Archive for November, 2013

A Quick Thanksgiving Blog

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on November 27, 2013 by PoPS blog

Thanksgiving time! Time to think about what we’re thankful for. Even though I’m thankful for so many things—my wife would top that particular list—my internet presence is based primarily around video production, so I’ll keep this post limited to that.

I’m very thankful to be working on the eighth episode of a story of my own devising. I’m thankful to have a group of people around who are willing to expend so much time and energy helping me make it happen. That’s a very rare thing indeed. Anyone who started making movies with the family video camera as a kid can attest to that. You start out with a group of your friends coming over to be a part of it. Soon that group dwindles to a few. Soon, you’re lucky if one of your friends is willing to stick around when that camera comes out. Eventually, you find the other kids that were obsessed with their family’s camcorders. Telecom and film classes are good for that. Then, as long as you’re making something people are into, they’ll keep showing up. I can’t believe I’m still mostly working with the same group of folks we started with 4 years ago. I’m thankful for the massive cast of new characters we’ve now assembled. I’m ridiculously thankful that people help us fund the show. I can’t believe it. Making our episode 8 goal on Indiegogo was so exciting and I couldn’t believe it actually happened. For some reason, it was the most exciting one yet. I’m thankful that podcasters have taken keener interest in PoPS this year for reviews and interviews. I’m thankful that we’ve been accepted to more festivals this year and I’m incredibly grateful for all the awards, especially winning Best Series at GenCon. I’m thankful that Eliza is such an awesome producer and helps me keep as much of my sanity as possible while planning for and executing difficult shoot days. And I’m very grateful that we only have two and a half episodes of PoPS left to shoot. Finishing this show will be huge and feel like way more of a milestone than turning 30 did. Whatever the next project is, I’m very curious to see what the post-PoPS world is like.

We had another shoot day this week.

Day 14-Monday, November 25. Cast and crew were fully assembled about a half hour behind schedule by 8:30pm at an awesome discount arcade we love called Nickel City. My sister Emi, who does a lot of music for the show, finally got to attend a production night.ImageShe crossed through the back of every shot in different guises. Her finest performance though was as the girl in the background playing Dance Dance Revolution. Truly, her background dancing talents have been wasted thus far in her life. Wantonly so. While waiting for everyone to show up, I handed out nickels to the early arrivers so they could take advantage of our locations many games. We had about 15 minutes of playtime left after we finished shooting too. A group of us headed out to Steak and Shake to decompress with burgers, shakes, and coffee after a very stressless shoot night. It was awesome.

We’re in the eye of the storm right now as far as production is concerned. October was a madhouse and the beginning of November was hit and miss. Thanks to rain-outs and the pending holiday, we’ve now had two weeks in a row with only one shoot day per week. We’ve gotten like three pages in two weeks. Once December kicks off, we’ve got a few weeks of more regular shooting. Indoors too, where it can’t get rained-out. But I feel like I’m just drifting in a production purgatory right now. I feel like I should be trying to get more done, but I don’t regret not trying to pack too much in around the holidays. We did that during 6 and…nightmare.

I’m glad we started shooting this episode as soon as possible. It’s already snowed three times this month and it’s intolerably cold out even though it’s not even December. We’re paying for that mild winter we had while shooting episode 6.

I hope you’re all well. Thanks for reading.

–Jake

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PoPS video update 182-Life Backup

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on November 24, 2013 by PoPS blog

The Scene That Would Not Be Shot

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on November 21, 2013 by PoPS blog

The title of this post is in regards to our one remaining exterior shoot for episode 8. This sucker will NOT get shot. The first night it was scheduled for it started raining a couple hours before the shoot. We called it off. It was re-scheduled for last night. The forecast said a few showers on and off throughout the night, so I called everybody in. I assembled the crane, we got a light out, it was drizzling but manageable. As soon as everyone was present and accounted for, it started raining in earnest. We hung out for about 15 minutes to see if it was going to let up. It only rained harder. We called it off and headed to an Irish pub for some food, where we discussed the definition and obligation of art. No joke. We’re super intellectual over here. We also berated a new volunteer crew member for not having seen Gremlins. We’re supposed to try and shoot it tonight but the forecast shows rain for only the hours we’re planning on shooting. Yep. The Scene That Would Not Be Shot: a thrilling adventure in at least three reschedulings.

We did have a shoot day this last week though.

Day 13-Sunday, November 17. Cruised down to the city for a 10:30 a.m. call time. Shot a one page scene in an hour. Headed to another location for a 2/8 of a page scene. Shot it in 10 minutes. That wrapped our exteriors for the day. Headed indoors and the skies opened up. Deluge! No joke. Flash flooding and tornado warnings. We shot our interior scene while thunder rumbled underneath the dialogue and wrapped before 2:30 p.m. Boom. It felt like another grab bag day.

As for the last video update, it’s been wonderful to be bombarded by people’s insecurities as well as their vocal support for the show we make. Many express worry that they’re wasting their time with the thing they create. It feels like no one will ever see, read, hear, or experience it. It feels like they lose passion for a project halfway through and start something new, leaving a series of half-realized visions in their wake. It feels like they’re wasting their time on other things—a pointless job, procrastination—squandering the valuable time they could be using to work toward something they’re passionate about. Also, a few of my friends have expressed it in person. Is their creation of any value? Are they wasting their time? I guess it’s just one of the costs of creation. Never feeling totally fulfilled or satisfied with what you’ve created. I guess that’s why we move forward and make the next thing. To try and get a little closer to perfect. Learn from that. Then try and get even closer next time. It’s all we can do. The hardest step for a lot of folks is the finishing. You can’t actually see something for what it is until it’s finished and in the rearview mirror. As the creator of it, sometimes you can’t see it objectively for years. If ever. But you won’t know unless you see it through.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

PoPS video update 181-Heart to Heart

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on November 17, 2013 by PoPS blog

Ep8 Shoot Days 10, 11, & 12

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on November 15, 2013 by PoPS blog

On with the production recap!

Day 10-Sunday, November 10. This was a grab bag day. There’s one every shoot. There are a couple little scenes in each script that are in different locations than anything else and so we cram as many of them as possible into one shooting day. Our first location was a cul-de-sac neighborhood in the suburbs. It was a one page scene. Everyone had arrived by about 10:45 a.m. and were done shooting by noon. After a quick lunch at one of the more delicious taco places in our neck of the woods, we arrived at our next location at 1:30. It was a less-than-half-page scene and we were done by 2:15. Moving on, we got a daytime exterior shot of an arcade location we’re hoping to shoot a scene inside by the end of the month. It’s an awesome retro arcade and all the games take nickels. Some of them cost as much as 4 nickels, but, come on, that’s only 20 cents. Ryan, Eliza, and I hung out playing arcade games for about an hour while the sun went down and we got our last shot of the day. A night time establishing shot of a forest preserve sign. Grab bag day. Everything we shot will amount to about 30 seconds of screen time in the final episode. Maybe less. Because we’re on the wrong side of daylight savings time we got our night shot by 5:30 p.m. and were home making dinner before 6.

Day 11-Tuesday, November 12. Freezing. Absolutely freezing cold. We all arrived at around 7:30 p.m. I was afraid to check the temperature at all when we were shooting, but when we finished up at 11, our Producer Tim pulled out his iPhone and it reported 25 degrees. Fahrenheit. Not only that, 2 out of 3 of my lead actors were sick. Craig had an awful cold, stuffed up like crazy, blowing his nose every five seconds. Greta claimed to be fine, but she was coughing every minute Craig wasn’t blowing his nose. In fact, there was a moment when we were running lines inside, warming up for a minute, when they were both going at it pretty hard and Marshall, the third actor in the scene, had to break down laughing. As soon as it drops below 40 degrees, all exterior shooting takes on a certain amount of urgency. Even below 50 isn’t great, but it’s really under 40 that things start to feel a little dire. It was a really important scene filled with complicated dialogue, but we got it all in the end. Everybody scattered immediately following the shoot and Lize and I headed to get a midnight dinner at another delicious taco place. Noticing a theme here? One last thing to mention. The date was 11/12/13. Significance? Zero.

Day 12-Wednesday, November 13. The thermometer said it was warmer, but what does the thermometer know about windchill? Call was 7:30 p.m., we were all assembled by 8:30 p.m. Luckily, we didn’t have much dialogue to get because our footage sounds like it was shot in a hurricane. It makes for some lovely, dramatic wardrobe whipping, but I’m going to have to piece-meal the soundtrack out of our foley library. But that’s fine, ’cause it looks great. The performances were fantastic, we were just all freezing to death in between things. We were shooting in this alley all night, getting great looking footage while both actors were suffering from different ailments—I tell you, we got hit like a voodoo curse this week. But we’re still getting our pages shot. As we were about to get our last shot at about 11:50 p.m. a guy who lives next to the alley stuck his head out of the second floor and asked us if we were going to go all night because he had to work in the morning. I told him five more minutes and did my best to make it happen. Poor guy. I hate that we ruined his night, but don’t regret getting our sequence. Inner conflict. Good for novels and blogs, bad for the visual mediums. We were packing up by 12 and back home and in bed by 1:30.

Those two nights kicked my ass. Shooting is tiring, but shooting outside in the cold is exhausting. I was so tired on Thursday that after work I fell asleep on the couch watching April Fool’s Day before Eliza made it home. Still tired Friday morning. We’re getting our pages though. Episode 8 is well under way.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

PoPS video update 180-Mask Repair

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on November 10, 2013 by PoPS blog

Rain Days

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on November 7, 2013 by PoPS blog

You’d think with our production located solidly in the Midwest for the last 4 and a half years, we’d have backup shoot days for bad weather contingencies. Nope. However, we have shot in drizzle, slightly more than drizzle/less than rain, drizzle hail, falling snow, and standing snow that went up past our ankles. All of that has lead to a pretty serious cancellation policy. If something is falling from the sky, I cancel the shoot. Granted it doesn’t feel good to have to reschedule, and I feel like I’m falling behind, but it also makes us all feel much less insane. We did have two nights of shooting with temperatures in the 30’s so far for episode 8, but at least they were dry.

We had two shoot nights scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday nights this week. Rained out. Actually, that wasn’t the beginning of this week’s issues. The shooting of this scene has been particularly plagued.

Since it’s a fight scene with weapons and I wanted to shoot it in a public alleyway, I thought we should be above board with the authorities so that they didn’t show up and shoot my actors. So I contacted the police station. That’ll teach me. I wanted to shoot two nights from 7 to 11:30 p.m. in an alley that isn’t normally trafficked or near anyone’s residence. We had power all ready from a local business, and would use our normal set-up of clip lamps and work lights; not a big production. They wanted us to get production insurance. Fair enough, but it was going to cost us something like two grand. That’s like 7 percent of our budget. Then she told me that they’d be less likely to approve us because the city prefers productions shoot between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. I asked what that meant for night scenes and people with day jobs. She did not have an answer for me. I asked who would actually make the call on our production at the end of the day. She said the Chief of Police and the City Manager. I asked if I should speak with them and explain my situation. She said that wasn’t how it’s done and I should just submit my application. I suggested that might be a waste of my non-refundable $50 application fee when she’d already told me my odds weren’t good. She did not have an answer for me. I suppose that’s how these things are done.

So, I started looking for private property on which to film the scene. Businesses with parking lots where all we need are owner permission. After looking at a couple and talking to a few different business owners we have a cool location ready for us to shoot there. It’s a lot different than I envisioned, but it looks different than any other place we’ve ever been in the show, so that’s cool. Plus, it’s isolated. There should be no problems with our actors waving their weapons around. Big plus.

Then one of our actors had a sudden schedule conflict pop up. So I only had them for the first of two nights. Okay. So I start to restructure the shooting order so that we can get everything with them on the first night. Then, on the day of the shoot, I got a text from our amazing stunt coordinator John. He’d lined up three stuntman-actors for us to battle with. One of them suddenly dropped out and another said he would be late. John quickly found a replacement and everything was a go for launch again.

Then the nail in the coffin. It had been threatening rain all day. I kept checking the weather online and the p.m. rain showers would just not go away. Finally, at 4 p.m., it started. I stood outside in it for a second to gauge the misery factor. It wasn’t good. I sent out the email calling it off.

After I called it off, I found out my lead actor was sick anyway and a night out in the damp cold would have been a really bad idea for him. He was going to do it anyway, because he’s a total badass, but he was happy to stay inside and take it easy for a night. I was too. We watched Despicable Me and had Eliza’s first chili of the season. It was fantastic. Much better than a night out in the rain, shooting a scene that would take half as long in clear conditions.

Some scenes are just tough to line up. I don’t think having a bigger budget makes it any easier either. Sure, you can afford production insurance, but the city’s still going to be a sack of bureaucrats and the sky is still going to spit on your schedule. Actors might drop out less if they got paid more, and I probably wouldn’t have to worry about finding a big ladder for a night and then a car big enough to transport that ladder, but it’s all just scale. As part of my day job, I sometimes interview movie directors. When I interviewed Edward Zwick (Glory, Legends of the Fall, The Last Samurai), I asked him what his favorite part of production was. He told me it all pretty much felt like putting out a series of fires. There you have it. It’s never going to be easy. Our volunteer fire department probably has much more manageable burns to deal with, but as long as you sign up for this, there’s going to be fires to put out.

Man, Backdraft is a great flick, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading, guys.

–Jake