Thursday, February 15, 2007

FILMMAKING - Perfect Sport - Welcome to Set

Having arrived back in Seattle from Rotterdam on a Sunday night, I had less than 36 hours to get over my jet lag and finish prepping my script breakdown before jumping on a ferry to Vashon Island and heading straight to set for an indie feature that I was to be the Script Supervisor on.

The project is called Perfect Sport, and it's a high school wrestling movie. Though there are elements of comedy, including the requisite high school party, the movie is a drama that ends with a burst of violence. The plot: When his single mom goes off to the Iraq war, high school senior Lee is left to take care of his younger sister. A star of the high school wrestling team, he finds a father figure in Joe, a former wrestler brought on as assistant coach who has a dark link to steroids. Needless to say, things spiral downhill, and the discovery that his sister has been raped drives the movie to its final confrontation.

Graduate of the New York Film Academy (the one in Burbank, California), Anthony O'Brien co-wrote, stars in and is directing the movie. He tells me he's going to edit it, too, and I'm sure he did his fair share of the early producing responsibilities. Anyway, he went to high school on Vashon, where he was on the wrestling team, but now lives in LA. He says he is looking forward to moving back to the smog-free beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Most of the key crew members come from LA, including the Director of Photography, the gaffer (the DP's right-hand man), two camera operators, the 1st Assistant Director, the electric department, and I think a couple more. The rest of the crew is filled out with locals (the grips, me, the sound guys, some camera department folks) and a few people from Utah (I'm still a little confused by that connection, but they're good people nevertheless).

It's always interesting to see how the LA and local crews will mix. Or rather how quickly they'll mix, because all crews become family by necessity and close proximity. In this case it was pretty quick, and I think the grip department in specific (Bruce, Garrett and Patrick) impressed them right away.

In my own little world, because I am a self-taught Script Supervisor, I worry that I'm missing basic elements of my job, that my forms are improper, that I'm doing it wrong compared to the LA Script Supervisors out there. After a couple of days those fears pass because, when it comes down to the job itself, I'm pretty darn good at it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

IFFR - Wrap Up

I left Rotterdam last week Saturday, stayed a night in Brussels on Saturday night so that I could take my bright and early Sunday morning flight out of Brussels on Sunday. I got back to Seattle on Sunday night (after a 6 hour layover in New York where I went to visit my buddy Phil Campbell, who I will certainly write more about later because the book he wrote while in Seattle just got optioned to be made into a movie). Monday I spent doing laundry and getting ready to jump on a ferry bright and early the next morning so I could head to Vashon Island to work on an indie film called Perfect Sport. Or maybe it's The Perfect Sport. I gotta check on that. It's a high school wrestling movie, and it's part of my busy, busy schedule.

IFFR - THE PEOPLE

I wanted to say a few things about Rotterdam before putting it behind me. First, I had a great time. The staff was friendly and helpful (I had a lot of questions early on), and met some fun filmmakers. First I want to give a shout-out to Blue and Laura Kraning. Blue made a doc about the fans who entered a contest for cannon owners who wanted to help blast Hunter S. Thompson's ashes at his funeral/wake. Laura made an observational doc about the people along the rainiest Rose Bowl parade route ever. Then we went out drinking a couple of nights in a row (after my requisite four movies/day, of course). They are good people.

I also met Nina Davenport, who won the Dutch film critics award for her movie Operation Filmmaker. After actor/director Liev Schreiber sees an MTV report about an Iraqi kid who just wants to make movies but his film school got bombed, he decides to give him a Production Assistant job on his feature film Everything Is Illuminated. Davenport was hired for a week to shoot the happy scene, but she got sucked into the bigger picture. As it turns out, the movie becomes more about adolescence and entitlement, as the young man takes every opportunity for granted and uses favors from his new friends to get visa extensions and more.

Another guy whose company I enjoyed was Spanish filmmaker Albert Serra, whose movie Honor de cavalleria explores the pages between the grand adventures of Don Quixote, when he and Sancho Panza are traveling from one spot to another or just waiting to go to bed. It's a peaceful and painterly kind of movie (which is another way to say that this is not an action film), and it turns out to be more about Sancho than Quixote, which is nice. Serra himself is not a bashful man, happily saying his movie is the best Spanish film of the last 25 years. He is a funny and confident man, and I know he believes every one of his own exaggerations.

Then there were the short filmmakers I met, including director David Garrett and producer Kaer Vanice for the short film Warlord, which is a charming, post-apocalyptic look back at a boy rebelling against his mother's attempts to kill him with fast food and consumer culture, and how he formed an army of neighborhood children for the sake of survival. Fun and over the top.

Oh, and another shout-out to Henk and Emile, who ran the cell phone short film challenge. Also to Robert and Jessica, who made the short film Forgetting Betty, and who were always pleasant company at every festival event I saw them at.

FESTIVAL TIPS

Before I close the book on this year's Rotterdam festival, I want to throw out a couple of tips to other people who may be festival hopping in the near future, be they filmmakers or film programmers or film critics or just plain film lovers on a budget. Actually, I'VE ONLY GOT ONE TIP: If you can find a hotel that includes breakfast, then book that room because you can always make little sandwiches to take with you for lunch. That way you save time and money! Of course, I didn't see the little sign in my hotel's breakfast nook that said "Do not take food out of the breakfast nook" until the last day, so I guess they were on to the likes of me, but I was sneaky every time anyway. Be sneaky and have fun.

Finally, I'll leave you with the titles of a few of my favorites from the 31 films I saw in a little more than a week at Rotterdam: Rescue Dawn, Zidane-un portrait du 21e si├Ęcle, Le prestige de la Mort, One Way Boogie Woogie/27 Years Later, and I also liked the Guy Maddin-stylings of La antena.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

IFFR – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

With smoking bans taking over some of the biggest cities in the world, not to mention good ole Seattle, it was strange to come to a city where people light up cigarettes everywhere. Even though the smoking bans are a product of the new millennium, of the aughts (is that the right word? No wonder nobody calls this decade anything), I’ve gotten used to coming home from bars without the smoke infusion in my clothing.

Then I got to Rotterdam and I remembered what it used to be like in Chicago, in Seattle, in bars across the world. Here everybody smokes in bars, in restaurants, in cinema lobbies, everywhere. Combine that with the post-war architecture, a city whose bombed out sections were built back quickly, and the whole place feels like a time-warp back to the ’50s where people smoked in their homes and offices and cinemas and anywhere.

The bright side to this freedom of self-destruction is the fact that they’ve got bars everywhere, too, and by that I mean that every theater and every multiplex has a bar tucked safely inside it. If the movie was bad, if you’re between films, if you need to prepare yourself for something you think will be terrible or difficult or devastating, you can get yourself a drink. Kinda crazy.