Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dean Peterson on "Incredibly Small"

What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make Incredibly Small?

DEAN: I went to film school and made a number of short films before. Right before I made Incredibly Small I was working for a company called Range Life Entertainment where we toured independent movies around the country. The tour served as a very accelerated, real life film school for me. I watched a lot of incredible movies, met a lot of filmmakers who were making the kind of films I wanted to make and learned the nitty gritty details about the film industry that they don't even go near in film school. I also met a lot of people that would help with and star in Incredibly Small.

What was the genesis of the project and what was the scriptwriting process like? 

DEAN: I got the idea randomly from seeing a made for TV documentary called Incredibly Small on TV one day. I'm not sure why but the name sparked the idea of a young couple moving into an impossibly small apartment. From there I fleshed out the story with personal details and it transformed into a story about adulthood and accepting the harsh realities and responsibilities that await you after college.

I had worked on the script off and on for about a year, and then as the production came closer and we cast all the roles I wanted the actors to add their own personality to the characters, so there were some significant rewrites in the weeks before shooting. It was a very good crash course in screenwriting and learning importance of remaining adaptable to changes. You're open and receptive to new ideas and whims that come up on set your movie benefits enormously.

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

DEAN: Our budget was about as small as you can be, which was a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because we were able to raise all the money in non-traditional ways such as fundraisers, using Kickstarter and using personal funds. This meant that we weren't accountable to any external financiers, we didn't have huge investments looming over our heads.

It was also beneficial because simple economics will tell you that the lower the cost of your movie, the easier it is to make your money back. So we had a lot of freedom in the release of our movie. We were able to be adventurous and try out some different strategies, which we might not have been able to do with a much bigger budget. 

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

DEAN: We used the Sony EX-1. I really liked it because it was small and was good in low light situations. When our DP Adam and I were discussing what camera we should use, portability and the ability to shoot with minimal lighting were the main factors we took into consideration. It also allowed us to shoot really long, uninterrupted takes which was very important to the story and which is one of the major detriments of DSLR's. 

What was the value of working with a colorist and how did you approach that process?

DEAN: We shot the movie with a pretty flat profile so there would be a lot of latitude in post. I was amazed at what color correction was able to pull out of the footage. When I watched rushes I thought the footage looked amazing, I wasn't sure we'd even need to color it. But after the final color correction had happened I was blown away.

We colored the movie pretty quickly. After we locked picture I think it only took about 2 or 3 weeks to color correct it and it was happening while we were mixing the sound, so after picture lock we probably had the final cut in about a month.

What is your overall marketing plan and why did you decide to release the movie for free on the Internet?

DEAN: Since we had self-financed the film and the budget was so small, we had the option of straying from the normal path that most releases follow. I was really excited to put the movie online for free. I'm really interesting in the free model that a lot of artists use and had seen the success others had and thought that with our heavy emphasis on social media that it would be a good fit for our film.

Our marketing was almost 100% online. We relied heavily on social media such as Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter and Vimeo to get the word out about our screenings and release of the film. Social media had the benefit being free, easy to reach a broad audience and the ability for our fans to share our film themselves.  

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

DEAN: The smartest thing we did was to shoot the scenes in order. It allowed us the ability to make lots of changes as we shot; we added scenes, cut scenes and it also freed us up to improv a lot.

The dumbest thing I did was to quit drinking coffee two weeks before shooting.

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

DEAN: The main thing I learned is that making movies is hectic and crazy and you have to accept, anticipate and roll with the madness. Things will happen; actors will drop out a week before shooting, a marching band will start playing across from your location, somebody will forget to bring an important prop. These things will happen and they'll seem like the end of the world, but you'll learn to shut down that part of your brain that freaks out, you'll deal with it and hopefully learn to use them to your advantage.

Everyone should watch Burden of Dreams before shooting a movie so you can remind yourself that it could always be A LOT worse.

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