Monday, December 31, 2007


Stacey and her parents and my parents all got together and got me a new drum kit for Christmas. It rocks! Unfortunately, this cell phone cam photo doesn't quite do justice to the silver sparkle finish...

Also, Stacey's and my good pal Ces got us the new Futurama "Bender's Big Score" DVD for Christmas, and it's great. "Score" is a feature-length follow-up to the once criminally-underrated Futurama TV show, and it's nice to see that the Futurama creative staff hasn't lost their edge over the last couple of years.

"Housekeeping" note.

I just moved a few media files from Libsyn to a different server and updated the links accordingly. If you've bookmarked any of the old Libsyn links, they won't keep working for long.

If you have trouble finding any Interplanetary-related video or audio, email me at, and I'll help you track it down.

By the way, Libsyn is a really good media hosting service. I'm just not using it enough to justify paying for it (even though their plans start at a very reasonable five dollars per month).

Now playing.

Wow. Just watched maybe the only under-hyped Judd Apatow-related movie of the year, The TV Set, and it is excellent. David Duchovny leads a solid cast in a dark satire of the television business. Entertainment Weekly gives it in "A-" in a short review, I give it a solid "A."

Living up to its advertising campaign, Hatchet is an old-school American horror film. Too bad it didn't get a wider theatrical release, but it's now available on DVD for the enjoyment of all. Check out the "Horror-Movie-A-Day" review for more.

The Asylum, former distributor of Hide and Creep, gets grief for ripping off big studio flicks (I Am Omega, Transmorphers, War of the Worlds, etc.), but I think it's kind of charming. Roger Corman, one of my heroes, was the master of this sort of thing back in the day. But Alien Vs. Hunter, released to cash in on Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, is not charming. It's nearly unwatchable. Check out Foywonder's excellent Dread Central review for more info.

Now playing.

Charlie Wilson's War takes a pretty serious covert war (the U.S. aiding Afghanistan's 1980s-era fight against the Soviet Union) and manages to turn it into a pretty funny movie. Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance alone makes it a must-see. Roger Ebert liked it. More importantly, it currently sits atop Stacey's best-of-2007 list.

Sweeney Todd: a bloody good time. Awesome performances (not surprising, with Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman heading up the cast), awesome songs, awesome story. See Ebert's four-star review for more detail. Better yet, go out and see the movie.

I also recently caught No Country For Old Men in the theater for the second time. It's still my pick for best film of 2007.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy holidays.

Happy (belated) holidays, everybody. I'm very behind on blogging, due to all the catching-up-with-friends-and-family over the last week or so. I'll try to get back on it next week.

Have a fun (and safe) New Year's Eve...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episodes 015 and 016.

Two for one today, since I missed last week.

015: Sex In A Submarine.

Writer William Martel has many produced screenplays under his belt, mostly of the B-movie variety (my kind of guy!). His frequently-updated blog, "Sex In A Submarine," is filled with great anecdotes about both the art and (sometimes seedy) business of writing movies that are more likely to show up on Cinemax than at your local multiplex.

016: John August.

At the other end of the screenwriting blogosphere, you'll find John August, author of "Hollywood" screenplays like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, and Charlie's Angels. August is mostly writing about the Writer's Guild strike these days, but you can dig through his archives for lots of good advice for up-and-coming scribes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Now playing.

I went into Southland Tales expecting a trainwreck. Many Tales reviews have been downright venomous. Ebert gave it one star, and Devin Faraci at called it the worst movie of the year.

So I was a little surprised (and maybe even disappointed) to find out the movie isn't that bad. I mean, it's a mess, but it's an interesting mess. The plot is sometimes indecipherable, and the attempts at humor are hit and miss. But Tales features several scenes I really like, enough to get me to give it another look when it comes out on DVD.

I'm Not There is great. And unorthodox, as it features six different actors portraying different aspects of Bob Dylan's personality.

About half of the flick is filmed in beautiful, grainy black and white, the music is great (no surprise there), and Cate Blanchett (portraying one of the Bobs) is even better than usual. Highly recommended.

Juno is occasionally too clever for its own good. But for the most part, it's a sweet, well-acted flick and an original entry in the pregnant-teenager-movie genre.

Owen Gleiberman's Southland Tales review

Roger Ebert's I'm Not There review

Ebert's Juno review

"Things..." episode 016.

016: Don't trust the government.

We recently got hit with a fine from the IRS for late payment of some Hide and Creep taxes. Not that we actually paid late -- Stacey sent the check at the appropriate time. But the US Post Office, incompetent as usual, never delivered it to the IRS. By the time we found out and were able to get another check out, it was too late.

If you're sending anything important to the IRS, play it safe and use certified mail.

Monday, December 17, 2007

They confiscated my peanut butter...

... at LaGuardia. Seriously.

Just got back from New York City, where I had little to no internet access, but lots of fun. I'll try to get caught up on blogging tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Saturday and Sunday.

We filmed pretty much all weekend -- Saturday at Hunter Cressall's place, on his awesome spaceship set, and Sunday at the quarry.

I think we managed to get some good stuff both days, in spite of the usual problems (not enough time, trying to keep our overused costumes together, making a fake rocket launcher look like a real rocket launcher).

Here are some photos from Saturday. Sokol stopped by and took some pics on Sunday -- hopefully he'll be kind enough to let me post those at some point.

"Things..." episode 015.

015: Keep in touch.

I'm getting ready to ship some equipment out to my pal Mike Harring. Mike's a super-nice and super-talented guy, and he's about to shoot his first feature. The equipment loan is a way for me to make a small contribution to Mike's project, and it will hopefully save him some time, hassle, and money.

I mention this to remind you to keep in touch with your friends (especially your filmmaker friends) about your movie projects. You never know when they'll be able to help out.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 014.

014: Bazza's Bazaar.

Bazza's Bazaar is a great resource for buying and selling movie gear. From the Bazza's web site:

"Bazza's Bazaar brokers the sale of used professional audio, film, photographic, television and video equipment of all types."

That pretty much sums it up.

Lots of their equipment is in the U.K., so the prices might be a bit high for U.S. customers. I think the sheer number of items on the well-organized Bazza's list makes up for any pricing issues.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Now playing.

Wes Anderson kind of keeps making the same movie over and over. But it is a movie I really like.

In his "latest" (it finally arrived in Birmingham on Friday), The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson looks at another fractured family's attempts at reconciliation. As usual, Anderson delivers a fine film. He's five for five (Anderson also directed Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic) -- how many directors can you say that about?

Ebert liked Darjeeling, too. Check out his 3.5 star review. But ignore his remarks about Aquatic, which is still my favorite Anderson flick.

"Things..." episode 014.

014: Get a FedEx account.

Shooting 16mm film in Birmingham means shipping 16mm film out of Birmingham, for processing elsewhere. So, during a busy shooting period, I might use FedEx once a week.

Why not UPS or the U.S. Post Office? Well, the Post Office is useless, unless you are a stamp collector. And, unlike FedEx, both the Post Office and UPS use X-rays to inspect packages, which is bad for film.

So it is FedEx for me. That used to mean actually going to a FedEx or Kinko's and filling out that little shipping form by hand, which I really hate. Then, one day, one of the Kinko's FedEx guys talked me into signing up for a FedEx account. I'm glad he did, because...

  1. I can now use the computer to print shipping forms.

  2. I get a 10% discount on shipping.

FedEx account holders get other perks, too. And it doesn't cost anything to sign up for the account.

If you're interested, check out for more info.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sunday at the quarry.

The crew has been lean lately, due to my organizational shortcomings as much as anything else. So it was great to have Jimbo, Hilleke, and Sanford join us "regulars" (Stacey, John, Trap, and me) yesterday at the Wade Sand and Gravel quarry. We filmed a few scenes featuring Michael and Amanda and grabbed a couple of pick-up shots with Kyle. And we narrowly avoided getting rained on. It was a good day all around.

Photos courtesy of Stacey and Hilleke.

Portraits from yesterday at the quarry.

Courtesy of Stacey and Hilleke...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 012.

012: is a great resource for all of your cinematography-related questions. The site's forum membership includes several industry professionals, and they're always willing to share their knowledge with the less-experienced. Whether your query is about film cameras or digital cameras, on-set lighting or post-production issues, it has probably already been answered at On the off-chance it hasn't, you can register with the forum and post the question yourself.

Darkness DVD.

Meant to mention this a while back...

Not long after I wrote about Hearts of Darkness, the Apocalypse Now documentary, Paramount announced (finally) a DVD release.

Said DVD is now available. Don't just sit there -- go get it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wade scout.

Trap and I went out to the quarry at Wade on Sunday to do a little scouting. Mainly, we were trying to find some areas with enough scale for some wide shots. We didn't find anything as cool as the dry lake bed in Vegas, but, for a rock quarry... not too shabby.

Here are a few photos, with Trap posing for scale...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Things..." episode 012.

012: Critics are your friends.

Some filmmakers have an antagonistic relationship with the critical community. I don't get that. Critics write about movies. They might write positively or negatively about a particular film, but they're still writing about movies.

Before people can watch a movie, they have to know that movie exists. You can advertise a movie, but that's expensive. The only thing a review costs is a DVD screener and some postage. And maybe a little pride, in the case of a negative review. But if you're making indie movies, you have more pride to spare than cash.

Critics don't just write about which movies are "good" and which movies are "bad." They write movie news stories and interviews, too. So there's always the possibility that a positive or even mixed review can turn into an interview, or at least a notice when the movie is screened in theaters, released to DVD, or shown on television. Or maybe a separate story for each of those events.

I've stayed in touch with several of the critics who praised Hide and Creep. I've met a few of them in person, even drank a few beers with one of them. I just received an email from a critic who wants to help me find a new distributor for Hide and Creep. Good critics are like good filmmakers -- they love movies and want as many people as possible to see good flicks.

There's a lot of talk these days about how inexpensive technology has made it possible for just about anyone to shoot a movie. More movies means the independent movie scene is more competitive. It is less often mentioned that inexpensive technology has also made it easier for people to write about movies, creating more opportunities for people to read about any given movie. Make life a little easier for all those critics -- send 'em a screener of your movie. They might respond by making life a little easier for you.

*I'm not talking about random hecklers, but actual critics who write actual reviews with complete sentences and everything.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Something in The Mist.

Take a few truly terrifying horror setpieces. String them together with some slightly heavy-handed social commentary. Cap it all off with an awful, ill-conceived ending, and you have The Mist.

Here's Ebert's two-star review. Not that he and I necessarily give the movie two stars for the same reasons...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 011.

011: Grindhouse.

I was going to direct you to Grindhouse, a great example of filmmakers working to give their audience maximum bang for the buck. When it played in theaters, Grindhouse included two full-length feature films (Planet Terror and Death Proof), plus a few fake "preview of coming attraction" trailers.

I guess people thought Grindhouse was too good of a deal, because they mostly didn't go see it.

As a result, the powers that be (Dimension Films), didn't release a Grindhouse DVD. They released the two features separately. And you have to look around on the internet to find the trailers.

Like this one (particularly appropriate for today):

That link is not even safe for work, by the way.

If Dimension ever releases a real Grindhouse DVD, check it out.

And have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Brothers Coen, 2007 edition.

For a movie with such a pessimistic world view, No Country For Old Men manages to be awfully funny. That's no real surprise, considering No Country is the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen, two guys who know a little something about pessimism and comedy. It's also no surprise that No Country is really, really good, as the Coens' filmography also includes Miller's Crossing, Fargo, and The Big Lebowski.

Check out Ebert's four-star review.

New teaser options.

The first Interplanetary teaser trailer is now available on YouTube for any non-QuickTime folks out there:

And here's a version you can download and put on your video-enabled iPod or iPhone:

EDIT: Link changed to reflect new server address (2008-Oct-01).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Quarry day one.

After many scheduling mishaps, we finally did some filming at Wade Sand and Gravel, a quarry right outside of Birmingham. The cast and crew count was low, but we had a lot of fun. And I think we got some cool footage.

Stacy and Taylor, Trap's wife and daughter, respectively, came out early to set up the Mars Base Two exterior set that Stacy and Trap had built earlier in the week. Stacey (that's my Stacey) and John were there, of course. And Kyle and Michael did some fine acting, along with Damon, who was nice enough to come out early to film a small speaking role.

Pictures below, most courtesy of Stacey...

That's Stacy; Damon; Trap and incognito Stacey; Kyle through the video tap; Michael; John; me; Trap and Michael.

"Things..." episode 011.

011: More fashion tips for the set.

No matter where you're filming, don't wear anything that you want to keep clean. Making movies, even at a location that would seem to be neat and tidy, is dirty work. Spider-Man director Sam Raimi wears a suit and tie to work every day, but I bet he isn't crawling around on his hands and knees setting up low-angle shots.

Speaking of, don't do like I did last weekend and wear jeans with ripped-out knees. Those low-angle shots are murder on bare knees (especially in a rock quarry).

Friday, November 16, 2007

First teaser trailer.

Greetings, people of Earth. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the first teaser trailer for Interplanetary, in the glorious QuickTime format.

Big version (40.9MB)

Small version (13.4MB)

EDIT: Link changed to reflect new server address (2008-Oct-01).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 010.

010: The Business

Like The Treatment, which I wrote about in "Other Worlds..." episode 001, The Business is an NPR-produced radio program available as a free podcast.

Here's a description, courtesy of the KCRW radio web site:

Hosted by Claude Brodesser-Akner, The Business looks deep inside the business of entertainment. A half-hour of thoughtful and irreverent dialogue with Hollywood's top deal-makers, filmmakers, moguls, artists and agents, The Business will clue you in on who's making pop culture pop and what's keeping Hollywood's Blackberries juicy.

Don't let that cheesy "keeping Hollywood's Blackberries juicy" bit scare you -- The Business isn't a cheesy show. It's a must-listen for anyone looking for insight into the more arcane aspects of Hollywood filmmaking.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Teaser premieres Thursday.

It's almost here -- the first "official" teaser trailer for Interplanetary. Actually, it'll probably become known as the "please don't sue me, EMI" teaser, as it contains a Radiohead song from OK Computer. But, anyways...

Carl Ross and Todd Hornsby will be showing the trailer at a public screening Thursday. Here are the details if you're in the area and would like to attend:
FILAMENT presents
A Screening of Shorts

Thursday, November 15th at 6:45 p.m.
Films start at 7:30 p.m.
Beverage Cup & Snacks available with $5 donation

1816 3rd Avenue North - Birmingham, Alabama
Limited Seating

Other than the teaser, the screening will feature several short movies, including Chris Hilleke's Cup of Joe, which I still haven't seen. And James Brown's awesome Lunch. And Sam Frasier's latest. And more.

I'll get the teaser posted to the web late Thursday or Friday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Things..." episode 010.

010: More fun with pixels.

You're obviously familiar with television, known these days as "standard-definition television" (SDTV). And you've probably at least heard of high-definition television, or HDTV. But what about enhanced-definition television (EDTV)?

The EDTV format lies between SDTV and HDTV, quality-wise. Though it is seldom referred to as such, the common DVD player is actually an EDTV device. While a DVD player can generate a signal for a standard-def television set, it can also generate a higher-quality signal for a widescreen high-def set.

The actual resolution of this enhanced-def image is the same as the standard-def image I wrote about last week: 720 x 480. But, where the SDTV pixels are interpreted as "skinny," the EDTV pixels are interpreted as "wide." Instead of the boring old 1.33:1 aspect ratio, an EDTV image is displayed in the glorious widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (16:9, to be exact).

So, what happens when you play these wide pixels on a standard-def television, with its skinny pixels? The DVD player is smart enough to decode this image on the fly and output a "letterboxed" SDTV image, with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen to keep the image at the correct aspect ratio.

Here are a few examples, featuring Mr. Kyle Holman in a shot from Interplanetary...

EDTV image as encoded, 720 x 480 pixels.

EDTV image as displayed on a widescreen television, 854 x 480 pixels.

EDTV image as displayed on a standard television, 640 x 480 pixels.

Since television resolution is all about the "lines" (vertical resolution), the EDTV scheme is pretty clever. It is a way to display a widescreen image and still use all the available vertical pixels. With standard letterboxing, a significant number of lines are basically wasted, displaying only black bars.

I mention all this because many video cameras can record EDTV images. And, if you're shooting film (yay!) and composing for widescreen, you can have it transferred to video in an EDTV format. An ED transfer isn't as sharp as HD, but it is usually a lot cheaper. And, of course, better than letterboxed SD.

I think two posts about pixels are enough for the time being -- I'll move on to something less esoteric next week. But, if you have any pixel questions, email them to me or write them up in a blog comment, and I'll answer them in a future post.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Now playing.

Chuck and I caught a matinee of Mulberry Street on Saturday. It's kind of like 28 Days Later relocated to Manhattan with rat-zombie-monster-things. I think the theatrical run was just for this weekend, but Mulberry is worth tracking down when it arrives on DVD.

EDIT: Just realized the After Dark film series, of which Mulberry Street is a part, is playing through Thursday. Check your local listings for details.

People take Dwight Yoakam for granted. He's been consistently good for such a long time, his new releases seem to be met with an attitude of, "Oh, another Yoakam album, I'm sure it's great, whatever." I'm guilty of this, too, but I'm happy to report 2005's Blame the Vain (I finally got around to listening to it last week) is, indeed, another great Yoakam album.

Friday, November 9, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 009.

009: Monsters HD.

As far as I can tell, Monsters HD is only available on Dish Network. Which is a shame, because this is a channel everyone needs. As you might guess from the name, Monsters HD shows horror flicks and creature features 24/7 in beautiful high definition (uncut!) (and often in their original aspect ratio).

I caught Halloween III on the channel recently. And they're showing Carpenter's original The Fog tonight! Their programming runs the gamut from the classic to the enjoyably terrible. If you're a genre movie fan, you should really consider getting a Dish system, just for this channel. Or maybe you could make friends with a Dish subscriber...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Notes for Thursday.

  1. Been up late the last couple of nights working on a teaser trailer for Interplanetary -- it should be ready and viewable online next week.

  2. I haven't forgotten about today's installment of "Other Worlds Than These." I'll hopefully get it written and posted tonight or early tomorrow.

  3. Stacey, my better-half and producer, will be exhibiting some of her photography tonight at Rojo, a groovy bar and grill here in Birmingham, Alabama. Interplanetary friends Ted Speaker, Arik Sokol, Tony Diliberto, and Natalie Hummel will be showing off their shots, too. Check out Rojo's MySpace page for more info.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"Things..." episode 009.

009: NTSC primer no. 1 (all pixels are not created equal).

Carol recently emailed me with a video resolution question, so I thought it might be a good time to discuss that topic on the blog. The analog signal standard for North American televisions, and many North American video cameras, is NTSC. An NTSC image has a resolution of 720 pixels wide by 480 pixels high* and an aspect ratio of 1.33:1**.

Divide 720 by 480 and you get 1.5. Given that pixel count, how can an NTSC image have an aspect ratio of 1.33:1?

The pixels aren't square.

"Skinny" NTSC pixels displayed as square pixels -- notice how the image looks a bit wide?

The same image, properly displayed as 640 x 480 square pixels.

(Click either of the examples*** for the full-resolution version.)

As a reasonable human being, I find it absurd that somebody created a broadcast standard based on pixels that are not square -- it is an unnecessary complication. But NTSC is littered with plenty of other bad decisions, some of which I'll discuss in later posts.

So, anyway, what do these non-square pixels mean to you? If you're working on a project that starts in NTSC and stays in NTSC (through delivery on DVD, for example), there's not much to worry about. Software editing systems (like Final Cut Pro) compensate for the screwy NTSC pixels, so your images look fine on the computer monitor (which, sensibly, has square pixels).

If, however, you're exporting NTSC video to another format (like a QuickTime video for the web), you'll need to change the video resolution on output to something with the proper 1.33:1 aspect ratio. For a "full resolution" video, you'd output to 640 by 480 pixels. I guess that's technically only full vertical resolution. But, in the video world, for some reason, it's all about the vertical resolution (often referred to as "lines"). So, it's best to keep your image 480 pixels tall and adjust the horizontal pixels as appropriate. You can make smaller video for computers at 480 x 360 pixels, 320 x 240 pixels, etc.

I think that's enough math for today -- more NTSC madness next week.

*A "full" NTSC image (available, for example, from a DigiBeta tape) is actually 720 by 486 pixels. Most modern NTSC video mediums (including MiniDV and DVD) throw out six vertical pixels for the sake of simpler mathematics.

**This 1.33:1 aspect ratio applies to a classic "standard definition" image. An "enhanced definition" image has an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 -- more on that topic at a later date.

***That sexy guy in the space suit is Chuck, by the way.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Preparing for half a weekend.

Outside the mini storage, piling up props against the ol' Honda Element...

We had to change our scheduled shoot from two days to one day due to a conflict at the location. On the bright side, I have more time to prep for shooting on Sunday.

And blogging.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 008.

008: Scary every day.

As someone who dabbles in the making of horror movies, I like to watch horror movies, both for fun and to see what other filmmakers in the field are up to. But, as there are so many horror flicks out there (with more coming every week), it's hard to keep up.

BC to the rescue. He watches a horror movie every day and reviews it on his blog, appropriately titled "Horror Movie a Day." By my count, he's already written 300 or so reviews, covering everything from the classics (like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) to the crap (like Dark Ride).

There are plenty of horror movie web sites, but I don't know of another one strictly dedicated to quality (and quantity!) horror film criticism. If BC keeps it up, he may well become the Roger Ebert of horror.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Things..." episode 008.

008: The new black.

If you've been reading this blog for long, you've probably seen a few pictures of actors in bubble-style space helmets. We quickly found out that, with just a few lights in the vicinity, those helmets turn into 360-degree mirrors.

There's a reason many "pro" cameras are black. Black is less reflective than other colors, so a black camera is less likely to show up as a reflection in a space helmet (or a window or windshield in Earth-bound productions). That being the case, it's a good idea to dress like a camera if you're working on a movie shoot -- especially if you're the camera operator (most of the other crewmembers can just get out of the way if they're showing up in a reflection).

So stock up on black shirts -- long-sleeved ones, weather permitting -- before your next production.

(One day, I'd worn a white shirt to work on Interplanetary. I was operating the camera, and Steve had to fashion a black cape for me for a couple of scenes where my reflection was showing up. Capes are fun for playing Batman, not so much for playing cameraman.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

I gotta get my stuff together.

So I got a bit more editing work done last night. Here's a frame of Sanford I came across during the process...

I also discovered that I was missing a whole day's worth of production audio from the DeSoto shoots. The ADR was going to be ugly. Then I found the missing audio on one of the many unmarked tapes lying around my editing room.


So I guess it's time to organize and label all my Interplanetary audio and video tapes.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nice people on the internets.

Some person on YouTube just called Hide and Creep "one of the greatest B horror movies ever made."

And Mike O'Risal recently declared our little opus the "best zombie flick ever produced for under $30,000" on his blog.

Actually getting a little post work done.

Last night/early this morning, I finally got some post-production work done on Interplanetary. Mostly just syncing sound. Props (again) to Trap for his work on the audio files -- it's making my job much easier. Here's a frame of Trap working the slate I found while working on the audio...

And here's a frame of Melissa. I'm posting it just because I like the shot...

It seems like I spent most of this week dealing with Dish Network installation (bye-bye, Brighthouse!) and other distractions. Hopefully, I'll get some serious editing going next week.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 007.

007: A fistful of Kubrick.

I was writing a couple of days ago about how you can learn a lot about making movies by watching movies. So why not learn from the best?

The Stanley Kubrick - Warner Home Video Directors Series DVD box set hit the street on Tuesday. Though the box doesn't include Dr. Strangelove, the best movie Kubrick or anybody else ever directed, it does include five other masterpieces: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut. Your 55 bucks (this set is a bargain at twice the price!) also gets you several commentaries and behind-the-scenes pieces, plus the excellent feature-length documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures.

On top of all that, these DVD editions of Shining, Jacket, and Eyes are the first to feature the films' original theatrical aspect ratios. And they're enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Steven Spielberg has said Kubrick knew more about the craft of filmmaking than anyone else who ever stepped behind a camera. After going through this DVD set, I bet you'll agree.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Things..." episode 007.

007: Four-minute screenwriting class.

Hopefully, this post covers a topic they do mention in film school. But, no matter. A reader recently emailed me with a screenwriting question, so I'll give you my two cents.

  1. Learn from the best. I love that you can learn so much about filmmaking just by watching films. Similarly, you can learn a lot about screenwriting by reading screenplays. Especially good ones. Check out Drew's Script-o-Rama for piles of scripts to get you started.

  2. Start with an outline. To me, after you get all of the scenes in your screenplay figured out, the actual writing is relatively simple.

  3. Formatting is important. Sometime during step 1, you probably noticed screenplays are formatted in a particular manner. The reason: proper screenplay formatting aids in production of an actual film. One formatted screenplay page, on average, will translate to one minute of finished movie. This will let a producer know from the start whether he's looking at a three-minute short or a three-hour epic.

  4. Spelling and grammar are important, too. It's okay if you can't spell. It's not okay if you don't know you can't spell. You'll have enough trouble getting people to read your screenplay. Don't turn them off with misspelled or misused words. Find a proofreader. Tell him you'll give him an associate producer credit.

As for what screenwriting software to use when it's time to actually start typing, I'll say that...

  1. Most, if not all, of it is overpriced.

  2. Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter are the most popular.

You can find Final Draft and Screenwriter, and a few other options, at

If you want to save some money and do the formatting yourself (using a word processor or a Selectric), the good ol' Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can show you the way.

Monday, October 22, 2007

More DeSoto pics.

Courtesty of George Smyly...

More thoughts on Assassination.

My appreciation of The Assassination Of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford has only grown in the 24 hours since I watched it. I'm more convinced it is a very good movie, maybe a great movie. Regardless, it's a movie that should be seen in a proper theater. It's one of those epic widescreen movies that plays best on... well, a really wide screen. Man, I'd love to see this flick at the Ziegfeld.

It's a shame that the film's distributor, Warner Bros., released Assassination with almost no fanfare. Warner already has TV spots out for Fred Claus, but I've hardly seen any ads, anywhere, for Assassination. I wouldn't even have known it (finally) made it to Birmingham (one theater) if not for Stacey keeping an eye on Google Movies.

So, if you like good acting (Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck headline an uncommonly solid cast), cinematography, writing, directing, music... if you like good movies, do yourself a favor and catch Assassination. If you're lucky, it's playing at a theater near you.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Audible follow-up.

I'm finally getting around to answering a reader question about microphones -- specifically, which mic do we use?

Our "shotgun" mic is an Audio Technica model 4073a.

Bang for the buck, my pal Andrew really likes the Octava 012. Read his blog post about it here.

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 006.

006: The DV Rebel's Guide.

Most books of the "how to make a low-budget movie" variety recommend you keep the story simple -- two or three characters, one location, no action or special effects. Well... yeah. But what if you want to make the next Die Hard or Raiders of the Lost Ark, finances be damned? If that's the case, Stu Maschwitz's DV Rebel's Guide might be the book for you. The book's subtitle says it all -- "action movies on the cheap."

Be warned -- the Guide is not for the technophobic. Many of Maschwitz's methods for getting more bangs for less bucks rely on readily available (though not necessarily easy-to-use) post-production software, especially Adobe's AfterEffects. But Maschwitz also shares a few practical, computer-free effects techniques, and his use of examples from well-known Hollywood action movies gives readers and author common points of reference.

On top of lots o' cool ideas, the book includes a DVD-ROM that features software effects samples and The Last Birthday Card, Maschwitz's own action-packed, low-budget short movie. The latter serves as a good example of many of Maschwitz's tricks put into practice.

For a free sample of Maschwitz's expertise, check out his web site:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Things..." episode 006.

006: Get a MacBook.

I may be an analog guy at heart, but I love my MacBook. I'm typing this blog entry on it right now, en route to Nashville with Stacey (don't worry -- she's driving). And it comes in handy on a movie set. I load up mine with continuity photos, which seems simpler than carrying around a stack of 4 x 6 prints. The built-in DVD player is good for showing dailies to the cast and crew. And if you're ambitious, you can load up Final Cut Express and work on the edit during your lunch break.

You might find a Windows laptop for a little cheaper, but... well, then you're stuck with Windows. Which kind of sucks. Sorry, WinFans -- I work on Windows at my day job, and I'll take a Mac machine any day of the week. Bang for the buck, the MacBook is a great deal -- a nice balance of horsepower and portability (the Dell XPS I use at work is fine until your back starts hurting from a half hour of lugging it around). And if you just gotta have yer Microsoft, MacBook software like Boot Camp lets you switch between Mac OS X and Windows.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Black book knocked up.

Watched two very entertaining flicks on DVD over the weekend...

Black Book is an old-fashioned action/adventure war movie with a healthy amount of sex and graphic violence thrown in for good measure. The plot is a bit convoluted, but this movie feels a lot tighter than its two hour and 25 minute running time.

Knocked Up isn't quite as funny as Superbad, but there's no shame in that. Be sure and check out Jonah Hill's pro-gay-sex Brokeback Mountain rant in the deleted scenes.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 005.

005: Engadget.

I love that filmmaking involves all kinds of neat gadgets. Sure, some of them cost more than your car, but they're awfully fun to play with.

I'm an amateur gadget connoisseur compared to the guys at Though the site is more gadget-centric than film-centric, they cover a lot of equipment of interest to filmmakers, from video cameras to high-def DVD players to obscure cheapo portable media players imported from China.

And I mean cover. The Engadget crew seems to post news items non-stop, especially on weekdays. I tend to hit the site a few times a day when I'm online, and I usually find a new story of interest each visit.

Another cool thing about the site -- it's mobile-device-friendly, in case you need up-to-the-minute gadget news when you're on the road.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Busy weekend.

It was a busy weekend. John, Chuck, Stacey, and I attended sometime Interplanetary cinematographer Jimbo Roberson's wedding on Saturday. Then we went back down to DeSoto to do some more in-cave filming.

I don't have any wedding photos handy, but here are a few stills that Michael shot from the first DeSoto weekend...