Saturday, November 5, 2011
After the screening, there will be a Q&A with filmmakers Justin Fielding and Dennis Hurley. Advance tickets are available at http://www.reelfestdc.com/tickets.html
Friday, September 23, 2011
The weekend of October 1, Inventory writer-director-producer Justin Fielding will be in attendance for Q&As:
Saturday, October 1
9:25pm: Live Filmmaker Talkback
Sunday, October 2
6:55pm: Live Filmmaker Talkback
9:15pm: Live Filmmaker Talkback
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
[Inventory] is one of the very few indie films that I really enjoyed. Watching this film reminded me of my first viewing of Clerks.
I highly recommend this film to anyone that is a fan of the slacker film genre. The film's title also doubles great as the characters also take care of their own personal inventory. It's one of those films where I wish myself could have been a part of. As I am writing this review I am watching the special features that were included on the DVD and they clearly show the great atmosphere the cast and crew had together making this film and that transcends into the film itself. Justin Fielding and the cast have a great future ahead of them.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
This is true independent cinema at its finest, mostly because it's not trying too hard to be something it isn't, and it's a product of a lot of hard work and elbow grease by a cast and crew who really believed in it.
All in all, Inventory is definitely a movie to check out. It's got my stamp of approval.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Our new internet-radio ad features testimonials from Kevin Smith fans who responded to our first ad on Jay and Silent Bob Get Jobs on SModcast Internet Radio (SIR).
Thanks to Scott McPherson for the use of the song "Mary Goes Around," one of two Tiny Volcano songs to be heard in the powerpop song score for Inventory!
Update: The ad ran on Plus One Per Diem on July 11, 2011, about one hour and two minutes into the show.
On this, their 20th episode, I was their first-ever interview guest. They asked some great questions, and it was great fun chatting with them.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
It was a really fun chat, and we discussed a great many aspects of creating the film. Do check it out!
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Independent film is alive and well and in the Greater Boston area. With a funtastic soundtrack, poignant montages, quick-paced dialogue, and racy jokes, it was top tier all the way through. It's a very funny movie.I'm scheduled to appear in an upcoming episode of Jim's "Practicing Stand Up in a Mirror in My Bathroom" podcast.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Showtimes are 6:00, 7:45, and 9:30PM, and tickets are $10.
Contact email@example.com if you have any questions about the screenings.
Note: This reflects a change from the previously announced dates.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
...the kind of lightning-in-a-bottle comedic magic that infused contemporary ensemble classics like “The Breakfast Club” and “Empire Records.”
The film, a grand-slam giggler concerning the exploits of a group of self-obsessed slackers on inventory day at a small furniture retailer, is side-splitting, clock-punching fun. A brilliant spiritual fusion of “Clerks”, ‘Waiting,” and senior study-hall, “Inventory” is a fresh take on what happens when too much time, too many brains, and not enough motivation are left to ferment in a vat of minimum-wage apathy.
...working-class wit, wholesale humor, and the kind of break-room antics that will keep your funny bone working overtime.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
"Inventory is awesome! A good story with entertaining characters, good enough to watch more than once. It’s nice to see a movie produced in New England that is not only of professional quality and performance, but has a truly organic feel to the concept and dialogue. Justin Fielding and crew did a great job producing a solid film.”
Daniel Lee White
Love Thy Job Productions
Monday, March 28, 2011
Many of my filmmaking heroes don't, as best as I can tell, directly influence my writing and direction in a big way.
Well, there is perhaps a bit of Hitchcock about Castparty's comedy-thriller The Wife's Position and a little Kubrickian imagery in our psych-gore oddity, Denial.
However, I've gradually come to realize my biggest influence comes not from the world of film. Rather, it's from a steady childhood diet of Peanuts cartoons—both then-current strips from the '60s and beyond, and anthologized strips from before my time.
In project after project, I've found myself attracted to the intersection of the bitter and the sweet. The realm that Charlie Brown and company inhabit.
Since making the absurdist Telemarketing Orphan (from a script by Greg Hill), we've described many of our films as "sad, little comedies."
Some 40+ years after first reading Peanuts, the elegance of Charlie Brown's most famous utterance finally comes clear to me: "good grief." The comedy that comes from sadness, and the sadness that comes from comedy can be very, very good grief.
Beyond thematic resemblances, we've drawn up many characters in a Schulzian mode, especially numerous lovable poor schlubs played by Dennis Hurley, who in Inventory is guided by the domineering Greg much as Charlie often receives dubious and abusive tutelage from Lucy Van Pelt.
Jackie, too, with her bigmouthed aggression has more than a little Lucy about her.
Zoë shares many traits with Charlie's idiosyncratic beagle: quirky perches, imitating another character's gait, and riding on a fantasy surfboard. Perhaps the major difference is that Zoë is far more inclined to act like a canine.
I don't recall whether Zoë's Snoopyishness was ever something I verbalized in the course of shooting Inventory, or was even fully aware of, but there was something viscerally familiar about her playful inscrutability.
Then there's Eleanor, whose attachment to a humble armchair recalls Linus and his security blanket.
Further, the clerks mostly tune out authority figures, especially their immediate supervisor who barely says more words to them than the unintelligible adults do in Peanuts' classrooms and households.
Perhaps others who watch Inventory will find still-more resemblances, most all of which were unconscious, but which are indicative of how much I absorbed the tragicomic gospel according to Peanuts.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Kickstarter project to help "Inventory" song-score artist Cotton Mather release expanded "Kon Tiki" album
How great would it be to have a 2-CD deluxe edition of Cotton Mather's Kon Tiki, where Inventory soundtrack tune "Homefront Cameo" originated? Very great!
Please pitch in, if you'd like to see a lost-classic album re-released and expanded! Lots of nifty rewards available to contributors.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The actors all had great chemistry.... The movie was full of laughs and actually... had a pretty touching and inspiring message woven throughout... a great movie."—Mattysville Radio
Please share the article with your friends and colleagues in filmmaking and improv!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Given the chance, I'll play their entire catalog over and over again.
Most-often compared to XTC, they're almost always engagingly tuneful. But if Ben Eshbach, Kiara Geller, and company got the memo on conventional song structure, they tore it up... or more likely, they made whimsical origami out of it.
The two Sugarplastic tracks in Inventory are both instrumentals, so alas their witty lyrics aren't on display. However, as underscore in the first half of the film, they subtly set the stage for the many vocal songs to follow.
"Euripides the Jaguar" is an ambling, hypnotic guitar-based song, the first original the L.A.-based Sugarplastic ever recorded, and it perfectly suits the slacker clerks' lazy pace in the film's early going.
"Ben Takes a Walk to Lose Company and on the Way He Sees Some Ice Skaters," described by AllMusic as "just plain odd," slinks and scampers along like "Funeral March of a Marionette" re-imagined by Danny Elfman.
Ben, who wrote both songs, is also in a new band called Soviet League. They recently released a pleasingly eclectic self-titled debut that favorably recalls "Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy)"-era Brian Eno, which is to say awesomeness.
In our quest to fill Inventory with endorphin-eliciting tunes, one spin of this outrageously catchy song spelled love at first sound.
What filmmaker isn't tempted to say "just shut up, watch the movie" from time-to-time? Over one of our action montages, Alabama-based Tim Boykin sings it for us... so gorgeously, I can't see how anyone could mind.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thanks to Terry Flamm for taking an interest in our film and to Herb Eimerman of The Nerk Twins / The Britannicas for helping get the word out!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
As the rehearsal phase was winding down, and we were preparing to shoot, an actress we had previously worked with was penciled in for the new role, to join the project when she returned to New England after a season abroad. Once she got home, though, she found herself overwhelmed by other commitments.
While we'd hadn't yet rehearsed or written (with our "scriptprov" approach, we usually worked in that order) anything for this new character, we were quite keen on that prospective duo dynamic. Suddenly, we needed to cast—and develop—a major character ASAP.
Facebook came to the rescue. For months, it had been recommending that I friend actress Irina Peligrad, who has memorably played edgy characters in numerous local films. I finally did, and soon after that, we met to discuss the movie, which was just days away from shooting.
After seeing clips from some of her films, where she's often cast as a domineering vixen or supernatural threat, I was quite unprepared for how she responded to a description of the various characters' arcs. With moist eyes, she kept saying "Aw!" to the story's revelations and milestones of emotional progress.
She showed not only an enthusiasm for the material, but also a sweetness and depth that would make her character "Bess" human and likable, not the one-dimensional religious phony that would be all-too-easy for a skeptic like myself to put forth on film.
Irina was incredibly mindful of all aspects of bringing Bess to life, making many great suggestions and helping create—and instantly mastering—new material that told her story in a way I think audiences are going to find convincing and compelling.
Irina's recollections of the Inventory project:
My involvement with Inventory resulted from a fortuitous twist of fate. I was taking a break from acting for the summer to pursue my other interests of sand, surf, and lying about, when I was contacted about Inventory’s last minute casting needs. The project had already been cast and character development meetings were underway, but one of the prospective actresses had dropped out. I was immediately interested, as I was familiar and impressed with Castparty’s and Dennis Hurley’s past projects. After hearing more about the story and process for the film, I knew I had to be a part of it.
They were in need of one Evangelical Christian, and as much as that would be the scariest character I have played to date (cannibal, crazed killer, and vampire being my common roles), I was ready for the challenge. And a challenge it was... I am not very well versed in Christian doctrine, or any aspect thereof.
I was raised on the atheist side of agnostic, and although I have tried to educate myself about religious thought, my knowledge of Christianity is limited to my cursory “Bible as Literature” college class. I tried to cram some Bible reading in leading up to my first rehearsal, but I didn’t have enough time to internalize it (or remember it). Justin helped set my mind at ease by helping me use my ignorance for character development.
I am so glad to have had the opportunity to work with this bunch of talented, witty, creative, and all around swell people! And the working conditions were great… Tempur-Pedics as far as the eye can see!
Monday, February 21, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The genesis of The Marriage Question was that, in the earliest days of Inventory's development, I was reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird on the recommendation of another filmmaker. It's a book of advice and anecdotes for writers, where she states at one point: "Say this boy meets a girl... he can't just say, Hey, let's get married!"
It struck me as amusing to have a character do just that—serially. It pushed a shy character into action, and it created big opportunities for other castmembers to react according to their own idiosyncrasies.
For example, I did a role-play on it over the phone with Shelly "Nunchucks" Finnegan, who plays a Jackie Chan-obsessed clerk. I still have the swear-marks on my ear, and we recreated that four-alarm reaction in the film.
Kevin Hammer reworked the title song into a "Marriage Question Theme," which appears in all manner of variations—as Percy goes about his quirky rounds—depending on the mood of the moment.
Because of the unique energy of each response to the "MQ," it's one of my favorite elements in Inventory. It was fun to develop, shoot, edit, and score, and I hope audiences will find it—and the rest of the film—fun to watch, too!
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
On inventory day, he's paired with his sad-sack ex-girlfriend—to neither's delight.
Ken is a master of no-prisoners snark. For example, his response to his ex's "some people think I'm pretty" has proven to be the hands-down favorite line in the Inventory trailer.
In my cameo scene (also seen briefly in the trailer), as a customer who's mad the store is closed for inventory, Chuck distills the screw-you side of slackerdom to its essence. He has an ambitious itch, though, as he imagines himself one day climbing a corporate ladder. So, when crazy store owner John Panda threatens the store manager's job, it smells like an opportunity to him.
Ken's softer side and impressive musical pipes are on display as a laissez-faire dermatologist in our gross-out short (you have been warned!), Boil Alert.
One thing I've found when editing two features and a few shorts featuring Ken is that there are usually surprisingly few takes of his scenes. Sometimes I'll get a little panicky, that maybe we forgot to shoot some material. No, it's just that—even with improvised and semi-improvised content—he just nails it damn near every time.
Ken recalls collaborating on Inventory:
As much as Chuck has a lot of me in him, we are different people. Sure, we both love questioning religious dogma, verbal abusing the weak minded and, of course, bong hits, but, man, Chuck is kind of an asshole.
We built Chuck from an extrapolation of some characteristics from a small role I played in Castparty's first feature, The Observer. My role in that film was of one of four "nerds" at a table in a diner discussing things like Dr. Who, Alan Turing and who should've really been cast as Wolverine. You know, nerd stuff. I had this aggressively combative, acerbic energy in those scenes, and Justin asked for the same kind of bite in his vision of Chuck.
I'm an improviser and was excited when Justin decided to let some of the background and story arcs come about naturally as a result of some improvised interactions between the actors in character.
I distinctly remember trudging down to Quincy (MA) one early weekend morning in particular. We were all kind of tired at first as Justin explained to us his vision of the film and some of the characters. As the morning went on and we all hit our required caffeine and sugar levels, we started to improvise scenes between some of the film's pairings.
I was paired up with Amanda Hurley, who ended up playing my ex-girlfriend Eleanor. Amanda is a lovely young lady, and one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, so, it was hard for me to think of her as someone I would dislike, or insult mercilessly. Luckily, Chuck did not have this problem. For a welcome change, my smart mouth was an asset, rather than a liability and we were able to get some good lines of dialogue and background story developed for the relationship between the two characters. I am happy to report that my favorite line that I threw out during that morning session made it into the film and the trailer.
My apologies to any Nickelback fans I might have offended. No, wait... you know what? I'm not sorry. They suck, and so do your ears for listening to them.
Friday, February 11, 2011
A series of all-killer, no-filler albums (notably "Black Vinyl Shoes," "Present Tense," and "Tongue Twister") cemented their spot high in the pantheon of powerpop greats.
It's been a pleasure and honor to get to know Jeff, initially while making arrangements to include "Either Way," by his side-project The Nerk Twins, in the Inventory song score. Jeff then served as our liaison to the famously egalitarian Shoes, who generously agreed to let us include multiple songs of theirs in the film.
Upon receiving that green light, I assigned myself the enviable task of re-listening to their entire catalog. While the aforementioned three discs are their most celebrated output, large numbers of my finalists came from lesser-known later albums like "Silhouette" and "Stolen Wishes." All told, it's a body of work with few rivals in the realm of post-Beatles pop.
Ultimately, I found that three songs were particularly suited to the available music cues in Inventory.
"Found a Girl" is as gorgeous a reverie on the tug between love and not-love as you're going to hear this side of 10cc's "I'm Not in Love." In Inventory, it hauntingly captures what's at stake for two clerks who keep their workplace romance a secret.
"Twist and Bend It" is a proudly lo-fi rocker that gives extra sizzle to a series of Inventory's comic-action montages, and the chugging "Cruel You" powers us through the film's climactic showdown.
Jeff Murphy describes the writing and recording of "Found a Girl":
Shortly after our return from England (recording the "Present Tense" LP) in the fall of 1979, my girlfriend of 5 years rewarded my monogamy with the news that she wanted to break up and end our relationship. We went on to attempt and abort a short tour in the early December and by January of 1980 we decided to cut our losses and get back to doing what we loved most; writing and recording some new songs for the next Shoes album.John Murphy on "Cruel You" and "Twist and Bend It":
In doing the numerous interviews and Q & A sessions to support "Present Tense," I met a female journalist that invited me over for dinner. She lived over an hour away, so she wrote directions for me on a piece of paper. I approached the situation with cynical skepticism stemming from my previous break-up and had no expectations. To my surprise, even though I got lost on the drive to the date, we had a great time! The relationship eventually traced the meteoric arc that is typical for people in their mid-20s, but I wrote this semi-biographical song as a result of that first, optimistic encounter.
In recording the track, the approach was unusual in more ways than one. First, there are no drums on the song, which immediately shifts the classification to that of a ballad, instead of the usual rock approach that we typically focused on. The rhythm guitars were unusual in that the "chords" were constructed by recording and layering each note of the chord separately through a gadget I had put together from an old tape recorder I had as a kid. The distortion it produced was a unique, buzzy tone with great sustain that we referred to as "synthesized guitar". John's bass line gave a great melodic foundation and we layered in some backing harmonies that swell in and fade out for a sweeping feeling. It originally appeared on our, "Tongue Twister" LP in 1981, but in 2007 we released the songwriting demos for the period of 1979-1981 on the double CD set, "Double Exposure."
It's great to see this track get another go 'round as part of the movie's soundtrack and we hope it helps contribute to the desired mood and feel of Inventory!
Cruel You was another song about love gone wrong (our stock in trade!) but, in the last verse, the guy is so out of his mind with jealousy that he pulls a pistol on his estranged girlfriend. Much to his chagrin, she doesn't beg for her life... she still has the upper hand even though he has the gun. Some reviews at the time suggested that "when I pointed the gun at you" was a euphemism, which is fine... that works as well. But I really meant he was driven to the point of threatening murder, in a vain attempt at trying to control her.
Twist and Bend It was the last song I wrote for our album Silhouette after feeling I needed a full-on rock track. Lyrically, it's sort of stream of consciousness. When we recorded it, our drummer was MIA so Jeff and I cooked up the drum track. We did it piecemeal; Jeff engineered and I whacked the skins. BTW, the title came from the directions on how to use the wire ties from a box of plastic garbage bags ("Step 2: Twist and bend").
On this project, he was a core part of the story-development team, sometime cinematographer/cameraman, sound recordist, sound editor, video co-editor, title-sequence animator, colorist, and lead FX artist. As is often the case in Castparty films, he also played a major role—and countless instruments, both real and virtual—in the musical scoring.
Inventory features a song-score comprised mostly of relatively unknown powerpop classics. But there was still a need for original music, including two original tunes we recorded under the name "The Bad Pixels" and many instrumental cues.
Here, Kevin talks about the development of the original underscore:
While in the midst of juggling writing, producing, directing, and general ringmastering duties—not to mention a cameo role—Justin somehow found the time to put on his songwriter's cap and came up with the opening song for the film, simply titled "Theme from Inventory."
He passed on to me a recording of himself singing the song while playing piano. It was a charming little tune. I was charged with the task of arranging it to have the charisma of the "Cheers" theme and the pep of the "Friends" theme, which stylistically would prove to fit in well with the powerpop genre we chose for the song score.
After some trial and error, we came up with a final recording that we were happy with. I got to play one-man pop band in my basement studio, and Justin performed the lead vocals with Dennis Hurley, in character as Percy, joining in on backing vocals.
Once the edit of the movie started to take shape and the song score was assembled, we found that there were still several scenes that felt as if they wanted music, but where a vocal song would likely fight the dialogue.
Justin and I are both fans of orchestral film scores. As the resident go-to composer/arranger for Castparty Productions, I started trying to think of how best to add a traditional score to a powerpop song score.
In order to tie things together, we decided to incorporate some part of the theme song into almost every orchestral cue. Sometimes it was a direct string arrangement of the pop tune. Sometimes it was a bouncy re-imagining of the song. And sometimes the melodies and harmonies were woven so subtly into the arrangement that its presence isn't even noticed until it's pointed out.
It became a game to see how far these melodies could be bent and reshaped into drastically different moods and textures. Justin's a big fan of Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye. This approach favorably reminded him of the way John Williams's theme to that film is performed every which way, all throughout the film.
I'm hoping that even if it's not something that is consciously noticed, it will subconsciously add to the overall coherence and enjoyment of Inventory.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
In his 2007 book, Shake Some Action, John Borack rated Kontiki number 26 of his Top 200 Powerpop Albums of all time, comparing the album to Revolver-era Beatles, Big Star, and The Apples in Stereo.
In Inventory, the atmospheric "Homefront Cameo" from that record announces the arrival of menacing furniture-store owner John Panda.
Robert, now with the band Future Clouds and Radar, talks about creating "Homefront Cameo":
"Homefront Cameo" is the second track off the Kontiki album, and like much of Kontiki it's a song influenced by having spent some months out on the road for the first time in support of our debut release. In the world of rock n' roll where one witnesses some pretty lousy behavior I was writing from the perspective of the woman left behind at home who is supposed to fall all over herself when her man comes home.A desired side-effect of the Inventory song score is to open up indie-film audiences to wonderful music they've never heard of.
I recorded the basic track by subverting some Middle Eastern drum recordings I heard late night on the airwaves and bounced down to my four-track straight from the radio. I turned them backwards and got Darin Murphy to play along with them thus creating another layer of loops. This was my first experimental success with found sound, noise treatments and looping that I continue exploring to this day. Whit's guitar tone was especially wonderful on this track. It was fun to make, and like the rest of Kontiki it seemed like it was creating itself and I was holding on for dear life.
In talking with Robert, I find that my powerpop education is incomplete, since I've never (yet) caught up with the band Supergrass, which he—like many other aficionados of the genre—rates most highly. According to music mag NME, Cotton Mather shares the same stratospheric air, calling them among "the most exciting new guitar pop band[s] since Supergrass." If they compare favorably to Cotton Mather, consider Supergrass on my future radar... as I hope Cotton Mather and the other fantastic bands in the Inventory soundtrack will be on yours.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
With no known training whatsoever, Christian Anthony showed up in Boston a few years back and proved to be a director's dream. Always funny, always original, always prepared, and always credible—no matter how ridiculous the situation or role.
He's also an outtake-machine, both because of his inspired improv and because it's often impossible for his fellow actors not to fall over laughing mid-scene.
From the title role in the absurdist short Telemarketing Orphan (2005), up through Inventory (2011), Christian has brought something special to every film he's made with Castparty Productions.
He has a particular knack for roles where he dominates another character with sheer force of personality, like a comedic Robert Mitchum.
And, fittingly, Christian's concept for the role of Greg in Inventory was "abusive tutelage." This made for ideal chemistry with Dennis Hurley, whose genius for sympathetic, harried, low-status characters makes him natural pickin's for the likes of Greg. (Though, do see the aforementioned Telemarketing Orphan, which shows each actor equally gifted at the opposite sides of such a dynamic.)
Now back in California, Christian recalls the making of Inventory:
I started working with many involved in this project when I first moved to Boston. We started out doing sketch shows in the basement of the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge. It is only proper then that we wrapped shooting for our very first feature-length comedy on my last weekend in the city.
Being a part of Inventory was tremendous. It was great to have the opportunity to mix the comfortable dynamic that was formed with many of the cast and crew over our years working together with the fresh addition of new, talented actors and actresses.
In developing my own character, I was definitely informed by the creativity that everyone else brought to the project. I decided to go with the well-worn adage to "do what you know." Therefore, I centered my character on the sarcastic asshole model I have come to love.
Thankfully, I had the honor of adding depth to this character by working closely with Dennis and even closer with Cat Miller. They inspired my performance and made Greg a better character. The energy and spirit of the whole cast and crew was amazing and the process was an incredible experience. I think that will come through in the final product for the audience.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
But our first experience with her, in The Observer, saw her as a deliciously nasty mother who disrespects her daughter's easygoing boyfriend.
So, we knew she'd be a perfect foil for a group of unapologetic slackers—as Barbara, the imperious furniture-store manager they love to hate.
Will Barbara's icy cool hold as the clock ticks down on an ultimatum from volatile store-owner John Panda? Therein lies the tale.
Chris recalls teaming with Castparty on Inventory and other productions:
I’ve told people that one of the reasons I became an actor after a long career in business and years of being a parent was that I was tired of being in charge. I thought that as an actor I’d let people tell me what to do for a change. So it’s somewhat ironic that one of the things I love best about working with Castparty is the artistic collaboration that takes place working with them. Rather than being told what to do, I discovered I love being part of the creative process. Go figure.
Meeting with cast and crew months before we started shooting to create Inventory was a blast! I remember someone bringing up an idea we'd been kicking around for one of the characters. I left the room for no more than three minutes and that idea had been added to my character, which, in turn, changed much of the story line. The “writing” moved fast, always getting better and better.
Filming was even more fun, as the characters came to life through our talented cast, Justin’s direction, and a dedicated crew. There are several moments permanently etched in my mind: Shelly/Jackie’s monologue of all the jobs she’d ever lost, including how and why(!), Dennis/Percy’s face after one particular scene—a classic combination of stunned delirious bliss and an unnatural shade of bright pink, Matt/Panda’s filthy and hilarious improv, Cat/Zoë and I concocting hiding places in the store for her eccentric character, the orange “makeout couch,” real-life store owner (and truck-driver character) Dave’s constant wisecracks, and my own first experience with a chainsaw (happily, no one was injured). What’s not to love?
Interestingly, this role, as well as my role in Castparty’s Making the Cut has prepared me for new roles as a stern, if not bitchy, boss. Having played all different kinds of moms prior to this, I never would have guessed that the hard-ass boss would become the role for which I’m typecast. And that’s just one of the things I love about being an actor—you never know what to expect. Inventory is full of the unexpected, which is what makes it so great. I hope people watching it have at least as much fun as we did making it.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
NotLame.com and PopGeekHeaven.com
When we began casting for our second feature, Inventory, we were thrilled that Katarina signed on and would make several trips back to Boston to rehearse and perform in it.
She was also a key member of the story team at the project's most critical moments. We needed to go into hyperdrive and make fast, good decisions in choosing and structuring the beats we improvised and reimprovised in whirlwind rehearsals during our first days on location. A veteran of many stage and screen productions, Katarina dedicated herself to helping make sense of the tornado of ideas in flux in those heady days. Since access to the cast was extremely limited, the pressure was on to make the most of that moment of opportunity, and she was a trouper on both sides of the camera.
As I've noted elsewhere, the first question for every Inventory castmember was:
What character would be fun for you to play... and fun for the audience to watch you play?Unique among the players in Inventory, Katarina brought to the film a character she already had in development, Nastasia: a self-centered, self-proclaimed hip hop star from Ukraine.
We paired Nastasia as the counting partner of Bess (Irina Peligrad), a very American character: a goodnatured Bible belter who doesn't seem to have actually read the book.
Off-camera, we referred to the duo of Czech-born Katarina and Romanian-born Irina (whose accent, for the record, is way more Cincinnati than Bucharest) "the Europeans"—well, once I learned not to call them the "Eastern Europeans" after being corrected a few times and looking at Google maps. But in the film, they're an ocean apart, with Nastasia's ever-present headphones and dismissive attitude forming a challenging barrier to Bess's cheery attempts to break the ice.
Katarina on Nastasia's origins:
Few years ago, while filming an independent film in Dover, NH in freezing winter, I came up with a character of a Ukrainian Hip Hop Princess. My fellow cast member and I went to hang out to a local bar in Dover and because it was very cold, I decided to wear the director's wife's over-the-top long leopard coat. When we walked into the bar, we quickly realized we were total misfits and decided to play the part. Since they played hip hop and I love to dance, I decided to pretend to be a hip hop mega-star from Ukraine. Being originally from ex-Czechoslovakia and wearing a heavy ridiculous coat, it wasn't difficult to pull it off. My fellow actor friend at some point came to the DJ and asked him to give a holla to the girl from the Ukrainian 'hood. When DJ asked me what my name was, I simply said: Nastasia.
Nastasia stayed living in my brain for a while and when Justin called and asked me to create a character I always wanted to play for Inventory, Nastasia couldn't wait to get out of my head. The challenge became how to include a Ukrainian hip-hop princess in an all-American company of misfits working in a furniture store. But that was exactly it, she was as big of a misfit as anybody else.
Justin helped out big time to bring Nastasia to life. Not having a lot of improv experience, and being used to working with a script, I did find it challenging to adjust to the process, but Justin's guidance and patience eventually paid off.
Also, most of actors working on Inventory had worked with each other and Justin before and were used to the process. I found it very inspiring and learnt a lot from Dennis Hurley, Matt Carbo, and Christian Anthony as well as other cast members. Their wit and ability to think quick on their feet pushed me to challenge myself even more.
Nastasia as well as I have learnt a lot about creative process, fitting in, humility and growing up. Thank you for a wonderful experience.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Starting with an urgent gasp of breath and the line "I fear every day, we're wasting our time away," Starbelly's "This Time" confronts the topic every slacker is dedicated to avoiding, especially slackers on a deadline they're not necessarily inclined to meet.
For some reason, I keep waking up in a world where songs this catchy somehow weren't massive hits. Weird, isn't it?
Starbelly's Dennis Schocket confirms that the concept of time was very much what drove the song's creation. As a film team that's made numerous movies for timed film competitions... and even a complete feature film in two weeks, we can very much relate to the challenge he set out for himself!
I had written a bunch of songs for the first Starbelly record (Lemon Fresh) and was playing them for my friend and producer Andy Bopp.
Feeling rather smug with the fact that most of the tunes clocked in at under three minutes, (very desirable for a pop song) I was surprised when Andy quipped "Yeah, but can you write a great song that's under TWO minutes?"
On the way home from the studio, I began my quest to write the perfect two minute pop song. When I sat down that evening to write it, I was anxious. I only had about an hour to spare. Don't waste time here. Hurry up and get something down, damn it! I thought "Cut the filler. Cut the fat."
How does one do this? Well.... Intro? No intro. Get to the point. Hit it hard and then get to the chorus. How about a bridge? Nope. No time for a bridge. Solo? Sure. Make it quick though. Subject matter? This is a song based on time restraints. Hurry up. Don't waste time. Make the most of what you have with whom you have it. "This clock ticks by. I stop asking why. This Time is for you."
There it was. It had come very easily. I thought "I did it! I can't wait to record this tomorrow." I called Andy. "I'm coming over tomorrow. I've got the perfect two minute pop song." Written and recorded within a 24 hour period! Awesome. As we listened to playback, I was happy with the results. Nice melody and nice chorus I thought. Oh, by the way, check the ticker. Did I do it? Is it under two minutes? The answer is...... FAIL. The damn song clocks in at 2:03. (The quest continues....)
In the mix of characters, we liked the idea of teaming a clerk who was chronically sad with her sarcastic ex-boyfriend—the last people in the store with whom either would want to be paired.
Going into the improv and reimprov armed with little more than sorrow was a palpably challenging task. Exhibit A: the actress who started developing the role in rehearsal dropped out before we started shooting.
We knew Amanda Hurley, who was achingly sympathetic as the victim of her mother and sister's verbal abuse in The Observer, had the chops to do it.
Though in real-life, she has a very sunny demeanor, she took to the character's sadness in a way that was so real, I was afraid we'd never see her charming smile again. So, I was very glad to read her account of the journey she went through playing Eleanor:
I joined Inventory a bit late in the process, so I was still continuing to develop my character as we filmed. One lesson I learned about playing a, for lack of a better term, "sad sack" character is that it can be hard to shake. I ended up going home with the pout on some nights.
Eventually I found that the fun in playing Eleanor was finding that light at the end of the tunnel. As I focused more on her journey towards the light, I started enjoying myself a lot more. Also, I found that with Eleanor, in those rare moments in which she showed some spunk and actually stood up for herself, she really got to shine.
No, she wasn't constantly hilarious and sarcastic like Ken Breese's character, Chuck, but when she had something to say, she was heard. I guess what I learned from her is that we all have a voice. You can feel weak and powerless as a human being, but it is only a feeling. We all have power even if we can't see it in ourselves. Eleanor is in a bit of a fog (of depression) in the beginning but once she gets out you really get to see the person underneath. And the best part is, the audience, I feel, will really root for her because the whole time you get these little glimpses of the true (better) Eleanor and you really root for her and want to see her emerge and shine.
So, thanks Justin:)
I don't think there could be a better answer than a song by Martin Luther Lennon, who combine bright, propulsive tunefulness with high, sweet vocals and oft-badass lyrics that keep catching you by surprise. When you hear a song titled "Kill, Kill, Kill," it's a considerable surprise to find it's not only infectious but downright adorable. Tipper Gore's worst nightmare, perhaps. But for those who take black-humored fun in stride, MLL's two CDs are a joy.
About "Kill, Kill, Kill" and the band that performed it:
Martin Luther Lennon was a Los Angeles based power pop-punk band featuring singer and songwriter Anthony Douglas Perkins. They released two albums on the Colorado based label Not Lame, "Music for a world without limitations" and "Escape to paradox island", as well as music on an assorted number of compilations during the years 1995 to 2000. Both albums were critically lauded and in 2007, MLL was listed in Spin magazine as one of the "ten most under-recognized power pop bands". They last performed in 2003.
[The song was] written in the summer of 1993 during a time when I [Anthony] was really sick. No real conscious explanation other than the fact that I thought that it would be really funny to write a pop song called "Kill Kill Kill."
For more info, see: http://mllennon.u7productions.com/
He has a unique mix of gentle charisma and gravitas—see his performance as "Cautious Friend" in Esc—that makes for characters the other characters just have to love.
It takes no suspension of disbelief to imagine his co-workers are bummed that this inventory day is his last day at the furniture store.
Paired with profane martial-arts fanatic Jackie, Quentin's Tucker is the only clerk in Inventory's "island of misfit slackers" whose response to getting a pen and a clipboard full of inventory sheets is to count the furniture.
As Jackie whips her nunchucks around and pushes the too-much-information envelope, Tucker's Aikido-like nature is put to the test.
Quentin on his experience in Inventory:
I had a great time working with Justin and the entire cast and crew on the film Inventory. When he called me and described his objective and process of organically creating a script and character I was very excited. Creating and playing Tucker was a fun challenge. (The easiest part was coming up with the name.) He has an aloof likability that I think comes across on the screen.
An initial fear I had was that people would mistake his kindness for weakness, but with the backstory Justin and I created I realized that Tucker had long ago stopped worrying what people thought of him. He had been through too much and was very content with where he was headed with his life. If anything, for me as a performer, it was an exercise in patience.
I had the pleasure of being paired with Shelly Nun Chucks Finnegan. I love Shelly. She’s funny, honest, and interesting. And she’s also a little crazy, but only in the greatest kind of way. The only thing I learned to expect when improvising with her was the unexpected. Definitely kept me on my toes.
Sometimes I was just along for the ride. When we auditioned together, I recall on more than one occasion thinking and saying to her after one of her many unique diatribes, "Well... I’m not really sure how to respond to that." Quite a funny audition. Ultimately, I believe the relationship worked well.
Jackie/Maria helped shape Tucker. I learned a lot about him through his interactions with her. (You may have heard by now that Nun Chucks is a fan of Jackie Chan. This is a gross understatement. I have met few people in my life who like anything as much as Shelly likes Jackie Chan. Mr. Chan, if you happen to be reading my Inventory recollection post please do the entire world a favor and come meet this girl. She’s one of a kind.)
Overall, I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with such a group as the people at Castparty Productions. I was so impressed with the level of talent and dedication of all involved that I can only hope for more opportunities of similar value in the future.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
"The Inventory soundtrack features an amazing collection of powerpop, from classic bands like Shoes and Stackridge to more recent, relatively unknown but worthy artists such as The Lolas and Jeremy. If you're a melody freak, then the music alone is a big reason to look forward to seeing—and hearing—this new indie film!"
The International Pop Overthrow Festival
Until its recent, lamented demise, Bruce Brodeen's Not Lame Recordings was the place to start any search for new powerpop horizons.
Three songs in the Inventory score were originally released on the Not Lame label ("Kill, Kill, Kill" by Martin Luther Lennon, "This Time" by Starbelly, and "Timpani Heart" by The Sun Sawed in 1/2).
Still others are from bands I'd learned about over the years from Bruce's online and personal recommendations, as Not Lame was also a retailer of powerpop from other labels, many of them small, with artists known largely due to Bruce's efforts. I have him to thank for turning me on to great bands like Cotton Mather, Splitsville, The Sugarplastic, and Tiny Volcano.
But the songs in my brain and record collection needed to be supplemented, to cover all the cues we had to fill.
I set the bar very high. I wasn't just looking for solid pop or pretty ballads. What I sought was effervescence. Friends who know their way around good powerpop sent me tons of really good recommendations, but good wasn't good enough. I wanted songs that got airborne! Music that soars the way Badfinger's "No Matter What" soars, the way the Raspberries' "Go All the Way" soars.
I clicked through hundreds of samples on Not Lame, searching for that sugar high. One click stood out from all the others, a song called "You (and Everything You Do)," by The Tor Guides, from Sweden.
Before four bars of quick strumming are done, Torbjörn Pettersson beams us straight to the middle of powerpop utopia:
"And there's a song I know, and you can hear it on the radio-oh."Oh, to live in a world where such music is on the radio-oh!
The Tor Guides album containing "You" was released by Jam Records, which led me to contact Jeremy Morris. Jeremy put me in touch with Torbjörn, who tells us about his cool summer breeze of a song, which now plays under Inventory's end titles:
The Tor Guides was initially a loose project I had been working on since the mid 00's. I had decided to have a go at finally finishing up a full CD as opposed the zillions of half-finished demos I had been leaving all around through the years, both before and after. I had demoed some songs that were chosen for the recordings and handed a copy of the demoed songs to my good friend and drummer Björn Höglund, who was to help out with drums and percussion; I had planned to play pretty much everything else myself.
We then recorded the demoed backing tracks for the album that eventually was to be our first CD, “Honeybees and Tangerines”, released by Jam Recordings in 2007. Although we were all satisfied with our efforts, I decided to have a go at an old idea of mine that had been haunting me for some time and had not been previously demoed. I grabbed my acoustic guitar and Björn sat down by the drum set. I told him, we were to record an uptempo, positive song—and then I counted us in, just like Dee Dee Ramone would have done. We recorded the backing track in that one take—actually the first and latest (if not the last) time the song has been played at all!
That final song, “You (And Everything You Do)” immediately sounded great in its clear simplicity. It was a joy to work on the many layers of vocals and the guitar and keyboard decorations of the backing track. For the lyrics of one verse, I borrowed the opening line from Elvis Costello's 70s ad campaign, "surfing on the crest of the new wave," pretty much in the same way he once borrowed one-liners from the old Motown hits of the 60s.
When finalizing the lyrics, I tried to emphasize the positive spirit of the music. It didn't take me many minutes to assemble the odd words of the lyrics and even though they might not make too much sense, I firmly believe all those positive elements are evident. Lyrics in pop songs shouldn't make that much sense, anyway…
The cover art for “Honeybees and Tangerines” was finalized by Phil Denton/MrQwerty, an old friend from the UK and the Audio Galaxy heydays. He also provided me with the band name Tor Guides, after long e-mail discussions on the subject.
It seems as though the song has caught on. Some years ago it was included in "Sweet Relief," a compilation album released by Jam Recordings to benefit the victims of the Katrina hurricane. I was then greatly honored and thrilled when being asked if the song could be included in the soundtrack of Inventory, together with so many great bands.
So, what was once just an odd musical idea in the mind of a Swedish pop nerd, has found a life of its own, which—if nothing else—goes to show that all good pop matters matter!
You can hear Tor Guides at @ www.myspace.com/torguides
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, January 29, 2011
One particularly invigorating part of making The Observer was having groups of supporting characters improvise on-camera, exploring key themes from the story's main plot line.
We wanted to do the same thing with Inventory, but like Ginger Rogers: backwards
The use of reimprov (reusing material derived from improv) as a scriptwriting tool is a little-discussed but highly valuable technique, and one we cultivate at Castparty.
Pretty much the only literature I've seen on reimprov consists of a few memorable quotes by Tina Fey from Anne Libera's The Second City Almanac of Improvisation and a chapter in a college thesis by Matt Fotis (.PDF).
Ms. Fey crystallizes the virtues of "scriptprov" (as Fotis calls it)...
I'm always surprised when I meet someone who thinks that sitting and writing is the only way of creating comedy. It's like meeting someone who thinks that in vitro fertilization is the only way to make a baby. You want to say, "No, there's this whole other way of doing it that's natural and sometimes pleasurable."...as well as the awkwardness when you first reimprovise an initially funny bit:
The scene feels flat and forced. You feel like a dirty whore.For some gifted improvisers, chewing the cud of a previously improvised scene is deadly. It's a direct invitation to "get in your head," a state contrary to the Zen-like plane where they thrive.
High among the attributes that make someone a favorite actor of ours is a facility with reimprov and an openness to an iterative give-and-take process for building and refining characters and scripts.
We used reimprov at every stage of the Inventory project. Sometimes we'd shoot a scene precisely as planned (with plans that, for the most part, grew out of earlier improv). More often, we explored variations in the first takes of a scene before settling on one version that worked best.
To initiate casting, Dennis Hurley, Kevin Hammer, and I pooled notes on our favorite local performers, most of whom we'd worked with before or had hoped to.
We scheduled several get-togethers with prospective cast, with new recruits to the project answering this question at the outset:
What character would be fun for you to play... and fun for the audience to watch you play?We gradually got to know these characters and their wants, foibles, and secrets.
Through improv and ongoing discussions, we learned what each character thought about each other character, and we tracked all this info in a Google spreadsheet. Eventually, the spreadsheet became the "source of truth" for the story beats and their state of completion, cast/crew availability, etc.
A Google text doc was a repository for memorable bits of dialogue that came out of the rehearsals and from subsequent discussions about characters and scenes. Once the shoot location was secured, that doc also included Kevin's bird-eye map of the furniture-store layout, which helped answer logistical questions about which characters would be in which part of the store at any point in the story.
For scenes with extensive scripted dialogue, and for the lyrics and animation beats for the title song, we used the Zhura (now "Scripped") online screenwriting app.
Since I wrote and finalized a plurality of the dialogue, I'm listed as screenwriter. Kevin, Dennis, and Katarina Morhacova share story credits, as they worked most intensively with me on helping craft a meaningful narrative from the warehouseful of rich material that grew out of the collaborative process.
In reality, there were more than a dozen significant contributors to the script—everyone on either side of the camera (and other Castparty friends who pitched in with helpful suggestions along the way), starting with each castmember's concept of the character they wanted to create and snowballing from there.
* * *
Given that locations are among the scarcest commodities for indie filmmakers, we envisioned a very compressed shoot, maybe over two weekends. When we found our location, Mattress Warehouse #1 in Norwell, MA, and Dave and Doris Thompson were so supremely helpful, we were able to expand our ambitions considerably, spending time on developing that "lived-in" feeling and structuring a much more cohesive story than a more completely improvised film would typically offer.
A good example of the evolutionary process we like to foster was Dave going from being our gracious location host to a cameo performer to a featured player who, according to some of our early viewers, practically steals the third act. If the fates put us in the company of a furniture-store owner who's a natural at the Charlie Brownish humor that fulfills our mission to make "sad little comedies," we ain't too proud to, y'know, improvise, and add some serendipitous fun to the proceedings.
Some of our recurring castmembers are extensively schooled in improv and acting, and some just fell off an unmarked talent truck. What's important to us is what they bring to the rehearsals, to the set, and most importantly to the screen.
And I'm damned proud to work with so many talented people and in a way that, I think, allows us all to be our creative best.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
One might also see a little DNA-similarity between Cat Miller's Zoë and the former's Allison Reynolds. Zoë is as inscrutable and feral as the moody Ally Sheedy character, but she's also a distinctly active presence: as physical and playful as she is brainy and, at times, harsh.
While the other eight clerks work in pairs, the ultra-detached Zoë was aptly assigned to be "a floater" (yes, one of the clerks tries to make hay with that), mixing it up with the four pairs of peers as the whim strikes her.
We first collaborated with Cat on The Observer, where she held forth on all manner of geeky topics with inspired improv based on, and fueling, the movie's overarching themes. Her Zoë again shows off Cat's brilliance with eccentric, high-status verbal banter. But even more so, it demonstrates a can't-keep-your-eyes-off-her gift for silent comedy.
Cat recalls the germination of the Zoë character:
I went to my first Inventory rehearsal a bit like a kid who hasn't done her homework. I knew that having a good character to play was entirely dependent upon my ability to come up with one, but I just hadn't given it the time I should have. Driving to rehearsal I thought over what would be fun for me—what am I really unlikely to get cast as in any other circumstances? My first, overwhelming thought was "it would be really fun to be incredibly weird." Of course, then I had to justify Zoë 's weirdness and build an entire character around that desire to say non sequiturs and hide out in small spaces. This definitely led us down some unexpected roads in developing her backstory—like me somewhat accidentally declaring her to be Jewish—but in the end I had a great time doing all the stuff I could never, ever do in real life.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Lea runs a popular local cable show where she reads fortunes, and she has a presence that's simultaneously imposing and disarmingly down-to-earth.
When a store is closed for inventory, customers inevitably come knocking on the door. Clerks either ignore them or brusquely turn them away.
Whether it's her charm, her story of "a furniture emergency," or the promise of otherworldly insight about his romantic quest, lonely clerk Percy can't resist letting "Tarot Woman" into the furniture store.
Lea comments on her first collaboration with Castparty Productions:
I was thrilled to be involved with this project. Fortune telling is my profession, so naturally I would play the tarot card reader.
I enjoyed bringing that mystical element, and Justin was so creative in the way he weaved it into the storyline. I had never worked with him before and didn't know what to expect from the cast and crew. I remember everyone being super-talented and super-professional and very funny.
More info at www.tarotbyleamarie.com and Facebook.