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David Hewlett Interview Transcript - June 28th - DigitalProductionBuzz

Underneath the cut you'll find a transcript of an interview done live with David Hewlett at http://www.digitalproductionbuzz.com/LiveThisWeek/, aired live on June 28, 2007 at 6:32 p.m. Pacific Time.
 
 
Note from their site: A Dog’s Breakfast was written and directed by David Hewlett from a story by Jane Loughman & David Hewlett. The film was produced by Jane Loughman and John Lenic.
 
The majority of A Dog's Breakfast was filmed on a fourteen-day schedule and with extremely limited funds in January 2006 when Stargate Atlantis (the TV show David Hewlett stars in) was on hiatus between seasons. Some scenes were already filmed on Saturdays during the Atlantis season.
 
Originally, David Hewlett planned to shoot at his own house, but legal problems due to its US location forced the production to rent a house in Canada.
 
In addition to several Stargate producers and crew members, this film also stars and co-stars several actors of Stargate fame, who were all on hiatus from the Stargate franchise. A Dog's Breakfast used Stargate sets and equipment as well (see the Stargate crossovers section). Hewlett mentioned he wrote the script especially around those availabilities. This had made it possible to produce the film with a budget of less than $1 million.


The interviewer said that the term ‘a dog’s breakfast’ usually means something that’s a total mess, to which David laughed. “I was just making sure that in case things went really wrong, everyone would know that I was expecting that to happen anyways…. It actually speaks to the fact that the main character of this thing really does make a dog’s breakfast – a complete mess – of everything, including murder…. It was carefully chosen.” …
 
“We really wanted to make like an old-fashioned movie, you know, I’ve just seen so many people sort of debut films being these terribly edgy, terribly violent kind of sort of edgy little films, and I really wanted to make something that was just going to make people laugh, and yet play to the strengths as well. I think comedy is one of those things that can be much more difficult, but at the same time just knowing the actors that I knew and the crew that I was used to working with, I knew we could sort of relax and have fun with the film.”
 
“We were like the biggest little film ever,” he said of using an established infrastructure. “It was ridiculous because we’d originally gone into this thinking, you know, we’ll grab a couple of Handycams and shoot this thing at my mouse, but my producer and fiancé, Jane, went and spoke to the guys who I’m working for right now, the Stargate franchise, and we hooked up with John Lenic, who’s one of the producers and he got us deals that I couldn’t believe. We walked into (and we love Eleanor for this) Paramount Production Services in Vancouver and said ‘look, we’re making this movie,’ and she said ‘what’s the movie about?’ we joked around, she sorta laughed and then said ‘great, whatever you want.’ And we got all of our grip and electric stuff for free. We walked into Panavision Canada, they give us a camera for a day rate, for 14 days. We got the F900 Sony HD camera for 14 days for less than what it would cost us to buy a camcorder, so it was just amazing. And it’s a testament to a fact people really want to be a part of indie films. I mean they earn their living doing television but everyone wants to do movies, so I just took advantage of that,” he laughed.
 
“The funny thing is, when you’re doing indie films, nobody’s there unless they want to be there, because frankly, you turn up one day and if someone didn’t want to be there, they’re not there in the morning because especially we chose a time when nothing else was going on. We told everyone what the deal was, look, it’s going to be a deferral job, you know, come in, try something new. We had people just trying the next level up the ladder in television type stuff… we had some grips moving up the ladder, we also had people who – you know, our DOP’s [director of photography] been doing television for hundreds of years – since before the advent of cameras – he’s a huge HD geek, like he loves the stuff and he really wants to – he kept in the middle of a take, you’d hear this sort of ‘easy rider’ because he wants to go back to the 70s and make these little films that will change the world type things.”
 
In response to the question of making indie films by using people looking to move up in their careers, David replied, “I think that definitely helps but the thing we learnt was ask for who you want. You’d be surprised. You don’t always have to take people who are experimenting with this job. There are people who live and breathe this stuff and just want to do it on their own terms. Television is a fantastic way to earn a living and it can be a lot of fun and you can learn a lot of skills but you’re shooting a schedule, effectively. You’re not really shooting a story. You have six days to shoot an hour of television and then these guys coming in and shooting and hour and a half in 14 days and get to laugh and have their input listened to, is a big difference for a lot of people. I was very surprised. A good example is our camera operator. Our camera operator is actually directing our show now. He’s been directing for ages, but he liked the script, he liked the people and so he came and did the camera operating for us for 14 days. Just amazing. It helps to be nice to them.”
 
One of the interviewers mentioned it helps to give good food, too, to which David said “I cannot stress that enough. Food. It  is amazing. What food will do. Food will move mountains.”
 
What’s a fair working day, 12, 14, 18 hours? “We told them 12 hours and we stuck to it except one day which was an election day and everybody had to take off and go and vote and come back and I think we went over by like an hour that day, but I was a big on that because I’ve done a million of these little indie things as an actor and they’ll kill you. You’ll literally shoot until the crew or the cast or somebody revolts. Some people will just shoot until drop. I didn’t want it to be about that. We’re too old for that.”
 
How did the production end up in Canada? “We tried so hard – we’re in this neat little part of Washington and we really wanted to shoot it here partially because it’s kind of selfish in that we thought it would be a fun story and we thought it would be something that the community could get into and we couldn’t because the crew that we had worked in Canada. You can’t get them across the border… and something interesting about crews, most of them don’t like crossing borders because they’re not generally allowed to. They have pasts that come back to haunt them when their passports show up, I think, so we were a little worried about whether our boom guy was going to show up I the morning because we were shooting in another country.” …
 
“We effectively financed the film ourselves – I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tell you this or not – but we got everything done for about $120,000, like the production and post-production, the whole thing. And that’s our money, I mean that was stuff we just raised that money between friends and family and all that kind of stuff. Thank god for Stargate because that’s where most of the stuff came from. Battling aliens paid for this film.”
 
The interviewer remarked that Wikipedia said the film was done with a budget of less than one million dollars. “Much less than one million. We originally thought we were going to self-distribute and do all this kind of stuff. We had all these great plans in place to do that, and then we started talking to some distributors and to some film reps and all these kinds of things and then MGM picked it up… While you’re selling to distributors you don’t tend to run around say saying ‘hey, made it for ten bucks,’ you know, and then they offer you five, so I’m sure that sounds like a producer quote right with the ‘under a million’.
 
What about writing the film for a specific audience? “That’s one of the things I learned going this is you have to- independent film makers- it’s so funny, they go and write these movies and make these movies and then they wonder who is going to see them. And I’ve seen that happen so many times. This time I was very conscious when I sat down to do mine that we needed to have an audience in mind so I wanted to make sure- there’s no point in doing an R-rated sexy romance for the Stargate crowd – that’s not what they like. There was that [blowing things up] which we couldn’t’ afford or this great sense of character comedy that they seem to get a kick out of and we get a kick out of doing, so it’s definitely tailored to that audience, but also the hope was to have that as our primary audience and the hope it would branch off into what we called the ‘pet nerds,’ anyone with a dog, we felt was a possible audience for the film so we pushed it that way as well. And [Twentieth] Fox has been great about that, they’ve allowed us to be very sort of indie film even though they’re these huge companies that don’t usually deal with these little films.”
 
And the self-marketing with blogs and such? “I think that’s why we got picked up. A big part of it – I think Jane and John are really good at pitching people on this kind of stuff, and I don’t get too drunk at the parties so I tend not to get in the way. I think part of the reason we got picked up because we came in saying ‘look we’re self-distributing this but here’s what we’re doing, what do you think?’ type thing. In a way, they had their market laid out, they saw the film was being designed for a big market. Stargate is watched by something ridiculous like 10 million people a week or something throughout the world. I just thought why is nobody in the 11 years of Stargate, why has nobody tried to do something along these lines and I’ve since heard that here have been plans to but never really been pursued. I guess we were just silly enough to be the first to try it.”
 
The film was made in February 2005. “It’s a really dead time in Vancouver for shooting, mainly because it’s miserable. It rained for like-- It was like Biblical proportions. We had like 40 days and nights of rain during our shoot. Our backyard turned into the lake that was attached to it and it was certainly not exactly pleasant conditions and that’s why nobody shoots during that time. I get so excited about it because to me the indie film scene is like that’s where it’s at. The big films great, yeah, you can go and be a cog in the wheel and all that kind of stuff, and hey, I’m not going to turn down anything, but the fact that these little films are the ones that I think have a real shot at getting somewhere with. You make a film for under a million dollars, you don’t have to make that many sales to get that money back and make the next one, and it’s market that I don’t think the major studios would even handle if they wanted to do because they’re too big. … What’s nice again, you get personality. They may not be the perfect film but at least they have a- there’s sort of a personal story to them that the big ones can’t, just by the nature of how much money they have to spend. They have to appeal to more people. I can afford to be specific as to who I target to.”
 
Any cinema releases? “No, we’ve done a number of screenings ourselves. We never really planned on doing a theatrical release and then we realized it was a great way to generate buzz and stuff, so we actually ended up setting up one in L.A. and get a bit of press interest there and effectively getting fans out there to see the film. So the next one we did in England sold out like in 20 minutes online. It’s just a testament to the fans. The Stargate fans are so loyal and so sort of rabid in their appreciation for this stuff and they’ve really looked after the marketing for us. They’ve done T-shirts and posters and they’re all on the web all the time. It’s so much fun.”
 
He shot it with the F900 camera “at the full HD… We actually went from this glorious HD to these old Avid computers we got for free. Old Macs running Avid from way back…OS9… So we went from this glorious HD to these, like ‘I hope it’s in focus.’”
 
The DVD is coming out September 18th. Why did it take so long? “It’s just big companies,” said David. “It just takes a long time. The thing that was most shocking to us as filmmakers was how much paperwork and deliverables and all that kind of stuff. You gotta be smart– you gotta have the legal stuff covered, you gotta have all the agreements and even when you do, it still takes a long, long time to prove to people that you’ve done all your homework. I can’t imagine what we would have done had Jane not been on top of this stuff from the beginning because they ask for everything, because they’re terrified of getting in trouble for whatever reasons.” Will that limit independent production getting into decent distribution? “It’s a huge problem, especially if people keep talking about internet distribution stuff. I mean the lawyers get in the way of stuff because they’ve got to cover themselves. If a big company buys a little film and someone gets hurts, they’re the ones that get sued, not the little guys, so again, that’s why if you’re going to do the indie thing, you can’t just dive into the filmmaking. You have to look at the business side as well. If you don’t, you gotta get someone who knows what they’re doing. I don’t. Jane does. Get somebody who knows what they’re doing to cover that stuff for you because I can’t imagine anything more painful than getting a film finished and in the can and finding that legally you can’t show it.”
 
The interviewer then quipped, “Well, I think marrying a good producer is always a good thing.”
 
“I was going to throw that in there,” laughed David. “You know, it helps if you’re sleeping with the producer.”
 
David then supplied the URL – http://dgeek.com/ - “Come by, chat, ask questions, I’m there all the time.”
 
 Copyright I'm sure remains to DigitalProductionBuzz for so nicely doing the interview. Transcript done as public service to starving Hewlett fans ;)
Tags: a dog's breakfast, david hewlett
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