What was your filmmaking background before making Croaker?
FRED: I've done several shorts, participated in the 48-hour Film Festival and worked on a couple of projects for friends, both editing and acting. For the past 16 months, I've produced and hosted an online international independent film showcase, Barnabus Bailey and the Greatest Show Unearthed. Think Vampira or Zacherly, but screening Indy's instead of the old public domain films. I've written forever.
Where did the idea come from and what was the writing process like?
FRED: I wanted to do something that was personal. I went back to my hometown and visited all of the locations of my youth. There was something that happened with the emotions and the memories that sort of coalesced this story.
In my mancave, there is a pretty substantial folklore and monster library that served as a reference to pick just the right creature that fit the very ethnic diversity of my hometown.
I've been writing since fourth grade, I love it. Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit." That quote is my guidepost. I look more at a script as something that is alive, gestated through the process of the film. Actors get into their roles and the more they become that character, they breathe life into the words and often go off script. As a Director, I know I am doing my job when this happens.
FRED: I have a background in political fundraising and one thing I learned early on from my mentors, NEVER put you eggs in one basket. It was a multi-tiered approach based on an analysis of potential donors, fence sitters and unknowns.
By targeting specific groups with specific offerings, I developed an investment package that I could present to very specific donors, the kinds of people who wouldn't jump at a larger number. The fence sitters always need a little coaxing, so a lower offering was made to that group. Advertisers and product placement, since we shot locally, was also effective.
One of the questions that came up early on in the process was, "I can't afford the investor amount, but would like to help out, where can I donate?” That's where crowd funding came in. We used Indiegogo and I was pleasantly surprised with how many people came through that channel.
The film will use Distribber as initial distribution through iTunes, Amazon, Hulu Plus and Netflix. That was one of the initial steps I took in pre-production, ensuring the film didn't just end up on a dusty shelf for my ego to dust off occasionally.
What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it?
FRED: Old reliable, Sony HDR FX1, a Nikon D3200 and Panasonic HVX 200. What I loved is the video quality, even at night and of course the ease of using filters as we have a TON of exterior - natural lighting shots.
Didn't hate anything really. Audio is always a concern running three different cameras Converting the MXF files on the HV is a pain, but not a big deal.
You wore a lot of hats on this project -- director, writer, producer, editor. What's the upside and the downside of working that way?
FRED: Great question. The upside is, when doing a personal story that I created from images and emotions, the creative process of directing, writing and editing keeps the story continuity intact. The story is kind of complex, as we have a curse, a monster, very developed characters, humor, a love story and at the center of it all, a longing for connection between two brothers that was cut short by an incident twenty years prior. To put that in anyone else's hands and maintain the integrity of the film, I think is impossible.
The downside, of course, is that one additional hat - Production. Handling all the administrative tasks can be simply overwhelming. Trying to summon energy to step on the set after spending the day talking to an investor, securing a location and talking to the attorney, it was a challenge at times shifting gears.
With that being said, from the ashes spawned the phoenix. Somewhere Hitch smiled on me and I was blessed with the greatest AD, Jennifer Obed and best production staff, Marty Patterson, Lori Terling, Jimmy Star, Jordan Strope, Tara Patterson and Pam Bolger, that a first time feature filmmaker could possibly have. They are the best - PERIOD. They turned any downside into an express elevator going up.
FRED: Smartest thing - the team. No matter how personal a project is to you, it's essential to get everyone on board to more than just see the vision, but to make it their own.
We have professionals on both sides of the camera and they understand what it takes to get the shot. We worked so in concert together, a lot of the crew direction faded and we sort of were on mind share. I am an incredibly patient person and I think that trickled down as all of the actors were very patient with each other.
The dumbest? Simple...time management - that and trusting my battery indicator!
Between call time and shoot time, well, as an ex-Marine I'm sure one of my past commanders would have had me doing push-ups until I crashed! It was probably the greatest significant thing I learned on this film. Take how long you "think" something will take and triple it!
FRED: Locations are fun to shoot in, but time is limited. Sets are more relaxed and there is no time pressure. We had a ton of location shoots in Croaker and for the next film, Meals and Wills, we are definitely going to rent space long term and build our sets.
The creativity level and energy goes WAY up with the actors when we have no rush to shoot and get out, there are facilities and electricity is close at hand.