The Deadline Chicago Premiere!

The Deadline is getting its Chicago premiere on November 9, 2017 at the opening night of the Chicago Comedy Film Festival. The screening will be at Second City’s Harold Ramis Film School in Old Town.

The screening includes five short films and an opening night reception that starts at 7pm.

Get your tickets here!

Back from the Middle Coast Film Festival

 

This is way overdue! I went to the 2017 Middle Coast Film Festival last month in Bloomington, IN.1

It was a great weekend! The festival was so well-organized. The parties were great. The other filmmakers were great.

The screenings were excellent, with average and peak quality of films far above what I’ve been seeing at other festivals this year.

And Bloomington, IN is a lovely college town. The screening venues and projections were great too, especially the main theater.

I can’t recommend this festival enough.

 

I’m also really happy that The Deadline got to premiere there. They gave it two screenings, including one in the main theater.

It’s really amazing, the first time you see a film you made up on a big screen with a professional audio system.

I had tears in my eyes. Then it was too much and I had to leave for a minute because sometimes I get weird watching my stuff with other people in the room.

And Off Book won the award for Best Comedy Short!

But really, I want to share some of the films that I saw and made me laugh:

 

Lovewatch by Harrison Atkins. One of the best/funniest things I’ve seen this year. Unfortunately, he hasn’t posted in online yet, but here’s another great weird short from him:

 

The Day Before. The full film isn’t released yet, but here’s the trailer:


  1. There are a lot of Bloomingtons in the Midwest, which inspired me to write one of these ridiculous Weird Hemingway stories

The Deadline will premiere at the Middle Coast Film Festival!

I’m belated in reporting this with being so busy lately, but I’m really excited that The Deadline has found a home for its world premiere at the Middle Coast Film Festival.

It’s a really wonderful and up-and-coming festival in Bloomington, IN. The dates are August 10-12 and I’m planning to drive down with some of the cast & crew, plus some filmmaking friends that are also screening that weekend at Middle Coast. And Off Book also got in! I love festivals that are driving distance because my recent life has been sadly bereft of road trips.

 

Festivals and other news

Catching up on some great news from the past month for a few of my projects.

Off Book

  • The film premiered last month at the Twister Alley Film Festival and was nominated for best screenplay, best actress, and best supporting actor in the short film category. And it took home the award for best comedy short film.
  • I was nominated for best director at the Portland Comedy Film Festival last month.
  • Off Book was the winner of the Los Angeles CineFest for May 2017.

The Deadline

No official announcement yet, but I have word that it will be premiering soon at a film festival…

A new untitled project

I’m directing a short that I wrote on June 10. This is my first directing project in a year and I decided to make something quick and relatively inexpensive while getting together money and a script for a feature film.

The new project is basically my version of a rom-com, if the film ended after the meet cute because everyone was so traumatized.

Pre-production stress

Last month I met with a DP to set a date for shooting a short film on June 10th. I wrote it and I’m going to direct it. And I’m producing it as I don’t have a go-to producer yet, a real partner to handle the big picture stuff of securing locations and finding talent and all that.

It’s not fun. I don’t hate it but it is not fun. What I don’t like about casting and hiring and finding locations and arranging all the resources to be on a certain day is this: it’s asynchronous. It’s a big spreadsheet with a lot of pending items. You can’t brute force it. You can’t spend 12 hours straight just knocking it out.

You have to wait for people to get back to you with someone’s email and then they do and you email that person and then you have to wait to hear back from them and they say “no, sorry, we don’t want you to film in our bar” and then you have to find another one.

It’s loose ends all over the place. Interlocking pieces that depend on other pieces, and endless if/else’s branching out in the rows and columns. It makes me slightly insane.

But there’s a date set, an immovable date slowly creeping toward you. Having gone through it a few times now, I know that on that date, everything will be there. Maybe not the way I hoped, but everything we need will be there.

The only thing that keeps me up at night is rain.

The possibility that it will rain on June 10 and that not everyone will be available for the rain date of June 11. Or that the Gods just decide that it will rain all that weekend and I have to decide if we’re going to make a mess in the mud and put everyone through a rainy production (if that’s even possible?) and scramble for tents at the last minute, or if we have to call the whole thing off and re-schedule.

On the bright side, it gets better. Going through this with The Deadline was crushing. There wasn’t a day from January 1 to March 22, 2016 when I didn’t feel like it was all going to fall apart at any moment. Now, it’s not so bad. It’s stressful, but I know that it will work out. If an actor drops out at the last minute, I’ll find another one. If the DP falls ill the morning of, I’ll figure something out.

You plan as best you can and then when shit goes sideways, you just take a deep breath and say “ok, what are our options?” It’s a kind of zen-like clarity that I actually enjoy in way. Once you’ve decided completely that you will make this thing happen, the setbacks don’t seem to matter. There’s no time to care or be angry.

The ship is moving and there’s no stopping it. When the ship springs a leak, do you jump overboard? No, you get a bucket and start bailing out the water. When your first mate mutinies, do you curse his lack of loyalty? No, you push him overboard and promote someone else. OK maybe this analogy is getting out of hand.

Anyway, it’s not life or death. It’s just comedy or art or whatever you want to call it. Once I’m done with this fucking spreadsheet, it will all be fun again.

Film festivals, feedback, and re-cutting

If last year was about learning how to plan for and execute production, this year has been learning about festivals.

I’ve had mixed feelings as one short has been doing very well on the festival circuit and the other one, the one that I put all my money (and credit) into and basically poured months of my life into–that one, The Deadline, is 0 for 9 so far with festivals.

Some of the ones I applied to were long-shots, but some were not. Like the Portland Comedy Film Festival, where another film I directed, Off Book, got me a best director nomination but The Deadline wasn’t selected.

The frustrating thing about it is the lack of feedback. You just get a letter that invariably states that “there were so many great submissions this year but we had to make difficult decisions.” I guess there’s no real easy way to say no to people. And it would be a tremendous amount of work to write a personal note to everyone that submitted.

I’ve been showing The Deadline to some filmmaker friends, ones with more festival experience to get their feedback. Mostly I’ve gotten the response that at 13 minutes and change, it’s hard to program. The sweet spot for shorts is 3-7 minutes. So I cut a minute out of it and I may cut another minute and a half out of it in the next month to see if that improves things. It’s not ideal — I would rather show a truncated version than let the original version sit on my hard drive. But I’ve been able to find areas where the story slows down a bit, places where a cut doesn’t change the story, just changes how its told.

Unfortunately, it’s really hard to cut when the sound is already mixed and the score was written for a certain length. I can kind of cut around the score or use audio effects to hide the cuts in the soundtrack, but there’s not much leeway in certain areas.

Off Book is only seven minutes and it’s more of a typical comedic structure with a high concept that gets executed pretty efficiently. It’s definitely easier to program and more of an audience-pleaser, while the Deadline meanders a bit more and sits in some moments longer, which makes it less likely to get a shot.

Anyway, I don’t wallow in the defeat. I’m making another short next month and have plans for a feature, maybe even as soon as this year. Making The Deadline was like going to film school and in a way this is the final lesson. Regardless of how it does, it was worth it and I stand by the work.

Another new teaser for The Deadline

New teaser for The Deadline

The Deadline is complete!

After many hours of editing and exporting and fixing and sound mixing and color grading and translating and other things, the film is ready to go.

We started submitting it to festivals this week and hopefully it will be coming to a theater near you soon. If not, it will be available for free online at some point (although that point might not be until late 2017 because festivals tend to have strict rules about where it can be shown).

If you want to see it when it’s available online or near you, you should sign up for the newsletter.

How to Make a Short Film with SAG Actors (and not kill yourself)

UPDATE: I’m putting together a much more comprehensive guide to successfully navigating the SAG process. It’s written for low-budget indie producers and you can find out more about it here (and download a free checklist with every step in the SAG process). 

This post is based on my personal experience dealing with SAG-AFTRA’s Chicago local. Most of the information I got from attending a seminar for producers, run by Kathy Byrne, Director of TV/Theatrical here in Chicago, and from actually going through the process while making The Deadline.

This is meant to be a primer for working with SAG under the Short Film Agreement to address the most common questions that come up and demystify the process.

It’s not a complete explanation of every detail of the contract1 Read the contract before you sign it!

Disclaimer: Some of this information may have changed since last year and while I tried my best to get everything right, I may have misunderstood some things. This is not legal advice and is meant to give you an overview and a basic understanding of how things work. Consult your SAG-AFTRA local for questions and guidance.

(more…)


  1. For example, I’m not going to talk about how you’re not allowed to require an actor to be completely nude at an audition and that you must permit them to wear pasties or a G-string. 





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