Tuesday, December 21, 2010

DESERTERS trailer

The trailer for my short film, pre-reshoots:

video

Be gentle.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Visual Storytelling: Three Goals


Far be it from me, a humble student, to reduce the irreducible, to find order in chaos, to make rules out of random artistic inspiration -- but I'm going to give it the college try. For my own sake, if not for yours.

Before I continue with my thesis, let me first state that I base all of the below on three assumptions:

1) "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." -- Leonardo da Vinci
2) "Drama is communicating an intellectual idea on an emotional level." -- Brian McDonald
3) Your style is how you solve a given problem. -- Will Eisner
3.5) And that I'm not talking out of my ass.

I do believe this morning, while watching DIE HARD (1988) with the sound off, that I may have sussed-out -- or perhaps, merely recycled by synthesis -- what I will call "The Three Goals of Visual Storytelling". These apply to film most readily -- but I bet with any keen study of a given visual medium's better works, you'd find that the same goals apply. Such media would include comics especially, but also painting, illustration, graphic design, etc. I'm on the fence about video games, because they're still trying to figure out just what they are as a collective medium and besides, no one can agree on what constitutes a good game beyond how they "feel" when they play it. Videogames have no "Poetics", no Shakespeare, no John Ford. Yet. But I digress, that is a much longer post for a much more lazy day.

Before I breakdown the rules as I see them, let me first define what exactly I mean by "good" visual storytelling. When I talk about "good" visual storytelling, it is usually a pretty quantitative assessment of the work's visual language, not a qualitative assessment of it's style (if there is such a thing), or whether or not I "liked it" because (for example) it's a romantic comedy starring my-favorite-actress-ever-Lindsey-Lohan.

But provided there is such a thing as "style", it's by definition not something we can quantitatively assess. Therefore we need to ask, "What criteria apply to visual storytelling beyond style?" A better way to ask this question might be to say, "What purposes do any given work's visual language serve, regardless of artistic 'interpretation'?"

If we take the primary goal of any work to be the action-objective "to communicate", then the three things any image or series of images must constantly be communicating are, in order:


1) ACTION
2) GEOGRAPHY
3) EMOTION



ACTION - "What is the character doing? What is happening to them?"
The fundamental building block of drama: a character's actions define it's story, plot, and performances. These in turn define how we, the visual storyteller, render them.

Now, before you think I've arbitrarily lumped an unnamed fourth criteria called "Character" into Rule #1, "Action", let's all remember what F. Scott Fitzgerald said about action and character: "Action IS character." [My emphasis] Any one want to challenge Mr. Great Gatsby? Didn't think so.


GEOGRAPHY - "Where does the action take place?"
In order for the audience to understand what exactly constitutes a character's actions, they also need to know where it's happening. Is Indy in the Well of the Souls, or is he hiding out on a freighter? Is John McClaine being shot at on a roof, or running through glass in a computer lab? Is Harry Lime giving his "cuckoo clock" speech on a Ferris wheel, or running for his life through the sewers of Vienna?

Each location and it's specific geography, texture and atmosphere in the above examples all contribute to how the character's actions play out -- and how we perceive them. Would Welles' speech in The Third Man have been the same if he delivered it in the sewers? I don't think so.

This also calls to mind Mr. Anonymous' adage that "[Characters] are products of their environments." Can't really challenge someone named Anonymous.


EMOTION - "How does s/he feel about it?"
Lastly, what are the psychological ramifications of the actions our characters commit -- or the actions that others commit to them? Simply put, how do they -- and by empathic extension, "we" -- feel about it all?

If drama is the application of emotion to communication, then clearly this final "rule" is at the heart of storytelling. Emotion is the "this is what it's all about" element, whether we're talking about simply a single dramatic beat or the entire work, and it's this end that the other two "rules" serve. Emotion is ineffective without first knowing "who did what", "where".

I think it's fair to say that the reason "sentiment" has become such a dirty word is because of unearned emotion -- stories wherein the audience has not been given sufficient action and geography to empathically connect to and invest in a given story's characters. This is why it feels cheap when a film clearly wants us to cry and we feel nothing. A "sentimental" work's emotional manipulation is made transparent in these cases because we're engaged by neither the drama on display, nor how the drama is displayed -- nor, frequently, both.

Alfred Hitchcock put it best: "Emotion REQUIRES information." [My emphasis] Any one want to challenge Mr. Rear Window/Vertigo/North by Northwest/TakeYourPick?


Essentially, these three "goals" or elements of visual storytelling are another way of saying, "Character A does thing B in place C because of D." Ex 1: "Sandy vomited in the bathroom because she was nervous." Ex 2: "John shot the person breaking into his home because he was scared." At a minimum, the images we construct for each of these examples must clearly show each of the ACTION-GEOGRAPHY-EMOTION elements, then embellish as you see fit. In example, we need to see Sandy vomiting, in the bathroom, and find a way to show "nervous". Likewise, with example 2, we need to see John shooting a burglar, in his home, and we need to show that he is "scared". But those are deceptively simple breakdowns. The ways you can show each of those elements are legion, their composition and chronology an order of magnitude greater.

Before you scoff at the simplicity of the methodology, I have to point out that this simplicity is their strength. It doesn't matter how you implement them, as long as you do. If, as Will Eisner said, style is how you solve a given problem, then the how of showing your audience "who is doing what (action) where (geography) why (emotion)", is what becomes your style.

If you make the communication of ACTION, GEOGRAPHY, and EMOTION the only goals your images are beholden to, then you will rivet your audience with (insert emotion here)*.

Feel free to dismantle below.

__________
*Provided, of course, that your content is given the same clear development. As my personal art school savior [see last post] said, "Art is the synthesis of form and content." Visual storytelling is the form, your story is the content.

**Everything in the above and more was handily cribbed from: Aristotle, da Vinci, Shakespeare, Mozart, Chekov, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Ford, Hitchcock, Wilder, Huston, Lumet, Spielberg, Mamet, Cameron, McTiernan (duh), McCloud, and my gracious mentors, Brian McDonald & Andrew Tsao. What is right in the above is owed to them, what is wrong is entirely my fumble.

***Of course, one of my mentors has conveniently boiled down all of the above to an even simpler, single rule: "ABC: Always. Be. Communicating." I don't think they're mutually exclusive, but that doesn't mean I'm right.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

DESERTERS deluge


It has most definitely been a long and productive time since I last posted on Cine Medias Res. While I harbor no illusions about the breadth of my audience at this humble blogspot, I do know that there are a happy few of you who comprise the depth of my audience and, as such, I'm sorry to have left you so in the lurch.

In any event, I thought the least I could do was tell you that I did indeed get a short film made, it is indeed not bad by half, and it is indeed going to be seeing some kind of festival life once it's finished -- though to what extent remains to be seen. Oh: and I am indeed in five-digits of debt as a result. And that's just the debt, not including what I spent that I could actually afford.

C'est la vie.

Until I have a finished film for which to post a link here, I'll simply add a sort of "creative" summation. I wrote the following as part of my thesis submission in June. I've done quite a bit of work on the film since then, in numerous small but crucial ways, such that the final film will no doubt look like the film I discuss having made in the below, but won't exactly feel like it.

Bear that in mind when reading the following about my June 01, 2010 edit of DESERTERS:

I am a cinematic storyteller. Which is to say, I tell stories through the medium of film. The goal of my evolving process is to move away from the disingenuous aspects of the post-music video & -commercial visual language, and reconnect to the Aristotelian and Aesop-ian roots of dramatic storytelling. All of this via the moving image.

Storytelling is by necessity a populist art, the goal being to communicate with the largest possible audience. So I’ll make no bones about it: the only modern referents whose work holds much interest for me are two unapologetically populist visual storytellers: Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. That said, I draw a considerable amount of my creative guidance from the pillars of 20th Century filmmaking: guys like Alfred Hitchcock & John Ford, John Huston & David Lean, Billy Wilder & Elia Kazan, and Sidneys Pollack & Lumet. Hitchcock and Ford in particular had an ability to construct by turns disciplined and playful stories, each told with a visual rigor that communicated clearly without being vanilla. The breadth and depth of their combined filmographies provides a creatively rich well for the aspiring professional filmmaker to draw on. This is a well I have only begun to fully explore.

Following these examples, I start with the story. The majority of the time spent on DESERTERS was spent studying, conceiving, and developing -- to the best of my abilities -- a strong story. From that solid foundation evolves both the basic visual language and the dramatic tenor of the performances. As the director, it is my job to orchestrate a push-pull dynamic between these two aspects of filmmaking, an orchestration that aims to arrive at a creative harmony. Equilibrium. DETENTE.

The fundamental rule of visual construction for this project was simple: no hand-held photography. "If the camera is moving it will be on a dolly. If it is not moving it will be on a tripod…” were the first words shared with my cinematographer. And we stuck to them, however in need of a crutch we may have been at points. This forces the visual storyteller to focus more on composition and content, relieving us of a technique that in the best of hands amounts to little more than punctuation.

From that simple declaration, I moved straight into casting and rehearsals. Rehearsals at their best are a process of discovery. The actors and I work the text, combing it for issues to fix and strengths to exploit, first through discussion and table readings, and then through physical staging. In the case of DESERTERS, the two-character argument that comprises the bulk of the second act was a particularly difficult nut to crack. But like the best staging solutions, when we added the physical obstacle of the door, the actors’ beats fell into place like dominoes. The only work left to do was simple finessing.

When we’re comfortable with the rhythm and staging of the scene, I have the actors run their blocking by rote, while I use a still camera to compose as many different kinds of shots, with as many different lenses, from as many different angles as possible. I may take over 150 photos during a two-minute scene, all while keeping in mind two things: 1) Ford’s methodology of composing for the master; and 2) Hitchcock’s principle of “image size” orchestration (essentially: save the close-up for the moment it will create the greatest possible impact). The construction of the final shotlist is derived from this surge of stills, and represents a distillation of an improvised process. After collating the stills from a run of a scene, I may run the same scene again at the next rehearsal to address missing shots or to try a different point of attack in the staging or visual language.

At the end of this preparatory process, the hope is that the script, performances, and shotlist are all working in unison, the one neither fully at the mercy of the other two. Though we will always return to the story and the basic dramatic throughline or “armature”, the intent is to have developed a complete vision in which all parts are serving the whole.

Our homework done, we shoot. Directing on-set is a lot like an improvised endurance test: you craft your plan to the best of your abilities, yet everyday presents a potentially-crippling challenge you couldn’t possibly have foreseen but in hindsight seems clumsy to have overlooked. Locations and actors come and go; what worked on the page and even in rehearsal doesn’t work on the day; you lose the light; you lose the crew; you lose time; you lose your mind. So you adjust fire, always keeping in mind the end product. “Does it work? Do I buy it?” If so, we move on. We shoot. And shoot. And shoot. And then, maybe, we re-shoot. We averaged no less than six 12-hour days during the DESERTERS shoot.

On one day in particular, we worked for 16 hours, including the striking of the set. That we were able to get not only usable but quality material in the latter 1/3 of this day is a huge testament to a vetted plan of action and a dedicated cast & crew.

Editing is a process that still possesses a bit of alchemy for me. I tend to read a lot by editor and sound designer Walter Murch, not just because he is good, but because he is also the most out-spoken of any cinema editor. Hitchcock’s image size principle returns to mind as well. In all, it is a process of selecting the best takes, and moving from one shot to the next in a way that follows the beats of the story and performances, and balancing those beats with the need for tempo and momentum in the telling. The final part of editing tends to be the culling of other takes for little bits that could be useful somewhere or could replace a quick cutaway. In the case of DESERTERS, these allowed for the creation of what could be called epic similes: the insertion of out-of-context shots to create thematic contrast, plant visual fuses, and/or illustrate a character’s thought-process. In a way, these similes feel a bit like cheating – they’re out of the modern film playbook, and don’t feel quite of the fabric of the piece, however well-woven they may be. Ultimately, they’re substitutions for material I failed to write clearly enough or failed to get on the day – whether it be an insert, a close-up or an additional beat out of the actor.

The final stage is the design and mixing of the soundtrack, generally regarded as the filmmaker’s last chance to affect the telling of the story. I pushed my sound designer well beyond the point of exhaustion in the hustle to record additional dialogue, get foley, mix sound effects, and create a smooth mix-down. After three-straight days of work on both our parts, even with working to the absolute last minute – we still failed to lay-down a final soundtrack. The sound for the body of DESERTERS is only the temp track. Sound has always been my greatest weakness and it is probably this piece’s greatest failure – but it wasn’t for lack of trying. All I can do is learn from this particular mistake and push-on with the creation of a polished mix-down apart from the my thesis exhibition.

However flawed the resultant product, a viewing of DESERTERS will show pretty definitively that I’m not particularly interested in art for art’s sake or any other Art World “movements” to speak of. I mostly just want to make a good movie that a functional human being can emotionally connect to, invest in, understand, and -- just maybe -- enjoy.
For comparison's sake, the June 01 edit ran (with credits) 18m19s. With credits, the current (Sept 30) edit runs 16m48s. That may not, at first blush, sound like a helluva difference, but when you consider the 18:19 edit was already a rather brutal culling of an initial 22:00+ edit, you should have some idea of how compressed things are becoming. In effect, I've cut-out more than 1/4 of the original cut, without losing virtually any story.

Enough said for now. More updates as they're available. If a single soul has read any of the above, let alone this far, I'll say only this: THANKS.

Erik LeDrew

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Timeline for DeconstruXion ARTS Thesis

I've been lost in story/script and casting land these past two weeks, both of which have been really fun and rewarding. I had a 20-hour day this past Sunday, in fact: casting from 930am - 700pm, then writing from 9pm - 5am. It wasn't as hard as it sounds actually, because the casting process was so fun and the writing process so rewarding (see what I did there?).

But now it's great to take a brief break from creativity and focus on locking down a timeline that's been kicking around in my head this past month.

WEEK 3: CASTING & REWRITES
April 14 - Timeline presentation; Script revisions
April 15 - 1-on-1 production meetings; Script revisions
April 16 - 1-on-1 production meetings; Script revisions; Anchor images #1 - key image
April 17 - Final callbacks for casting; Anchor images #2 - five images
April 18 - Logistics breakdown w/ co-producer; Groundplan #1

WEEK 4: REHEARSALS & PREP
April 19 - "Cam" & "Jamie" cast; Production meeting #2; Shotlisting #1
April 20 - Rehearsals: 1st table read w/ "Cam" & "Jamie"; Groundplan #2
April 21 - Class @ Fremont; Rehearsals: 2nd table read; Shotlisting #2
April 22 - Production meeting #3; Rehearsals: 3rd table read; Groundplan #3
April 23 - Rehearsals: 4th table read; Location scout #1; Thumbnails #1
April 24 - Rehearsals: final table read, initial staging; Groundplan #4
April 25 - Production meeting #4; Rehearsals: staging cont'd; Thumbnails #2

WEEK 5: FINAL REHEARSALS, PREP & SHOOTING
April 26 - Production meeting #5; Rehearsals: staging & business; Groundplan #5
April 27 - Production meeting #6; Rehearsals: staging, combat choreography; Thumbnails #3
April 28 - Rehearsals: staging, combat choreography cont'd; Location Scout; Storyboards #1
April 29 - Production meeting #7 ; Rehearsals: staging, combat choreography cont'd; Final Groundplan - w/ camera positions; Storyboards #2
April 30 - Final rehearsal on-location: final choreography; Tech scout; Storyboards #3
May 01 - Final production meeting #8; Final prep
May 02: Principle Photo DAY 01

WEEK 6: SHOOTING, EDITING WK1
May 03: Principle photo DAY 02
May 04: Review dailies
May 05: MIDTERM: proof-of-shoot & ruff aesthetic crit
May 06: Editing
May 07: Editing
May 08: Editing
May 09: Editing

WEEK 7: EDITING WK2 & RESHOOTS
May 10: Editing
May 11: Editing
May 12: Lock Rough Edit
May 13: Review edit for reshoots
May 14: Prep for reshoots
May 15: Reshoots
May 16: Review material

WEEK 8: EDITING & POST-
May 17: Editing
May 18: Editing
May 19: Lock 1st sequence to pass-off to sound & post
May 20: Lock 2nd sequence to pass-off to sound & post
May 21: Lock 3rd sequence to pass-off to sound & post
May 22: Lock 4th sequence to pass-off to sound & post
May 23: Lock 5th sequence to pass-off to sound & post

WEEK 9: FINAL EDITING, FINAL CRIT, FINAL POST-, PICTURE LOCK!
May 24: Semi-final editing
May 25: Lock semi-final edit
May 26: present unpolished semi-final cut
May 27: Final editing; final sound & post
May 28: Final editing; final sound & post
May 29: LOCK PICTURE
May 30: Initial reel test

WEEK 10: TWEAKS, REEL, TEST, EXHIBITION!
May 31: Final reel rendering & final reel test
JUNE 01: EXHIBITION

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Speed Bumps

I've been working pretty intensely these past two weeks on putting together a "pitch" video for fundraising. It's shaping up to be a pretty professional bit of "pitch" cinema and I think it gives me a real shot at raising the money I need to make Trigger a reality.

It's also serving as the Trigger prototype that the "trailer for a film that doesn't exist" was originally envisioned as being.

The big shake-up has been the determination that, in order to do Trigger justice, it really needs to be shot this summer. This would give us 4 months to cast the film, crew it, fund it, and generally just prep it into something exquisite. Pushing my thesis back caused a lot of drama with my department and raised the question of whether or not I'd graduate on time or have to wait an entire year when the next BFA exhibition rolled around. We arrived at a compromise with very few arrows loosed in either direction: I'll shoot a 4-7 minute short with the same characters and setting, but on a much more contained scale.

This 4-7 minute short will serve as both my BFA thesis, and as a part of preproduction for the much larger Trigger. It will be a trial run for working with my cast/crew and developing the non-docu "look" of the film. Most importantly, it will give the actors a chance to get comfortable with their characters, collaborating with the other actors, and working with myself. It's exactly what should be done on larger studio films.

Of no small consequence: it will also be a huge tool to use for the last-minute, June fund-raising push.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gathering Steam

Four reasons why today was a good day to be working on TRIGGER. To wit:

1. A local "rock star" cinematographer and I are scheduled to meet.

2. One of my mentors gave me positive feedback on the script (plus the usual "it's too long" critique of which I am most definitely guilty).

3. One of my fellow directors at the UW (though she a Theater MFA) actually wants to be a producer for film/TV and wants to collaborate with me.

4. And one of my former video store co-workers who now works as a costume supervisor on films, responded positively to my script and is already drafting ideas.

Now, four reasons why this week is a good week to work on TRIGGER:

1. I brokered my way into an invitation-only, project-based fund-raising website kickstarter.com. It seems to be working wonders for its members and I'm hoping to add my success to their pool. Nothing but a profile yet, but: kickstarter.com/profile/eledrew

2. For that, I am drafting a teaser poster of sorts through the steady hand of my sometime-graphic-designer fiance Marie. Per my request, she's producing it in the spirit of these: shoottheglass.bigcartel.com & exergian.tumblr.com

3. Further, I'm drafting the script of a short "pitch" for TRIGGER that will be shot on the Red and star yours truly as a dashing, romantic adventurer-filmmaker. Shouldn't be too hard to pull off.

4. Lastly, I've locked down my plan for the TRIGGER prototype: "a trailer for a film that doesn't exist"! I can't believe it took me this long to think of that. Seems like a no-brainer in hindsight. It'll be just like my glory days in the experimental video series.

Hoo-ah!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Thesis Experiment

My thesis experiment is a 1m 10s video haiku starring the reliably-bearded Paul Maupoux(!). It is shot at sterling 24fps 4k RAW on the Red One camera; gorgeously lit with a match, candle and bounced 4-bank Kino Flo; and photographed with an 85mm f/1.4 Nikon Prime - a "handsome lens", as Barry Sonnenfeld would say (re: the long lenses he used for "Miller's Crossing"). Add a FADE IN and a FADE OUT, plus a re-timed, re-mixed track from Vangelis' "Blade Runner" score -- and you've got yourself a nice, ambient little film.



This little film was conceived as a "Lux" test for the Red vs. the HVX. Lux is a term referring to the light sensitivity of the hardware. A Lux value of '1' means the camera can get a good exposure based on the light of a single candle. A value of 1 is top of the market. It goes on down to 10.



My thesis screenplay TRIGGER takes place in the wilderness at night, so the purpose of this test was to get an idea of how each camera handled extremely low-lighting conditions. True to it's reputation, the Red performed phenomenally (as you will see once I get a streaming version posted). The HVX (settings: f/1.8, 1080i24p, 1/24s exposure) performed ably, but I didn't even bother capturing the footage. Simply put, it paled in comparison to the Red.




As one of my mentor/teachers said after I showed him this Red-photographed haiku: "That's a $200,000 shot." A $200,000 shot produced for $50? Yes, sir.




Crew:
Malcolm Badewitz - AC, Lighting Tech
Ryan Irilli - Lighting Tech, Grip, docu footage
Paul Maupoux - star, add'l Grip
Marie Whitney - Crafty, Still Photog
(Dir, writer, editor, photog, etc. Yours Truly)


The file is too big to post on YT or Vimeo, and it'll take all night to re-compress from 1.5GB down to 500MB or less, so you'll have to wait on a streaming version.







Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Running (Late) Man

This has been a late week for me, just generally speaking. Late to bed, late to the gym, late to class, late to life. So in the spirit of late-ness, here is this LATE blog post:

I have finished the first draft aka "Madman draft" of my screenplay TRIGGER. It is 30 pages long. No, I don't know how I am going to do it. Yes, I am going to do it. No, I don't need your help reminding me that I don't know how I am going to do it.

Because I am going to do it.

It will be edited down to 20-25 pages ultimately, but as of right now, its a very, very tight 30 pages. It's currently sent out to my trusted readers, and I'm awaiting feedback.

Revisions schedule is as follows:
Feb. 12 - Architect draft
Feb. 19 - Carpenter draft
Feb. 26 - Judge draft
Mar. 12 - Final polish

While writing this post, FCP was ingesting the RED footage I shot last weekend. The shoot went really well and I had a blast improvising a video haiku out of my experiment's contraints. I had a small crew and I basically had a candle and a kino flo light kit. One of my crew was the actor and we staged a little micro-narrative for the RED. I'll have more details on this experiment as I review the footage for my presentation Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Staying on Track

Misc updates:

I am currently writing the actual pages of the script. The two scenes I've completed are both about 2x as long as they ought to be. I'll have to go back and trim them down, which makes me sad because I love writing the details I see when I write -- but is ultimately detrimental to painting a realistic picture of the undertaking the film represents from a logistic and dramatic perspective. I intend to have the first draft finished by this weekend (somehow). The drafting that follows will be fast and furious in order to lock down a final script. Thankfully, I have a lot of good friends within emailshot from whom I can solicit feedback I trust.

I am prepping to shoot my first round of experiments this weekend. I have a solid crew lined up and am looking forward to having some fun Saturday night, shooting outside. Unfortunately, the forecast right now is for rain. Hopefully this will change, as we're going to be shooting with the Red and rain will make it exceedingly difficult to keep the camera clean and dry. We'll manage, its just added complexity that I really don't need. Fingers are crossed, but -- hey! -- it's the weather, what're you gonna do?

I also have learned today that my production period is about a month shorter than I'd planning on up until now. Instead of June 5th, I now have to my film ready to show around May 5th. I understand the department's logistics issues that've forced this bumping up of the schedule, but unfortunately, I will not realistically be able to have a polished work by then. I'll have something, no doubt, and that something will be coherent and as good as I can possibly make it. But polished? No. At this point, it looks most likely that what I present will be a honed edit of the principle photography with a good stereo soundtrack and maybe some temp music laid-down. Thankfully, I'm planning to do most if not all of my fx work in-camera, so the post-end of this version should be rather light. The most significant piece missing from this version will be reshoots, but I will also most likely not have the final color correction, final timing, and the final 5.1 soundtrack (incl. composed music) locked down.

The best thing about this exhibition is that I essentially get to "test screen" my film to a discerning audience for free. Beats show it to ma and pop and asking, "Whaddya think?" (No offense to my real mother and father -- they're great).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Scheduling Experiments

Experiments 1 & 2:

Jan. 25 - 29: Continue research on night photography & optics; prep for shoots
Jan. 30 & 31: Night Photography shoot; Night Optics shoot
Feb. 1 - 5: Post-production for night-shooting materials;

Experiment 3:
Feb. 1 - 5: Prep material and actors for shoot
Feb. 6 & 7: Shoot key scene in film with stand-in actors cast in parts
Feb. 8 & 9: Edit material into a scene; final touches on Exps. 1 & 2

I've decided that gunfire isn't a feasible option for experimenting with at this point, because I'm still trying to lock down funds for this project, and gunfire is an aspect that (legally) costs a healthy chunk of change.

Expect to see a more concrete attempt at gunfire in my prototype.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thesis :: Armature & 7 Steps

The following is the theme ("armature") and rough structure of incidents for the short film I intend to produce as my thesis project. For a link to the much more detailed beatsheet, email me: erik.ledrew@gmail.com

THESIS :: ARMATURE & 7 STEPS

ARMATURE: Bravery is more than just pulling a trigger.

THE 7 STEPS:

Once upon a time...there was a hot-shot soldier name Jamie Keats who was in love with a fellow soldier named Camilla Derikson.

And everyday...they would comfort each other inside this war zone and talk of life together when they rotate home.

Until one day...
Derikson goes missing during a night patrol.

And because of this...Keats and a new grunt desperately search for her and stumble upon an enemy shack in the wilderness.

And because of this...
the new grunt is wounded and Keats is forced to take him back to the encampment for medical aid.


Until finally...Camilla comes out of the darkness near the encampment but she doesn't speak the password so Keats is forced to shoot her. She screams in pain and Keats tells the SGT to fuck off, he's going out to her. She's still alive, and the wire on her explosives vest is severed by his bullet.

And ever since that day...Keats understood that the courage it took her to not speak the password, knowing she would be shot, was far greater than any violent endeavor he'd ever undertaken.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

3 Experiments

Three Experiments (with an opt'l 4th) to nail down certain technical and aesthetic aspects of the short film I intend to produce for my thesis project.

Experiment #1: "Night"
The script I am shaping takes place almost entirely at night. I need to experiment with various night "looks" to find one that is aesthetically viable and logistically achievable.

a. "Day for Night": using a special polarizer, I will experiment with filming during the daytime to see if I can achieve a nighttime "look".

b. "Dusk for Night": using one or more cameras and a post-production process, I will film test shots at dusk to see if I can achieve a nighttime "look".

c. "Night for Night": using one or more cameras, I will film test shots at night using only available and/or practical light sources (ie flashlights, chem lights, etc)

d. "Augmented Night for Night": using one or more cameras, I will film test shots at night using both practical/available lighting as well as professional lighting kits to achieve a nighttime "look".

Desired Outcome: a "look" for the nighttime photography that is cinematic without being melodramatic, and is logistically feasible.


Experiment #2: "Gunfire"
My story also calls for gunfire in four scenes. There are any number of different ways of achieving this, whether practical or in post-. I will present several tests of blankfire, an After Effects-created "gunshot", and a third option I am still trying to work out.

Desired Outcome: a safe, cinematic and visceral "look" for the gunfire.


Experiment #3: "Night Optics"
The characters in the story posses nocturnal ocular devices (NODs or "night-vision goggles") and for several POV shots, I'll need to have a NOD "look" that functions for the story. I will test this with several different cameras and get several different "looks" in post- before deciding on the final one.

Desired Outcome: a cinematic and functional "look" for the night optic shots.


Experiment #4 (opt'l): "Characters"
I'll film a short dialogue between the three primary characters of the piece. It will be indoors, without lighting, likely on MiniDV.

Desired Outcome: Simply, to see the actors moving in space, and hear the characters speak. This will also help with casting, allow me to see how an actor's "look" and/or performance-type works for and against a character.


Plan for Critiques: all will be viewed as part of a video reel, so a screening will be appropriate.

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Storm is Coming (Revised)

Been awhile: haven't posted anything all year. End of New Year's jokes. Still, it has been awhile. And now it's another quarter, 'nother blog.

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First, PRINCIPLES:

1. Purpose: "The wise man speaks because he has something to say, the fool speaks because he must say something." - Anonymous

2. Simplicity: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." - Leonardo da Vinci

3. Emotion: "Don't give me logic, give me emotion." - Billy Wilder

4. Hard Work: "I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." - Thomas Jefferson

5. Discipline: "No one who gets up before dawn 365-days-a-year fails to make his family rich." - Ancient Chinese Proverb

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Second, GOALS:

1. A polished SCREENPLAY for my THESIS SHORT FILM

2. Lead role CAST & keys CREWED

3. PREPRODUCTION under-way

4. A series of thesis-related VIDEO EXPERIMENTS

5. A PROTOTYPED SCENE/SEQUENCE as part of thesis prep

5. A SILENT 5-MIN SCENE directed

6. A 10-MIN CLIMACTIC scene directed

7. IMPROV studied

8. Continued work with SCREEN ACTOR students

9. EXERCISE maintained

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Third, TASKS:

1. Thesis 2.1: Construct my Screenplay; Commence Casting & Crewing; Begin Pre-Viz

2. Screen Acting: Study Rehearsal Techniques; Study Dailies; Sketch Two Dramatic Scenes to coincide with:

3. Thesis 2.2: Draft a Production Schedule; Draft 3-4 30s Video Sketches ("Thesis Experiments"); Craft a Polished Prototyped Video ("Thesis Prototype")

4. Stage Directing: Study the Director's Craft; Direct a 5-minute Silent Play; Direct a 10-minute Climax from a full-length play

5. Beginning Improvisation: Continue to study the Actor's Process, emphasis on Spontaneous Creativity; Incorporate Improv Techniques into personal Creative Process

6. Personal Health: Maintain Daily Exericse; Persist in regular Sleep Patterns; Capitalize on the Mind-Body Link

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Last, TIMELINE(~):

Week 1 (4JAN):

Breakdown "The Strike"

Draft DxProps

Week 2 (11JAN):

Start Improv Class (1/12)

Draft DxProps cont'd

DUE 1/16: Original Treatment inspired by "The Strike"

Week 3 (18JAN):

DUE 1/19: Silent Scene treatment

DUE 1/20: DXProps

DUE 1/22: Madman Draft

DUE 1/23: Draft Prod. Sched.

Week 4 (25JAN):

Silent Scene rehearsals

DUE 1/30: Architect Draft

Thesis Sketches production

Week 5 (1FEB):

DUE 2/2: Directing Midterm - Silent Scene

Thesis Sketches production cont'd

Week 6 (8FEB):

DUE 2/10: 3-4, 30s video sketches

DUE 2/12: Carpenter Draft

Thesis Prototype prep

Week 7 (15FEB):

Directing scene prep

Thesis Prototype prep cont'd

Begin Casting

DUE 2/19: Judge Draft

Week 8 (22FEB):

Thesis Prototype production

Directing scene prep cont’d

Week 9 (1MAR):

End Improv Class (#8)

Thesis Prototype prod cont’d

Directing Final Scene rehearsals

Week 10 (8MAR):

DUE 3/9: Directing Final - 10min Climax

DUE 3/9: Directing Final - Paper

DUE ???: Thesis Prototype

Finals (15MAR):

DUE 3/17: Director Research Presentations

DUE 3/19: Final polish

DUE 3/19: Final production schedule

Drama Showcase Reels Completed

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See you on the other side.