Thursday 25 April 2013

‘The Mechanic’ LA Shoot

(by Rishi Thaker)

I just wanted to share my views on the first Leomark Studios and Stickmen Pictures production, ‘The Mechanic’ which finished shooting yesterday in LA.

Firstly, I wanted to say what a pleasure it has been shooting out here in the States. It’s been an ambition from as far back as the day I realised movie making was where my heart is. My experience of shooting in Derbyshire gave me real confidence to take things head on out here so I would like to convey my deepest gratitude to all of the Stickmen Pictures faithful back home.

The shoot of ‘The Mechanic’ took place on 4 days over a week. The shoot was fully loaded with extensive shot lists which made for long days.

I want to take a moment to address all of the individuals that made this happen:


Jacob Matthews came through the most competitive audition process I have ever been involved in. He is supremely professional, universally liked by all on set and an outstanding performer. He showed great stamina to keep his high performance going during the long hours and integrated his natural comedic improvisation with hilarious effect. However, the most important thing he achieved with the character was the balance. Not only will you find his character outrageously funny but you will feel his innocence and subsequently always root for him. 

Darcy Donavan (Anchorman, My Name is Earl, Browsers) plays multiple characters (Sexy Customer, Police Woman) in this film. Her obvious beauty juxtaposed with a great ability to perform made her a standout choice for us. For one of her roles she endured 6 hours in the character make-up chair and still gave us every ounce of energy without a single complaint. An attitude like this is invaluable when making a film and I cannot speak highly enough of Darcy in this light. Darcy lit up the set with her colourful persona and I’m sure everyone is in agreement with the positive effect she had during this shoot. 

Derek Lux, the laugh inducer, plays multiple roles (Tall Robber, Angry Boyfriend) in this film. Derek has a great natural ability to improvise. When called upon within an instant he could plunge into his huge repertoire of comedy and deliver with distinguished results. It was a real pleasure to have such ability in the film and I can’t wait for you all to see his talents. 

Brian Prisco & Scotty Servis formed two enigmatic sides of the Three Robbers. It was clear from their auditions that these guys were top drawer and when put along aside each other delivered a superb performance. We are lucky to have such talented and committed individuals to appear in our film.

Matt Vera came to our attention in rather serendipitous circumstances when Erik decided upon a car journey completely different to his usual. Along the way he met Matt who was eventually cast as the angry husband. Matt worked hard, was always prepared to help and paid a lot of attention to detail which really supported this film making process!  

Lexi Baxter played the girlfriend character. Lexi was utterly professional and took direction effortlessly despite having an outrageous Angry Boyfriend  character (played by Derek) to act alongside.  She will definitely have an impact which I can’t wait for you to see!


In the crew I want to mention Art Smith who made a lot of things happen for this shoot from props to locations as well as supporting the rest of the crew anyway he could. He was extremely positive through the process as was his wife Amy Smith. She was greatly efficient, reliable and spent many hours on set helping with a variety of different tasks.

MultivisionFx’s Michael Del Rossa (Watchmen, 300, Pirates of the Caribbean) our Special Effects make-up artist whose talent and incredible standard will be there for all to see in his Werewolf creation. His team of Aimee Bertone and Carlos Vasquez spent hours in support of Michael. They were extremely professional and deserve a lot of credit for their time, effort and creativity. 

Sören de la Cruz was a crucial member of the crew and I believe pretty much performed every film set task from lighting to stills (to stunt driver…). He was approachable and smiled through every task during the shoot. Abhishek Bhatt was also a critical member of the team. This was his first experience on a film set and he cut his teeth on one of the most important aspects of the film – sound. Abhishek grasped his task quite easily and was a great help to the crew for the duration of the shoot.  

I want to thank Michael Razo II and Richard Valdez for their support and patience whilst we drove and shot in their Cadillac Fleetwood Low Rider, courtesy of Pharaohs, I.E.  I want to thank Alex Tuason and Art Tuason  for allowing us into Hoppos Custom Suspension Works and being there to make that day as easy as they could for us.

I also want to thank Roshni Bhatt for lending her extra pair of hands on set during the house scenes and making props in pre-production. I want to acknowledge Shaileshkumar Bhatt and Jaymini Bhatt for being massively supportive to me in every way thinkable and providing one of the main film sets – the house. I have a lot more to be grateful for when it comes to these guys but that is for another time and another way…  

Daniel Tee probably didn’t think he would get a mention but the more sophisticated half of Stickmen Pictures lying in wait in good old Derby has contributed greatly to the writing (you’ll notice how the script wasn’t just written by me) and been extremely supportive of my first venture without his presence on set. He will also be getting involved with post-production down the line and I look forward to you all meeting him in the future.

Last but not least the Lundmarks. Anna Lundmark made me a fantastic cake for my birthday which everyone on the garage day will testify was amazing, and Emilia Lundmark weighed in with some innovative prop making. Super effort!

Maria Collis (outside of being the producer) was the engine of this whole shoot. Her work ethic, organisation skills, attention to detail and experience really drove this shoot to a successful conclusion. She was there to put out any fires and made sure everyone was fed and happy. The great morale of this production can almost single-handedly be attributed to her. And that is probably an understatement.

Last but not least, Erik Lundmark (outside of being the producer) who was exactly the man to deliver a high production valued piece. His preparation skills were of the highest order (and I have seen some prep with my previous life being in finance!) as was his awareness of the shot types required to elevate the quality of this shoot. His line of communication to me was always open and he was able to support me with his vast experience. His work ethic (something the Lundmarks should be famous for in my opinion) was awesome to behold as he put himself through a physical exam with the equipment he was utilising. I have learnt a lot about making films here in LA through observing Erik and will never forget this experience.

All in all a great thank you to everyone’s contribution including all those who I have not mentioned above. Without your dedication we could never realise this vision which I know will be worth the wait when it is finally ready for you to see.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

L.A. Blog 4

(by Rishi Thaker)

So a busy couple of months up ahead as the going gets tough and time to deliver quickly approaches. Dan and I are currently engaging in a number of projects and although we are working tirelessly towards kicking them off there is no point in communicating what they are until given the ‘green light’. That’s where the people with the money come in and our ability to charm them will be the make or break of the projects we want to do this year. The aim is to try and make all the networking I have been doing whilst out here pay off. More to follow.

I have decided to put in one piece of interesting information that I have learnt whilst here for every blog I write which may hopefully help demystify Hollywood a little bit for you. Today I’m going to write about why a film costing a $1 billion may still make no money for its producers. Yes $1 billion at the box office could potentially leave no back end profit for the producers. How? Let’s take something like Superman or the Hobbit or something that costs a lot to make. Well firstly half (50%) of it will go to the cinema houses ($500 million). That’s what the likes of Showcase, Odeon etc… charge for showing your film (and they make no money from it as $500 million barely covers the cost of running a cinema for that many people – they make their money on popcorn, drinks etc… where there is an 80% profit margin). Superman or Hobbit or something of that magnitude would cost $250 million to make in the first place. This leaves £250 million which is spilt between the distributors (10-15%, so let’s say £100 million there) and £150 million P&A (Prints and Advertising). P&A is the cost of supplying the cinema houses with the film prints (could be about $1,500 per cinema!) and the marketing of the movie globally. So the cost the producer can control is the $250 million production cost. You lower this, you have more chance of making money if you’re film does a higher gross. Interesting eay?

Finally, I have purposely left this blog a little later than on the turn of the year because, for me, New Years is normally associated with jovial cheer, happy endorphins and excitement at what the next twelve months could bring. However, I have been left with more sobering thoughts as I reflected on what events took place around the world (that I read of), how they affected me and what I personally could do about them. I don’t need to go into any detail about the gun tragedy that unfolded at Sandy Hook in the U.S or the appalling act of rape to girl going home on a bus in Delhi, India which left many in disbelief at what sort of society we’re all living in. The sad thing is that despite these despicable acts I noticed through people and the media a sense of being desensitised to such things. Last year there were public shootings not only in Sandy Hook, but Colorado, Oregon, Toronto (amongst others) and my observations are that the impact is becoming more and more diluted across the world. There was a huge uproar in India in response to the rape with almost everyone having an opinion or saying something to denounce the act (even though this act is not isolated). India it seemed had turned a corner. Then I read this week that it happened again to another person. Another day, another victim. Desperate and in despair. What do the rest of us do?

I don’t mean to assume anything on your behalf when writing this but I always feel a sense of moving on after a period sadness. However I thought about the irresponsibility of moving on without changing. Changing my thought process and the way I behave. I’ve been guilty of ignoring a lot of what’s going on around me as I concentrate on my own goals and objectives in life. But I’ll get nowhere without interacting with people. We all have our sphere of influence and I guess I am trying to highlight the responsibility we have in realising that. I hope to set an example of what I believe is right and centre to that is to always to see the good in people no matter what. You’re all capable of positively influencing your sphere. Go and do it by example and watch it ripple across the world. That’s something we cannot have excuses about.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

L.A. Blog 3

(by Rishi Thaker)

Rather aptly, I feel like I am already a quarter of the way along to my journey to Mordor. Not that I am depressed and of heavy heart like young Frodo was all the way through the Lord of the Rings, more that I have been here 3 months, this is an epic adventure for me and the weight of success does hang around my neck just like that ring. However, being here is just what I wanted even though the obstacles to that success are huge.  I guess the fact that the Hobbit is out next week just got me excited!

'Devil's Grip'
It’s good to see that while I am here everyone back home is busy and getting on with things. Dan gave me the news of the positive reception ‘Devil’s Grip’ received at the festival last month. If you went along then I’m sure you’ve spread the word and if you didn’t, find someone who did and receive the spread!

This month has seen an intense part of my scheduling executed as the follow up to the American Film Market has been non-stop. Hollywood, Burbank, Sunset Blvd, Santa Monica (etc…) no longer represent these mythical places with more history than Middle Earth as they are now regular stops. It’s funny how you build up such places on a pedestal and when it becomes your home you realise that you have every right to etch yourself here along with the most well-known celebrities on the planet. After all it’s only a place inhabited by humans and I’m just another one (no better, no worse).

It’s difficult to report on the exact work I am undertaking as I am going through a period which will determine the shape of my entire visit. To that end the better the quality of my output over the next couple of months, the more likely that success is going to come. For me the AFM was a great opportunity but the most important part of that opportunity is now in the aftermath. I hope to be able to give you significant news in the coming months but at the moment there’s work to be done (from writing scripts to building business plans to developing production strategies) and I am glad to be a part of it. Fingers crossed that it all comes together.

The weather here is still great (sorry). I can’t believe it’s December and it’s hotter here than at home in August! However what’s funny is that when it does rain here (which it did for once last week) everyone goes crazy. They all panic and the freeways jam up. What normally takes me 30 mins to drive took 2 hours because of the widespread panic from the locals. And it was for what we’d consider light rain. Hilarious now but not when you are sitting on the road waiting for them to figure out that their cars won’t break because of the water!

Today I’m taking a break in the evening and going to see Bruce Springsteen in concert here in LA. Those of you who have read previous blogs will now be rolling their eyes at the prospect of reading yet another series of paragraphs of why he is the greatest and no one else (yeah even Muhammed Ali). But I’ll stop there so you can stop rolling your eyes.

Christmas is around the corner and I hope you all have a great time this year. It’ll be weird sun-bathing on Christmas Day - sorry, too much?  I’ll also be watching Django Unchained which is released then too! Here’s to a great 2013 (provided the world doesn’t end before like some of you keep telling me). Keep smiling.