Independent Feature Project

5/17/00 - Independent Feature Project (Lookin' for film)

At this point, I've shot 18 rolls out of my original 20 that I got from that guy on Usenet. I'm only about a third of the way through shooting. It's now apparent that I need more film.

Here's how it stands for independent slobs like me who need a film fix:

  • Buy brand new film stock from Kodak. (Approximately $150 a roll. Top price, good stuff. Kodak is like a drug dealer in this scenario, they know you'll eventually need it, they got it, they'll charge what they want for it. You'll pay it.)

  • Buy "short ends" or "recans" from a company that deals with this sort of thing. (Short ends and recans are film that wasn't shot on location somewhere, and was "sent back" as touched n opened, but not used.) Problem with short ends and recans is that these companies never have any descent quantity of the stuff, and they usually just have random types of film. Since I've shot 18 rolls of Kodak 7277, I'd like to be able to match what I've already got.

  • Find another guy on the Internet who sellin' more of the same film. (Not likely.)

So it looks like I'll be sendin' Kodak my lunch money. I've heard rumors that certain people get "discounts" at Kodak for I dunno..being famous? I was reading the book "Shooting to Kill" by Christine Vachon, and she mentions on page 113 that one should "get a deal somewhere on film stock - Eastman Kodak offers a discount through the Independent Feature Project."

Did a search for the "Independent Feature Project" website on the Internet. They didn't mention anything about film discounts. Fired off an e-mail to them explaining who I was and what I wanted. At the same time, noticed that Kodak avoided putting any real e-mail addresses on their website, so I fire a couple of random shots to admin@kodak.com and David Edelstein who is a co-author ("Christine Vachon WITH David Edelstein") of the book "Shooting To Kill". I was hoping he would know what Christine was talking about in HIS book.

Bingo! Diane E. Upson contacts me from Kodak. She was the West Coast person who deals with Independents. She gets me in contact with Erica Frederick. (The east coast person who works for Kodak and deals with the Independent Feature Project.) Erica Frederick explains the deal: I join the Independent Feature Project for something like a hundred and fifty bucks, that gets me an 8% discount of off of everything Kodak makes EXCEPT Kodak vision film. (The good stuff. The stuff I NEED.) Great.

What was a kick in the face was that I had contacted Amy Andrus of the Independent Feature Project. She had explained the discount deal, it had sounded like a good deal, I had asked her what ELSE the Independent Feature Project offers to us independent slobs like me? Technical seminars? No. Equipment access? No. Entry into any indie film festivals? No. Contacts with backers? No. I would get a dandy newsletter, access to their website and maybe tickets to see large budget "indie" features in New York. Wonderful.

AnyhooI did the math while speaking with Erica Frederick. I would save $150 from Kodak if I joined the Independent Feature Project for $150. (And I couldn't even buy the film I wanted.) I mentioned that I needed Kodak VISION film. Erica then goes, "oh, well I can give you a 5% discount on THAT if we set up an account." Five percent? Woo hoo! I'll take it! (Hell, it's better than paying 100% for Kodak film. My next question would've been, "so WHY are you giving me 5% off?" I didn't push it, maybe should thought I was famous.) :-P

Surprisingly, I got a flyer in the mail from "Studio Film & Tape." They listed Kodak 16mm Vision film, all ASAs at $123.00. I call em up, order 5 rolls of the stuff I need, and waited a week. Nothing. I call em back. Gloria explains that she THOUGHT she had some in stock, and will hopefully have access to some soon. (Then why did she take my credit card number you silly woman? Brother.)
I guess I should feel lucky that I got my 5 percent discount at Kodak. Thank God I wasn't looking to buy crack.

7/15/00 - Back in action! Wonderbar first day.

Cara O'Shea, (the Mystery Girl) had mentioned that she knew the owners of The Wonderbar (a coffee shop type place) and Sophia's (a nightclulb) in Boston. This was perfect, because I had not found an appropriate place to shoot these major sequences. (Read: I had not found a place that WANTED to be bothered with a no-budget indie film crew.) She had put me in contact with Neil, the manger of The Wonderbar.

I spoke to Neil a week prior to our shooting. He didn't seem to be put off at all about us shooting there. He mentioned that other student/indie films had used the location. I schedule Saturday, August 15th, 11 am for our first day. (That was when Chris, the day guy was to show up and open the store.)

We're all standing outside the place at 11 am. There's a crowd of us; all huddled near the front door. We had no idea what Chris looks like. (I had not spoken to him.) At 11:45, someone walks right through our little crowd, starts to pull off the clothing hanging ON the front door and pulls out a set of keys. (This must be an everyday occurrence to him.) This must be Chris. I go, "Hello! We're the FILM crew!" He looks at me with a blank expression and says, "yea? What film crew?" I then explained that I had arranged this shoot with the manager. He shrugs his shoulders and lets us in.

I've heard stories that film companies hire people to park their cars overnight outside a location, just so they have a spot for the grip truck to park in the morning. As an indie, we've got to wait for the morning guy to sleep off his hang over from the night before.

We shot scene 13, the one where Chip explains WHY he does the over-board fake Chinese accent. Then started on scene 31, where our Mystery Girl first enters the coffee shop. We basically got Cara walking past the table and the guys reacting. Then banged out a short scene with Lauren and Darby at another table.

I've got a lighting theory I might want to put in practice. Because I have no Gaffer/Lighting Director, I've got to adjust the lights for almost every set-up. This slows down the process. (I've only got a 4-hour window of shooting time before the place opens to the public.) I might try n light the scene ONCE, so I can bang out the shots that I need. What's tricky is that I'm shooting 4 people facing each other at a table. If you put the lights on one side of the table, someone will only be backlit. Normally one would use something called a "Chinese lantern". It's a big omni directional softbox that you hang directly over the table. I don't have one. You would still need to add a little backlight to the subjects. (Still taking more time.) I'm hoping I can find a suitable lighting arrangement, then leave it for everyone.

The other tricky thing about 4 people at a table is that you need enough coverage to make the scene work. Shooting one long shot just doesn't seem to cut it. (A lot of directors solve the problem by putting the camera on a steadicam, then have the cinematographer run laps around the table while everyone speaks. I don't have a steadicam.) The other weird thing is to get a shot of the fourth person, (the person with their back to the camera) you need to break the 180 rule.

Note to self: if I'm gonna write any more scenes with people chatting at a table, I'll make sure I only use 3 people. (or be prepared to shoot tons of coverage.)

Because this place was also a bar, we sometimes had to wait for one of the three refrigerators to stop humming. If this were a "real" movie, they would've been shut off the night before. We've got to deal with three different variations of ambient noise, I'm hoping that the folk singer in the background (Woodrow T. Justice) will drown out any discrepancies. (Whenever we get to shoot him.) Initially I was going to include Woodrow T. Justice to add "ambience" to the scene, now he's got a technical reason too.

Eric w. camera

Eric & Cara

John & Cara

Chillin' at table

Wonderbar LS

Sound guys & Phil

Johnny salt


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