BOSS OF ME – A WEB SERIES by SABI

Boss of Me tells the story of a new Creative Director and Producer of Marketing and Distribution that is sent down from “corporate” to manage the newly acquired independent feature film production company Sabi Pictures. What ensues is a systematic restructuring (“Side-Shifting” as the star calls it) by Bret Donovan to the chagrin of the employees. But Bret is also an idea-man, and he alone believes his ideas are the one thing that can keep morale up and save the company.

A WEB SERIES FOR OUR FANS

It was created to be distributed on the web for free for our fans, with a healthy amount of humor and poking at both ourselves and this business we’re in. With all the talk about how Independent Film is dead (which it is not by the way) we felt a show like this couldn’t come at a better time — and setting a show in a production company was ripe for funny material.

Click here for the :60 BOSS OF ME TV Spot:

CREATING THE SERIES: Co-Creating the Boss of Me web series with John T. Woods was a convergence of several factors. First and foremost, we (at Sabi Pictures) were looking for a fun way to connect with fans, and specifically our films and our company and who we are — with those that watch and enjoy our content. Reach out to fans and learn who they are — and at the same time (hopefully) entertaining them. Thus, the series extends out into Facebook, where the star of the show (Bret Donovan) has a very active Facebook profile. Often ideas offered by fans are certainly food for thought for future seasons…

Bret Donovan in deep thought.

We are excited to get some recent press from PopCultureMonster — where the :90 spot is featured exclusively for it’s first week of release. Exclusive interviews, pictures of the Cobb-Boom Helmet in action (see below) — as well as a write-up about the series is featured in the article on their site.

Please check out POPCULTUREMONSTER.COM & the article.

Our hope with Boss of Me is simply to stimulate discussion, interaction and as Bret says ‘smiles.” The entire notion of our having intentionally crafted ‘branded content’ was just a bonus — not the intention or the goal. We certainly do want more attention on the work of Sabi, but practically speaking, we just wanted to create something that wasn’t expensive so that we could offer it for free to our amazing fans without having to justify a return.

THE PROCESS: We shot everything on a Canon 7D, and used the prototype for a Cobb-Boom Helmet (which is an audio booming aid that you wear on your head invented by Jamie Cobb) to record sound. We used Pluraleyes to sync sound & Final Cut Pro to do the rest. Of course, these minimal resources isn’t ideal but it well suited our needs for keeping this small and on its feet. Often the shooter was wearing the Cobb-Boom Helmet to get the sound while also getting the picture — which aside from getting the job done, was a funny sight to see.

BOSS OF ME key art

Much of the dialogue is improvised, and was guided by myself and John T. Woods through several phone calls, text messages with jokes, emails and a rough outline before going in. But it’s all really Bret Donovan. Bret was a find for us like no other, and of course there would be no show without him. His sincerity on and off camera is what keeps me as a co-creator interested in exploring new ideas and avenues while the camera is already rolling. The real investment with this series was our time and energy — so it was important to keep it a fun (and very fast) working atmosphere. We hope this translated into the series.

Boss of Me is certainly not for everyone — and it’s not something we were intending on getting on something like HBO for wide release — but at the very most we hope that fans subscribe & interact and want to see more (and at the very least — we hope they find it funny. In parts, anyway.) We look forward to your feedback!

Click here for the PILOT & entire BOSS OF ME series

Sabi Pictures is pleased to announce the production of ten new films in Sweden, from director J. Erik Reese.

Sverige: a series of short films by Sabi Pictures

Sabi Pictures is excited to announce the start on production of a new series overseas slated for completion in 2009. From the creative team that brought you Moments and Take 2 comes a series of films shot in Sweden that were highly influenced by Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue.

The starring role is Mikael Ayele (This Can’t be Heaven, Elle’s Kite, Tired of Dancing by Myself).

Creative Producing is Daniel Carmody (Take 2, Moments),And creative team includes Joshua Nitschke (Take 2, Moments), Kevin K. Shah (White Knuckles) and Zak Forsman (Heart of Now).

“Sa – veh – ree – ya. Now try it over and over again… you’ll sound like a perfect Swede! Sverige simply means Sweden… These episodic series revolve around the character Jonas (Mikael Ayele). Inspired by Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue.

Sverige embodies events that take place in one area. In Sverige, a young man arrives in a small town in Sweden where he resides. There he begins to find himself changing with life: pain & growth.

–J. Erik Reese

Interdependent Cinema – An electronic Magazine / Blog / Print publication by Sabi

Today I had a terrific discussion with Sabi producer Daniel J. Carmody about the concept for a new Magazine/Blog for the modern indie filmmaker that understands/represents the true “interdependent” nature of collaboration on an ‘indepdendent’ film (and especially for those filmmakers that endeavor to create cinema art).  Daniel sketched out the structure of the site, complete with case studies, how-to articles, improvisation articles, videos and filmmaker contributions (articles & behind the scenes on interdependent films).  

He envisions an elegant and simple design for the site, with the information easily accessible for the first Phase.  Subsequent phases will entail a place for audiences and filmmakers to interact in discussions about Interdependent filmmaking – and eventually lead to the debut of a film that subscribes to the ‘rules’ of this new realization of process on cinefist.com.  

These rules, unlike those of the Dogme 95 movement, are entirely dependent upon each film itself (and thus, in flux) – but shares in its spirit an effort to depict a more organic and naturalistic style of filmmaking, a more true to life (realistic, honest) portrayal of the character’s journey.  The rules include an emphasis on creative collaboration, transcendence, guided improvisation, set atmosphere, and several more elaborate details of making a successful ‘interdependent’ picture (most of which will be explored in our first Issue).

Interdependent Cinema magazine will work in close creative collaboration with Cinefist.com and we hope there will be some cross pollination of filmmakers from both growing communities, as well as a direct emphasis on emerging projects that share key qualities of the interdependent process.  Daniel and my discussion about the Magazine – which will ultimately be a resource to up and coming interdependent filmmakers – got me very excited about the prospects and possibilities.  And with a community goal of 1,000 completely new subscribers by 2009, Daniel has been put in charge of a very large and important undertaking.  

As head editor & writer for the magazine, Carmody will be interviewing filmmakers about their creative collaborations with their crew and their cast, as well as regularly post articles from Zak Forsman, Erik Reese, Joshua Nitschke, Jamie Cobb, and dozens of other Sabi veterans that have taken part in the spirited process of  ‘interdependent cinema.’

I’m truly excited about announcing here today the debut of “Interdependent Cinema” magazine, which will be available soon FOR FREE at www.interdependentcinema.com and www.interdependentfilmmaking.com

Our head editor Daniel Carmody and I are looking forward to seeing you there in 2009 –

Kevin K. Shah

Understandably, many actors are simply uncomfortable with the idea of using your own words for the character, but what should be happening is that the director and the actor are together finding the character’s voice.  

The Screenplay: Discarding the Words for Dramatic Improvisation in Interdependent Films.

Freeing oneself from the confines of the words on the page sometimes makes for a more authentic route for the actor that seeks to explore and refine his/her craft.  Often actors feel this process is more artistic, more “experiential”, and ultimately, more fulfilling when executed well, with a director that nurtures the kind of atmosphere necessary for good dramatic improvisation to occur.  What’s fascinating, is that often when it’s all said and done (and the film is put together) most of the beats and the words that were true in the original locked script, end up on screen anyway – but filtered through the heart and soul of the actor/artist.   And most of the scenes that never rang completely true – now do.  I wonder what it would be like to reverse-write White Knuckles or Heart of Now (which was a terrific script written by Zak Forsman all on it’s own) – just to see how the words have changed and/or stayed the same.  I’ve never gotten around to doing something like this, but someday maybe a huge Sabi fan will transcribe our films.  It would be interesting at the most – the final film is the ultimate tale:  what happens on set, and what is carved in the edit – is the truest story.

However, back to writing a screenplay to discard it:  in discussing problems that might happen during Directing Improvisation by asking your actors to discard their words, there are instances in directing improvisation in interdependent films where an honest performance is given and the emotions and words shared are true — but the beat is not honest for the character at that particular point in the story.

EARLY EMOTION

With improvisation, actors tend to courageously dive into the conflict head on – floodgates tend to open early on for an actor once they get the hang of it (and a lot comes out in particular scenes at the top of the production schedule where critical emotions that are to be explored later are felt “too early”).  That is ok.  Everything is useful.  Chemistry that will be explored later is sometimes put down here as a ground-work, or a foundation.   And I believe this happens generally, if the scenes’ intentions & objectives are not structured properly.  Again, that is ok.  Every production is rusty at the start, particularly on feature films heavy with dramatic improvisation.  There are ways to prepare for this.  Rehearsals, meetings, and call back-auditions are a way to kick start everything (if each are done as if we were shooting the scene).

With White Knuckles we had a full rehearsal with the actors doing character exercises – and it happened a) on set, b) in the scene, c) with lights, d) with camera and sound — i.e. full on.  And still we called it a rehearsal (though we were prepared to use it somewhere if it was needed – it wasn’t).  The idea was to get moving, slowly – pushing the train the first few inches…  

With Heart of Now, we got things rolling with what we called “Pre-Shoots” – 5 days of shooting with a bare-bones crew – which I think helped us ease into production (Note: there was also a million other things the core team – Jamie, Zak, Kester & Sam did to help the actors transition into this feature that would last 30 amazing and memorable days of everyone’s life – like White Knuckles).  

HONEST BUT NOT TRUE OVERALL

But when discarding the words (which takes some time at the start) there are times — fascinating moments where the actors have a legitimate feeling about something and go with it – but it is incongruent to the journey of the character in a way that would alter the story to its detriment.   I.e. change the direction of the story too far in an unrecoverable direction.   Sometimes it’s compelling, real, honest, and exciting – but just not right for the overall arc of the story (which the director and producer and editor carries).  Sometimes it is right, even though it was totally unplanned – and we must adjust the story around the moment accordingly.  But again – if it is not honest for the overall journey of the story – or if the new material doesn’t excite and challenge the director to explore a new direction with everyone & the entire production schedule – then it must be lost immediately.   Cut, clear our minds, re-set, move on.*  

WHEN TO CUT, KEEP ROLLING

*It is important for the director here to be as quick and decisive as possible about where to stop an actor during improv, i.e. when to re-set rather than give a note and keep rolling, trying something different.  On one hand all the previous takes are explorations of the take/moments that will be used (and should be allowed to play out) – on the other hand, a director doesn’t want to exhaust an actor (and acting for dramatic improvisation for all actors involved is physically exhausting).   Also, too many different options without clear direction leads to confusion (for the actor on set, and the editor in the bay).

Of course, this happens (exhaustion, confusion) – and there is no way of avoiding it.  8-10 hour days max for the actors I believe is a great help to heavily improvised shooting – to stave off the exhaustion factor.  But I say this to say, it’s important for a director to be fully aware of what will and will not be used in the final edit – on set – as best as possible.  And rather than cutting these moments off too soon – in directing improvisation, it helps to let them play out, let the emotions rise and fall again naturally.  Especially when discarding the words of the screenplay.   There are awkward silences in these moments that are real and could otherwise never have been staged. There are glances of a deeper understand, and the struggling to find the right words.  All of this is real.  And conversely, there are often beats that happen just after an intense improvisation scene where the actor may say the perfect line — out of real exhaustion — long after a conventional filmmaker would call ‘cut’.  A glance often says everything without all the words before it, and to help ensure we get these kinds of looks when directing improv – we often do what we call a “silent take” after all the other takes are completed.  We did this quite a bit with White Knuckles and it helped us tremendously in the edit (though it’s not necessary if you’re actors don’t rush through improv – as in comedic improv).  

Often, that little tiny silent beat where the camera kept rolling might end up being the only part used in the final edit, if that is what is honest in that moment – and right for the overall story.

White Knuckles was born out of a deep desire to explore a story with a group of artists through the collaborative medium of film – and to explore it as much as possible while the story is happening – while it’s on its feet in production – while the characters fully inhabit the actors.

The means of accomplishing this would be a team of artists that could invest themselves personally in the shared vision of the project, and could work as a unified whole that could shift, adapt and adjust whenever the story changed based on the flexible nature of capturing dramatic improvisation. This could only be accomplished by maintaining a collective atmosphere of safety and trust with the crew, filmmakers and the cast. An atmosphere where the actors could feel like they can fully explore their characters without any judgments or self-direction. A creative space where the actors can go deeper in the improvisational present moment, and the filmmakers and the crew can support and guide them along. A truly interdependent process where there are no idle hands on set – a place where everyone is involved, and each member on the production is truly critical.

With White Knuckles, we wanted to see what would happen if we wrote a script and then took it away at some point during production – when the film begins to breathe on its own. We wanted to see “what happens with the characters” and we wanted to see “where will the story go?” It was in a large part about curiousity. Though we had a screenplay that would be great to shoot – we thought that perhaps guiding the improvisation initially, we could fully let go later and produce real surprises and true-to-life dialogue and moments that could not have otherwise been planned.

To do this in a drama that goes to the places White Knuckles does – it took the safety net of the rest of the cast and crew to make this work. Really, it took each other – and every individual working together as a unified whole to make this real “Interdependent” film happen.

There is a point in every soulful, artful film production where the actors seem to fully inhabit the characters, sooner or later. On set, sometimes this happens early – other times certain key aspects of the character emerge later depending on the circumstance. But ultimately – there is a collaborative search for truth that makes ‘a film by Sabi Pictures’ – and if the film is honest (as I believe White Knuckles is) than perhaps it will be blessed to find its audience.

It is a rare group of talented filmmakers that converged to create White Knuckles. And what we have in this film, is in my humble opinion, a true example of interdependent filmmaking. As filmmakers – we all simply wanted to be able to let go of pages and pre-conceived notions and rather listen very closely to what comes out of (and what comes from within the soul) of the character. We wanted to hear an authentic voice, and wanted to see the story that was the deeper, more meaningful, more real version (than the duplication of the intentions on the page). We want to see the sum that is greater than it’s parts – a piece of real art emerging from our collective creative contributions together.

This is ultimately the collective desire of a collaborative group of artists working on an Interdependent Film. Interdependent Filmmaking is the kind of filmmaking where one uses “us” and “we” and “our” more often than they use “I” when describing the process of making that film. We think that White Knuckles is unique because of the interdependent nature of the shoot. The WK website’s “Creative” section details examples of how many of us together collaborated on this film, and there will also be some behind the scenes posted to get a look at the faces that made it happen.

As with every interdependent film, there are so many hands on the work that it is hard to summarize or describe the process of each member that took part – but each person’s contribution made the film possible. And though the credits on the film will generally reveal every person’s name that contributed – there are so many more roles that were filled by each member than can possibly be listed.

Calling White Knuckles and interdependent film is a way to say Thank You – to acknowledge that the film could not be possible without the entire interwoven web of creative contributions, a network of interdependent people, that all get behind one idea. It’s a beautiful thing when it works, and it is the most fulfilling kind of filmmaking. And Interdependent Filmmaking is the evolution of the art form, in my humble opinion.

I’m honored to have been a part of this process at Sabi Pictures. Sure it is an ever-changing and an ever-evolving process with each new story – but the unique way of making each film bears one thing in common between everything we’ve made: there is simply no room and no time for inflated egos when a group of artists want to venture into the great unknown of making a film together. There is only room to learn from one another, for true collaboration, for support of each other under any circumstance, and for the collective desire to see the story through to the end no matter what.

We had a very talented group of individuals that came together to bring you the interdependent film White Knuckles – as well as Heart of Now. We guided the stories to the end rather than pushed them, and what resulted from the process thus far may move you, and perhaps even surprise you.

Kevin K. Shah Interdependent Filmmaker from White Knuckles