In my time blogging (I’ll never get used to that word) I’ve mentioned a project that we’re developing titled,Death of the Boogeyman, a couple of times although I’ve never shared exactly how I feel about it. Well, I feel very strongly about it or there really wouldn’t be a reason to write anything further on the matter. What makes me so interested is that this particular project is a fantastical children’s animated movie with action, monsters, and other dimensions. It’s a fun film mostly filled with wild chase scenes as a boogeyman lurks in the shadows while two kids and a teenage girl survive by hiding throughout their neighborhood. As far as horror movies go, it’s a lot more thrilling than terrifying but there are a good amount of scarily tense moments to put even the bravest kid on edge. There’s also a moral to the story in the tune of honesty, forgiveness, looking out for other people, and making the most of life. It’s also extraordinarily charming with a wonderful sense of humor. It was really fun writing subtle humor for adults while making jokes for kids. I’ve always really enjoyed how movies like The Incredibles, Shrek, and the Toy Story films incorporated comedy for all walks of life no matter what age demographic you happen to be in. The best part of the humor is that while it is broad it’s incredibly clever and I hope I’ve touched upon that in Death of the Boogeyman.
After making my film,Among the Innocent, I was a bit put off on making short films as that particular experience was exhausting, nothing against the filmor the crewas I love what we’ve created but I wanted to be working towards something more creatively diverse and something longer in duration. Around this time I allowed anxiety to get the best of me and I needed to make some precautionary decisions to help settle down. One particular decision came about after I asked myself the question “What makes me happy?” The answer I thought of immediately was laughter. Laughing makes me happy. So what makes me laugh? Movies, stand-up comedy, podcasts, and books all make me laugh. So I came to a conclusion. I’ve always been a huge fan of stand-up comedy so I’ll listen and watch that, I’ve always loved the genre of comedies so when I watch a movie I’ll favor those, and I’ve never lost my appetite for reading so I’ll check out some books by comedians or about comedy.
So what do short films, anxiety, and comedy all have in common? They all led me to writing a script about an adventurous little boy, his naive big sister, and precarious best friend who are on the run from a ferocious boogeyman after an innocent prank goes horribly wrong. So in the wake of completing an exhausting project that lead to severe anxiety, my plan of focusing on what makes me happy had cured me (maybe not curedbut close) by the way of comedy and as a result I wrote the feature film script, Death of the Boogeyman. Since I had plenty of experience writing (for the lack of a better word) “darker” story lines, the horror part wasn’t an issue. But I’ve never written a script that could be described as a kid’s horror adventure movie and it was a blast to do. I realized that I had the ability to create whole worlds along with the creatures that inhabit them which was extraordinary for me. Unrestrained by the limitations of the practicality of a live action production I was able to let my imagination loose knowing that all that I’m creating will be realized in a computer rather than on set. The possibilities were endless and that was exhilarating. As always I had my producer, Christine McDermott, to read the initial draft. Her reaction was that of overwhelming positivity with a hint of criticism to the tone and feel of the ending, which is always helpful. After more thought I figured out an ending that maintained the sense of respecting children by not talking down to them while also ending the story with a sense of hope and lifelong adventure.
In the excitement of finishing the script I wanted to put a visual reference with it as soon as I could. I’m a big proponent of accompanying a script with something visual to get people excited about the film. If it helps to get the script read then a poster is the least we can do. I thought about the concept a bit and then Christine and I enlisted the help of one of the most talented artists I know and all around good guy, Michael Wohlberg. I’ve known Mike for many years starting back when we used to promote/book shows for independent bands for music venues. He’s done tons of work for bands designing t-shirts, album covers, tour posters, etc. So after several emails we met up and started to knock out the poster that is seen above. Personally I think it captures Joey’s (bottom left) heroic tenacity, Cory’s (bottom right) reluctant sense of adventure, Kelly’s (middle center) follies in babysitting, and the Boogeyman’s (top center) intense ferocity. We really couldn’t be any happier with Mike’s work on this project (or any project). We’ve worked with him many times before on our movie posters and he has also created the illustrations for our short film, Wine, Women, & Cognac(watch here). Aside from watching him work his mad wizardry in Photoshop I’d say that the most fun was character design. I gave some references to the aesthetic of the characters as well as personality traits and Mike wonderfully incorporated all of those aspects into one beautiful illustration. I couldn’t stop smiling after seeing the finished version of Cory in particular. I’m very appreciative of his work and grateful for his friendship. I’ve thought of it as “if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee….smile, give a thumbs up, and create thee an awesome poster for thou’s new script.” And pizza, he tends to provide plenty of pizza which is the true testament of a gentleman.
Thinking back both of my feature scripts, Old Man in France and Death of the Boogeyman, came out of times where I felt that hope was more or less lost and my life was coming to a standstill but out of those experiences came stories of change and courage while leaving audiences extremely hopeful in their endings. I suppose that’s what I strive for in my life, the courage to change and find hope in the future. Right now I’m at a place in my life where I feel as if I’ve finished reading a chapter of a book and I’m unable to start the next. I’m staring at the page with the words “This Is The Next Chapter Of Your Life Dummy, TURN THE PAGE ALREADY!” printed in bold letters yet it won’t budge. I pick at the corners and edges with my finger nail to no avail. I lick my finger and do my best impression of a middle school librarian by trying to thumb the page along but it won’t turn. I’m going to have to find a different way to turn this metaphorical page and get started on the next chapter of my life. I think that projects like Death of the Boogeyman will definitely help with that.
It’s always something isn’t it? Rarely do things actually go our way despite our best intentions. This is a common theme in most of our lives, our lives being almost this love letter to Murphy’s Law. In this letter we try to navigate through the obstacles put in our way maneuvering and weaving in and out. Nothing is a better example of this than film.
Filmmaking or at least independent filmmaking is a test of what you can execute and in most cases execute on the day of. If art is a creative idea executed with skill then most of that execution is done with everything waiting to go wrong at a moment’s notice. Whether it’s an actor forgetting their lines, an electrical issue, camera problem, or even something like an endangered bird making a nest close enough to your production that you have to change it completely. Now, in keeping honest, I haven’t had to deal with the last example but others unfortunately have. All of this is to say filmmaking is anything but a guarantee and is a gentle ecosystem that can be disrupted at any time and for any reason.
The best way I can communicate this constant struggle is to assign it a percentage, let’s go with the full 100%. Now as a director I’m at 100% when I have a script locked down. Whether I’ve written it or not (I usually do) I’m at a 100% when I go to my producer and say “I want to make this”. Of course this is the time when you need to garner a fortune to actually be able to make the film. This can take years of hard work, so after finding and finalizing a script we potentially can take years to be able to find the money to make it happen. Filmmaking is a daunting process that leaves itself vulnerable for its finished product, to potentially, be easily dismissed.
So we’re still in luck in the fact that we’re at 100%. My idea, as the director, is still intact and my vision is clear. Without a doubt, I know what this film will look and feel like. Then even happier days come along and finally we’ve secured a budget and can begin pre-production. This is where things begin to get hairy. Casting actors, hiring crew, finding locations, etc. kicks off in full swing. And in finding who will be your Director of Photography, lead actors and what will be the filming locations, let alone making the investors happy, we begin to chip away at that 100% vision. Finding out the limitations of production and having to compromise with some of the people now a part of the film, finding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, we find that at the end of pre-production our easily divisible percentage is now down to 75%. And between all of the dealings with the Actors Unions and Insurance companies alone, we’re lucky to be at that.
Now at 75% we go into production, after all of our rehearsals and test shoots we’re ready to get the performances on film, so to speak. This is where everything that can go wrong will go wrong, generators stop working during key scenes, actors ruin wardrobe with careless eating habits, the runner who is picking up the catering is late, and continuity issues among the set and wardrobe. In one scene the lead actress has a bracelet on…but in the next she doesn’t. In dealing with these issues and constantly hoping to get as much done in the time provided decisions have to be made to cut shots or make changes to the story. These choices always come back to haunt you. One time I cut a medium shot of an actress from the shot list because of time and in the end had to use parts of another take I decided to scrap. The scene worked especially with our stylized wide but it took a lot of effort in editing to make up for that cut shot. So needless to say that after we got what we did, our 75% has shrunk to 50%. Takes that can’t be used because an actor is holding a cup in the wrong hand, equipment found its way into the shot, or the framing being completely off starts to surface. Now never forget about sound, not only can an actor mumble a line that will need ADR but the sound quality in general can be below par. This, I have experience spending a lot of money to correct.
So now in post-production we’ve dwindled our 100% to half that. Now don’t get me wrong, things can end up better than you expect them, it’s just not very likely. When directing on set I’ve heard “I think we’ve got it” from other people on set. Well, that’s treading a bit into my territory and I’m sort of a dick about that. I prefer, since I’m editing, that we get multiple “good takes” and not settle on the one we think is the good take. I try to do at least five takes and I’d like to do more than that. But of course there are time issues and in some cases you’re dealing with children so more takes aren’t an option. I tend to think that an actor’s performance starts out good then after a while goes to complete shit and only after those completely shit takes does the performance get brilliant. So, ideally I’d like twenty takes but then again, I’m a poor independent director and unfortunately more takes are too expensive. So when sitting in front of the footage, clipping pieces out and fitting them together like a puzzle you really start to understand the usable footage from the unusable. Creative editing comes into play with carefully cropping out bothersome details or flipping the frame to get your desired effect. These are fairly elementary technics and a lot of time visual effects have to be utilized to fix a take. And after the film is done and you sit back in your chair and watch a cut of the film from start to finish you realize that you are no longer at 50% anymore. The little mistakes, whether avoidable or not, has chipped our percentage down to mere 25%.
A Director’s job is to best preserve the integrity of his vision and these are some of the points where it can be suffocated. The best Directors limit the chances of this happening and from where I stand makes you a neurotic mess that can lead to panic attacks and loud outbursts. From 100% to 25% is not an ideal place to be at and I must admit that I have made films that are at 25%. But because of that I know what I need to do to make sure everything I make from here on out isn’t left at 25% but are a lot closer to 100%. Now I don’t know if any director can or even if it’s a good thing to reach that 100% milestone but I do think that’s the reason why it’s uncommon for directors to retire, the ones that do are masters like Bergman. And not too many people can reach that place of influence. Honestly, there are so many more obstacles than the examples I’ve provided in making a film. Most producers and more experienced directors might scoff at this entry but I think that proves my point even more. No matter at what stage of filmmaking, what can go wrong will go wrong.
Peculiar at Best: The Weird and Wonderful Stories We Tell by Louis Mansfield
For awhile I was posting film related blogs every week and then after a good amount of posts I started to run out of things to say. I wanted to keep posting so I decided to find and share short films that I either enjoyed very much or felt like they needed to be seen no matter what my opinion was of them. Those posts soon dried up as well after doing about ten complete lists. I think one of the reasons I stopped posting is because I’m in this sort of development gray area experiencing all sorts of emotions as I float in limbo desperately flailing my appendages in the “chicken or the egg” stratosphere. No financing no actors, no actors no financing. Round and round we go. My producer,Christine McDermott, and I along with Buffalo 8 Productions and Epic Talent Management have been working to get our feature film, Old Man in France, off the ground. We’re still reaching out to investors looking for that initial spark to ignite our cinematic flame. It’s a long process and it will continue to be even longer so in the mean time I’ve written a kids horror adventure feature film script, Death of the Boogeyman, which we are laying the foundation for developed. After completing the script I sat back and thought “Now what?” I’m not only trying to get one feature film made but now two, what am I thinking?
What I’ve learned about myself is that I need to create. It’s sort of a silly thing to say that I need to do something that isn’t a necessity of life but I do have a compulsion. To curb this need and/or desire to make something I will cook dinner as that seems to be the best instantly gratifying creation I can think of which also stimulates all of my senses. I enjoy it tremendously but I’m no chef, it’s merely a hobby which is what I like most about it, there’s no ego or anything at risk. So with two projects being worked on I took to my computer to write another story. The difference is that I’m not writing a feature length script but another short film. I’ve been somewhat open about not wanting to do short films for much longer but the reason I do them is to grow as a director and gain more experience. I’ve learned so much by making shorts films that it would be silly to stop, unless I have a feature coming up, of course. But I don’t so it was back to the drawing board for another short film.
I wrote several stories, one of them was an extremely tense and violent script that I found intriguing but could be construed as “more of the same” since I have several titles that fit into the category of “hard to watch.” Another story was a fantastical tale that involved dragons, orcs, and magic. This one might get made in the future but probably not for awhile as it would need a lot of wheels in motion. So as I sat with my partners Christine McDermott, Jason Melcher, Michael Scalzitti, and Steve Saturn I pitched another idea that I was very insecure about. Armed with little more than a rough draft and a working title I told them of a story about a young adult male who has a group of “friends” who like to tell him about everyone they meet that doesn’t like him. A lonely guy, Jeremy makes the most of his situation by avoiding conflict in an effort to not exacerbate things. He mostly stays home, cooks and plays with his dog until one day he meets a like minded young woman who allows him to be comfortable enough as a person to ditch his so called “friends.” Fortunately, this was the script we agreed on.
There’s a bit of a conceptual catch. The actors are to be fitted with a “head” that could be best described as the head of a South Park character worn by an actor. The faces of the heads will be left blank (aside from the tracking markers) and will be animated in post production. Modeled after the “make your own Deadmau5 heads”, Steve Saturn fabricated the heads out of 13 inch gerbil balls. From there we’ve all had a hand in making the hair and skin while our friend, Jen, created the knitted hats. All in all the short will be shot in the cinematic styling of Wes Anderson, portray the self deprecating humor of Louis C.K.’sLouie, and create the surreal quality of Michel Gondry. I have never done anything like this before which is why I’m excited about it (and simply terrified all at the same time). An extremely rough and very simple preview is above. There’s still lots (and lots) to do. The title of the short film is The Proper Etiquette For Being Alone.
I hope everything goes to plan and if it does then I believe audiences could really enjoy it. Either way I need something to do until our feature(s) get funding so who really knows how many of these shorts I’ll be making. One thing is for certain is that I thinkThe Proper Etiquette For Being Alone will do more help than harm. Not to mention I’ll be walking away with more knowledge than I had before the experience and hopefully get some attention for future films along the way. It’s nearly 6 years since I made my first film and have made some headway but we have a lot to go. I can only acknowledge Christine and mine’s dedication to what we do and the stories we tell. As a team we simply love what we’re doing and we’re doing everything we can to progress this as far as we can go. Something else I hope to do is write more posts as it does help me get out of my head, maybe I’ll create another list of short films that I’ve watched to share. One thing I am certain on is we’re trying very hard and we’re doing our best to live our lives, carve out careers, and keeping sane along the way. It’s not easy, especially with day jobs but we’re giving it a go so no matter what we’ll be able to say that we had the courage to try and have some films we made to look back on.
Official Selection! "Wine, Women, & Cognac" Will Screen at the 2014 Thurrock International Film Festival
Wine, Women, & Cognac has been accepted and will screen in the 2014 Thurrock International Film Festival September 22nd - 28th in Essex, England. Better yet, our film is also nominated for Best Animation!
Days and weeks have gone by and in that time my production team and I have completed shooting out latest short film, Among the Innocent. I’ve been juggling several projects in the editing process and I feel I need to get a better and more rigid schedule. Having already done a bit of work on Among the Innocent my impression so far is that I have a lot of interesting shots to cut together but in a small amount of time. So watching it I’m unsure if it’s too “cutty”. What I mean by that is since I have so many angles and movements to work with I have cuts with almost every action and I’m concerned they film might get convoluted. I’ve never cut something so short together so it’s hard to leave so much footage out of the project.
Thinking back on the production, it went quite well. I was nervous about working with six and five year old kids but things did work out. It was an interesting way to have to figure out how to direct these kids. I myself do not have any and am limited to my experiences with my nephews. I noticed giving live direction during the take helped Harley, who played the little girl, Bella, stay in the scene. Holden, our little boy, was a bit of a handful but had a great spirit. All in all I have what I need and I hope that the end result will match my vision.
I’ve noticed that there are three different stages the writer/director goes through after completing a script. After the last action is written the writer/director has his story and what he is intending to execute. Then pre-production begins which is trying to get everything in place for the story to be realized the way the director envisions. Then onto the second stage where the production has begun and the writer/director works to obtain the initial vision but what is captured will undoubtedly be less than what he hoped for. Actors not keeping in mind where the placement of their hands were, electrical issues delaying the next scene and murphy’s law all derogate from the ideas of the first stage. After production ends there’s an idea of what was captured but not entirely what can be used. Then the final stage, which is the editing process, while going through the footage you realize what can be used and what isn’t usable. Boom microphones become the bane of every editor’s existence and continuity along with performance is highly scrutinized. This stage is even further away from the initial vision and is honestly what the production has but ended up with, which becomes the film.
In this stage I understand my limits. Slight glimpses into the camera by our young amateur actress becomes more and more limiting when looking at the other footage and needing certain little movements to fill in the gaps. Also this was the first time I’ve worked with a green screen, which as of now I don’t particularly enjoy. The obtrusiveness of this large green area seems to boast an inorganic energy that detracts from a performance. I understand the need for it and hope to incorporate the technique in a more favorable way to my personal style but as of now I’d like to avoid most techniques that take away the organic nature of the scene as it unravels before the camera.
I’m excited to be taking the time I have with this project and In the meantime my producing partner, Chrissy McDermott and I are working with our illustrator, Michael Wohlberg, to create our second storyboard trailer. This new trailer will be for Old Man in France which is coming together nicely. We have recently completed a very dramatic storyboard trailer for my feature script, Black Tie Affair. I would like to have the sound mixed a bit more for this trailer before releasing. So along with Among the Innocent, our “for the fun of it” music video Monster Party, and these two storyboard trailers for Old Man in France and Black Tie Affair…we’re fairly active.
We recently finished up our new short film, Wine, Women, & Cognac. This is our first animated short and we couldn’t be more proud of it. The film is a modified first ten pages of our feature film script, Old Man in France, which we have been developing. Look for Wine, Women, & Cognac online shortly.
Synopsis: Frank Boursin’s life was full of excess. Wine, women, and cognac were the vices of the young American studying in Europe. Settling back in the United States, Frank often looks back on his European adventures with only one problem… he never went. Sitting in his room in his retirement home, Frank fantasizes of the life he could have had until one day he meets a beautiful French resident, Mireille.
Written & Directed by Louis Mansfield
Cast Frank - Ross Huguet Bobby - Alan Pottinger Mireille - Petra Vermeulen
Produced by Christine McDermott
Associate Producer Jason Melcher
Illustration by Mike Wohlberg Animation & Visual Effects by Jason Melcher Additional Animation by Geoff Morris
Edited by Louis Mansfield
Music provided by Audio Network US, Inc.
Music “Valse Parisienne” Ian Hughes Audio Network US, Inc.
“Daisy Daisy” Arranged by Patrick Hawes Audio Network US, Inc.
We’re thrilled that our short film, Among The Innocent, is an Official Selection of Visionfest 14. We’ll be screening at Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick Street New York, NY 10013) on THURSDAY MAY 15th PROGRAM 04 - 9:30pm.
SCREENING: THURSDAY - MAY 15 - PROGRAM 04 - 9:30pm - TC 1
Tribeca Cinemas 54 Varick Street New York, NY 10013
NOTE - Special Benefit Screening: A portion of the proceeds for this program will be donated to RealChange - Real Change exists to provide opportunity and a voice for low-income and homeless people while taking action for economic justice.
In the Past: Head titled down, eyebrows raised, and mouth open “Whoa, alright, jeez.” After the applause there’s a sense of tension as if everyone in the room needs to get some air or have a cigarette. Outside the movie theater I look around and see people staring off for a moment before taking their next drag or returning to their conversations. I feel a sense of responsibility for condemning these people and the rest of the audience by showing them violence that was never intended to be entertaining. I suppose I’ve done that because outside of Hollywood blockbusters and campy horror films I don’t think violence should be depicted in any other way besides intensely realistic. I’ve shot, beaten, and blown up my characters in tragic stories which challenges the audience to experience these actions with a strong sense of realism instead of this sort of disassociated fiction. This, I can tell you, does not always make them happy, nor is it intended to.
In the Future: My opinion has been that not every story has a happy ending which they certainly don’t and the best reactions are when the experience of the film stays with someone allowing them to think about what they’ve seen and why. I really gravitate to those experiences but as far as creating them, I’d like to have a hand in a story that has all of the emotions on the spectrum instead of lingering in tragedy. I guess what I’m getting at is that I want to tell a story that makes audiences cringe as well as love. I want them to laugh as well as cry. I want them to fear as well as endear. I want to make the audience want these characters to be happy as if they were a part of their own family and experience the joy and sorrow that is living life. Mostly I want people to laugh and in the end have a sense of hope instead of tragedy.
In the Present: That being said I couldn’t be more excited to be finishing up a short film that isn’t just funny and endearing but also has a happy ending as well. The short I speak of is an animated film titled Wine, Women, and Cognac. It tells the story of Frank who shares his fantastical life as a world traveler who indulges in, among other things, wine, women, and cognac. His story is interrupted as we find out that this is merely Frank’s fantasy of the life he wished he had and the reality is that he resides in a retirement home in NJ that he doesn’t quite enjoy. I decided to make this cartoon for the purpose of promoting our feature film script, Old Man in France (Wine, Women, and Cognac being a modified version of the first ten pages). Old Man in France won’t be animated but instead will be a live action film and the idea is to use the animated short to get the interest of actors and investors. We’ll be submitting to film festivals as well as putting the film online. In using Wine, Women, and Cognac as an asset we hope to establish a fan base by communicating the endearing qualities of Old Man in France. I hope it works because I’ve truly fallen in love with the characters and story way more than I have with any other film that I’ve made.
Since depicting violence has gotten boring, I want to make some films that have more duality; with humor there should be sadness, love as well as hate, and strength as well as weakness. This should be all encompassing as life tends to be. I’ve been on one side of the fence for too long and it’s time to have some hope. I can say that I’ve had the most fun watching the rough cut of Wine, Women, and Cognac more than any other short film I’ve made. Allowing myself to be playful, I’m enjoying having a reason to use an iris shot, the song “Daisy Bell”, and a floating heart between a couple. Cheesy, yeah, a little but the romanticized version of Frank’s fantasy life allows for it, especially since the story breaks into the reality of Frank’s actual life of disappointment. The final frames bring both ideas together with an endearing sense of hope and possibility.
A huge inspiration for the film has been Shane Meadow’s This is England (film, and miniseries ‘86 and ‘88). While watching the film and miniseries I experience the entire spectrum of emotion ranging from grief, fear, antagonism, cheer, enthusiasm, joy, happiness, and love. After the film or episode concludes I feel like I’ve lived with them, going through their ordeals as if I knew them. I wanted to give the same experience to an audience and after thinking about whether I myself would become an elderly man who retreats into a life he wished he had, I created Frank Boursin who does just that. After the inception of Frank; Mireille, Agnes, Ruben, Rufus, Bobby, Susan, Mr. Crawford, and Laverne soon followed. I’m proud that I love these characters just as much as I do Woody, Smell, Lol, Harvey, Gadget, Milky, Banjo, Meggy, and Shawn.
In Conclusion: In a time where film distribution and financing are changing my producer Christine McDermott and I felt that creating an animated short film would be beneficial as a way to get the attention of the people that will be drawn to Old Man in France. We get to introduce them to Frank’s world, Bobby’s friendship, and the possibilities of Mireille’s influence. I hope to tell more stories like Wine, Women and Cognac and Old Man in France as well as keeping the door open to making other horror films or maybe even a period piece. Either way, I want take this experience and learn from it. Always, always, always inject humor into personalities so they can be relatable to the audience. Don’t focus on one emotion but rather have a range. Condemning the audience isn’t going to make them fall in love with your film but merely acknowledge your point and move on. Mostly I’ve learned to never forget the strength and perseverance of the human spirit to overcome a situation no matter what the outcome is in the end. This is something I need to not only apply to my characters to myself as well.