Sunday, April 27, 2008

Racing the sun.

Trap and I went out to Wade on Thursday and put together a plan for Saturday's shoot. Then we got to Wade on Saturday, and the rain started. Which wouldn't have been a problem, except there was a gaping hole in the roof of the building that was serving as our set. The dripping water was kind of cool (think the Nostromo from Alien), but it wasn't good for some of our props, so we had to move them around which screwed up our blocking. Then the bulb in one of our 1K lights blew, which screwed up our lighting plan.

On top of all that, it was an effects-heavy day (thanks to Jonathan and Wendy for coming up and taking care of the blood, guts, aliens, etc.), so we ended up a couple of hours behind schedule. Which put wrap around 6 AM, which meant we were racing to get our last shots finished before the sun started shining in and killing the illusion that we were filming underground.

But I think we made our day, and I think that's a wrap for Interplanetary interiors.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Now playing.

Somebody could make a fascinating movie about card counters. Until that happens, we at least have 21.

Maybe I should try the book.

"This Movie Ain't Gonna Shoot Itself (revisited)" part 002.

Part Two: Big Decision #1

All you really need to shoot a movie is a camera and something put in front of the camera. I would say you need light, too, but that's not the case with some of these "night vision" cameras that are available these days (see the Paris Hilton sex tape for an example of this technology in action). The script to Hide and Creep pretty much dictated what we'd put in front of the camera. It was up to co-producer Chuck Hartsell and me to decide what kind of camera to use.*

Film Is dead

I hate to get all controversial in my second column for the 'Shoot, but you can't get far into making an indie feature without considering the "film or video?" question. Make that the "film or video?" argument. If you follow the movie business at all, you've probably heard different pundits offer their opinion on the matter. It often seems that old school guys like Spielberg and critic Roger Ebert love film, while all the young guns are pro-video. Well, I'm a relatively young shooter, and I prefer film. Also, if film is dead, what's inside all those bright yellow Kodak boxes in my fridge?

Film -- it's not just for breakfast anymore.

I think video has its place, too. In fact, Chuck and I originally considered shooting Hide and Creep on video and having our actors improvise most of the scenes. All that improv would have meant a ton of takes, and all those takes, using film, would have meant more raw filmstock and more film processing. It'd mean more tape on a video shoot, but tape costs significantly less than raw stock and processing.


Monday, April 21, 2008


Went back to Wade for another Saturday night/Sunday morning shoot. Trap, John, and Sanford were the crew for the day, and they rule, so we made our day and got home before daylight.

Some stills...

Also managed to get a little more Wade exterior scouting done, too...

If things go well this coming Saturday, we'll wrap up interior principal photography.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"This Movie Ain't Gonna Shoot Itself (revisited)" part 001.

Part One: Salutation

Hello and welcome to the first installment of "This Movie Ain't Gonna Shoot Itself," a bi-weekly look at the nuts and bolts of independent filmmaking. To be clear, I'm not talking about $2 million budgeted, My-Big-Fat-Greek-Wedding-type independent movies or $20 budgeted, three-guys-and-a-camcorder-type independent movies. I'll be looking at the middle ground. Movies like El Mariachi and Clerks, which are tiny by Hollywood standards, but huge to the people actually making and paying for them.

Specifically, I'll be looking at Hide and Creep, a comedy/horror movie I'm in the process of shooting right now. I'll also try to give you as many details about the process as I can. Because I hate behind-the-scenes stuff where some guy says "so, we raised $2 million, then we lit the set and shot the first scene with a 25mm prime at f/2." Wait a minute. I'm as interested in lenses and f-stops as the next guy. But I'm really interested in exactly how one goes about raising $2 million dollars. Without holding somebody at gunpoint.


Plus one, minus two.

Since I'm running low on ideas for the weekly "Things..." and "Other Worlds Than These" columns, I'm going to put them on hiatus and start migrating my old "This Movie Ain't Gonna Shoot Itself" pieces over to this blog, hopefully at a rate of one per week. Aside from having all my movie-related writing in one place, I'll update each of the "This Movie..." columns with some four-years-later notes.

I'll be posting "This Movie..." part one in a few minutes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 030.

030: I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing.

Screenwriter Josh Friedman's blog, I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing, is low on the quantity (at the moment, his most recent post is from February 4), but the guy's been busy running that Terminator TV show, so cut him some slack. When he does get around to a new post, you can count on it being well-written and often laugh-out-loud funny. And the guy doesn't pull too many punches, so if you've ever wondered what it might be like to make a living as a "Hollywood" screenwriter, his stuff is worth a read.

I was going to list a few of my favorite quotes from Friedman's blog, but...

  1. It's more fun if you read them in context.
  2. My favorite Friedman quotes are profane, and I'm trying to keep this operation PG. Or at worst PG-13.

If you're looking for somewhere to start, try "The Koepp and I" part one and two, the epic tale of Friedman's campaign to get a (deserved) screenwriting credit on Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

Last of the 500T.

I just received the last* four rolls of Fuji Eterna 500T** film for Interplanetary.

*Assuming I haven't greatly miscalculated the amount of interior shooting we have left.

**I'll still have to order more 250D for remaining exteriors.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Zombie strippers.

John and Wade both told me about this trailer...

Who do these guys think they're fooling? Everybody knows we invented zombie strippers in Hide and Creep. Actually, Carl Ross invented them on the roof of the Redmont one night during a film festival party, and I wrote them into the screenplay. But still.

Seems like this would be a good time for somebody to rerelease Hide and Creep with the tag line "The Original zombie stripper movie."

Exit strategy.

Sometimes I feel like George W. Bush, like I've initiated an expensive, dangerous, and likely ill-advised crusade without a clearly-defined exit strategery strategy.

When I got an email from a gentleman who is programming some films for an upcoming sci fi convention, I took it as a sign. A sign that said "make a plan." So Ted and I now plan to get a reel or so of Interplanetary ready to screen at the previously-noted convention in late May. Yes, that's May 2008.

Ted suggested we assemble the end of "Act 2" and the beginning of "Act 3," where the proverbial sh!t really hits the fan for our Interplanetary characters, and that's what we're going to do. It'll be great to complete this part of the movie because (1) from an editing standpoint, it will be the most difficult and (2) if any segment of the movie is going to entertain an audience, it's this one.

While I was in a planning mood, I went ahead and scheduled shoot dates that should wrap all of our interior scenes. If those dates come together, I'm hoping to finish up exteriors during a couple of weekends in May, and that'll put everything in the can except for some big effects shots (explosions!) and miscellaneous pickup shots.

I'll tell you more about the specifics of the convention after everything is firmed up. Until then, keep your fingers crossed for us.

More grabs.

Grabs and synopsis.

Looking forward to a time when Interplanetary is done and being promoted on the festival/home video/whatever circuit, I've been working on this synopsis...

Nine men and women, employees of Interplanetary Corporation, live and work on Mars. Their days aren't particularly interesting, much less exciting, until they are assaulted by a murderous band of strangers and a seemingly unstoppable alien creature. Do these attacks have anything to do with the Martian fossil recently uncovered by one of the employees? Will the rapidly increasing body count adversely affect Interplanetary's stock price? And can anyone survive long enough to fill out the inevitable paperwork?

... and picking out some frame grabs...

"Things..." episode 030.

030: Cans, bags, and cores.

For shipping and storage, a roll of 16mm* or 35mm motion picture film is wound onto a plastic core, placed inside a light-proof bag, and sealed with tape inside a metal can.

If you're shooting film, you're going to need spare cans, bags, and cores for your short ends, if nothing else. And you can get them all free from whatever lab you use to do your film processing. Since labs have no use for the can, bag, and core after they process a roll of film, they have piles of the things lying around.

The lab will not, unfortunately, provide you with any tape to seal up those cans. Filmtools has some fancy "Warning: Exposed Film" tape and "Do Not X-Ray" tape, or you can just go with their 1" paper tape.

*Excluding daylight spools.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 029.

029: Battlestar Galactica.

Battlestar Galactica begins its fourth season tomorrow night on the Sci Fi channel. If you're at all interested in genre entertainment, you should be watching this show. It's a master class in sci fi storytelling. I even love the high def cinematography. BSG is probably the only show on TV not shot on film I can say that about.

And Battlestar Galactica is the best science fiction television show to air since Star Trek in the 1960s. BSG might even be better than Trek. I can't believe I just wrote that.

You can read more about the show (and more praise for the show) at

"Things..." episode 029.

029: Velcro vs. zippers.

If you're making costumes for a project, and you have the choice, use velcro instead of zippers. While velcro will lose its effectiveness over time, slowly getting less and less "sticky," a zipper will work perfectly until it breaks, and then it's 100 percent useless.

We ran into a broken zipper on one of our space suits last weekend before we'd even loaded the camera. As we didn't have a spare zipper on set, much less the time to install one, we solved the problem with safety pins* and careful selection of camera angles.

*Keep plenty of safety pins nearby when you're filming -- you'll be surprised how often they come in handy for solving costume-related problems.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Now playing.

Just caught Boys Don't Cry on satellite while blogging. Wow. Very well-made and very depressing.

Also finally watched I Am Legend on DVD. Not as good as the book (which is awesome), but good nonetheless.

More photos.

Here are a few of the many awesome photos George Smyly took last weekend...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"Other Worlds Than These" episode 028.

028: Entertainment Weekly magazine.

I might get flack for recommending Entertainment Weekly. The magazine devotes too many column inches to gossip and reality TV, and the EW music critics are not to be trusted. On top of all that, some argue that weekly publications are irrelevant, as they can't keep up with the 24/7 news cycle like the web.

But EW's "old media" status allows its writers more access than movie news sites and blogs, especially where big studio flicks are concerned. If you're looking for indie or genre film news, the web is a great source. If you're looking for an in-depth exclusive story with lots of glossy photos about... say this summer's Iron Man, EW is worth a look.

One more thing: EW subscriptions are crazy cheap--like 50 cents per issue.

"Things..." episode 028.

028: Be careful with your stuff. Be real careful with other people's stuff.

Kyle Holman, Interplanetary actor and all-around good guy, let us borrow his electrical generator for some night shoots. Trap Traffanstedt, Interplanetary co-producer and all-around good guy, came up with this...

The genny never left the bed of Trap's truck--you can see a couple of extension cords running out of the tent and up into the building that served as our filming location. The tent protected the genny from the elements, and it stayed dirt-free since we didn't have to carry it into the incredibly dusty building. By the end of the night, I think it's safe to say the genny was our cleanest piece of equipment.