Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Right Place, Right Time

A couple of quick items before I get into the meat of this week's blog:

First, back in the September 19, 2006 blog entry (Death and the Horror Film) I posted an excerpt from "Horror Movies 101," a four part essay originally published on the webzine, Great Society. During a big technical mix up they had last year, those articles along with others were accidentally removed. However, the Great Society management has been kind of enough to offer to republish the "Horror Movies 101" piece, and will do so over the next couple of weeks. The first part is already live. Click here to read "Horror Movies 101: Intro and Evolution (Part 1 of 4).

Secondly, I realized this week that I had about a dozen un-moderated comments from the past two months of blogs that I hadn't dealt with. So, if you were wondering why I was being such a jerk and not posting your comments, the truth is that I'm not that snooty. Flaky maybe, but not snooty. Anyway, all those backlogged comments are now live. I'll be sure to keep up with the comments now, so by all means, keep them coming.

Thank you for your attention. We now continue with your regularly scheduled blog.

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"Shh. Be Vewy Quiet, I'm Hunting Wocations."

To me, location is where the real process of filmmaking begins. Once you know where you're going to shoot, things like scheduling, shot composition, and technical requirements can start to be looked at. For my first film when I couldn't find the space I wanted, I literally had a set built in the basement of my house. How's that for obsessive?

From a location point of view, Women's Studies is challenging in that the script requires multiple locations, 56 to be precise. That's a lot for any film, but with a low budget one like ours, multiple locations can be a real headache. We don't have the funds to pay large location fees. Plus, searching for and securing locations takes time. It's not dissimilar from fundraising in that it requires lots of phone calls, follow-ups, and patience. Also like fundraising, despite all your efforts and hard work, you have no guarantee that anything is going to come through.

The good news is that over half of the Women's Studies locations are within the boundaries of the fictional "Ross-Prentiss Women's Academy." Therefore, my attitude has been to try and find a location that can serve the multiple functions of a campus. While finding these locations has been easy, getting permission to film on them has been something else entirely.

When discussing this problem, a few of my friends have been like, "Dude, just sneak in somewhere and do it. Who's going to know? Guerilla filmmaking! Yeah! Down with the oppressive corporate octopus!"

Yes, yes. Damn the octopus. Here's the problem with guerilla shooting:

First, I don't know where you live, but in my country, trespassing is illegal. As much I want to get this movie made, I'd rather not to go jail to do it. (Though think of the publicity.) And as grand poobah of this crazy, little tribe, it'd be my neck in the hangman's noose. Even assuming I'm a total ninja and we don't get caught shooting the film, not having the permission could kill any distribution deal Women's Studies may or may not get offered.

One of our selling points to distributors is that fact that Ningen Manga Productions is taking care of all clearance issues on Women's Studies ahead of time. The short and skinny of this is that a distributor won't have to shell out the cash and manpower to make sure everything in the film is allowed to be there. They don't want anybody coming out of the woodwork saying, "Hey, they shot on my farm/used my music/featured my logo on that guy's T-Shirt without my permission! Give me some money!" Clearance issues can be deal-breakers especially with the more established distributors. Smaller guys often don't care, but again, if the film starts to get some success, people may come around looking for lawsuit dollars.

Is it an unlikely scenario? Sure, but what harm is there in insuring that it's an impossible scenario? I'd like to be able to tell a potential distributor, "Everything is in order. All you have to do is review the documents."

The last problem with just showing up and shooting is that a location has to be more than just where the action takes place. I'm a big believer that environment is a character in the show. I want to be able to tap into every resource a location has to offer, so I can make the best film possible. This isn't done by sneaking around, but by working with the people who live in and use the location. They can point out nuances that I may miss.

The ideal "Ross-Prentiss" location will be one that's isolated, foreboding, yet beautiful. It'll have a sense of being old and mystical, almost as if the place itself is alive somehow. I know it's out there, and it can't wait for us to get there. Finding it is just a matter of time.

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