Richard Schenkman MFE Blog, part two:
As the producer/director of a low-low budget film, you're always wearing both hats at the same time. You simply don't have the luxury of ever saying, "Now I'm just the director, concentrating solely on creative issues." Every single decision is tempered by the financial impact.
First, the Producer hat:
Initially, I modeled this production after two examples: producer/director Gary Winick's InDiGent projects ("Tadpole", "November", "Personal Velocity"), and my friend Dean Alioto's indie "L.A. Dicks". Gary's company produced well over a dozen movies using the same template: a modest budget, shooting on miniDV, with every cast and crew member making a miniscule per-day fee, but sharing in the proceeds of the film along with the investors. These films were generally shot in four weeks.
I loved that concept, but we were under limited budgetary constraints. My friend Dean had spent considerably less money and only two weeks making his film, and that sounded more realistic. So combining these two approaches, I started formulating a plan: I would shoot on miniDV, in two weeks, for an extremely modest budget. Everybody would make a pittance, but everybody would share in all proceeds.
Switching to Director hat:
As part of my preparation for this project, I re-watched Sidney Lumet's classic "Twelve Angry Men", not only because it's a great movie, but also because nearly the entire picture takes place in one room, in real time, just like "Man From Earth". And while Sidney Lumet has been one of my heroes for many years, I had never read his book, "Making Movies". I finally did, concentrating most specifically on the pages dealing with "Twelve Angry Men". He described his intense two-week rehearsal period, followed by a super-fast 19-day shoot. It sounded wonderful.
Again, inspired by Dean's example, I initially thought I'd shoot for two weeks (twelve days), and I began to work with Marco Black (a very experienced, successful First Assistant Director) on a shooting schedule. I told Marco about Sidney Lumet's method on "Twelve Angry Men" (Lumet's first movie, by the way). Marco absorbed that concept and came back to me with an interesting proposal: I should follow Lumet's example and rehearse for a week, and shoot for a week. The idea was that I'd put the actors through their paces so that by the time we got on set, like Lumet's cast, they'd be able to instantly go to any moment in the script and not only know their lines, but where they were emotionally. Plus, I'd save production money because instead of having a crew, equipment, location, vehicles, etc, for two weeks, I'd only have them for one. I found this idea very exciting, and decided to take a big leap and embrace it.
Part III Coming Soon!