Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Free Video Games.

Thinking about adding some video games to my site.  When I was a kid if you had told me that there would be an endless supply of free games to play at my disposal I would have thought you were describing heaven.  I felt like I could play Space Invaders all day and night.  I was glad to save all those quarters and have my parents spend $40 ONCE for a cartridge back when 40 bucks was a whole lotta' dough.

Now there are free games EVERYWHERE and I think they may have a home with my horror movies and such if I pick the right games.  I thought I'd test the embed code for one here and then move on from there.

So, readers, what do you think?  Is fighting the undead something viewers of our flicks would want?  If this game fun?  The commercial at the beginning is to support the site that supplied the code.  Not sure I'm a fan of the autostart.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Make Money giving it away?

It's been awhile since I've posted on here and I apologize.  I've been dealing with some non-production things, but now I'd like to make an observation and so I'm doing it here.

The economy sucks.  I know, you don't need me to make that observation for you, but it sets up the idea for this blog.  Right now people are looking ways to save money more than ever and businesses, due to inflation, can not all accommodate that need.  Streaming video and DVD by mail services have actually raised rates or at least separated the services and the competition is getting stiffer.

This can either crush a self-distributing indie who may find it harder to make a decent deal with the larger businesses or it can be seen as an opportunity.  Maybe it's time for media paid for by advertisers to make a comeback.

Some of you are old to remember when commercials weren't something we all sneered at, but rather an accepted side effect of our free TV.  Well, advertisers still want to reach viewing audiences and now they can do it with greater target accuracy.  YouTube and Google offer revenue sharing programs that pay a little bit (very little bit) depending on views and clicks.  YouTube partnership with running video ads can be difficult for a new content creator to acquire, but other online channels like Revvor and Blip.tv are a bit easier to get a start with.

For makers of cult style horror, sci-fi and exploitation movies a fairly new site, www.BCinema.tv , has a revenue sharing plan that allows you to show your movies for free alongside some cult classics and still make some money.  I've got several movies listed there.

For those interested and looking for an outlet off of the larger, more cluttered, less focused video streaming sites, I've created a Free Online Movie theatre at www.hocfocprod.com .  Originally it was created to show off my films, but I've decided to open it  up to outside content that fits with our shoestring budget, Drive-In feel.  The site incorporates (recently) an area here on blogspot where people can list reviews of the movies.  A certain number of free views will help establish some word of mouth and you can always remove the free film from the net to see if sales will go up.  In the long run, viewership translates into DVD sales of the film  you're showing and future films, not to mention the money to be made by advertising.

The number of channels you choose to show on is up to you. I've been going for full saturation with my older movies and keeping some newer, higher end productions, a bit harder to find.  With "Alien Vengeance" I'm dealing in sheer volume.  2 features, several shorts and a web series on the way are all set up to be shown free.  All are hopefully building a fanbase for the planned 3rd feature.

So, keep an eye out on your opportunities, seize them all and give the people what they want: FREE STUFF.  Even limited time runs or edited versions of the movies (less nudity and gore just like we'd get on TV back before cable) can help develop a fanbase for your work that may not otherwise be able to afford to see your stuff.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mickey Rooney's Strangest Role?

What can I say?  The role of B.J. Lang is easiest the strangest thing I've ever watched actor Mickey Rooney tackle.  He does an excellent job, I think, of playing the deranged make-up artist turned director in his own mind.  I say, "I think", because at times the audio in the movie is uneven and I missed quite a few lines.   At times it also just lost my interest too.  If you're not ready for a dialogue driven movie that creates suspense through isolation and the threat of violence rather than all out gore and carnage, then this isn't the flick for you.
B.J. Lang has taken Carlotta (Luana Anders ) hostage and is forcing her to act in a movie that is being produced in his own mind.  She is tied to a wheelchair a good portion of the time and his crew and other cast members are mostly mannequins, lightstands and empty costumes.  If you've ever worked on a truly low budget production, the director speaking to a lightstand might not strike you as strange right away.
Although slow moving at times the movie does occasionally manage to create some tension.  For example, we see Lang feeding Carlotta baby food and realize that, because she is tied to a chair and in an isolated warehouse, she is completely dependant on Lang for her survival.  Later, when it appears that the madman is having a heart attack or suffering some other serious ailment we realize that unless Carlotta saves him she'll slowly starve to death.  It's a gripping scene and done very well by both actors.
Unfortunately, the golden moments are mixed in with chase sequences that appear to have been shot entirely overcranked creating a sharp, but monotonous, slow motion effect.  The movie is about 90 minutes and easily could have played well as an 80 minute piece had one of these sequences been cut short or shot/edited at a more normal speed.   Of course, some undercranked stuff balances it all out.
We're also "treated" to glimpses into B.J. Lang's past through a series of surreal flashbacks that tell us a bit about the character.  But some of them are so bizarre that I missed the message they were trying to convey.  Maybe I should have had more to drink or smoked something before watching this one.
Keenan Wynn makes a short appearance that helps cement the danger that Carlotta is actually in at the hands of Lang.  It would have been nice to see more of Wynn.  The scene seemed rushed, but it served its purpose.
All in all this is an interesting look at an isolation movie being carried by dialogue, imagery and characterization.  It's a good movie for budding filmmakers to watch.  With one major location and only two leads it manages to take the audience for a 90 minute ride.   Could have been shorter.  Could have made a bit more sense at times, but as a descent into madness it definitely works. 
Worth seeing just for the oddity of Mickey Rooney playing such a dark, strange character.
P.S. The "uneven" audio is not so much bad audio as the movie switching from screaming to whispering and back again, so that some of the whispered lines were lost.  Had I turned the screams up a bit I probably wouldn't have had trouble hearing it, but I was watching this pretty early in the morning and I didn't want to wake the neighbors.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2 Films, 8 Bucks, Great Cause.

This is more of an announcement than a blog, but I'll roll some thoughts into it too.

"Slime City Massacre" writer/director, Greg Lamberson, is hosting his two films for a benefit film night.  Below is a posting of the information for the evening and info on how  you can contribute to the very worthy cause if you cannot make it.

>>Meet Benjamin Heppel, age 8. Benjamin has leukemia. His mother, Jen, manages the daycare my daughter Kaelin attends. Kaelin has gotten so much out of Little Angels, and my wife Tamar and I want to do what we can to repay Miss Jen for her help and attention.

For ONE NIGHT ONLY, I'm screening SLIME CITY & SLIME CITY MASSACRE as a double feature in Buffalo, where SCM was filmed. The films will play at the Market Arcade Film & Art...s Center, 639 Main Street, 7 PM - 10:30 PM; 100% of the proceeds from ticket admissions and raffles will go to Benjamin's medical fund. We'll also have swag and door prizes for Buffalo's horror fans. Admission is ONLY $8.00!

2 films, 8 bucks, 1 great cause!

You can read about Benjamin's story, or make direct contributions to his fund, and sign his guestbook, at CaringBridge: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/benjaminheppel

Facebook has made it much harder to promote events, so please help me spread the word, and I hope to see you there!

Greg Lamberson<<

In an outpouring of generosity, other writers, directors, filmmakers and artists have been contributing things for a raffle and door prizes, so it should be a fun night.  For our small part, Hocus Focus Productions is sending up 100 CD-Rom copies of "Cult Goddess Magazine" and BCinemaTV is supplying 100 pairs of 3D glasses to go with issue 8.  It seems appropriate since 3 of the 4 issues have write-ups and photos provided by the "Slime City Massacre" folks, which really helped me round out the issues last year.  If you follow me on Facebook you'll see the invitation shared in my stream every so often.

Please do consider contributing to the medical fund.  The costs involved with the treatment of child who has leukemia are staggering.  Also, spread the word.  Let's fill every seat in that theatre.

Watching people rally to help Greg do something for this family is inspiring.  It goes back to my teamwork blog.  All too often we fall into the trap of competition, but the world should not be "us" against "them".  Except for the very small segment of the population that actually wishes to do harm to other people, there is no "them" to fight against.  The majority of the people on this planet should look at each other as "us" and we'd all be a lot happier.

I'm trying to get everything to Greg sent by April 25th, so if you've got some horror swag to donate, get in touch with me or Greg and let everyone know how to get some free stuff, see some cool movies and make the world an easier place for a family that can use a little help right now.


Monday, April 11, 2011

A Bit on Make-Up

With how small my movie budgets are I've been fortunate to work with some very talented people and get some cool monsters, wounds and blood in front of my camera.  I've also had to do some of the work myself when time and/or budget causes a conflict and unfortunately, it often shows.

When deciding on methods to use for make-up or creature F/X budget is always a concern that pops up on low budget productions, but there other factors to take into account that need to be addressed during post production to avoid snags later on.

For creature F/X, is your creature a straight on, rampaging monster or is there a character beneath that rough exterior?  This will be important for determining how visible the eyes need to be and how flexible the facial features should be.  For "File Error" our monster is a robot.  The less expression the better.  He's an emotionless killing machine.  But if you want a werewolf that can convey pathos over a kill that causes conflict in his human soul, you'll want those eyes to be visible.

Speech is also something to take into account.  Fangs, weird tongues, or facial appendages can make understanding an actor difficult.  A full over the head mask means that all of the speech coming through the mask will sound like someone talking into a cup and your actor's breathing will likely be compromised.

How long will your actor need to suffer through this ordeal?  Make-up should never suffer for the comfort of who is inside it, but the design does need to take certain things into account, especially where safety is concerned, but adding some comfort is a nice gesture too.  Whenever possible I don the difficult suits myself.  This means I need to trust my camera operator fully.  And most of the time, full on suits are only going to be worn for a scene or two a day. 

How durable does the make-up need to be?  In "File Error" I wrote in a gag that the robot's face keeps sliding off or getting knocked off. This was mainly because at the writing stage I knew how I planned to pull of the cheap skin mask and I knew it would be too heavy to stay in place for any amount of time since it wouldn't be sculpted to the actor's actual face and is made of straight latex, not foam latex.  My Werewolves in "The Lunar Pack" had to do some running and fighting.  Tabatha Gipe put together two distinct designs that managed to stand up to one of my favorite werewolf fights ever.  A bit old style Marvel TV series, but what I was going for and pretty dang cool.  Thanks to Steven Shea we got to do some neat POV shots of the wolves jumping too.  That was a case when we did have to keep reapplying make-up due to sweat and just plain activity, but the pieces survived the ordeal.  In fact, we used them again in "Shelter" for different stages of the transformation.

What lighting will be used to shoot the make-up?  I never like to answer this one until I'm on set because things on indie movies are so "in flux" that such things can change drastically, but for "Shelter" I knew where I was shooting, when and how I was going to achieve the low budget transformation using lighting tricks.  Stuff that's going to be lit dimly can be  a little less detail oriented.  Quick edits help with that too, but on "Shelter" I did have one new obstacle.  It was only my second time shooting a complex make-up composition in High Definition.  The neck wound in "Savaged" was amazing and I wanted our creature in "Shelter" to stand up as well.  HD is more unforgiving than the naked eye, so I called on Maryanne Schultz to take Tabatha's wolf pieces (Tabatha was working on something else at the time) and put her own twist on them to make them stand up to the 1080 lines of resolution.

I think the resulting creature stood up pretty well, especially on the budget we had at the time.

We were only shooting from the front as well, so that gave us some wiggle room on the back of his head. If you can plan out camera placement it can also help save some time, at least for specific days of shooting.

So, consider character, speech, comfort, durability, lighting, camera placement and work to make all of those work as best they can within your budget.

I'm sure make-up folks have a lot more to add, but from a filmmaker's point of view those are the most important, and often overlooked due to time and budget, things to consider when using creature make-up in a movie.
Examples of not preparing for some of these things can also be seen in my movies, but you can look for those yourself.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blood Types

Most of us know the old stand-by Corn Syrup and food coloring blood recipe.  A few even know to add blue food coloring (a few drops) to the red to deepen the color and maybe some powdered milk to make it "opaque" when putting it on a white shirt or other light colored surface, but how many fake blood recipes do you know?  There are dozens, maybe hundreds!  (Probably just dozens though unless you count tiny variations like 10 drops of red vs 9).

I was taught by some great special F/X artists, one or two who I hope will post here, how to make different kinds of blood.  In "Alien Vengeance: The First Encounter" we experimented with Corn starch and food coloring.  It made a nice thick, if not a bit Orange on camera, kind of blood.  Good for pooling n concrete, but only if you were shooting quickly.  It dried to a powdery clump after a while.  My friend, Tabitha, taught me about a good "dried blood" recipe using hair gel.  I mix a little black in to give it a flatter look and just used it yesterday in File Error.  It doesn't flow very well, but it stays in place (and stains skin)  really well.  We used it for a scene in "File Error" yesterday.

Please, feel free to use the comments to share some of your favorite blood recipes.  What "spurts" well?  What's too watery?  What looks good in the dark?  What about bright sunlight?  Anything that won't stain?  How about cheap enough to fill a bathtub?

Let's hear what ya got.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Quick Tip! Multistrips

A few blogs ago I talked about using clamp lights to fill out a lighting set or replace a more expensive floodlight in a pinch.  One of the major drawbacks of cheaper clamp lights is the lack of a switch.  At least the switch won't go bad on  you like it has on some of my cheaper professional light sets, but having to bend and unplug a light every time it isn't in use is just a pain.

I like to use multistrips with circuit breakers, switches and when possible, surge protection built in.  Don't overload them.  All six strips are not meant to be used when using things like 500 watt lights, but even putting a strip between a single light and your wall socket can save a lot of headache.  Better  you trip the breaker in the strip than the house.  Especially someone else's house.

An added bonus is most strips have switches, so you can turn the pesky "constant" lights off at the strip rather than continually pulling the plug.  If the light has a built in switch, use that, but for standard, store bought, clamp lights, this has served me well.

Always read all labels on electrical devices to make sure you're using them correctly and safely.  I'm not an electtician and this isn't meant to be elecitrical advice.  Just something to look into further and decide if it works for you.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Longest episode ever!

As discussed in a previous post, I'm sure this is a good thing, but we'll see.  Even with faster connection speeds and computers allowing people to watch video in real time and the ability to watch internet video through your TV, phone or tablet, it seems that folks just aren't too interested in watching internet based shows longer than a few minutes.

I understand that.  Normally, if I'm looking for video on the net I'm looking for something to kill the few minutes I have while I wait for something to print, send or load on my other computer.  I think people watch 2 minute videos online during commercials of network TV.

Despite the drawbacks though, some episodes just have a run time that is right for them.  My newest addition to "The Weird World of HFP" is "Inside HFP", a show that brings viewers behind the scenes, so to speak, of my past projects.  It will show the evolution of Hocus Focus Productions as a movie company from back when we shot on SVHS tapes to the HD digital age and probably through to 3D.  Some episodes will feature full short films, others will be clips from features.  I still haven't decided if I'll run full length features, but with the numbers from this episode I'll know more.

I still haven't seen how the midroll commercial works in here.  When I first post these things they tend to not have advertising yet.

Anyway, take a peek and in a few weeks I'll let you know how the experiment worked out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stock Footage, Don't Knock it.

I bought some very expensive, at least by standards, stock footage way back when I was working in Digital 8 and miniDV.  Even now I occasionally use some of the more impressive, hard to get, realisitic standard definition clips in my HD productions.  I think of it like the old T.V. shows that used to cut 16mm military footage into a show shot on 35mm filmstock.  The quality isn't the match I'd like, but it's the only way a $15 episode of "The Simplest Things" is going to have a convincing shot of the planet Earth from space.  Using the footage as backgrounds helps a bit too, because you can play with the focus.  A softer focus on something that isn't the focal point of  your scene works pretty well.

Lately though I've been picking up a LOT of HD stock footage from a few sources.  There are companies that give it away for "free" on DVD.  Actually they charge about 3x what shipping costs and make their money by sending you the DVDs, but it's still very affordable and useful stuff.  Mostly I get CG iconic images, particl F/X or light and energy F/X from them.  Can I do a lot of these things myself?  Probably, but to be honest, I'm not really a graphics guy, so even the stuff I can do takes me longer than it should.  If I can save 3 or 4 hours of work and have the machines rendering stuff I'm being paid for rather than some abstract HD graphic I may want down the line and all for less than 10 bucks, it's worth it to me.

I also shoot the heck out of the world around me in HD to gain as much as useful footage as possible.  You've got to be in a public place, try to keep faces and logos out of it and not cause a disturbance, but you'd be amazed at the stuff you can get, especially if you travel.  Wildlife, planes, landscapes, construction equipment at work and weather are all things to have your arsenal.  I carry a small (slightly bigger than pocket) HD camera with me at all times and download a few great clips every month.  The stuff my Dad filmed while we were on our flight lesson has already made it into two features.

This past week I was capturing footage from a company called "Videoblocks".  Short clips and under the agreement you have to "change them significantly" to use them in your project.  Basically, screening people or objects in, editing them to music and using them within a bigger project should cover you. 

I've been planning on doing a "bloody" version of our HFP logo for awhile.  It consisted of shooting syrup blood dripping onto plexi at an angle in front of a white background and keying that into the existing three frame film logo.  Or I thought about pouring fake blood onto a printed version of the logo upisde down and running it backwards to make it look as if it filled with blood.

Between client work, trying to schedule my own projects, shooting the episodes of the online shows and writing, I hadn't gotten around to that for the past 4 months or so.  Then this week I capture a cool new set of flickering film frames as stock footage.  I went through my other clips and realized I had everything I needed to make this work.

The finished product uses almost all stock elements, including library music, which we'll get to in another blog.

I thought this version worked really well, but decided some clients may not want this opening a video of their family pictures or business's last big event.  I also figured shows like "The Simplest Things", which are more family oriented shouldn't open this way, so I made a second version.  You can see that on the main page of my site: http://www.hocfocprod.com/

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Film Financing in the Digital Age

I hate asking for money.  Hate it.  If things with indie films were more sure and the market was on more steady ground I wouldn't have a problem asking an investor for funds.  Let's face it, having a better business person involved with the movie, someone who keeps his or her eye on the bottom line, isn't entirely a bad thing.  It might cost some creative control, but if you're doing this as a business, or even a self-sustaining art form, somebody has to buy the movies when they're all done.

But, like I said, those issues aside, an indie film with a very low budget is a gamble.  At best it has a long investment life before it pays off and this economy makes it difficult to ask people to wait 5 or 6 years before they see a return.  Would I like to make some middle class investors who believe in me rich?  Absolutely!  Am I willing to risk losing their money instead if the masses suddenly grow weary of tentacle probing monsters?  No.

A decade or so ago it was very fashionable for young filmmakers to max out their credit cards to make their dream project.  Being married, owning a house and hurtling toward the beginning of the middle of my life the last thing I want is credit card debt.  Heck I don't even like car payments.  So, gambling it all on cards that will charge me and mine up to 20% when the bills start piling up is not an option.

There is a new fad though and I've been avoiding it like a plague.  Online begging.  Call it pledges, contributions or pre-sales, but what it comes down to is me asking people, some I hardly know and some friends who get guitled into it, for money for perks they may or may not want in order to help me make the movie I want to make.  Sounds glamorous, right?  It doesn't feel glamorous either, BUT I realized something. By avoiding these fundraising opportunities I was punishing my casts and crews as well.   

Asking people to work for little or no money to get the projects done is just as difficult for me to do, but sometimes easier to accomplish because actors love to act and artists want to work.  I'd like to think a few people who are successful now kept with it because of my little projects.  Some probably even learned something from the more experienced people like Debbie Rochon, Joel D. Wynkoop, Mike Christopher and others who have been kind enough to grace my sets.  That doesn't change the fact that through fundraising pages like Indiegogo I may be able to give these dedicated people more to work with.  Not just a more fair day rate for their time, but a movie more like what we want to make instead of just what we can make.

So, I started up a page and we got our first contribution.  On the page our budget looks fairly large for one of my flicks.  Twenty Thousand Dollars.  Just typing it out or saying it aloud gives me a shiver.  It could take care of having car payments for one thing, but that's not the issue here.  $10,000 would be almost 10x what I spent on my last feature.  You read that right.  We had to shoot in 4 days to keep hotel, travel and food costs down.  We shot Debbie Rochon's scenes for both movies in one visit so that I wouldn't have to fly her into FL twice.  These are limitations I'd love to work without sometime.  And even though our goal is $20,000 the reason I reference $10,000 is the cost of collecting the money.  The page gets a cut, Paypal takes a share, the perks cost money and there is shipping.  By the time we're done, I'm figuring we'll net about half what we raise.  The rest will be out of pocket.

Because the money is being raised for THIS movie I won't be pulling any of the stuff commonly seen by first time budget makers, like calling a computer, camera and lights part of my budget.  Most of that stuff gets  used for HFP clients and web shows anyway, so I have it.   I even built the 3D rig and purchased 2 special cameras out of pocket already.  As much as possible the things paid for from the net funds from the fundraising page for "Alien Vengeance 3D" will appear on screen.  Flights and food probably won't make in front of the camera, but the people consuming them will.

That's right, "Alien Vengeance III: The Invasion" is being shot in 3D and represents the first movie I am trying to raise funds for using an indiegogo page.  I had raised some money for "Alien Vengeance" and "AV II" on kickstarter but dropped that campaign short of my goal and finished the movies out of pocket. 

There are some cool perks there including an exclusive.  I'll be adding more, so keep checking if you don't find anything you like.  Those who support indie film, but are artists themselves and can't contribute financially, please, still consider spreading the work to sci-fi, horror and indie film fans everywhere.

I'll let you all know how it goes.  I have to go edit the final part of Debbie Rochon's CGM interview now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lady Frankenstein - Review

New FearNet blog up.  Use the widget to the right to navigate there.  This week I watched "Lady Frankenstein" and while it's not for everyone, I think monster run amok fans will enjoy it.  Maybe look for a TV cut version if  your monster fans are under the age for nudity and sexual content, although I'm guessing too much of a cut really effects the "I can't believe they did that" ending.

More production stuff coming as soon as I get my head wrapped around that stuff again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Clamp Light to Light Stand Adapter

OK, so you're on a shoot and your very cool, 250 watt reflector burns out.  The switch has gone bad and you can't get it to light back up.  It's 1 AM, there's no photo-supply within 50 miles and certainly none open.  What do you do?  What do you do, Hotshot!?

Fortunately, we live in a world of 24 hour stores that do exist in the middle of nowhere and many have hardware departments.  So, you up the ISO setting on your camera and go grab a couple of 100 watt clamp lights and the strongest CFL bulbs you can find or 100 watt standard bulb.  You've lost some wattage, per light, but at least you have light again.  You clamp it to your trusty light stand and it slides, wiggles and droops all over the place.  That smooth metal isn't very good for clamping too.  Carry a couple of these little widgets with  you  and you'll be ready.

Parts: scrap of wood (I used a 3 inch chunk of 1 x 1-1/2 I had laying around)
          1/2" plastic clamp for a pipe support system.  A half dozen of these cost me about $5.
          1/4" - 20 bolt, about 1/2" long should do it.
          Wood Screws appropriately sized to the clamps you buy.
          As with all builds, do this at your own risk.
Tools" Drill
           15/64th bit
           Screwdriver bit to match your screws.

So, you simply screw the plastic clamp to the piece of wood.  Once that's done, I think you'll find the finished product fits nicely over a standard sized 5/8th inch stud found on your light stand.  Just to add some stability, however, you'll drill a 15/64th inch hole in the rear center of the plastic clamp.  (Wear goggles and be careful, please.  And do not have it on your light stand at the time.  If you don't know how to drill get a more handy person to help you).  With that done the 1/4 inch bolt should fit nicely into the clamp.  Now, slide that over the stud on your light stand and clamp the light to your piece of wood.  It may take some doing, but when it closes you'll have a nice tight fit.  If you think you'll need to be ready for more light, make one with a longer piece of wood.  6 inches wide maybe, or 8.  This way you'll be able to clamp multiple clamp lights to it. 
It's not really much cheaper to use hardware store lights than it is to use a basic reflector from Impact or Smith Victor and the plastic sockets can't support much heat (thus the 100 watt limit), but in a pinch it pays to be ready, especially when you can be ready for about $8.  I travel with clamp lights for shoots because they're expendable, durable, versatile and easy to replace.  I'm hoping that this little piece (I've made 3) will make them more stable as well.  I'm going to make a multi-light one soon, so I haven't tested that yet, but the first small one I made held a Home Depot 300 Watt 12 inch reflector pretty solid.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reflecting - A Quick and Easy to Build Attachment for D-SLR Cameras

A little CYA, this is something I built for personal use.  Take and use the info at your own risk or leave it.  Your choice.  I'm not repsonsible for your camera or inability to use wire or tools safely.

OK, gang, I know most of the independent film world has embraced the Digital SLR for it's Hi-Def video and awesome ability to change lenses.  Full frame cameras like the Canon 5D Mark II are the best alternative under $10K (in my opinion) for shooting the best looking video.  The cameras have many, many strengths, but they come with some weaknesses too, especially for those of us brought up on more traditional video cameras.

The layout alone is an obstacle.  None of the obstacles of these cameras can't be overcome with add-ons, but the cost of those soon becomes an issue.  Audio monitoring, for example, can be added to a Canon 5D Mark II, but currently the best solutions for that which I've found cost in the neighborhood of $400.  That raises the cost of the camera by about 20%.  More on that in another blog.  Today I'm going to talk about how $3.00 or so worth of parts and tape can give you the ability to shoot at various angles.

Let me start by saying that I've only gotten as far as the prototype for this build, but it functions and I mostly used spare parts I had lying around the work shop.  Of course, I tend to always have 1/4inch bolts and washers on hand (and so should you).  You probably have Gaffer's tape or a reasonable equivalent and the 14 gauge wire I used could have been recycled from a wire clothes hanger instead of left over from a stop motion puppet build.  That means you'll have to buy a compact mirror.  I also bought a better quality mirror, but the compact is pre-hinged (you know, the folding make-up mirrors women carry) and it only cost $1.00.  In fact, it came with a hand mirror, so we can cal it 50 cents if I come up with a use for the other mirror and you know I will..

What this device will do is allow you to see the fixed, non-swivelling screen (if you've got a Sony with a tilting a screen you won't need this) of your camera when you hold it at low angles.

Twist the wire around itself so you have a braid .  At one end open, or leave open, a loop that your 1/4 inch mounting bolt will fit through.  A washer goes on each side.  I good sized, say 1 to 2 inch washer should go on top.  About 2 inches back (you'll be able to adjust this because you're using tape for now) attach your compact mirror.  Screw the contraption into the tripod mount of your camera and flip open the mirror.  Hold the camera at waist level and adjust the bend in the wire until you can see the view screen fully in the back mirror.  At other angles you'll be able to see it in the front mirror.  Tape the back mirror to the wire.  When you're done, it should look like this.  I covered a bit of the wire at the end that was "sharp" with a generous amount of tape.
Pretend that the bolt on top there is your camera.  I admit, this version isn't pretty, but it works and with some twisting it can help you view your screen from all sorts of angles.  The image is upside down, but I find it gave me a clear enough reflection to focus the image and at waist level I could walk and keep the camera fairly steady.  If I get a chance I'll load video later.

Try this at your own risk.  The wrong size bolt will strip your camera's threads.  (Standard is 1/4"-20) and if it flops around you can scratch your camera's pretty body.  Like I said, this needs a cleaned up version, but I like the fact that this one can be made at 3 AM after a trip to Wal-Mart if you need it on the fly and if you untape it the mirror will close and pack up nicely.

I've got a clamp light-to-light stand adapter that I'll show you another time AND the paint is drying on the 3D/HD mount. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More on Scheduling

Scheduling shoots, edits and other production is always a bit tricky.  You want to keep schedules tight so as to get the most bang for your buck and actually stand a chance of earning a living in this world of $1.99 rentals and 2 tenths of a cent per view, but you also need to leave some flexibility for life's little surprises.

I went ahead and scheduled most of my shows to "air" on Wednesdays.  This is so I can keep bringing the internet the "Weird World of HFP" on a schedule and still make that schedule happen in one of several ways.  I can edit the show over the weekend if I have time, which lately it seems I don't.  I can also edit the show on Tuesday while Nancy is at work, which usually works great.  Finally, what I'll be doing today, I can edit and post it on Wednesday morning and afternoon and have it online in time for a Wednesday evening showing.  This can go wrong if there are server problems, which there often are.  I have a backlog of audio recordings and some photos ready to go, so the putting together of the show shouldn't be too much trouble.

Back up problem, I also have client work due tomorrow, which I'll be finishing up FIRST today (it's loading while I write this).  All of this would be fine if my regular life had stayed the same.  I generally take the middle of the week as my office week.  Build stuff up Monday and Tuesday, edit, phone calls and set up meetings Wednesday, meetings Thursday and Friday. clean up on the weekends if I have to and back to the cycle.

The problem comes in when you have so much work (and this a good problem to have) that your wiggle room is gone.  Normally today I would have a few hours of work and no social obligations.  Instead I have about 6 hours of edit work, a few hours of posting, some office work (most of that is done already) and a bit of shooting planned for later to stockpile shows for March because I'll be losing Wednesdays to the production of "File Error" for a couple of weeks.

Scheduling shows weekly to keep an audience is one thing.  I can always post one early, so long as it's there when people look for it, but production is another story.  Clients tend to actually want stuff early.  I give "real" dates.  The date I actually expect something to be done, not an early date I'll never hit to make them happy or a late date I won't need to make my life easier.  It might be a bit late to allow for things that crop up, but I do my best to give an actual date and then I hit that date.  Shooting a movie has to be scheduled to the hour.  The minute if possible.  Crossing 12 people's schedules is not easy and doing it when you can't pay them to take off from day jobs and need to finish on time because when the food budget runs out you're working with nothing tends to keep things a bit tight.  "File Error" is a revisit for me to the "weekend" movie, where we'll be shooting over several weeks to fit it into the schedules of the actors rather pumping the movie out in 4 or 5 days to get it done so I can move on to other stuff.  It has a lot of interiors, so unlike "Alien Vengeance" I don't have to worry about the seasons giving me away if it takes awhile to shoot.

In the end, it all comes down to planning and adding about 20% to any expected scenario.  You don't want to be left at the end cutting corners because you didn't schedule enough time, but you don't want to turn down outside work because you gave a production too much time.  What usually happens is the oil change on the car, some lawn work and pressure washing the driveway get put off because everyday life is where your wiggle room comes from.  Heck, I'm even behind on watching bad movies to review for the "Cheesey Movie Reviews"  <---yes, "cheesey" is mispelt, that's cheesy, don't ya think?

OK, gotta' go.  Running over schedule on today's blog.  I'll let you know how it all turns out tomorrow.

EDIT: I forgot to mention the reprieve you may get should a client push a date back for you.  I can start work on the show about 90 minutes sooner now, so that means I can eat lunch today.  Make it even.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Shooting Miniatures

I am in no way an expert when it comes to making or shooting miniatures, but I do a bit of it and plan on doing a lot more.  Especially for "Alien Vengeance III" and the ongoing web series, "The Simplest Things".  With "The Simplest Things" being a sci-fi comedy about a fish out water alien named Pratt, the cartoonish, childlike quality of the miniatures I make fits right into the look I'm going for with the show.  It says, "low budget retro sci-fi" when you can tell something is a miniature. 

Having done a bit of shooting in miniature, however, I have developed an eye for what I like and I'm going to share some of that with you in the hopes that it will help someone else who may be curious about trying this out.

For one thing, I like to shoot with a long or zoomed lens.  I like to throw the focus on one particular part of the miniature set, preferably the best looking piece.  I think having foreground objects in sharp focus and backgrounds in soft focus or vice verse helps to give the illusion of size.  It makes thing appear to be further apart than they actually are.

For example, in this picture, the plastic tree and the paper house are about 6 inches apart, but the focus makes it seem like we're looking at a horribly painted full scale house...sort of.

I chose to make the tree the in focus part because the house has no windows and is made of paper.  The grassy hill behind it is paper mache and plaster spray painted green.  It looks like toys, but it looks like toys that you know are supposed to look bigger.

Another thing I like is direct light.  Shadows and highlights can cover flaws and also add some scale.  I especially like to this for my spaceships , but it does make them harder to screen in at times.  Light coming from one direction helps make the curves show up and may obscure a lack of detail.  Plus, a single directional light just makes things look more ominous.

In the photo to the right, the spaceship is lit from one side, leaving the far side in shadow so it blends into the starry sky.  The foreground is an actual model green screened into the image of a CG landscape.

Using as many layers as possible, whether they be real or computer generated can help to add depth too.  Here I wish I had put some sort of skyline in the background, but that lumpy "rock" in the mid ground helps a bit.

Finally, if you're more skilled than I am, or know somebody who is (and you must), the more detail in your miniature, the less you have to try and hide.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've made a spaceship sliding door out of a cereal box and I have to figure out how to make me walk through it.

See ya' next time.

Meanwhile, watch "The Simplest Things" in the players in the right margin.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chocolate Covered Fairy Tale Film Competition

As an independent filmmaker it's sometimes very difficult to choose the best venues for getting your work in front of the public.  Film festivals are an obvious choice, but those $25, $50, and sometimes $100 entry fees can really add up.  Think about, how many shorts have you produced digitally for less than $180?

So, you want to look for unique opportunities well suited to your work.  For some of  you reading this, The Festival of Chocolate Film Fest (The Chocolate covered Fairy Tale Film Competition) will be just what you're looking for in terms of a creative outlet.  Better hurry though, there's not much time.

The entry fee is $30 and the due date for entries is Feb 21, 2011.  The thing that makes the festival so interesting is just how specific the guidelines are.  Chances are you'll need to make something specifically for this festival.  That's an advantage, in my mind, over spending a fee for a festival that  your horror, drama or comedy may or may not fit into.  Another plus, if you're an impatient person such as myself, is the date of the festival itself.  The Orlando Festival of Chocolate is being held, March 5th and 6th, so not a lot of wait time to find out which films will be screening.  Heck in just about 5 weeks the festival will be happening.  That's stupendous in my book.  No waiting around 6 months to find out what happened with your gem.

The movie must relate to chocolate and involve a known or original fairy tale.  I'm trying to figure out if I'm going to have time to make one myself.  Depends on how the miniatures shoot for "The Simplest Things" goes this weekend.  For more details and to print the entry form go to http://orlando.festivalofchocolate.com/

Oh, one more cool thing for you newer filmmakers, the festival entry form ALSO includes release forms for talent, music and locations.  Read them carefully to know what you're having people sign.  Also take into account that you need these types of releases for any and all films you plan to use for festivals.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Life vs Work

Every so often I look at the title of my blog and realize that I'm not giving you guys as much "production" as just plain "diary".  For that, I apologize, but I'll address the reasons behind that today.

I currently work as a "lone wolf".  I'm self employed.  My own boss.  Make my own hours.  King of my domain...to a point.  This all sounds great, but in reality it creates problems most of the employed population doesn't have to deal with in their every day lives.  In ways, we all set our own deadlines, but at work, most of the time, someone else sets them for us.  Even in life deadlines are set for us.  This sale ends today or the kids (I have none and that does simplify things) have a project due next Monday.  Whatever it is, 80% of the time I set my own deadlines.  Even with recent clients it's more when I can fit the work into my schedule than when they need things done.   That should be great, but it carries a need for balance.

When you make your own work decisions how do you balance it with life in general.  I need to finish an edit on this short that is long overdue for my own self-imposed deadline.  Sometimes, putting the finish off on a film is important to keep in line with upcoming film festivals.  If you won't be ready for this year's maybe don't finish for another month so it will fit into the timeline requirements for next year.  Junk like that.  I've got the shows and I need to reschedule the shoot for the "File Error" and post a new webpage to raise funds for "Alien Vengeance III-D".  All of that would be easy enough if I was a bachelor, with an apartment and a new car that some dealership takes care of for me.  However, I'm a married guy, approaching very early middle age, with a 12 year old house, a 6 year old work SUV, and a 16 year old daily driver that I try to maintain myself.  I'm trying to get back into the sleep pattern of a normal human being, lose some weight, and do some repairs on the house.  Some I'm doing myself and some we're hiring people to do for us.

So, my schedule goes something like, work, house, work, personal, work, car, work, work, sleep, eat, exercise, work.  During "File Error" sleep, exercise and house will suffer.  No two ways around it.  The movie will dominate my life for 3-4 weekends.  In between props will need preparing and cards will need archiving. The key is to find a time when my work will least disrupt Nancy's life and the lives of other people around us so that I have a structure to drop back into when the dust settles.

Honestly, I don't know how my friends with kids do it.  There's also the waiting game, while I try to schedule stuff, but it takes days to get pieces of information.  My off work schedule has had me playing phone tag with two friends since the weekend.

Today, the termite inspectors come, so they'll be disrupting my afternoon.  I'm uploading the show for tomorrow (CGM-TV) and I thought while the computers work I'd do some yard work.  Then, if after they're gone Nancy has some time to shoot a quick episode of "The Simplest Things" we'll get that done.  Afterwards, we'll have lunch and she'll head to the Pharmacy for a few hours.  I'll probably do grunt work then.  Process some photos for a client I'm undercharging and hopefully (if I have any energy left) shoot some F/X sequences.  Stop motion and miniature stuff, which is terribly time consuming, but I absolutely LOVE.

Thanks for reading.  I may fire off another of these theraputic entries later today.  Been up for about 4 hours now.  That sleep cycle thing isn't going real well.

Monday, January 31, 2011

How Long Should an Episode Be?

Like a blog, the length of an episode of a show should usually fall within certain guidelines.  I generally have trouble adhering to both.

400 words or so seems to be about what someone is willing to read online before moving on to another subject.  Sure you can truly engross them and them keep them longer, unless they're reading at work and HAVE to move on to something else, like...well, work.  Online TV is a bit more tricky.  A lot of people, including myself, won't even start to watch something if they see it's more than 3 or 4 minutes long.  Who has the time?  Our "Jason's Jungle" episodes on "The Weird World of HFP" are generally under 4 minutes, but that's because they were made way back when dial up was king and nobody could really watch a video that was much longer unless they let it load it over night.  (Makes you wonder what that era of internet "adult films" did to the performance times of men).

Some shows I have near total control over, like, "The Simplest Things".  I'm working on an opening for that that will take less than 30 seconds, so that a 2 or 3 minute episode will run less than 4 minutes with opening and closing credits.  But "Cult Goddess Magazine - TV" is another story.  This is a show based on a down loadable magazine.  Interviews that can run for 30 minutes.  It's organic.  There's questions, well thought out answers and banter.  Do I post one long 30 minute episode?  The shows earning potential immediately goes up per episode because we can post more ads, but that's a lot of time to watch stills float around and a lot of stills to come up with to fill that time.  Do I break the show up into parts? 

The advantages of breaking the interviews up are many.  It means that each interview gives me more episodes, which this early in the game is important as we build a viewership and work on fitting producing the shows in with work for outside clients and producing movies.  Shorter shows also mean people are more likely to pass the video around.  Post it to their Facebook and so on.  And then there's the "cliffhanger" effect.  Someone who was interested in the interview will come back next week for the rest, however, there are drawbacks too.  Some of them from the same elements.

If someone isn't enjoying a particular interview, we've lost that viewer for weeks, maybe for good.  Maybe they're the type who likes to see things all once.  For them I've created a playlist that will hold all of the eps right on the Cult Goddess Magazine homepage.  I'm finding that even with breaking a show up getting it under 4 minutes with an opening is near impossible.  With introductions, and answers beyond "My favorite color is blue" an interview is bound to run at least 5-7 minutes per topic.  So, for CGM-TV the goal is to keep each episode under 10 minutes and see how it plays out.  Hopefully people will like it and spread it around a bit.  This week's episode with Debbie Rochon focuses on "Alien Vengeance", contains video of her as Col. Onyx and some never before published photos of her as the character.  All in just about 8 minutes.

We still have 2 or 3 more shows to bring you this year.  "Direct from the Director" will showcase independent, underground, micro budgeted movies with intros from their directors.  That means free movies for you...possibly also in parts.  That will start out as part of the "Weird World of HFP" lineup.  "Alien Vengeance: The Series" is still in production, but will be it's own show coming out simultaneously with WWofHFP each week and I've been tossing around the idea of a guy's cooking show with making simple stuff.  Something even an idiot could make.  Or maybe some grilling.  I actually dreamt about grilling Saturday night.  What else would  you guys like to see?  (Assuming someone is reading this, as we're way past 400 words).  Movie reviews?  A show about cars?  More animal stuff?  Let me know in the comments below.  I'm at your disposal.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Drowsiness and Power Tools.

Shooting things "on the cheap" means occasionally having to build your own camera rigs, props and set pieces. I've got a small workshop in the garage for it, but right now it's backlogged with junk waiting to be converted.

Some of you may know that I'm a bit of an insomniac. Sometimes I'll catch 4 hours of sleep here and there, sometimes I'll get a full 6 at the worst possible of time of day. When I'm on a shoot and have a full schedule I sleep better because it's easy to decide when it's time to sleep. When I'm working on edits and can do them all hours of the day, like now, it makes tough for me to "shut off". Often I feel like I should be doing SOMETHING, even at 4 AM. I miss other people making my schedule for me at times like that.

Anyway, this causes a problem when it comes to making things. The next thing I need to finish requires the use of power tools. Sharp, fast spinning, dangerous power tools. I want to be fully alert when I work with these things, but I can't run them after 11 PM without being rude to the neighbors, or before 8 AM, which would be a great time because I feel wonderful now.

Hopefully tonight I'll be alert enough to build, or at least do the power tool portion, of my new HD 3D camera rig. It's very simple. Almost as simple as Carclopse was, but the 3D effect will be beyond anything I've been able to do up until now and I'll need that for our production the end of this year.

Look for some 3D shorts, maybe this Spring as I test it out. If you need glasses you can grab some from www.cultgoddessmagazine.com

I may blog again later today. Leave a comment if you want me to post some pictures of the rig and how it generally works.

There was no way to monitor Carclopse in the car, so when it went sideways I didn't know. It may not look like much more than someone taking video of driving, but the perspective is very different. We used it for the opening credits and transition scenes in "Stopped Dead" and I think it added to the scope of the movie.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Online Premeire!

"The Weird World of HFP" has been online for a few weeks now, but those of you have been watching knowing that it is a show within a show.  Sort of a random collection of what I'm working on at the moment.  A testing ground for new ideas and an archive for old ones.  This is partly so that I can keep bringing you new shows every week and partly due to the way the blip.tv, or current online host works.  Each show should have it's own place on a new channel soon, but some of this I couldn't wait to get out there.

Last week Nancy and I shot this first episode of "The Simplest Things".  I based it on a short film, "Alien Doors", which I made awhile back and which will be retooled as episode two.  There is an earlier blog about it's production. 

An unestablished web series has little chance of making "big money" and with other movies to produce time and budget on this one were severely limited.  You may recognize the helicopter background from "Alien Vengeance" is reused here and when "File Error" is finished this year much of the bridge of this ship will be used as parts of the lab.  Being a comedy (although maybe a bit dark for old Jethro) I felt cartoonish retro F/X would be best...and easiest.

It wasn't easy sitting on my newest production for over a week.  (I'm not a terribly patient man.) I almost unveiled it last night, but the weather here conspired against me having a safe enough connection to the internet for the amount of time needed.

Here is the first episode of "The Simplest Things".  I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How Does Projected Film Work?

Tonight I'm not so much posting a blog as video I found interesting.  We shoot mostly on video now, and digital video at that.  Much of what this old public domain movie explains is actually "simulated" when it comes to video.  The basic principles, however, remain the same.  Tricking our eyes is a fairly simple task for something like an animated flip book, but getting that work with projected film becomes a bit more complex, as you'll see.  Some of the mechanics involved for overcoming the problems involved with creating a clear image are amazing when  you consider the time in which film began and even just how long ago this particular film was made. It all starts with persistence of vision, but you can watch the video to see the details. Enjoy.

All of the original copyright info is there, but the movie has since been passed into the Public Domain. Discuss.  Ask questions. Marvel at old technology.

Review of the Sanyo HD 1000 Camcorder

This is a re-post of a review I placed on Facebook awhile back.  I put it here in my Production Diaries because this particular camera is a great starting point for budding filmmakers with very little to spend on their first camera.

  I'm reviewing this video (and photo) camera mainly because it is available at Best Buy as a refurb for only $189. I've owned the Sanyo Xacti HD 1010 for about a year and wanted a matching second camera. As many of you know I used that camera to shoot a short sci-fi film and the opening of "Alien Vengeance II" while in New York. Mostly to see if I could. It cost a little over $300 and has all the manual control you could want, although it's not very easy to access. The 1000 is a very similar camera. The main difference being it shoots in 1080i, not 1080p. If you're a progressive elitist, there is a 720p function. At under $200 I think it's a great camera for an aspiring filmmaker looking to learn. Let me tell you why.

     The Sanyo Xacti HD1000 is just about small enough to fit in your pocket. The main thing making it too big to carry around comfortably in your shirt pocket or pants is that it has a relatively large lens on the front. I love this lens. 10x optical zoom and a good bit of wait that makes holding the pistol grip style camera steady easier than it's feather weight competition. It's small enough have with you nearly all the time if you're like me and like to capture footage you might use later. It's also pretty inconspicuous.

     The HD 1000 also has a full range of manual functions. This is a MUST for upcoming filmmakers. Auto exposure is great for on the fly shooting, but image control is key to setting your footage apart from the run of the mill home movie. It's a bit frustrating having to navigate the menu every time you want to use the manual focus, but that's the trade-off for such a small camera.

     The camera also has an input for an external mic and a headphone jack so you can monitor audio. The mic input requires an adapter to plug in even a standard mini jack, but if you're buying a $189 camera the chances that you have a high end XLR mic sitting around are probably pretty slim. The on board mic is better than expected, but not suggested for filmmaking.

     A 1/4 tripod mount is on the bottom of the camera for those shots that need some steadying and in a genius bit of design, the SD card slot is in the back, so you can access it while the camera in a tripod. The battery isn't as easy to switch out. However, another feature that gives this camera a bit more bit is a rear mounted A/C input so you can run the camera right from a wall socket if need be.
The screen is large enough to get a decent idea of your focus and can be turned to face front for self-recording. Great for video diaries.

     It shoots MP4, which works pretty well with my Adobe CS5, but software is included if your computer needs a little help processing the footage.
So, if you want to start shooting your own movies, but would like a few bucks in your pocket for when your parents send you off to film school take a look at this camera and its sister cameras the HD 1010 and the HD 2000. Any of them are good for a start, can grow with you for awhile and will make great cameras for behind the scenes shooting when you move up to something more professional.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Let's Talk Teamwork

OK, let me be upfront here, this is not something I excel at when it comes to my movies.  Every other job I've done I think people would say I was team player, but I've also always been pretty comfortable going off and working on my own.  When it comes to my movies, the lower the budget (and some have been pretty amazingly low) the less I like to ask people for help.  I'll ask actors and extras to volunteer, not because their time is worth less, but because I NEED them.  I'll ask for sound people to volunteer because it is not my strong point at all, but camera, editing, location scouting and the like I try to handle on my own.

Fortunately, often, people will just come forward and help.  The Orlando area has a very supportive little independent film community and I appreciate that.  Director Steven Shea's old apartment was in "All Wrapped Up" and my backyard was in "Hoodoo for Voodoo".  I've used his jib.  He's used my guns.  I recently gave away an old set of lights that I hope are doing some good for an upcoming filmmaker.  But the equipment sharing, volunteer working and prop passing is the only way to help.  There's also cross promotion.

Brian Troxell, who has been making films for a few  years now and made quick strides as a director recently asked me for permission to use of my shirts in his movie, "Deep Seeded" (http://www.deepseededthemovie.com/ ).  This was a shirt he had bought, by the way, but it had a logo on it and he wanted to make sure I was okay with that.  I'd be an idiot to say no.  This is good for both us.  My Rabbit logo gets seen on screen and Brian gets to use something besides a blank T-shirt on screen.  After awhile the "no logo" world of independent films begins to look a bit stark.  It's just not real.

Shot from "Deep Seeded"
courtesy Cassion Films

And T-shirts and hats aren't the only things that can help dress a smaller movie.  Artwork, posters, photos, mugs and anything else with logos or pictures that you'd find in the real world and fit the characters can help round a set and get you noticed.

For "Stopped Dead" we made  up wines and beers that used our own logos.  For "Hoodoo for Voodoo" Steven and I got permission for use and some goodies from Voodoo Rum to help fill out a bar set.  A set full of bottles with the labels turned in might have been distracting.

So, you're thinking, "Well, sure I'll promote a rum company, but why promote another movie company in my film?  That's the competition!"

No, it's not the competition.  Not entirely.  Sure, film fans have to decide how to spend their hard earned dollars and if they like indie films then they're bound to be compare yours to other indie movies, but it's not like micro budget film makers are vying for shelf space at the big stores.  The only way your movie competes with another independent movie is if the consumers have heard of both movies in the first place.  Now, let's look at the benefits.  First, you get your company name,  movie, artwork or whatever out there in front of an audience.  Second, even if just by virtue of saving the production money, you've helped to make a better film.  This second one is more important than you may think.  You don't want your film to be better than someone else's because their movie was bad.  You want it to be because yours was good, right?  So forget not helping "to compete".  In fact, talk to any independent film buff who hasn't bought a micro budget movie in awhile and I'll bet he tells you a story about how the last movie was so terrible he's off indies for a few months.  Better micro budget movies means we all have more of a chance at a bigger audience.

So, when it comes to making flicks on the cheap, do better than I do.  Accept help graciously.  Give it when you can (I'm usually a bit scattered here too and I apologize) and spread the swag around.

Now, who wants to get killed in a "Savaged" T-shirt and who has a big red truck they can lend me for "File Error"?

Coming in a blog soon, a small casting call.

Note: I updated http://www.hocfocprod.com/ last night with new video, photos and links.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Simplest Things Rarely Are

So, yesterday I had planned to shoot TWO episodes of a new web series I'm producing, "The Simplest Things".  It's not as crazy as it sounds.  The episodes are only about 4 minutes long, there's very little dialogue and the cast members all live in my house.  I've done more in less time, but yesterday was not meant to be.

Little things throughout the day conspired to make me start later than I had hoped.  I could have shot well into the night, but my wife was operating the camera for me (and very well too) and I didn't want HER to have to work into the late hours with me.  We did manage to get the footage for the premiere shot though and I just finished editing it today.  Pretty funny stuff, I think.

The basic premise of the show is simple.  An Alien, named Pratt, crash lands on Earth and encounters all of these "simple things" we all see and use every day.  To Pratt these things are, well, ALIEN.

The first short I shot based on the premise will likely be the second or third episode we air in the series.  Pratt can't figure out how to operate the front door of a  house.  Flying saucer doors are automatic and slide out of the way.  Pratt tries everything, including some 70's style Disco dancing.

Jethro undergoes and alien scan.

 But the Premiere was different.  We had to get Pratt to Earth.  Strand him here.  Make it funny.  Keep it short.  And, if possible, fit it to the show's format.

You'll have to wait until Wednesday to see the episode premiere on "The Weird World of HFP" (http://www.weirdworldofhfp.blip.tv/) to see what happens.  I can tell you this though, there were some special F/X involved.  Let's say that Pratt isn't really all that skilled with the alien equipment either and the human he abducts doesn't have a good day.  In the end, a shot I really wanted to get resulted in my cracking the skull of my plaster skeleton.  I got it on a popular auction site, but for me, it was pretty expensive, so I spent quite a bit of time piecing him back together.  Not to mention we needed him for one or two more shots.

Today's edit took about 2 hours longer than I expected also.  Partially because I had to do some of the virtual set building on my old computer.  My new one can't run the software I used.  I can't see why it's out of date.  I've only had it since 1997.  So, with every production things pop up, but the things that go right make me smile and in the end I think we wound up with a funny first episode of this show.  It's sort of like a live action cartoon.  You don't have to be a sci-fi to like it, but it probably won't hurt.  Might be worth the 4 minutes just to see me play Jethro.

We have more shooting to do this weekend and I have lots of editing to do on CGM-TV and the latest "Alien Vengeance" short, so keep your eyes peeled for this blog to be updated.

Thanks for stopping by.


I'm trying to expand my blogging and I noticed that a few my friends use blogspot, so I thought I'd give it a try.  My Blog over at FearNet has been kind of random and I'm going to try and keep that one more horror related.  Since my next few projects are sci-fi and only a few cross into horror, I figured my production diaries might need a home of their own.  This is it.

This is where I'll update you guys on what I'm working on now and what I hope to be shooting soon.  The magazines we're putting together and so on.

Of course, being me, I'll probably go off topic a lot, so that "Production Diaries" title may change, but for now, that's what I'll be doing here.

My blog under "Adom" over at FearNet will  still be updated on Wednesdays/Thursdays as regularly as possible.  This Blog, however, will probably be updated pretty erratically, so I suggest subscribing if you can figure out how.  I'll be linking this to the "About Us" page at http://www.hocfocprod.com/, so you can always find it there too.

So, today Nancy helped me shoot the "Premiere" of  our new sub-web series, "The Simplest Things".  I put "Premiere" in quotes, because while this will the first episode of the show a short film many of you have seen, "Alien Doors" is likely to be recut into an episode as well.  It was, after all, the inspiration for the show.  I call it a "sub-web series" because "The Simplest Things" (let's call it TST) will be part of "The Weird World of HFP".  Around every Wednesday we'll be posting a new episode of that.  Sometimes it will be "Cult Goddess Magazine - TV", sometimes it will be and archived episode of  "Jason's Jungle" and when possible it will be a short episode of  TST.

TST follows a stranded Alien as he tries to figure out how things work on our planet.  He'll have run ins with several people as the show develops, but he'll be spending a lot of time in my house baffling a character I'll play.

The episode that will go online next week deals with the hazards of texting and driving.  How does that fit into our format of an Alien fish out of water?  You'll have to watch to find out, but seeing me in the mulletish wig on an alien examining table should be reason enough to watch.

After that the next episode or two of  "Weird World...." will be a CGM-TV interview with Debbie Rochon.

I'm trying to build  up a few episodes ahead of time because I have some 3D conversions in the pipeline, a three weekend shoot of  "File Error" to schedule and the third installment of the "Alien Vengeance" features to finish writing, fund and shoot.  More on that later.

Meanwhile, check out the latest episode of "The Weird World of HFP" here: http://www.blip.tv/file/4649572

Oh, and for a limited time, you can check out the first "Alien Vengeance" free right at the website: http://www.alienvengeance.com/ .  It's important for people to catch up with it because a new web series is coming the middle of this year that will pick up after the first feature, but before the second.

Lots more to come, so subscribe.