Indie Film, Micro-budget film, Threesomething, james morosini, Joe Swanberg, filmmaking, filmmaker, indie filmmaker

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Misadventures in Micro-Budget Filmmaking with James Morosini

Today’s guest is actor/writer/director James Morosini. His film Threesomething is a micro-budget film that he jumped off a cliff to make. With this being his first feature film as a director he definitely had some misadventures. In this interview, we go into the details of his journey making and distributing his film. We also discuss how he made a clip from the film go viral on YouTube.

Zoe, Charlie, and Isaac spend a night flirting with the idea of a threesome… until it finally happens and all hell breaks loose. While two fall deeply in love, two test their sexual limits. They each discover fantasies they never thought they had and try things they never thought they would. This sexy comedy will make you squirm with its hilarious awkwardness and challenge your ideas of sex, love, and friendship.

Below James wrote an amazing article detailing his misadventures so when you are do listen to the interview the article is required reading.

Enjoy my conversation with James Morosini.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Alex Ferrari 1:47
Today on the show, we have Writer Director James Morosini. And he directed a micro budget film called three something and it's pretty interesting his story and how he made this micro budget film and, and truly his misadventures making it because he had really never directed a feature film prior to this movie. Now he is an actor, and he's been in many films and TV shows like American Horror Story and lethal weapon. But this is kind of his first journey into making a micro budget feature film. And he truly did have some misadventures in it. And it was a pretty fascinating story. He wrote an article on the blog many, many months ago when it came out, if not a year or so ago, when it first came out. But we finally got our schedules to match and have him on the show to tell us all of these crazy stories of how he made it, how he got it out there, and so on. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with James Morosini. I like to welcome to the show James Morosini man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

James Morosini 2:52
Yeah, man. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 2:54
Yeah, man, we we, we connected a while ago and very before you started making you move while you were making it a try to put it all together and talk a little bit about your making of and stuff like that. So I'm glad to see it actually Finally, was finished.

James Morosini 3:10
I know man, me too. I it's been quite the journey. Yeah, I think we're talking about when I was still kind of shooting it and, or editing it. And I was You and I were talking about kind of like, the best way for me to go about, you know, on the next steps of like, you know, the whole festival experience. And the best way to think about that.

Alex Ferrari 3:32
Well, before we get into it, so how did you first get into the business because you have a unique story how you've got to this point as a director. Oh, yeah, dude. Um, okay. I mean, I guess I might do my uncle was Christopher Reeve, the actor. I'm sorry, Your uncle is Christopher Reeves. Yeah, it was even Superman.

James Morosini 3:56
Yeah, yeah, it is pretty awesome. I know. So I grew up with it kind of in my family, but I didn't really do much but I would like mess around with the video camera and stuff when I was younger. And then and like, make stupid little videos, but I didn't really do any plays or anything in high school. I'm, I'm for context I'm, I make a living. I am an actor. And then I and then I write director I'm not acting. So So yeah, and I, you know, I did a my first play was right after high school, I done a bunch of like little film projects in high school. How I did this play with it at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. And then from there, I went to USC, and studied theater for a couple years and then started kind of studying independently, and then really dove into learning about film and stuff and making my own projects and then And then afterwards, I did a pilot with Comedy Central and then that just kind of snowballed into other projects and other opportunities.

Alex Ferrari 5:11
Cool, man, I mean, you've been acting I mean, your IMDb is fairly impressive. So, as an actor, you you are working actor. I'm a working actor anymore. You're a unicorn. a unicorn. Exactly, no. I mean, it's, it's funny for you to say like, you know, I act as my full time job. And I just direct on the side. It's, it's weird for you even to hear those words. Because so many people are killed dying just to be able to make a living as an actor.

James Morosini 5:40
Yeah, man. I mean, I, you know, I am also dying to make a living sometimes. And then, and then it works. And it's like, great for a few months, you know?

Alex Ferrari 5:49
Yeah, it's up and down

James Morosini 5:50
Back to like, not working and just kind of living off the money you've made. Yeah, that's

Alex Ferrari 5:55
And hopefully those residual checks come in.

James Morosini 5:57
Yeah. And they're there. They're like, you know, it's like finding like water in the desert sometimes. Oh, fuck, you're in this. They're definitely, definitely happy to get them when they go.

Alex Ferrari 6:09
So you decided to jump in and make a kind of micro budget, independent film? And you kind of learned along the way if I'm not mistaken.

James Morosini 6:19
Yeah, I mean, I had made a bunch of shorts before. And I, I've always since I was younger, you know, I've, I've pretty much been watching a movie a day, for for a really long time. And so I've always been kind of obsessed about making a full length film. And I've made all these like, little shorts and taught myself kind of how to how to do it, you know, just by watching like, videos on YouTube and stuff and asking a billion questions. And so yeah, man to make the feature, I just kind of I, I the idea that was so scary to me. Because it seemed like such a different thing. In terms of like, you know, like, how do you make that much content? And so, yeah, I felt like I was kind of, like, my attitude through the whole thing was like, I'm okay. I just want to finish this film. And I'm gonna try to have faith that as we go, we'll be able to kind of figure out the things we don't know. And, and, and I think we're, I think we're really successful in doing that. Because it's like, you know, we shot, you know, we had, like a scriptment knows that.

Alex Ferrari 7:34
I'm very well aware of those.

James Morosini 7:36
Yeah. But we Yeah, we had, like, you know, some scenes were totally written, some were kind of more vague and outline, and then we were also able to kind of like, we shot chronologically, so we're able to, like, adapt that to how things were going.

Alex Ferrari 7:51
That's, it's, it's, I mean, as an actor, I know. A lot of actors love to have the the security of the of the script, the security of the words. And it scares the hell out of a lot of actors having this improv, like, free wielding, vibe on set, how did you feel about it working with the actors?

James Morosini 8:12
Sure. I mean, I think it was such a small production among friends that we all there was kind of the energy in the room that like, we're only going to use this stuff that works. So there was, there was really a lot of room to fail and be bad. And I've found that and I found that room to be bad is the only thing that allows really room to be very good. Because if you're playing it safe, it just kind of ends up being pretty middle of the road. Yeah, so we, you know, it would shoot a ton. And then we use like slivers of footage, where things really popped and connected. And it was usually the moments where people were kind of caught off guard or like, you know, where were things weren't going as planned?

Alex Ferrari 8:59
Where was raw and natural,

James Morosini 9:01
It's raw and there's, you know, authentic? uncertainty and yeah, we'll figure things out.

Alex Ferrari 9:08
So the name, so the name of the movie is called three something. Three, something Yeah. Can you give the two minute pitch? Or what two second pitch?

James Morosini 9:16
Yeah, sure. It's about a group of friends that try to have a threesome, and the reality falls short, or it turns out differently than their fantasy. And that's kind of what the movie explores, is the difference between fantasy and reality. And it also explores kind of explores, like people trying to live up to images, you know, the guys in the movie are really trying to be to experience their masculinity and do this threesome and it turns out it you know, they're actually way more sensitive than they'd like to admit. You know, and ever, everybody's kind of like falling on their faces. It's kind of about people like, in their 20s and cute 20 somethings. No, it's it's, you hear that pitch a lot. That's why I make that joke. But But yeah, I mean, it's, it's, it's about kind of fantasy and reality and how that plays into things like love, sex and friendship.

Alex Ferrari 10:29
And what is what was the budget of some of you on me asking?

James Morosini 10:32
Um, I don't want to say it on here. Under a million? Definitely under a million? Yes. Okay, how long did it take you to shoot. So we shot, we basically did it in a few different legs of shooting, we did like 11 days of production. And then I edited a rough cut, showed it to a bunch of people basically got tons and tons of feedback. And then, and then we did like, a few other legs of like, pick up three or four day bursts to, like, fill out the film and to kind of like, you know, some of the stuff we threw away, and then added to and, and, yeah, I mean that our intent around the whole thing was realizing like, because we didn't have a ton of money, the thing we could do really well was to be nimble, and to like, and to, to, you know, go about doing things in, in a less rigid way, where like, we were really trying to just get stuff that felt really, really raw and honest. Because I think that's, that's, that's one thing, when you're doing something with a lot with less money that you have on your side is the ability to do that.

Alex Ferrari 11:42
Now, how did your acting experience help you in directing the film?

James Morosini 11:47
Yeah, I mean, I think my, my bullshit meter for myself is is fairly high. So like, I I'm really aware when I'm, when I'm not being truthful, in my own acting, or if I'm like, pushing or manufactured, or, I'm just not, if I'm, if my acting is kind of like, if it feels, it feels fake, it really bumps me and it's like, I can't, it's, I know when I'm phoning it in, or when I'm, or when I'm not, and I'm really connected to something. And so I think I have a heightened sensitivity around that with other actors as well. And I, I kind of just tried to talk to other actors, how I am talking to myself in my head. And and I think, I think as an actor, you know, actor directors have the thing on their side where they can they kind of can use vocabulary and, and express nuance in a way that they would to themselves. There's they kind of understand like this, this other way into communicating that there's really subtle things.

Alex Ferrari 12:55
Now you're the style of the film, when you were shooting it, it was a very kind of Joe Swanberg Mark duplass style, kind of running gun.

James Morosini 13:03
Um, yeah, I mean, yeah, it was like a mix of, you know, things being super structured and specific. And then a mix of times, we're like, Alright, let's just kind of like, let the camera run and and figure it out as we go. And then, you know, we turn it off. Talk about what was working, and then we've refined stuff and then and then, you know, shoot it again. And, yeah, it was like, it was like, it was like a, it was kind of like an iterative refining process. So like it, we wasn't like, we went into it, we're like, here's exactly what we need. The whole thing was kind of exploration, you know, and, and we refined it as we went.

Alex Ferrari 13:51
You're kind of doing the rewriting process while you're on set, like Yeah, exactly. Just kind of just kind of chiseling away at things, trying things experimenting. And apparently sounds like you had the luxury of time. Yeah, sure. It's such a low budget,

James Morosini 14:04
Also the luxury of enthusiasm. I mean, we were all like we really really want to make this film and we were all not paying ourselves so like the only reason we were there was to make something really cool that I that that's an experience that is is really amazing because it's rare yeah cuz nobody because then nobody's there wondering when they can you know go home people are just like let's you know we're here to make something and to connect in a real way and you know, when there's that energy on set I feel like it it it really adds to the to the peace

Alex Ferrari 14:43
Oh, there's no question about it I from firsthand experience, when you have that kind of energy on set where everybody's they're all going towards the same goal all no one's giving you attitude, no egos are involved. We're just trying to make the best work possible. It is a wonderful experience.

James Morosini 15:00
Because it kind of leaves room for people to go like, I don't know, or like to not need an answer right now. And there's kind of flexibility in that, that can be really nice and, and can can find, like, unexpected things and kind of follow your whim in a way that you're not really able to when you're like, you know, really trying to make your days and write

Alex Ferrari 15:23
It because every minutes costing you 1000s of dollars.

James Morosini 15:26
Yeah, exactly. When there's when there's a little bit more room like it. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what that gives you, but definitely something of value.

Alex Ferrari 15:36
I think it's I mean, from speaking from someone who did to have these kinds of features, it's it's the wonderful world of being completely free. Yeah, yet being terrified because you literally have just a sliver of something to hold on to.

James Morosini 15:53
Right. Yeah. Yeah, no, that terror is definitely it feels ever present.

Alex Ferrari 15:59
Like, but it's a good kind of terror. It is, you know,

James Morosini 16:04
I mean, it's it's the terror of like, feeling embarrassed. Really, like you're Yeah. Cuz you're like, you just really don't want to screw the pitch. Yeah, I think they're really afraid to look stupid. I think that's like a really a driving force for everybody's like, people want to, people want to appear to others, like they really have their shit together. And and it's scary when you're at a place it not knowing because you're like, should I need to know the answer now? Or it needs to be good. And, and? Yeah, I kind of found it. Like, it was like, we were constantly going between, like, wanting there be space to play and find it. And then we would go to be like, Okay, well, we need something right now. Like, let's, you know, what's the best thing we've got? And you know, and just roll with it. Yeah, man. And then it's like, you know, you'd, you'd get what you got that day. And then you cut it down to kind of like the exactly what it needs to be and how it fits into the already existing footage. And then from that, it's it's like, you're kind of like, I guess it, I guess it's kind of like, You're, you're building a puzzle. And then you're like, Oh, we need a piece of this. And then you're going out and getting that piece but it but it's almost like starting with a partial puzzle

Alex Ferrari 17:28
Your writing with, you basically have a rough draft, and you're going out and writing the story with the camera and the actors.

James Morosini 17:35
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then you're keeping expenses as low as possible, so that you have that luxury to do that. And there's something about, okay, we're on, we're on set, everybody's here, we have to make something, there's something about that pressure that can sometimes lead to like it like because then there's not all the steps between the moment of inspiration, when you're like, Oh, I have a great idea, I'm going to put it in a script form, then I'm gonna send it to producers, then I'm gonna attach a cast, then we're gonna plan a day to shoot it. By the time you get to actually making it that moment of inspiration was like, you know, it could it could be like a year or two or even more ago, where it's like, it's not really that inspiring anymore. Or it might not be, you know, but if you're like, Great, let's just, let's go do it. Like, you're going to find something that inspires you on the day, and that thing is going to you're going to be able to experience that, from watching it.

Alex Ferrari 18:32
Now, what is the biggest mistake you made while making the film? Wow. It's hard to say, Man, I mean, the whole thing. I mean, like, the whole thing was a mistake the whole day. I'm not.

James Morosini 18:42
Yeah, it was my first feature in the whole my whole mentality around it was like, I want to fail as much as I want to be as ambitious as I can around this. And then I also want to fall on my face as much as I can to understand to learn from falling on my face, right? And then also realizing that no matter how bad a certain scene turns out, we can always cut it and then learn from what didn't work and reshoot it. So, so nothing, you know, even though you're shooting it, it's not if it doesn't cost a lot to make, and there's, you know, few enough people involved where they're kind of down to that ride. Nothing's that final, you know, so you can you can, you have again, you have the room to fail, in terms of like, I'm trying to think of like a big mistake. Oh, no, man.

Alex Ferrari 19:40
Well, let me let me rephrase the question. If you can go back and tell yourself something before you started shooting, what would it be?

James Morosini 19:46
Yeah. Um, I think I mean, honestly, you just be like to try to enjoy it more.

Alex Ferrari 20:00
That's a really you know what, that's really good because when you're in that intense pressure cooker, you don't enjoy the ride. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

James Morosini 20:19
No, and I didn't I mean, I look from like the time I thought of the idea to like now it being released on all the platforms, it dude it like, a lot of it was was less fun than it could have been had I been had I want it, you know, a little bit more loosely. But it was like, you knows so much of it is is motivated by like, You're, you're afraid and you just want to get it made. And and so you're just you're kind of in a panic state a lot of the time. And I just wish I could go back and be like, Dude, it's not that serious. Just relax, relax, you're going to make it it actually, it doesn't matter if at the end of the day, it actually doesn't matter. Like, you're, you're just just just chill out.

Alex Ferrari 21:15
I think if you learned that lesson, the entire process was worth it. Because it's such a valuable lesson to learn. And I've had many years to learn it.

James Morosini 21:24
Totally man. And I think it's one you have to learn over and over and over. No, I it. Yeah, it's like just the future is a scary thing. But it but right now isn't necessarily so if you can just be where you are in the process right now and dive in there, then you'll be fine. You know,

Alex Ferrari 21:44
Now you so you finish the movie, you edited it. And and now what is a marketing plan? What was your ideas of how to get it out into the world?

James Morosini 21:52
Yeah, we use a lot of social media ads and, and, you know, we had relationships with a lot of different blogs and, you know, things like this. And, and, and also, you know, the film, you know, going to cinequest was was really useful.

Alex Ferrari 22:12
They're they're wonderful. They're Yes. Where I premiered. It was great.

James Morosini 22:15
Yeah, man, they're really awesome. And oh, and you know, we released a little chunk of our film online. We released one of the scenes, and somehow it went viral. That's like, eight and a half million views now.

Alex Ferrari 22:31
Yeah. And when you say somehow it went viral. I mean, look at the title. Act like you didn't know what you were doing. Okay?

James Morosini 22:43
I guess threesome scene.

Alex Ferrari 22:45
Threesome scene, generally is gonna get a kick.

James Morosini 22:49
If you search threesome on YouTube, it's it's one of the first videos that comes up.

Alex Ferrari 22:55
I mean, to be fair, though, I guess. Yeah, that was and to be fair, it was a threesome scene, not the threesome

James Morosini 23:02
Scene that they were looking for. I know people people back you can look at the analytics on it. And people tend to stop watching when they realize that it's not the kind of threesome scene they were looking at.

Alex Ferrari 23:13
Aren't any three some scenes like that on YouTube? They don't allow it.

James Morosini 23:16
I know. I don't know why people are going on YouTube to look for porn. It doesn't really make sense. There's there's a porn, like very few clicks away. Like it's not like you have to like, have to go hunting for it on YouTube. Like, there's plenty of porn that you can go watch.

Alex Ferrari 23:34
Well, I mean, it was a strategic plan that you did that. And I saw that I was like, look what these guys did. That's great. Fine, you know, they they use the viral thing to the UPS degree. Yeah. And it's like 8 million plus, and you're still probably getting 10s of 1000s of views and then on a daily basis.

James Morosini 23:51
I guess I feel bad that I'm now I don't really feel bad. But there's a part of me that I guess feels a little guilty that there's all these disappointed masturbators out there that are

Alex Ferrari 24:01
One of them is your question. Did you actually make any money off of that on YouTube? Did you actually monetize it or no,

James Morosini 24:07
No, no, we didn't we use it was it was still so early on in the process that we still had our temp music in there. So we just like put it out with one of the songs. It was really like, the reason I go like it somehow went viral is because I literally just uploaded a small part of the rough cut onto YouTube. And I didn't push it at all it just found somehow. But yeah, it's it's the, you know, I've done so many shorts where like, we released the short and then we're sending it to everybody we know and we're doing this we're doing that this we really just like uploaded and it somehow, you know, to the partner one day we just started climbing like 50,000 views a day and we were like, Dude Did someone you know samurai, the dude that I wrote and produced and acted in it with he and I will Dude, did you pay for these views? Like, just be honest, be honest, he paid for the views because there's a lot. And I, I kind of didn't believe him and still until it started hitting like a million and stuff

Alex Ferrari 25:12
Because it's costing cost too much money.

James Morosini 25:14
Like, there's no way he spent like $1,000 to get a million views like that. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 25:21
That's Yeah, cuz and that's something that anyone listening don't do that don't buy views. It's just not I had a guy I had a guy a filmmaker, that I worked on their film and this guy was just an egomaniac. And he he put his trailer up. And he'd like paid for like two or 3 million views on that trailer. And that was what he led with every single time he spoke about the movie. Look, our trailer got two or 3 million views. There's so many people wants to watch it. You've got to buy it and no one bought it. It's just a waste of time.

James Morosini 25:53
Yeah, I don't think people really care doesn't really move the needle in terms of people's enthusiasm. They're like, Oh, cool, X amount of millions of views, like, people just want to see a good movie. Right? And so the trailer sucks, and you have 50 million views like it does. I'm not gonna want to see the movie if the trailer sucks, or if the you know, or if the teaser doesn't look interesting.

Alex Ferrari 26:16
Right? Right. Right. Right. No Question. Now, what was the what kind of distribution plan did you have for the film?

James Morosini 26:22
I mean, we didn't really have a plan going into it. Our plan was to, you know, our last resort was going to be to self distribute, go through stripper, or potentially put it on VHS, where it's like, you know, you pay each time you want to watch it. So yeah, I mean, that was, that was like worst case scenario, which wouldn't have been that bad. But, uh, I went, but then we just we went to Sundance this past year to support a friend's film. And I met one of these guys that works at gravitas. And we we started talking about Burning Man, and Vipassana meditation. And then I mentioned that I had made a film and he's like, oh, cool, man, send it to me. And I was like, Alright, whatever. And I sent it over. And then we got a call a couple weeks later being like, Hey, we want to make you an offer on your film. And so yeah, it's funny that it can be that simple is like awkwardly standing around a Sundance party and meeting a random person. And to sell your film.

Alex Ferrari 27:32
That is, what Sam's lens is for. Totally, in many ways you the contacts you can make at Sundance. It's just I mean, you're from LA. I'm from LA. So you know, I'm from Boston. I mean, you live in LA. Oh, yeah, I'm from I'm from the East Coast as well. But no, but we both live in LA. So we, the businesses around us, but it's so spread out, and we can't there's, there's people you can never in a million years get access to. But within Sundance in that four or five block radius, everyone, there's 50,000 people that are in the business. Yeah. Amazing. I love I love going to Sundance, it's so fun. It is it is a unique experience in the world, there is no other place like it, ever, you know, that time of year is very, very special. Now, would you make another movie in the same kind of way, the same kind of style, budget and so forth.

James Morosini 28:21
You know, it wouldn't be my first go to I guess I'm interested in exploring how to put a movie together more traditionally, with kind of the same spirit as we made this film, but I do want to challenge myself to make another kind of movie. You know, that that is kind of like, I don't know, I want the steak. Even though I want to go into it and have fun, it's up. I really like feeling. I like the feeling of butterflies as I'm making a goal. I like the feeling of like it feeling like you're performing a high wire act. Yes. The whole thing like that, that adrenaline is is an intensity is something that I think really can bring a lot of people together and, and creates kind of this, this, this feeling that you're on this like mission with these people and that that's kind of why I love making movies and acting and stuff is because you're kind of like I don't know, you're trying to do this, this weird difficult thing with with people. So no, I don't know. I mean, we made a movie, right after three something in a similar way. We we I don't think we were as we didn't have that feeling around it. We were like, yeah, we can do this. It's fine. Like we'll just throw it together. And it didn't have the same magical quality that threesome did so we just we ended up changing the form of it now it's it's it's a little it's a it's a short series. But I'm still glad we made it because it's like we wouldn't have made that short little series have we just been like, yeah, let's just wait Till somebody gives us multiple millions to make our next film. No, I the next film I want to make is it's kind of a personal story. Based on my experience growing up in Boston, I was like 14 or 15 obsessed with mafia movies. And I sold pot to make friends and got caught. And so the movie The movie is about, it kind of has the sensibility of like an eighth grade or like a ladybird. It's kind of like awkward teenage years, but it's structured like a Goodfellas or something where this kid desperately wants to be a gangster. But he's so clearly not.

Alex Ferrari 30:42
So Napoleon diamond dynamite meets, Goodfellas Got it?

James Morosini 30:45
Exactly. The The, the the feeling that I don't know, I just I love those movies growing up. And so that that's the film I'm putting together now. It's called acne.

Alex Ferrari 30:56
Nice, very cool, man. So I'm gonna ask you a few questions to ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

James Morosini 31:07
Yeah, so I think I think the advice I would have given myself as I was, as I was trying to break into business was just, it would just be to be as bold as you possibly can. Don't worry about just take, take shots, just just have ideas of things you can do to, to move forward and just do those things. Just learn through failure, don't, don't be afraid of falling on your face. And then also just try to do something, try to do something kind of scary every day. Whether that be reaching out to someone you really respect or writing down a conversation you had or you would like to have. And then kind of like changing one of the elements to make it more fantastical or cinematic. For example, I just had my my girlfriend, I got this cat. And then we had to return the cat. And it was this whole debacle that kind of reflected like, the nature of our relationship and stuff. And I wrote a short but I changed the cat to a monkey. And so it's like, now I gotta love the song making that person but but anyway

Alex Ferrari 32:18
You're gonna get a monkey, you're actually gonna get a monkey

James Morosini 32:20
I try to get a monkey. Yeah, I don't know, the idea. One of the main things that appeals to me about the idea is like, how am I going to get a monkey? And how am I going to American director Becky? Yeah, how am I going to direct the monkey

Alex Ferrari 32:36
I The advice I could give you as a director who's worked with animals? Just make sure the budgets really low. But yes, it's gonna take you a while.

James Morosini 32:49
I'm pretty excited to figure it out. But But yeah, so the advice I would give is just to fail as frequently as you can. to not try not to care what other people think about you. And then to just to just to try to like, try to figure out what makes you weird or insecure and then make things about about that.

Alex Ferrari 33:11
Very cool. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact in your life or career?

James Morosini 33:16
Yeah, I think I think there's a few Elian Czanne's book called my life, it's a life. That book is unbelievable. And I really connected to it because it's about an actor that wanted to say more than than just acting and kind of had this like, feeling of unrest in them. And so we started directing and it's extremely candid and, and really awesome. And then another book. I don't know I'm reading. I'm reading the book Cassavetes on Cassavetes right now.

Alex Ferrari 33:52
He has a good book. That's it.

James Morosini 33:53
I love it, man. Yeah, it's it's really inspiring.

Alex Ferrari 33:56
Anybody who wants to make movies like the style of your movie or the cell that I made in my films. You got to watch Cassavetes, you've got to study Cassavetes because he was the godfather of that kind of stuff.

James Morosini 34:08
Yeah, true man

Alex Ferrari 34:10
Without question. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn within the film industry or in life?

James Morosini 34:18
What is it honey attracts more flies than vinegar?

Alex Ferrari 34:23
Very true.

James Morosini 34:24
It's just like, if you're upset, just like try to deal with it on your own and try not to just don't be a dick.

Alex Ferrari 34:30
There's the best advice you can give anyone just don't get

James Morosini 34:33
Like feel sometimes like yelling or getting upset with other people can feel like it's going to be productive. But it actually never works. It just like the only thing that person then ends up experiencing is is their feelings being hurt. They're not really they stop listening to what you're trying to even communicate. And then you also just then all of a sudden feel guilty and you can't even think about the thing you're trying to communicate. You just feel bad for you. Not being kind. Yeah, I think that that's one that's like you have to regularly remind yourself is like, Hey, be nice. Everyone's here for 80 years if they're lucky, and then they die. So just fucking, like everybody's really a lot more fragile than they seem. And, and everybody's just kind of doing the best they can. So try to be try to be good to other people because that's,

Alex Ferrari 35:25
Now we're three of your favorite films of all time?

James Morosini 35:27
Wow. Okay. I think one that I recently saw is going to make the list movie called Toni Erdmann.

Alex Ferrari 35:42
Just just got two more they just come to mind.

James Morosini 35:44
Okay, okay. I really like das boat.

Alex Ferrari 35:48
Oh, that's boot. That's boots. Yeah, yeah, movie.

James Morosini 35:52
And I love and I love I mean, I've seen been red lines so many times. I think it's kind of structurally all over the place. But there's something just like, so ambitious around it. And like, so, so raw and like, kind of random that I that I really love.

Alex Ferrari 36:12
Yeah, it's well, that's Malik. Yeah, it's Malik. I'm actually we're actually doing the director series that I have on YouTube, which is basically diving in and breaking down and dissecting that movie right now, actually. Which is such a great way all this stuff is is such an insane journey to watch stuff. Yeah. Now, where can people find you?

James Morosini 36:35
They can go to my website, JamesMorosini.com. And they can see a bunch of stuff I've directed and other stuff. They can just hit me up from there. And, and yeah, my movies available on Amazon, iTunes, all of the streaming and on demand platforms. It's called three, something that's three spelled out, not the letter. And yet, check it out. And if you dig it, let me know.

Alex Ferrari 37:00
Very cool, man. I put all those links in the show notes.

James Morosini 37:04
I'm on Instagram and Twitter.

Alex Ferrari 37:06
Very cool. I'll put all those links in the show notes. And James thanks again for being on the show and sharing your experience brother.

James Morosini 37:12
This was so fun. Thanks, man.

Alex Ferrari 37:15
Thank you, James for coming on and dropping some experience knowledge bombs on the tribe today. And, and sharing sharing your adventures or misadventures in making your micro budget feature film. So thanks again, so much. If you want links to the movie, or anything we talked about in the episode, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/280. And by the way, Happy Thanksgiving to all of my us. listeners out there members of the tribe, Happy Thanksgiving, you guys are probably all stuffed right now listening to this, or it's a day after two days after. And you're still stuffed. Because that's that's what we do. So happy. I have a great weekend, guys have a great long weekend. And don't forget, we are having that Black Friday sale for IFH.TV. If you sign up for IFH.TV, you get a coupon for a free month that you could give to anybody, filmmaker, friends, families, colleagues, whoever you want, and I made a nice beautiful little e card, they will get sent to you. So you could just forward it along with a code. And that could take advantage of IFH.TV so that's going to run until Cyber Monday. So of course just go to indiefilmhustle.tv or IFHTV.com have a good turkey day guys. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.



How to Finish a Low Budget Indie Film! by James Morosini

I had the impulse to make a feature-length indie film, Threesomething, after doing a bunch of shorts, but I had no idea what to do or where to start.
Here’s my journey…

Developing an Indie Film

In November I ran into a filmmaker I admire at the Oaks in Los Feliz and my girlfriend was like, “go talk to him.” So, while I was nervous I’d be invading someone’s privacy on a Sunday afternoon, I did. He basically told me I should just do it and stop asking people about it, just make what I can with what I have. Things will fall into place, just take the leap. I went on a little family vacation, talked incessantly about the idea to make the indie film, and called my best friend Sam Sonenshine over and over to try and get him excited about making a feature.

I was in touch with Ben Meserve, who had shot some of my short form work and he was excited about making a longer film. He had just gotten a [easyazon_link identifier=”B01G8EBBUE” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Red Scarlet[/easyazon_link] and wanted to use it, so I brought him on as DP.

Indie Film, Threesomething, james morosini, Joe Swanberg, filmmaking, filmmaker, indie filmmaker

I then bought some basic sound gear on Amazon – An [easyazon_link identifier=”B01DPOXS8I” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]H4N[/easyazon_link] (which we later returned and traded for the H6 because of the extra XLR inputs), an [easyazon_link identifier=”B00093ESSI” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]NG2 mic[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B000OE2G54″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Rode boom pole[/easyazon_link], two [easyazon_link identifier=”B00O5EKZ9I” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]XLR cables[/easyazon_link], and an [easyazon_link identifier=”B0143RT8OY” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]SD card[/easyazon_link]. I knew that by spending some money there would be no turning back.

I didn’t have a script and felt impatient and too excited to write something, so I decided to just go for it. Joe Swanberg had made a bunch of movies in the spirit of just doing it and I loved that and wanted to emulate that feeling. I knew I wanted to make something about male friendships (specifically about my friendship with Sam). I’ve never been good at them and I thought that would be an interesting, weird, and funny topic.

Pre-Production on an Indie Film

Sam and I decided we’d be the main actors and that he would co-write and co-produce – I would direct and edit because I had had more experience doing these two things.

We had many loud enthusiastic conversations in my kitchen about what we wanted to make a film about. I’ve been sober for the past five years and have never made anything about that whole process, so we were thinking we’d maybe have the indie film be about a character coming out of rehab, even though I never went to rehab (first dumb move – making something I know very little about.)

We also knew that we wanted to have my character stay at his ex-girlfriend’s house post-rehab (second dumb move – the house we were using was in Santa Monica and we live in East LA – a 45-minute drive.) We Skype auditioned people to play this character and finally met Isabelle Chester – Sam’s friend from an acting class – and she seemed the most willing to collaborate and bring her own special sauce to the experience – so we brought her on. First smart move.

As we were location scouting (running around on Google Street View), we discovered Izzy had a dope house in the hills which she offered us to shoot in.

Before starting principal photography I called my friend Alex Lehmann who’d done this before (he directed the indie hit Bluejay this past year starring Mark Duplass) and asked him a million questions. If anyone is planning on doing this – ask a ton of questions and don’t worry about feeling dumb. You likely will. That means you’re learning. If you want, reach out to me and I’ll help you as much as I can, even though you’re probably better off just going for it and I might just fuck you up.

The main reason I had never made a feature in the past was that I didn’t know how and that scared the shit out of me. I realized that if I just set my intention to embrace all the mistakes I’d inevitably make, I’d learn by doing. Sure, I was reading a lot of books and listening to podcasts and asking a million questions, but by actually DOING, I quickly learned what I needed to learn.

Production

In the interest of avoiding our perfectionistic/procrastinating tendencies, we decided we’d start shooting immediately. We Skype-auditioned a bunch of people to play the guy who picks me up from rehab and got a college friend to do it.

He came over and was up for whatever – we hit the road in our friend’s car with a very loose idea of the scene. We used our [easyazon_link identifier=”B00EO4A7L0″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]iPhones[/easyazon_link] as lavs which we taped to our chests. I was trying to act, direct, and make sure we didn’t get into a car accident. That first day, the story felt overly sentimental and contrived.

It was a hot day and I felt like a complete sweaty idiot that was wasting people’s time. So, our first day was kind of a bust – we didn’t get anything we wanted and the camera was super shaky. It felt like we had just shot some scenes because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you make a movie. None of it was from the heart, it just felt stupid, like we were trying to be funny or interesting.

The second day was kind of the same. We felt like we were trudging. Sam and I were fighting a lot on set and we didn’t really know what we’re doing. Something didn’t feel like it was lining up.

I started questioning why we even wanted to make the movie in the first place. Was it about trying to be liked? Trying to get attention? Was it because I felt overwhelmed by the fact of being in my mid-twenties and not having done anything that I am truly proud of? I thought I was making it because I really wanted to see if other people felt the same way I did about the discomforts and weirdnesses of being in the world.

Indie Film, Threesomething, james morosini, Joe Swanberg, filmmaking, filmmaker, indie filmmaker

The [easyazon_link identifier=”B00EO4A7L0″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]iPhone lavs[/easyazon_link]were too tricky to organize – everyone was emailing their files to a shared email account at the end of the day – that would work for a short, but for this amount of footage it just wasn’t practical — so Sam and I bought some [easyazon_link identifier=”B002CWQTXG”locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Sennheiser G3 lav[/easyazon_link] on eBay for $800. If you’re using lavs and don’t have an expert sound recordist on set — make it absolutely clear to whoever is listening to audio that if anything sounds off sound-wise — they have to speak up.

On indie film sets, everyone is always trying to act as they’ve been on a million film sets. We’re all a little insecure in some way or another. If someone doesn’t know how to do something, they’re likely to act like everything’s fine. As director/producer, your job is to make everyone feel like it’s always safe to speak up if there’s a problem.

The shoot trudged on.

We shot a scene on the third day we’d been planning to shoot since the start: in order to get closer to each other, our characters have a threesome with Izzy’s character; one guy feels left out, the other guy falls in love, the girl has to navigate this strange situation while also trying to find meaning in her own life.

This was by far the most interesting and alive scene, so we completely changed course and decided to make a film about that. Izzy had a small part in the beginning, but after her first scene, where she basically broke down crying in the middle of a threesome, we were like, fuck, how can we make this person way more central, she’s incredibly special. We restructured the rest of the film around this narrative and planned on tossing the first two days. (We ended up using that early footage as promotional material).

When we figured out our main story, we also got a better sense of how we would shoot this thing. Because so much of it was improvised, and we only had one camera, we had to figure out how we’d cover the story. I listened to some podcasts on how Joe Swanberg shot his movies, and again talked to Alex.

I’d let the actors (often including myself) play around in a master shot for twenty minutes or so, and then when we’d cut, we’d discuss what resonated, and we’d go in for roaming close-ups and inserts. A lot of this stuff would come together in editing. The mentality I had was that we needed to just throw everything up against the wall. We really only needed 5% of the footage to be good, the rest could be uncomfortable and bad, that was okay.

At night, between shoot days, Sam and I would microwave Trader Joe’s dinners and exhaustedly discuss what was working and what wasn’t. We’d often change stuff up at night for what we needed the next day.

Post Production on an Indie Film

We finished our 10 days of shooting just before New Years. I went to NYC to visit my mom and her new boyfriend, spent a couple weeks alternating between watching porn and spending too much time in front of the screen editing, and by the end of it, I had my first rough cut.

I moved through the content chronologically, dividing the film into basically four parts – Act 1, Act 2, Act 2.5, and Act 3. Sam and I had referred to Blake Snyder’s book [easyazon_link identifier=”1932907009″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Save The Cat[/easyazon_link] a bunch during the story development process because we wanted some structural guidance as we were trying to come up with this indie film on the fly.

Each day of the edit I gave myself a specific goal for which scenes I wanted to complete. I’m not an editor, no one ever taught me how to edit, so the way I’m doing it might be dumb or impractical, but I have my own little system – here it is.

I used [easyazon_link identifier=”B00CS75YKE” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Adobe Premiere[/easyazon_link]. I was scared I’d make irreparable mistakes in post-production on a project this long (I had only edited shorts) so I read a bunch of articles on how to organize my footage and asked friends. Basically, my bin structure was this:

  • 01 Raw Footage
  • 02 Acts (With scenes, numbered, on each act)
  • 01 Act 1 02 Act 2 03 Act 2.5 04 Act 3
  • 03 Music
  • 04 Selects (For Sam and Ben to make picks of their favorite footage)

First I synced sound, then I organized the files into the various bins so it was easy for me to find what I was looking for. I would watch all the footage from an act then, go scene by scene, watching the footage again and again. Then, I would pick out the moments that I liked the most and get a sense of the funniest and most honest material. Then, I would take a pass at trying to piece together the footage (which was fucking hard because it was improvised) and then put that on one timeline, then take a completely separate pass. I’d show someone both cuts and then combine what I liked from each of them.

Indie Film, Threesomething, james morosini, Joe Swanberg, filmmaking, filmmaker, indie filmmaker

I downloaded a bunch of soundtracks from other movies and chose the music from Rushmore to be temporary music and incorporated some temp music I found online. Again, had no clue what I was doing on this end, so approached it with a sense of

“let’s see what happens when I put this here and that there.”

I screened the film for Sam who had been in Europe over the break and was devastated when he wasn’t jumping for joy. The film needed a ton of work and I was initially disheartened when I realized that. The lesson here was that I wish Sam would coddle me more and that the next time I’d share the first cut, I should keep expectations low.

At a certain point, we bought a backup [easyazon_link identifier=”B004E9SGWM”locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]hard drive[/easyazon_link] that was 6TB – when I transferred the data from two hard drives into this one, many of the video files re-linked to the wrong audio files. This was a total shit-show nightmare that led to lots of me yelling in my apartment and feeling like all was lost.

After I got most of my shit together, I figured out how to fix this and was able to move on.

For any first time editors, my advice would be this: look up some videos on youtube, download Adobe Premiere, and just start messing around.

Reshoots

Because our product was so run and gun we had to go back and get reshoots for a few of the scenes. There were problems with some of the story, shots didn’t come out the way we wanted them too, and our ending kind of sucked, so we re-did a lot of this stuff.

We paid $80 to get a [easyazon_link identifier=”B00WSPZL3Q” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Ronin Gimbal[/easyazon_link] for two days to smooth out some of the shots and went to some cool locations to give the movie a bigger feel – the stuff we got adds a lot to the indie film and is kind of the connective tissue to some of the other scenes.

Marketing an Indie Film

I wish we had considered marketing from the start so we could have documented more of the process. It would have helped us garner interest and develop an audience that will be loyal to the movie, regardless of whether or not festivals like it. Live and learn. We knew we were getting a late start thinking about marketing and we’d have to be twice as aggressive. Check out a scene from the film:

We brought on my girlfriend, Allison Gehrke, to do graphic design, and Sam’s girlfriend, Emily Rowan, who took charge of running social media and being our marketing head, and who ultimately joined the producing team.

Emily launched social media accounts and started following similar projects. We started posting every single day and reaching out to potential fans and collaborators. We discovered pretty quickly that marketing can’t feel like marketing, it’s gotta have the same voice as the film — it has to sound like us. Otherwise, you sound like everyone else and it’s really not fun and just feels embarrassing.

Originally we thought we should get along with everyone, not ruffle any feathers. But you know what? Donald Trump is our fucking president. If he can stand before the nation and say whatever’s on his mind, so can we. It’s no time to be polite. It’s time to be 100% unapologetically honest and ourselves. Even if it alienates some people — it’ll help us identify our people.


All of these things are still to come. We’ll update you as we continue to move forward. Check out our indie film at www.Threesomethingfilm.com, and subscribe to our Facebook page or Instagram and we’ll send you a copy of the film when it’s ready. Feel free to shoot us an email with questions or if you just want to connect [email protected] or www.jamesmorosini.com.


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