The Magic and Madness of Picking a Start Date -- and Sticking to It
Producer Jon Kilik (who has an untouchable resume of 37 films) told Emerging Visions participants earlier this week a great story about working with Spike Lee. Spike told Jon for Do the Right Thing, his third feature, he wanted Robert DeNiro, a budget of $10 million, and a June 30th, 6AM start date. In Jon's words, "we didn't get DeNiro, we didn't get $10 million, but on June 30th at 6AM we rolled camera." This is a guest post about start dates by director Jeff Orgill, whose feature comedy Junkie Nurse debuted on Prescreen today.
You're thinking of directing your first feature film - you are about to dive off a cliff into a lake far below. When to jump? When to jump?...
This is your "start date." Filmmaking can be full of Catch-22 situations -- how do I get the name cast without the money? Or the money without the name cast? -- and so on. But the big daddy of them all is picking your start date. You don't want to commit to a date without everything in place -- what if we don't have the budget by the start date? What about that location we don't have yet? But without a start date you will never make your film.
Making my first feature film, JUNKIE NURSE, was like leaping off a cliff! The Magic is that once you pick a date, an infinite number of variables are resolvable. This single decision supercharges your production. An endless parade of "what ifs" will be transformed into a massive "to do" list with a ticking time bomb attached.
- Choose your start date carefully and with great deliberation.
- Sleep on it.
- Write it on your calendar with a FAT BOLD SHARPIE PEN.
- Embrace Madness
Your start date is a charging grim reaper weeding out "what ifs" (WHAT IF we got Ryan Gosling? WHAT IF we had more money? WHAT IF?) as it gallops straight at you. Your start date sets specific goals for your film team: we need to get cast, crew and this stuff together by this date. On a no-to-low budget film this is PURE GOLD.
On JUNKIE NURSE we picked a start date for the version we wanted to make with names attached. The Hollywood name game is a start date killer. You will have to move your date for the cast who may move on and kill your momentum each time they do so. Meanwhile you are not making your movie. Your start date can help you weed these wish list items out very quickly. "Tell Pitt we start in two weeks. Is he on board? He's already booked? Next!" Now you are moving forward. The faster you collect your NOs and get to the YESs the sooner you will be making your movie. Your FAT BOLD SHARPIE PEN immovable start date hyperspeeds the process.
With JUNKIE NURSE we decided that if we did not get certain elements ($1,213,505.00 and the actor who played James Bond's nemesis, "Jaws," in Moonraker) locked in by our "name game date" then we'd set a new "do or die micro-budget start date." Another "name" (who shall remain nameless) we thought was on board suddenly requested $5,000 in a paper sack. Next! We looked over our wish list for the lead character of Eric LaBudde - there were 29 "names" crossed out. So we set our second and final start date. We embraced the Madness.
This is what sticking to that start date felt like - you are in a car and there's a wall way off in the distance. You floor it, accelerating the car towards the wall, faster and faster. It's a week before your start date. The wall rushes up. It's the weekend before filming. The accelerator is stuck, the wheel won't turn, the brakes don't work. Relax. You are going to be crushed to a pulp against the wall. You slam into the start date and suddenly... Your alarm clock rings, it's filming day 1. The wall is gone. You're alive. You're on set. You're making your movie.
We wrote a first draft of the script for JUNKIE NURSE in 1996. We re-wrote and re-wrote for years perfecting the script - made top 5% of Sundance Screenwriters Lab entries for three years running. In 2003, producers came on board to lock in name talent. After another 2 years of that waiting game we chose our micro-budget start date. We had only $8,000 to start and then one of our producers nearly blew off the person who became our biggest investor. They'd been talking for over a year and my producer felt he was being strung along. He went to the meeting anyway expecting it to be more of the same and walked away from the meeting with a check! With only 3 days left before before shooting, our biggest investors came on board completing our $30,000 budget. So your start date can also be a wake up call for the angels. Start Date Magic!
JUNKIE NURSE (Boppin' at The Glue Factory) has it's Worldwide Online Premiere today, Friday, Oct. 7th, on Prescreen.com. We are trying to set a new record of Prescreen day 1 watches! So please sign up at Prescreen and spread the word.