Denny Schnulo began his writing career at age eleven with the release of his first collection of poems to the kids on the school playground. Believing that first hand reports are always best, he spent his early adult years living and working throughout the world. His writing today is informed by people he met and things they did together. Follow Denny on Twitter: @DennySchnulo
Kevin Resnick is an award-winning writer, director, and actor who served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force and flew airplanes as a C-130 Navigator. After moving on from the military, his innate flair for comedy allowed him to make a successful living as an actor in New York, where he starred in several acclaimed films on the national festival circuit, receiving Best Actor Nominations for his work on three different occasions.
Rebecca Norris is an award-winning writer, producer, and director, and owner of the production company Freebird Entertainment. Her last short film, On Becoming A Man, screened at the Cannes Film Festival, and won Best Comedy Short at the IFS Film Festival in L.A. and Best Short Film at the Athens Jewish Film Festival. Her short Toasted won the Audience Choice Award at the Canadian Film Centre Festival in Toronto and was a finalist in the Dances With Films Festival’s 2-Minute, 2-Step Screenplay Competition, where it was produced with sponsorship from Canon and Adobe.
Script caught up with them between screenings of their latest film Cloudy with a Chance of Sunshine, which will be screened at the upcoming Love International Film Festival in the Majestic Crest Theater on July 15th at 6PM (get tickets here).
Script: How often do you work off someone else’s concept versus your own?
Kevin Resnick: Right now, I work almost exclusively with my own concepts. As a writer, I find inspiration comes much easier when there’s a deep personal connection to the story. Ironically, I can also fall into a place where the story becomes too personal and I encounter writer’s block. It’s helpful for me to remember that no matter how personal a story may be, it still needs to be put through the filter of dramatic interpretation (i.e. structure) so that the audience can access and enjoy it.
Rebecca Norris: I also work almost exclusively with my own writing, or on projects I’ve co-written with Kevin and others. I’m in the process of building up a body of work as far as films, and I’ve found it easier to do so when it’s my own writing and I can make changes and edits on the fly. Also, I now have a body of produced work as a screenwriter! I have produced others’ scripts before, which has been fun and rewarding, but there’s a special joy in seeing your own creations come to life.
Script: What is the most unique aspect to doing a short film?
RN: A short film is its own beast and very different from a feature – not only in terms of the obvious things like shooting days and cost, but in terms of the story. Short films are best when they have a simple storyline and singular goal. Having minimal characters helps too, because too much going on in a short film can make it overwhelming and confusing. Features can be much more layered, have multiple storylines, and many characters, so it’s a much more complex process to write and then produce.
Short films, in our experience, are also best when they’re actually kept short. It can be trying to watch a 40-minute short film. At that point, it would be better off as a feature. So the unique way we like to create shorts is that we try to keep the length as short as possible (2 minutes, 5 minutes, 14 minutes) while telling the best, leanest story we can.
Script: Of all the films you’ve done, which one inspired you the most, let you know you’re in the right career, that you can do this and you can be good at it?
KR: I’m reminded of my first experience on a film set as an actor, after studying the craft for several years in the classroom. It was a student short film and the feeling I had on set was pure joy. Prior to that, I had spent many years in the military flying for the Air Force and had put my acting/writing/directing dreams on hold. That step of finally getting myself on a film set was wonderful.
Our feature, Cloudy, takes the cake though. Every since I was a kid, I always wanted to write and direct a feature film. Cloudy represents the manifestation of those dreams.
RN: For me, it clicked when we wrote a short film together, Toasted, for the Dances With Films Festival’s 2-Minute, 2-Step Screenplay Competition. Our script was selected as a finalist, which meant we were given the opportunity to produce it with equipment donated by Canon and Adobe during the week of the festival. The kicker was that we had to film and edit it in 4 hours! It was quite a challenge, but we got through it and finished the film in the required time. It was a unique and fantastic experience to shoot a film one day, and the next day watch it up on the big screen at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. After that, I was hooked! However, the process of making a film and getting it into festivals is much longer and more challenging in real life, which I quickly came to learn!
Script: Of all the films you’ve done do you have a personal favorite?
KR: Although all of our films hold a special place in our hearts, Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine is our favorite and the experience we treasure the most.
Script: Is there a film you’d like a do-over on?
RN: I think when you look back on any complex undertaking you’ve done in life, there’s probably something you’d do differently. However, we don’t have a film that we’d want to do over completely.
Script: Let’s talk about Cloudy with a chance of Sunshine. Is this your first feature length film and how does that feel after all the wonderful and award winning shorts you’ve done?
RN: Yes, this is our first feature and it feels absolutely amazing. We worked so hard to bring this to fruition. It’s the most amazing feeling to go through all of the fires of development, pre-production, production, editing, post-production, et al, and come out the other side with a product that we are proud of.
Script: What’s the single biggest difference that maybe isn’t obvious, between working on a short versus a feature length project?
KR: The writing is very different because you have to go much deeper in every area. With a short, you basically leave out Act I and go straight to Act II & III. It’s “come in late and leave early” on steroids. On a feature, you must deal with set up and character development and arcs on a much more specific and detailed level. You can’t just go straight to the punch line. If you expect the audience to be with you for 90 minutes instead of nine, you need to have compelling characters that are well thought out and three dimensional in nature.
From a directing perspective, you’re dealing with a marathon not a sprint. Instead of three 12-hour days, you’re doing twenty 12-hour days. You’ve got to be mentally and physically prepared for that because exhaustion and fatigue are real on a feature shoot. The shots are the same – there’s just infinitely more of them so the details of your planning need to reflect that.
RN: The exhaustion is a real thing when shooting a feature. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the lack of sleep over the course of the shoot. Some nights we got about 2 hours of sleep and then got up and worked a 20-hour day, getting to set early and staying well after wrap each day. Even when we had a “down day” we still worked 12+ hours preparing for the next day’s shoot. I think if you were to look at it like a boot camp, and get into that mentality, it’s helpful. If you know you’re not going to get much sleep for awhile, you can figure out ways to take care of yourself, eat healthy foods, and prepare even more in advance so you can rest more on down days.
Script: Do you have an all-time favorite film and what makes it your favorite?
KR: Forest Gump is up there for me. I’ve always been amazed at the ability of that film to tell a story so epic in scope and yet so personal up close in the way that it touches one’s heart. It also happens to be hilarious.
As far as rom-coms (our genre for Cloudy), you can’t beat When Harry Met Sally.
RN: My favorite film is The Shawshank Redemption. I enjoy darker themes in films, but often find them ultimately to be heavy and depressing. Shawshank managed to tackle several darker themes, and still have a message of hope and redemption at the end. It also sprinkles humor and life lessons throughout, yet is still a thrilling crime caper and poignant drama. That film really does have everything.
Love International Film Festival:
Screening: Friday, July 15 – 6 PM
Majestic Crest Theater – 1262 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Get tickets here.
Action on Film International Film Festival:
Screening: September 2-10, 2016 – Time TBA
Krikorian Monrovia Cinema 12 – 410 S Myrtle Ave, Monrovia, CA 91016