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Tropfest Shooting for Success Part 3 – Allan George

SOUNDS_PERFECT_STILL1This is the third of a three-part series of articles Wave provided to VIEWFINDER print and online magazine on the Tropfest NZ Short Film Festival 2013 winners. This final profile looks at filmmaker Allan George and his ‘last minnit’ production of ‘Sound Perfect’.

When studio producer and field director Allan George was at film school, a class on foley for porn films lodged in his mind and eventually became the inspiration for his Tropfest NZ 2013 comedy entry Sounds Perfect. It went on to win Allan the Best Maori Director Award and his collaborator and writer Greg Stubbings the Best Actor Award. While the film was perfect enough for Allan to make the finals and garner further accolades, the way it came together wasn’t—it was ‘last minnit’ every step of the way. Allan believes this helped to make Sounds Perfect the unique and personal film from that he had always wanted to do.
In earlier efforts, Allan had made a number of dark short films with an emphasis on the cinematic, but with Sounds Perfect he was after something different. He challenged himself to make a comedy, to shoot it handheld and without a focus on creating beautiful pictures manipulating depth of field. With Sounds Perfect, Allan succeeded on all counts.

The Script
The porno foley class and its unforgettable imagery of a cucumber and a mayonnaise jar made a great story for Allan SF to tell chicagobearsjerseyspop his mates. But some years later when official he suggested it as a basis Goose for a short film, they panned the idea. Pitching it to work colleague Greg one day, the response was immediate and positive. Greg was adamant that the film had to have heart though, and not be just a series of gags strung together. They exchanged ideas over a number of months, eventually coming up with seven pages of notes about someone who loved his work and gave it his all, but was surrounded by others who just weren’t that interested in their jobs. Eventually, his over zealousness sees him replaced by a useless sidekick. He takes the same work ethic to his next occupation where he finds himself in a similar situation.
Allan hounded Greg to produce a script, but they shot with a fleshed out treatment. In hindsight, Allan believes that this gave the actors more room to improvise; something he feels significantly added to the strength of the film.

The Team
Allan and Greg committed to making Sounds Perfect just two weeks before the shoot. Greg joined Allan’s production company partner Ben Fowler to produce. Allan’s other partner Isaiah Vainga was designated gaffer. Allan would operate, direct and do sound. Another mate, Adam Peri, a sound engineer at audio post house Native Audio, was drafted in as was Adam’s art director girlfriend Maha Albadrawi. Alex Jones as makeup artist rounded out the team.

The Talent
A week out from the shoot and Allan turned his thoughts to cast. He had always envisaged Greg as the lead. Actors that the team had worked with previously were called upon. A contribution from Isaiah was a male stripper and actor he thought could fill the male porno star role. Pretty soon they had their nine cast. Or so Allan thought. The actors were sent a short synopsis of the story, told the character they would play and where and when to turn up. There was no time for rehearsals.

The Shoot
Allan did a ‘last minnit’ on the location as well. He was lucky to secure Native Audio as the primary location for most of the three day shoot. Gear was an old Canon EX1 with audio kit and a couple of LED lighting panels.
On Day One Allan decided to do the fun stuff to generate a good vibe on set. Unfortunately for him and everybody else, he chose the scene using a trevally to create a butt-slapping sound. With the scene done the fish was set aside and forgotten, leading to the studio stinking of fish for the rest of the day.
Greg was the main talent and his performance generated huge amounts of laughter, a lot of it Allan’s. Many a great take was ruined because Allan burst out laughing, creating camera shakes and spoiling the audio.
Greg was in his element and he more than any of the other actors improvised a lot of his performance.
The loose approach to the shoot allowed Allan to adapt on the fly. He was always on the lookout to visually enrich scenes, make changes and adjust to unexpected situations—something he was faced with on the last day.
Ready to roll on location the third morning, Allan realized he’d forgotten to cast a bit speaking part for the scene they were about to shoot. Isaiah saved the day by calling on a mate who lived nearby and they had an actor on set in 10 minutes.
Being the sound recordist as well as directing and operating were for Allan highly stressful and not something he wished to repeat.
A behind-the-scenes video of Sounds Perfect would likely have been as funny as the film, but Allan believes that in the end their casual approach enhanced Sounds Perfect rather than took away from it.

The Post
The edit for Sounds Perfect started straight away. Allan would do his shift at The Crowd Goes Wild, and then go straight onto his film, working A into the early hours of the morning. Allan’s experience on a ‘run and gun’ show like The Crowd Goes Wild was a benefit as he had learned to get enough coverage to work with. Two days later Allan had a roughcut of the film to share with Greg, who had a lot of enthusiasm and ideas to share. for They laughed a lot and didn’t have a single argument. In the end though Allan felt it was hard work as cutting comedy to make it look and sound good was difficult, particularly as they weren’t working to a script.
After a week of editing, the picture was locked off and it was time for a ‘last minnit’ score. Allan got on Facebook and messaged friend Ryan Youens, saying he had just finished a film and asking for an immediate response as to whether or not Ryan would do the music. Once again luck was on his side.
While Ryan was composing the score, Allan graded the film and Adam cleaned up the audio and did sound design.
The film was finished from go to whoa in 12 days and off to Tropfest in the post 3 days before the deadline.

The Afterlife
Sounds Perfect played on the Rialto Channel with other finalist films and joined another Tropfest finalist short at the Wairoa Maori Film Festival. At Wairoa, Allan met Filipino filmmaker Auraeus Solito. Auraeus encouraged Allan to enter imagineNATIVE, the world’s largest indigenous film festival. Allan promptly did and got in. Two days later, Allan was told his submission to the Austin Film Festival was successful as well.
Going to imagineNATIVE and Austin opened up a whole new world of filmmaking for Allan. At imagineNATIVE, he got to rub shoulders with the indigenous filmmaking best and more importantly, attended a story lab where his film was broken down and examined by more experienced filmmakers, providing valuable insight.
At Austin, Allan got his 15-seconds of fame when audience members from the packed out screening of the comedy section cornered him to ask questions about his film. A great learning curve came from attending panels to hear speakers the likes of Peter Mehlman, EP and writer of Seinfeld who later gave him advice on writing for characters and actors, and director Robert Rodriquez of Sin City and El Mariachi fame.
While Allan has submitted Sounds Perfect to other festivals, he feels it’s time to move on and focus on his next project.

The Career
When Allan graduated from film school he always wanted to direct, but looking around he realized so did everyone else. He thought pursuing directing was a fast track to the unemployment cue, so he switched to camera operating, working on music videos and corporates. Landing a job with the Crowd Goes Wild has added to his skill set.
With Sounds Perfect Allan stepped out to direct his first short posologie viagra 25mg. His success with the film encouraged him to apply for New Zealand Film Commission Fresh Shorts funding and for Make My Horror Movie, without success.
Allan would like to create and produce a comedy series to maintain a regular income while pursuing his desire to direct features. He has already made his next short for Tropfest 2014, a significantly bigger comedy, trying to avoid the ‘last minnit’ approach.

Thoughts to Share
Allan believes that you have to make something that you want to see rather than setting out to win a competition, otherwise you will likely censor your creativity and destroy your chances of winning. He encourages everyone to make their films for themselves. Even if your film doesn’t get accepted, he thinks that you’ll still get an amazing film that you will enjoy.
With Sounds Perfect, Allan loved his idea, so he set out to make it and he did, having fun along the way even with all the hardships. He feels his passion gave his project heart, which is where he believes films need to come from.
Allan thought his film extremely funny and felt validated at Tropfest when the 8,000 strong audience laughed at the comedic moments he and his team had created—a unique experience he will always remember.
For Allan, it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded creatives you enjoy being around because you inspire each other. And not to forget them. He says you may end up being the face of the film, but without the people behind you it would not have been possible.
Tropfest made Allan’s dream a reality. It put him on the map das as a filmmaker. It allowed him to travel the world with his film. And he learned a lot. He encourages everyone who wants to be a filmmaker to give Tropfest a go.

You can watch ‘Sounds Perfect’ here.

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Tropfest Shooting for Success: Part 2 – Dave Smith

Cappucino Tango_Still 1This is the second of a three-part series of articles Wave provided for VIEWFINDER online and print magazine on the Tropfest NZ Short Film Festival 2013 winners. This article looks at overall winner Dave Smith and his short ‘Cappuccino Tango’.

Filmmaker Dave Smith had made a number of shorts and had originally considered entering Tropfest in Australia. When Tropfest came to New Zealand, and even better to his home town of New Plymouth, he decided it was time to go for it.
Dave charmed the judges and many in the audience at the 2013 Tropfest NZ Short to Film Festival with his winning mini-operatic entry ‘Cappuccino Tango’. The amusing and entertaining premise for this short sees cafe patrons operatically extolling their favourite ‘real’ coffees and reacting in shock horror when new arrivals order something different. Amidst the coffee snobbery, two decaf soy latte Cheap lovers discover each other and tango to their own tune.
‘Cappuccino Tango’ won Dave an all-expenses paid trip to LA to spend 4 days in an immersion workshop learning about how the Hollywood industry works from insiders, including a day at the American Film Market (AFM). Here is how Dave got there.

The Team
Dave is a musician and his wife Nicci is an amateur dramatics enthusiast. After arriving in New Plymouth from Scotland in 2002 with their three children, Dave and Nicci embedded themselves in the local music and theatre scenes. That is where they discovered their film collaborators. They have a close team of six that they had made seven other shorts with prior to ‘Cappuccino Tango’. Each has a key role, but they share the workload for the whole production. To keep costs down they seek to make what they can’t borrow, including their own camera rigs.

The Script
There are only four lines of dialogue in ‘Cappuccino Tango’, so script wasn’t the main driver. In the middle of 2012, musician Andy Bassett brought Dave a demo track of a song he had been working on and mooted the idea of filming a mini-opera. Dave could visualize the short, so he quickly storyboarded the whole film—Dave has never been schooled in filmmaking, and believes its his ability to see things in pictures that has helped his directing. Over the next four months Dave focused primarily on casting while Andy continued to work on the music.

The Talent
Dave felt that the characters in the film needed to be quirky. He broke down the roles into male and female parts, and then sat down with partner Nicci who is a theatre director to draw up a list of all the actors they knew. They then began matching actors to roles, with Nicci’s theatre colleague and co-producer of the film Joe Fuller also contributing his thoughts. In the four months leading up to the shoot day, they filled the thirty roles from their original list apart from two. Dave arranged for each of the cast to get a copy of the song so that they could practise their part, as there wouldn’t be rehearsals.
While Dave concentrated on finalising the actors, Andy was casting singers to sing the roles. He pre-recorded them and did a complete mix of the song. This delivered the track for the actors to lip-synch to on the shoot day.

The Shoot
Getting the 30 cast members together on one day was the biggest logistical problem Dave and his team faced. With two experienced tango dancers required, Dave looked to local ballroom dancer Davina Moffat. Unfortunately, Davina’s dancing partner Jeff Richards was from Auckland, so the shoot was scheduled around his ability to make the five-hour trip south in mid-November.
Dave had briefed each of the actors on their roles, giving them his thoughts on wardrobe. He pretty much went with what they turned up with on the day.
Once again the producers’ theatre connections paid off in securing a hair and makeup artist for the production.
It was a fairly relaxed shoot, starting at 10AM and finishing at 4PM. Cameraman Roger Richardson went with the natural light available at the cafe location, shooting on a Canon 5D Mk II. With no lighting required and sound recording limited to ambient audio of a busy cafe and a few lines of dialogue, sound and lighting team member Alex Fuller had an easy day. The homebuilt crane and dolly made by team member Laurie Neville, who also camera assisted, worked a treat. Roger’s partner Anna had the role of continuity, allowing Dave to concentrate on directing the actors. There were no hiccups across the shoot. Dave attributes the success to the enthusiasm of a group of friends getting together to do something they all love doing.
There was no budget to speak of for ‘Cappuccino Tango’. Everything was borrowed or made, and cast and crew gave their time for free. The cafe they were shooting in sponsored the coffee, but everyone had to take care of their own lunch.

The Post
Dave did a first edit on his Final Cut Pro X system, starting the night of the shoot. It took him five nights, beginning each session after getting home from work. He put the first cut out to his team members for feedback and then did another pass, taking into account their notes. Andy supplied him with a final mix of the song. Dave then added sound effects and background audio and did a final audio mix in his own studio using Logic Pro, before laying it back to the locked off picture. ‘Cappuccino Tango’ was delivered a week prior to the delivery deadline.

The Afterlife
‘Cappuccino Tango’ deservedly has the highest number of views at 20,080 on Tropfest NZ’s YouTube channel at the time of writing. Dave has not actively pursued a festival strategy for the film so far. He has left it to Tropfest International to find distribution, which they have secured in Australia and Japan. In 2014, Dave plans to be more proactive in getting his film into other festivals worldwide.

The Career
Dave works as a project manager in the Oil & Gas industry and sees himself as a weekend filmmaker. His prizewinning trip to L.A. however has opened his and wife Nicci’s eyes to the professional world of filmmaking as Hollywood does it.
Dave—and Nicci who paid to be there—spent four days in workshops at the Latin American Training Centre, courtesy of the Motion Picture Association and NZ Screen Association, who sponsored the first prize. There were 30 other filmmakers participating from 10 different countries. Sessions ranged from entertainment law and how to pitch in Hollywood to meeting with 60 members of the Writers Guild of America and a representative from Creative Artists Agency, a top talent agency in Hollywood. One of the highlights for Dave was listening to a presentation by US film and TV producer Dan Jinks describing the rejections and struggles he encountered in getting his academy award winning film American Beauty made. Another was hearing Alan Poul speak, whose executive producing credits include two of Dave’s favourite shows, Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The Newsroom’, and ‘Six Feet Under’ indian viagra.
Part of the immersion programme took Dave to AFM, the film industry’s largest US event. There he saw the business of filmmaking in action as filmmakers pitched their ideas and films in the hope of securing finance and distribution.
While not determinedly bent on a career as a filmmaker, Dave is still following his passion. He is already in post production for a short for Tropfest 2014. And he does have feature film ideas that he would like to realize. The biggest consideration for him as a filmmaker right now is how he and his team move from where they are to the next level and hopefully beyond, possibly to the world of Hollywood he now knows a lot more about.

Thoughts to Share
As an experienced short filmmaker, Dave has picked up a number of lessons that he applied in the making of his Tropfest winner. Of the three ideas that were floating around as they considered what to do for Tropfest, ‘Cappuccino Tango’ stood out. For Dave, finding a good story is key. As is working with good people–In Dave’s case, a team that has made films together many times before. Enthusiasm, learning from mistakes and that all important item—great coffee—were some of the other ingredients that Dave felt made this particular cappuccino tango.
For Dave, the prize winning trip to L.A. revealed some significant insights into the business of film and the people who make the industry there tick. At AFM, he experienced firsthand that a filmmaker without a feature script or finished film to pitch is merely an observer. More crucially, though, AFM rammed home the difficulty for filmmakers of securing distribution so that your film can get in front of audiences—it’s one thing to make a film, it’s something else completely to get it seen.
The willingness of the industry people he met to share knowledge, contacts, ideas and experiences came as a surprise to Dave, who was expecting them to be much more pour guarded. But there was one thing above all that stood out in his encounters with every industry person he met: they are in it because they all love film. Just like him.

You can view ‘Cappuccino Tango’ here.

Part 3 of the Tropfest Shoot for Success series here.

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Tropfest Shooting for Success: Part 1 – Tess Novak

A Kiwi LegendThis is the first of a three-part series Wave wrote for print and online magazine VIEWFINDER on the winners of the Tropfest NZ Short Film Festival 2013. This article profiles filmmaker Tess Novak and her film “A Kiwi Legend’.

Tess Novak’s short film ‘A Kiwi Legend’ took the audience award at the 2013 Tropfest NZ Short Film Festival. The Tropfest Signature Item (TSI) for that year—an item that must be included in some way, shape of form—was gumboot. Tess jumped in gumboots and all on the TSI, with it becoming the storyline and central symbol for her short. A host of personalities including Sir Colin Meads and Denise L’Estrange-Corbet wore them, threw them and waxed lyrical about them.

Essentially a mockumentary driven predominantly by talking heads, ‘A Kiwi Legend’ was popular with young and old alike, as iconic kiwis parodied a New Zealand icon.  At the time of writing, it sits second in terms of number of views on Tropfest NZ’s YouTube channel next to outright winner, Cappuccino Tango.

The Script
Tess was doing a double degree focusing on Film, Theatre, and Marketing & Information Systems at Victoria University and was keen to engage in an extra curricular project. On a trip home to Taranaki in January 2012, she went along to Tropfest’s stunning venue at the outdoor TSB Bowl of Brooklands to watch the 16 latest Australian finalists that were shown to launch Tropfest in New Zealand. Script ideas started churning in her head when she heard Boire the TSI was gumboot. An outline for the script was written in the car on the way back to Wellington. Soon after, Tess spent a day coming up with a rough first draft. The script evolved slowly over the next few months. It went through several drafts leading up to the shoot, with readers including her lecturers and the General Manager at Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films.

The Team
Tess enlisted the assistance of Keith Finnerty of New Plymouth’s Cat and Mouse Productions to shoot and edit the film. Keith recommended Dave Carnachan of local post house King Street Creative to do the audio post. Tess got her school friend Millie Lynskey to come on as co-producer. Later, thanks to an introduction from another of her lecturers, Tess was able to secure Wellington composer Tom McLeod to do the score. Tess had brought together a well rounded team that developed a real camaraderie and had a lot of laughs and fun across the duration of the project viagra en ligne quebec.

The Talent
Keith had told Tess when she pitched him the idea that he would only do it if she approached professional talent to fill the roles. Tess had written stereotypes for the characters, so she went about matching personalities to them. Cold calls, friends of friends of friends, her co-producer Millie, actors agents; she tried them all. A cold email through the WORLD website led to her securing her first cast attachment, The Fashion Designer: Denise L’Estrange-Corbet. With a known personality on board a domino effect ensued, making it easier to get others in. Availability was a real issue dealing with personalities who have busy schedules. Some dropped off. After five months of constant pursuit, she had secured all but one of the final cast who would eventually appear in the film—The Farmer: Sir Colin Meads, The Comedians: Dai Henwood and Steve Wrigley, The Rugby Players: All Black Beauden Barrett and his brother Kane, The Super Athlete: Valerie Adams, and The Actor: Melanie Lynskey. Rehearsals were limited to a few run-throughs on the day before the camera rolled.

The Sponsorship
Tess needed sponsorship to help cover the significant costs involved. Although she only paid her cast koha (donation), money was needed for props, travel back and forth to Auckland, the shoot and post. She insisted on paying fees to Keith and Dave as they were making the major contributions with time, and production and post production equipment. Tess also had to pay for an LA-based DOP to shoot Melanie Lynskey. Her and Millie’s marketing skills came in real handy, helping to lock in a couple of major sponsors and a number of others that covered almost all the hard costs in the budget, with the difference being made up from Tess’s own pocket.

The Shoot
The six day shoot for “A Kiwi Legend’ kicked off in August and finished in October with sporadic days to match cast availability. Not everything went smoothly, with one actor having to be replaced because of a no-show. This required a rewrite of part of the script. The most difficult element of the shoot for Tess was getting Melanie Lynskey shot in LA. Being a first timer and not having any LA connections, Tess trawled through a huge number of film crew directories and consequently people’s individual sites to find a DOP that had a similar shooting style to Keith’s. Thinking that she should do things by the book, Tess sought a shooting permit to film outdoors. That’s where the problems really started. Permit bodies in LA differ depending on the location. The permit fee Tess was looking at was US$2000. To avoid having to pay the fee, Tess decided to shoot in a hotel room. But no, permits are needed even to shoot in a hotel or someone’s house in LA. Then Tess learned about an exemption for crews of three or less who work with minimal equipment and cause little impact. She then spent hours talking to Film LA and the City of Los Angeles seeking the exemption. It finally came through. The hotel room was booked for two hours and Tess directed the shoot on the day via SKYPE from her Wellington student flat.

The Post
Picture post production started straight after the shoot, with Tess and Keith working on a rough cut. The first edit highlighted the need for a couple of minor pickups, but allowed Tom the composer to get going. The editing, grading and audio post were completed across a month, working around her university schedule, and Keith’s and Dave’s workloads. Tess hand-delivered her film to the New Plymouth office of the Taranaki Festival of the Arts Trust who runs Tropfest three days prior to the deadline.

The Afterlife
Tess hasn’t actively pursued getting ‘A Kiwi Legend’ out to other festivals, although it has screened at the New Zealand Short Film Festival in Sydney and Brisbane. Tropfest NZ arranged for all the 2013 Tropfest NZ finalist films to screen on New Zealand’s Rialto Channel on SKY. A number of the 2013 NZ shorts were packaged together with a selection of Australian shorts by Tropfest International and screened on Australian channel SBS.

The Career
With ‘A Kiwi Legend’ under her belt, Tess leveraged off her film to get a two week internship with Australian producer Helen Bowden at Matchbox Pictures in Sydney. An opportunity then arose for Tess to work on Helen’s mini-series ‘Devil’s Playground’, starring Toni Collette. She applied for and received a New Zealand Film Commission Trainee Producer Internship Scheme, which cemented the job for her. Once the three-month internship was over, Tess was able to continue on the production as Producer’s Assistant. She will finish up mid November. Thanks to a colleague on the ‘Devil’s Playground’, жидкие she will move into a job as Post Production Runner on the next Mad Max feature. That will give her a few months more work, which will take her into the new year. Tess is pursuing opportunities to move onto once she’s finished on ‘Mad Max’. For the foreseeable future, she’s happy to make Sydney her home while she focuses on building her skills, confidence and production resume.

Thoughts to Share
For Tess, Tropfest was a fantastic opportunity to make a film and get it seen. As her first short, ‘A Kiwi Legend’ was a massive learning experience for her that made it all worthwhile. She feels that as long as you are confident and working with people who share the same vision for the project, you will have a lot of fun even through the trying times. Tess is a Tropfest convert who encourages anyone interested in filmmaking to have a go. Why don’t you.

You can view ‘A Kiwi Legend’ here.

Part 2 of the Tropfest Shoot for Success series here.

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