Painting Tasmin

Associate Producer and Art Director on Independent Feature Film

In 1999, as a professional portrait painter, I was contracted by an independent filmmaker, Mira Starling, to paint a series of large, life-sized portraits to be featured in her original film, about a young artist who expressed his love for a woman through his painting (Prints of the original paintings are available for viewing, although not online).

As work progressed, Ms. Starling hired me to also serve as the art director for the film. In that role I not only continued to create original portraits but also designed sets, as for a trailer (filmed to help obtain funding); located props; and even designed and printed original letterhead and business cards for the production company.

And when Ms. Starling’s producer left, to work on a National Geographic video, I assumed those duties as well for Painting Tasmin:

  • I formatted and copied scripts.
  • I “broke down” scripts, to inventory props and sets, to make shooting schedules, and to estimate budgets (My production notes are available upon request).
  • I scheduled meetings, took out ads, processed mail, and performed general clerical duties.
  • I auditioned cast.
  • I interviewed crew.
  • I screened music.
  • I scouted and arranged locations.
  • I got quotes on equipment rentals etc.
  • I obtained copyright and other clearances.
  • I boiler-plated contracts for legal review.
  • I learned new film technologies and negotiated successfully with digital and film labs (FotoKem et al.).

Among the various references I consulted as a producer were these then-industry-standard texts:

  • Clearance & Copyright: Everything the Independent Filmmaker Needs to Know, by Michael C. Donaldson, Silman-James Press, Los Angeles, 1996.
  • The Complete Film Production Handbook, by Eve Light Honthaner, Focal Press, Boston, 1997.
  • Contracts for the Film & Television Industry, by Mark Litwak, Silman-James Press, Los Angeles, 1998.
  • The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for The Digital Age, by Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus, Plume (The Penguin Group), New York, 1999.

Unfortunately, as is all too often the case for independent filmmakers, Ms. Starling was unable to obtain sufficient financing. Although she had been a production assistant and assistant director for several student films at the University of California at Berkley, here in Los Angeles she lost her various connections to free or low-cost crew and equipment. Fortunately, my detailed analysis of the total budget for the film demonstrated to her that she did not have enough money to complete filming; I urged her to stop after pre-production and continue only when/if she secured at least enough funding to complete principal photography, because there was no way to ensure that our cast would remain available if there were an interruption of any significant length. She reluctantly agreed with my analysis. To my knowledge, the production has never been completed.

For my part, I learned a great deal, expanding upon my basic filmmaking skills, honed in producing various little animated films over the years (a few of which are featured in this Web site). Eventually, I employed many of those skills as a producer — particularly my interpersonal skills of “friendly persuasion” — when I became a talk show producer.

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