There is that moment during pre-production when suddenly you shift into a higher gear. That moment came this week with location scouting in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Personally, I find location scouting one of the most interesting parts of the filmmaking process.
After the actors are cast, it comes down to the location. Of course they have to be captured brilliantly by a talented crew, but finding the right location encompasses a variety of factors. Does the scheduling work between the location and film? Does it work geographically for the actors and crew? Does it fit to the story? Unless a set is custom built to the script, there are always story adjustments after a location is secured.
Just as I mentioned last week, one of my jobs is to make sure a location knows exactly what they are getting into when they sign on to a film project. I’ll be working on a proposal to one of the locations this week. For me it’s all about planning and efficiency. I personally can’t stand disorganization on sets. As they say, time is money either literally or figuratively and film sets are no exception.
The one thing I believe is critical is testing equipment at locations well prior to the start of production. Sadly, I have been on my share of sets where camera, sound and lighting were simply never tested until the first day of production. There simply are some things you really want to know in advance. Where are the outlets? Are there reflections? Is there signage that needs to be covered? Can the house lights dim? Any strange background noises during the sound check? That’s why it’s called pre-production!
But it’s not all about locations. Wardrobe is another important part of the process. First Signal calls for two unique sets of costuming for certain actors. Two are wearing U.S. Air Force uniforms and two are wearing Nehru styled suits. After finding a great vendor in Colorado, the Nehru suits arrived yesterday. Not only was the price fantastic, but the quality was solid. A few alterations and we will be good to go.
With more location scouting over the next couple of days, along with numerous other details, the pre-production process continues as we move forward towards the June 16 table read.
Ask anyone that’s even remotely involved in this industry and they are on a mission. Whether you are a producer looking to get your next film made, an actor who really wants that part or a cinematographer who really wants to shoot that film, the mission never ends and the dream never dies.
On these missions we meet all kinds of people. As I’m known for my honesty, I’ll be honest here. We all have people we want to work with and those that we want to avoid, it simply comes down to what’s a good fit and what isn’t. As much as I like to say YES sometimes you just have to say NO. It is what it is.
One mission I’ve been seeing as of late in the trades is the call for filmmakers to release data. At the center of this “drama” is whether filmmakers should release VOD revenue to the public. Unlike box office, VOD revenue is a whole other animal. For me, while I consider myself pretty open, there are some things I’m just not going to share. Some data just needs to be confidential between business partners and those that need to know. By example, I’m not going to tell a distributor who I’m not working with what my box office receipts are. Incredibly, I was asked that this week. I was asked by another filmmaker to release my media lists. Simply, it’s called doing your homework and being thorough. And what works for my projects might not work for yours. Also, I don’t want to be in a position where someone says “But Mark said if I do it this way it will work.” I promise you if you ask 10 filmmakers what they got right and what was a misfire every response will be different.
My mission, as it’s shared by the “Justice Is Mind family” is to screen Justice in as many theatres as possible. What I can say is that every venue is different in terms of demographics, management, theatrical experience, etc. etc. What works for one venue might not work for another. Those of us involved in the theatrical release of Justice don’t take these opportunities for granted, we treat them like they are the only one and simply market the hell out of them. What the studios do on a national basis with their advertising and marketing campaigns we do with good old fashioned word of mouth through social media, electronic press release distribution, etc. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a film distribution plan. Trust me, cookie cutter plans you see being advertised and marketed can only be used for “observation” of the process. I like to think I’ve learned what to do and what not to do, but believe me in this business you are always in the classroom. Just keep your eyes and ears open and before you open your wallet you just have to think “Can this be accomplished any other way?” Cash is king in this business and you can easily go through it.
So while we plan the next four screenings of Justice Is Mind, including our upcoming New Hampshire state premiere on December 4 and return to Maine on December 7, I am also pleased to report that I have just completed my first draft of a political thriller I’ve been writing for the last several months.
This is where it all starts. At the screenplay. If you don’t have a solid story in writing, what can you expect when you shoot it? Incredibly, I was at an industry conference some months ago when some director said that the script gets in his way (to an audience!). Seriously. I like to know that when I’m shooting the story has been properly vetted so when we have crew, actors, locations and the thousands of other details in place to film, we are all on the same track. And who wants to deal with a continuity issue when you’re in post?