Monday, July 1, 2013

Screenwriting: Behind-the-Scenes

Root Bound Wrap Party, June 28, 2013  

A few of the Root Bound crew. From left: Leon Crandell, Larry Honegger, Mary Jane Honegger, 
Joe Dellwo, Rebecca Cook, TV Kippes, Kendra Sherrill, Paul Brand, Julie Rich, Crystal Reiber, 
Joey Stageberg, Kathryn Birdsall, John Gessner, Seth Mead, Bryan Peterson & Camryn Barker

I used to think there was a big difference between writing a screenplay and writing a novel.  But the truth is, the elements of writing a good story are the same in either media.  The biggest difference, as I recently discovered, is what happens with your project once it goes into production. 

First day of shooting - June 1, 2013
Crew readies for boat scene on Spirit Lake.

With a book, the author must first write the book, then find an agent, a publisher, or decide to self-publish.  The author next makes marketing plans – all in all, a fairly isolating process.

Similarly, my first screenplay, Root Bound, a short 17-page project, began as a solitary endeavor.  I spent many hours learning the proper screenwriting format, creating an engaging story, developing believable characters and writing authentic dialogue.  However, once kNIFVES (Northwest Independent Film & Video Entertainment Society) chose it for production, my solitary experience ended and I found myself taking a dip into an exciting world filled with creative, passionate people; each dedicated to their craft and to turning my words into a film.  The process was amazing. 
Second day of shooting - June 2 - Spirit Lake
Make-up artist Kara McCollum puts final touches on

actors Daniel Knight and Kathryn Birdsall.

When watching the Academy Awards, I used to wonder why winners thank so many people – and how they remember all those names.  Now I understand.  There are the producers, those in the directing department, the camera guys, the sound guys and the editors.  Then there are the grips, the gaffers, the production assistants, the costumer, hairdresser and makeup artists; not to mention the locations manager, props master, script supervisor, transportation captain, set designer, casting director and the folks in craft services who feed everybody.  Did I forget the actors?  

Because the production was a work force training project and we were all volunteers, director Rebecca Cook did her best to ensure the shoot was a first-class experience for all.  The tone on set was friendly and welcoming, the food provided was outstanding and the mentors patiently shared their expertise with those of us less experienced.

Director Rebecca Cook gives direction to Actor James Pendleton 
while Script Supervisor Tracey Vaughan keeps track of dialogue.
Paul Brand - Key Grip & Gaffer                 Camryn Barker - Camera Operator
With a cast and crew of over 40, it took us a little over five days to shoot what will become about a 17-minute film.   Several were 12-hour days with a 7:00 a.m. call.  Now that’s dedication!  Shooting on weekends only, we shot on the water and on a deck at Twin Lakes, in a bank conference room in Coeur d’Alene, at a lawnmower race in Spirit Lake and at a production studio in Post Falls.  Together this team spent literally hundreds of hours volunteering their spare time to turn my little story about North Idaho into a reality.  

Third & Fourth days of shooting - June 8 & 9 - Coeur d'Alene
Camera, lighting and sound crew at work.  In foreground from 
left: Joey Stageberg - Director of Photography, Camryn 
Barker - Camera Operator & Michael Notar - 
Line Producer & 1st Assistant Camera.  
 Each scene presented its own challenges which the crew met with patience and professionalism – never once letting the challenge of the next shot get them down despite enduring everything Mother Nature threw at us: a cold day, a rainy day and one sweltering day.

It was quite an adventure.  In fact, just hearing the actors speak their dialogue was an adventure for me.  I was mesmerized the first time I heard each line.  Thrilled.  The second time, I scrutinized each and every word, listening for continuity and fluid conversation.  After that, I lost interest in the words and just became one of the crew, working on locations, props, set design and/or as a hard working production assistant (go-fer).

Actors James Pendleton & Ron Ford on monitor.  
Each week Rebecca invited me and a few others to watch the dailies, the scenes shot the previous weekend.  As we reviewed each shot, she would record any problems she saw and make a note of her favorite take to help speed up the editing process.  I said little, tongue-tied with awe at the scenes coming to life on the screen and the perfectionism to which the scenes I wrote were being subjected.

 We held a “wrap” party after our final shoot and still have the world premiere and the film festivals to look forward to once the editing is complete and the music is added - two important steps before Root Bound is finished.  Our editor Seth Mead is already hard at work and Aaron Birdsall (our sound mixer) has agreed to write original music for the film.  More hard working volunteers!

Fifth day of shooting - Spirit Lake
The crew sets up on Maine Street during
the Big-Back In Lawnmower Race.
The experience was overwhelming at times for this writer who is used to a lot of quiet time sitting at my desk … but I loved it.  I met actors and professionals who believed in my story, worked with a lot of talented people and made a bunch of new friends.  It just doesn’t get any better … unless we got paid, of course.  C’est la vie!

Watch for Root Bound to be released around September 1, 2013. We plan on having showings in the North Idaho area and the film will be entered in multiple film festivals including the Sandpoint Film Festival in November and SPIFF (Spokane International Film Festival) early next year. Hopefully my fellow WNI bloggers will join me for the Sandpoint premiere on November 2, 2013.  See you there!

Main character Brad Carlton (James Pendleton) races his lawnmower,
(#7) Ida-Mow, during the Big Back-In Lawnmower Race.  As scripted ... he won.

Root Bound 
A kNIFVES Production

Production Team
 Executive Producer - Robynn  Sleep
Line Producer/1st Assistant Camera - Michael Notar
Screenwriter/Locations Coordinator - Mary Jane Honegger
Director - Rebecca Cook
Director of Photography - Joseph Stageberg
Gaffer/Key Grip - Paul Brand
First Assistant Director - Kendra Sherrill
Camera Operator – Camryn Barker
Script Supervisor - Tracey Vaughan
Sound Mixer/Composer - Aaron Birdsall
Sound Assistant - JohnGessner
Sound Assistant – Myles Milliman
Script Supervisor Tracey Vaughan
Wardrobe Assistant - Mica Pointer
Hair/Make-up Designer - Kara McCollum
Props Master - Bob Johnson
Transportation Captain Larry Honegger
Casting Director - Crystal Reiber
Second Camera Operator - JoeDellwo
Editor - Seth Mead
Craft Services - Arianna Arends
Apprentice Director - Dee Dee Ferenez
Production Assistant /Grip - TV Kippes
Production Assistant /Post - Leon Crandell
Production Assistant - Bryan Peterson
Production Assistant - Caden Butera
Art & Marketing Joshua Nicholson
Graphic Design - Melody Daines 
EPK Production Coordinator - Julie Rich
EPK Filming – Jonah Vigil
EPK Filming - Rachelle Price
EPK Filming - Stephen Byrum
EPK Filming - Leo

James PendletonBrad Spencer
Daniel KnightPete Spencer
Kathryn BirdsallLiz Spencer
Aaron Kimling - Jake
Ron FordTed
Damon Mentzer - Nathan
Evan Clements - Steve
Kimberly Tolson - Jessie
Crystal ReiberAmanda Carlton
Bryan Peterson - Crew Member #1





Jennifer Rova said...

I can feel your excitement and share it whole-heartedly. Congratulations on completing another phase of this successful endeavor. I know where I will be on November 1. Good luck!

Ana Goodwin said...

Absolutely awesome Mary Jane. Wow. I admire you for doing this project. I'll be looking forward to seeing the completed film.

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Love this behind-the-camera peek at filmmaking!