Buried

Before you read this I’d recommend you watch the film because I’m about to spoil it below:

In 2011 I wondered if my friends and I had it in us to make a film. Now we’ve made 3 while also having a large ensemble cast web series being scheduled to shoot in 2015. Stay tuned for updates on our Facebook page.

Making movies with my friends is the favorite thing I’ve ever done. Last night one of those good friends asked me how I get all of these insanely talented people to help me every time. I told her I have to trick them into it, which is half true. When you are writing and directing, the first step outside of yourself is convincing people that the thing you want to make is going to be good even when you aren’t 100% sure of that fact. But they keep saying yes. So. That’s incredibly nice of them.

Buried was created around a table of friends at my apartment in 2013. The premise was that a guy accidentally kills his best friend’s girlfriend who no one likes and then decides that if he can convince his best friend to murder his girlfriend before he finds out that she was already dead, he’d be off the hook for the accidental death he caused. Or at the very least, he’d have some help with the situation from a sympathetic party.

It’s a super weird premise that just made me keep laughing and laughing. Just a guy grasping at strings in the most intense moment of his entire life trying to convince another dude to kill a girl who’s already dead. That is my sense of humor in a nut shell.

When it comes to the actual film itself, I as the director ask the audience to go along with a premise that is all or nothing. Whether or not the audience ends up jumping on board is still to be seen, BUT even if they don’t there are a few things in this film that I think will be for everybody.

First off there are shots in Buried that are crazily pretty. Dylan (my EP, Editor, and Cinematographer) came in to the shoot day after a few brief conversations about the shot list and with a whole lot of jet lag as he had just gotten back from a month in Asia. I’m telling you that because the sequence where Marc is doing the actual burying has a shot while the sun was going down that is so freakin’ gorgeous I want to cry and Dylan was sprawled out in the mud to capture it while somehow not falling asleep.

Dylan, as my Cinematographer, is there to add his sense of aesthetic to my shot list. So basically, he’s there to make me better than I am. While operating within that framework he consistently goes above and beyond and the camera work in this film proves that. As for our second camera run by Adam Carner, I use him as a wild card. I don’t give him a shot list. I tell him to find a cool shot and go with it. The side shot of Marc kicking the corpse prior to dumping it in the hole is all Adam. Every time he works with me he does something I’d never think of by myself. You need people like that if you want to make something cooler than you could ever make alone.

The second thing I wanted to highlight from this film is the music; particularly the music during the burying sequence. The way we at BFF pick music is a long and tedious exercise that our music supervisor, JR, performs beautifully. Every year South by South West (SXSW) releases about 6 gigs of free music for the purpose of filmmakers using it in their films royalty free. It’s an amazing service that has helped us immensely on all 3 of the films we’ve made. It’s JR’s job to get an insane scene note from me like, “I want the song in this burying sequence to be ominous but in a weird and quirky upbeat manner” and then subsequently make sense of it.

Then after he does that impossible task, he listens to all 6 gigs of the music (51 hours of songs for those of you wondering) and makes a ranked list of his choices that I, with the help of him and the EPs, use to pick the song. The song in the burying sequence, in my mind, is perfection and I hope you guys like it too. And even if you don’t, it makes me all warm and fuzzy every time it comes on and that’s all I could ever ask for.

Before I go I will add that this film is better because my other EP Abigail, who is my script editor as well, killed it on every note she made during this entire process. Add to that the three actors in this film whom all had multiple jobs within the process when acting is hard enough all came to play on the day of the shoot (of which we only had one) and laid down solid takes that made picking only one tough to do the entire time editing this film. I’m almost bored when it comes to talking about how good Marc is because it’s just the truth and, hell, Steph had to hold herself above the ground and then let go so her face slammed into it 3 times in a row for this film and didn’t question it once. (All in the gag reel btw) That’s insane. Friendship is insanity.

This film marks the first time I didn’t act let alone play the lead in something we’ve made which allowed for a few things. One is that I had to put all of my trust into the actors to say my words the way they are on the page while simultaneously infusing them with a very real weight and personality to which I was not disappointed. The second opportunity it allowed for was to be ingrained in every single step that occurred from the concept to the final cut. Ian and the Bishop and Zer0s are movies that I adore because for me they tell so many stories both personally and artistically but this film is the first one that is in my voice entirely.

Artists talk about searching for their voice all the time. Finding a way to make a product that genuinely describes an artistic moment in their life. If nothing else Buried will be a perfect reminder or who I was when I was 27, how reliable and talented my friends were, how supportive my family was, and how I have a deep love for the place where I grew up for both making me this person and being a beautiful setting for all 3 films we’ve made so far.

If you have any questions about Buried or anything else let me know. I could talk forever about these films. I like them a lot. If not just enjoy this gag reel of my friends being silly little geese and I’ll cya in 2015 for our upcoming comedy webseries. K cool.

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Ian and the Bishop – A Short Film

If you don’t want to read my long winded diatribe about making movies and dreams coming true then here is this movie. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

 

Oh – You would like to read about my love for filmmaking and how important friends are? Okay. Well then, here you go.

Ian and the Bishop started as a novel. It was about a character that was depressed and started drinking again only to be forced into saving himself by a new acquaintance and his drunken alter ego. It was based off of a very real character in my life that got thrown into a romantic dramedy setting because that’s what I know how to write. I got 4 chapters in before I realized I was writing a screenplay, not a novel.

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to make movies. I saw the film “Tall Tale” when I was a kid and it clicked in my head that this wasn’t just a fun story unfolding in front of me. This was a creative endeavor that real human beings put an incredible amount of hard work into and then came out on the other end with a finished product. I wanted that. I wanted to tell a story. But one person can’t make a movie, or at least, not the movie I wanted to make.

So I called my friend Dylan. He’s everything I’m not. He’s a wildly talented creative mind with a knack for the aesthetic piece of life. I needed him to say yes before anything else could actually happen. I was driving through New Haven, Connecticut on my way to Long Island for work way too early in the morning late in 2012 and called him with an epiphany.

“I want to make a movie.” I said.

“Umm. Okay. What kind of movie?”  He replied.

“I don’t know yet. But I want to make one.”

“Oh….Alright then. Sure.” And Dylan was in. Way easier than I expected.

That week I took my fledgling novel and turned it into the first draft of the screenplay. When it was done I sent it to Abigail. She was the second piece of this puzzle that was absolutely essential to making a movie. She’s my box. And by that I mean, I come up with over the top crap and she brings me back down into a place that can actually happen. Everyone needs that kind of person in their life, and she’s mine. I sent her an email with the screenplay attached that started with, “Hey. Remember when you told me months ago that this novel would be better as a movie? Well…you we’re right.” She was both excited that I told her she was right and taken aback by how much work I had done in such a short amount of time. So, Abigail was in. We’re moving right along.

Then, very quickly, it all became super real. We were scheduling the audition date to fill out the cast. I was filling out paperwork/asking my favorite local restaurant locations very politely to secure locations. I was writing a shot list (basically, making the movie in your head before a camera even turns on) which I had never done before. We were editing the script. A lot. The final version of the script is very different from how it began. Dylan, Abigail, myself, and two script editors (Allie Rivera and Robert Pinney) helped me out a great deal in that department. The entire ending is different from how I first wrote it because all of them knew it had to be.

I asked my roommate Elliot Smith if he could be the Prop Manager because he knew how to get things. I asked my other roommate Ryan Gentner and friend Adam Carner to be additional cameras on the project – which by the way, some of my favorite shots came from both of them plus Dylan taking my ideas and making them better, which is exactly what a talented crew is for. I asked my friend Mike Storiale, the most well organized and level headed human being I know, to run the production from a logistics stand point. He made a calendar, which should not be overlooked. The hardest part about making a movie, hands down, is the schedule. Getting everyone in the same place at the same time. It is a true nightmare and Mike and I threw it at the wall and then hoped it stuck. Thankfully it did. I then asked my friend Marc Gibson to be a production assistant – the jack of all trades on a movie set – and he also obliged. He also ended up playing my older brother Tom in the film and in my opinion steals every shot he is in.

A few weeks before the casting call I realized movies require a hair and makeup artist. It is in this area where I was lacking in the friend department. When I came to this realization I scoured Facebook for people posting pictures of hair or makeup jobs they had done. I came across a friend I hadn’t talked too at length for a while – but her work was stunningly brilliant and I knew she would be perfect. I called Dylan and asked him if he thought Stephanie Gagne would help. He replied with something like, “I don’t know, probably, maybe just ask her?”

That’s something else I learned while making this film. Sometimes, if you just ask someone to do something, they will do it. It’s crazy. So I asked her, and she said yes. And through the movie I started talking to her and her fiancé/current husband JR who became a production assistant on IatB and would later become a Producer on the new film we made this year. But more importantly, he is the most passionate and enthusiastic person I’ve ever met. Through just asking I added two crazily talented individuals who made the movie that much better as well as two amazing friends. I asked her to be a part of the movie in early 2013. Last weekend Elliot, Marc and I were in their wedding party. The crew/my best friends screamed Africa by Toto on the dance floor at Steph and JRs wedding at the top of our lungs. Twice. I fucking love making movies.

The crew was set. But I still needed to cast 6 characters. 4 women and 2 men. Tavis and Marc filled the two male roles, bringing more talent to them that I could have ever imagined, but we still needed the women. Abigail ran casting like a well-oiled machine, and all I had to do was show up with a script and watch strangers say words that were once only in my head. They each read for two parts – the girl breaking up with Ian in the first scene and the female lead whose name was Emma. I was nervous to say the very least. Without an Emma, we had nothing. Just some pieces of paper that resembled a story.

As the auditions were happening we were finding very good actresses. They were beautiful and talented but they weren’t Emma. I knew Emma. She had been in my head for a year at that point. I knew her favorite book was The Fault in Our Stars and that her dream was to be a dancer. I knew she loved her father but missed her mother every day. I knew she wanted to go on adventures but she believed an adventure alone wasn’t an adventure at all. She wanted someone to make her better than she already was. And that person was Ian.

Casey McDougal was my Emma. She nailed it. From the moment she walked into the audition room until the moment we wrapped, she embodied that character. She made decisions that I didn’t write that made Emma real. When she left the audition I resisted the urge to chase after her and beg her on my knees to take the role. Thankfully she took it anyway, minus the begging. When I watch this film now all I can think is, “That is my Emma. And within every wonderful flaw, every matter of fact smile, and every time she hits Ian out of pure frustration, she was absolute perfection.” I thank the stars every day Casey came into our lives and I think Ian does too.

With that I need to take a moment to thank JD, Grace, Sehee, Samantha, Marc, and Tavis. I am incredibly thankful you all took the time and helped me create something so important to me. The movie is better because all of you were in it.

One more technical note before I go. Movies are made up of pictures and sounds. Sounds are half of the experience. We used most of the money from the Kickstarter campaign to buy microphone equipment that has served us well. Problem was, we never made time to really learn how to use it prior to shooting, so the entire shoot was a long uphill lesson in sound design. Some of the movie was only recorded in mono; some of the movie had the mic pointed the wrong way, etc etc. Sometimes it’s just bad. And I had to come to terms with that. A large reason this film took a year and a half to release is because I hated how it sounded. But with some elbow grease and a few hours of Dylan’s magical editing a year later we made it the best it could be. When you all watch our next film (Zer0s, coming to YouTube October 3rd) you will notice the sound is better. That is because my friends (specifically JohnRob, Marc, and Elliot) took it upon themselves to be better the second time around and they succeeded.

Making this film was an incredible learning experience and by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I never went to film school. I just wanted to make a movie. It was my dream. The thing I thought about late at night while staring at ceilings. And then I somehow tricked my friends into helping me do so. AND THEN I asked for donations to get us off the ground which exceeded my expectations and we were funded within the first two days. It was and still is pure insanity.

This film is not perfect. Not even close. But it’s done. And my friends/crew, family, and Kickstarter backers should be incredibly proud of themselves. You guys helped create something from nothing and to me that’s beautiful. Thank you so very much.

Ian and the Bishop Kickstarter!!! Go there!

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Click through to see the Kickstarter! 

In January I wondered if I could make a movie. The answer was: with lots of help from awesome friends, sure. Even if this Kickstarter doesn’t work out, I’m making this movie no matter what I have to do. Like I said in the video, I love the idea that if you put enough effort in and ask the right people to help you, you can create pretty much anything these days. Thanks for taking a look, I really appreciate it.