I’ve made a couple of entries into my journal that I didn’t post here, so I’m going to put a few in at once, if that’s okay. In case this is the first post of mine you’ve read–I’m giving a weekly journal from behind the scenes of the production of a feature film, perhaps offering a little insight or education into the filmmaking process. As always, you can email me directly through our website, www.jenkins-entertainment.com.
So now we get to the contracts stage. I like the money guys and producers who have approached us on Mountain, they like me, and now we exchange deals. To be frank, I suck at this. I tend to want everyone to be happy, I don’t like fighting for my stuff, I always assume we’ll piss off the other side. My lawyer is the opposite–he doesn’t want to give anything up, he thinks I deserve everything, etc. I suppose that’s good. So we end up somewhere in the middle.
We still haven’t made too much progress on the location thing, although I’m talking to a Georgia production facility tomorrow. I’m guessing that’s our most likely location if we don’t end up shooting in Virginia. Man, I want to shoot in Virginia, the actual setting of the story, so bad. Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, though.
Still finetuning the script. Trying to get it as tight as possible. We’ve decided to alter history a bit and put Bob in attendance at the famous courtroom massacre. In 1912, there was a massacre after a man was found guilty in a courthouse–his family shot the judge, a jury member, the sheriff, etc. It had a huge impact on the community, and the subsequent national media attention really affected Bob (main character) because it caused him to realize that the rest of the country didn’t live in the ignorant and dangerous way the mountaineers did. We’ve decided to actually put him in the courthouse to witness the massacre, which cinematically will personalize it more and send Bob quicker on his journey towards change.
Still working through the deal with these guys for financing of Mountain. Nothing indicates the money isn’t real, but we have to figure out all the particulars of how it’s going to be distributed, who’s in charge of what, etc. The least interesting and most frustrating part of making a movie by far.
In the meantime, I finetune the script and prepare for making the film. I’m currently reading the book “Our Southern Highlanders,” a book about the Appalachians written in the 1920’s. I remember when I made Hometown Legend, I read a book called “Friday Night Lights” (which inspired the best show on TV) while we were already in pre-production. A regret of mine on that film is that I didn’t read that book sooner. I underestimated how valuable “color” is to a film, the little facts and figures and characterizations that go into creating a world that people want to see. If you as a filmmaker become an expert about the topic that you’re telling a story about, then all the “color” that you understand will make its way into the film and add authenticity. For instance, you can tell when watching a sports film if the director didn’t understand the sport.
I’m making a film about the Appalachian mountains in the 1920’s, so I want to know as much as I can. And in reading this book, I’ve already read a few things that I’ve added into the film, whether it’s an interesting anecdote, a description of a cabin or a custom that the people performed. These things can provide cool background to the main story, and as a director, understanding these things will allow me to better supervise the production design, accents, even the accuracy of the dialogue. If I read something in a book that makes me think, “Oh, cool! Very interesting! That’s something I didn’t know, and now that I know it, I’m a better human for it!” two things will result–one, I’ll wonder why I started talking like a moron, and two, the audience will probably have a similar reaction when I portray it on screen.
I think we’re pretty much done with the script. I can’t think of any more things I need to do to it; or, at least, I can’t think of anything I CAN do to fix any of its needs. At some point you get to close to it and don’t know what works and what doesn’t. I feel like I’ve addressed most of the problems that my friends and advisors have pointed out, so I’m feeling pretty good. Right now the script comes in at 111 pages, which I think is too long. Page count is usually equal to minute-count. If the movie came in at exactly 111 minutes, that wouldn’t be awful, but I’d prefer to get it down to 100. Just not sure how to do that at this point.
I had a good talk with a production studio in Georgia that might end up being our shooting location. Nothing has come from Virginia, and with the money we’ll save shooting at one location, along with the fact that Georgia offers a 10% or so tax rebate (meaning you get 10% of all the money you spend in Georgia returned to you at the end of shooting), I’m leaning in that direction. I should be flying out there to check it out in a month or so.
Just watched “Badlands” for the first time, the Terence Malick film with Marty Sheen (I can call him Marty because I’m in the biz) and Sissy Spacek, made back in the 70’s. I’m trying to watch as many great films as I can, of course, but I’m concentrating on films that have a lot of exterior locations, made by directors known for the visual brilliance. The film really was gorgeous. As I’ve said, I plan on shooting the first half of the film, when things are rough and raw, with a loose, rougher style, and the second half of the film more composed and pretty. I already do loose pretty well (although I’ll get better), but I’m not as great at the composed, pretty stuff. It’s not my tendency, but it sometimes needs to be. After watching some Wim Wenders, Kurosawa, and Terence Malick films, I feel like I’m getting better versed on the subject.
Finishing up “Our Southern Highlanders,” which will help me understand the setting better, and then I’ll read “On Filmmaking,” by Alexander MacKendrick, which will help me shoot said setting. Hopefully.
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