Logan Must Make Star Wars

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Our new short film, “Logan Must Make Star Wars”, is now on the YouTubes!  (well, actually, it’s been up for a week or so, I’m just a lazy blogger).

It was a hell of an experience, as all these 48 hour movies are.  We were honored to win Best Story, Best Directing, and Best Comedy at the 10th Anniversary Almost Famous Film Challenge.

It’s probably our last 48 hour movie, as we’re moving forward into features (fingers crossed), but as both Sean Connery and Justin Bieber say … Never say never.

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Photo courtesy of Almost Famous Film Festival

Photo courtesy of Almost Famous Film Festival

Billy is coming

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This summer, along with our sci-fi comedy series “Voyage Trekkers”, we’re going to release our 2007 no-budget feature film, “The Constant Epiphanies of Billy The Blood Donor.” We’re going to serialize the film, breaking it up into five to eight minute long installments, so that everyone has a chance to see this fun, quirky little movie.

So what is “Billy the Blood Donor”?  It’s a digital feature film adaptation of my brother’s (Logan Blackwell) stage play of the same title.  The story is an absurdist and dry comedy about a hapless young man, Billy (Daniel Brodie), who like many students at the end of their college career, realizes he’s totally unprepared for the real world.  In a half-hearted quest for adventure, he soon becomes involved with an evil blood donation company and gets entangled in it’s web of diabolical (and often silly) schemes.  Along the way he falls in love with another student, Sherry (Lauren Henschen), who’s secretly addicted to drinking blood.

The project took three years to make, shooting it on scattered weekends from 2005 to 2006, and then over a year and a half to edit.  It’s surprising how long it really took to make, seeing as though it was only about fourteen shooting days (about the same as the new season of “Normally This Weird”).  The project came at a point where I was resurrecting myself as a filmmaker … I was in a major slump, really unsure of if I was on the right path or not, and was just seriously out of practice.

When my first feature, “Forever Midnight” (1998), failed to push me into a film career, I had lost a lot of confidence.  Many years later, “Billy” was all about getting back on the saddle.  I was just tired of not making movies.  I didn’t want to worry about investors, I just wanted to make a movie, so I took out a loan and bought a nice camera … and that’s exactly what we did.  We just made it, and for the fun of it.  This was the beginning of the age of Squishy Studios and this was my return as a filmmaker.

So, look forward to meeting Billy and the strange cast of characters this movie has in store for you.  It’s all part of the upcoming Squishy Studios Network, which I’ll talk more about in the coming weeks!

Resurrecting Vanessa

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Something I’ve never had to do before is recast a role that’s already been seen by audiences. With short films, or even features, if an actor drops out at the last moment and you’re forced to do emergency recasting, the audience is totally unaware. But with a web series, which is basically like a TV show, people have watched previous episodes with original actor already.

Lauren Henschen, our original Vanessa in the Squishy Studios web series “Normally This Weird”, has had amazing success with her new band Super Stereo. Naturally, we’re all so proud of her right now, but with this success means she’s now fiendishly busy. With Michael Peterson (who plays Simon) leaving for South America to shoot his documentary this summer, we just weren’t able to make the schedule work, and Lauren and I came to the conclusion that the best route was to recast the part.

Now we did have one distinct advantage that the character of Vanessa herself has actually died in the show and was brought back to life by dark magic! 🙂 So, much in the spirit of Doctor Who, Vanessa has been resurrected …

Christina Fruciano Stoffan as the new Vanessa

The talented and funny Christina Fruciano Stoffan got the part as the “new” Vanessa. She was in fact at the right place at the right time, having actually been one of the performers at the NCT benefit show for “Normally This Weird” back in January. The priority wasn’t find another actress that looked like Lauren … I wasn’t trying to fool the audience … Instead, the goal was to cast an actress that had the right comedic skills for the part.

This begged the question … how do we handle the recasting the role in the actual show itself? I didn’t want to go back and reshoot everything Lauren had done with the new actress, essentially erasing her performance on the show … that just seemed wrong to me. Would we actually show the physical transformation from one actress to another (like in “Doctor Who”)? That seemed wrong and just a little too on the nose for me.

But, this is a comedy after all, I couldn’t miss the opportunity of making a few winks at the change as the other character’s perceive Vanessa’s recent change and “differences”, so I added in a few new lines to show to do that.

Another thing I had to realize is that, now that the audience had a new Vanessa, a new actresses, they had to establish a new rapport with her. The “new” Vanessa needed additional face time so that they could get to know her and make a connection. Too often filmmakers don’t consider “face time”, which allows the viewers to get to know a character. So, because of this, I wrote two new scenes to add to the show.

Michael Peterson as Simon (Left), Adam Rini as Swivey (center), and Christina Fruciano Stoffan as Vanessa (Right)

Wow, we’re getting so close to the end! The last shooting days of Season One of “Normally This Weird” is coming up on May 7th and 8th! Woo hoo!

Billy The Blood Donor Blogs

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Thought it might be interesting to include a sample of some of the old Myspace blogs from the making of “The Constant Epiphanies of Billy the Blood Donor”, our no-budget feature film.
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Monday, August 07, 2006


Post-Production has begun again! Oh, now it’s over again.

Nathan here. Just a quick update for curious minds. Logan and I bought our own edit system (a used mac with Final Cut Pro) so we can restart post-production and finish this sucker. Well, as soon as we got it home, the thing develops one of them show-stopping type technical hiccups which grinds us back to a stop. Sucks, but we’ll probably have it fixed in about a week or so.

A few weeks ago Logan and I attended a pleasant little three hour seminar about film festival strategy. While it was, by in large, not particularly all that wonderful, I did get two or three really important questions answered, which is good, because now our film festival strategy is now completely different.

What the plan is now: have a private screening for the film, inviting those who helped make their movie, their family, and a few friends. But the important detail is that it will be invitation only. This then excludes it from being a general audience World Premiere … which is what these festivals wants. If we start renting spaces and showing the movie to anyone who wants to see it, we screw ourselves over … atleast until the movie has hit one or two solid festivals

The first fest we’re aiming for is the Sedona International Film Festival, and then the Phoenix Film Festival.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Principal Photography Complete
Whew! Principal Photography is DONE! All the majors scenes with all the major actors are in the can (…although there is no “can” with digital…).

That last weekend was particularly brutal, specifically in the troubleshooting department. We couldn’t get the location we needed and were force to jury-rig our office scene cut-aways in a hallway. Car problems, turned off cell phones, and all the usual hiccups caused several scheduling migranes. But, in the end, we achieved the primary goal: wrap Daniel for the movie. Daniel Brodie (aka Billy) is literally in every scene in the movie, so finishing his work on the film is a big deal. Plus, now he can finally shave! 🙂 I’m extremely grateful for his commitment, which for this project has been longer investment of time than even any of the crew members (excluding myself). Yay Billy.

So, the kinda stuff that still needs to be shot are the Happy Red Drink Commercial, some inserts of locations, and the remaining Nurse and Stranger scenes. It could probably knocked out in one full day, but I doubt the scheduling Gods likes us that much…

I’m hoping the wrap party goes well, we’re preparing for that at my house. I sent out the invites a few days ago. Next up is finishing the edit, shooting what’s left, and getting some real music.

-Nathan

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The End is Near… in a good way

Hey, Nathan here!

Just a quick production update. This weekend (May 26, 27, and 28) we’re finishing principal photography on Billy the Blood Donor! Yay! That means all the main actors will be wrapped. There’ll of course still be a few “second unit” kinda stuff left to shoot: the Happy Red Drink Commerical, some exteriors, and those shots with the Stranger …

So, this means editing will soon resume, and that the wrap party is coming up. I’m still figuring out when and where… I’ll let you know.

A second clip from the movie is coming to the website soon, probably after this weekend … so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Rough Cut notes

Hey everyone! Nathan here. I don’t know if everyone would be interested in this, but here is a sample of some of my notes from screening the Rough Cut (or feedback I got from others). Of course I left out stuff like, “Man, Logan sucks! Why does Logan suck so much?!” and “Did Logan even read his own script?!? Why is he doing that?! OMG!!”, etc.

Hopefully this will give you an insight into the whole editorial process. There may be context missing, but that just makes it more … uh, exciting!

SAMPLE OF THE ROUGH CUT NOTES

* Add more transitional time between coffeeshop and American Blood scene. Maybe shoot something with Billy outside before hand.

* Coffee shop: Still too slow in the beginning. DAMMIT!

* Coffee shop: Billys stand in triumph is awkward in cutting.

* Life Is But A Dream scene: More ‘laugh time after Shays “It could be.” It gets a big laugh and people wont hear the next line.

* We need something looming after Billy & Frank 2, to move into the more serious “getting to the bottom of this” mood. Maybe sort of a Billy POV coming down the hall. Something for the audience to change gears.

* Billy & Sherry at Sherrys house color correction is too green in parts.

* Angry Crowd scene: cut the inaudible line, the bad line, and the Clinton line. Just cut from the arms pointing to Are we the best Billy?

* After Lionels Tour, the overhead shot of the board room, the table looks too wrinkly. Craig says it makes our movie look really low budget (which it is of course). Darken it or just go to close up? I can fix it in photoshop and repaint the image of the table.

* Its been said twice now that Lionel’s tour is just a BIT too long, which I never felt, but where to trim?

* Billy and Sherry at ASU: Cutting is too restrictive. Look for more options.

* Is Billy sleeping on the doorsteps at American Blood too much? Cut it? Shoot something to prop it up?

* Lower Depths: Got a really good response, but tighten up just a bit.

* Board Room: Need more shot variety on Rochester.

* Need a better transition into slo-mo sequence.

* Final Confrontation: Add Logans reaction to “Farty the Space Age Dinosaur”. It was pretty good reaction, I just left it out for some reason.

* Billy & Frank #1: Still too long. Take out Jazz Odysessy (a line even Logan admitted he didn’t understand)??? That might help. I need to find a way to cut and emphasize the demo tape rather than trivialize it. The test part is unecessaruy, but I cant find a way around it.

First teaser poster for “Billy the Blood Donor”

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rough cut impressions and your own concept of the movie

Nathan Blackwell:

The feedback from the rough cut is really good! There’s still a lot of room for improvement, of course, and a lot of that is being discussed. The first screening went the best. Maybe it was just the energy of seeing it together for the first time. Even I hadn’t seen it all in one sitting until then.

I’m finding it’s important, at some point in time, to watch your film (alone preferably) and burn a final opinion of it in your mind. Like a snap shot you hold on to, for better or for worse. Because, you’ll soon find, your own image of what you made will be rigorously tested. One of the first lessons you learn when screening your movie to complete strangers, or even close friends, is that they’ll have wildly different opinions about everything. One will say “this actor brings down the whole production!! Can you recast them?! I think you should…”, while someone else will say (about the same actor) “they were my favorite! Why aren’t there more scenes with them, dammit?!”

When these kinds of passionate opinions first fly at you, you take everything to heart. It’s all very serious. Sort of like when I was writing drafts of my first feature film, Forever Midnight, I’d distribute copies to people I knew or didn’t know. From that, whole characters would get rewritten or killed off, subplots would be called into question, and mostly dire of all, I’d forget what I thought the story was about.

Right, so I don’t do that anymore. Oh, sure, I give out copies of scripts I’m working out, but just to people whose creative compass I trust, like my friend Craig who’s also a writer. He knows what to say that will help in terms of writing, he shares my sense of humor, plus he’s easily bored and will tell you so.

I guess the moral of the story is just take it all in stride. But I always listen carefully for what they’re really trying to say. Feedback is always imporant, but make sure who have a certain confidence in yourself as an artist. Now, I’m the first to criticize my own performance hell, I can’t bare to watch many of my own movies because I keep tearing them apart.

Usually the serious ones I can’t really watch again. The funny, goofy movies have atleast a certain charm to them.

I think next bloggitude I’ll post some of the rough cut notes I’ve made, or got from the others, just for the hell of it. Not all, mind you … but some. 😉

The very first teaser image released for the movie.