Friday, April 30, 2010

A Slow Saturday


How to draw hands.

Mitch Gross talks about the new Schneider Lenses.

Not safe for work Shakespeare comics. As if there were any other kind.

Pictures of my Dad



My sister found these photographs in a drawer she was cleaning out in order to sell the house. This is my Aunt Anna B (which should tell us how old the picture is as she's passed on now) and my dad, Morris Daniel Bellware. The second picture is of my dad. He looks pretty good in colonial clothes, doesn't he? These pictures would have had to have been taken after 1990 because that wallpaper behind my dad was clearly his idea and my mother would have never allowed it while she was alive. ;-) These pictures were taken in my childhood home on Hofer Court in Metuchen. My dad still has that ceramic black cheetah.

Sam on the Radio, Mouse on the Shirt


If you want to check out a podcast interview with composer Sam Reising, All Classical out of Portland Oregon has it for ya. He talks about his work on Clonehunter about 17:30 into it. You have to click the "on demand" tab and then go to "Northwest Previews - John Burke".

*****
We're cleaning up the Tyrannosaurus Mouse graphic for use in a T-shirt.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Preliminary Art


For Day 2. Here's the distributor's site for the movie.*

This is just preliminary. What we weren't able to provide the artist was a hi-res still of anyone running away from the giant whirlydoomer robot - that's what they really wanted. But we'll be able to do that in the next few weeks.

*You'd think we'd be able to get an imdb credit just for that but nooooooooo...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hammer Party in the Sinuses


Man, I'm getting hammered with allergies this year. If I were in a videogame my health would be at -1. I need to find one of those potions to get my health points up. Maybe a bubble tea...
*****
From the Hollywood Juicer, Fox president Kevin Reilly talks about (among other things) firing actors at table reads.

Normally I have a lot of sympathy for producers. But in this particular case I don't. Sure, typically the executives are blamed for everything -- somehow the creatives knew exactly what to do but these damn "suits" came in and wrecked it. Never do the executives have ideas that were any good, or make the movie/TV show marketable. No way. And to all that baloney I say "feh". The creatives make a lot of mistakes too. And they don't have to sell the thing to the actual customers (which are not the consumers.)

But firing actors after a table read? Gimme a break. That's not a problem with the actors. That's an issue with the director.

Well, now it's true that in TV there really aren't any directors. The "director" is more of a "camera direction caller".* Heck, in a lot of feature film that's true too. Which just goes to show you that as an actor you really are going to end up having to direct yourself in most film/TV situations.
<a href="http://tyrannosaurusmouse.bandcamp.com/track/mutt-test-7">Mutt Test 7 by Tyrannosaurus Mouse</a>
Li'l Dawg Mutt test 7. This is with the Weber 10" 10A100 speaker. Open back cabinet. Compressed a we bit at the Apogee converter but otherwise left alone. Les Paul with both pickups wide open.

*The show runner is frequently the closest thing there is to a director on a TV show.

Version 2.02 of the Mouse


From my sister's notes here's a newer version of the T-mouse logo.

Today in the Pandora Machine


We've delivered the materials to make the trailer from in Day 2. Our distributor will be taking care of that. We've also updated all our licensing agreements with them so that they (and we) actually have contracts that haven't expired.

Also, I delivered surround mixes of Solar Vengeance and Alien Uprising for a buyer who actually wanted them. Very exciting.

We were scheduled to go into production in three days on Earthkiller but we've run into a snag regarding the sets. We're not exactly sure where they're going to end up, and it's going to take at least two more weeks to work that out. A good director would take this time to do another re-write of the screenplay. But I suck so I don't have to worry about that. Oh, OK. I'll work on it...

I have other scripts to read and work on and I just haven't got to them.

This is the latest version of the Tyrannosaurus Mouse logo. Our drummer, Lou Clark, is the official "mouse illustrator". The "T" came from Old Books.
<a href="http://tyrannosaurusmouse.bandcamp.com/track/mutt-test-5">Mutt test 5 by Tyrannosaurus Mouse</a>

I love my new amp. When I play with a band my timing mistakes seem like choices! ;-) This is a pretty straightforward recording. Les Paul into the Mutt, mono recording.

Born of Hope


So these people made an (almost) feature-length fan movie of Lord of the Rings.

Today's Script Tip by Bill Martell makes me actually want to see Rocky 6.
Looking at the chord progression of White Flag (the Dido song). Then I thought, maybe I should start a heavy-metal Rick Nowels cover band.

Which leads me quite logically to talk about color correction and my fear of it. For whatever reason, the big studios love a very radical look. And I, like seemingly most other indy filmmakers, am stupidly conservative about the look of my own films. I always say "But I kinda like the way it looks in camera" (in a whiny voice) at the beginning of the post-production process. And... I don't know why. (I also don't know why you'd disable embedding on a Madonna video that has a commercial in front of it.)
Big Hollywood pictures will frequently go to very extreme color-corrects. The movie will be blue, man. Or gold, or green, or whatever. And nowadays it's relatively cheap to do. Heck, you can get a DaVinci nowadays for a thousand bucks (plus the fancy-pants computer to run it, which you probably already have for editing.) But I always feel like it's just too much. For my own movies, that is. Not for the big-budget extravaganzas, which look great.
Now maybe it's because I look at the movie more than anyone else does and I just get bored with it looking one way or another and I start second-guessing it. Or maybe it's that I don't take enough time to get the look exactly right from shot-to-shot. Or maybe it's because there are just too many options and I can't decide on one because I've seen too many great and interesting looks for each frame of picture that I get all dithery.
*****
But none of that is important right now. Right now I have to find a good engraved letter "T" for our Tyrannosaurus Mouse to sit upon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Today In Awesome


There is the Geocities-izer. It makes any webpage like it was created by a 13-year-old in 1995. And that, dear friends, is awlsomes.

This video (via Lindsay aka Lazlo Pink): The Raven.

Until May 1st you can get your own copy of Brother Blood for 99 cents!

Quote of the Day

"I didn't realize how much more footage there was in Clonehunter, versus Day 2. Was that David's first movie with you? He seems so much more behaved on set, like he was actually trying to act."

Grammar Girl: bad vs badly.

The Cat Piano from PRA on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I've Lost All Semblance of My Own Mind


So over at the Hollywood Juicer, they're talking about hours worked and overtime and how many hours you need to get health insurance.

And it's pretty messed up.

Do the trade unions have any culpability in this mess themselves? Sure they do. You know that if any of the big companies tried to pull this malarky in Germany, I.G. Metall would shut the muther-freakin' country right the heck down until everyone got health coverage (which... I think... they've done). And American unions... didn't do that.

(The irony for me is that the new health care bill may likely have the effect of making it harder for unions to organize new shops -- one of the first things a union organizer would say to non-unionized workers is "How are your health benefits?" If the answer becomes "They're just fine, I get them from the State, what do we need you for?" then the union ain't getting in. But that's a whole 'nuther story.)

And as I actively digress, I... hey -- did you read that Bill Cunningham post a while back where he linked to this interview with Karen McQuestion? It's actually an informative interview. I took away from it something else though -- it's possible to be a successful writer as a self-published writer, but everything -- writing, editing, design, and the cover, have to be totally up-to-snuff. And that's a lot of work. (So get back to work.)

Where... was I?

Sometimes Joe Gage comes through with some great stuff on his blog. If you're offended by the number of men's butts you see here on my blog, you'll probably be hospitalized by going to his (he's a gay-porn director now, but he used to direct low-budget sci-fi.) Who knew that Different Strokes was this creepy?


And here's the teaser trailer for "Bounty". Not the mutiny one...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Today

The Pushkin cat obviously feels much better now that he's on the new drugs. He was harassing the kitten to play with him. I think he actually wore her out.

Today's to-do list includes

  • Delivering surround mixes of Alien Uprising and Solar Vengeance.
  • Delivering paperwork for Clonehunter.
  • Delivering the materials to make a trailer for Day 2.

They're pretty much all due tomorrow.

So not only do I want a geared head, but I want a doorway dolly. And someone to push it. And love and peace throughout the world. I'm gonna get my wishes. Just you watch.

I bet that Matthews is better, but David Frey turned me on to Grippage Plus (through a Craigslist ad) and they have doorway dollys. Anybody ever used one? A used Matthews is probably better.

Building a paper mache wall (via Tim)
<a href="http://tyrannosaurusmouse.bandcamp.com/track/mutt-test-4">Mutt Test 4 by Tyrannosaurus Mouse</a>
That's the latest test of the Mutt. Volumes are dimed, inputs are bridged. Les Paul Custom with bridge pickup.

That Explains Everything

Do yourself a favor. Don't watch this video. You will see Tom Rowen's fuzzy ass more than once. I'm warning you. This is David Frey's cut of the Day 2 "party video". More outtakes. More cursing. More... I don't even know what.

1002 day 2 partay from Ralph Boswell on Vimeo.


*****
"I’m going to hell just for talking to you today." Bloggess. Cracks me up.
*****
So your local Mad Pulp Bastard, Mr. Bill Cunningham, wrote a post about another dude's take on indy film. The short version is: Mike Ryan says "We filmmakers should do whatever we want and not worry about whether anyone wants to see it, that's not our problem". Bill's response? "No."

Ha!

And it reminded me of this post by the Matriarchal Script Paradigm (via Josh James). In it, "Ralphy" observes:

I think writers believe that by eschewing genre entirely they’re developing their own voice and giving the reader something that is uniquely them. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true. Most of these scripts are identical in tone, so, voice-wise, they all “sound”/read the same.

Wow. That so explains most of the scripts I've seen. Or plays I've worked on. And it explains a lot of indy film.

My complaint about indy film is how much of it is simply boring and un-inventive. Big Hollywood studios put out movies with much more daring "looks" to them than the average "indy" picture (which is frequently lit like a sitcom).

Today's Amusements


via Bandcamp, and looking at artists without Roman characters in their names, found L'olam Vaed -- apparently an Israeli ambient (dark) artist. Songs have titles like "I'm as Black as the Candle I Lit for You." The album is free.

Carlton guitars in Australia has a bunch of sound clips of Li'l Dawg amps.

Finally this morning I got to open up my new Mutt amplifier as loud as it would go for a couple tests. Unfortunately my dumb (as I got it used, and it was cheap) Celestion Alnico Blue was still giving me some trouble with buzzing. So this is mostly a cleanish-sound from the amp because the louder it's played the more buzzy the speaker is. You can hear some rubbing of the solder against the cone. I blame my bad playing on the frustration of hearing that buzz.

&amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://tyrannosaurusmouse.bandcamp.com/track/mutt-test-2"&amp;amp;amp;gt;Mutt Test 2 by Tyrannosaurus Mouse&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;

But a couple dabs of rubber cement do a boy good. Now I can open up the amp to the "RAWK" setting. But even in my Whisperroom it's way too loud if there's a rehearsal or show upstairs in the theater. I'm going to have to play early in the morning before anyone arrives (or after the theater is closed) when I want to record the guitar this loud.

&amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://tyrannosaurusmouse.bandcamp.com/track/mutt-test-3"&amp;amp;amp;gt;Mutt Test 3 by Tyrannosaurus Mouse&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;

Friday, April 23, 2010

Conversation Du Jour

They: Yo, whassup? Is this your new amplifier?
We: Yeah.
It looks very retro.
I know, cool right?
OK, I don't care about amplifiers. What's going on with Theatresource?
Nothing much.
I know, right? It's a Saturday afternoon and it's about as dead as it was on Monday mornings ten years ago.
It's because you aren't here.
Yeah well, I'm just sick and tired of the BS.
Well, but that's the problem. That's why I'm the only founding member who's still here. Nobody else is willing to stay.
There are a couple of us on the board though.
Exactly.
Well, they're here, right? Like most days? Oh man, really?
I'm here most days.
So what's going on with the Writer's Forum? What's going on?
Nothing really. There's some in-fighting over the Writer's Forum still happening at the Board level.
Why, because redacted and redacted don't want want the Writer's Forum? Why, because they're jealous of it?
Yeah, basically Theatresource got a grant from the State for $8000 a year for three years in order to support the Writer's Forum because it's such a good idea but there are enough people on the Board who are against it because it was Jim's* baby that they just throw a spanner into the works for spite.
What? Even though there's all that money coming in -- even before selling any tickets?
That's exactly the reason. Everything about it was successful. It makes them look bad.
Remind me of the Principles of Theatresource.
Generosity of Spirit, Share your Information, Principals Before Personalities, Clean Up After Yourself.
So let's see, they're being bitter and petty; they're keeping everyone out of the loop; they're jealous of the previous administration so they're sabotaging the place; and they came in here, took a big dump on the floor, and are waiting for other people to clean it up.
Four for four.
Battin' a thousand. That's a pretty good record.

*The old Artistic Director

Last Stop on the Crap Train


Lord, I love the reviews we get. Here's one by Scott Shoyer. He slags out the hatin' on Alien Uprising along with a Billy Zane picture and a NuImage movie in his "Shitty Sci-Fi Roundup". I'm still laughing at this quote:

"It was like watching a puppy swallowing lit firecrackers."

I really think we should put that as a pull-quote on the boxcover.

We scored 0 out of 10 skulls for gore, and 0 out of 5 brains for zombie mayhem.

(I always wonder with these things -- who are they talking about when they talk about "TERRIBLE acting"? I think, well it can't be Jeff Plunkett or Steve Deighan... and then I realize that no, it's just not a terribly sophisticated reviewer. It's the fact that none of the actors are famous that's the problem. This is an issue we're saddled with in getting a SyFy Channel deal -- because we don't have name actors, they aren't "good". Which is just silly. Oh well.)

Pushkin Sick


Pushkin hasn't been feeling well. Unfortunately the drugs he was on didn't do that much. Fortunately he feels better than he was a couple months ago. My parents describe him as "depressed", which is actually a pretty good, albeit anthropomorphic, way of describing him.

Luckily he's eating well and actually gained some weight -- he's always weighed a slender 7.5 lbs and went down to 6.5 lbs. But now he's up to just a bit over 7.

Yet still he seems down.

So we took him to the vet again today and $139 later got him some analgesics which might help him if arthritis is his problem. But the vet isn't sure. She thinks he might be in the very early stages of having liver issues but that would be very early stages. In short, nobody really knows.

So we'll give him drugs for a couple weeks and see how that goes. We're done trying to give him pills, that just doesn't work. So his new drugs are a thing we push into his mouth ("under his tongue" - ha!) with a syringe and some stuff we put on his food (which means Meydl will inevitably have some too.)

Here he is in the sun. And then he's looking very strange due to the fisheye quality of the iPhone's camera. And lastly he's creeping up on the little orange freak machine.

Delivering 5


So all this time I've been making movies, overseas buyers have just not cared about surround mixes. And domestic buyers have been very reticent to deal with surround mixes. We go to a lot of trouble to make the surround mixes work and we actually create the stereo mixes from the surrounds but nobody has ever really wanted them (even if we foisted them on a couple domestic distributors, basically complaining 'till they used the surround mixes -- I think in both cases it was the first time they released a DVD in surround.)

But now! Now we actually have a buyer who wants surround mixes. An overseas buyer, yet! And our North American distributor wants them too! So it's a new way for us. And a new day dawning.
*****
By the way, I'm one of those mix engineers who doesn't provide a ".1" track as in "5.1". I provide "5.0". What that means is that I don't provide an extra subwoofer track.

I can see why you might want a subwoofer track if you were delivering in analog (especially using optical tracks). In the digital world the advantages become lessened to the point that I don't want to deliver (or mix) that .1 track.

Here's what happens: all 5 of your speakers (Left, Center, Right, Left surround, Right surround) split out all their low-frequency information to the subwoofer. So you hear what you get when you're mixing. But if you add special low-frequency-only information to another it might get ignored. Some decoders just ignore the ".1" track. Or, it might get played back 10dB lower than you expected, or 10dB higher. The way different systems work and are calibrated are a bit all over the place about that. Not every living room is THX certified.

So we mix in 5.0. We know what's happening in the low end and we keep it there! ;-)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Mutt Thoughts


Wow, there's a lot of playing to be done with this amp to really discover what it sounds like. I love how it hears the "wood" in the guitar and really gives a great feel. Right now my favorite setting is to plug into channel 1, dime channel 2's volume, and ease back on 1's volume 'till it sweetens up (backing off to where 8 or 9 might be on channel 1).

When you lean into the amp it really breaks up beautifully. And it's loud! Maybe not loud enough for a very loud drummer on a "clean" sound, but it'll certainly get loud enough dirty.

Mutt Here




Yes! I got my Li'l Dawg Mutt, custom signed for Tyrannosaurus Mouse by Jim Nickelson.

It's very sweet sounding. And it looks kinda awesome.

Here it is atop my half-loaded cabinet. Unfortunately my Celestion either has a hole in it or there's some extra piece of some shmutz between it and the cabinet. Hopefully I can clean it out.

The Mutt is much louder than I expected. It can certainly get up to ROCK volumes -- even though it has the 5-watt Mercury transformers in it.

It's very smooth sounding with nice compression. At the top of the dial the distortion is very rawk. And you can play with jumping the channels and getting channel-jumping weirdness. There's even a negative feedback on/off switch which adds more possibilities.

There's a lot of touch sensitivity going on with this amp. I put the preamp tubes (an 12AY7 and a 12AX7) in one way when I first got it, and then I swapped them another way. I think I like them better "another way" rather than one way. But I can flip them back and forth as much as I like.

The volume knob(s) is/are almost just a complicated tone control. I love how they're not even labeled. Especially because when you turn the second volume control all the way up it loads down the first channel and the volume goes down. Yes! Now that's a set of controls to fiddle with! ;-)

I'm playing relatively quietly here because of the speaker buzz. I'm going to try to get that fixed up and do some more tests. Soon.
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://tyrannosaurusmouse.bandcamp.com/track/mutt-test-1"&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;Mutt Test 1 by Tyrannosaurus Mouse&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;

SF 1905

I am utterly fascinated by this. Market Street in San Francisco 1905 (the earthquake was a year later.) Soundtrack by Air. I actually own this album but I haven't seen it since I moved.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earthkiller Designs


Actually, "Earthkiller Designs" sounds like a great name for a graphic-arts firm.

But in our case, it's the amazing and powerful Ian Hubert who's designing a space station for our upcoming Earthkiller.

Poor boy don't have a scanner. So he has to take pictures of his drawings. ;-)

*****

If you need to go from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro 6, here are some instructions.

If you don't have your own toilet monster, here's where to order one.

Sweetsounds is a little recording studio in New York. I don't really know anything about them but this blog is, after all, just a notebook.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

More Ideas, Good and Bad


From here via Crewless tweet.

Today I'm at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Carting around family members. I've never been anywhere where the nurses yell at/complain to one another more than here. Holy cow this place is disfunctional.

Have I mentioned that I think I should make an Aliens-type picture? You know, crew on a starship has to land on some planet and an alien gets on board, etc.

We also need a "2012"-type end-of-the-world picture (again.)

It's gonna be like Aliens meets The Mod Squad. Actually, that's not such a bad idea. In space no one can hear you be that freakin' cool...

Oh, and... Why you should never pay for online dating. Furthermore, the New York Times tells you why you should exercise.

Girl with Whale


Karen Sternberg and "Moby".

Why does Karen have that whale?

Isn't it enormous?

I thought it was only so big to fit over the spout in a bathtub.

Are blue whales really that blue?

Oh. So many questions.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On Unions, Overtime, and Business Plans


From a producer's perspective.

Way back in the olden days I got a job at Olympia Dukakis' Whole Theater in Montclair, NJ. I mixed sound for a musical (which actually went on to a long-ish run off-Broadway but I had nothing to do with it other than this one production).

We didn't get paid overtime (which AFAIK is just illegal on the face of it in the State of New Jersey, but it's the way things were). We lowly technicians just got paid a weekly rate ($250/week? Maybe? It was a while ago.) Whenever the band for the musical needed to do a put-in rehearsal, or anyone needed to do any damn thing on stage, I would get called in early to fire up the sound system so everyone could have monitoring and the intercoms would work, etc. I ended up doing a lot of "overtime" for free on that show.

My next job was at the New York Shakespeare Festival. My understanding was that a few years earlier some electricians and carpenters cornered the production manager at the end of a pier and demanded they be paid overtime -- so everyone was making overtime after (I think) 37.5 hours a week by the time I came on board.

I worked on a bunch of shows for the 9 months I was at the NYSF, including a couple musicals. And you know what? On the musicals when the band needed to do a rehearsal or when anybody needed to do anything on stage -- mysteriously -- I wasn't needed. They would have had to pay overtime to bring me in. It's like suddenly everyone found out how they could practice, rehearse, or whatever, without me.

It was like magic.

Well, no, it's not magic. The fact is that overtime forces the producer to be more efficient. If the producer can't go over 10 hours a day (or whatever) because they simply do not have the money, they will find ways that they don't have to go into overtime.

Having to pony up the real expense of overtime, the producer ends up being better organized. They have to. Otherwise the whole project is a wash. And you know what? As a smart producer you actually want to have a time guillotine hanging over your head each day -- a time after which you simply may not continue to work (or your head gets chopped off). Why? Because you will be better at your job. Your job is to deliver the picture on time and on budget. If you think you have an infinite amount of time in your day that you can work your crew, then you'll start working longer and longer hours - but not actually getting more done. You'll stop planning out the day and keeping everyone on schedule if you're not worried about overtime.

And you will make STUPID mistakes.

I've seen this happen a lot. Shoot is scheduled for 18 days. Days keep getting longer and longer as it gets less and less organized. By day 12, the crew hates you. You hate you. You're endangering the lives of everyone who rides in the van with the exhausted PA who's been working 20-hour days for two weeks straight. And you, the producer, are so tired that you don't understand what the locations manager just said to you when they told you that the cemetery you were supposed to shoot in on the last day fell through because suddenly they want five thousand dollars for you to show up there.

And then... and then you find yourself (and I've actually seen this happen) in the last couple days of the shoot... scouting for locations while the entire crew is waiting for you to figure out where the company move will be to finish off your day. (Which you can't do so you end up adding more days to the end of the shoot which eats into your post-production budget (specifically the dialog edit part of the budget) and you make a crappy film which, even though it's a horror film, can't even get direct-to-dvd distribution or even a freakin' IMDB credit).

But hey, there are some big-budget producers who schedule loads of overtime even though they have to pay it. Sure, they have the money but still I don't really see the point of 16-hour-days. You'll only get about 10 hours of work out of people so you may as well simply hire two shifts. Just like at the factory. Huh? You think that's a bad idea? You think it'll actually make a big difference if, after 8 hours of shooting, you switch out G&E, the camera and sound crews, and even Art, for another crew? It won't. And furthermore, if you're shooting 16-hour days you're shooting garbage most of the time. If not all the time. You're not shooting pictures, you're harvesting them, Brother. So just give up and swap out the crew after 8. Hell, hire 3 freakin' crews so they can be workin' round the clock. It. Will. Be. Cheaper. Than. Paying. Golden. Time.

You, as the producer, will be dead. But nobody will notice and it won't matter. The producer they replace you with? The one who can actually schedule? They'll get the movie back on budget and schedule by working shorter days.

If I were the head of a studio negotiating to the technical union, IATSE, I would tell them to put a provision in the contract that said if one of my producers on a feature film went to a 16-hour day more than once, or if they went to a 20-hour day even once, it would be legal for a grip to come to the producer's house and break the producer's legs with a hammer. Obviously the studio would pay the grip overtime for going out to the producer's house, which would be "golden time" if they continued right from the 20-hour-call. (Which is what? Triple-time pay?) Plus mileage.

And why would I do that? I'd do that because no producer would go to a 20-hour-day. They would magically discover how to produce and get me my movie in on-schedule and budget. No grips would come to their houses at three o'clock in the morning with sledgehammers. Again. And the movies they produce would be better for it.

Magic.

*****

OK, I'll give producers one break regarding overtime. Sometimes -- rarely -- but sometimes, something happens which is actually beyond your control. And I'm not talking about "We didn't know it was going to rain today!" or "Oh I just had no idea how long it was going to take to shoot that scene!" I mean actual things -- the camera breaks -- the camera crew gets food poisoning from yesterday's fish tacos -- whatever. So one day on the shoot you get to go into overtime.

But only for a couple hours.

And just that once.

*****

So what does this mean for my business plan? Not a whole heck of a lot, actually. I'd like to shoot 4 movies this year. I'd like to have an Aliens-type movie since our last one (Alien Uprising) seemed to do so well, and another 2012 post-apocalyptic movie. I'm just going to keep talking about these things over and over until they actually happen. Unless I'm talking about amplifiers.

Sunday Suchly


Are you overcome with an intense desire to take apart your HVX200 Panasonic HD camera? There are pics here on how to do it. My HVX had one of these flex cable failures just as soon as I'd sold it to Blair. The camera took a poo on Blair's first shoot with it. Makes me feel very bad. Camera will go to Abel Cine Tech to get fixed. Camera will get a firm talking to by me.

Our domestic distributor is trapped in Europe by an Icelandic volcano. The volcano is probably revenge for the British freezing the assets of Icelandic banks.

I went to Hulit's Shoes in Princeton. I have to say, the customer service was exemplary. I think it was Dave who helped. Worth going to Princeton to buy shoes, that's for sure.

I just realized we have a street date of August 10th for Clonehunter.

Lastly here's a French sci-fi short. Via SF Signal. It's from these dudes. I don't know French but it's not terribly important to understand the language.

Drew Without Pants


Here's video evidence of the wrap party for Day 2. This is David Frey's video of me very drunk with no pants and wearing a carnivale mask I got once in Italy (I think). I begin by extolling the virtues of Save the Cat (see? I just can't help myself). That leads me somehow into harassing David Ian Lee.

Vodka is good food.

Oh, and apparently my drunkenness makes the whole room go sideways.

No, I can't really understand what I'm saying either. See how important a good boom operator is?

And seriously, I'm doing something which makes Tom Rowen hang his head in shame? That must be pretty far out there.

Clonehunter Live


Oh look, Clonehunter is (right now) at the top of KochClips. That's our distributor's distributor. Click on the link and you can see David Frey's trailer. I don't think this is the final artwork, I'm under the impression this is a comp for "business to business". But what do I know? I still spell "Clonehunter" as one word.

This is What You Missed

Maduka Steady invented the cast party video. We show it at the wrap party. Every production should do this. This is his cut of the Day 2 cast party video.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

From One to Seven


Oh good grief. I missed a whole "guitar Friday". Well, I was busy getting a new computer yesterday. Anyway, a quick (ha!) wrapup of this week:

1. I may or may not have gotten falling down drunk, in my underpants, with a Carnivale mask on, at the wrap party for Day 2. Only video evidence will say for sure.

2. This (from Scriptfrienzy) is actually a pretty good article on writing a screenplay: making your protagonist not suck.

3. I'm obsessed with the Dollygrippery blog. Really? The top scale for a dolly grip is only $40/hour? I always think that the dolly grip and the focus puller are the guys actually making the movie - but dolly makes only, what, $400 a day at the top of scale? And $280 when working for HBO? Sure, when they work for me they should only make $280/day (and come with their own dolly and a nice geared head) but out there in real life? Sheesh!

4. Windows 7 isn't as annoying (so far) as Vista. I'm not so sure about the new way the bar at the bottom works though.

5. Thankfully iDrive saved me and my hard drive from the old laptop. Unfortunately that means you might be subjected to some of the same images from my "pictures" folder that I didn't delete before the backup started. This cartoon may be one of them and I'm too lazy to look and see if that's the case.

6. My new amplifier is "on vehicle for delivery" to the studio but I'm going to be out on Monday. Poopity poo.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Latest Clonetrailer

Our man on 8th Street, Mr. David Frey, rocked out a new edit of the Clonehunter trailer for North America. It's not hugely different, just tweaked some. Plus also too, I sweetened the mix a tad over the previous version. The whole thing is a bit tighter and better-er. Click here for bigger version.

Clonehunter Trailer (N. America v3) from Ralph Boswell on Vimeo.

The Laptop is Dead. Long Live the Laptop.


Welcome from my new laptop. The old laptop died, just about 3 years old to the month. I knew it was going so I had some warning. I lost a download of Neil Young's Greatest Hits. I think that's it. So far iDrive worked for me and saved all my pictures and documents. Heck, the drive on the old thing might still be good, it just won't power up. Maybe I can find an adapter and drag Mr. Young out of there after all.
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Our adventures begin thusly:

So I go to the Staples around the corner from Theatresource and I look at two Acer computers. One is a mini and is on sale for $299. The other one is regular-sized and at $399 has three times the RAM, a dual-core AMD processor, twice the hard-drive size and a DVD drive. So I ask the dude there if they have it and he says "Yeah, sure" and sends another dude to get it for me while he tries to upsell me on a printer and other crap. No. No. And no.

But it doesn't matter because they don't even have one in stock, just the one on the floor and a damaged one. So they send me to another store on Broadway and 14th. Bleh. That's a couple avenues over and a half-dozen blocks upward. But even more bleh is that I have my stepmom's car parked at $5 for two hours at the theater and the ticket will cost you a C-note if you're late (and boy, they do check.)

So I'm running up to the other Staples (past yet another Staples on Broadway which is apparently too lame to have any decent computers) and I'm thinking "Crippity poo -- they're so not going to want to sell me this computer." I have like 18 minutes to buy the computer and get back to my car afore the parking meter expires and Erf. Etc.

So I get there and I tell the guy I was just downtown and saw the computer I want (at first I thought it was an Asus, not an Acer -- sue me) and I said "Yeah, that's the computer -- do you have it in stock?"

At this point we're at T-minus 15-minutes until the computer becomes a hundred dollars more expensive due to parking ticket.

"I can check to see if we have it, but can I ask you a few questions first?"
"No. Can I just have the computer?"
"What are you going to use it for?"
"My car is on a meter and I don't have time. I have to get a computer right now or I have to go."
"I need to make sure you're getting the right computer for you."
"So I can't have this computer?"
"You can have the computer, but I need to do my job first."
"OK, forget it."

And I walked out. Got my car. And bought the same computer in Brooklyn where they didn't harass me (and they took "no" for an answer) about what I wanted the computer for before checking to see if they had one in stock. So Staples still got their money out of me, they just got it out of me annoyed.

Oh and the computer has a web cam. Illustrated here.

Windows 7 doesn't seem as irritating as Vista.

On another note


The other night I played a Marshall JCM 600 combo as my "dirty" amp and something called a Fender Deluxe Bluesman (or some such)* at Complete Music. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say the JCM 600 is probably the last amp Marshall made without the "angry bees" sound going on. It sounded nice. Very Marshall. Difficult to get a slightly dirty sound on though. The clean channel did indeed sound clean. I really couldn't make it grit up even when turning the master all the way down and the channel all the way up. So I had to use the dirty channel and make it sound as clean as it would go (which was still too dirty for a rhythm sound for me, but it was a smooth and nice "lead" sound).

The Fender, which I'd never seen before, looked roughly like a '59 Bassman. It was clearly a "reissue" - style amp in tweed. Had a presence control and a master volume. It would not dirty up at reasonable volumes no-way no-how. I used it as the "clean" sound and it was pretty OK. I wish I had that amp and one of the Traynor amps (as the dirty amp). That would probably make the best sound for me.
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Two, count 'em -- two, computers went bye-bye on me this morning. The laptop I think is dead dead. The other one I'm working on right now but probably doesn't have long to live.

*It was probably a Fender Blues Deluxe.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Youth, They Look Up to Me


You know me, I have my fingers firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist in America.

It went from 1967 "There's gonna be a revolution" to 1977 "The revolution is dead" to 1987 "We have to be overly serious if we want real change" to 1997 "You know, some things are just so freakin' absurd we just have to make fun of them.

Of course, the geists overlap and here's a perfect example of it happening. It's from here but I don't know who took the pic.

Oh and, all your dreams are dead. Totally ironic 2000's right there.

Tyrannosaurus Mouse had another rehearsal. For some reason my Sound Devices 702 was being a real pain in the tuchus. Maybe it was just a low battery on the thing but it was metering very strangely and the recording is distorted. I rebooted it but no progress. I suspect low battery. I updated the firmware and will try at our next rehearsal to see if it's OK.

These pieces are unlistenable to civilians. The only purpose they have is as a "proof of concept" as I added badly-played Hammond (fake) organ and mixed it into the rehearsal recording.

Bandcamp is very cool.

&amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://tyrannosaurusmouse.bandcamp.com/track/mouses-shuffle-with-organ"&amp;amp;amp;gt;mouses shuffle with organ by Tyrannosaurus Mouse&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;

&amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://tyrannosaurusmouse.bandcamp.com/track/mouses-tail-rehearsal"&amp;amp;amp;gt;Mouse's Tail rehearsal by Tyrannosaurus Mouse&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;

&amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://tyrannosaurusmouse.bandcamp.com/track/softly-rehearsal-with-b3"&amp;amp;amp;gt;softly rehearsal with B3 by Tyrannosaurus Mouse&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Have Several Important Announcements To Make

Earlier this week I spent over two hundred dollars on the area below my waist. No, get your mind out of the gutter. I bought socks and sneakers. I also bought pants but luckily for you I'm not here to talk about pants.

No. I'm worried about my knees. The "studio" we shoot at (my dad's shop) has concrete floors and they beat the heck up out of my knees. So I went to Foot Locker and the dude sold me on the most expensive pair of shoes I've ever bought. $150 for a pair of New Balance 993's. Yup, on my feet they were by far the most comfy. You can find them for $86. I just might do that next time (in a year?) But my knees thank you, New Balance 993's.

In the exciting world of socks, KMart no longer stocks the Texas Steer socks I like. So I think I've moved on to Thorlo socks. You do understand the importance of all this news.

Living forever
Takes less time than you think.

I just love that tag line.

Finish your day with a baby kangaroo.

Chatting With Robots


This is a creepity little short called Alma (via Michael Allen Nelson). It's unusual to mix in clothing noise in animation, but here they do. Actually, I think they do a bit too much. It sort of sounds like the character is wearing a lavaliere microphone and polyester jacket -- and the dialog editor didn't do a very good job. But of course, no, these sounds are all deliberate.

As much as I have Penelopelust, the Arri Alexa actually exists in a digital form ($60,000 plus lenses).

Lucky for me none of these cameras looks that much better than my Panasonic GH-1. They look better, don't get me wrong, just not that much better.

Alma from Rodrigo Blaas on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No Really I Don't Have Any Money (Part II)


The thing about the Asylum is that they're very very good at selling pictures. I'm not so sure they're that great at making pictures but that's another subject altogether. I suspect they have gross revenues approaching $250K over the lifetime of a number of their movies. And for them, any movie which does less than about $100K in its first year is a loss.

Pandora Machine is very far from there.

If we pulled down a hundred thousand on a picture there'd be cigars and hot tubs and champagne.

The most we ever made ourselves was with Millennium Crisis. I believe our side of the money was about $48K when all was said and done with overseas and domestic sales. That took a couple years. The movie that sold the fastest for us was Alien Uprising (it makes me want to do another picture which would be marketed as an Aliens-type movie). So far we're at about $42K on that movie. Now if -- and this is a big if -- we could do that amount of business consistently -- we'd be in OK shape. But, er, that's difficult.

Solar Vengeance only did $24K (about). Clonehunter will do about the same unless the domestic sales go off the rails.

Now, I've written before that I think there's a "natural" minimum size to a business. Really, that's $250K a year. That's the size you have to be and be able to pay a minimum staff, your accountant and lawyer, and rent, with a tiny bit left so that you can buy groceries and pay off your credit cards. But me? I'm hoping to break $100K a year. And the difficulty is trying to plan that.

Which brings me back to The Asylum. They've changed their business plan at least a half-dozen times in the last 10 years. They started out as (egads!) art-house distributors. Then they did (I think) some college-prank-Porky's-type comedies for USA or something. Then they went into horror. Then they realized they needed to make 10 horror pictures a year. Then they accidentally discovered the "mockbuster" and did that for a while. Now they're doing all kinds of things from religious - themed pictures to Westerns(!), to more 2012-type-movies.

So they certainly can't figure out one business plan and stick with it. If they were doing now what they were making money at in 2002, they'd be flat broke.

Still, we need to figure out what makes us enough money to become sustainable and remain afloat. If we bank on being able to get receipts of, say, $25,000 on a picture then we should make 4 pictures a year to be at the $100,000 a year level. If we could do 10 pictures a year then we'd be at the "magic number" of $250K a year.

What exactly happens at $250K for a low-budget operation like us? Well for one, equipment costs get amortized in no time at all (I don't mean amortized for tax purposes, we get -- what is it? -- $125K of equipment expenses to write off each year). Paying writers and editors becomes possible. Heck, we might even have a gaffer/grip person. Maybe a dolly (although note that having those things takes you more time on set which we might not be able to afford.) We might even pay an actor or two. Ha! No, we won't do that. This is why:
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Actually, one could calculate how much you'd have in actors' expenses. If the average picture has 250 "man days" of acting talent during principal photography and you were shooting 10 pictures a year, that's 2500 man-days. At a hundred bucks a day you'd blow a quarter-million dollars a year -- erasing your entire budget for the year. Yikes! You can't even pay actors when you scale up unless you can consistently make much more than $25,000 a picture.

OK, so until that model sucks less we still can't pay actors up-front. But we might be able to lower the bar at which we make them profit participants.
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What we could get, however, is a real studio to shoot in. We could give Maduka a real salary -- and probably get him an assistant. I could get a geared head, which I found out can be leased for $300 a month. I could get an assistant. A production manager. On occasion hire a boom operator. But mostly I'd be able to get an accountant so I wouldn't have to file an extension on my taxes. ;-)

No, Really, I Don't Have Any Money (Part I)


Sometimes it's hard to convince people that when you say you have no money for something you have no money for it.

A friend of mine was scouting locations and called up the New York State Film Office and they gave him some phone numbers and he ends up talking to someone who has an unused power plant out on Eastern Long Island. He tells them: "We have no budget." They're all like "Oh, that's OK!" And he goes out there to visit and of course the place is gorgeous for a post-apocalyptic thriller and he's all like "Are you sure this is free?" and they're like "Well, you have to pay for a guard." Oh really? How much is that? "$700 a day." OK. Now that's not free. "Oh, plus we have to charge you $3500 a day for the facility."

Now really.

Maybe somewhere there are people who keep saying "We have no money" when what they mean is "We have thousands of dollars a day in discretionary funds." I've never met those people.
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Like recently I heard about a job for rotoscopers working on the new Roger Water's The Wall tour. They're being paid $150/day. Now you might think that $150/day isn't that much money and gee whiz, Roger Waters has a whole lot of money, so therefore the job has to pay a lot more. Well, not really. Firstly, the whole escapade of putting on a tour is tricky -- very tricky if you don't want to take a bath on it financially.

And hey, a lot of people will be working on the tour. Hundreds, ultimately you could argue, thousands. So if you paid them all $350 a day you're gonna run out of money at some point.

So sure, there you might say "We have no money for this." But then you'd really mean "We have a couple million dollars, but we're watching it all very carefully and we're not going to pay more for stuff than we have to."

But you'd be able to afford the power plant location at $4200 a day...

New Clonehunter Trailer

Here is the new "North American" Clonehunter trailer. Ben Thomas came in and did the voiceover. This may end up being "version 1" of the trailer as there are some little changes I'd love to make but we might be out of time. We'll see what the distributor(s) think! David Frey is the editor.

0904 Clonehunter North American Trailer (v1) from Ralph Boswell on Vimeo.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fuzzy Bunny Times


Groove to Jonathan Newman's De Profundus. He puts the fun in De Profundus. Crank the speakers. Rock your vole.

*****
This is our latest copy for the North American version of the Clonehunter trailer. It will be voiced by the very sexy and newly daddied Ben Thomas.

In the year 2525 --
The rich and powerful
Can live forever
Farming illegal clones for their body parts
Just as long
As they can keep them under control

But when one of the clones escapes
They can only call one man.
Me.
The Clonehunter

Living forever
Takes less time than you think.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sploits



A collection of "blacksploitation" movie posters. Via Martin Klasch.

An interview with Pam Grier.

I've Been Told I Don't Blog Enough

Ha! Seriously, nobody's ever said that. I've been told that about as much as I've been told "Post some more pictures of amplifiers!"
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Today David Frey, giant among men, delivered the new picture edit to the Clonehunter North American trailer. I was expecting to have to do a couple things to clean up the trailer. But I dunno. It looks pretty good. His picture might very well be final picture.

What it isn't is final audio. You see, we had a little problem wherein we didn't have the rights to the edit or the voiceover or the music for the Clonehunter trailer for North America. So we have a deadline of Wednesday (used to be Thursday but of course it got moved up a day -- well it got moved up like four or five days but I said "No way!" and now we're back to Wednesday - I hope to deliver on Tuesday. You know how it is)* to put the trailer up on our distributor's... uh... distributor's** site. Or something. I just do what I'm told here.
*****
The Red Giant tutorials are actually pretty useful -- even the ones which are product-specific. Here's one on a nice Death Eaters effect.
*****
Bill Cunningham on triangular composition. Much pulpy goodness included.

More on triangular and other kinds of composition here. Of course, many of the kinds of composition described can ultimately be described as "triangular" but go with it.
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In the meantime, here is the world's most French dude explaining what a Penelope with a "digital mag" would/will be like:

*You know what? No. The original deadline, and I'm looking at it here, was freakin' the end of April, not the middle.

**Or their "jobber" or... I don't even know what you call them. Our distributor sells through a bigger distributor -- whatever that is. This is a fairly typical situation I just don't know what to call the distributor's distributor.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Funniest Conversation


So this week I spent time with my parents in Princeton. And here's the best conversation with my dad when his hearing aids weren't in:

The story starts with me going grocery shopping for my parents. My dad was staying home with the cats to play Sudoku and my stepmom was going out with friends to the theater.

So I go to the grocery store and get pineapple and orange juice and kitty litter, etc. I come back and I think "Ooh, Iona" (my stepmom) "told me there was vodka. I could have SCREWDRIVERS! Wahoo!" It's about 10pm. I'm happily mixing the orange juice I just got with the vodka and drinking it like punch (it's really tasty) and dad is working out some Sudoku (which he really loves doing) and the cats are doing whatever cats do at 10pm and then dad gets a telephone call.

It's Iona. They're stranded at the theater for some reason and need someone to go pick them up. Dad is sort of shouting back and forth into the telephone (he's taken out his hearing aids) and turns to me and says "Can you go pick them up?"

"I just had a screwdriver."*

"What?"

"A screwdriver. I just drank one."

My dad scrunches up his face in that What in the world are you talking about, boy? -- look.

"Why are you talking about tools? Iona needs a ride from the theater?"

"I'M DRUNK!" I shouted.

The look of dawning realization passes across his face.

"Oh. Oh, a screwdriver. You drank one."

This has been amusing me to no end for the past three days.

*Now please note that yes, I am a lightweight but I made a big glass of 50/50 vodka and OJ and drank it down in pretty short order. And for once I (by coincidence) have an appropriate cartoon.

New Alien Uprising Deals

Here. Look at this bunny. Don't read anything more in this post. Just don't. It'll keep me out of trouble.

See? Bunny butt. Now look at pictures of guitar amplifiers.

Goodbye!

(Look at the bunny.)

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O! I do hesitate so in putting details of deals on this blog. As a rule it makes the distributors less than cheery, that's for sure. Hopefully they're just looking at the bunny and not paying any attention. You know, this paranoia about "real numbers" in the movie business is one of the ways that nobody ends up knowing anything about the reality of financing in motion pictures.

Look. At the bunny.

So let me tell you about our last deal for another one of our movies. You will be guessing which is our last picture to get a deal for the market involved. This is for North America: $5K upfront and then the distributor takes something like $15K in expenses and then does an 80/20 split (in their favor) for the next $12K or so and then they split (after the direct costs of making the DVD's) everything thereafter or some such. What it really means is that we get $5K upfront and they get everything for the first $35,000 or so and then we start the 50/50 split (after direct expenses for making the DVD's).

To tell you the truth, the splits deal is so complicated that although I think I understood it for about 10 minutes it has now fizzled out of my wee brain. But it's something like what I've described above.

Are you looking at the bunny?

So what does it all mean? Well, it means we get to make another movie. Ha! No really. What it means is that I split the $5K with my producing partner and we whistle a merry tune while we walk away*. Well, OK, no -- it means we're not likely to make more money but if the movie did as well as Alien Uprising did we'd make a nice additional chunk of change and we'd certainly be paying out money to actors, writer, designers, etc.

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Speaking of Alien Uprising: we just got a small home video deal for Cyprus and the Middle East. For us that's less than a couple thousand bucks. But it does mean that Alien Uprising has earned at total of $40,370 including North American and suchly. I'm sure it made our distributor's distributor much more in N. America because of their spectacular Blockbuster deal, but still that puts us less than ten thousand dollars away from the $50K mark -- after which we actually dole out percentages to the "artistes" (which includes the writer, editor, effects, actors, etc., etc.) And it'll also make us feel good.

(Of course, if we're only, say, a thousand dollars over the $50K mark it could be embarrassing: "Uh, here's your check for, uh, fifteen dollars. Thanks!")

Look at the bunny.

*To make matters more complicated to talk about, but vastly cheaper at tax time, there are two separate companies involved -- Bloodmask LLC (which is owned by my partner), and Pandora Machine LLC (which is owned by me). Sole proprietorships pay hundreds of dollars less a year in "fees" to the State than LLC's with multiple members. Feh on the State then.