Thursday, April 22, 2010

Faith Granger on “Deuce of Spades”

Why did you decide -- with no filmmaking background -- to make Deuce of Spades?

FAITH: They say life works in mysterious ways... I have found that to be very true over the last three years!

All my life I pursued music as my passion and dream and felt it was my calling. Four years ago, I finally felt the need to step back and take a long deserved break from constant rehearsals, recording sessions and live shows, which consumed every free moment I had. I longed to have a weekend where I could just relax and enjoy the simple things in life... Such as cruising on a sunny afternoon at the wheel of a 1932 Ford roadster, for example ;).

I had always loved hot rods so finally buying one seemed a good way to celebrate life, in deed. I fell deeply in love with the deuce and that love led me to whip up a small documentary about the 32 Ford roadsters, shot from the hip on a $200 consumer camera. I made the documentary for my car display at the Grand National Roadster Show, the world largest yearly roadster show. It was the 75th anniversary of the 1932 Ford that year so I decided to sign up for the show and all participants were asked to make a nice car display for the occasion.

My display included a TV screen that played my Last of the Hiboy Girls home made documentary. The result? For four days, the crowd kept packing up in front of my car display, to watch the one-hour piece. When I saw just how engaged the audience was and how much they loved watching what I had filmed, I was hooked. I had so much fun doing the documentary that a crazy idea popped inside my head while at the show: And it went something like this: "Wouldn't it be crazy to next do a FULL FEATURE homemade film? One person does it all... That would be such a great challenge!!!"

Did I mention? I love challenges. As crazy as that thought sounded, it stuck, and two weeks later I found myself diving head first at the deep end of the pool (without knowing how to swim), and started writing the screenplay.

Where did the idea come from?

FAITH: Ironically, while many writers get stuck trying to find a good film plot, I had one right up my sleeve. I knew, from minute ONE, that the main star of the film would be my roadster, and knew what the plot was going to be. It was very easy, since the idea came from an (almost) true experience from my not-so-distant past.

Let us flashback to 2004. I had just bought a 1937 Hudson Terraplane Business Coupe. My friend was cleaning the car up, getting it ready for full off frame restoration, alone in the garage. Suddenly he pops inside the house with an old letter in his hand: "Faith! Look what I found when I tore the trunk of the Hudson apart". An old letter. A love letter written on a war ship, from a soldier who was going to WWII, to his sweetheart back home... It was very touching.

For the next few days, I found myself thinking about the letter, the man, his loved one, their story... Wondering how it had ended... Wondering how it was connected to the car... On the fourth day, my friend finally spills the beans: "You know that letter I found in the trunk? I was just pulling your leg. The letter is real, (my dad wrote it back in the days), but I obviously didn’t find it in the car." So it was just a prank. Needless to say I was deeply disappointed. But I never forgot the special feeling I had for three days, the feeling of having found a hidden treasure, uncovered a secret. It was that feeling that would become the core of my film plot.

What was the writing process like?

FAITH: It was very easy. I wrote the script quickly. I had so many ideas and they kept coming... No problem there! What was hard was keeping the film within reasonable length.

Writing the script was like living an alternate life, in a different world. It swallowed me whole. I was consumed. Every moment of the day all I could think about was Johnny's story... The letter... I LOVED writing the script. A lot of ideas would come while driving back and forth to my day job every day. Some scenes were entirely written while listening to a specific song that I wanted to use for the scene. I could SEE the film in my head... See the shots, hear the dialogues...

As soon as I got to work I'd type my ideas down. Same when I got home... It took about 3 months to write the initial script. A lot of historical research went into it, because 60% of the film is period, and also because of the hot rod technical aspect of the film. My historical consultant, who is curator for the National Hot Rod Foundation, helped me insure that the film stay 100% accurate and true to both the era and the cars. I even consulted with several old timers to make sure the flashback dialogues were period correct. Especially the 50’s slang.

The finished first draft was too long and had I shot it as is, the film would have been about 4 hours long!!! So I rewrote it, three times, over the course of the next 2 years, to end up with the 150-minute version, which was later edited down to a 120 minute final version.

Why did you want to handle all the elements yourself? Did that work, or did you end up adding crew members to the team?

FAITH: Making this film was breaking every known rules of filmmaking... And getting away with it!

Having never been to film school, my mind was a blank canvas. I didn't know what the rules were, so I made my own. I was very free of any and all preconceived ideas, all molds, all trends. I love freedom of expression. I knew that if I wanted to retain that freedom I needed to remain captain of my own vessel. So I didn't go looking for investors.

When some came knocking at my door (cause the buzz about my project was already getting all over the internet), offering me a half million to become partners in my film, I politely turned then down and walked. I didn’t want to take the easy shortcut. I was going to take the less traveled road, and cut my own way through the jungle if I had to. I knew their money would come with a price tag. And that if I took it, my film would no longer be my film, it would never be the same. And I wanted my film to be 100% my vision, 100% my work, 100% mine, whether good or bad, successful or a flop, it would be MY FILM.

Having no investors to call the shots also meant having no budget and that meant having to do everything myself for the most part. But I am a firm believer that if you want to have it done right, do it yourself! I knew volunteers, although well meaning, would probably end up flaking out and that free help was hard to come by, so from the start I expected that if I wanted this film to get done, I would have to carry it on my own shoulders, for three entire years, all the way to the finish line, no matter how hard it got or how heavy it would become.

Did it work?

FAITH: You bet! But I wouldn’t recommend this path to everyone. It truly is not for the faint of heart. You have to really be cut out for it. But it worked wonderfully well for me and if I was to make another film, I would not change much to my current recipe (if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it ;) ). I will continue to self finance my films, work with a skeleton crew, be behind the camera and wear multiple hats. I will however delegate a few little hats here and there, such as hair and makeup, loading and unloading heavy gear (that really gets old quick), maybe some of the preliminary scouting, and some of the tedious, but not so creative, work such as calling actors and crew to remind them of shoots, auditions etc…

I did wear all the hats, but I also had some help from friends and volunteers. Help was sporadic, so no stable crew. Each shoot I would have one or two helpers land a hand. Mostly they helped move gear, plug lights, hold booms and Hollywood flags, etc… Some of my actors helped too, and so did the car owners.

About half way into production, one volunteer, Jerry Mull, stepped forward cause all the other volunteers had either flaked or no longer were able to help due to work / school schedule changes. Jerry was very loyal and stayed with me, as my production assistant, boom person, grip and whatever else was needed, until the end. He helped make three sets (which we built in my garage), a few props, helped line up additional classic cars and even a few locations. He was very helpful. He also drove the rig so I could drive the rod to the shoots. It would have been a lot harder on me had he not been there. Even if you wear all the hats, you still need HELP.

I was very blessed in that my story inspired many pros to also contribute, each in their own way: A few examples: OMEGA CINEMA donated several thousand dollars worth of free prop rentals to help me finish my flashbacks cause I completely ran out of money. CINEMA PRODUCTION SERVICES loaned some basic lighting gear for the entire duration of the production (three years) which were badly needed to pull off the shoots. DAS WERK in Germany, donated a $20,000 CGI shot for my crash scene while Frank Glencairn, Nick Lozz, Darren d’Agostino, also donated CGI shots and title treatment, Luis Sinibaldi donated free steadicam work for three scenes, Blue Nelson lent a hand with some camera work for 8 scenes and general advice, giving me feedback when needed. Top Hollywood pro re-recording mixer Patrick Cycconne and his team are now donating a full sound mixing job at pro facility, to help me take the film to the next level. My struggling on my own to make DEUCE OF SPADES inspired these pros to say: Hey, what she’s doing is really something, so let’s lend her a little help.

What sort of camera did you use? What was good about it? What was not so good?

FAITH: I bought the Panasonic HVX200 with the Letus Extreme (and later, the Ultimate) 35mm adapter with Nikon prime lenses. It provided a wonderful film look. I work with long lenses a lot, for that super shallow Depth of Field, and working with long lenses can be quite challenging, especially when you pull your own focus. I oftentimes had to pull focus entirely by feel, because my more elaborate camera moves involved a lot more than just two focus points.

I love the HVX, it was a great camera to work with, love the P2 card system, how sturdy the camera is: I really put it through the ringer and it never broke down on me. On the down side, it tends to be noisy in low light. And I film in low light A LOT. That was my only complaint, the fact that it is not so good with low light. Using a 35 mm adapter does not help either. Unless there was a good amount of light on our night sets, the camera could see absolutely NOTHING. This is true of most video cameras of course. Without a budget it is hard to have the gear to light a night set aggressively. So it was very challenging shooting those tricky night scenes, and I had quite a few in my film, including one of the climax scenes. A huge challenge indeed. It’s easy, as a writer, to image in your head a phenomenal night race and crash… Not so easy, as a producer, director and DP, to pull it off.

What was the biggest lesson you took away from shooting the movie?

FAITH: Make your own path. Stay true to your vision. Believe in yourself. Don’t believe what they say. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. Trust in God. Oh yeah and don't you ever, EVER, forget to turn on that adapter again!!! (sigh - how quickly we learn our lessons when we suffer). And next script, no night race and crash LOL. Next script I write, I’ll write it KNOWING what it takes to technically pull off each scene and understanding my limitations, and writing around them this time… Save myself a lot of grief!!

What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of being your own editor?

FAITH: To me I see only but advantages. There are three ways to shape a performance. A- the directing B- the actor’s acting itself C- the editing choices. Let me light your candle here and say that I think the editor has the most impact!

A bad editor can make a good actor look average, and a good editor can make a mediocre actor look quite good! It's not so much in the cuts, but in selecting which clips make the cut. What moments will be immortalized. This implies sorting through an actor's performance, as shaped by the director while filming and making the final decision as to which performance is the best. Now call me crazy but it seems to me this should be the director's job, and when the director IS the editor, then that is exactly what happens. You get what you were aiming for. And you know what you were aiming for, since you are the director!

I love editing and I was told I have a great knack for it. I would never ever delegate that role to someone else. One of the dangers though is to get so close to your project that you lose sight of it. That's when you bring in a couple fresh pair of eyes and show them the edits and get their feedbacks. I had a couple friends who are film pros do that for me. Just to be sure.

You have to be open to hearing the feedback and learn to differentiate between the ones you should implement and the ones you should toss right out the window. It is tricky. I have learned to trust my instincts, they are rarely (if ever) wrong. Women are known for having great intuition. I try to put mine to good use!

Also, each editor has his/her own feel. The feel of the film, the pace of the film is the heart beat of a film. I would not want anyone else to set that pulse, but me, the filmmaker.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?

FAITH: Everything. I knew nothing when I started the film. Had never done it before, never been to film school. As I said, I dived at the deepest end of the pool and didn’t know how to swim. Yes, I thought I was going to drown more than once, and I drank my share of water, but I became a swimmer in the end.

I have not only come out of this three year adventure a full fledge filmmaker, but came out of it with a finished film that I fully own, all 100% of it, free and clear. A film that people can’t wait to see, it seems. It has not been completed yet and people are already buying it. I set up an online store on my website www.deuceofspadesmovie.com and I am getting pre-orders from everywhere… US, UK, France, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal, Tzchek, Australia, New Zealand, Canada… And that's a good place to be.

With major press coverage (I just received an unbelievable 12 page spread in American Muscle Car Magazine – France) in over 15 countries and already 4 magazine covers... Looks like Deuce Of Spades may very well become a cult film.

What more could a first time filmmaker possibly want?

A few links of interest:

The official DEUCE OF SPADES website: www.deuceofspadesmovie.com

The filmmaker’s blog, documenting each shoot: http://deuceofspades.bravejournal.com/
Follow the film on Twitter: http://twitter.com/deuceofspadesmv

See clips from the film: http://www.vimeo.com/user326991

DEUCE OF SPADES - Revamped Film teaser!!!! from Faith Granger on Vimeo.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

She sounds a bit full of herself,
and quite frankly after watching the trailer I dont think she delivers the goods. Obviously just my opinion
but we'll see if you let a non-positive comment go through or not.

nitin said...

the decision you made was right.Romantic Movies Online

Anonymous said...

She sound extremely arrogant. I've watched the trailer, and frankly, it wasn't good.

Anonymous said...

I've known Faith professionally for years. She is a talented, intelligent, strong and independent woman who is generous, giving, and loving to the core. You who judge might do better to educate yourselves before criticizing someone you don't know. There is a vast difference between knowing and being known - speaking confidently of that which you know vs. being judged as a result of the misconceptions of others.

It takes enormous courage and tenacity to do what she did and has done in her life. What you see as arrogant is, in reality, strength of conviction and determination far beyond anything you have ever known or will know. You may not agree that her finished project meets your standards - but when was the last time you risked everything for something you believed in? She has taken on all of the responsibility for this film and, as far as I can tell, has not shirked from any of the consequences ... good, bad, or indifferent.

It's a cowardly and tremendously dangerous thing to judge blindly when you will be judged by the same measure.

Faith, I encourage you to continue to live by your namesake! Toi, toi, toi girl!! You do intelligent, articulate, educated, creative women of faith everywhere proud! Do not neglect your gifts and continue to inspire the rest of us to fight the good fight and be true to who we have been created to be!! God Bless!!!

Your sister from Chicago - Terri

Anonymous said...

"It's a cowardly and tremendously dangerous thing to judge blindly when you will be judged by the same measure." - Amen to that. It takes alot of guts to put this much time and money.

RonCQ7 said...

Here's a review I posted on the Shoeboxford discussion list:

I got two copies of this last week, signed by Faith Granger and some of the cast and finally got time to watch it a couple of nights ago. My experience with hot-rod / cult car movies only extends to “Thunder Road”, “Christine”, “American Graffiti”, “Two Lane Blacktop”, “The California Kid” and now, “Deuce of Spades”.

While “Thunder Road” and “Christine” were feature films that used cars as central elements in the storyline, one is about bootlegging and the other is a horror film. “American Graffiti” straddles the genres being about life in a small town in California in 1962 and the pervasiveness of cars in that life. “Two Lane Blacktop” and “The California Kid” are really centred on cars with a couple of peripheral issues chucked in, such as the aimlessness of human existence for the former and revenge in the latter. In its treatment of small town life, teen rebellion, loyalty and love, “Deuce of Spades” is probably closest to “American Graffiti”.

There’s a moment when Johnny Callaway, the former owner of Faith’s roadster, has to race the out-of-town upstart from Fresno who wants to be the new fastest guy in the valley when the script seems to come straight from “American Graffiti”. Callaway is very John Milner-ish as well – garage mechanic, deprived background, drives a similar car, is growing tired of the same ol’, same ol’ and yearns for something better than fixing cars and beating off hopefuls that want to take his crown. However, this isn’t “American Graffiti”: the plot is feebler and the actors aren’t as good. As well, the Deuce is the central character linking the human characters, unlike “American Graffiti” which has several main characters, all of which are human.

Faith herself is interesting: playing herself in the film, her character hints at a chequered past and a non-conformist present; she has an intriguing European accent and a stylish take on the clothes a gal wears when she’s working on her Deuce. Her acting is a bit wooden, as are the other actors, but not embarrassingly so.

Having said that, it’s a pretty sterling effort, particularly the production levels. I don’t know anything about the technical aspects of film-making, but you can see where Faith (whose name is all over the credits and who owns the star car) has concentrated her effort. It looks good and sounds good with lots of music I didn’t recognize, but which seemed pretty honest for the genre. It made me wonder what she will do next.

Basically, it’s a love story and has every cliché we could expect from hot-rod movies set in the 50s: teen rebellion, old people who don’t understand, fairly shaky plot, old cars, dangerous driving, star-crossed lovers. I’m not give away what happens, but it features a number of fine cars, including several 49-51 Fords and Mercurys. I think it is better than “The California Kid”, and will acquire similar cult status. It deserves it. Great hot-rod viewing for those of you on the forum who are going to be indoors a lot over the next few months. It’s a good way to spend a couple of hours.

Christopher Leskie said...

I thought it was great and captures the feel of a movie that might have been made in that era. I think the simple plot and story are part of the attraction. It captures a time and brings it to the future. Don't you wish you could go back to the 50's for a week ? Our lives now demand movies like Avatar etc which leave me cold.
Deuce of Spades is a story that has history and reality woven into a love story around an iconic car. Loved it !
Well done Faith.

Anonymous said...

i watch a lot of film i think this was a great first movie it was something new not a story retold like the big hollywood films are most of the time now keep up the good work and theirs nothing hotter than girls who love old cars

francopolo said...

wow!!applause!what a movie!!
what a work of art and heart!
Faith,great work,congratulations!!!

Farrell said...

gorgeous, I can not wait to see this movie in theaters!
is really admirable courage of Faith Granger! Congratulations!

Farrell

Farrell said...

gorgeous, I can not wait to see this movie in theaters!
is really admirable courage of Faith Granger! Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Some of you said she sounded a bit full of herself. You are wrong, she is not a bit full of herself, she is COMPLETELY full of herself. Having spent a couple of years helping her with this film, I can tell you that she is the poster child for narcissism. Don't get me wrong, she is incredibly talented, has an awesome knack for getting just the right shot and making it look great in the film, and has done an admirable job as a first time filmmaker. But what she has done to the people who helped her make this film is appalling. She did NOT make this film by herself, as she so often says. She did NOT spend all of the money out of her own pocket, as she so often says. Yes, she was the driving force behind this film, because she wouldn't let any one else touch it, but despite what she says this film would not have happened without all of the people who were there to help. Of course she did all of the directing, she wouldn't let anybody touch it. Of course she did all of the editing, she wouldn't let anybody touch it. This is a movie about Faith, plain and simple. It is about her legs, which show up way too often in the movie. It is about her car, which is a plastic replica of a '32 Ford roadster, and was never around in the '50s, let alone the '30s. It is about someone wanting to be in the spotlight, and succeeding. Good for her. It wouldn't be so bad if she at least remembered, now that the film is done, that there was a cast and crew that worked very hard to make her dream come true.

Bill Kelley said...

What a movie! My wife, 13 year old daughter and I just watched it. It's a great movie, we all loved it! A true hotrod flick!!

Anonymous said...

Just saw the movie tonight. No, it's not perfect, either in story, acting or dialogue, but no one should deny the credit due to anyone who can pull off something as difficult as the making of a movie of this caliber on the first try. If Ms. Granger is "full of herself", so what? Humans are built that way, if you haven't noticed. It took incredible talent and determination to complete this project. I'm sorry to read that others who worked very hard on this film feel forgotten. That is unfortunate, because they also deserve their share of the kudos. The credits run for quite a while, and although Faith's name shows up often, there are many, many others listed and given credit for their particular contributions. I noticed that, and it fleshed out what I thought was just too much work and responsibility to fall to a single person. I knew that there was exaggeration at hand. So, I want to thank you for helping Faith to do the "impossible". I'm very happy to have had the opportunity to enjoy this film, perfect, or not. I own several movies of this genre from the 1950's, and this was better than most of them, by far. Thank you all, and please don't stop trying. You were part of something to be proud of.

Dan said...

Bought the movie at our local hot rod show yesterday, just bought it on a whim, put it on that evening couldn't take my eyes from the screen great story line and a great ending if all hot rodding love affairs could be like this.
Great job Faith.
Dan aka The Wild Colonial Boy ( 32 Deuce Coupe )

Anonymous said...

Try reading what you just posted...now that is arrogant. I bought the movie I enjoyed it as have numerous friends...to each his own. But you should try using your words to encourage people not insult them. Great movie loved it Faith.

saltracer said...

This movie has captured the feel and tempo of the hot rod world. I watch this film every few weeks and am amazed at how well it is done. Faith your passion is evident in your work. Please keep it up.

saltracer said...

This movie has captured the spitit and tempo of the hot rod world. It has been produced on a shoe string budget, but faiths passion for this film is evident. I hope to see another film from her soon.

Wolfgang Black said...

I just watched the film.
Excellent film, amazing she did it all by herself.
Don't let the internut trolls get to you, they'd even tell God himself he sucked.