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


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