Update: The Buskers + Lou — we’re nearly there!

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I’ve very please to announce that The Buskers + Lou is very nearly ready to ship off to festivals. In fact, we’ve already submitted a rough cut to a few festivals on our Top 10 list, so our fingers are firmly crossed for some good news soon! But the movie isn’t quite finished yet, and I’m hoping we can make the final push to have it in the can within the foreseeable future.

It’s been a really long, drawn-out road to get to this point. The Buskers + Lou is a non-scripted dramatic feature shot in Portland, Oregon a few years back. We’d raised a small budget for principle photography, which was basically enough to cover food, transportation and equipment costs for myself, my co-producer Erin, a couple of amazingly talented camera operators and their DSLR cameras, a sound recorder, and a few principle cast members. We’d spent a bit of cash to make our own shoulder rig, to acquire some props, and to make the teaser poster you see above.

As small and intimate as the movie is, it was quite an ambitious undertaking in terms of what we wanted to get for the budget that we had. To complicate matters, on the 3rd day of principle photography I received a call from London from my fiancé to let me know that she’d been accepted to a Masters course in Scotland, so instead of getting married in September and having her relocate to Portland, now we were getting married in July and I was going to move to the UK. But before I could think about marriage and visas, I had a movie to shoot…

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The Buskers + Lou was shot in fits and starts over about a 2-month period. The story had no script, only a series of notes typed up in a Google doc. The intention was for Lou’s side of the story to be fairly structured, while the Buskers side was completely off the cuff. Nearly all of the dialogue was improvised, as are some of the major plot points and most of the minor ones. When we’d finished shooting, I held a yard-sale to hawk most everything I owned, I hopped a flight to New York, got married and filed my visa paperwork, and three weeks later I moved into a flat in Dundee. Exciting times.

There was no money bookmarked for post production, and as I had just moved to a new country I had no network of talented friends that I could beg for help. There was a mountain of footage — 450 or so gigs, including behind the scenes stuff — and it took me the better part of a year to edit the original rough version. I was editing on a 7-year old Macbook so it took about 1 minute to render 10 seconds of footage. When the original rough cut was finished, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief — there wasn’t a script, so it was hard to tell if we’d filmed enough footage to tell a full story, but the rough turned out quite promising.

Unfortunately, I had to shelve the project at that time because I was packing my bags once again — this time for London. As the cost of living in London is a wee bit higher than that of Dundee, and because once again I was in a foreign city without a filmmaking network for a safety net, I quickly abandoned any thought of building myself up as a full-time freelance filmmaker. Instead, I picked up a couple of part-time jobs on the opposite side of town, meaning I was spending 50ish hours each week at work, and another 15ish hours in transit. Not much time left over to devote to the film, but I did manage to find help to transcribe the footage so that we’d know exactly what to look for whenever we got around to editing. A big thank you to Chris, Molly, Kirsty, Hugo and everyone else who put in endless hours to sort and organise and transcribe the footage.

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But once that task was through, without time to dedicate to the project, Buskers sat in limbo until I met Peter Stewart, an editor with a documentary background who was looking to move into dramatic features. How perfect was that? I handed over the rough cut and the endless hours of footage and let Peter do his thing. And he did it incredibly well. The movie that came back to me a few months later resembled the one I’d given him, but it was improved a hundredfold. Peter knocked about 20 minutes off the run time, improved the pacing, amplified the humorous moments and made the sad moments more heartfelt. It’s amazing the different a good editor can do for your film — if anyone is looking for one, I’ve got Peter’s number on speed-dial.

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The next step was getting the audio cleaned up. As is the nature of these non-scripted, no-budget, run-and-gun guerrilla-style shoots, getting good audio can be tricky. Many of our scenes were fine, no problems at all. But a handful of them stood out and needed attention. And as my actors were 4,000 miles away, ADR was out of the question, so I needed to find a Sound Designer who could make due with the audio we had available. That’s when I met Oscar Lo Brutto, a former music producer who’d recently set up an amazing home studio and who, like Peter, was itching to make the leap into dramatic features and saw potential in our little movie.

So now, a couple of months later, the picture is locked and the sound is sounding good and we’re nearly ready for the final mix, then it’s off to festivals worldwide! But we’re not quite there yet. There’s still some vital work to be done, and that’s where we need some help. We’re looking for the following to get the movie over the hump:

  • COMPOSER: I understand that getting the music exactly how I want it is going to be tough with this schedule and this budget, but it’s always worth trying to get it right. Music plays a very important role in The Buskers + Lou, as you can probably tell from the title. There are two distinct audio styles in the movie — on the one hand, we have Lou, a guy who is working hard to create structure in his life, to build a foundation for the future. On the other hand, there’s Lou’s freewheeling past, of hanging out with artists and musicians, of living off the grid and railing against any sort of direction. We’d like to represent these two sides of Lou’s personality with two distinct music cues — sparse and emotionless electronic beeping and booping for his work life (this ties in with his job as an inventory stocktaker), and off the cuff folk-influenced  indie rock to represent his past, and his history with the Buskers. Ideally the music will blend together as Lou strikes a balance between his past life and his future ambitions.
  • VFX ARTIST: The Buskers + Lou is a very naturalistic, almost documentary-style production, but that said there are a number of very subtle VFX we’d like to do. One involves adding a rain effect to a gray and gloomy establishing shot. Another involves rearranging words spraypainted on a wall in the background in a quick scene. These *should* be simple enough, but I’m not qualified enough to know exactly what it’ll entail. I’m imagining the most time consuming task is also the most simple one — Lou gets a job as an inventory stocktaker, traveling from store to store to count stock. He and his co-workers are armed with little lasers on their fingers which they point at barcodes as they count. I’d like to add in a few dozen tiny flashes of green light in the inventory scenes, each about 3 frames long.
  • COLOR GRADER: We’re looking for someone who can work quickly, as we’d like to have the color work done before we send the movie over to the VFX artist.
  • ANIMATOR: I’d love to do something a bit fun and different with the post credits, but need the help of an Animator to pull it off. The effect would be in a similar ball park to this video (slightly NSFW, btw)and would run probably 60-90 seconds in length.
  • ARTIST: I love the teaser poster above, but it’s time to create some new artwork — I’m looking for someone who could whip together key art for us based on a few rough ideas I have, or if you have ideas that you’d like to pitch to me I’d love to hear them.

Unfortunately as this is now being funded out of pocket, we’re unable to pay more than a fraction of what your talents are worth. I’m hoping to find someone who likes what we’re trying to do and is willing to help us out for a bit of beer money and a chance to see their work screen in festivals in the very near future. Travel costs and expenses will be covered, as will lunches and coffee. You’ll receive credit and a copy of the movie on DVD or BluRay, and you’ll be invited to our London premiere. Lastly, we’re able to offer shares in any profits made from the sale and distribution of the movie. I know we’re asking for a lot, but we’re confident in our project and we know it’s going to do well for itself once it gets in front of audiences.

If you’re interested in applying please send your CV and links to your work to crew.indiegroundfilms@gmail,com, or if you have questions and would like more information, please don’t hesitate to email us at office@indiegroundfilms.com. Or if you want to help us get Buskers done quicker, click here to make a donation:

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Thanks!

— Alex Cassun

Producer/Director, The Buskers + Lou

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