Thursday, July 30, 2015

Peter Coggan on "Fishing Naked"

What was your filmmaking background before making Fishing Naked?

PETER: I started out as a performance musician and Audio Engineer. Through a set of mishaps (None of my own), I ended up a cinematographer. I left LA for Colorado and started 42 Productions in 2002. There was no other 2K workflow in the 4 corners at that time, so we specialized in high-end projects always with the goal of self financing our own projects.

We did a bunch of TV pilots and episodic work over the next several years until the RED Ones came out and I decided to do our company's 1st feature, Woodshop starring Jesse Ventura. That’s an interview all unto its own. To summarize it, there are levels of crazy I can’t even imagine and there is absolutely such a thing as bad publicity.

Since then, we have kept busy with some great client work, music videos, aerospace, breweries, etc., and have plowed almost every penny back into the development pipeline. And now we have a bouncy baby, Fishing Naked.

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

PETER: I grew up in the woods back in the Midwest and Canada. I have a number of First Nation friends and have always been fascinated by their culture, legends, and overall different way of looking at the world than us “pilgrims.” I have written several stories and screenplays over the years around these themes and legends.

Paul and I wrote about three screenplays over a two year period trying to figure out what to do next and optimize our industry target genre guessing. There was some great work done on them and several of them are still on our slate, but my heart was really set on this one script I had written that will be a crazy Hollywood budget when it gets made. I think Paul finally got sick of me lamenting the fact that we couldn’t do that one next and said something to the effect of “Stop bitching and figure out how to do it then!” And that’s when it started.

We brainstormed a lot in a room with about three huge white boards. Lots of idea, lots of dry erase markers, lots of coffee, bikes rides, river paddles, powder days… That’s how and why you write in Colorado. Once we decided we were going to do a film about kids being bad in the woods, the whole story just flowed because it was somewhat autobiographical for both Paul and me. 


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

PETER: The whole thing is self funded through our other client gigs. We are doing a limited theatrical run but that is much more of a PR campaign than anything. We know it is hard enough for the studios to recoup anything theatrically let alone a couple of dip-shit indies from Colorado.

VOD is where we are focusing our efforts on making the dollars back. We have had a wonderful working relationship with Gravitas Ventures since we did Woodshop and there is no reason for us to look anywhere else. They too are expanding and have always treated us extremely well.


How did you cast the film and did the script change much once you had your cast in place?

PETER: The film was remarkably easy to cast. Especially with respect to the First Nation members of the cast: Bronson, Tinsel, Elaine and Steve. I didn’t think about it while we were writing it, but I was quickly informed by all of them that they really liked the script because we had not portrayed them as “Hollywood Indians” and it was a funny story.

It really amazes me that in this hyper politically correct culture we have found ourselves in that Hollywood seems bound and determined to treat Native actors in much the same way they did African Americans 70 years ago. Very weird.

Yes, the script got reworked quite a bit especially because our character Jen was not originally written to be First Nation. That was actually Elyse’s agent’s, Lesa Kirk, idea as she represented both women. It really stunned me when she suggested Tinsel because I was so used to Jen being a white-bread trustafarian. But after thinking about the suggestion for about 30 seconds, I realized how much better it would be if she were a First Nation Trustafarian. It basically took an almost page one re-write but the story is so much stronger it’s incredible!

The other thing that caused a serious re-write was when I discovered how funny Elaine is. She actually has a problem chaining two sentences together without profanity or sexual innuendo. So, instead of Grandma being this reserved tribal elder, she became a crazy(?) dirty old lady. From our feedback to date, a lot of people find her the most memorable character in the film as a result. Just know she’s not really acting folks. We just kinda wound her up and hoped she said something pretty close to what was written… A lot of the stuff she “Add-libbed” was her going off for some reason or another and it was just freaking hilarious so it stayed in.


What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie — and what did you love about it and hate about it?

PETER: We shot with two RED Ones with MX chip upgrades. Han and Chewie. The other super cool thing was we used all Canon and Leica 35mm primes. I think a lot of the new cinema primes have gotten too clean. They almost seem to be characterless. I really like to choose my glass with a little stylization in mind. The glass we used gives an almost organic feel to the shots which is just fantastic for a film that is almost entirely outside in the mountains.

The only thing I didn’t like about the Cameras was they should have been Epics but RED missed their delivery deadlines by about a year that go around. There are some capabilities the Epics have the One’s don’t like the HDR stuff that would have made it a radically different shoot.

There is nothing NOT to love about these cameras. Anyone who claims they “miss the tactile experience of celluloid” never had to load their own mags, operate a steadicam with a 75lb rig, deal with shipping, telecines , have their AC flash two days work, 3/2 pull down in post or any of the other 100 reasons celluloid was a royal pain in the ass.

Digital Cinema is the coolest thing to happen to the industry since Color and I am happy to see the Arri BL VI and 35III sitting on my mantle collecting dust every time I see them. 


How much did the movie change in the editing process and why did you make the changes you did?

PETER: It changed a ton. I went into the project determined to listen to our focus group and we did exactly that. We cut out an entire mythical thread I really liked, we went back and shot a new character to help explain a few plot points, shuffled scenes no fewer than 10 times, etc.

It has been really fun watching the cast and crew watch the final version because it is certainly not the movie they thought they shot. Yes, it’s much better than that movie.


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

PETER: I am always asked this question and I always hate answering it. I did a lot of really smart things in this production and a number not so smart things. Almost all of each concern other people so I’m just not going to go pissing and moaning about them.

Very few of the dumb things had anything to do with rookie filmmaker disease because I have been effectively training for this sort of shoot for close to twenty years. We ended up with a really great film.

I will say, however, because the situation still really pisses me off and that I ignored every little voice in my head saying “don’t do it (again),” is that the single dumbest thing I did was to give my home state, Colorado, the benefit of the doubt a second time instead of just going to Canada to film like I knew I should have from day one. I have the greatest quality of life I could imagine here in Colorado and think my desire to stay near my home and family trumped my better judgment. We have a good number of fantastic production folks in town I would put up against anyone anywhere. But, the film commission it a travesty and that permeates the whole film culture and community.  

I know this one is going to piss off some of my neighbors but I am stating on the record that I will not be filming another film in this state. I am going to take a few of my go to partners in crime like Laz, Mitch, Marnie and Paul and go to a film friendly place for the next one… Two… Three… etc.,  I should mention I brought in my 1st and 2nd AD from out of state and they were both freaking fantastic. Thanks, Ladies!


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

PETER: I hate to say it but I learned “Indie” means documentary to the industry these days. I’m struggling to reconcile how I can stay fiercely independent in philosophy but do it within the Hollywood machine. Or the Kiwi, or the Canuck, or the Oz…


I’m not picky but if you want to make narrative films and feed your family in the future, there needs to be some significant infrastructure behind you going in. I think this may be the last attempt I can realistically hope to recoup my investment without… gulp… joining the machine.

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