The Film Crewe Blog by Brian Crewe

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Waiting for UNE LIBÉRATION’s premiere

The question I am most frequently asked at the moment is, “When will UNE LIBÉRATION premiere?”

I’m honored people are excited to see the film. Believe me, no one is more frustrated waiting for the final product to be released than I. Thanks to the International Cinematographers Guild recently awarding our DP George Feucht, UNE LIBÉRATION was included in a group of ten films that featured work directed by Janusz Kaminski, executive produced by Edward Norton, and photographed by the amazing camera operator behind CHILDREN OF MEN. Having our film included with such esteemed company was incredible and it makes this waiting game for our eventual premiere even harder for me, because George’s award represents a form of validation, confirming that we have created something special to share with audiences.

The cause of this delayed premiere is, in part, my fault and it goes back to the core reason I wanted to make this film. While my previous short, FAR has had a great deal of success, I felt a need to up my game on every level. That started with the premise of doing an action/drama set in WWII with three different speaking languages at triple FAR‘s budget. It continued into production, shooting with two Alexa Cameras while photographing practical locations, stunts, and effects. Just as my team and I strived to break new ground producing the film, I also want UNE LIBÉRATION‘s release to go beyond what our previous films have accomplished. That means making a run at scoring a premiere at one of the highest tier festivals.

I’m a touch superstitious, so I won’t name those festivals, but I’d wager anyone reading a film blog can guess which ones I’m talking about. Getting into one of these festivals is like winning the lottery because everyone with a film submits to them. FAR played at so many incredible festivals around the globe and I hope UNE LIBÉRATION will provide an opportunity to revisit each of them. However, I am holding off on submitting to the majority of the festivals that screened FAR until after we premiere. While I never take any festival acceptance for granted, if possible, I’d like to give UNE LIBÉRATION a chance to stand on its own.

Playing this waiting game for the right festival acceptance to premiere our film has undoubtedly been the most difficult part of the process for me. I’m a very proactive person; however, once I’ve submitted the film, there’s little more I can do than sit back and wait for notification e-mails. I hate waiting.

This is the one aspect of the film that is out of my control and yet it may very well define the entire project and what it accomplishes. Most frustrating of all is that we may not get into any of the festivals I’ve targeted for a host of reasons beyond the quality of the film. While still in post production, a festival director, who at the time didn’t know anything about UNE LIBÉRATION, told me she was sick of all WWII films with Nazis. If that’s the point of view before someone even presses play, we are at a serious disadvantage.

Other reasons I can imagine for being turned down include the fact that our 16-minute run time might be too long of a short to program, the story’s tone might not be in keeping with a festival’s theme this year, an intern viewing screeners just missed us for some reason, or a festival programmer could straight up dislike the film — not every film is for every person.

My biggest concern is that while the film plays beautifully in the theaters we’ve tested it at with 2k picture and 5.1 sound, that experience might not translate to the online and DVD screeners being reviewed for festival consideration. In my opinion, a film’s picture and sound should immerse a viewer, which is impossible when playing it off a computer.

These are not excuses, just the normal factors a director faces when submitting their work. Festivals never give feedback about why a film was turned down, so we filmmakers are left to guess. Waiting for e-mails and pondering these possibilities have caused me a few sleepless nights.

It’s not just the short that I’m sitting on. Once we have a premiere date, there’s a 10-part web series called, “The Making of UNE LIBÉRATION,” which will also be released. It highlights the tremendous work the cast and crew put into the film. I’m excited for you to learn about the journey we undertook to make this project and meet the rest of my team.

So to answer the question, “When will UNE LIBÉRATION premiere?” I wish I knew.

I believe sometime between January and April of 2015. Time will tell if we achieve the goals I’ve outlined, we may not. As long as we give it our best shot, I’m cool with whatever happens. Beyond, UNE LIBÉRATION, my team and I are working on several new projects that we should be ready to announce during that same window.

Please be patient, I say to myself as much as I do to you, this waiting game will end and we’ve got some amazing things to share with everyone very soon.

UNE LIBÉRATION theatrical poster

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My Award Winning Cinematographer: George Feucht

George Feucht, my friend, my college roommate and my cinematographer. This Sunday, Sept. 28, we will gather together at the Director’s Guild of America Theater on Sunset Blvd as George is honored by his union, the International Cinematographer’s Guild (ICG), with its Emerging Cinematographer Award for his work on our most recent collaboration, UNE LIBÉRATION. For George, it’s a film that  started with a dare but I’ll get back to that. Personally, it’s gratifying to see George receive this honor, he’s one of the hardest working individuals I have ever known and I’ve known George for a while.

We meet by chance when I transferred to USC my junior year. I was a late acceptance, so when I got to campus I hadn’t been assigned a place to live. At the housing office, they gave me a choice. There was a spot open in a normal two room, four person apartment or there was a spot open in an identical apartment with an RA. An RA got their own room, meaning only three people would be assigned to that four person apartment. Fewer people in the same amount of space sounded like a good thing to me, so I picked the RA room at Annenberg House. I walked there, knocked on room 302 and RA George Feucht answered the door. I put out my hand and much to his surprise, I said, “Hi, I’m your roommate, Brian.”

George and his other roommate were a little shocked, they thought they had pulled off a coup and had avoided a third roommate. I wrecked that plan, but we worked it out. I learned about bands like ‘James’ and ‘Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.’ George endured my need to religiously tape DEEP SPACE NINE and X-FILES episodes. We both stayed in that apartment, not just for that school year but also that summer, the next year and the following summer after graduation. It was nearly two years to the day in apartment 302 from when I knocked on the door to when George and I moved out.

In the years that followed George and I maintained a friendship and began working professionally. When I signed on to co-produce fellow USC alumni Gregg Bishop’s feature DANCE OF THE DEAD, which was shot in Georgia, George was already on board as the DP. We actually ended up splitting a bunk bed during production.

When I circled back to directing with FAR, there was no doubt that I wanted George to shoot it. The film’s festival run has been well documented and George even won a distinctive achievement award for cinematography at the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival. However, if you check out George’s reel above, you’ll see FAR is not on it.

I asked him about that and he replied that while he is proud of the film, he feels it’s just normal romantic / comedy lighting. Nothing that really stands out compared to his other work or would warrant putting it on his reel. Being a bit competitive by nature, I mean, I want my work represented on my DP’s reel. I dared him right then and there. Whatever film we work on next had to appear on his reel. The result is his now award winning work on UNE LIBÉRATION. Still, I didn’t make it easy on him.

As a director, I walk on set everyday with a shot list of everything I’ll need to make a scene work in the edit. Wide shots, close-ups, inserts, whatever. This list usually has a numbering system of my own design that drives the crew crazy. Lens and lights are George’s domain, I rarely comment on them, trusting his judgment. George’s biggest challenge is time or lack thereof.

For the first two of four days of production on UNE LIBÉRATION I had listed 140 shots to capture with two Arri Alexa cameras and I like to move fast. This was aggravated on this show because in addition to directing, I was also the financier. As someone who has worked as both an editor and a line producer, I know what I need to get to make a film work in post but I can also put the budget numbers together to know what I’m spending every minute on set. These two voices are always pushing me while I’m directing to get what’s needed and as quickly as possible. This means that George was forced to scramble with the limited crew and resources I could afford to achieve what I had planned. All while AD Robert Van Norden and I asked him to move faster. Despite the limitations, when you look at the finished film, UNE LIBÉRATION has the appearance of a studio production. That is in large part due to the skill of Mr. Feucht, who was able to light the two camera set-ups, operate one of the cameras and keep up the relentless pace we had to maintain. By the end of the fourth day everyone was beyond exhausted, but we had every piece of coverage checked off my list.

It was insanely gratifying when George told me in June of this year that Steve Poster, the head of the ICG union and the DP of films like DONNIE DARKO and THE BOY WHO COULD FLY, had personally called to inform him that, before our film has even premiered, George would be honored with the union’s Emerging Cinematographer Award for UNE LIBÉRATION.

Today, I’m ecstatic that footage from UNE LIBÉRATION has been incorporated into George’s reel. If you think the small taste of images is impressive, let me say that George is holding back at my request. There’s even more amazing footage I’ve asked be kept under wraps until after the film receives an official premiere. That said, if you’re a director or a producer looking for an incredibly talented Cinematographer and for some reason you’re not 100% convinced by George’s reel, contact George or myself. We can privately provide you with some material to persuade you that George is the man for the job.

Incredibly, while George receives his honor at the DGA Theater on Sunday, a few blocks away at the Egyptian Theater, DANCE OF THE DEAD director Gregg Bishop will be having the west coast premiere of DANTE THE GREAT, his segment in the feature anthology V/H/S VIRAL, which was also shot by George. That’s right George has two event screenings at two of LA’s premium venues on the same night!

If earning the ICG’s Emerging Cinematographer Award for UNE LIBÉRATION is the result of me daring George to shoot material worthy of his reel, I hereby publicly challenge him to win an Oscar. Doesn’t matter to me if it’s for a film I direct or not, my former college roommate will rise and meet that challenge as he always does.

Congratulations George!

15 Films

There’s this thing going around Facebook where you challenge people to list 15 movies that had a lasting impact on your life. Not so much your choices for the best films ever made, but movies that will always stay with you. When I posted mine, I didn’t offer an explanation. I decided I would do that here. Rather than write an essay on each film, I’m going to give a few tidbits about my personal connection to them.

e948_classic_star_wars_movie_posters21. STAR WARS – Perhaps a clichéd choice, but for me, the movies begin with STAR WARS. This is the source. I was three when I first saw it. Second film I ever saw in the theater. Apparently, my mom, pregnant with my sister, Kathy, tried to remove me from theater when Obi-Wan sliced off that guy’s arm and I refused to budge. My love for this film as a child led me to watch countless “Making of” specials, which not only served as my early introduction to how movies were made, but also provided lessons on film history as they chronicled the films that influenced STAR WARS. Those specials gave me a checklist of movies to rent on my family’s weekly trips to the video store.

MV5BMjA0ODEzMTc1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODM2MjAxNA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_2. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK – My parents refused to let me see this film, thought it would be too scary for me. However, I was due for my first sleepover at my friend, Eric’s, place and Raiders was playing at the Boulevard, which was a 99-cent theater in Minneapolis. Eric’s dad suggested we see the film. He didn’t know that this was forbidden fruit for me and I wasn’t about to tell him. Loved every second of RAIDERS. However, my parents were correct, it did scare the crap out of me. My first sleep over lasted until about 1am. After an intense nightmare involving snakes and floating spirits I made Eric’s dad call my parents so they could come pick me up.

back_to_the_future_xlg 3. BACK TO THE FUTURE – Went to see this opening day at Eden Prairie Mall, a favorite hang out of my family growing up and the future filming location of Kevin Smith’s MALLRATS. The mix of funny and adventure is so perfect in this film. The humor comes out of the characters, not shtick or mugging like most modern comedies. As I got older and began to seriously study films, the beauty and economy of the screenplay revealed itself. There is not a single wasted moment in this film, everything moves the story forward. Study this film, this is how a script is put together.

twin_peaks_fire_walk_with_me_ver1 4. TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME – I missed the TV series when it first ran. However, series creator Mark Frost grew up in Minneapolis. I saw an article in the Star Tribune newspaper that he was going to do a Q&A at an advanced screening of the film at the Mall of America and that you could RSVP for free. The idea of a film producer from Minneapolis was fascinating to me, I had to go. As a sci-fi fan, I was used to shows like STAR TREK being spun off into movies, but this TWIN PEAKS thing seemed very different. I had a week before the screening so I rented the International Version of the Pilot and the first season of the series, which was all that was available at the time. I did not know who killed Laura Palmer. Then I went to see FIRE WALK WITH ME. Holy hell, I was not ready for this film. It knocked me on my ass. I had never seen anything by David Lynch and this film was a visual assault. What captured me was that almost nothing was explained in the film. It was a dense visual puzzle and it was up to me to figure out the meanings. I just re-watched this film about a month ago. I’m still putting the pieces together today. Seeing this film was a clear break from the diet of summer blockbusters and sci-fi films I had been raised on. Suddenly, cinema was a denser, darker, stranger, and much more exciting realm.

Aliens-Poster-alien-aliens-8225375-991-15005. ALIENS – The first monster / creature feature I was allowed to rent. I had not yet seen ALIEN. What’s great here is the mix of genres. Yes, it’s an horror film, but it’s also an action film. I remember saving up to buy the $99 laserdisc of this film, because I was obsessed with seeing the longer cut, which never made it to VHS. These days, I actually prefer the theatrical cut, it just moves so fast. Most importantly, before ALIENS, I had never seen a female lead action film. It provided such an extra level of emotional depth. Today, if you look at most of my films or read my screenplays, you’ll find women front and center driving the plot of each of them.

star_trek_ii_the_wrath_of_khan_xlg6. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KAHN – I’m a geek and I don’t hide it. I had seen the first TREK film and fallen asleep. So I wasn’t super excited to see this film. My family took annual July road trips to Missoula, Montana to visit Grandpa Ernie, my mom’s dad and probably the biological source of my current haircut. It was always ridiculously hot in the car and I had to share the back seat with my sister. So, it didn’t take a lot for my dad to convince me that sitting in an air conditioned theater for a film with spaceships that was too scary for my sister to see would be a good idea. In fact, it was a great idea! The action really pulled me into this film. I mean, there’s a moment when you think every main character is dead in the first five minutes. That’s how you start a film! Most importantly, though, is the Kirk, Spock, and McCoy friendship. These are three men who really love each other. They joke, they fight, and ultimately they sacrifice for each other. We should all aspire to be as good a friend as these three men are too each other. Regardless of race, color, or creed, you must strive to be the best human you can be, the message at the center of all STAR TREK. One conversation scene between Kirk and Spock in this film will always haunt me. Spock is telling Kirk that it was a mistake to accept a promotion. “Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny. Anything else is a waste of material.” The idea of achieving my own ‘best destiny’ is something that drives me to this day.

moulin_rouge_ver27. MOULIN ROUGE – Like with FIRE WALK WITH ME, but for different reasons, was a kick in the ass. I walked out wishing I had made this movie. The music, the visuals, and the characters made me fall in love with the idea of being in love. This films takes a century of pop culture and compresses it into a two-hour explosion. I was working in entertainment news in LA at the time it came out, so I got to see it for free about two weeks before it opened at a now demolished Cineplex Odeon theater in Century City. Seeing the film early actually made it even more special, because no one else really knew what was coming. I got to privately own it for a couple weeks, like a band you discover at a dive bar before they make it big. I even got to cover the LA premiere at the Motion Picture Academy and stole a poster from the event. It’s still hanging up in my apartment today.

blade_runner_xlg8. BLADE RUNNER – First saw this when the 1991 Director’s Cut was released at a multiplex in Roseville, MN called Pavilion Place. I knew sci-fi, but this was visually and emotionally unlike anything I had ever seen. I do think Ridley Scott’s eventual 2007 final cut is my favorite version of this film; however, he changed my favorite line, the most bold and rebellious piece of dialogue I have ever heard. Roy walks up to his maker and demands, “I want more life, fucker!” I was a teenager when I saw this film and I loved the insolence of that line and I still do. When I see someone suffering from a disease, when I feel pain, physical or emotional, when I realize that I may not accomplish everything I want to in the span of my lifetime. Like Roy, I want to walk up to my creator and ask, how dare you place a time limit on what I can accomplish? We should all approach life with such zeal. That energy is lost in the Final Cut, Roy now says, “I want more life, father.” On my tombstone I would like it to read, “I want more life, fucker!”

MV5BMTQ2NzkzMDI4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDA0NzE1NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_9. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS – Another Pavilion Place movie-going experience. Another film with a strong female lead. Around the time I was 16 years old, I started to get interested in movies beyond the summer popcorn fare I would see with my dad. Taking me to see the Oscar nominees and the art house films became my mom’s domain. This was one of the first of those films that she and I saw. Probably a little on the violent side for her, but glad she made trip. Again, another film that isn’t afraid to go dark and put you in the mind of a killer. Hell, you love Hannibal Lector in this film, you empathize with him even and he’s in only five scenes!

MPW-4788210. HIGHLANDER – This is one of those films that I would catch in sections on HBO and it just looked bug-nuts crazy. Swords fights, shifting time periods, elaborate transitions, immortals, Sean Connery, and over-the-top Clancy Brown. I don’t think the film is anywhere near as good as what my imagination made it out to be as I tried to piece together the fragmented version I got from seeing it occasionally while surfing channels. Still, the visuals I saw fired my imagination. Plus, like ALIENS there was this mythic director’s cut out there that provided an even greater level of mystery. To this day, I love the potential of this concept. If there is one film I would love to remake and reimagine, it’s HIGHLANDER.84fc6ace8cb25301d56e93613bde872e11. THE RINK – Before transferring to USC, I was a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, which is where I saw this film. It was a night our instructor dubbed, “Keaton vs Chaplin,” the most enjoyable time in a film studies class I have had. Now I was already aware of Chaplin and his films from the 1991 bio pic, but THE RINK was the first time I got to experience the master really at work. The grace of movement, not just the camera but that man himself on roller skates is a wonder to behold. As with all Chaplin, look beneath the surface and you will find some sharp social commentary woven into the story. You may notice a few shots of THE RINK appear in my own short film, FAR.

MPW-5752012. APOCALYPSE NOW – Rented this on laserdisc about the time I graduated from high school. It left me speechless. I mean, literally, for two days I did my best not to speak to anyone. I couldn’t, I didn’t know what to say. I had returned from a war and I was changed. The single most visceral and emotional impact a film has ever had on me. Again, I know there is a longer cut, but the original is where it’s at.

superman-poster13. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE – Like STAR WARS this is one of those early movie experiences that defined me. SUPERMAN, STAR WARS, and STAR TREK all feature characters with a strong moral code, a clear set of guidelines that define right and wrong. When my Dad would reprimand me growing up, he would use the characters of these films as examples of how I should behave and why. As an adult, the most amazing element of SUPERMAN is the fact that, not even the Man of Steel can save everyone. This film has one of the most crushing and helpless lines in film history, as Clark stands over the grave of his adopted father who died of a sudden heart attack: “All those things I can do, all those powers, and I couldn’t even save him.”

Lawrence+of+Arabia+poster14. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA – I have seen this film four times, each at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles. That is one of the few screens big enough to hold this film. No one will ever shoot a movie this large in scope and combine it with an equal level of character depth ever again. Everything you see in this film is real. From the actors to the desert to the war. The level of detail and the craft of the filmmakers will never be matched, but it is an ideal I will strive for every time I make a film.

trainspotting-poster15. TRAINSPOTTING – My poor dad, he loved action and sci-fi films, but as my interest in the movies grew, he got dragged to all kinds of stuff that wasn’t his can of Cherry Coke. For this film, we visited the Mecca of Minneapolis Indie Cinema, the Uptown Theater. I love films that immerse me in a world that I will never visit. The dark universe inhabited by mid-90’s Scottish Heroin addicts depicted in this film is just as strange and foreign a universe as those presented in the sci-fi films I grew up with. Sitting in the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis, I was transported to that other world and lived in it for two hours. I saw director Danny Boyle speak about a year ago. His advice to filmmakers: “In every choice you make be bold.”

Being BOLD is one thing I think every movie on this list does. They all take chances, they all push boundaries, and they all have compelling characters. These are 15 films that will never leave me and continually influence me.

CREATING A SHORT FILM TRAILER

Since we just released the trailer for my new World War II short UNE LIBÉRATION, I thought I’d write a bit about creating short film trailers. It’s a slightly different art form than feature trailers.

I don’t know about you but I hate trailers that give away not only the ending but also key plot points. Twenty-three years have passed and I’m still pissed at the TERMINATOR 2 trailer (SPOILERS) that gave away the fact that Arnold is playing the film’s good Terminator. When you watch the finished film, that revelation is clearly meant to be a surprise! I wish I could have seen the film that way.

Now, T2 runs 137 minutes and they couldn’t craft a trailer that didn’t give away a major plot twist, what did that mean for me? When creating a trailer for my short films, which run an average of 19 minutes, I faced a huge problem of what to show, what not to show, and how to package it in an interesting fashion that would entice an audience to see the film without giving away key elements of the story.

For my previous short FAR, I first tried cutting a trailer that played like a feature film trailer. When I played it back, I realized I had given away much of the film’s story and surprises. My mistake was treating the trailer of a short film like the trailer for a feature film.

In my opinion, shorts, because of the inherent minimal running time, simply do not have enough imagery and plot to support the structure and length of a feature trailer. To try and craft a short trailer in the model of a feature does a disservice to film and the audience. It’s going to give away too much or at least provide the audience with the pieces they need to put the film’s story together.

Also, a short is targeting a different audience than a feature. Feature trailers are designed to be played in multiplexes for months and months to an average movie-going audience — meaning an audience with no filmmakers, film buffs, or film students. “Civilians,” for a lack of better word.

A short trailer is going to be targeted directly at filmmakers, film buffs, and film students, either at a film festival or through online distribution. This audience will be very savvy to the content of a trailer. They will be far more likely to watch a slick and polished 30-second trailer than a meandering 2-minute trailer that gives away the whole story. The filmmaker’s job is to make an impact and leave them wanting more.

FAR had a surprise plot twist to protect, so my solution was to focus the trailer on three elements:

1. It’s a date film.
2. It’s a fun film.
3. There’s a mystery surrounding the girl.

The driving music for the FAR trailer came from the opening date montage of FATHER vs. SON (FVS), a feature film I had edited and produced. As composer Darren Fung did the music for both FVS and FAR, he was kind enough to grant me permission to use his composition for the trailer.

For UNE LIBÉRATION, there were two key cinematic influences that I had my department heads watch in pre-production: Carol Reed’s 1949 film THE THIRD MAN and Ridley Scott’s ALIEN from 1979. Neither film is set in World War II, but both feature characters in dark passageways and tunnels.

Thankfully, ALIEN also provided the perfect example of how to craft the UNE LIBÉRATION trailer. The trailer for ALIEN isn’t cut like modern feature trailers. Aside from a monster on a spaceship you really have no idea what the film is about or who the characters are. It doesn’t matter, the images, sound effects, and music are so compelling that you are pulled into the film.

With this in mind, I actually ripped the Alien trailer off of You Tube, imported it into AVID, cut down the trailer’s music (starting from around the 56 second mark in the above You Tube video) to thirty seconds and then used that audio as a temp track to edit the UNE LIBÉRATION trailer. I just swapped out the imagery and adapted ALIEN’s simple visual log line to my own purposes. ALIEN — woman fighting monster in futuristic spaceship. UNE LIBÉRATION — woman fighting Nazis in World War II Paris.

I purposely cut the trailer before UNE LIBÉRATION was scored and mixed. This allowed my returning composer, Darren Fung, to write and record an original piece of music for the trailer while he was doing the film’s music. Re-recording mixer DJ Lynch mixed the trailer at the end of the film’s sound mixing session, so both trailer and film were finished simultaneously. This was a time and money saver as I didn’t have to go back to either Darren or DJ and ask them to work on the trailer separately.

Finally, the true test of the trailer for me will be seeing an audience’s reaction to it versus the final film, which I can’t wait to do when UNE LIBÉRATION has its official world premiere.

You can check out FAR right now:
WATCH FAR ON HULU
or
FAR NOW ON SPECIAL EDITION DVD

Bad Film Festival Screenings

I’m working on a larger post with some of the film festival tips I’ve learned from FAR‘s two year plus run. In the meantime, I thought I’d address something I hear filmmakers complain about all the time: bad festival screenings.

Bad screenings do happen and nothing is worse than being at the center of one. Your short can be placed in a block of low quality films or an overly long shorts block that places your work in a bad / unintended context. The technical presentation can go horribly wrong. I once had a film with a 5.1 sound mix and the festival turned off the rear channel by mistake. We had key dialog being spoken by characters in the rear speakers, so part of the story got totally lost. Lesson: be sure to do a tech check of your film with the festival staff before the audience goes into the theater.

All that said, I’m here to tell you, as bad as it can get and as painful as it can be to sit through, there is no such thing as a 100% bad screening. There is always something positive to be pulled from an event.

It’s important to understand, I’m a film presentation snob. I always push to see films under the best circumstances possible. Doesn’t matter if it’s my own film at a festival, a new theatrical release on Friday night, or a Blu-ray Disc I bought on Amazon. If I had my way, my films would only be shown off a Digital Cinema Pack (DCP) print in a professionally calibrated theater, like FAR recently was at LA’s Chinese Theaters for the HollyShorts Film Festival.

However, if I stuck to that mantra, my films would almost never be shown and I wouldn’t find an audience. So, as a filmmaker in need of viewers, I very often compromise.

Still, you will understand my horror when FAR played a small Sci-Fi con at a hotel. I walked into the ‘screening room’ and was appalled to find the facility was a conference room with a couple computer speakers, a $200 projector, and a screen that was one step up from a bed sheet. I kid you not. I had friends there who would have been seeing FAR for the first time and I told them to go wait in the lobby. That’s right, I kicked them out! I was not going to let this be their first impression of my work. I almost bolted myself, but decided I should be responsible and stick around to do the Q&A. I’m a professional.

Once the film started, little happened to improve the situation. The doors to the room were left open for the entire 23 minute run time and people walked in and moved around constantly. A popcorn machine was running behind the audience, popping non-stop. At one point someone distractingly entered with a dog! Basically, it was my worst nightmare.

I had plastered the convention with $5 11×14 posters to promote the film, which had drawn people in and the room was full by the end of the show. Bottling my presentation frustrations, I went up to do the Q&A. To my surprise, I proceeded to have the most lively, fun and engaging question and answer session of FAR‘s entire festival run.

This audience loved the film, I mean they loved it! They wanted to dissect it down to every last detail. I even got to listen as they outlined a sequel, independent of my input, in fact hysterically ignoring it. It was awesome!

After the Q&A I went to the lobby to meet up with the friends I had kicked out. There, I unexpectedly heard the opening music of my film coming from the still open doors of the screening room. Sure enough, that wonderful and enthusiastic Sci-Fi Con audience had decided to watch FAR a second time.

While we filmmakers should always push for the best technical presentation of our films, our work can transcend whatever venue or conditions we find ourselves in and connect with an audience. Connecting with an audience is really what it’s all about. It’s up to us as filmmakers to find that positive take away from a festival. Even if it’s just the laurel you put on your poster to promote your film’s next screening.

You can check out FAR right now:
WATCH FAR ON INDIEFLIX WITH FREE TWO WEEK TRIAL
or
FAR NOW ON SPECIAL EDITION DVD

My Director’s Journey

As a filmmaker, I have a public narrative and a private narrative. The private narrative is something only I know, the total of my life experiences that tells me who I am, how I should act, and what I want out of life. Drawing from my private narrative, my film work and how it’s promoted, ideally opens a window to audiences, collaborators, and investors about who I am and what potential my future work might have – that is my public narrative.

Years ago, after graduating from the University of Southern California, I was out to write my public narrative and declare to anyone who would listen what I privately knew to be true, I am a film director. To achieve that goal, I put all my time, effort, and even some money I didn’t have into making one single film, called SARA’S SONG. To this day, I love that screenplay. Unfortunately, my love affair with the script currently has a tragic ending. Without going into details that are best left private amongst those who were there, the financing for the film collapsed ten days before production was set to start.

After years of work, to be so close to my goal and to have it disappear was soul crushing beyond belief. If there was ever a moment when I was going to give up on being a filmmaker, that was it. However, I could not then, nor can I now, imagine doing anything else. Thankfully, some friends ended up needing help with their feature films, so I was able to regroup as a film producer.

During this period, Marion Kerr, whom I meet as an actress while casting SARA’S SONG, presented me with a unique opportunity. She asked me to read a feature-length screenplay she had written, GOLDEN EARRINGS, with the idea that I would direct it.

The GOLDEN EARRINGS script was perfectly constructed for a low-budget production–six speaking roles, two locations and a low page count. However, after digesting and discussing the story with Marion, I realized she had created the story and characters so effectively from her own point of view, that it was going to be impossible for me to impose my direction on her vision. I might have called “action” and “cut,” but it never would have been my film. I could have crafted a public narrative saying the film was my vision, but in my private narrative I knew that would have been a lie. GOLDEN EARRINGS belonged to Marion Kerr. So, I offered to edit and produce the film while she directed it.

Simultaneously with GOLDEN EARRINGS, I was a producer on Gregg Bishop’s zombie feature DANCE OF THE DEAD. My third producing credit was a comedy called FATHER vs. SON, which I also edited. By 2010, these three features had all found distribution. While my time as a producer had furthered the narrative that I was a filmmaker, I was certainly not a director. I was now a producer.

If I was going to pursue being a director, I had to find away to take control of my pubic narrative. I was developing several feature ideas, but I knew from SARA’S SONG, a feature can take years to get moving. I needed a quicker solution and short films proved to be the perfect medium. While I was writing a feature-length time travel story called BUILDING TIME with my producer Hugh Aodh O’Brien, Marion Kerr offered to write a short script for me to direct. To avoid the conflict of viewpoints that happened on GOLDEN EARRINGS, she wisely insisted that I had to give her the premise for this new short. As this was to be my first directing project in six years, I wanted to make a film that spoke to my view of the world and contained some of my optimism. I wanted to achieve that with comedy and a dash of science fiction. I chose the sci-fi element to give myself genre credibility for my time travel screenplay. Marion delivered a script constructed from my goals that was tailor made for me to direct. It was called FAR.

In the twenty six months since FAR premiered, it has effectively rewritten my public narrative. We have played more than 40 film festivals across three continents, winning seventeen awards at twelve festivals and earning four distribution deals. Right now, we have festival dates booked through February 2015. I am no longer just a feature film producer, I am a short film director.

My goal now is to direct a feature film and drop that word “short” from my public narrative. However, before doing that I felt I needed to address a few other concerns. Ever since I walked out of FAR‘s Dances with Films premiere, all I have heard is that the film is cute. Yeah, FAR is cute, I made a cute film. I am very proud of my cute film but for some internal reason, hearing the word “cute” makes me want to make a film that is the exact opposite.

However, that was not my only reason for wanting to make another short before moving on to a feature. Most of my scripts are action based, not suitable for a low budget film like GOLDEN EARRINGS. I needed to make a film that looked and sounded like a studio product to show that I can operate at that level. There is no way I could afford to do that with a feature film, but I could achieve that level of quality with a short.

Recently finished and soon to be released, UNE LIBÉRATION is set in World War II Paris on the last day of the Nazi occupation of the city. In terms of tone and style, the finished film is unlike FAR in every way. It is a period/action/drama, it has a two minute fight scene, a mini-documentary at the front of the film, and actors speaking in three different languages.

I hope to have now successfully written my public narrative to have a clear developing arc. The three features I produced prove I can handle the production and storytelling needed in feature films. FAR, and when released UNE LIBÉRATION, prove my ability to work with actors in multiple tones and genres. My next step, and the focus of my attention, is to direct a feature film.

You can check out FAR right now:
WATCH FAR ON INDIEFLIX WITH FREE TWO WEEK TRIAL
or
FAR NOW ON SPECIAL EDITION DVD