Friday, March 6, 2009

Class Action

I finally figured out how to make screen grabs (stills from the movie), so now I can give you a picture with every posting. This one above was actually from a camera test when Michelle was fooling around (that's her on the bench, as "Crackhead #1"), it wasn't supposed to be in the movie. But it is my movie and it makes me laugh every time I see it! And it makes Michelle rolls her eyes every time she sees it. Which also makes me laugh. Every time.

Anyway, I have awesome news! No, haven't heard back from any film festivals yet, calm down. Actually, the news might not be as awesome to you as it is to me, but I am personally very, very, very stoked. I will be teaching my first class at the Creative Alliance on July 6th! A one-day seminar on pre-production for indie films.

Michelle has taught a bunch of different classes there in the past, actually she is just wrapping one up right now, so she will probably find my enthusiasm amusing, as it is old hat to her. But I don't care! I get to talk about something I love for 5 hours straight, and get paid for it!

I have learned so much, a lot of it through trial and error, and I can't wait to share it with people who also hope to manifest their ideas for movies into reality. One of the things I love most about traveling within circles of creative people is the opportunity to watch an idea sprout from nothing, a tiny seed of an idea, into full-scale productions, whatever that might be - a movie, a play, a song, a painting. It is simply magical. And this class will give me the opportunity to meet even more people like that.

I have been so lucky to have met some fantastic people by taking their classes at the Creative Alliance. First and foremost, of course, Michelle, but also Steve Yeager (Acting for the Camera) and Rob Pawlosky ( Screenwriting Basics), among others. And through chance and happenstance, gotten to know other people along the way who have been invaluable to "Smalltimore," names you have already heard a hundred times or more, like Sean Stanley, Eric Thornett, and Charlie Anderson. All of these people have been so generous and honest with their advice, it always amazed me, and at the same time it always kind of made me wonder, "Why are they being so nice to me? Why are they giving me so much of their time?" There have been times I felt guilty about pestering them for advice or assistance, but they never really seemed to mind. And now I better understand why.

They must have had people like themselves helping them when they were as green as I was when I met them. It is an opportunity to give back, and pay it forward. And you get to talk about something you love doing, with people who want to do it themselves someday. If champagne were thrown into the mix, it would be the perfect day. I tried sneaking bubbly into the class format, but they put the kibosh on that.

(BTW, if you are interested in taking the class yourself, the new schedule should be out around the first week of April. You can register online at And OF COURSE I will be reminding you about this when the time comes!)

Anyway, the blurb and itinerary for the class goes a little something like this:

Workshop blurb: There are a lot of universal truths about movie-making. One of them is, for every dime and minute you don't spend on pre-production, you will spend ten times that during production. Another is, movie-making is a ton of work, but it is not brain surgery. Save thousands of dollars (and countless headaches) by learning how to be well-prepared before ever stepping foot on the set. Jeanie Clark, founder of Steel Corset Productions and writer/director/producer of the new romantic comedy, "Smalltimore," walks you step by step through the basics, including:
- How to be open to and receive reliable critique on your script.
- The re-writing process
- Factoring in production value
- Creating an LLC
- Funding
- Networking
- Dealing with actors: auditions, call backs, contracts, rehearsals, scheduling
- Crew & gear, your biggest expense: finding a crew to suit your needs without overspending.
- Building your Production Team
- Location management
- Insurance & permits
- Breaking down the shooting schedule
- Generating buzz for your project
- Craft services
- and generally preparing to expect the unexpected.

It is a LOT to cover in one day, but I am pretty organized when it comes to stuff like this, and a lot of it is much simpler than you might expect. You probably already know this, since you are used to my writing style by now, but I wrote the introductory blurb. I wasn't sure they were going to let me keep that bit in about filmmaking not being brain surgery, but I am glad they did. I mean no disrespect towards filmmakers - it IS a lot of work. But when you break it down into the individual tasks and components, other than the actual camera work, there is no reason a person who is creative, intelligent, organized, disciplined, hard-working, honest with themselves and others, and a good leader cannot make a film. Those are the components it takes, and it does take all of them.

Some of them, you either are or you aren't and there is not much you can do about it if you aren't - like being creative, or intelligent. There is a line in "Smalltimore" that Joyce Scott delivers as Mrs. Talford,

"No one ever used to be an artist! Any more than one can aspire to be an ar-teest! You are either an artist or you are NOT."

I didn't think that much about that line when I wrote it, I was just writing from the heart, thinking how I might talk 20 or 30 years from now to a younger version of myself. And I didn't know when I wrote that line that Joyce Scott would be the one delivering it. She never said anything about it to me, so I could be wrong, but I think that is the line that may have helped her make the decision to do the film. I remember there was just something about the way she said that line at the table read that made me think, she knows that I really get that, and I know that she does, and she wants to say that line.

I digress... but that is the truth. That doesn't mean that someone who is not creative can't have a large hand in making a movie. It just means they need to get the right people to collaborate with them on the project. Even a person who has ALL of those qualities can't do it alone, so you shouldn't be afraid of the collaboration thing.

Some of the other qualities I mentioned... well, you might have them and not even know you have them. In my case, I think of, "organized, disciplined, and hard-working," specifically. At the beginning of this holy mess, I never thought in a million years that I could produce a film. Write, yes. Direct, possibly. Produce? No thanks.

I overheard Sean once say he was going to print up a T-shirt that just said, "Producing is HARD." And it is. And I didn't think I'd like it, and it is excruciating for me to try to do things I don't like, let alone be any good at them. Producing is doing a million little crappy details like setting up the LLC, bank account, locking down locations, breaking down schedules, and all the stuff mentioned in the above bullet points. I did NOT want to do all that crap! I thought if it came down to me having to do all that crap, this movie would never get made.

But in the end, on the budget I was working with, I could not in good conscience pay someone to do things I was perfectly capable of doing myself, but just didn't want to. And it all turned out just fine. I gave myself a solid six months or so of pre-production time, as I was doing almost everything myself. The next time around I will probably get a small team of people together, but I am very glad I did it all myself the first time, because now I know how to do it. I wasn't super-disciplined, in that I did the things I wanted to do first, and put off the things I didn't want to do until I had no choice but to do them. But if you look back through my blog postings at that time (from the beginning of up until production started August 1, 2008) you will see that I just chugged steadily along, and was just happy with myself as long as I accomplished one or two little tasks every day that needed to be completed for the movie. I really surprised myself, because not only did I do it, but I actually enjoyed doing it. Sometimes the little task of the day was as simple as posting a blog entry. That might not seem very important, but think about it - I know you are going to go see my movie, aren't you?

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