Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Footage Film and The Year To Come

                    The Footage Film and The Year To Come

    This is going to be a quick post. First I would like to thank everyone who have made this digital film making  site a regular part of their lives. I would like to invite you guys to add me to your google plus. At Google plus you will get updates on everything I post here, plus at my other blogs.

    The first thing that I would like to share is a film that I really like. I wish that I had an interview to go with it. This would have been part of the found footage series. It is what I like to call a Footage film. The footage is delivered by the person who shot it rather than haven been found later. the title is Out of Court.

    Next I would like to tell you about the coming year. We are going to look at some new cameras and free editing software in the months to come. I am finishing up the first page of showreels for actors and actresses, I will be posting it soon. I believe that the theme for the year 2015 will be fan films and sci-fi. If you guys have seen a really good fan film let me know and I will see if I can get an interview with the film maker.

Okay that will be it for today. I will be leaving you with a great little iphone film from India that I came across a few weeks ago and a request that you guys check out my new book that I just published. It is a collection of my three books on digital film making and screen writing.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Gotham City Sirens Posting and Notes

                Gotham City Sirens Posting and Notes

After months of waiting the fan film Gotham City Sirens has been finished and posted.
After doing the interview about the making of it I have been looking forward to seeing the film.
The one thing that I wish for after seeing it is that I wish that it had been a feature film. Great cast and there is room for so much more to be told.  The film is posted below. If you like it please take a moment to share it on your facebook.

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    I have not posted in a while because I have been working on finishing three separate ebooks. The first one, On How to Make A Found Footage film is available in paperback on Amazon and in ebook format everywhere else.  You can find a link on the side of this page, just click the picture. After spending over a year in the found footage universe I learned a great deal about the genre and the film makers who have taken to it. The future of this genre looks a little brighter than I thought it would. My next post on it will be a feature film and the last of the found footage topic unless something amazing comes my way.

    The upcoming year will be about fan film making and sci-fi on a micro budget. Also news about my first feature length film as the man wearing all three production hats.  When I dreamed about becoming a film maker I thought that I would be like Roger Corman or Taskashi Miike churning out half a dozen plus films in a year. Instead I am more David Lean or (don’t Boo)
my fellow Philadelphian M. Night.

    Last note for today, could I get some acting reels for my reels page. I am going to post this page in a few weeks and I have reels that have been referred to me, but none by actual actors themselves. Do not be shy. Any exposure is good exposure. Film makers are always looking for talent that is willing to work on micro budget productions.

Thank you for visiting and please take a moment to add me to your google plus.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sophie’s Fortune, Action Adventure On a Micro Budget

It is sort of an adventure to write about and get to know indie film makers. I would equate it to the classic version of Doctor Who where the Doctor, (Tom Baker people) would pull a lever and would not have a clue where he landed his ship until he stepped outside. I get sent links to check out all the time. Sometimes it is to a trailer and other times it is a short film or even a feature. About a month ago someone was good enough to send me a link to Sophie’s Fortune. They said it was the best micro budget action adventure short film that they had ever seen. After watching the film that makes at least two of us.
What I would like you guys to do now is to watch the complete short below. Share it and then read my interview with the film maker Chris Cronin about the making of the film.

Q) When people think low budget short film most envision a story set inside a house with two to four actors involved. They do not imagine an eighties style action adventure.  What is Sophie’s Fortune about and what made you think that it could be done on a micro budget?

A) Brendan gets involved in a 'Fathers only' treasure hunt for the sake of his 7 year old niece Sophie and the parents imagination get the better of them as they go on an epic adventure. Sophie's Fortune is about fathers pride and the fact they are still big kids with imagination. It’s a kids film for grown ups in a weird way.

The main aim of Sophie's Fortune was to not play to the restrictions of the short film format and the expectations that come with short films. We didn't really know at first if we could pull it off and that was half the fun of it but I was confident. I've been told a few times that you get to make the films you want to make when you get the big budgets, you definitely need a budget to make films like 'Jaws' and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' but we thought what the hell let’s see what we can accomplish on our own. With short films you always have to worry about budget restraints, time restraints, festival requirements and even though I can appreciate that it' good to work to restrictions, with this one we just threw caution to the wind and made something we'd like to watch.

Q) I am from the home of the mega budget block buster while with the exception of the James Bond movies, (most of which are actually filmed around the world) the UK does not produce these types of films?  Is this just a trend or are these kind of movies not well received there?

A) If I look at it realistically I think it’s because adventure movies require a certain amount of distance to travel for it to be an adventure whereas the UK is a lot smaller so it’s easier and cheaper to travel coast to coast in just a short car ride. Plus there are certain restrictions on the use of weapons in public and the gun laws are much different. I think we’d love to make these kinds of movies but there definitely doesn’t seem to be a big need for them right now. The idea of making a summer blockbuster style UK action/adventure appealed to us, in part, because we realised no one was doing anything like it (fan films aside) and also because it would be something we'd personally really like to watch.

Not many short films have attempted the adventure genre, especially here in the UK, but we didn’t believe that where we came from, or what budget we had, should define how we use our imagination in film. Why can’t someone from England go on a glorious adventure with mysterious treasure and dangerous puzzles?

Q) I guess I should get to the technique film making questions.  First one that has to be asked is what did you shoot with? Also would you have selected a different camera if you had it all to do over again?

A) This was made over 2 years ago so we used a Canon 7D with no prime lenses at the start and decided to see it through. It was an outdoor shoot so we didn’t require lighting other than hand-held LED’s and reflectors for the actors faces. The glide track was the greatest weapon for creating that cinematic movement and it saved a lot of time laying down tracks. I think we’d all have liked to shoot this film on something a bit bigger like an Alexa or a RED but post-production would have been an absolute nightmare with all the visual effects on 4K. The 7D was pretty good for the run and gun shooting style that we utilised when bad weather was creeping in on us. I'd love to shoot a more refined story with a Red Epic now that I've had the chance to play with one. That would be a lot of fun.

Q) What was budget on this film and how long did it take to shoot?

A) The budget was £2,000 and that was used to feed the cast and crew and cover expenses. Some of the guys chipped in and everybody involved was really supportive with helping to cut financial corners where we could in the aim to make a great film. It was a massive collaboration and couldn’t have been achieved without the support of everyone. The fountain head in the film was a huge prop build and should have cost a fortune but Joshua Michaelson believed in the project and wanted to be involved so that was his contribution. Same with the amazing post-production visual effects team. Everybody wanted to make an Indiana Jones film so they jumped in. The first block of filming took two weeks but we had to stop due to the Autumn weather so we picked it up again in Spring for another 2 weeks. It really felt like a feature production but with a short film crew. Some of the action set pieces took all day, like the running along the wall scene and it’s very difficult to get the entire cast in one location when they are not being paid up into the hills for 10 hours. From pre-production to post-production it took us about 2 years to complete the film, that was mainly because we were making the film as we were going along and it kept expanding.

Q) You pulled together a great cast. Where did you find your actors?

A) This was a bit of a self-indulgent endeavour so I pulled in all of the actors that I had worked with or wanted to work with in the past. Some roles were written specifically for the actor such as Steve McTigue’s character the Great White Hunter. Whereas for others I had to find actors to suit the role such as Adam Baroni and Donald Standen who have action films written in their DNA. I was really lucky to find those two specifically in the UK and as a bonus they have on-screen fight training which was a big win. Simon Hardwick, who plays the lead, has been a good friend of mine for a long time and he has gone on to do some big things in the West End but wanted to sink his teeth into something a bit different and with his training he was brilliant at choreographing the fight scenes with Adam. Simon’s dedication to the film is the reason we were able to finish the film. I joked that he was Bruce Campbell sometimes as I put him through hell like Sam Raimi did to Bruce on 'Evil Dead'.

Q) One of the draw backs of shooting an action adventure film is the size of the cast and crew required even on a low budget production. How did you deal with feeding everyone?

A) We just kept things as simple as possible, it was mostly sandwiches unfortunately, nothing fancy. And on the long days the cast would chip in themselves. This project was our film school and we realised the importance of feeding the cast and crew regularly to keep the energy and morale going and everybody happy. Everybody realised the mountain we were trying to climb and were happy to contribute where they could so we were pretty lucky in that area.

Q) The action part of action adventure gives many film makers nightmares because of the stunts that are required to make it look realistic. Every guy from the age of five to sixty five thinks that they can do it better than Jackie Chan, but reality usually comes crashing in after the first strained wrist. How much training went into getting the cast ready to do stunt work and did everyone do their own stunts?

A) Yes, they did, and there were a few bumps and grazes but not in the scenes you’d expect! It was just being a large group out in the countryside with rough surfaces etc that did it. We were very lucky to have a healthy cast with a level headed approach. I had to be pulled back sometimes but I managed to achieve the wall slam after a bit of reworking the wires. Simon is a dancer so he has a lot of strength and stamina and a great ability to remember choreography which made him incredible for action sequences. Adam has a professional wrestling background too so he knew how to fake a punch and be safe at the same time. He and Donald also had on-screen combat training as I mentioned which was a very useful thing to have, everyone else was able to follow their leads and with the use of a bit of camera trickery, we were able to pull off the fight scenes. I think. The rest of the cast focused on shooting the crap out of things and throwing out one liners.

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 Q) Clearly there are a lot of visual effects in this film. Who did the effects and what type of software was used?

A) Numerous people were involved in the visual effects, again it was no budget so only those who were interested in showing off their skills contributed and t was mostly done in Adobe After Effects. Even I edited quite a few of the scenes as did the Producer and the DOP. Daniel Buckle was the magic man who did the CG fountain in Maya/3D Max and that was because it was part of his final major project at university. We were very lucky that we had a good group of visual effects people wanting to flex their creative muscles. Some of them work on hollywood blockbusters, but given that they usually work as part of a massive team they may have only been responsible for smaller effects such as dust, whereas in SF they were responsible for all of the effects in a shot so they could fully own their work. We had to wait for Jupiter's Ascending to finish to get Sophie's Fortune done!

Q) Having grown up during the eighties I loved this film at first sight.  Clearly I see a little Raiders of the Lost Ark in this movie. What other movies were you influenced by?

A) Thanks Rodney, that's really cool of you to say. The list of inspiration is as long as my arm, some of them conscious and others subconsciously. I grew up on films like that too so I share the love. There are some old and some new. It was meant to be a grown up Goonies meets Indiana Jones but there are elements of Jumanji; The Mummy; Romancing in the Stone; Predator; Commando; and the more recent stuff being Uncharted and a list of anime, believe it or not. Everything I’ve ever made has influences from Cowboy Bebop, sometimes without me even realising it.

Q) I miss the days of films that featured good old fashion guy on guy violence with the clever one liner thrown in at the perfect moment. Forgetting the Expendables, do you think that we will ever return to movies like that minus robots and aliens and guys wearing capes?

A) Oh yeah, I think film trends are like swings and roundabouts, when we get fed up of the serious stuff there’ll be a need for these type of movies again and then after that we'll want the serious stuff. Dark Knight was so successful because it took comic books to a darker place and so there were copycats and the answer to that was Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy who had fun with the material. The action adventure genre will be back when it's needed but the type of hero is likely to adapt just like what they did with Sherlock Holmes. The modern adaptation of Indiana Jones, in my opinion, is Nathan Drake (Uncharted) I’d be happier to see a trilogy from that than another Indiana Jones film. It was a perfect trilogy, goddamnitt.

Q) Was there ever a moment during film or watching it later where you thought that this could have been expanded to feature length?

A) I think instead of making a feature version of Sophie Fortune I’d rather make something with the same tone, the story for SF was never the main focus, it was just a MacGuffin that allowed us to go to the jungle in the UK. I think if it was a feature film the audiences would be annoyed that it was all in their imagination, we would have to adapt it to be more in the real world to pull it off effectively. I think it would have to be a different story set in the UK without guns, maybe a crazy old Grandad leaves heritage to a grandson who goes on an adventure to find it - something like that would be more fun and realistic for a feature adaptation. The producer of SF is definitely considering a feature adaption as he’s a big fan of the genre too. He's keep a close eye on Tomorrowland to see how they do it.

Q) I am asking this question as John Williams begins work on the score to the new Star Wars film. I wish more films had orchestral film scores, who did the music for the movie?

A) We were very fortunate to have Carlos Rubio on this film who shared the same passion for this style of score, which you don’t hear much anymore. There’s a great story about Robert Zemeckis on Back to the Future where he told the composer that the film is simply a kid with family issues who travels to the same place over and over. He said the score needs to sound like Marty McFly is saving the world and holy crap it's probably one of the best themes to a film ever. I spoke to Carlos in a similar way with SF as really I just made an action adventure film, Carlos made it into an epic. He did an amazing job and it shows because he's already nabbed two awards for it.

Q) Is there a feature film in the future?

A) Yes there is actually, it’s a supernatural horror that is in the final stages of development with a studio. If my producer can get an adventure film off the ground with a great story then we’d happily do that! But for the rest of this year I’m sticking with shorts - the latest being 2AM which is a creepy thriller set in a diner, again something more likely to come from America than the UK.

Q) Who are the film makers that influenced you?

A) The only real inspiration on SF in terms of directors is Steven Spielberg - this really is his playground. I'd really like to shoot an action film with John Mctiernan also in mind in the future. All other inspirations are from other genres really like Ridley Scott, Rian Johnson, Park Chan-Wook and David Fincher. Do the best you can, try to live it down.

Q) Any advice for the beginning film maker?

A) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, experiment and enjoy doing it. You're not going to figure out what kind of filmmaker you are by playing it safe. Also, you won’t learn by somebody telling you what to do, you learn from your own experiences. As Mr Sunscreen said "Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. …But trust me on the sunscreen."

Thanks again Chris for doing this interview. If you would like to visit his website click here. I would like to end by showing the trailer for his upcoming short film 2 A.M.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Part 2, Found Footage 3D Interview

To learn how to support the Indiegogo campaign for the film Found Footage 3D  please click here.

If you would like to follow this campaign on Facebook click here.

No preamble today, this is the second part of the interview with Steven DeGennaro.

Q) Clearly Scream was an influence on the making of this film. The reason I have gone down this road with found footage films is that just when I am ready to throw in the towel and move onto a subject like fan films a movie comes along and gives me hope that there could be something special here. Movies like End of Watch which is not a found footage film, but mimics elements of one and shows me a possible future path for the genre. There are films like The Frankenstein Theory that was fun to watch up until the young doctor Frankenstein decides that it would be a good idea to go and try to talk a ten foot tall homicidal monster out of murdering the rest of his friends. (Spoiler alert, talking softly to someone nicknamed the Monster usual ends badly.) Recently I saw a great film titled Out of Control from the UK. It was shot in the found footage format, but it was a domestic drama instead of a horror film. There is always something like Cannibal Holocaust or Rec 2 to show how good it can get when done well. What found footage films have influenced you?

A) There’s nothing quite like the granddady of them all, The Blair Witch Project.  One of the most effective horror movies of all time, and a completely new experience.  There are people who claim now that it’s only really remembered because it was the first, but I re-watch it once a year or so and it’s just a really, really well-told story and so effective.

For my money, the greatest found footage film of all time is Gareth Evans’ segment from V/H/S/2, “Safe Haven”.  That is as nearly perfect as a short horror film can possibly be.  I love The Sacrament, which has a very similar feel in a lot of places.  I’ve never really understood all the hate that Ti West’s segment in the original V/H/S gets.  That short, to me, really nails what I love about found footage, which is how completely real it feels.  So when you realize that really awful things are about to befall a very real couple, it’s a thousand times more terrifying to me than every ghost story that Hollywood has ever put out combined.

There’s a really obscure film called Skew that also does the same thing very effectively.  This movie was actually made before Paranormal Activity, but didn’t get picked up until much later, which is a shame, because it’s so good.

I totally agree with you about The Frankenstein Theory, which was really well done up until the last ten minutes or so.

Overall, I like movies that really commit to the premise.  I enjoyed Cloverfield and Chronicle and [Rec] and movies like that, but they don’t have the same sort of visceral punch as a movie that really works hard to convince you that it’s real; not necessarily on an intellectual level, but on a visceral one.

Q) In your videos for your film you talk about practical effects. I have always thought that if it is real on the set then it looks real to the audience. I believe that is laziness more than money that makes beginning film makers use cheap CGI for blood, bullet wounds and even scars. I don’t mind CGI for background, it was done well in Gladiator to reproduce ancient Rome and it is done well in the tv series Gotham for making elements of a city that does not exist. How important were practical effects to the making of your film?

A) There’s nothing at all lazy about making any movie, I can assure you, especially a low-budget one.  It’s a grueling process that often takes years to bring to fruition and requires dozens if not hundreds of people working together seamlessly as a unit to pull off.  So I certainly understand where filmmakers are coming from when they decide to use CG instead of practicals a lot of the time.  It’s not about laziness.  It’s definitely about budget, and about control over the final product.

Actually shooting the film is the most costly part of the process.  Every hour you spend on set you are paying dozens of people, most of whom are sitting around waiting at any given time.  So a practical effect that takes time to set up or reset between takes can get very costly very quickly, completely independent of how much the effect itself costs. When you compare that to one or two guys pushing pixels in a studio four months later, you can often get much more bang for your buck with digital.

But as will all things in filmmaking, it requires talent, planning, a lot of work, and a little luck to make any effect work.  Ultimately, CGI is a tool, and like any tool, it has its uses.  I wouldn’t use a hammer to cut a piece of paper, and I wouldn’t use a wrench to drill a hole in something.  It’s all about figuring out which tool works for which problem, within the confines of what you can afford.

So yes... it was very important to me to do as many of the effects practically as we were able to do.  But I didn’t let that stop me from deciding to use CGI where appropriate, either by itself or to enhance the practical effects.  Gore effects rarely look good when they are all CGI, unless you are wiling to spend a lot of money.  But practical effects sometimes don’t work right, and you end up having to fix it later because the sun is coming up and you have to get your shot, one way or another.  That’s a big part of the reason we are doing this Indiegogo campaign: to fix one practical effect that looked awesome when we tested it, but—through no fault of anyone in particular—just didn’t work on the day.  So my choices were either: a) live with the really bad practical effect, b) do a really cheap CGI effect that would look just as bad, or c) spend the time and money to do the CGI right.  I want (c).

Q) You are in the Post stage of your production. This is the most overlooked part of the film making process. Only when the final shoot has been recorded do many first time film makers realize that the hardest part is actually ahead of them. This being your first 3D film were you prepared for the challenges that you are now facing?

A)We did a proof-of-concept in 2013 to test out a lot of the really difficult stuff, especially with regards to the 3D aspect.  So we really worked out a lot of the kinks by going through that process.  We made a ton of mistakes and we learned from them, so we went into the feature with our eyes open.

That said, we still have a long way to go before we’re done.  But I’ve found in making my movies that my complaints in post-production are rarely technical, but usually artistic.  I find myself wishing I had directed an actor differently, or shot something from a different angle, or gotten more coverage of a scene.  Some of those things can be fixed with reshoots and ADR and visual effects, but some of them you have to live with.

I’m getting to the point now in editing the film, especially with the ability to take a few weeks away from it while I concentrated on the Indiegogo campaign, where I’m starting to forget the movie that I intended to shoot and starting to see the movie that I actually shot.  So instead of being about, “Oh, I wish I had done this thing better,” it’s more about “How do I make the best film possible with the materials I have at hand?”

I’m usually my own harshest critic.  But overall, I’m very happy with how the movie is shaping up.  When we’ve shown it to people, they’ve largely laughed in the right places and gasped in the right places, they like the characters, and they come out of it satisfied.  So I think we’re on the right track.

Q) Film makers do what has been done before because it is easy to market. You open a pizza shop and sell the same kinds of pizza as all the others because you do not have to educate a public about a new thing. Found footage shot as 3D is a new thing. You are basically going to be the first person to market stuffed crust pizza. How long did you prep for the marketing challenges?

A) Ugh... this has been the greatest blessing and the greatest curse at the same time.  So many people see the title and they assume that we are making a gimmick, not a movie.  They expect Sharknado, which is a funny concept that’s basically unwatchable as an actual film.  So we have a real uphill battle trying to educate people about what we are trying to do.

We started our marketing efforts very early, and I’m really glad we did.  Aside from amassing more than 25,000 fans before people had even seen a single frame of the finished film, we’ve also been able to really hone our message and figure out how to sell the film to audiences.

I decided to make this movie because I love found footage, and I hate the way that it has become a bit of a joke because there are so many people who are so bad at it who keep flooding the market with crap.  I really feel like it’s exactly the right time for a movie like ours, and that it will appeal to people who love found footage, as well as those who think it’s overdone.  If I can get that message out, I think we’ll do fine.

Ultimately, the movie will speak for itself. If it’s good, people will tell their friends and more people will see it.  Hopefully, it will be good when we are done.

Q) Any advice for future film makers? Particularly those who are going to attempt to jump the found footage hurtle?

A) Don’t.  Found footage is a really tough sell these days precisely because so many people are trying to do it, and so many of them are failing at it.  So unless you have a truly killer idea for something new and original, it’s probably a genre that, at least for the next few years, it’s better to stay away from.  I realize that may sound a little hypocritical coming from a guy who is making a found footage movie, but it’s the truth.

Ultimately any movie is about telling a good story.  And if you are a good storyteller, you will find people who are willing to go along with you on a journey, whether they be actors, investors, crew, producers, etc...  So the best advice I can give—if I’m even qualified for such a thing—is to hone your craft.  Work on as many movie sets as you possibly can and watch and learn from people who really know what they are doing (as well as from the people who clearly don’t know what they are doing).  Go out and make short films.  Get good at it, first.  Then try to make a feature.

Found footage is so tantalizing to first-time filmmakers because it looks easy.  It’s not.  Found footage is not some shortcut where you get to bypass all the essential things you need to know to make a decent film—acting, writing, pacing, camerawork, editing, sound, etc.  There’s a reason why you have to prove that you are good at those things before anyone will give you money to make a real feature.  So get good at those things.  If you think you are capable of making a good feature film, and you have a story that you think is worth telling, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s found footage or not.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s going to cost ten thousand, a hundred thousand, a million, or ten million.  If you’ve proven that you are capable of pulling it off, then people will help you achieve that goal. If you haven’t proven yourself capable of those things, then you have no business wasting everyone’s time and money.

I just happened to want to tell this story, and it happened to be found footage.  If I’d had a more traditional story to tell, I would have worked just as passionately to make that happen, and probably a lot of the same people would have come along for the ride with me.

Ultimately, there is no substitute for hard work, talent, and experience.  If you don’t have those three things, wait until you do.  Because you rarely get a second chance in this business.  Make it count.

Thank you again Steven and good luck with the campaign and the film.

     Okay guys that is it for today please take a moment to like this post on Stumbleupon and to share it with a friend. In closing I would like to add Steven's award winning comedy short film First Date.

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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.
click here

 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 UPDATED 4/28

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.


at amazon


I am updating this post with new trailers from the upcoming film.  So here is the new trailers and I believe they give us a clearer picture of what the film is going to be about.


  Thank you for visiting and please take a moment to add me to your google plus and to share this post with a friend. 

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Gotham City Sirens, Update

The campaign has reaches it goal of 900 dollars, but you can still donate..

Keep in mind that crowd funding campaigns are tricky. You should always aim for more than your goal. Even if you reach it with a day or two left you want to continue to push through to the end. There have been campaigns at kickstarter that hit their goal and then ended up falling short because someone backed out after the fact.

Visit kickstarter and indiegogo. Check out campaigns and if you see one that you really like then get involved.

That will be it for today. Good luck and have a nice day.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gotham City Sirens, The Interview


    Years ago when the words fan film were mentioned you knew that you were in for an second rate film populated by fans of star wars wearing Halloween costumes and fighting with toy lightsabers. We have come a long way since those days. Now fan films are filmed as well as the original material and sometimes much better written. Many great digital film makers have gotten their start shooting short fan films. The truth about film making is that most film makers on one level or another when they are starting out are writing and shooting versions of the material that they grew up watching. Spielberg was making his versions of the movies that he watched as a kid. Tarantino is doing his versions of those gangster and exploitation films from the 1970's that he loves so much. Every film maker begins somewhere and with this post I begin a series of post on the Fan Film.

This is my interview with Terell Culbert, the film maker behind  The Catwoman and the upcoming Gotham City Sirens. Before I begin I would like to thank him for agreeing to do this interview and to remind you guys there is time left to check out his campaign and help out.  You can do so by clicking here.

Q) Because there has been so many versions of each and every hero and villain that populate the Dark Knight universe it has given both writers and film makers more freedom to create their own versions of these classic characters. What lead you to do select this subject material?

A) The diversity. I love the fact that this motley crew tells their own story almost immediately. Selina is a villain with the possibility of one day becoming a hero. Ivy is a boss in my book! She’s got that perfect blend of insanity and leadership abilities. Harley is a mash-up between the Joker and Billy the kid.

Q) The fan short film The Catwoman is a slightly different take on the character than we have seen before. When writing an origin story did you feel any pressure to cling to what had been done before or did you feel free to tell the story in your own unique way?

A) I didn’t really feel pressured. Catwoman has always been this flirtatious vixen with a vague amount of depth. So I wanted to give people a unique origin story that explains why Selina is a villain with the potential for good.

Q) What was the shooting schedule like on The Catwoman? Also I must ask what type of camera did you use while filming it? Where you pleased with the results and will you be using it again on the new project?

A) Our shooting schedule for the Catwoman was pretty rough. The actors were involved in other projects already. So while we used four days to shoot the actual film. We wrapped in about three weeks. The camera I used was a Canon EOS Rebel T3i it’s a Digital SLR camera. I will absolutely be using it for this project and many others. It’s so easy to transport and use.

Q) How important is it to find the right actresses for Gotham City Sirens?

A) It was very important! While casting I found a lot of Actresses who had one or the other, the look, but not the personality or the personality, but not the look. When you do a fan film it has to come off authentic, in a way. My budget is ridiculously small so I can’t depend on great stunts or CGI. My performers have to make you believe that there is a corrupt city named Gotham that inhabits these awesome characters.

Q) I have told anyone who wants to work on a micro budget digital film that they should first watch that old Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. The one where Charlie Brown and Snoopy make popcorn, buttered toast and jellybeans for Thanksgiving dinner and then they should take away the popcorn, jellybeans and butter from the toast so that they will begin understanding how little they should expect to be compensated while working on a film shoot. On any given day how many people are working behind the scenes on your film shoot?

A) (Laughs) Great example. Normally it’s just me, sometimes I am lucky to get a second or third person to help me.

Q) With the help of your crowdfunding campaign you are going to be producing Gotham City Sirens. What is the length that you are aiming for with this project?

A) 40 minutes.

Q) You are going to be taking on some pretty (in more ways that one) iconic characters from the Dark Knight universe in the forms of Harley Quinn, Catwoman and Poison Ivy. Is this a case of going big or go home, or did the story you have in mind when you began demand that all of them be included?

A) This film really did demand that I include other female characters who could stand with or against Selina. I feel like It’s a great installment to Catwoman’s universe.

Q) Some fan film makers only want to make fan films. I understand that you would like to branch out from this area of film making. In an idea world what kind of films are you making in the future?

A) Drama/ horror. I really like both those genres.

Q) Any final thoughts on making fans films in general.

A) There are a lot of awesome fan films out there with amazing special effects and cool movie props. However, this should never be the catalyst for making a film in my opinion. Each fan film that I have done is due to a long experience of reading watching and caring for these fictional characters.

    Thank you again for taking the time to do this interview. We all look forward to seeing the finished film.  http://www.bamimagery.com/

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Okay guys that is it for today. As always please take a moment to hit the like button on stumbleupon and to share this post on facebook.  Social media has to become a habit. This is the most important tool to the indie film maker. It is important for a kickstarter or indiegogo campaign to become a success and it is important for blogs like this to grow. By helping to grow an audience for others we grow an audience for ourselves and our future projects.

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