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Michael Curtis, Author at Filmstigator - Page 2 of 3

Michael Curtis


August 17, 2014

Philadelphia gets FirstGlance at ‘GIFT’

August 17, 2014 | By | No Comments

Great news to share this week on another fun film festival we get to be a part of!

Filmstigator is honored to be an official selection of the 2014 FirstGlance Film Fest held this October 17 – 19 in Philadelphia, PA.  FirstGlance has been named one of the “Top 10 Festivals for the Rest of Us,” and we’re really looking forward to attending the festival and screening with the attendees and other filmmakers in Philly.  We can’t wait to share ‘GIFT’ with the city of brotherly love this October!

Congratulations and thanks to our wonderful cast and crew!  The festival selections the film is enjoying are due in no small part to your dedication and efforts.  Your work is appreciated!

Here’s a bit more info about FirstGlance from their web site:

Since our inception in 1996, we have become one of the fastest growing truly independent film fests in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

Named five times as one of the “Best Film Festival Investments” by Movie Maker Magazine and “One of the Festivals for the Rest of Us” by Time Magazine, FirstGlance has become a leader in mid-sized film festivals.

Applauded by filmmakers and attendees as one of the best programmed festivals, FirstGlance accepts all genres and shows an amazing mix of short and feature length films, the best indie films on the festival circuit, before they hit theaters. Audiences vote for “Best of the Fest” and are invited to come mix and mingle with filmmakers, cast and crew at great after parties.

FirstGlance Film Fests brings indie filmmakers and audiences together all year long too! With our short online contests, and our “Show Us Ur Shorts” mixers and screenings, FirstGlance Film Festivals works to get filmmakers the attention they deserve.

FirstGlance Film Festivals offer filmmakers great prize packages, VOD distribution opportunities, and a personal touch not matched by any other festival. With over 90% of feature films acquiring distribution after screening at FirstGlance Film Fests, it’s a great event to get your film more exposure and audience.

Come see what makes FirstGlance unlike any other indie film festival and thank you for your support.




Michael Curtis


July 12, 2014

Awards & Festival Update

July 12, 2014 | By | One Comment

The Waiting Game

Waiting to hear back from film festivals can be a trying process for a “not-so-patient” filmmaker. It deprives him of the chance to receive one of the most important learning tools he can hope for: feedback from general audiences.  Films are not made in a vacuum or for a vacuum.  I think most directors are making films to make some sort of impact on other people.  And that’s hard to do or to gauge when the film is tied up for months (or years on some films) making the rounds for festival consideration.

So it was with some relief this week that I learned ‘GIFT’ has been honored by several award competitions and has been accepted into its second festival. It was nice to get at least some limited feedback on the project via the awards, and it makes me look forward even more to being able to screen the film soon for festival audiences.

Awards for ‘GIFT’ as of Today:

2014 CINE Golden Eagle – Independent Short Film

2014 Best Shorts Competition – Award of Excellence – Short Film

2014 Best Shorts Competition – Award of Excellence – Trailer

2014 Accolade Awards – Award of Excellence  –  Short Film

2014 Accolade Awards – Award of Excellence  –  Directing

Current Festival Selections for ‘GIFT’ as of Today:

Isle of Wight Film Festival (August 12 – 18, 2014)

Festival de Cannes – Court Métrage (May 2015)

EDIT –  New Festival Selection for ‘GIFT’ just announced (July 28, 2014):

Napa Valley Film Festival (November 12 – 16, 2014)

Thanks to My Team

Any awards ‘GIFT’ receives are undoubtedly due to the creativity, perseverance, and effort of my stalwart cast and crew of fellow collaborators. You all gave so generously of yourselves to make the film what it is.  So congratulations and thanks again to all of you!  


Michael Curtis


June 24, 2014

Official Movie Poster Released

June 24, 2014 | By | 4 Comments

Today we are happy to release the official movie poster for our short film, ‘GIFT.’  The poster features frame grabs of our young stars Royce Mann and Katherine Shepler.

GIFT Movie PosterStaying true to our collaborative model, we reached out to DesignCrowd for help with the print design. DesignCrowd is crowdsourcing site where you can post a design brief and interested designers will submit their work.  In a matter of weeks we received more than 50 unique submissions in a design contest for the movie poster and post cards, and there were several that we liked a lot. Ultimately the winning design was chosen, tweaked a little here at Filmstigator, and sent out to the printer for final production.  We should have posters ready to ship this week.

In concert with the posters, we’ll be handing out post cards at any festivals where GIFT will be screening this year.  Here’s the design we settled on for our 4×6 takeaways:

GIFT post cardLet us know what you think of the post cards and poster!  Do you think they’re suitable for helping us garner interest in the film?

Michael Curtis


February 26, 2014

Listen to the ‘GIFT’ Soundtrack FREE!

February 26, 2014 | By | One Comment

Today we have a special treat in celebration of the completion of ‘GIFT,’ our first narrative film.  We’re sharing the entire music score from the film for free!

Ben Goldberg, a great friend and collaborator, has done an amazing job writing some truly gorgeous music.  We are honored to have his work present in so much of the film.

I hope you’ll love and enjoy the score as much as we do!


If you like what you hear, please comment, share with friends, and give some love to Ben in the comments section below!



Michael Curtis


February 9, 2014

‘GIFT’ Trailer Released!

February 9, 2014 | By | 5 Comments

We’re very excited to share the trailer for “GIFT,’ the first Filmstigator production.  Please let us know what you think of it!  ‘GIFT’ will be headed to a variety of film festivals beginning in March 2014.

Michael Curtis


January 20, 2014

More Poster Possibilities

January 20, 2014 | By | No Comments

We’re having fun playing with various poster designs for ‘GIFT.’  Let us know what you all think of the various options!




Michael Curtis


January 19, 2014

Production Stills from ‘GIFT’

January 19, 2014 | By | 4 Comments


Aaron (Royce Mann) makes a friend in the forest. ©2014, Filmstigator, LLC.

For the last few weeks we’ve been developing an electronic press kit to accompany ‘GIFT’ at film festivals. EPKs make it easy for festival organizers and journalists to quickly get lots of information about your film at once–production notes, synopses, reviews, cast & crew lists, posters, production stills and so on.  They’re an essential part of the overall film package that helps people get a sense of what the film is about and what went into creating it.

We thought it would be nice to share a few of the production stills here to give you all a sneak peek at what ‘GIFT’ looks like.  We’ll also be editing a trailer over the next couple of weeks, and we will certainly post that on this site as well as a new standalone web site we’re developing just for ‘GIFT.’

During pre-production I had developed detailed “mood boards” showing the looks, color palettes, and overall visual tone I was going for.  I went back and reviewed those notes recently, and I was struck by how close we had come to those early concept images in the finished film.  Other posts on this site have talked about how hard our amazing crew worked to deliver this level of cinematography, and I am excited to finally have the chance to share production stills with you.


Zoe (played by Katherine Shepler) discovers something unexpected. ©2014, Filmstigator, LLC.

An action sequence from 'GIFT.'

An action sequence from ‘GIFT.’ ©2014, Filmstigator, LLC.

A major prop in the film:  a 1926 Underwood typewriter that I found on e-Bay and had refurbished by Fielding Whipple, an octogenarian office equipment repairman in my home town.

A major prop in the film: a 1926 Underwood typewriter that I found on e-Bay and had refurbished by Fielding Whipple, an octogenarian office equipment repairman in my home town. ©2014, Filmstigator, LLC.

An action shot from 'GIFT.'  Actor:  Royce Mann.  Location:  Jekyll Island, Georgia.

An action shot from ‘GIFT.’ Actor: Royce Mann. Location: Jekyll Island, Georgia. ©2014, Filmstigator, LLC.

Zoe leaves the shed.

Zoe (Katherine Shepler) retreats to safety after an altercation with Aaron (Royce Mann). ©2014, Filmstigator, LLC.

Aaron in the woods

Aaron seeks solace in the natural world. ©2014, Filmstigator, LLC.


Royce Mann plays Aaron, one of the main characters in ‘GIFT.’ ©2014, Filmstigator, LLC.

Please let us know what you guys think of the production stills!


Michael Curtis


January 18, 2014

Progress Update & Poster Mock-up

January 18, 2014 | By | No Comments

A brief update on our progress on the film…

Sound design has been completed, and I’m quite pleased with the results.  We’ll proceed with the final mix once the music score has been finished and recorded.  Our composer, Ben Goldberg, is making great progress on the music.  Almost daily we’ve been on the phone or trading emails as he posts new music cues for the film.  It’s been a pleasure collaborating with him on the tone and feel of so many key moments in the movie.  The hardest part now is remaining patient while the music is finalized, copied out for the musicians, recorded, and ultimately mixed.  We’re getting very close to final completion now, and it’s exciting!

Picture has been locked on the film for several weeks, the visual effects work is done, and next week “GIFT” will be color-graded.  That will be the last touch we make to picture before submitting the film for festival consideration.  Once the film has been graded, we’ll be editing a trailer that will be posted here and on IMDB.  We can’t wait to hear the response to the trailer!

We’re also making good progress on the electronic press kit, and the Union Recorder newspaper published a story recently on us here.  We’ve been playing around with several potential poster designs that will accompany “GIFT” at film festivals.  We wanted to share one of those designs here and get some feedback from you all.  Any thoughts you’d like to share on the poster mockup?

"GIFT" poster 1

Stay tuned for more updates on progress over the next few days.  We’re on track to wrap up the film by the end of February if not a little sooner.  We will post some images from the final color correction session when we can.  Thanks for supporting Filmstigator and “GIFT!”

Michael Curtis


December 19, 2013

Editing Complete!

December 19, 2013 | By | No Comments

Exciting news to share today!  We are only weeks away from completion of the first Filmstigator short film!


We are happy to announce that principal picture editing has been completed for “GIFT.”  The footage continues to get rave reviews from the selected group of people who’ve seen the original rough cut and the final version.  Our camera team has done an amazing job with the visuals.


A lot can be learned about a film during editorial.  In the case of “GIFT” I found a scene that just didn’t seem to be working for the overall story.  So I made the decision to cut the scene its entirety.   This Saturday morning we’ll be doing a quick pickup shoot in Atlanta to grab 4 or 5 new shots to replace the excised scene.  I think the shots will help the pacing of the film and will even add something that wasn’t present in the original draft.

Ironically, the scene that has been cut was one of the most difficult and time-consuming scenes we filmed.  It’s almost like the difficulty we had in filming it was an indication of how things weren’t quite working.  I wish I’d fixed the problem back at the script stage, but I can’t wait to have the new shorter sequence in place!

timeline-webSo what’s next for “GIFT?”  After our pickup shoot this weekend, we’ll edit the new footage into place, and then the picture will officially be locked.

The sound designer in Atlanta and the music composer in New York are already hard at work finishing the audio.  We have one last visual effect shot needing completion and then the entire film will be color graded & mastered in 4K.

If all goes according to plan, the film should be ready for festival entries in early February.  We have a long list of festivals we’re planning to enter, and we’re excited to finally share our first Filmstigator narrative film with the world!


Michael Curtis


November 6, 2013

Director’s Log for “GIFT” – Part One

November 6, 2013 | By | No Comments


I’m happy and relieved to announce that we’ve completed production on “GIFT,” our first narrative short film for Filmstigator.  We were able to stay on the original schedule and get all of the scenes shot in 6 days.  Those 6 days were spread out over three, non-consecutive weekends.  It was a lot of work, and there were a few times I didn’t think we were going to make it, but somehow we did.


Even with a sun shield on monitors, full sun can make watching takes problematic. I often just turned off my director’s monitor and watched the actors up close. I like working this way best anyway.

I had planned to provide updates while we were still shooting, but I quickly realized how “optimistic” that idea was.  There were too many other things demanding immediate attention.  Because I am both producer and director on “GIFT,” virtually anything that happened or needed to happen on the film involved me personally in one way or another.  The same was true for Melissa Bowers, our first-time AD who was also serving as script supervisor.  Now that production is over I’d like to review how it went and talk about challenges we encountered along the way.

In the last post, I mentioned that our first weekend of shooting was at Jekyll Island off the Georgia Coast.  It’s a beautiful place, and we were shooting nothing but exteriors the whole weekend.  We were quite fortunate with weather.  Across the board I have to say we really got lucky with great weather throughout production.

A few days prior to the Jekyll weekend, the sound guy asked me about a contingency plan in case of rain.  “There isn’t one,” I told him.  “Welcome to indie filmmaking.”

I was joking around, of course, but rain was in many ways not my main concern at Jekyll.  The bigger challenge was actually going to be sun.  We had a lot of shots to get, and we wanted the light to be as lovely as possible.  That meant shooting primarily at sunrise and sunset—Golden Hour.  We had to transgress that ideal more than I wanted to, but ultimately I think it worked out OK for us.

But being on the ocean involves an even bigger challenge than sunlight.  You also have to account for the movement of tides.  We were shooting on Jekyll’s picturesque Driftwood Beach, and that location is only accessible at low to moderate tide levels—so our location would literally be submerged at high tide.  Talk about limiting your shoot day!

We needed low tides occurring at the right time of day (sunrise, sunset).  These things don’t go together very often, as it turns out.  Tides gradually shift over about a 12-hour period, and the tides move a little later each day.  So I’d carefully chosen the one weekend in September that would be optimal in terms of low tides and golden hour light.  If we’d had rain on that weekend, we might have had to wait as much as a month for those times and tides to line up again.  That is some crazy pressure to put on the production, but that’s how it was.

I just had to think positively and expect clear skies that weekend.  And that’s what we got.

It is cliché, I know, but you really have to stay positive.  This is difficult when you’re stressed and sleep-deprived, but being positive has an energy that can be very helpful to yourself and your entire crew.  Some days I did OK at this, and other days I failed miserably.  Next time will be better.

Laugh at yourself.  The crew and actors already think you’re crazy anyway. A sane person would not attempt so much with so little.

The rain stayed away, and the tides were in our favor.  But on our second day of shooting, we really wanted to be set up and ready to roll our first take right as the sun was coming up over the sea.  That meant traversing to our location in the dark—while the tide was still going out.


Blocking out a scene with actor Katherine Shepler at Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is a favorite nesting site to a variety of sea turtles, and it is a protected beach.  You can’t just drive production vehicles across the sand.  Vehicles are not allowed on the beach.  So we had to carry all of our gear to set by hand or on rolling carts.

To add to the challenge, there are fallen trees all over Driftwood Beach—which is precisely why I wanted to shoot there.  Visually, it’s spectacular.  Practically, it’s a nightmare.

That Sunday morning we had to schlep our gear about a mile to our location by flashlight, picking our way through fallen trees and waves.  Low tide was five hours away, so the tide was still slowly going out, and a good bit of the beach was still under water. We’d get 50 feet or so along our route, and then there’d be a fallen tree we couldn’t get our carts around.  So we’d all converge on the cart—weighted down with thousands of dollars worth of gear—and lift it by brute force over the obstacle to get it going again.  This happened numerous times for each of the carts we had with us.

Amazingly, not only did we get all the gear to our location, we managed to roll on our first take just as the sun rose over the horizon.  It all worked out.  I was really stunned at how awesome the crew was.  I mean, if folks were ever going to balk, that would have been a perfectly reasonable time for it to happen.  But they didn’t.  Everyone teamed up, overcame the unexpected challenge, and made it happen.  And this was before we even shot anything that day.  It was very humbling to be directing and producing a project with that level of commitment from everyone involved.


People say it’s hard working with child actors. I have to say I really enjoyed working with our two child leads, Royce Mann & Katherine Shepler. They worked really hard throughout rehearsals and production. Top notch talent.

After our epic battle with sand and sea and fallen tree, the day’s shoot seemed pretty straightforward.  We got all the footage we needed and made both our days at Jekyll.

One thing that I think might surprise folks who are not filmmakers is how much work has to go into production before you actually shoot.  I’m talking about pre-production, of course.  Sometimes actual shooting is almost a relief once you get to it compared to the stress and race-to-the-wire preparation with schedules, costumes, props, storyboards, permits, locations, and shot lists and everything else that has to be squared away by the time shooting starts.  Ultimately one of the biggest production challenges we faced was simple sleep-deprivation.  I’ll talk more about those sorts of challenges in the next post.

What about you guys?  Any crazy production stories you want to share?  Let’s us hear your favorite on-set war stories.