After working with Ronald on his feature Good Feels on Wheels, I again teamed up to gaffe his lighting for this fun short. This one was tougher than it looked because most of the location rink lights weren’t reliable since they were controlled by music so I had the pleasure of completely lighting this colorful rink. This one was a blast to light and we all had a lot of fun.
This short also called for some police badges so I modified a police badge model and added individual character names, then 3d printed and spray-painted these GOLD! They ended up very cool looking and reflective. Totally passed for real badges on screen.
3d printed split diopter mount
We also needed a split diopter for one of the more important shots in the story, but the DP wasn’t able to obtain a split diopter mount in time for the shoot so I custom designed and printed this beauty. It uses three bolts to mount/center on the lens barrel and the split diopter snaps in tight and secure while being easy to rotate. This was a pretty fun little problem to solve that salvaged one of the more important shots in the short.
3d printed dutch roller
Another necessary shot from the short required a dutch roll from portrait to landscape. This isn’t easily done as the camera, no matter its shape/size, must rotate exactly around the center of the image sensor. For this I custom designed a dutch roller specifically for the DP’s particular camera.
Wall breaker box prop
Another scene required the switching of a breaker box in a particular location on set. This breaker box didn’t exist so… I made one. This was a home depot run and was made more ‘real’ by having the rest of the team cover it in stickers. Most people on set didn’t even know this was a prop!
Good Feels is a darling indie feature written, directed, and starring Ronald Short, a dear friend here in Austin. I had the pleasure of gaffing for this very fun project. Gaffing is the job that turns “make it look like sunset” into actual lighting setups on set.
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?”
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…
When my friends decided to produce their own feature film…
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.
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? :P), 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…
Special thanks to Amanda for help in finding the yoga studio, and Bettye Jo Shyrock for playing an awesome scooter/yogurt enthusiast.
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… 🙂
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.
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!
For my second short film I enlisted my brother’s “acting” ability. We made this short in one afternoon. The theme of “jealousy” seemed to allow for so many story ideas, I ended up going with one of planned obsolescence and consumerism having an affect on out-modded technology. I wanted to give life to an inanimate object to experiment with what a “character” really is. In the end the short turned out okay, and looking back I’ll always laugh at the ridiculous nature of this short. (Thank goodness my brother was willing to embarrass himself…) Enjoy.
My first film competition video. I wanted to see how much emotion I could convey without any dialogue. This is my throwback to the silent-film era. For this competition themed “memories”, I landed on a concept of an old man (played by yours truly while the camera was on a tripod) patiently growing a very special rose in commemoration of his 50th wedding anniversary. It is intentionally slow-paced in order to force the viewer to really consider how long life can be when missing someone you love.