Step 1: Write the dang thing
The film has been written. It has been written at least twice now, with two different plots, three different outlines and re-arranged characters each time. One of the plots included a psychic and a detective. The latest version just has a psychotic brother and there’s a bit more vomiting and pepper spray than the original script. When I finally finished it, I immediately started to…
Step 2: Break down the scenes
There is a way to do this in studio binder, but I used a spreadsheet instead. I went through each scene and wrote down the actors needed, the props needed, costumes, location, any extra set decoration notes, stunts or choreography involved, whether it is shot during the day or night, the crew we can scrape by with, how many pages the scene is and what pages the scene starts and ends on.
Step 3: Create a general shooting schedule
This is a little bit of a weird step to take here because I don’t have any of my team’s schedules or the availability of the locations. At the end of the day, the shooting schedule can be rearranged, but I felt it was important to figure out how many days I would need certain locations and actors so that I can present the locations and actors with a general timeline.
Step 4: How much is this going to fricken cost?!
Wow. Films are ridiculously expensive. And I am literally shooting most of it with two characters in a car. The thing is, a feature film needs layers and everything costs money. The reality is, any movie that is reflective of reality requires building a world. That’s expensive even with free locations. Things just cost money. Food, labor, gas, equipment we don’t already have, you name it. Now comes the time where I:
Step 5: Find locations
Particularly locations that don’t require a lot of building, props, or set decorating! This is the best way to go. It keeps things natural, it’s less work for me, (since I won’t be hiring a set decorator or builder), and it already has history built into it. The only catch is, this can be challenging to find. Some locations are locked in, but some will be pending as we get closer to filming.
Step 6: Cast the thing!
I am casting mostly people I know. Many of these roles were written for my friends and many of them are just waiting to see what the heck I’m having them do. Bless their hearts. I love them. I am incredibly lucky. Everything from the script to the locations to the costumes is centered around making this cast shine. They are all incredibly hilarious.
Step 7: Lock in the schedule
I want to give the cast, crew, locations, and myself a solid calendar so that everything is locked and ready and all other equipment and props can be planned accordingly.
Step 8: Crew!
Since we are shooting in Mississippi, Lafayette, New Orleans, and Atlanta it opens up the possibilities of many different people passing the crew torch. We will be shooting on a little camcorder, (!!!!!!!!) so that will make it easier to find help, since it doesn’t require much training to shoot. The sound department is more delicate so I will try to lock in sound as soon as I feel more confident in our funding.
Step 9: Table Read
The table read will be the first and possibly one of the only times the whole team will be together. This is crucial for covering logistics, and getting my director's brain in gear since I will actually have to direct. This is mostly for the actors though, so that they can get comfy with the script and ask any questions they have. With this cast I don’t imagine I’ll have to do more than give them the blocking since each of their roles were written just for them!
Step 10: Equipment
Ah yes, more things I know little about. With Jeff’s help I will sort out what lights we need, how many freaking batteries we need for the cameras, and start practicing with the equipment so that it will be ready well before we start any shooting.
Step 11: Props, costumes, set dec, oh my!
Many of the props were written as household items for a reason. The regional popcorn convention scene, the front of house for Todds! And some character props will need the most attention. The props I can make by hand can turn into a prop making party but the odds and ends will have to come from dollar tree, amazon, and ordered straight from the screen printing services that makes our Todd’s shirts. Yeehaw!
Step 12: Crowdfunding
Once I give the audience a clear picture of what our budget breakdown is, the Todds community will be embraced with open arms as our art project truly begins when friends of the film decide that this is something worth being part of.
Step 13: The shot list
This is where I take what’s in my brain and I write it down so that during filming we move as efficiently as possible. I will absolutely be way too overwhelmed to even know what shots we need for each scene, so I will have it written out for myself as clear as day. I like things to be popped off quickly so we will not do a zillion takes or a zillion angles. It will be rehearsed, planned, and in the can! Nothing will sit long enough to get stale and if I have to get a cue card out for an actor so we can move on I will.
Step 14: Start planning logistics. Like food.
Where are people staying? How far are they driving? What’s the snack situation? Any dietary restrictions? Food is everything and a massive part of the budget. People need to eat and this is hard work. No hangry people here!
Step 15: Organize
The props are in their respective boxes, the locations are updated, and everyone involved has the schedule. The food is planned down to the penny and the talent is ready to rock and roll. The supporters are receiving their stickers and tshirts and I am probably a little overwhelmed in the best way at this point.
Step 16: Filming
This is the best part. I am so excited. BTS will be captured by all.
Step 17: Post production
First comes saving money again. This time, no crowdfunding. We’re editing, getting a poster together, adding some foley, and maybe getting some ADR in. We’re planning what festivals to submit to and how we want to release this bad boy with a bang.
Step 18: Sharing the finished product
Those who contributed financially above a certain price point will receive access to the film along with the actors and crew. There will be a private viewing if the film while it is still circulating the festivals. Eventually a public viewing party will be had. The film will be released on DVD, BluRay, and available to stream.
The “Todds! The Movie” community will forever live on as a project that radiates joy, friendship, hard work, and love from its kernel core.
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“Baby steps count, as long as you are going forward. You add them all up, and one day you look back and you’ll be surprised at where you might get to.”
— Chris Gardner