Long overdue, but here nonetheless. For all of you wonderful people who supported BLUMENTHAL on Kickstarter, the merchandise is finally here. Stills, DVDs, and more! Some of you will even be receiving a nifty mug like the one above. As soon as I can cram this stuff into boxes they will be headed your way. Thank you for being patient!
It's been a whirlwind 2011. In some ways, the months have flown by like lightning. In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was blogging about how to make a movie cheaply. A lot has happened since then, from crowd-funding on Kickstarter to scrambling for a new location at the last-minute during our shoot. I've had the pleasure of collaborating with some amazing people from producers to actors to blog readers. This has been a monumentally massive group effort to see this film made. With the loyal following of this blog, we managed to finance the film, start shooting, and spread the word about Passing Harold Blumenthal.
I am immensely grateful for all of the support we've had from our reader base as well as the actual producing team and crew who realized this film with me. An extra special thank you to my producers in the trenches with me. Garrett P. Fennelly and his awesome team at Act Zero Films deserve a medal or something, I want a Nicole Ansari app for my iPhone, Jesse Ozeri is a lesson in the value of chutzpah, and Alex Cendese could probably encourage me to move a mountain. It's a good year's work, everyone. Congrats.
I am so excited to share this movie with the world. Just a few more finishing touches over the next couple months and it'll be good to go! Thank you all for being patient. We will be releasing some press stills later this month, so stay tuned!
Although we are nowhere near having a locked picture edit, I have begun to explore possibilities for music. This is fun stuff. With original music, the film will really begin to define its tone and hone its ultimate effect on an audience. I like the idea of building a soundtrack of popular music, or at least already-produced music. This would be the soundtrack that I had in my head all along. But such a soundtrack can be limiting, and in some cases impossible. Licensing rights to well-known music can be insanely expensive so it really wasn't/isn't an option. Now, the idea of an original score gives me an opportunity to tailor the music to my film. Not only can I tailor it to the moments and the edit of the picture, but also the orchestration, the vibe, the vocals, etc. Each track can serve a specific purpose to what I need in the edit.
Music tends to be at the forefront of my mind in all stages of the filmmaking process. When I write, I listen to music or at least have specific songs in my head. I can even remember times when I would be listening to my iPod while walking the streets of New York, get an idea, go home and write a new scene. On set, there were particular songs that I would play for actors and our cinematographer before certain scenes. Some of these songs became a means to direct the action without needing to articulate anything myself. It can set the tone for a performance or the tempo of a camera move.
A while back, I began talking with my longtime friends and fellow Kickstarter crowd-funders, Noah and Josh Lit. They are the talented team behind the former Oliver Future and the up-and-coming Noah and the MegaFauna. Noah and I have been kicking ideas back and forth for a few weeks now and are starting to move into laying down some demo tracks for us to test against the current cut of the film. Ultimately, the music will be orchestrated and mixed to the locked picture edit. For now, we are exploring possibilities, tones, sounds, instruments, etc.
While Noah and Josh have distinct tastes and styles, they are very eager to explore a wide range of genres to adequately cover all the bases of the film's musical needs. I'm not even sure what I want the music to sound like. It could go many different ways, but I'll certainly know it when I hear it (What a "bad director" thing to say.... "Bring me ideas and I shall choose!")
Noah recently sent me a little theme that I'm particularly excited about. It's the first idea that's been floated, so I'm looking forward to what else they might have in store. More on the music to come!
I awoke at 4:45am this morning ready for the final day of shooting this film. Today was our "steadicam day" which called for the shooting of three major scenes throughout Manhattan. The plan was to trim down the crew, bundle into a single 15-passenger van with people, camera, support, wardrobe, etc. The van would serve as our "base camp" and major mode of transportation. I arrived to the location early to wrap my head around this daunting last day. I was sitting in an empty Starbucks reading through the scenes when Zak happened to walk in. We chatted about the day's agenda and how tough it would potentially be. After guzzling our coffee, we went to meet the rest of the crew to get ready. The team was lean and mean: Cinematographer, Assistant Camera, Steadicam Operator, Sound Mixer, Wardrobe, Production Manager, Makeup, Assistant Director, and three Producers. We had actually anticipated less hands on deck for this day, because we couldn't afford much more than the Steadicam itself. Our team of producers as well as some volunteers came out to flesh out this crew and it was truly all hands on deck.
First scene up was a simple dialogue scene that leads into a running sequence. The second scene was the running sequence itself which took place in Chinatown. In addition to our able steadicam operator, Dave Ellis, we utilized a custom rickshaw built for mobile camera operation. We needed to be able to keep up with a runner at sprinting speed, so we perched Dave in the seat of this metal contraption pulled and/or pushed by Alex and Zak. For those of you who have ever been, you'll know how hard it is to even walk through Chinatown let alone sprint through it with a Steadicam operator ahead of you. I've had anxiety about this day for a long time. But we nailed it. It was insane. Check it out.
We captured amazing stuff all day. We stopped around 12:30pm for a Chinatown lunch. I ate very little as I was still pretty nervous and knew I had a good deal of running to do. My legs were killing me from all the running. That, coupled with the heat and exhaustion were taking their toll on me. Brad ran the day like he always does with deliberate and steady urgency without any inkling of panic. By around 3:00pm we were done with the rickshaw and moving up to Midtown to shoot our final scene of the shoot.
The wrap party followed the day's shoot. Everyone was there from actors to crew to friends. It was truly awesome to sit on this NYC roof-deck and know that we have this thing in the can. (I made Brad promise me that we shot everything we needed to.) We still have another two days of pickups in a couple of months, but they are just for icing on the cake. The story is there. We have it.
I can't articulate much more at this point other than to say thank you to all of the many people who did me the favor of helping me to make this movie. The filmmaking process is massive collaboration and the past three weeks have been supremely fulfilling. More thoughts to come, I'm sure.
Thanks for watching.
I went to bed at 9:00pm sharp last night. I woke at 6:30am this morning feeling like a new man. After some french toast and coffee, I sat down to go through some footage from Week One. This has been the first day off since we started filming last Monday. But as you might expect, work has followed me home.
I've spent most of the day compiling a small collage of what we've shot thus far. Not a trailer or anything that exciting, but a simple edit of various shots to showcase some of what is already in the can. I'd like to have something to share with the cast and crew as we go into Week Two.
Going through what we've shot is equal parts exciting and stressful. I am not in the mindset to edit yet. It's hard for me to watch what I've shot when I haven't finished what I've started. Everything is looking absolutely gorgeous and the performances are smart, subtle, and incredibly funny. My team is definitely exceeding all expectations here.
As we move into this next week, there are some new things to look forward to. We are going to be shooting several different locations from day to day and I'm excited to have a constant change of "scenery" as opposed to camping at a single apartment all week. The flip side of this constant movement is that we will have less time to put down roots and get comfortable in any given location. Each day will bring new surprises and demands. As long as we can roll with the punches and just take it one shot at a time, I think we should be good.
Day 6 feels a little different. We had an earlier call time today of 6:00am and we were shooting only exteriors. We woke up to coolish weather, which was a welcome change to the thickened heat of our West 9th Street interior location. However, the forecast predicted serious rainfall for most of the day, so we were ready to scramble at a moments notice. We pared down the crew for the day with no more than ten or so people on set. We brought the equipment truck and a fifteen passenger van to each of our three locations. From there, we would establish some form of "base camp" with a pop-up tent and cones to hold parking.
To hedge our bets on the weather for the day, we set our first scene of the day as one that didn't require any actors that weren't me and Alex. Under light sprinkles of rain, we hammered out a scene in Tribeca Park. We moved quickly and still managed to capture a terrific amount of coverage and have a great time doing it. Right as we were finishing the final insert for the morning's scene, rain drops began to fall. We all moved back to our base camp to load up and do a company move to the East Village where we would shoot three nearby exteriors with taxi cabs. We arrived amidst light drizzle and got settled before taking an early lunch. Seeing as it was Saturday, a few of us ducked into an actual restaurant for a quick "brunch". Meanwhile, the rain subsided.
After eggs and O.J. we only had our few no-dialogue scenes to catch, all incorporating a New York taxi cab. We hailed a cabbie and paid a fee and told him to leave the meter running. The rest of the afternoon moved very quickly and smoothly. Once we had wrapped around 3:30pm, the trucks were packed and the footage logged on-site. After a slight scare of our media-managing laptop having connection issues, I made it home early enough to log footage and hopefully go through some of the past week's work.
It's great to have Week 1 done. We all feel a terrific sense of accomplishment to have conquered our first tricky location. More than a third of the film is now in the can and I'm eager to tackle the rest. Speaking of rest, I am eager to get some of that, too.
Here is a quick look back on our first week's main location and some of the obstacles we've faced.
After a brief stint of sleep, we were up and at 'em again today. It was Day 5 of 18 for principal photography and our final day in our "Saul and Cheryl Apartment" location on West 9th Street. After a long and hard Day 4, I expected today to be a cakewalk. After a quick meeting with Brad and Zak, I sat down to review our shooting schedule for the day and make some notes for myself. There was plenty to do, but it all seemed very feasible with allotted time. The first and second shots up were long tracking shots, so it took a good while to get everything just so. To maximize the desired effect of the camera move, we placed a 4-foot camera slider on the dolly itself so that the camera could extend past the actors and pull back to reveal them in the frame. Did that make sense? Probably not. It looks great, anyhow.
We worked slowly the first half of the day, not meeting our target schedule before lunch. Brad and Zak didn't seem too concerned, so I gave myself some permission not to stress too much. We came back after lunch and hit it hard. Our actors were on point and the crew moved quickly to light ahead of each scene. We didn't have to skimp on takes and we even through in some dog inserts with a new dog. That's right, the other dog was let go. Or at least his owner was. Tough business, right?
We made our day with time to spare. It's hard to believe we managed to shoot every scene in the apartment within only five days. We were originally supposed to do it in six, so now we are ahead overall. Glad to be done with the first location. It was beautiful and served us well, but with all the heat, congestion, elevator construction, and angry neighbors, anything looks easy from now on. I'm sure there are plenty more tough days ahead of us, but I already feel like we've made it through some serious obstacles.
Here's a random snippet of us in Day 4. You'll notice the sun went down early, but our living room was still as bright as it was that morning.
4. Recruit Your Audience
One of the most valuable things about crowd funding for a film is that it provides you with a chance to build an audience for a film that doesn’t yet exist. In our case, backers have also been encouraged to follow this blog, which (hopefully) makes them feel included throughout the whole process. By the time PHB makes it to the big screen, our goal is to have an audience of thousands.
5. Build a Coalition
Before launching our Kickstarter project, we did a lot of research watching other project videos and strategies. We wanted a project video that was short, sweet and to the point. Rather than say, “Please help me” in a pity me sort of way, we wanted a video that said, “We are making this movie, come and join us!” in an inclusive way. It was in this spirit that we conceived of our project video. We wanted to introduce ourselves as a team of people coming together to do something awesome. More importantly, it was a way to instill a sense of ownership in the project across the board. This wasn’t just our writer/director hustling on his own to make this movie by himself. Rather, this was a team of us working for our collective interest to see our film made.
All of this is really about being inclusive and, in keeping with this theme, we chose to set our minimum donation at one dollar because we were thrilled to welcome any backer who was interested in rallying behind us. Had we kept our minimum at something like $50, we would have lost out on a whole group of really helpful, link-sharing, wonderful people that also gave us a few dollars.
Lastly, building a coalition let's you cast a wider net. Many people working for a common cause will get the job done far more efficiently than any single person.
6. Every Dollar Counts
We reached our goal a little early, 5 days actually, but we only ended up about 800 bucks above our goal … which is further proof that every dollar really does count and, needless to say, we are grateful for every, single last dollar. It’s incredibly important to thank each and every donor with a personal note as soon as a donation is received -- so on the off chance that your thank you was lost in the shuffle, THANK YOU!
7. You Get One Shot
The bottom line: securing $50,000 through crowdfunding was a lot of work. Good work, fun work, encouraging work, but work. You are putting yourself out there. It’s risky and it’s probably your one shot for raising funds this way. Your donors are not likely to come back time and time again each time you develop a new script or project, so do it well the first time. Be honest, direct, and efficient. Do your research, know your audience and go out and FUND!