Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cast! Cast!!!!!!

The magic doesn't come from within the director's mind, it comes from within the hearts of the actors.
James Cameron

This beautiful quote by James Cameron comes to my mind when I write about the most wonderful and enchanting part of my movie making experience – OUR CAST

Flashback to March 2009. We decided to host a couple of staged-readings (almost like a play) to raise money for the movie. In order for the reading to be funny, interesting, entertaining and help us reach our financial goal what we needed were actors – GOOD ACTORS and thus began our “Don Quixote Quest”.

We did the usual suspects - put ads on, Craigslist, and Backstage and got loads of responses. I mean there are more actors than doctors in this city. We also hired a casting director to help us, she was an absolute sweetheart, charging us a very miniscule fees.
Oh those were the days my friends, goings through each and every headshot and work experience and short-listing actors. Then sending out emails to actors, agents, managers, and anyone whom we thought would know some good actors. We also had a very limited (no) budget so we had to find a place to hold the auditions. Luckily we found support very fast from would-be investors, friends, and the co-writer’s (day job) boss.

There were three of us who were in charge of the auditions, the director, co-writer and myself. To our credit, I must say we gave equal opportunity to good and bad actors. We kept in mind that it takes lot of guts, kidneys and strength of all the things divine to come and audition. The director especially had a lot of patience and let actors finish scenes they had prepared, even if we could tell in ten seconds that it wouldn’t work. (He is a trained actor himself and knows the feeling of going into an audition and being told to stop in 15 seconds). To speak and act in front of absolute strangers, to bear the rejection and yet to still keep smiling and move to next audition with spring of anticipation in their steps – takes guts – more guts than ordinary professions.

The auditions were an epic task and we auditioned more than 2000 actors in span of 3 weeks - phew!!! Then came the tough task of selection, which is very heart breaking process. At this point you select between good actors and good actors, resulting in letting go of some good actors.

There are 3 main cast members were selected in a very unusual fashion. Firstly, our hero. Harry. Our director saw him dancing as part of a dance troupe from Long Island called Bollyarts for a Slumdog Millionaire party at Pranna, in NYC. Our “Harry” had never ever read or auditioned for anything before. He came, read and conquered our hearts with his innocence and earnestness. And he was only 18, still in high school and preparing to go to NYU to become a dentist. (He’s now enrolled in Pace’s performing arts program).

The second unusual casting we did was our main lead female – she came to read for a small part of a stripper for the bachelor party scene. I saw her sitting outside with a bunch of other girls and just something about the way she carried herself I felt she was the one. I went running to the audition room and asked the director to take a look at her. We gave her the lines and she just bowled us over.

Finally, the role of the other main lead female was auditioned over Skype. We had gone to India to cast the Indian female lead, but found no one that we were really passionately happy with. So the director went back to NY while I was finishing deals for locations. Then our India line producer recommended her name, she came in, read, went home with the script, came back that evening, read again, I sent the DVD to our director, and he said, put her on Skype with me. Let me do the “Skype” scene of the film with her live. If she can convince me this way, then she can carry the role.

I think movie-making business is a lot like Russian roulette. You leave everything to destiny and your karma. That’s what we did with our cast – we took a huge chance with them and we WON!

Lot of sales agents have mentioned that we have a no name star cast in our movie, which apparently according to them lessens the movie sales meter.

Though I beg to differ. Some times movie stars make movies, and sometimes movies create movie stars. It’s the latter in our case. New talent adds freshness, zest and a deep dedication to your film.

“Bend it Like Beckham” worked because of its actors and look where it took Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Or look at Swingers which launched Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. Every movie star was first an undiscovered actor.

Yes actors truly breathe life into a film and can make it come alive - no wonder they take home chunk of your budget ☺



Wednesday, June 2, 2010

God's Chosen Director...

“A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.” Billy Wilder

Sorry I have been zoning in and out of the blog world but the stress of finishing the movie and now trying to sell it has taken life out of me. Sometimes I feel like that our future for next 6 months is like this Bollywood song “All is well” – words of the song go “ murghi kya jaane ande ka kya hoga – life milenge ya tave pe fry hoga” duly translated it means – “hen does not know what will happen to the egg it lays –will it get life or will it fried tomorrow? “

I wake up in mornings with this panicky feeling on what’s going to happen- and I thought raising money was stressful! Though I must say that only one person who is very happy with state of my misery is my hair stylist ☹ you see from last year greys in my hair have been on ever increase mode – not raised enough money – one grey makes it’s presence – extras did not show up- one more grey, agent did not call – u guessed it Mr. grey pops up again ☹ and so on…

Though I must say I am at least bit better of then my director – he is almost completely grey – he once dyed his hair and they turned a crazy shade of red from black in few days – since then he has given up dyeing his hair.

He has gone through a lot in last one year – and when I say a lot – I MEAN A LOT!!! Out of all his soul searching journeys I would like to write about “Spiderman – revenge of the spider”.

It was May 2009 and my director headed out to howdy state of Texas to meet some potential investors. It never worked out with them, so it was not money but a spider bite that he bought back. He initially thought it was an in grown hair and tried to remove it with a pin- ughhh sounds like a gory scene from a movie! But it just did not come out – The area around the knee kept growing blacker and wider. He could hardly walk and finally after 2 days of agony he got admitted to hospital.

The Doctors took couple of blood tests and gravely pronounced it as a Spider bite. Finally after spending the whole Memorial Day weekend at the hospital he did get cured though my nephew was very disappointed with the whole out come of this incident – he really thought that spider bite would turn director into a Spiderman. But such thing only happen in movies:)

Though I must say that it did turn him into a great director – Our movie looks really kick ass - Hmmm do spiders carry creative juice serum?

We did weather lot of storms, tornados, hurricanes to make this movie and the director as he is the captain of the ship had to navigate through the roughest of them.

So who is a director? What does he do? The web definition says he is some one who directs the movie but for me they are the people who are responsible for everything that you watch on screen–they are involved in all aspects of film making, creative and administrative. They are the ones who work the longest on the film from conception to final delivery on print. They are the ones who can get the maximum credit for films success and maximum criticism for its failure.

They really and truly deserve all the accolades for the hard work they have put in.

That’s why I think it’s very important for the studios and producers to be always on look out for new and emerging talent they just have such a fresh and new perspective and take on things.

Don’t you guys get upset when you see movies like Robin Hood, Sex in the city?
I mean firstly we could make 20 movies in their budget, 20 BETTER, NICER, AMAZING FILMS IN THAT BUDGET. I read somewhere that SATC 2 spent about 10 million dollars on their wardrobe for what – to make those old women look young- phuleaseeeee!!!!!

Robin hood –as far a my memories of the folklore goes Robin hood was this young supple man with amazing cunning and intelligence not some who is almost 50 and has a sagging body and seems like he is suffering a constant hangover!

Can another Mr. Weinstein stand up and become a messiah for Independent, talented film makers and give them an opportunity to make great cinema at a reasonable budget?

On that thought I will wind up this blog and as usual here is little something I read on the Internet – hope it makes you smile.

Au revoir


"God's Chosen Director"

After a venerable career of endless, stellar successes the greatest director who ever lived is in his prime and preparing for his most ambitious project ever when he unexpectedly dies and is called home to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the gate.
"So sorry about your untimely death," he tells the director. "But God himself has called you home. You see, God wants you to direct a movie for Him."
The great man is humbled, "God wants ME to direct a film?"
"Yes," St. Peter tells him. "And we've arranged to have the best of everything made available to you. For example, the script is by William Shakespeare."
The director is stunned, "An original screenplay by William Shakespeare?"
"Yes," St. Peter assures him, "And it's his greatest work ever."
"Wow!" says the Director, awe struck.
"Your Production Designer will be Michaelangelo. We've got Leonardo Da Vinci doing the sets, your musical score will be an original work by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and your cast includes a young Laurence Olivier and the greatest actors of all time in supporting roles."
The Director can't believe it. "This is incredible," he says. "This will be the greatest movie ever?"
St. Peter kind of shuffles his feet. "Well," he says, "we do have one tiny little problem."
"Problem?" says the director. "What kind of a problem?"
St. Peter puts his arm around the director's shoulder, "Ya see," he whispers, "God's got this girlfriend..."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Firstly I am sorry it took me so long to post this blog. You see my blog goes through censor approval committee and we had lot of back and forth...anyways here is my next blog

“I'm gonna be a producer! Sound the horn and beat the drum! I'm gonna be a producer! Look-out Broadway, here I come!”

Those were the famous lines from the Producers, that I hummed when we decided to MAKE When Harry Tries to Marry!

The horn was blown, the first beat of the drum was hit, but wait a minute where was the MONEY?

We had the sweat equity in place, our own debit cards ready for swiping, but we did not have the financial equity 

If you love roller-coaster rides, you should try raising funds, especially for independent films. I mean it’s the fastest, largest and highest roller coaster ride of the world, and without safety harnesses like at Great Adventure. Once you get on
the ride, there’s no telling when you may fall and there’s no net underneath to save you.One minute the roller-coaster cab can take you so high and next minute down – one minute you are laughing at the high and the next minute your are scared shit – with a funny feeling in your stomach that never stops.

So began our quest to raise the funds – and let me tell you it was quite a journey. Anyways so we put together this whole book – what we called the HARRY BOOK – and like every noble endeavor needs blessings from above, we found Ganesh emblems and stuck then to the cover of the book. The Harry Book had everything that an investor would ask us for - from Synopsis to Distribution plan. I mean to point of being conceited this was one kick ass book (140 pages – every page carefully designed, written and printed) and would be an amazing reference for any aspiring film-maker.

The Harry book was put together, but now the question was – “who do we approach for money?” We made this long list of people – Family, Friends, Families families, families’ friends, and friends’ families – ok so you know what I mean.

From that list we went to most likely person – He was like a mentor for my director and in two meetings he cut us a check – (well 3 checks actually). For us he will be always be the guy who wrote that first check(s) – Priceless!!!

Then we went on to approach other people but we noticed a common dysfunctional problem – none of these guys had time to read our script / or weren’t used to reading script, and we kept going around in circle – as the script is basis for the investment and they had not time to read the script. The second problem was, and that was a bigger problem as the script always received the same comment from Hollywood “could it be executed well” and “who would execute it”. The third problem was “who’s in it?”

So we decided to raise money by putting on the proverbial “dog and pony show” via STAGED-READINGS. More on how the readings were planned, the work put into doing them, and not listening to the nay-sayers in a future blog.

We staged three readings in New York (May, June, and August 2009) and raised about 40% of our money that way. Investors came to theatre, sipped some wine, ate some cheese and crackers and laughed for 2 hours and (next day) cut us a check. Sounds very simple but don’t try this at home boys and girls (till you read how the readings were put together) and how much work goes into putting together the plan / collateral material / legalese / prospectus / casting / rehearsals / re-writing / music / graphics / reference imagery and choosing samosas versus pakoras / Saturdays versus Sundays...

We had the 40 % of the money but yeah you cannot make only 40% of your movie – we needed the rest 60%. You see we had quit our (day) jobs and had used up all our meager savings and had no incoming revenue – so if we did not raise money soon our only option would have been to drive a cab AND I DO NOT EVEN KNOW HOW TO DRIVE!!!

During all this, we met a whole bunch of characters.
Lets call this guy the Pirate of the Indian Ocean. We had this gentleman, who was a friend of a friend, of a friend, who had some background in show business. Now this guy (on paper) was the dream financier. He loved the story, loved the project, loved the whole deal, and promised us that he would give us all the money. In fact, he said “don’t take money from anyone else” numerous times by email and in calls. He wanted to “own” the movie himself. Can you imagine our excitement? We had to choose whom we would take money from. Awesome! Right? Wrong. One day while, we were doing a presentation to a bunch of investors in Texas, this gentlemen sends an email telling us that he won’t give us (partial) money. He wanted to be the only one. He asked for our wire transfer details. Holy shit! We’re in business folks. He also said he’d spoke to this guy / that guy / this actress / that star / we’re gonna be in the company of A-listers.

And then.

We called the bank. Our minutes, hours, days, were spent waiting for him. We had a catch 22. Either raise 60% elsewhere or get the entire 100% from him and he even wanted to INCREASE the budget. We even bought a ticket to go meet him (all this was on the phone and emails since he was always travelling). He always had an excuse - wife sick, child sick, business meetings, weddings, the wire details got deleted, the bank messed up – you name the excuse and he had one but the best one was the last excuse – brace yourself ladies and gentlemen, he said that his GOLD WHICH WAS ENROUTE TO DUBAI WAS STOLEN BY SOMALIAN PIRATES!!! We were so head ***ked by that time that that we would have actually gone and hunted those pirates out. He sent us looking for El Dorado which never really was.

But we didn’t flinch for a minute. We knew that Lord Ganesh would not let us down. If we could raise 40% in 3 months, we’d raise the balance 60%. We had decided “come what may”. And like a farishta we connected with this investor that my producing partner knew from a decade ago. He read our Harry Book and agreed to meet us with his family.

They heard us, grilled us and said nice meeting you, we will think and get back to you in a week.

The next week we got a call from him saying he and his friend would invest together.
And that’s it folks we had our money to make a movie…

I have always believed in Angels. You see this is my theory – since God is so busy looking after bigger issues and larger problems he has no time for us smaller beings. So to protect us he has given us our Angels. We all have our Angels – You know someone that comes and gives you his hand when you fall, someone who smiles at you when you are in grouchy mood, the one who takes your loneliness away, someone who shows you a open door when you think all of them have shut, they are always there in some shape, some form – helping you, guiding you, holding you, soothing you. They are our Angels!!!

Our investors have been our Angels- every time we had an issue – any issues - they have helped us, guided us and held us. So from our whole team I want to thank our Angels – thank you for being with us – for being our super heroes and letting us make our dream a reality. We will never forget it.

Lastly - If you believe in your project enough, have conviction and confidence other people will assume you are on to something, and they'll want to participate. An anecdote. The first investor (my director’s mentor) asked if we had quit our day jobs. We had. And that’s the reason he gave us the money to begin with. He said if you don’t have skin in the game, why would anyone else.
Cheerios, hugs and kisses,


Hollywood Memos

From: Film Investor

To: Marty Simmons (producer of Animal House and Vacation)

Matt your script reads, "As we open, an adorable little penguin struts down a quiet hallway." We checked out rentals on a penguin and they are too expensive. They had a special on camels—we went with the camel.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Begning....

This one is for one who smiles with happiness when they see my face -Every time

Hello to you lovely kind folks who have decided to read this blog. I decided to write after lot of back and forth and contemplation – why would anyone want to read this – who will read this – will they like it– would they look forward to it day after or week after? Lots of conflicting emotions – could not make up mind. But then yesterday I was passing magnolia bakery on upper west side and in an instant I decided to eat a cupcake and in that instant I decided to write – just for my pleasure – just to make myself feel good-just like that cupcake.

So who am I? I have decided to write under pseudo name till our movie sells – just because we had such a varied experience in making this movie – an experience that has left us rich in understanding people, things, places, emotions. I am going to take you guys with us on journey from the point we put the project together to now – we are in last stage of our post production.

I am one of the producers of this movie. So what does a producer do? Well he/ She produces – as in not in egg or milk but a movie- someone who finds financing for and supervises the making and presentation of a show (play or film or program or similar work)- That’s us – A film Producer. We producers take lot of shit and give lot of shit – actually we do take lot of shit. We are the guys who everyone finds a reason to be upset with – for being paid, for not being paid, for food, for toilet paper and in my case for cows in India! Yes that story will be discussed in later –when I talk about the production.

Since I have known myself I have always wanted to produce – I have a great knack for putting things together and I get this orgasmic pleasure when things go according to clockwork – no goof ups – no slip ups – Just smooth running! So I slogged my ass as a PA, got promoted to associate producer on few shows and events and had an opportunity to work with some awesome talent. THEN I LANDED THIS MOVIE – and life has never been the same. Making movie is like bearing a child – first you are excited – then when your are all fat and ugly and can hardly walk – you wish it would promptly pop out – when you get the contractions you wish you had used a contraceptive – but when the baby come out and you see its face for the first time – it’s precious –something so wonderful- it leaves you speechless – that’s movie making. When I saw our locked picture few days back I could not sleep that night – I went our every scene – every dialogue – every laugh – again and again. I could not believe that what we have produced is so wonderful – so beautiful. Mr Weinstein please call us now or you might lose an opportunity of an lifetime
We producers work very hard – really hard and no not all of us are men, cigar smokers, skirt chasers and have pot belly. That’s why the best award in Oscars is kept for us – BEST PICTURE – Yes the biggest one is for us!

Anyways its almost midnight and tomorrow we will be getting feedback from the sales agents.
I have to go- next blog I will take you in flashback –putting our project together.
Till then
love,fun and Credits Roll


Out take- 1

A producer is lying by the pool at the Beverly Hilton. His partner arrives in a great state of excitement. "How'd the meeting go?" asks the first guy.
"It went great," says his buddy. "Tarentino will write and direct for six million, Mel Gibson will star for eight, and we can bring in the whole picture for under fifty million."
"Fabulous," says the guy by the pool.
"There's just one catch," his partner warns.
"What's the catch?"
"We have to put up ten thousand in cash," his partner replies.