04 December 2008

Peppering the Salt

Howdy! It's been a wild and busy month. I've finished helping with Oisin- editing, editing sound and color correction and have handed it back to Russ Adams.

With that, I have turned my attention back to Salt of the Earth, which I have gone down and dirty with the edit- refining it so the pace is appropriate to all the scenes. I've also been storyboarding out the pickups which will give the first scene an entirely different context than just a simple conversation in a plaza. As I have been editing it, I've been color correcting it as I go. Here's some more grabs:

I've also asked my long time associate Brett Stagg to create an animation for me that will play at the beginning. Once all of that is done, it's the business of cleaning up the audio, doing the sound design and scoring it. I was really hoping to have been to this point, but projects and freelance kept popping up!

The second of the "future noir" shorts has been written, and I have been working with a few people on getting it planned. More on this as we get all the i's crossed and the t's dotted.

09 November 2008

Back to the Future... again.

The final cut is almost finished on Oisin, than the audio edit should go fairly fast, than it will be passed back to my friend and fellow filmmaker Russ Adams to finish his sound design, than he'll send it off to the composer to get scored.

Salt of the Earth needs pickups. We're working on what and when, but it will be a bit before we can go back out. Than sound design, etc etc and that will be finished.

While I've been home, I've been hit with a ton of inspiration on the re-write of an old friend: Corner of the Mind's Eye. Essentially, being away from it for a year or so has given me an opportunity to look on it again with fresh eyes, and I can see within the story structure why it didn't make the cut for the Slamdance Screenplay Competition a year ago. The "B-Plot" was underdeveloped...which I knew, but once I went and wrote up a "history of the story's world" everything came together: The intrigue- the conspiracy- the drama- the heart ache and the heroism that will make Joseph Crowfoot iconic.

Haughty words for a low-budget filmmaker, huh? That's because I'm feeling really confident about how it's turning out.

28 June 2008

Michael Turner: 1971-2008


Before my advent into filmmaking, I was an aspiring comic book artist. I was good, but I was way, way, way too slow. I would always marvel at the amazing talents of it all... and Michael Turner was definitely one of them.

I've known he's had a long battle with cancer... and with sadness came across the news that he had passed yesterday.

Thoughts and prayers with his family.


19 June 2008

Biography of a Film

So, things have been quite the rollercoaster ride for the past month. I have been polishing a feature script for the past six months, and it has drastically changed in the past couple. It's funny how a story evolves and changes and it's not even the same one you'd thought was a winner.

I bought "The Making of Star Wars" a few weeks ago, and read it cover to cover. It's like an biography for a film, you see all the pitfalls and lucky breaks... and backbreaking labor it takes to MAKE A MOVIE. George Lucas went through four drafts... four COMPLETELY different stories and even then was changing it in the middle of filming. Despite hostile environments, hostile crews, hostile studios and an effects crew seemingly more interested in experimenting rather than creating... he did it. Absolutely not to his satisfaction, but he changed filmmaking and the world of many- including myself. But he did it- and it was through SHEER determination.

However, you can't confuse determination with stubbornness... there's a difference. Determination is borne of careful thought, planning and a sheer vision - ignited by passion... it gets done because there is no other way. Stubbornness is self-effacing, borne from it's own personality and ego. Surely, being stubborn is not totally a bad trait, but doing it for it's own sake is dangerous. One could even argue that being stubborn is essential to determination. Sure, if that's the spice on your shelf. But it can never replace sheer vision and passion. If you have those two, you're okay in my book.

23 May 2008

"Maybe..." on IMDB


"Maybe...", a comedy film made during the 48 Hour Film Project Competition in Salt Lake City, 2008 has been listed on the Internet Movie Database.

Still waiting for all the updates to our listing, but Lost Skies is now officially listed on the IMDB!!

We are planning on putting it in a few more festivals.

Now, on the the next project...

11 May 2008

48 Hour Film Project - SLC 2008

This is going to take a couple of blogs to get in everything that has happened in the past week. It's been a whirlwind of excitement, from the 42 Hour day, cast/crew of 30, nine setups and 4 locations... and we were all STILL laughing and hugging by wrap at 11pm Saturday night.

I will in the next week have pictures and the short after this event is completed on Monday!

In the meantime, here is stills photographer Ben Bamba's Flickr set from the set of "Maybe...". I will have another set by stills photographer Brad Leatham soon.

Also, here is the official 48 Hour Salt Lake City Blog where both I and Producer Pietro D'Alessio have posted.


Stay tuned!

11 March 2008

Budgets & Strategy: Part II

So the pitfalls of pre-production all come down to planning.  It's not enough just to "know" what you need.  You need to write it down, figure out how you are going to acquire it, and have an alternate plan in place incase it's not going to work out.  

There is plenty of production software out there.  I've discovered one called Celtx, which is perfect because not only is it FREE (and just because something is free doesn't mean it has value), it is actually really good.  I like to think of Celtx as scriptwriting software on steroids.  Without going too much into the features (you can go to their site to do that yourself),  it is able to categorize items and give detailed information on props, actors, characters, sets, vehicles, livestock, etc.  It also allows you to create backgrounds for your characters, and lets you define why your scenes are important.  

The key feature of this is you can use it on the internet, and create a group that can access all the files off of the Celtx servers.  You can make it public or private.  This is essential to keep everyone in the loop.  

If you're more web-savvy, you may consider setting up a forum can only be accessed with a password.  Aaron Martin did this with Archangel Alpha, and it grew quite a bit with everyone pitching in ideas and posting their progress.  We would post links of relevant information or similar works.  He would also make the script updates available to everyone and I would post pictures of concept art as I was able to do them.  We would post our concerns or bring up potential problems as pre-production went on and Aaron would address or solve them.

One thing I've learned from a video game development project I helped out on back in 2003 was the scheduled calendar and milestones.  The group director will set up what they want to accomplish and by what date.  This is a milestone.  They would assign the best talent to accomplish the milestone, and it became very apparent who the responsibility went to.  Granted, filmmaking is a little bit more organic, but the idea of having things in place by a certain time can really help you out.  See what people can bring to the table for  you.  They might offer alternatives to something you can't quite acquire that's in your script.

How I do this is after I have a finished script, I go through and break it down.  I see what's most doable first, and set up my shooting schedule around what I can get together the easiest.  I than set up milestones in order to get set up for those days.  If a milestone can't be reached before the shoot date, I need an alternate shoot on that day and arrange for it.  Worst case scenario, I'll plan on what cut-aways can be shot with available actors- or if the location becomes unavailable (for whatever reason) have a back up plan to shoot another scene- and give some slack for rehearsal time.

Budgets & Strategy: Part I

You know, as I've been paper producing my next project, I've came to a few conclusions that I have found that I need to work on myself, and it's the same problem other filmmakers have:


Of course, you need to budget your money so you know how much you can spend on a set, or that costume with the rhinestone and lights, or if it's going to be sandwiches or pizza for the crew.  That goes without saying.  You'd be surprised how many filmmakers usually skirt around all of this.  Charm only goes so far.  This also goes for available resources- what you can already bring to the film in terms of equipment: lights, camera, greenscreen, yada yada yada.  The favors of others bringing in their gear and what you'll have to barter with.

However, I've also realized what the biggest resource of all:  People's time.  A donation of a person's time is often more valuable than any monitory income you can bring into your film by any investor.  They are sacrificing their time to be there at your call, they'll happily work for you provided they can get something in return: experience, networking, or as my friend Mark Throckmorton mentioned, "even food".  Often times though, taking a person's time can really cut into their living expenses, and whether or not they believe in a project, sometimes, just like when a person's bills overwhelm their income, they have to declare bankruptcy on their available time just to get things back in order.

Again, most will happily work for you, PROVIDED they get something just as valuable in return- and often they have to determine what that value is:  financial compensation, a finished project for their reel or portfolio or resume, experience and knowledge so they can tackle their own future projects, or simply notoriety.  

I guess my point is, yes, there is the love of doing it.  Many will sacrifice quite a bit, but they often will get something in return.  However, once you've wasted someone's time, you've essentially stolen from them.    

So, the next time you put a post out, consider what you're really giving a person when you ask them to volunteer their time or work on deferment:  experience for those who have none, knowledge for those who seek it.  Don't be stingy with either one of these, they are giving you their most valuable commodity, make sure you are just as generous in return.  If not time, offer your ideas, know-how, or networking opportunities.  

Once you know what you can offer, make sure you have figured out your strategy before you make your movies- because no plan will simply waste time and your most valuable resource. You're knowledge/contacts/ideas are also a commodity.  Don't waste your commodities by wasting their time.  It goes both ways.  Conversely, if you use their time but are stingy with your resources/knowledge/contacts than you are stealing from them.  It really is a give-and-take balancing act to be fair to both yourself and to the person you're working with.

Of course, the strategy is simply this:  Budget time as if it were money.  The old adage "time is money" is absolutely true.  Budgeting time is as simple as having a schedule to reach milestones in your pre-production.  Again, people want to work for you, but they need a direction to go in.  Once you've set them in a direction, let them finish the task/milestone before you pull them off to do something else.  PLAN, don't REACT.  Reacting economically requires a Plan B.  Reacting without a Plan B is running around in circles, and is a waste of everyone's time.  

Rushing and "figuring it out along the way" is a fool's errand.  And it makes it look like you don't know what the hell you're doing.  And one by one, crew drops off.

I admit it.  It has happened to me.  My excuse is a lack of experience in both knowing how to produce and who I was dealing with.  And really, I've learned from it.  Was it a waste?  I don't believe it was, because everyone involved got to work on a large set, got to network and make friends, and there's some pretty cool footage that netted new projects for some of those involved.  I lost time, but I gained experience.  If I did it again, THEN it would be a waste.