Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fleemers do tasty things

Here's a little shout out for our collaborator, Dylan Keim. He's the fella I mention below who's doing the muzzle flare effects for Mountain of the Hillbilly God (2012). He was asked to do a little "reality tv" style look at Eugene's BEST bakery, SweetLife. Although the project was canned before it even got off the ground, his feature about their wedding cake artist, Q, is up on YouTube. Great job, Dylan!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Persephone: Post-Production

Now that "Mountain of the Hillbilly God" is more-or-less wrapped for shooting, I have returned to Post-Production on Fleem's third movie, "A Tale of Persephone". I've completed a fine edit that awaits integration of three animation sequences that are being completed by Daniel Beck. I'm working toward a picture lock by the end of Novembr 2010, so that I can export the sound to Ostin Drais, who is doing sound clean-up and foley for the entire film. While Ostin works the sound, I will get to work on color correction. Thanks to Kartz Ucci, who turned me on to "Creative Cow" video tutorials, I'm fairly confident that I can fix some of our wretched lighting issues. Not to discount the hard work of our excellent lighting crew, who worked their tails off to throw light on our subjects. However, due to the low (read: NO) budget nature of this picture, our lighting equipment was largely purchased at Home Depot: shop lights that settle in the yellow end of the color spectrum (tungsten halogen). I will also spend Dec and January compiling the music release contracts for the film. More on that soon. Then we will have a month of promotion.

My sites are set on a March 21 birthday for "A Tale of Persephone". That is the date of the mythological Persephone's return from the underworld, coinciding with our world's renewal with the season of Spring. Keep checking for updates on our progress, and check out my YouTube Channel for rough cut scenes from the movie.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Medieval Warrior

One of the best things about indie, micro-budget filmmaking is that you rely on volunteer collaborators, and you find them in the most interesting places. I strongly believe that George Lucas's films were better when he had a smaller budget that forced him to compromise: necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say. My case in point is last weekend's shoot of the "Hillbilly Warrior" montage. This vignette of scenes trace the origins of a fictitious, archetypal "hillbilly" back to the old world, where we find him in a medieval battle, a scene that posed the challenge of finding fighter-extras, plus medieval weapons and armor. Our writer, Kom Kunyosying, had the great idea of contacting a local SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) chapter. After a friendly email exchange, and meeting in person at their practice site, they invited us to shoot the 30-second scene at a gathering of three Oregon chapters. I cannot rave enough about this hospitable, and hard-working group of men who took time out of their regularly scheduled event to make us welcome, to suggest a good location, and to spread the word about the movie shoot among the crowd. Not only did the dozen men who committed to being in the movie contributed their combat skills, including their weaponry and armor - even outfitting our actor in their own, handmade period gear - they also gave energetic performances, literally throwing themselves into our combat scene. They designed their own choreography, which was inspired and raised the overall production value of this movie. All this effort was made for the "glory" of helping to make a movie. I am grateful and indebted to these folks, whose generosity confirmed my belief that working on limited resources produces collaboration and pushes ideas beyond one particular vision, toward an even greater end than any individual could have imagined alone.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Collaboration and Muzzle Flare

I may have mentioned that Hillbilly God is a suspense-thriller, and that we're shooting some intense action scenes. You may further recall my excitement at what high production value we've been getting on this low-budget flick. Remarking on some excellent footage of the bullet-proof vest one character reveals after taking some blows, Producer/DP, Carter Soles, was musing about the many hands that have pulled together to make this work so well. The vest was a quality purchase made in Eugene during pre-production, chosen by co-producer and screenwriter, Kom Kunyosying; the bullets that are stuck in the vest were fired in Monroe, WA by my brother-in-law, Eric Ziegler, who fired into a stack of phone books - so the bullets would mushroom, but be easily found (great idea, Eric!); and the bullets were "fired" out of rifles borrowed out of Woodinville, WA from Carter's dad - family heirlooms. Already, so many players have gone into the production of one image.

It has been Fleem's great pleasure to find not only an excellent actor, but a fine production crew collaborator in Dylan Keim (who plays the role of "Arthur"). Dylan's own interest in moviemaking compelled him to offer helping in post-production with the special effects involved in creating "muzzle flare" - the shock of light that comes out of the barrel of a gun when it is fired. Since we are a low-budget crew, we are not firing blanks, nor are we shooting our action in locations where it would be legal to fire guns. Our actors are simply acting out the "kick" of the gun in their performance, and Dylan has agreed to create and add the muzzle flare that we will superimpose onto the footage. Here is a video of Dylan's pilot attempt at creating muzzle flare using a friend, one of our prop handguns, free stock footage of gun flare, and Final Cut Pro.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Creative Geography

So we shot our first nighttime scene, in Washington, using our new lights. The lighting looks great. But after reviewing the footage (and leaving the location) we realized that we were missing some close-ups that are necessary to give the scene the intensity to make it scary and believable. In Washington, we were shooting at a residential property wired with outdoor electricity. After some location scouting, we've decided to stage these new inserts at a parking lot that abuts some woods. The parking lot lights give us enough overhead light to see the action, and the sparse trees in the lot's median can be used in close-up, if we shoot in the direction of the nearby woods. This is called "Creative Geography" in the film world: cobbling together two locations that don't actually exist as one, into the same scene so as to appear as if they are the same place.

In the two videos below from our location scouting, you can see how we'll frame out the unusable elements of the parking lot to focus in on the tree and woods, and you'll see me demonstrating the tree-smacking technique we'll use to get a believable close-up of our actor's head hitting the tree. Thanks to Cody Yarbrough for teaching me this technique. You start filming from the point of contact between body and bludgeoning tool (the end point), and then quickly pull the actor and/or object away from the contact, toward the starting point. When you reverse the footage, you see a dramatic blow. The clip below goes forward with audio, and then I flip it - dropping the audio, so you can see this reversing effect.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Washington Shoot Part One: Hillbilly God

Thursday evening we rented a stylish SUV, loaded up the old Chevy truck, and Artie-the-dog's private car, and we drove a cast and crew of eight (plus Artie-the-Dog) to the suburbs of Seattle where we shot for two full days on the forthcoming "Mountain of the Hillbilly God." The biggest challenges we faced this time around were lighting for nighttime. Carter recently purchased two professional grade lights, with stands and diffusion umbrellas, and they performed marvelously. The color temperature of the lights was much better than the halogens we used on the last project "Tale of Persephone."

Another challenge was choreographing a sexual assault. I wanted the actors to feel comfortable with what they were doing, so I consulted them heavily. I think they were willing to be more intense than I expected, and even still, there was something a bit tame about the final outcome. My own apprehensions about their safety played too heavily, I think, for. As we discussed the scene after scrubbing the footage, they volunteered to do some additional inserts that will amp up the violence. I'm grateful for their courage. The location up in Seattle was ideal for shooting this scene: private property where we would not disrupt neighbors, attract attention, and there was electricity nearby. Now I have to figure out where to shoot the inserts locally.

A final victory was the footage we got of the "Little Girl." Our young actor was very coachable and has great instincts for being in front of the camera. She had a great imagination, no fear of being watched, and was interested in knowing her motivations - bringing them to bear on a very convincing performance.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Campfire location scouting

Today, Carter and I did some location scouting for our "campfire" scene, also known as "Night at Goody Moseley's." We'll actually shoot about four scenes here over the one night that we will reserve the location. We're thinking to plan the shot list for each scene and then choose a shooting order that puts all the master and long shots in the earlier part of the night and all the closeups later. so as we're losing daylight, we can take advantage of the firelight.

We're definitely going to need extras for this shoot - about twenty people to stand or sit around the fire. Most of the action takes place on the periphery of the fire, as our principle actors get involved in various shenanigans. Stay tuned for our casting call for extras.

Here's some video of the location, taken for planning purposes.