Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Prepare Yourself

Making a film look easy, doesn't it? Effortless, even?  You think to yourself, "Oh, I have a story. I just need a camera and some actors."

And then you try to make it.

Your actors aren't real actors, probably your friends, right? And they flake out on your and don't make it on days your shooting... suddenly you realize you have to get the same scene from different angles... how will you ever actually show an explosion? When you finally get to look at your scenes, holy crud monkeys. The sound sucks.

And so it goes.

Am I saying NOT to try? Absolutely not! I think if you have a story inside you, you need to set it free.

If you want to make a film that will really capture attention, mark my words: surround yourself with people smarter than yourself.

You're only as good as your team. And if your team consists of a best friend who runs down the batteries videoing girls on the beach instead of your intense monologue in the Sahara, well, he shouldn't be part of the team.

Start small.

By small, I mean a short film. It's a lot easier to navigate, fail, rebuild and refilm a short film than it is a feature.

Learn to write a script. My GOD PLEASE LEARN HOW TO WRITE A SCRIPT. I can't tell you how many times I've had people give me their works of art and it's not formatted correctly, or slug lines are naked, or it's in the wrong font.  Read Blake Snyder's book SAVE THE CAT and William Akers book: YOU'RE SCREENPLAY SUCKS! for help.  Both of them are gold. Oh if people would read them more.

Find a local film group in your area. Today, the internet makes everything so much easier.  You can find Meetups or local colleges with film schools.


LISTEN to your team. I've worked with outstanding people with a wealth of knowledge, but the director wouldn't listen to them. So, what could have been a kick ass movie became a ho hum sleeper.

Movie making is a tedious task. It takes a lot of preparation. And by a lot, I mean months of planning before you even have your first shots. But it's in these months where you iron out all the bumps.  It's in the prep that you get to know your team, too, and how they flow.  Who's the weakest link.  Who is the worker bee.  Who's the one with the connections.  Where the problems are.

If you can troubleshoot BEFORE you shoot, it makes all the difference in the world. Your shoot goes a lot smoother, and before long, you look like you know what you're doing. :)

So please. For your sake, and the sake of your crew and actors: prepare.

Everyone will thank you. And pretty soon, you'll be making the walk down that red carpet.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Remember a while back, I helped produce the film, MUSICA CAMPESINA?

Well, it's on HBO right now... until December 29th.  If you'd like to see it, now's your chance.  It's really cool to have worked so hard on something and see it on the air. Very cool.

A few things you can spot...

In the pool hall scene... the male in the background playing a game is my oldest son, Michael Haney. :)

The yellow car Karen drives when she drops off Alejandro at the Drake Motel was my car.

Those are just a few tidbits. :)

Enjoy, tell your friends, and tell others! :D


Thursday, November 6, 2014

So I Met Nicole Kidman Today...

I work in an industry where I get to be around some pretty awesome folks.  It's never dull, that's for sure.

I had the wonderful privilege of meeting the beautiful and uber talented Queen of the Screen Nicole Kidman today. She was at Barnes and Noble, reading Paddington The Bear (and did an astounding job).  She's playing Millicent in the soon to be released film.

Besides the fact that I respect this woman greatly, and the fact that I'm an enormous fan of her body of work, there's a reason that I'm writing this blog today.

When someone becomes a celebrity, they give up a part of themselves.  They are always under a microscope. Everything they do is scrutinized. Some of them can handle it. Some of them can't. We all can think of a handful of celebrities who we've all witnessed crash and burn, tragically. For some, the celebrity status goes to their heads and suddenly they become monsters.  Who hasn't heard the story (and the audio) of a certain male celeb screaming at the DP on a set?  Or another now almost completely blacklisted actor putting out a cigarette on a DP's face? I bet when I say hard to work with celebrities you already have a couple in mind.  That's a sad thing. These people have forgotten where they've come from, and who makes them successful.

But not Nicole.

From the moment she entered the area, she was quickly taken with all of the children. She cooed and ahhed over them, even letting them crawl into her lap as she read.  When she was done, she hugged them, and took pictures with every single child for the parent. She took a picture with me.  She answered questions.  She was positively genuine and delightful.

There was never an air of snobbiness. There was never any looks to her handlers as if to say, "Can I get out of here?" and yes, I've seen that look from celebrities before.

She is a genuine person who has NOT forgotten where she's come from. She's polite. She differs to the other person. Even with her handlers telling her she needs to leave, she squeezed in as many photos as she could because she knew the parents wanted them. She has a giving soul. She was thrilled to be a part of the event, to read to children, and it showed.  And that's so refreshing. People clamor to work with her, and that's totally the reason why.

So, actors that read this blog: when you make it, don't change who you are. And don't compromise who you are to get there. You'll find that more doors open to you, more fans follow you, more people love you.  Be gracious. Be kind.

Remember where you came from.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Dear Well Meaning Person Who Wants Help With Your Project:

I appreciate you thinking highly of me enough to come to me for help.  I sincerely do. I've worked very hard to get to the place where people can come to me with questions.  It proves to myself that what I've done in the past hasn't been in vain... the long hours, stormy nights, shots in the mugginess and freezing cold, they actually did propel me into becoming the professional I am today.

And while I am friendly, and while I am nice, whether you understand this or not: I cannot work for free.

I work. HARD for a project.  I give up time with my family. I give up time to work on my own creative projects. I literally bust my butt to ensure I give 110% on your work of art. I sweat. I bleed. I cry. Over each project I'm over.

I've been asked to critique scripts for free, to provide crew, to write, to produce, to direct...

And for that, I need to be compensated. Not only me, but ALL filmmakers.

Our dedication and love of what we do, has made it easy to exploit us. We need to eat. We need to provide for our families.

Don't you?

So, the next time you approach anyone to work on your awesome project, consider offering them compensation.

We're worth it.  ~SC

A Good Article On Why Writers Should Be Compensated Too

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Be Smart About Your Work

This may be an epiphany to some; to others you may already know this:  making a movie is tough business. 

The reason why so many people think they CAN make movies is because we (professionals) make it look easy. Because we know what we're doing. 

And how do we do that? SIMPLE. 

You surround yourself with people smarter than you, and you trust them when weigh in. 

If you have a demolition expert that graciously donates their time to come to your set, and he says to you, "Hey, when they take out that building, they would put the charges on the beams, not just leave them on the floor,"  what's the correct response?

A.  Oh, it'll be fine.  No one will catch that. 
B.  We don't have time to change that.  (When it takes like, fifteen seconds). 
C.  Oh, that was a PA's job.  (curses furiously and continues with scene)
D.  Really? Thank you for that! (calls over AD, shares info, and lets AD handle the change). 

I'll give you a hint. It's:

It's ALWAYS D!  Listen to those around you who KNOW what they are doing! Believe it or not, they want to make a great movie too. They don't want to be attached to a piece of dog poop. And if you're making a film and you're ignoring everyone around you, that's what you're going to make.  

I'm not talking about your expertise, because I don't care where you went to school, or who you know, or what you've worked on in the past.  

Listening will be the difference between you making a good movie and a great movie.  

I'm NOT saying to give away your creative control. Or your status as producer to have the last word. Or as director to determine what the shot is.  Obviously, you don't lose control of your set by making it a collaborative frat party.  But if your DP says, "The lighting won't work for this shot," and your answer is, "We'll fix it in post."  Then the entire set will know that you are not a dedicated director, but lazy.   That you have unattainable expectations.  And that you do not value those around you. 

And that word travels fast. 

If you're producing, you're over a bunch of departments. If one is lagging behind and your answer is to publicly call them out and chastise or blame them, you probably need a different job. You keep everything running smoothly. And by having those smarter than yourself in the key positions: DP, Set Design, Editing, etc., you allow them to make calls, and you stand by them... unless absolutely necessary.  If there's a reason for the delay, ask the department head. It could be something easy for you to fix. And that IS your job as the producer. 

No matter the position you are in on a set, you are making magic. You're transforming worlds and bringing an audience with you.  

Why micromanage that? 

So be smart.  Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself. And tell them that. They love it. And listen when they talk. 

And always be grateful. That will weather storms and any trials that come up on a set. 

If your crew feels valued, there is nothing they won't do.  But they can't and won't feel valued if they are ignored. 


How well do you think Band Of Brothers would have fared if Spielberg had not listened to his advisors and crew? Food for though. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BACKGROUND! The TV drama I'm producing!

I've been working and working and working on living the dream. Why? Because honestly, I've been dealt a pretty crappy hand in life, and I want to show my kids that if you focus, work hard, and don't give up, you can create your own future.

Hopefully, BACKGROUND! will be part of it.  BACKGROUND! is a television drama series created by Joe Carroll to bring the life of "extras" on a set from the background to the foreground. I had the wonderful privilege of producing this amazing work.

Currently, we are awaiting to see which network is housing it. We are set to release 2015.  Our goal is to have an unknown cast, because, isn't that the point of the show?  We want to use our local talent, too, and get them the recognition they have been fighting for and deserve.  We're SO proud of everyone that is a part of this show.

We'd LOVE to have you be a part of our social media outreach, too!  Feel free to follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @BACKGROUND_TV  and Facebook: facebook.com/backgroundtv

ALSO!  If you have any pix of yourself on a set, please upload them to twitter or facebook!  #BACKGROUND_TV  and #InTheBackground  

If you have stories, feel free to share! This experience is interactive! We want you to know, that you're NOT cattle in our eyes! YOU DESERVE TO BE NOTICED!!!!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Alabaster Phoenix

Last shots of The Alabaster Phoenix take place tomorrow night and I couldn't be happier.  This short film has been a first on a few levels.

First of all, our director, Tala Hobballah makes her directorial with this film. Tala is my co-producer on my projects and mentioned she wanted to start directing.  This was the perfect film for her to ease into the director's chair:  a silent film with only a few words spoken at the end.

Our crew are members of a filmmaker's meetup.  They all have strengths they bring to the table.  We have a DP we've never worked with, and he's had some great ideas.  Our AD sometimes needs to be reeled in from breaking out into song, but all in all, he's a keeper.  Our producers, Dudley and Michael have done very well in securing sites for filming as well as helped out on actual shoots, whether it's holding the boom, moving the dolly, or racking focus for the camera. Team effort, you know.  Our resident newbie, Jon, has been almost in every possible crew position and has done a wonderful job. He is even in a scene (along with yours truly!).  We've had some folks come in and volunteer as PAs, David and Tracey... they have been fabulous to have on site.

From here, it goes to editing.  From editing, it goes to scoring.

I am SUPER excited that our musical composition is going to be scored by David Gaines.  This is such a blessing to me because:

  1. he writes gorgeous music
  2. he's my high school choir accompanist that everyone loved
I'm so glad to be able to utilize his gifts for a project that I created.  That give me a warm fuzzy when I think about it. 

On top of that, Buffi Holland, one of my best friends in the universe, has the role of our hero, Ellen Mayhall and she brings her to life just like I knew she would: authentic, genuine, effortless. 

I'm excited to finish it up. :)

Stay tuned! :D

Saturday, April 5, 2014

From Writing To Directing To Producing

It's been over a year since my last post.  Shame on me. I've been literally swamped.

Without going into every project I've worked on, let me just say tomorrow, a children's television show that has been the desire of my heart to create is FINALLY being filmed!  I am executive producing and head writer of the show. I'm so excited. Tala Hobballah, Michael Haney, co-producers.

On top of that, I have cast some of the best kids in the region to be hosts. One of them, is sweet Noelia, a little one with Down's Syndrome.  I love being able to use the show as proof that kids with special needs can be viable to a production.  She is so excited and we are too!  What a cutie pie. I mean, look at her!

Isn't she precious???

I'll share more about the show once we have it filmed. :)  Let's just say it's pretty awesome!!!! 

I've also written another short film called The Alabaster Phoenix and stars my BFF and biz partner, Buffi Holland has the lead.  So very excited about that too!!!  Logline: A fragile widowed woman grapples with despair and loneliness by discovering her purpose in life.  Lots of locations, and I'm thrilled to possibly be using one of my favorite composers in the universe on this film. Films May 2014. Michael Haney, Dudley Jacobs, producing. 

I'm also producing a short film called PHASE 6. Phase 6 is about governmental population control via the use of flu shots.  It's a sci-fi thriller complete with CGI special effects, so I'm eager to see how this turns out and to work with Jeff Dolan, the director. :)  Starring Keagan Haney, Caleb Shore, Kim Kinsley, and Richard Chilton.  Films June 2014. 

Recently I completed filming a television pilot with the amazing Joe Carroll, writer and director. I earned a producer credit on this one. Can't share the name of the project... YET.  It's a superb concept and I hear it is gaining interest by various sources. As well it should. It's impeccably made and Joe has a keen eye for detail. Shot on the RED camera, the images are crisp, concise, and stunning to watch. 

AMAZING cast.  Photo by Michael Walters

I'm also producing a television show for The Children's Kindness Network called Moozie The Cow.   We have got a great music director, Sara Beck, and Executive Producer, Elandriel Lewis totally has a heart for kiddos.  Research consultants and casting the kiddos  are Colleen Russo, Emily Drossner and Christina Longo. I call them The Vandy Posse since they are all Vanderbilt minds. Ryan Rehnborg is animator. Starring Nina Borum and Caleb Shore.  Moozie the Cow is currently in production. 

So that's my irons in the fire at the moment. I have a few productions lined up to produce... Christopher Siaens "RAIN" is one of those projects. Tala Hobballah has a series she wants me to help her with, and of COURSE I will. Tala is amazing and I cannot say enough things about her and her awesomeness! 

Hopefully I will have a chance to be on here more! I hate such gaps in my entries. I will attempt to do better for you, my ever faithful fans!