Monday, October 31, 2011

So Far

I'm conducting an ongoing social media experiment over on my Twitter account. How absurd can tweets be and yet people don't resign from your feed en-masse?
So far the amount seems to be "infinite".

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Than Once

Here is a conversation I had more than once today. 
We: Hey, don't you want to be on the Board of Theatresource -- and pay $5000 a year to be on it?
They: I'm not going to pay to be on this Board. 
We: Well what if it were a Board of different people?
They: Oh yeah. Then talk to me.
But that's not what I'm here to talk about.
Today we screened Earthkiller. I had much fun. I drank too much but not sickeningly so. Probably because Joe Chapman ran out and bought pizza (which, again, is probably because he is some sort of angel from heaven).
The Frogman explains how God created the platypus.

Chance Shirley Interview

Chance has a big ol' interview.

Our Immediate Goals

These are our immediate goals.
  • Finish and deliver Android Insurrection by December 15th.
That means we need to have all picture locked by November 15th. It means we need to have some picture locked before that! Then mix, color-correction, titles, etc.
  • Shoot, finish, and deliver Dragon Girl by May 1st.
That's going to be tight, especially if we have so much in the way of visual effects. But we gotta do what we gotta do. So that's that.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Render Bender

Dual quad-core. Renders are taking more than five minutes per frame to render in Blender3D.
Closeups are hard.
Of course, after we render the 3D model we then render the composite in After Effects. Then we apply color-correction in Final Cut Pro. And then we render out the whole movie with DM&E mixes. Then we dance on the graves of our enemies. But it's the 3D that takes the most time per frame typically.
Tomorrow we're having a screening of Earthkiller at noon at the Gibson in Williamsburg? Are you coming? Yes, of course, I thought so. And with the absurd pre-Halloween snow, this could very well be the second time my parents get snowed out of a screening.
And, of course, I totally blew the nodes in the render and because I stupidly didn't check the frames as I was exporting the entire render is bad and I have to start again. Yay! Me!

Via a comment by psa (below), Lightworks is free.
Whoa. Between that and Automatic Duck...

How To Take Over 177 MacDougal Street

[A furtherance of two conversations (see below for more) that took place today.]

They: How would a new organization take over the property at 177 MacDougal Street?
We: If (and that's a big "if") you should have an organization registered as a 501C(3) (or, you know, if you know someone who does) and you go to the landlord of 177 MacDougal Street (A J Clarke) you might be able to negotiate a lease beginning January 1, 2012.
They: But when we started Theatresource we didn't have a 501C(3) for... a year I think.
We: Yes. Yes you're right. But I strongly advise against operating without one, at least as an umbrella organization. That being said, the landlord would, if willing to rent to you, probably require that an individual put the space in his/her name. For a 7-year lease. Which will start at (likely) around $9,700 a month and go up from there.
They: What about all the stuff in the theater? The lights? The dimmers? The board? What's the deal with it?
We: That's a good question. Now, the landlord might decide if Theatresource is behind on rent, that he might be able to seize all of the assets.
They: If he should seize all the assets then he'd just rent them to a new tenant?
We: Yes. If that's what he's planning to do. It's difficult to know because we don't know what sort of deal the Board is striking with the landlord. But yes, just like the restaurant business, it's nominally better to be the second tenant in the building than the first.
They: What do you mean?
We: Well typically in a commercial lease you get the first two, sometimes three, months free on a lease. If, and as the Board is cancelling shows after the 1st that's a big "if", you can get rentals in the first month and you have the gear (lights, grid, dimmers, etc.) because the landlord seized the property inside the building, the theater becomes a "turnkey" operation. Then this is what happens financially:

  • You're paying a month-and-a-half rent up-front ($15,000?)
  • You can start renting out the space to theater companies immediately
  • You have zero debt load. 

Which is a relatively cheap way to get into the theater business.

They: Do you think the landlord would be amenable to renting to somebody else?
We: Landlords are a tad arbitrary. Maybe he just doesn't want to. And he's trying to sell the building (and the adjacent buildings). That being said, the market for rentals right now sucks. So yeah, they should be. It sounded to me like the landlord was tired of dealing with the Theatresource Board, but who knows?
They: What if Theatresource strips the theater before moving out?
We: There's a couple issues with that. One is logistical. Where are you going to put all the lights and the dimmers? Plus, who is going to help you?
The second issue may be legal. Depending on the deal the landlord has, that stuff might be his. I don't know the answer.
They: How much is the stuff -- the lights and sound gear -- worth? 
We: The dimmers are very beat up. That being said, they actually work (or, at least a majority of dimmers in each pack work). Replacing them is going to be a few thousand dollars at the very least. The light board itself would cost a few thousand dollars to replace (even used). We just had the light board overhauled.
We can spend any amount of money on lighting instruments. But fresnels (which our LD's complain we don't have enough of) are relatively cheap to rent.
Sound gear? You can spend any amount of money you like on sound. We have four JBL speakers, a couple cheap amplifiers, some tiny Behringer mixer, and a Mac Mini to run Qlab with. That's, uh, whatever that is.

So Wait, Why is Theatresource Closing?

This is an amalgam of six different conversations.
Q. So really, why would you be on the Board of Theatresource if you think the theater itself should close?
A. I dunno. Why wouldn't you just resign? Well, unless you wanted to keep the tax-exempt corporation for whatever you want to do with it.
Q. I feel kind of snookered having come in for a couple days of loading out deep storage only to have the Board of Directors of Theatresource close the theater.
A. Uh. Yeah.
Q. I mean, they had to have known that's what they were going to do by then, right?
A. In retrospect it seems they had a pretty good idea that we were going to be closing the doors by the time we were pulling everything out of deep storage. But they didn't say anything.
Q. So, explain to me again why would people be on the Board of Directors of an organization they want to close?
A. Well, the 501C(3) is valuable. And they're certainly trying to salvage that. That's the only rational reason I can think of.
Q. I ran into one of the former General Managers of Theatresource on the street last night. The GM said "I hear you're going to close." I said "yeah". GM: "They told me they were going to close about two weeks after hiring me, too."
A. Ha! Yes. Indeed. We have been in exactly this same place before.
Q. So, I've spoken to three members of the Board of Directors and gotten four different answers about the financials.
A. Welcome to the club. I'm only two for three though. So you win.
Q. Now Drew, you're actually there six days a week. And although I've seen the pathetic state of your financials [editor's note -- "Ahem"], you do know something about reading a balance sheet. So what's going on?
A. The financials are such that we owe about $50,000 and we have additional revenue needs of between $25,000 and $35,000 per year over what we make in rentals, ticket sales, donations, and grants. Well, that was the number offered by the Board President. Honestly, I think we need an additional $50,000 to $100,000 a year to really run smoothly.
Q. Uh. That, in the greater scheme of things, doesn't sound like that much money.
A. No, it doesn't.
Q. So why don't we just raise the money and come up with a plan to stay open?
A. Because even if someone were to come up with that money. the Board would close Theatresource and just be a producing organization without a theater.
Q. No way, really? People have offered to come up with money and were turned down?
A. Yup. This has been stated explicitly by the President of the Board of Directors, Courtney Birnbaum ( ).
Q. So. Uh. Wait. Why?
A. I haven't gotten a rational explanation from anyone. I can't find an actual rational reason to deliberately close Theatresource (note that the Board will claim that they're not closing "Theatresouce" because they intend to use the 501C(3) in order to produce at other theaters.)
Q. What. The...?
A. A little history is perhaps in order. A long long time ago, two regimes ago in fact, Lanie and Jim were paid by 1099. Actually, knowing the people who where on the Board at the time I'm surprised that didn't raise any red flags. That, honestly, was incredibly, incredibly, stupid. After Lanie and Jim were pushed out, Jim filed for Unemployment.
Q. Uh oh.
A. So the State came down on Theatresouce. Theatresource wasn't paying into S.U.I. for the employees.
Q. Oops. How much was that?
A. Somewhere in the realm of $50,000 in fines. I believe that got negotiated down but we did have to pay off a big chunk of money for S.U.I.
Q. OK, so that adventure with malfeasance is over with?
A. That's probably just misfeasance. But yes, it is. In the meantime, however, we ended up being a few months behind on the rent.
Q. And that's when the New York City Marshal showed up? 
A. Yeah. That wasn't quite as romantic as you'd think. He just handed me some papers and left.
Q. You got served?
A. But it wasn't nearly as much fun as they used to show on Simon and Simon...
Q. So now what? A dude on Facebook said something about filing an Appeal to the Board...
A. Yes. That was interesting. I haven't seen the Bylaws of Theatresource. I've been looking. We'll see what's possible that way too.
Q. Too? Wait. What do you have up your sleeve?
A. Have you seen these bunnies?
Q. Seriously.
A. Well, provided that there's no viable way to take over the board before they close the space, there's another alternative if we want to keep the space.
Q. You're teasing me. Stop it.
A. Next post. This one is getting too long.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pitches with Tom

Here are the pitches Tom Rowen and I came up with. Don't make me show you a picture of Tom's butt to prove it!

36 Hours
Calvin Jones, an ex-marine and bodyguard must team up with a Russian coked-up stripper in order to find his ex-wife's daughter.

Tamara Medved, beautiful bleached blonde junkie, is the only witness who knows where the Russian mobsters have the girl. But Calvin only has 36 hours to get her straight and to get the bad guys before they kill the kid.

An ex-drug-dealing bartender is forced to do one last score to pay of his bar's debt to a loan shark.

Blood on the Streets
A newly-released ex-con is forced to rob an armored car to pay off his coke-addicted brother's gambling debt.

Keyton Daynes or "Y.Y." spent 15 years in the joint practicing Kung Fu and jujitsu. But when he gets out he gets dragged back into the life by two scumbag coke dealers to rob an armored car.

What he doesn't know is the armored car is carrying Chinese Triad mob money. 

Now he has the Chinese mob, the FBI, and the drug dealers after him. And if he doesn't get his brother and his grandmother on a plane out of the country there's gonna be blood on the streets.

Bullets in El Barrio
Two brothers growing up in Spanish Harlem. One, Montserrat Mendez, becomes a DEA agent. The other, Tomas Mendez, pushes dope on the streets they grew up on.

Now Montserrat put on a task force to take down his brother's crew. At the same time, both brothers are in love with the same girl -- Juanita Arias.  

All hell breaks out when the Russian mob decides to make a move to take control of Spanish Harlem. 

Now both brothers have to fight the Russian mob -- and one another -- for love and their lives.

The Polo Grounds
Mac returns from the Iraq War with his best friend Banks. But they have no jobs and no future. 

Pushed into a corner, Mac starts dealing drugs and then starts to murder his way to the top and rules with an iron fist over the Projects. 

His beautiful girlfriend, Layla, helps him murder the local drug kingpin. And then convinces Mac to kill Banks. 

Mac thinks he's invincible. No bullets can stop him. No knife can cut him. He runs a reign of terror over the Projects. 

But eventually the community rises up. Layla commits suicide and Mac is machine-gunned by the son of one of the men he killed.

Ways to Save Theatresource

The financial reality of Theatresource is that we've always been in a deficit. If you ask three different Board members you'll get four different answers of how much a deficit we run every year.
I actually think it's more expensive to run than any of the numbers I've heard from Board members. My number of additional revenue (above and beyond what we normally get from rentals and present donations) is that we need an extra $50,000 a year.

But that doesn't matter.

Why? Because the Board is committed to closing the space.
People have stepped forward, offering to help find money, etc. But the Board is only interested in bringing in money for the "virtual" Theatresource 501c(3) that will exist after January 1, 2012. Don't believe me? Ask me to forward an email from the President, Courtney Birnbaum.
So although the Board would like you to believe that there's just no way Theatresouce could make enough money to cover this deficit, there are a lot of ideas of how would we raise revenue to become and remain solvent. Note that none of these are my own ideas. I can't take credit for them. I mean, except for the one.
  • Get 7 more Board members who would each donate $5000 a year. It's New York City. We haven't been actively looking for people. We could start.
  • Start a Theatresource company. Charge $300/year to be a member of the company. Do whatever it is that theater companies do. There are a number of people at Theatresouce, long-time volunteers, who are chomping at the bit to do this.
  • Do the Horsetrade model of theater rental. That is, rent out the space for upwards of three different shows a night. It's like being in the Fringe Festival all the time. (Or just do certain months this way.) This will be tiring. But you can also triple revenue.
  • Sell more liquor. Selling liquor does indeed bring in a lot of cash. The trick is the liquor license. We have actually been visited by vice cops (this seems more exciting than it actually was.) So the Theater has to partner with a restaurant or bar that has a liquor license. This has become a bigger pain in the tuchus over the last couple years, so we haven't been doing it as much.
  • Rent rehearsal space. $20/hour, 40 hours/week, 50 weeks/year? That's $40,000! Ha! About 6 years ago this was our big plan for becoming permanently financially solvent. And what happened? We built a rehearsal space and we ended up with huge noise issues with our neighbors. Essentially the wall built for the rehearsal space has acoustically coupled the floor to the ceiling (and the neighbor's bedroom) above. What could we do? Well, we could float the floor and the ceiling -- essentially acoustically isolating the room from the surrounding building. How much would that cost? Brrr... $20,000? Which is kinda low-balling it. And yeah, that would be on top of the roughly $12,000 we spent 6 years ago. 
  • Rent rehearsal space II or, we could rent out the window box as rehearsal space. Would anyone rent it? Would that work? I don't know. This, incidentally, is actually an idea I just thought of. Which is why it's the lamest idea on this list.
  • Rent the rehearsal studio as production office space to theater companies. Right now Blair, Maduka, and I share a 12' by 13' (I used to know, I should measure it again) space with no window and no HVAC at the back of the building for $500 a month. Upstairs with those beautiful windows looking out onto MacDougal Street? We should be able to get some companies to time-share that as offices. A total rent of a thousand a month? $1200? That's $24K/month of regular income coming into the building.
  • Partner with other theaters, work to attract new producers, etc. etc. Which is, you know, what we haven't been doing for a while. 


Somehow we're number 150 on IMDB. At least according to our distributor. Does anybody have IMDB pro? I love to know our ranking.

That's right, as of today if you type "batt" into the imdb search engine we're the first thing to come up. Even higher that Battle: LA and Battlestar Galactica.
Our reviews on imdb are about what you expect. Reviews on IMDB are about a half-step above the average YouTube comment. We in the genre movie world are fairly used to that.

Here's a review meme I've seen a lot of:

Give me a good laptop computer, an HD camera and a few students from the local primary school, and I can make a better movie than this. 

Really? The thing standing between you and making a movie is that you don't have a $600 video camera? Someone should take up a collection for you? ;-)


Richard Stallman makes a distinction between "free software" and "open source" that I don't really understand.
Act I
By and large I'm a proponent of open source and we release movie elements (like sound effects and digital models) into open source under a variety of Creative Commons licenses.
Act II
We do use a number of proprietary standards. One standard for delivering a motion picture is a 1920x1080 progressive scan image in a Quicktime format with ProRes422 compression. We use this format and compression in our shop a lot. Quicktime and ProRes422 are both owned by Apple. They make a reader for a PC but there's no way I know of for a PC to encode a ProRes422 with a Quicktime wrapper.
Why is this important? Because almost any lab we deliver a drive to can handle a quicktime movie encoded as ProRes422. It's a perfectly reasonable output codec. "Broadcast quality" -- whatever that means. And making the deliverable format a Quicktime movie means you can imbed a whole bunch of different audio tracks (stereo english, stereo M&E, 5.1 English, 5.1 M&E, stereo commentary...)
Every lab has Final Cut Pro 7 and can read these formats just fine.
So Apple is doing away with FCP 7 and gone right to FCP 10. Obviously a lot of houses are going over to other kinds of editing systems which aren't as favorable to ProRes422 as we've been up until now. What if your go to a lab and they're all like "We just have FCP X and a couple Digi-Beta decks. Oh, but we have an Avid and a Premiere system we do our serious work on, but those are both PC's."
Oof. Aaf. I don't know. Now this is getting harder. When Apple's FCP was the obvious go-to professional program, the codec that worked so well with it was perfectly fine to deliver in.

Tom Rowen, Joe Chapman, and Juanita Arias in Android Insurrection. Rebecca Kush calls this picture "Lord of the Quarry Dance".
So what do we do now? Will we be delivering picture as OpenEXR? Politically that's very appealing. And obviously if ILM is using it, there's some serious industry level backing for it.
Act IV
Are we going to abandon proprietary Quicktime format for OpenEXR image sequences? For many uses image sequences are pretty awesome. Not for everything though. Sometimes a Quicktime or an .avi is just nice, right? It's not a directory filled with a bunch of individual image files.
Act V
So I'm just wondering what we're going to end up with. Will Apple relinquish the high end of video delivery to Avids and Premiere systems? Will they work with OpenEXR? Blender does. AfterEffects sorta does.
Final Cut Pro certainly doesn't. It likes Quicktime movies* and really prefers one of a handful of codecs (including ProRes422). Premiere, on the other hand, will import image sequences directly but unfortunately does not support OpenEXR as far as I can tell.
Yeah, I got no idea. We'll use FCP7 for the remainder of the year and probably through 2012. And we'll deliver in ProRes422. Other than that? I got no idea.

*It is possible, and not too big a pain the the butt, to import still image sequences inside Quicktime wrappers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pitch Waiver

Below you'll see that the Asylum is accepting pitches. These are the legal terms of the agreement you make in order to give them a pitch.

This seems like a pretty good and well-written agreement.

WAIVER AND TERMS OF AGREEMENT - By submitting ("Pitch") your idea(s), stor(ies), concept(s), plot(s), treatment(s), suggestion(s), character(s), and the like, in either written or oral form (collectively, the "Material"), you are agreeing to the following terms:

1. The Material that I will Pitch is mine, I have exclusive rights to the material, and the material is original to me.
2. I understand and agree that the burden of securing copyright or WGA registration for my screenplay or idea lies entirely with me.
3. I agree to hold The Global Asylum, Inc., (the "Company") all executives, producers, managers, agents, production companies, their subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, representatives, employees, and volunteers, harmless from and defend them against all claims, demands, losses, costs, damages, judgments, liabilities, and expenses (including attorney's fees) arising out of or in connection with any and all claims of third parties, whether or not groundless, based on any screenplays, plots, characters, stories, concepts or ideas submitted during the Pitch or on any screenplay, film, or material developed out of those idea(s), stor(ies), concept(s), plot(s), treatment(s), suggestion(s), character(s), and the like.
4. I acknowledge that because of the Company’s position in the entertainment industry, that the Company receives numerous submissions of ideas, treatments, stories, suggestions and the like, and that many such submissions received by the Company may be similar to or identical to those developed by the Company’s employees or otherwise available to the Company.
5. I understand that I will not be entitled to any compensation because of the use by the Company of any such similar or identical material. I further understand that the Company would refuse to accept or otherwise evaluate my Material in the absence of my acceptance of each and all of the provisions of this Agreement. I shall retain all rights to submit this or similar Material to persons other than the Company. I acknowledge that no fiduciary or confidential relationship now exists between the Company and myself, and I further acknowledge that no such relationships are established between the Company and myself by reason of this agreement.
6. I agree to defend, indemnify and hold the Company, its affiliates, subsidiaries, and successors, as well as their officers, contractors, and employees harmless, with counsel of the Company’s choice, from and against any and all claims, expenses, losses, or liabilities (including, without limitation, reasonable attorneys' fees and punitive damages) that may be asserted against the Company or incurred by the Company at any time in connection with the Material, or any use thereof, including without limitation those arising from any breach or alleged breach of the warranties and promises given by me herein.
7. I agree that if, as a result of my Pitch, the Company is interested in engaging me to develop the Material into a screenplay and/or motion picture, I will negotiate with the Company in good faith for the terms, conditions and amount of the payment for such future services.
8. If the Material is submitted by more than one person, the word "I" or "Writer" shall be deemed changed to the plural, and this agreement will be binding jointly and severally upon all the persons so submitting the Material.

Accepting Pitches

Hey check it out, The Asylum is accepting pitches for movies.
It is way not every day that a studio -- even a small studio -- accepts pitches. Go ahead, send 'em one.

They're looking for African-American and Latino - themed action pictures, comedies, and dramas (and martial - arts pictures.)

Last night Maduka and I came up with this:

Wrong Side of Justice

A cop gets framed for murder and is thrown off the force. His only way to exonerate himself and to put the bad guy down is to work with the same criminals he arrested during his career.

Billy Sin was a tough, no-nonsense cop. But when he busted the wrong guy, a CIA agent importing crack cocaine, he gets set up for a murder he didn't commit.

Billy gets thrown off the police force. While awaiting trial he has to prove his innocence. And the only people he can trust are the drug dealers, pimps, hustlers, and hookers he busted as a cop.

The Derelict Board

  • So we just got this email from Jennifer Thatcher, signed by the board, to the Source email list. My points are bulleted.

"To the Tribe of ManhattanTheatreSource:

It is with heavy sadness, yet also with deep gratitude, that we must inform you that The Source will officially close its doors on January 1st, 2012.  Despite many heroic efforts to save The Source over the past months and years, we have finally reached a point where we can no longer sustain the running of our space at 177 Macdougal Street.  Our deficits have grown too high, and the terrible economy has badly hurt small theatre companies in NYC, not only The Source itself, but even more significantly the companies that we depend on to rent our theater all year long.  These harsh realities have left us no choice but to leave the space."

  • Gratitude that we'll closing? 
  • And what heroic efforts have they gone to over the past few months? I certainly haven't seen any. I haven't spoken to anyone on the Advisory Board who was even informed of this.
  • Note that our deficits are about the same as they've always been.
  • The economy hasn't hurt small theaters. The fact that we haven't been bringing in new companies over the last two years has been hurting us.
  • There are lots of choices other than leaving the space. Spend 8 hours actually at Theatresource and you'll hear lots of them.

"While we will be closing our physical doors at 177 Macdougal Street, we do not intend to stop producing our fine work, nor do we intend to break up this incredible community we have built together over 12 years.  Instead, we are looking at this as an opportunity to transition our community into a new era.  We will still produce EstroGenius and our Writers Forum, and will be excited to discover new opportunities in new venues throughout New York City.  We look forward to your energy, enthusiasm, and generosity of spirit in creating the next version of “The Source,” and as our community adapts to changing conditions in our ever-changing world, we hope we continue to dream and thrive and grow."

  • So essentially what's happening here is the Source is being broken up so that the 501C3 can be taken and used for other purposes. You're tired of running a theater but you like running a festival and this is how you can make that happen?

"Clearly, there are no words that could possibly express our thankfulness for the 12-year magic carpet ride we have all taken together at 177 Macdougal."

  • Certainly there are no words like: "Hey, does anyone have any ideas how we can do something about our $25,000 to $35,000/year deficit?" Because the Board never bothered to do that.

"We will soon provide details of our closing activities and productions, and we hope you are all able to come join us in our final weeks to help us go out in grand style."

  • Instead of going out in grand style, why don't we work to keep Theatresource going? 
  • Oh, it's because the people who run the Source are too tired of doing the hard work it takes to run a theater. 

The Board of Manhattan Theatre Source
Courtney Birnbaum, Andrew Frank, Eric Laufer, Matthew Quint, Melissa Riker, Doug Silver, and Jennifer Thatcher"

Scuttling Theatresource

So the Board of Directors at Manhattan TheatreSource has decided to close Theatresource on January 1, 2012
Wait. Why? Don't they decide that once every few years?
Yes. The official reason is that we're about $50,000 in debt and we'll need about $25,000 to $35,000 more in donations per year than we're getting right now. And the Board is tired of trying to raise money.
So they're bored of being on the Board?
That's what I've been told.
Why don't they just resign and let someone else do it?
You got me.
Aren't we always about $50,000 in debt? 
We've been as much as $100,000 in debt.
So this is exactly like the last three times the Board has said we have to close down Theatresource?
Yes, except that this time they've ordered that we cancel all bookings after January 1st, 2012.
Oh. So they're actually scuttling Theatresource.
They're making sure the theater can't possibly survive. How far ahead do we have bookings?
There are bookings up until May.
OK, let me get this straight. This time we're actually far less in debt and we have far more bookings than the last time there was an "emergency" and we had to close. 
Yup. That was two years ago.
So it doesn't matter what anybody does in order to come up with cash to meet our deficit and to bring in more revenue next year, the board is guaranteeing that we close.
That describes it very well.
Why are they even on the Board of Directors? If you don't want to do the job of being on the Board (which is mostly the job of raising cash) why even do it?
I dunno, why don't you ask them?
How can we make another $30K or so a year?
Well, we could charge people $300/year to be a "member" of the Theatresource company. If we had 100 members, that would do it.
There are a bunch of theaters that work that way, aren't there?
So what's being planned for the 501c3? 
As far as I can tell, there are a number of members of the Board who are very interested in losing the brick-and-mortar Theatresource and are interested in just being a producing organization.
Oh, so they're scuttling the Source so they can start their little empire?
I didn't say that.
Is it ironic that this closing is happening right when we've gotten a new General Manager?
It certainly is. We spent two years chasing away theater companies and now we're surprised that we don't have a lot of theater companies chomping at the bit to get in here.
What's your take on the Board's decision?
It seems that they've gotten tired of running Theatresource. The problems are the same as they've always been, there's nothing new here.
So, again, why don't the members of the Board who want to close the theater simply resign rather than scuttling the theater?
Again, you got me.
Who is on the Board?
Courtney Birnbaum,
Andrew Frank,
Eric Laufer,
Melissa Riker,
Doug Silver.
Executive Director Jennifer Thatcher,

Just wait for the choruses of "That's not true!" without actually saying, you know, what is it about this post that isn't true.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

FaderPort Blues

So I meet "Johnny" on a corner of 184th Street and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. He hands me a box with a Presonus Faderport and I hand him eighty bucks.
Then the cops came and we had to run and somebody started shooting and... oh wait, no, those things didn't happen.
What did happen was that I plugged in the FaderPort and it fired right up and works with Samplitude just fine and writes data and... and the only thing it doesn't do is make the mechanical fader actually follow Samplitude.
Which is very '80's if you have to know.
I look on the Internet. Turns out a gazillion people have this problem with the FaderPort.
So it communicates back and forth with the computer, but the computer doesn't run the motorized fader. Which is poopity. But all the lights work...
And it actually does what I need it to do. It would be better if the motor worked. Maybe it really is a bad unit? Probably not. It's probably just the drivers for it. But it would be so much cooler if the motorized fader worked.

Focus on Animation

Have I ever complained about pulling focus with still camera lenses? Why yes, yes I have.
For me, if one is going to use still-camera lenses, one should just grab the focus wheel and roll it back and forth. Pulling focus with a follow-focus jerry-rig is just not practical because the throw on still-camera lenses is too great. On cinema lenses the throw is less and it's much easier to use a follow-focus rig.
Hey -- what takes four minutes and twenty-two seconds?
Why a frame of this animation, that's what!

The Fame of the Internet

Halloween or Williamsburg? You decide.
Channel 101. Kim Vasilakis stopped by the other day and turned me onto them. They're the dudes from the TV show Community. It's kinda interesting and I kinda dig it. You submit pilots to them.

Lookit me! I'm Internet famous!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Cigarette Break

You know, if you can do a solid 40 minutes a day of actual concentrated work, you're probably ahead of the game compared to most people out there.
If you were to do three 40-minute sessions you'd be Productivity Royalty.
Pretend you're a writer. Or wait. OK. So you're a writer. If you really wrote for 40 minutes a day -- that's a good 20 pages a day. Right? But you know how freakin' hard that is. That's a feature-length screenplay every week. That's all-but-impossible. And everyone knows it. It's really really hard on your brain. Many writers give themselves fancy schedules and rituals in order to give their brains a break so they can do the work.
There are lots of ways to give your brain a break. Let me tell you, back in the olden days when I was doing audio for broadcast -- that was some very technical and involved work which I could delve my little brain into and it had nothing to do with the parts of my brain I use to make movies. Which is cool. And then when I was done doing a weeklong broadcast job, I was more than ready to work on movies.
Nowadays I flop between movie things and music things. That's kind of the best of both worlds actually.
But that's longer-term. Here I'm talking about what one does over the course of an hour:
I've become more and more a fan of the cigarette break. 
I'm not a fan of cigarettes, or of smoking. But that break once and hour -- to walk around, do something (or nothing) -- now that's a good idea. Take a cigarette break but, you know, without actually smoking. Just a few minutes loitering outside your place of work. I think you'll find it works out for you.
When you're doing focussed work it seems to me your brain has to get a "relaxing time". Go chat around the equivalent of the water cooler. Even better, do all the things that smokers do for a break: walk outside, get a little sunshine, take a look around.
Back in the olden days if a smoker just sat at their desk while continuing to do the same work -- I think that didn't work out so great for their brains. But this thing where once an hour or two you get up and leave your office to go stand somewhere else? That's a good idea. I think. To me. Just do it, you know, without actually smoking.
Even the New York Times thinks you shouldn't just sit around. Not all day at least.
Now it doesn't seem that Facebooking and Twittering (and, for that matter, blogging) are bad for your productivity. But in addition to those things, you might think about just getting up and walking around for five minutes or maybe 10 minutes every hour.
Right now I'm rendering. So that's what I'm gonna do.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Goose Me

Dolf Veenvliet's Goose as a test render.
Just experimenting with different 3D models. Should the gang ride in the Goose?

Creative Uncommons

Ian Hubert and the Project London folks have released six Blender models under a Creative Commons license. This is, of course, exceptionally very cool.
Dolf Veenvliet created the "Goose". It's a rather nice looking ship. By that I mean good grief, it's a nice looking ship.

The HP Z800 is the Hewlett Packard dual hex-core machine.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thinking about Thinking about Computing

Mr. Kangas brings up some good points on my post on computing. Why get a world-dominating computer?
Is it necessary? Will it keep me from murdering my monitor in a fit of render-time pique?
He's right about editing certainly. We do not need an absolute top-of-the-line computer just to edit picture anymore.
Unfortunately I do three things which will, within five minutes, bring any computer you throw at me to its knees:

  1. Sound mixing
  2. 3D rendering
  3. Compositing

The gang in Android Insurrection.
Looking at these things backwardsly:

  • When doing a complicated composite with a lot of nesting of images and color-corrections and keying, it gets real irritating real fast when you can't see what you're doing. In fact, I accidentally rendered this particular shot at this size. How? I'd switched the quality setting in AfterEffects to "one quarter" just to have a prayer at retaining my sanity when doing a bit of rotoscoping.
  • I'm also tired of the render times involved in lighting 3D models (which is the step before compositing.) It makes re-lighting quite tedious to have to wait a couple minutes to see what, say, turning down the sun does. 
  • Honestly sound mixing is the least critical thing. After all, I can pre-render or "freeze" tracks with a lot of effects on them and then easily go back and make changes and then re-freeze the tracks. But it is certainly nice to be able to play 24+ tracks with loads of effects and such without the computer hiccuping.

Here's a computer company recommended by Samplitude folks, Reyniers Audio.
I'm not entirely sure I care about having a computer that has an operating system specialized toward audio. With enough RAM and other horsepower I don't think that an image on the desktop is going to make that much difference really.
One thing my buddy Mitch suggests is to use one of those solid-state flash drives as your system drive. He says it speeds things up quite a bit. So yeah, I'm gonna look into that.
In any case, the big question is whether spending $5,000 or $6,000 on a system -- even if it's (and this is a liberal estimate) twice as fast as a dual-quad-core with 8GB of RAM -- will be worthwhile. Sure, I'd love to see multi-layer AfterEffects compositions play back in real time but I doubt that'll be coming down the pike for another 10 years or so.

To Do List

This is the world's most boring blog post.

I have to bring the TCM5000 back to the shop and store it. Maybe if I pull some cards on it it'll just work again? Sigh. You know, if it worked it would be worth at least $1200.
I have to bring Scott's Mackie back to... somewhere and store it.

Pick up the DigiTech DDL from the warehouse.

Drop off and re-hang the costumes we aren't using.
Segregate the costumes we are using.

Electric piano goes to Jersey City and then to Metuchen.

Schedule photo call.

Buy another big Sony battery (after Jewish holidays are over.)

Faderport Part I

So. I got this idea in my head that I want a PreSonus Faderport. Because, you know, I'd like a fader.
Now I'm perfectly well aware that physical objects don't make a person happy. At least not usually. I'd say that I do get joy out of my guitars and my amps though. But a USB fader? That's absurd.
I found one on Craig's List. Eighty bucks. That's a pretty reasonable price (I've been looking at them on EBay so I have an idea of how much they're going for used. I know they're only $130 new.

I call the guy.
He's in the Bronx. "Is it in good shape?" I ask (that's due diligence, right?)
"It's brand new."
OK then. Well, I should ask a follow-up question. "Did you just not like it?"
"It's my brother's actually. And he and his crew just got sent to jail so he's not going to be using it for a while."
That's not sketchy, right? I'm doing his brother a favor -- buying something that'll be way out of date by the time he gets out of prison. Right?
So I'll meet the guy at the 183rd stop on the 4 train tomorrow afternoon.
I'll tell you how that goes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dorqus McGillicutty

That's me, 4th from the left on top. Collar buttoned all the way up. The tall guy to my right is Todd, whom I have known since I was 4 years old. A classmate put this picture up on the Facebooks and I have stolen it. I'm guessing that I'm in 4th grade here and that it's the latter part of the year.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Twenty Palaces

I'm not done saying how awesome the 20 Palaces series is. Nope. Not done.
It's what I think they in the book world call an "urban fantasy" novel. Which basically means fantasy elements (in this case, magic) in a modern world.
And the world is set up very strongly. Like what I call a "you can kick it" world where the reality holds up even later when you're thinking about it while taking a shower or whatever.
The characters are really fun and interesting. Our protagonist is a dude who just got out of jail for stealing cars. That makes him a former car thief. And that's quite useful skill-wise, actually, for a dude who does what he needs to do.
But the thing that's most groovy is that structurally the books do not let up. There's no room for a breath. We slam right into the story and keep going.
Seriously, this should be a TV series. You shoot it Law&Order style in New York.

In the criminal justice system the People are represented by two separate yet equally important groups, the Wooden Men who investigate crimes and the Peers who destroy the offenders.


Virginia Logan carries Sara-Doe Osborne back to the lander.
I need more computer. I've been saying this for about two years now I think. But it's really getting time.
Thing is, I don't want to spend the money.
For about five thousand bucks I can get a dual hex-core with about 12GB of RAM and a decent video card. Oddly, as I've said before, the high-end Macs are about the same price as the high-end PC's. They're certainly within a couple hundred dollars of one another.
Oh look. Apple has "zero percent" financing... sigh.

Dragon Tutorials

For the upcoming Dragon Girl movie (1102) we're using the model from the open-source movie Sintel.
I wonder if this is the first "commercial" use of the Blender Foundation project? It's certainly the first feature that uses it.
In the interest of open-sourced-ness I feel like we should release various things, like our version of the model, into the wild. We won't be making the movie itself open source. Because we need to sell it in order to do mundane things like pay rent and, er, make more movies.
But, you know, we'll make some things open. Hey, I'm a huge supporter of and we upload our custom sound effects there for your dining and dancing pleasure. So why not release our Blender models?*
In any case, we're using this big ol' dragon. (UPDATE: I have no idea why I'm getting a 406 error when clicking on that link. Update update: right-click and "save as". Then when you've downloaded the file rename it to ".zip" rather than ".txt". You should then be able to open it.) And Nathan Vegdahl is helping us! Nathan is one of the all-time greats in the Blender scene and he worked on Sintel as well as on Project London.
Here are some tutorials he made based on this modified version of the Adult Dragon (it is made to work with the pre-release version of Blender 2.60).
You may want to watch these tutorials on Vimeo just so the window is big enough.
The first tutorial is all about the dragon rig.

And here is a tutorial about linking animations:

And lastly there's this tutorial on re-using Blender animation:

Reusing Dragon Animation from Andrew Bellware on Vimeo.
Hey, Blender programmers, I have one request. Can we get obvious names for the layers? Like a rollover window when you mouse over them or something? I know the layers have names (and they start with "0" because, well, because.) But you'll notice that Nathan has to point at each layer to describe which one he's talking about. Yes, I know there are scripts to name layers, I just want numbers -- so when someone says "turn off layer 6" we all know which layer that is! ;-)

*In my head I've toyed with the idea of making our screenplays open-source, which would be amusing. Of course, if we ever make a bit hit picture I'd hate if a big studio made a remake and didn't pay us. But if you're interested in shooting one of our screenplays... let's just say the idea amuses us. So hit me up and I'm sure we can work something out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


So we need a picture for our album cover. Right?
We need a table-covering like that. Perhaps one of us will have a guitar.
I figure we'll use a brick wall for our background. Probably the brick wall of the theater. And I like the "camera" down low like this.
We'll all be in costume, of course.


Are you under the impression we weren't going to re-use Joe Chapman's awesome matte painting? This time it's with a background image from Flickr user Argenberg.
Also, don't think there won't be a shuttle flyby/flythrough this shot either. 'Cause there will be.

Thank You III

Baby monkey yawningDeer runningEagleBaby elephant eatingGroup of elephantsLeopard
A view from CharminarSafety first!Bailarina en el BornInti-IllimaniWarning!Vaca Lacaniana
Depeche Mode en Barcelona 2009Blackberry cemeteryVengel Crimson made a beautiful picture using a CC photo I took in JapanNew logo proposed for TSAPlay Child-Free Bingo!Felipe
Animals prepared for taxidermyHanging catSurveilance cameraEsqueleto de BallenaBackboneDesert

And this is Carlos Castillo. See? We put this on the blog and then we'll remember as we're creating the end-title crawl.