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Production Journal, Page 8

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23 July 2006-
...and 5 days ago was one year since this site and production journal were set up. Yes, I've confirmed when I'm finally going to start up a new site for "Broadway Syndrome" (and a new Production Journal):
When "Broadway Syndrome: a pilot" gets released. The script is 50% complete, and it could be very much possible that I record the first song upon the next scripting session. As another note, it is not confirmed at all that "Broadway Syndrome" will be the title of the actual film- it's only confirmed for the pilot.

9 August 2006-
A lot has happened. Not in terms of filming, but in terms of planning. First off:
"Broadway Syndrome" has been pushed down to Developmental Hell, and "Broadway Syndrome: a pilot" has been delayed. Here's why-
The two sessions I had for song recording, I discovered that it was a very, very slow process and was going absolutely nowhere. Aniket wanted to finish "The Suite", and the first time I offered to drop my project in favor of his, he refused, instead volunterring to give up his for the time being.
It wasn't until an hour into the second session, when I proposed it again, that he agreed. Thus, yesterday was our first time in nearly two months that we actually did any filming. Still trying to make up for lost time, and a lot of time we lost.
As he observed, we've been spending too much time in pre-production. I've been personally going insane at the lack of productivity, and recording sessions do tend to give me a headache, and I think I've figured out why:
It's a lot more relaxing and gratifying to be doing some actual filming.

Filming yesterday, we did discover more lighting-related items. Any delusions you have of shooting in darkness... give them up. You're gonna need quite the lighting setup for anything to be visible. At least, something better than the light that comes on your camcorder. (you could use nightshot mode, I suppose, but it barely helps, and renders your movie into a slideshow. We've been through that. NEXT.)
Finally, there was one hour left, and we couldn't do anything more for "The Suite"- nobody's segments were compatible with the people we had remaining.
Thus, we proceeded with improvisational material. First, we did Richie's improvisational game, and filmed two segments. More details when I'm less exhausted.
Afterwards, Kevin wanted to film a segment of my failed experimental series, "Customer", and thus we did. What we got was something far different from the more cynical tone of the earlier episodes, and virtually all the dialogue and actions were improvised as we were shooting. Unlike the last segment filmed, where it was planned out on the spot, I did not receive any plans. I just called "CUT" after I felt it was getting out-of-control or if it was going nowhere, then restart at a certain spot and new angle.
Upon posting it online on Vimeo, I came to realize something:

If you're running websites on the cheap like this for your movies, there's no longer any use to post them for download. Thanks to hosting services like YouTube, Vimeo and Google Video, you can probably post better quality video than your 20MB account for free. Indeed, the last video I ever posted as a download was the trailer for "Visions".
Downloadables are a thing of the past. They are as defunct nowadays as VHS is, especially when there's the more convenient, better-quality and better-likelihood-of-distribution format of the DVD that is YouTube.

Don't expect to see "Mutants" finished. I think almost all of us have a different view of it now than we did a couple months before, where we just wanted it to be finished regardless of quality. (...and considering the original fake trailer was just a joke)

In terms of future projects, Aniket and Richie have agreed upon doing simpler 5-7 minute projects that would only take an entire day to shoot. This is a result of the hectic scheduling we've had in the past, as well as utter lack of productivity during filming sessions.

I still want to pursue projects of a similar scale of what we have been doing, and am currently penning a script based on a rather recent idea. However, details will not be spilled until there's a script out there. Wouldn't want to disappoint people who are eagerly awaiting, only to find out the dreaded writer's block really kicked in.

23 August 2006-
We have not finished "The Suite"; that is, no segments were completed. Both Aniket's and Kevin's segments still have some extra shots to be done, though there was plenty of progress during that week.
Shadow filming was attempted again, this time, using three cameras' built-in light to render the shadows visible. Unfortunately, three sources, no matter how close they were to each other, rendered a triple-shadow effect. A further reminder that we must get real lighting rigs.
As Aniket doesn't have a working DV camera, I'm instructed to upload the clips, then burn the footage onto DVD-Rs for him so he can edit. This will be interesting.
As well, Kevin requests that he be able to edit a workprint of his segment, similar to what he did for "The Last Fight Movie in the Universe" (he was dissatisfied with my edits, so I rendered all the raw footage to WMV files, in which he made his own edit in Windows Movie Maker. I used that cut as a guide for cutting the real DV footage, then rotoscoped effects after my "cut negative" was approved).
It's understandable- I mean, it IS his segment, and when he's directing, he knows what he wants. The only problem I'd really have is the fact that I'd like to insert a timecode in the WMV files this time. It was difficult to find the right takes just by ear for LFMITU, but this should make it easier for Aniket when he makes the final cut.
On other projects, upon hearing from Richie that Aniket was now less motivated to do the "Code of 'Con'duct" prequels, and that Aniket requested the writing team of Richie and Yuki write the first in addition to their already-assigned second installment, I asked if I could write it instead. As well, since Richie and Yuki were planning to direct the second, I would also like to direct the first.
Different installments, different directors. Should be interesting. Aniket could do all the editing, since I wouldn't treat the film like it was my baby. Just sitting at the director's chair and plotting out the scenes.
Well, today, Aniket was saying that he wanted to direct the prequels himself, but did approve of my penning "Code of 'Con'duct I: 'Con'cession". Most of it is already written out for me in the form of an outline- just, write dialogue. Richie also has some suggestions written out so as to decrease the amount of plot holes between his already-written (mostly) script and my own.

26 August 2006-
We're pretty much just getting started in serious filmmaking, but Joseph of JP Films ( has just gotten started. Now having gotten off of Fight Movies and into their first complex production, "House of Horror", he asked some of Dead Moose, Inc.'s members to make an appearance for the final scene of his film.
Originally, it was Aniket, Richie, Kevin and myself. However, due to scheduling conflicts, Aniket couldn't make it- Nikolay, bringing an arsenal with him, took his place.
While I think the craftsmanship could be improved (more camera angles, better (and more creative) shot compositions and acting), they're steps ahead of us in other departments:
-Make-up. Only thing we did coming remotely close is Kevin bleeding from his eye socket in "Fight Movie II". We never actually applied gashes to the face for zombie characters. Maybe there's a reason why I haven't done "ZOMBIS!!! Holy Shit, They Made a Sequel"- because we just don't measure up in the field of make-up.
-On a related note, costuming. Huge difference. Joseph has half of the stuff ready for us. We have no costumes. In our case, military garb.
So, pretty much, during that first hour we were there, we spent time actually preparing for the shoot- applying the make-up and all that good stuff. During our regular filming sessions, the cast (and crew) is too busy fooling around and not doing anything.
Once we did get to doing something, it was irritating how everyone would interrupt while some of us were trying to hear directions from... um... the director.
From what I could gather, Joseph's directing style is to let the actors make their own little contributions- later on, plenty of improvisation was done, and each following take was just a continuation of where the last one stopped. I've done some of that before (not really in the mood to mention which film), but that was dialogue- not action.
On the other hand, they seem a little bit too obsessed about how their blooper reels will turn out. Some of the pranks pulled by a couple of troublemakers on-set were funny (one involving, immediately upon entering the house, we hear a distant echo of that "Footloose" song), but I think the focus should be on making a better film.
From what I can gather, as Joseph matures as a filmmaker, he will feel less and less inclined to post such reels.
...but that's probably just me and my overall hatred of blooper reels. I just feel they're overrated, and overused by school projects. (and in the field of Hollywood, notice how most of the movies that bother to show the bloopers during the end credits... are probably terrible movies (Jackie Chan and Pixar fans, back off; I know their personal style))
I am looking forward to the finished product, and you betcha I'll be pluggin' the living crap outta that thing when it comes out.

30 August 2006-
It appears my tweaking of the film is not finished. As I plan to submit "Visions" to (real) film festivals, I want to tweak it up (re-shoot the very first shot so it's less confusing, brightness-and-contrast adjust a couple of other shots [the report card and the title of the third film- it could be very possible I re-shoot the latter])- I'm not submitting a film my uncle made years ago, I'm submitting a film that I made! In technical aspects, I have to make sure it's as good as it can be- the judges get a lot of these films, let's make it look like we actually give a crap!
On the other side of that, though, I want to make sure all music rights issues are cleared. While in my very early edits (though in no rendered rough cuts) I did have such music as placeholders, I deliberately avoided the unlicensed usage of popular copyrighted music. It goes on with too much of today's online independent filmmaking, and it'll come back to bite the filmmakers hard.
No rights for music = no TV showing = no DVD release (not legally, anyway).
My selections that were not from Ms. Warner were taken from Newgrounds- not entirely protected (only complete protection is usage on the site itself), but the artists are independent enough to where I can easily contact them.
I contacted the artist behind the intro song, "Anything but Human", months ago. He gave the go-ahead, but never responded with an e-mail about it. Yesterday, I contacted Alan Saunders, who composed "The Day we Adopted a Cat", the song that plays both in the trailer and during the editing montage.
He responded with this:
"nope, no doggone way, heck no...

yeah, you can use the song. although that one is soooo old and
baaaaaad. i
wish there was a more recent one you'd want to use in its place, but

good luck!
If nothing else, it did fit the scene, and all these artists will have my thanks by having the very first credit listed at the end. (in film festivals, I cannot isolate all of the credits into a program- thus, I will have to "surrender" and use an end credits reel; I already created one for the MV Film Festival DVD, but I'll arrange this one differently) I wouldn't have released (or submitted) a film without music, and the musicians should be the first to be acknowledged for allowing me to use it.
The third artist, whose ending piece is titled as such that it would somewhat spoil what happens, has no AIM or e-mail contact. I'll just have to settle for getting a new piece composed; preferably, one that ends when the film does (never liked that ending audio fade).
Thus, a film which I said that I wanted to leave as-is when released without further modifications, is still being worked on!

1 September 2006-
Well, last night, I wrote what looks like 5 minutes, but for now I'll just say the opening sequence of "Code of 'Con'duct I: 'Con'cession", and it feels GREAT! Not since I sat down to write "Visions" has a script flowed out of my fingertips this easily- after miserable writer's block sessions with projects like "The Suite" and that other recent concept which shall remain nameless. The latter was going to be my next project, but I couldn't live up to the concept, and it was just far too easy to write myself into a corner with it. You know to stop when you're able to think of its visual style easier than you're able to conjure up a good plot for it to suppot.
Aniket had an outline written down, but Richie wrote the beginnings of his script, for "Code of 'Con'duct II" (for the record, the original film that is currently out is now "Code of 'Con'duct III"), and there are plot holes between the two. In addition, I'll have to borrow liberally from the outline- it's only a basic framework of the plot, and some of it doesn't fit the tone he's going for.
My personal reasons, in addition to plot hole reasons and not being the tone that Aniket wants, are due to believability reasons (it's not going to be photorealistic, but the cons should be more believable than "cardboard car". Even an idiot wouldn't fall for that!) and something I want to avoid that I will call "Prequel-itis"- that is, too much foreshadowing going on. Too often in movie prequels, the writers will intentionally put in "subtle" references to the later films, some of these references being put in major plot points (or do I need to go over old "Star Wars" vs. new "Star Wars"? [Episode I making the mistake of including more sophisticated battle techniques than the "later" films]). It is my opinion that a prequel comes before the film it is adapting from, and thus should actually be written like it's the first work- you don't know the later installments until you get to them.
But, of course, the challenge is you HAVE to refer to the original work every once in a while. You don't want to end up writing the same thing- might as well remake it.
As well, I recently got screwed over by some real-life con artists. I'll factor in little, general parts of that experience into the script. Another careful area- I hate con artists, and don't care for the sympathetic look most modern movies put to criminals. Con artists are terrible people who are too lazy to make their own money.
I need to be careful so as to not make my script look like an angry rant. However, I do want to emphasize that, the whole time, they DID have a choice- they weren't forced to choose that profession, and they weren't forced to stay in it.
Also in the works is a feature-length script, with the exact opening in mind. Where it goes from there, I don't know, but I'm making sure it isn't that "Four People in a Room" crap.

4 October 2006-
Much has happened since my entry a month ago.
...well, not really. We're still uncertain as to what our next project is- I have made a oath which I will not repeat here, which I will keep until I finish (and release) another film. I'll say that it's quite visible and noticeable- it's not like one of those things that can't be proven, like "I swear not to play 3D Space Cadet Pinball until Dead Moose, Inc. finishes another film".
I'm writing two feature-length scripts, back-to-back, and then I plan to film the one that's better.
My goal of obtaining an anamorphic lens draws closer to reality- I've found a site which I found out was legitimate, and will be buying it promptly. It should fit on my camera, as I have a 34mm-to-37mm-thread converter. As I plan to make this feature-length project big, and I want to film it in 2.39:1 aspect ratio, I figure might as well do whatever I can to make it look as good as possible with what I have.
As for the "Code of 'Con'duct" business, I've all but withdrawn from it; it's just something I've lost interest in, mainly because I'm working with characters I really don't know. My assigned co-writer is doing a lot better with the material, and shows an interest. I shall stay on the production as a DP, provided it gets made.
Richie recently brought up the idea of "With all of this pushing things back and script confusions, what if we picked up 'ZOMBIS!!!'... and finished it in a week?"
Doesn't sound like a bad idea at all, if only something to get us out of our production hiatus. The challenge in that project is merely in the money, not the scheduling or performances- zombie noises can be dubbed in post, and gunfire effects with good ol'-fashioned rotoscope. Getting extras should be easy, since this project has also been discussed amongst potential cast members, some of which do want to be in it.
The only other thing holding back scheduling would be real zombie noises- I don't want the everyday imitation-zombie with a pathetic 10-year-old growl [who died and made you king of the f***ing zombies, Eric?!], and if I can get the actor from the first one to record all the stock zombie noises a desperate-for-new-material-amateur-filmmaker could possibly want, that would be excellent.
We've been raising and dropping projects left-and-right for six months, and we apologize. We want to make up for it; a feature-length film being shown online is probably too costly (it'll be taken around film festival circuit then sold on DVD, if anything), thus I want us to also have a good amount of short films this year to tell people that we at Dead Moose, Inc. ain't dead!

14 October 2006-
My anamorphic lens has been back-ordered, and I shall get it in "4-5 weeks"- hopefully. Well, as much as I'd hate to say it, this is almost a benefit since I have more time to procrastinate and come up with a good feature-length script to shoot it with.
The DVFilm filter, which will convert standard NTSC video into 24P, has already arrived. I'm going to do tests with it, and plan to release all future projects in 24fps (one reason being it's better to compress than NTSC 30fps).
Today is what I hope to be the end of location hunting for "ZOMBIS!!!"- I've found two locations that I'm very happy with. The better of the two will probably not be used due to the inconvenient distance. The other one doesn't exactly have the big foresty area specified in the script- there's a big fat yellow tall grass area that the forest circles- but I think the script can be worked around it.
Locations went so good, I almost forgot that we still need to stock up on our zombie extras, which we still don't have!
Talk about being smashed by 16 tons of irony when I sent out an e-mail to the school's film club members:
Make sure you email ~~~~~ and tell him to ask drama club for actors. You won't find any for your film from our club as of yet. We need to make oursleves known better and recruit some tallented actors. How many actors do you allready have? Do you need extra cameras, tripods, dolleys or camera men. If you do, we can bring the dolley and stuff to help you shoot it if it doesn't conflict with our filming of Decagon. Decoagon will probably supercede any other projects at the time, since it is a club wide project. But please, if you need any help, feel free to give the specifics, ass long as it doesn't involve acting. Also, I have a green screen if that can be handy to you.
~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~
Vice President
Mv Film Club"
Apparently, the drama department has something going on the very day we're filming- October 21st. Things just h-a-v-e to suck for us.
'Tis the nature of the beast. I was discussing with Richard on how much easier it would be if we had $1 million, build a forest set exactly to our liking, hire extras- ...or hire ILM to make the entire film for us.
Then I asked to borrow "The Phantom Menace", and it was good.
(I've relocated my movie reviewing activies at my Rotten Tomatoes blog.

23 October 2006-
My anamorphic lens finally arrived on Thursday, and reading about cinematographers' complaints about shooting anamorphic (this being in 35mm) pretty much lowered the shock of when I finally put it on:
A non-anamorphic 16:9 image cropped to 720x360 is actually sharper than the full 720x480 with the anamorphic lens attachment!
If there's any one reason I ordered the lens, though, it's because I wanted to shoot in real 2.37:1 Cinemascope, and I must say, with the lens it's way easier. Previous experience with matting a 16:9 image (even with black strips carefully placed on the monitor) has resulted in a composition looking vertically compromised. Now that I'm not compromising height, though, it shouldn't be a problem shooting in scope.
Some complain about the distorted image in monitors that results from attaching the lens. Having shot some in Richie's Optura60, where 16:9 mode is squished, I'm used to the distortion, but when shooting as wide as 2.37:1... the distortion actually helps! Leave admiring the beauty of width for when you stretch it out in post-production, what's more important for the cameraman is making sure it's framed right.
My two cents, anyway. 98% of you are probably saying "...whatever."

Shooting commenced on Saturday for "ZOMBIS!!!", which might be promoted as "The Film that Didn't Want to Get Made". I didn't think I was making "Don Quixote" here, but apparently, I was- almost anything that could have gone wrong did.
-Our location, McClellan Ranch, was occupied all around. Not just the parking lot, but the entire place was occupied by wildlife preservationalists and their little festival.
-It takes 70 minutes for our minimum of people to show up. Finally, I just give up and leave with our current winnings, and relocate.
-At the relocated area, we find the Department of Corrections has prisoners sweeping the parking lot! Fortunately, the officer was very kind to us (and even supportive of our filmmaking ambitions)- his only condition was to not start filming until they leave. 30 minutes more of preparation time.
-It takes an hour to get a very simple scene done... mainly because I'm being nagged about other scenes. If you have something to tell me about locations for scenes other than the one I'm shooting, guess what? I don't care. Tell me when we get there. I don't have a good short-term memory, and get really impatient when I can't just shoot what I've already got set up... or what I'm trying to set up!
-The actors are very active (this isn't the bad part). I end up using a lot more handheld shots than planned, but that day, my hand chose to vibrate like crazy. The shots suffer for it, and I'm sure the camera did, too.
-Finally, the final big blow: my camera, the Canon Optura 60, died. That's right. D-I-E-D. Before you suggest it, yes, I tried switching batteries, and I tried the AC Adaptor. The camera will not turn on, and is dead.

Fortunately, the camera is still under warranty. The remainder of the day's scenes were shot with Richie's Optura 20... whose quality is hazier than the Optura 60. But since the footage in the Optura 60, which won't let me remove the tape I was using, might be as good as destroyed, we'll be reshooting some parts anyway. Quality differences in a single scene will be therefore fixed by reshoots; otherwise, color correction is the best that can happen. At least I was able to use my shotgun mic on this camera... and never mind the fact that most of this will be redubbed in post-production anyway.
You can forget about "ZOMBIS!!!" being released on Halloween. Since we blew it with our one-day opportunity, this time, we're going to set certain scenes for certain weekends.
This forthcoming Saturday, thanks to the exhaustion all of us had from the hellish shoot that was October the 21st, we're going to be shooting the far simpler indoor scenes.

In the field of acting, the scenes I was shooting most of the time, with Nikolay and Joseph (of JP Films:, carried an unexpected occurrence. The exact opposite problem I had with other actors, who couldn't go more than four words in a line without cutting- they were reciting an entire scene when I only had part of it planned for a particular setup. Due to their movement, the tripod was far too restricting. My beaver-friendly hand tells me that I need to build a steadycam setup of my own.
The shot lists were helpful, but mostly because of the "study by writing it down" experience. I really didn't have to refer to them, as I knew what I wanted for the setups and length of takes.

Cinematographically speaking, I felt I didn't get what I wanted- I vastly overestimated the cramped area that was used, thinking I would need wide-angle lenses. Being how close I had to be to the actors, it was a shock at how wide the shots were. ...well, yeah, wide, DUH, but they weren't so "friendly" in previous shoots, where I had to back to a wall to get angles of similar width!
These scenes are in the middle of the movie, though- there's still time later, chronologically speaking, for it to get more and more cramped. The footage being deliberately composed in 4:3 to be cropped into 1.66:1 will probably add more to that effect, but we'll see. I do not have a MiniDV camera on me right now, so I cannot upload the footage and test it out- color correction and cropping.

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