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Shoot to Kill: Inside the Making of All God’s Creatures

December 2, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

Part of “Best of Chicago DIY Film Magazine,” originally published January 18, 2011.

Josh Folan

Ryan Charles, Frank Licata and Josh Folan frame up; photo credit John Rockwell Harris

Ryan Charles, Frank Licata and Josh Folan frame up; photo credit John Rockwell Harris

Filmmaking of any scope is hard, and there is a direct linear relationship between the lack of production funding and the pain in the ass the filmmakers will endure in order to reach the finish line.  All God’s Creatures, the feature film I am nearing the end of post-production on, has been brought to this point for less than twenty-five thousand dollars.  Twenty-plus locations, thirty-five speaking roles, a dozen on-set crew members, twenty-three production days; that’s a lot of variables capable of derailing our production with absolutely no money available to throw at an arising problem, the way a production with a realistic budget solves the countless issues that come up during the course of making a movie.

“So how does one make a movie like that?” says the hypothetical film student I made up for this article.  “With more creativity than you ever thought possible,” I reply to said bright-eyed and bushy-tailed apprentice.  You need a grimy rail yard to shoot your film’s climax in?  You don’t have a location scout – those cost money, and you don’t have money.  The solution: get on the phone with the surrounding county film offices and railroad historical organizations and find The Oyster Bay Railroad Museum, which just happens to be looking for a guinea pig film production to learn the ins and outs of providing location services to the entertainment industry and creating the revenue opportunities that bigger budget productions would offer going forward.  The lesson: There is a way to solve any problem, and a way to do it within whatever budget you may be forced to adhere to.  As the producer, it’s your job to produce a solution – so produce one.

Behind the Scenes; photo credit John Rockwell Harris

Behind the Scenes; photo credit John Rockwell Harris

That was a problem in pre-production, which pales in comparison to the ulcer-inducing stress that accompanies something major arising during the shoot.  Case in point: I wake up one morning on the third trimester of the shooting schedule, having had an eerily calm, eye-of-the-hurricane-esque three or four day run without any major hiccups, to a voicemail from our contact for that evening’s first location informing me that we were no longer going to be able to shoot there for whatever reason.  Good morning to you, producer.  Luckily we had a backup office (the environment the scene called for) location – my producing partner’s place of work.  One phone call to my producing partner, this crisis will be averted.  I make the call, straight to voicemail.  Again, same thing.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Voicemail.  I would later find out he had been with the production shooting extremely late the night before, and had turned his phone off after making sure all of the next day’s ducks were in a row while he got some much needed shut-eye.  I’ve met his boss a few times, so I try giving the office a call.  The man of the hour isn’t in, the receptionist is unsure of how to handle the situation and isn’t sure when he’ll be back, so I leave a message.  I don’t have his cell.  Or do I?  I think I may have gotten his business card at some point…maybe.  It is definitely not in my contacts on my phone.

A mad dash home, followed by desperate rifling through my box-o-cocktail-party-fodder, turns up what in my eyes was the most valuable piece of vistaprint trademarked pseudo cardstock on the planet that afternoon.  I get him on the horn, hammer out the particulars, and my producing partner wakes up to a lineage of voicemails that likely took him through an entire emotional spectrum in the course of a few minutes but ends in good news: we are on schedule and under budget.  Today’s lessons: ALWAYS have a contingency plan, maybe two.  ALWAYS have detailed documentation of every minute detail pertaining to them.  And ALWAYS make sure every decision maker on the production has all this information at all times.

These sorts of problems are what we try to touch on in our “how to” series of interviews with Tym Moss of Artists Exposed, which we’ve titled Shoot to Kill: Inside the Making of All God’s Creatures.  We touch on all five phases of filmmaking (development, pre, production, post, and distribution) and try to shed a little light on the mistakes we made so you don’t have to, and more importantly some of the solutions we came up to hopefully motivate and inspire other filmmakers to go out and get it done.  The first of the series is embedded here, and you can find the others with a quick search on youtube or on the film’s IMDb title page.

The latest problem (yes they never end, even once the film is finished) that we are trying to solve is funding our initial distribution efforts; festival submission fees, digital platform encoding fees, DVD duplication, marketing materials, etc.  In the old days, we’d have to turn to our original investors and entice them to throw more money at us by showing them the finished film and explaining without an influx of cash the film will not reach the consumer and their investment will likely be lost altogether, or by finding new investors and convincing those original financiers that unless they dilute their ownership shares they will, again, probably garner no return on their investment.  The rise in crowdfunding created by organizations like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter has changed the game.  Predicated on the idea of making art and worthwhile causes a reality via pooling just a few bucks from a large number of individuals, and offering “VIP perks” to contributors who go a little further to help out, crowdfunding is a phenomenal tool for independent filmmakers in general, but particularly for those in the finishing stages who have a tangible product to demonstrate the film’s worthiness of a potential philanthropist’s time and money.  Our IndieGoGo campaign kicks off on December 19th – are you in a giving mood?  Five bucks, man…just give us five bucks.

•    AGC on IndieGoGo: http://www.indiegogo.com/All-Gods-Creatures

A note I wrote for the press kit about the origin of the film:

All God’s Creatures started as a small idea I had in June of `08 about a seemingly common everyman that moonlights as a serial killer, and developed into the well-rounded narrative that is All God’s Creatures through the tireless brainstorming of our team and the cinematic vision of our directors Frank Licata and Ryan Charles.  The end product is a gritty, New York-minded film that embodies exactly what Matt Jared and I formed our producing partnership around; telling stories that reflect the real, sometimes disparate, world around us, not the standard idealistic Hollywood fare.

The Plot Summary:

Jon Smith, a creature of habit, spends his days working as a barista at a local mom and pop coffee shop on the upper west side of Manhattan. When night falls he is a creature of a different breed, succumbing to his urge to savagely kill the “filthy” young women of the good city of New York. When Jon meets Delia, a good natured but troubled young woman on the run from her past, Jon is forced to confront something far more terrifying than anything he has ever before encountered in all the dark affairs of his life – himself. Brought to question his routine by the company of this mysterious and beautiful creature, Jon will examine the true nature of what it means to be a monster and ultimately discover that love is not only for a chosen few, but for all God’s creatures.

Where you can find the film:

•    Official Website: http://www.allgodscreaturesfilm.com
•    Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/agcfilm
•    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/All-Gods-Creatures/292195740195
•    Movieset: http://www.movieset.com/allgodscreatures
•    Press Kit: http://www.nyehentertainment.com/docs/agc-press-kit.pdf

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