Monday, May 7, 2012

Info You Can Use: Inside The DIY Filmmaker's Toolkit

Inside the DIY Filmmaker’s Toolkit   
For the cash-strapped filmmaker who has the ambitious vision but lacks a Hollywood budget, here’s a handy guide to do-it-yourself production equipment and tools.

This is a wonderfully written and illustrated article that gives handy tips to aspiring filmmakers. Looking for a good camera to start out with? This article gives you two suggestions. Check out handheld camcorders or DSLR cameras depending on what your looking for. The handhelds tend to have a “unique realism that is often not achieved with large-scale cameras”. Plus, they’re cheap and easy to transport. Now DSLR cameras are also more affordable when compared to other cameras used for major motion pictures. They have interchangeable lenses and large image sensors that can produce the look and feel of professional-grade film cameras. 

Need a dolly? Use a wheelchair! They make for a fantastic substitute. Heck, it’s been rumored that Robert Rodriguez borrowed one to film runaway scenes in “El Mariachi”. 

Sometimes we want action shots but are afraid of not being able to get a steady shot. Have no fear, this article explains how you can make one with solid pipes or rods, a t-joint and a counterbalancing weight. 

Green screens. The article recommends using them for special effects, I agree. Now this is something I’ve seen used before but didn’t hear about.

 Chinese paper lanterns as light diffusers. It makes perfect sense! 

If you need a boom microphone, you can easily do that by using telescoping mop handles, PVC pipe and even a broomstick. Just attach the microphone holder and microphone and you’re done! 

I’ve always wanted to use a jib shot and now, with this suggestion, I very well could! A tripod jib is a cheaper solution than getting an actual jib. Get a low-cost tripod, aluminum poles, a camera mount and a counter weight. 

Fake blood can be made quite simply. You can use one part water, 3 parts corn syrup and red food coloring. 

Now if you want sound effects, go make them! The article gives several suggestions as to how to make some and examples of what others have done! 

Why I chose it: 

I chose this article because it gave references to things I knew about and wanted to hear more about. The article was nicely made, very creative and definitely helpful. Many of the things the article mentions are things that most of us can afford and do. I mean, I had never thought of using Chinese paper lanterns as light diffusers. These suggestions give hope to aspiring filmmakers, like myself, that we can create everything (or almost everything) that we see in our heads.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

GIFF 2012

The Gasparilla Film Festival never disappoints when it comes to quality independents and panels.  I really wish I was able to see all the films but I haven't figured out how to be at three different places at the same time. :D

One of the films I was lucky enough to see was Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best .  It was a moving, funny and inspiring story with lots of good music.  It stars our very own local bred talent Arielle Kebbel!  Ryan O'Nan  a well deserving winner of the Rising Star Award at this year's GIFF wrote, directed and starred in this movie.  He also wrote and performed all the songs in the movie along with Michael Weston.  If you're a fan of House, like I am,  then you'll recognize him instantly.

Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best won the Digital Domain Institute Award for Audience Best Narrative and Michael Weston won Digital Domain Institute Award for Special Mention Male.  The movie will be released in theatres later this year as will the soundtrack album from the movie.  If you get the chance to catch the tour of the title band - you should take it!!  Find out more from The Hollywood Reporter.

I also got to watch them perform the songs LIVE at the Tampa Bay Brewery after the film!!  What a treat!

Another movie that I would recommend is A Bronx Tale by Chazz Palminteri.

Congratulations to everyone involved in Subprime for winning the Florida Governor’s Office Film in Florida Award for Best Florida Prod.  starring our very own Michael Santi and Chris Greene.

Congratulations to Akil Dupont  for winning the Digital Domain Institute Award for Audience Best Short Narrative for Underground - a slave story told through song.

Have to give a special mention to The Last War  starring local Tampa talent Trish Chaney.

Congratulations are due to Keith David for the Life Achievement Award and to Chazz Palminteri for the Career Achievement Award. They joined the great actor's panel this year along with past award winners Armand Assante and Obba Babatunde.

I also had the pleasure of meeting an amazing inspiration Brook Susan Parker.  To learn more about her incredible journey visit: Above the Noise.

Kudos to Elizabeth Fendrick  and Joseph Restaino along with everyone responsible for putting together this great Film Festival including all the volunteers!

Don't forget to check out my pictures on Facebook!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Info you can use: Film Production Apps

Film production Apps
From scriptwriting to storyboard composers, iPad and iPhone assistants for all areas of filmmaking    


This article is all about how today’s iPad and iPhone have revolutionized the way we do things on and off set. The article talks about six different apps that focus on different areas of production.
The first app is all about script writing. The app is called Scripts Pro and it allows you to create and edit new scripts along with the ability to use files from Celtx and the industry standard Final Draft Pro. A great thing about this product is that it makes for a cheap alternative to Final Draft Pro with a low price of $6 on iTunes.

The next app comes from the creative geniuses at Cinemek with their app, “Hitchcock Storyboard Composer.” The app allows you to make a storyboard incorporated with notes, audio clips, and pictures. After you finish creating your storyboard you can create a PDF file to playback as a video! This nifty tool is only $20 on iTunes.

Artemis Director’s Viewfinder is the third app explained in this article. The app allows one to achieve the perfect shot based on whatever format they have. Once they’re happy with the shot they’ve created they can email a pic of it to whomever they need to. If they want to add it onto their storyboard they can do that as well!

The fourth app is one I’ve been lucky enough to see in action. For a mere $5 on iTunes you can have a fully functioning camera slate, but get this, there’s more. You can input info on ISO speed, aperture and white balance, plus, syncing audio for dual-audio system shoots, which is fantastic! The price is low compared to physical camera slates so it lightens up the budget.

The fifth app is called ProPrompter, only $10 on iTunes, which allows for an on-the-go prompter. Have a few iPads to spare? Put them to use by syncing them to all the cameras you have so the person on screen has no trouble at all switching from camera to camera. The speed settings are nicely and easily adjustable.

The final app in this spectacular article is geared towards journalists but is important to mention nonetheless. At a cool price of $4, the TCoder allows for one to have the running camera synced to their iPhone or iPad and take notes that occur in real-time making the editors’ job easier. 

Why I chose this article:

 I chose this article primarily to show how technology is advancing the way we do things in film. The cameras we have today are beyond amazing, but when combined with the added power and efficiency the iPad and iPhone bring to productions, it’s astonishing. I’ve only ever heard of the slate app out of all the apps in this article. I had no idea how much we could do on these devices till this article came along. I chose this article because the information it gave me will save me time and money in the future. The most expensive app on here is only $30 bucks, and if one were to buy all these apps, they’d only pay $75 bucks. That’s below a $100 dollars! 

We all know how valuable it is to save money where you can, and this article helps you do that effectively by showing the camera slate app and the script writing app that allows you to bypass having to pay for an actual camera slate and Final Draft Pro software. Another way is how we’ve learned that time itself is money, and with ProPrompter being able to sync with multiple cameras at once, time is definitely saved. 

by Aaron Kohn in Tech on 10 August 2010 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

In Review: The Artist

artist poster 

Oh my God.  Never have I experienced such a true piece of cinema.  “The Artist” written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, is something to marvel at.  The movie may have been a bit longer than movies today, but the length was not an issue.  Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a silent film star who finds himself seemingly forgotten when talkies arrive.  Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, a woman he meets by chance and sparks with instantly, saves him (as did George’s dog) from ultimate doom.  The three characters that stood out to me where George Valentin, Peppy Miller, and the dog!  George is proud, charismatic, distressed, in love and passionate.  Peppy is enthusiastic, beautiful, loving, famous and sweet.  The dog is loyal, trained, caring, heroic and intelligent.  This film took place in the late 1920s and early 1930s America.  This film is a romance, comedy and drama.  I was wholly entertained.  I laughed, I teared up, I was moved.  The theme I got from the film was, “Don’t be so proud that you miss out on something amazing.”

Like “Hugo”, the production of this film was nearly flawless.  There were no errors that diverted my attention away from the story.  The sets matched the period perfectly, the lighting was great as well.  The costumes were superb!  The style of the 1930s was reflected in this film.  I’m sure there were wigs used, however, everyone’s hair looked real!  Make-up was done nicely, too.

The sound!  Couldn’t hear ANY of the dialogue for the first 96 minutes of the film.  Wonder why.  All kidding aside, the sound was crisp, clear and had proper volume.  The choreography takes me back to when I’d watch black and white films, some silent, as a kid.  It was so happy, it made me want to join in with them and experience the joy they shared on screen.  The musical score was delightful, as the it set the tempo and matched the emotions going on in the film.  They also knew when silence was just as powerful and as purposeful.

I loved the props!  They got all the appropriate props for everything!  Especially the props for the studio sets.  And the cars too, they were wonderful.

The acting blew me away.  I was astonished at the level of understanding I had of what was going on, who was feeling or saying what.  The body language was spot on too.  In the scene where Peppy goes to George’s dressing room to leave him a message on the mirror, when they have a moment and it looks like they’re going to kiss, Clifton comes in.  Bérénice places her hand on her neck at that moment and it perfectly translates what she’s feeling!  The actors did a remarkable job of creating unbelievable chemistry on screen and the director/writer made a timeless piece and used this medium fantastically.

I hope to see more silent films in the next year as I think we can expect to see a comeback of them.  Maybe not, but I think it would challenge many. 

*A small tidbit, the movie was shot in the 1.33:1 "Academy ratio," just as in silent-film days, since director/writer Hazanvicius, Michel considered it 'perfect for actors' because it gives them 'a presence, a power, a strength. They occupy all the space of the screen.'

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Info you can use: Video Camera White Balance


This article is about one thing and one thing only: white balancing!   On a video camera that is.  The article first explained what the term “white balance” means.   It said that it basically means “color balance”.

Now, the article went on to explain the three main terms that describe white balance features. One is completely automatic, the other is adjustable through the camera itself while others require fully manual filter changes and lens additions.  The article recommends white balancing before every shoot, every time you go indoors, outdoors, if you change the lighting set up, etc.   The article notes that even though your eye may not notice the changes, the camera will, so beware.

The article gave some insight as to how much white should be in the frame for the camera to white balance.   80% is what Sony suggests.   I also learned that it takes a few seconds, typically, before the camera adjusts.

Now, the article does go on to say that advanced camera operators will purposefully change the white balance to be bluer or more orange for a certain effect.   To make it warmer or cooler basically.

Why I chose it:  

I chose this article because it reinforces what I have learnt about White Balancing. This article gives some visual references about the situations when lighting is too blue or orange because of the white balance.   This article gave some crucial advice that I felt might be useful to know.
I came across this article and thought, “This is perfect!”  since I've been learning why white balance is used and how it can help the camera to see the colors correctly.


Monday, December 5, 2011

To Kill A Mockingbird at DPHS (2011)

The first weekend of November this year, I had the pleasure of both watching and being a part of  five live performances of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.  I played the role of Mr. Cunningham.  The play, written by Christopher Sergel, is adapted from Harper Lee’s novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Karen Rugerio directed this play as well. The setting is Maycomb, Alabama 1935. A basic summary of the plot is this: Jem and Scout meet Dill, a young boy who feeds on their fascination of Boo Radley. Atticus, Jem and Scout’s father, is appointed to defend a black man named Tom Robinson who is charged with raping and beating Mayella Ewell. When the day of the trial arrives it is revealed that Bob and Mayella Ewell are lying, and that Mayella made sexual advances toward Tom. Now, Tom is innocent, but is still sent to jail with a guilty verdict. Jem’s faith, along with Atticus’s, in the justice system decreases. Especially so when they are told by Heck Tate, the sheriff, that Tom was shot to death. Then, Bob Ewell, who was humiliated in front of everyone in court, attacks Jem and Scout. This lures out Boo Radley, who saves Jem and Scout from Bob. The sheriff sees no reason to prosecute Boo or Jem, as it was Bob that was killed and convinces Atticus to not pursue it.

Three characters that stood out to me were Atticus Finch, Mayella Ewell, and last but not least, Jem. Atticus has integrity, respect, intelligence, courage and is compassionate. Mayella is conflicted, abused, manipulated, maladjusted and fearful. Jem is fun, friendly, understanding, hurt and is maturing. I feel that for this play, there is no “main idea” that is being sent across here. There is a great mix of themes in this play, and the one that stood out the most to me is courage. Doing the right thing even though it isn’t popular. Atticus does that in this play and to me it is awe-inspiring.

 Now, I will discuss the performance I was in on Friday, on the night in which the judges came to see us. The set, watching it from concept to completion was simply amazing. I mean the paint and design of the houses and courtroom were well fitting of the images created in my mind when I first read the play. The lighting wasn’t bad, but there were some rough spots in which the lighting hindered the watching ability from the audience’s point of view. I saw footage of the mob scene and found that it was needlessly dark. Luckily, the problem was addressed and the lighting was perfect on the days following Friday. The costumes were all period appropriate, so no complaints there. The props were good as well, so the illusion was never ruined by little nuances like that. Wigs and make-up were excellent. I found the shadowing of my face to be perfect as to how my face was actually aligned. Though, having prior knowledge of how some of the wigged actors look pre-wig, it was slightly uncomfortable as it was messing with the already preset image in my mind. The sound was pretty good, there were moments when projection, mine too, wasn’t high enough. The last portion of the play the audience sees was nicely done. I get what Ms. Rugerio was trying to accomplish by creating this picture of everyone together. The vocals were excellent, I speak of course of the main singer, her voice definitely exceeds normal expectations of quality.  The acting, from what I was able to see (the courtroom scene mainly), was impressive.

 I know firsthand that everyone worked tirelessly to bring up their performance level.  I liked what everyone did with their characters in how they all did their part and saw things from the character’s point of view. I really enjoyed playing the role and doing the work in learning more about this character.  I think Gregory Peck and Harper Lee would be proud of this production.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The In- Betweeners

So I got to work a couple of times on MTV's new show "The In-Betweeners".  It's a show about high school kids and it was shot high school!

I'd wanted to have the chance to be part of this project since they were auditioning for the pilot.  Unfortunately, they were always looking for someone over 18.  Then they were looking for way under my age range.  I kept running into this snag every attempt I made.

Now, my high school had an agreement with the production that gave the high school students the chance to be extras on the show...unpaid extras...but they got to be a part of it.

So far I had the chance to work with them on two occasions.   One of those days was during a school day, so I got to skip a couple of classes in the a.m. as well as come back on set after school.
I got the chance to watch Mark L. Young in action.  Some of Mark's past works include Dexter,  Heroes and Sex Drive. He plays one of the main characters, Neil.

Being on set, even when you're not the focus of the camera, is always an enjoyable and interesting experience.  Just as in everything else in life, you get what you put into it.  I'm interested in working both sides of the camera, so this gives me the chance to observe and learn from my surroundings.  It is always an opportunity to meet creative, like-minded people on the same journey as yourself.