Reel, Beer and Pizza

So I have my first draft done for Treasure Hunt and struggling with building up my ego to start trying to find a Director of Photography, an Editor and a Sound Guy. I’ve read in a number of locations that Craigslist is a place to find people, but when I look at the DC area List, I’m not seeing anything that leads me to think it’s a regular place to connect. Since I’m a regular Reddit lurker (one post, I believe), I decided to risk the snark and ask for help there:

The responses weren’t entirely useless, though the information content utility was pretty close to zero. That being said, the post did result in a direct contact by one John Rizzo, who used to be active on Reddit, but switched to becoming a lurker, largely due to snark. He’s written and directed a number of shorts and recently a feature. This is his IMDB page:

This is the page for his feature:

And this is the trailer for it:

When I watched the trailer I felt the silent black spaces were distracting, each time thinking the trailer had finished. After some consideration, I felt that if the background ambient sound was run over the black spaces it would create the continuity to stitch things together better. The very end of the trailer has some beautiful writing and acting, at least to me. When I commented on how much I liked that scene, John said he was so stunned with the acting that he forgot to say ‘cut’ and the actress got self-conscious until he told her about the gold that was just captured.

Anyway, John was intrigued by my goals and agreed to meet last Sunday (he only lives about 45 minutes away) to talk about things with the idea of seeing if there was enough common ground to consider working together. I sent him my first draft of the Treasure Hunt screenplay, so when he arrived we immediately started about locations, setting up, what’s hard to do vs easy (for instance, I have a number of scenes that are supposed to be at night, but would rather shoot during the day), etc.

I showed him around our place and agreed with his assessment that we were insane to take on such projects. At least I think he understands I’m undaunted by the insanity of thinking I can film a feature without any experience.

Later, he went over all the comments he made on my script. That was an interesting experience. While I get excellent feedback from the ladies I use for script editing, I think it adds a lot to have the immediate back-and-forthing. A number of the scenes he initially thought were problematic, when I explained my intent, he reversed himself. It’s sometimes hard to adequately explain a scene on paper when there’s a bias against verbosity. The ideal is to have one page of screenplay translate to one minute of finished film, so excess description can distort the ratio. Balancing the right amount of description is something I’m still working on.

While we have very different ideas, I believe there’s enough overlap that we can effectively work together. He seems to be one of those rare individuals who is happy to give suggestions/advice, yet have most or all of that ignored. So many people get offended if their advice is ignored, and no matter how useful it is, if they refuse to give it their input is worthless. His suggestions had a lot of overlap with the feedback I got from my first editor, and discussing options on how to strengthen various scenes helped a lot for me to focus. He’d do the same story completely differently, but is nonetheless OK with working toward my vision.

Since he has practical experience as a director, discussing ‘simple’ things like motivating the cast to stick through the shooting schedule (he’s worked on weekends just like I plan to) has given me the pause to reconsider my focus on finding DC area cast and crew. I may see if I can find the team I need from the Harrisonburg, VA area (about a half hour south of where I intend to shoot) through the James Madison University. There are enough potential benefits to working closely with the University that I decided I’d be willing to put off filming until early next year if I can get the assistance I need.

As we wound up (my wife said we talked for around three hours; it certainly didn’t feel that long), John indicated his willingness to be the sound guy (for reel, beer and pizza). He feels that’s a commitment he can make easily, while acting as DP or editor (he has done both for his own work (as well as sound)) is a larger commitment. He thinks it will be a challenge to find a good DP and feels I should do at least some of the editing, but I’ll still look to see if I can find someone who has experience, or at least passion for the topics.

As we talked about editing, I got the strong impression that it’s probably a strength for him. He seems to have the clarity of thought that allows for the decision making to cut scenes that aren’t adding to the original vision. The more I learn about editing, much like cinematography, the more I accept, deep in my bones, that finding someone who is passionate about those topics is well worth any delay in getting started. Of course, my research also indicates that closer-in deadlines get better responses than further-away deadlines (people typically not having any idea what they’re going to be doing in a year’s time), so there is that balancing act.

Thank you John, for your excellent insights and I very much look forward to working with you!

Author: mitusents

Biochemist, MBA, then programmer. Now novelist, screenplay writer and hopefully director. What a strange trip it's been.