The Rocky Steps

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

For filmmakers, the making of Rocky is just as inspirational as the movie itself. Sylvester Stallone was an unknown, unemployed actor who at an audition with producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler mentioned that he was also a writer. Because they liked him, they said come back when you have something, and he came back with Rocky. They liked the script and the character so much they wanted to buy it, but Stallone, who was desperate for money at the time, refused to sell unless he could star in it. United Artists wanted a name actor to play the title character, but Stallone stuck to his guns and won the role.

With a modest budget of under a million dollars, the filmmakers shot guerilla style on the streets of Philly. With the the use of the steadicam, a new invention at the time, they were able to shoot on the fly and give the film its unique look and feel. Rocky would later go on to become a sleeper hit grossing 10 times its budget and winning three Oscars including Best Picture.

Rocky would later become a major film franchise garnishing five sequels. Recently the franchise found new life with Ryan Coogler’s Creed. Sylvester Stallone reprised the role of Rocky Balboa for the seventh time and was nominated for an Oscar.

Rocky is an inspiration for anyone looking to make it in Hollywood. The technology and the method of making films may have changed dramatically over the years, but it’s still the will and spirit of those involved that get them made.

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The Auteur

By Jason Godbey, Creative Director of Behind the Rabbit Productions

“All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman, and a pretty girl.”-Charlie Chaplin

The Auteur was inspired by a story I heard about Charlie Chaplin’s film City Lights. Reportedly, Chaplin went weeks over schedule while shooting the scene where the girl presents a flower to the Tramp. When asked why he went over schedule, Chaplin said the actress, Virginia Cherrill, didn’t know how to hold a flower. I thought it might be fun to dramatize that. In order to make a film about something that happened to Chaplin, I wanted to make it in the style of Chaplin. I decided it would be a silent film in black and white with title cards.

The movie came about very quickly. I wrote the script very fast, and we shot it in one day. The budget was non-existent. I spent $9 on the bouquet of flowers and a little bit on lunch, and that was it.

My friend Daniel Lugo, who I met during the making of my very first film, was the cameraman and he shot on a borrowed Canon XL1.

I knew I needed an actress who would be able to understand the material and be able to get the silent film acting style right away. My friend Brianna Hansen was the only choice. Having acted with her in theatre, I knew we had chemistry, so I cast myself in the Director role.

I knew Tony Soll from theatre and music projects we had done tougher, and before we started shooting, he played me a guitar piece he’d written. As soon as I heard it, I knew it was perfect. He agreed to record it for us, and a month later we had a complete movie.

To this day, I still get compliments on The Auteur. It’s a tribute to Chaplin that I’ll always cherish. It’s a great reminder to me of what you can do with just a park, a great actress, a camera, and some very skilled friends.

 

 

No Rest for the Weekend-Preproduction

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

Preproduction is probably the most underrated and important phase of moviemaking. For our short film The Last Hit, we prepped for months to make sure we had everything we needed to make the movie successfully without running out of time, money, or film.

The Challenge

When we made The Last Hit , the challenge we set ourselves was to make a movie using only four rolls of black and white film that had expired 14 years earlier. The film was so old we didn’t know if we’d even get an image. Four 100-foot rolls of 16mm film equals about 11-12 minutes of useable film, so we were only going to be able to shoot one or two takes of each shot. The film  stock was also discontinued, so we wouldn’t be able to buy any more of it. 

The Script

It took me a few months to settle on a story that was simple enough to work, given our resources. I wanted to do something with limited characters and locations. Eventually, I came up with a script with just two characters and one location. 

Storyboards

The great cinematographer Michael Chapman once said, “It’s important that storyboards not be any good or be well drawn in any way.” Since I can’t draw, I was very encouraged by this. Because we had so little film to work with, I needed to have the whole movie edited in my head before we stepped foot on the set. I even created an animatic (an animated storyboard), so anyone could see the movie before we shot a single frame. 

The original cinematographer on the project was called away a week before we were scheduled to shoot. Snyder Derival was going to be a gaffer on the picture, but Snyder, a strong cinematographer in his own right, was able to step into the role.The storyboards and animatic made that transition easier for him. Storyboards are amazing because they tell you everything and cost you nothing.

Planning your film will save you time and money. In preproduction, you can see which shots are doable considering your budget and, more importantly, which ones aren’t. Writing for the locations, props,  and equipment you own or have access to and being able to work within that framework will allow you to create an efficient production that runs smoothly.

Resource filmmaking is all about using what you have and writing within your means. If you’re a DIY filmmaker without a budget, writing and planning a project that’s dictated by your resources is essential. The more you embrace your circumstances and work within your means, the better your film will be.