Sunday, November 24, 2013


I was posting my first ever blog. Funny, not a lot has changed.

Never really blogged before. I always thought it was a bit dorky. I've made fun of Shannon for it for years. "Why don't you go blog about it dork!" Then I'd smash him in the face with a pie or nearest convenient pastry. It still feels kinda like a dear diary/narcissistic kinda deal. But, hey! That's me in a nutshell and I've been told I need to do it or it's fun or helpful or something. So here it goes.

A very typical day.

8am - wake. no day job today. plan to spend about 10 minutes online, checking email, facebook ect... I just put Trap online for sale last week, so I'm getting a little obsessive about checking it's stats and looking for new press items online for it. That 10 minutes turns into an hour. It amazing how much time one can waste just generally surfing the net. And it's also kinda cool just how many mentions a little movie like Trap can get in a short amount time.

9am- make coffee (gourmet type shit! and oatmeal.) It's my standard breakfast. Followed by a large glass of water.

915am - I write. I'm trying to finish a new screenplay "Monsters in the Woods." It's been a little tough getting through this one. I guess I better finish soon, cuz we're shooting the bulk of it in august. Why such a rush? When an opportunity to shoot presents itself, sometimes you just gotta jump. It doesn't make it any easier having a few other completed scripts I'd rather shoot 1st. But, in the end I think this will be a very fun movie.

Noon - head upstairs to the gym for my daily half an hour run. No weights today. I've also become fairly obsessive about my health and fitness. See a personality pattern emerging?

12:30 prep 6 screeners of Trap to send out to press for review. Burn labels on the dvd's and epks (Love my dvd label burner) and recheck email, facebookect...

1:30 head out to mail the screeners. Make a little snack for lunch. Slice ham on rye. a few chips.

1:45 continue writing. This screenplay is one of toughest I've ever written.

6pm wrap up writing. Recheck email, facebook ect...

7 pm change from my day-wear (shorts and white t shirt) into my evening wear (jeans and same white t shirt. I feel like a princess) and head out to dinner with my very good friend Kimmi. Stuffed and then some from Chevy's (Those Cabo Wabo drinks are awesome, thank you Ted Nugent) Ran into a girl I used to date on the way home (thought we left things on decent terms, kinda, but we barely exchanged glances. In my defense, I did attempt a friendly smile and wave, not returned of course. oh well...)

9pm get home recheck email, facebookect... Hey! Sold a few more copies of Trap. Boss!
Maybe I'll try and write a bit more then go to bed.
Gotta be up at 330am for my day job tomorrow.

Damn, I got bored just writing that. Hopefully, I'll get better at this as I go.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Quick review. The Walking Dead - "Live Bait"

Finally an episode that shows us what the show could be if it drifted away from the insufferable characters we're forced to follow week after week. Ahh, ok that was a little mean. I actually think the show as been steadily improving this season, but this week's episode is a great example of what the show could be if it were to further shake the shackles of the comics. It makes me really look forward to the eventual spin-off, whatever that may end up being.

Like Shane before him, the governor is much more interesting and nuanced character than Rick and his crew. It's much more fun and interesting to watch these tragically flawed characters find measures of redemption than to watch Rick's constant moralizing. 

The Governor fist bumped, got lucky,  pinky sweared, found himself with a name changed his name and bashed some walkers. His new found connection with the new family is touching and it would be cool to actually follow these characters for more than a few episodes without the rest of series getting in the way. Alas, that's not to be and we'll have to take this for what it is... A pleasant digression from the regular show.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hitchhiker Massacres AFM

AFM has been a really cool experience for the Retrofocus team. Not only has Hitchhiker Massacre been met with much positive reception, but our upcoming slate is making headway as well. Expect to hear a lot more about us over the next year.

Retrofocus Pictures premiered the latest teaser trailer at AFM this week for the upcoming slasher/horror movie Hitchhiker Massacre, which stars John Barrymore and Calista Carradine.

The films full synopsis:

Sally (Ely LaMay) puts the city and her troubled past behind her as she embarks on a cross-country hitchhiking trip. While making her way through Death Valley she’s abducted, and her journey of self-discovery becomes a struggle for survival.

“Hitchhiker Massacre is a love letter to the slasher flicks I loved as a kid; Friday the 13th, Halloween, The Tool Box Massacre, The Slumber Party Massacre. Gone is the self-referential, jokey comedy that infected so much horror, post-SCREAM. I just wanted to make an honest, brutal, sexy horror movie.” – James L. Bills. 

Directed by James L. Bills (Refuge of Last Resort) and produced by J. Horton (Monsters in the Woods, Edges of Darkness,) the film stars Ely LaMayCalista Carradine, John Barrymore, James Bartholet, Veronica LaVery and Katherine Cronyn.

Retrofocus pictures is the brainchild of Executive Producer Ivan Nagy, who created the HBO series The Hitchhiker and directed SKINNER.

Hitchhiker Massacre is set for release spring 2014.
Like us on Facebook

Monday, October 28, 2013

How Do You Get Your Micro-Budget Feature Distributed?

I get struggling moviemakers asking me this often.

There's no secret.

It's been my experience that to  get any kind of distribution, a movie needs 1 of 4 things.

1. Name talent. (this is the most important) And it the name has to be applicable to the movie/genre your shooting. Not every movie and genre requires an A B or even C lister. There are several niche-markets were certain musicians, and way, way past their prime ex-stars  can get you a sale.

2. To be incredible. If your movie is truly great, people will take notice and so will distributors.

3. To be in a genre  distributors want. (this is tricky and is in constant flux. You can research and see what kind of distributors are releasing the type of flick you want to do. Even then it's a roll of the dice.

4. be related to someone at the distribution company or start dating their daughter. ***I'm still working on that one.

5. have a track record of past flicks making money.

I got lucky in the past with #3 and horror. Certain distributors were just looking for the kind of horror I was peddling at the time. But it doesn't always happen right off.  In the case of Edges of Darkness, it took my sales agent almost 2 years to land Anchor Bay. 

Most of the movies I do now have distribution set before I start shooting. I work with production companies with track records that have distribution deals set in advance. That said, I still from time to time will producer a movie on spec (with no set distribution) but when I do so, I make sure that at least 2 of the above criteria are met before moving forward. I also keep the costs on such projects low enough that the investment risk is low.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Netflix User reviews are fun.

So, I probably posted this before. But a friend was just on Facebook mentioning some of the bad reviews his latest was getting on Netflix and it reminded me of this.

Yeah, I put a couple of positive ones on top, just for my own ego.
But I really do get a kick out of the bad ones. When they first appeared, sure I was little butt-hurt, but over the years, I've gained perspective and now really enjoy reading them.

Anway, here ya go. Straight from Netflix...User reviews of my hated more than loved EDGES OF DARKNESS.

3.0 stars
This is a really cool story and has more going on than the usual struggle to survive against zombies. I like the characters and all of the little stories they bring to the mix. The acting is passable and for the most part the pacing is good. The zombie make-up is average and they have a nice mix of zombies and other story going on. One thing to keep in mind is that this is a low budget movie and if you have a taste for only Hollywood polish you won't want this. If you like things outside of mainstream this is a good choice with a lot of creativity.

SA 308909's
3.0 Stars
Edges of Darkness was not a great movie. It's very, very low budget and if you're not up to watching something shot on video, with questionable performances and sound quality then it's not for you. It's also not a kick-butt zombie movie. While there are a few scenes of gore and blood, and some decent zombie make-up the movie is more of a quiet character piece. With more money and better actors I'm sure it would have been much better.

txc 950294's
5.0 Stars
Rarely has genius so graced the human race as it has in this form. behold the sight of angel breasts upon a unicorn rug in front of an aspen ski lodge fireplace in the middle of sex. Witness an exploration of gloriness only witnessed before by the ancient wiseman of yore.

McSmartypants69 (WHAT AN ASS!)
1.0 Stars
Horrible, retarded nonsense that has no redeeming value for zombie or horror fans whatsoever. Total amateur hour crap by morons with no talent in front of or behind the camera. Don't fall for the slick cover art or fake positive reviews. Like another reviewer said, all the fake positive reviews are being rated as "helpful" by people involved in the film, not real horror fans. Likewise, they are marking honest but negative reviews as "unhelpful" in a vain attempt to trick you into renting it. Edges of Darkness is the most boring, worthless and retarded piece of crap I've seen. No entertainment value; just pathetic, no-budget backyard junk that's impossible to sit through. Not even film school would help people with this little talent behind the camera! The story and acting sucks so bad you'll want to smash your TV set in frustration. I'd rate it a million negative stars if I could, that's how much I HATE THIS MOVIE!

MP 1193571's 
1.0 Stars
Ok I am all for the B rated horror movies, like Black Sheep the one with the cannibal sheeps not Chris Farley. But for this one there has to be a rating worse then that. This film almost got 2 stars and barely 2 at that but when the zombie waltz scene happened it lost that slight chance of that even happening. Do not rent this movie unless you are into torturing yourself.

jaKAI !
1.0 Stars
I rarely give one star, but this flick is well-deserving. Amateurish shots, poor acting, and awkward script. Even Crow and Tom Servo would fall asleep with this one. I may have given the film an extra star if there had been even a mild attempt at providing backstory for where the organic battery came from, or how the vampires came to be, or the odd antichrist-vs-priests showdown toward the end. But there was nothing gripping or tantalizing to be told, no backstory or plot twists, just your straightforward predictable college film project on a lunch-money budjet. Skip this one, drink a warm glass of milk, and go to bed early. There is nothing to see.

1.0 Stars
Why the hell did I rent this? After reading the description over again it doesn't sound good at all. I think I fell for the old "slick dvd cover art" scam. My theory is the cooler the cover, the lamer the flick. It doesn't work in every case, but it's a good guide to live by. This one is terrible. The plot has 3 interconnected stories against the back drop of the zombie apocalypse. The opening of the flick was pretty promising; a cute girl kicking some zombie butt. For a low budgeter the zombie make up wasn’t too bad. But after this scene the movie went downhill quickly. Unless your idea of edge-of-your-seat horror includes following around a bickering couple as we watch them in their apartment, well then you might just find yourself bored. Another of the stories shows a vampire couple and how they try to deal with the moral and existential dilemmas of awwww who am I kidding? They do nothing of the sort. They’re actually really annoying, whiney, and look like it would be extremely easy to take them down. Add to this a slow pace and poor acting and you have yourself one spectacular crap-fest. Why didn't they just stick with and follow around the zombie a$$-kicking chick from the opening scene? Then we may have had something!! Definitely skip this one.

kvv 1697127
1.0 Stars
This movie is the worst movie ever. The acting and story line was very retarded. I wasted time from my life watching this movie.

jjmar58825% similar to you

OMG, whoever wrote this assanine movie should be savagely beaten with a pillowcase full of oranges!


zjs 1438507
1.0 Stars
Wow! Here is a whole new level of SUCK that has not been fully explored yet. This movie appears to be another version of what I like to call "Basement Directors" with the help of their "Mommy Directors". This isn't even a B movie. This is a Z movie at best. Pay for this movie and you'll be suffering far worse than any of the unfortunate 'actors' in this movie. When is this site going to give us the option to rate something a negative billion? I found the credits more appealing than the movie. (Jeesh... I feel like I have to wash my mouth out with gasoline every time I even relate the word 'movie' with this trash in the same sentence).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In the Meantime...

Over the past two years, I took a sabbatical from horror. I've directed at least six movies since Monsters in the Woods, none of them horror. I'm currently helping out a friend and producing his horror flick. The one thing that has really struck me working on this... The excitement and passion everyone involved feels. There's no one, not one person, cast or crew, that is there for a check. It's super refreshing after the last few projects I've been involved in.  Now, I'm not saying that only horror people are passionate about their films, but in my experience, I've never seen folks more into a project than when it's horror. I need to get back.


I was hanging out with a retired director the other, and he said the hardest time for someone in the movie industry is the downtime between projects. Sometime directors go months or even years between projects, waiting for the phone to ring or developing projects that may or may not go anywhere.

The last project I directed was Pastor Shirley several months ago. And while I’ve been kind of busy editing and developing other scripts for a new company, I’ve not been behind the camera at all. It’s starting to get to me. This has been the longest stretch I’ve had in over two years where I’ve not directed a feature.  There’s been a few close calls and false starts but nothing solid.  It’s getting frustrating.

Today, instead of prepping a shot list or location scouting, I'm watching an edit (for the 100th time) looking for loose sync. Then after that I have to export the project and look again. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bravo FX Indiegogo nears the end.

Robert Michaelaneglo Bravo is at it again. The renowned producer, production designer, ballroom dancer, man-about-town is launching his new SFX company and could use a little help.

This isn’t just some ego trip or money seeking venture. The guy truly loves and excels at the art of special effects make-up and wants to bring it to filmmakers at a reasonable price. How many filmmakers out there want to have great, complex effects in their movies, but can’t afford them? Well, now they can.

Support indie filmmaking. Support Bravo effects.

Your mom would most likely approve. But hey, I don’t know your mom.

Monday, June 10, 2013


This was one the very first blogs I wrote three years back when I was I writing Monsters in the Woods.

Coming out of college, a lot of aspiring filmmakers got to work right away in the industry. They usually start as a production assistant in whatever department will have them and work there until they can worm their way into their department of choice. Then they work towards advancing in that department in hopes of becoming “the” production designer, casting director, key grip, ect…ect. Along the way, most settle into a position somewhere in between P.A and department head. For the unfortunate few of us that just have to pursue a career as a writer, director or DP, the final goal is, more often then not, never reached. You could work the whole rest of your life on studio features, diligently working towards becoming a director and never make it. In fact, the odds are more likely that you won’t.

This was my train of thought five years ago when I decided to work outside of the industry and make movies independently. My rationale was that a full time industry job wouldn’t leave me with the time or energy I needed to develop and produce my own work. If I started in the industry and did slowly advance, as the money became better and I my lifestyle became more comfortable, I was afraid I lose my hunger to be a writer/director, making it easier to give up. Instead, I chose a job-type-job outside of the industry. A job that would pay my rent and bills, but would leave me ultimately unfulfilled. This way I would stay hungry and pursue my dream with even more conviction.

Six years later, I’m directing my forth feature. My first three were all distributed and my last actually made a little bit of money. I am still working that same day job. I shoot, edit and write on my time off. I live pay check to paycheck and project to project, the very embodiment of a starving artist (or pop artist.) This life style was kinda cool when I was fresh out of college and in my mid 20’s, but now well into my 30’s, I sometimes question the path I’ve taken.

But then, time and time again, a thought occurs to me: “I wouldn’t have it any other way!” I might live paycheck to paycheck, not own a nice car, or know exactly where I’ll be or how I’ll be doing a year from now, but I am (RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW) living my dream. I make movies, movies people actually see, hate, love, talk and/or write about. How many folks in this world can truthfully say that they are living and pursuing their dreams? And for me, that dream is growing and evolving. Here’s to the next five years of struggle!

****three years later and I'm outta my day job, just making flicks. Still don't have a nice car and am living month to month, but the opportunities are growing and the projects are getting bigger.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Another Sunday in the Life

JJ Diaries – 6-2-13

Sunday should be a day off. Not for me.

I'll keep this short today.

6am – watch final cut of an older deliverable. Gotta make sure nothing is funky for the distiributor.
730 am – add ooo and ahh audience reactions to the sit-com/features I’m cutting.
9am – breakfast at Granville. Brough to you by Granville.
10am – finish out both EPK’s. gotta go over producer and assistant’s final notes.
12pm – work on shot adjustments for both projects.
4pm – lunch
5pm – re-read the feature script I’m shooting next month. My goal is to find time to read it once a day, everyday til production starts.

7pm – shower and head out for game of thrones night.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

JJ-DIaries 5/31/13

Over the past few weeks I've started working for a new company. I was hired to develop, direct and edit 5 feature films over the course of 6 months. The first feature shoots in July. In the meantime, I've offered to help out with edits on 2 feature projects that they've already shot.

These are my days.

4am -  wake up to check on an export. I'm making an uploadable version of the current cut of a project, for the executive producer to approve. See this project is actually due to the distributor in exactly one week. So it's imperative that I get it locked and off to sound mix ASAP and I need the EP's go ahead.
Problem is somehow in the middle of the night, the power chord on the harddrive got bumped and the export was halted. I have to re render the project, which is a four hour process, re-export (a 2 hour process) and re-upload a 2 hour process. SHIT! I'm trying to make a good impression, as these are my first two projects for this company. Don't want it to go bad before it even starts.

8am - render is done. Start export. go get breakfast.
10am. start encode.  While it's encoding I prep all the OMF exports for the sound mix.... Now I'm anticipating a go ahead on the cut. If I have to make further timing changes, I'll have to do this all again.

1pm. Encode is done. Start upload for EP.  This particular project is a three camera sit-com style shoot and the EP's notes so far have been coverage related. The only real timing notes have involved the laugh track. These things can be adjusted after the picture is locked. So I'm taking a chance and sending the sound off to the sound guy. If I don't, we definitely won't make our delivery date.

130pm. Do a final review of the OMF and video files for the sound mixer.
2pm. Producer assistant picks up the sound files and delivers to the sound mixer.

3pm. Make adjustments to the two EPK's I've cut for the projects. I've received notes from the EP's assistant that need to be addressed. Not too terribly tough.

4pm. EPK adjustments made.  Now re watch the current cut in real time, making personal notes of technical flaws ect....things I can address and change without effecting the timing of the sound.  I also need to start thinking about how to cut the final product down. The EP wants another much shorter version of one of the projects to shop to networks.

6pm - dinner break

7pm - Re watch the 2nd project, again looking for any tech flaws I may have missed.
9pm - watch a movie, go to bed.

Little Moments....

Working in movies is tough. No it’s not police officer tough, or soldier tough…hell sometimes not even Starbucks tough. But it’s hard work all the same. Over the past six month, I’ve collectively had fewer days off than a person can count on two hands.  And all this on indie wages. If you’d actually break down the number of hours I put in vs. pay, you’d come up with something like 40 cents an hour.

Then on top of that you’re always at the beckon call of those flipping the bill. You may or may not have creative control, but to some extent the producers own you. And you can forget about stability. No matter how much they may promise a long-term relationship, they can let you go at the drop of a hat. I live in constant fear of the company or companies I may work for going under, or finding someone cheaper, better or a friend that they just like more. I work month to month, project to project... often not sure of where my next gig is coming from.

So why do it?

Because I have to. I have a burning desire (no need) to make movies, to express something, to say something. Something about me or the world around me… Movies are that form of expression for me.  I don’t always get the freedom to fully express myself, but occasionally something does slip through and those little moments make it worth it.

Here’s to the little moments, may they be more plentiful in the future.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Friday in the Life of an Editor

4am – Up and check export and renders from the previous night. Find out the export was put out incorrectly. Start it over. Try to go back to sleep.

 6am – Back up to check that export. All is well this time around. Go to work editing the feature doc that is due Monday.

10 am – Welcome assistant editor #1. Get him set up in the living room. (yeah, this editor works from his home. Today he’s going to sweeten and fill out a partially done M&E track. 12 projects all needing complete foreign deliverables were dropped on my doorstep only a week ago and are due today. Go back to work on the doc.

11 am – Welcome assistant editor #2. Set him up on the 2nd computer in my office. Today he’s working on trailers for three of said movies for delivery. I received the final movie files, but trailers were never cut. So I move onto my laptop and start backing up some of the newly arrived files.

230pm – Have assistant editor #1 wrap up his sweetening and start exporting and transferring files to the delivery harddrive. 3pm – Do final check on the 8 movies we’re delivering today. All files there? All files intact? I hope so.

330pm – Start assistant editor #1 working on fresh M&E tracks for the 3 new movies we just received today. Send assistant editor #2 to the post office to mail off a HD master of a just sold movie. (**the very one I was exporting last night.)

4pm – Lunch!

5pm – Give assistant editor #1 an external drive so he can take the work home and finish up tomorrow, freeing up my 2nd computer so I can get back to work on the doc.

8pm – send assistant editor #2 home and wrap up my day by backing up everything. I’ve got multiple harddrives connected to all three computers all working through the night.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

Another Friday in the Life

The company I direct/edit/write for just go a big foreign buy from South America. So, I’m converting 10 of our past projects to PAL as well as preparing M&E and Music Cue sheets for all 10. But why didn’t you do this in the first place, you may ask. Well, short answer is I should’ve. But there were time pressures in getting out the US versions and many titles never go foreign.

All this week I’ve had all my computer systems running over time. One computer exporting pals, the other doing the M&E and Cue sheets. Oh, not to mention the DOC and feature edits I’m still working on. It’s been a little busy.

6:30AM – Get up and check on my work. One computer is rending out an old project. I no longer have the QuickTime export for it, so I have to create a new one from the original footage and edit file. The color correction filters on it are pretty intensive and I don’t usually keep render files when I store a project (this is something I’m changing as of now). It still has four hours to render. So I check my second computer, it’s converting H264 files from another old project. It has 3 hours left. So I get on my laptop, check emails ECT.
7 AM – goto eat breakfast. I’m going to say a quick work about the shitty, shitty service at the Broken Egg in downtown Burbank… The past four times I’ve went (yeah, I keep going, cuz it’s right next to my house) the service as been atrocious. I waited over 20 minutes for my check last time and never got the water I ordered or a coffee refill. Today I walk in and wait for 5 mins. No greeting. No server or host in site. I went to the grocery and bought breakfast.
730 am – cook breakfast. Eat.
8am – Go over my to do list. Check Harddrive Space. Write out some questions for the doc. Interview I’m shooting at 10am.
9am – get everything ready for the interview.
10am – greet crew. By crew I mean, dude with camera and mic and make-up. Maybe some producers. There will probably be more producers than crew out set. Nothing new.
1030 am – first interview set to arrive.
1pm – wrap up interviews. Spend about an hour prepping my assistant editor to create a full M&E for one of the projects I’m prepping for South America.
130pm – work for a couple of hours on two of the harder projects.
330pm – head out to Beverly Hills for a meeting/drinks.

The rest is a question mark right now, but I will for sure be starting two projects exporting before bed.

Monday, April 8, 2013

5 Reason I Love Mean Guns

Mean Guns is pretty much the apex of the late night HBO movies from the 90's. One of Albert Pyun's very best. Great set up and great execution.
Here's just five of the reasons I dig it the most.

1. Christopher Lambert's hair.
2. Ice Tea's response to "What if we don't want to play."
3. Mambo
4. Barbie

I'm Still not a Crook! 2010 Flashback

I wrote this post back in 2010. Now it's 2013 and I found myself facing a similar situation recently.
Instead of coming up with a whole new bitch and possibly embarrassing a person I'm currently working with, I decided to repost this.

I'm not a Crook.

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.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Wednesday Agenda

Many, many things to do this week, I’m attempting to list everything out just to keep it straight in my head. Often times when things start piling up, I almost shut down, spending more time deciding what to tackle then actually working on the problems.

  1. Upload trailer files to distributor. (They’re server went down late last night and I had to restart the upload this morning. This time, I’m sending one at a time. They take aprox. 3 hours a piece.) I’m halfway through this task.
  2. I’ve got 10 features in catalog that I need to do PAL exports/transcodes for. Each one takes about 24 hours to complete.  The next few things will be in service of that.
  3. Free up some space on my laptop. 700Gigs of 1TB are being used now. I’ve got to transfer some files to an external and free up some space.
  4. Free up space on my tower. Need to keep it functionary for continued editing while my laptop is busy PALing.  Have a new documentary project coming in tomorrow.
  5. Reconnect media and start SOX PAL export.
  6. Finish Syncing Pastor Shirley.
  7. Finish script polish on a few scripts for a slate of flicks I’m putting together.
  8. Schedule Voice over session.
  9. Breathe and eat.
  10. Sleep.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Deceitful marks my first collaboration with Jenn Pinto. She came onto the project last minute, literally 24 hours before shooting started. But you'd never guess from her performance. She was completely prepared and delivered everything the character needed and more. As talented as she is lovely, here's Jenn.

Jenn on the set of Deceitful

1. You’ve been acting a long time, done a lot of projects. How did Deceitful meet or defy your expectations?
Deceitful met my expectations and more. Being in the business for a long time I've dealt with the best and worst in productions. Working on Deceitful was beyond refreshing because the production was so professional and knew what they wanted. Furthermore, having to shoot intimate scenes is not the easiest thing for an actor, however when you work with a professional production it helps the process run smoother. 

2. A 5-day production schedule on a feature is truncated to say the least. How did you prepare? 
I prepared for this feature by dedicating my time to knowing who the character I'm playing is. Who is Gabrielle and why does she make the decisions she makes, what makes Gabrielle, Gabrielle. Once I understood who she was memorizing the lines was the easy part because I knew her. Just like I know myself, so I knew what Gabrielle would say. 

3. This was our first time working together, how would you characterize our working relationship?
It was a pleasure working with you. There's nothing better than working with a director who's compassionate to actors. I appreciate you making me feel comfortable on set and allowing me to explore the character.  

4. In a fight to the death who would win, Sia or Adele? 
ADELE!!!!  Because I don't know who Sia is…LOL that was bad huh? No but I do love me some Adele. 

5. Outside of the obvious (the romance stuff) what was the toughest thing to play in Deceitful?
The toughest thing was the challenge of playing someone the opposite of me. I am strong on the respect to a man/women and affairs are the most coward actions in a human being, especially when money is involved. The true essence of marriage has been tainted so much there's no respect for it anymore. So Gabrielle is everything in a woman I'd hate to be. 

6. Outside of acting you're a writer and producer. How does this inform your approach to acting?  
 I think writing and producing has been the most rewarding experience for me as an actor. As a writer you have to explore your character, you have to know the ins and outs of your character, what makes them tick, what makes them happy, what do they want etc. Once you know this, the writing becomes easier. The story is told better. So once I explored that lane so deep with my writing, when I read a script or sides I read it with a new set of eyes. I had an even greater appreciation for the experience. A writer took the time to create this story and as an actor I want to make sure I bring their vision to life. 

7. If there was an eighth question, what would you want it to be and how would you answer?
 Yes!! Who's is your favorite Actor: Johnny Depp!! :)

Who is Jenn Pinto? NYC Bilingual Latina with an electrifying personality, global mentality with a smooth R&B Hip Hop attitude. This rising star is up at sunrise and in high gear perfecting her craft. Jenn Pinto was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn and has been a hard working actress all of her life. At a young age she got her first acting job starring as an Angel in the Broadway Show "A Christmas Carol" at The Paramount in Madison Square Garden. By age 13 Jenn landed a featured guest spot on Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect". It’s an understatement to say that she leaves no stone un-turned. In 2003 she got her first role in the Independent feature film "Take No Prisoners" produced by executive producer of Def Poetry Jam, Deborah Pointer which won Best Urban Feature Award in 2004. In 2006 Jenn wowed audiences in the Film festival circuit with her physically demanding role as Rosie in the short film “Blade to Bone” in which she played a self inflicting cutter. In 2008 she beat out thousands of hopefuls when she became chosen as the top 12 to compete to be the next Telenovela star on VH1’s reality competition “Viva Hollywood. Her runner up finish allowed her to build a fan base that follows this Jenn Pinto movement till this day. Expanding her career and becoming a writer Jenn Pinto opened up her own film company Ay Mama Films and is currently in pre-production to her second short film. In 2009 she partnered with Tatiana Bascope and opened up 2 Skrewz Loose Productionz to write and produce TV shows and Feature Films independently. In 2011 she made the big leap leaving her family and moving to LA. Upon her move she was cast as a recurring character on the web-series Queen Hussy directed by award winning director Pete Chatmon as well as a lead role in the indie horror feature Into the Woods that premiered at the FOX Studios Lot in February 2012. Catch Jenn Pinto this year in the comedic webseries on the New Nations Network; Atomic Elbow Channel. The Jenn Pinto trajectory has sprung from Broadway to Television and is now on her way to making a mark on the big screen role after role. Are you ready for the Jenn Pinto Movement?

For more Jenn Pinto:

Demo Reel
Comedy Reel

Sunday, March 3, 2013

An Independent Movie Agenda for Monday

So I've been in an editing cocoon over the past few week. ***editing cocoon, good phrase. I've stepped outside my house…not very often. This morning it hit me that I now own a high-powered laptop and can take this show on the road. So I'm packing up and moving it to the coffee shop tomorrow.

6am - pack up and head down to my old coffee shop stomping ground.
630 am - get settled in with my morning coffee and oatmeal. Spend about 20 mins going through emails and whatnot.
7am - start editing the last huge scene from the movie I'm delivering on Wednesday. It's a 12 minute scene shot with three cameras. 
8am - take a break from the scene and go over a friends script while taking notes. I'll alternate the scene with the script for the next four hours before taking a break.
12pm - pack up and head to lunch.
1pm - get back home. Head to the gym. Since I was sick, I've not really been. Time to get back on my cardio. 
2pm - back up stairs. Finalize the scene. check with my other editor as to his progress. We're supposed to combine our work into a finished product Tuesday morning. Giving me 24 hours to color and fix any sound issues. ***there are hardly any sound issues on this one.
4pm - break. Watch some Netflix.
6pm - work on another feature, editing. 
8pm - break. 
9pm - go over the script for my next directing project.

I'm Jason Horton and I approve this message.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Three Misconceptions about IMDB

First off let me say that I’m not an expert, nor have I ever worked for IMDB or know anyone who has. I’m simply a moviemaker that has submitted about 50 titles and hundred’s of cast and crew credits over the last ten years.

  1. You have to wait for the production company or producers to submit your acting or crew credit on a project. NOPE. While it is a good idea to wait a few weeks after a title goes live in order to give them a chance, it’s not necessary. Anyone can submit credits. You just go to the project listing, scroll down to edit page and add your credit. The only thing you need is the free IMDB account. Which brings me to number 2.
  2. You have to have IMDBPRO to submit credits. NOT A CHANCE. The only thing IMDBPRO is essential for listing is productions in early development. It doesn’t even help the likelihood of getting productions in active pre-productions listed. The only things that matter there are public interest, distribution and track record.
  3. It helps to vote for your own project or have cast/crew do so to help your rating. NO. It is not only morally questionable, it just doesn’t help. Let me give you an example of why. You have an indie production. On average there are between 20 and 100 cast and crewmembers. You talk them into giving the flick a high rating. They go overboard and you have like 50 ratings between 8 and 10. Now, unless your flick is truly on the same level as Citizen Kane or Godfather 2, that is crazy. Now your flick has an average rating of around 8 before it’s even released. Now a word on torrents (which I despise by the by). Torrents often get their movie info from IMDB including the rating. Many torrenters pick new movies to download based on these ratings. Then they download and watch your flick. Why should you even care about these thieves? Cause now they are pissed off they downloaded your 5 movie that was rated 10 and they are very vocal on IMDB. They also outnumber your crew and legit fans 10 to 1. (most likely). Now they’re voting your flick and undeserved 1 or 2 and because they outnumber those early high votes, IMDB’s system for weeding out ratings stacking starts to disqualify the odd number of high votes and you once 8 rated flicks is now 1.7, even though it might deserve a 4 to 6.

I was set to write five misconceptions but got really into an episode of The West Wing and left it at three.

A Day in the Life of an Independent Moviemaker

Or how to shoot a movie one day.

5am - Up to read the script I’m shooting today for the first time. See, I just got off of two other movies that shot back to back and haven’t had a chance to really read this one yet.

7am – come up with a super quick shooting plan for this flick. It’s a one-day feature. Yes, I’m actually shooting a movie in one day. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. See there’s a market out there in DTV land for movies base on and shot basically as plays.
These flicks usually take place in a single location. Maybe a few different rooms of a single house or maybe even 2 houses. They are usually shot on stages and although the distributors want movie-esque coverage, they are not upset about sets that look like, well sets. So you build up your set, grab three cameras, block the scenes, and shoot them 2 to 3 times apiece varying your coverage and presto! 12 hours later you got 80plus pages shot. Add a couple of exterior establishing shots and you got a movie.

9am – arrive at set. Call time is 10, but I like to get a jump on things. The production designer is already there prepping the set to be ready for noon when the cast is ready in make-up to shoot.

11am. Cast starts to arrive. Now I’m meeting many of these folks for the first time. Auditions took place while I was shooting another movie. Lucky for me we had an ace-casting director and the producers are very reliable when it comes to picking good cast. And with this particular type of flick, casting is crucial. It’s not enough to be a good actor; you have to be a pliable actor. Someone that can roll with the punches and deliver a decent performance with little prep and little time for blocking. Improv skills also help.
I give my standard, this what it’s like to shoot a one day flick as they’re getting into make-up... Listen to each other, engage, stay in the moment, if you get lost just call for a line, go back and do it again. No stops. Let me know when you need a moment to get to any special emotional beats, ect.. ect… When you have down time, run your lines! These flicks require super focus.

1130am. While the cast gets into wardrobe and final make-up, I check the sets.

12pm – get off the first shot, well shots. Three cams. We start with a 17-page scene. 7 characters and lots of movement. We start out with a wide-all action. A tighter 2 to 3 shot focusing stage left and a tighter 2 to 3 focusing stage right. We run through the entire scene, stopping only once for card changes on the cameras.
1pm. Each camera picks a character and floats through coverage. We do the scene again. Having seen the entire thing blocked out the operators now know the major beats and are assigned characters to follow. Because there are 8 characters and only three cams, it’s important to catch the “important” beats and then get whatever else you can.
2pm. Move to the next scene and repeat the above. The rest of the scenes in the movie average between 3 and 8 pages, so things move a little faster.
4pm. Break for lunch.
445. Back from lunch. Rinse and repeat till our 10pm wrap. And yeah, we made it.

Same Old Blog/New Title

I recently changed my blog’s domain name. No many of you maybe asking, “Jason, why on earth would you do that?” Well, maybe not. But I’m going to tell you why any way.

Two reasons.
  1. The old URL had a grievous grammatical error. It was (has) implying I have a low budget moviemaker in my possession. Yeah, not exactly a respect inducing title.
  2. A producer I work with often suggested that I lose the low budget part, saying that it carried a negative connotation and because I’m working with more “name” talent now, I may not want to say outright that I’m working on “Low Budget” projects. ***and the budgets while relatively low are going up.

After giving it a few seconds of thought and given the fact that I was embarrassed about the grammar thing, I felt like it was time for a change. I like my blog and didn’t want to take it down, so I fixed the grammar and switched Low Budget for Independent.

I'm Jason Horton and I approve this message.

How Does an Independent Director find Representation that’s Worth a Damn?

No really, I’m asking. Cuz I don’t have a flipping clue. I’ve been putting out independent features since 2005. I have close to a dozen flicks in the marketplace. All have made their budgets and most have turned a nifty little profit. Over the last few months alone I’ve completed four new features and am starting production on a new one in a few weeks. I know, I know, why the hell would I even want representation. Sounds like I’m doing okay. See, that’s just it. I’m doing ok. I want to be doing great. I want to work on bigger features and I’d also like to be tackling original material of my own. Sure I’m slowly building a decent resume and am working with more experienced and famous-type people, but I feel like I’m capable of and am ready to do more.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like securing a decent agent or manager is the next logical step in my career. Great, so I know what I want. Well, this is where the trouble comes into paradise, because I just don’t have a clue how to go about it. Not a clue.  I’ve always been a shitty networker, that’s been my major fault from the get. I suppose I need to get over my social phobia, get out there and start making new contacts.

******My alternate title was It's Hard Out There for a Pimp.