29 June 2011

Day 1 of Sean Gillane's CXL

I've never worked in front of a green screen before, so when Sean Gillane tells me that his film CXL (stands for cancel) is going to involve some VFX green screen work, I'm pretty excited. Maybe intrigued is the better word.

We're shooting at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA, which conveniently is where Sean works. The crew for this film is super small--probably the smallest yet on A Year Without Rent. Sean is directing and running the camera himself. Beyond that there's a team of three VFX guys with some lighting/grip experience, a producer/sound person (Katherine Bruens), and me. Oh, and the cast.

I guess in my head, I thought shooting on a green screen would go faster than shooting in real life. You're in an enclosed space with no variables, and all you need to do is film the live-action portions. Not so much. Lighting is almost harder in a way. When you're shooting outside, there's shadows all over the place and a lot of them disappear into other stuff, but it's a major concern how the actor's shadow plays out across the green. Is it harsh enough? Too harsh? How well will they be able to key around it or with it? And, more importantly, how will that shadow then interact with the world they're building under it?

Add to that the fact that the light needs to be as evenly distributed across the background as possible, and the need for tracking marks that the actor won't cross in front of, and it can all add up pretty quickly.

It's complicated stuff, and involves a lot of huddling by the VFX people to figure things out. Essentially, what ends up happening is two things: 1) Sean blocks the scene and lights it for what he needs narratively. 2) The VFX people then try and re-light the scene without changing Sean's lighting, so that they can most effectively do the post work.

When you look at it that way, it's kind of time-consuming.

It's also pretty obvious why actors aren't big fans of this sort of thing. Cole [name] spends a lot of his time interacting with a post-it note, which isn't exactly the sort of thing people think of when they become actors, I imagine.

But all of that is a prelude to Sean's goal of pulling off a forced perspective shot, which is a tricky enough thing to do in the real world. Will it work? I hope so. Usually I can tell pretty easily if a scene is going to work, if it'll cut together, but here I have no idea. It certainly could work. Hell, it probably will work. But I just have no idea whatsoever.

After that, it's across the street to shoot something in an alley. Only, with a crew this small (even smaller, since 2 of the VFX guys have left), I volunteer to guard the grip cart that has lots of expensive stuff on it. Seems like something we shouldn't leave unattended on the streets of a major city.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

28 June 2011

27 June 2011

Day 4 of Brian Kazmarck's TERMINAL LEGACY

Call time today was two hours ago. We've not yet gotten a shot, and we're holding for tape. Yes, tape. Blue painter's tape, to be specific. And how could a film of this size be brought to it's knees by something so small? Well…

Screen shot 2011-06-26 at 5.19.55 PM

Yesterday Morning

There's blue painter's tape in pretty much every shot in this film. Problem is, the windows can't just be sealed in plastic. They exist in one of three stages: sealed tightly, ripped, and completely torn down. All three require tape. And since sealing the windows is easier and quicker than setting up a light, we're constantly having to re-tape the windows.

Basically, we're going through a lot of tape (and plastic).

It's no secret that we're going to run out, and the Art Director tells the producers that it probably won't last the day. It almost definitely won't.

There's a hardware store a mile away. We've walked past it after closing down the bar.

Yesterday Afternoon

And there goes the last of the tape. Ahead of schedule, even. Since I'm the one who used the last of the tape, I go over to Brian, one of our producers who showed up that morning to tell him we need more tape, and soon. Keep in mind it's in virtually every interior shot of the film.

Brian tells me that he'll get it "first thing tomorrow". Again, this is a prop that's in every interior scene of the film. It costs, what, $3? We probably have another 6 hours of shooting tonight. But according to Brian we 1) won't need it until tomorrow, which Dane Williams and I find surprising because the schedule has changed every single day, 2) don't have a PA to go get it anyway (although there are 6 or 7 cars sitting outside that could easily drive a mile).

Dane and I just kind of look at each other in disbelief. I suggest that maybe, just maybe, we should send someone who isn't doing anything to go get it just in case, as I'd hate for production to be halted by something so stupid. He tells us it shouldn't be a problem.

No one on this shoot has seen a schedule in 3 days, so it's kind of hard to argue with him on that point. But we do know the schedule has changed at least once a day.

According to Brian, he made the schedule.

Yesterday Evening

I walk through a crowded hallway with some grip equipment and have to step around Brian, who's sitting on the floor playing NBA Jam on his iPad.

Later, he stands in the middle of the smallest room we've shot in to-date and talks about how he's going to join the Producer's Guild.

The shoot goes 15 1/2 hours total. Amazingly, we don't need the tape again.

This morning

The van that's supposed to pick us up is 20 minutes late. Behind the wheel? Brian. Maybe he stopped to get the tape? We drive by a hardware store. I wonder aloud if they sell painter's tape there.

"Oh, there's the hardware store," Brian says.

Clearly we have different definitions of "first thing in the morning".

We eat breakfast. Then, at the scheduled start time, Brian and one of the other producers get in a car to theoretically go buy things. An hour and a half later, the lights are set. We're ready to shoot. We have no tape.

No one is surprised.

Finally, Christine and I start digging through the trash, trying to piece together old pieces of tape that are not completely fucked up. We do, sort of. It looks terrible. I have no doubt that you'll be able to see which scene it is when you watch the film.

Mostly, I feel bad for director Brian Kazmarck. He's got an impossible enough task without having to deal with this bullshit. No director should have to deal with this sort of bullshit. If a producer can't procure a $3 roll of tape from a store a mile away, why are they even there? If you can't fulfill the basic functions of a PA, you should not be on a film set.

From there, Brian the Producer proceeds to plant himself as close to the monitor as possible. Keith, the sound guy, has to reach over him to get the boom in. I have to step over him to slate the scene. He serves zero function behind the monitor. The AD and Script Supervisor are having a hard enough time seeing everything they need to see without him being there.

Screen shot 2011-06-26 at 5.34.21 PM

That afternoon, Christine gets sick from putting spoiled milk in her coffee. She throws it away. Brian sees her. His response?

Screen shot 2011-06-26 at 5.35.00 PM

One of my filmmaker friends on Facebook, a director you've heard of, probably summed it up best: "Sounds like they're playing a birthday prank on you."

Happy birthday to me.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

23 June 2011

Day 3 of Brian Kazmarck's TERMINAL LEGACY

It's so stupid, but one of my favorite things is when a grip or DP uses a c-stand to hold a branch. I have no idea why, but it strikes me a damned cool. Maybe because it's such a lo-fi approach to getting something pretty specific, or maybe it's because the angles of a tree branch are just something that cannot be faked. Well, I guess it could be faked, but what would be the point? It's such a DIY approach that harkens back to the days of just shooting with what was laying around and making it work.

Plus, it's fun.

So that's what we're doing, trying to put a c-stand in a bush, with all sorts of branches clamped onto it, so we can get a cool shadow on Whitney Kirk as she points a gun at someone. Or, to quote grip Dane Williams (as heard in the above video), "I wonder what the neighbors think now."

The premise of the scene is this: Cuyle Carvin's character is gone (and so is Cuyle, gone back to New York for a couple days), so the interplay is between Whitney and Sally Greenland, an Australian actress who plays Cuyle's sister.

In good news, every lawn in the neighborhood has already been mowed this week, so we don't have many sound issues.

After the outside shoot, we're upstairs in the space that was previously the green room for the cast and crew. It's never fun to shift the green room, people get settled there and things get kind of spread out, but when you're limited in space, that's what you have to do. But what we've got is essentially two green rooms. One is a general staging area and one is dedicated to wardrobe and makeup. Guess which one is harder to re-set? The big debate then, is how best to do this. One school of thought is to re-set everything, but AD Carolina Solando and I think this is not such a great idea.

Finally, Carolina comes up with a solution where we can make the first room look like the second room. It's a really good fix, and like all good fixes, it's easy to execute. So easy that we're all surprised no one thought of it earlier. We run it by director Brian Kazmarck and once he makes sure that can actually work, we have a plan. And even better, it'll save us at least an hour of work, which is vital on such a tight schedule.

And in that modified second room, yours truly is playing the role of "soldier in boots", which ends up being more complicated than it sounds. In the scene, Sally Greenland's character is hiding under a bed when a pair of boots walks by. It's a basic scene--you've seen it before--that really quickly conveys an emotion the audience can latch on to. But there's questions: how do soldiers wear their boots? Do they tuck in the pants? No? (According to Google, the Air Force requires it, so we go with that.)

I kid with Brian that I need motivation for my character, but in the end, it turns out I do. There's walking, and then there's walking with purpose. And then there's walking with a specific purpose. I have to hit a pretty tight mark to frame my feet against Sally's head, but the carpet is in enough of the shot that we can't spike the floor. So I'm using a monitor, which is kind of reversed. I miss the mark more often than I hit it, but eventually we get it.

This is why I'm not an actor. God forbid I actually have to say lines of dialogue.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

Branch of Life

I don't know why, but one of my favorite grip tricks is putting a branch in a c-stand. You can't beat it.

21 June 2011

You Are Not Ed Burns

I'm no Edward Burns. Neither are you.

As obvious as this sounds, it's something we often miss. Sure, Burns is re-writing all the rules on online self-distribution and it's really exciting and he deserves every tiny bit of accolades he's getting for leading the charge. I respect the hell out of him for it, but listen closely because this is important:

Ed Burns is a movie star. He plays himself on ENTOURAGE. He used to date Heather Graham. He's a big deal. You are not. Neither am I. Very few people beyond our friends and families care about what we're doing. They just don't.

So when someone like Ed Burns is pioneering a new approach to distribution, you should absolutely pay attention. But don't believe that what works for Ed Burns will automatically work for you.

He is famous and you are not.

Practically speaking, what does that mean?

Basically, it means that you have to do things a little differently. The fact that you've made a film for $10,000 isn't newsworthy. The fact that you're putting it on VOD isn't newsworthy. Because you aren't newsworthy. None of us are.

So we have to take Ed Burn's success and run it through a filter--call it the Jon Reiss filter if you want. Audiences aren't going to find us (because they don't know who we are), so we have to go find them. We have to turn our films into events.

But how do you turn an internet video into an event?

Maybe you combine it with an actual, real world event? And if you don't have one? You create one.

One advantage that we do have over Ed Burns is that of lower expectations. We can try things. There's little to no risk in our failures. Because no one cares.

We can experiment. And what better way to experiment than on a film that cost almost nothing, has some level of acclaim, and has already turned a profit for the investors?

So that's why I'm teaming up with my good friends at Film Courage on a VOD experiment, with help from the good people at Distrify.

We'll have more details very soon, but essentially what we're going to do is screen my film BLANC DE BLANC July 3rd in Los Angeles next month at the facilities of Hot Pixel, Inc., the good people who worked on Sean Hackett's HOMECOMING. At the same time, we'll be pushing the VOD through Distrify with a crazy high affiliate rate of 30%. In addition to the live component of the screening, we'll be doing an online event, where people from around the world can interact. We're working on an online Q&A, maybe some panels, some guests, all sorts of fun stuff.

Basically, we want to take the opportunity to put the Distrify player through the paces, to see how it holds up, how the Affiliate stuff pans out. We want to know what works and what doesn't work so that when other films in the community are ready to screen (I'm looking at you TILT, GOODBYE PROMISE, CRAWL, HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG, and others), we'll have worked out some of the kinks and made life easier on those films that have a little bit more to play for.

Think of BLANC DE BLANC as your guinea pig.

The big plus of Distrify is their Affiliate model, which not only gives you a cut of the sales that your publicity generates through embedding the player, but also through sales you generate on places like Facebook and Twitter. Or, to quote Peter from Distrify (in response to my email question):

"Yes, we track tweets and sharing from the player, as long as the user is logged in. The affiliate share goes to the last person in the chain who told the buyer about the film. Of course, if the buyer clicks affiliate links from several different users, we give the affiliate share to the first user who attracted the buyer's attention…We are currently doing sales reports manually, while we build an automated system that will allow any user to log in at any time, see their earnings and withdraw when they want."

I'm going to try and coordinate a Skype interview with them if people have more questions.

In the meantime, play around with the Distrify player and it's multitude of embed options. Let's find out what works and what doesn't. None of us can do what Ed Burns does, but together maybe we can get close.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

20 June 2011

Day 2 of Brian Kazmarck's TERMINAL LEGACY

Let's talk for a second about the little things. Thanks to the internet (maybe you've heard of it?), every day on every film set in the world people check the weather report. Almost always it's someone in the production with some scheduling responsibilities, but pretty much these days everyone checks, simply so they can figure out what to wear. No one wants to be uncomfortable all day.

So when the weather report calls for scattered thunderstorms all day with a 60% chance of precipitation, you assume it'll rain. So when it does rain, you won't be in trouble.

Cut to half-way through Day 2 of TERMINAL LEGACY. A tornado siren goes off. Yes, a tornado siren. And the deck of this house is full of things from the living room--books, DVDs, rugs, and a bunch of other stuff that can't exactly get wet. Now instead of just pulling the lights inside, we have to drag in all manner of things that shouldn't be out there in the first place. Heavy things. Fragile things.

And why? No one knows. My guess is that it seemed easier at the start of the day, but now a 15 minute delay is over an hour long.

It's one thing to store stuff outside when it's supposed to be nice all day, but when the forecast calls for rain, it's gonna rain. And sure, you can't predict a tornado siren, but you can make it easier to work around it. At the end of the day, isn't minimizing the potential damage what we all need to be doing?

As for actual filming, the highlight of today is that we're filming a character death. Naturally, I can't tell you much more beyond that. Per usual, I've told Brian Kazmarck to let me know if anything is off the record, and he definitely wants a character death off the record. Hopefully that alone isn't too much, but this is a sci-fi thriller and people die in sci-fi thrillers.

Instead, let's talk about Tony Burns, the director of photography.

It usually doesn't take too long to figure out if a DP knows what he or she is doing. Watch them light a few scenes and watch a few shots on the monitor and you get a pretty good idea. Having said that, Tony Burns knows what he's doing. Maybe it's because he's got a smoke machine running for virtually every shot (more on that as we progress), or maybe it's because he's British and everything he says sounds really smart, but I get the sense that he and his G&E team (of which I'm sort of part of, I guess) is doing a damned good job.

I think, if nothing else, the film's going to look really good.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.


Using a smoke machine isn't magic, you know. You have to work with it.

A Girl and a Gun

On the set of TERMINAL LEGACY, I quote Godard. Also, I hand the camera off to someone else to see what they come up with.

18 June 2011

Day 1 of Brian Kazmarck's TERMINAL LEGACY

If you were to ask me what day in the calendar year would be the one where people are least likely to be doing yard work, one of my first guesses would be the day after Memorial Day. I mean, who has that Tuesday off? I've had plenty of jobs where it was strongly implied that "getting sick" on the day after a holiday wasn't exactly going to be taken at face value.

But here we are, the day after Memorial Day, shooting outside in a quiet neighborhood in Newark, Delaware and there's got to be 15 houses around us either mowing the lawn, trimming bushes, or just hammering on metal. And the thing is, we can't see any of them. Every five minutes, Assistant Director Carolina Solano wanders off in search of noise. It stops. And then it starts up again from a different direction. Indie film whack-a-mole.

It's also hot out. Really hot. Like, 100 degrees and humid. I don't know if this is affecting everyone, but considering that I've just come from a string of cold locales, it seems awful. Also my body thinks the 8am call time is actually 5am, so there's that.

Anyway, we're outside. It's 100 something degrees out. Everyone in the neighborhood is making as much noise as possible. And we're doing a fight scene.

If you've never done a fight scene, here's how it works. You do the blocking first, obviously. That way everyone (actors, camera, sound, grips, etc) knows what's going on. Then you do it at quarter-speed, so the actors can get their movements figured out. The last thing you want to do is try and fake a punch for the first time at full speed, unless you want someone to end up with a broken nose. You work your way up from there to full-speed so everyone is comfortable. Even then, there's no guarantee that no one will get hurt.

Like any outside shoot, this one quickly becomes a race against the sun, as it climbs higher and higher in the sky, moving our usable shade down the side of the house, then across the lawn. We shift with it, cheating the action further and further away from the house, where the trees offer more protection.

Which is not to say that lead actor Cuyle Carvin doesn't have time to graze on some clovers. I had one. They aren't bad. Sweeter than you'd think.

While we've filmed outside, Christine Arboleda (who's functioning as pretty much the entire Art Department) has turned the living room into a set. It's kind of like those HGTV home makeover shows where they come in and turn your living room around on $20.

And because there's an airborne virus that must be contained, part of the set decoration involves putting plastic on the windows. But how to tape it? It's one of those things that involves endless discussion on a film set: what's best vs. what's narratively best.

Cuyle's character is a scientist and therefore would know that plastic tarp and blue painter's tape isn't going to create all that much of a quarantine. But, who has quarantine supplies in their house? Do you? It's a fine line of believability a film has to walk, and it's not really something you can outright win. Some people will point at the blue painter's tape and say it wouldn't work. Other people would point at proper quarantine supplies and question where they came from. You really can't win, so you have to commit to one of them and just sell it the best you can.

We have plastic tarp and blue painter's tape, which has the added advantage of not pulling the paint off the walls when we take it down. That's a pretty vital consideration.

The day is a long one--14 hours or so--and we're wrapping up, waiting for instructions on where people will sleep (there's apparently a town house across town some of us can stay in) when word comes down that production won't be providing dinner. Word of this spreads pretty quickly through the crew, most of whom were under the assumption that it would be provided and haven't eaten in 7 hours or so.

So the crew walks the half-mile to the only place in town any of us have been--the local bar. There's food there. And beer. And margaritas.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

15 June 2011

Day 4 of Kris & Lindy Boustedt's THE SUMMER HOME

Assuming you're more or less on schedule, a short day is everyone's favorite day on a film. String enough 14+ hour days together and a 8 hour day sounds like a vacation. Of course, some of the simpler things get a lot trickier, as everyone is a little punch-drunk.

As you can see, we're not so good at doing something as simple as cutting up kindling, which isn't hard at all. Also, it's raining again. Of course it is.

We shoot a couple of scenes by the wood pile. A big embrace. A broken coffee mug. More kindling.

An exhausted group of people.

From there, we drive to the nearby beach to film the ending. The rain has let up, mercifully. The big challenge here is a really simple one. We've got two people in a car, virtually no grip equipment, and a lot of glare on the windshield. A lot of glare. We're trying to flag it off with flexible reflectors, but the reflectors are also showing up on the windshield if they aren't in the perfect spot. Thankfully, they're flexible, which is pretty much required to hit that sweet spot.

And if it didn't take every pair of hands on set to get it in that spot, we'd have a picture of it. Instead, we have this.

I can't really talk too much about the rest of the shoot, what with it being pretty much a spoiler, but suffice to say it went pretty smoothly. Then, back to the house to pack up.

A lesson for aspiring filmmakers: you can work your crew 13, 14, 16 hours a day for no money. You can do pretty much anything. Really, you can. And if you open a bottle of champagne for the crew to drink while they're packing up, you'll have a very happy crew. Beer works too, but not as well as champagne.


In the days since I left Seattle, the creative team behind THE SUMMER HOME has launched a Kickstarter campaign to pay for the film they've already got in the can. Check it out. And if you can throw them a few bucks, that'd be fantastic.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

14 June 2011

Chopping Wood

How many filmmakes does it take to chop some wood? Quite a few

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

Slow Motion

Who needs special effects when your actors can act in slow motion?

Day 0 of Brian Kazmarck's TERMINAL LEGACY

My phone says I'm supposed to meet Brian Kazmarck at Penn Station in NYC.

Wait, let me back up--way the fuck up--all the way back to 1999. I went to a small liberal arts college in Western Pennsylvania called Geneva College. There's no film program at Geneva College. None at all. Barely any video facilities. The school's major claim to fame is that it hosted the very first college basketball game. I spent a good chunk of my time there serving as the radio play-by-play guy, which involved a lot of travel and a lot of basketball. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

The first time in my life I picked up a video camera was my final semester when I decided that, what the hell, I'd enter the school's film festival. I won. And no, you can't watch it.

Anyway, for one year (or maybe two) Brian Kazmarck lived on my floor. He didn't want to be a filmmaker either. Then, he transferred and I didn't hear anything about him until Facebook took off. I talked him into going to DIY Days last year and whenever I'm in NYC, we try and connect.

And now, I'm looking for him in the middle of Penn Station so we can get in a car and drive to the set of his debut feature TERMINAL LEGACY, in Delaware. Yes, Delaware. That mecca of indie film.

I know they've already been shooting, so my Day 1 is really Day 10, with a bunch of locations around the city, including a morgue where the script supervisor may or may not have found a dead body.

Seriously, I can't be on set for that? Bad luck, I guess.

I find Brian easily enough. One by one the other people show up and 5 of us squeeze into a 2 door that thankfully has a big trunk.

Best I can tell, TERMINAL LEGACY is about a scientist (Cuyle Carvin) and some sort of airborne virus that's killing people or making them crazy or something. It's kind of hard to hear in the back seat.

We're filming in the house of co-writer/actor/producer Kazy Tauginas's parents in Newark, Delaware. It's not a big house, but it's big enough. There's an upstair area that should work pretty well as a staging area for actors and whatnot, a garage to store gear, and a basement to store even more stuff.

Kazy's parents, they'll be serving as our craft services.

But for tonight, it's just the 5 of us. They rest of the cast and crew are due to arrive tomorrow in a 15 passenger van. It's nice to have a couple of hours to relax before the madness starts. And hey, there's a bar down the street, which is something.


Sure enough, the rest of the cast and crew show up the next day around noon. There's a lot of them in a pretty small house. It's the first sense of just how packed this might be.

There's not much to the day. Some blocking, some unpacking, some organization of the house. I spend a couple of hours editing UP COUNTRY on the couch.

It's a lot of the art department making the house look right for the film, part of which involves me taking a bunch of candids of Cuyle and Whitney Kirk outside the house. Basic photos to put over the mantle, stuff like that.

Kazy's parents rent out a townhouse closer to the University of Delaware that's (mostly) empty. The guys are staying there. It's near a convenience store. At least that's what we're told. In reality, you have to walk through the woods, then a graveyard and a construction site to get to the convenience store. It's a little weird, a little creepy. And that's before I found the face drawn on one of the graves.

And they say Delaware is boring.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

13 June 2011

Day 3 of Kris & Lindy Boustedt's THE SUMMER HOME

When I was a little kid growing up on the coast of Maine, I distinctly remember having a t-shirt for the "Seattle Rain Festival, January 1st - December 31st". It was yellow. I have no idea where the shirt came from. I have no relatives in Seattle and no one in my family has ever, to my knowledge, ever even been to Seattle. But someone explained to me that the shirt was joke. It might be the first joke I remember. And, hey, I still know it.

I mention it now because I'm in Seattle and, naturally, it's raining off and on. Thing is, we need it to stop. Actually, we don't even need it to stop. We need it to slow down by the time it gets dark so we can safely shoot a night exterior.

In the meantime, we're shooting inside. We're using duvetyne to black out the windows in the bedroom and bathroom to get a night scene. The bedroom windows aren't in the shot, but the small bathroom one is and DP Ty Migota wants to try and keep the tree outside in the shot, so he sends Nick out to wrap the duvetyne around the tree. Sure there's better ways to do that, but we don't have access to those better ways.

Later, under easier circumstances, we construct a tent of duvetyne using c-stands and clamps on a porch outside a window. We're able to put a small light inside the tent. It's not so high off the ground, so it works. Until the rain picks up, of course.

Part of the challenge inherent in THE SUMMER HOME stems from that lack of knowledge about the location. We have gear we don't need and need gear we don't have. It's not as simple as just going to the store to get something--we're on an island. The ferry only runs so often.

So I guess it's not so surprising when Ty Migota holds a ND filter over the lens because there isn't a matte box. But what is surprising is how a couple of hours later, when the lighting in the living room isn't right, he holds that filter over part of the lens, fixing the exposure issue on the actor in the background.

It's a perfect no-budget indie film moment--using the tools at hand to get it done, convention be damned. And you know what? It works. It isn't something you're going to write to the film school alumni association about, but it works.

And really that's the spirit of the whole production. Just make it work.

So when the skies clear at the start of Magic Hour, we all run outside and improvise a scene with Wonder and Paul on the shore. Then, we set up for our night shooting, which involves a broken down car on the side of an actual road, with me around the corner to stop traffic (we have no permits) before the headlights get in the shot.

Next thing I know, I'm spinning a c-stand with a 650W on top, trying to simulate passing street lights. I can get 4 full rotations before the power cords get too tightly wrapped around the base, then it's back to 1 and start over.

And then, just because no one has gotten hurt yet, we film a scene where Paul has to literally scale the side of the house. Everything is wet and slippery. From my vantage point on the balcony he's attempting to reach, I see his hands grab the rail, then slip momentarily before re-gaining the hold. It's something they're going to have to replace the audio for because you can definitely hear a couple people gasping.

He doesn't seem to mind, and if that isn't the sign of a dedicated actor, then I don't know what is.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

12 June 2011

10 June 2011

Maddy Z

We met Jenna D'Angelo on the set of Mattson Tomlin's DREAM LOVER. You may remember the video of her. She was the woman covered in blood.

Well, now she's got a new short film out, and we figured we might as well point you to it. So…clear 17 minutes from your schedule and check out Jenna in Chris Shimojima's MADELEINE ZABEL on Vimeo.

09 June 2011

Nick vs. a Tree

There's a lot of ways you can shoot day for night, and one of the easiest is to block out the windows. This is not one of the easiest ways.

VOD, FTW? (Part II)

Not too long ago, I wrote about the process of putting my feature debut on VOD. It's not a bad little blog post, and I encourage you to read it, if for no other reason than for context on this post.

I kind of figured the issue of VOD would be settled for a bit. Dynamo makes a good, clean player. Now all that was left to do was sit back and let the money roll in (right, Sheri Candler?). But it seemed like as soon as I hit "publish", the game changed.

Enter, Distrify.

Basically, Distrify is pretty similar to Dynamo, but with a couple of key features. Namely, you can up-sell DVDs, Merch, etc, inside the player.

Obviously, this is a great help, as you can get someone to embed the player on their site and the audience doesn't have to find their way back to your site just to buy something. It's all in one easy-to-manage embed code. It's one of those things that really should have been standard a year ago. But, better late than never.

It's also really, really easy to embed on Facebook.

Screen shot 2011-06-09 at 10.54.40 AM

That's not even the important part. Distrify lets you set up people (or, rather, let's them set up themselves) as affiliates. Basically, if you host the embed code of my film on your site, you get a cut of the money when someone rents via that player. The implications are obvious. What's a better motivator than money? (Answer: almost nothing).

If I'm understanding it correctly, you can even get paid on Twitter/Facebook referrals, which is pretty awesome.

The minimum affiliate fee is 5%. Distrify does a 70%/30% split overall (which is pretty much standard now), and they'll actually 50/50 split the affiliate fee with you, which is nice.

I set my Affiliate cut at 30%, which is really high, mostly because our goal is to see what does and doesn't work in advance of UP COUNTRY. So if you got your audience motivated, you could make some beer money with not much work.


Thing is, your average audience member doesn't care about all that. For them, the experience is key. What does the player look like? What does it do? Let's see.

Here's the Distrify player.

And here, for comparison, is the Dynamo player:

Basically, what you've got here is form vs. function. The Dynamo player looks a hell of a lot better, but the Distrify player does a hell of a lot more. So right now, my guess is it'll come down to what your priority is.

Or, one of them could adopt from the other. That'd be nice.


As promised, let's look at some stats. The Distrify player has just gone live, so we don't have anything substantial there, but Dynamo has been up since May 25th. Not a lot of time, for sure, but it's something to look at.

Screen shot 2011-06-09 at 10.15.21 AM

Obviously, we're not going to be buying any sports cars just yet. The player loads kind of make things hard to read, so let's zoom in.

Screen shot 2011-06-09 at 10.45.34 AM

Again, not good numbers. Then again, is anyone really sure what good numbers are? Honestly, I haven't got a clue if we're doing well or not, compared to what our expectations should be. And that's kind of the point of this.

We'll keep you updated. In the meantime, it'd be really great if you checked out the movie. It's a hell of a bargain. And the more rentals we get, the more motivated I'll be to post more updates (hint, hint).

Or, better yet, why not trying out the player on your blog and see if you can't rake in some affiliate cash?