James Christopher's blog

'3 References' Production Diary: The Wrap


 3 References production

James Christopher is directing the new Twitchy Dolphin Flix film 3 References. This is the final entry in his production diary for Slackerwood.

When Lauren Shelton called a wrap on the production of 3 References, a special kind of depression set over me. I looked around the cast and crew and realized this was the last time this group of people with this chemistry would be working together on this flick. And while I know we'll all work together again, it will never be the exact same. It's what makes doing indie film so special. The experience is its own reward.

We shot just two light days to finish the film. But they were action-packed to be sure and we saw the arrival of some of our favorite people from all across the country to come in and do some cameos and celebrate 3 References.

'3 References' Production Diary: Days 12-14


3 References production

James Christopher is directing the new Twitchy Dolphin Flix film 3 References. Check Slackerwood for his updates as the shooting continues.

There is really no better place to be a (true) indie filmmaker than Austin, Texas. Period. End of story. It's a community that opens its doors in support for indie film, making it possible for filmmakers to really focus on getting everything right for their movies. In the spirit of that coordination, a big thank you goes out to Dirty Bill's on 6th and the Wurst Tex food truck that both let us shoot in and around their locations.

This was the final big weekend for 3 References. We welcomed Look at Me Again star Vanessa Vayle Perry back to the fold. Of special personal interest to me was the return to the screen of Daniel Cano, a guy I acted with way back in high school. And I'm an old guy, so that's a long time.

'3 References' Production Diary: Days 9-11


3 References production

James Christopher is directing the new Twitchy Dolphin Flix film 3 References. Check Slackerwood for his updates as the shooting continues.

There are so many reasons why this has been one of the best shoots we've had in our five-year history. Driving home after another 14+ hour day last night, it hit me. I think a big part of it is attributed to the new blood. We at Twitchy have always prided ourselves on building a troupe mentality and we are dedicated to growing with the same collaborators, but the influx of new energy and ideas cannot be understated.

What began as a last-minute change in the lead gave us Harper Graham and her performance has been beautiful and vulnerable. Just fantastic. Cassidy Schiltz, Lauren Hayes, Mike Williams, Sasha Aimee, Lacey Hernandez, Alicia Dufour, Andrea Dettling and a slew of others have melded nicely with the old Twitchy guard to really create some memorable performances.

'3 References' Production Diary: Days 6-8


3 References production

James Christopher is directing the new Twitchy Dolphin Flix film 3 References. Check Slackerwood for his updates as the shooting continues.

When you shoot on the micro level, you really have to rely on the kindness of others. You have to convince the cast and crew that it's a good idea to get involved in a project where their pay might be deferred because the project is worth it or that that they will get some degree of publicity by making the film. And you have to rely on folks opening up their homes to a film crew of 12 people, in addition to cast members, for 12 to 18 hours.

This weekend, we invaded the home of longtime Twitchy fan Anne-Marie Messineo and he awesome dog George. He quickly became a hit with the entire cast and crew. We can't thank her enough for being so cool with letting us use her living room, bedroom, kitchen and yes, shower. A 13-hour day is a long time to put up with folks tracking in and out of the house with gear and such.

The scenes were dynamic in nature and tone. On the one hand, we had some hilarious moments as a pizza delivery guy (Benjamin Jabe) is convinced he's about to end up in a scene from a Penthouse flick. On the other, we have a tender scene in which Michelle (Harper Graham) must ask would-be suitor Nick (Christian Swacker) some unanswerable questions.

'3 References' Production Diary: Days 4-5


3 References productionJames Christopher is directing the new Twitchy Dolphin Flix film 3 References. Check Slackerwood for his updates as the shooting continues.

So, back on set for 3 References with two very different days of shooting. Saturday brought us some broad comedy with Sarah England, playing Donna, breaking into Christian Swacker's apartment wearing nothing but an overcoat and smile, only to find the object of her desire unwilling. It's a scene very indicative of the central theme of the movie -- at some point life moves beyond just the desire for the physical.

The scene, comical in nature, is very counter to one of the emotional low points in the film involving Terissa Kelton as Kelly-the-ex and Christian's character Nick. Terissa did an excellent job of playing a woman on the emotional edge and then slowly sliding off.

I can't say enough about this cast. Through the turmoil of changing personnel, locations and crew, they're remained steadfast and professional. Their talent humbles me at every level. Our crew as well has been nothing short of fantastic. Veterans of Twitchy flix past have welcomed newcomers in and they've done nothing but adapt to the changing landscape that accompanies all indie films with smiles, jokes and above all, a great work ethic.

We have ten days left and each one will be very challenging. But I feel very good about who I'm going into battle with.

'3 References' Production Diary: Days 1-3


3 References production

James Christopher is directing the new Twitchy Dolphin Flix film 3 References. Check Slackerwood for his updates as the shooting continues.

Shooting an indie film on a micro budget is like no other challenge out there. In movies with large budgets, if a problem arises, you simply toss some money on it. On a micro-budget set, if something goes wrong, you need to think your way out of it. It's part of the challenge, part of the fun and a big reason why you need to have a team of cast and crew you can rely on. As Twitchy Dolphin enters its "Troy Aikman" film (our eighth one, see what we did there?) we certainly have those things in spades.

3 References follows Nick (Christian Swacker), a man who treats women like disposable objects until he meets Michelle (Harper Graham). But Michelle is wary of his sordid past and forces him to confront three women that he treated like crap and earn three letters of recommendation. (Three references, get it?) To complicate matters, Nick's ex Kelly (Terissa Kelton) reenters his life and creates all kinds of turmoil.

'3 References' Production Diary: Twitchy Palooza


Twitchy Palooza

Austin filmmaker James Christopher is directing Twitchy Dolphin Flix's new movie 3 References. Check Slackerwood for his updates as the production continues.

We at Twitchy Dolphin are about to start our new feature film, 3 References. It's our eighth project since we started the company and like every project, we like to start out the new film with a bang. Shortly before production officially began, we held our third Twitchy Palooza. Twitchy Palooza is a concert event that we throw to highlight some of the artists that so generously donate their music to our flicks. The event also served as the DVD launch for the award-winning film Look At Me Again.

Folks braved the nasty rain to see some great acts. 3 References cast member Lauren Hayes made her singer-songwriter debut and wowed the crowd with her beautiful voice. Brandon Whitlan, whose music appeared in the recently premiered Turkey Day, took the mic next with a darker palate of tunes. Long time contributor Clif Haley (actor, cowriter of the musical short Phantom Tragedy) sang the theme song from Funny Books ("Bad Guys Running"), some original tunes and then blew the doors off with Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me."

Texas Frightmare 2012: Tales from 'Tombstone'


Tombstone cast reunion

Few genres have been as seminal a part of American and world cinema as the Western. Before the talkies, good guys in white punched and shot bad guys in black. While the genre has faded in recent years, several Western gems have stepped to the forefront. In 1993, Tombstone was such a gem.

Texas Frightmare Weekend held a reunion for the movie with Austin actress Dana Wheeler-Nicholson as well as Michael Biehn, Joanna Pacula, Michael Rooker and Buck Taylor. The men in the cast chatted about working with gunfight experts and living with their weapons for weeks to get the feel for it. The women were proud of their authentic costumes, with this drive for authenticity made more important to them when they learned of the competing film Wyatt Earp being shot at the same time. Tombstone was the underdog going up against the Kevin Costner Western.

It didn't take long for the fun anecdotes about playing with guns and fitting for cool costumes to give way to the same tension that plagued the Tombstone set. Beginning with what was, by all accounts, a brilliant script by Kevin Jarre, the production immediately dealt with the stress of dealing with a writer/director who didn't understand the delicacies of working with actors. Jarre felt that the actors were just there to say lines and bounce light. As the morale dropped Disney realized that Jarre wasn't getting coverage of the film, preferring to shoot the whole thing in wide shots. The studio learned of the frustration that the actors were facing from day one.

Texas Frightmare Review: Nailbiter


NailbiterPart of the fun of Texas Frightmare Weekend comes from experiencing the new voices in independent cinema. Patrick Rea's movie Nailbiter serves as a great example of this. Before directing and co-writing his first feature, Rea has made a name for himself writing and directing award-winning short films, including Time's Up, Eve and Get Off My Porch. His writing and his meticulous work behind the camera put him ahead of his peers.

When writing Nailbiter, Rea and co-writer Kendal Sinn start by playing off our natural fear of Mother Nature. A family traveling through the Midwest becomes stranded in a random basement by a tornado. Immediately, we find that not all is well as a mysterious creature and a dark secret are attacking family members, one by one.

The camerawork shines above all else in this thriller. Rather than using the now-tired "dirty camera" to excess, the lens glides along the action at an almost comfortable pace. Nailbiter is gorgeously lit, creating eerie contrast with the gruesome narrative.

Also contrasting the narrative's horrific nature is the lack of gore -- Lea chooses to leave the violence just off-camera, as opposed to seeing how much Karo syrup he could get away with using in each scene. The result is a unique combination of old-school suspense and thrills with modern horror sensibilities.

With Nailbiter, Patrick Rea takes our natural fear of nature and pushes it past the boundaries of natural terror.

Keep an eye on the Nailbiter Facebook page to find out when the movie will screen next.

Texas Frightmare 2012: A Very 'Carrie' Reunion


Carrie cast at Texas Frightmare Weekend

Texas Frightmare Weekend offered a diverse array of entertainment for horror fans of all generations. Indie film nerds could check out indie flicks of all budgets while fans of classic and old school horror could meet and talk to stars of films from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. All of these celebrities gathered in one place, creating some great opportunities to discuss classic moments from the history of cinema.

Once such moment was a reunion of three cast members from the classic movie Carrie (1976). Actresses Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles and three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie spent an hour sharing anecdotes from the making of the film.

All three women had different motivations for taking the job. Laurie, who played Carrie's mother Margaret, was retired from acting when she got the script, and was actually told that it was a satire when she took the role. It wasn't until rehearsals started that director Brian De Palma informed her that it was a drama/thriller.

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