For those involved in the pre-production of my first super short film, this has been obvious for a while, but for those who are following my blog posts -- I didn't want to announce anything official until contracts had been signed.
Firstly, I've never officially announced 'iSpy' outside of this site's PROJECTS page. This project is a 4 minute short and the logline goes something like this: As four teenagers stare transfixed before the abyss of their iDevices and their summer superhero movie choices, a man cleaning their swimming pool attempts a discussion on real world heroism. I'd say we'll have to wait about a month or so to learn if that logline ends up being longer than the film.
So why did I let myself go as director? For the same reason I was seeking a director for my previous project TUGBOATS. Simply put: I respect craft. Though I've directed stage plays I've never been on a film set and directed actors, DPs, and the rest. I want my films to be the best that they can be -- not an opportunity to see how many credits I can nab. My films will never be about me but always about their stories.
What is terribly tricky inside (and outside) of Hollywood is finding a quality director that is willing to share the vision thing.
As Executive Producer and Writer, I own the vision of 'iSpy'. It's my baby. In television, this arrangement happens all the time. In film, it doesn't. In film it's understood that the director controls the vision. That's why most indie productions are created by director/writer types. This is also why most directors use scripts as 'starting points' instead of finished guides.
The thing is that these days the definitions of television and film are blurring into each other. Most films are shot on video. More and more films debut on television. Many people watch content on iDevices that can fit in their bags or pockets. And so as the definitions of content meld together, the relationship between producers and directors and writers meld too.
So from my viewpoint, it comes down to a project by project base. My iSpy project has funding and a script but could really use a quality director. Thanks to my amazing Line Producer Rukmani Bachel -- this quality director has been found.
(I must take a moment and praise Rukmani as my most fantastic resource or 'facilitator' as she puts it. So far she's far exceeded my expectations. She has earned a post of her own which will come along one of these days.)
What is a quality director? To me they share a central skill to a quality writer. You see, when we watch a movie, what we are doing is sharing a vision thing. A dream. Good movies let us 'sleep' within the dream and live every moment of it as an alternate reality. Bad movies constantly knock us out of the dream and remind us that none of this is actually happening.
So when you watch a film and say out loud, "That was stupid," you don't have a quality writer on board. Similarly, when you watch a dramatic scene but it lacks that emotional ooomph, it's not a quality director. If your imagination can dream better than the dream you're watching, all is lost. The more films anyone watches the better we all get at such imagining.
Rukmani considered my script of teenagers and recommended a director who has done quality work with teenage characters. That director is Nicholas Ozeki and was I ever impressed. His indie feature MAMITAS is on Netflix streaming and it's worth popping some corn and watching some evening soon. Here's a trailer --
Now you know why I'm beside myself.
What impressed me about this film was how rarely I awoke from the dream. I was almost never reminded that it was a low budget independent film. For the most part it was extremely professional on every level. Simply put: it looked real.
That amazing look was the result of Nick's work with a quality cinematographer -- the subtle yet polished camera work of Andrew M. Davis. Mr. Davis has signed onto iSpy as well, and so having this team on my team is the stuff of goosebumps.
Having spent over a year looking for a quality filmmakers to join my cause has taught me to spot talent fast. Nick and Andrew strutted their stuff throughout the feature, but this early sequence blew me away --
Before we leave this image behind, let's look at the photography of Andrew Davis. Los Angeles is a disorganized mess of neighborhoods and foothills and back alleys. Very little of it is Beverly Hills. In the pictured scene two teens with different viewpoints and values can't help but flirt with each other. It's magical -- but the location isn't.
Or is it? During this sequence, that green tree in the background is always visible. So are the flowers to the right. The message here is that beauty and life can grow anywhere... even between two special people. There's more gold in this scene than in all the iPhone 5s' combined. Everything this sequence is happens to be everything THE AVENGERS isn't.
Now you know why I'm very excited -- not to mention particularly honored -- to have Nick and Andrew join my first film. I told Rukmani to take a cigar out of petty cash for all her great work, but she informed me that's not what petty cash is for. So I offered her garlic naan instead. She told me that is catering's responsibility.
So newbie a producer, so much to learn...