Film and Family

Ep. 31 - First Impressions on our First Feature Film

February 20, 2021 Kent & Anna Thalman
Film and Family
Ep. 31 - First Impressions on our First Feature Film
Film and Family
Ep. 31 - First Impressions on our First Feature Film
Feb 20, 2021
Kent & Anna Thalman

What is making a feature film actually like? Maybe you don't know where to start and you feel nervous to begin your journey. If you want to take a real look through the director or producer's eyes, this podcast is for you, recorded on the set of our latest production.

This podcast is owned and sponsored by Invisible Mansion Pictures. For more resources, visit us at:

Show Notes Transcript

What is making a feature film actually like? Maybe you don't know where to start and you feel nervous to begin your journey. If you want to take a real look through the director or producer's eyes, this podcast is for you, recorded on the set of our latest production.

This podcast is owned and sponsored by Invisible Mansion Pictures. For more resources, visit us at:

Ep. 31 - First Impressions on our First Feature Film

[00:00:00] Kent Thalman: [00:00:00] hi, I'm Kent. 

[00:00:02] Anna Thalman: [00:00:02] And I'm Anna

[00:00:03] Kent Thalman: [00:00:03] And this is film and family, a podcast for filmmakers who want to see real progress in their film, careers without sacrificing their health or relationships hit subscribe to never miss an episode. 

[00:00:14] Anna Thalman: [00:00:14] Let's jump right in. 

[00:00:16] Kent Thalman: [00:00:16] All right. We're joining you from day four of our onset in home. Feature film experiment. And, , we just recorded about five or more minutes of, , the episode before we realized that we weren't recording 

[00:00:33] Anna Thalman: [00:00:33] and we had to move anyway because our baby was crying and waking up. we tried recording from our room, which we don't usually do. So now we're back in the office and. 

[00:00:44] Kent Thalman: [00:00:44] As comfortable as it was, 

[00:00:45] Anna Thalman: [00:00:45] at least we didn't have to record the whole episode and then realize that it wasn't recording. So it could be worse. 

[00:00:53] Kent Thalman: [00:00:53] So This episode is all about what we're learning as we make this feature film. 

[00:00:59] Anna Thalman: [00:00:59] Yeah. [00:01:00] So we went into this with, this. Experiment in mind, which is the vision we have for the future of the film industry. At least as far as our production company is concerned. And that vision is a career where you're able to make feature films that are good that are very good. without sacrificing your health or your relationships, or, You know, having to work 12 hour days. So part of this experiment has been working six to eight hour days. At least that's the goal. we,

[00:01:34] Kent Thalman: [00:01:34] that's the goal

[00:01:35] Anna Thalman: [00:01:35] We haven't gotten it every single time of the four days. We've gotten it a little bit. And today we did it.

[00:01:45] Kent Thalman: [00:01:45] Yeah. Today we started shooting at one

[00:01:48] Anna Thalman: [00:01:48] it was a very late call time 

[00:01:50] Kent Thalman: [00:01:50] and we wrapped at nine. So we shot for eight hours. now I think one of the things we've learned is that although we are only shooting [00:02:00] for a limited number of hours compared to a 12 or more hour day, is that we're not working only that number of hours. In fact, we're working. From sunup to sundown almost every day. And that's because our pre-production wasn't I mean, as thorough as it was. We did as much script writing and rewriting and prep as we could. We stripped boarded and we, you know, we thoroughly budgeted, I wouldn't say thoroughly, but as much as we could, we, but we, we came up with the idea for this movie. What was it 

[00:02:39] Anna Thalman: [00:02:39] December? 

[00:02:40] Kent Thalman: [00:02:40] Oh, no, it was before December. We finished funding the movie in December. I think we came up,

[00:02:45] Anna Thalman: [00:02:45] I thought it was early December

[00:02:46]Kent Thalman: [00:02:46] we came up with the idea for the movie in October and we tried to shoot it in November, before the leaves changed. We weren't able to get funded in time for that, which we wouldn't have been ready at all. [00:03:00] Anyway. And then November, we were pushing on funding the whole month, as we kind of wrote a very rough first draft, right around Thanksgiving break. We sent out, I think the first draft and we rewrote all through December and then we were funded by Christmas and then everyone was out here and we prepped until mid February, just four days ago. Right. So. that's a pretty remarkable flip turnaround for a very first feature. We've never done a feature. 

[00:03:35]Anna Thalman: [00:03:35] very small crew. We have all of us doing lots of jobs and in some ways that's really good. It feels really nice to have a small team. We can all communicate with each other and get to know each other very well. And it's kind of like having this little set family, which is really nice and it's only day four. So I imagine by the end, we'll feel even [00:04:00] closer than we do now. It's been a good experience. I do think in the future, For us to be able to spread out that work and actually only be working six to eight hour days, even though we're only doing that many hours of shooting, like you said, for us to actually only be working that many, we would have to really, really be prepared more than we were. And part of shooting. This is just learning what that looks like because we prepare our day and we shoot, and then we realize. All the ways we need to prepare better and we do it again. And I do feel like it's getting better. It's getting smoother. We're getting into a kind of a, I keep saying groove, but that is not the word that I want. I can't remember, the word that I want but

[00:04:50] Kent Thalman: [00:04:50] sounds good to me 

[00:04:51] Anna Thalman: [00:04:51] we're getting kind of used to working together and, getting a process. That is starting to work for us. 

[00:04:58]Kent Thalman: [00:04:58] Well, let's talk about the [00:05:00] team I think that's some things that I've learned. So one of the things that I wanted was to do the cinematography by myself. I wasn't planning on having an AC team at all. Not because of pride. Mostly just because we wanted to keep the numbers really small and we wanted to be really lean and fast, that did not work out. I did not have an AC on day one and it was slow. It was hard to kind of run it by myself. Anna was slating and she was supposed to be directing. Right. And it's kind of hard to direct when you're slating and managing a bunch of other stuff. So we had this young kid, reach out to us on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and said, Hey, I'd love to intern on a set. And I'm surprised it's hard to train people and get people up to speed. But this kid is 18 years old. He's finishing up high school and starting concurrent enrollment at [00:06:00] college. And he's going to be going to Georgia state, I think in film. But he's not got a lot of experience. I'm surprised how helpful he is. Most of that is because his soft skills were through the roof. He's super positive and has a great attitude shows up early and works hard. That's the number one thing. but the other part of the equation is that, a really well-trained AC is worth their weight in gold, but at the same time, you know, an untrained AC is a million times better than no AC. and so he has, been a godsend. He was super on the ball and he's going to get credit and lots of experience in education out of this. And he's going to be ahead of his peers. He's certainly gonna be ahead of where I was at in terms of onset experience at his age. So that's been huge. Otherwise we have our small cast of. Our three kids and two adults. 

[00:06:51] Anna Thalman: [00:06:51] We do have one more intern who also volunteered to get experience. who's kind of helping in a lot of different ways as a PA, but [00:07:00] also helping me another young gal who's homeschooled and is able to make the time for this. And so that's been really nice. I don't want to leave her out, even though she hasn't been able to come as consistently. 

[00:07:13] Kent Thalman: [00:07:13] Yeah. And she's very helpful. I think the other person who might go down as the, one of the heroes of the film is a Chastity Demoors. Who's an actress, but she's also been getting a lot of production experience. She's been helping us with prep on, At The Edge of a Wood, which is our other feature that we've been developing a lot longer, but she, Is doing a lot of logistical, backend work. And she came on board the day before we started shooting and just started taking over loads of logistical to-do's and freed up a lot of our cognitive bandwidth, both Anna and I and our production designer, Claire. Yeah. Chastity has taken a ton of load off our, weight off our [00:08:00] backs what am I tryin' to say. so on, but on set. Yeah. It's Anna directing myself as cinematographer and producer. I'll talk about that in a second. And Michael a scene and we've got a kid from locally who is our sound mixer named Kai and, That's pretty much it. 

[00:08:21] Anna Thalman: [00:08:21] And our interns Michael and Shelley.

[00:08:23]Kent Thalman: [00:08:23] Yeah. And our interns, Michael and Shelley Michael I'm, you know, he's AC so pretty small. And then my mom came out to help prep food and watch our children when they're not being filmed or in a scene, which is a big, big job and another really major, huge help. some people on this film are getting paid. And a good handful of them are not getting paid. 

[00:08:48] Anna Thalman: [00:08:48] And even though we were technically budgeting for ourselves to get paid, most of that's going back into the film. 

[00:08:54] Kent Thalman: [00:08:54] That's typically the case with a lot of these films and hopefully we can manage to spare ourselves some [00:09:00] money at the end of all this, but, the movie is going to be worth it either way. And. I'm feeling really confident about how some of this stuff has been turning out. 

[00:09:10]Anna Thalman: [00:09:10] I mean, we just wanted to drop in and give you guys a quick update, but, Kent, I would, ask you, maybe, could you share what has been like the biggest thing you've learned so far in just these first four days?

[00:09:24] Kent Thalman: [00:09:24] Well, I will share the biggest thing as a DP and the biggest thing as a producer. 

[00:09:30] Anna Thalman: [00:09:30] Okay. 

[00:09:30]Kent Thalman: [00:09:30] I think as DP, what I've learned is deep cinematography has an, and the cinematographer of Manke has said this, cinematography has far more to do with editing than it does with photography. And I'm really realizing that that's true. Our job is to make sure that the images can cut that the coverage makes sense and that we're telling a story. [00:10:00] And the lighting has a lot to do with that. We are lighting with underwhelming firepower. we don't have a lot of light to kick in. And so I'm learning that shooting at night is very, very hard to do. If we don't have a lot of light shooting in the daytime is somewhat more doable. And I'm also learning that there are no rules in cinematography, but there are a lot of tools that can help you. So our post guide developed a lut in advance and that was pre-production really, and that's had a huge effect on my cinematography in the way I've been approaching it and shooting with a lut on monitor and, I can see the log raw image as well as the lut on my monitor, but he developed three, luts one was the real, lut the full color lut the second was a complete black and white version of the same lut . So we could see exactly the black and white tone. And the third one was a skin [00:11:00] color, pseudo false color. lut where the whole image is black and white, except anything that is exposed to 18% gray, which would be correct exposure for. Skin tone. Anyway, all three of those have been hyper useful and I've just found sometimes I shoot stuff that looks like I'm breaking the rules. I'm underexposing or crushing something. And sometimes I clip a little and there's just, I don't know, it's visual art, if it looks right, it is right. And I'm learning when I can do that. And when I can't. So I feel like I'm learning a lot, actually. It's remarkable how much shooting a feature has taught me about cinematography beyond shooting any of the short films that I've shot because day four is more days than I've ever shot on a short film, and we're going to go to 18. And I just think that's just great, great experience. 

[00:11:52] Anna Thalman: [00:11:52] Yeah 

[00:11:52] Kent Thalman: [00:11:52] As far as being a producer, the number one lesson I've learned, and this is probably the best lesson I've ever learned as a filmmaker, but a producer's [00:12:00] job is to be. A champion and cheerleader for the director and I'm learning how to do that. And I really, really do think that it's a very important job. cast and crew and drama and stuff like that. It's always going to happen and you need to have director that can hold her own and know what needs to be done. And what's going to make the film work. But it's extremely powerful if the producer believes in that director and isn't fighting against her, I really feel like the directors are almost always having to fight an uphill battle. So, I learned that actually for the first time I conceived of that notion was a documentary about Hayao Miyazaki and studio. Ghibli and. Suzuki I believe is the last name of the producer. he was a Monga editor and he just became a [00:13:00] producer with Hayao Miyazaki as he entered his directing career. And he just he just went to bat for him. He just believed in him. And I realized someone who believes in someone else other than themselves, that's the person who can make stuff happen. And so as producer. Believe in the film, believe in the director and their vision for it. And you will inspire confidence in the cast and crew and be able to unify the team almost more effectively than a director could do by themselves.

[00:13:29] Anna Thalman: [00:13:29] Yeah. Those are great lessons and it is hard to pick just one. I think if I were to pick one thing, that's standing out to me, at least right now that I've learned. It would probably be strangely enough, more respect for the role of a director as I'm now experiencing it. Because I guess I always kind of saw the role of a director as being the mediocre one. I know everyone gives the [00:14:00] director pretty much responsibility for how the film turns out, but it's not like the director is usually doing. The very detailed work that makes the film happen. You know, you're, not actually very good at any of the roles. You just have to manage all of them and oversee all of them. But I'm realizing there is a very specific skill set that is necessary for directing a film that takes leadership kind of to a new level that I hadn't experienced before. And I'm realizing that, As the keeper of the story, which is how Ron Howard describes the director's job, you have to have a vision that's very clear for what the story needs to be in all aspects. And you have to be able to defend that vision and make that vision happen no matter what, And that's a lot of decision-making so [00:15:00] lots of people asking questions and needing your answer, and there's a huge responsibility for how it does turn out and how you do respond to those questions. And there's also this aspect of, sometimes people are not going to like the decisions that you make, and I've never really had many issues with that. I've been in lots of. Kind of leadership positions before, but they were never, ones where people cared so passionately about what they were doing, that they would push back very much. It was usually kind of a, yeah, we're all gonna do this thing. And I'm just going to kind of divvy out the tasks or whatever. So I don't know, it's just been different and I think we all really want this movie to be good. So everyone's coming into it with their perspectives and their opinions and we, We kind of hash it out a little bit and I've had to make some decisions that I felt like the team disagreed with me on. And that was [00:16:00] really hard. I almost felt like that kind of leadership was very lonely. Almost like everyone was ganged up against me, which I know we all have the same goal. It's not true. They weren't ganged up against me. We all want this to be a good movie. But I, felt at certain moments when everyone didn't want to do what I was proposing, that that was the case and I felt kind of lonely, but, in the end I actually feel like holding my ground has helped me gain the respect of my team, because it's almost how kids sort of test boundaries and. They test those boundaries to make sure that they're safe. It helps them feel secure to know that those boundaries will hold them in and that their parents won't let them go beyond what is safe and what they believe is. Okay. And so I guess I almost feel that way with the team, like, that they're pushing back and I held my ground and that [00:17:00] almost gained some respect as opposed to buckling under the pressure and giving into whatever the majority of the group. Wants. And I think that's my job. that's kind of the job of a director that I hadn't realized before is to hold your ground. Even if you're alone, hold on to that vision and hold onto it. As everything is flying around in chaos, around you. And that's not an easy thing to do, but it is enjoyable in a lot of ways. it's cool to see it come together. 

[00:17:34]Kent Thalman: [00:17:34] Yeah, well, it's been really amazing watching you learn that. I mean, seriously, there was even the contrast from day three, a day four, which was today, which we've wrapped, day three was rough. We shot a whole scene that we went to bed and we just said, we're going to cut it. And it's an absolutely essential scene. We have to have it in the movie. We're going to have to reshoot it 

[00:17:55] Anna Thalman: [00:17:55] and we did like 10 takes or something of that scene. And we lost the light right after [00:18:00] we set it up and it looked beautiful and then the light was gone and it was just getting late. We were behind schedule and then we just cut it anyway. So, 

[00:18:09] Kent Thalman: [00:18:09] and so we reached out that today actually. And, we combined it with another scene. We were considering shooting today anyway, and kinda. Made up for time, that way a little bit. And, we, we made some major changes on day four where we said, okay. Oh man, that was a hard lesson to learn. I remember on ready or not, which was our short film. We had this idea of shooting it old Hollywood style where it was all on a boom sort of a jib. And, it would roll around on a track or on wheels and we would boom up and down and it would just look old Hollywood, where it was a very controlled frame, but there was a lot of movement and we just never let go of that vision. But the story in the movie suffered terribly for it. We had so little coverage to work with in the edit. And we were so [00:19:00] trapped on that movie and there were no happy accidents because when your gear is shaky and the stuff is faulty. And on set, when we realized we were doing take after, take after take, because the jib head was too Radley. You gotta throw the jib out, man. And we should have either put it on our shoulder or stuck it on a tripod and got. A heck of a ton of coverage and told the story at the end of the day. And so we've been moving a little slow because we wanted to shoot this all static on a tripod. And some of that has worked and some scenes it doesn't make sense to go shoulder, but then some scenes have felt so stifled and difficult. And so what we said today this morning even was Anna and I talked and we said, all right, If it's a scene with an adult, with a child and that child, you know, we can't expect them to deliver script we said that from the beginning, we don't believe in directing children. And then we kind of forgot it because we got on set. We said, well, here's what we wrote. And we don't know what else to [00:20:00] shoot. So let's just try and get the kid to say it. And then you end up banging your head against a wall. That wall, whose name is your child. And. that's super hard and it starts to get scary because we all start doing take after take, and we go, this isn't working.

[00:20:15] Anna Thalman: [00:20:15] They're not going to ever say the line. We want them to say 

[00:20:18] Kent Thalman: [00:20:18] yeah sometimes they'll just,protest and not do it period. Or if they do it, it's just a joke. And it's very, very scary. And then we just said, listen, this is not important. We don't need the children to say the lines and we have to get the actors to realize that they don't need to wait for the children to say their lines. For them to say the next thing or do something. So he said, what we're going to do is we're going to go shoulder. We're going to shoot the scene with the children and the actor's gonna just work his or her way through the scene with the child and cover most of the scripted ground. And we're going to roll through the takes so that we don't have to keep re slating with these children. That man [00:21:00] re slating is. Totally jarring for a child. 

[00:21:03] Anna Thalman: [00:21:03] I don't want to get too. I feel like we've been very technical with this episode and I know not all of our listeners are maybe as interested in all the technical details, 

[00:21:15] Kent Thalman: [00:21:15] sure but I only say that story as an illustration of a really hard decision that we had to make on day four to kind of change the vision, change the means of our filmmaking. In order to accomplish the ends that we wanted in the first place. And we shot that first scene today. We shot a scene with the father who's played by Brando and the son who is played by our son, Marshal . And we went shoulder, we rolled through the takes and Anna would just kind of say, let's do it again, but over here and let's do this or that we even would do lens changes without cutting. So we didn't have to re-slate and. It was remarkable the take, we got, it was Marshal's best acting. I mean, he didn't really do a whole lot of acting, but he was totally present and [00:22:00] interacted with, Brando. Some of Brando's best acting, I thought. And he kind of felt funny about it. He was like, I don't know. I just feel like I was doing stuff and it read like pure gold on camera and. It just felt great. I thought it felt amazing and it really felt more like our original vision, even though it was handheld instead of on a very composed, finely tuned tripod shot. 

[00:22:23] Anna Thalman: [00:22:23] Yeah. It kind of goes back again to the ends and the means we've done an episode on that and referred back to that episode many times. but as long as we're focused on the end goal, The means of getting there change. And now that we've gotten on set and we've worked with the actors and we've gotten kind of a taste of what it looks like, we've been adjusting the script, we're adjusting the characters to match what the actors are giving us. We're adjusting the story to match what. We have and what we're changing. And I don't know, it just, it is kind of this fluid living thing. And we're taking a leaf out [00:23:00] of Koreeda's book. He. Often does not write screenplays. He just kind of has a scenario in his head and he goes in and writes as he goes, as he's compiling things, as he gets it, I would still love, love, love, love to learn more about his process. He's written a book in Japanese, and as far as I know, it's not translated into english so 

[00:23:21] Kent Thalman: [00:23:21] any listeners who are remarkably fluent in Japanese, or know any world-renowned Japanese professors. We need this book to be translated into English. But yeah, that was remarkable. I thought when it was liberating last night, when we sat down and just said, what is our mom actress giving us? And we said, let's write a new scene based on the character that she's really bringing to the table, as opposed to trying to. I don't know. 

[00:23:49] Anna Thalman: [00:23:49] force her into something. 

[00:23:50] Kent Thalman: [00:23:50] Yeah. and she's given us Amazing performances, but it's not quite maybe what we imagined on in the writing phase. And we [00:24:00] felt like. What's the scene that would really bring that to full light. And so we've been kind of improvising things and thinking about it. and we wrote a whole new scene last night, which is not anything I ever expected to do. And we shot some doc ideas and random stuff today. And we're just rolling with it and changing the strip boards. And, it's a little crazy, but it's pretty awesome.

[00:24:22] Anna Thalman: [00:24:22] Yup. Well, I think we should wrap up this episode because it's late and we've got another, you know, 14 days of shooting left to go. And we just wanted to pop in, give you guys an update. Let you know that things are going well in a lot of ways, and we appreciate your prayers on our behalf. And, we're thinking of you and trying to learn these lessons and be able to share them with you. So, we look forward to talking again next week and sharing more 

[00:24:51] Kent Thalman: [00:24:51] peace out. 

[00:24:52] Anna Thalman: [00:24:52] Bye.