Saturday, January 29, 2011


Can it be? That a motion picture uses... how can I put this delicately?... Marketing to sell itself?

Could they be lying that this movie, Silent House, was shot in one take?

Would the producers of a film stoop so low as to distort the facts surrounding the actual methods used to make the movie? In order to incite people to watch that self-same film?

How can it be? Heavens? I think I'm experiencing the vapors. This scandal is too much for me to take.

Next you'll be telling me that it didn't really sell for three million dollars.

Note, this is based on a true story.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ha! Of Course

So the QC check on Day 2 was, essentially, a nightmare.
After Dark Horrorfest 4

Pro Tip: movies about post-apocalyptic cities should not have white delivery vans in the background driving through shots.

Also, we had some weird audio issues which... which I'm afraid are actually in the mix I did. They all seem to happen at about the same place in the second reel. So I'm going to fix that.

Actually, the only things which popped up on our QC were two shots that had trucks driving through (one of which I'd already fixed but apparently forgot to put in the timeline) and a half-dozen places in the second reel where the background cuts in and out (where I bet that pre-rendering the room tone will be the fix), as well as the ADR on this one damn scene which I simply cannot get to sync. The weird thing about that particular scene is that the non ADR audio doesn't seem to sync in that scene. I blame a sync curse.

So now we're aiming at a Monday delivery to the lab. Sheesh.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thoughts for today

So the After Dark folks have all but abandoned buying outside movies. Instead they're producing 8 pictures a year. And they're releasing them theatrically (starting tomorrow, Friday the 28th).
What I find interesting about that is that the Asylum used to buy outside producers' pictures too, and then basically gave up on it because it was easier for them to make their own.
What I find heartening about After Dark is that they've found it desirable to make their own zombie picture, Re-Kill.
And the 8 pictures/year notion echoes the same plan that the Asylum has had for a while as well as even Corman back in the day.


Oh, and we've finished Day 2. Unless something horrible shows up in the last QC, it's going out to the lab baby. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Tana Sartinoranont sent us this sci-fi short to look at. There's an evil robot in it. As it turns out, we need an evil robot in our next movie. So for inspiration:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Movies

So out of the blue, Nat Cassidy and David Ian Lee hand me a brilliant script. The Queen of Mars summed it up this way "It's definitely a Pandora Machine movie." (Hmm... I guess that could be taken two ways...)
It's written to be shot in my dad's warehouse and offices on weekends. There's a groovy little ensemble cast who get picked off one at a time by an evil robot. Big guns. Lesbian androids. Gratuitous lighting.
They even wrote a part for a "General Bellware" who is the world's most domineering jerk who calls the shots from behind the scenes. I have no idea why they would name such a character "General Bellware". Nor do I understand that final scene where he's stripped naked and beaten with rubber hoses by "Net Cissily" and "Daniel Even Knee". But I guess I'll figure that out when we get to the stage.
We are delivering Day 2 to the lab tomorrow because our rep tells us we have a south Asian buyer ready to go. I have to make a PAL master and an HD master. I'm only going to deliver four audio tracks even though I have a total of 16. Even so, we'll have to foist those upon a North American buyer.
We're a tad worried because FCP has been rendering weirdly. This is a new issue with version 7. My office-mate Blair said "What, were they bought out by Adobe or Avid and then they released 7 to screw it up?" In any case, we have to be very careful with new renders that we don't have any parts of the movie which are just black...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mon Oeuvre

The one part of the script I'm not so sure about is the android lesbian three-way you have in there.
But we wrote the android lesbian ménage à trois just for you!
Yeah, I know, everyone thinks that's what I want, but it's not necessarily.
How could that be? Aren't all your movies about lesbian alien androids?
Well, yes, that's frequently true but certainly not exclusively.
It seems to be a theme in your work. I thought you'd want more androids in kinky love affairs.
No, no, it's too close to real life for me.
Oh I see, you want fiction then.
Yes, although my films are personal, I don't make documentaries.

How To Direct

Via the Queen of Mars on a post-mortem of InGenius:
Adjust your directing style to the people you have in front of you.
Be organized. Use the time effectively.

Via Mitchell:
RC helicopter equipped with 640x480 video camera. The trick is that it's only SD video, HD would be nicer. But the kit is only $80.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The New Beat Sheet Calculator

The old beat sheet calculator is gone. But there's a new Blake Snyder Beat Sheet Calculator.
At a 4:1 ratio we seem to like Zombie Hunter better than Zombie Killer. I like Zombie Hunter better too. We better have some good zombie hunting in the movie then.
The trick is that we have to make that catalyst and the break into two work. Then it's all fun and games. Ahem.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Entire Claim to Cool

Interplanetary has very sexy space helmets, Dave.
Is that our movie Millennium Crisis has a trailer on the Interplanetary DVD.

Using you to discover the betterment.

As I am laying waste to David Ian Lee's brilliant screenplay I need to know what's better. Do you like "Zombie Hunter" or "Zombie Killer"?
This is project number 1005. David is going to hit the ceiling when he sees what I'm doing to his script. I had an inspiration of how to get through the first 10 pages.
In the meantime, please vote vote vote like a baby stoat.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Your Three Things from the Pandora Machine

The blog of the visual effects designer for Moon.

OK, so this image is a fake. Still, it's cool.

So everyone's been all a-Twitter, as it were, about the background rendering plugin for After Effects. I don't think my shop would use it, but it's great that people are making plugins for AE.

Remember that bit a while back about the "standard" of producers paying for the deliverable tapes? Ha! This guy thinks that's standard. I dunno, every single licence agreement I'll looked at has been totally different from any others. Or wait. Did I already link to that? I have no idea.
Today I am fighting with computers to try to make screener DVD's. Our 8-core Mac makes like it's making a DVD up 'till the last minute. And then it spits out the unburned DVD like a used piece of gum and just freezes. Last night even the trusty old Mac Mini froze up. I can't get the PC's to burn at all. Let me tell you, this is the most exciting part of the movie-making process.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Second Commentary

Today was Mimosa day in the Pandora Machine. We recorded a second commentary track with the Queen of Mars, Tom Rowen, Danielle Quisenberry, and Henry Maduka Steady.
The Mimosas were delicious.
Now we have to make the screener DVD's. This, as it turns out, is one of the most difficult tasks we have before us. As it turns out only the oldest computer we have in the studio will make DVD's -- the pre-Intel Mac Mini. And this morning it wouldn't even accept a DVD 'till I used compressed air and blew into it through the disc drive. Good times.

I've gone and applied to a film festival. I have no illusions we might get in, because we won't. But the festival is an IMDB qualifying festival so we can get our IMDB listing with it.

Here's the information I'll need tomorrow as I'm sending in the screener DVD:

SCI-FI-LONDON: The London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film
145 - 157 St John Street
London UK EC1V 4PY
United Kingdom
Tracking Number: SFL10-0219


Our own wonderful Clare Stevenson is in the short film "Extropy".

Extropy from Jonathan Sanden on Vimeo.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Ides of March

Are, as it turns out, an AWESOME thing. The most brilliant indy science fiction film of the decade (and it is indeed a "film") is being released.
Like American Astronaut meets Moon on the USS Valley Forge. But you know, with an Alien influence.
I can't say enough about how great this movie is. Directed by Chance Shirley. Buy one. Heck, buy two because you'll wear the first one out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Talkin' to the Man from Galilee

As we get toward the very end of deliverables on Day 2 we run into all kinds of computer issues (as is typical). For whatever reason various plugins in Final Cut Pro decide not to render... sometimes. We get "out of memory" messages as the computer just stops rendering.
We can't render the whole movie. We can, however, pre-render small pieces at a time. If you select a whole sequence and go to pre-render it, you'll get a "bla blah bla plugin failed to render" or an "out of memory" error. But if you select, say, a few minutes of a sequence and go to pre-render that? Oh sure, we can render that for you.

I've QC'ed all the M&E's for stray English dialog. I was supposed to fix a line that a zombie says but I can't even remotely find the file out of the thousand files we recorded so it looks like that's not going to happen.

And actually getting actors together for a second coming commentary is nigh on impossible so we may just go with the one we've got.

Yeah. Johnny Cash can actually do anything he wants. I mean, even if he is dead. And has help from a couple Swiss guys.

Seat girls - RJ41 Productions from RJ41 on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

DM&E on Rye

Every filmmaker I know (who has had at least one movie get distribution) has had to turn into a sound mixer at some point because they've had to deal with splitting out DM&E's or "Dialog, Music, and Effects" tracks.
Creating DM&E's is fantastically annoying and difficult. The trick is that you have to deliver music and effects tracks which sound just like the full mix but without dialog. You'd think "Well then I just put dialog on the first four tracks in my digital audio editing program and then I run off a copy with those tracks muted and that'll create my M&E's."
You can think that, but you'll end up being surprised at just how many extraneous sounds are on those original dialog tracks. Sounds you can hear in the full English mix.
So you have to do a lot of: foley, creating new hard effects to mix on top of the sounds already there, and/or creating identical sounds and putting them on a track on your audio editing/mixing program which is muted during the roll off of the English mix and unmuted when you roll off the "M&E".
But the worst worst worst mistake you could make is to accidentally leave a piece of dialog in the M&E tracks. Because although a distributor in a non-English speaking company might forgive that the M&E tracks are missing the sound of a scrape of a shoe or a crumple of paper under the English mix, they will not be able to deal with the wrong language suddenly showing up in their dubbed version of the movie.
So today I'll be listening to the DM&E's of all of Day 2. Lucky me!

Speaking of Day 2, here's a longer trailer for a picture which is similar (The Battle of Los Angeles -- I posted a previous trailer earlier). The movie looks great. I think our picture has a better idea though, but of course I'm prejudiced.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Millennium Information

I'm surprised that people actually read this blog. But Fred Greene did and he answered the question about whether After Dark still releases theatrically. And the answer is "yes".
Sometimes I like to post this, the Japanese version of Millennium Crisis,
because it's so awesome.
To which we say "You go!" Rah rah rah!*
‘Robot dinosaurs from the future battle the Marine Corps on Mars!’
Actually, that sounds like a great idea for a picture. I'm going to get right on that.
So we're getting this error message when trying to render in Final Cut Pro. Apparently it's an issue unique to working in ProRes 422 but I'm not sure:

"The effect 'Looks' failed to render. Your hardware cannot render at the requested size and depth."

The answer, here, is to disconnect the second monitor and re-boot the computer. That worked for me at least. But it is somewhat irritating.

*Seriously. Anybody able to make money in distribution? I'm their biggest cheerleader.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Distributing the Machine

So, maybe we've been very lucky, or maybe we've been unlucky. I can't really tell. But we've never had a foreign sales agent (which means someone who sells to non-North American markets) take out expenses from any sales we've made. Contractually there have never been "recoup-erable" expenses in any of our agreements.

Now, we pay a rate that is much higher than rates you usually hear of. Think twice as high. But our rep's only expense that he charges against us is the cost of making the actual DigiBeta deliverable tape for the customer (and yes, that cost comes directly out of our money from the distributor).

An oldie but a goodie.
Distro411 is a new blog about, well, distribution. Again, their experience doesn't reflect our own experience with overseas sales. We have, for instance, always had approval power over any deals the sales rep signs for us. Considering that a tape costs about $250, any deal over about a thousand dollars is a net positive gain. Not that we want to be signing any thousand-dollar deals, I'm just sayin' that we would actually see positive cash from such a deal.
Joe Bob Briggs is looking for screenplays. If he's seriously considering making features budgeted at anything close to $100K a piece then we still win the "smallest micro-studio in New York City" award.

Toward African American Film

There's an article in the Times today about a plan to:

...put black-theme movies in commercial theaters, initially from the independent film program recently begun by the AMC theater chain, for a two-week run supported by social networks, mailing lists and other buzz-building services at the disposal of allied ethnic film festivals.

Hmm... seems like we've heard this kind of distribution scheme before. It would be awesome if it worked. But I'm afeared it just won't.

I do think a mistake is being made in assuming that "black-theme" movies are a genre. There was a market a while back for movies aimed at an African American audience. What was that, about 10 years ago? You could actually make a little bit of money in direct-to-DVD pictures in all sorts of genres (rom-coms, thrillers, action pictures) with "black-themes" (and yes, I'm refusing to not put that in quotes) back in the good old days.

But gay-themed pictures as well as black-themed pictures (there, no quotes) have fallen by the wayside. And I suspect that even if they've only fallen proportionally about as far as everything else has in this business, it's pretty danged far.

Heck, the horror genre, which has the most dedicated fans, has taken a mighty tumble.

So I don't know if very many pictures specifically marketed toward African Americans will do well anymore. You're taking a gamble that members of a particular ethnic group feel so starved to see their own ethnic group represented in whatever sort of story you want to tell that enough of them will pay to see your picture. It seems to me that the heyday for "black-themed" movies came and went*.

The films will not be part of normal festival programs, but will screen in all cities simultaneously with promotional backing from the festival organizations, which will share in revenue.
Hmm... so the distributor is taking an cut and the film festivals are taking a cut? That so doesn't sound to me like the producer gets to take a cut at all. This model of distribution has been tried both with horror pictures (are the "8 Films to Die For" even in theaters anymore or do they just do straight to DVD now?) and art-house films (the entire IFC model, which makes some money for IFC but I ain't heard of a success which paid for the cost of making the picture out of proceeds from IFC distribution.)

And it seems to me that a separate "African American" cinema might also be having a problem with its audience. Yes, the Tyler Perry pictures do well. But the wall between "white-themed" cinema and "black-themed" cinema is not as high as it was in the 1950's (say), and in some ways arguably the barrier effectively doesn't exist (for black male actors at least, if not directors and writers). But more than that it may be that there is enough cinema to satisfy an audience which wants "black-themed" pictures (after all, there's almost a hundred years of black-themed pictures to watch.) This seems to have happened to everyone else (gay film, Latino film, etc.) so I wouldn't be surprised to find that there is a degree of saturation which has occurred with black-themed films.

Because after all, saturation even (finally) happened to horror films.

Billy Dee Williams was originally screen tested for the role of Han Solo. 
Still, I sure hope that "Blackdance" is phenomenally successful. But hope and faith are two different things.

*Actually, that day came way back when movies were first invented and that day stayed right up through the early 2000's. There has almost always been a "black film industry" in America which produced pictures by and for African Americans. What I'm suggesting here is that the economics of the entire industry affect "black-themed" pictures as well as what we might call "white-themed" pictures.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


A picture of us recording the commentary track.
So today we did the commentary track. We had David Ian Lee, David Frey, the Queen of Mars, and Nat Cassidy on hand to talk about the movie. Although we were expecting her, Danielle Quisenberry didn't come, so the commentary track ended up being rather boy-heavy. Maduka was away shooting something else.
I don't actually remember doing the commentary track that much. We had spiced rum and mango juice, and David Lee brought Bourbon and vermouth for Manhattans. So right now I'm surprised to be sitting in front of a computer. Actually, I'm surprised to be coherent enough to write at all.
Here's a new rule I learned. If you don't show up to the commentary track we will talk smack about you. And that goes for you too, Mr. Steven Spielberg.
I used the Chance Shirley commentary recording methodology. That is using the same recorder we use on set -- a Sound Devices 702 in this case -- to record the commentary (which is then edited into Final Cut Pro). We divided ourselves into a gang of three (David and David and the QOM), and a gang of two (Nat and me). The 3-gang got an Oktava (which is the same mic we use on set) on a table stand while Nat and I shared a large-diaphragm Rode. At a fundamental level you might not care about that, but I care deeply because it was a good-sounding way to record the commentary which we'll have to use again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mix Master Drew Blaster

Leda mixes her swan in 6.0
I have a couple questions. Like, why do I even bother doing surround mixes? Nobody, and I mean nobody cares. By and large distributors don't want them because it makes DVD authoring harder. Plus, c'mon, what are you really putting in those rear channel speakers?
I'd argue that the potentially highest-end environment any movie could ever play will be in someone's high-end home theater. There are a few people out there who actually watch movies in tuned rooms with THX certified sound systems. The key word here is "few".
Everyone else, even those who have surround systems, likely have their sound system unoptimised at best, or live in a nightmare world of complete out-of-calibration sound where they have their subwoofer hooked up to the center channel and the right and left reversed with the surrounds and a fish tank over the amplifier.
And because all surround systems will decode stereo 2.0 audio streams, why do I bother actually mixing to 5.1?
I have no idea.
If it were up to me I'd mix the whole darn thing in mono. That way the sound effects will sit better with the dialog anyway.
I'm continuing to do the QC check on Day 2. As the movie goes on I have fewer and fewer notes. That's good. Did I just get better as I was mixing later in the movie, or does the movie just pick up after the first couple reels?
We'll find out tomorrow when we do the commentary track (v1.0). We'll be missing a few people like Maduka and Tina and Tom, so we may have to do two versions of the commentary...
David Ian Lee better bring a lot of top-shelf Bourbon, that's all I can say.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


So we're scheduling a big gang commentary track for Day 2 this coming weekend. And I figure that somebody should actually watch the movie the whole way through before we do that. Right?
For me this is one of the most excruciating tasks while making a movie because every little mistake or error looks like a huge painful stab-me-in-the-eyes apallment. It's really hard for me to watch. (To which you can say: "Hard for you to watch?! How about us?!!" Ha!)
And of course I see mistakes like traffic in the background and other things which shouldn't exist in a post-apocalyptic world. There are a couple color-correction issues (especially in exposure where the close shots are stopped down a bit because the lens was wide open for the wide shots, if you know what I mean then you know what I mean.)
So far I have 6 out-and-out mistakes in Act 1. The exposure could be adjusted for dozens of shots, I don't know if/when we'll get to that. Only one of those big blatant errors is a picture mistake. The rest are all audio.
Oh, and if you're looking at my notes: "E.D." stands for "Extraneous Dialog." No. Really.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Actor Girl Drew

Lookit me! I have a Flixter page.

Oddly, in my Google Alerts which brought this page to my attention thinks I'm both a girl and an actor:

Andrew Bellware has starred in over 4 movies. Her first role was in 'Alien Uprising'...

Although I can't actually find that text anywhere on my Flixter page. My flute player's husband is a Flixterite (I just made that up, but it's hella better than what they call people at Yahoo.) Anyway, her dad was the keyboardist and music writer for the KGBeats. You'd think that would get me a big ol' page with a picture and everything, but nooooo. ;-)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chinese Food Rule

For the longest time I've been repeating the same mantra to producers regarding making feature films. And the mantra has gone like this:

Do. Not. Sign. A. SAG. Contract. 

That being said, the terms of SAG contracts aren't nearly as onerous as they used to be. That's because there aren't any "deferred" contracts in SAG anymore.* so your daily minimum pay will be $100. With the costs of the employer's side of payroll taxes, you should probably calculate that at about $122/day of cost.

If you have an average cast of 4 people on a 12-day shoot you have 48 man/days. That would be an extraordinarily small number of man/days for a feature film shoot. In any case, it would end up costing a minimum of $5856.00 to hire actors under the SAGINDIE ultra-low-budget agreement. And this is in addition to food and transportation of course.

The special "Chinese Food" rule here in the Pandora Machine (the rule that we have Chinese food almost every day) is based on the fact that Chinese lunch specials are very, very, cheap. And you can get vegetarian, vegan, whatever you want. Also, ask yourself this question: when you're shooting in Metuchen, NJ, on a Sunday do you really want to try any of the town's other cuisines? Right. I thought not. Chinese it is then.

Food will likely be your single biggest cost. I mean, unless you're foolhardily going to spend like $200,000 on your movie. Then the sound of distributors laughing at you at losing money will be your biggest cost. They will laugh heartily and it will cost you dearly in emotional pain and suffering. But hey, if you put a star in the movie (at between $5000 and $10,000 a week) you might be able to make back as much as $125K. 

*They even make fun of how horrible an onerous their "deferred" contracts were on their own FAQ page