Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rebecca Weaver on "June Falling Down"

What was your filmmaking background before making June Falling Down?

REBECCA: I made two short films previously called Winter Guest and Cam Companion.  They were both extremely indie, like June, just my partner Chris Irwin and I with a camera and microphone and a couple friends acting for free.  That was my film school, Chris and I studying cameras and mics online and learning on the spot - and, really, making June Falling Down was not too different. 

Otherwise, the only real hands-on film school experience I've had was a summer filmmaking program at NYU that I attended when I was seventeen.  I ended up eventually studying theatre for two years and dramatic literature in college - so my basis for film really comes from a writing and acting standpoint.  I thought I was going to be a playwright for a while, but film kept calling me back.

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

REBECCA: June Falling Down is about a young woman who is coming upon the one year anniversary of her father's death to cancer, and she is now going home to Wisconsin for her best friend's wedding - a friend she just might be in love with.  I myself grew up in Wisconsin and I also lost my father to cancer about seven years ago now.  And I remember one of the most difficult parts of experiencing that enormous grief was watching my peers continue to grow up while I was very stuck. 

So I eventually tied together a double loss for a lead character - that of losing one's father and that of "losing" your best friend to marriage - and that created all kinds of obstacles and confusing emotions that I could play with.  

The script actually began as a short story I wrote in college in 2010 called Witchay Woman (like The Eagles song - titled in irony back then, though now it's pretty embarrassing).  Even then I knew the story would be better as a scene in a movie and it grew from there. 

I worked on it part-time for years, writing scenes here and there, departing for a while to work on a (still-unfinished) novel, but a couple years ago when my mom decided it was time to tear down our family's beautiful, but very old cottage - where I had always dreamed of filming this script - I decided to finish writing and start shooting the following summer.

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

REBECCA: We definitely have never expected to make any money with June Falling Down - it was always an experiment to see if we could do it and also just a piece of art that had to be made.  We raised money through two separate Indiegogo campaigns ($8,500 for the first to shoot the movie and $5,000 later for help in post), and then threw in some credit cards and a little help from my mom. 

We're now currently looking for distribution - not expecting theatrical necessarily, but definitely VOD.  Our biggest hope financially with this movie was to prove that we could do it with very little money and to be able to raise money for our next feature.  

You wore a lot of hats on this project -- Writer, Director, Producer, Actor, Editor. What's the upside and downside of doing that?

REBECCA: Oh, it's completely insane to do what I did - I wouldn't really recommend it. Though, to contradict myself, in retrospect I'm glad I got all that experience (like I said, this was my film school!). 

One nice thing is that when you're on set, if the writer, director, and producer need to have a meeting, then they literally can have one very easily - in your head.   Because I was the editor, whenever I was setting up a shot as the director, I knew how I was planning to cut it later.  And as the actor I knew the script inside out because I wrote it (and I could edit the lines much easier) and I could also affect the mood of the scene with my fellow actors simply by acting with them.  

That said, wearing this many hats without much help is madness.  I remember days where I had to choose costumes, rehearse with my scene partners, wrangle extras, decorate the set, choose camera angles and lighting, figure out when my mom (craft services!) was going to serve the chili, and then direct and act in the scene.  You have to be really amazing at multi-tasking, and I'm pretty great at it, but this was too much for me. 

But, I will say that I knew exactly what the story was I needed to tell - I always could feel if the tone was correct in a scene, and I could always do something about it.  And it didn't hurt that my partner Chris knew exactly what we needed as well and could pull me aside and keep things on track. 

The tradeoff of doing so much yourself and getting so burnt out is that, in the end, it's your movie through and through.  But, next time, I'd like a much bigger main crew.  Let's get crazy and say five or six people instead of two people.  

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

REBECCA: We used a Canon 5D Mark 3 and honestly, it was what we could afford.  We'd used the 7D in the past, so it was a natural step up. 

One of the nice things about this camera was how light and portable it was.  Once again, we were primarily a two person crew with the occasional friend to hold the boom, so being able to pick up the camera and go was really to our advantage.  Especially when you only have a location for a certain amount of time or when the dog does something hilarious that you can grab on the spot.  It definitely helped us in picking up improvised moments, and, because it's so small, it never really drew much attention in public places like the beach or at open bars (new life goal: never shoot at an open bar again). 

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

REBECCA: The story really didn't change at all.  I cut several scenes that I realized later were not necessary in moving the plot forward, but primarily what you see is what I wrote.

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

REBECCA: I think the best thing we did while shooting was that we tried to really keep the shoot relaxed and fun.  Nobody got paid to make this movie, so I wanted the experience to be worth everyone's while.  We definitely got stressed at times, but I think having a good sense of humor about how indie we were was really helpful.  The laughs that you see on camera are real - and I think that that lightness on set really contributed to the humor sprinkled throughout this movie. 

The dumbest thing we did during production was shooting a crying scene in the back of an open bar - that ended up taking several nights due to some drunk guys walking through the shot. That was pretty rough (and in retrospect kind of hilarious), but we made it through.  

And, finally, what did you learn from making this feature that you will take to other projects?

REBECCA: I'm tempted to say "everything"!  I certainly learned that I want at the very least a producer, a professional sound mixer, a DP, and an assistant on set at all times for the next movie.  You know, some basic help! 

But I also really learned a lot about community.  I don't think I ever could have foreseen how much people would be willing to help us make this little movie - just by us asking.  Door County, Wisconsin, where 95% percent of this movie was filmed, is an incredible place full of artists and art lovers.  I've worked on my own a lot in my life as a writer and as an actor, and in retrospect, I have no idea how we got so many wonderful people to come on board and be a part of this movie. 

I think it has to do with being kind, with keeping it as light as possible, and with putting your heart out there with a story that really, truly means something to you. 

June Falling Down teaser trailer from Silver Leaf Films on Vimeo.

No comments: