Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's a Wrap!

On Halloween this year we were absolutely wearing costumes and running around playing characters. 

We shot LIFE'S A PAPER PICNIC  at the truly stunning El Matador Beach just off the PCH in Malibu. 

We (Ash & Melissa) are FINALLY writing a joint blog again together, as in, in the same room! Magic! 

Now that we are in the throws of passionate post production, we believe this is an appropriate time to reflect on our process in addition to why we really chose Lisa for our first "Film Crush" to begin with. 

Filming on the beach…

What a gift. 

Director bare foot kneeling in the sand. 

Intimate team of "collabs" that all wanted to be there. 

We felt totally pro--an amazing accomplishment considering our genesis was a tweet. 

Speaking of that tweet, we really want to tell you what is really so special about Lisa. 

Expect part biography, part impression, part reviews, but mostly respect. 


LISA CHOLODENKO grew up in the San Fernando Valley in a Jewish family.  Though initially Lisa had no ambitions of becoming a filmmaker, she changed her mind by her mid-twenties. After working as an assistant editor on Boyz 'N the Hood (1991) and Used People (1992), Cholodenko enrolled in Columbia University's graduate film program in 1992. Mentored by Milos Forman, Cholodenko made two highly regarded short films, Souvenir and Dinner Party. After earning her M.F.A., Cholodenko served as an assistant editor on Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995) while working on the screenplay for her first feature, High Art. 

Lisa is a prime example of "write what you know," and HIGH ART was born from her firsthand observations of the 1990s New York art world.  High Art centers on a reclusive photographer-turned-junkie and the aspiring young art magazine editor who becomes infatuated with her, and it was a major cult success within the LGBT community. 

What we found profoundly attractive about HIGH ART was the combination of its intimacy, authenticity, voyeurism, and daring subjects. High Art earned raves for the performances and a Sundance Film Festival prize for Cholodenko's astute, complex screenplay. 

Cholodenko's second feature, Laurel Canyon (2002), took years of development, and precipitated her move back to the west coast. LAUREL CANYON was inspired by the Joni Mitchell album "Ladies of the Canyon," and not surprisingly, Joni reappeared again in THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, her third and highly regarded feature.  The Kids are Alright won a Golden Globe for Best Picture and was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture.  The Kids are Alright was again largely written from experience, as Lisa and her partner (musician/composer) Wendy Melvoin used an anonymous sperm donor to conceive a child.  However, whereas High Art and Laurel Canyon were written solely by Lisa, we love the fact that she collaborated with a partner of different strengths, Stuart Blumberg, to create a film that ultimately exposed Lisa's work to an even broader audience.

Prior to filming Laurel Canyon and The Kids are Alright, Lisa found success directing episodes of acclaimed TV series including NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street and HBO's Six Feet Under.  Her interested in the darker reaches of character psychology offered her these opportunities and added to her vivd stamp on filmmaking.  This character exploration was another huge factor of what drew us to her work.

Additionally, music and scoring play a huge role in Lisa's films by distinctly illuminating Lisa's characters' psychological journeys. Lisa's love for and use of music is another way we seek to pay homage to her work.  As we move forward with post-production, we intend Paper Picnic to have an original score.

Lisa's thoughts...

"...Those (stories) that have juicy kind of complicated emotional characters and really kind of dig into psychological states and shifting psychological states." 
"Maybe nobody's had a real angle of a story. I think that just putting lesbians out there and saying look it's a lesbian is not interesting. I think the majority of the issues in the film are really universal and I think that's why this film can break through." 
"I don't feel like my films are about gender they are about identity - but a different slant on identity." 
"I found it wildly exciting to see a film that was so personal that was expressed so singularly particularly Jane Campion's film SWEETIE. I don't know how Sweetie holds up over time but I know the way she ended that film was so outside the box. She took on an idea that I just couldn't believe someone would be allowed to express and it was really riveting to me and made me want to make films. " 
Our take on Lisa's themes...
We noticed some common themes and elements in Lisa's films that we aimed to incorporate in our screenplay/film:
1. Lisa's camera angles are careful to illuminate intimacy in relationships.
2. Filming takes place from the POV of the inner consciousness of the main subject.
3. Substances tend to influence her characters' journeys.  Whether Heroin in High Art, Marijuana and Alcohol in Laurel Canyon, or Wine in The Kids are Alright, drugs and alcohol play a role.  
4. The city/environment brings out each character's lifestyle and plays a character in her films.  
5. Sexuality.
6. Life is messy. 
Ultimately, we chose Lisa because her work exemplifies the exact caliber of work we want to be a part of: Bold, Intimate, Sexy, Intelligent, Immediate, Authentic, Classy, Original, Complex, Human.  We are honored to call Lisa our #1 Crush!
With Love & Gratitude,
Ash & Melissa

Jonathan Chase, Ruben O'Malley, Melissa Center, Ash Archambeau on location


Friday, November 2, 2012

It's Coming to Fruition!

It has been a while since Ash and I have documented our progress for Life's a Paper Picnic, and as you can imagine, much has occurred!

Here goes:

After an amazing location scout to Leo Carillo Beach in Malibu, our fearless director, Ruben O'Malley,  visited the permit office to inquire about shooting there.  What we discovered was the following:

1. In order to shoot at Leo Carillo Beach without getting kicked off or out, we would need a permit.
2. A permit might cost us $800
3. A student project costs us $0


Cut to: Find film student...STAT.

Ash and I reached out to a select group of film students who we knew and respected.  We awaited responses and time started to tick.  As we got closer to our initial shoot date we knew we had to push it back 1 week.  This involved re-coordinating travel plans and clearing schedule of our co-star, the charming, dashing, Jonathan Chase.  You see, Jonathan is a BUSY working actor!  He so generously offered to join our project provided that we could work around his work.  Understandably so--we've all got bills to pay!

Once we pushed back our shoot and took a deep breath, we got confirmation from a student DP who was recommended to us.


However...we wouldn't be able to file for insurance in time, as his school would take a few days to process our request.

As we put one foot in front of the other, Ruben visited the permit office once again to see how we might move forward.  The news he received was that despite our initial application, Leo Carillo Beach was no longer available.  (Insert sad face here)  HOWEVER, the folks at the office recommended he check out El Matador Beach, a STATE run beach with much less strict/much less expensive permit requirements.  Plus, it was avail on our requested date.


Ruben went on a location scout to El Matador and reported its magnificence to Ash and I.  Everything was going swimmingly....


Ruben got a message from the office on a Friday that his permit had not gone through.  We were planning on shooting Wednesday.  By the time Ruben received the message, it was too late to call.



I suggested we think of a plan B.  I would be traveling back to LA in a week, which left the following Wednesday free.  Ruben and Ash were also avail.  Jonathan would be finishing his tv shoot the day prior, so it looked good.

Cut to: JK!  There was a mistake from the permit office.  We were clear to shoot on our first choice date.


Cut to: We have no confirmation from our makeup girl.


Cut to: We have no makeup girl.


Cut to:  This Wednesday.  Ash and I meet at Ruben's apt at 6 am to do our own makeup.  We drive to our location where Jonathan, our DP Matt, and our sound guy Caleb await us.  It is now 7:45 am.  We have 1 hour tops to shoot Jonathan's scene before he has to run to the other side of the universe (Downtown LA) for a tv table read at 10:45 am.  Heart racing, palms sweating, SOMEHOW we manage to shoot Jonathan's footage in time for him to drive (probably in lots of traffic) to the other side of the universe and make it in time to his important job.

Once we sent Jonathan on his way, we had the rest of the day to make our film.  However, Ash had a last minute commercial audition at 6:15 pm.  Sheesh!

The day was spectacular.  Shooting at El Matador Beach with this amazing team felt like such a gift.  I'm confident we captured the heart of our film on Wednesday.

As the sun started to set, we realized the time.  It was approaching 6pm and Ash was supposed to be at her audition.


We decided due to the setting of the light and the need to get Ash to her audition, that it would be best to shoot our last segment the same day we're planning to shoot our 1 interior scene.  Totally feasible.

With terrible reception, somehow Ash managed to get through to the casting office, who informed her that auditions were going until 7:30pm.  Strange how late they were seeing people, but great for Ash's needs!

We gathered our equipment and props, hightailed it back to Ruben's apt, and sent Ash on her way to her appointment (in lots of traffic).  SOMEHOW, she managed to get to the audition just in the knick of time.


It was a crazy, long, intense day, but we did it.  Aside from the stressors of ensuring everyone could fulfill their outside responsibilities, day 1 couldn't have gone better.  Did I mention that at day's end I got a call from my agent with a 'straight to tape for producers' audition for a TV show?!


All in all, though our journey with this project is nowhere near complete, I know we are on course.  Magical things have happened since we decided to begin and will continue.  I'm sure of it.  In the meanwhile, here are some photos from our beautiful day at El Matador Beach.  Stay tuned for more updates soon...

Ruben O'Malley, Director

Our "Picnic"

El Matador Beach

Matt Dennie, DP

El Matador Beach