Nearing The End

I haven’t posted here is quite a while. Kinda tired of saying the same thing (Blah blah will be done soon! Just 56,000 things left to do! So close!) and don’t have much time to work on the stuff, much less blog about it.

So this blog is going to go away soon.

That said, its content, vision and intent will be carried on into a new blog on the new website. I’m rolling all the over extended and neglected blogs into one and I will hopefully post more often because it won’t be so overwhelming. I’ll just post stuff and tag it with the category it fits under. Sound good?

Hello? Is anybody there…

yeah, that’s what I thought.

An update on Mark

Mark onesheet

Mark onesheet

Hello folks. You know what gets old? Every time I post to one of my blogs it seems like I’m saying “sorry it’s been so long since I posted blah blah blah.” I’m going to try not to do that any more…starting next time.

It’s been a long time since I posted, and a lot has happened. I’m going to see if I can catch you up. Let’s see; Overcoming Going Under is almost finished (and you can read about the progress of that over at the ocgu blog), I’m pretty far into a documentary/performance/dramatic feature film about Singer/Songwriter Kevin Sandbloom called “Soul Troubabour“, and I have several new ideas that I plan to keep you up to date on the progress of here, but they aren’t ready to talk about yet.

Then there is “Mark.” The first three episodes were in the can two years ago, and I completed the edit on them quite a while ago too. There are a few things left to do for those episodes, but what has really been holding it up is a plan for how best to launch the web series. I figured the best way would be to have the whole first season (whatever that is…since we could make it whatever we want really) ready to go so that each episode could be released on a regular schedule without any long gaps. The trouble has been finding the time to work through those concepts, arc out the season, write the episodes, get down to LA to shoot them (not to mention casting, location scouting and all the other pre-pro work that goes into a shoot), edit them and get them ready to release.

So some of that work is done. The first couple seasons are outlined, the first season in great detail, and the actual writing is underway. Soon we’ll be tackling the pre-production and I’ll take some three or four day weekends down to LA to shoot. Needless to say it’ll be a little while before the whole first season is ready to trot out.

So I think what we’re going to do is go ahead and get those first three episodes ready for prime time and release them ahead of the rest. It’ll be like a little teaser pre-season. Like when Battlestar Galactica started out with a two hour special instead of a regular pilot episode. What do you think? Sound like a plan?

I’ll try and do a better job of posting here, now that I’m settled in Santa Cruz. I definitely have lots to talk about (including all the gear I bought earlier in the year in preparation for Mark shoots, as well as all the other projects in the hopper) so I’ll carve time out to tell you about stuff as it happens. Talk to you soon and happy new year!

IMDb to Add Web Series Category, So What’s a Web Series?

IMDb to Add Web Series Category, So What’s a Web Series?.

Just about the time that Mark will be launching into the web series arena IMDb will be adding a category for us. This is good news!

I’m finishing up the edit on the first three episodes…I’ll have more info about the plans for the future when the first episode is complete, so stay tuned!

Rough Times

Hey, sorry it’s been so long since I wrote a post. It’s been a rough couple of months. Rougher than the previous year even – I’ve been looking for a job for months and barely scraping by.

I’ve been trying to raise the money to finish OCGU (I’m sure you saw the kickstarter post) and I did manage to get the first episode of Mark in the can. I’m looking forward to starting the edit on that too. I got certified by Apple in Final Cut Pro too. So some good stuff has been happening too. :-)

Swedish Auto

Swedish Auto now on DVD

Anyway, I got inspired to write a post today when I saw that the dvd for a film called Swedish Auto is coming out. That is a film I saw at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007. It was a pretty darn good little indie flick, but I never heard anything about it after the festival until now. I’ve seen tons of films that I saw at festivals come out years later after I’d forgotten all about them, and there is always a little rush of nastalgia, and a little bit of hope floods in, because those film makers have been struggling to get their film out there for months and years and finally something is happening.

Sure they have to survive on their merits, and maybe they will sink, but at least they are getting their shot…and that’s all I want for the films I’m working on. I just want them to have a shot, and let them sink or swim on their own. Well, that and the chance to make another :-)

Would you like to invest in a feature film?

I know times are tough. If you can support the film, great. If not that’s fine too…BUT, what I would like you to do is email your friends, family and colleagues about our fundraiser on kickstarter! Send them the link, tell them about the project if you haven’t already. Tell them you really want to see it get finished and you think it has a shot at the festivals!

Here is the link to send:

Post it on facebook. Post it on twitter. Just get behind this sucker and help me get ‘er done!

We’ve got 44 days left to raise the money! Please help.

DIY Steadycam

OCGU Shooting Day 1 – with the DIY Steadycam

OCGU Shooting Day 1 – with the DIY Steadycam

So here is the first post of a series I’m going to do on DIY projects I’ve taken on that have helped me with film making or Image making. The first is a DIY steadycam that you can make for about $15 with parts from the hardware store. Professional Steadycams are very expensive and this option is pretty good if you are working on a budget. I’ve seen some variations that I’d like to try out but this one served me quite well while I was shooting Overcoming Going Under.

The directions I followed were from Johnny Chung Lee, and were a great starting point.

The main variations I made (improvements, if I do say so myself) were to the connection point to the camera. The one he uses in the instructions is bascially just a bolt, which could work of your camera is really small, but if you have a Canon XH-A1 like I do you’re going to want more support than that.

I fashioned mine out of a metal brace, basically just a flat piece of metal with four holes drilled in it that I bought at Home Depot with rubber attached to it with Gorilla Glue (the rubber was from a strip of industrial rubber wall molding I also bought at Home Depot) and a little 1/4 twist screw that goes into the tripod mount of the camera. As you can see in the picture I also added a set of bicycle grips to the metal pipes, which I thought was a good improvement, and I was able to get at target for about $5.

The camera mount

The camera mount

another thing I did was make a reverse attachment that would allow me to shoot close to ground and capture shots of feet walking or low angle shots. This attachment fastened on the head end of the Steadycam which would be used upside down with the weight at the top at the bracket (shown below) at the bottom. It worked really well.

The Reverse Mount

The Reverse Mount

If you have any questions about how I did it, how it works, or where to get parts please feel free to email me or leave your question in the comments. Till next time…

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Delays Delays

So it looks like Mark might need to be put on hold because money is so tight right now that it looks like I’m going to need to sell my camera, which is a huge bummer. I love my camera, and it’s been really great to me…but it did serve the purpose it was meant to (shooting Overcoming Going Under) and when the times comes I can buy a new one right?

So if you are interested in buying a Canon XH-A1 which has been taken care of let me know.

The Canon XH-A1 has three traditional rings ef...
Image via Wikipedia

Too bad too because pretty much everything else was in place – the cast, most of the locations, all the pre-production…oh well. It’ll get done. They always do. So in the coming weeks I’ll keep you posted on the progress, I’ll go through the steps I took to complete to pre-production, and I’ll pass along a few DIY projects I’ve tackled to help with both film making and still photography.

If any of you would like to support and maybe help get Mark made please donate in the sidebar. We appreciate every little bit!

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Notecards and Color Codes

Last time I talked a little about my process for keeping a writing notebook for ideas, and I mentioned that I eventually transfer these notes to notecards. I guess the majority of my writing training comes from high school term papers, because I reverted right to the notecard process and it felt very natural to me. I find that the majority of the work comes in the early stages, the idea stages, before the pen really hits the paper. I feel like if I have done my work right to that point the story will just flow out and it will be a free and creative experience for me. It usually works.

I’m a bit of a list maker and some might say a little OCD. I’m okay with that. It doesn’t get in the way – I’m not locking the door three times or washing my hands with a new bar of soap every time I touch anything. But everything on my desk is in it’s place and at a right angle. Sue me. Anyway, like I was saying, I make lists. I often color code these lists to help me keep from getting overwhelmed by them. If the system to stay organized gets unruly I find that I start to ignore it and stress starts to creep in because I don’t know what I should be doing next. I’m a big fan of the GTD way and it has helped with that stress a great deal. So the color code thing helps me identify parts of the story when I am writing and group things. In this way the story starts to come together for me like a puzzle and I am able to see it’s formation because of the color code. Now, it varies – I’ll make it to suit the story at hand, but I make sure that it will make sense to me as I continue along the process. I don’t want to be looking at my notes wondering what the green highlighted portions mean. So make your system the way that will work for you.

From these cards and the color code I can then start to construct an outline. I usually spread the cards out on a table and start moving them around, putting them in order. In this way the notecards work quite literally like puzzle pieces. I try and keep the notes on the cards as brief as possible so I can grasp the note at a glance. The only time I stray from this is when a really clear idea for a scene springs forth whole. I love it when inspiration strikes like that, but even then I might write out the scene elsewhere so as not to lose the idea, and keep the notecard brief.

Once the notecards are in order I usually use them as my main notes right to the side of the keyboard as I write. Usually this makes for a feeling in me of real calm and creative freedom, because I have the story at my finger tips, I know where the scene needs to go and I have to just let it unfold and capture it as it does.

…all this is making me feel very inspired and I want to go dig into my notebook for the new feature script I’m working on. I’ve got ideas flowing right now. I’m going to go capture them. You do the same. :-)

More On Writing

I was thinking about my post regarding script writing and I realized I left out some stuff I wanted to talk about – my process! I have found some neat ways to go about the early stages of writing along the way that work really well for me, and they might be helpful for you too.

When I am about to dig into something new that I am not totally sure how to proceed I often find myself comforting my fear of the unknown with copious research. Whenever I think, “well, I’m not sure how to do that.” or “well, what would one do if they were trying to [insert thing I don't know anything about] ?” my response used to be a trip to the library and a couple hours with the dictionary and a thesaurus. These days, while I still like to dig into the big books, I really enjoy research on the web. Pretty much anything you want to know is out there somewhere. The only trouble is finding reliable information as apposed to the rambling of some nut job. It’s really fun to start with one search and hours later find that you have gone down so many varied avenues of thought and learned so many things that you’re ready to start putting the pen to the paper…maybe.

Next is the matter of inspiration. Who knows when it is going to strike? So I try and keep some method of recording ideas with me all the time. Either I can record voice notes on my digital recorder, or now my iPhone, or I have a pad in my pocket and my bag and try to keep a pen with me as well.

What I usually do is write down in a notebook each idea I have and put a note out in the margin categorizing it. You can make up whatever shorthand works for you, but when I’m working on a script idea I find those categories usually are “Character” “Plot” & “Scene.” So I’ll end up with a notebook full of little notes about those things and sometimes a few more. Then, when the notebook is full, I’ll transfer them all to individual notecards. I know this means writing them on paper twice already, and that’s not very green of me, but I find that it’s a good way for me to hone the ideas and really think them through.

Next time I’ll talk about what I do with the note cards once it looks like I might have enough for a story.


There are several computer programs that can help with script breakdowns, but I’ve never used them. They look pretty good but honestly I couldn’t justify the expense because it’s possible to do it the old fashion way with pen and paper. There are forms that are pretty standard for script breakdowns and I found a template online which I modified a little for my own purposes, but basically it is a form with boxes where you write down all the things and personnel you’ll need for each individual scene. Here is a link to my template in Excel format which you can use. There is a header where you specify what scene it is, what page it starts on in the script and some other info that will be important when you get to the scheduling like whether the scene in inside or outside, day or night. There are boxes for cast, crew, makeup wardrobe, special effects etc. This will the tool you’ll use to make the schedule, your call lists for the individual shooting days, and each department will use to figure out what they will need on the shoot.

get out your colored pens!

get out your colored pens!

Once you’ve got your form, then you grab a bunch of different colored pens and your script and get to work. There is a standard color code but since I’ve only worked on my own productions I’ve made up my own code which makes sense to me. See I color code other things on my to-do lists (for example music project are green, so when I made my code sound and score notes are on my breakdown sheets are green) so it made sense for me to keep to that. If I ever work on a production for a bigger production company I suppose I can learn their code then.

breakin' down a scene

get out your colored pens!

The breakdowns for the first “Mark” script were 8 pages since there are only 8 scenes, so it went pretty quickly. This is a great method to really get an idea of what your production is going to need and to get your head around the undertaking. Once I’ve taken this step I really feel like the project is doable at that point. It’s the difference between being overwhelmed by unknowns and really having a handle on the production. Between this and the shot list or storyboards I generally have all I need to plan out the production. Of course it gets complicated when you start dealing with peoples schedules but if you are really appreciative of peoples time and make them feel like a part of the whole you’ll be surprised how willing people will be to work with you.

Next time I’ll talk about how I like to do my shot lists and why storyboards haven’t really worked for me (but how I plan to change that…and why I need to)