Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kenton Bartlett on “Missing Pieces”

What was your filmmaking background before making Missing Pieces?

KENTON: Very little. During college, I rented a small consumer camera from the university and experimented with Final Cut Pro. Then after making one project, the creative drive to do better kicked in, and projects continued until about 13 short films had been made. The final short film took one year to complete. The title of it is Student Short Film, and that project was the main stepping-stone towards realizing feature film production is not much different than making a student film.

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

KENTON: The idea for the script came first out of parameters (marketable story, use outdoor locations for natural light, involve several story lines so scenes could be deleted without ruining the story, and a few other parameters to fight looking like an ‘indie’ movie).

After thinking of a basic story that involved kidnapping and cinematic locations, the rest of the writing process involved filtering personal experience into the narrative and plugging plot holes. The writing process started in March 2008, and really didn’t finish until the end of second unit photography in December 2010.

What sort of camera did you use and what did you love about it and hate about it?

KENTON: We filmed on the Red One (which we purchased). It was really a saving grace for us because the footage looks like a ‘real movie’ without the high cost of 35mm film. Without having anything to compare it to, it would be hard to evaluate pros and cons of the camera. However, it worked very well throughout production, and if we did not have a camera at our disposal for a year and a half, we never would have been able to make the movie.

On a related note, how did you and your DP create the look of the movie?

KENTON: During pre-production, we tried to experience a learning curve with the Red One’s settings. We shot two short films with our Red during pre-production and used trial and error to figure out the best way to use the camera. The camera and lens settings we used were very specific and seemingly arbitrary, but after we honed in on those settings, everything we shot looked great. We used consumer Nikon lenses and attached panty hose cloth to the front of the lens to give more of an organic look and to fight the digital crispness of the image.

People often overlook composition when discussing cinematography, and our DP, Jonathan Arturo has a great eye for wonderful compositions. He also has great handheld instincts and skills for infusing light into a scene.

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

KENTON: Raising the money started by being as proactive as possible through making a website, a business plan, creating promotional videos, flyering parking lots, delivering flyers door to door, spamming the internet, creating as many social network sites as possible, etc. All this effort generated about $5,000 through friends. However, by being so proactive, everyone started noticing our passion, and a close family member offered to co-sign on a loan.

At the moment, we are out of money. We are quite close to debt as the loan money is spent (and personal life savings), and it’s been 3.5 years without a paycheck. We have been trying to recoup the costs through selling Missing Pieces to a distributor. With such a competitive market for distribution, we are proactively seeking publicity and film reviews so that maybe a kindhearted executive will notice our film. As this interview is part of that campaign, we would like to thank you for all your help with this project.

Did the movie change much during the editing process, and if so, how?

KENTON: There were close to 100 cuts of the movie. Many family and friends watched the movie to give feedback during post-production, and it changed quite drastically throughout. With such a cumbersome story line and limited experience during production, many of the scenes we filmed had no place in the finished movie. The movie is not chronological, so figuring out the most coherent structure was quite challenging. We had to re-shoot a couple scenes and add a few sequences here and there in order for the story to fully make sense.

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

KENTON: The smartest thing I did during production was think that we could actually make a legitimate movie for $80,000 by enlisting enthusiastic volunteers and fighting ‘indie’ movie conventions.

The dumbest thing I did during production was take on the responsibility of making a legitimate movie for $80,000. It’s too daunting and heartbreaking to ever want to do again. The hopeful outlook for the future is that maybe next time production will be easier if we somehow find a budget.

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

KENTON: With my personality, every project seems like a failure at the end of it. The only way to fight that failure is to jump into creating something new and attempt to overcome the shortcomings of the last project.

Missing Pieces was plagued with problems, but every problem is an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson. From that perspective, there have been boundless learning opportunities. Going forward into our second feature film project, we intend to learn from all of those mistakes and hardships.

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