Directing fellowship in Los Angeles a jubliant experience

11/24/2013 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:20 AM

I’m back from a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles, where I had been selected for a directing fellowship though the L.A. Skins Fest.

No, it’s not porn. It’s “Skins” as in Native Americans. It’s an organization led by Ian Skorodin that annually produces several festivals spotlighting music, film and art.

It also nurtures budding artists through many initiatives. I was selected for the directing fellowship in August, and had to write a short script that was workshopped with members of the Writers Guild of America-West.

My script became “The Burden of Being,” set in the year 2061, after a great war where only one race is recognized. My story centers on a Native American man who is imprisoned for speaking his tribal language.

In September, I flew to Los Angeles to shoot a scene from that script in a workshop setting. The program was sponsored by CBS, so we had access to the CBS lot, where I was assigned a camera man, two actors and a mentor director. It was a wonderful — but quick — experience.

As a fellow, I was also required to attend the L.A. Skins Fest film festival in Los Angeles, where I would participate in a 48-hour film competition where the directors (three of us) would shoot the projects that we had workshopped.

In preparation for that, I was assigned a producer, Patricia Gomes, who held auditions for actors. I watched video footage and cast my selections from that.

Afterward, a new producer came on board, Curtis Bridenstine, who was in charge of hiring the crew and securing shooting locations.

I did as much prep work as possible, with shot lists and story boards that I drew on the plane ride on Nov. 10. (We were allowed to do as much pre-production as we wanted, we just couldn’t shoot or edit until that 48-hour period.)

Once in L.A., things moved fast. Our call to set was 6 a.m. the next day. I was staying with Janna Lopez, my location sound recordist, and we had to get up at 4:15 a.m. in order to make it to the set on time.

I did everything I could to calm my nerves. I was walking into all of this completely cold — I hadn’t met my actors (save for one that I already knew) or my director of photography or seen any of the locations. It was all daunting, to say the least.

But the morning got off to a swift start, after I met actors Noah Watts and Ross Crain. We talked about the scene at hand, and they were completely game and prepared. Everything just clicked. Hallelujah.

After that, we broke for lunch and then moved to some park locations to get some exterior shots with my great friend, actress DeLanna Studi.

After that, we moved back to the original set to finish the shoot. All in all, it was a fantastic day. Everyone collaborated wonderfully and the energy was powerful, despite fatigue.

We got some rest that night (finally), then the next day tackled editing with my editor/director of photography Matthew Stumphy. We worked all day and into early morning. Curtis and I eventually turned in our film with 90 minutes to spare. The films were then turned over to industry executives for judging.

The film festival started on Nov. 13. And as part of the program, the short films we made were shown on Nov. 16 at the Regal Cinemas in downtown Los Angeles. It was a jubilant experience, and my cast and crew all showed up for the screening.

Then the awards show took place the night after on Nov. 17. And to my total surprise, my film won first place in the 48-hour film competition. I was flabbergasted.

It all happened so fast and still seems so surreal. It was a fantastic journey, though — one that I’ll never forget.

About Movie Maniac

The Eagle's Rod Pocowatchit offers his musings on the screen scene.

Reach Rod at rpocowatchit@wichitaeagle.com.

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