Patience and filmmaking

One of the things I’ve learned as a producer of low budget features is the degree of patience it all takes. A patience that allows one to keep his or her sanity as a project creeps along at a snail’s pace even though you keep pushing as hard as you can on a daily basis to make it breathe and take on a life of its own.

Of course this is not a new concept. Every producer knows that tenacity and perseverance are primary ingredients if a good film is ever going to materialize. But let’s take a closer look at the kind of patience needed to work in this industry and then how it should be applied.

I used to be struck by the sheer amount of time Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 24: Musings on the future of independent film distribution

Since the release of The Sensation of Sight in the summer of 2008, the independent film industry has been pretty much turned on its head.

And this is especially true regarding distribution. It comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following the independent film business that the last couple of years have seen a long-awaited and much-anticipated disintegration of the old distribution model and the beginnings of a new era in terms of how filmmakers are finding access to the global marketplace.

As I sit here writing this post, I find myself thinking back to when we first launched Either/Or Films five years ago and how different the landscape was then. It’s pretty amazing all that’s happened since. Putting together a distribution strategy when we were raising financing for Sensation, our first feature film, was a no-brainer: Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 12, Editing the film

buzz_mclaughlin_producerNext we headed into the post production process, which lasted from the end of the shoot in mid-November until the end of April–approximately five and a half months.

The first step, once we’d caught our breath after the wrap party, was to begin the editing of the film. We were fortunate to be able to rent an isolated and beautiful country house for this purpose right next door to my home in the Stoddard hills of southwest New Hampshire and just up the road from where Aaron lived. Our editor Mario Ontal, who had worked on a number of John Sayles’  films, moved up from Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 11, From shoot to wrap

buzz_mclaughlin_producerAnd so the shoot progressed…

One of my favorite shots in the film–a shot that comes late in the movie at the highpoint of the story–is of the classic New England clock tower on top of the Unitarian Church in the middle of Peterborough. We were lucky enough (I’m noticing I’m using that word “lucky” a lot) to have our second unit catch a huge flock of  pigeons nestled on the tower one afternoon.

After setting up camera, one of the crew slammed two pieces of 2×4 boards together with a load whack. And suddenly all the birds took off together in a burst of energy and fluttering wings, made a wide Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 10, The day from hell

buzz_mclaughlin_producerLet me give you a taste of what I mean by that.

During the morning of the second day, the shoot was scheduled for outdoors. But about 9 a.m. a steady sleet suddenly began falling, so we decided to turn to our contingency plan and shoot inside the bed & breakfast.

This also happened to be the day that most of the crew was grumbling nearly to the point of mutiny because the hot water wasn’t working that morning at the Maplehurst Inn in nearby Antrim, where most of them were staying, and they came to work feeling miserable to begin with.

Then, about 10 a.m., our one gigantic generator Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 8, Pre-production prep & more prep

buzz_mclaughlin_producerPre-production also is the time that the shooting schedule is revised and refined until every minute is accounted for. This is the job of the 1st Assistant Director and we had the best in a man named Greg Smith, who had ADed on Adaptation, Being John Malkovitch, and The Ice Storm among others (since our film his credits include Little Miss Sunshine and Sunshine Cleaning). Greg studied every location, talked at length with Aaron and our director of photography Christophe Lanzenberg, and created a game plan for the shoot that made it possible to complete the film on our very tight eighteen-day schedule with very little overtime.

At the same time the schedule was taking shape, Aaron spent a good part of the pre-production weeks scouting locations Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 2, The birth of a film company

buzz_mclaughlin_producerIt all began in the fall of 2000 in Orlando, Florida when a play of mine (Sister Calling My Name) was being given its Florida premiere.

The production company flew me down from New York for the opening. Aaron Wiederspahn, who eventually became my producing partner in our film company Either/Or Films, was one of the founders of the theatre company and had championed my play and was its biggest fan.

Of course because of that we instantly hit it off. Read the rest of this entry »

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A true independent film

buzz_mclaughlin_producerPart 1: Independent vs. Studio films

Often I find that people are confused by what is meant by an “independent feature film” as opposed to any other film you might see at a theatre.

A true independent film is one that has been entirely produced outside of the Hollywood studio system.  It has no studio financing, no studio control over artistic elements or personnel, including the final cut of the film, and, in most cases, no guarantee of distribution.  It is conceived of, financed, and made by a group of people who have a collective passion for the story they want to tell and an almost obsessive determination to get their movie completed and into the marketplace so it can be experienced by the public they’re convinced is going to embrace it with open arms.

An independent feature film company is a David facing the Goliath of the Hollywood “System.” Read the rest of this entry »

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