Monday, March 21, 2016

drones... what can someone do with a drone?

This is a drone.. a flying machine.  That is a really cool flying machine with a camera.  This is a really cool flying machine with a camera on a gimbal.  This is a really cool, flying machine with a camera on a gimbal which allows it to have an incredibly stable shot no matter if the really cool flying machine tilts or leans.

This is a really cool, flying machine with a 4K camera on a gimbal which allows it to have an incredibly stable shot no matter if the cool flying machine tilts or leans.

Here is one of our first practice videos it shows how stable the camera can be with the gimbal.  We go over the top of the church's structure to see over the top.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

After the first day of shooting...

The day started at 7 a.m. and finished about 3:30 p.m.  I am utterly happy and exhausted.  This is a dream that I have been thinking about, and planning for, and wanting for years.

First off, everything that I have studied, read, listened to podcasts, etc. has said that casting is the director's most important activity.  It is here where the director makes the critical decision of the team.  I can only say that as it relates to this first day of shooting that Bobby and I succeeded triumphantly in determining a cast.

The female lead for Sarah is a professional mime.  I have been blown away at her ability to emote.  (show emotions on the face)  This shouldn't be surprising since, well, that's what mime's do.  They communicate non-verbally.  So, to add the voice just popped.  All of the scenes where great, but Two scenes of hers in particular really hit me today.  One was where she when she was yelling at Manfred for being a jerk and condescending.   "How can you say we'll get through our daughter being dead?"  The expression on her face read even more intently than her words which was very powerful.  I cried.  I have read those lines probably 5 or 600 times.  They are emotional to me because I have a daughter and I couldn't imaging what it would be like to lose someone who has meant so much to you; someone you have invested in whom so much.  But to hear and see these words made me quiver at how real it seemed.

Her second scene was a pretty simple one, but was pretty cool.  In the movie, in Sarah's arc, we will have a series of scenes.  She will see some of her memories both good and bad.  One particularly good memory was making cookies with her daughter.  I made cookies with Averi the night before and had them laid out on a cookie sheet.  The only instructions I told Kid Lucy (she's about 6) was that Sarah (her mom) would be taking a cookie off of the sheet and putting it on the other sheet.  She was to grab it and eat it quickly.  So, first take... Sarah pulled the cookie off and was moving it over where Lucy grabbed it and part of it fell and she caught it with her arm.  She ate it quickly off her arm before she lost it.  Sarah had a look of shock, but a happy shock when her daughter took it and then tickled her.  I said "I don't think we'll get any better than that."  Its amazing how sometimes things just work out right.

 The actor playing Manfred is incredible.  He is such a collaborator and knows his craft very well.  I said in an earlier post how he brought a different look to the character than I imagined it.  In the scene where Manfred was trying to get ready, he was able to add so much realism to the scene.  That is what he specializes in... how to get the scene to be more believable.  He also has a good comedic timing. His friend reminds him not to smell like whiskey and to use some scope.  So, rather than drinking whiskey, he takes a shot straight from the bottle of vodka. "Ahh.  Can't say that smells like whiskey".    The smell and mannerism in which he says is fabulous.

The lady we have playing the teenage Lucy character, I think stole the show.  We were doing an improv scene which basically I directed with "Sarah comes home.  Lucy has a date with a boy Sarah doesn't approve of.  Lucy doesn't Sarah stop you!"  And this interaction was powerful.  Sarah was arguing with her and you could see the stress of so many arguments in Sarah's face.  The determination in Lucy's mind that she was getting out that door.  Perfect.  The only thing I regret about it was that it is meant to be used as a scene for going down memory lane when Sarah has her breakdown, so we only recorded video; no sound.

As I figured, I was really optimistic in my estimation of how much we could get done.  However, me stating that I was optimistic, is an optimistic analysis of my scheduling.  I was way wrong.  As I said in the my post about the first day of shooting, I had four (4) important scenes (each between 4 and 7 minutes long) and seven (7) pickup shots.  I had schedule from 7 till 3 (8 hours) for the cast and crew to be there.  I had the house and wanted to make sure that we got everything we needed.  I didn't meet that target. :)

3 of the 4 critical scenes done.  The one we couldn't was because of the construction.  So, we was able to get the fateful call, Manfred getting out late, and the initial conversation they have after Lucy's death done.  Two (2) of the seven (7) pickups got done.  This may seem "not to bad" and it isn't.  But I learned a few things.

1)  Take your estimates.. double them... and add 30.  then double again
2) Spend more time rehearsing the scene prior to shooting
3) Let other people become as committed to the project as you are.
4) Talk to your actors.. EACH ONE after each take.

The joys of nearby construction.

My friend owns the house that we are using as the house for our film family and it is marvelous.  He has done an incredible job decorating and putting some beautiful touches on his home.  We shot several scenes indoors and I wanted to get the outdoor scenes done.  To make matters worse, it was supposed to snow later.

So, about 10am, we went out and got the drone setup and got the home-made dolly track setup.  We blocked the scene and was ready to do the first part of it.  then we heard it... Boom!  "What was that?"  in my friend's neighborhood, they were doing some construction on some new houses.  And it was noisy.  Of course, our Director of Photography said, "It's coming through the mike really loud."

This scene is probably the most important, and intimate scene of the movie.  So, we decided to scrap the scene and find another location.  The construction was going to go on all summer long.

It actually may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.  I wanted Manfred to look out the window to see Sarah come home to have their reunion.  In the movie, both have gone through their separate arcs to show the affects their daughter's death has had on them.  My friend's house doesn't have such a windows and I was trying to figure out "how does he know she came?"  Does she honk the horn?  Does she call him?  just go to the door?

None of these really work because it isn't how someone would do it.  You wouldn't come home after a year away and just "honk the horn".  She would stand there for a moment, however, trying to gather the courage to go knock.  Especially since she took his car before and now has a huge scratch in it?  How does he react?  Does he freak out?  Will this be a repeat of how he acted before?  Has he really grown?

With the "Bang, bang, bang" of automated nail guns, and shouts and bulldozers playing their construction symphony in full blast in the background, we would never had known.  So, now we need to add another item to the to-do backlog.  Find an outdoor location...

The First Day of Shooting

7 am comes very early in the morning.  However, neither Averi nor I got much sleep because we were both so excited.

I spent a lot of time Thursday and Friday trying to create a schedule of scenes to know what to shoot.

Today, we are going to try to do several scenes.  I'm trying to get all of the major scenes that are in the house and in the driveway.  Additionally, I want to get a few shots for Manfred's and Sarah's Series of Scenes.

Since this is my first shoot, I am not sure what to expect in terms of how much coverage that we can get done in one day.  Everything that I have read has told me to be pessimistic in terms of what we can get done.  For some reason, I'm not being very pessimistic.  This may come to bite us in the butt.  However, I seem to have confidence that today will go really well, although, I am a bit nervous.  I tell myself that

The important scenes to get done:

  • The Fateful Call where Manfred and Sarah get the call from Lucy asking for them to help.
  • The initial conversation which is a dream sequence about Manfred's guilt he feels.
  • Manfred's "Gets ready" which shows that he is late.
  • The Reunion which is where Manfred is vulnerable and allows Sarah to be too.

Besides the main scenes, I want to get a few shots for Manfred and Sarah's Series of Scenes...
  • Cookies
  • Dancing with Sarah and Two of the Lucy's
  • Lucy storming out the door
  • Manfred find some spare alcohol
  • Manfred coming in Drunk
  • Sarah and Manfred leaving for the Farm
  • Kid Lucy running to Sarah when she comes home
Wish me luck.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Understanding Music Licensing

We wanted to utilize a song for Redeemed and wasn't sure where to start.  We knew that we had to have licensing of some sort, but what does that mean?  Where do we "acquire" the license?

After some research, I found out how some of this works.

Synchronization License is Getting the right to synchronize video content to the song.  This typically goes to the composer of the music.

When we spoke to the Publisher, we were told that there are different uses that would each need to be "asked" for.  Where given these use cases and prices...  This was for a very small film (in terms of budget) and a popular, but not megastar Christian artist.

  • Art House:  $250 for a couple of weeks
  • Streaming: $1,500 for a year
  • Film Festival: $1,500 for a year
  • In-House:  $1,500 for a year
Now, what is good in this case - for us - is that the song we are considering is covered by one publishing company and one service.  If there are multiple artists who wrote a song, they may belong to different Performing Rights Organizations.  These links may help someone determine who wants to own the synchronization rights to a song.


This does not give you the right to use a performance, just the song.  This is okay because we were planning on making our own recording.

The easy way to think about this to consider where does the money go.  When you use your own performance of a song, the money goes to the songwriter and that song writer's publisher  that is the Synchronization license.  When you use a performance of a song, you still have to pay the  Synchronization License, but you also have to pay for a master use right for the performance.  This money goes to the performer. 

To use a performance, we would had to get a master use license.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Film Auditions.

Surreal is the word that I would use to describe the auditions.  He we had several people come in to read our script.  All of them brought some interesting ideas to the table.

One of the most important things for me is that I heard the words that I have until that point only read.  I heard a lot of mistakes in my writing; where people stumbled or was confused.  I heard things that seemed very flat.  Very uninteresting.

I updated the script and heard other people read the new script.  It sounded so much better.  Still things to tweak.  Things to drop or enhance.  There is nothing like hearing and seeing it someone else interpretation of your words.

One individual read Manfred as an angry person.  And I didn't picture him that way.  I pictured him a bit more mild mannered.  More like me.  They say that when a writer writes his puts himself in Characters that he likes.  I'm sure that I did that.  But now that I hear the more angry interpretation, I think I like this better and it created a more 3-dimensional character in my mind.