Friday, April 11, 2014

Sci-fi Film Making, The Machine


I do not do film reviews here. This is not a review, this post is an observation.

    The new film, The Machine is a great example of what low budget sci fi can become. I understand that the film cost around a million and a half dollars to produce. That is a ton of money as compared to the films that I normally discuss on this blog, but in the world of studio films it is a nothing amount. It is less than one day of shooting on the New Captain America film.

Most of us know that if we got our hands on a million dollar budget we could deliver a movie that looked as if it cost forty of fifty million. We know the short cuts and we know to deliver great production value without burning money.
    The Machine stands as an example of what scifi use to be. A throw back to the days of
Blade Runner when scifi was more about speculation than blowing stuff up. I have to admit that I had serious doubts about the movie after seeing the trailer. I was thinking that I would be in for another waste of time like the movie Splice. This movie turned out to be what a low budget scifi film can be when you combine a really good script with a director who has a great eye for the visual. I believe that this film will someday be regarded as a minor classic.

    This post is my way of praising the film and requesting of the Director or the Producer a chance to do a comprehensive interview on the making of this movie. Until then here is an interview that was done with the director of the film.

    For those of you who decide to check out the movie, it is on VOD and will play in a few select theaters around the US, I would suggest that you put your film maker’s hat on and take note of how the director captures images that would easily stand alone as still shots.  I also suggest that you observe how the film is paced. It does something that is very clever with the flow of the scenes. Character A to character B and then combine for A and B and then became to the beginning again. As a writer I love that rhythm. Also it does the most important thing that you have to do when shooting a low budget film. It stays on topic. Once you are introduced to the Machine, the very attractive machine played by Caity Lotz (also plays the creator Ava), every minute of the film is there to remind you of her.

This post has been strictly my opinion and I welcome feedback from any of you.

You can expect the next found footage film making post within the week. Please take a moment to add me to your google plus and to share this post with a friend.

Friday, April 4, 2014

"9-12-13" Making of A Found Footage Film


The hard thing about doing these series of post on the topic of found footage film making is finding quality films to that stand out from the crowd and film makers with an interesting story to tell. After all is said and done this is a blog dedicated to film making and each post should advance our film making knowledge. I know that for many of us the dream of becoming a film maker not only began with seeing that one film that we wanted to know how it was done, but watching or reading an interview with the person behind the camera.  For me listening to my favorite film maker Hitchcock talk about film making was at times a bit overwhelming. He is one of those visual geniuses that saw the world in a way that Mozart heard music. Amazing to witness their work, but impossible to chase. In the end it was Sam Raimi who I could relate to and believe that hey I could do what he was doing. Hell, I wanted to make movies like Evil Dead.

    What I am saying is that I hope that you guys through these interviews find a film maker or two that inspires you to just go out and do it.

The next interview is with Mark Atkins, the film maker behind  9-12-13. You can find his website for Minds Eye Productions by clicking here.  If you would like to rate the film on IMDb you can visit the page by clicking here.

Q) The first question has to be what is 9-12-13 about?

a) '9-12-13' is about an egomaniacal wannabe horror filmmaker trying to cash in on the found-footage genre by making a movie set in the 1980s and shot on Hi8 to gain fame and a reputation as a 'master of horror.'

Unfortunately for him and his ragtag cast and crew, they bump into a group of drug runners in the woods - one of whom has a fierce loyalty to his ringleader brother and has a taste for murder. With the cast and crew becoming corpses, the filmmaker sees another option besides fight or flight.

He will make his masterpiece after all - with the killer as his new star.

Q) The found footage film has slowly and steadily carved out a place for itself as a true genre of film making during the last few years. Why did you choose found footage as the genre of your film and what has to change if found footage films are going to be see real growth as a genre?

a) I've been a fan of the genre since before 'The Blair Witch Project.' I remember finding a crummy quality VHS of 'Cannibal Holocaust' at my local video store as a kid and watching it on a Saturday afternoon with a friend and, while not fooled by the format, loved the possibilities of it.

Beside that, I saw the third 'Paranormal Actvivity' film and was blown away on how badly they dropped the ball. That film was set in the 80's and it was OBVIOUSLY shot on HD. I was thrilled with the idea of a found-footage story being told on the old analog VHS-C, 8mm, Hi8 or even Digital 8 format - what better way to establish your film's 80's flavour and setting?

Needless to say, I left the movie pretty anry and I immediately started to think on how to make an interesting found-footage story without reusing too many of the tropes that have risen from it. AND to shoot it on analog.

Q) You did an interesting twist on the film within a film plot. I guess that the question has to be about the script. This story is clearly more plot driven than the average found footage film. How much of the story was down on paper before you started to shoot and how much did the cast get to improvise during the shoot?

a) After setting myself on making a found-footage project, I really wanted to do something different from the others I've seen. Strangely enough, I went back to 'Cannibal Holocaust' for inspiration. Just because I was making a story in a particular genre doesn't mean that I can't tell a tale that I wouldn't be interested in making. That movie is about a group of people watching the footage that the audience was viewing, so I thought I would take it to, what was to me, the next logical step. Instead of having what was effectively two different movies married together, I would just have two different stories being told at the same time. The trick was how to keep the storytelling device (the camera) the same between the two. And I also wanted to do it without supernatural plot devices. No haunted cameras or possessed cassette tapes or any 'hand-wave' excuses.

So, once the story outline as written and the beats were in place, I quickly decided to not have any written dialogue. All of the lines in the movie are improvised by the cast following my direction that I laid out in a scene-by-scene 'blueprint.' I felt that having a polished script would make the performances too clean and would take away that raw vibe that a real-life situation would offer.

Q) Night time shooting is a task even on a big budget film. On the low to micro budget film that due to the fact that it is found footage and cannot use standard film lighting it ends up falling in to one of two camps. Hopelessly under lit or sadly over lit (the film Area 407). How did you deal with the problem of lighting?

a) To keep with the more realistic slant I wanted to give the story, I made the decision that less is more. All the lighting is from natural sources - to a point. I knew that I wanted to shoot predominantly at night and the story would not lend itself to being anywhere near street lights, buildings or other electrical sources of light. That left very, very few options, so flashlights were the obvious choice.

The second question was how to use them. You could light a scene with flashlights located from behind the camera, but I really, really, really wouldn't recommend it. So, I decided to use them as a prop for the actors to use. They would light the scene and the flashlight would serve as a believable item their characters would use in the situation they were in. The only problem is that the flashlights were only great for effect lighting and the odd fill, rim or spot lighting tasks. That's when the question led back to what would the key light source be?

The answer was the camera. It was the only constant in the entire story, so why would it not be the main source of light in a found-footage movie? It was also important that it wasn't a big, professional light that I just mounted on the camera. For the effect to be successful, I felt that it had to be just the on-board camera light. After a lot of testing in different weather and lighting conditions and understanding the limitations of the light sources and the camera, the lighting scheme worked out really well so that's what we went with.

9-12-13 from Mark Atkins on Vimeo.

Q) The question of how do I record quality sound is usually not tackled until a film maker has gone through the trial and error of shooting a film or two. How did you manage to record quality sound? What did you learn from the experience?

a) I'm a cinematographer by training, but even I would say that without quality sound, nothing can save you. I decided to use this philosophy and do the complete opposite. I used story and character to dictate how I would light, so I did the same with how I would record sound. Everything you hear is from the on-board camera mic. I didn't think that the character of the director would give a damn about good quality technical skills, so that's the motivation I used.

Obviously, there was a lot of testing of the audio on the camera ( a LOT more than with the lighting) and after figuring out the microphone's effective range and how wide the spread was in picking up effective dialogue, the rest fell into place.

Q) I have found that too many low budget film makers fall in love with the newest Dslr camera and end up overlooking the fact that they need to match the camera to the situation. You went for a grainy look to the film. What camera did you use and is that the camera that you wanted to use?

a) Again, I let the characters and the story dictate the technical aspects and if the story was about a guy wanting to make a movie set in the 80's, then by God, I was going to use a camera from the 80's! I could have used an HD camcorder or DSLR, but then I would have had to spend a bunch of time and effort in post-production to make every frame look like it was from an old camcorder. So, I went to a few garage sales and bought an old Hi8 camcorder that had the video light I wanted. Best $40 I ever spent.

There is a line in the movie where the director character explains that the timecode, date and battery displays on the screen change every time you turn the camera on and not to worry about it, well - that was a real thing. After a couple of days of filming, I felt the need to explain why the time and date on the display kept changing on the screen, otherwise the audience would be removed from the story and just think that the real filmmakers didn't know how to use their camera. Every time I turned the camera on, the display would change values and I could NOT turn off the display. It would turn off sometimes, but then reappear at random times. That was something that wasn't in my control, so I put it in the story.  Ironically, no one but me noticed or just didn't care about that fact.

Q) You have a pretty solid cast. Where did you get them?

a) Friends and friends of friends. I didn't want professional actors because of the unpolished feel I was going for and I wanted to keep the project on the down-low for the promotional campaign I wanted to experiment with. Luke Morrissey, who plays the ringleader of the drug runners, was a friend of a friend and through him I was able to hire the two actresses Jordyn and Jamie and one of the drug runners, Tom Mason. My buddy Sean, who plays the youngest of the drug runners, was a friend and co-worker. Matt Matthiason, the lead actor of the movie in the movie, had worked at a magazine show I briefly was a part of and Spiro Zinis, the serial killer, is a friend. Alex, the camera man character, is another local filmmaker and he was awesome.

I had a good friend of mine cast as the character of the director, but he fell through with only a couple of weeks until shooting and I put the word out for anyone who could come in last minute, but no one could commit. With no other option, I had to play the part. Like almost the entire cast, this was the first time I ever acted. It was difficult to pull double duty being director both in front and behind the camera (technically triple duty - I was also the serial killer behind the camera), but it was a terrific learning experience.

Q) How long did it take to shoot the film?

a) Three days for principal photography and another two for pick up shots. The last scene's location was the hardest to find, but luckily a friend of mine, Andy, allowed me to use his shop. In the end, I actually made him a character behind the camera, too. You have to use all the resources you have, sometimes!

Q) There are a lot of 80's horror film references in the film. The director in the film mentions my
favorite scream queen of all time (also the most underrated) Linnea Quigley. What are some of the films that you admire?

a) I grew up watching everything I could get my hands on, regardless of genre. When I hit about nine or ten is when I really started to get into horror flicks and most of the ones that shaped me were from the 80's, so Quigley, Brinke Stevens, Jamie Lee Curtis and Barbara Crampton were in the movies that I loved.

As for the films that I admire, my favourite film of all time is 'Dr. Strangelove,' so I'm a big Kubrick fan ('The Shining' is my favourite horror movie). I love John Carpenter's work, especially 'The Thing,' 'Big Trouble in Little China,' 'Prince of Darkness' and 'In the Mouth of Madness.' I could go on and on about Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Peckinpah and Scorcese, but the films I admire from the past few years or so are 'The Fall' by Tarsem Singh, any film by Park Chan-wook, 'The Innkeepers' by Ti West, 'Lovely Molly' by Eduardo Sanchez, 'Goon' by Michael Dowse and 'Tyrannosaur' by Paddy Considine. Again, there's a lot, lot more that I could mention.

Q) You have directed a feature before. Which was more difficult to direct. The narrative
feature or the found footage film?

a) '9-12-13' was the easiest by far, but for a number of reasons. Unlike my feature debut, 'Mind's Eye,' I had a smaller budget ($700 vs $10,000), which meant that I had fewer locations, fewer cast and crew and a LOT more freedom. I have to switch up scene orders on the fly? No problem. I'm not getting the performance I want out of an actor or myself? Instant re-takes. Setting up or taking down shots? Minutes instead of hours. It was more like summer camp with my friends than anything else.

That being said, there's nothing quite like working with trained (and paid) professionals making their jobs look easy and, thus, making your movie look and sound like a million bucks. I love the different disciplines that come together to make a script into a film. I love collaboration and teamwork and the feeling of people believing in you and your crazy ideas and you believing in them and their crazy ideas. Thirty people stuffed into a hot set at 3am is one of the worst hells to be in, but it's one that I absolutely, positively love to be in. It brings out the best and the worst in  people and ideas and I'm addicted to it.

There's definitely pluses and minuses on both sides, but it depends on the story you are telling and how you want to tell it.

Q) Any projects in the near future?

a) I'm currently working on a sci-fi feature film script about alternate dimensions, hallucinogenic drugs and the meaning of life. I'm planning to shoot a trailer for that this Summer and start the crowd-funding campaign in the Fall of this year.

Q) Any advice that you wish that you had been given when you were starting out as a film maker?

a) Ask questions and be humble. Learn everything you can about how to make a story. Keep yourself educated on what's going on around you. Don't be afraid to listen to suggestions from anyone - they are sometimes better ideas than your own. Surround yourself with people who make you challenge yourself.

With all this in mind, however, keep this advice closest to your heart: this is your story. Do NOT let anyone else tell you otherwise. Spielberg can't make Kubrick movies, Picasso can't paint Monet paintings and no one on Earth can make your story but you. So make it the best story you can and you will regret nothing.

Thank you for agreeing to do this interview Mark. If you guys would like to see his feature film
Mind's Eye you can see it on Vimeo by clicking here. 

Thanks for checking out this post, now if you could spare a moment to add me to your google plus and to share this post with a friend that would be great.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Throwback and Other Updates

                    Throwback and Other Updates

    This is a quick update on the Canon HV 20 feature film Throwback. The film has been selected to screen at the Famous Monsters Film Festival in San Jose, California. Below you can seen the new poster art of the film.

    I think far too many film makers rush their trailers out there and do not take the time to get a great poster done. Which is part of the overall marketing campaign you should have in place before you start shooting. Stills from your film along with the poster can be used very effectively to market your film on sites like Pinterest. There are tens of thousands on film buffs and fans on that site and their reach has yet to be fully exploited by film makers. Something to think about.

    The found footage series of post is not done. There are at least three more interviews still to be posted. After that we are probably going to be looking at digital film making and shooting a web series. A lot of film makers are going the web series route rather than shooting a feature. Also the web series can get you access to acting talent who may not want, for what ever reason, to shoot a feature with an unproven film maker.

Now I would like to show a few trailers that I find interesting. Two of which are from active Kickstarter campaigns.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Found Footage, Night of the Vampire


    Today I will be continuing my series of post and interviews concerning the subject of
Found Footage film making. I realize that there are many film makers who look down upon the genre of found footage films in the same way that horror and sci-fi has been looked down upon for decades. Like all other genres of film when these films are done well they can stand side by side with films from any other genre. When done poorly, usually for the money, they can turn out as bad as films in any other genre.

    Keep in mind that there is no one great genre of film making that towers over the others nor should you ever feel as if you are slumming it because you are doing a film is a particular genre. Dramas usually win the big awards, but I would argue that they are the ones most likely to bore an audience to tears. I believe that films should be entertaining. Going out and shooting a film on purpose that is not entertaining is like making a meal that is not tasty. Found footage can, in the right hands, be very entertaining. The short film that is the subject of this interview is just that.

    The award winning short film Night of the Vampire from the talented film maker
 Owen Mulligan is a great little horror film.

    This is my interview with Owen.

Q) I suppose the first and most obvious question has to be what is Night of the Vampire about?

A) Basically, Night of the Vampire follows two guys who go on an overnight hike in the remote wilderness of Vermont but end up fighting to survive after encountering a strange creature with an appetite for blood.

Q) Seeing a short and tight film in the found footage genre is the exception and not the rule. Tell me what made found footage the choice?

A) I’m a huge fan of found footage. I think that most found footage is horrible though but when it’s done right, I really love the genre. Anyway, this was my chance to do one of my own and see what it would be like and if I’d be any good at it. I really enjoying shooting found footage and especially because I can shoot without a crew and with a minuscule budget. The pseudo-reality of it all is what really excites me though.

Q) I have always been a fan of the vampire film. For the sake of chasing huge profits the classic vampire film has been replaced by brooding teenage boys covered in glitter. The short glimpse of your vampire looks like you went back in time to the classic look favored by F.W. Murnau. If you had gone feature length would you have shown more of your vampire or would you have left it mostly to the imagination?

A) If Night of the Vampire had been made as a feature, yes, I would have shown more of the Vampire but very carefully with only glimpses. Our vampire was definitely inspired by Nosferatu and creating an animal vampire that was the opposite of the Twilight monstrosities. Anyway, I could definitely have a lot of fun making a full length found footage film about vampires. I’d love to expand the lore.

Q) I am doing a series of interviews and post on the subject of found footage film making and the question that seems to get different answers each time is about rehearsing the cast. Did you spend much time rehearsing before shooting or did you jump right in?

A) I always rehearse the cast and I always leave room for improvisation during the actual shoot. We will do one rehearsal and then I go back to the screenplay and make adjustments because a lot of issues and ideas always surface during that time. This is a must for me when doing found footage or any film actually. It also saves a lot of time during actual production.

Q) The found footage genre has become a part of the film making world largely due to the possible return on investment. When these movies hit they hit big like in the case of The Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity and The Devil Inside. Having shoot a short on that has won awards. Do you plan on returning to the genre with a future project? Also do you believe that the genre can survive if it does not expand to include comedy, action, suspense and even straight drama?

A) Yes, I have a new found footage film coming out to our YouTube channel this October 27th, 2014 which I collaborated on with Haunted Vermont and Obscure Vermont. It’s called Dead Static which is an anthology containing three pieces of footage recovered from some of the most haunted places in Vermont. The tales include Emily’s Bridge, Green Mount Cemetery and The Pittsford Haunted House. I shot all three tales on location, which was creepy as Hell. I also tried a lot of new things with this film so we’ll see what happens.

I think the found footage genre can definitely survive without expanding into other genres. It has a huge following of dedicated fans just like the slasher genre does. In my opinion, it’s not going away.

Q) What did you use to shoot the film with? How did it handle the job and have you continued to use that camera?

A) I used a Panasonic HMC150 which is a great camera with good low light sensitivity but for doing found footage out in the middle of nowhere it was simply too big and heavy. At the time, it was all I had access to but the Canon XA10 would have been the camera of choice. On my upcoming film, Dead Static, I was able to finally get access to that camera and it definitely made shooting found footage easier due to its small, lightweight design.

Q) One of the biggest problems encountered by indie film makers is the problem with capturing quality sound especially outdoors, what did you use to record sound with and did you have to do any cleaning up in post?

A) I used a variety of mics during production. A Sennheiser ME66 shotgun and a Sony lavalier mic. I also used a Zoom H4n to capture some audio as well depending on the scene. Sound was extremely difficult to say the least. I did have to clean up some audio in post here and there but a lot of sound design went into the film, which also helped.

Q) Thanks to the drop in the cost of quality equipment such as cameras and editing software the over all cost of indie films is dropping. What was the budget for this short film?

A) The budget is estimated to be about $400. It was one of our least expensive films.

Q) Are you a formally trained film maker or did you learn as many of us have learned, through actually shooting and cutting our own projects?

A) I’m a self-taught filmmaker with a strong distaste for film schools. I’m all about education and learning the rules just not the way many people are brainwashed into thinking it must be done. I’d rather read and study at my own pace from all the information that is freely available via the Internet. There are also so many great books out there you can learn from, it’s endless. Why drop God knows how much money into a film school? In this day and age, it doesn't make sense to me.

Q) Being an indie film maker means wearing all of the hats that we cannot find someone else to put on at any given moment. I looked at the credits from your new short film. I see that you were nearly a one person film crew?

A) Yes, and not something I will repeat again. With future projects, at least ones that are shot in a traditional style, I will not shoot unless I have enough help on crew. 

Q) Is there a feature film in future?

A) That is hard to say. The landscape seems to be changing and not into one that seems favorable to that format at least at the independent level. I’d do one if a larger production company or producer was to hire me though. I think at my resource level right now that I would not attempt one but I would love to do a feature at some point in my life.

Q) Any final thoughts or advice for the beginning film maker?

A) Make shorts, experiment and don’t be afraid to fail. Learn everything you can and always work to improve. Patience is key.

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     Thank you Owen for doing this interview. I look forward to seeing your next project. If you would like to see and to learn more about Owen's work you can click here..   To conclude I would like to offer your last short film, with director’s commentary. I wish more indie film makers would post versions of their work with directors commentary. There are so many little trick of the trade and shortcuts that are learned during a low budget shoot that you can share through a commentary track.

     Okay that will be it for today. Please take a moment to share this post with a friend and to add me to your google plus. Again I am looking for trailers to post in my trailer park. If you have one for your upcoming film or know of one you can let me know about it by leaving a comment or contacting me through google plus.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Digital film making, Free Editing Programs

Free Editing Programs

I received a reminder that I have not done any post on my favorite subject, Free Stuff, in a long while so this one is dedicated to getting it done in a world class way for free.

We are all aware of the high end digital video editing software programs out there. Some of which with all of the ad ons can cost over a thousand dollars. There is a trade off for every digital film maker. Every dollar you send for software and camera equipment and the next most powerful new computer to hit the market is less dollars that you will be able to put onto the screen. I am not saying that you can make a great feature film without spending a money, but you should only do it when absolutely necessary and then you are allowed to cry for at least an hour afterwards. I just spend a few hundred dollars on a used computer on ebay to handle the editing on my upcoming project and even though I am budgeted for this and the external and drives that will need to be purchased as well I hated spending the money. I needed to make myself feel better so I decided to offset this purchase with free editing software.

 Let me disclose first that I am not a fan of CGI so I do not place the ability to do it as a big reason to select a software film making solution. Face it that if CGI is top two on your list of needs then you are going to be spending some money to get that done well.

 I have narrowed the choices down to two. One has been used on major motion pictures for over a decade and the other is relatively new. The best thing about these choices is that you can download and try them both. First up is one that has been around fore a long time and has been used on dozens of Hollywood feature films. The name of the software is Lightworks.

  Next up is Blender. You will see a basic tutorial followed by a short film producted by the company behind this software.



 This concludes the tutorials for today. I am going to get back to the found footage series shortly. I have a trailer for two a found footage films that I think looks promising. The first is a film from Ti West. The trailer for The Sacrament.


   Next up is the trailer for Lucky Bastard.


 That will be it for today. Please take a moment to share this post with a friend and to add me to your google plus. Good luck with your film making.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Good Hands Interview, Part 2

                    Good Hands Interview, Part 2

The response to the first half of the interview has been great. Today I will not waste much time getting to the interview. Just s quick reminder that I will be getting back to the found footage series very soon and it will be followed up with an ebook shortly after.

Part 2 of the Good Hands Interview begins here.

Q)You mentioned Vegas. I assume that you are editing with Sony Vegas. Which version of the software are your using and does it do everything that you need it to do?

A) I have always loved working in Sony Vegas, its a very straight forward and powerfull programme. Its a software with very few limitations which enables me to be more creative with my work, everything i need in one package.
I currently use version 11a, Im very pleased with it apart from the all time Vegas problem with freezing and abruptly shutting down for no reason, which i must say can be somewhat annoying.

Q) Many film makers who have used the canon t2i have talked about problems with what is called rolling shutter. Where the image blurs when the camera is moved too quickly. Did you have any issues while filming action scenes?

A) When it comes to action scenes I have never been a fan of the "Jason Bourne" style of shooting with 10 different clips for one single punch and the chaotic camera movements. I prefer a slower rhythm in the camera and editing while letting the choreography play out wisely in more simple yet harmonic compositions.
So the rolling shutter has never been something i have considered a problem.

Speaking of shutters I made a huge mistake... It was during the first week of shooting. We shot the fight scenes in january 2013 in a freezing cold abandoned warehouse and time was not on our side. I dialed the camera shutterspeed to 1/30 while shooting 24 fps, not knowing at the time the GREAT importance of the right shutterspeed according to the frame rate. The results was a great deal of smudge wherever there was movement, and what can possibly involve more movement than a fight scene?

I wish had known better at the time but I've learned from my mistakes.

Q) You said that you did own stunts while playing the lead. That is Jackie Chan territory. Where there every any moments when you were about to do a stunt when you thought about who will finish the film if this stunt goes wrong?

A) The stunts was not all that dangerous so I've never actually thought about that, however if I was to break my leg for instance I would have just shot the other scenes with the other actors while limping around like an old man behind the camera I guess.

Q) It has taken you a while to finish this film. This of course was something that Christopher Nolan had to deal with. It took his almost a year of shooting on weekends to finish his film Following and there is of course Peter Jackson who worked on his first feature, Bad Taste for over three years. Have you managed to keep the entire cast and crew together?

A) The crew consists of good friends of mine settled in the same town, we keep in touch, hang out and occasionally work together in the industry.
My only concern is continuity I guess... Lets say one of my actors decides to get a mohawk or gains 30 pounds, that would be a problem.
Appart from that I have no concern about losing my crew, they love working with me despite all the things I've put them through (at least I hope they do).

Q) Looking back on the production so far is there something that you have learned along the way about film making that you wish you had known when you started?

A) Absolutely... The magic of the right shutterspeed.
Apart from that the importance of pre-production and planning is really worth mentioning. And being the director, writer, DOP, editor, prop maker and lead actor in your own film can be very challenging, but tremendously educational at the same time.

Q) In the US. there are many ways to distribute a feature film when done. Part of a film makers job these days is to work on ways to monetize their work. So many film makers try to build a following through social media even before they record the first frame of footage. Have you thought about marketing the finished film and if so what are some of the options?

A) In my opinion we live in the golden age of independent film making, anyone can pick up a camera and make a feature film, giving that they got the knowledge of how the process works. This simple fact has been my prime motivator on this project.

When it comes to marketing I strongly believe using social mediums is a great marked strategy, and for our film spanning over years we can hopefully build interest or a fanbase gradually as the film progresses.
And if we succeed with that we will hopefully be able to use the fanbase as proof of public interest and value when we go about getting the film distributed.
DVD and Blu-ray is my ultimate goal (accompanied by a limited VHS edition release).

Q) In your country are there options like crowdfunding to raise money to finance a film?

A) There are lots of ways to finance a film in Norway as well, and crowdfunding is one of them.

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Q) The obvious question that I have to ask is, since you are shooting an action/revenge film have you planned for a sequel?

A) If Good Hands succeeds the way i hope, you can bet you ass there will be a sequel.
More action, more explosions, fistfights, synth, one-liners and more babyoil.

If given the possibility and funds I would make it into a trilogy accompanied by something crazy like a videogame in 16 bit resolution.

Q) I have this dream project where I would do something set in the world occupied by Mad Max. Doomsday, end of the world cars and roads populated by over the top villains fighting for water, women and gasoline. Is there a dream project in the back of your mind?

A) Good Hands is my dream project in many ways, I have always wanted to make a movie like this and now I've finally got the chance to make that dream come true.
Appart from Good Hands I would also love to make a doomsday picture, an apocalyptic world with limited resources, cyborgs, cold acid rain and wastelands.
A kickass mix between movies like "The Terminator" and "Cyborg" as well as some George Romero elements, with a sinister and industrial synth like soundtrack throughout the whole film.

That is it for this post and interview. I would like to thank  Geir M.V. Andersen for doing this interview. I wish you the best of luck with your film.

If anyone you who have read this interview would like to be involved. The best way to help the film makers that I spotlight here is to share the interview and to follow the film maker. Social media is going to be our most powerful tool in the years to come. It will even the playing field with the major studios. During the past week there have been over a thousand views of the first part of the interview, but I doubt if there has been twenty shares on facebook or twitter. So I am asking again that you guys take a moment to hit one of those share buttons and to join me on google plus.

I would like to preview what is coming as the major topic for the summer to come. The topic will be building a Universe. I am going to be discussing the concept of a few indie film makers combining their talents and social media connections to do what has been done with what is called the Marvel Universe. Multiple films being shot at the same time, featuring characters that will be incorporated into one mega film. Think about the possibilities.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Good Hands, A Canon T2i Action Film

                Good Hands, A Canon T2i Action Film

This post will be a break from my series on Found Footage. I have been waiting to do an interview with Geir M.V. Andersen about his film Good Hands. The interview below will be part one of a two part interview on the making of Good Hands. I have been searching a long time for someone who has shoot a feature using the t2i and the second part of this interview will, I hope, focus more on the pros and cons of using that digital camera to get the job done on a feature.

Q) I interview film makers for my blog because I wish to learn something new with each interview. While most indie film makers are going for an ultra crisp and digital look to their films, your film has more of a grindhouse look. Visually it looks a great deal like one of my favorite films of the last few years, Hobo With A Shotgun. The first question is what inspired the look of the film?

A) I grew up watching a lot of action and martial arts movies from the late 80s / early 90s, and most of them where B - movies.
This was in the VHS days so these films where usually a 3rd generation copy of a copy before it ended up in my hands.
I remember watching them in poor quality, but it did not matter, i still got blown away by these films.

Films like No Retreat no Surrender, The Perfect Weapon, Bloodsport and The Terminator inspired me to make this movie.
I still love watching these films, the use of lighting, bright colors, cheesy heroes and the over the top use of synth music and baby oil makes my day.

My movie is both a tribute and a parody of those movies from that era. And that called for the same tricks with lighting and cinematography as well as the use of synth music.
I wanted the style of my movie to look more like a 80s film with a slightly more subtle look rather than going the full distance with the grindhouse look.
So i did lots of trial and error prior to shooting before i had determined the right look.

Q) What did you use to shoot the film on and if you had a larger budget would you have made a different choice in cameras?

A) I used a Canon 550D (or Rebel T2i in the US).

I enjoy using DSLR`s they are reliable, light, easy to use and has a nice shallow depth of field.
But the H264 compression and limited dynamic range (even with the Cinestyle preset) of the 550D can be challenging, especially if you`re going for the film-look.

But since my film was supposed to look like a worn B-movie from the late 80s this camera turned out great.
However if i had a big budget i would have shot it with Red Epic with 4K resolution.
A more future proof choice because of its greater dynamic range and better resolution.

Q) What is the film about?

A) The film is about a young easygoing man called Angus, with a gifted set of hands with a great future and a seemingly loving girlfriend. His dream to become a professional guitarplayer is really close, suddenly he gets a call from his older brother who got himself tangled in with the wrong people.
He meets up with him in the shady parts of town to help him, but they end up trapped by the sadistic gang his brother owes big money.

His brother gets killed and Angus barely survives seriously injured with his beloved hands destroyed, he falls into a coma and wakes up months later discovering his brother is dead, his girlfriend took off with someone else and his hands are destroyed.

Angus swears revenge for his brothers death. With the help of his strange friend Naley, a thrill seeking local security guard who've seen way too many action films.
They embark on a life changing and dangerous journey with explotions, training montages, fist fights and lots of comic reliefs.

Q) I notice some CGI effects in your trailer for the film. Are you pleased with using CGI for your effects or given a larger budget would you have used more practical effect?

A) I have always been a practial effects kind of guy, I've done work as a propmaker in the industry, i build miniature sets to be used as set extensions instead of resorting to CGI and i generally think practical effects always looks better especially on a tight budget.  So if i where given the choice and funds I would definitely go for practical effects.

Q) Good Hands looks like a very violent film. Did your actors do many of their own stunts? If they did do their own stunts how did you balance the risk vs. the reward? If a lead actor gets injured then the film can shut down for weeks.

A) The total budget of the film was 12 000 NOK, thats approx 1500 dollars. These modest funds where to cover lighting equipment, audio equipment, costumes, props, smoke machine and much more. That meant we had to do all our own stunts.

I played the lead role myself and luckily I got a martial arts background as well as some experience in fight choreography and stunts.
Safety first has always been my motto. We would rig the stunts then carefully practice them in a safe way until everybody felt confident about doing them.
So the balance between risk and reward where always accounted for... At least most of the time.

DigitalRev - Camera Superstore 
Q) On your Youtube channel you highlight many of the tracks from the soundtrack of Good Hands. Most low budget digital films have to use some free music or find a composer who is willing to work for the film credit. Who did your cool soundtrack?

A) I knew exactly the kind of music i was looking for, it had to be a kind of dark and suspenceful synth score. I've always been a DIY kind of guy, I made all the props in the movie so i decided to make the soundtrack myself as well.
So I started experimenting with a lot of different sounds, in the begining it was mostly guitar tracks. But then i discovered "Garage Band" for ipad, and i was immediately hooked. You could even play individual notes on the touch-keyboard, this was perfect for me.

So I recorded the synth tracks in Garage Band, then I mixed the tracks in Sony Vegas and added some real guitar tracks as well as some custom drums from a programme called "Beatcraft". I got very pleased with the results and i own the rights to the music myself. Also it was free as well as tailormade for the movie.

Q) One of the things that has always surprised me from one low budget film to the next is the amount of time it took to shoot the film. I have interviewed film makers who have shot a feature length film in less than a week and I have interviewed one film maker who took more than two years to finish his film. How long did it take to shoot your film and looking back at the process knowing what you know now was your time well spent?

A) We set out to make this film as a weekend project since everyone involved had to work at their daytime jobs during the weekdays. And i knew from the start that this would be a project spanning over years rather than weeks or months. To be honest the film is not yet completed, we still need to shoot the opening as well a very complicated action scene early in the movie.
Its a long road no doubt, but its been an incredibly fun and educational process that I'm glad to say is not over yet.

Q) Every film maker has the that one film maker or film that inspired them to get started. Who was that film maker or what was that film?

A) The film that has inspired me the most was a film i first saw when I was 10 years old, a film i watch at least once a year every year. The cinematography was incredible to me, the special effects blew me away, and the plot had me on edge of the seat all the way. Later i learned this was also a low budget film, which made it even more awesome. This film inspired me to pursue my dreams of becoming a filmmaker (still a work in progress but I'll get there). "The Terminator" 1984 by James Cameron

This concludes part one of the Good Hands interview. If you would not take the time to share this interview on Twitter or posting it on your facebook page that would be great. This site grows through sharing. I get my encouragement from the number of views each day and the questions and comments that come in. The next post will be about film trailers that I have seen recently and answering a few questions that have come in. Then I hope to have the second half of this interview as the following post before we get back to the found footage topic. Good luck with your projects and did I mention that my first book On Low Budget Filmmaking is now available at Createspace(Amazon) . To those of you who teach film classes this little book would make for a great basic teaching tool. Also for those who know a beginning film maker this would be a great starters guide.  Hey we all have our own favorite film making book. For me it was John Russo's  Making Movies, The Inside Guide to Independent Movie Production.