Nut Bucket Films

My short filmmaking BIO…part 3 (final part)

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2011 at 8:59 am

on tour with ALPHONSO BOW at DCFF, photo credit M Sarki

Hey readers.  All righty, this will basically get you to where I started writing my BLOG in August of 2010.  From there on out you know what I have been up to, inside and outside of my professional and personal life.  I am going to attach links to parts #1 and #2 in case you missed them.  It has been a few short weeks since entry #1 and #2 of this three-part series.  All I wanted to do was share how the hell I ended up doing what I am doing.  It wasn’t planned.  It just happened.  This is where I want to be.

My short filmmaking BIO…part 1 (click it)

My short filmmaking BIO…part 2 (click it)

Chad and Betsy came to my little screening.  Chad I knew from casting and bringing me in for commercials and Betsy was also from casting but was brought by Chad.  Betsy has been in the business for years.  She knows a ton of people in town and Chad had her come to help in the future of Get She Water (GSW).

Right about the time I screened GSW my dad decided to tell me he finished another screenplay called Alphonso Bow (AB).  This project had nothing to do with me.  Except for the fact that he may have wanted to write this one because of his last success.  He sent it off to me and I wasted no time in reading it.  I remember exactly where I was, on the beach in front of my house in Venice.  I read it front to back in about an hour.  It was a very quick read.  I laughed my ass off and though it was brilliant and instantly thought I could pull this one off, now.  Like I was ready to make this f#$%er NOW.  It had two main characters, all in one location, taking place in a restaurant in the South.  But I wanted big “names” for it.  I thought this could really help establish my career as a producer and help get GSW made.  I gave the AB script to Betsy and Chad and they read it.  They liked it.  We started to talk about making it.  So it was Chad, Betsy, and I working on this thing and I would relay what ideas we had with Dad.  Still nothing concrete had really happened, just ideas.

Chad and I decided to head to Sundance Film Festival that January of 2008.  He had just cast a movie that Fall that was in the festival and I just wanted to go for fun.  I had gone the year before, partied my ass off, and had one of the best times of my life.

Melanie Diaz, star of American Son

I already had a condo reserved and just told Chad he could stay with me.  I had some others coming out also.  My old roommate Chris and my brother and his chick came in from NYC.  And a couple other lesbians that used to not be lesbians but that is another story.

Me and Method Man at Sundance!

Sundance ruled!  This time I took full advantage and did a little bit more than party.  I saw a bunch of films, went with Chad to all the parties for his film, and did some snowboarding.

Reggie Bush and I

I even ran into an old pal of mine from college, Tom Welling, who was now super “big-time” because of his Smallville career.  I hadn’t talked to him in years.  I met a bunch of the cats from Chad’s movie, American Son, and even hung out with some filmmakers I knew from L.A. from a movie that I had worked on the year before.  They invited me to all their parties.  Oh and best yet, this chick I was “hanging” out with at the time went to all the gifting sweets and got me a bunch of free shit to take back to L.A.  I was inspired!  By everything and probably the idea of what “could be”…

Chad and I at Sundance 2008

Chad and I got back home and were like “Let’s make this f#$%ing movie!”

cold!

What had started as a little idea to make a movie for me and my friends had turned into me trying to produce a separate feature film that my father wrote.  Chad was on board.  So was Betsy.  Chad had the “hook-up” for a casting spot at 1641 Ivar.  I used to audition there all the time in my early commercial audition days.  Danielle Eskinazi was over there.  I have remained close with Danielle over the last few years.

So I was going to produce a feature.  We started with posting up a breakdown for the two characters for Alphonso Bow.  Figured we would start to test the waters and see who we could get to come into audition.  I mean really  I wanted Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster to be the leads back then but this was my first film and how was I going to get them?  It didn’t stop me from trying.  I knew a guy who grew up with Ben and tried my hardest to get the script to him.  People don’t know how hard it is for a ”nobody” to get stuff like this done.  I was nobody in town.

We started to call people in to audition.  At the beginning I  would sit through each and every one of the auditions.  I was intrigued.  You know I spent the last few years auditioning on the actor side so I loved being on the other side for a change and actually seeing what people did and brought to the table.  The first week of auditions were very poor.  It was terrifying because I was expecting all of these great actors to come walking in the door and we were getting shite!  What I learned is that it truly depends on who is casting a project and who is behind it.  Agents are very particular about what auditions they will send their “good” and “working” actors out on.  Our auditions did start to get better though.

We were using different spaces to cast from.  We kept switching it up.  We had to.  Some were free and favors and some would cost us fifty bucks here and there.  We actually found our “Frank” character on the first day.  He was probably the only great performance for the first month but we thought that was worth noting.  Micheal Dempsey came into the room at Lesly Kahn’s studio and won our hearts that day.  Betsy knew him.  Every other “Frank” was compared to him from there on out.

But the “Alphonso” character was another story.  This script was VERY heavy in dialogue.  And the character was all types of crazy.  I started to think no one would ever pull it off.  We searched and searched and kept bringing in people to audition.  Actors were getting better though.  Word was getting around town that the script was pretty good so better actors were getting submitted with better resumes and in turn we got some much better auditions.  We were getting close.  I think at this point we had given up on the fact that I was going to get my “Ben Foster” to do this movie so we started to really consider some of the greats who had come through the door.  I was actually proud of the ones we were going to choose from.  That was the part inside that said, “The hell with Hollywood, we don’t need a ‘name’ to make a great movie.”  Turns out you need a name to sell a movie.  Ha!

All along I was still producing.  We decided to bring Betsy’s friend and producer from another project in and ask him to be a part of the team.  I needed Scott Mellini to do everything that I didn’t know how to do.  Which was a lot.  I needed all aspects of a shoot.  I needed a teacher.  Scott was there by my side for the entire project until the end.  I learned a lot from him and I always felt safe having him there.  It is so important having someone to trust on a project.  I second guess everyone because I never think anyone is going to do as good a job as me.  It is a flaw I have.  I am trying to be better but I am somewhat of a perfectionist and I don’t make the same mistake twice, most of the time.

Now that we had Scott, we needed a director.  I actually remember meeting with Jeremy London one day to direct the movie.  He gave me his vision and we talked for an hour about what he thought about it and what he wanted to do with it and yada yada yada.  After that meeting, I was like WTF?  Why am I interviewing people to direct?  I knew the movie the best second to my father.  I pretty much thought that I shared a similar vision as Dad.  I knew I understood the film.  I was directing actors in the auditions at that point and I felt pretty gosh darn comfortable doing it too.

I asked Dad if I could direct it.  He said yes.  Holy F#$k!  Now what do I do?  After the initial freak-out I calmed my self and decided I needed to know the basics.  Plus, I had Scott producing so what could really go wrong?  My main concern was to be professional and confident and look like I knew what I was doing when it came time to work.  I read a book called, Shot By Shot.  I think every new director should read that book.  I learned a lot.  I quickly hired Dan Coplan again.  I knew I could trust him to shoot the film since I used him in GSW.  I got the best sound guy on the planet from a referral, Zsolt Maygar.  I found an abandoned restaurant in Van Nuys to turn into a Mexican Restaurant.  We were ready to rock this shit!

It came time to make a decision on the actors.  My dad and I and been communicating the whole way though this.  Every day.  I had been putting the auditions up online so he could see them too.  At that point we had narrowed it to down to three “Alphonso’s” and two “Frank’s”.  We had chemistry reads and after a long and very hard decision we picked Michael Dempsey and Jeffrey Pierce.

Now there are a bunch of other things that went along with the casting that I will leave out for the purpose of respect to actors, agents, and managers at the time.  But it was a f#$%ing nightmare.  Holy shit!  It made my father never want to make another film this way.  I just say it is a lesson learned and now I know what NOT to do.  If you really want to know the gory details, just ask me, and I might be able to share some.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you all that we only had about one-quarter of the budget of a potential $100,000 movie.  I thought we could do it for a lot less but really we couldn’t.  When you think about everything we had to deal with, location, actors, crew, time, equipment, scheduling, and a zillion more things, we had about five days to shoot a feature film that was entirely made up of dialogue.  Insane.  I was insane to think we could pull it off.  But I knew we could.  We found the rest of the money about three days before the shoot.  It still haunts me.

I was prepared.  I studied.  I storyboarded.  I had phenomenal actors.  We rehearsed.  I calculated.  My sister, Elizabeth, even flew down from San Francisco to help with whatever I needed help with using her film degree from Yale.  My buddy Gabe Wilson did production design for free!

Me and Chad on set of ALPHONSO BOW

His sister Tyrus Wilson did wardrobe.  Chad brought in Sarah Hernandez who did make-up for his Sundance movie.  She rocked.  It all fell into place.  I had an amazing crew.  There I go using the word “amazing”.  I only use that shit when it is for real.

I would take you though each day but it isn’t necessary.  The shoot went about as smoothly as it could.  It was tiring for sure and we had some editing issue on set but overall it went smoothly.

Jeffrey, Michael, and the beautiful Kate on set of ALPHONSO BOW

We finished our last shot on day five just like we were supposed to.  I could have used more time.  You can always use more time.  I would have loved to have a week more.  I wanted to do a lot of shots that I didn’t get to do but I knew I wasn’t going to get to do them going into the damn thing.  Time and money is always a factor.  It is like the triangle.  Pick two of three.  You can’t have all three.  Fast, Cheap, and good.

my armpits and my face tell a story

I picked good and fast.

Most of the crew of ALPHONSO BOW...so lucky

I am going to spare details of the shoot because the point of this story is to tell you how I got to where I am now.

After the shoot I flew to Kentucky to get some exterior shots with Dan.  We spent one day doing about twenty-five set-ups all over Louisville.  My dad was there and he had all the locations laid out so that was cool.  He finally got to be a part of the real thing.  He was supposed to get to see footage throughout the whole shoot but the editing problem I mentioned earlier was part of that problem.  But we talked everyday.  We worked together on the whole thing.  This was his baby.  I was just bringing it to life.  It was fun working with Dad, running all over Louisville.  It got me excited to maybe get to do it again on GSW in the future, ya know, after AB is successful and we all make millions.

I settled back in L.A and went through the whole editing process.  It was a f#$%ing nighmare.  I fired the first editor.  I have shitty luck with editors.  Terrible luck.  Luckily, my friend Carmen hopped on board to save the day and pay for her friend X. Dean Lim to edit the fucker.  He understood the film.  And honestly, if it wasn’t for Dean, the film would not be what it is today.  Take that for what it is worth.

The next year consisted of a few film festivals but most importantly was our World Premiere in L.A. at Dances With Films.  It was awesome.  Seriously was the time of my life.  I was so proud and happy to get to share it with friends and other filmmakers.  I went to that friggin’ festival every single day passing out fliers and seeing other filmmakers’ films.  Supporting when I could.  Taking in every second of it.  I also traveled to Detroit and Louisville later that year for a couple more festivals doing the same thing.  Soaking up every second of it.

It was a ride, man.  I was proud.  I will tell you what I remember most about making that movie.  I drove home down the 405 in L.A. the last day of shooting and I remember thinking, “This is what I want to do.  This is what I am supposed to do.  I finally figured it out.”  I was thirty then.  I am thirty-three now.

For two years after that film was shot, I worked on it.  I traveled with it.  I changed the edit.  I promoted it.  I social media’d the shit out of it.  I never quit on it.  I actually released it June 1st, 2010 on Indieflix.com just to have them f#$k it up and not even release it correctly.  We have since un-released it.

I was grateful to sign with a sale agent, Mathius Gertz, a few months ago who has just secured a deal with Vanguard Cinema who will release the film in June of 2011.  A real release.  Nationwide on DVD, VOD, and all media outlets.  We are hoping to follow with an International deal.

Since the sales agent, I have started a blog which basically tells you everything I have done since then.  www.nutbucketfilms.com (follow me)

The past couple of summers I have produced two different feature films in Texas, both of which I have acted in as well.  The first will never get completed because of a stupid f#$%ing director/producer conflict.  I thought I had learned my lesson from that.  The second film, For Whom He Tolls, is now with my sales agent and we hope for a release soon.  There are two more stories within those films but I will have to save for a rainy day.  All have molded me as a producer though.  I have worked with some incredibly talented people and done it with zero f#$%ing money.  It is time for a change.  I have proved myself.  I have credibility.

Right now am writing two other films (collaborating with a friend from high school and my boys in Texas), producing a Pilot called Underbelly, and doing the festival circuit for a short film, Closing Doors, I just directed.  Life is grand.  I am still an actor.  I book jobs.  I do a fairly good amount of commercials and might get a TV show once in a great while.  I study my craft.  I stay healthy.  I love my life.  If you ever want to know anything more about the story I just told you, please ask.

I will always help in any way I can.  I have asked for a TON of help over the last four years and I owe the favors.  Tons of them.  I am grateful.

Lije

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