Anatomy of a Short Film: The Magic and Luxury of Making a Short Film

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Joe Forbrich in “In-Kind”

(Read about the entire process of making short film, “In-Kind,” by checking out the “Anatomy of a Short Film” section of this blog.)

1 weekend. 20 hours. That’s how long it took to shoot “In-Kind,” the short film that I wrote and am co-directing, along with Stephanie Dawson. (Check out the “Anatomy of a Short Film” tab above for progress on this project.) This film’s been on my mind for over four years, and I’m excited to say that we’ve wrapped shooting and are looking forward to post-production. Over 20 amazing artists and technicians joined together in a Bushwick, Brooklyn apartment to get it done, not least of which was our terrific cast, composed of Monique Pappas, Makenna Pappas, and Joe Forbrich (SAG-AFTRA).

Joe took on “In-Kind” in between shooting a Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks movie in Europe and starring on Broadway in an upcoming production. He took the time to send Stephanie and me the note below, describing the magic that comes with making a low-budget short film. Joe’s sentiment is echoed by everyone who has brought “In-Kind” to life so far. This is why we do this…

From Joe:

I just finished a long weekend of working on a short film. I played a homeless person who commits an act of love. There is great luxury in this—putting myself in the shoes of a man less fortunate than I, all the while knowing I can go home to a warm bed, my wife by my side.

Much like this homeless man, I participated in this project as an act of love. As did just about all the 20 or so others who came together in a Bushwick apartment donated by friends who didn’t mind having it taken over as an occupying army would on their march toward battle. The bathroom became the costume, hair, and makeup quarters. The living room became the barracks. The kitchen fed the troops. And when we needed to shoot in one of these rooms, all the gear was cleared and the production designer went to work, putting every set piece back in place, as if it had been there all along.

Low budget short or not, this light brigade still requires all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster, from the camera and lighting equipment, props and furniture, down to the bureaucratic details of special contracts with union actors. Certain luxuries are necessarily missing from these projects; there are no plush mobile trailers to house the stars of the movie (which is fine with me since I’ve never been a star), no catering trucks offering fine cuisine, and no one to hold an umbrella over you if it’s raining outside. These things are cool if you’re being financed by Sony Pictures. But not deal breakers when you’re raising funds through Indiegogo and the like.

I have been on movie sets that spent millions of dollars in a single day. I have been flown first-class to Germany to speak six lines in a Steven Spielberg film. I have loved every minute of it.  But I was also secretly jealous of the relationship between Tom Hanks and his director. How they collaborated and talked about the story and the shots, and the workaday trust that made the impossible seem effortless onscreen. How every movie is a mountain, and every day is a shovelful of dirt to be thrown upon this artful heap. That’s what I wanted.

And that’s what I get when I work with Stephanie and Dan. They let me play in the sandbox with them. They also handle all the personalities and dodge the cars when we shoot on the street, and they slip on the ice like the rest of us, but they get up and keep going because the shoot must go on. There are 20 or so artists who must somehow knit themselves together and come up with a film. There is only so much time. Only so much daylight left. But in the end, late on a Sunday night, we know we’ve got the elements of something special. Something magic. Something collaborative. And that is luxury.

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