Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Things that begin with the letter M: Music/Marketing (the P21 experience)

After talking to one of my crew members over the weekend he made a pretty valid point about blogging my perspective on the festival as a team captain.  So here I am, doing that blogging thing.  I figure I'm overdue for some sort of update and while the documentary is still chugging along, there is really nothing to report on the subject.  At least nothing substantial in my opinion.

This is the third year my crew and I have taken part in Project Twenty 1 (Go check out their website for information on the competition).  In a way this has become old hat for us.  The schedule is usually posted around the time registration opens up and we do not deviate from it.  I’m pretty sure my cast and crew call me a tyrant behind my back during those three weeks as I screamed and carried on about not straying from the schedule.  The only change that was implemented was a private facebook group one week prior to the launch date.
The group was comprised of potential cast and crew members that I had worked with in the past.  During the week before the kick off event all of us tossed out ideas that could be turned into a short film, I posted the locations that were available, odd props and access to vehicles.  I also whittled down the group once I knew who in and who was out.  This worked out rather nice and by the time of the launch we had roughly 20 different ideas and a solid crew of 21.
By the time the kickoff event rolled around we were prepared for the element.  At least we thought we were.  When they announced the element was ‘starts with a crash’ the entire crew had a WTF look on their face for a solid two minutes.  Mainly because we were expecting ‘starts with a crash INSERT REAL ELEMENT HERE’.  After we wrapped our brains around the crash being THE element we got back into the game.  I’m guessing we should be thankful that we were all sober at the time and didn’t smoke pot because we’d probably still be sitting there at the bowling alley right now, staring blankly at each other, trying to figure out what the element was.

Adam~ “Club 27?”
Brad~ “Yeah, Club 27 idea...”
Charlie~ “What’s that?”
Brad~ “The Amy Winehouse one.”
Charlie~ “Oh...”
Adam~ “What? Too soon?”
Charlie~ “No,wait, what was that about again?”
Adam~ “The rockstars that bought it at age know Joplin, Cobain, Morrison, Hendrix and that other guy...Brian something...lying in bed, just like Brian Wilson not him.  I think this guy was in the Mama and the Papas.”
Brad~ “Jones, Brian Jones the guitarist for the Rolling Stones.”
Adam~ “Yeah, him...and now Amy Winehouse.”
Charlie~ “Are you sure that’s a good idea?  She just died the other day and the autopsy reports aren’t back yet.  What if it wasn’t drug related?”
Adam~  “Does it really matter? She’s dead...and 27.”
Alright, the dialogue didn’t go exactly down like that and I have no idea who Adam, Brad and Charlie are, but you get the idea.  The crew that made the trek up to Lucky Strikes quickly decided post element reveal to bail for some place quiet with diner food.  Personally I hate loud places where it requires me to scream like Edith Bunker at the person sitting next to me.  That shit gets old quick and is one of the primary reasons I remain in my editing cave on networking nights.  I want to actually hear the person I’m having a conversation with, not get every third word and wake up with a bitching sore throat the next morning.
During this time we had one major issue to resolve, that was finding the main character to play our dead rockstar Trent.  One of the crew members managed to coax someone over so we could talk to the guy.  I did my best to explain the premise of the short but the more I talked the more I felt as if I were recruiting him to join a cult and not star in a film.
Once we got situated at the diner a few blocks over we tag teamed the idea.  The question of the evening was what determines ‘rock star status’.  That’s when everyone pulled out their phones to post/text the expert on the subject; my mom.
Sad, but true.  Ask anyone who knows her.  She’s cooler than Christopher Walken reading ‘goodnight moon’ and Samuel L. Jackson reading ‘Go the fuck to sleep’ combined.
David~ “That guy you talked to to play Trent. You get his information?”
Eddie~ “Uh, no...but I gave him mine.”
Eddie~ “Awww...crap.  That guy is so not adding me on facebook tonight.”
David~ “We probably scared him when we surrounded him like vultures.”
Eddie~ “He did sort of look like we were asking him to drink the koolaid, didn’t he?”
David~ “He’s so not calling...”
Eddie~ “” *pauses*  “I wonder if it would made a difference if we told him we didn’t have it in the budget for the matching sweats and”
David~  “Okay, we need a back up Trent.  Ideas?”
After we were watered and fed we had a pretty good idea the structure of ‘Club 27’.  I left it up to one of the writers on the crew to bang out a rough draft for the following morning.  I had it waiting in my inbox by 10am the next day.  Another writer tossed in his ideas before finally the last writer laid down the gauntlet.  What I found interesting was seeing how one idea could spark so may different tones just between the writers yet be the same plot.
During the week I did get confirmation from the guy I had networked with during the kickoff event.  From the correspondences I was pretty sure we didn’t scare him off and he sounded pretty excited once he read the script.  Unfortunately, a family emergency came up and his role was regretfully recast.  He turned out to be a pretty cool dude and hopefully I’ll get the chance to work with him on a future project.
With New-Trent in place it was a go for the first shoot weekend.  We had a few hiccups, like tracking down our ‘Janis’ and ‘Hendrix’ for fittings pre-shoot and finding hillbilly attire for Trent.  Though a majority of us grew up during the grunge era we have since thrown out our flannels.  Big mistake.  Luckily for us one of our newer crew members owns a shop: Church of Vintage which deals in vintage threads.  She has since received the moniker ‘Wardrobe Goddess’ because she rocks that much.  I can’t begin to tell you how awesome it is to have access to that much stuff.
Hendrix Attire ~ Check
Cobain Attire ~ Check
Joplin Attire ~ Check
Cow Costume ~ Wait, what?
The cow costume came from one of the other crew members.  It had been in the trunk of their car for quite some time and we figured why not.  Trent’s day job could be working for a Chick-Fil-A knock off named Big Slab O’ Cow as a sign holder.  we even made a page for it on facebook.
TRENT in a cow costume, holding up a sign advertising some sort of restaurant. Two HOODLUMS start harassing him, and he hits them with a sign.
TRENT, still in his cow costume, having his mugshot taken.
While this scene was funny we had a problem, only one hoodlum to beat him up.  In my opinion it wasn’t funny enough.  Then I remembered the lobster costume I had in storage.  Don’t ask why, I just do, okay?  The person who was my hoodlum had no idea I found the costume and that he would be wearing it until a few minutes prior to the shoot.  I refer to him as my MPB (Multi-Purpose Bitch), my gaffer to actor.  The difficult part was not convincing him to get into costume but trying to find queen-sized black stockings that weren’t see through.
Franco~  “Actually these tights are quiet comfortable...”

We ended up doing that particular scene in two takes.  The first nearly caused a fender bender when some little old blue hair slammed on her breaks and the second had amassed a crowd of roughly 20 illegal immigrants.  I wasn’t pressing my luck with a third take. Plus, it was the first shoot of the second day.  Bigger fish to fry, or chickens to pluck in our case.

During the course of that weekend we were winging Trent’s song.  My cousin had only done the chorus at that point and our reference was a cell phone message for the harmonies.  It proved to be a challenge for him and considering the lower back pain I’m feeling right now I’m beginning to think he might have constructed a voodoo doll.
Grace~ “You down for making some music for the film.”
Harry~  “What do you have?”
Grace~ *Brief Synopsis* “So, I need a country song...”
Harry~ “Does it have to be country.”
Grace~ “Yes, but it has to be a shitty country song.”
Harry~ “Aren’t all country songs shitty?”
Harry~ “Fine.  I’ll see what I can do.”  *Grumbles*
Not only did he put together a shitty country song, he managed to weave in the lobster battle.  I was told it took him nearly 30 takes to sing the lobster line without laughing.  I made sure in post that I placed that line in during Trent’s accident scene.
The shoot took a total of two days.  We were wrapped by Sunday at 6.  The cast and crew went home and I started post.  This was the first time I shot with two cameras.  I had my trusty SD panasonic DVC-30 for audio as well as back up and I had purchased a Canon 7D (outfitted with a lens EFS 17-85mm I had for my previous camera) a week before the shoot.  I wasn’t sure how the footage was going to turn out on the Canon and I didn’t want to rely on the native audio.  It was too big of a risk and while I shot I had horrible visions of blurry footage due to the lens unforgivable depth of field.  I didn’t even want to think about the sound.  Overall, the footage was great and the sound was ass.  I spent an entire weekend syncing audio and then spent two nights after work ripping all the audio from the paramedic scene.  I pulled in one of the actors for his voice over and for the one that couldn’t make it I had another friend step in to do his voice.  It took 3 takes for both of them to nail the audio.
Audio clean up

With the film in the can we set our sights on marketing.  I really didn’t think we had a shot of being in the running for the award and unfortunantly some of our best stuff never saw the light of day.
  • We created a profile for Margaret Maines (aka Trent’s biggest fan) on facebook.  Gave the entire team the email and password to log in and see how many people we could friend.  Everyone worked on her profile, chatted with people, added games... (Okay, it was just me that added the games).  We made her birthday the same day as the P21 awards ceremony.  She currently has 66 friends.  Not bad for being imaginary.

  • Our graphic design god made up really cool posters which we rolled out the week before the screening.

  • We killed Trent off the morning of September 31.  One of my crew members made up a CNN-looking webpage with the hopes people would RT it.
  • Interviews with the cast and crew about who their music idols were (Found Here at 2255Films fan site on facebook).
  • a trailer which made the previous years entries look like comedies (they weren't)
  • Made up demo CDs of the ‘Ain’t Life Grand’ song to hand out at events prior to the premier.  The CD sleeves also included business cards of the people that worked on the film as well as the postcards to promote the screening.

  • Swag bags for the cast and crew.  The bags included the DVD, poster, coffee mug and these light up clappy hand things my mom found at the dollar store.  It’s the little things in life that keep us amused.  

Isaac~ *Holds up clappy hands*  “Shiny!”
Jessica~  “I knew when I saw them I HAD to buy them.  I know you said 16 but I bought more than that.”
Little did I know the original Susie Filmmaker liked them too (original pictures courtesy of @ice2cu):

Anyway, we were nominated for Best Music and Best Marketing at P21 (Results here).  It was pretty cool despite it not being a win.  My cast and crew made a fun film with little drama and as far as I know we are all still on speaking terms.  I call that a win.  Now wake me up when it’s July 2012.