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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Producer Larry Estes speaks up!

Larry comes with *quite* the producing pedigree.

Larry was responsible for SEX, LIES AND VIDEO TAPE, among several other indie feature classics (GAS FOOD LODGING, SMOKE SIGNALS). Even with some 80 films under his belt, he says I was full of surprising "firsts" for this seasoned veteran as I made THE WHOLE TRUTH.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sean Patrick Flanery about working on THE WHOLE TRUTH

After seeing THE WHOLE TRUTH world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival, Sean announced, "I *love* this film! I'm excited as hell about it!"

We held our breath to see what he'd say, 'cause the film is a risky new take on the over the top, old fashioned screwball comedy - so we are thrilled with his proclamation!

BTW, as you'll hear me say in one of my EPK (Electronic Press Kit - behind the scenes) interviews, Sean has a great singing voice! You'll hear it when we release the DVD's - we're dedicating one DVD to all the interviews and backstage fun we had during the shoot. Seriously, Sean could have a new career if he wanted - I hope he agrees to sing if interviewers ask when he's out on the road!

Sean, Sean he's our man!
If he can't sing it, no one can!

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Ticket sales are going gangbusters!

Thanks to everyone who's contacted me saying that you've bought your tickets to see THE WHOLE TRUTH's world premiere June 2 - and subsequent screening the next day!

There are still tickets available to buy here. I'll let you know when they're gone - both are expected to be completely sold out soon.

Meanwhile, thanks to our editor Stephen Meyers, here's the online trailer for the film:

Rick Overton narrates. He has a major role (we originally said he "has a large part" but thought better of it ...) in THE WHOLE TRUTH, and does lots of voice work in Hollywood.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

One person's reality is another person's ...

...you fill in the blank.

Most "serious" film critics consider "reality" a gritty, tough, downer drama.

As if, in the real world there are no laughs, no high points, no fun, no hope, no promise, not a glimmer of a brighter side, no light at the end of the tunnel - only gloom, doom and disaster.

Only worlds in which characters we are lured to care about suffer loss, loneliness, abuse, self-destruction, grief, beatings, arguments, drug addiction, misery and title credits-to-fin strife.

Mind you, even in the most dire of circumstances, in *real* life, we find something to laugh about. Journalists, doctors, nurses, soldiers and others who deal with life and death every day always find something about which to laugh - although in many cases it may not be politically correct because it's usually a "dark humored" way to release the tension of the moment.

I'm not saying every dramatic film needs a laugh or two - although that would actually be more "real."

But there should be at least the minimal understanding in the industry that "serious" films can also be comedies.

Artistically, screwball comedies are the toughest work for an actor. The range is great, the circumstances unusual, the interpretive beats are counted in the hundreds - whereas a serious drama's interpretive (subtextual, emotional) beats can be relatively few by comparison for the average drama.

This is not to dismiss a great dramatic performance in any way - good acting is hard work for any dedicated performer.

But imagine your favorite dramatic actor being in a comedy. How would he or she make the transition? Could he or she make the transition? It takes guts. Comedy is hard - writing, performing and directing - to make it work.

Mercifully, Kate Winslet - someone with whom I hope to work one day - says she's near desperate to be in a good comedy after playing two seriously tortured, self-destructive roles that won her many well-deserved kudos and awards, including the coveted Oscar.

She will bring the same extraordinary, award-winning brilliant talent and massive skills to a comedic character. But she'll have more fun and have to work even harder because great comedic performances demand it. I believe she is a superbly gifted comedic actor. She was hilarious in TV's Extras, and needs a great comedic script to devour!

There are so many different types of comedy - the best, the most intelligent, has anger at its core, but diminishes the power of whatever makes us angry by putting the subject on its ear so we can all laugh about it.

In THE WHOLE TRUTH, it's the injustice of the American "justice" system. I think that pisses off nearly everyone. It certainly does me - enough to produce, write and direct a screwball comedy about the subject embodied in the lead character of Angela Masters, brilliantly played by Elisabeth Röhm. Originally, I started writing it as a drama, ala Michael Clayton.

But I love to entertain audiences, and who would want to sit through that morose bit more than once? Also, we feature filmmakers must devote at least a year of our lives living with these characters and plot twists and turns. Myself? I'd much rather have fun and laugh through the excruciatingly detailed process.

Actually I start all my comedies by writing the "serious" and "real" dramatic logical story, with psychological profiles and backgrounds of the lead characters. Then I flip everything into comedy.

Of course, there are those who believe film should reflect the reality of the difficulties faced by millions of our sisters and brothers around the world. That is absolutely fine with me.


There's a 1941 Preston Sturges film called "Sullivan's Travels." It's about a film director, famous for doing comedies, who decides to do a nitty, gritty, pity drama about how shitty it is out there. To understand just how bad it is, he takes off - without a cent - to find and live with the despondent, miserable and heartbroken "common man."

Long story short - and worth watching - he ends up living with a group of these depressed, disillusioned and destitute folks.

And guess what he discovers they want more than anything?

To. Laugh.

They don't want to see more of the grief they are living.

As he watches a film with them, he sees these former sad sacks lost in laughter, enjoying the socks off a silly cartoon.

He finally realises: he is doing something that actually helps them. That they genuinely want. Something needed in any culture. To laugh, no matter how dire a circumstance.

But I digress.


When I coached actors, we'd role play the all-important casting interview. This is an interview conducted by casting directors or directors intended to gain insight into the actor. It's thought the more open they are, the more intimacy they give their performance. Likewise, the more insightful their answers, the more insight it is believed they'll give their characters.

One of the questions I like to ask: "Tell me about something you'd like to do over again if you could."

Literally 100% of the answers revolved around a mistake they made they'd love to rectify, that they hurt someone and want to take it back for a do-over, take school more seriously instead of blowing it off, tell someone they loved them when they had the chance .. you get the idea.

Finally, a little dismayed by years of never seeing a totally different way to answer the question, I started giving them another type of answer idea, which made them light up, show a ton of subtext and far more personality than their "serious" answers ever did.

We (directors, producers, casting agents) like to be surprised. To see something we weren't expecting.

Here's what I told them: "Instead of going the way of regret, why don't you take the enjoyable route?"

As in:

"Wow. What I'd love to do over... You know, I'd really love to re-live my weekend skiing with my girlfriend at Whistler Mountain. It was amazing. We played all week-end. Skiing, snowboarding, throwing snowballs, building a snow 'person' -- boobs and what have you. The meals were fantastic and we even had a fireplace in our room. Where we built a fire of our own, if you know what I mean. It was the best. I'd love to re-live that weekend; do it all over again."

If you want to make it super real, add that you broke up when you got home fighting over who the better skier is - or whatever really happened. If you broke up.

Or maybe that you got married - and never went skiing again.

Or maybe you got married and actually lived happily ever after.

Whatever really happened.

At the end of shooting THE WHOLE TRUTH, one of our lead actors had to rush off to do another film - which was not going to be fun. It was going to be rushed and working with a not-so-well written script, but for good money.

Like other actors on the production, s/he said it was the most enjoyable production and most difficult work they'd ever done, and was very sad to leave.

His/her parting words: "Well. Back to reality."

I said, "Working on THE WHOLE TRUTH was also reality."

There are different types of reality.

Happiness is just as much a reality as sadness as pushing through the crap out there every day.

As for me, when I realized this? I became much happier.

Seriously, I decided my reality was going to be positive, happy, fun and make the most of whatever the world handed me. A sense of humor is a valid value and personality trait, too, ya know.

That was many years ago.

So far, so good.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Editing is underway!

Editor Stephen Myers and I are in the editing suite, working full days as of Wednesday.

Monday and Tuesday a group of us went on a location scout trip for our new feature, THE LONELY GOATHERD.

Stephen and I did an initial pass through the rough cut of THE WHOLE TRUTH in about 2.2 days; then we started finessing, adding sound effects and tightening scenes as well as putting scenes in more detailed sequence today.

It's fun and very specific, meticulous work. I am extremely focused on the editing process of TWT, but I enjoy working on more than one project at a time, which is why we're moving into developing our next feature, which we should start shooting in Spring, while also creating our third film, SPARE CHANGE, which I'll be writing along the way through TLG.

I'll have some finessing to do of TLG script which shouldn't take long because it's pretty well finished.

One thing about doing comedy - it's fun to re-live the laughter in the editing room. And the performances, which, in this case are uniformly excellent. We were blessed with a genuinely fabulous, talented, skilled cast, who were also a total delight to work with.

I've learned so much from THE WHOLE TRUTH, and look forward to doing it all over again, using my new knowledge, starting up THE LONELY GOATHERD even before we finish this project.

It's all very exciting.

And of course I'll be particularly excited to see what audiences think of the completed version of THE WHOLE TRUTH!

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Crazy Hollywood agents stories ....

Will have to wait for now - but do I have some very interesting tales to tell when our film is in the can about agents whose first duty appears to be their own bottom line, rather than their clients' best interest -- or any interest in them at all.

Fortunately, not all of them are like that, and I'll also share the 4-1-1 about those agents who seem to genuinely care about their clients and their best interest -- or at least tell the truth.

According to jaded long-timers in the industry, these good people are in the minority. Which is why it will be great to write about them.

Obviously, we're going through the casting process in LA for our four lead characters, and I will say this: at least two agents who *said* they showed our script to their clients -- did not. Which cost us time we would have rather spent having their client actually reading the script - or at least know we were free to send it to the next actress on our starring wish list.

We found out by contacting one of the actress's managers, who told us her client is on a self-imposed vacation to spend time with her family; she's not even reading scripts because she doesn't want to be distracted from her husband and kids.

Good for her - we're all for family time. But it would have been nice if her agents told us that's what she's doing instead of pretending to show her the script and telling us she "passed."

See, with indie films, actors don't get paid as much as they do from studio films, but they generally love indies because while they can still get paid *way* more than 90% of the population, indie roles tend to be more demanding or unusual so they get to show off how genuinely talented and skilled they are.

When actors don't get millions, their agents don't get paid mega-megabucks, either. These agents would rather receive nothing, apparently, than take a 5-figure fee from an indie gig for their client, preferring to wait for that six-figure (or seven) paycheck from their client when they arrange a studio project.

If'when I meet their clients .. I'll be sure to share my experience with them.

On the very plus side, information about the script is getting out now so there's "buzz" and we'll be auditioning some super talent next week in person with our sharp LA casting director. I'm looking forward to meeting some terrific, skilled, impressive actors who are looking forward to practicing their art and craft fearlessly in our project.

Screwball comedies like The Whole Truth are a boat load of work for the leading lady and villain; the leading men also face a lot of challenges to nail the roles. But this hard work pays off with appreciative audiences and folks within the industry because insiders know just how much toil and skill are involved to make it all work.

More on the fantastic talent as soon as our full cast is aboard; that goes for our outstanding crew as well.

Meanwhile, I continue the painfully detailed work of creating shot sheets (every picture taken for the film) and overheads (overhead maps - floor plans - of the sets that show where the camera and talent should be placed and move amidst furniture, props, etc).

In LA, I'll also be meeting with our editor to show him everything I have in mind for the shoot so he can make suggestions for specific shots and "coverage" (additional shots that cover the scene to capture specific things I may need working with him in the editing room). I'm pretty thorough, but always open to opinions from such comedy editing veterans as our editor, who has worked with comedy film folks like Carl Reiner and more.

Incredibly he asked to be our editor at indie rates when he was asked to read the script as a favor to our producer.

That is a very good sign.

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