The Motion of the Sun- A Conversation with Writer/Director Marc Taurisano

motion of the sun

4749584 by Jason Godbey, Creative Director of Behind the Rabbit Productions

Recently I was invited to a screening of The Motion of the Sun by director Marc Taurisano.

I caught up with Marc and talked to him about his experience making the film. Marc began his career as a fiction writer of short stories. He wrote and directed plays for the Players Theater of Greenwich Village then started writing screenplays. The Motion of the Sun marks his first feature.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Jason Godbey: What was the inspiration behind your film, The Motion of the Sun?

Marc Taurisano: It was about people separated by age, race, and social class, but what they have in common is they’re both very lonely. It’s about loneliness and isolation and alienation and the need for human connection.

I wanted to make it different from a lot of the low budget dramas that were out there when I started writing it three years ago. There are three things I thought of: One, I wanted to have at least one lead actor who was a person of color. A lot of the indie dramas have been mocked for being completely white cast. The other thing is I wanted it to have was high stakes. A lot of these indie dramas are about people trying to find their way in life, about their job, “why isn’t my relationship working,” that kind of thing. I wanted to have life and death kind of stakes. I wanted to push into heavy drama.  I think if it’s crafted and intelligent enough, you can do that without it being melodrama. The third thing, I wanted it to be expansive and connected to a larger world of history and ideals.

JG:  Tell me about the production process.

MT: I set up the goal of writing something that would be very practical to produce, a small number of accessible locations and a small number of actors. I didn’t want to put anything in there that I wasn’t pretty confident I could get.

I was taking the attitude of “I’m just going to do this no matter what, and we’ll see what happens.” I didn’t even share the script with anyone whereas usually I will share it with a lot of people. In this case I just had it, and I just wanted to go forward with it. The first step I took was I decided to cast the the two leads by myself.

JG: How did you find your producing partner?

MT:  That was the next step. I was thinking about producing it myself or trying to, but then I just put an ad on Mandy.com. I got a ton of replies, and I interviewed them; from there I found Karen Seol. She brought in her crew,  her “dream team,” A lot of them were NY Film Academy Students.

JG: Once you got into production, what was the schedule like? How long did it take you?

MT: I wanted to shoot very fast. The entire movie was shot in ten days. Part of my plan to get higher production value was to shoot it over time, so we could show a change of seasons. We get to see Central Park in the spring and then in the autumn. We also have that summer scene on Coney Island. It was a total of ten days of production from late May to late October.

JG: How did you achieve the look of the film?

MT:  When I started planning it, I was thinking this would be like a [Canon] 5D type movie. But Keren Seol, my producer, and Benjamin Murray, my Director of Photography, really wanted to shoot on the RED camera, which surprised me. They insisted on it, and I’m glad I listened to them. Shooting on the Red elevated the overall quality of the film’s visuals.

I wanted it to differ from some of the conventions we see now. I didn’t want anything that felt shaky-cam. The camera shakes once but it’s at a very strategic point. I wanted everything to look very clear and transparent and not be conscious of the camera. I’m not a fan of the fake documentary look or the shaking camera or anything like that. I wanted it to look as composed as possible.

JG:  What was the post-production process? How were you able to finish the film?

MT: My excellent and gifted DP was also the editor, so as soon as we shot, in between break, he was already getting started on the edit, processing things, putting things together, seeing how they would look, so it went pretty smoothly. The movie is quite simple. Not to detract from its cinematic qualities, but it does have a stage play feeling to it. It’s a series of long scenes with lots of dialogue. It didn’t have the complexity of a typical movie where there’s so many scenes and so many cuts.

JG: What was the total budget of the movie? Did you have to raise money to finish?

MT: Yeah, we were running low, so we did an IndieGogo crowdfunding campaign for $10,000. We had about 75 people who donated all together, and 50% of our funding came from seven donors, all family and friends.

I think we were a little too optimistic when we started. The initial plan was not to do crowdfunding, I’ll put it that way. We ended up just over the $50,000 mark and that’s with submissions to festivals and printing DVD’s and Blu Rays and doing a screening.

JG: What’s your plan for distribution?

MT: We’ve submitted to a lot of film festivals, so we’re waiting to hear from them, and my producer is taking the next step to find a distributor. We’ll do festivals first and then seek distribution more aggressively.

JG: What lessons did you learn about making a first feature?

MT: The biggest lesson I learned was to not underestimate the importance of sound. We had a lot of sound problems. I was naive about filming in Central Park and all the issues that it creates. We ended up having to do quite of bit of ADR [Additional Dialogue Recording] which is tedious. If it can be avoided, try to avoid it.

I tend to be someone who wants to control things, but there were times when I just couldn’t. I had to just adapt, move with things and let them happen.

JG: Where does the title The Motion of the Sun come from?

MT:  The Motion of the Sun is metaphor for being in love and inevitability, so it has two meanings. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Our current tagline is “Sometimes nothing feels more real than an illusion.” The idea of the sun moving through the sky seems very real to us here on earth when really the sun isn’t moving at all. When you’re really in love with someone you see the illusion. You don’t see the reality.

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Making a first feature is no small feat, especially in the world of independent low budget/no budget/micro-budget filmmaking. It can be an arduous process that takes time, patience, and hard work to accomplish. Even with a complete film, there’s the costly and laborious task of finding distribution for the movie.

A first feature can act as a filmmaker’s resume and be the first building block of his career. At the most, it’s a successful endeavor that awards a director fame and fortune, but even in the least, it is his best learning experience..

 

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Man with a Movie Camera

4749584 by Jason Godbey, Creative Director of Behind the Rabbit Productions

Influences are extremely important to any artist. For the filmmaker, movies are like food, some more nutritious than others. In a sense, you are what you watch. Man with a Movie Camera is one of those films that has been a huge influence on me. It was one of the films that inspired my first web series, The Jessica Project.

Man with a Movie Camera is revolutionary and holds up incredibly well considering it was made over 85 years ago. It’s experimental, powerful, and free of convention. It’s a must-see for any filmmaker.

For more episodes of Watch This Film, check out our website: BTRP.NYC

 

The Making of Morning Birds

4749584 By Jason Godbey

This year I had the opportunity to work on a music video with my friends The End Men for their song, Morning Birds.

The concept of the video was to show the four members of the band as one person. We see them all living the same mundane existence during the day, and then becoming their true selves at night. To create this effect, we had each member  perform the same business. One after the other, we see them waking up, brushing their teeth, getting dressed, etc..  In post we cut  each action together in rapid succession (each shot lasting three frames) to achieve a kind of stop-motion effect.

The production had move fast because we were shooting just before the band was about to embark on their European tour, so we used  a run and gun approach.To make the most of each set up, we used two cameras for each shot. The lighting set ups were minimal. For the morning and office scenes, we used the natural light the space had to offer in addition to a single soft box light which could easily be moved.

For the bar scene, we filmed after the band played a gig at a local NYC venue. We recruited some friends to be in the scene and used bar’s crowd as extras. We used Canon DSLRs which shoot well in low-light, and we shot with the camera’s aperture nearly wide open which gave us a shallow depth of field and a filmic look.

With the day and night scenes in the can, we then  filmed performance shots of the band against a white wall again using a single light. These shots were intercut with the day and night scenes to create a parallel storyline.  This way we could see the band performing the song as well as being characters in the story.

For this video we took advantage of our opportunities. We used locations we could get for free, and the band and I were the crew. It was a real collaboration and a team effort. Because the concept was simple, we had a vision we could execute without using a ton of resources.

Filmmakers can learn a lot making music videos. They’re basically short films. The song is the script, and the visuals tell the story. Creating a music video forces you to think creatively especially if you’re working on a micro-budget or no budget production. If you’re a beginning filmmaker and don’t have a lot of money to make your first short, making a music video is a good way to hone your craft.

 

5 Basic Tips on Writing Press Releases

For Immediate Release

4749584 By Jason Godbey

Being an independent filmmaker often means taking on responsibilities that might be outside your comfort zone. For example: writing press releases. Personally I hate writing them, but I don’t have a PR agency, so I end up writing them myself. Sometimes I have help, sometimes not.

I agonize over writing press releases more than writing scripts. A well-written press release is important, so my first suggestion is get help. If you have a friend who writes well or you have the budget to pay a PR professional, definitely do it. It’ll save you a lot of time and grief. Usually PR people have contacts with bloggers and editors, so they may be able to help distribute your press release as well. That’s really where your money is going. If your PR person is good and can get you some traction on your new project, they’ll be worth every penny. But if you are forced to write it yourself, see if you can at least get someone to proofread it for you and give it a good edit before you send it off.

Before I started writing press releases, I asked some people who had experience writing them if they had any advice for me. I also read some articles online and, of course, a great many press releases. Here are some of my take-aways.

1: FIND A GOOD TEMPLATE

There are numerous templates available online for press releases. The good ones will tell you everything you need to include. You can see some samples written in that template, and fill in the blanks. For instance, most templates will tell you to have some sort of banner image at the top (like the one above). Once you find a template that works for you, keep it, stick to it, use it every time.

2: READ AS MANY TEMPLATES AS YOU CAN

It’ll give you an idea of the language and the style of writing you want to use. If you have a friend who has recently written a press release for her production, ask her to send it to you.

3: START WITH A HEADLINE

Remember, this is something to be published, so it has to have a grabber of a headline or people won’t read it.  The blogger or magazine editor may not use your headline, but give them something to work with.  A good headline boils down the essentials of the project and should make anyone who reads it want to know more.

4: DEVELOP A MARKETING/PR STRATEGY

This may be easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. You want to get the word out about your project, you’ve written your press release, so now what? Where are you going to send it? Do some research and find blogs and other publications that are right for your audience. Most blogs have a contact page or a way to email the editor. Gather some names and email addresses and create your distribution list. Start with smaller blogs and work your way up.

5: GIVE YOURSELF TIME

If you have to write one of these things, and you’re like me, someone who isn’t geared to this sort of writing, give yourself plenty of time before you have to send it out. This way you won’t be sweating over it the night before your deadline praying the right words come to you. Writing a good press release takes practice. Give yourself plenty of time and write a few drafts.

Like any other type of writing it may take a while before you’re good at it. Be patient with yourself and keep writing, and eventually you’ll be as good at writing press releases as you are at screenplays.