What I'm Working On Now

Three short films are in Post-Production, soon to be submitting to film festivals.
Producing/editing a pilot for a new web-series inspired by the Alice in Wonderland tales.
Producing/editing a documentary on Gene Roddenberry and the genesis of Star Trek The Original Series.
There are a number of other projects in development, just waiting their turn to be produced.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Complications and Solutions: My First Documentary And When Less Is More

   Years back, while in film school, I worked on a small documentary project. My fellow classmates wanted to do a piece on a graffiti artist. My only experience with graffiti was from way back when I was about 9 or 10 years old, and ended with me getting red spray paint in my eye and needing a very rough scrubbing of my eyeball in order to restore my vision. As such, my knowledge on the subject was rather limited and I was interested in learning more about the subject.

   One of my classmates knew a graffiti artist and, after a few phone calls, we had our main subject. We laid out all of our schedules, and after some discussion, a shoot date was set. Unfortunately, the date that everyone had agreed upon was the only date I was unavailable for. Still, with everything else in place, they went forward with the shoot. They captured several hours of interview and B-roll footage, and I was quite excited when they brought back the tapes.

   And then I saw what they'd captured.

   Of the three interviews done with the graffiti artist, one had him wearing a make-up mask, done up like a clown, and with flashing lights around him, another was outside in the wind with terrible audio, and the last interview was in a moving vehicle where he didn't really say much of substance. The B-roll was great, but that wouldn't help piece together a cohesive story.

   I searched through the footage, finding the sound bites that worked, and placed b-roll over it all. In the end, I trimmed the film down to barely a minute long. Everyone else in my group had longer edits, but due to the limitations of the footage, none of them flowed very well. There was either too much B-roll (to cover up the interview), or they didn't cover up the interview footage and had to use the awkward imagery. By keeping my edit so short, the audience didn't have as much time to begin wanting to see the subject, and so I got away with it.

   Looking back at it, there's a lot of things that I'd do differently were I editing it again now, but still, a good little reminder of when less is more.

Here's the link to the documentary. What do you think?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Hero

Earlier this week, on my drive home from work, I heard on the radio that Robin Williams was dead. I've not been able to form my thought around this post until now, and even still they seem inadequate, but here it goes.

   Mork taught me to see the world in an absurd if beautifully honest way, and have always tried to emulate that frame of mind ever since.  Alan taught me that, sometimes, your fears can take from you everything you love and that, in those moments, you must dig deep to find your courage and fight for what you really want. John was the only one who could finally convince me that pursuing your dreams and doing what you were born to do, even when faced with insurmountable opposition, was far better than giving up, even when the consequences could be dire. I learned the power of honesty from Adrian, and from Jakob I learned that it was sometimes better to lie. And Peter, dear sweet Peter. He taught me how important it is to never forget where you've come from, who you were and who you are. We are different people everyday, and if we're not careful, we may lose track of ourselves.
   I would like to go on, and fully explain how important Robin is to me, but somehow I know I'll fall short, and so what I've written will have to suffice. As far back as I can remember, Robin Williams has been my favorite actor. And as much as I miss him, I can only imagine how devastating it has been for his family. Truly, my thoughts and prayers go out to them and I hope we may all continue to find joy through all that he did for us.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A New Short Film I Worked On

   Months ago, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) asked if I'd help them and their students shoot some background plates for an animated short they were working on. Now, for those who don't know, a background plate is the background image used in an effects shot. These crop up most often when people are shooting on green/blue screens, but can be used in a number of other situations. Anyway, the students at AIE needed to film their backgrounds over which they would then place their animation.
   We went over some storyboards, talked about lighting, camera direction, and basic action, and then set up the shoot date. the first thing the faculty and students said when they saw the gear I brought was, "That's more than I expected." I had a camera, tripod, light kit (5 lights of various brightness), flag kit (silk screens, mesh screens, black screens, all for controlling light), and a kino-flo (large florescent light with color balance control and dimming...nice for general fill light and mimicking indoor/outdoor light), as well as some C-Stands (heavy duty metal stands for holding lights and flags and anything else we may need) and a grip bag (clamps, gells, tape, gloves, etc.).
   We set to work, meticulously going through our shot list and double checking against our storyboards to make sure we got every background plate we needed. It was a long day, making sure our light was just right so that the animated characters would look right in the setting, but in the end we got great shots and the students learned a lot.
   For me, it was a reaffirmation on the importance of planning and not cutting corners. When we got to the location and got to work, things were great and running smoothly. Then, as the day wore on and people got tired, there was the definite desire to cut corners and just get the shots done quickly. Had we done that, the lighting would have become uneven, the shadows would have become too harsh, or gone the wrong way, and who knows what else.
   This is true for anything we set ourselves to do, and if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. So go check out "Tiny Vikings" and let me know what you think of their hard work.

And as an addendum, here's a little behind the scenes video with interviews of the students as well as myself at the end.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Oh Myyy...An Unexpected Update

A little over an hour ago, George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek The Original Series) posted a link on his Facebook Page to The Gene Roddenberry Project, along with his support for the film. Within minutes, we reached our minimum goal and are now, possibly, hopefully, on our way to reaching some of our stretch goals. Words can't express how excited, how grateful, and how relieved I am. As a storyteller, it's always a bit terrifying to put a story out there that you love. The last thing you want is to see your story get rejected or shunned. But to see Walter Koenig voice his support, and now George Takei...I couldn't ask for more. Now it's time to buckle up and start the ride as we make this film a reality.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Premiere, A Long jump, And Hey, Chekov (Walter Koenig) Likes My Upcoming Documentary

   First off, the kickstarter campaign for "The Gene Roddenberry Project" is almost finished (4 days left as of today, August 6th), and, as of this writing, we're a hair under $12,000 of our goal of $15,000. It's always a nail-biter when things come down to the wire like this, but yesterday we got a really amazing shot in the arm. We received backing by Walter Koenig (or his people, these things get a bit tricky in Hollywood), who played Chekov on Star Trek The Original Series. It's always a risk, as a filmmaker, when you put out there something that is built on top of the work of others. The last thing you want is to offend, or upset any of the people involved. and where I'm a great fan of the Star Trek universe, I was both terribly excited and terribly frightened about the project.
   Almost immediately, when the kickstarter campaign first launched, Rod, (Gene's son) vouched his support for the project and helped get things rolling for us in a tremendous way. And now with Walter Koenig, the campaign has gained its second wind, and none to early.

   Second, I competed in the 48 Hour Film Project this past weekend. Basically, each team draws a genre out of a hat and then has 48 hours to write, shoot, edit, and turn in their film (there are other required elements, like props, lines of dialogue, etc. to discourage cheaters). I've done the film race a few times before, but this was my first time being the leader of the group. I used my film students for my crew (and thy did wonderfully), and then cast our film from mostly local talent. We had some amazing actors show up, and ended up with a great film, if I do say so myself. Last night was our premiere, and soon we'll learn who the winners are. Then it's off to the festivals, and then to Youtube where everyone will be able to see and enjoy

   And last, I've been brushing up on my Parkour training (I've been out for about a year for a knee injury) and finally was able to make a good long jump to cat (leap from a ledge at high speed, and catch another ledge and hang, bracing with your feet...hmm, hard to describe, just go here for a tutorial/visual, though I'm hoping to be able to upload my own example soon-ish)