Locking a picture down

It’s Sunday, January 27th.

Now, if you read my last post, about having a problem with the short film I have been working on, you’ll be up to speed. If not, head over here.

After making the decision to re-shoot the entire character, due to the book being present in the scene, I took it upon myself to try and re-create each and every scene in its entirety.

And made all new mistakes in the process. I wanted to scream, after I returned the lens, sat down with the footage, and had an internal war between compromise and the unyielding nature of what one has envisioned in ones head.

Out of plain necessity, compromise was winning. I spent hours color correcting and piecing together the scenes so that they were merely ok, which reads as me not being on suicide watch.

I should point out that both Karen and Julie thought I was being overly dramatic. That was helpful. Being close to a project puts ones mind on a path of confusion, in many respects. Once an idea floats to the surface, it is quite difficult to get said idea out of ones head.

Case in point.

Since I had the opportunity to re-shoot this character, I decided to introduce alcohol into the equation. I thought it would be another element to the world, and, in particular, this character. He’s scholarly, unemployed, and an alcoholic. Sounds about right.

Well, the b-roll I shot was ugly. The problem is, the b-roll was incredibly important, because it set up the bottle of alcohol for future use.

I shot the character, the bottle clear in the background. I didn’t do any takes, all day, with the bottle not present. So I gave myself zero options, just in case it didn’t work.

The light, over the course of the day, changed. I fought with that.

I tried to figure out a way to incorporate the bottle, and finally settled on something that looked funny… but then I started to think of the universe the short took place in, and my idea started to unravel.

So, I decided to forgo the incorporated bottle shot. Take the humor and antithesis of the character situation out of the equation.

Fine.

But all of the footage had the goddamn bottle in it. All of it. It was there, prominent, in every shot. And there would be no goddamn reason for the bottle to be there, unless it was going to be used.

I showed it to Julie. She called it set dressing.

That made me feel better.

I showed it to Karen. She thought I was nuts.

And so on.

It’s hard, without pictures, to make you, the reader, understand my dilemma. The thing is, from a director’s perspective, unless something is benign, there’s no reason it should be in the shot. A bike in an apartment is benign. A painting or a photo or a table. They belong.

A bottle of bourbon behind the head of a main character, to me, is a bit more specific, and needs to be utilized.

Could I have gotten away with it? Of course. I’m not completely full of self-loathing and narcissism to realize that I’m taking a point too far. But the initial freakout is necessary to begin the process of problem solving.

In the end I –

The phone rings. At the moment the crisis has come to a head, and the wheels of invention started churning to figure out this problem.

You see, it was Friday, the 25th, and four of the festivals Julie and I want to try for have drop dates of the 31st and the 1st. Time was running out. I could re-shoot, again, and say the lines I said over and fucking over, more times than I can count… I could deal with what we had. Or I could role the dice, use the original footage, and hope we didn’t get sued.

And the phone rings.

On Wednesday, after trying to figure out what to do with the book footage, I had called Harper Collins to talk about getting permission to use the book. I left a message with the permissions department. I called back Thursday, spoke to a person. They said permission took 8 weeks.

On Friday, I received a phone call from Harper Collins Permissions department. They explained to me that prop permission takes 2 weeks, and costs $200 per book. I explained to them my situation and time restraint. They said they’d push the contract through.

The relief was palpable. Seriously. I stood up, raised my hands to the sky. Or the ceiling, and I just stretched and felt wonderfully relaxed.

The takes in the original footage are better. The color is better. The timing is better. The book makes a weird kind of sense, for chrissake.

I spent the next two days touching up color. I still have a final sound mix to do. I’m not even sure how to do that, but I’ll figure it out.

By 6 or so this evening, barring some disaster (which happens, don’t get me wrong), we’ll have a locked picture on the short, and will be able to send it out into the festival world… see if people enjoy it.

I also did a re-edit on The Difference Between, which I should be able to release this week. One of the biggest issues I found people had were the credits. After piecing together this short film, I know they were right. When it’s just a couple of us together, me, Julie, Producer Julie, Drew and Gen… I don’t really have to go out of my way to create a lengthy credit sequence. I just have to re-edit the opening footage, which will be fun. Music prompts are fun when they work right.

Anyway, dear reader, it’s Sunday and I’m awaiting my producer to move forward with our latest project. February brings upon us casting for the pilot, some DP work on Internet Affairs, more of The Thing, and some unknown opportunities.

I will leave you with this fantastic short film I recently watched. It’s really unbelievable.

Thanks for reading.

John

Advertisements

Perseverance and a lesson learned

So, I piece together what I think will be the final edit on my short film and I have this voice in the back of my head saying ‘no, you know we can’t release it as is. We have to reshoot.’

No. Hell no. Fuck no.

Tomorrow will be day 9 on my short film. Read 9 days as not 9 full days but, still, shooting will have taken place on 9 separate days.

First day, test footage, all scrapped.

Second day, good footage of two principle characters. Third day, the same.

Fourth day, re-shoots.

Fifth day, third and fourth principles.

Sixth day… make-up day. Our goal, to make me look like I had the shit beat out of me. Julie, Producer Julie, came over, we did a pick-up at a friend’s house, got brunch and then bought some make-up, came down and shot a bunch of scenes. It was great. Lots of fun working with make-up and liquid latex.

Edited the footage, and something wasn’t right.

So, I re-did the make-up myself (it’s much easier with her around), and re-shot. Came out good… showed it to some friends, and got a comment that the make-up from the two different days shooting didn’t work.

That they didn’t match up.

Sigh.

This is where, well, not perseverance comes in, but the trait of being anal. I saw what said person meant. I passed it off as just one of those things, and tried to sleep that night. Couldn’t.

Re-did the make-up AGAIN. This time shot ALL of the scenes over, except for two for this character. What a pain in the ass.

But, you know what the great thing about re-shooting is? The moment you decide to re-shoot, your brain starts thinking ‘well, we’re already re-shooting, what’s missing?’

I was able to get a scene that I had not gotten before… at least, a reaction in the scene… and I’m glad I did it.

Piece it together, everything’s great… except this one goddamn thing.

See, in the short, one of the characters is reading a book, you know, to show how smart he is. Look, ma! I’m readin’ all on my own!

Great. Great.

The problem is, I showed the cover of the book. Prominently. It’s all over the goddamn place, in 11 different shots. Here I was, thinking that I could show it to give the character some depth. But then I start reading up on festivals, and they want proof that all rights were secured before they go and show a selected entry.

Harper Collins takes 8 weeks to say yay or nay for permission on any and all of their publications. 8 weeks.

Weighing the pros and cons of trying to blur it out. Try it. Looks like shit.

Weighing going out into the coldest January day in recent memory, and freezing my ass off to rent a lens that I cannot shoot without.

Deadlines for festivals are fast approaching. I still have color grading to do, and sound issues.

Better bundle up.

So, tomorrow is re-shoots. 11 scenes, 3 camera angles. I pray I get the scenes right. As I stated, when doing re-shoots, you start thinking. Well, these days, I do my best thinking in the shower. Came up with a neat idea. We’ll see if it flies.

I posted a thread on Reddit about this whole predicament, even though I knew what the right answer was.

Julie thinks I don’t want to let the short go, so I keep coming up with excuses to keep shooting. I’m all for keeping the party going, but it’s time to show this film to people.

A pain in the ass way to learn a lesson, but it could have been worse, I suppose. Lots of factors that could have gone south in a multitude of ways. You know, like getting sued.

So, we’ll see how tomorrow goes.

At least it’ll be sunny out, which is all I really need. That, and for the power to stay on. You know.

Pilot project is moving forward, slowly but surely. Casting starts in February. Should be fun. I think everyone’s equally interested to get this project going as I am. Or they’re wonderful liars.

Let’s see, what else.

It’s 12:30am, and I’m beat. Tomorrow will be a long day, unless I do some Oscar worthy performances and nail everything in a timely fashion. That would be nice for a change.

I calculated that one of my shots had about 28 takes. I felt a bit like Howard Hughes for a second, because the insanity was building and the words coming out of my mouth, every day words, were sounding foreign to me.

“Pestering? Is that a word? Look it up. Doesn’t sound right.”

Sigh.

Oh! I saw The Last Stand. First showing, last Friday. It wasn’t bad. Wasn’t great… had some fun stuff, but so much of the trailer gave a lot of the film away, which is a shame. I’m sure my dad would have enjoyed it. Glad to see Arnold back in the saddle. He’s been a favorite action star of mine since Commando. My dad took me (and perhaps my sister) to see it in the theaters many many years ago. Weeks later, he bought me a six foot tall poster of this.

I doubt my mom was pleased. But she let me put it up anyway.

There’s a time to put a project to bed… but there’s also a time when you have to really weigh whether you can improve on something, or that necessity outweighs the issues a re-shoot brings. Maybe ‘perseverance’ is the wrong word. Tenacity might be better. Or perhaps a synonym for pride.

Regardless. Fight for the thing you want. It’s what my old watercolor teacher Irwin Greenberg always said. “Give yourself room to fail and fight like hell to achieve.”

Have a good night.

John

Late Night Editing

More and more I find myself watching all of the elements that were originally written in X format shift around to fit a tighter, more interesting narrative. I’m finding that I simply love the editing process more and more.

Tonight, I edited the second cut of a short film that Julie and I produced. It looks great. I sent her the file, we’ll see what she says, but I was able to solve a problem that multiple people brought up. Fingers crossed.

I also just put the finishing touches on the first edit of episode 4 of 8 for Vegas. It’s just about 2am, and I am exhausted. What a long day.

On… Saturday? I think it was Saturday. Julie came over and did some make-up work. We got a Ben Nye master bruise wheel, some liquid latex, fake blood, chocolate syrup, and some sponges, and we went to work. Make-up effects are so much fun.

Unfortunately, I’m an anal perfectionist, and I had to re-do the make-up alone today. I hope she approves.

On Wednesday Julie, Lynn, Marc, James and I will have another production meeting for the pilot. I’m sharing with them one of my all time favorite films, And God Spoke, along with cooking dinner. Should be a lot of fun, and help get this project going in earnest.

Other than that, we pick up on one more episode of The Thing this weekend, hopefully finish this short so I can start sending it out to film festivals, and go from there.

Again, I’m exhausted. But, I accomplished a hell of a lot today, so… I’m quite happy.

Thanks for reading!

John

PS – I’d like to share the following video. It’s a sci-fi short done by Kaleb Lechowski who impressed some Hollywood people, and he’s on his way. Congratulations Kaleb, I wish you luck in the future!

R´ha [short movie] from Kaleb Lechowski on Vimeo.

Working as an extra

So, because I sit at home and do nothing most days, I decided to try my hand at being an extra. I signed on to Casting Networks and started applying for ‘guy in the background’ or ‘wounded man’ parts.

I figured it would be fun, and I’d make some money. But I wasn’t getting any calls for work.

Well, I applied for a role in The Wolf of Wall Street, which is a Martin Scorcese movie starring Leonardo DeCaprio, and got a call for 4 days worth of work, starting this morning at 7:26am.

Yesterday was our meeting for the pilot. I drank a couple of beers, had some cheap pizza, and had a blast with my friends. Got home, realized I was only going to get about 5 hours of sleep, so I tried to do that.

I’m exhausted. I was so nervous I wouldn’t wake up on time, and then I started having casting nightmares. I thought I was going to puke about 5 times, and now my stomach is doing something completely alien to me.

Should be a fun day!

Fingers crossed I don’t puke on anyone important. I’ll report back.

J

Exhausted

It’s 1:15am and I just got through watching about 45 minutes of takes from the short film I’m working on.

I decided to keep the 24mm 1.4 lens that I rented from Adorama for another couple of days. I shared with you all this still from the shoot and, after some soul searching, new I could do better.

Julie came over a couple of days ago and we took a look at some options and filmed some good scenes. I did some color correcting and was very pleased with the results. So, we’re moving forward, happily.

I’m glad I’m starting the year off with a unique project.

Marc Palmieri and I found out earlier we did not make it into the finals of the Doritos Super Bowl contest. Sigh. It’s funny, but I thought we would have at least been nominated for a Nacho award. Here are the two commercials we entered.

I can’t start to second guess about why they weren’t chosen. It could be any number of things. So, I’ll just chalk it up as a learning experience and move on.

Let’s see. What else.

On Saturday we have our first production meeting for the new pilot project. Should be fun. I have assembled a fantastic bunch of people to help, and I’m sure it’ll be a blast. Fingers crossed.

I finished writing the first draft of my first play. It’s in the hands of Julie, producer Julie, now. We’ll see how it goes. It was fun writing it. I know there’s room for improvement and for evolving both the story and stage direction into something unique. We’ll see.

A couple of things to share. One, this great article on the making of one of my favorite movies, The Blues Brothers. It’s a very interesting and entertaining read.

Here’s a commercial I found via Reddit that basically encompasses the internet’s love of cats.

And, finally, a new web series I saw called Failing Upwards, which I found via a new google group called Web Series Creators. Here’s the pilot episode. It’s a clever concept.

Thanks very much for reading. Hope you’re all doing well! Happy New Year!

John

A new year

Last year, on New Years, I drank so much I puked wine that looked like black blood… like I had stomach cancer or something.

Or maybe that was the year before. I can’t remember, it’s all a blur.

On December 24th, 2011, I released the season finale of 8 for Vegas. It was a triumph, well received or not, from this fledgling filmmaker, and opened up a world of possibilities.

I met a bunch of phenomenal people over the past year, and I wanted to list them all… or most of them. Jesus, John, this is the type of thing where you’re bound to forget someone.

So, for those forgotten, it’s just on this blog, and not in my mind.

Stephen Bittrich. It took many years before I got to meet Stephen in person, and when I did, we went straight into production of Off Off. The list begins.

David Marantz

Dennis Gagomiros

Dan Teachout

Rob Wilson

Lisa Peart

Kendall Rileigh

Paul Garafola

and Katie McHugh. Katie and I became fast friends (not unlike much of the cast/crew of Off Off) and started a working relationship on Internet Affairs. She introduced me to the likes of…

Johanny Mota

Heather Cambanes

Chantal Ngwa

Mckenzie Kubitz

In April of 2012 I worked on a short film, Sketch, and met a bunch of great people. In particular, Marcin Kaproń, the DP, who was kind enough to point me in the right direction on a number of occasions. When we’re not busy, we get together for a drink and catch up. I was delighted to find that Marcin shot the following spot, with many legends of the industry:

Stunning.

In the Summer I met Jessica Trugman and Leslie Ingram, who made my Monday and Tuesday nights that much more fun. At pool league. Control yourselves.

In June or July of this year, Stephen introduced me to Marc Palmieri. After an outing of coffee, we started production on The Thing. Boy, the people I met through that…

Jeremy Johnson

George Demas

Spencer Aste

Curzon Dobell

Joe Fuer

Lynn Mancinelli

Raymond Lee

Rick Younger

Amber Snider

Deloss Brown

Brian Linden

Britt Genelin

Nora, Anne, and Kirsten Palmieri

Crystal Joy

Robert Ierardi and Laurie Kilmartin

and James Honderich (and his wife Pam)… who has been so supportive and generous, I don’t even know where to begin.

In late August, I began filming the second season of 8 for Vegas, and I could not have done it without Julie (producer Julie), Ian, Drew, and Sloan, who were so patient and helpful, I can’t say enough about them. Emily Sherman and Jeremy Fairman were a great help to me. Kaitlin Hernandez, Rolando Rodriguez, Stanley McDaniel, Max Von Hollweg, Emily Eden, and all of the donors who helped us with Season 2… I thank you all very much for your help.

My long time friends who I rarely get to see… my new friends… your friendship, your words of encouragement and your trust has been so helpful to me, I am truly thankful. To my sister, my extended family… again, my thanks.

Productivity would not have been possible without my mom and Karen. That’s the plain truth. I’ve been suffering the tortures of the damned, in terms of unemployment, and I know I’m not alone. Having the absurd amount of equipment I have… the financial, artistic, and loving support, it’s allowed me to continue a path I thought might have at first been a joke. From the universe, mind you… a carrot. But it’s proved to be so much more.

I wrote the other day of Staying Inspired. I shot for four or five hours today, with a healthy hour of some incessant sound beneath my window which rendered sound recording useless. I had to cut the day short because daylight flitted away much quicker than I thought it would.

Julie, producer Julie, will be joining me on Wednesday to finish up what we can. Here’s a taste of what I shot today. This took two hours to perfect.

We’ll see what happens next.

Keeping with that, we’ll see what happens next year. I straddle the line of realism and pessimism. Optimism rarely rears its head. At least, that was the case in previous years. So, I’ll be optimistic for a change. Or maybe realistic.

In 2013 we’re going to finish The Thing, and it’s going to be awesome. We’re going to shoot the TV pilot. We’re going to film at least two short films… not including The Difference Between. And, by September, we’re going to have wrapped on our first feature.

Send money.

Thanks for reading. Happy new year.

John