Saturday, September 1, 2007

Markee Magazine spotlights Closing Escrow

How to Make an Independent Film
by Christine Bunish


As a segment producer on the cable series House Hunters, Armen Kaprelian witnessed a lot of hilarious scenarios that didn't fit into the style of the show. But he thought they'd make a great movie.

Kaprelian developed the concept and approached HD pioneer Kristen Cox, president and CEO of 16x9 Productions, to see if she thought the concept had legs and to explore what the costs associated with such a movie would entail. He knew that HD would lend itself well to the reality TV look he wanted while maintaining a theatrical quality level.

Budget in hand, Kaprelian brought potential investors to a “dog and pony” show at HD Vision Studios in LA, where president Randall P. Dark, the movie's co-executive producer, answered questions about how HD technology would enable the first-time director to make a cost-effective film. Once investors were on board and the project was ready to commence, Kaprelian enlisted Kent Llewellyn to join him as co-director.

Kaprelian relied on Cox to put together a modified low-budget feature package and to work with SAG to employ union actors. “It's important to realize that the unions will try hard to make your movie work no matter what the budget is,” notes Dark. Closing Escrow, which includes a lot of improvisation, stars some cast members from Reno 911 and performers active in the LA improv scene.

Dark is a firm believer that “what makes the storytelling work is the crew you work with.” Closing Escrow aimed high, hiring the “unbelievably gifted” DP Scott Billups and his crew plus one of the industry's top DITs, Sean Fairburn, Dark points out. Dark's Sony F900 v3 CineAlta HD cameras were used for the two-camera, 14-day shoot.

“Our primary camera fed a Mac G4 with an off-line editor on site so we'd know what we were getting by the end of a set up,” Dark explains. “That's an incredibly fluid way to work; we never had to worry about having to reshoot because something didn't work or didn't match. We also had CCUs for color timing in the field.”

The on-set rough cut was used as a visual guideline for the off-line by Kaprelian and Llewellyn on Final Cut Pro HD. The on-line at full resolution, also done on Final Cut Pro HD, was done at HD Vision Studios with audio mixing at Wildwoods. The soundtrack features original music by Matt Birch and some stock tracks from DL Music.

Dark, who knows Mark Cuban, sent the HD visionary a DVD of Closing Escrow. He enjoyed the movie and recommended that the filmmakers talk to his Magnolia distribution company. Kaprelian inked a deal with Magnolia for an almost-simultaneous national theatrical and DVD release plus TV broadcast rights; Magnolia is also handling promotion.

“I think the movie will do well theatrically and exceptionally well on DVD,” says Dark who's a fan of Magnolia's policy of quick release on DVD. “How many people in America today are either buying or selling a house? I believe in getting involved in evergreen types of properties. People will watch Closing Escrow for the next 50 years and think it's funny. It's a timeless send up of the real-estate business. I also see a segment of the real-estate business buying DVDs to give to buyers and sellers telling them, 'thank goodness we're not these people!'”

Excerpted from Indie Filmmaking in Markee Magazine, September 2007

No comments: