Sunday, March 2, 2014

Better Days conclusion: Telling a story to the biggest audience possible

I think any project that involves more than one person, and possibly many one person projects take on a life of their own. I also think that everyone has been part of something that has suddenly become to important to not complete to the highest value. A project becomes the sum of all the smaller pieces added to the possibility that the project itself has manifested.

I think this is especially true with film. A film started with a concept, then a script, then a direction crew, then a set crew, then a cast, then a musical composer then a post-production staff then an audience. It's big, even when we're talking about a short film like “Better Days.”

For those who are just now hearing about “Better Days,” let me give you a little insight. “Better Days” is a short film by Rocket House Pictures produced in early 2014. It's comprised of 5 smaller scenes that tell a story of two old friends. The story is, unrequited love, reconnection, adultery and murder. In many ways, the themes in this short film are cliché, but the treatment of these themes are softly understated and often embedded in negative space. These are the fancy words to describe a short, small budget, independent film. And we all love short, small budget, independent films.

Rocket House Pictures is a small film and media company located in Denver. There are four members on staff at Rocket House Pictures. There is no payroll department. The crew for “Better Days” was the above mention four member staff and four additional crew members. The cast of the film is a startling five members.

We spent four days shooting this five scene short film. Our locations: a taxi, a outside bench, Kilgore Books, a patio and a hotel room. We paid nothing for sets.

When I say that a project becomes an entity into itself I'm not kidding. As you may or may not know, I did write this screenplay, and I got the opportunity to direct it. I met many people, actors, photographers and people at the locations. I learned about actors' processes, I learned about sound recording. I learned about the taxi driver industry. These things don't seem so great, but added together and learned about in such a short period of time, it really is fantastic.

As I said, a project gets bigger than its parts.

On the surface, I may seemed like another writer/director for a small arthouse film. And I think there is some truth in that. I would never ask for support, either financially or of viewers if this film were just my own. Hell, I have two novels out that are just my own and my sales will prove that I don't ask for support. Working in film, this one particularly, I feel inclined to ask for support on behalf of everyone involved.

I feel a certain level of commitment to the film itself. We've made this movie from page to screen. Any film that gets made deserves an audience if only to witness the miracle that a film can be completed. I believe in Gio Toninelo as cinematographer, and I believe that he has created a visually stunning movie. He and I have worked together for years and, all willing, we will continue to work together for many more.

Passed commitment, I feel a very resounding responsibility to the cast of this film. I have every intention to further the careers of each and every one of the actors of “Better Days.” I think Andrew Katers is one of the most talented and professional actors a director can find. He worked tireless on character development, he choreographed the fight scene, he helped rewrite bad parts of the script. Anyone who needs a leading man, a handsome devil, dedicated worker, an insightful actor and a martial arts fighter, give Andrew Katers a job. And Aeon Cruz. Aeon Cruz is enigma. Aeon is a musician, actor, model, and artist. Aeon is a quick study. She gains a quick master of character and scene. She's the kind of person to simply “own it.” Aside from all professional attributes I can give about Aeon, let me just say, she's a joy to be around. She's funny, she's considerate and she's quick to laughter. Of the other three actors: Alicia Barreti, Alfred Ferraris and Mathias Leppistch, I hope to work with them again, and in the meantime, I hope they find more work too.

This sense of responsibility to the cast and the crew, comes to this: gaining the widest audience as possible.

Here we go. Most production teams will do their best to campaign for money before they even begin. I understand this. This means that the production company needs money for equipment or equipment rental. They may have to pay some of their staff. They may need money for locations, and all the other unforeseeable items. There are plenty of unforeseeable items. For instance, on the first day of shooting “Better Days,” we had an outside scene and the temperature that day was in the single digits. The way we had the whole thing blocked, we would not have been able to shoot on any other day. I would imagine a reschedule would kill most of the budget for a small production. Most films need money at the onset, and if the money does not arrive, no film gets shot.

Rocket House Pictures does it differently. We are blessed to have most of the equipment. We are blessed to know just about everyone in town. Gio's friend Vyron drives a cab, my friend Richard does special effect make-up. Gio's better half, Jenna runs a craft service company. Travis knows everyone else in town, he got the Ramada and the bookstore where we filmed. I must say, it is nice to have a big network of people who are willing and have the ability to help for favors rather than money.

We're about to ask for money. Funny thing about us, our movie is already shot, edited and otherwise complete. It begs the question, doesn't it? Why does a completed film need money? Well, remember all the favors we owe? Remember all the actors' careers we want to further? It comes down to one thing: getting our film in front of as many people as we possibly can. It means getting as many audiences as we possibly can. And since we're talking about a short film, we're talking about the film festival circuit.

Film festivals are wonderful place to meet other filmmakers, actors and production people. They are also a place to meet future investors, business partners and future collaborators. And they are great places to find distribution. And these are just for the filmmakers. For our actors, a film festival means the potential for more gigs, and perhaps even some paying gigs. The film festival is the goal. And this means we need money. It costs anywhere from $15 to $200 just to submit to a festival. Let's assume the average entry is $50.00, and the average acceptance rate is ten percent. In this scenario we'd need a minimum of $500 just to get one audience. You see where I'm going with this.

Giving to a film, giving to filmmakers or giving to art or an artist is the best thing you can possibly do. It will keep these people off the street and busy creating art. Think of it like this: “Better Days” had an average daily cast and crew of 10 people. If you give to us, that means there are ten more people making art and ten less stealing your hubcaps. And I thank you for your support.

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