Thursday, October 29, 2015

Relitivity Post Complaints

We have officially begun post production on Relativity, and I can say that I'm so excited to get back into this project. Although I've taken a few weeks off to work on other projects it's time to get back into this one. 

And of course something is going wrong.

I've made several films at Ithaca College, and I haven't had one go to post without hitting one glitch or another. This time it's sound (again, for that matter) which is... Terrible. Our recordist recorded everything below -30db, and even boosting it isn't going to save this sound. I've begun syncing and working with the sound during this edit, and there is nothing worse than cutting with poor sound. I just thank my lucky stars that I have a solid post sound artist, because this project is going to be a lot of work. 

I suppose it wouldn't be a film without some sort of issue.

Tips from Cinematographers for Cinematographers

The Black and Blue, a popular website for camera assistants, released an article called "88 cinematographers share the best professional advice they've ever received." I read the article some time ago when I was first getting into student filmmaking. Recently I read over the article again and found some really useful ones. I've compiled a list of a few of my favorites below. 

‘Keep it simple.’ It’s always exciting to try a new piece of gear, but sometimes two grips pulling a camera on a blanket is still the best solution.

                 This piece of advice is especially relevant with student filmmaking. We often have not enough equipment, not enough money, and not enough crew. Keeping it simple and keeping it smart helps to avoid a lot of those problems. 

Don’t let yourself become too obsessed with technology. Find a balance with your creativity.

                 I always hear people talking about new technology and what new camera they're shooting their film on. Or how after looking into some student budgets you realize that close to a third of their budget is spent on camera department but they're still getting free sheet pizza for all their meals. If you have a sound process and story the film will look good no matter what camera you shoot with. 

From my grandfather, Carmine Coppola: What you do with your non-working time is more important than what you do with your working time.

                Constantly on set I see people sitting down or goofing off when they have nothing to do in the current moment. Then later everyone is waiting around for them to do their job that they could have been prepping for earlier. Think ahead, and if you're doing your job on set there should never be down time. 

When Levie asked me to work with him at Corman’s, the pay was $50 a day. Levie said, ‘They’re not paying for experience. Take the job and you’ll meet people.’

                This I feel is incredibly important for those of us about to graduate. Out of school we will all be working for shit pay, or for free. But that is where we need to start and on those jobs we'll work hard, gain experience and meet the people who can get us on better sets. Always remember, you're getting paid in more than just money. 




There are a lot more good pieces of advice in that list that we should all take to heart. You can read them here. The best piece of advice I've ever gotten on set:

If you wear pants to set, bring shorts. If you wear shorts to set, bring pants. 
Grant Harrison
               

A Movie Inside a Movie

James Franco and Seth Rogen come together yet again on another film project and I can practically hear the cheering. This time, Franco will be directing The Disaster Artist, which will tell the story of the making of The Room (2003), considered to be one the worst drama films of all time. Franco will not only direct the movie, but will also star as Tommy Wiseau, the director of The Room. After The Room was pulled from many theaters due to lack of audiences, Wiseau began to get requests for the film to be shown. Celebrities like Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd began to show up to watch the film and soon it became ritual for movie goers. This cult classic tells the story of a love triangle between a man, his fiancé and his best friend. Tom Bissel and an actor from the The Room, Greg Sestero, wrote a book together about the making of The Room and named it The Disaster Artist. The book explains life on set with a director who had no filmmaking experience when he decided to write, direct and produce this famously bad movie.

We can expect to see some other big names in The Disaster Artist. Dave Franco is already set to play Greg Sestero. Rogen will undoubtedly have a part in the movie, and will possibly feature Evan Goldberg and Vince Jolivette as well. Franco and Rogen have had a fairly successful past collaborating together, with projects including The Interview, This Is The End, Pineapple Express, and Freaks and Geeks. With such an interesting premise for their new movie, I look forward to this project which will start production in December.



Music in Short Films

Growing up I had numerous influences of music in my life. From playing the saxophone from 4th-12th grade, to listening to my classically trained sister sing in concert. Music has always been prevalent and I have found that melodies are what drives my mind. For the life me I couldn't remember lyrics without studying a printed piece of sheet music. But the way music progressed was something I could always follow and even predict.

I've always wanted a good musical accompaniment with any video work I've done. For the video below I had found a song I enjoyed the melody to and from there all I needed was something to put on screen. With a little help from a friend, I was able to make one of my favorite pieces of work.

Air from Skyler Bocciolatt on Vimeo.

Using both the hits of the choreography and the music I had a blast editing and the possibilties of which direction  I took the short were endless. While this was just a small project I shot on a whim. I applied the same idea of music being a character in the film with my Junior level film "Before Your Eyes." 

"Before Your Eyes" follows a young man who is given the opportunity to look back on his life. Drawing upon the strong bond that can exist between father and son, this story looks at the actions we make when pushed to our greatest limits. Throughout the film there are only two scenes with written dialogue. Music was able to fill this space and help evoke any emotion from the film that typically would be exposed through dialogue. 


Last night I also began to watch "Walt Disney's Animations Studios Short Films Collection." Each short animation was introduced with interviews of the creators of the short. They talked about how music inspired them and that for a specific short "Lorenzo" they searched hundreds of tango scenes just to find a song to use, and in the end it was the first one they had listened to. The trailer can be scene below and all of the shorts are available on Netflix.


It was so interesting to me that the creators were able to make a story out of music they found. Even if there aren't lyrics the melody and progression of any song is a story. For me, I want to continue to find these stories and provide a moving image for as many as I can. The ways music and film complement each other is like no other thing in this world. These mediums are what people turn to to escape there problems and worries; they are necessary for society to function and I want to create them for the rest of my life.




3 Things The Shining can Teach you about Making a Horror Film

I've never particularly enjoyed watching horror films, but recently, I've been really interested in figuring out some of the different techniques involved in making something scary. I know that quite a few directors get their big breaks helming scary movies (mostly because of the generally low budgets and good audience turnout) but I thought it would be cool to go back and revisit some of the classic staples of the genre. Tis the season, right?
So I started with Kubrick's The Shining. Not only had I never seen it before, but this was my first time watching any movie by Stanley Kubrick. Putting aside all of the myths and reputation that surrounds the guy (I mean, 127 takes for one scene? Come on man.) I gotta say that I was really impressed. I haven't been that drawn in and held by a 2.5 hour film - or any film, for that matter - in a pretty long time. I've read the book, and even though it differs significantly/Stephen King hated the adaptation/Nicholson is just a littleeeee too over the top, it really worked as a standalone product. It was also the kind of horror movie that I can get behind; creepy, but never made me feel like I was going to piss my pants.

Kubrick pulls out pretty much every horror movie trick in the book, but uses them all in ways that never feel trite or cliched. I'll go over just a couple of them, and try my best to explain why they're so effective.

1. The Jump Scare

Ah, the old go-to, and the real reason why I hate a vast majority of horror movies. Kubrick uses these sparingly in Shining, but when he does, he uses them to great effect. Typically, the jump scare will be the payoff after a bit of increasingly brutal tension-building, partnered with a loud, punctuated sound effect. It works, but 80% of the time it just comes off as a cheap, annoying scare. The only time Kubrick uses these are when you least expect it. There's no build up, for example, the first time that he cuts to the blood pouring out of the elevator doors - that entire montage comes out of nowhere and is terrifying. Same goes for when Jack kills Halloran towards the end of the movie. It's entirely unexpected, and all the better for it.

2. The Reveal

A little less extreme than a jump scare, and usually a bit more predictable, the big reveal scares can still have a strong effect. Kubrick toys with this a few times, but most notably in the "redrum" mirror reversal. Mirrors have a big role in the movie throughout, but the one in the Torrence family bedroom - having been teased for the first two or so hours - has the biggest one of all. All of the shots of Danny pedaling around the hotel corridors also use more or less the same tactic: the smooth steadicam shots lull you into a sense of security, but keep you wondering just what exactly will be around the next corner. Which brings me to the last thing...



3. Sometimes the scariest thing is never shown on screen

Pretty self-explanatory, I think. More often than not, your imagination is capable of scaring you way worse than any image actually could. This is what makes scenes like when Danny first shows up with a bruised neck so powerful. We know that he goes into room 237 and we know that HE SHOULDN'T FUCKING GO INTO ROOM 237, but for the moment, the lack of any visible antagonist is worse than anything they could have shown in the room at the time. We know it's not Jack or Wendy, so...we imagine the worst. The same thing goes for any horror movie. I've never seen It Follows or Rosemary's Baby, but apparently in both, the lack of something makes it all the more scary. Sometimes, the best way to create this sense of dread is by showing your entire environment in a wide shot, and let the audience's imagination work overtime, trying to predict where and when something will pop out. The indefinite waiting is usually worse than than the actual monster.

Also, last but not least, those whip zooms? Seriously digging it.

No Comedy, No Confidence

This week Ithaca College president, Tom Rochon, called an all campus meeting to discuss the racial climate on campus. On his part it failed spectacularly, on the part of the students involved in POC at IC it was a energizing success. A few days before this meeting the comedy clubs on campus released a statement that read:

"Comedy is at its best when it is honest, contains complex ideas, and expresses diverse experiences. This cannot happen on a campus where the college administration does not support people of color and invalidates their experiences. The comedy community at Ithaca College representing IC Comedy Club, IC Stand Up, The Acahti Players, and IC Sketch would like to formally voice our support for POC at IC and express a vote of no confidence in President Tom Rochon and the Board of Trustees."

As president of IC Sketch I partly released and stand by this statement. Good comedy cannot exist in spaces where authority dictates which experiences get brought to light and in which light they are brought. This lack of confidence is mirrored in the greater entertainment community, although the problem of authority tends to be more insular. The reason we end up with racially insensitive (to say the least) comedies such as "Get Hard" and Adam Sandler's latest movie "Ridiculous Six" isn't because of an outsider force, it's because Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell are the authorities on how experiences are dictated. Adam Sandler has decided they would be dictated with jokes, that caused Native American actors to walk off set, such as these:

1) Sandler’s character, Tommy, aka Three Knives, a white man raised by Native Americans since childhood is married to a woman named Smoking Fox. A recurring joke refers to her "sweet zum-zum."

2) A female character named Beaver’s Breath, is propositioned by a male character, asking, "Hey Beaver’s Breath." To which she responds, "How did you know my name?"

3) A "sexy" female character named No Bra (originally named Sits-on-Face in the 2012 script), is depicted crudely squatting to urinate behind a teepee while stereotypically lighting up a peace pipe.

4) Will Patch (Will Forte) propositions Sits-on-Face by asking her, "How about after this, we go someplace and I put my peepee in your teepee?"

5) Cicero (Danny Trejo) interacts with Sits-on-Face by calling her "Strawberry Tits," to which she indignantly corrects him, saying "I am Sits-on-Face." Cicero responds, "Well, then I’m Stiff-in-Pants!"

6) There are numerous instances of crudely-punned pseudo Native American names like Five Hairy Moles, One Eyebrow, and Four Pickles.

Adam Sandler has declared himself the authority on how to portray the Native American identity leading Native American actors to unsurprisingly cast a vote of no confidence in Sandler and the industry he represents. We must recognize that this problem exists outside of IC and that the comedy battleground does not get more leveled upon graduation. We need to continue to evaluate our confidence in the institutions we have previously lauded, especially if those institutions starred in Jack and Jill.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Organization

Organization is easily one of the best ways to quickly get anything done in the film world. In most cases it can be almost impossible to get things done in a  timely manner if you don't have organization. It's one of the major reasons there are so many different positions on a film set. There is too much to be done by one person. When everybody is organized and does their job well is when a film comes out its best.

Every area of a film needs to be organized. I've taken part in many different positions on a  film set. To be honest when it comes to my daily life I tend to be very disorganized. Yet, when it comes to anything film related i become a complete neat freak. All of my camera gear is organized in a very specific way. In certain cases it has been extremely beneficial. In the world we live in inspiration can come from anywhere and the ability to quickly take out your camera and be ready to shoot is imperative.

My AC station on the film Before Your Eyes

Just the other day I was in my kitchen making dinner when I saw a hot air balloon flying just over the lake. I knew I had to get a picture of it. So in a boot I ran upstairs assembled my camera and ran outside and snapped some photos. I was able to do this all before my dinner started burning. Without my camera being organized in its bag there is no way I would have been able to get the shot in such a timely manner. I could have missed or worse, ruined my dinner.

The Picture I took while making dinner

my camera bag

Organization is most important to me when it comes to post production. You can have so many hundreds of files for a small project that if you lose the ability to stay organized then the project as a whole can suffer. Every project that I do has the same organizational process. The only thing that differs is the project itself. The folders stay the same. So if you want to succeed in the film industry start by cleaning up your act.


The five folders that make up every film I edit

Friday, October 23, 2015

Big Brother Steps in to Help Little Sister

"In May, the ACLU asked state and federal governments to investigate the hiring practices that leave women with only a minuscule fraction of directing jobs. Now the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking them up on it: According to Deadline, the EEOC will start interviewing female directors next week about the discrimination they've faced." a direct quote from the article on Vulture.com entitled"The Federal Government Is Getting Involved in Hollywood’s Female-Director Problem". Our industry has gotten so terrible at hiring female directors that they are being investigated by the federal government. The article goes on to articulate how women and minorities have before been cautious filing a class action lawsuit because they, most likely rightly, believe they would be "blacklisted". This news comes alongside of more reports popping up about actresses' salaries being lower compared to their male costars. News that women are calling "water is wet". 

Some prominent male voices have spoken up in this conversation as well, Bradley Cooper has vowed to share his salary information with his female co-stars in preproduction negotiations so as to make sure they are getting equal pay. However, Avengers star and kind of asshole (who plays Hawkeye so like bring it down a peg) Jeremy Renner has said that it's not his job to negotiate his salary and that he has people to do it for him (hopefully not for long).
Jeremy Renner Equel Pay in Hollywood

As a female director and writer, finding out that "In the top 100 films of 2014, women made up only 11 percent of writers and 19 percent of producers, while female DPs make up only 4 percent" is certainly discouraging but hardly surprising. But, looking at our class and seeing how many of the projects were written and directed by women, I can't help but say I'm also a little hopeful. 

Ninja 2 may be cheap, but what's the real cost?

Recently Atmos dropped the price of both their Ninja Star and Ninja 2 models and made them super affordable for entry level film makers such as us. But what is the real cost of this price drop?

My Ninja 2 broke within three weeks of me getting it. Perfectly kept, in its protective case, without abusing it on set at all. Then spontaneously it stops accepting HDMI input. I talked with our resident camera tech expert Phil Wacker, and although he graced me with some helpful advice it wasn't what I was hoping for.

Turns out (since PPECs owns several of them) that he'd actually opened one up in an effort to fix it, but found that the motherboard inside was so tiny and intricate that there is no way to fix it by hand. The mere fact, however, that the technology can be processed by one little motherboard is impressive within itself, but I digress. The point being that its made so cheaply that they can malfunction super easily. That combined with the fragility of the HDMI interface in general and the fact that it has no locking/holding mechanism definitely added to the problem. There is an addition that allows 3G SDI input, but at the same price as the unit itself.

Long story short, because of the cheap manufacturing tactics of Atmos I am unable to use my Ninja any further. It was too good to be true I guess.

Sicario

I'm having a pretty difficult time making sense of Sicario. Coming fresh off the heels of my first Villeneuve film viewing (the weird, overly metaphorical yet somehow beautiful "Enemy") I had pretty high expectations going into the movie. It's got Roger Deakins behind the camera and Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro in front of it, and I heard that the tension alone would make the 2 hour running time fly by.

Well. Here we are. Two hours later, and I'm not exactly sure what to think. All of those mentioned above did their job exceedingly well: Deakins killed it as always, and the performances of the three lead characters - specifically Blunt's - were riveting. The film definitely went by quickly, and it was tense throughout, and yet I can't help feeling that something is missing. Which is weird, because everywhere I look, all I can see are glowing reviews and praise being thrown at Villeneuve and Co. for making what some people are calling the best movie of the year (for example, check out Rolling Stone's review here and the AV Club's right here) So... am I wrong here? Am I missing something?

To make a long answer short; yes. Probably. The more I read about the film, the more I feel like it deserves an immediate second viewing. Specific complaints of mine, like the sense that I was never quite sure what was going on throughout the movie, were more or less put to rest when I realized that Blunt's character is supposed to be in the same shoes as the audience, with the lack of info supposedly pulling us along throughout. I'll buy that, I guess, and watching it again could take away that distraction of trying to figure out what the hell is going on and the constant worry that I'm missing something.

The more I think about it, the more that I realize that I just didn't particularly care about any of the characters (spoilers coming if you haven't seen Sicario). Sure, the scene where Blunt's character almost gets choked to death by the undercover hitman was suspenseful, but I never particularly cared if anything bad happened to her. Same goes for Brolin's and Del Toro's characters. They all did a fantastic job with the acting, don't get me wrong, but the movie more or less failed to connect with me on a personal level of any kind. In retrospect, I understand that the point was, as the AV Club puts it, to "squeeze the protagonist out of her own story." It was dark and futile, and every time you wanted to see Emily Blunt kick some male ass, she didn't. This wasn't a movie about the good guys winning, or even about the bad guys winning. Nobody won. Even the characters who managed to achieve their goals didn't win. I don't mind bleak movies, or even movies that subvert audience expectations, but with something this bleak, I at least like to be left with some sort of tidbit to ruminate on as I leave the theatre. In reality, I was kind of just frustrated.


Again, I feel like I'm just shitting on this movie, but it really did have some incredibly well executed scenes. The beginning had me 120% hooked, and might be one of the better intro scenes to any movie that I've seen in a long time. Roger Deakins filmed the whole thing beautifully, with what seemed to be a tendency to center his shots more so than I've seen him do in the past. All of the night vision/infrared scenes were really well done, and it's safe to say that the whole film was more or less a visual pleasure.

So. I don't know. I want with all my heart to say that this was a great movie, but right now I can't muster up the strength to call it anything more than decent. I'm not mad that I paid to see it, but at the same time, I wish I had enjoyed it just a teensy bit more. Denis Villeneuve has a history of making morally ambiguous films, and Sicario fails to break that trend. Maybe I'll feel different on a second viewing, but I don't exactly have high hopes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What would you do to get the shot?

When it comes down to it, it's not about what camera is used to obtain a shot but what the actual shot is of. Many filmmakers go the distance by sending their cameras into the air, under water, or even attaching it to their pet. But this filmmaker has to take the cake. Having stumbled upon a rattlesnake pit, they attached their GoPro to a stick and dove in to receive some amazing footage. 


As you can see these reptilian beasts reacted surprisingly well to camera for a bit, but eventually started to strike. I've never seen any sort of footage of the sorts.

It felt like a horror film as they began to attack the camera, but nonetheless the technology that we have at our fingertips these days is what enables this sort of filming making. A camera attached to a stick is all it took to enter this rattler nest and that hockey stick is what also enable the filmmaker to get it out after it fell off its mount.

It's because of the accessibility of this sort of technology that results with these immersive videos. It makes you not only wonder if the camera operator is crazy but also how you can take a simple set up and capture something brilliant. You won't be finding me near a snake pit like this anytime soon but I definitely will take the concept of this video and apply it to my work. Live the moment and think outside the box because this may just be the reason you walk away from a day of filming with a viral video.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Saturday Night Live: Comedy Daycare

I like to think of Saturday Night Live as a daycare for comedians with Lorne Michaels as the overruling nanny for all the little kids who don't know any better. After 40 years on air, it's a proven staple on our television line up. It's popularity has only risen in recent years because of Internet video sharing, and sites like YouTube, in which 4-6 minute videos are all anyone's attention can handle. Not only that, but we've seen the success of past SNL comedians and the all the brilliant work they've done after leaving the show. With people like Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy and countless more, the potential for success after leaving the show is very high. So like I said, it's a daycare. Young, talented comedians come in and play around with their funny and creative ideas. They grow and step into their comedic talent, mastering impressions and nailing their punchline timing. It's very obvious which cast members are brand new and which are the veterans. All the while, Lorne Michaels watches over with an insightful eye and approves or disapproves of whatever skit is being pitched. He turns these no name youngsters into show runners and head writers. It's a given that some skits will work and others will completely miss the mark, but that's part of the growing process for all these comedians.
 After leaving daycare, many of these talented jokesters have gone on to write and/or star in our favorite television shows. Most recently, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have finished their long running shows, 30 Rock and Parks and Rec. In addition, many of SNL's recent departures are now putting their footprint on the industry. Fred Armisen, who was on SNL for 13 years, is now in his 6th season of Portlandia, which he created. Last Man on Earth, Fox's new hit comedy, stars Will Forte who spent 10 years at SNL. Andy Samberg, digital short genius and 8 year cast member, is now the star of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and recently hosted the Emmys. Kristen Wiig gifted the world with Bridesmaids, and Seth Meyers is the host of Late Night. These recent SNL grads are only at the beginning of their post-SNL career and have a lot of room to grow. 

All in all, we should thank Lorne Michaels for creating such a program to help these comedians grow. Who knows if Tina Fey would have ever written Mean Girls or if Will Ferrell would have starred in dozens of hilarious comedies. Maybe? Probably not. So for all those new cast members who are awkward and mess up their lines, you may have your own show in 5-10 years. Hell, you may even host The Tonight Show.

Pushing the Limits of Film

When you think of filmmakers pushing the boundaries of film making the first thing that pops into your head is Hollywood. Big budgets big stages doing big things. Yet, how come every story seems to be something we've seen before with a touch better cgi. Shot on a new expensive camera and in front of a green screen.
In my opinion film making is pushed to its absolute limits in backcountry adventure filmmaking. In recent years the advances in camera technologies have allowed filmmakers to do more than they ever could before. One of the best films of the year Meru, which won best documentary at sundance, is one such film. While the cameras were nothing incredible, a 5d mkii and a point and shoot hd panasonic the journey they were able to capture was something completely different. Pushing themselves to the limit as well as their gear is what adventure filmmaking is all about.
This is where true filmmaking really comes into play. You can bring your fancy slider up the mountain with you but you may have to sacrifice bringing food. To survive and to succeed you need to be very particular with what you want to do. Life and death can be a matter weight when on a mountain. Also having the pure ability to film incredible footage while also climbing is a task for true adventurers. Losing focus for a second can be deadly. It is an intricate balance.
So is filmmaking progressing in Hollywood? Yes it is, but it is a completely different game from people literally risking their lives for their films. That is where the true essence of filmmaking lies. In the lines between life, death, nature, and art. Here is a film that documents the tricky balance between packing gear and supplies all while telling an incredible story.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Drones, Regulations, & The Holiday Season

In the recent years drones have been skyrocketing (ha) in popularity. With the holiday season approaching experts are estimating that over a million drones (WOW) will be given as gifts.


This rise in popularity has been a cause for concern among the FAA (Federal Aviation Association), as drones are still mostly unregulated. Drone companies such as DJI, 3DR, Parrot, etc. have been ramping up production in hopes of a successful holiday season. They have been making deals with distributors such as Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart, Amazon etc. to make the purchase of drones more available.


With the recent rise in drone popularity many people and organizations are calling for regulations to be placed on drone use. Drones have already been in the news with cases such as one landing on the white house lawn and another almost colliding with a commercial aircraft. 


Currently there are very little regulations placed on drones and their operators, with very little room for punishment for misuse. There are no licensing or registration standards, with the only current laws being that they must not fly above people and must stay in the pilots line of sight. I fully expect more strict laws to be created soon. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Do What You Have To

We've all been there, you're standing on set with a DSLR, flimsy tripod, half a roll of gaff tape, two thirds of a c stand wishing you had a technocrane and a hundredth of the budget of any given Spielberg film. The shot you want is a jib up from their feet to their head as you swing around the scene. Well why can't you? Film is all about doing what you have to, to get the shot. If it takes the rest of that roll of gaff tape and unscrewing one of those tripod legs to use the C-stand as a makeshift jib then why haven't you already figured out a way to do it. The film industry waits for nobody and even on the largest of productions grips have to make incredible things happen with some not so incredible situations. You can make it on any given film set if you can quickly and safely rig something. Be a problem solver and don't wait for a solution to come to you. Sometimes the most amazing cinema can come from the most unheard of solutions.

I've done some pretty... how do I put this, not so great riggings in my life and i'd prefer not to go into too much detail for fear of having my rental card being snapped in two and burned. I've hung a camera from a tree with a rope as a makeshift jib, used skateboards, cars, and cardboard as dollies, and even propped my camera up on my wallet to get the right angle. To be completely honest not all of these shots were perfect but I made do with what I had to make it work. That's part of learning and growing as a filmmaker. Remember if you don't have the money there is always a DIY option of putting it together.

I've written about them many times before but look towards shitty rigs for inspiration. It is a collection of the most nonsensical film riggings you will have ever seen. I promise.

So remember
-Don't wish for more
-Do It Yourself
-Try not to break the equipment

Also don't tell any rental houses I told you to do this
Love,
Anonymous

Without further ado here are the videos that inspired this post.



And the final product.



Doc Work

During Monday’s lighting workshop with Chris Scarafile, he said something toward the end that really stuck with me.  When someone asked him whether he enjoyed his fiction work or his documentary work better, he answered that without, documentary was where he his heart was. It’s the part of media creation where he can really make a difference, to tell real stories about people and places we otherwise would never be aware of. As he talked about the photos he had, the certainty in his voice made that very clear.

While I had never been much into documentary work myself, a few years ago I came across a small production company called Gnarly Bay. It’s a small group of five young filmmakers who aim to inspire people and tell stories that are worth giving people pause and spread positivity. I didn’t realize it in the moment but the short videos and films I had been watching on their website were documentaries or sorts. The sorts that I began to get really into.

This past Summer, I spent a lot of my free time walking the nature trails in Ithaca and listening to podcasts, two in particular: Radio Lab and Invisibilia. Both of these podcasts tell extremely fascinating stories in a way that is both entertaining and inspirational. It was through these podcasts that I began having the realization that there are so many amazing, heart-wretching, inspirational, shocking, and otherwise fascinating stories out there happening everyday, and if told right, can empower people to change the way they think and to take action. All of these stories floated around my head and I continued to find myself surprised and inspired. It wasn’t until our road trip to Virginia a few weeks ago that I realized my own new passion.


As we drove and talked about the film that were driving to shoot for, Shai said something to me that put to words what I had been feeling. “I want to use media to make people care about people.” That’s it. That’s what all of these videos, these podcasts, these documentaries were doing. They were making people see each other differently. When Chris Scarafile told our class that his heart lay in documentary work because of the real impact it had on other people, I didn’t need the pictures or his voice to convince me that he was telling the truth; I was feeling the same thing and just didn’t know how to express it. This semester, Shai and I are working on a short documentary that’s sole intention is to remind people to reach out and help each other every day in whatever capacity they can, to remind people that others are doing good things despite the terrible news stories and the tragedies that fill our newsfeeds. Shai, Chris, and the guys from Gnarly Bay are right; there are a lot of stories out there that need to be told and documentaries are a great way to do it. As we continue to work on this project, I am realizing more and more that while I had never been much into documentaries before, I’s never too late to realize another passion. I’m glad I still have this opportunity to get my feet wet in this field of work before I graduate because at this rate, I may end do much more documentary work after school than I ever would have thought a few years ago.

The DJI OSMO

Needless to say one of the most up and coming camera companies is DJI. With their state of the art drones, portable 3-axis gimbals, and the new line of cameras they are releasing, they are changing the world of cinema as we know it. These kind of technologies create a more immersive experience and allow filmmakers to create new and unique shots. The newest item to their arsenal is the DJI OSMO, take a look at the video below to experience the magic.



As you can see it is quite the gadget. I see large resemblances of GoPro type features, including stills, variable frame rates, high resolution of 4k, and they even added a panorama feature which will be interesting to see results of. However, it doesn't seem that the OSMO is waterproof, this is the edge that GoPro still has going for them.


The gimbal is truly amazing as well. DJI is very good at combing all of their products together, and the OSMO is a fine example of this. Taking the gimbal features that were originally used with their drones and Ronin, and adding a true handheld design is amazing. The shots of the boxer in the video above took camera moves to a whole new level. The new Zenmuse cameras for DJI's drone series can also be interchanged on to the pistol grip OSMO to have the ability to change lenses and take advantage of the micro 4/3rds sensor. The additional viewfinder via iPhone is also genius. With cameras like the GoPro, the bluetooth signal to your phone is never strong enough and the LCD viewfinder is just too small. You can also change settings of the camera like shutter speed and ISO through the app on your phone.

This new device packs a powerful punch and I am interested in seeing how it is put to use within the next few weeks. The film industry is in a constant stage of progression and this is a clear example of what we are capable of and what is in the near future. Storytelling has never had so many resources available, now just to get out there and capture the moment.

On Wrapping Principle Photography

I'm still honestly in shock that we've managed to pull this off. Shooting 4 weeks after school started was quite the challenge, but everyone really stepped up and made this film awesome. We've wrapped (pretty much) on principle photography and have even managed to get our first trailer out. The amount of feedback that we've already received is incredible.

I don't think I can even comprehend that number of people. Unfortunately our view count isn't as high as I'd like to be, but thats probably due to privacy settings at the current moment. I've had at least 10 people come up to me today alone and tell me how absolutely stoked they are to see the film, and I have to be honest I'm right there with them.

Unfortunately, I don't think things are going to go as well with the final edit. While I'm sure it'll look great (go DP and G&E) the sound we got on set was god awful and I never quite got the performance out of the child actor that I wanted. We'll see how those two play out, and I'm more excited than everyone else to see the film in its final stages. Only Editing, Scoring, Coloring, and Sound mixing left - lets get to it!

American Horror Story: Terrifying, Intriguing and Insanely Well Thought Out

American Horror Story entered its fifth season last night, premiering with the help of Lady Gaga and Matt Bomer. Now if you are a squeamish person, the opening episode of the season may have made it hard to fall asleep afterwards. The premiere of Hotel did not disappoint when it came to bloodshed, nudity, and overall blood-pumping-edge-of-your-seat moments. But not only did this brilliantly executed season opener satisfy the viewers, it also coincides with the theory behind the show as a whole. Last year, during the Freak Show season, the creator of AHS, Ryan Murphy, admitted that all seasons are connected. Because each season takes place in a different decade, viewers have now been trying to connect the dots in order to uncover the overlapping characters. This requires a lot of thinking ahead on the part of the writers. These eery overlaps do not happen by coincidence, and it is not an accident that some of the same names and places have popped up.
 


The beauty of this show is that if you miss a season, you can pick up watching the next one without missing major plot points. Each season can stand on its own if you choose to watch off and on. But the better part of AHS is all the easter eggs the writers use to tie all the seasons together. Only true fans would be able to pick out the ways all the seasons connect. In case you haven't figured them out, here's a few to note:
1. Dr. Charles Montgomery from season 1 moves to LA with his wife at the end of "Murder House". We meet Madison Montgomery in 2013 during "Coven" who came from LA. Relatives?
2. In season 4, "Freak Show" we learn Pepper's backstory who we originally met in season 2 "Asylum". "Freak Show" took place in the 1950's, where Pepper was set up for the murder of a baby and is put away for it. In 1962, we see Pepper at Briarcliff, the asylum from season 2.
3. Hans Gruper was the sadistic German doctor from "Asylum" who would do experiments on his patients in the 1960's. During "Freak Show", we discover he is the same German doctor who cut off Elsa's legs in 1932.
These three are a bit more obvious, but many other theories have risen from Murphy's admission. If you're interested about the other possible connections, click here to read more.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Skateboarding "Thesis" Update

I've begun the slow process of production for my (no longer) thesis, and we've hit many road bumps along the way. 

1. This will not be my thesis anymore. 
              Arturo was informed by the high ups in Park, and then informed me, that this project needs to stop production and will not count for any class credit. Recently among many colleges there has been an increase in insurance and liabilities because of some tragedies that happened among other schools. (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/04/18/emerson_student_dies_in_fall_from_building/) Because it will no longer count for class credit that's created some more road bumps along the way. I've been able to put less time and effort into the project because school work needs to take priority. I've also had a few crew members express less of an interest in working on this project now that it is no longer for a thesis credit. And finally I was receiving a bit of financial help on the project from my family and they are less keen on giving me money to make a skate film of my friend as opposed to something for thesis credit. 



2. The talent's busy schedule.
          Ed Kiefer, an internationally ranked downhill skateboarder, is really just a shit-head highschooler with a decently busy schedule. Ed will be away this weekend and next at races, and the weekend after that I will be fully committed to Porn so I can get credit for thesis. The previous weekend we could have shot on Sunday, but he was inside with 8 hours of homework to make up from missing school for races. So that rules weekends out. Then every day during the week he has school until 3, and stays after making up work until 3:30-4. He can never get a ride anywhere so by the time I pick him up from school, go home to get his skateboard, and get to the hill its at least 4:30. That leaves us maybe 2 hours of shooting before we lose light, AND those two hours are during rush hour, the worst time to shoot. 



3. The weather is only getting worse. 
       I was planning on gathering a lot of footage last week and last weekend, however, it was raining the entire time. For fairly obvious reasons we cannot shoot in the rain. This week so far has been overcast and dreary. While it is possible to shoot in these conditions, the shots will not turn out well. However, I'm being forced to shoot in these conditions because of the weather and time constraints. Conditions like this force us to get follow car shots which are much less creative, but shots from a tripod would not look good at all because of the weather. Also we are losing daylight quickly and with Ed's time constraints with school there is getting less and less time to shoot everyday. 


Overall, this project isn't going as planned for multiple reasons out of my control, however, because it is no longer counting as my thesis credit I am feeling less pressure. I still want this to turn out the best it can be, and I think it will. 



Thursday, October 1, 2015

GoPro's Virtual Reality Rig and Google Jump

GoPro just announced the release of Odyssey, which will work seamlessly with Google Jump.

....what?

So Google Jump is a hub for creating, sharing, and playing virtual reality videos. Google Jump will compose of three divisions, the camera and the rig, the software that patches the footage together, and the player to view all of the footage. The goal is to increase the use of virtual reality, especially through filmmaking. In theory, Jump will be able to be used with any off the shelf camera compiled into a 16 camera rig. 


When Google announced Jump, they also announced the first production rig for sale that would work with Jump, Go Pro's Odyssey. Odyssey will retail at $15,000 and an application must be submitted and approved before purchase. The Odyssey is a 3-D printed housing for 16 Go-Pro's that is pre configured to shoot video content to be worked through Jump. Google states that Odyssey will be the best tool for a filmmaker who is attempting to enter the virtual reality field but wants to avoid the DIY route. 


Below is a video that explains it in more detail:



Our Anaconda Don't Want None Unless You Got a Series Commitment Hun

This week it was announced that Nikki Minaj would produce and appear in an autobiographical sitcom about her life growing up in Queens in the 90s. The show will run on ABC Family and might single handedly save television. This show has everything millennials want in a TV show: Nikki Minaj, the 90s and their parents disapproval of the content.



It is also being written by a woman, Kate Angelo (The Bernie Mac Show, Will & Grace, Sex Tape) which at least female identifying millennials will approve of. And god knows broadcast television needs it, millennials are watching television less and less and the content being put out there is not doing much to stop the trend. If traditional linear television hopes to survive they absolutely need to start tapping into a different formula. Gone are the days where 6 white twenty somethings trying to make it in New York (actually a 3 camera set in Burbank) with their antics haunted by a creepy laugh track is gonna bring in this generation of twenty somethings. Those carefree "shows about nothing" left with the 90s along with the affordability the Manhattan apartments they were supposed to take place in. Our generation now wants an accurate and diverse perspective on the world, and Nikki Minaj might be the one to give it to us.

It is my guess that many 20 somethings will tune into this show and will continue to be loyal to its brand, if the writing and casting come together as promised. Other networks should take note and should begin looking outside their scope of hot white 20 year olds and towards a demographic of people they are now so desperate to appeal to. 


Cinematography according to Roger Deakins

If you are familiar with the art of cinematography then a name you have surely come across is Roger Deakins. Even if you haven't heard of him you've certainly heard the name at nearly every Oscars for the last decade or more. He has been nominated more than a dozen times for best cinematography. Some of his most recognized films are Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men, Fargo, and Skyfall. His latest film is Sicario.
In a recent interview he gives one of the best quotes in cinematography I think I've heard. "The thing about cinematography is you're not there to shoot amazing images. I don't want anybody to look an image and go oh that is a good image, because then i'm removing them from the story." Everybody these days is looking for that amazing image. Cameras are getting better, timelapses and drones are becoming more popular everyday. All these things create amazing footage but how does this tell a story? I have seen dozens of videos of timelapse and drone footage. While its beautiful it doesn't push the narrative.
Breaking Bad is a great example of a good use of timelapses. In some of their episodes they use time lapse as a way to go from one episode to another. Going day to night or even changing months. Just because they aren't often done for storytelling reasons doesn't mean you can't push them to help your narrative. Jake Boritt Films is a company I worked for two summers ago and their most recent film was called The Gettysburg Story. It retold the 150 year old story of the battle of Gettysburg through time lapse and drone cinematography. It worked incredibly. While the footage was incredible it also told a cohesive story that was at times even enhanced because of the way it was shot.
Roger Deakins is so popular because he will always do what the story NEEDS to be told. Thats why he has shot so many films and won so many awards. He doesn't bother himself with the small things. He doesn't view himself as anything special he just does his job, incredibly might I add. He even has been in trouble for not glamorizing famous actresses. He views them as characters. So here's a reel of some of Roger's most amazing work. Still amazing images.

 



4k, What's that all about?

In this digital environment that we live in technology of all sorts is constantly improving and at alarming rates. When we apply this to the world of cinema cameras, it feels like that already accelerating rate doubles. Companies are releasing new cameras every 12-18 months and it is very hard to keep up with especially when the main feature being improved upon with relates to resolution. 4k seems to be the new standard in the professional world. The DJI Inspire drone can shoot in 4k at 30fps, Blackmagic has multiple cameras that shoot 4.6k, Red and ARRI are the leaders of high resolution, even GoPros can shoot 4k. But what are the real benefits? With the Iphone 6s just having been released videos are popping up left and right of it's 4k ability, below is video that speaks to these features.


The filmmaker featured makes some very valid points about how companies need to keep up with the trends and how 4k is the new standard. While in the professional world this is true, it is not the same for students. It seems ridiculous that a phone can shoot this high of quality, and the results are quite amazing, but does this mean that every student should be using their new phone for their thesis film? Well, it would be a neat aesthetic, and for certain situations it may be handy, but 4k seems to be excessive to be carrying around in your pocket. Plus file space will be eaten up especially if you opt for the 32gb option. I know the Red can fill up a 128GB card shooting 4k in about 20 minutes of shooting, so how will the iPhone deal with this.

Now, one main benefit of shooting 4k is the fact that you can crop in. The video above shows that the cropped in Iphone footage really does maintain a lot of detail. This can be very useful if there is too much head room, you want a close up instead of a mid, essentially you have two shots in one. But this is also allowing filmmakers to get lazy and not really think about their shots. However, what other benefits are you getting?

The detail of 4k resolution is what really draws in filmmakers. Even on tours of the Park School I have had parents ask if we had 4k cameras and this is how I responded.

Firstly, the digital age has already made students shoot to their hearts desire, and this results in endless media to sort through. We are no longer in the age of film where the amount you shot literally was equivalent to money being spent. So why throw even more resolution and media at students in the first place, they should be focusing on the story they are trying to tell, not the resolution of their first student film.

Secondly, most DSLRs, and other cameras for that matter, that students use typically have a maximum resolution of 1080p, which was for a long time a very desirable resolution. However, when students want to use variable frame rates, the resolution starts to drop to 720p. These two resolutions while they seem out of date with everyone all hot and heavy about 4k, are in fact still very much useable. You can still crop in with 1080p, use 720p for slow mo close ups, and still maintain detail.
Most consumer level televisions can't even display proper 4k images without being excessively large. A quick google search showed the first monitor to be 98" and 30k. I don't know about you but I don't have the money or the space for that sort of monstrosity. While there are other smaller options for 4k monitors, students aren't going to have the ability to really to purchase all these new toys left and right.

While 4k is up and coming, and more and more cameras are getting it, I think for now focus on the story, because at the end of the day, crop in or crop out, iPhone or Red, film is about story and the best way to portray that is not through resolution. So shoot with whatever you want, just focus on making meaningful content, because at the end of the day, the client or director want people to remember the message of their story not the camera it was shot with.

Set Safety (Or Lack Therof)

This semester marks my first semester at Ithaca College as a TA. One of the courses I'm a TA for is Fiction Field 1, which is the second production course that many students take. On average, most students in this course have taken Intro Field, some studio courses, and have been on a fair amount of sets already. Some are even seniors, which is why the next story really bothers me.

We were doing a lighting lab in class (note: this is after the lighting demo we did, in which we described how to set up and dismantle each fixture) and students were incorrectly setting up fixtures left and right. We had a 1K that needed to be set up in the hallway, and I entrusted two of the students (one a senior and one I've been on set with before) to set it up. Not only did they set it up upside down but it was two inches away from the fire detector. Thats right, the heat sensitive fire detector that if triggered would douse the entire school in multiple feet of water. Luckily Phil Wacker stopped them before any of that happened.

But this speaks to a broader concern on safety, one that I think Ithaca College is attempting to address. There are seniors and even graduates who wouldn't know an unsafe set from a safe one. This is unacceptable, and so is IC's response to it. Their half credit "safety course" that Steve Gordon is teaching this semester is barely comprehensive, not to mention it uses solely third party material. On set safety is an essential concept that few people at this school grasp, and its amazing that there haven't been more injuries. In my opinion On Set Safety should be a half semester course, in person, that is required of everyone in TVR and Cinema. We shouldn't rely on professors of other courses to cover this topic in passing, or not at all.

As a bonus for reading my rant, here is a picture of a set up done recently by seniors from the park school. It was left like this for the duration of the set up too. Wires thrown everywhere, XLRs over AC current, unsandbagged lights, etc.