And Now: An Ode To The Minutiae

I’ve been thinking about the Nobility of the Minutiae. More to the point, about the Great Wisdom of Prep.

This important theme has been on my mind the past couple of weeks. Today, I am compelled to share with you the highlights, insights and gifts of wisdom dropped in my lap over past 14 days.  Dropped by some sort of storytelling god who has been sitting on my shoulder for a fortnight now – my angel? my albatross?….reminding me that deep artistic (not to mention life) satisfaction …ALWAYS BLOOMS OUT OF THE MINUTIAE.  It’s been a good 14 days, dear readers. Get ready for some nuggets of wisdom from the Minutiae Heroes I’ve run into recently – nuggets intended to explode-open your own personal genius.

 Five Invaluable (Free!) Reminders that will Multiply Your Greatness:

1. From Tariq Tapa: Moviemaker to watch, outstanding storyteller: “Be the expert of your film.”

I had the chance to meet with Tariq about a week ago. What a lucky wack in the head. Tariq took me back to my theatre school days, where I was first exposed to the great importance of storytelling research. Tariq reminded me of the utter importance of script-breakdown/break-a-part, with a sweet tutorial on How To Prep Like A Maniac. Prep until the cows come home. Prep like no one’s prepped before. Prep in the way that only the True Leader of a movie must be prepped. He wasn’t just talking about location, dialect and wardrobe of the period. No way. Tariq reminded me of the immense importance of knowing the specific role in a screenplay, of every character, every scene, every beat, every line, in relationship to the overall arc of your tale. Every character/scene/beat/line uniquely serves your story in its own specific way. And how do each of these elements evolve, moment to moment. The minutiae of storytelling. This kind of in-depth prep requires time & focus. And always pays off. Worth the work.

Tariq is about to go into production on his next film. For each page in his script, Tariq has spent hours and weeks answering specific questions for himself, in order to field any and all questions posed to him before, during or after shooting. He will be able to explain & defend every part of the process, in terms of how it will serve his story. You should see his director’s book. This is one stupendously-prepped director. Tariq: “Be the expert of your film. How? Prep prep prep prep prep prep. Know your movie inside and out, backwards and forwards.” Tariq’s ZERO BRIDGE is a multiple award winner; Tariq himself is a nominee for both the Film Independent’s Spirit Awards’  “Someone To Watch Award” and the “John Cassavetes Award”.

2. From Justin Zackham. writer of The Bucket List directed by Rob Reiner, a quote from from Reiner: “The entire film happens in prep.” 

This I heard recently in an interview with the enthusiastically thorough Zackham on the podcast The Q and A with Jeff Goldsmith.  If you haven’t yet discovered this podcast dear reader, please run-don’t-walk to your laptop and lend an ear to this puppy. Jeff Goldsmith is yet another Minutiae Hero of mine. His interviews are impeccable. In summation again: Every tiny, tedious, irritating, painstaking bit of logistical work you do – everything from multiple readings of your script to endless, laborious location scouts – the absolute meticulousness of this work will show up in your end product. Will set it apart. Uncompromising prep = agonizing minutiae = timeless, lasting, world class cinema. Absolutely worth the work.

3. From Luke Fedoroff, on his debut feature film screening: “The World Premiere of Hunt The Maguffin is now a Hospital Benefit Screening.”

Holy heck the planning this guy is doing. Never mind the producing of his charming, esoteric first film Hunt The Maguffin (which he also did), Luke Fedoroff is now producing his world premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. And donating the the evening’s entire proceeds to the promotion of healing through mediation. What a grand event this is going to be. All are welcome: come and be inspired here in Los Angeles, August 2013. – So it was when I joined Fedoroff for a ‘walk-through’ at the theatre where we discussed ticket sales, guest check-in, security, table & chair load-in, granola bars, lavatories and linens, that I considered again the nobility of the minutiae. I am in awe of the amount of work that Fedoroff is putting into his debut film. He is tireless when it comes to the details. And all for a tremendously important cause. This fastidious, heartfelt prep work creates a kind of resonance. A kind of Grace. Commitment to the Minutiae invites Transcendence.

4.  From the esteemed, accomplished & tireless L.A. film collective WeMakeMovies Board Members: “Thank you for volunteering.”

Holy hamburgers these cats are the Mighty Warriors of the Minutiae. Ever run a film collective? The organization behind the easy affable front of a “workshop night” is like the buzzing inside of a raging beehive on an outwardly serene, sunny day. Currently in the works: the inaugural WeMakeMovies/Duly Noted/Equal Writes Screenplay Competition – Finalist Announcement Night. On the team blotter: The ticket sales, the volunteers, the box office, the greeters, the t-shirts, the step-and-repeat, the cameras, the run-thru. All of this spearheaded by one extraordinary Elan O’Connor. Yes, today I am singling you out, Elan O’Connor:  Accomplished Actress & Writer – also an extraordinary professional chef, also Head of Casting and the ADMINISTRATIVE GODDESS of WeMakeMovies.org. Master of the WMM minutiae, Elan is a force to be reckoned with. Meet her this coming June 30, where she will be running the show. The rest of us will be taking orders.

5) ….And from Sam Zvibleman, writer, director and all around do-what-needs-to-be-done filmmaker: “Aim for the highest possible standards.” 

Zvibleman is also smitten with The Minutiae. Unable to love any less. This high standard is the curse of an auteur. The ball-and-chain of a filmmaker you’ll be hearing more and more about, and soon. I name Zvibleman here, good reader, as a final inspiration to you to explore your story details to their fullest. To think your project through with the utmost reverence & care. This is Zvibleman’s M.O. When Sam asked me to be a sounding board for a short screenplay of his, we met not once or twice, but monthly, for a year.  We spent a year in coffee shops elucidating the specifics of his plot & the exact stakes of his characters. Check out this gentleman’s work, dear hungry storyteller, and let your imagination receive a hearty butt-kicking. Good medicine for all of us. Sam co-wrote & co-produced the indie feature film The Sound & The Shadow due out 2014. He is also a sought-after script editor / script doctor. Among his spec scripts are Imagine The Moon, a family dramedy about a boy who wants to take his dream girl to the Moon, and a hush-hush provocative and controversial satire feature film he is set to direct. Meet him – and see his short film The Rwanda Blend here in Los Angeles, June 1st.

Long story short, dear fellow filmmaker: Delve, delve into the fine points. Dig and dig to unearth the particulars. Work and work to uncover the luminous minutiae of your own inventions. If The Minutiae Be The Food Of Love, Plan On.

Tara Samuel
tara@scriptkicker.com
www.scriptkicker.com

Tara Samuel is a script consultant and editor on fire about sharpening your screenplay. She is your Script Kicker. In close collaboration with you the client, Samuel zeroes in on the specificity of your characters, hones your story rhythm and maximizes your audience engagement helping you to create a perfect story-ride www.scriptkicker.comTara Samuel is an award-winning producer-actor from Toronto, most recently a Best Actress winner for her role “Ruby” in Ruby Booby. July 2013 Samuel will star in the feature film WIld Prairie Rose. Her writing and directing has been celebrated on the international festival circuit, and she has published filmmaking articles in a number of publications, including MovieMaker Magazine. Samuel is Co-Founder of the notorious Los Angeles  film collective WeMakeMovies.org


Five Ways to Navigate the Shoulds & Supposed-Tos of Moviemaking. – OR – Better to Ask for Forgiveness than Permission.

Published, MovieMaker Magazine, April 19, 2013

Introduction.

Have you read Steven Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART? If you have, spread the word. If you haven’t yet, here’s the gist of it: The world will be saved when we ALL MAKE WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE MAKING. There is an idea in your head that fills you with joy. This idea is tapping on your shoulder daily, telling you to open that restaurant, sing that aria, build that sculpture, write that screenplay-novel-play-poem, shoot that film, dance that tango. This joy inside you is what will save the world. And don’t you want to save the world? I know I do. If you do, the sure-fire way is to follow your bliss and make what The Muse is telling you to make. Go. GOOOOOOO MMAKKKKEEE YYYOOUUURRRTTHHHIINNNGGGG.

Begin.

Ahhh, but the rules.
Rules, regulations & guidelines are keeping you from making your thing. Am I right?
– Or – is it that YOU who are allowing rules, regulations & guidelines to keep you from making your thing.
Stop.
Today we’ll discuss ways for you to stop.
And we’ll use the example of  – say – the making of a movie.

Somebody somewhere once said “If you’re gonna make a movie, you’d better have permits for your locations, or else.” Someone somewhere said that “if you’re gonna make a real movie and if you want to to be taken seriously, you’d better hire union actors. Or else.”  And yet another so-called sooth-sayer announced: “If you are going to use union actors, you’d better declare your shoot a UNION SHOOT. OR ELSE!!!”  …Renting equipment? You’d better buy insurance or YOU’RE GOING TO DIE. Filming in the City of Such-and-such? You’d better notify the COMMISSION OF THE THING, or YOUR WHOLE FAMILY WILL EXPLODE.

There are a lot of very serious people in the world who are enforcing some extremely serious rules. Got it. If we want to work with them, we will absolutely adhere to their uncompromisable regulations. Clear.

However……if we choose to make our art our OWN WAY, within our own delightful system that we ourselves have invented that is ITSELF part of our art, then, dear OFFICIAL RULE MAKER, we just may not get around to meeting you. But, all the best!

For those of us who are making movies our own unique and innovative way, here are five useful approaches to five certain requests that are sometimes made of us in this well-meaning, law-revering moviemaking culture of ours:

1. Location Permits

Let’s say you need a hotel room for your movie. But you don’t necessarily have briefcases full of greenbacks designated for a hotel manager or owner. Couple creative alternatives for you come to mind here. 1) Depending on your shot list, you may not ever need to show the exterior of your hotel. Empty your own bedroom of its personal touches and BAM: mysterious motel room. No permit needed!  2) Cruise remote suburban areas where films are not often shot and genially approach 20 – 30 hotel proprietors until you find the one who loves movies and can’t wait to host you for some ridiculously low fee.  No permit needed. This was the case for us. We are forever in love with Saeed Farzam at Pavillions Motel, Santa Monica.

When you’re not so keen to go the route of location permits, be open-minded, tenacious, persistent, and filled with faith. Seriously. Believe that you will find or invent the location that you need, and you will.

2. Burning Fires Openly

To some, this is a questionable act. For others, this is necessary preparation for a scene about a house that just burned down. How can you film charred remains with no charred remains, I ask you?  Still, let it be said, dear filmmaker of good intentions: In this scenario, you have to have permission from somebody. You may not have a permit from the city; you may not have consulted with ALL interested legal parties; you MUST however, be sure the ground you are about to singe is on property that is legally your own – or on that of a friend or family member who has given you the thumbs up. – This, and you want to be sure to have on hand every manner of garden hose, fire extinguisher – and buckets of water aplenty. Kind of essential, really. Peace of mind that comes with these measures taken is an added plus. We toasted a mattress, some old 2 x 4s and a broken screen door among other things, in the field behind a generous & thoughtful friend’s home. A cozy campfire among neighbors!

Long story short: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

3. Auditions in a public park

During pre-production of our first feature film, our pockets were not necessarily lined with dosh for the rental of an audition space. And anyway, the little kid we wanted to see for the role agreed to meet us after his drama class, which was right around the corner from a park. What could be more convenient. The gods of moviemaking were clearly handing us a free space to hold auditions. We met him & his parents near the jungle gym. Lovely family. Turned on our video camera; asked Mom & Dad if they minded; went ahead with our small leading man’s on-camera interview. When the City Parks representative kindly asked us to cease and desist, we did. Said thank you to our family, and left the premises. But we had our winning audition on tape.

Better to Ask for Forgiveness than Permission!

4. Gun Permits

This one’s a bit of a dice roll. But why not roll ’em. Life is short. Make hay while the sun shines. We filmed our gang-member-shoots-pistol-in-air scene – complete with 12 volunteer ex-gang-members – with a completely rubber, bullet-free, total prop gun….in….an outdoor city scene at night with no permit.  I was having a bit of a heart attack I must admit. What if someone mis-interpreted what was going on. What if someone dangerous strolled past our little staged scene, and decided to get involved. What if the cops showed up and fined us $10,000.

My advice for you: Pray.

Totally serious. Naive? Perhaps stupid is more apt? Some might say so. Still, in the absence of any other measures taken, I prayed all week leading up to our scheduled ‘gun fight day’. I decided hundreds of times in advance that everyone was safe and protected. That we were all going to be completely okay. We also cut all yelling, swearing, and, well, talking  – from the scene. The whole thing was shot in silence.

But yes: Pray. To whatever god, or non-god – to whatever person, saint, animal, mineral, other being or universe you love that gives you hope and comfort while you film your brave and excellent independent film.  PRAY.  Close your eyes and Pray.

And on the day… night fell…. the ex gang members we cast acted out their thing….and the cops showed up. Our director jogged over to their car.

And now, I know our director’s good with people – charming and all that – but this went beyond. As unexplainable as a UFO-sighting: our uniformed friends chatted with him for about 5 minutes….and then quietly drove away.  “Just finish up quickly” I think is what they instructed. Some police people out there are pretty cool, dear fellow filmmakers.

(Thank you moviemaking angels.)

5. Family Home Videos

The police also found us on a different day: a charming sunny afternoon where we were filming in the quaint hills of Highland Park, L.A., and calmly asked us what we were doing. It’s these kinds of days when are rewarded for the clever and trusted producer-extraordinaire you invited on board. Our producer Andrew Ahn warmly greeted our friendly neighborhood patrolmen, then happily told them about our family video. We were proudly documenting our Korean, Mexican, Irish-Welsh roots. Our next addition to our collective family home video library.

When you have no permits, you are always making a family home video.

Conclusion

It’s not so much that rules are made to be broken. It’s more that rules crave to be creatively circumvented. The entire history of human beings is teeming with examples of rules that have been innovatively re-envisioned. Rules must never be allowed to stop you & your art, dear talented friend. Rules are simply another way that life prompts you to be more creative than ever before. Never allow rules to slow you down to inaction! Allow rules to fuel you into inspired action! You MUST MAKE what you are called to make. Heed your heart! Do it’s bidding! Make your thing! Save the world!

T.S.

Tara Samuel is an award-winning producer-actor from Toronto. Also proud Co-Founder of notorious film collective WeMakeMovies. Recent Winner Best Actress, RUBY BOOBY. Producer-Lead Actress of WILD PRAIRIE ROSE, shooting on location in Beresford, S.D. June, 2013. Samuel’s writing and directing has been celebrated on the festival circuit; articles on filmmaking published widely, most recently in MovieMaker Magazine. Samuel teaches a 6-wk screenwriting course in Los Angles with co-instructor John Sandel, The Script Kitchen. For more information or to join our class, please email scriptkitchen@gmail.com

Tara Samuel is a script consultant and editor on fire about sharpening your screenplay. She is your ScriptKicker. In close collaboration with you the client, Samuel zeroes in on the specificity of your characters, hones your story rhythm and maximizes your audience engagement helping you to create a perfect story-ride. Samuel kicks your script into ship-shape; kicks it through the goal posts, kicks it out of the park. www.scriptkicker.com

Tara Samuel is story editor for screenwriters Jon Rannells, Ruby Booby, Mexico-Machismo, Mr.Happy-Joy; Paula Tiberius, Male Order, Bitch Magnet, Kathryn Winslow, Downtown Mrs.Brown, Sam Zvibleman, The Rwanda Blend, Justin Miller, The Sound & The Shadow, Andrew Ahn, The Good Life, SummerVacay, Biggz, Gareth Bennett, Bang Baby Bang, Deborah LaVine, Aunt Janny’sMoney, Darrow Carson, Absolving Grace, Whit Spurgeon, The Interview – among many others.

I’m the story consultant you’ve been looking for.

So glad you found me. I want to read your writing. Then I want to help you make your writing outstanding. Send me your writing.

What kind of writing you ask? What level of writing? All of it. This is my thing; it’s what I do. I love first-time writers; disillusioned or depressed writers; seasoned, award-winning writers. I love your poetry, your novels, your screenplays. I want to climb inside your writing and tap into its shine. I adore this process. Send me your writing and let’s make it as fully alive as it wants to be.

Why do I do this? I am immensely excited by writing. Fired up in my belly. About anyone’s writing. Don’t know why. You have lungs (at least one); I go bananas over writing. And I find ways for your reader / prospective producer to be irresistibly engaged and deeply-moved by your story. Even if it’s a comedy. I will kick your writing up ten notches. Kick it out of the small pond. Kick it through the goal posts. Kick it to the moon.  Elevate it to its highest potential. Make it Kickin’. I am your ScriptKicker.

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