Archive for the ‘Short Films’ Category

 

Where Is That Webseries? – 11. November, 2009

In a world where the buzzword “transmedia” gets manhandled and tossed around like the proverbial drunk girl at a frat party, every major conglomerate has staked a claim in the digital frontier with a web channel. I’m not talking about reappropriated television shows or their web spin-offs. I’m talking about content created specifically for the web like ANGEL OF DEATH by Crackle or SQUEEGEES by Stage 9.

So why write about Fox and their 15 Gigs? Because of this image:

Ashley-the-Wise-15-Gigs.jpg

It’s from a still-in-development web series from the creator of BURN NOTICE and already I’m dying to see it.  It makes for one hell of a poster but where is the logline and trailer?

But why do I REALLY write this?  I do so because I have a couple of web series ideas but haven’t done much with them. Christ, one idea already has material in the can.

Why tell you? Because I consider public harassment and humiliation a potent form of motivation. Really, it’s inexcusable that we don’t have 1) a website and 2) a PayPal donation button so we can raise the money to buy a RAID so I can edit the stuff we’ve shot. Yeah, that’s all that stands in my way. Lame? Don’t I know it. Am I trying to do something about it? Yes. Therefore, coming soon.

  1. A website
  2. A PayPal donation button
  3. Some videos

Oh, how I love that feeling of pushing myself over the edge. Bring on the gray hairs.

Do You Remember OCCUPIED? – 3. November, 2009

This tiny film recently celebrated an anniversary.

For all the insiders, do you remember your 2-minute film? Do you remember your shoot? Please share.

Bits of Chicago – 8. October, 2009

A couple of years ago, I traveled to Chicago to see a few friends. Here’s the proof.

Factoids: I shot about an hour of HDV footage on a Sony A1U, converted it to ProRes, edited it down in Final Cut Pro and timed it in After Effects with Colorista.

I Am Amazon – 4. September, 2009

And for those that are curious, here is my Amazon spec.

Allow me an indulgence as I send a big shout-out to Dan Billet, Karina Bustillos, Curtiss Frisle and Michael Perkins for lending their voice talent; an extra shout goes to Dan for also acting in the film.  I’d also like to thank Laura Emanuele for all her behind-the-scenes help.

If you’re curious, I posted a debrief where I get into the technical nitty gritty. Also, be sure to leave a comment.

“No” Means “Try Harder” – 3. September, 2009

Before I get bombarded by some womyns group, let me assure you that 1) my momma raised a good boy and 2) I’m talking about perseverance in the film industry.

I know it’s frowned upon to share defeat but it’s the reality of working as a creative in the movie industry. Recently, I suffered two hits.

First, the spec commercial I made for the Amazon “Make-Your-Own-Ad” contest wasn’t chosen for one of the top 5 spots. I have no idea how many entries there were but I would assume a lot of people would take a shot at $20k.

Second, I topped out at the second round of the Austin Teleplay competition. They did send a letter saying that making the second round means I was in the top 10%. Someone even took the time to send me a hand written note with the form letter congratulating my courage for writing on a new show (the recently canceled TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES).

Obviously I’m bummed but if I dwell on the negative while trying to hack my way into this industry, I’d have committed suicide a long time ago. No, instead I take great pride in the work I’ve done, add it to the portfolio and move on to the next short (an actress from my Amazon spec pitched me an idea) and spec teleplay (I’m pretty sure it’ll be a FRINGE but I’m considering a DOLLHOUSE or possibly an EASTBOUND & DOWN).

As I say to my colleagues, I must heed as well: Chin up, gather your strength and keep moving forward.

My Summer 2009 – 31. August, 2009

As the summer of 2009 draws to a close, allow me a few minutes to look back at what I did for my summer vacation.

Vacation? Bull! I worked my ass off this summer (and I managed to have some fun, too). What did I do this summer?

  1. I wrote my first TV spec for the now canceled TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES.
  2. I found an editor for my feature.
  3. I shot a live-action/stop-motion spec for Amazon.
  4. I went to my first Comic-Con.
  5. I went to my first Tiki Oasis.
  6. I shot the first material for my multi-medium project.
  7. I directed scenes for an actor’s reel.
  8. I saw The Kills, Neko Case, Death Cab for Cutie and Andrew Bird in concert.

I’d say that’s a pretty damn productive summer.

Casting a +10 Social Media Spell – 26. August, 2009

A few posts ago I mentioned that my weekend vlog shoot was part of a multi-medium project, what’s more popularly referred to as transmedia narrative… ugh, I hate that word. It makes me think of transfat or a knife wielding transsexual… but that’s another story.

Where was I?

Oh, the vlog shoot (another word I hate: vlog). You might say we look to Felicia Day and THE GUILD for inspiration… although I’ve never seen an episode of her show so why don’t we?

Felicia was recently interviewed for a Wall Street Journal article and here’s what I gleaned for my own project.

  1. If she has too many DVDs to mail out, she needs a fulfillment company like Neoflix. I’d go nuts stuffing so many DVD mailers.
  2. She’s selling DVDs and using the funds to finance the show. That’s awesome! I think my own venture needs to think about selling DVDs, Blu-ray, t-shirts, hats, panties, whatever we can because making films, even short ones, costs money.
  3. The music video was a great idea, a very great transmedia idea. I need to start generating ideas for songs, video games, comic books, ARGs, all of that.
  4. Even after Microsoft invested in the show, Felicia can only pay for 2 full-time employees. Bummer… but she must be paying the cast and crew, right?
  5. It’s all about building communities around the work. My colleagues and I need to be better social networkers. We need to set up our website ASAP (with PayPal donation button), as well as start planting flags on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, you name it (and this can be both diegetic and non-diegetic).
  6. Olivia Munn was in Playboy but didn’t get naked. FAIL! PS, when you bite your thumb like that… the most unsexy thing is to force yourself to look sexy. Just be sexy and others will see you as sexy.
  7. Now, I should mention that at least one of my partners on this project isn’t too keen on social media. He’s always saying, “what is that, I don’t get it, it seems like a waste of time” and such. Is he a crotchety old man like the kind the kids would bust at the end of a SCOOBY DOO episode? Yes, but maybe he just hasn’t seen this:

    One more PS, I love this new, evolving definition of “value” but that don’t pay off the student loans.

Go Vlog Yourself! – 21. August, 2009

I’m directing a series of vlogs this weekend that serve as part of a larger multi-narrative, multi-medium project. I love the overall idea but when I think of a narrative vlog, the one that comes rushing to mind is this:

FYI, this is the most watched episode from the first season (in fact they’re on their 4th season and this one episode was watched over 3.2 million times).

As the director, I’m in uncharted waters. This is my first time working in this format (a sort of improvised monolog, if I were classifying) so I’m very excited but also a bit nervous? Nervous about directing? Only as much as I always am. No, I’m more nervous that I’m doing this with no crew. The shoot is textbook simple so not only am I directing but I’m also the cinematographer, the gaffer, the sound mixer and whatever else I can’t delegate to the actors that are just standing around. I suppose it’s a good exercise, it’ll keep me mentally on my toes, but after 2 14-hour days my mental toes will be barking like crazy.  Then again, if Robert Rodriguez could do it (go read his book), so can I.

Wish me luck.

Amazon Spec: Debrief – 3. August, 2009

So while I wait for August 24th to roll around (that’s when Amazon announces the 5 finalist for the audience award and the jury prize winner), here is my promised debrief. Warning, it is very tech heavy.

First, my 30-second spec combined live action and stop-motion animation. I’ve done one other film like this (check out CONVERSING). For that short, I shot both the live action and stop-motion animation with a Panasonic DVX100; I used iStopMotion to record the stop-motion animation to my laptop. The digital video was shot 30p and the animation 15 fps. I used a Sennheiser ME66 and ProTools 6.4 to record the voice talent. I edited the film with Final Cut Pro and mixed in ProTools. I was going to use the same setup for this project but I really wanted a higher resolution final so I thought I’d put the final cut through Instant HD and viola, I’m done.

Just one problem: the test I put through Instant HD didn’t look as good as I hoped. I don’t blame the plugin, I just didn’t know how to punch up the optimum settings for export. Plus I was haunted by this post.

I also had access to both a Sony A1U HDV camcorder and a Nikon D100 plus I was looking for a good excuse to learn After Effects so why not take the plunge with this project? Who doesn’t love a challenge, right?

So, first I recorded my four actors (big thanks to Curtiss, Dan, Karina & Michael for lending their talent) using the above mentioned setup. I quickly cut and mixed the dialog so I could sync it up to my “proof of concept” cut. I then shot the live action (an extra thanks to Dan) as 59.94 HDV with the Sony “fake” Cineframe 30 mode turned on. After shooting I immediatly transcoded all the footage to ProRes for the rest of post. All of that went according to plan. The animation, not so much.

I thought about shooting RAW files with the D100 but I’d heard from my photographer friends that it’s a whole other beast so I chose large RGB TIFF files (3000 x 2000) instead. Unfortunately, the camera came with one 512MB CompactFlash (CF) card. That card coulldn’t hold more than 17 shots so if I had any animation longer than 1s4f (1 second, 4 frames), I’d have to download the card, wipe it clean and pray I hadn’t bumped the camera in the process. Um, no thanks. I looked in the manual and it said the camera could handle the “promised” 1GB card but nothing bigger. Guess what? Today it’s hard to find a CF card smaller than 4GB. Thank the lord the 4GB card worked. Unfortuantely, that was just the start of my troubles.

After shooting my first stop-motion shot I immediately ran head first into another problem. Although I put the camera in full manual, including the iris, the camera still adjusted the f-stop by 1/3 to 1/2 a stop according to the built in spot meter. That meant that the brightness of some frames in a single shot would be different than the others. I’d have to correct brightness frame by frame. Tedious? Yes. Doable? Yes. But that wasn’t the biggest pain in my neck.

No, it was the camera and the CF card that almost killed me. The camera could shoot 6 shots before it needed time to write the images from the internal memory buffer to the CF card. It could take 2-5 minutes to write one image to the CF. But the bigger problem was downloading from the camera into iPhoto. This took around 20 minutes per download and once took almost an hour. This forced my one-day shoot to take twice as long. Ugh.

Once in iPhoto, I renamed and exported the TIFF files to an external drive. It was then time for some After Effects magic. I was glad AFX allowed me to import a folder of still images as a contiguous video clip. Once in a timeline, I corrected the gamma to fix for the iris adjustment. Damn, that took a long time and boy did I grind my teeth. After that I created JPEG proxy files for the TIFF clips (a very good idea that saved me a ton of time). I then created another AFX project where I would lay in the animated clips end to end to get a sense of editing and pace. And, as I had 3000×2000 images but knew my final output would be a 1920×1080 HD Quicktime, I decided to create camera moves in post. Oh boy, the results looked so good I couldn’t have been happier.

Also, at this point, I could fix any image problems while still in the highest possible resolution; the Clone tool became one of my most trusted tools and Keylight is awesome for green-screen work. Once that was done, I took each shot and output it as a 1920×1080 ProRes Quciktime so that I could combine my live action and stop motion in a single AFX comp where I could color correct with Colorista which is a GPU based plugin; As you’d know from a previous post, the TIFF files were too big for this.

Once I laid out all the clips, it was time to apply Colorista. I took the Stu Maschwitz method and used Adjustment Layers instead of loading effects onto the master clip. This came in handy when I wanted to swap out clips (which happened more than a few times). Each clip had one color correction layer and all the live action clips had a secondary correction layer so I could bring my actor’s eyes up out of the darkness. Lastly, I applied a final “looks” layer over the whole project.

On the sound side, I tried Soundtrack Pro but grew frustrated so quickly I fell back to ProTools for the sound edit, design and mix. I did have to add a bit of music and I used GarageBand to create the cues and then exported them to ProTools.

Lastly, FYI, it took 14 minutes to render out a 30-second clip in After Effects but I’m incredibly happy with the results.

Here’s hoping you get to see the fruit of my labors as a finalist.

Amazon Spec: Uploaded – 31. July, 2009

Apologies for the blogging blackout but I’ve been furiously working on my Amazon spec and I can now declare it uploaded. My entry is in. It’s done. It’s out of my hands.

Here’s where I would give my debriefing but I’ve only slept 9-12 hours in the last 3 days so I’m not exactly coherent; I promise to blog about the production experience tomorrow.

Right now I just want to go home, shower, crank some Appetite for Destruction, drink heroic amounts of vodka and flirt with reckless abandon.

Hey, you, with the really big…eyes… how you doin’?