More Blumenthal! NY Premiere Set, Extra Screening Scheduled at Santa Barbara

20130209-131954.jpgFirst, I'm pleased to announce that BLUMENTHAL will be making its NY premiere at the inaugural First Time Fest. Hosted by the historic Players Club, the festival is a competition and mentorship comprising of only 12 films and supported by awesome talents like Darren Aronofsky, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Sofia Coppolla. Our movie will play the first weekend in March at the Lowes Village VII. More details to come!

In other news, due to popular demand, BLUMENTHAL will be screening an extra time I'm Santa Barbara this weekend. It will be at 2pm on Sunday the 10th at 2PM at the Riviera Theatre. Best of all, it's free! SBIFF does this every year as a 3rd Weekend treat intended for locals who avoided the last two weeks of madness that descended on their town. I will, unfortunately, not be able to attend. I will be there in spirit (and celluloid).

20130209-133227.jpg Festivals aside, we are still trying to nail down a sales rep for the film. We've recently received a good deal of interest from some cool companies, so hopefully we can set that up soon. For the uninitiated, a sales rep or sales agent is responsible for getting the film in front of distributors and ultimately negotiate the terms of a deal. Naturally, festival buzz and press in general will be key in our selling this film. Speaking of which, INDIEWIRE just published an interview we did a couple weeks ago. It's generous, to be sure. It also talks about WMMAM. Please "like" the article on Facebook and share with friends! This stuff goes a long way in promoting a small film like this.

More soon...

Sales and Press for Independent Films like Blumenthal

ethanbike Within hours of being notified of our acceptance into Santa Barbara Film Fest, phones were ringing and emails were...emailing? Aside from all the logistic and technical preparations of getting the film printed and ready for screening, the two main discussions of the week are Publicity and Sales Representation. For the uninitiated, here is a brief film-related definition of each :

Publicist - The main job of a film publicist is, well, publicity. More specifically, they work to generate attention and interest in the film through advertising to the target audience and promoting the film to the industry and local and national media. A publicist (ideally) can fill the theater seats with people who will help spread the word through the media (critics, industry executives, etc.)

Sales Representative - Also known as a sales agent, these guys are responsible for facilitating and negotiating the sales of distribution rights. They also work hard to fill the seats with relevant people, but their main function is to sell the film to distributors across all platforms (theatrical, DVD, VOD, etc) and all territories, both domestic and foreign.

Depending on who you  ask, people feel differently about which of these two relationships is more important when attending a festival. Some say both are equally important, and some DIY folks believe that indie filmmakers should do their own publicity (like blogging!). I've had  little experience with either publicists or sales reps, so I'll be interested to see how things go. Either way, these relationships will continue after the festival as Blumenthal makes its way through the circuit. With that in mind, all that matters is that the individual with either of these titles is passionate about the film. Funny, in a meeting this morning a producer pointed out that the same things that brings on good people to shoot, produce, or act in your film are the same traits you need in the people who promote it. The person best equipped to sell the movie is the person who truly believes in it.

Meetings abound, phone calls to make, and emails to...email?

 

 

 

Watch Me Make [Insert title here]

My hope is that Watch Me Make a Movie can translate to any filmmaker for any film they set out to make.  From what I do right to what I do wrong, it should apply to any independent movie. But for now, we are talking about my movie. That's what we've been calling it thus far: My "movie", my "feature", my "script". It's high time we give it an actual title. After less thought then you'd expect, the title of my movie is....

PASSING HAROLD BLUMENTHAL

 

What was I thinking? (Revisions and Inertia)

Brief Note - I have been surprised at how many of you are tuning in to Watch Me Make a Movie. I was not certain of any expectations when starting this blog a few weeks ago, but I am getting all sorts of signs that this is worthwhile. Thanks to everyone for reading. Please feel free to leave comments or email me directly if you ever want to chime in, give some of your own perspective, or ask questions. I love you peoples. Onto the post...

I have no real deadlines here beyond the ones I set for myself. I could easily work on this screenplay for many more months and then take even longer to get the funding, actors, and trimmings that would make this movie "perfect". The trouble is, by that point I would probably have lost all interest in this story.

I definitely benefit from taking time away from a script and then coming back to it with a fresh eye. But I could really do that forever; changing and revising. I find that the first stuff I wrote gets old the quickest, and by the time I've revised all of that, I am looking at the latter-written parts and, all of a sudden, they too look tired. And so goes the cycle.

Things have to keep moving forward in this process. If the progress stops, this project dies and the movie is never made. Yes, there is a great deal of thought, calculation and planning that should go into something like this, but the spirit of good filmmaking, I think, lies in a certain spontaneity. Some degree of impulsiveness is what lights a fire and gets things done. At least that's true for me. It's like sitting on the couch with friends and someone having the great idea to go to the grocery store, buy lots of food and drink and inviting everyone you know to come over for a barbecue. It's a great idea, but if no one gets off the damn couch within the next ten minutes, you'll all just end up sitting there for the rest of the night watching bad TV.  Unfortunately, this is also true of bad ideas, like streaking or robbing a bank.

This round of revisions will be it  for a while. Onwards and upwards.

Write What You Don't Know

A common bit of advice to any young writer of fiction is to "write what you know". I guess the idea is that the more a writer knows about his subject matter, the more fleshed out the world becomes, the truer the characters sound, and the easier a time the writer has generating story. I recently started reading Nemesis, the latest book by the great American novelist, Philip Roth, and I have already been struck by some familiar places and themes. Like most of Roth's stories, this one takes place in Newark in the 1940's, with a young Jewish man for a protagonist. This backdrop for a story has worked for Roth in book after book, with each story resonating uniquely on its own. He manages to keep things fresh and true by writing what he knows:  The lives of Jews in Newark in the 20th century. But he only begins there.

Roth quickly deviates from his own personal experience and invents, exaggerates, and embellishes to generate an original story that rings true. Not because they are true, but because they begin at a place of truth. Nemesis has a protagonist of a playground director who helps the community cope with the polio epidemic. Roth no doubt was a child during the epidemic, but his work is still that of fiction. He does plenty of research and writes with such depth that one easily assumes he is documenting from personal experience (a common assumption of many of his works).

In writing and rewriting this screenplay, I certainly use personal experience as a jumping-off point, but from then on, the imagination runs wild and nothing in the movie is personal at all.

Now, I dont have an audience of millions who know my life well enough to draw parallels to the characters and stories I write. However, even in sharing the script with a select few, I am always interested to hear what elements they believe to be based on either my own life or the lives of people I know. Sometimes, they'll even think something is based on them. Usually they are partially correct, but that is only the mundane stuff. The real fun and challenge is to write what you don't know ... To start in a world and perspective that you can support, and then turn it loose. Once you turn it loose, you've got to flesh out the fiction with detail (research). This way the real stuff and the fake stuff get mixed together on the page and make for a great and entertaining story. Well it works for Roth, anyway.

Enough of the writing talk. Some of these writing ruminations are starting to feel pedantic. Next post, I'll start getting into tech stuff and discussing how this thing may actually look in production.

Let's Get Ahead of Ourselves

I'd like to think that the art of filmmaking has some sort of structure to it, and some sort of order to things: A writer has an idea, and turns it into a treatment or outline, which turns into a rough draft, first draft, second draft, followed by financing, then assembling key actors and crew, pre-production, and ultimately filming the thing. In general, that's the order of thing from concept to product in the film industry.

Yet, whenever I tell someone about my designs to make a feature, I am always surprised by the immediate questions I get. One would expect questions like, "What's it about?" or "What's the story?" But, for some reason, I seldom get those queries. Instead, they tend to ask what interests them the most about the process, and not the product. Usually this is determined by their varying relationships to movies. But the most absurd "first questions" seem to be born either out of innocent ignorance or out of too much insight into how movies are made. So much or so little insight, that they have completely forgotten why anyone goes and sits in a dark theatre for two and a half hours watching a screen.

Common First Questions  (When I say I'm making a movie)

  • What's your budget and/or where will you get the money for it?
  • What camera are you shooting on?
  • Who's going to be in it? aka Are there any stars attached? aka Is there a role in it for me?
  • What's your target audience?
  • What's the title?
  • Why make a movie? This movie?

Surprisingly (or not) people don't seem very concerned with story. I also take some of these questions as signs of lacking faith. It's strange, if a painter says he wants to paint something, no one would ever say, "Where are you going to buy your paint? Where will you show it? Why are you painting in the first place?" People would say, "What are you going to paint?"

This is Seth being oversensitive to nay-sayers. I hate nay-sayers. I'll have to do a separate post on them and their nayfarious ways.

The truth is, these are all fair questions and every one of them needs to be answered. I do have answers to most. I think. The difficult part is to maintain focus on the content of the film and not get ahead of myself. But, to be fair, it is difficult not to consider many of these questions early on. It is especially important to consider some of them during the writing process, as filmmaking is largely dependent on logistics. While I would like to write a scene that takes place in a beautiful penthouse apartment, I have to consider the expense and logistics of actually executing that, which leads me to consider the amount of money I will need, which leads me to consider what compromises I have to make on the quality of camera I use, which leads me to consider which actors will perform so perfectly well it won't matter what camera we use, which leads me to reconsider my whole story that I now have to compromise, which leads to ask why the hell anyone, let alone me , would make a movie at all. Maybe just write "Manhattan Apartment" for now.

Admittedly, it always fun to get ahead of oneself and scheme about large budgets, elusive actors, and shooting on 35mm Anamorphic lenses. But, I have to remind myself, that they are all secondary.

I think the only way to handle these important, but not pressing, questions, is to keep the questions alive throughout the remainder of the re-writing process. I just have to prioritize the script and story over all else. That is the only way to ensure it will even be worth worrying about all these other questions.

Caring is Sharing

Last week I sent a draft of the script to a few specific people to read. Not really because I value their opinions (coincidentally, I do), but because I feel I can gauge their responses to things, see how it hits them, and confirm whether or not what I intended to write actually ended up on the page. Even as I read through the script before sending it around, I made a bunch of major notes of things I wanted to change or develop within the story. But in the interest of time, I decided to send it off before rewriting more. So, each time I'd send a draft to someone, I'd send an accompanying email shamelessly disclaiming that much of it will change. I'm sure it read more like, "If you don't like this, this isn't really what I'm going to film. It will be something much cooler and this is just an exercise. It's dumb, forget I ever showed you this."

The reality is, I love it and think it's great, even if I shot this thing tomorrow. But I want it to get better, I want to stretch it beyond whatever I think it could be. For me to do that, I have to share it.

The responses have all been very positive, and I am extremely encouraged. Great! Let's make a movie!

Personal Question: "How Long?"

I keep reading about these screenwriters, both big-time and small-time, who rapidly scratch out their cinematic opus in a couple of weeks or even a couple of days. I like to comfort myself by insisting that these screenplays must be awful and couldn't possibly be any good, having been written so quickly and thoughtlessly. Of course that's not necessarily the case. The reality is, I can't write like that. I can't really do anything like that. I write something, then I delete it, I rewrite it, delete it, rewrite it again, read it, hate it, read it again, like it, like it so much I tell my wife all about it and in the process realize I actually hate it, and start from scratch.  And so on. Thus far, this writing method has served me well. I find that the more I scrutinize the text early on, the more specific things will be for the actors, cinematographer, audience, and even myself on set.

So, how long did it take me? To get to a cohesive Rough/First Draft, it took me a about six weeks of work. Ish.