Over the weekend I attended another wonderful re-enactment event at the American Heritage Museum. The Battle of Bunker Hill was produced with enthusiastic re-enactors that brought to life one of the famed early battles in the American Revolutionary War. While I have attended numerous re-enactment events, these re-enactors went out of their way to engage with attendees to discuss this critical time in American history. Suffice to say I learned a few things!
While producing a movie is all about pre-production, rehearsals, etc., these re-enactment events are like watching a movie unfold in real time over several hours rather than months. Yes, most of these groups have all worked together, but their ability to produce this type of entertainment so quickly is impressive. For those of you in the New England area, the re-enactors from this past weekend will next perform at Old Sturbridge Village on August 6 &7.
This past week, First Signal received its quarterly VOD payment from Indie Rights. I could not be more pleased with our results to date. While I was reviewing the reports, I learned that First Signal secured a territory sale in South Korea. This is yet another milestone that First Signal has achieved. From our VOD placement, 1M+ views on YouTube and now a territory sale, First Signal is well on its way to achieving an awareness I only dreamed of.
Those of us that produce true independent feature films, do so because we love to tell stories. While we always hope for a return on our investment, it honestly isn’t top of mind. Yes, staying within a budget that has some hope for a return is important, but that cannot be the driver. The driving motivation to produce must first be a love of the craft.
I remember towards the end of principal photography on First Signal, that despite sweltering 100-degree heat, I was just vey excited to work those final days. Perhaps it was the realization that I knew the quality we produced the previous weeks, or it was getting into the rhythm of doing something that just felt natural. Whatever the reason, I do look forward to the day when I’m bringing my next project to life.
As for my next project, I completed my director reel a few days ago and will post it sometime this week. Having reviewed my previous five films and cutting out scenes that looked interesting, the challenge to select was just that: a challenge. The question begs to be asked, just what is a director reel? Having reviewed countless reels from other directors the question, in my view, is still unanswered. Some focus on cinematography, others focus on an intense scene or two, while some focused on visual effects. To be frank, they were all over the place.
In the end, I selected a variety of scenes and moments over a track of music that I believe reflect the scope of work I’ve produced over the years. For me, I wanted to show versatility in my directing ability. From conceiving a scene in outer space, to a confrontation between actors, to sports; my goal was to present a well-rounded view of my directing capabilities. While this reel doesn’t have a singular story arc per se, I think it does reflect that I like to tell stories that are unique in concept and execution.
This past week I completed the first act of my latest screenplay in the First World Universe. With a logline, “A reporter’s discovery of a secret meeting between three world leaders could spell the end of life as we know it with the revelation of an alien power on Earth,” I know move on to the construction of the second act.
With the first 30 pages of the screenplay completed, it’s the second act for me that’s the most interesting to write. In this act it’s all the crisscrossing of the characters, plots, sub-plots and all the other machinations that I believe build out a compelling story. As I did with Justice Is Mind and First Signal, I’m writing this story with the aim of producing it myself (with perhaps one other partner). The challenge is to ensure the production has solid visual scope while being mindful of the current economics in the independent film world. I believe the key is simply to look for innovation along the way.
Speaking of innovation, a couple of weeks ago I was approached by a filmmaker to play a German solider in a World War II short film. With my interest in the subject matter, and as it was a local film, I joined the production.
The moment I arrived to set I knew authenticity was going to be spot on when I noticed military reenactors were present. I’ve posted before about this subject. These are generally history enthusiasts, with a good number being members of the armed services, which come together to “reenact” history. The authenticity in uniforms, equipment, knowledge and enthusiasm makes for a rewarding experience. I think of the productions I was involved in, where I donned a uniform and there were no experts on set to properly guide and direct the actors. Those were really lost opportunities.
Yesterday, I learned about battle tactics, how to carry, load and fire a weapon along with command structures. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the blanks being used, anyone coming across this skirmish between the German Wehrmacht and United States Army would have thought they stepped back in time. With a few more weekends of “shooting” all of us are looking forward to seeing the final product.
Here in New England, this is the season for reenactor events. Last weekend the American Heritage Museum (where we shot the actor interviews for First Signal) hosted the Military History Through the Ages event. Exhibitions and displays ranged from the Roman Empire all way through the Vietnam War. A variety of battle reenactments rounded out the weekend event. The museum and reenactors always do a terrific job in bringing historical events to life. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend their next event Battle for the Airfield, October 9 – 10.