Friday, September 25, 2009


Day is done, gone the sun... Independent Film Week is over and all we have now is our memories and business cards. Serious bonding with the other filmmakers and I really believe we'll all support and promote each others films moving forward.

It may sound a little saccharine, but it happens to be true, and in this dog eat dog world - I can be confident there is a small group of people who will smile when they see me coming.

And these are them...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Look Ma, I'm a Blogger!

I'm very excited to have been asked by Filmmaker Magazine and IFP to share my thoughts and experiences on the upcoming Independent Film Week. The Tested is part of the Emerging Narratives section and this post is the first out of three that I'll be doing. Check back next week for the 2nd installment

Filmmaker Magazine: Blog

Monday, September 14, 2009

Handshakes, Postcards, and Lanyards

Getting ready for Independent Film Week. I want to make sure the whole experience doesn't end up being a big blur of handshakes, postcards, and lanyards. I'm going to take the time to really enjoy each panel and each meeting, and all the cocktail hours! We've put together press kits and have some shwag hidden up our sleeves. And post importantly I've got my game face on. I'm going to be social and like it!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

You're Invited!

labs_sneak_preview, originally uploaded by The Tested.

Come see a sneak peak of The Tested on Sunday, September 20th

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Reality of Tragedy

Sometimes tragedy is tragedy. As humans we constantly find ways to overcome adversity and find the light through the darkness. But also as humans, we can't all do that. We don't all have the strength to lift ourselves out of the well. Sometimes we die in the well. This is an important part of human nature that sometimes goes ignored. It's probably because there's nothing very uplifting or cheerful about it. But isn't it important to acknowledge the suffering and destruction and confinement?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shwag, Shwag, Shwag

We'll be giving out some cool stuff at independent film week to raise awareness of The Tested so be sure to come by and find us to get your hands on the goods.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kanye and 18 Hour Days

Feeling nostalgic, my production manager just informed me that he hadn't worked an 18 hour day in a while. I knew those fond days of which he spoke of were 14 hour days, but when they've reached that number, who's really counting anymore. I am reminded that a year has gone by since we shot the feature and it's been three years since The Tested was originally conceived as a short film. Our lead actor Michael Morris Jr. was 16 when he started this journey and now he's on the verge of being 20. When we met him, he wore t-shirts down to his knees, now he dresses like Kanye. If that's not progress, I don't know what is. And as far as my production manager goes, I'll tell him what people have told me... If you're not working an 18 hour day, you're only working a half day!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Grass Roots Baby

Thanks to Big Eddie and the crew at Fine Tune Music for promoting the film along with their artist Pareece who has a cameo. They are making it happen with their street marketing campaign, and we hear they made a whole event out of it, covering the Boogie Down Bronx on foot. We love that they are getting the kids to help put the word out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's here and we'll be there! The Tested will be showing it's trailer as part of rooftop films showcase of emerging narratives on sunday sept. 20th. Come out and support the film!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Out Your Window

The window was yellow from years of dirt, and the crack widened. Darraylynn Warren, transfixed on the sidewalks and the people moving swiftly from place to place, was stuck and desperate and couldn't remember the last time her face reflected any joy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gun Control

Our character Julian Varone is faced with the harsh realities of what it means to be a police officer. You are given a weapon to use when needed. But you are also expected to go through a clear, focused thought process before you use it. How does that happen in a split second? How can any judgment be reached in a pressure situation. Training can pull from past experience and give you a foundation. When you're in it, you're in it and all you got is your training, your emotions, and that weapon. The weapon that sits on your hip and taunts you. It's heavy metal scrapes against you and dares you to use it. Then you do... Then it's over.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

White House Beer

Whether it's served at The White House or served at the pub down the street, and whether it's shared with The President or the local bartender - is it really going to change things? Race relations or rather lack of relations is still as prevalent as its ever been. When we made The Tested we knew it was a hot button topic but the button seems to get hotter by the minute. Issues of race are still issues and the conversations are getting louder. Our film seems to fall directly in line with our culture and what's happening in our society. But do we get the credit? Or is it simply an issue that doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon and will continue to have a constant relevance every minute of every day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Picture Lock

We've officially locked picture. And we're clocked in at a solid 99 minutes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Those Damn Index Cards

The closer we get to picture locking, the more we start to scrutinize the film. Do we need this scene? How does it move the story along? Is this take the best performance? It's amazing when you think you've addressed the pages and pages of notes, then you say okay, we'll screen it one more time. still more notes. I am of two minds. When you watch your material you get way too close and lose perspective. But sometimes when you know it so well, you can lose yourself in it and find clarity - like those paintings where you can see the rocket ship if you squint. I never saw any damn rocket ships. But the edit process really does start with the index cards. Just the excercise of making them and affixing them to the wall familiarizes you with the story you set out to tell, and it also becomes glaring what scenes can go. We're close, I can feel it, and we're lighter and leaner.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

20 Minutes

We went through an interesting process during the lab, where we only saw 20 minutes of each other's films. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get a grasp on the flavor of each. What I discovered was two fold. Not only can you really get a handle on the artistry and story telling from these clips, but you have to. In most cases, that's what people are going to get. It's similar to the first 10 pages of a script. If you don't grab them then, you're a goner. So, what did I see in these nine other films? I saw in The Mythe of Time: Innovation, Au Pair, Kansas: Wit, Phasma Ex Machina: Curiousity, Perfection: Pain, The Imperialists Are Still Alive!: Aesthetic, Stranger Things: Intimacy, City on a Hill: Vision, Postales: Culture, Wanderlost: Richness.

What emerged from this exercise was a clarity of how different we all were from each other and how clear that was in only 20 mintues.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

IFP Lab - DAY 5

Today's workshops were held at the American Can Company, somewhere in Brooklyn. Got lost on the way, If someone asked us to find it again - not sure that we could. Were again exposed to some great speakers ranging from Galt Niederhoffer of Plum Pictures, to Todd Sklar of Range Life Entertainment.

We then came back to good 'ole Manhattan to meet with Jonathan Gray of Gray Krauss who basically told us our sh-t better be buttoned up if we expect to deliver our film to a distributor.

The IFP Lab is a scared straight, tell it like it is, reality check... INSPIRATION! We left feeling exhilaratingly exhausted but completely supported. We now feel like there's a group of people out there looking out for us who have our best interest in mind.

The Tested is coming at you so stay tuned for the next chapter.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

IFP Lab - DAY 4

Gears shifted a bit today. Seems like we're all starting to think about the next phase and how we'll be able to apply this whole experience to our films. We've now got our eyes towards Independent Week. Day went by quick though. Maybe cause we covered so much: music rights & composition, color correction, sound design, & drinks.

The highlight of the day was hearing that our film made one of the lab leaders cry!

Bring on the tears I say!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

IFP Lab - DAY 3

The interesting thing about this experience is the more time we spend with all the other filmmakers, the more we feel the mutual experience. For some reason we keep thinking about rushing a fraternity. It's that intense and we've found ourselves "protecting the shield". There's something that has happened between day one and day three. Where at once we were sizing each other up and trying to find our pecking order - we have started to let our guard down and genuinely support each other and truly want good things to happen to each other's films.

Somehow this psychological aspect has been very much as part of this lab as the actual invaluable information and case studies.

Today we talked about deliverables and heard from a film that went through the lab last year. We were scared straight but in a good way if that's possible.

I suspect we may all burst into tears on day 5, again, but in a good way.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

IFP Lab - DAY 2

Editing sessions today. Unbelievable mentors, still a bit in awe. Editors from some of the best films in the last 10 years, "The Savages", "Boys Don't Cry, "Maria Full of Grace", "Requiem for a Dream", and "Frozen River". After awaiting our turn to take the stage and hit the hot seat (we were the last to go so it was an anxious wait!) we were SO excited to get to talk to our mentor Sam Pollard. The Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning, frequent Spike Lee collaborator passionately discussed our film, telling the room it's a must-see! His feedback was specific and insightful. And when he said "The Tested is real" it blew our heads off! So happy he dug it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

IFP Lab - DAY 1

Much meeting and greeting today and getting a chance to meet the fabulous programmers at ifp and particularly enjoyed the "tell it like it is" attitude of deputy director Amy Dotson and lab leader Gretchen McGowan for her genuine spirit. I have to say, we've had about a half dozen screenings of "The Tested" so far, and they've all been nerve-wrackingly exhaustive (in a good way!) but there's nothing quite like playing in front of a group of fellow filmmakers and IFPers. Luckily we screened early in the day so we were able to relax and digest our lunch properly. Our stuff played well, nice compliments on the film, the writing and the acting. And then we sat in the hot seat while we fielded questions about our goals for the film. We discussed running time, publicity, and music. And the all important festival circuit. But it was particularly nice to have Scott Macaulay tell us he really liked the film. Been reading Filmmaker Magazine for years, and am a daily reader of his blog so that was pretty cool. We ended with a summer camp group photo and are gearing up for Day 2 - the Editing Sessions!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Official Presidential Business!

We never thought our film would ever cross paths with THE President of the United States but somehow that's exactly what's happening. As everyone has already read, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had date night yesterday in NYC. They went to dinner and took in a Broadway show, not bad for a Saturday night. The show they chose was none other than Joe Turner's Come and Gone with a wonderful ensemble cast including our lead actress Aunjanue Ellis.

Now, we don't need a President to tell us she's great but it sure helps!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We're very proud to announce that our film "The Tested" has been invited to participate in the 2009 IFP Narrative Independent Filmmaker Lab & Independent Film Week.

The Independent Feature Project is one of the biggest and most respected film organizations in the country. Besides financing, distributing, and acquiring films, they've acted as a conduit for countless filmmakers for over three decades now. Their annual week long market has had a hand in early works from Spike Lee, the Coen Bros, Kevin Smith, Jim Jarmusch, Ed Burns, Michael Moore, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes and many more.

Over the course of 5 days they'll work with us to "find" the very best in our film and get it ready to face the ultra competitive film festival circuit and beyond.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lighting Inspiration

Before embarking on this journey, russell put together a look book for key crew to visually define what he wanted this film to be. Here was his first picture:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Greener Mags interview

click the "play" button then use bottom scroll to read article

Sunday, April 26, 2009


ALEX BROOK LYNN (Production Designer) is a native New Yorker,
accomplished artist and still photographer. She has worked in the Art Department in a variety of ways such as a Set Dresser, Art Director, and Production Designer on such films as “Day Zero” (starring Elijah Wood, Ally Sheedy, and Ginnifer Goodwin), “Superheroes”(Dash Mihok), “El Camino”(Leo Fitzpatrick, Elizabetth Moss), and “Gigantic” (Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman, Ed Asner).

ELIZABETH RALSTON (Prop Master) Originally from Georgia, is always handy with a gun, she prefers the challenge of original and unique props whether it's a sawed off leg, or a squib. She has propped various films such as "A Kiss of Chaos" (starring Michael K. Williams, Paul Caledron, and Adam Rodriguez, "The Hungry Ghosts" directed by Michael Imperioli, as well as art directed several others "King of Paper Chasin'" "Queen of Media", and "El Camino" (starring Elizabeth Moss)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Co-Editor Michael Taylor

MICHAEL TAYLOR has edited more than a dozen features, including Julia Loktev's award-winning "Day Night Day Night", which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and George LaVoo's "A Dog Year", an HBO Films production starring Jeff Bridges and Lauren Ambrose. Documentary credits include Margaret Brown's films "Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt," and "The Order of Myths”, which recently took home the Truer than Fiction award at 2009 Film Independen Spirit Awards.
Michael's narrative credits also include Adam Rapp's "Blackbird," Peter Callahan's "Against the Current" starring Joseph Fiennes and Mary Tyler Moore. His current Documentary "Youth Knows no Pain" will premiere at the end of the month as a part of Independent night at Lincoln Center/Walter Reade Theater

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Director of Photography - Chris Scarafile

Chris Scarafile was the Director of Photography for the Grand Jury Prize winning short film “Gowanus, Brooklyn” at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, as well as dozens of others shorts, documentaries, and features. He has won several awards for his camera work, including Best Cinematography for the films “Black Days”, “Cycle”, and the Academy Award Eligible “The Tested” (short). You can check out his reel at

Key Crew Spotlight

over the next couple of days, we will showcase the key members of our crew who helped us make this film happen.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Brand New Flavor in your Ear

Monday, Monday

Had a wonderful screening last night. It was the type of screening where people laughed at the right time, leaned forward in anticipation at the right time, and jumped just a little when they were supposed to. It's amazing how you can feel the energy of the audience and how they are as much a part of the film as the film itself. Despite some hand washing and screening room maintenance during the film, it felt like something profound was happening. It re-invigorated us and made us remember what all that work was for. So, if you were there thank you for allowing us to see the beauty in it once again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Little Scene That Could

No wonder it's difficult to be an actor. You put your heart into something and never know how much or even IF it's going to end up on the screen. As we move through this post process and lock picture, there is "that" scene that just won't give up. We've cut it. We've brought it back. Cut it. Brought it back, and so on. What does that mean? That it's a pivotal scene or an extraneous one? And how can it be both? How can a scene be both instrumental in the story telling and useless at the same time? The saga continues as the little scene that could wavers between the limelight and the cutting room floor. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Film Glorious Film

We recently had our 35mm print of our short film sent back to us from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There is something about that metal canister with small rectangular handle. The celluloid that it houses. We felt that with it's return the occasion should be marked in some way, that it was a cause for celebration. Not sure why it felt so important. Maybe it's just the knowledge that we have a 35mm print just waiting patiently to be screened...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Five hundred eyes and a snicker

Even though there has been a lot of talking about whether test screenings are beneficial or not - the one thing that stands out is the ability to continuously see the film through new eyes. If the room is filled with teenagers, than we become teenagers, If there is someone over 65 same thing. it truly enables you to put yourself in their mind set. some things that felt amazing all of a sudden are clunky. Other things that didn't work seem to soar.

And big reactions - bring them on. we want to see you jump when someone is shot, laugh out loud at something funny, and cross your arms when something makes you uncomfortable.

feel the movie

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Reality of Emotion

We tried to capture the raw emotion of our characters and kept the camera on them well after the director yelled cut. Sometimes your best stuff comes when the actors don't think you're rolling...

Test Screenings

Are these a necessary evil or a collaborative way to have a better film? We've had a few of these screenings so far and we can honestly say they help. They help to cloud your mind and confuse you even more. It seems like all the positive comments get lost the second the words hit the air, while the negative ones cling to you like a thick fog and keep you up for days.

The best way to handle all the notes upon notes that you get, is to sift through them and understand that it is okay to disagree with some. You'll soon learn the opinions you value and the ones that seem out of left field.

There is simply no way of knowing which notes are "right" and which are "wrong". It's best to give each one it's fair attention and pay attention to the ones that you get more often. If a certain sentiment is being repeated over and over than it has to be treated with some validity whether you agree with it or not.

We learn so much at each screening we have and have been given the opportunity to see our work from so many different angles, angles we never even saw in the beginning. It truly is collaborative and it helps you to move outside of your comfort zone.

As we gear up for our biggest test screening yet... I can't help but wonder - will we let them eat popcorn?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Get Those Rights!

We're weeks away from picture lock and in that weird place most indie filmmakers find themselves of beginning to adjust to letting go of some of their temp music. We've learned through experience to not fall in love with temp music, but it's almost impossible. You wouldn't have put it in there in the first place if you didn't think it properly captured the tone and feel that you were going for. And over weeks and weeks of watching your film dozens upon dozens of times in all kinds of forms and lengths those songs begins to embed themsleves into the fabric of the film. They become not only inseperable of the image, but seemingly essential to tell the story, YOUR story.

So how do you defend against falling in love with a track you can't get? First off, you don't use something by The Rolling Stones (even though Russell played "Fool to Cry" on set dozens of times). Self-awareness is a virtue. Procrastination is another option! We're only half-joking. Filmmakers are a delusional bunch. Why not push that delusion just a little bit further? Festivals accept cuts with temp music. Some even allow you to play your film at the festival with music you dont have the rights to, or with just "festival rights". So you hold onto the idea that at some point some kind of set of circumstances will come into play where you'll be able to lock in all of your temp tracks. It's just a matter of time!

The most rational solution it seems is to do exactly what we're doing on this film: use music that feels right, that's not universally ungettable, and then sic your pit bull producer on the case to do whatever is possible to GET THOSE RIGHTS!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Writer/Director Russell Costanzo

Russell Costanzo originally wrote and directed the short film The Tested a few years back. It went on to win best of fest at the 2006 Los Angeles International Short Film Festival and best cinematography at the 2006 VisionFest Film Festival.  It also went on to make its television debut on BETJ.  After the win, he developed the story into a feature film and shot in the summer of 2008 in New York City.

Monday, January 19, 2009

From The Wire to The Tested

Nathan Corbett (Donut from The Wire) plays "Curtis", the bad influence on Dre who tries to bring him over to the dark side. Dressed like this... who wouldn't want to be down?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Don't sleep on James

Tobias Truvillion plays James, a guy from the streets that values family, control, and respect. The actor impressed us so much with his total absorption of the role, that we sometimes forgot that he was playing a part.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Getting the Look

We relied on companies like Nike, Adidas, Exact Science and others to help give the characters an authentic feel. Our make-up and wardrobe department did an excellent job keeping our actors looking like people you'd run into in your own neighborhood, and the production design helped to make the whole film feel "lived in".

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's On!

Both Sides of The Coin

Synopsis: One year ago while on duty as a plain clothes cop, JULIAN VARONE gunned down an unarmed teen. In that time DARRAYLYNN WARREN, the teen's mother, has spiraled into a pit of despair, while his brother, DRE, has gone another route... ganglife. As for Julian, it's time for him to get back to work.

It is a story about redemption, injustice of poverty, the cycle of violence and how these three lives, affected by a terrible tragedy, cannot find closure without the other.

This film explores a tragedy from both sides: The victims are no longer obvious and both sides suffer.


Things got pretty hairy on set at times but the crew always reacted fast and swift and whatever the disaster of the day was, it was fixed with the quickness

Post Production

We did most of our editing at postworks and created a "beautiful mind" scene wall for quick reference

writer/director Russell Costanzo and producer Melissa B. Miller

writer/director Russell Costanzo with Frank Vincent

Mother Nature

Mother Nature. She doesn't care that you've been working on this film for five years. She doesn't care that you've rented your equipment and the actor is due back in LA in two days. When she rains, she pours! Thankfully when we shot in August of 2008 - most of the rain would start, rain enough to give me a panic attack in front of the investors, then stop - allowing us to shoot again.