MARTY: Before Rising Star, I worked producing independent films in Connecticut for about ten years. I produced the film A Little Bit of Lipstick starring Mia Tyler and Soupy Sales, co-produced Being Michael Madsen, starring Michael Madsen, Virginia Madsen, David Carradine and Daryl Hannah, and associate produced The Other Side of the Tracks, starring Tania Raymonde and Brendan Fehr.
I also created and helped run the Connecticut Film Industry Training Program, a state-sponsored workforce training program that trains Connecticut residents to work as crew members on film and television projects. I had also directed nine short films, including the award-winning Cheap as Hell: A Christmas Story.
What was the genesis of the project and what was the writing process like?
MARTY: The genesis of the project came from two places. First, it came from my work life. I've been laid off five times in my career. Being laid off sucks. And the prospect of being laid off is almost worse. You think all day, every day about if today will be my last day at work, or how much longer you can last. Dealing with that stress at my own job led to a need for catharsis. So I started thinking about writing a movie about it.
Second, it came from a movie I saw with a friend. Our producer/lead actor, Gary Ploski, and I went to see a film called Medicine for Melancholy in New York City. Watching that film, where the city of San Francisco was actually a character in the film, made us think if we could do something like that in Hartford, Connecticut. I started researching, and over the next year, I was able to write the script when I wasn't working or sleeping.
Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?
MARTY: We raised our budget through three avenues: a Kickstarter campaign that raised $15,211 over 45 days, fiscal sponsorship through the Independent Feature Project, and private investment.
Our plan to recoup costs is to sell the worldwide rights to a distributor; we're currently working with two producer's reps who are selling the film for us.
MARTY: We shot Rising Star on the Canon 5D Mark II. I loved the mobility of the camera, and the surprisingly good image it created. We were able to move quickly because of how light the camera was, and it helped us with our handheld work as well. I wasn't thrilled with the moiré issues the camera has, and the audio quality was awful in tests, so we recorded separate audio and sunk them together in post.
Did the movie change much in the editing process, and if so, how?
MARTY: The story of the film stayed more or less intact through the editing process, but one major change was made to our lead female character, Alyza. In early cuts, Alyza had no faults or weaknesses, and came off as a little arrogant as she presented her viewpoints to our lead male, Chris. So we reshot one scene, cut three others, and added new audio to give her a problem she also had to overcome, in addition to Chris. This gave her growth and an arc, and the film was helped greatly for it.
MARTY: I'd say the smartest thing I did in production was to let my actors make the script their own. There were a few times where my words were stilted or wrong for the moment, but the actors were always able to come up with something that fit perfectly for their scene. I'm really happy I was smart enough to do that.
The dumbest thing I did in production, though, was to try and design every scene the day we shot it. I think we'd have saved a lot of time if we had designed out all our shots ahead of time. I thought I could do it on the fly, and it was really, really hard.
And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?
MARTY: In making Rising Star, I learned that preparation really helps solve a lot of problems. I haven't gotten onto another film yet, but when I do, I'm going to make sure every detail is thought of beforehand, so that the making of the film is almost an afterthought. If I can get to that point, I think things will be much easier.