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Producing "The Guild" – Prep Work

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I had a lot of requests for information on producing “The Guild” and since I’m in the thick of it for the next week, I thought I’d go ahead and invite you guys into the process!

There are several factors in determining when we shoot an episode. Number one, of course, is money. We are lucky to have generous donors that fund us, so the minute we accumulate enough budget, we shoot. The producers and I take no money personally, and almost everyone works for free or close to it, so expenses are equipment, location fees, props, food and miscellaneous things that pop up, and they always do, believe me. Long-term, we really need to get a regular source of financing, to be able to write and shoot many episodes at once. This story arc has 4 more episodes and we will reevaluate our strategy from there. Hopefully the strike will be over in a few months, so we can find a means to film and get everyone paid appropriately. But that’s not today!

Next is schedule. If you’ve ever had to coordinate the schedules of a bunch of people, without financial incentive to show up, you know it’s like herding cats. This is how producing “The Guild” is. Not only are there 6 actors that HAVE to be there or we have no show, but there are at least four to eight crew members and the director and the producers. It’s a lot to coordinate. And that’s just coming up with shoot dates. We always have to shoot on the weekends due to people’s work/school, and this shoot was complicated by a few actors not being available for a month starting late Jan, so we had to rush our plans a little. On top of that, our director, Jane, is off shooting a real commercial (yay Jane, but sad for us!) so we have someone else directing (who we’re very happy to have on board) and one less producer for this shoot. Yikes! So we came up with next weekend, and with that looming date on our heads, we have to pray personal stuff doesn’t pop up and interfere like jobs and stuff, and get 10,000,000 other things set up in less than a week. Fun times!
After we get dates down, then comes the equipment. effin’ funny, Sandeep’s(Zaboo’s) stand-up comedy website, lets us use it’s cameras, which is a BIG financial help, but sometimes those camera aren’t available. Luckily, it’s not an issue this shoot, our producer Kim has a camera that we’re using, but the DP (camera-holder person) still needs some equipment like lights, and flags and other movie-making stuff, that we make a list of and rent for her/him. Minimum for a shoot we have the DP, a sound person and a person to help make the sets look pretty so the harried producers don’t have to be slinging props and breaking things. Ideally there is another person there to help out with the camera and lighting, but we learned on the first shoot that the fewer people on set the better for breaking things/annoying landlords and neighbors and, of course, hungry mouths to feed, LOL.

Every shoot has it’s individual challenges. Last shoot was filming on location at a restaurant with noisy traffic and getting extras to fill the seats and make it look like a real restaurant. That was a lot to bite off on so small a budget. This one is scheduling and casting a role that we don’t know an actor for personally. Casting is very difficult for a free webisode. You have to bank on the actor liking the material and needing a piece of film on them for their acting demo reel, and enjoying the work. We have been very luck thus far to get great actors, mostly due to my friend Helen Geier who is a casting director, but she is off working on a movie, so that’s another thing me and Kim Evey, the producer, are having to deal with.

Oh, yes. And the script. That old thing. 🙂 It all starts with the script. Without a script, there is no show. A lot of the script is already written, from the 1/2 hour version I did initially, but by no means is it the complete webisode episode version. Another storyline had to be added, and believe me, I am not facile when it comes to putting words on the page. I have to go through serious angst with every piece of dialogue. Luckily, I have great people who give good notes, so I was able to come up with something that made me laugh, and at the end of the day, that’s all I can do to make the show I want to make.

So, we have our tasks laid out for us, but having these elements in place is a green light to shoot: Until something unexpected shows up. 🙂

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