48hr @ Alamo | Grass Man Mockumentray (Teen Film Camp)

Amanda and I have wanted to try a kids film camp sort of deal where we could teach some ‘yoots’ the different aspects of filmmaking, from concept, writing, planning, costumes, acting, editing, all the way to premiering in a theater. When our friend’s son Connor turned 13, we decided it would be a great opportunity to teach him film (he’s in theater and is just about the coolest, funniest, most mature kid we’ve met) via a 48-hour film project. After making the promise back in January for his birthday, we patiently waited for the 48-Hour Film event in Austin, TX.

Soon after making our birthday promise to Connor, we learned that there was another yoot in the family who was getting into film: Amanda’s cousin Carter. Carter had just signed up for a semester of film club at his school and he brought along his film fanatic friend John, who spent the weekend making the other boys watch the classics, like Forrest Gump and Tucker and Dale vs Evil. (They were at film camp, so they just had to stay up late watching movies of course.)

So that was it, that was the plan, get some family/friend’s yoots, throw them into a 48hr so they could make a film of their own, but be there to teach them each aspect of filmmaking.

The teens drew their genre: Romance. But after making ‘ick’ noises and groaning, they pretty much immediately opted for a wildcard draw for a new genre. They then drew ‘Mockumentary,’ to which one of them replied, “What’s mockumentary?” Oh boy, this should be interesting, we thought… After a moment, Carter says, “Is it like SpinalTap?” Oh yes, this yoot wearing a Mumford and Sons shirt has seen SpinalTap… We’re good.

On the way home to plan and write the script, we began asking them what they’d want to do a mockumentary on. We pointed out to them that sometimes the most mundane things in life, when fully inspected, are the most funny. John blurted out grass… Grass? Okay, pretty mundane. That could work. Any other ideas? And so it went. We spent Friday night teaching/coaching them on what makes a story funny and complete, while getting them to whiteboard out as many different ideas as they could (This is always a good exercise). They debated with each other on why they liked one idea over another and combined ideas and tweaked things and then made a final whiteboard list and voted. Three kids, three votes. Grass Man, the idea that grew from the word blurted in the car, had grown into a mockumentary about an obsessed old man who steals people’s grass… and it won by a landslide. (2 to 1)

We had our concept, so we spent the rest of Friday night working with the boys on scripting out the story and the scenes, guiding them to keep in mind the resources we had (three yoots, one house, one neighborhood). We settled on a simple story about Hubert (played by Connor) an old man who quit his job due to health issues, who lost his meaning in life, and had become obsessed with grass. He is supported by two neighborhood kids (Carter and John), a neighbor (John dressed differently), and a locksmith named Walter Buckley (Carter dressed differently). The locksmith was a requirement of the 48-Hour Fest, along with the use of medicine as a prop and the line of dialogue “Where did you put it?”

On Saturday we took the boys to Party City and Goodwill so they could design/pick out their costumes. They then spent Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning acting, adlibbing some of the best lines, and spent Saturday night watching movies (as listed above). Sunday afternoon we had all the footage we needed and they then sat down and helped out with editing.

The next week they got to see their film on the big screen at the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar and enjoyed some pretty heart-felt laughs from the audience. In fact, the audience loved it so much, they voted it their favorite film of the night! (And the boys got quite a bit of interest from the other directors in the crowd.)

We’re super proud of the work the teens did, especially considering they had never done anything like this before. They each jumped right in and worked well with one another and stayed through to the end, not a simple feat for a yoot these days I’d guess.

Amanda and I have been lucky in many ways in our own lives, but this weekend was as much fun (or more) than any other way we could have spent it.

Enjoy the film courtesy of Connor, Carter, and John!

48hr Requirements
Name: Walter Buckley
Occupation: Locksmith
Phrase: “Where did you put it?”

FOGAR! Fantasticfest bumper. Animal Crackers

My buddy Maury Jacks only calls me once a year. And I always answer the phone. When that happens stuff like this gets produced. Love working with the guy.

This was a bumper he asked me to be cinematographer on. We were finalists so I got to sit one row in front of Edgar fucking Wright… Yeah. Pretty cool.

Anyway, enjoy.

Hog B*tch music video

Some quick grabs from a really low budget (I mean, Home Depot lighting on this one) music video shoot. Of course, these images are even more powerful when moving to the pounding rock the band is known for…

I’ll post the video here when it’s edited.

Cinematographer, editor.

Cinematographer Style – Interviews with hollywood’s best

Cinematographer Style is a 2006 documentary by Jon Fauer, ASC, about the art of cinematography. In the film, he interviews leading cinematographers from around the world, asking them about their influences and the origins of the style of their films. This is the first major English-language documentary on cinematography since Visions of Light (1993).

Blood Cousins: A Feature film for $5,000

Two Three years ago my friends decided to produce a feature film…

Blood Cousins (2012)

They had written a nice script they were happy with and coming off the success of the short films and commercials we had produced together, everyone felt it was a good time to tackle the lessons that are sure to come with a first feature.

Well, tackle it we did, after many lessons and wonderfully hectic days solving the problems of how to produce an 84 minute feature for less than $5,000. The only way it could happen was for me to produce the movie for no daily fee. Offering my cinematography, along with my camera, lenses, lighting, steadicam, dolly, jib, and audio equipment at no charge. (sorry, unless you’re a non-profit, this won’t happen again)

It was a great experience for all of us. But it’s also a great lesson in the value of having a balanced budget for any production. A majority of this movie was shot with the four actors… and myself. Literally. If there aren’t extras in the scene, then odds are that scene was shot with five guys in the room(or car), four of whom were acting or trading off their directions of each other. The fifth carrying a DSLR rig and headphones while setting up each shot.

This means that for the car scenes, I was in the trunk monitoring video and audio on a laptop with headphones. It means that the DP was the cinematographer was the grip was the set designer was the blocking director was the… you get the point. And shooting on a DSLR? Well, that meant no studio monitor. So it meant, we’d run through a scene, then I’d play it back and discuss options/changes. Although it sounds like a very slow process, we’d manage to shoot up to eight minutes of usable video per day, which isn’t bad relative to most productions. This is why most of the film is shoulder mount or tripod. As the story gets going I wanted the audience to feel like they’re there with the guys, to feel like they’re a part of the “wolf pack” to quote another movie.

After four months of quality weekend-warrior film making  the actors grew busy with their daily lives and we took a hiatus from the production and focused on editing. Six months later, we had 95% of the movie completed… but were missing all the “as-yet-not-filmed” flashback scenes, kind of important, and various other pickups to finesse the story and pacing. After about a year and a half of simply working on other projects, we regrouped and began a schedule of one weekend a month dedicated to finishing this project. After another six months, we had ourselves a finished feature film. Written, acted, and directed by four guys. Edited by two. Shot by one. I have to admit there were times I wondered if we’d ever complete this monumental undertaking.

But I’m glad we finished it, even if the quality of the lenses/lights/microphones/etc. changed dramatically over those two years, even though some of the actors weight and hair changed dramatically throughout… Experience is the best form of instruction. And I think we all learned a lot.

Of course we won’t win awards or fame. But I sincerely look forward to sharing this movie with you.

I hope you enjoy it.

Spec: Dannon Super Bowl Spot

Dannon Oikos, John Stamos, and Super Bowl XLVI

If you haven’t heard of Poptent.net, it’s an online “user-generated” advertising site that matches brands with filmmakers competing with each other for cash prizes. (a la doritos ads…)

Well, last fall, Poptent asked 25 filmmakers to direct in a private competition for Dannon’s new Oikos Greek Yogurt. The winning video would potentially screen at this year”s Super Bowl after a re-shoot so that John Stamos could star in it.

Dannon wanted to introduce their new greek yogurt in a way that would stand out among Super Bowl ads. Their motto was “Possibly the best yogurt in the world”, and the premise they wanted was a “taste adventure”.

I set out in this competition to make an animatic for a Super Bowl spot. I didn’t have John Stamos and I didn’t have a budget. I had my girlfriend, my equipment, a free yoga studio, and a couple CL posts for two actors. I wanted something to stand out and be memorable.

After going through a few ideas. (many of which ended up being similarly produced by other filmmakers in the competition) I decided on the idea of a fantasy world similar to Willy Wonka’s chocolate river… I knew John Stamos had broadway experience and I LOL’d at the idea that Stamos would be belting out a broadway-style song during the Super Bowl. So I set out to script a broadway-esque, Willy Wonk-ish taste adventure that would certainly stand out among other Super Bowl ads. While still carrying the action and insanity of “user-generated” ad.

This is the concept I wrote and directed, everything was shot on green screen and then layered over food footage I shot on a table-top green screen (some green foam papers in the toy section of HEB). Not a bad outcome for four days of work and one kid doing production and post. (yes, those actors never set foot in a grocery store OR a blueberry wonderland!)

I wrote the song feeling it would fit, but after shooting, it became obvious that I had tried to squeeze too much into a :30 spot. I feel this would have been more fun as a :60, but I should have just removed a verse…

Again, we didn’t win (does winning really matter in art?), I would still like to see John Stamos singing in something like this, it definitely would have been a memorable Super Bowl spot, even if it isn’t in line with the target audience. (but then again, Super Bowl isn’t in line with the target audience…)

Either way, it’s always a blast just grabbing the camera and putting together something creative…

Production Stills:

Special thanks to Amanda for help in finding the yoga studio, and Bettye Jo Shyrock for playing an awesome scooter/yogurt enthusiast.

Client: CASA of Travis County

My wife and I teamed up with CASA of Travis County to produce a new campaign video to help spread awareness of their efforts and needs within the Austin community.

CASA of Travis County speaks up for children who’ve been abused or neglected by empowering our community to volunteer as advocates for them within the CPS court system.

This was done in 48hours for the 2012 Alamo Drafthouse FilmFrenzy Reel Change festival

After meeting with CASA”s marketing director, I brainstormed various concepts, ruling out most ideas that showed the children as victims. After watching many child-focused PSAs, I knew I wanted to keep it positive and inspirational… Then I stumbled upon the idea of “Let”s have a conversation, just us adults.” Which felt very strong in getting attention, while setting the focus on our target audience, the adults. Once we’d settled on our focus, we jotted down various ideas of child potential and innocence, the root of why we have children and do our best in raising them to be good human beings, and from there we wrote this beautiful script.

Having only 48 hours isn”t much time, so we set out filming b-roll of children playing at Zilker park. We were sure to get releases from their parents so everything was legal and respectful. Producing a film on this very sensitive topic makes it pretty hard to get footage of kids. But I promised I would keep the kids faces out of the film.

Framing artistic and balanced compositions while not showing kids faces isn”t easy, but I think we pulled it off pretty well. I also filmed our friend’s children, choosing to show their faces as their parents were okay with it. I feel that their faces and delightful expressions really add to the emotion of the spot. Most people don’t notice that they only see two kids faces the entire spot, they walk away feeling like they actually saw a bunch of kids. So I think we accomplished that fine line between privacy and intimacy that we were hoping for.

The studio shoot came together brilliantly. Using our iPad as a teleprompter, real-life CASA volunteer Jennifer C. did a wonderful job expressing the emotion of the script without pandering to our adult target audience. I will admit, the camera loves Jennifer under the lighting we used for this shoot. It really couldn’t have worked out better for a no-budget, 48 commercial production.

In the end, we produced a spot in less than two-days(I slept Friday night, and slept in Saturday, a rarity for a 48hr…) that the administration at CASA absolutely loves. Although we didn’t win the film-festival, we’re extremely proud to have helped a worthy non-profit focus their complex voice down to a very powerful 3:30 video for marketing and awareness.

Music by FNDMNTL – Impatient for Toast
Thank you to Dany (sorce) Gagnon for releasing his beautiful song for this cause.

Here’s our interview as we turned in our film, I clearly look tired… 🙂

Work: Bart Durham Law

Durham is one of the most successful and trusted law offices in the Nashville area. Part of “the fame” that Bart’s law offices have garnered is very much due to a constant and always new advertising campaign produced by Apple Productions of San Antonio. While the campaigns have remained consistent in style, Bart understands television as a medium and has allowed and even championed the campaign of at least 6 new spots per year.

As a package deal, Apple and I spend a one and a half week period producing half-a-dozen creative “slice of life” spots. This means that we’re shooting while “scripting” during each day-long shooting schedule. The locations are locked and the talent has been picked, but the actual client’s injury story VO and the actual day-shoots are roughly completely un-scripted until that shooting day. This fast-paced production style trained me to think fast on set with both camera and blocking.

Below are just a few of the creative spots I’ve helped produce under Apple Productions for Bart Durham as both cinematographer and editor.


Work: Wilcox Furniture

Wilcox furniture offers fine quality furnishings to the Corpus Christi area. Each month Wilcox would have us produce a new commercial highlighting different sales items and specials.

Wilcox had a new spot created each month. Their budget allowed for a half-day shoot with the talent and another day for the keying and motion-graphics production. They’d send photos of the furniture specials for that month and a name for the sale. I’d get to do everything else.

Because Wilcox had a smaller television budget, I had the pleasure of writing, directing, and editing their spots.
Below are just a few spots I produced for them.

 


 

Spec: Rockin’ Green Soap

A close family friend of mine found herself managing a start-up company manufacturing a safe and natural diaper detergent for cloth baby diapers. After learning about the company and their all natural, baby-safe, product I decided to produce a spec infomercial to better inform caring mothers of the issues they’ve most likely encountered while using normal laundry detergent, while also sharing with them the benefits of choosing an all-natural detergent like Rockin’ Green.

At the time, they only had this video demonstrating their product:

 

I felt I could do better in promoting their product and decided on a cheeky infomercial akin to the very famous Oxy-clean infomercials we’ve all seen before. (RIP Billy Mays)

After roughly three days of research and brainstorming, I wrote a light-hearted script I was happy with that did a good job of simplifying the product benefits, along with clearly and simply informing customers on why a natural detergent would improve the lives of mothers who choose cloth diapers for their baby.

With my HDSLR and my green screen in hand, I asked my friend Hilton to star in this production as he has the best Australian accent of any of my friends. I borrowed another friend’s game room as a make-shift studio and filmed both a wide and a close-up of the script. Keying out the green background while masking and protecting the green product bags, I then added various graphics and text in After Effects to accompany my script and further demonstrate the various product benefits.

 

 

Regardless of not making the spec sale, I think this is a great example of clear and simple copy demonstrating the benefits of a new and somewhat hard to communicate product. Considering the entire concept and production all happened within a week, I think this is a pretty decent spot for one guy and his camera.

Hope you like it!

And if you do use cloth diapers. Consider checking out RockinGreenSoap.com

Family Matters: As Days Go By [filmmakingfrenzy]

Alamo Drafthouse Filmfrenzy

The Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest teamed up for “Film-making Frenzy”, a local Austin film competition. This competition focused squarely on remaking a television show as a movie. For this short I teamed up with Comedia-A-Go-Go, a comedic sketch group from San Antonio. They developed the brilliant idea of remaking “Family Matters” into a Michael Bay Bad Boys styled blockbuster. I was happy they sought me out as director for this film. It’s always nice to work with others who respect your work and they knew they wanted lots of high-action moving camera. I used everything; dollies, jibs, and steadicam on this short. I really enjoyed doing the special effects to turn a photo of a house into a very Bay-like explosion in the end. Please enjoy.

No Man’s Land [48hr]

48 Hour Film Project: Film de Femme

This was my first local film competition. I drew the genre of “Film de Femme”, which means that the film must have a strong female lead. I’ve always loved films about post-apocalyptic society and decided that the best “Film de Femme” would be one that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where men have died off, leaving only sexually frustrated women and their clones… But what would happen if these friendly women discovered that there was ONE man left? Would society again fall? Watch to find out!