Third Day of Production

21 08 2005

Had a good day in many ways. Lots of advancement. Not a single frame is shot, though. Not a single word written in the script form.

Am I worried? Heck no!

Random questions:

Can you name the top 5 most educated countries in the world?

Who is Mircea Eliad?

Where did the term ‘Steal my thunder’ come from?

Name the first names of the two famous Renoir’s? Are they related?

Chicken or the egg?

Allow me the answer to that:

Chicken, because the egg…(to be continued)


Second Day-Part 1

20 08 2005

Getting to know the equipment phase. What I have is great for a one man operation, if used the right way, of course. Funny, or perhaps not, how the length of XLR cables, availability of shotgun and PZM mics, how many mic inputs available on the camera, and a single Riffa light will dictate a lot of what the movie will look like as well as the story. Some of that equipment I wasn’t familiar with (certainly never knew about PZM mics. Wonder what PZM stands for), but it’s no rocket science. I have to thank my good friend Kurtmeister Andronicus (nick name) for a Cliffs Note tutorial that proved invaluable. Never underestimate the instruction manual either. And it’s times like these that I thank myself for spending hours looking for articles, interviews, and reviews on various aspects of filmmaking. It didn’t have to cater to one’s immediate goals, because simply reading interviews with professionals can give you invaluable insight to your own plans.

I am perfectly aware a one man shoot scenario can prove limiting. But that’s like saying the defined chord structure in the middle of a jazz standard is too limiting for Django Reinhardt to reach new improvisational stratosphere. Ask him, he’s still alive and influencing people all over the world. Limited options are best when time is of the essence. It makes one go back to the basics and keep it simple and clear.

There are films that need a specific look, tone and structure, and the directors demand nothing less. Hitchcock films come to mind. Pedro Almodovar is another example, he is even known for line readings. Don’t know if it’s true, but it has worked wonderfully for him.

Then there are (were) directors like Cassavetes, Godard, Winterbottom, Kar-Wai, DeSica who take on a project with ideas, but are not married to it. Some of Godard’s are still a little hard for me get into, but that’s another story. I have to keep mentioning the Maysles brother’s influence here. A perfect example of going with what you’ve got.

Alrighty then, enough talk. These little thoughts that I so willingly share with the Milky Way galaxy inhabitants on this blog, I found, are as much for myself to come back to as they are for dear readers entertainment. Many a times, one goes through a period of ‘What am I doing with my life?’, or ‘I’m not sure of the career I chose’, or even ‘Who am I kidding…I suck!’ phases. If you tell me you don’t go through that, then meet me someday and I will salute you with national television coverage in tow. That phase I have compared to recharging the battery before attaching them to the camera. When the batteries are picked up from the box, they scream “Look at me, I am a mess…I am weak, insecure, and unsure of providing you with 6 hours of camera time as promised by my creator. I know when I started out I was full of promise, strength, and durability but I didn’t care. But now, I have aged and have dents around my body, my electrons are sagging, and I don’t look good around you any more. I don’t want to disappoint you when I give out two hours in the middle of an important shoot…just let me go (sniff sniff)”

I’m being cute here but the moral of the battery reference is, after the re-charge…when the ‘charge’ light goes off, and it’s all juiced up…the same battery screams out, “Bring it on, Scorsese”.

Us humans are, therefore, not so different from our Joe Battery relatives when taking on the challenges ahead needs re-charging…and I mean the re-charge period that is Haagen Dazs eating, Kleenex finishing, calling mom and whining about life being unfair, other people blaming, shoulda, coulda, woulda wondering, miserable feeling, self-esteem vaporizing phase that would even scare Count Dracula.

But I’m glad life is referred to as a circle. I’m glad the clock is round and it always comes to a point where it chimes along with the opening bass intro of a ‘Seinfeld’ rerun. I’m glad we circle the sun and not Uranus. I’m glad what goes around comes around. I’m glad tomorrow is today with a new face. I’m glad we have an ‘Empty Recycle Bin’ component in our memory. Hard to find the icon so we can click on it like a mad person, but it’s, people…always there under the folder ‘Healing’.

I’d said enough talk some paragraphs ago. Don’t trust me when I promise that. This self-indulging blog entry is about me showing off and I admit that. An entry in this blog makes me feel on top of the world for surprising myself with thoughts I didn’t know lay dormant in me. It is my re-charge phase in the last seconds before the ‘charge’light goes off. Right now…12:34 pm…I enter a feeling of unexplained joy. The cup of life will runneth over soon, but the joke’s on life, I drink from a bucket, dammit. I feel lifted…and separated. And that, my friends, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.

First Day’s Review

19 08 2005

A very good first day of production. I’ve met with actors, and had a great first meeting. The energy is great, and the rush is in the right direction. Generally, production day means actual filming, but oh no…I had to, just had to make it more unusual, didn’t I?

Anyway, a very good start I must say. I’ll probably end up taking this weekend to shape the whole baby up. Then, we shall ask the movie fairy to bring it on.

Production Day One

19 08 2005

Today is a good day, my friends. To stay true to the pressure, no shoot is arranged for today. I’m meeting several of my actor friends and we’ll go over the layout of the shoot. From today on, things should move very fast. The idea for the meet is to know each other’s faces, places, attitudes, schedules, ambition, goals, ideas, back stories etc.

There’s a reason this cast and crew came together for this project.

Finale crew list:


No I did not miss anyone. That’s all.

Semi Final cast list:


Oooh, you all hate this, don’t you? Believe me, that is the cast list. First person to decipher these codes gets a non-speaking part in the movie.

Now, this is only the beginning of the full cast list, and I’ll be damned if I spelled it out with the English alphabet.

Pre-Production Over

19 08 2005

Vacation is over for moi. As you can see, folks, I have not been posting much about the pre-production lately. What do you care, anyway? But, the fact is, storyboarding, shot listing, and…what?…oh yes, I haven’t been storyboarding and shot listing…funny, the dream seemed so vivid. I did do some fun stuff…at least one out of three.
From this point on, the progress of the shoot will not be posted in detail. It will just be ‘Good Day’ or ‘Bad Day’…although I doubt the latter is likely. Whatever happens, will happen for a reason and I want to use it for the shoot…good or bad. Ready for your close-up, Mr. Scorsese…there I am with, what my good friend Kurt calls, ‘Shabby’ jokes…get it? my first name?…never mind…I have to stop doing that to readers…all one and half of you (Pause, author slaps himself). Hurts.

‘The Best Confession’ on PRX (click here) and some thoughts.

13 08 2005

Length: 3 min 31 sec.

UPDATE: Listen to the play on MySpace. The first one to play when you visit the site.

We’d just finished recording voices for ‘Flashforward’. On my hour and a half long train ride to Brooklyn College radio station, I had quickly written a two page idea. It started with nothing except that a guy’s voice says ‘Linda, I have a confession to make’. She says, ‘I know what it is’. I kept on writing and found myself thinking it would be cool to do something different with the same lines. I didn’t know what. I wrote a bit more and later typed up the pages at the studio quickly.

Now, the night before I was listening to Erik Satie’s ‘Trois Gymnopedie’ which happened to be on the same CD as the ‘Enchanted Lake’ piece. I found myself listening to it over and over again. I knew I had to use it somehow. Since I had the CD with me the next morning, I realized that it would make a perfect accompaniment to the second piece, which I had, by now, titled ‘The Best Confession’. I asked my friends, actors Don Downie and Candice Holdorf if they’d do me a favor and record the second one very quickly. I played the music for them a couple of times to create a mood. They were fabulous. The recording was done very quickly, and soon they left.

Later, I found myself sitting down at the computer with no idea how to make the piece work. My only condition with the Erik Satie piece was to use it in its entirety. I didn’t have 3 mins 31 seconds of dialogue. The confession concept was there but I didn’t know how to make it sound modern and not just two people talking. I didn’t have SFX I liked, so I had to design them. For example, the confession eraser machine sound was created by fusing a seat belt click and a computer beep and phasing it backwards. Also I wanted the last note of the music to hit at just the right place. It was tough. I tried several ideas until it all came together.

Now sound designers do it all the time, nothing new. But for me, it was magical since the story, mood, pacing, feel was created that very day.

Creating a story and shaping it into a final product wasn’t new to me at that point. In October, I had participated at the Cinemasports competition in NYC. I’ll tell that story some other time when I have the video stream available.

So, what’s the point of telling these stories about the radio plays and the movie? I’ve found myself, since Cinemasports, insanely attracted to situations where there is a race against time. I also realized how much I went with my instincts and how they’ve rewarded me.

There is also a lesson in this, and that may not have come off clearly. I couldn’t have done any of that alone. No matter how much of a genius you are (neither am I), you can’t do everything by yourself. When I had to find actors to do the voices, I called my friend Don right away, because he is someone I could trust with my material. He came through in the eleventh hour, again. I needed a female voice, but with such a short notice it’s not always possible. Then, I remembered Candice Holdorf. She had auditioned last year for my short PRETTY, and Don had read with her. I wanted to find a way to work with her, so I gave her a call. This was the first time I’d called her after that audition, and it was the night before the recording, at 10 PM. A true professional that she is, she was up the next morning at 8 AM, and traveled a hour and a half to BC studios.

It wasn’t just the recording of the plays that was filled with lessons or surprises. It was the events leading up to that day. Let me explain. I’d met Don because a friend of his auditioned for a role in my movie. She contacted Don later and told him about me looking for actors for my radio plays as well. Don followed up for the radio plays and ended up being cast as Mark in my short. I found out he lives just 6 blocks away from me. Candice auditioned for the short a month or two later after Don was cast to play opposite his character. I’d seen her info on Shooting People. 3 months later, I call her up out of the blue for the radio play. The next thing I know, she lives on the same avenue Don and I live on, just blocks apart. Carol Jacobanis, who I’d contacted after seeing her info on ‘Backstage’ told me about Shooting People just a month or two before I saw Candice’s information. When I was in need of an actor to play Stacey after letting go of an actor just two weeks before shoot, Don brought me Guenia Lemos. I don’t know about you folks, but stuff like that really, as the Oracle said, bakes my noodle. I have several ‘Karmic’ stories like these. At a later time, friends.

In summary, my current movie project is on a much, much larger scale than what I’d been part of previously. I believe the stars will line up the right way. I have come to know some new people in the past few days who will take this new journey as a team. As I see it, this latest project may just be the first move in a bigger chess game. Who knows what will come out of this? Maybe something bigger and greater than we’d ever have expected.

If we can live life not knowing what the next minutes have in store for us, then a movie project like this is a walk in the park.

A math professor of mine once said to me that stuck with me and sort of summarizes my approach to life, “If you see light at the end of the tunnel, you’re facing the wrong way”.

‘Flashforward’ on PRX (click here)

13 08 2005

This is a great radio example of my current movie project concept. I had to explain CUNY TV how a radio drama is put together. Well, actually I was supposed to just do an interview. Instead, I told them I would show the whole process while they were there. So I wrote two pages of this play the night before. Just dialogue and no SFX cue, music cue whatsoever. While writing, I was listening to ‘Enchanted Lake’ from ‘Swan Lake’. I thought why not use it somehow.

We recorded it the next day. The actors did their lines. It was quick, and CUNY TV folks were recording.

As I sat down to edit it afterwards, I looked through the list of SFX and started to add all those other elements in the play. The music worked nicely, but I needed to add more to the words and spacing. CUNY TV decided to not stick around for the whole thing. So I had a chance to experiment a little more with the play.

Therefore, all the other SFX and ideas you’ll hear were employed during editing. Not a new concept, but nonetheless for me it was a tiny groundbreaking moment.

Although nothing prepared me for the next play.