Showing posts from 2011

The Unique Voice of Vinegar Hill

I've recently become intrigued by the filmmakers of Vinegar Hill. I first came across their short film "The Cosmonaut", and was captivated by their storytelling style.

THE COSMONAUT from Vinegar Hill on Vimeo.

They are currently working on a feature called Twin Reflex- their successful Kickstarter shows some great ideas:

Twin Reflex — Featurette #1 from Vinegar Hill on Vimeo.

I find this method of filmmaking interesting... it's sort of a fusion of cinéma vérité and role-playing. I like the fact that they have a solid technical background but are now approaching this feature in a fresh, albeit experimental, way. And I love it. It drives me to want to try it.

It's been a re-occurring theme in my posts, but I can't stress it enough: If you want to stand out, approach each piece of work differently with UNTESTED ideas and methods. Break yourself out of your comfort zone and truly challenge yourself. Techniques, like cameras, are only tools- use them to your creati…

...almost there...

It's been a tumultuous ride for Southside of Elsewhere... but I can say that we are 99.999% finished with it- and we are pushing to have it finished by week's end. With that, we're really proud of how it's turning out and we've decided to submit it to the festival circuit instead of releasing it online.

Right now we're in the process of sound design- the hardest and most rewarding part of putting a film together. Sound adds the texture of the world you're characters are in- it adds believability and life to the film.

One of my favorite filmmakers, Walter Murch, talks about "worldizing" sound design in this clip. Enjoy!

Inspiration Monday 12/19/2011: It's not about the toys. It's about the vision.

I'm always excited for new technology as much as the next guy.  Canon C300? Sign me up. Red Epic? Pretty please. As nice as these toys are, without any solid artistic background or talent, they aren't going to improve your work.

Take this short film for example- it's amazing! The cinematography, direction, editing, performance, colorgrading, audio... it's a fantastic piece and it RIVALS many feature length studio released films shot on 35mm film- and it was shot on a little Canon HV20 consumer camera. 

White Red Panic (HD) from Ayz Waraich on Vimeo.
Now, I own one.  I am first to admit that you have very limited control over many of the camera features... but Ayz knows this and he worked within what he was able to do, and the results are amazing.  He relied on his directing, cinematography and editing abilities using only what he had available. His equipment limitations gave him parameters to work within, giving him the chance to explore ways to tell the story by probl…

And All I Ask is a Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

If you've ever read Sea Fever By John Masefield, and you have a passion for something, you know what I mean. It's simply time to redouble my efforts and narrow my focus. 2012 will mark finishing Southside of Elsewhere, creating another short with refined and better technique, and starting on my first feature.  If you've been to my main site-, you'll notice it's had a major redesign to reflect that.

So with all of that, I've decided to retire from freelance illustration and web design. While I'll still take on freelance graphic design, photography and video production jobs, they all fall into what I deem necessary to steer my ship to reach my goal- to do filmmaking fulltime, and support my family while doing it. 

In the meantime, please check out and like my new Facebook page-

Lost Skies Demo Reel from Juan Maestas on Vimeo.

Poor thing is sitting patiently, cold in the garage. I am going to replace the carb…

Inspiration Monday 12/12/2011

Well, it's been a hectic week.  I've been busy with some upcoming changes- of which you'll see by the end of this week.  I promise, it's huge!!

So, because of that, there isn't much to show this week in terms of inspiration- but I did find some pretty radical stuff:

EYE OF THE STORM  |  Lovett from Lovett on Vimeo.
This video is awesome- with all the steampunk elements, it blows my mind everytime I watch it.

The Gift from BLR_VFX on Vimeo.
While the FX are seamless in this video- as compelling as the concept is, it is a bit light on story.  Still, I added it here as an incredible example of blending live action with CGI.

I've been on a film noir kick, again lately.  A big part of that is the feature I'm working on with Aaron Colburn... but another is the current script I'm writing, well, rewriting.  This film school student's example of film noir lighting and mood is very inspiring.

Well, I'll be posting more this week- stay tuned for the big anno…

On Set: The Lean Production

Sometimes it's just not feasible to have a giant crew. You may need to work fast and if the actors are willing to work with you (if they believe in the project), you can do it- but it will require discipline, focus, planning, creativity and resourcefulness to pull it off.

Of course, you'll have to make a few concessions- no cast of thousands, no opulent locations, no labor-intensive setups, and cast carefully- you'll want to work with someone who is willing to go that extra mile- and you'd be surprised at how many are willing. Unfortunately, the flip side is that many of those who WERE willing are now not, because their good graces have been taken advantage of by many an unscrupulous filmmaker. Said filmmakers can ruin it for the rest of us. But this post isn't about them- it's about you and your lean production.

First and foremost: You ABSOLUTELY have to have an incredible script with emotional depth. It has to blow people's socks off. A good script i…

Inspiration Monday 12/5/2011

Well, here we are again! I've been looking for inspiration lately- particularly in terms of my new feature script. I want to do this one right: by that I mean I want to BE ABLE to do this by starting with a story that uses only what is available to me rather than spend years finding investors and making shorts or a webseries based on it (which is a strategy with merit, but is time away from just making the damn film).

But even though I've been in screenwriter mode, finding video to help with my visuals often helps me in both writing AND making plans on how to approach the film when I feel like I'm ready.

OFFF New York Titles from Rob Chiu on Vimeo.I was told this is cubist editing- the quick flashes of items with the jittery editing could really give someone a headache if they had to watch an entire feature film like this, but when used appropriately, it gives the sense of dreamlike abstraction.

Canon EOS C300 = Awesome from Jonathan …

Feel what you mean, but not what you say!

So I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out what I'm going to post today- since I have resolved myself in keeping this blog very active to AT LEAST two postings a week. I was planning on doing a post about ADR or cubist editing.

The day got away from me as started going through my lostskies email (it doesn't hold very much so I'm pruning out old emails) and I came across this advice I had posted on a forum a few years ago. I saved the text in an email so I could keep it for my own records. In any case, my foresight is helping us out here :)

The forum person asked why their dialogue felt so stale even though he felt his plot was exciting. This was my response:


Dear ******,

I know you didn't ask for tips, but I just felt that some advice on scripting dialogue might help you find out why you're running into some problems, and offer advice to others who might be in the same quandary.

Most of the time, as I've seen with many new writers when they …

Inspiration Monday 11/28/2011

If you haven't noticed, I'm trying to wake this blog up. I'm going to put more film related content on a weekly or twice-weekly basis.

So, here's a new subject to cover:


Post Transhumanism

I love the themes AND production values in this new web series that is coming out soon. While many are upset that most transhumanist stories are negative, but I'd have to agree that directly accessing your mind to the internet could be fatal. Given all the viruses and hacker activity world wide, would YOU connect your brain directly to the world wide web?

Fashionable Dieselpunk

The Escapists - The Storm Theme from elr°y on Vimeo.I love this- the camera work, the acting, the visuals, the costumes, the set... the ONLY thing I would do different is the 2 dimentional shots of the plane exterior... this could have been done with a 1:12 detailed model shot against a greenscreen. I believe strongly in old school practical models- they seem to be more believable and feel more …

Fog City Mavericks

Fog City Mavericks - Part 1 of 5 from Gary Leva on Vimeo.
It's been a while since I've stepped foot on a film set. I'm still trying to finish Southside of Elsewhere. It is edited but sound design has been my biggest hurdle- I'm learning from scratch while juggling a fulltime job, a large family and freelance. It's daunting at times.

But I'm not in hibernation- I'm still writing when I get the chance at lunch or early in the morning. My education continues when I watch documentaries of independent filmakers that I admire, and watching those rekindles and inspires me to keep moving forward.

One of my favorite documentaries is A LEGACY OF FILMMAKERS: The early years of American Zoetrope which is on disk 2 of my THX-1138 directors cut dvd set. I've watched it over and over.

But another is a five part series on Vimeo- Fog City Mavericks.

Do yourself a favor and take the time to watch it... then tell me again t…

Rough Ride

It's been a rough couple of months. I've been waiting to get paid from a freelance job for quite some time - it had nearly been a year since I did the job... long story but suffice to say I've measured 2011 in chasing the client in getting paid because the money was "held up". It got to the point where I reluctantly put the LeMans up for sale.

Luckily there were no takers (although I did get interest from one person) and I've since gotten the money owed to me. It was certainly a close call, but it's off the market.

I found this LeMans' profile on Car Domain- and now I know EXACTLY the direction I want to go with my project:

1972 Pontiac LeMans on Car Domain

It's very similar to the Black LeMans Video I posted a while ago.

In any case, I'm relieved not to have to sell it. And I have renewed interest in getting it prepped as the bad guy's car for my upcoming feature film- and I have 2 years to get it in gear!


The Future of Digital Sketches

I love paper and sketchbooks. I prefer them to my plastic Wacom tablet. Don't get me wrong, I'd be lost without my Intous... but Wacom has created something very much worth looking into:

I seriously believe this is going to change how we work. And for only $199, I want one.

The Future of Digital Sketches

Where the Fun begins...

Howdy!  So, if you've surfed into this page, I just wanted to give you a quick intro of who I am and what I'm trying to do. My original blog, Tales of the Lost Skies, showcases my filmmaking and illustration endeavors. I decided to create this blog to document my progress to a) keep all my work on the restoration archived and separate from Lost Skies and b) to help out anyone that is also starting out and to give them a reference in anything I figure out along the way.

I do have plans for a feature film two years from now. Even though I'm nailing down the script, I know the main characters are mechanics and the villain has a muscle car. To prepare for this, I've bought a 1972 Pontiac Luxury LeMans I found online with plans to restore.  The guy I bought it from had hurt his back and has been on disability for the past six months, and money was tight.  I felt bad because he really didn't want to part from it and was gritting his teeth when he signed t…

1972 Pontiac LeMans

So, it's been a bit. Between my day job, freelance and family, I've had little time to work on any filmmaking projects in the traditional sense.

I do have plans for a feature film two years from now. Even though I'm nailing down the script, I know the main characters are mechanics and the villain has a muscle car. To prepare for this, I've bought a 1972 Pontiac Luxury LeMans I found online with plans to restore.  The guy I bought it from had hurt his back and has been on disability for the past six months, and money was tight.  I felt bad because he really didn't want to part from it and was gritting his teeth when he signed the title over to me.  I assured him it was going to a great home.

I am from a family of mechanics who love to restore old cars. My dad was a diesel mechanic and would always be tinkering out in the garage and taught me to do all my own servicing on my old 1980 Camaro (which I ended up having to sell ten years ago- too hard to trans…

Vicariously living through my friends

New Filmmakers in Town
Back in February I had profiled Spanish filmmakers Sonia & Miriam Albert Sobrino's work on Ignoto- and of course I'm still amazed by it. They are both planning making the move from Spain to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah's Film Program starting this fall! I'm looking forward to meeting them and perhaps working with them.

From WVC to USC
My friend Tony Hendrichsen is more than talented- he's brilliant. So when I had heard he won the Youtube filmmakers challenge, I wasn't in the least bit surprised. The Challenge's grand prize was a month long workshop at USC's Creator Institute. Tony talks about his intense experience in his new VLOG.

Here is some of his work, starring Trevor "Bev" Hawkes and his two beautiful girls in this heart wrenching/warming piece of a widower on the brink of despair:

Tony had also won the Utah Film Commission's On The Spot commercial contest back in 2009 with this piece sta…

Some oldies but goodies

I did these a number of years ago, but I still really like how it has held up. They're simple character designs for a Role Playing Game I had donated art to... the project has gone on to a series of books.

This is a cityscape concept I created for a space opera comic book I had started years ago.  The project is ongoing, and will be making a debut within a year.

Archangel Alpha

These were created a little while ago, but I thought I'd post them as examples of Key Scene pitch concepts.  The film, Archangel Alpha, is a feature length Sci-Fi film slated for a late 2011 release.  Director Aaron Martin had asked me to create some concept art pieces to be used in early funding pitches.

Aaron has been furiously working hard at finishing it up.  Check out the official Archangel Alpha website and 'like' his Facebook Fan Page!

Space Ace!

I'll admit it- I'm not super thrilled with this image, but it turned out decent enough.  The idea is that this Space Ace is stranded on some weird planet, doing repairs on his spaceship- until he's interrupted by some unhappy natives!  The spacesuit was an homage to 50's Sci Fi, and a salute to one of my biggest influences in particular: Al Williamson.

Chloe from "Corner of the Mind's Eye"

Another digital painting... experimenting more with effects and backlighting.  The illustration itself is an exaggeration of the character Chloe from my feature screenplay- she is a magic user, though the magic within the film is more along the lines of incantations and consequences... you only see the actual magic lighting up the room once :)


Thanks for checking out my new blog! I've decided to branch my illustration work from my Lost Skies blog, especially since all the freelance I do is under my name.

So I thought I'd start out with my one of my favorite illustrations I had done in the past few months- "Sky Pirate!" It turned out decent.  I had made the unfortunate choice of a green sky and left it like that for a couple of months before I re-tackled it and gave it a better background.

Alrighty, swing by often, I'll be posting more!

Session 1138 Premiere!!

Session 1138 premiered last night at the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City at X96's "Radio From Hell" Film Festival, and it came away with Best Actress for Renny Grames' fantastic performance! Production sound mixer Bob Melanson posted it on Youtube, so here it is in it's entirety:

Great set, cast and crew! Congratulations and thanks for letting me be a part of it!


I normally don't post other people's work on my blog, but this one is really just too good not to share.

Ignoto is a web series out of Spain, by the amazing talents of filmmaking sisters Sonia & Miriam Albert Sobrino. Check out the first episode here- it's in Spanish (myself being from New Mexico but raised in Utah, my Spanish is very rusty, but the important thing is I would be able to follow it if I didn't know any Spanish- the story telling is THAT strong):

The reason I post this is as a lesson in pacing in editing, cinematography, acting and story. They are successful on all fronts. I see so many rushed projects that are are unwatchable, and it's disheartening. I'm most critical of my own projects- especially ones that I am unable to share yet, such as Southside of Elsewhere... Ignoto reminds me that with patience, planning and passion INCREDIBLE work can be achieved and that's exciting.

The most refreshing thing is that in talking to the sisters …

Session 1138 in the Radio From Hell Film Festival

Here it comes! Session 1138 will premiere in the X96 Radio from Hell Film Festival on February 23rd at the Tower Theater in Salt Lake City!

Session 1138 in the Radio From Hell Film Festival


Session 1138: Day One Shooting

I didn't get much of a chance to take very many photos, but we shot all the flashback scenes of the main character's (played by Allan Groves) wasted life.

It was a pretty freeflowing shoot- I got to mix a technicolor cocktail that got a close up for shock value, and also played as an unfortunate visitor that got the business end of fists and kicks.

Sunday is the main shoot- large crew and large cast.  I'll post more as it happens!

Location, location, location!

I'm going to start something new here, posting snapshots of areas I think that would be fantastic as locations.

This little dilapidated warehouse district is the one Mario DeAngelis is using for "Session: 1138"

But just around the corner was this great pothole strewn street with questionable powerlines and worn buildings.

This is closer to where I live- I pass by these tracks quite often and I love this backdrop. The watertower dominates the area, it is easily 6-8 stories high.

Well, I'll be adding more photos as I take them!

New Promises on the Horizon

2011 is going to be THE year- we're revamping and improving, wishing success to everyone we've worked with in the past and we're forging the new relationships to accomplish our goals this year.

We will be working on some new short films, and are planning our fourth year in the 48 Hour Film competition. I have also been talking to my old friend and film associate, Mario DeAngelis, about how we can finish up Southside of Elsewhere and submit it to the LA Action Film Festival. Lost Skies Productions has had a couple of bumps along the way, but we're now in the position to finish it up quickly.  I finished a rough cut a few months ago- we have a car chase scene in it and we need a few pick up exterior shots, and we're gathering audio for the sound design and are currently looking at some composers for the musical score.

I'm also helping Mario with a short film coming up in February.  More on that soon.

From there, the elusive "future-noir" is being re-w…