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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 9, The shoot

buzz_mclaughlin_producerSo now we’d arrived at the third phase of the process–the adventure of the shoot itself.

Actors began arriving the day before from all over the country. As with every film, we shot the movie out of sequence to make the most efficient use of our time and resources, so when actors arrived they only stayed in  town long enough to shoot their scenes and then they were gone again. All except David Strathairn, of course, who played the lead character and was with us for the duration of the shoot.

The Peterborough Manor where we housed the entire cast for the duration was an exciting place for those three weeks what 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 7, Preparation, preparation, preparation

buzz_mclaughlin_producerNeedless to say, the key to any successful enterprise is good planning and preparation–planning and prep down to the last detail–and that’s what the pre-production phase is all about.

We were fortunate to have made an early connection with producer Mark Constance, who for many years had worked in L.A.  as a second assistant director on major films like Being John Malkovitch. Some years prior Mark and his family had moved to New Hampshire, while he continued to work both coasts on films. When Aaron and I first met him at a small coffee shop in downtown Keene, we hit it off right away. Mark became “Mr. Prep” for us, serving not only as a hands-on producer, but Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 6, Entering pre-production

buzz-headshot-2-300x290Once we’d raised enough of the capitalization so that we could commit to actually shooting the movie, the decision was made to green light it. We set a three-week shooting schedule of eighteen days and then counted back four weeks from the start of the shoot and staked out this four-week period as our formal pre-production timeframe.

With these dates set, we flew to Los Angeles for several days of auditions. Our script had already been sent to a number of talent agencies in the preceding weeks and it received a very favorable response from key agents. When we started auditions we realized that Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 5, Finding the dollars


Raising the money was a difficult and arduous job and took us over a year. With the help of our lawyers, this step began with creating a lengthy document called a Confidential Private Placement Memorandum, generally referred to as the PPM. This was the legal vehicle by which people could actually write their checks and become investors. Everything had to conform to strict securities laws as we were selling private equity shares in a new company.

Understandably the controls on these kinds of ventures (including what one can and cannot do when pitching to potential backers) have to be tight, although I must admit the hoops we had to jump Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 4, Locations, budgets & legal stuff


Another aspect of the development phase was deciding where we would shoot the film.

This actually was not an issue for us because from the beginning we knew that if our first movie was The Sensation of Sight it had to be shot in Peterborough, New Hampshire–the setting Thornton Wilder used for his famous play Our Town. Our story and this lovely, small New England town was a match made in heaven.

Since Peterborough was only a half hour’s drive from our film company’s home office, we were able to case out the town in depth quite early on and realized that we could shoot the entire film Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 3, Entering the development phase


This brings us to the summer of 2004 when we all moved to New Hampshire full-time and marks the beginning of what is called the development phase on any movie project.

I should mention here that Aaron and I had several scripts already in draft form that we had to choose from for our first three projects outlined in the business plan. Two of them were Aaron’s and one was mine. One advantage we had as partners in a new film company was that we were both writers first and had an abundance of our own material we wanted to bring to life. So while we were struggling through the business plan, Aaron was also polishing the script for The Sensation of Sight. He worked through 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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