Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bagels & Roles Production #2

“Bagels and Roles”, the short film I wrote and produced this summer, is now in the editing phase. Aside from the obvious editor-type stuff, (sound design, color corrections, etc.) this project has the potential to be an ongoing effort. Ongoing, as in forever. I’ve worked on the first sixty seconds of it for two days, moving titles and credits, changing speeds and viewpoints, and hoping that what no longer makes sense to me will make sense to others.
I could do this forever.

Once I got past the opening, (which I’m sure I’ll go back to sooner or later), I moved on to my storyboard book. This, beyond all things, will keep me from losing myself in endless tweaking and bumping.

I storyboarded each scene quickly, using little more than stick figures and arrows. It gave me a sense of what to shoot while we were on set, and now provides me with a feeling of safety. Even though I didn’t have a shot list, (which I know I should have made, but I didn’t), and I forgot to get a shot or two, (third and fourth viewpoints mostly), I know what I’m supposed to do as long as I follow the book.

I have the first scene just about done. If I can resist the temptation to go back to the opening and putz around with the music and title some more, I’ll move on to scene two. My goal is to have my first rough cut done by the end of the week, and the final version, ready to debut for the actors and their families by the end of the month.

I hope to have all of the actors and their families come to see it. My first thought was to have them come to my house, but there may be too many people… where the heck will I put twenty or so people? I’ve held showings in our local move theater in the past, (it takes some doing, but it can be done), but the film should only run 15-20 minutes. Hardly worth the effort to get it up on the big screen. I’ll have to figure something out, though. I think a game of Quelf is in order after the big premiere.

I’m trying to stay on task and not look ahead to film festival deadlines and packaging. So far, so good…

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bagels & Roles Production #1

So, all this week, the group of actors I’ve pulled together, led by my son and daughter, have been rehearsing. We’ve been doing read-throughs, blocking and scene rehearsals for a script I wrote. The effort has grown beyond what I was expecting, and has turned into a rather enjoyable experience.

The script was originally called, “The Steps”, because it was supposed to take place outside, on the steps of the middle school most of the actors attend. I changed it based on a lesson learned last year, shooting “A Caterpillar’s Tale”. That lesson was simply this - wind is no friend to dialogue. So, I hedged my bets. I re-wrote the script to take place inside, and I prerecorded the entire script’s dialogue with the actors during our final day of rehearsal.

I batted some names around with the cast and we decided on “Bagels & Roles” as our title. We shot it last night. We came together in a local deli that a friend agreed to let us use. More on that in the next post.

The ages of the actors range from eleven to fourteen, and I learned quite a bit about this age group that I guess I had forgotten since my days in middle school, (a time I’d rather forget, btw). One of the things I re-learned was that there are popular kids and not-so-popular kids. Another thing I learned was that if you create a mix of those groups and pull them out of that element, you can have them work together. And, unless one of them brings up the popular/not- so popular element, they work together as if they saw each other as equals, (for the most part).

One of the things we did besides reading and blocking the script was to play games. We tried a few card games and board games , and while each kid had their favorite, the overwhelming favorite was Quelf.

If you are unfamiliar with Quelf, it is a party game best played with more than four players released by Spin Master Games. Players move avatars to colored spaces based on the roll of a die. Each color corresponds to a card with a rule, an action, and so on. Each thing the players have to do is sillier than the next, and hilarity follows the first few rolls pretty quickly. By forcing the players to be silly, it exposes the kid in them to the other players. You can almost see the class distinctions melt away with each goofy action.

It was quite the sight to see.

I wasn’t a theater kid when I was young, but I wish I had been. These kids are truly theater kids, most having a handful of shows and performances under their belts. Their ability to take direction, understand a character’s motivation and stand and deliver is remarkable for people of any age. I was lucky to have them for this project. But the real joy was watching them play together.

No reward was offered other then a chance to sit around a table and have fun. No wrong answers could be given, no judgments other than peals of laughter were shared.

Because they are kids, forcing them to behave the way a character would behave can be restrictive. Small projects like these can be tough because of the aggressive schedules and focused demands. They have to want to do it.
When they rehearsed, they were “on” and my house rang with dialogue and calls of “Ok, let’s try it this way…”.

But, when they played, my house was filled with the laughter of kids having fun, and that makes any project worth doing.