Joined: 05 Mar 2007 Posts: 844 Location: Moorpark, CA
An introduction of sorts
INCOMING!!! A novella...You have been warned...
While my handle says Shaughan (my middle name and yeah, it's pronounced Shawn), my name is Mike. My wife is a photographer by trade and I am a software engineer. Both of us share a love of films. One of my hobbies is playing with Lightwave 3D.
Within the Lightwave community it is common practice to model and render art and display it for the community. Cars are a popular item for this as are fantasy artwork and many other items. After having finished a photorealistic USB connector I was looking for something a bit more unusual to model and render and show off to the community.
Living in Woodland Hills at the time, I used to drive past the Panavision facility every day on my way home from work. So one day I decide well a movie camera would be interesting to model and a good challenge. So I pull into the facility and talk to some folks there about doing this and I ask if I can come in and photograph orthogonal views of one of their cameras so that I can model it. They agree.
So I enlist the wife to help with this task and she brings her digital camera gear over to Panavision and I position the movie camera for each view while holding a tape measure. As we are doing this, one of the Panavision crew is helping us by adding and removing parts of the camera as we take the pictures. My wife, Nancy, takes an interest in the Panavision camera and asks the Panavision person how one gets training on such a beast etc. They tell her that training is free from Panavision so she signs up.
She takes this class and then signs up for all kinds of DP related classes at UCLA. Once all of this is completed, she finds a dilemma. She really has a passion for the work but cannot find a gig. Now over my years working in the LA area I have had friends that have worked in the industry, one of which was a union cameraman. So I called him up on her behalf and had her talk to him about "breaking in".
His response was that she had two strikes against her: Gender and age. His suggestion was to just make her own films. Just get a digital camera, FCP, write something and go make it happen. We discussed this and decided that we would do this. To start we would just make a test film together. I would write it and direct it (I had directed community theater in the 70s), score it and edit it and she would DP it.
Following this we decided that for our test film, we would choose a topic that could be shot at a single location in one day. We settled on adapting an old joke and I wrote a script for it. Following this was a period of about 3 months of research into equipment, best practices, an acting class for myself to refresh me for directing. We settled on a double system because we did not want a lot of cables running around and we wanted the boom operator to be able to move around with some freedom.
I researched equipment and technique and purchased the following for the shoot:
A Sony Z1 camera.
A Sennheiser ME66 shotgun mic w/ dead cat.
A Gitzo carbon fiber boom.
A simple dolly.
A decent Manfrotto tripod and fluid head.
An Edirol R1 digital recorder.
Various diffusers / reflectors
Various consumable items and cables etc.
A copy of Premiere Pro 1.5.1 and After Effects. Also bought FCP studio pro so we could get a feel for which setup we preferred.
I rented a small rehearsal theater in North Hollywood for $60 and posted a no-pay casting call on Craig's list. On the day of the casting call I got about 20 actors to show up and we auditioned all of them and selected our best choices. Only one role was not filled and we finally got a friend of a friend to fill the role of the tough guy.
We proceeded to do a lot of testing with all of the gear as well as doing location scouting. I taught a friend of mine how to operate the sound gear and how to boom a scene. We made checklists for the camera and audio packages. Shot list, schedule etc. etc. etc. We planned it to death. We found a location and did a ton of testing there noting the lighting at specific times of the day to determine the best time to shoot. On the weekend before the shoot we took the folks over to the location that were going to crew the shoot. We rehearsed all of the setups with the crew basically doing the same run-throughs that would happen on the day of the shoot. We scheduled catering for the day of the shoot.
We were ready.
The following weekend we got to the location, a very small park that no one seemed to ever visit so we would have no distractions. My wife and I were the first to arrive so we began to get set up. The crew arrived as well as 2 of the actors. One of the actors called about 2 hours after the shoot was started and stated he could not make it due to re-shoots on another film. So, I punted and grabbed one of the crew members to play the part of the moron. We did about 3 run-throughs and forged ahead.
Other than losing an actor, everything went perfectly as planned. You can see the terrible little film that we shot as our experiment in learning here:
I realize how crappy this little film is. The next one will be MUCH better.
Following this, I bought a new house and promptly got laid off from my job. So filmmaking went on the back burner for a while. Now, with a new job and a new script for a 7 minute action short, we are ready to forge ahead with this next project.
I got Stu's book yesterday. I came across it via Mike Curtis's HD For Indies blog site. So far, I know I have broken 2 of Stu's rules: Living near Hollywood (I am > 30 miles from Beverly Center though ) and using a non-24p camera. But I am not letting that stop us
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