IFH 225

IFH 225: How to Shoot a Feature Film in 24 Hours with Ivan Malekin


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Imagine shooting an entire feature film in 24 hours. How could you do something like that and not make it a bad stage play? Today’s guest was not only able to do that but made a damn good film in the process. Ivan Malekin and his partner Sarah Jayne directed the feature film Friends, Foes & Fireworks in just one night (24 hours). Here’s some info on the film.

An intimate New Year’s Eve reunion of five female friends in the independent acting scene becomes a test of relationships when old tensions spark, truths are told, and rivalries are reignited. Will the group make it through the night together or will their friendship fizzle out like an overzealous fireworks display?

Filmed in a single night, the craziest and most chaotic night of the year – NYE – and relying entirely on improvisation, Friends, Foes & Fireworks is an ambitious Australian drama exploring relationships, love, friendship and the truths we try and fail to keep to ourselves.

Ivan, Sarah and I develop a course on how they wrote, shot, edited and sold Friends, Foes, and Fireworks. The online course is called How to Shoot & Direct an Improvised Feature Film in 24 Hours. Since you are part of the IFH Tribe we are offering a HUGE discount for you guys. It’s regularly $174.99 but you get it for $17.99! This is a LIMITED TIME OFFER. 

We dive into what it took to make a film in 24 hours, did they use a script or scriptment? How many cameras? How many crew and much more. Get ready to be inspired and enjoy my conversation with Ivan Malekin.

Alex Ferrari 1:54
Now you guys have you ever dreamt of making a feature film in one day in literally 24 hours in a row. And just be done with a feature film a good feature film that you can actually go out and sell? Well, today's guest did exactly that. Ivan Malekin and his partner Sarah Jane directed a movie called friends bows and fireworks. And that film was shot on New Year's Eve. In Australia, I think it was Melbourne. And they got a bunch of their friends together their actor friends together, they rehearsed the hell out of it. They shot with two cameras. And they literally ran straight through for 24 hours, all the way through the actor said To hell with it. We're not going to sleep. Let's just go and get it done. And they did. And they actually finished a pretty good movie, I saw the movie, I wanted to see what a 24 hour movie look like. And it looked great. I was really, really impressed. So I wanted to get him on the show to talk about the process of what they did, how they did it, all the technical stuff, how they worked with the actors, was their script meant was their real, you know, full blown script. How do they actually do it? And I want to hope hopefully, this gives you some inspiration as well to go out and make your film. So without any further ado, here's my conversation with Ivan Malekin. And I'd like to welcome to the show Ivan Malekin. And man How you doing?

Ivan Malekin 3:47
I'm good. How are you Alex?

Alex Ferrari 3:48
I'm good brother. I'm good. I'm so I'm excited to have you on the show, man cuz you guys reached out to me and said, Hey, you know, we shot this movie in a day. And we're selling it now and I would love for you to took a look at it. I'm like, I love to see what a movie shot in a day looks like. And I was pleasantly surprised. I was Yeah, I was kind of shocked at how good it is because I did my movie and eight days at and everyone says how do you do that? But you took it to a whole other place. So first and foremost, how did friends foes and fireworks even get started? How did you get the idea to make a movie in a day?

Ivan Malekin 4:25
Oh, it did a plan. It wasn't actually filming the day. We were just thinking. We wanted to actually make a film on New Year's Eve. Sarah, my co director and my wife. We think museums overrated yo, it's A lot of feasible but not much bang. So we thought well we rather do we actually we'd rather be making a film. So we base a story around his eba we actually proved to the actors, you know it's going to be really tough to shoot all night long. Do you want to just go to midnight because we have the fireworks the key Part of the issue with power works, we will just go to mark, we'll get that. And then we'll come back and finish off the wrist UI another time for everyone just wanted to keep going. So, you know, we were glad they did, like, you know, it just adds more authenticity to the whole project. So like, you know, we just kept powering on like a lot of coffee, a lot of Red Bull, and we got through it.

Alex Ferrari 5:19
So it wasn't, it wasn't actually a plan, it was something that you it kind of just happened because the act just like let's just do this.

Ivan Malekin 5:26
It wasn't the initial plan. But you know, we kind of settled probably two weeks beforehand. Yes, we're going to actually do this all in one night. And then we started building a plan around that. And the way we achieve that, you know, I co directed with Sarah. So, even while we're in the same apartment, I'd be shooting a scene in the bedroom with two actors. She'll be on the balcony shooting a scene with other two actors. So we've been shooting simultaneously in the same location.

Alex Ferrari 5:54
Oh, wow. Okay, so you were breaking up the cameras. That's pretty. That's pretty insane. Now, how did you actually get started in the business? Tell me a little bit about yourself as a filmmaker,

Ivan Malekin 6:06
Myself personally, probably started around 10 years ago, 2007. Back in uni, I'd done professional writing for a long time, I actually want to be a novelist. I had a friend that was into slasher horror films, and he recruited me to help him make one or one of them had a hand his script I helped directed, and it was just seeing your words immediately come to light before your eyes, it was so immediate, it was so engaging, and from there kind of, you know, gave up the dreams or novel inspiration and started writing scripts and started getting to filmmaking.

Alex Ferrari 6:41
That's, that's pretty amazing. Now, what was the writing process? And the story process? Like for a movie that's mostly improv?

Ivan Malekin 6:48
Well, yeah, the movie is completely improvised. So what we do in work, we actually break down a treatment of the whole story, scene by scene. We sit down with the actors and develop their backgrounds, ask them questions about, you know, the emotions and reactions. And we also we get all the actors and kind of recreated scenes that the characters would have in the past. Like, for instance, in France, person fireworks, one of the characters, Sophia is an acting teacher to the other girls. So we had Sophia run acting class, for the other characters to actually develop a bond and a shared history that can draw upon for the film.

Alex Ferrari 7:30
Okay, so you did a little bit of like method, rehearsal.

Ivan Malekin 7:35
A bit of, you know, improv games, but also just a lot of discussions and all the actual nights, we kind of had docked points of possibly one of their hits, like each scene, like, yeah, we want the conversation to go here. We didn't know what was actually going to happen. But yeah, that was kind of the intention, like you get the point of the same across. So yeah, we'll kind of like do a take and like, tick off. Okay, we got that. We got that. No, we didn't quite get this. Let's try that again.

Alex Ferrari 8:03
Now, can you tell the audience a little bit about what the movie is about friends, foes and fireworks

Ivan Malekin 8:08
Principles on fireworks is about five female friends who really are not on New Year's Eve, that have a long history together the only independent acting scene. But there's also old tensions between the group so as they realize you're set to have a good time, the tensions from the past they can't help by resurface and you know, it all eventually breaks down and then the characters will have to grow and kind of find a way to move forward.

Alex Ferrari 8:36
Now did you did you actually rehearse the actual scenes or just only the like backstory scenes,

Ivan Malekin 8:42
Only the backstory is no rehearsals are the same because well, no scripts and no wants to rehearse so so you really were just kind of there capturing the lightning as you will when when they got on set. You had no idea what was going to happen. Even one of the characters Terran he plays the boyfriend of another character called a cinder who's been in the UK and she met in the UK. So the other characters, they never actually met her. And so we deliberately kept him away from the rest of the group. And the first time they meet him is we cameras rolling as he walks through the door.

Alex Ferrari 9:18
So it has a very naturalistic vibe.

Ivan Malekin 9:23
Yeah, capturing that actual genuine reaction as they are meeting for the first time.

Alex Ferrari 9:27
Now, how did you direct actors that are performing improv?

Ivan Malekin 9:32
So like I said before, with the dot points, so kind of doing a scene, seeing what they like, saying, you're picking up anything that they might have missed. So, you know, we sit down with them after take and like, yo, we'll go do it again. More if there's a path that we might have missed on camera, like a particular line that's really important to the character or to the film, and we didn't quite get it. Then we'll just like go in for a close up and record But

Alex Ferrari 10:01
Now, so you basically did what I call a scriptment, which is basically a very structured outline of scenes and then how they get to their point is up to them. Exactly. Now, how did you cast? Because there I don't see at least from from my vantage point, no, you know, recognizable faces or bankable stars. So I'm assuming you use locals in your area. How did you cast such a, you know, because this is a unique set of skills. As far as improv is concerned.

Ivan Malekin 10:30
We, you know, we have cast all locals and we shot the film back when we lived in Melbourne. And you know, we have a long history in Melbourne, independent film scene. So a lot of the actors we've worked with before we knew their strengths or weaknesses a lot come from a theatre background, so we knew they can pull it off. There was actually no formal audition process, it was all a matter of us actually approaching the individual actor to tell them a bad idea and see if they were going to be part of it.

Alex Ferrari 10:57
Did you find any? Did you run into any hiccups along the way in regards to production? With the rehearsal, like having actors rehearse like that? Did you find it at any moment to like, I'm not getting what I need? Or did you really just flow with it the way it came out,

Ivan Malekin 11:14
We did actually just flow with it out, back when we knew it was it was actually going to work. We've done a scene where all the characters celebrated a birthday dinner for Sophia. And in that scene, there was tension between the character named Fiona and Zoey Fiona's mother had passed away from breast cancer and Zoey makes your ancestor remark about cancer. And so actually done that scene with two cameras running, we shot it for 45 minutes, non stop in rehearsal, and emigrate. And that's all we actually knew that this concept was gonna work.

Alex Ferrari 11:51
Now, how many texted you usually get of any scene?

Ivan Malekin 11:56
The most will be three, but usually two to a call is one night, and we just have to cover keep moving. So yeah, we'd like to spend more time with her, but you kind of just got to go, go Go and next location. Next set up. Let's go.

Alex Ferrari 12:10
Now, how many cameras? Did you shoot with?

Ivan Malekin 12:12
Two cameras

Alex Ferrari 12:14
And what kind of cameras were they,

Ivan Malekin 12:16
Two Fs 100.

Alex Ferrari 12:18
Okay, and how was the workflow for that as far as like post production do it and all that kind of stuff?

Ivan Malekin 12:24
Well, the both shoot on pro res. It's only 1920. By 1080. We had our salad recorders how with using six lapels with six different actors plus of groom also still like eight channels or sounds like that. You're sinking all that. And isolated tracks that was, you know, very challenging sort of sound design took a long time for this film. But in terms of cameras, pretty much straight to premiere, you know, manually sync all the footage, and away we go.

Alex Ferrari 12:55
And how many crew members were on set most of the time?

Ivan Malekin 12:59
Most the time. In total, I'd say five or six. But when we split up, it was teams of three.

Alex Ferrari 13:09
Okay, so you actually had to like splitter units running around.

Ivan Malekin 13:14
So I'll be I'll be directing one unit and Sarah will be directed another unit. Like, at one point, she was on the beach, shooting a sunrise scene while I was back in the apartment shooting another sunrise scene. And like I pick up the microphone. I'll do sound myself sometimes.

Alex Ferrari 13:31
Right? Because you have to and that kind of situation.

Ivan Malekin 13:35
Doing second camera a lot of the time also,

Alex Ferrari 13:37
That's so you had to at all times you had two cameras minimum? Exactly.Unless you're doing splinter cells.

Ivan Malekin 13:43
Yeah. And there's just one camera age. But then like, by the time it's one camera age, they're two person scenes. So we know we can cover one camera

Alex Ferrari 13:52
That's pretty amazing man, you just kind of you know, I did something similar with my movie where I just kind of rolled within it was mostly improv. But this is this is a whole other level. When you're when you're rushing to do it all in one day, like how do you stay? I mean, how many hours did you shoot all in?

Ivan Malekin 14:08
We probably started by time we got to set 4pm in the afternoon, and we've got probably around 7am or 730. And then me and Sarah were cleaning up the apartment until about 930 in the morning. So I don't know how much the hours that led up to 15 that's like that's

Alex Ferrari 14:27
That's that's like an average average life. That's like an average day in the film world. But you got a whole feature out of it. What I find fascinating about your your way of doing this, is that you I mean, there was obviously a lot of preparation for this because you don't just kind of like grab a bunch of friends and go shoot. You prepared for this. You worked out the story. You work with the actors created backstory, how many like how long have the kind of a pre production process that you go through?

Ivan Malekin 15:00
Can't quite remember it was probably a month early or pre production had the idea of, you know, the sad December die Tommy cast and it didn't take too long to cast. You know, because we just we knew all the actors that we want to work with. So probably only about a month. So not that long surprisingly.

Alex Ferrari 15:23
Now I'm assuming and I won't be as crude as to ask you what your budget was, but I'm assuming this was under a million dollars.

Ivan Malekin 15:31
It's all IBD. It's 10,000.

Alex Ferrari 15:32
So you made the movie for 10. Grand 10 grand was first, and that includes posts?

Ivan Malekin 15:41
Yeah, that includes post most of it actually is post.

Alex Ferrari 15:44
Yeah, exactly. Right. And everyone was paid something.

Ivan Malekin 15:48
Everyone's paid something that's pretty, like different contracts and like your profit share and things like that.

Alex Ferrari 15:55
So profit sharing with the actors.

Ivan Malekin 15:58
Yep. A little smaller from free, and then profit share. You know, because you're building a community, you're you're asking actors to give up the New Year. Again, that's a pretty Yeah. With so we're not even sure if it's going to work. So you know, it's a big commitment. And you want people on the same page, and you will be in this together. Yeah, it's a it was a basically a big experiment, because you really had no idea. I've never done anything like this. I'm assuming you had not done this style of shooting before. We have never done this style before. Everything else we've done has been scripted. But now the feature we're working on currently incorporate with filming improvised again, just because we so much enjoy this process. I don't think I want to go back to use scripts.

Alex Ferrari 16:41
I feel you man. Because after I did, I did after I did my movie. It was just such a wonderful experience. And if you have good actors, you really can pull something off.

Ivan Malekin 16:52
That's amazing. You're just releasing you from restraints,

Alex Ferrari 16:55
Isn't it? Isn't it right? Like Yeah, cuz I felt so free the entire time in the actors felt free. Everyone just felt kind of like, wow. And it's that for every movie, obviously, if you're going to do $100 million action movie, you know, you're not going to do this, though Iron Man did? Yeah, actually. They were writing the script on the day, Jeff Bridges came out and said, yeah, we walk into the set that then no one knew what we were going to shoot, where they just had basically seen sets up and then like, Jeff Bridges. Yeah, so it did kind of happen on Iron Men. But generally speaking on these big budget movies, it doesn't work that way. But I'm, that's one of the reasons I want to have you on the show because I wanted to talk to someone else who's kind of gone through this process, the same one that I did, and just kind of preach from the top of the mountain like there. This is a wonderful experience.

Ivan Malekin 17:51
Yeah, I love it so much. Because even this probably came about Yeah, I've had negative experiences on set before like everything's structured everything really formal. You know, last year, we made a couple of expensive short films just did not enjoy the process. We just want to kind of go back to the core of why we got into filmmaking which is we do this for passion We do this because we have so much fun with it. So we want to recapture that fun.

Alex Ferrari 18:16
And this character and then it again, it's again you're writing a story around the elements you have so I'm assuming you had your that was your apartment was

Ivan Malekin 18:27
Actually we put it out on a grid because it was in St Kilda in Melbourne so we put out all the security community group asking anyone have apartments and a lovely lady step forward. I'm away uneasy if you can have my apartment. Here you go. So you don't even have to pay for the apartment. No, we did not.

Alex Ferrari 18:43
Jesus. Now when you left the apartment, did you have any permits for shooting on the streets?

Ivan Malekin 18:48
No permits. No wonder the girls were worried especially your New Year's Eve here on public streets. We did actually have a security guard with us. You know, just provide protection but it actually turned out. Melbourne is usually really hot on New Year's Eve you get these really balmy nights, but that was colder nights. So it wasn't as busy as we thought was going to be we actually have the opposite problem looks like a crowded beach. Here we actually it was also because was so called a windy it was actually virtually almost empty.

Alex Ferrari 19:21
So you had it all to yourself.

Ivan Malekin 19:23
Yeah, yeah, pretty much like yeah, there's groups of people here and they're like, yeah, occasionally. Yeah, the worst thing we wanted was like your copyrighted music getting in the way. So we have to go you're further away from people, but it was actually much easier on the streets than we thought it would be.

Alex Ferrari 19:37
And and then when you were when you were out there shooting, I mean, because you had a fairly large footprint. It wasn't like it was just like you and a couple actors. It was all your actors to camera guys to directors sound. And I'm sure a couple of ancillary how many actual people were on the set

Ivan Malekin 19:56
Actors a six. So we had plus additional six pounds for people.

Alex Ferrari 20:01
So you're walking around Melbourne, New Year's Eve with six people. I'm assuming you had some lights.

Ivan Malekin 20:08
We did have some lights, you can't remember what they're called maybe a couple of days. Just to give them more Yeah, just a little bit ambience, you know, in dark rooms or like you're out on the beach in the sand or near Hudson, we just saw a couple of lights on the hearts like you're just given more light.

Alex Ferrari 20:26
Yeah, so yeah, so lighting wasn't a big deal, because it movie actually doesn't look bad at all, it looks actually fairly good for what it is very naturalistic. It's not very stylized. But but it's not low lid, it's not ugly by any stretch. So you know, and again, you've got 10 years behind you. So I'm just for the audience listening, it's not like, you know, you're going to be 15 and run out and do this, you can. But that experience that you're falling back on really, I'm assuming helped you during this process?

Ivan Malekin 20:54
Well, the whole point we wanted to make as naturalistic possible. So we wanted to minimize the use of light, it's all about also moving quickly. And because we're inspired by mumble core, they're traditionally not known for their, you know, standard production values. So, you know, we do the kind of aesthetic that we're working within, and we try to replicate that.

Alex Ferrari 21:15
Now you're actually so the film is done. Now, are you guys going to AFM this year,

Ivan Malekin 21:20
We are we're going to do a quick stop. Over at the American Film market, we've submitted to a couple of festivals, so just waiting on results. But ultimately, we made the film for iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, we didn't expect a similar list from this. So we'll kind of see what happens with the festivals first, and then we'll pursue iTunes release.

Alex Ferrari 21:42
Now, are you guys going to do your own self distribution?

Ivan Malekin 21:46
Well, we'll see what happens at the American fall markets, you know, we got a couple of meetings lined up. But if not, you know, a company like distributor, we know we can like approach them. And starches are released that we really like, you know, kind of set up from the start. That's what we wanted to do.

Alex Ferrari 22:03
And they can also pitch it to Netflix and Hulu as well. That's how we got our film in Hulu. Which is amazing. I can't believe that we actually did that. But distribute did that for us with the pitch. So yeah, it for this kind of budget. That kind of makes sense. Do you have an audience? Did you try building an audience? How do you plan on marketing this?

Ivan Malekin 22:25
Well, we got Facebook group, we got Instagram, you know, slowly building it up. So long way to go. But it's also just kind of want to film a group effort all in. So yeah, once it feels ready to be released, like Yo, actors reach out to your network crew, reach out to your network, and spread the word as fast as possible at doing interviews with people like you, of course, Alex, we have other reviews that we've done. So we just kind of want to keep building word of mouth. And you know, kind of reaches the apex as we're ready to release the film.

Alex Ferrari 23:00
Now, is this a model in your opinion that other filmmakers can and should follow and making either their first second third fourth fifth feature?

Ivan Malekin 23:09
I'm really not sure because this is the first time we're trying and also so like, like film shooting on yours. It was a bit of experiment. Even our release strategy is a bit of an experiment. So where can I go see what happens with it. We're confident we can get released and even we're shooting right now latest feature your mumblecore improvised kind of iTunes in mind also. So wait and see Fingers crossed. Very cool.

Alex Ferrari 23:37
Very cool. Now I'm gonna ask a few questions that I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business?

Ivan Malekin 23:48
Pick up a camera and go out and shoot something. I never went to film school I learned just by doing a myself just by writing scripts and my first films are absolutely horrible. You know, the visuals are watchable by just you know, kept going and you learn from your own mistakes. But I also don't expect the world to kneel down and fall over your brilliant work like have you set yourself some standards but also be prepared to fail, but that's okay. Just pick up the camera and go make another one.

Alex Ferrari 24:22
Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career book?

Ivan Malekin 24:29
I'm not really sure maybe JRR Tolkien Lord of the Rings. I was a big fantasy geek. Okay, when I was younger and I wouldn't want to be a novelist it was always fantasy. And the I still do have like a children's fantasy novel that I could play the first draft so I guess I don't know. I watch a lot of Game of Thrones. I guess it's that book was sold a fantasy.

Alex Ferrari 24:52
Very cool. And then what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life Hmm, that's a good question like so. Don't be humble, I guess. Okay. Be humble. Be yourself. Just, you know, find your own niche. What are three of your favorite films of all time? Terminator two, excellent. Dumb and Dumber.

Ivan Malekin 25:26
Okay. Oh, what am I watching recently that I really like? I don't necessarily try one. liberal she likes pears liberal. There we go. We'll go with that one.

Alex Ferrari 25:38
Anyway, Sarah's there as well. Yeah, she's behind me. Sarah, why haven't you been talking to us? I Hi, Sarah, the CO the CO director of this movie, I would have loved to have you on the show. Okay, and where can people find you?

Ivan Malekin 25:58
Nexus production group, our websites, it's npgroup.com.au, or Instagram or Facebook makes us production group. And yeah, there's actually a website for the film to friends, foesandfireworks.com.

Alex Ferrari 26:12
Very cool. Thank you so much for being on the show and sharing your journey on how to make a one day film. And hopefully it will inspire some filmmakers to go out there and grab a camera make their own.

Ivan Malekin 26:23
Thanks so much Alex.

Alex Ferrari 26:25
Well, guys, I don't know if if that's not the kind of inspiration you need to go out and make a movie. I don't know what is. These guys were pretty amazing. They just kind of went out and did it. And I think that is the biggest lesson we can take away from Ivan's and Sarah's journey is just go out and do it. Don't overthink it, just go out and do it and do it cheap. Do it just like Mark duplass says, Do it cheap make $1,000 movie make a $5,000 movie. Don't risk too much on these smaller movies. If you went out and made a 24 hour movie and it cost $100,000 You're crazy. There's no reason for something like that. But if you go out and make $1,000 movie or $5,000 movie for 24 hours in two days and four days, and you just rock it out, then go for it and do it. You know, that's exactly how I did this is Meg. That's exactly how I did on the corner of ego and desire, where you just I just went out and was like, screw it, we're gonna go make a movie. And let's see what happens and you kind of throw risk into the wind. Because the budgets are so low, you can be that ballsy, you can go out and experiment and do cool things. If you make $1,000 movie, it might not be that great. But it might be awesome. Like puffy chair was for Mark duplass, when they made their first feature film was horrible, and they spent $60,000 on it. And it was absolutely horrible, so bad that they destroyed it. And no one has ever seen it except the two brothers. Then they went out and made a movie for I don't even know how much puffy chair cost. But I know it didn't cause a lot. I think it was like $5,000, something like that. And it blew up. So you never know. But you're never going to become a better director, a better filmmaker, until you go out and actually become a filmmaker. Just go and do it. And I hope this story inspires you. And I hope the the stories of how my team and I made ego and desire that I'll be talking about in the course of the next few months. We'll continue to inspire you guys to go out there and make your own projects and tell your own stories. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/225 for the show notes. And guys, do me a favor. If you did enjoy the trailer for on the corner of ego and desire on YouTube or on Facebook, share it, please send it out to everybody. You know, I want to get the word out on the movie. As much as the film is funny. It's also an allegory. It's also a hopefully a lesson and multiple lessons on what not to do as filmmakers. So I hope it helps filmmakers out there while they're laughing at themselves a little bit. So please share as many times in as many places as you can. It would mean the world to me and you can find the trailer at ego and desire film.com so as always, guys, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.




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