The “Making Dreams Come True” Business
We recently teamed up with Chicago writer/actor Michael Brownlee to produce some short films based on the darkly comic scripts that emerged from his sketch wars project. The first short, “The Loan’s the Thing,” was directed by Blood in late 2008. Dianna Driscoll, with whom we’ve worked on a slew of theatre projects, joined us as Line Producer as well as Production Designer, taking on the task of preparing all of the props and set dressing. Frequent Toxic Bag co-conspirator Dave Taub was on hand to light and shoot the scene, and his wife Mel once again earned her “Most Valuable Crew Member” title by providing craft services.
The actors we initially asked to be in the film were unavailable, so Michael and his wife Karyn agreed to do it…as it turns out it was pretty much perfect casting so I don’t know what we were thinking asking anyone else to be in it. After a month of weekly pre-production meetings to determine set design, nail down a location and work out script and storyboard details, we built the set and pre-lit at our friend Walter’s building on a Friday night and shot the scene Saturday.
Karyn had a 3 pm call for a show she was in, so we planned to shoot all of her material by 1, break for lunch, send her on her way, and then work on any close-ups of Michael for the remainder of the day. As it turned out, Karyn and Michael nailed everything so quickly that we stayed well ahead of schedule. We made a decision to work a few minutes past that 1 pm cutoff, and we were entirely shot out by 1:30 in the afternoon.
Guerilla film geek tips:
• To achieve a cold, sterile look, Dave white-balanced the camera against a pink sheet of paper.
• Dialog was shot to a ZOOM H2 portable flash recorder. Very cool because 1) the ZOOM is really inexpensive and b) dialog files can be imported into ProTools really quickly.
The next day I digitized all the footage into Final Cut and handed a hard drive off to Blood, who spent the next week editing at his house. When he brought the hard drive back to Toxic Bag HQ to finalize the edit, however, we discovered that –due to a discrepancy between the small Final Cut rig at his place and the big Final Cut rig at the studio—all of the footage in the edit had become corrupted. We spent the evening frantically re-assembling the cut, referencing a Quicktime movie he’d exported to match the timing. We’ve since brought the two Final Cut systems to a mutual understanding and they play nice now.
The final product is on our YouTube channel, and we’re now hard at work on the next short in the series. Stay tuned!
On-set photos by Michael Brownlee which is why he’s not, um, IN any of them.