse screened at Indieworks in NYC.

Christina is a prolific filmmaker with an intense work ethic. In addition to discussing the path that led to her first feature film Summit, we also discuss:

  • The many ways in which an artist can be boxed-in, in career terms, and how to help make sure that doesn’t happen
  • How we as artists change during, after, and across projects
  • Why she doesn’t like waiting before moving on to a new film or series
  • The experience of wondering if her $20,000 feature (Summit) would collapse entirely, during every day of its two-week production period
  • Learning to be vulnerable, and how that can help you (and any team members working with you) to, for instance, stick things out in sub-zero temperatures
  • In regards to her web series, Kelsey, how to achieve distribution success by reaching out to your base, or core audience

Great talk, hard-working, generous filmmaker. Summit is available now. You can find out more about Christina and her work on her site. Happy Creating! More great guests coming soon! If you enjoy our talk, please share it on Twitter or on Facebook.

As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creatives on iTunes and support the podcast on Patreon.

 

F*cking Do It: Actor/Writer Bodine Boling

BodineBolingHow about that? F*cking do it. Asterisk for the sake of not triggering any filters or blockers or whatever the kids call the buzz-killing censorship algorithms these days.

I digress. This week’s Coffee with Creatives episode is with the multi-talented Bodine Boling, whose film Movement + Location is currently in release in Los Angeles (after a week-long theatrical run in NYC) and available on several VOD channels.

We had a great talk about the travails of writing and producing a low-budget independent film. Subtopics included:

  • MAL_onset1How varying production experiences can help improve your work in other areas
  • How/why she wrote the script for Movement + Location seventeen times before shooting it
  • The importance of having a reward you can envision at the end of a long-term pursuit
  • How to deal with a shoot location burning down
  • Working with your spouse
  • The sometimes harsh and insane financial reality of making art

Check it out. If you dig what Bodine has to say, take a look at Movement + Location. If you liked this episode, please share it on Twitter or Facebook!

This episode is also on iTunes.

Breaking Rules: Fast, Cheap, and Good

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 7.45.00 PMFast, cheap and good. You can only pick two.

The above represents a stated wisdom across a number of business sectors.

Perhaps you’ve heard a version of the statement before. For any of who haven’t, the idea is that, when considering the creation of a product, the delivery of a service, or the management of a project — that quality can only be achieved if either quite a bit of time is taken (in situations of low budgeting) or an appropriate amount of money is spent (in situations of timely delivery) in producing whatever is being produced.

We won’t even discuss fast and cheap and not-good as an option.

Why do I bring this all up? Because I believe — even in regards to filmmaking, which is a costlier artistic pursuit (in theory) than, say, narrative fiction writing — that this adage is out of date.

I believe one can produce a quality product quickly and cheaply — with some qualifications.

  • Limits must be strategically set to assure quality can be achieved.
  • Experience must be leveraged, as an asset, to help offset lowered costs
  • Cheap must be redefined at scale

To bring a practical example into the discussion, know that I bring all this up specifically in regards to my campaign to get THE CONFESSION funded, shot, and delivered to its audience — quickly.

The Limits

IMG_1639 (1)The Confession, once finished, will be shorter than Multiverse (about 7 min). That’s one limit. Also, it was specifically written (as was The Videoblogs) so that it could be shot on the go in New York City. When we shoot it, we will be cruising the streets — in daylight — which means we don’t need additional lighting. There are only two main characters in the piece.

Something I have learned about limits, after so many years of indie filmmaking — is that you empower yourself by setting as many of them ahead of time as possible. By narrowing our focus with The Confession, we’ll allow the actors to dive deep into the story material for those few minutes when they’ll be on screen.

The Experience

As I mentioned, it took me some time (and some error) to get better at proactively setting limits. Still, by now, that experience boosts the quality of most projects I put together as a more seasoned filmmaker. Beyond this, however, the cast and crew we’ve brought on board for The Confession will be bringing years of their own experience to “set” when we shoot. That’s a given on many films, however — we’ve stacked the deck with The Confession. In the name of quality and speed.

It can be hard for talented artists to band together and create something, these days. Production funds are often in short supply. Many of us have spent years pitching in personal funds, and sacrificing job opportunities, for the chance and time to string together a catalogue of good work. We squeeze tightly to what little time we have to eke out The Next Thing.Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 3.23.12 PM

Crowdfunding helps enormously to allow each next thing thing to come, usually by combination of continual hard work and sacrifice (on our part), and the ability to pay certain hard costs, by the good-faith generosity and support of the audience.

But I believe there’s a middle ground. I believe — with the right respect for limits and on an appropriate scale — that a group of talented collaborators can come together for a day to make something fun and special, and then get that well-done, finished thing to supporters within a reasonable timeframe. It just takes a refreshed definition of cheap.

Cheap Doesn’t Have to Mean “Low Value”

When you infuse a product with the blood of experience, and spend time smartly defining some limits, so that specific areas can be adequately explored, a great amount of value is brought to its genesis that cannot be defined in hard dollars.

In today’s increasingly tech-enabled, and hyper-connected environment — it’s relatively easy to produce good work speedily. The trick is the labor.

We all deserve fair wages. I believe that. I also believe in respecting the truth behind any self-given creative endeavor.

No one’s making us go ahead with The Confession. Under all practical definitions, I probably should be resting, or focusing more completely on The Videoblogs, or Coffee with Creatives, or the new script I’m writing.

But you know what? I want to make it. I really, really do. I think the project is fun. I’m excited to have less responsibility, as Jaclyn Gramigna produces and directs. I’m looking forward to speeding through something, with no strings attached other than the making and delivery of the thing. I need to offset the hard work and the seriousness of The Videoblogs and the podcast with a dose of the non-serious but no-less universal.

So what do we do? What have we done? Well, as many of you know — we’ve gone to our audience for help.

This is not new, either for me or in general. Crowdfunding, as I mentioned, is most decidedly a thing. But even as our experience with The Videoblogs illustrates, crowdfunding in such a direct way — 1) You pay us to bring our knowledge and experience to work towards the creation of the product (film), and  2) We go immediately into delivering it — that doesn’t usually happen. Most of what we’re looking to raise goes directly to scheduling cast and crew for the day, to help us more easily and more quickly bring you a quality, funny little film.

Fast. Cheap. Good. You can only pick two.

I disagree.

I want to break that rule and try something different. It feels like the right move. Several people have joined in by now, but we don’t have a lot of time left to fund The Confession.

I’d love for you to join us.

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The Grace of The Crowdfunded Indie Film

Lead actor Rebecca De ornelas "records a videoblog".

Lead actor Rebecca De Ornelas “records a videoblog”.

As many of you probably know, we wrapped production on The Videoblogs late last month. Years of general preparation and months of work for this specific production culminated in a few weeks of shooting. Overall, I’m proud and happy to say, things went very well.

Also, some temporary stress-related weight gain aside, I also made it out of the process fairly unscathed (if a bit exhausted). This is good. This was a goal.

I’m almost as happy about how generally smooth it all went as I am with the fact that it happened at all. As promised, I will write more (relatively) soon about the entire experience of making the film, but for the moment I think it’s worthwhile to reflect once again at how grateful we at The Videoblogs feel to be in this position. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but we seem to have squeaked things out by prioritizing what’s important (story, performance, and the health of ourselves and our collaborators) at the expense of, say, a more expensive equipment list or a more elaborate plot structure. In all seriousness, it was a production engineered for and by both its cast and crew…and its audience.

For instance, as an example of this relationship at work…

More than once while shooting The Videoblogs, a cast or a crew member thanked me for something simple like providing a decent meal.

We mostly ate large turkey legs while on set.

First of all, it surprised me greatly to hear that there are still producers and filmmakers out there NOT providing decent meals. “Feeding your team well” is the second most basic rule in filmmaking after “make sure to have a camera”. Not only is it the decent thing to do – it’s just not smart to keep working while anyone (including you) is hungry. Even when pushing to complete a scene. I’m not even going to waste any more time talking about this.

Except to say that I didn’t accept the thanks – not personally. I explicitly made sure to recognize our supporters on Seed and Spark instead.

They (or you, as the case may be) deserve the thanks. And I want to talk for a moment about what that means not only to me personally but on a larger level.

I’d like to put forth the notion that a crowdfunded film isn’t only “cool” and “disruptive” but, also –- graceful.

For me, it felt more invigorating to credit our supporters for the means to make The Videoblogs than it did to accept the thanks myself.

Because the thanks don’t belong to me. They belong to you — to anyone and everyone who has contributed to the film in any way, whether monetarily or by spreading the word. Even by reading this or other posts on my site, you’re helping me and my collaborators to keep moving.

Woah. Thank you.

Woah. Thank you.

Last month, I accomplished one of the major dreams of my life. I successfully shot a feature film that I’m proud to stamp with my name. I don’t even have to edit it to know that. I don’t need any more validation than what we’ve already received by reaching (eclipsing) our goal on Seed and Spark — until it’s time to deliver the film to this same group. I am thrilled to be able to continue my journey as a filmmaker by bringing a cut of The Videoblogs to our supporters as soon as possible.

Beyond ideas of validation, the crowdfunding process is also fun. It’s my favorite sort of fun, too. Mischievous fun. Because, by so many (false, cynical) measures — this should not have worked.

It was not easy shooting a feature film for $20,000. I know people have done it for less. I salute them until my arm falls off, and then I salute them with the other arm until it too falls off.

Still, The Videoblogs is a rouge’s film. I feel fairly confident saying that (whatever it means). We bit, scratched, and clawed to eke it out over the course of a limited number of shooting days. Everyone on the cast and crew, and all of our producers, sacrificed to make it happen. I’m immensely proud to have come out the other side mostly intact. I still can’t feel one foot, sometimes, but as long as it continues to work for now I think I’m good. Right?

But back to the mischievousness. And the grace.

They are one in the same, as far as I’m concerned.

I know the journey isn’t over, by a stretch, but I can’t help it. I feel as if we (all of us) have gotten away with something here.

The Videoblogs isn’t special, by crowdfunding standards. We gave it a try and we thankfully seemed to have pulled it off. But, damn, does it feel good to be doing this in true independent (interdependent) fashion.

Regardless of how the rest of this plays out, I and my team are privileged enough to be making a film — to say it again — for our audience made possible by our audience.

That’s powerful. And beautiful. And it feels right. In today’s difficult indie film environment, it even feels…graceful.

I thank you. Not for the last time.

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Announcing: The Videoblog Monologues + “Phase 2”

madison

I’m excited to share this with you so let’s jump straight into it.

As many of you know from our pitch video for The Videoblogs, we’re not only making the film in launching this project.

We’re also working to set up “Phase 2” of this overall initiative to engage in a greater dialogue on mental health, the use of communications technology for personal expression, and related topics. Just helping people work up the confidence to speak more openly about difficult issues (or issues American’s aren’t typically comfortable talking about) would mean the world to us, when all is said and done. That’s where “Phase 2” comes in.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Gary Chou at Orbital NYC for helping us arrive at the idea of “Phase 2”. Over the span of a meeting and some follow-up emails, Gary encouraged Rebecca and I to think about how we could do something different that also fell in line with our intentions for the project. In short, he challenged us to take a wider look at what was possible on the practical and tactile side of sparking a greater dialogue, other than making the film and putting it out there. In the end, we decided the best thing to do was to combine an effort at outreach and collaboration with an offer to “pay it forward”.

Hence, “Phase 2”. Which works like this:

  • Shortly after we wrap production on The Videoblogs, we will design a simple user-generated YouTube video contest for young Americans in the age range of 18-24
  • Basic guidelines for submission will be focused on performing and producing an original, short, fiction or non-fiction videoblog that deals with a difficult subject, a mental health issue, etc. Ideally, at the same time, there would be a touch of hopefulness to the narrative of the short piece.
  • Once the entry period has ended, we will post selected semi-finalists to our YouTube channel. Then there will be a voting period, which will produce a list of finalists.
  • When we have our finalists, a jury made up of myself, Rebecca, high-level donors from our Seed&Spark campaign, and hopefully also a few guest judges — will then select three winners.
  • Rebecca and I will mentor the winners in the production of their own short film centered on issues of mental health and the use of technology for personal expression. We will also lend them the small equipment package we will be using to shoot The Videoblogs
  • Whenever possible, we will screen the resultant short ahead of The Videoblogs, perhaps also including it in future distribution. Either way, we’ll continue to support the filmmakers and their work.

But that’s not (exactly) what today’s post, and/or The Videoblog Monologues, is about.

In recognition of the fact that it may be initially daunting to open up on camera, and/or to build momentum and to provide examples while embracing the collaborative spirit of our entire endeavor — we decided to crowdsource some “Phase 2” samples by reaching out to our network for help.

And that worked spectacularly.

Some of you may have seen (or shared, or answered) the Call for Writers I posted last month. Well, we got a nice batch of submissions, and we selected four one-page monologue scripts that we agreed to produce and distribute online in exchange for the writer’s permission to use their work for the aforementioned purpose.

Starting TODAY, we will be releasing one Videoblog Monologue per week, for the next month. Each video will continue to live on our YouTube channel along with Multiverse, our Four Legged Videoblogs, and other content.

Here’s the first one, written by April Austin. The video stars NYC actor Mary Palermo, was directed by our own Rebecca De Ornelas and recorded by Videoblogs Associate Producer Alex Hollock.

We hope you enjoy it. Please Share/Comment/Like/Tweet if you do!

In our first Videoblog Monologue, recently widowed Madison stresses over a rapidly approaching online date.

It's on.

It’s on.

The Videoblogs is an indie feature film about a struggling young woman whose life takes a surprise turn when a troubled teen finds her private video journal. We are currently crowdfunding.

UPDATED: Casting Sketch Video (THANKS!)

EDIT: Thanks to everyone who helped us spread the word about this casting call. We got everything figured out and the shoot went great!

Please feel free to share this casting notice

Hey! I wrote a sketch that I’m producing with The Motel Staff and Rebecca De Ornelas. We’re looking to cast a few roles for a shoot happening TOMORROW.

Would love referrals (or submissions) for any of the below characters. No-budget, so credit and copy only, but scene(s) shouldn’t take too much time and the shoots are fun and collaborative. Contact me through this site and/or feel free to send people my way if you think they might be interested.

Actors/comedians with clips strongly encouraged to submit!

THANK YOU!

Shoot Date: 12/15/2013
Location: Queens or Brooklyn

MIGUEL | Male | Hispanic | Age: 20 – 35 | Role Type: U5 – Updated: 12/11/2013
Miguel is standing outside of the coffee shop, he encounters Glen, the leading male on his way out. He puts Glen in his place. Great comedic timing is a must.

YOUNG WOMAN | African-American | Age: 18 – 30
Seeking female to portray one half of a couple that passes Glen who is trying out a new coffee shop. Will have a line in close up.