I Directed Sonnet 42 for The Sonnet Project!

I directed (adapted, shot, and edited too) another sonnet for Shakespeare Exchange‘s The Sonnet Project. A great project here in NYC that is aiming to film all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each performed by a different actor in a carefully chosen New York City location.

This time I shot Sonnet 42 about a jilted lover. The location I was assigned provided some logistical challenges; but we came through with a pretty little short film that I hope you’ll enjoy.

See more sonnets here, here, here, and here!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Sonnet Project’s Sonnet 143

I just realized that I forgot to post this when it went live! I directed a very short adaptation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 143 for NYC’s The Shakespeare Exchange. Check it out!


View more adapted sonnets here.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Directing

Leadership Sets The Culture On Set

There was a great letter from the ASC president Richard Crudo to the ASC members following the February death of Sarah Jones. You can read the whole thing here. What I want to focus on is his admonition that it is indeed the cinematographers – the leaders – who set the tone and the culture on a set. A few key quotes:

Those who make motion pictures for a living work long and hard at jobs we love, sometimes making significant sacrifices along the way. But we’re not curing cancer. We’re not even curing a hangnail. Twisted individuals for whom money, power, ego and prestige are the ultimate goals, however, treat the obsessive pursuit of these superficial rewards as being tantamount to conquering a fatal disease.

And…

As directors of photography, we have always been responsible for the safety of our crews, and it is incumbent upon us to find ways to be more decent…

I take it one step further. The entire leadership team, from Producers, to Directors, to First AD, and Cinematographers must engender this culture of safety. But it’s not really about safety. It’s about the value of humans. Human life, at it’s simplest; but also human thriving – quality of life, if you will. It’s not about a base set of rules that are bureaucratic and boring and hinder-some. It’s about an all-encompasing culture that values people and their enjoyment of their job. 

Film (and also theatre) is by nature a creative industry. As Crudo says, we are not curing cancer. We are making entertainment, and if we’re lucky, sometimes we’re making art. Entertainment and art are valuable, but these are not a real cause for holding the same hours as the medical profession. Do we really need to work 12, 14, or 16 hour days? To save money? Sometimes. But on a regular basis? No.

Indeed, studio television shows have come to the realization that they need to find a work-life balance or their best crew members will almost certainly burn out and the turnover ends up being more costly than simply shooting an easier schedule. There’s something to be said for the shorthand that develops on a set like that.

But a different mentality exists for many studio and independent film producers.

As film producers, we can tend to think that because our shoots are more limited – anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks to 3 months – we can ask our crew to PUSH. REALLY. HARD. It’s a limited time, right? They can rest when we’re done, right? No. No, because many of our crew are not about to go into post-production. They are actually, likely – hopefully – heading to their next gig. I say hopefully, because we hope for them that they are all able to make a full-time living at this film thing they love, right? Someone of them might even have less than a day to recover before hopping onto a flight or into a car for their next gig. That is the life of our below-the-line friends. For producers and directors to ask them to push really hard for three weeks straight is honestly kind of ridiculous and unreasonable.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying, “Don’t ask your crew to work nights.” I’m also not saying, “Never ask your crew to work long days.” I AM saying, “Don’t ask them to treat every single shooting day as an emergency.” If they know you value their health and their sanity, then when the REAL emergencies arise, they will be more willing to sacrifice. They will trust you, producers and directors. They will. I promise. Especially if the culture that has already been engendered on the set, by you, is one of quality of life.

It really is true that the leadership of a team sets the tone and the priorities on each set. While it’s great for camera crews to take ownership for their own selves and their crew members, as many have been quickened to do in the wake of Sarah’s passing, quicker, more permanent change has to come from the top down. I know several DPs who take that responsibility seriously and who treat their crew like family. They are leaders of integrity. They treat their teams like family. It’s time that producers and directors across the board embrace the culture of quality of life. And set that tone on their sets. 

On the sets at which I’ve been a First AD, a producer, or a director, I have indeed tried to do this. There have been times when I’ve asked for more from my crews (humbly). And there have been times when I’ve lost my temper (and apologized). But I hate when my time and my worth is undervalued and so I am loath to do it to others. So I when I challenge other indie film producers to do the same, it’s not coming from a pie-in-the-sky perspective. I know the cost of valuing people’s quality of life. I’ve actually done the math as a line producer. It’s not that much more money at the end of the day. But it is worth so much more to your crew, and to your integrity.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I directed theatre and it won an award!

It had been seven years since I attempted directing theatre. The last time was a lovely experience at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver, British Columbia via their emerging artist arm called Stone’s Throw Productions. I directed an abriged one-act adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. We called it Less Ado. It was three nights only and it was a blast. The show was sold out each night and the audiences were great.

But it had been a while and I was a little nervous, but looking for something to do, when Sharifa Williams emailed me about potentially directing the play she’d written, submitted, and got accepted into the Players Theatre’s Short Play & Music Festival. I loved the script (it was a topic that I’ve been working on a screenplay about). I loved the size of the project – a short play. I loved the opportunity. Ryan was on board as well.

Rehearsals were so rewarding. I love working with actors. I’ve directed two short films since directing theatre and the thing I think I’ve missed is the lovely luscious rehearsal process. And this one was no exception. I had five brilliant, kind, patient, hard-working, and reliable actors who were a joy to play with.

Of all the plays in Week 2 of the festival, Sharifa’s was the most production-heavy. We had costumes with blood, costumes with spikes, six full garbage bags, Tupperware with broccoli, and sound cues from the MTA. But as a theatre producer turned film producer, I was totally up for it. However, it meant a little less time at each rehearsal working on the acting. More time spent on tech. But it was worth it. It’s important to be able to find the balance of time necessary. This was good practice.

Tech rehearsal ran smoothly. Even though they’d requested five cues or less, they didn’t balk at my seven cue prompt book. And the actors were so on task I nearly drooled. They killed it. Sharifa had a few suggestions after the first show; but it only took a few adjustments for the actors to fix that.

And now, it’s just been announced that our play, the play Sharifa William’s wrote, has won the Audience Award for the Best of the Fest from Week 2!

Hooray!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Directing

Sonny at Newport Beach!

My short film will also be screening at Newport Beach Film Festival! I’m so excited!

Details here: Newport Beach Film Festival

1 Comment

Filed under Directing, Writing

My short film is hitting the festival circuit!

Sonny Poster

I’m so excited and proud to announce that my short film, SONNY, will have it’s world premiere on March 22nd at a film festival in Los Angeles. Then it will hit a festival in Austin, TX in April. Then it will return to California for a screening at a festival in Burbank! Here’s the details!

Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival – tickets here.
March 21, 2013 to March 24, 2013

International Family Film Festival 
May 1, 2013 to May 5, 2013

The ATTIC Film Festival
April 19, 2013 to April 20th, 2013

1 Comment

Filed under Directing, Writing

How to write a screenplay!

A friend of mine asked via email how one goes about writing a screenplay. I answered his question with this silly little list:

  1. Start with an idea. Often this sounds like: “What if this happened?” Where “this” is the crazy idea.
  2. Give the idea a hero.
  3. Give the hero a goal.
  4. Set up obstacles to that goal.
  5. Write an outline (which is basically just a list of “things that happen”).
  6. Flesh out the outline with more details in for each of the “things that happen.”
  7. Run the outline by someone who understands story. Revise accordingly.
  8. Repeat Step #7 until the outline is really good.
  9. Imagine the “things than happen” in your head and then write down what you “see” and “hear” in proper script format.
  10. Run the script by someone who understands story. Revise accordingly.
  11. Repeat Step #10 until the script is really good.

Then what? Well, then the real work begins.

Is this how you go about writing? What would your list look like?

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing