An Open Letter to Film Grads

28 01 2010

Dear Film Grads

I’m writing this after pulling a 16 hr day after working 2  jobs. One is a grocery job that pays the bills. The other is a TV job in a really small market.

After graduation, I like many of you had the intoxicating rush of hard-earned knowledge, freedom and the need to make you mark in the world by way of LA or NYC. The first month you spend blowing off some steam with travel or visiting friends and family. Then you start sending out resumes and reels and calling any excuse for a connection for a lead. You get some interviews, you wow with your newly minted diploma and killer resume, tell funny stories from set when some dumb actor still with a mic on mouthing off on how the food and the director sucked . The interviewer and you have a good laugh shakes your hand and wishes you good luck. A week goes by maybe two. Nothing Nada Zero. You call back, leave messages. The Bank of Mom and Dad listen gently or not gently remind you need to get a job. You may stay in your hometown…searching local production houses for internships…which may or may not pay (more about that on a later date) or you take the plunge and head out the big cities.  Hunt down all your classmates, couchsurf and beg, borrow and steal leads.  You PA and intern, you wrap cables, move lights, smooze and swap cards.  For some of you that is all you need and then you’re in with you own place and a metro card (NYC) or car (LA).  For others you do all that and nothing comes. You take a different job and weight your choices…then you start making nightmare situations in your head….moving back home and flipping burgers or slicing meat in a deli (sorry the last one is my job…..i’m not bitter honest).

Its time to look for a new way. The internet and youtube there are a lot more ways to make money and be seen…the studio system isn’t the only way.

The only that I ask is please don’t give up. I was told by a teacher 70% of film students never make it in film. Be the 30% that do by your own rules.





Top 25 things to have in your kit

28 01 2010

1. A Video Camera or one of the awesome VDSRL cameras such as the Canon 5D MII or a 8mm film camera

2.  Blank media for above camera

3. Gaffers tape (The more colors the better)

4. A multitool or a “Leatherman”

5.  Ziplock bags (very useful for odds and ends such as connectors batteries business cards)

6. Business Cards …..ABC Always Be Closing  (thank you Glengarry Glen Ross)

7. Blank Forms  ie..model releases, location agreements, call sheets

8. Clipboard or Trapper Keeper (if they still make them or Five Star equal) to keep all papers organized and safe

9. Pens/Pencils/Sharpies/Vise a Viz

10. Pocket sized notebook or pad

11. Batteries (aaa to D) plus chargers for devices that need them

12. Food and Water….some shoots you may need to be your own craft service

13.  Hot Hands or some type of strong thick gloves of moving and placing lights

14.  Power strip or surge protector to power chargers, coffee maker, blowdrier,  the producer’s iphone….(you get the idea)

15. Walkie-talkies….because cell service sucks in some areas

16. A Smart slate or a dumb slate to sync sound….i bet you thought  i forgot all about sound

17. Boom Pole

18. Dead Cat…or windsock… i like dead cat better

19. BNC and XLR cable of varing length properly wrapped….PA’s if you don’t know how to wrap cable …..ASK FIRST!!!!!!!!!  BNC and XLRs need special care due to the thin wires within…..Stingers you can wrap any ol’ way

20.  Stingers

21. Microphones and lav kits

22. Unlubicated condoms to protect mics and lav kits from sand, water and std’s

23. Headphones the big over the ear ones….need to listen for any unwanted noises….do not buy noise cancelling ones defeats the purpose.

24.  A sound recording unit….Sound Device 744t  A Zoom Q2 or any device that will take XLR inputs and phantom power

25.  A change of clothes (socks hoodie jacket shoes) dress in layers even in soundstages

This is far from a complete list but its a good start and for me personal a small first aid kit is always nice to have on standby





Archiving and logging footage

26 01 2010

Archiving and logging footage

Save in 3 places

Hard Drive (internal or external)

DVD

Online (if you have a website that offers server space or one of the many online backup sites such as www. mozy.com or www.carbonite.com)

Save raw and the finished project. The most important and often most boring job is logging footage. It is important to find the best shots for the project…..more often or not you will need to re-re-edit. If for a client one than one edit will happen.

The more info you put down for each shot the easier it is to find them. Easiest way to put down type of shot (cu 2s 3s cowboy mos…etc), length, people in shot and the scene #+ take # if applicable. Some people take a sentence about the scene, the mood, what action is taking place or effects to added if any. ex. cu 1:30 hero (3h 3rd take) Find the one that works for you and make it standard for you and for your crew. The easier the system the better. Use Excel or any spreadsheet or database program to create your EDL (edit decision list).





What jason bourne taught me about filmmaking

24 01 2010

pack light and improvise

always keep in contact with allies

do your research

plan ahead as much as possible and then be ready to throw it all out the window

some times low tech is the best

go with your gut

a pen, paper and a open mind are your best weapon





Pick your gear

20 01 2010

When I started film school the first thing a lot of my classmates bought was the Panasonic HVX200. Really awesome camera by the way.  Slowly after they bought it the joy settled nothing was shot. All the gunpowder in the world but no match.  For people who don’t have 4 grand burning a hole in your pocket, there are easier ways.  First off figure out what kind of stuff you’ll will shoot.

A 3 month backpacking trip through Europe shooting video for your blog or for the folks back home. You don’t  need a Panavision Genesis (a HD digital camera used by Hollywood crews to shoot blockbusters).  You would be better off with a Flip cam or a Mini DV cam around $200 to 300.

If going the Mini DV route check out www.beachtek.com for xlr adapter for awesome audio. Its cheaper to get a Mini DV camcorder and an adapter compared to a Sony XL (a prosumer camcorder) People can forgive weak shots and not lousy audio. Xlrs are the cables for production level microphones.

3 Day commercial shoot or a music video

Panasonic HVX200/Hpx170 with or without a Red Rock/ Letus Lens adapter

Red One w/ sound recorder equipment

Canon 5D Mark II w/ sound recorder equipment

Feature Film

Panasonic HVX200/Hpx170 with or without a Red Rock/ Letus Lens adapter

Red One w/ sound recorder equipment

Arri 16mm or an Arri 35mm w/ sound recorder equipment

If you find that you really need the RED One getting the gear is easy just google film rental houses. Heads up most rental houses require insurance to cover any likely problems or unlikely. I would much happier to pay 1,500 for insurance rather pay 50,000 for a new RED One.

Final Word take a hard look at project and your funds and shoot from that.

Good luck and see you in the pictures.





How not to hold a film premiere

5 12 2009

How not to hold a premier

Find an out of way place to hold your showing

Offer no or limited food

Have a small view screen

Have uncomfortable seats or none at all

Do not advertise

I hope you do realize this is a joke. All these things should be accounted for when you hold a premier or screening of your work. It’s a lot easier than you think to cover all this.

1 # rule of real estate location…Location ….LOCATION. Find a theater to show your film. Use your phone book or a suitable online substitute. Call your local multiplex or the local art house to rent their space for a few hours. If they sell food better, talk about maybe cutting a deal for showing your film and having them cater. By offering them an event during a slow season (February to May or October to December, depending on your area) it helps to drive business during a time when business slows down.

Food. Keep it light. Finger food or small sandwiches are good. Check out some catering websites or the Food Network for ideas. Avoid a lot of sauces that may stain your audience’s clothes. Popcorn is an old standby. If you can keep it in the theme of your film even better.

Small screen….why?? Even projecting against the side of building is better then having all your friends huddling around your iphone. There are so many better way to show off your project …movie theater is awesome…if not possible try finding a place to set up a projection screen. Think movies in the park…use your imagination.

Seating is important…I don’t know about you but if my butt hurts I leave. I had this happen at a local presentation. Offer comfortable seats or let your guests bring their own.

Advertise…pick one or more avenues. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, blog….etc. Use your local TV and newspaper…GET THE WORD OUT. Team up with local shops….the possiblies are endless. Use your imagination but plan ahead.

I’m writing this after watching a filmmaker hold a local premier and seeing the results of a half hearted effort. It kills me to see someone put so much work into a project only to trip before the finish line. It was a ski film (which I love) was held in a basement room …which I only knew about because I work at TV station that posts local events. The chairs were those cheap metal chairs like those you see the VFW hall….great if you want to take five and sit out a square dance but not for more than an hour. As soon as there was intermission I was out of here. To the defend the film I borrowed a DVD copy and watched at home…yes on my comfy couch….I was really interested and enjoyed it.





Outsourcing Hollywood

1 12 2009

Outsourcing hollywood

get a virtual assistant..check the e-book source control or the 4 hour work week on how to locate and test a VA

what the VA can do for you

set appointments ( in person or skype/cell) Get a google voice # with an LA area code

research ( ideas for scripts…locations…travel…crew…companies…etc)

Update website…blog…twitter

roll calls (keeping track of contacts who’s called when and who need a call back)

Press Releases for your project (post pics and vids from behind the scenes)

Running the call sheets

Budgeting

Manage the your and the projects calendar

Running reference checks on crew members

Help managing logisitics

Planning the wrap party