During the pre-production phase a movie company has a very long to-do list. As executive producer my biggest task has been to attract and organize the financing of the project. While it has had it moments of setbacks and frustrations, I can truly say it has been an adventure. The financial world has its own language, one which I am conquering one word at a time, one day at a time, one situation at a time. It also has it nuances that require some patience to understand. One financial group may seem eager and excited about someone's project today, but tomorrow lose sight of it in a pile of paper work. (The paper work is its own adventure and I have spent more than one entire day doing nothing but filling out form after form after form.) Also, sometimes one person in an investment group may seem to share a producer's vision today, only to have tomorrow be a completely different project. I am here to tell you though, that none of that matters. The only thing that truly matters is our end goal and the knowledge that we will accomplish it. In my mind I am always seated in a theatre watching my movie and listening to the laughter of the audience.
My daughter has a quote on her bedroom wall attributed to Tom Hiddleston, a now A-list actor who has spoken more than once about his own challenges in getting to where he is now at. The quote says the following: "You keep putting one foot in front of the other....and one day you look back and you've climbed a mountain." So as I continue to meet with investors, fill out paperwork, and deal with the different twists and my director (John Gerds) deals with (gathering the crew and scouting locations, and organizing production), we will keep taking one step at a time, enjoying every twist and turn along the way because we both know that one day we will look back and realize we have climbed a mountain!
I know that normally our blog posts appear on Fridays, but I began my Monday with two very inspiring conversations. One was with an old friend talking about what happens when one takes that leap into doing something new. My friend had been watching the show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" about a woman who left a high paying job and seemingly successful life in New York City to live in California near her old flame. The show is cheesy and quite frankly I don't want to make it sound deeper than the shallow bit of comedy it really is, but it does raise good questions. What happens when a person does take a leap and tries for a whole new life? Is it worth it? What about the people in your life who just don't understand--friends, family, spouses--people who were very comfortable with your life the way it was and do not understand why you want to move out of it???
The truth is that life is short and it is my firm conviction that we are here to experience this world to the fullest....in many different forms and with many different people. It's okay to have fun, to feel alive, to move beyond "just comfortable" and that's how I got started on this adventure of making movies. I love this new adventure and that brings me to my second inspiring conversation today. That conversation was with my partner, John Gerds. John and I talked about some of the challenges of making a movie and about our partnership, how we are both committed to this amazing adventure. There are several phases to making a movie: preproduction, production, post-production, and distribution. John shared how important it is to keep the big picture in mind during all these phases.
I knew when I talked to him the very first time that we could do great things together, but these past few months have truly shown me that he is more than just a talented, experienced director. John is a person of substance who understands that commitment to a project means more than just hanging on when things are easy. He is committed to completing a great movie and is prepared for all of the bumps in the road that we might encounter. He is the type of partner who knows that we'll be getting our hands dirty, but in the end we'll be living our adventure to the fullest.
As our "family" grows adding our investment partners, actors, etc. I am fully confident that I have taken this leap for all the right reasons with all the right people. This is going to be one hell of a ride!
Feel free to share a leap you have taken or are considering taking.
Being a good storyteller inevitably means falling in love with one's characters. In the movie Traunik, which is set to begin filming in April, there are some wonderful characters. But as the author the one I most love is Brunner. Brunner is in his 50's, a little rough around the edges, and worn out; however, he also is an expert at his job and has a soft spot deep down that he hides from the rest of the world. Because he is so good at his job, he can afford to not care what anyone else says or thinks, and that's a quality I love about him. Much of the humor surrounding the scenes with Brunner involve him being in this mindset...to an extreme. But while I definitely love Brunner, working with him would probably drive me crazy. He wears flip flops to the office, can't remember his intern's name (by the way, a quick nod to our own current intern, Mary, whose name I do remember), and at one point in the movie receives a letter thanking him for donating a kidney, something he can't recall doing.
Due to a recent break up with the love of his life (don't want to spoil anything here so I can't say who or why), he is even more disconnected from his work and that's where my second favorite character, Alex, comes into play. Alex is the intern. He's ambitious, clean cut, and has his life totally planned at age 20. Brunner is not at all the way Alex pictured his supervisor and he gets frazzled from Day 1 dealing with the insane office in which he now finds himself. Alex, by the end, connects Brunner back to his work, as unorthodox of a manner it happens in.
Feel free to share your favorite characters in the comments section here. I hope once this movie is released, Brunner and Alex will find their way onto your list!
Setting plays a vital role in a movie. When done correctly it will completely enhance the storyline, but yet remain seemingly unnoticed. In the movie, Traunik, our goal is to find settings that will allow the actors to develop their characters in ways that emphasize the humor in the situations.
The story revolves around a run down resort being operated by two very well meaning people. Wally and Marge are truly trying the best that they can and we want the audience to be rooting for these people despite the obvious lack of upkeep for the resort. So, of course, one of our settings will need to be a place that is remote, run down, but beaming with love....this last part being what the scriptwriter and the actors bring to it. The real key here is a location that has natural beauty.
Other settings will include an office-- since the main character, Brunner, is such a disorganized mess the trick will be paying attention to small details such as a half eaten baloney sandwich on the desk--a college dorm room, enough said there--and finally, we will need an absolutely breath-taking location that shows Michigan in all of its splendor.
Michigan is a beautiful state, which is why we will be filming the entire movie in this amazing place. My favorite place in Michigan is Mackinac Island and so I am excited to announce that we have made arrangements to film there. This was the location of the movie Somewhere In Time, one of my sentimental favorite movies. Personally, I believe that not using Mackinac, especially for a movie that relies on a breathtaking wedding scene, would be a crime.
Lynne M. Smelser is an executive producer and scriptwriter. For more than 20 years she has been an active writer who has won many national awards. She also holds a Ph.D. in English from Michigan State University.