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Archive for May, 2007

Scheduling A Monster

Erica Harrell
Producer

While Danny and I were in Utah, we had an opportunity to sit down together and work through the shooting schedule that our Line Producer, Bryce Hudson, had created. Since Danny and I had now completed a Tech Scout of the Heritage House and Paria we were able to look at the schedule with fresh eyes. Being in the same room made it much easier to intertwine our thoughts on scenes, locations etc.

A schedule can be made with a variety of programs. I use Entertainment Partners Scheduling which can take a full script from Final Draft and automatically create breakdown sheets that then can be modified and broken down into strips. The other option is a producer can break down a script manually, which involves doing a page count of each scene. A page is broken down into 1/8s, so if a scene is half of a page it is 4/8 in scheduling terms. The 1/8s help a producer and director determine how long a scene will take to shoot. When breaking down a script manually, the breakdown sheet included a page count, which actors are in the scene, the location, the time (Day, Night, Morning, or Evening), wardrobe, hair and make up, special effects, props, and other things that are needed for that particular scene. Once all of the scenes are entered into individual breakdown sheets, the arranging must begin.

For A Monster in the Attic, I did not need to worry too much about scheduling around multiple actors as Caroline and Darrell are in almost every scene. What Danny and I were most concerned about was our locations and being efficient while in the desert of Paria and the Heritage House. We also tried to think of a weather plan, in case it looks like it was going to rain one day what or where could we shoot to make sure we could still make our days.

As a director, Danny could look at his individual scenes and discuss with me how he planned on shooting that scene and the time it might take him to accomplish the shots he wanted. So even though a scene might only be half of a page, it might take over a half a day to shoot depending on stunts, or the intensity of a performance that he was trying to achieve with child actors. On A Monster in the Attic we are going to shoot 20 days averaging about 4 pages a day. Each day we must make our days or we could risk going over-budget which is something that we efinitely cannot do.

Bryce did an amazing first pass at the schedule and Danny and I were able to fine tune each day now that we were aware of the complications of shooting in our particular locations.

MIA Stripboard Example
One of the stripboards from the film.
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Writing a Monster, Pt. 3 – Location

Eric Ernst
Writer

When writing a script, there are many elements a writer has to take into consideration: character, plot, tone, etc. One of the most important is that of location. Choosing a time and place for a story is sometimes simple, as the story could not be told in any other time, at any other place. Other times, the location can be in a multitude of places, at different time periods.

For A Monster in the Attic, Southern Utah was not the first choice for where to set the story. Originally, the film was set in a non-descript wooded area with an imaginative house in its center. However, this location did not serve the story as best it could. Not until we saw the magnificent landscape of Kane County did we realize what the story needed.

In earlier drafts, the house was built in the middle of a clearing in the woods, away from civilization. This provided Darrell and Caroline with protection, but worked against the effort to make them feel vulnerable. Once we examined the harsh elements of the area, we knew this was where the story had to take place.

During our initial scouting trips to Kane County, we visited the area known as Paria (pronounced like Maria). The location of a former township built in the 1860s, but subsequently reduced to shambles by a flood, Paria was obvious to us as where to place their dwelling. Amongst the coarse rocks, Caroline and Darrell would face great resistance to maintaining an easy and comfortable life.

Paria Outlook
The thought-provoking landscape in Paria.
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Tech Scout

Erica Harrell
Producer

Last weekend Danny, myself, Eric Ernst, and our Director of Photography, Scott Uhlfelder did a preliminary technical scout of all our interior and exterior locations. A Technical Scout or “Tech Scout” is when the director and usually several of his department heads go through the locations and note with great detail how each scene will be accomplished. Almost always the DP talks about what special equipment is needed on which days or how to light a particular scene given the location. For instance, the hallways and doorways in the Heritage House are almost too small for a classic dolly to fit in, but Scott was able to creatively suggest alternates ways of achieving the shots Danny desires.

Flexibility is key when shooting in a historical home like the Heritage House. When Danny and Eric scientifically measured each door, window, room and hallway they discovered none of the measurements were the same. The information they gathered in the home will then be handed over to our production designer Alex Eastwood so his team can construct flats and other materials we will need for the interiors of the Heritage House.

Our scout of Paria determined exactly where we will be constructing our exteriors. Danny and I alternated taking measurements of the distance from where we will build to determine what the camera will see from certain distances. We did not want to jeopardize our shoot by placing the structure in an inappropriate place. We also wanted to make sure we were maximizing every possible angel of the beautiful scenery.

Overall the Tech Scout was a huge success and now we know what we have to accomplish shooting our interiors as well as our exteriors.

Director of Photography Scott Uhlfelder
Scott Uhlfelder, Director of Photography
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ADAIR TISHLER OF NBC’S “HEROES” JOINS MONSTER CAST

Danny Daneau
Writer-Director

***UPDATE – LEAD ACTRESS IS NOW MADISON DAVENPORT***

After seeing hundreds of child actors over months of extensive searching, the production team behind A MONSTER IN THE ATTIC is proud to announce that they’ve found their female lead. NBC’s “Heroes” Adair Tishler will play “Caroline” when production begins this July in Kane County Utah.

Adair Tishler is ten years old and was born in Nashville, Tennessee. She is currently starring on NBC’S “Heroes” as “Molly Walker” and TNT’s upcoming “Saving Grace”, starring Holly Hunter, as Violet. Adair has appeared in six feature films as well as eleven national commercials and several radio voiceovers. She is very honored to be Caroline in A Monster In The Attic and can’t wait for Danny to yell ACTION!!

I am so thrilled that Adair will play one of only two characters in the film. As a young actor, she is exceptionally talented and capable of carrying the sole weight of a feature length film. We looked long and hard during casting and it was quite a journey, but in the end we found our prize.

Adair Tishler
Adair Tishler, Actress Cast as Caroline
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Trip Out West Part 1

Danny Daneau
Writer-Director

Today began my week and a half long trip from Los Angeles to Kanab, Utah and ending up in Moab, Utah for a western film conference in which I will be paneling. The goal of the trip is to meet with the actors, lock and spec our shooting locations, and pitch the project to potential Utah based investors.

Last night I arrived in Los Angeles after spending most of the day flying the friendly skies with Southwest Airlines. Co-writer Eric Ernst picked me up from the airport and we spent most of the evening having dinner with LA based members of the production team. Besides my producer Erica Harrell and my cinematographer Scott Uhlfelder, we were joined by post production supervisor Natalie Sakai and production accountant Melanie Sims. It was nice to get everyone in one place, face to face, and talk about all the many trials that lay ahead of us. It was also nice just to laugh and enjoy each others company.

Today I had a really exciting morning. Although we haven’t announced our cast yet, we have cast the lead roles of Caroline and Darrell. Today I sat down with both actors and we read through the entire screenplay, word for word. It was the first time I was able to be in the same room with both actors at the same time and I cannot tell you how excited I am to begin this project. They are both tremendously talented and I think they have a very natural chemistry.

Hearing the words read out-loud was incredibly enlightening. As a writer I could tell where dialog could use some tweaking. As a director I could tell what sequences would prove most challenging to direct. We didn’t do much rehearsing as the goal of the reading was to work through the text and answer any questions the two actors might have.

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Writing a Monster, Pt. 2 – Evolution

When A Monster in the Attic begins production in Kane County, Utah this summer, it will bring about the culmination of 3 years of development from concept to screen. As mentioned in a previous post, Monster was first conceived as a short film. Though the basic premise is unchanged, the script has evolved greatly over time.

The biggest change came about when the opportunity to shoot in Kane County presented itself. Until then, the script took place in a different time period, in a non-specific location. Once we researched the area, the script took on a direction that we had never imagined before, and the location became purposeful instead of arbitrary.

Upon our first trip to Utah, inspiration struck. Once we witnessed first hand the possibilities that the landscape held, it was clear that this was the element that the script was missing. Having a clearly defined landscape, and subsequently a clearly defined time period, helped focus our efforts to fully realize the story and Caroline and Darrell as characters.

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Storyboarding

Danny Daneau
Writer-Director

Over the past few months I’ve been working closely with a very talented storyboard artist named Ana Bruno who is based out Tampa, Florida. The process is long and can be tedious, but the results are incredibly exciting and well worth the time.

The idea behind storyboarding is to pre-visualize a shot, sequence, or an entire concept before beginning any type of production. Based off the script, a director will come up with a basic “shot list” for a scene and then describe to an artist the way the elements interact and play out. The artist then sketches the series of shots onto panels with some words underneath the picture describing the action. These panels are placed in order and can then communicate everything a film crew needs to know about a scene.

Where and how the actors will move? How the camera will move in relation to the actors? How the actors and camera will move in relation to the physical space in their world? All of these questions are answered in these panels and provide valuable insight to all the production departments.

On a tight budget, like ours, this process can save much time and money. We decided to storyboard every page of the entire script. This way we can flip through, picture by picture, and practically watch the entire film before our eyes. We can see what works and what doesn’t work. We can start working through problems before arriving on set and discover new possibilities we would not of foreseen without the help of this visual aid.

I have taken numerous trips to Tampa and Ana has stayed up countless nights to realize this goal. Last time I went to visit, her right hand was in a splint and when I asked her what happened she said, “don’t worry, it’s just taking a break.” In the end I want Ana to know that her pain and perseverance has helped to make this film something truly special. I appreciate all the hard work.

Below you will find some examples of a sequence we’ve boarded. Enjoy.

Artist:
Ana Bruno
Bruja Entertainment
brujaent@gmail.com

Scene 8 and 9 INT. UPSTAIRS HALLWAY – DAY
Scene 8Scene 9

Scene 12 INT. KITCHEN – NIGHT
Scene 12 Page 1Scene 12 Page 2Scene 12 Page 3

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