The Wild Road to Filmmaking

Michelle:  Behind most indie films you’ll find a unique story of how each one came to be made. Inspiration and a strong will can pave a highly effective road, usually full of bizarre twists and harrowing turns. To the public (and sometimes friends and family!) the filmmaking journey can seem like a series of completely insane and random decisions but, in truth, those crazy choices make perfect sense to the filmmaker.

For example, Robert Rodriguez sold his body to science to fund the making of his debut film El Mariachi, which he later turned into the Antonio Banderas hit Desperado. Creators of the 2008 cult classic The Foot Fist Way, Jody Hill and Danny McBride, tried to make it in LA but moved back home to North Carolina where they applied for as many credit cards as they could, promptly maxed them out, then borrowed money from Jody’s brother to complete their film. Risky? Sure. But the payoff was quite worth it.

So, what of the The Young Invincibles? Sarah and Aaron were living and working as actors in New York City when a March meeting lead to a December proposal (fyi – she said yes). Some casual conversations and personal experience turned into a solid idea for a feature film, a story they wanted to tell. The next year was spent working and planning for the wedding while doing research for the film. In an effort to slow things down and focus on the script, Sarah and Aaron left the city that never sleeps for the sleepy little town of Avon, North Carolina. Living off their savings, they spent several months in a house by the beach to write (and rewrite) the script that would become The Young Invincibles.

They decided to stay on the beach for the summer to put together the business and production plan for the film (which you can read about here). To pay the bills, Aaron worked as a wild horse tour guide, a waiter, and a wedding caterer while Sarah also worked catering jobs and founded a wedding cake stand company (check it out here).

In the diverse world of independent films, there isn’t one way to make a movie. There’s no corporate ladder or trade apprenticeship hierarchy to climb until mastery is achieved. Some movie makers attempt to work their way up the entertainment food chain in Hollywood or New York City, while others spend years saving up enough money in the cubical army to finally have the freedom to work on a personal project. But, in the end, every filmmaker must set out on their own movie-making trail, blindly and doggedly following their inspiration no matter where it takes them.

Fundraising and Questions

Huzzah! The YI has officially started our active fundraising campaign. It’s an exciting yet nerve-racking time where all the hard work of putting the film’s vision into a well-organized plan is distributed and hopefully deemed worthy enough for donors to contribute to the project.

Feedback has been positive, but as we tell more people about the film two main questions keep popping up:

  • If The Young Invincibles is a feature film, not a documentary, how are tax-deductible donations possible?
  • If this film is about young adults with cancer why not make a documentary?

Isolation and lack of media presence are two of the main issues within the young adult cancer community, and The Young Invincibles aims to change that. Since the young adult cancer community is underrepresented, we know there is a need and therefore an audience for this film. And, while many other countries have allotted funds for the arts, particularly projects attached to a good cause, Northern American artists have traditionally been funded by private investors or donors. We decided to work with Fractured Atlas because it makes sense that the same audience that would want to see this film would also help fund it, and offering a tax-deductible donation option would help make such funding possible.

So, why not a documentary? The YI’s goal is to create an intimate, entertaining look into the world of the young adult (YA) cancer community. Humans naturally love the story telling process, being able to make a meaningful connection with characters while following their journey to its end. While talking to Aaron about this he said, “Following someone around with a camera changes the nature of the person being filmed.” The reality tv phenomena clearly proves Aaron’s statement true, and is the opposite of what The Young Invincibles hopes to capture. It’s rather impossible to access the most impactful moments in the YA cancer experience in real-time, such as receiving the initial cancer diagnosis or breaking the news to friends and family. In the spirit of independent filmmaking, The YI aims to break ground for both the movie industry and the young adult cancer community!

Curious about Sarah and Aaron’s vision for The Young Invincibles and how they plan to make the film? Check out the Prospectus, and feel free to pass it along to anyone that might be interested in donating.

The Business of Art

Sarah: As we switch gears from the writing to the production of The Young Invincibles we are quickly realizing how much of a business the film world really is. I mean, it is called film business for a reason, isn’t it? And so, as we embark on this phase of the journey, we have been mapping out our plan for production, funding, marketing and distribution. I think we have a solid little outline which we have aptly named “The Diabolical Plan” and which we will keep under wraps for now. We can’t give away all our secrets to success just yet now can we? But, interestingly enough, one of our biggest hurdles so far has been one of a moral dilemma. Is our artistic integrity or our professional success more important?

Our initial motivation in starting this project was our desire to express ourselves creatively and feel a sense of empowerment by using our artistic voices. Due to personal experiences, we discovered the material for our story and it inspired us to take that leap and create a platform for expression that is truly our own. It has been wonderful to use our creative skills and find our voice. The possibility of affecting others through our work is almost an addictive experience. And, the idea that we might actually be able to help others by telling this story is extremely rewarding.

Now, as we work on turning our words on a page into a living piece of art, we find ourselves faced with the reality that we must put on our business hats and enter the world of consumerism. The film must attain some level of success if our hopes of sharing our vision is to be realized. This means we have to aim high and play with the big boys in the film industry. We have to market ourselves and the movie and show that we can produce. There is some level of scheming and manipulation involved that feels a bit cold and calculating. If anything, it does not feel artistic. And, it is an uncomfortable adjustment for us to make.

Whether it is society or our own judging natures, there is this image we hold in our minds of what it means to be an artist. A real artist is one who starves and suffers if they are truly talented. Picasso, Warhol, Chagall, Dali, and Pollock come to mind. And, making money through your art? Well, that seems like some sort of betrayal. As if we would be selling out somehow. However, there is also this voice inside of me that says in order to be considered a “professional artist” you must earn a living through your work. Otherwise, you are just an “aspiring artist.” I myself have experienced what it is like to struggle and, let me tell you, while I have learned a lot through my journey, it is not very glamorous.

Ultimately, I want to continue doing my art for as long as I possibly can and I want to be seen as a professional. So, that means I must attain some level of success. And that will only happen if people see my work. Somehow I have to learn how to combine my artistic abilities with the business of art so that they co-exist and work off of each other seamlessly. And, any moral issues I struggle with in the process? Well, I hope that is just a part of growing as an artist. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Post Oscars Reflection

Sarah: Every year, for a day or two after the Academy Awards, I always feel a little melancholy. I don’t like competition in general and I hate the notion of pitting artists against each other to determine a winner. How can you judge which film is better when doing so is purely subjective? So, I make every effort to avoid watching the show. There is too much hoopla and superficial glitz and glam. And, don’t get me started about the nominees. Most of the time, only those films with tremendous financial backing tend to get nominated. This leaves out all those struggling artists, like myself, who don’t have deep pockets. So, money equals winning. I start to feel disillusioned about the film industry and what it is I love to do.

Yet, every year, as much as I try, I find myself tuning in to find out who won. It is a thrill to see how the winners will react when their names are called. And, I want to see what they will say in their acceptances speeches. Will they cry? Will they forget what to say and stand there shaking nervously? Oh, the pressure. It must be insane. And then, there are those rare instances when a winner is able to infuse their speech with emotion and humor and heart. Well, that’s brilliant, don’t you think? This year, I cheered for Sandra Bullock during her charming and heartfelt speech. And, I think she looked truly amazing in her dress and flawless makeup. And, then there was Kathryn Bigelow who won for Best Director and Best Feature. Being the first woman to win both awards is pretty amazing. It made me proud to be a woman. I wonder how she feels having beat her ex-husband, James Cameron, in both categories. I hope a little part of her relished it.

But, my favorite winner of the night had to be Michael Giacchino who won for Best Music (Original Score) for the film UP. In his acceptance speech, he encouraged those that want to do something creative to get out there and do it. He insisted that being creative is not a waste of time. At this once in a lifetime moment, Michael didn’t thank God or a long list of film executives. Rather, he took the opportunity to inspire others. Well, I’m a fan!

I guess the Oscars make me reflect on my own journey as an artist. The abyss standing between me and that red carpet is only exemplified as I watch all the designer dresses slink past the cameras while I sit like a couch potato in a pair of old sweats and a t-shirt. I’ll admit it, I imagine myself at the Academy Awards and I wonder what it will feel like to win one of those golden trophies. And, when that happens, Aaron and I will be angling to win for Best Director. We plan to be the first husband and wife team to win the award. And, what will we say in our acceptance speech? Well, you’ll just have to tune in to find out.

Time For Some Techno Babble

Aaron: I am not sure if everyone knows this but apparently you need a camera (or two) to make a movie.  So, I have begun the process of figuring out the best one for The Young Invincibles. In the grand old days, film was shot on well … film. Then, the revolution came along that it was televised in digital! Digital film gave to the masses the ability to make an indie film cost effectively (i.e. cheaply). So, for us, digital is the way to go.  Psstt….don’t tell old school Hollywood but many big budget films are going digital. VIVA LE REVOLUTION!!!

So, the digital camera that has my crank turning right now are these new DLSR cameras. Specifically, the Cannon  EOS-1D Mark IV which just came out in Oct of ’09. It look like this.  Yes, it looks like a traditional photo camera.  And that’s because it is.  However, it also just happens to have video capacity which looks like this (seriously look at that link).  The picture quality is just insane.  It blows away everything else I have seen in digital.  Hell, Robert Rodriguez (the guy behind “Desperado” & “Spy Kids”)  just shot a music video with a DLSR camera.  So they are pretty sick.

So, here is the techno number side of these cameras.  It shoots in 1080 HD.  Also, it shoots in 24p (technically 23.976), unlike earlier models, which mean it can mirror the 24 frames per second of film. VERY SEXY INDEED.  Then, there is the other cool thing. It sees in low light spaces better than the naked human eye (I told you to watch that video link. It was all shot at night with available light!). That will do! That will do indeed. So, technically, shooting with this camera is more like shooting with old film cameras.  It has  a large single sensor (traditional digital cameras have 3 smaller censors, film camera have one big one), you have to record your sound separately (welcome back clap boards), and you get to shoot with a shallow depth of field (trust me this is a very good thing).   The shape is kind of weird for making a movie but you can add stuff like this to make it more movie making friendly.  Kinda cool.

Alright, that’s enough geeking out for now but trust me there will be more.  However, if you got questions, comments, or ideas about cameras please leave a comment or send me an email and I will get back to you.  And, don’t forget to subscribe so you can follow The Young Invincibles journey from this website to a theater near you.

The Chicken or the Egg?

Sarah: Pre-production on The Young Invincibles has officially begun! We still have some minor tweaks to make on the script but we have also started trying to figure out our game plan for getting the movie made. So, what exactly does that entail? Money. Do we use our own funds? Or, do we find people to invest? The actual making of a film is a lot more business than artistic creativity so I’ll admit this is not the most exciting phase. But, it’s a must and I’m throwing myself full force into the process.

Our main quandary right now is figuring out how much money we will need.  We have to create a shooting schedule and take into consideration all the details of what we will need to pay for to get the film in the can and edited. Except, how do we do that if we don’t know how much money we will have to work with? There are the ‘what-ifs’ that make this nearly impossible. What if we buy our own camera to shoot with? What if we hire name actors to be in the film? These costs will vary depending on the answers to these questions. But, if we only have a small amount of money to work with than that will place limitations on our choices. Oh, it’s confusing!

I wonder how other filmmakers deal with this dilemma. Do they decide on a budget first and then work within those parameters? Or, do they hire the talent and plan the shooting schedule and then see what that final, holy number is going to be?

The Birth of a Script

After a year of research, a month of reconfiguring index cards, three solid weeks of writing and endless debates back and forth…here it is. The script for our film titled:

The Young Invincibles

by Sarah Falk & Aaron Oetting

The Young Invincibles Script

Isn’t she beautiful?

We spent almost a year doing research and talking extensively about the possibilities of the story. We decided there would be three characters and that the story would take place over the course of one day. We wrote up bios for each of the three main characters including all of the research we had done and our choices for their fictional lives. Then, we wrote up index cards for each scene in each character’s story. We included any important information or dialogue we knew would be necessary that we didn’t want to forget! This left us with three stacks of index cards that represented each character’s story. Below, check out our progress as we posted each character’s storyline up on our “story wall.”

Story WallAfter we were satisfied with this step, we organized the index cards into one storyline. This was complicated as we needed to visualize the movie as a whole and figure out how and when to jump from one character’s story to the next. We had to do a few re-writes during this phase but eventually we finalized everything and prepared for the next big step, writing the script!

We holed up in our house and stuck to a rigorous writing schedule every day from 8AM-6PM. It took us three weeks but we did it. We had a first draft! We took a week off to let our brains cool down and then we read through the script again. After a couple of more re-writes, we felt confident that we had a solid script.

And now, the script is off in the world being read by the prying eyes of the public. We have already received some feedback and there are a few minor tweaks we have planned. On the whole, we feel really good about the script and are proud of how it turned out. Was it a difficult process? Yes. And a little scary, too. But we found that breaking it down into steps and keeping ourselves disciplined and organized made us move forward. And, having an awesome partner to help you along the way doesn’t hurt either.