Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 10: El Matador Beach

By far, Day 10 was the most relaxing and enjoyable and beautiful location of the entire 12-day shoot. We were filming on the beach in Malibu at a gorgeous location -- El Matador Beach. 

In order to provide relief from the wind and sun, we rented a mac daddy RV for a day. Check it out. 

But the parking got a bit ridiculous. We got there about 8am to start reserving spots and by 9am, we were getting swarmed by beachgoers and that didn't stop til the end of the day at 9pm. We took over half the parking lot and paid for all the spaces but I have to say hundreds of beach-goers tried to take our spots all day long. As soon as we would move a car, someone would try to steal our spot. Three of us had to do parking patrol. 

The shoot went really well and we wrapped before sundown. The beers came out and so did the frisbees and football. It was an all around great day! Here are some choice shots of the location:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

More on How Indie Filmmakers Pay Their Bills

Not long ago, I wrote about how indie filmmakers pay their bills. And lo and behold, Filmmaker Magazine also ran an article on this dilemma recently. I thought I would share as it's important to know that there is no miracle cure, you are not alone, and there are solutions. 

Indie filmmakers need to figure out what works for them. 

Here's the article so you can read about how others have learned to juggle their film careers with needing to live: 

Day 8 & 9 of Take Me Home: All Actors on Set!

Day 8 and 9 on Take Me Home was great fun. We shot in a private home both days and had all of our actors on set for it. 

The heat was still intense but we had a bit of A/C so it wasn't completely miserable. It was nice to have seven actors on set for two days but also a bit overwhelming. Since we are a tiny film, we couldn't afford to have bangers to house the actors so we had to make do with seating in the house, which was filled with crew and equipment.

Luckily, everyone was very cool and we made it through just fine. There was one disgruntled neighbor but once she found out we were almost done, she slinked off and left us alone. 

I did have to leave set at one point and try to find a location for Friday's shoot. We had been looking for a trailer park to film at for a long time and we finally made the decision to widen our choices and do some major scouting for the location. It took 5 long hours in a cargo van but we finally found the perfect location in Canyon Country. 

I have one complaint about the whole thing: Cargo vans are not meant for long drives. Enough said. 

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 7 of Take Me Home: Auto Shop in Burbank

Whew! We are done filming but I had a killer case of bronchitis so I took a couple days off from everything. I'll pick back up where I left off on the diary of our filmmaking. 

Here's Day 7 of the filming of Take Me Home:

We needed an auto shop that could cheat for being in the desert. Our two characters get stuck in the middle of the desert on the way from NY to LA and they are towed to an auto shop. On the road trip portion of the film, we got footage of the characters waiting for their car to be fixed. So now we needed to film the actual auto shop moment in LA. 

This wouldn't be easy as we would have to match the look from the desert to the look of Burbank. Sound difficult? Yep, it was. We had the footage loaded on a computer on set by our Red Media Manager Dillon and still pictures to reference. 

The set up took a long time but we think we worked it out. The proof will be in the pudding when we start editing and coloring the film. Luckily, audiences are usually pretty forgiving when it comes to faking locations so our fingers are crossed. 

We worked at an auto shop in Burbank. We had tried to avoid filming in Burbank as we already had a permit in Los Angeles. But this auto shop worked best. So we got a permit in Burbank, which is probably the toughest permit office in California. The permits in Burbank go through the police department and they are extremely organized and precise in their requirements. And the permit is costly. 

Despite the permit process, the shoot went pretty smooth. A Burbank police officer stopped by to say he thought our cars were blocking his driveway but it turned out to not be us! Yay! And we had our trusty permit with us proving we were legal. (At a number of our locations, we had people drop by saying, "are you even legal?" And every time, we were!)

We also went a little longer than expected at the auto shop and had to pay twice the location fee due to the overage. Ouch! 

Overall, Day 7 was a success and we had a few beers at wrap to celebrate. And that was the last day I would be healthy on this shoot! 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 6 of Take Me Home: LaGuardia Airport in LA and driving shots

On Day 6 of the production of Take Me Home, we cheated a LaGuardia Airport taxi cab stand in S. Pasadena. LaGuardia is a NY airport so this was a challenge. I drove around for a day looking for a glass building that looked interesting and could pass for the front of a terminal. I found this great-looking glass building with funky, tubular steel details. And it had a parking lot right in front of the building for all our equipment and a number of crew cars. 

The reason I wanted a building that could cheat for a NY taxi stand in S. Pasadena was because we were making a company move to the director's home in S. Pasadena right after in order to do driving shots. I didn't want too much driving time between locations. Luckily I found this great building and they allowed us to use it and the parking lot for free! 

After successfully filming LaGuardia in California, we left for the director's home where we broke for "lunch" at midnight and then proceeded to do driving shots. We stuck the DP in the back of an SUV that we got donated for the production as product placement. He filmed our NY taxi cab out the back of the SUV as they drove.

All went well -- although we worried a Sheriff. He saw our set up with the SUV filled with camera equipment and our NY Cab behind it sitting on the side of the road. He stopped to see what we were up to. Once he realized what we were doing and that all was fine, he took off. 

It's always a little nerve-wracking to have a cop inquire about filming as he or she has the power to shut us down. But we survived and kept on going.

We wrapped about 6am. Got home about 8am and collapsed. 

And had another much-needed day off!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Days 4 & 5 of Take Me Home: The Joys of Filming in Downtown LA

There are a lot of great things about filming in Downtown Los Angeles. They're used to the needs of film productions, such as strange hours, big crews, quick pace, lots of favors (can we park our huge truck in your alleyway? or can we borrow that light fixture for our very important scene? or where is the closest coffee shop that serves at 3am?), etc.  

So anytime you can work in a production friendly environment that helps. 

But, there are a number of unfriendly aspects to filming downtown. Tight spaces, very expensive parking and permits, not overly safe, and Rats!

On Day 4, I pulled my car in front of the building we were filming in so I could load my stuff at the end of the night (which was really early morning). I then proceeded to watch a colony (well, maybe 3 -- but I thought it was a colony) run under my car and look out at me as I went to get in my car and drive away. Now, I have had friends with pet rats and I love animals. But there's something about seeing city rats run across the street and sit and stare at you from under your car that is very disturbing. 

I had to bring my sound mixer Jordi (who rocks by the way; he's a wonderfully talented Spaniard -- yes, we flew him in from Spain or Luxembourg or somewhere from afar so we could have him) with me to my car so he could help me ward them off should they come out and attack. I'm sure Jordi thought I was nuts but I needed the company. I was convinced the rats would jump in my car as soon as I opened the door. As soon as I started my car, the rats went running and I hightailed it out of there. 

That was Day 4. On Day 5, we had quite an incident at the hotel we were filming in. 

About 3/4 of the way through a very successful filming day, my other producing partner and I were called to set. We were powwowing off set at the time. Now, when all the producers are called to the set, you know there's a problem. A big one. Upon our arrival, we found a resident of the building on the floor, complaining that he tripped on one of our cords and was suffering from back pain. 

Immediately, two of my crew members said they saw him successfully step over the cord and then proceed to "fake" a fall, in their opinion. One also said he saw him swaggering around drunk earlier. But you can't ignore the fact that this person is lying on the floor complaining of injuries, even if you believe the incident is fraudulent. 

As we were evaluating the situation, the resident took a cell phone out of his pocket and called 911. Emergency responders came and he requested an ambulance ride to the hospital. The ambulance came and took him. We compiled witness statements and noted everyone who responded to the scene. I also took pictures of the hallway. A note of the incident will go on our production report and I am providing our insurance company with all of the information.

We then finished our day.

Needless to say, the set on Day 5 went very quickly from a calm, smooth shoot to a bit of chaos. All in a day's work!

We are not filming in downtown LA today. We are off to South Pasadena tonight, filming all night. We even get to hire a port o potty. More to come...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 3 of Take Me Home: Calm before the storm

We had a lovely shoot at a loft in Culver City yesterday. We were prepared for chaos and very tight quarters but once we got there, things just hummed. 

The biggest hiccup was a missing light on the grip and electric truck that was supposed to be part of the package. But we worked around it successfully. The actors did a wonderful job and the crew gelled nicely even with some new arrivals to the team. 

Our main worry was the location. It was a beautiful loft filled with expensive items. We had visions of things breaking or getting damaged but we did pretty well. We had no L&D (loss and damage) at all. I am very proud of how smooth it all went. 

We also had a problem with where to feed everyone. I found a great little nook to put the trimmed down crafty table. I picked up fresh bagels for breakfast and the crew didn't complain about not having hot food.

This problem with where to feed people also led us to doing a walk away lunch, paid of course. We found a restaurant in the same building that had a back patio we could take over. So we all walked to the restaurant and had an amazing meal. Again, adversity met success. 

Today has been our so-called day off though it hasn't been much of a day off for me. Yesterday's success turned into today's terror. My morning was great but soon the calls started coming and now we're trying to figure out where to park everyone tomorrow morning. Oh well, you have the good with the bad and who knows? Maybe everything will fall into place nicely as soon as we are there! Fingers crossed!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Day 1 & 2 on Take Me Home: Hot!

Just wrapped Day 2 of the shoot of Take Me Home and the resounding theme has been heat! The first day we were doing a green screen shoot in a parking lot. We had our taxi cab in a parking lot and built green screen around it. 

We shot in Santa Monica so it would be cooler than filming in the hot San Fernando Valley. But it was still blazing. We went through tons of sunscreen and some crew were definitely red by the end of the day. 

We shot in a church parking lot as we needed a  large open space that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. We made a donation to the church for the use of their parking lot. It worked out pretty well until.... 

When we got there we thought we would have their huge banquet hall for holding and base camp. But very quickly we found out that was not part of the deal so we found ourselves putting our little production office space and hair/M-U and wardrobe in the vestibule of the church. It felt a little sacrilegious to be working in a church vestibule and when the organ players came in to practice I expected Bella Lugosi to come walking out of the church. What a trip!

Then today we shot in a beautiful office in Downey but the A/C is turned off on the weekend in the building. We were sweltering! We bought standalone A/C units and they did not work well at all! I think I lost about 10 pounds in water. I reached levels of humidity I never knew I had. In fact, I don't think I will need a facial for a very long time after today!

The good thing is that we have been getting the footage we need and our cast and crew is really great. Everyone is super chill and so easy to work with. It's that kind of wonderful calm crew that makes each day even better. Love them all!

Well off to bed and another day. Hopefully the A/C will be working at our location tomorrow! 

Friday, July 10, 2009

1st AC anyone? Bueller?

We are one day out from filming our little passion project --  yay! We've had a lot of obstacles in our way but we are making it through. Gotta love the last minute scramble.  

Just today, we found out our 1st AC on our little passion project got another higher paying gig and has to jump on it for a few days. We are looking for a last minute replacement to work this weekend and 2 days next week. I'm sure we will find him or her but it's always a shock to the system when those jolts like that happen in the final hour. 

For me, the day is filled with actor deals and paperwork for payroll and vendors and crunching the numbers as we have to pay for all the items we spent weeks finding and negotiating. 

It always amazes me to see a full bank account depleted in only a few days and sometimes hours! 

Well, back to the grind for me. Excited to be on set tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Casting Deals

I'm back for the attack! Had a wonderful trip to wine country and have returned to a slew of casting negotiations for Take Me Home. For being a such a small film, the negotiations are hot and heavy. The casting directors say this is common for projects that may have a similar reception as other indie successes like The Waitress. I told them, from their lips to God's ears that we have a Waitress on our hands!

I absolutely believe in our writer/director/star's talent to make another Waitress. As an indie filmmaker, I am a realist and I never like to get too excited too soon. But there is a wonderful excitement brewing all around this project. 

With the casting, I am negotiating with each cast member through our casting directors and the actors' reps and it can get complicated very quickly. I have done enough deals to know most of the deal points and what is feasible for a film this size. It can get overwhelming pretty fast so you need to figure out a way to keep things consistent. I do recommend that filmmaking deals be vetted by an entertainment lawyer. 

A lot comes down to using Favored Nations language as much as possible or carving out certain roles that may have a slightly more advantageous position. On Take Me Home, our writer/director/star is being carved out from Favored Nations as he deserves a stronger deal due to the many roles he has on the project. 

Often, casting negotiations can occur all the way up to the cast member arriving on set and many times, after. Of course, you don't want to be negotiating after a cast member wraps but sometimes it happens. I try very hard to negotiate prior to arrival on set or at the very least have something writing before wrapping the actor. 

At a bare minimum, you need to get some sort of appearance release for the actor's image. You need to know that you have the rights to their image so you can sell your film. From there, let the complicated negotiations begin!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy Independence Weekend!

Happy July 4th Weekend everyone (at least my U.S. readers)! I am off to wine country! You won't be hearing from me til I am in the thick of filming next week. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Producer's Work and Relaxation

I want to talk a little more about the work (and relaxation) of a producer. In my last post, I went over some of the craziness and large amount of work on my plate. I realize it's alarming to read about the sheer quantity of work. But, what I am doing is no different than what my producer colleagues are doing. I'm really glad to be talking about this as a producer's work is often hard to comprehend.

What I failed to mention in my last post is that part of a producer's job is fitting in the relaxation amidst the madness. As the rain of work is pouring down, we must take those breaks and get away. And I am. I am heading to wine country on Friday and returning one day before filming starts on my next film.  

As producers, we have to figure out how to get the work done and still have a life. When I get together with my producer friends, we blow each other's minds with the amount of work we have going on. A lot of eye bulging occurs at many breakfasts, lunches and drinks. I think that's why producers often feel underappreciated. Not many understand or could handle the workloads we have. It's just not comprehensible to many.

I talk about the work I do to help open the eyes of others to what producers are dealing with. There is a real dearth of information on what full-time producers really do. It is extremely hard work but we do it because we love movies and we do have a drive that helps us barrel through the daily responsibilities associated with moviemaking. 

It is very much the reality for film producers to have a ton of different projects going in various stages of development and production. When I worked for Akiva Goldsman, he often had films he was producing in production while writing one or even two for the studios. I used to be in awe with the amount of work he could complete. He is extremely talented and has learned how to juggle the life of a producer. He's not perfect at it but he tries just like the rest of us. I saw the strain of the lifestyle on him and we would do our best to help ease that strain. 

And I watched and learned from him. I owe Akiva for showing me how to get a producer's job done. I'm still working out the kinks but I do have a strong foundation for navigating the rough waters of producing.

Lucky for Akiva, he has a studio deal and a staff to help him. However, I have to point out that there's only so much work his staff can do for him. At the end of the day, the studios want to work with Akiva, not his staff. So he must juggle multiple projects daily and contend with the pressures of the high level studio world. 

Producers need to learn how to relax. It is not easy. You have to learn to say no -- a lot. And you must learn how to prioritize appropriately. Producing is not a job; it's a lifestyle. And there is never enough time in the day to get the work done. You have to learn to walk away and leave it behind -- even in the middle of the madness. 

You need to hone in on what you need and respect that. Personally, I know I need at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night. And I get it. I also know I don't like working on weekends. So I work hard to ensure my weekends are free. If I do work on the weekends, it's because I choose to do so -- not because I feel guilted into it. Set boundaries and stick to them. 

I do take time amidst the craziness to break away for rest and relaxation. I had to learn how to do it. Early on, I would often forsake my vacations or time off for the job. I've missed family reunions because of films and I refuse to do that anymore. At the time, it made sense because I was still new to the work of a producer and felt I needed to be there. But now, with experience, I know the work will go on without me micro-managing and I know that I need to take time for myself. 

So this weekend, as the other film is wrapping and I am gearing up to start production on Tuesday, I will be drinking wine under oak trees and riding my tandem with my husband. And I will not be taking my computer!