Indie Filmmaking in Action: Pre Production – Week 1

Indie Filmmaking…

…is something I have been passionate about for a very long time. On Friday, I set out for the west coast to join the team for the feature film “Gold Dust” written by David Wall, my first indie filmmaking experience of this magnitude. His previous projects include “Joe and Joe” (1996) and “Noëlle” (2007). Gold Dust is a totally new beast though, it takes place in the desert, requires a much larger crew and a larger cast than his previous projects.

I arrived out here on Monday, September 5th and met Branden Cobb (LP/PM),  Burns Burns (Production Designer) and his team Colten McCranie and Eric Liebrecht. I’ve been so encouraged by everyone’s enthusiasm and ‘can do’ spirit. When you don’t have a ton of funding you’re forced to get creative, and creativity is something this group of people is in no lack of.

Eric Liebrecht (Left), David Wall (Middle), Burns (Right) and Branden (Right/Back). Independent Filmmaking in action
Eric Liebrecht (Left), David Wall (Middle), Burns (Right) and Branden (Right/standing).
The Toyota Landcruiser that we spent our day in the desert in.
The Toyota Landcruiser that took us through our day in the desert.

We spent our first day together driving around the desert visiting all the sets/locations that will be used in the film. Burns and Eric took in the sites, grabbing sand samples from each set and taking photos to help them make color pallet decisions for wardrobe and set dressing.

A "greeked" dirt bike, courtesy of Colten McCranie. Independent Filmmaking in action.
A “greeked” dirt bike, courtesy of Colten McCranie.

Meanwhile, Colten was back at basecamp “greeking” vehicles and props. Burns, Colten and Eric have all worked on higher budget projects in the past, like The Amazing Spiderman 2, Blue Mountain State, The Inspectors and more. However, they all pride themselves on the ability to make a small Art Department budget look like a million dollars and from what I have already witnessed they’re definitely going to do that on this project.

My view from the middle seat of the Landcruiser as we roamed the desert. Independent Filmmaking in Action.
My view from the middle seat of the Landcruiser as we roamed the desert.

During our scouting trip in the desert Branden Cobb and myself were taking notes of a different kind. Our attention was more focused on travel times and dropping pins via google maps in each set location. It became obvious to us that one of the main challenges that we will have on this project will be transportation and logistics. It’s the desert, there are no street signs, so we’ll have to come up with a system to make sure no one gets lost as we’re going from location to location.

One of the many dry lakes out in the Mojave Desert. Independent Filmmaking in action.
One of the many dry lakes out in the Mojave Desert.

The desert is vast and no one knows that quite like David who has spent the better half of this year driving around the desert in search of the locations that will be the setting for this comedy / adventure film.

David Wall (Right) talking with Burn Burns (Left)
Director, David Wall (Right) sharing vision for a scene with Production Designer, Burns Burns (Left).

One of the most inspiring things in all of this is to watch Director David Wall share his vision for the film. David knows what he wants but he’s also a great collaborator and encourages us to give our input. In the photo below David and Burns discuss dressing one of the locations.

Wall and Burns discuss set. Independent filmmaking in action.
Production Designer, Burns Burns (Left) and Director, David Wall (Right) discuss set design for a scene in Gold Dust.

Branden Cobb (LP/PM) and I have been working closely together on the logistics side of things. Branden, who has just come off his third feature this year wastes no time in helping keep us on budget and on schedule. He is always on the phone with someone, whether it’s Gold Dust’s home office or the other departments in production, he’s always moving a million miles an hour and it’s a good thing too because it seems like there are still a million things to get done before principle photography begins in October.

As 1st AD, my main concern at this point is nailing down our shoot schedule. Long days of cognitive exercises navigating talent/crew availability, best times to be at certain locations and making sure that our day and night shoots aren’t stacked in a way that will leave the crew feeling burnt out make the Tetris puzzle that is the schedule a real force to be reckoned with. But after a handful of collaborative meetings with David and Branden I believe we’ve got a schedule that will guide us through production.

As each new person shows up here in the desert to join the pre-pro effort, the realization that this is really happening starts to set in. We’re going to make a movie. For some who have been down this road before it may not seem as awesome as it does to me. But I’ve never been a part of a project quite like this before so the experience is all very new and exciting to me. My main goal is to work as hard as I can and be the best support to everyone that I can be. We have three more weeks of planning and prep. Production begins in October. It’s going to be quite a ride!

Thanks for reading!


Stefan Liner

East Stream Studio