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Dailies - Page 3 of 3 - Filmstigator

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.

Michael Curtis


September 30, 2013

Behind the Scenes Photos – “GIFT”

September 30, 2013 | By | No Comments

We’ve now wrapped our first weekend of production on “GIFT.”  It was an amazing experience in many ways, and we are really excited about the shots we’re getting out of the RED Epic.

Things are pretty busy as we prepare for the next couple of weekends of filming (in Atlanta & Milledgeville). But we hope to post a more in-depth update later this week.  In the meantime we wanted to share a few behind the scenes photos with you all.

Special thanks to crew member Tendal Mann for capturing these stills!

Working with the Paralinx Arrow wireless transmitter allows director Michael Curtis to interact with actors while still monitoring camera.

Working with a Paralinx Arrow wireless transmitter allows director Michael Curtis to interact up close with actors while still constantly monitoring camera.

Actor Royce Mann as Aaron.

Actor Royce Mann as Aaron.

Associate producer, Susan Curtis, and Assistant Director, Melissa Bowers, hold the chaos at bay.

Associate producer, Susan Curtis, and Assistant Director, Melissa Bowers, hold the chaos at bay.


Actors Royce Mann & Katherine Shepler relax between takes.

Actors Royce Mann & Katherine Shepler relax between takes as Chance White (2nd Unit DP), David Ross (AC), & Todd Harvey (key grip) prepare for the next shot.


Director, Michael Curtis, blocks out the action with lead actor, Katherine Shepler.

Michael Curtis (director) blocks out the action with lead actor Katherine Shepler in our amazing Jekyll Island location.

Thanks for following and supporting our film. We encourage any writers, actors, and filmmakers interested in working on meaningful independent film projects to contact us and get involved today.


Michael Curtis


September 24, 2013

Going Big

September 24, 2013 | By | No Comments

Independent filmmaking, especially in the no-budget or low-budget arena, will make a pragmatist out of you in a hurry. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that the best camera you have for a project is the one you have access to. As much as I love gear–and I do–I understand that there are a lot of cameras that could be great for our project.  Even DSLRs could have worked fine for this intimate, small film. If your story is strong, camera choice is not the most important part of filmmaking.

In the case of “GIFT,” our current short film project, the camera I originally planned on using was the Canon C300.  I love this camera.  It produces a great-looking image, it’s small and easy to work with in tight places, and it is great in low-light situations.  And it isn’t plagued by the image compromises one faces when using DSLRs.  Most importantly, this is a camera I already own, so for indie projects that means not having to burn money on camera rentals.  Since I started pre-production and script selection for this project back in May, I have been planning on using the C300.  It was a given.  And I felt totally comfortable with this choice… that we weren’t really sacrificing anything.

Yes, in the back of my mind I would have loved to shoot this project on a 5K sensor to be able to deliver a 4K master for any film festivals out there capable of screening at that resolution.  But with limited funds, I knew I needed to conserve resources and use the money elsewhere.

But that all changed this week.

One of the things I am most enjoying about our collaborative is getting to meet and work with so many filmmakers I didn’t know before.  We had some personnel shuffling recently on the crew of “GIFT,” and I am pleased to announce that Tom Pritchard will be our new Director of Photography for the project.  Additionally, Chance White will be serving as our second unit DP at Jekyll Island and will also be working as Tom’s AC for our location work in Atlanta & Milledgeville.  They are both super guys and I am so happy to be working with them.  Their energy and enthusiasm are so welcome on the film.  I can honestly say that we have an awesome team filled with positive attitudes across the board.  That is so very, very important.  And I am honored and humbled that all these various artists believe in the project enough to commit and give it their all even though none of us are exactly getting rich on this film.  To say the least.

So what do I mean by “going big?”  With new team members come new approaches and perspectives.  We needed a camera that could shoot high-speed imagery for a few slow-motion sequences I have planned.  Chance owns a RED Epic, and he offered to bring that along for shooting the slow-mo sequences.  But the more the three of us talked, the more it seemed like the entire film should be shot with the Epic to keep from having a mismatch in the look of the film by switching between the two cameras with two different sensors.  So that’s what we collectively decided to do.  And now “GIFT” will be shot in its entirety in 5K.  Epic.

RED Epic Cinema Camera

RED Epic Cinema Camera

This is only possible because of Chance White’s generosity toward the film and the incredible deal he’s given us to make using the Epic possible.  I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity he’s given us to create an amazing short film with this very cool camera.  Tom, Chance, and I are all pretty anxious to get going on the film.  We begin principal photography in just a few days now.

We’ll keep you updated with progress on production and post some photos and possibly some behind-the-scenes video clips as we go.

Be sure to subscribe to the site for updates as we post them.  Thanks for your support of our film! We’ll have many more after we wrap “GIFT!”






Michael Curtis


September 10, 2013

Pre-production Update on “GIFT”

September 10, 2013 | By | One Comment

Lots of progress has been made recently on our first narrative short film project.  Here’s a quick update.

Last month, in collaboration with Stilwell Casting, we found a great group of actors for our film. Veteran child performers Katherine Shepler & Royce Mann won the lead roles.  They are joined by Raymie Lewis and Melissa Etheridge to complete our small ensemble.


Throughout pre-production we have been humbled and honored by the passion and enthusiasm we’ve seen from the many people involved who are making the film a reality.

Our crew positions are nearly filled.  Many professional filmmakers have volunteered their services for free–even when offered pay–in order to bring the film to fruition.  It’s been humbling and exciting that they’ve connected enough with the script to want to do that.  With no outside funding for the collaborative (yet), these individual “gifts” are making the production of our film possible.

Principle photography is slated to begin in late September, and the film will wrap its production phase by mid-October.  We will be shooting in some great Georgia locations:  Atlanta,  Milledgeville,  and Jekyll Island.

There’s still more to be done as we move ever closer to shooting, and there are many areas where we could use your help.  So if you’re interested in helping support grassroots independent filmmaking in the southeast,  please contact us immediately.

We are still seeking a few key (experienced) professionals to complete our production crew.  And there are a number of additional support roles we would welcome if you have the time available.

Of course, if you are interested in helping the project but lack the time to get involved directly, we welcome financial contributions of all sizes.  Now that we are a non-profit,  donations we receive are tax-deductible for our donors.  But beyond that you will have the satisfaction of supporting artistic expression in Georgia.

We will post again soon.  We plan to give weekly updates during production featuring stills and behind-the-scenes video clips.

Don’t miss out on our exciting first production!  Sign up for updates on the site and please comment on the posts.  Your support and encouragment will help us make a better film.  We can’t wait to share the finished product with all of you!

Michael Curtis


September 9, 2013

A New Name… A Broader Scope

September 9, 2013 | By | No Comments

The Milledgeville Film Collaborative has now become!

We have filed as a 501(c) non-profit arts organization in Georgia,  and our new name–along with recent re-organizational efforts–will help sharpen our focus and further define the goals for our non-profit independent filmmaking endeavor.

The new moniker also helps reflect a broader, statewide scope.  Instead of the Milledgeville Film Collaborative, our new name is Filmstigator – the Georgia Film Collaborative.  Since we aim to support, create, and instigate indigenous filmmaking throughout Georgia–not just in Milledgeville where we are currently based–the new name is a more accurate reflection of what we’re about.

Production processes have not been impacted in any way, and we are still moving full speed ahead with our first narrative film project, entitled “GIFT.”


Michael Curtis


July 13, 2013

First Scripts Selected!

July 13, 2013 | By | One Comment

We are happy to announce the selection of our first round of scripts for production. And we’ve found two scripts we’d like to film—not just one!

Through the spring and early summer we’ve been reading dozens of screenplays that have been submitted for possible production. Almost every genre of film was represented.

We want to share a little bit about the two projects we are green-lighting for 2013.


The first project we will shoot (working title “Gift”), deals with a troubled boy and the ancient typewriter he uses to write invisible stories.  A chance meeting with a young girl thrusts both of them toward a dramatic confrontation that will change them forever.

“Gift” features two strong lead roles for child actors. Two supporting roles will also be available in this small-cast project. The production will be filmed in middle-Georgia and parts of Jekyll Island off the Georgia coast.

Screenwriter Alex Whitmer says his screenplay is “a very personal story about growing up unable to communicate effectively. Bits and pieces are taken from my own experiences, including a preference for isolation, and the typing of invisible stories. It’s about the weird kid down the street. The one who liked to walk home alone… liked to study the neighbor’s garden… the colors of tree bark… and the smell of dirt. It is a suburban story about violent outbursts and an inability to learn within the constructs of norms.”

Alex’s site, The Starving Dramaturge is subtitled “In Pursuit of the Perfect Screenplay.” This phrase has resonated with me a lot over the last few weeks. Not for his choice of the word “perfect,” (a potentially unattainable ideal), but for his use of “pursuit.” It’s that striving to create great work that seems to unite a lot of artists. I knew right away that we would share a passion for crafting strong stories.

Our next project (working title “DRG”), is a dark comedy about life in a small town where everyone knows your backstory. “DRG” comes from screenwriter William Torgerson, an assistant professor in the Institute For Writing Studies at St. John’s University in New York and a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Georgia College and State University.

Torgerson grew up in a small town in Indiana.  “The ‘knowing everybody’s business’ feature of my hometown was something I wanted in my stories,” he says. “I spent one summer working as a stock boy in our family-owned grocery store… listening to rumors and seeing the spread of drama around the cash registers. I worked with my uncle, his ex-wife, and his new bride.”

Bill’s story tackles issues of privacy, infidelity, judgment, and retribution in darkly funny ways. Several strong character roles make this a tight and fun ensemble piece. There are roles for a strong female lead, eight to ten supporting adults, and two teens. The memorable action-packed conclusion will stick with audiences for a long time.

Both films are slated for production before year’s end. Each will be submitted to a number of film festival competitions upon completion.

You can learn more about Alex Whitmer’s extensive screenwriting projects (more than 45 produced short films) by visiting his web site and IMDB page.

To find out more about the fiction, screenwriting, and documentary work of Bill Torgerson—or to read “Horseshoe,” his collection of original stories that “DRG” is drawn from, please visit

We greatly appreciate the efforts and trust of these writers… and we’re really looking forward to crafting powerful films with both of them!

We’d also like to express our gratitude to all of the writers who submitted their work for consideration. We’re honored to have had the participation and interest of people from so many diverse perspectives.

Please stay tuned for further announcements about casting opportunities and about the potential launch of various crowd funding initiatives.  And if you’re interested in fostering, supporting, or creating independent films, we encourage you to get involved. There’s work to be done in a wide variety of disciplines including social media, crowdsourcing, production planning, and more.

You don’t need to be an expert filmmaker, in other words, to get involved.

And remember:  your feedback and assistance are very welcome, so please share your thoughts and ideas. We’d love to hear from you!

Michael Curtis


May 21, 2013

Progress Update

May 21, 2013 | By | One Comment

One of the problems with an all-volunteer organization is that when folks are super busy with “regular” projects, it’s tough to make big advances on our MFC goals.  I am going to be meeting with professors from the creative writing program at Georgia College & State University next week to discuss putting our call for scripts out nationally via their literary journal.  So far our main challenge has been finding a workable script.

A handful of scripts have been submitted, but so far we haven’t found the right one.  And I’m committed to moving forward with production only with a great script.  So patience is called for.  I don’t want to just produce “any” film.  It takes so much work to craft a film that the story really needs to be spectacular or it’s hard to sustain the work effort through the entire process.  So we continue to look for scripts, and I may be holding a script competition very soon to help generate additional submissions.  Thanks for your patience as we are making progress, albeit slow progress.

The main reason more hasn’t happened with MFC, honestly, is that I have been traveling and shooting, directing, writing and editing non-stop.  In the last six weeks I’ve directed productions in Austin, Long Island, Seattle, Portland, New Haven, Burlington, Chapel Hill, Manhattan, and Houston. And I have two shoots this week in Atlanta, all for a good cause: I’ve been creating content for the American Cancer Society’s 100th birthday celebration. The video at the top of this page, “Judy’s Story,” is one of those spots. Here’s another:

Michele and Simone

Thanks again for your continued patience.  Please register on the site so you will get automatic updates as we move forward.  I think we should have a script by summer’s end!


Michael Curtis


March 24, 2013

Launch of the Milledgeville Film Collaborative

March 24, 2013 | By | No Comments

Welcome!  We are excited to announce the launch of the Milledgeville Film Collaborative, a grass-roots effort to bring artists from a host of varying disciplines together to craft great short and feature-length films.

One of our primary goals for the Collaborative is to build a creative community that enriches the lives and experiences of members and audiences alike. Ideally, we’ll create a model for collaboration that fosters creativity and results in powerful visual storytelling. We’re focused on making great films in Georgia and throughout the southeast, but we believe this model can easily be replicated to inspire similar collaborations elsewhere.

The Film Collaborative isn’t a club or a forum or a user group. It’s essentially a production company led by a specific group of artists and filmmakers who have elected to come together for a particular project. It’s designed for passionate people who want to get involved and help in whatever way they can to make quality films—even if they’re not directly filmmakers themselves.

In the next few weeks, we’ll begin soliciting scripts for our inaugural short film production (currently planned for the summer). If you’re a screenwriter with a great short movie script, we sincerely hope to hear from you. We have a strong team of writers, theatre professionals, and filmmakers who will review all submitted scripts and make recommendations on screenplays to “green light.”

We’re geared up to accomplish a number of projects over the next few months and beyond, so we will always be looking for quality screenplays. We hope to create at least three high-quality short films by the end of this year alone.

For a breakdown of the kinds of things we’re looking for, please check out our FAQ page. Screenplays meeting the criteria outlined may be submitted at any time, not just during the official call for scripts. Our need for stories will be ongoing.

We are looking to move quickly. As soon as our first winning script has been selected, we’ll move directly into pre-production for that project. The goal is to have that film cast, designed, planned and scheduled by late spring so that production can begin (and end) this summer.

We’re not playing around.

So here’s your chance. Get involved and make your own unique contribution to filmmaking. Send in your amazing screenplay, find out about upcoming auditions or how to join our crew for production. Or make a donation.

There are lots of ways to make your mark. So fasten your seatbelt. This thing’s about to launch.