Saturday, August 31, 2013

Horror Without CGI, The Sky Has Fallen - Part 2

Horror Without CGI, The Sky Has Fallen - Part 2

I did a list of my favorite horror films today and reviewed whether or not any of them had CGI in them and with the exception of two I think that they are all CGI free. The majority of them are from before the age of CGI, but then again most of the greatest movies are pre computer generated effect.

What are the two films?

Fine, The Grudge and The Descent.

In the Grudge it is necessary, but I would argue that the most frightening moments are not delivered by software. The Grudge does an amazing job with sound effects. In the Descent it comes down to a few seconds of wall crawling in the dark. That movie did not need it, but it was done well (I think shadows and darkness helps a lot in this regard). I am not against using it, but I am against depending upon it or having it as the first, second or even third option. CGI creatures mostly look like crap. If you use it only when absolutely necessary and combine it with an actual creature. Meaning animatronics or guy is suit then it can work. If you want an example of what I am talking about check out the film Brotherhood of The Wolf. If you want an example of how not to do this I direct you to check out any horror film on the Sci-fi channel. The creature on a playstation one game are more convincing. I am not allowed to show any stills or clips from their movies unless I am praising them. If I break this rule I will find a ghost shark hiding in my refrigerator. To conclude my personal views on CGI, I think that is works for creating buildings like the city of Rome in Gladiator. For times in history that you can not recreate easily like the cars and buildings in the Great Gatspy it has a place. For living and breathing creatures (a quote from the Grinch coming) it stinks, stank, stunk.

What about Lord of the Rings?

Does not look realistic.

What about Golem?

Guy in suit. With human eyes and human movements. The CGI is mapped over his performance.

What about Matt Damon?

Fine, you got me there. He almost nearly passes as a real living and breathing actor.

Okay let’s get back to the interview with Doug Roos. You can visit the kickstarter campaign by clicking this link. You can visit the facebook page by clicking this link.


  I guess that I should ask some basic production questions.

The one that comes up most often is what kind of camera did you shoot with and were you happy with the results?

-I used a Panasonic HVX-200 with a Redrock Micro35 adapter and Nikon lenses. It was the best option at the time for my minuscule budget. I'm happy with the results. Using a mini-35 adapter made a huge difference in the quality of the image. I wish Red Epics would have been available back then and that I actually could've afforded one, but if I had sat around waiting for those, I never would've made my movie.-

How long did the shoot take?

-About 25 days. We shot 5 weeks in a row, taking a few days off here and there. Then I went back and did some pickups, a few more FX shots, etc.-

Now that you are in post production what is it that you wish that you had known before you started the project?

-Millions of things. You learn so much making a movie. It's the best kind of education you can get, and even when you're done, you can learn even more about marketing, selling your film, etc. I've read so many books since finishing my first feature, and I wish I read all these before I started: Save the Cat, Your Screenplay Sucks: 101 Ways to Make It Better, How NOT to Write a Screenplay, Making a Good Script Great, Friendly Enemies, Directing Actors, Actors Turned Directors, I'll Be in My Trailer, The Greatest Acting Teachers and Their Methods, etc. I also edited another feature, and that made me look at my own quite differently. I actually went back and re-edited my movie to make it better. I shot new footage as well. The problem if you're the writer and director (and the editor, which I don't recommend) is you're too close to the material to see it objectively, which is why it's so important to get feedback not just from friends and family but reviewers and people you don't know.-

 I see that the film has won many awards. There is a debate in the micro budget world between those who believe in festivals and those who consider them more trouble than they are worth. Where to you stand on the subject?

-I think festivals are definitely worth it. The difficulty is picking the right festivals where you actually have a chance of getting in. Moviemaker Magazine always has a list of 25 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, and most of those recommendations are pretty good. If you're making an indie no budget film, you should see where other similar no budget movies got accepted or search for festivals that have a special low budget category.-

What is the next project going to be?

-I'm doing a massive creature feature with hundreds of monsters and some really exciting characters. Again, it will be all practical FX. No CGI. Those are the only kind of films I'm going to make. The big inspiration on the next one is John Carpenter's The Thing since there will be transforming effects and all kinds of crazy stuff like flamethrowers, etc. It's still several years away, but we've already started making the creatures, because it's going to take a lot of time. I can't wait to do that one. Anyone who is interested in it can sign up for updates on our website:

Thank you so much! -

Thank you Doug for taking time out to do ths interview. If you would like to own a copy of the finished film it is one of the perks at the kickstarter campaign. So check it out there. You can get a copy while also helping to complete the movie.

I am still looking for trailers for my trailer pages. I have just posted ten new trailers on the top trailers page. Please take a few minutes to check them out. I can tell you basically what is coming in the next few weeks. There is one more crowdfunding interview coming up, I hope. Then we are going to look at casting and what is wrong with type casting. You could be missing out on some world class talent and not even be aware of it because of your script and or casting call. Also a post on using your own social assess to promote your project better.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Horror Without CGI, The Sky Has Fallen

Horror Without CGI, The Sky Has Fallen

Today I am posting the first part of my interview with Doug Roos, the film maker behind The Sky Has Fallen, an award winning horror film that depend totally upon practical FX and character driven story telling. Before we begin the interview I wold like to direct you to his kickstarter page by clicking here and his website by clicking here  .

Before we get to the topic of Practical FX could you tell us what your film, The Sky Has Fallen is about?

-It's a post-apocalyptic love story. After the world's population becomes decimated by a new plague, people flee to remote locations, trying to avoid infection, but mysterious black figures appear and start experimenting on the dead. Now, Lance and Rachel, two survivors determined to fight back, set out to kill the leader of these figures before the rest of humanity is wiped out.-

 You are doing a crowd funding campaign for your film. What are you hoping for with just a few days left?

-It'd be nice if we could get a few more backers, but I'm really happy with how the project has gone. I love Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. They've changed the game so much for independent filmmakers. They're an amazing way to help out other people. You can really help make someone's dream come true, which is a wonderful thing in a world too often filled with negativity and cruelty.-

I grew up a fan of visual effect because I grew up watching the work of Ray Harryhausen. His brilliant work in the area of stop motion should have carried over to the world of digital effects, but instead we have ended up with a George Lucas influenced world where just because it can be done with low cost software or even an iphone app it is done all the time. Why have you not taken the easy way out and instead embraced going totally CGI free?

-I also grew up watching the skeleton fight in Jason and the Argonauts along with all kinds of other incredible practical FX like Stan Winston's work on Aliens and Predator, Rob Bottin's unbelievable accomplishments on The Thing, Rick Baker's genius on An American Werewolf in London, etc. so all that made me absolutely certain I only wanted to do real practical effects, not computer-generated crap. CGI can be done well and look phenomenal, but often, it's overused with horrible rushed results. For example, CG blood. It always looks like sh*t, and there is no excuse for it since you can do squibs (or a weed sprayer equivalent), use a blood cannon, etc. For the kind of horror films I want to do, practical FX are always better, and that is all I'm ever using. I haven't seen any CG monster that came anywhere close to Bottin's creations on The Thing. People cite Jurassic Park as an excellent example of CGI, and it is, but what so many forget is that movie has a ton of practical effects to bolster the very limited computer work. Look at the sequel, and you can see what happens these days with them going completely overboard on CGI.

- I am a huge fan of the movie The Thing, I believe that it is Carpenters best film. The animatronics used back in the early eighties actually look more realistic than the CGI in the recent prequel. I also believe that it hurts the performances of the actors. They have nothing to react to. Did practical FX help to bring out a better performance from your actors?

-Yeah, the real shame with the prequel is ADI did a ton of mind-blowing practical effects that then got painted over with cruddy CGI although the story and the characters in that film were another monumental problem (you can't beat Carpenter's film and so much of the prequel is a pale imitation, copying scene after scene without going in its own direction). I think the Harbinger Down Kickstarter was a huge milestone in the fight against CGI, because you actually had Alec Gillis explaining how studios opt for CGI due to the tax incentives despite practical being cheaper, which is just absurd. But yes, I think practical FX also get better performances from your actors. Telling them to stand in front of a green screen and look at a smiley-face ball is ridiculous. Heck, I watched Movie Magic all the time as a kid. Seeing those guys make real monsters was the coolest thing to me. I loved that show. That's exactly what I want to do.-

I draw like a three year old wearing mittens so I have always envied those who can draw.
Are you story boarding scene by scene or down to shot by shot like Hitchcock was known to have done?

-I storyboarded every shot... it took about a year. Then I scanned in all my storyboards and edited them together into a movie with temporary sound effects, subtitles, and music. I put that on a DVD with some test footage and gave it to my actors and crew so I could show everyone what I wanted to do. I think storyboarding is very important. It's a huge help when you're filming especially if you're wearing a lot of hats.-

The look of the Zombie makeup is different from what I have seen before. Who was the makeup artist and did it turn out as story boarded it?

-We actually had a couple makeup artists. One was Nathan Shelton. I gave him my concept art to look at, and he sculpted the masks. The zombie whose upper lip and nose are disfigured he came up with all on his own. For the main creature with the creepy white eyes and no mouth, he followed my design, improving on it. He's an extremely talented guy who went on to work on Winter's Bone, which was nominated for four Academy Awards, and he did a ton of other projects too. The other key FX guy was Mike Strain. He did the effects for You're Next (in theaters now) and countless other films. Besides doing prosthetic application, he did the squibs on my movie. He's another insanely talented artist, and I'm honored to be working with him on my next project. I also did a little bit of makeup and some FX shots here and there, learning from Nathan and Mike when I could.-

 When someone tells me that they have just seen a great horror movie I always asked them to tell me about the main characters. They usually respond with the name of the star if the star was an actual known actor. When pressed they fall back to character descriptions. The tall guy, the blonde girl, the fat guy, black guy, cute dark haired girl in shorts. You can tell that it was a quality film if the names of the characters stick with you after you leave the theater. Everyone who saw Aliens could point out Ripley, Hudson, Hicks and of course Vasquez. The idea that if the audience does not know the characters then they will not care whether they live or die has been lost in an effort to produce epically grizzly ways to dispatch then. Do you think that you have created characters that will be remember?

-I hope so. That was my goal. If you want to make a really great film, it's essential to create good memorable characters that people love and relate to or else no one will be invested in your story. If you don't spend time to develop your characters in interesting ways or they make stupid decisions all the time when they're supposed to be smart, you'll lose your audience.-

This concludes the first part of my interview with Doug Roos. The second half focusing mostly on the film making side of the production of his film will be posted tomorrow.

During the next few weeks I am going to offer a post about using your social media to help to market your work and yourself. Remember you can and should be as much of a brand name as your film. Think in terms of Spielberg, Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. Also I am hoping to post my first ever interview with a actress film maker. The writer, actor/director is a completely different world, think Orson Welles, than being completely behind the scenes. That will be it for today.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

MK Outlier - The Follow Up Questions

From the MK Outlier interview there were a few questions from you guys about the
one of the hardest things that you will face as a digital feature film maker. The job of firing people from your production. We have all pictured that we will get together a kickass cast and crew and production will flow smoothly. Sure we image that there will be disagreement or arguments along the way, but actually telling someone to take a walk is something that we dread. You will do it because there will be moments where you have to do it.

Here is my question and answer with Chris on the subject of firing crew members and a few questions on the shoot itself. The film did take over three years to pull together.

Were you shooting much footage during that time?

-We shot in fits and starts, depending on availability of cast, crew, sets and weather. Most of the film takes place during daylight hours, and we could only shoot weekends. The drought had just broken in Victoria where we live, and we had a very wet few years. Other factors included waiting for sets to be built, mutant costumes to be constructed. I moved house, and my girlfriend and I got whopping cough, which totally laid us low for months. Both Warren and myself started new relationships which also meant we didn't want to spend all of our spare time working. There were also plenty of times when I just didn't know the best way to proceed given all the balls I was juggling.
During the second year when we got sick, I got very down about how long it was taking. It's funny that you mention Bad Taste (my best friend and I used to watch this every weekend in High School) because it was when I remembered how Peter Jackson had taken a few years to make it that I stopped feeling so bad, and just decided that this time was my "film school". I decided that it didn't matter how long it took, as long as it was worth it in the end, and could be a career launcher. So far so good.. fingers crossed!

How did you manage cast members during that long of a time?

-Gently and gratefully! For the most part the cast were my friends, with little to no acting experience, so I cut them a lot of slack, but didn't put up with bad behaviour. I just asked them to look at it as a good excuse to hang out, and do something productive at the same time.
Whenever I hired someone, like our main actress, I ensured that we shot all of their scenes over a few consecutive weekends. This saved money, but also didn't drag out their time, so they could work on other things. I just assumed my friends were available all the time haha! If only.
We had some very long hard days early on, that were pretty trying on all of us, but after a while I just settled for shooting less and having more fun. I resigned myself to the fact that the movie was going to take a LOT longer than I wanted, and when I did that I was able to relax and enjoy it much more. This directly affected how I was able to deal with the cast and crew. If they weren't available for some reason, I'd just spend the time working on some other aspect of the production. I always asked for a few dates that the cast could make themselves available, and then we'd shoot if the weather matched. I was always polite, but firm, and made sure it didn't cost my cast anything to be involved, other than their time. Where possible I would transport them, feed them etc, and make sure that for the most part they were comfortable, and most importantly -- safe.
If they got pissed off, I just let them blow off the steam (usually in my direction) and then just asked them if they wanted to keep going. Usually they did. I think this also then gave them the confidence to know that I wasn't going to quit, even if they got angry, and I made it clear that I cared more about our friendship than I did about the movie. Basically I was just trying to say "I've got your back no matter what, but I do really want you to do (whatever crazy thing I was asking them on the day)".
It was much harder in the beginning when we just had rushes to watch, but after the first year and half I started to get a cut together and the cast were able to see how the movie was going to work, could see that I knew what I was doing, that I wasn't going to make them look stupid (most people's biggest fear). I think they also started to see that MK OUTLIER could really be a good movie, and even something they could be really proud of. This gave them a lot more confidence, understandably. Problems with cast can completely destroy a movie, which is why casting is so important to get right up front.-

Indie Sci-Fi Action Feature MK OUTLIER Teaser Trailer from LONGVIEW PICTURES on Vimeo.

Did cast members come and go? Did anyone abandon the project because of the time table?

- I only lost a cast member because she got pregnant. Other than that mostly it was me being impatient with people's availability, rather than the other way around. As I said, I made sure that anyone I was paying got their parts done quickly, but mostly that was just due to cost.-

You also said that you had to fire cast members. Most of us are terrified of telling someone that it is not working out. Does it matter if they are being paid or if they are volunteering?

-I've fired crew/VFX people, not cast members, but the same rules apply. This is a project that you're putting your blood, sweat, tears and probably life savings into. Don't let anyone f@#$ with you. Don't let anyone waste your time (unless you're getting an amazing deal!). Just don't put up with bad behaviour from people. This is a good rule for life, not just film making.
It doesn't matter if they're being paid or not. Yes, you can demand more from paid professionals, but generally you don't have to, because they're more productive. If someone isn't working out, get rid of them as fast as you can. This also helps set the ground rules for your shoot. It's not to make people live in fear (which is counter-productive), it's just to let them know that you're not f@#$ing around. It's fine to demand a lot from volunteers, or low paid people, but be grateful and find other ways to make it fun/and or rewarding. If someone volunteers to help you, then it is OK to expect them to actually help, and not OK if they don't, or get in the way.
I have only ever fired someone (basically on a no budget movie this just means never asking them back, but also can include telling them straight) when they were being detrimental to the movie being made, or just weren't on the same page. Some people don't understand what is required on set, how best to help, how to be flexible, or how to just do as they are asked. This is fine, but they have no place in your production. Do you really want to drive around and feed people who aren't actually helping you in some way? When you have 65 set ups to do in a day, you don't want to be arguing every point of every shot. This is just an exhausting waste of time, and is all about someone's need for attention, not your movie.
Don't ever make it personal, or a big deal. Don't be a dick about it. Not everyone is cut out for low/no budget film making! Not everyone will see your amazing vision haha. MOST people will just think you're crazy! I've had a few people, including relatives, be pretty brutal about this. This is fine. Any time you take on a massive creative project, you're going to really scare some people. That's not a bad thing.-

Again I would like to thank Chris Jacobs for doing this interview. You guys can thank him by visiting his crowdfunding campaign and getting involved. All you have to do is click here to get started.

Thank for visiting and please take a moment to share this post and or to stumble us on stumbleupon. Good luck with you projects. The next real post is going to take a week or two. I am going to offer something on using social media to market yourself and your project. The second part of the distribution post is coming and I am trying to get an interview with my favorite indie film maker. Also I am looking to add a page for showreels. Actors reels, for the reason that film makers visit this blog and finding quality cast member who will work for little or nothing is hard.

One last thing, I have a trailers page. I am about to add all new trailers so if anyone has a trailer that they would like to see me post you can contact me by leaving a comment or through google plus.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

HV40 Feature, Mk Outlier- The Interview Part 2

HV40 Feature, Mk Outlier- The Interview Part 2

This is part 2 of my interview with Chris Jacobs, the film maker behind MK Outlier.

You can visit the website for the film by  clicking here   

Did you write the screenplay and was it your first feature length script?

-I wrote the screenplay. It was my 6th or 7th feature script. The others were pretty bad! I work with a Hollywood Script Editor; Paul Young, who I get script notes from. This provides actual Industry insight, which is worth its weight in gold. Don't ever make a film without getting script notes, and addressing the weaknesses found. Script is everything! Blake Snyder's Save the Cat books also have taught me a huge amount, without all the bullshit.Gold.-

There are many ways to approach the subject of casting your film. Some film makers consider this an after thought. Others dwell on finding the right person for each and every role more than any other aspect of the film. How did you handle the casting your film?

-In typical low budget fashion I cast my friends in the major roles. This is just an extension of the idea that you only use what you have available, whenever possible. I wrote the parts with them in mind, so I knew what they could and couldn't do. So the characters just became slightly exaggerated versions of the real people, for the most part. I think the thing here is to match the temperament to the person as much as possible. That way you avoid those horrible "I don't think the character would do that" conversations. I did hire a casting director when the female lead I had cast got pregnant and had to pull out. This was a very interesting process. I auditioned 40 actresses over two days, on my own. It was like 40 first dates! Horrible really, because almost all of those people were able to do the part, but really only a couple were ever serious options. A few people really stood head and shoulders above the others. There were a few 'personalities' that I wouldn't hire if they were the last actors on Earth, but you get that. You are going to spend a long time, under potentially grueling conditions with these people. You don't have to love them, but you do have to be able to work with them. I reviewed the tapes and made the decision from there. You get a feeling on the day, but you need to review the footage. Casting is so important to get right. It amazes me that there is so much talk online about cameras, lighting etc. and everyone forgets that the actors have to be amazing to keep you engaged. If your actor sucks or makes production hell, all the megapixels in the world won't save you. I could write pages on this. You have to be a psychologist to some degree. A large component of Directing and Producing is people management. Honesty and Integrity are key, and don't be afraid to fire people who aren't working out. You just can't afford them. -

How long did it take to shoot the movie?

-We recently finished what I would call principal photography, so about 3 years. Maybe 4. We have only ever shot in our spare time, as we all have day jobs. This is one aspect I would never repeat. It was probably a good idea at the time, and has kind of worked for us, but there is a lot of potential for pain. We were lucky. In terms of time, I just looked at it as my 'film School' period, and thought if I can come out the other side with a feature, rather than a degree no one cares about, then I'm in front. I committed to it taking as long as it took, and just got into the healthy habit of laughing at people who asked me when it would be finished. If people start getting preachy about deadlines I start asking them for money! haha -

Special effects are an important part of sci-fi films. Who is handing the visual effects for your project?

-Yeah I'm doing the visual effects. It's a really fun area that I like being involved with, as it really directly affects the look and feel of the finished film. I have been able to outsource the rotoscoping component which is fantastic, and has really sped things up. I have a Fine Art background so I'm pretty particular about framing, colour and aesthetics in general. This is still a big work in progress, so watch this space. I recently showed a preview to a Sound Designer who was very impressed with the few finished effects shots, so hopefully we can keep up the quality with the rest. More sleepless nights! -

It looks like you are editing the film as well. Are you self taught like some many digital film makers these days or was there any formal training?

-I did do an editing course about 12 years ago, but can't remember much of what was taught. I also did a Directing and Cinematography Summer School which was fun, and helped out on other people's films. I also did some work with a commercial director which was great experience. I mostly learnt by editing shorts, docos and music videos, but I must say that editing is an art form that I don't pretend to have a mastery of. I have done all the editing so far, and we have a cut of about 1hr 50mins. Story wise it's fine, and is paced well, but I'm looking around for a pro to help with the final cut, perhaps as an advisor for a few days.- Also what are you using to edit? The system and the software? -Adobe Premiere and After Effects CS5.5 on a self assembled Intel i7 PC, 16GB RAM. We'll probably grade with Speedgrade too, when we get to that. Sound will be done in a professional studio, most likely on ProTools.- Now that you are nearing he finish line on MK Outlier what is it that you wished that you had known or prepared for before you started? -This is a tough one, as all the lessons learnt along the way are ones you only learn by doing. I wish I had never waited so long to get started, but I did. I'm just sorry I didn't have the confidence to back myself sooner. I think I did waste some time at the start worrying that people were doing me all these favours by helping me and that I could never repay them. The truth is whenever you do a big creative project and invite others to be involved you are the one doing the favour. Other people can help you, or not. That's their call. Either way is fine.-

Is there another project in the planning stages or are you going to put your feet up for a while?

-I am a projects kinda guy, and I always have several going at once, because projects are just the most fun ever! For now MK OUTLIER is THE project, and I just can't wait to get it done and in front of people. I do have another script that I'm working on in my secret lab. I'm VERY excited about it, but MK comes first.-

Any final words on MK Outlier?

-Good things come to those that pre-order! haha Thank you so much for your interest in MK OUTLIER. We can't wait to hear what people have to say when they see the movie.-

Thank you Chris for taking the time to do this interview.

I look forward to posting the trailer for the completed film and seeing it. Again if anyone would like to pre-order the film they can do so visiting   here .

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The Snugg

Friday, August 9, 2013

Canon hv40 Feature, Mk Outlier- The Interview Part 1

Canon hv40 Feature, Mk Outlier- The Interview Part 1

I would like to introduce you to Chris Jacobs the film maker behind the Canon hv 40 sci-fi film MK Outlier. He has produced a feature length sci-fi film on a micro budget. Many film makers, even those in the digital film making world, believe that this cannot be done. That it requires millions of dollars to even attempt one. Guys it does not. All that it does require is time and effort and the willingness to do most of it yourself.

The film that you are planning to produce is your dream. It will always be more important to you that to anyone else. You can see the finish product everyday in your imagination. You know how it will turn out in the end, but those around you only hear about what you want to do or are planning to do. You can show them a script and story boards and a budget and the equipment that you will use to make the film, but until they see the film in some form then you are the only champion that your film will have.


 Okay let’s get to the interview. It will be divided into two parts. All answers are provided by the film maker of MK Outlier, Chris Jacobs.

I understand that you used the Canon HV40. I am a big fan of the Hv series of cameras. They were on their way to become a standard in micro budget film making world until the Dslr revolution hit. Did you use the bare camcorder or did you add lenses or a depth of field adapter?

-A: We started making MK OUTLIER right as DSLRs were becoming big in late 2009, however we were making a hand held action movie and the rolling shutter issues meant a DSLR was not an option. Also I just didn't love the sharpness of the DSLR footage, which at the time was quite harsh and 'video like' in a bad way to my eyes. I looked at a lot of test footage from a lot of camera set ups and settled on an HV40 with lens adapter. We used a basic Jag35 lens adapter (Vibrating Ground Glass) and Canon FD Lenses. Most of the film was shot on a 50mm lens, which was the fastest lens we had (the slower ones vignetted horribly). The other main lenses used are a 24mm and a 110mm. The 50mm was great for a wide variety of hand held work, and kept the frame on the action, rather than our lack of 'production values'. We also used a large on camera LCD, which really was too heavy, and was exhausting when shooting long days. We found out too late that this monitor didn't show the full frame being recorded so often we would have bad vignetting or shadow from the lens adapter motor that would end up in frame. For the most part it's easily fixed in post with a little digital push in, but of course at the cost of precious resolution. Eventually I got better at checking for this, and adjusting accordingly. I made a hand held rig out of bits and pieces from the hardware, and the camera was mounted upside down on an Indie Rails Pro, to counter the lens adapter flipping the image.-

After your experience with the camera would you shoot with it again?

-A: I would not do anything the same way again haha! With enough light the HV40 and adapter gets amazing footage that to my eye (and many others comments) looks far closer to 16mm film than any DSLR I've seen. I couldn't be happier with the look of the film. There are only a few scenes where a different camera would have been advantageous, and that was really just due to low light. The only other niggle is that it's incredibly easy to bump the zoom rocker and throw out focus in the lens adapter, which is already hard to find on an LCD in the sun, so if I was to shoot anything serious on one again I'd look at locking the zoom somehow. I did upgrade to a smaller sharper LCD which really helped with this, but it's still an issue. I'd also use an external recorder like the one from Blackmagic Design, rather than tapes. Tapes are just awful, and there is slightly more colour info when you record from the HDMI out, apparently. Recently I showed the MK OUTLIER trailer to a very critical friend of mine who didn't yet know much about how I'd made the film, who turned to me half way through and said "You obviously had a professional DOP" I was extremely proud of my work and my little HV set up at that point. If I could get Canon EF glass to work with my HV40 I would seriously look at it as an option, but it also really depends on the distribution format. -

The most over looked part of film making is quality sound. The look of a film can be corrected in post, but bad audio is a nightmare to deal with. The audience will forgive low light and scenes that are hard to see, but millions of Batman fans went nuts because they had a problem understanding what the villain was saying. What did you use to record sound? -Can you hear me weeping? haha. We made MK OUTLIER 'guerrilla' style, running around grabbing shots here there and everywhere. I think our record was 67 'set ups' in a day. By set up I mean shots that involved moving the camera from one place to another. All our sound was recorded using either the on camera mic, or later an external mic bolted to the camera news style. Knowing how the movie would be shot, we decided early on to ADR all the dialogue, and just suck it up. We didn't have time to wait until the planes had gone past, and many locations had so much background noise that wouldn't suit the movie, that we knew we'd probably have to ADR much of it anyway. I had a lot of ideas for sound early on in production, as the world of MK OUTLIER doesn't sound like the world we're used to, so it made sense at the time. Having said that, doing ADR for an entire movie is a LOT of work, and it's depressing because it feels like covering the same ground you've already gone over. However on a low budget movie it's also an amazing opportunity to fix bad on-set sound, tweak performance, and add/remove lines as needed. In future I'd just grab a few takes of 'dry' sound, without the camera running, and I'd just hire a sound guy. The external mic produces pretty good results though. We are about to do ADR, so we'll see how that goes! I'm excited.- What is MK Outlier? What is the premise of the film? -A: MK OUTLIER is a (fictional) secret CIA program set up to predict statistical outliers before they happen. Statistical Outliers like stock exchanges crashes, rises of religions and ideas, and terrorist attacks. Private James Conroy, a soldier with some personal issues, finds himself fighting to survive after a mysterious apocalypse wipes away civilisation. On the brink of madness, he finally gets in touch with Gary Freeman, a forgotten astronaut orbiting the earth in an old space station. They have to work together to reach others and try to work out what caused the apocalypse, and maybe even save the world. -

From what I have read I understand that you built your space station set? That you built it in the garage? How long did it take to construct it?

-Yes, I built a Space Station set in the back shed of the house I'm renting. It took a few weeks to do the initial framing, that I had help with from a builder I know, then several months of weekends fitting out the interior. The set was the single most expensive thing we did for the movie, and I spent many a day cursing it, but it looks amazing on screen. I knew that the movie would be dead in the water if the audience didn't buy the Space Station Set, so I went all out. Given that we are renting the house, it was a big risk, but every low budget movie is all risk, so whatever. The set has got us a lot of press, so looking back it was a great decision haha! I'm sure we would not have got the mainstream press interest we've had without it. The lesson here is to look at your script and ask yourself if there is a hook. I never did this at the time, but I'd seriously consider it in future. Sadly, marketing is a big part of the 'craft' but it too can be fun and creative.-   

 How many hats did you wear on this project and did it ever become overwhelming?

A: I wore ALL the hats. Seriously, what was I thinking hahaha? I think I'd read Rebel Without a Crew too many times and decided I was invincible. Oh well. I had plenty of help, but I was the only person who was ever responsible for any of it. There was no one to turn to and ask where something was. I only forgot important stuff twice, and it wasn't the end of the world, but I recommend at least having one other person who really wants the movie made as much as you do, or at least has something invested in it. Having said that, now that we're into Post Production I've been able to get more people involved, and I have a lot more confidence in what we're making. With some of the money raised through Indiegogo I've been able to farm out various Post areas, and we now lots of work going on without me being present, which is a massive relief. I do have an amazingly supportive group of close friends, mentors etc. to turn to when it gets tough, and I could not have done any of this without them. This is vital, lifesaving. Don't go to war without your friends! So yeah I wrote the script, cast the actors, made the props, made the sets, production managed, operated the camera, did most of the lighting, directed the actors, drove the production vehicle, digitized the footage, edited the footage, designed the webpage, did the special effects, the list goes on.. haha.. It has always been overwhelming. It continues to be. A huge amount of bad/negative feelings arise whenever I work on the film, and self-doubt is my evil nemesis. There have been many nights where I've been unable to sleep, lying awake wondering how I'd ever finish this unwieldy beast of a movie. (why o why did I choose Sci-Fi Action?) However the fight against these feelings and the triumph of ploughing on the face of them has had an amazing transformative effect on my life. You have to learn to be very kind to yourself. You have to forgive yourself, give yourself permission to burn everything, and just forget it. Then get back on the horse and keep going.-

This concludes the first half of the interview with Chris Jacobs.

If you would like to pre-order a copy of the finished film you can by visiting;

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I would like to thank Chris for doing this interview. I would suggest that you guys share this post with a friend via Twitter or Stumbleupon.

Think about so many of the movies that you have seen during your lifetime. The ones that surprised you and or impressed you most were seen because a friend told your about it. That is how people will learn about your film. You are not going to have fifty million dollars to advertise your project. It will be done through word of mouth. Thank you for visiting. - Great Deals, Just 24 Hours

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thinking About Distribution, Part1

Unless you plan on giving your digital feature film away then you need to think about distribution before you start to shoot it.

First thing that you need to consider in Length. Aim for at least 80 minutes of screen time for a feature. I know that many say that you have to go 90 plus minutes, but that is not a hard and fast rule. Evil Dead 3, Armies of Darkness comes in around 78 minutes. Anything over eighty minutes is good. I saw a very good German horror film at 61 minutes, but that is a one in a million shot. If you are under forty minutes think about Anthology. Do a Grindhouse or a VHS type of film. If you cannot produce more than one film see if you can then partner up with another film maker who has a film of similar length and genre that would combine to form something longer than 80 minutes. If you go over two and a half hours I would suggest breaking it into two parts or editing down. Micro budget epics are rare.

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 Next think about Genre.

Some Genres are easier to market than others. Horror, Thrillers, Action are easy to market. Comedy and straight drama without a named Star is hard to market. I have seen some great comedies that find absolutely no audience whatsoever. If you are going to do a drama or comedy then you are going to have to start the marketing well before the feature is finished. You are going to have to market the stars and perhaps even yourself months in advance of any release. You will need clips and behind the scene’s footage. You are going to have to go out and find the reviewers and sites that are respected in your chosen Genre and get them to review your work. (Note this works for all other genres as well.)

You should also hold back part of your budget for advertising and distribution cost. Gone are the days of needed to pay for hard film copies of your work, but Dvds cost money to produce. Media packages cost money. Festivals cost money. Press release services and those that can aid you with social media cost money.

 Social media and social marketing are going to be a very important part of your distribution plan. The more that you learn to do for yourself the greater share of the return on investment that you will see. The next post will be about different distribution companies for hire and the idea to use Crowdfunding as a distribution avenue.


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