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..."