Friday, January 16, 2015

Film Day 9 - Penny and Lucien

Date: Monday, August 17, 2014
Film: Lost Penny

The beginning of Week 3... A day of filming with Penny (Rachael McOwen) and Lucien (Christopher Elliott). The Enforcer (Robert Tanos) also had a quick scene.

Check out the photos from the other film days for Lost Penny...
Film Day 1 - Film Day 2 - Film Day 3-5 - Film Day 6 - Film Day 7 - Film Day 8

Friday, January 9, 2015

Can You Spot Jake the Explainer?

He's called Jake the Explainer. And he shows up in a lot of movies.

His actual name doesn't have to be Jake. (Actually, he sometimes goes by the name of Sam or Morris.) And Jake doesn't even have to be male. He (or she) is a character in a movie that gets to explain the plot (or parts of the plot) to the other characters and, ultimately, to the audience.

Jake is perhaps most famous for showing up in murder mysteries. Here, Jake is the private investigator who gently explains to a room full of suspects whodunnit. How. And why. Mystery solved.

But he doesn't just come into murder mysteries. Screenwriters employ Jake for all sorts of movies. And sadly, he often becomes a crutch for lazy storytelling. But sometimes you just can't avoid Jake. Sometimes the audience needs something to be explained. That's when Jake needs to make an appearance. (By the way, Jake the Explainer can be any character in the movie. Even one of the main characters can briefly turned into Jake.)

Take Morpheus in The Matrix (1999). The movie world demands that things be explained to Neo (and to the audience) because otherwise, it just doesn't make sense. The job was given to Morphesus.

Jake can also explain backstory or some other important information. Jurassic Park (1993) needed to explain the "science" behind the dinosaurs. So, the filmmakers used a PSA-style cartoon featuring Mr. DNA (aka Jake).

Because Jake is cliché, it is the stuff of parody. There are lots of examples, but here's an old one from Road to Morocco (1942).
Bob Hope: A fine thing. First, you sell me for two hundred bucks. Then I'm gonna marry the Princess; then you cut in on me. Then we're carried off by a desert sheikh. Now, we're gonna have our heads chopped off.
Bing Crosby: I know all that.
Bob Hope: Yeah, but the people who came in the middle of the picture don't.
Bing Crosby: You mean they missed my song?
The key is to find the creative way to employ Jake's exposition.

A good challenge for filmmakers. To see how to hide Jake so that he isn't all that recognizable. We can hide exposition (Jake) within conflict or humor. We can imply information, rather than tell it straight out. With too much exposition the audience gets bored, but with too little they get confused. We need to find the right balance.

Jake the Explainer is probably going to show up sometime in the next movie you watch, even if for a brief appearance.

Can you spot him?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Future is Here

It's 2015. But where are the flying cars?

Did you know that this is the future that Marty McFly time-traveled to in Back to the Future II (1989)?

So... where are all the flying cars? The hover boards? And that incredible futuristic fashion (that kinda resembles the late 1980s)?

Well, it looks like it's possible that the Back to the Future team fell into the "Nobody knows anything" trap of the film industry.

"Nobody knows anything" is a quote from veteran screenwriter William Goldman. He's got a point. Predictions can be made about the future, but nobody really can know for sure about anything, because, it's, well, the future. At best, we guess. (And Back to the Future did get a few things right... or close.)

There is no formula in entertainment. Otherwise, there would be no flops in Hollywood. Yes, the people that make up the entertainment industry don't "know anything". A few examples...

The great silent film icon, Charlie Chaplin, once said that "Movies are a fad. Audiences really want to see live actors on a stage."

Walt Disney's feature length Snow White (1937) was considered his big "folly" before its release and he was told (anonymously) that he should "stick to shorts." (And while Disney was right to stick by Snow White, even Disney's magic couldn't predict a sure win every time.)

In 1939, the New York Times gave their review of the television display at the World's Fair: "The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it."

In a recent interview, actor Al Pacino recalled his time on set of the classic movie, The Godfather (1972). He and co-star Diane Keaton "thought the movie was so bad, and that we were the worst things in it."

But, this may be just what keeps filmmakers making movies. Filmmaking is not an assembly line in some factory. It's a mountain that we strive to conquer. But the mountain keeps changing. It moves. It morphs. And that is the challenge. And while it can be frustrating at times, it can also be what keeps us going. We rejoice at our successes and keep learning from our experiences.

It's 2015. It's time to tell futuristic Marty and Biff to get working on those flying cars. We only have until October 21 to make those a reality...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How to Put Out a Computer Fire

This is a Guest Post written by Maria Antonia. If you would like to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

This cover for the front of the computer pretty much just melted and fell to the floor. 

It's like getting hit by lightning. (Or so I imagine. I've never actually been hit by lightning. I don't know anybody that's been hit by lightning.) And as getting struck by lightning is not exactly an everyday occurrence, so is this...

What am I talking about? Putting out a computer fire.

And I can honestly say that I have dealt with such a fire. And, it was not the most pleasant experience. (In fact, it's taken almost two months for me to write it down.)

But let me start with a little background. As an indie film production company, we have multiple computers that we work on to edit our film projects. To help us know which computer is which, we've given names to each of our computers. The computer in question is called "Apollo".

Okay. So, back in October, Apollo caught on fire.

I'm not talking about any little fire. I mean flames -- yes, flames -- were shooting out of the computer.

The front of the computer.

Do I need to back up a bit? Probably.

Let me set the scene. I was working on another of our computers (the production office one), which is in the upstairs office. Nobody was around except me. (In fact, Martin had just left.) Apollo was in the basement office. So, that meant I was quite a distance away, blissfully unaware of any unauthorized disaster that was about to take place.

I was rather puzzled when I smelled something burning. What could be burning? I had no clue. I decided to investigate.

Here's what I saw, even before I fully understood what was happening. A glow and the sound of flames. (If you've ever been around a camp fire that's going strong, that's the same sound.) It was about this same time that the fire alarm decided it, too, smelled smoke and started to screech its warning.

That's when I rounded the corner and saw the computer. On fire.

My first thought was "Fire Extinguisher". I ran to grab it, then hurried back to Apollo, pulled the pin at the top and aimed it at the computer. I pressed down on the handle, but...

It. Did. Not. Work.

I ran to find the phone. I couldn't find the phone.

I tried the extinguisher again. I still couldn't get it to work! I ran to get water (fully aware that you should never use water for an electrical fire, but I was desperate). I didn't manage to get much water as the water came out of the tap too slowly for the current situation. (Fires will not wait for slow taps.) So I abandoned the water idea. I tried the extinguisher AGAIN.

This time it worked.

Two squirts. The fire was out.

I opened windows. I couldn't believe the amount of black smoke. (Meanwhile, the fire alarm continued to screech. I decided it was time to silence it, but thankful that it worked and did its job.)

So, what happened to the computer? And why did it spontaneously combust? We still don't quite know. Perhaps it was the dust accumulation. (Let me tell you, I've become a bit of a dust-buster when it comes to computer dust.) Perhaps also a power surge of some sort.

Apollo is a very sad sight right now. It will soon be sitting in a computer graveyard, I suppose.

What did we lose? We actually don't know exactly quite what we lost... yet. Fortunately most of the drives were pretty much up-to-date and backed up on our backup drives. Most of the footage from our movie Lost Penny was not on Apollo. Although some was and we may have lost a few clips.

We just got the new computer... Apollo's replacement. (Assembled by SLP Computer Repairs. Thanks, Steve! And thanks to Autumn for helping with cleaning and painting the smoke-damaged room!) And slowly we are going through each hard drive. (Except for 2 or 3 of the drives that suffered the most fire damage. They might be hopeless. I mean they were On Fire!)

So, while I would not recommend to anybody to have to go through such an experience, I would recommend keeping any computer you have dust-free and fully backed-up on a regular basis. And a working knowledge (and quick access) to a fire extinguisher. (Sadly you can't test a fire extinguisher out as it won't be any good once you've done so.)

How do you put out a computer fire?

Quickly. Although, I hope you never have to.

About our Guest Blogger...
MARIA ANTONIA wears many hats on a CubeCity film set, from Production Coordinator to 1st A.D. to Script Supervisor. She was inspired and awed by her recent trip to film in Haiti, and is glad she had little contact with Haitian insects (although, she is still taking her malaria medication, just in case).

If you would like to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Film Day 8 - Back Inside the Club

Date: Saturday, August 16, 2014
Film: Lost Penny

The end of Week 2. We were back with Penny, inside the Club. We said goodbye to a couple of crew members, and hello to a couple new ones.

Check out the photos from the other film days for Lost Penny...
Film Day 1 - Film Day 2 - Film Day 3-5 - Film Day 6 - Film Day 7 - Film Day 8

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Shot We Didn't Get

Imagine this. A full moon. Clouds had moved to cover the moon so that it looked like it was just peeking out from under a feather blanket. And the clouds were had just a slight orange tint to them.

It was an amazing shot.

We were out filming a cutaway of Penny's House at night for our feature, Lost Penny. The camera was set up on its tripod, but it was not yet turned on. That's when we noticed the amazing moon shot behind us.

Quick! Let's get that moon...

But we needed to do a lens change first. (We were on an 18 mm lens. Not suitable at all for filming the moon as the moon would have appeared as a dot in the sky.)

So, we made the switch over to the 300 mm lens. This is a very heavy lens, and we even have a contraption to help support the weight of the lens. It is by far the most time-consuming lens to put on the camera.

We were also shooting with the RED camera, which takes a bit of warm-up time to be ready. And while we worked as quickly as we could, by the time the camera was ready to record, we had a problem. The clouds had moved on. The moon had risen in the sky.

We missed the shot.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Little November Reshoot

Date: Sunday, November 2, 2014
Film: Lost Penny

This past Sunday we brought in a group of background actors to do some inserts of scenes from inside the club... Shots we didn't get back in August. By the end of evening, we were able to take down the lighting grid and pack up. (Special thanks to all who were able to stick around to help out!)

Check out the photos from the other film days for Lost Penny...
Film Day 1 - Film Day 2 - Film Day 3-5 - Film Day 6 - Film Day 7 - Film Day 8

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pick-ups and Re-shoots

Filming an insert on the electro-badge.
Yes, we're filming pick-ups for our feature film Lost Penny. But... What exactly are pick-ups?

Okay, so let's start with Principal Photography. That's the main film shoot. (We shot ours back in August.) And while we officially wrapped, this does not mean that we're actually finished filming.

We're now filming pick-ups. Pick-ups are basically footage shot after Principal Photography. Sometimes it's referred to as filming inserts (usually of props), its purpose is to help with the flow of the final edit. In our case, we've been filming inserts since September with a small skeleton crew and actor hand and body doubles. (Many of the inserts involve the special electro-badges as you can see in the picture.)

Usually pick-up filming is more relaxed, partly due to the fact that we don't need to be worried about getting sound quality (as we're usually not shooting dialogue). By the way, that doesn't mean we don't get sound. We do. To help us when we do the foley (sound effects) later on.

On the other hand, there is what is called a re-shoot. A re-shoot is when the actors are re-called to shoot a new scene (or part of a scene). A re-shoot tends to be more ambitious, more like a mini-Principal Photography.

This Sunday, November 2nd, we're filming some more pick-ups... And we're also doing a bit of a re-shoot. Actually it's a bit of a re-shoot/pick-up mash-up. We're bringing in a whole group of background actors for the day. (And, hey, if you're in the Niagara area and want to be a part of the shoot, check out this webpage. We'd love to see you there!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

DVD Release Party

We're prepping for the DVD Release Party Lazer Us: The Legend of Jimi Lazer on Sunday...

The party is an Open House from 2-5 pm for those in the Niagara Region.

Various cast and crew will be there, including some of the props from the movie. Also, Jim Yorfido will be performing live music as the Man in Black. (Watch a recent video of Jim Yorfido as the Man in Black as he performs one of the songs from the soundtrack in the movie.)

DVDs will be available for sale at a $15 "Party Pick-up" Special.

Can't make it? You can still order the DVD online... The Special Pre-Order Price is $14.95 (plus shipping and handling; for a limited time only as the price goes up on October 20th.) For more details or to pre-order your DVD today, go to our website.

P.S. Now you can listen to the music from the soundtrack of the Lazer Us movie!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Film Day 7 - Forgotten Alley

Date: Friday, August 15, 2014
Film: Lost Penny

Friday was primarily a night-time shoot. We arrived on location in late afternoon, but had to wait until dark before we could shoot the scenes with Penny (Rachael McOwen), Tenshi (Andrew Roth) and the Dealer (Paul Hoerdt) and his gang.

Check out the photos from the other film days for Lost Penny...
Film Day 1 - Film Day 2 - Film Day 3-5 - Film Day 6 - Film Day 7 - Film Day 8