Friday, October 25, 2013

Dig: HollyShorts Monthly Screening Series

I'm proud to announce that from short film Dig has been selected to screen at the HollyShorts Monthly Screening series. The film will be shown on November 6th, 2013 @ 9:30pm with a Q&A to follow. 

You can purchase tickets here

This may be the last time to see Dig on the big screen. Having played at the Chinese 6 theaters twice before (HollyShorts 2011 and Dances with Films 2011) I can say that it's an awesome experience. 

For those of you new to my blog or the podcast, I welcome you to join us for a night of short films.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Layover: The Editing Process - Part 2

I would love to be debuting a trailer for Layover to you right now but alas -- it cannot be. However, in the image above you'll see the Final Cut Pro timeline for the full film, all 88 minutes of it. (Yes, I'm still using Final Cut Pro 7.) I got the assembly cut at the end of July, watched it, posted about it, and then set to work fine tuning and doing the next pass. Due to development on other projects and the fact that Will is not being paid, it's taken us a while to get to that second cut. We probably could have gotten it done sooner if we had treated it as a true second cut and just gotten scenes close to good rather than really going over them again and again. But I don't work that way. Probably why I tend to not do a lot of passes. Three to four at the end of the day, mostly because by the time I get to a full second cut, I've gone over all these scenes several times, making changes as I do.

Which is also why it took us a little longer to get to the second cut than it might normally. For the most part, the editing went smoothly but there are definitely some monster dialogue scenes that took some finessing to get them into place. As I mentioned in my previous post, my films tend to be like puzzles, with only one to three ways scenes can be put together. I don't shoot A LOT of coverage and it takes some trial and error to figure out how these things can be cut together.

One of the more interesting aspects of diving in was the French language. I often had to consult my script to find out what exactly was being said and make sure I didn't miss any lines (I won't know for sure until I have some French speaking friends give it a look). But ultimately, as I thought I would, I found myself paying much more attention to the performance, to the nuances, to how this reading of a line changes the tone of the scene. This happens anyway but I got to remove the text portion of the experience. My goal was to find a way to sell this without having subtitles. That someone might get it even if they didn't get exactly what was being said.

After much tinkering, I finally put all the sequences together in order to show Travis, my producing partner. I wanted his thoughts before anyone else's. At first, he tried to read the script along with the film since I hadn't added subtitles yet (by the way, anyone know a better and not-expensive way other than manually doing it myself?) but eventually gave up. I was incredibly nervous about showing him. After all, it was through him we got the investor to fund the film and I know he had a big stake in it as well. The last thing in the world I'd want to do is let him down. But at the end of the day, he really liked it (sans subtitles) and mostly felt it needed some tightening in scenes. He thought all the performances were great and right on and that the film felt far larger than it's meager budget.

Even though I feel pretty confident about this cut there's still a lot of work to do. There are some sections of the film that require music, and specifically require cutting to music (non-score) before I can lock. So, we're working with a music supervisor as well as a singer/songwriter to find and develop songs for the film. I'll need some semblance of that before I can fully lock.

Right now thought, my job is to go back through and do another pass, tighten and fine tune so that I can start showing people. I need to have a French screening first (saving time on doing subtitles) and then clean up what I can before possibly showing distributors or sales agents. Plenty to keep me busy. My hope is that we've locked picture by the end of October and I can then send it off to sound and scoring.

Oh, and cut a trailer so I can finally show you guys something from it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Podcast: Hollywood Bound & Down

Well, here we are. A couple of months after I first mentioned it, I'm finally launching my podcast for Hollywood Bound and Down and I couldn't be more excited. The podcast is very much an extension of the blog and aimed at young and aspiring filmmakers, actors, executives, representatives and below the line crew members. My goal is to interview those people working at all levels of the industry from assistants to directors and at various levels of success, from those who just caught their first break to veterans bearing war wounds. 

From the beginning of this blog, I've always tried to present a first person account of breaking in to Hollywood. That said, I've obviously fallen a little short on content since its ambitious beginnings. I hope that the podcast, which will have a new episode every Sunday, will help fill in some of those gaps in between posts. 

I've also realized that while I think a first person perspective can be valuable there are so many other people working in this industry that are 1) much smarter than I am and 2) much more successful. And I want to highlight that. Without shortchanging you on writers and directors and actors, I want to present you with stories from executives, assistants, costume designers, cinematographers, editors, managers, agents and more. 

These are in depth conversations, some of them running over an hour and a half, but I hope you'll subscribe to the show and join me on this journey.

I was incredibly fortunate to sit down with Rookie Blue's Missy Peregrym and talk about her career and even more lucky that this gets to be the first episode. I hope you guys enjoy it and please provide any feedback in the comments section. 

And if you like the show, be sure to leave a rating and a comment on the iTunes page. And many thanks to my wife, Danielle Caldwell, for designing our awesome logo and thumbnail.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Layover: The Editing Process - Part 1

An interesting fact for anyone who wants to upload it to the Layover page on, this is the first film I've directed where I wasn't also the editor. It's been a long time coming. I've often said that the reason I've never worked with an editor before is that I haven't found one as good as me who also works for my price: free. That is, until now. The time has come (thankfully) to promote from within and Will Torbett, a longtime assistant editor of mine, got the job. 

As happy as I'm sure he was, little did he know the world of pain he would be soon entering. That said, he sucked it up like a man, doubled down on his French language and set to work. And last Monday he delivered the first assembly of Layover in to my waiting hands.

As I sat down to watch I was reminded of the text from an LA Times Roundtable I read a few years back. Several nominated directors were sharing their experiences and they came to the topic of an assembly cut:

Tom Hooper: I think it's an extraordinary thing when you watch your first assembly [of the roughly edited movie], the film always has become something slightly different from what you thought…

Aronofsky: The worst day of my life, every time.

Affleck: Way worst.

LATimes: In what way?

Aronofsky: When you watch an assemblage, you just know you're getting drunk that night. It's just a miserable experience. Because you realize you have so much work [to do on it].

Lisa Cholodenko: And you have no idea if it'll ever be there.

Aronofsky: And you really thought you did better work. You thought you did better stuff. And it has nothing to do with the editor. It just takes time and time to refine, because you're so far away from that final mix where you're really putting on that final sanding, the final shellac.

Coen: It's always funny because we cut our own movies and I feel exactly the same way.

I always try to remind myself of this as I'm working on projects, that it's really no different an experience for me than it is for the best directors working in the business. It's a tough thing to watch because you're not watching the version in the movie that you've had in your head this whole time...or even the version you think you shot. You're looking at A version and that's it.

Now, I was really expecting the worse (not because of anything having to do with Will, this feeling isn't because of the editor) but at the end of the day, I saw a lot of potential in it. It was really nice to have been able to step away from that assembly process where I probably would have been maddeningly pulling my hair out. Especially because the way we shot this just did not allow for a lot of careful consideration of each shot. We really just locked and loaded and got what we got.

The other thing I've kept in mind is that I've noticed, as I myself have gone through assembly and editing my own films, is that they are a puzzle. Despite all the coverage  for some reason, there's only 1-3 ways my films can be cut together. They're really meant to be seen as a puzzle in the editing stage and it's about finding the right cut, the right take, the right piece of music to make it all come together. So, it's just about getting to that point.

Besides all the mistakes I made as a director, all the cuts that aren't quite there, the scenes that appear to be a disaster, what I saw in there was a pretty good overall story, a journey, a character arc (I was all in French without subtitles, so I could be making this up). I saw something really interesting and I saw a lot of stuff to work with. Now it's time to do just that.

I'm thankful to have found a partner at this stage of the game.

We've managed to generate a lot of interest in our little film, from managers, agents, producers, actors, sales agents and more in the last couple weeks, based on nothing more than a four minute showreel I cut together (which I will not debut publicly since it's pretty much the plot of the film in four minutes). Now we just want to make sure we live up to those expectations. I think we can get there.

In the next couple weeks, you're going to see a lot more news about Layover and a few other projects coming your way -- including the official trailer for Layover sometime in the next couple weeks. So stay tuned and keep checking back.

In the meantime, here are a few of the first official images from Layover. Let me know what you think of the stills!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Welcome to Sanditon - Episode 27

A couple weeks ago I was very fortunate to direct 8 episodes of 'Welcome to Sanditon' the new series from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries creators Bernie Su and Hank Green. Executive Produced and written by Jay Bushman and Margaret Dunlap, the series follows Gigi Darcy to the fictional town of Sanditon where she's beta testing a new communication app from Pemberley Digital called "Domino."

In order to learn the ropes of this format, I was the Director of Photography on the first six episodes of the series, which were directed by Bernie, and then took over as the director for the next 10. You can read Bernie's thoughts on passing the torch on his Tumblr here.

I've had an interest in this format for a while now and have been very impressed with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. 40 million views for a year long series ain't bad. 

Sanditon was designed to serve as a mini-series before they launch the next book (which I hope to be a part of) and minimize downtime between series. It's certainly more experimental than Lizzie was or the next book and it's been educational and fun to be a part of the production process. William Wolffe, director of photography on my feature Layover, came on board as the DP for my episodes and they look great.

I'll keep posting the episodes as they are released every Monday on the Pemberley Digital YouTube Channel. Meanwhile, below you can see previous episodes, including the ones I photographed, listed in episode order.

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Future: An Exit Story

The ancient Greeks had two different concepts of time. Chronos was and is the time registered by the clock -- a way of understanding time. But Kairos was something else. At its simplest, it means the right or opportune moment -- a window of opportunity created by circumstances, God or fate.

That moment, for me, has arrived. And after nearly four years of working for Anthony E. Zuiker, creator of the CSI: franchise, and Dare to Pass it's time for me to move on and seek new opportunities.

Though I have enjoyed some experiences at this company and found Anthony to be incredibly supportive, I've realized that you don't become the creator of CSI: by working for the creator of CSI:.

And what I most want to do is be a creator. To do that...well, I need to do it. And I can't do it working 11 hour days (even though I did just shoot a feature film while working here).

So, backed up by the digital connections, contacts and education I got while serving as the Director of Digital Media, I'm striking out on my own. Now, it's not to say that I'm not considering other opportunities at various companies (a man's gotta earn a living) but while that is happening I plan to aggressively pursue the creative side as a director, producer and writer.

I very strongly believe that one of the only ways to get ahead in this town and this business is to take risks. Taking a risk is what got me the job with Anthony in the first place and now it's what will take me beyond it.

I look forward to bringing you with me on this next part of my journey, the next stage of my career and at the very least, I will be showing up on here more often.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Layover Test Footage with Director Commentary

As an added bonus to the test footage we released last week, I took some time to record a little commentary detailing why we shot test footage for the film.

Also gave me a chance to test out the Yeti Blue Microphone I got. Not bad.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Layover - Test Footage

As a reward for reaching 100 'Likes' on our Facebook Fan Page for Layover we released some test footage that we shot in an effort to check the viability of shooting on a Canon 5D with very little lighting. 

Shooting this definitely gave me the confidence that we could pull it off. Everything you see was shot with either 1) available light or 2) a small light panel during those times when there was literally no other light available (while it can shoot at high ISO, the Canon unfortunately can't create light where this is none). 

The music in the piece was composed by an awesome team that goes by Meta. You can check out their Facebook Fan Page here.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the footage or anything else on your mind.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Layover - Feature Film - Announcement

Back in January (coincidently, the last dated post on this blog) I wrote that I was "currently writing a script, some of which may be outline, improv, etc that I plan to shoot on weekends with no friends. I'm grounding it in the style and approach of French New Wave and making a small, personal drama. It's a project I'm very excited about and am hoping to lens within the next couple months. Once I have a script it's full steam ahead and my goal is to do it for $0. (Though I may have to spend a little money for food, etc.)

"I'm gonna run around Los Angeles with a 5D in my hand, shooting guerrilla style and piecing together a feature. It's gonna be awesome. Know why? Cause I'm making a film."

In May, I did just that. 

I want to introduce you to Layover, a film you'll be reading and hearing much more about over the next couple months.

The film, titled Layover, is the story of Simone Lyon, a young woman traveling from Paris to Singapore to visit her boyfriend. When her connecting flight is cancelled, she's forced to spend the night in Los Angeles. 

The film was shot over the course of 11 nights throughout the month. We shot entirely on the Canon 5D totally guerrilla style. We stole every location we could, we begged, borrowed and stole and at the end of the day only spent several grand on the production (after paying for food, locations and some other things that I'll reveal later). 

And we did it. Together with my amazing production team (Travis Oberlander, Vertel Scott and William Wolffe) and an incredible cast (Nathalie Fay, Karl E. Landler, Bella Dayne and Hal Oszan) we pulled it off. Meanwhile, Will Torbett (my long time Assistant Editor) will be joining me as a co-editor of the film.

In the coming months, I look forward to revealing more about the film, the process we went through to get the movie made and our plans for the film once its done.

For now, head on over to our Facebook Fan Page and give us a 'Like.' We've already hit more than 200 and have released some test footage we shot with actress Nathalie Fay to test the 5D/no budget concept.

Meanwhile, keep checking back here for a few more announcements in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In Which I Decide to Make a Film

I've been thinking about the following a lot lately. For more than a year, in fact. Something which I'm hesitant to admit mainly because in the past year all I've done is think about something rather than do something. Trust me, however, that I have many excuses. That said, one of those was NOT writing on this blog.

I'd like to think I've been busy. So busy that I literally do not have time to focus on writing this blog. Like I said, I'd like to think this but in truth that just hasn't been the case. I have a day job. I spend nearly 11 hours a day working as the Director of Digital Media for Anthony E. Zuiker (creator of the CSI: franchise). I also really like to sleep. That only leaves me a few hours every night to work on my own projects OR spending time with my wife. Two things that demand equal attention. 

So, with so little time to really spend on my own career as a writer/director, I've been thinking a lot about how I no longer want to waste that time. And right now, for me, writing a spec script to sell to Hollywood is a waste of time. The spec market does not excite me. Yes, its rewards are great but the spec market is an eternally dangling carrot of which I have no interest in eating. I'd like to consider myself a filmmaker. Not a developer, not a writer of things that don't get made. I am and want to be a maker. 

For a long time, I thought this would be possible on a big-budget (say 5 million plus) level. Which, obviously, is not the case. And what the digital experience has opened my eyes to, is the ability to make things. Now just work on an idea to make things.

For a year prior to the last, I really thought that a $200,000 - $300,000 level was a chance to make something. And I've spent the better part of a year developing a script for that budget level. It's a thriller, it's complicated, and it's taken some time to develop it and figure it out. If I'm going to be spending that much of someone else's money, I want to be really sure of it's viability, which is why we've been taking so much time with it.

But in all that time I haven't made something. I have a short sci-fi web series called Restart I'm currently shopping with Zuiker attached as a producer, to various digital distribution companies. It's a twenty minute piece. A three day shoot. And it's taken months just to get to this point. So, even something as SIMPLE as that, it's taken a long time to get it even close to being produced. So...needless to say, I'm getting antsy. I'm a director. And I want to be directing. 

This is all to say that I want to direct something. And in order to give my career a boost forward I need to direct a feature. And for a long time I always believed that my first feature needed to be a thriller, whatever the budget size, and something that could also show off my skills, aesthetic and ability as a director. I never wanted to just dive in to horror film or a comedy -- something that doesn't speak to me or reveal what I can do as a director.

So, some of the time has been waiting for the right first feature film. And now, I've found it (I'll tell you more about it later). The flipside has also been finding a project I can do for literally $0. Money is always the reason why I can't do something. But recently I looked around and realized, I have EVERYTHING I need to make a film around me. I know actors, writers, producers, sound mixers, locations, composers, post sound mixers, editing systems -- all of whom will probably cut me a deal knowing that I'm working on my first no-budget feature. With all this around me, WHY am I not just MAKING movies? 

So, this is what it's come down to. I'm currently writing a script, some of which may be outline, improv, etc that I plan to shoot on weekends with no friends. I'm grounding it in the style and approach of French New Wave and making a small, personal drama. It's a project I'm very excited about and am hoping to lens within the next couple months. Once I have a script it's full steam ahead and my goal is to do it for $0. (Though I may have to spend a little money for food, etc.)

I'm gonna run around Los Angeles with a 5D in my hand, shooting guerrilla style and piecing together a feature. It's gonna be awesome. Know why? Cause I'm making a film.