Ice and Espionage. That was the title of the article about Serpentine that appeared on the cover this week of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. While so much of our media is consumed online, there is nothing like a printed newspaper.
It was last Monday when I started to get Google Alerts that the article that ran the previous week in the MetroWest Daily News had been picked up by the Associated Press. The article was published by outlets all over the United States. But seeing it “above the fold” on the front cover of a newspaper was not only particularly special but important for our promotional efforts.
Paul Lussier as Philip Harrison, a mysterious sponsor, and Kim Gordon as Marlene Baxter, the President of the American Figure Skating Federation, in Serpentine.
In as much as I am a filmmaker, I’m a marketer. As I’ve stated before, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing if nobody knows about it. I’ve often used the word herculean to describe the process of making a film. The same thing can be said about securing press. It’s one thing after a film is released, but at this early stage of Serpentine it’s even more welcome to promote the overall concept of the film – the sport of figure skating meets the Cold War.
As a former magazine publisher, I can see why they wanted some counter editorial on the cover. But coverage that worked from a reader interest point of view. Considering the political atmosphere in the United States that has polarized both sides, it makes sense to bring to readers an interesting project that just happens to have government intrigue in its storyline. It also lends credence to the fact, that figure skating, despite its challenges in the ratings over the last decade, still holds interest by general audiences. I saw this first hand at the World Figure Skating Championships in Boston and there are more than a few figure skating films and TV projects in development (I, Tonya anyone?).
Philip Harrison’s Bentley was supplied to the production by Foley Motorsports of Shrewsbury, MA
Of course the next steps to bring Serpentine to life is the post-production process. Having handed over the hard drive to our editor, conversations with our special effects supervisor and listening to score elements by our composer, the process is moving along nicely. Our aim is for a mid-February 2017 release on Amazon Prime along with select theatrical performances and promotion.
Regarding Amazon, it looks like they will soon be taking the route of Netflix as they seek to roll out their service in 200 countries. Obviously, as a filmmaker, this comes as great news. Since my films went up on all of Amazon’s platforms the exposure and viewership has increased substantially. And unlike some VOD services, Amazon pays filmmakers on every transaction. It’s a business model that works for all concerned. For the consumer they make the choice of what to watch without someone acting as a curator. For the filmmaker it offers an opportunity to showcase your hard work to a global audience. Honestly, there’s no point in doing this if it’s just going to sit on a shelf!
The post production process is one of organization and creativity. Take for example our composer Daniel Elek-Diamanta. Like his efforts on Justice Is Mind, he starts before he has seen one second of footage. Our collaboration begins with conversations about the story and the general atmosphere. He so hit the target the other day that I placed his score with some of the footage to see how it would work. Suffice to say, it brought Serpentine to life and will probably be the general theme of the film.
November 19, 2016 | Categories: Cold War, film industry, filmmaking, General, Justice is Mind, political thriller, Politics, Serpentine | Tags: Amazon, Bentley, composer, Daniel Elek-Diamanta, filmmaking, Foley Motorsports, Justice is Mind, media, MetroWest Daily News, newspaper, post-production, publicity, Serpentine, Telegram & Gazette, The Washington Times, TV ratings, United States, World Figure Skating Championships | Leave a comment
Denise Marco as Elizabeth Rogers and Isabella Ramirez as Suzanne Wilson.
Last Sunday principal photography on Serpentine, The Short Program wrapped! After eight months of writing and two months of pre-production planning, I was more than pleased with the end result. A special thanks to the cast, crew, location partners and sponsors for making this possible. After taking the past week to organize the video and sound files, the hard drive will transfer to our editor on Monday to begin the post-production process. It’s this stage that turns a puzzle into a completed print.
The FBI conference room scene.
But make no mistake about this process, as an independent filmmaker you are pretty much responsible for everything…even the weather. And while I believe organization and communication are critical to a successful production, it does come down to both diplomacy and flexibility. A film production, whether it’s a short or a feature, is unlike any other type of business. You start by yourself and then suddenly ramp up. For Serpentine that meant over 30 people and three locations (for Justice Is Mind it meant over 200 people and 15 locations). As a screenwriter there is a thrill like none other than watching your screenplay come to life. Isn’t this why we do what we do?
The Assistant Director, played by Vernon Aldershoff, during the FBI conference room scene.
For me this production was both a reunion as well as working with some terrific new people. It started with the FBI conference room scene at The Verve, Crowne Plaza. When Michael Coppola arrived I was immediately reminded of First World where he played a secret service agent. But it was the night before that I wrote an additional new scene for Michael and Vernon Aldershoff (Assistant Director in Serpentine and Henri Miller in Justice Is Mind). Of course, the last thing I wanted to do was to tell the cast and crew about a new scene when we didn’t even shoot the intended one! I waited to see if we were ahead of schedule and we were. It worked out great.
Paul Lussier as sponsor Philip Harrison and Kim Gordon as the President of The American Figure Skating Federation.
It was at Northstar Ice Sports that the word scope came into focus. First, I am beyond thankful to Denise Marco, the board and staff of Northstar for this opportunity. By scope I’m talking about the size of the set. It was about making sure all actors, cameras and crew were properly placed to make sure the scenes worked. For weeks I drew this out from the skating program, to camera and actor placements. What may not have seemed obvious to some would be very obvious in post-production.
Reuniting Kim Gordon and Paul Lussier from Justice Is Mind was a particular goal of mine from the beginning. Their on screen chemistry in Justice was what every director dreams of. So when they both signaled their availability for Serpentine I immediately signed them on to the project. As a director, there is also a comfort factor in terms of direction when working with actors that you know will deliver. In advance of our shooting I forwarded a detailed memo on character and scene development for all actors and crew. As time is a serious commodity on an independent film set, I think it’s best for everyone to understand the entire tone and feel of a scene when they arrive.
Directing Paul, Denise and Kim.
As a director I don’t believe in grandiose demonstrations of direction to actors and crew just to prove a point. In my simple view of it all, the most that should happen on set are adjustments. There’s no time to teach someone how to act on set. (Side note: On Justice Is Mind one adjustment I gave to an actress was how to say a particular phrase of profanity. I’ll just say this, it’s an American thing in terms of word emphasis and slang).
Our last day of filming was at a friend’s house. It was a fitting end to the production after coming down from two days of intense work at Northstar and the fact that there was only one line of dialogue. As I said to everyone, these scenes are largely atmospheric and what composers live for.
The MetroWest Daily News reported on Serpentine.
Another highlight of our week was when the MetroWest Daily News interviewed me about Serpentine and sent a photographer to our shoot at Northstar. Not only did they write an excellent article, but created a video as well. You can access both at this link.
Over the next few months I’ll be working on a variety of marketing and promotional efforts as we build towards our February release. During this time look for more stills, behind the scenes images and a trailer.
It’s not all serious on set. Isabella made a cake for Denise!
November 12, 2016 | Categories: Cold War, General, Justice is Mind, political thriller, Russia, screenwriting, Serpentine | Tags: Crowne Plaza Natick, FBI, figure skating, filmmaking, Foley Motorsports, independent film, Justice is Mind, MetroWest Daily News, Northstar Ice Sports, political thriller, screenwriting, Serpentine movie | Leave a comment