The Last Hurrah DVD Release Party

The Last Hurrah's nationwide DVD release is this month and we're throwing a party! If you're in Los Angeles, come watch the movie and celebrate with our actors, crew, producers and distributors. Sunday, February 21 7:00pm - Screening at the Downtown Independent Theater 9:00pm - After party upstairs in the bar. DJ: Jacob Safari 9:30pm - Special visit by the Kogi Korean BBQ Taco Truck (tbd)

Advance copies of the DVD will be on sale for a special price!

Movie Tickets are $10 at the door.

  • *RSVP on Facebook
  • *Pre-order movie tickets online
  • *Pre-order the DVD
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    It's my great pleasure to announce The Last Hurrah has signed distribution.  I'll have more information in early 2010, but in the meantime we've been busy with deliverables and getting materials squared away for the DVD. It's been an amazing journey.  From three weeks of pre-production, to three weeks of filming, to a year of post-production, and now six months playing festivals.  I don't think any of us imagined that this tiny movie we filmed in one location would someday be playing in a theater or for sale in a video store.  It's a fun ride!


    SoCal Film Festival Screening

    The Last Hurrah screened tonight at the SoCal Film Festival. It was a fun, enthusiastic crowd and we were very excited to have won Best Cinematography for the festival. sf-jw-zb-ss-gc-ii Actors: Steve Fite, Jon Weinberg, Zack Bennett, Sarah Scott, Gary Cairns

    steve-alicia Actors: Steve Fite and Alicia Ziegler

    richie-jon-peter Producers: Richie Molyneux, Jon Stokes, Peter Marr

    david-jon-long Actor David Wachs and Director Jon Stokes

    jon-steve-long Actor Steve Fite and Director Jon Stokes

    SoCal Film Festival

    I'm happy to announce the next screening of...

    The Last Hurrah Official Selection Tuesday, September 22 at 8:20pm The SoCal Film Festival in Huntington Beach

    socal_ticket_09 Purchase $6 tickets!

    We are honored to be one of six narrative feature films selected for the festival. And pleased to be included in a group of larger budget movies with box office stars such as Peter Gallagher, Michael Madsen, C. Thomas Howell, Ann-Margaret, Christina Ricci...and more.

    The Last Hurrah's own Sarah Scott is starring in The Grind with Tom Sizemore and Danny Trejo, also premiering at SoCal. We decided to apply to the SoCal festival at the behest of actor Gary Cairns, who stars as "The Trip" and is a long time resident of Huntington Beach.

    Thank you Gary and thank you SoCal!


    I arrive at the premiere, meet our publicist and producer rep, and begin greeting actors as they arrive. img_1339 Getting ready: our publicist Kim, Me (Jon Stokes), Valerie Azlynn, Alicia Ziegler

    We sold out the theater the day before, and now everyone's clamoring for tickets. Even actors can't get a seat! I do the best job I can to handle everyone and deflect people onto Adam, Kim, Chuck, Jay and anyone who can help.

    img_1309 Chaos begins

    The crowd arrives and I'm thrilled to see so many friends. My best friend Jordan surprises me at the premiere - he flew out from New York! This makes my entire night.

    img_1352 The audience lining up to buy tickets

    Beautiful people arrive...

    gary-hakeem David Wachs, Gary Cairns, Jennifer Ann Massey, Hakeem Kae-Kazim

    I join the red carpet photos. This takes practice. Which way do we look?

    four-guys-dark Jon Weinberg, Ravi Patel, Jon Stokes, Randy Wayne

    The filmmakers get their picture taken...

    chuck-jon-jay Chuck DeRosa (Cinematographer), Jon Stokes (Me the director), Jay Trautman (Editor, Post-Production Supervisor)

    The screening starts a good 30 minutes late. The Dances With Films staff struggles to pack in every last remaining seat. We turn away a crowd at the door.

    I stand in the back of the theater with my producing team and the festival directors. It feels good. There is excitement in the air.

    jon-and-val Jon Stokes (Me the director) and Valerie Azlynn (the female lead)

    I've never seen The Last Hurrah on a full size theater screen. What will the picture quality be like? As soon as the movie starts, I breath my first sigh of relief. The picture looks better than I've ever seen it. When my name appears on the screen I get butterflies.

    With each of the first five scenes in the movie I breath a little more relief - the laughs and momentum are there. The movie is underway, the audience is with us. Once we finally hit the Act One break I turn around and give a big thumbs up to my team: We Did It.

    sarah-jon-david Sarah Scott, Jon Stokes, David Wachs

    The audience response is amazing. Better than I ever imagined. They gasp, they cheer, they laugh, they clap. They root for the characters. When Will has a serious moment they are silent, when Jason gives Will advice they are on the edge of their seats, when Steve breaks up with Tara they laugh and applaud, and when Will finally kisses Nicole they cheer. It works. Finally seeing the movie with a live audience is transcendent.

    When the movie's over we get applause after applause. It feels great!

    stars-adorable Zack Bennett, Alicia Ziegler, Valerie Azlynn

    After the credit roll I'm called down for the Q&A. I invite all the actors and crew to come down as well. There is a lot of energy on stage and we all get some good laughs during the Q&A.

    The first thing I always need to do when I walk out of a theater is find a bathroom. Code yellow! But it takes me 15 minutes to walk to the bathroom with the outpouring of congratulations. For a writer who spends most of his time toiling alone, hunched over a laptop, this night is a tremendously gratifying experience. The screening over, we all head to Libertine for the after party. It is packed and jumping and a great finish to a great night.

    Dances With Films

    We are thrilled to announce...

    The Last Hurrah World Premiere Tuesday, June 9th 7:15pm at the Laemmle Sunset 5

    dwflaurels Purchase tickets! For more information, visit Dances With Films.

    We are thrilled to be premiering here in Los Angeles.  Out of 1200 - 1500 films submitted, The Last Hurrah is one of 19 films selected for the festival, and one of 11 chosen for the competition section. Thank you Dances With Films!


    Jay and I knocked out a new trailer for The Last Hurrah. I wrote the outline during lunch break at a dance competition on Saturday, Jay mocked it up Sunday afternoon, and Sunday night we massaged it into place. We've both been so swamped, this is our process! The trailer music is composed and performed by Dominic Mazzoni. Take a look!


    Final Edits

    We trimmed 2:14 of runtime from Act One, bringing our total movie down below 90 minutes.  And we spent a good deal of time remixing and syncing ADR with the delightful Corey Eccles. Complete with fresh titles, I think we've finally got the movie we can send to festivals.  Now it's time to take a well-earned break from The Last Hurrah.


    Richie recording some new crowd walla-walla with Corey (above).


    Many fun hours in the dub stage, but I think we're finally wrapped.

    Industry Screening

    Monday we had our first private screening of The Last Hurrah.  It was a big success! We showed the film in a screening room at Raleigh Studios to a group of industry friends.  I'm thrilled to report that 29 out of our 30 comment cards were definitively positive.


    Reviewing the cards, we are going to go back in to remix and sync ADR, polish up our front titles, and trim some run time from Act One.  Our whole goal now is to make the first ten minutes of the film as accessible as possible to a festival screener.  It's this single-take concept that will either make people love our movie, or completely not understand it!


    It was very gratifying to watch the movie in a live theater, and hear audience response.  And such a relief to hear laughter - in the places where we want to hear laughter!

    Now it's back to work on completing the final version of the movie and getting it out to festivals.

    Sound Mix - Third Time's the Charm

    Okay, I've said it before, but this time I think the sound is finally, basically, complete. After bouncing around through several mixers, we are finally lucky enough to be working with the wonderful Corey Eccles on a state of the art dub stage.  She is bringing our sound up to a level of quality I didn't think was possible for our movie.

    Recording a one take movie, mostly outdoors, we were saddled with all sorts of honking horns, airplane engines, police sirens, lav mic pops and static, boom mic distortion, and more than a few flubbed actor lines.  After going through several sound mixers, I thought we were simply going to have to live with these issues.  But Corey has been able to rapidly erase many if not most of these problems.  I am, frankly, astonished at the speed and quality of her work.

    Perhaps sound is like a tightly sealed pickle jar, where several people need to have a go at it before the lid finally pops open.

    I'll keep my fingers crossed until I get to spot the final output this week.  But I think we may finally have a completed movie on our hands.

    And now it's a question of finding a festival for our premiere.

    Color Timing

    We have now entered one of the final steps of our movie, Color Timing (a.k.a. Color Grading, Color Correction).  For this phase, Chuck must alter and enhance the color of every frame of the movie, adjusting hue, saturation, and brightness to create the best possible visual quality for every scene. Here is Chuck hard at work on reel four...

    Color Timing a One Take Movie

    Color is extremely important to our movie, because we have no cuts.  The way we differentiate mood between scenes is largely by color and sound design.  We assign different color palettes for each scene location, particularly in the nighttime shots where we have better control of the lighting design.

    The Importance of Color Timing

    Prior to color timing, movies don't look like movies.  To give a sense of the importance of color timing, below is a deleted scene from The Italian Job.  Look how flat and overexposed the non-color timed footage is:


    Pretty amazing, right?  Now keep in mind The Italian Job had a $60 million budget, closing off downtown Los Angeles to shoot these scenes.  Nevertheless, non-color timed footage looks like it was shot at a backyard barbecue.

    Here's another neat video I found that demonstrates the before/after effect of color timing:


    Moving Closer

    The Last Hurrah was shot in late afternoon, magic hour, and night.  So much of our original footage is grainy, low-contrast, and flat.  It is exhilarating to watch our footage come to life and blossom with color as we complete Color Timing.

    Sound Mix

    Mitch Lindskoog and I put in another six hours yesterday perfecting the sound mix.  We still have work remaining on the sound edit.  But we are nearing completion.  It is extremely satisfying to hear the movie coming into focus.

    (Mitch in his native environment - with The Last Hurrah playing in the background)

    We knew we would encounter challenges shooting in one take.  What we didn't anticipate is that the sound edit is the most challenging hurdle of all.  Our beleaguered sound team has to make sense of 16 lavalier and boom radio channels often distorted by static, production sounds, or even Spanish radio frequencies.

    To further complicate matters, our sound designer's band is away on another 6 week European tour.  This is his third tour in 2008, and this has effected our desired schedule.

    All this being said, I do believe sound is very close to completion.  The remaining focus will be on Jay to complete visual effects and titles, and Chuck to do color correction.  I cannot wait to have this movie in the can, and begin to submit it to festivals in earnest.

    Web Site

    I created the web images this week, flexing my wimpy Photoshop muscles. I also rewrote all the actor and crew bios, and prepared all the material for the web site. Faith, our web developer, is really together. I showed her my design for the web site and it sounds like she can make it happen. I love having a strong team.

    Here is Faith's first mock-up of the web layout. I love simple, clean design.


    Set Photography

    This is Carolyn, our set photographer. It so happens, she's dating the editor, Jay. So we seem to have an unusually high number of editor photos. carolyn.png

    I compiled all the set photography this weekend. This means sorting through roughly 800 photos from four different photographers, adding captions and credits of the best 100 for the distributor package, and then choosing 20 images for the web site. I wish I had an odometer to show me how many hours I've spent on The Last Hurrah.

    On second thought, I really don't.

    Musician Agreements

    Getting permission to use a single song in the movie may require negotiating and signing six different contracts.  The Masters contract, the Synchronization rights, the composer's contract, the label's contract, the publisher's contract, and the performer's contract. I generated 120 musician contracts in December, and I have signatures for 70% so far. People have asked me if it's hard to direct a movie.  I tell them directing is nothing compared to producing.  Writing and directing comprise about 2% of the time I have spent on The Last Hurrah.  Everything else I do is producing.

    As far as wrangling musicians to sign their agreements, I'm very glad to have Adam Boardman to help me chase down a few folks.

    I'm thrilled to be using Sugarman 3 in the soundtrack. I've been such a big fan of them for so many years, and it is wild to talk to Neal Sugarman on the phone and get his thumbs up for the movie!


    I got many, many things off the to-do list this week. Measurable progress. Minor physical and emotional exhaustion. Chuck says I'm pushing too hard and need to give myself some distance. So I forced myself to take the morning off. I drove to Malibu, which is a different world from Silverlake. I sat in the sand and watched pelicans and dolphins. I read Notes from Underground and just stared at the Pacific. Finishing this movie, there are so many emotional highs and lows that each week feels like a month. I can dig it, but it is nice to take a day off.



    Had a really fun ADR session today with Randy Wayne. Randy is this guy: randy.png

    Randy plays "Dogbowl," a hyper character with ADD who is in constant motion. To add depth to the sound design, Jeff and I recorded a lot of extra dialog for Randy that we can pepper throughout the movie. So any time there is a break in conversation, Dogbowl can be heard screaming something in the background.

    Practical ADR

    Remember that we filmed The Last Hurrah all the way through from start to finish, each day of our shoot. This means that if an actor flubbed a line 34 minutes in, we didn't yell cut and start over at the beginning. We just kept rolling. This makes ADR especially important for this movie!

    Randy's was a fun ADR session because it involved a lot of improv. But several of the actors needed more meticulous ADR because their lav mics on set had too many pops and cracks. In these situations, the actor stands in a sound booth watching film footage on a monitor, and gets recorded saying the same lines over and over until the ADR recordist gets a usable take. Actors must match the pitch, rhythm, and characterization of lines they spoke six months ago. It's hard work!

    Put on some head phones, lock yourself in a closet, and read each sentence of this blog post, out loud, fifteen times in a row. Now do that for four hours. And you will begin to get a sense of how an ADR session works.

    ADR for the Director

    My background is in sketch comedy. Sketch comedians are a neurotic breed who will eagerly invest hours perfecting the rhythm, nuance, and timing of three minute comedy sketches that will probably only be performed on stage once.

    With our extremely limited rehearsal time for The Last Hurrah, there was barely enough time to memorize lines, let alone perfect comedic timing. Going into post production, there were about forty lines in the movie whose pace and comedic delivery I was not satisfied with. ADR is giving Jeff and me a second chance to let the actors perfect their comedic performances.

    The Weird Part About ADR

    Maybe it's because our actors are hilarious, or because there's a lack of oxygen in the recording studio, or because you get punchy after hours in a windowless room...but ADR is hysterical after a while. Every one of our actors had me cracking up - recording themselves doing funny voices and saying ridiculous things.  I'm surprised to discover that ADR is one of the most fun parts of the process, with the added bonus that I get to spend time with our actors again.


    We spent about six hours recording foley today. I love working with the sound team. There is nothing like five guys on four computers in one room working toward one goal. Foley is ridiculously fun. To give a taste, we need to Foley the sound of a very inebriated character peeing in the shower.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but people are used to the sound of urination in a toilet...which loudly resonates in a bowl full of water. By contrast, micturition on flat shower tile sounds high-pitched and wimpy - it doesn't sound believable. Engineering this sound may require a creative mix of noises that have nothing to do with either showers or urination.

    I have to stress that the shower-pee sound is really important to the character. The audience must understand that this gentleman is so shnookered, so unbelievably plastered, that he walked past a perfectly good toilet to pee in the shower instead. Before today, I never fully appreciated how many potential laughs in a movie are the work of the sound designer.

    Sound Design

    Every sound in a movie is built by a sound designer. Often, the only sound being recorded on set is the actor's voices. And even then, the actors are often re-recorded in a carefully controlled studio during post-production. The Last Hurrah was filmed at a house party with as many as 50 dancing, partying extras. But the party was completely silent except for the two or three actors on camera. The extras who appear to be conversing in the background are lip-synching. And the dancers moving to the music are miming.

    Movie Magic

    Watch closely the next time you see a dance club in a movie or TV show. The dancers in the background probably aren't dancing to the beat. In fact, the dancers may all be moving to completely separate beats.

    Notice how lead actors are able to speak in conversational voices during a crowded night club scene. Why aren't they screaming into each other's ears?

    Crowd noise and music are created in post production. The editor has no way to cut together a sequence if there is real music recorded in the background. Every dog bark, every cricket chirp - it's all carefully recorded and controlled by the sound designer.

    Sound Designer's Job

    Our Sound Designer Jeff loves to think big picture. In one sense, Jeff's job is very similar to Chuck's (Cinematographer) and Shane's (Production Designer). To make a one take movie feel as if it's divided into separate scenes. To give each area of the party its own distinct mood by assigning noises and environments to different areas of our blocking charts.

    Another part of Jeff's job is to make the audience listen very carefully to our dialog. Our movie does not have big sex scenes, car chases, or explosions. We need a quiet and delicate sound design that will pull the audience into the party and make them listen to all the voices around them.

    This is a finesse job. The crinkle of red beer cups. The clink of beer bottles. The sound of ice dropping into a glass. These delicate noises tune the audience's ears to listen, as opposed to deafening everyone with a loud score and violent explosions.

    The Era of Sound Design

    Thanks to incredible movies like "No Country For Old Men," Sound Designers are finally getting the attention they deserve. Someone told me (I tried googling and can't verify this statistic) that two-thirds of the Academy Award winners for Best Picture also win for best Sound Editing or Sound Mixing. I can certainly believe it.

    A statistic I can verify is that since 1950, two-thirds of the Best Picture winners also win one of the two Best Screenplay awards. This makes sense to me, too...


    The wonderfully talented Dominic Mazzoni has signed on to be our composer for The Last Hurrah. And I am absolutely thrilled. Jay (editor) and I went to college with Dominic and have always known him as a great jazz composer. After school Dominic got a second degree, worked at JPL as a geologist, created the Audacity sound editing software, and now works for Google.

    Scoring The Last Hurrah

    I always envisioned The Last Hurrah to be a sort of Woody Allen movie for Generation Y. Like if Woody Allen were 25 and could somehow stand to live in Los Angeles. This is what I was aiming for anyway.

    I love jazz. When I lived in Manhattan, I kept my food budget down to an insane twenty dollars a week (you don't believe me but this is true) so I could spend every free dollar I had going to The Vanguard, Birdland, The Blue Note, Iridium, Fez, St. Nicks, and of course, Smalls.

    Jay and I scored a lot of Grant Green into The Last Hurrah's temp mix to simulate the lighthearted feel of a Woody Allen movie. I had a lot of discussion with the producers about whether jazz would be thematically appropriate for a movie about 20-something hipsters. In the end, I found that when we scored the movie with rock-and-roll it felt more like American Pie than Annie Hall. Jazz and comedy just go together like tomatoes and basil.

    Dominic's Role

    I didn't even attempt to negotiate with Blue Note for use of their musicians. Especially when we have a wunderkind like Dominic Mazzoni in our corner. He is amazing to work with.

    To give a taste, Dominic composed the opening credit music as a jazz trio. And then brought back the same theme as a piano solo for the final scene in the movie. I love the bookends!