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How To Lose $1.2 Million And Shoot Your Feature Anyway

How To Lose $1.2 Million And Shoot Your Feature Anyway

Articles - Directing

In writer/director Tim Hines’s latest film, House

of the Rising, the running time of one hundred minutes means

just that-one hundred minutes of life at a retro-seventies party

over the course of one night. Shot in one continuous take with a

SteadiCam, the "real-time" coverage of the partygoers

took cast and crew over 4 floors of a Seattle house, creating unique

obstacles, shooting challenges and odd rehearsal scheduling.

Not a story for Generation X, but rather more an American Graffiti for the late 70s and ’80s, House of

The Rising shares the consequences of encountering all your

past relationships in one single night. "The point of the continuous

take," explained Hines, "was to show everyone trapped

at this party. In the 70s and the 80s, I was a watcher on the edge

of the punk rock crowd … then I turned around, it’s 10 years later

and all my old friends are dead of AIDS or drugs. I had this feeling

of nostalgia; I began to understand what drove Lucas into American

Graffiti. I started to wonder, ‘what if I ran into so &

so?’ I created an ego thin main character, and examined three concepts:

What people need in their lives to make a change; the extremes they

go to to get accepted; and how far they allow bad relationships

to go in their lives because of the small good things those relationships

offer. Placing the film during one night of action helped cut down

the [original 300 page] script to one hundred minutes of real time."

Frustrated with the politics involved with his previous

five feature films, Hines was looking to present his own voice,

to speak from his own center. "Writing isn’t something I have

a choice about," Hines tried to explained from his Seattle

production office. "If I don’t write, I start to evaporate

off this earth. It’s the only way I’m held here, I need to interpret

what I see and what I feel. I always see a sense of injustice in

how people lie to themselves … what’s of interest is how people

lie to themselves to trick themselves through life."

Hines: Regrouped when Hollywood pulled the plug.

Originally established as a $1.2 million dollar feature

starring Crispin Glover and a cast of Hollywood talent, House

of the Rising lost its five week shooting schedule and comfortable

budget when Glover decided to rework the script into his own project.

Since he seemed nervous about the SteadiCam choice in filming, both

Harry Dean Stanton and Max Perlick (who had also been cast) worked

hard to keep Glover calm, unfortunately to no avail. Glover’s signed

contract gave him $75,000 for 10 days worth of work (he was originally

offered $40,000), but when he distributed his own script revisions

to the other cast members and even sent them by fax to Hines, he

effectively voided the agreement. The last straw came when Glover

issued the ultimatum that he was not going to do this film unless

he directed it, and Hines was forced to fire Glover as well as cut

loose the original cast.

Faced with having spent $117,000.00 in pre-production

costs, and the reality of no money coming into the project, Hines

quickly re-grouped with a 14­ day shooting script and a $140,000

budget. The money bought film stock, processing and food, while

the cast and crew both agreed to work on deferred payment. Hines

went back to his desire to cast Seattle actors and auditioned every

stage actor he could find: a concept originally turned down by Glover,

who refused every Seattle actor he saw during auditions for not

being good enough. Still Hines was convinced that talented stage

actors would be able to hit all the marks he was asking them to

during the tight shooting schedule.

"In a continuous take there is no fourth

wall. Every cable, every light has to be disguised. The camera is

making 360 degree turns while the crew is ducking on their hands

and knees, and falling flat on their bellies to get out of the way,"

recalls Hines. "Brad (Nelson, the SteadiCam operator) had 40-50

marks per reel that he had to hit, the focus puller had 10-20 and

each actor had 16-20. The extras had one mark they had to stay on;

they could dance or talk on it, but they couldn’t move from it."

At first, everyone was nervous about the continuous

take idea; yet as rehearsals began to take shape and the concept

was ironed out, attitudes started to change. "Even with masked

edits, the continuous take has to flow for 10 minutes because the

film reel changes every ten minutes anyway," explained Hines.

"So a typical shooting day started with eight or nine hours

of pure rehearsal; actors developed their characters within the

parameters of the camera location. At the dinner break, the principals

would eat first and then go to make-up while the crew ate. We’d

then run through the scene, shoot for 10 minutes and we’d be done.

Ninety percent of the scenes were done in one take."

House of the Rising has had several test screenings,

including some under different titles at the request of various

distributors who wanted to play up different elements of the film,

which Hines describes as, "wild but sophisticated in its center."

The distributors must have seen something else as they were requesting

titles like "Pepper & Candy’s Last Wild Party" and

"The Pleasure Junkie." The House of the Rising title

refers to a t-shirt worn by the main character: the shirt originally

said, "House of the Rising Sun," but after his girlfriend

cut it off one hot day, "House of the Rising" was "what

I was left with." The title House of the Rising represents

"people’s attempts to hold unrealistic visions together, trying

to keep their life as much in fantasy as possible until reality

comes crashing in," defined Hines.

House of the Rising is now in post production

and Tim Hines continues to negotiate with interested distributors.

Hines has expressed concern that the continuous take is slow or

boring at, several moments in the film: "In the final edit,

we may have to throw out the gimmick," he concludes, "to

save the pacing of the film."

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