Saturday, September 29, 2007

Michael Shelton saved my life.

So it's officially Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival season here in Birmingham, and I'm already hurting. And I haven't even seen a movie yet. I thought tonight might be the end of me, as I was working on too much beer and not enough sleep. Then Interplanetary actor Michael Shelton went down to Marty's and brought me back the best damn grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had in my life.

Thanks, Michael.

Speaking of Mr. Shelton, I'm playing a set with his band, Michael Shelton and the Effect, tomorrow for Sidewalk. We'll be at the Speakeasy at 8:00 p.m. -- stop by if you're in the neighborhood.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 003.

003: The Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.

If you're a fan of films and filmmaking, you should check out the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. Sidewalk, Birmingham, Alabama's original film festival, celebrates its ninth year this weekend.

From what I can tell, this year's fest features a particularly strong batch of features and short films. I can personally vouch for The Ten, Murder Party, Blood Car, and Lunch, and I'm excited to see Great World of Sound, American Fork, and Cup of Joe, among others.

It's not just about watching movies, though. Sidewalk is known as a social film fest where filmmakers and film watchers can freely interact. If you'd like to pick the brains of all different kinds of filmmakers, Sidewalk is a great place to do it.

The Sidewalk guys were nice enough to ask me to moderate a panel on horror/comedy movies featuring the Murder Party and Blood Car filmmakers. So I guess I'll be doing a little brain-picking myself. If you make it to the festival, try to stop by my "SideTalk" panel. It'll be at 4:00 on Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Night shift.

We spent 20 or so hours of the weekend filming at DeSoto Caverns. Call time for both days was 7 p.m., which means we didn't finish Saturday's shooting 'til around 7 a.m. on Sunday. It was kind of weird, wrapping up the shooting day, coming out of a cave into the light of morning.

Many thanks to the Johnny, Tim, and Al at DeSoto Caverns for their hospitality. And many thanks to the weekend's cast and crew for putting in the long hours.

Some photos from underground...

"Things..." episode 003.

003: Film and where to buy it.

A reader recently asked about a good place to order motion picture film stock. As I mentioned back in February, it can be difficult to find these days (especially 16mm, even though it seems like plenty of people are using it).

For Interplanetary, I've been ordering Fuji color stock (plus a little Kodak black and white) from the good folks at Film Emporium. They always seem to have whatever I need on hand, their prices are good, and the customer service is excellent. I expect all their salespeople are solid, but I can vouch for Darren in particular.

As for whether to use Fuji or Kodak color stock, the Fuji is a much better deal -- $112 for 400 feet of Fuji vs. $136 for a comparable Kodak roll. I've used both (we shot Hide and Creep on Kodak), and I like the look of both. There are subtle differences between comparable stocks (say Kodak's Vision2 500T vs. Fuji's Eterna 500T), but I can't see that Kodak's is any better than Fuji's, much less $24 a roll better.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Maybe I'll just write one movie review.

A few weeks ago, I said I wouldn't be writing any movie reviews. Then Wade Kwon asked me to write a review of The Ten for his web site, since Wade is on top of all things Birmingham, and The Ten will be opening Birmingham's Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival next weekend.

So I wrote a movie review. But just for Wade. For this blog, I'll keep to the practice of linking to other reviews.

Speaking of, Death Proof came out on DVD Tuesday. It's not a perfect movie, but it's worth watching just for the awesomeness that is Kurt Russell.

Here's Vern's brilliant (and profane) Ain't It Cool News review.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I love my mom.

Mom just called to let me know that she's put together a new space suit for us, plus several space suit accessories, two days ahead of schedule. Even though I didn't ask for any of it 'til the last minute.

My mom rocks.

(And my dad does, too. He delivered all the raw materials to Mom for me on Monday, plus he bought me lunch!)

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 002.

002: American Cinematographer magazine,

Are you a camera nerd? Have you ever consulted a dept-of-field table? Do you own a light meter? Heck, do you even know what a light meter is? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, American Cinematographer might be the magazine for you. Through interviews with directors of photography and other camera crew members, AC covers everything involved in getting an image from the real world to the silver screen, from the lights, lenses, cameras, and film stock used on the set to the processing and color timing in post-production.

American Cinematographer isn't the cheapest magazine around, but I think it's well worth the subscription price. If you want a free, in-depth sample, you can read many past magazine articles in their entirety at For starters, check out these stories about Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and the original 1977 Star Wars.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Appearing at Sidewalk.

Birmingham's original film fest is coming up soon. If you happen to attend, you might see me there. One of my bands, the Exhibit(s), will be performing at Sidewalk on Sunday afternoon.

And I'm especially excited about my first film fest panel gig. I'll be moderating the "Blood and Guts of Comedy" panel at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. The panel will feature the directors of Blood Car and Murder Party, two excellent horror comedies screening at the festival on Saturday night.

The festival's lineup of films for this year is looking good. I'll try to post some more Sidewalk notes next week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Things..." episode 002.

002: Audible.

David recently asked about Interplanetary sound on the blog comments, so I thought it'd be a good time for a movie audio primer.

One of the first things people ask about my 16mm camera is "does it record sound?" Though there have been a few 16mm cameras that record sound, most 16mm shooters (and 35mm shooters, for that matter) resort to double-system sound. The camera captures only images, and audio is recorded on a separate machine. These days, the ideal sound machine would be something like this recorder from Sound Devices. Sound Devices stuff is expensive, though, so I use an old Tascam DA-P1 portable DAT machine.

Video shooters who are particular about their audio might also want to consider double-system sound. Even though most video cameras are capable of recording audio, the quality of said audio probably isn't as high as that of a dedicated sound recorder.

So you have your film or video footage captured from one machine and audio captured from another. How do you join them together? Well, that's what the slate is for.

The slate includes two small sticks connected by a hinge. At the start of the scene, at some point after both the camera and audio recorder are rolling, someone slaps the two slate sticks together. During editing, you can look through the camera footage frame by frame until you see the point at which the sticks meet. Listening to the audio, you can find the moment where the sticks meet and make a loud clicking sound. In your editing software, you set the "click" on the audio track to occur at the moment the camera recorded the sticks making contact, and your sound and picture will be synchronized for that take.

This probably sounds tedious, but sync work goes pretty quick after you get used to it. Modern technology has brought us "smart" slates and camera systems that can automate this sync process, but modern technology demands modern prices. Doing it the old-fashioned way is much cheaper and just as efficient, if a bit slower.

Monday, September 17, 2007


It seems like we just got through at Atrox, and it's already time to go to DeSoto Caverns. We're booked to shoot there Saturday afternoon, and I'm mostly unprepared. Thank goodness my Mom is taking up the slack -- she's putting together a new space suit for us, one I should have had somebody working on weeks ago.

Assuming I can get my stuff together, I think it'll be a fun shoot. It'll be nice to shoot somewhere that's a real place and not a set. If we can figure out how to light it, that is...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Chop chop.

Finally got off my arse and started "serious" editing on Interplanetary. At the moment, I'm working on Scene 55, featuring Mr. Kyle Holman...

"Editing" so far (I've only been working on it for an hour or so) has consisted of synchronizing audio to picture. Trap's been kind enough to go through the production audio for me and chop it up into individual takes. I think this is going to be a big time-saver for me, and I think all the various computer files involved in editing Interplanetary are going to end up much more organzied than those from Hide and Creep. Not that anything could be much less organized than the Hide and Creep edit...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 001.

001: The Treatment.

The Treatment is one of many free podcasts available from National Public Radio. If you're not familiar with podcasts, the Wikipedia Podcast page will get you up to speed.

On the surface, The Treatment is just another 30-minute movie-centric interview show. But host Elvis Mitchell is a great interviewer. He knows enough about movies to ask interesting and pertinent questions to the guest of the week, whether it's a director, writer, actor, producer, or composer. And, as there is only one guest per show, Mitchell has time to ask the questions most interviewers don't get around to.

I've heard so many good Treatment interviews, it's hard to say where you should start. This one with director Danny Boyle (Sunshine, Trainspotting) is excellent. And here's a good chat with Incredibles and Ratatouille mastermind Brad Bird.

Plenty more interviews, along with subscription (don't forge -- it's free) information, are available on The Treatment page at

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Things..." episode 001.

001: Back up early, back up often.

Contrary to popular belief, film is not dead. At this point, I'm thinking it might outlive videotape. Even though I like to shoot on film, my footage gets turned into computer data soon after the negative is developed. In the past, this meant dealing with videotape. But we've gone tapeless for Interplanetary, and it's great. Instead of dealing with high-end hardware, expensive videotape cassettes, and long tape-to-computer transfer times, I just plug up a disk drive to my editing machine and copy files.

Tape does have a reliability advantage -- unlike a hard disk, a videocassette won't crash. But USB and FireWire disk drives are so inexpensive these days, why not just back up everything twice? It's kind of like a poor man's RAID.

For Interplanetary, I purchased two USB LaCie drives from I paid less than $120 for each 500 GB drive. Assuming we don't go too crazy with our shooting, I should be able to back up all the raw video files for the flick twice -- once on each drive.

I hear that hard disks are more likely to die if they sit unused for long periods of time. Even if you have redundant backup drives, it's probably a good idea to spin 'em up every month or two.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

New regular (?) features.

I recently read an article by some indie filmmakers in one of those indie filmmaking magazines. These guys' movie played Sundance '07, got some good reviews, and is getting a theatrical release later this year. I figured, "These guys have lived the dream. Given a few magazine pages, they'll impart some wisdom on the unwashed masses."

So what did I learn from their article? Dude, making movies is hard. It's not for those with weak wills, knees, or brains. But, if you can somehow make it through 'til that premiere screening, it is a totally extreme thrill.

Thanks for that insight, fellas.

In the spirit of providing actual useful information, I'm going to start writing a couple of weekly features (or featurettes, at least) for the ol' blog. On Tuesdays, I'll deliver a new edition of "Things They Might Have Failed To Mention In Film School," or "Things..." for short. "Things..." will cover the stuff I've learned about filmmaking that never seems to get covered in filmmaking books, magazines, or internet articles.

But filmmaking books, magazines, and internet articles aren't all bad. I'll try to point you toward the good ones on Thursdays in "Other Worlds Than These."

If you're interested in the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, I hope you'll find these new blog bits... well, useful, like I said earlier. If you just read the Interplanetary blog to see when the Interplanetary movie will be out on DVD (or if the whole production will just crash and burn at some point), don't worry -- I'll find some time to keep writing about that stuff, too.

Monday, September 3, 2007


Hope everyone had a good Labor Day. I've been cleaning up the disk drives on my "work" computer, an Apple Mac G4. Assuming I can free up enough space, I'll have no more excuses -- it'll be time to get serious about editing Interplanetary.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Last day at Atrox revisited.

A few more shots from our last day at Atrox, courtesy of George Smyly...

We're talking to the folks at DeSoto Caverns about shooting there at the end of September. More on that as it develops.