Category Archives: Production

Film #12: The Shoot

For the month of December, I decided to do a holiday movie. Also, a few months ago, my friend Allison had challenged me with the idea of doing one of my short films in one complete take from start to finish. So I decided for this last film to try and do shoot the whole thing in one shot.

So this last Saturday I got together with Blake and Allison (who have been in number of my short films) along with Jenna and Derek, who served as production crew, to shoot it.  We spent around two hours rehearsing  the scene, getting all of the timing and everybody’s placement down so that when it came time to shoot, we wouldn’t have to do multiple takes.  When you watch the film or look at the pictures on Flickr here, you’ll see that multiple full takes were very nearly impossible.  That tree was dry and dropping needles like crazy and I knew that it only had so many drops and falls before it would be unusable.  I knew that the tree could handle a couple falls, but I wasn’t so sure that it would survive being thrown out the door more then once.  So the whole time we rolled, I was ready to call, “cut” at the slightest problem before we got to the point of no return that was the toss out the door.

In the end, both Blake and Allison did fantastic.  We had to stop our first take about halfway through after the tree fell on Blake; but then once we got going on our second take, they played it to the end and that’s the one that you’ll see in the film.

Film #11: The Shoot

For film #11, I decided to do a sci-fi thriller called “Skytalkers”.  The premise for this film is one that my wife, Christina pitched to me a couple years ago (in fact she’s already got Skytalkers 1, 2, & 3 planned out…) based on a story that she and an old roommate came up with.  To give it a big, epic action feel on a very small budget and to break up the style of story-telling and editing that I’d done on my other films, I decided to produce this film in the style of a movie trailer.  That way, I could just concentrate on getting moments of action and drama and not have to tie them into one point-by-point narrative.  I could use a lot more montage to create the story rather then dialogue and continuity editing.

I shot the footage over three different days (shooting a couple hours a day) with different actors on each day.  It started on a Monday, shooting some scenes with Holli Bibler (who was also in Eliza’s Last Day).  I shot a lot of close-ups and dramatic takes.  We had to find covered areas to shoot all of her scenes because it was raining that day, but it worked out and I got some good shots.

The next day, Tuesday, I had a four hour shoot with Chris Davis and Fox Clark.  It was the one day that week that it was not supposed to rain and thankfully, it didn’t.  Fox has been in a number of my other films this year and Chris has been part of them, but always behind the camera, never in front of it.  I thought it might be fun to put him in front of the camera for a change.  We started the shoot in the parking lot of a local church and then went out to UCSD to shoot the majority of the footage.  I chose UCSD because I knew that I could get a large variety of architecture and locations within a small area and therefore be able to give the impression of a much larger movie with more expanssive settings.

Finally, this last Saturday, after shooting film #12, I shot a few extra pick-up shots with my brother, Blake for one scene at the beginning of the film.

I uploaded a few pictures from the shoots to Flickr here.

The Final Film Shoots of the Year

Over the last week I shot my final footage of the year for 12 Films in 12 Months.  Last Monday and Tuesday, I shot footage for film #11 & then this last Saturday I shot film #12.  Now I’m staring down the last 3 days of 2008 and charging straight into the sound design and editing.

Each of the last two films is going to have a very different editing style.  I produced and am editing film #11 in the style of a movie trailer, so it’s full of quick, unrelated shots that make up the story as a whole.  Film #12 is being edited in a much different style, but you’ll have to wait a few days to see what I mean (I don’t necissarily want to give the whole thing away before the film debuts).

Look for them both by year’s end.

Film #10: The Shoot

From the beginning of 12 Films in 12 Months, I knew that I wanted to make a horror movie in October for my tenth short film.  I wasn’t sure what kind of horror film I was going to do at first, but I felt like October (with Halloween and all) was a good month to plan a horror film.  I ultimately landed on doing a zombie movie and because it’s a classic, fun horror genre that I knew would be possible on a low budget and fun to shoot.

Well October turned out to be a very busy month, both for me and for some of the other people involved in the film and the shoot got pushed back to mid-November.  So about two weeks ago, we all got together and finally made a zombie movie!

One of the things that made this zombie movie work (and even in a way possible) is the fact that my wife and I bought a house at the start of October.  There are a couple of rooms that are kind of quirky and unfinished and I knew they would work great as a setting for a zombie chase/attack.  Plus, I set the story in the home of a couple that just moved in, so it was acceptable that we still have some unpacked boxes laying around.  Of course, I added a few in other rooms to give the effect that they had just moved in.  All in all, our house ended up being the perfect set for the film.

The other thing that made the movie work was having zombie make-up.  As I was trying to figure out what to do about getting some good zombie make-up, I started Googling “zombie make-up” and found different bits of advice like this or this or even this.  Fortunately, in the lead-up to the shoot, I was talking with my brother and he mentioned a friend of his who does make-up and has always wanted to do zombie make-up.  I got in touch with Bird (the make-up artist), and she was stoked to be part of it.  The day of the shoot she showed up with a massive make-up and airbrush kit that she wheeled in and pretty much took over the dining room with.  It was fantastic.  As you can see by some of the photos I put on Flickr, she did a phenominal job.

The shoot itself went really smoothly.  We had a pretty tight schedule to keep and everyone worked really hard and did a great job.  That tight schedule, combined with the fact that I wanted a lot of freedom of movement with the camera and a somewhat shaky, kinetic visual style led me to shoot the entire film hand-held.  It allowed us to move from shot to shot and set-up to set-up very quickly.

I’ve had a chance to look through all the footage and I have a good, solid cut put together at this point.  I’m in the middle of the sound design (which is going to be so important to adding suspense and tension to the film).  Watch for the film to release in the next few days!

Film #9: The Shoot

For the ninth film, I made a film noir mashed with some kung fu elements.  The shoot itself happened nearly two months ago at the end of September (which is when this film was originally slated to be produced and released).  But of course, here we are, closing in on the end of November, and the film is finally nearing completion.

One of the main things I focused on during planning and production was lighting.  Film noir is known for being full of shadows and all sorts of contrast between light and darkness (both visually as well as thematically).  So I knew going into the production that I couldn’t just turn on all the lights in the room, light everything evenly, and still get the right look for the genre.  I also knew that I would be turning all the footage to black and white in post-production so as I shot I was more concerned with exposure and shadows then I was with color.

We got together in the early evening and shot everything that night.  I was able to run a single light through the ceiling panels in the storage room we were shooting in so that when I turned it on and combined it with some fill lighting in the background, I got a lot of great hard shadows and silhouettes.  The main scene in the film is something of an interogation scene, so having the single overhead light fit the mood I wanted to create.

Fox Clark (who’s been in couple of my other films this year) played the lead, with Will Dick playing the main villain and Allison Welch playing the character of a femme fatale.  I’ve uploaded some pictures (wonderfully shot by Chris Davis) from the shoot on Flickr here.

Film #9 – Update

Sorry for the blog silence as of late.  It has been a very busy month in my life personally and professionally and I haven’t been able to carve out as much time to post as I would have liked.  With the Film Festival last weekend and a high volume of work at my full-time job, not to mention the excitement and anticipation of buying a new house, this month has rushed by.

As far as Film #9 goes, I’m still moving forward and in fact, I’m shooting it tonight.  So, it should be no big surprise that since I’m only shooting the film tonight, it won’t be completed by the end of September (since today happens to be the end of September).  But, my goal is to have it finished and completed within a week or so.  I’ll definitely post updates and a more exact release date as I get into editing the film.

I’m very excited for this month’s film.  I’m trying to make a film that fits into the genre of Film Noir while playing with it a bit and mashing in some elements from other genres, namely Kung Fu.  I’m still somewhat aprehensive about how well they’ll combine and whether they can play well with each other.  But, making it work is part of the fun of trying it in the first place.  I’ll let you know how the shoot goes tonight!

Film #8: The Shoot

For the month of August, I made a western.  It was incredibly fun and the shoot went really well, but doing a film set in a specific time and place definitely added some new challenges that I hadn’t had to deal with while producing the other films.  There’s a very specific aesthetic that westerns have and I wanted to try and match that in the film.  I had to find things like location, costumes, and props that worked for the story as well as for the time period that the story takes place in.

A couple days before the shoot, my wife and I went driving out east of San Diego to try and find a good location far from telephone wires, houses, cars, noise, and any signs of modernity.  Eventually, we found a spot that worked really well and wasn’t too far off of the beaten path (because I also didn’t want to make my actors hike way out into the middle of nowhere).  That same day, between a couple of thrift stores, some items the actors already had, and a costume rental shop, I was able to get the costumes nailed down.

The morning of the shoot, I swung by a couple places to get the final props I needed to pull the film off: guns.  A friend of mine has an old double-barrel shotgun that fit the look of the film perfect.  He was kind enough to let me borrow it for the shoot.  Then I swung by my friend Brent’s house and picked up some rubber hand-guns.  He’s a prop master in Hollywood and was able to get me some good-looking rubber revolvers to use for the film.  I also was able to use an old wooden chest that my parents had left over from a pirate-themed party we had thrown years ago.  Apparently this chest really did come out west on a wagon many, many years ago.  It worked great for the look of the film.

I got back to my house to meet the actors and prep for the shoot.  My three actors this month include two that I’ve used in other films: Blake (who was in Mystery Box and The Pick-Up) and Fox (who played Sven in Paper Covers Rock); and a new actor: my friend Sam Saavedra.  They got into costume, we went over the day, loaded into a couple of cars and headed east to the location.  When we got there we found the spot where we were going to shoot, got set up and started shooting.

The shoot itself went very well.  Once I got the guys out into the middle of the wilderness, in costume, the whole thing started to come together.  The shots looked beautiful and the guys did a great job with their respective parts.  Although it was a little rushed at the end, we were able to finish the shoot and be back at the house only 10 or 15 minutes past schedule.

One thing that I was really excited about and really added another level to the film is that I was able to get some production blanks for the shotgun, so we were able to fire it for a couple of shots.  I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, but it looked really cool with all sort of smoke coming out of the barrel; but it sounded more like a large cap gun (which was fine as I have a good collection of sound effects and the visual was the more important part of it).

Overall, it went very well and the footage turned out great.  I put some pictures up on Flickr here.

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.

Film #6: The Shoot

This month has been something of a rollercoaster in terms of production.  After getting film #5 completed and online a week into June, I went on a trip with my wife and took a very necessary week off from planning or thinking about producing any films.  When I got back into it, I spent another week running down the path of several different stories, genres and production plans only to hit complications (or have my plans become too large and complicated to pull off) each time.  I landed on doing a story loosely based in the style of a fairy tale in terms of narration and structure (but not so much in terms of far-away lands and such).

Two of my friends and co-workers, Holli Bibler and Carrie Clausen were kind enough to star in the film this month and we managed to shoot it all in less than two hours on Thursday of last week.  We shot around the office at Youth Specialties where we work (and a big thanks to Marko and YS for letting me use the office) and it went really well.  We had a couple of shots to reshoot and add this last Monday but that went really fast.  Of course, I was the fool who wanted to shoot as quick as possible for the reshoots so I didn’t bother to mount the light on a stand this time and instead tried to hold it over my head along with a reflective surface to bounce the light while running the camera and directing the scene (I’m beginning to think it might have been faster to just set up the stand…oh well).  I posted a couple pictures from the shoot on Flickr here.

Then, last night, my friend Robert came over with a couple guitars and we closed ourselves into my office at home for a couple hours to record the soundtrack.  I’m excited for how it turned out.  Robert brought a lot of thought and creativity to the music and we ended up with a pretty unique feel for the whole thing.

After he left, I stayed up and finished the sound and final cut of the film.  It will be up very soon.  Stay tuned!

Film #4: The Shoot

April Fools Day - The Shoot

This last Sunday was the shoot for my fourth short film of the year and it all came together really well. We managed to stay mostly on schedule and get everything shot by the end of the day. While this film didn’t have as many individual shots as the last one, it had it’s own challenges including longer shots, a lot more camera movement, and the fact that it was shot primarily hand-held. The film stars Tom Pollard and Courtney Clevenger who both did a great job in their respective roles. They also both filled in as crew alongside my friend Chris and my dad, Bruce.

We got together at around 1:30pm to get started with the shoot. The first series of shots were the most time-consuming by far because they required the most equipment and setup. We set up everything in my apartment to shoot some interview scenes with both Tom and Courtney and as I’ve mentioned before, my apartment doesn’t always fill with a lot of natural light. Fortunately, Tom had some lights that he was able to bring along with him for this setup; and so we set about completely rearranging all of the furniture in my living room, double-checking the fuse box, and getting everything set up for the interviews.

One of the more ridiculous things is that my Great Dane, Darby, not wanting to be left out of the excitement, spent the majority of the shoot laying in the middle of the room just out of camera range. I posted some pictures to Flickr from the day and you can see her next to the tripod in a couple of the shots. I don’t know if she just wanted to be warmed by the lights or felt the need to not be left out of whatever was happening, but fortunately she mostly managed to stay out of the way. But speaking of the warm lights, my apartment was roasting. I don’t know if you heard, but it was hot in San Diego this last weekend. Add that to hot lights, closed windows, and turning the AC off and it got very hot in my little apartment.

After we were finished shooting in the apartment, we shot a number of scenes driving around in a car. We all piled into my wife’s Jetta and drove around my neighborhood while Tom and Courtney ran through their lines. Again , it was really hot with closed windows and no AC but Tom and Courtney did a fantastic job. And Chris did a great job keeping me organized and slating the shots from the back seat behind me. Once we finished in the car, we shot a couple exteriors at a sandwich shop and parking lot; and then finished up the day shooting a few scenes on the front porch of my parents’ house. All in all, it was a good day and I’m excited about some of the shots. Thanks again to everyone who was part of it.