I’ve been sitting on my couch, at my desk, at my dinner table, on my couch, and at my dinner table again over the last 12 months. These have been my work spaces. 12 months of FULL-TIME work, flights to and from NWA, a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of …dreaming. Happy dreaming.
My husband has been working at work, working a home, working on the road, and working while I have been sleeping. He works for money during the day and works on GFT for free with me at night and never sleeps…12 months.
Act 1: Development
So I started out having tons of knowledge from past projects and past distribution experience and convos with folks and made a plan: Make a $100K movie, with 2 NAME actors, in Northwest Arkansas (NWA), under the DOVE family approved model, involving the Southern community (GO HOGS), and pray for direction…
Ryan had been working on this story in his head for years, I even have a business proposal we started in 2008 that I laughed at when I found it earlier this year. So, Ryan wrote the script- I helped so we say that WE wrote it, but it is really Ryan’s story and it was beautiful. I started writing a business proposal stating all I had learned, researched, and planned, AND WHY it would work!! This didn’t get us all the money in the world (who knew?) But it DID get us a few solid investors of people who REALLY believed in the project. Ryan and I also implemented a Kickstarter Campaign and decided we would invest the deficit of however we ended up by August 15th.
We chose a few production companies, chose the filming dates, started the SAG paperwork process, hired a Casting Director Jen Levy, started seeking out musicians, kept sending out the business proposal, and decided there was no turning back… really? yes. really? Is this really happening? I guess so.
Act 2: The Kickstarter Campaign and Pre-Production
Wow. Kickstarter was hard. Really hard. We relied on the kindness of strangers, Mom & Dad, and friends. The most money was brought about through past loved ones and friends who believe in us from WAY back, friends of our parents, and current buddies in a higher class than ourselves. We are grateful for EVERY SINGLE PERSON who took time out of their busy lives to give us even the smallest amount and then sharing it with someone in their own life. We depended wholly on the good in folks and are so blessed we barely made it through and know it was because of the FANS in the world that LOVE us so deeply. We were overwhelmed that it ACTUALLY happened?!?! We didn’t want to do a Kickstarter Campaign without our name actors on board- but we were running out of time and looking back we would have needed a whole year at least to get the actors on board that we wanted if we wanted them for the kickstarter campaign. It takes a LONG time to cast actors– a LONG time. We ended up with the best and we couldn’t more grateful!
We started getting geared up for the shoot, booking plane tickets, hiring Interns, signing paperwork, announcing people online, getting our social media plan in place, settling accommodations, we hired Richard Karn and surprisingly also hired Corbin Bernsen –both amazing men and actors who brought SO much more than their name to our film, we were getting things together and making solid plans… it was really happening, really. So we started auditioning actors, hiring crew, auditioning more actors, hiring actors, booking locations, making production arrangements, advertising our brand in town, telling the industry about us, looking into SPONSORS, scheduling officially, and so much stuff… really important and expensive stuff. Our Sponsors were a HUGE part of the process- we had dozens of sponsors GIVE us SO much and we couldn’t be more grateful!!!!! They made this all possible, we easily made a $1M film for only $100K because of the generosity of our crew, sponsors, the community, and every single person who walked on our set and gave us 100% even if they were getting paid or treated less than 10-20% of what they are worth. This doesn’t normally happen. Crews and films and groups that live and work and give so much together do not have as much love or give as much as our set had– I attribute that 150% to God, I had nothing to do with any of it. God gave us the best possible chance we had and held our hands through every step of the process from October 2011 to October 2012.
Act 3: Principal Photography
So, Darleen Hampson (Wardrobe, Set dresser, & Property Master — too many jobs for one woman, but she is my Mom, so she is the most talented, hardest working, and cheapest I could get for those 3 HUGE jobs and I can work her awful hours because of it, sorry Mom) and I arrived in NWA at XNA on September 6th, 2 weeks before Cameras start rolling. She and I met up with Cassie Self (Producer — ultra amazing lady who is huge in the NWA film community and incredibly valuable in multiple areas…and I can work her awful hours too, sorry Cassie) and got a whole lot done for 2 whole weeks!!! At this time we got Culligan Water, thanks to Miss Cassie Self. We started working on getting ready for people to show up…and they did!
The plane landed with Director Marc Hampson, Cinematographer Paul Olson, Sound Guy Ronnie Ursenbach, B Camera Operator Justin McAleece, Gaffer Ian McAleece, Script Supervisor Nicole McAleece, Producer Erik Bogh, his wife Mary Bogh (who was cast as the romantic lead “Molly” in GFT a few days later), and our First AC’s wife and child- Kimmie and Dax Brown. I picked them up a long with my Mother-in-Law Sherry Schwartzman in our rented vehicles from our sponsor John Wilson of Presidential Conversions in Fayetteville. We took them home to the Bedrock Inn in Winslow AR right next door to my parent-in-law’s home and guest house. We all stayed out there during filming. A few hours later after we were finished eating Geralidi’s Italian Cuisine, Lead actor & writer & exec Producer & my husband- Ryan Schwartzman showed up with First AC Danny Brown, Producer Aaron Fairley, & Producer Paul Pesnell. Our interns and other crew came by that night or the next morning- My assistant Angela Morse, the assistant to the Director Vanessa Duenas, boom op Karson Hollbrook, transportation driver Isabella Orion, and make-up/hair Janice Radcliff and 2 days later Producer Vanessa Parker-Reynolds (Vanessa Rose Parker) came to do all our Social Media!!!
We started filming Sat morning along with our Key Grip Travis Joiner and our first actors of the day- Cassie Self’s kids! We had a great first day and had our first day review over dinner at the WONDERFUL Penguin Ed’s with Producer and UPM Aaron Fairley, First AD Mike Hill, and me. We talked and had a GREAT outlook for the next day and all the things we could do better and all the good things we need to maintain.
We had an amazing 2 weeks and especially want to Thank everyone else who contributed so much- Josh Hart at Natural State Treehouses, The Rolling Pin, Lauren Embree Jewelry, Grey Dog Vintage Boutique, Seedling Film Association, Offshoot Film Fest, Kind Kitchen, Lean Green Cuisine, Greenhouse Grille, Jammin’ Java, Charlie’s Famous Cheesecakes, Arsaga’s, KNWA Fox News, Gusano’s Chicago Style Pizzeria, Celi’s True Mexican Cuisine, Creative Awards, Rick’s Bakery, MGB Photo, McGhee’s Insurance Agency, Mama Carmen’s Espresso Cafe, Making Memories Photobooth, General Motors for their use of the Chevy Cruze ECO, Marvin’s IGA, SkyVue Lodge, The Mustache, Yarnover Truck, Hawaiian Brians, Potter’s House Thrift, and A Fare To Remember Gourmet Cuisine… and I’m sure there are even more I can’t remember off hand and people like Ira & Sherry Schwartzman, Shawn & Anita Schwartzman, Potter’s House kids, the amazing people at SVI, The Browns, The Overbeys, all the amazing homeowners, The City of Winslow, the City of Fayetteville, The City of WestFork, Cary Arsaga, The McAleeces, Our student Interns, NOLAN FOSTER! and his parents, Fayetteville High school, Steve Snediker and John Brown University, Jocelyn
and Mason of the University of Arkansas, Rhonda Crone of City Wire, Antoinette Grajeda of NPR, Brad Reed of KNWA, Brook Thomas of KNWA, Ezra Idlet, 5 Star, Matt Buell of Revolution wood custom furniture and products, Nancy Massey, Preston Bacon, for ALL our amazingly willing and awesome background, the Beautifully talented Shannon Wurst, the band we met at Greenhouse Grille, Brent Bailey of Southern Style Productions, and SO SO Many more others.
We worked really hard and got along really well. T
here were the usual problems of working together and playing together for such a long time in such close quarters — there were occasionally issues that needed to be solved– but not really anything big. We did let go of a team member and split his responsibility among 2 other people already on the team, they did a fantastic job of filling in- things were still great and no real feelings were hurt. The only issues we could (and would for the next one) fix were doubling everyone’s pay (tripling really), giving everyone at least 2 more bathrooms, always working internet, and 1 more week of filming. All in all- those aren’t bad problems and we all did great without that! AND we knew those were the problems going into the film so everyone dealt with it all REALLY REALLY well. It was my best experience on set and I really enjoyed working with this amazing crew.
My typical day started an hour or 2 before everyone else- Ryan and Angela and I would go into town, run errands, go to the first set of the day to meet everyone, get set up, deal with problems as they come, watch a few takes behind the monitor, give my thoughts to Marc & Aaron, check in with each department, maybe fill up a few waters and get a few snacks, have lunch, move to the next location, do a lot of the same, field calls for hours from everyone and anyone, hand over tons of responsibility to Angela, take a quick trip to some location or to meet somebody about a location or timing issue, talk with Ryan in private to get his thoughts, go talk with other people about them getting what they need, field a call from SAG, eat dinner, and go home and work for a few hours and then off to bed 2 or 3 hours after I had planned.
I stayed a few extra days to return a bunch of rented stuff, thank some sponsors in person, and then do a few interviews for publicity and then finally get a ride from my parents-in-law who took care of SO much for me and got me to the airport for a ride HOME! It had been a full month of living in NWA and I loved every moment. I can’t wait to get back to NWA to make the next film…and the next film…and the next film…
So, back in LA we had 1 more day of filming things that take place in LA and get a few key shots to WRAP UP THE FILM OFFICIALLY! what?! Really?! YES!
Epilogue: 3 more years of work left on GFT, –Didn’t know that, did ya? …I got this.
So, I took about 24-35 hours of complete sleep and relaxation to do nothing and not even check my phone (which of course I checked my phone, I’m not crazy). Now I am writing my first Blog post about my experience before I do a bid on another Producing job while balancing— Doing ALL the Kickstarter Incentives (there are a lot), giving our production Sponsors a special gift, researching film festivals and strategy, getting ready for AFM (American Film Market) at the end of the month, getting names and addresses together for our first big send out of screeners, starting plans on our NWA Premiere next year, creating a plan for final production and producer screenings before our festival send out, making plans, calling people, getting national sponsors for our festival circuit run (lets talk about that if you are interested), getting our app finalized and out there, getting trailers and deadlines on track, getting more funding for a big distribution push, getting on board with Tugg, learning new online options for our EVER changing industry, and taking naps once a week. :)
We expect (roughly) 6 months of post, a teaser trailer by November, a premiere next Summer/Fall in NWA, a 1 week run in NWA and LA by 2014, a distribution decision and contract by 2014 and on the shelves and ready to buy before 2015.
This whole experience brought my husband and me even closer together. I love my husband SO SO Much. I couldn’t have done any of this without him. He made this all possible from the start and he’s at work RIGHT NOW trying to pay for this film. He’s amazing.
Taking this HUGE leap in our careers and lives was always in our own hands. We know that now. WE WERE MEANT TO DO THIS. We will do this again. I hope you join us next time :)
I’m going to be posting a lot more soon, Thanks again for ALL your support! God is good. All the time.
*Excuse any spelling errors, tense errors, grammatical errors, or typos- I’m tired!
-Jennica Schwartzman, Executive Producer. Blessed Woman. Happy Camper.