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'Sleep' pre-production....20 days out


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#1 Michael Collier

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 04:34 AM

So I have been talking about it in various forums and quesetions posted, but I think I should start an in production for this film. It will be the biggest production I have worked on, and should be a good film. Also I am producing and directing, two things I rarely do. Add to my worries and responsibilities, I will also DP. Good thing for me I have a co-director (Bryant Mainard, BeeKeeping) to help me out and line producer (Kyle Johnston, Asphyxia) will be taking lots of work off of me during the shoot. My focus on set will be DP and blocking. Bryant will handle rehearsals while I work with my crew to set up the frame.

I posted online (in several forums, IMDB, writing forums, etc) for short film submissions. After 200 submissions were emailed in from all over the world, Ben Clarke's 'Sleep' rose to the top. Its a psycological thriller examining the decaying sanity of Karren Kessler, and the mystery surounding the stalker that follows her every move. The script is amazingly subtle in its symbolism, and it has a great archetypal charecter structer that is very well written. Its accomplishes in one intense act what most film fumble to find in 3. It also has a twist ending that should be very exciting to see. I don't typically like shorts, and usually don't opt to produce them (If I make a film for myself, I will do a feature over a longer period) but this story is actually perfect at 15minutes.

We are shooting 7217 negative on a CP-16r with an angie 12-120 and a 12mm prime. Props to Media Distributors for getting us a great deal on short ends, and local Tom Pilifont for setting us up with the camera. We got university support and will be getting a couple arri light kits. My tv station is filling in for a few scenes with lowell kits. Talking Circle Media is setting us up with grip. Key Grip Micheal Bergstrom just moved back to Alaska after going to film school, and his help has been really invaluable with setting up the gear for us.

Crew is probably going to be filled in by photographers for all 3 major news stations up here. I have talked to a bunch and all are very willing, though I doubt anyone will want to work all 3 days on deffered pay. I will rotate them out according to their schedule and make things easy with lots of pre-production.

The biggest challenges we have facing us image-wise is the hospital and cafe scenes, each one key to the film. Our local hospital graciously stepped up and is giving us access to a room. As for the cafe, Downtown 'Snow City Cafe' has allowed us access to shoot, and one of their employees will even step in as an extra. The cafe is a beautiful large seattle-type cafe, and its variation in color sceme open a lot of options in shooting style.

The cafe however will have to be shot at night, when script calls for day. To get that fixed, we are bringing in a 20x20 silk and filling that with light from outside. This is way over my usual geurilla or semi-geurilla type shoots. We have a pretty lax attitude toward filming without a permit up here, but when you need to shut down a block of downtown and setup 10 lights along the parking lane, then you need to get some sort of clearance. The public office has been very cool about helping us with permiting and even down to finding road cones and barricades for rent. Amazing how accomodating this city is.

Permanent fund dividend is in next week ($1100 bucks just for living up here. I love it) but that will all go to proccessing. While everyone else spends their money on cars and pot and vacations, I get film processing and telecine. Awsome. This whole film will be self funded. My replacement to film school, since I always learn more on my own. I have been sinking half of my pay as a photographer and freelance ENG for the last 4 months into this project.

Finding acting talent has been quite easy. I put out an email to the various community theater groups around town and put up some flyers with email contact. The paper stepped in and gave us a free listing. I have probably around 25 people interested, and who knows how many when we do the auditions next week.

Luckily we will have my boss Nick Swann on set doing set-photography. When we get some set pictures, I will be sure to set them up here. It should be quite the show.

I still have tons to do before we shoot, and we are less than 20 days out. Eventually I hope to have this film going out to film festivals, but we will see how the next 20 days go. Maybe I will set up a pre-screener for the people on this forum who have helped me out so much. Major thanks to all who are on this forum. (should I put a thanks to tim on the credits? he has earned it by providing such an amazing resource to those who aspire to film for a living.)

I will post updates as they come along. the shoot will be oct. 21, 22, & 23.
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#2 David Sweetman

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Posted 02 October 2006 - 01:47 AM

Awesome, sonds intense! Best of luck, seems like you're putting your heart into this project. That last-minute kind of pre-production runaround can be crazy. Can't wait to see the finished product!
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#3 Michael Collier

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Posted 02 October 2006 - 03:37 AM

Thanks for the support. I am thowing all I have at this so I hope it will be as good as it is in my head. I will keep people updated here, but posts will be few and far between, since everything is set, but not done yet. I would rather make the bulk of my posts later on when I can show my setups and explain my thinking on some of the stuff.

For anyone who wants to stay up on the day to day of the project (few I am sure, but anyone who does low budget indie shorts will definatley find the production interesting) I have set up a blog at:

Sleep Blog

It is quite tiring trying to do it all, since I am also gearing up to try and distrabute it myself. My model I am toying with is a Tivo combined with Ipod and a little TV and lots of internet ads. We will see how it works out, but its the only way I can see a short film finding any kind of profit. If it doesn't work I will put my producer hat away forever (something I would gladly do anyway)

All kinds of problems have popped up. At one point I was $1000 over budget, so I called all my clients that I had shot video for, but hadn't cut yet and told them I was cutting my rate in half. That got the money we need, so it should be all good (but now I have to squeeze in some edit days into an already packed schedule). The only question is permits. The guy said we should be ok, but we submitted the application one day prior to the deadline, and he is on vacation until the 10th. I hope we get that approved in time.

We have film waiting, and I gotta resist the urge to open the fridge and just look at it. I really feel empowered by film, and am very glad to be shooting it. I have spend a decade now trying to figure out how to make video look like film. I have come close, but I think if I just use real film, it would be a bit easier, and I can rely more on whats in front of the camera, not so much the camera itself.

We also have a few key shots that get me really excited. I have created a visual arch from blue to green and dirty to a moment of gold, then to a nutral look with a slight warm bias (only way I can describe it: some people say white with a bit of blue is true white, some say white with a bit of orange is true white. This will bias toward the warm, without actually being warm) It follows the storys arch pretty well, and helps tell the story of the charecters.

I started by thinking of it like an archetype driven story, almost an alagory of sorts, but the more I look at it, its in two parts. The first is quite archetypal. The savior charecter, the devil, and the balance between the two, but the second is more naturalistic approach, where everything lies in grays. The good guy isn't all good, and the happy ending is really just bittersweet finale. I don't know how to describe it, i hope it will be obvious in the finnished product.

Anyone here who has helped me out in preivious posts (of which there are many) I will send out an invitation to watch the screener before we send it to festivals. I am interested in promoting my work as DP more than director, so I would be very grateful to get reviews/critisism on the work from people who know what to look for. Check back often to the blog, I should have it updated every day or so (It will be my main link of communication to all the various departments and people involved, and will have a more indepth photo page than I will post here.)
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Visual Products

Ritter Battery

rebotnix Technologies

The Slider

Rig Wheels Passport

Glidecam