Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Making of a Tromadance Winner, by Frankie Frain Part III

I can only assume that you've been anxiously waiting for part III of the Frankie Frain article, "The Making of a Tromadance Winner", but if you weren't aware of the article... here's a link to part I and here's a link to part II. Now, today, you get the much anticipated part III. Actually, this is where the shit gets good and you'll get to hear about some lessons learned. There's only one more, final part coming next week, so stay tuned for that. Otherwise, I'd like to mention that Frankie's pimped up his site a bit, so go on over to INeedToLoseTenPounds.com and check it out. While you're doing that, you might as well head over to AboTheHumonkey.com and check out the site for his other film. Anyhow, here's part III...

...two years later, shooting sparsely on weekends, getting in trouble with the law and the local school system for the manner of our shoots, and almost losing our main actor half way through shooting (he got bored, decided the effort was pointless, and quit. Who was able to convince him to come back? Jon Hunt. As if the guy wasn’t already useful enough) we finished the film. It was a moment I had fantasized about for nearly five full years, and if I can be just slightly romantic for a moment, it was as relieving and incredible feeling as taking the world’s largest shit. The film’s final quality was almost less important than its mere completion. That crazy script with the locations and special effects had actually gotten shot by a group of teenagers, with few compromises and virtually no cash. How? There’s a big answer and a little answer.

Little answer: Again – we were too stupid to realize it was impossible. So we just did it.

Big answer: Let’s go into some methods and techniques we used and implemented to pull this off.

Know when to be honest and know when to lie.

This is important. I’ll give an example.

“So how long will you be shooting at my all-male bath house and buffet, and how many people will be here?” asks the location owner.

“We should be about 2 to 3 hours, and it will only be a cast and crew of about 7,” you reply truthfully.

“What’s this for?”

“The local high school video yearbook. It’s just a wholesome, fun little scene we’re shooting,” you lie through your fucking teeth. You don’t need to tell him the scene is about group masturbation and seafood.

Obviously you have to be honest about the way you’ll be exploiting their location, because he/she will be there keeping a steady eye on you. But if you start shooting the clean stuff first, or run boring rehearsals, they’ll eventually leave you alone and get back to alphabetizing the lubricants in the stock room. But if you describe any plot or characters or details that are just irrelevant to them, they may realize you’re the depraved ingrate you really are and call the whole thing off. I was once so close to having someone’s personal mansion as a location, but I gave too much of our vulgar plot away and she declined. So be smooth, very polite and articulate, and seem like no hassle to them at all. Remember, they have no incentive to let you do this other than personal kindness (or if your location scout is hot…but I was always the one doing it so that never worked well for me). And with that, never bullshit the owner with “your location will be featured in a real live movie!” because they just don’t give a shit.

Oh, and get your location release signed when you show up for shooting, before you even begin. That’s key.

Carry the burden. It is YOUR movie.

So none of this, “Come on guys, you committed to this! The film belongs to all of us!” because they’re not buying it, especially if it’s your first film. On my second feature, people knew I was going to finish the piece, but on Ten Pounds, for all they knew, I could get bored any day and just have a pile of useless, half-shot footage. For the most part, the only reason anyone would show up to your shoots (crew or cast) would be because it sounds cool or because they’re your friends and just want to be nice. So don’t be a dick to them!

Here was a common film school scenario I saw far too often: aspiring director recruits his/her cast and crew while totally playing hard-ass producer, making them come back for follow-up interviews and what not, and then when shooting time begins, all he/she wants to do is be the director. They don’t want to be the diplomat or the caterer or producer or anything but the guy or gal who plans out the shots. Well guess what douchebag – regardless of what capacity your crew has committed to, you’re making a no-budget independent film, so that means YOU take on EVERYTHING. The more you can allow these volunteers to just focus on that one little thing you need them for (like, gee, I don’t know, portraying your film’s characters, or golly willickers, holding the god damn boom mic), the happier they’ll be to return to each subsequent shoot. Don’t “hire” a “producer.” YOU are the producer.

So the lesson here – don’t throw it in their face that they committed to helping you. You’ll just make them regret it and they’ll never help you again.

But that said…

So how do you get make up designers and proper actors and people who aren’t just heavily bearded horror fans to help out every weekend? It goes against some of my philosophy, but you will have to find an incentive for them. Hopefully they just like your script! That’s the easiest way, and is going to be the most important factor any way you slice it. But the fact is, there’s a shitload of actors and designers who need resumé work, and guess what? They’d love a feature on their resumé. So see if you can find ways to include their work or talent in the movie a little more so their reel is that much larger – it will probably improve the film.

Next week, the final chapter... part IV.

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