Trevor feature film: Money, People, Time

In my last entry on the making of Trevor, a micro budget comedy drama feature film, I nonchalantly asserted that making a film is something that happens “just like that”. Well needless to say that is a large, big boned lie with coloured knobs on it, I admit it was said purely for effect. Then again we are in the business of suspension of disbelief, so anything goes I guess.

Going back to December 2015, as we all patted each other on the back, happy as Larry with the script for Trevor and the feeling was we should launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to make it. The date was fixed for February, we read up on the how’s and why's of crowdfunding, consulted experts, shot a video and launched the thing. I wrote a brief piece on the experience and put it on LinkedIn, you can read it here if you like.

In retrospect, the six weeks the campaign ran for were among the most nerve wracking of my life. Most of the time it felt as if we were shouting off the edge of a cliff, in the dark. I quickly learned that social media is a frustrating universe where attracting attention to your project (creating awareness) is one thing, to then achieve the much coveted engagement, where the invisible user does more than just click the like button, is a mystery.

As any salesman will tell you the best way to close is direct selling. In the end it was the friends, friends of friends and family who made the bulk of the contributions to the campaign, as a result of us approaching them individually by email and telephone to outline the project and the perks available. Only a tiny fraction of the contributors came to us from campaigning on social media.

Rather wisely we had gone for the option on Indiegogo where you keep what you raise, rather than the all or nothing campaign type. At the end of our forty day period (in hindsight 30 days would have been enough) we had a sum that amounted to about ten per cent of the total budget we had calculated was needed to deliver a finished film ready for distribution.

The Cast (clockwise from lower left): Stephanie Figueira, Maarten Swaan & Karina Matas Piper, Wendy Lee Taylor & Hunter Tremayne, Jon Iriarte.

The mindset before the crowd fund was that if we raised the full amount we could go straight into pre-production. Now with only ten percent of the budget in the bank I had to work out what to do.

One option was to write a punchy trailer and shoot that, using it to raise the remainder of the money. Option two was to simply shoot as much of the film as the funds allowed and with that material put together a trailer to raise either the rest of the budget or simply another percentage that would allow us to shoot some more.

Pondering these questions drove me to despair and they started taking on philosophical implications rather than straightforward practical considerations. As I poured my heart out at one of the film makers group I attend as part of my treatment for film addiction, I bumped into Sabrina Sandoval. Liking the sound of the project she offered to get involved and with her production focus we sat down and made lists of what was needed, what was possible and how long it would take. With the money to hand all we could afford was camera hire, food and gasoline, so the objective became to shoot material that needed no lights and required no more than five days. I settled on shooting only the exterior scenes from the script, living on the Mediterranean who needs lights when you have sunshine every day.

You find out early on that the Holy Trinity of any project is Money, People and Time. How much you have of one determines how easily you can resolve the others. As we had very little money the brief then was to find people who were ready to give their time without charging because they saw the project as good for their CV and showreel. Not impossible but we needed to be organised and a nudge from Lady Luck just in case.

Living on the Mediterranean who needs lights when you have sunshine every day

With help from a friend I managed to get the local government of Cardedeu to let us use, at zero cost, the beautiful Masia of Sant Hilari owned by the town. Once we had the location we could set a date for shooting. Next was filling the crew roles and here social media and word of mouth worked hand in hand to help us and soon we were set to go.

The team that assembled quickly got to work, lots happened, lots went wrong and lots got resolved. As things progressed what I found hardest was to let go of the aspects that were not specifically connected to directing, until finally I managed to accept that others were now looking after logistics, production, camera hire etc.

I drew up a fantasy shot list which I presented to Michele Falci, the director of photography. We talked it over and then spent an entire day at the location making ground plans and plotting each of the camera position we would use. While doing this I remembered a quote from Stanley Kubrick who in the seventies had said that you can do with a Nikon SLR the same as with Panavision cine camera. What he meant was that you can visualise a film with either gadget, it is interesting that these days you can both visualise and also shoot a film with a DSLR. Our camera of choice was the Sony A7, small, affordable and shoots 4K, how do you like that Stanley!

The process of previsualising at the location was a great warm up, around the same time I was rehearsing with the actors, and each exercise began to feed the other in my mind and proved a great way to help define the look and feel of the film within the means available.

(clockwise) Michele Falci DoP, Sabrina Sandoval Production Manager, Raynald Korchia 1st AD

The “camera map” we obtained was given to Raynald Korchia, who had joined us a first assistant director, in charge of scheduling the shoot. As the sun was our lighting kit Michele asked for certain scenes to be scheduled at specific times of day. All these variables were taken by Raynald and an itinerary spanning five days was produced with every hour and minute accounted for. The daily dynamic was organised so that each of us could focus on our thing without having to stray or stress about tasks outside our purview.

The result was zero waste of either time or resources and working days that were intense but never exhausting, important when you have to keep the energy, mental and physical, for several days on the go. In the end we completed everything we set out to do in four days rather than in five. The equipment rental houses very kindly gave back the day rates for the fifth day we did not shoot, so that in the end the entire shoot cost just a fraction more than the funds raised through the crowd fund. The moral of this particular story being that preparation pays off.

The experience left me and all those who took part with a great feeling and even greater rushes in the can. A strong team has been formed and the resulting teaser trailer and making of video have garnered healthy interest in the project, just what is needed to conquer the next stage of this climb, raising more funds to finish the shoot. A new protagonist in this behind-the-camera saga has joined us, Rita Martinos, as producer and together with Georgina Tremayne, the writer, we launched a second funding drive that has managed to raise enough for us to film the remainder of the script. Stay tuned for the next chapter coming soon.

All stills courtesy of Mircius Aecrim

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