Friday, December 24, 2010

A Gift from Latino USA

Enjoy these wonderful Christmas stories, 2 from my favorite writers; Michele Serros & Julia Alvarez 


Monday, December 20, 2010

Blood, Sweat & Tears aka Funding Your Film With Your Own $$$

My first film was Love Song, part 2 of the Love 10 to 1 trilogy. I wrote, produced and directed Love Song and co-produced the other two stories in the trilogy. IT WAS HARD WORK. That film took everything I had to give and I am happy with the results. We are still not done with it; there are some technical issues with the first story. We are trying to fix them because that’s the first story our audience will see.

We finished shooting that film in the summer of 2008. Production started in October 2007. Due to our lack of financing we had to shoot the first two in October/November and my piece in the summer of 2008. We set out to make an indie version of Love Actually on a micro budget. We funded the film with our own money. All the money I’ve put in to that film would be enough to put a small down payment on a small house in Los Angeles. I don’t expect to make that money back any time soon or at all. That film is supposed to be my calling card, instead, it became my film school.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Meet the full cast

Clockwise - starting w/me holding the pot - Lucy, Ona, Brian Sorbo, Daniel Zacapa, Carlo Alban & Catalina Maynard - blocking the scene

Carlo Alban as Auggie,  Daniel Zacapa as Benny, Catalina Maynard as Alma & Onahoua Rodriguez as Michele

The Big Deal - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner!

Monday, December 6, 2010

That's a Wrap

I am humbled by the love, generosity and respect the crew bestowed on me and the actors. Everyone worked so hard to make this come together. I am extremely happy with the results. I got amazing performances from the four actors and the crew kicked ass.

I am eternally thankful and grateful to the following people; 
My good friends Laura Somers & Karla Legaspy who worked so hard for me, they made my job less stressful and having them around was a combination of relief and joy.

My husband who's had to put up with my hectic schedule, a house full of props, scripts and paper work all over the place, basically living in total chaos during our first few months as a married couple. He came out on both days to help me and be supportive. 

My crew, those amazing guys (they are big, strong men to everyone else), they came through for me once again. I am so happy to work with them, they made me and the cast look so good by letting us do our job in a safe and fun environment.

My most special THANKS go to Michele Serros for honoring and trusting us with her wonderful gift.

I will blog more but I got to get some sleep and be at work tomorrow bright and early. This movie's not paying for itself!



Friday, December 3, 2010

One Day 2 Go

Last night I bought more props - the most important props - the food props. One of Michele's friends pointed me in the direction of Tops Value in Culver City. It's a huge Latin market with everything you can possibly imagine and then some. I was in heaven when I saw their Goya aisle, and they even have pork shoulder to make pernil, but I digress. I bought the meat based props and cooked the meat for the tamales filling. I bought the cheapest meat I could find (this is a prop and no one will eat it). I bought it already seasoned because I did not want to touch it. I nearly threw up cooking it, it smelled so nasty. I was going to make the masa for the tamales but good lord, I found a huge bag of already premade masa. The opening credit scene is of Alma and Michele making tamales. It will be a short sequence, about 20 seconds long but like everything else, 20 seconds of film/video takes a lot of prep work.

Last night I was able to sleep, so I'm happy about that.



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sharing Resources

If you are reading this, chances are you are a filmmaker or thinking of becoming one. One of the reasons I keep this blog is to share the resources I've aquired along the way. There are many rental houses in town and a lot of them offer great rates for indie filmmakers. I will keep updating my resources and hopefully you can benefit from it.

For this production, we are using Brian Sorbo's company Flickersound. Brian will be my gaffer once again. I love working with him and you will too. Brian is extremely generous and I can guarantee that no one in town will beat his rate for equipment rental, and if you are lucky, he will be available to gaff for you too.


Two Days Before Production

Since Saturday, I have been averaging about 3 hrs of sleep per night, it must be anxiety. Last night I was able to sleep through most of the night. Things are falling into place. I got my crew together, most of the equipment has been rented and I bought most of the props.

Again, I will be wearing 50 hats; director, producer, production designer, errand runner, you name it, I'm on it. When I feel like I'm at the breaking point, I always say next time I'm hiring someone to do all of this but the reality is that I can't afford to. I can barely pay the crew and the actor's salaries are deferred. I have to admit that as hard as this road has been, all the heartache and stress that this production has caused me, I LOVE IT. I get off on the rush of figuring out how to make it work, how to make it look as good as an HBO show on a microbudget. Fine, I admit it, I'm a masochist!

I have one last rehearsal with the actors tomorrow night. We will be working on blocking and scene transitions. I need to take a picture of their scripts, they have more notes than there are lines.

I need to make the final decision on what camera we are shooting with. I got an amazing deal on the RED but it shoots at a 4k resolution and all that footage will be a nightmare to deal with, not to mention how much money post will cost. Matt Boyd, my kick ass cinematographer suggested we shoot on the Canon 7D, I got my research done on that workflow only to have him call me last night saying he can get an amazing deal on the new ARRI Alexa. His connection just got it and is giving us a great deal, (about 66% off). I need to check with the insurance company to make sure we have enough coverage for the camera and the lenses. We have the 7D as a back up plan but Matt is stoked to work with the new ARRI.

While I am glad for having choices to make, I won't have much time to get familiar with the camera before we shoot. I don't know if other directors get as involved w/these details but I'm a bit of a control freak and I like knowing what I'm working with. I've worked with Matt before and I trust his judgement so I am going to let him make the choice. I checked out the ARRI website and it is a pretty neat camera.

Off to work I go, I am not a woman of leisure. I have two full time jobs, one that pays the bills and one that nourishes my creativity.  My two full time jobs have been kicking my butt this week.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday. I'm not into turkey day because I don't like birds or things with wings, feathers, beaks or talons. I'm also not into the whole pilgrims being thankful to the indians because, well, we know how that turned out.

To me, the holiday is about spending time with family and friends. I am grateful every day and I don't mean that in a patronizing way. I am aware of all the great things that have always been present in my life; strong family and close friends. Everything else is gravy, yes, I like gravy, on mashed potatoes and pernil (that's pork leg, which I prefer to turkey).

I am spending Thanksgiving in Santo Domingo with most of my immediate family. My husband got to meet a huge chunk of extended family and they all like him and vice versa. Tonight, we are having a big feast, Dominican style.

I'm looking forward to the rest of our vacation and ofcourse to going home and tying up the lose ends before production starts.

Thank You for reading the blog.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

PS - I Can't Afford Your Fee Either - Response to Michele Serros

I do believe that the excerpt I read came from Latina Magazine, the magazine was fairly new at the time so they probably had no $ to pay your fee.

Wow, I forgot that our relationship started with me wanting to option Role Model Rule #3. As the myspace letter stated, I wanted to submit to AFI's Directing Workshop for Women (DWW). One of the requirements was a 5 page script. I like that story a lot, it's one of my favorites and it seemed appropriate for the entry. However, I chickened out and did not bother to apply.

On 11/18/2007, we wrapped production on two of the stories for Love 10 to 1. Read my other blog if you want to find out more I made the decision not to apply to the DWW because I did not feel ready. I started taking directing and acting classes focusing on working with actors. I had taken enough technical classes through the Extension program at UCLA. I needed to work on finding my voice as a filmmaker. We filmed Love Song in June of 2008.

On a technical level, the Love Song shoot went smoother than the previous two. I faced personal challenges while making that film and there are many things I wish I could do over but once you say CUT, you rarely get to go back. I was going through a divorce, the company I had worked for since arriving in LA was closing and my mother was sick. Making that film is what kept me sane. I cashed out my 401K to get the film made. I know Suze Orman would not approve but when the economy went kaput in September 2008 I would have lost 85% of that money, at least I have a film to show for it. I used the rest of the money to spend my unemployed summer in NY.

Last week I downloaded the application to apply to AFI's DWW. As you were typing your response to my first blog, I was probably downloading the application. I feel ready for that challenge. Yes, I am aware of the fierce competition but I have nothing to lose, well, ok, it costs $100 to apply but that's chump change in the piggy bank of following my bliss.

I have a strong connection to The Big Deal. When I first read it, it reminded me of the experience of bringing the tattooed, long haired, half Jewish boyfriend who sang in a metal band to meet my Dominican, Catholic parents. Through the years the story has taken a different meaning, especially after my mother got sick. What I love about The Big Deal is that the subtext is so strong. I'm not sure how you felt about it as you were writing it but to me it's all about the absence of the mother and that's where I'm drawing a lot from. After my divorce, I wondered if I would get married again. I also wondered if my mother would be around to meet my future husband or if one of my Tias would be filling in for her.

I'm making your story as personal to me as possible in the hope of making a great film. I hate it when bad movies happen to great books. I want you and your fans to like it, or better yet, love it. Yes, that's a lot of pressure but I'm up to the challenge.

I can't afford your fee either

My mom and my husband Matt at our wedding. I am greatful that both my mom and my favorite tia were there. Check out Michele in the background.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Michele Sez

Really? Latina Magazine published an excerpt from Chicana Role Model? I don’t remember having an excerpt published or receiving a payment for such. I'm gonna have to hunt them down...

Also, after reviewing the records of our early courtship (i.e. myspace messaging which I included below) I see you originally wanted to option Role Model Rule #3, not The Rule for which you are currently going into production What made you change your mind? I thought our initial connection was the whole white-long-haired-rocker-hubby thing? Or, wait, did you option both Rules? I don’t remember receiving a payment for such…
PS. And, coincidently, Chicana Role Model WAS written just for you!!

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: LucyDate: Oct 22, 2007 3:21 PM
Hola Michele,
I hope your book tour is going well.
Once I'm done with my film shoot on November 18th I look forward to reading Scandalosa:-)

I wanted to ask you if it's possible for me to option a chapter from How To Be A Chicana Role Model. I'm interested in Role Model Rule # 3 - Remember, Commerce Begins At Home.

I'm entering AFI's Directing Workshop For Women and part of the entry requirements is that you enter with a short screenplay. Preference is given to work not written by the director because part of what they judge your entry is your ability as a director to identify or create material for development. I would have my friend Gus Avila adapt the story. I can send you a sample of his work if you'd like, he is super talented and I know he will do justice to your story.

This option would be on a non exclusive basis so you retain all your rights. The program is super competitive (they only select 8 women or 4% of applicants). Below is a link in case you want to check it out.

If you want to see something I've done, there's a 30 second spot that I wrote and directed for Film Independent's Project:Involve. I can also send you a copy of my film script.The early deadline for this is December 1st, so I'd appreciate it if you could let me know soon.

Talk Soon,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Big Deal

Sometime in late 2000, I read an excerpt for the book How to be a Chicana Role Model by Michele Serros.  I don't recall which chapter Latina Magazine used for the excerpt but I was hooked. I loved Michele's voice, it was fresh, sassy and vibrant.  The first line of Publisher's Weekly's review of Chicana Role Model sums it up better than I could - "The wisecracking, bicultural/bilingual, self-deprecating, post-Valley Girl author..." that description sounds a lot like me (minus the author part) and I'm sure most of her fans feel the same way.

I've always been an avid reader but this was the first book that felt like it was written just for me. Every time I read a book, images pop in my head and in the case of Chicana Role Model, those images always lingered. I've read the book many times, given it as presents and continue to buy it (currently out of print but used copies are available at Amazon). 

Reading the book, I got to know Michele.  She  became a pen pal, sort of, one that I did not write back until late 2007. I emailed her via Myspace and asked if I could adapt a chapter from her book. She was amiable about the whole thing and here I am almost three years later about to direct it as my second film.

Michele (left) and I looking fab at my wedding. 
She was my Maid of Honor. 
July 3, 2010