Format …

I shot my film “Deadly Obsessions” on 16mm.  The question being why?  In my defense for me it was the professional way to shoot the film.  I could have shot it digitally, but then I would have been locked into a process in finishing it digitally, and the one thing that concerned me was “obsolescence”.  If I shot in digital I would have to post digitally, and I knew I did not have the money for that.  I had read and watched “the Blair Witch Project” and other productions like “the Last Broadcast”, and thought I really liked how they were created yet I did not think that digital video was the way to go.  Since I shot “Deadly Obsessions” there has been advances in digital filmmaking, and now I would say that if you have limited resources digital is the way to go.  But back then when I was planning my film I was thinking of films that were shot in 16mm like “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer“, “Clerks“, “El Mariachi”, “Pi“, “Evil Dead“,”She’s Gotta have It” and even “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre“.   I had trained on 16mm, and liked it a lot.  I also knew that whatever format is dominant in the future I know having a 16mm negative would be to my advantage.  Everything now is HD, and though I shot in 16mm I can scan the negative and create an HD product.  This of course is an expensive proposition, but worthwhile, and at least I don’t doom my project to obsolescence.

In order for me to finish on 16mm I had to edit on 16mm.  I found an old 6 plate Steenbeck editor someone was selling not far from where I lived.  Getting the Steenbeck  home from where I bought it from was a herculean effort.  I enlisted my Uncle and even the guy I bought it off from to help me get it into the apartment.  I already had reel to reel rewinds, and a syncing block, so I could sync up my magnetic track and work-print.  By editing on film the big advantage for me was that I knew going into this that the film would be completed after a few years.  I had a day job and had to work.   On my time off I edited my film.  This also provided me enough time to save more money for the mix, the negative cutting, and the answer print.  It was from the answer print that I made a copy of the film on Beta digital tape which is where I made my DVD’s from.

Now I’m not going to say that I felt exhilarated at editing the footage this way because of the tactile sensation of handling my film.  It was stressful, and I felt like a dinosaur.  Cutting and splicing shots and effects was the only way I knew how to finish the film with the budget I had.  I occasionally went out with my Nagra recorder and recorded sound effects that I would later lay into the sound effects track of the film.  For me it worked.  The only sound effect that I purchased was a shotgun blast.  The rest of the effects were all created by me going out and recording it.  Just like John Travolta’s character in the film “Blow-Out”.   I have to say I used everything I was ever taught and even learned a few new tricks.  One of those tricks was videotaping my footage off the Steenbeck, and then digitizing that footage into my computer where I edited it on Premiere.  It was there that I could go quicker and see several different cuts before I attacked it on the Steenbeck.  I do not shy away from technology.  I embrace it, and use it to my advantage.  I am amazed at seeing how now students use digital editing to their advantage.  But in the end editing is editing.  No matter what you use and how you go about it the rules to editing still apply, and as always rules are sometimes meant to be broken.  The French New Wave and Sergei Eisenstein taught us that.

To sum up. I used what I had.  If you have a prosumer camera I’d say go ahead and shoot your film.  Do some tests and push that piece of equipment as far as you can.  It’s now easier to create your own film then it was in the past.  No excuses.   Remember how do you want to show this film?  There are great digital projectors now that project a fantastic image.  Most theaters now do project digitally, so all you need is a Blue-Ray disk and your set, and Adobe Premiere does a great job at creating  one, and there is now Adobe Premiere Rush for content creators.  Go ahead and use what you have or what you can get your hands on.  Format is important, but necessity is the mother of invention, so no excuses.  Go make that film.

  • A big thank you to my wife Phyllis who took the pictures of me.  Alway my best cheerleader and partner in crime.


Directing Actors…

So I wrote my little opus, re-wrote it after some criticism, and then I had to cast it.  I wanted to use honest to God good actors, and I found them.  I also wanted to tap into SAG and AFTRA talent.  That meant I had to abide by their rules.  I was no blockbuster, and I was as small as small could be, but at the time SAG worked with me.  I learned about their rules and regulations, and they gave me a low-budget film agreement.  Now in todays market SAG and AFTRA have modified agreements for filmmakers, and that includes ultra- low budget agreement.  We’ll go over them another time here in the blog because they can be detailed, and I want to talk about them more in detail.  The above actors were my main characters.  I did a film with limited actors and limited locations because I knew if I didn’t I would be shooting myself in the foot.  So hence these were my choices for “Deadly Obsessions“.

First off I could not be more happy with my choices.  They were professional, fun, understanding, and just plain awesome. The above headshots are old ones and these were the ones I first saw.  Their credits were impressive, and they gave a stellar audition.  At some time I will upload their auditions so you’ll be able to see how they got the job, but I have to say first that I saw a lot of talented actors during the audition.  Making up my mind took awhile.  My wife, her dad, and a friend all sat in on the auditions.  I recorded them, and watched them a lot after the auditions.  We provided a continental breakfast during the auditions .  It included bagels, cream cheese, some fruits, and vegetables.  We had tea and coffee as well.  After all if people were going to show up for nothing the best I could offer them is some grub.  My wife was a BIG help here and she also helped cater the feature film too.  Everyday she would leave for work as our apartment got swallowed up with production gear, actors, and crew.  Indie production helps when you have a supportive team or family because chaos will be the norm of the day.  It’s up to you to make sense of it, and hopefully you’ll have a crew that will help you.  I did, and it  helped immensely.  More rehearsal, and more prep with the crew would have helped also, but money was tight and I was forced to do it the way I did it.

Okay this is about directing actors so let me start by explaining how I went about it. We had little time to rehearse.  I had an evening to go over things with the actors while they settled into their accommodations.  We had also talked over the phone and through emails before they arrived.  I learned a lot from my actors and was impressed on how they went about their part.  Irene made notes on her script.  All of the actors knew their lines, and when I heard some of it we changed it.  I listened to the actors and they made some great suggestions.  The script was dialogue heavy, and some of it did not work, but instead we all pulled together.  Their was one scene that took place in a room.  It was long to say the least.  What we did was break the scene up into three scenes.  We then rehearsed the actors in each scene.  In a way we blocked for the camera.  The camera was stationary for most of the movie, and their was little movement, but what I do remember from all those film classes was mis en scene, the setting or surroundings of an event or action.  What I tried to do was choreography the actors in the scene.  One was in foreground while the other was in the background, and by using their movement I could change the shot by panning or even zooming.  If anything I had heeded my film instructors words: “hide the zoom”.  It worked, and made the scenes better.  When you use professionals you get all the benefits of their craft.  I learned a lot from my actors, and I found out that I really like working with actors.  I just wish I would have not overstretched myself in having to do almost everything, but again circumstances dictated what I had to do in order to get the film in the can.

Irene Glezos played Rebecca, Karen Stanion played Lisa, Nick Capous played Marty, and Michelle Verhoven played Monica.  These were not the only actors in the film, but they were the principals, and had the most scenes.   If I could make any suggestions to any filmmaker it would be set up a read through, and then maybe a rehearsal.  The read through would be a better place for all to get to know each other, and you’ll be able to hear the words of the script out loud.  Two to one you’ll make changes there, and it’ll be for the better.