We’ve had two amazing days of filming on Cowboys & Engines, and one day that will live in infamy for years to come. As has been said before, and better, filmmaking is an inherently chaotic process; a constant battle against forces that threaten to bring the whole enterprise crashing down in pieces around your head. I’ve always likened it to a snowball rolling downhill. Sometimes, that snowball gains unstoppable momentum and simply gets bigger and bigger, smashing all the obstacles in its path. Other times, you have to constantly pack the snow together as it rolls, keeping it from falling apart.
Often, you think you have one, and realize you have the other. C&E is the first snowball, but for a brief moment on Sunday, it was masquerading as the second.
We started shooting Friday. We got amazing footage with Richard Hatch, Libby Letlow, Walter Koenig, Kaila Freas and Stasya Knight. Each actor surpassed my expectations for them, out sets were gorgeous, and everything looks amazing.
Saturday was devoted to our scenes on the bridge of the Karlova, Dr. Clay’s dirigible, with the legendary Malcolm McDowell joining us to play Clay. Malcolm was charming, funny, a joy to work with, and I think we made a good impression on him as well. Kerri and Andy Appleton surpassed themselves with the Karlova bridge set, and again, my amazing cast – now including Chase McKenna, Tye Lombardi & Jenifer Ellis as well – blew everyone away. Libby, Kaila & Chase particularly each did a fantastic job of standing up to the challenge of acting opposite a star like McDowell.
Sunday was to be the start of our exteriors. It promised to be a hot, grueling day, but it was cut short when issues with the location and the base camp owner shut us down and left us without any options to shoot out that day. Given that everything was connected to the next day’s location as well, we simply pulled the plug and decided to re-group and attack with a new plan. I went home feeling like I’d been kicked in the gut, but four hours later, we had the beginnings of a plan. Now, two days later, it’s starting to solidify, and we’re all pretty well convinced that it’s going to work out to the benefit of the movie.
I was speaking to a friend on Monday who said, “Everything happens for a reason.” I replied, “Yeah. Usually my own incompetence.” However, sometimes I’m a genius at making exactly the right mistake at exactly the right time.
So shooting is on hiatus until the end of May when we will all re-group in the desert, and see if we do, indeed, have a snowball’s chance in hell.
Anything you say in print about making a film is always a massive understatement. When I say it’s been harder, more stressful, more harried, more time-consuming, more chaotic, than you can imagine, I mean that literally. Every day has been something new that threatened to sink the film. Every day we’ve figured out a way to stay on track, if not on schedule, and keep moving forward.
And now we’re here. The writing, the designs, the campaign, the fundraising, the meetings, the wheeling, the dealing, the plans, the building, the compromises, victories and defeats have all conjoined, and tomorrow, around 8:30 am, they will produce actual footage from a project that first entered my head in 2009. Aphorisms like “It’s been a long, hard road” don’t begin to describe it.
Is everything ready? No. As I write this, my amazing art department is putting the finishing touches on the sets we’ll be shooting tomorrow morning. Tomorrow night, after we wrap, I’ll be working on Saturday’s props. I’m just now finishing my shot lists and blocking notes. We’re all exhausted and excited and stressed.
But it’s always that way. Every film that isn’t some hundred-million-dollar epic with a crew of four hundred operates the same way. It just is. Today I was on the phone from 5am until 3pm answering a flood of questions, dealing with problems, etc.
Tomorrow, all the chaos will fall away, and all that matters is what we capture. When they talk about the magic of movies, they don’t mean how wonderful or spectacular they are, they mean it’s like a trick; you only see what we show you.
Tomorrow, we hope to show you the best face we’ve ever presented to an audience.
I have an amazing crew and an incredibly talented cast. I wish us all good fortune.
Yeah. I know. Three months.
When I say it’s been a whirlwind, it’s a massive understatement. I had no idea what an overwhelming prospect our Kickstarter campaign would be. That alone was a life-eating process. Since that closed, I’ve been running in place like the Flash on his treadmill trying to make the money work with our incredibly ambitious film.
As with anything like this, there have been upheavals. Some major, some minor.
The main thing has been the money. Every film feels like you’re scraping too little butter over too much bread, but Cowboys & Engines is more like a loaf of bread all on its own. Part of the problem is that everyone knows what we made from Kickstarter (or they think they do), and on paper, it looks like a lot of money. But once you allocate it to the things we need to cover, it’s nothing.
But everyone wants their pound of flesh. The thinking seems to be, “I’ll just take a quarter of the budget for my department…”
Which would be fine math except that there are about 20 departments.
Just tonight I got sticker shock from a supposed “friend” bid for a camera package and post-production work. Their quote is about four times what I had budgeted, and I thought I budgeted loose.
So we’re back at square one where all that’s concerned. But we’ll get it done, by hook or by crook. I may get sullen, but I never get defeated.
If it weren’t for the fact that all we would do is argue and try to beat the shit out of each other, I could really do with a few clones. I’m putting the finishing touches on the Kickstarter video for Cowboys & Engines, so we can launch the campaign in the next few days. That’s huge. That means it’s actually happening. No more planning for the campaign, no more waffling about when to start. We Go. Approximately 90 days later, We Shoot. I’m excited, anxious, and slightly terrified all at once.
I think of all the C&E-related things I haven’t gotten done, and it crushes me a little. So much is resting on my shoulders, and it’s nothing I can delegate. I’m dangerously close to becoming the bottleneck that strangles the movie. Sobering to realize and write it down, but the point of doing it is to make sure that doesn’t happen, right?
It’s no help that I’m waking up tomorrow to begin the busiest December I can ever remember. I’m shooting two superhero parodies I wrote for Axel & Vivid; prepping and directing a pretty big new cable show for Paul Fishbein and x3sixty; writing another Hustler script for Axel; oh, and getting back to editing Money Shot.
All without letting Cowboys & Engines fall between the cracks, and preferably without forgoing the occasional evening of debauchery I allow myself because I get really cranky when I got to long without abusing a gorgeous, willing victim.
Oh, and I’m hoping to take some time off and leave the country over Christmas & New Years. It isn’t really a vacation; it’s just that I have no one here to spend it with, and I want to distract myself from being a lonely, bitter old bastard, rattling around the apartment, just me and the cats, come Boxing Day. I’ve also been discussing stopping in Michigan for a bit along the way to meet an interesting creature I only know from text and pictures… Details, perhaps, to come.
At any rate, the most important film of my career officially starts pre-production this week. I felt it should be in the permanent record…
If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all.”
—Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2
I really need to enjoy next week, because it’s about the last free time I’m going to have for a good, long while. Here’s the short version:
I just turned in scripts for two Vivid/Axel Braun superhero parodies we’re shooting in December. Which means six looong days shooting before Christmas. I still owe one script for a Hustler parody. And then we’re shooting Axel’s Grease parody in December as well, which promises to be three more even longer days.
I’m prepping for several shows I’m going to be directing for x3sixty, the porn news channel run by my friend (and former AVN boss) Paul Fishbein and his partner Darren Roberts. The first of those is Monday, and they stretch through January, and AEE.
Then there’s all the editing I have to finish, and a ton of things I need to do around my place.
Not to forget the metric ton of work that needs to be finished for Cowboys & Engines before we launch Kickstarter at the end of the month.
Luckily, there’s a lovely young lady who wants me to come abuse her this evening, which I’m considering stress relief.