Thursday, November 25, 2010

Todd Sklar on “Box Elder”

What was your filmmaking background before making Box Elder?

TODD: I grew up watching lots of movies; didn't get into film school, but made a lot of bad short films in college and started watching even more movies (about two per day for a while), and also starred in an independent feature that was made expertly as far as low budget production was concerned; all of which led to the notion that I could potentially make a feature.

That said, we re-shot 80% of the film after wrapping the first leg of production, so to be honest, the first round of shooting is what prepared me the most for making the final product.

Where did the idea come from? What was the writing process like?

TODD: Part of it was the desire to make a college comedy that was honest and more relatable than an American Pie movie. Something that felt more like Dazed and Confused or Swingers. I felt like I wasn't seeing that movie anymore, and felt like I had a good grasp on that type of story based on my own college experience.

Part of it also had to do with wanting to make a film that I knew I could do for a limited budget and with elements that were accessible to me at the time (good comedic actors, campus locations, etc). The last piece, and potentially the most important one, was wanting to make something that I knew I could get to its audience, and thus the first tour was born.

Can you describe the thinking behind the tour -- what you hoped to accomplish and then the reality of how it worked out?

TODD: The main goal was to get the film to its audience, and do so in a manner that enhanced the experience (i.e, we didn't want it to be just a movie screening; we wanted events and tailored marketing that fit the film and its target audience).

As far as how it worked out, the first tour was a complete success; it exceeded any and all expectations. The subsequent tours have been successful in different ways, but nothing close to what we pulled off on the first one.

How did you fund the film?

TODD: The first round came from an investment group, and the second round came from friends, family, mine and my producer's pocket, and lots of credit cards.

What sort of camera did you use for production and what were the best and worst things about it?

TODD: We shot with the Panasonic HVX and used the Brevis 35 adapter, and the best part of it was probably the P2 Workflow, and in specific, being able to watch footage immediately and edit rough cut scenes on the fly. Our editor would cut scenes overnight and we could watch 'em the next day and decide what to pick-up before that day's call time, and that was huge.

As far as the worst thing goes, there were the general hiccups that come along with using new technology, but I can't say that I can think one negative thing in specific. It was a pretty wonderful experience working with that camera setup.

Did using the Brevis 35 adapter add to your crew size or make it more difficult to "run and gun"?

TODD: Definitely not. Other than needing a really good 1st AC to handle focus pulling and what not, the Brevis was extremely lightweight, and the setup was much smaller and easier to maneuver than the Redrock or other adapters I had played with.

We had a steadicam that we used on probably 30-40% of the film and a shoulder mount unit as well and we were able to whip around pretty good.

Did the story change much in the editing process?

TODD: A ton. We cut out an entire portion of the second act and did re-shoots to fill in what is now the middle of the movie. The irony being, the storyline I had the most trouble with at the script stage ultimately was the one that got ditched in the edit room. I'm not exactly sure why I thought "shooting it" would make it any better....

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

TODD: The smartest thing was probably not listening to people 95% of the time, whether it was re; something we couldn't do, or shouldn't do or couldn't afford etc; and the dumbest thing was without a doubt the other 5% of the time that I didn't listen.

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

TODD: A big one was to work as much out in the development process as possible, because anything that doesn't get solved in the writing is only becoming a bigger problem after you shoot. And then an even bigger problem while you're editing.

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