Archive for the 'general' Category

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Fissure is now available on Amazon Prime

We’re excited to announce that Fissure can now be watched on Amazon Prime.

Here are some of the reviews from viewers:

“Well done! Actually left me thinking at first it was another haunting so I was pleasantly surprised with something different. Would make a pretty neat series.”

“A Lot of Twists and Turns, Held my Attention.”

“One of those, not sure what’s going on but you have to keep watching movies and then you go OOHHH now I understand, kinda!! Probably need to watch it twice.”

“Interesting concept. Enjoyed it.”

“Worth watching.”

“Pretty good movie but you really need to pay attention. Made no sense through most of the movie but you could tell something wasn’t right.”

“This is a very convoluted sci-fi movie with a much different twist on it than I have ever seen before, and it is so well done; especially the CGI, that it is spellbinding for a low-budget Indie production and proves how imagination can blend into a story-line to keep the audi9ence deeply involved right tup to and including the rolling of the credits! Good Job!”

“Engaging twisted plot.”

“Excellent movie that keeps you thinking. It took a very long time to reveal what was “wrong” but that made it worth watching. If this could only be real, it would give you a a chance to be forgiven and be to forgive, start life over if you should ever mess up. Awesome movie.”

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Paranormal Activity – Learning how to budget your indie film

The new, micro budget horror film, Paranormal Activity continues to rake in the cash, with this weekend pushing it above $60 million at the box office. That’s a Hollywood success story.  The budget to make the film was a whopping $11,000.  Not $111 million.  Not even $11 million.  It was $11,000 — $11K — $11 grand.

Paranormal Activity was purchased by Paramount for $300,000. That’s an amazing RoI (Return on Investment) for the filmmakers. The studio went on to spend $10 million on P&A (Prints and Advertising). If they pull in $100 million at the box office, this will become the most successful Paramount film in modern history.

Sure, it’s an anomaly as far as micro-budget movie successes go, but they did something right.  This success reiterates something I spend a lot of time communicating to first-time filmmakers: you don’t need lots and lots of money to make a successful movie.  You need a good story that’s well told. Production values are important, but thanks to the YouTube generation, we can run around with our camcorder and make a successful movie.

In my new eBook, From Dream to Distribution: A Filmmaker’s Journey, I talked specifically about budgets:

When I meet with first-time filmmakers, most of them dream big. And, I love big dreamers. I really do.  But, there’s a difference between “big dreams” and “unrealistic dreams”. These zealous filmmakers come to me ready to chase $4 or $5 million for their first film. Let me just say, bad idea, especially for first-time filmmakers.

First of all, it’s very hard for a non-established, unproduced filmmaker to successfully pitch their freshman project to a wise investor. Why would an investor take such a risk with millions of dollars?  Of all the indie producers I’ve met, I don’t know of a single one who secured that much money for their first film. It just doesn’t happen.

Secondly, the chances of a first film at that budget level being profitable is less than 1%. Again, what investor would want to take that kind of risk?  It would be nearly impossible to recoup any profits from that level of production.

How much should you try to raise for your first film?  The answer is simple—as little as you absolutely need.

When I worked in corporate America selling consumer electronics, our objective was simple: produce a good product as cheap as possible, so that we could sell it, make a profit and build some more products.  Making movies should be no different:

  • Make a good product.
  • Keep your costs low.
  • Sell it and make a profit, so you can do it again!

Grab your camcorder and go make a successful Hollywood blockbuster!

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Fissure.TV Webisodes start June 15th

We are making incredible progress in getting the webisodes ready to launch for our June 15th start date. Very exciting!

In the mean time, check out some of our “Behind-the-Scenes” clips from the movie:

We’re also getting some wonderful press about our launch:

We will have special, free screenings around the US starting in Portland, Oregon on Monday, June 15th. Check out our Facebook event for more details on the Portland screening.

For a list of other screenings, check out our Fissure TV Screening Page.

Our DVD launch is set for Tuesday, August 11th. We’ll have more details as the launch date approaches.

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Fissure co-star, Crystal Mantecon, wraps “Tree of Life” with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn

Fissure co-star, Crystal Mantecon, recently finished up work on a new film by Terrence Malick called “Tree of Life“. Crystal plays opposite of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

I had a chance to travel down to Smithville where they were filming. Our first AD on Fissure, Bobby Bastarache, was Terrence’s first AD on “Tree of Life”. So, Bobby spent the evening driving me around Smithville. It was great seeing how they transformed this town to a 1950’s town. Very exciting!

Crystal plays Rachel Claris in the upcoming psychological thriller, Fissure.

russ_crystal.jpg
Director Russ Pond with co-star Crystal Mantecon
on the set of Fissure

Recent press regarding Crystal Mantecon:

ENVY Magazine: “… Actress Crystal Mantecón is a bona fide class act. The next-big-thing starlet just wrapped filming on Terrence Malick’s upcoming film TREE OF LIFE, which also stars Hollywood powerhouses Brad Pitt and Sean Penn…” — Madeline Hollern, Editor

Blog de Cine about Tree of Life: “La película… está protagonizada por Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw y, atención al nombre, Crystal Mantecon [The film… stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw, and pay attention to this name, Crystal Mantecón.)” — Juan Luis Caviaro

rachel.jpg
Crystal Manteconas Rachel Claris
Monday, December 8th, 2008

Trailer Addict

The new, revised Fissure trailer is now online at Trailer Addict.  And, it allows you to embed the trailer in your own website or blog.  If you do post it somewhere, please let me know.

Monday, March 31st, 2008

AFI Daily News features Fissure

Russ Pond’s FISSURE Keeps Audiences Guessing
by Jennah Durant

Engineering and business marketing are not typically a director’s forte–unless you’re Russ Pond, who pulled triple duty as the director/producer/editor of Fissure, his first full-length film and an entry in this year’s Texas Competition. The corporate escapee talks about his feature-length foray, hoodwinking an audience and what it’s like to film in Dallas.

What drew you to the script?

By page 10 of reading the script I thought, “This is pretty interesting.” Then by page 20, I thought, “What is going on here?!” I realized if I could translate that feeling onto the screen that would make a great little movie.

The script has a lot of adult material–the pill popping, depression, violence–but it’s ultimately uplifting. Was that a priority for you?

I really go for redeeming stories. The script was a lot darker when we first got it, but we worked really hard with Nick [Turner, the film’s screenwriter]. He was great to work with, very open to the changes. His main concern was making sure I didn’t break the science.

Since the story is told through the main character’s point of view, the audience is just as confused as he is through much of the film. How have audiences reacted to that?

At screenings, we heard the audience whispering things like, “What’s going on?” That was
a plus to filming the story that way, but it also takes awhile to get things rolling because we had to set up so much for the plot.

The story starts off with a typical “haunted cop” scenario—James McDonald (lead actor) even looks like Michael Chiklis. Were you going for a Shield-type feeling?

We purposely built up a lot of those stereotypes–the substance abuse, the troubled past. We kind of lead the audience to believe that all the weirdness going on is because of what he’s going through, but then bam, we twist things really unexpectedly. But we also put in tons of clues throughout the movie that give you an idea of what’s really going on.

So much of the movie depends on playing with sequence. Did that present filming challenges?

Continuity was a big challenge, but we had a great crew, which made it go smoothly. We would shoot out each room, so all the living room scenes were shot at once, all the bedroom scenes. That kept the time of day consistent. I also had to trust the audience to let go and be open to the story.

A lot of those challenges stem from the sci-fi elements of the film. Was that subject matter intimidating?

I spent 20 years as an engineer, so the science and the physics aspects of the script really intrigued me. I’ve told my wife that if we cancel our cable subscription, I would still need the Discovery Channel and the Sci-Fi Channel to survive. Because I’m such a sci-fi fan, I saw that part of the movie as a way to challenge other fans of the genre.

How does that science and corporate background affect your filmmaking?

From my career I learned a lot about scheduling, budgeting, and other business aspects that other filmmakers don’t really know about. So producing a film was relatively easy for me, but the artistic directing side was more challenging.

Besides producer and director, you also had editing duties for the movie. Was that difficult to balance?

As a producer I had to make decisions about cutting this scene, saying no to this or that, so I kind of had to be the bad cop. But as the director you need to make everyone happy, so it would have been easier to have a separate person be the bad cop producer.

I originally intended just to put together a rough cut and have someone else edit. But then I started doing the first scene, and I saw the film just come alive. I got so excited watching and engaging in that process that I just couldn’t stop. I would sometimes spend 14 or 15 hours a day editing.

What was it like to film in Dallas?

The crew was great, the locations were great. The crew worked so well together–there was no yelling on the set. We wanted to keep it local because there’s so much great talent here. It also really helped keep the budget down–we didn’t have to fly people in or go all over the place to get shots.

Any plans for another feature?

Well, I have three things I want to accomplish when I make a movie: One–make movies that make a difference. Two–make a profit for my investors. And three–I want to do it again.

Fissure accomplished all those, and we have lots of investor interest in more projects. It’s really just a matter of getting a business plan together, but with three film festivals coming up it’s been hard to find time. But if things go well, I should start working on another feature this summer.

Fissure screens at 5 pm March 28 @ Angelika 7, and again at 7:30 p.m. April 3 @ Magnolia 5.

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

The State of the State: Filmmaking in Texas

For you filmmakers in Texas, I’ll be speaking on a panel Monday at 5:30 about filmmaking in Texas. I’ll be joined by Garry Brown, Producer of Prison Break and the Director of the Texas Film Commission. It’s open to industry professionals, so I hope you can make it.

Making it in Texas: What are the benefits? Is there an effective local network of filmmakers and industry to support independent film production today and into the future? How has the new Texas incentive grant program impacted production in Texas?

Moderator: Chris Kelly, Critic Star-Telegram Panelists: Bob Hudgens, Director of the Texas Film Commission; Garry Brown, Producer; and Russ Pond, Director/Producer “Fissure”

The discussions are held on the beautiful 16th floor Wet Deck at the W Dallas Victory Hotel on Monday, March 31st at 5:30 p.m. They are free and open to industry professionals and AFI DALLAS pass holders.

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Fissure in Dallas Morning News as AFI gets rolling

Last night was the opening festivities for AFI Dallas. We had a lot of fun. My wife and I attended the opening screening of Helen Hunt’s film along with James Macdonald (aka Grunning) and Jim Blumetti (aka Roger Ulster) and his wife, Pam. After the screening, we attended a black tie party at Neiman Marcus. It was great fun!

Below is the article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News this morning. Fissure is mentioned at the end of the article. We’re looking forward to a packed house tonight!

——–

Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Mickey Rooney light up AFI opening night
Friday, March 28, 2008
By STEPHEN BECKER / The Dallas Morning News

The sounds of familiar cinematic scores wafted through the air. Cameras zoomed and clicked along the jampacked red carpet. Onlookers shouted out the stars’ names as they passed.

All the telltale signs that this was a Big Movie Night were present. And it was.

Thursday night’s festivities at the Majestic Theatre downtown marked the opening of the second annual AFI Dallas International Film Festival. The star of the show was Helen Hunt, the first-time director whose Then She Found Me screened as the festival’s opening-night film.

“It’s a total thrill. I would not have been surprised if I finished the movie and it was never released and I would have gotten to have it in my hands and say, ‘At least I made this,’ ” she said, sporting a silver floor-length dress cut down to there in the back. “So the fact that it’s going to be released in such a big way, the fact that I’m opening a festival of this cultural weight is incredible. Dreams come true.”

Other luminaries walking the red carpet included the night’s other major honoree, fellow Star Award recipient Mickey Rooney, as well as Fort Worth native (and Ms. Hunt’s Twister co-star) Bill Paxton and Josh Brolin, accompanied by his teen daughter, Eden.

The latter pair is here showing the short film X, which Mr. Brolin directed and his daughter stars in. Both father and daughter said working together wasn’t much different than living together.

“It was what you would think it is. We’re very close and we don’t have a lot of that angst going on between us, so it seemed like a fun thing to do,” Mr. Brolin said.

“It was actually really fun,” said Ms. Brolin. “He was very calm about it and he was really open to new things and new ideas, so it was actually really easy working with him and it was fun.”

Once inside, the attendees were treated to a medley of movie music from the Dallas Symphony Chorus, followed by speeches from festival dignitaries and the night’s Star Award recipients. Then, finally, the reason the festival exists: the film.

And, of course, the after party a few blocks away at Neiman Marcus. Film festivals can’t exist without parties, too. Today at AFI:

• The Visitor –Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) directs Richard Jenkins as an economics professor whose life changes when he befriends an immigrant couple in New York. Fine writing and acting. 7:15 p.m., Angelika

• Gonzo – A lively documentary on Hunter S. Thompson, directed by Oscar winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side). 7:30 p.m., Magnolia

• Fissure – Local filmmaker Russ Pond directed, produced and edited this detective story. 5 p.m., Angelika

——-
Click below to watch the AFI Dallas Opening Night ceremonies.


AFI DALLAS International Film Festival 2008 Opening Night Highlights from AFI DALLAS on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Getting ready for AFI Dallas Film Festival

It’s Thursday morning, and I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop getting ready for the AFI Dallas Film Festival. We have a slew of events planned. It’s a bit overwhelming, but terribly exciting!

Tonight, the festival kicks off with a screening of Helen Hunt’s new movie, Then She Found Me. After the movie, there will be a black tie reception that we’ll be attending as well.

Then, on Friday, we have our World Premiere of Fissure. Very exciting!  Our first screening of Fissure this Friday is already sold out. I’m not sure how we have received so much exposure, but it’ll be fun playing before a pack house for our World Premiere.

We’ll have a smattering of parties and receptions and movies to watch. On Monday, I’ll be part of a panel speaking on filmmaking in Texas. I was asked to join some folks from Prison Break and Missionary Man to speak on shooting in Texas. I’m looking forward to that. I may blog more details later on this event, in case anyone is interested.

We’re still giving away tickets to the Thursday, April 3rd screening of Fissure. To register to win, go to the home page of Fissure, and send an eCard to someone. Every eCard you send is an entry to win tickets.

Friday, March 21st, 2008

AFI starts next week. Get your tickets soon!

The AFI Film Festival starts next week. Fissure will be screening in Dallas on two nights during the festival:

• Friday, March 28th at 5:00 pm at the Angelika Theater

• Thursday, April 3rd at 7:30 pm at the Magnolia Theater.

Click here to order your tickets online.

For those of you planning to attend the opening screening on Friday, March 28th, we’ll be having a small get together at the Angelika Cafe immediately following the screening from 7 to 8pm. James Macdonald, our lead actor in Fissure, will be joining us at the private event. If you would like to attend the post-screening get together, please let us know so that we can add your name to the invitation list.

We hope to see you there. And if you are planning to attend, be sure to vote for Fissure as your “Audience Favorite”.

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Dallas Morning News Article

As we draw closer to AFI Dallas, we’re starting to get more press. Fissure was mentioned in a Dallas Morning News Article this week:

Dallas Morning News
By ALAN PEPPARD / The Dallas Morning News

March 17, 2008 – Segway inventor Dean Kamen needs to send a fleet of his gyroscopically stabilized transporters to Dallas advertising executive Liener Temerlin and make him the company’s new spokesman. Liener is the founder of the AFI Dallas International Film Festival. Last week, AFI Dallas had a party at the Current Energy store on Knox Street.

In 10 days, Liener will be 80 years old. But after a short lesson from Current Energy co-founder Joseph Harberg, Liener was up and riding one of the store’s Segways and proclaiming that he wanted to buy a couple.

Among those on hand for the gathering were Dallas Film Commission director Janis Burklund; director Russ Pond, who will show his film Fissure at AFI Dallas; AFI Dallas board members Stephanie and Hunter Hunt; and literary agent David Hale Smith.

Click here to read the full article.

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Fissure makes the cover of Downtown Business News

Downtown Business News CoverFissure is being featured on this week’s cover of the Dallas’ Downtown Business News. They are promoting the upcoming AFI Dallas Film Festival.

Inside the magazine, they quote me saying:

    Director Russ Pond, whose thriller FISSURE will make its world premiere at the festival says it’s the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, “My dream of making movies was birthed here in Dallas years ago, and to see that dream fulfilled at AFI Dallas is both exciting and humbling. Having lived in Texas all my life, I have a heart for Texas films.”

It is an honor that our movie has been included on the front cover photo with great actors like Robert Deniro, Helen Hunt and Josh Brolin.

Soon, they’ll be excited to be grouped with us!

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Fissure accepted into AFI Dallas and FirstGlance Hollywood Film Festivals

We are very excited to announce that Fissure has been officially accepted into two, upcoming film festivals: AFI Dallas and FirstGlance Hollywood.

AFI Dallas LogoAFI Dallas

We will be having our World Premiere at AFI Dallas this year! It is an honor to be kicking off the Texas Competition with a screening on opening weekend, Friday, March 28th at the Angelika Theater at 5:00pm. We will also have an additional screening of Fissure on Thursday, April 3rd at the Magnolia Theater at 7:30pm. Tickets go on sale this weekend. You may purchase them from the AFI Dallas website.

For those of you in the Dallas area, we will be giving away two tickets to the opening night screening of Fissure. Our lead actor, James Macdonald, along other cast and crew members will be joining us as well for the screening.

Here’s how you can win tickets:

Register for the movie eNewsletter by clicking on this link. Under “How did you hear about Fissure?”, be sure to select AFI Dallas.

We will be notifying the winners prior to the start of the festival. We look forward to having you join us at the AFI Dallas film festival this year.

FirstGlance LogoFirstGlance Hollywood

We are also very excited to announce that Fissure has been accepted into the FirstGlance Hollywood Film Festival. Fissure is one of only three feature films that will be screening at the festival. Fissure will be the opening night feature film at the festival.

We are very honored that we are part of this influential film festival.

For those of you in the Hollywood area, Fissure will be screening on Friday, April 11th at the Raleigh Studios Chaplin Theater at 5300 Melrose in the heart of Hollywood. You can get ticket information from the FirstGlance website.
FirstGlance Hollywood was named “one of the top 10 film festival investments” by MovieMaker magazine. And, Time magazine names FirstGlance Hollywood “one of the top ten festivals for the rest of us.”

We hope you can join us in Hollywood!

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Fissure Movie Review

We received another movie review this week from Matt Mungle of Mungles on Movies.

Matt writes:

    Webster’s defines “fissure” as: The process of splitting or separating; division.

    Fissure is a perfect title for this film for two reasons. One, it defines the plot of the movie and two, the final product is in itself a splitting or separation from what you would normally expect from an Indie film. Director Russ Pond creates an engrossing thriller that though not perfect is an intriguing ride that keeps you guessing until the end.

    Written by Nicholas Turner, the story is a mind bending journey where time and dimension are living characters. Paul Grunning (James MacDonald), a police detective recovering from a personal tragedy, is called out to investigate what should be a simple disturbance call. What he finds is a dead body lying within a chaotic reality. As he begins to investigate he finds that nothing is as it seems. At least for any length of time.

    This element of bent reality helped me enjoy the story as I went through the same confusions along with the character. I knew something was odd, but like Paul, I wasn’t sure what was actually going on. It could have been in his own head, or maybe there was some twisty dimensional thing occurring. I liked the way you were eased into the chaos and at first you think the characters are simply being eccentric, then you discover why.

    I thought the film looked fantastic. It was rich with depth and style. Most Indie films I view are a little grainy due to artistic desire or just plain lack of knowledge, but this one had that professional look that I think raises it above most. The story takes place primarily in one house so it had to be sort of a character in itself. The red’s inside the house popped and added a nice contrast to rest of the film. It is a mental film and so the blast of color seemed even more prominent.

    Fissure is a superb film for the Indie realm. It is always pleasing to see film makers not use “Indie” as a crutch to cut corners, but instead a springboard to leap outside the norm and do something clever. Fissure made that leap.

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Movie Studio Busyness

CBS LogoToday kicks off a very busy weekend for our project! We have a lot going on, but it’s going to be a blast! My wife and I are headed to CBS Studios in Burbank for a few different events:

First, we’re having a screening of the movie at CBS Studios today at 4pm. We’re expecting about 40 people. Some of the team will be joining us as well–James Macdonald, Crystal Mantecon and Nicholas Turner. Also, some other industry folks will be attending as well. What fun!

Biola STF LogoAfter the screening, I was invited to speak at the Biola Studio Task Force Dinner. Between 120 and 140 industry professionals and students will be attending the dinner. I will be speaking about my production experience.

Fox LogoThen, on Saturday, we’ll be having our final sound mix at Fox’s sound stage. It’ll be great finishing our last major task for the movie.

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Movie Projects and Offers

We’re about a week away from finishing out 2007, and what a year it has been!

Current Project

We kicked off the production on January 15th of 2007, and here we are at the end of the year with a finished film. What a great year and what a rewarding accomplishment! I’m looking forward to seeing what 2008 brings in the way of distribution and exposure.

Last week, we received our first official offer on the movie from a distribution company out of LA. It was a pretty decent offer, but we’re going to study all of our options before making any concrete decisions. We have another tentative offer on the table from a local distribution company as well. And, we’re expecting some more offers just after the holidays. It feels good to have gone from an idea to sellable product in just a year.

Romantic Comedy

We’re about to start development on a new romantic comedy. I’m very excited about this project. Yes, it’s a chick flick. And, you’re going to cry. This story has been on my heart for about 4 years now, and I’m excited at the opportunity of developing this story and capturing it on film.

My dream would be to produce it in a similar timeline as our last project, with hopes of having a finished movie by the end of 2008. With all of our learnings, we hope to create a much better, much more sellable product by securing more recognizable name talent and to shoot it on 35mm film. All very exciting!

The Imposter

Right now, I’m working with Dan Millican on producing his new film, The Imposter. It’s an exciting film, and we plan to start shooting on January 15th.

Armando’s Chase

I’m also working with Rand Chesshir out of Portland on a new film called Armando’s Chase. We hope to kick off the film in 2008, around the same time as my romantic comedy. I’m very excited at the opportunity of producing this film as well.

I want to thank everyone who worked with me on this project this year. I appreciate your devotion and hard work. I hope and pray that 2008 will be a great year for everyone, and that God will bless everything you put your hand to do.

Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Film Distribution

Now that the movie is finished (mostly), we’re ready to enter into the distribution phase of this project. (I say “mostly” because we have one final day of audio mixing left at Fox Studios in a couple of weeks. And, I have one Visual FX tweak left, but the movie is ready to start selling.)

For me, distribution is a lot like going on a hike into some unknown woods with nothing but a backpack and hunting knife. You’re not sure what you’re going to encounter. There are bears, wolves, snakes…animals of all kinds. There are ravines, mountains and valleys. It can be dangerous, and yet exhilarating and terribly exciting. And with 16 years of marketing and business development experience in corporate America, I’m ready for this new hike!

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Cast and Crew Screening in Dallas

Inwood TheaterWe are having a private screening at the Inwood Theater in Dallas on Thursday, November 15th. You can register online by using the following link:

The movie will start promptly at 8:00pm. A Q&A session will follow immediately after the film. We will also have a cast & crew get together at the Inwood Lounge after the Q&A session.

If you are planning to attend, go to the above link and register. The screening is free, but reservations are required. We may call to confirm your reservations prior to the screening.

Friday, November 9th, 2007

New Trailer, New Poster, New Headshots

Things are busy! And it’s good. As we put the final touches on the movie (music and sound), I was hoping things would slow down a bit. Quite the contrary–things are speeding up. But, it’s all good.

New Movie Trailer
We’ve finished our new movie trailer, and it’s amazing! It really captures the story and keeps you wanting more. If you get a chance, check it out.

New Movie Posters
Fissure poster frontFissure poster backWe’ve also finished work on our moive poster/one sheet. This is the 8.5″ x 11″ marketing one sheet that we use to market the film to distributors. More than likely, the distributor we sign will create their own one-sheet and movie trailer. But, we still need to market our film to them.

New Headshots
Russ HeadshotI don’t really like pictures of myself. It’s a lot like listening to your voice on a recording. “That’s not me!” Well, I feel the same way about pictures of myself. But, my publicist needed some headshots of the director, so my friend Kevin and I went out to Southlake Town Center and took some pictures.

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Haunting Melody – Movie score

My sound guys in LA have been working hard on the score and sound. I’ve really enjoyed laying down the various music tracks, sound tracks, and effects tracks. Watching it all come together has been a blast.Just recently, we nailed down the melody. I don’t know how else to explain it expect it’s our haunting melody. If you’d like to get a taste of that huanting melody, click on this arrow: Fissure Melody

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

2008 Film Festival Circuit

Now that Fissure is coming to a close, it’s time to hit the film festival circuit. Typcially, Sundance is the one key film festival to kick off the festival season. They have a requirement of only accepting “World Premiere” films. So, most people start with them.We have a very specific film festival strategy for Fissure. Here are the top tier festivals we will be targeting: 

 

Film Festival Deadline Event Date
Sundance (pass) Sep 28, 2007 Jan 17-27, 2008
Slamdance (pass) Oct 9, 2007 Jan 17-25, 2008
Palm Springs (pass) Oct 9, 2007 Jan 3-14, 2008
Berlin (pass) Nov 1, 2007 Feb 7-17, 2008
Santa Barbara (pass) Nov 16, 2007 Jan 24-Feb 3, 2008
SxSW (pass) Nov 16, 2007 Mar 7-15, 2008
Tribeca Jan 11, 2008 Apr 28-May 4, 2008
Victoria (pass) Oct 2007 Feb 1-8, 2008
LA Independent Nov 29, 2007 Jun 19-29, 2008
Dallas AFI (IN!) Dec 1, 2007 Mar 27-Apr 6, 2008
FirstGlance (IN!) Feb 1, 2007 Apr 10-13, 2008
Salem (IN!) Feb 29, 2008 Apr 18-20, 2008
Phoenix (pass) Dec 1, 2007 Apr 12-19, 2008
Vail (pass) Dec 1, 2007 Apr 3-6, 2008
Nashville Nov 30, 2007 Apr 17-24, 2008
Florida (pass) Nov 30, 2007 Mar 28-Apr 5, 2008
GenArt Nov 30, 2007 Apr 2-8, 2008
Ann Arbor (pass) Dec 1, 2007 Mar 25-30, 2008
Cannes   May 14-28, 2008
Hollywood   August 2008
Montreal   August 2008
Telluride   September 2008
Toronto September 2008
Venice   September 2008
Hamptons   October 2008
New York   October 2008
Radiance   October 2008
Tokyo   November 2008


We’re very excited about taking Fissure to some of the festivals. We’ll keep you posted!

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

On the Lot. Twice.

I’m writing this while sitting in the Burbank airport. Today was a very interesting day.

But, before we get to that, let me share what happened last month. Last month, my family and I took a road trip to LA. I had some meetings around our movie but had the opportunity to hook up with a high school buddy of mine, Rob Thomas. (No, not the lead singer from Matchbox Twenty.) Rob is the creator and producer of Veronica Mars. Recently, Veronica Mars was cancelled and Rob is moving on to new projects. His latest stint is consulting writer/producer for the new television series, Big Shots. Don’t know much about the show, but it’s supposedly the male version of Desperate Housewives.

Well, while my family and I were in LA, I decided to call Rob and see if he was interested in having coffee or lunch. He agreed, and so we decided to meet at his new offices on the Warner Brothers lots. I’ve never been on any of the production lots, but it was very cool. Part of our morning coffee was a golf cart tour–a Veronica Mars golf cart, I might add–of the Warner Brothers lot. I enjoyed the personal tour. Thanks Rob.

Yesterday, Dan Millican and I arrived in Burbank to meet with Kevin Max, formerly of dcTalk to discuss a new feature we’re starting work on. While in LA, Dan and I got to meet with a gentleman who was working on a project at Universal Studios. So, we met at the Universal Studios lot. Again, very cool to walk around and see the sights and peek into the various sound stages.

All in all, it’s been a lot of fun talking and meeting with those in the industry.

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Digital Goosebumps

I’m so impressed with how the coloring is coming along. It’s really amazing! You can so easily change the entire feel of a scene with color. Let me show you what we’re doing.

This movie is a thriller. There is a creepiness to it. It’s an “edge of your seat” kind of film. You don’t quite know what’s around the corner. So, typically, it’s good to show these things in darkness. But, our story takes place during the day. So, we needed to create a creepy, darkened shadowy feel inside the house.

However, when we shot a lot of the scenes, we lit them pretty bright. The reason we did that was to give us a lot of dynamic range regarding brightness (luminance) and color (chrominance). The nature of digital HD is that the dynamic range is pretty limited compared to film. So, we had to be careful that we didn’t go to bright (and blowout the whites) or too dark (and create digital noise).

So, with that mind, this is what our footage looked like right out of the camera:

house_image_before.jpg

Not too creepy. Pretty flat. No real depth.

And, no goosebumps.

So, we take the footage, add some shadowy vignettes, change the color a bit, lower the saturation (color) and crush the blacks, and get this:

house_image.jpg

Now, add some creepy music, some deep textural drone sounds, and viola!
Goosebumps!

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Color grading in Final Cut Pro

Today, we start coloring. I’m looking forward to seeing how our colorist, Omar, will take our existing footage and create the movie’s tone and feel. Below are some screen grabs of our first pass at some of the shots.

fissure1.jpg

fissure2.jpg

fissure3.jpg

fissure4.jpg

fissure5.jpg

fissure6.jpg

fissure7.jpg

fissure8.jpg

fissure9.jpg

fissure10.jpg

fissure11.jpg

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Road Trip

What an exciting time for this project! We’re making great progress and achieving very exciting milestones!

Last week, we officially locked the edit. And what a relief! (Now, I can sleep at night.) The burden of finalizing the edit has been pretty intense. After working on the edit for four months straight, I’m very confident that the edit is solid, and the pacing is good. The feedback from the beta viewings has been really encouraging.

I must say, though, it was very hard for me to lock the edit, because I can tweak and polish till the cows come home. And as an artist, that’s difficult. But, it’s time to fling it out there and move on. As they say, an artist’s work is never finished–only abandoned.

Today, we officially head out on our next phase of post production. Literally. We’re packing our bags and making a two-week long road trip…

Route 66 pictureFirst, we’re headed to Austin to meet with our colorist, Omar. I’ll be meeting with him today to outline a strategy for coloring the film. We’ve been talking for quite a few months, but with the edit locked, he can start to work his magic.

After that, we’re driving to LA. Typically, I would have flown, but we’ve decided to go as a family and take a few detours along the way–Carlsbad Caverns, Grand Canyon, Gallup New Mexico (my birth town), Universal Studios, and the beach. I’ll be spending a day or two with my score and sound guy, Bryan Miller. I’m very excited about releasing him and his team to work their magic as well.

All in all, I’m very pleased with how things are progressing. I’m very excited about entering into the distribution phase. I believe there will be lots of great opportunities.

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Locking the edit this week

We are now within a week of locking the edit. So, what does that mean “lock the edit”?

The post production process up to this point has been all about editing. Assembling shots and visuals and cutting them together to tell a story. Some visuals are cut for mystery and intrigue. Others are cut together for action and danger. Yet, others are cut for relationships and connecting. Each feel has it’s own style of editing. Action and danger is cut tight, interupted and fast. Yet mystery is cut methodically, slowly and unrevealing at times.

At one point, however, we must lock the edit. That means no more changes. No more additions, no more cuts, no adding or removing frames. You lock the edit so that we can…

1. Start color correcting the shots. A little blue here, a little orange there, a little darker here, a little lighter there, etc. The first step is balance the footage. Then, once it’s balanced, then we use color to increase the mystery, action or romance.

2. Secondly, we need a locked it to start all of the audio work, which includes scoring the film, adding the sound effects and then mixing it all together. This also includes re-recording any audio that needs cleaner sound. This is called ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement).

3. Add any special effects to the shots–add gun blasts, remove boom mics, fix continuity issues, etc.

Locking the edit has been a bit intimidating for me. It’s like an artist being told that by 5pm tomorrow, your painting, your art must be finished so they can start framing it.

An artist’s work is never finished, just abandoned.

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Rough Edit is Done!

This week, I finished the rough edit. And wow, I can sleep better now. I feel like I’m finally on the other side of the mountain, and it’s all downhill from here.

I’ve taken a few days to show the rough edit to some fellow filmmakers, and the feedback has been really encouraging. Most of them have shared some tweaks and polishes to help solidify the story, but nothing major. Structurally, the story is strong. The pacing is good. The editing is tight. And, the run time on the first pass is 88 minutes, which is a great place to be for the first pass.

We still have a ways to go. It’s a long hike down the mountain, but we have a cohesive story, and our baby is taking his first few steps!

Very exciting!

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Feature Film Editing in Final Cut Studio

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated my blog. Other than editing, not much else is happening. I’m spending my days buried in Final Cut Pro. I’ve got about 70 minutes of the 90 minute film edited. It’s great seeing the story come alive. Just yesterday, I sat down with my mom and watched the fist 70 minutes. What fun!

I must say, Apple has really done well with the new release of Final Cut Studio 2. I did the one thing that most people tell you not to do–upgrade in the middle of a project. But, the new features of FCS2 were needed, so I upgraded. And thankfully, it’s been a relatively smooth transition.

The two new features that I’ll be using extensively are: Color and ProRes 422.

Color: This new feature is so much more than a feature. Just last year, you could by this high-end coloring system (previously known as Final Touch) for just under $6,000. Today, it’s simply included as part of the Final Cut Studio package. With Color, you can now take your regularly footage and begin telling your story with this coloring tool. (See my previous blog on the importance of color in storytelling.)

ProRes 422: This may get a bit technical, but I’ll try to explain. When editing movies on computers, the frist step is to digitize each frame into a digitial image that the computer can recognize. Once your film is digitized (captured onto the computer), then you can begin editing by adjusting those images. How the computer stores those images is of great importance.

Think about the videos you’ve seen on the web. They’re a bit pixelated, fuzzy, sometimes hard to see (and hear). Well, those are highly compressed videos for transferring over the web. With video editing, you can still use your local hard drive, but even then, one single hard drive has its limitations (speed of the drive, how fast data is transferred, etc.). And, when it comes to full frame High Definition (HD) video, hard drive speeds and data interfaces can easily hinder the editing and playback process.

Well, Panasonic introduced a highly compressed format for capture and editing called DVCPro. In fact, we used this format when shooting. We captured our movie on a Panasonic Varicam camera using the DVCPro 720p codec at 24 frames a second. And, I am editing in Final Cut Pro using this format as my baseline format.

However, I don’t really want to finish in this format, because I want to use the new Color application at it’s maximum quality. Introduce ProRes 422.

There are higher qualities than ProRes. For example, I can convert my project to uncompressed HD, but this format is very large and requires a very fast system of drives and interfaces. Huge disk arrays can be costly and quickly become outdated. Plus, you need a high-end fibre optic or Serial Data interface to transfer the high-speed data. Sure, I could upgrade my drives and my interface for uncompressed, but now with ProRes, I don’t need to. ProRes uses the standard interface and can work on a single SATA drive. Amazing! Now, I can use ProRes as my Digital Intermediate (DI).

So, here’s my workflow:
1. Capture the film using DVCProHD 720p.
2. Edit the film in FCP using DVCProHD (no generatlional loss).
3. After it’s locked, we’ll use Color to color the film.
4. Directly out of Color, we’ll create a ProRes version of the film.
5. We’ll then sync the audio with the final, colored edit.
6. Using a Kona3X card, we’ll output the high quality edit to D-5 HD.
7. Then, we’ll buy some popcorn and enjoy the show!

I warned you–it was a bit technical. But, these new Apple announcements have really changed how we’ll “finish” the film. I’m excited about living in this age of technology. It’s truly amazing that we can produce entire feature films at such a lower cost than just a few years ago.

It reminds me of a quote from concerned filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola: “Some little girl in Ohio is going to make a beautiful movie with her father’s camcorder…”

…and Final Cut Studio in HD and ProRes and Color…

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

Finishing out the rough edit

After two busy weeks of dedicated editing, I’ve got a good, solid 20 minutes laid down. And, I’m really pleased with everything about it. The performances are strong. The footage is great. The pacing is exactly what I had anticipated. When I play the rough edit for my wife, I think she starts biting her nails. That’s a good sign!

Using the moviemaking standard of one page per minute, I’m a bit ahead of the game, which I like. I’ve got 20 minutes roughed out, and I’m only on page 18. So, being “ahead of the game” is nice, because it gives me room to tighten up the edit and remove those things I don’t want.

Below are some photos from the edit. I’ve pulled them from the raw footage, which means they don’t have any color correction. Also, they are placed below in sequential order of the story. Can you tell what’s happening?

Nikki's counsel

Grunning on the phone

Scarlett

Junius House

Looking up the stairs

Matty flashback

Emma

Kitchen scene

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

The Inconspicuous Art of Editing

When you think of art, your mind typically wanders to a painting, a sculpture, a poem, or a song. Sometimes, you’ll even consider a building, a dress, a hairstyle or a movie as art. And when you think of this “art”, you realize that it is created to be expressed. A painting is painted to be seen. A song is composed to be heard. A movie is produced to be experienced.

But when it comes to editing, the more inconspicuous you are, the more excellent the edit.

I think about my favorite movies, and the editing is the last thing you think about. You may think about the acting, the score, the coloring, the sound design, the story—you think about all of those things, and say to yourself, “Wow, what a great movie.” Rarely, do you say, “Wow, that was some incredible editing!” But, watch a poorly edited film and immediately you are pulled out of the “suspension of disbelief” and experience what is referred to as a “mental hiccup”.

Editing is a transparent art form.

I remember seeing a movie last year called The Sentinel with Michael Douglas and Keifer Sutherland. The story was okay, but the editing was pretty bad. More than a handful of times, I saw either the boom mic dip down into frame or the camera flag at the top of the screen. Immediately, I was pulled out of the story. I experienced a mental hiccup that was hard to recover from.

Just recently, I experienced this again while watching The Departed. Personally, I didn’t like the show. The performances were good, but the story just wasn’t that great for me. And, the editing was really off. The continuity was pretty bad. In one scene where Leonardo DiCaprio was sitting in a café talking to this lady, and the edit would cut from her Over-the-Shoulder (OTS) angle to his OTS angle. As it would cut, it was very discontinuous. For example, he would be leaning forward in one shot and then immediately cut to the OTS and his leaning back with his arms crossed, and then back again. My mind kept hiccupping.

As I start editing, it’s amazing to me this balancing act with editing. Editing is very mechanical and technical, but at the same time, it’s very artistic and emotional.

Take a look at this out this picture:

Left Brain Right Brain
This is my brain. Literally. Do you see that green dot smack dab in the middle? When I take these mental tests to determine how you think, I always fall right in the middle. It seems to balance in the middle of creative/artistic (right-brained) and logical/analytical (left-brained). And, so I was thinking to myself, “This will be great for editing! Because it’s both creative and mechanical.”I was wrong.

What I’m learning is that I need to be extremely “out there” creative. Not balanced creative. Not analytically creative. But wildly, stare-at-a-flower, emotionally creative. That requires a green dot outside the brain to the right.

And, there are times I need to be mechanically process oriented, extremely left-brained. If not, I won’t have redundant back-ups or technically accurate deliverables needed for distribution.

So when I edit, I have both a creative hat and a mechanical hat. My goal is to never wear them at the same time. When I need to be technical, I am technical and not artistic. When I’m ready to tell a story, then I get all emotional and a bit touchy-feely.

I experienced this while cutting a scene this week. I noticed how some cuts just felt right and others did not, even though they were technically correct. There were times I would catch a glance or nod or an expression, and it was just right, and I would get giddy with emotion. “That’s the cut! That’s it!” Other times, I would tweak and work and still couldn’t get the emotion I wanted.

Most of the technical stuff is behind me now. The editing foundation has been laid, and the back ups are being made. Now, I get to be creative–wildly, out there, watch-the-clouds, creative. And what I have experienced so far has been a blast!

Wow, I never knew purple could be so pretty.

And now, I press on. My creative hat leaning slightly to the right.

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Trailer or Teaser – Marketing your movie

If you haven’t had a chance yet, check out the Teaser/Trailer:

View the Teaser Trailer

So, is it a Teaser or Trailer?

Well, I’m calling it a Teaser for a couple of reasons:

1. It doesn’t quite meet the minimum time requirements of 1 minute 45 seconds.
2. It doesn’t really hook you like a trailer would. Needs more story to be a trailer.

It’s common for production companies or studios to put out teasers, something to just tease the viewing audience. I feel this is what this does. It doesn’t go into the story very much, but it does tease you with some strong visuals and impactful music.

So, enjoy the Teaser. And, feel free to post some comments. I’d love to hear some feedback.

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Premonition

Last night, my wife and I went to see Premonition, the new Sandra Bullock movie. The description reads, “A housewife is shocked when her husband dies in a car crash and reappears the next day. She realizes it was a premonition and tries to avoid the tragedy.”

When I think about movies that closely resemble ours, my list includes movies like Butterfly Effect, Memento, and now Premonition. Interestingly, there are many parallels to this movie and our movie.

But, after reading how the critics slammed the movie, I was a bit concerned for our project, because of the similarities. But, after seeing the movie last night, I saw considerable differences; ones that I believe will distinguish the two movies.

*** WARNING ***
*** The following contains spoilers for Premonition and our  movie. ***
First, the ending of Premonition was a major downer. My wife hated it. As did I. And, after reading the user reviews from IMDB, it seems that most everyone hated the ending as well. (I wonder if they are positioning the DVD sales for an “alternate ending”.)

When I first read the script for our project, the ending was very similar, a bit of a downer. It was the kind of ending where you hope he can make a difference, but doesn’t. Same with Premonition. She has the chance to change something but can’t. It was very down. Very fatalistic.

Our writer and I spent a few months finding the ending that I wanted, and we did. Kudos to Nick, the writer! He landed the perfect ending, one where our hero saves the day, and you leave the story/movie feeling good. One crew member read it and told me, “I had goose bumps at the end.”

Yeah! Goose Bumps!

Another story flaw I found in Premonition was that the audience was never challenged to figure anything out. They were spoon fed the entire movie, starting with the trailer. Once you watch it, you know the whole story. There’s nothing to figure out.

Our Project is considerably different. From the start, you don’t realize what’s going on. It’s not till page 50 that you realize what’s happening, and even then, you’re not sure you know what’s happening. You’re still challenged as the viewer to figure it out.

Finally, the other flaw I saw in Premonition was that they relied on all the horror tricks: jump moments, fright music, bugs, etc. It was too predictable, too obvious. As I start working on our edit, I need to make sure we don’t rely on the those cliché moments.

I thought Sandra Bullock’s performance was strong. I think she’s a good actress. To swing from comedy to drama and do it well takes talent.

If you get a chance, go see Premonition, and post your comments. I would enjoy hearing from you.

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Nesting

I can only describe what I’m experiencing now as “nesting”. I don’t know how else to describe it.

Let me explain. As we finished our shoot about a week ago, I took the first couple of days to just exhale and relax. Coming down from the adrenaline and caffeine was a bit of a challenge, but I started feeling normal again after a couple of days.

But even after coming down, I still couldn’t start editing. I would sit there in front of my computer and just stare at all the clutter around me, and it was not conducive for creative flow. I thought back to some of the post production houses I’ve worked in. They were so cool looking, very creative, clean and just fun to be in. Then I looked around my computer office, and realized, This isn’t much fun..

So, I told me wife, “We’re having a garage sale this weekend, and we’re going to get rid of a lot of junk.” And we did. We started cleaning and selling and cleaning and selling. By the end of the garage sale, I sold every piece of furniture in my office, along with a bunch of other junk. My office was barren.

With $700 cash in hand, we moved to our next step: Ikea. For my office, I wanted something cool, something creative, something different. I wanted a place to escape to, a place to create, a place to be different.

I started by researching colors. What colors create the right mood? What mood do I want to be in when I create? What do I want to surround myself with?

Two of my favorite colors are blue and orange. These two colors are foundational when it comes to mood. For example, take a look at this picture:

Sunset

What two primary colors do you see? Blue and orange. They happen in nature.

They are also at the opposite ends of the color wheel:

Color wheel

Interestingly, orange and blue are used extensively in filmmaking to set a mood or tone for a certain scene. Let me give you an example. Here’s a shot from me and my son’s movie, Growing Up. And, I have removed all color:

BW Thinking

What is he thinking about? Don’t really know. Could be thinking about school, about dogs or about stealing some candy. Not really sure. But, add some color…

Warm Thinking

Now, what is he thinking about? The color is “warmer”. Warmer colors are like those of a fireplace or a lamp in the front room. It often represents warmth, peace, home and family. Maybe Caleb is thinking about how much he loves his parents. 🙂

But, change the color to blue:

Thinking new blue

Now, he’s thinking about dangerous things, or about doing something at night. Blue is often used to set the tone for nighttime or darker scenes.

Next time you watch a film, take notice of the color of a scene. Watch how the color changes with the tone of the scene. What is the feeling of the scene, and what color does the filmmaker use to set the tone.

Check out this webpage on the science behind these two color “temperatures”.

So, with all that said, I decided on these two colors for my new office. But, I didn’t really want a sunset office nor a cold, uninviting office. So, I landed on orange. But again, I didn’t want a neon orange neither. So, I settled on a deeper, darker burnt orange for my new office. And since I’m a graduate of University of Texas at Austin, this was a great choice!

And so yesterday, my son and I painted all day long to change my boring white office into an exciting burnt orange editing suite.

Some may call it procrastination. I call it nesting.

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

It’s a wrap! (Kind of)

We have wrapped our production! Kind of. We still have half a day shooting left for the Police Chief Hudson scenes, but most of the key photography has been completed.

The wrap party on Saturday night was great! We had a wonderful time sharing and reminiscing about the previous 3 weeks. I really enjoyed hearing people’s thoughts about everything. Our cast and crew were truly amazing. It was such a joy to work with everyone.

Russ, Jennifer and Bobby
Bobby Bastarache (First AD), Jennifer Beasley (UPM), Russ Pond

Jim Macdonald and Scarlett McAlister
Scarlett McAlister (Sara Grunning), Jim Macdonald (Paul Grunning)

What’s Next

I must say, it’s been an incredible journey these past three weeks. I was feeling really good up until the last few days of the shoot. Tiredness really set in. But, we pressed on and captured some amazing footage.

All in all, we captured about 56 tapes of HD footage. With each tape being 30 minutes long, we have about 28 hours of HD footage to work through. And, what’s amazing is that every take of every shot is on one hard drive in my computer. And, embedded within that 28 hours of amazing footage is a movie, a story to be told.

My first task is to create a trailer for the project. It serves two purposes:
• To provide a marketing piece that we can start getting out to potential distributors.
• To provide a foundation for editing. Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Desperado) said that he always cuts a trailer first so that when he’s editing, he has that one thing to go back to over and over to help him keep his energy and focus on the story to be told.

After I finish the trailer, I’ll start editing of the show. I’m really excited about the days and weeks ahead. Editing is one my favorite parts of this process. It’s where the story comes alive. It’s where you get to shape and build and mold your story into what you want it to be. And, I’m really excited about it.

It’s also nice to have my house back.

My house

It was used the final week of shooting for the Grunning Home. My wife is a really trooper! It’s not easy inviting a bunch of strangers into your home for 14 hours a day, especially when they are moving all your furniture and changing everything around.

The funny part is that we had a squib scene, and we did two takes. On both of the takes, blood went flying everywhere, and splattered against our living room wall. I’m sure that will be a huge selling point when we get ready to sell.

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Week 2 is done!

We’re on the backside of the  mountain, working our way down. It sure feels good to have 2 weeks of our 3-week production behind us. Plus, we’re ahead of schedule and on budget.

I was hoping to have more updates for you throughout the week, but week 2 was a bit of a blur. I remember doing the Week 1 update, but then all of sudden, it was Saturday night and we had just finished week 2.

Our days are still averaging about 12 hours, but it’s not bad. We’ve hit a good rhythm and things are coming together nicely. I’ve been reviewing the footage everyday, and it’s great. The acting is great. The photography is beautiful. The set design is excellent. I’m really excited about how well this is all coming together.

We’re still continuing to get some good press. On Tuesday this week, I’ll have a phone interview with a gentleman from the Dallas Morning News. He wants to feature our movie in his column “Shot in Texas”. I’m looking forward to speaking with him.

Many of you have asked about what comes next, so let me take a few minutes to share with you the next steps once we finish principal photography on Saturday.

After wrap, I’ll be taking a week or so to just relax and catch up on some sleep. Afterwards, I’ll jump right into editing. I’ll be doing all of my own editing on my own computer. For you techies out there, I’ll be using Apple’s Final Cut Pro to edit the film. I expect editing to take about 6 weeks, but since this is the most exciting part of this process for me, I’ll probably get it done in about half that time. After the edit is down, I will lock the edit. No more changes.

Once the edit is locked, I will then release it to our colorist to polish the look, color and tone of the film. Concurrently, our composer will start scoring the film. Also, our sound effects artist will begin the task of “sound design”. This is all of the sound effects that you don’t realize you hear in a film: footsteps, door closes, creaks, wind, button presses, gunshots, clicks, etc.. It’s what the industry calls foley. Once the color is done, the music is scored and the sound mixed, then the film will be ready to market. I expect this to happen in May or June. I hope to have a premiere here in the Dallas area once the film is finished.

There are a variety of ways to market the film. We will be targeting some of the key film festivals, like Sundance, Toronto, Cannes, Tribecca, and South by Southwest. If the film is accepted in one of these festivals, distribution will be much easier to get. If it’s not accepted, then we’ll begin pursuing traditional routes for distribution through a producer’s rep.

That’s it for now. I’m off to bed so I can wake up earlier Monday morning and make a movie!

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Gil Bailie

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Week 1 is done!

For those of you who’ve been waiting for the next update, I’m sorry. I had good intentions of sending out daily updates. But honestly, after day 2, I was getting home too late, and the thought of staying up late to blog was nauseating. 🙂

So now, I bring you the “Week 1 Update”. We have completed six days of shooting. The first couple of days were pretty good. We worked hard for about 11 hours. It was a good pace, but days 3, 4 and 5 were much more difficult, averaging about 13 hours per day.

To stay on schedule, we need to shoot about 5 pages a day. On Wednesday, our third day, we shot about 8 pages, and it was a very productive day. But, I was wiped out that night. Thursday and Friday was also pretty busy. We managed to shoot about 6 pages for each of those days. And Saturday was a bit slower.

All in all, it has been very productive. We’ve captured some great footage. I hope to have some stills up on the website soon.

But I must also say, today (Sunday) has truly been a day of rest for me. I spent the day doing nothing, and it feels good. As my first AD said, “These 3 weeks will be a marathon.” And boy they have!

I got home Friday night after shooting and got kind of sick for some reason. Chills and fever hit me all of sudden. Not sure what it was–maybe stress, or maybe a bug, but I feel much better and much stronger. I’m ready to start shooting tomorrow.

I spent about an hour today laying down a rough edit of our first week. The footage is looking really good. I’m excited about that. I did find a couple of things I’d like to reshoot, but I’ll have to speak to my DP and First AD on Monday.

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Day 2: Outdoor Shots

It’s the close of Day 2, and I’m still loving my job!

We had a great day, today. It was long and cold, but very productive. We shot all outdoors with some special equipment, so it took us a bit longer to get through all of the shots. But overall, the shots were solid!

For those of you who missed the Fox News interview, you can view it online here:

Fox News features Production

You can also read the complete article here:

Fox News Article

Also, I have posted some pictures from our outdoor shoot today. You can view them on the Media section of our website, or click the link below.

Our Photo Gallery

Monday, February 12th, 2007

Day 1: Action!

It was a great Day 1!

The weather forced us to change our shooting schedule a bit, but not in a bad way. We still moved along at a good, quick pace. We covered about 5 and half pages on our first day!

Earlier in the morning, Fox News came by for an interview. They were running a piece on the latest Texas film incentives going into legislation this week.

I was very pleased with our first day. We should have dailies in about 24 hours thanks to Lucid Post. I hope to have some stills posted soon.

Sunday, February 11th, 2007

Three weeks of labor

Cameras role at 8am tomorrow morning, and do you know what I’m thinking about?

I think about a woman sitting in her hostpital room about to give birth. She’s past her due date, and the doctor is going to induce in the morning. What’s going through her mind?

How bad will it hurt?
I wonder what she’ll look like?
How will this change my life?
Am I really ready for this?

In many ways, I feel like I’m having the same questions. We’re about to induce labor tomorrow morning–three weeks of labor. How bad will it hurt? I wonder what the film will look like–what will it grow into. How this will change our lives? Am I really ready for this?

But, even with those questions, there is an anticipation, an excitement, a joy that is coming. Just like a mother about to give birth, I feel this same type of laboring joy that is coming tomorrow morning. And, I’m ready.

Just give me the epidural.

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Working with the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG)

As we draw closer to our shoot date, our dealings with SAG have been very good. I’ve heard horror stories, but our rep in Florida has been very helpful and has helped us move things along with great speed and efficiency.

Here are some of my SAG learnings over the course of our production:

1. There’s a lot of SAG paperwork and administrative stuff, but don’t be intimidated by it all. It’s a lot like buying a house. Know what your doing. Make sure you understand what you’re signing. And then get a pen with a lot of ink.

Thankfully, we have a SAG expert as part of our team, and she has been holding our hand all the way through the process. It’s been wonderful!

2. Stunts can be really expensive! There are three variations of the SAG Low Budget Agreement–Normal, Modified, and Ultra Low. As you move down for Normal to Ultra, your pay to SAG actors drops. So, for Ultra Low Budget SAG actors, your minimum is only $100 per day. But, for stunt coordinators, it still remains $722 per day. And, you can’t have a stunt performer without having a stunt coordinator. It adds up quickly, especially if you have multiple days with stunts. Just yesterday, we cut a really cool action sequence because it was too costly. This 10-second action sequence would have cost us thousands of dollars. So, it’s gone. Bummer.

I guess it’s a bit of an oxymoron to say I’m doing a SAG Ultra Low Budget action flick.

3. The bond! In your budgets, don’t forget about the SAG bond. SAG requires you to submit a list of SAG actors in your film, and then you pay a 40% bond (based on SAG actors salaries) to make sure you cover all of the Pension and Health benefits for the SAG actors. The problem is that you don’t see that money until after the shoot is done. So, plan for it!

4. Don’t be afraid of SAG. The contracts and requirements take a bit of time to learn, but it’s not bad. We’ve had some great opportunities to hire some incredible actors by going with SAG. Just yesterday, I spent half an hour on the phone with an actress out of NY that most of you would know. We chatted about the project and she was interested, but we couldn’t find a fit. She was very cordial and I look forward to speaking with her regarding my next film.

That’ll be all for today, students. Your homework will be due on Tuesday.

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Choosing between right and right

Earlier in the blog, I talked about a million decisions you have to make as producer/director. I was wrong–it’s about 4 million.

And the choices are not easy. It’s not like an easy choice between right and wrong; those are easy choices. The choices are between right and right. Good choice versus good choice.

You don’t choose the bad actor or the bad make up artist or the bad sound guy. Those choices are obvious. You pick good ones, great ones. And thankfully, the pool of experience and talent in this area is pretty is amazing. Lots to choose from.

Our entire crew is now on board, and I’m am very pleased with everyone. So much experience. So much wisdom. I sit in my office at times, listening to them doing what they do best, and I’m in awe. They are so good at what they do. It releases me to do what I am supposed to be doing–making the best movie possible.

But to do that, I have to make miliions of choices. Well, 4 million.

This week, we’re finalizing our cast. A few actors rose to the surface as the right chocies. Others were not so obvious. Does she have the look you want? Does he have the internal intensity you need? Will they accept direction or just go their own way? All these things are swirling in my head as I make these choices between right and right.

Or, maybe I should just flip a coin?

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Production Week

I’m sitting at my desk here at our production office. It’s our first week in the offices, and now it’s Friday. I sat down here Monday morning thinking to myself, “I need to blog everyday this week to document my experience.” That was Monday, and now it’s Friday. It’s been busy!

On Monday, we started our auditions. After receiving a few hundred headshots, we narrowed it down to 20 or so candidates for each role. We had them come in and read for the various roles. I, personally, didn’t sit in the auditions. And you may be wondering why the director is not sitting in on the auditions. Because we’ll be having call backs. Our casting director, Nikki, is the first line of defense. During the callbacks, I’ll be directing and more of part of the auditions. That’s when we’ll decide who is cast.

Later in the week, we pressed through more crew hires–script supervisors, sound people, post production supervisors, first AD’s. The interviews were good. Lots of good talent here in Dallas. We should have our final crew decided upon this week, especially since we start the script breakdown next Monday.

Also, we received our polished rewrite yesterday, and it’s looking really good. Leilani did a great job. We have to go back and tweak a few things. The science of the story needs to be reviewed. As an engineer (and big sci-fi fan), I’m a bit of stickler when it comes to the science of the story.

All in all, things are moving along nicely. Great people are coming on board.

Friday, January 26th, 2007

C2E (Cast and Crew Expectations)

As we start this production, it’s important to me that everyone be on the same page–not just from a production point of view, but from a personal and relational point of view. We have certain expectations that we will expect from everyone working on the project. So, I created this document to outline and communicate those expectations.

Introduction
We’re making a movie. And, as we make this movie, it’s going to be an exciting time of creativity and craft, persistence and perseverance, intensity and elation, hard work and great rewards. For a short few weeks, a small band of people will join together with one vision and one focus to accomplish the goal of making a movie. Yet, as we work towards that goal, it is imperative that we do not compromise integrity, relationships and excellence. To work together with the utmost efficiency and excellence, those working on this project must agree to the following production principles:

Relationships
This production is about people–not the fictional people in the story, but those who bring this story to life. It’s about you, the production cast and crew. Since people are the most important element of this project, everyone will be treated with respect. Everyone is equal in value and purpose, and everyone will be treated as such. Failure to treat people with respect will be dealt with quickly and accordingly.

Attitude
Negative, degrading, hindering attitudes will not be tolerated. Either you’re a problem-maker or a problem-solver. As we start this production, you will experience problems. That’s the nature of filmmaking. Successful teams are about finding creative, cost-efficient solutions. We make it work. We optimize the compromise and make it happen. But, we don’t complain. We don’t gripe. We don’t feed the problem–we feed the solution. So, don’t come to me or your manager with just a problem–come with your problem and some ideas for a solution.

Creativity
The spirit of independent, low-budget films is simple–find creative solutions to tell a great story. It’s about taking $1 and making it look like $5 on the screen. Acting, lighting, sets, camera, makeup, wardrobe–everything must be done creatively and efficiently.

Excellence
You are part of this team because you are good at what you do. We call upon your excellence and experience to do the best work you can do on this project. If you want to give less than 100%, then find another project to work on. We expect your best, because we’re giving our best. We don’t expect perfection. Humility and teachability are essential. Ask questions, learn, experience and enjoy this exciting time of production.

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Top Three Priorities

As pre-production draws near, I’ve got three things to focus on:

1. Casting
2. Locations
3. The Story

1. Casting
Casting can be key to a successful film, and it takes time. You have to find that balance between price, experience and recognition. Name talent is that one element of film production that can sky rocket your budget, but it’s also that key element that can secure distribution for your film. I’ve heard that when talking with distributors, the first question is always, “Who’s in you film?”

The big question is: do you spend lots of money to secure a name talent, let your production value suffer a bit but have a strong potential for distribution? Or, do you go with no name talent, put the money back into your production, and reduce your chances for profitable distribution? What’s behind door number 3?

2. Locations
For those of you who have read the story know that locations are very important for this script. We have two weeks scheduled to shoot at one location, a house. And, the house is so important to the story. We can’t just use any house–we need the perfect house. Carolyn Hodge has come on board as our locations person, and she’s is spending her days right now driving, scouting and snapping pictures.

3. The Story
We’ve decided to polish the script a little more. We’ve brought on a lady in LA who does script rewrites for Revolution Studios. We’ve given her all of our ideas and thoughts and released to start re-writing. We’re looking forward to reading her ideas and seeing the story come alive.

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Production & Fresh Powder

As I write this, I’m currently staying in a cabin in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. My family and I make the snow trek once every year, and this year is no different. I wanted to spend some time away before production kicks into high gear.

You know, people talk about how they want to get away from the stresses of work and take vacations to relax. It’s funny, but I love production. The challenge, the adventure, the problem solving. All this is very exciting to me. Yeah, it’s got its stresses, but nothing like the stresses from corporate world. It’s one thing to be stressed and hating it. It’s another thing to be under stress, but loving what you do.

So, here’s how I’m spending my vacation: getting up early in the morning. (I’m still on Texas time). Then, working through the barrage of emails: locations, equipment, insurance, casting, etc. Then, when the sun comes up, we hit the slopes. Woo hoo!

Back to the cabin for a nice relaxing dinner, some more productions emails, a few casting decisions and then a nice evening with the family playing games and reading. Now, that’s a vacation!

Monday, January 1st, 2007

Welcome Eric Whitney! (Production Design)

Eric Whitney joins our team for Production Design. Eric comes with 22 feature films under his belt. We look forward to drawing from his experience and expertise in the film industry.

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Welcome Jennifer Wyatt Beasley! (UPM)

We’d like to welcome Jennifer Wyatt Beasley. Jennifer comes on board as our UPM, Unit Production Manager. She brings with her lots of feature film experience, and great connections in the Dallas area. We’re glad to have her on board.

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

Just moviemaking

As the year comes to close, I was hoping to spend December focusing in on the details so that we can kick things into high gear come January 1. But, it’s hard to stay focused when good, corporate projects keep coming in.

For example, we flew to Wisconsin to spend some time with family over Thanksgiving. Ah, a needed vacation for some nice R&R. As we sat in DFW airport waiting to board the plane for our nice, peaceful Thanksgiving week, I get a call. It’s Nokia. They want to shoot 2 television commercials and a web commercial on Thanksgiving weekend! So much for our peaceful Thanksgiving.

I spent Thanksgiving week in Wisconsin on email and the phone. We cut our trip short and headed back to a crazy weekend shoot the day after Thanksgiving–the turkey still digesting in my stomach. But, we pulled it off. We were able to hire a crew with some good talent all within in three days. And, we got it shot, and shot well. Another happy customer!

But that’s not all. Here’s what I’ve got on my plate for December: a music video, a church Christmas production and a proposal for a client who wants 17 web episodes next year.

So, what do I do? I sleep very little, and do it all. Why? Because here’s what I’m experiencing: confidence.

Let me explain. One of my biggest concerns with this project has been this: Can I really do it? Can I really handle the pressure of being both the producer and director for a feature film? Can I handle the long shoot days and intense pressure? I know it’s going to be there. I know it’s going to be difficult. But, how would I respond to such pressure?

Coming from 16 years of corporate America, I will admit, it was easy. It was a cushy corporate job. I went home every day at 5 o’clock and never thought about work until the next morning when I sat down in my cubicle. There was a little pressure, but it was rare and short-lived.

Production is a different animal. Lots of decisions. Lots of pressure. Lots of intensity. Not that it’s bad. Pressure can be good. Intensity is sometimes needed. But, I had this lingering question in the back of mind, Can I really handle it?

When we got back from Wisconsin, I hit the ground running. We spent Friday, not shopping, but prepping. We had a long shoot day on Saturday and another long day on Sunday. Then, on Monday at 8 am, we kicked off the church Christmas shoot for 10 hours. And, again on Tuesday, 10 more hours with more shoots later in the week.

I drove home late Tuesday night having a great time, loving the production, loving the intensity, loving the fact that I’m producing. It’s a good thing to love what you’re doing.

“There is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work” (Ecclesiastes 3:22a).

Amazingly, in the midst of all this, I’m still meeting with potential crew members, negotiating equipment deals, polishing the film budget and doing lots of stuff. It’s part of that production energy that moves and flows through you when you love what you do.

I do expect the corporate stuff to stop on January 1. If not, then I will make it stop. I want my sole focus to be on this production. No distractions. No other projects. Just moviemaking.

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

The Market

AFM LogoI have just returned for AFM, the American Film Market. It was quite an experience! It was located in Santa Monica, California.

AFM is where movie buyers and sellers get together to do business. The Santa Monica Leow’s hotel is converted to a big business exchange. All of the rooms are converted to viewing offices where distribution companies setup shop. As you walk through the hotel hallways, each room now has movie posters, television sets playing the movies and office chairs to invite you in.

Here’s what I learned about the Movie Market:

• There’s a lot of new movies out there. 590 films were screened, a record number for AFM.
• The majority of those films were horror genre.
• Name talent is key for securing profitable distribution.
• The production value for most of the films was remarkably good.
• AFM is focused more on foreign distribution, not domestic.
• Story is king.

I spent most of my time at AFM bouncing around from screening to screening. I wanted to see what kinds of movies were being sold into the foreign markets. Amazingly, horror was very popular, and here’s why:

• Fear communicates across most cultural differences. Romance, for example, does not.
• You don’t need name talent for horror movies. Everyone dies off anyway.
• Horror budgets are considerably cheaper.

Because horror is popular for foreign distribution, most countries outside of the US perceive that it what most Americans watch on television and at the movies. And sadly, that’s becoming more and more true. For example Saw III and Hostel (both graphic torture movies) were box office hits.

I walked away from AFM with the following:

• I have a renewed sense of purpose for our project. I want to make films that make a difference, not just to entertain.
• Horror is a flooded market. Everyone is doing it, but good storytelling is ripe for the pickin’. Our movie will be ripe for the pickin’.
• Production value is very important
• Distribution will be very interesting

Besides AFM, I spent many days in meetings and discussions with those in the industry. I met with:

• A producer
• A diretor of photography
• A director
• A composer and sound guy
• A casting agent

All in all, it was a great trip and very productive. Thanks to Rand and his family for putting me up and feeding me well, and for letting me use their car to trek around the LA area. Thanks!

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

A million decisions

Russ deciding...

As producer and director of this feature film, I estimate that I’ll have to make about a million decisions. And, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration.

It’s amazing how many decisions you need to make. In a sense, you are running a small company for a few months, so you have all of the business decisions you need to make as if running a small company, like finances, marketing, leadership, managers, payroll, insurance, guilds, unions, schedules, milestones, tasks, budgets, personnel, taxes, investors, lawyers, accountants and finances. Did I mention finances?

Oh yeah, and we’re making a movie. So, there are all those decisions, like creative, visuals, scripts, production design, lighting, camera packages, film stock, formats, digitization, workflow, deliveries, post production, effects, CGI, locations, permissions, casting, and finances.

It’s like each area has a thousand decisions, and each one needs to be made as accurately as possible. (Anyone see “The Butterfly Effect”?)

Here’s my problem: I’m a thinker. During my corporate stint, we took these personality evaluations. There were team leaders, creatives, motivators, and workerbees. I was classified as a “monitor/evaluator”. I’m the one in a meeting who doesn’t say much, because I’m monitoring and evaluating to determine the best course of action.

I like to make decisions based on good, solid, reliable information. Then, I evaluate it and make the best possible decision. It doesn’t sound bad, unless you need to make a million decisions. If I’m not careful, the monitor/evaluator in me can extend our production schedule from 4 months to 4 years.

I quickly realized that I can’t be this way on this production as producer and director. I can’t ponder my decisions very long. I have do the best as fast as I can and then live with the consequences. I don’t see this as a bad thing, just different than what I’m used to.

I have more to say on this, but I’m trying to decide…