Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dee Lays

I'm still working on "Spaceland." I've run into some events that've slowed me down, but the project is still on track to be finished. We're rehearsing a scene, and as soon as it is ready, we'll film. I am concerned about the appearances of the cast, shorter hair, tanner skin.

Technically, Final Cut Express compressed 1080p video, so I have to get the latest version on FCP. I bought it, but then returned it after learning that a new release of the software is imminent. Also, I lost a digital voice recorder, which I spent a week looking for until I finally reported it lost.

The benefit is that I've been able to rethink, rewrite and improve the process. The only thing I need is patience.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scene IV Shoot, Sunday Morning

This morning, we were able to complete filming Scene IV of "Spaceland." Here is a screen shot from the actual film.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Scene IV, Film Session

Yesterday, we filmed (photos to come later) the bedroom scene of "Spaceland." This is the scene that begins to make the conflict of the story more clear in the film. I actually rewrote this short scene several times before it actually evolved probably to what it should have been all along. Yesterday, while filming I realized a couple of things. One, pre-production really pays off. Specifically, I'm referring to working and rewriting with actors to nail the performances. The curious thing is that neither actor nailed the scene perfectly during rehearsals, but by the time we started filming, it happened on camera. This, to me, is a fascinating genesis. It just goes to show how the combination of good luck, pressure to perform, practice, a live filming session, and good timing really can work together to create the moment that's necessary when you're filming. It's strangely humbling, and the thing I learned, if anything, is that in an artistic endeavor, it really pays not to force things, but to almost just have faith and let them happen.

The whole session with the actors was very interesting yesterday (and I want to talk about it more later), but also on a technical level I really began to see the benefits of shooting with the 5D Mark II. I was able to find some camera angles, and use it's low light capacity (with various lenses) to get a very distinctive look that's approbo for the film.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rewriting Scenes

I don't know what's happened to me lately, but I've been sort of bored by television in general. Occasionally, I'll sit down and watch a little bit of television, but I can't even get into shows that used to mildly amuse me. The only thing you'll catch me watchin' is Baby Looney Tunes with my son or Heroes on DVR the next day, but even that has me feeling a little "hard up."

Bored with television, I decided to rewrite some scenes in "Spaceland." Sometimes, it surprises me how much room for improvement there is in a script that I thought was "just fine." Now that I know the actors, and understand how they say lines, it it just suddenly feels inappropriate so I rewrite to suit their energy.

Today, I rewrote about three pages, and they were all pretty significant improvements It just goes to show that as long as things are in pre-production and production (at the same time), I need to constantly improve what I can while I can. If I wasn't bored by television, I would have a worst script to shoot.

Now, I truly know what people say that "it's the small things that count" and "it's in the details." It sounds like something trite to say, but it is quite valid. I'm not one to judge so I won't go as far as saying that tv is evil, but it sure sucks out our creative juices, and that is maybe a little bit evil ( if we really start to think about it).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Editing Sound for Spaceland

One of my favorite things about making this movie is working at a slow pace. It really gives me the chance to slow down, ponder everything, try again, then execute again.

Tonight, I'm working on the sound for scene II, and it's truly a humbling process, getting it all to sound professional (it's hard). I'm not shooting until Wednesday so I'm able to move forward with all that I have learned in terms of shooting and sound.

I know this sounds really boring, but the process is exciting for me because in the past, I felt like the process is what kind of stumped me. Now, well, I can certainly make a lot less excuses.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rehearsal Session #4, Scene 4

On Sunday, my sixteen-year-old assistant, Jonathan, sets up the camera for me on the ladder. This kid is good. He downloads the files off my camera into two separate sources for back-up during shooting, and he does other things I showed him how to do now quiet easily.

Tonight, it was my plan to shoot a scene in the film, but it became clear that sometimes being organized is just as important as being flexible (and prepared).

One of the mistakes I've made in the past is being in a hurry. Today, the actors who play the protagonists in the film, Samuel and Adria came, and we went over scene IV, the lines and I even rewrote some parts after they said it. It became a gradual process to understand the scene for them, and fine-tune the scene for the film.

By next week, we'll film the scene, while shooting a short scene on Sunday morning, along with some minor reshoots of scene II (from last Sunday).

By next Wednesday, I'm hoping to begin rehearsing the Therapist scene, which is perhaps the most difficult, and the longest scene. I know that at any point "the suspension of disbelief" can be lost in a film, and this is the place in the film, if anywhere in the film, it can most easily occur.

Scene IV, Spaceland

I started filming scene II of my short "Spaceland" this Sunday. It was my first day of shooting, and there were a lot of things I learned from the process. The biggest challenge in filmmaking, for me, has always been trying to be artistic, logistic and technical all at once.

Once you've made it as a filmmaker, and can afford an entire crew, you can just worry more about the artistic, and throughout this whole process, I am trying to stay focused on the "vision of the film."

I've edited the second scene, though I haven't had time to fix the sound yet. Overall, I think the scene works. I showed it to a few people, and some of them were very taken with the scene visually. It was very interesting to get the emotional response. Some of this is because the way I shot it, the music, and, of course, the actors. This is the first time, I think, my casting in a film has been ideal. I attribute this to mostly good fortune.

I am posting "test" angles on non-shooting days, but I'm not posting any footage that will be in the actual film because film festivals really want exclusivity when the film is shown in their venue. If they know you can watch it online, they don't want it, not matter how good it is.

Later, I may create some sort of "preview" of the film. I may re-shoot some parts of Scene II, depending on how I feel about it in a couple of weeks. I think one of the best things about making a film slowly is that you can learn from your mistakes as you go along, as opposed to making your mistakes in one or two very long days.

The next scene I'm filming this week is scene IV (see storyboard), which I rewrote last night.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Scene 2, Part I

I've been struggling with how to film a scene that is essential, but finding the right way to do it so it's fresh has been quite a challenge. I contracted the services of a storyboard artist to give me some ideas on how to approach the visual narrative here.

I struggled with where and how I should do the scene in which the main character hears a voice inside his head. He has sacrificed his life, and he has finally achieved his very important is time for his reconciliation.

Spaceland, Scene I, Part II Storyboard

Storyboarding "Spaceland" (the short), Scene I, part I

Experimenting with Wide Angle

Experimenting with Wide Angle

Wide Angle Beach Footage

Walk-Through: 24-70mm Lens with the Canon 5D Mark II, movement (walking through a restaurant in New Orleans).

24-70mm Lens with the Canon 5D Mark II, movement (walking through a restaurant in New Orleans).
VIDEO: The Commander's Palace entranceThis gave me some idea what it's like to walk with the Canon 5D Mark II camera, and how steady it is when handheld.

Band Footage:Testing The Canon 5D Mark II with the 24-70mm lens

Testing The Canon 5D Mark II with the 24-70mm lens

I went to go dine at a restaurant in New Orleans called "The Commander's Palace." My inexperience with the lens is apparent as I film the live band at our table, but the content is rich, and I eventually figure things out - VIDEO: Commander's Palace Band

The Cast, So Far

Casting Noemi

Casting Noemi

Casting: Emmanuel

Location: Opening Scene with Main Characters, Emmanuel and Noemi

Location: Opening Scene with Main Characters, Emmanuel and Noemi

The Therapy Session Location

The Therapy Session Location

Designing a Workflow

Workflow is basically is thinking of a process of how to work creatively in a smooth, thoughtful manner that allows you to function on an artistic level. For someone with limited resources, like me, designing a workflow becomes even more important so that I have a way of easily accomplishing some of my most repetitive actions.

Technologically, this is my breakthrough - The Canon 5D Mark II. This camera changes things for me because I know how to use, and because I no longer need a lighting or sound crew to tell my story. Basically, all I need is this camera, several different kinds of tripods, a good microphone, a digital recorder and some ambient lights from Ikea.

Artistically: I have to be able to write a compelling story in locations that I could use at my own will, meaning that if I have to shoot a scene again with actors, then I can easily use that location again at the same time as before.

Talent: I found a couple that had the charismatic presence to be in the film. Although their acting experience was limited, my interaction with them made me comfortable that a few extra rehearsals would ensure that the integrity of the final product.

I am attempting to make my workflow organic. My actors are physically close to me and see them several times a week. We have a place to rehearse and we work on scenes until they're perfect (this is a luxury). The equipment I'm using is revolutionary, requiring very little lighting, and the sound, along with some decent headphones can be monitored by me while I'm filming. Also, my inexperienced actors don't have to deal with the pressure of working in front of an entire crew. This, of course, puts them at ease and makes a good performance easier to achieve.

Documenting the making of "Spaceland"

I came to Los Angeles to become a filmmaker, and it's been fairly competitive. I haven't broke through, I think, for several reasons, but the most important of those reasons is that I feel now, in retrospect, that I wasn't quite ready. That is, with the right story, and with a specific process that allowed me to realize my vision as a filmmaker.

Several things have happened that have created a re-ignited my artistic ambitions:

1) The Evolution of Filmmaking Technology: Before filmmaker's used to make a big deal out of 24p with the use of cameras like Panasonic's HVX200. Having owned that camera, I wasn't quite feeling the inspiration, and the workflow was so cumbersome and expensive that it was hardly worth the effort. Something happened though. A new camera with better, more impressive technology was released by Canon - The 5D Mark II. I will explain later on why this camera changes everything. For now, let's just say that for a relatively low cost of entry, someone like me can finally work in artistic, paced fashion, rather than getting caught up with the logistics of filmmaking. You don't realize what a big deal this is until you've actually attempted making a film.

2) A Compelling Story - Spaceland: Since USC, I have been a fiction writer, and, I have become distracted, even though I have confidence in my creative abilities. For a couple of years, I even went into advertising in Los Angeles, which was interesting and taught me some lessons, but ultimately, I found unfulfilling and relatively cumbersome. I've written about ten screenplays, some really good and some not-so-good. By writing 120 pages stories, however, I developed the ability to outline ideas in my head without having to sit down and write at all. In other words, I evolved from not knowing what I was going to write to a point where I could think of the entire film, then write it down. Artistically, this was an internal break-through for me.

3) Barack Obama: I'm inspired by the election of this man.