Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Secret of Sarah Pennington - A Good Storyline

There are probably over 20,000 truly independent movies shot each year.  Truly independent movies are not associated with any studio, cost less than a million dollars to make with the majority of them being around 20,000 dollars.  They are made by all sorts of people, dentists, musicians, store owners and college professors.  The problem is that festivals and the low budget distribution channels are saturated with this stuff and often much of it is bad as dentists, musicians and store owners don’t always know how to make a movie.

So how do we get “The Secret of Sarah Pennington” to stand out, be noticed? 

There are certain things the movie maker can do or make sure are present in the movie to help its rise above the rest.

First, have a good storyline.  For years I subscribed to the belief that since I’m not in Hollywood I’m not going to produce a Hollywood picture!  My movie will have a different storyline!  So some short movies that I shot over the years would get comments like, “Looks like a lot of fun for you and your friends to make this but awfully difficult for the rest of us to sit through,” or “A well made movie.”

So “The Secret of Sarah Pennington” was written over a year’s time and then the end was rehashed by Doug McAbee.  And I must say the ending is spectacular!  Needless to say, much thought was put in to this movie's storyline.

We really concentrated on how important it was as the foundation for the movie. Some of the comments from test screenings included such things as “I kept changing my mind on who did it.”  And “At first I thought it was this person and then no wait it’s this person!” 

Yes “Secret of Sarah Pennington” is definitely a “Who – dun – it.!”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Secret of Sarah Pennington - Telling My Wife

Charles, Doug and I all agree that we learned a lot from the first feature we produced with Dan Perrin called “Beaches, Buns and Bikinis.”  Much of what we learned we incorporated into our second feature, “The Secret of Sarah Pennington.”

One thing I definitely learned was to tell my wife who’s starring in the movie BEFORE we shoot the movie.  “Beaches, Buns and Bikinis” starred that American icon Ron Jeremy.  Something I neglected to tell my wife prior to production.  Think about it, how would you tell your spouse you’re making a movie with Ron Jeremy?  

After we completed principal photography in Houston, I came home and took my wife out to dinner where I was preparing myself to tell her.

We were seated in a booth and I could see the backs of a man and woman sitting behind my wife.  So it went something like this:

Me: “I have something to tell you.

My Wife: “What have you done now?”

Me: “Ron Jeremy starred in my movie.”

My Wife:  Ron Jeremy, Ron Jeremy, who is that?”

Meanwhile the man sitting behind my wife suddenly sits up and I can tell he’s trying to listen carefully.

Me:  He’s a porn star.

My Wife: ”I know you’re loud but could you say that any louder?”

Now the woman in booth behind my wife sits up and is listening.

So my wife, understanding soul that she is wasn’t mad about Ron being in the movie only that I hadn’t told her sooner.

We finish eating and get up to leave.  As we pass the couple sitting behind my wife, the man won’t look up, he’s looking down shoveling food into his mouth.  The woman, still seated next to him, slightly turns her head to peek up at us as we pass.   My wife keeps on walking but I stop and look directly at her.  I wink.

ME: That’s how I roll.

The woman turned three shades of red.

So What did I learn from this experience? 

Tell my wife who’s in the movie before we shoot.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Secret of Sarah Pennington - Formula

It has always been a goal of mine to produce a feature length movie.  To have a potentially successful low budget feature length movie it must contain several ingredients.  First and foremost it must have a great story.

There are all sorts of advice on how to write a great story or a successful screenplay Such advice as:
Don’t do a buddy film.
Don’t write a journey film.
The script must be a minute a page.
Write what you know.
Don’t do horror.
Don’t do comedy.
Don’t do drama. 
Watch a movie a week.
Write every day.
Don’t write in the screen formula and, 
Hold your pencil and walk three times around your desk before you sit down and begin writing.

Oh the bits of wisdom go on and on. 

Also to produce a low budget feature you need to have some money.  I am sure we can all share money woe stories for days.

You must have the equipment.

And you need to surround yourself with people you know you can work with.

But if you look at any good screenplay writing book you will read that there is a basic breakdown of a movie and it is three acts.  Act one is roughly pages 1-30 act 2, 30-90 and act 3, 90-120.  In act one the equilibrium is established and something happens to disturb this equilibrium and all main characters are introduced in the first 10 pages.  Act 2 the main character must proceed to fix what is wrong and reestablish equilibrium and in act three the main character has been successful, equilibrium is reestablished but the new equilibrium is different than the equilibrium in the beginning.

I’ve tried to stray from this formula and have discovered that audiences don’t care for those pictures as much.  People aren’t coming up to me and saying, “Ah, Act one was only ten pages and you introduced a new character on page 52.”  Often, disappointed viewers cannot pin down their dislike.

In movie making, I am a firm believer in “breaking the rules.” But there is a reason for the three act screenplay being written about in books and after all, over 100 years of movie making certainly has perfected this formula.