Upcoming Tohubohu Production Plans

Well, it’s been a while, so I figure it’s way past time I sent out an update with our latest production plans. I’ll try to keep this brief, but those of you who’ve been reading for a while will know that my definition of “brief” differs substantially from most others’.

The first thing to note is that we will not be participating in the National Film Challenge this year. While we’ve had a good run at it in years past (and won two awards), we’ve decided that we’re better off producing something over which we’ll have more control, and that we can produce on a schedule we’re happier with. (And furthermore, I’m committed to working as a production designer on another short film this month — from some of the creative team behind Codeword Secret, “The Kumbio Takedown,” and Buddy Jackson.)

Which brings me to the second thing, and that is what we will be producing in the short term: the long-delayed short “Number One With a Bullet.” This story has been kicking around for more than two years now, and I think we’re finally ready to commit to making it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, “Number One” is a dark comedy about a struggling writer whose debut novel is about to be scuttled by his unscrupulous editor. That is, until the editor suffers an untimely accident — and the writer decides to turn things to his advantage. But what starts as a simple (if morally questionable) cover-up rapidly escalates as others in the publication chain get a little too close to the truth.

Bjorn Munson and I are still hammering out revisions to the script (from a story by me and Lauren Walsh), but we’re far enough along that I feel confident in starting preproduction. I’ll be directing, and there will be plenty of opportunities for help on this one, as the script is fairly ambitious. If you’d like to offer your services, it’s never too early to throw your hat into the ring; while this will be put together on a tight (i.e., practically nonexistent) budget, we are looking at ways to extend our professional “footprint,” so to speak. We’re targeting a November or December shoot date, though we’ll have some firmer details once we get the preliminary paperwork rolling.

Beyond that, we still have the script for “Some Kind of Hero” (a darker crime drama) and the Tohubohu.tv series Quorum on the horizon (along with any other scripts that may fall into our laps), but I’ll keep those details under my hat a bit longer. Well, except for the fact that I just announced them here...

We are also a step closer to incorporation as a nonprofit, in that our attorney (who leads a secret double identity as my brother Ken) has just sent me the latest versions of the paperwork (well, he sent them a while ago, but I’m just getting around to dealing with them). Ideally, we’ll get those filed before too long, so that “Number One With a Bullet” can be produced under that framework.

And that’s all for now. I’m looking forward to working with many of you again soon — take care, all!

Bicoastal Machinations

We’ve got not one but two screenings to highlight today.

First, “Machinations” has just been accepted into the Science Fiction Short Film Festival, taking place February 3 in Seattle, Washington. We’re pretty damned proud of this little accomplishment, and are really excited about the opportunity to showcase all of our hard work to an appreciative audience. If anyone wants to fly out — or if any of our West Coast contingent wants to give it a look-see (not to mention giving us the chance to catch up) — let us know and we can get tickets and coordinate schedules!

Congratulations — and my personal thanks — to everyone involved in our achieving this honor.

And more locally (well, for our DC-based contingent anyway), the film will be screening at 4:00 p.m. on January 13 at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. This screening will be a showcase of locally-produced films for the National Film Challenge, and we’re really happy to have this venue in which to host it (sure beats the hell out of my office’s common room). Tickets are only $5 apiece — and since it’s a restaurant to boot, there’ll be plenty of food and drink available as well. We really want a big turnout for this one — especially since theater revenue (well, once we recover the amount we paid to get the theater in the first place) will be divvied up by which film attendees are there to support (you’ll have a chance to express your preference upon entry). Frankly, it’d be nice to make back some of our expenses for a change… So while we’ll understand if you can’t make it all the way out to Seattle, this one there’s no excuse for missing…

Well, unless you’re a left-coaster, of course.

Save the Date!

Machinations” will be showing as part of a special screening of locally-produced entries in the National Film Challenge on January 13 at the Arlington Cinema ’n’ Drafthouse. And frankly, I don’t think we could have asked for a better venue. Dinner, drinks, and movies. Tickets will be only $5 — and remember, you’ll be supporting us in the process: Revenue will be split according to which movie you’re there to support. So it’s vital not only that you come out and enjoy yourself, but that you tell all your friends and neighbors about it.

We’ll have more details as the date draws closer, but for now, be sure to write it in on your calendars. In ink — none of this “pencil” crap.

New Viewing Options

After seeing the sheer number of NFC films that are available via third-party distribution sites, we’ve gone ahead and joined the pack. We have finished uploading our entire film catalog to both YouTube and MySpace; not only does this expand our potential audience, but it also provides viewers with a chance to rate our films and provide feedback (something we really haven’t had time to build into this site).

So head over to those sites (via the preceding links), watch the films, and let us know what you think! And while you’re at it, go ahead and subscribe to our films at YouTube (and make us your friend), and add us as a friend and make us one of your favorites at MySpace!

It’s all about promotion...

NFC Finalists Announced

I have to confess that I didn't expect to be writing this, but “Machinations” did not make the cut of the top 15 films in this year’s National Film Challenge. What this means is that — while we are still eligible for individual awards (cinematography, best in genre, editing, acting, etc.) — we are out of the running for the Best Film and Audience Favorite awards. In other disappointing news, it also appears that voting for the Audience Awards (i.e., the posting of the eligible films on the NFC site) will now not occur until December 22, and the full slate of awards will not be announced until the Filmapalooza event, March 8-11 of next year. (Talk about dragging out the timeline...)

I do have to say that I’m still extremely proud of what we all accomplished, and am continuing to submit this and other films in our catalog to appropriate festivals, as well as exploring other distribution and promotion avenues. We are still planning to have a screening of locally produced films in the contest, and will let everyone know when we have the details locked up. And we are also planning to produce at least one non-competition film in the immediate future.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us to date, and I look forward to our next opportunity to work together!

For the record, here's the list of the top 15 films (and, where possible, a link to where they can be viewed online):

Yukai” — Austin Militia, Austin, TX (Horror)
The Silence” — Brain Child, Nashville, TN (Silent Film)
Foxxy Madonna vs. The Black Death” — Cinephreak Pictures, Indianapolis, IN (Spy)
The Make-Up of a Man” — Drop Deuce, Philadelphia, PA (Comedy)
Ashes to Ashes” — The Hi-Def Chefs, Minneapolis, MN (Holiday Film)
Rub Out” — The Isotopes, Los Angeles, CA (Drama)
The Exorsister” — Minefield Entertainment, Chicago, IL (Mockumentary)
Aw, Crap! It’s a Musical?” — Precision Post, Los Angeles, CA (Musical or Western)
All I Wanted Was A Beer” — PunchBelly, Valley Village, CA (Musical or Western)
All Sales Final” — Team CPR, Eugene, OR (Comedy)
Decision 2006” — Team Midas, Albany, NY (Mockumentary)
Everyday” — We Don’t Know Yet Productions, Philadelphia, PA (Holiday Film)
It Happened In Your Neighborhood” — Weary Films, Little Rock, AR (Silent Film)
Showdown at Root Canal” — What’s In A Name Studios, St. Louis, MO (Musical or Western)
Dante’s Massage” — Year of the Rooster, Sherman Oaks, CA (Horror)

Georgetown/Adams Morgan Screening and NFC News

Well, as much as we were looking forward to the Georgetown/Adams Morgan festival, I do have to say I was a little disappointed. The audience for our screenings was... somewhat smaller than I’d expected. As in absolutely nonexistent. Well, not including me, Brian, the people running the show, and a couple of people who meandered in. I did get a chance to meet and chat with organizer Eric Sommer, and saw a really interesting ukelele-rapper, and a couple of interesting films, so it wasn’t a total loss. But really not what I’d hoped for.

In other news, the current schedule has the first round of judging for the National Film Challenge wrapping up on November 30th, with the announcement of the first-round selections shortly thereafter. Just thought people would want to know.

A Little Facelift

Well, we’re trying out a new website design — probably just a stopgap measure until we get our ideal site up, but since we’ve been tweaking that “ideal” for more than a year now, I think it’s way past time we put up something that seemed at least reasonably respectable. So check it out, run it around the block, and let us know if anything else needs fixing.

In other news, I just received the official word that “Machinations” was received and is considered eligible for awards. Now it’s all a matter of waiting.

The Tapes Are On Their Way

Oh, I forgot to mention the final, definitive title of our little film: “Machinations.”

And by the way, thanks to some technical glitches, I did not make the 6:30 dropoff at the nearby FedEx place. Still (after an interminable stream of profanity far more explicit than anything in “Quite Contrary”), I was able to work those out, and had plenty of time to dump a couple of copies out to tape and get them to the central FedEx facility by its 8:00 closing time. Or so I thought. I’ll spare you all the details, but after seemingly innumerable delays, I ended up in the door just before 8:00 (and, in fact, someone coming up a couple of minutes later was denied entry).

As a little capper, the attendant’s receipt printer wasn’t working, so she said she’d just have to give me the handwritten receipt. Hey, I’m sympathetic, but as this is a competition entry, I’m going to need an officially printed and dated receipt. They had to run the thing three times before it’d work (and change paper rolls twice), but work it did.

Time-stamped 8:02 p.m., but the time’s not the critical thing — it’s the date: October 23, 2006.

Our work is officially done.

Thanks again, everyone. Now I’m going to grab something to eat, have a drink and go to bed.

And despite all that, I can’t wait to do it again. But next time I’ll try not to cut it so close.

Good night, all.

The Home Stretch...

Well, we’re not exactly done yet, but we’re getting closer.

Yesterday’s editing session went really well, and it was great to know that (even though we had today to make adjustments) we had a good, solid piece to work with. Which is a good thing, ’cause even though I thought today was going to be just an exercise in perfectionism, I’ve been working just as hard as yesterday to get this picture in shape to ship it out this evening. And believe me, this picture is worth the effort; I’m really not exaggerating when I say this may be one of the best pieces we’ve ever done. Great performances, amazing technical quality, tight editing, and some graphics that are absolutely astonishing. I do want to give a special shout-out to those who weren’t as visible on the shoot — Larry Contratti, our writer and editor, Mike Gower, graphics genius extraordinaire, and Brian Wilbur Grundstrom, who has been working with me all through yesterday and today to polish up the music (which will be the most tightly-integrated bit of scoring we’ve had to date).

I’ll spare you the gory details — the postproduction process isn’t the most dramatic of undertakings (which is why it always got such short shrift on Project Greenlight). But suffice it to say that with every little addition or alteration, we could see the quality of this thing substantially improving. Right now, I’m doing a final rendering of the picture to disk so we can start the output process; at that point, we’ll run it out to tape and double-check the tape (lesson learned after the “Quite Contrary” experience). And at this rate, we should have plenty of time to make the 6:30 FedEx dropoff (and if not, we can travel a bit further to hit an 8:00 deadline elsewhere).

Beyond that, we’ll work on getting the film ready for posting online, but we’re hoping to put together a real-world cast and crew screening first. We’re thinking Friday evening — which would give us the opportunity to go out for a celebratory drink (or two) afterward. I’m checking into using my office’s common room (which has a widescreen TV and DVD player), but if anyone has any other suggestions, please pass them along (and soon). If all goes well, we’ll have the online version up and viewable soon after.

I’ve got to get back to work, but if anyone has any additional suggestions or comments, please pass ’em along. In the meantime, I just want to offer my sincerest thanks to everyone for an outstanding effort, and I look forward to being able to show off the fruits of that labor soon!

They’ll Love It At Sundance

The first time you produce a short film, you’re so stoked. Afterwards, it’s all old hat.

Okay, not really.

This weekend, Tohubohu Productions participated in the National Film Challenge. Actually, I should say is participating, since we (we meaning my husband) will be tweaking the movie all day tomorrow. While the 48 Hour Film Project gives you, well, 48 hours, the National Film Challenge gives you one extra day. Imagine the luxury of writing, filming, editing, and scoring a movie in three days. I don’t know why we didn’t get two films done.

We got our genre and the group’s character/prop/line on Friday at 7:00. In the National Film Challenge, the required character/prop/line is divided by area (at least I assume that is still the case). Our genre was Science Fiction. The required elements for the East Coast were Bobbie Soxer (Candidate)/oil/“If it doesn’t work, give it a shake.”

Bill and I worked with the other producer and our writer to brainstorm the plot. When we felt like we had a good start with Act 1, our writer worked it up while we took care of other movie-making business. Then we talked about the changes we wanted, and he wrote out the next parts. More changes, finishing up at 3:30 in the morning. Bill added the scene headings and some other notes to the script at home and went to bed after 4:00.

Alarm goes off at 7:00. That was a lovely three hours of sleep we had. Or didn’t have, since we were both too worked up to sleep well. We gathered our supplies, loaded the car with equipment, and headed for the creative team’s call at 8:00. Or 8:00ish, since we, along with our camera guy, represented 3 out of 5 of the creative team — and one was at the Metro. We went over the script in general and then met the crew at 9:00 at the location.

A good friend of ours had volunteered the use of his shop for the filming. Since they design upscale kitchens, we had some great places to film to keep the background interesting. There was the showroom, with several different mock kitchens, and a warehouse with high ceilings. We also used the front, side, and back of the building. We would probably have gone under the building if we could have figured out how to do it.

The filming went great. A little rocky in the beginning, with the combination of a tough camera setup and some missing cast members. Next time we will stagger the call times and start with a simpler shot, so lesson learned in any case. But other than getting a slow start, everything went extremely well. The actors were all fantastic in the characters we had assigned them. They had a lot to contribute to the dialogue and to the charaterization. Excellent cast. Our crew was totally on the ball, getting things done quickly and accurately. I worked mostly with the Assistant Director, preparing actors for the next scene while Bill was filming the current scene. Our prep work saved a lot of time, since Bill didn’t have to rehearse the actors, but still could change things that didn’t work for him. We finished filming about 8:30 and were packed up and out by 9:00.

Today I’ve been home while Bill edits the film and adds the music and graphics (we had people working on both as we were filming). I’ve seen the rough cut, and it looks pretty good. There are some shots we could have done better if we had more time, but that’s the “challenge” part of the National Film Challenge.

I’ll let you know when it’s up on our site, in case anyone is interested. I think we did a good job with it, but most importantly — clichéd as it is — we had a great time.

By the way, if any of you writers are interested in putting together a short film script, we’d be happy to give it a look. We’ve wanted to do a non-competition film (i.e., a film not thrown together in one weekend), but don’t have any script ideas. We won’t, y’know, pay you for it, but it could hit it big in the indie market. You never know.

Principal Photography Has Wrapped

Just wanted to let everyone know that at about 8:00 this evening, principal photography on Tohubohu’s NFC entry for 2006 wrapped. We had a great time, and I think we really got some phenomenal material.

I’m going to try to catch a few winks before the big edit tomorrow. Good night and sincerest thanks to all!

The National Film Challenge Is Upon Us!

Well, just a little more than a week to go, folks. Time to get serious.

Okay, so the time to “get serious” was probably a while ago now, but now we’re really getting serious. I mean it.

Tohubohu is officially entered, and we’re in the process of finalizing our team roster. And that’s where you come in.

If you haven’t gotten back to me with a definitive yea/nay, please do so as soon as possible. The big shooting day is the 21st, but we may also need production assistance on the 22nd, and postproduction help on the 22nd and 23rd. And just about everything’s up for grabs!

Feel free to check out the NFC’s official site for the contest specifics — or just drop us a line with any questions. Which I would prefer, because that means I’m hearing from you. Which is the whole point of this post.

Can’t wait to get started, and to hear back from all of you soon!