Wow. Last night we had our first table read for THE GRADUATES, our coming of age comedy. Everyone was hysterical. Every actor in our production is a gem, and everyone of them was brilliant at the read-through.
First things first: everyone was on time, in good spirits, ready to read. Nothing lifts me more than getting the vibe that the actors are feeling the project. They are everything. If they're not into it, it's going to show.
I said a few words about the shooting schedule and the business end of things, and then talked about what I consider to be one of the most important issues facing us: money. Some would argue that this is THE most important issue facing us. They're right. Good thing they're producing and not me.
I tend to write big, cinematic moments that I can absolutely not afford to shoot. So in true indie style, we get creative and figure out a way to make it happen. But generally speaking, in order to make it happen, we need every dollar up on screen (read: no dollars for, say, food). So actors and crew need to know from day one that a lot of the perks we've seen or heard of others having on set are simply not feasible- things like running water, shelter... Just kidding, cast of The Graduates
Tangent: I remember seeing the contract that Steven Soderbergh gave his actors on Full Frontal (2002). He was already a mega-producer, had just made about a trillion dollars on Ocean's Eleven, probably could've gotten a Casablanca remake greenlighted if he wanted, but he did this tiny little indie film. The contract had ten points, things like:
"drive yourself to and from set"
"do your own makeup and wardrobe"
The film starred Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Catherine Keener, David Duchovny, and Blair Underwood, amongst others.
So anyways, everyone was receptive to the down and dirty shooting style. Do they know what they're in for? Probably not. It's going to be an amazing experience. If it were up to me we would head down there for a month with no lights, just a camera, sound and actors, live like hippies in a commune and make our little film while living off the land and our own ingenuity. Maybe grow our own food. Except for Ledo's Pizza, which we would pony up for because it is delicious and can not be grown in a garden.
But other people's money is involved, so we're not exactly shooting this like Easy Rider. The film is funny enough to be popular and smart enough to be provoking. So it's worth the investment to make this a distributable picture. And we will.
After the reading I held a little session with Josh, Matt and a handful of close friends involved in the production. We spent ten minutes debating who had the funniest lines in the read through. It was a twelve-way tie. Then we made fun of me for sweating constantly. It's New York in the summer. Screw you guys, it's humid. Then we got to the script.
We all agreed the main character's arc could use some jiggering, but the most interesting question for me was Holly's: "what is this film really about?" That was a good debate- is it youth and sex? The first time you realize who you are or who you are becoming? Is it about differentiating between friends and people-you-grew-up-with? Or is it just about taking the next step in life, whether you're 18 or 80?
One of the reasons this is such an interesting question is because in a screenplay, you MUST know the answer to this question before your script is a movie. Movies, whatever their scope, are about one thing. If you don't know what that one thing is, you don't really have a movie (right?). You might have a novel though.
Anyways, moving onto the next draft, a ton of decisions will be informed by the answer to that question. Now... I'm off to try and find the answer.
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