There are people who can fall in love with a concept and then simply follow it through aimlessly until the end. But to most screenwriters and storytellers, whether developing a story for a feature film or a commercial video production, a little structure helps a lot.
No matter what the story’s about, you’ll need peaks and valleys of intensity. You’ll need major plot points presented with rhythm and pace, and to do all that, you’ll need an outline, first and foremost.
One of the challenges of casting a piece where you are trying to stay true to “real” people or historical figures is that you have a point of reference on their lives that you must abide by. Not only do you want to be true to their character, personality, background, etc. but you are forced to take into account their physical appearance. Obviously, if you did a film on President Obama, you couldn’t cast Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford to the play the president, regardless of how talented you think they are. You would need someone who resembles him in some way so as not to be forced to suspend disbelief so much so that it affects the integrity of the story.
Well, in Walt Before Mickey, we had this issue on more than one occasion. Not only did we have to match Walt (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Roy (Jon Heder) as brothers whom we’ve seen in pictures thousands of times but we also had to match Walt in three stages of his life. We had to get young male actors who could feasibly be him at 7 years old and at 13 years old. We also had to match other characters in the film to their real life counterparts. This all adds to the authenticity of the picture.
One of our most important things was making sure that Lillian Disney (Kate Katzman), Walt’s wife looked like the real Lillian. Well, our lovely leading lady, Kate, had the most beautiful “Blue” eyes and blonde hair which would not have worked. So, other than the obvious brown haired wig that we could use, we also had to use colored contacts for her and it completely changed her look. It also, by no surprise, was very uncomfortable for her to work with and changed her expression quite a bit.
I know that, sitting with her on set, she complained that it was totally different seeing through the colored contacts and it affected her quite a bit. In the end, she soldiered through and was able to stay true to the character. As an actor, it’s always quite a sight to be see yourself in pictures or on screen, looking totally unlike yourself. However, sometimes it can truly help to be able to not only create the character’s life internally and find their voice but also, with the help of costume, wigs, makeup and accessories transform yourself physically for a role.
Growing up in the acting world, my favorite actors were never the personality actors, the ones who looked and sounded the same in every role but I had much more appreciation for the character actors who weren’t afraid to completely embody another person’s looks forsaking their own good looks and comfort.
In the end, it’s just another piece of the story telling puzzle that adds validity, integrity and truth to the final product.
Don’t forget to come and see Khoa and I and the rest of the Walt Before Mickey family at the Skyway International Film Festival on June 12th-14th in Bradenton Florida; the first official screening of a Khoa Le and Frank Licari collaboration. Although it wasn’t our production and we weren’t the ones in control, it certainly became our baby and we hope to see you all there.
Well, I remember everyone being extremely excited right from the start when we signed Jon to our movie. It was back in November and we had our first “real” name actor attached to the film. It was a good day. Now, the only problem was, one of our executive producers was still dead set on playing the title character – no, not Mickey but Walt.
I knew that there was no way that it would fly with Jon and so did everyone including our EP. We were going to risk losing our only name we had all for vanity. I knew that as soon as Jon stepped foot on set, there would be a call to his agent, “get me outta here.” So, it was decided to delay his schedule in order for us to conduct our “experiment” of letting our EP get it out of his system. Thankfully, after six days of shooting, he did, and we were able to film with a new “name” in the title role. This made bringing Jon on set in January much easier and a lot more fun.
The picture above represents Jon’s first day of shooting. It was a bit tense – namely because we had just found the location a day prior and had just secured the picture car a few hours before shooting. This is the way that things went on this film set. Always last minute, always chaotic, always trying to catch up. Why? Because our production manager and location manager all consisted of “favors” by “friends” – friends of the EPs, no experience, no knowledge and not getting paid. It was a terrible mess really. However, Jon (and Thomas) couldn’t have been more understanding. That’s what you get when you cast actors who are also writer/producers themselves and used to working with small budgets. Had we had two “divas” in those roles, it would have been a disaster but, as I’ve said before, Khoa and I made it work.
Walt Before Mickey wasn’t always easy… wasn’t always fun… but in the end it was always an adventure. To pre-order a DVD copy of the film, visit the official Walt Before Mickey website.
As we get closer to the release of Walt Before Mickey, Khoa (Director) and I are going to start to share some behind the scenes footage from our experience on set. We had such an amazing time working on the film together. From the lows to the highs, it was fun to see this through all the way to the finish line. And, of course, these pictures bring back so many great memories.
This first picture is Khoa and I working with our lead actor Thomas Ian Nicholas (Walt) as he prepares for his scene where he confronts the owner of Newman Theaters for the backpay that is owed him. At this point in the story, Walt is at a very precarious place and needs the money badly to avoid certain bankruptcy.
Not only was Walt in a precarious situation but so was our lead actor, Thomas, because during this shooting day he had come down with a bad flu and was forced to perform all of his scenes under the weather. Of course, like the true professional that he is, Thomas, performed admirably and you’d never be able to tell that he was sick from watching the film. A real pro and a fantastic guy. I’m proud to say that Thomas and I (and Khoa) have remained friends long after the picture wrapped.
Of course, Khoa and I, were probably on three hours sleep by this point in production after spending the night before hammering out wrinkles in the shooting script which, by this point, I had re-written more than five times. Great memories. More to come. Stay tuned, and to pre-order your DVD copy of the film, visit the official Walt Before Mickey site. Frank Licari
Just imagine it. You’ve written or gotten your hands on a compelling script. It’s one of those stories that causes your imagination to start running wild immediately. You’ve already envisioned the perfect location, the right atmosphere for nearly every scene of the film or video production.
So, now it’s about finding the location that best matches the one you’ve created in your mind. However, it’s nearly impossible to find something that looks exactly like the setting you imagined, and it’s truly miraculous when you find such a place.
If you’re lucky enough to stumble on your dream location then, by all means, use it. However, it’s much more common to find something that is in the ballpark of what you had in mind, but will require some effort and good old ingenuity to make it work.
Guest post by Eric Beltran
Stop! Wait! Don’t do it! Not yet…
You may think that you are ready, but chances are, you’re not. Maybe you even have a script for your film or video production all set and truly believe you’re ready to roll. It’s understandable to think you’ve got all you need, but you don’t.
The reality is that once your script has been completed, all of the real work in terms of planning your film or video production process has just begun. Yes, the story’s complete, but its transition to the screen is a whole other…well, story.
There are so many things to consider when getting ready for a shoot. It’s scary really. Unfortunately, far too many people are unaware of the barrage of issues that can arise on set even when you’re fully prepared.
That’s why it’s important to take your time and plan out exactly what it is that you want to do on your project, to define your goals. Then, set a clear course and equip your crew for any possible trip ups because, trust us, you’ll stumble on at least a few.
The eagerness to jump into production, combined with the failure to properly plan for one, is a recipe for disaster.