Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cover art.

It's finally here! Your first look at the Interplanetary DVD cover art...

Friday, November 19, 2010

A few words from Cobra Commander.

STFU, ZUCK.

By Cobra Commander

You've probably heard that Mark Zuckerberg, the multi-billionaire CEO of Facebook, is unhappy about the way he's portrayed in the hit film The Social Network. Well, Marky Zuck, if you're reading this, I have two words for you.

Tough.

Titty.

The Social Network was directed by David Fincher. DAVID FINCHER!!! The guy's a certified cinematic genius. I mean, have you SEEN Fight Club? And don't even get me started on Zodiac... that movie is so brilliant on so many levels.

"But Fincher got the facts wrong!" Z-man protests. "He made me out to be an asshole! And he made up a fictional girlfriend who broke up with me!"

Dude, you invented Facebook. Even if you are the nicest guy in the world, you're still an asshole because YOU INVENTED FACEBOOK.

And at least the movie Zuckerberg got to have a girlfriend for a few minutes.

For some real cinematic slander, I'd like to point out a little television mini-series from 1983 about yours truly titled (for some reason) G.I. Joe. It was directed by Dan Thompson. Yes, THE Dan Thompson, world-renowned auteur of several episodes of Nickelodeon's Rugrats. The mini was written by Ron Friedman, who is so much cooler than Social Network writer Aaron Sorkin. I mean how can Sorkin's work on The West Wing compare to Friedman's work on The Dukes of Hazzard or B.J. and the Bear?

(That whole last paragraph was dripping with sarcasm. I feel the need to point that out, as I have no idea if Mark Zuckerberg's generation can parse sarcasm if it is not indicated by a stupid emoticon or some such shit.)

In case you aren't familiar with my work, Z-money, all you really need to know is that I am a brilliant and dangerous terrorist with my sights set on world domination. But you probably couldn't figure that out from the Joe mini.

Fincher made you an asshole? Well Thompson made me incompetent. I have killed SO many of the "Joe" team of soldiers. Like it's in the hundreds, and there are only twenty or so left. But the worst damage the TV "Cobra Commander" does is damage an airplane to the point that the pilot ejects and parachutes safely to the ground.

And Thompson gave me a lisp! Like "SSSSS-seriously." Who talks that way? Not me, as I'm a homicidal badass with thousands of minions under my command. Could I instill fear in my men shouting orders with a lisp? Doubtful.

But the worst thing, I think, is the lack of evil babes on the Joe show. In the real world, I score so much tail, you wouldn't believe it. Or maybe you would. I mean, I'm rich and powerful and all that. But Friedman only wrote one Cobra chick--a kinky twist with glasses (!), a German accent (!!), and a thing for Destro (!!!).

Destro, I should explain, is one of my underlings. And he has a metal face. Not a mask, his actual FACE is METAL. The guy don't even get pity sex.

But he's the cock of the fricking walk according to the bard Ron Friedman. And I, Cobra Commander, greatest terrorist of the 20th Century, am either celibate or homosexual. Whatevs.

So shut up, Mark Zuckerberg. You don't know how good you got it.

(And Mr. Fincher, if you'd like to make a biopic about a subject who appreciates your talent, please get in touch.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beware the Ides of March!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a street date for the Interplanetary DVD: March 15, 2011.

March 15 is also known as the "Ides of March." Back in the olden times, the Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the war god Mars. Given the movie's subject matter, this release date is better than perfect.


I'm also hearing that our cover art will be ready in a few weeks. I'll post that as soon as I get it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hide and Creep news.

You can now order a Hide and Creep DVD from Walmart.com.

And you can watch the whole movie for free (and legally) at YouTube.


I've updated the Hide and Creep home page with links to both sites.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Interplanetary: 1999.

Here's a little homage to the groovy opening credits from the Space: 1999 television show (featuring footage from Interplanetary, coming soon to DVD!).



You can see the original Space: 1999 credits sequence here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Since Andrew asked...

That bit of key art in the previous post is based on this classic Star Wars poster...


More accurately, it's based on Chuck's and my memory of the poster. Looking at the original, we were off by a bit. Or maybe we were thinking of some other Star Wars artwork?

Interplanetary on DVD.

It looks like Interplanetary is headed to DVD via Camp Motion Pictures. Hopefully before the end of 2010. The distribution contract is signed and the lab (VTA in Atlanta) delivered the master tapes to Camp earlier this week. And I've done a couple of "key art" photo shoots with the actors.


Still a few things to take care of (additional paperwork, re-scoring the teaser trailer), but, after a few years of off-and-on work, it looks like our Interplanetary adventure is finally coming to a close.

More details as they're available...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Experiment in terror... I mean Photoshop.

Photoshop CS5 background removal test starring Ms. Mia Frost (AKA "Beth" in Interplanetary)...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New movie.

We started working on a new short last weekend, Overtime. It's going to be part of that anthology movie I mentioned a while back.

It's been interesting so far for many reasons. A couple of big ones: we're shooting on the relatively new Canon 7D, and we're working with cinematographer David Brower for the first time. David has forgotten more about filmmaking than I'll ever know, and watching him do his thing has been educational to say the least. Also, since he's taking care of the camera, I've actually been spending more time with the actors.

David even managed to find time to take some behind-the-scenes photos with his iPhone. Like this one...


Also, that Reel Blood I mentioned lives up to the hype. Looks great, cleans up easy. Woot.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Last-minute reminder.

Interplanetary is screening in Birmingham tonight. Details here:

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/105121

I've heard seating is extremely limited, and ticket pre-sales end at 10 a.m. If you want tickets at the door, I would recommend arriving early.


I've also heard that short films by Chris Hilleke and Sam McDavid (both great guys and sharp directors) will play as well, so it should be a good night.

(Note: film projector is for illustrative purposes only; Interplanetary will be projected digitally as usual.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

There will be blood.

Another reason I'm excited about the shoot this weekend: the opportunity to try out some new blood.


A bottle of Reel Blood (not real blood) arrived today from Reel Creations. I hear it looks great and cleans up easy, which is really all you can ask of movie blood.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Due diligence.

I actually have location audio recordists (thanks, Kenn and Sam!) lined up for the weekend's shooting. So Trap and I can worry with... other stuff. Who knows--maybe I'll even do a little directing.


If I only had an iCade from ThinkGeek, everything would be perfect.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Shot list.

I wish I could draw.


Then I could make storyboards for this weekend's shoot. (Instead, I'm just making working on a shot list.)

Christmas lights.

Is somebody in Birmingham remaking Eyes Wide Shut?


'Cause I can't find any damn colored Christmas lights anywhere.

Thankfully, I finally got smart and called my Mom, and she has the hook-up.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Early pimpin'.

Got up at 6 in the a.m. to go down to Fox 6 and pimp the upcoming Interplanetary screening.


Thanks to Fox 6 and the Sidewalk guys for continuing to promote the flick!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hat.

I got a shoot coming up a week from tomorrow. I need a new hat.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The score on The Business.

This episode of The Business features a good story about Michael Giacchino, one of my favorite film/TV composers, and his work on Lost.


(Giacchino also wrote the awesome score for The Incredibles, number 4 on my "best of the decade" list.)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Read-through.

Had a read-through of my screenplay for the anthology movie tonight with the three lead actors (that'd be Mia Frost, Sanford Hardy, and Kyle Holman). I am now officially excited about the project. Well, I was already excited, but I'm more excited now. Even though this particular script doesn't have a lot of dialog, it's great to hear the actors put their spin on it. Aside from being good actors, Mia, San, and Kyle are good guys to hang out with. The read-through was fun and productive, and the actual shoot is looking to be even more fun.


That shoot starts up in a little more than a week, by the way.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shootout.

Zacuto (maker of camera gear) has posted an interesting camera comparison video on their web site:

http://www.zacuto.com/shootout


It's the first of a three-part series comparing the new batch of video-enabled DSLR cameras with the big boys (i.e. 35mm motion picture cameras). A little long, but definitely worth a look for the camera nerds.

Spoiler: the DSLRs hold up surprisingly well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What's on your Mac?

A new Apple Mac computer is a beautiful thing, and it comes preloaded with lots of useful software (QuickTime, GarageBand, and TextEdit to name three). But I don't feel like a Mac is really ready to go until I install these (free!) apps...

  1. VLC Media Player: a "highly portable multimedia player and multimedia framework capable of reading most audio and video formats (MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, DivX, MPEG-1, mp3, ogg, aac ...) as well as DVDs, Audio CDs VCDs, and various streaming protocols." And, though I haven't tested it extensively, VLC seems to be able to play DVDs from any region.
  2. Handbrake: maybe my favorite freeware ever. Great for ripping your DVDs for playback on your iPod, PS3, or home theater computer. (Handbrake requires VLC to rip some commercially-produced DVDs.)
  3. Perian: enables the awesome QuickTime player to read just about any video format (including the popular DivX and 3ivx formats).
  4. Silverlight: why would you want to install a Microsoft (!) product on your Mac? Because you need Silverlight to take advantage of Netflix's groovy "Watch Instantly" video-streaming feature.
  5. Flip 4 Mac: Speaking of Microsoft, if you come across any pesky Windows Media video files you need to watch with your QuickTime player, Flip 4 Mac makes it possible.
  6. Firefox and FireFTP: Apple's Safari is a fine browser, but it's not as customizable as Firefox. And my favorite Firefox plug-in is FireFTP, a clean and simple FTP client.
  7. Celtx: We no-budget filmmakers need to save money any way we can. Thank goodness for Celtx. It's a solid screenwriting app, and it's free. Which is to say, it's much more affordable than Final Draft.



If there are any cool free Mac apps I didn't mention, leave a comment and let me know about 'em.

One tech note: if you have a newer Mac and want to install the 64-bit version of Handbrake, you'll need a 64-bit version of VLC, available at: http://download.videolan.org/pub/videolan/vlc/1.0.2/macosx/vlc-1.0.2-intel64.dmg

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A couple of stills from Sunday's shoot.

Here are those stills I promised yesterday...



As you might guess, this thing is a period piece.

My only regret--we didn't have any blue gels to cool off our "moonlight." Still, I'm happy with the lighting. We managed to set it up so we could get wide shots and close-ups without moving any lights.

Also, I'm noticing that Apple changed their video gamma settings for Mac OS ver. 10.6 ("Snow Leopard"). Arrgh.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Trying out the new gear.

Trap and I helped Chuck shoot a little trailer/commercial thing last night (starring Kyle Holman and Rod Robinson from Interplanetary and Hide and Creep). We got to put some new gear to work, including the soon-to-be-infamous Trapdolly, the Britek lights, and the Zoom H4n audio recorder.


I think everything worked pretty well. If Chuck doesn't mind, I'll post a still from the shoot later this week.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My mom is awesome.

Regular readers of this blog know that my mom is awesome. She's always been supportive of my creative endeavors, recently sewing many of the space suits featured in Interplanetary. Now she's made some sandbags to help keep the Trapdolly tracks straight.


Stylish sandbags at that--dig those pinstripes. Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Four degrees.

I was in Hide and Creep (uncredited cameo as a dead guy) with Kyle Holman. Kyle was in was in Alice's Misadventures in Wonderland with Kevin Wayne. Kevin was in Under Siege with Eddie Bo Smith, Jr. And Mr. Smith was in Stir of Echoes with Kevin Bacon.


I guess that means my Bacon number is 4.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

1080p x 2.

I now have two 1080p monitors in the living room: the Samsung LCD TV and the all-new iMac. And both are, to some degree, Mac-powered!


Yeah, I'll admit it's a bit decadent.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pre-production.

Man, I'm beat. It was a jam-packed weekend of pre-production for the anthology movie. Trap and I scouted a location Friday night, and Chuck and I (and Kelly Marshall and John) held auditions on Saturday.


On Sunday, Trap and I fine-tuned the awesome dolly he built. I also played a show with one band on Saturday night and had rehearsal with another on Sunday, but I guess that's neither here nor there.

Here's a little camera dolly test footage, via Vimeo. First shot features Trap as star and dolly grip, me riding the dolly and keeping an eye on the camera. Second shot features Trap as star, me as dolly grip, camera riding with no operator.

UPDATE: Embedded version of dolly test footage...


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lights! (Finally.)

I somehow managed to produce two low-budget feature films without owning a proper light kit. For lights, I did a lot of the old "relying on the kindness of strangers." Friends, actually. You know what I mean.


Since I have a short movie coming up really soon (and maybe a feature shortly after that) I decided to break down and order some Britek lights from Rostronics. I have fired up the 200W, 300W, and 600W, and they're looking to be pretty awesome lights for the price (so far).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Recognize.

The best trailer I've seen in a while.


Color me excited. Tron Legacy hits theaters in December.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Anthological.

Did I mention I'm getting ready to direct another feature? Well, at least part of a feature.


My good pal Arik Sokol is putting together a horror/science fiction anthology movie. It will consist of five short films by five different directors, including Chuck Hartsell (co-director of Hide and Creep, star of Interplanetary), Robb Rugan (director of Alice's Misadventures in Wonderland, DP of Hide and Creep), and Mike Harring (director of The Mountain, the River, and the Road). And me.

After Interplanetary, I'm looking forward to tackling something a little more... well, simple. Not that a movie with five directors will be simple. But I'm hoping to have my piece of it shot by mid-April. (Yes, mid-April of 2010.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Mars...

...Interplanetary is coming back to the big screen. The good folks at Sidewalk will be showing the movie on Tuesday April 13 at the Virginia Samford Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama.


That's all I know at the moment. More details when I get 'em.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Five-digit ISO.

Quick primer for any readers who are not camera nerds: A particular filmstock's light sensitivity, or "speed," is referred to as "ISO." The more sensitive the stock, the higher the ISO number. The fastest motion picture filmstock available these days (last I checked, anyway) is ISO 500.

The Canon 7D's CMOS chip (which takes the place of film in this particular camera) has a user-adjustable ISO. It goes from 100 (fairly slow, requires a good bit of light) to 12,800 (ridiculously fast).

This increased light sensitivity comes at a price. In the film world, an image captured on a faster stock is grainier than one captured on a slower stock. In the digital world, faster chip settings lead to noisier images. So, to capture the cleanest image, more light is usually better. I say "usually" because there is such a thing as too much light. But that's a different discussion.

I mention all this because I shot a little bit of ISO 12,800 footage for Monster Hunt. It's noisy as hell, but still more detailed than what I was seeing with my naked eye. Here's a grab:


I'd say all that chroma noise makes this shot pretty much unusable. However, if you were shooting some low-light stuff with the intent on finishing in black and white...


...that might be kind of cool. It's cool enough that I'm interested in doing some more ISO 12,800 experiments at some point.

If you want to see video of the above examples, check it out on Vimeo.

And speaking of low-light shooting, I hope Noktor comes out with a Canon mount version of their f/0.95 50mm lens. That's some awesome glass for 750 bucks.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Operator error.

Looking through some of my 7D footage, I started to notice missing detail in the shadows in Final Cut Pro (my editing software of choice). However, Apple's Color software seemed to have no problem with that detail. Here are a couple of examples, with the black levels boosted to make the point more obvious.

Final Cut Pro...


Color...



Yeah, it's subtle. (Depending on your computer and monitor, it might be imperceptible.) But I shot several Monster Hunt bits in very low light, knowing I'd have to push the footage in post. So I need all the shadow detail I can get.

I did some research and finally found some info regarding my issue at DVInfo.net. David Newman explains...

"Canon selected to place black and white [at] YUV Luma level 0 and 255, rather than the far more common 16 and 235. Many NLEs handle the extended range poorly and clip off the supers, so much so, originally the Canon cameras where thought to be very contrasty (there were many reports of this.) Later there was a patch to Quicktime that addressed this..."

(You can read the whole thread here.)

A patch to QuickTime, huh? Yeah, I guess I haven't ran any software updates since... aw, heck, since I don't know when.

Short story long, I updated QuickTime, the "Pro" apps (including Final Cut), and anything else that looked like it might affect video playback on the MacBook Pro. And now my 7D footage has a lot more latitude than it did yesterday.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Viva la Revolución?

I've been hearing about the "digital revolution," the idea that digital technology makes it cheaper and easier to create good-looking movies, for years. And for years, I've been a skeptic. Some high-def video cameras that produce a very film-like image have made it to market, but they ain't cheap. According to my calculations, I was getting more bang for the buck shooting my "serious" projects on 16mm film, so I stayed that course.

Late last year, I started reading about the Canon 7D, a digital SLR camera with video capability. Then I watched some footage shot with the 7D. It looked pretty damn good. Good enough that I threw my skepticism to the wind and bought a 7D for myself.


I've been impressed so far. I don't love the 7D like I love my Aaton LTR-54 16mm camera. But I do love the fact that I can shoot for hours with the 7D without spending a dime. It records video to reusable compact flash cards. When you fill up a card, you just copy the footage to your computer, wipe the card, and get back to shooting. With 16mm film, I'm probably dropping 400 or 500 bucks for every ten minutes of footage I shoot.

The 7D is far from a perfect camera. The ergonomics suck. It eats through batteries. Its images suffer from aliasing and rolling shutter issues. But there are workarounds for these problems.

And I can live with workarounds for a camera that set me back less than $2,000.

The low cost-of-use is encouraging me to do less planning and more shooting. Since buying the camera, I've shot a short snow documentary, a web ad for a local restaurant, three commercials for an upcoming television show, and that Monster Hunt thing I keep mentioning but never quite explaining. And I'm hoping to shoot a more ambitious short film with the camera later this month. And I'm really looking forward to shooting an inexpensive (but good-looking) feature with the 7D, possibly as soon as this summer. Exciting (and busy) times.

As happy as I am with the 7D, Canon's new Rebel T2i might be even cooler. From what I've seen, it creates 7D-quality video at half the price. You can read more about the Rebel and see a sample video at Stu Maschwitz's excellent ProLost blog.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Shorts.

We wrapped Monster Hunt with James and Kevin on Saturday.* Here's a frame grab...


Worked late last night finishing up the second draft of the screenplay for another short movie. More on that later this week.

*Except for the inevitable pickup shots, of course.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cutting again.

I've edited about three minutes of a new Crewless short movie. Stacey and I are swapping roles for this one--she's directing and I'm producing. Here's a still...


The title? Monster Hunt with James and Kevin.

Look for it this autumn at finer film festivals everywhere. I mean, assuming any of them choose to show it. And it doesn't take three years to finish.

Also, this is cool. Turn your iPhone into a wireless touchpad. For free. Handy as a remote for a Mac Mini-powered home theater system.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

So long, satellite (Phase 2).

Last night I got my new Mac Mini (sloppily) hooked up to the TV in the living room.


Hulu on the big screen!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stock footage.

I'm going to need some footage from horror movies for a montage that will be part of that new short flick I mentioned yesterday. Since I can't afford licensing fees, I specifically need footage from public domain horror movies. Kind of the no-budget version of "stock footage."


I think this site might provide 80% or 90% of the footage I need. The internets are awfully useful. Sometimes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Busy weekend.

Played a show with the Exhibit(s) on Friday, then spent most of the weekend shooting a movie. Then I wrote almost seven pages of a screenplay for another movie on Sunday night. So I'm feeling a little tired at this point.

But the gig and shooting seemed to go well. And the script is for a short, so it's close to halfway done.

Here are a few photos from the movie shoot. More details later this week.




(Regular readers of this blog will recognize the photo subjects as Kevin, James, and Trap, of course.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Free TV.

Stacey and I have been talking about getting rid of our Dish Network system and getting all our television from the Internet (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) and over-the-air (ABC, NBC, etc.). I took the first step in that direction last night when I connected an antenna to our big TV.


You can't really tell it from this photo, but the picture quality is very nice.


Seven channels down and... several to go.

I also bought a USB TV tuner thing (Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 950Q) only to find out it is not-at-all compatible with the Mac. Maybe the whole "WinTV" thing should have tipped me off.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It was three years ago today...

Well, yesterday actually. We started filming Interplanetary on February 17, 2007. Sometimes it seems like it hasn't been that long. And sometimes it feels like I've been working on Interplanetary my whole life.

Here's a blast from the past... Chuck on set, Day One of Production.


The movie is, as they say, "out to distributors" right now. Let's hope it doesn't take another three years for Interplanetary to get a proper DVD release. While we're hoping, let's hope for a Blu-ray edition, too!