Marvelous Marbella (and a look behind the glamour)

Spent a glorious week celebrating our European Premiere at the Marbella International Film Festival on the Costa del Sol in Spain. And as you can imagine, it was a tremendous experience. Hotel near the beach…

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The lovely view from my hotel room balcony.

…meals with views…

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A nice relaxing meal before our first screening.

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Just your run of the mill fancy restaurant on the beach.

…visiting new places…

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Me and co-Producer Laurence Leonard and behind us, the glorious view of Ronda.

…meeting filmmakers from around the world…

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Me and Ashley Barrie, the Scottish producer of the Spanish movie Luz.

…getting to enjoy Spain with some of our team…

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From left: Sarah Tubert, Marcelo Tubert, V. Lucas, Alli Joseph, me, Jane Ojeda, Gabriel Ojeda (not pictured, Laurence Leonard)

…lively entertainment…

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…and of course, watching movies…

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Hey, look at us outside the theater!

The festival gave us seminars, mixers, and parties that went late into the warm, breezy night with seemingly endless amounts of champagne and appetizers.

However, one thing was noticeably lacking:

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The above photo was taken three minutes before our second screening. Not pictured is the ONE audience member awaiting our film. By the time the film started there were 11 people in the theater, and EIGHT were from our group. That means three people outside of Team Closure watched the screening.

Fortunately, our first screening was better attended.

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A bar in the back of the theater, how cool is that?

We were lucky to have our first screening on the opening night of the festival, immediately following the kickoff reception. About 40 people attended the party and most took their champagne down the steps to the seating area.

And we were lucky. Many screenings had less than 20 people in attendance. I attended a few screenings with less than 10. One film, Morine, had two people in attendance and one was the director. And for the last movie I attended for most of the screening I was THE ONLY PERSON IN THE THEATER.

So how does this happen? Clearly the festival (in its 13th year) is not focused on audiences. The parties and networking was great, well planned, and heavily attended. People just weren’t interested in the film part of the film festival.

But should it matter? We make movies to share stories with people. Whether it’s watched in a theater or on your TV in the comfort of your home theater, we are nothing without an audience. While it is always fantastic to see the movie on the big screen, it’s somewhat depressing when there is no one in the audience.

Some film festivals have a built in audience. The Sundances and South Bys sell out theaters right and left. Those communities crave seeing new movies. But other festivals I guess are just about the parties and networking.

I certainly don’t regret going to the festival. It was a fantastic time. And it’s an extra laurel on the poster. I’m just bringing it up to show that this experience is very much an analogy for show business in general. We like to get dressed up and celebrate and hype ourselves, but frequently behind the scenes it is hard to get people to see your product. We promote the successes, and try to bury the struggles. And there are a LOT of struggles.

Oh,, and another reason there is no regret… we won an award! Well, more specifically, Catia won Best Actress!

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The 2018 Award Winners! And me, of course, accepting on Catia’s behalf.

The festival would have been an unforgettable experience even if we didn’t win an award, but taking home the hardware does make it a bit more of fun. And in the end, that is what everyone can see.

Oh, and as for the movie Morine which had less than 10 people combined at two screenings? In the center of the above picture is Tony Farjallah, a Lebanese filmmaker, who won Best Director! Tony was a very nice man and he and I had numerous conversations throughout the festival. I’m glad I got to know him a little bit.

And maybe THAT is the real reason we go to film festivals.

 

 

Closure Recap Day 12: Last Day of Principal Photography

Closure is in the can (or on the drive to be more 21st Century) and editing has begun.  I have recapped each day of shooting, most recently Day 11. Next up, the last day of principal photography.


Do you have a favorite birthday memory? I’ve had some memorable milestone birthdays and a few I’d like to forget, like the time my parents got lost on the way to the park and we only got to spend five minutes there before we had to turn around and go home.

But spending my birthday directing a feature film I wrote… well, that may be the best of the bunch (so far).

Yes, hard to believe that our 12th and final day of principal photography, April 22nd, is also my birthday. And this is exactly my wish. Well, maybe a cupcake and a shot of bourbon. The latter I knew was going to happen; the production assistant who drove my car most recently left the stickie note with Catia’s list of my favorite bourbons, presumably as a gift for me. But I kept my mouth shut…

…and my nose to the grindstone. Because even though we are down to one actor today, we have a lot to shoot. Nina has many brief scenes in her sister’s bedroom, and while most of them are short, they involve a number of costume and light changes. It won’t be an easy day.

I tried to savor every moment, but we were quickly falling behind. Not only did most of the bedroom scenes involve lighting and costume changes, but we were having trouble getting text messages and phone calls to come through on the prop phone (a.k.a. my phone). I could see the minutes ticking away, and the number of shots we had left. And I was pissed. And I yelled at the team. How could we move so quickly for 11 days, but now people were getting sluggish as we approach the finish line? People picked up the pace, but the idea of us wrapping by 9pm was quickly fading. We’d be lucky if we got out before midnight.

But there is still time for me to reflect on this great group of people, nearly two dozen of them, most of whom I had not met two weeks earlier. After today, I won’t see 90% of them until the wrap party, the opening of the movie, the next time we work together, or possibly never again.

They all poured their hearts and souls into this movie.

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Second A.D. Kat Marcheski and Set P.A. Michael Wilson wait to jump into action.

For very little money.

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Costume Designer Jennifer May Nickel makes a final adjustment to Iskandar (Marcelo Tubert). (Photo: Justin May)

All the time with positive, professional attitudes.

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Second Assistant Camera Joey Skaggs (photo: Herb Hall)

 

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Prop Master Ashley Cradeur and Art Dept. P.A. Paul Martin (Photo: Justin May)

My days were long, but theirs started before me and ended after me. Without complaint.

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Makeup/Hair stylist Celina Dalnim Yun puts the finishing touches on Jack (John Sloan) (Photo: Herb Hall)

Hard to believe that less than a month ago it was only four of us, including producer Beau and line-producer/co-producer Steve. Beau had been working on the script with me for over two years now.

But before that, it was just me and the muse who inspired me to write the story: my best friend, my wife, and my favorite actress.

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Late last year she said her new years resolution was to make a movie. And here we are.

Despite falling behind early, we managed to finish while it was still my birthday. Barely. Paul called out “that’s a wrap on principal photography” at exactly 11:59pm.

Happy birthday to me!

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Not pictured: a delicious shot of Basil Hayden.

We all briefly celebrated the end of the movie and my birthday. The moment was slightly ruined by a very anxious babysitter who kept texting, saying she didn’t think we were going to go that late and had to go because her mom was waiting out front. Ah, show business.

The following day was slightly relaxing, and we were able to take joy in that we had met our very ambitious schedule, and made all our shots…

…so far. There was still 10% of the movie left to shoot.


Coming up next: Three splinter days, and guerrilla shooting.

Closure Recap Day 11: How to Shoot (my wife in) a Sex Scene

Closure is in the can (or on the drive to be more 21st Century) and editing has begun.  I have recapped each day of shooting, most recently Day 10. Next up, getting near the end.


Spirits are better today. We can see the finish line. We are down to three actors: Catia, Milena and John, and two of them will wrap today. Now, with most of the film in the rear view mirror, it finally hits that we are almost finished.

Not going to be an easy day (what day is) but at least we are back to our home location for the rest of the shoot, which makes all of our lives easier. Now we can focus on sex.

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“I want you to go in there and have sex with another guy. And we’re all going to watch.” (Photo: Beau Genot)

Those familiar with my writing are aware that sexual content frequently pops up in my script. This movie is no exception. I wrote previously about shooting the sex cult scene but today brings on new sexual situations. In multiple scenes Nina is trying to sleep when she hears her neighbors Jack and Prudence either having sex or arguing. And those sounds have to be recorded. A few days ago I mentioned to Milena Govich, who plays Prudence, that we will likely pick it up in post production, and she said “why? Let’s bang it out now.” (Her word choice, not mine). Indeed. We have the equipment and the personnel. Let’s do it now.

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Milena Govich: ready for anything (Photo: Herb Hall)

So while the camera team is working on the next set up, I steal the actors to the other room. How do you direct a sex scene for audio? Say something like “okay, when I say action, pretend you are having sex. Jack, you are enjoying it slightly more than Prudence. And… action!” And they did. Got to hand it to the actors, they jumped in and did it, with gusto. When you hear it in the movie, keep in mind that in reality it was two actors sitting on opposite ends of a couch, in broad daylight, while a boom operator hovers over them with a microphone.

15 minutes of moaning and slapping later, we walked out of that apartment and Greg, our G&E team swing, sat there, grinning. He said “it took me about 10 minutes to figure out you were recording sound in there.” Now that would have been a way to spend my break!

We picture-wrapped Milena, then while preparing to shoot a Nina scene in the kitchen while she is on the phone, we realized we never got the other side of the conversation. So we called Marcelo Tubert who plays Iskandar to see if he was available. He was, so we briefly un-picture wrapped him to grab his scene, and then we moved on.

As time flew quickly and slowly as it does on a film set, day turned to evening and we prepared for the big sex scene. Actually, it’s a near sex scene that is interrupted, but no spoilers here. I had a chance to do some rudimentary blocking with our actors, so we were good to go.

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Nina (Catia Ojeda) and Jack (John Sloan) pretend to take my direction while planning the big scene.

People asked if it was difficult directing and watching my wife in a make-out scene. It was honestly not a problem. First, it is such a technical thing, stringing together beats, moments and camera setups, that it doesn’t feel real or honest (although I hope it does on screen). And second, after nearly two weeks of long days, I was purely interested in getting the shots done correctly, and quickly, so I could go home and get some sleep.

However, we did have two unforeseen obstacles to overcome: first, due to a scheduling conflict with the actor playing Franklin, we had to wrap him yesterday which mean that the fight scene had to happen yesterday. Therefore, our lead actress now has bruises over much of the skin she is about to show on camera (she’s an easy bruiser, I HOPE we didn’t beat her up too much last night). Our makeup artist worked double time and managed to cover her with makeup.

The second obstacle was financial. The art department couldn’t afford a real bed and wisely decided to not grab an abandoned mattress from the highway overpass. Instead they purchased an air mattress. Under sheets and with bed posts (as you can see above) it looks very realistic. However, once our actors started going through the motions there was a loud sound every time they moved. And not a pleasant sound. Basically, a farting sound.

Sure, we can cut out a lot in post production. But it certainly was a mood killer, even more of a mood killer than having a small crew of people watching while the making out occurs.

So we adjusted the blocking to minimize the amount of noise, at least when dialogue was happening. In all of my film studies, no one ever advised “make sure you adjust your sex choreography to minimize mattress farting noises.” Another day, another lesson.


Coming up next: Day 12, the last day of principal photography. Also, it’s my birthday.