Category Archives: 2008 Film #07

12 Films Movie Posters

For Christmas this last year, my wife Christina surprised me with an incredible gift: she had full-size movie posters for all 12 films designed, printed, and framed for me.  Needless to say, they turned out incredible.  They were designed by our friend Daniel Benitez, and he did a fantastic job of giving each one its own unique style and look.

Film #1: Mystery Box

Film #2: Click Click

Film #3: Paper Covers Rock

Film #4: April Fools Day

Film #5: I Don’t Want To Live On The Moon

Film #6: Eliza’s Last Day

Film #7: The Pick-Up

Film #8: No Rest For The Weary

Film #9: Shadow Of Revenge

Film #10: Going Postal

Film #11: Skytalkers

Film #12: Home For Christmas

Film #7: Quick Update 2

I’m still working through the sound design and musical score.  Even through there isn’t much dialogue in the film this month, there’s still a lot of sound work to be done.  Then, it’s on to color correcting and titles.  I don’t expect those two will take too much time.  I’m hoping to have it up by some point tomorrow (Sunday, August 3).

The Geography of Action Sequences

A little while back, there was a great post over at Mark Kennedy’s blog all about using geography well in action sequences.  He uses the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones and Marion try to commandeer the Nazi plane as an example.  Here’s a brief excerpt as he sets up the importance of geography in action sequences:

Geography is an important but rarely used device that is the key to making any action sequence work. No action sequence will have any real tension to it unless we know exactly where everything is at all times: where the hero is in relation to his objective, how close or far away he is from his goal, what obstacles are at play and where they are in relation to the hero in the scene.

I tried to keep this in mind while writing and planning this month’s film.  It was far harder then I imagined it would be and I feel like I’m learning a lot re-reading Mark’s post having just shot an action sequence and now reflecting on that sequence as I cut the film.  I think I succeeded in some scenes and fell short in others.  I know at times during the pre-production and especially the production itself, I spent more time focusing on what action was going to be taking place and how we were going to shoot it in a way that the action is communicated then I did on how the locations and individual shots informed the audience as to where the protagonist was in space.  Knowing where he is in space (as the above quote mentions) is key to building a stronger tension within the sequence.  I feel like at times, that tension is a lot stronger then others and I think it directly relates to how the geography of the sequence was (or wasn’t) clearly set-up and communicated.

Now then, I’m not trying to knock this film before it’s finished and I’m not trying to say that it’s terrible and that you shouldn’t expect to enjoy it.  I’m actually pretty proud of it and can’t wait for it to be done so I can share it with you.  Rather, I was more just taking a moment to reflect on the film and the thought-process I took in planning and producing it (in terms of using geography as a story-telling tool); and look at it with a critical eye.

Film #7: Quick Update

Film #7 is coming along well.  I’m sorry it’s not done already, but it will be soon.  I feel comfortable saying that I have picture-lock, so now it’s time to move on to sound.  The sound design on this film is going to be important.  I have some fun scenes and action sequences but right now when I watch it with nothing but unmixed natural sound, it’s still lacking in energy and cohesion.  There’s a reason why a lot of films nominated for Academy Awards in Sound Mixing and Sound Design tend to be more action-based (just look at last year’s winner in both categories, The Bourne Ultimatum).  That reason is that good sound design can make the most crazy, unimaginable visuals feel believable.  That believability makes it easier for the audience to become engrossed in the story and invested in the all that’s happening to the characters.

So really, what I’m shooting for is a strong sound design and a high-energy soundtrack to carry the audience through the action emotionally.  I don’t have a lot of time to record much foley (which is when you record sound effects separate from the natural sound of the shoot and match those effects to the footage) so I’ll be working a lot with the on-set natural sound and a sound effects library.

Film #7: The Shoot

“Never work with children or animals.”  W.C. Fields’ famous quote proved itself half-true in the course of production for my seventh short film.  On top of trying to work with a dog and a six-year-old, I planned stunts, special effects, and a tight shooting schedule that ultimately proved to be a bit overambitious.

We started at 9am on Saturday the 19th.  My brother, Blake and his wife, Jenna came over to my apartment and we started right away by trying to shoot the few scenes I had planned to use a dog.  My Great Dane, Darby, is many things, but one thing she is not is a trained, screen dog.  The scene called for her to look menacing (or at the very least, not happy) while riding in the bed of a truck.  She had never been in the bed of a truck before and would not settle down.  No matter what I tried, she was more interested in our surroundings then she was in putting on a good performance.  In the end, I couldn’t get the shots I needed and I had to write her out of the film.  Sorry Darby.

After spending the first forty-five minutes or so of production unsuccessfully trying to shoot the dog scene, we quickly packed up and moved on to the next location.  We got to my friend Allison’s house, unloaded the equipment and then set up for shooting inside the house.  She and Blake had a scene together and then we shot a couple scenes with just Blake before stopping for lunch.

As of lunch, we were about an hour or so behind schedule and I was determined to get us back to where we were supposed to be.  After everyone finished eating, we packed up a car and drove around, looking for an appropriate shopping center parking lot to shoot in (as one of the scenes called for it).  The one I had originally planned on using wasn’t that great in reality once we were there and planning the set-up.  Looking all around us, we ended up finding a spot that looked like it would work across the street.  For the scene, we followed the direction in the script but I ended up improvising most of the set-ups since the geography of the location didn’t match the geography I had planned on in my storyboards.  All in all though, I feel like it turned out good.  Blake and Allison both gave solid performances and I got some good coverage of the scene.  Even though we were shooting pretty quick, we were still not any closer to being back on schedule.

We quickly moved on to the next set-up in which the second half of the “children and animals” equation came into play.  The script called for a young child and Christina and I have a six-year old niece named Caitlyn who was very excited to be part of the movie.  Christina worked with her on her dialogue as well as her performance.  She took it very seriously.  In fact, I was told that before they came to meet us, Christina overheard Caitlyn rehearsing her line into the mirror inside the bathroom.  Thankfully, her half of Fields’ quote did not prove true as she gave a great reading and did a terrific job with everything we asked her to do.

It was after shooting this scene that I looked at the time and realized that there was no way we could catch up to my original schedule.  We dove into shooting as much as we could in the time we had left.  After shooting one more scene, this one involving some dialogue between Blake and my friend Tom, I took stock of what we’d completed and what was still left.  After talking it over with the others, I decided that the best option was to call it a day and finish the shooting on the following Saturday.  Most of the remaining scenes involved some form of stunt work and the extra planning time would be helpful for that.

One week later, on the 26th, Blake was back at my apartment at 9am; ready to shoot.  We had a full scene to shoot, a couple pick-up shots, as well as a re-shoot on two shots that hadn’t turned out well from the previous weekend.  All in all there weren’t a lot of shots, but since they included some stunt work, they were more complicated and we spent a little more time rehearsing and walking through them.

The majority of the shoot involved Blake and my truck.  My dad helped out all day as my on-screen driver for most of the car scenes.  It was strange, but literally after we got the last shot with my truck, he parked it and turned it off and when we went to start it up again, the battery had died.  Thinking back a bit, I realize that in the seven years I’ve owned that truck, I’ve never replaced the battery.  It was weird that it died the moment after we finished, and fortunate.

By the end of the second day, we got everything I needed to finish the film.  I’ve been working with the footage over the last few days and I’m excited for how it all turned out.  We shot a few pictures on set the first day and if you want to see them head over to my page on Flickr here.

An Action Movie!

So July has arrived and with it, my 7th short film of the year.  I’ve decided to take on the genre of action movie this month as there’s nothing better then a mid-summer action-packed blockbuster spectacular!  Ok, so my film may not quite have Bruce Willis sending cars careening into nearby hovering helicopters or Robert Downey Jr. flying around in a mechanical suit, but I’m still hoping I can ramp up the energy with a good chase or maybe a suspense-filled fight.

But thinking of action movies, does anyone have any favorites?  Or maybe a favorite action sequence like the opening to Raiders of the Lost Ark or the Mini Cooper car chase in the Italian Job or the sequence in The Matrix when Neo and Trinity break into the building to rescue Morpheus…  How about it?  Any favorites?