diy Failed Projects

So, I want to hear everyone's horror stories about projects that took a nose dive and never happened or if they did, turned in to the farthest thing from the original idea.

Sometimes projects just never take off and that's fine but it's the ones that you put the blood, sweat and tears in to that really stick with you. I will post mine below as well.
 
My writing partner and I met in early 2013 and by the middle of the year were making our first feature length bank robbery film. The thing was, we mentioned that we wanted to film a bank job in this old bank in our city and through mutual acquaintances we were able to get the keys and have full run of the bank for the day that was in a week so we wrote the scene just involving the bank robbery and wrangled up everyone we knew to be in the scene to give it a full bank type look. All people in their early 20s like us, something that would make the scene look cheap.

The scene ended up going really well and besides needing more set dressing and a wider range of extras, it looked pretty damn good but from there the film fell apart. We then had to write a full script around it, which we did and looking back at the script now it still holds up for how naive we were. We had the main cast and everyone was very in to the project but one person who would visibly show it by cutting his hair and showing distain while acting. He then would leave early from shoots and call of days for bullshit and some actual things but in the end would tell us off in a public facebook group saying that the production was ruining his personal life. He had only filmed about five days, only two being full shooting days and the rest was being filmed when he wasn't there. All in all we were filming for two years of weekends and got about 70 percent of the movie. I have since been going back and looking at the footage and most of it hold up with some of it being really hard to watch.

There were good locations, great vehicles a good story and some really good jokes for it being a Guy Richie type film but we were young and hungry to make a feature And it failed from being unprepared and not communicating enough with the cast to see if they really wanted to be there. We left that film behind with broken hearts and went on to make a ton of shorts over the years and gain a tiny fan base and now are in the writing stages of our first real feature and are planning the logistics as we go. A lot less now you know a lot more cautious but still hungry to make a great film.

Sorry for the long winded story but I thought it would be fun to see each other's struggles and how we got through it
 
I guess I should have added the point that one actors hair would change drastically forcing us to reshoot whole scenes and him not showing up on days when we had already shot the majority with him stretched the shoot from a couple of months to a couple of years where he was saying he wanted to do it so we would work with his schedule only for him to blow up on us and quit with the majority of the movie filmed.

We talked about finishing it and changing the ending but it would have turned in to a movie we didn't want to see. So we were beaten down and decided to pack it up. We do talk about revisiting it and making a shorter version with the resources and bank of actors we have now but we shall see.
 
As I edit the old footage together I see how hard it would have been to finish it after the actor left because scenes were missing and if we were to reshoot the whole thing, a lot of locations and the vehicle we used for the getaway car were gone
 
I don't have enough experience to see a project take a nosedive yet, but I do have a few projects that never made it to a timeline. Using the pandemic to put the footage together instead of starting something completely new. It's given my life some structure.
 
I don't have enough experience to see a project take a nosedive yet, but I do have a few projects that never made it to a timeline. Using the pandemic to put the footage together instead of starting something completely new. It's given my life some structure.
That's a positive spin! Good work!
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
I have numerous half-written screenplays, and screenplays that I've re-written many times but never got to where I wanted them to be. And there are plenty of screenplays that I've written for other people that will probably never see the light of day.

But I've never planned to shoot a movie and not finished & released it, in some manner.

The closest I came was the night before we were going to start shooting my first feature (I was writer & producer). I stayed late at my day job (a bank) to use the multi-line phones and fax machines (it was 2011 so they were still common). As I frenetically worked on finishing all of the paperwork that was essential for that first day, I panicked and thought about pulling the plug. But I decided that I'd simply gone too far and the great team I'd assembled would never trust me again if I did that. So I went through with it, and am glad I did.

We also didn't cast a major supporting character until 2 days before we started to shoot, and the actor playing another supporting role dropped out at the last minute. A guy playing a small role was a no-show, but our composer happened to be on set and fit the wardrobe, so he stepped in. Even when we lost a major location a day before we were scheduled to start shooting there, we just scrambled as hard and fast as we could, and found something uglier but ultimately better.

We shot both my features in 20 days over a 4 week period, which I definitely recommend if you can find a way to make it work.
 
I worked on a 48 hour film (a short) last year that didn't make the submission deadline. Even if it had, it was a bit of an incoherent mess when we finally finished it weeks later (for our own benefit, not the competition).

I've never had a feature film take a nosedive like described, but certainly have had locations fall through and casting completed the day before a start date. I've worked with many difficult people over the years and fired some. If I've learned one thing, at some point it's worth firing a difficult (or incompetent) person and replacing them. It's a tough call and a difficult thing to do, but if I had a lead that wasn't committed to the role, much less the schedule, I'd replace and reshoot. It all depends on the project. In some situations that's impossible, but it sounds like your project was more a self-funded/volunteer production? After the 2nd time of cutting hair/not showing up bs, that actor would be gone.

In comparison, from my experience in the corporate world, there is time to counsel and coach a difficult employee. You can afford to give them multiple chances and a pathway to redemption. Film is different. There is little time for niceties and 2nd chances. I'm not advocating for a heartless set -- far from it -- but, anyone that's spent a reasonable amount of time on set knows, you have to be on your game, deliver on your job and maintain professionalism. It's a serious endeavor. You can't allow one person to jeopardize what everyone else is working so hard to achieve.
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
If I've learned one thing, at some point it's worth firing a difficult (or incompetent) person and replacing them.

Yes! 100% yes!

On the aforementioned first feature, I didn't fire an important crew member who should have been gone while we were still in pre-production.

On my 2nd feature, I did give a person a 2nd chance, but he was gone the next time he caused trouble.
 
My first feature film, THE VERNONIA INCIDENT, was shot on 16mm film. I purchased a used camera from a "trusted source" which had been used by
ABC News for several years. Since I was assured that the camera was in good shape, I didn't test the camera...big mistake. The camera had two big problems that I didn't know about. (1) The sound system was broken, and (2) The footage counter, which shows how much film is still in the camera, was not accurate. All of the film was processed at one time at the end of the 2-week shoot. There was no sound on the film's mag stripe, and several scenes were either short, or completely missing (we had apparently run out of film several times and didn't know it... ). Sets had already been destroyed, props returned, and the main actors were not available, so a reshoot was not possible. I was left with silent footage, and entire scenes were missing, but I was determined to finish some sort of a film with what I had. I had to re-write the plot and structure of the film, and dub the entire sound track with other actors, and a sound effects guy... I even used some shot-on-video news footage that I was able to buy. The end result was not at all what I had originally planned. In fact, it is a pretty horrible movie. But we finished it. We found a home video distributor who put it out on VHS, and they actually sold some overseas home video rights. Alpha Video still has it out on DVD, retitled as "Lynch Mob Vigilantes", and it was once sold as
"Revenge of the Rednecks". Amazon has It in its original title, "THE VERNONIA INCIDENT". The film's website (click here)

 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
My whole life is a failed project.
The worst is my avatar when i gained weight for a film but then my health deteriorated and i became an invalid so i couldn't finish it.

It was a lot of work and sacrifice for nothing.
 
There was this one project.

Early on when I was directing, the producer who gave me my first directing break asked me to look at a script and see if I was interested in directing it. It was one of those "This is my story, I want to tell" I read it and passed on the project and wished her welll. It was a drama and I didn't want to work on another drama and especially not one like this.

About 9 months later, she's still hunting for a director and calls me again. I went through the script again and talked with her on the issues I had with the script and why I wasn't interested in directing the project in its current form (drama on the depressing topis of breast cancer) and suggested some other directors to try. They all pass.

She calls me again. I explained there was no way I was going to direct that script. We get into what I didn't like about the script and whether she's open to a big rewrite and change more towards a feel good comedy/drama with strong interesting characters. We discussed whether it was more important to tell her story or to make a good film. She agreed to a good story. I came on board and we went to rewrite the script. It took a few months to get the script to a point where I was happy with it.

Pre-production: It wasn't going to be an easy shoot as a lot of it involved hospitals, so location scouting (an area which I really suck at) was going to make it a real challenge. I used a lot of my connections and we built the team (when I say we, it was mostly my connections). Prepro had it challenges, but we were getting through it. There were delays with the producer not being as dedicated to the film as I would like.

The shooting date was coming up fast and most of the people the producer had picked were blowing the deadlines. We were about 2 weeks away from shooting and we were still fighting on casting choices. On the meeting we agreed was where we were going to finalise the cast, the producers dropped a bombshell. "We've decided we're going back to the original script.".. "Oh, ok. No worries. I think I've been clear I'm not directing that script so I guess we're parting ways."

Her primary concern seemed to be more whether I'd sabotage the production. "What about the other crew? Are they still in?" I had convinced a lot of people to get involved partially on the strength of the new script and partially on my local reputation. "Look, I'm going to email everyone and let them know I've left the production and you can call them and ask if they're still want to be involved."

I think only one cast member stayed.
 
During a 48 Hour Film Project:
A day up front: no producer.
1 hour before the start the sound guy drops out.
On set our male lead got ill.
So I had a boom op who had never seen a mic up close. Mic was never in frame, but hard to hear.
The lead was given to a female extra: turning it in a lesbian drama without making any fuzz about it.
The movie is in Dutch, the editor was still learning Dutch, but was mostly trying to salvage the sound.

I was both producing and directing: a nightmare.

We had a great time, but the short is terrible as it is now, lol.
 
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