Amsterdam and travel videography

Hi all,

I’m in Amsterdam, have been for the past week or so. Never been here before, and having a blast.

Ever since I picked up the Canon 7d, I’ve been an amateur videographer. It’s a symptom, or a byproduct, of owning such a phenomenal camera.

When I first got it, I was shooting as much footage as I possibly could. You can check out some of the posted stuff here.

Got to the airport, and started recording. On the plane, shot some stuff. Got to Amsterdam and I felt… intimidated, I guess you could say. New city, getting used to the time difference, trams, trains, bikes zooming like bats out of hell. Not to mention, we had a bit of a problem with our apartment that was cleared up, but sitting in the Schiphol airport, waiting to hear back from the owner of the apartment… that was a bit nerve wracking, and the last thing you think about when that’s happening is recording what’s around you.

Which is a problem in a videographer. But I’ll get to that.

So, in the new place, hanging out, getting dinner, not recording, and trying to stay awake so we can get a good nights sleep and start on time in the morning.

That second day we went to Kickstarter. That’s what we called it. In fact, it’s called Keukenhof, and it’s a massive affair here in The Netherlands. That first day, we walked around for 5 hours looking at flowers, I shot 128 videos. nothing more than a minute, mind you, but that’s how attached I was to the camera.

From there, if we left the apartment, I brought the camera.

I didn’t have any real plan except to shoot as much footage as I could. Seems to be the motto of videography: Shoot everything; Better to have the footage and not need it, than need the footage and not have it.

Third day: 47 videos

Fourth day: 132 videos

Fifth day: 121 videos

Sixth day: 108 videos

Seventh day: 103 videos

For a grand total of 639 video clips. Roughly 80gb of footage. Some of it’s great, some of it’s not bad, some of it’s just plain b-roll or useless, which is going to happen.

I shot every single cup of coffee I drank, except one. I got an Irish Coffee from Daalder Cafe that was simply enormous, in three perfect layers of coffee, foam, and whipped cream. It was gorgeous, and my stomach got the better of me, and I started stirring before I even thought to take video of it. My bad. We went to Daalder twice, and it was, by far, the best food we had in Amsterdam.

I shot 80% of our meals. The first two, I simply wasn’t thinking. Hell, I even shot the empty plates at the end of the meals.

I shot trams, trains, bikers, cards, people, buildings, flowers, parks, more bikers, roads, streets, alleys, I shot as much of the red light district as I could without getting in trouble. Had I had a gopro, I would have shot more… except for the faces of prostitutes. It was told to me by our guide that it’s just something you do not do. It’s a rule I had no trouble following.

I did get yelled at by some Italian tourists who were in a shot I was shooting down the thinnest alley in Amsterdam, if not all of Europe. In the end, I deleted the footage. It was seconds worth, but I figured that that kind of privacy was deserved.

Taking out a Canon 7d, with a lens, the strap, having your camera bag on you… it not only becomes evident you have a CAMERA, but that you’re using it. It is not for conspicuous shooting.

If you want to be a travel videographer, keep in mind that there is NOTHING insignificant that you will shoot. Nothing. Everything you shoot is going to help propel your story. From waking up in the morning, to going to the bathroom, to walking down a flight of stairs. Depending on the story you want to tell, it’s all going to help you in the end.

Here’s a photo I took (also took video) because I wanted to share it.

You never know what you’re going to find. Funny, poignant, sad… keep your camera ready.

You’d be surprised how much of the daily life found in your footage will be relatable by your viewing audience. Not to mention, there is something so connectively human about the smallest of things that you may find unworthy of recording. Trust me, get it all down.

Bring two, three flash cards with you and just shoot your heart out.

I’m quite happy with the shots I got. I think I’ll have a good 5 minute video at the end of all of this. Karen said “Five minutes? You shot so much!” Well, no one’s going to watch more than 5 minutes of footage, even if it’s put to good music, or is VERY compelling.

Invest in a gopro. It’s so compact, so rugged… it’ll be the next purchase I make, when I have the money. I would have rented a bike here had I had a gopro. The bikers here are insane, and they stop for no one. That would have been awesome footage to get, but there was no way I’d have been able to do that with the Canon. At least, not on the fly. With some preparation, I could have taped it down or something. There’s always a way.

We’ll see how it looks when I put it together. We took a trip on the canals today, and that footage alone was gorgeous.

Thanks for reading.

J

Mother’s Day

Since it’s Mother’s Day, I thought I would share a couple of stories from my childhood.

Age 5-7, not sure when. I’m having a nap. I’m not sure if I was sick or not, but it was in our old house in Oceanside, NY, on Weidner Avenue. I have a pretty damn bad nightmare, come running down these yellowish shag carpet stairs and straight out to the front porch, where my mom is, scared shitless.

I’m not sure what she said, or what happened next, but I have a solid hold on that memory.

Age 10-12 or so, Once Upon a Gift. My mom and my aunt (or aunts, not sure which) opened up a store in Syosset, a gift store. She was so proud of that store… or, at least, I remember her being proud. Spent quite a few days there when I was sick, you know, during school days.

I particularly remember one day, when I went to a next door deli, and got a baloney sandwich. The guy put like 25 slices of baloney on the goddamn thing, and it made me sick to my stomach to even look at it.

Being sick… you know, back then, I used to get these pains in my side. Pains in…

A little digression. I am in Amsterdam. Took the flight out last night. The woman who checked me in said “John… Painz? Am I saying that right?” I said yes, hey, on the first try! “So, do you get a lot of pains…?” she said, and started chuckling.

She lost instant respect points.

So, back then, I used to have these absurd shooting pains in my side. I mean, absurdly painful. Debilitating.

My mom was always very concerned about them, and thank god she didn’t think I was faking. We went to doctors, to specialists… it was one thing or another. I was allergic to milk, I had irritable bowel, blah blah.

None of these geniuses thought to check my kidney, the exact place where I was having the pain. I guess no one thinks a 6-18 year old is going to have issues with a kidney. That’s how long the pain was lasting, one and off.

So, one day I go to the 1991 Lollapalooza with my friend Jeff, and I get sick as a dog. Check out this line up!

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, Porno for Pyros, Basehead… BASEHEAD!

Well, shit. I was a wreck. Went to the EMTs, they thought I was messing around trying to get drugs. I ended up in the back of Jeff’s car, passed out for 8 hours, until he drove me back to the city and I crashed at my dad’s. My mom takes me to our family doctor and he says, for the first time in a decade, hey, you may have passed a kidney stone.

It wasn’t a kidney stone, but it was in the right area.

Time passes. I’m in college, I’m having a hard time with the school work, and I end up at Jeff’s place, hanging out.

I have another attack, very close to the other one… closer than normal. I call my mom at 6 in the morning or something stupid and tell her I am having another bad pain attack. She says “where are you?” I tell her I’m at Jeff’s, and she freaks out. “You keep saying you don’t have time for your homework, BLAHBLAHBLAH” and I am just in bad shape. I hang up, after she says she’ll get me at my apartment. I walk 8 blocks to get a car service home.

She picks me up, drives me to the hospital, where I proceed to practically fall on the floor in pain.

Find out, after some exploratory surgery, that I had a fucked kidney that had been damaged for years, and no one picked up on it.

My mom’s gone out of her way, over these many years, to be supportive, loving, kind, and generous. There have been countless times when I’ve felt sorry for myself, or felt like giving up, and she’s always had something in the form of the right thing to say, or the right combination of pity (15%) and no nonsense (85%) to snap me out of it.

I owe her more than I can ever repay. I would not be pursing my dream of becoming a legitimate filmmaker, among other things, without her help. I’m in another country with no working telephone. I wrote her an email saying “Happy Mother’s Day,” but it wasn’t enough, so I wrote this.

I love you, mom. You have always been, and will always be, my favorite person.

Focus Pulls and more

So, after my most recent cinematography experience with the web series Off Off, I realized that one of the pieces of equipment I’m going to need is a focus pull.

A focus pull, for those of you who do not know what that is, is a piece of equipment that attaches to your tripod or steadicam rig that allows you or the focus puller to turn the focus to the correct points, so that the camera can, while filming, get the correct focus of different characters, different action, etc.

Most of them come with a dry erase board or dial on them, so you can mark where each of the focal points are, so the puller can just hit those points easily, as the action progresses.

We were shooting a bunch of shots where the focus was constantly changing, and it was almost as if I became temporarily dyslexic each time I had to change the focus. I could not work it through my head the either counter-clockwise or clockwise motion, depending.

So, I started doing some research.

Here is one of the products I had been interested in, initially.

Neat little thing, comes with the dry erase knob, etc. But, at $140, it’s not complete. I would need a rail system to put on my steadicam or tripod. There are some do-it-yourself rail systems out there. Another option is to purchase one, which is actually more expensive, at $150 + shipping.

Now, these focus pulls go up to the $1k mark, so, comparably, those are reasonable prices. But they’re a bit out of my range. I have about 90% of the money left over from the fundraiser, and about 60% of that is going towards hard drives.

So, I looked around and found this very nifty kickstarter campaign happening. For $45, I can purchase this focus pull product, which comes with an interesting solution to the dry erase board/knob one needs to set points on… with a savings of about 85% of what the dfocus pull and the rail system would cost.

The big problem is that this new product won’t ship until about 2012. Eh… I think I can live without it for a couple of months, and be happy with the savings.

I had Julie and Andy over this evening, along with a new friend, Alia, who may or may not be able to help us with sound for 8 for Vegas. We were going over the second to last edit on TDB, and had to do some re-recording of voice over. It all went quite well.

So, barring some major issue with this final cut, it looks like we finally finished our first short film.

Yay!

It’s about 1:40am, and I’m exhausted. I’m waiting for it to export so I can show the final to Julie, and then get ready for my trip to Amsterdam, which happens on Saturday. Should be fun!

Anyway, hope you’re all well. Thanks for reading.

John

Working for free in film and video

Hey all. It’s just about midnight on Friday, May 4th.

I came back this evening from shooting a mini-episode (or, hell, just an episode) of my friend Stephen’s web series, Off Off. This will have been the fourth day of shooting that I’ve completed for him. Today, we got to shoot with Lauren Francesca, who did a wonderful job and shall hopefully become a recurring cast member.

Stephen, the cast, the crew, they’re all good people, and it makes going out and helping much easier. Not to mention, they pay for my transportation and food, which is always nice.

But as I continue to learn, to shoot, to edit, to help with sound and lighting and other facets of the video and filmmaking business, the less I want to take any more free jobs.

I recently hung out with my friend Bryan Coffee, an old friend from high school. We talked about a number of things, one of them being working for free. He’s an actor, and has been in quite a few commercials and music videos and television shows. And, for him, it got to the point where he had to make a conscious decision not to work for free any longer. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, he said.

Stephen’s web series has given me the opportunity to hone some skills in regards to cinematography. I have a lot to learn, but the more I use the camera, the more comfortable I get. This can only be helpful in the future.

I’ve also met a world of fantastic actors, a great 1st AD, and more. So, I consider this gig to be mutually beneficial. Plus, he’s a friend.

I recently went on an interview to be the DP, sound, editor and director of a comedy troupe who is interested in getting into the web series business. To make a long story short, (too late), I gave them some advice on crowdfunding, creating a series, branding, marketing, etc… so, we’ll see what happens in the next month or so. I told them I’d be happy to help them get their first video or so out there, but the remaining work was going to have to cost some money.

You’d be surprised how long the editing process takes, alone.

As Bryan said, there are exceptions. I’m not going to turn down fun projects, or projects that seem to have a lot going for them, or projects I believe in. But, as I told the comedy troupe, just leaving the house costs money. Transportation money, food, drinks. I cannot afford to float all of that. Hell, I’m having a hard time doing that for my own projects.

So, we’ll see.

Having equipment makes one an asset. The problem is, on my end, that equipment cost money. Money that has to be paid back.

I recently did our 4th and almost final cut of The Difference Between, and I truly think it’s going to get me some paid work. It came out fantastic, if I do say so myself. I’m very happy with it.

I’m also in the process of tightening up the script for the feature romantic comedy. I also put in an application to the Sundance Screenwriting Lab for January 2013, for the same project. We’ll see if the application goes through.

It was kind of fortuitous. My friend and Associate Producer Jeremy read my earlier blog about funds for the feature, and reminded me of an email he’d sent about grants. One of them was for the Sundance Lab, and the deadline was May 1st, the day I clicked the link. So, I wrote out a cover letter, a bio, a synopsis, and an artistic mission statement, printed them all out along with the first five pages of the script, and sent it to L.A..

We’ll see what happens.

That’s about it for now.

John Painz

Oh, PS, we now have an IMDB page for 8 for Vegas.

Crowdfunding, TDB foley edit, more

It’s 2:30 in the morning on Tuesday. I just finished the first round of the new edit on The Difference Between, having added the foley work that I recorded over the past couple of days, and to say it made a difference would be an understatement.

I’m quite happy with the way it sounds. Now I just have to fix the pace of the short. I need fresher eyes for that.

I have been internally debating an issue that recently came up. I spoke, earlier, about a romantic comedy feature that I’m writing. Something funny happened with that, and I’ll write about that now, and come back to the other conundrum.

So. I was writing the rom/com and got to about 45 pages or so, and Julie, producer Julie, and I started making corrections to the overall plot and characters and all of a sudden… it was a different script. Similar, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t spend all of that time musing and writing for nothing. But, different. So different, in fact, that I wrote 9 pages tonight and had to stop because it was unusable. Which is a shame, because I happen to like what I wrote.

What I need to do now is break down the three acts so that I can re-edit what’s been written, and fill in the holes. I have basic scenes down. Some bridge scenes, main plot points are in my head, and character arcs, too.

But the script is completely out of order now, and I stopped writing, a bit confused and frustrated, so I have to start from the beginning, again. Not a huge deal, but, well, time consuming.

So. I have that project, and I have another. What I think would be a great project to work on. But, as with most projects that are larger than the low budget projects you work on to keep busy, this one would cost money. Real, actual money.

Base price for this project would be about $200k. If there were some serious favors called in, or, at the very least, people who signed on who wanted to help out in more ways than one, we might be able to get that number lower.

But, my issue is… which to do first? I know I have the second season of 8 for Vegas to complete. I’ll be getting to that at the beginning of June.

But, these two projects have, in their own right, much more potential for future work. 8 for Vegas could have that, if someone were to sponsor us, or get involved in some way, shape, or form. Of course, that would be fantastic.

But these two other projects are monumental in their undertaking. Especially the other non-rom/com project. But, it would be fun.

My issue here is, no one outside of friends and family is going to invest in the rom/com. Unless I am able to find film backers who see some talent in me, and the cast/crew, where they are willing to invest in not only this film, but in the prospect of future films… coming up with what may amount to $100k could be difficult. But, it’s a challenge I’ll accept.

The other project, the non-rom/com… well. That project is ripe for crowdfunding, if the project gets into the right hands. I have a 5 minute teaser film in mind that I really think will speak to people.

Or, we could… shit. I don’t know. Do we try and pitch the idea to producers? Do we try and do it on our own?

I don’t know. It’s late, my brain is mush, and I’m not experienced enough to make an informed decision.

Do you see my issue here? It’s just a problem to solve. Picking a path, you know, it’s just a choice. I have surrounded myself with good people, and I trust in their advice. So, perhaps once we break down both projects and see what’s what, we might see things more clearly.

I’m tired. I realize I’ve rambled a bit, sorry.

I’ll be back when I’ve gotten some sleep, done some work on the feature script, etc.

J

PS – we just hit 2,000 views on the pilot episode of 8 for Vegas. Nice.