Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cameras Rolling

It's been an exhausting week.  Everything happened at once - monies, script, cast, locations, all rolled together, a massive wave of happenings.  We went non-stop for the most part. The core of our team - myself, Angie, and Ryan Pearson, a producer who saved our butt on the funding - have averaged about 5 hours sleep per night.  My mantra has become No Sleep Till Brooklyn - we return home on the 11th, hopefully with a completed feature under our belt.

The week culminated with Shoot Day #1 this past Friday, the 28th.  I figured if we got the first day in the books, we could reconvene over the weekend and figure out where we need to shore things up.  The strategy worked well - we spent this entire weekend making the necessary adjustments.  The shoot day itself was a great success.  We completed 8 pages of script in a shade under 12 hours.  Not bad for a 1st shoot day.  Our total crew size is 5, so we're all working like dogs, but we had a blast doing it.  

My favorite part of the day was during a company move (moving from one location to the next). I had planned to shoot some road side shots of Dan and Skye trekking through the streets of Albuquerque in the blazing sun, but I also left open the possibility of shooting on a city bus if it came along - it did!  We had 3 bucks in change ready to go, and the 3 of us hopped on the bus, ready to shoot.  There was no objection from the bus driver, so we shot on the bus for roughly half hour.  As we filmed on the bus, our two support vehicles followed the bus as best they could.  It was a great example of the beauty in working small.  It's a liberating thing to be able to hop on the city bus and shoot in real situations with your actors.  The results are amazing - I think we now have the footage for our opening title sequence. :)

Looking forward to Day #2 in the morn.  This week will be a tough one.  We're shooting 7 straight days, with plans to take off next Monday and Tuesday.  Those plans are looking shaky right now as the schedule has tightened up - we may need to shoot on those days after all.  But hey, whatever it takes to get back to Brooklyn with a feature film in our hands. :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Desert Rain Shuffle

We're trying to make the schedule work for all and the biggest juggle is our lead actor. Since we're no-budge, he needs to maintain shifts at his day job so he can earn cash for rent and keep the job.  At the same time, we need to make the movie by any means, and I'm really trying to avoid nights, though in some cases that's not possible. We're a 10 day shoot, and I'm frantically putting the pieces together to make it work for us and him.

From where I'm sitting right now, everything looks good, other than the lead actor scheduling issue.  We have 75% of the necessary funds in place, and we're about 80% cast. I'm struggling with the idea of bringing an established actor from NY for a small yet central role to the story. He's the perfect look/type but the cost involved and the hassle of transpo/lodging/meals around the clock is making the decision difficult.  I need to let him know by tomorrow.

Locations are coming together.  I have one location that I'm being quite particular about (ROB and DIANE'S place) and my first option fell through.  We found the perfect house on the top of a hill, overlooking the Sandia Mountains (pictured above).  It was for sale, so no residents to deal with, and it was furnished!  The real estate broker was asking way too much to shoot there so we had to move on and we're still looking.  Plenty of time to find it, and that's not bad - one location up in the air with more than two weeks out from the scheduled shoot date.

I'm halfway through the script (some scenes need to be fleshed further) and I hope to have the 2nd half done by Friday, though it's more likely to go through the weekend.  That's fine.  I'm shooting mostly in sequence, so if I deliver Monday, that gives actors more than a week to get familiar with the material.  The dialogue is more a placeholder than anything else.  I expect to rework as we shoot and allow for plenty of improv.  My anxieties over script and story are close to quelled - I feel good about where we are in that regard.  So what AM I worried about?  Not a thing - we're making a movie, not rebuilding a nation!  This is fun stuff and I'm enjoying the process.  My goal is to pass that enjoyment on to all involved in the making of DESERT RAIN.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Funds and Cast

An early promo shot for DESERT RAIN. 

Monies trickling in, slowly but surely. Yesterday was a great day for fundraising, and besides actual funds being promised (about 40% of the budget yesterday) I also found a few good leads to more cash. Definitely encouraging. Raising funds for a film is not easy and I've spent more time making phone calls and sending emails to raise funds than I have working on story and script. That needs to reverse itself real soon. Sure, I have the outline, I know the story, and I have script pages, but actors get anxious without something to work from. Understandable. But I'm of the belief that if we have everything we need to shoot, especially on a project like this - microbudge, guerilla-style - we can find the scenes when we're out there. I like the idea of discovering as we go, within the framework of the outline. Many filmmakers have worked that formula to great success, and I'm confident we can do the same.

Speaking of actors, I got two HUGE commitments yesterday. JAMES MADIO will play a small but crucial role as ROB, SKYE'S brother in-law who refuses Skye and DAN help in the middle of the story, prompting them to kidnap Rob and DIANE'S 5 year-old son, DYLAN. James is a friend and talented actor and I'm thankful he'll be joining us.

The role of LEFTY, the local music producer who has put Dan and Skye in the tough spot they're in by accepting $5000 of Dan's money to promote his demo and singing career, will be played by BREA COLA. I should have preceded this announcement with the classic "SPOILER ALERT "- throughout the film we don't know that Lefty is a woman and former girlfriend of Dan. But maybe I'll change it after all. You'll have to watch and see. :)

JESUS JR., an ABQ local, will play RICO. Jesus is one of the biggest guys you will ever meet, and I'm glad he's working with us, and not against us. The second I laid eyes on him I knew he was the perfect Rico. I was glad he accepted my zero dollar offer to play the part.

Okay, now let me get back to writing the damn script for these wonderful actors.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

17 Days Out

When you're writing, producing, and directing a micro-budget, you're doing most of everything yourself. If you're fortunate, you have SOME help. I do have my girlfriend of 6 years and ABQ local Angelica Morrow producing with me, but ultimately if I stop, we stop. So I can't stop. :)

I'm in Venice, CA for two weeks after 10 days of prep in Albuquerque. The Venice move was a planned vacation that is now doubling as pre-production headquarters. Besides writing this blog, I am writing the script (need to have at least the 1st half of the film written by Friday) and making calls daily to coordinate all shooting activities in ABQ. I hope to have the first 3 or 4 days of our 10 day schedule locked down before returning to ABQ - that will give us a week to plan ahead for days 5 through 10. Not traditionally how one would plan a shoot, but we're run and gun, seat of the pants, guerilla filmmakers - we wouldn't do it any other way. This entire project is no more than a compulsion that we are making a reality. And it's quickly taking shape.

To give you an idea of a prep day 17 days out (17 days from shooting, for those who don't speak film-ese) here's a rundown of my day. This is all post-early morning run and workout on the beach. :)

Update Twitter. Update Blog. Check emails. Today's first emails included two regarding cast members (one of which may not work out) and one from a producer friend in NY re: joining the shoot - it doesn't look like he'll make it. No worries there. Then it's two major calls to potential financiers. Again, we're talking micro-budget, so these are private individuals I know personally that may contribute funds for a backend profit share or simply as a contribution. I have raised 25% of the budget thus far through these types of calls - it's really the only way at this level.

Besides these duties, it's imperative I write 15 script pages by end of day - I envision a 80-85 page shooting script when all is said and done. The 15 pages if I'm lucky will come before mid-afternoon, so I have some day left for other things (basketball on the beach?). If they don't come by mid-afternoon, I resume writing after dinner. In addition to the writing, I will make calls back to NM to touch base with actors, a local producer, and my sound guy to make sure everyone is in the know on where things stand. Nothing is official until the last monies are secured, but I WILL get the money one way or the other...just a matter of when. I also plan to call a local (LA) buddy who's an established actor and ask if he'll come out for 1 stinking day. If he says no I'll kidnap him. What else today? I'm sure there will be other calls and emails as the day progresses, but this is an overview of what we're doing on a daily basis over the next few days while in Venice.

It seems like a lot to do in one day, but that's filmmaking and it's what we love. It's easy to work hard and lose track of time when working on something you're passionate about. I'm very passionate about DESERT RAIN.

Friday, August 7, 2009


It's official. DESERT RAIN will be filmed on location in Albuquerque, New Mexico from August 28th through Sept 6th, a 10-day shoot schedule. We are writing furiously, casting daily, and securing locations as we go.

DESERT RAIN is a micro-budget feature being written, produced and directed by STEVE LOFF. It tells the story of DAN and SKYE, a young couple in a small desert town who find themselves in a bad situation that only gets worse. On the hunt for LEFTY, a local music producer who scammed them out of $5,000, and on the run from authorities for a faltered kidnapping, Dan and Skye press on through the unique characters and places of Albuquerque in their quest to find Lefty and finally make their break for Los Angeles. DESERT RAIN can be likened to a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.

DESERT RAIN will be the first film shot under the guidelines of the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENTS. The Declaration Of Independents is a filmmaking movement designed to empower all filmmakers to realize their stories by any means necessary. The Declaration destroys all unecessary elements and "line items" in the filmmaking process, removing all obstructions, and thus creating a film in its essence - story, image, direction, and performance.

The film is being produced by Steve Loff and ANGELICA MORROW. DANIEL VAN HART and ALEXANDRIA MORROW have been cast as Dan and Skye, respectively.

The film will be shot in DV format and entirely on location in Albuquerque, New Mexico. DESERT RAIN is intended for the 2010 film festival circuit.

In the desert of life, there's only one escape from the heat.
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Thursday, August 6, 2009


“The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.”
- Orson Welles

One Director.

One Writer (Director may be the writer. Director may also be the producer).

No more than 5 person crew. Director, shooter, sound mixer, and *two wild cards. *(Any crew persons of your choosing.)

No guns.

No extras or background. Background must be actual, and not hired or staged.

No location fees.

No permits.

No insurance.

No “movie” lights. Natural light and practical lights only (“available light”), which may be manipulated, i.e., bounced, diffused, gelled, etc.

No grip equipment.

No set dressings. Props only at actor/character insistence, or necessary to character, per writer or director vision, i.e., Lionel’s Blanket.

Actor is makeup/hair/wardrobe ready.
No hair/makeup person. No wardrobe purchased – must be actors’ own clothes, or borrowed, or loaned.

No paperwork. Script ok. Call sheet ok. Shot list or storyboard ok. No Production Reports. No time reports. No labor logs.

must complete rough-cut or offline before passing off to an Editor. Films edited throughout by Director held in highest regard.

No special equipment, i.e., cranes, dollies, steadicam, car mounts, etc. - sticks (tripod) and handheld only. Camera may be stabilized by anything in surroundings, i.e., sidewalk, car, mailbox, etc.

Only equipment permissible is basic camera, sound, and items needed to manipulate “available light,” as previously mentioned.

Camera filters
allowed. Special lenses allowed.

Any digital format is acceptable. No film. Though film is the most beautiful shooting format, it is cost prohibitive and cumbersome, and its use is in conflict with our goal – telling the story by any means possible.

In our choosing the digital format,
it is imperative the content of the story, and the shooting technique, be conducive to our medium. Gone with the Wind would have been ineffective in DV, but The Blair Witch Project would have been ineffective without the use of DV.

no less than 75 minutes in length, and no more than 100 minutes.

Maximum 18 shoot days. Re-shoot and pickup/b-roll days may be added if necessary.

must take place in one city, though it is unnecessary to be “city specific.” Fictional cities ok, like Oz.

No location “lock downs.” Scene must be recorded amidst real conditions. Ok to get personal appearance releases from passersby (another permitted piece of paperwork?).

must be self-made (made by any of the filmmakers), public domain, or contributed. Bottom line, no music rights will be purchased for ridiculous sums from known, professional artists, or anyone else for that matter.

Sound design is ok. Post-Production manipulation of image is ok, i.e., color correct, slow motion, etc.

In summation, the creation of a film generally requires the highest complexity amongst the arts, yet more often than not it generates the lowest form of art. The Declaration aims to reverse the formula. Like a painting, or a novel, a film produced under the Declaration requires few mechanics, and less obstruction in the creation of the Motion Picture as high art.

Essentially, the Declaration of Independents is an effort to dilute the filmmaking process, and reduce it to its simplest and most vital components – Story, Image, Direction, and Performance.