Monday, February 28, 2005

If I ran "The Weather Channel"...

...this is what our weather map would look like:

"Another Shit Storm For You!"

Ah, retrospect, it's probably a good thing I DON'T. Even though it's cable TV, the general public isn't ready for a foul-mouthed weather map!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The 20th Annual Independent Spirit Awards

I love the Spirit sort of reminds me of what an awards show would be if the "Our Gang" kids ran it in an old barn. It's a loose, fun, anything-goes event that celebrates independent cinema. Minimal pretense and significant silliness, although I miss John Waters not hosting it this year.

"Sideways", a terrific indie movie, won in every category for which it was nominated. Paul Giamatti, who was sadly overlooked for an Oscar nomination, got the recognition he deserves. Thomas Haden Church's performance in Sideways nearly stole the movie, and Sandra Oh, while not nominated, gave a performance that had women literally screaming in appreciation at that scene, which resulted in Jack's bandaged nose.

"The Sideways Sweep"
Best Feature - Sideways
Best Male Lead - Paul Giamatti
Best Supporting Female - Virginia Madsen
Best Supporting Male - Thomas Haden Church
Best Director - Alexander Payne
Best Screenplay - Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

Cast of "Sideways"

Other significant awards this year went to Catalina Sandino Moreno as Best Female Lead in "Maria Full of Grace", which also won Best First Screenplay; "Garden State" won Best First Feature; and "Mean Creek" won the John Cassavetes Award.

Good show this year. Congrats go to the winners.

And you losers, remember..."it's an honor just to be nominated". Heh...snoogins!

Friday, February 25, 2005

More Snow! Yay!

No filmmaking stuff this looks like our actors bailed on us. Some lame excuse about college classes and two part-time jobs taking up too much time. Jeez, you'd think our generous offer of lunch and a credit in exchange for 10 to 12 hours of desparate acting under the manic (and possibly dangerous) direction of two completely inexperienced filmmakers would bring them crawling out of the woodwork!

I mean, what do they WANT from me?

Fuck it...I'm gonna go cross-country skiing tomorrow morning, bright and early. There's nothing that clears the head and invigorates the body like a good brisk morning's skiing through the woods. There's 8-10" of fresh powder waiting for me and Joyce.

Joyce on West Rock Ridge tomorrow morning (time travel-style)

Then, after I get back, I'll start looking for actors again.

This time, I'll sweeten the offer with tasty snacks, too! How can they resist?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Blizzard Action, MIA Actors, and Ms. NBK!

Yesterday we had a mini blizzard here, enough for about 6-7", which meant that our actors couldn't make it to our "audition". (Hey, what did I say about over-using the quotes?) So our actors are "missing and presumed shoveling". (I'm warning you!) Maybe we can reschedule for later this week. When I know, you'll know.

Here's something cool. I lost ONE hero yesterday, and then today I received an email from ANOTHER!

Goddamn, but I love the "Internets"!

The fabulous Ms. Jane Hamsher, producer of Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" and author of my favorite book about Hollywood, "Killer Instinct", actually replied to an email I sent a few days ago when I discovered she had a blog.

Jane, with her then-partner Don Murphy, pretty much took on Hollywood and fought tooth-and-nail with the likes of Quentin Tarantino and other movie bidness folk to get NBK produced. At the time, it was a script that generally horrified everyone who read it, and nobody other then Jane and Don wanted to make it...that is, until Oliver Stone happened to read it. The book "Killer Instinct" documents this struggle with a mixture of wry humor and an amazing amount of toughness. It was one of those books that took me along for a wild ride and left me wanting more when it ended. Ordering info is on her blog. Go buy it. Now. You'll thank me later.

Visit Jane's blog firedoglake immediately!

"Killer Instinct" by Jane Hamsher

Anyway, Ms. Hamsher wrote a nice email thanking me for something I posted on her blog, and she also checked out my blog and encouraged me to keep working on my projects. It was definitely a thrill to hear from her. Sure, maybe there's not a lot of people outside of the movie business who know who she is, but *I* know, and I respect her contributions! She's one of the people whose work inspired me to get into this "whatever it is that I'm supposed to be doing" thing that I'm into.

In other words...she's my Donita Sparks. (read the book and you'll get it)

Doctor Gonzo 1937-2005

I heard the news today, oh boy...that the good doctor had killed himself...
and though the news was rather sad, I felt I had to laugh...

...cause Hunter S. Thompson never took nobody's gaff...his books were always right on!

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Strange days indeed...for whatever reason, a founding member of my personal Hall of Fame chose to end his life. The universe suddenly became a little darker and sadder for me, knowing that HST will no never again be holed up in some fortified compound with a fifth of Chivas Regal, a .44 Magnum, and an IBM Selectric typewriter; spinning his magic while rock and roll blasts from six foot high speaker stacks and peacocks wail mournfully outside in the moonlight.

I feel fortunate that I once saw Hunter Thompson in New Haven about 20 years ago, and I got to ask him a question...jesus, I just got chills when I think that the Good Doctor actually spoke to me about Nixon in his rapid-fire way, all the while taking sips out of a massive tumbler of scotch. There was no one else alive back then I would have rather had the opportunity to speak with.

I can write ten pages of my feelings about this, but whatever I write can't possibly hold a candle to what HE wrote. Go out and read his books. He was truly an American original. 'nuff said. Sweet dreams, Good your attorney, I advise you to forever rest in peace.

Res Ipsa Loquitor

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Pinnacle Studio

I'll admit it. I'm a fairly lazy person. Whenever I get a new program, I never read the manual. Or in most cases these days, the digital documentation that's included. I just like to fire the sucker right up and dive in. If I find it fairly easy to use, I stick with it. If it's not a simple intuitive program, I quit using it.

Then I delete it off my computer.

Then I throw the CD into the garbage...

...usually broken in two pieces.

So, when I downloaded the trial version of Pinnacle Studio Plus v.9.3, I decided to give it a fair tryout. I clicked on it, downloaded some video into it, and began editing.

Lo and behold, it didn't get turned off, deleted, and eventually destroyed. I actually liked it. Surprise!

(And yes, I used the word "Lo" in the previous paragraph. Who the fuck uses "Lo" these days? Christ, next thing you know I'll be speaking in "ye olde English" like a bastard peasant from the Middle Ages. No more "Lo's" for me!)

...and I'm not too thrilled about the "behold" either, but I'll let it slide for now.

Anyway, I've been working with the program for about 3 weeks now, and I'm finding it both simple to use and full of great features. The inclusion of an overlay track allows easy editing when shooting with two cameras. The chromakey feature is useful and fun. There's lot of transitions and titles included. And it has enough output options to be useful.

For $99 retail, it's worth the money. But of course, I'm going to try to buy a copy online from a software discounter...I'd like to pick it up for around fifty bucks.

Hey, I may be cheap, but I'm not easy!

Okay, I'm easy too! So what?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

It just keeps getting more gooder!

Wow, today was another productive day!

I met with Paula today over coffee, and we discussed both her projects and mine. She's going to pitch her script to Miramax next weekend at World Pitch in NYC. She's very excited about it, and a bit nervous, too! Good luck Paulina; we're all rooting for ya!

We also talked about my script "No Talking Aloud", which we'll shoot as soon as the weather turns warm, like in mid-May perhaps. The entire movie is on location outdoors, so we'll need a nice Spring day to shoot it. I'm also thinking about something I can write that'll take advantage of her multiple talents. I'm thinking of a "Spanglish"-style short maybe, with a little Italian language thrown in, and perhaps some salsa dancing. Yeah, that'll be a piece o' cake!

Tomorrow I pick up the camera for a long weekend of videoing. I'm going to shoot more Frostbiter's action on Sunday, and I'll have the camera for the auditions on Monday. Saturday I don't know what I'll shoot, but I'm sure I'll come up with something...knowing me, it'll be strange and fun!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Auditions this Monday

Great news! Anthony found a couple of "actors", and they're coming over Monday morning to "audition" for the roles in our "movie". I'm basically going to "hire" them for the parts if they can "comprehend" the "script", and if they manage to "act" without looking at the camera.

The truth is, I'm not exactly "sure" what I'm supposed to "do" at an "audition", but hopefully I'll "figure it out". And "somebody" better "destroy" the "quote" key on my "keyboard" because I've gone completely "out of my mind"!

Major-league kudos go to Anthony for digging up some actors. I'm sneaky...I threatened to act in the movie MYSELF, so I KNEW he'd get motivated to find somebody!

Lesson 1: Producing ANYTHING requires a significant amount of subtle manipulation to get things done!

"Steve and Bill from Swing39, along with Lori Fogler"

"Swing 39"

Yesterday I got a call from my friend Lori, who's producing a cooking show called "Grandma's Kitchen". She's been working on editing her finished episodes to time out at exactly 29 minutes each, because we're going to submit the show to cable access TV, and they want that exact length for broadcast. She wanted live songs to fill in the show.

So she arranged for a band to play in her living room, and along with a bunch of her friends there we taped a little concert. "Swing 39" is their name, and they play a bunch of bebop-jazz-swing tunes. Any band that has a stand up bass is alright in my book. They kicked it, daddy-o! Check them out here (photos and mp3s):

What was originally a last-minute request from a friend to help with the camera turned into a full-fledged lighting, directing, and DP gig! (Pssst, Lori...I better get an exec-producer credit at the very least!) With plenty of beer and good New Haven-style pizza, it turned into a fun party. And I got to use my chinese lanterns...along with a little cheapo scoop bounced off the ceiling, the lighting was amazingly good for a last minute gig.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Frostbiting! And more stuff...

Sunday I took the Panasonic and went down to the harbor (or "harbour", depending on what brand of English you read) to shoot my friends having all sorts of fun racing against each other in their little sailing dinghies. Each week from November through early March, Milford Yacht Club hosts the "Frostbiters' races". They're a hardy bunch who enjoy sailing so much that they don't let sub-freezing temps and occasional ice blocks stop them! I shot about 15 minutes of them rounding the bouys before I started freezing my ass off in the 10-15 knot wind, then I booked on out of there.

When I got home I fired up Pinnacle. I transferred all the footage to the PC, and now I'm going to edit a two or three minute music video out of it. I'm thinking of using "Eye of the Tiger", just because it has those great guitar chords in it; I'll make some quick action cuts to match them.

Other than that, Anthony stopped by and discussed our project. We're getting closer to the shoot, and if I have to, I'll act in the thing just to get it done.

And I really don't want to act. It's just not something I aspire to...I wish I did, because I'm sure I'd be a world-class ham!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

My first official credit!

Yesterday was a slow work day, so I thought I'd go down to the studio and watch them produce their live weekly talk show, "Niki at Noon" (Noon and Midnight, Fridays, Cablevision Southern Connecticut channel 77). John Ecay, the producer and also Soundview's Director of Technology, invited me down. He's the guy who showed me how to use the lighting board in the studio and also explained chroma-key lighting to me.

I got down there while they were setting up. John asked if I wanted to help, and of course I said "Sure!", so he put me on Camera 2 and showed me how to use the controls. It was fun learning how to work the studio camera LIVE, and try to hit the correct buttons while listening to the director through the headset and also try to follow what was happening on the stage in front of me.

Niki's a cool gal, and after the show was over she invited me on her show to discuss my short film when it's ready to be shown. I taped the episode when it was rebroadcast at midnight, and sure enough there at the end of the show my name appeared in the credits under "Cameras". I even took a picture of it with my digital camera; hey, it's a real credit, no matter how insignificant my role was!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Call me "Squeaky Wheel"...

...'cause I got the grease! Apparently complaining about not getting any comments or views worked, because people are reading this and posting. Cool! Thanks for reading folks!

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

What's wrong with this stupid blog?

Okay, I'm trying to figure out why apparently decided to ignore my blog...I mean, I just spent an hour clicking on the "Next Blog>>>" button to see how long it would take for my blog to show up.

After seeing several blogs come up three or four times without mine EVER coming up not even once, I came to suspect that must HATE me. No wonder I'm not getting any traffic.

Here's some blogs that came up two or more times, while mine didn't come up once:

"Mind Fidgets" (music fan site)
"????" (it's a Chinese blog and the letters won't display on my AMERICAN COMPUTER!!!)
"accounting" (it's as exciting as it sounds!)
"The NBA Source" (it fucking came up TWICE in THREE clicks!)
"Party Poker Blogs" (poker blog...who cares?)
"Stella's Story" (kill me now)
"Sunset Igloo" (I dunno...something commercial, I think)
"Red Pill News" (nothing at all...I guess no news is good news)
"coursPPA1114pMD" (I have no idea what this is, it's in some kind of foreign language...looks French to me)
"Raed in the Middle" (he's an Iraqi "Malcolm" apparently)
"Mitch" (boring)
"mquest" (ditto)
"MyCorna" (no messages at all!)
"FutureDV" (lost in fucking space, apparently)

Christ, they even have shitty one message blogs from years ago come up before mine does; and I update this stupid thing faithfully. Is there ANYONE AT ALL reading this stupid thing?

Got the camera for the weekend!

I reserved the Panasonic GS-70 for this weekend...I can pick it up Friday after five, and have to return it on Monday by 10AM.

Anthony and I were going to do some test shooting Friday night, but I just got free tix to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers hockey game from my previous boss E.J., so I'm just gonna pick up the camera and go right to the game, since the arena's only about three blocks away from the studio.

Probably on Saturday we'll go and do some shooting with the camera, and maybe edit on my PC using Pinnacle.

We also are going to do a walk-through of our scripts and block the shots we need for our short, then we'll make up a shot list so we can shoot it quickly and efficiently. I'm also thinking about maybe acting in this thing, since we don't know any actors yet and I'm a little intimidated looking for real actors when we haven't shot anything yet. I'll talk to Anthony about it and see what he thinks, and maybe this weekend we can do a screen test and see if I have any talent for acting at all.

It's doubtful.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

I'm on a low budget!

Yep, just like the Kinks song from the '80's, I'm on a low budget!

Part of my philosophy of filmmaking is to not only make good movies, but to do so as cheaply as possible. While this may seem to be a noble gesture, it's driven by the cold hard economic realities of my current fiscal situation. Translation: I'm poor.

Okay, in all truthfulness, technically I'm NOT poor, but I've budgeted most of my disposable income for other areas of my life, not the least of which is my 30' sailboat. The boat is paid for, but the yearly upkeep and dockage runs thousands of dollars. Since the boat is absolutely required for my sanity (I have a doctor's prescription for "One Large Sailboat" to prove it!), I have to keep it. So that leaves me very little extra cash for trifles like a Canon XL-2 camera or Adobe Premier Pro editing software.

Hence, the necessity of using borrowed cameras and studio facilities.

But in the interest of attaining creative independence, I've begun collecting production related items for my video efforts. Here's a list of what I've bought so far:

Pinnacle Studio 9 Plus Software $89.00 (2 March 05)
Wide angle lens $25.60
Two Chinese lamps $16.81
Mini DV tape $7.00
Twin halogen 500w work lights $21.20
Two metal scoops $9.00
Crappy homemade dolly $25.00
Not-so-crappy but still cheap homemade steadycam $14.00
12x18" Dry Erase board for production slate $2.11
(more to come as I remember them)

I'll revise this list soon, but I have to do some pickup work today. Yeah, I hate working on a Saturday too, but it's good money and I've got more stuff to buy.

Wide Angle Lens and Chinese Lanterns

The past few days I've acquired some useful items.

I ordered a Kenko .5X Wide Angle Lens w/37mm threads to fit the GS-70 camera from eEnid for a mind-numbing amount of $25.60, including postage! Their service is excellent; I ordered it online on a Saturday with my debit card, and received it from Arizona on Wednesday! Plus, they sent emails confirming receipt of the order and progress on their shipping. Great job, guys!

Kenko Wide Angle Lens

Thursday Ant and me went to the studio to test shoot with it. What a difference it makes! I think most video cameras have an unavoidable built-in "zoom" effect, that slightly magnifies what the eye would see...with the wide angle lens, you can stand in a doorway and shoot into a room, and see the walls on both sides, just like your eye sees. The only drawback is a slight "fish-eye" effect, where straight verticle lines curve a bit near the edges of the frame. It's hardly noticable, unless you look for it.

Also, yesterday I bought a pair of 18" chinese lanterns from Ikea (which, despite the fact that I HATE superstores, DOES have the widest selection and best prices on most items). Chinese lanterns are a great source for diffused light, and does a good job filling in shadows.

China Ball

You simply throw a powerful bulb in the lamp and stand by with a fire extinguisher in case it overheats and bursts into flames (Note to self: delete this paragraph if I accidently burn down the studio!) All told, I spent $16.81 on TWO 18" lamps, 15' cords, and two 150 watt light bulbs. They seem to work fine, and as long as I keep the bulb from touching the paper, the chances of a major conflagration is probably minimal.

Oh, and the Germans had NOTHING to worry about when using Hydrogen for their airships!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

"Coffee and Cigarettes"

OK, so I watched the Coffee and Cigarettes DVD. Of course, I have some thoughts about this movie.

I'm sure Jim Jarmusch is a gifted filmmaker. I haven't seen any of his other films, but I'd heard of him, and a brief look at his IMDB entry confirms his place in independent cinema.

But will somebody tell me what was the FRICKIN' POINT OF THIS MOVIE? Or is the point that it's pointless; that the filmmaker used a cinemagraphic device (people meeting and talking over coffee and cigs) as an excuse to put together 8 or 10 dialogue-driven vignettes starring his Hollywood friends and pass it off as high art?

I did enjoy it, but I just don't get the point. And I thought there were opportunities for more effective use of some high profile actors that the director missed. Several times during the movie the dialogue was so predictable I found myself saying the exact words that his actors voiced.

This movie is just BEGGING to be spoofed. So, while the movie was still fresh in my mind, I wrote a script for what I'm going to call "Scotch and Cigars". I typed up four bizarre and considerably pointless episodes in maybe one half of an hour. I was laughing while I wrote it, which I rarely do. The movie will run about 10 minutes, and I can see it being fairly simple to produce.

Whether I shoot it or not, it was a lot of fun to write.