I knew I would only need to do one inexpensive "CITY OF SIN" film to see if I could continue with this. The first "City Of Sin" film is "CALL GIRL" I decided to make it with almost nothing and fast. I got support from a small group of online backers who believed in me to get this City of Sin project rolling.
Call Girl was an experimental film that was shot over 24 hours. One evening, and one all nighter. I wanted to see if I could shoot again without a crew, and pull off a film in a month. I also wanted to see if I could be happy doing shorts for a year to learn more skills, get more disiplined, and hopefully build an audience for bigger work too later. Conclusion?
CAN I MAKE AND RELEASE A FILM IN A MONTH?
Yes! I got off to a slow start because of the Xmas-Jan holidays, but once I got the idea for the film, cast, raised a little money, it then rolled. I need deadlines in life. I might not hit them exactly, but without them, I might have been editing for six months! Waist of life! Been there, done it! And kills your spirit as an artist. If you are preparing a sci fi short full of effects for a Hollywood concept pitch, I get it! it takes time. Character stuff with no SFX, you can move. That's the disipline TV drama works under.
I was using CALL GIRL to test out this approach. With a little more money, better sound kit, I can build with this film a month thing. But do I want to continue with making shorts every month? No! Not as my main focus anyway. The work and doing the film a month is not the issue at all. It's doable. I love working! I wasn't stressed. if anything, I have felt more alive and creative than ever. In fact, if I had a better sound recorder on the shoot, I would have finished the edit in 4 days instead of 7.
My biggest concern was could I hack making short films at the expense of character driven stories? Could I be happy doing this? If you are not happy in your work, especially where you can't pay yourself for years, you're screwed with building anything long term. You can hack it for years if you love what you are doing.
LONG FORM CONTENT
Breaking BadI'm probably a bigger fan of TV serials than movies today. Blockbusters bore me. A 24-48 hour series, rather than 90 minutes in a movie does it for me. Unless it's a character driven movie, but most movies today are not character studies. They are roller coasters. TV is where it's at if you like character driven stories. You get to see a character flesh out over dozens of episodes. 70-90 minute movies really are the minimum time limit to do good character tale. Or a three hour "Jackie Brown" or "Boogie Nights".
I could do a web series but I don't want to do a web series with the same characters for years. Not unless I grow an audience and get a real budget to keep the actors coming back for years. It's a little fragile and scary when your brand relies on your lead cast over a long period of time. Unless you are paying a lot of money. However, that's not the real reason long web serials don't attract me at this time. I just like moving from one genre to the next. A Call Girl story, A bounty Hunter film, whatever. As long as there's interesting characters. It also lets me test out what characters, story has the potential for a future series. Like a pilot.
I like plotless films where you just hang out with extreme characters in their world. Like "Taxi Driver", "Shame", "The Wrestler" "The Cuckoo's Nest", "Bad Lieutenant", "Lost In Translation", "Easy Rider", "Boogie Nights" and too many others to mention. The type of films we used to get. Even classics like "The Godfather" have very little plot. For me, plot is overrated.
Which is probably why I like my film MISSION X best, even though it has a TON of flaws. But you get to just hang out with these guys for 90 minutes. When I started writing CALL GIRL over 24 hours, I realised I wanted to explore that character and world. I wanted a bigger window into that world. Not for a whole series but 70-90 mins at least. Not a short film 29 mins. But I had set up this monthly film concept, so I thought I would try it.
As I got writing, and shooting, I hated wrapping the film up with a a plot driven route for the short film format. I like characters talking, fleshing out other sides to them. So I only needed to do one short film to fully test myself out. That's why I made it so cheap and fast. I'm not going to burn away people's money and time with highly invested experimental work. Like I said, move fast, break things! See what works, so what does not.
I could have made a more character driven story in 30 minutes no problem. But then it becomes a moody visual piece where you don't really get the characters talking to each other. So if I am going to do that, then it shouldn't be 29 minutes long. It should be like 10 mins. And besides, I feel my strengths are having characters talk to each other. I need to get back to that. I like going from theatre like set pieces, to cinematic scenes. I need to do features for that. Short content can also spin off from that.
CITY OF SIN WORLD
I still believe in the CITY OF SIN route, the branded destination for all my work. Nothing will change there. I'm building on this as planned. But after doing this first short film, it confirmed to me 100% that the short film route is not for me. Saying this, I also have no desire to make one feature film every year or two. This experience and the SCREEN experience confirmed to me that there's no reason I can't make 4-6 films a year. Even if I double my shooting and post schedule, I still move fast.
Joe Swansberg recently shot seven features in the one year. I would say around one every three months is my goal. They take much longer when you are submitting to festivals, taking that usual route. Then you have to promote them all individually. But that's not what I am doing with this project. The films get made, and they get shipped via CITY OF SIN. And each project helps each other, as the CITY OF SIN brand as a whole is promoted. I will try and build my audience all around this universe.
I still might continue to do a short film a month, or when I feel like it. But these will be made for like £100, and be 5-10 minutes in length. Shot in my local city here. On an iphone, 5D, whatever I have access to. I want to keep creating and releasing content, so that fills that gap. CITY OF SIN can have features and shorts. In fact, one of my past films MISSION X is perfect for this. It's an urban set feature, so I'm uploading it to the site for free next week. I will also share new pics and behind the scenes video of the film.
The main focus now is getting these features going. I might make CALL GIRL into a feature. But my goal is to hit New York and Las Vegas this year to work with new talent and some names. I'm also going to try and shoot and share video as I try to pull this off week by week. I know how important it is to sell yourself too to make it happen. This could be a little series on it's own.
Thanks to everybody that has supported and promoted me with CITY OF SIN. Nothing has changed with me building on this. And I will probably still do small shorts too, but the features are the main focus for CITY OF SIN, then hopefully a full series in the near future.