Thursday, December 22, 2016

Johnathan Brownlee on "Three Days in August"

How did the film get off the ground? What was the process of getting the film made?

JOHNATHAN: This is NOT your usual story of how a film gets made...and released.

In 2015, I met Shannon Kincaid during the shooting the film, Occupy, Texas, (Lorelei Linklater, Janine Turner, Peri Gilpin) which I produced. Occupy, Texas was partially shot in Shannon’s home.

After we wrapped on that project, Shannon, who was adopted, approached me and we began discussing some of the challenges with which adopted people struggle. I thought it would be interesting to explore how adoptees define who they are, where they come from, how they deal with the constant fear of abandonment and finding one’s place in the world and of course, like all of us, the need to feel wanted.

At this point we still had NO script. I put together an idea of building the business and creative plans at the same time and contacted my friends at the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) about partnering on a screen writing competition. I then called my friends and supporters at Studio Movie Grill (SMG) about theatrical distribution. Shannon Kincaid, her husband, Allan Stringer and David Kiger came on board to executive produce and funded the project. DIFF and I agreed we would world premiere the film at their 10th Annual Film Festival. Studio Movie Grill agreed to distribute the film. Incredibly, all agreed to come on board without having a script or a film.

Now that I had the business and launch strategy put together...we still had NO script.

Shannon and I sat down and agreed on ten universal thematic elements for the story. In April 2015, DIFF announced the screenwriting competition at their 2015 festival. The winner would receive a $10,000 cash prize, guaranteed production of their script, a world premiere 365 days later and a limited national theatrical release through SMG. Withoutabox.com sponsored the online submission portal and we received 200 submissions from 26 countries around the world. We narrowed it down to 20, and then five, and ultimately we chose a script from two Texas writers, Chad Barry and David Langlinais.

In August, I sat down with Chad and David and we wrote the final screenplay that was ready to cast and shoot.

I called my buddy at Sony Artisan, Jeff Berlin, to see if Sony would come on board and provide cameras for the film. We discovered that Sony was about to launch a new camera and I agreed to be the first to use the Sony a7rII to shoot a feature film. There were only three of these in the world and we had all three.

This snowballed into partnerships with Leica, who provided the Summicron C lenses, Lite Panels, Wooden Camera, O’Connor  and others partners providing support and equipment for the film. Dallas-based Lucky Post offered to support the post production of the film as did other local artists, including Breed Music and rerecording mixer Johnny Marshall.

As an example of one of the many crazy kismet occurrences that happened or we made happen on this film...I had just locked picture on the film and had almost all the post production elements except someone to color the film...which I saw as extremely important as I wanted the film to have a very specific look, based on the subject matter and the metaphor of the painting.

Dallas has limited opportunities for long-form film color grading services and I had been reading reviews and industry publications on the best color grading and color artists in the world...and dreaming big... on vacation in Mexico and literally met Greg Edgar, owner of Alter Ego Post, at the swimming pool bar at a resort in Playa de Mujeres. Literally in the pool...he is wearing a Toronto Blue Jays hat...and we discovered we grew up a few blocks from each other....

Long story short, by the time we had drained the bar dry, Greg had offered to color our film. Alter Ego Post just worked on a small film called Mad Max, Fury Road...which won six Academy Awards.


What was your casting process and did you change the script to match your final cast?

JOHNATHAN: I only had September to prep and cast the film. With my LA casting director, James Tumminia, I put together a list of my target “dream” cast...which included, Barry Bostwick, Mariette Hartley and Meg Foster.

I met both Meg and Mariette in LA and they both agreed to do the film. Mariette called Barry and told/ordered him to do the film....and he agreed.

I was also able to hire veteran actor, Cal Bartlett and several extremely talented Texas-based actors, including Mollie Milligan to play the very difficult and emotionally challenging lead role, Shannon.

The film is shot almost entirely on the thirteen acre, Double J Ranch in Mineral Wells, Texas. It is the most amazing, romantic location on the Brazos River. I had been to that ranch many years before; I knew that some day I would shoot a film there.

Like so many of the other lucky happenstances, the owners of the ranch also owned the post production facility that we were working in and they just gave us the ranch. The ranch adds so much production value that I cannot imagine having to shoot it anywhere else....I had no backup plan...I wanted to shoot it there...and only there.

The whole town of Mineral Wells was completely supportive of the film. The other two locations in the town...the Irish bar and the church...both opened their doors to us gratis...as did the extras who came out to provide the much needed scale in certain scenes.

I did not change the script for casting purposes…thank goodness.


Can you talk about your distribution plan for recouping costs?

JOHNATHAN: Film launches in Theaters nationwide Dec 2…in 11 cities. Itunes Dec 20. Video on Demand Feb 3. Netflix March 3


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

JOHNATHAN: This is the first feature film to be shot on the Sony Alpha a7rII camera. My DP, Bongani Mlambo, did a stellar job of mixing handheld, stedicam and tripod work to help me balance the emotional journey though shot selection.

The pictorial structure starts with the audience observing and then ultimately they are placed “inside” the action. The Leica Summicron C lenses make the whole package truly sing and all the footage was recorded into the Atomos Shogun recorders in 4K.

Love this camera and lens package.


Did the movie change much in the editing, and if so, why did you make the changes?

JOHNATHAN: Good films always change in editing. There are 3 films in every film that you make…
The Film your write.
The Film you shoot.
The Film you edit.

My job as a Director and Producer is to bring the best creative minds to my project and let them work….let them help me make the best film that we can.


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

JOHNATHAN: We had all our crew embedded at our location which felt like summer camp and really helped build great relationships in a short amount of time.  Dumbest thing….shoot the film in 15 days….but that is how we had to do it.


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

JOHNATHAN: My feeling that creating an on-set environment where everyone feels like they are contributing transforms the narrative on and off set.

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