Archive for the ‘film’ Category

The Indestructibles Film Journal #4: Writer Vs. Director

February 4, 2013

Dan: You’re acting like a crazed psychopath.
Roseanne: [snorts] Well, the voices in my head disagree.
Roseanne. “Daughters and Other Strangers.” (1993)

The War Begins

There’s a war going on. And it begins every time a film director is doing his job. If the drums of war are missing, the director isn’t doing his job right. I’m happy to report that this war has finally reached the rehearsals of The Indestructibles, my indy, no-budget, epic sci-fi flick for the web.

The Adversaries

Let’s observe the two adversaries as they get into the ring.

On the one side: the writer.The writer creates an idea out of nothing. He creates a world, its characters, their interactions, the plot, the surprises, the beginning, the middle, the ending, the history of what came before, and the hints of what must come later. The writer creates everything. And so the writer thinks he understands his creation and knows what’s best for the film.

But then his opponent steps into the ring, the reigning champion: The dirrrrrectorrrrr!

The director, being a completely different person, takes the writer’s script, which hopefully he likes and is connected to its different layers, and then adds his own interpretation. The director has a perspective the writer doesn’t have and adds more layers, more depth, and hopefully fills in the holes in the writer’s blind spots.

When a good director takes on a good script, his interpretation improves it in a way the writer never could. But to do that he has to stray from the writer’s vision to create something new.

The Catch

The question is, what happens when the director and the writer are the same person? In previous productions, I’ve never had a problem. When I wrote a script or a play I later directed, I was alone in the ring. When writing the piece I felt like I was king of the world, having no one to tell me my interpretation for the piece is lacking.

But the second I finished the play or the script and put on the director’s hat, the director (me) gave a knockout to the writer (me) and completely ignored anything the writer had to say.

It was a click in the brain. The second I put on my director’s hat, I saw my own script differently, causing me to put different layers than the writer (me) had thought were necessary.

Usually, during a first read with the actors, they would read what the parentheses (the writer’s instructions to the actors, indicating characters’ tone [sadly, haughtily, etc.] and attitude, or even pauses). At that point, I would stop them and tell them that the writer of the script (or play) knows absolutely nothing about film (or theater), and anything that is in parentheses should be completely ignored. The writer’s an idiot, I would say, and I should know.

The Indestructibles - Poster

The Indestructibles – Coming Soon

Case in Point: The Indestructibles

The knockout the director always gives the writer never came. In fact, I (the director) felt pretty good about my (the writer’s) vision. Sure, it bothered me a bit that I agreed with myself, since I knew theoretically it was bad for the process. But since I agreed with myself, I couldn’t find any flaw in my reasoning.

But then, as we slowly progressed towards the shooting, something nagged me (the director), something that told me that I (the writer) was wrong.

Let’s recap what we already know about The Indestructibles. It’s an epic SF film, designed to be filmed with no budget at all and to give almost the full effect of a high-budget Hollywood film. (You want to know how that’s possible? Check out the first film journal.) So the film is limited to one location, three actors (one of which never talks, and another who appears only for two minutes at the end), and is shot in eight long one-shots (thus eliminating the cost of the editor). Sound impossible? Well, there was another element I failed to mention in that first film journal: according to the script, the camera never moves. The camera, in the script, belongs to one of the characters. She puts it down, presses Record, then allows it to record what happens next.

I (the writer) thought I (the director) could actually find a way to do it: shoot a film that gives the equivalent feeling of an SF epic in eight one-shots in one closed location in which the camera never moves. And you know what? I (the director) still think I can. But I (the director) now think I shouldn’t. I finally had enough balls to stand up to myself (the writer) and tell myself what an idiot I think I am.

So a change was made to the script, a change the director wanted and the writer didn’t. The film takes place in the future, after all, which means that the camera has now become a smart video camera that can float. It takes instructions through speech (‘Camera on’ and ‘Camera off’, for example) and has modes in which it can shoot. In ‘personal mode’ it will shoot the person speaking in close-up, as if it’s a one-on-one conversation with whoever’s watching; while in ‘party mode’ or ‘crowd mode’, it will shoot scores of people, constantly turning around to catch more and more people, for example. This allows the director to move the camera during the film, to create action through camera, to add a ‘voice’ to the camera, to free the actors’ movements, and to play more with composition. This should create a much better film than the writer had envisioned.

Three… Two… One… The writer is down! The director wins by a knockout!

Thank goodness for that, because I (the writer) feel so much better now about my (the director’s) film.

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The Indestructibles Film Journal #3: The Photo Shoot

January 28, 2013

The Photo Shoot

So we shot the poster.

A team of three went down to the beach at the very end of a sunny day. This was the team: Nathalie klein Selle, the supremely talented Dutch actress who plays one of the two leading roles in the film; Oren Hasson, who is, among other things, both a professional photographer and my father; and myself (writer and director).

The Indestructibles - Poster

The Indestructibles Poster

The concept for the poster was simple: Nathalie is a superhero who, though practically dead, cannot actually die. She’s been swept away by the seas and wound up on the shore. The original concept for the poster had her lying in the sea, half her face in the water, half out, eyes open wide, body dead. Working off the concept, Oren could start trying different alternatives to see what would work and what wouldn’t.

Oren picked the location. He chose a piece of beach that was almost completely covered with seaweed. It looks amazing in the photograph, but was actually pretty disgusting in reality. Though the day was scorching, the sea was freezing.  Nathalie got into the dress and into the water, quickly getting her head into position, half in and half out.

We spent the next hour putting her in different positions, putting the camera in different positions, trying out different lenses and variations, until we felt we had enough good shots to choose from.

The Indestructibles Photo Shoot

We tried different angles and lenses

 

At a certain point I found myself grabbing two fistfuls of seaweed saying, “I want to put this in her hair. Can I put this in your hair? Can I put this in her hair now?” Okay, I may not have phrased it exactly like that. It may have been phrased with more poise: “I think we should put more seaweed in her hair. Nathalie, do you mind? Dad, will it work in the picture?” But I wanted to say it like a six-year-old.

Nathalie was a complete pro. She never complained about the freezing water and the wind, didn’t ask once to stop, and was completely there, emoting as her character, whenever the camera was shooting.

The Indestructibles Photo Shoot

I think she had fun

 

During the following week, Oren went over the pictures, tweaked them, and sent me the best ones to choose from. I picked the one you see in the poster above, wrote the texts for the poster, and then met with Oran Almog, a gifted graphic designer. He turned the picture into a poster, and what a great job he did!

The Element of Luck in Shooting the Poster

As you can see, Nathalie’s red dress, which she brought from home, worked supremely well against the color of the seaweed, which neither she nor I knew would be there.

Luck plays a huge role when creating a work of art, whether it’s a film, a poster, a theater show, etc. I’m a big believer in the magical appearance of good luck. It’s not that I think luck goes my way in life or that good things are more likely to happen to me than not, it’s that when you’re working on art and you’ve done all your homework and you work with talented people, suddenly almost everything falls into place in a better way than you would have ever expected.

The Indestructibles Photo Shoot

Here’s another angle. Looks great, but not what we were looking for.

I’ve seen this happen again and again. When we shot Heart of Stone, my last film, the actors were so talented and so prepared, that it seemed, magically, as if everywhere I put the camera was the perfect place to shoot from. In fact, we created an environment for the actors in which it seemed like every new choice they made was good, in character, and helped tell the story. It was a shock to a couple of them, when the shooting was over and they moved on to their next projects, that suddenly not every decision they made was a good one.

It was the same thing with shooting the poster. I didn’t get a chance to see Nathalie in the dresses ahead of time (remember: The Indestructibles is low budget, people are also working for a living, and free time is scarce). She picked a few, emailed me pictures of the dresses on a bed, and we picked three to bring to the location. I didn’t know what the beach would look like ahead of time, either. But this is why it worked: the original concept was good and represented the film; Nathalie is talented and completely grokked her role; and Oren is talented and understood the concept completely, but wanted to add his own element to it.

The Indestructibles Photo Shoot

It’s not easy sitting in green…

So when we got to the beach we discovered that the red dress worked best with the seaweed green, and, as if by magic, everything clicked better than expected. I wasn’t worried, because I was certain that if the red-green coincidence hadn’t occurred, something else would have happened to make the photo shoot magical. When you’ve got the right people, magic happens every time.

The Indestructibles Film Journal #2: The Auditions

January 23, 2013

(As promised, I’m reprinting The Indestructibles’ film journal here at my blog. I’m going to republish about two a week, until we catch up. This was originally published at the Apex Blog.)

 

Pitching The Indestructibles to Actors

You might think it’s next to impossible to pitch The Indestructibles to actors, since they’re asked to do it for free. Most of the ones I approached actually jumped at the chance.

The Indestructibles - Poster

The Indestructibles – Poster

(more…)

The Indestructibles Film Journal #1: The Indestructibles are Born

January 21, 2013

(As promised, I’m reprinting The Indestructibles’ film journal here at my blog. I’m going to republish about two a week, until we catch up. This was originally published at the Apex Blog.)

 

The Indestructibles - Poster

The Indestructibles – Poster

A couple of months ago I decided enough’s enough. It’s time to embark on a new adventure.

It’s time to create a science fiction epic film.

I just needed to find a way to do it with no budget. Why? Well, allow me to show you my reasoning through a series of flashbacks.

Flashback: It’s seven years ago. I’m sitting in a café in front one of the country’s most influential producers, trying to convince him to produce a horror mini-series for TV I wrote and wanted to direct. At the same time, he’s spending more than an hour trying to convince me to change aspects of the script to something he can produce. Why couldn’t he produce it? His bottom line was (I’m paraphrasing): “I can’t put your show on TV because the audience doesn’t like horror. How do I know that the audience doesn’t like horror? Because there are no horror shows on TV.”

This was said by a serious and powerful producer, who failed to see that by his logic, nothing new would ever get done.

Problem: Producers find it hard to do something new. Producers really like projects that are the long the line of things that are already popular. What I write, however, is almost always experimental or new in some way.

Conclusion: I should stay away from producers and their logic. I should just produce things on my own.

Flashback: It’s six years ago. I’ve found a backer to back the horror series, I’ve held auditions, found actors and a crew, started rehearsals, and a production company has even started filming a documentary about the production’s unique journey. We were going to do the entire mini-series on spec (making the entire thing as a pilot), working under the assumption we’ll find one TV channel willing to take a high-quality finished product. Then the phone rings. It’s my backer. He’s transferred the first part of the money a couple of months ago. Today was the day he was supposed to transfer the rest of the money. But he’s decided to back out of the deal. A month before we start shooting, the production falls apart. I spend a few more months trying to find more backers before giving up.

It took more than a year to work on a project that never came to be.

Problem: My state of mind is a writer’s, not a director’s. This means that spending seven years chasing one project that may never be doesn’t sit well with me. I like to sit at home and spend that time on seven new books, plays, or scripts that will be %100 finished, because I’ll finish writing them, whether they get produced or not. I can try and get them published or produced while I’m working on writing the next project.

Conclusion: I should stay away from projects that cost a hefty sum of money. How about projects that cost a paltry sum of money? Is that possible?

Flashback: It’s four years ago. I walk into a children’s toy shop and buy a toy slate for $3. (A slate is the thing that snaps shut in front of the camera when the direction says ‘action’. It’s used to mark scenes easily. Its lack of use makes the editor’s job almost impossible.) I was about to direct an experimental feature-length SF film I had written. I’d found a way to avoid almost everything that costs money in film. The film had a budget of $25,000, and stuck to it. Low-budget means low-budget: I got our slate from a toy shop, and it worked just like a real one, except that it was more colorful.

Conclusion: The film was made and premiered in Israel’s SF film festival, ICon 2008, which was great. Sure, having funds for your feature is great, but chasing backers does a body bad. Was there a way to make things for absolutely no money?

The Low-Budget Solution

There actually is a way to make a film with no money. Today, you’ve got cameras at home, so you can use those. If you use one-shots to shoot your film (meaning that you don’t ‘cut’ and shoot in one continuous shot), you can forego the editor and edit the film on your computers. If you happen to be able to shoot the film, you can cut out your DOP (‘director of photography’). Use actors that want to do something artistic just as much as you do. Write a story that uses the world itself, as it is, as the background, sets, and perhaps even lighting.

So far, so good. My aim is to write something (hopefully amazing) and just shoot it, edit it, and release I to the world without any hassle in the middle. It looks achievable! The problem is that this time I wanted to tell the story of a massive science fiction epic: with superheroes, super villains, a showdown, a fantastic history spanning hundreds of years, and a story that spans many exotic locations.

So: Can I do that for no money, please?

The Ancients Who Solved the Problem

The Greeks did it before, you see. It was around 2,600 years ago, when they created the theater. They told massive tales of fantasy, borrowed from their mythology (or, as they called it, ‘history’). These were tales of epic wars, gods’ wraths, journeys into mystical places, battles with monsters, and more. These tales were done without a Hollywood special effects team, and were still told in such a powerful way that the same tales are retold again and again through the generations, to this very day.

Here’s the gist of it: If you put a few people in one location and tell the tale through their eyes, then there are writing techniques that will cause the story to be just as powerful and just as evocative as the best special effects you can muster.

If. You do it. Well.

The Script

So I wrote the script.

It’s a 45-minute film for three actors. One character appears almost all the time and she is the character that talks. A second character also appears in all the scenes, but she does no talking whatsoever. A third character (a man, for a change,) appears only in the last two minutes. Through this structure I tell an epic tale about superheroes. The story spans hundreds of years and even has a superhero showdown towards the end, just like any other superhero script. The film is called The Indestructibles.

When we’re done filming, editing, and scoring, we’ll be spreading it in the most immediate and democratic way we have at our disposal. We’ll set up a website and put the film on that website as YouTube clips. The film will be constructed out of seven YouTube clips (shot in eight one-shots (see one-shot explanation above)). Since a forty-five minute YouTube clip is way too much for a YouTube format, The Indestructibles is written in a way that breaks it down into seven separate segments that follow each other consecutively.

What Next?

This is a personal project and this film journal is about a personal journey. I hope to share the journey and the adventure of creating something amazing (hopefully) with nothing more than a metaphorical gum wrapper and rubber band.

Join me next time, as we cover the auditions.

The Indestructibles Film Journal #10: Editing

January 3, 2013

So we finished shooting, and it was finally time to edit The Indestructibles film. Seeing as The Indestructibles is a no-budget, underground SF film, done in the spirit of our modern times with a digital camera available at one’s home, the editing is done in the editor’s apartment, on her computer.

Off to her apartment I cavorted, all the movie’s takes and shots stored in a portable hard drive in my bag. A minute after I enter the apartment, I meet the roommate.

“Gary,” he says, offering his hand.

“Guy,” I reply, shaking his hand.

“Ha ha,” he says as he starts walking away, to allow us to work, “both our names begin with a G.”

And even as he disappears into his room, I shout after him quite loudly, “Yours is longer than mine!”

What can I say? My new year’s resolutions for last year seems to have been to seriously increase the number of dick jokes in my life. (more…)

The Indestructibles Film Journal Update

January 3, 2013

As some of you may have noticed, the links to The Indestructibles film journal posts no longer work.

The Indestructibles, as you recall, is my attempt to write, direct, and produce an underground SF epic film. Apex Books, the publisher of Secret Thoughts, and other SF and horror books was kind enough to host my film journal at its blog, as well as blogs and posts by its other authors. A new entry to The Indestructibles film journal was posted monthly, taking us through the process of writing, auditioning, rehearsing, directing, and shooting.

A couple of weeks ago, Apex Books decided that its blog should concentrate only on upcoming books and magazines and that the blog would no longer host others’ posts. As a result, not only will the film journal not be hosted by that blog, all relevant posts were taken down and can no longer be found there.

So… two things:

One: Since the film journal already has quite a few followers, I’m going to continue to publish it at this website.

Secondly: As soon as I have a little free time, and if I can find the original files, I’ll repost the earlier entries here as well.

The Indestructibles - Poster

The Indestructibles – Poster

The Indestructibles Film Journal #9: Murphy’s Law

December 12, 2012

The day finally came to shoot the film, but Murphy’s Law attacked us in full force. Here’s an excerpt:

The weekend in which we were to shoot seven of the film’s eight scenes was upon us. And then Murphy’s Law struck once, twice, three times, and kept on bombarding us.

The climax was four hours before the shoot. Tamara Pearlman, one of the two leading actresses, was to wear a certain top to the shoot. We chose it months ago, one of her personal shirts, and when we did I said clearly: “From this point on you’re not wearing this shirt until the shoot. You’ll keep it stored, no one will touch it. It can’t get any stains on it, it can’t get torn. It needs to stay in the closet, safe and cozy and safe.”  She said, “Sure.”

That was months ago. Four hours before the shoot, I get a text from her: “My husband tore the shirt in two.”

And the great battle of The Indestructibles crew versus Murphy’s Law began.

To read the full entry, click here.

The Indestructibles - Poster

The Indestructibles – Poster

The Indestructibles Film Journal #8: War of the Worlds

November 2, 2012

The Indestructibles is an indepndent, low-budget, epic SF film I’m writing and directing. The latest installment of the film journal has just been published over at the Apex Book Company blog. This one is called War of the Worlds. Here’s an excerpt:

 

Every so often, I am starkly reminded that I live in two different worlds.

One is the ‘real’ world, the regular world, the one where most of you, the readers of this blog, probably live. Everybody lives in the real world. Everybody except crazy people and… There used to be a name for those people… What are they called? It’s on the tip of my tongue… Oh, yes: Artists. In particular, actors, actors in theater and film.

To read the entire article, click here.

 

The Indestructibles film journal #7: Inventing Something New

October 3, 2012

The seventh installment of The Indestructibles film journal has been published at the Apex blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Has Everything Been Done?

The question I keep asking myself as I plan the shots for the film is: Is there a new cinematic language to be invented?

I have a problem with the old cinematic language. It’s built for budgets. Everything we see falls under the scale that has Hollywood on one side, goes through almost-Hollywood, down the scale to not-even-close-to-Hollywood which is only a step above just-pure-piss.

The full article can be found here.

The Indestructibles: Coming Soon!

The Indestructibles Film Journal #6: 3 Funniest Rehearsal Moments

August 30, 2012

This time, in The Indestructibles film journal, I took a break from the serious job of rehearsing with actors how to save the world from dangerous superheroes and reflected back on the three most ridiculous rehearsal moments.
Here are the top contenders.

Want to see it first? Email sfonweb@gmail.com