Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What Good Are Notebooks?

There. A new picture of me. At my parent's apartment in Princeton.

I feel like Life in Wartime. I've changed my hairstyle so many times now...

The Asylum must be getting pretty tired of the hate the press and the interwebs throw at them. They're the only one of the complete independent producers still able to get their pictures into Blockbuster anymore.

I could make a whole class argument about how the art-house film business requires that the filmmakers have patrons who can put money into films which have no realistic expectation of financial returns -- because they can afford it. A company like the Asylum puts their own money in -- they have no need for a patronage system. So of course they're hated...

In any case, The Asylum is moving to Burbank and they're kinda defensive about it.

Makin' Ur Droids

I just read an Inktip script. Almost good. The "fun and games" and the "debate" sections were almost inverted. And of course there were way too many irrelevant characters who could have been condensed substantially and a lot of gratuitous zero gravity that we'd never be able to shoot.

Iron Man Heads Up Display (HUD) tutorial.


For a limited time only the book droidMAKER is available as a free download from the author's site. You can also, you know, just buy the book.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Post Mortem Alien Uprising

OK, here are my general notes on AU & what did and didn't work.

What made the experience the most pleasurable of making that movie was having Maduka be in it and edit it. The Josh James script was good and emotionally clear in its direction in each scene.

The center of the picture has a B story (love story) and there is a scene which I'm actually a bit proud of where Maduka's and Kumiko's characters first start talking to one another which could have been static and boring but which actually works. The trick, as it turns out, is having enough time on stage to work out the business and the beats to make the scene move. Ahh... time.

At one point Steve said something about how shooting would be easier if we had rehearsal time before we shot. Ha! I thought. We would have had the same dang scheduling problems! Two ensemble pictures in a row, Solar Vengeance and Alien Uprising, with unpaid actors, made scheduling hands-down the most difficult and logistically challenging part. It is kind of neat to get big scenes with a whole bunch of people in them to work. But getting everyone to the location, in costume, that can be a bitch.

The closeups of the alien look good, but the wides aren't up to snuff. I don't think I did a good job with the death of the alien. That was a bit static and looks a bit clumsy. I wish we'd worked more on how the thing moved. Probably most of these things could have been solved by a more grandiose idea of what the alien could have looked like. I probably should have brought Brian in on designing and building something. Of course that would have meant more money spent.

I do wish there were a shot of the dang alien just before Jeff dies. I look at the movie now and that shot seems so obvious -- we certainly had the footage. But we didn't put it in there.

I wish we had a composer on the picture. Not that I don't like what I did on the movie, it was OK, but an outside ear would have been helpful and would have reduced my workload.

A couple composites should have been color-shifted to look like they were photographed by the same camera. The particle effects are primarily monochrome but without the right tint.

I tried two jump scares. They don't work though. In the future, our jump scares will work. Both of them in Alien Uprising interfere with the pacing.

It was nice to have Lanie cast the movie. We met a lot of people we wouldn't have otherwise and worked with some fine people who were new to us. That's always good. I really like our cast.

I wish we'd solved the issue that we didn't have a way for people to get from the ship to the facility and back. We just didn't have a set. So in the movie just go from being inside the ship to suddenly being inside the facility. This was something we were concerned with before shooting, we just didn't have a budget-conscious way to work it out. Maduka came up with a solve which was organic to the movie, the computer point-of-view, which turned out to be neccesary for a bunch of transitions, but that one more set section would have been nice.

More lights on helmets and guns would have helped with exposure and not cost us too much.

All the trouble we went to in order to make each of the characters physically stand out from one another seems to work. I don't think many people confuse the marines with one another. They're each pretty distinct.

I think I actually prefer the muzzle flashes in the trailer -- even though those are generic (and free) muzzle flashes (and don't always go in the right direction exactly).

We didn't color correct that movie any more than raising the exposure in some exposure-challenged scenes. Very amber lookin' movie. The producer would have preferred that the blacks sunk to a green color. But they didn't. So there. The 3D visual effects (spaceship mostly) is a bit more on the anime side of CGI than I'd prefer.

I wish I'd thought to make the two big decisions -- for the Marines to work with the prisoners and for Dunn to go back to get Lee -- bigger and more specific. Those are the two big turns the picture makes and it would have been better if we made a bigger deal out of them. I know I was rushed on both those days but I should have at least thought of it.

What else? This picture sold faster than any other picture we've sold (it has a ways to go before it sells the most though, that's been Millennium Crisis). It's less rough around the edges than Solar Vengeance. The trailer is good, but of course we have no say on the trailer (except that I wrote the music for it -- which is unusual -- but they'd cut it using needle-drop music which they didn't have the rights to so I created a score which sorta matched the needle-drop.) Distributors seem to be focussing on it as an Aliens style mockbuster.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Following some blogs now, at the fault of Bill Cunningham, Christopher Sharpe is a horror filmmaker and apparently the other person who uses an Ambient slate, Brea Grant is an actor, also from Texas.*

The latest news on movies we've made and are making:
  • Presumably there are "catalog" sales in the works of Millennium Crisis, Solar Vengeance, and Alien Uprising
  • Presumably we have another Alien Uprising sale in another market we've yet to sell to
  • The main data drive for Alien Uprising up and died. It was an Iomega drive. Kaput. No warning. I keep a backup in another state (no kidding) so we ordered another drive for a hundred bucks and made a copy this week. For a 100% drive failure the whole episode wasn't nearly as gut wrenching as one would expect.
  • We have a surprising amount of Clonehunter edited. Maduka wants to have a whole cut complete by the time he leaves for vacation in July. I think that's too ambitious 'cause I see him falling asleep at his computer. Somebody get him a cat.**
  • I have pictures like this to show me what stuff in space actually looks like. Am fighting the great fight to make all the CG look photo real in Clonehunter. That's part of the reason we stay inside the ship mostly...
  • If I never had to compose the score for a film again it wouldn't be too soon.
*You know, a sentence this convoluted really would tend to indicate that I am not a terribly great editor. But the fact is I'm a pretty good editor and that 1. these blog posts are unedited and 2. I actually talk like this.
**If Maduka had a cat he'd be worse than my dad as far as treating it like it were a guest. My dad can't even check his email anymore because the cat has decided that my dad's office chair is his favorite place to sleep.

"I am standing directly beneath the enemy's scrotum."

OK, up until now io9's review of Transformers 2 was the funniest I'd read. But now I think that Topless Robot has put out the funniest review of Transformers 2. I lost it when I got to "Grrr."

Thanks to Bill Martell.

Oh and special bonus: today's weirdest video on the internets. Cat's Head Theatre.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Maybe the Panasonic GH1 really might be worthwhile. Why? Because somewhere there are adapters for Canon FD lenses for it. That is... very... interesting...

If you're British and you're confused about the name of the place you come from, here is a handy guide.

A radar effect tutorial in AfterEffects.

Friday, June 26, 2009


A bit of a short film, Man vs Woman. Comes with robots and dinosaurs. Makes me feel even more strongly that the one dang thing we have to do is get our vfx up to snuff.

Now for some spoilers regarding the novel Digital Plague by Jeffrey Somers.


I mean, I'm going to tell you the end of the book so this is your last warning.

Zombies. And the best, most coherent zombie idea yet. There's an engineered nanobot plague which kills (nearly) everyone. The second stage of the plague -- after the victim dies -- is for the nanobots to repair the body they have eaten away using the no-longer-needed brain tissue of the victim. Then the nanobots control the corpse and presumably (we never get this far in the book) the victim looks for the specialized food the nanobots feed on: human brains. This explains why zombies want human brains and why they don't attack one another.

Right? I know.

But why did the major decide to buck the hierarchy and take Avery to Paris when she in fact was in no danger at all because she was an avatar?

Post-Mortem Clonehunter Shoot: Grip Edition

We have to do something about a dolly. The thing is that with those cheap-o dollys you can't really ride them and it's almost impossible to do a decent pan while also dollying (when you're operating the camera and the dolly.) The pans invariably get jerky and it's really annoying.

A decent geared head will cost at a minimum $5000 used (and weigh upwards of 100 pounds). The Arri will cost $15K and weigh 35 pounds. So you'll need a big fat tripod and/or dolly for it to ride on. So really you're going to need a grip to handle it.

And, of course, you're going to need an AC to pull focus because the operator won't have a hand free.

But my big problem with our current setup is that although we can move the camera sideways, it's really hard to move in to the subject. That's because of the focus pulling. So although this is the "grip" edition of the post-mortem, we're really talking about focus pulling (again).

But boy it would be nice to have one of those Fisher dollies with a geared head (and someone to take charge of it.)

Maybe on some days we rent a grip truck with a Key Grip and use his dolly?

In any case, we need an AC.

Go ahead. Click on the ad all you want. It just gets better.


"Oh I really liked him when I was growing up so everything he did was perfect." STFU and get some critical distance. Michael Jackson sucked. He made bland MOR pop songs and sold a lot of records just as "independent promoters" were at their most powerful. Big deal. The Beatles? Changed pop music forever.* Michael Jackson? Nothing. Anybody thinking knew that then and knows that now. Hell, the Dead Kennedys were VASTLY more influential than Michael Jackson...

Don't get me started on "punk rock"...

*Specifically, they made artists write their own music and they made the recording of the music just as important as the songwriting to the experience of the music.

Vampires are Coming Back

Vampires are coming back. Wish I had a vampire huntress picture. In any case, I saw the Undead movie in the theaters and was pretty impressed by it. The same dudes are making this movie Daybreakers.

Hellowars is Star Wars characters as Hello Kitty characters. The 20th Century is complete now. Thanks.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Plague Digital

It's amazing to me the quality of the work that's out there. I just read Jeffrey Somers' Digital Plague (after fighting with the widget). I'm impressed by just the quality of the writing and the editing for something which is free online and put out there in the hopes that someone who reads it will either 1. get really annoyed with the interface and just buy the damn book or 2. read it, like it, and buy other books by the same author.

I wish more screenplays were this good. I think the trouble there is that you have some degree of freedom when writing a novel about the structure and so forth of the novel. A screenplay really is much more specific in its needs. Comparing a screenplay to a novel is a bit like comparing a Sonnet to free verse. Also, a screenplay isn't actually the finished version of the work -- it's just a blueprint and lots and lots of details will must needs be filled in later.

Computers for Good and Evil

Well I tell ya, I would have read The Digital Plague online but their interface is so wonky and intermittent (server trouble?) that the story came to a dead halt on page 81. Oh well.

I presume that one can order the Japanese version of Alien Uprising from this site (once it's available -- August of 2009 -- of course.)

"The love of a man and a woman is not the love of steak and lettuce." The poetry and prose of a computer. A computer from 1984 with 64K of RAM.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One Kuler

Apogee is making a $250 USB-powered audio interface for the Mac called the One. They must have some fancy deal with Apple because these things just don't work on PC's.

Kuler is an online tool which Adobe has which generates color palates based on different color theories. This is a very interesting tool -- I bet my sister will play with it for hours...

I learned from this video on Stu's blog that teal is the complimentary color to skin tone. That's a very interesting piece of information.

"Restrict the palate, use complimentary colors."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All I Want / Post Mortem

All I want is an Aaton Penelope with a digital back. Can't I have that?

OK so this is a post mortem on the shooting portion of Clonehunter, camera edition.

The Letus adapter (which did get an intermittent injury when the camera fell) is wonderful. The whole kit and kaboodle when attached to a Panasonic HVX200 is a pain in the booty. But the image looks very nice. The Letus is going back to the factory to get fixed.

What do I not like about shooting on a video format? I don't like the lack of detail in the highlights (or, more accurately, that I have to protect the detail in the highlights). I don't like how slow the dang camera is (I keep forgetting to measure the relative ISO but it's gotta be less than 200). I don't like how quiet the camera is -- I have on a few occasions realized that I was not rolling when I thought I was, or that I was rolling when I thought I wasn't.

The Panasonic HVX is fussy. The focus and the zoom can move on you by accident and you have to make sure they're not doing that. I don't like that I can't see above and below the image in the viewfinder. Bleh.

What do I like about shooting on a video format like the P2? I like the instant start, no waiting for the camera to ramp up to speed or load the video cassette. I like that on the very very few times we want on-set playback we can have it immediately. I like that we can shoot slow-motion and check playback right away.

Lenses. I love the build of the Nikons. I love the short throw of the focus rings. But I love the coating on the Canon S.S.C.'s better. The way they deal with flare is that beautiful "ploop ploop ploop" of rings rather than nasty lines and such which we can get from the Nikons. To which I say "bleh". So we use the Canons rather than the Nikons. I wish I had faster manual Canons...

(What's really irritating is that Canon and Nikon have opposite conventions for the way their focus rings work. So when you've been using one for a while you find yourself twisting the focus ring the wrong way all the time when you switch to the other. Thanks guys at Canon and Nikon. You jerks.)

Final verdict? I need a 1st AC to pull focus. We just can't do reasonable camera moves on a dolly without a focus puller.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tuesday Already

Magic Lantern is hacking the Canon D5. If they can get the frame rate to 23.987fps then I sell my Panasonic and my Letus adapter.*

Interview with economist Paul Samuelson. Regarding Greenspan's idiotic following of Ayn Rand: "You can take the boy out of the cult but you can't take the cult out of the boy."

23 HOURS is the story of a vampire invasion in a women's prison. To which I say "Yes!!"

David Wellington wrote the fantastic Monster Island about the zombie takeover of New York City. Boy, I'd love to do a zombies in post-apocalypse New York City movie one day. I suspect that the rights to Monster Island are all tied up...

The Letus adapter has to go back to the shop where it was made in order to get fixed up. Since the Great Fall of the Camera it has developed an intermittent problem with the vibrating motor.

When you read Joe Gage's blog you will see many naked men. You'll also see stuff like this:


Moon Base Valley Forge

Saw 2001 meets Silent Running on Solaris street. I mean, Moon.

Really? Did you have to use the same musical theme as Solaris? Sure, I did that in Millennium Crisis but there's no reason you guys had to do it.

Hated hated hated the opening title sequence. I actually missed an important plot point because it was so distracting.

Alien Uprising Reviews

Wow, we got reviews for Alien Uprising. Apparently Maverick (our distributor's distributor in North America) has been sending out screeners for review. I'm not entirely sure these reviews help sales but hey, at least we get them.

Here's one from Killer Film. It does kind of stupidly complain about performances (our performances were universally excellent -- what, you're gonna tell me that Jeff Plunkett didn't rock it?) but typically reviewers don't like actors they don't know.

Dread Central calls it "the best Alien fan film I've ever seen":
"As easy as it would be to totally dismiss Alien Uprising as just another cheap Aliens clone, director Andrew Bellware successfully creates and maintains a grim tone that few rip-offs of the franchise have ever pulled off. Along with a script that occasionally shows signs of literacy amid the cascade of Aliens similarities, he and the cast succeed in generating a morose tone out of this obvious homage/rip-off/mishmash that almost makes the movie work on its own terms."
The reviewer, Foywonder, points out that the screener DVD went to black-and-white about 10 minutes in and stayed that way. He snarkily points out that it makes the movie look better. Feh!

On Bloody Good Horror they don't particularly like the double ending. The "coda" as I was thinking of it at the time was an issue we discussed. Josh James went for the thing that happens after Ripley falls asleep (which is where the first two Alien movies ended.) I kinda like the 5th act myself.

None of these three reviews we've found mention Assault on Precinct 13. Indeed, because it's a prison planet they'll sometimes mention Alien3 although plot-wise there's almost nothing in common with that picture. Is it because I didn't make the turning point of the Marines' decision to work with the prisoners strong enough? Is it because there isn't enough tension when the Marines and the prisoners are together? Or is it just because the reviewers are too blinded by the sci-fi genre to notice the thematic similarity? Dunno.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Martian Princess

What the heck is wrong with me? Why did it take me this long to read Burrough's A Princess of Mars? I mean that's nuts, right? Excellent book. Sure, there's maybe too much stuff come the end of it, but it certainly doesn't get boring.

Now, it occurs to me that Hollywood is trying to make their version of it. And it's a work which is in the public domain in the United States. So why don't we come up with our own script for it?

Right. 12-foot high creatures with 6 arms. I say let's do it anyway.

Adapting it will be a bit of a trick. I suppose that's always the case of going from novel to feature film. I think the reality is that John Carter has to do just one big thing (other than getting the girl). Just one of -- overthrowing a couple kingdoms and restoring the terraformer and leading armies and navies and air forces etc etc. Just one of those things. Of course, the terraformer plot is very similar to Total Recall isn't it? It's amazing how much stuff was influenced by this book. From Star Wars to Dune even.

Has anybody noticed that we don't really ever find out what happens to Sola?

Had to Post

How could you not love Angela Funk?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some more of day 15

More images from the last day of Clonehunter. Somehow we shot in 15 days of principal photography rather than 16 as I thought I'd scheduled. We still need to shoot a newscaster and a nude dancer. But isn't that always the case?

Angela Funk as Rachel with Ben Thomas as Cain.

Robin Kurtz as Ronnie, ducks from a wild gunshot.

Robin Kurtz punches you in the face.

Ben Thomas with Tzaddi Simmons (Reggie).

Last Day of Clonehunter

Ben Thomas as Cain.

Angela Funk as Rachel.

More to come...

Friday, June 19, 2009


Bill Cunningham found this. It is amazing. The last reel has an AWESOME freaking twist in it. Time Tunnel. Off the charts.

Also, for those who were annoyed by that video a few posts down which was auto-playing: it seems to be down so it doesn't auto play anymore. Hooray.

Emo Bunny

Googly - eyed finger puppets.

The Sprintcam. 1000 to 2500 fps.

Color. It's all a big lie.

Emo Bunny.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Internet Notebook

Composer Tavo Carbone.

Lately I've been taking a virtual tour of England* via Philip Drawbridge.

I'm reading The Digital Plague which is available for free reading online.

Yesterday's footage has a problem. I think that it's not from the fact that the camera took a header (and knocked its own focus out a bit it seems) but rather that I didn't turn off the camera before removing the P2 card. If you don't hear any more about it, that's what the trouble was and it's fixed as I put the card back in the camera, turned the camera on and then off, and removed the card again.

I'm also reading A Princess of Mars.

And I have Acevedo's Jailbait Zombie from the library.

*A place where most residents don't know the actual name of the country they're a citizen of, as far as I can tell.

Day 14

The camera took a header today on Clonehunter. I'm not exactly sure what happened. It probably was a result of the wonky way this big battery acts as an intermediary between the camera and the tripod. And the fact that I obviously hadn't locked the tilt well enough. Fell about 5 feet onto a carpeted (whew!) floor.

Luckily it only smashed the UV lens cover (which is why we put those on, right?) and ripped apart the connector which goes from the battery to the camera. Now I can't re-attach the battery until I use my volt ohm meter to make sure the polarity is correct and my meter is in Metuchen so I can't do it until at least tomorrow. Maybe not 'till Friday.

Here's Maduka before the camera went down.

David Lee as Raglan prepares to kill Vincent Marano as Gulliver.

Angela Funk as Rachel and Ben Thomas as Cain.

Man, we got to feed the crew better...


Only Two Mags?

OK, look, it took me until minute 9 to actually laugh out loud. But then. I did.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 13 Jeff Plunkett

Today was a very short day. 2pm call and everyone was gone by 4:18pm.

We had the amazing and incomparable Jeff Plunkett as the shopowner Shu today. Lots of fun. We did a record 5 takes of the wide shot of the scene. Just because we could.

Ben Thomas as Cain and Angela Funk as Rachel in the trader's store.

Ben Thomas, Angela Funk, and Jeff Plunkett (as Shu) having money thrown at him.

Jeff Plunkett with my dad's old magnifying eye-thingy.

Jeff Plunkett looking sexy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Video Amp Whiners

Am engaged in violent struggle 'gainst computers of varying sorts. Ugh. Anything that should only take about 5 minutes takes over an hour with restarts and work-arounds.

Video On Demand is up significantly this year. Thank goodness. Maybe VOD will really be the thing...

You can blow almost two thousand dollars for a reissue vintage Marshall head. I think I'd be interested in a JTM45 or possibly a boutique clone. Then on top of that you need a cabinet. I really have had good experiences with Marshalls, but the price has been keeping me away. I do like my Peavey Vypyr though. Especially since I retrofitted it with a Celestion Alnico Blue speaker.

John August believes that the screenwriter is the only one who has "seen" the movie when the screenplay is in the notes stage. Malarky. Most of the time the writer has no idea how something will actually play in the final -- even if the writer is directing and (dear Lord) editing. Still, it's vastly more likely that a director and/or editor would have a clue about how something plays. But Writers? Non triple-threats? They haven't seen the movie at all. You don't really know how the actors are going to interact with the locations, the lighting, and the camera until you get to the stage on the day of. The movie will change with the input from the actors, lighting, the set, the composer, the sound editor, and you know the editor is gonna do something you haven't expected. You think you know how long we're going to hold on a particular shot? "Ha!" I say "HA!". I've seen writers resist the most commonsensical notes every given because they just don't know any better.

I see unspecific and/or unworkable things in screenplays all the time. This is like seeing things in architectural drawings which can't exist in three dimensional space (this used to happen all the time before Auto-Cad. Heck, it still does.) If you get a note from my producer or my editor, you sure as hell better take heed.

Writers. Buncha whiney biotches. By the way: where's my script?

Oh sundries.

Calibro 35 play in New York City:

Oct 10 2009 8:00P
Fontana’s New York City, New York
Oct 13 2009 10:00P
TBA Brooklyn, New York

... inspired by the music of '70's Italian action films. Their best work is probably in the video in Bill Cunningham's post.

We need to shoot stills of Angela in her "D" costume, with a big gun, against a bluescreen. We should really get some shots of Ben and Angela going in and out of doors and we really should get them walking away from us with a bluescreen in front (actually, I think we already got that in her "A" costume.)

The Prom Queen web series. Presumably shot for $50K. I ain't buyin' it.

A brilliant interview with The Asylum's David Latt.

An article about Ian Hubert's Project London.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Quote of the day: "I realize that this review isn't exactly focused. In my defense, neither is Terminator Salvation."

Look. It's a rubber cement ad. About nuns. And um... rubber... cement.

You know what? No. You don't get to see the nuns with the rubber cement and the statue with the broken part.

I'm tired of it autoplaying...

Day 12, right?

Day 12. Ben Thomas as Cain runs in!

Wesley Olin as Na (The Thief) and Angela Funk as Rachel argue over a dead robot.

Wesley Olin looks up.

Brian Schiavo as the robot and Maduka Steady (doing the robot).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Day 11 of Clonehunter

We killed a couple people today.

H. R. Britton as Sly, with a stake through his throat.

Tom Rowen as an anonymous messenger who gets knocked off his hoverbike.

Angela Funk as Rachel about to open a can of whoop ass.

The ever pensive Ben Thomas as Cain.

David Ian Lee as Raglan and Ben Thomas.

Jef Betz as Stone. He's about to die a gristly death.

We have been pouring light onto these scenes. I mean, we even have a 1K Arri and sometimes we're south of exposure. Sheesh! With the bluescreen we're running two 200W, two 300W, a 500W, and a 1K and still we bring in a "chicklet" to fill in faces with...