indie film

"About a Donkey" Second Week of Production Recap

This past weekend we completed days 5 and 6 on the set of About a Donkey. We skipped Sunday because we had a film festival screening for a past project (more on that in a future update). We're so proud of and excited about what we accomplished thanks to our hardworking team!

On Friday, we shot 6 pages only, but a scene that features 6 actors. So we had quite a bit of coverage to get. Thanks to The Local (where we hold IndieWorks) for loaning us their back hallway to convert into a hospital waiting room, we were able to work within our budget and make our day early (in 8 hours)! We got to experiment with the space and get some cool shots; and the performances were so on point (as I've come to expect from our talented cast). It was the first time we had Sarah Haruko (Cassie) on set and she was such a pleasure to work with. What comedic timing!

See behind the scenes of the day:

And check out these exclusive Stills from our raw footage. 

On Saturday we had a huge challenge on our hands, trying to knock out 15 pages in a day. Part of making this film work on our budget means trying to wrap specific locations in a day and minimize certain actors' time on set; as well as making creative choices as much as possible in pre-production to really shoot for the edit (which I've learned every director should do regardless of budget). It was our first time having the wonderful Ellen Graff (Grandma Farrah) and lovely Elisha Mudly (Jordan) on set and they were just brilliant. The chemistry between them and Christina Shea-Wright (Cecilia) was palpable. Despite some setbacks before the shoot, like losing an equipment loan and needing to scramble for last minute rentals, my getting a cold and losing my voice, and unexpectedly having to schedule in an hour long company move into our already jam-packed Sunday, we still managed to make our day (pushing to 13 hours but still pulling it off) and create work we can all be proud of! I'm especially excited to see what we shot on Sunday cut together because there was such energy on screen. (Shout-out to AD Matt Gershowitz for loaning his apartment and my family friends Joan & Larry Berger for loaning us their office closet and hallway!)

See behind the scenes below:

 

And check out these exclusive stills. 

Our crew overall is amazing, but it is rotating quite a bit aside from the core creative team/producers. The three other main staples we have on set are Will Graham, our sound guy who's wonderfully attentive and thorough, Lizzie Zambrano, our makeup artist who works wonders with so many faces to keep shine-free at once, and our production designer Nicole Solomon, who I especially want to give a shout-out to because she's doing a lot of work between the production days to stretch our budget and add production value all over the place! 

We'll be back at it on Friday. We're currently halfway through production and right where we need to be. 6 days down, 6 to go. But we need the weather to cooperate moving forward because we start exteriors this weekend, and will have our donkey on set the following weekend! Hopefully now that it's officially Spring, the sunshine and rain will wash away this snow. Please cross your fingers and do a little dance for us!

-Christina 

"About a Donkey" 1st Scene Shoot Recap

Kelsey & I (Christina) spent most of 2016 in pre-production for our feature film About a Donkey; and we made it a point to keep our audience updated on all our progress, from sharing videos about why we want to make the film to introductions to the characters with each casting announcement. Last weekend that work and progress resulted in the first execution of bringing this passion project to life. 

On Saturday, the entire cast (even two via videochat) and much of the key crew met up for our first reading of the full script. It was so much fun getting to bring our new extended film family together to bond and collaborate. Hearing the whole script from such brilliant performers over 4 years after Kelsey shared the first draft of it with me was really rewarding and exciting. We cannot wait to work and create with all these wonderful people. 

We're planning to crowdfund the film from February 1st through March 3rd, then jump into production on March 10th. We decided the best way to involve our audience, show them what we're capable of and give them a taste of what this film can be would be to actually devote a day to shooting the first scene of the film (12 pages!) and release a section of it as part of our Seed&Spark pitch video. So that's what we did on Sunday. I will talk more about how that went and how we pulled it off when our campaign launches next month, but know that it was a huge success thanks to our talented and dedicated crew and cast (and my amazingly supportive family). We know now more than ever that this project is something special. We look forward to bringing you along on this journey!

See a few raw stills from what we shot below!

And click through behind the scenes photos from the shoot!

Be sure to mark your calendars for February 1st at 12:30pm EST. Our campaign will not only reveal the opening scene and explain why this film is so important & worth getting behind, but will also offer a sneak peek at Saturday's read-through and a variety of exclusive incentives for your contribution(s)! Bookmark this link: www.seedandspark.com/fund/about-a-donkey. It's coming soon!

WHAT IS ABOUT A DONKEY?

About a Donkey is about growing up & growing old, and finding love & laughter along the way. The film follows the Owens family: Ann & Tim, their 3 adult children, Cecilia, Burgh, and Annie (and her husband Paul), and matriarch Farrah. When Tim brings home a donkey in a mixture of wanting to rescue both it and himself, things are shaken up in each of the characters' lives.

The films quirky but relatable nature has been referred to as a little Little Miss Sunshine meets Gilmore Girls, but with a donkey and a strong focus on inclusivity (both in front of and behind the camera)! We're strong believers in being the change -- reflecting the world as we want to see it. With this film, our mission is to combat hate with humor and heart.

In our film, love is love, people's lives and desires are relevant no matter their age, and struggling with depression is acceptable and normal.

BTS of New Short "Arm Bar"

Last night we wrapped production on my new short film, "Arm Bar."

Logline: A young, aspiring MMA fighter visits her local boxing gym to settle a dispute with the owner.

The screenplay for "Arm Bar" came to fruition in the first few months of our CongestedCat writing group. Christina Raia, Kelsey Rauber, and I, had all been talking about how we wanted to meet once a week to keep the creative, right side of our brain's in motion. I knew I wanted to move into pre-production on a new short, but I didn't know which would be the right script to move forward with. I initially wanted to tackle one of my other short stories, "Magic Mountain," with DoP Peter Westervelt, but it proved to be a bit too ambitious for the time. After Christina and Kelsey gave me their thoughts on Arm Bar, I knew it was the one. I was soon after introduced to Jeanette Sears at one of our IndieWorks events and knew she would be a great fit to DP the film. I loved the fact that we had representation and inclusivity not only in front of, but behind the camera as well.

Christina expressed her interest in producing the project and we immediately moved into pre-production, which proved to be a lot to take on. At first, the plan was to crowdfund on Seed&Spark, but after talking with Christina, we decided it'd be best to fund this one out-of-pocket. She helped me solidify the budget and we realized it would be attainable. Still, we made the decision to shoot promotional and behind the scenes videos to draw some attention to the project before moving into principal photography. You can watch the promo here: 

 

Casting the project was a bumpy road, but when I auditioned Latresa Baker is when it all really started to come together. She walked into that room prepared and ready to take the role that was rightfully hers. The training process was one one of the aspects of pre-pro that I was most scared about. We bounced around from class, to individual trainer, to fight choreographer, and I was worried that all the different types of blocking and direction would make it more confusing than helpful. In the end, Latresa absorbed all the information like a sponge and we created a simple, cohesive, and hopefully exciting fight that I can't wait to share with you all.

In hindsight, everything about this project was almost just as ambitious as Magic Mountain. FedUp was the last short I directed over two years ago... a six-and-a-half minute short in my apartment with a small cast and crew. Arm Bar is a fifteen page screenplay that takes place in a boxing gym with a decent-sized supporting cast, extras, and fight scene choreography. It was a lot to take on, but with the help of Christina, Jeanette, AD Matt Gershowitz, and the rest of the amazing cast and crew that I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with... we did it.

Check out some raw stills from what we shot below:

See BTS photos from the day:

I really can't thank my cast and crew enough. They were all my rock, and helped me keep it together in the production's most heightened points of anxiety. Can't wait to collaborate with these wonderful people again in the future.

Some of the cast and crew after we wrapped production on the film.

Some of the cast and crew after we wrapped production on the film.

IndieWorks: July Screening Recap

Last Tuesday was the July edition of IndieWorks. We screened 5 films and had over 70 people in house! Our first two films were moving documentaries. The second set of films were in the horror-comedy realm - a couple of which used genre to explore important or thought-provoking issues. Overall, the night was full of thoughtful conversations and wonderfully supportive vibes!

We'd just like to say thank you to everyone who came out to support the filmmakers and spend the evening with us & them. We do hope you enjoyed all the films and the opportunity to network with other filmmakers and film enthusiasts, and we hope some connections were made! AND we hope you'll join us again on August 2nd. 

See photos from the evening (by Grayson Davis):

The Films of the night:

My Identity (Directed by Yasmin Mistry)
Ashley, a young Native-American girl, converts to Islam in hopes of finding structure in a life where it never existed.

The Firmest Friend (Directed by Andrew Fixell)
In August 2014, filmmaker Andrew Fixell ventured into New York City's Tompkins Square Park to interview four homeless youth about their transient lifestyles and their relationships with the pit bulls who travel with them.

White Privilege Frankenstein (Directed by Chris Carfizzi)
When an angry mob comes for Frankenstein's Monster, Victor Frankenstein must find a way to get him off the hook.

Catslaughter (Directed by Humberto Guzman, Written & Produced by Stephanie Iscovitz & Sarah DuRivage-Jacobs)
In the case of catslaughter, everyone is a suspect.

What's Eating Dad? (Directed by Michael Goldburg)
When Chloe meets her boyfriend's parents for the first time, what's really for dinner is something she never imagined.

Watch our Q&A Recap (shot & edited by Kimberly Drew Whiten). *Please know there are some film spoilers - feel free to look for an opportunity to catch the films at a festival or computer screen near you & then come back to watch!

The awards go to...

At the end of the evening, we announced our winning filmmakers for both Audience Choice Award & Silver Whiskers Award. The Audience Choice Award is voted upon by all those in attendance, and the Silver Whiskers Award is judged by the CongestedCat Team based on a system rating 8 categories of StoryDialogue/WritingDirectionActing,CinematographySoundEditing, and Production Value. The Silver Whiskers winner goes on to screen again at our end of year Best of Fest screening next April. 

The Silver Whiskers winner also receives $50 towards a crowdfunding campaign on SeedandSpark.com should they use the platform and a free Social Media audit ($200 value) from 4MileCircus. And both winners received a free 2016 subscription to Bright Ideas Magazine.

For the July 2016 lineup, our winning films were:
    Audience Choice Award:  "The Firmest Friend"
    Silver Whiskers Award:  "What's Eating Dad?"

Watch the Trailers for both winners: