Saturday, June 29, 2013

Biding Time and Plotting Mayhem

There is a common image on any film shoot that is also a metaphor for how film works. I've seen it on our first shoot on the Privateers and I've seen it on Demon Under Glass and I've seen it on the last feature that I worked on last month. This is also true no matter the size of the production. The image is of a punch of people sitting around waiting for something to happen. To outsiders, it looks like there is a lot of time being wasted on any given set. While that can be true on occasion, there are reasons for the gaps in action for the most part. Even long gaps in action seldom happen without good reason. There can be technical difficulties with lighting or a piece of equipment. There could be a delay in getting a prop of a piece of equipment. There could be any number of weather problems that grind things to a halt. The most maddening are paperwork delays like the permit or the unions. We had all of those happen at some point during Demon Under Glass. Everyone involved in the shoot understood these delays as part of the business. Still it is tough on anyone who works on a film to sit
Matty waiting for his cue during our tiniest shoot to date.
around and wait. It is especially frustrating when the problems are beyond our control.

An opportunity presented itself a few months back that looked great for Demonspawn as a project and for us personally and professionally. A film came along that offered some work around the time we were thinking of shooting. It was fabulous timing. The money would be of great use for the shortfall in fundraising. We would get some long needed practice working a rigid shooting schedule, and I was able to fill in the missing crew people from the roster of that film. I knew many of them, but didn't know they'd be interested in working a web series. Fortunately, they all were. Also, working for that show had me on a lot of scouting missions during which I found locations that were lifesavers for our limited resources. Admittedly, there would be challenges in shooting around another shoot, but it was something we were looking forward to tackling. Things couldn't be better...until they weren't anymore.

The production we were planning to work is going though just about everything I mentioned above and a few things I hadn't. That is a drag. We need to wait to figure out if our production will be stepping on theirs. We have a lot of personnel in common now from our DP to our Production Assistants and our Art Department. We have to find out what days of the week they're shooting to make sure our crew isn't seven days a week for the entire time our shoot is going. We also need to be certain that we won't have a whole lot scheduled only to find that shoot is on and we're committed to work (it is really, really bad form to go back on a commitment no matter what. Word gets around if you pull that kind of thing). And then, there is still the monetary shortfall if we begin before this other shoot and how to overcome that. None of this is new, but it can be a bit disheartening. There were things we could do. We have to cast three parts. We need to table read and even rehearse. There is a lot to do before we walk onto a location.

So I talk to my cast and they agreed that they would prefer to start when we could work straight through. The reasoning made sense. They get a lot of scripts for auditions or for parts. Even if things are slow that could mean three or four parts while they wait. They would forget and get out of the character's head if there is too long a gap between a rehearsal or table read. It didn't make sense to cast the available parts for much the same reason. Most actors expect that they will be working soon after they are cast. Otherwise, it's a waste of their time. That's another thing that a production company does not want to be known for – a time waster. My lead was really clear that the cast can pull it together on a dime. It would be best to get everything together first and then plow ahead. The caveat to that is that a location may come up out of sequence that we should grab when it is available. He though that was doable as well.

So we're waiting. I was unsure of what to say in the blog, because it could all change the day after it was posted. Finally, I decided to just detail everything and hope it made sense. We think the show will commence sometime in the next week or so with casting and the actual shoot would be a couple of weeks after that. Everything will be documented for readers here to follow. Everyone involved knows that this process will be heavily documented. Spoilers will be clearly marked.

We have no idea what will be happening in the next few weeks. The only thing certain is that it won't be dull. Thank you again for you patience. I'd also like to thank my amazing cast and crew. They're ready to follow us anywhere. That could be interesting.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Casting About for New Cast

It's time to talk about casting! No matter how many actors we get to know, I never have enough of the right ones available when we want to shoot something. That means that we have to do a casting call or Breakdown. Our feelings are decidedly mixed about these. On the one hand, a casting session is the first indication that a project is real. There is also nothing like hearing the dialog spoken by actors for the first time. That can also be the first time you realize that the dialog needed to be polished something fierce. But there is another side to casting that makes us cringe.

Before I get to that, let me show you an article that gives a clear and concise description of how a casting session should be.

Jon and I can add some numbers to that list that makes us dread going into a casting session.

Number 21 – Please, keep your clothes on unless we ask you to remove them (and we won't).

This has happened during the auditions for Demon Under Glass. The part was for a man who is mistaken for Molinar in the hooker sting. More than one actor thought, well if I'm about to get in bed with a hooker, I need to get naked. We are not talking about lifeguard physiques here. I thought the casting director was going to dive under his desk.

Number 22 – Please, make sure that your headshot is within ten years of your actual age.

We have had some actors come in that were decades older than their headshots. In one case, many decades older. Time makes many changes in one decade. Come one people, 70 is NOT the new 30!!!

Number 23 - Please, make sure that the height listed on your headshot is within six inches of your actual height in either direction.

We've expected a 5'8 inch female and gotten 6'2 inches. And we've expected a 5'8 inch man and gotten 5'2 inches. With an ensemble cast, we cast relative to the height of the leads. These numbers are important.

Number 24 – If you insist on using a prop, please make sure that prop makes sense.

We were auditioning for a tough guy space pirate, as you do, was using a waiter's cork screw as a substitute for a switch blade. It took us forever to figure that out, and then we were fixated on what happened during this man's day that he thought switch blade and came up with corkscrew. We didn't hear a word he was saying.

Number 25 – If you come up with your own stage direction, please try to remember it.

An actor during a call back decided to do a long monologue while pretending to be tied to a chair. Ballsy, we thought. But then, he kept getting out of the chair to dramatically stalk about the stage. Even after Jon reminded him twice that he was supposed to be tied up by his own choice, he kept getting up. Even when Jon made it an official adjustment to the performance, he didn't remember. Next.

Number 26 – If you don't know how to pronounce a word or what it means, PLEASE ask!

That's self explanatory and should be common sense. It really isn't. And while the guesses at words and how they are meant in sentences can be highly entertaining, it really isn't good for anyone. Casting is difficult when it's running smoothly, because you are rejecting people who are putting themselves out for your judgment. It's worse when things are unnecessarily difficult.

With all of this weighing on our minds, we have put out a casting call. You can read the character There are very mild spoilers in the descriptions. We've had literally hundreds of submissions for each part. We also have suggestions from the cast and crew. It's a lot to go through. It's quite daunting. However, we'll be having the finalists do scenes with our leads. This is great, because we can really get a feel for the actors that have the best chemistry with the cast. If all involved agree, we will record these sessions as a perk for the donors and for the DVD release!
breakdowns here:

Next up, more on the final script!