Below is an excerpt from my first article in what is to be an ongoing series that will examine and discuss various topics having to do with digital cinema -from script to screen. This series will be hosted, in its entirety, on Theo’s Roundtable, though you will be able to read excerpts here. I’ve partnered with Theo’s Roundtable for this new ongoing venture because I have always believed that many of the consumer topics we discuss here are intertwined with the professional ones that will soon be discussed on Theo’s site. News such as IMAX’s move into the home is a perfect example of this phenomenon.  This is why, with Theo and Mike Gaughn’s help, I will be expanding my “reach” in hopes of bringing the larger conversation closer to home for many of you.

What follows is largely an introduction to how my journey with digital cinema began. Enjoy.

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Last Friday, April 19th, marked the four-year anniversary of the theatrical debut of my first film, April Showers. The next day marked the 14-year anniversary of the event that inspired the film—an event that would inevitably change my life and lead me down a road that finds me where I am today. But somewhere in between four years ago and 14, another milestone took place—one that has proven as eye-opening and life-changing as both described above.

In 2007, while trying to decide what to do with my creative self, I sat down and began to write. What came out of this mental and creative “purge” was the script for April Showers. The original draft, of which I have the only copy, was nearly 160 pages long. Any good screenwriter will tell you if your story occupies 160 pages, then you don’t have one. But somewhere in those initial 160 pages, I knew a story existed, and much like cutting film in an darkened room, I just had to find it. Feel it out.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I did precisely that, and soon a more concise story took shape—though arguably it was far from being “commercial.” A “fact” that was told to me time and time again by some of my friends in the studio world. Regardless, I had a 122-page script, and I liked it.

It was at that point that I realized I had run out of know-how. I knew how to write—I had been doing it for a number of years by that point—but what I didn’t know was how best to convert those words to moving images. OK—that’s not entirely true. I understood the technical part just fine; it was the paying for the technical part that eluded me. So I took out an ad on Craigslist. That’s right, Craigslist. Two industrious young women answered my call, and before we knew it, we were three individuals with no idea of how to fund a feature film. We had all made content in some form or another of our own in the past, but nothing quite like this. Nothing on this scale. But we weren’t about to let on that what we were about to undertake was uncharted territory. So we bullshitted.

Early poster concepts that I created following the conclusion of principle photography on “April Showers.” These poster concepts were ultimately never used for marketing, but helped establish a look and feel for the film prior to an edit being completed. (Images courtesy of April Showers LLC.)

That isn’t to say we lied or cheated—no, we just faked it until we made it. We knew we had a good story, and we knew we had the know-how to pull it off. We just didn’t have the money. An interesting thing about money: Those who would otherwise give you some are more comfortable if they think you already have a little—even though they know and you know that you don’t. So rather than show them real money, you have to show them the promise of more money. This is where a slick-looking business plan and a pre-sale poster come in handy. And I’ll admit, given my background in creating Hollywood one-sheets, April Showers’ pre-sale poster was pretty damn effective. It didn’t take long before a group of wonderfully generous people banded together and came up with the film’s modest budget of roughly half a million dollars.

From there, preproduction began in earnest, during which time the script underwent a number of changes. I wasn’t wholly behind some of the changes and even fought several of them, but understood that many of the comments were geared at making the film more “approachable” for audiences. During preproduction, we began scouting talent and hiring the crew. It was during this time that the folks tied to the money began demanding “names,” whereas I was focused more on the—you guessed it—technical.

It wasn’t as if I didn’t care about the actors. I did—really, I did. But I also knew this film wasn’t going to hinge upon a particular name, but rather on the performers’ ability to believe that what I was about to unleash upon them was “real.” If anything, a name actor would potentially do more harm than good for if the audience was for a second caught up in (name your actor) playing a teacher or student, then the whole illusion would be lost. I believe at one point, I uttered the phrase, if anyone refers to this film as a Bruce Willis flick then we’re fucked. Obviously those sentiments are not always going to be in line with those whose money it is that ison the line. For me, I wanted to remain true to the emotion of the moment at all costs, whereas those who invested, well, they likely wanted something different. Not that either side is right nor wrong, but as with everything in film, it’s a balancing act.

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