Saturday, April 30, 2005

"The Phantom Attack of the Clone Menace"

Today was a rare "down-time" day...there's nothing that needs doing today regarding Monday's shoot. Plus, it's raining and miserable outside, so we're just hanging out home. Which is nice do to once in a while. When we get a chance.

Joyce and I have been watching Episode's I and II of the Star Wars saga this week, in preparation of seeing "Revenge of the Sith" sometime soon. We saw "The Phantom Menace" Wednesday night, and today we watched "Attack of the Clones".

What struck me about the basic plot of the continuing story is that a lot of problems could have been avoided if people just sat down and talked, rather than immediately going to war to get their way. Now, I'm not a huge fan of the series, but I enjoy watching the movies. I'm sure there are super-nerds out there who will defend the necessity of galactic war to solve these problems, but I just can't help but draw some very interesting parallels here.

Director Kevin Smith raved about "The Revenge of the Sith" in his blog, and he's a big Star Wars fan. Not only that, but he was fairly critical of the last two installments, which is rare when you live and work in the Hollywood movie business; his frankness about those movies lead me to believe it when he says that the new one is gonna be great! He did say it's dark, like a thousand times darker than "The Empire Strikes Back"...if that's true, it'll be awesome! (And NO EWOKS allowed!)

Oh, I actually DID do one thing today that's related to our shoot; one of our scenes involves an empty cardboard toilet paper roll as a prop (you can tell already what a class movie this obviously will be), and as fate would have it, TWO became available today. One through regular biological needs (again with the classiness), and the other (in the downstairs W.C.) because it was down to maybe 30 sheets, which I spun off the roll and used to clean the mirror. Yeah, I'm sure I could have done the job with four or five sheets, but I figured this way I wasn't REALLY wasting it.

Hmmm...we ARE going out for Mexican food tonight; maybe I should have saved some of it for later!

Friday, April 29, 2005

I wanted to see "HHGTTG" tonight!

Last night I managed to get a reasonable night's sleep, uninterrupted by any anxieties in the form of arrogant movie stars or unfinished scripts. For the most part.

Then a goddamned fire truck blasted by my house at 5:16 this morning, cranking the siren AND the air horn for good effect. I can't win.

I finished logging the footage today, and did some minor prep work for Monday's shoot. Believe it or not, I'm fairly relaxed going into this shoot. Sure, I'd like to work out some audio issues, but the scenes we're doing are gonna be so much fun it'll be worth the hassles. I probably won't need Production Van 2000; I can load most of the stuff in my car. Trust me, the less mileage I put on that rattle wagon, the better!

I'm planning on buying a wireless lavalier mic ASAP; I'm going cheap, but with a good name. The Audio Technica model ATW-201/L has a receiver, transmitter, and lavalier mic, all for under $125 online. I don't think I'll be able to buy it until sometime before our next project, so we're stuck with what we have for now. We'll manage to make it work.


Joyce got called into work tonight, so we cancelled plans to see "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". I'm a big fan of Doublas Adams's books and the excellent BBC radio plays, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the flick. I think casting the perfectly droll Alan Rickman as the voice of "Marvin" was BRILLIANT!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Someone tell me why this happens?

Did you ever have a bad dream that was so intense that even after you woke up you still felt weird? Did you ever have a dream that was so real that you couldn't wake up? A dream where you took a red pill and suddenly woke up in a futuristic cocoon filled with pink gel and found you've got all these hoses hooked up to you?


Wait a minute...I'm thinking of "The Matrix"...never mind!

But I did have a nightmare this morning.

The dream went like this: I was at some kind of cool party somewhere in SoHo or Tribeca. It looked like we were in a trendy loft, and there were all these top level movie people there I recognized. I found myself chatting with a small group of actors and filmmakers.

Among them was one of my film heroes, Robert De Niro. Somehow, the subject of screenwriting came up, and even though I was WAY out of my league with this crowd and should have just kept quiet, anyone who's been reading this blog for any length of time has to know that reasonable discretion isn't an instinct I possess. So I mentioned that I was writing a screenplay for a feature I was planning to shoot.

"You talkin' to me?"

Everyone stopped talking and looked at me. Bobby De Niro (hey, I'm at the party, so I figure I can refer to him like he's a good friend) stared at me with his "I'm gonna whack this fuckin' guy" look from "Goodfellas". I broke out in a cold sweat. Any second now Joe Pesci is gonna shoot me in the foot, I just know it!

De Niro says, "Well, let's take a look at it," and motions for me to give it to him. I'm panicking, since it was only a rough draft, and I knew there were lots of things I wanted to change. But how do you say NO to Bobby D?

Apparently I had a copy with me (Jeez, who wrote this dream, anyway? There's no way I'd EVER carry around a first draft of a script where someone might see it!) and I reluctantly handed it to him. With horror, I watched as he read it. He flipped pages, grimacing and making growling statements, like "Are you serious wit' dis shit?" and "You gotta be kidding me!". It was awful!

He gets to the end of the script and holds it up for the group, saying "This fuckin' sucks!". I'm completely mortified! Then he says, "I think maybe I can fix some of these problems here." He starts going through the script, making changes with a pen. He comments on the dialogue of scenes that I fully intended to revise, and without listening to me he makes modifications. I'm trying to object, saying I was going to do that, but he ignores me and continues.

Finally, he finishes, and says "Now you've got a script that will make a good film." I'm totally humiliated, because he never gave me a chance to finish the script, and now I don't even want to shoot it, because it's not MY script. His friends applaud his screenwriting skills, and they detach themselves from me so fast that it's like I'm suffering from an uncontrollably vicious public attack of irritable bowel syndrome!

(Side note: now THAT'S good writing there...try and top that, MISTER TRAVIS BICKLE!)

I woke up angry and disappointed. Angry with De Niro for fucking with MY script, and disappointed with myself that I didn't have the finished version ready for him to read. But honestly, I didn't expect anyone to want to see it yet!

(sigh) I wonder if these friggin' anxiety dreams are a part of the filmmaking process? Because it's exhausting to wake up freaking out several times a week! Did Kubrick ever have to go through this kind of shit?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Logging the Footage

I'm rewatching the footage we have on VHS; we transferred the video from the mini-DV tapes to a single VHS cassette, for preliminary use. Now I'm making notes on various takes and logging the time stamp of good takes so I won't load up the editing system with the roughly 80% of the video we're absolutely not going to use. If there are two or more takes that are reasonably similar, I'll keep them in. Then we'll be able to do a rough cut based on the footage that's acceptable.

Yucking it up between takes

This time around I'm noticing all the little details that weren't so apparent at first. Like the take where James and Michael spill the coffee is a good laugh and will make the blooper reel. Actually, we've got WAY more bloopers than usable footage; I'm not altogether sure that's a GOOD thing. We're also going to try to put together a "Making of..." video, but everyone was pretty much working during the shoot and didn't have the chance to video us making the movie. We've got some stuff we can use, but that's not a primary concern right now...we just want to finish the shoot and get going on post-production.

Monday is going to be "Day Two" of the Big Shoot. More accurately, "Night Two". Or "Night One", since we shot during the day the first time around. Wait, I'm going to stick with "Day Two" and be done with it. Good, I'm glad I settled that.

We'll have about two good hours of studio use, and we're hoping to get a lot of the rest of the movie done. Regarding the footage we already have, there are some scenes with very minor continuity issues (mostly insignificant), but we have the option to do a quick reshoot next Monday in the hallway. One quick take and done. I hope.

Lighting will be very much an issue, and I'm hoping to get to the studio a couple hours early to set up and get most of the set ready. That way our actors and show up and start working without a lot of wasted time. The setups are very simple for these scenes, so we should be able to work fast. I hope.

Note to self for next movie: Be sure to secure the location for 8-12 hour blocks to save unnecessary effort on setting up and breaking down. That's not really an option here, but for later projects we'll make that a major concern.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Equal Time for Anthony

Now that we're in production, Anthony wants to be able to post here, too. Since we're using the "FutureDV" name for our ersatz "production company", I guess its only fair that I allow him to have the occasional post here...rather than his sneaky anonymous jabs in the "comments" section. (Just kidding, buddy!)

Anthony, Bob, Paulina, and the Panasonic camera

Other things that are noteworthy; for the rest of this project and all future movies, we're going to delagate someone to be Director of Photography. It's obvious you can't direct and be a DP without missing some things...there's just too damn many things going on during a shoot, and someone needs to concentrate fully on framing the shots, balancing the lighting, and operating the camera.

That will free up the Director to work with the actors and be creative. I know personally that there were some stage directions I wanted to give my actors but didn't have the time because I was busy futzing with the camera.

Yes, I'll admit it...I said "futzing". It's an old Sicilian word roughly translated as "screwing with".

Also, I'm beginning to see the wisdom in the traditional structure of a film crew, and how important individual jobs are. You need a Sound person to monitor and balance the audio. You need a Script Supervisor to mark off shots and keep an eye on continuity. You definitely need Production Assistants to get you a cup of coffee when you're too busy. And you should have a big guy with a loud voice and a firm committment to the production to be your Line Producer, who, among other things, will keep everyone in line (not that that's the REASON he's called a "Line" Producer).

An Assistant Director would be helpful also, to pick up the slack of the Director and DP. At this level, we may be asking a lot for this many crew, but it's something to work towards.

Today we've been trying to schedule the next shoot date. Problem is, we won't have the studio for more than a few hours any weeknight next week, so we're trying to line everybody up as early as possible to get as much done as we can. If we can get a good three hours of production in, we'll be 90% finished. We're still hoping for Monday.

Monday, April 25, 2005

First Look

Just got back from the studio, where we got a look at the recorded footage and boy, are we impressed! Michael, James and Paulina all did an amazing job, and in spite of our utter lack of experience, the first look is really impressive.

Anthony at the editing station

Sure, there were things that we could have improved upon, such as a few instances of sketchy lighting and audio difficulties, and occasionally on some takes you can catch a glimpse of an audio cable, but overall we've got a lot of top-notch usable footage. Considering our crew had little to no experience, the fact that things look as good as they do is fantastic. (hint: shoot in black and white, and you save a lot of time)

The next step is to catalog what we have, determine if we want any additional coverage, then plan the next shoot date, tentatively a week from today (Monday, May 2nd). That'll give us enough time to begin to organize the editing process. Effectively, we're both in PRODUCTION and POST.

We're beginning to realize that this is our film school. We're learning a hell of a lot during this process, and I can already tell that the results are going to be worth all the effort.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Big Shoot: Day One

Today was the big shoot.

It turns out that this is "Day One" of the big shoot. Which is fine, as you'll see here. Better fasten your seat belt folks...this is a long ride!

I picked up Chad ("Green"...I'll explain later) and drove to the shoot. We got to the studio around 8AM, and promptly found we were locked out. Anthony called me on the cell phone and said there was a huge line at Dunkin' Donuts, so he'd be a few minutes late with the donuts. Not a problem. Then Paulina said she wanted a bagel. With cream cheese. Okay, maybe it's a problem now. But not really. We just joked about her being the "Bagel Princess", and let it go at that.

A guard finally appeared and let us in the building around 8:20, but after loading in all the equipment we were still too early for the actual studio to be open, so we were waiting in the heated and non-rain-swept hallway instead of outdoors, which was OK.

The homeless film crew

We spent the time doing some blocking and rehearsing, since quite a few scenes were to be shot right there in the hallway. This was the first time the two leads Michael and James met each other, and I was glad to see that they got along great. In fact, because of the way auditions and rehearsals went, most of the cast and crew met each other for the first time at that moment.

James running into Michael for the first time

At 9 the studio doors opened, and we immediately took over the green room. Over donuts and coffee we briefed the crew on what we'd be working on. Michael wanted a cup of real coffee for a prop, and I told him that there's no NEED for coffee to actually be in his cup; we'd just brewed a pot and it was scalding hot. I said, "You're an actor...ACT like you have coffee in the cup!" He smirked and poured himself a cup anyway. Fine, I thought, no big deal.

James, Paulina, Michael

The cast got into their wardrobe and we set up for the shoot. One of the early scenes required James to nearly bump into Michael while he's holding his stupid cup of coffee, with Paulina waiting off-scene to enter. On the second take, James crashed into Michael, demolishing the cup and spraying coffee all over the both of them! Being the sensitive, artistic-type director I am, I resisted saying "I told ya so!", and simply enjoyed a long and somewhat hysterical laugh. Fortunately, my actors aren't the thin skinned types, and they rolled with it and laughed too.

"He spilled my coffee!"

Chad "Red" and Chad "Green" worked grip and gaffer duty, and Chad "Red" also acted as an extra in the hallway. We had to name them that to differentiate between them, so we used their primary wardrobe colors. I don't know what the odds are to get TWO Chads on a five man crew, but considering that it has to be a long shot, I stopped at the 7-11 on the way home and bought a Powerball ticket.

Chad and Chad

Michael and James continually amazed us with their acting abilities and enthusiasm. I still can't believe how lucky we were to get them! These guys both give 110%, even if the script calls for pratfalls, wearing a suffocating costume, or being tossed around like rag dolls. Guys, you fuckin' RULE!

Paulina also gave a wonderful performance. We told her to act mad at Michael. She asked "how big should I act?" I said BIG. Anthony said "Give it that Latino fire." We did a few takes, and each time she did it bigger and madder and funnier! By the last take I had to clamp my hand over my mouth so I didn't ruin the take by laughing. She's a star!

Paulina, Michael

Chad (red) spent last night with us at the studio learning about the mics, so he was a huge help with that, general production assistance, and running the script during the longer dialogue scenes. Chad (green) is a good friend of mine and crewman on my racing sailboat, last week he agreed to be a grip on our movie. He did a great job being "go-to guy", along with using the digital still camera to document the shoot. Paulina also doubled on her camera and helped us immensely as crew.

The audio situation slowed down things. We didn't have wireless mics, and the lavs that we used weren't top notch by any means...we pretty much had to reshoot some takes because I heard too much static through the monitor headset. Our actors were always tripping over the cables, and one take of Paulina poking her finger into Michael's chest sounded like civil war artillery in my headset, because she managed to nail the mic that we taped under his shirt with her finger!

Me, deafened by Paulina's vigorous poking!

I'm sure that we'll manage to get better sound than what we'd get by using the on-camera mics, but I know we can do better, and maybe soon I'll spring for a cheap pair of wireless mics and a shotgun mic. Probably $400-500 will get us stuff that'll do the trick acceptably well. Not only will it sound better, but it'll save TIME and EFFORT. That's the ticket!

We broke for lunch just after noon, and I spoke with the studio manager. She let me know that they had to close at 2:30, which gave us less than 2 hours of shooting time left. I went back to our crew and explained that we could kill ourselves, or plan on coming back ASAP to finish the taping. Everyone was thrilled with the work we'd done so far, and agreed to come back in 10 days and finish the thing (except for some minor additional footage that can be done anytime).

After lunch we finished the hallway and elevator scenes. Anthony did a hysterical cameo in his own movie by playing a nonplussed Hispanic janitor. I can't wait to see the "rushes" on Monday...that's when we have the editing equipment reserved, so we can download from mini-DV onto VHS or DVD to study what we've got so far.

Paulina, Anthony, Chad (red)

You know what's cool? I didn't forget a SINGLE FUCKING THING! We had so much junk packed into the production van that basically, anytime somebody needed something, we either had it right there in the studio, or we ran out to the van. All that worry paid off, 'cause we had everything we needed.

So we packed up around 2:15, after a good four hours of shooting. We've probably got another four or so left, but we're getting there, and next time we'll be shooting in a much more controllable space. We'll even get to use our fog machine!

I can't wait!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Fingers crossed!

10 hours from now we're at the studio. I have to try to get some sleep tonight. This is what's going through my head right now:

"Did you forget anything? Did you forget anything? Did you forget anything? Did you forget anything? Did you forget anything? Did you forget anything? Did you forget anything? Did you forget anything? Did you forget anything? Did you forget anything?"

That, and this:

"Are you SURE?"

There's nothing more for me to do but try to relax. I've done everything in my power to ensure that the shoot is prepared.

The pre-production phase is officially over.

Now it's PRODUCTION time! I'll try to post something by tomorrow night, but I can't guarantee how much detail I'll provide. We'll see.

Am I "Living In Oblivion"?

Cast of "Living In Oblivon" (1995)

I taped PGL last night, 'cause I couldn't stay awake beyond 10PM. I don't know if it's a good thing for me to be watching the latest episode of Project Green Light right now, less than 30 hours before our shoot.

It's kind of cool seeing elements of their movie that we're going to be using. It's like, "Hey, would ya look at that china lantern they're using? It looks exactly like ours!", or "Their lavalier battery pack is just like the one we're using."

In contrast, there's the stomach clenching pressure for them to stay on schedule, and the tension and arguments going on between director and crew. I worry that we're not going to get enough done in our limited time. That's my nightmare. I feel like Steve Buscemi in "Living In Oblivion". No wonder I woke up at 5AM this morning and couldn't get back to sleep! Tonight I'm going to pop a couple of Tylenol PM; that'll do the trick.

I don't know how this is going to affect the shoot, but it's going to rain like hell tomorrow. We're shooting in the studio, but we have actors driving in from 40-50 miles away for an 8AM call time, so I hope they don't have any problem getting here.

It's fun to find new things to worry about. Really.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Day Before the Day Before

That's going to be the title of the blockbuster adventure feature that I'm going to make someday. I wonder if Bruce Willis will be busy in three or four years.

Re: The shoot. We're almost there! Final prep is underway. We've got Michael, James and Paulina lined up to act. We've got the same Paulina, Chad, and Chad (yes, TWO Chads!) lined up for crew. And we've got Ant and me to direct, produce, bicker, bitch, and argue. We're just about ready.

Today, besides work, I've been busy outfitting "Production Van 2000". That's what I call my rattle wagon '94 Chevy van. It cost me $2500 two years ago; last year a car full of Asians slammed into it on I-95. The back door and bumper were crumpled, but no overwhelming damage. The Asian's insurance company gave me a check for about $2700, so other than having to slam the back door to get it to close, it's good. And paid for. Except for the $888 it cost to fix an ignition problem last week. But it works fine. Now. And it holds a lot of junk; like ladders, tables, lights, supplies, coolers, tools, chairs, actors, crew, and me.

I'm kind of beat tonight, and Blogspot was undergoing maintenance and wouldn't let me post until now. So, not much of interest here...I'm going to bed.

Tomorrow I'm expecting the "pre-shoot jitters" to take hold, but tonight, I'm too drowsy to care.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Audio dynamite!

It was nice not having to work today...things slowed down a bit workwise, and other than a ten-minute call from Headquarters, it was a day to catch up on movie stuff.

Damn, but it's nice that Spring has finally fuckin' sprung! Time to dig out the shorts and sleeveless T's (yes, I'm THAT guy). Today I'd be surprised if the local temperature readings didn't include an "80" here or there...and I'm not talkin' Celsius, friend; it's AMERICAN degrees, or NOTHIN' for me, dammit!

(...what the hell brought THAT on?...)

After helping my dear ol' Dad rewire a lamp (which required a trip to Home Depot and some clever innovation on my part), I went to the studio to confer with Technical Director extraordinaire John Ecay.

Lemme tell ya about John...he's a good guy. He took time out of his busy day to assist me in figuring out just how to make the mics work with the camera. We discovered that several of the $100 lavalier mics were messed up, and sounded tinny and quieter than the good mics. After several rounds of testing, I found two that sounded reasonably good and we can mix into the camera for decent (read: acceptable) audio.

John also helped us get coordinated with the camera and mic reservations. Because it's a public access station, it's basically first come, first served on reserving cameras and production equipment. We found that all the other cameras are being used this weekend, so we only have the one camera reserved.

Bob graces the GS-70

However, our actress/crew Paulina is willing to use her camera for the shoot. The studio cameras are Panasonic GS-70 models, and Paulina happens to own a Panasonic GS-120, which is basically the same thing. Lucky frickin' break there! There's only minor differences between the two models, none of which will be apparent in the video or audio. Both cameras use the same Leica lenses, and both have three 1/6th inch CCDs. The recorded image will be exactly the same. Schweet!

So we'll somehow manage to get by with a two-camera shoot. Personally, I'm relieved. Anthony desperately wanted to go three cameras, but we're shooting in such a constricted space that I think three will be more trouble than they're worth.

He wanted three.
Ain't gonna happen.
Life can be a bitch.
Get over it.
Bigger fish need frying.
Get your spatula, bee-otch!

(Anthony, I kid. Honest.)

Tonight we have a conference call scheduled for 10PM with our other lead actor. We're going to go over the script and touch on some of the rehearsal stuff we did with the other actor on Monday. Basically, this will be it for rehearsals. We're kind of going into this thing cold...the actors will all meet one another the morning of the shoot! That's gonna be interesting, to say the least.

I've also decided to improv a short scene with our actress and the two leads on the spot. It'll be fun to see how quickly we can slam a new scene into the mix. I'm looking forward to it.

My wife just got home from shopping...she bought all the food for the shoot, so I have to help her carry it in. From a financial point of view, this is by far our biggest single expense associated with this project. I wonder how many other filmmakers spend so much to keep their crew happy?

Yeah, lets see that big-shot Spielberg guy spend more on catering than on his crappy special effects! Bet he won't. Wimp.

(Note to Self: alienating Hollywood gorillas not a good idea...if you annoy them, they can bite; or at the very least, they may throw their poop at you.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Can you hear me Major Tom?

Dateline: Bridgeport Connecticut

T-minus 4 days and counting...

Here at Mission Control we anticipate all systems go for launch at exactly 8:01 AM EDT this Saturday. Mission specialists are busily preparing for this, the first flight of the new millenium. The world anxiously awaits to hear news of a successfull launch, and media representatives are swarming to this small New England city for the historic event.

Photo courtesy NASA at

All of the world's faiths have joined together in wishing the mission well. The new ex-Nazi pope has blessed the launch pad; Billy Graham will say a prayer on National TV; the Dalai Lama sends his holy blessings; Voodoo queen Marie Laveau sacrificed a chicken; and Mission Specialist/Filmmaker Bob Adams consulted his Magic 8-ball.

Adams received a somewhat ambiguous reply, "Ask again later", from the mass-produced divining tool/toy. Portions of the destroyed 8-ball were later recoved from the street in front of Mission Control.

Undeterred by this minor setback, he has forcefully stated for the record that he will meet the brutal timetable created by the agency, and that he fully intends to proceed "...balls to the wall!"

When asked what he meant by that statement, Adams snorted, gave the reporter a withering look, and skulked off to resume his preparations for the launch.

Monday, April 18, 2005


Drove up to Hyannis for work today. Great trip. Had my MP3 player cranking, cruise control on, and a Cuban cigar puffing away. The sun was shining, the breeze was warm, and because of the Patriot Day holiday in Massachusetts, traffic was agreeably light. Spring in New England is something special.

A Bizarre Looking Freak-Kitty That
I Posted Here For Absolutely No Reason

I really think there's something wrong with me for making you see that.

I'm sorry. I obviously spend WAY too much time surfing the 'net for strange and bizarre stuff.

Got back in time for the 6PM rehearsal at the studio.

We tried our dual mic setup with a camera, but it didn't work. The tech that gave us the equipment apparently didn't provide the right equipment, and the technical director was gone for the day. I'll have to call him tomorrow and find out exactly what we'll need to make it work.

The actor scheduled for tonight showed up promptly. We walked through the script with him, and while we didn't have the other actor there, we did get some good work in. Plus, he's willing to improvise and made some good suggestions.

And he's a funny guy. The script requires funny, and he's sure to deliver.

He also does physical comedy, which is great, but I have to keep Anthony reigned in, or he'll have the poor guy bouncing off the walls! I mean, I love physical comedy. I just don't want to have to splint a compound fracture because we were "shooting for laughs".

Tomorrow's another studio night. We'll try to get the audio issue resolved. I don't want to have to work it out the morning of the shoot.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Stepping lively

Ant and I had a production meeting today. We covered a lot of ground.

We started with practical stuff, like perfecting the fog chiller to enhance the effect; getting equipment together, like lights, specialty camera mounts, and stingers (extension cords); and working out audio techniques.

The audio issue was especially troubling, because we don't have a lot of good audio stuff. We decided to use lavalier mics on the actors, and run them through an equalizer to balance and mix them, then input them into the primary camera's audio input. It's definitely a kludgey fix, but we don't have a DAT recorder or mini-disc system. This way we'll get reasonably decent audio without having to go through a lot of hassle...

...or expense. Expense is a big issue. Huge, actually. Prohibitive.

Also, we don't want to use a shotgun mic on that echo-y set...besides, we'd need yet ANOTHER crew member to operate the boom, and there just ain't enough room in there for more than seven of us (2 actors, 3 cameras, 2 crew).

Next was paperwork. We went over scripts and shot lists. We finalized (more or less) all the camera angles and camera locations; we made lists of items we needed on shoot day; and we compiled a menu for the actors and crew.

I'm learning first hand that creativity is only a portion of what's required to make a movie. You also have to be organized, persistant, flexible, innovative, patient, and confident. Otherwise you'll never get it done.

All told, our production meeting was three hours of " I forgetting anything?"

Tomorrow rehearsals and test shoot at the studio. That's after I have to drive up to Cape Cod and back (400+ miles)...should be fun.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Project Buzzcut

Today was a "Life Day". That's when I have to do things associated with real life, rather than my filmmaking hobby. Ya see, some people have managed to cage a career in filmmaking, and they get to do cool stuff like make movies 24/7. I'm sure they have real lives, too, but they're probably really cool real lives.

Others, such as yours truly, have to regularly deal with the usual mundane details; such as a house, a job, a wife, and a boat (by the way, that list is in reverse order of importance as long as my wife doesn't read it). So I started out today by shooting some hoops in the driveway for exercise, then I helped my wife with the carpet cleaner, then I worked on my boat for a while, then I came home and helped my wife clean the upholstery, and then we both gave me a haircut.

I haven't had a professional haircut in maybe three years. Not that I think I do a better job at it, it's just that during the warm months I prefer my hair short. Like, SHORT. So I bought a good electric clipper and started giving myself haircuts. Usually in the winter I only bother once or twice, and let my hair grow naturally. As you can see from the before picture, it grows thick and straight, which helps it look reasonably presentable between cuts. Joyce has to help because I can't see the back of my head in the mirror, that's why it's WE who give me the haircut.

Before today I don't think I had a haircut in four months. Yeah, probably January or so. But now it's time for the summer "rock". My hair will pretty much be this short until November.

I was kind of hoping I'd be able to deal with long hair again. I had a pony tail about six years ago, but then I got worried it would get ripped out by the winch on my sailboat so I got rid of it. Recently though, I was thinking I'd like to get a weird Hollywood hair style, maybe like a young David Lynch, or a less demented-looking Tim Burton.

But then I suddenly remembered that I'm not nearly as talented as either of them and realized that I'm being silly even considering it. So I fired up the clippers and left about 1/3" of hair covering my scalp.

Now at least I don't have to worry about combing it.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Ted, Just Admit It *

I'm a bit more lucid than I was last night, so maybe I'll make more sense tonight. But don't get your hopes up.

First, I moved the hit counter from the top of the page to below all the stuff in the right hand column. I thought it was a bit distracting right up there, not to mention depressing to me every time I visit this blog and see it only incremented a couple of digits since the last time I was here.

If it doesn't start picking up soon, I'm going to get rid of it. I don't need it reminding me how dull and uninteresting I must be to people.

I have friends for that.

Okay, I'm just kidding...I have no friends.

Enough with the stupid jokes already. Sheesh, even I'M getting annoyed at myself. Maybe I'm in this weird mood because A&E is showing non-stop biographies of serial killers tonight, and after three hours of this nonsense I'm beginning to lose my will to live. I've got to get in the habit of shutting off the TV when I'm trying to get work done on the computer.

By the way, that Ted Bundy was quite the naughty young lad.


Back to serious business (yeah, RIGHT)

Our actors have the scripts to read over the weekend. I think. Let me put it this way; they have my script. One actor didn't get Ant's yet, and he is now incommunicado. Actually, he's in Pennsylvania, which is basically the same thing. We'll hear from him on Monday.

We were supposed to have a script meeting tonight, to go over our final drafts and finalize the shot lists. Plus we wanted to work on some production stuff, like the fog chiller and costuming. But Ant had to cancel, so maybe we'll meet this weekend. Monday is the only rehearsal we got, so we need to get our shit together ASAP. Probably on Sunday.

Also, today I worked the camera for "Niki@Noon" at the studio, and spoke with the technical director about how to mix two lavalier mics into a single input for audio recording. There's a little mixer that fits right on the camera, but it requires you to monitor the sound with headphones. That's one more detail that will need to be worked out this week. Maybe Monday we'll do a quick test shoot with the audio setup we're gonna use and see how it sounds.

The shoot's a week from tomorrow!

(* from "Nothing's Shocking" by Jane's Addiction)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Project Monocle

It's quite strange watching Project Green Light. Those people are going through the same stages that we're currently experiencing. Watching bizarre director John Gulager deal with things like going over schedule is kind of freaking me out, because my biggest concern about this shoot is that we only have a limited time we can use the set, and we don't have the luxury of taking a lot of time for setups and transitions. I'm trying not to sound like a nervous nelly each time we discuss the shoot, but I don't think it's completely sunk in yet.

And yes, I did say "nervous nelly".

So what are ya gonna do about it, huh? Punk? Do you feel lucky?

That was my Clint Eastwood impression. I'll be appearing here all week. Thank you. Thank you very much.

I'm still trying to figure out who has the bigger case of "Psycho Eyes"...producer Chris "Serial Killer Eyes" Moore, or that high-strung Line Producer with the huge "Barney Google" peeps? What the hell are they putting in their coffee over at that studio, anyway? "I'll have a mochaccino with extra methamphetamine, please!" There's some serious pupil dialation goin' on. Weird.

Anyway, I'm trying to learn what I can from this show before our shoot. I don't think I'll be as indecisive and moody as Gulager; I'm going for the screaming and berating-type director; maybe like Michael Curtiz, of "Bring on the empty horses!" fame. (and read David Niven's book by that name for a quaint look at "Old Hollywood") All I need is a pair of riding britches and a crop.

Hmm...I wonder how I'll look with a monocle. Whatever happened to monocles, anyway? Did we suddenly develop stereo eye problems in the last 60 years, compared to the olden days when apparently only one eye went bad at a time?

I think television is to blame for it, but that's just a theory I'm working on. I'll keep you posted on my research.

Jeez, is that a stupid looking picture, or what? What a goofy looking bastard. You think he could have shaved for his big "monocle photo"? I guess not. Obviously I'm very tired because I'm babbling about monocles and psychotic eyes. I guess it's time for me to get some "shut-eye".

Ha Ha Ha...get it? Shut-EYE? LOL! ROFL! WTF!!!! OMG!!!!!11!!1!1!ONE

...oh, I just kill me sometimes...


Project Dunkin' Donuts

I've been watching Project Green Light on Bravo for the last month or so, and much like wayward director John Gulager, we're also just about ready to shoot our movie.

So, last night we had another production meeting. Anthony, myself, and Paulina (the actress/screenwriter who wants to run a camera for us during the shoot) got to the studio promptly at 6:30, and found that they were shutting down for the night.

Normally every night they have some people taping a show or editing in one of the suites so there's staff there and we can just use the green room, but last night they didn't have anybody scheduled. When that happens, the staff goes home. The only person there was the training supervisor, and she was waiting for us to show up to loan us a camera (which we intended to use that night to do some test shooting); when we got there we had to leave within five minutes.

We learned then that we could reserve the "green room" for auditions and rehearsals. But of course, we didn't know that. We may have heard that before but forgot it.

Because, you know, we're idiots.

So now I'm in a really great mood.

We shuffled distractedly over to the nearby downtown Bridgeport "Dunkin Donuts". Over coffee we discussed issues like production audio, camera techniques, and why we're so stupid that we didn't reserve studio time like we should have!

We also scheduled a rehearsal for early next week, and our final rewrites are just about done.

Ya gotta love Bridgeport...the bums don't just panhandle on the street, they come right into Dunkin Donuts, beg for money, and then bitch about how much you give them.

I'm sorry, did I say "bums"? That's not politically correct.

I meant to say "economically disadvantaged annoying assholes". That's much more P.C.

Yep, they call me Mr. Compassion.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Thank you New England Film.Com

As I mentioned in the previous post, we finished casting our movie late last week. It was a real learning experience. Our casting sessions went a lot smoother than "Project Green Light's", so that's something. Of course, I wouldn't have taken half the crap that spineless director puts up with in "PGL"! C'mon Gulager, assert your AUTHORI-TAY! YAH! (cracks whip!)

Anyway, a lot of talented actors sent us headshots/resumes. It was tough to narrow it down to a reasonable amount for auditions, but we managed, and the actors who showed up did a great job. It was fun and interesting and exciting, and we thank all the actors who auditioned for the guys are awesome!

The schedule is to have production meetings next week; send pages to the actors; and coordinate witht the studio for our shoot. After Monday's meeting we'll have a better idea of the final two weeks of pre-production.

Props to New England Film dot Com; I placed a classified ad there on a whim, and was pleasantly surprised by the volume of responses. I didn't realize how many Connecticut-area actors read the ads there. Thanks to, we cast our movie.

Friday, April 08, 2005


We finished casting our project today! YAY! We have two very talented actors for the primary roles, and we also have an actress who will do a funny cameo appearance, so we're psyched! More on casting later...

I also did some shopping. I picked up the costume, which we'll probably modify to enhance the effect we're looking for. Then I went to Home Depot and bought some stuff to make a "fog chiller".

Basically, a fog chiller is some kind of long box filled with ice with a pathway for the steam to shoot through, cooling along the way. As long as what comes out of the box is cooler than the ambient air temperature, you'll get that cool ground fog.

A fog chiller is what you need to make "fog" creep along the ground like in those scary movies. A normal fog maching (Wal-mart, $20 around October) makes fog by heating up a special mixture of water and toxic chemicals. Okay, I'm not entirely sure about the toxic part, but let's just assume for the sake of argument that it will kill you if you inhale enough of it. You know, just like air.

Anyway, because the fog produced is basically steam, it tends to rise. That gives you a room filled with hazy fog that's really bad for photography, unless you're shooting the final scene in "Casablanca". We want that really scary ground-creeping fog that's pretty much mandatory for horror films, so I needed to make a "fog chiller".

Eventually the fog slowly rises as it warms up to air temperature, so you really need to be ready to shoot as soon as the fog is applied. If you want a second take, you need to completely air out the room or you'll have a hazy fog everywhere that will ruin the effect.

It works fine, and we'll use it, but we're going to make sure that the "fog" scenes are the last ones we shoot so we won't have to air out the set to continue.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Full Tilt

This has been a busy week. We finished the auditions, and we're in the process of casting our movies. We're also ass deep in pre-production stuff. Like today, in addition to finishing my kitchen remodeling job, I worked on yet another rewrite (we're expanding one of the roles to take advantage of an actor's abilities); I went to a costume shop to make a purchase, only to find that I forgot my wallet; I spoke with Anthony about 3 or 4 times; and I browsed a store for parts to make a really cool camera dolly.

I'm totally in full tilt mode now.

By the way, "Full Tilt" is also the name of my sailboat. It's a thirty footer, a J/30, which we race and cruise here on Long Island Sound. The freezing weather has finally left us, so now I'm going to start getting the boat ready for launch, probably sometime in mid-May.

I named it Full Tilt because I wanted a name that sounds fast even when we're standing still. Full Tilt is the kind of name that denotes rapid movement.

So, full tilt is very much an apt phrase to express much of what is going on presently. It's what my life is doing right now. Making movies is a lot of fun...then again, so is sailing.

Maybe I'll make a movie about sailing next...

...but not like "Wind" (1992); that movie SUCKED!

Sunday, April 03, 2005


As we get nearer to our production date, I've been working on storyboards. In a previous post I showed a photo of me getting dizzy from glue fumes while cutting and pasting the storyboard photos. Here's more info on how I'm doing it.

First, I simply started shooting storyboard photos with my digital camera, using actor stand-ins. I shot each picture from where I want to place the video camera, so the scene is more or less blocked the way I want it.

What I do next is print out contact sheets of the photos on my color printer. The contact sheet holds about 12 photos (each about 1-1/2" by 2") and then I cut them out. I printed out my script with about 8 blank lines between each camera shot, and then I glued each appropriate photo to the script. The extra blank line space is perfect for additional notes.

That's my storyboard.

It's very simple, and looks great to the actors and crew, which makes the whole thing work better. They'll understand EXACTLY what we want before we even get to the set. It'll save a lot of redundant direction to the cast and crew.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

More casting; and Fark

We're just about done with casting. We had a great audition last night, and one more scheduled for Tuesday, and then Wednesday we'll make the final decision and notify the actors. Then we'll schedule the shoot.

Yesterday was April Fool's Day...I escaped the usual hijinks except for when I logged onto for my daily fix of nonsense and silly photos. Their main page looked like it had been hacked, and foolishly I clicked on things until their regular page showed up. Okay, fine, they got me, I thought...ha-ha.

So then, for reasons I can't fully explain, I felt compelled to click on a link for photos of Jaclyn Smith topless. Yeah, the "Charlie's Angels" Jaclyn Smith. I remember watching that show as a young teen and waiting for the scene where the girls would all be running and "jiggling".

Well, of course, each photo I clicked on displayed pictures of goofy looking guys, tuna melt sandwiches with a giant pickle, and ghastly women. At that point I couldn't stop clicking on the pictures, to see what would pop up next. People like Gary Della'batte from the Howard Stern show; Roger Ebert; Vanilla Ice; etc. You get the idea.

So, they got me again.

I figured the best thing to do would be for me to call it a day and wait until today to log back on the 'net. At that point, I turned off the computer and went to bed.