Forming Your Production Team + A Comic-Con Encounter of the Undead Kind

Video production set-up photo by João Silas on Unsplash
Video production set-up photo by João Silas on Unsplash

The merry month of May! All right, for me it’s been pretty damn merry. Why?

Because we’ve had a lot of you, and some of your friends and fiends sign up for  “Bubba’s Lucky 13” Giveaway.

My short film, “Two Angels and a Cup of Coffee” is now being readied for festival submission!

And even merrier is that the third Vinnie and Mook book, Vinnie and Mook Put the Devil on Ice, is well underway and should be available in the late summer/early autumn.

This next installment in the series will introduce brand new styles of unearthly creatures as the natural order of things on Earth has shifted and anew owner is about to appear and everything you know is out the door and the learning curve on the roads to heaven and hell are intersecting and the crossroad approaches. You’ll see…

By now, if you’ve taken my advice (and you should), you have a good idea of how to structure your film or streaming project.

So, you’re ready to put the production team together.

Actors and locations are in the next blog, but for now, let’s get a good reliable team to support you. There are lots of ways to do this, so let’s go with the basic first and end with the full-blown version.

The Basic:

  • One to three actors;
  • Some type of video recording device like a decent cell phone, a good standard case type camera with good pixel quality, the ability to take up loadable material to the cloud or other large storage capability;
  • A selection of lenses;
  • Adobe Photoshop or GIMP;
  • A decent editing program with the ability to add EFX, change color and lighting etc.

If you go the cell phone route, get this for the audio and a basic tripod set up… Comica smart phone camera solution. It’s on Amazon and runs about 70 bucks. I use one of these for my vlogs which you’ve seen.

Get a few friends together and learn about some simple cuts and wounds on YouTube. I recommend my old buddy, Michael Davy’s “Watermelon appliance” videos. Here’s a link to a group of them, which show you how to apply or even make your own scars, wounds and other things if your film requires it.

The Intermediate:

Like the above, but with a budget of $1,000 to $5,000.

In this version, you’ll be hiring  director, line producer, craft service (food), camera operator(s), prop master, editor, simple CGI, and a couple production assistants. Add in the lawyer for non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and an after-production accountant.

This level is for the larger film festivals or to do a serious proof of concept piece to present to producers, distributors, and streaming services.

You must have EVERYONE who is NOT an owner or copyright holder in the production signed off as “a work for hire.”

You must keep track of your daily filming and all music cues and sources for music.

You will be asked for those and if you don’t have it or them, they will not deal with you or the production. That is a fact and one that is the worst lesson to learn the hard way. I had a rough time with my Bubba feature because I trusted others to get this done and had to back track for a year to get it right.

The Full-Blown MF:

Same as the “Intermediate”, except with a $10,000 to $100,000 budget and all the line items above, plus a larger team and 10 times more of all the stuff I listed above.

You will have to have a location manager, armorer if gun play involved, a lawyer on call and a UPM (unit production manager), a.k.a. full-time accountant. Sound crew and film crew will be separate entities, wardrobe, continuity producer (to make sure all scenes have the right props and so forth) and a publicist.

Let me be clear…You need a publicist! One with a good record for this kind of stuff. This alone is going to run you $500 to $1,000 a month, but it’s worth every damn penny!

I’m a great self-promoter, but even I needed someone who knew the nuances of dealing with distributors, social media and all the extra stuff you need these days to make your production a campaign or product with punch! Go as far as you can on your own by getting a good website and some social media pages, but you will hit a wall eventually and need a pro to get you over or tunnel under the wall to success.

Add to this that a publicist has no emotional attachments to the production and even if you use a friend or your group think they can do it alone, you will have in fighting and problems eventually. It’s just egos and human nature. Get an outside party and you will all be grateful later and will not wind up losing friends or be threatened with idiotic but time-consuming legal issues. I’ve seen it happen to many fledgling groups.

That’s it for now. Next blog: Locations, permissions, insurance and time to hit the festivals!

Well, that all  nailed down for this month, time for one of my celebrity run-ins.

“NO SHIT! There I was just standing there minding my own business…”

This month concerns one of my favorites and involves one of the most famous film guys out there… Simon Pegg.

A few months after I released the more comedic version of the Bubba comic through my own publishing imprint, I was at San Diego Comic-Con and getting a good response from its 200,000-plus attendees when a friend told me I was invited to a movie premiere in the nearby Gaslamp Quarter. This is the area where all kinds of film, TV, and comic companies set up promotions of the after-con-hours crowds.

Shaun of the Dead theatrical poster by New Wave Creative via Imp Awards.
Shaun of the Dead theatrical poster by New Wave Creative via Imp Awards.

I said, “Sure!” and we took off to go see a new film that was having its Comic-Con premiere at a cool old theater in town. The film? Shaun of the Dead.

We got there just as the lights were going down and were seated in an excellent row due to a friend of my buddy who arranged this for us. Well, the movie was amazing, as we all know.

The lights came up and they announced a Q&A session. I was surprised when I saw that the guy seated next to me and the next chair was none other than Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright. (I’d wondered why these two weren’t laughing and the guy next to me looked familiar. It was Pegg.)

The session was hilarious and got even more so when someone in the projection booth mistakenly hit the music usually played before a film and after which began to drown out Pegg and Wright. They were great about it and started to shout above it and make the best jokes, too.

If you ever meet one of them, ask them when the “Gypsy King” Shaun of the Dead soundtrack is ever coming out. They’ll look at you weird until you mention the San Diego premiere. Hopefully, they’ll laugh or kick you hard. Ya never know.

Afterwards, due to some snarky commentary by me about this fiasco session, I was first asked if my friend and I wanted pictures with them. I replied, “Nah, I got plenty of photos of my friend, and even they couldn’t improve his looks on film.” It was then that they laughed and asked if we wanted to grab some dinner and added it was free and on one of the major studios. Liquor included. Bonus!! I was so there, for sure.

We wound up at a nice restaurant where the patio was reserved for them and about six of us. We had the best time.

We talked about film and comics because they were huge fans of both and were intrigued by indie comics. We spoke about how to blend comedy and horror, as they had so adroitly done, and I came away with ideas that you’ve seen put into action if you’ve read or viewed my work.

I learned a lot, and while we didn’t become close friends (or even distant acquaintances), we became – for that night – fellow merrymakers out to entertain and had a common path in life. Theirs went a lot further, of course, than mine, but I feel I’ve done pretty damn good with the Bubba movie’s reception and millions of views here and in Europe.

I’m also thankful that I went to the movies instead of going into town to join the crazed revelries. Do they remember me? Doubt it. That’s the biz. But someday, we might meet up again, and I can ask about the “Gypsy King” soundtrack myself.

One last footnote: While we were talking, a few folks in a classic VW Beetle pulled up by the side of the road near the patio and asked us where the “Big W” was. If you’ve ever seen It’s a MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD World, then you’ll get my reply: “I just saw Phil Silvers heading west towards the seaport, and please get Sid Caesar outta that basement he’s locked up in with his wife and crazy mother-in-law.” Edgar winked at me and said, “Well played,” as the VW and its passengers roared off into the night.

I wonder if they ever found the “Big W”? I know I found a treasure in a great memory of that night.

See y’all next month! Ya never know what crazy antic or story I’ll dig outta my head…

Yours unruly,
Mitch, a.k.a The “Big M”