Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Kittens are Under Control

The absurdly good - looking Tom Rowen models his clothes, which just might end up being his costume in Day 2.
From Melissa Riker's Pressing Empty. Dance. DANCE!
From the Digital Gypsy:
If you haven't checked it out in a while, head on over to VFXWages and take a look at some of our Wages. They've been pretty accurate over time. I've included a graph here that shows the overall compositing wages. The red line is the one you want, which stretches from around $20/hr USD for a starting wage, up to a median of about $63.50 for 14-16 years of experience, before heading down to $52/hr for 20+ years experience (this is most likely a drop because those rates could be salaried). Who says that wages couldn't be quantifiable?
Fifty bucks an hour is about $2K a week (plus, presumably, overtime -- although if the positions are "exempt" then maybe not.) That's about $100K a year for 20+ years of experience for a compositor. If you're at $20/hour that's an ostensible $800/week or $40K/year but there's probably lots of overtime if you work for one of the big houses.
Full Moon Direct.
Mouth and MacNeil. Do yourself a favor and don't play this video if you don't want to be happy and stomping around like a muppet all day. Maggie MacNeil is still pretty dishy. Bonus -- they look exactly like you expect them to (this, I think, is the "official video"). Double bonus -- second half is in German!

I just became a fan of the Frugal Filmmaker group on Facebook

and I was kind of curious about how well I stood in regards to the principles on the Frugal Filmmaker web page.

As it turns out, not too well. My comments are in italics.

Frugal Filmmaker Philosophy

- Watch a lot of movies.
I drop the ball here. I'm a bit notorious for not watching movies. Heck, I didn't even make it all the way through Avatar.

- See how others have done "it".
Meh. Most others do it badly. You should worry about the quality of the dialog first.

- Spend time on your screenplay.
Ha! Our latest screenplay is a 45-day special! (Although it's also possibly our best so far. Go figure.)

- Surround yourself with talent.
Well that's true.

- Smaller crews are preferable.

Preferable? I'd say "mandatory". What's a big crew going to do for you? I mean other than spend your money?

- If you can't buy it, build it.
Meh. Maybe. But sometimes homemade grip gear really is worse than having no gear at all.

- High quality, low cost.
That's what we aim for, of course.

- Recycle, reuse, repurpose.
OK. I guess. Are we talking sets? 'Cause then I'm all like "hell yeah."

- It's not the camera, it's the DP.
I'll buy that.

- Distribute and market online.
Ab-so-lute-ly freakin' not. No way. No how. Nope. Distributing online is great if you want to keep your day job. If you want to finance your next movie though? No, not so much. Not and pay rent at the same time. Make movies people want to see and do your damnedest to get home video and DVD deals in markets otherwise. Did I spell "damnedest" right? My spell check says I did but I don't believe it.

- Document everything.
Ha! We don't even write scene and take numbers on the freakin' slates! We do go to some effort to make sure that visual effects shots all have a unique shot number but that's about it.

- Just make your damn movie.

There ya go.

Things That Go Along Well With Bunnies

Sky makes me hungry.

Back in the olden days, aliens who ate cats were on TV.

So we're three days from the beginning of principal photography on Day 2. I think we're in pretty good shape. We had a couple last-minute costume wonderments but hopefully we're done wondering. Now that I think about it, maybe we should move call time up an hour so we can get people into costumes? Or maybe we'll shoot out the guy with all the MOS scenes (but who already has a costume) first? That would be David Ian Lee.


I really hope the last of the malware is off of -- I think I've gone through and cleaned all the index.html pages. UPDATE: it seems that teh google has cleared me. Whew, that was really obnoxious. And yes, I've updated all my anti-malware/virus software. And yes, the victimized machine was an XP machine. Which is too bad because that machine is still my favorite machine in our studio (even including the dual-quad-core Mac).
Have you noticed that amplifier gurus tend to be a lot grumpier about amplifier design than, say, guitar gurus are about guitar design? People can get really worked up about capacitance I guess.

Or maybe it's because they're so amped up all the time. Whoo! I slay me.
Here's an amusing thing from the Nudity Required, No Pay blog comments section* where someone points out my Tweet:

"Yup, put out a casting call and women start sending you naked pictures of themselves."

Which they describe as me bragging about my success. Ha! We're talking about people who figured out my email address by figuring out our production company and then sent nude pictures of themselves to me.

It was a little... odd.

But it's not quite as odd as the way the Nudity Required, No Pay blog focuses on gigs with nudity that don't pay. There's lots of stuff that goes with No Pay gigs which I would think to be more important than nudity. Like fight scenes. Or (and I'm not kidding) scenes with sports in them. Maduka hurt himself pretty badly a few months ago playing soccer in a movie. If he were just naked I suspect he wouldn't have come to as much bodily harm.
It's a weird and prurient world out there which I just don't really notice on a day-to-day basis. Probably because I used to work for the Wooster Group (you'll note that nobody bothers with a Willem Dafoe "sex tape" because it would be simply redundant.)
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

*I think, although I'm not sure, that the phase "Nudity Required, No Pay" comes from the way Actors' Access (which you might remember as Breakdown Services) puts the non-paid listings for parts with nudity. Back in the day Breakdown Services became more squeamish about the "no pay" part of things than the "nudity" part. But I'm talkin' 1995 or so.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Naked Girls and Dead... Bears?

This dude, Guillaume Seignac, is awesome. How he manages to combine the lurid and the sublime is simply beyond me. But. He. Is. Awesome. Heck, I can't even pronounce his name and he's still awesome.

I mean, you can look at everything else, everything, but then... check out the doves frolicking in the background.

He sure can paint feet! And bear, er, lion(?) parts.

And dig the infinite depth-of-field. I so wish I could shoot that way. But buyers even know that 35mm film has a relatively shallow depth of field at any given f-stop and it's just not a popular look right now.

Yep, no Citizen Kane for us. So we tend to go shallow instead of deep. But all them post-pre-Raphaelites (they actually have a name but I totally forget what it is) have such fun stuff in the deep background. The shallow depth of field is, as far as I can think right now, our only concession to commercial prospects for motion pictures -- where I'm deliberately doing something which I artistically don't agree with all the time.

Just Because

... that's all.

A lot of people like the Mission amp kits. The 53E is the Bassman circuit.
Wow, I just got hit with a really hard task. My parents still haven't sold their old house (the house I grew up in). And for some reason there was a desk there which never got cleaned out. It's got 30 years of letters I've kept. Egads. There are love letters (to me when I was a teenager, maybe 20 or 21), letters from my brother (he would have sent in my mid-twenties), letters my childhood friend Todd (from my twenties and thirties -- right up until the advent of email being even remotely ubiquitous), all sorts of things...

... Including the results of my SAT's. Oh look. I got 610 on my verbal and 480 on the math in May of 1982. My GPA was 2.8*. Apparently. I'm not buying it, I was pretty well a straight C student. I just didn't really care. Looking back I realize that... yeah, there was no real reason to care.

Sheesh. I don't feel like going through all this stuff right now.

My sister already loaded the car with CD's and things for me to take to Jersey City. Maybe I'll just do that instead.

*That would have been the spring of my junior year of high school. And now I have a vague memory that by the end of my senior year I was like... #3 in my class? (It was a pretty small class -- only 30 or so students -- but still.) Mike Diehl had to be first in our class. Andrew Ammirati had to be above me. Hmm... I was probably closer to #5...

Friday, February 26, 2010

My Review of the first hour and five minutes of Avatar

If you're asking yourself "Who was that jerky guy in the second row at the 6:30pm showing of Avatar on Friday night who got up and left the theater an hour into the movie?" That guy was me.

Firstly, I'm quite sure I am the last person who reads this blog who hadn't seen Avatar as of today. OK, so I'm a bad, bad, sci-fi director.

Secondly, there aren't any spoilers here on this blog since I didn't even make it to midway through act 2. We were in the middle of the fun and games section and just learned how to ride a dragon. You've seen the movie. You know what I'm talking about.

Now the reason it took me so dang long to see the movie is because the perfect is the enemy of the good. I wanted to see Avatar in the only "real" IMAX theater in New York City. That's the one up by Lincoln Center.

And that's where I almost threw up.

I suffer from motion sickness. By the time we were getting close to flying the damn dragon I was saying (I don't think I was saying out loud) "Jim, Jim, please don't move the camera any more. Let's just stay with a shot and linger on it a while. Please don't spin along the X axis, just sit there, on virtual sticks. Please."

But alas, Jim Cameron did not heed my desperate plea. Virtually ever shot was moving. All all axes simultaneously. It's like the camera was being directed by a bumblebee.

When we got to the part where the lead character was recording his video log on what was essentially the webcam of the future, I think I dedicated my life to one of the minor Pandora deities. Why o why couldn't the whole movie be like this? Still. Not stomach curdling.

Nope, we had to go flying on the damn dragon. The dragon spun, the camera spun, my head spun. "I'll watch the movie on DVD." I miserably muttered to myself. As I left. Pale and shaky. Like a really bad hangover, or something approaching the flu. Near death, I think.

Now, I know you desperately want to know what I thought of the movie. So I'll tell you.

  • Go ahead and let the hero have an Australian accent. It's gonna creep in anyway. Maybe it should be moderated a little, but let him just do it.
  • Evil guy = awesome.
  • Story is in good shape. Everybody complains about the dialog and such in this movie. Yeah, there's some stuff that's so on the nose you'd think it was a golden retriever on a horse farm. It doesn't really bother me. I'm more of a story guy anyway. Story works. At least up through the middle of the 2nd act. I'm sure later our hero finds out something about himself and about the Na'vi and then has to make a decision which will affect his life, and the lives of all those around him forever. There will be a great struggle but at the last minute, using the knowledge he learned about himself through his contact with the B story the girl, he prevails. But I never saw that part so you didn't hear it from me.
But that's not what's important. What's important is how was the CG? How is 3D?

  • This picture isn't a big advance in CG. I think Chance Shirley pointed that out. It doesn't look as photo-real as The Golden Compass. Heck, it doesn't look as photo-real as parts of Wall-e.
  • I hate 3D. 3D isn't even 3D. It's 2 and-a-half D. To my eye the stuff that's "closer" to you is flat, on a plane. It's like the AfterEffects "postcards in space" effect where you can move objects closer or further from the camera but they have no depth to them.
  • Maybe part of the problem is the depth of field. I expect stuff in 3 dimensions to let me focus on whatever I want to (and this might have contributed to my motion sickness). But the background in Avatar is just as out of focus as you'd expect with 35mm film. So for me it means that I "hunt" a bit more for the in-focus part. If the movie were 2D the in-focus part of the frame would be easier to find and I wouldn't find myself searching the screen for whatever Mr. Cameron wants me to be looking at.

So I'll rent it on DVD. I'm kind of curious to see how the mechs, the dragon things (now I suspect there are even bigger dragons in the movie) and the helicopters have their big battle and how we learn what the Na'vi are doing with the Unobtanium.

Here's a picture of my sister's dog, Chien. Dog is sleeping. Dog is named "Dog."

Computer Herblags!

My site is reported by Firefox and Google as having malware on it.

And yup, I did some scans and wouldn't you know it, there was a script in the index.html that was doing who-knows-what. And actually, that might explain an attack I had on another one of my computers this week.

So I've updated a couple things on the server and I deleted that bit of script (we'll see if it comes back). I'd like to say that going to the site is safe now. But who knows?

Not a good day for computers in the Pandora Machine...
The Allen Encore and the Hot Fudge with Nuts are Tremolux - ish amps. The Hot Fudge with Nuts (a name I don't find particularly appealing in a guitar amplifier) is available as a head kit for $849.

Invisible Emergency

There is an invisible "emergency" at Manhattan Theatre Source?

How is it invisible?
It's "invisible" because it's the inverse of the kind of thing which periodically happens to Theatresource which looks like an emergency but isn't.

OK. So what's the deal?
Normally we have decent cash flow and not much cash in the bank. Lots of money comes in but it's immediately spent on important things like rent. Right now we actually have some money in the bank, but our cash flow is lousy.

What's all this I keep hearing about "cash flow"?
Right now the projectable cash flow for Theatresource is the lowest it has been in 10 years.

But somehow this isn't an emergency?
Oh it is. But it's being kept much quieter than all the other times the bell gets clanged and a call to arms is made.

So all those times were fake, but this one is real?
It could be. Or we could have bookings only a few weeks ahead and live a long time -- as long as those bookings never actually dry up.

So why isn't the typical Theatresource panic going on?
No -- not like all the other times the theater was going to "close the doors!"

Because our new Executive Director discovered about $10,000 in tax overpayments. (This is a goode thinge, and much thanks to Jennifer Thatcher.)

And that's a problem?
No, it means that the problem is hidden. We're "cash rich" right now. The important words there are "right now". Remember that our rent, utilities, and insurance cost more than $10,000 a month.
Cash rich is an unusual position for us to be in. And luckily we aren't dramatically overspending.

Oh, I get it. So there's "how much cash you have in the bank" versus "how much cash you expect to bring in"?
Exactly. The problem is that our cash flow projections are, right now, the absolute worst they've ever been in the entire 10-year history of Theatresource. That's not hyperbole. That's simply factual.*
Even 10 years ago, by this time (late February) we had bookings through the beginning of Summer. And we've never had less than that since then.
That is, until now.

I have a feeling you're going to suggest there's some kind of ideological imperative is going on.
Well, it's not precisely a cover-up. But it's a bit embarrassing to those who enacted the coup last year and got rid of the general manager and the artistic director.

So what is the new management doing now?
Theatresource is attempting to revitalize the Writers Forum but without installing an Artistic Director. Instead all the artistic decisions (which plays to produce, etc.) are being left to committee. It looks to me that the Writers Forum Production Committee is brought into existence primarily to "prove" we don't need an AD. But that's just a bit of Drew snarkiness and can be ignored.

I can ignore that bit of snarkiness?
To which I say "meh."

You've been saying that a lot lately. So we get the Writer's Forum back up and running, and we become a producing organization. Again. Uh. How long is that going to take though, if our wheels have been spinning for nigh on a year?
The real problem is that unless you have a muse locked up under the stairs, it's going to be virtually impossible to produce 4 good plays by July.

Uh oh.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, as you puff on your big cigar, surrounded by 20-year-old Estonian underwear models, "Why do I care if da plays is any good? I just needs to sell me some tickets."

Well, yeah. We just need to sell tickets. That's how we make enough money to pay rent and insurance and stuff. So who cares how good the shows are? Excuse me, one of underwear models turns out to be Latvian and I must have her replaced...
And to you, my good man, I have this response:

What is The Secret to Our Success?
Theater, the way we make it, works like this:
  • The people who buy tickets for shows are the friends and family of the actors. Sometimes their friends and family of the director or the writer.
  • Sure, every once in a while you can get a review from the New York Times or from OffOffOnline and regular theater-going people will come see your show. But that doesn't work for a week-long running show. Even if the reviewer comes on Wednesday, they ain't getting the review out 'till Saturday. Maybe if you do two evening performances on Saturday you'll see a bump for the second of those two shows. But let's face it, the review will come out on the Tuesday after you've closed. I'm not kidding.
  • Handing out postcards does nothing as far as getting tickets sold and "butts in seats". It makes you feel that you're doing "press" for the play. The only reason for the postcard is so that actors can send them to friends with their own name underlined so that their friends who have always wanted to date them will think they have a better chance if they come to the show.
  • The way to sell lots of tickets is to have your cast excited about your show early in your rehearsal process so that they'll get their friends and such to come see the show in its first week.
Are you saying this won't work without an Artistic Director?
No. It's going to be difficult to get enough plays produced no matter what. Yes, it's possible to have a committee be the gatekeeper of what works Theatresource produces (and certainly that would be a better, and clearer, system than what we've had in the past or -- dear Lord -- the way the most recent InGenius was produced).

But there's also merit in having one person whom a consensus or majority has agreed upon endowed with the power to add to the theater's season: in other words a person who can say "We're doing this play and this one and this one. The other play we're doing needs this help before it's ready." But I see merit in hierarchical systems as well as consensus-based ones.

I think that de facto what's going to happen is that whoever is in charge of that committee will dictate which plays are produced.

I'm sorry, I must have dozed off while you were reliving your radical youth. You want some Bakunin theory to go with that anarchism? What I mean is: what do you think will happen?
The short answer here is: boy, it's going to be very difficult to get even one good full-length play developed in that amount of time (July). Unless you can find writers with great plays in their back pockets already, we're going to have trouble no matter what. Artistic Director or no, the Board will end up deep-pockets-ing the theater for a while to keep it upright.

So you think they're going to sink money into the Theatre to keep it alive.
They'll try to sink as little as possible, but yeah, that's my guess.

OK, so what should we do? Should we have a Benefit?
Whenever we have a "crisis" the first response is "we'll hold a benefit!" I suspect you'll find over the years we've just about broken even on our benefits. Benefits are primarily beneficial to the wineries involved. The person in charge of the benefit will play up how much money they made without admitting to the incredible expenses involved.

Thanks for telling me how you feel about that.
What do we make money with? Rentals and producing new works. Heck, even producing old works will cover us, provided we sell enough tickets (although for the love of all that's holy let's never do another Chekhov again.)

Then what should I be doing?
If you've been dying to produce a play, come on down and produce it at Theatresource. There's plenty of dates open!
If you want to SEE a play, come SEE some theater. There's plenty of tickets available!
Whatever the solution is, it doesn't involve having a party.

So me just buying a ticket helps?
Yup. Same as uptown. You should produce though, too.

So I should write a play and then rent the theater?
Yes. Do it now.

OK, I'm working on a script. But, uh, why don't we have any bookings at the theater? I mean, there's a whole lot of producers in NYC and we're certainly one of the least - expensive and well - equipped 50-seat houses in Manhattan.
Well, we'd have to look at what we do now that's different from the way our last two general managers did to made sure the theater was booked.

So you're not telling me.
That's right.

But you know, right?
How would I know? It's not like I sat next to the GM for the last 8 years.

But you did. I saw you. And you're still there.
OK, I did. But I'm not telling. Or at least I'm not telling in this blog post.

There's an elephant in the room, isn't there? Oh crap. There's an elephant. I can't see it, but I can smell it. What is the deal?
The deal is -- why am I the one telling you this? Shouldn't the Board of Directors be sending out explanatory missives about our existence and future? Why is this job left to our last "Founding Member" who's actually at the Source everyday?

That's you, right?
I'm the last one. Technically I am, after all, just a tenant of Theatresource.

C'mon, why isn't anyone communicating? Isn't "Share Your Information" one of the core principles of the Source?
I suspect the real reason is because of an internecine low-intensity battle of wills that's going on right now and won't be resolved 'till the next changing of the guard in the Board of Directors. 'Till then ain't nobody saying nothing because there can't be agreement on what to do. That is when they're not ticked off at one another for misrepresenting things.

Would that explain why all the volunteers are gone?

So really? We're just waiting for management to switch over?
Well, I don't know any other reason nobody's there. C'mon back. It's lonely without you. I'd say maybe it's me but I don't have that much contact with volunteers.

Because there aren't any?
Right. There's that.

I think it's because we're not allowed to have liquor anymore.
Oh please. Nobody used to drink before 4pm anyway. I mean, not much at least. Besides, if you bring the whiskey, you can have a shot in our studio because that's not a place of public accommodation.

Are your partners OK with that?
Maduka doesn't drink, which means more for Blair and me.

You're right!

*Actually, they were worse last week. We do have a booking of the theater throughout March now. So I guess it is hyperbole after all!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money

So far this week we've

  • worked out the last changes in our contracts with our lawyer,
  • dealt with insurance, permits, and TCD because we're going to have non-firing replica (read: "toy") guns on set, and
  • are now waiting for my bank to decide I'm worthy of them clearing a check. Harumph!
"Make it Better" -- I'm thinking that should be my new catchphrase. If you have an idea for a change in dialog, please see catchphrase.*
If you can prove that insurance would cost more than 25% of your entire budget, the Mayor's Office can waive your insurance requirements for permits.
On that note, working with the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting was a veritably pleasant experience.
*In an older version of the script I had a dumb joke about a bear. So far two members of the cast (who are also playwrights) have asked that it be reinstated. I can't help but think that Nat and David are in cahoots but OK then; the Siberian bear is back in the picture.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Ways to Exploit You!

The new and most awesome way to exploit actors? Make them write! Yes! The best dialog changes come from actors. Better than me having to do it, that's for sure.

But we can go even further. We can make them fight directors, second unit directors, and even do fight casting for us. How do I know? I know because that's what I'm doing with/to the raconteur and insoluble (I've dampened him, so I know) David Ian Lee. He's doing all that hard work of fight directing and choreographing and he's showing us his ass! Ooh, that gives me an idea -- we should hold a lottery for who gets to sharpie the "crosses" tattoo on it.

Heck, now that I think of it, most of David's work on the screenplay involved cutting his lines. For an actor that's like he has Stockholm Syndrome.

Later, David's going to have my baby. Again.
Looks like the Tylenol PM has kicked in.
The Clonehunter trailer is the subject of this post on This Quiet Earth. We love our B-sci-fi too. I, of course, had to leave a follow-up comment on the use of eye glasses in the 26th century.
Dude, The Asylum is doing their version of Sinbad. That just makes me so... envious. "Sinbad faces bloodthirsty rocs, giant man-eating cyclops, clothing-challenged sirens..."
* Pleasure Model: Netherworld Book 1, by Christopher Rowley (Tor): This collaboration between Tor Books andHeavy Metal Magazine seeks to revive the look and feel of pulp novels; at the very least they’ve got the artwork down. Story involves a cop and a genetically-designed sex slave, working a murder case. Yeah, it’s pretty much exactly as you’d expect something from Heavy Metal to be. Out now.

You know what's the sexiest thing about that picture? I got two words for you. Robot. Eyes.
Oh believe me, you don't want to know about amplifier kits. Or, OK, if you do, keep reading.

GDS specializes in 18watt (as in Marshall 18 watt) kits. But they'll make you a JTM45 if you want one.
Allen Amplification makes a variety of kits. Their pre-made amps seem to be along the lines of Fender-type amps.
Mojotone makes a variety of amp kits.
And of course Weber makes them some amp kits. Lots of 'em.
Tube Depot makes kits.
Mission Amps makes the Aurora kit.
Marsh Amps makes a bunch of kits.
Torres makes kits.
Doberman makes kits in conjunction with the AX84 cooperative building project. They have some kits which are beginner-ish.
STF is a kit maker.
Ha! This is the closest to a Vibrolux kit I've found on the interwebs. The Torres Retrolux. Depending on the tubes, it can also be a Deluxe.
Metroamp is what I keep going back to. Maybe for clean tone I want a Deluxe?

Location Scout II

A roof in Bedford Stuyvesant, looking toward Manhattan.

I was there a bit after 6pm and we'd totally "lost light" by then. Even though I'll be shooting at 1600 ISO and be able to open as wide as f1.4 on my Panasonic GH1, I think we'll want that sky to be brighter for almost all the scenes we're doing. Maybe not. I'll figure that out tonight.

In exchange for this roof I'll have to edit dialog on two short films.

Hey -- do you ever find yourself having to find the closest hospital to a location so that you can put the hospital's address on your call sheet? I do. And I just found US Hospital Finder. I presume it only works in the US. But it seems to work.

Today's First Location Scout

If the weather is like today's for the whole shoot, we'll be in very good shape. Nicely overcast but about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Not too bad for February in New York.

Here's the exciting Van Dyke Street in Red Hook. For some reason nobody was around while I was scouting. A very large robot could just come walking down this street and there'd be nobody there to stop it.

The Valentino Pier. We're a bit far from train transportation. Busses seem to run every so often. But I might just borrow my stepmom's car for these days of the shoot.

Heck, we need to bring an A-frame ladder around with us. Hmm... I don't know how we're going to do that yet.

Around and about the Ikea and the Fairway Market in the 'Hook.

Roofs in Brooklyn

Factory Brooklyn.

The issue is that of course most of them want about a thousand dollars a day. Sometimes more. That's fine if you're shooting a commercial, but for us that's about 1/8th of the entire budget of the picture. That's OK, by - and - large they can be talked down in price a little. The thing they're always afraid of is a company coming in and being all like "OK, we need a makeup room, 200 thousand watts of power, this and this, and this. Oh, and we need to move this wall..." So they don't think that $200 for the day will pay for all that.

Nobody seems to make a Fender Tremolux kit. That's just... wrong... That's the 5G9 circuit I believe.

What is this, 1953?

First of all, my cousin Jaime-Jin forwarded this video to me. It's kind of brilliant. The audio is apparently a guy on acid, sitting in a closet. It's kind of like Nick Park's Creature Comforts that way.

OK, so there's a blog dedicated to "Nudity Required, No Pay". And they pull out our Actor's Access post. Here's their comment:

Thanks to Anonymous for tipping us off to this masterpiece where our heroine - poor, haunted, schitzo Laura - will probably be forced to make back-lit naked "love" to Neil the crazy drunk. It is very fortunate, however, that her psychiatrist is also one of the "very few survivors of the apocalypse". I mean - what are the odds?

It's kind of adorable how they assume that Neil is the love interest. Nope. Love interest is Sergeant Steady. And we'll probably see more of him naked than her. Ha!

You'll note that not a single European actor cares about nudity. Nope, that's strictly a bit of arcane, American, prurience. To which I say (with hand over mouth) "Ooh! Titter titter!"

More from our biggest fan (you have to scroll to Jan 26, 2010 to see the post) on a post I made about nudity in our pictures:

I realize things have changed alot thanks to the Internet - but is it actually possible to get actors to do PORN for NO PAY now? If it wasn't for the damn R restriction my guess is he'd have already investigated that potential avenue of exploitation, very thoroughly.

Heck, if we were doing porn we'd be able to pay our actors up-front. But I don't really understand the market for porn, and furthermore that market is (apparently) falling just like all the other markets are.

Interestingly, nudity isn't really a big selling point. One of our distributors was complaining to me the other day about how the "kiosks" like RedBox can have SAW IV or whatever but if there's a single breast in a movie they get all apoplectic. Sort of like Janet Jackson at the Superbowl.

Unfortunately, Nancy McClernan seems a bit obsessed with me now. Sheesh. Maybe she has been for a while. She seems to think that all my blog posts are about her now. Oh well. I'm certainly not the first one that's happened to.


We still haven't locked our first location which is a tad frustrating as it's annoying to not be able to get call sheets out. Nobody (meaning actors) wants to read a "day out of days" sheet and then interpolate which scenes they should be familiar with. Bleh. Maybe I'll just start making up the sheets without the actual locations on them. Or maybe one of these locations will actually call me back. We. Shall. See.

How hard should it be to get a rooftop in Brooklyn anyway? (The trick is that we need to get the insurance and then permits and hope and pray we can get TCD -- which is the New York police division which deals with film stuff -- because we're going to have guns.)

Dear Lord, he's still talking about amplifiers

CeriaTone makes an interesting TrainWreck Expression kit. It seems pretty cool. Indeed, he'll build the whole thing for you for $670. The problem is that at 13 kilograms, it will cost between $112 and $163 to ship it from Malaysia. Sure, 15 years ago I could have picked a real one up for a little over a thousand dollars by just driving to New Brunswick. But I didn't.

And, as linked above, a detailed build guide from Amp Garage. You have to log in to see the files.

The TubeStore reviews, well, the tubes they sell. Actually, here's a link to all their reviews. They like the TungSol 12AX7's (which are only like $15 or $20 a piece) and they even have special packages for JTM 45's (although those special packages seem to be for JTM100's to me). The Mullard EL84's are $35 for a matched pair but remember, you have to play around with a JTM to get 84's in one because the standard power tubes are normally KT66's. The Gold Lion KT66's are $80 for a matched pair.

No, wait. It's the 6L6GC which is frequently put in instead of KT66's.
I love the bottom of this bikini. I bet it's a pain to get the material to sit right though. Either that or it only works on 6 women in the world. Still -- buttons! ;-)

News you can use:
The Brooklyn Public Library has e-books and .mp3's for download.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Contracts Day in the Pandora Machine

There were 69 "man days" of actors on Clonehunter (over the course of a 16-day shoot). For Day 2 there are 53 man-days over a 12-day shoot. Day 2 is more "ensemble-y" than Clonehunter.

Our contracts have always had a stipulation which I'm rather proud of, although I've yet to see it kick in. All of the actors work for points off the back end. Unlike the infamous "monkey points" in the world of Hollywood, where points being paid out after a picture goes into "profit", we stipulate a specific number after which we start paying out. This number has been called "DAN" which stands for "Drew's Arbitrary Number". And for most of our contracts (except for Millennium Crisis) that number has been $50,000 (fifty thousand dollars). So after we actually receive $50K the actors and other artists start getting their points.

Unfortunately none of our movies has crossed that $50K threshold yet. Welcome to the world of starting a film business just as the entire distribution system is collapsing. Everybody thought we'd be paying out on Millennium Crisis (and it had a DAN of $125K because it was so much more expensive) and you know what? It wouldn't have even made the $50K threshold.

It does occur to me we could lower the threshold (DAN) to, say, $40K. That could work, the thing we're worried about is that whatever it is that brings us above that level (a TV sale, for instance) might also hit us with some expenses (new edit, color-correction, whatever wackiness the engineering department insists on) that could easily cost another $10K. Or $20K. And then we're paying out more money before we can pay back either ourselves or our investors (every movie I've made was financed differently -- sometimes directly out of my pocket, sometimes with actual investors, sometimes shortly after going back in time and robbing a Union Army paymaster in 1863 other things.

The other issue with lowering the DAN is that it would be more fair to lower the DAN on all the pictures simultaneously. We could do that, as it would favor the other party to the contract we could make the change arbitrarily, we just can't raise the DAN without consent. The reason this occurs to me to possibly be a conflict of interest is that we do not have a clause regarding "cross-collateralization" of pictures. So we can sell our pictures as a "library" or whatever and then in theory divide the pictures' revenue any way we please. That's a moral river we'll come to when... if... we ever come to it.

So anyway, I'm trying to guess what sort of percentage we divvy out to the actors per day on set. For instance, should we give more to the fight director? Or should that be a separate contract? Oy vey. I figure that cast and crew should total about 30% of the money doled out after we reach "DAN". But it's hard to figure out (for instance) just how many composers we'll end up having on the picture.

Traditionally I've calculated each actor at 2/10 of a percent (.002) of the revenue should go to them (after we reach DAN) per day that they worked. For the leads I usually tack on a few more percent because I figure they have to do more ADR or photo sessions or what-have-you at the end of the picture. But it's really all just fudging the numbers to try to make something even remotely fair. Wish me luck on that.

One day we'll break DAN.

This cat, photographed by Christine Russo of Strangewerks Films, is destined to be a LOL Cat.
Brian Dilg is a cinematographer here in New York.
We still need to confirm a rooftop for Day 2 -- preferably an industrial - looking one -- in NYC. And we have to do it by tomorrow because we have to get insurance and TCD (which means permits.)

Letter to Actors II

Embarrassingly, I haven't really discussed any of these things with our actors. Apparently most of our discussions have involved mundane things like dialog and fight choreography. So I sent out this email today to make up the loss.

Hi Folks,

Just wanted to talk to you about what we're doing and what we should expect. These are things I totally forgot to tell anyone about.

Normally we pride ourselves on not having to do any ADR on a picture. But on this movie all of the exteriors will need ADR because there's simply no way the background (New York City) will sound the way the background is supposed to (post-apocalyptic lack of people or cars in New York City). So we're going to be asking you to come into the studio in about a month to re-do lines. Sorry about that and thank you for your patience!

(Incidentally, we can't do the "radio play" ADR which you might be used to on our shoots because the background will simply never be quiet enough. Now that I'm saying we should probably try, right? Maybe we'll get ourselves inside and record the lines wild before or after lunch. The thing is that the environment has to be very dry sounding and that can be difficult 'lest we're back in the studio.)

Taking other work
If you have an audition or callback for a job, where the job is scheduled on one of our shoot days, go to it. If you get a commercial job, take it. Sure, everyone in the cast and crew would like this movie to get shot, and it'll likely cause all kinds of scheduling craziness, but it's worthwhile for you and everyone will understand especially because you'll be taking some of the money you get from the commercial job and taking us out for drinks.

Inserts and suchly
At some point in the future we may ask you to come back for inserts and/or still photographs in front of bluescreen (for the key art). This becomes more likely for you the lower your character number is. In other words, we can be assured that Tina will need to do some additional photography. We'll schedule such that it makes life easy on everyone.Thanks for the tolerance and understanding.

That's all I can think of for now. Thanks again. Can't wait to see you on set!



More Amusements of the Internets

Here's a nice seeming studio with a groovy industrial rooftop in fabulous Jersey City.

In order to clarify this post, my comments are in italics.
UPDATE! Look, I got this exciting email:

to andrew

You don't have my permission to reprint my entire parody on your web site.

Take it off now or there will be legal consequences.

Ooh! Legal consequences! Well I'll truncate the boring parts where it repeats itself anyway, that'll reduce the tl;dr part of our lives on the blog. As a parody it's not actually that amusing. It's more amusing that it's a parody of one of our screenplays.
Nancy McClernan
Here's a website/blog I've linked to before (you'll remember, she's the "nest of vipers" blogger). Nancy McClernan has been writing/snarking about me specifically in some of her blog posts and yet she doesn't use my name so I didn't find out 'till just now. Dammit!
Look, I have a cousin who's more web-famous than me (go ahead, you'll find him when you do a search for "Bellware" -- he's a programmer and apparently pretty brilliant. And yes, I've never met Scott, that's how big my family is.) But I need to be the first link when you Google "Bellware" (me me me!) and you're not helping if you snipe at me without using my name, Andrew Bellware! (My goals in life are modest, I'll admit.)

Oh crap. Now Scott has yet one more site linking to him. This one. I'm never gonna win. Sheesh.

Anyway, from this page (scroll down to Feb 20 -- I know, you can't directly link to articles on that blog) is this awesome, and fairly confused, rant:

Friday, February 20, 2009

from the blog of an independent film director

This guy knows lots of the same people I know in "legitimate theatre" - he shares this bit recently on his blog:

I was looking over cash flow charts and thinking today about how [his film] has been able to eke out a tiny bit of money on each movie we make. Not enough to pay the actors.

Of course not.

Since his films are not animations, it would be impossible for him to make his films without the actors. And yet he can't manage to pay them. This is what is known as "exploitation."

I couldn't find any of this director's casting calls mentioned in the blog Nudity Required, No Pay although if you've seen his films, that is clearly the plight of many of the female actors he uses for his various space westerns. He's partial towards beautiful robot-women getting naked. But since he knows a whole bunch of actors who don't mind being exploited, I guess he doesn't need to put up casting calls.

posted by Nancy 0 comments

Of course, technically it's "exploitation" whether the actor makes a million dollars or nothing. The word "exploitation" is in the contract and considered a "goode thinge". You know what I mean, it's this clause: "Artist's work will be exploited throughout the universe in all media whether invented now or in the future in perpetuity, at the sole and absolute discretion of the Company, etc., etc." Everybody is exploited. Hell, the producers are exploited by the distributors, who are in turn exploited by the sub-distributors. Which is why producers are so stingy.

I love love love that we're making "various space westerns". You'll recall we made one space Western. And we lived to regret it (still ain't got North American distribution on it.) If I could solely make space Westerns I would be supremely happy.

But getting back to the rant -- it would be impossible to make our movies without sound people too. And yet we STILL can't manage to pay them.

One day we will though. Just you wait and see! (Actors though? Nah, they'll have to wait 'till we break $50K on the back end just like everybody else, except animators. ;-)

But wait -- it gets better. Here Nancy writes a parody of Mac Rogers' brilliant screenplay for our "space Western" Solar Vengeance (the working title was "Angry Planet"). "Cub" is one of the characters, he was played by the debonair and brilliant Greg Bodine. (And don't think I'm not making a movie called The Cassandra Directive.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My kewl new screenplay


by N. G. McClernan


This is an angry planet. OK maybe not an angry planet, but at least a somewhat disgruntled planet. But it has a lot of rocks and shit and that's kewl.

We see PUP, a retarded slob of a foot soldier who would be great comic relief except that he is also evil. A very good actor, maybe even a Shakespearean-quality actor should be wasted oncast in this role. He is dressed like a cowboy.

We see a small silver spaceship land in the distance.

Whuuus that?

We hear LT. MANLY

You're an idiot, Pup.

We see Manly and Pup from a middle distance. Manly is attractive, in a gruff manly damaged way, but not so attractive that he causes homoerotic panic in the target audience. He is dressed like a cross between a cowboy and a pirate.

ON the screen, her back to us, walks CASSANDRA, a beautiful woman, very thin except for her gigantic breasts. She is naked, but at first glance it looks like she's wearing a shiny black skin-tight jump suit because she has black shiny latext spray-painted over her body.

We see Manly smirking and Pup drooling. But then, he drools alot. His face breaks into a stupid lustful grin. Manly crosses his arms, wary.


Can I help you Miss?

Cassandra speaks in a monotone and is completely incapable, as are all robots and aliens, of using contractions. The English language is beyond the capabilities of even the most sophisticated robots and aliens.


We will have sex. In the future.


Come again?


Huhhuhhuh! She sayed yer gonna have sex!


Pup, you're an idiot.


Cassandra looks at Pup


And you will be killed by a nest of vipers. Mutant vipers.


Ah don' buhleeve that! Dey ain't no vipers, mutant or no nuther kind on this here disgruntled planet!


There will be when it becomes narratively convenient.




Now my master - error 786 - professor will come to this place and tell you that I am dangerous.


I don't believe you.

In a moment, THE PROFESSOR appears.


Stay away from her! She's dangerous!

To be continued...

posted by Nancy 0 comments

Indeed, all androids were built in Newark. She's right about that. And there is no way any of 'em will use a contraction. 'Cause that would be just silly.

Is there more? Yes, there's much much more. My life is way too good. But I gotta go look at some locations now...

Today's Mass Mailing to the Cast of Day 2

OK, so some smartass an actor who has, apparently, been reading the script to learn lines discovered that there are multiple spellings of the made-up "pro-psychotic" drug we use. I mean, in the movie, not in real life. As far as you know. Um. Anyway, we're standardizing it to:


That's the drug. It otherwise doesn't exist. So we should be fine.



Sketches from Ian

Ian Hubert sent me some sketches from his sinus - infection induced delirium. I present them with as little adulterations and impediment to your eyes.

The idea is to go very alien with the robots. It's going to be fun to figure out how to animate and composite them, that's for sure.

I still don't have a single exterior location locked down. We might have a roof. We have enough experience shooting in Gowanus that I'm minimally afraid of us finding locations there but I gotta get me down to Red Hook today to find our waterfront.

Monday, February 22, 2010


We made the (comments section of the) Nudity Required, No Pay blog. Fame is we.

Maybe I need a CeriaTone Trainwreck Expression Clone kit. With suchly we're staring down the throat of a 50watt, with two EL34's and three 2AX7's. So even if you went crazytown with NOS tubes, you'd save at least a thousand bucks off the price of the JTM45.

The strange thing I've found is that $2500 for an amp head (the Metropoulos JTM45) ain't too bad a price actually.

There's the Wallace at $1800, or the GDS but... I know that whenever I get something which is less than the best I'm just unhappy with it. (Here's a history of the Marshall 18-watt amp).

Test shots and alchohol.

These are the "night vision" goggles we have for Day 2. Brian Schiavo is responsible for them. But that's not what I'm here to talk about.


Firstly, I apparently drank half a bottle of Limoncello with David Ian Lee. I blame him. Secondly, well, I don't really know what I'm saying because I drank half a bottle of limoncello.

So we drank this bottle. But beforehand I went to Bushwick, Brooklyn, and shot this footage of the fabulous Tom Rowen on a roof. We're testing locations and color-correction here.

Test shoot 01 from Ralph Boswell on Vimeo.

But then David insisted that his notes come with liquor. And they did. So we have liquor.

So we did some location scouting with Tom. And some fight choreography with David. And some drinking with David. And somehow I'm more drunky now than I was during the meeting.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

And Then

Instead of M16's, which I thought we were going to get for Day 2, we apparently have HK G36's. That's not exactly right for the characters. Maybe G36's are the kinds of things a SWAT team in New York would have locked up somewhere? I'll go with that. Yeah.

Colin Levy is a visual effects artist. He's a Blender dude.

Met up with Jeff Hipolito of Mongrel FX today. He has an Optitrack motion tracking system. Drop him a line for your motion tracking needs (he's also a Blender partisan.)

Oh no. I have a bad feeling that my closest celebrity look alike is the Al Bundy character on the Russian version of Married With Children.

Day 2 Update

We're fully cast.

Tina Tanzer is Laura
David Ian Lee is Steady
Nat Cassidy is Neil
Danielle Quisenberry is Jean
Tom Rowen is Eric
Kathleen Kwan is Doctor Maschwitz
Maduka Steady is The Alpha

We start shooting on March 2nd. We still need to secure our exterior locations. Workin' on that tomorrow.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Somebody needs a JTM45

And that would be me. I've never actually owned a "head". I've only had combo amps. But when I've used a head I've had the best sound. So, uh, well maybe I'm just a slow learner here. I wonder if I want a closed-back cabinet with 10" Celestions... or Webers...

OK, so here's my learning curve about the JTM45:

There are six tubes in a Marshall JTM45.

Two of them are power tubes: KT66's. To get a matched New Old Stock (NOS) pair you're going to be laying out upwards of seven hundred bucks. So my big questions be:

  • Can I use lower wattage (read: "cheaper") tubes and get a nice cranked sound out of them at a lower volume? (As far as I know, no.)
  • Or, can the amp be run with only one power tube? (As far as I know, no.)
  • Or, will EL34's (which are more in the range of $300 for a matched pair) work and still make the amp sound groovy (although not exactly like a JTM45)? (As far as I know, yes.)

There are three 12AX7's.

And a single rectifier tube, a GZ34.

Here's an interesting (so I thought) comment regarding the quality of different tubes from the MetroAmp board:

The consensus I am hearing is that VA KT66's are very good in relation to the tone quality compared to the holy grail GEC/Genelex/Gold Lion KT66's. This is good news and in fact the difference I hear between the GEC's and the VA's is that the GEC's have more push in the upper mids, where the VA's are a little thinner - notes on the B string are as fat as those on the G and D strings. Think of it as going from say a set of 9's to a set of 12's for string gauge, and you start to understand my interpretation.

Here's a page of information on mods for the Marshall JTM reissue.

What does all this mean? It means that somebody has to buy me a GMP45 Head.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Today is Baby Elephant Day

in the Pandora Machine. They come to us via Cukisag. And no, I don't have the diacritical marks required to actually write "Cukisag".

Via Bill Martell -- Hitchcock does Kuleshov.

Ability as an actor only accounts for (maybe) 50% of their performance. The editor creates a performance more than they do. I'm lucky. I have an editor who's a Carnegie Mellon trained actor. Although many (most) editors don't have actor training -- they have editor training (however they came to get it) and... they still carry most of the acting load.

That's very unintuitive for the actors. And probably a bit demoralizing.


The Asylum, our old distributor and a production company which unlike virtually all other mini-studios is actually successful says they had their best market ever in Berlin this year. Our rep Ray is in Berlin. Hope he did well too!