Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
So we’re very slowly editing The Dungeon Master - meanwhile, we keep getting pulled away for other projects. And creating new ones for ourselves.
While I was working on something in New York last week, I visited a friend and he asked me for details about Dungeon Master. I told him he should check out this blog and he said, “No, I’ve read the blog, I mean the basic stuff - like...how long is it?”
Which made me realize that perhaps we have neglected some of the most fundamental questions about this project. Obviously, we don’t want to give the actual story away (we’re hoping some of you will come out to festivals and see it), but we also don’t want to be too tightlipped. We started this blog because we realized that we would love it if filmmakers whose work we admired talked more openly about the actual craft - sometimes it seems like Hollywood is so damn insecure that it doesn’t want people to know what goes into making movies.
Or maybe this stuff is just incredibly boring.
Whatever...we’ll keep writing about it anyway.
So how long should a short film be? There are all sorts of technical definitions of a short - Cannes only allows under 15 minutes - but usually a short film is anything under an hour. Our first one, Irish Twins, was 20 minutes long.
Which was kind of a mistake.
Once we started going to festivals, we came to a very basic, mathematical conclusion: because they tend to program short films in blocks of two hours, for every 20-minute short that gets accepted into a program, there are four 5-minute shorts accepted. Or two 10-minute shorts. Or ten 2-minute shorts. You get the idea.
On really basic level, you make it harder for more people to see your film the longer it gets.
Simple, I know. But it didn’t occur to us. Like a lot of first time filmmakers, we tried to make something that resembled a feature as much as possible, which meant it kept getting longer and longer.
There are all sorts of tastes out there: some festivals want mind-bending experimental films, others want sweet comedies, some want children’s films, or only documentaries...
But if you’re a long short, then you’re putting a given festival’s taste on the line: they have to love your long film more than they even kind of like a whole group of shorter ones. But if your film is only 2 minutes long, it’s no skin of their back to include it and see if people respond to it.
Which is why comedy shorts under 5 minutes play a gazillion festivals. If you want a lot of people to see your movie, make it 30 seconds long, and really, really funny.
On the flip side, a lot of 40 minute dramas get nominated for Academy Awards.
So it all depends on what you want. Shiloh and I want people to watch our movies as a cinematic experience - not something they could just see on TV. Which means more than a comedy skit, but less than an epic. Something that feels like you should see it in a theater. Preferably with us there. So we can have a drink with you afterwards.
Our goal is to keep Dungeon Master at - or hopefully under - 10 minutes.
How do we do that?
The rule of thumb is that a page of a screenplay is a minute of screen time. And it usually holds true. But you also learn exceptions to this rule.
Shiloh and I tend towards fast dialogue: with quick pacing, and characters cutting off each other’s lines. So Dungeon Master was a 13 page script, and we figured that should end up just around 10 minutes.
Then again, we told our actors to feel free to improvise. And when your cast includes someone like Chris Wylde, that means a lot of improvising. There was one scene - 2 pages long - that he, Adam Busch, and Alexandra Barreto kept riffing on. They didn’t do a single take the same. Which was awesome, but our first cut of the scene was 3 1/2 minutes long.
And then even more complicated is the process of visualization, an area where Shiloh and I work really well as a team to make everything way too long.
This is an oversimplification, but I tend to think in terms of dialogue and character beats while Shiloh tends to think in events and visual dramatizations.
Here’s a good example. A major turning point in Irish Twins is when the character I played, Michael, is getting confronted in a bar. He gets punched in the face - in the process accidentally breaking the urn filled with his dad’s ashes.
So in the script the exchange read like this:
You gonna call him?
SHMACK. Danny HITS him across the face. Michael stays on his feet, barely.
Ok, come on, get out of here!
Danny holds a finger up to him.
Not a word, Murphy. This is justice.
You gonna call him?
Michael holds up his phone. He DROPS it to the GROUND.
If that's how you really feel, how
about the other --
SHMACK, he's hit again. This time, the punch sends him into
the bar, knocking over the URN and SMASHING it. Ashes FLY
into the air and SPILL all over the bar.
That’s it. Following the rule of thumb, that’s not even half a page and should be no longer than half a minute in the movie.
I was primarily interested in the line that Michael says before he gets hit. It’s an important callback to an earlier line - he’s repeating something his father used to say. Which I thought was essential before he breaks his father’s urn. For me, the moment was all about that line, and so when we were doing the scene, I actually completed the whole phrase: “how about the other cheek?” before getting punched again.
Shiloh was more interested in the visual action of the urn breaking.
When we were story-boarding and creating our shot list Shiloh took one look at this moment and said, “Rider, this is the moment in our story. This is what turns it all around for Michael. The urn can't just break on the bar. We need ashes flying through the air like snow, we need him on the ground - literally hitting his lowest point.”
And I knew he was right. So we re-staged it, and we shot it that way. We used slow motion and even rented a special spinning-fan camera mount to be able to throw ashes directly onto the lens.
And then, after all was said and done, we showed our rough cut to some folks. They pointed to this moment and said, “Indulgent.”
Which meant, too long.
So we shortened it again in editing.
This whole tug and pull process resulted in something that we’re both happy with.
Which is about a minute long.
Here it is in the finished film.
We’ve been going through a lot of the same back and forth with Dungeon Master. You may have noticed that a lot of our entries on this blog have been about our shoot up in Los Padres National Forest. That shoot involved a whole bunch of make-up effects, costumes, weapons, set construction, prosthetics, and steadi-cam work. It was one long day. It consumed most of our energy, was a full 2/3 of our budget, and took up all our pre-production time.
Guess how much of the script it is?
Right now, that sequence is only a minute and a half in the edit.
We’ll keep editing. It will probably end up only being a minute of the film.
But hopefully...a really cool minute.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
So the independent filmmaking world has been totally changed by the DSLR video revolution and I think for the better, but we went with the RED anyway - here's a little blogg-age about what happened.
A little disclaimer: I'm not an expert on these techie things - I think I know enough to get by, and please feel free to tell me if I'm wrong on anything - I know you techie types like doing that. ;)
For those of you who haven't heard this whole deal: Canon came out with a camera last year, I think last year, called the 5D, it's DSLR or "Digital Single Lens Reflective" and it had a little feature in there where you had the option to shoot high definition video.
Side note: I own this camera for my still photography, so it seemed like the cheapest way to go, use my camera to shoot the short...
So, Canon admits that they put the video capability on there mostly for photo journalists at first as an afterthought (not sure how true that is), so some journalist could shoot off some video on the fly in a gun battle or something. At first the controls were all automatic and you had very little options, but it looked REALLY GOOD and people starting using their cameras to shoot films - sometimes shooting with the lens halfway in the mount of the camera body so they could manually adjust the aperture. Pretty crazy.
Here's the video that made shockwaves, so I've been told.
I think this is a pretty lame short - pretty people running around and looking pouty? He's late to pick her up, even with the helicopter? It was all a dream, but he still has to run out the door at the end? And who buys a girl like that sunflowers...come on man! - But it LOOKS amazing, and this video got a lot of people super jazzed and out shooting. Maybe cause we all said, "I can do better than that." This Youtube link isn't in HD though, but you get the idea. If you really care you can search the web for his website. But you won't. Ha.
Eventually, Canon was kind enough to release a firmware update so that the camera is now a full functioning HD video camera that can rival the RED. Onto that now...
So those of you who haven't heard of the RED before: It's the camera that rocked the filmmaking world about 3 or 4 years ago. It's a SUPER high definition video camera that was made from the ground up to be friendly to film crews. It is adaptable to lots of different lenses it's been used to shoot lots of feature films and the major thing is it is Higher Def than High Def. What!? Higher than High Def?!
So high def can be broken down in to Pixels right? If any of you have bought a T.V. in the past couple years you've probably come across the Scruffy Dude whining at you in Best Buy, "Oh, man, you just got to get 1080p, you just got to. Only way bro."
And as a new owner of a BlueRay / H.D.T.V. combo - yeah, listen to Scruffy Dude. If you are a visual junkie like me, at least. Oh, man - watching "Contact" will change your life: "They should have sent a poet..." Damn straight.
Sorry - the reason I bring all this up, is 'cause high def is 1920 x 1080 - that's pixels vertical by pixels horizontal, or visa versa - whatever! That's the size of High Def video, right? But the RED captures images at over 4000 pixels across by 2000-something vertical, so there isn't even anyway to display the amount of information you capture with the RED - the technology hasn't caught up to display something like that yet! There is so much information there. They are HUGE files!
So, Rider and Alex and I had many discussions about whether or not to shoot with the 5D DSLR or shoot with the RED.
We ended up having a camera test at Movieola with our Director of Photography, Yoram Astrakhan and Producer Mong Chan to play with a DSLR - here's a little clip:
It's mostly making Alex dance around in front of the camera. Which was fun. The guys at Movieola were super cool and patient with us.
During our test we discovered that there was no easy way to have a monitor off the camera, a "video village" for us to watch the filming. Also there isn't a viewfinder, which Yoram wasn't too happy about. You have to look at the back of the camera to check focus - not super reliable...hmm, couple strikes for the DSLR...
The topper was that the cost wasn't that much of a difference - we still had to rent lenses' and a rig for my 5D so it was only a couple hundred bucks more to go with the RED.
So that's what we did and now we are dealing with these HUGE files, but I think it was worth it. Our two 1st Assistant Camera men, Gunnar and Steve knew the RED well and made it all work smoothly - thanks guys.
I think a major part of it too was we realized as this project started to come together that we had a lot of great stuff going for us, the makeup and special effects and wardrobe were looking amazing, the casting and quality of the actors we had - the kick ass crew jumping on board and great locations - it just seemed that we should go with a system that had some history behind it of quality and reliability. And that was with the RED.
Sorry, little camera of mine.
Our next adventure in film making will be with the 5D, I'm sure.
(Whisper) My camera's in the room with me right now so I have to say that...
Sunday, April 18, 2010
So filming is all done, we are in the process now of dealing with the huge files from the RED camera and working on editing our little film but I thought it's be a good time to talk about our last night of filming.
We shot in my studio / living space downtown - it's a good amount of space, plenty for me and whenever I have a photo shoot I can push everything to one side and take me pictures no problem. And we don't need no permits in here.
Once we got 25 people in here with grip and lights and camera - it felt like Honey I Blew Up The Kids...or Honey I Shrunk The Loft...and the crew, we were the kids - it felt small alright.
We shot everything one way and then had to clear everyone out of the other side of the loft, it was a dance of people, actors and equipment, and I hope we don't see a couple C-Stands in the background of some shots.
We hauled in at 5pm on, I think it was a Saturday, yeah - we had to load everything from the front door - as the security guard at the front desk told us. We had A LOT of stuff and soon after we started shooting that security guard, Anthony - real scary looking guy :
Ohh, I have a picture:
Chris Wylde, Chad Crone and Travis Shuldt listen to a goblin.
You have to point a lot if you direct. Yoram Astrakhan - our awesome Director of Photography and real trooper.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Thursday, April 1, 2010