Friday, June 20, 2008

Diary of a Short Film IV: Score!



It is just amazing what original music will do for your images. After shooting and putting my Payoff footage together, I sent off a cut to my composer-friend, Seth Neuffer. Seth and I had worked together on my last short, Middle of Nowhere. It was a great experience, and I was glad that Seth chose to be on board for this film.

Like last time, we established and internet relationship. I sent my final cut to him as soon as I could, and he began returning clips with new music attached. It is a very exciting time in the edit, probably because this is something completely out of my control that just delights the heck out of me every time I get an update. I have been really looking forward to the early morning when I can open my email and find that I have a download waiting from a online file store like sendspace.

The work flow goes like this: Seth sends me a copy of the file I sent him (only with music), I reply with notes and he makes adjustments. It's stupid easy since Seth listens to me and always comes up with great stuff. It's just more proof that you need to find people that are better than you in a given area, then set them free. As long as they abide by what you are telling them (and strong-minded creative folks will always have valuable opinions), you will get results. It's a very satisfying feeling.

Anyway, things are winding down on this project (which is due next Tuesday), and we will have the final music cut on Sunday night. That gives me Monday to put together the final mix (not hard in an almost silent film) and turn it in on time. In class on Tuesday we will start watching all the narratives with the director sitting in front of the class answering questions. On the day it airs in class I will post it here, embedded from Vimeo in HD. See you then!

Phase: Post-production
Days remaining: 4
Money spent: $8

Friday, June 13, 2008

Diary of a Short Film III: Shooting Complete



Shooting commenced on The Payoff last Friday, and concluded on Monday. I shot for two half days, between the hours of lunch and dinner. This forced me to shoot quickly, and saved me some money I'd usually spend to feed everyone. I don't really like to do this, but I'm very broke right now, and had little money to spend. The nice thing was that my actors knew this, and had no problem with it. Of course I let them go before they got hungry...

Last Friday we shot all the exteriors that took place at a bus stop. After scouting the intended location (in front of a church), I elected to move down the street where the stop was directly in front of a vacant lot--much more conducive to the story. We shot there for about four hours under an overcast sky. The lighting was excellent until the pesky sun decided to play hide and seek several times. For the most part the sun cooperated, except for one critical reaction shot that I just couldn't seem to get. In the end it was okay, as a rough cut with what I had worked well.

One Robert Rodriguez trick I employed was using my zoom lens to rapidly change shots that would be edited later. In The Payoff, two different characters exit the bus at the same stop, but in two different scenes. Since the bus would only arrive at our stop hourly, I put both actors on the bus at the previous stop (at the church) and had them exit separately. The first take was the best with the bus hitting it's unknown mark perfectly, and me shooting wide, then closer as my first actor exited. When he left the frame, I repositioned for my actress, then went very tight as the bus pulled away. It was a great way to get more than one shot with minimal bus fare and limited time.

On Monday I shot all my interiors in a real motel that was provided to me by a friend (Yes! I love connections). We shot everything using light coming in from the motel window and from the hallway lighting for the tracking shots. This looked pretty good, probably thanks to the fact that I was using the nifty Sony FX1 HDV camera. I've never shot in HD before, but always want to now. It's a great and detail rich medium.

So there you go. Shooting is over, and I already have a rough cut (using Vegas Pro 8) that I've sent to my composer for scoring ideas. The ultimate compliment came from my wife who saw only the last scene, teared up and said "I think this may be your best work." My actors (Bus Riley and Morgan Long) deserve a lot of credit for that comment. They were wonderful.

Phase: Post-Production
Days remaining: 11

Money spent: $8

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Diary of a Short Film II: Musical Casting

Hoo boy. It has been a tangled road to get this short off of the ground, mostly due to finding cast members. Not holding auditions early has put me in a pinch, forcing me to take who I can get and hope for the best. I felt like I didn't have time for auditions, but the fact is that I could have had I planned ahead and budgeted time to do so. This isn't to say that I wouldn't have still had the ol' "actors dropping out like flies" syndrome that plagues every no-budget project, but at least I would have more of a variety of flies to choose from.

Anyway, the only cast member I had set was Natalie Dallimore (pictured), who I had worked with before on an unfinished short entitled Blackout. She is a good actress and also does makeup and hair, which nicely kills two birds with one stone. She suggested I try friend Antonio Lexerot (for the father), whom she respects as an actor. I contacted him but he felt too young to play 50-ish and recommended one Bus Riley. Bus accepted, and suggested Morgan Long to play the daughter. I did manage to meet with her yesterday. Movie cast.

When I secured a shooting date (today) that both leads could make, Natalie couldn't (she was going to play the "woman in car" role). After trying to scramble to find a replacement, I just wrote that part out of the script (sorry, Nat). I'm running out of time fast, and can't afford to reschedule, so I have to adjust.

I did like the fact that Bus told me that he and Morgan could find someone, but decided to just go in a slightly different direction. It will save time and stress to just use Bus by himself and not worry about another person. Morgan will do her own makeup, so there you go.

Shooting starts today in three hours...

Phase: Production
Days remaining: 17
Money spent: $0

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