Make your own free website on Tripod.com








Inakamichi: Visions - Official Movie Website

Production Journal














Home | View the Film | Screenshots | Production Journal | Contact | Summary/Credits





This was once the production journal for "Visions", but is now for other films in production and shooting.
 
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list of links to old entries.
















18 August 2009-
It's official. "toby and jamie and all the aliens that crash-landed in their backyard" is an animated film. Kevin and I ran through some voice recording sessions and all I need is to invite actresses over to record the female parts (and possibly have one of them fill in for Toby). I have no doubt that I'll be filming lots of live-action reference, and I don't intend to deviate too much from the editing/"shooting" style that would have been used originally (the same style as "N", "1/2-Stop Pull" and "Nathan."). A shot list is being written, along with a third draft whose differences are mostly location adjustments.

Tripod is planning on replacing the current Site Builder with their own new software, so this could also influence potential updates.

Currently acting in a short film (a CamelEstonian Production) titled "Painted Blood", which has gone through three shooting days within the past few months. There's a lot going behind the scenes, and you really get an idea of what it's like to shoot with real, 35mm depth-of-field. If you hear "don't move 4 inches outside your mark", read that as 2 inches; many retakes had to be done due to focusing issues, although I didn't find retakes to be a stressful thing since there was always something new to put into the performance.

I've seen preliminary edits and there's no doubt that the results are worth it. If it gets finished, it should be really good. Aside from the amount of money already thrown into this thing, I wouldn't be sticking with the production if it didn't look so reliable.

Kevin's shoot, "Productivity: Interval One", had a couple days of shooting, and I finally got to put the HV30 to good use. Being a fan of fluid framerates, Kevin looked at 24P, 30P and 60i tests and found nothing less than 60i would satisfy him (although de-interlacing would obviously make it 30fps for internet viewing), along with higher shutter speeds. The plot itself continues the saga of government imposition on creativity, from what I can gather, a "24" take on "Fahrenheit 451", and it's a lot of fun to shoot. We did literally every possible shot without an available actor, and in one case, Kevin decided not to waste a shooting day and wrote an entire scene on Richie's computer, printed it, rehearsed it with Joseph, had him run home to get into costume while Kevin and I did a re-take for sound, and drove to the Oaks to shoot the new material... all in one hour.

There were already two previous shorts in the can, "Spraypaint" and "Interval 0", which were made as class projects but due to complexities involving where the edited files were and operating system differences, they're both being remastered on Premiere which should allow Kevin much greater control and time. He has timestamped workprints and it appears they're already put to use for location scouting on Joseph Payne's zombie sequel, "City of Horror", which I played yet another zombie extra (but also got to rip out intestines).

A note: if you EVER play a zombie, with makeup, don't go straight home. We went to an In-N-Out Burger, which the staff loved. Most of the restaurant patrons thought we were vampires (I had a giant slash on my face, effectively making me the ultimate non-smoking sign). In the words of one of our group, "This is the best way to pick up chicks."

For recent release movies, I'm going for two of them:

1. everything you heard about "District 9" is true. It feels real and runs through its intriguing plot up to a rousing, applause-worthy climax.
2. "Paper Heart", or "oh shit, another Michael Cera movie". It's a quasi-documentary from Charlyne Yi about the one subject she knows nothing about, relationships. With real interviews visualized by Charlyne's paper-made puppet shows ("Team America" would cry) alongside the growing relationship between Charlyne and Michael Cera, both segments are equally lovable and the film is as insightful as it is hilarious and ultimately touching. It's one of the year's best and most underrated movies. See it if it's playing near you.

 

17 June 2009-
Being that I'm soooooo tired of waiting to have a film done, and that casting appears dubious on "toby and jamie", one of many things could happen:

-I could film small sections of the movie with the cast members I have lined up (Jennifer Gonzalez and Kevin Johnson and that's it), just to say I filmed a frame of "toby and jamie" over the summer.
-I could listen to my peer group and go for short projects... like, um, finishing that "ZOMBIS!!!" movie Joseph Payne keeps asking me about. It's not like I don't love what's been shot so far, as I really do. And it's not like I haven't completely lost my marbles a long time ago. And it's not like I'm ever gonna line up fourteen people on standby every shooting day ever again.
-I could bang my head really hard against a wall then OD on some narcotic (preferably cocaine. Who's seen "Traffic"?).
-I could start pre-production work on my second feature, "aidann and michelle", which now has a completed scene list. The film contains giant robots and is Saratoga-based as opposed to "toby and jamie" being Cupertino-based.
-I could bang my head REALLY hard against a wall and wonder why I didn't OD on some narcotic instead.

...or I could say "fuck that shit" and just go animated because the #1 most pain-in-the-ass thing about filming live-action is those damned scheduling conflicts. I've made this threat before, but if I don't see results within a couple weeks, I'll make good on that threat by having every screenplay page's worth of dialogue recorded and maybe have a complete audio track of the film by summer's end.

And with storyboards could make it the latest masterpiece of avant-garde bullshit, perfectly film festival submissible.

(remember back in 2005 when I had agreed this would be a family-friendly journal? i sure don't.)

 

28 May 2009-
A week ago, I went for it and did something that I really should have done a long time ago: clear the crap from the "'Con'science" editing files which up until now made further post-production impossible. It crashed the program a couple times, but afterwards the files ran smoothly.

[a note: never have 16 simultaneous audio tracks and apply EQ effects to the bulk of them. That tends to choke your editing software]

Yes, that means the film's delayed again, but "'Con'science" is, for the first time since September 2007, BACK IN ACTIVE POST-PRODUCTION!

So far, going through the painstaking process of manufacturing ambient tone tracks from production sound and outtakes. Another one of those "I learned it so you don't have to" things: even if you're using your camera's on-board mic, record one minute of clean ambient tone plus the scene with all the non-verbal actions (footsteps, using props, etc.) that you'd normally foley in post.

[unless you like footsteps that sound like people walking on wooden boards. Most movies I've seen, that's the case, but I personally want the real thing]

I actually feel more stupid than ever about this whole delay, since the solution I'm currently employing I used on "The Last Fight Movie in the Universe" three years ago.

*  *  *

It appears I have another lead role, this time in a short film titled "Painted Blood", where I play a misfit high school student who appears to be a school shooter (...shut up). "The Roommate", my previous role, is being submitted to the De Anza Film and Video Show this year, so we'll see how that one goes, but it's weird to go to Coffee Society and see people recognizing me from that movie where I roll my eyes and tell the mirror how much I want to kill the tell-tale heart.

"toby and jamie" is going through continual rewrites, whether or not it warps the structure completely. The latest modifications will need more location work, but it'll be worth it if I can get them.

I've also started outlining a second feature, as of current titled "aidann and michelle and all the supernatural shit caused by her crash-landing via parallel dimensions". Being that I intend the film for a family audience, the title will need to be slightly adjusted.


 

6 May 2009-
I'm testing a theory with my sound recorder. Dialogue should never be written, but dictated, recorded and transcribed. But it's a theory and I'm testing it.

(I can't write like I talk. No bounceboard, and cursing just isn't as much fun with a typewriter)

Talked to a couple of my potential cast members for "toby and jamie", and it looks like I have my leads almost entirely confirmed. Just need to talk to other actors as well as getting someone for the role of Toby (which is an insanely tricky role to cast).

Tried recording some pages of my 72-page script, and found out exactly what I thought: it's too fast. I should have this confirmed with some people, just to see if I'm not too familiar with my material, but given the pacing on films like "Safehouse", "N." and "Nathan", it wouldn't surprise me (never mind that I'm counting on it so that I have a good reason to build it up to feature length).

Time to add some dialogue back. Given that I very much intend for the dialogue to be overlapping (seeing Robert Altman's "Gosford Park" only confirmed it) and fast, adding more dialogue pages shouldn't be too problematic. But we'll see.

 
 

1 May 2009-
Well, it's already May and "toby and jamie" is now past a full 12 months of active screenwriting. There is, indeed, progress; I have finished a second draft of the screenplay which is only 7 pages longer than the first (72pp), but should be at least ten times better. Given the length, I am of course open to adding new scenes, but structure-wise it's complete and I've sent it out to people.

Meaning that "toby and jamie and all the aliens that crash-landed in their backyard" has advanced from writing to active pre-production! I've consulted potential actors, and will probably start shooting as soon as I get enough with good schedules.

Dialogue rewrites are, to me, a must as I generally can't write good dialogue. After spending eight months actively rewriting this thing, though, I'm giving myself a week away from it. Need some time out of that universe before I can go back in and put red ink all over it again.

In this time, I should probably do some camera tests with my Optura 60, particularly with night scenes. I'm 85% sure of the image I want to get (sharp, anamorphic, saturated colors, good black details, yadayadayada).

*  *  *

On "'Con'science": Kevin and Richie have both talked to me about this continually-delayed project. I've made the decision that two years was long enough for me to try and perfect the soundtrack, so I won't. Most people will probably have to look for a difference, especially viewing online, so I'm going to see how much of the audio effects fixes I can make through existing production sound since the foley work is proving to be an editing nightmare.

[audio-wise the editing files are so loaded that my CPU gets clogged up and makes it nearly impossible to work on the film, so the first step is clearing the clutter. The ADR editing was already completed in 2007 when it was recorded]

What I have told Jessica, the director, was that the film's release would be preceded two weeks by a new, actual trailer (instead of the horrible, dialogue-free teaser trailer rushed and released two years ago). In any case and event, "'Con'science" will be released in mid-to-late May 2009.

 

21 April 2009-
First off, two amazing movies you must see:

Adventureland- How many movies can you name that are slow, dry-humored, with a cast of depressed characters on some permanent overdose of valium, and above all, feel like they're never, ever gonna end... and that's exactly why you love it? I know I've seen dozens of movies with just those qualities, except the last part since I couldn't wait to leave, nor could I understand why such garbage could appeal to anyone.

"Adventureland", however, has characters as endearing as they are sad. It comes off to a great start with an adorable break-up scene, ending a relationship of an entire 11 days. It's just as heart-melting as the opening of last year's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (without the nudity), although of the few things both films have in common are Bill Hader in a secondary role, and that they're both equally great.

Give it time, and "Adventureland" might actually be one of the decade's best films. Even with the characters fresh out of high school, it's certainly one of the best high school movies in years, and surprisingly unpredictable at that.

What also keeps it going is an incredibly fragmented structure. This is very much the anti-"Superbad" (as the ads told you, it's from the same director. Typically moronic box office patrons, of course, went to that film in droves and completely ignored this one). While "Superbad" is a fast-talking, foul-mouthed and over-the-top adventure over one night, "Adventureland" takes place over a whole summer, feels just that long, with library voices used and the film made of tons of extremely short vignettes.


Crank: High Voltage- Arguably the most important film for independent filmmakers this year, "Crank: High Voltage" is a test to see how prosumer HDV cameras can look on the big screen.

Aside from a Sony PMW-EX3 for one slow-motion sequence (I won't spoil it for you except to say it's too classic), the Canon XH-A1 was used as a primary camera, accompanied by many more Canon HF10s (the tapeless equivalent to Canon's HV30). Their settings were fast shutter speeds like 1/1000 and 1/2000, neutral color/brightness settings except for bumped sharpness, and of course, shot in 24P. It was shot in mostly available light with the look generated almost entirely in camera (HDV, like MiniDV, does not have the latitude for extreme post-production adjustments), and while those with careful eyes can see some "rolling shutter" artifacts from the HF10s, compression artifacts are virtually invisible and the entire film has a lovely grainy texture.

The reason I mention this information is that of the DV films I've seen on the big-screen over the years, "Crank: High Voltage" is easily the best-looking film shot with prosumer camcorders. The only negative I can name is that the fast shutters can be nauseating, along with visible edge-enhancement artifacts, but most people will definitely not be able to tell something being odd about the image quality except the filmmakers' liberal use of special effects. (needless to say, the few HDV films I have seen on the big screen, "Once" and the criminally overrated "In Search of a Midnight Kiss", don't compare to the sharpness and color quality of "Crank" and very evidently show their DV roots)

Of course, "Crank" avoided night scenes and extreme low-light settings like the plague (although the first one, shot with professional HD equipment, did so as well), which could have changed things in terms of compression.

The film itself: if you saw the first one and loved it, you will love this sequel just the same. Every time it feels like it's gonna run out of ideas (which is quite often. Chev's escape scene has more energy and creativity than most action flicks in the last 10 years), it comes back with something else that's new and cool. It maintains this momentum consistently for 83 minutes, which turn out to be some of the most exhausting you'll ever spend due to the aforementioned high energy, but also because most of this ADD-proud flick is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Me, I was actually crying from laughing so hard, and in some parts, I couldn't even sit up straight.

Needless to say, this isn't for those who object to video game violence, foul language, cutaway gags, subtitles, pixellated public sex scenes, gratuitous nudity, lots of gross-out imagery, and the medically-improbable premise that a man could fall out of a helicopter and live due to his super-awesome heart (for those complaining about that premise, the climax has an aquatic element that's a big middle finger to you).

*  *  *

In the F/TV 58 production workshop with a focus on high definition, I got to investigate the Canon HV30 and see how it compared to the popular Panasonic DVX100. Tested side-by-side on an HD player, the upconverted DVX (standard-def) actually looked sharper than the HV30 footage. The DVX footage did have artifacts resulting from the upconversion, and I turned the HV30's sharpness control to "minus" due to my dislike of edge-enhancement halos (which the DVX footage had), but also the color turned to "plus" (another aesthetic preference; I prefer Canon's color quality above everyone else's, and I want my color films with a little saturation).

Also tested every framerate and shutter speed within reach. That's to say, 24P (1/24, 1/48, 1/60 and 1/100), 60I (1/60 and 1/100), and the rarely-used 30P (1/30, 1/60 and 1/100).

For 24P, the 1/24 and even the 1/48 speeds produced too much motion blur and gave that "video look" most filmmakers want to avoid, while 1/60 is just perfect. Same applies to 30P, a framerate avoided in cinema but used frequently in sitcoms (I personally believe 30fps is the closest framerate to human vision, but everyone sees differently in that regard). Obviously with 60I you're never going to avoid the "video look" due to the extremely high framerate; shooting "open shutter" at 1/60 is still the best way to go. When you deinterlace to 30P for internet release, higher speeds will look nauseating.

[if I had known about manual shutter speeds while shooting "Visions", I would have done those movie-within-a-movie sections at 1/60 instead of the 1/100 the auto-shutter was probably doing, which would have made the shakycam easier to watch]

I've long promised that "toby and jamie" would be a 100% standard-def anamorphic MiniDV film, but anything else I shoot is probably going to be HV30 stuff, including a short script "Gabbie's Story" that I wrote a while back and is being considered by classmates.

 
 

25 March 2009-
Kevin, yesterday, showed me a short film of his that blew away his F/TV 20 (intro to film) class, including the instructor. I was present for the first 30 minutes of the shoot until I gave the next cameraperson, Joseph Payne, a primer on adjusting exposure and focus on the HV30. The flick is part of Kevin's "Productivity" project that he's had conceived for almost three years now, and this is the second short he's done for it (I haven't seen the first, which I loaned my camera equipment for to ensure everyone would be there when I needed to shoot "Nathan." the next day).

Simply put, I understand the reaction. Kevin is wary about the standard-definition downconversion Final Cut Pro gave him, and I'd be more than happy to have the film released online so next week we'll probably be working on re-conforming it on Premiere Pro and giving it a proper HD master.

This quarter's film editing class has come to a close, and I think it's the best production class I've ever been in; I also haven't been more pleased with work that I've turned in, and this is the first time I was able to turn in every project, without much hassle, either. I might put my montage exercise (edited from "Whisper of the Heart", with a PSA message) and the final project I completed 24 hours ago, a drama trailer for "Hot Rod". For both of those, the instructor, Zaki Lisha, asked how I was able to craft the amount of character I did in these edits, but I was only able to do as much as the respective movies gave me (which was a lot).

[I know I've plugged it every chance I get outside this journal, but inside this journal I'll take another opportunity to plug "Hot Rod", which is really so much more than an SNL flick. It's a smart genre parody of virtually everything we've seen in the movies for the last 20 years (filled to the brim with stupid and really weird humor, of course), but it's good-spirited to the point where you do genuinely love the characters and sometimes its sentiment as genuine. Oh, and did I mention it has someone falling down a mountain for 3 minutes AND an inspirational montage that somehow becomes a musical number?]

I'm annotating the current draft of "toby and jamie" and it's easier now than ever to find (and delete) extraneous crap left and right. Not counting the prologue I've inserted, I'm a bit troubled that my first 9 pages have become 11, just by different formatting.

Aniket, back for spring break, has at my request checked to see where the raw files for "Leviathan" went (we've been talking about this re-release ever since "Visions" came out). The answer is that he doesn't know, but after taping over one scene of "Code of 'Con'duct", he's sure that the original MiniDV tapes for this project weren't erased.

He's also introduced to me an anime series unique in the sense that it was theatrically-released, and recently (in less than two years there's been six movies. Okay, so they're all one hour long except for one feature thus far). I've always loved that Japan's film industry allows for semi-feature, and this particular series, "Kara no Kyoukai", is in a word, engrossing.

There's also this wonderful opening sequence which I loved if only for the fact that it matched what I go for in my ambiguous approach to writing dialogue (it's not anything about the strawberry ice cream you see in the subtitles, but the underlying subtext). It's also very fragmented and encourages you to pay strict attention, running very much like a puzzle. Unlike "Mulholland Drive" and "INLAND EMPIRE", it's actually very accessible and fun.

[for people who geek out on nonlinear storytelling, the title is "Kara no Kyoukai". Go to the nearest otaku for more information.]

Need to make more 1:1-scale aliens. Damn Michael's only has terracotta colored clay and not the white (I paint it over with acrylic anyway, but still). I'm contemplating making them bigger.


 

21 March 2009-
It's been brought to my attention that a 25 September 2008 entry has me misquoting screenwriting professor Barak Goldman, which I was told made the implication that he was a hypocrite. If that's what it came out to be, then it was definitely a severe misquote.
 
* * *
 
Today at De Anza we had a 1/2-unit class that many of my screenwriting classmates signed up for. This was unique in the sense that it was a class up to having a final exam of sorts, but was a one-day affair and a visit from professional screenwriter Brian Larsen. Of the visits we've had, this is easily the best one and ranks above even the amazing one from Robert Dalva from a few weeks ago (which was so engrossing that, in its 3-and-a-half hours, a planned intermission didn't even happen).
 
Hopefully, future De Anza students may be fortunate enough to have Larsen come back for more visits.
 
Perhaps the best part about it is the one thing that isn't there: virtually no talk about the difficulty in getting into the industry. 75% of this session was simply Larsen dissecting "Star Wars" as a 3-act structure of its own, from the trilogy as a whole, to individual scenes (and on that whole "industry" thing, there's that fantastic Han Solo quote, "Never tell me the odds"). He even satisfied a long-held(-secret) curiosity of mine of where the 3-act structure and its points apply to nonlinear movies like "Pulp Fiction" and "Hero".
 
By the end of the day I was practically overloaded with information, much of which will probably be useful in next quarter's Screenwriting 64A (from my understanding, a special focus on the entire first act of a feature screenplay).
 
Last night, went for further VHS shopping and decided to get "Panic Room", a film I hadn't seen since it came out, but now was curious to see again due to my newfound fascination with dark, dark cinematography, and also to see if I liked it as much now as I did when I was 13.
 
This is one where I think fond memories definitely helped the experience; I still remembered that incredibly badass moment where Jodie Foster sticks the lighter in the vent ("The 1-Hour Turning Point"), and rare for me now, I was applauding it. Same goes for another great bit in the climax. I think it's less about the bad guys being truly evil, than they were just incredibly stupid and having such wonderful protagonists (and it's a great movie for sadistic, rebellious 13-year-olds).
 
The short review: Eat that, "Funny Games"!
 
Also dug out that 3-disc set of "Titanic" I bought when it came out, and for once, I watched it for the extra content rather than the audio-visual quality I was originally geeking out on (three letters: DTS). If you want to make films, there is no reason you should not be checking out this set; James Cameron's commentary plus a mode where the movie intercuts with behind-the-scenes footage gives almost too much information. Even if all the other extras were pure garbage, this is a great set just for the comprehensive annotation.
 
My favorite: literally every time they dissected a special effects shot, and just how many little chunks go into a simple crane shot. (Cameron has an amusing little anecdote about how the studio didn't want to spend any more money on sets, so for a First Class lobby, he put the scenes on greenscreen, with miniature models for backgrounds. Ironically, this effects work cost more than building an actual set, but as he says, "a promise is a promise")
 
On the flipside of the coin, I'm continuing Netflixing 50's B-movies. I've encountered the first, true stinker of the bunch, a low-budget (what else?) British snoozer titled "The Giant Behemoth". This turkey takes forever to show the title beast, and when you do see it, it's obvious why. Surrounded by a very uninteresting set of human characters and jumping constantly from place-to-place (you have no idea what the movie itself is interested in), when it shows the beast it isn't good.
 
Submerge a Godzilla action figure in a bathtub, and bob it up and down very slowly. That's exactly what it looks like. The movie advertises itself as having work from one of the effects guys behind "King Kong", and it's a shame this was his last film. There's a total of one shot of the monster actually animated, and it's (crappily) zoomed into and repeated dozens of times, but even the stop-motion creature is a joke. It's a stuffed animal with metallic joints and scales painted on.
 
There's maybe three good pinches of sarcastic humor and an amusing (but overlong) opening lecture that will bring reminders of "Reefer Madness". Otherwise, it's not even cheesy fun; laughing at its nonexistant production values becomes so sad it almost becomes cynical. It would have made Mike and the Bots cry.
 
I don't care what your filmmaking experience is: YOU can make a better movie than "The Giant Behemoth" (which at least was a better movie than "Miami Vice", but I digress).
 
Excuse me while I watch "Citizen Kane", or as iMDb erroneously calls it, "Plan 9 from Outer Space".

 
 

16 March 2009-
This production journal may see less updates. I just discovered (if you can believe) a wonderful little website called Twitter, which I can update via texting. All in a short, concise 140-character post, it's the awesomeness of Facebook status updates in blog form. There's little I appreciate about the chaos and negative social effects of the Web 2.0 era; Twitter is arguably the best thing about it.

http://twitter.com/DeadMooseInc

Like the screenname implies, the focus is on film stuff rather than strictly personal entries.

In the last month:

-Got a free pass to San Jose Cinequest Film Festival, and saw eleven films (one of them twice). Favorites include "Two Million Stupid Women" (think foul-mouthed "Legally Blonde", with a bizarre road movie concept. I'll be plugging the crap out of this thing if it gets distributed), "Get Brunette" (crazy Russian flick that runs like a live-action "FLCL". Similarly hilarious but also sweet), and their special screening of D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" which was, in a word, incredible.

-There was a Day of the Writer (now called "World of the Writer") event on the festival's second Friday, where UCLA professors and industry guests (moderated by my screenwriting teacher Barak Goldman) got to share their insights and facts about screenwriting. Most of this was information I've already heard before, but it was very nice to hear it fortified, and even elaborated upon.

-The Macs at De Anza College destroyed my "toby and jamie" rewrites. The script up to that point was 83 pages and only required one more scene to be inserted, so I lost 16 pages of screenplay and the last six weeks of work. I remember the contents and am very thankful for writing most of the stuff down by hand in composition books. I'm pretty much done with Apple forever (unless Mac Insurance is invented and someone's willing to pay it); never gonna leave anything important to me in their hands. Windows may crash but at least it doesn't turn my scripts into 0-byte files.

-During some of the lectures I therefore salvaged my rewrites on my giant stash of store receipts. By the end of the day I had five scenes written in outline form and was well on the way of printing a full dialogue (which was better than what I had in typed form earlier, but I'm still never going back to Apple).

-Special guest was Diablo Cody, to receive the Maverick Spirit Award. As anyone there will tell you, the host was a UCLA professor and was pompous, presumably drunk, and frequently emphasized himself and his accomplishments (20-year veteran vs. ex-stripper whose first screenplay grossed over $100 million and won an Oscar. You could do a remake of "Slumdog Millionaire" with these two). Audience was constantly shouting him down. One of my De Anza classmates, around a full table, felt this was a conspiracy to bring down a successful woman in the industry. Five minutes more, she could have convinced all of us that he was the devil incarnate.

-In the crowded theater, the last seat left in my row happened to be occupied by Steve Rhodes, a local film critic whose reviews I frequently use as a model for my own (go to iMDB and look at his review for "True Crime" (1999), and tell me that isn't one of the best reviews you've ever read). So I couldn't join the audience in shouting down the terrible MC, although he was clearly getting a kick out of their reactions.

-Diablo Cody revealed she uses Twitter. After doing a little research on "what Twitter is", I registered for one.

-Auditioned for the role of an obsessive compulsive turned murderer for a final project. I got the role and shot it over the weekend. The film is called "The Roommate", which I presume is under the same AJW Productions banner I've been crewing for (I acted in a previous role for a chase scene as a foul-mouthed, sexually-frustrated screenwriter). I can't really watch myself on-screen, but this is definitely a much stronger script than their previous films and maybe I'll be able to fairly evaluate the final project without cringing too much at myself.

-And yes, since they evidently were NOT going to nominate "WALL-E" for Best Picture, I am very, very happy with "Slumdog Millionaire" and its gigantic victory at the Oscars. I still had tons of problems with this year's show and some of the awards (how could "WALL-E" not win Best Sound Editing, Mickey Rourke and Melissa Leo should have won, and don't get me started on Best Costume Design being the 3rd Annual Renaissance Faire Award), but I can't name a single award "Slumdog" won that any of its competitors should have.
 
 
 

21 February 2009-
Going through a bit of troubled last-minute considerations. This goes for Draft Zero of "toby and jamie", with not a single page of screenplay written, and all outline. I had to go revise it because it would have amounted to a 45-minute movie, but I always loved the ending (which I can't use for the current draft because of the differing plot and characterization). So I looked at it again.

The concept I had for this film 10 months ago is only too different from what I have now. So I could very well do a second version in the near-future, but only if I can find a different enough way to make it (and having made a few more features... and a budget). The original outline is closer to the B-movie trappings I had intended to put the film in, but the new one has the character and plot development I wanted.

I do wonder how many films had their directors wishing they could have made the "other version".

20 February 2009-
I've finally seen all five of last year's Best Picture nominees. There was a clear, big gap between "Slumdog Millionaire" and the rest of the films; the fifth, and most surprising nominee, "The Reader", covers it.
 
Although rushed for Oscar consideration, it's a compelling, engrossing and moving film throughout, and every point where it feels like it's about to run out of steam, it finds some new way to mesmerize us. Kate Winslet deserves her acclaim for her performance (and the Academy focused their attention on the right film, almost completely ignoring the lurid, reprehensible "Revolutionary Road"), and despite a few sections that could have used tightening, there is no doubt that the film owes everything to its story.
 
[I must say, also, that the back-and-forth structure is also to the benefit of the film. Although I think the gimmick of starting the film 80 minutes in as a cliffhanger (only to rewind to the start afterwards) is a modern fad that filmmakers will grow tired of (I've always been tired of it despite it mostly being in films I really liked), I am a huge fan of the fragmented, cross-chronological nature of films like "W.", "Choke", and this film "The Reader". Today, they're called "messy", but I'm optimistic that it will be tomorrow's storytelling possibility]
 
I may have seen the film too late to plausibly make a recommendation, but I'll do so anyways. Certainly one of last year's most underrated films, it's one of the few that deserves its Oscar attention.
 
*  *  *
Finished the chase scene on Sunday after exhaustive work inside the parking garage, where the scene was rewritten in light of the heavy rain that we'd been getting.
 
Fun with elevator action at the Flint Center. Too bad we had to pick the center elevator for our inital shots; the (thankfully) empty garage turned out to have a quirky system. We could certainly press the button, but we'd never know which elevator we'd get. Most likely, it would not be the center one, which defaulted to the third floor and stayed there (even as our director sent the other two lifts way, way up).
 
There was also a fight without choreography. Probably because we were going it for real. Hopefully it edits well.
 
"toby and jamie" has passed the 70-page mark, having completed the end of second act and onwards. Just need to write out the in-between point, a new replacement sequence for the 35-40 page point, and insert the prologue. Might not reach my desired 80 page minimum, but it's out of the "60"s" so I'm happy.

 

14 February 2009-
Got the Optura 60 back from repairs, and it looks like everything is as it should be. Should do some double-checking, but the built-in mic works again and they did claim to replace the AV/Phones output.

Did more chase scene work yesterday and will have to perform in the rest of it on Sunday. All the running work is exhilarating and I was shocked that I didn't die of exhaustion (or come close to it) on-set. But (and this is a big but, as my co-star and slate operator also agree on) there needs to be reasonable break time for everybody. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever go more than four hours without even a small break.

And a couple years ago I made no secret about how the only two truly obscene words on-set are "good enough". I learned four more: "just one more shot." As much as your actors want to know what time they can rest up, the worst thing you can do is underestimate.

Otherwise, it was tons of fun pretending to be almost hit by a car, as well as trying to outrun a camera truck for a dolly shot. Tomorrow's shoot, there's supposedly less running, and the actress that my character writes in.

The De Anza Academy of Independent Filmmakers (DAAIF) had another meeting on Thursday, with it being spent primarily on actors presenting themselves. I believe I've found my four main characters for "toby and jamie", but still have to consult two of the actors, along with finding actors to play the antagonists (one of them is particularly tricky to cast since what I'm looking for is probably still at Monta Vista).

Casting is all dependent on availability, since the auditions were effectively inside the meeting. It's no use having a good actor who can't make it to the shoot anyways, but I've never really had a film with performances I was completely unhappy with (and in that event, would be for one of two reasons: I didn't direct them right, or the actor in question was me).

Hiepsom, the one person in the meeting a few weeks ago who said he could devise rigs for the aliens, bumped into me as I was talking to one of the actors (who then realized I was considering him for the same project back when I was only asking for effects guys). He sounded extremely excited about the stuff he had in mind, but a lot of it required detail. Once this shoot gets underway I'll definitely have to arrange an effects meeting, with the number-one principle that the rigs should aid the actors and be adjustable to the needs of the shoot.

[looks like I'll have to make some animatics]


11 February 2009-
Yesterday, De Anza College got a visit by one of Francis Ford Coppola's buddies, editor Robert Dalva. His claim to fame was his Oscar-nominated work on "The Black Stallion" (and subsequent director of "The Black Stallion Returns"), but he's also edited such projects as "Hidalgo", "Jurassic Park III" and "October Sky".

Of the visitors we've received, it was nice to see one who talked primarily about production rather than the odds of getting into the industry. He would go on for four straight hours with anecdotes about production (when you asked this man a question, you didn't just get an answer. You got a 20-minute story), occasionally show us clips of his work-- "The Black Stallion" was obvious, especially in how it was turned from a 5-and-a-half hour cut with so much footage shot, but my favorite was the clip we saw from "Jurassic Park III" when he elaborated on how there was a little piece shot on location, most of it in studio, and when a dino was CGI and when it was animatronic.

[so I did get my half-question answered in regards to if for the 2001 threequel they went by Spielberg's original effects ethic]

I wanted to know how much of the effects shots had the edit already decided, or if he was free to edit the footage which ILM would then turn over to the final print (my second question, which I didn't get to ask, was in regards to the actors having a cue for the dinosaurs in wide shots, but his detail on the practical effects was more than enough). The response was that the editor did effectively have his freedom, especially as the CGI is first handed in very rough form and only refined to its expensive form once it's approved.

This session lasted four hours. Straight. Every plan for a break was quickly cancelled as there was a new question to answer, and a new story. The final questions, after having avoided any sort of the talk for the first three-and-a-half hours, was Dalva's opinions on film vs. digital (George Lucas is infamously all-digital, and Francis Ford Coppola expressed similar sentiments). Of all the films he cited in regards to indistinguishable intercuts between the two formats, his pick was "Slumdog Millionaire".

Not the pick I would have guessed, since the digital cameras used were not winners in image quality (SI-2K), but had a lovable rough quality to it and for guerilla filmmakers, probably the dream camera. But he explained that, since everyone knows 40% of the film was shot in 35mm film, he challenged anyone to be able to tell which shots were digital and which were film.

*  *  *

My camera seems to be getting love. From the person who directed me last Friday (and whose set I will be on this Friday as well), I saw three different edits of a project I script-supervised in November titled "Only Once"; my overall suggestion was "lose the dissolves", but each of those edits had something worth taking.

When he saw the script I was typing up for "toby and jamie", it caught his curiosity that I was indeed writing a feature and was intending to shoot it within the next several months.

What raised alarms was when I said I wouldn't be using a DP on my set.

-"Crew-wise, I definitely need someone to operate the sound recorder and boom."
"But you at least need a gaffer, and grips."

This discussion went on for five minutes, and only got more interesting when I mentioned that I wouldn't need a gaffer or grips, let alone a DP, because I wouldn't be doing any lighting setups. On his sets, they've had the luxury of a professional cinematographer they befriended (excellent images, too, if I could only remember his full name), so a good half of the time was spent moving around lights and other equipment. When I had to act on Friday in one of these (luckily they used the same setup for all the scenes), I was surprised at how I could still see-- very unlike the studio work in my lighting classes, and I believe the 16mm project from last year, where the light was unbearably bright (the tradeoff for great, glossy pictures. Go under one of these set lights and you'll appreciate why professional actors get paid so much).

So when I informed him that I would be shooting with available light like I always have, even for interiors and night scenes, the understandable reaction was that I was completely nuts.

I then pulled up "Nathan.", and immediately he was asking me what camera I shot it with because he thought the image quality was remarkably good. None other than the Canon Optura 60 I should be getting back from repairs. The color quality of this camera, I can say four years later, is excellent, and I've always loved its distinct noise texture (in the first months of having the camera I was upset that the grain I was seeing on the LCD screen wasn't present in the finished video, until I realized it was all there).

My conclusion was that I shot "Nathan." in less than seven total hours, no lighting setups, and that's how I would shoot "toby and jamie". I guess we'll find out if I can get away with it for a feature as opposed to a short.

[that and on my own films I've only ever shot one night scene. For "Visions", that one muddy exterior shot of Terrence's house. Aniket and I would discover on shooting "Checkmate" with indecipherable footage at 10PM that the Optura 60 is a shitty low-light camera. Which is kind of funny because Canon's HV30, even with the MPEG-2 compression, turns up great night footage (yes, at standard 1/60 shutter speed)]

And given that I was going to do a feature, he insisted on being producer. Which is great since I'm gonna need all the help I can get.

Casting-wise, I have actors in mind for at least two of the roles (still need to contact both in that regard), and my house will be used as a vital location just so I'll have one less location to worry about... and I just wrote one of its features into the script so now I gotta.

 

7 February 2009-
Okay, that phase has ended. Just needed some sort of vacation away from writing films, period, instead of what I thought was supposed to just be a vacation away from this project. I celebrated it by giving a much needed viewing to "The Day the Earth Stood Still", a film that I was reluctant to see while writing "toby and jamie" as what I wanted out of the aliens was vaguely similar (visitors rather than destroyers, but I didn't want mine to talk or be there to deliver a message (since that's been done plenty of times) but simply Macguffins for the plot and more specifically, a vehicle for character development).

Simply put, the 1951 Robert Wise film is one of the best movies ever made, and I think its being referred to simply as a sci-fi classic or a great message movie just vastly underrates the film. It may not have the same aesthetic brilliance, but it deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca". It's a celebration of intelligence throughout, and even proposes the challenge of warning and teaching mankind without employing violence (just the kind of film my parents would love me to make. Writing a G-rated movie takes a lot of talent, which is why there's so few of them... and even fewer that work).

The first hour of the film is a good-spirited, good-humored piece of exploration on the part of the alien Klaatu, but the second has a vastly overlooked suspense component that works wonderfully, and taking into account Wise's restrained, non-manipulative direction, a later part in the movie packs quite the emotional punch. It's not a simple sci-fi movie (and appropriate to the film's nature, special effects scenes are very, very rare). It's a great movie, period, and anyone who loves movies should have this on their must-see list.

On another note, yesterday I was pulled into an acting role (as a sexually-frustrated screenwriter with writer's block. Go figure). This is with a crew I've been a script supervisor for in the past couple months, as apparently my participation in a theatre class was audition enough. It was fun to do and apparently I'm up for being auditioned for their final project into the role of... a serial killer.

(could be worse. O.J. Simpson was rejected for the role of the Terminator because James Cameron didn't think such a nice guy would be believable as a ruthless murderer.)

I think I can safely announce "toby and jamie" as being in active production, just time to recruit actors, locations, and people to operate the sound machine.

 

4 February 2009-
There's an odd sense of calm that has dawned. As I jotted down my revised climax and typed up screenplay pages for the new ending, and the finishing "___FIN", it seems like a long, torturous writing process has come to a close.

I can finally start focusing on putting this to script pages after months worth of planning. Given what I currently have, it's going to be at least five times more the film I wanted than the first draft of "toby and jamie".

In this strange calm my mind is set on writing on a different project altogether. As soon as I can find something that similarly strikes a chord.

Next step is to write a new treatment for the whole thing so I can do an effective pitch to prospective actors. And, I don't know, write the trailer?

2 February 2009-
Now in editing class, I'm realizing now more than ever the importance of shooting nonverbal cutaways. Will keep that in mind next film.

Sent the Optura 60 in for repairs as I want the thing fine-tuned before the warranty expires (four years!), and also so it's in top form when I start shooting "toby and jamie", which will use primarily that, and the HV30 for select scenes.

The Oscars are out, and the nominations leave little to talk about. Of the contenders, I found most of them may have been watchable and even good, with the level of classiness required, but not the greatness that an Oscar implies. So in creating my list of the 10 best films of 2008 (by USA release, theater or not), many of them already came out before awards season, and many of them never could dream of being nominated for a thing.

For the people reading this journal, my Top 10 of 2008:
10. Be Kind Rewind
9. Speed Racer
8. 5 Centimeters Per Second
7. Hamlet 2
6. In Bruges
5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
4. Cloverfield
3. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
2. Slumdog Millionaire
1. WALL-E

 
 

19 December 2008-
Filled up the entire production notebook for "toby and jamie", and thus shall crack open a brand new comp book to continue outlining. I finished this old one off with an unceremonious declaration of "LET'S START THIS F***ER AGAIN FROM SCRATCH", and an entire revised summary was written on 11 pages. Still needs retooling in the last third, but I've thus introduced the new character dynamics and a new way of approaching the love story.

18 December 2008-
After using some free Starbucks gift cards I got from my aunt to do writing (my process is a Mead composition book and a cafe latte), I missed my beloved Coffee Society too much and spent the $3.25. It was then I realized why theirs cost $.60 more than the big empire:

Because their lattes taste better.

Started out on more animation tests, and here's a post that the animation majors I know at De Anza will respond with "NO DUH".

I just discovered that planning out your sequence, drawing the important frames in a movement, THEN drawing the in-betweens is a lot easier than animating it all in sequence. Sort of like how it's easier to shoot movies out-of-sequence, it's easier to animate out-of-sequence. The new flipbook (still needs a few frames inserted) that I just made lacks any of the size continuity problems of all my other forays into animation, including especially "another walk in the park".

The Optura 60 is not going anywhere. After more HD testing, I've concluded that I would use it for select scenes where appropriate; from a data storage and processing standpoint, it's a pain in the rear, especially since the best MPEG-2 encoder I have is the one in that very HDV camera (and I don't see any options for recompression, which is vital for extracting 24P clips. If I were to finish in standard-definition, this wouldn't be a problem). Re-encoding uncompressed is, of course, way out of the question.

Adjusting my approach to writing continually. A viewing of "Australia", a film which I didn't love but thought was fairly decent, made it clearer to me the fixiation I have towards romantic epics. Clarity. (ah)

I don't think I'll be doing the 20-minute character exercise for "toby and jamie" since I'm nearing closer to solving my problems with the Toby character (and from a writing standpoint, was far more trouble than it was worth). My next draft should have more an intensity in it, but it can be made or broken by the quality of the actors. Answering my good friend Grace's question, as rewritten it's darker but with no increase in gory scenes because I prefer that aspect the way it is.

As for a preliminary pilot film, I am writing up a list of all the "trailer moments" for something I haven't ever done before, testing out cameras, frame rates, animation, compositing, and recruitment for the real thing.


 

10 December 2008-
A quick little rant:

My office supply store-- and even the grocery store next to it-- seems to be cheaping out on composition books. I still am in good hands having at least one more blank one, but am I the only one slightly irked at there being no Mead black-marble cover composition books for sale?

Sounds silly, yes, but the texture of paper is that extra security bit when you're writing, and none of that cheap crap compares to quality Mead paper. Okay, I'm just gonna order more from Amazon. And deliberately use up that blank book to write more screenplay just to show em.


5 December 2008-
I pretty much gave in to Black Friday because I honestly didn't know how much more an opportunity a filmmaker would get to buy a camcorder at his local electronics store, that still runs on tape. Since my new 1TB external corrupted one of my editing files, I really don't feel secure about tapeless, and the most reliable storage format within my reach is none other than those MiniDV tapes. So if I were to invest in high-definition, I figured I might as well do so now.

So I'm now the owner of a Canon HV30, and I've been spending the last week testing its 24P mode as well as the limitations of its CMOS sensor ("jello-vision" as it's known). While only the HV30 has a 24P mode, I find myself in the position where I will be using both that camera and my Optura60 + anamorphic lens for quite some time, since there's situations where both can be used. One is more fit for "run-and-gun" shots and the other is better for wide shots, tripod, or just when I want clearer-looking video.

At De Anza College, television writer Felicia D. Henderson (Fringe, Soul Food, Everybody Hates Chris) visited, and I couldn't have gotten more amazing advice from her. Basically, it was that reminder that I needed that in spite of the journey this year I've endured of revising a feature-length script, I really do need to keep writing small things to keep the creativity in shape. Her story was a childhood filled with writing short stories, many of them very, very bloody.

Which is great since I'm still getting stuck at every turn for "toby and jamie". I've written a small film that I hope to shoot over the next few weeks, but also decided to utilize a rejected opening sequence for "toby and jamie" and build upon it a 20-minute movie to help solve one big problem I've been having: getting to know the character of my protagonist, Toby, who in the feature risks blandness in comparison to the supporting characters.

I was on a shoot for AJW Productions, which had a professional cinematographer and lighting setups there. My job was script supervision-- as in, logging takes, checking for continuity and other errors in the frame, and making sure nothing's missing. What was great was that there wasn't a dull moment even though there had to have been an hour in between setups.

The filmmakers in question decided to shoot whole-scene coverage, filming with a wide master shot and other close-ups in their entirety. I talked to one of the directors about "editing in-camera"; as it turns out, this was a concept I had to explain. The most coverage I ever shot was on "Nathan.", and that was because I was shooting scenes that were as short as they were complex, but otherwise what you see in my films is all the useable footage we got.

Of course, their film did look better from a lighting standpoint. My lighting class and this shoot really hasn't changed my technique all that much; as a filmmaker, I don't feel like I'm ready to coordinate lighting in addition to acting yet, and I've grown to be comfortable with the guerilla techniques I've been using.

On that note, two great films:

Slumdog Millionaire-- The only film this year that won't have me furious if "WALL-E" doesn't win Best Picture. Danny Boyle goes back to his digital video techniques from one of my favorites, "28 Days Later", to tell what turns out to be a very Hollywood story that just so happens to be set in India. It's an underdog story, it's a classical love story, it's both. It's a great film that despite its inherent predictability should keep you at the edge of your seat.

Once-- Okay, so I've already plugged this film. After more viewings with a screenwriting mindset, though, I find this to be a rather brilliant work. Through the soulful music and shaky camerawork, it's very good at making you think it happened on accident. But there's a world of complexity underneath that "home movie" ethic. Compelling characters, poignant storyline. I can now confidently say "Once" is one of the best movies ever made, and it's certainly on my stack of movies I must watch every time I make a movie.

 
 

20 October 2008-
This weekend, Oliver Stone tested a cinematic thesis. And in my opinion, he proved it true:

President George W. Bush can make a great movie. It's a remarkable effort even though it does have plenty of rough edges due to its rushed production (although I'm secretly hoping that Stone shot a lot more than he left in, since some subplots in Bush's past life needed completing). And I have the feeling that if it were made by anyone who hated Bush any less than Stone, it would have been a mean-spirited SNL production. Instead, he received the most compassionate screen treatment possible.

"W." operates on one of the best Bush impersonations heard, but the service is to make us laugh with him rather than at him. As there hasn't been any new information on him, Stone went for a creative approach in making his life into a very Hollywood story about a well-intentioned but fatally-incompetent boy-who-never-grew-up, and all he wants to do is make his daddy proud. He casts the various people in his life into familiar archetypes (Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are the subtly-evil manipulators, Colin Powell is the tragically lone voice of reason, and Laura Bush is that character you'd normally see in a monster movie who proves the beast has a soul. I was surprised by this element, but if you find yourself aligning with W The Movie Character, it's because Laura brings out his humanity).

The film portrays Iraq as a disaster waiting to happen, but the film wisely never covers anything later than 2003, nor is it out to convey any message. It's one of this year's biggest curiosities, and one of its best whether you're left or right.

*  *  *

As it turns out, I really didn't need to panic about being corrupted by my lighting class. I'm still just as anal about lighting in films as I was ten weeks ago-- as in, not. I am investigating stuff at hardware stores to illuminate my night scenes, though, and am eager to test them out.

[another great recent film, "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist", is 98% night scenes. And unlike Michael Mann, I believe they did shoot it all on film]

Screenwriting class continues to excite me, and the film I have written for this class is my personal favorite. It would need money and me being a more experienced director to pull off, but it's definitely one I'm going to leave for safekeeping.

In the meantime, still going through the hellish phase of "Toby and Jamie" rewrites, now having an even better backstory for the aliens. After watching "Whisper of the Heart" again from an analytical standpoint, though, my interests are back to the human characters.

I found a better climax than before [my initial draft barely had a third act], with essentially the same ending. Next rewrite looks like it should be closer to my 80-page minimum.

 


25 September 2008-
Okay, so I'm not comfortable with the retcon yet, really because I was getting bored with the "more exciting" extended chase scene approach, but also being corrupted yet again by the movies I'm watching.

I saw yet another amazing movie for the first time, James Cameron's "The Abyss". Keep in mind that I saw the short 136-minute version and not the epic 3-hour "Special Edition" that puts a whole new meaning to the film, and the film was still more dominated by exquisite character development than the majority of Hollywood blockbusters.

The DVD is sitting on the stack of movies I need to see while making "Toby and Jamie", and I can't wait to see the longer version.

My point being, I determined my current approach to the story can work out. It just needs more attention to detail and filling in the plot holes. Basically, apply directly where it hurts (using the non-destructive method of post-its. People seeing the physical script thought it was a lot longer than it was by the newfound thickness). I'll make a couple more passes, and hopefully the back of every page is plastered in yellow by then.

[these notes hopefully resulting in a longer second draft, of course. I will be happy if it's close to 80, so it needs at least ten more.]

Film classes this quarter are Lighting and Screenwriting B.

In my lighting class, it was weird but expected in hearing the number of people in class who proclaimed "lighting is the heart of a film", or like someone I talked to a few months ago saying "lighting can make or break a film". I've grown too numb to really have that cartoonish look of shock that I'm too often accused of displaying on my face, but my reaction was still, "...really?!"

I'm taking this class because I want to diminish the desire for post-production manipulation of my footage, but in turn I want something more efficient than 30 minutes per setup (especially around the nonprofessional actors I use, spending too long between shots is never a good idea). A decent exposure that looks natural is more important to me than brilliant manipulation of shadows, and my instructor was actually much more pleased with my use of available light than I expected.

[For lighting experience on my own films, I attempted to use a reflector in one shot of "Nathan.", but it was quickly dropped because we couldn't get any results.]

To my delight, a couple people did proclaim the high importance of story, and one even professed great sound being more important than great image ("'Con'science" wouldn't be stuck in foley artist's block if I didn't believe in decent sound, and when it comes out it won't sound like another amateur movie).

For screenwriting class, of course, the snobbery over image was quickly tackled (again) because you can never make a great movie with a shitty script. And I had fun hearing what I was anticipating over the entire summer, which was the inevitable rant about "The Dark Knight", a film that I did really like, but I knew my instructor Barak Goldman would be going for pages about [especially since he loved "Batman Begins" enough to show it in classes and having to leave the room because he saw it too many times]:

In short, he thought it was sloppy screenwriting because it had too many characters, there were concepts that started and weren't continued [a problem I'm trying to fix in "Toby and Jamie"], and Harvey Dent was way too one-dimensional for his tastes. This was expected. What wasn't was that he claimed to have actually enjoyed the movie as a movie. So it was amusing to hear the jumps back and forth from "it was a great movie", "it was a lousy movie", "it was fun" and "don't waste your eight bucks".

With my "Toby and Jamie" script always on my desk during film classes, it has caught the eye of several people... one of them being Mr. Goldman, all of whom asked if it was my script.

To Goldman, I responded "yes" and that I needed a rewrite plus it being longer than 69 pages. Naturally, his response was to go for something shorter.

"I wish I could, but I don't think it could be condensed enough."
-"Make it a trilogy of shorts!"

Putting it in that perspective, I'm effectively making the "Gone with the Wind" of shorts. Not that I haven't been thinking of my movie as some sort of microscopic epic...


 

19 September 2008-
One of my writing buddies, Grace, discovered that she can't write at coffee shops like most stereotypical screenwriters do. [guilty as charged, although I'm even more pretentious in that I write on paper as opposed to a Macbook]
 
Even with the obvious time constraints I'm running under, I've opted to retcon [the Hollywood term for "shitcan"] the plot from the 20-minute mark of "Toby and Jamie" for something zanier. As I started jotting down my new storyline, I found out I was writing a Michael Bay flick.
 
So I dug out that copy of "Armageddon" I've been meaning to watch. And I can honestly say, as far as movies go, it's one of the best movies I've ever seen. Especially since it does have that scientifically-improbable plot, contrived relationships, and worst of all, Ben Affleck, Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay's names all in the same flick. But when it comes to technique and realism vs. entertainment value and emotional investment, the latter always wins.
 
I guess I don't feel too horrible about writing a bad, unlogical movie anymore, especially since it's my first one. Just make it fun and make sure it's not one of those damned brain-dead Disney Channel Original Movies. [yes, you know I'm talking to you]
 
Recently I've had a little obsession with color schemes, and what kinds to incorporate in my movies due to my preference of retaining original colors and distaste for modern trends like desaturation and tinting. In every last-minute phone call I've had to recruit cast members there have always been costume guidelines ("no brand names, and darkish-reddish range"). I guess the only difference is is now it's on my mind outside the set.
 
So I bought a pack of colored Sharpies, and after going through a few character designs I started to contemplate animation again. My films spend so long in post-production anyways that the length of time to make an animated film wouldn't mean a thing, and there's no worries about troublesome scheduling or dealing with missing actors. But we'll see. More tests to run.
 
["Toby and Jamie" would still be live-action because I'm arrogant like that. This consideration is for future feature-length projects.]

 
 

9 September 2008-
Doing what I should have done weeks ago, which was digging into my villain characters a little more. Now I know why I read all these online film criticism articles [viewing the backlash against "The Dark Knight", primarily from Jim Emerson, was a lot of fun, probably because I agreed the hype was excessive. But I thought the movie was excellent and even better once you understand all the variables in its super-convoluted storyline. Back to the entry].

Prince Nuada from "Hellboy II: The Golden Army", listed as second in some article's list of Top 10 villains this summer*. I had seen the film twice, and I did remember liking the character a lot, but never really figured him as a way to approach my antagonists until now.

[time to rewrite more]

On Sunday I ran image quality tests between shooting methods, really more for reassurance purposes than serious testing. I might have pictures later, and due to battery life I got less than I wanted. Basically, it was getting the best picture quality in the 2.40:1 format with my camera's internal 4:3 and 16:9 modes, then the anamorphic setup I wanted to shoot "toby and jamie" with.

The latter has, as expected, lens artifacts that the other two don't, but it wasn't until the snapshots were turned black-and-white that the sharpness was truly evident. Anamorphic does sometimes look like it's smeared with vaseline the more off-center you get, but it does offer the most pleasing and interesting image.

I also discovered the heavy vignetting that my ND filter gives to the anamorphic, so if I do use it, I'll have to zoom in (giving effectively the same area as shooting 16:9 then cropping). Given that it hasn't really limited the depth-of-field that much [technical people: sensor size 1/3.4-inch], I don't even know if I'm going to use it.

Probably gonna be busier with preparing the alien effects than the nuances of the overall cinematography. And after "N" and "Nathan" I have enough confidence in my camera package and shooting methods anyways.

The fall season is coming up, and now that I think about it I think it's actually a good thing I didn't shoot the film during the summer. The movie is set in November and I don't think people wearing shorts looks great on film anyways [unless it's a beach blanket bingo but that's another story altogether], plus the outdoor scenes should benefit. We'll see.

Still trying to figure out on-set "actors" for the small aliens. Maybe should just look through the toy section in Goodwill and find something nifty.


 

3 September 2008-
This morning I've been digging through my vast collection of American Cinematographer magazines, specifically for anything and everything shot in anamorphic. For the "just because" value, but also to see if anything in there would approximate real-world problems with my own lens attachment.

Also found more insight on the shooting methods of various directors. Ranges anywhere from shooting nonstop [Inarritu on "Babel" starts and finishes off film magazines in real-time] to a surprising amount of improvised setups [Paul Thomas Anderson's films, like "There Will Be Blood", have tons of spontaneous revisions].

On iMDB's WENN news, Vera Farmiga revealed on the set of "The Departed" that Martin Scorsese admitted the writing for her character was terrible, and they worked together to polish it more. Which was actually what I wanted to do specifically with dialogue. I wonder if, already having a complete script, I should just start shooting this thing and see if the actors can't find something else to their characters. Dialogue-wise I'm no Woody Allen.

[next feature I'm seriously considering doing a silent film]

Went to LA over the weekend, and took a side-trip to Hollywood (including Beverly Hills). My conclusion was, to paraphrase Weezer and that awful song, that's *not* where I want to be. At least to live in. I don't really consider it much of a place to visit, but Grauman's Chinese Theatre does give you a little perspective on what celebrities share your shoe size.

[to be quite honest, I was looking for "Blazing Saddles" artifacts there]

There was plenty of long driving there, so I did get to ponder over lighting in that area, and for my night scenes I think I finally nailed the way to get that awesome purple/gold coloring. Time to run tests.

More alien models drying up outside. One more needs to be made for the "cast" to be complete. I should start calling up potential cast members now, since school's in session for mostly everybody and I can therefore get a better perspective on scheduling.

Or at least, I should. And I thought I *learned* from "Visions".

 
 

25 August 2008-
I got the opportunity to see some great movies this weekend, including fascinating documentary "Crumb" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" which were my local theaters' "Cult Movies" selection, along with picking up a copy of "American Movie".

If you have never seen "American Movie", and you want to be a filmmaker, it is a MUST. Stories like this that become popular documentaries are ones that usually end in failure, or are constantly in failure, but rest assured that this is no "Lost in La Mancha". Nor is it one that ends with its subject waist-deep in riches [anyone who finds Robert Rodriguez's or Kevin Smith's success stories depressing for some unknown reason knows what I'm talking about].

It is, however, every bit an underdog story as "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters". This is a filmmaker who, without modern digital equipment and with every personal problem imaginable, manages to make his film every step of the way (even if the project changes). See the movie, and you'll see what a morale-booster it really is.

As for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", I actually have never seen it before. But being 20 years since the film was released, the special effects are still extra-amazing. Why?

Because they made it that way. There are numerous long takes in the film, all built to keep you guessing as to how they did it. Even more remarkable is that this was *right before* CGI and digital erasing became the norm, yet we see 'toons who obviously weren't on set visibly squeezing peoples' faces or pulling their ties (really fast, too). If there was one film that deserved its Oscars, it's this one.

When I read up on how they were accomplished, it came remarkably close to what my plans were for the aliens in "toby and jamie". So I'm feeling a little better about this.

Started painting on my 1:1 clay models, but it might need a little more work. They're definitely too heavy to be stand-ins, but they'll still be very useful lighting references for when I have to color-correct the stop-motion critters.


 

 
 

15 August 2008-
Add one more role in "Battle Zone 2". Same role, different ninja, same amount of screentime.
 
I bought the largest, cheapest quantity of modeling clay I could find to start building 1:1 scale models of my aliens, and found an "air-dry" type that cost $7 for... a fairly massive cube of clay. Little to my knowledge, this was not the crappy Crayola kind that comes out like glorified styrofoam and easily rips after drying, but a package that claims to be "White" but is gray and moist. Out of the box, the cube of clay resembles a Borg Ship.
 
[the brand, if you're curious, is AMACO]
 
Modeling with this stuff isn't easy (what is that crap about how sculptures decide their form for you?), so thankfully I had simple designs in mind for the aliens. I was able to get what I wanted, but my first one has gone for two days and isn't completely dry (it looks like it turns white and becomes rock-like).
 
Having attempted this in CGI last week, I do feel better about the clay model, which probably takes longer but it's more rewarding-- and me having proven multiple times to being completely inept in CGI, I guess that makes the clay method the faster one.
 
Gonna need to locate that crappy Crayola stuff for stunt doubles. I don't think my actors will be too pleased at having little boulders thrown at them.
 
 
 

11 August 2008-
I've been on a couple of Joseph's film sets (JP Films), for his upcoming projects "City of Horror" and "Battle Zone 2", and much to my amusement, I haven't played a single character who didn't go down "like some sucker" (in the words of Samuel L. Jackson).

For "Battle Zone 2", I ended up playing three different guards, all of whom were taken down by the same ninja. Joseph employs fight choreography far superior to that in our own "Fight Movie" series, and I told my co-actor to just roll with it if he actually hits me-- since it would obviously be the best take.

First scene goes. 8 takes later, after much fakery and punches that occur 3 feet away from the face, I do indeed get a real punch across the face and a real uppercut. Second scene goes. 8 takes later, after much fakery and punches that occur 3 feet away from the face-- again, the real take is the best take.

Then the third one goes along, a quickie in which I get pulled from a staircase then thrown down. First take, I run too fast. Second take, the actor pulls me and my head slams against a door behind me, and the actor completely flips out.

I think I've officially earned the right to have my actors do whatever I want them to do. If you're an aspiring director, my personal advice is to get beaten up in other peoples' films and have witnesses; you can laugh in the face of anybody who questions your integrity and professionalism after that. And there's just no way it can't increase your stamina. Just no way.

*rubs the large bump on the back of my head*

Finally got the ND filter from the camera store, and the good news is that it fits. The bad news is, it causes vignetting, so I'll probably only shoot with it where I have enough space to zoom in for wide shots. Which is fine since I don't think deep focusing will be a problem indoors.

Drawing flipbooks for my aliens, and the results are very rewarding. Probably going to be very tedious in model animation. On the way, I've contemplated how to make the shadows and shading, and if I should learn CGI for all that trouble [there's free software- anim8or- so that isn't a problem]. Special effects wise, I have my work cut out for me, especially since this is all going to be very new experience.

Looks like I'm going to buy a tablet for my computer, and I might also be able to try some hand-drawn animated sequences.

 

 

3 August 2008
The ND filter I ordered either hasn't come in yet, or my cellphone is malfunctioning. Weird.

In releasing the one segment of "The Suite" that was actually completed, "Safehouse", I decided to clone the Digital8 tapes that a third camera angle plus documentary footage were stored on to MiniDV. I'll probably do it again, and I won't have to do it for "Fight Movie" since every bit of raw footage is on my backup drive.

Without making any further tests with the greenscreen, I'm contemplating just rotoscoping the aliens for "Toby and Jamie"; if I get clean edges, it shouldn't be amazingly difficult, but we'll see. I was initially going to use keying because I couldn't think of any other practical solution, but I hate what it does to the image color-wise.

I'm acting out the aliens' part with my current closest (animate) approximation- my very hand, and I'm discovering some things that I probably didn't think of on the initial design. Back to the drawing board.

I came to the conclusion that writing a second draft-- at least, the "radically different" version I wanted to do-- is not going to work out since I just have a few blanks to fill... not necessarily retool the entire plot. So I'll just go back to the initial draft, re-type everything and fix a few things here and there.

Still need to get a cast for this film. My guess is, I won't be shooting until the school year starts for most people. Calculating for weekend shoots based on what we had for "'Con'science", it will likely take six months... unless I can squeeze more shooting time out of each day, and possibly work on some school days. This would be preferred by me, and I do think the fall weather will serve more appropriate.

[the story as I have it takes place in early November]

In preparation for more writing, I piled a queue of films from my DVD collection, having watched "28 Days Later" and "Paris, Texas". The latter film was one that I only saw once and impulsively put into my Top 10 list of favorite films, so I approached the second viewing with dread.

Even though I loved the film for its exquisite character development and its relative lack of words communicating pages, the real learning experience was in editing: Wim Wenders employs long takes for many of his scenes, and a little unpredictability in the editing as well as his lovely deliberate pacing (this road movie runs 143 minutes. It has every reason in the world to go slow, which it does, but the screenplay zips by incredibly fast). We see less than half of characters' faces most of the time, yet learn so much about them given that.

Of course there's the added convenience of less setups in a shoot [my ASL has been getting too short anyways], but it should add a certain discipline to the production and trust my screenplay enough to not radically alter it in editing. I think I'll watch this lovely film several more times before and during the shoot.

23 July 2008
Today I learned that if you really want something special, to the point where you don't trust your casual electronics store, you might as well order it rather than going to a specialty store to find something similar but not at all functional to what you want.
 
The item in question would be a neutral-density (ND) filter for my camcorder. Best Buy happened to be a revelation in how much smaller lens thread sizes have gotten in three years. The largest-sized filters were all 30mm (my camera is 34mm but with accessories like my anamorphic lens at 37mm), and all they had were UV filters anyway.
 
At San Jose Camera, they didn't have any ND filters, but Polarizers, which were "pretty much the same thing" (yeah, yeah, I know, do your research first). Losing two stops of light didn't sound like enough based on my 16mm experience, but I was thinking more with my gas tank in mind than my actual photography brains. When I get home I find out these Polarizers have a rotating adjustment ring on the front.
Which is fine if I wasn't putting an anamorphic lens attachment at the end of all this. And it would be a very unpleasant shooting experience to have to constantly rotate the lens back up every single take. So that was a no-no.
 
At the same time, I also did a greenscreen test with my PowerShot digital camera (the kind that a lot of you probably have). While I want ND for my camcorder to *decrease* the amount of light coming in [so I don't have to tweak exposure drastically, and gain shallower depth-of-field], the amount of noise that I got shooting indoors with sunlight was far too much. The good news is, the edges were clean and composited without problem; just with a nice silky layer of grain that I can't use for "Toby and Jamie" due to the small size of what I plan to composite, and risk of garbage matte artifacts.
 
Time to write second draft.
 
 
 

24 June 2008-
A couple days ago I made a declaration to myself that went something to the tune of: I don't have ample time to shoot my screenplay for directing class due to the workload, nor do I have time to write a less-ambitious one. So instead of turning in a blow-off project just to meet a deadline, I'm going to go for an Incomplete and do the short film in July with every scene that I wrote and promised in both the treatment and the screenplay. Hopefully my directing teacher understands that this is not me being a perfectionist.
 
I've left a voicemail to my editor regarding the incomplete, and have yet to receive a response.
 
The July shoot would be an obvious delay on "Toby and Jamie", and setup-wise I can see a couple of scenes that will be challenging (two family dinner scenes, and a sequence taking place in a bowling alley-- one "crew" in our class was able to shoot a hold-up in a gas station. I can certainly ask the owner of a bowling alley permission to shoot a non-violent scene). On the other hand, it has potential benefits: my cast isn't set in stone so various actors can have an on-location audition. And it is practice in negotiating with location owners and handling more elaborate setups.
 
A couple weeks have passed since completing the first draft of "Toby and Jamie", and I did receive an annotated draft from my reader, who previously addressed plot holes in the outline version. Some of the complaints, to my surprise, were still on the script itself, but there were helpful pointers on what characters to expand. I'm not shooting this until I have a script I'm happy with, so any pointers are good pointers (except for the readers who think they're "Mystery Science Theater 3000" material and turn the script into a parody of itself. If you hate the script that much, just say it).
 
In a few days I might start researching how to incorporate the aliens in-camera as much as possible. They'll likely be composited claymation creatures, but I want to see if it can't be done for a few scenes where compositing would be ridiculous and doing it practically would do the trick.
 
My 16MM II class is finally complete, with "1/2-Stop Pull" submitted as my final project. To my shock, very few people actually finish their Incomplete courses, so the teacher was literally running to the administration building with the appropriate paperwork. Since I couldn't get a composer in time, I just used the same tactic as "a first date" and found whatever old public domain music I could. This version would likely be released in conjunction with the official release of my chase scene, "Nathan."
 
Having several more 100' rolls of film in my fridge, and having a little nostalgia regarding that cumbersome, tedious flatbed editor, I think I just might shoot one last (and likely expensive) 16mm short. Screenplay first, release forms second. And find out if I'm not dead from exhaustion after "Toby and Jamie".

 
 

13 June 2008-
Been INCREDIBLY busy with schoolwork, as my 22-unit load crashes down on me. Funny thing that I get the Monta Vista High experience the year after I graduate from four easygoing years.
 
I'm behind the schedule I've made for myself on "toby and jamie", which I have worked on every day for the past few weeks but entirely in the writing. After struggling to find out what my ending was going to be, I finally found one I'm happy with, but I certainly haven't found the length I'm happy with.
 
Writing in a most linear manner without any revisions to previous scenes, the screenplay amounts to 69 pages, below my desired 90-page length (shooting for a 74-81 minute runtime and I have a feeling there will be deleted scenes). I'm sure there's some things I haven't expanded upon yet, so this will be taken care of in subsequent drafts.
Just keep ironing, as Paul Thomas Anderson puts it.
 
The most useful tool in scribbling down various notes in my production notebook has been the video iPod. Mine doesn't have enough battery power to play a whole movie, but having a couple of my favorites on it (namely "Whisper of the Heart" and "Punch-Drunk Love"), I'm able to play out select scenes right off the bat and see how they do it. Combined with my new regular morning "food", lattes, I've found myself in the vibe more in these last three weeks than I've been in the last three years.
 
No cast has been lined up yet; I need to make contacts so I can shoot at least part of this film during the summer, and negotiate with location owners.

 

26 May 2008-
Exhaustion reigned last week as we struggled to finish the chase scene on Monday afternoon. We started at 4PM and I demanded that the productive 3-hour session that we had the day before turn into a super-productive 2-hour session since I was sure that all my cast members had a lot of homework to do (two of them are finishing their senior year, but my lead actor Joseph is finishing that hectic junior year).
 
Our first scene was a run across a playground, and while I should have anticipated this problem, on a Monday afternoon somehow it didn't hit me- parents with their kids would be there. I shot as much coverage as I could in the parts before running to the playground, and we had a few false alarms of when it would be cleared out-- right when I started to set up the shot, someone's kid climbed up. Well, it technically IS more their place than ours, but one parent was helpful in letting us use it for 20 seconds at a time, until everyone left and we were able to get all the shots we needed.
 
The next was our ambitious car scene- a car would have to catch up with the man running, and there would be a conversation between the guy in the prowling car and the person running. Since I was driving and wasn't able to operate the camera, virtually everyone involved had their opportunity to operate. Some of my shots were abruptly cut off since they stopped recording before I yelled "CUT". Basically, I do prefer doing my own camerawork, and misframing by setting up a locked-down tripod is one of the reasons why.
 
We shot three angles' worth of coverage for one short scene, but it was all timed to the car. I don't know how much gasoline I burned on this, but I contemplated why I was actually bothering to do this for a grade. We almost hit the two-hour mark, and when one take botched it fell apart for a few minutes. Surprisingly, my cast members were the ones who were insistent on finishing everything that day, no matter how long it took. So we continued with that incredibly difficult scene, and I have a note for my feature:
 
No fancy car scenes. Not until I get another driver, we have rehearsal time, and I'm in control of everything. On that note, my feature-length screenplay has plenty of scenes with overlapping dialogue or action, with many things going on at once. I think I'm going to settle for long takes however often I can, so careful planning.
 
Since we were done with the hard parts, we parked in one scene, and shot the final scene in Richie's neighborhood in less than 10 minutes. I'm hoping I shot enough coverage for Rachelle to work around; I know the basics of the cutting order I want, but I'm still nervous that I missed a couple of shots.
 
As it turned out, Rachelle was too busy to do editing on the film, so the project is officially a week late. What we observed on seeing other peoples' chase exercises, however, is that we no longer have to worry about ours being "too long"; many of them had the actual chases being repetitive and perhaps 50% longer than they actually needed to be. There were also some even more ambitious than our own, and with lots more cast members. The teacher likes our script so we have that on our side, but now I'm a little worried.
 
I spent the rest of the week tackling every possible question I could conceive in writing my feature (officially, it's Dead Moose, Inc. Production Number #101, but the working title: toby and jamie and all the aliens that crash-landed in their backyard), and set a list of due dates for myself on the entire project. Made a Sculpey model- actually several- for the aliens themselves, and am quite happy with the look. Since I knew 98% of my story already (just the insertion of minor but essential characters), I decided to tackle writing a first full draft.
 
In less than 24 hours I managed to churn out 18 pages. Dialogue-wise most of them are crap, which is why I'm going for many rewrites, but I'm feeling surer that I'll get the desired length. Maybe screenplay-standard of 120 pages, but I'll be happy if it even reaches 90.
On that note, I have been looking up real screenplays, and just read the full script for "Michael Clayton", one of my newer influences on the project for its fantastic character development.
 
 
 
 

18 May 2008-
Today I got asked the ultimate question of whether or not I'm willing to be a director-- or more specifically, willing to direct a FEATURE-LENGTH film this summer with not only long shooting days, but special effects to boot! (what started as an "easy" project with a small cast is already the most ambitious project I've tackled yet; I can't name anything that comes remotely close in ambition that we've done so far)

After a couple weeks of delays, we were finally able to start shooting our Chase Scene project, this from a script I wrote myself, and is technically due a week late, but the teacher bumped the due date for us (my own group wasn't going to get docked points anyway since I warned him well in advance that I wouldn't be able to film for a while).

Originally I didn't know who I wanted for my cast, so I let Richie, Kevin and Nikolay shoot their class project first so I could decide on casting and clarify costuming. By the end of the day I knew who I wanted, but there was no fourth person. I would have to play one of the roles on-screen since the script called for the usage of a car in several shots (and I think it adds something anyway), but someone would have to operate the camera whenever I was in-shot.

So: Four characters, one car, and a cameraperson. Richie would have to operate the camera as I decided he wouldn't be playing an on-screen role. Nikolay had something unexpected happen to him, so I was left with TWO roles to fill in; one of them was hastily filled, and the other, our mentally-unstable protagonist, I had trouble with. Kevin suggested Sapphire (1/2-Stop Pull), and I agreed, but at the last minute she, too, had an "unexpected thing" happen. Coincidentally, Nikolay called me on my cellphone 30 minutes before my start time, saying that he was, in fact, ready to come.

My start time was 11AM for insurance purposes and it was time we definitely needed but didn't use most of since we still needed a protagonist. Kevin left messages for several people we knew, until Joseph called back. Hence, we had a cast, and we had Richie's house until 2PM.

I was in no mood to let this shoot be delayed by side-conversations and unnecessary distractions, and I think it paid off. In a 3 hour, 15 minute shooting day, we landed with 19 minutes of raw footage, and I think those parts alone might actually be overtime for what the teacher specified was the proper length for a chase scene.

Naturally, I'm terrible with runtimes, so this isn't a surprise. My 2-minute short "another walk in the park" was almost 5, and my 10-minute short "Visions" became 24. But our instructor asked for a beginning, middle and end instead of a purely unmotivated chase, which I think qualifies more for his character study assignment.

(on that note, I'm relieved that I, as the director of the chase scene, am NOT allowed to direct the latter assignment; Rachelle now has the responsibility to shoot and I am in the editor's chair for that one)

Given the time constraints, this time I will not go for the high-tech solution of handing WMV workprints and instead Rachelle will get high-quality DV workprints, time-stamped but letterboxed so she won't have any confusion regarding the anamorphic image, and burned to DVD-Rs. Hopefully she can show up at school beforehand so she can pick the discs up.

Tomorrow, I'm physically up for a complete vacation but I'll consider this an endurance test for the summer project, which I've scheduled three straight weeks of shooting, all of them long shooting days. Since this chase scene remains unfinished, Joseph, Nikolay, Kevin and I must meet up at 4 tomorrow and finish the rest. I'm really hoping I can get everything done... or if not that, hopefully Rachelle and my teacher can understand, even though it bothers me that I have to continually give them excuses.

So in other words, this will get done tomorrow, every last shot of it.

 
 
 

2 May 2008-
I've enrolled this quarter in a Directing and Screenwriting class, which is weird since when the two are in separate entities they're often in combat as to who is more important than the other.
 
Honestly, I'm having a lot more fun in my Screenwriting class, having gotten through writing a fake PSA and a documentary script (on UFO paranoia, which makes me want to film a real documentary on UFOs). In one lesson, though, our teacher had us take out a piece of paper and write down camera movements (pan, dolly, tilt)... then camera angles (close-up, wide, over-the-shoulder)... then editing directions (cut, dissolve)... then acting directions (shruggingly, cynically). He then instructed us to take that piece of paper, and rip it into shreds, stressing therefore:

THE SCREENWRITER IS NOT THE DIRECTOR, THE CAMERAMAN, THE EDITOR, OR THE ACTOR.
 
I was about to stand up and cheer, having been through film shoots where the writer did, indeed, dictate camera directions and explicitly described how the actors should act. Do that on the set... not on the page.
 
Our Directing teacher promised at the beginning that the class would be tough-as-nails and... it is. I'm partnered up with Rachelle, and we completed (after a bit of a struggle) a time/space exercise- a statement on a location. In this case, train tracks and it's supposed to be desolate.
 
We wrote one script which the both of us went to a BART station at 6AM. I got fantastic sunrise shots as well as nice shots of the purple-ish morning exteriors, until the lady there told us without a permit we can't shoot there. I asked Rachelle if I could be annoying and pack up as slowly as possible, but she told me, "No, Eric, it's her job, it's not her fault." A couple seconds later, the train conductor stuck his head out saying "WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING?".
-"Packing."
 
When I drove her back to her house, Rachelle said, "Sorry that lady was such a bitch."
 
Eight days later and a new script, I got Kevin and Nikolay and we walked down the train tracks until I found the most isolated location possible. I also avoided shooting in shady areas, and so that meant Nikolay and I nearly got heatstroke. We got enormous water bottles from 7-Eleven (which was conveniently where we entered from), and I deleted Rachelle's original ending for something more ambiguous.
 
Now, in this class, our "crews" are supposed to have some part of the work. Directing/Camera/Editing. Rachelle, in this case, was the Editor, and since the project was due this past Wednesday, this meant I could only send her low-quality WMV files to edit offline (timecoded) thanks to Yahoo's (and every e-mail's) Nazi 10MB attachment limit. The shoot finishes, and I get to be more familiar with my anamorphic lens- shallower depth-of-field allows me to judge focus even better, and don't even think of zooming in more than halfway unless you want an out-of-focus look.
 
The day ends, and I return home, unpack my camera bag, and have a complete heart attack as I find only three unlabled tapes are there- my footage is gone! I throw pretty much everything out of the bag, search through the trunk of my car, look inside the cameras, and scream constantly as I drive to the location of the shoot. I expect to find the tape on the ground where we put the equipment, and it's not there. And it didn't magically show up when I got home, either. Hopeless.
 
Thankfully I was about to escape from this mess for a couple hours, seeing "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" with my good friend. On that film, it's not nearly as funny as the first, although it does have some great parts. What surprised me is how well-done the political commentary was-- and I say this because this is something the movies NEVER get right, since they 1. think the commentary is more important than story and 2. treat us like we're dumb and put the op-ed piece into preachy bits of dialogue. "Harold and Kumar" keeps it strictly within the characters and gets the point across with the same absurdity as any of their wild adventures.
 
...so, then, I got back home, and started to go on my computer. I look through the bag one more time, and then the tapes on the ground, and then it hit me. I only ever did pack three tapes, and I spent the rest of the night feeling very stupid, and the next three days without a voice.
 
I'm also writing a feature-length script that I intend to shoot this summer, and I finished a first outline. It's supposed to be a romantic comedy disguised as an alien invasion B-movie flick, and my second outline is definitely going to show mere traces of the first one. This one will go around to the film festival circuit even though I intend this one to really be practice in shooting a feature; if it doesn't get picked up by anybody, I'll try to make it an eZtakes DVD download for all of you, or (shudders) Google Video.
 
 
 

19 March 2008-
After spending a couple days to complete the production sound and to construct a DVD for foley, I brought along Kevin to put some of these untested methods to work.

Big surprise: you can't get good foley outdoors. Too much din in the background for gating to do anything useful, which is too bad since we got some frame-accurate footsteps. A couple days later I decided to relocate the microphones from my trunk (I believe I have all the receipts still but I'm afraid of tallying up how much money I've spent at RadioShack trying to improve the sound for "'Con'science").

The unidirectional mic is my new best friend. Since my Optura60's headphone jack is messed up right now (the audio levels read fine and it uploads fine), I decided to use the HV20 that I'm borrowing from my boss- since it's very unlikely I'll be able to test the HDV before Saturday, I wanted to put it to some sort of use so there it is. Fantastic quality sound, and almost entirely clean except for the extreme hiss which I've been able to get rid of thanks to Premiere's DeNoiser and simple gating.

(it's unnoticeable on my own speakers, but looking at the audio levels on the computer screen and past disastrous experience with the sound version of "N" revealing all its edits at Monta Vista Film Festival have taught me better)

For my first official foley job I decided to tackle page-turning since I didn't figure out getting authentic-sounding footsteps yet. In a short scene, Sean turns an awful lot of pages- thankfully, they're not done incredibly fast so it allowed for some very flexible sound editing. The ADR still sounds somewhat detached, and I decided to look for other takes. Funny how months later that becomes fun again. Probably gonna need to mess with the EQ or put in some reverb; might go for the latter first. I don't trust me and my ability to nauseate myself, so I'll touch the EQ as little as possible.

So, after recording another pass with all the subtle movements with notebook pages that I missed the first time, and possibly a cloth pass to better incorporate the ADR, this would mean that a scene from "'Con'science" will finally be finished! Woo-hoo! One down, twenty-one more to go.

[by this time, I think my "ground" surface is finished. I got two sheets of sandpaper (coarse and coarser) and had them glued and pressed to a piece of scrap wood a few hours ago]

 
 
 

7 March 2008-
Got a new 1TB external hard drive that has pretty much allowed me to clear out some excess disk space on my main drive, in hopes that I'd have enough memory to quickly dive back into "'Con'science" and split it into multiple project files.
 
Lesson learned here: don't put a long film into one project unless you're finished!
 
So, my main reason for delay is both that I still haven't figured out how to do all the necessary foley work, but also that in my messing with frequencies in both the raw and ADR sound, I've apparently messed with the wrong ones as every viewing of the film since then has had me nauseated.
 
Since Richie and Jessica have both approved of the current edit, I can safely put this on "picture lock" and finalize my mix. Therefore, I decided to start the sound mix from scratch, and am working on a completely production sound mix of the film (not for online release, of course, but absolutely for DVD). Here, I'm discovering various sound effects that I don't think I've ever noticed, that could really help instruct the foley passes later on (my current plan is to return to the original locations- or someplace similar- and have a portable DVD player giving the visual guide).
 
In addition, I'm starting to better appreciate a more continuous background sound rather than one which cuts with every shot, another useful guide for the final mix- especially useful since I have a better idea of great points to actually make a sound cut. Amazing what simple audio dissolves can accomplish (straight dissolves don't always work- a more "curved" one does better, where it starts fading faster, but halfway through the fade, goes slower).
 
I've also discovered a few edits that have come back to bite me, along with a few damage marks in the tape (evident since it briefly mutes for that one frame); thanks to keeping a straight timecode, it's as easy as going back to the tape, re-uploading extra and re-conforming. It's possible I might color-time this before proceeding with the sound work, just because I think the sound work is going to be (and has been) the most painstaking part of the production and when I get the sound done, it means the film's done.

 
 

28 February 2008-
Well, I'm extremely tired... and pleased.

Okay, so on the 18th, during my only day off during "President's Week", I decided to have a couple of my Monta Vista friends (Kevin and Sapphire) act in a test roll for me, like "2-Stop Push", except this time I had a plot and a script.

It took a week for the film to come back, and the Post Office was as late as they could possibly be with "Express Mail" (as in overnight)- 5PM. The next day, I bring my film negative over to get transferred at De Anza. They open at 1PM. But nobody was there until 2PM, and I had to work the telecine myself.

Getting the dimmest settings, I couldn't bear the look of my footage, all of which looked so overexposed and- one shot- was so hopelessly blown-out. It took hours to recover and I reluctantly uploaded it to my editing computer, then found I was happy with the performances, toned down the one really bad shot and lived with the rest, then posted the film online.

Today, I used the other part of my film order- I got a real, actual workprint of my 16mm footage, which cost an additional $18 (sounds like a ripoff compared to $10 to develop the negative, but not counting shipping it cost $25 for purchasing and processing the negative itself, so...). When I saw the transfer I felt very stupid. But deciding to bear with it and use the school's solo film editing machine...

The telecine machine has a very limited range, since the dimmest settings looked so bright (and I did not have this problem with previous transferred film). On the other hand, just about everything on my workprint looked fantastic- maybe even a little too DIM- and the "unsalvageable" shot was very much alive and well.

So, Robert Rodriguez insists in his book about "El Mariachi", titled "Rebel Without a Crew", to NEVER edit on film since it's such a slow, painstaking process- he speaks this from experience of doing exactly what I'm doing, which is not deciding edits but conforming to notes taken from the video edit. In a sense, he's right, and I suppose I'd have to edit a feature on one of those monsters to be as miserable as he was about it.

That being said, physically handling the film, physically cutting it, and hanging the individual shots on hooks to be cut together later while I splice the outtake footage together... painstaking, absolutely, and my back is still aching from it, but I also had loads of fun doing it and would do it again in a heartbeat!

Another thing is, even in such a rough form, after that much time spent working on it, it's that much more rewarding to see the final edit all pieced together.

I over-cut each shot deliberately giving five frames extensions on both sides for safety purposes, since I could always tighten shots later. Since I didn't shoot my intertitles on film (yet), I hunted the outtakes bin in the room for every piece of film leader I could find, approximating the length of the titles and cutting them into the workprint, since I plan to screen it this Monday in my 16MM class- I will be personally up there giving my estimation of the old Japanese "Benshi" experience, reciting the contents of the intertitles myself. It should be, like the editing, lots of fun to do. Hopefully I won't get too nervous performing up there (and it looked great on the film editor- I can't wait to see it projected on the school's biggest screen!).

There might be a musical score coming along for this film; I'll think about more of it when my brain is less gunked. To give you a sample of statistics, though:

I searched by the flash-frames at the ends of each shot, and counted the number of frames minus five, cutting at that point. Easier said than done, since we all know how easy it is to lose track. Most people are less OCD than I am, so they would probably take far less time at this than me. But a quick comparison between editing on the computer, and simply CONFORMING to your computer edit on film:

Computer- 15 minutes
Flatbed- 4 hours

Yes, the Flatbed did add in the amount of time I could have lost talking to my friends in the room, but I think it might have decreased by 5 minutes without them, tops. It's not difficult, it's just time-consuming.

 
 
 

16 February 2007-
Back in another 16mm class with a couple more projects. Yesterday we finished around half of my partner Rachelle's project, this one being a mockumentary about one very, very obsessed fan of Tegan and Sara. Technically this would make it an "unlicensed" project, but Rachelle is going to bring this over to the band members, so it might actually turn from "unlicensed" to "on-spec". Fans on the Tegan and Sara forums have been very supportive of the project and enjoy the script, so I guess we'll see how it all turns out.

Utilizing some *very* time-consuming lighting (in fact, the first time I've ever worked with it), every setup took literally 30 minutes to complete. This is some heavy equipment, and my initial worries of blown-out circuits were put to ease being that lights of this power were useable in a household. I might get the specifications of these lights one day, since I wasn't the one directing these setups. I was strictly directing the camerawork, which is handheld but with an extremely heavy camera, so shakiness actually shouldn't be that bad- just enough to be visible.

Having freshly re-watched the infamous "El Mariachi" and Robert Rodriguez's "10 Minute Film School", I managed to put in what I've learned about filmmaking in this latest viewing, find out the things that didn't necessarily work (the film is over-edited, no question), and utilize some of his other strategies and pieces of advice. I was insanely depressed that we started off a 400-foot roll (approx. 11 minutes) and already used 70 feet just on the first shot, of an exaggerated poster on a ceiling. I thought I did three takes, but according to the rest of my crew, I did five; they'd remember better than me, since the eyepiece of the camera was pretty much crushing my skull in.

Our so-called "sound camera", as well, is kind of funny, too- so it's supposed to be the quietest film camera in the school with "acceptable" quality while rolling with the sound machine and boom mic. The first sound shot we did, however, it was L-O-U-D. A lot more pleasing than the nauseating electronic hum of a camcorder, no question, but I don't think hearing a jackhammer is much better. So, we improvised a sound blimp for the camera, which was very experimental. How did that turn out?


-We still heard the camera, but it was noticeably muffled.
-Our improvised blimp involved me being covered with my thick jacket and a double-folded blanket. It was very, very hard to put on, especially if someone wasn't putting it on me.
-Forget what the set lights do! It's boiling where the camera is!
-I made tons of lame "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" jokes.


The good news is, the boom mic sound actually turned out better than any scene in "'Con'science" when we used it, probably because the camera noise covered up any of that awful handling noise, and this time we were using a real boom pole and had an experienced operator, Terry (who was also our lighting guy and operated the recording machine, too. And they said we needed TWO people for sound!).

Also, although we were making a mockumentary, both Rachelle and I were in the interest of saving film rather than using it in excess, so a couple weeks ago we did multi-camera video rehearsals of a couple scenes, then did edits on the computer to decide where all the cuts would be- and even discovering if there were different camera angles we'd want to use. There's still room for spontaneity in the final version, but this significantly lowers the shooting ratio. We both found edits that we were happy with (and Rachelle even tested a rough edit on other people; they enjoyed what direction this was going in), and we based a shot list off that. Although she did ask for coverage several times (coming off of experience with overshooting), I refused every time since we did the video rehearsal for the reason of avoiding wasting film on that.

Making use of the lighting set-up time, the actors memorized all of their lines (in what was a loose scene anyway), reading the whole time, and I managed to find myself in a very rare position- you've all heard of actors being called to set while the crew prepares the scene, but I was the person waiting in the other room waiting until the cast was ready for the scene.

When we finally shot the scene, we got it all down in one take- a full master of the most prominent angle, which we could mangle and fade as much as we wanted to. I also brought my video camera with me, so I got to both see what the image quality looked like with real movie lights, and to check continuity for close-ups within the scene. Since it was obviously different from the original rehearsal, we could decide here which parts and gestures we'd want to close in on; I originally planned four based on the original, but we ended up doing only three, one of which was just a blank expression.


Actually, I think I might have a second camera rolling when shooting projects on video; I usually don't rewind to check takes because I don't want to disrupt the timecode, but obviously this time we didn't have to worry about that. The rough video rehearsals, as well, are even better than storyboards. We made a lot of bad angle choices on "'Con'science" due to inexperience with dialogue films, combined with my insistence on shooting only one angle of each part.


Finishing the session after midnight, we packed up right when the actors felt they were losing momentum- having screwed up the third and last close-up, but I opted out of a re-take since everything before that was actually good and we could cut away from that anyway. The rest of the crew was continually amazed when I read off how much film was left in the magazine, ending the shoot with 165 feet left. The dialogue scenes actually took up less film than getting the non-sync cutaways right!

Considering that all we have left is one long-take scene and B-roll material (that is, film-consuming cutaways), we might actually get this done all in one 400' roll of film! Which means we'll have actually made a synch-sound 16mm project for less than $200.

[we *could* have shot this in color, too, but I opted out of it since it would have cost twice as much to buy film stock. There are times when I wonder if I should have been so cheap... but it did make Terry's job easier with the lighting in not having to worry about color gels, so I guess that's a "yes".]

Oh yes, we also had NO clapboard. Nada. They forgot to give it to us at the school. Opting for a "tail-slate" route where the clap is done at the END of a take (to make life easier for the actors), that's all the synchronization we had... besides the fact that this "sound camera" is SUPPOSED to be crystal-controlled and running at the same exact pace as the audio. No ADR should be necessary, and we'll have plenty of cutaway material if the synchronization gets thrown off. Which, obviously, it shouldn't be.

And not marking our takes should just make the editing process more fun. Besides, we recorded the sound and picture in sequence; it's not like things are gonna be so easily mixed up, and we'll know by looking at them which takes we didn't use sound.

Finally, one last thing that I *LOVE* about this camera:


Two words: Optical Viewfinder. There are frame-lines, one for complete framing, and one inside for TV overscan protection, and... AND... it shows a good part of what isn't in-frame, too- oh I think I'm in heaven! I don't care if it's video, digital or film- EVERY camera should have an optical viewfinder like this.

Too bad we're only using this camera for this project, but there's always room to dream, no? And Arriflex's new digital cinematography camera, the D-20, does have an optical viewfinder. (having seen the trailer for a film shot with it (The Bank Job), I'd have to say it does look pretty awful... unless that's the filmmakers responsible for that noisy look with extremely crushed blacks)


So, we're going back in tonight for even MORE fun with this project, and as an additional cost-cutting measure- but also to allow the actors more improvisational freedom- the cutaway interviews are all being shot on video.

I haven't felt this productive in a film shoot for a very long time; it's also an interesting change of pace to something much slower. Lighting is something I definitely need to work on, if only for exposure purposes; I've had enough noisy video from my camcorder and I want that to change.

 
 
 

26 December 2007-
"'Con'science" will not be released this year, even though I have completed a sound edit that I feel to be acceptable. All of the dialogue is comprehensible now, but the sound is still unpolished- that being said, in its current state I feel that only "a first date" and "N" have better sound. Just need to reinstate sound effects and re-dub one more line.
 
In addition, decrease the dynamic range of the re-dubbed sound. Getting a cheap TV was actually a pretty good idea, and playing the screener DVD simultaneously with the burning of another DVD copy gave me a hint that I mixed the background noise too low, since it was barely audible. Maybe it's fine in some cases, but I felt it to be a little too detached and the background noise is louder in the production sound recordings anyway.
 
On the bright side, the mono mixdown from the stereo ambient tone is great, and the dubbed shots now sound like a cleaner version of the original audio. In a few days, I shall screen this new cut to Richie and Jessica and see if it meets their approval before I proceed with picture lock, color timing and reframing for final online release.
 
(I also need it to be done quickly; it takes 10 minutes for Premiere to load up this project and all its raw footage, so I need the edit rendered into its own AVIs as soon as possible)
 
 

17 December 2007-
It's not over yet. In fact, it's just the beginning. Finals are over and my film was received well during the grand class presentation, but I still haven't gotten it back. No, it's not the only good movie I'll ever make, but that's not the point.

*  *  *

Back to sound work on "'Con'science" for the first time in years, I finally figured out how to engineer the dubbed dialogue to make it sound like the rest of the production sound recordings, and we now journey into the living hell known as Foley. My whole week is empty, and Jessica is back, so maybe we can finally get this film done (and yes, I know how many times I've said that in the past six months).

Given that I have made slight editorial changes to the film, perhaps she can look at those and see if they meet her approval. If it's successful enough, we plan to send the film around the festival circuit- otherwise, she still wants it at her college's film festival.

We'll see.

 
 

23 November 2007-
Alas, I had a perfect beginning of the week, once I got my footage from "a first date" returned from the film lab. The footage turned out well, save for maybe a couple of blown-out backgrounds and a couple of shots that I was mildly unsatisfied with. Piecing the film together quickly in editing, I came up with a cut I was very pleased with in under half-an-hour. Cued to a public domain recording of Enrico Caruso performing "La Donna E Mobile", nothing could go wrong.

Tuesday night, I was the only one in my class who had their rough cut ready- a whole week before it was due. In my filmmaking years I've never received respect for my work, but here it all was. Things were great.

Wednesday night, it all hit a sour note. Yeah, I did see it coming slightly, although it was too late for me to do anything about it since I was only notified during shooting (in passing) that Judy's mom probably wouldn't be too amused with the idea that it hit YouTube, let alone film festivals... basically anywhere outside a home screen or within De Anza. To be told that you spent that time, planning, everyone else's time, and not to mention money for purchasing and developing film stock on merely a term paper is very degrading to a filmmaker- especially since it could very well have been his chance to get somewhere, it's very frustrating and infuriating.

This has happened to me twice, previously with "Too Dumb to Kill" where Devyn's mom decided that she wasn't too amused with her son having a gun pointed at his head (I guess I would have preferred it if she told me on the spot, rather than send Devyn as a messenger a day later to tell me to "remove the image").

It's unlikely that I'll ever work with minors again, just as it's unlikely that I'll make a film without requiring signatures on paper. I don't find it unreasonable that the second you are following the director's instructions in front of a rolling camera, you have effectively given your permission to have it be shown in front of the world. When I am told on-set that I might have to remove a film from circulation, THAT IS YOUR CUE TO CALL IT A WRAP SO I CAN FIND A REPLACEMENT CAST MEMBER.

Or even in e-mails which nobody seems to read- or read in their entirety. I clearly state towards the end of just about every filming-related e-mail that I will *not* get angry if I hear "no" as a response; I *will*, however, be furious if I find out the answer when it's too late to revise plans and call other people. If you are telling me that I am about to shoot something that I cannot show outside my own DVD player, that is the same as telling me that you cannot make the shoot.

Currently I wear a huge "Do Not Disturb" sign. And it's done- therefore it's irreplacable.

12 November 2007-
Shot "a first date" today, and hopefully, if the lab does it properly, we won't have to hear of shooting it again. Calling up Nikolay at the 11th hour, he was able to come and we evaluated what [props] to use for the filming; I ultimately found one that I liked, but it was up to Judy to decide. Fortunately, we both agreed on the same one.

Arriving at the Clubhouse at 12:30 (this shoot was planned well in advance; Richie already had it reserved before we shot "2-Stop Push"), I decided I needed time to create the set. While it might not be much by other standards, we finally have altered the clubhouse to the point where there are tablecloths (gasp!), napkins (double gasp!), utensils laid out, as well as tables set up to ever so slightly resemble a restaurant environment.

Kevin and Judy being slightly late for their 1:00 start time was a blessing in disguise, since I actually wasn't done with the set yet. By the time they were there, I decided to go through with "rehearsal mode", until I discovered it was mostly useless so I decided only to try the shots I was unsure about. This turned out to be a good thing, since it helped to decide which of the tables this picture would be set in- I wanted an overhead shot, so the far-end with a low ceiling was obviously not going to do.

[later on, that extremely-hard shot on both my part and the actor's- you'll see why when the film gets posted- required me to climb onto a table, and raise the tripod enough to the camera's minimum focusing distance- 2 meters. Don't know what that is? Me neither; I can guess, but you all have calculators and my answer is simply "far."]

Joseph finally showed up once we were ready for the first shot, and this time, I recorded a log for every shot that was done; for the class, but it also helped in checking f-stops, focusing distances and zoom lengths. I did plenty of retakes because I found out the aperture ring (f-stops) wasn't set properly, therefore making it overexposed. Testing with my light meter, I decided to push-process but not as radically as for "2-Stop Push", this time settling for a 1-stop underexposure. Being illuminated exclusively by sunlight and absolutely no indoor lighting or even reflectors used, I was able to go through this entire shoot with decent exposures and 100% natural light. Maybe it will have some blown-out backgrounds which brings us to our next point...

Nikolay may have been brought over for props purposes, but Joseph was brought exclusively to operate the lights- but when I discovered that these do consume a lot of power, and I didn't want to risk blowing a circuit at a place I didn't exactly have ownership to (yeah, I know good directors are supposed to make sacrifices and blah blah blah, but a smart filmmaker knows what's within his price range), I opted for reflectors. They actually shine good light, but from all the angles I wanted, there was nowhere to use them. I'll probably never bother with lighting setups- Kevin commented this was the second time I had reflectors brought over, and I decided the light meter told me I didn't need them.

[yeah, yeah, there's highlights and all that mumbo-jumbo about how films can be analyzed based on lighting and crap... I think if the effect is anything but subliminal, and you have to evaluate what the lighting and composition means, that also means you know you're watching a movie. Isn't the goal of a good filmmaker to do the exact opposite?]

So, having two extra people, in addition to the supervisor, Richie's mom, we had three extras who got to be in the background. Nikolay and Richie were having fun pretending to sell bootleg ticket stubs at their table, while Mrs. Davis did her crosswords behind Kevin and Judy; in several shots, I had Richie and Joseph walk in the background. Being too lazy to read my depth-of-field chart, I can only expect them to be out-of-focus, but you never know.

Ah, it'll be fun anyway, just so long as the film rolls develop properly and the footage comes out great. But I'm extremely exhausted and possibly sick- I felt lightheaded throughout the whole shoot and expected to pass out at any minute. I need a break.

5 November 2007-
So it appears that, for now, the push-processing story has a happy ending. After returning my equipment to school, I described the situation, and the person there suggested I look at different film labs. (wow, why didn't I think of that?) So, I found one that not only doesn't charge extra for the needed processing, but also has lower rates for developing film in general. Sending this to the post office and asking them to ship it today resulted in a $16 postage, but combined with what I think should be the processing charges ($10, half of my original lab's charge), it's already cheaper than the $48 for the original push-processing.

But still, this really doesn't make me wanna shoot even more film. I've secured lighting equipment and might end up having to actually use it, although at least now I can push-process if I so want to and not have to worry about it. But first things first, see what a pushed image looks like. The less equipment I have to deal with, the better.

3 November 2007-
Wow. I am such a jackass.

So, I'm doing another 16MM Film Production class because I want access to the equipment so I can finish my previously incomplete class. Shooting a test roll today with Kevin, I decided to experiment with a little something known as "push processing", to which underexposure is compensated for by leaving the film in the developing tank longer. My film teacher advised me not to do it, all under image quality and depth-of-field reasons. Not the one that would have persuaded me:

Financial reasons, yet another reason that one should do his research before pursuing experiments. While it's already a pain-in-the-ass because film costs $20 a roll (2-and-a-half minutes' worth of raw footage, 100-foot), costs $20 to process a roll, and $10 to ship it back, this push-processing comes at a 400-foot minimum, and costs $48. Yikes! So I'm really hoping this one comes out with an image unlike the last roll which was our final project and came up all fogged in the lab.

[hence the "incomplete" on the previous class. We all just love film, huh?]

On the bright side, Kevin and I did have loads of fun shooting this 100% improvised film which was only to test out the film stock and to see if I have my focusing and exposure settings done correctly. Now that this financial blunder has taught us something, we're even more prepared for what should be a Veteran's Day shoot of a very short film, a PSA titled "a first date". I'll have someone shooting a backup on video, mainly to check for continuity but also to have something besides a film negative from the shoot, lest something go wrong in the lab *again*. For the first time, real film lighting will be used, as opposed to all our previous shoots where everything was shot with exactly what was there.

I have two other proposed projects, one titled "Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'" and "Poke a Pinecone with a Stick", one of which may be shot on 16MM film, and the other on our good ol' friend MiniDV.

"'Con'science" has been stuck in an 85% done state, mainly because I still have no idea how to fix the sound up in some scenes, except to invite people to re-do some of the sound effects. Listening to one dubbed shot next to the rest of the scene had me in complete horror, and I haven't found the correct way to engineer it to sound like everything else. Still trying to think of a good trailer for it, too; that film is continuing to haunt me every day, I know it's not out yet.


 

5 September 2007-
It's been a full day of active ADR editing, pretty much. Found faster methods for grabbing the takes I want, and seeing the results is raising my morale.

But my brain's fried as of now.

I'm gonna be soooooo happy when this movie finally gets released.

4 September 2007-
After devising a new strategy for uploading my ADR reels in order to preserve sanity while doing so, I came across two very discomforting facts:

-The AC adapter to my "audio recording machine", that is the old Digital8 camcorder, is shot. The minute I plug it in, the camera shuts off.
-The battery, which is quite a quirky one in that it can never decide whether it's full or almost empty, has settled on "borderline empty" status.

With luck, I was able to find a universal battery charger, which seems to pride itself on being able to charge every camera battery on the planet. While saying nothing on the back, in very small print inside the charger itself, it lists the battery types. The big surprise happens when you open this hard-plastic case, as three more adapter-for-the-adapter plates come out, as well as a very small plate, just to make sure every battery in the *universe* is now covered. About the only thing this doesn't charge is AA.

Being the universal charger it is, of course it shouldn't have been too much of a shock to discover what a living hell fitting in the battery would be. Trying all sorts of orientations, and lots of hard force, I finally found a configuration that would fit the battery and charge it, which is what it's doing now.

More drama to face in the coming weeks.

27 August 2007-
"Checkmate" has been put on hiatus until next summer; Aniket appears to be pleased with the results, but found too many scheduling conflicts for further summer filming, in addition to everyone returning to school. Neither of us have yet; I've resumed work on "'Con'science", which I estimated would be delivered in two weeks provided that hosting services didn't have a problem with the full 45 minutes being in one file, and I worked nonstop for three days editing the ADR.

I grossly underestimated. While I did do editing work a couple months ago, when I just started the ADR process, as it turns out the sessions didn't go as perfectly as I thought. While it may have taken 5 minutes at most to shoot one line, and 8 minutes on average to dub it, it wouldn't be unusual for an average shot to take 1-2 hours to synchronize. It's always easier if a whole take is done correctly, but I've found this is only the case with shorter lines; full sentences have to be broken in fragments as there's always an error somewhere, and in sifting through 10-20 takes per line (sometimes 30), this is very painstaking work.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely. Nothing beats good production sound, but average-quality ADR is always better than bad production sound, if only because one is actually comprehensible. I tried to have the actors keep their performances similar to the original, but it does inevitably take a few points off. But I do think that sound quality standards need to be heightened for online filmmakers, and that viewers should concentrate on the story rather than scratch their heads asking, "What did he say?"

Alongside this, I'm investigating how to capture better production sound so as to prevent doing this much re-recording again. My current answer is that, since I really don't feel a use for an HD camera, I'll instead invest in wireless mics and one of those digital multitrack recorders.

Although I might be comfy just making a few more of them silent pictures.


 

18 August 2007-
Having a couple of weeks away from home gave me a lot of time to think. Recently, I've become interested in the sound department, and feel it's not a bad career option if I end up not making it as a director. At least I wouldn't have to worry about lighting.

Aniket decided on a "final project" for his Oleander Productions: "Checkmate", about a disgraced chess champion who plays a game that interacts with his own life. Initially reluctant to have me involved due to my "control freak" nature, I agreed to simply take up an acting position. I took up the lead role and agreed that he would make all the behind-the-camera decisions including angles. What this leads to is that I get to experience how awful my acting is, but also a great learning experience-

It also has the added advantage of me bringing in all the camera equipment to and from the set, but upon coming home, I don't have to do anything else! Not being a main creative input in a project does have its advantages.

On one frustrating shoot, he did understand my troubles on the set of "'Con'science", when it came around to quality control. While most were objecting to the multiple takes he demanded, I sat there in agreement. A good director isn't necessarily one who is easiest on his cast, but one who outputs quality product. Again, "good enough" isn't a good enough standard, and it isn't determined by how many takes are done, but if the right one has.

Today, I took a couple of friends to see "Once", my favorite film of the year thus far- it still is, having seen it a second time, and I did grab a couple of filmmaking lessons. I was initially worried about their reaction, given the shaky camerawork and editing; then I remembered that both of them, and many other people, have endured class projects and even liked some. Following the rock-steady tripod rules of cinema is a wise choice, but if you have a film just as great (and uplifting) as "Once"- and the sound is great and clear enough- audiences will ultimately forgive technical errors and side with the film itself.

It's also a look at how those HDV cameras look. There are very noticeable compression artifacts, in a couple of indoor scenes- the shading on an actress' face is almost completely pixellated, and a wall in a later shot has a "rainbow" effect not unlike GIF images, in which you could trace lines over where the shading gets darker. Since the focus of the shot is on other things, it's never traumatic (although if this ever hits Blu-ray, I can imagine numerous complaints from reviewers). Color depth is flat like DV, but HD-like sharpness is evident when you look at details like hair. So, no, what I've seen so far is not professional-quality; it looks sharper than DV but with more compression artifacts, and it doesn't look as blurry on the big screen. [personally, I think if done right, DV can look excellent, but most don't think so]

As for the sound- the songs are excellent. In terms of stereo and surround effects, the only point I ever heard the rear speakers was during the opening Fox fanfare. There is a mildly noticeable stereo effect for some crowd scenes, but for the most part, it's proudly mono. When you really take a look at most of the films we see in stereo- and the pop music we listen to, when putting on headphones- it's really a joke, a gimmick just to show people how many speakers you have. At one point it might have been about placement, but now it's a name you plaster to satisfy technophiles and people who want to show off their setup to their neighbors.

After contemplating how to record ambient tone in surround sound, I decided that "'Con'science", in the stereo world of DVD releases, will stay mono. In planning camera angles and editing, I wanted no attention whatsoever directed towards anything but the script and the performances reading it, and stereo/surround effects would only distract and become gimmicky.

Yes, it's all supposed to make things sound more "realistic" as it gives you a sense of location. Surround sound is cool and even improves on the moviegoing experience, but it seems compulsory and so unnecessary. How many times have you looked towards the back of a movie theater because of something you heard from the speakers? For every "Children of Men" we have which places us in the war zone and has us ducking from bullets, we have mixing disasters like "Happy Feet" and "Interview", which pan dialogue over to the side speakers (which sounds like it's off the screen), add too much background sound for the context of the scene, or bounces individual notes of background music to different speakers like a tennis ball.

[on that note: Why do people complain when something is not in stereo, and then hand one ear of their headphones to their friends? If it was mono, they'd both hear the same thing.]

Online, viral video services host in mono anyway, but if I ever do stereo films, it will likely be recorded with real stereo and surround microphone techniques. Notice, with most of our pop music, that every instrument and vocal tends to be given their own mono track. It's all mixed and panned together; if we're lucky, they'll add in echo to pan it out. If you're wearing headphones, you'll be unlucky when that background guitar is playing solo in your right ear. If the instruments aren't properly balanced, the vocals that were once in the center might be balanced by your brain more to a side. Now, notice how this never is a problem in live albums, where everyone echoes into each others' mic. Combined with the audience, live helps me understand the purpose of stereo sound (try a track on Sarah McLachlain's "Mirrorball", and close your eyes. Is that bliss or what?). For most pop music, give me a mono version; it'll be easier on the ears.

 

10 July 2007-
I've gotten lazy with my entries, but I've also been lazy this entire summer. Don't get me wrong, it's a lot more productive than last year.

This time, I'm actually getting stuff done, which has a much higher chance of seeing the light of day. More within the past few days than anything else, I've resumed ADR work on "'Con'science" with Sean and Mike, after a few demoralizing sessions with actors for secondary characters, who took a while to dub.

Sean dubbed remarkably fast, and we were able to finish 22 lines in two sessions and a grand total of 2-and-a-half hours... most of which replicated the original production sound delivery and synchronization. Right there, I was motivated to work on this film again, after weeks of sitting around and thinking I should just release it with production sound... nobody will care anyway, right?

After Sean's sessions finished, I started to wonder how Mike's would turn out, given his occasional difficulty with memorizing lines on-set. I figured since he had the whole week free, we'd need to use it.

As it turns out, within 30 minutes of ADR, we were both shocked at how fast it was going- Mike was probably more shocked than I was. Finishing 29 lines within 4 total work hours, we finally hit upon the extremely troublesome line- the take I wished we never settled for, that has been there since the first day we ever shot with Mike and Sean. Mostly by analyzing soundwaves and breaking down syllables, we revised the line to something that would almost fit lip-sync, although I also had him record takes of a "clean" reading of the original line. Something tells me I'll take the latter, if synchronization doesn't work on the rewrite anyway.

Already been through the nightmare of my rewriting someone else's dialogue. It was called "Fight Movie 3", and people have developed a newfound wisdom to never put me on a script revisions job.

Kevin is busy making rewrites on "Productivity", and this time, it's bulkier and more ambitious than ever. Personally, I think we should wait until we can shoot the very first draft, which I thought was fine as a short action flick, with the appropriate amount of money. Given the intensive care required in constructing the action and the locations needed, both versions would cost the same. The suggestion he's giving me in reaching locations we couldn't otherwise grab didn't fit well with me- that is, greenscreening actors into a SOURCE-mapped background.

Yes. SOURCE. The engine for "Half-Life 2". I'd prefer to just spend the money instead of releasing a prototype movie like "The Last Fight Movie in the Universe", whose gaping continuity errors make it seem more like an idea than an actual film.

In the meantime, I've been toying around with another method to combat writer's block: place already-established characters in the same location and watch the fireworks. Then I remembered the script I've been working on-and-off for almost four years, with characters I more than know. I don't think I'm going to use the plot I established, as I currently have problems with it; on the other hand, I've created detailed characters that I could use for just that purpose.

Given how much I've lost my morale due to the mutiny-on-the-set climate that was "ZOMBIS!!!"- which I will finish, but during the school year (people have a funny way of being more available when they're not freed up, and it ensures I don't work on that stressful project on consecutive days)- I want to do a project that has a small cast list and actors I can ensure are available. I'll see how it turns out, but I don't expect anything other than "'Con'science" to be finished this summer.

I'll try to cut a new trailer, and the final product is projected to be released around August-September (this year).

 

 

17 June 2007-
In the process of figuring out the craft of sound mixing, I've found myself revisiting a couple of things:

First, Aniket's film "Leviathan", which hasn't been given an online release beyond a poorly-hosted download. There's a reason for that, and that is- yes, you guessed it- bad sound. Analyzing it, I think I'd lower my standards a little bit and ADR just one or two lines due to the age of the film, and the fact that people just want to see it. Background noise and heavy bass levels inside our frequent set of the clubhouse make many segments impossible to hear. None of us are planning on taking the film anywhere besides the internet and a possible DVD release.

The second, is that "A Fistful of Dollars" and "For a Few Dollars More" have finally been given Special Edition DVDs in the US. I just watched "Fistful" for the first time in years, and decided to watch it with the original mono mix. The new 5.1 mix reportedly contains new foley so as to support modern sound systems, a technique often criticized by purists.

To my surprise, not only is the film not the masterpiece we thought it was (certainly not as great as we thought it was when we made "Fight Movie 3"... then again, we thought that one was great, too), but the sound editing is atrocious! The best I can say is that nearly every syllable of dialogue is comprehensible, provided you don't look at the characters' mouths. With no atmosphere except a house fire scene and Ennio Morricone's unusually-bad musical score, you can always tell this film's been dubbed. Only the "essential" sound effects are in- basically limited to horses, gunfire, explosions and some footsteps. At a confusing dinner conversation, you realize the importance of including subtler sounds like people eating or climbing out of their seats.

New foley, even if to record in mono again, would only be an improvement on the sound for "Dollars". I'm hoping that's what they did.

On the "masterpiece" aspect... watch the film with an open mind, and you'll see it never confuses itself as such. "A Fistful of Dollars" knows it's just a popcorn flick, and does a fairly decent job at it. With competent sound, it should work just fine, but until then, the best way to view it is to mute and watch with closed-captions.

Both serve as good lessons in sound design ("Leviathan" could be replaced with any indie film you've seen recently (online or not) with nothing but bad production sound), and why it's needed. There's time to both edit ADR and start extra foley work on "'Con'science".

14 June 2007-
Well, we shot our 16mm project yesterday... although I was at the camera and forgot how to properly focus shots until the very end of the roll (again). *slaps forehead* You zoom in all the way, THEN focus, and zoom out!

If anything, I can use that technique for my next DV project and make sharper images, or my last roll of 16mm film that I have.

We also managed to (hopefully complete) ADR for one of our actors; I've only tested one of the lines, and as I found out, we forgot to dub one of the lines! To my relief, in checking the original production sound, that specific one was in little need of dubbing. With my ADR setup, which involved recording sound via microphone hooked to camcorder, which shot the original clip on the computer monitor, I was able to preview synchronization before I wasted any time (or space) uploading it! Before I wasn't so warm to the idea of using a camcorder as an audio recorder, but now I think it has its benefits!

Another actor who was there said that he could do ADR today, but due to work obligations, e-mailed me late last night and said he couldn't do it. Well, I guess that leaves me more time to get back to my Netflix, and Foley work for "'Con'science".

12 June 2007-
Bought a microphone stand for ADR yesterday... and then I could perhaps complete some Foley. Last time I attempted to do any of that in my room was when I strategically stuck a mic inside a tripod. It fell out within seconds.

In my 16mm class, I was braced for failure, as I'm still going through a traumatic writer's block phase. The problem isn't that I don't have ideas. My problem is that I have many ideas and not a plot for any one of them. My only remaining choice was to hop on to another project.

As it turns out, I'm possibly in two projects... and I still have another roll of film if I quickly find myself with an idea for a short 1-minute indoor project. A few months ago, I hopped on to a project and shot my first overdose scene. Now, I might possibly be shooting my first slasher pic.

The second should be even more fun, and is my "primary" project. One of my classmates who I participated with during the Foley exercise was also stuck on a project, and we brainstormed a film that might require some knowledge of the craft, but it shows contempt neither for the audience or film experts. I think the only group it could possibly infuriate is the teachers. We do have a long, long title for it, but I'll refer to it as "The Ultimate B.S. Movie", where we'll shoot on location in a train, and in San Francisco. Getting the film processed, I'll have the whole next week to dub in a soundtrack.

Two dubbing jobs at once... this should be f-u-n.

*  *  *

I would also like to report some sad news from AMF Productions (www.amfproductions.com), a group of Fresno filmmakers who have inspired us on occasion. Fortunately, we can still plug "SUPERHEROES" and "The Magical Thugtastic Time-Traveling Jug", but they now only exist in the Quicktime download files. Its webmaster, Bryan Harley, recently went through a traumatic hard-drive crash, destroying the masters for nearly every single one of his films (save his "Diet Coke Parody" and the light, delightful "The Dingle").

As it turns out, he also used the same MiniDV tapes, recording over them through the years. If you do that, make sure you make plenty of data backups- personally, I think it's worth the money to keep buying more tape. When you're starting out, you might not value your raw footage and think DVD is the best thing on the planet, but in a few years that's bound to change.

 
 

7 June 2007-
On Tuesday, before going off to a foley exercise for film class, I rendered a rough-cut version of "'Con'science", a project I had become quite bored with, but was always determined to make as great as possible given what we have.

Foley and dubbing in a recording studio- at least, with the fancy-pants equipment they have there- is a lot harder than the ADR I do on my own home computer. It's just time-consuming with my home unit of camcorders, DVD players, and then synchronizing the sound and picking the best take. In the recording studio at De Anza, it's done real-time, and is even more painstaking work. We didn't even bother getting the lip-sync correctly, opting for a comical and poorly-made dub.

After spending six-and-a-half hours in that studio, we were finally free. Now off to home to watch "'Con'science", which I was dreading. In the editing room, I find I'm bored after watching any select 9 minutes.

But the rendered DVD worked differently. It felt a few minutes shorter than its 46-minute runtime, and performances I thought were going to destroy the picture were in fact even better than the scenes stand-alone as there's context involved. My biggest surprise was that half the stuttering worked- but that's not gonna stop me from getting rid of it in ADR. The next day, Richie, Jessica and I time-shifted our first screening of the film so it would be earlier.

Now that we all recognized that this picture didn't really need to be salvaged, each of us did have pointers as to what should be fixed (and I deliberately left some bad edits to get a more involved critique). Jessica, now having been satisfied that all the scenes were filmed before it was too late, agreed that one problematic scene should be reshot. Just to find *one day* when Jessica, Sean and Mike (and the location) are available, get it done, and the rest should be fine.

Viewing this on Richie's big widescreen TV made me realize that using autofocus then switching to manual wasn't the best idea- my camcorder's monitor didn't tell me everything, and in some shots, the background objects are actually sharper than the foreground, however subtle that sharpness is. The ones I configured manually looked great, and that's a lesson I should only have to learn once.

[well, due to the complexity of the project, I'm still using autofocus on "ZOMBIS!!!", but that was part of my idea for that project's handheld cinematography]

We then looked up some very old films of ours online. "Fury of the Blade", "Fight Movie II", "The Last Fight Movie in the Universe", the 2002 "ZOMBI!!!"... and then the original "Code of 'Con'duct", which our group regarded as the very best. For the first time, though, it looks *extremely* amateurish.

Oh yes, and get an external microphone for your camcorder- a shotgun will do. Your camera's on-board mic tends to make a certain sound that ends up being nauseating after a while.

Time for a long post-production period... and perhaps getting back to "ZOMBIS!!!", which I have to reshoot a couple of scenes due to the fact that *someone* cut all his hair off. Should be illegal, I tell ya, illegal!

2007 June 3-
We wrapped shooting on Monday, as much as I wanted to reshoot at least one specific scene due to the bad line readings- it was the first scene we shot with Sean and Mike, and it was obvious they still had some getting used to for the line memorization. Instead, I'll have to cope with dubbing. I'd much rather have ten people catch some awful lip-synching than everyone hearing stumbles between words... not to mention the wind and car noise in the production sound is awful.

The last scenes- which, ironically, were the first chronologically- were directed entirely by me, though filming was delayed by a war veteran who stepped off a bus and randomly started talking to us. I didn't want to be rude, so despite the obvious impatience all of us were having with his rambling about time travel (the whole time I was expecting him to encourage military recruitment), we all stayed for the full 45 minutes. It was obvious he didn't catch our disinterest, but despite the delays I think it decreased tension significantly during filming, as we were now crunched for time.

Jessica gave me a list of locations to film the scenes, which were supposed to be at a restaurant. The first one I had in mind was Corner Cafe, where I was going to film the doomed "Broadway Syndrome: a pilot". But as it turns out, that place is now closed and occupied by a very un-restaurant-like business. So her suggested places were Le Boulanger and the picnic tables at an elementary school.

While I didn't tell her personally, I did mention to the cast that I would not have filming if the elementary school's picnic tables didn't look enough like a restaurant to me. Jessica is very concerned about getting this done, but I'm far more concerned about getting it done well. On the stage, you can get away with lots of pretending with the sets, but on film, you have to get something that approximates the authentic look very well for the audience to suspend disbelief... or state quite blatantly and early on that it's stylized. The latter wouldn't have worked for "'Con'science"; especially as our opening scenes, nobody would take it seriously.

Fortunately, we didn't even have to visit that place, as Le Boulanger allowed us to film on the condition that we didn't hog every table outside. Fine by us- we only needed at most three tables at once per shot, though I did move around through the scenes.

New to acting is our restaurant manager, and it was obvious that he had problems with line memorization, so there were plenty of breaks. I eventually ditched the popular "3-2-1 action" countdown and just started takes with "Go". I advise doing this with nonprofessional actors, and don't forget to shoot plenty of preroll before doing so. The takes were without any stutters whatsoever, and the performance was fine.

Due to loud car noise, these scenes need to be almost entirely ADR'd, something I opted to do very early in the shoot. The production sound is clear enough for the actors to replicate their performances, though, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem. Filming proceeded much quicker due to far less on-set tension and only one creative ego behind the camera. I revised Jessica's and Richie's original script, in which there were plenty of big SAT words, so that one could actually say these lines out loud, although I kept a few of them in as I knew they'd get upset if I completely deleted them. Sean didn't like me telling him this, as he had to say those words, but he nailed them on the first takes.

Shooting wrapped just as the restaurant closed, though I still have a long ways to go in post-production. There is a rough cut completed, and it runs 46 minutes (45 excluding end credits), easily making this our longest project. Jessica wants Aniket to compose an original musical score, and in addition to my own insistence on good sound editing, color-timing and reframing, this makes this our most ambitious until I start shooting "ZOMBIS!!!" again... and get it finished.

27 May 2007-
After nearly three years' worth of filmmaking, this is the first time any one of us has ever experienced getting kicked out of a location.
 
Yes, shooting at the Commons like always, we had 95% of our scene done before a lady living across the street demanded to know what we were doing. Not believing any of us, as Richie was not there to defend our claims (not that she would have believed him, either), she stood there until we left. Given her attitude and the manner in which she booted us out, we made plenty of pretty rude jokes as we moved on to our new location. I went to Mass this morning figuring I'd never curse again, but that afternoon I said a full month's worth of F-words (and perhaps just as many uses of the "bitch" word).
 
Fortunately, it was a small scene. If it was a big one, like the one we spent two hours working on earlier, I would have protested and yelled, "You're gonna have to arrest me before you do!"
 
Speaking of, the people who did approve of our filming, and let us do so:

-Three elderly people talking at a park bench
-Two homeless people
-The nine cars who drove before the lady who booted us from the Commons
-The Sheriff's department
 
So, save for reshoots and ADR, shooting on "'Con'science" is to be completed tomorrow, with one of the toughest scenes yet- due to location troubles. We plan to use a Le Boulanger for a restaurant location, but unfortunately, we have no idea if we're permitted to use it. A backup strategy is to use picnic tables at an elementary school... however, since Jessica won't be available, I'm left to direct these scenes and won't go for that option.
 
In the creative, behind-the-camera department, for the first (and only) time on this project I'm left on my own. I'll admit I wanted it to be like that at some points, but before I was able to pay strict attention to how the sound was and how the exposure looked, and consult other people on what they wanted- now judging the quality of performance is also in place... but also being able to dictate what that performance should sound like should make that job easier.
 
Here we go!

 

24 May 2007-
As the Monta Vista Film Festival came to a close, one of the three rejected entries were being handed out via DVD to people willing to take a look. Of course, I had to find out- I already saw the other two, "Battle Zone" and "Agents in Black".
 
"Petrified" also made the front page of our school's newspaper, bringing across debate about censorship and whether zero tolerance policies are contradictory. I have seen the film, and I feel zero sympathy for the filmmakers- it is a senseless 5-minute music video, consisting of numerous fake-though-graphic gunshots, and if there was a plot, it was laid in very, very subtly and overshadowed by the violence. In my opinion, I think they made it with the intent that it would be rejected, therefore generating controversy.
 
"Battle Zone" was entertaining, though I can understand why that one was rejected as well. It did have a plot, but was equal to the film's focus on the well-choreographed gun battles. On the other hand, the only thing I see "Agents in Black" guilty of is being a bad movie. The only reason it got rejected was because it involved guns, hence the zero tolerance policies. (the filmmakers behind "Petrified" did point out that one particular film featured depictions of branding and people getting beaten up with sticks. While it's a valid point when discussing violence, it does nothing to make "Petrified" acceptable.) The primary focus of "Agents in Black" is not to showcase exploitative violence, but rather, is meant as a genre parody. The gunfights are done in a comical fashion, and it could hardly be taken seriously.
 
It's not like I'm a stranger to censorship myself. During the first Monta Vista Film Festival, my entry "another walk in the park" got rejected for the gory animations featured- though I had a censored version approved, as much as it killed me to remove 8 hours' worth of work. (it ended up being cut further in half due to time constraints, which happened to many other films that year) However, it's a matter of common sense.
 
Yes, teenagers play violent video games, and yes, teenagers watch violent R-rated movies. I pay to see movies showcasing graphic violence like "The Departed" and "The Descent" regularly. Movies like "The Untouchables" are shown in our history classes, though with permission slips required (the fact that the same class would later show "Saving Private Ryan" without warning is irrelevant and wrong on the part of the teacher). That does not make right showing student films with graphic violence, to an audience seeing it for free- some of whom, regardless of age, might not be in the mood to see 5 minutes' worth of people having their brains blown out. Sometimes it's not a matter of age, but also a matter of taste.
 
That being said, there was one film last year I felt should have been banned. A cheaply-made film, it ran on poorly-read voiceovers which had consistent bloopers and I believe not a single word used was their own, accompanied by shaky camerawork of sepia-toned ground. The ultimate low point was that these voiceovers told stories from the Holocaust, therefore cheaply winning the appeal of the audience for its subject matter. I am not anti-Semitic nor am I a Holocaust denier for saying films like that should not be shown- in fact, I find it disgraceful and insulting that that subject is being used as a crutch for such incompetent filmmaking.
 
I never submitted anything titled "Fight Movie" and refused on many occasions requests to submit "The Last Fight Movie in the Universe" as I knew they wouldn't be accepted. "Fight Movie II" may "only" have such-and-such, and might not be that bad, but it contains nothing else but that such-and-such, and thus is offensive. When we were making these films, none of us saw what was so wrong about them (except the fact that they were poorly-made).
 
So, a challenge: try making films without the brain-splatter, the sexual content (yes, there was one entry that I was surprised got in- to say "suggestive" would imply there was subtlety involved), or the profanity. Yes, people say the F-word all the time and sex is a part of life, just as people in real-life get their brains blown out on occasion, but was entertainment ever meant to mirror real life that literally? ...and are those elements really all that necessary to entertain people? Stop using "Constitutional Rights" as an excuse for lazy filmmaking, and just come up with a good story with well-developed characters.
 
 

Production Journal Archives

18 July 2005 - 4 August 2005

16 August 2005 - 7 September 2005

9 September 2005 - 27 October 2005

30 October 2005 - 28 November 2005

1 December 2005 - 18 January 2006

28 January 2006 - 7 May 2006

13 May 2006 - 11 July 2006

23 July 2006 - 23 October 2006

24 October 2006 - 25 November 2006

27 November 2006 - 4 February 2007

15 February 2007 - 20 March 2007

26 March 2007 - 31 March 2007

12 April 2007 - 23 April 2007

6 May 2007 - 19 May 2007
















(hi. i'm a text box at the bottom of the page, and i think my owner is crazy.)

content (c) 2005-2009 dead moose, inc.