Posts Tagged ‘Directing’


RIP Delia Salvi – 5. March, 2015

You know that tough as nails teacher that relentlessly kicks your ass in the hopes of molding you into a better version of yourself? In graduate school, that teacher was Delia Salvi.


She was my directing instructor and, to borrow something that a classmate said on Facebook, “Delia was horribly mean, surprisingly kind and scathingly insightful.” No disrespect but I thought that was spot on. She freaked us all out. She made more than a few people cry. Still, she constantly challenged us and I learned a lot. I wouldn’t be half the director that I am (or writer, for that matter) if it weren’t for her.

Hell, I still use her scene analysis worksheet.

She taught me to never settle for mediocrity, to always stop a train wreck the second you see it happening, and to take no bullshit. Delia is also the only person I’ve ever seen to fluster the otherwise unflappable Alexander Payne.

Delia passed away this past weekend.

I’ll sign off by sharing the last thing she ever told me. It was the last day of my last class with her. She pulled me aside and said, “Tony, you’re getting better but I’m worried that you’re too nice.”


Here’s hoping she’s kicking ass in the afterlife.

Posted in Directing

I’m A Terrible Groundling – 22. January, 2015

“Doing something new/scary/out of my comfort zone” is a pretty goddamn popular New Year’s Resolution. Personally, I hate making resolutions but I did it. I did something that pushed me far out of my comfort zone. I became a Groundling.


Okay, actually I just took a class. I took a class so introductory that it’s more basic than their “Basic” class. It was a fundamentals of improvisation and I sucked. I’m a terrible improviser. I would say that I had one successful scene where I used what I learned.

Okay, no, I’m not sharing this because I made a second resolution to publicly spank myself more.


I’m sharing because taking this class lit up a creative corner in me that had long been dormant. While watching other people’s scenes, I found myself mentally arm-chair directing. Goddamn it, I want to direct again.

Let’s be honest, after I made a feature that’ll never see the light of day (you know both Kubrick and Tarantino had one of those, too), I’ve been extremely gun shy. That’s one reason why I’ve been concentrating on writing. But the beast has awoken. I have to direct, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a short and it has to be at least as good as one of these. Of course this is after I write my pilot, my spec, my feature and my comic (both of them).

Maybe “making a short film” should be a 2016 resolution.

Posted in General

The No-Budget Myth… BUSTED – 25. August, 2011

So I just read this IndieWire article and I have one thought/comment.


Let’s just take the very basics of what this filmmaker proposes and point out the holes (which are as big as the Grand Canyon). I’m gonna run with his premise of shooting a $5,000 feature in 10 days.

#1 – Write a realistically shootable script. This is good advice. Take it.

#2 – Rent, don’t buy, a camera. Again, good advice. Let’s say you get a camera with a few lenses and a memory card for $100/day. For 10 days that $1,000, so $4,000 left in the budget.

#3 – Pay your crew. He says you should pay a DP/camera operator and a Sound Mixer $100/day each, more if they have their own equipment. Let’s say that they both have their own gear and will do the job for $150/day each. This means we don’t need to rent a camera. Great, our budget is back up to $5,000. At $150/day, for 2 people for 10 days, these two crew positions will cost you $3,000. That leaves $2,000 in your budget.

#4 – Have actors supply their own wardrobe. Again, good advice.

#5 – Sign a SAG Ultra Low Budget Agreement. Okay, so let’s say that’s 2 actors at $100/day. For 10 days that’s $2,000. Congrats, you’ve spent all of your $5,000.

#6 – Get production insurance. A wonderful idea. All my filmmaking friends tell me this’ll cost you around $2,000 but let’s say you get the deal of the century and only have to pay $1,000. You film now costs $6,000.

#7 – Don’t write music into your film unless you own it. Again, another bit of great advice.

#8 – Edit your film yourself. I’m just gonna run with the fact that you probably own your own computer and are gonna use iMovie, which came with your laptop. I’m not even gonna add the cost of getting a hard drive.

#9 – Keep the hours short, the days few and the food delicious. Yes to all three, but how much is that food gonna cost you? Let’s say you’re feeding five people (director, DP, sound and two actors) for 10 days. Let’s say it’s coffee & bagels in the morning, lunch and light snacks throughout the day. But that food has to be “delicious”, right? So I’m gonna optimistically say that a delicious lunch, coffee and snack is gonna cost $20/day per person. That’s $1,000.

Congrats, you’re now $2,000 over budget.


But optimistically (which is really hard for me), you might be able to shoot your film for $10,000, right?

Posted in Directing, Industry

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.

Help Me Promote You – 29. October, 2009

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you know I’m looking for small shooting/editing gigs. I was recently put in contact with a San Francisco based company that primarily produces short videos for small businesses. Sounds like the perfect kind of work for me. I contacted them, they asked me to attend a webinar, I sent them a link to my films and I received this reply.

Thank you for attending our orientation webinar yesterday. I hope you found it informative.

I took at look at your links and they’re really create & good, but I had a difficult time assessing what kind of a job you’re capable of doing if sent out on a XXXXXXXX project. Do you have any links to your work that are more XXXXXXXX-style (b-roll over interview) that I can take a look at? If not, do you think you could create something like that for me to look at? Please let me know.

So after watching an interview driven documentary short

… and a verite/observational documentary

… plus a spec spot that I directed, wrote, shot, edited, sound designed, color corrected and animated

… they’re not sure if I can produce a 30-60 second video that’s interview driven yet intercut with b-roll (for the record, I taught at class at UCLA [proper, not extension] for three quarters where the students produced this exact kind of work) so they want me to shoot something for them to take a look at?


So this is where you help me help you. I need to produce a 30-60 second short that promotes something so why shouldn’t it be your small business/services/cause/whatever?

Did I mention I’m willing to do this for free?

But wait, there’s a catch (a few, actually):

  1. I will come out and shoot for an hour, two max.
  2. Half the time will be spent interviewing you (or whoever runs the organization/business in question).
  3. The other half of the time I will be shooting b-roll.
  4. I am willing to travel a short, reasonable distance from my home (let’s say 20 miles). Any further than that and you have to pay for all associated travel expenses upfront. I might be willing to forgo this expense if your business/organization/cause is super cool (e.g., I’d do this for Tippi Hedren but only if she lets me in the cage with the tiger).
  5. As I’m doing this for free, I retain final cut.
  6. I will retain all master tapes.
  7. I will upload the piece to my Vimeo account where you can grab the embed code and repost the video.

If you’re balking at my terms, remember that 1) I have a track record of high quality films, 2) I’m a professional using this piece to seek more work so it will be of the highest caliber and 3) I’m doing this for free for you.

Time for me to hear your pitch.

Posted in General

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.

Directing the Scene: That’s a Wrap! – 30. August, 2009

The shoot was a success. We got a lot of good coverage with plenty for the editor to work with. It’s a 2-minute scene and we shot 80 minutes; if they can’t dig something out of a 40:1 ratio, I don’t know what.

Still, there’s always room for improvement. Next time I’d insist on walking through set with the actors and DP to nail down our shots and angles so we don’t waste that time on set. Also, we really could have used a few more qualified hands.

As I said before, I’m not editing. If the editor is reading this, you should know that we shot:

  • Anamorphic
  • Non Drop Frame
  • 24p (2:3 cadence)
  • Boom into channel 1, On-board Camera Mic into channel 2
  • I can’t wait to see what the final product looks like.

    Now on to something new. I think it’s time to start writing a new feature script.

    Posted in Directing

    Directing the Scene: T-Minus 1 – 28. August, 2009

    If yesterday was about making a list, today is about checking it twice. Today is about charging the batteries, testing the mixer and microphones, going over the plan with my DP (I wish we could be on set with a couple of stand-ins but that ain’t gonna happen).

    Also, it’s about listening to those tiny, nagging voices. It is because of one of those voices that I sent one of my actors a little bit of background homework and this video:

    F**k the Queen, God grant me a good night sleep.

    Posted in Directing