Posted by John Radtke
Richard "RB" Botto Richard "RB" Botto

What do you do when you don't live in one of the world's main entertainment hubs? You take matters into your own hands and create. That's exactly what Stage 32 screenwriter John Radtke from Spring Green, Wisconsin decided to do. Upon joining Stage 32, John discovered there were a tremendous amount of talented film creatives in his area, so he formed the Midwest Film Group in the Stage 32 Meetup section. After only one meeting the group decided to produce a short film together. Now, months later, Alice Has It Under Control, has a team and production is well underway. How's that for being proactive.

Make moves, not excuses!

I thank John for his contribution to the Stage 32 Blog

Cheers!

RB

In March, I planned a meet up on Stage 32 with fellow filmmakers. I named our group the Midwest Film Group. We met and decided that we would make our own short film. It was that simple. We had no money, no script, and no equipment.

 

What we did have was our passion for movies.

 

Our next step was to have everyone come up with three ideas for a short script. We had a lot of great ideas. Eventually, we decided on a comedy Alice Has It Under Control. The script was about prim and proper Alice who accidentally takes her roommates’ drugs and has a crazy date night. Then, her free spirited roommate Roxie comes to her rescue. We took a couple of months to write and rewrite the script. Now that we had the script, we needed actors. One of our members was an experienced actress, who we were able to cast right away. To our great surprise, we had numerous women audition for the roles of Alice and Roxie. The problem was finding the male lead, Jared we only had a couple of men sign up for the role. Both of them didn’t fit the role at all. After, no good leads for the Jared role; we became worried we would have to rewrite the script. One of our actresses recommended an actor, who luckily enough was perfect fit the role of Jared. We had our actors.

 

My advice to finding actors is build a network in Stage 32..

 

Next we needed a crew and equipment to film our short. Our director was friends and in business with a couple of great guys who had the equipment and the experience to help us make our short film. Of course, nothing is for free and we had to pay for the equipment. We put up a funding site and asked for money from family, friends, and whoever else would be willing to fund our film. To create buzz about our project we created a facebook page, twitter page, and web page to get the Midwest Film Group name out there. You need to market your film. I believe this is lacking with most people who make films on a budget. Separating your film from the hundreds of other indie and short films that are made each year is extremely important.

 

My advice is if you don’t know anything about marketing, learn quickly. Marketing your group to potential investors is also important you can showcase you and your group’s skills to investors.

 

Obviously, making a short is nothing like a feature movie. The scheduling, setting up equipment, locations, permits, motivating crew and actors all for a ten hour shoot is madness. Come to think of it, it is like a feature without the hassle of a huge budget. It’s no secret that making a short you have to get creative. Finding actors and crew who are willing to work for free is difficult. To schedule times to film is another challenge. Let me make it clear, we wanted to pay the actors and crew, but being our first short it’s hard to find the money and you have to start somewhere! We’re competing against all the other people who want money for their film too.

 

In hindsight, if we had to do it differently we would have raised all the money we needed first, then started filming.

 

With an exception of a couple of brief detours along the way, we were able to schedule the actors and the crew for the shoot. Our target date was in August. We decided to hold a table read so everyone could meet and get to know one another. I have to be totally honest; hearing the words we wrote being spoken by the actors was uplifting. When you’re writing by yourself or in a group you really don’t know if what you’re writing is any good.

In March, I planned a meet up on Stage 32 with fellow filmmakers. I named our group the Midwest Film Group. We met and decided that we would make our own short film. We had no money, no script, and no equipment. What we did have was our passion for movies.

Our next step was to have everyone come up with three ideas for a short script. We had a lot of great ideas. Eventually, we decided on a comedy “Alice Has It Under Control.” The script was about Prim and proper Alice who accidentally takes her roommates’ drugs and has a crazy date night, her free spirited roommate Roxie comes to her rescue. We took a couple of months to write and rewrite the script. Now that we had the script, we needed actors. One of our members was an experienced actress, who we were able to cast right away. To our great surprise, we had numerous women audition for the roles of Alice and Roxie. The problem was finding the male lead, Jared we only had a couple of men sign up for the role. Both of them didn’t fit the role at all. After, no good leads for the Jared role; we became worried we would have to rewrite the script. One of our actresses recommended an actor, who luckily enough was perfect fit the role of Jared. We had our actors. My advice to finding actors is build a network in Stage 32, or other networking sites.

 

 

Next we needed a crew and equipment to film our short. Our director was friends and in business with a couple of great guys who had the equipment and the experience to help us make our short film. Of course, nothing is for free and we had to pay for the equipment. We put up a funding site and begged for money from family, friends, and whoever else would be willing to fund our film. To create buzz about our project we created a face book page, twitter page, and web page to get Midwest Film Group name out there. I believe this is lacking with most people who make films on a budget, you need to market your film. Separating your film from the hundreds of other indie and short films that are made each year is extremely important. My advice is if you don’t know anything about marketing, learn quickly. Marketing your group to potential investors is also important you can showcase you and your group’s skills to investors.

Obviously, making a short is nothing like a feature movie. The scheduling, setting up equipment, locations, permits, motivating crew and actors after a ten hour shoot. It must be madness. Come to think of it, it is like a feature without the hassle of a huge budget. It’s no secret, making as short you have to get creative. Finding actors and crew who are willing to work for free is difficult. To schedule times to film is another challenge. Let me make it clear we wanted to pay the actors and crew, but being our first short it’s hard to find the money. We’re competing against all the other people who want money for their film too. If we had to do it all differently we would have raised all the money we needed first, then started filming. Our next project that is way we will be doing it.

 

 

With an exception of a couple of brief detours along the way, we were able to schedule the actors and the crew for the shoot. Our target date was in August. We decided to hold a table read so everyone could meet and get to know one another. I have to be totally honest; hearing the words we wrote being spoken by the actors was uplifting. When you’re writing by yourself or in a group you really don’t know if what you’re writing is any good. But, when the actors read it and laugh, there are very few things like that in this world that make you feel that alive.

Getting ready to shoot proved challenging. The next thing we need to do was find the locations. Two of our group members were able to lock down our restaurant location. Finding the other locations we need for our short proved to be a little difficult. This was difficult because we didn’t have the money or credibility at this time. We can’t walk into any location and tell them we’ll be here filming for ten hours and to keep quiet. Most businesses want money to film in their location. Then, before we started filming, one of our members quit the group; I would like to say it was over creative differences. We were lucky enough to still the have the core group intact, not to say there weren’t any disagreements along the way.

 

Disagreements are okay. You need people who willing to speak out as long as it doesn’t disrupt your final goal of a finished movie.

 

Our first night of filming was in one word: crazy. It wasn’t that we were not prepared, everyone in the group worked hard to get everything ready. The energy was off the chart!. Our shooting schedule was called by our director “very ambitious.” If I can impart my biggest piece of advice - if you’re not using actors for extras I would reconsider that. A ten hour shoot the first night is difficult especially if they have to work the next day or go to school. The first night went pretty well all things considered. Everyone stuck it out and did their best. We are still filming and hopefully will be done in the next couple of weeks. Then it’s the grueling, rewarding work of post-production then enter in film festivals. To see all your work come to life into a finished short film, all you hope for as a result is that people see it and will laugh.

 

My final advice is to fellow filmmakers is takes a team, your project will never be completed without collaboration. It will be one of hardest things you’ll ever do, but in the end, the most rewarding.

 


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