Archive for the ‘Film Journey’ Category

You’ve read about this movie here, but this is our last week to get support for “My Life Is a Movie” – the distribution project. We hope to take the film and pitch it to at least 3 national distributors at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in a couple of weeks. Please check out the campaign by clicking on this link: “My Life Is a Movie” and then follow the red “Contribute Now” button to the next page. Thank you!




So regarding the colors of paint that I had in my palette for the making of my zero budget film: I had an iphone at my disposal that could actually take pretty good HD videos. I had some editing software (like most of us) that comes with most basic software computer bundles. (This would limit me to what kind of transition and special effects might be available to me, but that’s OK if part of the plan.) I had access to various homes for shooting, and I also had access to a church – which could be my story’s uniqueness; after all, not everyone has access to shooting in a church. I also had access to automobiles, as well as a farm with some horses and cows. I think all of these could be put together into an interesting story, and so I began.

If I could make the cellphone actually a part of the storyline, this would lend itself to its realism and authenticity, and explain the “look” that I would be forced to have, as a result of shooting with a cellphone. On the other hand, restricting myself to only shooting as if a cellphone in the hands of one of the characters could extremely limit my story-telling capabilities. But I was Ok with this challenge, and so “My Life Is a Movie” was born – the tale of two siblings who run away from a dysfunctional home life only to be chased into a church, where, safely in the basement, they have to hide to survive, albeit a warm place, and one with available food (although limited choices – hmmm, sounds like my film project idea.)

This idea first took shape as a story for the National Novel Writing Month project, and this novel was adapted into a script. So the novel was based on this same concept of a ten-year-old boy who shoots video of everything with his cellphone. It is his way of escaping from his not-so-good life – kind of ironic that he documents his life as a movie as a way of escaping from it – but it is this process that helps him detach from his life and he can actually think that as a director or an actor of this movie, he actually has more control over what happens – but not really.

The biggest problem that I found is that writing a story with this kind of specific point of view is a lot easier as a novel than as a movie – because I found that adapting it into a script (with a shot list) highlighted the fact that some of the things I wrote about in the novel would not actually be do-able with a camera cellphone – and I had to come up with other shots and angles and ideas and ways to get the story to move forward. Again, I was up to this challenge, but it meant I had to rewrite some of the scenes to make them work for “My Life Is a Move.”

Once the script and the shot list was in place, it was time to assemble the cast and crew.


OK so it’s been awhile since I have posted on zero budget feature filmmaking. I apologize if anyone has been sitting around with baited breath waiting on my next post, but since this is highly unlikely, suffice it to say that I have not been sitting around on my laurels (haunches), but have been putting my money (or lack there of) where my mouth is. In this time I have wrote, shot, and edited a zero budget production feature shot on my iphone. OK, not really zero budget – I spent eighty-five hard earned dollars on some props, cast food, and water. (Not counting the gas I spent to drive to several locations – so let’s add another 2 tankfuls of gas and call it an even one hundred and fifty bucks.) But I am rather proud of my hundred and fifty dollar feature – so much so that I have submitted it to more than half a dozen film festivals in hopes of getting accepted. (I’ve actually spent three times my budget on this, but there are ways to save on film festivals – and some that are zero – which I will post about that in a future read.)

So I can now reflect and go back and share my experiences and what it took to make this happen – so you can make this happen yourself. Starting at the beginning is, of course, realizing that you have zero dollars to spend, so you have to budget for this (sounds crazy, doesn’t it?), but that means coming up with a script that you can actually shoot with no money, and finding the necessary gear. (See earlier posts on this to get you started, too.)

Imagine yourself a painter and you have a blank canvas and a brush. You are given a tube of red paint and a tube of green paint, and are free to paint whatever you like. Now you really have been wanting to paint a space ship with lots of explosions and battles and stuff (because you always have liked these and they are your favorite, and your favorite painter paints these, too…) and you can go ahead and do this, but it will probably look really bad or really strange or not like you intended, but go ahead and paint this because there is no way you are going to paint a picture of something else. (This painting will most likely not sell, if you even finish, because by the time you get into it and start seeing this mess, you might get discouraged and quit…)

Do you have other options? You bet. You could paint an apple. No! you say, I do not want to paint an apple because that has been done before, it is boring, and besides, I do not really like apples. However, you could paint a really nice looking apple – and very realistic – and there are lots of people who like to hang paintings of apples in their kitchen and they just might pay you a hefty price for your painting of an apple. After which, you could take this money and buy more paints – enough to paint a picture of say, a space ship and explosions and stuff. Selling out? I don’t think so. I think it is working toward a goal (spaceships) by utilizing what you have available (apples), and in the meantime learning your craft as you go along (which could lead to a much better space ship once you have the resources to do this).

And if you are really opposed to apples, well, how about a fire truck? Or a cardinal on a leaf? Or holly berries? Or even stretch your imagination and go crazy with something like a painting of a palm tree bleeding? But first work with the two colors you have. You might even find that you’ll have fun painting an apple. I sure did making my hundred and fifty dollar feature, but more on that later…

Here We Go: OK those of you who have read my blog before, know that I spend a great deal of time talking about making films with little money, while not giving up on quality. As of recent, I have targeted feature films on this blog, sharing all the things I have learned throughout my career making television, documentaries, and especially short films, with limited budgets. However, I do not have a feature film shot with a zero budget on my resume. So: I am launching a feature film project that I recently finished writing with the idea in-mind of producing a quality feature film with a zero budget, with the final goal of a theatrical run, film festivals, and DVD and/or VOD distribution.
It will be shot on available equipment and with actors who want to showcase their skills and have the opportunity to climb into some fantastic roles.
This experimental zero-budget feature will utilize long takes, limited locations, and a compressed shooting schedule. There will be aspects of the film that have not been often done. Zero-budget means lots of memorization, limited retakes, but many of these roles are showcase parts. Please keep in mind that this a PG13 film, due to some language and instances of physical abuse. Scheduled shooting plan is 15 to 20 dates (summer 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri, mostly West County), but most roles will only be needed for one or two dates apiece. (The exception is Lyndsy, who will need to be at all shooting dates.) Please  look over the cast list, and if you are interested in taking part in this production, please send me an email of your interest (and include a headshot and/or resume if available) to Please list the parts that seem to be the best fit for you. Auditions will occur in the near future, with shooting to take place soon after. I will forward sides in preparation for the auditions.

Wyatt (THIS ROLE IS CAST.) 10 year old boy who likes to shoot videos. He lives with his sister Lyndsy (14), step-sister Erin (13), step-brother bully Bart (16), Mom, and stepfather Joe.

Lyndsy: 14 years old; Wyatt’s sister; She talks her brother Wyatt into running away from home together with her. They have to be resourceful to survive. She loves to paint and is the artistic-type, but overall is fit and healthy, just not happy. Her paintings tend to be on the dark side, both in subject and color palette. This role has tons of dialogue and screen time, with emotions running the entire range of the human experience. She is in every scene.

Mom: 38-ish; mean-spirited but can fake niceness

Joe: 42-ish; step-dad, deadbeat

Erin: 13 years old; step-sister, long hair, spends most of her time texting on the couch

Bart: (also known as Bart Fart), 16-year-old bully step-brother

Dad: 42-ish; auto mechanic; nice guy when sober; monster when he is drunk; in his scene he is drunk and abuses Wyatt and Lyndsy

Rev. Keys: 60-ish; pastor at a church

Mrs. Keys: 55-ish; pastor’s wife

Mrs. Kennerly: church secretary

Bill the Janitor: works at the church

Homeless Man: scraggly; chases Wyatt and Lyndsy, at one point catching them.

Rodney: church elder

Bob: church elder

Mike: church elder

Key Man: 30-ish; Youth pastor

Mrs. Key Man: 28-ish, Youth pastor’s wife

Nursery Woman: 41-ish, works in the church nursery during church service

Ana Sophia: 5 years old; attends nursery during church

Anthony: 6 years old;  attends nursery during church

Officer Woodson: female police officer

Officer Kelton: male police officer

Extras: 5 homeless people; 6 women book club members; 7 choir members; 6 youth band members; 7 youth group kids; Bass Girl’s Dad; 4 youth group parents; 40 church members; Aunt Meredith (42-ish); Uncle Kevin (45-ish)

Thank you for your consideration. Dale Ward, DWard Media,

The winner of the free DVD giveaway of “Mother India” is Tim Cash. He also has the distinction of being the blog’s first follower from January 2012. Thanks for following and I hope you enjoy the film!

On a separate note, I know many of the followers are filmmakers, and a great email subscription/follow is “no entry fee festivals.” I highly recommend to keep abreast of the latest (and FREE!) festivals out there. What ya got to lose???!!!!

Till next time…


Pictofigo_-_IdeaSo you have your film (or book or poem or song or blueprint) finished. You are ready for the next step in your creation when you have a sudden inspiration – an epiphany – and realize that a major scene (or chapter or line or verse or room layout) would be better served later (or earlier) in your film. It will help clarify or raise the stakes (and the tension) if located in a different, more effective, spot.  So you move it. And then you start to second-guess yourself. Maybe this isn’t better and the original (you know, your first choice) is the best way to go.

How do you deal with these swings in inspiration? How do you determine which way is best?  And then how do you let it go and rest in your decision?


I’ve always done it, I continue to do it, and I recommend doing it. I’m talking about when you come across an article, a paragraph, or a quote, that really speaks to you, tear it out (or at least copy it) and keep it in a folder. This is a great folder to go through when you have that book or screenplay finished, and you want to give it one more “going over” to get it to your next level. (Of course, you can go through the folder at any time during the writing process.  In fact, some things jump out at a particular point in the writing process that might not mean as much at other times…) I think this always helps to keep one on their toes.
Flipping through a favorite book periodically can achieve the same end, too. Case in point: on a recent trip through Robert McKee’s “Story,” I came upon this insightful section on Exposition.
“Never include anything the audience can reasonably and easily assume has happened. Never pass on exposition unless the missing fact would cause confusion. You do not keep the audience’s interest by giving it information, but by withholding information…” (McKee, “Story” page 335-336)
I see this time and time again (and I am guilty, too!), especially in the faith-based genre. It seems so many times we have to explain that “he had a moment of epiphany/conversion/change of heart/etc” instead of letting the obvious speak for itself. (And don’t even get me started on all the voice-overs prevalent today…) We need to trust our stories, trusts our visions, trust our visuals, and dare I say it? trust our audiences.