Friday, December 31, 2010

Locked in a Garage Band - the Teaser Launch for Kickstarter

Here on the west coast, it's 7pm at night. In Austin, Texas it's 9pm, where our incredible  editor is finishing up the final touches of our kickstarter video so we can launch it tomorrow, the 1st day of 2011. 

The creative folks at Sang Arts worked their butts off to get our movie logo done in time, and they're currently working on the website ( as I type this. They're in Chicago - also 9pm on NYE.  I really hope they're at least having a pint or glass of champagne while they work.

I'm drinking my first glass of wine to bring in the new year, thinking of how frikkin' incredible this whole process has been.  It's only a teaser - not even the whole movie! But it was wicked-fun, and I just know you're going to love it (please, please, please love it!), and I'm feeling really awesome about using kickstarter to raise $20 000 for the cost of production in April, 2011. 

Here we go folks! Hello 2011.  Hello Locked in a Garage Band - from pre-production, to production in April to a finished film by September 2011.  Hello, incredibly talented, positive, super-amazing folks that love people like us following our dreams & making movies from scratch.  YES.  If 2011 is anything like this moment in time, then it's going to be a really, really great year. 

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Riding the wave of emotions. How do creative types deal?

Yesterday, I tweeted:  

VictoriaWestcot Riding the wave of emotions from "OMG this is frikkin' awesome!" to "This is getting real & now I'm scared!"... how do creative types deal?

I received a flurry of amazing replies from fellow filmmakers.  Here are a few of my personal favourites:


  Know the feeling. The more awesome things get, the scarier they get. Just means the payoff is better when you rock it! 
We drink. A lot. 

amen RT @ We drink. A lot.

And some more RT @ amen RT @ We drink. A lot.  
- Elation can look like fear from the wrong angle. Just remember why your heart is racing and you'll be fine. 
I'm a cork. No matter how deep I dive, I always surface
#HowIDeal sweets, mind numbing electronica music, walking by water, incense, writing about it, tea, espresso, booze, movies
I must admit that my consumption of wine has increased since venturing on this filmmaking business.  At least I'm not alone in that one eh?

I really appreciated the outpouring of love from filmmakers all around the world, most of whom I've never met, but they piped up to offer advice.  Makes me love this journey even more.

Thanks tweeps.
  You rock my socks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How to Shoot a Teaser/Trailer (in the Rain)

Photo from @YukariP's phone, our Line Producer and Twitter Queen.

I know I need to write down my reflections on shooting our teaser/trailer yesterday, but I must admit - I'm knackered!  So this will be short, but sweet I hope.

We shot on the Canon 5D with separate sound files over about 5 hours yesterday afternoon in my garage for our feature film, Locked in a Garage Band.  We were shooting for a teaser/trailer that will be 45 seconds long and should be complete and ready to show the world by January 1st 2011.

The day's objectives were to have fun, get to know our cast & crew & see how we all get along before we go into April's 10 day shoot, and to cut a teaser that will be used in our Kickstarter campaign and in our social media marketing efforts.

It's all to create buzz, get more $ in place and start building up an audience for our movie.

Read on for my thoughts & advice on how to shoot a teaser/trailer ... in the rain.

But first, check out our weather report for this week:

11°C | °F
Current: Showers
Wind: W at 21 km/h
Humidity: 88%
10°C | 7°C
8°C | 6°C
7°C | 4°C
6°C | 4°C

  1. When shooting in the Pacific Northwest in December, prepare and plan for rain.  Just the way it is I'm afraid. 
  2. Garbage bags are really handy.  They can protect gear from rain, be used as hair protectors and of course, be used to collect garbage at the end of the shoot.
  3. Hiring a competent, fun crew is really awesome.  Love our crew!  Seriously - they came up with great ideas, made us laugh, had an incredible selection of tape in every possible colour of the rainbow, and hardly took any time to stop & eat.
  4. When people are working for free, you gotta feed 'em well.   Actually, even when people aren't working for free, you gotta feed 'em well.  And not just sugary junk.  That'll cause lots of problems a few hours later.
  5. Bringing a Wii or other game system will make for a fun day.  Click here to see a picture of some of the cast playing Mario Cart.
  6. Make a schedule & stick to it.  We told everyone that we hoped to get them on the 7pm ferry back to Vancouver, but in actual fact we had planned to get them on the 5pm. So when we wrapped and packed up at 3:15, in time for them to catch the 5pm ferry, the entire cast & crew were super-impressed.  They told us horror stories of shooting independent movies until 7am when being told they'd be done by midnight.  Yuck!  Under-promise, overachieve. Such a simple rule.
  7. When it's done, you might feel a rush of emotions, ranging from relief, to sadness that it's over to elation that the day rocked.  I felt all those feelings this morning and must admit - it was really overwhelming & unexpected!  I even had to go for a jog to re-ground myself.
  8. Back up your files & then back them up some more.  We didn't so much learn this yesterday as know this already, but I might as well add this to the list.  We purchased a 1 Terabyte external hard-drive from our local Apple store, and sent it on to our editor in Austin, Texas with our teaser/trailer files from the day.  We backed it up on my laptop and my sister's desktop, plus our sound guy & DP have copies.  I think we're safe.
What am I missing?  Please leave your million bucks below & let me know what you think, want to know, or care about.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reflections on Holding Auditions for Locked in a Garage Band

We held auditions in Vancouver this past weekend, for our first feature film, Locked in a Garage Band.  I thought I should write down a few reflections about the process before I forget.

Here goes:
  • Casting Directors rock.  Seriously, I don't know what we would have done without Kristina Agosti, our incredibly positive, happy & hilarious casting director.  Kristina knows my sister, Jen, the writer-director in our team, from Jen's Praxis screenwriting win last year.  She was one of the actors hired on as a reader for Jen's Christmas script.   When she saw our casting call, she gave us a buzz to discuss the film & we hired her on the spot.  Kristina's well connected in the Vancouver acting community, as an experienced actor herself.  Plus, she's funny & ridiculously easy to work with.  Score!
  • Being organized is key.  When Yukari (our line producer) and I sat down to work out the audition schedule last week, we really focused on having room to catch up on any missed time, just in case we needed it.  This made it so we were never more than 10 minutes behind schedule, which the actors really appreciated.
  • Being frugal doesn't mean being dodgey.  We managed to get our audition budget down from $850 to $440 by simply looking at all our options.  At first we looked to acting schools like Shoreline & VADA in Vancouver but their prices (while reduced) were still too high for us.  So, we then looked to community centres but they were mostly booked by the time we contacted them. Finally we looked to hotels.  In the middle of a meltdown about budgeting, I remembered that I have lots of airmiles from all my travels and credit card purchases, so I was able to use my points to book us a hotel room for free.  We then chatted up the Westin Conference booking person and convinced her to cut us a deal for the actor's waiting room. Ba-da-boom!  Instant savings.  But that's just the money stuff. The interesting point here is that we heard so many of our actors saying that it was such a relief to be in a nice hotel for a change.  A few of the women said they were used to going to dodgey back-alley type auditions.
  • Being positive makes for a positive experience for all.  Quite a few actors sent us emails or gave us thanks at the audition for being so enthusiastic and positive with them.  They said that they're used to going to auditions where the producers don't even speak to them and it's all business all the time.  Our film is a comedy, so we laughed quite a bit during their auditions and I imagine that's what they were referring to.  I also made sure to say "Have fun!" when I brought them to their first auditions, and thanked them for returning to the call-backs. Some of the women even said that it was refreshing to go into an audition run by women for a change.  Weird - I'm always shocked to see how few women are in our positions, but I guess that must be true.
  • Videos are essential. We used Jen's Nikon D90 to record the auditions and review them all again, some even 5 times!  Watching them audition in person is cool, but we had heard that it was really important to see them on camera as well and I'm relieved we followed that advice.  It really helped us to remember their performance a few hours later, and to see what they'd look like on the TV screen.
  • Snacks rock.  'Nuff said.
  • Skype auditions are always an option.  We had more than 250 submissions just from British Columbia actors alone.  I didn't count how many out-of-province submissions, because I had to just delete them all - but I think it was probably at least 500.  All the way from Ireland and England to all across the USA, we had actors that we thought would be perfect in the roles, until we saw their locations.  In the end, we gave 2 auditions via skype, but only to 2 actors - a guy from Austin who I met at AFF and a girl from London who I met in Alaska this summer.  Both are experienced actors, and fit the roles perfectly.  My sister resisted the skype auditions and felt like we were wasting their time, until she met them online.  They both nailed their auditions & were hired within a few hours.  Even though we had seen 7 actors per character in Vancouver, 2 of those characters ended up being cast by skype.
  • Follow your gutt. It's always right.  I relate auditions to dating - if I go on a date with a guy and feel iffy afterwards about whether I want to see him again, then I know it's a no.  I do the same thing in my day-job where I interview teachers to work abroad.  I have to trust my gutt.  It's always right. So when we were unsure of an actor for a specific character, we ended up just not casting the role.  On the other hand, Jen is creating a character for one actor that wasn't right for the part he came in for, but showed such enthusiasm and talent that she just had to hire him.  That was a gutt-decision.
Any questions? Comments? Suggestions? Ramblings?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Step by Step: From the script to the auditions for a Micro-Budget Independent Feature Film

I'm so ridiculously excited to meet the actors coming to our auditions this weekend in Vancouver.  To help other indie-movie-filmmakers  and film-obsessed folks out there, I thought you might like to know more about the process.

1.  Jen, our writer-director and my sister, finished the first draft of the script, which was specifically written for our first film.  We wanted to follow our mentors' advice by filming a 90 minute movie in mostly one location. I say "mostly" because we do have some flashbacks that will show other areas of our city, Victoria BC, and the actors' histories within it, but otherwise the movie will take place entirely in a garage.

The script is by far the most important part in the movie and we're already working with professional readers to edit, advise & improve.  Jen writes in between taking care of her 3 kids (ages 8, 4 and 10 months) and 14 year old dog, Brian.  I'm amazed at how she manages to write anything at all, but this is how she completed her Masters Thesis (while her first baby was sleeping) so it's just her routine.

2.  Before leaving for Austin Film Festival, I met with a Director of Photography in Vancouver with a RED camera.  I saw his reel, had a glass of wine & a quick discussion/get to know you session and said yes right away. He's a really great guy, super quick to respond to my questions (which is really important to me.   I loathe waiting around for people to get back to me and we've hired most of our crew based on how they are as people, not just their talents/skills).

3.  After AFF (I wrote about the AFF experience in previous posts), Jen & I worked out a schedule based on our own limitations - our mother is coming to town for 2 weeks over Christmas so we had to decide to either get started before Christmas or start afterwards, which would put us back into January.  I'm on the road for most of January with my day-job, so the idea of pushing back our auditions until February wasn't really sitting well with either of us.   One thing Jen and I are particularly good as is just "getting it done!" so we opted for an earlier start.  Which meant that we scheduled our teaser/trailer shoot for Dec. 11th (3 days before mom's arrival), and auditions one week before - Dec 4th & 5th in Vancouver.   

We're shooting the feature film in April over 2 weeks, but we wanted to shoot a teaser/trailer first in order to get the experience we need, work with our cast/crew and see how we all get along, and also have something to show investors.  Since we're new, we know how important it is that we prove we're not morons - hence, a cool teaser/trailer that will hopefully be well received.

4.  We announced the Casting Call, including brief character breakdowns & a logline on various actor sites including: 
  • (both our ads were flagged & removed from Craigslist, which was weird but I hear from actors that ads looking for 18-20 year old actors are often fake and/or porn shoots - definitely not us!)
  • on twitter & facebook - which lead to Cinevic, Victoria Film Commission, CCPA (Canadian College of Performing Arts) and Victoria Film School all forwarding the Casting call to their contacts.  Very cool.
  • Jen contacted an actor she knew from her Praxis Screenwriting win last year, and asked his advice on securing a location to hold auditions in Vancouver.  This lead to his amazing advice & support, which brought us even more actors from his own coaching in Vancouver.  
  • Another actor that knows Jen from her Praxis win contacted her to ask about Casting Director opportunities which then lead to us hiring her.  She then spread the word with her own contacts in Vancouver, bringing us even more talented, experienced actors.
5.  With our Casting Director chosen, Jen & I could relax a bit and let Kristina take the reigns in who to short list for the auditions.  We're casting 6 lead characters: 3 girls & 3 guys.  Kristina's an experienced actor and wants to build her own Casting Director experience so she's at a perfect time in her life to work on a micro-budget with us, plus we just all get along so well.  We're paying her so little and yet she's already worked her butt off this past week!

6.  I contacted a couple of editors that I know and discussed the teaser/trailer that we're shooting, and whether they could help us out.  I met one of the editors at AFF, over wine (I sense a pattern here...), and we really hit if off so when I asked him about the teaser/trailer idea and if he's musically inclined and able to edit it over the Christmas holidays, he agreed.  He's planning to get the teaser/trailer "in the can" by Christmas - woohoo! Love that speed!  We are paying him but very little, and if it goes well then we'll hire him on for the feature film edit as well.

7.  I searched for audition spaces in Vancouver and finally had the brilliant idea to check my aeroplan points to see if I could book us a hotel on points.  A couple of phone calls later, I booked Jen & I a night at the Westin Grand in Vancouver on my points & managed to talk the meeting-rooms coordinator into letting us use a tiny board room for only $100 a day for our waiting room.  Phew!  Other places in Vancouver were as much as $2000/day for micro-budgets (what kind of micro are they talking about, eh?) so the savings for the auditions was a big deal to us.  Plus, we have to get from Victoria to Vancouver by ferry and buy food for our fabulous Casting Director and volunteer actor-reader.  

8.  Jen & Kristina got 250 actors down to 45 we would audition.  Jen worked on the "sides", which are the scenes that the actors audition with, and Kristina edited them to make for better opportunities for the actors to really show their stuff.  I love the way that Kristina literally edited the sides with a Sharpie marker and scanned them back to us, making the sides look kind of bad-ass old school.  

9.  In the meantime, Yukari, our script supervisor/line producer and I met to go over the audition schedules. She's a great organizer, and while she typed into the excel spreadsheet all the possible times for each actor's audition, I baked cookies for her time.  I make a mean oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

10.  Jen emailed all the selected actors on Wednesday night and has been slotting them into their 8 minute time slots every time they write back to say "yes."   She loves getting emails from really excited actors, who says things like, "You bet!" and "WAHOO! I'll be there!" and "I love the concept, can't wait to audition for the role."  Very cool actors.

11.  Today we received an email from a photographer who wants to volunteer to shoot our stills during our teaser/trailer with a view to being hired on in April when we shoot the actual movie.  We've also received emails from make-up artists and hair stylists.  I heard that this would happen once we announced auditions, but I was still surprised to see how many people want to work for free just to gain experience & the movie credits. 

We're off to Vancouver on Saturday morning to start the auditions at 11am.  We would have started earlier in the day, but with the ferry schedule we won't make it to the hotel before 10:30am.  Ah, life on an island eh?

Watch this space for updates on how the auditions go & what happens next in shooting our teaser/trailer.  Please leave me a comment below or ask any questions you like. Thanks!