Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jamie Greenberg on “Stags”

What was your filmmaking background before making Stags?

JAMIE: Stags is my first feature film. Before getting into film, I had a 12-year career as a television writer and performer. I co-created Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego on PBS, as well as acting in over 50 episodes. I was nominated for 2 Emmy Awards for this show.

I also wrote for numerous other childrens' TV shows, and-- flipping over to the dark side -- also worked extensively at MTV, co-creating their hit show Lip Service and going to three Spring Breaks, etc etc etc. I was also an on-camera Correspondent for Court TV's irreverent and unwatched show Snap Judgment.

After 12 years in TV I became pretty disillusioned with television, and decided to fumble my way into the world of film. I made a number of short films, then threw myself into making Stags.

Where did the idea come from and what was the writing process like?

JAMIE: The idea came about mainly from looking at my life and that of my friends. I had come up with the term "Stags" in my head years before, as a kind of joke with myself: shorthand for guys (like me) who were in their 30's or older, yet had never married or had children.

When it came time to write a feature, I specifically wanted to do something fairly mainstream and approachable, as a lot of my short-film work had been mock historical or fantasy stuff. So I decided to make something out of this Stags concept.

The writing process took place over a year, and since a lot of my previous long-form work had been with a writing partner, I decided to replicate the "writing partner dynamic" between myself and the legal pad. So I intentionally wrote a lot of loose, sometimes unconnected ideas-- the way two writers would, when trying to crack each other up in the room.

Eventually I had to pick and choose among the ideas and beat it into a narrative. There were originally more than 4 main guys, and additional storylines, etc. Killing some ideas so that others may live is necessary... but awful.

Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?

JAMIE: I sold myself outside the Port Authority bus station. I now have 431 minority investors in the film. I guess this is what they mean about giving investors "a piece."

What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it?

JAMIE: The Sony EX-3. It was mainly handled by our DP, Salvatore Interlandi. However, after we wrapped principal photography, there were various inserts and pickups which I had to shoot myself, so I had to learn to use the camera as well.

I love the fact that it's affordable and shoots full 1080p. I don't love the fact that its depth of field is quite deep-- the opposite of the dreamy, filmic "shallow depth of field" everyone is chasing. Since we shot the film, several solutions for shallow DOF have become very popular, such as the Canon 5dm2 and 7d dslr's.

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

JAMIE: Smartest: casting the film well. Having a strong, engaging cast means viewers will forgive you a lot of the smaller stuff. Also the cast made very few mistakes, meaning we didn't lose a lot of time on-set due to actors forgetting their lines, etc.

Dumbest: shooting much too long a script, which meant a VERY long and involved edit process in order to figure out how to trim it down to decent length. With the wisdom of hindsight, shooting less would have meant more time to devote to any given scene, and also less stress in post.

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

JAMIE: Movies truly are a different medium from the written word, and visceral moments -- a glance, a reaction -- can seem like nothing in script form, yet be the most powerful moment in a scene. The trick is to magically predict these moments when writing the script!

"STAGS" Trailer from Jamie Greenberg on Vimeo.

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