What happens after months of planning, fundraising, coordinating schedules and stretching every dollar? Principle Photography.

On May 16, 2013, I made the trip from NJ to NYC to pick up our cast and crew for the 42 Seconds of Happiness shoot. This was the first time ever that I was making a film with more cast than crew. We had 10 cast members and a very small but dedicated crew: Writer/Director/EP: Christina Kallas, Producer: Allison Vanore, DP: Dave Sharples, Sound Mixer: Jason Obenschain, Camera Op: Ben Neufeld, Boom Op: Daniel Lugo, DIT/Catering: Rob Gokee, Camera/Production Assistants: Erik Smith and Holland Farkas and BTS: Alex Gloor. Along the way I also picked up some rented and borrowed equipment. Luckily we have extremely supportive people around us which made our limited budget possible on every level: transportation, equipment, location, catering, craft services, art dept and of course, the many donors and supporters since the beginning of this process.

42SoH Slate
Producer, Allison Vanore

We embarked on a journey to shoot a feature length movie with up to 3 cameras and 10 cast members at a time for extended takes. Yes, the stress level was high. No one really knew how well this would work. All we knew is that we had months and months of preparation and extremely talented people. In the indie world, that's really the best formula to have. That, and a lot of trust.

Let's talk about trust for a moment. There we were, with 10 actors and almost as many crew members and only 3 of us had read the full script. There were two reasons for that. First, Christina had been working with the actors/characters for more than a year - but until they had experienced together fully the story leading up to the film, we wouldn't know what would happen in it. Second, the point behind Christina’s process is that the authenticity of experience and feeling of being "in the moment" is more important than anything else. Christina was only going to give cast and crew the info she felt they needed prior to each scene. This kept it fresh and spontaneous - and all of us alert and open to surprises. Sometimes that meant actors didn’t receive their pages but the night before, others directly before the scene. Sometimes actors, especially those who weren’t driving a specific scene, didn't receive anything prior to that scene. Christina had a strategic plan for when she would give which pages to which cast member. Her goal was to keep the emotional intensity alive that she had been able to create in the room, this time combining it with a screenplay of classic structure while at the same time allowing for accidents to happen - and embracing such accidents and including them in the story. If you ask her, she will say that this would not have been possible if she hadn't worked with the actors for a year on the story and characters. She will also say that this is only possible with professional actors who have solid improv experience and who are able to work from a screenplay and still go off on a riff where the occasion arises. If you ask me: That's a lot of trust. Christina’s instructions to the actors were: you can do no wrong, you can take your time, you are free to move as you want, do not be afraid of silence or time going by without action, do not be afraid of anything, you are the center of this universe.

Being in an actor-centered universe meant that we were mostly working in chronological order. Besides the script Christina had written what she calls a writers improv script which included all the set-ups and which was my working basis for creating a schedule, preparing the set, the props and everything else we needed for the shoot. That was also the only information the crew had, as the idea was that the cameras would be participating in the scene and that sound would be omnipresent and that we would be able to hear things which we could not see. Sometimes there would be entire choreographed scenes with 3 cameras and 10 lavs of situations shot in real time. The result is a strong improvisational feel, with characters speaking off camera, speaking over each other, blocking sight-lines, and playing out in real time.
42SoH Christina
Actress, Becca Ayers (Cybil) and Writer/Director, Christina Kallas

I can't give too much away. I will say that we had quite a few surprises for the actors and the crew, and the result of withholding information made for remarkable moments within the film.

One of the biggest challenges that we had outside of the specific nature of the film and our limited crew and budget (as if that's not enough) was that we were shooting for only 5 intense days. This stemmed from Christina and her experience shooting hundreds of hours of footage for the 42 Seconds of Happiness webseries. She knew the formula. If we shot about 42 (sic) hrs of material we'd end up with about 100 minutes of finished (edited) footage. Or, like we continued to joke on set, we were making an epic trilogy. We won't really know until we get into the editing room.

Some of the most amazing scenes to experience for me were the Intervention, the Dinner and the Swing Set. I know these don't mean anything to you but they were packed with emotion and beauty. Not to say there aren't many other scenes that tug at your heart and soul but I can't give those away.

Our success isn't possible without the sheer talent of our amazing cast: Lauren Sowa (Alis), Robert Z. Grant (Tomas), Catherine Cobb Ryan (Vineke), Toni Robison-May (Felice), Chris Veteri (Ike), Laura Pruden (Sila), John J Concado (Marc), Becca Ayers (Cybil), Margaret Kelly Murphy (Maria), and Vandit Bhatt (Ben). They brought their talent and dedication and held it for hours on end. There were moments where I, from behind the camera, was shaking and close to tears. What a performance by all!

We were lucky to have Director of Photography, Dave Sharples, on our team. Dave was ready to go and lead the charge to shoot handheld for scenes that lasted over an hour per take! Thankfully he's had years of experience at NFL Films and gigs like shooting the World Series of Poker that prepped him for shooting like this. And even when doubt could have taken over, we always got beautiful shots and unwavering effort from Dave.

DP Dave Sharples, Camera Ops and Cast
DP Dave Sharples, Camera Ops and Cast prepping for the next scene

Sound. Oh boy did we have our work cut out for us. If anything made me nervous it was making sure we captured sound from all of our actors on (and sometimes off) screen. And with that many actors and no clear idea of where the actors or cameras would go, we couldn't get a boom close to a lot of the action. Additionally, 10 actors mic'd and mixed at the same time really is a two mixer job - due to our resources that wasn't an option. Still, the amount of gear you need for a shoot like this doubles. Luckily we remedied both in a way that worked. We had one extremely dedicated Sound Mixer, Jason (who I don't believe ever slept during those 5 days) and our Boom Op, Daniel, and a donation of gear that got us to our 11 channel goal. Also, an area of our location where most of the action took place was laid out in a way that allowed us to boom from above. It wasn't easy but we got through it. I think Jason is still hearing 10 voices in his head.

42SoH_Sound
Sound Mixer

I suppose the big question is: Did it work?

It was such a huge experiment and we did accept that we could fail. Christina and I went into this knowing that was a possibility and knowing that, had a liberating quality. What I can say is that it was magic. Yes, we were ecstatic that it worked out so well. There were, of course, some serious challenges, I won't lie. But the way we were able to accept and embrace the challenges, any challenges made the film that much better. We have a beautiful story and we took a unique journey to get there. All I can hope for is that our audience sees the magic that we all felt while making this movie. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We have a long post-production process to get through before it's ready for the big screen. By now I know that it will most probably be as unusual as production was. I hope you'll stay with us for the journey.

42 seconds of happinessI was recently introduced to writer, Christina Kallas, via Susan Miller (Exec. Producer/Writer of Anyone But Me).  Christina founded and runs the Writers Improv Studio in NYC among the million other things she does (and I thought I was insanely busy!)  One of the projects she's developing is called 42 Seconds of Happiness, improvisations on love if you will.  In short, Christina took her fully developed screenplay, gathered a group of talented actors and loosely guided them on a journey through the story via improv and threw a camera into the mix - recording it from within the story.  This project is just now being released online as a webseries.  When you see the episodes you'll see raw footage of real emotion.  And it's going multi-platform.   As the next chapters unfold you'll see social media and technology play a part.  Additionally, you'll see a feature film develop.  Christina explains 42 Seconds of Happiness here:

This is about love and creation. How can you love when you fear losing? How can you create when you fear being rejected? It all boils down to the same question. And if fear is part of the equation, then you love and create focused on the result, and for the wrong reasons: to get approval and security. Approval and security is what fortune and fame are for, and it is also what relationships and marriage are for. It's all about fear - you are separate from me, you are separate from the other. What happens when you do that? You lose. It's a never-ending cycle.

Improv is the only way to get out of this cycle. Improv is about letting go, about accepting, about being in the moment. There is no past and no future, and we stop controlling. There is no right or wrong, and we stop fearing. There is no you or me, and we are one. 42 Seconds of Happiness is that moment when we are in the moment.

We record every step since the beginning of this project. We are broadcasting this development process, as a web series made from these improvisations, even the camera is part of the improvisation.  We launched on September 1st, 2012 and will continue broadcasting the improvs until the movie is released. One of our fans has described it as watching “real people going through real stories in their real lives.” Honestly, that is the biggest compliment for me.

I'm intrigued, inspired and jumping in feet first.  I'm excited to work with Christina on this project and look forward to experiencing the story as it unfolds into the feature film we're shooting in the new year.  

For the film version of 42 Seconds of Happiness, we're bringing on a Director of Photography and a sound team which the webseries do not have (due to the necessities of something Christina calls "emotional doubling"). We will still however, respect and work within the improvisational process and philosophy which is important to this project - the closest we can think of in terms of films already made is the aesthetic/look and feel of films  The Celebration or In Your Hands.  

Here's a trailer for the webseries (below).  We hope you check this and the episodes as they release online!  Subscribe to the YouTube channel here.

We welcome and encourage your support by following, liking, and sharing information about this project with your friends and family.

Official Site: http://42secondsofhappiness.wordpress.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/WritersImprov

Facebook: http://facebook.com/42SecondsOfHappiness

Youtube: http://youtube.com/WritersImprovStudio

 

I'm in production with TBC Films up in the redwoods with limited phone and internet access We're shooting away and it's been amazing! To keep up on a daily basis with the goings on for Love in the Time of Monsters see Uncle Slavko's Fun Time Blog. I've been blogging away lately over there under the alias "Andy Gunn." You know, one of the producers who mysteriously disappeared but not before giving me his login info...ha!

For a taste, check these out!

Don't Worry, We're Alive!

A Tale of Two Days

Come See Bigfoot!

Who Works for Uncle Slavko?

And one of the Video Blogs narrated by me, Allison Vanore and created by Ben Turner: Swampy Scowly

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LITOM PosterI think back to the 80s and early 90s... my sisters and I were big into movies and had a huge collection of tapes (VHS) in drawers.  They were mostly recorded movies and shows off of the television.  We watched them over and over.  I know my parents wouldn't let us watch scary movies - or at least they would attempt to keep us from watching.  "No way!" to Friday the 13th, Halloween, Chucky, Gremlins, etc.  However, movies like Howard the Duck and The Peanut Butter Solution, Dark Crystal, Interview with a Vampire and Labyrinth were okay - though watching them now as an adult I wonder how these movies slipped past my parents. Other films I did see: Poltergeist I, II, and III, The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs, Pet Sematary, It, Tremors, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Death Becomes Her, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Frankenstein, The Craft, Fear, Scream....  You get the picture.

So what draws me to Love in the Time of Monsters?  Well, it's a great script for one (thanks to long time friend, Michael Skvarla).  Second, the leads are women and they rock.  Third, the themes of the movie are sacrifice, courage, forgiveness, and Zombie Bigfoots.  (Okay Zombie Bigfoots isn't a theme but it should be!!)  Fourth, the amazing people we're pulling together for this film.  It's guaranteed to be fantastic. 

Introducing the director, Matt Jackson, a good friend and dedicated filmmaker - I'm so excited to watch him on this journey!  Andy Gunn - Producer and ring-leader - I worked with Andy and Matt on Background(ed) about 4 years ago and after numerous awards and festivals I'm happy to be making another film with them.  

Our Cast: So far we've got Kane Hodder - the guy who has played Jason in the last four Friday the 13th movies.  Kane is also our stunt coordinator and he's bringing along a bunch of his best stunt guys to play a handful of other key stunt performing roles in the film.  We've got Doug Jones - the guy who has played a million creatures (okay a million is a slight exaggeration) such as Fauno in Pan's Labyrinth and Abe Sapien in Hellboy.  The rest of our cast is growing - more juicy details to come in the near future.

Then we've got behind-the-scenes guys and girls with credits such as Thor, Hatchet, The Avengers, Transformers, Jeepers Creepers, and Dragon Age.  Every day we are joined by more and more skilled and gifted people.  And the best part - as if that wasn't enough, they are all damn cool, down to earth people and I'm excited to spend a few weeks up in the redwoods with them all.  We may never return.

So just to recap: Love in the Time of Monsters is oozing awesome.

What now?  Stay in the loop, of course.  Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  Also, subscribe to our Blog.

Today I was featured in the Arizona Daily Star - check it out!

Local Scene: UA grad reaches goal of making feature film

by Phil Villarreal

Movie producer Allison Vanore left Tucson nearly seven years ago to make her mark on the Los Angeles film scene. She's paid her dues... [read more]


Purgatory, Inc.

If you follow me on Twitter or if you are friends with me on Facebook then you probably think, "Oh Allison, that super busy producer who runs around L.A. like she owns the place?  Yeah, she's working on everyone's project."

Well that just about sums it up. My philosophy is to figure out what it is that you love to do and then do it with passion and vigor and at some point it will all pay off.  Since coming out to L.A. in 2004 I have produced over 100 DVDs (menus, games, features, read-along's (and read-to-me's) as well as my fair share of short films and PSAs.  While I'm still doing all of these things on a limited basis, it's been since the end of 2008 that I've been engrossed with film productions big and small.

SOLO Day 3 Episode 1
SOLO The Series

What I am most excited about is that the feature film and the two webseries I'm producing are all at that figurative edge of the cliff and the F18 of hard work and opportunity is about to wiz by and take us on a journey.

Hopefully you'll be right there with me enjoying Hopelessly in June, S.O.L.O. The Series and Purgatory, Inc.

Check back with me here - there will be updates and I may reveal scandelous info (and pics!) about the cast and crew I work with (my attorney is shaking his head "no way" and my publicist is clapping... we'll have to wait to see who wins...).

Hopelessly In June