The Difference Between, and quitting productions

The Difference Between.

So, that’s the name of the new series that I’m writing and directing. We’ve already shot the first episode, and the footage came out great. We worked on the voice over last night, and I’ve yet to check that out. Partly from over-excitement, partly from nerves.

It’s very similar to what I experienced when shooting 8 for Vegas. We never looked at the footage after we shot it. Not until the editing.

But I wanted to share a story with you about how name The Difference Between came about.

In 1995 I was living in Hoboken, NJ with my then girlfriend. I was just out of college, I was working at a Foodtown in the wine store there, and I was trying to break into comics. We lived, at the time, on 2nd and Grand, in a commercial space. We had the entire floor, and three roommates. And mice. And my gf’s cat, Artemus.

I had recently graduated from the School of Visual Arts for comic book illustration. It was, and still is, my passion. Or, one of them.

I had seen Pulp Fiction the year before and went out and purchased the published screenplay, if only because it was just such an interesting film, and to see the script would give me some insight into storytelling.

I went out, bought a typewriter… yes, a typewriter… and started on my first script, The Difference Between.

Now, keep in mind, this was pre-internet. For me, at least. It was pre- a lot of things. It would be a couple of years before I owned my own computer. Or a DVD player. Or had a reasonable paying job where I didn’t feel it necessary to tamper down all of my hatred and rage for my bosses, and go into work feeling like I was already a failure at 22 for not being a comic book star. Blah blah.

I wrote out The Difference Between, and two other screenplays, on that typewriter, and I loved it. As much as I hated the noise, there was something both satisfying and final about the typewriter. Even though I had correcting tape, every sentence needed to have meaning.

I still feel that way, even though I’ve graduated to a laptop, but it was a great way to start out my writing ‘career’.

Having read the script for Pulp Fiction, you can imagine the similarities my first script had to it. Not so much in terms of dialog… I’ve never been one for quippy dialog. At least, quippy for the sake of being quippy.

Quip: A clever, witty remark often prompted by the occasion.

But, it was in 3 separate but interlocking acts, it did have a lot of violence and… shit. It’s been a decade, at least, since I’ve even looked at those pages (which I still have). Probably quippy dialog.

We even attempted to shoot a 30 minute short of the film. Condensed down to give ‘investors’ an idea of the script. I found some foundation in the city for indie filmmakers, at the time, and made some friends and they were helping me out with the film.

It was a disaster.

One of the actors I had cast ended up not showing up to a main shoot, where I had spent a significant amount of money on a camera rental and film, props, etc.

I was 22, and if I could go back, I would take my 22 year old self aside and say “This is how things work. People are going to flake out, especially if they’re not your friends. You’re going to have to figure a way around this because you won’t get another chance at this. At least, not any time soon.”

Not, as I found out, for like 16 years later, for god sake.

I had to pack everything up, pay people what I could, and I wouldn’t touch a film camera for another 8 years. A Canon GL1, a high end camera that I purchased and never did a damned thing with. Add another 7 years to that, and you’re caught up. So much time wasted.

I did continue to write, though. I never found writing to be dangerous… but, then, I’ve never really gone the Hemingway route of writing:

“Write drunk, edit sober.”

That’s not to say I haven’t written gold inebriated. I have. But it’s no way to live, and it’s too expensive a lifestyle for someone unemployed.

I had a long talk with my mom about that production, so many years ago. She had paralleled that experience with what had happened during our 8 for Vegas shoot. I’m trying to find the exact blog post, but I cannot. Suffice it to say, if you have any interest in shooting a web series, you may want to check out my 8 for Vegas blog, and start from the beginning. I talk about all kinds of stuff that may help prevent a headache or two.

The thing is, there wasn’t just one time when I felt like quitting. There were like three or four, and it was this that sparked the conversation with my mom. “Do you think you feel like quitting because you quit that other film you were trying to do?”

“Mom, please. I’m not hung up on something that happened almost two decades ago!”

But, I was.

It took a lot to power through. I spoke with my friend T.O.S. (he wants to remain reasonably anonymous) and it was around week 4 when I had counted what money I had left and where we were with the script and I told him “I was going to quit and give people back their money…” and he said “But you’re past the point of no return.”

I nodded.

It’s so interesting how things played out, and where I am now. I had mentioned in an earlier post about the benefits of finishing a project being equal to the idea that half of life is showing up.

If your end product sucks… it’s better than quitting in the middle and having no product at all. Also, what you learned along the way is invaluable, as so many can attest to. Plus, you can always re-shoot. Might take a while (eyeroll), but you can.

Tomorrow should be interesting. We’ll be shooting the fundraising video, and I’m at a total loss of what to say. I wrote up a tiny script for a Season 2 teaser… putting together a fundraising video isn’t easy. But we’ll have fun tomorrow, regardless, and I’m sure Season 2 will be as good, if not better, than Season 1.

To bring this all around again, the new series, The Difference Between, is nothing like a Tarantino picture, and my dialog writing has matured immensely. One of the best tips I ever found for dialog writing was from Kevin Smith, who said he learned much of his dialog writing from writer Gregory McDonald, who wrote a bunch of novels with two fantastic mystery characters. Fletch and Flynn. If you get a chance, give his novels a go. They’re fantastic. Especially the dialog.

Thanks for reading. Hope you’re having a good weekend!

John

PS – if you haven’t already, like “8 for Vegas” on Facebook! Thanks in advance!

Cheap voiceover recording

My headline may be a bit misleading because, after purchasing (or renting) a mic and a recording device (unless you’re recording straight to your computer), the word cheap might not apply.

I am about 95% finished filming my first short entitled “The Difference Between,” but needed to record a voiceover track for the short.

I did some research in local New York City recording studios and the cheapest I found was $45 an hour, at Kim Audio. That was quite a reasonable price for what I needed, and if I did not have an awesome microphone, I would have considered it. But spending another $100 was just not an option at this point.

So, I asked my friend Nicole Poole, who has been doing tons of voiceover work for many years, if she had any advice. Here’s what she wrote:

For v/o studios, good effing luck. Everything’s at least $200/hour. What I would suggest is to use Garage Band and a USB mic – I use the Snowball, but I hear the Yeti’s also ok. You can buy it at the Apple store and return it the next day.

A closet full of clothes is about the best place to record – if you don’t have that, then build a box with some towels in it and put the mic in it. If you’re using a USB mic, sometimes it picks up machine noise from your computer, so I use a bridge USB connector – takes that noise down by 50%.

Ok, I didn’t understand about 2/3rds of that, but I did understand the idea behind dampening the sound so that it just didn’t reverberate all over the apartment and come back as an echo.

This was one of the issues we had when we filmed the second episode of “8 for Vegas.” I have forwarded the youtube clip to the part I’m discussing, below:

You can hear the emptiness of the space, and also a little echo. We didn’t know what we were doing. It’s funny how, as technology progresses, we’re more and more able to just do things and believe they’re just going to come out correct.

So. I had a mic. I had a recording device. I purchased a weighted desktop platform, or stand, for the microphone. Then I used a bunch of fabric covered chairs and placed them thusly. Two facing each other, so that there was a platform for the mic, and two at the back, facing away, so that there was a closed space.

I think filled gaps with towels, and then put two covers over the top, and had our actor speak into the space that was now fully buffered and covered.

It sounded worlds better. Worlds.

There are tutorials out there for creating boxes to do VO work in. Most times you can get these supplies at Home Depot, or, if you’re handy, you can build a long and wide enough box, had a good space at the bottom for your mic (and make sure you drill a large enough hole through the back or side so that you can get your microphone cable through it), and then find a thick density foam to cover the inside with.

I was lucky enough that I didn’t have to go that route. At least, not yet. It took a little while to get our actor comfortable to act the lines, and not read them.

That is an obstacle you’ll also have to deal with. It took some time. We tried to break up paragraphs so that he wasn’t reading twenty lines, though that did sometimes happen. Also, there was an issue of him taking breaths before each take, and that was audible. Had to put a stop to that, too.

Bourbon helped.

But, at the end of the night we were quite happy with the results, and spent little money to achieve what we needed.

I hope to be able to film the rest by next week, in time for the Be Film Festival in NYC. Deadline is in a month. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, we’ll be at Society Billiards shooting our fundraising campaign video. Should be a lot of fun!

I’ll leave you with the following promotional video for the Central Institute of Technology in Australia, that I just thought was so hysterical, created by Henry and Aaron.

Ok, thanks for reading. All the best,

John Painz

Shooting video in public, and new footage

One of the great things I like about shooting video with the Canon 7d is that it is also a great still camera. It doesn’t arouse as much suspicion as, say, shooting with a Sony EX1, or some other such camcorder.

While shooting with a tripod is frowned upon a couple of places in NYC, I went out and got two things that have helped me tremendously in those particular areas, allowing me to get steady shots.

One is a table top tripod, and the other is a ball head attachment. This allows me to get good footage in places that frown upon tripods, like the High Line Park in Chelsea.

I went there this past Sunday to check out the views and also try and get some nice footage of people and buildings.

That tripod set-up helped a lot. There were these three inch bars that went around the sides of the elevated park, and also a handrail that was about two or three inches away from the bar. Well, placing one or two legs on the bar, and the third leg on the rail allowed me to get some really interesting shots all along the length of the High Line.

Outside of the park, well, I used my tripod, but the two small pieces of equipment weigh so little, it should really be in every run and gun filmmakers arsenal.

I recommend getting two separate pieces of equipment because the extra height that the ball head attachment gives you means less strain on your knees and back of you have to get your face close to whatever flat surface you have your camera on. You know, to focus.

I have something similar to this tripod, and one of these ball heads.

These also help when you forget your quick release plate on your tripod at home, and find you’re trekking around with twenty extra pounds for no reason, and you still need to get shots so the entire evening isn’t wasted.

And don’t tell me lugging it around is good exercise. I can’t wait to get an assistant.

I have been out and about 9 times since I’ve purchased the camera. That’s been just over a month. That’s not bad. I’ve gotten some very nice footage, and I’m looking forward to piecing what I can together for both the short film and another project I’m working on.

Some night this week, we’ll be shooting the 8 for Vegas fundraising film, I think.

I say “I think” because we’ve tried shooting it three times. I keep wanting two of my actors in it, but I’m not 100% sure it’s necessary. Can’t tell. I also haven’t written anything. I keep thinking we can show up to the pool hall and wing it, but I think this needs some preparation, so this evening I’m out and about writing (after this) a short script to shoot.

So, below, you’ll see some of the footage I shot. Some of it’s like ‘eh, ok’ and some of it’s like ‘oh, yeah, ok, that’s New York.’ Some of it’s really nice, though, if I do say so myself.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for watching. I’ll be back.

John Painz

Some advice for new filmmakers

Hey all.

There are a couple of tenets out there that allow even the lowest budgets to have big impacts.

The first one is: Story is key.

We’ve all been subjected to films with enormous budgets and stars and huge marketing machines force feeding us and blah blah. In the age of special effects and leaps in photographic technology, we know that making films is becoming easier and easier. But the story is always king.

If you’re looking to write a script, feature length or not, just keep in mind what you have as an asset. Think of The Princess Bride:

Westley: Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where is Buttercup?

Inigo Montoya: Let me ‘splain. [pause] No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry’ Humperdinck in a little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape… after I kill Count Rugen.

Westley: That doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying.

Fezzik: You just wiggled your finger. That’s wonderful.

Westley: I’ve always been a quick healer. What are our liabilities?

Inigo Montoya: There is but one working castle gate, and… and it is guarded by 60 men.

Westley: And our assets?

Inigo Montoya: Your brains, Fezzik’s strength, my steel.

Westley: That’s it? Impossible. If I had a month to plan, maybe I could come up with something, but this…

Fezzik: You just shook your head! That doesn’t make you happy?

Westley: My brains, your strength, and his steel against sixty men, and you think a little head jiggle is supposed to make me happy? Hmmmm? I mean, if we only had a wheelbarrow, that would be something.

Inigo Montoya: Where we did we put that wheelbarrow the albino had?

Fezzik: Over the albino, I think.

Westley: Well, why didn’t you list that among our assets in the first place?

An asset can be a location, an actor/actress, a prop… if you’re just out to shoot things for experience, use what you have available to you. This also goes hand in hand with ‘write what you know.’

This works well with the second tenet:

Simpler is better. Plenty of compelling stories, scenes, what-have-you, that are simple and powerful. You don’t need to make things complicated to have a good story. Plenty of time for that later.

Sound. You’ll hear this a lot, no pun intended. Your video can be subpar, but if your sound is bad, you’re done for.

Fear. Probably one of the biggest things that will affect a person trying to get into this industry. With the internet, public opinion is simply too key to ignore. You really can’t get very far these days without either knowing someone… Or just being insanely talented. Right time, right place… you get the idea.

Or… capturing a portion of the internet’s imagination.

But that’s a double edged sword if I’ve ever heard of one. In fact, it’s more like 10/90 percent kind of sword, if you can envision that.

Putting yourself out there is key. But ‘out there’ are some real assholes, and they love, beyond all reasonable measure, to hurt people’s feelings. Odds are, you actually know some of these people, because they are so prevalent online, they’re too many to count.

But is it something to fear? I don’t think so. That’s not to say you shouldn’t get upset if someone happens to come along and tell you your project is shit, or what-have-you. I’ve gotten upset. Quite a few times. Depressed. Angry, too. I’m still not allowed anywhere near Ohio.

But, you’ll find, if you really think about it, that criticism will be found at every single level of anything worth doing, and every person who has ever been the best at something had, at one point, and will have again, critics who enjoy nothing more than tearing them down. It is nearly impossible to stay at the top of your game forever, but it is truly impossible to please and/or entertain everyone.

Putting yourself out there takes an amount of courage that is difficult to measure. Accepting what is out there that latches on is just a part of the responsibility of letting your baby out into the world.

Try and remember that when you start on the road of creating something. All of the pieces that need to fit. All of the help you receive. If you believe in yourself, if others do the same, then just accept what comes, and strive to do your best. Criticism is inevitable.

The final piece of advice I have is, if you can rent equipment, rent it. No need to go out and spend money on what will amount to a shit ton of equipment, when you can rent it, and rent the exact tools for the job.

I ended up buying my equipment because I was comfortable with it, and wanted the freedom to be able to shoot when I pleased, and not when I rented. But sometimes that disposable income isn’t available. Not to mention, I mean, shit. There’s so much to buy.

There’s a camera. Then lenses. A tripod. A microphone. A recorder. Then there’s the accessories, which just keep coming and coming, for godsake. I’m drowning in all of these little purchases that I need to make because every shoot has this issue that needs to get solved and so yeah, there’s another $50 minimum down the tube. Grrrr.

I don’t regret buying. But my god, there are so many fantastic toys to buy, it’s quite the addiction. Better to take that out of the equation and just rent what you need.

Renting also gives you a sense of urgency, truth be told. There’s nothing like needing to get things done before the equipment needs to be returned, that’s for damned sure.

So, those are some tips for new filmmakers. As I learn more, I’ll share more.

I’d love to hear from you readers out there, and your own experiences.

John

The H4N Zoom and Phantom Power

Ok, so, I was on a shoot this Saturday, and came across an issue in regards to my sound equipment.

I purchased a Rode NTG-3 microphone, along with a Sony H4N Zoom.

I had been using a Sennheiser ME66/K6 setup in the past, which has an onboard battery supply.

The Rode NTG-3 does not. I did not realize that. Silly me.

Unfortunately, I found that out at the shoot on Saturday. I thought that the Zoom would provide power to the mic. At the time, it did not.

And that’s because I did not read any of the instructions. Or do any research. Or generally use my brain.

The Zoom will allow for what is called ‘phantom power’ which is, powering up a piece of equipment that needs power, but has no power of its own.

There’s a setting on the Zoom that allows for this. I found this out, today, at Adorama, where I went to purchase a phantom power source. Truly unreal.

Now, I ended up purchasing the phantom source because, the fact is, better to be plugged in than use a battery, but it’s nice to know that if I’m in a situation where I don’t have access to an outlet or generator, I’ll still be able to use the Zoom and the mic.

So, I figured I would just set the record straight, that I simply didn’t know what I was doing, and have been educated to the abilities of both the mic and the Zoom, and that my next shoot will be smoother.

I am going to Webster Hall this evening to help on a project. They basically just need bodies, but I figured I would do what I can.

Half of life is showing up. We’ll see where it leads.

J

The Adventures of a One Day Shoot – #1

Hey all.

It’s Sunday, around 8pm, and I just finished the first cut of the editing project I was hired for. I still have to add music, but the footage is rendering, and will take quite a while.

So, I figured I would update you on a shoot I went to yesterday, and give you some perspective on a low-to-no budget shoot that was vastly different from my own shoots.

First, the director and the DP were two different people, which is normal. I was shooting, for the most part, my own footage, so I dealt with a lot of the issues that came up (which were all first time issues), such as lighting, blocking shots, and dealing with the actors.

Second, I had a skeleton crew. Three people total, including myself.

Three, my scripts were not complicated. Read that as, We were shooting in one location, and the scripts were cut into sections. It normally broke down like this. A) Interview area, B) team area, C) pool table. We were able to move people into scene quickly. Made for a stress free day. Usually.

So, let me start from Thursday, when I was asked to show up and be the DP on the shoot.

John, the director, wrote me an email stating that a person had dropped out, due to getting a ‘paid gig’. Ok. He asked that I come by and be principle on camera, and help with lighting and sound.

Now, I have shit for lighting. I have two clamp lights with two 250w photoflood bulbs that are bright as hell (especially if you look at them directly… sigh). But I didn’t have a hair light. I had assumed that the location would be bright enough, even though it was in a basement, to afford one hair light. But.

On Saturday morning I left to head over to Calumet Photo, or Foto Care, to pick up an extra bulb. They had none. Since there was a Home Depot on 23rd Street, around the corner from both, I was hoping to pick up a third clamp light and bring it, but alas.

So, I met John early, we talked a bit, I went down to check out the location, and boy was it dark. I mean, like, we just unearthed a speakeasy that’s been buried for 90 years dark.

Not great, but a free space to shoot, so.

Luckily, they had a ton of pipes and such going across the ceiling, with a network of their own clamp lights, and a dimmer system, so all wasn’t lost.

One of the issues against us was, I could have prepared more for the shoot, had I seen the location. I guess Tip One would be, if you lose someone who is key to the look of the film, and have a replacement handy, make sure they see the space before Day Of.

When we got to the place, we found that there was a group already using the space, and had it until exactly the moment when we were supposed to get the space. I think it had been assumed that the space would be empty, and we could get in early. So, Tip Two, make sure you know all time logistics of a space you’re using before you get there. Make no assumptions, especially when under a tight shooting schedule.

I found out about this time that I was not going to be the camera person. I was kind of confused about it, but let it go. The person who was shooting the video seemed like a student, but that doesn’t matter much, it’s just an observation. I asked to see her camera.

She was using a 24-105mm f/4.0 zoom lens on a Canon 7d, same as I have (not the lens). Having seen the basement, I was a bit concerned about the lighting because just in the restaurant alone the camera was at an ISO of 5000 to get nice lighting. I asked her what setting she was using on the camera, and she said “manual settings.”

Now, one of the things I was scared shitless about when I started shooting “8 for Vegas” was that, for such a ‘point and shoot’ camera, I knew there had to be settings on the Canon 7d to maximize the camera’s abilities.

I found this video:

I had to watch that video a dozen times to keep up, but afterwards, I took footage, dumped it on my computer, and was wowed. It allows for a flatter shot, so you can do more work in post, and gives it a much more cinematic feel. That’s the ‘too long, didn’t watch’ version.

One of the major things about shooting with these preferences is, shooting in RAW. For one, it makes the file sizes enormous, but it gives you the ability to use your raw footage and do more in post production.

I did not have these presets memorized, but I figured I could recreate them for this person’s camera. At the very least, I used the flatter image settings so that post-color correction would be easier. I felt that, at the very least, I could help there.

I gave her one of my lenses, the 24mm 2.8, to use in the bathroom, and she decided not to use it. My lenses were not used again, for the rest of the day. Nor was my camera.

So, I had written here earlier that I ended up buying a Rode NTG-3 microphone. It had been recommended to me from various sources, so I went for it. I hadn’t used it before this shoot because I figured I’d have time to play with it before necessary.

Nope.

Well, it wasn’t working. Silly me, I kept trying to find where to put the batteries. This is due to the fact that I was used to using the Sennheiser ME66/K6, which is battery powered, and thought this particular mic was all inclusive, in terms of power.

Nope. Found out that I needed what is called ‘phantom power,’ which is kind of like how harddrives these days can use your laptop or computer to run off of. I needed a component that would plug into the mic, giving it power. Then connect the power supply to a recording device. Or I could drop money on a mixer that records, too.

Or something. Hell, I’m not a sound guy! Get off my back!

So. Tip Three, make sure the people who are coming have experience with what they’re supposed to do. Also, don’t lump in your main shoot functions on one person, if you can help it, unless you’re paying them or they owe you money, or you saved their life in ‘Nam.

That tip goes against having a skeleton crew, but the person who dropped out was supposed to do the camera work, the lighting, and the sound. In one fell swoop, the director had to replace everything that makes a film, and at the last minute.

Now, I had my H4N there, and could record audio, but there was no way the audio was going to be good enough when it came time for the actual restaurant scenes (set dressed as one). If the video wasn’t perfect, ok, fine. But if the audio was bad, the entire thing would be a waste.

Boy, this is a long entry.

After the bathroom, we get downstairs and start clearing the place out.

So, a guy with a lot more electronic experience than me was helping me get the lights together while the director was trying figure out how to set up and shoot the scene.

Tip Four, if you’re under time restraints, have the scene(s) sketched before you get there so you can say “This is how we’re setting up this scene.”

From there, it was all about setting a groove.

Now, the biggest issue, before shooting started, was that there were 15-18 people there. 7 were actors, 1 camera person, 1 sound guy, 1 electrician, 1 editor (there to get footage and hang out), 1 assistant director, and about 5 PAs who were all from the group, and wanted to watch.

Imagine a space that’s about 8 feet wide by 25 feet long. And in a basement. It was packed. It was warm, and there was little to no air by the end of the shoot.

People were on top of each other.

They set up the main scene, I decided to go find phantom power, and a boom pole, which I didn’t have. I figured, at least, with the mic, we’d get good audio, pole or no. I said “I’m heading out, I’ll be back in half an hour.”

I take one of the PAs, a new friend, Michelle, and we head to Adorama. Now, I don’t know why, but I have a block in my brain about Jews and Saturdays, and that’s because J&R is open on Saturdays. Adorama, which could have either sold or rented me the right equipment, was closed. So was B&H Photo.

So, I head over to Foto Care and get there with 10 minutes to spare. I rent the Sennheiser ME66/K6 and a boom pole (which, one of the bands was broken on the shock mount, yay) and get back in time to do proper audio.

Cool.

I shoot the audio, we have a good time with it.

We do our first dump of the footage and it takes almost no time for the footage to download.

And I’m confused. After 5-6 hours of shooting 8 for Vegas, I had about 60gb of footage. After two hours, she had 6gb, and she was constantly shooting.

It took me a second to realize that there was something wrong with her settings. I spoke to the editor about this and we agreed that changing it at that point would be futile. As long as she was shooting at 1080i, it would give them a reasonable internet video.

I was trying to figure out what was what when I realized she wasn’t shooting in RAW. It was a setting on her machine that I didn’t check on. I simply assumed she would be shooting in that mode, having owned the camera for a year.

I told that to the AD, who ended up relaying this to the editor, who said “You never shoot in RAW. You shoot with h.264 encoding,” which is a standard video encoding compression.

The thing is, the Canon 7d, while shooting RAW footage, encodes footage into h.264 already.

Sigh.

You also go from your RAW footage to Pro Res transcoded footage for editing…

Now, I’m not a professional editor, and this person seemed to know what they were talking about, but…

I digress.

Some of my terminology might be off. This could be a case of me using big words so that I sound like I know what I’m talking about, but the process has worked for me, I’m sticking with it, and I think I’m correct about the coding, etc.

The shoot continued. But at a much faster pace.

One of the things I tried to explain to John, as he hadn’t directed before, was that there was going to be a moment where they were going to have to make compromises, in terms of what to shoot, for the sake of time.

Tip 5 would be, while making your shot list, make sure you know what is a priority and what isn’t, when pressed for time.

Clearly, this isn’t an issue if you can shoot over a number of days/weeks. But if you cannot, and you’re running and gunning it, be aware of the art of compromise and sacrifice.

As the day wore on, the shoot got looser. The actors and the director were getting a bit more of a groove, and the director and AD did their best to speed up the process.

All in all, it got finished, and on time, and no one was the worse for wear.

John treated the cast and crew to some appetizers at the restaurant that the shoot was in, and made sure to thank everyone for their help.

Tip 6. If no one’s getting paid, make sure they’re getting fed, especially if they’re not close friends.

Food is a good motivator for people to help you when they’re not getting paid. I know that, when I was shooting my stuff, I had internal angst over the food situation, but was told by everyone not to worry about it. I was lucky to have all friends on my shoot.

I found that I would not have been able to shoot 8 for Vegas as successfully as I did, had they all not been friends. Truly.

That was how complicated the shoot on Saturday was. Everyone was an acquaintance, and had to be relied heavily on. They did their jobs, but John and the other principals saw how quickly things could fall apart when people drop out.

Any other tips I would have from here on out would be kind of dependent on the situation.

If you can afford to pay people, pay them. Especially camera people who can bring lighting expertise to the situation, if not their own equipment. What we had we used, and worked around issues the best we could. But it certainly wasn’t optimal.

Sound. Well, besides my being a schmuck, it worked out. I didn’t think I was skimping on sound when I bought the Rode mic, and had I needed it before this weekend, getting it to work properly would have taken a train ride and a quick purchase at one of half a dozen stores. Make sure whoever is doing sound has experience. Learning on the fly doesn’t take a brain surgeon, but there is definitely an art to it with a steep learning curve.

It was an interesting day, and I learned a lot.

After appetizers, two of my friends and I went out and got drinks and talked about many things under the sun. I drank heavily and made it home in one piece, only to wake up at 5:30am, wide awake, with cotton mouth, and couldn’t fall back asleep until near 8:00am.

When I did finally wake again, at noon, I found out that our fundraising shoot was in jeopardy.

We were going to shoot at Society Billiards, which is where we shot the series, but they had the tri-annuals pool league tournament there today, and it would have been a nightmare.

So, we had to postpone it, which I really didn’t want to do.

I’m itching to get started.

So, I spent the day editing and rendering. I picked out some music for the project I’m working on, and I’m waiting for the footage to finish so I can export, upload, and go to sleep.

Thanks for reading this tome. It’s now 1:00am (after a light edit) and I’m still rendering footage. Sigh.

John

Kubrick

I’m quite certain that The Shining was the first Stanley Kubrick film I saw.

I know for a fact that the second was Full Metal Jacket, and while I didn’t fully understand that film when it came out, I enjoyed it none-the-less, if only because my father was a Vietnam Vet, and I wanted to like it because of him.

My dad allowed me and my sister to watch movies that I normally wouldn’t have been able to watch at home. My love for science fiction, fantasy, horror, war movies, kung-fu films, westerns… were all born from my dad.

My mom got me watching Murder She Wrote. Which I enjoyed, too.

Full Metal Jacket came out around the time of Platoon, and I remember my dad being particularly interested in them. Hamburger Hill, and The Iron Triangle, as well.

But I never recognized them as films, as much as entertainment. It took a while. Similar to my post on Lynch, I just wasn’t in that frame of mind.

The first film of Kubrick’s that I looked at with different eyes was Barry Lyndon, which I’m actually watching right now. I started my Kubrick marathon with 2001, and will move on to Spartacus, Paths of Glory, The Killing, Lolita, and finish up with The Shining and Full Metal Jacket. I have no love for Eyes Wide Shut. I saw it in the theaters and died a bit inside, but, that’s just me.

I think a lot of people fall victim to this type of thing. When I read a particular novelist, and then go to write, I start writing in their style.

Well, I recently received an email about getting a DP job. Seems that I didn’t actually get the job when they first emailed me. They sent a reply, after I said “count me in,” that basically said ‘we haven’t made a decision yet on who to hire.’

Ok.

In the email, they sent me their script and asked me to be prepared to answer the question ‘how would you shoot this,’ at an interview that was to be tomorrow.

Having been watching Kubrick for the past three days, his shooting style came to mind immediately.

Then I read the script.

Suffice it to say that I was not happy with it, and decided to pass on the project. Since I wasn’t getting paid, I thought it was an easy decision, but it brought up an issue that I have yet to rectify in my head.

After receiving the script, I re-wrote it. While doing so, I doubled the length, which may or may not have been an issue. I’ll never know.

I felt compelled to re-write it because I saw characters doing things no character would ever do in their particular situation. I went home and talked to my girlfriend, and then my mom the following day, and wondered if I should send it to them.

The resounding answer was, to make a long story short, no. Now, I know, in my head, that that was the right thing to do. The writer/director did not ask for advice on the script. It certainly wasn’t my place to say anything. I wrote them a note saying the project wasn’t for me, but if they’d like an outside opinion on the script, I’d be happy to talk about it.

They were not interested, which I figured.

I feel bad about the situation, but I’m also reminded of how difficult it is to take criticism. People have a vision, and they have a right to their own perspective, regardless of whether they appreciate an outsider piping up about it. I would also consider everything, every scenario one can come up with in this industry, a potential learning experience, so who am I to stop that.

I’m not much of an expert on anything, but I find that I’m always interested in helping people. That may or may not be a good thing.

In this particular instance, and it’s happened before, if I’m not digging the project, I know that if I get on set, or get to the office, or what-have-you, I won’t be happy and will not do my best work. Especially if I’m not getting paid. I think most people can relate.

This has happened before, when I worked on the production of Shame. That’s a story for another time. Unless I’ve already told it. I’m not sure.

Perhaps I’m excellent at self-sabotage. I don’t know.

Regardless, I’m still feeling raw about the situation. I’m glad I didn’t mail anything. I’m glad I didn’t take the job for jobs sake. I think I spared some grief, all around. I suppose I should have left it at ‘thanks but no thanks’ and left things the way they were.

Lesson learned. I don’t suspect I’ll be offering advice in the future, unless it’s asked for, and I’ll try and take criticism of my own work as best I can.

But, to get back on topic, I came up with another installment of the new web series I’m working on, and it’s all thanks to visions of slow reveals, ala Kubrick. I’ll get to writing that as soon as I have some time to breath.

Tomorrow is a shoot for a friend. Sunday is the fundraising shoot. Monday is a shoot for a film that I got asked to help with via… craigslist, I think.

Tuesday is Valentine’s Day.

I’m tired just thinking of it all.

John