Getting it any way you can

People often ask me how we got started with this. For us, it all started with our first crummy movie, _Dumping Jenny_. Actually, it’s pretty entertaining, if I do say so myself. I directed it while I was in college, finishing up a degree in Journalism. I had just returned from an internship at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, where I met lots of folks who were involved in film or TV production in some degree. One person named Rob Micai asked me what I wanted to do exactly, and I said, “I want to direct movies.” “Well, have you directed any movies?” he asked. “Uh, nope, not yet,” I replied.

In that instant, I realized that I needed to stop talking about what I wanted to do and start doing it. So I enrolled in the TV Production course the following semester and learned the basics of video production and editing. After brainstorming a story idea with my family, I wrote a few scenes and a short treatment and sent them to my high school buddy, Dakota Russell, who I remembered was a pretty good writer. He was on, and on just a few weeks of chain smoking and heavy drinking (he’s since quit smoking) churned out the masterpiece that was the Dumping Jenny script.

He’d probably dispute that.

Anyway, as it looked like it was all coming together, I started rounding up friends and guaging interest for a shoot in the summer. We did a read-through at my house and everybody loved the script. I started mentally casting then and there.

But how to get the equipment?

Hmm. First, I borrowed a broadcast-quality video camera, mic and mic cable, and fluid-head tripod from the university’s TV department. After shooting some test footage with my ragtag crew, I realized what an undertaking this was going to be. And if we were going to devote a month’s worth of evenings of our valuable summer to this, we’d better do it right.

So, credit card in hand, I marched to a store that had a generous return policy and bought a Panasonic digital camera for $500. In retrospect, I’m *so* glad we shot it digital. We shot every evening, after work, for about three weeks. After the shoot, I returned the camera to the store and got another one for editing.

I edited on iMovie (the original) after hours in the university PR office, where I worked. After some people complained that I was up all night in the office, I finished up in the office of another friend who also worked at the university.

As for music, the extremely talented rock musician “John Thomas Griffith(Griff’s personal website)”: agreed to score our movie for free. I sent him timecode-printed videotapes, and he composed the score on Acid Pro while they were on the road touring. He sent me back CDRs with the tracks, instructions on where to line them up, and we kept in contact primarily through email, with the occasional phone call now and then.

For the tunes, I contacted an alumni of my fraternity, the drummer of “Silent Page(Silent Page website)”:, a terrific band in St. Louis. They graciously donated a few of their tunes for the film, which fit in marvelously. “Cowboy Mouth(Cowboy Mouth website)”: also allowed us to use “How Do You Tell Someone?” and “Leisure McCorkle(”: (a musician produced by JTG) donated the song for the end credits.

We premiered _Dumping Jenny_ on the “Truman State University(story about me)”: campus to a packed house of more than 500 people in November 2000. “Phi Mu Alpha(link to Upsilon Phi)”: (my fraternity) sponsored the event, so we got the venue for free. The response was overwhelming. We were amazed that everyone laughed in all the right spots. My family and friends drove in from all over the country to support us. Silent Page came down from St. Louis and played at our open wrap party in a local bar, which allowed us to use their newly-remodeled backroom for free, as long as we brought in a lot of people. And there were a lot of people that night, as we invited everyone at the premiere. The band was great.

So there’s the crux of the story behind Dumping Jenny, our freshman effort. Because we worked our network, used whatever resources we could get our hands on, and had lots of extremely generous friends, the whole thing cost about $100 tops.

And it shows…

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