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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.
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!
If any of you are still out there, I’d much like to rekindle our friendship. Upon looking back, I realized that the blog had gone dormant for what is going on a year now. May 2nd, 2009 was the last time I made an entry. I know that a lot can happen in year, and the last year, particularly the latter half of 2009 was the most eventful time of my life. Hence, the absence on the blog.
Instead of recapping all the details, I can tell you what exists now in the present.
1. I have a lovely girlfriend of 6 months, Kiera. She’s extraordinarily creative and smart and I have such a wonderful connection with her. She actually co-wrote my–
2. –thesis film that we just finished shooting on April 13th. It was a smartass comedy about sorority girls and their attempts to win a video contest. We had such a blast. It was the culmination of my film school experience and now I will spend the summer preparing it for festivals and such. It was certainly not the movie I planned on making in film school, but I’m so glad I did. It was a wonderful use of my talents and interests, particularly in comedy. I’ll post some screen shots from it later but my external hard drive is at Kiera’s house with all the shots on it. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you can see them.
3. I live alone now. That has been a great experience as well. My apartment is far too expensive, but I have proved to myself that I’m not a lonely person and I really enjoy cooking.
4. I’ve also become a firm believer in the RED ONE HD camera platform. I shot my thesis as well as my summer ’09 project Ice Creamageddon” with it last July. It has the most bang for the buck in my opinion. No, it’s not film. But for those of us who might have the resources to experiment or use film, the image quality is undeniable. Yes, it takes some of the craftsmanship out of the DP’ing process, but honestly, unless you’re doing major motion picture stuff, who cares? I also enjoy the fact that I feel confident enough to DP a project on my own with it, should that opportunity arise. But I’m not trying to be a DP. Some people have moved to the RED as their weapon of choice, like Steven Soderbergh. The Informant and Che were both shot on the RED. Other movies include Knowing, The Book of Eli, and District 9. It has it’s downfalls, but it also has its advantages. I’ll be talking about it much more in the future.
5. I still love movies. My opinion of them hasn’t changed. Now, after nearly two years of film school, I still find them magical and I anxiously await movies like IronMan 2 and Inception.
I’d also like to just start the blogging process in general. I don’t want this to be about film school because that’s what made me lose interest in the first place. I’m just going to speak and if you want to respond, please do. I don’t know what the future holds or where I’ll be this fall, but I do know that film school has afforded me the chance to do things I would have never done before.
More to come. I’m back, baby.
Yes, I’m back. If there is one thing I’ve learned about film school, it’s that all other aspects of my life fall to the wayside.
We recently ended our second semester here at FSU. It’s really weird for me to realize I’ve been here almost 9 months. Film school seems to exist in a separate reality where twice as much happens in the same amount of time. I know how that sounds, “Copponex, don’t be a dick. You make it sound like everyone else’s life is boring.” False. In fact, your lives are probably TWICE as interesting as mine. But I honestly feel like I’ve been here in Tallahassee for two years. It really does feel like that.
As a brief review, the semester went about like this:
4 weeks on set, 4 weeks of class, 4 weeks on set, 4 weeks of class. Track 1 had the exact opposite semester. This somehow made all the difference because all we heard from them was how horrible school was. Over in Track 2, we were having a great time. I loved our workshops this semester. Three in particular were extremely benefical to learning about film: Directing, Writing, and cinematography.
First off, our directing workshop was taught by Victor Nunez, you can check our his credentials here:http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0638033/
He was fantastic. Our classes broke down into groups of 5 people working with him at a time. The small groups focused around one person playing director for a day while everyone else filled out the camera, sound, and acting positions. This was some of the most simplistic and logical instruction I’ve ever received. Just even tiny things on why the camera should be farther back or why the beat of a scene should be held just a second longer. He’s good. Really good. And now I actually am starting to understand what it is a director does.
Our writing workshops were with Tim Long, our teacher from last semester. He’s great at mechanics and the ball-busting, hair pulling details of writing a script. Pages counts, beats, and keeping your screenplay “vertical” were things I would have never really encountered had I not taken that class. I’m not entirely satisfied with his content choices, but his ability to keep your script on track is priceless.
Cinematography was with Rex Metz. His credits go for miles:http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0582701/
Rex taught us a great deal about lighting and how a scene needs to be approached. I’m still not quite sure what a good cinematographer does exactly, but I’m getting an idea. Rex’s teaching is more stream of conscience than anything. He just talks, points, and meters. His old Hollywood stories are pretty ridiculous too…
I found that my weekend projects for my directing class hepled me the most with anything. A lot of times, Clay, Bobby, BG, and I would go to an empty soundstage, set up some lights, and shoot something. That is honestly the best way to support your education. You can read books and sit in class for years, but until you set up a light and go, “Wow, that looks like total garbage,” you won’t know how to do anything.
Our D2’s are set to start filming on May 15th. This is going to be a crazy nine weeks, for sure. I’m staying level-headed about. I don’t let things get to me like they did last semester. I learned to take away from film school what I want to learn and what I feel is important. Stressing over every detail gets you nowhere. I’m excited about my script. I’ll be using kids and teenagers and it will be a type of exaggerated reality, kinda like The Adventures of Pete and Pete. We’re shooting our D2’s exclusively on the RED cameras. We’ll how that goes since those things only like temperatures of about 65-72 degrees. Hot, sticky summers in Tallahassee should prove… interesting.
Aside from that, I’d rather not bore you with school, if anyone is even left reading by this point. I’m home this whole week before going back on Mother’s Day. I will enjoy it and nothing will stop me.
I will now recite a list of things that make me happy to be alive:
1. Terminator Salvation – How excited am I for this movie? Only that I have been hoping for a war against robots since I was like ten.
2. Taylor Swift – I just, I can’t even explain how much I like her. Funny, pretty, writes her own songs.
3. Transformers 2 – I don’t care at all, in any way, whatsoever, what your opinion of the first one was. That was pure enjoyment. I can’t wait.
4. Butler, GA – You’ve heard me talk about the promised land my friend owns in South Georgia. In a world of swine flu, fiscal irresponsibility, Bill Maher, film school, hipsters, and diarrhea, you can always turn to AMERICA.
5. My new Apartment – I’ll be moving in August 20th or so. This will be the first time in my life that I have lived alone. 4th floor, furnished, by myself, big TV, awesomeness. Come visit.
That’s all for now. Go to bed, it’s late.
I’m here, keeping my promises, as long as it took. I just finished my first stint as a crew member on thesis. My first job was as 2nd AC for the RED camera. For those of you who don’t know, RED is a “digital cinema” company started by Jim Jannard, the founder of Oakley. The RED camera has the ability to shoot extremely high resolution images with a framerate closely resembling the look of film. The advantage is that the price is so drastically less than other professional cameras and that it takes many of the same high quality lenses and accessories you would use in cinematography.
The first two thesis movies being shot by the second-year students were shot on the RED. So, we were essentially guinea pigs. The school had just bought these things late last semester. Instead of downloading and reloading film rolls, you offload the footage from the RED hard drive to two other separate hard drives. This data is so GIGANTIC that it takes a good amount of time to offload it. In one day we shot 88 gigs of footage. On top of that, I’m SUPPOSED to build a dailies reel each day in Final Cut, but then it takes like 2 hours to render that stuff. Anyway, technical stuff aside, sometimes it’s a pain in the ass… plus you’re doing this on top of setting up camera, changing lenses, slating, etc.
The movie we were shooting was called The River, Wind, and Tree. The script is fairly abstract and our director said she was inspired by a dream she had. They specially requested a jib arm that the school owns, though it never seems to work when they build it. Of course, the weight makes the grip truck “too heavy,” so they asked me if I could put it in my Pathfinder (which is actually my mom’s car I drove back down after Christmas). The first three days we shot in Tallahassee. Then, on Saturday, we wrapped early and drove about 90 miles east to the Suwannee River State park right outside Live Oak, FL. This place was really cool… BUT FREEZING. I’m still thawing. I got so sick of being cold all day long. Some seriously nasty weather hit us Sunday afternoon. It was cold, windy and rainy. The sand was EVERYWHERE. That night, the entire camera team took all the boxes back to the motel and blew and brushed the sand out of everything.
I didn’t really get to hear much of the inauguration. Someone had it on their car radio at base camp, but we were working.
What I’ve got next is an assistant editing job. I’ll be syncing the sound with the daily footage and probably helping develop my own rough cut. The editor, Charles, is a second-year and is a super nice Dude. We got along really well on set while he was camera-opping. I’ve learned a lot about what goes into filmmaking. Mostly, unless you are a director, the creative decision maker that drives the process, you are a craftsman who accomplishes one task to fulfill a vision. This guy is good at pulling focus, this guy is good at sound, this guy is a good camera op. This is where I think the film world and I don’t gel. I love editing, mostly because it’s a creative constructive acitivity. I like writing as well. But all the production stuff inbetween is something that just isn’t for me… and it took me coming here and jumping into to realize this. I feel it’s just as important to know what you don’t want to do along with knowing what you do. I’m not sure what this means for my immediate future, and as of now, I’m not like unenrolling or anything.
This line of work is full of so many people who are EXTREMELY passionate about what they do. They’re good at their jobs and they thrive on anything having to do with the film world. I just can’t share that same enthusiasm in a lot of ways. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s certainly something to take note of. While many people here are totally content with graduating and leaving for LA to work on set and working through the union system, I now realize that I can never see myself doing that. Being a dirtector is very cool and it’s soemthing that most people want to do. Obviously, very few do.
That being said, if film is calling your name, go for it. A lot of you are really good at what you do. I love movies and I love certain aspects of it, but I don’t think I’ve necessarily been called to do it. Right now, kids are waiting to hear back from FSU and checking their email every day. They live and breathe movies, they’ll keep trying to make things on their own, regardless of whether they get in or not.
I’m learning a ton of stuff this semester and we’ll see how I feel later on. For now, I’ll just post some picture below of the shoot this weekend:
Yes, believe it. This is new. You have not read this. You have no idea what words come next.
First off, even if it’s fruitless, let me apologize for my blogging moratorium. When I last spoke with you, I was feeling rather down, rather… outdone with film school. The production cycle grew much more demanding in the following weeks and I simply just didn’t have it in me to sit down and write. In fact, I didn’t have time to do anything. All I had time to do was concentrate on getting through it. And therein lies a downfall with film school: time. Now, when you inquire to FSU about the program, you are instantly hit with a HUGE disclaimer: “You will have no life. You will not sleep. We own you. etc.” Ok fine, I pretty much knew what I was getting into. What I began to realize, though, was that when I’m consumed with “assignments” and “jobs,” I feel absolute ZERO on my creativity scale. I mean, zero. I was the second to last person to shoot my short this past semester. By that time, I had been a production designer, Dir of Photographer, producer, and nine other little jobs on set.. so I was completely shot on creativity for my movie. I had a few ideas, but nothing I could even get excited about. My film turned out ok. It was rather short. It looks good, I’ll say. My DP, Brian, did a great job. Everyone on set did a great job for me. My movie doesn’t come across that well, and that’s my fault. It was just hard to convey some stuff in 2 1/2 minutes. I’m trying to figure out a way to post it on here. Keep an eye out. It’ll be compressed, but that’s the best I can do now. So, I do apologize to those of you who wanted to see it (Mac, Randall, Nathaniel). If it makes you feel any better, I only showed about 5 people back in Marietta over the holidays.
That being said. Let’s recap some things. Most importantly, there has been a major change in my life. Her name is Jennifer. She is the most wonderful thing to have ever happened to me and I’m so happy to be able to call her my girlfriend. Literally, the week I went to Panama City (as you saw in the pictures) I worked on set on some BTL positions (“Below the line,” just a refresher). It was my turn to be gaffer, which means I’m in charge of setting up all the lighting on set according to what the DP has in his cinematographic plan. We were shooting at a local video store called Video 21. (Kinda like Tallahassee’s version of Vision Video for my Athens crowd). As I was setting up the giant 2,5K HMI light, I was talking to myself in some stupid voice, because I messed something up. Suddenly, I heard a snicker behind me. There, was this redheaded girl laughing at me. She suddenly got embarassed when I saw her and said, “Sorry… I thought that was funny.” And walked away. From there, throughout the day, I began talking to her more and more. I know it sounds really lame to say I “met one of the actress on set.” But since I was the gaffer, I had to take light meter readings allllll day long, RIGHT in front of the actresses’ faces. So, I mean, I had an excuse. I found Jen funny, interesting, beautiful, and friendly all at once. I shared some of my “Munchies” with her (for those of you who don’t know, it’s a snack food grand slam of Doritos, Sun Chips, Pretzels, and Cheetohs). She chose to eat the cheetohs beacuse she said when she was a kid, she liked them cause they “matched her hair.” Here is a picture of me right after Jen laughed at me as I set up the HMI. I emailed this to some of my friends because I always wear tons of UGA stuff on set. Notice the sweet black and red Under Armour batting gloves.
Anyway, fast forward over two months later, and we are inseperable. She is the girl I always knew had to be out there. She does and says all the right things. I’m not one to talk about private things, but I figured my blog would merit a little mention of her… plus, she’ll be involved in some things I mention in the future. She has made film school so much more tolerable. It’s a wonderful escape from the insanity.
Moving on. I finally got to film my movie on November 16th. I chose to shoot at the house where David Bishop shot his film during the first week of production. The Cordero family was nice enough to let all of us back into their home again. I always knew Mac and Randall would be coming down to help out on set, but as I was working with my actors on the back porch, Steve and Whitney showed up too! It was awesome for them to come down. We even got to go to the FSU/BC game. Here is a pic of us tailgating.
My shooting day started early, 7:00am. I planned my short to be relient on 3 major dolly shots, with some close-ups inbetween. Well… the first dolly shot took FOUR HOURS to set up. I’m thankful my crew was willing to work to get it right. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, but I did get a few comments on my peer evaluations about how much we were waiting around. Whoops. But in all honesty, I think it’s one of the best looking shots out of all the D1’s. Just my personal opinion. It was a 50′ dolly shot, so I mean, it took some practice. Mac, Randall, Steve, and Whitney were good sports. I think it was rather boring for them though.
The premise of my movie was from a script I picked about a house wife who sings a song to herself about the ingredients she’s going to use to kill her husband. Originally, I was going to put it to music, but I couldn’t find a band in time. During my crew drill, I used a group of extras to pose as the band and repeat some of the actresses lines as a refrain. I decided to keep this concept and use them as sort of a “Greek Chorus” of sorts, reacting to the action but not being acknowledged by the characters. Anyway, that lead to me dressing them in either white or red & black to represent some sort of conscience. I also liked the concept of making it like a 50’s style sitcom. In the film I added a laughtrack and some Americana sounding music. Akil was my production designer and he ROCKED IT. Every detail fit the theme. The wardrobe, the props, everything. Here are some screenshots below.
Once production was over, editing began. We were assigned to our editors and they were assigned to us. I edited Smitha’s movie about zombies and a priest who doesn’t let a woman in the door. It actually turned out to be pretty good. Smitha then edited my movie and did a great job. It was nice to hang out in the post hallway and just go at your own pace. The editors had 5 days to lock the edit before the directors came in to do sound design on their films for two days. Then, on the 8th day, you tweaked color and did a final lock down. We had our premiere on Dec. 12th and it was a blast. All the D1’s pretty much turned out great. I was really impressed by some of them. We had an after party at a local bar and that was NUTSO. Bobby, Stephen, and Kate made up an award called the “Noley.” They basically just took WWC wrestler action figures and painted them gold. It was great. They gave out awards for different aspects of the D1’s.
I guess I’ll quit for now. I plan on blogging again, so I’ll have many more stories. I will say this: At the end the semester, we lost three people. Two were dismissed and one left on their own. Pretty crazy. It was a turbulent semester, to say the least. There are just certain things I don’t want to publish on the internet. Now we’re back, and divided into two tracks again. All the writers are off in the theatre department working on plays this semester. The 2nd year’s have begun picking their crew for thesis. I’m in Track 2, so I start on thesis first. Track 1 has already started class. I’m kinda waiting around to hear when the thesis movies start. I basically don’t have much to do, which is a rarity. It’s good though, because I came down with Bronchitis this past Friday and am now on three prescriptions. It’ll give me a chance to get on my feet again.
That’s all for now. My new favorite quote is, “I don’t know what’s worse, my life or your blog.” ~Chris Ward