'Canal Street' Film's Production Crew Explain Movie Financing, Writing Scripts, & Shot Direction

The "Canal Street" movie is coming to theaters soon in early 2018, and while we've interviewed some of the starts of the film such as Bryshere Gray, Kevin Quinn, and Mehki Phifer, this article will take a look at the behind the scenes crew that got the film to screenwriters, executive producers, and director of photography.

Jon Knitter - Co-Writer



What’s it like to write scripts with a team of people rather than solo?

Jon Knitter: In film, you’re really always writing as a team - even if you have solo credit on the script - because the end product is not a script, it’s a movie. Everyone who touches the movie has a hand in guiding the audience along the story. The actors, costume designers, and sound mixers all have authorship. It’s an obvious thing to say, but an important note for any writer looking to film as their medium. All screenwriters must be collaborative.

As to the process of creating 120 pages alone vs. with friends: Which method I prefer depends entirely on the story. I wrote a script about a job I had, and for that, I only needed my own experience to get to the last page. The subject of “Canal Street” is different. “Canal Street,” being about people from different communities learning to live together, necessitated multiple viewpoints from its inception. Of all the characters in the film, my background is most like Brian’s. I think that’s where I personally had the most to offer our script.

How do you handle disagreements between the writing team?

JK: We’ve all worked with each other for 15 years or so, and so our sensibilities are pretty much aligned. I don’t remember any major disagreements. I think they all got worked out through reason and conversation. It also probably helped to have an odd number of people on the team. We never had a deliberate “vote.” We talked and conceded when the other two writers had a better idea.

How hard was it to get the film done?

JK: Writing any script is hard. Writing a good one is harder. Writing one that takes in a hot-button issue is hard in a different way. With “Canal Street,” we tried to capture the real conversations on race that people are having today, and we tried to capture them from multiple viewpoints. How well we did, I’ll let the audience decide.



Kevin Mullens - Executive Producer



What are some of your personal goals when you come on as producer for a film?

Kevin Mullens: Goals are just wishful thinking if you don’t have that burning desire and an unshakable will to achieve them. For a lot of people, goals that are born in a moment of inspiration and they typically fade away quickly at the 1st sign of adversity. My goal to be an Executive Producer was born out of the heart. I'm an entrepreneur and natural storyteller so I knew my role from day one would be to cast vision and build a community of believers that were willing to invest their resources in this powerful and significant movie. I wanted to be part of something that was truly disrupting the status quo and creatively providing the type of content that could successfully infiltrate the marketplace and inspire people to stop waiting on a change to happen to them but rather through them.

What do producers do for films that most people wouldn’t think?

KM: On an independent film maybe the right question is, Is there anything producers don't do? Maybe every movie has a different idea or role for their producers but my responsibility is to above all make sure we have the capital to keep filming. I also made sure I spent quality time with our talent, crew, and investors to show gratitude. Taking the load off our Director/Writer Rhyan Lamarr in any way possible so he could stay creative and stress-free. Ultimately one might not know the tireless hours you spend in meetings and calls to lock down the necessary revenue to bring your film to completion. I'm blessed to work with a diverse and colorful band of visionaries that are all willing to step into whatever role is needed so for me Executive Producer is applicable to anyone doing whatever it takes to make sure the job gets done.

“Canal Street” is part of a new wave of cinema that some say will be too edgy but very needed in the faith genre.

KM: We are all inclined to join a tribe that shares and supports our views while deleting or avoiding the things we don't like or understand. The progressive nature of the church has provided tremendous diversity which offers everyone a family to belong to. This powerful transformation provides everyone a genuine experience of hope. The church has never been a "One size fits All." Rather it's a pastor in a 3 piece suit or wearing jeans and an untucked shirt. From your grandmother's hymnals to contemporary worship. The world is full of innovative leaders and ministers that care enough to connect with us on the level we live.

As the world slaps labels on people and categorizes music it becomes more difficult to reach anyone not associated with your label. Whether it's denominational bylaws that brand God as their own or music genres that define music for you. We have been forced to choose. But musical artists today have broken through barriers and set a new standard. Faith driven artists today are selling out coliseums and are experiencing unprecedented success. Their music is challenging people and their faith but us doing so outside of the church. These marketplace missionaries are true agents of change and provide people who are avoiding church, an avenue to know God on a deeper level.

This blueprint has inspired us to create content that has the ability to reach the marketplace and make a difference. Our collective group of spirit filled entrepreneurs, creative minds and ministry have used their talents to become successful influencers outside of the church. Faith driven entertainment has, for the most part, all been placed in one box, therefore, it rarely has the opportunity for its message to be heard outside of Evangelicals that faithfully support most of these movies. Fast forward to today and you'll find a group of millennials that have their own language, style, and taste. And although the musical artist has met their needs we become aware that nothing was being provided in cinema. So instead of following a map, we decided to create our own map. We started with a socially relevant script that wasn't afraid to discuss current issues…At the end of the day, we are prayerful that as you watch “Canal Street” with your family and friends that you'll decide to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.

How hard was it to get the film done?

KM: “Canal Street” was never just a good idea; it was a God idea. We knew going into filming that we would face overwhelming obstacles. Two days prior to shooting our lead role got a call of a lifetime to be featured in a very successful television show so we got together and prayed and knew that somehow we'd rise triumphant. God has shown up and showed out everyday mightily on our behalf. My team is a group that leads to their actions. We know that faith without works is dead so although we prayed daily for another miracle, we also put forth the actions necessary to materialize our needs. Halfway through filming, we literally almost got shut down as some of our promised resources didn't come through. Adversity is unavoidable and it's also the birthplace of supernatural promotions…If you prepare for the valleys then you'll be guaranteed a mountaintop experience.

Can you explain the art of financing and how to raise finance through your influence?

KM: There is definitely an art to raising capital. I'm not sure one way is better than others but in an indie faith driven film it's necessary to have associates that believe in you and also have a similar passion. As an entrepreneur, I leaned on family, friends and business colleagues. It's valuable that your team be highly effective at leveraging your script into actual investments. Not everyone can be writers and directors. You need people who are willing to go the extra mile. You need influencers or people who are a bridge to influencers. You must build a team who not only say they believe in your vision but are also willing to write a personal check when your back’s against the wall. You must be diligent in following up with potential investors and provide them the content that makes them comfortable enough to take the risks. Our team had the most impressive Look Book I'd ever seen. It was a powerful imagery of our actors and their relevance, our producers, and their bio. We provided an investment deck with multiple scenarios that were easy to follow. We also shared our strategy in how we'd create an organic movement through our team's influence and different skills. Pitching our movie was easy but having this Look Book to give potential investors was helpful in connecting the visual with the verbal. I think we often remain stuck because we are unwilling to just ask for help. I made sure that even when someone believed in our project but couldn't invest to ask them if they knew someone capable of investing….Lastly, you must be creative! Whether is fundraising, Kickstarter or product placement. Be so creative that you become too attractive for anyone to say no.



Bishop Eric D. Garnes aka Dr. G - Executive Producer

What does a film need to showcase to you, to invest your time and money into being a producer?

Eric Garnes: A film needs to capture my attention with identification. I like to see myself in the film and the real world we exist in. It has to have a message I can wrap my thoughts around that leads to an intellectual conversation when the film is over. It is my intent to always ignite conversation for a positive change.

Can you explain the difference between a producer, executive producer, and consulting producer? With so many roles, how does one voice come about?

EG: It first important to know there are various positions or types of producers. A general idea of a producer is the person who supervises and controls the administrative, financial, and commercial aspects of staging the film or performance creating and distributing a video or audio recording. Their work could be detailed in organization and logistics. Producers are very hands-on with production. The executive producer is primarily responsible for raising the financial needs and sponsorship of the film – the monies. An executive producer is someone who has either personally funded or arranged the funding for a motion picture. Executives typically see the film, show, or album as in investment, and most of their actions and decisions are driven by the desire to protect it and ensure its profitability. Our consulting producer is known to often assist writers and producers regarding specific areas of concern that is likely to coincide with their experience. This person comes to the table with a specific expertise in a particular area and is hired for the purpose of that specific need.

It is very important that the lines of demarcation are clearly defined in this crisscrossing field and yet know where they begin and where they end. One voice comes about via the Creative Director of our film staff who can and is seen as the main leader.

Can you explain the art of financing and how to raise finance through your influence?

EG: As it is written in scripture, “money answers all things.” Thus, when you are an executive producer you should be ready to invest some of your own monies to assure the launch, however, raising monies is best obtained with persons who have experienced you producing profits in the past. These persons usually trust your instinct since you have a track record in productivity. Educating the investor that this is a long journey before profit and it’s a risk with no guarantee is imperative. We found it was very important to keep the lines of communication open and crystal clear. Investors appreciate this avenue to raising finances. Our influence is paved with integrity and clarity.



Nick Puetz - Director of Photography



As someone in charge of many of the technical and artistic aspects of what we see on screen, what sort of responsibility do you feel toward creating masterful frames?

Nick Puetz: Creating and controlling what is going on in the frame is a big responsibility, perhaps the most important part of my job. But it comes with a steady balance of preparation, management, and Zen. If I really want to achieve what we set ourselves up for in prep, my responsibilities become split in two:

1. Maintaining synergy with my team and those around me. 2. overseeing the creative and technical applications to achieve our proper look and feel. When both of these align you get to see the hard work play out on the screen.

How does your relationship with the director play out for shots, and is most of the job you interpreting their vision or do you have a vision as well?

NP: I greatly value the director/DP relationship. This is an interesting thing because every artist has a unique process. On “Canal Street,” Rhyan and I connected our vision with references, talks about camera dynamic, mood, and lighting. We started by breaking down scenes individually which led to the shot listing, location scouting and storyboarding. Rhyan gave me his initial shot list and said “make this thing yours,” so for two weeks I studied the scenes and adapted certain storytelling characteristics for camera and lighting. In the end, in indie filmmaking, there is a lot of give and take with creative direction. When time is tight and decisions are made on the fly, trust is the only important factor.

What was the process behind the camera to get the film to the screen?

NP: After absorbing the script and gaining a clear understanding of the project I spent a few weeks thinking about the scenes, especially the more complex ones. Eventually, this translated into technical thinking/strategies for storytelling with camera and lighting. From this point, I was able to prep my department heads. First, I like to explain a clear vision of the film from the stories perspective, then get into the technical application. This allows my team to use their creative juices and start prepping for their specific needs. On “Canal Street” we brought together Pink Hippo’s Alexa Mini camera packages and a five-ton G/E truck package from 2nd Cine. Together, we had all the tools we could manage for the size of our team and this allowed us to accomplish some really cool stuff.

Can you describe Chicago filmmaking and the wave of projects coming out of Chicago?

NP: There is a tight-knit group of young filmmakers in Chicago. Most of us are still working hard to get into more creative positions. The studio in town, Cinespace Chicago, is giving the city more leverage to produce independent films. There is also the support from the film office, rewarding a 30% tax incentive if you produce your film in Illinois. On another note, it’s nothing like Los Angeles, or other warm climate production hubs. The seasons are harsh and things can change quickly. Filmmaking in Chicago is something you have to be mentally and physically prepared for. Not for the fainthearted.



About the Author
Justin Sarachik has been writing about music since 2010 reporting and editing for The Christian Post, BREATHEcast, Broken Records Magazine, and his own blog TheSIBandGuy. When not conducting obscenely long phone interviews he jumps around on stage with his progressive rock/rap band Process of Fusion in Staten Island, NY.

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