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 storyscribe.com.

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: www.prolost.com.

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 Engadget.com. 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...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Things..." episode 005.

005: Get it in writing. No. Really.

I'm including this for my own benefit as much as yours. If you're shooting on location, and it's a location you don't own, get the appropriate paperwork signed up front. Here's an example of a location release, though you should consult with a lawyer (not a filmmaker with a blog) when it comes to this sort of stuff.

As many times as I've been told "get it in writing," and as many times as I've passed that advice on to other filmmakers, I find myself not getting it in writing all the time. And, almost every time, it ends up biting me on the ass one way or another. Even if the person in charge of the location says "no problem." Even if the person in charge of the location is your best friend. Settle on all the details of the shoot (especially the date, duration, and price) up front, on paper, and save yourself a lot of heartache.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 004.

004: Hearts of Darkness.

I probably shouldn't mention Hearts of Darkness, a documentary about the making of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, because it's so hard to find. It's never been released on DVD, and it's out-of-print on other home video formats. I only got to see it because Stacey got me a used Laserdisc copy for Christmas last year.

But I have to mention Hearts of Darkness because it is awesome. I think it's as compelling and entertaining as Apocalypse Now. I'm not going to try to write an in-depth review (Ebert's more eloquent than me anyway), but I will say it's required viewing for anyone interested in the filmmaking process. I would never endorse the purchase of a bootleg movie, but... well, by hook or by crook, you need to get your eyes on Hearts.

One more thing for the filmmakers out there. After watching Hearts of Darkness, no matter how rough of a day of filming you might be having, you'll at least be able to say, "Well... it could be worse."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

"Things..." episode 004.

004: Insure a shoot.

It was bound to happen eventually. I asked for permission to shoot at a location. The people in charge of that location said, "sure, you just need a million dollars of liability insurance."

A little web research revealed...
  1. A liability insurance policy for ten days of low-budget filming only costs five hundred dollars.
  2. That policy will not cover real guns and blank ammunition.


I could have asked the price of big-budget filming insurance, but I figured that would open a whole 'nother can of worms. We'll just work around any real gunplay while we're shooting insured.

The low-budget policies I looked at also exclude stunts and pyrotechnics. So if you're looking to insure a movie shoot, plan accordingly. If you're ready to start shopping for a policy for your project, check out CSI Entertainment and Film Emporium.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Touch. Me, I'm sick.

I got my iPod Touch last week, and it's a great little machine. I used it to show off the "non-trailer" for Interplanetary at the Sidewalk fest over the weekend.

I also got sick at Sidewalk. Probably something to do with too much socializing and not enough sleeping. So, yes, it was a fun festival.

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

EDIT: Link changed when QuickTime "non-trailer" file moved to a different server (2007-Dec-31).