Thursday, June 13, 2013

Carrie Preston on "That's What She Said"

What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make That's What She Said?

CARRIE: I have been an actor my whole life, so I always look at story-telling through that prism. About 13 years ago, I was awarded a Fox Foundation grant to take an intensive five week filmmaking course. I learned a lot in a short amount of time.

At the same time, James Vasquez, one of my closest friends from Juilliard, showed me a screenplay he had written for himself to star in and he wanted me to direct it. So, we joined forces with James' partner Mark Holmes, and Daisy 3 Pictures was born.

I directed 29th and Gay, our first feature. It was like a really concentrated film school. The film did tons of festivals and ended up selling. We then went on do a short film called Feet of Clay that I directed. It also did the festival rounds.

Ready? OK! , our second feature, was written and directed by James, and I played the female lead. Again, we did a lot of festivals and sold the film. We keep learning so much from each experience.
How did you become involved in the project and what was your process of working with writer Kellie Overbey?

CARRIE: Kellie and I met playing sisters in a play at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, CT. In the play with us was Marcia DeBonis.

Kellie showed me a play she had written called Girl Talk. I immediately fell in love with it and said to Kellie, "You have to let me direct this and we have to put Marcia in it." So I ended up directing it on stage in NYC. The play really went over well, but what really excited me was the idea of turning it into a movie.

I put the script in screenplay format and laid out to Kellie how I thought we could open it up. She took that and ran with it. It took us almost 8 years to get it made, but neither of us ever wanted to give up. We worked really well together and were a good team on set and off.
Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for distribution and recouping your costs?

CARRIE: Our previous films were super low budget (no budget) projects, so we understand how to create films with minimal resources. However, in the case of That's What She Said, I knew we needed more money than we had before.

We had several backer's readings. We sent the script all around. We begged and borrowed. I taught myself how to write a business plan, which was a very useful tool. Eventually, we were able to bring on five individual investors, who joined us in meeting the budget.

As for distribution, we got offers after our Sundance premiere, and we settled on Phase 4 Films. They gave us a NY/LA theatrical run and were able to get us on all VOD, DVD and digital platforms.
What camera(s) did you use and what did you love and hate about it?

CARRIE: We shot on Super 16mm film. Those cameras were fantastic for a run and gun shoot in NYC. I wanted the majority of the film to be hand-held, and these cameras are much easier to shoot that way than a tricked out Red or Alexa.

We were able to shoot with two cameras on some of our bigger days, which was so helpful in editing. I love the way film looks, and when I picture New York in my mind, it always looks like film to me. Kodak was so helpful and gave us great deals on film stock. So it was a win-win situation for me.

How did the movie change in the editing and why did you feel the changes were important?

CARRIE: Anita Brandt Burgoyne was my editor, and she was tremendous. We got along famously. I absolutely love the editing process. There's nowhere I'd rather be than sitting next to a brilliant editor and creating the film out of all the pieces. You go from the possible to the definitive, and that is both daunting and thrilling.

In the case of TWSS, we pretty much put the script on the screen. But there were some things that we lost or rearranged in editing, and it was all in the service of clarity, which is very important.

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

CARRIE: The smartest thing I did was rehearse for three days with the actors in the actual locations with the DP by my side.

The dumbest thing I did was try to shoot on the lower east side close to Halloween at 2 in the morning on a Saturday night. We made it work, but it was definitely our biggest shit-show.

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

CARRIE: I learned that you have to be profoundly prepared so that you can have the flexibility to roll with the daily punches and still make your day.

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