13-08-03 Pre-Production Summary

MAKING ALGORITHM: PART 3

 

    I originally thought the key to getting the movie made was to have people work for back-end. And, I had my pro-bono lawyer create a contract that makes me bound to fulfill my end. 

    It’s a profit-share and works like this: people are paid based on the number of days they work, divided by the total number of days worked by everyone on the project (excluding myself). So, if someone worked 10 days, and everyone, all together, worked 100 days, then that person would get 5% of all profits.

    I put myself on a fixed 50% because if I didn’t, then, based on the number of days I’m working, I would probably get closer to 80% of the profits and I didn’t think that was fair. It’s a pretty good business model, and if ALGORITHM does well, everyone gets a piece of a big pie.

*          *          *

    The other key part is having an amazing script. When people read a good script, they get excited. When people read an amazing script, they drop what they’re doing to be a part of it. 

    That’s what happened with ALGORITHM.

    A friend of mine, Sean Hackett, read ALGORITHM and, after letting me know how hard what I was trying to do would be, he recommended three of the best producers he knew, Phillip and Joseph Matarrese. The Matarreses are the kinds of people you read about. They knew they wanted to be filmmakers when they were very young, and went about starting their career. They went to film school, they worked in L.A. making connections. In short, they are incredible people for me to be working with. To say they helped make ALGORITHM possible would be like saying water makes life possible.

*          *          *

    At the same time, I was ramping up for my second crowdfunding campaign for the project that became ALGORITHM. It was originally titled The Root Kit, but I rewrote it and rebranded it.

    Because I had already run a fairly successful crowd funding campaign (we didn’t reach our $50k goal, but we did make it to $34k, which is pretty impressive), I knew what to do and what to expect. I had most of what I needed already made and prepared: everything from update videos to tweets. I also contacted the media outlets I had met during TRK’s campaign, and they were just as eager to help me again with ALGORITHM.

    I also knew I needed a catchy domain name. I came up with www.thehackermovie.com and used it in every post/tweet/status-update I made.

*          *          *

    While running the campaign, entirely by myself, though amplified by said media and some friends, I began auditioning the cast and crew.

    For the crew, the most important person on set, other than the director, is the DP. He determines the look of the movie and works closely with the director on every shot choice and if what the director wanted was caught by the camera. 

    Satsuki Murashige had three great things going for him, for us: 1. He was constantly working constantly, which means he is able to deliver professional quality video, and that he knows how to work with other people. 2. Because he works all the time as a DP, he has all his own gear, or he has connections to get what he needs. 3. He had never been a DP on a feature-length project, and was eager to get that in his resume. Satsuki was a Godsend and delivered in spades!

*          *          *

    For the actors, we went through www.lacasting.com and www.sfcasting.com to post the parts. For the Los Angeles auditions, we used a place called www.cazt.com. They provide a free location and videos of each audition, which can be viewed on their website or downloaded.

    In San Francisco we had to be a little more creative with where we held auditions, but Phillip Matarrese made it happen.

*          *          *

    So many of the actors we got were so good that Phillip and I kept saying we had an embarrassment of riches. I can’t be happier with the cast we got. I’d be more than happy to work with every single one of them again. Proud, in fact.

    But, I want to focus on Chris Panzera. He was beyond good. There are some people who are gifted. They are better than everyone else simply because of something they were born with. Chris is one of those. He’s been acting or training as an actor for well over 10 years, when we discovered him (I’m using the term “discover” on purpose because when he’s famous, remember that we found him).

    Chris came in to audition for the role of Agent Wallace, one of the DHS Interrogators. He came into the audition as a sadist, as though he enjoyed inflicting pain on people. He scared me and my assistant. My first response was to get the guy out of the room as soon as possible because I didn’t want him anywhere near me or ALGORITHM. 

    But then I had an idea; what if he wasn’t actually be crazy, but he was in character.

    My assistant that day was a friend of mine, fellow screenwriter, novelist, and former professional-wrestler, Matt Wallace. Matt is 6’4 and well over 300 pounds of muscle.

    So, I wasn’t terrified of Chris, knowing he wouldn’t stand a chance against Matt.

    I asked Chris to play Agent Wallace (yes, he is named after Matt Wallace) as though he doesn’t like inflicting pain. In that moment, everything about Chris’s performance changed. He became a completely different person. I was blown away, as was Matt.

    Chris asked if he could audition as Hash, a savant hacker/math professor. Again, another person. Each one as convincing as the first, each completely different from anyone else.

    Chris wasn’t right for Agent Wallace, or Hash. But, he was right for Will. And that’s who I cast him as, and convinced him to play, which he did, just as convincingly as he had in each of the three characters from the audition.