The Perils Of The Indie Filmmaker

As some of you know, your valiant editor has spent some time in the filmmaking game himself, slowly climbing the ladder of failure. While doing some research for potential interview subjects and rants, I came across the web site of one film I worked on… sort of. Submitted for shits and giggles, allow me to take you behind the scenes of a no budget film make solely to try to capitalize on the potential success of a Hollywood film.

The Perils Of The Indie Filmmaker
Chapter 16: Up the next rung… maybe.

At the tail end of the 1990s, I was living in LA, working my way up the indie film ladder as an Assistant Director. Well, make that 2nd AD. I had worked on some AFI student shorts and on a film directed by Rob Reiner’s brother Lucas. Finally, I was about to get my first chance at being a 1st AD, on a film called which now shares a title with a since-cancelled TV show on one of the lesser broadcast networks. The film was to be directed by this French guy whose previous “directing experience” had been as a scenic artist on one of Ben Stiller’s better films. So yeah, I was a little worried when I went in for my interview. However, my fears were somewhat assuaged when I learned the film was being executive produced by the co-founders of two of the larger indie film houses of the 80s. One of the production houses had a hand in two consecutive Best Picture winners, while the other walked the fine line between schlock action films and serious fare from respected filmmakers who couldn’t get their dream projects set up anywhere else. Sure, both had fallen from their 80s heydays, but the only way to go when you’re flat on your face is straight up.

I got the job. It didn’t pay a dime, but I would get room and board while we were shooting in Arizona, and it was the step up I so desperately needed. They were especially impressed I had my own spreadsheets set up for call sheets, daily production reports and SAG Schedule G’s on my laptop. It didn’t hurt that I also had Final Draft on there as well.

We would have a few weeks of preproduction and then jump straight into shooting. I informed them I already had a family get-together in New Mexico to go to the last weekend of the month, but since we wouldn’t be shooting until the week after I got back, it wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, since I would be driving through the town we would be shooting in, they could meet me there and that would give us a few extra days to scout locations. You see, time was of the essence. We had to get the thing completed ASAP in order to beat what some felt was the similarly themed Mission To Mars to theatres. Okay, so we have about 15 weeks to go from prepro to release. Of course, the script wasn’t that good and not one role had been cast, but these are but minor bumps in the road, as anyone in the film industry can tell you.

Our preproduction team consisted of myself, the director, the producer (a decent enough lady) and the director’s assistant. One of the executive producers, a charming enough man, would be busy hammering out his own rewrite of the script, and then I would look over the revisions and make sure all the spelling was correct, make sure the right characters were talking to each other and things of that nature. I was even asked by the director to rewrite the opening, to suit his “vision”… because the Frog still had troubles communicating in English.

Did I mention he drove a real croppy old car on which he painted a hideously ugly muralr After my second day in the office, we ended up walking and talking back to our cars, which were both parked on the same side street a block away. His car was parked across from my somewhat rusty but still kick-ass 1972 Mustang Mach One Fastback with a two barrel (for now) 302 cubic inch V8 engine, and it took everything within me to stop myself from laughing uncontrollably when I saw this thing he choose as a mode of operation. Talk about a pseudo-intellectual art fag.

Anyway, things were going pretty well. I was keeping busy, sitting in on the casting sessions, doing minor rewrites of the script and getting the call sheets, production reports and SAG Schedule G form ready when someone new was hired. I was staying as prepared as possible. The day I was leaving for my New Mexico trip, I was given a floppy disk with the producer’s latest script revision, which would be our shooting script, to read and study while I was gone. Maybe even to the breakdown before I checked into the Arizona location. We arranged for the director to leave a message on my voicemail at home of where we would be, since my cell phone would not be active in Silver City, New Mexico, where my wife and I would be visiting with several members of her family. We shook hands and looked forward to working together in the coming week.

So my wife and I head out of LA for five days. The trip there went by as quickly as a 18 hour drive can. In Silver City, I visited some ancient Indian cave dwellings, discovered the pleasures of a Sonic cherry limeade and had a wonderful time with my family. Soon before we are leaving to return home, I check our voicemail to see where I am going to meet the production.

Guess whatr

I’m not meeting them.

I have been… FIRED!

What the hellr

At least the director had the guts to fire me himself. Well, if you can call stabbing someone in the back via voicemail “guts”. No reason for my being let go was given. I don’t know if I had done something wrong or said something wrong. I fell into a deep funk for a few days, and then I figured it out…

The Frog was threatened of me.

Actually, it was Dark Savant who figured it out for me. DS often thinks for me when I get depressed. And with some forethought, I think he nailed it.

The Frog, being the neophyte he was, felt threatened by my vast knowledge of filmmaking. This Frog must have fallen into this directing gig and he knew he was in over his head. The last thing Froggy needed was an AD who knew more than he did. Some guy who knew the script better than he, the director, did. Some guy who knew the casting choices he, the director, was making were wrong for the story at hand.

Kermit found his out (my leaving town) and took it.

To cut to the chase, the film finally did shoot. I couldn’t tell you when, but it did not make its intended shooting date. Nor did it make its release date. To be blunt, it never got a release date. No sir, this puppy went straight to video. How bad is the final productr No one associated with the film has ever bothered to get it listed on the IMDb. You can’t buy the film from Amazon.com, Express.com, Reel.com or any of the myriad of online video retailers. There is but one place where you can buy this piece of shit… on the film’s web site. $9.98 for the VHS and $19.98 for the DVD.

If you were to find the web site and watch the trailer, you would never buy the movie, because it looks like total and complete crap. The film has no discernable style. It looks like it was shot with a camcorder. Knowing what the film’s budget was, it wouldn’t shock me if this were the case. In fact, it appears as if they spent more time (and money) on the web site. You can grab a couple of wallpapers and screensavers plus 14 action packed shots of people sitting around waiting, and learn about the nobodies featured in the film.

So what’s the name of the filmr

I’ll never tell. =)

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