Bar With Headroom

The Biker Bar was our most difficult location to secure. Rocco had his heart set on Hogs and Heifers, an uptown, East Side version of the raucous downtown venue. The centerpiece was a clog dance on the bar, featuring the characters of Sherry (Joan Jett) and Becky, a tough-as-nails bartender. So, we needed a heavy, wide, extended bar with enough headroom to allow people to get up on it and cavort. Fewer bars in New York fit that description then you might think. We visited the H& H on 95th...

Benefit Of Friends

I arrived again that second morning at FUBAR around 8 30, and just missed my old friend Victoria's performance. Victoria had flown in from Las Vegas for the day to play herself as an insane date who blithely terrorizes the camera Michael's point of view. Seventeen years ago, she had been funny in a cameo in Street Trash, screaming shrilly as her screen husband was pulled out of a car window by a malevolent wino and smashed through the front windshield. Victoria was sitting at the bar when I got...

Conspiracy Of Cooler Heads

Then there are the locations that don't present many problems . . . except those that the cast and crew impose upon them. Case in point we had a Week Three Monday call at 4 00 a.m. at Fubar. I arrived in the morning around 8 30, having missed two-thirds of the shoot, and I immediately sensed things weren't going well. Doria, Brian's assistant, was out sick, and Brian was complaining of a bad cold. This, added to Glenys's ongoing malaise from the Indian meal, resulted in a simmering air of...

Awareness

Of RISK ale, which may contain certain payments based on box office receipts. Under such agreement, the Managers will have either limited or no control over additional expenses that need to be recouped by the Distributor before the Investors receive any cash distributions. The performance of such marketing and advertising expenses could reduce the cash distributions to the Investors. If the marketing cosls Incurred by the Distributor O exceed total box office receipts and proceeds fiom...

Chapter Eight

In a Star Trek episode titled Where No Man Has Gone Before, the Enterprise encounters a mysterious energy field at the edge of the galaxy, and Kirk is faced with a dilemma Should he turn back, or go forward into the ominously pulsing, vaporous mass Kirk decides to continue the probe, reasoning that other vessels will be heading out here some day and will need to know what they'll be facing. Directing a film the first time you do it is equivalent to taking a journey like that, and it's a good...

Chapter Fifteen

By this time, about midway through our shooting schedule, I was beginning to get the hang of things, to feel a little less panic-stricken every time I walked on the set. Up to this point, what had helped a great deal in overcoming my insecurities and lack of experience had been the fact that I had never come to the set unprepared. I'd spent the last two weeks before production began storyboarding the entire script, drawing by hand virtually every shot that would end up appearing in the final...

Chapter Fourteen

Three days of shooting at the School of Visual Arts. I've been looking forward to this as a relief from the problems we've been encountering on the other locations, whether it be noise or troublesome owners. Here I feel I'll have some control. We're scheduled to shoot the movie-theater scene first, in room 502, an eighty-seat screening room that will double nicely, I think, since the whole scene will be covered in a pretty tight two-shot of Michael and Lila....

Chapter Seventeen

Now deep into our postproduction period, the months have rolled by, and the warmest winter I can remember has given way to a benign spring. James Earl Jones was presented with a plaque for his humanitarian work, inscribed to James Earl Ray. Tonya Harding chased Paula Jones around the boxing ring. INS student visas for Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi arrived at the flight-training school in Florida six months to the day after they took out the twin towers. Mistakes were made on near-cosmic...

Digital

Executives of four of Hollywood's major studios have held discussions about forming a nonprofit company that would help financially troubled theater chains replace traditional film projectors with digital ones, the 'Wall Street Journal' reported today (Thursday, May 17th, 2001), citing people familiar with the matter. According to the newspaper, Disney, Sony, Warner Bros, and Paramount have been involved in the discussions, with Universal and 20th Century Fox indicating that they may also...

Mistake Of Feeling Happy And Other Crises

A 10 00 a.m. call for a 4 00 p.m wrap. We're shooting the crucial Michael and Frankie lunch scene, where Frankie will indicate that he knows what's going on between Michael and Lila, but will not interfere. It's a solid four-page dialogue scene, full of subtext and hidden inferences, so Roy has scheduled it as the only thing we'll be shooting today, that I might have enough time to get it right without rushing it. It also serves as a break for the crew, who've been really busting...

Editing Room Where It Begins Again

A movie is made not one time, but three. The first time is when the script is being written. That's the time when anything is possible and everything goes off without a hitch. It's your universe and you have complete control. The shots are all beautiful and the characters do whatever you want them to, and speak their lines exactly as you wish. Not that you can't or won't encounter problems in the writing process, but hey, that's why they put erasers on pencils, and delete buttons on computer...

First Comes Development

This is kind of your dry run for soliciting the big bucks. For some reason, most books on film production, most classes on producing, most words of mouth, neglect to mention this crucial stage. It precedes pre-production and you can't accept a cent from anyone without having gone through it. So, let's define it by posing this simple question What expenses must you incur before you can ask a potential investor to part with his or her hard-earned shekels I wish this were on the bottom of a page...

Foreign Representation

If you decide to separate your territories, the chances are you'll need a foreign sales agent, who will take 20 percent of your sales or more, plus expenses off the top. He represents several films at once, sometimes even twenty or more, and because of this, and because he is familiar with the workings of the foreign markets, he will have more clout. If you go to Cannes (a marketing convention masquerading as a film festival), or MIFED in Milan, or the AFM in Santa Monica, with only one film...

In Search Of The Elusive Dream Team

To that end, I have always striven to build a cast and crew who will work well together. And it disappoints me no end to report that in the case of The Sweet Life I failed to pull that neat trick off. Roc tries to pacify me whenever the subject comes up, but nonetheless I feel obligated to shoulder the blame. It certainly wasn't anyone else's fault . . . except perhaps the fates. Let me give you three examples. The major problem was the DP and his department. Now, if you want the fates...

Info

Frankie (Robert Mobley) at lunch with Michael, reconsidering his feelings about Lila. However, as soon as we turn the camera around to film Jimmy's OTSs and close-ups, Robert can't seem to remember his lines. We start again, Robert continues to freeze up, and finally I'm forced to let him read from the script pages. We're in an OTS shot, and so on the monitor one can see his head turning down to look at the script, which Glenys points out to me, thinking I'll call cut....

Legal Fees

Well, first off there's got to be a legal financial entity already in existence when you approach the money folks. They have to see, in writing, what kind of business entity they're dealing with Corporation, Limited Partnership, LLC (Limited Liability Company), Joint Venture, et cetera and also the agreement they will be signing when they fork over the wampum. That's not something you can provide by scrutinizing and replicating preexisting contracts you've managed to lay your hands on (though...

Michael

You're right, I'd be afraid to enter her body because it might take hostage negotiations to get back out. Like I said, some pretty funny lines. And important establishing information about Lila. It killed me to cut it. But the scene played in one long continuous take, and the shot, as previously stated, was no good it had to go. How had the shot gotten so screwed up What went wrong Well, as simple as the scene appears two guys walking along a city street at night talking for an ultra-low-budget...

Name And Address Of Investor

This letter will constitute an agreement between us concerning certain monies to be advanced by you to me or us, accordingly for use in connection with expenses incurred and to be incurred for my proposed motion picture (the Motion Picture) presently titled _. 1. Upon the execution of this Agreement, you agree to pay me the amount of Five Thousand Dollars ( 5,000) (the Advance), to be used by me, in my sole discretion, for preproduction and production expenses incurred in connection with the...

Ongoing Expenses And Publicity

If you don't sell world rights to one company, you will be expected to store your materials negative, track elements, et cetera on your own dime. This is fair, but it has to be built into your budget. As does yearly accounting and tax preparation for your investors. It may seem a bit annoying, but in the long run, it will pay off. The foreign deals I've made on my films were for five to seven years. Those original deals terminated long ago, and I've resold the rights again and again to various...

The

More Sunday afternoon and evening panic sweats preceding today's shoot at a restaurant and nightclub called Neva on Seventh Ave. South downtown. We're shooting the scene following the one where Michael takes Lila to see La Dolce Vita, in which she, in turn, drags him to a loud and crowded dance club. As of yesterday afternoon, we had only two extras confirmed, or so I'd been told. Hence, the panic Michael (James Lorinz) and Lila (Barbara Sicuranza) on the dance floor. Lila dances...

The Indie Producers Goal

But I am a natural producer . . . in the off-Hollywood sense. Out there in LaLa Land, I wouldn't be. There, the relationship between producer and director is often adversarial. The producer is in charge, the director is a hired hand, and the producer can fire the director fairly easily. Hence, when you see a director also listed as producer Kubrick, Pollack, Hitchcock, et cetera it's not because he enjoys the paperwork, it's so he can control the production and, consequently, his own role in...

The Money

With Rocco alerted about our summer plans, the next few months were up to me. Raising the money for independent films is the most painful part of the process for most people. Where do you find it (Relatives and friends are invariably the first in your infrared sights, sadly.) How do you ask for it (How painful is that ) I can perform both of these tasks, which doesn't mean it's effortless for me. In fact, I only do it because I must. And if I must, then my goal, my liberation, my weapon, is to...

Up Against The Fates

When I enrolled in NYU's Film School in 1966, I assumed my destiny was to become a director. Three-and-a-half years later, after I'd finished coproducing and assistant-directing my first feature, The Projectionist, and the film's director, Harry Hurwitz, asked me what credit I wanted, adding that he was taking the producer, director, and screenwriter credits, I (a) realized that in the future I'd better get my credit guaranteed in writing up front, and (b) asked for the Assistant Director...

W jT LiFE

Of this informational packet are confidential and are disclosed pursuant to a confidential relationship and may not be reproduced or otherwise used except for the purpose intended herein. The droll craftsmanship of lames Lorinz was a perfect matchup for the rale of Michael, the witty, self-deprecating protagonist of The Sweet Life. The versatile actor has appeared in many films over the last fifteen years including Last Exit to Brooklyn, The King of New York, Robocop 3, Me and the Mob, Mr...

An Interview With Ted Bonnitt

Ted Bonnitt created something of an indie sensation last year with the self-produced, self-distributed, and practically self-exhibited feature documentary Mau Mau Sex Sex, a loving, witty tribute both to the days of grind-house exploitation films, and to two of the elder statesmen who pioneered the genre Dan Sonney and Dave Friedman. It was a particular pleasure for me to see his film get out there, since I've known Ted for a long, long time. The interview, conducted in front of a class of...

Make Your Business Plan Irresistible

. . . which brings me back to the Business Plan. It is this colorful document, positioned at the head of the Memorandum, which will go most of the way toward getting you the money necessary to produce your film. For some, particularly those with a proven track record, an elaborate investor presentation might not be necessary. But for first-timers, or for those who don't make films that often, like myself, it's a major consideration. I've been doing it for over twenty years. On Burt's Bikers, a...

Chapter

Remember how, in Forrest Gump, the title character buys a shrimping boat in order to keep a promise he'd made to his dead friend Bubba Gump has never shrimped before, but Bubba, an expert shrimper, has told him everything he knows about the craft. Armed with this knowledge, Gump heads out on the water and quickly learns, as he tells us in voice-over You know what Shrimpin' is tough. So is filmmaking. Despite what Roy and I had initially thought about the script, in reality Sweet Life was not a...

And Mr Noname

This is what marines are trained to do in the face of adversity. How do you react when the terrain differs from what you see on the map When the enemy (or worse, your supposed ally) behaves in a way that is unexpected When the battle plan you've laid out suddenly and simply no longer applies You can cry and curse your luck, fold your tents, and retreat. Or you can adapt, improvise, and, hopefully, prevail. If you're planning on making a film independently, without the safety net of a studio's...

An Interview With Richard Dutcher

Not so long ago, homeless and financially-strapped high schooler Richard Dutcher was living out of his beat-up '71 Mercury Comet. Later, he and his wife maxed out their credit cards to get his first film off the ground. (All they had left was their gas card, and they would buy their groceries at the gas station.) It took five years to complete this first film, which didn't break even. However, with his second feature, God's Army, despite the naysayers, Dutcher found he had a hit on his hands,...

Chapter Three

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive as a screenwriting teacher is, Where do you get your ideas The truth is I'm not much of an idea man. I rarely come up with a story purely on my own that I feel is rich enough with potential to sustain a feature-length screenplay. But if you pitch me an idea I respond to, I'm pretty good at building on it, expanding it, and carrying it through to its conclusion. (This is why I've always worked with a writing partner, one whose strengths...

Ien I Thought I Was Out I Pulled Myself Back In

Sixteen years ago, I get this call from an ex-student of mine at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Rocco was the best screenwriting student I'd ever had. He was by no means great, but then again he'd only been a student. Twenty years old maybe. With a writing partner named Rico Rocco and Rico. They'd better not have been writing anything but comedies with that alliterative moniker. I was on the last few days of a grueling twelve-and-a-half-week shoot as screenwriter producer of a low-budget...

The Development Pitch

Put yourself in an investor's position. It doesn't matter if your potential investors are friends, family members, or people one step further removed (though with development, it should ideally be no more than four or five investors, and they should be people you know) They are going to carefully consider what they are being asked to do. And what you are asking of them is to invest money several months prior to, and outside the reality of, your project. Their five or ten thousand doesn't...

An Interview With Michael Ellenbogen

At the time of this writing, Michael Ellenbogen informed me that Margarita Happy Hour, his latest feature film, had been held over in New York City. This is good news, and difficult to achieve for an indie producer. It has gone on to open in Chicago Washington, D.C. Gainesville, Florida Austin, Texas Los Angeles and Albany, New York, and was released on DVD video by Wellspring on August 20, 2002 it has also just completed two screenings in the Cannes 2002 market sponsored by Orange World Film...

Stolen Location

It's infamously hard to get approval to shoot in the subways in New York. The city doesn't want people down there, getting in trouble. There's a lot of dangerous electrical current in the darkness. I visited the location of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three back in '73, while Robert Shaw was filming his character's death by suicide on the third rail. An entire subway station had been commandeered by the film company. A subway car sat idly at their disposal. Shaw had completed a second take...

The Sweet Life

The Cast OUR HELL'S ANGEL FROM HEAVEN Joan ett, who plays the rale of Slierry the Biker Roommate in The Sweet life, was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and moved with her family first to Baltimore and later, when she was twelve, to Los Angeles. In LA., passionate about Rock and Roll, she met song writer Kari Krome, and together they came up with the idea of a five-girl, teenage band playing the kind of aggressive lock that until then had been reserved only for guys. Dubbed The Runaways and...

Collaboration Agreement

AGREEMENT dated as of_,by and among ROY FRUMKES Frumkes , address , ROCCO SIMONELLI Simonelli , address , and BILL CHEPIL Chepil , address . 1.1 The parties hereto are collaborating in the writing of a book the Book and screenplay the Screenplay based upon autobiographical, anecdotal and other nonfiction materials the Materials furnished by Chepil pertaining to Chepil's experiences as a New York City police officer. 1.2 Subject to Paragraph 1.3 of this Agreement, the parties intend to negotiate...