Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Our Man in LA

Our man Yanni Walker (who's moved back to LA) is in this ad. Give it an upvote!

Yanni was the first to die in Alien Uprising. That's the kind of giving guy he is!

Mind Controlled Zombies

Today David Ian Lee and I went out to get a couple shots. We're in Red Hook and we drive by these perfect pieces of graffiti for the end of the movie where he reads the letter to himself.
I gave away my last copy of Blake Snyder's Save the Cat (again.) It's the last book on screenwriting you'll ever need if you also know about Blake's Five Point Finale.
In and amongst other things we have to make a DVD commentary for Clonehunter as well as an outtakes reel (although I think Maduka or maybe David Frey pointed out there's not that much which is funny outtakes because as loose as we seem to be we're pretty focused once camera is running). We're also going to have to have an interview with the director. Er. Me. So I need some good questions. And some better answers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Invest in Cats

Do it here.
The Bloggess is cracking me up today. She offers this advice to someone who's avoiding people trying to take her to church:

“You need to give up on me. God and I have our own shit worked out. It’s kind of private”. Nobody questions you when you have your own private covenant with God. And if they do question you just chuckle condescendingly and say “God said you’d have a hard time understanding. He said to tell you he’ll explain it all to you when you’re ready to really listen”. No one’s ever going to mess with you again.

1012 Designs is a design outfit in fabulous Jersey City NJ.

If you need a Carhartt PVC rain jacket.

Right. From.

All Full of Praise For Kathleen Kwan

This was the second time Kathleen's worked with us. And this time she got to (briefly) play a human being!

(Then she was mind-controlled by alien robots... again.)

Kathleen is so much fun to work with. And she looks great in a wig. And she did a fantastic cat food commercial! That sort of makes her perfect, doesn't it?

She's a wonderful actor who completely created what the robots do to a person -- the other actors echoed her performance when they went over to the other side too. Before this movie she's played the robot weary of human deceit and wrath in Solar Vengeance. She got to beat up an (invisible to us on the set) robot and then pull a Clint Eastwood off-in-the-sunset ending.

Did I mention she was awesome?

In Day 2 she plays Dr. Maschwitz. She's evil. And then she becomes evil-er.

Bru-ha ha...

Kathleen is also our motion logo. She's Pandora. She opens the box. It has a dual-laser-sighting blaster in it. That's pretty much Pandora Machine for ya.

Actually, she's only part of the motion logo. In a movie where Kathleen is the very next person you see (meaning that she's the first actor you see in scene one -- which, so far, is true in both Solar Vengeance and Day 2) we slip in a closeup of Melissa Riker in the front-title logo.

Kathleen's great. And she has a little baby too!

How The GH1 Worked Out For Us

From a letter to Mitchell, regarding my thoughts on the Panasonic GH1:

I see you wrapped your first GH1 feature? How was shooting with it? I've grown fond of mine…with all its little quirks.

It's pretty good actually. The autofocus works... much of the time. Sometimes I had to flip to manual or I had to "lock" the focus and keep it locked.

The GH1 (I think) has some weird ability to "learn" people's faces and boy it learned our lead's face. When she was in the frame it would lock on to her like nobody's business.

The picture looks amazing. The compression? It's way too much. Although it seems like bluescreens should just pop out and look good, they don't. And although one doesn't seem to see compression artifacts in the ProRes file inside Final Cut, exporting to other applications creates artifacts (stairstepping and squishy yukky things between areas of high contrast) like crazy. I know, it's weird. We have to do all our final compositing on the Mac.

The "Jello-cam" is an issue. Stabilization in post-production actually makes it worse. But normal handheld seems to work pretty well in most instances.


Picture is some random homeless guy Nat Cassidy. Of all the actors, Nat's the only one who didn't wear his costume home with him. Odd.

Stake Land

I just saw a not-quite-locked cut of Jim Mickle's Stake Land. Jim's the dude who made the brilliant little horror film Mulberry Street a few years ago. And now he's in post-production on this amazing feature -- a post-apocalyptic vampire tale which looks huge and expensive. Nick Damici is the writer and the lead (same roles as Mulberry Street) and he's just perfect as the badass Charles Bronson - type vampire killer of the future.

A very dark and grim future.

I was really blown away by the scale of this picture. Jim's a genius at squeezing every little dime spent on a movie and making it look huge. I was expecting a brilliant little picture from him. What I saw was a brilliant BIG picture. He not only filled in the world to make it real and palpable, but used the camera -- moving it, keeping it still -- to create this wonderful sense of movement throughout the story.

One of the advantages of living in New York (and having cool friends) is to get to see stuff like this. I watched it with our grip/sound/editor all-around-dude David Frey. David made a fascinating point about how one of the scariest moments in the whole movie is not even a jump scare. It's a vampire you see coming from a million miles away. She just walks into the room and... it's super-creepy.

At the end Jim handed out questionnaires. (Wow, we never do that. I'm serious -- the first time I actually saw Clonehunter all the way through was at the cast/crew screening!). But anyway we all gave notes and I told him I didn't think the sequence in the middle where the rabbit kills all the knights of King Arthur really worked if Jim's reading this, I'm the one who rated Stake Land in a scale of 1 to 10 at "One million". I'm comin' clean on that one.

Monday, March 29, 2010

According to my calculations

We've spent $1464.81 on craft services and food on Day 2. I actually don't feel we've done the best job of making sure there's enough food on-set and for lunch. Of course, with boys, you can lay out pretty well any amount of food and they'll eat it. But it's something to be conscious of.

But we did manage to go out to eat a couple of extra times and we had an impromptu little soiree at the end of the last shoot day.

On the other hand, somehow we shot this picture in 10 days out of a scheduled 12. (One of those last days was scheduled "open" because I was afraid of us getting rained out of shots. But another one of the days we didn't shoot was eliminated when we slowly started getting all the shots we needed on other days. Still, I don't recommend the 10-day shoot.) Our first two days were relatively short and we didn't cater a full meal. So we should think that on other movies we'll be spending more.

[Oh, and we're $16.18 over budget on the picture altogether. Man, we'd be under budget if the rubber crowbar had just come in sooner. Or, no, rather if I'd just not ordered a rubber crowbar. That's what I mean. Oh no, wait, I've got it! If David Lee hadn't broken one of the guns we'd still be under - budget! ;-)]

Budgeting for food is always difficult so I want to keep a tally this year of how much we spent because I figure that will help us budget more accurately in the future. In the olden days we used to budget $7 a day per person for food. And somehow the Martian Queen used to get us these amazing meals from local restaurants. I have no idea how she did it. But although you can still get Chinese food specials for under seven bucks, we need to spend more for fruit and soda and seltzer and yoghurt and those yukky chocolate and mint cookies which I hate (and which keeps me from eating them) but that everyone else loves.

Pride and Predator. Yeah, I don't remember where this is from.

Chienne D'Or

This is my sister Jean's dog. Getting ready for a nappity.

My dad calls Chien (who I now wonder, should she be called "Chienne" or some such?) "Doggit."

Chatte d'or

Off my back about French grammar. I don't gender nouns. I barely speak English and my foreign language in high school was Chinese. Of which I basically remember nothing.

In any case this is the soft and fuzzy little Meydl. My sister took this picture.

Day 10 of Day 2

Walter Lee (David's brother) and David Ian Lee ("Sgt. Steady") are both stopped from killing one another by Tina Tanzer ("Laura").

Tina Tanzer and David Ian Lee.

It's dark but this is Tom Rowen, Laura Schlachtmeyer, Tina Tanzer (back to us), Nat Cassidy, David Ian Lee (not in costume), and Maduka Steady. Setting up a shot.

The End. ;-)


It turned out it didn't really rain on us as I thought it would. But we did end up shooting (only our second time) with my Canon ("prime") lens set (at f2.0 and f1.4). That was at the end of the day.

TCD was just fantastic for us. As I've mentioned before, we need them because the characters walk around with guns.

And we accidentally found an amazing location. It's right on the Gowanus Canal and is near where the F train is elevated (where I thought we'd have to shoot a lot of tonight because of rain.) I don't know why I'd never seen this street before (the dead-end of Huntington). And appropriately the sign at the end of the street tells us where we are in our shooting ("END").

Later, we went out for drinks. I had two zombies. Ha! See? It's a zombie picture! Get it?!

Oh, and we had the odd experience, which David Lee had to remind me to do correctly, of wrapping all four of the leads on the same (last) day of shooting. The reason I messed it up is because that's very unusual. Typically you don't have everybody wrapping on the last day.

Everything was quite lovely for us. The skies opened up and started raining just as we got back to holding (the apartment of the Queen of Mars.)

I really couldn't be happier with everyone who worked on this movie. It's been such a touching experience to have all this great energy around. I want to raise my children with you guys. Or at least my cats! ;-)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tomorrow. And tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the final day of principal photography on Day 2. And we're going to be outside. And it's going to rain. Whoopie!

That means that I'm working out how to shoot these scenes as one-shot scenes. The thing with rain is that typically it doesn't photograph. But it does dampen the actors. (Oh, and the cameraman.) So you can see the actors getting wetter but can't see the rain making them wet. And then they're mysteriously dry in the scene that follows.

I'm thinking "big umbrellas". (On a real shoot the grips would set up a big sheet of diffusion which would keep the rain off the talent. Like I said, I'm going to figure out how to shoot these scenes in one. Wish me luck.)
BTW, I'm totally not complaining about the weather on this picture. We have been extraordinarily lucky and I'm very happy about it.
Ooh! Update! A potential solve: shooting under the F train at 4th Street and Smith. If it's raining, we go there. It'll be a "covered" set. Get it!? Ha! I slay me.
Medium Large.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quiet Earth

Is all over Project London.

And I'm watching Hide and Creep again. That movie just gets better and better every time I see it.

Jeff Lipsky tells filmmakers what they want to hear: that theatrical distribution is viable for indys. That don't make him wrong, but he do have a dog in the race because producers who believe theatrical is viable will pay him to distribute.

Is it me or does this not seem like a whole lot of revision? Maybe I'm just used to beating up writers so I'm inured to it.

You know what I learned from Hide and Creep? That Southerners can say the word "man" and it doesn't sound ironic or stupid. If you have a Midwest accent (like me) just stop trying.

Tina Tanzer runs from a giant machine (with two different color corrections) in Day 2. That's Ian Hubert's robot and my squirrely composite.

Friday, March 26, 2010


We have a North American deal for Clonehunter!

Home video and VOD.

More details coming next week wherein we answer all your questions.

The distributor is Lifesize Entertainment.

guitar Friday 6

At Rudy's Music here in New York, I played a Blankenship Fatboy Supreme with Sour Cream. It's basically a Fender tweed Bassman clone and... well it sounds absolutely amazing. It's a very clean amp unless you're playing at about 105 decibels. It has a 15" speaker but the highs and the high mids are chimey and beautiful.

The thing about it is that it has some kind of magic going on where you just love the feel and the sound you get. Yep, it's a "mostly clean" design and it just feels good. The feel and the compression and the ooba looba of the thing is just like that dreamy sound of beautiful electric guitar interacting with tubes and speakers and transformers on Blues street with early Pete Townshend.

Just wow.

My thinking nowadays is that the way it compresses is like a big fat smooth tube compressor which doesn't break out into immediate distortion, so it gives you the god-like sustain that makes you one with the world, while not going to easily into the "crunch" world.

I'm not a big fan of hi-gain amps. I like the saturation of the output a bit more than the input (well, with the possible exception of lead guitar). But everyone likes compression because it makes them seem "louder" irrespective of the actual amplitude of the signal (uh oh, can you tell I used to be in pro audio?)

The Fatboy is $2200. Worth every penny too, it must have $1200 just in raw parts on it. No, that can't be right. It's gotta be almost $1500 in raw parts. It's like the perfect clean amp for players who like a lot of distortion. All the fun, in a clean sound.*

The Fatboy is only available as a combo.

Weird thing is that it's very revealing, you can hear inside the notes, but it made me a better and smoother player. Usually the opposite happens in a revealing instrument. How does it do everything? Detailed, responsive, and easy? Mr. Blankenship has a pretty brilliant amp there.
But I really feel like the sound I want is two amps at once. One clean and one dirtier.

I tried a Bogner Shiva, which a lot of people think of as a great two-channel amp. After having just played the Blankenship Fatboy the Shiva just wasn't doing all that for me.

The Blankenship Variplex is $2500. That's an interesting amp 'cause it has a variac and it's made to have its voltage dropped. But I don't know if I'm really that interested in the "Eddie Van Halen" sound.

My feeling is that I want a pair of amps (with four inputs each so I can jumper the channels together) and I want a "presence" control. Why? Because I do, that's all.
You know, Dave Eden bass guitar amps are surprisingly not terribly expensive. You can buy an head for two or even only one thousand dollars. Which isn't a whole lot of money for an amp many people consider to be the best.
Looking into the tubes one needs for a tweed Bassman clone:
A JJ GZ34 is $16. Although it would be cool to get an old Mullard rectifier, they're hard to find.
A matched pair of the CED 6L6G6 is $60.
A pair of Tad 12AX7 would be $48.
A Mullard 12AT7 is $30.
Buying tubes "a-la-carte" like that would put your tube total at around $160.
The Mercury Magnetics 045JT-16 output transformer is $200. The P4550JT-G2 power transformer is $225. Yeah, I know everybody likes them but boy they're expensive.

Li'l Dawg Amps Mutt. It's a Deluxe front end with a Champ power section. I think.
BIG UPDATE: OK, you get to not have to hear me go on and on about amplifiers like this because I've gone ahead and ordered the Li'l Dawg Mutt.

One thing that's very cool about this amp is that you can put either 6V6 or 6L6 tubes in it. I'm gonna start with 6V6 but I might play through a 6L6 in it just to hear what that's like. And if it's that awesome I'll just have to get a second one.

You can jumper the channels, no problem, but there's no "presence" control. Maybe I'll just put a hole in the chassis with a knob which isn't connected to anything to turn back and forth. Maybe the knob should be labeled so you can adjust between "more" and "better".

Why did I finally order the amp? Well, it's rather inexpensive firstly. And it's quiet enough that I can throw the speakers in the Whisperroom and party away with it -- possibly even during the day when Theatresource is busy. But more importantly I got permission to buy it. Not from my wife.** Not from my landlord.*** Not from my banker.**** No.

From my bass player.

To be fair, if your bass player were as knowledgeable and tasteful as my bass player, you'd be doing what he says too. I'm talkin' 'bout you, Ethan. ;-)

*Clean doesn't mean accurate in this case. And accurate certainly don't mean "good". Clean and inaccurate. That's what you want. Or at least that's what I want. Provided the inaccurate is in the right direction.
**Not married. Problem solved.
***Amp won't live in my apartment. As long as I keep paying the rent I'm cool.
****Would have said "No" outright. Then told me to get a job.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How I love thee Danielle Quisenberry


We had this role, "Jean" (named after my sister), which was a very difficult part to cast. The character is a tough but warm woman who was originally written to be "of a certain age". Well, Danielle is such a fantastic actor we couldn't help but to cast her, even though we had to re-think the role to make Jean much younger with Danielle in it.

The Queen of Mars had, I believe, worked with Danielle before and said we should talk to her and I'm so glad we did. She has a really great voice and physicality and she really put up with the abuse and rigors of the way a production like ours shoots.

Danielle has this amazing scene where she tells the story of the end of the world. I kinda like the scene because it's fun how she describes meeting the other characters after 99% of the world is dead. She knocked the scene out of the park. I mean, real tears-in-your-eyes knocked it out. And then we did it again just because I wanted to see her do it again (don't tell her I said that though). It was really that beautiful.

And it really gives the picture a boost. I just love it when actors make decisions that I wouldn't have thought of myself and are vastly better than anything I could have thought of myself. That's what really imbues the movie with the sort of emotional reality in these fantastical situations that we, the audience, really love. And she created the character with the detail that makes her Jean come alive.

The character "Jean" has absolutely nothing to do with my sister Jean but I can't wait 'till my sister sees it!

Directing this movie has been the easiest time I've had on a picture. It's been a gas.

Secrets about our cast and crew

I sent out a questionnaire to the cast and crew of Day 2 before we began shooting. The questionnaire covered things like "What is your legal name?", for the contracts and "What is your shoe size?" for the costume designer, as well as asking about dietary needs and wants, etc so we would make production go along smoother. But the last question is:

"Giant robots have analyzed your DNA and discovered that you are not human. That is because you are:"

And I had some pre-fabricated answers which they could click on, or they could make up their own. A shocking number of them were made up. Here is the list of responses. Please match each response to the appropriate cast or crew member:
  • Mother sat on x-ray machine while pregnant
  • A Mark 3 combat android. Robots irritate you. You plan to wipe them out.
  • some sort of space fish. You don't want to know.
  • I Kick Ass
  • from L.A.
  • a cow
  • A Mark 3 combat android. Robots irritate you. You plan to wipe them out.
  • Really Zaphod Beebelbrox in disguise. I keep the third arm tied behind my back
  • .
  • unclassified plasma formatted to replicate human DNA

The people who answered are Tina Tanzer, David Ian Lee, Nat Cassidy, Tom Rowen, Danielle Quisenberry, Kathleen Kwan, Maduka Steady, Virginia Monte, Andrew Bellware, Brian Schiavo. But not in that order. Necessarily.

If you correctly match all cast/crew members to their own answer, the FBI will visit you personally, followed by an alien abduction. Unless you are, in fact, a Mark 3 combat android.

In which case please remember that I've always loved our robot overlords.

Did I say "overlords"? I meant protectors.

Plus also too we're working on this series of shots with Tina and Kathleen:

Untitled from Ralph Boswell on Vimeo.

Today's Spam

"Don't you think we have done enough? What else could it point to? Such a lovely plan! His pension was gone. It seems so cruel to dear papa. Tell us what happened in the City.
She was waiting for him. You need not undo your collar. She must have alluded to her father. Don't leave me again.He is Mrs. But who has done this? See what I can do with it. There is the window.
He plays the game by its rules. He was crying for Xanth. But Crombie was already whirling. They were probably yet to be finished. Jewel released him. Bink turned to Humfrey."

I think this text is from an Arthur Conan Doyle book called "Beyond the City." There was no attachment, no links, nothing else in the email. I swear some spammers are just avant-garde artists messing with me.

The picture? I don't remember where this picture came from. But I had it waiting for an appropriate blog post and now I found one.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Steve, Pulp, and Tiggers

Pictures of Steve McQueen from Joe Gage. Note that if your boss doesn't like looking at pictures of naked men the rest of this blog is not-safe-for-work. Well now that I look again you might see a bit more of ol' Steve than is strictly safe-for-work. But if you're reading this blog you're probably high anyway so you don't care.

Plus, How To Tell If You're Sexually Normal from Mr. Gage. Shockingly safe-for-work pulp images which I'm sure will make Bill Cunningham add a squid to his next pulp adventure.

Here is Tigger doing what Tiggers do best. Operating hydraulic exoskeletons. Yes, it actually gets weirder as you go along. No, it gets weirder than that. Thank you.

I Am In Awe

My man Ian Hubert directed this amazing feature called Project London.

Project London: Multiply Teaser from Phil McCoy on Vimeo.

"No Budget"? Ha! Don't let that fool you, distributors! They spent millions. Untold millions. Pay 'em back!

All the 3D was done in Blender by the way. Ian is a genius.

Things Today

Pushkin loves his catnip pillow. My sister took this picture of him.

David Mamet on drama. As a follower of Blake Snyder's Save the Cat I believe that Blake's "Pope in the Pool" is a better way to think about exposition.

But Mamet does have my favorite quote about what a director's job is:


And you gotta agree with this:


What's not helpful about his advice? That his answer is "figure it out". Yeah, that's just not meanin' nuthin' at all. It's a big problem, you don't want your actors saying their subtext yet you need to convey information. You need conflict in every scene yet we have to have some understanding about what's going on. It's hard to do. Mamet knows what the problem is, he is capable of getting around it himself, yet he doesn't seem to actually be able to explain how to solve it. Interesting.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Meydl looks a lot bigger in photographs than she really is. But she's about this fuzzy. Today is my-sister-Jean-takes-pictures-of-cats day. Apparently.

I suspect that Jean brought catnip with her from Bedford.


Maduka has about 15 minutes of Day 2 cut.

Today is Disturbing Images Day

in the Pandora Machine.

But first, this baby giraffe.

Final Cut Pro. It's a thousand bucks, or just a little under at the Video Guys.
John Saterineross directed this music video. It's not for the faint-of-heart He used to have this amazing studio in Jersey City. We shot part of our short "Salome" there.

Kurt Vonnegut on story. Not exactly sure I agree with it, but 'tis amusing.

What Hath David Ian Lee Wrought

Those of you who know David Ian Lee know him as a very shy, retiring personality. Slow to voice his opinion, we try to bring this wallflower out of his shell.*

On this picture he was 1st Assistant Director, 2nd Unit Director, and Fight Director (as well as playing in the #2 position the role of Steady). And he did a brilliant and proactive job at all those tasks. That made my life vastly easier.

The fights look really good. Even better than that is that David came up with the story in the fights -- because there's an emotional through-line to all fight scenes and it has to fit the overall story in the movie.

He also gave a great pass of notes on the screenplay before we locked it up. Mostly that was about dialog reduction. Most scripts have too much dialog. There's no need to say all the crap the characters are saying. Reducing the dialog before we shoot is always better than reducing that dialog in the edit.

He can even act. Apparently. I wasn't really paying attention. Let's face reality, I was drunk for most of this movie. But David was sober. I think.

And here is David doing his best work, as slate-boy.

slating naked from Ralph Boswell on Vimeo.

I've always thought it funny how on some shoots the director does very very little in the way of logistics or organizing. Frequently the 1st AD is the only one who talks to "extras" or background talent. But I'll tell you it made this movie much, much better that David created the fights, storyboarded the fights (sometimes we even shot one or two of the shots which was on the storyboard -- but that's another long post regarding storyboards) and cast and directed the talent in the big fights. That made it so all I had to do was sit back in my director's chair and tell the camera operator not to bump into me so that I spill brandy on my smoking jacket. Again.

*We grab the bull by the hand and don't mix our metaphors.

Today In The Pandora Machine

Someone forgot to send the credit block to the distributor for Clonehunter. Duh. So now that's done and also I put together 139 hi-res images for overseas buyers.

I still have to make up the music cue sheets.

It looks like we're going to end up with a 10-day shoot on "Day 2". I'm worried that there's some sort of pickups I haven't got yet. I'm specifically worried that we don't have those continuous shots we need to get our gang from one place to another. Maybe we'll shoot a couple generic walking-down-the streets shots on Sunday. We'll see.

Mr. Kangas talks about FotoKem. Oh boy, I sure know what a pain in the neck they are. They don't only pick on picayune stuff, but on things which are clearly artistic decisions (like a strobe in the background). Well feh on them.

Today I'm making some composites. Hope to post them soon.

Dexter via.

Monday, March 22, 2010

That Nat Cassidy

Here's an advantage to hiring an accomplished playwright to play the crazy guy with the long speech in your movie.

You see, it goes like this: the speech I had written was good. I mean it was pretty darn good. It would have gone well, maybe with a little editing in post it coulda had some shine on it.

But no. Nat Cassidy did some rewrites and focused the speech and made it clearer and more real and made the language (and the logic) better and really amped the whole scene up.

What's awesome about me being the screenwriter and the director is that Nat did all this work, and I'll get all the credit! Nobody will know that it was Nat's rewrite that we shot and not my immortal words.

People will say to me "Wow, that speech was amazing! How did you get Nat to do it?" And I'll say "The secret to good directing is a great script, and those words were in the script. Nat only had to say them." And the people will thank me and tell me how brilliant I am and they'll never know that it was really just Nat all along.

Oh, it's great to be me.

Post Mortem One on Day Two

I'm going to make a bunch of posts as sort of a post-mortem on Day 2.

The Camera
So we're using the Panasonic GH1. And the camera is very very nice. The chip is not as big as 35mm motion picture frame, but larger than 16mm film.

The biggest it can open (when shooting wide on the stock zoom lens) is f4.0, which is fairly slow. That being said, I can shoot up to 1600 ISO so it's gotta get pretty dark before I'm out of light.

If I'm really desperate for light I can break out a Canon 50mm f1.4 (which has a focal length which approximates an 85mm lens in 35mm production). Then we can shoot under streetlights, which is pretty cool. But on this shoot I've only done that once, when everyone was running around in their underwear out in the back of a warehouse.

So far the awesome-est thing about using a DSLR is that when we need to take stills the first camera unit can flip a switch and start clicking away. You have no idea what a big deal this is. When we're shooting a plate we can shoot the live-action part of it and then take a high-res still immediately afterwards. When we're rehearsing I can take stills and then we don't need a special "let's take stills" time after we're done with the scene.

The Compression
The AVCHD compression is what everyone complains about the GH1 about. We're using NeoScene to transcode (or actually re-encode? I have no idea) the footage into "standard quality" ProRes422 files.

The blacks are nice, it seems to me that I have almost another stop in the highlights over the HVX200 with a Letus 35mm adapter, and it also seems that we can drag up the gamma if we like in order to make the middle "pop" and the blacks nice and inky without turning up noise in the picture.

Under normal shooting conditions I don't see any "rolling shutter" artifacts, nor is there stairstepping or jagged lines or anything. And dude, I've been shooting handheld fight scenes. So compression is all pretty good. Other than the fact it takes 4 hours to render out 10 GB worth of footage, I'm fine with the compression.

I mean, until I go and render out a .png sequence. Then the jagged edges are really awful. I... have no idea why.
Via the Frugal Filmmaker here's a nice short thing on my least-favorite part of being a production sound mixer*, hiding wireless lavs.

*Other than that damn ice cream truck song.

Day 9 of Day 2

Today was a huge day here in the Pandora Machine. Call time at Penn Station in New York City was 2pm. Call time on set was 3pm. And we wrapped just about midnight.

For those of you in the movie business that's a "short day". For me it's a really freakin' long day.

We shot a couple walk 'n talks. We shot a couple exteriors. We shot a fistfight on the roof. We shot (what seemed to be) 9 pages of monologue dialog, brilliantly re-written by the charming and handsome Nat Cassidy. We discovered some guns and a computer. We killed Danielle Quisenberry. We killed Nat again.

And we ate a lot of Chinese food.

And we shot out our first principal character, wrapping Danielle Quisenberry. She's brilliant and knocked it out of the ballpark. It's quite unusual to have had your first picture wrap on a major character on the second-to-last day of principal photography.

Nat Cassidy as "Neil", in a moment of lucidity, explains what's really going on.

From left-to-right, Nat Cassidy, Tina Tanzer, Danielle Quisenberry, (in the background David Frey), Tom Rowen, and David Ian Lee.

I realized another thing today when shooting Danielle and earlier when shooting a scene with David. Every character in this picture has a pretty big arc leading them to a pretty big ending. It makes for a dramatically pretty compelling story (IMHO).

Of course, it also means that this high-speed method of shooting pictures is both nice (in that you're spending more of the day acting than watching G&E lighting stuff) and hard (in that typically you only get one take and frequently you have to look at Tom Rowen with his pants off.

Nat Cassidy and Tom Rowen as Neil and Eric, listen to the big story arc.

David Ian Lee, in order to prove what an awesome dad he's going to be, cast Karen Sternberg as the "zombie" pregnant girl. She is, of course, killed by David who then double-taps her pregnant belly. David has insisted that their child get a separate credit in the picture. I really can't say no to that. The question today was which room in Hell would we get exactly? I'm thinking it's the same room with the used car dealers although someone suggested the room with Mussolini might still have some space available. We'll just have to see when we get there.

It was also important to take stills of dead people today. So we did.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 8 of Day 2

Tina Tanzer as "Laura" on the run from giant robots. Today Tina took great delight in teasing me about an old girlfriend I was talking about who I dated, and broke up with, before Tina was born.

And yes, we got that shot at magic hour. It lasted a good six minutes. We got the wides and the closeups before we were out of light.

Nat Cassidy has gone to the other side. We're shooting way past our light here and so I'm shooting 1600 ISO and a shutter speed of 10(?). Ooh wait, it says right here in the metadata. It's 1/5 of a second at f4. Hey, I've never really used that feature before. That's kinda neat! I'm kinda dorky.

The triptych here is David Ian Lee, Tina Tanzer, and Tom Rowen.

Tina Tanzer, a target for terrible trajectories of tunnelling titanium.

We're a day ahead of schedule and we keep adding shots (and scenes). Today the Queen of Mars had to leave to go stage manage Neo-Futurists right in the middle of our shoot and believe you me, as soon as she left the set slowed to a crawl.

I feel like this is the most fun I've ever had on a picture. Normally I have a good time and there's lots of positive energy abouts but this movie I'm just enjoying more. I'm feeling more comfy in the directing "chair" (since when does a director ever get to sit down???) and I'm very happy with how the movie is coming out.

I'm really looking forward to seeing it edited.

I think that on Monday I'm just going to go ahead and order that Magic Bullet Steady (because my handheld work could use a little help.)

Plus we gotta make about 50 more stills from the timeline of Clonehunter in order to make delivery.

Lastly I want to put all our music library on Maduka's Mac so he has the option to put in music as he sees fit.

We're back at it tomorrow. More fun. We're shooting 2? maybe 3? fight scenes? Who knows? We'll just do it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

You Are Here To Learn

You know who's cool? Nasty Canasta. She was almost in "Day 2" but can't do it.

She must have the most awesome wig collection on the planet.
What Theater Theatresource?

(I'll update this if I've gotten any of the facts incorrect.)

So those who remember Jim Lawson's Writer's Forum from a couple years ago will see now a "new" writer's forum at Theatresource. I'm the only one calling it "new" but I think most everyone would agree it's a kind of "reboot" of the Writer's Forum as it was.

A couple things happened in the intervening time betwixt its original formation and now. One is that there is now a production committee which oversees the process of determining which works are produced. The system is more complicated than that, but ostensibly workable, and has a pre-existing model in the way the Estrogenious Festival plays are produced by majority vote among a few.

The present theory is that
  • writers are in effect "vetted" by the membership committee to become members and
  • the members vote on which plays to produce, which then gets filtered by the production committee in a way I don't quite understand or that hasn't been formally agreed to (I don't know which)
This is an interesting solution to the "no artistic director" problem. It does do a couple things which are unprecedented at Theatresource though. One thing is that it creates a "club" or "company", a selected group: the members of the Writer's Forum. This is unusual as we've typically shied away from having that sort of exclusivity in the volunteer - run organization that is Manhattan Theatre Source. Typically festivals, or any sort of "Theatresource" production was open to any volunteer.

That being said, having a clear and transparent process regarding becoming a member and getting one's play produced through the Forum does have some advantages over having one person (like an Artistic Director) make the decisions or (like it was in the old days) some maneuvering by a Director to get Theatresource to produce his play.

But here's the thing: one odd thing about Theatresource is that traditionally we've been able to be both very open and inclusive while being incredibly elitist. Maybe we just had really good friends. But two of our best works: Mac Rogers' Universal Robots and Mozz Mendez' Thoroughly Stupid Things were written by incredibly hard-working volunteers who put in tremendous hours at Theatresource. I don't know whether that's been a coincidence (after all, one of our finest actors, Ben Thomas, was a volunteer for a year before he was even asked to audition for anything, but there he was, and he's amazing) or whether there's some sort of iteration between how reliable and tireless you are as a volunteer and what kind of work you do.

And now we're kind of starting a club wherein you gain "membership". (Well, honestly, this process has been building up for a while but certainly at the very beginning anybody could be part of the Writer's Forum although Jim pretty much decided which plays would be read on a given week.)

And I could see that going one of four ways.
1. It could be cool and groovy, or
2. it could get moribund and clique-y. Or
3. it could become like the "official" salon and someone opens a Writer's Forum of those who couldn't get into the Writer's Forum (which I would take great delight in.) Or
4. it might actually remove the aspect of openness and inclusiveness which has been a real mark of Theatresource over the years.

The one title I have which I've taken great delight in not meaning anything is that I am a "Founding Member" of Theatresource. It shouldn't mean anything and, in fact, it doesn't. The only advantage to being a founding member is that I might possibly remember why we don't kick the radiator pipe in the theater (it causes a torrential flood and you must abandon the building) or why we don't attach an electric heater to the overhead gate over the front door (if it doesn't get turned off one night and comes down to touch the floor it will start a fire which will not burn down the entire residential building if the firefighters get there right away because the upstairs neighbor called them as he saw it when he came in). So yeah, before doing any stuff like that you might want to check in with a founder to see if they remember anything so we're not making the same mistake twice.

But other than that, if you're a recent volunteer, or maybe have only been there for a year or two, you have as much right as anyone else to shape and push and pull Theatresource as a whole or whatever project you want to do at Theatresource as anyone else. But you won't with this particular thing: the Writer's Forum. For that you need to be "elected" or "selected" or vetted by a process (which might be as simple as a majority voting you in) which might not exist just yet.

And that's... unusual.
Theatresource has traditionally behaved as a collective with a set of "principles"
  • Practice Generosity of Spirit
  • Share Your Information
  • Principles Before Personalities
  • Clean Up After Yourself**
Which, I think, are pretty easy things to get behind (and which to my frequent complaint have mostly been pushed to the wayside for the past year.) But note that although Theatresource has mostly behaved that way it technically has never been a collective. It's a straight-up hierarchical organization with a Board and everything and always has been. There is/was a Board of Directors (yes, at one time years ago the Board of Directors was essentially a rubber-stamp for the "Directors" which was where the actual decisions would/could be made. Now there is no separate layer of "Directors" in between the Board and... well anything else.***)

But we've never had a "company". Not a company of actors, not an artistic company. Having a company was indeed discussed early on in Theatresource's life. Andrew Frank, the originator of Theatresource, I recall being the most adamant against a company. He felt (if I recall correctly) that producers and directors should have the freedom to cast whomever they wanted. I think he felt even stronger about this than he did about not wanting to have a resident theater cat.* I think Mitchell Riggs, who had just come off of two years of really successful producing pointed out that it's a bad idea to just cast your friends because you'll make bad theater that way, and it's a bad idea to try to match the theater you do to who you have in your "company". I might have added that last bit what with my experience with the Wooster Group.

So we've never had a company before. And although we've had festivals and the like, the process of being a volunteer and becoming a producer and such was fairly straightforward.

But now we do/will have a company -- a company of writers who control a festival and the hiring of producers and directors and the makers of a bunch of decisions which, if you're not a member of the company, you don't get to.

This is sort of decision and power structure is fairly typical in Theater in general. But it's relatively new to Theatresource. I'm kinda on the fence about it, it could go either way. Ultimately I suspect the direction it goes in will have a lot to do with what the members of the Writer's Forum think about them principles above.
*You know that damn cat would find its way on stage every night and turn each show into a comedy. But it sure would solve the rodent problem.
**Over the years two more principles were informally added:
  • Take Your Meds
  • Do Not Put Juice On the Roof
The first of those is self-explanatory and the woman for whom it most applied was gone in fairly short order. The second is a complicated story about many cases of Fresh Direct juice stored on the roof in February but not discovered again until August by which time rats and the warm sun made them quite less than thrilling to remove from the roof in order to throw away.

***Well, that might not be true. I doubt anybody really knows but it probably goes something like:
Board of Directors
Executive Director
General Manager
With the majority of the committees reporting to the ED. But that's just my guess and really I doubt anyone as formalized this structure.

David Ian Lee Haikus

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous wrote the following haikus in honor of David Ian Lee.

This is all in response to David's apparent googling of things like "Nancy McClernan let go of my weasels" and such as indicated here.

David Ian Lee is free
To wring the pains of true love

question the true psychosis

Exploitation is

the eye of narcissistic

wrath of bat shit craze

DIL the dale of love

To show the hilarity

Of obsession keen

Much hilarity has ensued today.

Guitar Friday V

First of all. This cat. What the?

Ethan says to look into a silver-faced Bassman. They're cheap and you can make anything you want out of them. He also points out that some of them even sound good all by their lonesomes.

The Vintage Amps Forum is a forum about... well you know.

Penn Instrument Company builds Weber and Mojo amp kits.

The Bogner Shiva sounds good clean as well as distorted, so Ethan says. The head is $2400.

Ultra Sound is a rehearsal studio and an amp sales place here in New York. I'm gonna have to pay them a visit.

There's the Bruno Cowtipper. Ethan suggested I check it out. $2200 for the head.

Maven Peal makes the "Zeeta", which Ethan likes quite a bit. $2500 for the "Silver" head.

Here's an interesting article about the difference between Blackface and Silverface (Fender) amplifiers.

This article is "pro" silverface amps and tells a bunch about them.

Little Dawg Amps seem to have a good reputation. Their prices are certainly good. The guy there seems really nice.

Day 7 of Day 2 Part 2

Tom Rowen looking pensive as Eric in Day 2.

Tom Rowen and Nat Cassidy on guard duty. Yes I finally get my Mos Eisley shot!

Nat and Tom share a moment.

Brian Silliman beats the stuffing out of David Ian Lee in this picture.

Day 7 of Day 2 Part 1

The incredible Maduka Steady and Tina Tanzer square off in the finale of Day 2.

We shot this scene in a very Playhouse 90 style with Maduka getting up very close to camera. Although we also shot coverage of closeups of Tina.

So far this is the only day we've shot with haze in the air. Most of this movie has been pretty "clean".

The lighting was way over-the-top gratuitous. And amusing. To us.

In this second-to-last picture, Tina is going to lay you out.

I thought it was really funny when early in the day when it was actually pretty warm, Tom Rowen had his shirt off but stopped to show Tina a thing about her business with the gun. Those Barettas are very right-handed weapons and Tina is left-handed, so it makes it a bit difficult for her to press the release which snaps the gun closed after cocking it with no round in the chamber.

Very happy with today's shooting. Very big and juicy scenes which really went where they needed to go.