Monday, September 22, 2014

Directing My First Film

I am coming off of the most wonderful weekend of completely new feelings which meant...I had to blog.

I come from a long background of theater and stage work. But recently, I knew I wanted to shift gears and move into the world of film. One would think there are many similarities between these two arms of the entertainment world, but there are numerous differences as well. In theater, you rehearse and rehearse in order to get everything to come together and flow in this non-stopping fake reality that we create in front of the eyes of an audience. For a good 2-3 hours, you are immersed in that world. For film, you plan and plan to make sure you cross every 't' and dot every 'i' so that you can come together on set, work moments out of order, create magic that is fleeting and then the moment is gone as quickly as you started. Some may find my comparison trite, but it's sort of apples and oranges. 

Sure, I was able to bring my background to this new platform - but boy did I learn much along the way. I assembled an amazing team combined of people that have been doing it forever along with those that (like me) came from theater or were completely new to the experience. What we were able to accomplish in just two days was (if I can be so bold to say) so inspiring and gave me a new appreciation for so many people involved in film. 

Here are just a few things I'll take with me from this experience:

1) From now on, I'll never look at credits of the cinematographer the same way ever again. You need one that has the eye of an artist, the patience of Job, and can fulfill a director's vision while bringing his own into play. Jeff Turick was all of that and SO much more. He brought an incredible professional team to our project and I am forever grateful.

2) Make sure you choose an AD that has been doing this for years, can answer your question before you ask it, and has a voice that can be heard down the street. I had that ten fold. 

3) When looking for your designers, you want those that are confident in their abilities, but also not afraid to shift gears if you ask them. A production designer that thinks of so much more than simply set design; instead thinks of everything that is happening around the production on set. Costume, makeup, and hair pros that work as a well-oiled machine not only doing amazing work, but getting those actors to set on time. I think I was spoiled my first time out of the gate.

4) There can never be too many people willing to be production assistants on set. Those extra hands can come from producers who (like you) want to see the most amazing work accomplished (and to stay on schedule); high school filmmakers who long to make this a career and will give their all to assist in any way they can; the people who own the home you have invaded as your location; or even the photographer who changes hats depending on what he is needed to do. Not a single complaint was heard from the awesome people we had filling those spots this weekend. 

5) Never underestimate the power of food on a set and how it can aid in a pleasant atmosphere - keeping everyone motivated. Lucky am I to have had Craft Services that took us from breakfast to dinner and everything in between! Sweets, healthy food, hot meals…and not one Pizza in sight!

6) Casting is EVERYTHING on a film set. It's all about getting in and getting out. So you want to utilize actors that can turn it on quickly, give you exactly what you want (no matter the amount of takes) and can amaze you over and over with the heart-wrenching acting choices they make. My cast was all of that and more. At times, I felt as if they didn't even need a director because they were just THAT good.

I'm thrilled to be a part of this industry and to continue learning all that I can. Moving from production to post-production brings on so many new challenges and adventures. And naturally - more money is needed to continue to work towards completion (so yes, a crowd sourcing project is in our future). I will continue to work hard, learn much, and realize that I don't know it all: but it sure is fun to be 45 and still gaining new knowledge.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Many Faces of Joan Rivers

The past few days, I have had moments where I just find myself crying as if I have lost a family member. I keep trying to figure out why the death of Joan Rivers has affected me so much, but as I take to social media - I see that I'm not alone. 

When I left home at 18 years old, my then girlfriend (still best friend) made me a mixed tape of songs that also included a portion of a Joan Rivers routine. That friend was showing then how laughter gets us through tough times, (ours was the fact we were going to be thousands of miles away from each other). I lost all of my grandparents by the time I was 19 and it hit me this past week that Joan Rivers
was like the Jewish grandmother I never had. The one that would keep you laughing, give you advice (in a no-holds-barred way), and oddly enough - one I turned to each week. Like the new generation that only knew her because of Fashion Police on the E network, I'd tune in each week to hear what she'd have to say about what someone had worn to some event that most of the country would never attend. Or I'd log onto Youtube to see her web series interviewing people from her bedroom. Her's was a sense of humor that while not for everyone, always made me laugh with a 'did she really just go there' type of response.

But even more than the laughter, I loved the realness of her. The softness you could see if you ever watched her on her reality show, or the documentary on her life or even at times when she appeared on the Apprentice. All of these showed another side of this hard working woman that constantly gave back.

As someone who believes strongly in paying-it-forward, this woman did it all the time. She would tell the younger generation of comics and entertainers to give back to their public. Stop and talk to fans. Answer a question for the media. And help out those less fortunate. What she did for God's Love, We Deliver  for the past 25 years is incredible. The woman was talking about AIDS (and doing benefits for those suffering from it) long before entertainers were afraid to even be associated with the word. 

I am amazed by the amount of work an 81 year old woman was doing weekly when I find I am tired by Wednesday. Her schedule would wear anyone out. But she wasn't slowing down. She reinvented herself over and over from comic, to TV host, to spokesperson, business woman - the list goes on and on. Inspiring for any entrepreneur that believes in constantly learning and doing something new (and spoke volumes to this particular entrepreneur). 

I think the reason so many of us are having problems with her death is that she wasn't sick. She was at the top of her game. A routine procedure wasn't supposed to take down the hardest working woman in entertainment. And yet life can turn on a dime. There are no guarantees and we do not always get explanations. But we can learn to live each day to the fullest. To not put off something we may have wanted to do. Watching her life is a great example of how to go after your dreams and not put anything off.

One of the few photos I've kept in my office from 2002 
Yes, Joan Rivers had many faces (and I'm not talking about the plastic surgery). I'm talking about the entertainer, the mother, the grandmother, the philanthropist, the entrepreneur, the woman that left us too soon when she still had so much more to give.