Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Screening on January 8th

I'm sending out an announcement today about the screening for the film.  It will take place at the Chaplin Theater at Raleigh Studios on Saturday, January 8th at 7:30pm.

More importantly, I'm getting a taco cart for after the show.

This is the part I'm not great at - wherein I have to be a self-promoter and invite a whole bunch of people to a place and say "Hey!  Look what I did."

But on the other hand, there will be tacos.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pretty much almost just about done

Well gang, the thing about a project like this is that it's never really done.  You just sort of slink away from it, like it's somebody you got stuck talking to at a party who's mildly interesting but you'd sort of rather be eating the hummos.

I somehow met the insane deadline that was looming over me, which was the Miami Short Film Festival.  The film played last night for an audience for the first time.  I just checked the cut I sent them and I was sickened to realize that there was a sync problem with one of the shots.  It just kills me.  It was right at a sort of intense place where people ostensibly would be immersed in the story and this must've jolted them right out of it.  Godamn it.

Oh well.  I guess I should be grateful that there was anything for them to show at all.  I was still mixing sound a couple hours before I had to upload the file.

So, a few final tweaks to the mix, some ADR lines that need to be dealt with and then it'll be done.

Now what?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Some pictures from the shoot

Me giving direction to a beetle.

Freddy pondering why he agreed to do it.

It was fun telling Michael he looked like shit all the time.

Jacob eating a snowcone.  He didn't need any more sugar.  Trust me.

The handsome director.  That shirt belonged to my dad.

It's crazy to think everything is in this little box. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's a Wrap

Well gang, we did it.  Principal photography on "The Burying Beetle" has been completed. It was exhausting and stressful and fun and exciting.  And expensive.  Did I mention that it cost a lot?

Exploding sewage lines, fornicating beetles, broken child-labor laws, 105 degree temperatures, crashing trucks... all in a days work.

Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible.  It really was a dream come true.

Stay tuned for pictures.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Terror/Joy Combo

Well, it's finally here.  We start shooting tomorrow.  So much has happened and I know I've been remiss in keeping ya'll up to date.  But it's really happening.  Here are the highlights:

I lost my original "Simon." Gattlin Griffith, the actor I had cast in the role had to pull out five days before shooting started due to the giant bazillion dollar movie that he was doing just telling him they were keeping him longer and no one could do anything about it.  It was quite a blow.  The good news is that in an emergency casting session, I found "Jacob Bertrand" a great kid and a fine actor who I think will bring a completely different but equally compelling quality to the character.

I briefly had the actor "Sung Kang" (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift) cast as "Charlie" but I lost him to another katrillion dollar movie that does whatever it wants.  The good news is that I got someone who is pretty much my dream actor to play that part: Freddy Rodriguez.

Super exciting.

In less good news, I checked on the beetles this morning, and half of them are dead.  I don't know what happened.  Turns out taking care of beetles is pretty tricky.  Too hot?  Too dry?  Too moist?  Not enough food?  Too much food?  Wrong kind of food?  It was such an absurd odyssey to actually acquire the right kind of live beetles for the shoot and now with four days to go before they are supposed to be filmed, they are dropping like...

We had a table read with three of the actors this morning (Freddy couldn't make it) and it went really well.  So that feels comforting.  And we had a big production meeting last night.  I got to meet some of the other members of the crew.  Everyone is very nice and things seem pretty well organized, so all that's left to do is... make a movie!

Thanks everyone.  See you on the other side.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Casting Update

In a major coup, I have somehow duped two more great talents into joining the cast.  Please welcome Maggie Welsh as Aggie, and John Michael Higgins as Philip.  It doesn't hurt that in real life they are married to each other.  It's perfect.  Maggie is smart and funny and warm and a great actress.  Michael is a major talent.  He's versatile and sharp and widely respected.  I am thrilled.

 Things really seem to be coming together.  After an exhaustive search, I've secured two of my major locations, the cemetery and the house.  All I need now is a church.

Six weeks to go.  A lot to do.  Yikes.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Very exciting news for Beetle fans everywhere.  We have cast the role of Simon, the lead in the film.  Please welcome Gattlin Griffith.  He is perhaps best known for his role as Walter Collins in "Changeling."  He was the very first kid I saw and I loved him immediately, but since he was the first, I thought I needed to do my due diligence and see what else was out there.  But I never found anyone who I responded to as viscerally.  I needed to push my start date by a week or so to accommodate his schedule, as he will be in Louisiana shooting "The Green Lantern" until July 2nd, but well worth it.  I'm so happy to have him on board.  He's a great actor with a lot of intensity and is perfect for the role.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

J.B.S Haldane was a British-born geneticist and evolutionary biologist.  He is famous for the (possibly apocryphal) response he gave when some theologians asked him what could be inferred about the mind of the Creator from the works of His Creation.  He said something to the effect of: "The Creator, if He exists, has "an inordinate fondness for beetles".

This is in reference to there being over 350,000 known species of beetles in the world, and that this represents 40% of all known insect species (at the time of the quote, it was over half of all known insect species).

Stumbling across Haldane and that quote was a major inspiration for the character of Philip and certainly explains why I made him a Coleopterist.  It may be one of the most succinct and elegant arguments against Creationism that I have heard. 

An inordinate fondness for beetles.  If there were a subtitle for my film, that's what it would be.

(I lifted Haldane info from Wikipedia.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Don't judge a short by it's blog

I'm starting to get the feeling that I should create more of the illusion of knowing what the fuck I'm doing.  I've officially got a new casting director and the breakdowns went out yesterday.  I can tell from my pathetic, desperate and obsessive checking of visitor traffic to this blog, that people have actually begun to read what I'm saying.  Having never had to confront the reality of anyone actually visiting this site, I am at a loss.  I wonder how much of my prospective talent pool I have already alienated.  So, starting now I will begin to create the erroneous impression that I am a professional and in complete control.  This may best be achieved by not writing anything further.

Good day to you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ron Howard you son of a bitch

Dear Diary,

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of speaking with Lou Perrotti, the world's foremost expert on the American Burying Beetle.  He vetted the dialogue and descriptions pertaining to the beetle in the script, corrected some inaccuracies and helped me determine a very similar sub-species that is not critically endangered that I will be able to use for the shoot that can pass for Nicrophorus Americanus.  He's even going to send me some via Fed-Ex.  I couldn't have asked for a better resource.  That said, I think he was slightly taken aback by some aspects of the script.  He didn't say anything, but in an email he mentioned he was "surprised" by the script.  That masturbation scene really rubs people the wrong way.  Usually that would compel me to keep it in for that reason alone, but I've actually removed it from the latest draft and I don't miss it.  Plus, it'll make it easier to cast the kid if I don't have to worry about their parents freaking out about it. 

The funny part which is actually annoying and not funny, is that Lou Perrotti, world's foremost expert on the American Burying Beetle, told me that Ron Howard's people had just contacted him because they are shooting a movie that features the beetle and wanted him to provide some of them to the production.  I mean, what the fuck?  Really?  I didn't pick something obscure enough?  All I know is I better get this thing done before they do theirs.

I sort of feel like, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart:

Of all the beetle metaphors in all the movies in all the world, he walked into mine.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Plot Thins

So a lot of smart people have been urging me to rethink this project as a feature instead of a short, due to the length of the script.  I think everyone is pretty much in agreement that the script couldn't be too much shorter and still do what I am trying to do with it, yet it's current length makes it unwieldy to shoot and annoying to program at festivals.  I've been whittling away at it and have it down to 28 pages, but that still means I'd have to shoot like four and a half pages a day for a six day shoot which is a lot for an inexperienced director to shoot and try to get exceptional material.  There are strong arguments to be made for converting it into a feature.  For one, the potential for it to have some kind of distribution increases significantly which in turn means the potential for it to generate revenue would exist.  Also, people might actually see it.  I know.  Crazy.  Further, there's the fact that once you have all the crew, equipment and momentum to start shooting you're halfway there.  Might as well go for it.  Just add a whole lot more money and stir.

The idea of going so completely back to square one makes me feel empty.  Re-writing the script as a feature would require deconstructing the whole thing and rebuilding it from the ground up.  But the worst part is the financing.  Where the fuck am I supposed to get the money?  The idea of slogging out into this brutal economy and trying to scrounge up hundreds of thousands of dollars makes me exhausted and depressed just thinking about it.

The problem is how suddenly abstract it all seems.  Am I actually making a movie?  There is very little evidence to suggest that I am.  Maybe I'm delusional.  Long, short or medium sized, right now it's all in my head.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

That's Mister Sisyphus to You

The irony is not lost on me that I was on the treadmill when I got the call.  My casting director regretted to inform me that they had to table my project as they had just got in a feature that was shooting in five weeks and they were slammed.  I can't blame them.  A gig's a gig.  In this climate, no one can afford to pass on a job.  One that pays.  Mine doesn't. 

Back to square one.

I had to release my primary shooting location.  I had harassed the poor occupants ceaselessly until they relented and gave me permission to shoot there.  Now there was no way I'd be ready during the window we had selected.  Trying to make lemons out of lemonade, I decided that the push in schedule would give me more time to raise money, tighten the script, storyboard, cast, crew up, etc. etc.  But the next window that makes sense to shoot in seems to be summer, because pilot season will be over (greater talent availability,) the house will be available again, and my eleven year old lead won't be in school.  But summer is so fucking far away that it makes the whole thing feel utterly abstract and unreal.  And nobody knows what they're going to be doing six months from now, so how can anyone sign on to work on the project that far in advance?

On the bright side, a church in my neighborhood has agreed to let me shoot there.  I wrote them an impassioned letter, describing the project with, shall we say, certain omissions, and they thought it sounded like a good idea.  Of course I don't actually like the church in terms of a location.  It's ugly and nondescript.  But I figure if they went for it, maybe others will too.

Oh, and how come nobody returns a godamn email in this town?  You all have Blackberrys and iphones - I know you can hear me.

I feel utterly deflated.  The wind out of my sails.  Running in place and getting a cramp.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wanted: Co-Producer

So I've officially lost my co-producer, Valesca.  She just had too much on her plate.  Oddly, it turns out it's somewhat difficult to find an intelligent, industry-savvy, hard-working, well-connected, creative, tenacious person who is ready to go to the mat for you and work tirelessly for two months, unpaid.  Who knew?

I've resorted to posting an ad on Craig's List and Mandy.com.  Cue the crazies.

(Okay, RE: the crazies comment: Don't be offended if you are in fact one of the intelligent, industry-savvy, hard-working, well-connected, creative, tenacious people mentioned above.  I'm sure you are only a little crazy.  More like eccentric.)

I've been on the phone all day with telecine labs and camera houses getting pricing and trying to figure out the implications of shooting 2-perf.  It seems finding the cameras won't be as easy as I thought.  Several of the big houses don't carry them.  I am putting together a proposal for the Panavision Grant.  Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll hook me up.

I am working on a final pass of the script, with input and notes from some very smart, successful screenwriter friends, to make it better and hopefully shorter.  Only once it's locked can I build an accurate shooting schedule and in turn an accurate budget.  Meanwhile, I am also working on getting permits, production insurance and dealing with SAG.  All of which require an accurate budget and shooting schedule.

On the bright side, I heard from the casting people and they are almost ready to start casting this thing.  Having a cast would certainly make this thing feel more tangible, not to mention help attract other personnel.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire

The past few days have been emblematic of the whirlwind of ups and downs that typify independent filmmaking.  I finally secured my main shooting location.  It took a while, but I eventually came to an equitable arrangement with the family that lives in the house.  It would mean shooting will take place during their kids spring break and I would fly them to Boston.  It's sooner than I had planned to shoot which makes me nervous, but eighty percent of the film takes place there and it is worth it to lock something down.  They signed off on it but said I had to first clear the hurdle of their daughter's refusal to let me shoot there.  I soon found myself negotiating with a nine year old girl who has a pathological fear of people seeing her home depicted in a film.  I sent her a specially tailored version of the script.  She sent me her short story.  I sent her back notes and title ideas.  The I offered to take her out for a giant ice cream sundae.  I think that's what finally sold her.  She grudgingly acquiesced.  Jubilant, I reported this to my co-producer and associate producer.  It turns out the associate producer can't participate if we shoot that week.  It's a drag, but I have to move forward.  Then a couple days later, my co-producer tells me that she is up for this prestigious AFI women in film program and if it happens she will have to excuse herself from this project.  Great.  So I have a location.  But no producers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

This is what all the fuss is about?

This is the American Burying Beetle.  It's almost extinct.  It serves as the central metaphor in my story.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stuff I Need

Okay, so one of the reasons I'm doing this blob is to have a place where people who are interested in the project can come to learn more about what I'm doing and how I'm going about it and why.  Here are some of the resources I have:

A co-producer, Valesca Cnossen, who I've known for a long time and worked on a bunch of stuff with over the years.

A casting agency, Bright/Daniels casting, who have signed on to cast the project.  They sent me a preliminary list of casting ideas which got me very excited slash made me want to vomit with fear.  Something about seeing that list made it all seem real for the first time.

An amazing house to use as the primary location.  My friends/neighbors down the street have the perfect house.  They have at least tentatively agreed to let me use their home to shoot in, but that's probably because they don't realize what's in store for them.  They have three kids and she's pregnant.  Somehow I have to make it worth their while to vacate their home for five days.  This will be expensive.  But the house is just about exactly what I pictured in my head when I wrote the thing, plus it's steps away from the production office.

Various relationships with crew people and vendors generated from living and working in L.A for the past fifteen years, some of whom I haven't alienated completely and may be willing to help me out.

I have $17,000 that I've raised from friends and family.  I probably need twice that.  I'm still building the budget, but even if I don't pay anybody on the crew, I still need film/tape stock, equipment rentals, location fees, food, etc.  The biggest decision that needs to be made right now is whether to shoot film or Hi-Def video.  I could write a whole blog about that alone.  But I won't.  Ultimately, this is a decision that needs to be made with the Director of Photography.  I don't have one of those yet.

Here are some personnel I need, in case anyone knows somebody I should talk to:

Director of Photography
Production Designer
Production Sound Mixer
Costume Designer
Grip and Electric

Here's locations that I need.  Anyone have an Uncle who runs a:


Okay.  Let's face it.  I need everything.  And everyone.  And also money.  Can I have some?

Now What?

Okay.  So I thought I'd break down where things stand, what resources I have and what I still need to do/get.

I have a script.  I've been working on it for a long time.  I'm pleased with it, but it's too long.  Short films are a funny animal.  The analog is short story writing versus the novel, I guess.  Short stories don't try to accomplish the same things in the same way as a novel might.  Similarly, a short film usually approaches story telling in a different way than a feature might.  More impressionistic, perhaps, or a very simple sort of set-up/pay-off structure.  Not me of course.  I basically have a mini-feature.  Not really ideal for a couple reasons.  The lore is that the sweet spot for shorts in around nine to eleven minutes.  This has to do with the fact that a festival programmer would rather be able to squeeze in two or three films in the space that a longer one would take up, plus a lot of times they show them before the feature - so shorter is better.  Furthermore, shorter is better for web distribution in terms of file size, You-Tube limitations, and of course people's generally short attention spans.  Not to mention the simple matter that making a longer film is more expensive.  There is really no revenue to be made from shorts.  Maybe a few dollars here and there, but this is basically just a self-indulgent endeavor that is going to cost a lot of money.

So why am I making a long short?

The story I am trying to tell, and the ideas I am trying to explore seem to demand a longer format to play out.  However, I have never felt that there was enough meat on it's bones to warrant a feature length movie.  It's just in between.  I'm aiming for around twenty-three minutes.  We'll see.  A friend of mine, a successful screenwriter, is taking a look at it for me this week to suggest possible cuts.  I've been over it six ways from Sunday and have become convinced that it doesn't have any fat on it, which is of course nonsense.

The other concern with the script is that it is very dialogue heavy in places.  I always subscribe to the idea that with the best films, you could turn the sound off and still have a pretty good idea what's going on.  It is a visual medium, after all.  The dialogue should be icing.  This is probably even more crucial in the short film format.  It just so happens, though, that I haven't in many cases found a cinematic/non-verbal way of expressing some of the philosophical concepts and the science vs. religion debate that I am trying to explore in the script.

So that's where the script is at.  Now I have to go to work to cut a weight-loss infomercial to make some money to make this excessively long movie.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Blob

I've always found the idea of blogging vaguely self-aggrandizing.  Sort of presumptuous, or arrogant, the notion that what I have to say, you know, merits it's own web site.  But here I am.  I'll explain why in a minute.  But the best thing about a blog as far as I'm concerned, is that my friend John Michael's mother thought that it was called a blob.  That makes me laugh everytime I think about it.

So the reason that I'm doing this is that I am making a short film, called, oddly enough, "The Burying Beetle."  The indie producer/guru Ted Hope suggests on his blog that we independent filmmakers need to start documenting our efforts and strengthening our community so that we may learn from others' experience and they from ours.  I'll buy that.  I need all the help I can get.

On this blob, therefore, I will attempt to document the process of making this film.

My script is about a boy who's father is terminally ill and who's death is imminent.  The boy finds religion and becomes somewhat of a zealot, as a means of coping with and finding solace from the impending loss of his father.  Ultimately, he asks his father to get baptized, in the hopes of saving his father's soul and ensuring that he goes to heaven.  The only catch is that his father is a hardcore atheist, a scientist, who's religion if he had one, would be empiricism.  My story explores the conflict that arises when a man is asked to forfeit what he is for what he loves.  I try to explore the age-old battle between science and religion, but I am not under any illusion that I can bring something genuinely new to that conversation.  Ultimately, although I am fascinated by the topic, it's just the milieu in which my story unfolds.  I see it as more of a love story between father and son.

So that's what I'm doing.  The posts that follow will document how I go about it.