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Gone Insane: Making Beyond the Dreamcatcher

June 19, 2015 at 6:10 PM / by

Hello, everyone!

I felt it was important for me to write a little chronicle of the last few months, since I have been so out of touch with the internet world.  2015 has been a challenging year thus far, because it is the year that I chose to produce and direct RedTere’s first feature film, entitled Beyond the Dreamcatcher (IMDB).

In December 2014, RedTere launched a kickstarter campaign for $25,000 to shoot the film in February and March of 2015.  Not extremely hopeful that we could raise $25,000 on kickstarter, I also made a modest effort to line up some private investors.  Unfortunately, on January 5th, the kickstarter campaign ended approximately $23,000 short of our goal.  We were not able to secure any investors either, but at this point we were one month from production, and I was determined to make the movie at any cost.  I decided to push on and fund the film myself.

Flash back to 9 months earlier, my girlfriend, Sara and I found out, quite unexpectedly, that we were going to be parents.  Thanks to a guest post (link) on NoFilmSchool by Ryan Lightbourn, I believed that I had no choice but to produce a feature film before I was relegated to life as a full-time parent.  At the time, my girlfriend and I were living in a loft that was not suitable for a child, so in August of 2014, I put my life savings into the purchase of a house for my family.  Again, despite the lack of funding to produce the feature film in question, I played the role of fearless leader and led everyone into the battle.

MeMatteoWinter

My new best friend and me.

My son, Matteo Talvi Lovetere was born at 7:23 AM on January 23, 2015.  His first name is a tribute to my best friend, who passed away in 2007.  His middle name is a tribute to his mother’s heritage.  Talvi is Finnish for “winter.”  January 23rd, 2015 will also be forever remembered as the day it started snowing in New England… and never stopped.

Shooting a feature film in blizzard conditions, though visually striking, resulted in some insurmountable logistical problems.  We suffered a multitude of delays on set, not limited to endless shuffling cars, parking tickets, constant snow removal, near hypothermia and even a minor shoulder injury that came from carrying equipment myself into a basement at the foot of a 45-degree angled driveway, covered in black ice.

If it seems like there was a bad luck streak running through this movie, brace yourself, because things were about to get worse…

Our first day of shooting was preempted by the death of one of my closest friends.  Bob Martin was my uncle and the man to whom I credit for my passion for cinema.  I have countless memories of my siblings and I sifting through his VHS collection, while the ‘adults’ were blissfully unaware upstairs.  Bob was always a kid at heart and would sneak down whenever possible to ensure that our healthy cult film appetite was being satiated.  He introduced us to such films as Evil Dead, Phantasm, Pink Floyd – The Wall, Phantasm II, Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, Evil Dead II,  and The Toxic Avenger.  He would have loved Beyond the Dreamcatcher for its blend of black humor, horror, and general weirdness.  And though it saddens me that he’ll never see it, I take comfort in the fact that wherever he is, he’s proud that I am being as weird as he always knew I could be.

The Late, Great Bob Martin

The Late, Great Bob Martin

Among the whole host of technical and logistical breakdowns that occurred on set, we lost access to locations, equipment broke in the middle of a day, props and costumes were constantly being misplaced, and actors were calling in sick thanks to the harsh winter weather.

On one particular day of shooting, takes of a long dialog scene were continually interrupted by unbelievable manifestations of Murphy’s law, such as light fixtures shorting out, smoke detectors going off, cats meowing, babies crying, and to top it all off, we filled our Digital Bolex D16’s hard drive by noon time.  Luckily, we had a Black Magic Pocket Cinema camera for a backup; except that when I tried to power it on, it was dead.  Like really dead; completely, straight up dead.  If I had to pin it to one day, I’d say this is where my mental collapse began.  Whispers of shutting down the production began to stir, but I pressed on.

CallSheet

The Symbolic Callsheet

For the next 12 shooting days, I had no choice but to grit my teeth and push forward, despite a cloud a failure hanging over my head.  Between the film and my day job as an IT project manager, I was working 7 days a week (approximately 70 hours total) for two months straight.  On top of this, I was a brand new parent, with a brand new baby boy, who wasn’t sleeping much.  Neither was I.  The financial noose was tightening as I lost money hand over fist as we continually fell further behind schedule.  The fears and anxieties surging through my mind were beyond description.  It wasn’t a fear of failure.  I had already failed.  Now my fears centered who and what I was dragging into the abyss with me.

By March 22nd, our originally intended last day of production, we’d shot 15 days worth of film, but only about 2/3 of the script.  Many of the actors and crew had commitments in April and May; not that it mattered, because I was clean out of money.  Didn’t even have time to file my taxes.  At this point, I wasn’t sure that we would finish shooting the movie, and I hated it so much that I did not give a single solitary shit.

With the movie now on the back burner, I was free to focus on my family.  Parenthood puts a lot of things into perspective; including the line between what we NEED to stress about and what we CHOOSE to stress about.  For my entire life, I have chosen to stress about… damn near everything, but having a child has taught me that there’s really only one thing that matters in this world, and that’s family – the people we love, the people who love us.  The people we leave behind, the people who remember us.  The people who carry our legacy.

Now, with my mind back in order, and my priorities in place, I reached out to the key production team to start the scheduling process for the remaining 35 pages.  Unfortunately, wrangling the crew back together proved more challenging than I thought.  Especially when Production Manager and Assistant Director, C.W. Dolan resigned his position on the film.

As usual, I wasn’t going to let one person stop me from succeeding.  Lauren Costa was my casting director, production manager, and first A.D. on my last film, A Drop of Water and we had a wonderful experience working together on that film, so I asked her to take up the mantle and put on all those hats she once wore alongside me in the trenches.  With Lauren on board, we worked together to motivate the cast and crew to get off our asses and finish this fucking movie.

Shooting outside my house.

Shooting outside my house.

Since returning from hiatus, we have completed four days of shooting.  While not everything has gone according the plan, these days have been, by far, the best days we’ve had on the production.  Morale is at an all-time high.  Everyone is having a great time on set.  This is the team spirit that had been missing this past winter.  A newcomer to the crew remarked that the energy and passion on set “reminded me of Freshman year, when everything was new and everyone was stoked to be shooting anything.”

To top it off, these were the first days of production that our camera, the Digital Bolex D16 could natively play back footage in camera.  While that may not sound like a big deal, when you’re working on a micro-budget, basically underground film, on which the most you can do to compensate your cast and crew is feed them, the ability to SHOW them the fruits of their labor only added to the excitement.  For the first time, everyone, including me, believed we were making a great film.  Did I just say that?  We’re making a great film!

Directing, parenting.

Directing, parenting.

I was so in love with the script when I wrote it.  But everything that happened this past winter turned that love into the most bitter of hatred.  I felt like I was making too many compromises and that the film we were making was NOT the film I set out to make.  Today, however, with only 5 days of production left, I love the movie more than I ever have, because I see what the movie is – me.  The movie is me.  It’s my fear.  It’s my anxiety.  It’s my thoughts.  My dreams.  In the worlds of Roger Ebert, “Art is the closest we can come to understanding how a stranger really feels.”

The moral of the story is…

Even when you haven’t slept in days and you feel like the next step could be your last; when you realize you’re not the artist you hoped you were, and you’re destined to fail before you achieve your childhood dream, remember that if you want something bad enough the only person standing in the way of your success is you.

Thank you to the cast and crew who have waited patiently and sacrificed other opportunities to see this production through to the finish line.  I love you all.

Love,
Dan