Posted: Thursday, May 6, 2010
TILT is moving from Blogger to Wordpress.  
 Same great content; new home!

Come and join us!  

The Rating System

Posted: Thursday, April 8, 2010
by Jeremy Doyle

The Question.

A couple of weeks ago Julie and Jessica threw out a simple question (on the King is a Fink facebook fan page) that really intrigued me.  It was a question that has many implications and the answers are completely subjective.  It effects everyone that watches movies.  Their question: PG-13?  That was it, a simple rating with a question mark.  My answer at that time was, "I have a lot to say about it.  Maybe I should make it a blog post."  Welcome to that post.

Now at this point I could go into a whole description of the rating process and the history of ratings, but that information is already out there, so I'll just point you in that direction if you want to read more about it:

There is also a tremendous documentary that I would highly recommend that goes pretty in depth as well.  Its title is "This Film Not Yet Rated".  Not only does it cover ratings, it also goes into some piracy issues which are very interesting.

For the sake of this post, I'm just going to list the current ratings and their definition.

G - General Audiences
All ages admitted
PG - Parental Guidance Suggested
Some material may not be suitable for children
PG-13 - Parents Strongly Cautioned
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
R - Restricted
Under 17 requires accompanying by a parent or adult guardian
NC-17 - No One 17 and Under Admitted

Here is my take on the ratings system:

 It sucks.  It's good intentioned, but it doesn't work.  Much like the television and video game rating systems, the MPAA is a self-governed committee.  They are putting ratings on films as a way to self-police, and there is no standard for giving a film a rating.

Now as we watch films we can start to guess at the formula.   Generally, in my observation, if you have male full-frontal nudity, you are going to get an "R" rating.  On the contrary, if you have female frontal nudity, (by female frontal nudity I mean breasts and / or vagina) it's going to depend on the length of the shot.  Take, for instance, one of the first PG-13 movies, "The Woman in Red", which has a scene of a woman's dress being blown up.  Guess what?  No underwear.  What?  Why is that? How come the double standard?

If you use the "F" word more than twice, you'll pretty much be guaranteed a "R".  I guess other profanities are less vile, as they don't earn an "R".  Seriously?  Why?  This is language most people hear everyday.

Language is such an objective, culture-based thing.  I don't use "profane" language much myself for the simple fact that I don't find it polite.  But it doesn't take much looking around to see that even politeness changes. "Pissed off" is something that I regularly say.  It's common language now days.  However, I'm thinking it wasn't that long ago that that phrase seemed pretty vulgar.

Most people are either familiar with or have heard of The Ten Commandments.  At one point in time this was a moral code.  Are they relevant for today?  Not according to the ratings system.  There is not a single one of them that, if broken in a film, would give it more than a PG rating.  So where do we derive our moral code from?  How is that translated into our films?  What is the compass the ratings board uses to judge things?

Clearly, in my opinion, the ratings system is broken. 

Back to the original question...

PG-13?  Yes, I believe there needs to be something between PG and R.  A couple years ago a change was made that was much needed and has improved an imperfect, broken system.  Underneath the rating is a box that lists the potentially objectionable content that was used to determine the film's rating.  For me, especially now as a parent, this is helpful.  I know what my child is being exposed to.  Don't get me wrong, I will still see the majority of movies before my children do in their formative years, but it could (and should) be a big help to lazy parents.  The short of it is, you can't un-see something.  Whether it be in real life or at the movies, it will be filed in your memory.  And, as parents, it's important to pay attention to what's going into our kids' heads.

In the end, I believe that the ratings system a broken system, but it's something that needs to be in place.  

This is a big, big topicI didn't even get into violence or how ratings effect box office ticket sales.  Feel free to add your comments. 
  • What are your thoughts about the rating system? 
  • Can you think of an alternative?
  • And I'll ask again: PG-13? 
BTW Tilt, if rated at this point, would be  "PG-13" "R" for Language, Violence, Some Drug Use. Of course, the script's only 2/3's done, so maybe that will change and we can still hit "NC-17"...

What makes a movie compelling?

Posted: Monday, April 5, 2010
by Jeremy Doyle

What makes a movie compelling?

Is it the actors?  Is it the shooting? The editing?  The musical score? Sure all these things add into it, but none on their own make a movie compelling.  I believe the answer to what makes a movie compelling is the story.  Without a compelling story, movies become forgettable.  

Because I work in production and post-production and have for the last 13 years, I watch movies and TV differently.  I'm critical of the lighting, editing, sound mix, color grade, shot composition, and just about everything else. There is no way around it.  That is just how I'm wired.  I'm sure many of you reading this blog can relate.  

If a story is good, I'll be drawn in and the analysis will become secondary.  I'll throw out an example from an educational video that my wife and I were watching recently.  The host was telling a dramatic story of a friend who had cancer.  The music was slow and low, giving a sad vibe.  Photos of the friend were doing simple fade ins and outs as not to draw attention to the editing.  When it dissolved to the talking head, the camera was on a slow zoom in (and when I say slow, I mean crawl, barely distinguishable) to heighten the intensity.  Then as the story climaxed, the music switched.  It became a little quicker and more lively.  My mood lifted. The camera started to pull back lessening the tension.  

I was fully aware of every trick being done in the production and still I felt the tears building in my eyes.  The story had touched me.  I was able to put myself in the storytellers place and relate with the people being talked about.

Later, in the car, my wife and I were talking about what we had just saw.  I told her I had been laughing at the same time as crying because I was fully aware of how I was being manipulated, but it didn't matter.  The story connected.  She just looked at me, because she knew.  She knew I can't just watch something without analyzing it.  It's rubbed off too.  She can sometimes speak my language now, as we dissect what we watch.

What does that mean for us as indie filmmakers? 

Let me throw out a couple of my ideas.  

First, we have to have a compelling story.  It has to be interesting and people have to be able to connect to it.  The easiest way for this to happen is for the characters to be relatable.  You have to see part of yourself or part of someone you know in a character.  Another way this can be done is by telling a tale people are familiar with.  The subject matter is relatable.  The audience has experienced what is happening, and shared experiences make it relatable.  Still another way is to make it so unique, that every one watching is learning something.  In my opinion this can be hit or miss.  Some people just don't want to experience or learn new things and I think you'll lose them fast. So, in my opinion, the easiest way is to make it relatable either by character or experience.

Second, indies are made with sweat equity.  Lots of time and devotion.  People pouring their own hard earned money from their day job, supporting their film making habits.  These films are our babies.  They are a part of us.  They are stories we believe need to be told.  Because of this emotional attachment, we can sometimes take criticism the wrong way.  We need to be able to step away from the story and look it from another view point.  This is very challenging, but needs to be done.

To sum it up, I think story is the key, but the acting, shooting, editing, and sound all play support parts that if not done properly, can distract from the story.

What do you think?  Can a movie be compelling without a captivating story?

An Intimate Look at King is a Fink's Screenwriting Process

Posted: Thursday, April 1, 2010

Casting Tilt: Part 1

Posted: Monday, March 29, 2010
There are a lot of things that go into pre-production.  It's a busy time, trying to fit everything together to prepare for shooting.  There is one task, though, that has me in equal parts excitement and worry. Casting.  I think the casting of Tilt will be one of the more difficult parts of the pre-production process. There are several things that are working against us. However, I believe we will find the right people. And then I'll be able to sleep again, for a little while.


This can be a stumbling block.  I would imagine that it would be so much easier to get people to try out for parts if they know they will get paid.  This will not be one of those films, though. Tilt is an ultra-low budget film.  There is not going to be a place in the budget for actors, aside from expenses.  We will be covering travel, accommodations, and meals.  Hmmm...written like that, it sounds like a vacation.  Maybe that's how I should put it in the casting notice: "Come to the beautiful Brainerd Lakes area for an all inclusive acting gig."  I like it!


Some of the roles in this movie are not easy down right difficult.  The two main characters are complex and will really take some special actors to be able to pull them off.  I have gotten really lucky with the actors for my short films.  There have been some fantastic performances, even from people who have never acted before.  I'm going to need some of that luck, now more than ever.  I know there is someone out there who is going to be perfect for each of the parts.  The hard part is going to be finding them. 

Location, Location, Location

Brainerd, without a doubt, is a very lovely place to live.  I really enjoy it here, and I think it's a great place to raise my kids.  That being said, Brainerd is not a very lovely place to cast a feature film.  I would like to audition as many actors as I can for these wonderful roles, but the population of Brainerd is 13,178.  Our friend, Ted Fisher has about that many people who live on his block.  So, it looks like we will have to spread our search a little wider than just locally this time.  

If we go south 2 - 2.5 hours, we have the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  Now we're getting somewhere.  We might even find a little bit of that luck I was talking about.  I know there are people in the Twin Cities who want to act, but what other projects are we competing with to get actors?  Well, here is a comparison.  I pulled a screenshot of the casting notices for New York City and from all of Minnesota from in the casting lo/no pay catagory.

Click photo to blow up New York!

Click photo to blow up Minnesota!

There are 296 results in New York City and 1 result in all of Minnesota.  Of course, that's only on one website, but the research I've done hasn't turned up a huge number of of casting notices on any site for Minnesota.  Perhaps there just aren't a lot of features films going on in Minnesota?  Maybe this will work in our favor.  

There are a couple other websites I will post the casting notice on.  One will, of course, be craigslist; I don't think I need to explain that.  However, should I post it in the talent section under gigs or in the tv/film/video section under jobs?  The other site I'll be posting to is our Minnesota Film and TV Board website.  It's a great resource for anyone considering filming in Minnesota.  

Hmmm, maybe all of this isn't going to be so bad.  Now, to get people to drive a couple hours north to come to a casting call.  Stay tuned for part 2...

Let’s Do It: Writing a Movie Based on Someone Else’s Idea

Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2010
by Julie & Jessica of King is a Fink

Director Phil Holbrook had been kicking around his idea for TILT for a few years, but our involvement with the project started on December 29th, 2009, with this message:
Just for the sake of discussion, what do you think you would charge for a script, if you were given an idea & an outline?
I’m pretty sure we looked at each other and said “one million dollars” in unison.  Then we took a deep breath and got serious.  What would writing for another person mean?  The decision to take on this project wasn't easy.  Soon after getting Phil's message, we “met” him on Skype.  He shared his idea with us, which had to have been hard, and then we mulled it over for a couple of days. 

While we didn’t actually make a pro and con list, if we had, it would have looked something like this:

  • We’d ever worked with anyone else on this level.  So far we’d written 15 or so shorts and (almost) 3 feature-length screenplays, but our process had been a private one.  By accepting this assignment, we’d be not only developing someone else’s idea but relying on their feedback and criticism.  This. Was. Scary.
  • We had other projects on our slate.  We were about to finish The Unlovables.  We wanted to revise Moonbugs.  We were in talks to adapt a naughty memoir by author Kevin Keck (no relation; totally family).  We wanted to make another short.  Did we really have time for another major project?
  • What if it didn’t work out?  This was the most worrisome issue.  We’d developed a great rapport with Phil and considered him our friend, but we knew that there could be problems.  What would happen if he didn’t like what we wrote?  Or what if we wrote the movie and didn’t like his directing?  What if the movie was a huge success but we didn’t like how the profits were split up?  (Admittedly, the last one would be a great problem to have.)  Lots of things could go wrong.
  • First and foremost, we really liked Phil.  We’d developed a great rapport with him over Twitter, submitted shorts (and gotten accepted) to his film festival, and genuinely enjoyed interacting with him.  We also thought he was a talented director.  (You've seen Honest Work, right?)  Phil was the perfect Twitter friend: supportive of others projects and eager to share great information.  And he was just freakin’ funny.
  • We genuinely liked Phil’s basic idea.  The idea was fresh, provocative, and edgy, definitely in line with our other work. 
  • The project fit in with our ultimate goal, which was to write screenplays for others.  If we could successfully partner with Phil, develop a script that he loved, and help him make the best movie possible, we’d have proof that we could do the same for other directors.  (Kathryn Bigelow, can you hear us?)
Our Decision
Obviously, we decided to take the leap and join Phil on this journey.  No regrets.
First Steps
After we decided to take on the project, we emailed Phil a 5-page treatment for TILT.  We’d fleshed out the story in some ways that he hadn’t expected, but, from the very beginning, he encouraged us to contribute our own ideas.  This has been one of the best things about working with Phil: he has always maintained that this is our project, too.  It's made the writing process a lot easier.  We don’t just submit pages to him like he’s our boss; we share our work with him as our partner, someone we can rely on for honest feedback and encouragement.  

Turning in Act One
As promised, we turned in Act One to Phil the week before EgoFest.  And then...we didn’t hear back from him.  For about 12 hours.  Julie's hair turned white.  We worried that he didn’t like the script, that he didn’t want to work with us anymore, that we’d ruined everything.  But the next morning Phil sent us a message saying that, overall, he liked what we’d done.  Whew...

Our 1st Big Collaborative Bump

While we were in Brainerd for EgoFest, we talked a lot about TILT, and we talked about one particular element of Act Two that we all had differing opinions on.  Without giving anything away, there’s an element that Phil wanted to add that we disagreed with.   By the end of the weekend, Jess and I had promised to give it a shot.  On the ten-hour drive back home to Chicago we threw ideas back and forth and tried to figure it out.  By the time we got home, though, we still hadn't figured out how to incorporate Phil's request.

A Big Talk
We talked with Phil about the issue over Skype, and it was the most difficult talk we've had.  In the end, we asked Phil to give us a chance to prove that we could make a solid Act Two our way.  We know this had to be hard on Phil; it took a huge toll on us.  On one hand, we knew that this had started as Phil’s project, and we wanted to give him what he wanted.  We didn't want to let him down.  On the other hand, we wanted to stay true to ourselves and create character arcs and story lines that made sense to us.  We also wanted to end up with something that we could share with others as a true reflection of our ability to develop stories.

We sort of felt like we were designers on Project Runway: we wanted to satisfy our client (Phil) while still letting our personal style shine through.  (Hmm, note to Phil: we may need to get a TILT Tim Gunn.  And maybe a TILT Heidi Klum.)

Ready for Act Two?
We’re planning on turning in Act Two to Phil by Saturday (3/27).  We think it’s good.  We hope Phil does, too.  We’re still a little nervous about showing him what we’ve done, but, in the end, we know that we’ll be able to talk about the story honestly and respectfully.  Our partnership is solid (solid as a rock, in fact), and we all have the same goal: to create the best movie possible.

Where's The Time?

Posted: Monday, March 22, 2010
I was asked a question recently while eating lunch at the E Squared Cafe.  "How in the world do you find the time to work, spend time with your family, and make films?"  That is a very good question.  I have a day job, my own video production business, a family, and then this passion for filmmaking that seems to keep me from ever being bored.   Sometimes I'm not sure where all the time comes from (or where it goes), but I do my best to keep track of it.


I need to use some tools to keep me on track.  The old memory just isn't what it used to be.  I have tried tons of task management, or "to do" programs, ranging from really simple to having many features.  ToDo, Toodledo, Awesome Note, and Remember the Milk are just a few.  For one reason or another, I would quit using the programs and go back to just using my Mac's iCal. One of my big issues had always been syncing everything between home, work, and my ipod touch.  This should be easy.  It should just work.  Perhaps it's one of those "you need to be smarter than the equipment" type of things.  Lately, I've been using google calendar, and I really like it.  I can put in tasks, and, no matter what computer I use, it's always there and up to date.

Plan the Obvious

I'm going to write for a while today.  Do I really need to put that on my list?  Why, yes. Yes, I do.  I know it's not like a meeting or something with a specific time, but it should be.  I need to put a specific time on it, or it might not get done.  There are many things that I could be doing with my day, and, if I don't put on my list that I will be writing from 7-8, what's to stop me from doing something else?  I can get involved in a project, and the blinders go on.  Without setting aside time to do some of the basic things, I might get unbalanced and start ignoring what's really important.  This may sound really stupid, but I specifically set aside time to spend with my kids.  They are important to me.  Why shouldn't I give them at least the same respect I give someone I have a lunch meeting with?  But if I have time set aside to do certain tasks, what happens if something pops up, you know, surprise-style?

Plan Spontaneity

Can you really plan to be spontaneous?  I think so.  For starters, I try not to jam too many tasks into one day.  I realize that it can't always be helped, but ,for the most part, you don't have to be 100 mph all the time.  This does two things for me.  One, it's nice to get to the end of the day and know that you were able to finish everything you were hoping to accomplish.  I don't care who you are - that's a good feeling.  And two, (here's the spontaneous part) if I don't have my entire day mapped out, it leaves time for those things that just "pop up."  I can go outside and play with the kids, work on a new idea, work on the what I feel artistically pulled to at the moment, or even just sit back and listen to the latest episode of Film Courage (@FilmCourage).

I may be busy, but I'm living a life.  I also know I'm not the only one who has to tackle these time issues.  How do you do it?

Who is Jeremy Doyle

Posted: Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Man. The Myth. The Legend.  Here it is.  The one you've all been waiting for.... I think.

Meet Jessica

Posted: Monday, March 15, 2010
Watch out!

Meet Julie

Posted: Thursday, March 11, 2010
Today's Video Blog features Tilt writer Julie Keck.

Oscar Night: And Various Ramblings

Posted: Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Here is a video blog Phil did after watching the Oscars. Yes, he's all into it. So go ahead and watch the sleep deprived ramblings of an Oscar nut.

TILT: The Cameras

Posted: Thursday, March 4, 2010
By Jeremy Doyle

What an exciting time to be a filmmaker!  Sure, it's a tough time as far as funding and distribution go, but, as a cinematographer, I can't help but be excited by all of the great toys, all of the great options for shooting.  Equipment prices continue to fall, and it's easier and easier to obtain the tools of the trade.

I have a confession to make: I am a geek.  A tech geek, to be exact.  As a result, I'm always trying to figure out the latest trends and what's coming around the corner.  I scour the rumor pages, I follow the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) announcements, I look to see what's new at CES (Consumer Electronic Show), and I even check out Reduser from time to time.  If you follow the Red phenomenon, then you understand how rumors and speculation can create a market all of its own.

Before we talk equipment for TILT, I have one more confession: I've never worked with film.  All of my experience is with video or digital acquisition.  Certainly, in the overall scheme of things, film is far from dead, but I personally don't believe it has much of a place in indie film.  Unless you have a thorough storyboard with no plans of ever straying, for me it's too cost prohibitive.  In my humble opinion, because digital acquisition is so good now, if you have a budget that would include film costs, the money would be better spent on practical FX, post, casting, or personnel...even catering.  Like I said, I've never worked with film before so maybe I'm way off base.  Have an opinion? Please share it.

So - TILT equipment. Let's take a quick look at equipment options past, shall we? 
    •    Had we begun shooting in the early 2000's, we would have gone with the Panasonic DVX100;
    •    5 years ago, we would have used HDCAM. (I only say this because I have access to cameras; otherwise it's a relatively expensive acquisition format for this discussion and could blow a budget fast, especially when you have no budget);
    •    Four years ago, probably some sort of HDV camera;
    •    Three years ago, a P2 or a XDCAM camera ;
    •    Two years ago, ANY of those options coupled with a DOF adapter;
    •    Last year (ooo, we're getting closer), the dream camera would have been the RED ONE; 
    •    And now, in 2010, we have ALL OF THESE OPTIONS, plus HD-DSLR.  Nice.


So how do we start? 
The acquisition is the first step in the workflow, but to figure out the workflow we need to know the final destination.  What is our final output going to be?  DVD? The net? Film out?  Blu-Ray?  These are all questions that need to be answered before we begin shooting.

The next part we'll need to figure out is what were are going to use for post tools. 
AVID?  Final Cut?  Premiere?  Media 100?  Again, each offers a different workflow and treat each of the acquisition formats differently.

OK, so I'm bringing up a lot of questions and not many answers.  Guess we still have a lot to discuss, and we could use your help.
    1.    If you were (or are) shooting a movie right now, what would you use? 
    2.    What do you prefer to use in post? 
    3.    Good experiences?
    4.    Bad ones? 

Thanks in advance.  We're all ears…

Of TILT and Twitter: How Twitter made this project & where we hope it’ll take it

Posted: Monday, March 1, 2010
by Julie Keck & Jessica King

What’s the TILT / Twitter connection? TILT was initially conceived 5 years ago by Phil Holbrook in a dream (see where the magic happened here), but it was actually born this winter on Twitter. A sterile environment? Not exactly. More like a petri dish where lots of wonderful things can thrive, as well as some grody ones. We hope that in the end our experiment in feature film ends up resembling penicillin more than streptococcus.

So what exactly happened on Twitter? We joined Twitter late in the summer of 2009. Soon after, we bumped into Phil. We can’t remember exactly how we all hooked up, although we suspect it had something to do with either Gary King, Film Snobbery Live or both. What we know for sure is that we were instantly tickled by Phil’s humorous and intelligent tweets as well as his genuine interest in what we were doing. (Never forget: flattery will get you everywhere, and this applies to getting people to follow you and share helpful hints on Twitter.)

As a result of our positive Twitter interactions, Phil checked out our work; we checked out his. Eventually we submitted some shorts to his film festival (EgoFest), and then we made plans to meet each other face-to-face. Later, once we started discussing TILT, we were introduced to Phil’s longtime friend and collaborator Jeremy Doyle. And the Tilt team was complete.
Can you really know what someone’s like by their Twitter demeanor? I’m sure there are some cases in which someone’s real life personality is different from their Twitter persona, but, in Phil’s case, the carpet matched the drapes. Er...that’s not quite the right metaphor. What we mean is that when we finally met Phil in person, he was just as funny, smart, and charismatic as his Twitterfeed had led us to believe. No bad blind date stories here.

Do we expect that most folks who seem fun and supportive on Twitter to be fun and supportive in real life? Our experience points to yes. Maybe there’s something intrinsically kind about Twitter. It takes just as much time to type “You rock!” as it does to type “You suck!” And, to our delight, we see WAY more of the former than the latter. Maybe it’s sort of like how it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile...

Does this mean that Twitter always bring the best out in people? Not necessarily. We’ve seen a few negative, ego-driven, downer posts on Twitter, but everyone’s allowed to have bad days. However, when we see that someone we follow is incredibly negative on a regular basis, we unfollow. Why? Because Twitterlife is too short for that sort of bad juju.

What does Twitter have to offer TILT? Lots, we think.
  • Encouragement & support: Phil has described the indie film group that we interact with as a family, and we think he’s spot on. Filmmaker Gary King, for example, is the Twitter equivalent of the brother who’ll always let us borrow his car. Multi-hyphenate Tyler Weaver and filmmaker Travis Legge are the fun cousins who’ll bail us out of jail without any questions. Producer Maria Lokken and marketing and publicity consultant Sheri Candler will undoubtedly be the sensible aunts who’ll slap some sense into us if they see us fall in with the wrong crowd. Writers Jeanne V. Bowerman and Karen Quah are the cool sisters who’ll tell us about the birds and the bees (the REAL story). And our New York / New Jersey crew - Eren Gulfidan, John Trigonis, Marinell Montales, Matt Shea, Jerry Cavallero, Kim Garland, Alain Aguilar, Raffi Asdourian, and more - well, they’ll probably come to crash on the TILT couch and raid the TILT fridge, but they’ll make us laugh the whole time to earn their keep. These are just a few of our valued Twitter friends, people who make our Twitter lives (and our real lives) more rich. When we have questions about time management, contracts, how to find agents, etc, everyone has an opinion - a valuable opinion. And when we hit low points where we doubt our trajectory or talent, they boost us up and remind us of what we’ve accomplished so far.
  • Honest feedback: Just because our Twitter friends support us does not mean that they blow sunshine up our hoo-has. None of us on the TILT team wants empty compliments. We want to interact people who will push us, challenge us, and help us make the best decisions (and films) we can.
  • Examples of what to do on Twitter: We’re lucky to follow many hardworking indie filmmakers at various stages of their production, marketing, and distribution journeys. Many help us by sharing their mistakes and successes. Some share helpful articles. Some just share their dreams and ideas about of they hope to do someday. All inspire us.
  • Examples of what not to do: Sometimes we come across people who promote their wares in ways that feel unsavory to us. This includes people who use Twitter only to promote their movies or to ask for money as well as people who ceaselessly naysay or criticize other people’s ideas. We take note, learn lessons, and move on.
Ultimately, TILT owes a lot to Twitter. It brought our team together, taught us how to move forward with our feature project, and, hopefully, will help us build an audience that will make it a success.

Face to Face to Face to Face

Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2010
The Tilt gang meets up for the first time. Was it weird? You bet!  Watch the video below to see our first face to face Tilt meeting where we reveal a brief synopsis, discuss who our audience is, and chat about locations. 

Finally, some info on Tilt!

EGOFEST: A Meeting of the Movie Minds

Posted: Monday, February 22, 2010
By Julie & Jessica of King is a Fink

Pre-Party Jitters (or, "What if Phil hates us?") On Friday, 2/19, we made the 10 hour trek from Chicago to Brainerd, Minnesota.

The purpose of our trip was two-fold: first, we wanted to attend the EgoFest Short Film Festival, which was kind enough to screen 2 of our shorts (Snow Bunny & Libidoland); second, it was time to meet Phil Holbrook and Jeremy Doyle, the director and cinematographer for TILT.

The drive flew by and the scenery was beautiful, but when we got to Brainerd, we were nervous.  What if we don't click with Phil and Jeremy? And, if that happens, how to we proceed with TILT?

Our worries were for naught.  As soon as we stepped into the E Squared Cafe for the EgoFest pre-party and saw Phil at the bar, we knew we were in the right place.  His handshake was firm; his smile, genuine.  This was the same guy we'd interacted with so well on Twitter and Skype.  Jeremy Doyle joined the party.  We all immediately started sharing juicy secrets.  All was right with the world. 

EgoFest, Baby, EgoFest! (Or "Who thought 40 movies in 12 hours was a good idea?") The day of EgoFest was awesome.  Phil was the consummate festival organizer, making sure that all of the filmmakers present (and those checking in via Twitter from afar) got the most out of their festival experience.
TILT prep took a backseat for the day, but that didn't mean that this wasn't an important day for our new crew.  We all got a chance to check out each others' films, assess each others skills, and even see each other market themselves and speak in public (Phil, of course, addressed the EgoFest crowd numerous times; the rest of us participated in Q&A sessions after select shorts). 

After the awards ceremony, we all headed back to E Squared for the after-party to relax a little and discuss the shorts.  An excellent ending to an inspiring day. 
Down to Business! (Or, "Are we seriously doing this TILT-thingy?") Sunday morning we met bright and early at the Sawmill Cafe for the best business breakfast ever.  (Anyone who's never planned their future over cinnamon streusel is really missing out.) 
We did a bit of planning for a video blog idea we'd discussed prior to the trip, then headed out to pick up equipment and shoot.  (As of today, we're planning to post this video on Thursday, 2/25.)  The vlog will explore: our real first meeting; what TILT is all about; and who our audience is.  Don't miss it!

An Idea is Born

Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2010
So, where did the idea for Tilt come from?  Easy question.  A dream.  I dreamt it.  It was right about this time four years ago.  I remember because it was right before my daughter's first birthday.  I love being a dad, but sleep had been kind of rough on me that first year she was born.  I would wake up from nightmares about having forgotten her places, or that she had quit breathing during the night.  It wasn't uncommon for me to check on her a couple times, even after she had started sleeping, for the most part, through the night.

That's right, this is a picture of the bed where the magic happened.  The bed Tilt was conceived in.

The night the magic happened, the nightmare was a little bit different.  My little girl was all grown up. It was so surreal that when I finally woke with my teeth clenched tight, drenched in panic, I knew instantly that it had only been a dream.  The very next thought that popped into my head was to grab a pen and my notebook, so I could write it down.

My Notebooks

I have what my wife affectionately calls "the hurt brain".  An illness, I believe, that may be common in husbands.  Symptoms include... forgetting to take out the trash, forgetting to pick up milk on the way home, and sometimes the lack of fine motor skills that keep laundry from making it into the basket.  My wife has given me a prescription of notes.  These notes "save" me.

Having spent a youth (that lasted until I was almost 30) with the motto "you never know how much is enough, until you know how much is too much", I have thought, maybe my wife is right about this "hurt brain" stuff.  There have been times when, what I thought was a great idea, has flown out the door, because I didn't write it down.  Well, those days are done.

I use notebooks for all my ideas, stories, scenes, witty lines, and complete garbage that I come up with.  I've tried many different kinds, but my favorite are the small moleskins.  And no, I am not being paid with cash or free product to say that.  They are handy, small, and I use them all the time.

Why yes, I did write in this one with a green sparkle pen. When genius strikes, you go with what's available.

Just think, had I not jumped up in the middle of the night to write down an idea that scared the hell out of me, I may not have been able to pass it on to Julie and Jessica (@kingisafink) to write a script.  It may have been just another idea that popped into my head and disappeared like any other bad dream with the morning light.

Being Born

Four years have passed since that night.  My little girl is almost five, and the story is now in Julie and Jessica's capable hands.  Things are really starting to come together.  This idea/nightmare from long ago is finally being born with the help and collaboration of others.  I never would have thought that writing down a simple paragraph in the middle of the night would lead to working on my very first feature film, but here we are.  I hope you will find this process as interesting and fun as I do and perhaps follow along with us while Tilt is in the process of being born.

FRIENDLY FEEDBACK: The Distribution of Wealth

Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010
One of our goals with Tilt is to include the audience every step of the way. While we (Phil, Jeremy, Julie & I) are all passionate about filmmaking and storytelling, we aren’t experts on everything that’s involved with making, marketing, or distributing a feature film. In fact, it’s incredibly daunting for all of us. Therefore, we want to tap into our biggest resource: YOU.

Why are you a resource? For many reasons. You might have more experience than us. You may have more expertise. Maybe you’ve already made a feature film (or know someone who has). Or you might simply have a different perspective. Whether you fit one or all of those categories, we’d love to hear what you have to say. So - up for giving us a little Friendly Feedback?

TODAY’S TOPIC: The Distribution of Wealth

Now - first we want to acknowledge that broaching this subject is incredibly presumptuous. We haven’t even finished the script, and we’re already thinking about what happens if we make money. Who do we think we are? Well, for one, we’re people who, despite not having experience making a feature, have life experience that has taught us to be very cautious when embarking on financial endeavors with others.

Going into this, we all understand fully that we may make no money or (please, no!) even lose money. However, from our experience (from Julie’s as a business owner and ours together as filmmakers), we know, beyond a doubt, that this is an issue that needs to be discussed openly and honestly up front. Otherwise, problems could develop later due to unrealistic expectations and assumptions.

Here’s what we’ve agreed on so far:
  • All money raised to make TILT will be used to make this the best movie possible. What does this mean? We will not pay ourselves unless we turn a profit.
  • If people (us, friends, family, members, guardian angels, fairy godmothers, etc.) invest in our movie (outside of Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, or other crowdfunding platforms) AND if TILT turns a profit, then those investors will be reimbursed before we divvy up the rest.

So, today’s question is: If TILT turns a profit, how should be split it up?

After examining Hollywood film budgets, it looks as though they usually allot money to people based on their specific roles: the producer and director get the most, followed by the screenwriter, followed by the cinematographer.

However, some of the circumstances of our arrangement make following this model difficult:
  • We are all wearing several different hats. Phil is directing and producing. I am writing and producing. We’re exploring the possibility of sharing editing duties. We’re all contributing to the planning and promotion of the film. The tasks that we all complete are not cut and dry.
  • Julie and I are writing the screenplay together. Does this mean we should we be treated as a unit or as individuals?

Additional questions:
  • Also, we’ll need to set aside money to pay other contributors. Should we pay them up front or give them a share of things later? How much should we set aside for them?
  • Since none of us has marketing, publicity, or distribution experience, should we hire a strategist or consultant right now? Is it too early? And will it really help us make more money in the long run?
  • Are we wack-a-doo to fork over money for a consultant for a movie that hasn’t even been written yet, let alone filmed or edited?
  • Should we plan to set aside money to pay sound designers? Or actors?
  • Most importantly: What questions aren’t we asking that we should be?

Thank you in advance for your insights and ideas on today’s topic. If you don’t know the answers, feel free to bring someone else into the discussion. The more, the merrier.

Posted by Jessica

The Nitty Gritty on TILT by Julie & Jessica

Posted: Thursday, February 11, 2010
  • What is TILT? A feature-length dramatic thriller we're making in 2010
  • Who's involved? Phil Holbrook (directing & producing), Jessica King (writing & producing), Julie Keck (writing), Jeremy Doyle (cinematography), everyone else (TBA)
  • What's it about? A father, a daughter, a tragedy, and some revenge. Not necessarily listed in order of appearance.
  • When is the movie going to be finished? Phil first approached us about the collaboration in January. We plan to deliver the 1st 30 pages to Phil before they head up to meet him (and Jeremy) at EgoFest on 2/19. Projected finish date for the screenplay = March. Shooting planned for late summer / early fall.
  • Where will TILT be shot? Lovely Brainerd, Minnesota
  • Have any of you made a feature-length movie before? Nope
  • Does that scare you? Yep.
  • Why do you think now’s the time to try it? We’ve all produced our own shorts; check out Phil's Honest Work, Julie & Jessica's shorts, and Jeremy's work. Also, we’re all driven. We’re inspired by the other amazing filmmakers we know taking a shot and making it happen. We’re all ready. And we all know that 4 heads (and sets of hands) are better than one.
  • Who’s in charge? Everyone. We communicate regularly through email, Twitter & GoogleWave. We meet weekly via Skype. All tasks are discussed, assigned, and followed-up on in a friendly and respectful manner. And when things get done, Jessica puts cool scratch-and-sniff stickers on our reinforcement poster. (Phil has the most stickers...for now.)
  • How are you going to engage your audience? We’re going to buy a whole bunch of diamond rings, then take our audience out for a romantic dinner, get down on one knee... no, wait. Scratch that.
  • We hope to engage our friends and our fans by sharing every single step of this filmmaking journey via blog, vlog, Twitter, etc. We all have all of the passwords to all of the TILT accounts (Twitter, the blog, the email, etc.), so we'll all have equal opportunity to ask questions, vent, or share information. Maybe Phil will post videos when he’s in the midst of casting or scouting for locations. Maybe Julie will vent via vlog when she’s up all night and having trouble with a scene. Maybe Jeremy will blog about how he can't believe Julie wrote a spaceship into the middle of a dramatic thriller...maybe not.
  • But we're not only going to share our successes and frustrations with you. We're also going to ask for your input. From time to time, we're going to post questions or ask for your opinions about how to do something or which way to go. Why? Because YOU, friends and fans, are our best resource.
  • So far, who’s the hardest person to work with? Phil. Two words: Di. va.
  • Who’s the easiest...? Julie, definitely.
  • Um ... easiest to WORK WITH?, Jessica & Jeremy are probably tied on that one. (Awkward...)
We hope this gives you a little better idea about where we started and where we're headed. We plan to post updates on Mondays and Thursdays, at the very least, so subscribe to the site to make sure you catch everything. Also, you can keep up with us on Twitter (@TILTtheMovie) for additional updates. Follow us individually on Twitter to get extra tidbits and a ringside seat to our collaboration: Phil (@philotilt), Jeremy (@jerdoyle), Julie & Jessica (@kingisafink).

What's Coming Next? A post from Jeremy Doyle about equipment he plans to use + a vlog from King is a Fink
Posted: Monday, February 8, 2010