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The $50,000 Micro-Budget: Light & The Sufferer: Part 2
Sep 16th, 2014 by paul peditto

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  •  Day 14:

After several days of writing and tweaking for Dano and Esper, we shot the new walk and talks last night. The boys smoking a joint and passing a 40-ouncer as they catch up. All went well, if frantic as ever. We did four big lighting set ups around 14th street and Avenue C. The park we shot in was filled with drunks and smelled like piss. It’s now become one of my running jokes that I only take us into the finest locations. We used the crack filter which warps the image, making everything look utterly surreal and trippy. Paul D’Amato looking scary as hell as the father. Angelica Torn as always blowing me away with how effortlessly she tosses off amazing work. Dano looking incredible, passed out on the bed, his face so trippy through the filter that Lana couldn’t keep a straight face, everyone was laughing at how hilarious and amazing it looked. The best part of the day was watching the sun rise and knowing that it hadn’t beaten us today. 4 more days to go…

  • DAY 15:

The gods of weather have been kind to us. Last night on the Brooklyn Bridge couldn’t have been a better sunset – grey, white and black clouds swirling around a midnight blue sky, framing Michael Esper’s swollen face in close-up. Paul Dano’s hair whipping around his angelic face, a street lamp and a piece of a stone arch framing him – incredibly dark and beautiful. We literally made all the shots by the end of dusk with TWO minutes to spare. Me with no bullhorn screaming into the wind at the dozen extras we brought with to create background. Magic hour being 45 minutes, we managed two wide shots and two close-ups with background within that tiny window of time—no small feat!

We packed it in, went back to the loft on 14th Street to shoot the scene at the youth residence. I walked in feeling elated when someone mentioned one small detail that four of us (director, AD, DP and script supervisor) collectively forgot. We never shot a frame empty of Don. In my frenzy to get the wides and close-ups before we lost the sun, we never got an empty frame. I freak-out briefly but Lana reassures me that all we need is an overcast day and we can get an exact empty frame to match. Talk about lucky breaks! First major oversight. Thank god it’s fixable.

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  • DAY 16:

It’s not that there’s a lack of controversy or intrigue. There most definitely is, as there is on all shoots. I could tell you tales of the props master who was fired three days ago because he confessed to the art director he was having dark fantasies about her, the fantasy involving something about her and a knife. This I was informed of by the production designer, who said he obviously had a screw loose and would not be returning. Then there’s the gaffer who had be fired by the camera department two days ago because he was endlessly questioning and arguing with the DP, who decided to let him go with four days left to the shoot. This, of course, created some drama as many in the production department liked this gaffer very much and I did not agree with the decision. I, of course, did not make the call to let him go, nor did the DP. The line producer had to do it, quite reluctantly. Then there’s the various interpersonal dramas of different departments saying shit about one another, or rubbing each other the wrong way. It happens all the time. Someone walks off in a huff, threatens to quit, gets offended, and ends up in tears. Many come to me with their grievances. I have learned after 20 years of production to try to not take sides unless I must. This often pisses people off, who want you to side with them, but I have to keep the peace for the good of the production. And so it goes.

I could also tell you about my general mental state, which is completely on edge almost without stop from the moment I get on set till we wrap 12 hours later. Non-stop, shell-shocked but exhilarated at the end of every day, without fail.  

Bottom line—I don’t give a rat’s rump about the internal booshit and my own mental anxiety. All I give a damn about is if we make our days. And yesterday, our airport day, we once again made the day. I was ripping through cigarettes as we slowly made our way through 8 setups, most of which included complicated choreography of approx. 20 featured extras and a green screen shot in a little over 10 hours, plus four hours of travel to Westchester airport and back. Nerve-racking day, but…we made it. And we made it in style. We’re truly in the home stretch. Tonight, we shoot alien sex on the Hudson. Keep them fingers crossed… 

LATS-2

  • DAY 17:

I thought this day was going to be easy. What was I thinking? Obviously it’s the (lack of) drugs going to my head, too many days with 4/5 hours sleep, waking up and not being able to get back to sleep because my head’s on fire with the evening’s shots. We had seven setups on the agenda – four uptown at Park & 81st and three in the West Village. I never remember that when vehicles are involved, everything takes longer. So it went with the task of driving a cab up to the front of the building we used. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Delivery boys, traffic, walkies not working, lock up not working. It took three hours to bang out what we thought would take an hour and a half. We then rush to side street for the important apartment scene with the boys and Creature. It’s now 3am and we should have been done with all this by 1am. I start seeing colors swirling in my head, neon reading YOU WILL NOT MAKE THE DAY -WHAT DO YOU WANNA LOSE, CHUMP? I tuck all that away as we wrap out and rush to the West Village. We slap a modified body rig camera on Mike Esper through West village side streets, Esper spontaneously cursing at a truck driver who shouts as he passes us on 6th avenue, screaming after him through his tears, amazing shit. We then rush to the basketball courts at Houston and 6th for the final scene. Lana ingeniously shooting it through a bus stop glass partition, the reflections of cars whipping through Paul’s sleeping body on the bench. The sun has risen by now, and going into hour 13, we do the final moment between Paul and the Creature on the bench from a 13 foot ladder, several ruined takes because of traffic noise, we finally nail it around 7:30am. The bright sun rising and blasting down on the bench about two minutes after get the shot. Incredible timing. Even more incredible, once again, WE MADE OUR DAY. Everyone wasted from a 14 hour day, but no one bitched. Thank god, we’re almost done.

  • DAY 18:

We arrived at the piers along the Hudson River waterfront for the final day of shooting. Simple day, I thought. Although we made it (again), it was not simple. Highlights: Lighting up my two favorite structures of the whole film, the dilapidated, burnt piers along 62/63rd streets and the Hudson. Two incredible, crumbling structures which Donald Trump will crush and remove within the next six months to make room for waterfront development, plastic gold-plated yuppie parks with grass-lined walkways. Now it’s just twisted metal beams rising out the Hudson, the water lapping onto the shore. The perfect spot for alien sex (a cinematic first, I believe). We first try to light both piers at once but quickly realize we don’t have the power or lights for both, so we focus on one at a time. They look amazing, and
we finally shoot the location I’ve been anticipating, preserving this piece of what will soon be lost Manhattan, the twisted structures beautiful and gnarled like the twisted bodies of the aliens as they fuck atop the pier.

We make it to Coney Island as sun is rising, racing out onto the beach to catch the gorgeous pinkish blue early morning light. The shot very spontaneous, everyone drinking beer, lighting up j’s, passing them in a circle, their arms getting tangled, all laughing, Esper playing guitar and Dano shaking his head as he strums. We get the shot just as the light gets too bright, and we all fall on the sand after I yell ‘cut,’ laughing our asses off, hugging. We made the day. We made the week. Our third week in a row, all 18 days. I sit inside a truck sipping beer, feeling like I have literally come through battle, shell shocked, but with all my limbs and mind intact. We did it. We fucking did it.

The last image I have is of the wire and wood sufferer model, which came with us everywhere. I got down on the ground later after they tossed the giant thing in the trash (there was no one who wanted it and nowhere for it to live). I bowed down to it, mecca-like, paying last respects to the Mythical beast that lured me into his strange and wonderful world, thanking it for taking us safely through this, the toughest part of this process. It just stared at me, inscrutably, saying, yes, but you’re not out of the woods yet!

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“All photos © The Filmmakers, Inc.”

 

Action Lines- The Key is POV
Sep 8th, 2014 by paul peditto

Action lines and Dialogue. Less the slugline and a transition or two, that is all there is to a screenplay. While it might be argued that dialogue is far more important, the ability to write clean, crisp screen direction is essential. What is the best way to go about it? You hear talk of unfilmables—and how you should never, ever write them. Action is what the camera sees. Who is in the shot and what’s happening. Funny thing is, the pros break this rule all the time. The pro formula for action lines is more like: What the camera sees—with attitude. There are two parts to this, let’s examine them both:

What the camera sees … This is the easier part, one would think– to write in a clean and basic style only what the audience sees. Sadly, there is nothing easy about it.

How much should you describe? If you read scripts at www.simplyscripts.com or www.script-o-rama.com you’ll note some of them have massive action detail, while others are spare. How the hell do you know what’s best for you? Start by making the script a good read.

- See more at: http://www.scriptmag.com/features/script-gods-must-die-action-lines-key-pov#sthash.snkGBnke.dpuf

Action lines and Dialogue. Less the slugline and a transition or two, that is all there is to a screenplay. While it might be argued that dialogue is far more important, the ability to write clean, crisp screen direction is essential. What is the best way to go about it? You hear talk of unfilmables—and how you should never, ever write them. Action is what the camera sees. Who is in the shot and what’s happening. Funny thing is, the pros break this rule all the time. The pro formula for action lines is more like: What the camera sees—with attitude. There are two parts to this, let’s examine them both:

What the camera sees … This is the easier part, one would think– to write in a clean and basic style only what the audience sees. Sadly, there is nothing easy about it.

How much should you describe? If you read scripts at www.simplyscripts.com or www.script-o-rama.com you’ll note some of them have massive action detail, while others are spare. How the hell do you know what’s best for you? Start by making the script a good read.

- See more at: http://www.scriptmag.com/features/script-gods-must-die-action-lines-key-pov#sthash.snkGBnke.dpuf

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Published an article about action lines on Script Magazine this week. Here’s a sample, and a link to the full article…

Action lines and Dialogue. Less the slugline and a transition or two, that is all there is to a screenplay. While it might be argued that dialogue is far more important, the ability to write clean, crisp screen direction is essential.  Action is what the camera sees. Who is in the shot and what’s happening. Funny thing is, the pros break this rule all the time. The pro formula for action lines is more like: What the camera sees—with attitude. There are two parts to this, let’s examine them both:

Backdraft_poster

What the camera sees … This is the easier part, one would think– to write in a clean and basic style only what the audience sees. Sadly, there is nothing easy about it.

How much should you describe? If you read scripts at www.simplyscripts.com or www.script-o-rama.com you’ll note some of them have massive action detail, while others are spare. How the hell do you know what’s best for you? Start by making the script a good read.
See more at: http://www.scriptmag.com/features/script-gods-must-die-action-lines-key-pov#sthash.snkGBnke.dpuf

Becoming Alan Smithee
Sep 1st, 2014 by paul peditto

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Alan Smithee was an official pseudonym used by film directors who wish to disown a project, coined in 1968.”- Wikipedia

I’ve bemoaned Jane Doe way too often here on Script Gods. It’s the single feature-film I directed, a doomed movie project that somehow ended up making a couple million bucks and landing on Entertainment Tonight and in a shitload of video stores. The pity is, it didn’t have to be doomed.

The source material was a strong play I’d written, A Fire Was Burning Over The Dumpling House One Chinese New Year. When I say strong material, that is a statement backed by scientific methodology. Empirical evidence. Three productions, months upon months of live audiences, a bunch of audience members teary-eyed nightly upon lights up. This would indicate, yeah, the piece was strong.

So what went wrong and why should you care?

As usual here at Script Gods, I’m happy to pull down my pants and reveal my own fuckups if it benefits the common good. Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-did, knowing what not to do being as valuable as knowing what to do, when you make your own micro-budget film is a film school in itself.

I recently dusted off the set notes I kept during that May of 1996, when we shot this relic. I almost became Alan Smithee, wanting to distance myself from the stink.  In the end I did kept my name on it, but if you don’t want this to happen to you, Good Reader, learn the warning signs:

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  • ·         CABS RUN ON BATTERIES

We need to shoot inside a taxi. My instinct is to grab one and pay the cabbie for a couple hours of time. Producers say no, unacceptable, so they pay three times the price to get a professional “movie taxi” brought in. It takes long minutes to load off the flatbed. They try to start it up and it doesn’t start. Try again. Nothing. Pop the trunk. Aha… Dead battery. 90 minutes later producers hail a cab and pay the driver for a couple hours of time. We lose nearly two hours of shooting time which translates into cut dialogue in two scenes and the butchering of a third, cutting it out altogether. Trust your instincts. And if you need a cab, check the damn battery.

  • ·         DIRECTOR IS WITH CAMERA OR ACTORS, NOT SHOOTING DICE

This one’s on me. My friend, Rich Cotovsky, paid his way to Atlantic City to be in the movie. I wanted to spend time with Rich so during a break shooting on the Boardwalk, we cut loose and ducked into the Sands Hotel to shoot some dice. Came out about 30 minutes later, nobody even noticed I was gone! Check that… the AD rolled over and asked where I’d gone. I said I felt like shooting some dice, so… “Director is with camera or actors, Paul” she mumbled. Alas, she was so right…

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  • ·         BEWARE WHO YOU GET INTO BED WITH

Any good writer knows, nothing is as it seems. You misjudge the people you’re working with. This is not to attack producers, by the by. I’ve had terrific experiences with producers. I’ve also had experiences like on Jane Doe. Be very, very careful who is producing your movie. It might be the single-most important decision you make. On Jane Doe, the producer responsibility was dually split between my father and brother, who raised half the funds, and Unapix Entertainment, who came in for the other half. We had a good initial relationship but their trust and hands-off approach lasted only about two days into shooting.

Then multiple producers landed on set and starting giving orders one would traditionally consider in the director’s domain.  Like dictating specific cuts in scenes, or full scenes we wouldn’t be shooting. Or cutting the single-line role of an actor friend who came three hours to be in the movie, who was promised a part, and to save a hundred bucks, wanting to cut him. “He can’t be in this scene.” “He will be.” It only escalated from here…

Bringing me into an office to face a daily inquisition; signing papers for petty expenses with no clue where those hundreds of dollars were going; wanting me to fire people they had issue with and I had none; reading the first Press Release to find my name, the director/writer, had been misspelled (Perditto), omitting my brother (Producer/Lead actor) and father (Exec Producer); hearing through the grapevine plans of a hip-hop soundtrack but never once being consulted or even asked for my opinion. This is how you go from “I’m here to help you, Paul. Anything you need!” to “You should be on your knees thanking me! I’m saving this movie!” Good Reader, for pity’s sake, be careful who you get into bed with!

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  • ·         HIRING A CREW THAT ISN’T PROFESSIONAL OR ALL-IN ON THE PROJECT

Four AD’s in 18 days? Seriously? For a first-time director? Not ideal. Or the Line Producer and Locations guy never talking so we schedule a Sunday shoot at Steel Pier to discover that Steel Pier closed on Sundays. And we don’t find that out until 20 people descend on a locked gate? Not ideal. Or the Casting Agent promising The Baroness, our Transvestite #2, the role of Transvestite #1. Shooting paused as The Baroness calls her agent to sort out the discrepancy, threatening to walk. Someone in Art Department jamming a bagel in a toaster to create smoke for a deli scene and starts a small fire. Hanging a lighting grid over a bathtub where your two lead actors will be getting into a bath tub and will likely die a swift death should it break free of its gaffers tape or WHATEVER THE FUCK you’re hanging it with! Not hiring a stunt coordinator which directly leads to a radio flying into Calista Flockhart’s head, she reaching up to her hair and pulling out a handful of blood. Not ideal.

  • ·         DON’T MAKE ENEMIES WITH YOUR DP

Toshiaki Ozawa (Toshie) and I ended up on poor terms. It saddened me. I was the first one to admit my limitations as a film director but I had a responsibility. My old man had anted up $90,000 dollars to this enterprise and I was going to get this film in the can no matter what. There are AD directors and DP directors—those that will “make their day” at the expense of the film’s look, vs. those that will give the DP as much time as necessary to light the shot, making the schedule second to the shot. The key, obviously, is to find the happy middle where you’re making your day and shooting everything you’re supposed to, while coming away with the best possible coverage and film look, making both the DP and AD happy. That didn’t happen with Jane Doe.

I pushed Toshie, but he was fully capable of pushing back. “Do you want me to go, Paul? And you can shoot it.” The producers nearly swallowed their tongues. Toshie was given addition powers behind my back, ending up having final say on camera coverage, how many takes, camera angles, etc. I wouldn’t have minded ceding that power, but not with threats and back room handshakes.

‘Paul treats me like a dog,” Toshie told my brother. Meaning relentless driving him to the next shot. Toshie, I apolgized then, and do here again. It was only to get the movie in the can. Which leads us to the next red flag…

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  • ·         MAKE SURE SCHEDULE AND BUDGET AREN’T FANTASYLAND

Upon further review it was estimated we’d need 20 days to shoot this movie with script requirements, actors, and production needs. The initial estimate was 11 days. If you’re thinking that’s a hellava discrepancy, you’d be right! The first budget was a complete joke. Fantasyland. When it came time to shoot, we were on pace to run out of money by Day 11, about halfway through the script. The Unapix producers gave enough cash to shoot 18 days, not a second more. Great! Got an extra 7 days budget.

But… not so great… we really did need 20 days to shoot it as is. No problem, two days of script would have to be cut. And if Paul was unable to do so or unwilling, it would be done for him.

I don’t blame Unapix for this. They didn’t create the first Fantasyland budget/schedule. Sooooo much of the tension that followed flowed from this miscalculation. If there’s one takeaway from this post, it’s this: Get the BEST possible person you can to run the budget and schedule numbers. Crunch those numbers so you KNOW it’s doable for the money and time you have committed. Do this, or prepare to loosen the dogs of war.

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  • ·         BEWARE OF CROOKED TREES FROM STRAIGHT ROOTS

The last tell that you’re on your way to becoming Allen Smithee?

True story. I opened a fortune cookie the night before our first day of production. It said: Beware of crooked trees from straight roots.

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Crawl Into The Reader’s Mind
Aug 22nd, 2014 by paul peditto

 

In the perpetual quest to get your script discovered—optioned—sold, the Unknown Screenwriter is in constant war with the very first level of filters, The Reader. The power of the reader in L.A. can be left for debate for another day. I have never called for a Death To Readers like Terry Rossio (Pirates Of The Caribbean)once did on his Wordplayer site. But one thing’s for sure—they are the ubiquitous gatekeepers of the Hollywood system, the cloned Imperial Stormtroopers that the noble broke-ass screenwriter must battle, foot soldiers that the Dark Lords actually in power use to filter the product coming at them. And yeah—I use the word purposely–product. Because, for the far greater portion, the job of the Reader is to reject you.

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I’m interested in the mind of the reader. I’m intrigued by what it takes to get this lady to say YES to my script. I’m wondering why they say no so often, what their motivations and opinions are, and if there’s a way to manipulate a game that’s already manipulated for and by them. Meaning: To take back control of the process. I need to get my script PAST these folks, to the people with the folding money, to the power plays, to their bosses.

So, how the f^%$ do I go about doing that?

We’ve talked ad naseum on Script Gods on how to avoid these Judges of your work. Strategy 1: Don’t Need Their Bosses Money in the first place. By writing a Micro-Budget script producible by Kickstarter financing, made for $30,000 and distributed along digital platforms, I no longer need the approval of the Dark Lords, let alone they’re just-out-of-film-school Imperial Guard. Talk about revolution—don’t need your boss’ money, don’t need your recommendation, Jake…I’m just gonna go out and do it.

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Same goes for making a $3,000 short film that gets into South by Southwest and bags you a manager. Or creating a web series with 100,000+ hits that puts you on an agent’s map. No query letters needed, no dusty Old School methods. They come to you. Say it with me like a hosanna: They come to you.

The only downside to this strategy is obvious. Not every story can be told for micro-budget money. So what happens when you have to play the L.A. game, play by their rules?

You get inside the head of your enemy, and find out what make it tick.

Click on the infographic at the top of the page. It’s from a reader who, like the Wikipedia elves, too the time to actually document in scientific detail the most unscientific discipline of evaluating screenplays. The methodology to this chart is something I’ve not seen before. Here before us is the empirical view into the mind of the Reader. Let’s seek for beating this fellow…

Looking at the far left, the first thing that stands is his sample size of 300 scripts, and his results. Of the 300 script, he outright rejected 203. He recommended only 8. In my experience as a craps dealer, I’m all about odds. It’s comforting to know up front that if you’re going the need-Hollywood-$$$-Old School method that you’re chances are about 100 to 1 in getting that spec script past the Reader. Ouch….
Digging deeper, we see some fairly predictable stats: Average page count: 107 pages. Male Hero-Male Villain was the most popular model with 137 scripts. Female Hero-Female Villain appeared in a mere 17 scripts. Male writers wrote 270 of the 300 scripts while women wrote only 22. You hear talk of the ageism and sexism in Hollywood, but you rarely get an objective number to back that up. Hmmm….

Hollywood Readers sign

How about the genre you’re writing? What are readers looking at in Hollywood? Leading this reader’s list is HORROR with 49 scripts, followed by CRIME/GANGSTER at 41, THRILLER at 36, and BROAD COMEDY at 31. Bringing up the rear are BLACK COMEDY with 4 and WESTERNS with 2. Perhaps this explains why, if you’re like me and write black comedy not broad comedy, you can’t seem to gain traction with L.A. readers. It’s because unless you’re the Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson, the Dark Lords aren’t terribly interested in Black Comedy. Do know the movie you’re about to write, or are writing. If you need their money, know what the hell they’re buying.
Toward the middle of the infographic it gets really interesting, with the recurring problems that lead to rejection. What are the 292 scripts doing that don’t get this guy’s recommendation? Incredibly, he numbered them!

  • TOP REASONS FOR REJECTION

•Story Starts Too Late: 69 scripts
• No Conflict: 57
• Formulaic: 53
• Not Enough Story: 53d20ca0e4c3112bf7aad41a9e1727e70e

I often talk in my Columbia College classes about the first five pages being valuable real estate. This isn’t anything revelatory. You’ve got an objective and quite critical eye looking at your labor of love that took six months to write—why would it surprise you that you have very little time to make an impression. The format must be professional. The characters original. The premise smoking. No confusion on the POV character, who I’m supposed to be following. Clean, clipped writing style. Force the eye down the page, vertically. Only essentials for dialogue and action lines. Pick a killer Point Of Entry. The movie must begin there. Establish four things: The world, the tone, the key characters, the beginnings of conflict. And don’t forget: The reader has tired eyes. Poor baby, what can I get you for your recommendation, a pipe and slippers? In addition to the blood, sweat, and tears that it took to write the freakin’ thing!

A few more categories for rejection that stood out to me:

  • CHARACTER ISSUES

•Protagonist is a Standard Issue Hero: 39 scripts
• Characters are Stereotypes: 31
• Characters are Indistinguishable: 19

The first two categories here are pretty close to the same and are born from a guy who reads a TON of scripts being disappointed he has seen and seen the characters in your movie. Disconcerting, is it not, that 50,000+ screenplays a year are registered at the Writer’s Guild. In a world where everyone is writing a screenplay, how the f*&^ do you write a truly original character? This is a conversation better left for pure character discussion, but a good start might be to understand exactly what this reader calls “standard issue” and do just the reverse. Going against, sounds like a strategy to me.

  • STORY ISSUES

•The story is too thin: 53 scripts
• The script’s questions are left unanswered: 29
• The plot unravels through contrivance: 28
• The script is tonally confused: 28
• The story is one big shrug: 17

Sure, if the objection isn’t about character, then it’s almost certainly about your story. To get by this tired pair of eyes, Good Unknown Screenwriter, you need to have enough story for a feature, to pay the damn thing off with absolute plausibility, and to lay it out on the page establishing the genre and tone from page 1, while blowing them away with an ending that in no way could have been anticipated, but that is absolutely inevitable, bringing Act 3’s re-order to Act 2’s chaos, changing the protagonist through the journey of the movie.

Crawl into the Reader’s mind awhile. Know thy enemy.

Start today.

***Important note: On a recent trip to New York I was walking by 17th Street and saw the New York Film Academy. I had seen their ads on everything from buses and bus stops to the internet but I had no idea where they were located. I checked the place out and it was impressive. Solid teachers with actual movies made. Guest Speaker: Kevin Spacey?! Only one of my all-time favs. Looking at their online course listing, it’s a strong, diverse mix of programs. Check them out here.

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The $50,000 Micro-Budget: Light & The Sufferer: Part 1
Aug 15th, 2014 by paul peditto

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Summer almost done. Time for a pallet-cleanser. This is a real-time journal written by my very own brother Chris Peditto as he directed his recent micro-budget film Light & The Sufferer for $50,000 bucks a couple years ago. This movie features Paul Dano from 12 Years A Slave and There Will Be Blood. I love his writing here for the visceral sense of what micro-budget filmmaking is about—the towering highs, the epic fails, the absurdity of watching your crew this close to walking because the Egg McMuffins never arrived for second meal post 12-hours of a grueling day. Anyone who has worked on a micro-budget film will recognize each stage of movie-making quickly. Anyone who hasn’t will be instructed. Part 1 this week, Part 2 next week. Vamonos!

  • FIRST READ THROUGH

First read through yesterday with the entire cast and all the department heads in the room. 25 people altogether. Quite a rush. 18 months of prep, four months of casting, everyone hunkered around a table at 14th street. I read screen direction and played soundtrack underneath at the same time to give everyone a feeling for the whole. Music and words married together beautifully. Now it’s time to lay it down.  Off to the races tomorrow!

  • DAY 3

Started beautifully. Washington Square, gorgeous spring day. Working with a dozen extras we brought in, and a handful of people we wrangled on the spot. Hours of prep for first shot. As usual, storyboards go out the window when confronted with the reality of time, lack of enough grip/electrics help and a setting sun we’re trying to catch for magic hour, which is about 45 minutes in actuality. We race for dusk, me shouting out from the center fountain area through a harried series of takes, the sky looking stunning. Lana’s (the DP’s) filters making the deep blue sky bend and swirl beautifully.  The walk/don’t walk sign over Paul Dano’s head translucent, blinking above him ghostly, the crew oohing and ahhing. Dano looking utterly enigmatic, the moment so much more than I ever expected.

We move on, racing as the sun starts to rise, do not get through the master shot from above, the crew feeling like they’ve busted their asses for nothing. Exhausted, I start packing up cable, helping the crew who are as frustrated as I. I finish up and walk back to the craft service table to a disaster: no hot second meal waiting, even though I asked for it. All there is instant oatmeal, which hasn’t even been made for them. MAJOR FUCKING MISCOMMUNICATION. The crew who’ve worked for 13 hours, going over the standard 12 without pay, quietly enraged. With indie crews it’s all about appreciation, or the lack thereof. When you bust your ass you want to be treated right. If you’re not, you feel resentful, especially if you’re deferring. When you go past 12 hours and there’s no second hot meal waiting—these people will walk. Finally I go running, literally, for egg sandwiches myself, not wanting to talk about why this fuck-up happened with my production staff, who themselves are overworked, exhausted. I return with the sandwiches, the crew appreciative, me apologizing, promising this will never happen again. Can you imagine ruining you film over $30 worth of egg sandwiches? Tomorrow is another day.

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  • DAY 4:

As we moved into an amazing Gramercy Park duplex, the day began with a mixed bag of emotions. Some excited about our new digs, other crew members still feeling resentful toward production, who were not on top of their needs the previous day. Petty stuff, you say? Get an indie crew unhappy and feeling unappreciated and it can ruin your film. We dive into the day. The plan, as always, changing based on the exigencies of the space. Lighting as always, taking longer than planned for. Lighting as always amazing when finally complete – cold blue and red and black, atmospheric, reeking of money and privilege. Millions of dollars of art decorating the walls. We dive in, the cast feeling their way through complex blocking and business – crack pipes, cigarettes, vials and gun all tossed onto table. Major interactions with the Creature in this space, among the most complex stuff in the film, that which will make us or break us. After establishing eye lines for actors, we dive in. The scene slowly taking shape, the pace picking up, the lines and business coming together. We finish the first of four major setups in the space with the creature POV shot. Lana popping in her most trippy filters yet: actors as seen through the Sufferer’s eyes bending and swirling surreally as they look into its eyes. I am ecstatic, knowing we have something very special.

We somehow manage to make up for lost time by consolidating two shots into one, but with the Creature blocking in the next major setup, we have to pack it in at 6am without doing a take. I am told in private by my AD that there were people who didn’t appreciate my request to clear set of non-essential crew, some crew feeling like they can’t do their work, so why should they even bother? I feel my blood
boil. It’s 6am and once again there is another crisis. My AD and I, who get along great, arguing at 6am over this. What more can I do? I walk off feeling exhilarated at having shot so much great footage, but worthless, tears, literally, in eyes at having once again failed to be attentive to my crew’s needs. I’ll apologize yet again for the misunderstanding tomorrow night. Start over and hope morale is high. I hand off the last six dollars in my pocket to the AD and costume designer to take a cab. Stagger home, my eyes literally closing with fatigue as I walk down 23rd street. Pick up my messages on getting home. The camera department has requested two lights, which will cost $400 dollars. What’s $400 dollars, you say? It’s $400 that doesn’t exist. I’m already over budget. So now I have to begin tomorrow with more let-downs. What can I do? We must finish with what we have. That is all there is.

LATS-10

  • DAY 5:

Second day at Gramercy Park. It began frantically enough hours before my arrival on set with a phone call about complaints re: food. Demented producer/directors who want to get their movies made don’t give a shit about what’s served for dinner and what’s on the craft service table. I eat leftovers after everyone else has eaten, since I’m endlessly worried about money. This can be a major oversight, especially when your production crew is not giving them what they want, when you think they are. Hearing through the grapevine that this was the case, I personally intervened, calling in catering from my favorite Middle-Eastern place, spending a little more but knowing everyone will love the grub and their work and morale will improve. What a difference it made! On top of better eats, Jonathan Lethem came by to visit the set and give an interview. Overall, our best day yet. The duplex looking stunning, every angle fantastic, the architecture amazing, the lighting and colors moody and beautiful. Crew finally working well together, the cast doing amazing work. Hopped on the subway, got out thinking about the shots coming up tomorrow, how to get them all, the challenges of working on location, walked with my head down, pondering how the make the day ahead, how to economize coverage without compromising my shots, then looked up to realize I had walked nearly two blocks in the wrong direction on 23rd street. Tunnel vision.

  • DAY 10:

The days blur. I thought last night was day 9, looked at the schedule and realized we shot day 9 two days ago. Sunlight confuses me. I live in a perpetual state of chasing the sun. Last night we filmed everything in the cab with the boys. Green screen shots of the Creature chasing them over the Manhattan Bridge and back to NYC from the airport. Neon signs reflecting through their faces as they drive to the bridge, metal beams on the lower level of the bridge slicing through their faces as they talk nervously. Really beautiful. Of course the sun beat us again. Did not have time to get the cabby’s shot, so we will have to add that onto the airport day and hope for the best! Now my sole focus is writing this new scene that bridges the brothers’ meeting in the park till they get to Don’s room. I know what I want to do with it, now I have to get it down on paper. Content under pressure!

LATS-9

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