Sunday, August 28, 2011

INDIE: Misery Loves Company

For those of you who have been following the hiatus on this blog, please allow me to explain my whereabouts for the last three months.

Illustration by Carlo Sitaro
Beginning in April I began working on a new (old) film project that has slowly consumed my life over the last four months. The film, Misery Loves Company, is a project that has been floating around for eight years. While other projects came and went this one remained bound on my shelf. It was during the course of teaching a class on film study and production that I got the itch to be creative again. The script did need some work, having gone through several revisions averaging one per previous attempt at filming, it had been a few years since I last looked at it. Along with the script came notes, addresses, telephone numbers, and sketches of scenes, artwork, and locations. This was enough to convey general ideas to others and build on for further development.

The complete detailed account of the production will be covered on the film’s website in my production diary, however, here is some additional insight into the production.

As stated above, the script had been sitting around for eight years. That’s a long time for anything to just sit around. It got to a point where I was left with three choices:

1)    Leave it alone and move on
2)    Try to sell it to someone else
3)    Cut the shit and make the freakin’ thing

Clearly I chose the latter, but not after a severe psychological struggle and debate. So much time had passed from the inception of the story to the point where I was in a position, professionally, to film it that I was no longer passionate about it. This pointed me towards the idea of trying to sell it, or even give it to someone else and let them go through the trouble of making it. The problem was I did have a pretty big investment in the characters and the story, not to mention a huge amount of respect for the filmmaking process. To put these characters into the hands of a stranger, or a novice – someone who wouldn’t, or couldn’t understand them completely would be like throwing your child in a dumpster. Now I may be a villain from time to time, but I am not a monster. This brought me back around to leaving it alone and moving on with life. The problem with that solution was that I still wanted to be a filmmaker and work on projects, ones of much greater ambition and complexity than this one. Realizing that no one was going to knock on my door and say, “Here’s a bunch of money. Go make your dream project,” I resolved to do the best I could with what I had available, which happened to be a pretty polished small-scale script.

Steven Bendler (Cliff), Peter O'Brien (Brian)
& Carly Ballister (Veronica)
The script for Misery Loves Company was always intended to be filmable, adhering to the basics of independent filmmaking: a small cast, few locations, and a practical story. Simple needs don’t require extravagant costs. Having completed my previous film, RIPHOUSE 151: Could’ve Been’s & Wanna Be’s (2008), out of pocket I felt I could do the same with Misery Loves Company. In fact, it would be even easier since I had been working and earning money – a luxury I couldn’t afford on RIPHOUSE. However, the process of making that film did prepare me for undertaking a feature and getting into the creative workflow. In that regard I knew exactly what I was capable of on a film set and this helped to figure my budget for the film. Remaining modest, Misery Loves Company is still the most ambitious and costly production I’ve ever undertaken. Surprisingly, with all of the grief, turmoil, and curveballs, it was also the smoothest and most well executed of my projects, considering the amount of material versus the timetable.

This was in part due to the extensive (eight year) pre-production phase of the project, but also because I didn’t go at it alone. Beginning with the cast, we worked hard at rehearsals for the weeks leading up to principle photography. While that was underway I spent my free time working with the storyboard artist, translating the words on the page to images. When either of those tasks weren’t going on I was usually meeting with the cinematographer to discuss and review the storyboards or working on securing additional cast and crewmembers or locations. The dedication of everyone involved is what made Misery Loves Company possible and the words on the page a tangible “reality.” Their enthusiasm is what keeps the interest growing.

To keep up with all of the events involving the film please follow the Misery Loves Company weblog.

You can also “Like” the film on facebook for more direct updates involving the cast, crew, and screenings.

Expect regular posts here at Visually Hidden from now on...

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