Friday, January 31, 2014

Las Vegas "Cindy"


Director:  Laura Somers
Director of Photography:  Erik Forssell
Cindy:  Heather Dudenbostel
Prince:  Michael Lanham
Chauffeurs:  Gustaf Saige, Mark Wenzel, Steven Bartlett

Why this script/concept? How does it reflect your vision as a commercial director?

I thought this was a really cute concept.  I’d love an opportunity to reject a gorgeous prince on my doorstep.  Plus, I’ve always been a fan of the What Happens in Vegas spots, and so I wanted one of my own.  I also chose this spec because it had high production value opportunity, but was something I could shoot in a day.

It reflects my vision as a commercial director because I love to do offbeat, character driven stories with humor.  I love working with actors probably the most out of the whole process, so I usually choose scripts that are performance heavy.  I am also always looking for opportunities to tell women’s stories.

What was the casting process like?

For this spot I turned to a couple of casting websites: Now Casting and Breakdown Express.  I was looking for some very specific types – “Cindy” needed to be pretty and wholesome and the “Prince” needed to be a drop dead gorgeous model type.  I held auditions at Space Station Casting and found the Prince and chauffeurs quickly.  With Cindy I had to do two or three rounds to find the right person.

How did you search for/lock a location?

I always try to find locations first before I schedule a shoot, that way it I’m not under any pressure to lock something down and take just anything.  If you get the right location, that can do a lot of your art department work for you, and most importantly, up production value.   Since I didn’t have any connections to an upper middle class American looking house in the suburbs, I went through a lot of different avenues to find one:  craigslist, location managers in all the surrounding cities, until I finally found a location manager who works with indie filmmakers – Tony Ware.   He was able to get me a nice looking house in the West Adams district.  This is a really important neighborhood for low budget projects, because these are old historical homes that transport you outside of Los Angeles, much like Hancock Park does, but go for a lot less.  Making specs on a shoestring budget is a must for me since I’m trying to build a reel.

How did you select your DP, crew?

Erik Forssell is my favorite DP, and we’ve worked on numerous projects together since 2005.   His motto is to keep everything simple.  He knows how to make something look gorgeous with minimal equipment – and that’s really helpful when we’re trying to shoot these specs in a short amount of time.

Erik teaches cinematography at a community college and he often brings along his students to work on our no budget projects because it affords them an opportunity to learn how a set works.  Erik’s an excellent, patient teacher and I’m always impressed with how well his students take to their jobs.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

Oh man, this was a shoot that really tested my sanity. It wasn’t so much the actual shooting day, but more like the day before the shoot.  The script called for some luxury vehicles in the background – I had reserved three vehicles a month in advance to pick up the day before the shoot.  When I called the car companies to confirm, I learned that one of the vehicles had been wrecked by the previous renter, and the car was undriveable.  I have to mention here that for some reason, Luxury Range Rovers are very popular rentals, and White Luxury Range Rovers are nearly impossible to find.  And of course this is the car that had been wrecked, and to me, nothing else would do!  So Dan and I scrambled to find another one. He happened to have a friend of a friend with one who loaned it to us for the day.  Problem solved.  An hour later, I got a call from the other luxury vehicle rental company and they told me that the previous renter refused to return the vehicle that I had rented, and there was nothing they could do.  So I was out another luxury suv, again!   After another gut wrenching scramble, and with a lot of luck, I found a guy on craigslist with two matching luxury SUVs who rented them to me, in my budget range (but not without a LOT of haggling)!

Fortunately, the shooting day itself went off without a hitch, and we all had a great time!

Tell us about editing and finishing.

I did about ten edit passes on this spec before Dan and I decided that the story just wasn’t working.  The beautiful thing about editing is that you don’t have to throw in the towel when that happens, you just find another way to move the pieces around.  I passed it onto another editor to do a cut for a fresh eye.  We shared our cut with our trusted friends and got some great feedback and were able to look at the story in a different way, which brought us to the cut that exists now.   I think I ended up doing about 20-30 different cuts, it took forever, and was at times extremely frustrating, but sometimes you just have to keep tinkering with a piece.  There’s always a way to make it work, provided you have a lot of patience and enough footage to move around. 

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

I would have done a lot of things differently, but that would have included a bigger budget, and sometimes you just don’t have that luxury.  So you have to make do, if you want to make it at all.  I’m just glad we survived J

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