Sunday, February 16, 2003

On a snowy day like this, the best place to be is watching the flakes fall from the window next to my bed.

Unfortunetly, I'm currently up at the Indy office, interviewing GUSA (student government) candidates, aka the biggest fucking tools on this campus. "Improving community" is now the useless catchphase of the day. Such is life.

More random crap forthcoming...

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Part the Second: Are we having fun yet?

I was all set for Monday night’s big showdown with the SAC board over funding for the upcoming film projects. There was me, brave defender of an emerging campus art form (or so the delusions of grandeur told me). And on the other side sat those who needed to be educated in the wonder of student filmmaking. I had the budgets, the numbers and the filmmakers all lined up to overwhelm them with sheer impact of our cause. So what do I receive not eight hours before the meeting?

“SAC requires that all budgets be turned in 48 hours before the meeting or they will not be considered this week. Even though we failed to inform you of this rule, we still expect you to follow it. Have a nice day.”

Moved…to…next week?

Pardon me…

*Walks over to brick wall, wiffle bat in hand*


*Sound of wiffle bat shattering against brick wall*

Every producer should have a good supply of wiffle bats and a brick wall readily available. I prefer regulation yellow, although the giant purple ones work just as well.

So everything that was prepared for yesterday will be pushed to next week. What was to happen was that each project would have its budget transferred to an “Events Worksheet” and each one would have to be approved separately. Bringing shooting schedules and scripts to the meeting help alleviate any fear of a snow job. Finally, having the filmmakers there to answer questions (with the appropriate spin provided by myself) provides the final reassurance that I’m not just attempting to buy myself a new hard drive. All this should be effective in obtaining at least a good portion of what we’re requesting, which tops out to no more than $500 total. The problem in the way SAC operates in regards to the usage of funds, which is hardly conducive to filmmaking. In their view, any money earmarked for a particular group of items must be spent on exactly those items in exactly the way specified. No flexibility. This works well for those who wish to sell t-shirts with clever riffs on beer slogans (“Look up. See Hoya Blue.” witty), but not student film. In a situation where the dynamics are constantly changing (remember, there’s no commitment binding these projects together) as things are altered and rescheduled, the kind of exact fiscal calculations that they’re looking for are impossible. What’s necessary is flexibility within a set budget limit. That way, plans can change, but as long as expenditures stay within the lines items can be purchased according to current need, not obsolete plans. But that’s just me thinking outside the buerocratic box
But enough of my jibber-jabber. It’s time for the weekly updates. And I pity the fool who don’t eat my breakfast cereal.

Kalpana and Kerry: I have received the budget from the girls, which comes to a grand total of $324. Obviously there’s no way that they’ll get all of that, but it’s a good bet that I should be able to snag $200 worth. Considering that most of their cost is wrapped up in DV tapes, which can be reused through the clever use of a CD burner, it shouldn’t be too much of a concern. They got off their first day of shooting on Sunday without a hitch (of course, they haven’t seen the dailies yet. Sound fuck-ups kill almost all first shoots. I will hear the crackle of boom mike feedback in my sleep for many years). It was a solid six-hour shoot for the male and female leads, which is understandable considering that it will take some time for them to get their heads around the complex and original script. David Lynch ain’t got nothing on these gals. I’m personally looking forward to explaining to SAC the need for them to allocate the money for syringes for the heroin scene. Cause nothing says Georgetown values like hard drugs.

Mike: I actually haven’t spoken with Mike in a few days, but I sent him an email explaining the reimbursement process. As long as he doesn’t need to BUY a bathtub, his finances are all in order. He finally cast his lead; a “promising unknown” named Christian…something or other. Since when did the producer need to know the actor’s name, at least until they storm off the set? Mike plans on beginning production this week, and the first receipts for reimbursement should start coming in soon.

Alex: Alex’s main character is a guy who constantly sees himself as a character in various movies, which is appropriate because that’s exactly how Alex sees himself sometimes. Complete failure to acknowledge reality. His planned speech to SAC on behalf of his film would not only piss off all the other filmmakers (since he considers his work “superior”), but would get my ass kicked out and my organization disbanded. While he still hasn’t finished his script, at least it’s formed around a coherent narrative after several script conferences. He hopes to finish it over the long weekend and simultaneously begin filming, which I will ensure happens. Although, he had a fucking hilarious idea for a 10 min. short about a guy who treats his daily routine like different video games. Rolling down a hallway in the ball form from Metroid. Priceless.

Good news: My partner and I have agreed on how to split up the project. I’ll make the film and she’ll do all the nifty research.
Bad news: I still have no idea how to do this.

I apologize of the rather sketchy nature of this week’s report. I had hoped to bring you all the gruesome details of the SAC meeting, but that must wait. Consider this a teaser campaign, as they say in the business.

Until next week, I remain Your Fearless Producer.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

A few days ago, Max (fellow writer at the Independent and minor blogging celebrity) was kind enough to give me a link. If extreme conservative rantings are your thing, then by all means check out the World's Most Confused Jew.

and because I'm all about the Fair and Balanced thing, fun yet elitest liberals.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Don't expect consistent, or even frequent updates to this thing. I was never much for journals or that private writing style. What you can expect is a production upate like the one below every week or so, with random other topics to be added at random other times. I despise politics, so don't expect much on ther subject (my ideal presidential ticket consists of Thomas Jefferson and Ludacris). There's plenty of other blogs where you can waste your time on that. You can also read some of my slighty better written drivel over at The Georgetown Independent.
Producing Student Film at Georgetown University
(Or, Dear God What the Hell am I Doing?)

Part the First: Prepare to kiss your time, money, sanity and ass goodbye.

I’d like to thank you for choosing to read this. The thanks are due to your choice to subject your self to the ranting, raving and drivel that will occupy this space for the rest of the semester. I do not promise sanity, or even coherence. Those are gifts to be doled out at my leisure. It is my hope, however, that you might gain some insight into the process of student filmmaking here at Georgetown University. Of course, no discussion can take place without some historical backdrop, which I will now provide. Don’t worry. It’s very, very short.

I trust that film and Georgetown are not immediately connected in your mind. Perhaps Georgetown and politicians, or Georgetown and basketball (which now sucks on steaming donkey turds), but not film. That’s because, just two years ago, it didn’t exist. In a way, it still doesn’t exist, because there has been no official acknowledgement of its existence from the administration. There are no courses, no instruction available in the cinematic arts. There may be some good film studies classes, and even a crackerjack screenwriting program guided by Professor Glavin, but no practical way to apply such knowledge gained. As with many things here, several students took it upon themselves to build something from the ground up. In the spring of 2001, a jovial man named Ted Bauer (I have never seen him move faster than a slow amble) began a modest, one day film festival. Last year that festival grew to two days, both a smashing, sellout success. Many of the original entrants to the first festival (Zal Batmanglij, Mike Cahill, Adam Countee and myself, among others) expanded on past efforts, while a whole new group came in with new efforts. While not exactly a Movement (I believe you need a manifesto and an angry mob for that), it has grown into an activity worthy of greater notice. Which is why this year is so important. Unlike previous years, the students who have gone through Glavin’s rigorous training are now seeking to apply their knowledge before they leave Georgetown. Films produced here by this group have a good chance of gaining recognition at other festivals around the country (not hard: a festival in Hoboken, NJ would have more recognition than our humble affair). More attention means more influence on the financial powers that be, which leads to more cash for student filmmaking. And who couldn’t use some of that? That’s where my producing side comes in.

At the same time as the film festival was conceived, I started the Georgetown Independent Film Co-operative (no, I don’t know what the name means, it just sounded nifty). This is an organization set up to assist student filmmakers with financial, equipment, and other logistical problems. Last year, in addition to writing and directing my own project, I served in a producing capacity on two others (one of which won Best Comedy and a free t-shirt), and was executive producer on the first full-length student film made here at Georgetown. This year I’ll be producing three short films, all of them products of the Glavin program. It is these projects, plus my own, that will occupy this space and your eyes for the forthcoming semester. To start things off, I present a list of terms that will be showing up with alarming frequency. In no particular order:

Auteur: What student filmmakers think they are. In student filmmaking, the only thing at stake is your ego. Expect it to be bruised often. And beware of directors, for they are subtle and quick to hissy-fits.

Due Date: March 27th. The due date to turn in films for the festival, no exceptions. Except when they realize that there’s no way in hell that they’ll get enough films in time, and bump it back to April 5th or something.

Crew: Most student filmmakers have a close group of people that they bring with them to a project. Although they’re usually in it for the free refreshments (see below), they’re certainly more reliable than the guy from your 12:15 government class. This is said from experience; much of the editing of my project last year was getting rid of boom shadows in EVERY TAKE.

Actors: With most of the good ones committed to the theater groups, open auditions rarely yield many good selections. GIFC’s ties with said theater groups helps keep the talent flowing.

Equipment: The school will not pay for decent equipment, therefore we scrounge. Another one of my roles is working out equipment sharing between the groups as we use pieces from the library, TV station and ourselves.

Schedules: Georgetown students are among the busiest in the country (9 out of 10 admit to being a chronic resume stuffer in high school), so getting the whole cast and crew together for a sustained shoot is well nigh impossible. Schedules must therefore consist of many short shoots with two or three cast members, and large scenes planned well in advance. Of course, the number one killer of student films are “surprise” cancellations as people realize that they still have class at certain times, to say nothing of other commitments. It’s my job to make sure everything is still on track, and have five or six contingency plans in backup.

Locations: Washington, DC provides for an enormous amount of nifty locations, most of which will get you a heavy fine for bringing a camera anywhere near them. Therefore, most student filmmakers stick close to campus. Because you should always try to write what you know, most of the key scenes revolve around parties. The director’s house is the default location for these. Simply pacify their roommates with free beer, and you’re ready to shoot.

Extras: The secret killer. It’s almost impossible to get a good number of people on short notice, due to the aforementioned scheduling problems. This is why I keep those old audition sheets on tap. It doesn’t matter if they can’t act as long as they can point and wave in a somewhat believable manner. Booze is also good here.

Booze: Your best friend. Since nobody’s getting paid for anything, the only incentive you can offer is free booze. You’d be amazed how hard people will work for some watered down Busch Light. 21 and over, of course.

I hope that clarified a few things. Presenting this year’s projects:

Kalpana and Kerry: A 15 min. film about “a relationship”. Fortunately, they got a top-flight actress in Jen. Held a damn good audition session two weeks ago, demonstrating that the bottom fell out of the acting barrel here a long time ago. I’m meeting with Kalpana on Wed. to go over budget info, but everything looks within reason. I have no doubt that they can pull this off.

Mike: A blocked writer finds inspiration in a hedonistic lifestyle while in the bathtub. Mike has already sent me a budget, which is quite reasonable at $128. He’s having some difficulty casting a leading man. Any suggestions would be welcome (I’m looking at YOU, Jack O’Brien). Still, everything else is falling into place, and he even has a nifty logo on his letterhead. Another person I have complete confidence in.

Alex: A student screenwriter attempts to sort out his personal issues. Post-post-modern fun ensues when his life begins to resemble scenes from famous movies. A clever concept, but the script is still being written, and the hour grows late. Unfortunately, Alex is the type of person who sleeps through a 5:30 meeting. 5:30 IN THE AFTERNOON.

Myself: I return to my roots in the English Class Project genre with an adaptation of Othello, Act three. The idea is to strip away all the baggage the play has picked up over the years and simply present the words in an entirely new context. On other words, the concept is that there is no concept. I also have no cast, no crew and a partner who assumes that his is just another English project to be done at the last minute.
I’m so fucking screwed.

The budget approval meeting for all the projects is next Monday. All the filmmakers must be there with scripts, schedules and budget sheets. I believe we should get at least half of what we’re asking for, which is roughly $200 per film. A bargain. But you never know with the Student Activities Commission. As for actual production, it needs to begin in the next two weeks if the filmmakers wish to avoid falling behind the scheduling power curve.

And now I must return to actual “schoolwork”. Let me get some more coffee before saying farewell.

*Inserts IV needle connected to a Mr. Coffee into arm*

That’s better. Just remember, even with the most meticulous planning, everything can go awry in a moment’s notice. After all if there’s not a crisis every 10 minutes, you’re not making a movie.

Until next time, I remain, as always, Your Fearless Producer.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

"This blog is the Justice, not you."