Monday, May 27, 2019

Judging the Gorst Underground Film Festival - The GUFF

First off, I would like to address that today is Memorial Day 2019. In these trying times when wrong is sold as seemingly right and confusion is the rule of the day, we need to reflect on who we are and who we want to be. Part of that we celebrate today, in how we remember the fallen, those who protected us and died in our service.

"On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed."

But part of that is also in how we treat the living who return, broken and hopeful, and what our orientation is and should be in going into the future.

“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” – Charles de Gaulle

Now, on to the Film Festival:

I was a judge in a local indie "underground" film festival. The first annual 2018 Gorst Underground Film Festival (GUFF). We're gearing up now for the 2nd annual 2019 version in a few months on September 7, 2019. I was only one of a few judges so regarding my voting. Some I rated highly were also rated highly by other judges and the winner I chose actually won overall. While a few I had liked and rated highly didn't get rated quite as highly by some other judges. Just how it goes.

Our judging wasn't made public or shared with the filmmakers. It can be problematic. To be sure. But I thought I would share some of my notes on some of the films I watched.

Like it or not, here it is. I will admit as the films flew past, I realized I'd started my ratings rather high as the quality of the submitted films was higher than I had expected. I was pleased to discover that. Judging is a learned behavior. With time and experience.

I'm sure I'll get better at it. As a long time screenwriter and a newly minted narrative filmmaker (I'm working now on my second film), I do have some insight from years of growing up loving cinema in the classical sense, and through my college cinema classes as well as through perfecting my own screenwriting and filmmaking skills.

About that. You do the best you can as a judge, using your experience and orientation in life and trying to be enlightened, not of a limited scope. You try to be neutral, academic a fan, a viewer.

I believe in being an advocate for the festival filmmakers. One judge may see things differently, may have more or less understanding about a film they watch. Or may be more or less educated about life, the world or cinema. But that is part of the package you have to accept in entering any film festival.

It's also why there is not usually just one judge and uses an overall average to decide a generally well-accepted film as the winner. Ratings are 1-10.

First up?

Beloved Beast - Director: Jonathan Holbrook

There is a lot to digest in Beloved Beast by filmmaker Jonathan Holbrook who mostly pulled it off. For a film pushing three hours in length one really needs to bring it. I think this could have worked very well instead as a three-episode miniseries in Twin Peaks fashion. Though perhaps it wouldn't have worked so well simply as a 90-minute film, though perhaps one with a sequel. Then, however, I'd have considered making it a trilogy and writing, or picking up some cutting room floor footage and putting it back into the project.

The film seemed to me to be unmistakably from the Lynchian universe of bizarre scenes and characters as well as uncomfortable moments being extended longer than is well, comfortable. Some scenes, though well-executed could have been shorter; though this could be argued as the director's divergence from Lynch.

While Lynch is succinct, Holbrook leans into the indulgent. Other reviews have noted Tarantino in the beginning, but I noticed a shift, so this seemed to me to be far more inside Lynch than Quentin.

What Lynch does is nearly impossible to reproduce. He's a master at it. To attempt it is audacious. Still, to approach it is commendable. Die-hard Lynch fans will certainly appreciate moments in this film as remarkable, though perhaps, too far between. The usual suspect with a long film. After all, the less one speaks the more genius may (seem to) appear.

On the other hand, if you don't like Lynch (or for that matter, Tarkovsky), perhaps watch another film. At times the film misses the mark in going beyond or even not quite far enough. If Lynch's works were an unwavering strand of titanium, Beloved Beast is the vibrating thread striving to be nearby it.

While one is unwavering and solid the other vibrates at times either too far or too near to its goal. Though how often and for how long is for the viewer to decide. I found the intermittent narration about the "Rabbit King" unnecessary, pulling the viewer out of the scene. At times even diluting the scene's crafted effect.

Other times it nailed it. Though the dialog at times can be too spot on. That too is very Lynchian. Still, the subtext here could be better executed in support of the underlying structure. As well, motifs and subplots could be better tied in, especially for a work of this length. As could the pathways or "roads" between characters. Something Lynch is adept at if not auteur.

All that being said, I found myself intrigued by the film at times. There are moments where the Grand Guignol, perhaps needing its moment, stepped outside itself into a wry piece of humor. More than once I had had to cringe or laugh out loud at something obviously planned that way. Overall it was a fairly well-executed film that needed restraint in the editing bay.

"A story can be both concrete and abstract, or a concrete story can hold abstractions. And Abstractions are things that really can't be said so well with words." - David Lynch

Man In Camo - Director: Ethan Minsker

A well produced and interesting documentary on a creative, rather fascinating art community builder. One of my most favorite docs that I've seen of late. Ethan Minsker is a force to meet if you ever get the chance. He actually flew in from New York, this native of Washington DC. Check out his other films and books, too. His documentary was creative as expected. I didn't think it was too long as someone said in the Q&A afterward.

It was in a way a tour de force of documentary filmmaking and I highly recommend it. His documentary actually won the festival.

Missed Connections Anthology -  Directors: Pamela Falkenberg, Jack Cochran 

A familiar topic shown in an interesting and entertaining light.

1/2 - Director: Raffaele Salvaggiola

Some beautiful shots in this film with some very decent cinematography and an interesting, well acted and properly directed story. A film no doubt by a lover of cinema for lovers of cinema with inherent references to some classic films and auteur directors.

Path of Egress - Director:  Vincent F. Baran

An audacious effort, if the filmmakers brought up some of its problematic issues to the level of other better-produced parts, they might have a winner. Audio / ADR levels/soundtrack, some editing issues, and a few other things needed better execution. Not to say there was a problem with the music soundtrack which was pretty good.

In the end, they followed my own belief in no matter what, give it a good ending and it pulls people up to a better consideration overall of your project. While a not so good ending can make a better film seem worse than it is. In the end, an entertaining crime flick with some decent humor, intense scenes, and some interesting elements.


Hard to know what to say on this one. Kudos for finishing! Keep making films? I'm not sure where this filmmaker is headed, but somewhere I think. As for this piece..."Refuse" as a noun refers to food waste, scraps, or garbage. As a verb, refuse means to reject. As a double entendre, we have a film which exhibits and supports both of these definitions.

In the protagonist's refusal to help, he does so anyway but is denied, or refused. In asking for help in order to help, he is refused any attention. In standing at the bridge he seems to refuse to be affected by the beautiful scenery.

In breaking the fourth wall, he refuses to play the part of actor for that of the interactor. This didn't quite work for me, or others I spoke with about it. But if this is what the filmmaker was proposing then he may be evolving into something after producing more of these and gaining skills in doing so.

And so in the end, we as audience would also gain. A curious piece to be sure.

Search Engines - Director: Russell Brown

The film, Search Engines, isn't my usual cup of tea. But I laughed out loud several times watching this. Likable characters, well acted, this was just a sweet little message movie that walks the fine line of bashing one over the head with a message, and it's up to the viewer to decide if they maintained their balance or fell off. For me? Well, I kind of liked it.

Single Palm Tree - Director: Puthiyavan Rasiah

Rating, seven on execution, ten on message. I've seen other such films over the years from those disenfranchised as in Ireland, Syria, Lebanon and places in Africa and elsewhere. A noble endeavor. The world is finally hearing the truth about abuse by governments worldwide toward subsets of their citizens, typically minorities disliked for ridiculous reasons such as religion, caste, or simply socioeconomic status. And the world finally but slowly reacting.

This has to stop, to be sure. Sadly, the world has also gone more autocratic, xenophobic and nationalistic. You could tell Single Palm Tree was a labor of love, social responsibility, or both. It is a film whose message far outweighs its capability in execution.

As there are three codirectors it would appear the directing is qualitatively inconsistent for obvious reasons. Subtitles are at times more problematic than usual for subtitles for basic issues of mechanics (that is, unneeded spaces in words). Which in my experience are nearly always lacking in transliteration, to begin with.

 Some of the actors seem not to be actors and I'd even go so far as to say the casting is for some almost up to community theater standards while others are quite good. Overall some of the production is well executed but most are simply inconsistent. Cinematography sadly fails at times, while at other times, is quite beautiful

The Witches of Dumpling Farm - Director: Martin J Pickering

A nice effort, interesting if a bit uneven film but with some truly scary moments making it worth the effort. Just when you think it's done surprising you, it hits you again. Don't worry about the logic of it all in the first half, just let it happen.

Once the action gets going, they gain their stride. If the Pickering brothers keep on this direction they will be a force to reckon with. You almost wonder a few times...are these guys Sam Raimi's cousins across the pond?

So! Those are just a few of the 43 submissions we had received. The festival itself was a great time and I highly recommend showing up for this year's festival. It is in a rustic location just outside Port Orchard and Bremerton, WA, in Gorst.

For this 2019 season, we already have 48 submissions! I'm currently working on my own film, Gumdrop Sampson, based as a prequel to my short true-crime horror story, Gumdrop City. Obviously, I won't be allowed to judge my own film.

Kelly Hughes, local horror indie director and all around friendly raconteur may also have something in this festival which he started and runs. His new music video with Italian band Postvorta's song, "We're Nothing" is something to experience and has been making the rounds at festivals this year. Kelly also has a new documentary "Hush, Hush, Nellie Oleson!"

From a write up on Kelly's documentary: "After shooting a low-budget horror film, director Kelly Hughes gets a chance to work with his childhood idol Alison Arngrim, the actress who played the scheming Nellie Oleson on TV's Little House on the Prairie. But fitting Arngrim into the finished product becomes an exercise in futility as Hughes shoots increasingly absurd (and gory) scenes with Arngrim that don't have much to do with the original plot. Featuring extensive interviews with the cast and vivid film clips, Hush...Hush, Nellie Oleson! is a love letter to low-budget filmmakers and the former child stars who enable them."

There you have it. Judging is not the easiest thing in the world to do. You have to sit and evaluate, judge and select a lot of films and some are way too long, while others are way too short. It's a rewarding experience to do especially if you are submitting your own works.

Some judges admittedly don't have a clue what they are doing while others are far too critical. It is that just right spot you have to attain and maintain through the course of a season's judging one has to try to find. Which is why you never submit to only one festival and why you select your festivals with care, choosing those most reasonable for your project and what you're trying to achieve.

That being said if you are a filmmaker and you have finished a project, submit! And congratulations because it is a labor of love and effort unlike anything I've experienced elsewhere in my life.

One more thing to filmmakers, believe in yourself and believe in your project. Here is a video that exemplifies what I'm talking about from Filmmaking Stuff.

Now. Got out and be brilliant. Show us! We WANT you to succeed!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Legal Assassinations?

I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't legalize Presidential assassinations. IF we EVER have a president for longer than two four year terms and thus the agent of American realignment reaping a medal as well as financial rewards. I would suggest a military coup, but that never seems to go well and is unquestionably illegal.

Let me just mention we don't assassinate leaders of foreign counties. Though with some like JFK apparently, we do domestically. Allegedly. Regarding foreign leaders, the thought is that if we do it to them, they'd do it to us, so...stalemate. It's hard enough as it is for the Secret Service to protect the standing POTUS from not anymore our own domestic nuts, but actually decent people wishing to have a decent president once (or ever) again.

I do not believe in capital punishment, murder by State or otherwise, typically Although I will agree that there are some who have no useful potential for humanity and should be put down like a dog and with prejudice.

No, I'm not talking about the charlatan and criminal "First Citizen" Donald Trump, but rather some serial killers. And there's really only a few like that. There are allegedly around 300 serial murderers active in America at any one time. Even Charles Mason does not qualify in my book. He's just a nutcase.

You really have no idea what's out there. Yet, Trump is giving us an insight into one foe we never knew about and now wish we still didn't, but ...we need to.

IF Trump lasts longer than a single term, which he shouldn't, but if he lasts longer than two terms as POTUS, which again he shouldn't, however IF enough of America still delusionally and ignorantly, and stupidly somehow allows someone like Trump more than the legal maximum of two presidential terms, merely in order to keep us from being the banana republican Trump so dearly wants us to be and desires for us in order to allow him dictator (or king) status along with his childish dictatorial pleasures of near Godhood, he will then have to be removed from office, literally... by any means possible.

Hopefully, this will not become an issue. But IF we did that, we'd definitely need to act. China just made their own president "king" for life. Which I'm told he can still be removed if he acts up. But doing such a thing, elevating a personality cult in such a way, is ludicrous at the head of any nation.

Look, personality cults, and nationalism are to be avoided at all costs.

Now I'm NOT calling for this now. I'm facing and responding to a potential dire reality in our near future. One that needs to be addressed so we avoid this necessity hopefully by Congressional decrees and legally passed laws.

Simply retiring someone like Trump, someone with that kind of money, Klout, power, will not be enough. Like the Mafia boss who rules from within his lifetime prison sentence, better for America and this planet if he is eliminated.

Potentially I suppose, Trump could go to a CIA black site. Forever. It's really what he deserves.

Look at our prime and best example in all this. Vladimir Putin. How's getting rid of him working out for Russia? He keeps coming back like a bad case of National (international) herpes!

Could you IMAGINE nineteen years of a Donald Trump? Those poor people in Russia? And Putin is far more functional than Trump. But also a far more functional criminal and essentially, murderer.

We do not WANT that in America (though you could argue Trump is our version). It is anathema to our existence, to our foundation, to the desires of the Founding Fathers' intentions in making America. Our "Great Experiment" is being seriously tested and I hope NOT, failing.

Anyway, assassination in that contest is not criminal under those circumstances. It's more like State sanctioned murder which we have now and politely call it, capital punishment. We also have State sanctioned murder in war, we just don't call it that because it makes people feel bad, citizens won't support murder much, and it makes the soldiers in the field feel bad.

Even though they frequently know quite well they are murderers and come home with PTS from it. Aside from all the other reasonable reasons they end up with that perfectly natural and normal response to trauma. Unless it gets pushed over the type and does become a permanent disorder.

Anyway, THAT would be patriotic. Not nationalistic. And would need to be passed... legally, by Congressional demand. More than eight years of the holding presidential office? It goes instantly to the SEALs perhaps, to end that reign. Or I suppose Russian would be perfectly happy to poison the guy with polonium. They, Putin, do love their radioactive poisons.

But, this is not a Constitutional crisis. We have a Constitution for that purpose. This is a moral crisis where Trump supporters simply cannot see past their hand on a ballot and so, they will be the death of us. If we are not prudent and productive for the welfare of all. Including them.

Now, let's see how long this lasts online.

This is an idea we could franchise.

To Russia with good old boy and faux Republican himself, Vlady Putin.

And maybe elsewhere. Assad comes to mind. Some guy in Saudi Arabia comes to mind. I'm sure we won't run out of candidates.

Citizens finally freeing themselves from some real rat bastards!

Or, we can just get back to facing reality, believing in things like science and facts, put away our childish things like religions and bigotry and racism and abusing others for our own satiation, and act like modern adult Americans.

It's all really up to you. All of you. All of US.

Monday, May 13, 2019

National Confusion

There is a lot in our nation we have confusion over. People are frequently arguing on the same side of an issue. Ignorance, improper education, confused politics, lying politicians, special interests, Russian and other goes on and on. People grab their ideology and hang on for dear life.

Better to hang onto truth and reality, adjusting your ideology as you go. Except that is not what religion teaches. Especially those, especially on the right, who choose to make their religious beliefs, so unreasonably a part of all of our national politics. They teach absolutes and the "untouchable" power of a "God's Word" and all that. Cutting one off from critical thinking.

Then, we hear how education is bad for theology. Good grief.

ANYONE who tells you knowledge is bad, that to learn is bad, to seek clarity and understand history, to find assimilation acclimation is anything but a good thing, is misleading you. If your "God" or religious leaders are telling you things like that...biblically speaking? End them. Or at least, be done with them. I have also discovered that in general, any belief system that claims to have ALL the answers, has logically in some way got to be defective, divisive and disingenuous.

In a word, it is a Lie. Not the Truth, as they claim.

Or perhaps even better in these modern times, simply get another religious leader. Or better still, quit religion altogether and join a more enlightened humanity.

The trouble with that is that some in that group of "enlightened" humanity, not only dumps religion but then believes nothing needs to be adhered to. Not all. That is the argument by religion against leaving religion.

"The atheist has no grounding and so can turn to the vilest of human pursuits." Nonsense. Fearmongering by the theistic. Never follow those who use fear as a precursor to adherence to their beliefs. We see this now in the current GOP, in Donald Trump their leader. FEAR! Fear, fear! Please, that only works on the immature. The ignorant. And so we hear Trump claim, "I love the uneducated!" Of course, he does. It makes his Grand Con even easier.

Alas, those who dump religion do still have a responsibility to themselves as well as to humanity. But cutting ties with restrictive religions (and the more restrictive the more this tends to happen)...people do tend to find they just want to have fun!

Here's the thing (not about religion, but my actual topic)...

Anyone who is asking for a socialist America is poorly educated in history. Anyone who thinks most people talking about socialism in a democracy are talking about socialism, are also poorly informed. If not poorly educated, then they are being disingenuous to trick people into continuing to follow their ill-advised way of thinking.

You are an American citizen by right if born here, or if naturalized. That means there is some responsibility of the Government to help you make it from birth to death. Unless you're Republican, then you THINK it means, well... I don't think they even know sometimes.

Let's take the current vast morass of nonsense about healthcare.

It really annoys me to see a healthcare plan that has listed a lifetime limit. Or, that's fine, IF the government then picks up the tab if you go over that limit. What is the alternative? Death? Nice.

Come on! I mean... Really?

Those who have plenty of money seem to love this limiting idea. Love pre-existing conditions disqualifying people. And that's fine, as long as someone/something is there to bridge that gap for citizens between pre-existing condition and death.

Look. It is our right to be a citizen. But there are responsibilities.

Republicans and the wealthy seem to miss that concept entirely. They believe the money they make is all theirs. Screw everyone else. That you should be able to make as much money as you can, regardless. But in a closed economic system on this planet, that is a destructive methodology.

And yet it's funny how, if they lose all their money, if they find themselves in that situation needing help, suddenly they change their tune. Government handouts THEN are just fine with them.

Hypocrites? Or just stupid? I'd say, Republican, uncompassionate, and ignorant. Not stupid, just hoping everyone else is stupid and has a short memory. Which time and again they are and do have.

A citizen pays their taxes, as they can and are required to do, by how much they make.

When they exceed that amount in something like healthcare, who then pays? The government should. Obviously. It's what government is there for. To protect and serve the people. Not to protect the wealthy and serve up the poor as a method of enhancing their wealth and ideals. This is a group thing. not a special, elitist group and screw the rest of the majority.

You're thinking about how communism has worked, pal. And Soviet-style socialism.

That is not the case, however. Instead, we allow people to go into debt, bankrupting them perhaps in some cases for the rest of their lives. We're even doing that to college students now in their government educational loans. Ruining their lives and their family's life. Possibly even killing them due to the stress. All when it can be avoided, by not giving those who have, all they can acquire.

Capitalism, need limits and controls. The free market system has failed time and gain. Because one COULD argue, it's impossible to allow it to work because immediately people in power and wealth skew it to their advantage. Because they can! Deregulation strangles the economy, the citizens, and the environment. In a kind of feedback loop. It's a type of pyramid scheme where those on top survive while all below them die off.

Rich people pay their taxes as required, and then have massive amounts of money they don't need to live. When you make so much money you can live in luxury and have so much money left over, some of that money needs to go into the public coffers.

There needs to be a limit to topping out just as there should be a limit to bottoming out.

Oh God, how conservatives and Republicans hate that idea.

But it is fair. Because you see, we live in a country. We all pay to be citizens. Or should be. The poor cannot pay as much as the wealthy, so they pay according to their designated schedule what they can so they can also still live and not be a burden on society. The masses make up in toto what the individual cannot. While the wealthy do not makeup in the individual or their small mass. Because they can get away with it because they control and make the rules. Because, they can.

Wealthy people pay their scheduled amount, but can be taxed at a higher rate because it really does not affect their baseline. Surely we shouldn't take all their money. They deserve luxury because of their position, But it's not like all those people have earned that position.

The mistaken belief that the wealthy deserve because they have achieved is a fantasy.

And the mistaken belief that the rest of us do not deserve anything because we haven't achieved is simply a fantasy in the other direction.

We are in the end, all in this together. We just all need never to forget that. And to stop this national confusion merely for the sake of making all the money it is possible to make and see where it is not only ludicrous to make more, but criminal and immoral.

Want to make America great? Do your part. And stop taking that part of what is really all the others'.

Dear hurting America...
To put this another way...America is waiting. America is hurting. America is bleeding.

America is in a state of Post Traumatic Shock.
Until we heal that, we're stuck with us.
Our childhood was traumatic,
Then the two world wars damaged us and the cold war insidiously damaged us low key and long term.
We rounded up Japenese and put them in internment, or concentration camps. We concentrated a single ace on race alone and locked them up. Americans were locked up.
We did that. And we never really heald from it. Prof is today in how we are treated asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.
The Korean war damaged us.
The Vietnam war damaged us.
Before we had a chance to heal 9/11.
Then more wars. And finally our longest ever.
We have PTS. it's not a disorder because it's a natural reaction to trauma.
It's worse when we did it to ourselves.
Once we heal from this, perhaps we will begin to act like mature adult human beings. Other older countries are and have.
We just seem to be getting worse.
Because we keep doing it to ourselves.
We have broken capitalism.
We have people seeing the opposite of reality can calling it good.
We have drug companies breaking the law, ripping us off in a healthcare system that is breaking us and yet we call it good.
How can it be different?
We have PTS.
We are broken.
We have private prisons and a broken prison system we DEMAND cannot be fixed. DAMN don't talk about, it is, like our laws, ad destructive as we can get away with and it's the only way it can be.
We have PTS.
We are broken.
When prisoners and victims have been brought together, at the victim's request, the alien, the animal, the demon, the monster is revealed and... it is just another person, themselves perhaps once damaged, perhaps now broken and sorrowful. Not just for getting caught, not just for being imprisoned, but truly sorry for perhaps a single moment, stopping being human and simply becoming a machine.
And let to regret it then forever.Why are there so many people in prison who could be more appropriately dealt with differently, productively and humanely?
We have PTS.
We are broken.
We can be proactive, but profit comes first.
We are broken.
We are broken.
We are broken.
And, we don't have to be. But it's up to us.
not those who do not wish no longer to be broken.
But we have put many of them in our highest offices in this country.
They are broken.
We no longer have to be.
There ARE better ways.
We ARE beginning to see that now.
We can get better.
There's just a lot of people who don't want that to happen.
It's up to us.

Monday, May 6, 2019

No Budget PreProduction on Indie Horror Short - Gumdrop Sampson

Hi. Ever made a movie? Not a home movie, but one you want others to see, others you don't know and will never meet? Putting yourself out there for comment. Making a statement. Sharing what you are thinking and showing how you think? Want to make a movie? Then stop listening to others who say you can't and just DO IT!

If you want to or are going to do it, this might be interesting. If you've done it, then this might just be sad, or hilarious. I know something about movies. Studied it some in college. I'm no practiced expert, but I've figured out a few things and I'm learning as I go. That's part of the fun of it.

I was with friend and local indie director Kelly Hughes when were at the Port Orchard Film Festival yesterday, to support the festival and see his music video collaboration "We're Nothing", entered in the Experimental Block of films, as I write this. From his website:

NEW COLLABORATION! To promote my docu-series Acting Up, I made a music video set to Postvorto's song We're Nothing. Postvorto is a post-metal band from Italy, and they have an intense sound that inspires me. The music video includes new footage I shot in Gorst and Sunnyslope, WA. One of the band's guitarists, Andrea Fioravanti, is also composing new music for me. I've heard several of his tracks already, and they are pretty amazing.

Kelly asked who he should introduce when we got (today) to Crypticon in SeaTac. We're spending the night, hitting panels on film production and Kelly's music video is also playing there. I'm obviously an author, blogger, aspiring screenwriter and now functionally, a filmmaker. I suggested that.

Kelly smiled and said, "Well, wannabe filmmaker."  I thought about that for a moment, a bit bummed out. But maybe he's right. Though, I would alter that slightly and say, "aspiring filmmaker". I have perhaps a few more projects to go, and maybe a feature-length film to go, in order to consider myself a full-fledged filmmaker.

To be sure I have earned the title filmmaker in having produced and documentary and a short. That's only fair to me. But, to be fair to more established filmmakers, I really should wait on that until I have a few more projects under my belt. Let's not jump the gun. Yes, you CAN call yourself a "filmmaker" after one project regardless the length. Or quality? Just Do it! But, strive to be more and really and proudly call yourself a filmmaker, once you have truly and fully earned. it.

I may add to this in the future as things progress if I find anything I left out. But following is the history and mindset I've had in building this project to production and preparing to shoot on set.

But that's not why you make films. As in being a writer, you produce because you have a need to produce. Because you enjoy it. You have a story to get out. Or you have a need to tell stories. Filmmaking, however, is not for the faint of heart. And then you put it out for others to see and you have to steel yourself for someone sooner or later shredding your work and your ego.

So do your best.

I started this by considering my next project, obviously. In 1993 I produced a documentary for public access cable TV at Viacom in Seattle. A studio up on Roosevelt Way Northeast. It was a comedy of errors like you wouldn't believe. I had moved out of Seattle and hard to return to work on the project, finished it, it "aired" twice in the PNW and that ended my work in production.

Until 2016. I got new equipment, I started writing. I came up with a viable project as a test after all these years and working with new equipment and produced "The Rapping". I have also been working with local indie horror director Kelly Hughes for a few years now.

Because I wanted to get on set and get a better understanding of what happens to my writings once it hits production. It's been fun, anxiety invoking (like when the police showed up wondering why a woman was screaming things like "Let me go!" "Why are you doing this to me!" That was actress Jennifer True. The cops couldn't have been nicer and said now that they knew we were shooting they'd be aware for the rest of the day.

art by Marvin Hayes
So, in choosing my next project I considered my original and recent reason for shooting films. To take some of my own published writings and turn them into live action. I decided the one with least special f/x could be Gumdrop City. I wrote about this before. Originally written in 1983, it was first published in an anthology in 2010. Then I put it in my own Anthology of Evil in 2012. And I wrote about this new film project in April.

But this is about the production now that it's been selected.


I came up with the idea to not produce the story itself, but to do a prequel. How did this all begin? The story itself is based on a true crime story I heard about in college toward my psychology degree in a class on abnormal psychology. It affected the class so strongly I felt in walking out of that class I had to write about it. I'd never even known such things existed back then.

But to do the story itself would require some difficult scenes I didn't want to get into, I didn't even want to get into in the short story. Special effects I didn't want to do on a first full narrative film project with my limited money and resources. So I settled on a prequel. An origin story of sorts. I just let my imagination go after re-reading the original story.

And a vision emerged. I decided to go a bit more bizarre. What if this was bigger than the short story. What if this guy wasn't such a degenerate as he is in the short story? What if, he lived the prequel storyline and then severely degenerated between that and the short story? That freed me up in many ways. Creatively. Financially. Resources. And it made it more fun.

So I wrote some notes out, then wrote my first draft. Over the next couple of weeks, I worked on other things and kept going back, adding ideas, fleshing it out, honing it to imperfective perfection.

I started to think about who should act in it. I had wanted to do something with my voice actor who has read a couple of my stories as audiobooks, Tom Remick. Nicest guy ever, playing the part of a sick demented murderer. Sure, why not.

I started to consider other actors I know. Tom said his son might be interested, and his two young boys. Excellent. I needed around ten actors. Three are voiceovers and never seen. I know actors from my friend and director Kelly Hughes' stable of actors (he and I will be at Crypticon Seattle in SeaTac this weekend, by the way). I've acted with some of them, done f/x around them, pyrotechnics, etc. As it turned out I'll only need a few of them. I now have the production cast.

I continued honing the screenplay. I started picking up props. I started researching the f/x I will need and some of the food props. That all in itself was an experience and an education. Any idea how expensive a lot of gumdrops can be? Single color? Red? Maybe easier to make your own.

Marvin Hayes who did most of my ebook covers and my print book covers had some f/x suggestions. That was handy.

A production is a collaborative effort. In a low budget indie, or no budget indie, it can have much more of a family/community feel to it. People volunteer their skills or efforts out of a love, not payment, for what they want to do. Some who never dreamed of doing it find they're doing it and living a kind of dream. But they still have to be able to pull off whatever it is they are offering. They still have to show up on time and pull their schedule off or they're replaced.

Some directors can get gold out of even problematic actors. Kelly is like that. I've been told I'm quite good too at directing by actors. We'll see soon enough. I'm used to working with professionals in other careers. I'd expect no less in this one. Demand quality and it shows on screen. Let the production take over your production, or your actors or crew, and you lose the production. Set up an environment for productivity and creativity and keep things moving forward, and you'll all feel the joy of creating something special.

Rule #1 in a production... Preparation: a solid screenplay, actors, camera work, f/x, and sound makes life so much easier and sets you up for a much better end product. Especially pay attention to sound. Because it can so easily ruin a good project.

Rule #2 in a production...Finish the production. David Lynch took five years to finish Eraserhead. But he finished it.

OK. So, I hit the point where the screenplay was finished enough to send to the actors. A screenplay is finished when the film is shown. It's perpetually in a penultimate state as things change on the set when shooting.

At the same time, I was working out practicals. Number one, gumdrops. Purchasing them was too expensive and finding only red ones even more problematic. So I decided making my own was the cheapest. AND, it gave me a new scene where Sampson, the lead character, makes his own. That gave me more opportunity to add in some more creepy factor.

That meant I had to research the recipes. That led to ingredients. One was problematic and expensive. More research until I found one source that was best and purchased it online. It's here now and more than we will need.

I had an idea for an opening camera shot involving my Syrp Genie and equipment. I continued honing that complex shot in the screenplay. I finally got around to digging out the equipment.

Syrp Genie configuration for this opening/closing shot
By the way, I charge all my equipment batteries the first of every month on all my equipment, something an assistant would be assigned to do if I had a bigger crew...or a crew. I set up the configuration I would need and began to plot out the setup and execution of the shot. Which, as it turned out, wasn't practical.

So I had to work around that. Splitting up the programming (there is a cell phone app where you program the equipment) into two programmed shots. The Syrp equipment simply won't do the shot I wanted.

The plan was to start high and happy and shoot downward slightly, tracking to the right and lower to and sad, at the other end of the track. Uncovering and exposing the other side of a face. Then I could take that shot and split it up, using the first half in the opening and the second half at the end. It was a moving example of "the Comedy and Tragedy Masks" or just "the theater masks".

Preproduction is so important in so many ways. Having a good screenplay. Rehearsing at least some. You want the actors to understand what you want of them which relaxes them some. Trying out camera shots ahead of time. Testing f/x and recipes for things like blood. Lighting issues and setups. Locations and test shots. Etc.

I've learned not to send my screenplay out to too many or ask for too many comments on it (same with dailies or rushes if you have them) as a lot of times it simply muddies your thinking. If you find someone who really does understand how you think and can productively critique and add to the project, they are simply gold.

I'm deep into preproduction now.

At some point, you need to write up a list of shots, or a shooting script. Some don't do it at all, some get very technical about it. Find your bliss, what works best, what turns out the best product for you and go with it. Always considering to enhance or alter as you find what works better, or you are eventually able to evolve into. The mission, the project, the product, the film is what takes precedence, not you. Kick your ego to the curb and produce quality at all costs.

You also need a schedule for the production and consideration for what needs to be on set before anyone arrives. You can send a screenplay to a company and they will produce for you a shooting screenplay, or cost estimates or all kinds of things.

Or you can do it yourself (preferable). it can be as intricate or simple as you like. All that matters is that it is good enough to make your life easier and the project more productive and aid in enhancing the quality of the end product.

What day, what actors, when do the actors /crew need to be where. If you have any crew and I suggest you have some. I hear, certainly, on a larger crew/production, an AD is so important, an assistant director to take on your more mundane or difficult tasks freeing you up for the real directing on set issues.

What do you need for all of them? Food and drink, to be sure, always keep your actors happy and fed and happy to return. Costumes? Practicals? Props?

The list of who is shot when and in what scene. You may have an actor in scenes all through the production, but do they need to be there in chronological order or can their scenes all be shot on the same day and edited into place later?

Taking the screenplay from its format and order and timeline into when is most economical in many/all ways is imperative. Logistics are important and getting them right in preproduction is a life saver.

I have children in this project. So getting them in as early as possible, their scenes shot all in one day makes my life, and theirs, and their parents lives, easier.

Paperwork. Do you need shooting permits from the city, county, area? Or are you guerilla shooting, shot and run shots? Actor waivers/agreements. I know many don't bother with them on no budget films but it's so easy to do, I think it's worth it.

That alone makes the actors feel more respectable, more professional, more respected and sets a tone overall for the project. Not to mention it gives you and them, the reasonable protections you want later on if something unforeseen does come up.

Now with all these things under consideration, preproduction is a matter of going over them until you hit your desired level of perfection and costs. Which is where I am now.

Last Friday Tom and Amy came over and we did a run through on Amy's scene and it was so enlightening. Table reads, rehearsals, save so much time and can really add so much to tweaking the screenplay. Iron your issues out before you begin principle shooting.

Next up? Production?

Actually, just a lot more preproduction. I'll let you know how it turns out.