Tight deadlines have a way of clearing the mind of clutter and forcing you to focus on the essentials. As you’ll see from Scott Upshur’s story below, they can also lead to resourceful filmmaking. Read on for more…
Briefly tell us your background.
15 years of film/tv/photography production experience (and still learning, every shoot). I have a bachelors degree in Film Production from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Since then, I’ve been a part of some of the biggest international film/tv campaigns and some of the smallest one-man-band videos. I’ve worked with some of the most influential and notable people in the world to some of the most interesting people that almost nobody has heard of. Recently, I’ve been putting my expertise to work for my own projects and have had small successes that I intent to build into larger ones.
What current or recent project are you working on, and what is your role?
I am currently producing a travel web-series; a series of environmental PSA’s; another short film; finishing a music video; shopping one feature script and working on two more. I continuously work as a free-lancer in numerous capacities for a broad spectrum of commercials, movies, and music video/live performances in Colorado, LA, and New York.
What are some of the things you had to do to personally prepare for this role, especially as it relates to getting the project off the ground?
After 15 years of learning how everyone else made their projects – I was prepared to invest my time and energies back into my own project. THE LOCAL’S BITE was intended to go to a local horror movie festival, the Telluride Horror Show. I asked the director of the festival, a friend of mine, if I made a local film using local actors and crew, would he put it in the festival. He said, sure, and I immediately started brainstorming a few ideas. I was trying to filter the project through parameters that included: a small budget; a story that would connect with the community; a tight deadline — four weeks.
How much time would you estimate you have devoted to this project?
From conception through post production we spent four weeks — which people who know, know that: unless you are making a “straight-to-YouTube-hit”, it is very, very difficult to make a project in four weeks — a good one, at least.
What was the most difficult challenge you had in bringing this project to fruition?
The short deadline was very difficult to deal with. When you start out with the clock beating on you, things can easily start to snowball. For instance: the less time you have to produce the project, the more quickly you need things — and to get them on time, you need more shipping and faster… Your expenses go up — making you less effective in other areas of the production — like affording walkie-talkies for complicated shots — making you give more time to complicated shots — taking away from time from the little detail shots or more takes for the actors — things that create moments that really make a film memorable.
What was the best part of the project for you personally?
The best part was the audience reaction at the festival. The room was packed and the audience screamed and reacted exactly where intended. It was, in my mind, a success. Equally, it was interesting to see the reaction from a audience on the other side of the world, with an almost completely different reaction. The film had it’s Official World Premiere in Korea at Pifan (the largest “Genre Festival” in Asia) had an audience who’s reaction was very different from the local Colorado crowd, who rode the gondola (a central part of the film) to work everyday. The Asian audiences screamed at the main scary moment, but missed a lot of the smaller moments that were set-up for a local (Western) audience. Many people reacted to other moments that I didn’t expect anyone to notice, instead. Ultimately, it was most interesting to see your project go out into the world and, like a child, interact and change.
What’s the biggest thing or things you learned from doing this project?
I learned that putting my experience to work for me was ultimate what I should be doing. Not that I am against working for or “with” other people — that’s where you can learn a lot without much risk — but, I do think that filmmaking is A TON of work and risk, and it takes more than just a normal sense of dedication; so, to give that to yourself, is very fulfilling (of course, after it is extremely stressful sometimes).
What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a project like this and/or a career like yours?
Know why you are doing it. It is very easy to lose control of a project that involves 30-40 (or more) people; so, you have to maintain focus while all those people are asking you what they are supposed to be doing. You get a lot of questions thrown at you at once and you must have the experience to answer those questions as accurately and precisely as possible; otherwise more problems arise — and snowball. That takes focus; and true focus takes confidence in what you are doing; and that takes either complete delusion and luck; or, in my case (as I saw it), patience and experience.
What’s next for you after this project?
As I mentioned before, at the moment I’ve got a lot to work on — yikes!