Tuesday, November 24, 2009

LASERGUN - A Three day feature film - WRAPPED

So for the movie LASERGUN I wanted to try an experiment.

I have always enjoyed the twists and turns that improvisation can produce but hated that it was generally great moments that were separated by imperfect or sloppy moments as well, so I had an plan; I wanted to transcribe improvisation and only keep the good parts and then transform what was left into a script.

On November 8th I gathered a handful of actors in my apartment and gave then the freedom to take a story anywhere they wanted. I coached the work from the side, sometimes suggesting that they go here or there with their improv, but for the most part it was up to them.

I had introduced the idea of a a homemade lasergun and one of my friends had already started building the prop. The group came up with some incredible stuff.

After the work was transcribed and edited, we met on the 15th for a read-through of the script. Some people had created more than one character in the improvisation so we had to bring on some more actors to fill the extra roles.

Finally, over the 18, 19 , and 20th of November, we shot a full feature script. We had such a tight shooting schedule because I was trying to do the feature for absolutely no money, which was not achieved, and one of my co-producers and DP, Matthew Bray, was able to come up with a free crew fro three days.

Yes we had an 18 hour day. Yes, at one point we all got really loopy and started singing songs while replacing the lyrics with references to poop, but in the end, the important thing to remember is that we shot a movie in just three days.

We operated with two matching HVX cameras so that we could get though the whole thing while shooting twice as fast.

Now the editing begins...

Many thanks to the amazing cast and fantastic crew. I would go through and name them all, but I am typing this at five in the morning and my eyes are burning.

The whole idea came from a challenge that I made to Jay Stern, my friends and co-producer of Iron Mule. I gave him a year to shoot a feature and somehow he ended up with nothing with three months to go on th clock. I jumped in the bet as well. The stakes were that if we have not both shot a feature by Feb 2010, then we would both host the show naked.

So, if we had three months, why did we both shoot our movies so quickly? Uh... because we're dumb.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shooting Wrapped on Jay Stern's feature

We successfully got a feature film in the can yesterday.

An entire feature. Shot in one day.

Because of the time constraints it obviously had to be a simple project -- three actors and one location.

But to complicate things, we didn't have a script written going into it. I developed a basic story and characters beforehand with the actors (Marian Brock, Paul Herbig and Mickey Ryan) and the cinematographer (Alan McIntyre Smith). Dialogue was improvised, and we shot the movie in sequence so we could write as we went, stopping before each scene or sequence to figure out what needed to happen next.

We shot at Alan's apartment.

Alan had another self-imposed challenge: he wanted to go the entire day without using a single light. This led him to make some interesting decisions. For example, for the last scene, the sun had set, so in order to illuminate the location enough that we could see the actors' faces, Alan decided to light about 25 candles and use a slow shutter speed on the camera. This gave this scene, our only handheld shot in the movie, a completely magical quality that worked perfectly with the subject matter.

Obviously an entirely improvised movie will be a challenge to edit. And while we have enough footage to make a full feature-length film, I may find that it is better in a 30-40 minute version. We'll see once I start cutting.

I will say that I was really impressed by the willingness of the actors and cinematographer to really throw themselves into such a crazy idea. The actors especially were fearless in putting themselves on the line and making fully committed choices. They really gave up their egos to the service of the project, which is a really rare quality in an actor, even actors as talented and experienced as these.

We had a pretty short day to get everything done. Two of the actors had a job last night and we wanted to complete the shoot before Alan's fiancée came home from work. So we spent 11 hours, from 7am to 6pm, including lunch, to shoot.

Alan and I have a long working relationship, and I've also worked regularly with Mickey and have known Paul and Marian for several years. This was a major element which helped make it possible for us to pull this together in such a short time. Not to mention that my four collaborators are really amazing at what they do.

So that's it for my feature. Stills are below. I'm looking forward to seeing how Victor's shoot turns out!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Jay and Victor Feature Film Challenge

Last February, Iron Mule co-host Jay Stern announced before the Iron Mule audience that he was going to shoot a feature film by February, 2010. Iron Mule co-host Victor Varnado challenged Jay: if he fails to shoot a feature by February, 2010, then he'll have to host the February Iron Mule show naked. Jay, in the heat of the moment, flush with the prospect of an entire year before him, and, honestly, not thinking clearly, accepted the challenge.

Well it's November and no feature has been shot. Yet.

And the challenge has heightened; Victor has also vowed to shoot a feature by February. Both features shoot this month, and Jay and Victor have promised to premiere trailers for their newly-shot features at the February, 2010 Iron Mule show. Let's hope that's what happens. Otherwise there may be some nudity.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Notes From Our November 7th Screening

Hello and welcome to our November Screening Recap! An unseasonably warm day lead to another bang-up Iron Mule show, with short films from as far away as Dublin, Ireland and Portland, Oregon. Only years of extensive Programming Yoga could allow for this much stretching.

The show got off to a rousing start with the introduction of Special Guest Judge Michael Kupperman, cartoonist, writer and illustrator extraordinaire, whose work has been seen in The New Yorker, Fortune, and The New York Times, and on Comedy Central, Saturday Night Live and BBC2. Mr. Kupperman led us through a dramatic reading of several of his comic panels, illustrations and satiric advertisements. It was like cartoons with the closed captioning on, and it was fun.

Once Mr. Kupperman was briefed on the task ahead of him, we moved on to the first two films of the evening, also satires of ads. Not usually a fixture of Iron Mule screenings, the two "mockvertisements" nonetheless overcame the shortcomings of the format by being spot-on parodies, funny and short. "Debt Consolidated," by Josh Bass, focuses on a company offering to clear your debt by first explaining how money works (hint: it doesn't come from God), and "Expedulate," by dpShorts promotes a pill guaranteed to speed up the duration of intercourse for men so that their wives can get some work done. Josh Bass will be back next month with "Joey & Jerome's Artistic Meaningful Independent Film," a satire of epic proportions. And we're halfway through a series of four films by dpShorts; next up is "Balls," just in time for Christmas.

The next block of films introduced by hosts Jay Stern & Victor Varnado was composed of Foreign English films, or as Jay described them, "Films in English from countries other than America." After Victor & Jay debated which English-speaking country was more "foreign" (I think it was a draw), the set began with "Something for the Wickend," a British "Office"-type story set in a sexually-promiscuous candle distributor. Next up was "The One About the Sheep," a 2-minute short short from London by Iron Mule alum Toby Roberts about Australians, their wives and their livestock. And closing out the set, from Dublin, was "Bleeding Love," a shaggy-dog story of love won and blood lost. As Guest Judge Kupperman pointed out afterward, "Love transcends language." Or, in these cases, heavy accents.

Our penultimate pair of films started with "Who's Good Looking," an unusual short comprised of a single uninterrupted shot, from far-flung Portland, Oregon. And returning to Iron Mule after last month's successful screening of "Gazoontite," Jack Ferry brings us "Breaking News," a film he put together in a week about a live news broadcast gone awry. Two great examples of the digital revolution at work. And Jack was on hand to tell us about the parameters of his project, which was a Round 2 submission for the FOX reality show, On The Lot. He didn't get in, but we still love him.

Rounding out the evening's program was an experimental student film by Caleb Foss, "An Introduction to Physics." Caleb came down from Purchase, NY to tell us about the challenges of working on the film, which included developing errors made by the lab (fortunately adding to the "experimental" look) and special effects enhanced by the heavy inhalation of bleach. Kids today... The mockumentary, modeled after black-and-white educational films, wreaks playful havoc with it's self-serious, sternly-narrated source material.

While the ballots were being counted, audience members were treated to this month's Wanna Be A Star? film, "Aluminum Siding," a collaboration between dp (of dpShorts) and Iron Mule alum Michael Goldburg ("Happy Trails"). Previous WBAS? actress Jami Simon was more than game as a foul-mouthed, rapping door-to-door saleswoman targeting brownstones, the Met, and other unlikely prospects. For more details regarding this monthly competition, please visit our website: http://www.ironmulenyc.com/.

With all the counting said and done, Guest Judge Kupperman announced the evening's winners. The Audience Award went to "An Introduction to Physics," and the Judges' Award went to "Bleeding Love." Congratulations to our winners, and hey, don't let it go to your heads.

Filmmakers and audience members alike gathered out in the 92YTribeca cafe to debrief and decompress. Meanwhile, Congress debated a budget-neutral, 3,000 page proposal to allow Iron Mule to continue bringing great short comedy from around the world to Tribeca. Tune in before December 5th to see if it passed!