IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME SEEING A SHAINA FEINBERG FILM, YOU ARE IN FOR A TREAT!
Feinberg is quickly establishing herself on the cutting edge of creative, small budget filmmaking. But however small her budgets and crews may be, she always finds a way to make her films feel much bigger without losing any heart in the process. We asked Shaina about this process and her new film, Senior Escort Service which is this year’s opening night film.
LOWER EAST SIDE FILM FESTIVAL: You have a great way of achieving a lot in your films without the highest production budgets. What was your crew like for this film? Was it a lot of people? What did you prioritize in that regard?
SHAINA FEINBERG: Thank you! That is so kind of you. We have now made 3 feature films each for $15k, which means that the movies are considered super duper micro budget. So for SES we had very little $ to make it and a really small crew. We are lucky that we have such talented and devoted friends who work with us on our stuff. For this movie we had our DP Zach Smithers - who lit and shot the entire movie himself. We had Lindsay Kouri who worked with us on costuming and also pulled focus for some of the scenes (she is multi-talented!) and for a handful of the days we had these filmmaking brothers, Chris and Nick Libbey, who were AC and on-set sound respectively. My husband, Chris Manley, and I did sound some days. All that's to say that at the biggest our crew was 6 people and at the smallest it was 2. Obviously there are drawbacks to that small a crew, but there are lots of pros - you're light on your feet, have a small footprint, can kind of be more "spontaneous." We shot a lot of the movie over two days in the woods and we had to get through, like, 40 pages of dialogue, which was insane. We had weather issues, too. But because it was such a small crew we were able to just be like, "OK it's raining, let's do this scene on the porch" and within 20 minutes we could be set up and ready to go. Since we're not working with a high production value, we look to get as many "pretty" shots as we can, which means interesting configurations or beautiful landscapes. That stuff goes a long way to making something look like it's made for more money than it is.
LESFF: Your writing is always refreshingly unconventional. How much do you involve improvisation in your writing vs scripted scenes? In other words, how much of what we see in your film is on the page?
SF: Again, thank you! I definitely rely on some improvisation, but more of it is scripted than it seems. For this movie I wrote 72 pages and it's 60 minutes long. There are definitely some improvised bits with me and the boys (I work with these 3 guys to make comedy - Chris Manley, Jeff Seal, Chris Roberti - we are called Bankrukt), but a ton of what you see with the four of us is scripted. I work with them so much that it is easy to write for them. In this movie, the first thing we shot was a dinner party where people were invited to tell us their real stories. Those stories are all unscripted and I used them throughout the movie. My dad was a psychoanalyst and part of the idea behind the movie was for it to be sort of like group therapy. So anything at the dinner party was part of that group therapy concept. A lot of the movie where I am telling the story of my dad dying and wanting to sing him a song - that was scripted and it's divvied up between me and the three boys. We had a unique way of getting those scenes which I think really worked in the end. Basically rather than them all memorizing their lines ahead of time, we ran the scenes a couple times in the location where we were about to shoot. I had a script and read the lines aloud to the boys and they repeated back the lines. So it was all very fresh feeling when we shot. It was super fun to do it that way.
LESFF: What is your favorite first film made by aNOTHER filmmaker?
SF: I love Elaine May - so I will say A New Leaf. There is a scene with a toga in it that is one of the funniest things I have ever seen!
Article by Josh Greenwood