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Inside COVID Production Standards on an Indie with Austin Williams
So many IFH Tribe members have reached out to me to ask if I could help or guide them on how to shoot an indie feature film or series during COVID-19. So I decided to release a series of interviews with filmmakers who have done just that.
First up is filmmaker Austin Williams. Austin was shooting his new feature Red Stone in the middle of COVID before anyone in our business knew what to do. The film had a respectable $500,000 budget. Here is some more info on the film.
With one bullet, Motley’s life spirals out of control as he’s forced to go on the run from the ruthless crime lord, Jed Haywood. Tracking Motley is Boon, Haywood’s best henchman, and close friend. Boon’s brother has recently passed away in a horrific car accident and today is the funeral. He has 10 hours to bring Motley in and get to the cemetery. Over the course of one day, both Motley and Boon go on a game of cat and mouse as their fate brings them together for a climactic showdown.
The film stars Neal McDonough (Yellowstone, Altered Carbon, Sonic The Hedgehog) who is also exec producing the film. The film also stars Dash Melrose (Little Fires Everywhere), Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead), Dominic Scott Kay (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), Jason Douglas (The Walking Dead), Allie DeBerry (A.N.T. Farm), and Mike Dopud (The Predator).
In this conversation, we discuss the methods he used to keep everyone safe on set, how he dealt with SAG, and the costs associated with dealing with COVID safety measures. Enjoy my conversation with Austin Williams.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- DONATE to Feed America to help with people affected by the Coronavirus
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business (FREE AUDIOBOOK)
- $1 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)
- The Complete Indie Film Producing Workshop with Suzanne Lyons (COUPON CODE: IFHFILMPRODUCE)
- Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story) (FREE AUDIOBOOK)
REAL-WORLD STREAMING FILM EDUCATION
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
- Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
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- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
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Alex Ferrari 2:05
Now guys, today on the show, we have the first of an ongoing series I'm going to be doing over the next few months on film production during COVID-19. And I've been getting called and emailed and text and messaged by so many different filmmakers asking my help my what I think what if there was a way any resources on how to shoot during COVID in a safe manner. And that goes for very low budget indie projects that are non union all the way to full blown union projects that are still in the indie space, maybe 1,000,002 million and below that are dealing with an entirely other set of problems dealing with unions, and all the other stuff that goes along with those bigger productions. So today on the show, we have Austin Williams. Now Austin was shooting his new feature redstone in the middle of the COVID pandemic before anybody in our business knew what the hell was going on. The film had a respectable half a million dollar budget, and it stars Neil makhana and Michael cutlets. In our conversation we discussed the methods he used to keep everyone safe on set, how he dealt with sag and the costs associated with dealing with COVID safety measures. If you are interested in shooting during this crazy time, this is an episode for you. So enjoy my conversation with Austin Williams. I like to welcome the show Austin Williams How you doing my friend?
Austin Williams 3:55
I'm doing pretty good How about yourself?
Alex Ferrari 3:57
As good as we can be in this crazy upside down world we live in today sir.
Austin Williams 4:01
I hear that I it's upside down is is an understatement. We are in the
Alex Ferrari 4:07
We are in the upside down it Stranger Things we are in the wind. There's no question about it. We are in an alternate universe.
Austin Williams 4:13
That's that's a perfect analogy right there we are in the upside down.
Alex Ferrari 4:16
I feel like there's danger of flying in the air at all times. For some reason. It's just like
Austin Williams 4:23
that's it man.
Alex Ferrari 4:23
And every it is it seemed like every every moment of every day that goes by something else amps things up to another level. It's not enough that we have come with a once in a generation pandemic. But everything else that's piled on upon upon us is I just can't even I can't even I can't even period Yeah, I can't even
Austin Williams 4:49
Right nothing, you know, nothing. It's nothing is a surprise anymore. You know, it's just like, oh, okay, well add that to the list. All right.
Alex Ferrari 4:57
I do remember that. I do. Remember It earlier in the year, and I might be mistaken, and it might be wrong, but I was I heard that in some documents that were released by the government that there was basically proof that aliens exist. I remember that that was said somewhere passing. But with the craziness that is happening right now, literally, if an alien showed up, we'd be like,
Austin Williams 5:19
Yeah, exactly. Yes. Just like, Okay, well,
Alex Ferrari 5:21
well, of course, of course, the aliens haven't. Right?
Austin Williams 5:24
Why would they not? You know, this point?
Alex Ferrari 5:27
Hey, but like, as we're talking, we still got a little bit left in this year. So we better be quiet because God knows.
Austin Williams 5:34
Who knows, man, it's, let's just let's fast forward till the end. And hopefully, thanks, change come 2021. So I'm
Alex Ferrari 5:41
alright. So how did you get into the business, my friend,
Austin Williams 5:44
I've slowly gotten into the business over the course of my entire life I have. Since I'd say second grade I've known I've wanted to be in the entertainment industry in some capacity. It just took me a while to figure out what exactly that was and how I was going to get there. I have took media tech classes in high school, I went to film school afterwards, but the whole time I was trying to facilitate operate a videography business with my best friend who I've known for many years. And we've done this together the whole time, essentially, you know, me and him ran a little wedding videography business here. And we went to school, we got our skill sets a little bit more involved. He kind of went the creative camera route, I went more of the ad and producer route once I established, okay, I know how to do this the best out of anything, and my camera work is just, well, shit. So I'm gonna I'm gonna stick to what I know and what I do best. And I've been, I've been freelancing now. for 12 years, I've been a freelance assistant director and producer, or production manager supervisor. I've just been in the production department for 12 years now. I'd say so
Alex Ferrari 6:56
and where and where do you live in the country?
Austin Williams 6:57
I'm in Dallas, Texas.
Alex Ferrari 6:59
Okay. All right. That's that's not a small market by any stretch of the imagination. It's a large city.
Austin Williams 7:05
Yes, it's a it's a large commercial market here that is about what I'd say. I'd say about 90% of the the crew and the people working here. They're working in commercials, you know, that's how they're making their living. So, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's me personally, I, you know, I do work the commercial stuff quite often. And that does get the bills paid. But I know for me, you know, I got into this to make feature films and, you know, hopefully someday make good ones.
Alex Ferrari 7:31
Exactly. Now, we're having you on the show, because you were one of the few filmmakers to actually film a project in the middle of COVID. before anybody knew what the hell was going on? Yeah, that's correct. You were you say you were in it as they say you were in the shit. You were in the shit. You're in the shit and everybody around you was basically Chicken Little sag didn't know what was going on. They didn't know what questions to ask. You know, you basically just won't move forward. Trying to set up guidelines that would protect yourselves and your crew and get a get everybody in and out safe while still doing this. And this was a fairly wasn't a small budget in the indie space in you, you might not mind me asking what the budget was?
Austin Williams 8:23
No, no, it was it was half a million. So it wasn't relatively small, but obviously not big Hollywood money either. So it was it was doable, but within reason.
Alex Ferrari 8:33
Right, exactly. So it was it wasn't like a 10 or $15,000 film. I mean, you know, you know, as in the world of independent film. $500,000 is a respectable number. To say the least. And, and you and what was the name of your film? And what's the genre of it?
Austin Williams 8:53
The film is called Red Stone, and it's a southern crime thriller.
Alex Ferrari 8:57
Very cool. And who and you have any bankable stars in it or any stars?
Austin Williams 9:01
Our lead star is played by Neil mcdonogh, or our lead role, I should say? No, mcdonogh you a lot of people may know him immediately from his work on Yellowstone.
Alex Ferrari 9:12
Yes, Neil has been he's one of those faces that's been everywhere. He's he's just been and he's a character actor who has worked in so many huge huge with any generally plays the villain, and he plays the villain extremely, extremely well. He's just Yes, he he has one of those faces that and I don't mean that in a bad way because I love Neil, but he has a he has a face you like bad guy.
Austin Williams 9:40
But he he does play the villain perfectly. But I have to say that is one of the nicest guys and most professional guys I've ever gotten the pleasure of working with and I cannot say enough nice things about him. You know, truly and honestly, so he was a he was a pleasure.
Alex Ferrari 9:56
Now what was the filmmaking process like shooting deer COVID because when would it When did you shoot this? What was the month?
Austin Williams 10:04
So, you know, at the time it was, you know, at least in Texas, I can't really speak for all the states, but we shot at the beginning of June. And at that time, restaurants and businesses were only opening up at a 25% capacity. And it was it was just it was a different time, especially it's different every month in production, that it's very different now than it was just a few months ago. It's crazy how, how fast we're adapting to this, you know,
Alex Ferrari 10:34
And it's adapting and yet, things are just changing so rapidly. I think everybody is got whiplash, COVID whiplash, especially in the production space, because we're one one minute error. We're good out next, but No, we're not. Oh, yeah. Oh, well, we got to do this now. Oh, well, no, it's not six feet. It's 10 feet. Oh, it's airborne? No, no, it's not airborne. Like it's Yeah, it's, uh, you're constantly trying to set up a process that doesn't take a day. Generally speaking, it takes weeks to shoot a film. And then a few weeks before prior to prep it. I can only imagine and you were you when you went in you were in June. So June was you were going into the height of, of the pandemic, like it was like people it was it was insane, that if I remember correctly, the whole car has been insane. But during that time, it's been pretty insane. So when you when you walked in ours, you're gonna start shooting in June? Do you guys have mask? What was the procedures that you used during the whole process? And by the way, did anyone get sick while you shot?
Austin Williams 11:39
Actually, we are very thankful to say that no one got sick while we were shooting, everyone went home. And the people that did get tested for no one experienced any symptoms, but the people that did get tested afterwards, everyone came back negative. But our, our preparation for it was one of our producers had put together these, these COVID kits, which was just a bag of backpack, so to speak, with a mask, some hand sanitizer, some D Santa, these are some Santa tising wipes that we gave out to all the crew members, we had our our production assistants, they were constantly wiping things down our our crafty setup was completely different from what the norm would be it was not a just walk up and grab. catering was not buffet style. It was place your order, you know, a day before and you would get it you know, for the next day's breakfast or lunch kind of like, you know you would on a reality show or in the post world or something like that. So, you know, it was it wasn't anything that was impossible to accommodate for but it did. It did bring its fair share of challenges, especially whenever you have you know, certain institutions asking you for a breakdown, every, every single scene as far as where the actors are going to be within their interactions with each other. And are they going to be six feet apart? And they even asked us whenever they're driving in the car, how far apart are they? What? How do you answer that? I don't know. I don't know. That. I think I could get six feet apart.
Alex Ferrari 13:21
I mean, a tank. I don't know. Like Yeah, like, like, old school Hummer? Maybe Yeah,
Austin Williams 13:27
like a limo? Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 13:30
Well, I mean, this is this is the problem I feel with. I mean, this is a common theme of the show is the kind of the, the institutional life structure of the dogma that we have in the film industry that it takes forever for us to move as an industry and to change into adapt, hence why Disney plus just opened up a decade after Netflix launched their online service, like you know, it's all of a sudden, everybody has an industry. But it took a decade before they said, you know what this might be the future. And I and I'd argue if it wasn't for the pandemic, we would have never sped up this whole digital premiere video on demand like they did with Milan and other projects, as well, because we were forced to. So when you're dealing with these old school, let's call them institutions. Not unions, institutions, that they are looking at things like it's 1996 or house 2019.
Austin Williams 14:32
Yeah, I mean, it's it's our, the way business is done. Sometimes archaic is, is the word I kind of use. It's just, it makes you scratch your head wonder what When was the last time this form or this set of questions was updated, because I'm just not this has no relevance to what's going on in today's world or that you know, you need to get back certain correspondence to them or so on and so forth. It's just one one hoop to jump through. After another
Alex Ferrari 15:01
Right so like they're asking for, you know, how many film loaders Are you going to have on set? In? Do you have a change yet? Can you fax me over something? Like, it drives me nuts? anytime anyone goes, can you fax this? I'm like, no 2020 there's no faxing. No nowhere a fax machine is I'm not gonna go to the post office and pay $10 a page to fax you something. Stop it. Yeah. And a lot of these systems are in place. And that definitely is a hindrance in the, in the insanely quick changing world that we live in today. It's constantly shifting, constantly moving. And that's why the studios have taken as long as they have to even adjust. You are out there kind of in the front lines just going for it. So how was it working with you know, some of these institutions? Some of these unions like you know, I know sag at the time when you were shooting literally had no idea what the hell was going on. I've yet I've since had other I've interviewed other filmmakers who have worked with sag more recently. And they have like a list of things you have to do when there's there's protocols and things like that. But back then it was the wild wild What am I say back then we're talking about?
Austin Williams 16:19
Alex Ferrari 16:21
So what was it like was that long ago so you know, working with someone like sag What was it like then and then working with some of the unions because at a half a million dollar budget you especially in a city like Dallas or in in and around that kind of city? You're gonna have to deal with unions you're gonna have to deal with I'm assuming IATSE and those kind of unions. Am I correct in that?
Austin Williams 16:42
No. with Texas being right to work on a union we did any work with was sag. Um, so I see that and that honestly, it did. We we talked about it amongst, you know, our producers and directors. We were like it you know, if any other unions were involved, this may have been a lot more challenging. Right. So
Alex Ferrari 17:00
so the only so so then basically sag was the only union you really had to deal with. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, exactly. So what was that process? Like?
Austin Williams 17:07
It was a lot of a lot of phone calls with a lot of a lot of sag people. I think we had one call that there were three of us in the room, you know, three of us producers. And then I think about about 15 sag reps on a call. And they hit us with 1,000,001 questions that we had already answered in previous, you know, emails and correspondence with them. It's like they it's like they try to trick you into answering the wrong way. It's it's, it's kind of it's weird. Yeah, they, they ask you certain questions, and they phrase it in such such a way that it makes you think this guy's definitely got a lot of green, this is crazy. But they didn't, they didn't, you know, they didn't give us a red light. Now, they did wait until the very last minute to give us our greenlight approval, we were supposed to start shooting at 8am on a Monday morning, we got our green light from sag at 5:30pm, the Friday the Friday before. So to say that we were sweating, this thing is gonna, you know have to be postponed is that it doesn't even compare how nervous we were
Alex Ferrari 18:13
to add with the stress of shooting during COVID you got to deal with that kind of crap. That is actually is it's it's insane. And again, it's because of the bureaucracy and all of that red tape and all of these old archaic systems that are in place that kind of slow the process down dramatically, and then throw COVID on top of it. They just like right, just yeah, lose their mind. So Alright, so how many people by the way? Did you shoot with onset? How many crew members?
Austin Williams 18:40
We had an average crew. We had a few day players here and there. But the average crew size was 30 people a day, plus four or five actors on set every day there wasn't. We did have a couple of bigger days that I think we push 45 but nothing ever bigger than that.
Alex Ferrari 18:54
That's a fairly large set for a COVID set. Knowing knowing what we know now that is a fairly large production. And did you keep everybody like how what's the process of trying to wrangle 35 different human beings who arguably are ready a little bit outside the norm because they're in the film industry. They're not cubicle kind of people. So they're not conformist as an as by nature, because they're in our industry. So how did you wrangle them? How did you organize them? How did you keep them safe and other people safe? Because it's so difficult now, just walking around the streets. People are like, I'm not wearing my mask. I'm like, well, like how do you how do you deal with that?
Austin Williams 19:40
You know, we didn't want to force anyone to do anything that they felt uncomfortable with. And we made that clear from the from the start. We told them how we were going to be approaching shooting the whole film, which was if we were indoors, there was no additional crew if you were, you know, essential crew on Normally, if we were inside outside, obviously, was it we were a little bit more laxed on it, we still told people to keep their distance as much as possible that made sense. And on their off days, we told them, you know, guys use discretion, you know, don't if because 111 person goes out and gets sick and comes back, you know, this whole thing is tanked. So please, you know, use, use your best discretion when going out over the weekends, we couldn't hold. We didn't want to ask anyone stay in your hotel room for the next 48 hours. We'll see you Monday. You know, we didn't want to do that. But we did, we did have one crew member that I'm so thankful that they were honest, she called me it was the very, we only had three days left. But we had a couple off days before those last three days. And she called and said, I've was with someone that was with someone else that tested positive, what should I do? And I said, Well, thank you for Thank you for letting me know. I'm sorry to have to do this. But we're we you know, we can't take the chance. So, so she didn't join us for the rest of the shoot. But you know, it was just certain you just have to constantly adapt to whatever's happening, you know, to what, so everyone? Is it safe as you can?
Alex Ferrari 21:16
Yeah. So, I mean, looking back, do you feel that this was a bit of a risky approach? Yes. Just straight up. Yes. Yeah, it was. Yeah. You know, because if you look at what Tyler Perry is doing over in Georgia, I mean, he's literally quarantining bubbles of members and actors for two weeks or three weeks at a time that they live on the production, they do not go out, you can't go out. Because of that, like, if you let someone out, and they just go to a bar, they go to Taco Bell, they go wherever, and they're not they can pick something up. And if that's the case, it just brings I mean, it's, it's insane, that we're having these kinds of conversations, but this is the world we live in. So you would you would not advise this approach in today's world, knowing what we know, today, which again, all the way back in June was completely different than the information we have now.
Austin Williams 22:12
Yeah, you know, we, honestly, I think the best approach, it just takes a lot of budget money, but the best approach is the Tyler Perry and the NBA approach to it, you know, the bubble system to where you are all contained, and only sharing, you know, each other's germs throughout the whole, you know, duration of the shoot, I think, you know, that's about as safe as you could possibly be. But, you know, there are, there are many precautions you can take to, you know, cover yourselves cover your ass really the best you can. And it and we were thankful that it worked out for us. And, and I've got a few friends that have been shooting, you know, since since really things opened back up, and they haven't stopped and they've been, they haven't had any bad experiences. You know, obviously, there are the there are, I'm starting to hear sets of people that do have COVID. And they're going to work and it's just it's it is it's a giant dice roll is what it is.
Alex Ferrari 23:07
It's scary, man. Because it's the same. It's the same problem that the entire country in the entire world is balancing is like, you know, do we all go broke? Or do we all live? And, you know, it's like, we have to balance the economy, and lives. And we can't just shut everything down, though. Oddly, obviously enough, if we did shut everything down, we would probably be better health wise, but our entire world would shut down. So there's this balance, and I think with a production is the exact same thing. Like, how far do you go? Like, do you stop shooting, because it's, you're literally taking a roll of the dice every time you go on set, because you have no idea what unless you're in a Tyler Perry scenario, you have no idea where the other person has been the night before or five minutes prior to getting to you. You know, it's extra. And then and then of course, film sets are generally not the most wide open spaces, generally the crew are really on top of each I mean just the camera department, you've got the DP camera up first, they see then you end and you might even have a second AC hanging around this and a dolly grip and, and you know, all I mean, that's four or five people are just jammed in next to each other this entire time so it's filmmaking does not work well with COVID It is not our process that works together.
Austin Williams 24:28
It's you bring up that that good point of you know, certain departments remaining very close knit with each other. And in that regard, we we took that into place when facilitating the cruise you know, hotel rooms or accommodations and stuff like that. So you know, the pod and the zone system i think is in place. That's something that we you know, we were thinking about at the time. So, you know, we we told the crew if you're if your grip and electric you know, stay up try to stay amongst yourselves as best you know, the best you can art department, so on and so Fourth, we tried to share the sets and different zones, the best we could, you know, obviously until it gets time to shoot then you got to bring camera and you got to bring your actors in.
Alex Ferrari 25:09
Well, I mean, I mean generally speaking, a film set is very much like a high school cafeteria. I mean, we all pretty much sit our own tables you know. And then the grip department stays with the grip department camera says with camera Art Department says with sound state well sound is just the one do generally with the boom guy sitting in a corner who never gets up and never does anything other than just his his job and doesn't talk to anybody. Because some people are weird. I'm joking. anyone listening? I'm joking. Obviously, the weird ones are the stunt guys. But
Austin Williams 25:40
I think all sound guys, you know, they know there were but they're accepting of it. You know, they're very well,
Alex Ferrari 25:45
I've worked with the best guys ever. And I've never met a stunt person ever in my life who's not tweaked in one way, shape, or form. They're all crazy. And the one the best, most wonderful ways possible, but they are nuts. Because as a director, I'm like, hey, I need you to do three jumps over here, because I can do four jumps and fall off the building. Can I do that? They always want to take to the next one one step further, always one or two steps further, a little bit farther than you feel comfortable, which is always a good sign of a good stunt guy. I guess.
Austin Williams 26:16
They show up like, yeah, let's how we're going to beat me up today.
Alex Ferrari 26:20
Right? Like, oh, we're gonna throw you a punch down, which is one punch, you need six punches, and then I can throw myself like it's, it's fascinating. It's fascinating. But all the but all departments generally our you know, they do kind of stay together. And I like the whole pod system of like, you know, keeping each department. But the problem with the pod system in that scenario is is like if the camera department goes down, pretty much the production goes down. If our department goes down, pretty much the art department goes down. So production will suffer but human life form in this process, now, as you didn't direct this,right,
Austin Williams 26:56
No, Derek Presley was our director.
Alex Ferrari 26:58
So how did Derek deal with directing in a COVID set the has to be insane?
Austin Williams 27:06
Honestly, you know, that's, that's one of the reasons I love working with Derek. He is one of the calmest easiest directors to work with. You know, he's, he's very understanding and very compromising to things that either aren't. He's very just compromising and understanding of limitations whenever they happen. But he handled it as far as COVID is concerned, he handled it very well. He I don't think he ever took his mask off. He may have even slept with it on
Alex Ferrari 27:35
Smart, smart men, but how do you direct actors? I'm constantly directing from a video village or six feet apart, because I mean, as a director, you want to sometimes get close to the actor, maybe give them a note that nobody else wants to hear and, and things like that. So did you see anything? Or how he how he dealt with that?
Austin Williams 27:52
Um, you know, Derek's not so much a video village type director, even with our you know, our guidelines in place, he remained his distance whenever directing he, but yeah, he's definitely a face to face. But in this instance, it was a little bit different. He had to stay distance. And I think whenever there were certain times where he wanted to give some notes that he didn't want anyone to hear, he would just make sure that they were done in private before, you know, before we really got into things. So Derek is definitely he's a director that knows what he wants. And, you know, I have mad respect for him.
Alex Ferrari 28:27
Now with that, were there any love scenes or any action sequences in your in your film?
Austin Williams 28:33
action sequences? Yes. love scenes. No.
Alex Ferrari 28:36
Okay, so no, no kissing, no kissing?
Austin Williams 28:38
No, nope. No kissing,
Alex Ferrari 28:39
no hugs, no hugs.
Austin Williams 28:41
We did have hugs. Yeah, if we did have hugs. That was that was just one thing that, you know, you gotta roll the dice on.
Alex Ferrari 28:48
I love so everyone listening, don't do what Austin is saying, don't roll the dice constantly.
Austin Williams 28:55
Oh, no. But, you know, it's, this was before, before COVID testing was required. And we quite simply just didn't have the money to afford COVID testing. And we weren't about to rightfully ask the crew to have themselves tested and pay for it. It was just, you know, we we did ask, we took temperature checks daily, we did do that we had a COVID. Officer, but even even before it was required, we had one available to us. We had the city that we shot and was very accommodating of us if we had any types of issues related to that. So we were constantly asking our talent, you know, how are they feeling? Especially the ones that were getting closer? If they if we had we had a scene that was taking place in a car or the hugging scene, for instance, you know, we made sure that they weren't feeling any sort of symptoms or anything of that nature. So I guess roll the dice was, was the wrong?
Alex Ferrari 29:55
No, I just want to make sure everyone's like, Well, you know, I heard on Alex's podcast. He's on a roll. The days when you're shooting with COVID I'm like, no, no. It's a different time. It was months ago, months ago it
Austin Williams 30:06
It was it was it was a it was a dice roll, you know, shooting only? Yeah, it was a dice roll shooting period. We we didn't know if we were going to get shut down because the state shut down again. Or if we were going to get shut down because somebody got sick. You know, we we didn't we were walking into the unknown.
Alex Ferrari 30:24
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And how did you do the action sequences? I mean, when these action sequences are they fistfights? Are they more firefights? firefights? Okay, so that's distance. So that's distance to action, as opposed to like, full blown fight?
Austin Williams 30:47
Yeah, we don't we only had a couple of punches here. And there, both those were actually pretty easy to cheat. And so the distance thing we didn't we didn't have to break those rules there.
Alex Ferrari 30:54
So and, and how much more time did it take to shoot and what was the cost addition? Because it had to be some sort of cost addition, because you were shooting during this time, because everything slows down. I mean, everything has to slow down. You're probably shaving a couple hours a day, which is massive in the scope of, of a schedule. How do
Austin Williams 31:17
We, you know, we shot it in 18 days, we didn't have any and by day 18, we had everything shot that we needed to and 18 days was the intended schedule. From the start, we never, we didn't make any we didn't add on additional days, or, you know, COVID purposes. And even though we dealt with it every day, we we still got in there and got it done and averaged. You know, we had most of our days were about seven pages today with we did have one monster 12 page day, but But yeah, we got everything we needed. And it didn't it didn't really kill us too much in the in the time aspect on the day.
Alex Ferrari 31:51
Oh, yeah. And I'm assuming that was probably less less text than usual.
Austin Williams 31:57
Thankfully with Neil, he is a he's a one take guy he gets it done. And you know, we move on. And that's that's one. One of the many great things about working with Neil.
Alex Ferrari 32:07
Yes, I've when you work with a a seasoned actor, it just makes things so so much. But it's like working with a professional in any in any aspect of the business, or on set. If you work with professionals, everything just moves a little bit quicker. Yes, no to every note, everyone listening, sometimes the best money you spend is by spending a little bit more to get the high end experience pro as opposed to always looking for the cheapest option, because the cheapest option will end up being more expensive for you. Would you agree, right?
Austin Williams 32:35
Yes, I use the expression you pay bananas, you get monkeys.
Alex Ferrari 32:41
I might steal that what I liked, he paid paint bananas, you're gonna get monkeys. Now, what was the biggest challenge you had to deal with shooting during COVID?
Austin Williams 32:53
Ah, honestly, this is gonna sound pretty small on the, you know, grand scope of things, but lunch and meals. Because we were we still we didn't have a whole lot of caterers that were willing to go out and work just yet and cater a, you know, a film production. So we went to restaurants in town, which was fine, that town was more than accommodating to us. But, you know, I've always noticed, in every set I've ever worked on every single production. If the crew members don't complain about anything, they will always complain about the food it is it's like, I don't think I've yet to go through one show where I don't hear it. Even if it's something middle like Oh, man, like, we had spaghetti. I wish we had, you know, I wish we had steaks and potatoes to like, it's just one of those things. Well, whenever you're dealing with box lunches, and you know going to pick them up and bringing them to them. If something's wrong, you can imagine the wave of complaints and so on.
Alex Ferrari 33:52
I said no onions. I said, you know, onions. The salad is wilted. What is going on? What kind of Mickey Mouse operation is this? Jesus?
Austin Williams 34:02
Alex Ferrari 34:04
Like savages with the lettuce.
Austin Williams 34:06
I'm telling you. It's not like, you know, it wasn't Subway sandwiches or anything like this. We weren't cheeping out on what we were getting them. It was just, you know, it's it's, it seemed to be that nothing could ever be right. You know, it was it was challenging.
Alex Ferrari 34:20
And, and for everyone listening. Now, I don't think this is gonna be a problem because you can't really buy these anymore. But definitely whenever you're on a production, if at all possible. Do not order spinning wheels of death. Are you familiar with the term spinning wheels of death?
Austin Williams 34:35
Alex Ferrari 34:36
Those are pizzas.
Austin Williams 34:40
I'm familiar with what they do. And I steer away from them because I know what they do to me personally. You know, in the middle of a work day, I've done the rest of the day.
Alex Ferrari 34:50
Cheese and the bread and the grease slow you down dramatically and and generally it's it's you know, I've just seen I've seen it I've seen especially the grips, and the grip and electric and art department. The ones they just look at it just like, ah, Oh, good. This is the kind of production I'm on. I'm eating pizza for lunch. If it's a snack or something like that, and maybe later towards the end of the day, but even then I try to stay away from it. But that's one mistake that a lot of independent filmmakers make is they'll buy that pizza. Thinking that Oh, look for 10 bucks. I can I can feed a bunch in there. No, yeah,
Austin Williams 35:26
Yeah, no, I've I learned a long time ago to not do not do pizza not and really just tried to not over overweight people with heavy Mills at lunchtime. You know, if you feed them nothing but carbs and you know, just heavy lasagna, you know? Yeah, exactly. You know,
Alex Ferrari 35:45
Austin Williams 35:46
Yeah. Just car Carbo. load them up and see, see how they do
Alex Ferrari 35:51
Now. So your film is, from what I understand, it's almost done in post production, and you're almost done with it? What is your plan to, to actually sell it now and get it out into the marketplace? In this ridiculously ever changing marketplace? That we have no idea what's working or what's not working? And when I say we I'm talking about the entire industry? Because nobody understands what's happening?
Austin Williams 36:15
Yeah, we are, we're in the final stages of post where we've got everything done, visually, if visual effects wise, the music is done. coloring is done. The last thing, the last piece of the puzzle was the sound mix. And we have been speaking with a few distributors that have expressed some interest to us. We haven't made any concrete deals with anyone yet. But honestly, if I kind of assumed or I don't want to say assumed I wondered to myself, whenever COVID was just starting, and the entertainment industry is shut down just like everything else that I wondered to myself, I wonder if this is going to create a giant influx or a giant need for new content? I wonder? I wonder. And it's to piggyback off of that. It's been a very bizarre case of distributors coming to us wanting to talk, you know, discussions about the film before seeing anything of it and and not just specifically with redstone with the previous film that I did with this same group of core guys. And then another film I did following before that it was it's it's been unique in that aspect. We haven't had to cold call distributors as much as we may have would have before you know, before all of this
Alex Ferrari 37:37
when when we get off when we get off the recording. So I will, I will I will discuss with you distributors and tell me who's talking to you so i can i can guide you in the way because as you know I Oh, yes. One of my favorite topics.
Austin Williams 37:51
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And for the sake of this, you know, I don't we haven't made any deals with anybody yet. So I, you know, I don't want to make mention any names. Of course. Now we never
Alex Ferrari 38:01
we never mentioned names. We never mentioned names appropriately. But, but you guys all know who you are. Well, man, listen, I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for sharing your journeys in the COVID world with us. I'm fascinated because I again, I haven't shot anything during COVID. Nor will I be shooting anything this year, for sure. And I don't even know if I'll be shooting up might be shooting something late next year. Who knows? But right now it's um, I'm lucky I don't have a burning story inside of me that needs to absolutely get out right now. But you guys, you guys rolled the dice.
Austin Williams 38:45
We did. We didn't we roll the dice. And you know, everything so far to now we we've, we want that dice spin. So hopefully the next time we we just keep pulling them in, you know?
Alex Ferrari 38:58
Yeah. And there's a lot of there's a lot more precautions now. And there's also a lot more regulations and guidelines and things that have to happen. I know. sag is got a big list of things you can do. I'm assuming you did not have everyone sign a waiver saying that they can't sue you if they get COVID or did you?
Austin Williams 39:17
The actors we we couldn't we can't legally do that. But the crew, we didn't make them sign a waiver. Either. We were we were going to if someone got sick COVID or no COVID we were going to fully you know, take care of their medical expenses. If they were they got sick or injured while they were working for us. Then we were gonna take care of no matter what so
Alex Ferrari 39:37
And by the way, did you have I have to believe you had insurance, right?
Austin Williams 39:41
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Alex Ferrari 39:42
So how did you get insurance on a on a production during COVID? Like, what was that process? Like? Because I'm assuming the insurance companies are like, yeah, we'll cover everything except COVID.
Austin Williams 39:52
Yeah. Honestly, the process wasn't much more detailed or much more aggressive than it would have been pre COVID it wasn't, obviously they weren't going to cover any, you know, COVID cases. But But yeah, it was it was the same as it normally
Alex Ferrari 40:09
so they covered everything, everything except COVID.
Austin Williams 40:12
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Alex Ferrari 40:14
Of course they did that.
Austin Williams 40:15
But we were we were prepared for that.
Alex Ferrari 40:18
Fair enough. And I'm gonna ask you a few questions to ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Austin Williams 40:26
Trying to break into the business. Always remember that good luck is nothing more than hard work. Meeting opportunity?
Alex Ferrari 40:35
Yes, and preparation
Austin Williams 40:38
and preparation. Yes. Prep, prep. Prep is king.
Alex Ferrari 40:43
Now,what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Austin Williams 40:53
Patience? That's it!
Alex Ferrari 40:55
That's mine? Yeah, absolutely.
Austin Williams 40:57
It's, uh, you gotta, you gotta always Humble yourself and be patient with things. Because if you if you try to be too linear with it and move too fast, you're you're gonna derail yourself one way or another?
Alex Ferrari 41:10
And what is the biggest piece of advice you can give anyone trying to shoot during COVID?
Austin Williams 41:17
Wear a mask for once and just, you know, think about the the number of people you're going to have, think about the logistics of it and make sure that you're not just going into a you know, extreme guerilla style, you know, make sure that you're even if you're trying to do it ultra, you know, under, under, under the radar, you know, take care of the people that are working with you, you know, just use common sense but sometimes that's not so common so just really think about it. And three of your favorite films of all time sir. These always surprise people but Ace Ventura Nice Day for Night, the French film and Armageddon that's my guilty pleasure.
Alex Ferrari 42:03
Wow, are getting it I mean, in the the the Pantheon and a Pantheon but it's passing on the word, but in the, in the scope of Michael Bay's career. Armageddon is definitely in the top five slowly and it's like the rock I still say he's his best without without question and bad boys wanting to probably followed up behind those. But Armageddon is just so much fun.
Austin Williams 42:30
Oh, it is. It's like the best popcorn movie ever made.
Alex Ferrari 42:33
It's so much fun. And I actually saw I actually heard the other day a bit of the audio commentary from the Criterion Collection because when we get into the Criterion Collection it is it criteria it the rock and Armageddon are both part of the Criterion Collection for people who disrespect Mr. Bay. There you go. But they actually hadn't been Affleck talking. He goes hey, Ben, Ben, is this. Yeah, I asked Michael while I was on set, hey, wouldn't it be easier to teach us astronauts to drill as opposed to teaching drillers how to be an astronauts and Michael said shut the hell up? So I ended that conversation very quickly. No logic, no logic in that movie, right. But
Austin Williams 43:19
and it's in it's just as fast in the movie itself. You know, that's exactly how it happens. You know?
Alex Ferrari 43:23
It's right. The jewelers learned how to be astronauts and in a montage of about seven minutes and everybody was okay. Well, let's go.
Austin Williams 43:30
Ready to go to space.
Alex Ferrari 43:31
Let's go land on a moving target. It's amazing. And then where can people find you and more information about your movie?
Austin Williams 43:42
So you can follow the movie at redstone the movie on Instagram? Myself, Austin Williams, just my name Austin Williams no numbers or underscores or anything like that. And I'm on Facebook. My company is alpha whiskey entertainment. And that's alpha spelled al f A. No matter how many times I say that people will always write down Alp Ah, of course. But yeah, alpha whiskey entertainment is my personal production company but everywhere else you can find me Austin Williams.
Alex Ferrari 44:14
Awesome. Man. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your COVID journey with us. I truly truly appreciate it my friends stay safe out there.
Austin Williams 44:22
Why thank you so much, Alex Have a good one.
Alex Ferrari 44:25
I want to thank Austin for coming on the show and sharing his experience shooting during COVID I know everybody out there is just itching to start shooting again. And better or worse guys. We are in this for the long haul. I don't see this changing anytime in the next year. It might start getting better. But I think we should strap in because I think production will change from this moment on as Tom Cruise has so beautifully put it on the set of the new mission impossible film. If he And I heard that yet, it is definitely something you should hear in regards to how he goes off on his some some crew members who are not paying attention during COVID. And I'll put a link of that in the in the show notes as well, which is at indiefilmhustle.com./424. Thank you so much for listening, guys. If you are going to be shooting out there, stay safe. It's a movie, and it's not worth someone dying for. Thank you so much for listening, guys. Have a great holiday, you'll get another episode. This week. You're getting a bonus episode on Christmas Day. And I'll be releasing another episode on Saturday in part of my series on COVID production. Thank you again so much for listening, guys. As always keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. Merry Christmas. And I'll talk to you soon.
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WATCH A FREE 3 PART LOW-BUDGET FILM PRODUCING VIDEO SERIES
Taught by veteran award-winning film producer and author Suzanne Lyons. The filmmaker behind over a dozen profitable low-budget feature films.