- Published on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 22:18
- Hits: 995
Monkey Tales started off as an interesting idea. I write and direct 12 episodes, that's one per month for a full year, with a rotating cast and crew. We do it film school style and get all crew, cast, locations and equipment at little or no cost on a volunteer basis. Sounds easy enough, right?
Monkey Tales pretty much started as a random idea. A way for Monkey Punch Pictures to have a product released more often than just once a year. I was blessed to get to work with such cool people as Mike Lee and Ernie Reyes Jr. on major projects (The In Between Place and Master Slasher, respectively) but that also meant that since I was relatively new to the Austin film scene, I didn't have much to show people in the way of proof that I am good at my job, and I am. *Wink* So, after seeing how often people make student films on an almost non-existent budget, I figured, "Hey, I can do that." So I did.
Being a big fan of anthology series like The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Present and The Outer Limits, I thought it'd be cool to do a series like this. Plus, it meant that we wouldn't be committed to any one actor, crew or set piece. It'd be way too difficult and possibly expense if we had to maintain continuity. What if an actor can't make the scheduled shoot or a location is no longer available? No, this was the best format for something like this.
Monkey Tales was structured so that I could write/direct a short film once a month. Beginning in June 2012 and ending June of the following year. Again, sounds easy enough, right? Well... sorta.
The First Few Episodes
For Episode 1, I decided to recycle a short film I had filmed back in October 2011 and debuted here in Austin in December 2011. A Few Tales of Hard Times: Chapter 4 - The Name was something I had written quite a few years ago and had been trying to film for years... a story for another time. But now I had it, so I decided to put it up as the 1st episode while I began filming the 2nd. A way to hype up the production.
It got a decent amount of views, as of this writing I think it holds about 795 views. Not a record by any means, but a small number I was proud of. So, I was on to shoot the second. I came up with the idea one day while just sitting quietly on the couch, called Mike to see if it'd make a good Episode 2, he said yes and I wrote the script in 30 minutes. Episode 2: I Know This Great Place was about a young couple who have dinner together and discuss the intricacies of our mortality and morality. So, I was on to putting together a cast and crew. Everything went smoothly... until about a week before.
Two major wrenches got thrown into the machine. First, my male lead was stuck in Georgia. He'd be flying in the morning of the shoot, but even if he got here in time, he also had the flu. So, about a week before shooting, I had to replace him. Luckily, the always incredible Donny Boaz, whom you may recognize from Denzel Washington's The Great Debaters, was more than willing to step into the role.
Donny Boaz in Ep. 2: I Know This Great Place
Then, I got another piece of bad news. My confirmed location thought I was shooting a food commercial about them. What? Yeah. I needed a fancy restaurant to film in. Well, I think what may have been a language barrier with the Italian speaking owner caused my location request to be lost in translation. When I called to confirm a week before, she informed me that she couldn't wait and that she'd have her dishes ready for us to shoot. She thought that we were making some type of commercial about her food. She also had a handful of other incorrect information and a timeline that didn't match ours, including wanting us to shoot everything in a matter of 4 hours. Yes, filmmakers, you may pick your jaws back up.
Donny teaches Shayla Bagir how to make an invisible ball of fire
So, we had to push the shoot back a week. Which meant we also lost our female lead due to scheduling conflicts. Luckily, the beautiful and talented Shayla Bagir was brought in by Donny. I could not have asked for a better cast. As for the location, we were unable to secure a new one in time, so we ended up stripping down my apartment and dressing it up as a restaurant. Props to our Director of Photography Brent Pierce for getting that lighting looking amazing. We shot the interiors in my apartment and the exteriors outside of my downstairs neighbor's apartment. We finished it in a day and were on to the next one.
Tearing my apartment apart
Episode 3: Cruz was directed by me, written by Jonathan Barceló Iñiguez, and starred Nicholle Walton Durban. We again were able to shoot everything in one day. Nicholle was simply amazing and blew everyone away with her performance as the blind mother of an abducted child.
Nicholle Walton Durban blindly following Colemar Nichols in Ep. 3: Cruz
The Scheduling Conflicts
At this point things started getting difficult as I went into full production for the feature film I wrote and directed, The In Between Place. For a full month I was locked into film duties, some days working as much as 23 hour days. Then, just 3 days after wrapping production on The In Between Place, I was hired to co-write yet another feature film, this time for the California-based studio Smasher Entertainment, headed by Ernie Reyes Jr., whom you may know as Keno from Ninja Turtles 2 or "the guy who whoops The Rock's ass" in The Rundown.
Spinning Tarzan Jiu-Jitsu
The Guest Directors
At this point I pretty much had to let someone else step in to direct. Otherwise, there would be no way for the series to continue.
Enter: Alicia Coombs. If you haven't met or worked with Alicia, you should. I met her during Monkey Tales Episode 2 where she immediately became my Line Producer. She next worked on Episode 3 and The In Between Place as my line producer yet again.It's because of her that my head didn't explode during these productions. So, when it came time to have to look for a replacement director for Episode 4, she was my go-to person. She took the reigns and was able to shoot Episode 4: Mash Note, starring Samantha Hope. Then October and November went by without a shoot. Mostly due to my incredibly busy schedule and a lack of additional directors I could trust.
Samantha Hope and Alicia Coombs on the set of Ep. 4: Mash Note
In December, Jonathan and I sat down to discuss him coming on as the new director. Jonathan had written the prequel comic book to "The Name" and Episode 3 of Monkey Tales. Plus, my girlfriend had been a long time fans of his long-running Daily Texan comic strip 6 Dollars, Please. He would direct a script he wrote titled "A Toast to Those Responsible" about a group of ex-University colleagues attempting to ignore the terrible truth of the outside world by throwing a dinner party. This is scheduled to be filmed this upcoming weekend of February 2-3.
The episode will see the return of Jacob Figueroa from "The Name" and both Nicholle Walton and Peggy Schott from "Cruz".
From Left-to-Right: Samuel R. Barrera, Nicholle Walton Durban, Peggy Schott, Jonathan Barceló Iñiguez
The Rest of Season 1
As of January 2013, Monkey Tales was restructured to consist of a total of 7 Episodes. By this point I've realized that though most of these episodes have been shot, none of them have been edited together. So, the plan is to finish shooting episodes 5-7 and then have them all edited and released in one-week intervals as Season 1.
Episode 6 will once again be written by me and will be a teen date-rape story... yeah, I'm going there. The script is still untitled but is scheduled to be shot some time during the 1st Quarter of 2013 and will be directed by my long-time Producer Joanna Mendez and stars Ruth Mendez and Reina Mendez.
From Left-to-Right: Reina Mendez, Joanna Mendez, Ruth Mendez
Episode 7: Sagora - The Beginning will close out the season and is written by Andy Alexander and based on his book Sagora. The episode will once again be directed by me and will lead directly into the new book. The film will feature a Bladerunner-esque diner, vampires and a fight scene, so I really can't wait.
The Second Season
Despite the ups and downs of this first season, I can guarantee you that there will be a second. However, there will be new rules and a new structure. A team of directors will be brought in to cover my absence. I may end up directing maybe one or two episodes, but I definitely couldn't do more. Also, we still have a large pool of scripts (well over 100) that were submitted to us last year, but we will be opening up the opportunities for beginning writers, or writers who just want to see their stuff made. We will also be looking for a team of editors so we can better maintain or schedule.
The first season didn't really have a specific genre, but it seems they all kind of fell into the horror/thriller genre. The second season will try to explore other genres, while maintaining the same feel.
Monkey Tales will remain an unpaid gig. One of the main reasons is that it forces us to think on our feet and work around issues instead of just throwing money at them and bankrupting ourselves. Also, it allows us to continue making more episodes without the need for seeking more funding. This format also makes it so that we can work with cast or crew members who want to work and otherwise may have been looked over in favor of someone with a longer resume or a history of paid work. This format won't be for everyone, and if you don't want to do unpaid work, I definitely don't suggest this for you, but for those of you that come on board, you will get a good look into the film industry, working alongside people who have worked with the best.
So, here I sit in front of my laptop preparing Casting Calls for both Episodes 6 and 7. We've almost come to the end of the first Season and I already can't wait for the next!