Sunday, November 23, 2008

Update + Making Of Pics

So I have completed my rough cut (1 hour and 46 minutes). Besides watching and trimming my film, I have begun recording a preliminary soundtrack, doing all sorts of color/style tests, and getting ready for ADR. It feels very good to see everything (on the visual side for now) coming together well.

Here are some stills that I have recently attained thanks to Ashley E (D.P).

My wife, Sofia, is a great producer. I am allowed to be as creative as possible and she keeps me grounded to the fact that there is only a certain amount of time in a night. Or doing some serious crunching of our nightly shooting schedule so that we can roll with the punches that reality throws at us (unplanned, unwanted, often unnecessary crap).

Catering by la familia. Everyone loves mom's cooking. So thankfully she was craft services. By her good graces she provided wholesome, healthy and delicious meals for lunch and dinner.

Zach was our lead, committed to the story, the character and the project. This was taken on our first night of shooting, which in my experiences is always the most difficult day. We worked hard that night and finished in a strong fashion.

Here we are getting setup in the "warehouse". We got amazing locations for free or for trading services. You have to bargain when you have no real budget.

Here is a hungry cast and crew before we got started shooting. I cannot stress how important it is to keep your people fed and happy. It's not just about feeding people, it is about respecting what everyone brings to your project.

Here is Nick F. on the way to the "warehouse" set. We traveled together, in our giant convoy. Bringing a family feeling to the project is essential. Nick was very devoted to the material. We spent lots of time building up his character, talking with a source who knows the kind of 'real' criminal elements that Nick was embodying.

Here is our superb Crew and Cast. From left to right, Leseja (Gaffer), Dwayne (Co Producer), Cassandra (P.A as well as Capture Station Op), Shaka (Boom Op and Lighting) and Nik B. (amazing young actor).

Here are some photos during pre production. We spent lot's of time doing our storyboards. By the time we were done we had 80+ pages of storyboards for an 80+ page script.

Here I am testing out our rig way before shooting. We had to do a fair amount of camera tests to see where our strengths and weaknesses would rest, especially when using a super toy (like the HV20). I know people are talking about FILM blah, RED this, and new gen DSLRs that, but I would shoot another film with this camera. It really is about knowing the limits of your camera and creating a package that meets the needs of your story. We shot low light with a camera that everyone says "don't shoot low light with" because we knew how to set up for that.

Here is our rig being assembled in the foreground. Leseja adjusts lights and Dwayne holds my daughter in the background. This was our soundstage where we shot various things from an entire scene, to inserts and our FX shots.

Here is Ashley resting before we embarked on a difficult night. We were tackling about 8 big scenes that night. Ashley and I shared the same visual ideas about the material and she has a good eye for grabbing shots on the fly (which we ended up doing from time to time).

Here is a taste of some of our effects work. From left to right: Phil, a buddy and talented FX artist, works on Jeremiah (actor and fellow film noir fan) while Michelle (Makeup Artist) blends.
Phil and I spent time discussing and creating the antagonistic force that our hero battles.

Well that's all for now, but stay tuned for further updates on this project.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gear: Homemade Slate

Here is the "Estrada Special Clapboard": a 7 dollar, rugged, crisp sound making, 11"x 13" work horse.

A decent one can range from 60 to 180 bucks, while one with timecode generating abilities are beyond a grand. Go ahead and check online. Anything you might find for less than that is more than likely flimsy or so small it could be hard to read (I'm talking about that cheap 8 dollar one that say 'Hollywood' on it).

I assembled this bad boy, with the help of my father and two of his power tools, in an afternoon.

We used scrap pieces of wood that we measured and sanded down (no one wants splinters). The dry erase board is the key here. That was generously donated to the cause by my uncle, an awesome dude and school teacher. It came in the dimensions we needed. I used some tough cloth tape to create the grids and a permanent marker to label the section headings. I purchased the hardware, including hinge, at a hardware store for a little under 7 dollars. It's a good tool to have to sync sound, but it gives a quick visual reference when you start to edit. 

I can't build a capture card, a camera or anything like that. But if there is something simple, but essential, I'd try my luck at building one.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Feature

Zach Gossett and Melody Gomez star in "The Hush"

It has been a while since I posted yet again. This time however, it has been due to my feature film taking up a large chunk of well... my life. The film is "The Hush" and the easiest way to describe it is a graphic novel, supernatural thriller. It's about victims, violence and redemption.

Chuck Phelps in character and makeup. 

It was a large undertaking due to the nature of the film: action, multiple locations, all-night shoots, a lengthy script, prosthetic FX, multiple characters etc... all the while staying as far below 10 grand as possible. But I was fortunate to have a dedicated cast and crew who, beyond anything else, enjoyed the material and as cheesy as it sounds, did it for the sake of the art. I am also lucky to have a gigantic and generous family who gave their time and resources to this film (from props to vehicles, locations and hands).

Zach Gossett on location.

So far I am assembling my rough cut from about 22 hours (about 4.5 TBs) of HD video, while simultaneously shooting pickups and other smaller scale things.

Please stay tuned for a summary on the shoot, a breakdown of processes, cast and crew reports and other interesting tidbits. 

   Steven R., friend and action coordinator, leads the assault.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's been a while since I've posted anything on here. I have been hard at work on my first attempt at a feature film shooting the summer '08. It is an interesting little tale about a hitman fighting for salvation against a force greater than himself. I am also finishing post production on a short sci-fi flick.

For now, here is a picture of my little baby girl and my big brother. It is a QT grab from the rig I have been testing for my feature with my DP. Plenty more to come soon!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Remnants of the Lost

'Remnants' premiered at the 6th Annual Oakland International Film Festival (OIFF) on Friday night, October 19th 2007. Thanks to everyone who came out and supported the film...
Here is a small trailer for Remnants of the Lost :
*(caution the audio is slightly louder than it should be, turn your sound down just a smidge)

The festival (my hometown festival) was held at the amazing Grand Lake Theater by Lake Merritt in Oakland. * If you've been there, you know that it's a historic and beautiful theater and it is one of the few non-commercialized theaters left (not to mention that it is the theater I grew up in). If you haven't been there than you should go catch a movie there, it is worth it.

'Remnants of the Lost' is the story of a man struggling to find a reason to continue living after the loss of a loved one. The backdrop is an apocalyptic zombie world, but the movie is more in the style of classic 'Romero'. In brief: the movie is more of a character piece (showing physical, mental and emotional change) and it focuses on people reacting to extreme conditions.

The movie originated with a drawing done of the main character after an intense moment. I think I was able to capture in the characters eyes the exhaustion and pain, but there is a hidden optimism inside. The movie is 37 minutes long (which puts it in a weird position because it 's not quite short nor is it feature length). The original cut was 50 minutes but I spent a lot of time slowly cutting out this and that (from the comfort of my own editing dungeon). I think that no matter what, I wanted to make my movie and just MAKE IT. I didn't want to worry about any time issues if it would risk compromising the story. I was told by some people to make different versions of the film but ultimately I did this to prove to myself that I could tell an interesting story from start to finish.

The lead actor, Joseph Salazar, was great. I trusted him with the character, feeling very comfortable with him and his interpretation of the material. He has an ability to convey powerful things in the most subtle ways.
- -
In the supporting role was Adrian Fuentes (a talented young dude/practically my little brother). I wrote the role with him and his own personality in mind so what you see on screen is Adrian.
- -
Another supporting role was filled by Lisa Landi, a friend and zombie expert/fan. Her understanding of the material was essential. We grew up on the same zombie films and she knew from the start what I was going for and she really made it work.
- -
Steve Real, my uncle and long time actor, rounds up the main cast: He is charismatic and really gets into the character, which for me is always a fun thing.
- -
The zombies were various friends, volunteers and family members who were very patient and helpful (I appreciate their time and commitment).

Now it does have some cool FX and makeup (thanks to Phil for bringing them to life: checkout and there are moments of terror but these events are meant to serve the story, not the other way around.

I had an amazing crew that worked hard and believed in the project. The budget was very, very low: mainly food and FX. And we shot very fast: With one SD ENG camera we shot over two weekends (4 full Days) in Oct. of 2006, ending up with about 6 hours of usable footage. After that we still needed to nab some FX shots which we did randomly over the span of about 2 days. But that's the good thing about owning your own round-up of rag tag equipment: you can shoot pickups or small re-shoots when you have time. We had some solid gear and at any given time a crew of about 6 people. Everything else was generously borrowed or given to us (even locations). In short I was lucky to get it made but again, I stress that I was surrounded by good people.

Overall it was an incredible experience. I am truly grateful to everyone who encouraged and assisted with the life of this project. I am still slightly tweaking the film to this day: There was a particular scene that I wanted to get two different shots on and I finally got them.