Building the Wall

This past week has been an amazing experience.  We have selected our five actors and will be announcing them shortly!  We have continued to interview for our Director of Photography and have finally made a decision for that position as well.  Announcements are forthcoming!

But, that’s not all the excitement we’ve had.  We received our first donations this week!  As I mentioned earlier in this blog, we are attempting to make this film on as low a budget as possible, but we are also trying to make the highest quality film possible.  Thus far, we’ve been hugely successful in acquiring top of the line equipment and gear to shoot our film free of charge through Vcam of Burlington, Vermont, amazingly talented actors to play the roles, volunteers to donate food for meals during shooting, and crew members donating their time and expertise.  Our make up and hair is to be done pro-bono by Hair Creations in Morrisville, Vermont.  Nancy and Greg Perry have also been so kind to donate the use of their RV as our dressing and make up rooms.

However, there are expenses.  One that we would really like to make, is in hiring that professional Director of Photography I mentioned above, and the funds donated this past week go towards that hiring.  But, we’re not completely there yet.  It would be nice to secure the full amount before filming starts in just 2 weeks!  Once we finish shooting we’ll also need to add a score to the film.  A good composer costs money.  See?  Things add up.

And, to be honest, other expenses are beginning to pop up too.  None of them overly costly, but things add up.  A little here, and a little there, and the cost of the film could become prohibitive.  Our overall goal is to submit to film fests in the New Year, all of which have submission fees.  Ranging anywhere from $15 to $100 depending on the festival, not to mention travel costs should we make it into, say, Sundance.  In Utah.  I’ve already told Brandon I’ve made the cardboard signs for us to hold up on the roadside.  He wasn’t too impressed.  But, I’ll walk if need be to show this film.

And, we’re not letting it deter us from our goal on making one damn good movie.  We’ll find a way, I have no doubt.  We’ve come this far in less than three months, we’ll find the funding to finish this movie right, and get ourselves to the festivals.  Because, I have no doubt this little film has the potential to show the world what not only a couple of guys from Vermont can do, but what our community here in the Green Mountains can accomplish when they come together.

This, however, would be the perfect time to show your support for this little film that could.  Just like the costs, a lot of small donations add up.  Even a $1 from everyone who reads this blog would be enough to allow us to hire our DP.  Five dollars from everyone would give us enough to cover the rest of the costs of production.  Should I dare to dream, and imagine $10 from everyone, and we’d be looking at enough (potentially) to help us cover the cost of scoring the film.

It’s funny, the funding of the film is a lot like building a stone wall.  Sure, some really big stones (donations) help out tremendously, but lots of little stones can add up to weigh just as much.  A small pebble fits right between two larger stones and can stabilize the whole wall.  Wouldn’t it be cool if the $1 you donated was that pebble that made this whole project possible.  Please consider giving a $1 today, put another stone in place, and help Build the Wall.

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The Dragon Wall Store.

Ever buy a tee shirt at a concert, maybe of your favorite band?  Buy one at a museum or art show?  At a local gallery? Maybe a hat at a ball game?

I know I have more than a few from favorite television shows from when I was a kid to now.  Yeah, I still have my Thundcats tee,  not to mention the Guild or Firefly.  And I know some of you have seen me wearing my Star Wars shirt.

So, here’s the thing, please consider buying a tee or hat from our Dragon Wall Store (www.cafepress.com/dragonwall).  We don’t make a ton of money off the merchandise, but the exposure from folks wearing them does help us out.  It increases traffic to our site and helps get the word out, especially when they ask about the shirt, and you tell them ALL about us.  And please, make no mistake, this is a word of mouth project.  We are the definition of a grassroots project here, folks.  Make no mistake.  So, please consider stopping by the store and checking out our Fall Line of Dragon Wall Apparel.

–Mark

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DON’T FORGET!

Don’t forget, final round of auditions tomorrow!  Open casting call, so everyone is welcome to give it a shot. Visit the website for more details: www.thedragonwall.com.

How often do you get a chance to be in a film?  Especially one being filmed right here in Lamoille County?

Come out and give it a shot, what have you got to lose?

Auditions are being held tomorrow, Sunday the 29th, at the Lanpher Memorial Library in Hyde Park from 11-4.  Hyde Park hasn’t had this much movie excitement since Don Johnson and Susan Surandon filmed Sweet Hearts Dance way back when.

See you tomorrow!

–Mark

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Storyboarding = Fun.

We just wrapped up storyboadring The Dragon Wall this past Thursday, but I realized as I sat down to write this blog, some of you (and when I say “you”, I mean you, Mom, because you’re probably the only one reading this blog) might not really know what storyboarding means.

Storyboarding was originally brought into use back in the 1930’s by Disney to layout their animated movies. It has since become a fairly regular practice in film, both animated and live action, as a practice of visually organizing a script before shooting the film.

When storyboarding a script, illustrations are used to break down each shot of the film.  Camera angles and Points of View are determined and blocked for each scene. Types of shots (dolly, hand held, crane, etc) are determined as well as whether the shot is a close up, medium, or wide view.  It’s a long process, even for a short film, but well worth the time in terms of organization.  By laying out every shot in every scene, production moves much more quickly because everyone on the crew can be on the same page and know what to expect for each day of shooting.  Especially for a small project like ours, with a limited budget, shooting on a tight schedule, storyboarding is key in keeping us on task and schedule.  We simply can’t afford not to know exactly what each shot looks like well before the day of shooting.  Well laid plans and all that jazz…

What this means and looks like for Brandon and me is a lot of late nights acting out scenes and trying to demonstrate our thoughts and visions to our partner.  The visualizing of the scene is then usually in the form of both of us leaning back in our chairs, faces toward the ceiling, eyes closed, and hands behind our heads.  I have not doubt anyone watching us work through this process is now convinced we are totally off our rockers.  Not that anyone needed anymore convincing.

Oh, and it also means lots, and lots, lots of Mountain Dew, Skittles, and Starburst.  Yes, I feel like I’m twelve again, but it, surprisingly, works.

Storyboarding, for me at least, has also been lots and lots of fun.  I know I mentioned it in a previous blog as being really “cool”, but it is, at least, for me. Partly, I think, because it’s an extension of telling the story I wrote.  It’s another vehicle for me to explain these characters, plot, and adventure.  But, it’s also some affirmation of my own vision of the short story.  It’s an awesome experience for me as writer to have someone else take my words and sketch them out onto paper; to explain their own perception of the words on the page.  That to me is one of the greatest rewards of being a writer.  In other words, I know what I mean to say when I write a story, but for someone to take that story and illustrate it back to me, is total validation as a writer.

So, there are a lot of benefits to laying out the story in this illustrated fashion in terms of organization and planning, but as we wrapped up this process one benefit that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere on the interwebs came to me.

Momentum.  That continued rolling of excitement that just by drawing simple sketches of our film builds.  It’s a tremendous effect just this simple process has had, in my opinion, on moving this film forward.

I think it’s apparent most in the effect it has on my sleeping the nights we’ve finished a storyboarding session, when I lay awake in bed running through the script, scene by scene, shot by shot, that we just laid out into the early hours of the morning.

Then again, it could just be the Mountain Dew.

Nah, I’m sticking with excitement.

–Mark

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Auditons, Part Deux.

We held our second day of auditions this past week.  For those few of you actually reading this blog, you might remember a blatantly unveiled challenge to all those interested in auditioning, but who hadn’t yet.  I masterfully elicited a challenge to anyone interested in coming to this next to last open audition.  As I wrote the blog last time I could have sworn I heard crickets chirping, an appropriate sound effect I thought considering the number of folks I thought might respond to the dare.  I hoped I might inspire a few people to come out and show us that all of the talent hadn’t come on that first day.

And, you know what?  They came.  Geezum Crow, did they come.  Proving that there was still an awful lot of folks who can act just waiting to show their stuff.

As I’ve stated before I was really impressed and excited about our turn out for the first day of auditions.  In a sense, I expected the second day to be a little slower – thinking most folks who were really excited about auditioning would come the first day, but hoped we’d see the same caliber of talent, but just in a smaller turn out.  Well, we weren’t any slower, and man, did they bring the talent.

We saw another great group of actors on the second day of auditions. I think I can speak for Brandon too when I say we were really pleased with the level of acting and talent we saw on the 18th at River Arts.

And this makes me hopeful for a strong turn out on the 29th.  I’ve already heard from some folks that plan on auditioning that day and as the word about our film continues to get around I continue to receive emails regarding auditions.  Now, I’m the kind of person that likes to remain cautiously optimistic about such things, but I hope that folks who might have just heard about our little project or are returning from vacations come out on Sunday.  It would be fantastic to have an even bigger showing on the last day of auditions.

This is your last chance to throw your hat in the ring for The Dragon Wall and show Brandon and me what you can do.  How often to you get the chance to audition for a movie or be in one for that matter?  Sunday the 29th of August is your chance.  Come down to the Lanpher Library in Hyde Park and show us what kind of acting skills you have and make Brandon and me struggle even more with our decisions for the Cast of The Dragon Wall.

See you on the 29th.

–Mark

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Auditions: Day One.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous going into our open auditions this past Saturday.  I really wasn’t sure how it was going to work out.  How many actors would come?  How would the performances be?  It was a little nerve racking to say the least.  Okay, maybe not as nerve racking as performing cold in front of complete strangers nerve racking, but a close second.

But, and here’s the thing, not only did we have a really good showing on Saturday, but we saw some really great performances too.  I was pretty happy with the turn out, and even more so by the quality of the acting.  It would have been much cooler had Channel 5 showed up during the first few hours when the place was hopping, instead of right after our last audition, but I’m not complaining, much.

Do I want to see more actors over our next two audition days?  You bet.  The more the better, but I want the actors we saw this past Saturday to know, especially the kids, that I was really impressed with what I saw.  I mean that.  Really.  You knocked my socks off, and made me one happy producer, that’s for sure.

Not only was I impressed with the acting ability demonstrated, but with the raw courage to show up and perform like you did.  I mentioned it taking courage to share one’s writing in a previous blog, and I still hold to that, but now I know it takes more to stand up on a stage.  I applaud you all and thank you for turning out. Seriously, you rock.

I wish we had a bigger movie so we could cast more of you, but to your credit, you’re making Brandon and my job a tough one.  We’re going to have to make some hard choices, and that’s the best compliment I think we can pay you.

And for those of you who are still interested in auditioning, but didn’t or couldn’t come this past Saturday, you’ve got two more chances.  Wednesday, August 18th at River Arts from 4-8 PM and Sunday August 29th at the Lanpher Library from 11 AM-4 PM.  Come.  We have cookies!  I think the actors who came on Saturday just threw down the gauntlet at your feet, so don’t back down from their challenge.  Now, it’s your turn, come show us what you can do.

Hope to see you on Wednesday.

–Mark

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How to Make a Movie, Step 1.

How do you make a movie?

No, seriously, this is not a rhetorical question, I’m asking, “How does one make a movie?”

Up until two months ago, I really had no idea how to even get started.  I’d written screenplays before, but never knew how to get to the next step.  This is why working with Brandon has been key, without him, the story would still be in two places.  Two dimensionally on the pages I wrote, and three dimensionally in the ongoing, running – mocking and teasing – reel in my head.

And, believe me, it’s crowded in there.  Making some room, and quieting some of the voices, really is a relief.  I’m not joking.  Blue Tooth technology was the best invention for writers.  Ever.  Now, I can totally talk to myself in my car and no one thinks I’m mad anymore.  Well, mostly, anyway.  Dialogue?  Yeah, the car is the best place for me to go over dialogue.  Stop lights and stop signs used to be the bane of my dialogue writing existence.  Ever get caught in a full blown conversation with yourself at a stop sign?  With the windows down?  Only to realize there’s a mom, with kids, on the corner next to you?  Yeah, mortifying before Blue Tooth and hands-free phones.  Now, I just put two fingers to my ear as if I’m trying to hear better and give it some gas.

Okay, maybe Blue Tooth is the second best.  Making a movie seems to be working out a little bit better for me.

So, how does someone make a movie?

Well, from what I’ve learned from Brandon so far, this is Step One.

By. Sheer. Force. Of. Will. (Will Who?)

Once you have that, a lot of other things begin to fall into place. It’s always good to start with a script, too, but even with one, a movie doesn’t always get made.  Once you’ve got your script, after all the rewrites and story-boarding, you’re going to need equipment.  Cameras, microphones, and lights are basic stuff.  Oh, and lots, and lots, of cable.  Generators are nice.  A camera jib is helpful.  Crane?  Sure, I’ll take one.  (Have you noticed, our grocery cart getting full?).  There’s a lot more gear too, and thankfully, Brandon knows it all, but you get the point.  Actors, yup, need some of them too.  You’ll wanna have auditions first, and don’t worry, we’ll cover that experience fully later on.  You’ll need permits, locations (and landowner permission), and community and industry contacts too.

Oh, and money.  You’ll need some of that too (ahem, noticed those “Help Build the Wall” buttons, anyone?  Bueller?)  It certainly isn’t Step One, but it does help.  Did I mention we want to hire a Director of Photography, and what they charge a day?  So, yeah, money.

But, even before any of those  other things, you need to want it.  I mean that.  You need to want to see your words, your vision, your characters, world, and your creation made real.  You need to desire to birth these people, beings, and events into life.  And, I’m not being hyperbolic here.  I’m serious, without that desire, you won’t succeed.  We wouldn’t have even gotten this far.  Maybe it’s ego.  Maybe vanity?  It’s certainly not sanity that drives you (I guess I can only speak for me) to take these personal stories and creations and launder them for everyone else to see.  No, certainly not sanity.

And, it’s not easy.  No, it’s not. I have to admit, being a slightly neurotic, introverted person, it’s also kinda frightening. Along with the will, it does take a small bit of courage to throw yourself out there for the world to see and judge.  Oh, come on, I can feel you judging me.  Did I mention neurotic?  Maybe slightly paranoid, too.

So, yes, back to my original topic.  Step One… is will. Without it, films, and art in general, would never come to being.  Or in this case…light.

We’ll talk cameras next, and maybe after that, if you’re lucky, a little action.

–Mark

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