One Minute Movie

Having been recently inspired by the concept of a one-minute movie, I have an idea that I thought I would pose to you, the readers. It is an intersection of flash fiction and wikis. In an effort to gain some support and enthusiasm for a longer short film (is that a contradiction?), I would like to facilitate a very short film with a maximum of audience participation.

I see the structure breaking down as such:

I will create an open Google document and share it here. This will be the forum for creating a script for our one minute movie. (NB: One minute of screen time is approximately equal to one page of properly formatted script.) Readers may create, edit, and revert to their heart’s content. I will suggest that disputes be negotiated discussions be handled in a separate GoogleDoc, which I will also provide. I will come up with a mechanism for closing the script. Perhaps offering a poll to the readers on whether to accept a final copy or continue revisions. Once the script is closed, we will move on to the next step. (Note: I am suggesting GoogleDocs because they are simple. If you have experience setting up a wiki I would love to hear from you.)

I don’t know of a tool to collaborate on storyboards, although I’m sure one of you could suggest one. It basically has to allow for simple drawings to be shared between many users. If this is possible, then we could follow a similar process for the storyboards as for the script. When that is complete filming will begin. I will likely shoot all the footage over a weekend with a consumer miniDV camera. Others are obviously welcome to do the same, which would give some extra flexibility, but I will assume that others will not do their own shooting. People in the area could contact me to help out with my version of the shooting. I would then take the raw footage, encode in a codec suitable for distribution over the web, and make the footage available via torrent (if a tech savvy person can assist me in setting one up), server (if someone wants to donate the bandwidth), or Pando (if I’m on my own).

Once the footage is available, you are free to download and edit it together yourself, adding any effects you wish, in whatever program you wish. If there are any musical people who would like to contribute original music to the project, that would also be greatly appreciated. The resulting one-minute movies will be shared here, and possibly elsewhere as well.

In the interest of more diverse interpretations, in may be worth forgoing the storyboard process in favor of letting editors cut together the scenes in whatever way they wish. In terms of legal considerations, I would be in favor of releasing all material under some kind of open source license, perhaps GNU GPL or Creative Commons. If you have advice on or experience with this matter, I would love to hear from you. This is all I know about using the GPL so far.

If this is a project you would like to get involved with, particularly if you have any of the technical knowledge that I have referred to above, please send me an email ( to let me know what you are willing to help with.

Help Requested:

  1. Torrents set up
  2. Server space
  3. Wiki set up
  4. Licensing knowledge

Opportunities for creative folks:

  1. Writing
  2. Shooting
  3. Video Editing
  4. Original Music

First Impressions: DC Romantic Comedy Redux

This is John‘s response to my first impression of his logline, “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 like the sports bar setting for the guy in a RomCom only because I feel like the competition of sports makes for a good metaphor for life. There’s a lot you could do with the bartender / leading man. Yet, I do not know if I really envision it being a Comedy. A movie that’s romantic and about love does not necessarily have to be a comedy. (See the new movie, “Once” as an example.)

I would think a good portion of the movie would be told in flashback. These girls came from all over his life, they are a part of him and made him who he is today. Yet, I think there would have to be a new love interest. It would be too hard for the audience to understand why he would get back together with any of his previous loves after seeing the drama that happened in their relationships the first time. (Because there is drama in every relationship that makes it difficult for people to see them happening again from the outside.)

I find a problem with the “Jen” idea only that it makes love seem to simple. If you’re going to make a RomCom don’t make it simple. That’s what makes it corny. The brilliance of a good romantic comedy comes out in the subtlety.

In fact, I think making it a drama, makes for the best story of all. The logline makes the movie sound like a romantic comedy. But originally it was actually conceived as a television show, with this opening scene:


Scene 1: Alex and Katie are sitting on a couch awkwardly after what appears to have been a long conversation. They’re in the middle of a nice downtown D.C. apartment, which is actually Katie’s. It’s well furnished and has a variety of little knickknacks around the room.

A (trying to look sorry, but not doing very well): I’m sorry, but things aren’t just the same anymore. Really I’m just not interested in our relationship. Something has changed.

K (obviously frustrated and having done this before): You ass. What is that supposed to mean? Why do you say this every time?

A: I don’t know. I just don’t think this is working. We don’t love each other anymore. We act so differently. It’s just stupid to keep doing this.

K: WE act differently? I’m pretty sure the only one who is been acting differently lately is you. What happened? What did I do wrong?

A: You didn’t do anything wrong, you’re wonderful. I just think that I have to do move on…. I’m sorry.

K: Don’t say you’re sorry. You’re not sorry. (Starts to cry) Just leave. I don’t want to talk to you or see you anymore.

A (bewildered): Oh, ok… I guess I’ll be going then… (opens door and leaves apartment building)

Scene 2: Alex is walking along the street, it’s a bright sunny summer day, Katie obviously lived in one of the nicer neighborhoods downtown. Alex pulls out his cell phone and calls someone. Karpo picks up, he’s at work at the gym. He’s helping out a rather attractive blond haired woman. Split screen of the conversation.

A: Well that’s over.

K: Wait… what’s over? What did you do now?

A: Katie and I broke up. I told her it was over. I told her that I wasn’t interested anymore.

K: Hey, you know you can’t use the same excuse three times in a row. The girls sort of catch on.

A: Is it my fault that my girlfriends bore me?

K: Well, not to be an ass… but yes…

A (cutting off Karpo before he can continue): Oh well, I hope we can still be friends. That would be cool. Although she seemed really upset when I left.

K (supporting the woman who is excercising w/ his free hand): Really? Maybe that’s because you just broke up with her again. And I can’t believe how you talk to every girl you’ve dated. That’s not a good idea man. Some day its going to get you into big trouble.

A: How can being friends get you into trouble?

K: Trust me. It can. I know.

A: Well, I like being friends. I mean Katie was a nice girl. Just not for me.

K: Right… she was so not for you that you dated all through college. Man I can’t believe this is over.

A: First of all, it wasn’t all through college, we broke up twice, and… we didn’t start dating until sophomore year.

K: Oh, my bad. You dated for 3 year, plus another couple months out of school. Yeah, a drop in the bucket for the dating wizard. Man, are you ever going to not date someone?

A: How about right now? I’ve got plans.

K: Well I think tonight’s should be a celebratory drink. I’ll catch you at “NEED NAME FOR BAR” tonight.

A: Ok. Sounds good.

K (lowers client down after she’s done excercising[sic]): See ya tonight.

It’s much more of an HBO Drama in it’s current conception than an Indie Film. But that’s what I see. I see Alex rising through the drama of the relationship and the drama of seeing and possibly being forced to interact with some of his former girlfriends. It shows how small the world is, tries to figure out how long love lives on, and what changes when you move on. I know I just went a ton of high concept again without getting into an actual plot details. That’s what I think though when I think about this film.

I like this different take on the idea, and I love getting script bits, even fragments. Thanks to John for letting me post this.

It’s About the Story

Sometimes, like today, I will get ahead of myself and start looking at the latest and greatest technology for filmmaking. As I look at more and more reviews and gadgets, the process inevitably leads to a conversation like this:

ME: holy crap, you can get the XH-A1 with an underwater housing for under 6k!
INSIDER (laughing): Why would you need underwater housing?
ME: I don’t know! But how sweet is that?

Eventually, after filling up a B&H shopping cart with all manner of cameras, DTE HDDs, boom poles, shotgun mikes, auxiliary lenses, XLR cables and the like, I will get to a point where the cost of that equipment brings me to my senses. Then I remember that I’m producing a film, not stocking an equipment rental house and I start to refocus on the aspects outside the technology. Like the story.

The story is a good place to start. And a good place to end. Really, it’s all about the story. John August has a post on his blog about success in which he distills the basic truths of 6 major lessons for getting into film. Number 2 is “It’s About The Story.” This is important for me to remember; filmmakers are storytellers first and foremost. And particularly as an independent film team, we don’t have the liberty of trading special effects for plot and character development. Our production will be lower quality than Hollywood by necessity, so we should remember that what we are doing is telling a story. The story can be compelling even if the production quality is not.

I recently saw Once at a local independent theater and it was an excellent example of this kind of substance over style. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the film was shot for $130,000 over 17 days with camcorders. Wikipedia says it was $150,000 and a skeleton crew. Either way, that’s a pretty cheap film and not a whole lot spent on production.

And yet it has been very well received: 8.6 on IMDB (Consulting the IMDB movie-rating decoder ring that puts it in the top 2% of all movies ever) and 97% fresh on RottenTomatoes. It’s even grossed almost $5 million worldwide(Box Office Mojo). That’s over a 3000% return on investment… Those are some pretty shiny numbers for any film. I’m still not entirely sure what I loved about the film so much, (the story and the music certainly had something to do with it) but I know it wasn’t the production quality. I was willing to overlook the grainy film and extras looking directly at the camera and get involved with the story. I hope to make our film follow this emphasis as well… but that won’t stop me from looking at some gadgets in my spare time.

Check these oddities out:
Black robe for boom operators
Micro-Cat wind cover for lav mics
Aforementioned Underwater camera package

OK, OK, I’m going to go work on some stories now…

The Insider Says Hello

The names have been changed, but the problems are real. . .

Firstly, welcome to me! I’m the 2nd team member on project “Hey Kids, Let’s Make a Movie!” – and the only one currently working full-time in film (which is why, in passing, The Producer called me The Insider, and I decided I liked its Russell Crowe-like appeal). For the record, I am NOTHING like Russell Crowe, nor did I even enjoy a Beautiful Mind. Except for all of Jennifer Connelly’s scenes.

Anyhoo, back to the point. I’ve never been a movie geek, a film snob, an art house nerd. . . I simply don’t have the stamina to watch a 3.5 hour movie in which people stare at walls and babble nonsense to each other. But damn do I love movies, and tv, and pretty much anything with pretty moving images. I’ll take a flipbook, if you’ve got it. With that in mind, I decided to put together a “reading list” of sorts to give folks an idea of what gets me going about movies.

To start: – I was first introduced to Jane Espenson’s work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s a fabulous screenwriter and producer, and she gives fantastic advice on how to write jokes, pitch stories, craft spec scripts (a sample episode for a TV show). She’s very generous with her advice, and she also lets you know what she’s eating for lunch! – Firstly, This American Life is excellent. Secondly, the first “act” of this podcast deals with the story of Richie Castellano, who made an entire town believe that he was going to make a fantastic movie in which they would all play starring roles. . .only to disappear from their lives a la Harold Hill. Not only would this story make an excellent movie – but it says a lot about why people absolutely fall in love with Hollywood, to the point of total mental blindness. – I can’t link you to a full episode of Slings and Arrows, but I think everyone who has ever been a writer, an actor, a techie or an audience member in theater or film should watch it. So that would be. . . everyone. It’s a Canadian TV show, and it’s about a Shakespearian Theater company and the struggle to create great art, despite the pressure to be commercial or trendy. Also: Rachel McAdams!

Anyway, these three are by no means the complete list of things that have made me think to myself – “Why yes, it’s perfectly reasonable to spend hours/weeks/years glued to my laptop trying to plunk out the next ‘Good Will Hunting.'” But it certainly means that I am not alone. . .

Hiatus Ex Post Facto

Some of you may have noticed that it has been a week since our last post. I have been out of town and we don’t yet have enough writers to keep up the posts during an absence. In the future hopefully such absences will not affect the blog quite as much. New posts coming soon!