Entries Tagged as '40 Miles'

Delays, Changes, and more Patience…

Those of you who have been following this blog for quite some time are likely aware that my feature film “40 Miles” was scheduled to begin production in September. Well, as you may have guessed from my lack of posts over the last few weeks, we’ve run into a yet another hitch with the financing of the film (the film, while it is financed, has run into issues with getting the funds released on our planned timetable for production), in other words, while we were literally ready to go, my entire production staff had dates scheduled to fly out to setup our local production office– we’ve been forced to push back principle photography on “40 Miles” yet again. Due to winter setting in in Cincinnati (where we’re slated to shoot the film) and given that this film is not set during the dead of winter, we’ve been forced to set new start dates for early spring on the production.

That being said, and as frustrating as it is to have the production delayed yet again, it is a very, very common thing in this business (neither indies nor $100+mill studio films are immune to these same kind of delays), it’s actually such a common occurrence that many production companies all but expect the delays to happen.  These delays can happen for any number of reasons, ranging from contract delays to any studio exec or even one producer or even an actor changing their mind, to the investors or financiers changing their minds at the last minute… in our case it comes down to a rather complicated mix of industry deals and financing agreements that didn’t come through on the time table stated in our contracts due to a completely different multi-million project we are co-producers on being delayed by two of the top talent agencies (who’s names I will not list… but you can probably guess them) whose contract negotiations are taking too long to resolve.  In other words, “40 Miles” was delayed because it’s getting financed as a part of a “package” deal that was delayed because one of its larger project’s budgets are being re-negotiated.  If that seems really confusing to you, then you’re on the same page as us.  These deals, no matter how simple they seem, are anything but… in our case at least it appears as though it’s just another delay, and all our projects are still on track to be made, just now on a new time table. – Yeah, welcome to the world of Hollywood filmmaking, every project is in a constant state of flux, nothing is ever set in stone.  If you want to get a movie made (and you’re not paying for it yourself) it’s patience or nothing.

So, while it sucks that “40 Miles” is now not able to be shot this year, it has given me a great deal of time I was not expecting to have to work on many of my other projects, and yes, even develop a few more. So, while I’m extremely frustrated that the film got pushed back, one thing you can’t accuse me of is being lazy, I now have 4 more new projects I’m working on in addition to continuing to push several of my existing features and tv shows. More on this to come in future posts.

Lastly, for those of you wondering how this delay in production affects the release of “40 Miles”, yes, it obviously pushes back the time-table by at least 6-10 months, but our distributor(s) are still on board 100% (again, these delays are common, we haven’t actually lost anyone on our production team or cast) so right now we’re just in a holding pattern, we’ll set new release dates once we confirm the new production dates this spring. Stay tuned.

Regular “up to the minute” production updates on “40 Miles” are also still available on facebook HERE.

40M: Pre-Production Continues…

For those of you who may be unaffiliated with the process of making films, there’s a lot more that goes into the pre-production process then just hiring a few people and finding a cast. I’ve been working on films, television shows, tv spots, music videos,  etc for many years, and one thing I’ve learned in all that time is that the amount of time, energy, detail and focus you put into your pre-production process, the better a film you always seem to have in the end.  There’s a lot of logic in that, to put it simply, if you solve as many of the “potential” problems or issues (that you can think of) which may arise with the production in advance of it actually starting, then you’ll have a much smoother, more relaxed, more focused shoot when you actually get there. That, and you can then spend your time focusing on solving all those unexpected issues that arise once you actually start and not deal with those on TOP of the one’s that could have been prevented.  There will always be unknowns in a shoot, pre-production is a time to address as many of them as you can manage in advance of actually wasting production time/money or even risking the film itself in the process.  Having a highly talented, detail-oriented Production Manager (or “Line Producer”) is key to getting things done on time and done right.

Since my trip out east in June, Hannah (our Line Producer for 40M) and I have been meeting regularly, continuing to work through all of the thousands of details of the production, ranging from contracts and permits, to catering, equipment & trailer rentals, and that of course, the all-important “production/shooting schedule”.

The Production Schedule is one of the single trickiest parts of pre-production, and one of the most important elements to get exactly right. The thing with the schedule is that if you’re off even slightly  in any one area (or you forget one of the simplest details) the film may end up not getting finished, by going way over time and budget or simply get canceled half-way through production for any number of reasons.

In order to avoid potential problems/conflicts, here are just a few of the hundreds of things we take into account when working through the schedule: the budget we have to work with, the amount of time we need to shoot the film, the cost of rentals (equipment, trailers, catering etc), cost/time of hiring cast & crew, time of year (amount of daylight in a day), weather, temperature, national holidays, permits, each individual location’s requirements (some can only be used on specific days of the week or even at specific times of year), hotels and transportation  requirements/distances, and the list goes on and on… not to mention that since we now also have “minors” (someone under the age of 18) cast in the film, it complicates things even more (since they can only work a specific amount of hours each day, among other limitations) and has forced us to re-work our already highly compacted shoot-schedule. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, we realized shortly after we set the final shoot dates that the film is shooting straight through my own film festival (the Cincinnati (Oxford) Film Festival – which I founded several years ago), so we’ve had to make exceptions on specific shoot days to allow me to attend specific events for which I (and several of my crew) are required. Hopefully that at least gives you a general idea of the complexity of the production, and that’s just the schedule!

Even with all that said, pre-production is going very smoothly, right on time. I’m excited to see things start coming together one step at a time.  More updates soon.

40M: Location Scouting, Cincinnati, and more…

A couple weeks ago I got back from one of the most jam-packed 10-days of my life. I flew in to Cincinnati, Ohio (where we’ll be filming my upcoming feature “40 Miles” this fall) to accomplish about a hundred separate things, among them, final auditions (see my last post), initial location scouting, meetings with Cincinnati City officials, regional and state film offices, unions, and meetings with various potential cast and crew (department heads), including our Production Design team, Armourer, Costume Designer, etc.

We spent the better part of the first three days doing nothing but auditions for 12 to 14 hours each day, and then I would go back to my room and spend the next 6 hours reviewing audition tapes. So that was pretty much if for those days. I managed to take a day and make it up to Detroit for a wonderful surprise family gathering (for my Grandmother), while taking conference calls and meets both on the way there and back… kind of crazy, you don’t know how much you miss your car’s built-in blue-tooth adapter until you do an 8-hour drive without it (my car in LA has it built in, unfortunately, this one did not). All that just to say, it was somewhat exhausting.  When I did get back to Cincinnati we (my Production Coordinator/Cinci Location Manager, Lindsay and I) spent the better part of the next week taking meetings and driving all over the place looking at potential locations for the film. Some of the biggest set-pieces/locations we were already aware of (and was one of several big reasons for selecting Cincinnati), but many of the additional locations (we have 18 total in this film) we knew would be a bit more difficult to find.  The key thing to remember here is that a big reason for selecting Cincinnati as well is that I wanted the scope of this film to feel “real”, ie: I want to shoot it on actual downtown city streets, not on sets or backlots or with tons of CGI mumbo-jumbo, I want the film to feel “naturally” epic (not the Lord of the Rings kind of way, though I do love those movies), and allow me to simply tilt the camera UP and see a real 40-story building there. Scale and realism are very important to me, as is, of course, keeping our film on budget.

Before I start going into this a bit more, let me explain what we’re looking for in the context of the film. “40 Miles” is a post-apocalyptic  thriller (with some horror-esk elements) while it’s not a zombie movie, the closest thing I can mention to the visual style of the film would be “28 Days Later”, ie: it’s not ten years after some event, whatever has happened, it’s recent, and much of the world is dead.  That’s about all I can say without giving away too much (and honestly one of the only similarities to “28 Days Later” that my film has, other than having a number in the title… just realized that, lol). It does still fit into that “post-apocalyptic, thriller, horror” genre, but my hope is to create a new take on it, and I’m pretty confident you’ll be happy with the results. 🙂

So, back to it here: The Location Scouting process actually started long before I ever flew in to town, several months before actually.  We sent a general list of locations and descriptions needed for the film to our local Location Manager (as well as the regional Film Commission) to help in initial searching for locations, they then did some digging on their own and began sending me back several hundred photos of various locations throughout the region which may fit the descriptions I’m looking for (as stated in the script).  The general concept being that the locations that looked closest to what I have in mind for the film we would visit while I was in town and see if any of them are “winners”.  The trick here is that we’re looking for a LOT of things when doing scouting, first and foremost the location has to have the “look” I’m going for, but beyond that it has to have the specific elements we need to make the movie work logistically. IE: we need a specific building on a specific street for a specific sequence, all those elements need to fall into place at once, it’s not just the look, it’s having all the right pieces the scene calls for all at the one place (or the ability for us to bring in the lacking pieces).

Here’s another huge “logistics” example that we’ve been running into problems with: For one of the huge climactic scenes in the film, we’ll have to shut down three full city-blocks for several days. Now, this wouldn’t be much of an issue on a backlot, but for us filming on public roads in a real working city, with local businesses, shops, bars & restaurants, lining the sides of the streets, it can get VERY complicated, you can’t just tell them that their stores have to stay closed for a week. At this stage, re-routing traffic for a week from like 5 main cross-streets is the easy part. Between that, working out logistics with using live weapons, stunts, and effects on public  (downtown city) streets,  needing to have an additional full block(s) closed off in different days over a month’s time just for base-camp/production trucks/trailers etc downtown… I think you’re starting to get the picture.

All that said though, we had a wonderful meeting with Cincinnati city officials about that (and our many other production needs) and they have been extremely supportive in helping us accomplish our goals with the least direct-impact on daily life for the city-dwelling public. They offered some great options in more easily workable parts of the city, and are backing the production all the way. Fear not Cincinnatians, your city officials are good people working hard to keep everyone happy!  I really was quite impressed by that meeting, and want to thank each of them for their wonderful past and continued support as we move forward with the production this fall. This is yet another reason we choose Cincinnati over many other cities that we considered, they are just more open to working with productions because they don’t have them as frequently.

That said, without giving away too much about specific locations or more story concepts, we got some wonderful ideas for locations and saw tons of interesting options. We still have a long way to go on selecting all our finals and locking them down, but all in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful, albeit insanely-packed trip.

Thanks again to everyone who made the trip possible and successful! I’m looking forward to being back in a couple short weeks/months with a whole production behind me!

40M: Official Facebook Page…

We have added an official page on Facebook where you can get regular updates on the production of “40 Miles”. I’ll be continuing to post my extended/detailed updates here on my blog as things progress, but for brief “up to the minute” updates from both myself, cast and crew of the film, make sure you follow (like) it on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/40-MILES/

40M: The Casting Sessions…

It’s kind of funny that the times people most want to keep up with me I’m the hardest to follow. My blog seems to be no exception to this, but I’m doing my best to keep current, so you’ll likely see many more frequent posts as we get closer to production on many of my on-going projects, including “40 Miles” (40M).

That said, so many AMAIZING things have happened in the past few weeks that it seems as though God is trying to tell me something.  After several delays in the pre-production process on my first (Directorial) feature “40 Miles” (which were somewhat expected), earlier this month I was finally able to make it out to Cincinnati (where we’ll be shooting the film this fall) for the “final” round of in-person casting/auditions. Since the film is already “sold” (we have distribution attached in all mediums) and the fact that the film is somewhat of a “genre” piece (which is nice as they tend to sell well on their own, without the need for known “stars”) I decided to cast the film with relative unknowns and in doing so we did an “open” call initially just in the greater Cincinnati region (with the intention of opening the call up nationally after the first few weeks). We had such an overwhelming response, with more than 2,200 submitting to the initial local call in less than 2 weeks, that we actually dumped the national call altogether… over the course of the next month we did a series of video-auditions long-distance to further cut the group down to fewer than 80, which were then brought in to audition in person (for me and my casting team) for the 14 available speaking rolls.

This is not the first time we’ve done this kind of audition (first round submitting only headshots/resumes, second round sending in video taped monologues, via online video services and third/final round being the in-person, pre-scheduled auditions) but I must admit I was thoroughly impressed at how efficient and effective this process ran.  I had a VERY limited time to get through so many people while I was in town, but managed to get through all 80, including call-backs in 27 solid hours of auditions (spread out over two and a half days).

As long and as hard as auditions can be on those running them, I have to say that they couldn’t have gone smoother, or honestly, better. I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to my Production Coordinator, Lindsay, and my entire casting team for pulling it off on their own time, in between other jobs. These guys are seriously awesome.

Now, I’ve written about my personal casting process before (LINK), but all that being said, as a Writer/Director, the audition process is honestly a really exciting time, it has a certain meaning, a significance to it. To me, as the Director and Writer of the project, it signifies that next step, that “proof” that the film is really happening, and that it all of the sudden has meaning, it’s now much more than just about “my project”.  Bringing in actors and seeing actors play and “become” those characters that I’ve written is a touching thing and when you see that person that you know is right, that IS the character you created and brings them to life. There’s a moment there when you know… you finally believe that this is truly happening.  Talented actors are much harder to find than one would believe. There are millions of “would be” actors out there, but few who truly have the talent and the passion to make a story real. Uncertainty or concern that you made the wrong choice is always a part of the game, especially when there are a number of highly talented actors involved (as was the case with these auditions, specifically with the lead), but when it comes down to it, when you find just that right person, you know it.

For me it was honestly a very tough choice, I knew what I wanted and I also knew that what I wanted was likely impossible to find. I have very high expectations of my actors and very specific, detailed mental images of what my characters look like and how they act, but even more than that, when an actor comes into the room I try to see not only the immediate performance, but look to see the potential of where that actor could go, what they can become. That said, I also always surround myself with a variety of people in the audition room and always listen to each of their opinions on each actor before I make up my mind. And while I rarely, if ever agree with everyone in the audition room (this time was no exception) I appreciate every comment given and take each seriously. In the case of casting my lead(s) in this film, I saw not only the performance, but also the potential beyond the first performance, which I’ll admit, is not always easy to see, and a big reason for call backs.

Once I had my lead, the rest of my key cast just seemed to fall into place in my mind, they’re all extremely talented in their own right, and when things “click” they just plain “click.” I may have, yet again, chosen the more difficult road with casting (I’ll have to explain this later), but the funny thing is, I know it’s the right one and my co-workers now know it too.  To be honest, it’s not the first time I’ve cast some amazing “unknown” talent out of the blue, to the point where I now have people asking me for advice on casting left and right… fact is, I’m no genius, I’m just a very opinionated person, and when it comes down to it, it really is just a matter of opinion, I am a Director… I just know what I’m looking for and I can generally recognize when I’ve found it. It’s that simple. Everything else is secondary, the potential complications, the plans, even the story. If other people happen to like my choices as well, (which they often seem too) then it just makes the film that much more likely to succeed.  As much as I’d love too, I can’t tell you who the cast is quite yet (we’re honestly still finalizing much of the supporting cast), but I can say that we will be “officially” announcing the project and the cast here in a few short weeks.

So, after all that’s said, if you’re looking for my advice on the matter, when it comes to casting a film, as a Writer/Director, don’t let anyone else make the decisions, make sure you’re very specific (to yourself) about what you’re looking for BEFORE going in and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Pick specific people that don’t just agree with you on everything, LISTEN to other’s opinions and take them seriously, their different outlooks on a character are just like that of your potential audience. In the end, it’s still your choice, you have to choose who is right for your character and for your film. When you find them, you’ll know it.