I lost my dad in my final year of college, July 2nd 2016. He had no idea I wanted to be a film maker. The plan was to get my bachelor’s and go to law school; my plan was to get my bachelors, do my masters in film production, become successful at it, then, show him what I was capable of. If he could see it, he’d understand better. Of course, I never got the chance to do any of that and I blamed myself for wasting so much time. When I was finally able to move past the hurt, I decided to go head on into professional film making. Maybe, I could share my work with my mum before it was her time, maybe, wherever he was, I could share it with him too. In October 2016, I began the pre-production of “Framed”.
Although I majored in Business Administration and English, I never passed up on the opportunity to take filmmaking classes at schools like Vanderbilt University and The Watkins School of Film. For one of the classes, the final exam was to write a script for short film. At that time, I had just come out of what was an abusive relationship and the school had not handled it in what I would think was the best way possible. I remember being so angry and hungry for justice so, when I picked up that script to produce two years later, it was easy to see how my emotions had clouded my creative judgement. I had 22 pages full of angry rants and a story that I wouldn’t pay to watch. I decided to revise, keeping the core idea the same but reworking the dialogue and introducing more elements of suspense. By the time I was done, I had rewritten almost the entire script. I sent this draft to a professor of mine who happened to be a judge, implemented some of his corrections, then, printed out the final draft.
When I was ready to produce, I did not have any money. I wanted a good quality production, I also knew that I did not want to spend over $400 which was to cover cinematography and refreshments. I had a couple of friends who had recently graduated but already had jobs, so, I wrote a detailed business plan asking for an investment of $400 and promising them a refund with 20% on whatever profits the film would incur and sent it to them. At the end of two weeks, I got three investors giving 200, 100 and 100 each.
I’ve been opportuned to work with a couple of Nollywood producers when they come to Atlanta to film. Working on set gives you the opportunity to network with fellow creatives. When I was ready for my project, I contacted a cinematographer who had shot for Robert Peters while I was on his set. Being a Hollywood professional, his rates where extremely high, so, rather than communicate with him, I decided to speak to a local film maker I knew. He had cheaper rates but he offered me a schedule that meant he would be absent for 4 out of the 8 hours we were to shoot each day. Having no other option, I was open to seeing how that would work out. Two days to the shoot, J.L contacted me to see how I was doing. I let him know my challenges and he responded. “Lilian, you should have communicated this to me. I understand that you’re a young creative with little or no budget and I’m willing to help you. Besides, I have nothing to do this weekend, coming down to Nashville will be fun” He accepted my meager offer of “$175 per day for two and half days. I fired the cinematographer that day and moved forward with J.L
I knew a couple of good actors, that I had been on set with before, who were actively building their portfolio, I also recently been in a play and there were some amazing actors there too. I also had a friend who had constantly expressed his interest in film to me. I pitched the idea to them and they all agreed to work for free pending pay if the film became a financial success.
I wanted to shoot “Framed” in a court room, with an actual jury to make it more believable, so, I wrote a letter to the court, one month later, I got a letter of denial. I, then, spoke to a professor of mine who was also a film maker. She had a friend that was a judge, whom she believed might be able to help. Unfortunately, the judge was scheduled to travel at the time when i was to be shooting. She, then, advised me to find a conference room as make do. I found one in the school and she spoke to a few people that assured me that I could use it. A day to the shoot, however, I was informed by the school that I couldn’t use the location for reasons I’ve been advised not to disclose. This was a huge bummer as all plans had already been set in place, my cinematographer was already on his way to Nashville. I remember crying my eyes out. At this point all I had was God. They had this huge meeting and somehow the professor I mentioned earlier was able to convince them to let me use the location.
I had the cast members meet twice a week for two weeks for table reads before the actual shoot. We shot for two and half days. the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of December 2016. Then I traveled to Nigeria. When I returned I formally began editing in March 2017, a process that took up to two months.
If anything can go wrong during a production, it would. We had challenges of every sort, from “forgetting lines” to broken memory cards, to insufficient storage drives. I had to make expenses I never planned for along the way. I’m grateful for the friends I had around me that supported in a way or the other at this point. One of the toughest part of producing “Framed” was the editing. I did not include a budget for editing because I expected that myself and a friend of mine would do that together. However, when it was time to edit we realized that “Framed had been shot in such a professional format that only a professional editor could handle it.
I remember the cinematographer asking me while shooing if I wanted him to shoot 4k raw on Black Magic. I didn’t really know what that entailed but I knew Black Magic was a Hollywood style camera and 4k meant clearer pictures so I gave the go ahead. When I got my raw footage, it came out as individual frames of pictures. An initial rendering had to to take place before these raw footage could even be maneuvered. Long story short,I had to cough out an extra $425 to pay the editor which, believe me, for the work he did not just on editing but also on color grading , audio sync and correction, is chicken change.
At the end of the day, I ended up spending $1025 to produce a film which should have cost me nothing less that $5000. I experienced grace at so many points. Knowing the value of my work and comparing it with the actual cost of good productions as well as the trashiness of some low budgets productions, I honestly say, I could not have done it without the grace of God, the selfless contribution of creatives, family, and friends around me.
I want to give 20 people an chance to watch “FRAMED” before it gets to streaming sites. If you’re interested just leave a comment. Don’t forget to put down your email so I know how to where to send the private link ;).