Monday, June 18, 2007

RSF(WEST) and TEAM BP: The First project of 2007

The new project from your friends at RSF(WEST), the West Coast offices of Rusted Sun Films has been completed. I was approached about participating in a 48 hour film festival contest and gladly accepted. I was also chosen to be director for the project... and as one might imagine a plethora of other responsibilities came spilling forth. For the collaboration with TEAM BP (the production name for our group consisting of cast and crew members of Beyond Pix and KRON), I served as Writer/Director/Actor/Composer/Editing Assistant, etc. etc. There is going to be a full list of dedicated cast and crew credits coming soon. I've actually got to assign some additional credits to people that busted their butts and got this project in by the skin of our teeth.
For now... I will leave you with a fair amount of story detail that goes through the 48 hours rather quickly... without embarrassing detail. The film will follow in another blog (after the 48 hours screening... for legal purposes).

I was jinxed. While we drove to Fat City to check in, receive our genre, and all of the other creative required elements involved in this weekend of sleep deprivation, I thought to myself, "Don't say it aloud. You're certain to draw it, if you say it where others can hear. Just don't say it."
Butterflies swirled in my stomach. I was actually getting nervous. I was excited. This was the first project of the year and I wanted it to sing. The she said it.
"I hope we don't get Western," Christine playfully jabbed.
"Why would you do that? Why... Why would you say that? You jinxed us," I exclaimed.
I tried to shake it off. It was out there. I had to hope for the best.
When we arrived, the room was packed with filmmakers and artists of all shapes and sizes. Vintage clothes, black t-shirts with pseudo intellectual prints, and three day old stubble filled the room like wall to wall hipsters. There was a lot of competition. It seemed as though every filmmaker in the Bay Area had a white-knuckle grip on good intention.
The horde waited for a call to order. The teams were arranged into screening groups and the reverse-alphabetic choose your own adventure began to take form.
"Team BP" fell into screening group D. When the call came, I approached the stage and stood behind the line that stretched across the riser. I don't recall how many filmmakers had answered the call before me... though I remember that I was one of the first. "Team BP," bounced around the ceiling and filled my ears. This was the moment.
I crept past the line of film festival victims and dipped my hand in the purple cloth hat. "Why is it that all psychotically creative people are drawn towards purple," I thought, "Or perhaps that's all they had on hand."
My fingers whittled down the strips to a single slip of paper. I turned my head down to look. I wanted to make a sound... but I couldn't. There was a microphone one and a half feet away from my nose and all I could think of saying was "F#cK" at the top of my lungs.
"Your genre?" was asked.
I whimpered, "Musical or Western," took off my hat, raised it to the crowd and walked away. The crowd's reaction was a mixture of laughter and groans. Some felt the white sweats that had surged down my spine. Others in line were simply thankful that the bullet was out of the bag... or hat, as it were.
I trampled back to a corner and contemplated my fate. I had not made eye contact with anyone. The strip of paper mocked me. The only hope was a large gamble... the second chance known as a wild card.
Would I choose the wild card? How much worse could things get?
I phoned another member of our crew. I needed an opinion. I needed another response far enough away from my conflict of emotions... someone or something that could guide me in a suitable direction. Would I take the bullet or leave my fate to the purple hat yet again?
As the lottery continued I swirled into an alternate dimension, fighting against the initial spot of bad luck. After what seemed like an eternity of phone conversation, the groups had pulled their genre and it was time to announce the additional pieces of the film fest puzzle.
"There is a character by the name of MAYO or MAGGIE LOGAN. This character must be identified on screen. This character is a Chef. I repeat, a chef."
I rolled my eyes wondering what other kick in the groin would be revealed next.
"The prop that must be used is a JAR OF COINS." Okay, the first easy punch all night.
"The final note is a line of dialogue that must be used, 'Call me as soon as you hear anything,'"
The card were out. Now came the choice to fold or to go all in.
There were others that desired another hand at fate. Only six teams joined the stage in protest. The remaining individuals in the room either worked there or needed a little more information. I needed a sign. I needed to know more about my options.
I didn't join the rest on stage. I wasn't certain that I wanted to be responsible for sending the cast and crew into the possible realms of a War Film, Animal Film, Period Piece, or any other land mine that lay in that purple hat of doom.
I finally got the attention of our would be organizer.
"I need to ask you a question about our genre," I stated.
"Yeah, can you hold on a second, I need to wrap this up quickly and get these guys on our way."
"I understand but I..." and he turned away. I waited for another moment until the organizer turned to me again.
"I need to ask you a quick question," I stated urgently.
"Let me finish up here and I'll help you out," he replied.
"Yeah, but the question kind of depends on whether or not I need to get on stage with the rest of you," I thrust.
"Oh, okay."
I asked a series of short questions about the western genre, turned towards Christine and Lorelle and finally accepted our collective fate, with the words, "F#ck It, we're doing a Western."
We drove back to our meeting area where the rest of the team waited.
When I returned the news had spread though the ranks but the looks stretched across faces was not as solemn as I had imagined. The grand challenge had set in... the minds were at work and there was much work to be done.
We mulled over comedy, drama, thriller, and various fiction themes that could all fall within the "Western" genre. We didn't want to take the easy way out. We didn't want to be cheap. We wanted to take this thing by the horns, swing it into the walls, and pin it like the bitch it was. We just didn't know how to do that yet.
After 3 hours of brainstorming and kicking ourselves in the head an idea for the story was born.
Tony, Christine, and I returned to my home to write a script while everyone else went home to sleep. At 3am a script was complete. I awoke at 6am, reworked some wording, and returned to our staging complex at 7:15am.
There were smiles. The members of the crew that I had e-mailed the script to were pleasantly surprised. There was hope. It was good. We now had to tackle the task of making it come together.
A few phone calls were placed for locations. We had a Western. Of course, prop guns were going to have to be used. Where could we film without getting stopped. We needed a location for hours... for free... How?
Luck. That's how.
I received a phone call from Christine. She had worked on locations that would be acceptable for a Western. A friend of a friend of a friend gave us a number to a ranch. The owner of the ranch said, "Yes" and we were packed up and on our way.
A few quick stops at a thrift store, a grocery store, an Office Depot, and a Walgreens afforded us the other tools and wardrobe that we would need to pull this thing off.
We staged at my home, slathered on some make-up effects, mixed up a batch of fake blood, fed the dog, loaded up, and off to the ranch we went.
Once we arrived at the ranch we met the owner, who was the most approachable and coolest location owner I've ever met. He shook my hand with a firm grip and said, "Go where ever you want. You want a horse?" I nearly fell over. We had full run of the place... and run is exactly what I did. I took off up a hill to find a location to start our shoot. It was noon. Time had already jumped on top of us. We needed to start shooting an hour ago. I returned from a hill gathered our cast and crew into two cars, drove up the hill and started the shooting process known as "run and gun."
We had a script. We didn't have a shot list. Luckily there were at least four people that had at one point or another in their lives worked as a photographer. This would save us. While one camera shot, another shooter would focus on pick-ups, close-ups, cut aways, and various angles for coverage. Four minutes doesn't seem like a long time when you're rushing to get a tape across town and back into the hands of a festival executive... but it's an eternity to fill when you have a black hole.
We shot for five hours, through fog, dropping temperatures, the crew being bitten by ants, and father time taunting us.
At 5pm we had wrapped our first location. Next, we needed to find a bar/restaurant that would have enough grit to pull off a "Western" no matter how modern neons looked. Luckily, I knew of a place that could work... and even more luck poured in once we asked the owner if he could help out a desperate rag-tag group of filmmakers.
We were given permission. The second wind rolled through my bones. The crew picked up an armful of Taco Bell and we were back in business.
While one portion of the crew shot our second location and developing scenes, another section of the crew raced back to the city to load tapes and set up for our "martini shot."
The sun was setting. Daylight was no longer an option and thankfully it was no longer needed. The entire cast and crew rejoined in the city for the final portion of our production. The shots came easily enough... it was warm and inside... which was a nice change of pace. The first tape had been loaded. The second was soon to follow.
At 11pm, we had wrapped shooting.
Editing began at 4am. Tony had gone home to shower and grab a fresh change of clothes. There's only so much you can do while stewing away in two day old socks. When I arrived at our editing session, we needed to record our voice over, the western guitar score, editing the film in it's complete form, score the film, punch it out of the machine, and get it to the "church on time."
Never underestimate time. Never. There were hours of editing, titles, score, and they were all being glued together simultaneously... Or as simultaneously as possible. Still, at 6:15 a panic hit me again. It was going to be tight. At 6:50pm... I knew it was going to be really tight. A 7:05, I didn't think that we were going to make it.
We reached our destination at 7:26pm Sunday evening. We made it. Clearing the time frame for competition had been accomplished. The film was completed... or as complete as we could make it with no time to spare. "It is what it is," I thought, "And I'm simply amazed that we pulled it off within 48 hours."
Now I can drink.

-Bevan B. Bell
Team BP
San Francisco 48 Hour Film Project