The Right Gear For the Right Job

Brett at SAFILMIt never fails.  In every screening we have, during the Q&A session I get asked the same question.  Well, two questions if one of our favorite actors, Ernie, is in the audience.  But the question I always get is, “What camera did you use?”  I used to answer the question by telling the audience member the make and model of our camera.  Early on during the Ponderous years, one audience member thought we used more than one camera because the shots looked so different from time to time.  But we really did use just the Canon XL2 for the entire shoot.  This only goes to show the inexperience we had in lighting, aperture, and even color balancing and grading.

But in recent years I have stopped telling people outright what camera we used and simply tell them, whether they liked it or not, “Don’t praise the camera or condemn it.  Because the look of the film falls squarely on the person using it.”  If it looks great, it’s the cameraman, if it’s crap, it’s the cameraman.  I learned early on that a well-lit scene shot on an old 1980’s VHS camcorder looks a hell of a lot better than a horribly lit scene shot in 4K. Of course, I can go on quite a rant about the illogical and superficial differences between DV and HD and even 4K and explain the philosophical bullshit that marketing departments use to market cameras.  But then you can’t convert the faithful, so maybe another time.

With almost 40 feature films, countless music videos, short films and commercials under my belt, the question is what equipment do we use to get what we do?  Early on, as long as I had a something to record a movie with, I could make a movie.  My first camera was a VHS camcorder, Graduation Walkthen an 8mm camera, followed by a digital 8mm camera, before finally moving to a Canon XL1, then XL1-S, then back to an XL1, before going to an XL2.  Then, I shot on the Canon XL2 until finally being dragged, kicking and screaming into the world of DSLRs where I found the incredible world of interchangeable lenses with the Canon T3i.  Finally, I moved to the Panasonic G7 which shoots in 4K, which is where I now reside.  More on why I use that camera later.  For now, let’s touch on the very basic idea and philosophy of my style of shooting before delving into the gear itself.

I’ve never had much to shoot a film.  But it never stopped me from making them, so long as I had a camera.  Hell, I even created our internet series War Dawgz without a video camera, just a still camera, some Legos, a phone line and editing software.  For lighting we’ve used everything from LED lights to nice soft-boxes all the way to car headlights f_98499_1.1and those 1 Million watt yellow spotlights you plug into car cigarette lighters.  And yes, we’ve been given shit about our lighting.  We get it.  Our early lighting sucks!  But the lesson I’m trying to teach you, is while we had crappy lighting in a lot of our stuff, all it would have taken was a few more minutes and maybe a few more bucks (not much at all) to take the time and energy to light scenes properly.  I was just always in such a rush that you would often hear this exchange:

“Hey, Brett!  How’s the lighting?”

“Can you see the actors?”

“Yes.”

“Then fucking action!”

So take the few extra minutes, that we didn’t, to pay a little more attention to lighting and you can do what we did and make a much, much better film.  It’s not the money, it’s the talent and the drive. If you’re talented, and above all, a little more patient than I was, then you can make some incredible films using the same techniques on the same budget we did, just better because you took 5 minutes to set the lights up.

Enough preaching, now let’s discuss our gear!

The Camera

Nowadays, I have two Panasonic G7s.  They shoot in 4K.  They have interchangeable lenses.  And they are great, incredible cameras.  Don’t let people bitch to you about compression and bit rates and all of that.  In the end, it doesn’t matter.  I once had a 71UxWUYqmcL._SX425_Hollywood distributor buy one of our films and ask for our HD master.  We told them we shot it in DV.  They explained that they thought we had shot it in HD.  So when a film company that is used to the highest quality of film can’t tell that a film was shot in DV and not HD, it’s evident to me, that formats are really being used as a floodgate to limit people from making and distributing their films and allowing the powers that be to keep their power.

So don’t let all of that noise keep you from making a movie because you don’t have the latest 4.6K or 8K cinema camera.  Especially if you’re going to Hulu, Amazon Prime or YouTube.  By the time they finish compressing it and streaming it, nowadays it’s still getting to you in HD.  Even if it is 4K, it’s compressed. So make your film now and worry about resolution later.  Now granted 4K is great to start with because if you edit in 1080, you can punch in and basically reshoot your film in post!  So keep that in mind when deciding on your gear.

But I use two Panasonic G7s rather than spending the same amount on a GH4 or spending a bit more for a GH5 because guess what, now I’ve got 2!  Not just because now I can have a multiple angle shoot, which helps with continuity in editing, but if something happens to one of the cameras in the middle of an important shoot (Knock on wood), the whole day isn’t blown.  Granted, I have a Best Buy card ready to go in such emergencies, but with two cameras, your hedging your bets and helping yourself out in so many ways.  Our films Blow A Kiss and Serial Rabbit V were both shot on the G7. And I’m very happy with the way they both turned out.

Z-Camera-E1-review
Crowdfunded E1 Camera

In addition to these main primary cameras, I have also picked up a small E1 Z Camera, which is a small 4K camera with interchangeable lenses.  It’s great for fitting into tight spots and as a third camera, maybe for behind the scenes, etc.

We also have a single Sony ActionCam, which is basically a cheaper GoPro.

Lenses

To go along with the cameras, we have a particular set of lenses and one on our wish list.  Now, shooting in Micro Four Thirds, you may find yourself a bit limited with crop factors and lens quality, blah, blah, blah.  But with the right set of lenses you can still get exactly the shot you need, you may just need to move the camera back a bit further than you would for other cameras.  Yes, I know there are other technical reasons, but we’re talking about just capturing an image and making a movie with little to no money, so get that elitist attitude out of your head, or you’ll never finish even a short film.

To start, I have the kit lens, a 14-42mm lens.  This was my standard lens for a long time.  It gave me enough variety that I didn’t have to be switching lenses all the time.  And since I do a lot of handheld shots, I would often stay on the 14mm to reduce the shakiness, then when I slid the camera onto a tripod, I could use the 42mm for conversations, saving time by not having to switch the lenses every five minutes.

At the time of purchase, I also bought a 40-150mm. This lens could probably be considered a kit lens because when the G7 first came out, this was an optional lens for _1030341the camera.  I don’t use this lens very often, but use it when it’s appropriate.  It gives an incredible depth of field and I can put a very large distance between me and my subject and draw out a nice long walk.  Our opening shot of Blow A Kiss was shot on this camera, where our actress Dane was at the end of a long country road, walking, dragging a shotgun behind her.  You can see the shot in the trailer on YouTube.  She walked for a good two to three minutes and we were able to get the whole walk in camera as she grew very little with every step.  This lens allowed us to compress that space and seem like that walk consisted of a few dozen football fields.

Now, from my days with the Canon T3i, I learned to absolutely love my Nifty Fifty, a 50mm lens that with the Canon’s crop factor, was the equivalent of a 35mm lens which closely mimics the human eye.  Sometimes I wish I could have shot an entire film with my Nifty Fifty.  With the crops factor on the G7, there is no Nifty Fifty, though.  The crop on it doubles your focal length, so to achieve the look of the Nifty Fifty, you need a 25mm.  This was my next purchase.  This is my go-to lens nowadays for all dialogue scenes.  It has an f stop of 1.8 which allows for not only a beautiful depth of field, but also extremely low light shooting, at least lower than anything my other lenses are capable of.

SLR_Magic_8mm_f4My last lens is an 8mm lens from SLR Magic.  This lens is not for everything, but it is beautiful in its own right. It can open up a very small room to look like a cavern, it can get incredible macro and close up shots, and it’s captures amazing wide angles without the painful and ugly fisheye that comes with so many other lenses with low focal lengths.

These lenses make up my arsenal.  When it eventually goes on sale, I plan to get a 42.5mm lens which I probably won’t even use much in my filming but will instead use as a great portrait lens for still photography.  Speaking of sales, my 8mm and 25mm were both purchased at almost 50% off while on sale at B & H Photo Video.  If you are not on their mailing list, I suggest either joining, or visiting their site daily for their Deal Zone.  You’ll find some incredible buys! Just be certain to have a credit card or some money set aside for the surprise money saving buys!

Lights

9d17cb2e-5f59-4f80-a09d-6aa277a8b71d_1.f65ba6e5b0b8b83f184be09c822b33a4As I mentioned, before we had used everything from headlights to 500W Halogen work lamps you get at Walmart for $15.  The work lights could flood a room full of brilliant light.  Harsh light, but light nonetheless.  With a white sheet or some other type of diffusion, you can turn this harsh light into nice even soft light.  Unless you’re shooting a film noire, in which case you’ll probably want all that hard light and hard shadows.

Westcott_411_uLite_Constant_Light_with_1405100125000_610080I eventually bought three soft boxes that had 500W incandescent light bulbs and fell in love with them. Eventually, though I did put the wrong light bulbs in the wrong softbox and melted one of them.  Nothing like being in the middle of a shoot and seeing and smelling smoke.  But we were able to use the hell out of my remaining soft boxes all the way through Blow A Kiss.  I wound up having one favorite softbox and used it until our LED purchases.  And for $100, the Westcott 20″ uLite was well worth the money, almost a steal.  It’s currently discontinued, but find the current equivalent. It’s highly recommend these puppies.  Unless you have the money to splurge on some LEDs.  Now, they are much less expensive today than they were a couple years ago.  I know have 7.  My first purchase aputure_hr672s_amaran_hr672d_daylight_led_1431444024000_1146127were two Apature LED lgihts, the Amaran HR672S and the H198C.  I bought these on sale through B & H and at the same time bought a Neewer LED light at the same time.  It wasn’t my favorite, but got used on ever set.  The Apatures were king and are still my go-to lights.  The H198C can be handheld and has saved time numerous times by just having a PA or actor hold a light just off camera to kill a shadow or lighten up an effect.  I was also able to snag a 3 LED light kit for a little over $100.  The lights aren’t very good and the batteries never stay in, but it came with 3 light stands and a carry case which I now utilize on every shoot and consider well worth the expense.

Recently B & H had a sale on a Dracast LED500 light and I picked it up for a song and it is slowly becoming my favorite.  It seems almost to be an equivalent of my favorite 1513874174000_1367519Apature with one exception.  On a recent shoot for my day job, I grabbed my Dracast and one battery and headed out in the morning.  On set, I realized that the LED took two batteries.  But I only had the one.  To my surprise, it didn’t matter.  I attached the one battery and it still worked.  When I got home that night, I tried the same with my Apature, but it didn’t work.

SAM_0026In addition to these lights I have three collapsable reflectors.  These are not only wonderful but absolutely necessary if you’re shooting car scenes during the day, or shooting characters under a tree or in any kind of shadow with a fully sun lit background. When an actor is in shadow and the background behind them is in full sunlight, either the actor is going to be way too dark, or the background is going to be blown out.  So bring out these reflectors to bounce sunlight back into the car, or onto the tree dweller’s face and even out the ratio of sunlight and shadow.

Impact_BGC_CBG_57_Collapsible_Background_5_1268838075000_541115I also have an Impact 5’x7′ collapsable green screen (blue on the other side).  I don’t know if this fits under lights, but it has come in handy on several occasions.  It gives a wonderful key and is easy to set up.  It may take you about 3 weeks to figure out how exactly to get it back into it’s carrying case, but once you do, it becomes second nature and it will impress all of your PAs and producers when you’re able to do it in three seconds.

AUDIO

Many people will tell you that the most important part of your film is the audio. And these people would be absolutely right. The top three issues with my films in the past have been acting, lighting and audio.  And I’d certainly put audio on the top of the list.  So much so that I’ve often wanted to just shoot a silent film, or a film with simply no dialogue so that I wouldn’t have to worry about on-set dialogue recording.  It’s a major pain in the ass and odds are you’re just going to have to loop it anyway.  75% of Hollywood audio is looped, so what kind of luck do you expect to get with little to no budget?

We’ve got to try anyway, though, right?  When we had our Canon XL2 we bought a Rode IMG_8268NTG2 shotgun microphone that we ran directly into the XLR ports of the camcorder.  Still have it today.  As soon as we went to DSLRs, we had to figure out a different way to record our audio.  I’ve always preferred XLR cables so patching into the DSLR with a mini-plug seemed a step backward.  Plus our microphones needed phantom power, so we had to get a small portable recorder.  The go to is the Zoom H4n, but when trying to save every dollar I can, I wound up going with the TASCAM DR-40.  It was about $50-80 cheaper and I’m more than happy with its 5+ years of use I’ve already gotten out of it.

1316095620000_821259The TASCAM allows two XLR inputs, both phantom power.  So if I’m conducting a simple interview, I can plug my two XLR lavs into it and get great sound.  But while on sets, I typically run my shotgun microphone into the TASCAM, and now that I have a Saramonic UWMIC9 RX9 Wireless Microphone set which has two transmitters going into one receiver, I can plug into the other channel, running stereo, so Mic 1 goes on the left channel and Mic 2 goes on the right.

Out shotgun microphone goes into the TASCAM, but what about connecting that mic to the recorder?  Well, of course we use XLR cables, but what about the boom pole?  Well, we splurged $60 when B&H had a Telescoping boom pole with integrated XLR cable running through the pole on sale, but before that, for years, we went on the cheap!  We went down, got a monopod from Walmart for $15 and just screwed on the shock mount that came with the microphone.

1497387331000_1331924I also purchased a TASCAM DR-10 which is a self contained lav microphone unit.  It looks like a wireless mic, but the unit itself is actually a recorder, so no transmitting is necessary.  Since peaking is an issue, you can relax as it has dual recording mode, so it records one version of the audio at regular level, and a second at a much lower level, so if someone peaks the first audio track, your backup audio will be low enough not to be troubled by the peaking.

Finally, I have a pair of headphones.  After all, what point is all of that audio if you forget to check it on the set to see if it actually came through!

Of course, with all of this equipment, you’re going to need power, so get yourself plenty of batteries; AAA, AA, NPFs, extension cords, adapters, surge protectors, splitters, if it puts off power, get it.  You’ll find yourself in need of it at some point.

OTHER GEAR

Other than all of this necessary gear, I’ve also got a few perks that really add a hell of a lot of production value to your film.  The first being more of a necessity than a perk, but you could technically make a movie without it, so I’m sticking it here and that’s your tripod.  You don’t want to spend less than $100 on a good tripod. You can get away with one of those $25 ones from Walmart, but there is nothing better than a good tripod with a fluid head.

ivation_rl02setbl_rig_system_for_dslr_1248674Another helpful tool is a rig.  You can probably make one of these yourself, but go ahead and splurge a little on a good one if you can. If you’ve got a DSLR and are shooting handheld, you will absolutely NEED one of these.  Otherwise your shots will be shaky and bumpy as hell.

13312708_10210130410923255_1515057557439938110_nFor added production value, we bought a jib several years ago for about $300.  It was a pain in the ass to set up and I always had the intention of using it more, but when I got on set, set everything up and was finally ready to shoot, I’d look at the jib and think, ugh nevermind. Plus, now that we have a gimbal, I can accomplish basically the same thing without it by just holding it over my head and making the same move and have a bit more control over my shot.  So you may not need one if you’re ingenious and a bit dexterous.

feiyu_a2000_3_axis_gimbal_1500997031000_1350273In regards to the gimbal, get one!  They are a bit pricey but so worth it.  We have a Feiyu A2000 3-axis Gimbal with handles.  They may be a pain in the ass to balance sometimes, but that’s where having two G7s helps out a lot. While shooting, I have one G7 set up on the gimbal and one on the tripod.  This way I can go back and forth between the two, save time and not have to grumble about balancing or setting it all up.

Then of course there are the dolly and tracks. For years we had a homemade doll track made with 12’ PVC pipes and a platform made out of skateboard wheels and 2x4s.  But we hardly ever used it because transporting it was a bitch.  Often after loading up the whole car, I’d look at it and just leave the tracks behind because there was either no room, or it didn’t seem like it was worth cramming it in the car.  Even if you have a truck, it hangs out of the bed of the truck about 4-6’.  But now, we purchased a great dolly and tracks kit.  The tracks are metal and break down into 6 4’ tracks and fit in a nice carrying case.  It takes a bit of time to assemble, but for the production value you get out of it, it’s worth the five minutes of setup.

Finally, you’ll need a handful of other things like a box cutter, sharpies, c-47s, duct tape, gaffers tape and a list of things you’ll learn that you need on your sets.

SILLY STUFF YOU’LL BE SURPRISED YOU WISH YOU HAD

Here are a couple things you might want to think about getting and why.

Leaf blower – for cars, wind, and other kind of effects that might come up from wind blowing through an actors hair in their car (while shooting on green screen) to blowing dust around.

Airsoft guns –  DO NOT USE REAL GUNS ON SET.  Now I love the Second Amendment, I’m a staunch supporter of it.  I think we should be allowed to own cannons and tanks. But don’t bring them onto your sets. Because, primarily, actors are idiots.  If you bring a small derringer onto set, an actor will somehow manage to get it loaded, and blow their brains out with it.  DO NOT BRING REAL GUNS ON A SET, PERIOD. END OF STORY!

Fake Blood – No matter what kind of movies you shoot, you’ll eventually need some fake blood.  So always keep some on hand. For splatter, you can put some in a spoon and flick it at actors and walls, or they now make blood in little aerosol cans that spray blood like hairspray.  Just keep it room temp.  If it gets warm, it just squirts out instead of sprays.

Fog in a Can – Get some Aerosol Atmosphere.  It looks really good, and saves time and money.  It’s not as good as a Hazer, but keeping a can or two of this in your camera bag will really help out.

Hopefully this list will help you formulate your own filmmaking kit.  These are the items we have now, but remember we started with a single VHS camcorder.  We slowly got to this level.  If you’re lucky enough to have a rich uncle or you’re just a spoiled brat with a buttload of your parent’s money, then go ahead and blow all that unearned cash on tons of gear you’ll never use.  Otherwise, if you’re trying to keep the costs low, pick and choose from this list and only get the items that you think you’ll really need.  Save that money for actors, or sets, or other things you’ll need later.

On a later article, I will cover all of the Software that I use.  Until then, stay bitter, my friends.

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Star Wars is Dead. But…

I was only four when I saw Star Wars from the backseat of car in a drive-in.  I don’t remember much, but I certainly remember the majority of my childhood that was surrounded by the legendary trilogy.  My toys growing up consisted of half Star Wars and half G.I. Joes.  ZjqVpOWwyQklOk, and maybe a few others scattered here and there.  But all in all, my young life revolved around the galaxy far, far away.  I even bonded with my mother as she enjoyed the films and was captured by the magic of lore, as well. Though, I think she was more interested in the romance between hand and Leia than anything else.  In fact, I still owe her $5 for a bet we made as to who would wind up with Leia.  Luke or Han.  Boy, was I wrong on that one!  But to be fair, if you were watching the series historically and as a 7 or 8 year old, then Empire really did show there was something there between Luke and Leia.  I was also certain as a kid that Han was the “other” that Yoda was talking about.

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My love for Star Wars, like all of my other childhood loves, faded with time.  I was never into the comic books or what has become known as the “Expanded Universe.” I did, in high school, read the Zhan trilogy which was supposed to be the official VII-IX.  But I was never interested in all of the other lore and myths that grew from out of the three movies in the form of comic books, video games and novels (canon or not).  In fact, if it weren’t for Star Wars (and eventually Star Trek) I would never have really understood or cared about “canon.”  I’m pretty sure it was something related to Star Wars that taught me what ‘canon’ was. 

I subscribed to the philosophy of my best friend from high school, who once explained the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek as Trek, “requires you to know how the ships flew, what warp technology was, and even how tachyons and warp particles worked.”  Hell, they even had schematics of the Enterprise which shocked and appalled me to find out they had no bathrooms on board (at least in those early years).  But in Star Wars, if you wanted an X-Wing to take off, you just pulled back on that stick and it went up.

The Force was a mystical energy, and Yoda was a wise sage who taught me important life lessons like, “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  If I were to be honest with myself, Yoda is probably the reason I am able to shoot ten feature films in one year.  I learned just as much about morals and ethics from that little green puppet (yes, the puppet, not a computer generated blur of pixels) than I did from Sunday school (where I was picked on and made fun of just as badly as regular school.)

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After graduating high school I really never expected to ever see another Star Wars movie.  I wasn’t one who camped out when Phantom Menace premiered, but I also was one who got caught up in the Han Solo/Greedo debate.  I still had fun with Star Wars, but I couldn’t tell you who manufactured the X-Wing and why the Tie Fighters didn’t have shields.  I’ll leave that to my buddy Jeff.

I was disappointed with the prequels, but I didn’t rage about them.  In fact, as I sat in the theater for Episode III, I actually shed a tear of joy in the opening scene as the two star fighters raged through the opening battle and the faint yet familiar Jedi theme softly played.  I said to myself, this is what I had been waiting 20 years to see.

tdy_or_starwars_150417.today-vid-canonical-featured-desktopFast forward to today, and the epic series that I so loved as a child, sits shattered and torn to pieces.  A young girl who has to go through no training or hardships to learn how to utilize every aspect of the Force and who can battle a trained Sith.  The utter destruction of the character who taught me what the word ‘scoundrel’ means. Even as someone who wasn’t utterly obsessed with Star Wars (my mother would debate that, but I mean in comparison to other fans) but yet loved it so much, I still felt a great disturbance in the Force.  In VIII, I watched the continuation of the destruction through the obliteration of Luke Skywalker. Who and what he was, was turned on its head in an attempt to push a progressive agenda and to push forward the post-modern ideology that has destroyed so many heroes, truths and morals  before it.

Perhaps it is just my mind in some way trying to salvage my memories of the original feelings I had growing up.  Perhaps I’m just trying to be selective in what I choose to believe.  But as I see writer after writer, director after director, destroy what Star Wars was, what it meant to me and to so many others, I have come to the conclusion that the only true Star Wars films, the only tales and timeline that I care about, the only ‘canon’ that exists, to me at least, are those original three movies.  I never cared about hyperdrive lanes or what Darth Vader did in his spare time, all of which you can find the answer to with a quick YouTube search nowadays. I care about the lessons I learned, the heroes I believed in and the choices those characters made that influenced my life in those three films. I’ve learned nothing from any of the films outside of those three. Except maybe how much sand sucks, though I pretty much learned that on my first trip to the beach.

starwarssaga1280_0 I’ll debate open-mindedly whether the prequel trilogy falls inside ‘canon,’ but outside of those, I don’t care.  Never have, never will.  Anything outside of those three (or maybe six) films exist merely as fan films.  That’s it, just fan films.  I would consider Kevin Rubio’s Troops, more ‘canon’ than the latest trilogy. Abiding by that belief, I can respect and honor George Lucas and his vision.  But outside of that, it is merely a money grab made by people who don’t care about the original films, the vision of Lucas and who certainly don’t respect those characters, places, and events…nor the choices and self sacrifices they made, which we learned from as children.

You can argue with me.  You can make your own point and you can have very valid arguments.  But that’s the great thing about Star Wars.  While legally and financially, it belongs to a new empire, which is swallowing up every intellectual property right that exists, the truth is…Star Wars belongs to us…the fans.  We can argue among ourselves if we wish, or we can simply pick and choose what we want to believe is ‘canon.’ And I for one choose to only care about the original three.  All of the rest make no sense, they don’t exist in that same universe of films I grew up on.  The science, the magic, the people, none of it is what I watched in that drive-in almost 40 years ago.  It simply doesn’t match up.  

I’m sure I’ll continue to watch the movies, and they’ll get my $10, but they won’t get my loyalty.  It will simply be me paying to see what someone else’s interpretation of that universe is.  Just because George Lucas sold the rights to Star Wars to an empire, does not mean that they get to choose and decide the shape and future of the Star Wars Universe, because WE do, the fans.  We shape it when we sit at a kitchen table and save an alien civilization as Han Solo in a role playing game, or when we sit on a patio debating midichlorians.  We the fans shape the Star Wars Universe, in each and every one of our own minds.  We decide what is canon, not some film empire that cares more about your $10 than the respect and love you had for the characters you are paying that $10 to see.  325a0__66275215_starwars2_reutersgettySo I tell you, the fans, as a fan, there is hope!  Because these stories are ours.  We can choose to accept canon, or pick and choose.  We decide what is part of the Star Wars mythology.  Because, remember, it is just that, mythology. Stories.  We cannot give that responsibly to the titans of the new empire.  Because it is now a franchise that has the opportunity to bring together the three heroes of every one of those children who grew up in the 70 and 80s, and in many cases, those children’s parents, and instead chooses to kill one of them off and never even have them share a single frame of film with each other.  This franchise disrespects every one of our dreams, every one of our hopes.  And after all, wasn’t that what the original series was about?  Hope?

“The Fast and the Furious” Reminds Us What We’ve Forgotten About Film

Right up front, let me admit, I’ve never been a fan of the Fast and the Furious franchise. Despite being an action buff, up until a few weeks ago, I never really cared for the films. I was right there along side the nitpickers laughing at the runway that ran half the length of Spain.  I chuckled out loud at least five times per movie uttering, “Yup! He’s dead. So very, very dead.” But then, when watching a few of the films as they aired on TBS and TNT in preparation for the release of the latest installment, something happened.

Continue reading ““The Fast and the Furious” Reminds Us What We’ve Forgotten About Film”

Are you ready to subtitle your movie?

Digital distirbution is great for the independent producer.  Of course, there are some downsides as well.  But I’ll cover those in another post soon.  For now, let’s focus on the benefits.  With the click of a button, you can upload your recent masterpiece for all the world to see.  Be it on YouTube, Vimeo, or even iTunes! But if you want to play with the big boys like Netflix or Amazon Prime, then you’re going to have to subtitle your movies. I’m going to tell you how to do that.

Continue reading “Are you ready to subtitle your movie?”

The Price For Finding Me Was Losing You: The Rise of the Workplace Comedy With the Rise of the Working Woman

In the early 1970s, the face of televisions changed with the introduction of a new type of family. The idea of family changed through the decades, starting in the late 40’s with television situational comedies like The Goldbergs, and continuing into the 50’s with shows like Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, and finally to the blended family of the Brady Bunch in the 60’s. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s, particularly with shows produced by MTM Enterprises like the Mary Tyler Moore Show, when a new type of family was introduced to television audiences. Television shows that focused on this new type of family would become megahits of the 1970s and would continue to grow well into the new millennium and become the most predominant family type of television comedy today. If it had not been for the introduction of women into the workforce and the feminist movement throughout the 60’s, then television would never have seen the workplace comedy become a staple of the television landscape.

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It Was Interesting

Imagine you meet a woman in a bar and are lucky enough to take her home with you. She is an incredibly beautiful woman, her perfume intoxicates you and her legs are tan and curve in all the right spots.  When her clothes drop to the floor, you are far from disappointed; you are in bewilderment at the Greek goddess that stands before you in all her glory.  For the next couple of hours you make love to her and it is the most incredible and passionate night of love making you have ever known and will probably ever experience.  Fighting to catch your breath, you look at her and ask her how it was.  She returns your stare and gives a soft smile and says, “It was interesting.”

That’s how it feels when you show a movie that you have put your heart and soul into…and that person looks at you and says, “It was interesting.”

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Plot is Highly Overrated

Perhaps one of the things that makes me a bad filmmaker is my contempt for plot.  Now, I don’t claim that plots are bad. They drive every good story.  But what I will say is that plot drives the unoriginal.  It creates a formula from the start and throws the unexpected out the window.  Once you involve a plot, then the story is a slave to the step by step, paint by numbers devices that we’ve been seeing since we first gazed in awe at the flickering lights being emitted from the magic box or projected onto the silver screen.

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Serial Rabbit 3: In Defense of a Masterpiece

The first thing you probably thought when you read the title was, “Is he joking?  He’s not serious, is he?”  Well, it’s almost ten years since the release of Serial Rabbit 3: Splitting Hares, and I’ve watched this film quite a few times, through editing, re-editing, re-distribution and now preparing it for Amazon Prime.  My feelings on the film have changed throughout the years, from hate to adoration to embarrassment, to feeling it is a misunderstood classic. I’ve learned to self-critique and I can look back at my movies and identify where I went wrong.  And I can look at Serial Rabbit 3, read the title of this article, and honestly say…Yes.  Yes, I am serious.

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