Making the Movie

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Category: Filmmaker Interview

Stick true to the stories you want to tell: An Interview with Thad Nurski

thad_nurskiI recently saw some test footage for a short film that knocked my socks off. It combines blacklight makeup and costumes to create an otherworldly, almost bio-luminescent visual effect unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And its all done in-camera!

The film is to be called “A Dimly Lit Room” and the writer/director/editor, Thad Nurski, is currently raising funds on IndieGogo to shoot the project. Check out the pitch video to see some of the stunning test footage:

I interviewed Thad via email about how he created the effect, his fundraising strategy and his cinematic influences. Read on…

Making the Movie: Tell me a little about who you are and how you came to filmmaking…

Thad Nurski: I was born and raised in Missouri. I had a big imagination as a kid, and I would dream up elaborate worlds when playing with my toys, drawing photos, or writing short stories. I loved to come up with these elaborate worlds and display them — some way, somehow — even if it was just talking to people about them. Film caught my imagination very early on. I remember as a kid watching the distinct visual worlds of Beetlejuice and Sleeping Beauty. They really stuck with me, and I was fascinated by them and what they were showing me. In Beetlejuice, the practical effects took me aback, and the gorgeous animation of Sleepy Beauty drew me in. I remember at the end when Aurora’s dress keeps changing from pink to blue and blue to pink. It was all so visual and I loved it. That type of storytelling was very visceral to me, it stuck with me. At a certain point I said very early on, “I want to do that, I want to make films,” and I’ve never looked back.

As people will see when they watch your Indiegogo video, the plot of “A Dimly Lit Room” is top secret. But what can you tell us about the project without spoiling anything?

I have been rather illusive about the specifics of our short, but I wouldn’t say it’s top secret. When people have reached out to me and wanted to know more, I have told them. However, a lot of people have told me they enjoy the mystery of it all and don’t want to know more, that they want to wait for the finished film. [If that’s you, reader, skip ahead. – JO] Without giving away too much, I can explain our story like this…

Our protagonist, Asher (John-Michael Carlton), meets our antagonist, Persephone (Jamie VanDyke), in a gloomy room where Asher learns that what surrounds him will directly affect his future. A simple conversation with Persephone teaches Asher that his existence is in jeopardy with grave consequences to follow if he does not solve his situation before it is too late.

The movie is based on a series of revelations; the more you get into the story, the more that is revealed, and all of these revelations lead to our final climatic moment.

Most people have compared the premise of our film to a very famous Ingmar Bergman film, which is a wonderful compliment, but our films are not at all alike. They just have some similar tropes. When people have read my script, the nicest feedback I receive is that they didn’t know where it was going and they were compelled to keep reading because they wanted to find out what was going to happen. So generally we like to sell the mysterious nature of our film, because that is what people enjoy when they read the script.

These makeup effects look amazing. Talk about your makeup and camera tests and how you arrived at these surreal, dramatic visuals.

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Shoot Something Every Two Weeks: A Conversation with Phil Hughes and Jenn Daugherty

Indie Filmmakers Phil Hughes and Jenn DaughertyI recently got a strong pitch for a very indie film in my inbox: Sweet Nothings, written by and starring Jennifer Daughtery and directed by Phillip Hughes.

It’s a musical comedy about an aspiring chef and an aspiring musician who — and I’m just guessing here — fall in love. As their kickstarter puts it: MUSIC + FOOD + LOVE = AWESOME.

I spoke with Jenn and Phil via email about the project and their can-do philosophy of movie making. Read on for some great tips on script development, SAG contracts and social media marketing for filmmakers…

Making the Movie: How did the idea for the story of Sweet Nothings arise?

Jenn & Phil: We were shooting a short for USC that starred Jenn and Jason Witter1535724_277406422412561_1379230980_n (one of our long time collaborators) as these two sweet, awkward people who had this connection that you never saw in the script and we wanted to see more of them so they became he basis of the Gwen and Jack characters. Jenn really wanted to do a practical musical that was totally original and not a rehash of pop songs. She was obsessed with capturing that moment when you actually try and pursue your dreams.

What got you interested in filmmaking? How did you wind up at this place of trying to raise $50,000 for a film?

Wow. That’s a mammoth question. We’ve both been connected to the arts since we were kids, but Jenn was the performer and Phil was the visual arts guy. We were both obsessed with movies, though Jenn was sheltered and only watched wholesome entertainment. Phil, on the other hand, had a weird dad that let him watch whatever crazy horror and sci-fi he was watching. It warped him in so many interesting ways.

The basis has always been Jenn writes and performs and Phil directs. We’ve been making work together for nine years and had always been experts out of making something from nothing, but sometimes that mentality can leave your project falling short of your ambition. So, we took a hard look at the script and applied our experience to what we thought we could make this particular movie right and that’s our number. Phil thinks people blow so much money on films that he is always quite conservative in filmmaking. But when Jenn finished this script, he knew they could make this on an indie budget. At this level the script HAS to be gold or you’re wasting your time and we thought the script was gold.

1512576_277406432412560_1363503480_nCan you talk about your process for honing the script?

Jenn goes through a draft and then Phil will give notes on it and we did several readings with specific actors to workshop certain characters and then we did a small reading with five people and finally graduated to a full reading. We will spitball ideas and come up with jokes and then Jenn makes it all work. She’s the funny one. Phil is good with structure and grounding the characters.

One of the things your fellow filmmakers would be interested in how you are structuring your crowdfunding campaign. How did you decide on the levels and rewards? How are you getting the word out? Continue reading

Make Your Sh*t Right Now: An Interview with Kestrin Pantera

Filmmaker Kestrin PanteraKestrin Pantera is a party girl who is not ready to settle down. Or she plays one in the movies. It’s hard to tell, because the indie feature that she wrote, directed, edited and stars in, Let’s Ruin It with Babies, is more than a little autobiographical.

I interviewed Kestrin over email about throwing caution to the wind and making a film, and how similar that leap of faith can be to making a family…

Making the Movie: How did the idea for the story of Let’s Ruin It with Babies arise? I understand that at a certain point it became a case of life imitating art…

Kestrin Pantera: I run the RVIP Lounge, a mobile karaoke lounge housed inside a customized RV. We throw guerrilla karaoke parties at big events like SXSW and Comic Con. It’s a fast-paced party lifestyle, one I was in no rush to interrupt with having children. When my husband wanted to kickoff ‘project family’ I asked for an extension: I’d yet to write and direct a film — one of my life goals. He replied, ‘Hurry up and make a movie, then.’

Lets-Ruin-ItI channeled my breeding doubts into Let’s Ruin It With Babies.

While filming, I felt alive in a way I hadn’t for years — until I woke up one day mid-production feeling very sick, and discovered I was pregnant.

I suddenly had a very hard deadline: finish the film before I started showing.

The ensemble has a very natural feel with each other. Did the cast know each other before the film? Did you use improvisation?

My husband, Jonathan, played my husband in the film. I thought of casting a professional actor, but we had just gotten married and the idea of writing my own sex scene with another dude felt weird. So I conned him into it. He’s a natural — it wasn’t hard. The rest of the cast were friends, some whom happen to be professional actors. All made me laugh in real-life and were available/interested/”Freelance.” They all have real jobs now, so I have to get a real budget or a new cast for the next movie.

Some scenes were meticulously scripted, others were improvised, some were a combination of the two. By which I mean, actors improvised, I’d bark out lines — seemingly arbitrarily — they would say them, and I’d cut together the scene I’d written in my head without them knowing.

The most personal scene, the bedroom scene, we shot in our bed at 8am with one other person in the room.

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Don’t Let Fear Freeze You: An Interview with Indie Producer Patricia L. Carpenter

DSC_0094-0001Patricia Carpenter is not your average independent film producer, even in a indie film world full of unlikely producers. A mother of three grown children living far outside of Hollywood, she got fed up with the content she was watching on television. But instead of moaning, she put her money where her mouth was, actively seeking out “a clean country story about the power of love.” The result is the movie Red Wing, an epic romance that follows an orphan boy (Austin Herrod, and later Glen Powell) who is taken under the wing of a neighboring rancher’s wife (Breann Johnson). The movie also features some recognizable faces (Bill Paxton, Luke Perry) and, oh yeah, director Terrence Malick and his wife Alexandra were also producers.

In her first outing as a producer and an executive producer, Carpenter learned a great deal. She graciously shared some of her hard-won knowledge in an email interview…

Making the Movie: What got you interested in filmmaking?

Patricia L. Carpenter: I saw — and still see — the need for more wholesome family entertainment. There are many trying to provide this and I want (need) to be a part of it. I became excited to lend my talents to this great field of creativity.

I think I was born with a natural love for good entertainment. I can still recall as a child, all six of us children would be allowed to gather around the television on Sunday and watch whatever Disney movie was playing that evening. My parents knew that this channel’s programming would be appropriate for their young family to view. I remember so clearly being mesmerized with little “Tinker Bell” and how different she was from anything I had ever seen on television.

Later, as I became a mother raising three children, I noticed a difference in the quality and quantity of options that became available on TV. I noticed how much the shows had diminished in content, so we stopped watching TV all together, and I began buying VHSs, then DVDs. To this day (now all of our children are grown) the only TV my husband and I watch is some news.

MTM: How did you come to be involved with Red Wing? Continue reading

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