A new feature film. More zombies, more cats.

Greetings!

I have written a new movie. Actually, it’s my first feature film script. It’s called Zombie Cats from Mars, and it’s currently in production. It’s also the craziest thing I’ve ever done. Here’s the timeline:

October 29th: Montetré and I are helping Rob Taylor move some giant trees for his film The Mad Scientist. We are talking about Glare. We discuss how hard it is funding art. I recall the premier of Holed-Up and how, after our premier there was a line around the block to see a collection of internet cat videos. I said “Why do we try so hard making a good movie? We could do Zombie Cats from Mars, and everyone would want to see it”. The idea was born.

October 30th: 3am – we had a plot outline, and Josh Mackey had drawn up a promo poster. We had an ad on Craigslist for actors. What?

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October 30th: 10am – work began on the script. It took about a week to write the initial script. Montetré made some good suggestions, adding some crucial plot elements to the story. The final script was complete by December 2nd.

November 5th: The initial castings were complete. Throughout November we worked on pre-production, securing a crew, finding locations and finalizing the cast. We also contact Marci Koski, feline behavior specialist and volunteer with Furry Friends – a no-kill cat rescue organization.

November 25th: We launch our Kickstarter.

December 2nd: We acquire fake cat paws from Toys “R” Us.

December 6th: We begin shooting the movie, and it looks awesome!

So, there you have it!

Check out our: Facebook, Twitter, and Kickstarter!

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Thank you, Goats

Greetings!

For those of you who know me, you know that a few years ago, I opened a coffeehouse called Lents Commons. A started it with a Craigslist-sourced business partner and a bunch of saved up Army bonus money. I had been inspired to open a creative-space/coffee house after working on Pickled, a film by Montetré. Having been a lifelong dream, I embarked on creating a space in which coffee would support art. I discovered a big, vacant corner store in a neighborhood that I had never stepped foot into. The rent was cheap, and the opportunity was there, so I went for it. A few months later I was the owner of an expansive coffeehouse wedged between a crumbing dive bar (and not the good kind of dive bar), a crumbing… whatever you want to call the New Copper Penny, and a gas station. Long story short, after two years, I found myself consumed with the minutiae of running a not-so-successful business with little time for anything else. But in the process, I had discovered a community existed in this oft-maligned part of Portland – a community who wanted good things to happen.

A recent article in the Willamette Week talks about the unrealized potential of Lents Town Center. This is the same potential I thought I was going to be a part of back in 2010 when I started work on the coffeehouse. We had the farmer’s market, art co-op, coffeehouse, MAX Greenline, and $96-million to throw at making Lents the next Belmont. Big projects would happen, so I thought – a New Seasons, a mixed use development in the old ballpark, maybe some new retailers and office space. The mayor even showed us a neat video with new 3 and 4 story buildings plopped on top of where (we all wish) the New Copper Penny used to be. But all I see are big holes – the PDC wiping the slate clean, preparing for the development that for sure will one day spring up. How I miss the Rapery… at least a physical standing structure made the intersection feel a little less like Ground Zero.

But while the pace of neighborhood development can, at best, be described as glacial, there are signs of life. The strip of storefronts to the north of Lents Commons did get a facelift. Riley’s did become the Eagle Eye, complete with a proprietor who cares about the neighborhood. At least there is somewhere to go. I see tiny libraries and a tool library. Lents Commons’ space is now a juice bar – maybe not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

BUT THERE’S NO COFFEE. Ok, you can get coffee at Chevron, at El Pato Feliz, at Olivers, at the Eagle Eye. Heck, probably even at the Old Copper Penny. Sorry, New Copper Penny – at least in the parking lot. One of the things I loved about Portland was the ability to throw a rock and hit a coffee shop no matter what intersection you were standing at. I loved spending my morning, drinking excessive amounts of caffeine, reading the New Yorker, and interacting with the neighborhood people. For me, the neighborhood coffeehouse was the ground-zero of community, and my failure at maintaining a coffeeshop is probably why Lents is a series of vacant lots fronted by bio-swales.

So, I failed at catapulting Lents into becoming the next Belmont. But soon, Lents will have something that Belmont won’t have… GOATS! I see this as the first step in transforming Lents into the neighborhood we all want it to be. I must be a part of it.

After escaping from Lents Commons, I took some time to recover. Working 12-hours-a-day, 7 days a week tends to burn a person out. I went on road trips, went to national parks, I went to Burning Man. I finished college with two degrees (community development and geography), I produced a feature film and I realized… I needed to be able to pay the rent. I went to work at our lovely, local Fred Meyer, where I got to see many of my old LC customers. But even being a manager (or Person in Charge, as it were), I detest the fact that I’m working my ass off to enable the CEO of Kroger to make more in 4 hours than they pay me in a year. Granted, Freddy’s gave me the opportunity to not become homeless, and it is nice getting a meager paycheck every Friday, it’s not fulfilling. Enough time has passed that I can look back on the days of LC and think, maybe I wasn’t making a killing, but I was part of something more important. But I think the most valuable education I received in the last four years wasn’t from PSU, but from being a struggling small business owner.

As I move forward, it’s important to understand the past. What was wrong with Lents Commons? It didn’t start with the right focus. The ridiculous theatre concept never paid off (the one theatre tenant we did have stiffed us on a major portion of their fees), the lack of a proper HVAC system turned the space into a defacto oven in the summer (not good when your business was selling coffee), lack of parking, unreliable hours, personnel issues, low profit margins on food, and the sheer expansiveness of the space created a sparsely populated, unwelcoming environment. It was trying to be too many things: a music venue, a bar, a coffeeshop, a restaurant, a gallery, but it was never really set up to succeed at any one thing, but that’s not for lack of involvement from the community. It was wonderful to see people who cared set up improv nights, open mic nights, poetry nights, etc. But a business is a business and all of the community stuff happening doesn’t matter much when you can’t pay the gas bill.

So, now we have goats. Seeing everyone get excited about goats made me think that there is a shimmer of hope for this community. The goats are a sign of progress – of something happening. It makes me want to make something happen, to be part of the community again. The goats, the tool library, the farmers’ market, miniature libraries, the Eagle Eye, the grocery co-op, a community is an aggregate of all these things and more, but it’s lacking that coffeehouse in which to gather and share ideas, and that’s what I want, even if only for the purely selfish reason that I love coffee. Aside from waving at people at Freddy’s, I haven’t felt like part of the community. I consider getting involved, and going to meetings where people talk about the things they want to see, but for me, creating a place makes me feel included.

I have considered a location and concept for a coffeeshop. The focus is coffee and pie. I’ve talked to a baker. I want to create a much more intimate space, make it nice, capitalized, and consistent. Simple. Coffee and pie, a community bookshelf and a decent selection of magazines (the kind with more words than pictures). By the slice, or whole. Good pies, handmade. No cans of pumpkin puree, the real deal. I have begun work on a business plan, and will be seeking input of the community as to what they want to see in a neighborhood business. I want to apply the lessons that I learned with LC and apply them to a new venture that meets the needs of the community while paying my rent, and freeing myself from the shackles of big-corporate-grocery. I want to create jobs for the community, and I want to contribute to the success of Lents.

Call me crazy.

My Crew Worked Hard, and I Love Them

Holed-Up has finished filming. Almost. There are a couple of ‘breakaway’ shots to do at a goat farm. But other than that, the film is done. It’s edited. Music is being composed. It’s looking amazing. And none of it would have been possible without the faithful work of Travis, Ben, Esteban, Jim, Tabitha, Evan, Michael, Jenae, Bob, and of course Montetré and everyone else who manned cameras, sound recorders, boom poles, lights, dollies, make-up wedges… everyone who stood out in the rain, who worked overnight, who worked for tiny little paychecks. And also the amazing cast, extras, and everyone who believed in us enough to throw us a high-five, or in some cases, 100 high-fives.

It’s one thing to be a producer, or a director or writer, it’s another thing to be part of the well-oiled machine that allows the writer or director to put together his art. Film and Theatre are almost never one-man-shows. Maybe never-never. While as a producer, I’ve been given the credit publicly for a well-received performance-piece, it’s impossible for me to not realize that my achievement is merely my ability to organize a crew of people to achieve one common goal.

So, THANK YOU to everyone who was a part of Holed-Up. There aren’t enough pints of PBR in the world to repay them, but I hope that they are as proud of the film as Montetré and me.

A few weeks ago, I saw an ad on Craigslist looking for a marketing person for a film. I checked it out, since I’m curious about other local projects. I showed this to Montetré, and he told me that he had done some crew work for the film. Now I’m not one to shit-talk other people’s projects. At least not publicly, and since I have not seen anything more than the trailer, it would be unfair to give it a review. But what I saw today quite shocked me.

I was forwarded an email from Montetré from the filmmaker who made “The Cube”.

“I just wanted to give you heads up that I’m finishing up the movie, “The Cube” and I need to   market it as: “Portland filmmaker makes $500 feature film with no crew”. Obviously, I had the support of your talents for a few days, but in order to generalize and bring attention to it, I’ll be going with this sales line.”

…What? You need to market it as “filmmaker makes $500 feature film with no crew“? Ok. I’ll bring attention to it. First, good job for making a movie for nothing. I’m well aware of how expensive making even a no-budget film can be. Second, I know you worked with a crew. Maybe a small crew, but you weren’t the only person doing lights, makeup, sound, cameras, directing, casting, or whatever. I know people who were on the crew.. Even though I wasn’t involved in any way with the film, I find it personally insulting that a filmmaker would a) lie, and b) throw his crew under the bus like this. Since his budget was $500, I’m assuming he didn’t pay anyone… and what’s his thanks, pretend like no one donated hours of their time to help him realize his personal dream and ambitions? I don’t care if your gimmick is “no budget no crew”, it’s completely unethical to USE people and then deny them of any recognition. If your film is good enough, it will be recognized on the merits of its storytelling, and not from some fucked-up gimmick.

That’s my rant. I don’t like to pick fights. I’m not a confrontational person, so please excuse my passive agression by posting my feelings here, but this is a blog. It just sickens me that someone’s sales pitch is more important to them then thanking people who worked hard for them for no pay.

So, to my cast and crew, who worked incredibly hard for …some pay… YOU GUYS ROCK!

The second poster for Holed-Up.

The second poster for Holed-Up.

 

How to Not Make a Crappy Film

I can’t believe we’ve been at this for over a month. Thus far, we’ve shot at “Shitty Motel”, “Nice Hotel”, “Nicer Hotel”, “Hotel Pool”, “Bar”, “Restaurant”, “Taxi”. Within the next two weeks, we will have shot at “Exterior Bar”, “Exterior Shitty Motel”, “Trailers”, “Film Set”, “Car”, and “Goat Farm”.

Yesterday, Montetré and I got some of the footage from the opening scene from Travis, our DP. We edited it together, added the credit sequence, and spliced the footage into context with the scene we shot last month. We added some temp music, and took a look. We both looked at each other, someone stunned, thinking “what have we made?”. I can’t give away the plot details, but the scene is hauntingly disturbing, yet poetic and beautiful. If the first two minutes of this film doesn’t grab you by the junk, I don’t think you have a heartbeat.

Montetré editing the opening sequence.

Montetré editing the opening sequence.

I’ve been watching other examples of no-or-low-budget indie film. If anything, just to put what we’re doing into perspective. They tend to open with a 4-5 minute sequence of… absolutely nothing. One I saw opens with a couple riding a bike and laughing. For five minutes. Another opens with a lady walking down the street. For five minutes. Another opens with a guy running. For five minutes. I usually sit and wait, because I’m curious as to the train-wreck that will unfold after such a long, pointless waddle through mediocrity. I created a film trailer that makes fun of this pointless exposition:

I, by no means, wish to be critical of the desire to go out and make a film. It’s not easy, and everyone will hate you after a couple months of asking all your friends to give you money to support some dream of yours. And I’ve certainly seen low-budge indies that are pretty damn good. This isn’t hollywood, and we’re not out making multi-million-dollar blockbuster for-profit films. I imagine everyone making indie films is doing it out of love of storytelling, love of creativity, and love of …film.

I also believe everyone making a film believes that their film is truly good. I would venture to guess that most people making a film believe their film will get accepted into Sundance, they’ll get discovered by a reputable distributor, and millions will see their film. I suppose it’s easy to fall into this train of thought. I believe that Holed-Up will get accepted into festivals, and will be seen by, thousands. Probably not millions. I’m cautious. When you are so invested in a project, it helps to have a positive outlook. But this is why I don’t want to make a crappy film.

HOW TO NOT MAKE A CRAPPY FILM

-Know your budget: Don’t choose a script that requires exotic locations, special FX, stunts, expensive sets, elaborate costumes and makeup, animals, or anything fancy, unless you can afford to do it in a way that doesn’t make your film look cheap.

-Know how to spend your budget: Spend money on essential crew. This means hire a good sound guy. Hire a good sound guy. Hire a good sound guy. Cinematographers are a dime-a-dozen. Obviously you want one who knows what he’s doing, but without solid sound, your film will be shit. Borrow stuff, offer trades. The less you spend, the bigger the potential return. Pay only what you need, and maybe surprise everyone with a bonus if you make any money at the end.

-Hire a good sound guy.

-Cut the idiot speech: Don’t be an asshole about exposition. The audience you’re reaching is probably smarter than the average bear, so don’t dumb down your movie with pointless dialog. Anyone with any cognitive ability can figure out your characters’ backstories through dialog and action that is directly tied to the narrative, setting, and the forward momentum of the plot.

-Feed people: If you’re paying your cast and crew sub-minimum wage, feed them well. They will be happier. An unhappy cast and crew will ruin your movie.

-Roll with the punches: In the zero-budget film world, you’ll lose locations, you’ll lose crew, you’ll lose actors. People need to make money, and you’ll come in second place to a paying gig. Don’t freak out about this stuff. Figure it out, and move on. Sometimes, what you end up with is better than what you started out with. Be flexible.

-Plan ahead: Storyboard. Plan your shots. Plan the shoot day. Meet with essential crew (DP, Gaffer, Sound) prior to filming to sort out everything that is going to happen during the shoot. Scout locations, choreograph and rehearse. If you show up on set with no clue how to compose your shots, the cast will think you’re an unprofessional idiot, they’ll lose respect for you, and they’ll lose interest in the film. Planning also maximizes shooting time, and prevents you from going over schedule.

-Lighting isn’t all that important. If you can see the actors, then you’re fine. Don’t waste two hours lighting one scene while the cast and rest of the crew sits around. People will think you’re a dick. When you’re doing lighting, have a gaffer who knows a thing or two about how much juice your lights are sucking, and knows how much juice is available on any given circuit.

-Art department goes a long way: Blank white walls are boring. Scenery should also add to the narrative, and give clues as to who your characters are. It’s exposition without the idiot speech. This goes for extras too. Do you think your actors are going to eat at a fancy restaurant where there are no other patrons? There’s a lot to say in the little details.

-Be objective: Focus-group your film. Ask people who know a thing or two to watch your film and give you unbiased feedback. Be willing to cut material from your “final cut”. There will probably be a lot of stuff in your movie that looks cool, but adds nothing to the primary plot. Get rid of it.

We probably should have secured all funding before we began to film. It’s hard to find money. With everyone and their mom out there trying to produce the next Napoleon Dynamite, it’s a challenge to get people to give you money for a project they don’t know anything about. We have a good deal of amazing, rough-cut film at this point. High-Fives are coming in and we’re looking for equity investors to round out the funding. It’s impossible to guarantee a return on investment for an $8000 movie. It’s a lot easier to guarantee a zero-return on investment, actually. To avoid falling into the same starry-eyed optimism that befalls every other indie filmmaker, let’s just say that we’re making the most amazing film that we can make right now within the budget we’ve set. I have a lot of confidence that this film will get into festivals, just based on seeing what other films are commercially available, and which films have been accepted to various festivals. I know that everyone involved in Holed-Up is extremely excited and proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and that this film is miles better than any other film I’ve worked on with Montetré or anyone else.

To give us High-Fives (that being financial donations), or to inquire about investing, visit our website www.holed-up.com/high-five.

 

Knee-Deep in Movie Making

We have shot three days so far. Here’s a recap of what’s happened since the first day:

Our Kickstarter was a horrible failure. We did achieve 57% of our goal, but since Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing type thing, we get nothing. As the Executive Producer, it’s my responsibility to find money. Montetré is also an Executive Producer, so at least we get to share this burden. As an additional fundraiser, we organized a party. We got donations of artwork, gift certificates, books, and DVDs to hand out as prizes in the raffle. We hoped that through selling drinks, raffle tickets, and the good-will of strangers and friends, we’d be able to raise enough to cover the gap in Kickstarter. Oh, how it would be nice not to worry about the money. While fun, the fundraiser didn’t meet our expectations, but we were able to show a rough-cut of the Day 1 shoot.

Wah-Wah. Just another of life's little challenges.

Wah-Wah. Just another of life’s little challenges.

The same day as the fundraiser, I determined that due to logistical and financial constraints, the location we had secured for Day 2 and 3, Oliver’s Café, was a no-go. I didn’t want to pass on this added stress to the rest of the crew during the party, so I waited until after to inform Montetré. As with any production, there are going to be challenges. Perhaps with a 5 or 6 digit production budget things would go more smoothly, but this is indie film-making… bordering on guerrilla filmmaking. At the end of the fundraiser, I was left with less cash on hand than I wanted, and no location for a shoot that was happening in less than four days.

With all challenges come opportunity. The Day 2 and 3 location is a restaurant. The shoot hours were 4pm until 2am. Oliver’s Café is a breakfast and lunch joint, so we wouldn’t have had to worry about interfering with normal business hours during our shoot. But finding the appropriate setting that’s not open during the evening is tough. I figured the best hope was to find an out-of-business restaurant that still had all the tables and chairs. I hit Craigslist and searched for restaurants for sale. I found one called Bravo Lounge. I called the owner, Stefan. I believe the place is still in business, but mainly does special events and music nights, and thankfully, was free for our two shoot days. I drove over to the location, and it looked way better than Oliver’s for our purposes. It was perfect. I headed over to Montetré’s to tell him the news and arrived just as the Kickstarter was counting down the seconds to our big failure. Seeing your major source of funding evaporate and knowing you are without a location is shitty, and Montetré was in low spirits. I saved the news about the Bravo Lounge until after the Kickstarter ended, and that instantly raised the mood. We celebrated with some drinks at Dean’s Scene, and I unveiled our new fundraising concept, High-Five.

What is $5? Not a lot really. It’s a drink, a pack of cigarettes, and less than 1/1000th of our production budget. It’s also the idea that if we can reach 1005 people (1005 being Montetré’s magic number), we can fund this project. It’s also a rejuvenation of our enthusiasm for this film. We set up a pay portal directly on the website, and offered similar prizes as the Kickstarter. $5 for a ticket to the premier, $25 for a DVD, etc. We contacted all of our backers on Kickstarter and asked them to give us a High-Five. Thus far, several have.

Day Two of shooting began at 4pm. Five principal actors, 11 extras, 9 crew. Lights, three cameras, sound, makeup.. an entire restaurant scene to dress. Montetré and I had a lot to do before the shoot. We needed to get plates, prop food, a wheelchair dolly, lights, catering, coffee, artwork, wine glasses, faux-wine… somehow we managed to get it all done and show up on set right on time. The added pre-pro work came thanks to one of the producers dropping out the night before. One of the additional charms of this style of filmmaking is the stress it puts on individuals. While we are paying the crew, we’re also asking a lot of them. Long shoots, rapid pace, not to be cliché, but it is a labor of love. Without the total dedication by everyone involved, the film won’t be the best it can be. I feel now, we have solidified the crew and they are all invested in the project and truly care about the final product. Everyone is working in complete sync, and the challenges of the ambitious shooting schedule are being met by the crew. They blow my mind, really. It’s amazing to see.

Evan Hays and the Cast and Crew

Evan Hays and the Cast and Crew

Day 3 went nearly as smoothly as day 2, although it did have its own challenges. Some of the crew had commitments that prevented them from showing up at the call-time, but Montetré used that time to rehearse shots, shoot some MOS stuff, and in the end, things were fine. I had to work, so I showed up to dress the set (which fortunately didn’t require much since we could leave the setup overnight). I went to work (which sucked), and returned for the end of the shoot. Pushing our midnight deadline, we still had to complete the pivotal scene in the film. It sucks to watch the clock without compromising the scene. As a producer, I hate to piss people off, and I was worried that Stefan would be pissed off. Shortly after midnight, Stefan showed up amongst the chaos of finishing the scene and tearing down. He disappeared again as Montetré set up for a couple of additional shots that needed to be done. I knew it would take at least an hour to break down the set and clean up, so we were already over an hour behind schedule, but not to compromise the film, I felt it would be best to finish the shoots and deal with a pissed off restaurant owner. Once everything was about cleared out, Stefan returned in a seemingly good mood. He asked for photos of the shoot and took a shot with Montetré. He really didn’t seem to mind we went over schedule, and was pretty interested in what we were doing.

Montetré with Stefan

Montetré with Stefan

The final exterior shots were filmed outside, which happens to be a lot full of concrete lawn statuettes. At 2am, with exactly 24 hours before the bar scene filming, we were done. A long two days, yes, but an amazing amount of work was accomplished. Can we get a High-Five?

Exterior scene

Exterior scene

How to Make a Movie.

When I was a junior in High School, a group of my friends and I set out to make a horror film. We sat around and brainstormed an idea: the evil Dr. Georg Schnitzelhoffer would create a creature. The creature will terrorize everyone in the neighborhood. We gathered our cast, found someone with a video camera, and filmed the scenes in our homes and backyards. We called it “The Creature of Terror”, and yes, it was terrible. But it cost us nothing, and the ideas were funny to us. We still talk about that horrible little film.

Fifteen years later, I haven’t lost that filmmaking bug. I suppose I could have gone to film school, but I chose to become a musician instead, an equally lucrative career path. Several years ago, I decided to get back into film. I made a goal to be involved with five film projects as a new-years resolution. I achieved that goal, landing supporting actor roles in an independent feature film and a couple of short films and working as a production manager on another short film. None of these films saw any success, so I went on with my life. A couple of years later, I started a theatre production company. I enjoy both film and theatre, but they are different animals. With film, your work has the potential to last forever. With theatre, you get the energy and exhilaration of performing in front of an audience, and then it’s over. During the casting for my fourth play, I met a young actor named Montetré, a recent transplant from Texas. He brought a unique energy and passion I hadn’t seen, but he wasn’t right for any of the roles. I knew, however, that working with him would lead me on an interesting path so I created a small role for him, and cast him in the play.

During one of the rehearsals, he presented me a script. It was a small, spiral-bound booklet with an orange cover. The film was called “Pickled”. I read it. It was weird – the kind of weird that makes you interested. I wanted to produce this film.

The other difference between film and theatre, from my experience, is that theatre pays off financially. I always broke even with theatre or turned a modest profit. Each weekend, I’d end up with a pile of cash. With filmmaking, there are so many hurdles to a return on investment; even more with ultra-low-budget films. Tiny budget films like “The Blair Witch Project”, “El Mariachi”, and “Clerks” have given wannabe filmmakers big aspirations of being discovered at a festival handed a distribution deal and made millionaires. I imagine for the thousands of films that get made and screened at film festivals each year, there are thousands more that don’t get picked. Thus the dream of filmmaking fades, and the wannabe producers and directors go back to their jobs at Kinko’s to dream up their next big idea. Or, give up completely.

We made Pickled. It featured a cast of people in brightly colored jumpsuits being chased through the woods by a lady in a panther costume, lots of puppets, and an old, broken down ambulance I had thrown $1000 down to acquire. The film didn’t make it to any festivals, get a distribution deal, or make any money. But $7,000 later, we had a finished film.

Montetré presented me with other scripts. Moon-Pi, a science fiction film about time travel, K’nights, Be Meaner… all these films having technical requirements that would make them difficult to produce. By this time, I had opened a coffee shop, and found that I had little time for filmmaking. The thing about Montetré though is that he has tenacity. He will get his film done no matter what. While I respect him for his creativity, I always felt his films required too much ‘stuff’ to be successful without a 7-figure budget. Poorly constructed puppets, special effects, and chintzy props and sets work for a cheeky high school film made over summer vacation, but to be taken seriously, there has to be legitimate production value. I remember telling Montetré that he needs to write films according to his resources, thus limiting his creativity. He went on to make Moon-Pi and K’nights. He filmed a trailer for Be Meaner. While none of these films saw any commercial success, they were made, proving that he has the dedication and discipline to follow through on his projects.

A couple of months ago, I met up with Montetré for drinks. I am convinced he is only capable of talking about filmmaking, but I like that about him. He’s passionate. Later that night, he showed me clips from Moon-Pi. I admit I was quite impressed by the results. He compensated for his lack of budget by making the film as noir as possible. It was dark and creepy. The film got me excited about filmmaking once again. He told me of his current project, “Holed-Up” and I agreed to become part of the film. I attended the table reading with the cast and crew, not knowing much about what the film was about. As we read through the script, I got a sense that this film was different. It had a solid plot, dynamic characters, and didn’t require bizarre, sci-fi locations. It was a narrative-driven drama. The story is Montetré through and through, but the film is marketable. During our cigarette break outside, my good friend Peter, who has acted in several of Montetré’s films, commented that this time it seems professional. After the table reading, the crew gathered to discuss their roles. He had his cinematographer, gaffer, lighting designer, make-up artist, sound engineer, and composer. I signed on to be an executive producer, art department supervisor, and music supervisor. I looked at the budget: $4350 for a production budget that included paying our SAG actor, crew stipends, locations, props, and wardrobe. I made sure we hired a solid sound guy. You can have the best film ever made, but with crappy sound, the whole movie is bad. A postproduction budget to include editing, post-production engineering, mastering, music recording, and festival submission fees could be raised after the rough-cut is made.

Table Reading

Table Reading

INT.  SHITTY MOTEL was the first location. We secured the worst room at the worst possible motel in Portland.  We shot the first day with two actors and the crew. The crew worked amazingly well together. I asked Montetré where he got his crew. To my surprise, they were gathered from disparate projects he had been involved with and ads on Craigslist. It didn’t matter that they were mostly strangers to each other; everyone worked with amazing synergy. The footage looked good, and I became more excited about the film.

INT. SHITTY MOTEL

INT. SHITTY MOTEL

Even with a small production budget, money needs to be raised. Montetré started a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter works on the concept of crowd-funding, that is, collecting small donations from lots of people in exchange for prizes like DVDs of the film, tickets to the premier, or a Christopher Walken voicemail message courtesy of Montetré. He even offered to wash your car for a donation. The thing about Kickstarter though is that just because you have a fundraiser on there doesn’t mean you’ll get the money. You must spread the word to your friends and families and encourage them to donate, and hope they get some of their friends to donate as well.

Four thousand three hundred and fifty dollars isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. It’s exactly .00575% of the budget of Gigli, one of the worst films ever made. One Gigli budget could fund Holed-Up over 17,000 times, and I’m convinced Holed-Up will be a better film, despite the absence of the real Christopher Walken from the cast. But fundraising is difficult, and eventually your also-broke friends ignore your pleas for a Kickstarter donation. The studios and producers who threw over $75 Million at J-Lo won’t give a small-guy producer like me the opportunity to check under the couch cushions in their office for extra change, so we’re forced to ask our friends to check under their cushions.

With two weeks to go, and $4000 short of our fundraising goal, we are hoping for a late flurry of donations and a successful fundraising party. The remainder of the balance will be covered by me, someone who is waiting for his tax return so he can pay his rent. That’s the dedication I have to this project. I’m convinced that we have the cast, crew, script, and dedication by all those involved to make this a film that will be great.

So, what happens after the film is made? Like all aspiring filmmakers, I hope it gets selected to festivals, maybe major festivals. Stranger things have happened. Recognition would be superb. Distribution would be amazing. But more than that, I hope this film becomes leverage to find funding to make subsequent films. This film will prove that amazing things can happen for very little money. Gigli proves that giant budgets don’t yield amazing results, but that passionate people who wish to scrape together the resources to create amazing art can tell stories the big guys are afraid to touch.  We don’t expect to become millionaires. We just want to make good movies and for people to see our work.

Our Kickstarter is located at http://kck.st/11viJHd for those of you who would like to make a pledge.

holedupposter

Poster