29 July 2011

Day 3 of Paul Osborne's FAVOR

All through Day 2, one of the chief topics of conversation was how to shoot a scene with prop glass.

Let me explain. In the scene, an actor has to throw a wine bottle against a door, thereby breaking it into a gazillion little pieces. Generally speaking, actors don't like it if you ask them to deal with real broken glass, what with it's ability to draw blood and everything. So, you have to deal with prop glass--the sort of stuff they use in the scenes where the stuntman jumps through a window. We have one molded in the shape of a wine bottle.

But only one.

We're also (naturally) shooting in a one camera setup. Do the math and we've got exactly one chance to get everything perfect. One. You never want only one shot at getting something on film.

So what do you do?

You rehearse the hell out of it. You make sure all of the actors know exactly what's going to happen. You make sure the crew knows their moves in detail. You leave as little to chance as humanly possible. And even then, you're skating on some thin ice. Remember that even after doing a perfect take, very often a director will opt for a safety, just in case something goes wrong that no one spotted.

One take is scary. One take where the key prop is going to be destroyed is even worse.

If you're smart, you start looking around for contingency plans. Newell, our stills photographer, is using a 7D, and while that isn't really the same as the AF100 Paul is using, it's not that different in the great scheme of things. Close enough that should something happen to the footage on the AF100 (a very remote possibility), the footage on the 7D could work in a pinch. So, we set Newell up next to camera to record it as Option B.

Me, I'm recording it on my camera in case something goes wrong so we'll have footage of the fuck up.

Of course, it goes off without a hitch. Nothing ever goes wrong when you're prepared for it to go wrong. It's always when the camera is in the other room or something.

But it's the preparation that's key.

The other big event is that we're being visited by one of the FAVOR Kickstarter backers. Sort of. One of the backer rewards was that the backer got to do a 1 hour Skype session during filming. What that means in reality is that a backer is live on Skype via Paul's iPad as we film. Remember Bruno, the garbage man who would carry Oscar the Grouch around? Being in charge of the iPad is kind of like that. He gets passed around, and while I can't speak for him, it seems like a pretty sweet perk. He watches the takes, and while lights are being tweaked, the actors talk to him about life, the project, and what drew him to back it.

This is the sort of thing that we should all be doing. It's a personal touch. People love it. Provided your equipment and location make such a thing possible (it might, for example, have been tricky on UP COUNTRY, but when your primary location is a house with wifi? It's a no-brainer.

At least it should be. As common sense as getting out that second camera, just in case the first one fails at a critical time.

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.

24 July 2011

Day 2 of Paul Osborne's FAVOR

You know how I said it's generally a bad idea to film where you live? Well…here we go again. We're filming at Paul Osborne's house in Burbank, and while it's generally not a good idea, the house has one advantage that may be helping things along: it's at the end of a dead end street, which means that sound is only coming from one direction and traffic is scant.

Never under-estimate the power of good sound in a location.

In the narrative, Paul's house functions as the residence of our lead, Blayne Weaver, and the word is that we'll be at the location for a couple of days. Makes sense.

Fitting in with Paul's minimalist, DIY approach to FAVOR, the interior lighting kit is pretty simple. We've got some LED's that we can gel to whatever we need, but primarily, he's lighting the interiors with soft lights. That means that we're using those china balls and upright lights you buy at IKEA, only with better bulbs inside. It's one of those approaches that either works really well or not at all. They're super easy to set up and move around, but you can't really put a lot of direction into the light source. It's a trade-off. Also, actors like soft lights because they even our skin issues and blemishes.

The downside of these lights can be scary. You sometimes can't control them very well, especially if you want to do something specific (although there are ways around it). But the thing is, Paul knows this. He's shooting the film himself. So, above all else, this is what he wants his film to look like. And that's the most important thing.

I may not be the best grip in the world. Part of the reason I decided to do A Year Without Rent was that I wanted to learn more about how various departments and jobs on a film set functioned. You know, the ones that aren't "director" or "producer". I'm a firm believer that the more you know about what everyone on your set is doing, the better director you'll be. It's common sense, right?

Point being, this is a lighting kit that's well within my range. I know how to use all of these lights. There's no learning curve. And as small as this crew is, this is immediately beneficial. And by small, I mean really small. Joe Pezzula, the sound guy, also seems to be the lighting guy (along with Paul). This is the sort of set where it's clear that "an extra set of hands" might be a bit of an understatement.

We shoot in the living room, which is a little tricky because Blayne Weaver is drinking real wine instead of juice, and after a bit, that tends to add up. Then, some bedroom scenes where the LED lights prove to be a little tricky. We're trying to put enough light in the hall, but it keeps spilling into the door frame, which is too hot. The space is tight, with barely enough room to fit the stand before it ends up in the shot. Not enough room to flag off the excess light. It takes a bit, but we figure it out.

It's indie film. We always figure it out.

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.

16 July 2011

Expectations vs. Reality

Tomorrow (the 17th) gets us to the 5 month mark of A Year Without Rent. I've talked before about what a tricky thing it was to budget and project, so let's compare, shall we?

My thinking was that it'd be easier to find projects, and therefore would be able to find projects close together, especially on the East Coast. So the thinking was that we would probably average 600-800 miles traveled a month. Figure 1-2 weeks for a project, maybe some longer. Some in the same city (as the easiest way to find a project is to actually be in the city). 800 miles a month seemed like a good estimate.

That would put us at 4,000 miles at the 5 month mark. Maybe 5,000 to be safe.

So far, I've traveled over 13,400 miles. Yes, 13,400 miles. Trust me, that's a lot. And it's going to go up pretty fast.

Our worst-case scenario for travel put us at 1,500 miles a month, or 7,500 miles so far. And, you may have noticed that gas prices shot up almost a dollar nation-wide from when we were doing our math. That doesn't help.

The other projection was that we'd be able to line up sponsors, which just hasn't materialized, no matter how many doors we bang on (and we're adding a door-banger very soon. Keep your eyes peeled).

So, as always, we're exploring our options. We'll go as long as we can go, and fit in as much as we can fit in. It's a real 24/7 operation (literally) and I think we're doing pretty good, all things considered.

As always, you can help.

Keep us on the road.

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 July 2011

Brian Durkin's THE TERRAIN

Editor's Note: Obviously, I cannot be everywhere at once. With that in mind, I've started reaching out to fellow members of the film community who might be interested in bringing the AYWR experience to a film shoot near them. Up first: Film Courage's very own @KarenWorden. Enjoy. - Lucas

A couple of our friends launched a Kickstarter campaign in May for a short film entitled The Terrain.  It’s almost every day that people we know (and many more that we do not know) reach out to us for help with their crowd-funding campaigns.  (You can get word out about your project through FilmCourage.com by submitting an article to us. Email us for info). 

You can imagine our surprise when we heard about THE TERRAIN Kickstarter campaign through the gossip grapevine after they had eclipsed their $2500 goal.  We’ve known Brian Durkin and Todd Cattell on a personal level for years, yet they did not press us for assistance.

After we discovered the link, Brian, Todd, and producers Vivian Lee and Matthew Blanco had already exceed their goal in the first few days.  The train was in the station and those who wanted to ride could get on if they wanted.

Long story short, THE TERRAIN not only met its goal, it kicked its goal’s behind raising $7,310 in 30 days, exceeding the initial $2,500 goal.  THE TERRAIN is a narrative short film written by Brian Durkin, starring Todd Cattell and Marisa Petroro, about two friends and fellow soldiers who return from war, broken and vulnerable, recruited into a covert Los Angeles assignment.

Flash forward a month.  I receive a new camera.  Being thoroughly inspired by (i.e., copying) Lucas McNelly’s ‘A Year Without Rent’ campaign and its accompanying pictures, I wanted to take set photos.

I e-mailed director Brian shortly after getting the camera, inquiring if he needed a volunteer set photographer.  He thankfully obliged and after several e-mail correspondences sent me a very organized call sheet.  Eavesdropping on Lucas a few weekends ago, he mentioned to a group of listeners that an organized call sheet is sign of a great production.  Even better when it mentions the weather report.

I had trouble sleeping the night before the first shoot.  Yes, I was just a ‘volunteer,’ but what if I forgot the camera battery?  What if the photos were not usable?  Being a person who rarely gets a good night sleep, I tossed and turned on one of those hot June nights where terrors were hard to fend off.

When the alarm sounded a few hours later, I wasn’t quite in the mood to be social, let alone take set photos.  But David prompted me to get going, and after downing some strong coffee, we drove to the shoot location (a little late and slightly ornery).

As we pulled up to the set location, the shoot was already in progress.  I hate being late to things.  Putting my ego aside, I readied the camera.  This was my first shot as I quietly made my way to the set, shoot in progress.


Day One: Exterior shots of The Terrain


Day One: Exterior shots of The Terrain

The neighborhood was a mixture of cute little houses, one with so much ‘stuff’ in the front yard that someone on set affectionately referred to it as the "Sanford and Son" house.  Another house across the street had a bunch of cute kittens and their mother cat in the yard.  Cute cats in the yard always make me feel at home. 

While on set things flowed so well that I didn’t have time to be nervous or tired.  The producer, Vivian Lee, walked by and I snapped a quick photo of her on the way to replenish some essential set supplies. 


Day One: The Terrain producer, Vivian Lee

Inside I watched actors Sarena Khan (as Neda) and Brian Burnett (as Reza) take their cues from director Brian Durkin.  The day called for a mixture of interior and exterior shots, with production halting momentarily for a blaring car stereo and car alarm.



Day One: Actors Sarena Khan and Brian Burnett

DP Casey Feldt always amazed me how he prepared for shots and (at times) was able to balance a cigarette in his mouth.  He seemed to know instinctively which angles he wanted.


Day One: DP Casey Feldt

For day two of the shoot on the Terrain, David and I drove from our radio show (right after our interview) with director Leonard Zelig, producer Roberto Alcazar and crew of SubHysteria, not even grabbing lunch.  THE TERRAIN's second day of shooting took place at an old warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles. 

The warehouse was intriguing, dusty and a little scary. Many rooms and enclaves inside this old ammunition storage facility just didn’t ‘feel’ right.  The energy was off.  However, the energy on set was great, although we were under time pressure to wrap at 5:00 p.m. sharp. The building manager would arrive at the property to lock up or tack on the appropriate billing for extra time.  It was now 3:00 p.m.  Things were rolling fast.  Air conditioning was non-existent and we were well in the midst of an L.A. summer.


Day Two: The Terrain interior warehouse shots as actor Todd Cattell
readies his aim

My brief time on ‘Day Two’ of THE TERRAIN went by fast and furious, but shots were made.  Although hurried, we made shots were made just in time.  As the building manager arrived to lock up a few minutes before 5:00 p.m. he told us about the spirits and ghosts which befriended him at night inside the warehouse.  He explained that most of the entities were friendly and called him by name, asking questions about ‘who was that guy here today?’  He seemed at ease while he told this story.  Whether true or not, I didn’t care.  It fit perfectly into the day and I didn’t want to ruin this experience.


Day Two: The Terrain interior warehouse shots as rock star PA Kyle Kao surveys the shot

Director Brian Durkin and crew mentioned that they picked this warehouse especially knowing the exterior shots would receive little disruption from too much traffic.  Unbeknownst to them, a movie/commercial shoot of some type was taking place on this Sunday afternoon just block away, rerouting traffic right by our location.  So it was busy with cars whizzing by and slowing down to eye our exterior shoot.  Funny how when a camera is out people can’t help but strain their necks to see if anyone famous is around.


Day Two: The Terrain exterior shots, waiting for traffic in between scenes


Day Two:  The Terrain exterior shot of warehouse as actor Todd Cattell (Major Jacob Kohl ) waits for his cue


Day Two: The Terrain exterior as shots are checked

As I got back into the car at the end of the day, I felt empowered, satisfied with the photos I took, and happy that some great friends put together a first-class production.  I watched first hand that you don’t need to wait for the phone to ring or an e-mail to validate your worth.  You can make it happen on your own with proper planning, choosing the right people for your team, and taking the ‘Black Swan’ approach of not being too rigid at the risk stopping yourself in the process.

Karen Worden is a (very) part-time actress, co-host/co-producer of the Noon (Pacific) Sunday radio show Film Courage on LA Talk Radio.com, as well as co-owner of FilmCourage.com, along with husband David Branin.  Each Sunday, Karen and David interview filmmakers and content creators from around the globe on surviving and thriving the entertainment industry.  Karen, David and their three cats live in Los Angeles, California.  Follow them both on www.FilmCourage.com, @FilmCourage, @DavidBranin and @KarenWorden.

12 July 2011

Day 1 of Paul Osborne's FAVOR

I'm not entirely sure where the rumor originated that I wouldn't take A Year Without Rent to Los Angeles. Sure, one of the project's primary goals is to see indie film outside of the major hot spots, but who's to say that you can't be outside of a major hot spot, but right in their neighborhood? It seems obvious to me that some really interesting indie filmmakers would exist in Los Angeles. It'd be pretty impossible for them not to.

Also, I know a lot of people in LA. And the weather is nice.

So that's kind of how I ended up at a place called Chili John's in Burbank to work on Paul Osborne's second narrative feature FAVOR. I qualify it with "narrative" because you probably know Paul from his documentary work, the seminal indie film documentary OFFICIAL REJECTION, which chronicles the festival experience for his film TEN 'TIL NOON.

I have not seen it, but a lot of people think I'll really like it. Probably because one of my pet peeves is the festival system.

I kind of imagined that Paul, being an indie film celebrity, would have this massive crew of people working on his next project, essentially just to be there. But when I arrive on set, it's pretty clear that Paul's going a different direction and has a skeleton crew. The light kit is equally small. It's surprising at first, but makes sense when you think about it. FAVOR, a film about a guy who accidentally ends up with a dead body he needs help moving, is very much in the noir camp, which allows for a bit of "dirtiness".

Paul is operating the camera himself, which is our second film in a row to do this, and the word from the production is that the film is moving fast. Sound guy (and all-around right-hand man) Joe Pezzula tells me that on a couple of days Paul has added shots and still finished the day early.

I can't remember the last shoot I was on where the day finished on time.

Chili John's is a cool little diner in Burbank, a very old school picturesque place where you'd imagine regulars have been coming every day for years. Naturally, we have to greek a bunch of stuff. The art guy has brought these generic label stickers, which are helpful up to a point, but they haven't been sized to cover what we have to cover, so we end up resorting to the standard indie techniques of just hiding stuff with other stuff.

Part of Paul's motto to move fast involves recording sound directly into the camera (Panasonic AF100), which is something I haven't seen in a long time. It eliminates the need for a slate, and it definitely speeds things up, not just in production but in post as well.

We shoot our inside stuff, then move outside (but not without eating some fantastic chili first), where we're using gelled LED lights in a variant of a 3 point lighting setup.

This being a night shoot, it becomes quickly obvious that in Los Angeles it gets cold at night. I wasn't prepared for this. I lived in Tennessee for a year or so and the nights were pretty much as stifling hot as the days. Here I'm really rather cold. Not as cold as the shoot in San Francisco, but cold nonetheless.

And sure enough, Paul wraps the day early. Go figure.

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.

08 July 2011

Day 4 of Sean Gillane's CXL

There's nothing quite like a really long day of freezing cold exteriors to make you appreciate the simple joys of filming inside. You can put your stuff down and there's chairs to sit on and bathrooms nearby and it's generally a lot warmer.

Of course, the scenery isn't as nice, but that's the trade.

Today we're shooting in Sean's apartment. You already know what I'm going to say. Don't shoot in your apartment unless you absolutely have to. Nothing good can come from it. Nothing at all. I know, I know, your film works perfectly for your apartment. You wrote the script to play to the strengths of the building layout and the type of floors and all that. Still, don't do it.

Sean knows all of this, of course. But, we're doing it anyway. Why? I'm guessing out of necessity.

Although, the bedroom does have some nice paintings on the wall, kind of a tree mural, so that could be a factor, as I think I heard the VFX guys saying something about trees.

Most of what we're doing involves our couple in bed. It seems pretty basic--two people just laying there--but they're going to put some stuff on top of that so the big discussion is whether or not the buttons on Cole's shirt will function as markers they can use to track movement.

The consensus is that it depends. If we can see one button, then definitely not, but if we can see two or three, it should be ok. So then it's just a question of adjusting Cole's shirt so we can see the correct number without it looking completely obvious. Not as easy as you'd think.

Also not easy is the thing we've rigged to try and backlight Cole and Lisa as they lay down. You can see it in the picture, but essentially what you've got is multiple gobo arms working in concert (gobo's seem to be a theme on this shoot) with enough black wrap to create a mini spotlight.

All that's really left after that is to pull out our makeshift green screen rig that we had in the street on Day 2 and do some more multiples.

For a variety of reasons, the plan is to shoot CXL in chunks. So there's this 4 day shoot which is the first one and, as I understand it, the section with the bulk of the VFX shots. July and August bring the other sections. I want to say those are going to be more traditional, but don't quote me on that, as I can't be completely sure.

I find that the more films I work on where I'm not there for everything, the less I worry about the stuff that's going to happen when I'm not there. Is that because when it happens, I'll be on another shoot? Or maybe because I can't exactly report on what I don't see? Perhaps. But I think that on some level it's so I can still be surprised when I watch the final product. At least that way, part of it will be completely unexpected.

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.

07 July 2011

The Future of Film Curation

All photos by Sean Hackett

Way back in May of 2009 when we embarked on a quest to shoot and edit a feature film in 2 weeks, one of my crazy goals was to screen it in Los Angeles. It was a stupid and unnecessary goal, but a goal nonetheless. Things like that keep me motivated.

No one ever really thought it would happen.

So when David and Karen at Film Courage called me to propose a screening of BLANC DE BLANC as kind of a hybrid event to test out a VOD release, I was all for it. And it didn't hurt that I was heading to Los Angeles anyway.

The original thought was that we might be able to get 5 or 6 people in a room to watch the movie, and we'd live stream that across the internet to interested parties around the world. We never really thought of it as a "Hey, LA. Come see a movie." That's why we were kind of thrown when people none of us knew started asking if they could come.

Around that point, I started to get nervous. It's one thing to show a film to friends, but people you don't know? That's a different story. We had something like 35 people there, which was way beyond our expectations, especially since we didn't really try and get anyone there other than the panelists.

We did an introduction, which is archived here:

Video streaming by Ustream

And then a Q&A for BLANC (spoiler alert!), and 2 panels that pretty much were an all-star collection of indie film talent.

Video streaming by Ustream

The audience seemed to respond well to the film, which is fantastic. From downstairs I heard some laughter at (I hope) the right places. The consensus was mostly positive. We even had someone figure it out, which makes 8 people total. It wasn't the woman pictured. She had a different theory entirely.

But how did the VOD work? Is it ready for prime time?

Sort of.

I've heard of zero issues from the Dynamo player, which is where most of our rentals have come from over the life of the VOD availability.

But a couple of people who rented via Distrify had some major issues. Twitter peep (and lender of couch) @LordBronco couldn't get it to play. And, he took super helpful notes, which I'll quote below:

I'm on a Lan-Wired, stable DSL connection that up/downloads at 1.5 megs a second-stably tested via repetaed gaming hours. I am on Windows Ultimate 7 using Firefox 5.0 with the newest Adobe Flash plugin installed. Flash does crash the main film courage site-but for most of this timeline I did not have even tweetdeck running in background.

To be quick, there is no pause function in a paid environment, with issues about even a single screening.

*update* I was allowed to compare the download of the same high res material on Vimeo. So to be clear, I will point out that that download took approxinately 3 or 4 hours all told, running in the back ground while I was able to do other stuff.

That's the short version. Basically, he could get it to play in bursts, but without the ability to pause the video and let it fully buffer, there wasn't a whole lot he could do. But, when it worked, it looked fantastic.

Then, I got an email from Peter over at Distrify (who I keep meaning to try and record a Skype call with):

the original video was uploaded at too high a bitrate - this was when we were still allowing user-specified settings for streaming. We recently changed our setup to support full dynamic bitrate switching so streaming is automatically optimised for the user's connection, something not offered by any of our competitors. 

However, the Blanc de Blanc video needed to be re-encoded into our 5 quality versions to take advantage of this feature.

I'm not super tech-savvy on bit rates and all that, so I'll just say that the film was compressed in Compressor using the basic YouTube settings, and the same version is in three different places. It's now been re-encoded, and I haven't heard of any more problems, so until I hear differently, I'll assume everything is all good.

If you had problems with the original encoding, it's my understanding that you can just re-start the video in the player below and you should be ok. But, of course, let me know if it isn't.

05 July 2011

Day 3 of Sean Gillane's CXL

When I came up with the concept for A Year Without Rent, I kind of imagined myself getting to see all of the iconic places in the country. I'm not sure why I thought that. I hate touristy stuff (probably as a result of growing up in a state who's #1 industry is tourism). I've been to New York City several times and it's never occurred to me to go see the Statue of Liberty. Put me in a new city and I invariably want to go where the locals hang out.

But of all the American landmarks, I figured the Golden Gate Bridge would be one of the easiest to find (and take a picture of). A trip to San Francisco seemed inevitable (especially since Sean Gillane got his project on the calendar before we even started the Kickstarter campaign), and it seems like a landmark that'd be kind of hard to avoid.

I never thought we'd be filming at the Golden Gate Bridge, but that's exactly what we're doing. Of course, we have no permit. So the first thing I do is take a lap around the area, trying to look like as much of a tourist as possible, and scope out where our potential problems might come from. It's really similar to the approach criminals take when they're checking out a target. Where are the police? Are there security cameras? Where might the police come from, should they be called?

It's always kind of fun. At least, I think so.

And yes, we're filming very close to the spot where they filmed VERTIGO.

There's two things. One involves a conversation on the sidewalk. It looks innocent enough. Sean, Katherine, and Ken Fisk (who's now pivoted from VFX Supervisor to Gaffer) can hide in the rocks just below the sidewalk, the trick being to keep the boom as inconspicuous as possible. Nothing gives away a film production quicker than a boom waving around.

The second part is a little harder to hide. Sean is on top of a car (as you can see) and Lisa is pretending to do damage to the picture car. Basically, we're saying "please come stop us". But no one comes. We get a lot of strange looks. A couple from Dallas stops to talk to us and they end up doing a scene as the owner of the car. Another guy apologizes for watching with the explanation that he's from Iowa.

From there, we're in a really remote location across the bay, on this walking trail that's literally at the very edge of the country, seemingly as far west as you can get in the Bay Area without being in the Pacific Ocean. Barges float by every couple minutes on their way to Asia. It's a really beautiful location. It's also really fucking cold.

There's a really cool old neglected dock that Ken and I are convinced we can walk down to, but Sean talks us out of it. It's a shame, because the photos would have been fantastic.

What we're filming, I can't talk about for content reasons, but it's easily the hardest single thing we've tried to shoot so far. It's a combination of physically demanding, emotionally demanding, in freezing cold weather, trying to do something pretty precise. It's the sort of thing where the person operating the camera has to slate because everyone else is holding something that's either heavy or in the exact spot it has to be in. Or both. And we're racing the light.

Let's see if I can tell this story without giving anything away.

I'm holding something heavy, that I've got wedged into my thigh to stabilize it. I'm standing in front of the camera. Yes, in front of the camera.

"Am I in?" I call out to Sean.

"Um…nope. You're good."

I look over my shoulder. There's no way I'm not in this shot.

"Are you sure?"

"You're fine."

Later that night, I looked at the footage. Sure enough, I was clear of the frame. To this day, I have no idea how. Maybe some of that VFX magic at work.

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 BLANC DE BLANC is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.


In case you missed it, on July 3rd we screened BLANC DE BLANC in LA. There's a longer post coming, but...an introduction:

Video streaming by Ustream

At which point people rented the video on-demand for a mere $2.99. We got rentals from both Dynamo and Distrify (more on that in the near future).

Then, I did a Q&A with David and Karen:

Video streaming by Ustream

And after that there were panels. Yes, that's a lot.

Check out more over at Film Courage, where they've archived everything.

And rent the movie!


Because I am an asshole who's terrible at remembering names, I nicknamed the PA's "Oklahoma" and "San Francisco", after where they came from. Here, Oklahoma explains our very DIY lighting setup.

04 July 2011

Day 2 of Sean Gillane's CXL

I was in San Francisco for a couple of days prior to this shoot (and prior to jetting over to Delaware), where I had the pleasure of taking in a screening of Sean Gillane's first feature THE ANNUAL, a film about a couple that decides to date for exactly one year. It's just about a perfect premise for an indie relationship film, and it was interesting to see how Sean used a lot of the places near where he lives.

Except that he didn't live in that neighborhood then.

But he does now, and so we're filming on the streets around Sean's apartment. It's kind of an odd application of the Auteur Theory, but I think it works.

If you've never been to San Francisco (or, at least this part of San Fran), it's important to know that a lot of people park in private garages in what's most easily described as the basement of their apartment building. What this means is that there's 10 or so spots on each block where you have to keep the sidewalk clear so people can drive in to their parking spots. It also severely limits the number of places you can park on the street.

But say you're trying to set up a dolly shot into a green screen on the sidewalk. You have to find a spot that works both for light, other background, and doesn't block anyone's driveway. It's tricky. Plus, it's kind of windy, which causes issues with the green screen.

The screen has to be pretty taut all the way across, which is harder near the middle of the bottom, so the solution is to wrap the bottom of the felt around a gobo arm and let the weight of the arm pull that tight. The weight also has the side benefit of fighting the effects of the wind.

Beyond the green screen stuff, a lot of what we're shooting today is what Sean calls "multiples". I'm not really sure what that's going to entail in the end film, but essentially our actor (Cole Smith) will repeat the same action multiple times, each time in a different outfit. Of course, this involves him changing clothes pretty quickly in some pretty public places, sometimes just a shirt, but sometimes pants as well.

One such multiple is a dolly shot in a stairwell, a shot that's been the subject of much discussion in pre-production. What we've got is an actor going down the stairs and the camera dolly's across the stairwell. The camera (a 5D) is on a small wooden stand with a 20 pound weight on it (more weight on a dolly move can make it smoother). Under that are some skateboard wheels on normal skateboard trucks. Then, we've got a board with rails attached (to keep it from falling off). The big trick is how to best get the camera smoothly (and consistently) across the board, since we're doing multiples. Not surprisingly, we end up tag-teaming a couple of different methods.

Will it work? We shall see.

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.