When Producers Are Above And Below The Line
Many up-and-coming producers get their start by toiling through grunt work at a major production company. Doug Lloyd and Georgia Menides took a different path.
"We met when we were both volunteering for a public access station in Worcester, MA," said Menides. "We both had the desire to raise the bar pretty high."
During his junior year at Clark University, Lloyd became a screen studies major. "It was never a conscious decision I made," said Lloyd. "I found I enjoyed it. It just fell in my lap." Menides, a dramatic writing graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, always wanted to be a screenwriter. As her abilities progressed, she felt she wasn’t ready to pass her work on to unknown producers.
"You could either be a screenwriter and sell your work, and have somebody change it," said Menides. "Or, you could be a playwright and be involved with your work, so I went into theater and playwriting."
As Menides became exposed to digital technology, she saw the potential she could have in developing her own scripts through digital formats. She volunteered at her local cable access station to gain basic experience. Lloyd was also volunteering at the same station, developing his skills as a cinematographer. The two became partners and created a cable talk show. After interviewing the producers of Artigo/Ajemian Films, Lloyd and Menides were invited to get some on-set experience as art directors on the feature "Freedom Park."
"Georgia had done things like that in theater," said Lloyd, "But I had never done that before. I really loved it. That whole process of filmmaking in general; that was my spark into wanting to pursue it further."
Lloyd and Menides dabbled in producing through assisting local filmmakers. Discovering they had a talent for producing, they developed their own production company, Uncovered Productions, and produced two shorts, "Lame" and "Casket.” After the shorts received distribution and garnered favorable reviews, Lloyd and Menides decided Uncovered Productions was ready to move into features. They chose to develop Menides’ script “Still Green,” a story about high school graduates that partake in a week-long Florida excursion to celebrate their friendships and independence before splitting up for college.
With a budget of less than $500,000, Lloyd and Menides performed as many production roles as possible to stretch their funds. An early shared responsibility was casting director. Although a few actors were recruited from California, Lloyd and Menides decided to round out their cast with local Florida actors. The casting call turn out was greater than they anticipated, providing a wide range of casting posibilities.
"We made a conscious choice to be forward-thinking in our casting,” said Menides. “We decided on a cast that is racially diverse. We also cast a hot leading actress who isn’t anorexiacally skinny."
While scouting locations, Lloyd and Menides were further able to stretch their budget with assistance from the residents of Naples. "We were given free food, boats for the water scenes, free housing for some of our actors, free locations, and we even got a few investors," said Menides. "We could not have finished ‘Still Green’ without this support."
The producers also worked as crew members to stretch their budget even further.
"I was a grip," said Lloyd. "I was on set every day, lugging hundred pound lights around in the sand. By doing things like that, we were able to get the most from our money by putting it in other places."
Hiring a DP to shoot "Still Green" was one financial priority.
"It provided such great challenges to be inventive," said Brian Crane, a gaffer/cinematographer who’s worked on “Entourage” and “The Office.” "We didn’t have the budget for a lens package and weren’t able to get neutral density filters in time, so I had to determine shooting styles that would remain consistent through the film." His lighting knowledge came in handy with water shots, sun-drenched interiors, and evening exteriors that, due to local regulations, could not exceed 45 minutes of lighting.
Lloyd and Menides also recruited the help of prior contacts. "We asked Jon Artigo, the director of ‘Freedom Park’ as well as the producers of ‘Freedom Park’ to come on board with us, seeing they had successfully navigated their way through a film that won awards and did well," said Menides.
"I was in the kitchen making peanut butter sandwiches for the cast, whatever it took," said Artigo. "I loved Georgia’s script, and was happy to be a part of this project."
Once shooting concluded, Lloyd and Menides were the post production team. Although they both enjoyed the role of music supervisor, Menides found editing very challenging.
"The acting was great, the cinematography was great, but when we laid out the film following the script, the movie felt so flat. It took us a year and a half to figure out the right editing. The first five cuts left me in tears. At the time, it was gut-wrenching. Now, I would say I loved having been a part of it. It taught me, as a writer, some lessons of things I can avoid the next time around, and gave me respect for what happens in post-production."
Through the four years it took to complete "Still Green," both Lloyd and Menides worked in other capacities to broaden their knowledge of producing in an effort to prepare for the future.
"I’ve done a lot of work with outside organizations like Independent Spirit Awards, Film Independent, and Tish Labs to learn how bigger organizations do their publicity, how they get their distribution, how they get their media," said Menides. "You might as well learn from someone who already knows how to do it."
"I didn’t do the normal route of working my way up the ladder," said Lloyd. "But, I think that to be a good producer, or for any kind of business at all, you have to understand what everyone else is doing. I’ve been on different sets and done different positions to get more experience and understand fully what the people that are going to be working with me are dealing with."
As Uncovered Productions preps their next feature, a Menides’ script called "Inside the Butterfly Net," they’ve begun considering how to diversify their roles. Although their decisions to fulfill many production roles was determined by budgetary constraints, they enjoyed the control they had over those functions and the experiences they gained through every step of the film’s process. They look forward to hiring individuals that specialize in positions such as editing, to elevate future productions.
"It will be a little odd. The ride we had with ‘Still Green,’ although it was really tough at times,” said Menides, “well, with a bigger crew, we just won’t have this ride again. The people that we’ve meet and the random things that happen when you’re responsible for everything, I’m glad that we did it this way."
To learn more about "Still Green" and Uncovered Productions, please visit: