Friday, September 30, 2011

What Are We Doing?

What are we doing right now? Aren't we supposed to be in production of a feature?
Well this is what happened. I was talking to our sales rep about the casting -- we're looking for someone who plays a tween/teen girl for the picture and he's all "Natalie Portman in Léon".
Oh great. So we need someone who plays young, and has that preternaturally sharp facial architecture of an older woman.
Chloe Grace Moretz
By and large those things are mutually exclusive. What makes a "girl" is rounded facial features (and a typically high voice). It's fairly rare to have a girl be able to look both young and old at the same time. Which makes sense.
My preference would be to have a woman who can play a tweenager. Those exist in greater numbers. I think to get what my distributor wants would require us to actually cast a young person.
Do you have any idea how complicated the employment laws become when you're working with someone under the age of (I think) 16? And what with the Jackie Coogan laws (which only apply to the entertainment field) it's a bit of a nightmare.
Anyway, I'm off to look for a girl to fight some dragons with a crossbow...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bunny Blogging

The Asylum shoots from concept to completion in 4 months.
Fractured Atlas offers production insurance. (Via Angry Nun.)
If Sound Devices made a camera, I would buy it without even learning anything about it first. Why? Because it would be awesome, that's why. But they have made a video recorder and that sure seems like it rocks.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Best Review of Hamlet

"Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is hardly a trainwreck..."

That's the best review I've ever gotten for my first feature, Hamlet. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An Interview

I was interviewed by Michael Haberfelner of (re)Search My Trash. (Thanks to David Campfield.) I talk about our movies and how they came about.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Importing Panasonic MTS into FCP

So Panasonic has released AVCCAM Importer. It lets you directly import Panasonic .MTS files into Final Cut Pro 7.
I learned about this nifty importer from the boys down at Abel Cine. I don't think Panasonic really created this app for the GH-1, but I've tested it and Final Cut Pro can certainly import .mts files directly with it.
What I don't know is how happy it is or isn't with interlacing or other things. The first thing I've noticed is that the playback in FCP was very herky-jerky but that could be for virtually any reason at all.
If the AVCCAM Importer really works it'll save us between 400 and 600GB of data on each movie we make, that's for sure.
I am amused by the feet on this rabbit.
We'll be testing it out this week. On other people's projects. Ha!
UPDATE: I can't get the files to playback smoothly. When a project is loaded with .mts files the whole computer just slows down. This is on both of our Macs -- the quad-core and the 8-core. Back to Neoscene then. ;-)

Solar Vengeance Review

Search My Trash's Mike Haberfelner reviews Solar Vengeance.

"Benjamin Thomas gives a scene-stealing performance as the soft spoken and eloquent local marshal."
That's totally true.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where to send movies to

Over at Project London they're maintaining a list of places to send screeners and such to.
D World Magazine,
Blender Nation,
Boing Boing,
Cinefantastique Online,
Dave On Film, (Entertainment Weekly),
Film Radar,
Film Snobbery,
Film Stalker,
Giant Robot Magezine,
Hammer to Nail,,
Illusion 360,
iTunes Movie Trailers,,
NPR News,,
SF Signal,
The Film Nest,
Total Film,
Troll In The Corner,
Video Copilot,
Vulture Blog,
Watcher's Watch,

And from the comments:
Plus also:

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Ooh. I get it. After Amelia finds her brother she goes stomping off alone to fight Sebastian. She fails, her dragon is killed, and then her brother catches up to her in the abandoned place and they get together with Gregor and Zemia and Miranda and agree that the GZM contingent (with Watson) will lead the mass of black dragons off while Joe kills Sebastian.
Showers are wonderful things for thinking straight.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I don't know what's going on anymore.

Our last movie had no nudity in it. And what looks to be our next script is almost "YA" in its sensibilities -- not only is there no nudity, but there's no cursing!
We gotta do an erotic dragon movie at some point.
Hey check out the .pdf of the Employee Rights you need to have posted at your workplace!
You know what rights you don't have as an employee? Free speech. Yeah, I know, right? Just make sure you say "My boss is a butt much and we should organize a union" and you'll be fine.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Dragon Movie

Does the dragon juice actually bring people back to life? I expect that it does. Right now it's a tad complex as we established in an earlier draft that is true but only for Amelia, Sebastian, and Joe. I suspect that we just make it that dragon blood has restorative powers.
The structure is bonked. It feels wrong and when ya beat it out it's fairly obvious that the "moment of death" is in the wrong place. This is fixable.
There are a LOT of visual effects shots. Hoo boy.
Anyway, the latest version of the screenplay is always here.

Anti Aircraft Battery

So I tell Joe Chapman that we need a special massive crossbow for this dragon movie we're working on and he sends me this design for an anti-aircraft battery. Because, somehow, that's what we needed. Ahem.


William Martell points out that 53 out of 100,000 screenplays get produced. I suspect that both those numbers are a bit low if you include television, foreign sales, and foreign writers but you get the idea.

Ooh! "Night Blood of the Naked Mutilators" would be an even better title!

Anyway, I think I may have already mentioned "Blood of the Naked Mutilators" as being an awesome title because I think Bill has used it as an example of a lousy title before. ;-)

The Hulk on 3-act structure.
I tend to try to work using the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet. And honestly it's more intuitive to think of that as a 4-act structure (although Blake broke it down into three acts.) The Hulk advocates a 5-act structure. Tentatively I'd agree. But I usually think of that 5th act in giant blockbusters. For simple little horror pictures the 5th act is not necessarily there.
It's not that I have any real analysis to defend my position with. It's just the way I tend to think about it.
I'd never even heard of VuDu. But apparently it's bigger than Amazon's streaming service. And it's scaring Netflix. Netflix is so bad for indy producers that I'm not terribly concerned if anyone is scaring them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


There seem to be a number of websites dedicated to DVD covers.

Battle New York, Day 2 2011 Ws DVD Front cover
Battle New York, Day 2 2011 Ws DVD Front cover

I guess they scan covers and upload them. I guess people collect the images. Or. Something.

Anyway, I haven't actually got my copy of the movie yet.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Hacked GH1

So, we've shot three features on the Panasonic GH1. Two of those features were with the hacked version of the GH1 (Earthkiller and Android Insurrection) and one was unhacked (Battle: New York, Day 2).
And I'm not convinced that the hacked version is somehow better.

In fact, two bad things have been happening. One is that the camera shuts down every once in a while with a strange "cannot write to card" message. The other problem is... weirder. We have had dramatically more difficulty pulling decent mattes from blue and green screens using the hacked version of the camera.
This is completely counter intuitive. We've been lighting blue screens much better than in the past, and we're shooting at twice the data rate. So the mattes should be easier to pull, no?
But they're not. Maduka's day job is pulling clean mattes and he's been having trouble with the new footage too.
So, uh. Why?
I have no idea.
Now, further investigation has shown that indeed the trouble with the camera ceasing to record is primarily a matter of the pulldown removal in camera. Since we use Neoscene, we can just use the pulldown removal inside Neoscene. So hopefully that won't be a problem anymore.
But the data rate? Everyone on the Interwebs says the higher data rate is better. Honestly, it's just not making any difference to us. I can't see it. I see it in people's tests they post online, I don't see it when we shoot.
So what are we doing? We're going back to the stock camera. So there.
And this brings me to my next point. The Interwebs has a lot of actual, real, and genuine experts on it. But very very few of them actually do high-production feature-film making. Indeed, arguably none of the technical experts on the web do.
What this means is that much of the advice one gets is from people who have a lot of commercial experience, or a lot of high-end (read: "expensive") feature experience. And the way those kinds of things are made is not always 100% helpful to little micro-studios like us.
For instance, I'm a big fan of the DV Rebel's Guide. It has a lot of useful stuff in it, even if at this point the dominant cameras have changed radically enough that some whole chapters have simply become archaic.
Other than the archaic stuff though, I have a couple other issues.
Look, I love Stu Maschwitz as much as the next man. But Stu, although he's worked on many high-end feature films is not a guerrilla feature film maker. He's a guerrilla filmmaker. And he's worked on a bunch of features, but not both at the same time.
What I'm saying here is that he really knows what he's talking about. But in order to make multiple features per year (which you really need to do in order to have a prayer at making a living at it) you frequently need to worry about doing things the faster way than the better way.
For instance: worrying about one's codec is focusing on really one of the last problems one has in movie production. Codecs are a big issue in the DV Rebel's Guide, and a big issue amongst the knowledgerati in the digital cinema world. But you know what? You have a whole bunch more things going wrong with your movie than the codec. Honestly we render a LOT in 8-bit too. Again, this is because rendering everything in a higher bit depth takes much more time and frequently doesn't work at all in Final Cut Pro (the computer just crashes) And doing all your color-grading in AfterEffects? That's a rich-man's way to do things. Loading an entire movie into AfterEffects is a major pain in the tuchus, no matter how you do it.
So we render in a low bit depth in Final Cut Pro. Which is exactly the "wrong" way to do it. But it works. And we can get a feature film out the door that way.
Anyway, we're abandoning the hacked GH1. I'll tell ya how that goes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Today's Things - Limited Embracing and Kissing

Via Stu, free texture maps!
An interview with filmmaker David Campfield. David, Chance Shirley, and I have now all had movies released by Pop Cinema (the label has various names).
Our first review for Day 2! ;-)
Here's something... interesting. The Ontario Film Board's content advisory for Battle: New York, Day 2. Under "detailed observations":
- Occasional gory/grotesque images- Coarse language- Partial or full nudity in a brief sexual situation- Limited embracing and kissing- Implied sexual activity- Violent acts shown in clear, unequivocal and realistic detail with blood and tissue damage
"Limited embracing and kissing" is my favorite part.

Monday, September 5, 2011

20 Lights

Over at Blood Sweat and Tedium they talk of many things. Specifically they talk of using upwards of 20 lights on a standard 3-wall swing set in TV.
20? Really?
Now, my background as a DP is without any doubt pretty weird. I mean, I started as a sound guy for crying out loud. And although I've done TV with some excellent Lighting Directors, I've never really done TV except as a sound mixer.
But this I know, and know quite well: television engineers are conservative. I don't mean politically. Politically the EIC's I've known have been all-the-freak over the place. But lighting-wise they're mighty conservative.
And either as a consequence of, or resulting from, people who make TV really like some brightly-lit, no shadows anywhere-type lighting.
That's arguably what makes sit-coms look like sit-coms. They're lit up the wazoo. With, like, you know, 20 lights on a 3-wall swing-set.
Robin Kurtz in Earthkiller.
I'm not entirely sure, but I'd be surprised if we ever had as many as a dozen lights on a set. Including practicals and lighting a blue screen. I do enjoy lighting entirely with practical lights -- but doing the kind of sci-fi we do that usually means we have these florescent tubes we've bought at Home Depot and are hanging them at eye level. That kind of lighting is gratuitous and amusing and ultimately vastly easier to do than lighting everything "flat" the way they tend to do in TV.
And you know when they talk about 20 instruments they're talking big, boss instruments. 1K's are considered "small" around those parts.
I forget whether we had a 1K in this shot of Robin Kurtz in Earthkiller. Whatever is whumping her face is an incandescent -- probably Brian's 1K but it could be a 500-watt we borrowed. That rim lighting on her is all practical florescents.
This is the kind of thing that drives many TV people insane. The luminance values on her face go from tippity-top over 100% clipping down to no-detail-blacks (in her hair.) There's a light source in the shot. There's a flare!
But hey, I like the way it looks. You may too.
The point is. Oh heck, I don't know what the point is. The point is I wish I had 20 big lights. ;-)

Clone Hunter Streaming

Angela Funk in Clonehunter.
Clone Hunter is available for streaming on both FlixFling and Big Star. Actually, it might not be on Big Star yet. But it will be soon.

"Cane is a former planetary cop who resigned in disgrace. He is a freelance clone hunter now, a glorified gun for hire. He and his junior partner, Angela, are hired by Montserrat, a brutal Oligarch, to track down a murderous clone that threatens the stability of Montserrat's private planet. The more Cane and Angela delve into the case the more corruption they discover, until they come face to face with their own darkest secrets and must decide which side they are on."

You know this is not entirely accurate -- for instance we never say that Cain was a former planetary cop although that is an awesome idea. Heck, maybe we should re-make the movie that way! ;-)
And, of course, "Montserrat" is the name of Montserrat Mendez (who acted in Clone Hunter and wrote Earthkiller.) The name of that character in Clone Hunter is actually "Gulliver" and is played by Vincent Marano.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Standard Release

In order to make our distributor(s) and buyer(s) happy, we've drawn up this release/certificate of employment for anyone who gets a credit on one of our shows. The purpose of this is to be able to show a nice paperwork trail of the title and everyone or everything that could ever be copyrighted about the work. Weirdly, I have to sign the thing -- and more than once. I need to indemnify 'ganst my being a director, writer, cinematographer, and composer.
So there ya go.
Basically, in order to get credit, we have to have a signed contract. Otherwise our distributor will release a battalion of androids to come over and smack us.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Out Call

I get this email this morning from

We're writing about the order you placed on July 21 2011 (Order# 105-7624741-5920204). Unfortunately, we are unable to ship the item(s) as soon as we expected and need to provide you with a new estimate of when the item(s) may be delivered:
 Nat Cassidy, et al "Battle: New York - Day 2"   Estimated arrival date: September 19 2011 - September 29 2011
We apologize for the inconvenience caused by this delay.*****WHY WAS MY ORDER DELAYED?While we do our best to adhere to our delivery estimates, our inventory is constantly changing based on information we receive directly from our suppliers. Occasionally, unexpected fluctuations in supply, delays during shipping, or changes in release dates for new products will add time to our original delivery estimate.

I'm calling shenanigans on you, Mr. Amazon! You didn't have enough copies because you sold out! Sold out I say!
You should order a bunch more copies to keep 'em on hand. Really. You should.