Full cast at last

As of today, we have people committed to each role in “The Candidate”. Took long enough, sheesh. “Beacon Alley” and “Paper Cuts” spoiled me, I realize now. I am meeting with our Alice and Lauren actresses tomorrow at a coffeeshop near the photography supply store where Aryeh and I will be picking up equipment after work. He’s been in Chicago for the past few days but Stacey and I have been keeping things going with pre-production. I sent out a copy of the production schedule as well as wardrobe requirements to everyone and we got our VistaPrint materials ordered just in time.

Back when I was doing my other productions, I was only filming on weekends and maybe once during the week, but with this baby, we’ll be be shooting four nights in a row, twice. Previously, I was able to write epic blog posts like this one or this one, since I had time in between filming days. However, now that I only blog on weeknight evenings and that’s exactly when we’ll be filming, who knows? I’ll try my best because I love those posts and maybe someday they’ll be part of a book I’ll write about shoestring budget filmmaking for broke-ass college students or something. I don’t really need to sleep for two weeks, right? It was also nice having Brandon around to take all the awesome photos he did, but hopefully I’ll remember to ask someone to do that each night on set.

YouTube stripped a video I just posted of its audio and I’m pretty mad about it. I shot some footage of my dad’s friends and family annual softball game over the weekend and edited it tonight. I added a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song as the soundtrack and YouTube immediately deleted the audio track as a result. Whatever, YouTube. You and me, we used to be friends.

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How to make a web series in two months

…I did it once, I can do it again, right? Ugh. The script is going over well so far with the people who read it last night and today. I feel like I’m ready to start casting. But what a pain that was, and yet how lucky I was to have an apartment centrally located in the city of Columbus. I’m going to have to try to convince my work friend (Aryeh, the one who asked me to do this in the first place) to let me cast at his house or something, or else go to a coffeeshop. But coffeeshops can be so unpredictable; it might be loud and crowded, or it could be a slow night. We’ll see. I don’t want to have to hold more than two nights’ worth of auditions.

I kind of have someone from my improv circle in mind for the role of the candidate, but I don’t know if he actually does acting or enjoys it. I think I will maybe reach out to him. I also thought another one of those guys would be great for my comic relief-type character, Dennis, but I don’t think I know him well enough to ask him to do it.

I need to make a list of the equipment I wish I’d had when I made “Paper Cuts,” as well as a list of crew positions. It would be nice if I had a monitor on set so I could watch what was being filmed, and let a director of photography do the actual camera work. I used to think that was kind of a lame, hands-off approach for a director, but now I know it’s more important to see what’s really going on in the frame than to just get to be the person holding the camera. Plum St. Productions definitely taught me that. I’d also love to have some actual lighting equipment and someone who can ensure good sound quality. I’m not sure how many of these things are feasible, but I know they’d all lead to a better final product.

I learned from making “Beacon Alley” that if you keep everyone on task, you can get a surprising amount of material shot in a day. I would like to set up a production schedule once I’ve finalized the script, but I don’t see why casting can’t take place now. The characters aren’t going to be changing.

As I always did before, I’ll be randomly listing necessary venues / materials and relying on the kindness of readers, friends and family for assistance or suggestions. Our biggest need now is a venue to film most of our scenes, which take place in a campaign office. It has a main room and two smaller rooms off of it, one to the left and one to the right. It’s the room where the majority of the script takes place, and I have no idea if it exists.

I might post a list of characters on here soon. I like the characters I wrote, and I feel good about them. I really hope this project actually happens and my work friend isn’t just bored this week and will forget about it by Monday. I suppose even if he is, I can still go ahead and make it.

Well, poop.

Dear Meryl,

On behalf of NXT STAGE Conference Hollywood, we would like to thank you for submission “Paper Cuts” for consideration into the 2010 Conference. We recognize your hard work and dedication, but we regret to inform you that your piece was not selected for this year’s Festival.

It has been a privilege for us to review such a diverse collection of submissions. We thank you again for your participation in the process, which we know required your time and resources. Although your work was not selected this time, we remain interested in your future projects.

We wish you the very best on your future filmmaking endeavors.

Sincerely,

XXXXXXX
NXT STAGE

Contest entries sent; bring back some money

I’ve made some headway on the screenwriting front in a few different ways. I entered a couple contests, wrote a lot over the weekend and have found some allies in my writers’ group who seem to want me to succeed. That feeling makes a difference.

First off, I entered “Paper Cuts” in the Nxt Stage Film Festival in the web series category. I shipped off a DVD yesterday along with my entry fee, a completed entry form and a postcard they’ll send me to let me know they’ve received it. I don’t see much info on when the festival is or when I’ll hear if I’m accepted or not. That makes me feel a little anxious about the contest’s legitimacy and all, so this could end up being more of a valuable lesson than a career changer. We’ll see.

I also entered the Sixth Borough Screenplay treatment contest I mentioned earlier this month. I elected to receive early feedback, with the option of re-submitting to the contest after making any changes. The winner of that contest will be announced Aug. 15. That was the contest that recommended I register my concept with the WGA, which I did; now I can write more freely about my screenplay, because I have documentation of creative ownership. Or something. If someone took my idea, I could legally use my registration with the WGA as evidence in my favor in a court of law. This will not happen, but it’s a load off any writer’s mind, I’m sure.

This past Sunday, I added several pages to the screenplay itself while sitting at the Lennox Cup O’ Joe with Eileen, who is right in the thick of completing her masters’ thesis paper. We sat there for a few hours, each writing, only looking up to ask occasional questions and moving only to order still more coffee. This might not sound like the best quality time, but you don’t know Eileen and me. I did take a break for a moment to crowd source on Facebook and ask my friends to name one of my characters. I got more than a dozen suggestions for female names, one of which I ended up using. I’m hanging on to the rest.

Finally, I went back to my writers’ group at Kafe Kerouac on Monday night. Even though I made some changes to my treatment, I didn’t bring the revised version. I should have though, because it turned out some new people showed up, including SNP’s own Donovan Campbell! It’s a small city, you guys. The people who were there last week asked about my progress and I promised to bring my outline next time.

“It’s like 8 pages long and messily written,” I warned them.

“That’s okay,” said Mike, the owner of the cafe. “I like discussing ideas more than I like correcting grammar.”

You kind of get that idea from talking to him, too. I also had a great conversation with two other members I hadn’t spoken to yet. One is an actor who gave me his card and wants me to send my outline directly since he’ll be absent next week. The other is a playwright who seems to be just the right mix of riotously witty and slightly jaded, ala Garth Bishop from SNP, and who is becoming reluctantly interested in writing for the screen as opposed to the stage. We are Columbus, Ohio’s own Algonquin Roundtable and I just fell right into it like a pig into a mud pit.

Last night I started working on an online portfolio, where I will be putting all the multimedia work I create. I wish SNP had saved the one and only video I did for them, because it would be most professional platform my videos have seen yet. But, alas. There’s only so long you can hang on to a video of four wailing infants and their bewildered, but ridiculously attractive, parents.

In the tradition I’ve maintained on The Sleeper Hit, here are the costs I’ve been met with in my pursuit of happiness (coffee consumed not included):

Nxt Stage entry fee, with postage: $31.22

Sixth Borough entry fee: $30 ($20 + $10 extra to get early feedback and the chance to re-submit)

WGA: $20 (standard non-member rate for any work)

I’d better not enter much else for a while. This stuff adds up quicker than I thought.

Eff it, life is good

After work, I went to the library to gather more CDs for my dream musical collection I’ve been compiling; Eileen texted and asked if I wanted to go for a walk. Of course I did! The weather tonight was so perfect and we walked all around Clintonville and back to our campus area neighborhood. I stopped by my favorite Indian place to get take out, which I took home and ate while reading more of my book. After that, I decided to take the laptop down to Kafe Kerouac, where I’ve been for the past hour and a half. I live in a very interesting, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with lots of good food and great hang outs. It’s incredible.

Today I researched film festivals that have a web series category. For a $30 entry fee, I am entering this one and I’m on the look out for others. It’s time to do something with the content I’ve already created and then I can worry about making new stuff.

I might do another web series. Who the hell knows? I ❤ Columbus.

Not bad for a Monday

Meet Candy

Have I told you about Candy? She’s awesome. A force to be reckoned with, I met Candy last summer when I was filming my web series. She showed up to be an extra in the job fair episode, but she came back for a crucial role as the mother of one insane bridezilla in my favorite episode, “I Do, She Did.” We have been friends ever since.

She worked as a guidance counselor for a local college, only to be laid off when the economy went south. The irony! What does a laid off guidance counselor do? Start a new career. Candy used her vast knowledge to apply for every grant she could and is now going to school full time. She is taking classes I am extremely envious of, like cinematography, Screenwriting 101 and more. Tonight she took me out for a belated birthday dinner and we talked about what she’s been doing. She offered to share her class notes with me and I agreed to help her with a short she has to make by the end of the quarter. We have a good friendship, Candy and I, and we share a mutual love and respect for the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

After dinner at Aladdin’s with Candy, I went to Kafe Kerouac because I read online about a writers group that meets there on Monday nights. I met Mike, the owner, and original member of said group, which has been meeting for at least six years. He told me they are all writing different things, and that once a month they all do a writing assignment together to bring to the next meeting. The example he showed me looked pretty intense; they were each challenged to come up with an idea for a TV show and map out every episode for a whole season. That’s something that would have taken me a lot longer than a week to do with that science fiction pilot idea I had a few months ago.

I’d seen Mike before at the cafe; I used to go there and wait for my laundry to dry. In fact, I once tried to get Mike’s permission to film the coffee shop scene from “Paper Cuts” at his place but I could never get a hold of him. It all worked out in the end though, and at one point tonight he did mention he’s allowed several film crews on the premises.

There’s four core members of the group, and then some people join for a while before moving on. Everyone brings a single copy of whatever they’d like feedback on (short stories, essays, poems, even plays) and everyone marks the same copy. “Saves paper,” Mike explained simply.

I enjoyed meeting several new people and hearing their ideas. I tried to give helpful comments in writing. I brought ten copies of my treatment and got some helpful remarks; even the questions they asked were beneficial because I saw I left some pretty important details out of my treatment. I might bring my outline next time. We’ll see.

The Kafe is the closest coffee shop to where I live, so you can’t beat that. I walked down with my laptop and worked on some stuff while I waited for the group to meet. I might even start going there instead of Cup O’ Joe…? I’m talking crazy here. Anyway. I’m already looking forward to next Monday night.

Year in Review: 2009

This was the second year of The Sleeper Hit’s existence, and this blog documented a lot of changes in my world in 2009. Granted, 2008 was my first year in a new city, living on my own, buying a car, etc. But 2009 brought lots of new things as well. After all, 2009 was the year I decided to make movies and actually did. As I did last year, here is a recap of the inane and the important, a.k.a., the things I deemed worthy of blogging about.

January: Brandon started his job at OSU. Coincidentally, we stopped cooking dinner in the apartment around the same time. The pipes in our old place froze. Obama was sworn into office. I started the screenplay for “Beacon Alley” (untitled at the time) and read lots of books about how to write screenplays. I cut nearly a foot of hair off, and so did Brandon. The Sleeper Hit turned one year old.

February: I left my car unlocked and someone rifled through it and stole my faceplate but not my stereo. I discovered Club Trillion and did not do much work for a of couple days. Owen and Jamie found out they would be having a girl, which I totally called. I discovered my undying love for curry and finished writing “Beacon Alley”.

March: I began seeking donations from local businesses for the movie but got poor response. Casting for “Beacon Alley” took place this month, starting with heroine Becca and ending with villain Melissa. Brandon and I went apartment hunting and found our new place near campus. I switched from Live Journal to WordPress. I joined and promptly quit Twitter. A generous friend donated some gift cards to use to buy food for cast and crew on shooting days. I bought a high-def camera. Filming for “Beacon Alley” began.

April: Brandon bought me a new faceplate for my car stereo. Surly Girl allowed me to film at their place. Filming took place every weekend this month and I woke up shaking with fear every day of it. During the actual filming I felt awesome, and even better after we wrapped for the day. I named my production company Wilmer Productions, an homage to Owen’s former Willow Films. We made t-shirts. I juggled moving out of our old apartment with the final days of filming. It was slightly stressful.

May: I chose the name “Beacon Alley” after taking a photo of a street sign by our old place. Editing began. I co-hosted a baby shower for my sister-in-law with my aunt. I ran into many technical issues and discovered the importance of lighting. I got the idea for my web series, “Paper Cuts”. I threw a cast party to debut the trailer of “Beacon Alley” and scheduled the premiere with Studio 35. I watched the “Glee” pilot and flipped for that show before the rest of you bitches. Count it. I re-joined Twitter and saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

June: Saw the Decemberists with Brandon after he won tickets from CD101. I began casting for “Paper Cuts” and met my muse, Taylor. Editing of “Beacon Alley” continued, and I wrote the first four episodes of the show. Met Monsterbeard who advised on my scripts. Watched a lot of web series. My beautiful niece was born. Participated in Cincinnati’s 48 Film Project and met the awesome folks of Plum St. Productions: love at first shoot. Michael Jackson died.

July: Production of “Paper Cuts” began as editing of “Beacon Alley” wrapped. Showed episodes one and two before the movie at the premiere, which was well attended to my relief. My blog stats hit an all time high the week of the premiere as people googled “Beacon Alley” after presumably seeing it on the marquee at the theater. Brandon and I planned a fall trip to Colorado.

August: Filming of “Paper Cuts” continued and involved casting new extras for each episode, one of which included child actors. It was weird. Brandon dressed in a borrowed tiger suit. I had a last-minute cameo in episode six after a friend had to cancel her role as a bridezilla. Filming wrapped at the end of the month. I lamented majoring in journalism rather than engineering or nursing or some other field that is still hiring.

September: Realized I had somehow gained ten pounds over the summer. Brandon’s gallbladder attacked him in his sleep. Went to Ft. Collins, CO and San Francisco, CA to visit friends on my first-ever vacation as an adult. I tried to write a one-hour TV show pilot while in California. Got one of the worst sunburns of my life.

October: Plum St. Productions exploded into prominence. I helped them with their short film, “Gnomewhere to Hide” and loaned them my camera. Got an iPhone and began using it to help me lose weight. Brandon got his gallbladder removed and his parents paid us a visit for Halloween. Became obsessed with roller derby after seeing “Whip It!” and visited a retro rink by the interstate.

November: Spent time with my dad on a sad anniversary. Spent Thanksgiving in Chicago with Brandon’s family again, saw Second City. Became very interested in both improv acting and stand up comedy (influenced partly by seeing “Funny People”). Started announcing my weight loss progress (or regress) on my blog. Actually lost some weight.

December: Visited my mom’s parents in Cleveland with my brother and his family. Lost the ten pounds I’d gained over the summer. Brandon got new glasses. Wrote 2009 Year in Review. Oh, wait…

Exciting new project coming to Plum St.

Last week I proclaimed I would write ten pages of one of my screenplay ideas before this Friday. I ended up going home and doing it that night. I even started with my opening scene. So far, of my college script idea, I have a freshman girl being dropped off in front of a dorm, meeting her new roommate, taking a first-year tour, and meeting with her adviser. It sounds terribly boring now that I’ve put it like that, but hopefully the script itself is much more entertaining. I will be out of town for work tomorrow night but maybe I can get a few more pages done Thursday evening.

On Friday, I’ll be heading down to Cincinnati for one night only to help shoot Plum St.’s second commercial for KT’s Barbecue and Deli. This time, they’re getting paid. If you do good work for cheap (or even free) and show you’re committed to doing the best you can, you can prove yourself to a client who might be inclined to keep you on board long term and reward you for your efforts. Plum St. is demonstrating this excellently. Additionally, the guys ordered their brand new camera online last night, so on Friday I get to bring my baby back home!

Plum St. has more than commercial work lined up; two of their writers created a web series, and it’s pretty awesome. Much like “Paper Cuts,” this web series has a background in journalism. And lucky for it, Plum St. is actually hiring. The production company gave “Superhero Issues” the green light last week and we were all sent drafts of the first five episodes to write notes for. I’ve been wanting to read the scripts ever since I heard about the project and now that I have, I am pleased to say it will make for an extremely fun project. There’s a lot of wordplay in the writing and I hope the guys can find actors with the talent (and especially the comedic timing) to pull their well-written jokes off. Also, Brian asked me if I would be interested in guest directing one of the eight episodes, so if that pans out I’ll be even more enthused. More details to come.