Saturday, September 7, 2013

From The Vault: HECKLERS for CBSi

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a great group of artists.  My manager had wrangled me a 1-day directing gig shooting interstitials for a new CBSi web series starring the great Tom Arnold, and the new kid, Owen Benjamin.

There was no money, most of the crew were volunteers, and we had no time for rehearsals.  Pure rock 'n roll filmmaking.  I'm in...
< I brought on talented multi-Sundance producer, Reuben Lim, to keep the boat afloat.  He always brings with him a great crew of energetic filmmakers, who put the project first.  As we got closer to production, the 8-pages of scenes turned into a 38-page epic to be shot in one day. I nearly fainted, and begged for more time.  As the production day approached, we settled on a 28-page, 2-camera shoot.
< Easily, the best part of my job was casting Katie Cleary. Smoking hot, clever, and funny, she was a perfect fit for the reporter sent into the bar to interview the professional Heckler (Owen).  Katie didn't have much acting experience before this shoot, but she was completely awesome and professional.  Being on time, knowing her lines, and having a great attitude go a long way with me.  I convinced her to trust me, and that I would extract a good performance from her.  But, Katie was a natural, had instant comedic chemistry with Owen, and I had to do very little tinkering.

< Owen Benjamin was our man of the hour.  From the second I met him, he cracked me up.  I hadn't directed comedy before HECKLERS, so it was an experience to be around Owen and Tom.  Both are great comedians, just riffing on and off camera.  The hardest thing about directing comedy is not laughing during the take.  The moment I call cut, I can finally release that belly laugh (and a great belly, it is - rimshot).  Owen was loose, on time, knew his lines, kept the crew laughing, and was a really nice guy.  He and I teamed up early in the day, and decided we were gonna finish this shoot at all costs.  I'll always appreciate Owen for being a complete professional, keeping us on track, and being the stud ringleader that he is.

< Which brings me to Chris Wylde.  He and Owen had worked together in the past, and we brought him on to play Owen's evil brother.  He was hysterical as "Todd Pickles," and had an awesome rapport with Owen.  His performance and improvisation easily won me over. Chris is also a surfer from my hood, a talented musician, and massive Clippers fan.

< Our DP was Chris Wedding.  In order to double our coverage, I was forced to shoot with x2 HVX-200 cameras with stock lenses.   We primarily used the cameras as a wide master, and a single on Tom.  When we punched in for tighter coverage, I used the two cameras for over the shoulder shots, which allowed Owen and Katie to improvise.  I was impressed with the workhorse HVX-200 camcorders, but I'll always push for single-camera DOF.

< From our video hamlet, comes an example of the 2-camera wide master shot, and Tom's single. I have a rule about restricting the number of people that can be close to the monitors, because it will eventually turn into a party, which makes it hard to focus.  In my hamlet, there is only room for me, the producer, and DP (art dept when needed).  A good tip for new filmmakers is to create a director's hamlet, and then make a separate video village for exec producers, studio execs, friends, and random well wishers, etc.

< BTS shot of Owen, actress Stacey Allyson, executive producer Mike Kernan, and Tom Arnold.  Feel the love.

< BTS of rehearsal with Tom Arnold, Owen Benjamin and director James Boyd.

< Producer Reuben Lim called up a favor, and brought in actor-producer-comedian Taylor Negron.  I was a fan of Taylor's work ever since "Fast Times At Ridgemont High," and have followed his stand up comedy for years.  He was a pleasure to work with for the few hours we had him, and his experience relaxed me, gave me more confidence, and ultimately made me a better director.

< Gratuitous directing shot because my hands are doing director things.

< Ultimately, we shot 15 of 28 pages in a firm 12-hour day.  We were forced to schedule a second day of production a few days later to complete the final 13 pages.  We had so much fun on day one, that coming back for more was easy (insert Wilhelm scream here).

< James Boyd with executive producer Mike Kernan. HECKLERS eventually became HECKLE U, and had a successful run on the CBSi website as original programming.  We had a blast making it, had a great cast and crew, and learned from others, while learning about ourselves, too.

All photos © Robyn Van Swank / NuMedia Studios.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Slamdance Co-founder 12 Steps His Way Through The Film Festival Scene

© Bugeater Filmed Entertainment LLC
Filmmaker Dan Mirvish gives his top twelve "Plan B" options for your film on the festival circuit.  This is a really great article written with real world advice.  Dan is the co-founder of the almost twenty-year old Slamdance Film Festival, and director of "Between Us."