First Impressions: DC RomCom

Here’s another try at fleshing out an idea. This logline comes from John (of “College Grad “Real” World” fame. Seriously, it’s a cool blog, check it out.) via the comment system. Remember, you can submit ideas via comments or email (let us know if you wish to remain anonymous) at producer@grad.com.

Here we go:
“Washington, D.C. seems awfully small when this bartender finds out four of his ex-girlfriends are living there too. He seems to be falling in love all over again.”

I have trouble seeing this as anything but a romantic comedy, although it would be interesting to try and force-fit it into another genre. It might work as film noir. I can see the bartender wearing a dark trench coat as he strides through sheets of rain in the seedy neighborhoods of southeast DC. His four ex’s run the gamut from the dependable, caring woman to the duplicitous femme fatale.

I’ll leave that for another writer to work on. Getting back to the romantic comedy: I see the protagonist, our leading man, as a gruff sort of character who works at, and maybe runs a bar, either a biker bar or sports bar, or some other kind of testosterone filled joint. Underneath the hard exterior, he is a hopeless romantic, and perhaps, over time, we see the events that caused him to harden his emotions.

I’m not quite sure what to do with 4 love interests, so maybe none of them actually turns out to be the love interest…

Our hero, Jack, meets each girlfriend in DC and subsequently falls for her again, and after going to lengths to prove that he can be sensitive (to the ridicule of his bar mates) remembers why they broke up the first time.

There are two ways I see this story going, and it’s possible that they are the same story with different characters. The way I see it, either the 4th girlfriend, or a new character, is the last person. Let’s call her Jen. Jack doesn’t fall in love with Jen. He takes her for granted; maybe she’s been around during all of his efforts to win back his previous relationships. She is constantly correcting him, and being a pain in his neck by ‘explaining’ to him why he’s an idiot. H e naturally doesn’t think of her in a romantic way, but somewhere between showing his sensitive side (getting laughed at by the tough guys in the bar, and slowly winning Jen’s admiration) and being himself, they realize that the basis of a true relationship isn’t any of the superficial things that he had with his other girlfriends; It’s trust and challenging each other to grow and learn.

Reading back over that, it sounds almost too sappy, but I think it could be worked with. The set up would have to be good, and hopefully subtle, otherwise it will come across as a sermon, which lessens the appeal of the movie as well as the impact of the message. I’m not sure I like the way this idea came together as much as the last one I looked at. I would love to see another take on this logline. If you feel like adding your $0.02 or taking it in a totally different direction feel free to post in the comments or send me an email. I’d be happy to post someone else’s ideas.

First Impressions: A Game of Risk

Here’s a first look at one of the loglines submitted to our team:

“A group of 13 year old friends meet up to play Risk, and through the course of the game they discover that each of them is not quite the person they expected.”

This idea definitely has some merit. It doesn’t sound like an exciting logline but that’s partially because it’s not a concept film. It would have to be character driven, and there is potential for it to be a good drama or comedy. Personally, I’m going to choose to view it as a drama for now.

Now before I get into thinking about the actual story, my mind is drawn to the technical difficulties around shooting and producing it. (I recognize that this probably isn’t ideal from a creative development standpoint, but I’m going to work with it.) First, getting a group of 13-year-olds who can act is no small order, even for a large Hollywood production. Talented child actors are not a dime a dozen, and for a character driven drama, they would certainly have to be talented. The flip side is that, since the movie is centered around a board game, locations could be a cinch and props wouldn’t be hard either.

I imagine this as a short film with about 5 characters (Risk is 2-6 players). They are all good friends and there is a familiarity among them as they begin to play but gradually they reveal things about themselves based on how they play the game and their different views on strategy and disputes. In the beginning there could be an argument about whether to just play with 5 people or try to get a sixth. Moving forward there could be discussion between players about collaborating and backstabbing ensues.

The natural direction for it to flow at this point is towards a Lord of the Flies descent into bickering and hard feelings during which several long hidden opinions or grievances are aired.

One possibility: Evan, a stereotypically geeky boy, breaks his pact with stereotypically stylish and popular boy, Tom, and attacks him in the Middle East. When Tom expresses outrage at being stabbed in the back, Evan accuses Tom of messing up his chances with a crush, Megan, by taking her to the Spring Dance before Evan could ask her. Exasperated, Tom blurts out that he doesn’t want to date Megan. He doesn’t even like girls. To which the girl(s) in the group take offense. And so on…

Naturally, there are a lot of ways this could go, and the more I think about them, the more I think that if the characters take the game too seriously, it will come across comically, so maybe it’s worth making one character comic relief, just to lighten the whole mood. I see a slightly younger, or less mature member of the group who can’t handle conflict and keeps trying to get people to calm down, but eventually gives up and hides under the table eating Cheetos as the fighting continues above and around him.

In the climactic moment, one of the players knocks over (either intentionally or not, this has implications for the resolution) the board and scatters the pieces across the floor. This snaps the characters out of their fury and puts everything back in context. They sheepishly pick up the pieces, end their arguments, and make up having learned things about each other that they never knew.

The End

So that’s my first take on that logline. I hope the Insider will give us her first take as well, because I’m sure it will be a completely different story from the same premise.

If you have ideas for this story, comments, likes, dislikes, please share them. I’m interested to hear how you react to this reading.

Loglines

I’m beginning to collect log lines to start formulating ideas for a film. I’ve got a couple already and I encourage you to send in your own. My idea is for me, and other writers on the staff, to post some of our favorites and try a hand at fleshing them out a bit or just kick around some ideas and then get your feedback on the ideas.

If you have more than a log line, just send the a log line for now. The ideas we create are by no means final, but it will be interesting to see what we come up with before seeing the actual script or synopsis. I look forward to reading you story ideas.

Additionally, if you want to be involved in the production of your film idea, should we choose it, just let me know. We don’t intend to cut anyone out of their own stories.

For help on writing loglines, try the article, Writing Loglines that Sell by Jonathan Treisman.

Note: I have seen “log lines” as one word or two, so I’m going to treat the two interchangeably until I get definitive ruling.

Comedy, Dependent Films, and Startups

I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about genres of film and how I have never attempted a straight-up comedy before. I’ve done several parodies of other genres, but never just a comedy. I think it’s very hard to Be Funny. He pointed out that it is “definitely is difficult to be funny in a universal way.” Having just posted about being indie it occurred to me that another advantage of being indie is that you don’t have to be funny universally. You can be very funny to a very specific audience. This is the stuff of cult films. So I suppose I am open to the idea of producing a comedy, although I will certainly need writers funnier than me to make that work.

Also shortly after posting about being indie, I came across a post by John August (writer of Go, Big Fish, and Corpse Bride) on his blog about the definition of indie. It’s a good, quick read. My favorite part might be the footnote about labeling conventional films as ‘dependent.’

Another article that I saw shortly after posting, which is at least crosswise related to the topic of being indie, was How a six-month-old startup got bought by Google, by Yi-Wyn Yen. It is about Wayne Crosby and Robby Walker of Zenter and their ideas on how to get acquired by Google. The article mentions some of the advantages of being a small startup and some basic rules for being successful. Among those rules for startups were ‘focus on the user’ and ‘don’t be afraid to tackle the giants.’ I think several of the guidelines are probably equally applicable to indie films.

The last piece of advice I picked up, and I can’t for the life I me remember where, is to trust the audience to figure it out; you don’t need to dumb it down. I have definitely been guilty of this before. I have directed films that held the audience’s hand each step of the way because I was afraid they wouldn’t follow every detail or worse yet, they would question. I recognize, however, that some of my favorite cinematic sequences leave a good deal up to the viewer to decipher. Film is art, not debate. There is room for interpretation. As a viewer, there is also a sort of satisfaction in figuring it out for yourself. And in the end, if I make a film that causes people to question, then perhaps I have achieved something.

Leveraging Indie-ness

I read an article on The Motley Fool once about the advantages of being a small investor. There are some things that a small investor can do that multi-million dollar companies can not. Among them are investing in small cap stocks that can potentially outperform large blue chips. I was reminded of this article recently when thinking about what type of film to produce, and what I decided was that, whatever it is, we need to leverage the fact that we are a small indie outfit.

We can’t compete with a large studio on action films or star-studded blockbusters; we just don’t have the money. But in being a small, mostly unknown production team, we do have the freedom to tackle controversial issues. We can produce a film that makes a statement without risking reputation or advertising revenue (nothing to lose on that front). So I’m all in favor of using this opportunity to get a message out there and I’m certainly going to keep that in mind when reviewing possible stories.

There are also technical advantages. For instance, we can also make use of things on a small scale that a large company would have trouble getting access to. We wouldn’t draw as much attention as a full-out film squad setting up shop in the middle of downtown Washington, DC for instance. So that’s something to keep in mind while scouting locations.

I’m sure there are other advantage to being a small, lightly funded operation, and it’s likely that they will become apparent in the future. Hopefully in time to take advantage of them.

Welcome to The Insider

I’m very pleased to welcome the first member of my collaborative team, The Insider (working nickname). I’ve worked with Insider before on a short film, and I’m looking forward to working with her again. She brings a wealth of knowledge and skills ranging from scriptwriting to budget drafting and audio editing to sourcing stock footage and should be a valuable member of the team. Due to the extremely varied nature of those skills, she doesn’t have a job title yet, and she may accumulate several over the course of the project.

Now that the team actually consists of more than one person, I can start referring to us as ‘we’ without sounding like I have voices in my head telling me to make a movie.

Live

After using this blog as a semi-private forum to develop my idea before taking it to the world, I have decided to start sharing it.

If you want to get involved there are a couple ways to do it. The first is by posting comments on these posts with your ideas or suggestions. This is highly appreciated, even if its nothing more than encouragement to continue the project. At some points I will likely ask for specific feedback, and that is even more appreciated.

If you would like to take a more active role and can commit to longer term involvement, let me know what you would like to do and why you would be good at it. Then I will set you up with the inside scoop as well as a way to post directly to the blog.

The initial stages are development of a script and preproduction, so as much as I would love to hear from all of you who want to be involved in the production or post-production of the film, please hold of on contacting me/us until we reach that stage. In the meantime I hope you will continue to follow along and offer your support and suggestions.

I recommend Google Reader for keeping track of RSS feeds such as the one for this blog. Alternatively, if you use the Google Homepage (aka iGoogle) you can add an RSS feed to your homepage, or add a Google Reader widget to your homepage that shows all the feeds you have subscribed to in Google Reader. Click here (Add to Google) to add the RSS feed to Google Homepage or Google Reader.

Legal IP Issues and Staffing Up

I’ve been considering how and whether to copyright this project. My inclination is to license it under Creative Commons or another open source license, but I will have to check on the feelings of people involved and the potential problems that might cause in bringing it to festivals or distribution.

In fact, it would be great to have someone to look into the different possible modes of copyright/non-copyright/licensing and make suggestions. That will be my next goal after finding writers.

I have decided to target multiple writers for the project since most of the ones on my list can’t afford to dedicate the amount of time that is required. I think a group process, while potentially abrasive, will lead to interesting group dynamics and potentially a very polished final product. Not to mention that my favorite part of all of this is finding the right people for the job and guiding them to work together towards a single goal. To this end, and because I myself don’t have the momentum to sustain a one-man blog, I will be bringing new crew on-board shortly.

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Writers

I haven’t been able to nail down my writer yet. Turns out he has much less free time than I anticipated. He may join the team yet, but I am beginning to play around with the idea of a writing team. More on that to come.

Additionally, I have begun soliciting ideas for a film. There are a couple ideas brewing and I hope to get loglines, synopses, and maybe eventually treatments posted for comments and suggestions. On that note, if you have an idea for a film, please send (or post in comments) a logline. If I like it, I’ll ask for something further and possibly post that for comments from other readers. I look forward to hearing your pitches.

The Beginning

This is the beginning of a grand experiment. Well, perhaps not quite grand. I have decided to take a crack at producing a film. I’ve produced a few low- to no-budget short films before, but they are not anything I would use in a demo reel. The idea this time is different.

The idea is to take the time to do it right (and while holding down a full-time job that could be quite a long time) and document the process along the way. The idea is to involve people with more skill in particular areas than I myself possess. The idea is to con them into invite them to contribute to this blog as well. The idea is to invite readers of this blog to offer their suggestions and criticisms of the work-in-progress at various stages.

Got all that? It’s three main ideas:
1. Document the process of creating a film (hopefully a good one).
2. Invite cast and crew to post about their experiences working on the film in progress.
3. Post parts of the creative work itself and get feedback from you, the readers.

So in the process of involving people with more skill than myself, the first step will be to find some writers. Particularly one with a good logline in mind. I have at least one writer on my shortlist already. Next step: bring him on board. Stay tuned…