Sunday, June 28, 2009

How I Got Started - Part 5

After the disappointment that was Summer's End, I spent my freshmen year at Fordham University doing everything but making movies. In high school, I led a pretty conservative life, never drank, never smoked (except cigars) never really partied, got wasted or just went out and had fun.

So, that's what I did. I started playing ice hockey down at Chelsea Piers and found myself going head to head with Tim Robbins; I hung out at bars like Lincoln Park and Blarney Stone, drinking excessively; I would walk around the city, getting lost and exploring NYC; I got into photography; all in all, I did a lot of things that had nothing to do with filmmaking.

However, as my freshman year was coming to a close, I had enjoyed the break but knew that it was time to get back into it. I wanted to make a actual short...and I still not quite a writer (I'm not sure I would even say I'm totally a writer now) I thought that maybe adapting a short story would be a good way to go. I was a BIG fan of Vonnegut at the time (and still am), so I thought maybe I would adapt the short story "Long Walk to Forever" from his Welcome to the Monkey House anthology. It was a fairly small story that would focus on the relationship between two characters.

Still thinking this short would be a potentially great thing, I contacted Vonnegut's lawyer to ask for the right to adapt the story for a short film, hopefully for nothing. His lawyer actually got back to me, but told me that unfortunately, they could not give away the rights. Not having any money to buy them, I was now without a story.

But I still loved the idea, I saw this couple on a farm somewhere, it would take place at sunset, and look just gorgeous on camera. So, I came up with my own story that would use the same elements from Vonnegut's story, but would be completely original, and so, A Soldier's Farewell, perhaps one of the most beautiful and unfinished films I've ever done, was born. (I don't know why I don't finish these things, although I guess I have my reasons, which you'll see below.)

I wrote several drafts of the script when I arrived home from my first year of college and teamed up with Cordy Wagner (now the head of Fifth Column Media) to produce the flick. I met Cordy through my college counselor (who recommended I go to Fordham because Cordy had gone there). A year older, we saw each other often at Fordham, until Cordy transferred to NYU halfway through my freshman year. But, we both respected each other as filmmakers, and I, as I always do, wanted to bring someone on to handle all the logistical stuff.

We shot for five days in Eastern Washington, on an old farm, with a budget of $5,000. The BIGGEST mistake we made on A Soldier's Farwell was shooting on the XL-1s. Even though it still looks great, there is something about the video that doesn't jive well with the historical setting and takes you out of it.

I didn't finish the film. I essentially didn't have the money to finish it. We got it to a point where all we really needed was sound design and a score but I just couldn't afford it and what starting to move on to other projects. It's a bit of a shame, I really do wish I had a finished version of it (I did complete a shorter version of the film, which I submitted to Project Greenlight, and will try and find to post up here, it was essentially the first scene).

I spent the first semester of sophomore year editing A Soldier's Farewell. As the film began to languish, I started working on what would become my next short 12:01.

Shot in a weekend in April, I had a lot of firsts on this project. It was my first time working with the Mini-35 adapter, the first time working with my go to DP Paul Niccolls, first time working with a professional sound designer, and somewhat depressingly, the first film I completed since high school.

You can see the complete film on my website in the film section of the portfolio. Originally, with both the script and the first cut, the scenes were suppose to be out of order (a la 21 Grams). I changed it, and put it in order based on the advice of someone who saw it, and I will admit now that it was a mistake. I think it makes it less interesting, and completely changes the audiences perception of the movie. I wanted to make you think something and then have it turn out to be the opposite of what you believe. I think it would have been a much better movie had I done that.

Having been steadily building my portfolio and working on a variety of different projects, I was now about to start on the next one, which to date has been my most successful: The Beautiful Lie.

To be continued...

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