Scaretissue.com is proud to present our guest today, Alessandro Pulisci. Alessandro Pulisci is a senior at San Francisco State University Cinema Department, and is currently working on turning his script for Better the Devil into a film. Alessandro began Ugly Owl Films to showcase his material, and his credits include an entry into the ABC’s of Death 2 entitled M is for Maleficium (a very disturbing film). Better the Devil is currently running a Kickstarter campaign, and you can help fund the project by visiting the site here. Better the Devil begins filming next month. You can follow Better the Devil on Twitter (@PlatosLake), Facebook (betterthedevilfilm), or at uglyowlfilms.com.
We asked Alessandro what it takes to go from script to filming, and he was gracious enough to tell us about the process.
So I wrote a script.
I showed some friends and they liked it, and I know I want to make it happen…but now what?
The first thing I did was start to build a crew. Having your friends tell you they like the script is great, but getting people to commit to being a part of the creative team behind it is different. I’ll admit I got pretty lucky with the core group behind the project. Both my producers and my cinematographer sort of fell into my lap (that’s not to say I didn’t go about the process with some caution though). I did (what you might consider) “interviews” with each one before they signed on. Interviews are really just sitting and talking for 20 minutes or an hour and getting a feel for each other. Obviously you want to know that the person is on the same page as you with the film, that they understand your vision and know how to help achieve it, but you also want to be sure you can spend hours and hours and hours with them. I actually got insanely lucky with my cinematographer because we realized very quickly that we had a lot of the same feelings, tastes, and goals regarding our cinematic endeavors – and the Director/DP relationship is such a crucial one that many people go years trying to find. I’m very happy that we happened to find each other so early in our respective paths.
With that core group in place, we started doing weekly creative meetings, discussing the fine points of the script (by this time, on it’s 3rd or 4th revision), how to go about the more complex elements (special effects, locations, actors), and how to secure funding for a larger project (for this project, we decided to launch a Kickstarter). Those weekly meetings proved extremely fruitful, as it kept everyone on the same page and motivated to keep pushing forward.
It’s so easy to become discouraged at this stage, and having other people working just as hard as you to make something happen is such a positive factor.
Securing the core actors was up next, and we held two rounds of auditions to find our leads. Fleshing out the rest of the crew happened simultaneously, as well. Backing up a bit… one of the nice things about doing a larger production (than just shooting unscripted with friends on the weekend) is the division of labor: the producers work in a fairly specific area and have tasks that are relegated to them, and similarly the director, DP, and sound mixer each have their departments and tasks to manage, and generally have folks that they like working with. This is a huge weight off the back of the writer/director/auteur (on indie films, there’s generally one person acting as the creative driving force), who is probably used to being hands on with each of these things. The department heads hire on folks from their circle of friends/co-workers, and everyone works separately to bring each strand of the project together; when it works, it’s like a symphony, and as a new director, frankly, it’s pretty fucking awesome to be a part of.
Next up is locking location (which, on something like this, is a good idea to get done REALLY early), which involves scouting, measuring, and lots of visualization (standing in a room and pretending something awesome is happening). Also happening during all this is more in depth meetings with the DP about the look of the film. This is talking about color palette, technique motifs, types of shots and how to achieve them, different options for coverage, coming up with a shot list and lining your scripts (literally drawing lines through the script representing the duration of each shot, so you can see how well “covered” a scene is), and storyboarding (a personal favorite). Lots of delivery food at these meetings. As the director, you also want to be working on your director’s script. A director’s script is generally covered in notes about the characters, how lines are to be delivered, notes and adjustments ready for actors in case they don’t nail it on the first take (which will happen), and other relevant notes and reminders for the actual shooting day. This will become your bible. When someone asks you a question about the script, why someone does something or how something make him/her feel, your answer is in there.
Which leads me to the thought I’ll close this piece on: the script doesn’t end when you start bringing on crew and getting ready to film, it doesn’t end until the moment the camera rolls and the actors speak the words on the page. You should be constantly thinking about your script and figuring out ways to make it more efficient and how to best tell your story. This doesn’t mean work on it forever (You’ll never get it perfect.). The most important thing to do is to get out there and film – but up until that last moment, be open to figuring out a better way to do it. Think about it objectively and be as efficient as possible because you’ll always have less time than you think (which is another way of saying that anything that can go wrong, will). But, if you’ve prepared yourself and you know these characters and your story inside and out, you can figure out a solution and move on without skipping a beat.