Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Found Footage 3D, The Interview PART 1

This is going to be a two part interview with Steven DeGennaro, the film maker behind Found Footage 3D. At the moment he is in the middle of a Indiegogo campaign for his film. If you would like to check out the campaign you can do so by clicking here.   In you wish to know more about the project you can visit the website by clicking here.

If you thought that making a found footage film is easy I think that you are about to lose some of your illusions. It is easy to make a movie. Record ninety minutes of footage and cut it together and you got a movie. The problem is that making a good movie requires much more than this. It requires months and in some cases years of planning. Followed by endless weeks of shooting and re-shooting and then the hard work begins, it is called post production. I have interviewed a guy who shot a film in a day, I have seen it and it was not very good. I interviewed the director of Joker Rising which was shoot in six days ( shoot in six days, but there were months of pre and post production) and many believe that it is the best fan film ever made. You can shoot, edit and distribute a movie with your iphone, this does not mean that if you wish to be a film maker, whether found footage, epic fantasy or straight drama you do not need to learn all that you can about writing, lighting, editing and a hundred other things that go into making a great film. I know that many readers have taken the found footage series of post lightly while planning to shoot their own found footage films. If you plan to do it as a hobby then take to it any way you wish, but if this is going to be your profession then invest the time and effort to learn how to do it as well as possible.

Let’s get to part one of a two part interview.

Q) You are in the middle of an Indiegogo campaign for your 3D found footage film.
What is the plot and what will make it different from the other found footage films out there?

A) Found Footage 3D tells the story of a group of filmmakers who go out to a cabin the woods of Central Texas to shoot “the first 3D found-footage horror movie”, but end up in a found footage horror movie when the evil entity from their film starts showing up in their behind-the-scenes footage.  What Scream did for slasher movies, we aim to do for found footage.  Like Scream, our characters know all of the rules, tricks, and clich├ęs of the genre, and we use that structure to comment on and poke fun at the tired tropes of found footage, while at the same time, turning them on their heads and executing an effective scary movie.

Q) Hollywood uses 3D as a way of milking more cash out of audiences for its tent pole films, with the occasional film that was meant to be seen in this format like Avatar and Inception. I would image that in this case 3D has been selected for the effect that it will have on the audience rather than any box office concerns?

A)The 3D is an essential part of the storytelling, for me.  We certainly didn’t undertake the decision lightly.  So on the most basic level, we’re shooting in 3D because the lead character of our movie, a charismatic but ultimately soulless movie producer, decides that if he shoots “the first 3D found footage horror movie,” he will make a killing at the box office.  So right away, we’re almost sort of making fun of ourselves for doing the same thing.

But at the same time, once we had given ourselves a good reason to do it, I decided very early on that we had to do some cool stuff with it.  And found footage—especially a movie about people who are making a movie—allows us to do some things that no one has ever seen before.  We have the practically limitless depth-of-field of a consumer camcorder, which means that rather than having the subject be in focus, and everything in front or behind him being out of focus, the viewer can choose what he or she wants to focus on in any given shot.  That allowed us to really compose shots with a ton of depth in them, with multiple layers, rather than just “here’s an actor; here’s a bunch of fuzzy stuff behind him.”

Also, because our villain is itself a creation of the very footage it inhabits, it can do things within the footage that wouldn’t necessarily make sense in a more traditional movie.  Things like moving from one screen to another as people watch footage on a monitor, or appearing differently in one eye than in the other.  That kind of stuff.

Q) There are a few ways to shoot a 3D movie. The easiest is to set up two identical cameras side by side and in post blend the footage to produce a 3D image. What types of cameras did you use to shoot the film? Also when shooting on a budget, you sometimes have to trade the camera that would be perfect for the job for what you can afford. Any cameras that you wanted that you just could not afford?

A)The beauty of found footage (from a budgetary point of view) is that you get to shoot on cheaper cameras. Indeed, in my opinion, to really do it right, you are required to shoot on cheaper cameras.  There’s a certain aesthetic that’s required in found footage.  If it looks too nice, then it works against your suspension of disbelief.  I’ve seen found footage movies that were clearly shot on state-of-the-art big-budget cameras with full Hollywood lighting, and then the character looks at himself in a mirror and you see this little dinky handheld camcorder and it pulls you out of the story because you know that camera couldn’t possibly look that good.

From even before we decided to shoot in 3D, I wanted the aesthetic of the film to be very lo-fi and real.  So when we made the decision to shoot in 3D, we did a bunch of research on readily-available 3D camcorders and we settled on the Panasonic z10000.  It’s a camcorder with two lenses side by side, and it operates more-or-less the same way any prosumer camcorder does, with the exception of being able to change the convergence of the 3D effect (which can further be tweaked in post as well).  So we bought 3 of them (two of which appear in the film, with a third as a back-up in case we broke one of the other two).

We also bought a 3D GoPro rig to shoot “surveillance” footage.  Because of the wide-angle lens and the fact that the cameras are not necessarily 100% aligned when you shoot, that footage was a little more difficult to deal with in post, but it looks really cool when we’re done.  Again, this is something that most people have never seen before.

Q) The found footage genre is the genre that has experienced the most growth during the last two years while also receive the most hate from hardcore film goers. For every Paranormal Activity, there are five films like Crowsnest, Area 407 and Devil’s Due.  Can this genre make it long term or are we talking disco?

A) We live in a time where everybody in the Western world carries a camera in their pocket at all times.  One hundred hours of footage are uploaded to YouTube every single minute.  The news, our Facebook feeds, our Twitter feeds, and TV news are filled with footage shot by everyday people.  Terrorists upload videos of beheadings.  Protestors film cops. Cops film car chases.  Surveillance cameras watch a lot of what we do in public spaces.  Journalists and citizens alike film war and political unrest across the world.

So no... I don’t think that the idea of telling a story through the eyes of one of the characters in that story is a style that is going to go away anytime soon.

Q) The thing unique to the found footage genre is how so many of the film makers that I have interviewed approach the writing of their films in totally different ways. Film maker A may write a complete screenplay in standard format. Film maker B may craft an outline of scenes and piece it together in rehearsals. Film maker C comes up with a title, a basic beginning middle and end point and allows his or her actors to improvise the film from that point on. What approach did you take to crafting the screenplay?

A) I admire the balls it takes to go into a situation where you don’t know the story, you don’t have the beats of a scene in mind, you make everything up pretty much on the fly.  That’s how they did Blair Witch, which is still, in my opinion, one of the best horror movies ever made.  They got great results, and they also spent a hell of a lot of time crafting the movie in the editing room.  But it could just as easily been a complete disaster, and unfortunately, for many filmmakers, that’s exactly what happens.

At the same time, if you over-plan, you end up with something that starts to feel rehearsed and stilted, and you lose the realness that found footage relies on for a lot of its best moments.  So I didn’t want to necessarily script out everything.

So the screenplay was a constantly evolving process for me that took over two years from initial idea to the time we rolled cameras.  My first few drafts left a lot of detail—particularly the dialog—intentionally vague.  I think it came in at about 60 pages or so.  But then people had a hard time really envisioning the characters and the finished movie in their heads, and that made it difficult to get certain people—like Kim Henkel and some of our investors—on board.

So I went through and I wrote out a lot of the dialog, knowing that I was going to eventually scrap a lot of it once we were on set.  I’m glad I did, though.  In fleshing out the beats of each scene, I was able to connect more with who the characters were, which helped a lot in casting the film and in shooting it on a really tight schedule.

Q) Where and how did you find your actors and did you give them any room to improvise during shooting?

A)The most important thing for me was to make sure that the characters never felt like they were saying lines.  So the actors had free reign to use their own words any time they wanted to.  At the same time, because a large number of the scenes had to play out in long single takes from a single camera, I couldn’t let them just meander around a scene for hours and hope to fix it in the editing room.

So the first thing we did was spend three days on the set—just me, the actors, and the director of photography—talking through and rehearsing each scene.  The beats of every scene were there in the script, but they had a lot of room to improvise around those beats.  We used the rehearsal process to figure out what scenes and lines were really working, and which ones weren’t, and I went and did some rewrites based off of that.  That allowed us to show up on set and shoot very very quickly, because we’d already worked out a lot of the kinks beforehand.

During the shoot, we then didn’t do many additional rehearsals right before shooting, so that the actors could keep fresh and be spontaneous.  Often they’d nail it on take 1 or 2.  Sometimes, when we got to take 6 or 7, they’d start feeling too rehearsed, and we’d throw in a take or two where they got to completely toss out the script and have fun.  We very rarely used those takes in the finished film, but they usually loosened things up enough that the next take, which was much closer to the scripted scene, worked really well and found the perfect balance between improvisation and structure.

In the end, we had a mixture that was probably about 85% highly structured scenes with improvised dialog, 15% of what we called “marshmallow moments,” where we set up a scenario and the actors just freeformed it for ten or fifteen minutes and we jump cut the best parts, and then a rare scene or two where we ended up with the dialog very very close to what was written on the page.

It was a very unique way of working, and it never would have worked if the actors we got weren’t so damn good at it.  We went through a pretty traditional casting process. I spent several months watching audition tapes—I eventually saw over a thousand auditions from over ten thousand submissions—and then we had in-person callbacks for my favorites for each role, where I got to see them with the other actors.  It was actually very easy to eliminate about 80% of the hopefuls right away, because despite explicit instructions that I wanted them to use their own words and not stick to the script, most actors just can’t pull that off.  They either stick exactly to the script, or they improvise and are just really, really bad at it.

In the end, we ended up with six lead actors that had amazing chemistry together and were really great at exactly the kind of improv we needed for the film to work.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

New Found Footage From Eduardo Sanchez

New Found Footage From Eduardo Sanchez

Today I would like to continue my series of post on found footage with a look at the newest film from one of the directors who is most responsible for the popularity of the genre. The found footage genre would not be what it is without Eduardo Sanchez and the Blair Witch Project. A generation of film makers have followed in the footsteps of this film maker and his film. Some would argue that this is not a good thing, but it is something that is going to be around. It is part of the film making landscape.

Take a look at the trailer for the new found footage film Exists.


This is a interview done with Eduardo Sanchez about his upcoming film. I would like to thank Monster Movie Talk for this interview.


Thank you for visiting. Please add me to your google plus. A quick note to film makers reading this. I am always looking for topics and interviews you can contact me by leaving a comment. Also I am going to be adding an acting reels page. If there are actors out there who are looking for work in low budget films (no pay, plenty of credit) send me a link and I will post it. So many great actors are looking for work and so many film makers are settling for who ever shows up. A superior actor can raise the quality of a micro budget film.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Trailer Day Featuring Black Butler

While I chase down an interview that I desperately want to do I thought that I would take some time to show some cool trailers from around the world. (The interview is with a UK film maker that has done something special with the found footage genre, if I cannot get the interview I will just post the film and ask for comments.) 

Okay first up is a trail from a horror movie made by the guy I think is the most talented film maker on earth that no one is talking about yet. It is his second feature film. David Ryan Keith is his name and the name of the movie is The Redwood Massacre.


Next up is a cool trailer from Japan. The live action version of Black Butler. If you do not know about the anime series Black Butler take a moment to ask anyone who follows anime.

Next is the Japanese version of my favorite western Unforgiven. Hollywood use to take a samurai movie and turn it into a western, this western turned into a samurai film is a cool switch.


 This little horror film is titled Welp and it is from Belgium. It is funny how the throwback kind of horror films are being made outside of the US. 

Next is the sequel to what would have been the greatest foreign horror film franchise ever if the third film in the series had not been a dog. It looks like the producers knew it and hired the original writer and director to helm this one. Have a look at Rec 4.

The last film for today is a low budget film that I am very interested in knowing more about. I have tried to contact the film makers for an interview, but so far I have had no luck. Black Mountain Side is a low budget feature length film. If anyone reading this knows the director or producer tell them that I would like to do a quick interview about the project.

Thank you for checking out my blog. Please take a moment to add me to your google plus. By doing this you can follow new post on this blog and post on my iphone film making blog and screen writing blog. 


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Beyond, The Interview

            Beyond, The Interview

    This Post is number one hundred on this blog. The idea of post one hundred gave me writers block because I wanted to do something huge then it hit me that most film makers have the same problem. What keeps them from making a movie is the quest to make the perfect movie. Just do the best as a film maker each and every day and sooner or later you will get to where hard work and focus has taken everyone who choose to chase a dream.
Q) This is my interview with Raphael Rogers, the film maker behind the impressive short sci-fi film Beyond. The obvious question has to be what is Beyond about?

Beyond is about a woman who has the ability to survive teleportation and is tasked with exploring new planets.

Q) I have seen films with a crew of a few dozen not be able to accomplish what you did with this film. When the end credits roll, it is just you and the lead actress. When you came up with the idea for this film did you imagine that it would end up being a two person project?

Yeah actually. Bianca and I had done projects before together and I really just wanted to make something where I had complete control so I could get my vision out there. So I tailored the idea towards that end goal.

Q) Are you a film school film maker or did you learn the craft through trial and error?
Also it looks like you did all the effects for this film. Effects that I have to say were as impressive at times as I seen on display in any of the Hollywood tent pole films. Did you know before hand that you were capable of pulling the effects off or was it a matter of I am here and I have to get this done?

I went to school at Michigan State for digital media in general which in some ways I think was better. I learned audio production as well as graphic design and some film. A lot I learned was just from trial and error after I was done with school though.

As for the visual effects. I've been playing with After Effects for a few years. By no means am I amazing at it I just know a few tricks. So some of it I knew how to do and a lot of it I learned in post... that's why it took me six months to finish!

Q) You lead actress, Bianca Malinowski, was great. How much rehearsal went into her performance and how much input did she have on the construction of her character?

There was no rehearsal. She's naturally a great actress, one of the reasons I like working with her. She makes strong choices and had a good amount of input on her character. She's also on Halt and Catch Fire on AMC if you want to see more of her. I wrote it for her.

Q) The most overlooked part of film making by the beginner is sound. Poor sound quality is the one thing that has sunk more films than I can count. The sound in Beyond was great. What did you use and would you have made different choices if the budget was larger?

If the budget was larger I would have used someone that is better at mixing than me! I also would have had sound on set instead of just using the on camera mic. Lots of ADR happened as a result. I used Adobe Audition to record ADR, my own microphone (Rode NT1-A) and a ton of purchased sound effects that I combined together. I play music as well so sound has always been important in my mind.

Q) What was the budget on this film and the length of the shoot?

The budget was $1000 which included rental of the camera, food, gas and props/costume. We shot it in 3 days with 1 pickup day for the cave scene.

Q) The readers of this blog will hunt me down if I do not ask the camera question.
What did you shoot with? How did it perform? Would you recommend it and in the perfect universe what camera would you use?

I used the Canon c100. I would definitely recommend it for a short. Super easy in post. The image looks good out of the camera. Good in low light. I'm about to release another short which was shot on epic, sony a7s, gopro and 5D III. I own the a7s and I love it and I bet the new Sony FS7 is awesome. I enjoy being light and nimble for small shoots as well as just using natural light. I have yet to use the alexa, though I adore the image. Amira would be fun too.

BEYOND, sci fi short film from Raphael Rogers on Vimeo.

Q) This will mark my 100th post on this blog. The thing that I have learned during the past two years is that the one thing most beginning film makers will discover while working on their first project is the importance of what is called Post. The things that happen and must be done once the principle shooting has ended. Sci fi are by their very nature post production monsters. What came up in post that you wish you had known about before hand?

How long it was going to take! It was like running a marathon. Every shot has to impress in sci fi so by the end of post I had gotten better at vfx so I had to go back and make my earlier shots better. Plus there are always pickups unless you're amazing. Editing the story in an intriguing way is challenging.

Q) Every film maker should have heroes. Who are the film makers that you most admire?

At the moment Doug Liman because of Edge of Tomorrow. I think he did a killer job with that and I love that he used so many practical effects in it. I'm a fan of LOTR of course too. Probably my favorite movies. Anything fantasy or sci fi with strong characters gets my attention.

Q) What comes next? Any feature film dreams?

I'm about to release another short. Then shooting another one after that in two weeks. Working on writing the feature for both. Yes I would kill to do a feature, just looking for the right opportunity.

Q) Last question. Any advice you wish you had been given before picking up a camera for the first time?

You won't be good right away. Just because you're making stuff you don't like at first doesn't mean you won't get there. Just keep making stuff in anyway you can. Don't procrastinate for any reason.

 Thank you again Raphael for taking the time to do this interview.

To the readers of this blog I ask as always if you would take a moment to share this post with a friend and to post a quick like on Stumbleupon that would be great.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Film Makers Advice, Horror Films

The great thing about being a film maker is that others who have come before you are willing to give advice. Some of the worlds greatest film makers have left behind hours and hours of film making advice. From big budget film makers to low budget masters these men and women have recorded their experiences on video, film and with the written word.
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 I love advice from film makers so much that I do interviews with those whom I admire. I love to learn new things that can only be told to me by those who are out there in the trenches. I wrote a book about film making with the core lessons being provided by the hardest working micro budget digital film makers on earth. I hope that before you begin your journey as a film maker you will pick up the book or the one that is to follow and take the advice of those film makers.

 Okay I admire so many film makers from the past and the presence that it was hard to pick just a few of them for this post so I will do at least three post like this with a different subject being covered in each. The advice today is on horror film making.

The first film maker is Guillermo del Toro. I believe that he is one of the greatest directors on earth. It sort of broke my heart when he dropped out of shooting Hobbit, but I understand his reasons. 


 Next up is advice from the film maker behind the Conjuring, James Wan.


  Next up is the film maker behind the greatest horror film of all time. You can debate this amongst your selves, but on most list, including mine is The Exorcist.


  I am adding his quick interview about the sequel to his masterpiece and how much it sucked.


 Next up is a film maker from my home town Philadelphia. Now cut that out, he has made a few great films. Also I would like to say that he produced and co wrote The Devil, a movie that is a tight as hell character driven low budget horror film. I am talking about M. Night Shyamalan.


 Next is John Carpenter, the great film maker behind The Thing, Halloween, The Fog and Escape from New York.



 Val Lewton is a name that every horror film maker should investigate. He was a producer who built the foundation for every horror film to follow his Cat People. I could not find an interview with him, but he did leave behind some great footage.

 Next is foreign horror film makers and I will limit this to two film makers. First up is Dario Argento the legendary Italian Film maker.


 The second interview is with Takashi Miike, I believe that he is the greatest living director. That is my opinion, most of you will differ. He has directed every genre known to man including musicals and westerns. Here is a littlr interview along with the trailer to one of his films.



 That will be it for today. Thank you for visiting and please take a moment to share this post and to consider checking out my book of interviews.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Mad Max, Fury Road Trailer

Mad Max, Fury Road Trailer 

I know that this blog is dedicated to low budget film making, but I am a fan too and the original Mad Max film was low budget. I could spend a few hundred words trying to sell the fact that Mad Max Fury Road connects to the topics that I normally cover, but why bother. Here is the trailer. Enjoy and the next post will be about fan films.


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