Friday, December 18, 2009

1st Draft is Complete

Well, last night, Travis and I finished the first draft of our latest script. It's pretty long, at 131 pages. Shorter than our first draft of Glory Days, which clocked in at 148 pages, but it's still long nonetheless.

Now, we're off for the holiday break, Travis to Michigan and me to New York (where we're suppose to get hit by a huge snow storm the day we arrive) while our producer reads it and gets back to us.

It needs a lot of work. It is, without a doubt, a rough draft. Neither Travis nor I have even gone through it and read it ourselves. There's a lot of things we've left out for the sake of getting the A story down, a number of things we'd like to change and even a few things we forgot about. But this is what we like to call a "vomit" draft. You're just getting what you can on the page, with a number of things just serving as place holders, i.e. "We know this scene needs to be here but I'm having trouble writing it, so here's the bad version."

Anyway, it's crazy that after having trouble with one script, we can have a first draft of another within six weeks. As great as it is to write that quickly, we realize there's a lot of work to be done. But rewriting is one of my favorite things and scripts only get better. I'm also really excited and interested to see how it is working with our producer. This is the first time it's been start to finish so I'm excited to see where this thing goes.

I realize I haven't been blogging very often but after a long day or night of work and writing, writing MORE isn't exactly what I want to do. So, I've been a little lazy but this whole town has already checked out. Hence the very little news coming out and why it's so quiet.

And now, I'm off to New York tomorrow for two weeks. I'm looking forward to the break, I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of good movies and spending time with the family.

Hope you all have a great holiday. And I'll see you in 2010!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Making Money on YouTube

There's a great article over on USA Today about making money off YouTube. I've embedded the video from the article below and linked to it.

Check out the full article here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

3Questions: Rodney Taylor, ASC - Director of Photography

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Rodney Taylor, a cinematographer who is also a member of the ASC or the American Society of Cinematographers. He has shot a combination of 26 features and shorts, as well as worked as a second unit director of photography on Disturbia and Enough and a camera operator on Carnivale.

A cinematographer collaborates "with a director to tell his story with a camera. I think of myself as a storyteller first. I use light and lenses to create an emotional depth, which contributes to a story and makes the audience feel, live and breathe a story. You need to have a lot of technical knowledge to be a cinematographer, but I focus more on the story. I'm fully invested in the script, the director, and the performances. You need to master the technical aspects early in your development, so it becomes second nature. The crew I work with is absolutely critical in this. I say work with. They are not MY crew. They are most important for me. They allow me the freedom to concentrate on the story. They bring great ideas of their own to the film. The crew has to be highly skilled so you never think about the technical issues you are going to face. They can make anything happen."

HBAD: So, tell us, how did you get your start?

RT: My career is the long winding road. I loved movies when I was a kid, but I didn't know you could work on them. I came from a very small fishing village in North Carolina. Hollywood, are you kidding? I went to college at UNC-Chapel Hill. I was in an introductory television production class. Seemed like it could be fun. I looked into the viewfinder and that was IT. I knew I had to work with cameras. I still didn't think about films. I began my career as a live sports camera operator. ESPN was just beginning and in Chapel Hill there was a hot bed of sports operators. So I began pulling cable for them and worked my way up to shooting. I shot on the sidelines of every sport imaginable for about 6 years. Handheld. Finally, I had done every sport, and wanted to try film.

By then I had become aware of cinematography. I decided I wanted to do that and I felt it would be something I would be learning for the rest of my life. I learn something new every day. I have a new experience on every film I shoot. I left Chapel Hill and attended the workshops in Maine. There I met Levie Isaacks, ASC. He was an instructor there. He was going to move to Los Angeles and I told him I was going to be moving there too. I picked up the phone when I arrived and called Levie. He was beginning some tests at Roger Corman's studio. I began working at Corman's the very next day as a camera assistant. It was amazing. It was like film school.

On the same crew, Janusz Kaminski was the gaffer and Mauro Fiore, ASC was the key grip. The film was Saturday the 14th Strikes Back. So I began working my way up after that with various cinematographers as a camera assistant. It was a great experience. I also began working on IMAX films as a camera assistant. I was an assistant for about 7 years. The whole time between jobs, I would shoot anything I could, usually for free. I continued to learn everything I could. I am self taught. I would go to every seminar I could find and watch the cinematographers I was working with. Eventually I got an opportunity to shoot an IMAX film, Alaska: Spirit of the Wild, with director George Casey, who I had been working with as a camera assistant. In the same year I also met director Darren Stein through George's son Sean. I shot Sparkler, Darren's first feature.

HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?

RT: The most difficult challenge continues to be getting films to shoot. Particularly good films. It is very competitive. I've been very lucky with most of the films I've shot. That Evening Sun was the most recent. It has just been released and it is a very good film. I read the script and felt that I just had to shoot it.

It's very challenging to have a career in film. It can be very difficult to break in and, once you're in, it's a lot of work to keep it going. But there's nothing better than shooting a film. I love it. I have to do it. I think if you don't feel that way about it there are easier ways to make a living.

Another very difficult challenge in this business is being part of your family. The hours are very long and you are often away on location. You have to find a way to balance that out and keep your family as the priority. I have two young daughters. It's a challenge and I think when you are beginning your career this is something you can't even begin to think about. But it will become very important.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to become a cinematographer?

RT: Just know that it is not going to be easy, but if you have the desire and passion to do it you can make it happen. I did it and you can too, but it takes an extraordinary amount of work and commitment. You have to do it yourself. No one is going to do it for you. I continue to work hard to get jobs and study my craft.

You can learn a lot about cinematography by shooting stills. It's a lot cheaper and it's a great way to learn composition, exposure and all the tools you'll need later. The skill set you'll want to know so well, you can forget about it and tell the story. I shot a lot of stills, and I continue shooting stills. It's another passion of mine.

Young filmmakers now are very fortunate. There is a lot of very cheap equipment out there that you can make a film with. Most people have a computer, editing software and a camera of some kind. Use it and learn. It can just be an exercise. Everything you do, doesn't have to go to Sundance. It's important to get the experience.

Learn to collaborate. Filmmaking is a very collaborative art form. If you don't want to collaborate I would recommend painting or other fine arts. At the same time I think it is important to find an art form or creative outlet you can call your own. Exercise your creativity between jobs.

Once you begin working on crews, grab every opportunity you can to shoot absolutely anything on your time off. Get the experience. There is nothing like doing it to learn. A lot of the film crew these days went to film school, and many of them want to make films. You may meet a young director who wants to shoot something over a weekend. No matter how tired you are from the film you are crewing on, just do it.

While you are working on a crew, pay attention to what the cinematographer is doing. You will find that shooting the image is just a small part of the job. The great thing about working on a crew is that you can see what all the other aspects of the job entail. This is something that is hard to learn in film school. The politics of the job. For me, the director absolutely comes first. I'm making their film. But you have to also pay attention to the producers and their needs for the budget. The actors have to be comfortable to make their performances. You work with the production designer and all the other departments so the look is consistent throughout the film. You work with post production and the editor. The list goes on for miles.

Find the most experienced crew you can to work with you. You have to be able to communicate with them. They can contribute so much if they know more than you do. Be comfortable with that.

Watch a lot of films. Study them. See what came before you. I'm surprised sometimes with the lack of film history young filmmakers have. I learned a lot about cinematography by watching films.

A cinematographer doesn't have a style. We shoot for a story and develop THE LOOK for each film.

Cinematographers do not shoot pretty images. We shoot the images that contribute to the story and contribute to the emotion in a film. You have to move the audience.

Meet everyone you can. Always treat everyone with respect. Be nice and personable. Your personality goes a long way in this business. The people you are working with become like a 2nd family. Also the PA on the job now, might be a director in 5 years. I was up for a job recently and my agent said, the director wants to work with you. He said you were really nice to him a few years ago when he drove you to a set.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Look Who's Winning the B.O. Battle of the Sexes

Every morning I wake up and I read my daily "First Take" newsletter sent by The Wrap and I saw an interesting article this morning. Apparently, films with female leads are winning the box office.

From the article: "This is the year of the woman," Paul Dergarabedian, a box-office analyst with, told TheWrap. "Female stars or female-driven movies have been unexpectedly dominant. I mean, Meryl Streep is just as vital today as ever."

Good news for Travis and I. The first script he and I wrote together, and one I'm hoping to direct, is a thriller with a female lead and there's a prod co that is interested in possibly developing and making it. This kind of news could definitely help make that a reality.

I've always thought women were under utilized in films. I'd actually like to see a female version of James Bourne but no one believes that can be successful I guess. Maybe now they'll see women can kick ass too.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Well, these last few weeks have been fun. After installing a new hard drive AND new RAM in my old MacBook Pro, it started to fail on me again on Friday. I/O errors and all sorts of fun. Based on a prognosis from the Apple guy, Travis and I think it may be the motherboard causing all the issues...which...if you're considering replacing the motherboard you might as well buy a new computer.

So I did. I ordered a new MacBook Pro Friday night and it got here today. Now that it's all set up and WORKING you can expect to see somewhat normal posting least until the holidays...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

3Questions: Derek Rydall - Screenwriter, Author

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Derek Rydall, a screenwriter, script consultant and author of two books: I Could've Written a Better Movie Than That!, a screenwriting book and guide on how to master script analysis (and even make a living at it), and There's No Business Like Soul Business: a Spiritual Path to Enlightened Screenwriting, Filmmaking, and Performing Arts. He is also the founder of and

As a professional screenwriter, he has sold or been hired to develop over 20 feature film screenplays and a dozen hours of TV (with studios such as Fox, Universal, Sony, MPCA, UA, Disney, Miramax, and indy producers). As an actor, Derek has starred in several films and TV shows.

HBAD: So, tell us, how did you get your start?

DR: I started out as an actor, starred in a handful of films, TV, etc. then moved into script consulting, which turned into script doctoring, and led to a screenwriting career. The pain of watching script deals fall apart over and over again led me to start writing books, so I would at least have something to show for my time after all was said and done!

HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?

DR: There are a lot of them, but one of the most difficult challenges is writing something -- a script -- which isn't a finished product in itself. If it doesn't become a movie, you can't self-publish it and experience a sense of completion. It's like being an architect and having nothing but blueprints to show for it. Even when you sell, option, or get hired to write scripts -- which I have done many times -- if they're not produced it's a painful thing to go through. Luckily I've had some stuff produced, but there are a lot of scripts sitting on my shelf. It can also be a lonely line of work, unless you have a writing partner, because you spend a lot of time in your cave. I think Starbucks has saved a lot of writers from going insane, because it gives them an excuse to get out of their t-shirt and underwear at get out in public.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to become a screenwriter?

DR: Read lots of scripts, watch lots of movies, read screenwriting books, take screenwriting classes, get together with other aspiring writers and analyze what you're reading and watching -- then write, rewrite, and write some more. A writer writes. If all you want to do is talk about movies, become a critic! Also, save your money and build up a nest egg so that you can work less and write more. I would also encourage you to get lots of feedback on your scripts -- from friends, family, colleagues, and professional consultants. Working with consultants is what took my writing to a level where it finally started selling. I still use them. I figure if the most successful professionals in almost every field turn to consultants to give them feedback and help them succeed, then there must be something to it!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What does a Line Producer do?

There's an interesting article over at, though I'm not sure where, as I found this posted on one of the many message boards I'm a member of. (In fact, I can't believe there actually is a

Anyway, with so much confusion in Hollywood over what a producer actually does, I thought this might help explain what this particular type of producer, a line producer, does.



In a nutshell, Line Producers create a budget (usually several budgets) for a production - then are responsible for keeping to the budget during production. Line Producers are 'on the line' or 'responsible for each line' of the budget. They are involved with all aspects of the production and are directly in contact with the rest of the crew and the producers above. Line Producers typically hire the key crew (along side the director and producers) like the Director of Photography and Production Designer. Line Producers oversee the hiring and approve everyone else the UPM would like to bring onto the project.

A UPM, Unit Production Manager, on the other hand is the person who executes the plan and reports to the Line Producer. They are the person dealing with the daily approval of timecards, reviewing the production reports and approving call sheets. The Producer's Guild of America (PGA) counts many Line Producers among it's membership (but does not officially recognize them) - while the Director's Guild of America (DGA) officially covers the union status of UPM's.

It can be argued that a Line Producer is a non-union UPM, and vice-versa, but there are many shows which have both positions. However, these tend to be larger budget project. There is a fine line of grey which differentiates the two positions. Sometimes they are the same person.

For further clarification, the differences between a Unit Production Manager (UPM) and a Production Manager is nothing - except a little knowledge of Hollywood history. Back when studios had in house production departments, there was a production manager (today they are called production executives) and each project was completed by a 'unit' of crew and cast. Remember, the old studio system contracted talent (cast and crew) to work exclusively for the studio. These 'units' had their own Production Manager. As things evolved, these UPMs became freelance, but never lost the 'Unit' part of their title.

Today the clearest position which technically denotes a 'UPM' vs. a 'PM' is the PM on an additional unit, like second unit. That would be a UPM is it's cleanest definition. However, both first and second unit PM's are likely to keep the full UPM title.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Writing Process: Part 2

As many of you know, my computer was not very nice to me and decided to fail about two weeks ago. Fortunately, I have everything backed up. The computer can turn on by the hard drive is on its last legs and I need to replace it. Which I'm doing...tonight.

Anyway, the timing of this was the worst possible timing ever, as I am right in the middle of writing this treatment for our new script. We had a self-imposed deadline of Thanksgiving break for turning in something to our producer. We really wanted to turn in the treatment I was writing, which was 18 pages long at the 50% mark, but we just couldn't get it done in time. So, on Wednesday morning, Travis sent out a document which had the "treatment" version of the backstory, followed by the scene list that he had spent time putting together just in case I was unable to finish the treatment.

(This is kind of a bummer too because the treatment was really well written, I thought, and now, no one will get to read it. Maybe after we finish the script and it's out there I can post a copy of the half-finished treatment. We'll see.)

Our producer let us know that he would check out the outline and get back to us. Then, I hopped on an 8AM flight to Seattle. We landed at 10. I got a call from Travis saying the CE was trying to set up a call, am I available? I said yeah, sure. Then, we got an email from the producer telling us that we "flat CRUSHED it." He was very pleased with the treatment and couldn't have hoped for a better version of his idea. And he told us to go to script.


For one, he loved what we put together. But for another, it means that we're able to stay on schedule. One of the things we were worried about what making our deadline. If we had other changes to make, or the treatment wasn't 100%, we might not finish a first draft of the script before the Christmas break. In order to even think of having something ready to go out in January, we need to have the first draft done before the break, so we can all read it, come back with notes at the beginning of January and finish rewrites sometime that month.

So, tonight, Travis and I are fixing my computer. (We're installing a new hard drive and RAM.) Then, starting tomorrow night, we're writing the script. I'm not quite sure how we're going about it...but my guess is that it will be something close to how we wrote Glory Days...I'm not really sure yet.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for Part 3