Sunday, June 29, 2008

12 Days


(Comic from Player vs Player, specifically this place.)

So... we shot a movie in 12 days. It was hard to do and we did it because our scheduling fell apart so badly that we just had to. But low-budget genre filmmakers seem to do just that -- shoot in 12 days. Corman shot quite a few pictures in 12 days. I know The Asylum (at least used to) shoot their pictures in 12 days. Even Dov Siemans recommends the 12-day shoot ("You can get someone to commit to 2 weeks. If you say '3 weeks', that sounds like a month. Nobody wants to commit to your low/no-budget picture for a month.")

But I like 20-day shoots. I like 4-day weeks. I suppose if I had to choose, I'd go with three 4-day weeks. I don't like anything more than 10-hour days. Interestingly, because of locations constraints, the 10-hour day (including lunch) is usually our maximum anyway.

I may end up with a 12-day shoot to schedule on my next picture. That means 80 setups a day, which is obnoxious. 40 setups is a lot more relaxed (one every 15 minutes rather than one every 7 1/2 minutes).

--

So that little thingy from Mark McGill has been going around the independent movie blogopile? John August has his take on it.

Oddly, most of what Mark McGill says doesn't really apply to us at the bottom of the heap in the "genre" film world. It's a nightmare world out there for art-house, but in our $10K-budget-to-make-$50K-back-world, it doesn't really apply.

And to demonstrate the philosophical difference between the genre and art-house worlds, John says:

We need to ask, “Failure for whom?” Even a movie that doesn’t earn its budget back will likely make money for its distributors, once you factor in video and TV sales. More crucially, a good indie film generates future work for its stars and filmmakers. So there’s a lot of success to be found in that 99.9% failure.

Egads Man! Failure for the people putting up money for the picture means (in our universe) that you don't get to make another picture!

This is why I say there are basically two worlds in independent filmmaking. There's the world where you try to convince rich people to give you money in a way which virtually guarantees they won't make it back, and there are those who try to make their investors' money back. Or another way to put it: there are the art-house filmmakers who complain about film festivals, and the genre filmmakers who complain about distributors.

New Housing

So I entered into one of those infamous NYC lotteries for housing. But I thought I had a decent chance at "winning" this one because there are 100 units available in the building and because this particular lottery application was so freakin' complex that I figured "how many people could possibly fill this thing out?". Plus, they actually had a preference for people in the "performing arts". Why that's me!

On Friday I was called in for my first interview for the Schermerhorn House.

I guess that technically this means I'd won the "lottery" portion of getting one of these apartment, although there are still many more qualification hoops to jump through.

Of course, I had to bring in yet more documentation to the interview (in addition to the 12 or so pages I'd already sent them.) When I got there I was interviewed by a couple women from "Common Ground" (although it's possible that one of them was training and/or working for yet another organization.) They asked me all the questions which I'd answered on my application, plus a whole lot more, and they had me sign all kinds of stuff allowing them to do a criminal background check and credit check and to check with my employer and landlord, etc.

And then they ask me a long list of other questions like: would I feel comfortable living in a building with tenants who were elderly, or low-income, or formerly homeless, or HIV-positive, or mentally ill (I think my response was "sounds like half my family"). They asked if I had any felony convictions (you may be proud to know that as tempted as I was I didn't say "Oh, convictions? No... no... convictions.")*

I learned during the questioning that all guests at the new apartment building have to sign in at the front desk. And that means you can't just buzz them up, you have to go down to meet them. Furthermore you may not have overnight guests for more than 15 days out of the month (or possibly one just can't have the same overnight guest for 15 days, I don't remember).

Of course they can easily check their logbooks to see the comings and goings of said guests, so they'll know.

Then they explained that all residents would be assigned a "case worker". The question I was asked was if I minded having to check in with my case worker once a month. I said "no" of course.

I mean, this is for a $635/month 266 square foot apartment three stops into Brooklyn on the A and C lines. It's a pretty sweet deal. Is it worth meeting with my parole officer every 30 days for the savings of about $4000 a year? Sure. But it is demoralizing. Do I need a case worker because I don't make a lot of money? Or because I work in the arts? (Well, now that I think of it, maybe I do need a social worker to help me get out of theater...)

But the whole thing seems more like living in a halfway house than really having my own apartment. I think I'd rather get a single - bedroom in Harlem. Some of them are for less money than the Schermerhorn, although there are far fewer of those available and the chances of winning a placement lottery in one of those apartments is much lower. Still, I sent in my application for two more similar lotteries but I don't think I'd learn anything 'till August or September.

In any case, I have my next interview for the Schermerhorn House, with people from the Actors Fund, on Tuesday. The building's opening has been pushed back to October (when I first heard about it, it had been scheduled to open in June) so there's no big rush. Maybe it won't even open 'till next year -- new construction can take any amount of time so who knows? In the meantime I won't hold my breath, keep my hopes up, count my chickens before they hatch, or rely on any trite adages.

--

Whew, this has been an exhausting week.

--

*Better yet: "Which one's a 'felony'? Wait, if you shoot a guy during a bar fight, is that a felony?"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ignorance Is Strength

Mac Rogers thinks I spend the entire day scouring the interwebs for pictures of bunnies. I told him that I have them sent to me.

Sure, I think that all totalitarian states will necessarily collapse under their own weight, but that doesn't mean I don't love these old covers to 1984. That's the FUTURE, man!

Update: From KnowHR. Joe Cocker with subtitles.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Great Business To Be In

My sister is finishing up readying the house for the open house tomorrow. Very sad for me.

She'll be leaving tomorrow. With her three animals. I'll miss all four of them.

Here's a picture of her dog "Chien" and her cat "Piti" ("Petey"), missing is another cat named "Abby".

--

Via Chance Shirley, an article on the lovely world of independent film production and distribution:






"Most of these pictures are pre- ordained flops from independent
distributors who forgot that their odds would have been better if they'd
converted their money into quarters and taken the all-night party bus to
Vegas."

I can't help but think that this is just the most perfect time to be getting into this business of film production. Thanks Chance! ;-)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer Horoscopes


Get yours. Here's mine: Cancer: Everything that you have been raised to believe, everything that you have ever held to be true will be completely discredited by a quote from Ali Lohan.
Yes, I'm posting this with an arbitrary picture of an aircraft carrier docking in Malta.
Today am doing the last of the cleaning of the house before the open house on Tuesday.

Friday, June 20, 2008

On the 8th Day...



... or "The 6th One's the Charm".

So, in order to make a DVD, I went through a power Mac, an Intel iMac (2 processors), an XP PC (gaming machine, dual processor), a quad-processor Vista machine, an another dual-core Vista laptop. I made coasters or couldn't even start making a DVD on every one of those machines.

What finally came through for me, on the day of the deadline for the Toronto film festival?

My old-school, non-Intel Mac Mini.

That little bugger always works. I wuv my mini. And it wuvs me too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Failures

While watching my computers crash, I figure I can read other things:

INT. CITY OF GOLD

HARRISON solves a few simple puzzles and gains access to the CITY. Some natives show up and attack, but are quickly dispatched, making the AUDIENCE wonder why they were introduced at all.

HARRISON FORD

Alright, the aliens or whatever want me to return the crystal to some ridiculous alien throne room.

CATE BLANCHETT

Not zo fast. I vill return skull instead.

HARRISON FORD

Shouldn’t it have been taken as an indicator of a writing problem when the good guy and the bad guy in a movie have the exact same goal?

------------

In the meantime: the dual-core iMac crashed on making a DVD in iDVD. The dual-core PC froze while making the same DVD. The dual-core Power Mac (pre-Intel) doesn't have enough room on the main drive to run iDVD (you can tell that's not my computer, I'd never use the OS drive for data), and it just freezes in Toast Titanium. I know, I could spend 30 hours getting over the learning curve in DVD Studio Pro but I literally don't have 30 hours because I have to get this DVD out by tomorrow.
I don't seem to be able to output directly to the DVD recorder we have here -- probably because the project has to be in a DV timeline rather than an HD timeline. So I'm re-rendering the project as standard-def DV in order to see if I can get that to work.
Right now I'm making one attempt to make a DVD on my Toshiba laptop with whatever program it uses.* Also, I'm converting the Quicktime to an .avi in order to use Windows DVD Creator on the quad-core computer (because of course the stupid program can't read .mov files -- thanks guys!).**

* That crashed, giving an "unspecified error".
** That didn't work because for some reason the computer just couldn't read the .avi file ("unsupported format" it said).

General Error


So, I've been trying to make a DVD of Solar Vengeance since Friday night. It's now Wednesday. The Mac (I've switched over to Final Cut Pro because of the inability to render large files in Premiere) gives me a "General Error" whenever I try to render out the movie as an h264. I have to render out in another format because we've learned a long time ago that the Macs are very cantankerous about creating DVD's. So we have to actually make the DVD's on PC's just using whatever software came with the PC.

But now the Macs won't render out. So I'm forced to render out the whole movie in small chunks rather than just one big render. Just like I had to do on the PC! Hooray! Thank you Apple! Thank you for the mysterious and un-troubleshootable "General Error" you give me after rendering for 9 hours! For the 4th time! You guys rock!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Depending On Your Mood

Via SFSignal Pink Floyd "Echos" synced to the last act of 2001 A Space Odyssey
Or if that doesn't work for you, how about (via Cukisag) some Cats and Dogs by Camille.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Occasional Bunny




One thing I'll miss from leaving Hofer Court is the bunnies.
These photographs were taken from my front door (actually through the glass of the storm door as I didn't want to scare Mr. Bun).
The first picture is from my iPhone. As it turns out, iPhones are kinda useless for this kind of thing. They're just too wide angle. Perfect for when you're right on top of the cat, but wildlife is completely out of the question.
So I'll go to my sister's Canon.
There's a wide...
And a closeup of a bun.
We've always had the occasional rabbit here. Because there aren't too many of them and they aren't as destructive to gardens as (say) groundhogs, they just seem kinda fun.
This one has a white spot on his/her right flank.
And translucent ears.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

More pictures



Here I am in Brooklyn trying to take a picture across the Telectroscope. It would have been a picture of a couple security guards standing around the London bridge at 5am their time. Instead it's just a picture of me and a cute Hasidic family who were very excited to be looking at London when it was 11pm in New York.
And here is Pushkin. I woke him up to take his picture.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cat and Girl


I've been reading it.

This is It




The house I grew up in is for sale.

Silly Ideas

But first we'll start with an arbitrary picture. It's my blog, I can do that. No, I have no idea what thy're doing in/from that submarine.

Now back to silly ideas.

Here's one.

And here's another (not safe for work) one:

Pterodactyl porn. The weirdest thing in it is toward the end, when the baby pterodactyl shows up.

I mean really, do we need audio mastering engineers to get "certified" in the use of their compressors? Do we need pterodactyl porn?

Well, maybe we do...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Logo


We shot Angela Funk today. This is the "still" version of our logo. At least, this is version 5 of our still logo. It'll likely get tweaked.

And the still, of course, ends up in the motion logo (does anyone know what these things are really called?)


Pandora Machine Logo v 16 from Andrew Bellware on Vimeo.

Bill Martell Gets It Right


William Martell gives us his spoiler-filled analysis of the new Indiana Jones movie. Seems pretty dead-on to me.

Whatever you do, don't nuke the fridge.

Image from.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Horror


So, we've been told that "indy" horror movies are making a glut right now in the marketplace. They aren't selling because there are just too many of them.

Of all the low-budget indy product out there, Sci-fi has a bit of an advantage because there's so much less of it. Our sales rep is very unhappy about the horror market.

He's happy we're focusing on Sci-Fi.

--

So we think we should be focussing on Sci-Fi. Sci-fi but with an eye toward this sort of thinking.

--

The trick is, of course, that sci-fi is much harder to do well than other things. But we're getting better at it.

--

Up till now (or rather, up 'till 0701) we've been self-financing our pictures. My new model is such that we'd use investor(s) for each picture:

Each picture has a gross budget of $20K. But the cash budget for making the movie is $12.5K. I use the extra $7,500 to live on in the meantime (although that can easily be thought of as a "rental" for all the equipment we're using).

The investor(s) get 50% of the revenue. I figure we can pretty reliably make between $40K and $50K in revenue worldwide on a picture, most of the money coming in about 18 months after the start of principal photography. There's an upside, of course, we could make much more. And the downside is that 100% of the investment is at risk.

Lastly, we must make 5 pictures in 2 years. This means we expend $100K and receive $250K in a 2-year period (well, there's an 18-month delay but I think you know what I mean.)

My thinking is that this plan is realistic. It's all a matter of having scripts as good as possible before we start. And, of course, a lot of creative people willing to work for free (or until we break $50,000 in revenue and start paying people out.)

As long as we're having fun it'll all be good.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Kick


We shot this on the last day of principal photography. We were shooting two, maybe three scheduled days in one 8-hour day. I got punished a little bit for that when I went to color-correction. But not this shot. I'm really happy with the modeling of shadows on Kathleen's ( http://www.kathleenkwan.com/ ) face and the kick of light in her eyes.

Finally


There are many many times a movie gets rendered out in our workflow. Because of a mistake I made before we began production, we were using Adobe Premiere to edit the movie Solar Vengeance. Premiere has a LOT of problems working with feature-length projects. I had to, for instance, divide the movie into 14 sections in order to be able to work on it without Premiere crashing. Then when I'd go to render out one of those sections, it would take on average 2 days (instead of about an hour and a half) because of the frequent crashes, etc. So when I found out a month ago that I had (about) 150 changes to make in the picture I realized that it would take about 28 days to complete and render those changes. And it did.

But now I am done with that. We still have to render inside Final Cut Pro. And then when we make the 1.33:1 full-frame pan-and-scan that's yet another render. But those are easy renders and FCP doesn't crash when you load a feature-size project into it (which doesn't mean FCP is without its problems like its weird quasi-compatibility with Magic Bullet, but that's another story).

And so whew. That was stressful. But done. Yay!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Escape from Downtown


So I'm reading this article in the New Yorker about a performance by the Elevator Repair Service and they make a reference to The Wooster Group (for which I used to work.) Then I realized that the director of the show is John Collins, who actually replaced me at the Wooster Group when I quit/was fired.

Interestingly, the story I'd heard was that John was the first pick for the job of sound designer before I was hired because "all the girls thought he was so handsome". But somehow I ended up with the job anyway. He got it less than a year after me.

Years later I visited the sound department when the Wooster Group was doing a show on Broadway. John was in the middle of being the focus of unwanted attention from the director (which was something I could certainly empathize with) and being told that his show sounded terrible. It didn't sound terrible, of course, it sounded great, and I told him so.

And now he's doing vastly cooler things than the Wooster Group anyway.

Friday, June 06, 2008

First Sales


We got our first offers from Cannes.

Solar Vengeance will be in Japan, Russia, Germany, and Thailand.

Millennium Crisis picked up a small sale in Russia.

Greenlight 0802


Today we greenlit a fantastic script by Josh James. It's an alien prison planet with women space marines picture which is going to be a lot of fun to do. There's even a monster in it!
We don't know when exactly we'll be shooting but it'll be before the end of the year. It'll be a lot of fun.

Monday, June 02, 2008

My Cat Moved





My cat has moved to his new home in Princeton NJ. He brought my parents with him.
Here Pushkin sits on the bed on his first day as a resident of Princeton.

Sunday, June 01, 2008