168 hours ago (last Tuesday), I discussed the origins of the film that’s taking me 11-years to shoot. Today I’m going to go over the trials and tribulations during the first half of my recent road trip/film shoot that encompassed 3,458 miles through 10 states in six days. Thus, today’s compass will take us from Los Angeles to Overland Park, Kansas.
Side Note: While I’m well aware that making my film with me as the lead character goes against every piece of strategic distribution advice I stress about in this column, just know that I started lensing this picture nine years before I started writing this column, and four years before I started my distribution company. So, please forgive my cinematic sins, because I knew not what I was doing at the start of this journey.
The first thing to know is that I didn’t do the drive alone; I had filmmaker Vaughn Verdi as my co-pilot/cinematographer/soundboard and confidant. Secondly, our trip would qualify as a “no-budget, no frills” experience, since the gasoline needed for our Honda Odyssey proved to be the most expensive production element.With those things in mind, let me take you through my journey from L.A. to Kansas.
Our trip started at 2:20 AM in the wee hours of Saturday, March 11 when I picked Vaughn up armed with a full talk of gas; an ice cooler packed with Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, bottled water and a few oversized bars of dark chocolate. Bags of Doritos, Peanut M&M’s and several packs of bubble gum were planted next to me, as was my iPhone, which was loaded with 4,000 classic rock songs. I was ready to roll.We left at 2:20 AM for two reasons. 1) To get out of California before any hint of traffic could slow us down, and 2) To reach the Rocky Mountains in Colorado during daylight hours, just in case we wanted to shoot a mountain scene.Unfortunately, we hit the most traffic of the entire trip within the first 15 minutes of leaving Vaughn’s place, which of course, threw off our plans almost immediately.
Lesson #1 – Always Check Traffic Conditions Regardless Of The Time Of Day
Doing so could have gotten us at least one more hour of sleep, which would have made our first day of shooting more productive. Once we snaked out of the traffic in Los Angeles, driving through California was a comfortable blur as Vaughn and I spent the time planning our shooting schedule.
Arizona & Utah
Losing our cell signal through cliffs and mountains derailed the amount of business I could conduct for my distribution company, but the inconvenience actually wound up turning into dollar signs. You see, during the time I had a cell signal, one of my international buyers emailed me an offer to license one of the films that I’m distributing. Knowing that I shouldn’t start the negotiation of a sale when my signal could be lost at any time, I just sent the buyer a quick message saying that I’d get back to him. Three hours later the buyer emailed me an offer more than three times greater than his original one, so I e-mailed him back my acceptance. Done deal!
Lesson #2 – Never Be Too Eager To Negotiate Quickly
Patience = $$$$$$$$$$. Remember that. Being calm during negotiations and not being too eager to close a quick deal will often times earn you more money.
Maybe driving from Los Angeles to Denver in one day wasn’t such a good idea. I’d done it before but I was younger then. Simply put, it was beyond taxing. The worst part about rolling into Denver at 11 PM on Saturday night is I had no idea that daylight savings time was about to “spring us forward” one more hour. Thus, we were losing two hours of sleep instead of one, after having just driven 19 hours. Furthermore, by the time we got to Kansas, we’d lose a third hour. I wanted to die – or at least sleep for 12 hours – but our shooting schedule wouldn’t allow it.
Lesson #3 – Planning, Planning, Planning
I should have thought of every possible factor that could have hindered our trip, including the daylight savings time change. The tone of my film required a structure less energy, so Vaughn and I were okay with having to jump over minor hurdles in order to stay true to the film. However, if you are going to shoot a more structured film, then I suggest you spend an abundant amount of time planning it out.
Kansas & Missouri
Mission accomplished! Getting to Kansas was this trip’s goal, so I could 1) Film old neighborhoods and people who knew me when I was a kid and 2) Film me cleaning out the storage facility where I held 8,000 DVD’s that my company paid to have duplicated. Yes, my Los Angeles based company held 8,000 DVDs in a Kansas storage facility because space in Kansas is light years less expensive than California. I stacked our mini-van with several thousand DVDs to be driven back to California, and then I donated the rest. Doing so was spiritually cleansing and financially smart.
Lesson #4 – Always Get Appearance Releases, Regardless Of Whom They Are
I almost talked myself out of getting an appearance release from someone who has known me for most of my life. However, I’m glad I got the release, because her interview turned out to be pure cinematic magic. Thus, even if you’re talking about your own family, or someone who is closer to you than family, make sure you have a signed release or at least an on-camera release.
Lesson #5 – Duplicate Very Few Of Your DVDs Until The Project Is A Hit!
Not doing so may result in you getting stuck 8,000 DVDs that you can’t sell.
Side Note: Should you be considering a road-trip for your upcoming or current film, just know that the speed limit of most major highways in the western, mid-western and southern states is 75 MPH. This means that you can drive 79 or 80 MPH without worrying about getting a ticket, and you may be able to push it to 84. In fact, my best friend, who is an insurance agency owner, claims that most “lawmen” find it a waste of time to stop a car that’s going less than 10 MPH over the speed limit, because the fines are too small for the cop to justify spending his or her time to stop you. I’m not advocating speeding, I’m just laying out a few “production elements” for you to consider when you are planning how long it will take to go from point “A” to point “B.”
Okay people. That’s what got for you today. Next week I’ll talk about getting back from Kansas, as well as creating a distribution strategy for a small, seemingly insignificant film. Until then, I thank for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday.
I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.