Interviewed: Jonathan Nail, Allison Vanore, Rob Gokee, Michele Boyd, Jay Caputo, Amol Shah, Melissa Dalton, PJ Gaynard, Jason Burns
I don't feel like there is a specific type of personality for a writer - they come from all backgrounds and with varying imaginations. I know writers who are very big on research and technical information while I also know writers who are about discovering something completely odd or something unimaginable. A writer must be dedicated to their craft and must find the way writing works for them. I know for me, when I write, it's not until I've worked out the story and the ideas and the characters all in my head before I even put pen to paper. Yes, a pen. I write everything free-hand. It's only for the second draft that I'll type it onto my computer. Transcribing allows me to edit while I type. For other writers, it's all about outlines, character background, timelines, and research before writing anything in script format.
Once the script is handed over to a Producer, Director, or Executive Producer, the writer needs to be open to suggestions, changes and additions. A writer is usually just thinking about the story and the characters and the world that is created can be anything on paper. However, as a producer I see a script differently. The first things I think when I read a script are...
- Is it innovative and well written?
- How many characters?
- How many locations?
- Are there special effects required?
- Are there visual effects required?
- Is it set in present time or is it a period piece or future/sci-fi?
- Is it marketable?
All of these items, except for the first, are a big deal when you talk in terms of money and logistics. If you come to me with a script that takes place in one apartment with two characters and no effects then it's going to be much easier and faster to pull off then a vampire period piece with 10 main characters and 100s of extras. That said, a two character drama might not be as marketable as a vampire movie (at least now, in 2010)... so it all depends on what your abilities, goals and resources are.
Once production starts, changes to the script need to remain minimal however as the actors get into the script with the director, this is the time that the writer needs to be willing to see, hear and adjust. One thing I recommend is having a table read as production starts so everyone, including all key production personnel can hear the script read out loud. We recently did this for a project I'm in pre-production on. We had our Director, Writer, Executive Producer and Art Director all in attendance to hear the script. What this does is make it real for everyone. It allows you to imagine it on a different level - it's the words coming to life. A sentence that is genius on the page may not read the way you intended or a line you deemed serious could come off extremely funny. It is that moment that a writer needs to recognize that changes will happen and you can either be a part of it or not - we hope you are.
Tips for a Screen Writer
If you are making edits, let your film crew and cast know.
The worst thing to do as a writer is to constantly make changes without letting anyone know. I have worked on a handful of films where the writer is making changes up until the day of the shoot. This becomes a problem for everyone if they aren't aware that changes are coming. Actors need time to prepare their lines (at least 48 hours) as well as all other key crew are affected by changes. If you change: INT. OFFICE DAY to EXT. PARK BENCH DAY because it shows more of a bond between the characters that they spend time together outside of the office, this affects Art Department, Grip and Electric, Location, Transportation, and other set logistics.
Stay involved in the production.
Don't consider your job is over when you hand a script over to a production team. You should be a part of the process - it will only make the film better. Even in the editing process, if you are able, you should be in the loop.
Listen and watch your team.
Whether it's a table read or a rehearsal, listen to the words and watch the body language and choices of the actors. If something isn't working and the Director is having a hard time making a section work, make suggestions and adjustments. Keep that communication open.
Recent Writers I've Worked With
Elias Benavidez writer of A Note to Etienne
Jonathan Nail writer of "S.O.L.O. The Series"
Boris Kievsky & Konstantin Lavysh writers of "Purgatory, Inc."
Marty Blackshear & Vincent Brantley writers of Hopelessly in June
As many of you may know, I've been working with Cornbread Films for over a year and a half now on the feature romantic comedy, Hopelessly in June. We've hit our final stretch and we are days away from setting our schedule for the end of production.
What has been a long process has also been an amazing one. Not only is this the first feature film I have had the pleasure of producing, it's also the first time I'm working with Director Vincent Brantley (Jason Blackwell), Executive Producers Jay Vetter (established Art Director: Shallow Hal, There's Something About Mary) and entrepreneur Jerry Mosley. Each of them supportive, motivated and talented. I've learned a lot from them and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the team.
Speaking of our team, the team that we've built and worked with for the span of the project is also amazing, talented, hard-working and determined to see the project through, just as we are. Although many positions have turned over throughout the process due to changing schedules, other opportunities, etc., the film is stronger because of the large network of resources and people involved. Another plus to the length of time we've shot is that our team is now much like a television set after 5 seasons of production. We all know each other, know how to work together and know what to expect. Our sets are laid back and fun and therefore the scenes we shoot are free flowing and exactly what we hope for - if not better. With the absence of negativity or stress we can all let our creative juices flow.
Regardless of the pitfalls we've encountered (and there have been a few!) the challenges have only made us stronger, more creative and more resourceful. Whether it's shooting guerrilla style in the heart of Beverly Hills without a permit or faking a dog funeral in a city park where the ranger thought we were actually burying a dog and families were coming over to give their condolences, our film will be all the better in the end.
So let's raise an apple martini to the completion of Hopelessly in June!
I invite you to follow the film on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook so that you are in the loop when our inspirational, metropolitan film about culture and love in Los Angeles hits the big screen.
~Allison Vanore, Producer
All I can really say is WOW.
The SOLO The Series Premiere Party was off the hook this week! We had such a huge crowd of postive, supportive and energetic people. I know Jonathan and I couldn't have asked for more from those who came. With our cast and crew in attendance to take part in the Q&A hosted by Kristyn Burtt, Michael Nicklin heading up our raffle, Alan Heitz handling photography and both The Web Files and Makin' it Happen camera crews complete with hosts, Kristyn Burtt and Jenn Page, the night was wild!
The beginning of the night was all about mingling and meeting those who we have only met via Twitter and Facebook and seeing those who we have worked with on SOLO and other projects. It was a like a reunion (though half of those I was reunited with I actually met for the first time that night). People like Kristyn Burtt, who has probably been at the same events that I have numerous times and who I've conversed with only via Twitter, I was finally able to say hi to and chat with for a few minutes - on camera - for The Web Files.
We screened the first three Episodes of SOLO (18 minutes total) and I truely enjoyed hearing the gasps, laughs and applause coming from the packed audience. Following the screening we had our cast including Creator/Lead Jonathan Nail and I up front for a Q & A. The overall theme of the night was of support for our craft and of each other. It was truely an inspirational evening.
Thank you again to everyone who attended. For those of you who missed the party, don't worry, SOLO The Series will be coming out via the web really soon and something tells me that regardless of the state of the webseries world, we will have enough fan support for the show that it will continue on!
For more event photos please visit our Facebook photo album.
For more info on SOLO The Series check out http://watchsolo.com.
To join other fans in supporting SOLO The Series, make a tax deductible donation here.
Join the SOLO The Series Newsletter by clicking here.
Okay, Solonauts, signing off!
Allison Vanore, Producer SOLO The Series
Check it out - but beware! The official trailer for short horror film, Kill Devil Hill has just been released! Written and Directed by Bobby de Almeida, shot by Greg White and starring Aiden Miranda, Taylor Graham, Melinda Bennett, and Hunter Miranda. Associate Producer and AD, Allison Vanore. The film is in post production right now! We'll keep you up to date on the final cut of the film as it is released. Become a fan on Facebook!
The long awaited release of SOLO The Series is here! To kick off the web launch we are hosting a premiere at Hollywood favorite, Cinespace, on June 10, 2010 from 7pm to 10pm. Mark your calendar and invite your friends. You don't want to miss the first three episodes of SOLO before they hit the web, a Cast/Crew Q&A and drinks! Did we mention drinks?!
What: Premiere Party & Screening of SOLO The Series
Where: Cinespace in Hollywood, CA
When: June 10, 2010 at 7pm - 10pm
Hosted By: Rocket Munkee Productions / Jonathan Nail
SOLO: A sci-fi, comedy web series set in space, naturally.
Our hero, Scott Drizhal, is chosen to go on a solo, 3 year mission to Mars as part of a reality series. Unfortunately the show is canceled and Scott is now stuck on a round-trip ticket to Mars and back. With no company in deep space other than a smart-ass, artificially-intelligent ship computer (PHAL), his wife declaring him legally dead so she can claim the millions in insurance, a Napoleonic producer whose hubris lands him and the show into Japanese mafia infested waters and a malfunctioning, prototype ship that was never meant to fly to Mars… Hilarity ensues.
This new web series, created by writer and star, Jonathan Nail ( AMC’s Mad Men, HBO’s Carnivàle, Criminal Minds), also stars Michele Boyd (The Guild) and Jason Burns (Voice of the John Tesh Radio Show), premieres this fall on watchsolo.com.
I'm working with Robert de Almeida on short horror film, "Kill Devil Hill" this week. We shot one day exterior woods last weekend with young actor, Aiden Miranda. This weekend we shoot our interior house scenes with our entire cast including Aiden's older brother, Hunter Miranda, who I've worked with on "Junkyard" and "The Price of Silence - PSA" over the past few years.
For more information: "Kill Devil Hill".
"Kill Devil Hill"
Writer/Producer/Director Robert de Almeida
Associate Producer/AD Allison Vanore
Director of Photography Gregory White
Music Composer Rob Gokee
This past Sunday, April 18, 2010, Hollywood Shorts (lead by Kimberly Browning) graciously hosted a shorts film event at Cinespace Los Angeles where we screened "Purgatory, Inc." to a full house. Our film received lots of laughs and many compliments. The night couldn't have been better - well, it would have been slightly better if I was able to attend! I was shooting on Sunday for a new short film so my schedule just wouldn't allow for it!
Now we'll be shopping "Purgatory, Inc." around and those upcoming opportunities will seal its fate. Will it continue on, chapter after chapter as a web series? Or will it grace the festival circuit as a short film. The production team behind "Purgatory, Inc." Boris Kievsky, Konstantin Lavysh & Allison Vanore, certainly want to see it have a life on the web.
If anyone is interested in seeing our web series proposal please contact me, Allison Vanore by submitting your info here.
The Social Butterfly. The hardest crew member to nail down unless you have a bit of cash.
Makeup Artists (MUA) are one of the crew members who must be both talented at what they do and personable.
You may think that all members of a crew should be personable (I agree but this varies depending on the position), but Makeup Artists specifically need to have a special touch since they are dealing with talent personally, some insecure and others just yearning to look the part. Talent needs to trust that their Makeup Artist is doing what the Director wants, what will make them look the part (and usually: look good) and also, not use anything on their skin that may give them an allergic reaction. The second that trust is broken you are left with an insecure actor which is not at all beneficial to any production.
I always appreciate a Makeup Artist who asks the following questions as they take on a job:
Can I get a copy of the script?
Can I get headshots or screen grabs of the talent?
Do I need to worry about continuity with other scenes and if so, do you have screen grabs from that footage that I can take a look at?
These questions - although obvious - are important especially if a Makeup Artist is coming into a project after production has started. There is nothing worse than a MUA getting to set, jumping in feet first and doing the wrong look/type of makeup for a character. As a Producer, I certainly don't have the time to think about these things and make sure the Director is communicating this information as I hire you. So please just ask! Ask as many questions as you can!
When you arrive on set, find your designated space to set up and do so immediately. You are the first stop when an actor arrives. If you are not on time the entire production can be held up. When you get underway, estimate the amount of time you will need to complete each actor's make up. There is nothing worse than seeing a MUA chatting away with the talent (while working) with no idea when the make up session will end. If the AD or the Director asks how long it will take, have an answer and be accurate. Two seconds is not an answer unless the talent is standing up from your chair. If your MUA is also doing hair, the process will take longer and the AD needs to know just how long. When you are on set it's all about timing, scheduling and accuracy.
After rehearsal the AD and/or Director (and sometimes the talent) will ask for Last Looks. There's nothing worse than calling Last Looks and the MUA is no where to be found. Once you are done with talent in the chair, bring your makeup bag and be on set. Look at the monitor and know what needs tweaking before someone calls Last Looks. When they call you in, jump in, make adjustments quickly and clear frame.
One of My Favs
Erin LeBre is one of my favorite Makeup Artists as she possesses all of the characteristics I mentioned above. Additionally, if she can't work with me on a production, she is ready and willing to help fill the spot with someone competent and she'll give them notes and a mini-interview so that she knows the person she is giving me is on top of their game. Erin also is one of the few who never has a problem with talent. She makes talent feel comfortable and secure. Erin always asks questions about he production needs and the talent. She takes make up notes for continuity so that we can continue shooting a scene another time if necessary. She's quick on her feet and when presented with situations like sun burn or horrible tan lines - she jumps in and does what she can to remedy the situation. And the talent always looks amazing!
Although it shouldn't matter (but it certainly does) the first red flag when hiring or meeting a MUA is when they aren't wearing any makeup or their own makeup doesn't look good. If they can't put their own makeup on, then they have no business doing someone else's.
When you are able to, hire a MUA and a separate Hair Stylist so that they both can do their job to the best of their ability. If a MUA isn't strong with hair, and you ask them to style hair, you are setting yourself up for mediocre hair and a hold-up in your schedule.
Special Effects, Prosthetics and other fun stuff - this is a different skill set than Beauty/Glamour make up. Make sure you are upfront with a MUA about the needs of the production before asking your MUA to produce a wound on your talent's body or help with blood. Also, these additional requests mean additional money, so be prepared to pull out the wallet.
Over the next few weeks I'm going to talk about the different members of an indie film crew and what I feel is important for these individuals to possess. It'll be the do's and don't's and I'll even feature some of my favorites and a few true stories! From Make Up Artists to Production Assistants... it will all be here: From a Producer's Perspective.