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!


My Education Continues...

So, as I prepare to rebuild the carburetor, I decided I want to know ALL the science behind it to really know what's going on- that way it works correctly. I found this video- you can skip past the guitar open to about 30 seconds in:

I've read alot of books on the subject, and a ton of articles, but this demonstration sums it up in a couple of minutes.

I've also been thinking about one of the last things I'll be doing to the LeMans- the upholstry. I found this quick timelapse video, but it gave me quite a bit of insight on how I can approach it DIY style:

There are tons of videos on this, but I liked how they took the existing foam and patched it. Now to find someone who can sew!

Flaming Hot Surprise

I love the title of the article. has a gallery feature of a family who pulled together to fix up their son's 1972 Pontiac LeMans as a surprise when he came home on leave from Afghanistan.  Here's the link to the story told through a gallery of pictures: Flaming Hot Surprise.

I can appreciate the flames- I love the way they did the graphic lines and I absolutely LOVE the interior.  Looking at it, the grill, the automatic transmission, and the factory emblem, this was a Luxury edition like mine.  I was seriously thinking about finding a sports edition grille to replace the luxury grille until I saw this article.

Hats off to the family for restoring this, and thanks to The Wichita Eagle for bringing us this story!


Sorry about the delay in posts- it's getting cold and I've been doing some winterizing around the house... so I haven't had any chance to play. However, when I went to start up the LeMans to move it over in the garage to make room for my other car, and as I did a gigantic fireball flew out the carburetor! It backfired. Completely my fault, I knew better- the choke is missing and the carburetor is tuned really rich- a note the previous owner warned me about, and in my haste I certainly had a close call.

I need to rebuild the carb anyway. It's a 2bbl Rochester 2GV, and I've discovered many places with kits and detailed manuals to rebuild it. Sure, I could just replace it with a newly rebuilt one, but where's the fun in that?

After the carb rebuild, the fuel tank is next on the replace list.

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

Meaner Stance

I always love finding videos of people enjoying their Pontiac LeMans. I found this one- I really, REALLY like how they've done the front end- no bumper and black grille- it looks really aggressive:

The ONLY bad thing about this car is they put a Chevy 350 in it.  I realize he's still working on it, but it sounds like it's cutting out... aw well, as long as he's having fun with it- which it looks like he is.

I managed to get the wheel locks yesterday using a 19mm socket and breaker bar- came off like nobody's business.  After that I got the rallys on and my daughter even noticed it raised the car by 2 inches.  It's stance is more brawny and it's amazing how much difference tires and rims can improve the looks.

My other brother-in-law Mitch offered to help me rebuild the engine- he has everything we'd need to do it... I'll definitely be taking him up on that offer.  He's been working on cars for over 30 years, so I know I'll learn a thi…

More Preppin'

I haven't been able to work on the LeMans this week.  However, while crawling the classifieds, I had come across some sand blasters for cheap.  I started researching this as a means to get rid of the horrible primer job the previous owner did to hide all the body imperfections.  Here's one guy's video that made me really consider this as an option:

I know there are attachments to suck up what you blast... a cheap alternative to sand blasting the car.

Prepare yourselves- this can get ugly:

As you know, I've spent the past twenty years as an illustrator so all my time AND MONEY went into pursuing that.  Of course other too

Missing Keys

So, finding a key to the wheel lock ended up being a bust.  Apparently they change the patterns after a while for security reasons- it's not really secure if everyone has the same key.  I called the previous owner to see if he had the key (which I really should have done first), he asked if it was just on two tires, told me his friend put them on (wtf?) and he doesn't know what to tell me.  I had a feeling that was a longshot which is why I didn't do that first.

That said, it looks like I'll have to do this the hard way.  I found this tutorial- and to mirror the guy's disclaimer:don't do this for illegal purposes!!  If you're in a jam and you lost your key, or like me you bought a car and the key wasn't given to you, here is a good last resort:

I'll let you know how it goes, but I'm confident that they'll come off with a breaker bar.

Here are a couple of shots of the interior- the back seat isn't so bad but the front seats a…

Taking Stock in my Stock Car

So, I was all excited to put those Rallys on the car this weekend.  I got a new 2 ton jack and some jack stands and popped the hubcaps off only to discover this on both back wheels: Yeah.  And I don't have the key.  Luckily, I was able to find the correct one online- but I'll have to buy the entire wheel lock set just so I can have a key- only about $25.  
I know I could probably get this thing off by tapping on a socket and using a breaker bar... but I don't want to ruin the lock or messing with my bearings if I don't have to.
As promised, here are some pictures of the fuel tank intake- you can see what I mean about it being mangled and not taking a gas cap.  Not safe at all.  Replacing the fuel tank is the first item on my list.
I really think it's because someone pried off a lock cap.   Here are some undercarriage pictures of the tank:
On the opposite end of the fuel system is the vapor canister.  I am going to replace the filter on that.
I wanted to also show the carb…

First Steps

The car runs decent, and is in fair shape but I'd say out of everything the fuel system is probably the worst (and definitely the most dangerous) part of this car. So the first thing I want to do with the car is get the fuel system working properly so I can drive it safely if I need to move it before the strip down next year.  I'll need to:
Install a new Air Cleaner to replace the missing one - the guy had a pie tin and crumpled plastic bag protecting the carburetor... luckily he took it off before he sold it to me but all I can think is the mangled hood pad fibers being sucked into the carburetor when I have to move it.  I just want to know what happened to the original Air Cleaner...?Replace the Vapor Canister Filter or the Vapor Canister itself.  The thing is rusted and should probably just be replaced.Replace the Fuel Tank - if I can't get the cap on who knows what kind of condition the tank itself is in.  I've been researching this one carefully- I'm defin…

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…


Apologies that I've been absent from here. I've been taking care of business for house, family and freelance. Now that things are settling into their new norm, I'm back!

You may have noticed that I've updated both this blog and my homesite- I've been wanting to do it for awhile, mostly to clean up old code but I really wanted to simplify the design and give better emphasis on my illustration work. I also put a twitter widget to my feed on the front page of the site- which will keep the site content itself a bit more fresh.

But don't fret thrill-seekers! Filmmaking may be on the back burner for a while (at least while my younger children are still little), but I'm active in a few projects on a pre-vis capacity, as well as one larger project slated later this or early next year.

So, expect to see some more drawin'. I'll post what I can, probably more sketchbook stuff here on the blog. If it's good enough it will graduate to …

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.