Before we started prep on the show, I got some great advice from David Sanger, head producer at New Deal Studios. I ask him if it was crazy to do what we were planning on doing for 20K. His advice was to shoot the film for free and save the 20K for contingency – the unforseeable crap that we were eventually going to have to pay for. Saved our asses.
I then asked him how I could possibly ask everyone on the show to work for free – a real problem for me. He simply said “Ask them. They will do it or they won’t”. It was stupidly simple, but it made sense. And I was amazed and humbled at the number of people who were willing to donate their time and energy to support us and this crazy idea.
I set to work filling out our cast and crew and started researching equipment (lights, cameras, sound, etc) while Jess researched everything from locations, insurance and contracts to scheduling software. We crowdsourced virtually everything. Anytime we needed anything from props to locations, we would post it via Hootsuite to Facebook and Twitter. We didn’t get everything we asked for, but we got a lot!
For casting, I decided not to use a casting agent – not just because I didn’t have the money, but because I already knew plenty of great actors with sword skills. And I was hoping to find friends that I could trust who were willing to work for free. The main challenge was that these were professional actors who worked fairly often. So if a paid gig came along, I had to be prepared to either replace them at the last second, or shuffle the schedule as best we could.
We were fortunate enough to find some amazing talent including Monique Ganderton, who indeed booked a gig on “Iron Man 3” right before filming.
I had serious doubts whether we would be able to work around her crazy schedule, but when I finally met with her and realized what an amazing actress she was, we hustled as best we could to make it work. We had to keep track of every member of the cast and crew on Google calendars and who wasn’t available on certain days, since our schedule was changing on a daily basis.
And it isn’t until you try and cast a film among your friends do you realize who your true friends are. If they are truly supportive, they will take whatever role you give them. Even if they aren’t cast, they’re still there to support you with whatever you need. Thankfully, there weren’t too many hard feelings, since there just weren’t enough roles to go around.
As for our crew, we didn’t have the budget to fill out every position. I planned to have the actors take care of their own makeup, hair and wardrobe. I also wanted to stay extremely lean so we could shoot guerilla if we had to. Our crew consisted of myself, AJ Raitano (our DP), Josh VanDyke (sound), and Jess as our producer (also serving as everything from craft services to boom operator). Josh also brought on board his trainee, Jessie, and AJ brought on his AC, Josh Gill, who we simply couldn’t afford, but ended up turning into a one-man show and totally saved our asses!
Something to note, all of these decisions during prep and production now make complete sense on paper, but at the time it was mostly guesswork with no guarantees that any of this would work. Also, many of these decisions had to be made days or weeks in advance while we were trying to put out other fires. It was a nonstop process…