Tag Archives: film

The Shelf Life of Film

I don’t think we need to address the fact that I suck at writing regular blog posts, so we won’t touch on that except to say that it’s kinda funny that the last thing I wrote was “The Importance of Being Sidetracked” two years ago.

sidetracked

HAHAHA!!!  What a failure of a blogger!!!

And, oddly enough, I haven’t been sidetracked. I’ve been slowly chipping away at The Legend of Grassman. Chipping and learning and chipping even more. I’m very excited to finally be able to show everyone soon.

But I don’t want to talk about that right now. I want to talk about being sidetracked.

Jessica

Here’s a brand new still of multi-talented actor/director/producer Jessica Cameron and the FIRST EVER REVEAL of our Bigfoot. But enough of that. It bores me.

A Dark Night at the Wrong House was the side project I wrote about last. It was actually an older film that had been sitting on The Shelf for a while, because I’m the kind of guy who likes keeping things on shelves. Big shelf guy.

Oke.jpg

Dennis Meyer. We’re brothers. We’re making a “Bigfoot” movie. Ring a bell? If not , just bear with me. It’ll make sense as I go. I promise.

Back when I was thoroughly obsessed with editing and re-editing our short The Projection Booth, everyone got sick of working on it and my brother, Dennis (who you’ll remember from our classic blog entries makes movies with me), insisted I do a new short. So, I picked A Dark Night at the Wrong House, which is actually a remake of a film I did at age 14. I’d been playing around with the idea of remaking it for a while and decided I’d do this real quick-like, distract Dennis with it and then get back to obsessing over The Projection Booth.

So, we did that. We shot it quickly, I mean. And then I couldn’t figure out the effects and this new-fangled 24p business I was trying out. Shortly after, we were doing Grassman, so there was no time for such frivolities. (So I neither finished the film real quick to distract Dennis, nor got back to obsessing over The Projection Booth. I underestimated my fox of a brother. He’s wily.)

So it sat. On The Shelf. With all my other Shelfstuff.

Around the time I wrote that last blog article, I happened to give The Shelf a once over. It’s important to give The Shelf a once over now and then, to make sure you haven’t left anything on the shelf – and I found a mostly-finished short that I really liked. A few years had passed, so I had become more proficient at effects, 24p, as well as giving up and sending things out unfinished.

Wrong House Cover Festivals 2.jpg

Couldn’t think of an interesting caption. It’s pretty much self-explanatory. 

bigfoot_pointing.jpg

“Grassman” is a regional name for “Bigfoot” – a mythical creature that many believe roams the forests of “North America.” 

So I worked hard on it for a couple weeks and then got right back to Grassman. Then something magical happened. Film Freeway was invented. It streamlined the submission process and made everything super easy. So I entered 278 film festivals without hardly noticing. And most of those were free.

I didn’t want to spend too much on festival entries on this film. I paid for a few, but I honestly did better with the free festivals. And, overall, had a great experience with those festivals.

In the end, we played at something like 25 festivals – not great, but not bad, and that’s more screenings than any other short we’ve done. Also, the film will be part of a horror/suspense/thriller anthology coming in November from SGL Entertainment called The Void. I am totally going to buy it because I‘ve never bought my own movie before. And I will take pictures of it. And post them on social media. And it will be AWESOME.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/TKXE11Po-8U

A Dark Night at the Wrong House isn’t any better than anything else we’ve done, but the difference is that I pushed it. And I was able to push it so much because Film Freeway streamlined the process so much. I’m the kind of guy who sends a film out to one festival, and when it gets rejected, I figure it sucks. Don’t be that guy. Whether it’s festivals, whether it’s trying to build a following on YouTube, you have to be relentless. 90% of the people won’t care about your film and that’s totally cool. You don’t care about them. You care about finding the 10% that will love it.

scarela

With actor Anthony Rizzuto at the ScareLa screening of A Dark Night at the Wrong House (1st time we were ever allowed to screen a movie anywhere near LA. The closest till now had been Seattle!)

Furthermore, as a creator of art, whatever the medium, you have a solemn duty to get it to the people who will love it. If that’s one creepy dude in the back of the auditorium with a really weird taste in films, that’s a worthy enough audience.

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Disastrous? You wouldn’t know it from this photo taken just before the screening. Poised and confident, “Dennis” and I radiate professionalism. (Dennis is my brother. We make “movies.”)

I remember there was a teenage boy who contacted me on “MySpace” after what I thought was a disastrous screening of The Projection Booth. He said he really liked it and wanted to know how he could get a copy. At the time, I fully intended to release it at some point, but wasn’t done tinkering with it. I told him about the new awesome cut that was on its way, and he said he loved the original and wanted that. And I figured he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about.

The Projection Booth did not do extremely well on the festival circuit. One blogger described it as “just ok” which is about the worst insult I can think of for a film. I got the sense that this kid was a loner who didn’t fit in, and I had been a loner who didn’t fit in and the movie was about a loner who didn’t fit in. So even if I thought it was crap, it moved this young kid. It said something to him and out of everyone who saw it, it probably meant the most to him. It wasn’t about me. I had a duty to make that film available to him.

But, instead, I stuck it on The Shelf.

If I ever cross paths with that kid, I’m giving him my crappy film. It’s been a few years and it may not mean anything to him anymore. But he’s getting it anyway.

The Shelf

The Shelf. There’s a lot of weird stuff up there. Don’t be like me. Don’t stick it on The Shelf.

The most recent project to escape The Shelf is a feature-length film called les aventures d’archives. It was another side project, but it was taking too long and I shelved it to focus on Grassman. Weeks ago, while giving The Shelf the ol’ once over, I realized it had been, like A Dark Night at the Wrong House before it, abandoned while on the verge of completion and that there is someone, somewhere out there, that would love to see it. It stars filmmaker/cellist Gene Cornelius and a giant, flying robot shark. Who wouldn’t want to see that?  It will be hitting festivals in the coming months.

LES AVENTURES D’ARCHIVES EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK

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les aventures d’archives. Coming Soon. Yes, it’s as cool as it looks.

 

eloquent

I’m “Tyler” btw. I’m a “filmmaker.” You just “read” my “blog.”

Getting Rich – Part 3: Everything is better with a rope bridge

Previously, on Jackasses Make Movie:

Rodriguez Rodriguez. Script. Rodriguez Rodriguez Rodriguez, Rodriguez Rodriguez. Shit. Rodriguez. Shevchik. Rodriguez. Shevchik, Rodriguez Rodriguez. Rodriguez!

English: Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez at the pre...

Final gratuitous Rodriguez pic. The man can sign autographs without looking.

So, yeah. We had a script. Now we had somewhere to shoot. What we were about to realize, however, was that we had more than just a shooting location. We had a goldmine of Rodriguezness.

Shortly after asking Rich if we could shoot on his property, Tyler and I began talking about casting. Some of the cast members were already set, with parts written specifically for them (see Lights, Camera, Action! What have I gotten myself into? to see how I wrote myself into the movie). But, there were still several other roles that needed actors, specifically members of the Bigfoot expedition. We needed folks who not only could act, but who looked the parts. The first such character was that of Gavin Reynolds, the cryptid expert with years of experience and clout in the Bigfoot community.

As we were talking about what kind of guy we wanted for the part, a crazy thought popped into my jackass mind. What about Rich? He’s a outdoor dude. He’s the smartest guy I know. He’s a natural storyteller. He’s got… a look. Hell, the look. So, I sent Tyler a picture of Rich with the message “This is Gavin.” I don’t recall Tyler’s exact words, but it was something along the lines of “Shit, yeah! See if he’ll do it.”

Rich and son, blissfully unaware of what they've gotten themselves into.

Rich and son, blissfully unaware of what they’ve gotten themselves into.

After reading the script and a talk about acting abilities concerns which I countered with the experience of the cast and a memory-refreshing clip of Badness, Rich agreed. We had our first non-family actor on board and our first unexpected benefit of getting Rich’s location.

But, that wasn’t all. A few weeks later, Tyler and I went to Rich’s property to scope out the land and start picking locations for specific scenes. We arrived on a nice Spring Saturday, armed with script, cameras, and a Google Map printout of the area for reference. Rich met us and we began a 3 hour trek through the wilds of Lebanon.

Shooting on a rope bridge in the jungle wilds of Lebanon, OH.

Shooting on a rope bridge in the jungle wilds of Lebanon, OH.

It was better than we could have imagined. Not only did it have places for the majority of the script locations, and a story behind each from Rich, but there were places that I had forgotten, treasure troves of production value. Things like a rope bridge and an old, abandoned Shaker home which were too good to not include in the fourth draft of the script.  And there was Rich’s son, Michael, who is the spitting image of his father, who managed to get worked into the film, as well.

Cover of "Slacker [Region 2]"

Now, imagine it with a rope bridge… yeah.

That’s right. We were post-Rodriguezing the script! I mean, who wouldn’t jump on the chance to have a rope bridge in their low-budget, independent film? Imagine how much more exciting Richard Linklater‘s Slacker would have been with a rope bridge in it!

So, the lesson of this entire long-winded tale is this: if you have no budget, use the Rodriguez List method. Make a list of what you have and write with those things in mind. If you are a jackass like me and forget the advice of one of your filmmaking idols, then hope that you are friends with Rich. Then everything will be okay.

Regardless of your friendship level with the Rich, once you’ve gotten some locations worked out, don’t be afraid to post-Rodriguez your script, to make adjustments to accommodate unexpected production value that may fall into your lap. In this business, you’re either adaptive or you’re dead.

Well, not dead… but without a kick-ass rope bridge, that’s for sure!

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Getting Rich – Part 2: The Rodriguez works in mysterious ways

In my last post, I talked about the Rodriguez rule for low budget film of making a list of what you have, and the writing your script around those things, and about how I complete ignored that rule in my writing of a Bigfoot movie, and possibly killing the whole thing dead before we even got started. Great. Now what?

Director Robert Rodriguez at the 1993 Atlanta ...

El Mariachi era, hatless Rodriguez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let me begin by saying that I don’t always necessarily subscribe to the Rodriguez rule. Most people will tell you to just write the best script you can, regardless of any external pressures. Get your story down on paper and don’t concern yourself with anything but writing a good movie. That said, when you are dealing with a no- or micro-budget film and can’t pay for much of anything, the Rodriguez list is a highly recommended exercise.

It just that sometimes focusing too much on what you can’t do can put a serious damper on creativity. And, honestly, that’s kind of how I felt when writing the first draft. So, I focused on Tyler and my original plan of single to a couple locations, and a handful (at most) of characters.  I abbreviated the opening, non-forest location scene (at a quickie mart or something), then got right to the chase. But, I also let myself take a bit more license with the details of the forest location.

Memories are made of this

Kids, do you mind? You’re in the shot.(Photo credit: Joana Roja)

So, there we were with a script that demanded more locations than we had, and a level of action and level of conspicuousness that would not lend themselves to guerrilla-style filmmaking in public parks. No, we need a place where we could revel in the complete, unexpurgated madness that is indie horror action filmmaking; people screaming, creatures roaring, branches breaking, bodies falling, rocks flying, and fires… firing! Basically, a whole lot of chaos and mayhem.

And when I think of chaos and mayhem, I think of my workplace, naturally.

Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale (right) with Michae...

Batman and Not Rich Shevchik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By workplace I am, of course, referring to my grown up job that pays my bills (and some of the Grassman budget). When I’m not running around like a masked vigilante committing acts of creativity all over the place, I am a mild-mannered web developer. The people that I work with are at least partially aware of my artistic proclivities, but one man in particular is privy to the more, for lack of a better word, avante-garde efforts, such as Badness. Like Vicki Vale in Tim Burton’s Batman, he has been allowed into the cave and seen where the we hang the filmmaker leotards. Unlike Vicki Vale, he’s not played by Kim Basinger.

That man is Rich Shevchik. You’re thinking “Hey, I know that name from somewher-” SHUT UP! I’m getting to that. Don’t jump ahead and ruin it for everyone else.

Rich used to be my boss. Not long after I began working for him, I came to realize that I had found a kindred spirit. He’s an very kind man with a great sense of humor, and sharper mind and wit than almost anyone I know. He is politically incorrect, but is too likable to be offending. The man has a story for everything. And, he has one of the most impressive beards I’ve ever seen anyone get away with in a professional work environment. He’s a non-conformist, train engineer hat wearing, Renaissance Man like no one I’ve ever met.

He also had a large property north of Cincinnati, in Lebanon. I knew this because some years earlier, when I was his employee, I was invited to one of his yearly team parties and bonfires. I got a brief tour of the land and the full Shevchik treatment. Stories, inappropriate jokes, tractor rides, and his ever-present train engineer hat. It was a fun time, and also when I realize he was one of “us.”

Rich Shevchik: the man, the myth, the beard

Rich Shevchik: the man, the myth, the beard

Shortly after finishing that first draft, and after numerous conversations with Tyler about how and where were going to shoot this, I ran into Rich (now a former boss) in the office and that’s when it hit me. I could ask Rich if he would allow us to shoot on his land. It would only be for a few weeks (hahahaha… damn it). Plus, if I recalled correctly, there was a lot to work with feature-wise. Plus, as one of us, he’d totally get what we were doing, versus being curious and mildly excited, only to be annoyed by it as it went on. We’ve discovered in the past that even family members can have their fill of the wonders of movie magic.

I ran the idea by Tyler and, given that we had no other options and that I vouched for Rich, he agreed that I should ask. And of course, since I had a reason to talk to him, he did not reappear in my part of the office for several hours, which drove me crazy. I am not a patient person. When he did appear, though, I got his attention and ran the whole thing past him: movie, Bigfoot, land, woods, exciting, no Badness, horror, action. “So what do you think?”

Rich regaling the cast and crew with mystical tales between takes.

Rich regaling the cast and crew with mystical tales between takes.

“Absolutely,” he said without hesitation.

Suddenly, we really had a movie. There was a script AND a location. A real location! It turned out that I had accidentally followed the Rodriguez method and didn’t even know it. The Rodriguez just needed to reveal itself at it’s own time, when I was ready to see it…. Yeah.

In the final installment of Getting Rich, you’ll learn how the right location and the right people can not only help your movie, it can actually make it. Rich wasn’t just a nice co-worker with some land. He would turn out to be an angel sent from The Rodriguez himself. Metaphorically speaking.

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