Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Creative References

Now that the script for our Heart Break Productionz feature comedy The Whole Truth is locked and has scene numbers, we're flying into production action.

We're interviewing some terrific candidates for key crew positions (Director of Photography, Production Designer, local Casting Director, make-up, hair, wardrobe and so on). They've read an earlier incarnation of the script - it's better now - and come with ideas and questions for us as well.

Something that helps the technical/artistic crew members is called a "Creative Reference." I have in the past referred to it as my Film List, but now that I'm working in feature films, I discover the more accurate name is Creative Reference.

This is a list - comprehensive but not exhaustive - of films that have an element that would, IMO, serve our film well. Whether it's blocking (where/how characters move), design (scenery, background, colors, props), camera movement, symbolism or a number of other integral parts of scenes, scenery and style.

The idea is *not* to copy anyone - far from it. It is to recognize effective cinemagraphic techniques that could tell the story best.

So I watched about 40 films that I believed would have something that we (the production team) could use, update, twist or incorporate in a new or unusual way.

This is where knowing about films from the past and film history comes in handy.

From those, I selected nine for my list, writing what I saw in each that could lend effective creative elements - some minor, some major - to our film. Dramas and comedies are considered because, remember, we're looking for technical references as well as story telling techniques.

For example, one of the films I list on my Creative Reference sheet is Rob Reiner's classic, "This Is Spinal Tap."

Now, The Tap is *nothing* like The Whole Truth. Nothing.

The Whole Truth is tightly scripted, The Tap is mostly improv'ed by a cast of brilliant writer/actors. But what I see in The Tap that I believe will work for us? The sincerity of the characters; there's never one false note.

Those characters are simply who they are. None tries to be funny. They only react as their characters would honestly to the bizarre situations in which they find themselves, which are actually fairly realistic for show biz.

So, for our film, I listed: This Is Spinal Tap - the sincerity of the characters. No one tries to be funny, they are simply and honestly themselves. Billy Crystal tells the only joke (you'll have to see the film to find it) in the entire film.

The folks we're interviewing try to watch at least the top few films on my list to understand how I see an aspect of the acting or their technical make-up helping our project.

If the Creative Reference list is properly and well done - the crew folks who read it should immediately see what I see, the way I see it. It's written carefully, conscientiously.

Their job is to help me realize my vision as the director - but directing is a completely collaborative job. It takes a village of crew and cast to help bring that vision to life - what we directors do is, in the end, take credit for the work of The Whole Creative Village. ;-)

Now, by sharing my Creative Reference list, they can come up with notions that only enhance my concept and vision, bringing me ideas and creative choices to make that vision become a living, breathing reality in a way that, hopefully, you will enjoy on a number of levels.

This is a very layered film. You'll have the opportunity to enjoy it on a very simple level - from taking that roller coaster ride of "just" a funny film for a sheer escape from your day-to-day life, to an examination of the darker sub-stories, to many other levels of character analysis, story telling and subject matter.

Which is why casting is crucial. The folks cast in our film must be able to *act,* and well. We're working with some top casting folks in LA (who are amazing) and we'll be working side by side with a well-known Seattle casting director, too.

When all our crew is in place, I'll be listing them here.

Executive Producer Gary Allen Tucci and I have been so fortunate to hook up with, IMO, the best producer in the biz with the passing of Sydney Pollack, Larry Estes. His enthusiasm, vast knowledge and support for The Whole Truth are making certain we maintain our very high standards of quality and priority of doing the best job we possibly can to work on behalf of our real boss.

That's you.

Our audience.

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