Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mark Lewis on "Wild Girl Waltz"

What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make Wild Girl Waltz?

MARK: I was the Writer/Director/Producer/Editor of the small town dramatic feature Baystate Blues ( Plus a number of short films and a black belt in shaking off bad breaks.

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

MARK: Creatively, I wrote Wild Girl Waltz to explore a lighter and more comedic side of small town life than my previous film. From a practical/financial standpoint I knew this was going to have to be shot in 8 days for roughly $10,000. So, I needed a small cast of major characters and limited number of locations.

And that was actually better for the writing process. I knew we wouldn't have gunfights, explosions or monsters biting the heads of naked cheerleaders, so it made me concentrate on creating memorable characters and dialogue.

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

MARK: Simply put, the budget was raised by sweat. I don't have the social skills to sell myself with an extravagant Kickstarter campaign, so I spent a lot of time working in shipping area of the Yankee Candle factory, saving up. You have to psych yourself up to deal with the monotony. "These few hours I earned enough for a memory card. This shift I earned enough for a lighting kit,"

In terms of distribution, I'm going in stages, starting with what I hope to get (film festival success, picked up by a studio), then moving to what I may have to settle for (straight to video deal). And if none of that works, it's back to punching a clock and living a life of seething frustration until I think of some other bright master plan.

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

MARK: The Panasonic HPX170 with an external Sennheiser Mic. Really liked the image quality. The only drawback would be it can be a little bulky in tight spaces. We spent a couple days inside a pick up truck and there were times I had to do some acrobatic twisting to get the angle I wanted.

You wore a lot of hats on this production -- writer, director, producer, editor. What's the upside and downside of that approach?

MARK: I'd love to be able to concentrate on writing and directing. The producing / camerawork / editing are jobs I do out of necessity to save money rather than passion.

The upside is I can move fast and not have run decisions through a committee, which is helpful when you have an eight day shooting schedule.

The downside is that it does take away energy that I'd rather be pumping into the directing.

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

MARK: It actually didn't change much. There was some occasional improv by the actors, building on the script. But it stayed pretty faithful to the text of the original screenplay.

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

MARK: I'd say I did two really smart things: One, was giving myself five months of pre-production, specifically for casting. Like I said before, this is really a three person show and I lucked out finding Christina Shipp, Samantha Steinmetz and Jared Stern. If there had been one weak link in that trio the whole film would have been sunk.

Also, and this is something I don't hear a lot of filmmakers talk about, is I went on a serious exercise program in advance of shooting. This was basically like running an eight day marathon and it was important to keep the energy level up and immune system as strong as possible.

 The dumbest? Probably taking on so many jobs by myself, but I was so restricted by budget, I didn't have much choice as far as that goes.

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

MARK: Filmmaking's always a challenge but the process gets easier the more films you make. You learn how to adapt to the inevitable problems and setbacks, and sometimes even make them work for you.

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