With big-budget film credits such as Marvel’s The Avengers and Toy Story, writer/director Joss Whedon has made his mark as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents. However, the filmmaking process for Whedon’s new film, Much Ado About Nothing, doesn’t seem all that different from the approach taken by students at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA).
Whedon took on the adaptation of the Shakespeare play like a do-it-yourself passion project, employing money-saving techniques that students have practiced for years.
Following an advance screening of Much Ado on June 4, the film’s co-producer and editor Daniel Kaminsky ’07 spoke to students about the drastic difference between micro- and big-budget filmmaking at an event moderated by Professor Michael Peyser.
Before The Avengers had even wrapped production, Kaminsky explained, Whedon was already moving forward on Much Ado through Bellwether Pictures, his independent studio.
“Joss had just come off one of the biggest movies ever, and it was important for him to be able to do content outside of the studio system just to be able to make his own stuff,” Kaminsky said. “So we had to make it incredibly low and be aware of how much we were spending.”
Like many budding student filmmakers, Whedon shot the film at his home, assembled a cast and crew from people he had previously worked with and fit the entire feature into only 12 shoot days.
“It really came together. He [Whedon] and his wife, Kai [who also produced the film], just had this drive that we were going to do this,” said Kaminksy, referring to the film’s lightning-paced production. “When you have that sort of maniac mentality, people will get behind you.”
Kaminsky, who graduated with a degree in critical studies, worked as an assistant at several companies before landing a position as Whedon’s assistant, his first project being The Avengers. Of the stark difference in the two films’ budgets, Kaminsky joked, “We figured we had The Avengers last year, so this was the next logical thing.”
Much Ado About Nothing, which opens nationwide on June 21 following a limited release, connects a cast, including Amy Acker (Cabin in the Woods), Alexis Denisof (Angel) and Nathan Fillion (Castle), with old English speech and black-and-white cinematography in a contemporary setting. The film’s microbudget meant the cast had to learn fast and work quickly.
“Because we were moving so fast,” Kaminksy said, “we really only had one or two takes before moving on, so it was really imperative that everyone nailed their lines, and they did a fantastic job.”