Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pirate Shirts, Guns and Bikini Inspectors -- The Search for Props and Such

I was looking at pirate shirts this past week. But that isn't really anything new.  In all honesty, I look at costumes quite often. There is a shop called Robinson Beautilities that is on one of my shopping routes. It is a make-up, wig and costume supplier to the film industry. It's a large store for a place that isn't really near any of the studios. I've rented a few costume pieces from them, but mainly I've bought wig and make-up supplies.. The staff is very helpful even for those who have no clue about what they are looking for. This day, I was looking for ideas for period costumes. We have a teaser to prep for and not much time in which to get it done. Browsing helped me figure out what we should and shouldn't try to do. Incidentally, I'm not thinking of making Simon a pirate. It's just that shirts from that era are almost universally called pirate shirts.

Last week, I had a chat with my cast about the teaser shoot. We have set a date for August 16th and 18th . I briefed them on what we had in mind for the script. The reaction was very enthusiastic so far. Hopefully, when they see the actual script, it will match what I have conjured for them. The big challenge is how to spark an interest in potential viewers who have never seen the film while giving a clear and compelling idea of what the webseries will be like. All this has to be in a zippy two to three minutes. The amount of time really isn't the problem. I've learned from shooting and editing my cooking videos that a whole lot of information can be imparted in a surprisingly short amount of time.

The running time is not the issue. It's that we are covering a lot of elements of the webseries. Thus, we have to shoot quite a bit of material in a relatively short amount of time. The script might be five pages depending upon how much description there is. The devil is in the number of scenes in those five pages. Jon has a plan about a framing device that could save us from filming every little insert. We have two sets of actors to shoot. There are Garett Maggart and Owen Szabo – Joe McKay and Simon Molinar in one part, and Jack Donner  and Donal Thoms-Cappello – Richard Bassett and Ethan Saybrook in the other. Minus the time for make-up and wardrobe, I figure we have four hours of shoot time with each of them. By the way, Donal Thoms-Cappello is one of my actor from Cook Like a Uke. His episode was Beef Curry and Beer . Technically, he's the first professional actor I've ever directed. Fortunately, Jon will be directing the teaser.

Time will be a challenge, but there is a more important aspect of the teaser that we will have to fulfill. Just as the teaser must give the viewers a clear and compelling sense of what the webseries will be like for the viewers, this shoot has to give the actors a clear, compelling and positive experience of working on it. To that end, we are doing many things in the pre-production for this shoot. First, the script has both meat for the actors to sink their teeth into and dessert for them to enjoy. I've already thought of some 'bits of business' for the Bassett/Saybrook scenes that harken back to the original film while establishing a new continuity. I've run some of the ideas for the McKay/Molinar scene with the actors and feel confident that we're on the right track. We hope to get the pages into the hands of the actors sometime next week, so they can give feedback before the shoot. In order to pull this off in the allotted time, we're going to have to block out as much as possible beforehand. We won't have an opportunity to to a table read and rehearsal. Some of the cast are not available until the week of the shoot. But this is a very short script where the actors will work in pairs. We should be fine if everything is thoroughly blocked out.

Even though we don't have a script yet, we have enough to go on that I can start ordering costumes and accoutrements. Some of the items on Ebay may take a while to get here. I had to find a replica gun for Ethan Saybrook. That wasn't very difficult in this town. The problem came with a badge and ID. I don't know how many different terms I used for the search before FBI ID brought up something other than Female Bikini Inspector. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, that is lame. The guns were an interesting dilemma. I wanted replicas with a weight to them, but I didn't want guns that fired anything like a real bullet. Even guns that fire blanks can be dangerous. These guns are pure props. They look absolutely real but don't have a mechanism for firing anything. So, Saybrook can look like a proper bad ass, and there will be no accidents. Thus far, the props budget has been within reason, and we should have everything in time.

I won't reveal anymore about the costumes. Those details would be big spoilers for what will be in the script. I'll be doing some location scouting in the upcoming week. I'll share some of those photos in the next blog.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Teasing Scripts and Fund Raising Perks

This week, we're juggling a number of tasks. First and foremost, we're working on the script for the webseries and the script for the teaser trailer. Of the two, the teaser is much more difficult. We need a really compelling teaser for the fund raising campaign. It has to be three minutes or less. There isn't an actual law about the length, but the two entities that run crowd funding campaigns, and recommends that teasers keep it short and to the point. Thus, we have to figure out something that captures enough of the story, makes a viewer interested in more and make them eager to donate funds.

We're in good shape with an opening. We'll use the script we used to make the book trailer a while back for part of this teaser. See above. There just needs to be a scene that captures the tone of the series and the relationship between Joe and Simon as they are on the run. It also needs to give some hints at what they are finding along their way and hints about the shows that will be spoofed. This sounds like a pile to jam into a few minutes, but it isn't too bad. I've always thought editing trailers, so that they keep a quick pace is more difficult.

In order to have this teaser finished by the time we start the fund raising campaign, we have to shoot it early in August! That only dawned a day or two after the last blog. There was a flurry of phone calls and some spit balling. There should be a script for the teaser by the end of the week. But the script is only part of what has to happen this week. We also need a plan to create perks during that shoot. The perks can't interfere with the shoot either. Beyond springing for a photographer for some really nice candid pics, I'm thinking of doing a pod cast that I will hold onto until the fundraiser. Thus, in addition to the behind the scenes blog that will run here, contributors will have access to these podcasts during the run-up to the shoot. However, there will be coverage of the teaser shoot in this blog.

This brings me to the perks themselves. There is a graduated scale of perks with these crowd funding campaigns. They begin with a thank you credit on the film and access to an exclusive newsletter with a new photo each day and increase in value to an invitation to a screening with the cast and an after party. In between are perks like an exclusive DVD, autographed posters, etc. The research on what to offer is ongoing. Among the perks being considered are a DVD release that would include the last rehearsal and the bloopers. This is a big deal as there are no plans for a DVD release of the webseries at this time. The DVD is likely to have scenes not carried in the Youtube version. Inclusion of the rehearsal will ultimately be up to the cast. Some actors can't really work through the issues with their parts if worried about fan reaction to a performance that hasn't been refined. It's something that is subject to a lot of discussion before the campaign goes up. I'm certain one perk will be a live podcast with the cast. There is also a screening and reception in the works. There is a book of full color, glossy photographs through Sybaritic Press planned as well. That book will be a limited release that only contributors, cast and crew will receive. We're still exploring other campaigns to figure out what is customary and what we can handle in a timely fashion.

That's it for now. However, I am putting a call out for translators to help us with making the web series available to more of Garett Maggart's fans. If anyone is interested, please let us know. As always, forward this blog wherever you think it will be of interest.

Next time, more on the characters and how they interact, the teaser shoot and whatever else comes up this week.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Actor Input and Eureka Moments

When we first came up with the idea for the web series, we contacted actors who we wanted in the cast to run the idea past them. I sent detailed e-mails with as much description as I could managed without having a script. There were bound to be questions along the way. Before I actually wrote the script, I wanted to sit down with the leads and go over all that we had in mind. In the case of Garett Maggart, it's great to get input from an experienced actor who has lived with the part.

He is familiar with Highlander, the series. That made explaining the flashbacks easy. The plan is that in each of the flashbacks is a way of challenging Simon on his instinctive response toward behavior that keeps his profile low and keeps Delphi off their trail. But Simon is tricky. Those flashbacks are not necessarily what happened. Joe is smart enough about Simon to know that. The flashbacks will not be at all like the ones on Highlander. The viewer will have to look really closely to see the truth and predict what actions Simon will take. There is also a big, twisted twist to the flashbacks that Garett really liked if the evil chuckle was an indication. I will not spoil those in the blog.

The parody TV shows and films met with approval. I was given some details about True Blood that I didn't know about. We also discussed a few more TV shows and movies that would make good parodies. We still have a long list of titles that we'll have to watch before we write the parodies, but I have a good starting point for a few of them. From that lively discussion, I've decided that we should put Garett's talents as a mimic to use by having Joe mock Simon about the shows he tends to watch.

Sometimes, a meeting with an actor will yield a completely unexpected outcome – and I don't mean the kind that involve the police or a restraining order or turning up in my living room wearing only underpants (That's happened twice.). Sometimes, a single comment can ignite the lightning in a bottle that makes a project really special. This revelation also changed a possible drawback to the casting into an asset. Garett said 'So Simon will be that young guy, Owen?' From that, I had a revelation. While Garett is a very long way from being old, he is a silver haired kind of handsome. We could keep him as he is appearance wise* and use the perception of Joe being older as both dramatic and comedic fodder. When looking at Owen's Simon, it's hard to wrap one's head around the vampire being over a thousand years old. Joe will occasionally forget which way the age difference goes especially when Simon acts like a frat boy in his opinion. That is a good source of humor especially when they are stuck in close quarters while keeping a low profile.

Joe's knee jerk response to Simon's youthful appearance also blunts any possibility of a bromance becoming a romance. “Even if I was interested, and I'm not, I'm no cradle robber,” is how I see Joe reacting to any kind of flirting from Simon. We'll have to keep the bromance at broadcast TV levels as we'll be on Youtube which can be a bit touchy about what's uploaded. Joe's age is also a source of danger for Joe. How long will Simon wait before making a move to keep Joe from becoming aged? There will always be that tension between them of whether or not Simon will actor to keep his companion with him forever. This dynamic is something I had never considered, and it will yield some really nice character moments.

We will be able to use the necessity of having to recast Simon to an advantage. As to how we will handle the obvious change in actors, it was decided that we will handle it the way Star Trek handled the change in Klingons between The Original Series and The Next Generation – no one shall speak of it. Demon Under Glass fans are quite an imaginative lot. I'm sure some brilliant mythos will rise that explains the change in Simon's appearance.

Another issue that came up in our discussion was Simon's wealth. I completely forgot to mention the plan to make fake famous paintings using Costco's service at the meeting. We also developed a source for fine jewelry and valuable knick knacks while developing a different project. This sort of finery would show up from time to time, depending on where they are living. Simon's wealth is also why we would be shopping in thrift stores on the west side of LA where the wealthy people live and donate clothing. We think Joe would have a reaction to living in more luxurious surroundings than he is used to. Perhaps, he'll be vaguely uncomfortable at first then grow to really appreciate it over time.

We penciled in shooting dates at the meeting. It's now set for late December between Christmas and New Year's and the first week in January excluding the holiday. That gives us time to nail down the script and run a full fund raising campaign. Speaking of the fund raising campaign, one of the perks typically offered on a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign is a screening and an after party. I chanced upon a lovely restaurant very near my neighborhood that would be ideal for an after party. The chef is from Tuscany. Her husband and co-owner was a regular on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. The food and the atmosphere are fabulous yet it has a homey vibe. It is a stone's throw away from a very nice movie theater complex that does private screenings complete with a red carpet. It is also minutes away from the Sheraton Four Points Hotel where a fan event for The Sentinel was once held. I've sent the restaurant and the theater specs for a quote.

The web series is definitely gaining momentum.

*Unless a production is paying at least the full daily rate or that actor's customary rate, a producer cannot ask them to change their hair color or hair length, shave facial hair or radically change their weight (loose or gain 50 more pounds). The look they have when they are cast is likely the look they feel will get them booked. Asking for a profound physical change could potentially cost them income. It is unprofessional to ask an actor to do that without proper compensation. Unfortunately, that means a producer also cannot prohibit an actor from engaging in activities that are potentially risky. I've just postponed a shoot, because an actor received a face injury while sparring. I'll cover all of this in another blog about casting.