Monday, October 29, 2001

There's No Need to be Story-bored!

Submitted by Rhoni Doss and Mark Cooper

As a city where the traditional breakfast is mouse flakes, and the most respectable workplaces have at least one smoking area, it's sometimes said Orlando isn't exactly a breeding ground for creativity, (as in Los Angeles or New York City). But tucked away into the Conway quarter of town, between the International Airport and downtown Orlando is the Quick-Draw Studio, one of the world's more creative and experienced pre-production storyboard shops.

Storyboard artist, Mark Cooper's fifteen years of experience has resulted in quick storyboards in Orlando, Florida, the Cayman Islands, B.W.I., and Houston, Texas for clients the world over such as the "Truth" campaign, Haxan Films, Lockheed Martin, Universal, Soundelux, Nitrate Films, Seaworld, and independent producers and directors. His credits include: the motion picture Heart of Love, The Back Street Boys MTV music video of the year, the SuperBoy television series, and over one-hundred television commercial spots including Meineke, Nike, Sprint, K-mart, Dodge, Minute Lube, Super Cuts, Disney and Euro Disney to name a few. As owner of the Quick-Draw company, Mark helps bring together producers, directors and their crews on the same (storyboard) page. Mark's experiences as a storyboard artist range from music videos, television commercials and stage shows, to character development for indies and boards for feature motion pictures. He elaborated on his duties, "The boards allow producers to get accurate bids on CGI (computer generated images) effects. When boarding for a Meineke television campaign, the series of spots were cast directly from the characters I created in the storyboard art. I took that as a huge compliment and it made the casting agent's and the art director's job much easier. The crews also appreciate the boards during production by indicating lighting effects." Mark often wears many hats within his storyboard frames. One second he's a stunt coordinator and the next he's a fashion designer. He also comments that, "As a storyboard artist, you can sometimes find yourself working on the opening scene last."

One of Mark's most recent gigs was with those zany guys that directed and produced the original Blair Witch Project. He expounded on his specific storyboard experiences with the Haxan Films' project Heart of Love, "My contract began as a one and a half month project to board up only CGI scenes. Due to the writer's and then the actor's strikes, development time was doubled and the producer asked me to board up the entire motion picture." Initially, after reading The Heart of Love script, a meeting was arranged with the two directors, Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick, to discuss any questions Mark had and to convey their perception of the main characters. Illustrations of the over 1000 storyboard frames began. The CGI scenes were primarily drawn first. All the while, storyboards where photocopied, logged, numbered, and reviewed by the directors daily. Several table readings were conducted to further scrutinize the script making minor revisions and passing them on to Mark. When nearly completed, the boards were shuffled off to one of the upstairs editing suites for shooting frame by frame in preparation for the animatics and animatic voice-overs.

Mark commented, "Working with directors Ed and Dan means a lot of working hard and laughing hard. Good java, the daily office foosball tournament, practical jokes, and unsolicited sales people at the door is an unusual yet creative environment. In one humorous incident, the producer set up a Tiki goddess alter, compete with a fog machine, on top of the receptionist's counter. The next morning Mike's Tiki goddess was under siege by Ed's fifty marching and flying alien action figures!"

Mark admits that many directors don't use storyboards. He addressed that by saying, "Without the storyboard art as an organizational tool, those directors routinely find themselves going over budget." The storyboard artist sets in motion the visual story telling to address issues before casting, location scouting and on set direction begins. In this light, storyboards can definitely be key in a smooth running production.

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

Rules of Ultra-Low Budget Casting

Submitted by Chris Watson

1) Never pay for an actor who isn't a name. For instance, don't pay your neighbor money to be in your movie unless he's been in at least one film. I paid Joe Estevez and Robert Z'Dar on my first feature. Bruce Baum and Eric Edwards worked for nothing. I had several unknowns requesting money or they wouldn't show, but Bruce Baum, who works regularly on stand-up circuit, The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway? worked for nothing. If they're not a name, don't pay them.

2) Make a star out of the smallest person. For instance, we had a local blues singer do a cameo. To most people it was nothing, but to a cast and crew out to make a movie it's a big thing. We also used a local model and some other local celebrities. I mean, we're in the middle of Kansas, so these people aren't celebrities. However, it added punch to a really small movie.

3) Pursue any celebrity within your reach. Bruce Baum was doing stand-up at a local club so I dragged my co-writer to go see him. We talked to him for a bit and then convinced him to do a cameo in his free time between gigs. This goes along with rule number two, which includes even the smallest celebrity. In our case, it was a blues singer, model, and professional actor.

4) Everybody knows somebody. It's true that everybody knows somebody. My neighbor knew Gene Bicknell, a veteran of multiple movies. The newspaper lady knew some ladies who had been in Spaceballs and other movies. The photographer knew Robert Z'Dar from Tango and Cash. A friend knows a lady from Baywatch. Robert Z'Dar knew Joe Estevez. Our original assistant director knew Eric Edwards. The list goes on. Pursue them without worry of appearing desperate because YOU ARE DESPERATE. The smallest name can get your film into a festival or get it distribution.

5) Always have a back-up plan. I lost two cameo actors to another production, one to a motorcycle accident, and one to surgery during the filming of Mob Daze. I also had to recast multiple parts just weeks before and even during production. If you have a back-up plan, or just know how to scrounge, then you'll feel like a king when production is over and you've saved the film by having a plethora of actors to choose from.

6) Do not count on friends. I can't stress this enough. I cast a short with friends and neighbors and one showed up. Even your best friend will not show up. It seems to be the unwritten rule of filmmaking. Cast your film with actors who have a true heart for filmmaking. Even if you have money to pay them, tell them straight-up so you can see how much they want it. This, of course, only applies to the no name actors.