Archive for May, 2012

Ep7 Shoot Days 1 & 2

Posted in Hypothesis the 7th on May 30, 2012 by PoPS blog

Making this into a production diary really helped me out come tax time this year. All I had to do was go through all the old posts to figure out exactly how much mileage I drove. So in the spirit of tax-accuracy, I shall strive to be as thorough this shooting period.

Day 1 was on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. We had a killer garage location thanks to a very generous guy my dad knows in the lawn mower and small engine repair business. I wanted to get the outdoor night stuff first, so we spent most of the night setting up lighting and getting through the first three pages to get our actors inside the building. The owner of the location, Greg, brought his son around and we pretended like he had to get all signed up to act in the show, a concept with which he was completely uncomfortable, much to Greg’s puckish delight. The new actors that came in were fantastic, we’re working with a new fight choreographer/stunt coordinator who is absolutely awesome, and everybody brought their A-game. We got there at 7, shot ‘til around 12:45, and made it home by 2. Not too shabby.

Day 2 was the next day. We got there at 5 p.m. and the cast started learning their fights. I had shotlisted the sequences, but they changed so much with the introduction of fight choreography that I pretty much tossed the lists and started rolling with the punches. We all buckled down and tried to make each beat of the fights look cool. I was hoping to be done by 12:30 and after an evening of throwing ourselves around everyone was pretty worn down by that time, but we were far from done. Over the two hours that followed, we pushed as hard as we could and wrapped the location by 2:30, the crew started loading the gear out while Eliza (actress/producer) cleaned up the fake blood and we headed out around 3 a.m. I was so dehydrated (the 1st A.D., Chris, mentioned that the only shoot night that had made him more dehydrated was ironically the night we shot at a water treatment plant) and sore, but we had gotten our pages and the footage looked badass, so after grabbing a Gatorade to return me to coherence, I had that post-battlefield glow of invincibility that follows hard production days where you’ve still made your goal.

The last few days have been spent getting ready for another tough weekend. A lot of pages for this Saturday and Sunday, a big location, lots of characters and props, and one actor with a schedule complication that means I have two days left to find a last minute replacement, but it feels like things are coming together. We’re talking to rental places trying to round out our props lists, we went to two second hand stores to drum up some wardrobe, and we’re getting in the last of the Mr. Dr. Electricon fan art from our audience to feature in the show.

Last night, Eliza and I drove out to check on a location for two weekends from now. It’s a little more cramped and cluttered than I remembered and a much different layout than Chris pictured when he wrote the sequence, but I think the atmosphere is very cool and will make the tight quarters worth it. These next two weekends look to be pretty hard, but I feel like we’ve got a pretty good handle on things right now.

Tonight I’m working through some dialogue with everybody’s favorite villain, Damon, and then joining an Alien/Aliens double feature already in progress in my living room as we get ready for the release of Prometheus.

Thanks for reading, y’all.


PoPS update 116-Ep7 Production Week 1

Posted in Hypothesis the 7th on May 28, 2012 by PoPS blog

Skype Auditions and Getting Ready to Shoot Again

Posted in Hypothesis the 7th on May 23, 2012 by PoPS blog

Seeing as how episode 7 production just snuck up on us while we were trying to finish post on episode 6, there was barely any time for auditions. Auditions just take time. You have to write a casting call, put it up, sort through all the submissions, reserve a space which costs money, notify actors of their times, rearrange the times sheet based on people’s availability (you have to work with people’s availability when you’re only offering to pay in copy, credit, and meals), travel to the audition space, go through all the auditions, drive back home, notify everyone who’s cast and send out the schedules and scripts. As I was looking down the barrel of all of this, I got to thinking, I can’t eliminate much from the process, but I can get rid of the space and the travel. Holding Skype auditions went so smoothly I couldn’t believe it. I interviewed people from the comfort of my home office and got an idea of their read on a character, ability to take direction, non-headshot appearance, and ability to make small talk like a person. It was awesome. There were only one or two technical problems (always unavoidable), and they were quickly solved with a hang-up/call-back or a visit to camera preferences. The only question remaining is a fairly obvious one…what about their ability to perform outside of a comfortable environment? Bringing that same performance to a room full of strangers and a rolling camera probably says a lot about an actors ability to perform under pressure, but I just didn’t have the time or money this time. We’re waiting to do our crowd-sourced fundraising campaign until episode 6 is finished and Eliza and I are funding episode 7 production out of our savings for the time being. Hopefully the audience will come through for us again or I guess we won’t be going to visit my sister this year.

We start shooting episode 7 on Saturday night. That’s like…right now. It’s always right on top of you before you know it. Every time my phone beeps with a text message or email alert my stomach rolls over as I wonder what problem has suddenly sprung up. I’ve been thinking about all the hats I wear on the show. I think I’m a solid writer and director; the characters are consistent and fun, the tone always comes through, and the shots are carefully considered to shape how the audience experiences the story and to eliminate confusion. I also think I’m a pretty decent editor; the pacing is good and I can consistently find an artful way to cut down a scene that’s dragging on if I’ve overwritten. As a VFX artist, I’m barely passable. You get the idea of what’s happening from my VFX, but it’s not going to look as slick as if anyone with a little talent for it is doing it. All of this has been leading up to what I should NOT be doing. I’m a terrible production manager. Nothing makes me a frustrated ball of moodiness like trying to align schedules or locate props and locations. God forbid anything goes wrong and I have to rearrange things. It’s like the world ends. My poor wife. Pre-pro is the worst-o.

On the plus side, the new Dark Shadows soundtrack by Danny Elfman is killer. Whatever I’m typing feels so dramatic and imperative whenever I listen to it. Good times. By this time next week we’ll have a couple shoot days under our collective belt.

Thanks for reading.


PoPS update 115-Skype Audition

Posted in Hypothesis the 7th on May 20, 2012 by PoPS blog

Favors Galore

Posted in Hypothesis the 6th, Hypothesis the 7th on May 16, 2012 by PoPS blog

I was reading all the other blog entries on the NexTV site this week (bunch of really great bloggers) and it made me nostalgic for my early days on the blog. I started out by doling out all the tricks in the no-budget trade I had picked up over the years. Concept to script writing to pre-production, production, and post, I laid out everything I thought I knew. Now I just talk about our weekly production progress, which is all well and good, but I want to be helpful too. So here’s a tip I thought of as we work on pre-production for episode 7. Get rid of that little nagging thing called pride that wants you to think you can do everything yourself and ask for help. If you’re trying to make a show that looks way bigger than it’s budget, you need help from everybody. Your friends have access to locations or know people who do. So do your parents. So do your parents’ friends. These people may also have a pivotal prop that you need or know where you can find it. Right before I make one of these phone calls or send one of these emails I take a deep breath and just dive in. I use phrases like, “It’s ABSOLUTELY no problem if it doesn’t work out…” or “I REALLY don’t want to inconvenience you…” because I really don’t want to put people out, but if you’re going to get what you want for free, it depends on people being willing to inconvenience themselves. Here’s the amazing thing though. People want to help. Against all odds, when the easiest thing to say is “no,” most people instead say “no problem.” I’ve theorized as to why this is—maybe they like seeing people try to pull something off, maybe they feel obligated to say yes, maybe they’re simply miracle-people—but I tend to hear “yes” way more often than I hear “no.” It doesn’t mean asking gets any easier, but our show looks way better thanks to a thousand little inconveniences people have borne as the cost of our creativity.

So just take a deep breath and ask for what you need. Just be straight with people, don’t tell them it’ll take less time than you think it will or try to sugarcoat production. Just tell them what’s going on and take ultimate care of whatever they’re lending you. And, of course, thank them profusely, ‘cause they just made you look good.

Thanks for reading.


PoPS video update 114-Timelapse & Pre-pro

Posted in Hypothesis the 6th on May 13, 2012 by PoPS blog

Do What You Can

Posted in Hypothesis the 6th on May 9, 2012 by PoPS blog

I’ve been coming to the realization that we’re not going to finish post on episode 6 before we start shooting episode 7. A couple factors have gone into this. Ever since the first episode we’ve done the episodes one at a time. I write the script, we shoot everything, we tackle all the elements of post, and I upload it. Only then do I start on the next script. With the last two episodes, we’ve added the fundraising in between writing and shooting, but one-at-a-time has always been the formula. When we decided to try episode 6 and 7 back-to-back I overloaded our shooting schedule past the point of impracticality into impossibility. Since then, we’ve been trying to get everything back on track. Episode 6 is shaping up beautifully and people who have seen effects-less work prints have all thought it’s wonderful, but I wrote way too many effects into it; very difficult effects that needed to be designed from the ground up and rendered in three dimensions. A ridiculous amount of hours have dropped into what will eventually be a very small amount of screen time. We had no idea how complicated these shots were going to be to execute. But it’s a good thing to know. We had to overreach at some point, and now we have a pretty good benchmark for what we can do without a full post house backing us up. So it just takes more time. Our projected upload date came and went. We’re supposed to be devoting ourselves to pre-production on episode 7 at this point. Instead, we’re prepping for episode 7 while still battling our way through post on 6. We start shooting in a little over two weeks. Pretty soon I’m going to have to just put episode 6 post to the side until we’re done shooting 7 at the end of June. That’s all we can do. Things have stayed hard this time, but I’ve had a surprisingly calm reaction to it. I used to go crazy over this stuff, but I can’t change it, so I’m just going to hold steady for as long as it takes. Right now, the desire to compromise and cut everything way down to hurry it along is very tempting, but I’m just going to hold on to my original vision and see how long everyone can hang in there. They’ve been champions so far and I know they can pull it off if they don’t let it wear them out. We’ll make it. We always do.

Hey, everybody thought Star Wars was a disaster when they were shooting it too. And now that I’ve compared us to one of the forefathers of the blockbuster, I think I can call it a day.

Thanks for reading, guys.


PoPS video update 113-Meeting the Mind Hype

Posted in Hypothesis the 6th on May 6, 2012 by PoPS blog

I’m Super Upbeat

Posted in Hypothesis the 6th on May 2, 2012 by PoPS blog

Writing these blog posts isn’t the same as doing the video updates. I know people are watching the updates; I have a counter tallying how many and commenters coming in with constant interaction. The blog, however, often feels more like an interior monologue, where I have a little time and space to myself to put into words the low-budg’ production thoughts that have been rolling around in my head for a week. It’s like a great pressure-venting system where I feel like I can be completely open and take some time to formulate my thoughts and cathartically eject them into the vastness of cyberspace instead of carrying them around. Sometimes it backfires though. My post from last week had comments coming in telling me not to let internet-people get me down and people I know in real life coming up to me with sympathetic eyes at the ready wanting to pat my poor little shoulder. (Very appreciated feedback, I might add.) That was not at all my intention. The very act of writing those things recalibrated my mood and made me feel better about the crazy amount of time this episode is taking to finish.

This week, the hits kept on coming. The good stuff: I finished the effects for the episode intro. Now, I’m working on the sound effects, followed by color correction, so one out of the four parts will finally be done soon…minus the music (more on that in a second). I’ve been getting shots back from one of our VFX volunteers, David, and stuff is looking great. I’m really happy to have him on board.

The bad stuff: I’m starting to lag. I heard it in Ryan’s (VFX coordinator, VFX artist, and DP) voice too. We were talking on the phone yesterday and his voice was thick with the signs of VFX hypnosis. Staring at a computer one tiny frame at a time and rifling through blending modes, layers, and rotoscoping mattes (and 3D workflow, for him) every day for hours starts to remove inflection and verve from the voice and the light of hope* from the eyes of any dedicated VFX artist toward the end of a long project. He also dropped a very telling phrase, which I’ve also found myself whispering while at work in the home office: “I’m just trying to take it one thing at a time.” That’s all we can do if we ever want to put this thing to bed. [These anecdotes aren’t meant to elicit sympathy. We could stop working so hard if it really bothered us. They’re just things that are really happening and I sometimes rely on exaggerated phrasing–*see “the light of hope” above–because I think it’s funny.] The biggest roadblock this week was a call from our music composer, Suede, with the news that his computer decided to destroy his Pro-tools files, including his episode 6 work. He’s going to try to recover what he can and redo what he can’t recover in the next week. God bless, I say. Ep6 has been plagued with difficulties since the beginning, it has to be the toughest yet. I think that means we’re on the verge of something amazing. See, guys? I’m an optimist.

One last thing. Avengers!!! Gah!!! You know when I bust out trip’-excla’s that shnact is gettin’ real. (Usually when I type a sentence that ridiculous, I delete it. Not this time, baby.) Joss Whedon is on fire. Below is an interview with him that almost gave me an anticipatory brain aneurism. Like I was talking about a couple weeks ago, here’s a dude who’s following up one of the hugest movies ever with a black and white Shakespeare adaptation he shot in his house with his pocket-actors over a couple of weeks. The internet has changed everything, probably for the better where creatives are concerned. Unless the impending financial apocalypse proves me wrong, in which case…I was kidding.

Thanks for reading, guys.