Late Night Blogging helps you gain weight

Here, at 1:15am, I couldn’t sleep due to my skin randomly itching. I think I’m just not tired and therefore noticing any little thing. Although, it could very well be the signs of stress. Stress is the #4 skin irritant behind Lyme, cats, and poison ivy. That was completely made up. If you’re coming here for facts, keep in mind that the guy writing this is 40 lbs over weight and has a graduate degree in storytelling.

I decided I could upload some screen shots from my thesis film, Pulling U. Allow me to indulge myself to myself here and expound upon the details of the movie. Pulling U stands for “Pulling University,” a fictional place where our story takes place. There is a loose colonial theme that runs throughout the script, so that’s why we decided to name the college after a lesser known historical figure, Captain John Pulling, who was apparently responsible for ringing the bell for Paul Revere’s ride of “the Red Coats are coming.” This is where the phrase “One if by land, Two if by sea.” Like I said, you come here for the facts.

Nearly a year ago, about the time my hiatus on this blog began, my friend, Bobby, and I joked around about how someone should make their thesis a crappy 80’s movie called Bikini Carwash. It would revolve around a down and out business owner or three who concoct a scheme to increase business and save their town against some evil syndicate of uptight adults who want this tom foolery out of here. Well, upon further review, it actually turns out there isn’t a movie simply called Bikini Carwash, much to my surprise. There are variations of the title, but nothing that bold and to the point, at least according to IMDb.

From there, we went into our summer projects, our D2’s as we call them, and I forgot completely about the idea. Then fall rolled around and we began the pitching process for our thesis films. We were required to submit about 7-8 ideas to the faculty and they graded them with “Recommend,” “Consider,” “Low Consideration,” and “Pass,” meaning you could no longer submit that idea. Amongst my wide range of ideas I had a post-apocalyptic drama revolving around a 12 year old boy, a campy period piece combining two Edgar Allen Poe tales, a mainstream thriller like Eagle Eye, a quirky dramedy based off of the fantastic short story written by my lovely girlfriend, Kiera (she’s a creative writing major), and a movie roughly titled 12 Gauge Bikini. This was the bastardized reincarnation of Bikini Carwash that had been talked about 6 months earlier.

The faculty liked a lot of my ideas… except that one. They gave it low consideration. But for some reason, I felt the urge to fight for ir and make it a smart comedy about girls dealing with objectification and image. Kiera was 100% behind the idea as well and she offered to help me and co-write my thesis with me, something we had discusses pretty much since we had met back in May of ’09. We then set out on a semester long adventure of re-writes, arguments, and joke telling that resulted in the script we have now entitled Pulling U.

Class is out.

The story revolves around a fictional sorority, Theta Mu Psi, on the campus of John Pulling University. They have decided to enter into a campus-wide contest to create the next video the university uses as the admissions commercial, like what you see between halves on the football games. The winner receives a $25,000 donation to any charity of their choosing which sparks the ambitious gusto of the newly elected president, Eliza. She basically uses this as a vehicle for her to gain as much admiration as possible. Theta Mu’s philanthropy of choice is one that protects baby gray seals from being clubbed by hunters so everything relates back to seals with Eliza. She decides to hire a two-bit Joe Francis wanna be named Stu McNamara, who claims to have the professional know-how to make their video as slick as possible, when actually he just wants to get as many of the girls as scantily clad as possible. This all unfolds in front of the main character, Ryan, who recently lost the election to Eliza and now has to sit back and watch the bus get driven off of a cliff. Ryan and her friends object, they rebel, shenanigans ensue, etc.

The script reads really fast, much like Arrested Development or 30Rock, but the tone is a lot like a National Lampoons or a Mean Girls. We had such a blast filming it and our cast was spot-on. Kiera played the lead of Ryan (multi-talented, I know) and our cast was rounded out by a lot of girls in the theater department here at FSU. They killed it. We also had a guy come in from Orlando to play the part of Stu. His name was Mike and he couldn’t have been nicer. He fit the part perfectly.I’ll have a rough cut of it by then of May and we’ll have it ready to enter festivals by our premiere on August 7th. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to post any of it here online but I can show you some screen shots.

Our good friend, Mikey Woodcock came all the way from Orlando to help me with my storyboards and they looked fantastic! The faculty even used them as a tutorial on how the film school operates when FSU’s new president came to tour. Of course, he had to come when we were outside with girls in bikinis. Typical.

Allow me to get techno on you for those who care. If you don’t care, skip this paragraph. Like I said before, this was shot on the RED ONE at 4K. We have an on-sight assistant editor who downloads the footage throughout the day off of the flash cards that go inside the RED.  The RED’s file structure goes  a bit like this: The data record is just that, data. No real footage exists. What you get is a specific file name for the card or “mag” if you want to relate it to film, such as A001-25784-49282. The A001 is the digit that changes every time you replace the flash card and format it. It’ll automatically change it to the next number, such as A002. Within that folder is a list of folders with the “clip” name on each one. Such as C011, C012, C013. Every time you press the record button, a new clip is formed. Within the clip folders are four Quicktime files: High, Med, Low, and Proxy. With a new Macbook Pro, you can watch up to the Med resolution no sweat. But again, the footage doesn’t actually exist yet. Our assistant editor grabs the med proxies and places them in a Final Cut project timeline. They then grab the sound card and proceed in syncing all the footage to the sound. We still slate our takes just like in normal film. The RED does have an audio input for a wireless mic that can be used as a reference sound for the takes, but it’s simply not worth the trouble in our world. After the footage is essentially assembled into a dailies timeline, we have our post production hall “bake” the footage out in RED Cine, which is a proprietary program that handles all the specs of  your footage.

In here, you can adjust color temp, crush the blacks, give it a bypass, and even bump up the ISO before you even bake it out. Then, when you tell it to bake, it’ll create the footage to your exact specifications that you input in Red Cine. It’s idiot proof really. You do need to meter correctly and make sure you don’t drastically over or under expose the footage, but otherwise, you can really go back and make things look super nice. We edit from a Pro-Res format as not to create a hellacious process for Fina Cut and then our final edit timeline is baked out at 2K resolution, that of a normal feature motion picture.  Kinda cool, eh? The only thing I hate is that it takes over your ENTIRE computer when you use it and you can’t get to any other programs that are running. Stupid. Plus, even a juiced up MacPro needs help from like two of its brothers in order to bake it out at a 5:1 ratio. UGH.

The screen shots below have not been color corrected. They look great in my opinion. My DP was my good friend Chris Holcomb and I think I nearly killed him. He’s super organized and very thorough about his work. I, however, prefer a more organic method of changing coverage on set and tweaking scenes as we go. This gave him some gray hairs. Not to mention we were outside fighting the sun and juggling about 30-40 extras at any given time. But thought off-color jokes and Capri-Sun we persevered!

I considered my movie to be a smashing success. We had a dynamite cast, wonderful extras, and a kick ass team including Bobby as my producer, Chris as my DP, and Stephen as my designer. This was a HUGE design job too. I couldn’t have been more pleased. We filmed at the Gamma Phi Beta house, of which Kiera is an alumni. The girls were quite welcoming and I think it helped to add a level of authenticity to it. The other days were filmed outside of our film on the back lot in between FSU’ baseball and football stadiums. It was the perfect place to look collegiate. We also filmed our final party scene at this huge house in Tallahassee where 5 frat guys live and were totally down with us just having a party there.

I also can’t say enough about my friends from Atlanta who came down and helped out for three days. Without them, half of this stuff wouldn’t be possible. We had a huge scene where we dropped a 20’x40′ American flag to reveal mass chaos behind it and they really took control to ensure that went smoothly, and MAN did it ever. I don’t want to give away the plot point, but when you see it, it’s totally worth it. I’m very proud of the fact that my thesis doesn’t look “student film-ish.” So thank you Tim Wagy, Jon Velazco, Mac Stewart, Randall Bach, Garrett Sanders, Chris Sparks, Kieu-Ann Velazco, Brandon Downs, Kit Stevens and Jenni Wilson. You made it possible.

On another cool note, I spoke with Mike Woods, guitarist to one of my favorite bands, Damone. They’re based out of Boston. They play good ole fashion party rock. He was gracious enough to grant me permission to use about 4 of their songs on my soundtrack, which will really up my production value. The lesson here: KEEP IN CONTACT WITH EVERYONE.

I also had the chance top film some funny extras such as a PSA about killing seals, some cast interviews, and a decent blooper reel. I’m excited to have some extras stuff for the DVD. Enjoy!

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