Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Thanks for making this a great year at Hollywood Bound and Down. Though sometimes posting gave way to work, I thought that the posts were quality (over quantity).

Next year however is going to be a big one. I'll have some Dig production journals for you in January as well as announcements on several projects I'll be working on. I'm also going to start editing Dig starting on January 3rd, which is extremely excited.

Also, it should be announced that I've officially been promoted at Dare to Pass. As the new Creative Director of Digital Media I'll be spearheading all of Anthony Zuiker's digital projects, which include the Digi-novels, iPad apps, social games, and more. It's an exciting time at the company. With four TV projects in the script phase at CBS, work on the 3rd Digi-novel about to begin, and new responsibilities, 2011 is already shaping up to be a busy yet exciting year.

Thanks to all of you who have been reading the blog. I promise to post more than this year and at least keep you updated on the projects I'm working on. Check back often come 2011 but for now, go enjoy your friends, family, loved ones and have a great holiday!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Black Swan

A few weeks ago I posted b-roll footage from The Social Network. Now, MakingOf has released b-roll from the production of Black Swan. Check it out below.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Short Animated Films from France

Obviously, with Dig currently the focus of my attention, shorts are on the brain. Travis sent me a link to two animated shorts that were recently released from a group of filmmakers in France. The shorts, 'Meet Buck' and 'Salesman Pete' are amazing, tight well executed animated short films. They're well worth a watch.



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dig Pre-Production Diary: Everything Tells a Story

Author's Note: I meant to write this post prior to shooting the film but didn't get a chance to. Since it involves prepping for the film, I've decided to include it as part of the Pre-Production Diary.

Every little thing in your movie has the ability to tell a story, whether it's something known by the audience or not. Either way, you can use this notion to help guide you in your decision making process as a director.

Typically most young directors don't think about this since they're too concerned with just trying to get the film shot (I'll gladly throw my early self into this category) but as I've matured as I director I've found myself thinking more and more about the importance of using of every tool available to me as a filmmaker. Because Dig had very few props and a fairly stripped down mise-en-scene it was a perfect opportunity for me to really think about how each little element in the film could tell a story in its own right. A clear example of this is the gun used by David.

Though it might have been more time period appropriate for David to use a revolver I never wanted him to. In my head, I always saw him using a semi-auto. For one, I wouldn't have to deal with seeing bullets in the chamber and two I found it better, aesthetically, for the film. I personally preferred a semi-auto to a revolver.

Most directors would have done with this and never again thought twice but I found it important to justify why he was using a particular type of handgun. It couldn't just be any semi-auto. It had to be appropriate to the time period (no H&K USP's in this shoot) and it had to make as to how this kid would get a hold of this type of handgun.

Early on, in the script phase, I wrote the gun as a "Colt .45 M1911 semi-automatic pistol." While doing my prep work with the script I started thinking of how that gun found it's way into David's hands. One thing I did know was that officers and even soldiers from WWII almost always kept relics, be it Rugers, Nazi Helmets, their own boots, clothes, and even their army issued weapons, which for officers and even some servicement, included a Colt. 45 1911. So, the story I came up with, and the one I shared with Aaron prior to filming, was this:

Following the Holocaust, David found his way to relatives of his family living in America. In the 1920s, members of David's family, most likely an older brother, left Poland to go to America. There, he met a woman and together they had a son. This son (David's father's nephew) grew up in America and like most men of his age, served in WWII, and was issued a Colt .45 1911 which, following the war, he kept. After living with his relatives for a number of years, probably up to 15 by now, he no doubt saw his relative take out the gun, clean it, oil it and put it away. While David never, ever thought he would need this information, when it came time for him to get a gun, he knew where to look.

None of this is ever mentioned in the film and you would never know it had I not told you but it helped guide us in figuring out exactly which gun we were going to use for production. (While I did write this type of gun in the script, it was more of a placeholder anyway, since I knew that actual, final gun, would come from discussions with our prop master/armorer and the weapon rental house.)

The rope, pocket knife, blindfold and even the shovel were all born of this story as well. More than likely, not being a pro, David would have looked where for all these things? His relatives' garage. So, the note to our props department was, each element should be something that could have been found in a 1960s garage.

Heinrich's clothes, specifically, also fell under this notion. Because Heinrich lived the last 20 years of his life in Argentina, we needed clothes that looked like he purchased them down there, in the 60s (no Gaps!). Even though it mentioned once, we're still telling a story with the clothes he's wearing.

Clearly, I was dealing with a slightly different beast, since this is a period film and everything had to look it. You can get away with a lot more in present day films but that doesn't mean you should think any less about the elements you're using. Props, when used right, can provide powerful insights into your characters and story and as a director you should take the time to really think about what each element of your film is saying to the audience, whether consciously or sub-consciously.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Black Swan: Production Design

I have yet to work with an actual production designer on any of my productions. Even on Dig we had a Set Dresser but I've tended to make use of what's available, rather than creating from scratch or drastically altering something to fit within the design framework of a film. I am really looking forward to the chance to do this. With a film like Black Swan design seems to be almost everything. Here's an interesting look at the production design of the film:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dig: First Image

Well, we finished the desert scenes on Dig today! We shot everything we needed and I can't wait to update you guys on the film. Production is going amazing! As you can imagine, I'm super swamped directing and producing this thing but I had some time and wanted to give you guys a first look at an image from the film. Enjoy!

Pretty much sums it up, don't it? Let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dig Pre-Production Diary: The Things You Can't Control

I can't sleep right now, all because of the weather. For one, it's unusually hot out today and my wife and I have already put the flannel sheets on the bed. However, the bigger reason why I can't sleep isn't the weather today, it's the weather in mid-November.

Three of our production days on Dig take place outdoors. Half the movie. We are now locked in to pretty much everything. Talent is flying out, equipment is being rented, permits are being issued. Everything I, as a director and producer, can control is being controlled. The one wild card, the only thing left, the one thing I can't control is the weather. I have no back up. And I just looked at the weather forecast for Palmdale over the next 10 days and every day is "Sunny" except for the last one, Friday, November 12th, which reads "Showers." I don't know if that continues, if it's a one day thing. It's unknown.

So you can understand why I have a tightness in my chest and feel like I'm having a nervous breakdown right now. Granted, November 12th is a good five days away from November 17th and a lot can happen and change, weather-wise, even in the course of the day and historically, California is known for its consistant sunshine but man I am feeling nervous right now. The only possibility I have, if it rains, is to hope it doesn't rain on 22nd - 25th and shoot the desert stuff that day and REALLY hope that everyone will go along with it.

This is a tough spot to be in. I'm not shooting a little short with my friends, where we can shoot anytime, and I'm not shooting a big feature with swing sets in case it rains. I need it to be sunny, or at least, not raining. I really do. I'm picturing that. 100% All I'm thinking about is sunshine. But I'm worried to. I know I shouldn't be, I know I should focused on the power of The Secret and make the clouds and weather bend to my will and good vibes but man, it's tough. (I also had two cups of coffee tonight while doing revisions on the script, which I'm sure isn't helping.)

But I've been in this situation before. I've had the threat of weather and never once have I been ruined by it. Though I've come close. That's all I can hold on to.

There's such an enormous amount of pressure when mounting a project like this, especially one with a significant budget being funded out of my own pocket. There's no second chances on something like this, without a huge added cost and that fact is not helping me sleep at night.

I've said before that so many things have to go right to get a short film like this off that ground that its amazing any get made at all. So many things have gone right so far, from casting, to production equipment, to crew, to getting a RED owner who OWNS the lenses we're looking for and is giving us a huge deal on the rental, to just small, spooky weird little coincidences and help. It's all very strange and odd to look at, seeing how things like this come together. But, whether you believe in The Secret or not, when you put it out there, when you focus your energy on something, it really can happen.

I really need to turn my thoughts around and focus on the weather being in our favor. That everything will be okay. I believe that there's no way, with everything that has gone right in this production so far, that the weather, a last minute day of thing, can spoil it. That's all I can hold on to right now. That's all I have.

So, I ask you, dear readers, to please help me out and focus your energy on the sun shining bright and hot on November 17 - 19 (and 20-21) in Palmdale, CA.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Learn from a Master: Watch David Fincher Direct The Social Network

From comes a really amazing treat for aspiring filmmakers: getting a chance to watch David Fincher directing on behind the scenes video from The Social Network. As mentioned in the Slashfilm article, most DVD BTS these days are fluff pieces where everyone talks about how great they are. Every now and then, however, you get some really great 'Making Of's' about the process.

The doc on Magnolia and Matchstick Men come to mind. Both worthwhile if you haven't seen them.

Check out the two videos below and enjoy!



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dig: Pre-Production - Part 4

Big updates all around on Dig. After an extremely stressful two weeks where I was literally freaking out about whether we could get everything we needed (I will be doing a post, after we complete production on Dig, about the differences between directing and producing and how you should never be forced to do both) However, it seems that everything, in typical fashion, is coming together.


In addition to the two lead roles, played by Mark Margolis and Aaron Himelstein, we have four other supporting roles that we needed to fill. Luckily, there are some really amazingly talented actors out there and I'm privileged to have them be a part of this cast.

Tiffany Brouwer will be filling the role of Marie. Tiffany and I previously worked together on The Ronnie Day Project for Epic Records, SonyBMG and mtvU in 2007 and I'm excited to be working with her again.

Former Miss Germany Bella Dayne has joined the cast in the role of Diane. In addition to bringing her talents as an actress, Bella also speaks German fluently and will be assisting us in the little but very important German dialogue we have in the film.

Voltaire Rico Sterling, who appeared in the Denzel Washington directed Great Debaters also joined the cast.

We're still in the process of casting one more male role for the coffeeshop scene and will have an update for you when we've locked the part.

Meanwhile, on the production front, things are going very smoothly. To help facilitate things (and allow me to focus on directing, NOT producing) I've brought on Jatin Gupta, a great producing talent who I worked with on the W&CK music video 'Get Your Drink On' and on Mateo's 'Get To Know Me: Live at Swing House' productions. He's been able to remove a lot of the day to day producing requirements (getting equipment, cameras, crew, etc) away from me, allowing me to concentrate on my directing prep.

We've also been fortunate to have the last of our key crew positions be filled by some amazing talents:

Amanda Riley will be our Costume Designer. Since this film is set in 1962 there was no way we could get away with not having a costume designer and we were looking for somebody really strong, experience, knowledgeable about the time period and willing to help us out due to the limited budget we have. Amanda fills all those needs and more. She's been a set costumer/key costumer on Jericho, The Starter Wife, Superhero Movie and a costume designer on the Spike TV series Deadliest Warrior.

Andrew T. Grant, property master on CSI:NY and The Shield, among others, will be serving as prop master for Dig and helping us with the firearm in the film. I've worked with Andy on Dark Prophecy: A Level 26 Thriller and he's a fantastic guy, a great prop master who does some really fantastic work. I'm really excited to have such a pro handling this aspect of the film.

Thanks to Jatin, it looks like we're going to get an amazing on a RED MX package. It's going to be a full pro package that coincidentally includes the exact prime lens set Paul and I are looking to shoot on. Now, we're just looking for one more RED MX package, so we can shoot on two cameras and we'll set.

After that, it's some minimal work on set design and costumes (approving, choosing, etc). Looks like we'll have all of our insurance, permits and crew locked down by the end of the week!

One thing is that we're still raising money. We've had some amazing contributions so far, we're 43% funded with only 22 days to go! Please consider making a donation. You can do so by clicking the box in the upper right corner of the blog. As you can see, we have a lot of people helping us out on this project and we still need to make our budget to make this short happen!

Keep checking back for more updates!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

3Questions: Bill Brown - Composer

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Bill Brown, composer on the hit show CSI:NY and Dark Prophecy: A Level 26 Thriller.

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

BB: I've always had music in my life in some form as a focus. I was fortunate enough to attend Berklee College of Music with my parent's support (they also helped support my song writing and recording habit in high school, and every penny I earned washing dishes and waiting tables went into my synth rigs back in the 80's). I think that support went a long way in giving me the space I needed to grow as a musician.

After Berklee, I had even more time in NYC to learn about building studios and doing commercial work as an intern. After working in the Big Apple for a few years I visited a friend in LA in 1994, and while I was there got a job offer to do sound effects editing for the Xena and Hercules series. I took the job and moved out to LA. I set up my very modest home studio in a one bedroom apartment and continued writing and creating demos. After a couple years as an editor on those series, and a number of feature films, a friend brought me over to Soundelux where they heard one of those demos I shared with a friend that worked there. They happened to be interested in starting a music division, and after a few months and a number of project demos, I had started work on both Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and DreamWorks Interactive's The Lost World: Trespasser video game scores. Those early game scores are what I cut my teeth on as a composer.

Eventually I would become the director of music at Soundelux, and was recording game scores with live orchestras year-round. Fortunately for me, Soundelux was also involved in the commercial and film businesses, and I had an opportunity to meet a director named Deran Sarafian doing a spec commercial spot. He gave me a call a couple years later to do a television film called Trapped, and then a few years after that to meet with he and Anthony Zuiker about a TV show called CSI:NY. I've essentially been writing music my entire life in one form or another. It just keeps evolving.

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

BB: Looking back, I feel like I've always been exactly where I needed to be at any given point, with each challenge I've been given. There have been times where I felt I wasn't "supposed" to be stuck working on a commercial spot, or several games at once, or whatever the challenge of the month was. But I have to say, looking back, if I hadn't done that spec commercial spot, I never would have met Deran, and I never would have scored his film, and I wouldn't be scoring my 148th episode of
CSI:NY today, and whatever all of this is leading me to tomorrow. It's pretty wild if you think about it.

I've learned to work knowing that there is order to everything happening, even if I don't understand what that order is at the moment and to breathe deeply and sleep on it if I feel there is something insurmountable. Things have a way of working out. I'm fortunate in that music is like a hobby, even though sometimes with deadlines and all it can be a lot of work but even then I try to remember how blessed I am to be doing what I love to do. And it has always been gratifying for me.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to get into the position you're in?

Keep writing and recording your music, whatever that is. Study what you love about music, and then study everything else as well. Keep listening and learning every day, never stop. Also, if you know you are interested in scoring for media, then make friends who are interested in creating that media as early on in your career as possible. The more real and grounded the friendships, the better. Don't just make friends with a bunch of composers, make friends of the producers, directors and game developers that will grow and evolve in their careers with you, and hold a vision that you will create something great together some day. Outer experience is a direct reflection of inner reality. Food for thought.

The soundtrack for Dark Prophecy: A Level 26 Thriller is available for purchase on iTunes. To purchase, click here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Raising Funds for Dig

You may have noticed the addition of this widget off to the right side of the blog. If you've read the post from yesterday you know that we're in the processing of prepping for my short film 'Dig.' Well, we're still a little short on our budget needs and we're looking to use this great website,, to help us raise the additional funds necessary to shoot the film. Our goal is to collect $6000 in the next 30 days and I could really use your help.

Check out the video below and go to our 'Dig' Kickstart Project Page to see more information on 'Dig,' how to donate and to be a part of helping this film get made! Thanks!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dig: Pre-Production - Part 3

No, that's not a still frame from the shoot (we're still 3 1/2 weeks away) but it is the (hopeful) one of two locations of the film. A lot has changed since I last did an update. I've been so busy that I haven't really had time to sit down and write it all out but I finally found a free moment, as I've been meaning to bring you up to speed on the film.

Perhaps one of the biggest pieces of news is that we locked our two leads for the film!Obviously, I haven't revealed what the film is about yet but will soon. However, I'm happy to report that both Mark Margolis and Aaron Himelstein will be playing the lead roles in the film.

You may recognize Mark. He's a very well-known actor whose been in Breaking Bad, The Wrestler, Pi and much, much more. Funny enough, when we were just starting to think about casting for Dig I randomly decided to watch The Thomas Crown Affair. And about half through, up pops Mark as Heinrich Knutzhorn, the jailed German forger. Hearing do the accent (our character is German and also, coincidentally, named Heinrich) and seeing his look made me think this could be the guy. And here we are, a month later, and Mark has graciously accepted the role of Heinrich in our little short film.

About two years ago, when I was working at production company, Aaron along with several friends, came in to develop a television show. We shook hands, said hello, but since I was fairly low rung I never participated much and only saw Aaron in passing. Around that same, however, my wife and I were going through a pretty severe House addiction and were watching marathons of the show. Aaron was in an episode called "The Socratic Method." I thought it was fun to see him on the show, since I had met the guy, but was also very impressed with the range and depth his displayed. When it came time to cast the character of David, I remember Aaron, we approached him and he very graciously accepted the role. Also a veteran actor, Aaron can be seen as Young Austin Powers in Austin Powers in Goldmember, he had a reoccurring role on Joan of Arcadia, and was most recently in The Informers and Assassination3 of a High School President.

In other big news we have begin filling out crew positions: Orlin Dobreff, VP of Anthony Zuiker's production company has come on board as a producer. Paul Niccolls will be the director of photography. And John Goodwin, Emmy award-winning make up artist for CSI: has come on board to handle all of our make up needs.

We received word today that our film has been accepted by SAG under the Short Film Agreement, a huge sigh of relief. Not that we doubted it would happen but it's a nice thing to have locked down. One of my biggest worries heading into this was the cast and yet here we are. That's one of the main things we're solid on.

The next biggest things we're dealing with is locking down our locations, both the sites themselves and the permits. One of the most frustrating parts of this project is the cost of permits in Los Angeles. The coffeeshop location is in West Hollywood. It is one of the few, if only places that looks like its from the 1960s and closes on the weekend, which means we don't have to pay them to close down their business. Plus, they're not charging us to use the location. I mean, it's a ridiculous deal. Only problem is: it's in West Hollywood.

To get a permit in West Hollywood, you have to pay a $1250 application/permit fee. This is regardless of whether or not you're shooting on private property. Then, if you're planning to use public land, such as a sidewalk, for say, lights or a genny, you're required to pay $770 PER DAY. ($650 or so if you're in a residential area.)

To get a permit in Los Angeles, it costs about $650 plus a fee to the fire department so they can look over your production and make sure there are no fire threats.

This city is so unfriendly to non-studio filmmakers that it's surprising any movies get shot here at all. BUT, what's the alternative? I can't be in a situation where we're filming and somebody calls or the police drive by and we don't have a permit. That is a great loss than the $4000 I'm spending to get said permits. It's literally 1/5 or 1/6 of our budget, location fees alone.

We've got the coffeeshop location squared away. Just need to get a location agreement signed and apply for the permits. We're still working on the desert location. While up in Palmdale scouting I came across a perfect plot of land (see picture at the top of this post). After looking into it, I found the land to be (unfortunately) privately owned, which isn't a big deal, except I had to track down the owners to get their permission. Thanks to the Tax Accessor, I was able to find out who owned it but since they don't record phone numbers (which seems strange) I only had an address. On Saturday, Travis and I went up there to track down the owner. When we saw the house, with what looked to be boarded up windows and a For Sale sign on the front lawn, I started freaking out because, of course, how do you find these people if no one is here. We decided to knock anyway and fortunately, the wife half of the owners, came to the window. We discussed our plan with her, she took our forms and said she'd speak to her husband, but it seemed like everything would work out. As of this writing (Sunday night) we're still waiting to hear back.

The next biggest To Do on my list is nail down a Costume Designer. Since it's period, we really need someone who knows what they're doing, has relationships with costume rental houses and can help us make this look amazing.

This next week is a big week for us. We're about 3 1/2 weeks out and we're going to be locking up a lot of stuff (flights, rentals, crew, picture cars, etc) and I will hopefully feel better about this whole thing by the end of the week. I'm feeling a bit stressed right now because it feels very close to production and I don't feel like we have a lot locked down. I don't know. This is why I'm not the best producer, it stresses me out too much. I'd much rather be focusing prepping as a director, not the nuts and bolts of directing.

Big check offs this week: production insurance, permits, Palmdale location, costume designer, lens rentals, RED camera rentals.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Wrap Up

Here's the Friday wrap-up with interesting and relevant articles from the past week. Admittedly, most of them are from the

by Meg James

by Patrick Goldstein

by Patrick Goldstein

by John Lopez

Thursday, October 21, 2010

3Questions: Nick Fuller - Commercial Coordinator

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Nick Fuller, a coordinator in both commercial and integrated production for Anonymous Content.

"We produce content across media platforms for leading brands and agencies in collaboration with an A-list roster of directors. My involvement is to help coordinate all of the nuts and bolts of the process from the initial bidding stage all the way through post-production."

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

NF: I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in the film business. Aside from having a talent in art and acting in various plays/commercials throughout my youth I really did not know where I would fit. Growing up in Boston and Arizona, the entertainment business was a million miles away, so for a while I viewed it more as a pipe dream, just hoping that one day I would have the guts to make a move.

After attending art school for design/advertising I began working as a graphic designer. Although I was artistically stimulated and loved the ad world, something was missing. I decided that there was no way for me to know if Hollywood was for me, unless I just dropped everything and jumped right in. I managed to get an intern position for producer Stephen L'Heureux, who I credit for giving me a start in the business. I then moved on to work for Paul Hook, who is the father of below the line representation. It was there that I found my love for the world of physical production. These are the guys who take an idea on paper and turn it into something truly remarkable and beautiful. I was able to work with the top cinematographers, line producers, costume designers, editors and vfx producers. Just to brag, I believe we had 10 Oscar nominated clients during my term with Paul and sitting in a room with shapers who are the best at their craft like Roger Deakins, Anthony Dod Mantle, Wally Pfister among several others, before the big night was something this young assistant would never forget.

Having little experience with directors I decided to expand my knowlege and moved on to Brillstein Entertainment Partners working for Lit manager Margaret Riley. It was there that I receieved a first hand look at the development world, working with her incredible roster of filmakers, writers and showrunners. I began to notice the difference between the people in the business who talk about creating something and the ones who actually do it! I would much rather fall into the second category. Trying to make your mark as a Hollywood assistant is difficult, and it's easy to find obstacles to use as excuses, however, the main thing to remember, no mater what state of the business or what you currently do, is that everyone has to start somewhere. I knew it was time to really find a place to build my business and, not feeling that representation was best suited for me, I moved on to my current position at Anonymous Content. It's here that I finally feel I can fully apply all of my past experience and talents while still remaining equally involved in all aspects of the business. It's truly rewarding to walk into work everyday knowing that it is exactly where you belong.

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

NF: The most difficult thing for me was to find the right path to follow, working in such a chaotic environment. I found the people who make it furthest in their careers are the ones who are honest with themselves and their peers with exactly what they REALLY want to do. If you want to be a writer, you need to write. If you want to direct or produce then create something. Nothing gets done by keeping your wants and desires to yourself. At the point that I was finally able to put it all together and establish where exactly I wanted to be is when things really went into motion and there is no doubt that it will be in high gear from here.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to get into the position you're in?

NF: For people out there who would like to do what I do but are still on the outside looking in, I would say do not waste any time. If school is an obstacle, try to involve yourself in relevant studies. Find people who share your passions and create something. Write every idea down and be honest with yourself (and everyone else) with what you really want to do and you will be amazed with the help and support you will receive to get there.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Universal Studios Sound Department Tour has posted this behind-the-scenes tour of the Universal Studios sound department from Soundworks. The tour is hosted by Chris Jenkins, Senior Vice President of Sound Services.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Watch the 'Level 26: Dark Prophecy' Cyber-Bridges

As I've mentioned before, I've spent the last couple months co-producing and editing the video portions of Anthony E. Zuiker's new Digi-novel Dark Prophecy: A Level 26 Thriller. In an effort to help promote the book, we've been releasing a new bridge (one of ten total) every day leading up to the 14th of October, when the book is launches nationwide.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Behind the Scenes: The Walking Dead

I read this series two years ago when I was working at a production company and always thought it would be an awesome way to bring zombies to television. So happy that not only is Frank Darabont exec producing but that its on AMC. Can't wait for the series premiere. Meantime, check out this behind-the-scenes:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Glory Days Gets Blitzed!

In October of 2006, shortly after moving down to Los Angeles, Travis and I sat down and wrote the first draft of the script then titled Glory Days: The Saga of Chet Steele. Four years and roughly 32 rewrites later the time has finally come to send the script out to the town.

This past weekend the script, now titled Blitzed, went out wide to thirteen major studios and production companies with Guy Walks Into A Bar (Elf) producing.

What does that mean? Well, for a while now, in conjunction with Guy Walks, we've been approaching agents and talent to try and get someone interested and on board. Unfortunately, attachments in this town have gone into hiding and it's become incredibly difficult to get any one to read a script without an offer. From even good friends at the studio we're told that while they love the script, they can't do anything unless we have a star attached. And likewise, to any talent we go to, the response is that unless there's money behind it, there's nothing they can do. Welcome to Hollywood's catch-22.

Ultimately we came to the point of either 1) giving up or 2) going out wide with the script. None of us wanted to give up. So, while Travis and I did a polish on the script, our producer prepped the script to go out wide. That involves contacting specific people at production companies and studios, letting them know about the project and then on a specific day, send it out to all of them for consideration.

And so, in a big step for Travis and I's writing careers, our script Blitzed has now been sent all over town and may (and very realistically may not) get bought. We obviously hope it does and at the least, hope it leads to meetings and getting our names out there as writers. While it's extremely difficult to sell a screenplay, it's also not very easy to get your script to the point of going out wide, with producers attached, so we did this as a big accomplishment, whether the script sells or not.

Fingers crossed. I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dig: Pre-Production - Part 2

Wow. A lot has been going on these last couple weeks despite my lack of posting. Honestly, that's the best way to know if good things are happening: I stop posting. Not because I don't have anything to say but because I'm usually give my all to something and, as explained before, recapping it seems exhausting and all I want to do is put my feet up and fall asleep.

That's kind of how I've been feeling these last few weeks because I've been devoting all of my time to Dark Prophecy or Dig. Well, you guys saw the trailer (just below this entry) and yesterday we released the first cyber-bridge. We'll be releasing one a day for the next two weeks, leading up to the book launch and I would really love for you to take a look at them. It's been quite a project for me these last few months as I essentially supervised the post-production process, including color correction with James Cohan, the score with the amazing Bill Brown (CSI:NY), and sound mixing and mastering at Todd A.O. Not to mention dealing with all of the encoding and distribution details.

Any time I've had left, I spent working on Dig. Regardless, I've managed to accomplish a lot these past few weeks and I'll tell you that we are planning on shooting in November, that we'll be attaching name talent, and everything is lining up very nicely. I'll try and provide a weekly report on the status of Dig which keeps you, my readers, in the loop and let's me not feel like I'm not updating the blog.

To make it easier, I'll do it by category.


The script is really getting there. I've done a couple rewrites on it since the 8/10/10 draft, mostly having received notes from people who have read it (that I trust to give good notes) and my own revisions based on reading it over and over. I'll probably be fine tuning it up to and during shooting. Hopefully I can get Travis to come out, huddle up on his computer and do revisions as we go.

I'm liking this whole project more and more the closer I get to it.


We've had our first official attachment! Michaela McManus, star of One Tree Hill, Law & Order: SVU and, of course, my film The Beautiful Lie has signed on to play the role of Marie.

Katie Piel, of Piel/Shoai Casting, has come on board as our casting director. We've put together our list of amazingly talent actors to go after for the role of Heinrich and David and we're in the process of approaching them with offers.


Dan Figur has come on board to produce and has begun work on budgeting and crewing up. Dan produced the W&CK 'Get Your Drink On' music video for Universal Records.

Director of Photography Paul Niccolls will be joining me once again.

Having now laid it all out, I realize it doesn't look like I've done a whole lot. Personally, I don't want to go into every little detail, at least not now, but there have been some significant advancements made that had previously worried me.

One of the big things we need to nail down soon are our two locations. The short takes place in 1962 and we're in need of a coffee shop that matches the era. The desert location is a desert location, doesn't need to match anything but we need to find it regardless. These are two big to dos. If we can nail these down and attach some great talent. We're going to be in really good shape.

And the one thing I'll be doing everything night, whenever I can, is my script analysis. The process of really digging deep down into the script, the subtext, the playable objectives, the beats, all of this stuff that helps me, as a director, do my job. The point of it is not so much to have a list of things you can do on set, but to just mentally prepare me for directing. To give myself things to think about, discuss, ways of making this script come to life.

It's one of my favorite parts of directing because there's no pressure. There's just your imagination.

Of course, it's easy to procrastinate things like this, and with my wife being gone the last two weeks and a dog to take care of, I've been forced to try and work at home -- which is impossible. But now she's back and I can take the evenings to get out, sign off, and get my work done.

I look forward to bring you guys along on this journey. I'll post as much as I can but as I'm full throttle for the next five weeks prepping Dig and seeing Dark Prophecy off, I may not have a lot of time.

But I will try....

At the very least you'll have an abundance of postings following the shoot.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dark Prophecy: A Level 26 Thriller

Keeping a blog is a full time job and, unfortunately, I have two other full time jobs that take precedent: working for the boss, Anthony E. Zuiker, and pursuing my own writing and directing careers. Those two pursuits have forced me to put the blog in the back of the line for the last couple weeks but I'm going to start making a conscious effort to update this more regularly. (When you spend the entire day pursuing creative endeavors, whether it's writing, directing or shooting, the last thing you're really dying to do at the end of the day is sit down and write some more and try and be funny. All I want to do is hang out with my wife, watch The Wire, or relax with some wine.)

That said, I have been extremely busy and things have been going well. I'll update you on Dig in another blog but for now I wanted to show you the teaser trailer to Dark Prophecy: A Level 26 Thriller that I edited. It's a project I've been working on for the last eight months, from early development of the book, to production, to editing and seeing the whole project through post-production.

The novel and the cyber-bridges will be available on October 14th, 2010. Enjoy!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dig: Pre-Production

Sometimes you just have to stare at the wall. That how I feel right now. Like staring at a wall and letting my mind wander. I haven't had much of a chance to just sit back and drift. I don't do enough of it. For some reason, it feels like we (the human race) are reaching a point where "doing nothing" (a term often used to describe what writers do during the day) will be a rare action. There's always something to do, something to read, something to update, something to tweet, something to watch, something to listen to. Those quiet moments, when the imagination is let loose, when inspiration makes its way back to you, when dreams fill your mind and soul and you discover the solutions you've been looking for and the questions you never thought to ask.

I think I need to take more time for this and probably will now that I've started prep work on Dig. About two weeks ago, Travis and I finished what we felt was a very strong draft of Dig. The manager read it, agreed. Some others have read it and thought it was very solid. While we do plan on continuing to re-write it, we nonetheless felt that this was more than an adequate draft to prep off of. The setup is simple: two men, two locations. That frame work isn't going to change. The dialogue, character development, etc, is something that continually evolves, changes, and grows as you revisit it, as cast comes on board, and so on. That, we will come back to and adjust as we read and re-read.

Don't have much more to update at the moment. We're starting the process of raising funds. I've got a meeting with my producer next week and we're going to start talking budget and casting. Ideally, we're looking to shoot this in November and things will start ramping up very soon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dig: Second Draft

Finally got some time to sit down and write out some thoughts on the latest project. Picking up where we last left off: following the holiday break Travis and I sat down and went through my draft of Dig.

There were a few issues. We both knew the ending didn't work. It was a holdover from a previous version of the script that I really wanted to try but it just didn't work. Even though I knew there was a chance it wasn't right, I decided to try it anyway because hell, it's just words on a page, it's easy to change, and who knows? No harm, no foul, right?

Travis felt the opening scene was really, really solid, something that I certainly felt good about. It was the section I was most confident in. But we also both knew that middle would have to be adjusted. There's some good stuff in there but it needs to be structured a little different, we need to tweak one of the characters and the interaction needs to be adjusted (it's vague, I know).

After our analysis, Travis actually suggested that we sit down and each write separate 2nd drafts. We'd then see what parts work best and combine them. Thinking this was an interesting way of going about it (as you know, I'm all for interesting ways to write a script) I agreed. After all, it's a 16 page script, not a feature.

So, we spent he rest of the week writing our separate drafts. Travis, lacking the commitments of a wife and puppy, managed to finish his draft by Saturday. I needed until Monday night.

I actually spend a good amount of time last Thursday working on the opening scene. Though everyone agreed that it was very solid, I knew there was a conversation that would need to be expanded for shooting purposes, and I couldn't get myself to move on from the scene without trying to do so.

The scene features a philosophical discussion about Nietzsche (I know, I know but it's meant to play in the background of the action and it actually pertains to the theme of the short so bugger off). I don't know a whole lot about Nietzsche (I mostly slept through philosophy class in college but, honestly, I blame the teacher) and because of that, writing this two page scene required quite a bit of research. But in the process of doing so, I discovered a lot of really great things that not only confirmed Nietzsche as the correct choice for this discussion (I had originally chosen him because of one specific quote) but also gave me so much more ammo to play with in how what our characters are talking about, relates to the overall theme, the overall message, of the short.

Sometimes you can get too lost in the research (as Tarantino reportedly did, early on, with Inglourious Basterds) and for a very short time, I did. The research should support the writing but it's not a replacement for it. What you'll find in your research is not drama and drama is what we're writing.

I rewrote the rest of the script on Monday and, that night, Travis and I exchanged drafts, which we in turn, each read on Tuesday.

Tuesday night, we got together, went through both drafts, talked about what we liked, what we didn't like, new ideas that came out of each version.

And now, Travis will be going through the two versions and combining them into a Super 3rd Draft, which will then become the single document we'll work off of from now on. It was an interesting way to get there but the point is we got there.

We'll give this draft to our manager for the weekend, get his notes next week, do another pass, then give it out to a few close readers to get their reaction and then go from there. Depending on the solidity of the draft following our managers notes, we may be at a point to begin pre-production.

We'll need to start breaking down the script, come up with a budget, scout locations and start approaching talent.

My goal is to shoot this in October or November. If it doesn't happen then, I may have to wait until spring because, while Los Angeles is the land of sunshine, our winters haven't been that great recently. Plus, the majority of the script takes place near sundown and, well, we'd like to have as much sun as possible.

So, we'll see where we stand next week.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

3Questions: Jack Campbell - International Sales Agent

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Jack Campbell, President of International Sales at Spotlight Pictures, located here in Hollywood, CA.

He's responsible for "licensing feature films and documentaries to distributors, brokers, and television channels/networks worldwide. Basically, producer’s need the services of a company like ours in order to get their films sold on a global scale. We structure deals with video distributors, theatrical distributors, other sales agents/brokers, television channels and networks and license films for a specific period of time in exchange for a monetary sum. Our job is to get the best deal possible for the producer. These deals come from long-term relationships with buyers worldwide."

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

JC: Growing up as a kid, I was always interested in the entertainment industry. In middle school, I was in my first play,
The Sound of Music and throughout high school and college I was always part of the theatre and music programs, singing and performing in their respective show choirs, touring as far as Russia and around the western United States.

While living abroad in college, I decided that “life is too short” to not take some chances, so after graduation, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my acting career. After that floundered for about 2 years, I decided that the acting side of the business wasn’t for me and moved to Las Vegas. While working at a restaurant and going back to school for digital video editing and production, I met an independent producer/sales agent who gave me an intern position with his company. After a few days of working with them, I was offered a full time job.

After working for a year with this small company, I ended up moving to New York City to take on a job with the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival, IFQ Magazine and ITN Distribution. This was a small operation but was able to give me some legs to take my career to the next level. After working with ITN for two years, I was offered a job by the US Home Video distributor, Maverick Entertainment. They hired me to implement and run a foreign sales division, Maverick Global. I worked there for three great years after finally moving to Los Angeles in September of 2008 to take my current position of President of International Sales at Spotlight Pictures.

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

JC: I suppose the biggest challenge that I’
ve faced to date is the overall decline of our industry and having to find a way to reinvent our company in order to just stay in business. The global market is changing at such a dramatic rate for independent feature films right now, everyone is scrambling to figure out where the next revenue streams are going to come from. It’s a problem that we’re dealing with on a daily basis and although VOD is the wave of the future, it’s time has yet to come. Replacing the home video/DVD boom is going to be a long, arduous task for all sales agents and distributors and we have to find creative and innovative ways to get the stories told and exploited in order to recoup investments for producers. It's a very difficult and challenging time right now.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to get into the position you're in?

JC: It’s extremely important that any young person understands technology and the ever changing buying/viewing trends of the general public. The kids are changing the way films are screened and it’s important to have a finger on that pulse. Film rentals and buys are down, as there has been a major shift to consumers now watching reality programming, people are just not watching as many feature films as they had in the past.

More directly, I’d advise them to go to their local video store (if there even is one anymore), take a look at some of the distribution companies who are still releasing product, contact their human resources department and try to get their foot in the door as an intern, work hard and hopefully be able to gain employment thereafter. There are no schools who teach film distribution and sales as a career; it’s more of a “who do you know” type of career.

You can also attend film and video festivals, film markets and get your name and face out there as a person who can be depended on and who is known for a professional demeanor. I'd also advise them to try and get a job working on a film set or television show, in whatever capacity they can. Once you prove yourself as a dependable worker, the doors will start to open up for you.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Writing 'Dig'

I'm going to keep up with this shovel theme until I run out of a pictures...or until, ideally, I have production photos from the Dig shoot. Either way...

Wow, what a week it's been. I went from researching Dig to having a sixteen page 1st Draft of the short in my hands on Saturday night. It seems...quite fast, in retrospect, while at the time it felt a little like agony trying to get through that first pass.

I had the opening down cold, wrote the shit out of it. What stymied me for a while was what happened after that. I always knew where I was going with it but wasn't sure how to get there. In the end, having gotten to a comfortable place as a writer, I knew that I just had to get something down, let it flow and that the piece would become more polished and get to the level I wanted it once I started rewriting.

And I already know it is. Both Travis and the manager have read it, and where we've discussed taking it is to a really amazing place. So I'm very confident in our ability to get his script where it needs to be and that is only increased by the fact that Travis is now coming into the fold. We thought it best that I get a first draft done on my own, since I've been living with this idea for so long but now that I've done it, I'm wanting to get him on it as early as possible. Already, through early talks about the 1st draft Monday night, we've come up with some great ideas.

The next step for us, following the holiday, is to roll up are sleeves and start digging into this script. Travis is going to be writing out some thoughts, ideas and impressions he gets from the draft and then we'll discuss and find a way to implement them. What's nice is that we have a structure to it. We have a beginning, middle and end and it's all about taking out the chunks that don't work and replace them with what does.

The most daunting task for me, as a writer, is getting through that first draft. I've written about this a number of times before but I can't stress it enough: writing is rewriting. Maybe you're the type who can nail it on the first draft, or one who agonizes over every line until it's perfect before moving on. I think, as a writer just starting on their path, that is a dangerous way of thinking. Rarely, if ever, are scripts not rewritten. As Hemingway said, "The first draft of anything is shit." And thinking too hard about every line is, perhaps, even more dangerous, because it puts you in the position of never finishing the script or it taking forever.

Blast through it! I did. And I'll keep you updated as we progress on the script and the project.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

3Questions: Joel Einhorn - Effects Animator

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Joel Einhorn, an effects animator who currently works at Digital Domain.

The role of an effects animator is thus, "I create effects for feature films. This can vary from clouds, water, fire, smoke, dust and other volumetric effects to particle and rigid body simulations."

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

JE: After I finished my college degree (multimedia design with a focus on 3D) my 3D animation teacher helped me get an interview for a 3D tracking job for a Dutch movie that was being made. At that time I was living in Holland, which is where I am originally from. As it turns out, I got job and I quickly fell in love with the industry. Nothing beats the feeling of sitting in a movie theater and watching your own work on screen (and of course seeing your name roll by on the credits).

Afterwards, I freelanced in Holland for a while, working on commercials and music videos, but the market was very slim in the aftermath of 9/11. I then decided to pursue a masters degree in the UK to get my foot into the country (there is hardly any film work done in Holland, most of the big productions in Europe are done in London). I applied at Bournemouth University and got accepted in the "visual effects for film" course. This was a one year master's degree where I was introduced to Houdini, now my 3D package of choice. The main benefits of doing this course is that I got to meet a lot of people that were already working in the industry as well as those fellow students of mine who would be valuable future contacts.

After finishing the course it was pretty hard to find a job but through hard work and of course, some good networking, I was able to land a job in London as an effects TD working on X-men: The Last Stand. When that film was complete they kept me around and I got to work on several other films such as Superman Returns and Underdog.

As luck would have it, during my masters degree studies I met an American girl, fell in love and wanted to spend some time with her. So after the gig in London ended I decided to try and get into the U.S. I got an internship at SideFX software in Santa Monica (they created Houdini) and after a few months I decided to take the plunge and asked the girl to marry me. We got married and after filling out a lot of forms, paying a lot of money and waiting for a long time I finally received my greencard and was able to legally work in the U.S. I quickly got a job working on
2012 where my job was essentially to create a whole bunch of (digital) water using their propietary software.

Following that project I came over to Digital Domain to work on
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (they couldn't come up with a longer movie title). I am currently working on Tron.

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

JE: For me, the most difficult challenge was just getting into the industry. It can be very frustrating to keep sending out your reel of work, making contacts, sticking your foot in every door and not hear anything back.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to get into the position you're in?

JE: First off all, make sure you have the skills. There are so many people wanting to get into the effects industry that you have to make your work stand out. Knowing people that can help you get into a company is a huge bonus. Experience also helps a lot but how can you get experience if you're not in a position to gain any?

So make sure that you have the skills, get a reel together showing off your best work and sell yourself. If you do know anyone at the company you're applying for don't hesitate to get in touch. It helps if someone that works at the place drops of your reel at HR vs you sending it in.

Last but not least: be persistant! Send your reel in and then follow up, ask if they had a chance to review it, etc. Just make sure that you keep on reminding them of your availability. Try to go to events where you can meet with artists/supervisors, etc. Siggraph is a good venue to go to cause all the big companies send their reps and there is a job market. There you can have people look at your reel and get some feedback or even land a job right then and there.