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.