Since this is my first post for NEW BREED, I wish to introduce myself and let everyone know how excited I am to be included in this film movement. These are exciting times and to be participating with such a collection of talented and emerging filmmakers is an honor.
WHAT’S UP LOVELY (currently in post-production) is my latest DIY feature film. I will never forget the way it transpired and how quickly it went from concept to shooting (about one month). The experience since then has been nothing but exciting and inspirational — which I can directly attribute to the collaboration with its main actress (Jenn Dees) and cinematographer/producer (Jason Varner).
It had been about a year after shooting my first DIY feature NEW YORK LATELY. I was talking to my friend and regular collaborator Jason Varner about our next projects — and how I wish that we could shoot something quick and fun…but that since he recently moved from Brooklyn to Colorado (I live in New York) it was not possible. He responded with “I’ve got JetBlue miles…” — and we were off to the races.
I took a week to create an 8-page treatment for the story about an woman’s struggle with loneliness and her after-hours journey embarking on a series of strange encounters wandering the dark metropolis. I specifically wanted to work with Jenn Dees again, after having met and worked with her on NEW YORK LATELY.
I met with Jenn and discussed the treatment. We then worked on it together. I wanted to involve her in the creative process from the very beginning. Our approach to this film would not include a traditional script, but rather use the treatment as our guide and utilize heavy improvisation techniques to find our story. This was both exciting and daunting. Jenn and I agreed that although we would shoot many scenarios and options, we would discover our real story in post….or rather the story would discover itself.
Our main concern was would audiences be able to relate or sympathize with the main character (Luci). The last thing we wanted was to portray a very unlikable protagonist with no redeeming qualities — as the film could be very inaccessible and struggle to find viewers. But we also wanted to create a realistic portrayal of a woman who is not just a one-note character. Because of this, I asked Jenn if she would be interested in creating a series of voiceover pieces for Luci to describe her world and her life experiences. She enthusiastically agreed. We decided that she should come up with the writings after we shot the film (after she had experienced being Luci).
In late April 2009, Jason flew in from Colorado and set up shop at my apartment. He would stay for about a month as we shot for 21 days. Since Jenn worked a day job, our shooting schedule usually would start around 6pm (which was fine since the majority of the film took place at night) and last until around 1am. Jason and I would head back to my place to log and view the footage each night — which meant we went to bed around 5am. It was a hectic schedule that I soon found an odd comfort in.
Since there was not a lot of money behind this DIY film (is there ever?) we decided to use minimal equipment to be able to get around the city quickly and easily — and to be able to shoot under the radar. It helps that New York City residents are so used to seeing film production going on, that we were never noticed.
Case in point, here’s a shot from the film that we were able to get undetected. We were in and out in less than 30 minutes.
Once we wrapped in early May, it took me about 10 weeks to edit an assembly cut together from approximately 30+ hours of footage. I was really encouraged from what I was seeing, but was not sure if the film was working how originally planned. The only thing to do now was get it in front of an audience to gauge the response and gather feedback. I would hold a test screening — a process I both love and dread. It was held this past weekend.
Next up: The Test Screening
Posted in What's Up Lovely