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Here's a no win for ya!


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 08:05 PM

Coming on the heels of last weeks call I got, asking to work for free and loan my gear to shoot a commercial that was SURE to win a contest in which I would then win half of the $100K prize, I get a call today from a director wanting to make a short film. Fair enough. He says he has no money, and is wondering if I can do it pro-bono. M'kay. The script for this film which he has no money to make has fantasy creatures, and locations ranging from crowded high schools and shopping malls to mystical evergreen forests, not to mention a seemingly feature length sized cast and lotsa extras. Ummm....

And that's not the worst of it: The director has cerebral palsy. It was so hard to understand him on the phone that I wasn't sure if I was getting a prank call at first.

This project has failure written all over it, but jeez, do I have to break the truth to a guy with cerebral palsy too?

I never thought I'd see the day my gig digitizing home videos would be appealing by comparison!

BR
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#2 Gabe Spangler

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 08:47 PM

This is what sucks about indie filmmaking nowadays. Writers, directors and producers think you can make movies for nothing because of advancements in camera technology. There are a slew of companies running around thinking they can make a $5,000 movie for $5. Yeah ... not gonna happen. You still need good actors, good production design, good writing, good wardrobe, good lighting, good editing, etc, etc, etc.... I'd turn it down if I were you. If they were paying, I'd say go help them make their pile of garbage with a fake grin on the whole way. But for free? Hell no. We need to all band together and teach these foolish people a lesson. Don't work for free unless it's really worthwhile. And don't knowingly work on a terrible project. Let's establish a little artistic and professional integrity here.
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#3 Keith Walters

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 08:50 PM

Coming on the heels of last weeks call I got, asking to work for free and loan my gear to shoot a commercial that was SURE to win a contest in which I would then win half of the $100K prize, I get a call today from a director wanting to make a short film. Fair enough. He says he has no money, and is wondering if I can do it pro-bono. M'kay. The script for this film which he has no money to make has fantasy creatures, and locations ranging from crowded high schools and shopping malls to mystical evergreen forests, not to mention a seemingly feature length sized cast and lotsa extras. Ummm....

And that's not the worst of it: The director has cerebral palsy. It was so hard to understand him on the phone that I wasn't sure if I was getting a prank call at first.

This project has failure written all over it, but jeez, do I have to break the truth to a guy with cerebral palsy too?

I never thought I'd see the day my gig digitizing home videos would be appealing by comparison!

BR

Many many years ago I somehow got roped into helping on a Weekend Pro Bono production by a rental company I used to freelance for.

To this day I have no idea what the project was about, but the set was crowded with seedy-looking people covered with tattoos and metal nose ornamentation, long before that sort of thing became mainstream.

The guy operating the camera had spina bifida and clanked around everywhere on noisy metal crutches, while the "director" I guess you could him, apparently had no tongue and used to babble incomprehensibly at the top of his voice all the time, apparently totally convinced that everybody could understand him.


The "catering" consisted of a large bottle of some Kool-Aid like concoction and a bowl of some weird-looking rice dish that smelled like burned cabbage and tasted like boiled hay.

Most of the day was spent shooting various weird people prancing around in front of a lot of bed sheets strung up with ocotpus straps as a sort of poor man's cyclorama, with other people projecting shadows of tree branches onto it using a lot of 500W redheads.

Mostly I remember it being stinking hot, the cast and crew all stunk, and apart from the ghastly Kool-Aid there was nothing to drink but tepid tap water, and nowhere I could buy any decent food.
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 10:01 PM

Ooh, bad-indie-production story time!

South of the river in London is often not a great place to be. Location was the microscopic postage stamp slot of front garden allocated to a terraced house. The paint was peeling off the pebbledash and the pebbledash was falling off in chunks from the facade, producing a classic example of compound decay that you only get in places where it's just warm enough to be rainy followed by just cold enough to freeze. We were in this location to shoot a scene in which a principal character retrieved his stash of ill-gotten hard currency from inside a rusting fridge.

Now, let's allow ourselves a brief digression here for the benefit of our colonial cousins. In the United States, any production worth its salt would have spent many months commissioning concept sketches of a rusting fridge, with a field trip to the UK to find and record representative specimens of rust, then had it made in fiberglass by artisans in a gleaming Culver City facility filled with apple macs and donuts. This movie-grade rusting fridge would have then been conveyed under a stain-free tarpaulin, in the back of an apparently-new pickup truck with wheels three feet in diameter, to a comfortably air-conditioned soundstage, where an IATSE crew costing the gross national product of Lesotho daily would carefully recreate the exact conditions of a wintry London morning inbetween eating donuts and working out their overtime entitlements to eight decimal places.

Conversely, in London, we go to the front garden of a house on a notorious council estate, where there is a rusting fridge, and we squat in a nearly-frozen puddle of mud and dog mess until someone says "wrap". Don't tell me about dedication.

Anyway, one generally assumes that productions in need of a garden containing a rusting fridge will have at least approached the owners of the fridge before arriving to shoot. Long before the multiply-tattooed, shaven-headed bodybuilding tenant of the house turned up, we'd worked out, from the skittishness of those in charge, that these approaches had not been made. When he did turn up, before we'd shot a frame, I was left holding camera equipment I didn't own, literally physically sandwiched between the director and his coven on one hand, and Professor Biceps on the other, being told to do two contradictory things (viz, stay, and leave) in turn, and wondering in a peculiarly detached way whether it's possible to succumb to steroid poisoning if you inhale enough of another man's sweat.

The only time I've been more scared was having been walked, backwards, and entirely unaware, with a camera on my shoulder into the red light district of Amsterdam. All those barely-clad women turned into Biceps's cousins faster than you can say Ik had geen idee was het niet een goed idee om hier fotos nemen.

We survived, but I did not finish the production.
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#5 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 10:48 PM

He has cerebral palsy, so? Look, treating him like some kind of invalid is, in my opinion, disrespectful. IF he has written a script that is unfilmable at the budget, or in this case, lack of budget that he has, be straight up with him and tell him he needs to go back and write a script with 1 to at the MOST 3 locations he knows can be secured, has 2 or 3 main characters and a few minor characters that will work for free (but make sure he knows to at the very least feed them) and utilizes ONLY things he has or knows he can get. Tell him if he writes a script OR REWRITES this script to meet that criteria where it has at least a snowball's chance in Hell of getting shot, you'll be happy to help out and he should save the elaborate fantasy script for when he has the budget to do it. There was that kid who did that zombie movie for 70 bucks that got into Cannes with all those pros who worked for free, but that's MUCH MORE the exception than the rule. Tell him to think this way, whatever he puts down on paper, SOMEONE is gonna have to turn into an image, so if he can't figure out how to do that with the resources he has available, he needs to cut or rewrite it so it CAN be put up on the screen. A scene you can't afford to film is a scene the audience will never see so cut it before it becomes Integral to the script and you're REALLY screwed. B)
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#6 Brian Rose

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 12:57 PM

James you're right, and I just finished sending him my feedback on the script. I figured I owed it to him to give an honest appraisal, and made him aware of all he was in for if he tried to make the film as is, with the resources he had.

I just hope it takes it the right way. For being some of the hardest, most brutal (physically, emotionally, psychologically) forms of expression out there, the cinema sure draws more than its share of neophytes who just can't handle the criticism that comes with the process, and get defensive. The lure of instant fame and fortune is a strong one...


BR
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#7 John Sprung

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 01:57 PM

Phil, I haven't laughed that hard in weeks. You've got to write a book. ;-)

Brian, given what you describe, my suggestion to the guy would be to consider computer animation instead of live action. It may be a better tool for his particular story.





-- J.S.
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