Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Via Tim Shrum, Volpin Props. Out of Atlanta he designs and builds some beautiful replica props.

Is the USPS the Evil Empire or the Rebel Alliance?
Today I've changed the call sheet for Sunday three times. Let's hope I finally got it right. Sheesh!

At least I'm keeping all the call times exactly the same all three days of shooting.

Three days of shooting... I bet that means Chinese food, Italian, Chinese food. Now that the wing place is gone those are our only choices.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Seventh Day of Earthkiller

Today we got a lot of coverage pretty quickly. We're only shooting one day this weekend. Next weekend we'll make up for it by shooting three days in a row.
Nat Cassidy overacting while Michael Bordwell noms, Libby Csulic looks very Vermeer and nonchalant (she was the door operator in this scene) and yes this was just the rehearsal, Nat chewed far less scenery in the actual take (well, maybe in the third actual take. ;-)
One thing which I don't feel I've been doing a good enough job of is getting stills of our leads. I've been using "camera rehearsal" to shoot the scene motion-picture and what I should be doing is shooting stills. Either that or when we get to the end of a scene someone should say "Hey Drew, shoot stills!"
This is the cover of the first Tom Rowen solo album. Zombies eye him hungrily.
So somebody remind me to shoot more stills.
Nat Cassidy... I... I have no idea what he's doing here. Maybe he just knows his character has about 12 more seconds of screen time before his ignominious death.  In the meantime Lucy Rayner readies her Saltz-Heiburg NT21P thermal inertia plasma rifle to put some hurt on some zombies.

The only thing that's been hard on this shoot is that we have to completely wrap our sets down flat and set them on palettes at the end of the day. Whew! That adds a lot to our day. It would be vastly easier if we could just leave them standing.
Other than that, things are going great.
I wish I could report on how the GH1 responds to being "hacked". Maybe some compression artifacts are gone? Honestly, I have no idea because I just see the movie through the viewfinder. As we get further into post maybe we'll have a clue. I'll tell ya more as I know it.

Earthkiller Day Seven

Call in NYC was 11am and we wrapped people to be on a 7:09pm train back out of Metuchen.

Lots of zombies, a little bit of zombie action, some walkin' and talkin'
Shane Jacobsen and Irene Antoniazzi - they're not dead, they're dormant.
Ben Guralnik - walk by him as you would a hungry bear's cave in early Spring.
Joe and Libby, who just got back from St. Croix the night before somehow made two more doors for the Earthkiller Station. I don't know when they built the doors, I think they may have actually made them in St. Croix. We totally weren't expecting the doors. Or Joe and Libby. They were tres awesome. All of them!

Evil zombies lie dormant on the floor, waiting for the right time to strike.
Don't worry. I'll be soon.

Michael Bordwell thinking "Nat Cassidy looks tasty. So does Tom Rowen."

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Clonehunter Reviews

David Ian Lee, Angela Funk, and Ben Thomas in Clonehunter.
 DVD Verdict
A micro-budgeted sci-fi actioner attempts to compensate for its vanishing funding with sexy camera effects and Super Serious Acting.

The Tamba Tribune
A good old throwback to the low-budget, but high-aspiration, Drive-In flicks of yesterday.
My favorite line from the review is: There aren’t enough aliens or gun fights.
These aren't reviews, but mentions/blurbs (I don't know what you call those) about Clonehunter:
The Winston-Salem Journal gives us a mention.

Beaver County Times.
Imperial Valley News.

BrooklynPRgrrl Margarita Sophia Cortez is our distributor's (Lifesize Entertainment) publicist.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three Things For Today

Jeff Plunkett as Shu in Clonehunter.

  • We've done a lousy job with craft services on Earthkiller. We're halfway through the shoot and I have to do a better job of making sure everyone has snacks and stuff they want. I'll go broke if I provided as much liquor as anybody could drink though. Sheesh! Our cast and crew can finish off a bottle in no time! But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have more fruit and crunchy things on set. We should.

  • Bill Cunningham points out that Blockbuster is looking at Chapter 11. Note that this does not mean the end of Blockbuster. No, rather our bankruptcy laws protect Blockbuster by letting it dump the leases on 500 stores (if the LA Times article is correct.) And note too that even after closing 500 more stores, Blockbuster will have thousands of stores.

Also, as far as I know, there are hundreds of independent Blockbusters in addition to the nationwide chain. At least this is what I've been told.

Now if we can all convince our parents, aunts, uncles, and friends, to use Blockbuster's online service rather than NetFlix, we might have an independent movie business again. ;-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Making a Business Plan pt 3 (Interregnum)

This post is rambly even for me. But it's the rambly part of the business plan, so there's that.

So, it turns out that successful entrepreneurs are very conservative. They're not actually big risk-takers. This dude from Case Western, Scott Shane, says so. And, well, so do a lot of other people who've looked into it. The big entrepreneurs tend to take on sure things. If we look toward Indy film god Corman, indeed by his second or third movie the buyers were paying for his pictures up front -- before he shot them.

OK, so that's one thing.

More than that, the average startup begins with $25,000 in cash. And worst of all, the average startup starts with a terrible industry to do business in. And we're not doing that, are we? Oh. Er.


Tina Tanzer and her zombie army in Day 2
Care to guess where the movie business is on the scale of "good" to "OMG this is a nightmare"? Right. Exactly.

So the trick is to suddenly make this a good business, right? Well here's the thing.
According to David Rimawi of The Asylum, the entertainment industry loses a billion dollars a year (although he doesn't really believe that number, it may be accurate, or at least it's a start.) So we're not in an awesome business. But there are people who can make enough money to stay alive. And The Asylum is the only example I can think of.

We could follow their lead more closely. They make the movies their buyers tell them to. We, uh, try to do that. Day 2 is basically what our distributor wanted. We hope. We think. I suspect we need to get closer to our buyers to find out what they want (I know, I know, "creatures" and "disasters".)

We also need to work up other "revenue streams". If we can get VOD to work for us I suspect that we could add between $10K to $20K to our North American revenue (which these days is starting to mean "make $10K to $20K for North America.)

For a little company like us, the big sale would be to cable TV. Or to make a picture specifically for cable TV. And yeah, we're working on that too.

It's my belief that there's a specific minimum size a business can realistically be in the US -- due to a bunch of factors going into the raw cost of doing business. Wow, that's a very "Drew" way to say that and it makes virtually no sense. Anyway, I think that number is somewhere around $250,000 in revenue a year. That basically means that the principal will earn the equivalent salary of maybe $40,000 a year. (Depends on how you calculate that.) As the business grows past $250K the principal will typically find that at least one person, if not two, working for him/her make more money than him/her. And the principal gets over that because that's just the way things are. And then whatever you do don't grown too fast or (egads!) buy property.

And that's my incoherent part 3 of "Making a Business Plan" -- a document in constant flux.

And Yet Again, Another Review of Clonehunter

Angela Funk as Rachel in Clonehunter
This is one from my distributor's site again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Film vs the Alternative

Now with the big camera manufacturers (like the Arri Alexa*) in the game it's clear we've crossed that threshold which we've been staring at so long -- that horizon after which everyone starts shooting on some sort of video format and we can actually ignore film (as in the chemical see-through stuff everyone used to make pictures out of) as a format. Which is too bad 'cause I'd love to shoot on 2-perf 35mm. As a producer I simply cannot allow the cinematographer part of my brain to use film even if we went to bigger-budgeted things.
Early key art for "Day 2"
Here's the argument as it happens between the two in my brain:
Producer: You can use film if you pay for it.
Cinematographer: I'll pay for it!
Producer: Liar. You mean I'll pay for it.
Cinematographer: Er... um.
Producer: Just for that, I'm cutting your lighting budget in half.
Cinematographer: You can't do that!
Producer: I hope you like fluorescent lights.
Cinematographer: Well sometimes those are nice. They have those new instruments which are daylight-balanced...
Producer: Here's a clip light.
Cinematographer: Can't I get a stand to attach it to?
Producer: What do I look like, a millionaire?

It's a cruel world, ain't it?

*Note that I don't even think the footage they have on that ProVideo Coalition site is all that awesome. It does indeed seem to lack some things. Maybe it's the lack of grain? But it doesn't matter, we can add grain in post if you like. A good-looking guy and some music on the soundtrack, the only thing missing is a (ahem) story.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another Clonehunter Review

Not a good one, mind you, but another one.

General Filmmaking Post

Jef Betz as Galloway in Solar Vengeance.
This is information I want to be able to search for one day:

Stop Motion Magazine has a blog.

They also have some free HD explosions, smoke, and such. I'm still downloading it on my incredibly slow connection at the studio.  (Thanks to Bill Cunningham.)

Rostronics has inexpensive fluorescent - based instruments. File under: studio lights, light, fluorescent, instruments.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How To Do What They Do

David Rimawi explains how The Asylum does what they do.

One huge advantage they have over us is that we don't have an opportunity to talk directly with our buyers very much. We can get vague "We want giant creatures and disaster movies!" sorts of comments, but it's hard to get specific like "Gimme a big shark and a giant squid."

We're gonna have to change all that.

GH1 Failures

So we had our first hacked Panasonic GH1 failure. I wasn't actually there for it, but Mr. Steady was.

I don't have the exact wording of the error, something to the effect of "could not write to SD card, check SD card".

They were shooting out in the very very hot direct sunlight. Now my tolerance for direct sunlight and heat is vastly lower than Henry Steady's. So if he said it was hot out in Central Park, I'm sure it was really freakin' hot. And our GH1 is hacked, so the data rate is much higher than it would be if it weren't.

Also, they were doing fairly long takes.

Between the three things (hack, heat, and hlong takes) the GH1 stopped recording.

The good news is that the solution was to shut the camera off for a couple minutes and start 'er up again.

That's just something to keep in mind.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Today in the Pandora Machine

Day 2: We have our first mixes of acts 2, 3, and 5. Which means we have locked picture on those three acts (out of eight.)
This movie has a drop-dead date for deliverables of November 3rd 2010 (which is when the American Film Market begins.)
Unused art for Alien Uprising.

Earthkiller: we've been on a 2-weekend hiatus on this picture. We're diving right back in though in a week. I really should make up call sheets. The movie looks great. We're waiting on a couple models from Ian Hubert. We have to have a quick edit of this picture with as many visual effects as possible ready a few weeks before the AFM (early October) so that our distributor can make a trailer for the movie.

Clonehunter: we're starting work on a 25-second cable TV commercial. David Frey will be editing.

And our next movie: I don't know what it will be. Either I'm going to scramble out a screenplay in 30 days about giant monsters roaming 'round New York City, or we're going to shoot someone else's script.


This painting is by Steve Burg. Smuggler's landing zone by moonlight.

His work is terrific.
SyFy has listed some new shows they have coming up, including "Orion" which is... well it's here:

National Treasure meets Firefly in this swashbuckling space opera about an adventurous female relic hunter and her team as they hunt down — and sometimes steal — valuable and powerful objects to sell on the black market, all while staying one step ahead of the bounty hunters hot on their heels.
Co-Executive Producers/Writers: Dirk Blackman & Howard McCain
Co-Executive Producers: George Krstic & Ryuhei Kitamura
Supervising Producer: F.J. Desanto
Studio: Universal Cable Productions

It's interesting that the cancelled "Firefly" is still a selling point. Otherwise there is absolutely no information on the interwebs about this series -- other than idle speculation by people who read the press release. Maybe I wasn't paying any attention but I didn't realize that SyFy was developing new programming.

Do You Like Pictures?

Do you like pictures that represent different imager sizes for different cameras? Well then you'll love this post from Abel Cine.
Update: I do wish it had Academy aperture too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Movie Biz

So here's a neat little movie called "Suck" and it looks pretty cool. Rock band turns into vampires road movie with Alice Cooper and Henry Rollins and Malcolm McDowell as the vampire hunter.

And the producers are begging in the pop-ups in the trailer for you to "demand 'Suck' in your city."

To which I say... wow. Iggy Pop wasn't enough to get a distribution deal which took care of your expenses?

The movie business... now the movie business... that's what sucks...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Foley Day in the Pandora Machine

I started to do some foley today for act 3 of Day 2. "Foley" in this case mostly means throwing my wallet onto a music stand and tossing a pill bottle filled with tic tacs back and forth until I get bored. I try to make sure I'm actually recording when I'm doing any of that.
The studio is about 3' by 4'* so it's not like it's terribly easy to do any footsteps or things like that, but hand props can be recorded (and they end up having lots of reverb added to them.)

Where the magic happens. Or at least where I make noise.
The picture update on Day 2 is that we have (most of) act 1, act 2, act 3, and act 5 locked. As always, visual effects are taking up some of our time, plus the fact that Maduka actually has to do freelance work to pay the bills.
*Actually, I think it's 3.5' by 3.5'.

New Synopsis

A new place to buy Clonehunter. Interestingly, they have their own synopsis. They must have written it themselves. I think it's the best synopsis of the movie so far:

In a bleak future where the wealthy elite have achieved immortality by harvesting the organs of clones, a clone-hunter and his partner uncover evidence of deep-rooted corruption on a secluded planet ruled by a brutal despot. Gulliver wants to live forever, but when one of his clones escapes, his private paradise starts to crumble. Now the closer Cane and Angela come to capturing the renegade clone, the more they realize that they may be fighting for the wrong side.

The back cover of the Clonehunter box actually has an amusing typo in it where the name "Gulliver" is replaced by "Montserrat". Montserrat is not the name of a character but rather the name of the actor/playwright Montserrat Mendez who plays "Peck" and also wrote Earthkiller.

Order yours today!

Order your copy of Clonehunter from Blockbuster online! Why? Because Netflix won't pay any attention to us unless Blockbuster does well. Give it lots o'stars! Party like it's 2525!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Want Some More Real Numbers?

I don't have 'em. But I do have some more "word on the street".
So apparently Netflix wants a "backlog" of a thousand "orders" (or people queuing) a particular title in order to stock (drum roll please) 200 of that title. Now, of course there's not way for them to actually get a backlog of 1000 people queuing a picture they don't actually carry so they apparently measure that by seeing what kind of press/blog interest there is in a given picture. Not exactly a science, more of an art to that.
Netflix has no real pressure to carry indy titles, so they tend not to. I mean, are you really going to quit Netflix if they don't have a copy of Clonehunter? I wish you would, but you won't.
So Netflix gets paid every month, in perpetuity, by its subscribers. And although you should belong to Blockbuster's competing service -- which still carries indy titles -- we/you/I aren't.
And 200 titles... that's what? $1400 or thereabouts? You're not paying your visual effects people out of that. Heck, you're not buying lunch for twelve days out of that.
So yeah. When your friends ask if your movie will be on Netflix, say "NO F&*^%&'IN WAY!
The art to the Japanese version of Solar Vengeance. The movie is called "Terminator Planet" in Japan.
I mean, unless Netflix offers to buy your movie. Then yeah.

Update: be sure to check out Kangas' post about Netflix - it's downright scary.


Cracked takes a relatively sophisticated look at feature color correction in 5 Annoying Trends That Make Every Movie Look the Same.
Personally I'm a bit tired of over-color correction -- but mostly in my movies I'm tired of it. Perhaps that's because I have to do it on my own pictures. Or maybe that I fall in love with the original color in our frames*. Sometimes I like heavy color correction. I'm very fickle about it and so I tend to do tests and check with other people before committing.
We haven't done the teal/orange thing yet. And I don't know if a couple blog-posts really means that any of our buyers care. On Clonehunter we actually got complaints that it was too green. Meh. So we desaturated the whole movie a bit.
A still from Clonehunter. Trying to keep skin tones in the right place while making stuff green. I kinda liked it.
Desaturation I tend to like the look of. It certainly doesn't make your eyes as tired as too much color. And it does seem to make the movie look... a bit more... better. Or so it seems.

*I'm not saying that's a good thing, mind you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Making a Business Plan pt 2 (How Much Do Other People Cost?)

2. How much do other people cost?

Let's look at how much it really costs to pay cast and crew. Now, for the complete cast and crew on a feature you're looking at what? At least 100 man/days? That is you have on average a bit more than 8 people on set (including cast and crew) for about 12 days.
Let's say those are 12-hour days and that you're paying (egads!) minimum wage at, what, about $7.50/hour to each person. When you include the employer side of taxes and unemployment and disability and the like you're at a cost per hour of $9.15. For a 12-hour day that's a cost of 109.80.
So that's $10,980 of cost for the wages of a feature film where you're only paying minimum wage on 100 man-days. Ha! These calculations are absolutely at the rock bottom of possibility (which I say even though right now we aren't paying anything but I know that eventually we're going to have to.)
What about post-production costs? Can you realistically get away with yet another 100 12-hour days at minimum wage for visual effects, picture edit, dialog edit, foley, color-correction, music, sound effects edit, and mix?
Let's pretend the answer is "yes". If so, the total costs of wages is around $22,000. That's incredibly low and based upon deranged assumptions of how little people can work for yet still live in the New York City area.
What isn't included is other costs which these folks incur. First-wise is food. For a hundred man-days on set you gotta figure $1500 at minimum. I probably go through $75 in seltzer alone [no, I don't.] Then transportation... well I think we'd have to budget $3000 for transportation and food.
We're looking at $25,000 per picture and that's only if we can keep it down to 100 man/days for the actual shoot. That number goes up to (say) 250 man/days and you find you have to pay $100/day (which costs you $122/day) and you add your post-production staff and you're easily breaking through the $35,000 barrier on cast and crew.
And, as we know in this market, that would make it impossible to make your investment back.
But let's pretend we can keep the costs to $25,000* and we'll see what we can do with increasing our revenue on each picture.
*We make our pictures for about 1/3 of that in cash right now. We don't even expect to be able to gross that now. Both of those numbers are going to eventually have to change.


So PluralEyes seems to work for a lot of people. It doesn't work for us. This sort of thing comes up regularly with us. We make 90-minute projects out of something on the order of 1200 takes, some of which have sync sound. Very few people actually do that with any sort of regularity.
So some things, like for instance Adobe Premiere, come well recommended because you can do some fabulous things with it. Like for instance you can cut and paste between Premiere and AfterEffects. And you sure can do that -- if you have a short or maybe a commercial. But with a feature? Not so much. Some segments simply do not come over in the AfterEffects version of the project (and relying on something that might do that can be very dangerous for your post-production path).
I do understand the companies which make this software have a problem -- where the heck are they going to get the data just to stress-test their products under actual feature conditions? They'd have to bring a 2TB drive to my studio (or to someone's studio who happens to have a feature on a drive with unsynced dual-system audio in a Final Cut Pro project.) It just ain't a-gonna happen.
Rebecca Kush as Lt. Dunn in Alien Uprising.
I have the same issue with my favorite audio editing/mixing platform Samplitude. After version 8 of the software they suddenly had terrible problems dealing with very large projects with very large numbers of edits. And of course they have no way of replicating the problem in-house because the only people doing the number of edits are... well me and (I think) three other guys. Or, at least we're the only ones who have complained.
So... meh. PluralEyes seems nice and all but after 6 hours of it analyzing data we could have synced all the takes by hand and been 5 hours into an edit. Which is what we're going to do.

Making a Business Plan pt 1 (How Much Do I Cost?)

In doing so, I tend to work from the denominator first, rather than the numerator. That is about the most obtuse way I can think of putting it. But here goes. Prepare for Too Much Information.
1. How much do I cost?
OK, so my rent is $893 a month. Let's pretend that doesn't go up. And let's go ahead and figure that in order to afford $893/month I have to grossly earn 1.3 times that in order to pay myself and pay taxes. So my rent actually ends up costing me 1160.90/month or $13,930.80 a year. But that's not all! For my company to pay me enough for rent I should multiply the final number by 1.22 for the company's side of taxes and so forth (or I end up being self-employed and I don't have a thumbnail calculation for that.) It would cost the company $16,995.78 to pay me enough just to make my rent.
Now obviously I have other expenses than rent. Back in the olden times your accountant would tell you that rent should be a quarter of your salary. You're in pretty good shape if you live in the NYC area and rent is only a quarter of your salary so let's pretend I can live in my present apartment for... $30,000 a year (right now that would be an awfully good year for me. I'm hobbling at maybe half that for the time being.)

The Russian version of Solar Vengeance.
That means that paying for me would cost the company $36,600 a year.

Why Structure Matters

From the Save the Cat blog (which is still going even after Blake's untimely death.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's not the gear, it's your friends.

Every few months a camera or some other piece of gear comes out and the Internet says "There's no excuse now" for you to not make your movie.
Furthermore: "There's all kinds of open-source software. There are books out about screenwriting -- books that actually make sense!" (Insert subliminal message about Blake Snyder's Save the Cat here.) "All it takes is your time and focused effort (a lot of focused effort) and you too can make a feature film. Or two. Or three!"
Well it's not true.
Your gear doesn't matter. Hell, if 35mm film were still the only way to go you'd find a way to come up with the six or seven hundred dollars it takes (gulp!) to shoot every 11 minutes of the stuff. You could edit on a movieola or a flatbed. Really. You could. People did that for a long long time. Indy producers did that. That's not what's keeping you from making your movie.
The Earthkiller gang - Nat Cassidy, Maduka Steady, Tom Rowen, Lucy Rayner, Alaina Hammond, and Robin Kurtz. Photo by Joe Chapman
No, rather the reason you're not making a feature film is because you need to be surrounded by people who actually want you to succeed.
Now it's true that the primary person in your life who doesn't want you to succeed may be you. I can't help you there.  But in many cases, in many times in life, you're surrounded by people who actually feel bad if you were to do something awesome. Because to them, you doing something cool makes them feel less cool. It took me a long long time to realize that.
Let me digress with my favorite exception to the people in the world who have negative energy.
Lucky for me I have a friend from childhood (or at least "teenager-hood"). His name is Ed McNamee and he wasn't born with the "keep friends down" circuit in his brain. In fact, he wants everyone to succeed. He wants me to succeed. He wants you to succeed. Heck, he probably wants you to be successful more than you want to be successful. And he doesn't even know who you are.
Robin Kurtz as Helen in Earthkiller. Photo by Joe Chapman.
Dozens of playwrights, probably hundreds of actors, and scores of other people have had their dreams realized with Ed's help. And it's not even that he necessarily has to actually do anything to be of help. It's just that positive energy that's there which makes everything easier.
And that positive energy is contagious. It's what built Manhattan Theatre Source. (Hmm... now that I think about it, there's kind of an interesting correlation between how Theatresource has taken a turn for the worse while Ed's been away from it... interesting.)
In any case, Ed isn't really a film guy. He doesn't even really like science fiction that much. He doesn't actually work on Pandora Machine movies. But he'll come to every single premiere of one of my pictures. He's sat through my first two completely unwatchable films. Now that's a friend.
But I don't see him for months at a time. He doesn't work on set or help with post-production. He would if I asked him, but that's not really his bag. My point is that it's not so much what he does but where his energy is.
And that's what's important.
Our usual gang, Maduka, David Lee, David Frey, Tom Rowen, the Queen of Mars, and many more, actually want these movies to get made. There's nothing in it for them that the movies don't get made. Sometimes they don't even care what part they play in making sure it comes to fruition, as long as it does. My man Mitchell Riggs is like that all the way, same with our other partner here in the studio -- Blair Johnson. It's all about the positive energy.
Sometimes they just want to help me with whatever bizarre thing I have in my head which I want to do (which is very humbling). But in all cases it's the positive energy which makes it work.
I used to joke back in the beginning of Theatresource that instead of the usual backstabbing you see in New York theaters we had the situation that everyone was hoping someone else would go on to fame and fortune so we could ride their coattails to success.
Now, how does that apply to filmmaking?
Well, if you're sitting there with a Panasonic (or Canon, or Flip, or phone) camera in one hand and a cheap computer based editing system in the other and would love to be making movies but just don't seem to be able to get one off the ground then look around you. Are your friends making jokes instead of giving you real help? Are they making snarky remarks about how they could do it better than you could? Are they just telling you what you can't do?
Get new friends.
You don't have to dump your old friends forever. But you do have to get some distance so you can get some creative work going. And you have to find people who genuinely want you to have a smashing success (whatever that means) in whatever you do.
And no matter how wishy-washy hippy-dippy it all sounds, that positive energy is the difference between you getting things done or not. Especially big things. Like making feature films.
So surround yourself with positive energy.
Peace. Out.

Where in the Heck?

Clare Stevenson as Aurora in Millennium Crisis.
All of a sudden I'm inundated with writers sending me (unsolicited) treatments. Who/what/where did all these guys suddenly get my name?

We need monster movies anyway. Not... whatever these movies are.

New Mic

So we discovered the other day that our backup microphone is dead. We'd had trouble with it ever since we got it. Maybe we should have sent it back for repair but we never did. And now c'est mort.

We use these Oktava mics (the working one I still have is silver). And we only get them from the Sound Room. They're $249 now. I think back in the olden days they were under two hundred bucks.

I discovered that the dead one's problem was in its preamp (by swapping capsules I determined that the capsule with it was OK.) But the capsule on further inspection was just a cardioid pattern, not the hypercardioid which is a bit better at rejecting off-axis noises.

This isn't the first Oktava I've lost. Another one was lost in a mishap a while ago. And man -- looking at my working one -- it's pretty well beat up. But the mics sound great. They're arguably flatter and smoother sounding that the Schoeps (whether that's good or bad for dialog is a matter of taste). And Schoeps can get busted too -- and cost a heck of a lot more when they do.

So I ordered a new one. And I'm complaining because I sure could have used that money to put to a guitar amplifier... ;-) But it would really really really suck if the one working one went down during a shoot and we had no replacement.

I do have a small pile of those -10dB pads which screw in-between the capsule and the preamp body. Well, OK. I have three of them. Soon I'll have four.

P.S. That picture looks like the capsule is only cardioid, doesn't it? Well, when we get the new one we'll see if the response is the same as my silver one -- which has a picture of a hypercardioid response on the side of the capsule.

Business Plan

So remember Video On Demand (VOD)? That was the thing which was supposed to completely change the movie industry. That's why the price of DVD's plummeted (apparently an actual decision by some guy who thought he could see the future from Warner Brothers.)
Instead, the DVD part of the industry plummeted and VOD never took off -- except for porn in hotel rooms.
Part of this is that the VOD interface that most cable companies have is horribly obtuse. I mean, I can (with a bit of frustration) figure out how to get it to work, but my parents will simply never ever order a movie on demand through their digital cable provider.
But today I heard of a plan which might actually work. It's the first good idea for a business plan in this pathetic movie economy I've heard which doesn't involve convincing someone to pre-buy movies before you shoot them (and there are fewer and fewer of those kinds of buyers anymore anyway.)
That is to take advantage of the low ad rates which are happening right now due to the advertising slump and buy ad time on the same cable systems which have your movie on VOD. Run ads on shows and channels which might have similar demographics to those who might actually watch your picture on VOD.
And then here's the kicker -- the cable company can put a little tag at the end of the ad: "To rent this movie now, click '2' on your remote" or whatever. The advertisement itself serves as what would normally be the difficult part of the interface.
They: but in 9 months this market will be totally saturated if this works.
We: yeah, but our movies are so much cooler than theirs are.
They: that's true.
Television advertising does indeed work. It's direct-to-consumer. And in the case of VOD it's measurable. Yes. Like real numbers.
You know, like science.
Ahh... science.
So this will be an interesting experiment. And it's finally realizing the dream of cutting out the other arbiters like Netflix or Blockbuster.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


According to our sources, monsters and giant bugs are in. Robots are out. Well pththth on that! We're going to have monsters AND giant robots.

Should our next movie be: Earthwar -- Soldiers from the future return through time to save us from alien monster invasion, only to find that they're too late?

Probably. But it means I gotta have a script in hand like nowsy.

Here are other monster movies coming up. Via SF Signal.

Uploaded by blankytwo. - Classic TV and last night's shows, online.

Movie City Indie Clonehunter Review

Movie City Indie reviews Clonehunter. You have to scooch all the way to the bottom of the page.

I can’t imagine Clone Hunter costing more than $100,000 and it very easily could have been made for a tenth of that.
"Easily?" Easily!? There was nuthin' easy about it buster!

I have no idea what to make of the last paragraph of that review. What would have changed his mind about what he liked about the movie after seeing the interview?

Fun fact: Nadia Dassouki (the "Plasticoat girl" in Clonehunter) is also in "Multiple Sarcasms" which is also reviewed on the same page!

It does seem odd to me that where nominally we live in a world so starved for sci-fi, all we get is a lot of snark about actually making sci-fi. Oh well.
Brian Schiavo in his robot suit with Maduka Steady.

io9 on Clonehunter

io9 snarks about Clonehunter. My favorite comment is from Briareosdx who writes:
Also, I gotta love the website. It's like "Yeah, this is the pinnacle of 90's web design, and yeah, those are spray painted nerf guns. Deal with it."
Oh, I just discovered something interesting. io9 didn't get this from our press release. Or at least not just from our press release. That's the overseas version of the trailer they've posted. No wonder the commenters are confused by the "Living forever takes less time than you think." tagline.

Also: we're not available on Netflix. Netflix ain't big fans of indy films.

If Mac Rogers hadn't sent this to me I'd never have caught it.

Update: I loved this back-and-forth so much I had to screen capture it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Earthkiller Adventures

Nat Cassidy, Tana Sartinoranont, and Alaina Hammond in Earthkiller.

I probably totally forgot to mention the adventure in movie-making that last Saturday was. Firstly, a huge gang of people ended up being late, either because of mistakes or mechanical trouble. Second-wise, we'd ordered blue jumpsuits from Lab Safety Supply and they sent us... ladies lunch-service smocks. Yeah, thanks guys!

Also from LSS are these long-sleeve shirts which might come in handy if they actually send them to us when we order them. They're probably cheaper than the Under Armour we usually get.

Japanese Clonehunter Art

The Japanese distributor has done it again. Here's the artwork for the Transformer release. I don't have the exact date of their release, I presume September or October. We'll keep you up to date on that. In the meantime, enjoy.

More Clonehunter PR

Here's the Clone Hunter press release.

GH1 Hacked Experience (so far)

So nowadays we're shooting on the Panasonic GH-1. It's a cool little camera, and it's right this minute the only one of the DSLR's which can autofocus effectively while shooting in movie mode.

We set that bad boy to "nostalgic" film mode to cut out all the detail processing the camera will do. And the camera has been hacked to shoot Earthkiller (it was just a straight-up stock GH1 on Day 2 though.)

So we're shooting at... uh... 32Mb/s or some such. Actually, as far as I can tell the bit rate is variable. But we're shooting at the level of what the Internet (and the DVXuser folks) think of as the "safe hack" data rate.

We're using Neoscene to turn the footage from those weird .mts files into ProRes Quicktimes.

Now question number one is: can I tell a difference between the hacked GH1 and the stock GH1?

And the answer is: uh... not really. I see the countdown of remaining minutes and seconds go a lot faster. And... that's about it. I'm sure it's somehow better, and we might find that some composites and such go a lot quicker and smoother. Maybe my blacks are more solid? I don't know. There's certainly little I can say negative about the hack. I mean, except that it sure uses more space on the SD cards.

But the complaining from pro circles about the GH1 has certainly been reduced with the increase of the data rate. The two issues with the camera now are the "jellocam" and the fact the stock lens is an f4.0 at best. Yeah, I'd love that lens to be at least a 2.0 for all focal lengths. But I also want a unicorn with wings and all the ice cream I can eat without making me fat.

But getting back to the "jellocam". I've shot a lot of handheld with the GH1. I'm halfway through my second feature and we're doing well over 90% hand held. I should probably go into how we're doing that on another post. But the jellocam hasn't been a problem with handheld fight scenes, running up and down roads and corridors, whip pans, nowhere.

Yup. I just don't have jellocam problems... except...

Except when shooting outside, hand held, in the wind. Oddly enough, this has been Maduka's experience with the camera too. When you're doing hand-held and you're being buffeted by wind, the top and bottom of the frame smear like crazy, baby.

Now most of those shots where you get blown sideways by the wind are really not good for picture anyway. But the image turning to jelly is not that awesome a thing to look at. It kind of sucks actually. Not only do you lose the level-ness of your horizon, but the whole world smears like you're mixing scotch and lysergic acid.

So if you're outside in the wind, get some sticks.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Script Savvy?

I got an "invitation" to be a "sponsor" for the Script Savvy Contest. I declined. I'm sort of under the impression that Script Savvy is kind of useless. Basically, writers pay $40 to enter their contest and the carrot for them is that production companies are "sponsoring" the contest. So that means that maybe their script will be read by someone who could make the screenplay they send in into a movie.

It can't be.

Well, honestly InkTip.com seems to work. I've gotten a couple things off of there. But the reality out there is that what we (and by "we" I really mean The Asylum and the like) really need are screenwriters who can turn a screenplay around from logline through a finished draft in about 30 days.

So if you want to be a screenwriter, practice writing screenplays really freakin' fast. And read Save the Cat. Use the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet.

Because what we really need is the ability to come up with a screenplay based on our distributor's needs and we need it very quickly. A contest isn't likely to produce the particular script we happen to need right now.

Katie Hannigan as Mina in Earthkiller.

A Bit More of Clonehunter PR

A little press release from InkTip. I saw the synopsis for Eric's new picture, it's a horror movie and it looks pretty dynamite!

Ooh look!

An interview with Eric Steele, the writer of Clone Hunter.

Here's my favorite quote: "Some of the scenes I'd written would give James Cameron a headache. Pursuits on hoverbikes, floating casinos, talking gorillas - no sane individual would even think of tackling such a project without a studio budget."

Clone Hunter Day

It's Clonehunter day! Today (Tuesday August 10th, 2010) is the day that Clone Hunter is released in North America.

'Tis exciting. Get yourself a copy!

Other news is that I just got the art from the Japanese version of the movie but I can't show it right now until the distributor lifts the embargo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Earthkiller Day... er... 6?

If we just wrapped the sixth day of Earthkiller, then we must be at the halfway mark.

Robin Kurtz as Helen.

Robin Kurtz and Katie Hannigan.

Robin Kurtz as Helen (with a laser sighting gun.)

Robin Kurtz, touched by Mina (Katie Hannigan).

Oh Yeah, Baby!

Clonehunter is on its way to me!

Day 5 (part... c?) of Earthkiller

I gotta remember that we didn't get to scenes 44, 46, and 60 on the fifth day of shooting Earthkiller. Really, I dramatically over-booked that day of shooting.

And I'm exhausted. Luckily we have a relatively tame half-day of shooting and our set is already up and in place.

Here's Nat Cassidy and Alaina Hammond -- they hear creatures, they're not sure where they're coming from.

Alaina Hammond as Therin.

I suspect that we'll be able to get the scenes we didn't get to yesterday on another day -- I bet they really should have been scheduled on another day but I had a wrong idea (when I scheduled) about what sets would be where/when. I probably thought we were going to mostly use the corridor Mike Kessell built for Alien Uprising.

Tom Rowen as Tennyson.