Something Remote: Producing Comedy Gold
Something Remote producers Nick Allain and Steve DiTullio talk about what it took to take the film and webseries from paper to screen.
Last week we spoke with Alex Laferriere, the creator and director of Something Remote. But good directing is only half the equation behind the camera. Today, we talk with producers Nick Allain and Steve DiTullio about the ins and outs of taking Laferriere's ideas and making them a reality.
Rick Desilets: Every project has to start somewhere, and most film projects start with a dollar sign. What was the budget situation for the Something Remote film?
Steve DiTullio: Wow, where to start with this one? Ha ha.
Nick Allain: There was no budget for filming the movie. We had about a hundred fifty dollars from our premiere of Breaking Through (a DVD we produced with a few of our short films). We used that and a little bit of pocket cash. We begged and borrowed the rest.
RD: How would you say that ultimately affected the production?
SD: We wanted to shoot a full-length movie, but with the funds we had we really had to scrap for resources. All of the equipment we used was on loan from WPI, the set was Alex's apartment, the movie largely takes place inside. When you have minimal funds, you have to really get creative with how to get the job done and we cut just about every corner you could think of.
RD: What kind of technology went into filming the movie?
NA: Don't ever underestimate the power of duct tape, cheap Wal-Mart furniture, and moxie. Technology is great but we used what we could get - a Canon XH-A1 (borrowed), a couple of borrowed external mics, and Alex's Mac tower to edit.
SD: We had stage lighting set up in Alex's apartment for the duration of the summer. Rather than taping footage and importing it onto a computer, we hooked up a laptop to the camera and saved everything on an external hard drive. It saved a ton of time and just kind of made sense for what we were trying to do.
RD: So, a vast majority of the film was filmed in Alex's apartment. What kind of challenges did this pose for the production?
NA: For the production it just meant that we needed to use a lot of tape and Velcro to keep things in place while Alex's roommates lived in our set.
SD: After a while his roommates were getting a little irked about the whole thing, which is understandable considering we basically invaded their place for an entire summer. During production Alex's apartment got incredibly warm. The lighting inside the apartment was only magnified by the ninety-degree heat, not to mention that we couldn't have any windows open or fans running when we were filming or the audio would be lousy. Coupled with the blown fuses and the lighting storms on a regular basis, Alex's apartment became a less than ideal place to be that summer.
RD: Most of the filming was finished in just over a month. Once that was done, what was the post-production process like?
SD: Most of the post-production was handled by Alex, to be honest. When filming wrapped Alex took to his computer and started editing the footage together.
NA: Alex actually broke his arm just before post. He edited the movie in a cast up over his elbow.
SD: The one task that wasn't really post-production but kind of became the main focus was the filming of the TV shorts. We saved that for last because of the relative ease of the filming, and we actually filmed the final TV sketch the night before we submitted the movie to festivals. That was the other process; Nick, Alex, and I sat down, picked out the festivals we wanted to send the movie out to, made cases, DVDs, busted out the glue and straight edge cutter and shipped the sucker off. After that we sat back and relaxed for a bit.
RD: Once Something Remote hit the festival circuit, what was the process like from there?
SD: Depressing, deflating, aggravating, insulting. Those are probably a good start.
NA: Personally, a bit painful. In my mind this leads to a lot of "I wish we..." moments that I don't think are fair. Our one festival win was great but it was at a first-year small festival. We had grand visions for where the film would be accepted and we got a dose of reality there.
SD: We were coming off of such a high when the movie wrapped and we all worked so hard to get the film done and submitted that when we just kept hearing "no" we were a little miffed. We even had a festival specifically ask us to send a DVD, shipping and entry fee covered, and then still got a rejection letter.
NA: In retrospect, we should have been smarter about which festivals we targeted. However, our win at the incredible Silk City Flick Fest was epic.
SD: We just by chance found our way to Silk City by meeting up with some people running the festival. We dejectedly tossed them a DVD thinking it would just be fun to see if something stuck to the wall and we end up taking Best Feature and Funniest Flick. The trip was a great bonding time for the crew that went as well. We went one for fourteen, but we cleaned house when we got there so it wasn't a total loss. If I had one tip to give it would be don't let someone telling you "no" stop you from moving forward with your projects. Rejection sucks, but it's not the end of the world.
RD: So how did the web series differ, from a production standpoint?
NA: The web series was written nearly on the fly. There was almost no
SD: For everything the movie was, the web series was not. The movie we had a locked-down set, lighting, sound equipment, a written and revised script, casting calls, the works. For the web series we were losing Alex's apartment as a set so we needed to film stuff fast, we had no lighting other than the work lights Alex had lying around, the scripts were much shorter and geared towards ideas we had already talked about in the movie so we didn't need much revision, plus since we were working off of characters we had already created we didn't need to recast any parts. While the movie was an "achievement" the web series was more like a "project". We wanted to film something during the summer of 2009 and all we really had were these characters that we had created a year before. That's not to say I'm not proud of what we did and I think for what it is the web series works. It's a great supplement to the movie, which was the intention from the start.
RD: One last question before we wrap it up: what would you say was the biggest technical hurdle in producing the film and web series?
NA: Getting Alex to make the switch to HD for the film was an uphill battle. Ultimately, it was a great decision.
SD: I only get to pick one? Well personally, I think the biggest hurdle from a technical standpoint was the audio. A good friend of mine Jim, who owns the Elm Draught House Cinema where we premiered Something Remote the movie, said it best when he said, "There is a reason why people win Oscars for this stuff." Audio is incredibly difficult to control and easy to screw up. For a while during the production of the movie we kept hearing this odd noise in the background of the footage. We thought it was the external hard drive or the computer fan, only to realize weeks into filming that the mics were picking up the fridge in the other room humming. You only really have a chance to catch your mistakes after the fact and by then it's just too late. The web series was challenging as well because with all the locations we filmed at there was very little control over our surroundings. Filming took longer and audio became the main reason shoots lasted well into the night. All in all, some things are just hard about making films, and audio I feel will be one of those things for as long as Broken Wall Films is in business.
RD: Well, it's great as always to talk to you guys. Keep up the great work!
Nick Allain runs his professional website at NicholasAllain.com. Steve DiTullio is an Actuarial Mathematics major at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and has a poker blog at PocketFives.com. He also produces Open Lounge and co-hosts it with director Alex Laferriere.
Tune in this Sunday to see the conclusion of last week's episode, as Mat brings his conflict with Neil to a new level in Something Tastes Like Fungus!