This is Halloween!

There’s no better way to get in the Halloween spirit than filming a spooky music video for the ladies of So Sketch for their upcoming show at The Second City, “A Nightmare on Wells Street”.

This weekend, under the banner of E Leal Productions, I did just that.

For this music video shoot, we were essentially camera operators and our own grips. The writing and planning for the video was done by the ladies of So Sketch Comedy. We were just helping them bring their vision to life.

It was a long day. We were on set for 12 hours. There were a lot of extras and locations, and a lot of those locations needed to be used at night. This pretty much ensured that we would be out late. Everything was filmed successfully though. It was a good time.

Since most of my work over the last few years has been as a director and producer, it was a bit of a challenge to take a step back. I still somehow managed to smuggle some details and become a bit of a line producer though. I kept track of the storyboard and acted as an in-between for the director and camera operator.

At the moment, we’re hard at work on the edit. It’s coming along really well. We’ve almost got a completed draft that will be sent to the director for her opinions. I hope she likes it as much as we do!

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What’s New? September 2018

I’m falling into another one of those blogging ruts. I seem to get into them frequently. It’s one of those ruts where there are things going on in my professional life, but they’re not always interesting to write about. I don’t write about them, and then my blog becomes solely about reviews when it’s supposed to be about… my professional life.

To combat this a bit, I’m going to do a quick round up of general things going on! If it works out, then I might end up doing this more frequently.

So what’s new?

Return to Sender on the festival circuit

For the last couple months, I’ve started submitting my latest short film Return to Sender to film festivals. At the moment, I’m mainly focusing on festivals in the horror genre and/or those that highlight female filmmakers. This process was suggested to me in the past by some of my professors. It hasn’t failed me yet.

I do find myself in a spot of bother though because my timing isn’t the best. Final touches were being done to the film up through its private cast and crew screening in July, so by the time it was 100% complete, most horror festivals for this fall already had their line ups put together.

I’m finding myself constantly having to make the decision whether or not to submit to a late or extended deadline when they’re already releasing previews of their lineup. As a low budget filmmaker, those extended deadline fees are a killer on the wallet.

I did submit to one extended deadline, only to be rejected 2 days later (18 days before the notification date). That experience has definitely put me more in the direction of avoiding extended deadlines.

In any case, the film is being submitted to as many festivals a month as my wallet will allow! I’m hoping to hear some good news.

31 Days of Reviews

It’s September, and that means that October is right around the corner. With October comes 31 Days of Reviews!

This process has definitely become a tradition over the years. It’ll be my 5th year approaching it this time around.

I’ve learned that prep work is essential to taking it on. I haven’t gotten as big of a jump on it as I would have liked, but I’m starting prep this month. I just need to take care of some work to finish off the Weekly Reviews up until that point.

There are other things going on in October, so I need to keep that in mind so I don’t overwhelm myself.

Women in Horror Film Festival

This October I’ll be attending the Women in Horror Film Festival in Georgia!

I don’t have any films screening at the festival this year, but I purchased a VIP pass to attend the festival in full anyway. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the films by other female filmmakers in the genre I adore.

Attending the festival should be a good networking opportunity as well. I’m pretty excited for it.

*****

I have a few other things I could talk about, but this post is getting a bit longer than I was anticipating. I’ll save those for another day!

Return to Sender: Cast and Crew Screening

It finally happened! The private screening for the cast and crew of Return to Sender took place recently, and despite all the nerves I had going into it, the whole thing went very well!

Getting everyone together was a bit of a chore. I’m working my summer job which is sapping up all of my extra energy. Other people have day jobs. The actors in the film have other gigs. We ended up settling on a brunch screening on Saturday, July 21st because that was the only day that worked out for the majority of the cast and crew.

We still were missing one of our actresses, and I really wish she could have been there, but I needed to move on to the next chapter of this project. Luckily, I know this actress personally, and I’ll be able to have her see it at another time.

Overall, everyone appeared to really love the film. The cast and crew were impressed by how their work came together. The friends and family that they brought used the words “mesmerizing”, “captivating”, and “effective” to describe the film, so that’s a win for me!

I was super nervous to show this film because it sits in a very interesting position in my mind. When I show the film to people, they are effected by it. They like it. Some like it a lot. For me, it’s weird though because it isn’t 100% the vision that I had in my head.

I guess that’s really the struggle of an artist though, trying to get that vision out of your head as accurately as you can. I’m not really sure if I could have done something differently with this film to make that vision come to life more than I already did. If anything, I probably would have continued conceptualizing it forever to try to get it 100% right, never fully achieving that goal, and ultimately never releasing anything at all.

That’s definitely not a scenario that I wanted. I’m happy that this film is done, and I can start showing it to people. I’m hoping it will bridge the gap that I’ve had with a lot of potential viewers who have been too scared to watch my films that are more along the lines of psychological horror.

This film is more of a general sense of mystery and suspense, so I’m hoping there will be more viewers who are willing to watch it. It may even end up being more marketable because of this. I don’t know.

Now that the screening has taken place, we are officially going to put it to the festival circuit. There are a few festivals that I’m thinking of submitting to through their extended deadlines, so wish me luck!

Return to Sender Teaser

I’m a bit late to the punch here, but I released a teaser trailer for my latest short film Return to Sender over the weekend!

I’m pretty happy with how the promotional materials for this film are turning out.

Next up on my list is an official trailer that would give a bit more about what the story actually is. I’m unsure if this will actually come to fruition though because there is so much that I wouldn’t want to give away.

I guess we’ll see. I’m sure there’s some way I can give more details without spoiling it all. I’ll attempt working on that.

Return to Sender: Casting Decisions

As I mentioned in my previous post about the audition day, there was a ton of talent that came out for Return to Sender auditions.

This is the first time I’ve actually had this many good options for people to play my characters. There was so much talent that I actually had to make decisions on who would be in my film and who could not be in my film. I guess in the broad scheme of things that’s a good problem to have, but it didn’t make it any less difficult to make the cuts I had to make.

One thing I learned through this process is that there is so much that goes into casting. It’s not just about the level of talent. Everyone that came in for auditions was talented. It’s also about chemistry with the rest of the cast. This is where my puzzle really started.

For my lead character, the actress we cast completely blew me away. She walked in and she was able to deliver exactly what I was looking for. Casting her was exciting. The project felt like it was finally coming to life.

When it came to my supporting character, I had many more options. There were so many actresses who came in and could do the part in one way or another. This was a more difficult decision to make. It came down to two actresses, and the casting team was torn.

We ended up having to go into extreme detail, cutting together their auditions with the audition for the lead actress. After that, I wanted to go a step further. Since a lot of the supporting actress’s lines are spoken over the phone with no visual reference, we needed to take out the visual aspects of their performances. We needed to judge based on the pace and feel of the phone conversation.

That process helped us to make a decision that was best for the film, but since this was my first time having to make a cut like that, I felt guilty. I still feel guilty in a way. I’ve been told that actors know not to take it personal, but I can’t shake the feeling.

The other actors that we were casting for were minor characters, detectives for the final scene of the film. They didn’t have many lines, but there was a level of emotion to the scene that not a lot of the candidates were able to convey. I had a few that I felt I could work with, but that all changed when our final candidate for that role came in.

This actor didn’t just read the lines. I could tell that he was feeling the lines. He was able to portray that emotion that I’d been struggling to find throughout the day. I was very moved by his audition.

However, this success unlocked another issue that was very similar to the one I described above. With this actor’s performance, I was having a hard time finding a good chemistry with the others who had come to audition for the detective role. I needed two detectives who could portray a good partnership. My other top contender had a performance that was too similar. There wouldn’t be a good contrast between them.

I was lucky enough to have an actress who had auditioned for the lead roles, but had indicated that she’d be open to the minor role as well. We managed to get her back to read for the detective role, and I could immediately see that chemistry I was looking for.

All of this came together in a way that I’m really happy with, but I honestly had very little idea going into this how much chemistry actually played a role. You can’t just cast based on performance alone. There are way too many other factors that you have to consider. Casting is such a big job, and I’m definitely finding that it’s not easy. It may be rewarding, but it’s not easy in the slightest.

Hoping to have my lead and supporting actress meet up and get a flow down before filming starts, but if that doesn’t come to pass, I’m confident that they’ll be able to pull it off.

Production starts in March! Look forward to more updates!

Return to Sender: Auditions

The auditions were held for Return to Sender this past weekend, and I’m happy to report that, despite all of my worries, they went incredibly well.

Leading up to audition day, we had a good amount of responses. We received about as many responses as I was expecting to get, so that’s a plus. I’ve heard on many occasions that there’s a sliding scale between confirmed responses and how many people actually show up for auditions. That proved to be true.

We had a few people cancel the day before and the day of. There were a couple of people who confirmed their time but never showed up. Of course, there were also people who we assigned an audition time to, but they never confirmed and they didn’t show up. From what I can tell, this is pretty normal.

Even with these drops, we still had a great amount of talent come in front of our casting table that day. My whole idea of holding auditions was to be able to have options. I’m very glad to say that I definitely had options for my characters at the end of the day. That’s an entirely new and very pleasant situation to be in.

I really wanted to make a good impression on the actors who came in, and I really hope that I did. I tried to make them as comfortable as possible. I tried to put myself in their shoes on many occasions. This led to the decision to leave the tablets at home and take handwritten notes on paper.

I figured if you’re already nervous, a line of people sitting behind tablet screens wasn’t going to make you more relaxed. For all you know, they could not be paying attention to your audition at all. They could be on Facebook. I didn’t want people coming in to feel that way. I have no idea how they do auditions through more official channels, but I’m happy with the decision that I made. I think it allowed me to really be present in that moment.

Chicago-area weather definitely didn’t help us out that day though. As the day approached, I was really upset to see a foreboding snowflake in the forecast. On the day, I was even more upset to see that the snow was set to hit during the exact hours when my potential lead and supporting actresses were scheduled to come in.

The snow did end up coming, and it was much more than some basic flurries. The roads got pretty awful. I’m so thankful for all of the actresses that braved those roads to come out and audition anyway.

So now, the next step is to review the audition tapes and our many notes in order to make the best casting decision possible for this project. We started this process as soon as we got back to the studio, and I’ll write more details about that later.

This is all a learning experience, and I’m happy to be learning it.