Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ryan Schwartz on "Summer of 8"

What was your filmmaking background before making Summer of 8?

RYAN: Like most directors I’ve wanted to make movies as long as I can remember, so I got my first PA job when I was 18.  Then I went to USC film school.  It was great going into film school with a few years of set experience under my belt.  I teach directing now at the New York Film Academy.  As hard as we try, it’s really difficult to explain how a professional set is run.  There really is no substitute for actually being on set.

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

RYAN: I spent many wasted years attached to larger projects that were never going to materialize.  On the very day that one of those projects fell apart, I felt bad for myself for a few minutes, then I called my wife and said, ‘I’m making a feature this summer if I have to shoot it on two iphones for $5 bucks.’  It just hit me with so much clarity that I needed to make a movie.

That very night between the hours of 1 am and 7 am, I outlined the entire film on the notes apps of my iphone.  I wrote the entire script in about one month, not having any idea how I would fund it, cast it, or anything... Which leads perfectly to your next question...

What was the casting process like and did you adjust the script at all to fit the cast?

RYAN: While I was writing my script I saw a really cool little movie at the DGA.  I could tell the movie didn’t have much of a budget, but it was still beautifully made and wonderfully cast.

I sent the casting directors, Lauren and Jordan Bass of Bass Casting, an email introducing myself and asking if they would read my script.  They got right back to me and responded to the material.  That was the point when I really knew somehow, someway I was going to get the movie made.

As usual, the Basses did the first round of auditions and sent me the tapes.  I was blown away by the level of talent reading for each part. I could not be more proud or more grateful for this cast.  It was kind of a miracle.  I really didn’t have to change the script much. Each actor cast had so much in common with the character they played.  It was extraordinary.

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

RYAN: I initially thought of using crowd sourcing, but pretty quickly decided to pursue private equity.  The first call I made was to an incredibly supportive family member, Scott Dixon, who is also a passionate storyteller.  He and I had always talked bigger picture about not just doing a film together, but starting a production company.  We both sort of intuitively knew Summer of 8 was an opportunity to accomplish both.  I’m thrilled to say that we did indeed, start a new company, Object In Motion, and we’re having a blast.

Regarding the distribution plan, we really went the traditional film festival route.  Like so many films we tried to get into Sundance and SXSW, but didn’t.  But we never put our head down.  

We always believed we would land at the right festival, and for us that ended up being The Newport Beach Film Festival. We actually shot half the movie in Newport, and the festival was amazing.  We sold out both nights, and we’re approached by a handful of great sales agents and distributors.  

We couldn’t have been more excited that FilmBuff stepped up to take us on.  We are opening in select theaters and all VOD platforms on Sept. 2.  FilmBuff is also selling the film worldwide.  

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

RYAN: Because of incredibly tight schedule – 10 days - we shot with two cameras the entire shoot.  We had an Arri Alexa and an Arri Amira.  

Our DP, Martim Vian, is truly a gifted craftsman.  He and his camera crews moved with such speed and fluidity.  Shooting with these two Arri’s was a dream come true for me.  All love. No hate :)

What is the upside--and the downside--to shooting a movie that happens all in one day?

RYAN: The upsides are fairly obvious.  Minimal locations. “Walk Aways” at the house location. Obviously not at the beach.  

The biggest downside is the lack of variety in backdrops, production design, locations.  The gang spends the entire day at the beach.  In the script they  sort of hang out by their towels/chairs most of the day.  On set, inspired by the beautiful beach, and to resolve the lack of variety, we decided get the actors away from their main area as much as possible.  I think this really helps give the film a sense of really spending a full day with them.

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

RYAN: The smartest thing we did during production was to ask the cast to live together in a beach house while we were filming in Newport.  Not only did this save them from tons of driving/traffic, but way more importantly, our cast formed a bound that absolutely shows in the film.  It’s what I’m most proud of.  A high school movie relies on believing these characters have known each other forever. Of course I’m biased, but I think our cast really nailed that.

The dumbest? Probably thinking we can shoot an entire feature in 10 days to begin with.  But that’s the thrill and exhalation of low budget film making. You really have to jump in head first, trust your gut and stay just naïve enough to actually think you can pull it off.

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

RYAN: I learned that my 20+ year struggle to get my first movie made was absolutely worth it.  There is nothing like the privilege of working with amazingly talented and committed people to bring a shared vision to life. That’s what I love most about being a director, and I got to do it for 10 magical days.  

Now it’s time to fight like heck for the opportunity to do it again.

No comments: