Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fort Nassau Graphics

We wanted to give Fort Nassau Graphics a special shout-out today for donating to our cause. Charlie Stanton, Production Planner, did us a huge favor by printing the postcards we've been distributing around Philadelphia to spread the word about the Netflix competition. Fort Nassau prints most of their products on FSC-certified paper, including our postcards, which were also printed on partially-recycled paper. They were incredibly supportive of our cause; Charlie told us that he "would like the Earth to be here when [his] kids are old" and that "everyone in our plant would like to see our children and their children after that have the same type of environment that we grew up in."

Designed by Future Weather Love Brigadier and t-shirt designer e bond, we're hoping that these eye-catching cards will keep generating local support for Future Weather and get people online to vote, bringing us a giant step closer to making our film!

Betty's Tasty Buttons

(image courtesy of Betty's Tasty Buttons)

Betty's Tasty Buttons is a Philadelphia-based confection business dedicated to local, organic, and fair trade ingredients. Liz Begosh, founder of this local favorite, has been using her grandmother Betty's fudge recipe for about 2 years, serving up fudge, chocolate sauces, and other artisanal desserts to Philly locals. About six months ago, Liz moved into a storefront downtown and opened Betty's Speakeasy, which serves up baked goods in addition to selling Betty's Tasty Buttons products.

Liz and her company was kind enough to donate some fudge for a fundraiser we had recently, offering us up little pieces of their Brotherly Love Fudge, similar to what the company often does for wedding and party favors. Betty's Tasty Buttons is no stranger to charitable donations, either; the company will often work to try and find companies who share their goals and values. "We try to find the right fit," Liz told us.

We're glad that Future Weather fit the bill. Thanks for the fudge, Liz!

Code of Best Practices for Sustainable Filmmaking

Beckett Horowitz has been a huge supporter of Future Weather. She has worked with documentaries and television shows in an effort to raise awareness for a number of social and environmental causes, including sustainable production. Needless to say, we were glad when Beckett agreed to do a guest blog for us. She interviewed another leader in the movement for sustainable film production, Larry Engel. Associate director at the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University, Larry recently co-authored the Code of Best Practices in Sustainable Filmmaking, a collaboration between Filmmakers for Conservation and the American University School of Communication. The code is designed to help filmmakers reduce their impact on the environment during production and may be something that we use during production of Future Weather.

Many thanks to Larry for taking the time to speak with Beckett about the code. And thanks to Beckett for taking the time to conduct the interview!

1. When did was the code officially released?
It was released online (at www.sustainablefilmmaking.org) early February 2009, and we printed a limited archival run of only 500 hard copies.

2. What was the inspiration behind the code?
Ah. There were many elements. One main one was that I got tired of cleaning up my classroom after class. Picking up students’ coffee cups and plastic bottles got me angry. I announced in class one day that I would no longer allow any kind of throw-away packaging in my class ever again. Jugs and mugs were the new thing. Plenty of students whined, but following [the announcement] I spent my time leaving the classroom talking with students rather than cleaning up their mess. I also wrote up a list of a dozen or so things students could do in production to be more sustainable.

Secondly, I attended the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in 2007 and sat in on a session led by my now co-author Andrew Buchanan (a British producer) on green filmmaking and was impressed. I came back to American University and started talking about sustainability and my list. Professor Pat Aufderheide, who also is the director of the Center for Social Media [at American University], suggested that I publish a Code of Best Practices on the subject. I was also encouraged by the rest of my faculty in Film and Media Arts and by my colleague at AU Chris Palmer who, besides teaching, is also the director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking.

I contacted Andrew to tell him the good news, and he told me that he was working a similar project with Tanya Petersen of Filmmakers for Conservation. We ended up deciding to collaborate.

3. What are the most wasteful parts of production?
Probably travel, especially airline. Second is likely meat consumption, strangely because meat production overall creates about 20% of greenhouse gases. Also, plastic bottles. But we’re mixing waste and greenhouse gases….

4. What makes this code more comprehensive/different from the other ones out there?
We think the key is that we have a set of principles that lead to checklists for action and trackers that are spreadsheets for monitoring the production’s energy use, and other elements that contribute to green house gas production and which can be used with carbon calculators and offsetters. The key is that we also had a scientific review board vet our work – this is really critical. Finally we don’t claim to certify anyone. We’d like to see an independent agency created for that.

5. Have any productions adopted the code yet?
Several around the world, but the most immediately exciting news is that the Independent Documentary Association and the University Film and Video Association have endorsed the code. Further the Southwest Screen (a regional board in the UK) is adopting the code.

6. What are your goals for the future of production?
Get as many people and companies – large and small – around the world to pay close attention to their practices in media production and distribution.

7. Is there anything else you'd like to share about the code?
It’s not that hard to adopt. And by reducing, reusing, and thinking about what you’re doing you actually end up saving money not spending it to go green.

--

Larry Engel is a professor at American University. He is also the associate director at the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University. Larry is a producer, writer, director, and cinematographer with nearly 30 years of documentary filmmaking experience spanning all seven continents. He's flown into hurricanes, been chased by tornadoes and dropped into ice caves. He's fled wildfires, gotten lost in jungles, stranded in Antarctica, and spent three years traveling the globe to come face-to-face with a lot of mummies.

Beckett Horowitz has dedicated her career to development, production and outreach for documentaries and television shows oriented toward social justice and environmental issues. Since graduating from Brandeis University with a degree in environmental science her credits include PBS’s science series CURIOUS, Sundance Channel’s BIG IDEAS FOR A SMALL PLANET, and the Food Network’s CHOPPED. Whenever she has a free moment, she likes to extol the virtues of vermicomposting and material recycling to anyone who will listen.

Future Weather in the Media


As we enter the final eleven days of the Netflix Find Your Voice competition, we're glad to report that Future Weather is currently on top! Thank you all again for all of your support in getting us to over 17,000 votes and bringing us one step closer to making Future Weather a reality!

Still, we know that the other semifinalists are going to really pick up their efforts in these last few days, so we're glad that we've been receiving even more additional media attention in the two weeks since our last posts. Most exciting is the recent buzz that Future Weather has generated after winning Showtime's Tony Cox Screenplay award at the Nantucket Film Festival. Top industry publications ScreenDaily.com, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter were all quick to broadcast the news of this great achievement.

We've also had some great support from the blogosphere lately, with posts from long-time supporter Fake Plastic Fish and the Lanalogue helping to spread the word about SAVE THE FUTURE. Future Weather also received a great spotlight piece from Brain Pickings, a blog meant to find "revolutionary new ideas that no one has seen or thought of before". As if that weren't flattering enough, Future Weather also received an incredibly flattering post (part one of three!) on nonpretentious from Philly blogger Melissa J. Sachs, who calls Jenny "the hot Al Gore".

Thanks to all of you again for your continued support! And remember, we still need your help spreading the word and getting out the vote!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Netflix Short Director's Diary: Production

First shot of the day.

Kristin and I prepared as much as we could in ten days, but ultimately, we had no idea what to expect when we drove down to Asheville. Mystery is very alluring.

My assignment for this blog was to try and recreate the production diary I didn’t have time to keep during the shoot. But if I did, it would be a neurotic series of entries like: “5am, try to sleep for another hour. 7am, try not to barf.”

Instead, I will try to list a few of the moments of clarity I experienced during the process of making SAVE THE FUTURE. Think of them as notes to myself for future productions. I really hope there's another one soon.

  • Write two scripts (or outlines). You won’t use one, but it'll probably be another version of what you're trying to say, thus helping you strengthen your message.
  • Prep as much as you can, so you can kind of enjoy the shoot. (If you call being so exhausted you mix up everyone’s names and are at times reduced to communicating to actors in nonsensical strings of profanity enjoyable.)
  • Don’t worry about shaking hands with a man who just picked up a stillborn baby bird that fell out of its nest.
  • And don't worry about sleeping in a haunted house. Your brain will be so busy trying to get a metaphysical experience on the screen, you won't have time to scare yourself with ghosts.
  • Rain can be like playing with watercolors. Make the best of it.
  • Remember you still have time to rewrite dialog onset and during the edit (especially, if you’re working with VO). If you’re pressed for time, distill the meaning with people you trust. Dialog loves simplicity.
  • Let people do their work. (You know how it feels. Sometimes the muse only comes when you have a little privacy.)
  • Share. I couldn't have encountered a more generous group of artists in Asheville. There was no creative resource they wouldn’t have offered us for our project. I realized very quickly that I had met other people who believed that the act of creating something was the most important part. So no smallness showed up on set.
  • Take a bath in a claw-foot tub by candlelight even if it means putting off sleep another hour. You would have spent that hour unraveling anyway.
  • Chase geese. For Laduree’s ice cream shop, we stopped at a scrappy little restaurant with a red-striped awning in a country strip called “Poppy’s.” Bad hours, but took number. Meanwhile, had rural lead for field with flowers. Then Chusy suggested prep school lawn in town. Wasn’t interested, but went anyway. Too manicured; decided it was a wasted trip when we stumbled upon Exit 50, our poppy field. Way home from the restaurant Poppy’s, passed Philly Hoagie Shop. (Remember, this is the middle of North Carolina). Location was perfect for ice cream shop; hours were perfect, owner from South Philly and could not have been nicer. These synchronicities happened frequently, even through editing. Sometimes you’ve just gotta knock around a little.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Future Weather in the Media

With the launch of the Netflix FIND Your Voice competition, FUTURE WEATHER has been receiving a lot of good attention. As of right now, we're in first place of the ten semifinalists, and we're hoping to stay that way! The support we've been receiving from all of you has been great and we can't thank you enough.

FUTURE WEATHER has also been lucky to receive some attention from media outlets across the country recently. This past Thursday, Dan Gross of the Philadelphia Daily News gave us a shout-out in his column. SAVE THE FUTURE was also the subject of a great article in the Asheville Citizen-Times (look for a great quote from Chusy!). The Philly Goes Solar blog was kind enough to write about the short. And finally, our executive producers, Cora Olson and Jennifer Dubin, were interviewed by IndieGoGo about their film GOOD DICK.

As the Netflix competition keeps going, we're looking forward to getting more people excited about FUTURE WEATHER! The competition doesn't end until July 5, so keep spreading the word and help us rock the vote!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

HOW YOU CAN HELP US WIN NETFLIX

DEAR FRIENDS OF FUTURE WEATHER,

Thank you so much for your incredible support. Here are a few little ditties you can do to help our little film go a long, long, long way:


  • DONATE YOUR STATUS AND TWEETS TO OUR CAUSE: Show us some link-love by directing your friends, family, and followers to: NetflixFindYourVoice.com. Rinse and repeat daily.


  • EMBED US, BABY: Netflix provides the handy ability to embed our short most anywhere - with voting functionality. Click on the red "SHARE" tab and get your peeps watching and voting on facebook, myspace, twitter, blogger, etc. (Best results: turn off pop-up blocker, and click "Add to account".)


  • ACTIVATE YOUR ADDRESS BOOK: Either forward our email blasts or write your own. Send to every single one of your contacts. (They won't mind if it's coming from you, and it's for a good cause.) Say hello and give them a short, sweet rundown. If you want to save time, copy & paste ours:

"FUTURE WEATHER, an independent film based in Philadelphia, PA, has made it to the semifinals of the Netflix Find Your Voice Film Competition, and stands to win $350k in cash and services towards their production this fall. Their submission to the competition is a stand-alone short in which FUTURE WEATHER's protagonist reimagines her life as a public service announcement, blurring the lines between her family struggles and her fear of environmental apocalypse. It would mean a lot to me if you could go to www.netflixfindyourvoice.com, watch it, and rate it 5 stars! The more stars, the more votes! No Netflix account necessary. THANK YOU!"

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... THANK YOU AND ENJOY THE RIDE....

Andy O'Neil: Right-Hand Man

Chusy and Andy (right) looking over some footage

Andy O’Neil was Chusy’s right-hand-man during our shoot in Asheville. Not long after meeting Chusy and Jennifer in 2004, Andy was brought on to serve as co-producer for ANYWHERE, USA in 2005. Andy assisted with just about every aspect of production for the film; he scheduled shoots, rented equipment, worked on lighting, and helped Chusy edit the final cut.

An aspiring filmmaker himself, currently working with Chusy on several documentaries, Andy’s experience was a great asset when we were shooting SAVE THE FUTURE. In addition to lighting and recording most of the sound, he was instrumental in the post-production process, too. He went above and beyond by downloading and compressing our footage every night, so that we could take it back to Philadelphia ready to edit. And in his true-blue Andy fashion, he made himself completely available for any post work-flow questions we had.

Shane Eitner: "The Chest"

Jerry, Andy, and Shane pigging out at the Philly Hoagie Shop

Chusy’s cousin Shane Eitner, a body builder with a heart of gold, was working in “Executive Protection” (read: bodyguard) in L.A. before taking the cross-country road trip that landed him at Jennifer and Chusy's. He fell in love with Asheville, and after only a few months of living and working with Chusy, had picked up a few tricks of the trade. We were very impressed by how well he knew the 5D and the various lenses Chusy had for it.

Like Andy, Shane was a jack-of-all-trades during our shoot, switching off between lighting and sound; he built our telescope and literally shot the moon the day we left Asheville. But perhaps Shane’s most visible contribution to our short was his role as “the chest”. As part of our short, we really needed a faceless hottie for Laduree to bump into but couldn’t find the right person to be our "dude”. And then it dawned on us that Shane was the perfect person for the part. While he was reluctant at first, our persistent questions finally wore him down. And as you might expect, after a stint in executive protection, Shane was a natural.

PA's Help Us Brave the Elements




Our shoot would not have gone nearly as smoothly if we hadn't had the help of two production assistants who did a great job handling the rigors of the shoot. Jerry Ter Horst, an aspiring actor, worked as a volunteer on ANYWHERE, USA before joining Chusy again to work on SAVE THE FUTURE. He was joined by Nathan Lucas, an easy-going high school student who lives a few doors from Chusy, who was simply looking for something to do over the weekend. Whether these two were setting up a shelter from the rain or holding the umbrella over Chusy--and there were was a lot of holding the umbrella over Chusy--these two PAs rounded out our team and helped get things done.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Perla Haney-Jardine: Laduree

video
Perla goofs on set after a scoop of birthday cake ice cream.

The star of our short, Perla Haney-Jardine, had just turned 12 the week before we arrived in Asheville. An Asheville native, Perla first came to our attention after seeing her as the younger daughter in Michael Winterbottom’s GENOVA (Colin Firth, Catherine Keener). Impressed with her depth, we decided to contact her to see if she would be interested in playing Laduree for our short. Not only did Perla agree, but her family graciously offered to help us arrange shooting in their hometown of Asheville.

Throughout our shoot, Perla amazed us with how grounded she was. Despite the fact that we had interrupted her “regular life” (her last day of school was the day before we began shooting, and the day after we wrapped, she was off to D.C. for a school trip), Perla was never fazed by the occasional chaos that surrounded production. Whether she was working next to a stinky bale of recycled plastic or braving the rain, Perla moved through everything very calm and centered, still very much a real kid at heart.

Jennifer MacDonald: Sensual Mom


If it weren’t for Jennifer MacDonald (Chusy’s wife and Perla’s mother), it’s unlikely that the Asheville shoot would have gone as smoothly as it did. Jennifer volunteered to cast and scout locations. And because we knew of her work on ANYWHERE, U.S.A. with a lot of non-actors and last-minute locations, we decided to write some flexibility into the characters and locations we scripted. That way, it would be easy to change based on what Jennifer found for us.

Not only was Jennifer the heart of our connection to Asheville (introducing us to her friends at the Sweet Biscuit B&B, hooking us up with a fantastic caterer) but she also appeared in the short herself as the “sensual mom" (above). She's also one of the smartest people you'll ever meet. Jennifer speaks over four languages and is planning to go to Morocco for intensive study of the Arabic so that she can help women filmmakers in Middle Eastern countries produce and distribute their work.

Chusy Haney-Jardine: Straight Shooter

As if producing a short in four weeks wasn’t daunting enough, we had no idea how we were going to build a camera department from 600 miles away. Luckily, Perla’s father, Chusy Haney-Jardine, generously offered to serve as our Director of Photography and loan us his equipment for the shoot. Chusy, a multi-talented artist who might best be described as a Venezuelan Sean Connery, is actually an accomplished filmmaker himself. His film ANYWHERE, U.S.A. (co-written with his wife Jennifer MacDonald and featuring Perla) received a Special Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

We originally planned to shoot on an HVX camera with a 35mm lens adapter to give our footage a film look; however, we couldn't get our hands on an adapter that would match Chusy's lenses. But when we arrived at Chusy's little bungalow-studio, he had another trick up his sleeve: the Canon 5D, a 35mm still camera that also shoots 1080i-HD video. After watching some of his footage, we couldn't resist. While using it meant we had to record sound separately (and synch it up later), it was fantastic in low-light situations and made our images pop in an exciting way. In the end, it gave SAVE THE FUTURE a more “commercial” look befitting the style of a PSA and was well-worth the extra hassle.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Making the Netflix Short

From "Save the Future" Titles by Jia Lia

Being selected as a semi-finalist for the Netflix FIND Your Voice Competition was kind of easy compared to the challenge that came next: create a 2-3 minute short that "powerfully conveys your vision for the [feature-length] film". This could be anything, the contest admins maintained - a scene from the feature, a trailer, or "a self-contained short with thematic ties to the feature." In four weeks. For public voting on a website with 8+ million subscribers. Not intimidating at all.

We assigned ourselves the task of creating a provocative short that would grab your attention and leave you with a sense of mystery. SAVE THE FUTURE was finished last Friday and will premiere June 5 at www.netflixfindyourvoice.com. But what the hell is it about, and how did we get it done in four weeks?

Kristin, Cora, Jen and I decided to limit the script to one character from the feature, in order to cut down on casting time. Luckily, Perla Haney-Jardine, a 12-year-old actress we'd been in talks with for playing Laduree, was interested in coming on board for the short, and her family (filmmakers Jennifer MacDonald and Chusy Haney-Jardine) graciously invited us to shoot it in their hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. FUTURE WEATHER takes place in a rural setting, so after researching Asheville (a small, eclectic city tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains) and watching scenes from Perla's parent's feature, ANYWHERE U.S.A., I knew this area would provide the right milieu for our short.

With one week for prep + shooting and one week for editing, I had one week to develop a script. I started with two basic sketches - both exploring Laduree's life before the feature begins - and we picked one to develop. It was the more high-concept of the two, so I went through eight drafts before shooting and also rewrote it a bit during shooting and editing. It's called SAVE THE FUTURE, and while it contains a few motifs you'll find in the feature, it's a slightly more stylized, and frankly, commercial (in service of the concept, you'll see) depiction of Laduree's crux: her fear of environmental apocalypse as a stand-in for her absentee mom.

With our two central characters (Laduree and Asheville) established, Kristin and I drove down to North Carolina on May 13 for two days of pre-production and two days of production. The photos that follow are highlights from our trip, location scout and shoot. It was an experience we'll never forget. We hope you enjoy the show!

And don't forget: your votes can propel FUTURE WEATHER to the big screen. Slap us five stars June 5th at www.netflixfindyourvoice.com.

Pleasantville for Real



Tucked in the indigo foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, North Carolina has a unique flavor of Southern hospitality, hippie charm and artsy sophistication that felt like the magic ingredient in making our short for Netflix. Not only was the area gorgeous and temperate, the people we met instantly warmed to our project, whether they were volunteering their homes for a location or assisting with the shoot itself. Plus they were all attractive without being annoying, had well-behaved children and baked well. They even had a Philly Hoagie Shop! Was it all a figment of our imaginations...??


Check out our album, Asheville Shoot: Behind the Scenes

Kristin's Farm Photos



Whenever you visit a new town, there is always the dream of being embraced as one of their own. And during our recent trip to Asheville, this was exactly the case. We visited so many unique, inviting locations that it is difficult to select just one as a favorite. But one of the most memorable places we were welcomed would have to be the home of Jen Ramming and her lovely family. We all had a blast visiting their barn full of chickens, witnessing a real live cock fight and petting their sheep. Perla showed us her basketball skills by shooting some hoops before we left. The setting was idyllic and the company could not have been sweeter.