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.