Archive for January, 2015

Old Media is Starting to Sound Kind of Old

Posted in Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 by PoPS blog

I’ve been posting regularly on this blog for over 4 years now, and in my first entry I talked about how people were starting to realize that YouTube had more than cat videos. Now, this week, I’m surprised to see that the US White House understands that more than George Lucas and the news media at large.

This last week, three YouTubers had the chance to sit down and interview President Obama. They asked questions of their own devising, and questions that had come from their YouTube audiences. It was a solid, respectful conversation and Obama got a chance to address many more millennials than I’m guessing he has in years. The reaction of the news media at large was to attack the process, calling the interviews weird, and attempting to marginalize the people asking the questions. Hank Green, the YouTuber I most follow of the three, wrote a piece about it which is really excellent and which I’m linking here:

https://medium.com/@hankgreen/holy-shit-i-interviewed-the-president-fa3e8fb44d16

Moving onto George Lucas. Now, I can’t find any audio or video of the actual quote, but I’ve cross referenced a few of the online trades and when George Lucas and Robert Redford sat for a chat in front of a Sundance audience, he supposedly said something to the effect of—I never thought people would sit and watch cats do stupid things all day. Maybe he was making a joke. Lord knows I’ve dropped the odd cat video reference myself on the occasional podcast. It’s shorthand for the absurdity and specificity of internet interests. But it can be interpreted as patronizing the new format. Kinda like—Nothing of quality can come from that cat video box. That’s the way the internet has been interpreting it at least. And it just makes him sound so out of touch. I mean, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are partnering up with popular YouTube creators to make original web content. Admittedly, they’re launching that content on Vimeo, so I guess they don’t want anyone to see it, but it shows that recognized Hollywood heavyweights are aware of what’s happening on the web. And the Obama administration can see it too.

All of this just makes Lucas and the big news conglomerates seem wobbly. Hank Green’s article said it all. It’s just sad to see people threatened by conversation and a format they can’t easily buy and squash. I’m not saying people like me are a part of this conversation. I’m just saying it’s happening, and the old guard are trying to wish it away by attempting to marginalize it and calling it ‘weird.” They’re like the popular crowd who left high school convinced of their legacy. Then they’re surprised when they go back to the high school and none of the kids have any idea or care at all who threw a game-winner or was elected to prom court 20 years ago.

Thanks for reading. And you should definitely check out that piece by Hank Green.

–Jake

PoPS update 241-Where to Find the Original Voices in Storytelling

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2015 by PoPS blog

Why Do People Help Us?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 22, 2015 by PoPS blog

The locations that I’ve been speaking with are all falling nicely into place. But why? A lot of the time I don’t question it. I just put my head down and start trying to solve the next issue in the eternal production puzzle. It’s just another thing to check off the list. Obviously, I feel good about it. It’s always nice to get rid of something that’s been weighing on your mind, but every once in a while, amidst the general gratitude, the question emerges—why are these people helping us?

For the people volunteering to crew, they must enjoy some aspect of the set experience. That makes sense to me, I actually do enjoy many aspects of the set experience. But for the people letting something as unknown and unpredictable as a film crew into a their personal location, what are they getting out of it? We have a great track record of respecting the locations we gain access to, so it’s not that they have to worry about us damaging anything, but I still can’t find the upside. We don’t have any money for them.

Take this latest batch of locations for example. We’ve been given the green light to shoot at a VERY well respected university in Chicago. I’m just waiting on one last signed liability waiver from my crew before we get to shoot in a city water treatment lab. And the proprietor of a local restaurant is willing to stay late on a Sunday to let us use his place. That’s all so awesome. And people are helping us simply to help us. And their participation makes the show look so much bigger and better. I don’t know why they do it, but I sure do appreciate it.

This has been a very productive PoPS week. I’m still trying to gather as many young actor submissions as possible to set up auditions for the space we have reserved on February 1st. Everything finally came together for us to get our top donor out here to shoot his cameo scene, so we’ve gotten him a plane ticket, a hotel room, and the location is almost set for that scene. The location confirmations have been coming through.

I’ve also continued editing the episode. There’s a pretty substantial sequence at the end of the episode requiring a series of effects, so I’ve skipped to begin editing that sequence. Like when I was editing episode 6, I started by cutting together the storming of the meth lab. There were so many effects shots in that sequence that the VFX shots from it were still the last thing completed on the episode. It was a big damn job. I feel like this one won’t be as heavy a workload, but there’s still a bunch of effects that need doing. The sooner I can send Ryan his shots, the better off we are.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

PoPS video update 240-Why Production Takes So Long

Posted in Uncategorized on January 18, 2015 by PoPS blog

Getting to Edit

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2015 by PoPS blog

I spend so much of my time on this blog talking about how hard it is to make this web series. Bitching about scheduling, people’s schedules, finagling everyone’s personal calendars, and the scheduling of it all. That’s really the main thing I complain about. But I do it a lot. Because, clearly, everyone’s lives should revolve around the show, as the planets revolve around the life giving sun. So…

It’s nice to finally be able to tell you that I’m having a really good time editing the episode. I’m a cheerful little showrunner as I’ve watched the first fifteen minutes of the rough-cut come together. Even as I already plot to re-shoot a section of it and come to grips with a heaping amount of ADR we’re going to need to do (more on that later), it’s so validating to see the story unfold in a visually satisfying way with your friends giving hilarious performances before your very eyes. It’s one of those This-is-the-reason-I-do-it kind of moments, and it’s nice to feel that way.

As for why we have so much ADR to do, I’m going to let you in on it. Three main reasons, file them away as cautionary tales for your own productions.

1: We have a whole new system of sound gear: a wonderfully specific shotgun microphone to go in our old-as-the-hills boom pole and a brand new Marantz field recorder. We started learning to use these on the production, so there was a learning curve involved.

2: Our old tried-and-true sound crew is scattered to the wind. We had them some nights, but most of the time we were calling upon the ears of fresh volunteers. They did a great job for just picking up the equipment for the first time, and a fantastic job monitoring the levels, but if you’ve never had your head in the earphones before you can’t tell the difference between a microphone that’s pointed directly and one that’s pointed slightly indirectly. You’re not trained to notice the slight bass’y muffling around the edges of speech.

3: This one is on me. I’ve been choreographing scenes with A LOT of foreground/background interplay. I’ve been packing a lot of actors into tableau frames with a variety of depth and speaking levels. It looks great, but as I’ve said, we have ONE microphone and it is perilously specific. So, placing actors on either side of a room isn’t the best plan for getting great sound. Even a superstar boom op would have trouble landing this one.

In other news, we have a lot of kids to cast. I’ve put out a casting call to several Chicago agencies and I’ll get some auditions lined up in a couple weeks. Only waiting that amount of time because of the availability of the free audition space. I’ve put out a lot of lines to a lot of locations, and I feel like we’re finally getting to a place where we can start shooting the rest of the episode. All it takes is time and persistence.

So, there you go. Another week, another blog post. I have a lot of work ahead of me and I feel pretty good about it. Not a usual state of affairs.

Also, my last video update was embedded on one of my favorite film craft sites, Filmmaker IQ, this week. They liked what I was saying enough to include it in their articles. Good week.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

PoPS video update 239-The Cyclical Evolution of Cinema

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11, 2015 by PoPS blog

More Production Days

Posted in Uncategorized on January 8, 2015 by PoPS blog

As I gear up to try and get us back on a post-holidays shooting schedule, I realized that I never broke down shoot nights 14 and 15 of episode 9 for the blog here.

Saturday, December 13. 6pm-11:30pm. Many people were very ill. Suede, our resident bad guy looked like death between takes. Eliza was our main sound operator and she was nearing the peak of a terrible cold. I put it up for a vote where we should get dinner from and the Damon Team actors banded together to make Chipotle happen. I think I may have an irrevocable line-cross in one of these scenes. For those who don’t know, crossing the line is when actor’s eyelines don’t match between edits. If one actor is looking to the left of camera while having a conversation, their scene partner should be looking to the right of camera in their shot. Having shot one scene over the course of two nights, a little blocking got changed and one side of the eyeline changed. I tried reshooting the other side the following night, but wardrobe had changed, so I’ll probably have to go with the eyeline stumble. We rocked through our shotlist, getting some really great performances and shots, stacked our gear in the back, and called it a night.

Sunday, December 14. 5pm-10:30pm. Again, people were very sick. Eliza came in at the beginning solely to bridge the gap until I had a last minute sound team replacement show up in the form of our occasional helper Miguel Franco. Nice dude. We had much less to shoot this night, got dinner from a fantastic greasy grill place called Michael’s Hotdogs, where Eliza and I allowed ourselves to have fried chicken fingers and melted cheddar with our fries. Neither diet nor disease could hinder our high-caloric revelry that night, my friends. We had much fewer pages to shoot that night and wrapped a half hour early. It took me a little over an hour to get everything loaded up and out to the car. I dropped the footage into our main and back-up externals and glanced through some playback. This episode is going to be great.

One of the things holding me up from scheduling shoot days since we’ve returned from our holiday travels is how much I still need to locate. I need to come up with 12 new locations, of which I’ve so far found 2, and 23 new actors for very small parts, of which I’ve so far cast 4. It’s just a lot to think about. I think I’m going to call upon our network of actors to see if anybody has leads on enthusiastic potential participants and location loaners. I feel like I’ve already almost exhausted my knowledge of places I know. But I’m slowly working on it.

In the meantime I’ve been editing a little bit. There’s a really long glidecam shot that I’ve been wishing was steadier, so I tried running it through an After Effects stabilization process called Warp Stabilizer. Did not do a good job. It’s usually pretty good, but this time there’s too much motion in too many directions. So I’ve been going through and stabilizing it myself. It’s a long process, but I think it’ll look a lot better at the other side of it.

Thanks for reading, y’all.

–Jake