Thursday, January 24, 2013

Movie dreams do come true

About a year and a half ago, I first started exploring the Seattle film world.

Doing informational interviews, joining organizations like Women in Film, taking fun classes like Let's Make a Movie! with local teacher Nils Osmar.

One of my goals at the time was to work as a production assistant on someone else's film. And then, maybe, one day as a producer. But I saw this producer goal as a very unrealistic one. I already had one unstable, low-paying, creative career as a writer that I had to fit in around my better-paying day job as a technical writer. How would I ever earn the experience to be a producer?

Besides, I discovered, many people in the Seattle film world are also working day jobs. In film. For corporate clients like my very own Geeksoft. Then doing their creative projects on the sides for little or no money, or at their own expense.

Still, I perservered in my attempts to get a low-paying or volunteer gig as a production assistant. I just wanted to be on a film set. I never dreamed that I would leap right over the job of PA into producer. For my own short film, Planet of the Ex Boyfriends (which I wrote in the "Let's Make a Movie! class).

From one low-paying dream career to another
The first shoot is in two days. We'll be making a promotional video to use on Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

And, whoa, what an education it's been just getting ready two make a TWO MINUTE movie. The paperwork. The phone calls. The emails. The decisions. The desperate help I've solicited from other local producers. How do I do this? What form do I use for that? What kind of insurance do I need? Wait, I need insurance?!

Earlier on in this process, a generous person who offered advice warned me, "It's just as much work to make a short movie as a long one."

And I can see how that's true. As I go along in this process, I'll share the things I'm learning in more detail. But here's the most important thing I've learned so far. (Or rather, learned again, because it's the kind of lesson you have to learn over and over in your life).

I dreamed of being a screenwriter and producer. Now I am a screenwriter and  producer. No matter what happens with this project, I made my own dream come true (with much help and encouragement from others).

And that feels good.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Collaboration in the film world

I've learned a lot about the film world in the few days since I wrote my last post.

For example: it's absolutely great to have creative collaborators. But if you're relying on them, and they flake on you, you're screwed.

Best Boys, Gaffers, and Key Grips
Let me back up. One thing that really appeals to me about filmmaking is the collaborative aspect of it. I've always been fascinated by movie credits, and the strange terms that roll before me after a movie ends. Best boy, gaffer, key grip.

But mostly what makes me sit through the film credits every time is imagining how fun it would be to work with so many people. It would be so different as my life as a novelist, where I am mostly working in isolation, with no one to be accountable to except myself (except for that one glorious period in my life when I had a book contract).

In one of the special features on the Finding Nemo DVD, the Pixar screenwriters talked about how long it took to perfect their story.  But what struck me most - and made me the most jealous (besides the fact that they work for Pixar!) - was that they all had other people to bounce their ideas off. Partners. Collaborators.

And so far, in my short tenure as a writer/producer, collaborating with others has been the best part of it! It's been fun, educational, and most of all, incredibly motivational.

But now for the cautionary tale.

The ugly side of collaboration  
For a while now, I've been trying to get work as a production assistant on local films. I finally had a three-day, unpaid gig lined up for next week, and I was very excited. It seemed very organized and relatively "big-time," at least by my standards: there was a lot of crew and they were planning to shoot in both Seattle and Washington D.C.

Then it got cancelled. Because, from what I heard, some key collaborators -- all of whom were volunteers -- flaked on the producer to the point where she just couldn't move forward. Which, I'm sure, was heartbreaking for her.

This brings us to one of the conundrums of indie filmmaking. You need all the volunteers you can get, because who has any money to make films except Steven Spielberg? But if your volunteers flake on you, you'll never get your movie made.

Luckily my current collaborators are all reliable and very enthusiastic. I will be paying them eventually, although not much.

But what happened with this movie I was supposed to work on has driven home two very important points to me.

1) It's good to pay people if you at all can. (Thank you Geeksoft day job for bankrolling my project!)
2) Collaborating with others on a creative project can be exhilarating but also dangerous.*

*Of course I already knew #2, having had my fair share of bad experiences with, for example, rock bands with egos run amok. But those were never projects that I was sinking my own money or tons of creative energy into, the way I am with Planet of the Ex-Boyfriends.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The good news and the bad news

Fun stuff
Greetings and happy 2013!

My new year started off with some good news when I found out that Seattle Theater Readers will be doing a dramatic reading of my short screenplay "Planet of the Ex-Boyfriends" later this year.

Equally exciting, I'm gearing up to produce the film in tandem with award-winning Seattle director Oliver Tuthill of Blue Wood Films and Portland actress Tara Walker, among other talented cast and crew.

At the end of the month we'll go into production for a short promo video to anchor our online fundraising campaign.  Which brings me to my next topic. Over the next several months I plan to blog about the process of bringing this film to life. I'll discuss things like:

  • How terrifying/exciting it is to call yourself a "movie producer" for the first time
  • How terrifying/exciting it is to contemplate asking everyone you know for money
  • What works in online fundraising and what doesn't (as I teach myself)
  • What it's like from a first-timer's perspective to be part of a film production
  • What it's like to work as a  production assistant on other local films
 Soon I'll be launching a Facebook page for the movie (naturally) and be asking you all to like it (naturally) before I ask you all to donate to my fundraising campaign (naturally).

 Not so fun stuff
Mom had a dazzling smile (not fully shown in this picture)
As you may or may not know, my mom, Eve Agiewich, died on October 13, 2012 from lung cancer.

Anything I try to write about it right now just sounds saccharine. (One of her favorite words, by the way).

I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with her near the end and to be there when she died. Though traumatic to be present at her death, it was also one of the most profound experiences I've ever had.

Maybe I'll blog about that in the near future, maybe not. One day I'll be writing about her more for sure. A fictional version of her already featured prominently in BreakupBabe: A Novel, wherein she always gave our heroine Rachel good advice, which was always ignored.

Mom being her adventurous self in Alaska, Sept 2011
She was the best mom anyone could ever ask for and I miss her desperately.

Whose good advice will I ignore now?