Straight Outta Yonkers: YoFi Fest 2015

Three years ago on a crisp autumn evening, I strolled into the inaugural Yonkers Film Festival wearing my finest. Hanging on my arm was Laura Pavlo, some-time writing partner and full-time girlfriend. We (somewhat aimlessly) drifted across the packed atrium until bumping into a tall man wearing a distinct Goonies t-shirt. It was Scott Rocco. The following day our short Socks & Robbers screened beside his film, Come As You Are. Only my second short film and first submission to a festival, Socks & Robbers debuted at the first Yonkers Film Festival (aka YoFi Fest) and served as the basis for a great relationship with the festival team. As locals, we gunned for the fest immediately, amazed at our fortune that such an event sprung up in our backyard. The following year, we bumped into Scott once again in the exact same spot (this time rocking a Rolling Stones t-shirt) and three months later we teamed up for Washed Up. A four-day festival, there is a lot to enjoy besides our own showings. After our meta-film Off Script screened to a great crowd, I found myself watching a man struggle to escape from a cardboard box. The premise of this short, Trapped in a Box, absolutely floored me. Screening beside several other comedies, it shocked my senses and I jumped at the opportunity to meet the filmmaker afterward. Half a year later, as co-writer Tom Selenow and I stared at the script for Bottomstock, I knew who we needed to cast. Lucas Harvie transitioned from his box to the titular Bottomstock, immediately exceeding expectations and turning in an unforgettable performance as our protagonist. Not to be outdone in the YoFi-collaboration category, Bottomstock featured Scott Rocco as well. In fact, every character from the film appeared in a YoFi-screened film, including Audra Van Hees (Somewhere Between), Wesley Volcy (Come As You Are, Somewhere Between) and of course Laura Pavlo (Off Script, co-wrote Socks & Robbers). It is only fitting that in its third go-round, both Bottomstock and Washed Up will hit the big screen at YoFi 2015. Bottomstock will precede Bill Murray’s St. Vincent after the red carpet ceremony on Friday, October 23rd (7 PM). Washed Up returns for its (potentially) final festival screening the following day at 2 PM. We are revved up for this year’s festivities and hope to see you there!

Chain NYC Film Festival – A New York Filmmaker’s Delight

As we wind down the festival circuit for Washed Up, we luckily hit the Chain NYC Film Festival. This cool fest takes place over two weeks, a tremendous length for typical festivals, and features themed screenings which pair films by genre or compatibility. We were paired with nostalgia-leaning films, a perfect spot for our story. Leading off the five-film block was Los Angeles filmmaker Victoria Gordon, whose pilot Behind The Times absolutely leveled us. A truly hilarious, frequently surreal story about a family who fosters a vintage culture, creepily distant from the 21st century, and who disturbs or inconveniences others with their lack of modern tact. We dug it, belted loudly, and hope the best for its future prospects! With the capacity-crowd fully primed by the proceeding hilarity, “Washed Up” elicited plenty of laughs from the audience. Our film is without a question off-beat, unsettling, and can be taken as either funny or disquieting. Depending on the crowd, we’ve seen reactions go either way, with peppered laughter regardless. With this block of comedies, Washed Up played as ‘funny’ as we’ve ever seen it, and we loved the crowd’s perspective on our crazy film. After the screenings ended, a Q&A was held and we fielded questions from the audience and a festival organizer. Overall, the Queens location, indie theater atmosphere, and the festival organization made it a true delight for New York filmmakers such as ourselves. We’ll certainly be vying for a spot in 2016!

A DIY State of Mind: Creating Bottomstock

Have-No-Funding Syndrome afflicts many indie filmmakers. The symptoms include, but are not limited to: having no money, not knowing how to make a film with no money, and crying deeply onto a wrinkled script. Some never recover, their scripts blowing in the wind, but others find a way. Such is the case with Bottomstock, my newest short film and one which required the most behind-the-scenes finagling to achieve a “filmic” final product. With eight short films in the rear view, pre-production on Bottomstock required serious creativity to one-up the aesthetic and technical quality of past projects. Every short taught me something new and honed me closer to my artistic vision – and with Bottomstock I feel I’m the closest to achieving it. Here are some do-it-yourself tricks I’ve learned along the way and applied to Bottomstock to avoid contracting Have-No-Funding Syndrome. 1. Steadicam Smoothless Every filmmaker at some point wants to accomplish a long tracking or dolly shot. Think of the iconic Goodfellas Copacabana scene or Danny wheeling around The Overlook Hotel in The Shining. This smooth motion might seem easy to outsiders, but filmmakers know it is impossible to achieve without the proper equipment. Bottomstock featured several tracking shots, the longest of which lasts 22 seconds, an eternity in short film terms. How did we achieve the smooth motion? Take a look at this behind-the-scenes clip: A video posted by Ben Fraternale (@fraternale) on Jul 8, 2015 at 8:13pm PDT As you can see, using a wheelchair and steadicam alternative, we achieve extremely smooth motion. The camera is mounted to a weight-balanced stabilizer, an alternative option to a Steadicam systems which can cost thousands of dollars. I find it to be an essential tool and worth small price, in equipment terms ($60). Paired with any wheelchair, the results are astounding. I purchased this wheelchair for about $100, but these things are everywhere – local yard sales, a relative’s closet, they can be had for very cheap. 2. The Boom Pole Audio is probably number one on the list of things no-budget/new filmmakers flub. Audio is the aspect of films you probably want people least to notice, but might take the most time in editing. For filmmakers who can’t afford the time to re-record actor’s voices, getting clean dialogue is absolutely essential. Your best friend will be a Rode Videomic, the consensus champion for its price and quality. For Bottomstock, instead of purchasing an expensive boom pole, I mounted the mic to the end of a ceiling lamp tool I found in the garage and used a male-to-female extension cord to connect it to our recorder. In reality, you could use a golf club, long shovel, anything just to be able to reach the mic as close as possible to the dialogue. Having a friend holding the pole at all times and focusing on pointing towards the actor’s mouth will make a world of difference. 3. Light’em Up Lighting is a delicate art and trips up many short films. Some of my early projects fell victim to poor indoor lighting, which forced me to boost my camera’s ISO, and resulted in grainy footage. Lighting is also one of the most important aspects of a scene’s mood, but it can feel too expensive to execute properly. Fear not! Bottomstock, on several instances, was lit with only flood lights, desk lamps, and even car lights. Facing the task of lighting multiple exterior night scenes I immediately thought to use headlights. Facing a single car towards the actor perpendicular or angled, as needed, can result in surprisingly well-lit night footage. Purchasing several cheap Neewer LED lights can provide extraordinary flexibility as well. They are adjustable and battery operated. When indoors, using tin foil or a reflector to catch natural light can suddenly invigorate a flat shot. Something always in my trunk are the aforementioned clip-on flood lights, which you can grab on Amazon for the price of an overpriced sandwich. Their clamping ability makes them extremely flexible – you can affix them to a tripod, a table, or the ceiling. Using a sheet to diffuse the light nicely softens their intensity (but if you burn your house down, I AM NOT LIABLE). Professional camera movement, lighting, and sound are some of the most important elements of filmmaking and can be properly executed on miniscule budgets. Next to your writing and actors, they are vital to executing a vision. While there is some expense on the above methods, these tools will pay off time and time again on every production. Many of those solutions can be assembled with everyday household items! I hope this slice of Bottomstock behind-the-scenes can help anyone struggling with onset Have-No-Funding Syndrome – Fraternale Films cares.

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day from Fraternale Films! My grandfather, Ladd Fraternale, appeared in over 50 films and TV shows, from The Sopranos to The Royal Tenenbaums. He was also a stand-in for actors like Steve Martin and Robert Loggia. You’ll notice him in several Fraternale Films, of course. If you haven’t seen it, check out “LADD: Cameos Uncovered” where I searched for and found many of his appearances! And here are a few stills of his appearances: For the rest, check out the reel above. Happy Father’s Day!

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