Monday, May 30, 2005

Take a look at my sailing blog

Since the weather's finally gotten nice here in New England, I noticed that my interest in boating has been slowly infiltrating my filmmaking blog. So, in the interest of keeping my life as organized as possible, I've started a separate sailing blog. It's called the Full Tilt Sailing Team. Because my boat is called "Full Tilt". It's a name that I chose to convey both the boat's speed and my attitude regarding life.

The skipper with his Hoyo de Monterrey cigar

Basically, it's got minimal editorial content, but lots of pictures. Because, you know, people don't really give a crap about what I have to say. And I can't blame them in the least. Not one bit.

Yesterday I created a new acronym for the Internet; feel free to use it in online chat situations. WGAS. Meaning, "Who Gives A Shit"? Watch for WGAS to take the 'net by storm. Get ready to be amazed.

I know...BFD.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Recent blog changes

In response to overwhelming complaints from the readers of this blog (well, my wife suggested this), I've made some changes here to make things easier.

The biggest improvement is the change that limits the maximum amount of posts visible to ten, instead of the 30 or 40 it previously showed. That'll help the blog load a lot faster, especially for those of you who have dial-up (Joyce), or slow-ish DSL (like me).

I'm also going to be tweaking the blog's template to make it more funnier; see if you can find the changes scattered about. Whenever I don't have something new to post for a while I'll do something goofy with the template. And I'm going to be updating my photo soon...I'm getting sorely tired of the old picture; I can only imagine how awful it is for you.

"Vote for Pedro"

What can I say? This is a fun movie. Of course, I'm talking about "Napoleon Dynamite", the little indie feature that was last year's sleeper hit.

"Pedro and Napoleon"

Made on a minimum budget, the movie caused a bidding war at Sundance last year, with Fox Searchlight paying three million dollars for it. Not bad for a flick that cost less than a half million to make. Of course, it went on to do over $40 million domestically, and was equally profitable on DVD.

The characters were oddly engaging, and the tone of the movie was unique. Anybody who doesn't go out and rent this movie right now is a "FREAKIN' IDIOT"! And be sure to watch the extra five minutes of footage that's shown after the credits finish; it's a cute epilogue to the film.

Triva: Jon Heder was paid $1,000 to play Napoleon Dynamite. Shot in 22 days. The movie was edited in producer Jeremy Coon's apartment using a $6,000 Macintosh with Final Cut Pro.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The final shoot day (with pictures, of course)

I'm only slightly LESS exhausted today, but here's something about the shoot, along with a few choice photos.

Ant brought us a surprise; a DVD with a rough cut of the first day's shoot. He's been working in secret editing on his home computer, and had a great little 2 minutes of assembled footage to show us. It looked really good, and our actors got a kick out of it. Good job, buddy!

The pressure was intense to finish in the time we had. We needed to get about 25 shots in two hours; I mean, even when Ed Wood was shooting "Plan 9", he had an easier schedule than that! We needed to work fast; and gosh darn it, we DID.

Typically, when one of us was operating the camera and directing (yes, we're embarassingly low-budget filmmakers), the other would scan the script and try to prepare for the next shot. Hence this highly stylized yet dramatic photo of myself, gripped with tension while planning our next move (yeah, right!)

Antony (for some reason I've started spelling Ant's name the way Paulina does) did a great job keeping things moving; I heard him say "That's great, but let's try one more take" only about 15 times last night, compared to his usual 30 or 40. My teeth feel good today, as I didn't need to grind them incessantly. Antony's unique and innovative style is demonstrated below. Ant directs Michael, who looks slightly befuddled as Ant says "Lean back against that wall, and then back up some more!" (Don't deny it Ant; we all heard you!)

James leapt into his character with enthusiasm and energy; his improvising had us struggling to keep from laughing out loud and ruining the take. Under brutal conditions he consistantly delivered. Some of the stuff he did was just TOO funny. It's really cool to call "cut" and look over at everyone else cracking up at what's been going on in front of the camera!

Something interesting happened once we started shooting...we got into a sort of frenetic rythym, where we began working as a team; knocking out shot after shot, getting our blocking done fast, everybody pitching in to position lights, props, etc. It was fun and energizing in a way I hadn't expected. By the time we had to pack it in, we'd gotten all the necessary shots done, and done well.

Ant and I want to thank James and Michael for all their hard work, patience, and talent; and it's been a blast working with them both. We're looking forward to finishing this project, and getting underway on our next one soon.

Thanks guys; and thanks Chad, Chad, and Paulina for your help also. And thanks Sound View studios for the use of your facilities and cameras (even if we DID bitch you out some behind your backs). And I'd like to thank all the members of the Acadamy and the Hollywood foreign press, my agent Mike Ovitz, all the little people who made this moment possible, and especially craft services for all the wonderful catering.

"You like me, you REALLY like me!"

Monday, May 23, 2005

It's (mostly) a wrap!

Tonight we had a very productive several-hour shoot. I'm completely exhausted after working a full day, then rushing down to the studio in time to set up for the shoot. It went great today, and we finished principal photography. Now all we've got is one short scene on location with Michael, and we're wrapped.

We may decide during the editing process that we need to reshoot some stuff, but for now, it feels AWESOME that we're "done", and can now get going with post.


Now I'm going to sleep.

More tomorrow, with maybe pictures. More details at least.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Last night at the studio

Ant and I transferred our mini-DV footage from the last shoot to DVD and VHS for preliminary editing. Like last time, I'll take the VHS tape home and make notes on which takes are best, and what the time codes are for each. That way, when we transfer the digital data to the editing station, we'll be able to go right to the proper take and save time.

I can't remember if I posted any pictures of the production studio, so while I was waiting for Antony to show up I snapped a quick self portrait of me and the cameras. I've used the green screen for a test shoot to digitally insert a video backdrop, with the Panasonic GS-70 3-CCD camera, my notebook computer, and Pinnacle software. It works reasonably well, as long as the lighting is set up carefully.

We're set for Monday's shoot. I'll have new pictures to post afterwards, and hopefully we'll be officially in post next week.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Surviving the Shoot

We have another shoot date. Hopefully we'll wrap this mutha' up! One week from today, May 23rd.

I'm going to try to get to the studio a little early, since James said he's available all day. If I can get everything set up and get some shots done that only feature James, we'll be ahead of schedule when Ant and Michael get there.

"Survivor" finished up last night; did you see it?...the NYFD guy Tom outwitted, outlasted, and out-SCHMARTED his fellow players for the million bucks. I hope he's aware that the IRS is keeping tabs on these shows, and the days of getting a million dollars and NOT paying any taxes are long gone. That is, if they ever WERE here in the first place. Which I doubt. Or if they were here, I missed them. Because I've been paying taxes regularly, just like all the rest of you shnooks.

Did I mention that our own Michael was a finalist for this season's "Survivor"? He made it all the way down to the final cut before being passed over in favor of some dull, boring, whiney people. That's their loss, 'cause Michael's a bright, funny, entertaining guy. He'd make a great "Survivor"...that is, if he SURVIVES THIS SHOOT!

Which he might not, if I keep letting Anthony slam him around like he's been doing. No more stunts or pratfalls until we've got all the other shots done, OK pal? Then go right ahead and get brain damage for all I care!

Hey, now THERE'S a concept..."Special Survivor"! We'll follow the antics of a group of handi-capable young 'tards as they're cast loose in the wilds, only to perish as they fail to properly feed and care for themselves. Coming this fall on CBS.

Oh boy, give me one ticket please, First HELL!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

One more week (and boat pics)

We have a scheduling conflict with one of our actors, so we're not going to get the next shoot day in until the 23rd. So this is a down week, where we'll be able to review the footage from our most recent shoot, and get started on some editing.

In the meantime, I launched my sailboat for the season just two days ago. We went out sailing the last two nights after work in light winds, and earlier this evening we took part in our first club race of the season.

Full Tilt

The wind was honking tonight! At times it topped 25-30 knots, which is fairly heavy for club racing. We were boarderline overpowered, which on a sailboat means you're heeling at about 35-45 degrees, and it's all you can do to hang on and control the boat...which isn't that easy, because the rudder tends to lift out of the water at that angle. Then, while rounding the first bouy, we got tangled up with two other boats, which led to a collision between us and a 27-footer, which hit us solidly amidships.

Imagine it coming straight at you

Luckily, nobody was hurt in the crash, and other than our toe-rail getting demolished and a grapefruit-sized chunk of fiberglass being crushed, we came through it remarkably well. After I bandaged the gaping wound in my hand (from the tiller getting wrenched away at the moment of impact), we resumed racing and ended up having a pretty good race.

My dinged digits and busted boat

Afterwards, over cold beers and potato skins, we discussed the incident with the other boat's skipper and crew. They (of course) suffered no damage whatsoever, having smashed us with their steel bow plate. However, they did admit to a reasonable amount of responsibility over the collision, and pretty much that's what I wanted to hear. At least nobody was killed...and we did beat them, which prevented them from adding literal insult to injury.

So, right now trying to type is a bitch with two fingers on my left hand bandaged up, but I'm glad we sailed tonight. We had a blast, and in spite of the damage and aches and pains, it was fun.

And in some ways, my sailing experience is similar to my filmmaking adventure; yeah, it might be a giant pain at times, but all in all, I'm sure it'll be worth it once we're done.

Monday, May 09, 2005

We hit 1,000!


Of course, out of that 1,000 hits, if I could break it down, it'd look something like this:

Me (posting, and then seeing how it looks; compulsively): 319 hits
Cast and crew of current movie project (to see if I'm saying anything worth complaining to me about): 134 hits
Anthony (checking up on me, and collecting evidence for a future libel suit) 94 hits
Joyce (my wife, ditto on the checking up thing): 88 hits
Cherry Moon (fun blogger, and a really nice person who posts really nice things here): 48 hits
Jane Hamsher (author, extremely literate blogger, and Hollywood insider who's very encouraging about my filmmaking exploits): 33 hits
Misc. visitors who don't post, or single timers (c'mon people, even if I'm a frickin' loser, say so in the comments sections so I know people are at least slightly interested in my semi-incoherent ravings): 283 hits
Guy who called me a loser in the comments section: 1 hit

So, thanks folks! I'm gonna keep posting my nonsense, and I hope you keep reading it...hell, even if I'm not getting a million hits a week, I'm having fun. Hope you are, too!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Project Bug Light

It's a wrap! I'm talking about Project Green Light's movie "Feast", of course. Our movie is still in production. But I watched the latest episode of PGL the other night, and had some observations about it. Chris Moore specifically.

God, what a crybaby! He's more worried about being left out of a lousy screening of a rough cut of the movie than the success of the movie itself! He's as nutty as that runaway bride gal, Jennifer Wilbanks.

Chris "Psycho Eyes" Moore and Jen "Perpetually Surprised" Wilbanks

It looks like Director John Gulager managed to pull it off, at least as well as can be expected under extreme conditions. Everything was rushed, underfunded, and over-managed to an amazing degree, and yet it looks as if they may have filmed what can become a decent horror genre movie.

Yeah, a lot depends on the editing process. And the recent Disney-Miramax divorce might affect the film's eventual distribution. But if the movie IS released, I'll be willing to go see it. Especially to see the results of this weekly reality series that I've been following for way too many weeks.

So, after watching this week's episode (next Thursday is the season finale), I was still mesmerized by Chris "I Took Way Too Much Acid In College" Moore's eyes, and I started thinking...

I thought, wouldn't it be funny if Chris Moore and Jennifer "Extremely Bug-eyed Insane Runaway Bride" Wilbanks married and had a child? I wondered what their offspring might look like.

Well, if you know me, you know I'll have a suggestion. Take a good look at the cute lil' picture below, and tell me I'm right.

"Chris Wilbanks, Jr."

Thursday, May 05, 2005

This is one of my favorite websites for independent filmmakers.

Click on

This is a text-based information exchange for people who make movies, and people who love movies. I became a member (no charge) about two years ago, and since then I've learned quite a bit about the art and science of filmmaking. Well, maybe just enough to take the plunge and make my own movie.

If you're new to the idea of making movies, join the website and read the informative, humorous, and spot-on posts about all aspects of modern independent cinema. And if you're already a film/videomaker, join and network with all the great movie folks there.

I'm going to spend the 24 bucks and become a sponsor member; I feel that I owe them at least that for all the info I've gleaned from their wonderful website.

Check it out.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Production Van for Sale

"Production Van 2000"

1994 Chevrolet G20 Van - 180K miles, V-8 engine, ladder rack, bashed-in rear door (works fine), body rot along underside of cargo doors, needs front brakes, couple of tires; otherwise reasonably good condition. Runs like a top (well, a top with body rot and 180K miles).

This historic van was used for production of "Death Knocks"; a certificate of authenticity available upon request. A true sacrifice at $995 (or best offer). Willing to trade for a decent pair of wireless lavalier mics, a good shotgun mic, and a mic mixer. Don't miss out on your chance to own a bit of independent movie history! Email for details. Bound to sell fast! Trust me, would I lie to you?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Present and Future(DV)

I slept like the proverbial log last night...hell, like a literal log for that matter; I've got the splinters to prove it!

The splinters actually came from all the wood I piled on the curb this morning for the bi-monthly "dump pickup" we have here in Milford. Every eight weeks during the warm months our neighborhood is littered with junk heaped in front of each house for a few days before each pickup. Joyce suffers from "Junk Envy"; if a neighbor has a bigger pile than us, she feels like we aren't doing our job and throwing out enough stuff. So this morning, energized from a solid night's sleep, I got motivated and cleaned out a pile of junk lumber that's been sitting beside our shed for several years. When she gets home from work tonight she's sure to be impressed.

(I know Joyce reads this blog, so I just want to say, "Ha-ha honey! Luv ya!")

The Present

I spoke to Ant this morning...he suddenly remembered that he gave Michael a $20 bill for a prop and forgot to retrieve it when we wrapped for the night. Now THAT'S funny!

We talked about the shoot and what we need to do to finish. We'll review the footage later this week and assemble a list of shots we still need to get. Since we're not going to shoot for a couple of weeks, continuity issues are coming into play. Michael's scheduled for a haircut before then, but he's not going to do anything bizarre (I BUZZCUT!) I'm sure it won't be a problem.

I enjoy directing and intend to continue doing so, but if I lived in Hollywood and worked in the movie business, I think I'd end up being a Line Producer. I'm hyper-aware of the logistics and scheduling, I like the challenge of getting things done, and I'm imposing enough to cajole, threaten, or physically beat our crew and actors into submission as needed to stay on time. Not that I'd need to do that on THIS movie, but it's always good to keep your options open (hint, hint).

The Future?

For the next shoot we've got to arrange more time at the studio somehow. I'm going to have to talk to the staff and see if we can get someone to be on our side and agree to keep it open beyond their normal cutoff time...I'd like to be able to wrap studio shooting this next time. We'll see...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Day Two of the Big Shoot

Just got back from tonight's shoot. I'm somewhat played, but have enough energy for a quick post.

The shoot went great. We added a bunch of shots in the roughly two hours of time we were given. Load-in and setup took about an hour, which Anthony and I did because neither of our Chads could make it (last minute). Then the actors arrived, and after some costume modifications we got our first shot in by a few minutes after 6PM.

Did you ever get the feeling Death was hovering nearby?

We had to be out of there by 8:30, so we set up a cutoff time of 8:10 for our last shot. We worked like maniacs for the two hours, and I'll have to consult my shot list to be sure, but I'd guess we got at least 20 shots in. We literally grabbed shots one after the other; because all the action was taking place in one room, we didn't have to move too much equipment or lighting between shots. Our actors did a terrific job of going from scene to scene effortlessly while under extreme pressure. Kudos to the both of you.

Get used to seeing that costume pictured above...we're on such a low budget, it's probably going to be featured in our next five movies.

We agreed to another day of shooting, probably in about two weeks. More details's time to crash for the night.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Anthony Tarantino

Every time I see Ant act, I'm impressed. He's amazing...look at him putting himself into his own movie! I'd start calling him "Quentin", but I think he's a better actor than Tarantino. Just look at him emote surprise and outrage -

"You CRAZY, mang!"

We're all set for tomorrow. Everyone will be there for the shoot, with the exception of Paulina, who's got a gig in the Big Apple (75 minutes away by train) tomorrow. She doesn't have any scenes left, but she's a big help as crew and has an extra camera. However, we'll do fine with the two Chads and us as crew.

We're going to knock out most of the rest of the scenes and put together a rough cut sometime in the following week or so. Then we'll see where we are and what more needs to be done.

Oh, and I'm thinking about selling "Production Van 2000". I need to raise funds for a decent wireless mic setup, and maybe a shotgun mic.

I dunno, it seems like a reasonable idea to me.

Racking Focus

This is a great way to make sure your camera is properly focused. You need what's called a Sieman's Star (also called a "Five Degree Focus Pattern") which I downloaded from, which is a great website for filmmaking info and downloads. It's a bunch of alternating black and white wedges connected at a point in the center. Each wedge is five degrees wide, hence the name.

Chad holding the card

What you do is this: make sure your camera has a manual focus setting, put it on manual, then have a production assistant hold the card at the focus position (for example, where your actor's face will be). Zoom in on the card, rack the focus back and forth until the fuzzy area in the middle disappears or gets very small. Zoom back to frame your scene, and you're done. It works like magic!