The Festival Circuit
The last 6 months have been such an extraordinary rush for me and for the film.
First, the rundown. We started our festival run in June at the CineVegas Film Festival. It was really amazing to finally see the film with an audience, something I’d been working towards for three years. It was additionally incredible that we were awarded the Grand Jury Prize there! Next, we took the film to the Edinburgh Film Festival, the oldest running film festival in the world and own the Best International Feature prize there. It was especially surreal cause I’d already left the festival to visit my partner’s family in Portugal. I got an e-mail from the festival saying I’d won, so I hopped back on a plane to be there the next day to accept the award.
Since then the film has played at over a dozen festivals including Galway, Montreal, Film By the Sea (in the Netherlands), Cambridge, Raindance (in London), Woodstock, Memphis and New Orleans. Coming up we have the Mumbai, AFI, Virginia, Lone Star (in Texas), Cucalorus (in North Carolina), Ljubljana, Thessaloniki, Talinn and Bahamas Film Festivals.
I don’t get to attend all these festivals, but when I do I have such a great time. These festivals are put on by such hardworking people and I find myself in awe of everything they do just to bring films to an audience that might not get a chance otherwise to see them.
Ultimately the point of these festivals is three-fold. One, you get to show your film in a theater to a movie-loving audience in places all around the world. For a movie like ours, this might be the only opportunity this could really happen. Two, people from within the movie industry get to see your film. Every country we play in, we get more exposure to the buyers who put films out on DVD and TV in their respective markets, it’s a business opportunity. Three, it’s a chance for me to get to meet other filmmakers and get an insight to what they’ve been through. I feel so lucky to have already met so many great people out there.
The next steps
First, the big announcement. Easier with Practice will have it’s world premiere at this year’s CineVegas Film Festival!
I cannot tell how excited we are for the opportunity to play at such a recognized and attended film festival. Finding the right festival for our first screening has been a long process but I am thrilled with the outcome. Everyone at CineVegas has been so cool to us and really supportive and encouraging about the film. We can’t wait to be there in June!
In other news, the film is complete. As of yesterday it’s totally done. We laid the final title cards down over the last song. No more edits or music changes, everything is finalized. In some ways it’s a relief because it is out of my hands now. The film exists as is, I am proud of it and I feel I did the most I could with it. Now it’s time to give it to audiences and, I hope, speak to people. It’s a strange (and wonderful) feeling to be able to hold two and a half years of hard work on one master tape in your hands.
I’m sounding like a parent talking about a newborn child. I should move on…
Though the festival isn’t until June and the film is complete, there is still so much to be done. Cookie and I are talking to potential sales representatives and there are still a lot of festivals to submit to that follow CineVegas. There is a whole other world we’re stepping into now of the process and that will come with new struggles as we work to try and find distribution.
There will be more and more news and posts and videos as CineVegas gets closer!
Our first trailer is up
So if you haven’t noticed yet, there is a trailer for the film up on the front page.
I’ve been really excited about getting this out there and finally having an opportunity to share some of the footage from the film with everyone. There has been a lot of talk about our production and a lot of rambling on my part, but this was our first chance to give you a sense of the story and tone of our film.
Making a trailer is actually a whole entire separate process in itself. It started with us finding a trailer house, which is essentially an advertisement company that focuses primarily on creating various forms of movie previews. After meeting with a couple of groups, we decided to work with a relatively new company called The Refinery. It’s headed up by Brett Winn (who co-directed the documentary My Date with Drew) and they did a really fantastic job.
A normal studio trailer will go through dozens and dozens of iterations. In fact I was talking with an editor the other day who was on edit 60R of a trailer! That’s mostly because you have a lot of creatives and a lot of executives chiming in. Here it was really just me, Cookie, Brett and Nick, the editor so we were able to work at a much quicker pace. What I really wanted was something that gave a sense of the tone of the film, with just a little bit of story but still held a lot of film back so there are still surprises when you watch it. I’m really happy with the final version, and it only took us 6 versions!
The trailer is also up on Youtube, Facebook and Myspace so you if you feel like sharing it, you can send it through your social network of choice. I hope you all like it!
Also, if you go to the ‘about the film’ section of the website, we’ve loaded a whole page with the artists on the soundtrack of our film (click the headphones on the right hand side). If you click the bands, it’ll take you to their Myspace pages. There are still a few bands to be added to this section that we’re in final negotiations with. I’m really proud of the soundtrack and still kind of have to kick myself when I hear bands like Kevin Drew and Grizzly Bear in the film.
Otherwise, I’ve been putting a lot of time into submitting our film to festivals. It feels almost identical to sending out college applications. You fill out a relatively arbitrary application in which you to try to promote yourself (this time, the film) and convince them to give you the time of day. Meanwhile, your anxiety about getting in creates all these absurd scenarios and fantasies as to what is actually happening with the DVD of your film. Really, it just comes down to a group of people in a room watching it and deciding what’s best for their festival. It’s hard to understand that when you yourself have so much personally riding on it, but it’s almost entirely out of your power.
We have a lot more video blogs coming in the next month, so keep checking in.
The Film is “Finished” (emphasis on the quotes)
So after about 26 months of intense work and the dedication of many, there is a completed form of “Easier with Practice”.
It’s certainly a great feeling and I’m very excited about the final product. People have been starting to see it and respond positively to it. I’m eager to get it out there to everyone, but I know there is a long wait ahead for that to happen.
The last two months have been really packed as we’ve finalized editing, color corrected the film, recorded sound effects, sound mixed the film and finished some special effects (hopefully the kind you’ll never notice). I’ve only felt rushed a few times which is great considering how quick we’ve been moving.
So, why the emphasis on the quotes? Well first, the movie isn’t completely done. There are still two songs in the film that we need to figure out the legalities for. Does anyone know someone from the band Stars… or Justin Timberlake for that matter? It’s going to be an uphill battle for these last two pieces of music, but it’s all worth it for their contributions to the final film. In addition to that, we still have one more day of ADR (I’ll cover this in another blog!) and probably another day of mixing just to tie up some final bits.
The other reason is because I still have a year or more of work ahead of me when it comes to promoting the film and getting it out there. The first step, a major one at that, was getting the film submitted to Sundance for review. They receive thousands of films every year and only choose a handful to screen from those. I know the odds are against us but I believe in the quality of the film and the performances to speak for themselves. I’m also currently submitting to a ton of other film festivals in hopes of our film being shown all around the world.
I’ve been surprised (pleasantly) by the universality of the film. For a long time I thought I was making a niche film, but I see the people I’ve screened it for of all ages and types respond similarly to the film. It’s something I didn’t expect but ultimately you make a film for others to watch, so the more the movie speaks to people, the more of a success it is.
Separately, our lead actor, Brian Geraghty, just had his latest film “The Hurt Locker” do quite well at the Venice and Toronto film festivals. It’s being distributed by Summit in the summer so make sure to keep an eye out for it.
I’m finally going to follow up on my promise to blog more on each specific part of the process of filmmaking. Honestly, the hindsight will help.
Other than all of that, I’ve begun working on an official trailer, so keep your eyes out during the next couple of weeks for that!
A Mother’s Point of View – Part 3 of 3
A note from Kyle: Towards the end of our shoot, my mother spent a few days on set so she could see what it is all like and also have a small part in the film. The following is the last part of her account of her experience…
I get up at 5am, put all kinds of stuff on my face, and get a triple-espresso at Starbucks, which still does not compare to one ounce of Cuban coffee, but all the adrenaline is helping me wake up. Tom, the wardrobe director, (by the way, Tom dresses the GOSSIP GIRLS) who has the best hair in the world next to Cookie’s (I am totally in love with him), is ready for me. The make-up girl, Bonnie, is also ready for me. Tom tells me I am fabulous! I was in love before this though. I bring tons of jewelry for Tom to select. He does this with a smile although clearly I am over accessorizing as I do in real life. For one of my scenes I decide to wear my 'G' pendant, which inspires me to name my character Giselle since in the script I am only known as the ‘bitchy boss’. I do not need a name as I do not have a speaking part, but I still name my character Giselle. I tell Brian and the crew, “I am Giselle, the bitchy boss.” I think everyone is on to me and has heard the story of when I convinced Kyle years ago (well, he humors me) after I played the nun with the French manicure on his first college film, that he must cast me in every movie he makes because it brings him good luck.
It's all about me now as I walk to the office set with my business suit on and way too much jewelry to play Davy's bitchy boss. I also forgot to mention the amount of time I spent on selecting my shoes although my feet do not show. Very sad.
This is a SAG movie, and unless you have a SAG card, you cannot speak. I have accepted this fate but am focused now on how to go about getting a SAG card. I nicely tell David Morrison, the cinematographer, to be careful with his camera as not one wrinkle on my face must show. He looks at me funny and would re-cast me in two seconds if I weren’t the director's mom!
I mention to Gary that I wish there were more colorful flowers on my desk instead of the white flowers he had just placed. Gary smiles in his Gary way and tells me to be happy because Giselle's desk, unlike Davy's, is neat and he made me REAL tea not just fake tea to go on my desk, and that HE, the set design guy, wants white flowers. OK then. Anyway, my part is to pick up some files, walk over to Davy's desk and plunk them down while glaring a terrible bitchy look at him.
To do this well, I have previously told Cookie to help me get 'the look' by reminding me of all the times I had to unpack with no help (except for my dear mother) after many a move because I had not caught on to the fact that there was an unpacking service available to me. Raul admits now to being too cheap to pay for it. It worked; I am brilliant on the set! HA! I get to change clothes 3 times and have 3 different scenes. I better not land on the cutting room floor, Kyle!
The most fun was that Brian says a bunch of funny unrelated things between ROLLING and ACTION. He says, “Giselle, the vet called, the cat is ready to be picked up.” Giselle answers, “Davy, tell the vet I hate cats, it is not mine.” Brian says, “Giselle, your husband called,” and Giselle says, “Davy, please remind the man we were divorced years ago,” and so on. This isn't Shakespeare, but I am holding my own with Brian. The lights are hot; we repeat the scene a few times. The lights are so hot and on top of that my body decides to have a lovely hot flash, or hot-surge as I call them. Soon they yell, “CUT!” for the last time and move on. The end of Giselle. Not really as Tom and I are writing, Easier with Practice 2: Giselle!
A few more scenes are filmed today: a bathroom scene, an airport scene, and another car scene. Video-village is set up about 3 blocks from Silver Moon Lodge, and they prepare to shoot a scene where Davy is stuck in traffic and a young woman pulls up next to him sobbing a gut wrenching sob, Davy looks over and… that is it, I am not telling you more, buy a movie ticket! I am at video-village watching the take and listening. New Mexico has very funny weather and today it is very muggy. Thank goodness krafty is set up across the street with cold water and munchies. A couple of hours before this I had met the actress that plays the sobbing girl in the car when she arrived at fabulous Tom’s dressing area. She is a very sweet petite young looking woman so when she starts crying crocodile tears and has gut-wrenching sobs on cue, I am shocked and feel so bad for her. By the third take I am so very sad that I leave video-village to hang with krafty-guy and eat some more. Later I say to Kyle, “poor little girl, is she really crying that profoundly?” To which Kyle replies, “yes mom, it is called acting.” I will only accept happy or bitchy parts when I get my SAG card.
I drive over with Kyle and Cookie to visit another location near Dillards, which is still open. Cookie tells me about their fab shoe department, and I am figuring out how I can leave for a few. They are going to paint the place yellow and blue I think, (I am not paying attention because I am thinking of the fab shoe department so close by). Earlier, Gary had dragged this huge sign into the production offices that will go on the building. He is very proud of this sign because he had to charm the sign company into making the sign because all the sign companies in Albuquerque are too enamored and busy with Terminator 4, which is being filmed here too.
I eat another quesadilla for my final meal with the E.W.P. crew and go to my hotel to pack and return to Chicago.
It was so rewarding to see Kyle bring EASIER WTH PRACTICE to life and work at his passion. I am so very proud of him, his work ethics, his kind heart and the wonderful people he has surrounded himself with that also believe in him and E.W.P. I think back to the young man who picked me up at the airport. It was not so long ago when Kyle arrived in Los Angeles and was running errands and driving for this or that.
Now back to Los Angeles for him. I am sure he is enjoying being in his own home and bed, not to mention Cookie getting to see her new home finished (John moved them into the house during her absence: now that is a way to move!). Postproduction begins: editing and publicity and more.
If you are still reading, thanks for putting up with a mother’s view of E.W.P. filming.
A Mother’s Point of View – Part 2 of 3
A note from Kyle: Towards the end of our shoot, my mother spent a few days on set so she could see what it is all like and also have a small part in the film. The following is the second part of her account of her experience…
In 2006 Kyle read a short story in GQ Magazine by Davy Rothbart (if you go to youtube, you can see the real Davy on David Letterman and also on tour.) He eventually went on to buy the rights to the story, hire lawyers, write the script, much more in between I am sure, pedal the pavement for financing, scout locations, make casting calls … and here we are not quite 2 years later!
Many takes occur of the same scene. Actors and crew are patient people (well, most of the time). I understand why actors demand special trailers, food, personal trainers and FIGI water. I sure would! The reality is that when you work on a low-budget film, everyone takes a pay cut and work for the love of the art and project,all the while hoping and praying to the movie Gods that the movie will make it. I have decided to take The Secret’s approach and KNOW the movie will make it to the right places and even better than that!
The night car scene was an A-HA moment. Have you ever wondered how they drive and chat in the movies? Or perhaps, unlike me, you knew that a huge rig sort of contraption pulls the car. On this contraption are camera men, cameras, and behind that, the director and producer. There’s more! Did you ever wonder why there are no rubber-neckers stopping and looking at what is being filmed? Or maybe you also know that the police get paid to stop traffic at either end and that the people walking or driving by are actors or 'extras'. All too funny!
Raul, my husband, gets to the set late the next day and meets us at the second bookstore shoot that day. The first bookstore shoot was at a local used bookstore owned by two adorable for-sure-were-hippies-in-the-60’s people. One of the owners got to be an extra. It was a very interesting place, and I imagine they got paid lots of money because they not only closed the place down but also let them invade it.
Video-village is now set up by the oldest looking cash register working in the USA. By now I am feeling the ‘movie love’ and begin to give my opinion about lighting and other stuff. I spotted a little corner on a wall someone had missed painting the day before. So Greg, the script director, tries to divert my attention by asking me, “have you seen krafty?” in hopes I will start thinking snacks and stop talking.
From there we go to bookstore number two. Raul gets to be an extra and rubs in the fact that he got to be in the movie before me. I really don't care because he just got the back of his head in the movie, and soon I will get to have my face in the movie! It is so cold now, and they are filming outside. I am so happy to see a heater and sit on a director’s chair very close to the heater until someone informs me it will set me on fire if I get too close. I just experienced the worst winter in Chicago in the 7 years I have lived here and now this! Then they film inside in the neatest looking bookstore I have ever seen and will ever see. Liz, the owner is there with her video camera filming the filming of the film. Should someone say something? She is a really nice person and admits she rented her place out because she makes lots of money doing it. She will only do this at night because she does not want to inconvenience her regulars. I am just mesmerized by how neatly her books are stacked. She informs the crew that her books are not only arranged by topic, but by author, then title and stacked to perfection. They are allowed to move anything they want but must put it back the exact same way. They film without touching a single book.
The next day, there are more motel shoots and an outside shoot at another motel. Raul spots an old Dairy Queen and has to have a Blizzard. The outside shoot is really cool since the several of the crew and some extras become the traffic. In this scene Sean, Davy’s brother, drops him off. More “SOUND CHECK, ROLLING, ACTION, CUT”. I am now a pro at all this.
That evening we celebrate Kyle's birthday at Jinja Bar and Bistro. The same Monday Kelly and Mike celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Two very exciting May nineteenths in a row for this family. We invite some of the actors and crew to dinner. Everyone is thrilled because they are not eating out of a truck or on plastic plates, and more importantly, there is booze. Our good friends Dawn and Tom fly in to surprise Kyle. Tom has been a great buddy and mentor to Kyle since he was a young one obsessed with movies. It was during those days that we worried Kyle was not well because he memorized all kinds of useless movie trivia. Silly parents! Raul and I reminisce about when Kyle was in the marching band in high school and would ‘boss’ or as we now understand, ‘direct’ the parents on how to load the truck for band trips. He never carried much himself mind you but sure organized everyone quite well.
Sunday they have to shoot a scene, so back to work on a day that they would normally have off. Raul has to fly out. I am stunned to find Steve, the Lunchero, not there and worse even, the krafty-guy isn't there either! Today it is a “skeleton crew”. At least, video-village is set up, and I have my chair. The shoot goes very well. I am now informed that on Monday they film 7am to 7pm. Oh no! It is my big debut, and I am not a morning person. Plus, there is no Cuban coffee in Albuquerque. Catastrophe!
A Mother’s Point of View – Part 1 of 3
A note from Kyle: Towards the end of our shoot, my mother spent a few days on set so she could see what it is all like and also have a small part in the film. The following is her account of her experience…
I arrive in Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 14th. It is cold! I miss Kelly, my daughter, by one day. She had been there crunching numbers and has also helped with sets and managed to be an extra. I also missed Denise, Gary’s sister, who was on the set creating fabulous hairdos. (This is a family effort.) I go directly to the Silver Moon Lodge where the production offices are and where a lot of the filming takes place. The nice young man that picks me up at the airport says, “Mrs. Alvarez, when I arrive on a movie set I look for the meanest asshole, and that is usually the director. But I want you to know your son is not only brilliant, but also nice.” I am very relieved to hear that! The real life Davy, on whose short story and life experience this movie is based on, had also been on the set for a few days, which was really great for Kyle.
Today they are filming “splits”: that means 4pm to 4am. Yikes! I slowly get used to lunch being called breakfast and dinner being called lunch. Silver Moon Lodge was closed down and ready for demolition until Kyle's location people (the movie making lingo is extensive and all in “codes”) found it. They rented it for two months, and it is perfect because they shoot a lot of scenes there, have their offices there, eat there, have the main actors’ “holding areas” there, spend 16 hour days there, and some crew from Santa Fe even sleep there.
The number of people working on the set, all the goings-on, and how Kyle is everywhere at one time amazes me. The place is all torn up; they have wall papered, installed carpeting, built bathrooms, and brought in furniture. Gary, who works on set design, has built a bookcase out of old drawer fronts that is amazing, and they fill it with books that were on their way to a landfill (sad). Gary spots a book called SLENDERELLA COOKBOOK from 1957 (my birth year) and proudly gives it to me. It is going next to my Jackie Sorensen’s (‘mother’ of aerobics) book on aerobics.
Stuff is scattered everywhere, people are scattered everywhere, they speak in a language that is foreign to me except for: “This is Kyle's mom,” “LUNCH!!” and “CUT!!.” Two crewmembers have their dogs with them: Zoe and Jack. Zoe is a Diva who owns an extensive selection of outfits and Coach accessories. Jack is a fabulous baby mutt.
Food is important; actors and crew need fuel. The caterer is on the set. If you are Cuban, you will know what the “lunchero” is. If not, it is the truck where the food is made and served from. Steve, the caterer, makes quite the meals from his two trucks! His quesadillas are the best. He even makes awesome steamed broccoli, but only Cookie and I are excited about that. In addition to the Lunchero, there is the guy I ended up calling the krafty-guy. I think it is krafty, or at least it sounded like that. I dare not ask for a fifth time: “krafty?” The krafty-guy becomes your good friend because his business is to bring to the set munchies, cold water and drinks. He also goes to all the location shoots. You can have munchies any time except when Kyle tells you to stop chewing. Kyle has banned gum chewing from the set since he HATES gum chewing, and when a director hates something, he can make it go away. I love it. Peanuts have also been banned because someone on the crew is deathly allergic to them.
The place is older than heck, but they have managed to bring in wireless. I can actually be on my computer during breaks. Someone informs me, “Mrs. Alvarez, you can go to 'video-village', they start filming in ten.” I pretend I know what he is talking about and make my way to a room with several director chairs, a huge T.V. screen and a smaller T.V. screen. I am handed a headset. I can see Brian's stand-in sitting on a bed. Filming is taking place in a room next to this one, and I can see what is going on. Kyle runs back and forth. He is biting his nails again and shaking one leg, but he is in control. You could not imagine how many gizmos could fit into a small room. I feel sorry for Hardy, the stand-in guy, until Kyle reminds me he IS getting paid for this (turns out Hardy is quite accomplished and trying to break into the biz).
Soon I start sneezing (I am still sneezing and wheezing) because this is an old musty place, not to mention New Mexico is cold and windy and very dry. Then begins the first of many, “KYLE COMING, KYLE COMING, SHUT UP PEOPLE...... SHUT UP PEOPLE..... SOUND CHECK, SOUND CHECK, ROLLING, ROLLING, ROLLINGGG, and.......... ACTION!!!!!!!!! OK, CUT......CUT......CUTTTT....” People in the movie business repeat what one another say quite often. Reality hits: Kyle IS making a movie!
Production Has Wrapped!
I apologize for such a long delay in updates to this blog. The demands of the four weeks of production were incredibly intense (though rewarding) and I just wasn’t left with any time other than to focus on making the movie.
Production wrapped in Albuquerque on Friday May 23rd after 20 days of shooting. Everything went as well as one could imagine, something I’m greatly appreciative of. We came in on time and under budget, the crews we worked with were excellent, the locations in New Mexico were incredible and served the film and the cast did extraordinarily well.
I was so overwhelmed with the incredible amounts of effort and hard work everyone put into the production. It was a humbling sensation to wake up every morning and have more than 60 people every day work on this film I’ve put so much of myself into. Every day had its value, I felt I learned so much more than I could’ve ever imagined to in such a short period of time.
Even during the few moments of production that were difficult and taxing I made sure to remind myself just how much I wanted to be there and how much I loved it all. The feelings were genuine. I know how lucky I should feel to get to do something I love and to be a part of a creative process that allowed me freedom yet left room for an intense collaboration between me, the actors and the crew.
Brian and the rest of the cast did amazing work. It was the most fulfilling part of the experience to see these actors bring to life what had only been imaginary and existed on paper. I don’t think I will ever understand, but will always admire, what it takes for someone to put so much of their own emotions and feeling into a role. Brian and Kel had such an instant camaraderie that comes across so strongly on screen. They certainly look like brothers, but there is this other sense of sibling love and hate that is never spoken or directly expressed, just felt.
I’ve been working on the edit of the film for about two weeks. I have about an hour of the film cut, just about half of the running time. I will continue to work on the rough edit for a few more weeks and then start sharing a rough version of the film to close friends in order to get some perspective on how strong the narrative is working.
I couldn’t be more excited with how things are going so far. We have a lot of plans for the website coming up. Adam has been editing like a mad man to get two video blogs up a week. Also, later this week I am going to post a three-part blog written by my mother, who spent some time on set and had a small part of the film. Keep your eyes out and keep on visiting!
We start shooting tomorrow. The feeling is indescribable. I have worked many years to get to this point and I just feel so lucky to actually be in a position to start shooting a feature film.
It’s unbelievably surreal to see all these people (about 50 a day) come together to work on one project. Everyone is working so hard to contribute to the movie to make it the best we can. I’m so grateful to have this incredible cast and crew that trusts me to get the job done. The opportunity to do this is one I will never take for granted, but one I hope I get many more times.
Speaking of casting, I haven’t had an opportunity to write about who we have in the film. I plan on writing more about the cast in the near future, but I’m excited to tell you about who we’ve cast. Brian Geraghty from Jarhead and Bobby is starring in the film playing Davy. Kel O’Neill from Stephanie Daley and Redacted is playing Davy’s brother Sean. Marguerite Moreau from Wet Hot American Summer and Easy is playing Davy’s love interest Samantha. Jeanette Brox from Heroes and Art School Confidential is playing Sean’s girlfriend Sarah and Jenna Gavigan from Kinsey and Commander in Chief is playing Josie. I’m overwhelmed with how incredibly talented this cast is and cannot wait to start working with them tomorrow.
Also, we’ve been consistently putting up video blogs and should have more coming this week about our art department, camera tests and the first day of shooting. Keep checking in!
So we are officially all set up in Albuquerque now. It’s incredibly exciting to see it all come together. We are four weeks away from shooting! We have set up productions at the Silver Moon Lodge, a shut down motel that we are renting for the purposes of not only serving as our offices, but also for many of the sets and locations for the film.
The crew is coming together in New Mexico, which is very exciting. Marissa and Elias have done a great job getting the office together while Brooke and Gary have been all around town collecting a ton of furniture and props for their art department. Meanwhile, Marcus has found nearly every location we need for the film. David and Cookie are, of course, incredibly busy keeping all of this together and making sure everything is ready for our April 28th shoot date. It’s amazing how much people have done already in such little time.
Casting has been one of the most interesting and difficult processes so far on this film. Next week I will write a longer update on how it all worked out, with some casting announcements. It’s been so great overall and our casting directors, Nicole and Joy, have done an incredible job bringing in wonderful talent. We are going to have a very exciting cast; I can’t wait to tell everyone about it!
I’ve just wrapped up another revision on the script. It’s constantly being adapted as production details start coming in. Once I decide on a location, I go back and make sure the scene is tailored to fit that location. To me, it’s a constant process to make sure that the production and the script are working together. The hard decision is to decide when one takes precedent over the other.
I feel incredibly lucky to be working with such great, motivated people. To see this crew working so hard on this film I’m making… it’s an indescribably fulfilling feeling. This really is the greatest time of my life and I’m quite grateful for it!
Optioning and Adapting
When I first read the article that ‘Easier with Practice’ is based off of in August 2006, I’d just left a personal assistant job I’d had for about a year. It was a tough time for me, because I knew I wanted to be writing and pursuing a feature film, but I really didn’t know where to start. There was something about the story of this article, and I think the fact that I was recently unemployed (read: panicking) that made me feel ‘I know how to turn this into a movie’. It was a certain feeling of assuredness and confidence I’d never had before. It was exciting.
I remember calling my good friend Chris Cuyler shortly after just to say ‘this is a really cool article and I think there’s a movie there’. He really helped push me to get me on the phone with Davy to talk to him about pursuing optioning the material.
First of all, what is an option exactly? Essentially, it’s a document that lets you reserve the right to buy the right to adapt a piece of writing. It’s a bit of a strange idea, but designed in a way to help someone like me say ‘hey, I will pay you said amount and when I get this project put together, then I will actually buy the right from you.’ It’s really the first thing you need to pursue if you intend to adapt something.
So, first, Chris and I reached Davy’s agent, found out the piece was still available for option and I spoke to him about what I wanted to do. A little while after, we conference called each other: Davy, his agent, Chris and me. I was incredibly nervous; I knew I had a short period of time to get my perspective and intentions across. I feel really lucky, my first time going out to something like this, that it was to Davy. He was so incredibly open and gracious to the idea of me adapting not only this article he wrote, but a specific time in his life. He ‘got’ what I wanted to do with the story and let me go forward.
Basically after this conversation, and Davy agreeing to let me option, I negotiated the deal with his agent. I would encourage anyone going into this to find legal representation. I didn’t have it at the time and had to spend a lot of time reading through the complicated wording of a contract. Finding a lawyer isn’t difficult, if you don’t know one, someone you know knows one. Or someone you know knows someone who has one. Ask around and you’ll eventually find someone to help you out.
So I know had the reserved right to buy the article for a year. I started writing nearly immediately. I know I wanted to get this project together quickly, and the ticking clock of the option actually pressured me into really getting down to the adaptation. One thing I had told Davy from the get-go was that I wanted to use the four pages of the article only as an outline for a whole movie (100 pages of script). Essentially, the ‘Davy’ in the script might end up being nothing like the ‘real’ Davy. On top of that I was going to add (fictional) characters and situations. Davy was kind enough to talk to me a bit more about the situation, which certainly helped me flesh out certain ideas.
I wrote the initial draft quite quickly, though today it’s much different than what I started with. During the months I worked on getting the option, I was running the story over and over through my head. Really, it was ‘written’ well before I even sat down in front of the screenwriting software for the first time.
As far as I’m concerned ‘writing the movie’ is an ongoing process that doesn’t end until the day you slap rolling credits to the end of it. In terms of being on page, you just have to get it to a point that you feel comfortable enough sharing it around. I didn’t feel pressure to have it ‘perfect’, just ‘perfect enough’ to start sharing it. Writing is so isolating and for me I needed to start getting feedback on the material to keep developing it. In fact, I’m still making script changes on a daily basis. As I start hearing actors deliver the lines in auditions, I’m changing certain words and syntax to fit a more natural style.
From here on out, I’m going to do my best to start blogging more frequently. The last few weeks have been intense in terms of casting and crewing up. If there’s anyone out there with specific questions on how a specific aspect of this all came together, please write me. I’m going to do my best to make this blog as in depth as possible, but I’d love you’re help in making it as informational as possible. Thanks for your time!
The Beginnings of Easier with Practice
I thought before I started writing blogs on the more specific aspects of putting together the film that I’d give a brief history of how the film came to be.
I first moved to Los Angeles three years ago, just after graduating from film school at the University of Miami. I did the same anything anyone does when they first get out here: take the first job they get. So I spent about 6 months working as an office PA for a production company. While it was a good introductory experience, it quickly became clear to me that spending all day in my car was not going to get me the kind of experience I needed in order to learn how the industry worked.
After leaving that job, I quickly jumped into a personal assistant job. Because of the nature of whom I was working for, I got a really good exposure into how things really operated in the industry. After a year of working for him, I felt it was really time to get my act together and get a film made.
I never read GQ, but I happened to get a couple issues in the mail because Conde Naste cancelled another magazine I had a subscription to, and started sending me GQ for the duration of my subscription. I remember opening up the August ’06 issue (Justin Timberlake was on the cover) and immediately started reading this article about a writer on the road having a phone sex relationship with this woman he’d never met.
The article really grabbed my attention and stuck with me for the next few days. A good friend of mine, Chris Cuyler, helped me contact the writer’s representative. Eventually I got on the phone with the writer and he agreed to let me option the material.
From there, I wrote the script over the course of a few months (in fact, most of the initial draft was written over the holidays in ’06). Once I felt it was in good enough shape to send out to people, I started what ended up being the year long process of finding the financing. Complete financing came through at the beginning of January and here we are!
In the coming weeks I hope to put more entries out that go into the specifics of how each piece really came together.
By the way, there is an update to the Contact page; it now has a link to our Facebook group. There should be more bios coming next week!
Site Launch / Thanks
Now that the site is officially up and working, there are some thanks due.
First of all, Gary Barbosa did all the artwork and designs for the site. I think he did a really wonderful job and I’m happy with how the site evokes the look and feel we’re eventually going for with the movie.
Brian O’Dell generously did all the execution and web programming of Gary’s designs. Without his help, I don’t know how we would’ve had this site running. Thank you for all your hard work and time, it is very much appreciated!
Take a look around and keep looking out for more content. Also, sign up for the newsletter on the contact page!
Okay, a promise.
I promise not to make this blog self-serving. I promise to make it informational and interesting. I promise to make it something that you, the reader, can get something out of.
I also apologize ahead of time for breaking any, if not all, of these promises.
So why start a site for a film that hasn’t even started shooting? That isn’t even fully cast?
I feel I’ve learned a lot over the last year and a half I’ve already put into this project trying to get it off the ground. And while I certainly don’t know everything, I want to be able to open up the process of making this movie to you so that you can learn some of what I’ve tought myself.
I went to film school, and while it was a good experience, there was little to no practical lessons. Sure, I can loop film through a 40-year-old Bolex camera but how do I approach an investor? How do I option material? How do I get a crew together? I want this site to promote the film, but I also want it to educate and inform.
Please keep your eyes on this space; I’m committed to make it something unique. Through the next few months I plan on updating this blog frequently. I hope it can be insightful as to what someone like me, with no previous feature directing experience, has to do to get a film made. I’ll detail how I got from reading an article in a magazine to actually getting the rights to the story to writing the script to how I actually convinced people to trust me with their money (not sure how well I can answer that last one!).
I won’t always be the only one blogging either. We have a lot of people working on this film and I want them to be able to share their experiences and knowledge as well. We will also be having weekly video blogs too.
Also, please join our newsletter (the sign-up is on our contact page). I promise to not inundate your inbox with a bunch of unnecessary garbage, just updates every few weeks on where the production is and where we’re headed.
If you have any questions (I’ll take encouragements too), please feel free to write me.