Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Making of "Collection Day": Day 4

Day four led us to three locations. Three company moves (even an extremely small company like mine) can be very difficult and leads to being behind schedule. This day wasn't too bad, as we had a scene in the morning (a police station parking lot), a short scene after lunch (back to the cement plant during the day) and one after dark (a model apartment).

Press play!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tips: Airsoft Gas Blow Back (Pistol)

In the past, I published a video that covered using an airsoft spring rifle, then another that showed the effects of removing the spring for a more realistic bolt action. This time, I've got some observations that illustrate how to up the authenticity when using a gas blow back airsoft pistol as an on-set prop.

The first item covers the issue of getting your gun to fire when empty, as many semi-automatic airsoft pistols will lock back the slide when you run out of ammo, just like the real thing. Unless you want to load the thing with BBs and deal with them flying all over your set, this needs to be addressed.

The second is the classic battle between green gas and propane. While both are basically the same, green gas is more expensive, while "real" propane (found at any hardware store) smells something awful (and your wife always knows when your testing out your props). You'll need an adapter to charge your airsoft props with propane, but you might be surprised why I go anti-frugal and pick the more expensive green gas in this instance.

Another issue (which I've never seen addressed elsewhere) is the issue of a narrow gun barrel. On pistols, it's a dead giveaway that you are using an airsoft clone if the audience can see into the the barrel of the gun. It looks unrealistically smaller than the real thing. I tried to hide that fact with a simple trick that anyone can pull off, provided you know how to field strip your prop weapon.

I learn a bunch of stuff every time I make a film, and this is just one of several videos I plan on making about things I learned making Collection Day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Making of "Collection Day": Day 3

On day three of our shoot, we had a very bipolar experience. In the morning we shot inside of the business building on campus, which features an enormous glass window. As mentioned before (I think) there is a visual theme of glass in the film (due to the lead character's name--Taylor Glass), and this window is probably the largest incarnation of that idea. Shooting there went fairly well and we wrapped with a nice lunch with cast and crew.

After lunch we moved to our second location, a small abandoned cement factory that everyone loves to shoot at. Not only does the location look great for all things run-down, but the owner's don't care if you shoot there and always let you do so at no cost. Our first issue arose when we found there was no longer power in the plant--another previous perk. The solution wasn't hard, we just had to go rent a generator. So we did.

What killed us for the evening, however (and is not seen in the video), was the tactical light on Taylor's rifle went out after we started shooting. It used a special battery and I only had one. I took off to go find a replacement battery or light, but came up empty handed. I then tried to recharge the battery we had, but the provided charger was slow and would not give us the time we needed to shoot the scene.

We ended up cancelling the shoot and rescheduling. The very next day I ordered two new (and more efficient) batteries and a charger for the tactical light. I was not going to have history repeat itself.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sandisk Ultra SDHC Class 10 Cards On Sale

I know it's "Black Friday" and all, but I really haven't seen many jump-out great deals. The deals that are out there online may be due to the holiday shopping season or just cyclic sales that pop up regularly. Another factor is just the progression of technology and the resulting clearances of "old technology" that inevitably takes place

One (or more) deal(s) that seems to be worthwhile are some SDHC card deals on Amazon right now. It doesn't really matter what camera you are using, most use SD cards to store video files. Here are some current deals we may all benefit from.

Sandisk Ultra 16 GB card, $9.99
Sandisk Ultra 32 GB card, $17.99
Sandisk Ultra 64 GB card, $34.99

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Making of "Collection Day": Day 2

Our second day of shooting landed us in a glass conference room, which was a slight change from the glass office mentioned in the script. One of the visual themes in the film is glass, which also happens to be the last name of our protagonist. I had searched high and low for such an office with no luck. When sharing this frustration with one of my thesis committee members, he suggested a high-tech dental office.

Further investigation put me in touch with the owner, whom I discovered was looking for someone to shoot a commercial for his business. When I agreed to that, I had my location. Scary fact: this location was literally secured the day before we were scheduled to shoot our scene. This was a recurring nightmare that plagued this film. I was constantly looking for hard-to-find locations that would miraculously materialize at the last second. Not fun.

Once we were there (the next morning), things began moving along and we dealt with new issues. Two glass walls opposite each other caused reflection issues. One blank wall that looked so awful, I was determined never to show it (it still got in there a few times). We were in a location I had only seen on the web, and had to quickly assess and modify my storyboard/shot list, and the clock was ticking...

Time to make lemonade, right?

Monday, November 18, 2013

The First "Collection Day" BTS Arrives!

If anyone has been wondering why I fell off the radar over a month ago, you can probably guess. Yep, I started shooting my thesis film and it quickly absorbed my life. I knew that I would not be able to shoot my movie and keep up with my YouTube/blogging duties, so I had someone shooting behind-the-scenes footage that would debut weekly on my channel in place of the content that I would normally create.

Well, it didn't quite work out that way, but some episodes are now complete and will be hitting the channel and blog in a timely manner, interspersed with original content from me. In this first episode, we take a gander at the first day of shooting, which covers an early scene in a moving car.

If you are asking why I decided to suction cup the expensive Sony FS700 to the hood of the car instead of shooting a greenscreen setup, it's because I hate greenscreen setups. The goal was to use as much practical shooting as possible, and I want everything to look as realistic as possible. I really don't like the artificiality that comes from a chromakey, though I fully admit shooting in a real moving car has its own set of problems.

Then again, what shoot doesn't?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Recap Q&A: Record Sound to Your iDevice?

Argh. As of late, I seem to be having trouble getting my Recap episode up on my blog on the same day that I activate it on YouTube. I'm not sure why this is, but it has been happening more than I would like and I apologize. The blog needs more love from this writer's hands. It has been neglected for too long and I can see the dwindling readers as evidence of this.

Above is my latest Recap video and I hope enjoy it (if you watch these kinds of videos). Meanwhile, I'll go work on an article while I'm trying to find locations for my thesis film. Making movies is fun!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: Fotodiox Power Arm 7

After getting that large box from Fotodiox, my thesis film fundraising stepped in and took all my time. I've recently re-opened the box and started poking around. Lots of interesting stuff in there!

In this video, I look at one of these goodies, the 7" "Power Arm". This articulating arm allows you attach any 1/4-20 gizmo such as lights, microphones or monitors. Here, I demonstrate the flexibility of this gadget by attaching my Coby 7" monitor that doesn't even have mounting threads!

Instead of a typical cage rig (that many of these arms attach to, I use my trusty Frugal Stabilizer II. Works for me.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Recap Q&A: What Gear for Weddings?

More questions this week that range from what camera I'm using on Collection Day, to the order of rolling sound and camera on a take, to recommended gear on a wedding/event shoot. Hopefully I answer everything without sticking my foot too far into my mouth. I have big feet and a proportional mouth to go with it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Five Things I Learned Using Kickstarter

After recently running a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund my thesis film, I came away having learned much more than I knew going in. I fully admit that even though I did some research, I really didn't know what I was doing. I did look at other campaigns that were asking for similar amounts and read several blog posts, but that was it. I was a very green crowdfunder.  

Though I didn't know a whole lot about this process, I still went in with both barrels blazing. I had a lot riding on raising this money, with the most to lose if it failed. There was a point in the middle there when I was really stressed out that we were not going to make our budget. I started thinking about contingency plans and publicity stunts to push us over the top.

Fortunately, everyone came through.  Family and friends were awesome, but it was the people who read/watch my stuff on the web that made up at least two-thirds of all the pledges received. We were successful and allowed to move on to the next phase of production.

The following are a few things I learned along the way:

Know your audience well enough to select a reasonable goal.
I thought I had a formula for this. After listening to film marketing consultant Sheri Candler, I determined that I would use a formula to select an adequate budget for my film. Since there is a lot of crossover between YouTube subscribers, Facebook group members, blog readers and Twitter followers, I stuck with the basic number of YouTube subs at the time: 55,000.

Ms. Candler had stated that one percent of your audience will support you with money. One percent of 55k is 550. Since the most popular pledge is $25, I figured 550 * $25 = $13,750. Not wanting to be greedy, I rounded down to $10,000. When my campaign got a late launch (24 days instead of the planned 30), I knocked another thousand off to settle on $9,000.

The bad news was I over-estimated the percentage of followers that would support me (I do cater to a frugal crowd). It wasn't 1% (550) as Ms. Candler predicted, but .55% (303). The good news was it didn't matter.  The half-percent that did support me, more than made up for the half that didn't. An extra bonus was a very generous contributor that swooped in with $1,500 with ten minutes to go, AFTER we had cleared our goal by over $400. I love those kinds of surprises.

Another interesting fact was that $25 (65 backers) was not the most popular pledge, but $10 (147 backers) was. Why? I wanted people who contributed $10 (the price of a movie ticket) to be able to see the film via an online premiere. Most Kickstarter campaigns make you pay at least $25 to see the film via DVD. I felt that was too expensive and had a lot of $10 backers as a result.

Read the requirements and prepare early.
Since I was running behind, I didn't read all of the fine print about what I needed to do before my campaign could go live. I knew that Kickstarter would take 2-3 business days to review and hopefully approve my page, but I missed the part about setting up an Amazon Business Account. This account allows you process pledges from credit cards and is mandatory.

Not having this ready delayed my submission to Kickstarter and prevented me from starting on time. Again, six days were lost waiting for approval from Amazon and then Kickstarter. Thankfully, in my case, it didn't matter. Kickstarter promotes the fact that campaigns under thirty days are more often funded than those that are longer.

There is one degree of separation between you and pledges.
Lots of people who couldn't contribute spread my link around, and I am grateful for that. Interestingly, it didn't seem to help much. My numbers state that those directly attached to me (family, friends, fans) are the ones who contributed, not a friend of a friend or distant relative or acquaintance of a fan of The Frugal Filmmaker. This tells me why it is so important to directly connect with your viewership. It is this "one-degree" relationship that will make a huge difference if you decide to crowdfund.

Be aggressive toward the end of your campaign.
Several people told me that in the last week of the campaign, I need to be posting about the campaign four or five times a day on Facebook and to pin these posts at the top of the The Frugal Filmmaker Facebook group which had over 8,000 members at the time (it's over 8,400 now). They said don't worry about being pushy and the real supporters will show up.

That advice was solid gold. I did post regularly which meant that it was showing up in people's Facebook feeds several times per day. They wouldn't see every one since they weren't always online. Pinning the post helped keep it visible and I varied the post with current updates so it wouldn't be stale. Later, I even began injecting humor to keep things fun. My favorite: "I want to make this movie, yes I do. I want to make this movie, how about you?" Not one person complained that I was spamming and people were pledging on a regular basis.

If successful, be prepared to lose 10% of the money raised.
Here's something else to figure into your budget: put some financial pad on your goal to compensate for fees and lost pledges. Kickstarter charges 5% for their service and Amazon almost the same to process everyone's credit card. Some pledges will have issues (expired cards, for example) and if not corrected after a week post-campaign, will be let go. The final amount raised was $10,926. The final amount that made it to the Collection Day business account was $9,936.32. Anticipate this and you'll be fine. I didn't, but again the generous $1,500 donor made this a moot point.

I'm very thankful to all of you who helped me fund my film. I hope these things that I took away from the experience will help you if you try this in the future. It's very exciting to think you can raise money with help from fans that is not a loan. Just make sure you fulfill your rewards and finish your film--then everybody wins.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Recap Q&A: What If an Actor Quits?

No one likes a worst-case scenario. Today on the Car Show, I answer some questions about Kickstarter, cameras, and that nasty question mentioned above. I've been fortunate that this has never happened to me personally (though I've worked on productions where it has), but you should still be prepared for what you will do if it does. Remember, you can't kill anybody.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

$10 Budget: Communicator Rain Clamp!

Time to get back to making regular videos, so I thought a fitting return would be an episode of the $10 Budget. This time I have a couple of items from eBay and one from a local grocery store. I am really excited about the first one, a prop that I have tried several times to find and failed. The second two are more about keeping dry and holding things, but may come in handy if you need them.

Am I being to vague? Watch the video!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Recap Q&A: Kickstarter Success!

Whew! The past twenty-four days have been quite the roller coaster ride with the Collection Day Kickstarter campaign. After a strong start and a quiet middle, everyone came through when they needed to. Not only was there a surge at the next-to-last day that put us over the top, but a super-generous pledge ($1,500) came in ten minutes to the deadline to push us WAY past our goal to a $10,926 total. What?! It really happened.

Kickstarter and Amazon still have to take their cut, but even after they do, we will still have close to $10k to make this film. That is awesome and will give the various departments some wiggle room to work within. This especially impacts production design and will allow us to create (or purchase) exactly what we need to make the film look and feel right.

Thanks go out to all who contributed and helped spread the word about this project. Without you we never would have had a budget of this size to make this project happen. I am very grateful for all the generosity and support that has come in the past month and continues to flow in.

There is still much to do. Cameras roll this October!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Down to the Wire!

The clock ticks on and we are at just over $7,000 at the time of this writing. With three days to go and just under $2,000 to raise on Kickstarter for my thesis film budget, the suspense is getting pretty thick. While I love suspense (I'm a big Hitchcock fan, after all), this is the kind that is giving me more gray hairs than I wish to admit I have!

The good news is that the number of contributors (and the amount they are contributing) is rapidly increasing in number. As the drop-dead date of Saturday at midnight approaches, people are stepping up to make sure we succeed. Family, friends, cast and crew (and their family and freinds), as well as the many supporters of The Frugal Filmmaker, are all rallying to make this film happen. It's very inspiring.

We're not quite there yet, however. There are three days to go and we need $2,000 more dollars to win our all-or-nothing prize. Any help you can give us is appreciated. I know we will succeed. There are so many kind people out there who have contributed already, and continue to spread the word and support for this project.

It's what "crowdfunding" is all about.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Interviewed by Knoptop!

Last night was a cool experience for me.  I was interviewed by Dave Knop of Knoptop fame for his QuickFX channel on YouTube. I've always liked Dave's content (no one does zany DIY filmmaking better) and it was a real pleasure to be interviewed about my upcoming thesis film and associated Kickstarter campaign. It was also fun to respond to live questions fielded by Dave's viewers who tuned in.

This was my first "live" interview on the web and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. Dave is a very easy guy to talk to, however, and I was quickly calmed and enjoyed answering his questions.  The interview can be seen above and I hope I did justice to what I am trying to accomplish, as well as validate all of the skilled volunteers I have working in front of and behind the lens.

If you are wondering why my video looks so shaky, it's because I had my computer setting on an unstable surface (my bed). Note to self: don't do that again.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tip: Smartphone Camera Stabilizer

Help Scott raise the budget for his thesis film "Collection Day"! The Kickstarter campaign runs until the end of August.

Today's video (okay, yesterday's video) comes to you about something I found in a thrift store that I have been eyeballing for sometime now. It's the Appdrive, a steering wheel shaped device that holds your smartphone and gives you easier two-handed control over your phone (and thus, your phone's camera). Sound like a FigRig or the Mini Camera Stabilizer? I thought so too.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Collection Day": Kickstarter Q&A

Tick...tick...tick. So goes the sound in my head as time marches closer and closer toward the end of August. It not only marks the end of the summer movie season, but also the amount of time I have to raise my budget for Collection Day. I'm in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign, you see, and while the glass of time is more than half full, the amount raised is less than half empty.

Several people have asked me questions about Kickstarter, which I address in the above video. What I don't really address is the creeping sense of panic one feels when an all-or-nothing deadline is approaching. I still feel that I have a solid enough following to pull off a $9k goal, but the low numbers worry me. The lack of remaining days worry me. The thought of a "Plan B" worries me.

I know this goal can be reached. If everyone within the sound of my voice in the above video, or the words on this blog, or the annals of the Facebook group (where I've pinned a Kickstarter post to the top), or the Twitterverse, or a combination of all the above were to contribute the minimum pledge--we'd have our budget.

Still, that sound stays with me.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Collection Day 9: Teaser Trailer / Lighting Quiz

In an effort to throw some more interest toward the Collection Day Kickstarter campaign, I've created a brief teaser (with actual footage this time). While what you see here won't be in the final film, it does give some insight insight into the setting and our lead character, Taylor (Kayla Esmond).

It may be of some interest that the wide shot featured below (minus TV effects) used a combination of moderately expensive to very cheap lighting.

The light sources used in this shot are:
Practical lamp
75w halogen spot light
Lowel Pro Light (250w)
200w incandescent bulb w/scoop reflector
Kino Flo 4 bank (1 bank active)

Can you guess where these light sources are coming from in the shot? Some are obvious, while others are completely hidden and two are in plain sight (one is easy, the other not so much). I'll update this post with some answers after you give the shot a gander for a few days.

Practical lamp - above telephone
75w halogen spot light - clamped to bed frame just above lamp, aimed at the back of Kayla's head
Lowel Pro Light - on light stand between mattress and box spring pointed at floor
200w scoop - bouncing off wall near chair
Kino Flo - large black monolith shape on right side of frame

Friday, August 9, 2013

Frugal Camera Fattener: Kickstarter Edition!

Help Scott raise the budget for his thesis film "Collection Day"! The Kickstarter campaign runs until the end of August.

When I bought the Sony NEX 5n interchangeable lens camera, I knew it was small. I didn't have a problem with that. After all, it was always going to be on a tripod or rig when I shot video. When I started poking around with shooting still images, the small size became more of an issue. After a while, my large hands were cramping from trying to hold the tiny thing.

I thought I had solved the problem previously, but then I began using large, long lenses and my wrist started screaming at me. I needed something that secured two sides of the camera, gave me something larger to wrap my gorilla hands around, and provides a better rest for my focusing hand.

The Frugal Fattener does just that, makes a small camera comfortably larger, even with a large, heavy lens. The parts are cheap on eBay, it's easy to assemble, and it's small enough to transport in a backpack or cargo pants pocket. Nifty!


Simple Flash Bracket

Foam-covered Camera Grip Handle

Camera Shoe Mount Adapter

Camera Shoe Mount (optional)

Metal Quick Release System

Rubber Fender Washers (x2)
Any hardware store

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Collection Day 8: Marketing Kickstarter

After being delayed due to my lack of understanding about Kickstarter basics, my submission was approved today and went live. I posted it on the Facebook Group and people started backing the film immediately, something I was very grateful to see. I'm not naive enough to think I'm going to get Freddie Wong sized numbers, but it is very cool to feel supported by viewers who like what I am doing and want me to do more. It is what Freddie and others are doing, just on a smaller scale.

If you are wondering what my plan is to alert people about my Kickstarter page, I will happily tell you. There might be a time when you are thinking about crowdsourcing your budget and sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are a couple of the most popular that have given people a shot at doing what they love. But how do you get people to go there?

Admitedly, I have tried to stack the deck in my favor. I do have a modest following on the web, and I have always intended to ask them (you) for help when the time came. I have tried to give away information in the form of links, tutorials, reviews and commentary with the hope that people would save money and gladly send some in my direction when the time came. The larger the following, the less everyone has to contribute to meet your goal. The trick is to set a realistic number that you think your network of fans can support.

Even if you don't have a web show, a blog, a large Facebook Group or lots of followers on Twitter, we all have networks that should be able to support us. Most people have Facebook pages and you can tag everyone involved in your project with the hope they will promote it to their networks (encourage them). This also includes "going analog" by calling friends or family directly and asking them to contribute. The reward system on Kickstarter (if used right) can avoid the charity label, as people will actually get something for their money. Price these rewards accordingly.

I've also gone with an "all digital" system of rewards that serves two purposes. They remove any kind of shipping burden and give everyone all over the world the same thing at the same time. This may come across as cold or impersonal (there are no real "tangible" rewards on my list), but it is very streamlined and prevents me from having to add money to the budget for deliverables. There are no added costs for creating t-shirts, DVDs or posters and no shipping costs. There is no wait for those not in the U.S. Everyone is equal.

I'm also planning a large push on YouTube throughout the Kickstarter run which ends on the last day of August. I plan on annotations and links on every video in my library (with the exception of Q&A vids) as well as updates on the Q&A show and tie-in videos every Thursday. Since builds are some of my most popular videos, August will be "Project Month", where I feature a new build every Thursday and mention Kickstarter every time. This should really help get the word out.

Along with the rest of the network (blog, Facebook, Twitter), another good marketing tool is an email list. People have emailed me with questions for quite awhile now (many of which have made it on the Recap Q&A show) and emailing them back with notice of my Kickstarter campaign is another way to alert people interested in your work. Emailing all my subscribers on YouTube is another avenue of direct marketing.

It should also be mentioned that however you do this, a huge side benefit of marketing your Kickstarter page, is that you are actually marketing your film! People will become more aware of what you are doing because you are putting so much effort into raising your budget. People who support you will spread the word, and anxiously await the day when the film they helped fund debuts. It's a win-win, if you can meet that Kickstarter goal.

Like Collection Day on Facebook
Follow Collection Day on Twitter

Monday, August 5, 2013

Kickstarter: Please Stand By

For those of you following this blog and are interested in my thesis film Collection Day, you may have noticed that the much-ballyhooed Kickstarter campaign failed to launch on August 1st.  I was late getting my pitch video together (not to mention the Kickstarter page) and then found out that you couldn't submit your project until an Amazon Business account was set up to receive funds.

That process took two business days (separated by the weekend, of course), but was complete this morning. I then submitted my page with video to Kickstarter and should hear back within a day or two if I am approved.

This delay was probably a good thing, as it allowed my to watch more Kickstarter videos to see what else was out there and make changes to my own page to improve it.  Despite the time setback, my deadline for the campaign is still the end of August. This will only give me about twenty-four days to raise the money (whatever the total ends up being, I'm still debating). I'm okay with this, as even Kickstarter states that thirty days or less is still the most successful time frame to raise funds.

All this work prevented me from releasing a video last week, but things should be back to normal this week. No Q&A video today, but I will make one as soon as the Kickstarter page is live to help promote it.  I will also feature my first tie-in video on Thursday and begin promoting the campaign from YouTube. This will include a special annotation and description link on every video except for Q&As, which are only watched by hardcore viewers when they are released.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Collection Day 7: The Table Read

Last Thursday the cast and producer Scott McEntire and I got together and read the Collection Day script through from beginning to end. Known as a "table read" (for obvious reasons), this is really the first exposure the entire cast has to each other and the first chance that I (as the writer) got to hear my all my dialogue read by real actors.

I really enjoyed the results. I like this group of actors and even though this is very, very early in the performance process (no rehearsals yet), I enjoyed hearing them breathe life into these people. This script has been workshopped for about a year, so I feel pretty good about it, but until now, these fictitious characters have just been written words on a page. Getting them all together is more proof that this is going to be a completed film come April.

I also had a great chat with lead Kayla Esmond, after the read was over. Her character of Taylor is a complex person and I wanted to discuss with her who we think that person is and what her goals and motivations are. Kayla uses some pretty intense methodology to get into her characters head, and I really admire her work ethic.

I'm really looking forward to working with Kayla and the rest of this group come October when cameras roll. There is still a lot of work to be done until then, but I am only encouraged by events such as this one. I'm a big believer in doing as many extra things as possible to help your film shine and this is one of the simplest.

Up next, the Kickstarter campaign to raise our budget!  Watch for it August 1st!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Collection Day 6: The Shooting Range

It’s been far too long since my last post, but I’m happy to report that things are beginning to really ramp up on the production of my thesis film, Collection Day. Last night I went to a local shooting range with two of my actors (Kayla Esmond and Rachel Hampton), our associate producer (Stephanie Stephens), our photographer (Carly Fehlberg) and our trainer (Wade Powers). The purpose of this visit was to instruct Kayla and Rachel in basic firearms use, give them a real guns to shoot, and let them actually fire them.

Why was I doing this? Since their characters are near-future government agents who have some gunplay in the film, I wanted to give them some real-world shooting experience. Our airsoft gun replicas will look great, but they are quite tame in comparison (non-lethal, very little kick), so I wanted the talent to know what real firing felt like. Both characters shoot semi-automatic pistols and Taylor (Kayla) uses an assault rifle at one point.

I also took the opportunity to do some shooting myself. As a director, I don’t want to ask an actor to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself, so I took the basic instruction and fired both the pistol and the assault rifle. I’m not a stranger to shooting (though it’s been awhile) and I was glad to bond with part of my cast and have fun at the same time. I also recorded the whole experience which will be featured in the upcoming Kickstarter video as well as a stand alone video of its own.

We also had an excellent weapons trainer, Wade Powers, who is currently serving in the military and was invaluable to us last night. You should always have someone with knowledge and experience running this kind of thing, as firearms are deadly weapons and should be handled with care. We all had to watch a safety video at the range, but we received additional training from Wade, who was also there on the range assisting us. He also provided the weapons, which he knew very well. Wade will also be a consultant on the film and is helping us create some realistic military uniforms.

I also want to thank Nathan House of Arkansas Armory, for allowing into his range, letting us shoot video of the whole experience, and giving us a break on the lane fees. He was very supportive and being a sci-fi fan, very interested in our project. Working with Nathan is an example of how local businesses can be very willing to help you out (for locations or training, or whatever) if you simply ask nicely and treat them and their establishment with respect. It’s a win-win.

In the end, both actresses enjoyed shooting off several magazines and I hope it helps them get into their roles. I had a great time bonding with the talent and discovering a great resource in Wade. It was a productive evening and another step toward the successful completion of our film.

Up next, the table read!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tip: Video Editor as Photoshop

Here's a quick tip that has helped me churn out custom thumbnails for my Youtube videos. In the past, I would get a picture of whatever I wanted to feature, then slog through a photo editor (Windows Paint or Gimp) to get it to the right size. YouTube wants your thumbnail to be 1280x720, so you have to finagle your graphic to get it to the right size. I'm probably just not doing it right, but it always took longer than I felt it should.

Now I use my video editor (Sony Vegas Pro 12) to do the very same thing. The difference now is that it's a much faster and simpler process. See the above video for a full explanation.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

$10 Budget: USB Grip Boxes!

Another trip to Dollar Tree, another load of booty! Nothing amazing here, just some helpful cheapies that may make your filmmaking life a little easier. The only online item is the tablet holder, which may come in handy for those looking to mount their tablet on their rig somewhere. While Deejay (featured in the link) found his on eBay for $11, I found one on Amazon for $7. If you have a tablet, it may come in handy at a lower price point than other mounting options.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Big Box of Fotodiox Stuff Arrives

I have to admit, I love getting stuff in the mail to review. After talking about Fotodiox's Macro Extension Tube, they have since agreed to keep sending me stuff. Recently, a box showed up at my doorstep (okay, so I wasn't home and had to nab it at the post office) chock full of goodies to review. I won't reveal all the contents of this box of mystery, but let's just say it's full of affordable and very useful items.

Stay tuned!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Camera Grip Handle

Here's a basic camera grip handle that mounts into your camera's 1/4-20 tripod mount similar to this rubber grip or foam grip handle. Also works well on stabilizer rigs that might need a handle or two.


Bicycle grip, rubber or foam (rubber is more durable, foam is cheaper)

*DISCLAIMER* The grips I used in the video were obtained from a grocery store (!) long ago, and I've never seen this model since. I'm linking to a set on eBay, but have never used them and can't vouch for their ability to fit over the coupler. All I know is they are the right material that "should" work.

1/4" machine screw or bolt (machine screw is preferable so you can access through handle with a screwdriver)
1/4" lock washer

1/2" PVC slip plug (hexagonal shape preferred (Lowe's Hardware) for easy locating of center)
Watch "Tripod Dolly" video for demonstration on center drilling these plugs

1/2" PVC coupler
1/2" PVC pipe, 3 1/4" in length

Flash shoe adapter, dual nut version (single nut version has smaller surface area)


Drill w/ 1/4" drill bit

PVC cutters (or hacksaw, but cutters are WAY easier) at Harbor Freight Tools or Amazon

Brute Force

Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: RGB LED IR Remote "Light Stick"

Recently, there was (one of many) awesome posts over at Cheesycam, where Emm talked about accent lighting created from running lights that go under cars and cheap, wireless $15 LED strips with an adhesive backing.  He mentions Steve Taylor's video that puts these lights inside a clamp light reflector for maximum effect.

When I got my set, I had a hard time getting the LED strip to stay inside of my reflector, possibly due to the smaller size. Instead, I wrapped them around a 3/4" PVC pipe where they held firm and were compatible with my PVC light stands (if you want to put them on a regular light stand try this). I like the various lighting effects that could be produced with these, though their use may be limited by the limited remote and strobing issue seen in the video.

If you want to use them in the field, there is the option of powering them from the inexpensive 12v batteries that I use on my external SD monitor. The connectors are the same as the provided power supply, making this an easy (and cheap) purchase.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Recap Q&A: Do You Like Found Footage Movies?

Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/thefrugalfilmmaker
Twitter Feed: http://www.twitter.com/frugalfilmmaker

DVDlab authoring software

Watch "Zoom H1 Accessories"

Noob Shock Mount Adapter (for Zoom H1)

"Chronicle" (Blu-ray + DVD combo)

DIY flourescent video lights

Rode Smart Lav Reviewed

10 tips - how to shoot in rain

Moby offers music to filmmakers for free

Matching artificial light to the light found on location

How I made an impossible film

Counter balance weights for $15

Why "Cosmonaut" creators gave audience upper hand

Building a "dry ice" light for $36

Tip: Thumbnail slate

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tip: Thumbnail Slate

Here's a trick that will ease headaches in post production. If you have ever had to scrub through a clip to find the slate (frugal or retail), wouldn't it be nice if the thumbnail was the slate? And what if you don't use a slate? While the answers may appear to be common sense, this is one lesson I seem to keep learning...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Auditioning Actors

I know Chris Henderson covered this topic in depth on my blog awhile back, but how to find actors is a question I get asked over and over. While it is not an expensive process, it will take a bit of time and effort to line up all of your ducks and get people interested in your project enough to want to work with you. If you already have a reputation, this might be easy. If you don't, you've got your work cut out for you.

Either way, I hope this video helps in your pre-production process.

Collection Day Audition Notice (designed by Stephanie Stephens)
Collection Day Audition Sides (attached as notes to the CD Facebook page)
Directing Actors by Judith Weston
Chris Henderson's series on "Casting Your Microbudget Film"
Thumbnail photo courtesy Morguefile.com

P.S. Don't forget to be professional during auditions. Actors (like crew) are doing you a huge favor. Treat them with the respect and professionalism they deserve, whether they are good for the part or not. This is where you will begin building a reputation with the local filmmaking community, and everyone talks. Give them good things to say and you'll always have the talent you need.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Recap Q&A: Which Editor and Why?

Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/thefrugalfilmmaker
Twitter Feed: http://www.twitter.com/frugalfilmmaker

"Collection Day" Facebook Page

Rosco Cinefoil (black wrap)

Watch "Tip: External SD Monitor Battery"

Digital Prism 7" portable television/monitor

Sony Vegas Video Editors (with 30 day free trials)

6 filmmaking tips from Richard Linklater

DIY digital stabilized camera gimbal

Amazon Storyteller turns scripts into storyboards

An actors guide to producing your own film

Mounting options for photography (or video) backdrops

How to make a soft DIY LCD hood

Conquering creative burnout: put down the camera

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Collection Day 5: More Auditions Tomorrow

Our makeshift greenroom. The ironies abound!
I really like auditions and I love actors. They are the ones who breathe life into your characters, the ones who literally inhabit this world you have created for them. The best ones will totally commit to these characters, no matter how strange or silly the story might be. They are fearless. If they trust you, they will move in the directions you guide them. If you trust them, you will listen to their insights and feelings about the character. You don't always have to agree with them, but they are the ones living in your character's skin. Pay attention.

I was encouraged by what we saw in round one of our auditions on Saturday (despite the heavy rain). There is another audition tomorrow night and the trilogy ends this coming Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing more local talent and very excited for callbacks when we get to start pairing people together to see how their chemistry plays out.

Casting is sort of like looking at paintings. You don't know what you'll like, but you recognize it when you see it.
--Steven Bochco

Monday, June 3, 2013

Recap Q&A: What Non-gear Storage Storage?

Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/thefrugalfilmmaker
Twitter Feed: http://www.twitter.com/frugalfilmmaker

"Collection Day" teaser from Fist Full'a Fedi Productions

"Collection Day" teaser from Miika Was Here

Large pistol (shotgun mic) case

Interview with Brian Paulin of Morbid Vision Films

NEX-6 with Lens Turbo converter

Lens Turbo Full Frame adapter for NEX

Adobe Creative Cloud Review

Review: Fotodiox macro extention tube

Tough, low cost travel tripod review

Shooting a reality show with two pocket cameras

Macro shots on a pocket camera

$1 DIY sandbags

PhotaREX softbox for redheads review

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review: Fotodiox Macro Extension Tube

I've never done much macro (extreme close-up) shooting, but I still think it's pretty cool.  When Fotodiox offered to send me an adapter that would make any of my lenses into macro lenses, I jumped at the chance.  At only $10 (for the Sony NEX version), it's a steal. It's definitely not perfect, but the low price more than compensates for the hoops you may have to jump through to get it to work properly.

gives you uber-cool extreme close-up video

is only effective with manual lenses (no electronic pass-through)
adds weird tilt to camera (when used with Fotodiox lens adapter with tripod mount)
need long lens for practical use (only a con if you don't have one)

Fotodiox Macro Extension Tube
Macro Slider Rail

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tip: Sci-fi Hockey Puck Prop

In a scene from my upcoming thesis film, a certain device is described in a very specific way--hockey puck shaped.  Even though I wrote the script and had a pretty good idea about what I wanted, I went looking anyway. Who knows what better ideas I could stumble across with a little legwork?

LED Puck Light
Light Strike Mini Target
Palm Touchstone Induction Charger

P.S. If you need to turn your PDF screenplay into a JPG so you can insert a page into a video (as I did here), pdf2jpg will do it for you online.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Recap Q&A: Make a Better Teaser Contest!

Didn't like the "Collection Day" teaser? Make your own!

Collection Day 4: First Teaser and Some Marketing

Collection Day Facebook Page

Collection Day Twitter Feed

Kevin MacLeod's "Darkness is Coming" music track

DIY Steadicam - Krotocam review

Redhead cheap light kit review

This 12-year-old girl can kick your butt (at making movies)

How to get started with Magic Lantern RAW video on your Canon

How to build a "bag of tricks" you can pull from in a pinch

16 recommendations for filmmakers for a sustainable creative life

Sony MDR-V6 and Tascam TH02 monitor headphone review

DIY CFL lighting kit

$1 multi clamp

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Collection Day 4: First Teaser and Some Marketing

Things are chugging along for my grad thesis film, Collection Day, and that includes some marketing moves. Last week we launched (thanks to associate producer Stephanie Stephens) an official Facebook Page and a Twitter feed. There isn't much content as of yet, but we did recently post the first of three audition notices.

I also registered an official, easy to remember domain name (collectiondaymovie.com) that, as of now, redirects to the Facebook page. I'm sure there will be a better use for it in the future, but a domain name is cheap and good to have for easily directing anyone interested to more information.

I also created a short teaser video. Even though no one has been cast and not one frame has been shot (we've only had one meeting!), a teaser video can be a good way to create interest and dole out information. Here, I reveal some key points to the story in every piece of text. I slightly animate the text to create drama (except for the title itself) and for the tagline at the end, it moves in the opposite direction (more drama!)

Of course, what really makes the teaser (if it is made at all) is the music. I used a royalty free selection ("Darkness is Coming") from Kevin McLeod over at his great site Incompetech.com. I think the piece fits really well and reminds of the score from John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), which is something I want in the final score of my film.

So what do you think? Does the teaser effectively pique your interest?


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