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Monday, February 05, 2007

The KWerky family grows as it tries to get ON THE LOT! Report and pics from filming

For almost two weeks I've had to refrain from posting at my routine frequency. Some real-life things have been happening that demanded a lot of personal attention. It'll be at least another week or so before I'm probably going to be back at full posting strength, but for the first time I'm ready to "tip my hand" a bit on something that I've been working on.

It all started almost three weeks ago, during the season premiere of American Idol. During the first commercial break we saw a promo for the upcoming Fox show On The Lot. It's something like American Idol for filmmakers: everyone is invited to make a 5-minute short film and submit it. From all those thousands of entries, sixteen will be selected to compete on television. Those chosen will have to make one new film a week, with the viewing audience voting on who to keep returning in the ensuing weeks. The person who wins receives a $1 million filmmaking contract. The executive producers of this lil' venture are reality TV legend Mark Burnett and some guy named Spielberg...

We saw the promo and the first words out of Lisa's mouth were "Chris, you should try out for this."

Then the next day at least a half-dozen other people told me that I should take a stab at On The Lot, including the girl who worked on Lisa's teeth at the dentist office and my mother-in-law.

I'd actually heard of On The Lot last summer and had thought of trying to put something together for an entry, but then the school board race happened and everything that I would have liked to occupy myself with went straight out the window for more than three months. The deadline to submit a film is February 16th: just a month to conceive a story, write a script, do casting, find locations, shoot the thing, and then everything involved in post-production. Definitely a tall order even in the best of circumstances. But with all these people encouraging me to go for it, I've taken it as a sign that I should at least make the attempt, even if it doesn't get any further than the "auditioning" stage.

I spent the day after first seeing the promo trying to think of story ideas. Two of them kept coming to mind. The one that I thought was the more challenging to attempt is what I opted to use. By 4:30 the next morning the first draft of the script was finished. A few days after that I posted a casting call on Tarheelfilms.com (a terrific resource for North Carolina-based filmmaking and casting). I said in the ad that this was for an On The Lot entry. Before the next four days were out about 350 people had responded!

Well, I went through all of them, and it wasn't easy. Casting went on almost right up 'til principle photography. In the meantime I worked on a lot of other things involving production. Friday before last I did the first bit of filming at Cafe 99 in Reidsville. I then spent the next week lining everything up for principle photography the following Saturday.

That happened this past weekend. There are two very quick scenes that still need to be filmed but otherwise, we got all our shots in.

I can't begin to say how much fun we had! One of the most exciting aspects about filmmaking for me is meeting wonderful new people and getting to know them as we work together. Well, Saturday our little production family welcomed three new members: Selassie Amana, Chris Otto, and Dawn Swartz. My longtime friend and collaborator "Weird" Ed Woody, his wife Olivia (both members of the cast in this project) and their son Tristan arrived at our place Saturday morning. Then Doug Smith - a guy I used to work with - arrived. It wasn't long afterward that Selassie, Chris and Dawn got here (Chris also brought his girlfriend/secretary Abby, and my own lovely lil' "spousal overunit" Lisa was there too 'course :-) That was ten people in our living room total... and four of them (Chris, Abby, Dawn, and Lisa) were all graduates of University of Georgia! So the Uga wallpaper on our computer's desktop was naturally a big hit with the crowd.

We had a round of introductions and then "got down to business". I got up and told everyone a little about what KWerky Productions (the lil' outfit founded by Ed and me) is, what we've done before, what makes us unique, how we love to have fun, and how we work with only the best people that we can find. The newcomers were told how they were now joining a family... like the Mafia. And just as the Mafia, if they really wanted to be part of us then they should understand what it was that they were possibly getting into. At that point I told them that there was a video that they needed to see and that if they wanted to leave after that point, they could: "Nothing will be said," I told them. Without further ado I hit "play" on the DVD player and everyone watched the following...

Amazingly enough, nobody abandoned us after that. So I handed out the legal contracts to everyone that had been drawn up for this production (I might share the text of that at some point 'cuz more than one person described it as being "different"). I showed the thus-far completed footage, and then we had a few readings of the script. And after that, from about 11:20 a.m. until last night a little past 7, we spent the rest of the day filming.

Well, I could say more, but I'll let the pictures speak a little about what happened throughout the day on Saturday...

Dawn Swartz and Chris Otto on the set at Cafe 99 in Reidsville, North Carolina

Part of the set during filming at the Reidsville Family YMCA

Looking down the hallway on the set at Reidsville Family YMCA

The "class photo"
Front row: Tristan Stamper
Second row: Dawn Swartz, Selassie Amana, Chris Knight
Third row: Chris Otto, Tyler Richardson, Doug Smith, Olivia Woody, Ed Woody

After the film has been finished, I'm going to put together a reel containing the bloopers and some of the other things that happened during production. In the meantime, the submission deadline is next Friday (the 16th) and there's still two tiny scenes to shoot, plus everything that comes with post-production. But as much as wound up getting done in the past three weeks, I'm pretty confident that it will all be wrapped up in the next few days. Until then, expect me to still not be able to chime in on this blog as much as I usually do... but now y'all know more about what's up.

That's all for now. Oh yeah: way to go Colts! :-)