Friday, December 31, 2010

Fade In: The Making of Star Trek: Insurrection

I know what you're thinking. Star Trek: Insurrection was such a great leap forward for the medium of film, that anything about its creation would be very instructional for filmmakers. Not really, but everyone knows that you learn more from disasters than successes, right?

The late screenwriter Michael Piller wrote a book titled Fade In: The Writing of Star Trek: Insurrection. It follows the film from its beginnings as a combination of Heart of Darkness and the Fountain of Youth, through feedback from studio execs and cast members, to... well... the masterpiece we ended up with. The book was never published (thanks to intervention from Paramount) but you can read a brief overview here and download the book as a PDF from here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Thursday Before New Years in the Life

To Do : Thursday 30, 2010

Big news for the day is I’m adding a new Doc Crow song to Trap and am sending a screener out as requested for a potential distribution deal. I had the good fortune of watching Trap again today for the 1st time in months. I had forgotten how much I liked it. It really works. I’m very proud of it and want to see it released more than ever.

Anyway, here was my plan for the day and how it panned out.

  1. Create monster in the woods monster reel for sfx artist.  (Woke at 830. Cruised the www for a minute and then started at 840.)
  2. Email said reel to sfx artist. (Done at 9. Time for breakfast and coffee.)
  3. Fix missing audio bits from Trap. When I upgraded computers. I lost a few sound fx. I have to replace the missing items. (done at 1120)
  4. Go over the entire feature to make sure there are no futzs. I cut Trap in FCP5 and am now working in FCP 7. Sometimes when upgrading systems, funk things happen to edit files.  (it was just fine. In fact, I forgot how good it was. It’s a creep/good little movie.) done at 130)
  5. Replace an existing substandard song with a new one. Thanks Alonzo. (Finished that while doing the once over. Song work great. Trap has a good little soundtrack.)
  6. Screened Alonzo’s music in Trap and Monsters in the Woods for him and showed him some Monster’s footage. (Done at 330)
  7. Export a new uncompressed QuickTime of Trap. (start the export at 330 have lunch, clean bathroom)
  8. Oh, just got one of the composer sample clips for Monsters in the Woods. Gonna take a sec to check it out. (both clips are good. I think we’ve got our man)
  9. Encode said version for DVD. (took a little longer to export than I had anticipated. Had a weird issue exporting uncompressed. It kept cutting me off at 1 hr and 9 minutes. Got it fixed though. It’s now 730pm. I’m reviewing the QuickTime before starting the encode. I’ll start the encode when I go to bed.)
  10. Clean my kitchen floor and bathroom. (Did it while exporting Trap)
  11.  Review Monsters in the Woods rough cut on dvd. Make notes. (Not going to happen today. Moving that to the top of tomorrow’s agenda)
  12. Work out. (Slipped in a run after cleaning.)
  13. Review Trap screener on dvd look for errors. Hopefully there are none. (Doing it now)
  14. Create new trap screener with Trailer, BTS and commentary. (I’ll do this right before reviewing Monsters in the Woods tomorrow.)
  15. Write new Blog Post on Working for no Pay.  (I already did it. Not sure when.)
  16. Post both Pay post and this one. (Post this now)


I’m waiting for the 1st reel of Trap to render and thought I’d rant for a second…

So I’m on the set of decent sized production (it will remain nameless). It’s a union show, I’m talking to the make-up artist and I mention that I just finished a low budget feature. I’m of course a little proud of how much we were able to do on such a little budget, so I mention it. She snidely replies, “I suppose its cuz you didn’t pay anyone. It’s crooks like you that away jobs from experienced able professionals like me.”
So now it’s my fault that this makeup artist is having trouble getting into the union and making ends meet. Oh really!?

1st off, I know that there are productions companies out there, that hire folks for nothing, take advantage, make a quick buck and never put anything into anything other than their own pockets. I know these companies and people exist. I worked for more than a few myself. So I get her point. But that’s not me. I’m not wealthy man. I’ve made less on my movies personally than I’ve paid out to folk working on them, and I put every dime that I do make into future productions so that I can hopefully afford to pay folk like her in the future on larger productions.

2nd off. I’m not taking jobs from folk like her. When I cast and crew up for any micro-budget feature, I start with friends, friends that owe me favors. I’ve worked on many features for friends at a low or even free rate, with the understanding that they’d do the same for me… Now this chick replies to this, “I don’t have any friends that I’d ask to work for free.” I don’t know what kind of friends this girl as, but isn’t that what friends do (to a point, without taking advantage). Don’t friends help one another out? If you have a mechanic friend and your car breaks down. Would you ask that friend (or would that friend straight out offer to take a look) maybe not completely fix it depending on what was wrong, but wouldn’t a friend at least see what they could do? I can edit. I’ve done so professionally for almost 10 years. And I’ve helped countless actor friends with reels ect.. for free. Because I’m their friend. Is it wrong for me to accept the same kind of help?

3rd. When I do hire strangers, I don’t go out looking for union, experienced folk. I look for people new to the game looking for experience. When I hire a  key make artist for example, I may hire someone without any credits as a key, someone who the credit means something to, someone that would otherwise not get that shot on a union or higher paid show.  Now I also go into this knowing that I may not get the same quality of work I would from a more experienced worker, but that’s the kind of compromise you make when you’re working on a mircro-budget feature. And sometimes you get lucky, like I did on Trap or Monsters in the Woods with many crew members who had limited experience.

Somewhere during this conversation, I mention how he shot on the Cannon 7D and how its an awesome quality camera. And she make an under her breathe comment about “how her boyfriend has one and she doesn’t see what makes it so great.” Well, if he can’t make stuff look good with it, he must not know what he’s doing. Which brings me to her next statement “Now everyone is picking up camera’s like the 5 and 7D’s and calling themselves filmmakers.” I kinda agree with her there, there are a bunch of folk out there just buying equipment and calling themselves filmmakers. But this is far from my situation. I have a degree in film production. I’ve worked over 10 years now as an editor, shooter, pa, director, ect… on all kinds of productions, big, small, micro, you name it.

Oops…reels done rendering…

Monday, December 27, 2010

It's a Lot More Fun to See a Movie When It's Free!

If there is one thing I love, it’s getting movie tickets for Christmas. I can go see any movie I want, and not worry about the $12 (or more) to get in, freeing me up to see any number of movies. The good, the bad, and the so bad-they-are-good ones are all up for viewing. (So far, there have been no bad ones, thankfully.) So, for those of you got me some movie tickets, here is how I have spent your gift.

~Burlesque: This one definitely goes in the “so bad it’s good category.” Predictable story lines, mediocre acting, and basic music belted out by a girl with an amazing voice. However, with lines like “The only Pole you’ll find in here is the one serving you drinks” and “If you fall off the stage, legs up, boobs out,” how can this NOT be awesome?! Plus, you have one of the most talented voices (Christina Aguilera) paired with The Diva herself, Cher. I won’t lie, the scene where Cher puts on Christina’s makeup was a bit like a passing of the Diva Torch. (In my head, at least.) Plus, the friendship between Cher and Stanley Tucci was really touching. Lastly, any movie where I have one of the musical numbers stuck in my head for 3 days afterward is good in my book.

~Tangled: THIS WAS FANTASTIC. Seriously. FAN. TAS. TIC. It is definitely the best Disney movie I’ve seen in a long time, and, I don’t know how they do it, but I walked out of there with the warm and fuzzy feeling I used to get as a kid. The characters were all so well done and even the story, while not original, was exactly what a Disney movie should be. Add in the horse who thinks he’s a dog and the dancing thugs, and you have the perfect movie to bring you back to your childhood.

~TRON: Legacy: Ok, I have to admit, I had high hopes going into this one. I probably haven’t seen the original in about 10 years, but I remember it being a really awesome experience. And turns out, this one was totally awesome too! It was really exciting and the effects were so dead on that I barely noticed that Clu wasn’t actually Jeff Bridges. I really liked the costumes and think I’m totally going to be Quorra for Halloween next year. It was the perfect action movie and, even though I hate paying extra for things like Imax and 3D, it was worth it.

I still have several movie tickets to burn, it’s just a matter of what is next….

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Not so much a Good Bye as a See Ya Later...

Hello everyone, it's me Manuel F@+-o. I have a story to tell. So grab your tissue and enjoy the adventure. "There once was a boy named Manny who came to a new city. He was lonesome and had nobody to call friends and nowhere to call home. Until one stormy day, just when things were darkest, the clouds parted and a shaft of light shown down on a single spot in Burbank (here). Manny followed this light hoping to find "hope" itself. He came upon a coffee shop but he wasnt expecting that when he ordered a hot chocolate he was actually ordering FRIENDS. At this special place he found love, happiness and friends that brought the smile back to his face. He saw the fire of the sun in a beautiful red head, browness that surpassed his own, the lonely teardrops of a filmmaker and the cheerleader that was his boss.

Then one sad day Manny had to say goodbye and it filled his heart with sadness. But, he will carry the memories and love of every beautiful person at S+-_$%%s. 
The end.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cutting Monsters: Week 11

So it’s down to just sound work. The cut is pretty much locked. I’m working on the sound design and dialog. I’m not exactly sure where we stand in regards to a composer. The producers are working on that now. I suspect I’ll hear something right after Christmas.

Aside from that, I’m getting shots prepared for our VFX artist. We have a few cg augmentations to make.
Looks like the final cut is running around 85 minutes. 86 or 7 with credits.

The new material we shot and cut in is working well. I’m very happy with the cut as is. The only thing I’m having a bit of trouble with is the Monster sounds. It’s hard to create a brand new sound for a creature. I want to come up with something original, that doesn’t sound too cliché. But so far everything I’ve tried either A) Sounds cliché ROAR! HISS! Whatnot. Or B) is original, but in no way sounds like a threatening creature. Or C) just doesn’t match the action.

I cut one scene from nothing but ADR and am really happy with the way it turned out. Once mixed, I don’t think you’ll be able to tell. It’s probably my proudest sound work ever. I also came up with some pretty clever ways of cutting down on some of the profanity…see earlier post.

I’ll be screening the current cut for the producers early next week and then it will be officially locked. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010: It Was A Good Year…for me

2010 was a rollercoaster ride.

I started out the year in a pretty low spot. 1st off I had personal turmoil which not only left me in a depressed state of mind, but also led to me having to change day job locales. It doesn’t sound like that big a deal, but it can be really hard leaving friends behind.
My last movie Trap was officially gathering dust on the shelf. I had no real prospects for getting a next movie off the ground. Student and small business loans were done being forebeared. My truck broke down for the last time. Things were not looking good for our hero.

Nothing spectacular happened to me that turned things around. No big epiphanies or whatnot. I just made a decision to make things better. To be better. To feel better. And then I did. I decided I WOULD MAKE MY NEXT MOVIE and I’d live life while doing it. I finished up Monsters in the Woods. I had been tooling around aimlessly on it for a few months. Then I set about getting it made. (and make it I did)

In the meantime, I made new friends at my work and reestablished relations with the ones that mattered at my old job. Most importantly, I got myself out and had some fun.  People always talk about “living in the moment” and it’s something I’ve strived to do for most of my life.  But I’ve always been a little too self-analytical, too stuck in my own head. I feel like this year, I took some really big steps towards actualizing that goal (living in the moment) on a regular basis. Not just every now and then or on weekends.

Monsters in the Woods did get made and it’s my finest work by far. It also looks like Trap is going to see the light of day. 2011 is going to be even better.

2010: It Was A Good Year…for movies.

I just walked out of what can only described as a great movie (True Grit ((maybe in my top 3 Cohen Bros. Movies of all time))). It’s not the 1st time this as happened this year either. It’s a little too early to say for sure, but 2010 may see three movies crack my all time top ten. ***I don’t really have an all time top ten, but I wanted to make it clear just how good I thought these flicks were.

The Social Network-
Just lovely. I love Aaron Sorkin’s dialog and seeing it come to life through the exacting eye of David Fincher is a cinematic wet dream. Great performances all around.

Black Swan-
Damn! What a ballsy movie. This is one of the those rare movies that excites me equally as a moviegoer and a moviemaker. This is truly an exciting flick.

True Grit-
How do you out icon John Wayne? Well Jeff Bridges did it. Wow!

2010 also saw some brilliant levels of bad…Skyline anyone?

The Social Network, Black Swan, and True Grit are all proof positive, that Hollywood can still push out exciting, thought provoking work and still make cash.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My First Film Festival Experience

My first festival experience was a wonderful and timeless moment. It was so cool to look at other filmmakers displaying their dreams on screen. I felt like more of a movie groupie than a moviemaker, running around trying to see every film that I possibly could while waiting for my film“ Kontrolled” to be screened. The stories and techniques implemented were so cool!

When it came to my own I was filled with excitement and fear. My heart was beating a 1000x a minute. What was even weirder was instead of watching my film; I watched the audience and how they reacted. My heart finally rested when the film was over and I heard the applause, leaving me with relief and motivation.

Networking with other filmmakers and discussing their future projects and dreams was another great experience, I loved how nice everyone was to me being the youngest director there. I felt respected for once, and not dismissed because of my age.

Going to the festival also inspired me to try to attend at least one festival a month starting 2011. Not doing this would be ignorant on my part because there are so many talented actors and creative filmmakers out there, that not meeting them would be detrimental to my success. Another great motivation was to continue to make films on an excellent professional level. I noticed the films that stood out the most were the films that went all out to make the production as professional as possible regardless of the financial backing.

Lastly, I would like to thank God, friends and family for supporting me on the journey. My goal for 2011 is to make as many great films as possible while continuing to learning from every aspect of the industry, in hopes that one day I see my film in the Sundance Film Festival for all the Hollywood prospects to see! Thank you by the way for reading and you can follow me on twitter @youngjohnmcgill or, facebook friend me at John McGill.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cutting Monsters: Week 10

Seems just like yesterday we were shooting. Oh, right, I guess we were.
Well, Monday brought our reshoots to a close. I’ve picked up every shot that I could and have already cut in all the new material.

The changes to the 1st act are substantial. In addition to 3 new minor scenes, I have also restructured many of the existing scenes in order to give some narrative focus to what seemed kind of episodic and random. Upon reviewing the new 1st act a few times, I’d say that I succeeded. The new 1st act gave more dramatic momentum and helped pull together some loose character bits.

Over the next few days I’ll finish the cut and start working of the dialog cutting. I expect this to take through the weekend. Then sometime early next week I’ll set up another viewing with the producers before locking the cut for our (yet to be found) composer.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

10 Things I learnt Making Monsters in the Woods

  1. Monsters aren’t the most important thing. We ended with some awesome looking creatures courtesy of 1313 FX, however awesome looking creatures mean fuck-all if folks don’t care for the story and/or characters. Luckily the story was good and we had a capable cast. I do feel all of the major characters were well developed, but there were a few minor characters that were 2 dimensional at best. The cast playing these characters elevated them. They took what was on the page and created something greater.
  2. Even at the Micro-budget level artistic compromises have to be made. 
  3. A little blood does not go a long way. What seems like a fuck-ton of blood on set shows up less on camera.
  4. Ashton Blanchard has sensitive skin. I put her in the face rip mask with no concerns. Turns out her skin is very sensitive and she spent the entire time in pain, especially when the mask was applied and removed. To her credit she never once complained.
  5. Chocolate syrup blood looks great on people. But is painful when it dries in certain orifices. (I’ll let your imagination do the work)
  6. Saran-wrapping the camera is a great way to protect it from gloppy blood, but it makes it next to impossible to monitor from the camera’s viewfinder.
  7. Blaine Cade can act.
  8. Shooting in Big Bear promotes weight loss. I lost 12 LBS. (I’m back to my fighting weight now.)
  9. A little money can go a long way, but a micro-budget feature is still a micro-budget feature. I think our little movie looks pretty groovy, but nobody’s gonna mistake it for Tom Cruise’s latest. Maybe Tom Wopat’s.
  10. Supposed “easy days" are the ones that kill you.
  11. I’m lucky charms lucky to know the people I do. A movie is not made by one man alone. I’d have nothing without my friends, cast, crew and producers. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kontrolled Film Screening at the BHERC Film Fest

Remember to tell your Friends and Family to come out Dec 11th and , 12th to watch some of the top short films in L.A. this year including yours truly's "Kontrolled". Tickets are just $10 bucks for two hours worth of shows and $25 for a whole day! so come out and have some fun , network and enjoy the world of film!

Raleigh Studios
5300 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles

Cutting Monsters: Week 9

Gearing up for some pick up shots. I spent most of the week scouring both the rough-cut and raw footage making note of every possible pick up we can get with the location, cast and crew still available. I will be able to paste in a few crucial pieces in order to make the movie a little better. The main pieces missing are from the 1st section of the massacre. We shot it in 3 different locations over the course of 4 weeks. I missed a few pieces of coverage at the outset. I’m also reshooting a scene or two in order to cut down on some overused profanity (mostly from improv).

I’ll also get a little more screen. At least my hand will as I hand double for Ashton, while Linda or Annemarie double for Claudia for a small insert shot.

I’ve started to separate the audio tracks for sound mixing. I’ll continue this after the cut is locked (in aprox. 2 weeks). I’ve recorded all my cameraman vo’s and will catch Blaine, Linda and Eddie’s ADR on set.

After reshoots, I’ll have one more week to lock the cut. I’ll spend the rest of this week prior to reshoots smoothing out everything else. I'll most likely do an initial color correction pass and dvd export viewing. Then after plugging in the new footage will spend another week on it. Then it’s on to sound and score.

Good luck everybody else.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Monsters in the Woods Interviews_Ashton Blanchard

What can I say about Ashton? She's my Deniro. No wait. Annemarie is my Deniro. Ashton's my Harvey Keitel. I've known Ashton for a few years now. I first met her when she auditioned for Trap. The thing I noticed 1st about her was her boots. Honestly I don't really recall her initial audition except for her boots, her big blue eyes and the fact that I thought she was very cool. Which is why I called her back for the role of Tennessee in Trap. And I'm glad I did, cuz she's the real deal. 

Ashton Blanchard as the script girl.

1.Tell me who you are and what you are doing here.

I am Ashton Lynette Blanchard and I am here to ROCK.

2.Monsters in the Woods is our 2nd movie in a row. How would you describe our working relationship?

We've worked together???? Oh, oh yes. Now I remember. Our working relationship is so: you love me, i love you and we love making movies together.

3. Did you prefer shooting one over the other?

HHHmm. Well I always prefer being the star, in life and in movies.BAHAHA. But I knew you better on the set of monsters and we had swank digs and I got to scream and slap someone and get my brains blown out (wait that happened in both movies, geez Jason is there something you wanna tell me?)...Over all Monsters was a fun ass time. 

4.What’s your method? How did you approach your role in Monsters in the Woods?

How I approach all my acting gigs. Be truthful. Be bold. And Be praying like a motherfucker that it comes off as genius as I know that I am.

5. How would you describe your character in Monsters in the Woods?

Scripty is fun loving with a heart of gold but at the same time a bit bitter and untrusting of people. She is a tough ass scrapper and no one says when she dies but her.

6. How’s being covered in blood?

When you think about it, it's awesome. When it first happens, it's awesome. Five minutes later, not so awesome.

7. How would describe my eyes?

Your eyes are of the bluest skies and if they thought of rain, I'd hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain.....Wait, what? OH, that's how guns n roses would describe your eyes.

* We were actually looking for "You eyes are as deep and clear as a Minnesota lake. I want to take off all my clothes and skinny dip in them." We'd have also accepted "blue-green."

8. You have a lot of chemistry in the movie with both Glenn Plummer and Lee Perkins, What was it like working with them?

It was so great to work with both of them and I learned a lot. But mostly it was just, easy. That's one of the perks of having good chemistry, you don't really have to do much work.

9. What’s your worst onset Monsters in the Woods memory?

REALLY? Alright here goes. Facial Prosthetic being put on. Walking around the woods with facial prosthetic. Bloody hair clumping and sticking to facial prosthetic. Facial Prosthetic being taken off. And typing the words, facial prosthetic. You asked!

9.5 What’s your best?

Drinking in the Starbucks parking lot with Annmarie. Drinking in that humongous bed with Annmarie. KFC. Listening to Glenn's crazy ass stories. Hillary jamming out to 'Ain't no way' by Aretha. Acting with Lee. That big ass cheese you get when you say cut and you know you got a good shot. And.....KFC.

10. What are you working on next?

 I just booked my first network gig! I will be a series recurring on a new show for MTV called Petito Feo created my Bert V. Royal the writer of Easy A. I am playing Bridgit, the awkward, quirky, cheery geek with a heart of gold. No one says when she dies but her either. I am just ON with the wit! 


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Monsters in the Woods Interviews_Blaine Cade

Blaine and have been working together almost 10 years now. We were roommates in New Orleans and then again in Los Angeles. Friends used to refer to us as Hetro-soul mates. I think its a fitting term. I can't see doing a project without him. 

*See what I did there, I brought up our heterosexuality to underline the fact that we're not gay.

As far as his performance as Bravo in Monsters in the Woods, I couldn't be happier. I knew he had the ability to handle the role, but I have to admit I was unsure whether or not he'd pull it off. As far as I'm concerned he did.

Blaine Cade as Bravo Roberts (not based on anyone real)

1.Tell me who you are and what you are doing here.

In this realm of existence I am know as Blaine Cade. For Monsters in the Woods, I am known as Producer Bravo Roberts. A man who tries to fill a hole by digging another one. Behind the scenes, I was the Production designer. 

2.Monsters in the Woods in the Woods was our ? shit, how many movies have we made together?

This will be my ninth movie that Jason Horton and have worked on together. Four of which Jason directed. Do student films count? 

3. This was your biggest acting role to date. How do you feel you did?

Jason and the producers gave me my biggest acting role to date. It was a very ballsy thing to do, and they took a big chance on me. I'm happy they did, it was a lot of fun. I guess from knowing me they knew I could pull it off. The mood on set for me was very stress free, and jason helped to create that atmosphere. 

4.What’s your acting method?

I felt extremely confident that I could create a malicious character with a little bit of hurt on his sleeve. I just treated him as a real person with the worst secrets. I would at any time of the day think. What it would be like to trade in my friends to save my own hide? I thought of a hostage situation. To save myself, I would become friends with the bad guys. Anyone else would become pawns that I could trade for favors. In the end the outcome is the same. The bad guys turn on me anyway. Like in Die Hard.

5. Was this your 1st onscreen kiss? How was it?

In one scene, I kiss Ashley. Playing Ashley was Linda Bella . A very pretty girl. So, it wasn't difficult. It may sound weird, but I thought of it like we were doing a dare. The actual kissing wasn't something I thought about much. I just went with it. I had to, it was in the script. I'm innocent of any wrong doing. Like my character, I did what I had to do.

6. Do you think you'll keep pursuing acting after this?

This was such a great all around experience for me. I learned a lot and I want more. Acting is something I do everyday. It's nice to get to play. I will jump at the chance to do it again. 

7. Describe my singing voice?

I remember a song that you sang once called "Space Pants". It was very wacky. Kind of like Michael J. Fox meets Elvis Costello meets Sammy Davis Jr.

*good answer. Good Answer.

8. You built all the weapons used in Monsters in the Woods. What's your favorite?

As Production Designer, I was given the awesome task of producing make shift weapons. The ones I made were very practical and simple cave man type stuff. They really work. Only the spears were made less dangerous. My favorite weapon was and still is the double barrel sawed-off shot gun. I originally made it for "Edges of Darkness." It just makes me smile.

9. Which cast member would take on a road trip to Cleveland and why?

My fantasy road trip to Cleveland would be with Aston Blanchard. She thinks I'm so funny and mature. Also I think she would pay for everything and she's not married. 

10. What are you working on next?

At the moment, I'm editing some old home video footage. Just personal stuff. I'm working on my screenplays. I'm paying bills. I think I'll audition for some plays. I have an old 68 Barracuda that I'm fixing up. Not enough days in the week. I need to go to the laundry mat. My dog Tuco needs a dental. Things are piling up. I gotta go.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monsters in the Woods Interviews_Paul Misko

I was pretty much going to cast Paul Misko in the role of Kris because he looked the part and was dating the actress playing Bianca. It just seemed like an easy fit. Then I met and auditioned him.  He seemed to really get the character and the humor inherent in the script.

I can't express how happy I am that I did cast him. I even expanded the role after our inital couple of days of shooting. Not only is Paul super talented. His enthusiasm and work ethic are inspiring. I expect big things outta him in the future.
Paul Misko as Kris

1.Tell me who you are and what you are doing here.

   My name is Paul Misko. I played the role of Kris, and I have no idea what the hell I am doing. 

2.Monsters in the Woods in the Woods is our 1st feature together. How wonderful was it for you to work with me?

   It was great to work with you, sir. This was my first feature as an actor, and it was a great experience. All of the cast and crew were amazing and I felt really comfortable working with you and everyone. Probably not the experience most people have on their first features with some of the stories I have heard. Haha.

3. You started out in music. Why the transition to acting?

    I have been playing music and in bands since I was 13 years old. I had some success in two of the bands, and I got to tour and do a lot of things I never would have dreamed possible. When we broke up in 2008, I decided to try something different and film and television definitely interested me. I love to be part of a creative process and acting in a lot of ways is similar to writing music. Everything has to flow naturally and timing and rhythm are very important. Being on set reminds me of tour a lot. You show up early, eat food, and wait.

4.What’s your acting method?

   I have next to no acting training. I think I have a natural inclination to it. I am far from an amazing actor and need to hone my skills of course, but I guess that what I'm saying is that I get it. It feels natural and makes sense to me, so I enjoy it a lot. It's always a challenge and I love working with people to bring a story to life in the best way possible.

5. You played opposite your real life love interest in Monsters in the Woods. How was that?

        It was great! Obviously, it makes it easy to have chemistry on screen, and it made it really convenient to rehearse. Also, the overall experience was amazing because it was like we got to go on a vacation together and really enjoy the scenery up in Big Bear. Neither of us had been up there before so it made everything really exciting for the whole trip!

6. What was the most challenging aspect of shooting Monsters in the Woods.
        Probably sitting in the hot tubs at the cabins drinking at night. That was extremely agonizing. ;) 

7. How would describe my hair?

       How would you describe MY hair?! 

   *sorry, we're were looking for luxurious. We'd have also accepted stunning.

8. You've recently moved into producing. Can you tell me a bit about that?

       I have been working on a tv pilot this year that I wrote called "Classy". I am directing it and acting in it as well. It is my first project as a director, and I think I enjoy it even more than acting so I will definitely be continuing down that road in the future. We are actually shooting our last scenes tomorrow for it so I am really excited! I will keep you posted on it's progress!

9. Which cast member would you pick to play opposite you in a buddy cop movie directed by David Lynch?

   Alonzo! We would make a great team! He's an awesome actor and a great dude! 

10. What are you working on next?

    Once I finish Classy, I will be hopefully continuing episodes as I pitch it to networks. I am always trying to get work as an actor as well to get as much experience as possible, but I have nothing lined up currently. I think you should direct a buddy cop movie so that can be what I am working on next! ;) haha.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Book was Better

With Harry Potter pretty much everywhere right now, I couldn’t help but bring up the subject of books being made into films. I am an avid reader and I tend to enjoy going to see what filmmakers can do to make a book work for the screen. In most cases, it is fairly easy to translate from page to screen, but in some cases, the book becomes just a jumping off point and the movie really doesn’t relate.

There are so many obvious choices for great books being turned into movies, it’s hard to choose just one. Whether it’s something classy and meaningful, like Gone with the Wind, or a romantic chick flick, like The Notebook, there are some fantastic screenwriters out there who can take a book and make it into a film that is just as good, if not better, than the movie. The writers have to deal with what to cut, what to change, and what to keep. In The Notebook, the ending is completely changed. (SPOIER ALERT!) Instead of Noah going on to live after Ally dies, as is what happens in the book, they both die together, making the movie close out in the possibly the most romantic way possible. In Gone with the Wind, the infamous “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” was not as dramatic in the book. Rhett is speaking to Scarlett in a room and says it quietly, as opposed to storming out and being forceful. Yet, in both those cases, the changes made were ones that made the films better than the books, and made them memorable.

The bad adaptations are a little easier to narrow down and I have a surprise for anyone who knows me: The Wizard of Oz is the worst adaption I can think of. It might be my favorite movie of all time, but after reading the book, I realized the writers changed it so drastically that the original book and the movie can no longer be compared. In the book, The Wicked Witch of the West is only in for one chapter, Dorothy is the one doing the rescuing, the shoes are silver not red, and Glinda is the Good Witch of the South and does not give Dorothy the slippers. The biggest change is that, in the book, Oz is a real place with new friends, not a dreamland inhabited by subconscious manifestations of people Dorothy knew. The movie is still my favorite, but this is the best example of how Hollywood takes a great work of literature and changes it to be almost unrecognizable against the original work.

Overall, I don’t have a problem with books being turned into movies. I like seeing how someone else viewed a book and turned it into what I’m seeing on the screen. Some people may say that it just adds to the lack of originality in Hollywood these days, and they might be right. But, in my opinion, if you can’t be original, at least be creative, and that is what these movies show me. Hollywood may have lost it’s originality, but definitely not its creativity.

Monsters in the Woods Interviews_Gladys Otero

Over the next few weeks I’ll be conducting several mini interviews with the cast and crew of Monsters in the Woods. 1st up Gladys Otero.
Gladys as Bianca
Monsters in the Woods was my 1st experience directing Gladys. She is one of the most open and game actors I’ve ever met. She embraced everything that was asked of her with Gusto. I think that she, like her character, is a survivor and just loves living life.

1.Tell me who you are and what you are doing here.  


2.Monsters in the Woods in the Woods is our 1st feature together. How wonderful was it for you to work with me?  


3. You had to perform a good deal of the movie in Spanish. How was it working Bilingually? Did it affect your approach? 


4.What’s your acting method?  


5. You played opposite your real life love interest in Monsters in the Woods. How was that?  


6. What's it like being blasted with and then spending most of the day drenched in blood. (You look stunning all bloody by the way).


7. Do you prefer me with or without a beard?  


*sorry, we were looking for with,

8. You've recently moved into producing. Can you tell me a bit about that? I


9. Which cast member would definitely drink you under the table?  

 *sorry we were looking for John Mcgil.

10. What are you working on next?  


F#@! and the MPAA

So, there's been a concern amongst some of our production team about the overuse of the word "fuck" in Monsters in the Woods. That it will cause us problems with the MPAA.

I at first dismissed this as ridiculous. I even started counting fucks. Tonight me and my pal counted 65 give or take in the 1st half. (it was not fun). Double that for the 90-minute run time and you get 130. Which is well under acceptable MPPA R Rating standards.

Casino had 422
Summer of Sam 326
Born on the 4th of July 289
Pulp Fiction 252
Jarhead 251
Big Lebowski 281
*although we did beat out Glengarry Glen Ross which had only 138. Woah!

Shit you could straight double my estimate and still be under the top 3.

But it keeps coming up and then a producer brought up a more artistic concern, that the overuse of the word takes away its power when you do need it. Now this I can agree with. It’s a valid point. So I looked back over the cut with friend tonight and I have to admit, that yes, it is overused. The actors took what was in the script, which was a lot of “fucks” and added another 15%. If I had the whole production to do over, I’d have had a full time script supervisor and I’d have reigned in the improv a little more.

But I didn’t. There aren’t alternate takes and without cutting whole scenes or making really awkward cuts to existing scenes, there isn’t much that I can do about it now. And really when it comes down to it, I don’t have a problem with it. I personally use expletives that way myself, as do many people I know, and I enjoy hearing it onscreen. To me it feels authentic.

It definitely can be off-putting to some. But, it’s not to me. And I have to ask myself, even if I could, would I want to cut them down, would I want to neuter my movie, because of what some may find offensive? Because it might limit the movie commercially?

Wait a minute! One of the characters refers to another Hispanic character as a spic. Might the Hispanic community be offended? I better take that out too. Then there’s the whole Jesus action hero thing (That’s gotta offend someone). Then there’s characters committing adultery, nudity, monsters, blood, a character wearing white after Labor Day… Damn, who won’t be offended?

I made a micro-budget horror flick. It’s not a 4-quadrant Pixar movie. It’s a gritty, no holds barred splattery horror movie. That’s what I set out to make and that’s what it is.
So be it.
But, I am cutting the Michael Bay, Donald Duck stuff…
Sorry Lee, there are legalities to be considered.

Back to the Woods

“Its common practice for both studio and independent films to go back and shoot additional scenes after a production wraps. We just felt that the additional scenes would strengthen the narrative.”
- Bravo Roberts “Monsters in the Woods”

So, week after next, we’re putting the band back together to shoot some additional footage in order to strengthen our narrative. Another in a long string of “life imitates art” instances on Monsters in the Woods.

As I watched the rough cut it became apparent that, while good in and of themselves, the 1st act scenes when stacked together felt a little too episodic. Too much of the narrative was happening off screen. It was making the scenes feel a little random. So I’m writing a few new scenes to give the 1st act a little more narrative cohesion and dramatic tension. Also there were a few missed character opportunities that I want to explore further. Then as long as we’re at it, a few pick up shots here and there for the 3rd act couldn’t hurt. A missed arterial spray here. A severed arm there. Whatever, no big whup.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cutting Monsters: Week 8

Rough-cut is done and was viewed by the producers yesterday. The screening went well. Everyone is very happy with where the movie is. Once sound, music and fx are added, we all feel that we’ve created something cool. Personally, I can say without a doubt, that it’s my best work so far, but it’s not quite done yet.

So now it’s the beginning of the end. After taking the holiday off, I’ll do one more viewing of the cut (solo) to make final tech notes. Then I’ll spend one week polishing/locking the cut. I’ll be going for a locked cut and will start adding sound design. When I send the movie out I want at least the rudimentary Foley and hard sound FX work to be done. Once I send it off it be scored, I’ll work simultaneously on the actual final sound design and mix minus the score.

We’ve also decided to shoot a few small scenes to add it the 1st act in order to strengthen the dramatic tension and momentum. There are also a few small insert shots here and there to get for the 2nd and 3rd acts as well. We’ll tackle all of that in a single day of pickups, in Malibu, the week after next. So the cut should be about locked as we’re finishing pick ups. I’ll quickly insert the new material, no more than a days work and then send off the locked cut for scoring and VFX (visual fx work)

Starting Monday, I’m going to start reaching out to potential composers; our vfx guy is already locked.

The final should be cut and locked before the end of December with the final composed and mixed version done by mid January.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What's Next?

As I race towards the finish of post on Monsters in the Woods my thoughts drift more and more to what’s next. What is next? Right now, I don’t have a clue. A lot of it depends on how Monster in the Woods is received, or more importantly how much it makes, or how much I make.

Seeing how that big question won’t be answered for a few months, I guess I should prepare of the multiple possibilities.

1. It’s received well and I get an opportunity to make something bigger. (Aces! I got several good scripts a-waiting.)
2. It’s received well and I get to make something of equal or lesser value. (Eh, I might have to come up with something.)
3. It’s received well and I’m asked to do a sequel. (I got an idea. but haven’t really put pen to paper)
4. It’s not received well and it’s back to the drawing board.

With my last three flicks I’ve been averaging one a year. I’d really like to up that in 2011, assuming that I’m still making them at a super low budget level. Of course a bigger budget allots for more time, so that would be ok too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Director of the Week – Roget Avary

He may be a bit better known as a screenwriter. He won an Oscar for his contribution to Pulp Fiction (The Gold Watch was his story). He also co-wrote the 3d cg Beowulf and Silent Hill. His contributions to Reservoir Dogs and True Romance are often disputed. I guess he wrote the radio spots in Reservoir Dog and did re-writes on True Romance for Tony Scott, which if memory serves include most of Alabama’s Vo’s and the theatrical ending. He claims to have contributed quite a bit more to the original screenplay for True Romance and Natural Born Killers.

Avary worked with Tarantino at video archives in the late 80’s. After True Romance sold and Reservoir Dogs happened, Taranitno and Samuel Hadida exec produced Killing Zoe for Avery. Supposedly he wrote it in a week around a bank location that had been scouted for Reservoir Dogs.

Killing Zoe is a great indie flick. Produced for around 500k. Set in mostly one location. Features killer performances by Eric Stoltz, Julie Delpy, Jean-Hugues Anglade and Gary Kemp (believe it or not). The Tomandandy score is pretty cool too. The whole thing takes place in a blur. Almost real time. It’s highly rewatchable.

I was working at Blockbuster Video when it came out on VHS. It was the 1st poster that I took from there.

His next flick was Mr. Stitch. Starring Rutger Hauer and Wil Wheaton. I think it was written for the Sci-Fi Channel. It wasn’t very good, at least from what I can remember. Maybe I should give it another go.

Then came Rules of Attraction. I absolutely love this move. It’s kinetic, fast paced, viscously funny. With better than they’ve ever been before or since performances from Dawson, Jessica Biel and Kate Boseworth.

I’ve been anxiously waiting another directorial outing from him. Yes, I’m aware of Glitterati, but it’s not exactly available.

Footage was originally shot in October 2001 for a brief 5-minute sequence within The Rules of Attraction. Shot as a three-person cast and crew (Kip Pardue, Roger Avary, and Greg Shapiro), using two miniDV cameras, the shoot quickly blew up to 70 tapes worth of footage. Avary subsequently decided (during the trip) to buy the rights to "Glamorama" and attach Pardue to the project to reprise his role as Victor Ward. The 70 tapes of footage therefore are being re-edited into a feature-length piece, entitled "Glitterati", which will act as a sort of bridge between "Rules of Attraction" and "Glamorama".

Interesting… hopefully we’ll get a chance to see it someday.

I also hope he gets his chance to make Glamorama.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cutting Monsters: Week 7

The rough cut is complete. I’ve laid out a 100-minute rough cut with credits.
The final will be somewhere right around 90 minutes.

The really hard work starts now. I’ve got all the story laid out, now I have to go back and make sure I’m telling in the best possible way with the footage I have to work with.

I took today off and I plan to not look at it tomorrow at all either. Then I’ll burn out a DVD of the cut and view it on Friday with a (hopefully) fresh perspective. Then do a clean up and ready a version to show to the producers. I’ll need to have that ready early next week.

I spoke this week to my special effects artist (CG) and sent him a few problematic shots. Looks like we’re going to be able to do some really cool stuff.

Anyway, I’m going to enjoy my night off…

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Very First Short Film Experience


Hello Zapruter film fans my name is John McGill, and this article is about my first short film “Kontrolled”.Coming to California a year ago from Orlando, Fl with dreams of becoming a filmmaker I immediately began applying for jobs everywhere filmmakers hung out. Eventually being hired at Starbucks where I met Jason Horton. Little did I realize how this average Joe was a Independent Filmmaker who eventually became a driving force behind my production.. I had a few drafts of the script completed and with the help from some established writer friends I was able to lock the script. The script originally fit within a low budget of $1000 dollars but do to a illness I had to take off work for a short period. After I was back to health I noticed that my movie funds were gone but my dreams where not lost , I began saving my tips week after week and during that time made a very detailed frugal budget of$200 dollars. All that mattered was to make a great film regardless of finances. After the money was collected it was off to finding the actors, crew and equipment and thanks to networking on various sets I was able to find these quickly. I assembled my cast Paris Rumford ,Lynne Conner, David Joyner , Kristina Sullivan and a good friend Curtis Nelson II. My crew consisted of Jermaine Jae , Alexandria Storm , Roger Hunt and with everyone's combine skills and talent I was able to complete the 10 pages of action and dialogue in 1 day.


Directing my first film was.......every mixed emotion of excitement and fear. It came form the thought of failing but the chance at success. The fear stayed with me until lunch came where I ate alone thinking to myself. “ what did you come to Cali for?” , “are you afraid of success?” and answering with a “no!” I pulled myself together and started working harder than ever before. I also learned why so many crew members are need and are dubbed the “army”. You truly do need help from every aspect when shooting a film because one eye will not catch it all, thankfully everything came out great with just a four man crew. The most important tool I learned also that day was to trust in my own style of directing, focusing on emotion and naturalism from the performance, kindness yet stern communication to the crew and most importantly a confidence in my ability's.


Post for me felt like Murphy Law kicking into overdrive. Having no computer to edit I had to get help from my good friends Jason and Perdell. Only being able to edit a few hours a day it became hard balancing out my work schedule but despite that editing was coming along well, finishing a few drafts. Unfortunately to have a complete movie I would need to re-shoot some scenes. I was reluctant at first until Jason told me that “it was normal , and nothing to be ashamed off”.I started working to get the re-shoots done by contacting the actors; and although the actors were happy to re-shoot, their schedules were different. After several weeks I finally got the actors together to do the re-shoots where they nailed it like pros. Feeling ecstatic about finishing my movie and my friend letting me use his computer to use from home , I thought nothing could go wrong but It did. I lost my entire project and the backups do to a computer transferring file error. I went home feeling very down that all my hard work was gone. I called my mom late that night and she said “God does everything for a reason, and that if I put my heart into it that I can make my project better”. Her words soaked in as I asked myself two important questions “ why did you come to Cali” and “are you afraid of success?” I came to become a Filmmaker and Success was born in me. With that motivation I started on the impossible of getting two months worth of work done in one week. I was determined to finish so all I did was edit,eat and sleep. I came home every night working on my project until my eyes were glued to the screen. Editing even through my birthday and finished on Oct. 27, I gave myself the best birthday gift ever. After having a test screening to my roommates and seeing the excitement on their faces I felt like I could finally take a sigh of relief. I finished working on the trailer , which is now up on my FaceBook page and YouTube .My plans are to summit the film to festivals in hopes to gaining recognition for my work. and fans for my future films. Thanks you everyone.