Monday, June 27, 2011

The Most Recent Train Wreck

While the Fear, Loathing, and Production Notes series of posts was intended to be a humorous, heightened version of reality (more akin to Hunter S. Thompson's dark vision of Las Vegas than to the real world), there has been genuine drama on set, drama that's gone unmentioned. Creating alter-egos for myself and the cast was an opportunity to inject situations with humor and to blog about things that I might not have otherwise felt comfortable posting (those two people really did start licking each other at auditions, but they were cousins, not siblings). It seemed like a fun way to get in the writing practice I desperately need while simultaneously venting some of the nervous energy that builds when an actor constantly questions your competency, or complains loudly to other actors on set, or quits the entire production 12 hours before we're scheduled to shoot his final scene.

I'm not being hypothetical here. This actually happened over the weekend.

Filmmaking is a game where a multi-million dollar production can be classified as "low-budget". By that standard (the professional standard), what we do could barely be called filmmaking. The people who do these projects do them for deferred pay or, more frequently, no pay at all. They donate their time and resources, often paying for things like props and gas out of pocket. We were fortunate enough to have a generous network of patrons for this project, meaning we were actually able to afford to feed people, buy costumes and fake gore, and maybe have some left over for film music when all was said and done. This is typically not the case, as anyone who has worked with the underground filmmaking community in Connecticut can tell you. Far too often, you feel grateful at the end of the day if you managed to eat something. I'm afraid, dealing with a community that accepts these conditions, I've become naive. I've grown used to working outside of the regulated system, shooting and editing long nights for free because I love something, and the legal or fiscal issues never even being an after thought. My mistake was to assume everyone felt this way.

Under that assumption, I began shooting Vampires Don't Sparkle without a release already signed. Getting the wording right takes time (especially when you're poor and must rely on bi-weekly dinners with your attorney/step-dad to obtain legal advice), and I figured that time would be better used shooting. A mistake. One that primarily my cast is paying for. It quite honestly makes me feel like shit.

Friday night I received a text message from an actor informing me he was quitting and would not be arriving the next morning to shoot his final scene. There was considerable drama leading up to this, arguments over the way things should be run. I had a gut feeling from the beginning that he was the kind of person who could do this sort of thing, but had pushed that feeling aside. At the time it seemed like there was no other choice. It's hard to find good actors after all. Of course, I realize now there is always a choice. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

The affair has effectively derailed production. The majority of footage thus far features him in some way or another, and he is legally empowered to stop us from using it.

Where does that leave the film? Not in a good spot, obviously, but things will continue. Many of you are expecting DVDs in the coming months, and, come hell or high water, you will be receiving them. We're going to circle the wagons this week, regroup and replan. We've suffered a serious setback, but the movie will continue, and you'll be watching it soon enough.

Our promise still stands. "There will be blood..."