Thursday, February 23, 2012

Evan Glodell on "Bellflower"

What was your filmmaking background before making Bellflower?

EVAN: I made tons and tons of no-budget short films with friends. I also made a few music videos and occasionally things for hire. But the majority of my experience was from just making short films. I have never been to a "professional" film set. Even to this day.

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

EVAN: The idea came in the same way they usually seem to. All the sudden it pops in your head and you get excited about it. Then after some (sometimes) quick evaluation you realize what caused it.

In this case it was a very intense relationship that I had just gone through. The writing process was long, the idea came in as a movie with two drastically different halves. The first half being bright and dreamy and beautiful, the second like a nightmare. This is pretty much how I felt about the relationship at the time.

So I had a handful of scenes that I was excited about, a beginning and an ending and I started the process of trying to figure out they all fit together. I made an outline and figured out how to connect it all and then just plowed through the first draft trying not to worry too much about the quality. I just wanted to get it down. So it was only two or three months to get the first draft.

Then over the years as I grew I would get the script out and rework it over and over.

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

EVAN: We were never able to raise money. I had a couple thousand dollars saved up to get us started, Vince (Vincent Grashaw - producer) got a personal friend to invest a couple thousand shortly after we started.

All that money was gone in a matter of days; then began the long process of all of us putting in whatever we had and selling anything we owned to keep it going. We tried to total up everything we had spent after three years and it came out to around $17,000.

We never had a plan for how to make money, but from the moment we signed our distribution deal we were already in profit.

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

EVAN: We shot on the Silicon Imaging SI2K. I was a beta tester for that camera and own a prototype/pre-production model. I love it. It makes beautiful images and has a color correction program built into the camera. So you can build special looks while you are shooting.

There were three customized versions of the SI2K and some of the night time stuff is shot on the camera as is with 16mm lenses. I have grown very accustomed to using it and don't know what I would do without the color stuff that you can do with it. The hardest part was with the custom versions I had built. They would constantly break and need repairs, sometimes daily.

You wore a lot of hats on the production -- acting, producing, writing, directing, editing. What's the upside and downside of doing that?

EVAN: Oh wow. The upside is that you get a lot of control. The downside is that you are only one person and it is very difficult to stay on top of everything. I don't know that I would wear as many hats in the future, maybe just two or three. Our production was so small that everyone had to have at least a couple jobs.

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

EVAN: Smartest thing I did was probably following through with the project against all odds and no money and finishing it. The dumbest thing I did was think it was a good idea to actually get drunk in the scenes where my character was supposed to be drunk. It caused all kinds of mayhem. We wanted to make everything as real as possible, but that is one thing that could be left up to the acting. The idea was ditched after trying it twice and realizing it wasn't very helpful and ended our shoot days after just one scene.

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

EVAN: To follow through with things and not let your own fear stop you. It seems fear is a big factor in everyone’s life. The fear of not succeeding can stop you from ever starting a project. If we all listened to our fear, nothing would ever get done in the world.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Matt Glasson on "Love Stalker"

What was your filmmaking background before making Love Stalker?

MATT: Aside from being a lifelong fan of movies and an avid study of cinema in general, most of my forays into actual movie making have been self-produced shorts and independent music videos.

I realized that I wanted to be a filmmaker in my freshman year of high school, so I started making short videos with my friends and sibs around our home and in our neighborhood in the suburbs of Chicago. Usually they would involve us pretending to be ruthless gangsters or renegade FBI agents running around the burbs, though one of the highlights from my early works was a 25-minute hyper violent, surrealist short I made called The Pubic Muffin. Somehow, and I’m still not clear on how this happened, it ended up somehow getting me a scholarship for film school! With that, I enrolled at Columbia College in Chicago where I learned more of the craft and made plenty more short films in the process.

On a whim in 1998, I moved to New York City to start a rock band - who says you can't live the dream?! Anyway, when that dream ended and the band broke up in 2003, I began working in the film and video industry in earnest - starting out as a PA for Mo'nique for the show Live at the Apollo and seeking out whatever jobs I could land before finally settling into a steady career as a freelance video and TV editor.

But make no mistake, making a feature film was always something that I felt I needed to accomplish at some point in my lifetime; it was just a matter of waiting for the right set of circumstances to present itself, and Love Stalker was just that - seizing an opportunity to carve a feature film out of the tools and resources we had at our disposal.

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

MATT: The story of Love Stalker begins in June of 2009 when my partner Bowls MacLean invited to fly me out from NYC to St. Louis for a long weekend to help him make a 48 Hour Film Project. The short that resulted from that was a musical (we pulled the dreaded "musical or western" genre card when the contest started) and it was called Love Stalker.

It was about a creepy guy who is in love with a female bartender who could care less for his affections and the ending (SPOILER ALERT) kind of jumps off the rails in terms of portraying his warped, jumbled perception of reality. The lead guy - this Steve Buscemi lookalike from St. Louis named Pete Kruchowski - ended up winning an award for "best actor" and the short was nominated for "Best of 48 Hour Film Project, St. Louis."

After it was over, Bowls and I both felt really encouraged by the fact that we pulled off something we were both happy with and within such a short time period. So as he was dropping me off at the airport, I said to him, "We should do a feature together" and he responds, "Sounds good."

Over the next few weeks, we talked on the phone and explored a few different leftover ideas but something was telling me that there was more grist in the mill based on the concept and title of Love Stalker. And so I pitched the idea of following a player, really kind of a douchebag, who exploits women left and right in his quest to get laid, but then he falls in love when he meets “the one,” and then in the third act, he loses her and becomes a creepy stalker while trying to win her back.

It was always meant to be some sort of twist on the conventions of the romantic comedy, or "rom-com" genre. I knocked out a first draft by the end of that July (and believe me, as first drafts go, it's something I hope no one ever has the displeasure of reading) and then Bowls started to work on his own draft of the screenplay. Eventually, he sent me his draft and I began to copy, paste and merge the two together.

Once we had that second draft in place, we organized a table reading out here in New York, which was really helpful in terms of getting feedback and setting the course for the movie. After that, we continued to re-write and hone the script up until the first day of shooting in September of the following year.

How did you and Bowls share duties in producing and directing?

MATT: With the writing, Bowls and I had to work together by sharing our versions of the screenplay via email. Oftentimes, he would write a scene or work on some of the dialogue, send it back to me as a standalone section and then I'd re-incorporate it into the "final" version of the script that we would share with each other or with other colleagues for feedback. The end result is a true 50/50 collaboration in terms of our contribution to the screenplay, and I think it ended up being like eight official drafts before we stopped tweaking it.

As far as co-producing and co-directing, those roles would often get blurred during the production of the film due to our limited resources, not to mention the fact that I was doing triple-duty as an actor/producer/director. With the way we structured the film for this particular story, my character is in nearly every shot of the movie, so I was constantly having to focus on my role as an actor, and so Bowls would often serve as a second set of eyes on the camerawork and give me feedback as a performer. It was a relationship built on a lot of trust that both of us would hold up our end of the bargain and do everything within our power to make the film as good as it could possibly be.

Also, in terms of producing, it's only right that I should bring up our third producing partner in the making of the film: David Ohliger. Dave is a friend I met about 10 years ago out here in New York, and we recently began co-producing some films together including Love Stalker. While his day job as a construction manager prohibited him from being on set daily, he did fly out to St. Louis for a few days to meet everyone and lend some support. Dave is also a musician, so in the post-production, he composed the score for the film, which we all feel he did an absolutely fantastic job on - his analog style of recording music and some of his sonic experimentation really suited the mood of the film perfectly.

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

MATT: Before we began writing the film, we had a number in mind that we thought we could do the movie for, and that number was $25,000. Fortunately, we had a lot of things already covered for the production: I owned the camera and most of the lenses we shot with, and Bowls was able to borrow several lights and some sound gear from local filmmaker friend Bill Streeter in St. Louis. We were also luck in that we were able to obtain nearly all of the shooting locations for next to nothing.

Nevertheless, we wanted to pay our crew and actors something for their time so that's what most of the production budget went for. The film ended up costing just around $10,000 to get in the can - half of our production budget was covered by friends and family and then we raised another $5K using the crowdfunding website IndieGoGo.

We've been fortunate in that we were able to raise some additional money in post-production, so the final budget did end up being pretty close to that $25,000 number.

Going forward, we have just now started to sell DVD's at our screenings and on our website - In addition, we're going to be booking several theatrical screenings over the next several months and try to engage our audience as best we can in the hopes that the film gains enough traction to warrant a "bigger fish" to come in and either buy the film outright or at least put it on the track to get it to the next level of exposure.

And while it is a priority for us to pay back our investors and to do whatever we can to generate revenue with the film, if any of us should get the chance to make another feature film, I think that will be a major win in and of itself.

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

MATT: Like a lot of microbudget indies out there, we shot on the Canon 5D Mark II and mostly I'd say there are only things that I love about the camera: it's portable, affordable and the footage looks really great right off the card. As someone who has worked with a lot of different "prosumer" cameras over the years in shooting my own work, in many ways the 5D represents the perfect camera for a first-time-feature filmmaker like myself.

This is not to say the 5D doesn't have its limitations: some of the image compression can be distracting if you obsess over details in the shadows of images, for example, but for the most part: it's a godsend - a truly wondrous camera that has granted many lower budget filmmakers out there the opportunity to make something look respectable at a fraction of the cost it would take to shoot on the RED.

That said, I hope my next feature is shot on the RED or, even better, on film itself! I guess we'll have to see if and when I'm lucky enough to make another one.

You wore a lot of hats on the production -- acting, writing, directing, editing. What's the upside and downside of doing that?

MATT: Wearing this many hats ensures that you have creative control at every stage of the game: Bowls and I co-wrote, co-produced, and co-directed, but then add to the mix that I'm in front of the camera acting the entire time and it gets more complicated to juggle all these things at the same time.

In post-production, where I really excel as an editor, we had complete control over picture, music supervision and lastly color correction and final audio mix. There was never anyone to say, “No, you CAN’T have that scene in there…” so we just went for it.

If anything went wrong in the filmmaking process or if something wasn't measuring up to the standard we aimed to set for the production, I would know about it and could fix it or would find someone who could fix it. On the downside, of course, if everyone hates the finished film or if it's universally ignored, then I'm the guy who takes credit for that, too.

The other caveat I would say with respect to being a multiple-hat-wearer is that it's difficult to ensure the level of quality you expect from yourself at every step of the process since your responsibilities are so many and it's easy to fall into the trap of spreading yourself too thin. Again, it required a leap of faith to some extent in giving a lot of trust to the people that I was working with to make sure that the picture, sound and music were all getting done to the standard we were striving for while making the film.

Would I say that taking this much on simultaneously compromised certain aspects of the production? Absolutely. I wouldn't want to do a film this way again, but we also saw the multiple responsibilities as a necessary concession given the limitations of our budget. I’d also add that I think acting in my own film was a challenge that I enjoyed stepping up for: I really immersed myself in the role as best I could, but for my next film I will make it a point to remain strictly behind the camera.

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

MATT: The cliché is true in that making a film - especially a feature - is a lot like going into war: you need to establish your mission (write a screenplay), strategize how you will accomplish it (pre-production/fundraising) and then ally yourself with a good team so you are ready to accomplish that mission when you finally do set foot on the battlefield (during the production itself).

I would say that my experience as an editor was really invaluable when we were shooting, as I always try to anticipate what an editor is going to need or wish they had when they're coming up against it in post. We were literally running around up until 4 AM the night before I was due to fly back from St. Louis to New York, shooting as many little pick-up shots of myself in character before I headed out of town.

Amazingly, I was happy to discover that I had everything I needed as an editor to piece together a complete feature when I got back and never had to re-shoot anything of myself in character (a good thing, too, because I'm about twenty pounds heavier now and I'm not about to go on a diet and die my hair black again anytime soon!).

Now, as it often happens, there were a number of personality conflicts within the crew when the film first went into production that could have probably been handled better, but sometimes emotions can take center stage when so much is on the line. Still, at the end of the day, the priority for us was always to make sure that we were going to get the film made no matter what, and sometimes that required a very delicate sense of diplomacy.

So if I do have any regrets, I would say not nipping certain personality issues in the bud once those issues arose gave us some headaches down the line, but everything happens for a reason and, ultimately, we prevailed over any negativity we encountered during production and got the thing made!

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

MATT: Always have all your scenes numbered and come to set with a shot list.

Billy Baxter presents an UNromantic Double-Feature…
Love Stalker @ 8 PM*
Love & Anarchy @ 10 PM
The Portage Theater
4050 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60641
*Directors in attendance for Q&A following the film
$10 at the door/Advance tickets at

Little Rock Horror Picture Show Festival
Location/Time TBD

Thursday, February 9, 2012

James Ferguson on "Happy Holidays"

What was your filmmaking background before making Happy Holidays?

JAMES FERGUSON: When I was a kid there were two things that I used to win book awards for in middle school: art and creative writing. So, I think, at some point I decided that a career in film was a smart blend of those two skill sets.

When I was a teenager, my mom bought a video camera that she said wanted to use to “film” dressage events. (If you don’t know, dressage is essentially horse ballet. It’s a choreographed show where the animals have to perform a specific set of Oh my God it bores me as much now as it did when I was sixteen!). This was 1986 and MTV had just started broadcasting the old Monkees television shows. They looked like they were having so much fun that my friends and I “borrowed” my mom’s camera (without permission, I’m sure) and ran around our town like knuckleheads trying to recreate these completely absurd and scatological videos. I’d hook our VCR to a companion one a friend had and edit the bits together to music. Very high-minded stuff! But it was sort of my first experimentation with assembling images in a specific order, to music.

I had no sense of narrative, or theme but I did really like two elements of the process: I liked trying to put the puzzle together and I liked the fact that the process seemed like one big magic trick.

At college (Emerson College in Boston, MA if you’re curious) I joined a comedy troupe and filmed a couple of my own sketches as well as some other people’s. They still weren’t story-driven -- they were primarily joke-driven if I remember correctly – but it was fun to collaborate and further my understanding of the process. Baby steps.

After college, around 1993, I moved to Los Angeles and split my time writing and performing on stage with our sketch comedy troupe and working in film production. I was mostly an office guy, though I did slowly pick up more and more experience on set. I started as a P.A. and worked my way up to Production Coordinator (and eventually Producer). This is where I really leaned how films get made. There are so many moving parts – It’s kind of mind-boggling.

Working in the crew on various shoots really prepared me for directing because I had a really strong understanding of how all those elements fit together and how, in general, to keep the whole engine turning. It also gave me a really good understanding of the crew’s point of view, which is extraordinarily helpful when something goes horrendously wrong, as things tend to do on film shoots at one point or another. It gives you an extra set of tools to help fix problems, or work around them so you can keep the entire production on track and moving forward.

By the time I got to Happy Holidays in 2006, I had been writing and performing on stage for years, and working behind-the-scenes on all kinds of productions since 1993, so I had a pretty realistic understanding of what was possible on a certain budget, although my learning curve – since Happy Holidays was the first feature length script I directed – was huge. Just enormous. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I’d tried to direct a feature any earlier than I did. I would have crumbled into a broken pile of tears and whimpering, I’m sure.

Where did the idea come from and how were writing duties shared with Tom Misuraca?

JAMES FERGUSON: Happy Holidays was the first screenplay I tried to write. I started it in college and finished it out in L.A., around 1994 or so. I was in my early 20’s and the story reflected that. It was an obvious story about the commercialization of Christmas. It still centered around three friends, but they were in their 20s and not particularly interesting. When the opportunity arose around 2005 to shoot my own feature, I only had a very little amount of funding. So I looked in the drawer and this script seemed like it was the one that was the most feasible. No visual effects, no monsters, no aliens, no explosions, no big crowd scenes – it seemed manageable.

But I knew the old script was not something that was worth putting our backs into. So I scrapped it, pulled in a writer who is much better than I am and we set about re-writing the screenplay from the point of view of three characters in their 30s. I’ve known Tom since college. He’s a really terrific playwright, short story writer and editor so he seemed like a natural choice. He’s also a tremendously funny writer – some of the best lines in the film are his! - and I knew his voice would be a huge asset.

The story we ended up with was I think reflective of the times and who we were as people. I’m not sure the faith theme would have shown up before 9/11 because it’s just not something I was thinking about. I also felt like we were seeing a lot of films on the indie film circuit that were taking themselves really seriously I wanted to go in the opposite direction. If we were going to have a message we were going to pitch it as a softball and wrap in a lot of humor.

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

JAMES FERGUSON: A couple of years beforehand I had been hired to adapt a Richard Yates short story entitled Builders into a feature-length screenplay. People liked the script, a lot – we got some great coverage from I.C.M. – but it was a satiric, period story and no one wanted to help us set it up and make it. So we tried to make it ourselves, which means we had to try and raise the money.

That process was so maddeningly frustrating that when it all fell apart, my father said to me, “Why don’t you make your own movie?” Which is really weird considering there’s such strong father / son themes in the film. He sort of got the ball rolling and helped us pull together the budget. It wasn’t much but it was enough to at the very least get the job done.

We shot the film in March of 2006 and as soon as we were done the world changed in two very important ways: The economy drove off a cliff and everything in the entertainment industry fully embraced the fact that everything was going to go digital.

We had a film that we produced under the old model, but suddenly we were in a world where we going to have to sell it with some sort of a new model. Our sales agent, luckily, is fantastic and has – slowly but surely – been lining us up on digital platform after digital platform. It’s been a slow – painfully slow at times – process – BUT the one advantage that we seem to have which was not really premeditated is that because it’s a “holiday” film, we can roll the thing out every year. Every season I get a free pass to remind people about the film and that seems to be a huge asset for us. Every year we get a little bit more attention, our fans grow, the platforms we’re available on grow – it all keeps moving in a very positive direction.

The real challenge we have is that our audience is a little older, they tend to like the theatre and Woody Allen films – our film is not for people with short attention spans. But are the people we need to connect with consuming their media via online platforms, yet? I don’t know. Some of them do, but a lot of them still enjoy going to the movies and watching DVDS – My father can barely work his DVD player; is he going to watch a movie on iTunes? Probably not. So that’s a tough road for us to navigate. In fact, as far as distribution goes, that’s probably been our biggest challenge.

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

JAMES FERGUSON: We shot on a Canon XL 2 and we used a P+S Technik adapter so we could use a set of 35mm prime lenses.

I have no opinion about the camera, at all. I really don’t care what kind of camera I use. Because, to me, honestly, it has nothing to do with the camera. It has everything to do with the Director of Photography. You’re not hiring camera, you’re hiring a D.P. You’re hiring his or her eye. (Unless you shoot yourself, of course.)

Kurosawa is one of my favorite directors because you can have all the gadgets and toys in the world - and I know camera folks who do love their gadgets! – but when it all boils down, it simply has to do with where you’re putting the camera. That’s my opinion, anyway. Kurosawa’s films always have such depth and resonance to me because every shot, every camera placement, supports the story, and it all always somehow fits together perfectly. It’s amazing! You could have an amazing camera but a D.P. who isn’t in synch with your vision, and you’re cooked.

But then again, this is just my opinion. I could be – and probably am – totally and completely wrong. Or not. Who knows?

Why did you choose to shoot in black and white -- and what are the upsides and downsides of doing that?

JAMES FERGUSON: We shot in black and white because black and white isn’t black and white. It’s all sorts of different shades of gray. And I felt this reflected the characters. They’re conflicted. They’re confused. They’re – gray. They don’t have clear answers. Everything is muddled. It seemed to be an accurate aesthetic reflection of the people in the story we were telling.

Also, if you don’t have a lot of money, black and white lets you hide a lot of shit in the shadows.

The upside is that I think Josh Blakeslee’s photography is beautiful. Just stunning. He’s fantastic. The downside is that selling the film has been even harder than I thought it was going to be, and I say that knowing that it was going to be a challenge. People want nothing to do with black and white. It’s shocking to me. Lesson learned, I guess …

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

JAMES FERGUSON: The smartest thing we did was to have a lengthy rehearsal process, just like a play. We had a very short shooting schedule but when our actors come to set they knew their stuff, backwards and forwards. Granted, our film is wall-to-wall dialog, but still – in this case, a lot of rehearsal was just invaluable.

The dumbest thing we did was not budgeting for P&A or PR. Never never never again. Never. Especially these days. How you’re going to sell your film should be an ongoing effort that is budgeted for and begins in your very first production meeting. It’s essential.

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

JAMES FERGUSON: The thing I learned that trumps everything else is that I really, really, really want to make another film. Our cast and crew – they were fantastic. They inspired me. I would someday love to try this again and see if I can put into effect any of the lessons I learned on Happy Holidays.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Kelley Baker on “The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide Part Two: Sound Conversations With (un)Sound People”

Although the book's focus is on sound, it's really on the bigger issue of the impact that sound has on movies and how low-budget filmmakers tend to forget that. What's the biggest sound mistake that low-budgeters make?

KELLEY: They don’t even think about sound until it’s too late! So many filmmakers have become in love with equipment. How often do you hear people say, “We just shot our new film with the 7D.” Or the RED, or whatever. Why aren’t they talking about story? Good visuals are a must, but good sound is even more important! If an audience can’t understand the dialog it doesn’t matter what you shoot on. No one stays in the theater to look at visuals (unless it was that damn Koyaanisqatsi and don’t get me started about that movie…).

Low Budget filmmakers have the most to lose if their sound isn’t good. They usually don’t have the money to fix it correctly in post and on a low budget film if the audio is bad people will shut it off. If you have very little money you need to spend as much as you can on production sound, it will save you TIME and MONEY in post production and make your film look that much more professional.

Why is the recording of sound often a last consideration on the set?

KELLEY: I wish I knew…

I think part of it is that everyone has been waiting around for camera and lighting for so damn long that now they just want to hurry up and shoot. I also think that it’s easier to imagine how a film is going to look, it’s much more difficult to imagine how a film is going to sound. Too many filmmakers think that it’s the visuals that are going to carry their films. It’s the story, acting and sound that actually do the heavy lifting, trust me on this one.

I blame Hollywood and the big expensive features for part of this. If you look at all of the comic book movies and a lot of the blockbuster films they spend so much time on visual effects and pyrotechnics to literally blow us away visually that many filmmakers think that’s what they need to do. The truth of the matter is that if you’re making a film for very little money I don’t care how good you and your friends are with After Effects, you can’t compete with Hollywood movies! It ain’t going to happen!

As Glen Trew (production recordist) points out, on any shoot most of the people involved have something to do with picture, the camera crew, the gaffers and grips, the production designer, make up and wardrobe, the list goes on and on. Usually there are only one or two people on the sound crew. So sound is considered less important and gets the short end of the stick.

The camera crews have convinced everyone that they’re the rock stars; they’re the important ones on a set. As Ken Karman (music editor) says, “No one ever came to Hollywood to fuck a sound guy!” The visual people have spent all this time telling everyone how important they are and if you repeat that over and over enough people start to believe you.

A friend of mine likes to say that when we had radio dramas those people could paint a picture with nothing but sound, silent films needed dialog cards and music to tell their stories… Just sayin.

What's wrong with the phrase "we'll fix it in post" when it comes to sound?

KELLEY: It’s much easier to fix sound in post then it is to fix picture. Fixing picture is incredibly expensive which is why I included post-production supervisors (Bob Hackl & Gregor Hutchison) in my book. They talk about how expensive it is to fix picture. But Gregor also points out how expensive it can be to fix sound. He worked on one film where the ADR bill was around $60,000. Most filmmakers don’t have that much for their entire budget.

But the question I like to ask is why are you fixing anything in post! Low Budget filmmakers need to spend more time in pre-production, you and I both know that’s where your film is really made. You need to try and solve potential problems before they come up! If you know one of your locations is really noisy then why not change the location! Find a better location, one that’s not on a busy street or on the landing pattern of the local airport.

I try to tell filmmakers any time you fix ANYTHING in post it is going to be a compromise and EVERYTIME you watch the film that fix is going to stand out to you and bother you!

Filmmakers think that they’re not really making a movie until they’re on the set, but the less money you have the more of a problem solver you need to be ahead of time. I see so many things in low budget films that if the filmmaker had spent a little more time BEFORE they started shooting, or a little more time on the set letting sound get properly set up they wouldn’t have those problems.

Boom or wireless?

KELLEY: I have to go with boom. Remember to get the best dialog your mic needs to be pointed at the mouth. With a boom mic you can do that. The boom mics are larger and have better electronics, wireless mics have gotten a lot better in the last few years, but booms still sound better.

If you’re putting a wireless mic on someone you’re making a huge compromise right then and there. The electronics are smaller, you’re usually putting a mic below someone’s mouth, like on their chest, and then you’re covering it for God’s sake! You’re putting clothing over it, sometimes multiple layers! How do you expect to get good sound? And the camera crew always just looks at you and says “Just put a wireless mic on the actor, we need to shoot.” I always tell them why don’t you shoot this on VHS then, because in my mind that’s similar to putting a wireless mic on an actor and then covering it.

Now there are times when you do need to go with a wireless, but that should be a last resort, not an every take thing.

Why is looping (ADR) not a wise solution in most cases?

KELLEY: You’re asking your actors to work with at least one arm tied behind their back. How do you expect them to give you a great performance weeks or months later, standing in a sterile recording studio? You’re saying I want you to go back to that intimate moment when you’re confessing something very personal and I expect you to do that without being on the set, without any other actors performing opposite you and you’re expected to watch yourself on a screen, repeat this performance and MAKE SURE YOU LIPS MATCH THE ORIGINAL! That’s really hard to do.

There are some actors who are amazing at it, but many are not. Many actors think that by ADRing them you’re trying to ruin their performance. I have done a bunch of ADR sessions and there are tricks that you can use to make it work better, but why make the actors go through that?

What’s finally happening is that directors are really seeing the difference in the original performance and the ADR and they are spending a massive amount of time on the mix stages trying to make the original useable. It would have been so much easier to do it right on the set. And once again on low budget films you usually don’t have much of a budget for ADR.

If your DP says that last take was a little shaky and they want to do it again you say yes. If the actor says they want to do it again because they know they can deliver that line better, you say yes. If the sound person says that take was distorted or there was background noise on it everyone says, “We’ll fix it later.” I can’t figure that out. A film crew is supposed to be a team with everyone working together trying to do their best. Why doesn’t anyone listen to sound?

If there are sound problems on the set, think about doing another take just for sound. Do a wild track of the actors on or near the set. They’re in costume, they’re in character and you have the same mic set up that you did for the other production takes. A wild track will almost always sound better then an ADR line done later.

I have seen ADR hurt so many low budget films because it isn’t done well and it really makes the film seem amateur. Try and avoid it.

What's the value of a sound designer to a low-budget filmmaker and why is it worth the money?

KELLEY: I think the phrase Sound Designer is one of the most mis-used terms in filmmaking. There are very few real Sound Designers working today. The original concept for the term is someone who is like the “Director of Sound,” someone responsible for all of the sound from the beginning, starting in pre-production.

Sound Designers are people like Walter Murch, Ben Burtt, Gary Rydstrom, Jim LeBrecht and a few others. Most people take the credit and they don’t come in until after the film is shot, and in my mind that’s too late. Now you’re concentrating on fixing problems and with schedules being so tight you have less and less time to be creative.

I think that filmmakers should consult with sound people during the pre-production stage, and most sound people will give you a break for a consultation before you start shooting. I can look at a script and see where there might be problems with sound a head of time. A good sound designer can start giving filmmakers ideas on how to really use sound in their films. Not just music, but how can you use sound to tell us something about a character without dialog? How can you use sound FX or backgrounds to move the story along?

If filmmakers start thinking about sound at the script writing or pre-production stage then a good sound designer can give you advice that is going to save you money and time in the long run, and make your sound track so much better in the end. I think what you would get out of a pre-production meeting with a good sound person will absolutely pay for itself, and then some.

You cite several favorite films in the book for their use of sound. What's your favorite film or filmmaker when it comes to the creative use of sound in film?

KELLEY: That’s not a fair question for me. I have so many friends in the business who do great work and if I forget to mention any of them I’m going to hear about it. My apologies up front to anyone I forget…

David Lynch absolutely because of what he does with sound and with visuals. Whether I like a particular film by him or not, he uses sound in amazing ways. The Coen Brothers do amazing things and they’ve been working with Peter Kurland (production recordist) since Blood Simple. I am not a fan of Steven Spielberg’s movies but I have so much respect for the sound and visuals in his films. He is a master when it comes to filmmaking and he surrounds himself with amazing people.

And then I look at the films that Walter Murch has been the editor/sound designer on, (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, The English Patient). Amazing work.

Then there’s Gary Rydstrom (Saving Private Ryan, Monsters, Inc, War Horse) and Ron Eng (Mulholland Drive, Coraline) and my list could go on and on.

And finally, what's next for The Angry Filmmaker?

KELLEY: In addition to promoting this book, I’m working on Part Three of the Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide series, Self-Distribution & Tales From the Road, (you can only imagine some of my tour stories…).

Also I have a documentary I wrote and directed that I’m trying to finish and I’ve got a script that I’ve written about a musician that has been on the road too long that I’m going to be raising money for soon. And I’m co-producing a couple of documentaries for friends. And I’m already looking ahead to next Fall’s tour. Basically, I’m doing way too much right now, but it keeps me out of trouble.

And don’t forget to go to my website and pick up the new book, The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide Part Two: Sound Conversations With (un)Sound People. (