Lessons Learned From Face Off Part II

Each episode of Syfy Channel’s Face Off is worth a semester-long class in film school.  That’s how insightful the series is.  Watch for yourself and see if you come up with different kernels of truth than I did.  If so, let me know.  Leave a comment for all to see.  With Face Off, anyone interested in a career in Hollywood will gain valuable knowledge of how film people think.  Plus, it’s entertaining to see creative minds at work.  Here’s my take on episode 2.

Pirate Treasure (Episode 2)

  1. Stick with the theme or task you were given.  It does no good to do fantastically at something you weren’t asked to do!
  2. Give your employer what they ask for—only better.  Give them something unexpected.  Push it over the top.
  3. Start with a solid concept.
  4. No one has time to hear you complain about medical issues or injuries.
  5. It’s good to help out a colleague.  It’s no harm to you.
  6. Creativity is respected and appreciated!

Click to read lessons from episode 3

Click to read lessons from episode 1


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Lessons Learned From Face Off Part I

It’s no secret that I love movies and filmmaking so it’s no surprise that I’m a fan of the Syfy Channel series Face Off, a reality show that tests the creative muscle of movie make-up artists.  With phenomenal judges who provide gems of wisdom with their critiques, I sit glued to my TV every week.  Currently in its third season, I noticed that I’d been taking lots of mental notes on lessons learned that applied to screenwriters and others hoping to make it in Hollywood.  I finally decided to write my notes down on paper to share with everyone.

Photo by Syfy Channel: Glenn Hetrick, Ve Neill, McKenzie Westmore, Patrick Tatopoulos, and Neville Page

A Force to Be Reckoned With (Episode 1)

  1. Moviemaking is collaborative.  If you’re a prima donna, you’re missing out on what moviemaking is all about.  No one wants to work with someone who thinks he’s better than everyone else; a.k.a. an asshole.
  2. If you’re being bullied you’ve got to hold your ground.  No one has time to rescue you.
  3. Don’t put your name on a substandard product—EVER.
  4. Don’t let yourself be pulled down.  You have to step it up to fill any void.
  5. Work your ass off.  Always.
  6. Creativity wins!  In Hollywood, creativity is rewarded!

Click to read lessons from episode 2


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Wise Words

“It’s hard enough to write a good drama, it’s much harder to write a good comedy, and it’s hardest of all to write a drama with comedy. Which is what life is.”

Jack Lemmon

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My Thriller Debut (Part III)

I must say that again I got lucky. I can’t take sole credit for the way the team pulled together. I mean in 48 hours you really are asking a lot of people. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. From the actors–you are asking them to show up at a certain time, with several kinds of clothing and props (because you have no idea what genre or story you’ve got until the last minute), with their full game on, ready to face the cameras with a script they’ve barely had a chance to read. From the crew–you are asking them to show up with all their equipment and artistic talent and their full creative hats on—not only ready to take direction and ready to speak up if they have a better idea; but also ready to fill a role we didn’t know we needed.  I never had more fun. It’s exciting, challenging, and daunting. You have all these professionals depending on you to make a movie they can be proud of.


The Doll

So I handed out the script to the actors as they arrived that morning. I also gave them a character sheet. But I felt bad for not getting it to them sooner. I truly had to get faster at writing a script. Do you see what I mean about not wasting your time on the small stuff? When making a movie, no matter the budget, no matter your time allowed, concentrate on the important things—cast, crew, script. But a filmmaker can’t just focus on production; you also need a fabulous post-production team. In a 48 Hour film that means you have to get them the footage so they can do their thing. You need every person going full hilt to give his or her best. Then maybe you’ll have a film you like. For me, A House to Herself is a film I am proud of.  And besides… I made a thriller!!!  Read Part I

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Back for More Filmmaking Madness (Thriller Part II)

We held our breathe as we waited to pull our genre from the hat. I did not want to make a musical or western or comedy. I believed I could turn any other genre into some sort of a thriller. And we also hoped that the required prop and line of dialogue wouldn’t be too silly for a thriller. The adrenaline was already pumping through me and the 48 hours hadn’t begun yet! The waiting around would normally be really cool because there were so many filmmakers in the room. There were family teams, amateur teams, and professional teams, and everyone was excited and making plans for their films even as their competition sat nearby. It would have been nice to chat with these people about movies and cameras and things film geeks discuss.  Finally the kick-off was official and it was my turn. “We got Film de Femme!” I shouted. Whoo hoo!

A House to Herself

Our required elements were:

Prop— a piece from a board game

Line of dialogue—”Tell me again why this matters.”

Character— Zach or Zelda Alexander, Exterminator.

I must say that even doing this 48 Hour competition twice before, it doesn’t get any easier. Yes casting is vital, sure the experience and creativity of the crew makes all the difference, but it all boils down to the script. The story had to be imagined, a script had to be written, and everyone needed it ready to shoot in a few hours. Did I warn you that you don’t get much sleep during this 48 hour period? It turns out stamina is an important trait for filmmakers. I discovered that it ALWAYS takes longer to write the script than you think it will. After creating a few titles and loglines, I ran the ideas by my producer and DP.  We picked the best one and I ran with it to write the draft script.  The title of my first thriller became A House To Herself.


Nora is a selfish trophy wife.  She married for money and has no heartache when her husband dies suddenly.  She has no desire to raise his bratty daughter, instead Nora wants to party, travel, and shop; that is until eerie events have everyone questioning Nora’s sanity.

The film featured Maria Skorobogatov, Allan Lazo, Eric Andersen, and YaVaughnie Wilkins in the lead roles.  Read more…

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Eager To Make A Short Thriller (Part I)

I am drawn to short thrillers of the Twilight Zone type. In fact, have I mentioned that I LOVE the Twilight Zone TV series?  Even all these years later, those episodes stand the test of time.  But I’ll discuss my thoughts on that in a future blog post.  Today’s post is about how I was eager to make my own short thriller film.

Guess what else was going on at about this time?  The 48 Hour Film Festival competition was approaching.  As you may know, entrants have no idea what genre they may get, nor do they have control over rules of the “city” imposed elements regarding the required character, dialogue line, and prop item. But I was game to give it another go. I mean how else can you make a movie over a weekend unless everyone is committed to hustle their tails off for a common purpose?

I signed up as a Team Leader.  Mi Casa Su Casa Productions was going to give it a shot. And remember, I was determined to make a thriller.  I figured there were a few things working against us—primarily the luck of the draw. Would I get a genre I could work with? What about all the other important ingredients of a good thriller—casting, music, and setting? So I got to work, doing the stuff that we are allowed to do in preparation of the 48 Hour kick-off.  I assembled a team.

Scary Location

With the experience of the prior two short films, the feature horror film, and the audition for the feature film under my belt, I was all business about recruiting the cast and crew, and about finding the perfect location. Flexibility is key in making a 48 Hour film. But the one thing that is set in stone is the location. Oh sure, I wasted a lot of time and energy my first year running around getting permissions for 3 locations—just in case I got a certain genre. Forget that. A professional commits to one location and makes it work. That way you spend your time and creativity on the important things.

Read more…

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