Foley, TDB, and more

Hey all. It’s Saturday evening, just shy of May 1st.

I recently cut together the first episode of The Difference Between. Thursday evening, Julie, producer Julie, came by and helped shape the first rough edit of the short into a much tighter piece.

We laid in the voice over, some music, and synched scenes and tone as best we could with what we had. When she left, I did some sound mixing with some music, and then kind of just sat back and waited.

The next day, I gave it another viewing, and found some issues. It’s amazing what a night’s sleep will do for your eyes.

One of the biggest things that we both noticed was that the overall pace of the film was bad. There were no breaks. Keep in mind, it’s all voice over. I won’t go into the argument of whether voice overs are bad or not. I know that some screenwriters are against it, and believe in the ‘show, don’t tell’ way of screenwriting. There are now officially too many good examples of voice overs in film to have it be an issue anymore.

I do believe that it is a device that should be used reasonably sparingly. But in the context of this short, I’ll forgive myself. Hopefully others will do the same.

So. Pace. No conversation breaks. And, the biggest issue of all, no background sound.

After showing some of the footage to our friend Todd, he said “Looks great. Now you can take your time and do the foley.”

Foley.

Foley?

No, wrong Foley.

Foley is defined as: the reproduction of everyday sounds for use in filmmaking.

So, instead of having to worry about getting the perfect sound of, say, a person putting butter on toast, or walking down stairs, or what-have-you, a foley artist records these sounds and they are put in during the editing/post production process.

It’s essentially getting the PERFECT spread of butter for a commercial, or after morning after sex, or whatever.

Well.

When we first shot the short, I wasn’t thinking AT ALL about sound, because I knew it was going to be voice over. I was thinking pure and total silence, watching this guy do his thing.

Boy, am I glad that Todd spoke up because, as we found, the lack of background noise SUCKED. It really did.

So, yesterday, I went out and recorded a ton of audio for the short.

I used both the H4N Zoom and the NTG-3 mic. Let me tell you, those two machines are sensitive! It’s unreal how much the human ear (and brain) block out around you… or just how oblivious we are to the spectrum of noises around us.

From room tone to traffic noise, crowds, trains, buses, diner noise… it was awesome. I had so much fun yesterday walking around the city, walking and traveling the exact path we took that day in February, when we were shooting. Thankfully, it was about 40 degrees warmer yesterday.

One of the things it was yesterday was windy. So, I had to buy one of these:

That is called a windshield, and it reduces wind noise, filtering it through all of those furry strands of what look like cat hair. While this particular model is not referred to as such, these items are normally called ‘deadcats’.

No shit.

So, there’s something you learned today.

This thing worked wonders, and I made it through the day without tearing my own hair out.

I got about 90% of the foley work done for the shoot. I have a bit more to do, and I’ll take care of that tomorrow, but I can’t tell you how excited I am to get started laying this sound in.

Today I shot part of the second episode of Off Off, a web series my friend Stephen Bittrich wrote and directed, and acts in, too.

The first episode… I think that was a bunch of people getting their feet wet. I made some mistakes with the camera work, Stephen edited what he had, and it’s gotten a good response. You can see the first episode here:

This second episode, I can tell you I’m quite happy with the photography. We had some really great moments, and some fun happenings that just made scenes and the look of the episode become much more stylized and tight.

So, I’m looking forward to seeing it put together.

One of the things I had a super hard time with today was pulling focus while using the fig rig. There’s a handle in the middle of the wheel, at the base (where you slide the camera in) where you can hold it and use your free hand to pull focus.

Well, being a bit of a novice at it, we had to do a couple of takes, but I finally got it going.

One of the things I’m going to have to purchase (and this will be super helpful for 8 for Vegas) is what is called a Follow Focus:

It will allow a second person to be able to pull focus while I’m shooting. The follow focus has, on its side, a wheel that one is able to mark (with an erasable marker), for the two, three, or four different focus points needed.

Not 100% certain I’ll be able to get one of those this time around. We’ll see. I still have to purchase some hard drives. I’ve finalized my choice of brand, which is G-Tech, now I just have to push the PURCHASE button on $600 for two 6tb drives.

Sigh.

I knew it was going to be my main purchase, amongst renting equipment, for the 8 for Vegas shoot/fundraiser. Without the hard drives, we’re pretty much sunk. Not to mention, one is an offsite backup, you know, just in case my apartment burns down or burglarized.

So.

That’s about it for now. I’m out and about, writing. Writing this, the romantic comedy feature, and 8 for Vegas. Busy, busy.

Hope you’re all well. Talk again soon,

John

Movies, 8 for Vegas, and an update

Hey all.

It’s 12:37am on Thursday morning, and we’re about 3 hours away from finalizing our 8 for Vegas fundraiser.

We have raised $1,084 thus far, which is about $300 more than we did for season 1, so that’s great!

Not sure what we’re going to do with all of that money, but it’ll be put to good use.

I had the opportunity to go see not 1, but 2 movies in the theaters this week. Lucky me! I was doubly lucky because I got to see two films that I wanted to see. Lockout and The Cabin in the Woods.

I’d seen the trailer for Lockout about 3 months or so ago. I’m a big Guy Pearce fan, ever since Memento and L.A. Confidential. I pretty much watch everything he’s in, and hope to work with him some day.

Lockout was based on an idea from Luc Besson, and was basically what an Escape from The Moon would be, if Snake Plissken donned his guns again. A reasonable film, a little played out… some neat little gadgets in there. Pearce looked like he put in a ton of hours in the gym for this role. All in all, I was glad I saw it.

Here’s the trailer:

I was interested enough to see it based on that.

The second film… well. You get Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (the writer of one of my favorite films, Cloverfield) together, and you get The Cabin in the Woods, which was originally filmed 3 years ago, and has finally been released.

Here was the original poster for the film:

Such a fun and inventive idea. Went with my friend Todd and we had a blast. It was fun, scary, and a really unique take on the genre as a whole.

Let’s see.

I’m in the process of finalizing some of the second season of 8 for Vegas, writing wise. I am placing the voice over in to the first The Difference Between short. I am writing a 10 minute teaser for a television series (or web series) I want to shoot… and I’m in the process of writing a low budget romantic comedy feature.

Busy, busy.

Why a romantic comedy, you ask?

Well, there are two genres that you can write for where you can not only do a low budget film, but also reach your widest audience. One is rom/com’s, and the other is horror.

Now, if you knew me, you’d know that I’m much, much more of a horror type personality. I have been for as long as I can remember. But, on the flip side, I think that Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love, Actually) is one of the best writers in Hollywood, and I have a lot of respect for him.

While I was sitting in the RV during the production of Sketch… our last day, in fact, I decided to start writing an idea I’d thrown around with Julie. I wrote 14 pages in about 12 minutes, and I couldn’t stop writing. I’m up to about 28 pages, since then (I keep getting interrupted)… and it’s very raw, needs refining, but has a lot of potential.

Haven’t thought up a title yet. I always love that moment when it hits you.

So, that’s where I’m at. Hope all is well with you!

John

On Set Experience #3

written on April 10th

A noon call sounds like a good thing, but it’s now 7:38pm and we’re still at location A. We should have been at location B at 7ish. I believe we’re an hour behind, which isn’t bad.

My job, at present, is to watch the RV and the belongings inside. So, I figured I would type this out and give you an idea of the credit situation with this production.

I had originally started out as an assistant to the producer. I then graduated to head of transportation. I almost eeked out a Unit Production Manager (or UPM) credit, but I found that it had been promised to someone else who has been working his ass off. I was glad, in the end, he received something worthy.

So, I am now Production Coordinator, with a very nice reference. I’m sitting here wondering if I did the job for credit at all.

Walking with the newly appointed UPM, I said “I made the contacts I needed to make. The producer and executive producer, of course. The DP. And the actor, Joe (Forbrich).” Joe, after a couple of chat sessions, agreed to play a small role in the second season of 8 for Vegas. He’s a writer, as well, and we’re going to talk about some projects, which is nice.

So, I am relaxing in the RV, hungry, tired, waiting for the company move so that I can relax, lock up the RV and get a burger from across the street. I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait until after 10pm for 3rd meal.

I was going to say ‘all in all, I’ve had a good experience,’ but that doesn’t really do it justice. I have had a good experience all around and met some fantastic people. I hope that future shoots are populated with people I can not only related to, but also learn from.

People have asked me what I have coming up. Let’s see.

I have a music video to direct.

I have the second season of 8 for Vegas to continue writing.

I have a short to edit, and another short to shoot.

I have the inclination to shoot a feature film by the end of the year. That, of course, is dependent on a script, which I don’t have. So, let’s leave that one in column B.

I just recently was hired to do sound work, again, for Birds Nest Foundation this weekend. It unfortunately collides with a short film I’m helping on, but it is simply folly to pass up paid work. I’ll work around the schedules.

And sleep. Of course. I need sleep.

I have two cars to schedule around tomorrow, plus equipment returns. Should be painless. I may already be talking about something that happened, by the time I post the third installment of this On Set Experience article, but still, it’s where I’m at at the moment.

I just recently finished Fletch’s Fortune, by Gregory MacDonald (or McDonald, not sure which). Speaking with Joe Forbrich, I told him about an article I read many years ago about Kevin Smith. The question had been ‘how do you write such good dialog.’ The answer had been ‘Gregory MacDonald.’ He’s the creator of not only Fletch, but Flynn as well. I remember, vividly, searching ebay for a lot of MacDonald’s books and finding one with about 14 of them. Bought it, got the delivery, and delved in very quickly.

They are phenomenally written, so much fun and wit and great characters. I would highly suggest them to anyone and everyone who fancies themselves as a writer. Remove the image of the films out of your mind, as they were clearly written as Chevy Chase vehicles, and fun in their own right, but I think the comedy was ramped up specifically for his type of humor.

It’s 8:04, and I’ve just finished a croissant and the company is about to pack up and move. I figure I have at least another five hours or so, which is astounding to me.

Sigh.

Written today, 4/13/12.

Well, I survived the production of the short film Sketch! Yay.

That last line, about having five hours or so, was way off the mark. It was closer to 9 hours. I got home at 5am on Wednesday morning, and was only able to sleep about 3 hours. That’s how far off my equilibrium was thrown, I suppose.

It’s Friday now, and I’m back to normal, I think. Normal being relative.

I have a sound gig today and tomorrow.

I edited the intro to The Difference Between, and it’s fantastic. Can’t wait to get to the rest of it.

I had a really good time on the production. I met some fantastic people and I’m happy that I finished the shoot.

More later.

On Set Experience #2

Note: Written on set on Tuesday, April 10th, and only published now. I kind of edited it to be more present, but now it’s a bit of a convoluted mess, so… read on.

It’s 11:23 in the morning on Tuesday, April 10th. It’s the last day of shooting on the production of Sketch, and it’s a late one. Call for production is 11:30am, and we’re going to be wrapped at around 1:00am. I’m writing this now because I figure, A) I won’t have much down time, and B) I have no internet, so it’ll be a bit in the past, and without the remainder of the day’s adventures, but I’ll save that for another time.

It is simply astounding to me how many cogs there are in this production, and how easily everything falls apart when one of those cogs falls behind.

So, something unfortunate happened on set yesterday, and as it unfolded, I could see the frustration building, and then tempers flaring, and all of these people are just trying to get the JOB done, and, well… it can be an unnerving environment. Partly because people are frustrated, and I don’t know anyone who likes getting yelled at… and partly because everyone wants the production to go well because it fuels future work. Also, future sleep.

Mostly sleep.

I am in charge of transportation. Not by choice, mind you, but because it was delegated to me. There was no once else to take it. No problem.

So, I tell cars where to go, and who to drive them, and that should be pretty simple. If you look at my earlier update, you can get a sense of the manic feelings I had taking on what is a huge responsibility.

I got to talking with Sara, our 1st AD, and we were talking about missing keys. She said that on other productions, when keys were handed off to other people, they would all say a silly word, so that they would remember who they gave the keys to. So, person A would have keys and give them to person B and they would say “velociraptor.” Then, if someone asked where the keys were, they would be able to say they gave it to so and so, because of the silly word being remembered.

A loss of keys had yet to happen on this set. Then it did happen, about an hour after I talked to her.

I get stressed out easily. It’s mainly because I don’t like letting people down, but it’s also because I have worked for some serious assholes in the past who have gone out of their way to get angry, frustrated, and just plain old mean. It’s hard to shake that off.

Well, I was about as stressed as I have ever been. At least in the last four years or so.

Ok, four weeks.

I found out the rental place had no spares to this particular car. We had two options. Either find the key, or find a locksmith.

Little did I know that the gaffer needed equipment in the van, and this is where a miscommunication stopped the wheels of production.

For an hour and a half I looked for these keys, trying to think of who had them last. I had no silly word, I just had a poor idea of who might have them, who drove it last, and the idea that cutting a new key would cost about $200.

Petur, our Executive Producer and all around just really handy guy, came over to the van with Mike, one of our drivers. They pried the door open with pliers, fit a wire coat hanger into the space, popped the door lock and we were able to get in, only to find the keys were locked in the car.

My relief was short lived because the production needed equipment from the van, and missed a crucial shot that had to be compromised. In the end it wasn’t perfect, and I could see the great frustration and disappointment on the gaffer’s face, and I felt really bad about it.

Working for lo-to-no money, one might go into a production not really caring too much about the project. Or, they might care a whole lot, just because things worth doing are worth doing well. I certainly was in the former, in the wee hours of the morning on our first day. And then I got to know people, including the gaffer, and my mind changed. I became friendly with most everyone, and the last thing I wanted to do was let them down.

So, at the end of the day, they still got the shot. I felt slightly disappointed in myself for not fully understanding the situation. Hands were shaken, no hard feelings were shared, and the night ended like most of the other nights on set. I went home tired and got to bed much earlier than my 2 or 3am sleep times that I’m used to. I woke up at 8:30 and prepared for the last day of production.

We have two company moves today, which means that the entire production moves from one location, shoots more, and then moves to another location. It’s going to be a long day, and a long night, but I’m glad to be here.

Not to mention, I get the satisfaction of going to be the best falafel place I’ve ever eaten at. It’s called Oasis (I may have mentioned this, but it deserves another mention), and I cannot wait for 2am feeding.

On set experience

The first thing I told them when I went on the interview was that I wanted on set experience.

Them being the producers and the director of Sketch, the short film I’ve been helping on for the past week and a half or so.

Reasonable budget, good equipment. Let me see if I can list the crew members hired (some unpaid, some paid). DP, 1st AD, 2nd AD, Camera Assistant, Extras coordinator (not sure the official title), make up and hair, costume designer with assistant, art director, production designer, art intern, 2 assistants to the two producers, locations manager, gaffer, key grip, 3 different drivers/PAs thus far, a sound guy, a stunt coordinator, and me.

I originally went in as an assistant to one of the producers. My main job was hanging out in the office and reading reddit all day. When something had to get done, it usually took a phone call or two, then lunch, then back to relaxing.

It wasn’t until Monday of this week at the producer said “We need someone in charge of transpo. John Painz! Want to be in charge of transpo?”

Now, I look back and can remember pretty clearly what I was thinking. “What the hell is transpo?”

No. Really, what I was thinking was, I’m here, I’m really not doing anything, sure. Why not.

If you’d asked me if I made a mistake on day 1, I would have said yes. On day 2, I would have swayed to yes, but it would have taken a minute. Day 3… I would have done a comse-comsa with my hand and told you to get back to work. By day 4, well, I’ll get to that.

So. This entire new world of organizing and scheduling is thrown into my lap, and I join a flurry of meetings in which I’m the central character and I’m talking about equipment vans, an RV, two picture cars (one of which may have to be picked up on the Island), and a passenger van for cast/crew. I have to schedule when they will be on set, where they will be parked overnight, who’s driving them, where they will be parked on set…

Now, if you know me and my work history, I’ve been a graphic designer for 15 years or so, and while I was happy it provided a living, it wasn’t my true passion. Not to mention, some of my bosses weren’t the best bosses in the world. In fact, some of them made my life hell.

Going into a new industry, I figured that my bosses were going to be, in some fashion, similar to the ones I’ve had in the past. While this was a possibility, it simply wasn’t the case on this job. But my brain hadn’t figured it out.

One day from shooting, I was at the office for 12 hours, creating an excel spreadsheet of the location and drivers of every vehicle we had, for all 6 days of shooting. The first schedule was based off of something the 1st AD did. That had to change because it didn’t have enough information on it.

I don’t use excel. Not very well, anyway, so I got some help, created a second.

You know those situations where, when you see something completed, you see what’s missing? Well, the producer found some more missing stuff.

I spent 8 hours creating a schedule for the shoots, and I’m glad I was given direction and the extra time because it was one of those things that helped me tremendously.

Here’s a sample of what the schedule looked like:

That was only half the day, on day 2… too.

So! Day 1, so that I wasn’t late, I woke up at 3am for a 5am report time. I had scheduled drivers for all of the cars and had to get updates (multiple updates) from everyone as to their arrival time.

I get to the train station and, lo and behold, the 5 train doesn’t run that early. And the 4 train is 25 minutes out. There’s no possible way I’ll make it to set that morning on time, so I jump in a taxi. That takes about an extra 10 minutes because the driver took me on a scenic route around the bottom of Manhattan.

“Normally more hookers out this morning,” he said smiling and pointing towards the financial district. I nodded, smiled, and prayed to God that I had Purell in my bag.

Got out of the cab at the location, said goodbye, said hello to the casting director and one of the assistants who were locking down a holding location (for cast, crew, and extras) and then started coordinating.

It wasn’t until about two hours later that I realized I lost my reasonably new 64gb ipod touch that Karen had gotten me as a gift. In the cab. Lost in the confines of a borough of New York City, now in the hands of either the driver, or some greedy, moraless person.

I called 311, who pointed me to the police. I called them, they pointed me to the Veriphone service people (because I’d paid with a credit card and the first rule of filmmaking is GET A RECEIPT), and have yet to receive a callback from them.

But I think it’s gone. The police woman I spoke to said “By law, taxi cab drivers have to turn in anything lost in their cabs.” She was a very sweet and, clearly, naive woman who I laughed at, said “He was showing me hookers,” said goodbye, and hung up the phone.

Day 1 was a nightmare for me. For exactly the reason I stated above. I’ve worked for assholes pretty much exclusively, and I figured that every single little thing that went wrong with vehicles (even things that could be fixed reasonably) was my fault and that I was going to get yelled at.

In this mode, it’s impossible for me to get defensive. It took me a few times to just let others make their statements and then solve the problem. That’s a defect I have, and it’s something I’m working on, but it was clear, come day 2, that quite a few people knew I was stressed, and I could tell they weren’t.

Day 1 ended, and I was a wreck. I was angry, frustrated… and, looking back, they weren’t for very good reasons. I was not looking forward to day 2.

It came WAY too quickly. I got up, felt like death, and got out of the house. Get down to the subway, and the 4/5 station is closed. Go to the uptown platform and the clerk tells me they aren’t running for at least an hour, and that the 5 train doesn’t even begin running until 6:30 in the morning, as it’s a rush hour train.

Fantastic. So, another taxi, because there’s no way I’m gonna make it on time.

Day 1, we’d gotten behind schedule. Day 2 was supposed to take place in one location, and had now changed to 7. That was a bit of a scheduling nightmare because there were no times for the shoots, just get there, get it shot, and move on.

Three cars were out and about while we all waited in the main location.

From there, the day was easy. I hung out on set, I helped around where I could, I talked with cast and crew, and found that, as the project went forward, I wasn’t as stressed.

I’ll tell you what made the switch.

So, I’m on the porch of this dilapidated house with one of the principle actors. He’s from Iceland, originally from Serbia, and he’s playing the bad guy. Well, he looked the part. Really well cast. He comes up and says “John, you feel better today?”

Read it with a thick accent.

“Yeah, thanks. Yesterday, I was stressed, I don’t know what I’m doing, but things are better.”

He shrugs, says “If you don’t built it, won’t be there.”

I look at him for a second, I’m thinking ‘what the hell did he just say?’

Slowly, the accent filters are churning in my head and I finally realize what he said and I’m like, wow, that’s pretty clever.

But THEN my brains slaps me in the face and says ‘your mom keeps telling you that shit, dude. Don’t attribute your new calm to the creepy Icelandic dude in costume, and DEFINITELY don’t give him all the credit on your blog.’

So, thanks dude!

Day 2 ended without any issues. We left a car there overnight, I got home, and our Day 3 call was slightly later. I got five hours sleep.

Day 3, I get to the train station and find out I can take the 4 and switch to the 2. Easy peasy.

I have Fletch’s Fortune with me, by Gregory MacDonald. Awesome series, and I read the book and get to set and everything’s cool.

Now, over the course of the days, I got to meet another actor, one of the main guys, Joe Forbrich, and we became friends. Or friendly. Or something.

He did a great job on the set and we talked about other projects and 8 for Vegas and all of that, and he said, later, that he’d help me with a small role for season 2, which should be a ton of fun.

Day 3 went off without much of a hitch. I was getting the hang of my job, was helping out anyone and everyone who was around. I had scheduled drivers for errands and other stuff, and the mood on set was quite relaxed. I had started to de stress and just let the days work out.

I cannot say other productions were as well oiled as this one, but I believe we got into a good rhythm quite quickly, and that was awesome.

I remember being on set yesterday, day 4, and saying to myself “I’m glad I’m here.” I also thought that while I understood my anger on day 1, I think losing my ipod and having woke up early, it really put me in a foul mood, which kind of snowballed.

Days 2-4 were primarily one location. My job expanded greatly, and I was running around helping here and there and saw things I hadn’t seen before and was asking some pretty elementary questions, but I didn’t feel stupid about it.

We have two more days of shooting. I’m happy for the day off, today being Easter and all.

Oh.

OH!

On Day 3 I got some ridiculously good news. I can’t share it yet, but it’s huge, it pertains to 8 for Vegas, and it’s simply awesome. Once things are set in motion, I’ll talk about it.

I’m tired. It’s 8:20, I have to eat some breakfast. I skipped a bunch of stuff, so you’ll get another blog post out of me, maybe even later today. I miss writing. It’s only been 5 days, but I miss it. So, I might try and catch up later today with another post.

I updated my facebook page with the following:

After an 18 hour day, I pledge to PA’s and wardrobe, hair and make-up, DPs, 1st and 2nd AD’s, grips, gaffers, assistants, and everyone else who make films happen, the following: If you work on one of my projects, I will do my very best to make sure you have a good day. I feel lucky to be working with some amazing people, and have learned a ton about filmmaking, and how important the people who spend their day helping along the creative process are. I am now going to sleep and shall not wake up until my body resets.

Thanks for reading.

John Painz