31 March 2011


This counts as working, right?

Hello Film Courage

Our good friends at Film Courage can't make it to Ego Fest, but they send their regards from the sunny confines of LA. Be sure to check out the trailer and check it out on Facebook.

28 March 2011

Trailer alert

One of the many cool people I've met thus far is Jeremy Wilker (a.k.a. @TWEAK). Long story short, he shot the very cool looking TRIUMPH 67, which will premiere next month in Minneapolis. Check out the trailer.

27 March 2011


Jessica London-Shields

Wendy Jo Carlton's JAMIE AND JESSIE ARE NOT TOGETHER is one of those films that I really wish was filming during A Year Without Rent, mostly because I think it would be fascinating to work on a musical. Or, as Wendy Jo calls it, "a film with musical numbers". Either way, I think the process of the musical would be interesting from a production standpoint. [Similarly, it would have been a lot of fun to work on Gary King's musical].

So, when Wendy Jo suggested I come by while they were recording some music, I figured that was more or less the next best thing. Which is how I'm walking around Chicago, trying to find a recording studio. Could I drive? Sure, but I'm getting to the point where I'm not exactly looking forward to being in my car any more than I have to.

And, as usual, I have no idea where I am.

audio mixing

JAMIE AND JESSICA is most easily described as a "lesbian musical" (or, "lesbian film with musical numbers") and essentially what we're doing here today is overlaying some vocals over musical numbers. Think of ADR, but with singing.

Wendy Jo Carlton

Beyond that, I don't really know what's going on. I haven't read the script. I haven't even seen any footage other than what's available online. Really, my role here is "photographer". Easy enough. I can do that.

hug it out

After a while, a gay couple that functions as the film's Greek Chorus comes in to add their parts. Neither are actors (or singers), but they both have pretty fantastic beards, which I suspect is how they ended up in the movie. Sure enough, they're friends of Wendy Jo. But, hey, if you need a Greek Chorus for your film, of course you're going to ask your friends with fantastic beards. That's how these things work.

And so they attempt to record their audio.

You know that scene in AMERICAN MOVIE where Mark is trying to get Bill to record ADR? It's kind of like that, only with 10 takes instead of 50. The real shame of it all is that the isolation booth for dialogue/singing is way too small to get a camera in there. Believe me, I tried.

Check out the trailer, over on YouTube.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

25 March 2011

I Slept Here #8: Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

24 March 2011

La La La

Recording music for a lesbian musical. Luckily for everyone, they didn't ask me to sing.

Jessica London-Shields

Conversations with Lucas: Rick Vaicius

Flyway Film Festival's head honcho tells us a little about his festival in rural Wisconsin.

We think it should definitely be on your submission list.

I Slept Here #7: Madison, WI

The weather being what it was last night, I pulled over and got a hotel room. Could I have pushed on? Probably. But I have to keep reminding myself that this is a marathon and not a sprint.

Madison, WI

23 March 2011

More on the Free Beer


I like to joke sometimes that you aren't really a filmmaker until you've had a ten minute discussion on set revolving around just exactly how much of a logo you can show before you have to pay for it. If you get it wrong, you can potentially screw yourself over pretty good. Sure, you can just put a strip of tape over the logo, or take it down, but that can just scream "cheap".

A lot of filmmakers have a creative method to this. They'll either find a narrative way around it, or they'll create their own "brand" of whatever. Kevin Smith does this a lot. Or you can try and get permission from a local company or whatever.

Of course, that's a hassle and, well, it's really time consuming. Plus, it might not work.

So that's why my ears immediately perked up when Phil Seneker told me that Brainerd Lakes Beer (@Spike_Pike) was looking to get in the indie film game. I knew they had worked with Phil Holbrook on making a limited-run beer to help promote his feature film TILT. But it's one thing to support the feature film in your community. What did he have in mind, exactly?

Tilted T-Ale

Well, here's what they want to do:

Recognizing that being the beer in a film is a pretty cool and low-cost bit of publicity (and probably that the type of people who watch indie films also tend to drink a lot of beer), they're offering to let filmmakers use their beer in their films, free of charge. That, all by itself, is pretty awesome. It's one less thing to worry about. [Note to future A Year Without Rent projects: I've got a case of the TILT beer in my car, so let's see how many places we can work it in. It'll be fun!]

But it gets better than that. Their beer might not be in your town (it probably isn't), so they'll send you a case for free. Yes, for free. That's their hope, at least. But don't come yelling at me if you live in some draconian state like Pennsylvania and you can't get beer shipped to you or whatever. Here, listen to Jesse tell you himself.

It's a beautiful thing for filmmakers, but it's kind of a fascinating move from a business perspective. This is a really small, up and coming craft brewery. What better way to increase demand for your beer than to place it in high-ish profile places around the country? It's kind of brilliant, if you ask me.

Not to mention, it's really good beer. Trust me, I drank a lot of it.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

Q&A: Phil Seneker

Fresh of his Ego Fest screening of A MUSING, Phil Seneker regaled the crowd with tales of production.

Free Beer!!!


22 March 2011

I Slept Here, #6: Pepin, WI

Pepin, WI by lucas.mcnelly
Pepin, WI a photo by lucas.mcnelly on Flickr.

Zuna is a pretty effective alarm clock.

21 March 2011

Ego Fest Day 1

Important, sort of

Here's what I've learned so far: no matter where you are in the country, Brainerd is a long way away. Like, a really long way away. I'm told this is Central Minnesota, but who are we kidding? This is where they filmed FARGO. Thing is, I knew that but I was still under the impression that Brainerd was an hour or so outside of Minneapolis--until I looked at the map.

It's far. Really, really far.

My GPS took me around the Twin Cities, and I barely saw them. Then, the interstate turned into a divided highway, and for two and a half hours, the roads got smaller and smaller. The snow started reappear. Then suddenly I'm driving by a frozen lake so large I can't see the other shore.

1 of 10,000

FARGO, indeed.

And what the hell am I doing all the way up in Brainerd? I'm here for Ego Fest, one of the events on the calendar that brings the online film community together but, you know, in person. It's a rare chance to break free of the 140 character restrictions. Or, to paraphrase what Jake Stetler said, "it's really invigorating to spend a couple of days with so many like-minded people".

I hit Brainerd around 8pm and Phil Holbrook has me meet him at the Last Turn Saloon, a very cool bar where you're required to throw your peanut shells on the floor. Phil Seneker (A MUSING, MISSING ELIZABETH) is already there, working his way through the bar's New York themed drinks.

A MUSING poster

Phil and I are in the same hotel (a hotel room! My Own Hotel Room!!!), so we're pretty much carpooling around Brainerd all weekend. Friday's events start around 6pm, so the next afternoon is spent catching up on work and meeting Phil Holbrook for lunch. We do a few local TV interviews. And then people start showing up.

Meet the Press

Between this and DIY Days, I'm really working my way pretty quickly through the Twitter film community. Here in Brainerd are: Jake Stetler (@jakestetler), Julie & Jessica (@kingisafink), Phil Holbrook (@philontilt), Phil Seneker (@philseneker), Nathan Schilz (@StudioAlethea), Jim Vendiola (@kinosaur), Jeremy Wilker (@TWEAK), Rick Vaicius (@FlywayFilmFest), Jennifer Peepas (@JPeep), and many others.


The schedule is a pretty eclectic one, as you might expect from a shorts fest. The production value ranges from the very low to the very high. The first block ends with John T. Trigonis' CERISE, and John Skyped in for a Q&A, live from Jersey.

Phil Seneker (minus director David Spies, who got stranded in Seattle), closes the second block with a Q&A for A MUSING.

Then, it's to the after-party for the real focus of the evening: the release of Brainerd Lakes Beer's "Tilted T-Ale", a beer made for and named after Phil Holbrook's upcoming feature film TILT (of which we got a nice sneak peek in the second block). And, man, is it good beer.

Tilted T-Ale

Tomorrow: a full day of Ego Fest. Stay tuned….

20 March 2011

#EgoFest Wrap Up

On the way to the airport, Jake Stetler and Phil Seneker joined Phil Holbrook and I at the home of one of Brainerd's most famous residents.

Important, sort of by lucas.mcnelly
Important, sort of a photo by lucas.mcnelly on Flickr.

Q&A: John T. Trigonis

Immediately after his Ego Fest screening of CERISE, John T. Trigonis appeared via Skype to answer questions. Here is some of that exchange.

19 March 2011

Conversations with Lucas: Phil Holbrook

As part of Ego Fest, Phil Holbrook screened an early look at some scenes from his feature film TILT. I spoke to him in the hallway very soon afterward.

Sideways from Ego Fest

So Phil made the common mistake of getting the video sideways on his iPhone, but here's the video anyway. Just, I dunno, turn your monitor sideways or something.

Watch live video from EgoFest on Justin.tv

Meet the Press

Meet the Press by lucas.mcnelly
Meet the Press a photo by lucas.mcnelly on Flickr.

Phil Seneker is gonna be on the news.

18 March 2011

A MUSING poster

A MUSING poster by lucas.mcnelly
A MUSING poster a photo by lucas.mcnelly on Flickr.

Phil Seneker is ready to roll at Ego Fest.

Via Chicago

Is it just me, or shouldn't the toll roads be really well-maintained?

17 March 2011

Self Portrait

Self Portrait by lucas.mcnelly
Self Portrait a photo by lucas.mcnelly on Flickr.

If you see this, come say hi.

15 March 2011

Oil Change

Note the cat.

Day 3 of Mattson Tomlin's DREAM LOVER

Adam peels back the layers

To quote Mattson, "this was Jon's day. He saved us." That would be Jon Robertson, who was mostly missing yesterday. Turns out he was driving all over the place, finding us a new location to work as a frozen lake, seeing as there's been a bit of a warm spell the last couple of days and no one really feels comfortable going out on the ice. And who can blame them?

But he came through. He found us a field in a park. Combine that with the 4 fresh inches of snow that fell last night and you've got a pretty good lake substitute.

mattson looks on

maria cold

Oh but Jon wasn't done. Today's scene exists in two parts: Anderson (Adam M. Griffith) and Old Anderson (Adam M. Griffith). So essentially we have to film the first part of the scene, then Adam has to go through 1-2 hours of makeup to look old. Either we do that in a car (awkward), outside (too cold), or we go to Jon's parent's house, a handful of minutes away. And so we showed up en masse, pretty much unannounced and took over their house. Like most parents of filmmakers, they weren't all that surprised. They knew there was a production going on and they knew what "we might stop by" really meant.

Side note: there should be a support group for the parents (and significant others) of filmmakers. They can all compare horror stories and we'll, by extension, look less crazy when our families realize that compared to other filmmakers, we're pretty normal.

And so we took over their house. I watched hockey with Jon's father while transferring footage. We ate lunch. They dug out a box of hand warmers and passed them around. They even loaned our DP Filipp some boots. And Adam got his old makeup done. Then, back to the field, where we raced the sun.

mattson filipp and adam

Back on the soundstage, we filmed an improvised bit where Adam removes his makeup, and Maria Rowene did some acting under a spotlight. This film, more so than I thought from the script, really gives Maria a chance to show her range. Hell, just the opportunity to be a monster and a real person is a lot. If you're casting a film, she's definitely worth exploring.

Day 4 of Mattson Tomlin's DREAM LOVER

Maria Rowene

A question of authorship and culpability: if a director has you break a mirror, who gets the 7 years of bad luck? Is it the person who actually broke the mirror or the person who wanted the mirror broken? Does the bad luck even apply if the mirror was broken on purpose, to achieve a specific goal?

Side note: I wonder what the cashier at Target thinks when 4 guys buy 10 full-length mirrors and 2 cases of Red Bull. That can't be a normal day.

The mirror works like this: They have to be removed from the frames, which results in maybe 7 of them surviving undamaged (they're kind of cheap). The broken ones go in a pile. The rest are placed face-down on the floor, then epoxied to some wooden stands held down by sandbags and cans of paint. Meanwhile, Shane Sheely takes to the broken parts with a hammer in an attempt to test out an idea. So, if anyone is going to get the bad luck, I'd put money on Shane.

Shane's A-Rod impression

Then, it's a question of arranging the mirrors in a way to achieve a maximum effect while hiding the cameras and lights and crew and whatnot. Easier said than done. I'm the stand-in for this part. I'm pretty good at being a stand-in.

As you can see, there's a lot going into this. The mirrors have to be cleaned. In the end, we had to gaff tape the edges so they'd blend into the black background. All so Maria Rowene could step in and do her thing.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

From there, we move across the street to a room with a really big red wall that, for some reason, proves incredibly difficult to photograph. We've been joined by Logan Bruner, who plays young Anderson. Logan is a Mets fan who makes me feel incredibly old by not even knowing who Bill Buckner is. This, of course, is like a knife in the heart of a Red Sox fan. How could he not be aware of such pain and heartache? Simple. It was over a decade before he was even born. Bloody hell.

Filipp & Logan

Logan & Maria

One nice thing about young actors is how much energy they bring to a production. Logan is either the most gung-ho kid around or he found one of the cases of Red Bull. For example, he doesn't mind running down a hallway in front of a motorcycle. In fact, he thinks it sounds like a really cool idea. And he's right. Maybe it's because the rest of us are older (and wiser?), but we're a bit nervous.

The motorcycle madness ends just before the building opens for the day. And that, is a wrap on DREAM LOVER.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I'm getting pretty good at being a stand-in.

14 March 2011

13 March 2011

Looking for projects

Hey everyone,

So some of you may have heard that our project for the last couple of days got pushed back in the calendar, so we've kind of been spinning our wheels for a couple of days. Well, actually the plan was to take the time to work on my film UP COUNTRY, but...um...then this happened: 

These things happen. I've been catching up on my sleep here in Pittsburgh and working on some organizational stuff. So things have been quiet but not unproductive. I figure it's wise to rest when forces outside our control say that maybe I should rest.

Also, it doesn't hurt to have a martini or two.



Soon, though, we'll be back on the road, bringing you some great stuff. But, we still need more projects. The plan right now is to head toward Brainerd, MN for Phil Holbrook's EGO FEST, so we'd love to pick up some stuff in the middle of the country. Don't hesitate to contact us (or, just contact me, since that's what everyone seems to be doing anyway: lmcnelly [at] gmail.com) 

If you (or someone you know is on the fence), here's an example of the benefits: 

 ++ You get this sort of volunteer work on your film

 ++ I'll take lots of nice pictures of your production, working with you based on whatever you do and don't want to show. 

 ++ I'll write nice things about your project, which people can find at the following places: 

1. Film Courage 

2. The Mubi Garage (a.k.a. The Auteurs Garage) 

3. Our Webpage

and, coming soon...

4. Filmmaker Magazine

Yup, I'm going to be writing some articles for Filmmaker that take something of a different tact than the normal blog posts, but I'll still be talking about the films I work on along the way. Keep an eye out for that.

And, I'm sure there will be more to come. Wouldn't you love to have that sort of buzz for your project while you're still filming? Sure you would.

Let's get you on the schedule. 

Oh, and watch the videos (or at least the ads). The money we get from those will help keep us on the road. 



11 March 2011

RISING STAR screening, Part 2

Actor & Producer Gary Ploski reflects just after the sold out rough cut screening of his film RISING STAR.

10 March 2011

I Slept Here, No. 3: Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, PA by lucas.mcnelly
Pittsburgh, PA a photo by lucas.mcnelly on Flickr.

Some of you may recognize that cat as being the incarnation of pure evil.

Damned French

Turns out the Swedes don't like the French either.
Full disclosure: I like the French. At minimum, I like their movies.

09 March 2011

DIY DAYS (some thoughts)


Last year, I went to DIY Days at the behest of Pericles Lewnes. I was about to screen my film BLANC DE BLANC at Pericles' Annapolis Pretentious Film Society (side note: if you've got a feature you're looking to self-distribute, APFS is fantastic) and he was able to convince me to make a loop of the trip, going from Pittsburgh to Annapolis to New York and then back to Pittsburgh. I hadn't been to New York City in years, so it didn't take much to convince me.

If you've never been shepherded around the indie film community by a veteran who knows everyone, you simply must do it.

When I was scheduling A Year Without Rent, one of the first things I put on the schedule was DIY Days. It's a rather essential date in the calendar for people like me.

As usual, some of the most valuable parts of DIY Days happen outside of the conference itself. When you get that many creative people with that many ideas in the same room, you inevitably find yourself in a hour-long conversation in the hallway, only to realize you missed that one speaker you really wanted to see.

This year, I missed half of Ted Hope and Christine Vachon's "fireside chat" because I was having lunch with #scriptchat guru Jeanne V. Bowerman and filmmaker Brian Kazmark and the conversation went long. Jeanne is as compelling a conversationalist in real life as she is online, even without the tequila.

Jeanne comes prepared

Some thoughts on DIY Days, from the perspective of someone who's kind of familiar with all of this:

++ It was refreshing to see that last year's fear of social media was pretty much missing. Or maybe just those people were missing. Either way, it's nice to not have speakers hi-jacked by that sort of thing.

++ The live stream was great, as I was able to discuss a speaker with someone who was watching in another part of the world. Naturally, this happened over Twitter. I don't remember the live stream being that well executed last year (did we even have one?).

++ Lance Weiler's PANDEMIC is much, much cooler than the buzz I'd heard indicated. If you want example of just far transmedia can go right now, this is the project to check out.

And you probably already knew that Lance is the guy behind this event.


++ At the afterparty, I spoke for a while to Nicholas Diakopoulos, who gave a great presentation on the value of data, which sounds really boring, but it isn't. Of course, I have an unhealthy obsession with spreadsheets, so this was like catnip to that part of my brain.

Talking to him, I was struck by the simple fact that Nicholas doesn't really know all that much about the film process. At first, I was thrown, but then I thought about it. Why should he? We're not going to get better at what we do until we start listening to people outside of our community.

++ The speakers, as usual, were quite good. And maybe it was a little different, this being my second time around, but it just wasn't quite as "cool" as last year. Again, that could mostly be me. Still, it's a hell of an event, and a great chance to put faces to twitter handles.

Or, sometimes not.

08 March 2011

Sick Baby

The plan today was to start an editing pass on my film UP COUNTRY. And now, well, not so much.

I Slept Here

Novelist Alyson Jane, who along with her husband (actor Gary Ploski) hosted me for a couple of days, had a fun suggestion for a series of photos called "I Slept Here". It's pretty much exactly what you'd think.

So here's the bed (a bed!) in their spare room:

Yorktown Heights, NY

And then a couch at Josh Thomas' house in PA (note the swing that's bolted to the ceiling):

Wexford, PA

07 March 2011

Lost in the World

It's a travel day. My GPS wants me to go one way, but I'm stubborn.

Conversations with Lucas: Marty Lang

Filmmaker Marty Lang talks to Lucas about his test screening while the whole experience is still fresh

Conversations with Lucas: @CriticalTodd

@CriticalTodd, who by the looks of this video has a Banksy level of anonymity, was at DIY Days, and in probably the only conversation I had in a room quiet enough to record audio, we talked about the motivation of a filmmaker to actually, you know, make films.

06 March 2011

05 March 2011

Conversations with Lucas: Marty Lang


I'm writing this on a train to NYC for everyone's favorite annual bash, DIY Days. Last night, I crashed on the couch of one of our backers because, well, he offered (thanks, Gary!) and I didn't really want to drive into the city if I didn't have to.

Last night, my friend Victoria Westcott "pulled a Year Without Rent" and put together a miracle finish to her Kickstarter campaign for LOCKED IN A GARAGE BAND, which just happens to be one of the films on our schedule. Much congratulations to Victoria (and Jen) for joining the Kickstarter Miracle Club. It's a small club, but we're all very friendly.

As you might guess, I'm expecting to get a lot of content at DIY Days, so expect that over the coming days. But first, in case you missed it, here's a summary of Andrew Brotzman's Nor'easter:


In almost every way, this was a much different project from Mattson Tomlin's DREAM LOVER. Whereas on DREAM LOVER, we were near a city, mostly inside on sound stages, filming hyper-fantastical stuff, Nor'easter was in one of the most remote places in the country, all either outside or in poorly insulated interiors, and authentic down to the bone.


If you aren't all that familiar with costal Maine (and even if you are), you probably have no concept of the island of Vinalhaven. To get there, you have to drive nearly two hours north of Portland to the town of Rockland, which is moderately well-known. From there, you have to take an hour and a half ferry ride to the island. It's a sparsely populated place in the summer. In the winter, it's virtually empty.

Did I mention that it's February? In Maine? To say it was cold is an understatement. We were all wearing layers for the interiors. It was a brutal shoot, made rewarding by the fact that Andrew Brotzman and his producer Veronica Nickel assembled an exception cast and crew from literally all over the world. I'm still not sure how they convinced people of that caliber to go out there.

2 guys & a cabin


I was only on the shoot for a couple of days, and the environment made shooting video virtually impossible, but I did get a little. And I managed to get some nice photos. Take a few minutes and check them out.


Our Hotel


But, more importantly, I think they're going to come up with a really, really nice film. Keep an eye out for this one.

Oh, and check out the Nor'easter tag

Also, the rest of the photos

And, obviously, the Nor'easter webpage.