Friday, December 21, 2007

Foley Tip - Reduce Ground Noise

To help eliminate any type of ground noise while trying to record a clean audio signal during foley, be sure to record from your camera/digital audio recorder using the battery mode and not with electricity (the AC current from your wall's outlet).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Foley Tip - Fuller, Richer Audio

While recording DIY foley sound effects, use two mics and two separate channels to capture a more realistic and fuller sound from both ends of the action.

For example, when recording footsteps, point one mic towards your toes and the other towards your heel.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Definitely a film school pre-requisite, this highly acclaimed film (that's an understatement...see them here) has been the talk of movie buffs and non-movie buffs for its unique approach to rewriting the rules of modern cinema leaving audiences either in a state of wonderment or in a state of wonderment.

While waiting for the movie for a month or so after first seeing the trailer on apple's site, I knew just from the talent involved (Coen Bros., Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem) that it would be one to watch, I just wasn't aware of what exactly was in store for me until I saw it.


The Direction
The movie was crafted with great suspense, timing and pacing. But that's just on the surface. What the Coen Bros. opted for on another level was to play with the audience's ideas and expectations of how modern cinema has trained us all. What I mean is, just when you expect the crescendo and climax to hit...they give you something else instead - something that takes you in the direction of the story that they want to give you.

On the Ending
The ending of the movie left audience members moaning and groaning in disbelief. "What the?!", was my initial response. At the moment, I thought the movie ended without resolve, and also too abruptly. I felt cheated and even a little upset. Understand that when it comes to all films that I watch (indie to mainstream), I view them all with patient eyes and an open mind. And even with all my past viewing experiences, I was still thrown for a loop. I just couldn't "get it".

Then I Got It
From the theatre to the parking lot across the street, we kept trying to make sense of it all and why they left us with such a confusing ending. I just felt confused. Well...therein lies the answer - in the perspective of Tommy Lee Jones' character and the perplexing new world that has now taken over, he just couldn't understand "why" and "how". Why and how. So, little did I know, the real story was revealed - at the beginning and at the end of the movie. Everything in between is just a catalyst.

Multiple Viewings
I'm just giving you all the short version of my version. I could go on for days talking about what the movie stands for, what the character of "Chigurh" symbolizes and why the Coens did what they did. Instead, I'll leave that up to you. You might need to watch the movie more than once to fit the pieces together more clearly, but it'll be worth it.

For more insight to the movie, here are some really good blog posts: - More 'No Country' Matters: Motel Shots, or, Gimme Some Chigurh - A Ghost And A Dream: Notes on the final quarter of 'No Country For Old Men'
The New Yorker - No, But We Saw the Movie
Newsweek - Josh Brolin talks about his Moustache, and "No Country's" Ending - Debate: “No Country for Old Men” Ending
Ain't It Cool News Discussion Board - No country for Old Men
Rotten Tomatoes Discussion Board - No Country for Old Men

Understanding the movie after seeing it and not while watching it is pretty powerful stuff. Especially for the Coens' to have the gumption to do something like this - to go out on a limb at the risk of falling flat on their bottom in front of everyone. Kudos to the Coens.

Now, of course, this is just my take on it. I think it's the intention of the Coens to do just that. For everyone to open it up to interpretation of what they think it is and about, trying hard to peel away layers that just moments ago didn't even know existed. I think Don said it best immediately following the end of the movie after it cuts to black - "Ha ha! Your zipper's down!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

A DIY Treasure Found!

Create your very own DIY live broadcast and TV-style production on the fly all from within your web browser with the emergence of Mogulus! As brought to my attention from the folks at The Workbook Project, this DIY gem gives you the flexibility to produce your content and broadcast live with numerous collaborators and producers online. You can also incorporate as well as edit Youtube videos in your productions.

For more, visit the Mogulus Site.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sundance Short Films Online for Free

The Sundance Film Festival in conjunction with NetFlix, Xbox and Apple iTunes, announce that they will continue their tradition of bringing selected short film submissions to the masses. The exclusive shorts can be viewed on their site and on the NetFlix member website, free of charge. According to Sundance, "everyday of the Festival one new short film will premiere online every 24 hours."

Aside from just viewing the streaming versions, short films can also be available for purchase and download at the Xbox LIVE marketplace Video Store (for $1.99) and the iTunes movie store ($1.99 for your iPhone, iPod or Apple TV). All three platforms will be launched beginning January 18, 2008 all the way 'til 2011. The short films that will be showcased will be announced by Sundance before the start of the Festival.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Free Flash Design/Developer Resource

This week while Don was taking care of ADR engineering, I switched hats and turned back into a DIY web designer. Since everything on Shiro's Head is comprised of everything DIY, I had to figure out a quick and dirty way to encode the trailers for the web in both flash and quicktime. Along the way I found a great flash developer resource for all of you other web DIYers:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

10 Great Christmas Movies for the Holiday Season

Of course open for debate, but here it is - my all time favorite Christmas movies (and TV shows) for the holiday season.

11. "Jingle All the Way" Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger - 1996
10. "Polar Express" Featuring Tom Hanks - 2004
9. "Just Friends" Starring Ryan Reynolds & Amy Smart - 2005
8. "A Christmas Story" Starring Peter Billingsly - 1983
7. "Trading Places" Starring Eddie Murphy & Dan Aykroyd
6. "Home Alone" Starring Macaulay Culkin - 1990
5. "Beautiful Girls" Starring Matt Dillon & Uma Thurman - 1996
4. "Die Hard 2" Starring Bruce Willis - 1990
3. "Love Actually" Starring Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney - 2003
2. All the animated TV specials : "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - 1964, "Frosty the Snowman" - 1969, "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" - 1970, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" - 1965, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" - 1966
1. "It's a Wonderful Life" Starring Jimmy Stewart & Donna Reed - 1946

Monday, December 10, 2007

Short Films and Documentaries Take the Lead at Festivals

Although you still get the occasional million dollar plus-budget shorts and docs taking up undeserved space at indie fests, the rise in submission numbers say a lot about emerging independent movie makers. Movies such as 10mph are seeing tons of love from the indie community trail which was blazed by others before it like Murderball, Super Size Me, Iraq in Fragments and Born Into Brothels.

With last week's release of their 2008 Short Film selection, Sundance Film Festival announces they've received "a record number of submissions" according to Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer Trevor Goth.

Its counterpart, The Slamdance Film Festival will be screening "more documentaries than ever before" says Sarah Diamond, Director of Programming/Chair of Documentary Competition. The Slamdance fest programming includes documentaries, special screenings, shorts (which will be announced tomorrow) and narrative features (out of 1,200 submissions, they'll only be screening 29 of them - whoa). And still, with as many categories and submissions between the two of them, these top tier film fests are seeing more and more filmmakers delve into shorts and docs. Why?

Says Goth, "We are really proud to present the entire shorts program, which represents a higher level of filmmaking craft than ever before. The work is extremely broad and ranges from outrageous animation to fascinating short documentaries, to original and wild comedies to outstanding dramas."

Slamdance's Diamond goes on to say, "“Slamdance is emerging as a major festival for documentaries. The 2008 doc slate is themed around people who have chosen the path not often taken, from a schizophrenic pop star, to a family of wild animal trainers, to competitors in the Miss Gay America pageant. Our documentary programming team was moved by these films celebrating the diversity of human experience.”

Both festivals will run from Jan 17-25, with Sundance continuing on 'til the 27th .

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Event Videographer Production Checklist

I found the old production checklist that Don and I would religiously run through during the days of being event videographers. We would use this as a pre-production checklist before every event production. I thought it could be of some help, so here it is (not in any particular order):

Event Videographer’s Production Checklist

1. duplicate and synchronize multi-camera settings
2. charge batteries
3. clean filters and lenses
4. tapes (aprox. 6 per person)
5. clean heads (if necessary)
6. lights w/extra bulb
7. lav mic receivers/transmitters/mics
8. fresh batteries for mics
9. tripods
10. shotgun mics w/windscreens
11. handheld mic
12. mic stand
13. patch cords (XLR/quarter inch/RCA, etc.)
14. hard disk audio recorder/mixer
15. lens cleaner
16. head cleaner
17. LCD monitor hood
18. headphones
19. white balance card (paper/index card/napkin)
20. back-up camera w/light
21. digital camera
22. fully charged two-way communication radios with headsets

23. business cards
24. ID’s
25. fully charged cell phones
26. headsets for cells
27. synchronize watches
28. ca$h for parking garage/misc.
29. change for parking meters
30. fill up gas tank
31. label everything for inventory
32. camera manuals
33. extension cord/multiplug
34. sharpie/pen
35. snacks/water
36. jacket/pullover
37. sunglasses
38. hand sanitizer/wet naps/lip balm/eye drops
39. clothespins (c-47's)
40. gaffer's tape
41. duct tape
42. focus cards
43. itinerary of the day's events

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ugly Betty's "Henry Grubstick" Loves SPAM

Christopher Gorham, the actor who plays the role of spiffy, by-the-book "Henry Grubstick" on ABC's emmmy-winning "Ugly Betty" has paid his indie dues. A couple of years ago while researching a few DIY films in preparation for Shiro's Head, I noticed a remarkably witty short on entitled "Spam-Ku" by writer/director Steven K. Tsuchida.

Years later, it wasn't until the prime-time TV novella featured the familiar face as a recurring character on the show. It was Gorham - getting the network love that only dues could afford. I later discovered that I've been familiar with his work, I just didn't know who he was ("Jake 2.0" and "The Other Side of Heaven" co-starring with Anne Hathaway) - once again proving my theory that you could be paying your dues in the business for years on end and all it takes is that one big break to boost you out of obscurity and viola - your years of paying dues are over.

Or you can speed up the process and create your own opportunities.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Viewer's Experience

When it comes to selling your product or service (in our case movies) it's important to remember that it's not just a product that you're selling, you're also selling the experience that comes with that product (think Tiffany's blue box, iPod, Mercedes-Benz, etc.). It may seem basic or even a given, however this fundamental rule of marketing usually seems to skip over the heads of a few businesses - even large corporations in fact.

From Los Angeles to Honolulu - Aloha!
I'll give you an example. Whenever I head out on an international trip overseas en route to Guam from Los Angeles (with a stopover in Honolulu), the experience is entirely different then when I head back to LA from the islands. While leaving the mainland, the airline flight crew fills the passenger cabin with tropical island music, slack-key and all - providing a sense of an island getaway encouraging everyone to leave their troubles behind. On all headrest television monitors, they play video footage of the Big Island, sun, sand, surf, Hawaiian fire dancers and the whole nine - and we haven't even left the tarmac yet. They just let the vibe brew.

The passengers are smiling and are in a very calm and relaxed state while finding their seat assignments, looking through overhead compartments and they just feel good. Some of them are already wearing their Hawaiian print shirts and leis. I'm telling you - it's a great feeling. From the captain to the flight crew, you hear them invite you with a welcoming "Aloha" with every greeting. They're selling calm and they're selling relaxation. The experience has me sold. Rarely do I notice any grumpy folk during this leg of my trip. After we touch down, I'm so at ease that I forgot it was a five and a half hour trip.

From Honolulu to Los Angeles - Darn, Back to the Grind.
Coming back to the mainland is an altogether different experience. Same airline, same size plane, but different ambience. No smiling faces, passengers are in a rush, some even get irate when they find they have to sit next to a child. Grumpy folk are almost a given on this leg of my trip. No images of Disneyland, Hollywood or Yosemite National Park on the television monitors, no Frank Sinatra or Clay Aiken playing throughout the cabin - just your usual stock elevator music. The flight crew is not half as friendly as the Honolulu crew. It's just plain old business. Show me your boarding pass and I'll show you to your seat. That's it. No experience is being sold here.

But wait a minute - you might just say that it's the passengers that may be heading back home - back to work and a nine to five life in a cubicle that sets off the infectious grumpiness. Well, to that I say...all the more reason for the airline to take it upon themselves to remind the weary travelers that as long as they're giving them business that they'll have a safe, entertaining experience. Remind them that they're on their way back home - back to California - a place that influences the world around it. What I mean is...this is another perfect opportunity for their services to capitalize on the experience of coming to Los Angeles - Disney, Hollywood, Malibu. They know where they're going, so why not give them what they want? Make them feel good about a California experience. Without even the smallest effort of doing so, the experience of flying that particular airline isn't exceptional at all.

Let Them Escape
My point is - treat your audience well. Give them what they automatically (and subconsciously) expect in a movie - seamlessly clean audio, great production value and good pacing. Have them remember you and your movie. Selling your product means selling the experience. How will your viewers feel about the movie that they just watched? What are they going to walk away with? Will they feel like they've just been on trip of a lifetime or just another commute?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Production Archive - "Great Chicken Giveaway"

From the media archive sessions that took place after the southland fires, I came across some produced spots that I promised to share. This is a radio spot that I produced and did vocals for - Pojo's "Great Chicken Giveaway" promotion. Ahhhh, good times.

Voiceover Tip: Smile while reading your script. It helps the vocals sound more inviting during an up-tempo spot. This also comes in handy when recording professional voicemail greetings.

Spot Title: "Great Chicken Giveaway"
Client: Pojo's
Talent: Kel Muna
Producer: Kel Muna
Length: :30

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sundance Announces 2008 Film Lineup

The annual Sundance Film Festival has announced their 2008 lineup for competition (Jan.17-27 Park City, Utah) as well as their Premieres, Spectrum, New Frontier and Park City at Midnight sections. According to reports, this year has brought submissions in record-breaking numbers.

From Sundance:
"121 feature-length films were selected including 87 world premieres, 14 North American premieres, and 12 U.S. premieres representing 25 countries with 55 first-time filmmakers, including 32 in competition. These films were selected from 3,624 feature film submissions composed of 2,021 U.S. and 1,603 international feature-length films. These numbers represent an increase from last year when 1,852 U.S. and 1,435 international feature-length films were considered."

  • Documentary Competition - selecting 16 films out of 953 entries - each one of them a world premiere.
  • Dramatic Competition - 16 films were selected from 1,068 submissions. Each film is a world premiere.
  • World Cinema Documentary Competition - 16 films selected from 620 submissions that represent 8 countries
  • World Cinema Dramatic Compeition - 16 selections from 983 submissions represent 17 countries

Festival films screen in nine sections: Documentary Competition, Dramatic Competition, World Cinema Documentary Competition, World Cinema Dramatic Competition, Spectrum, New Frontier, Park City at Midnight, and from the Sundance Collection.

Shorts will be announced later this week.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Now This is Wicked

I couldn't continue on about "Wicked" without adding another wicked production of a different take. My favorite part in this particular installment comes in towards the end at around 1:40 into the clip. The dramatic use of dissolves - brave, bold and brash. Kidding, of course. I just wanted to demonstrate the wide array of musical productions that aren't always geared towards the broadway fanatic. It doesn't always have to be about "Hairspray" and "Mama Mia". Musicals can be made for and enjoyed by everybody. However, this one truly is - a wicked musical.
note of caution: clip contains adult language
View Clip

A Fantastic Portrayal of Media at its Best - Wicked in Hollywood

The Pantages Theater in Hollywood played to a full house last night an outstanding production of "Wicked" the musical and I just can't say enough about it. Hands down it is the best show I've seen. The portrayal of Elphaba the wicked Witch of the West by Eden Espinosa was the best that it gets. Her vocals were unbelievably powerful as she transitioned each scene seemlessly by gradually morphing into the witch that we all loved to hate. Glinda the Good Witch played by Emily Rozek was top notch and by the end of the show, the crowd was brought to its feet in a much-deserved standing ovation.

The Elements
The players, wardrobe, makeup, set design, orchestral score and original compositions (among the favorites are "The Wizard and I", "Popular", "I'm Not That Girl", and Defying Gravity") were definitely what you expect from a big-ticket production and more. In addition to the perfect aesthetics (seamless set and wardrobe changes) and infectious harmonies, the one true element of "Wicked" that embeds itself into your brain forever - is its story.

Things Aren't Always What They Seem
Without giving away spoilers, the story revolves around a strong bond of friendship that outlasts time, love and even sorcery. It's the backstory to the the classic and what happened before Dorothy touched down in the land of Oz. The subplot however, seems to almost steal the spotlight as it strikes a serious chord with the audience. Dropping hints and reflecting today's life and times in addition to laying the groundwork for a glass ceiling, this airtight story builds on the notion of the true wizards of our time - the media, popular beliefs, the powers that be and spin doctors.

Think of it as "V for Vendetta" meets "Thelma and Louise". Okay, maybe not that extreme, but you get the idea. Their portrayal of the power of media and "giving people what they want" showcases a need for responsibility from those that have the power to influence others; to be held accountable for the material, ideas and beliefs that are given a megaphone and distributed to the masses.

"Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain"
On the other side to the coin, its also a wake-up call for us in the flock to be careful of the wolf in sheep's clothing. As Mel Gibson said in the documentary "Boffo - Tinsletown's Bomb and Blockbusters", "He with the biggest club wins." (in the sense of getting beat with the biggest club and he who belongs to the biggest club wins). Who can you believe? What can you believe? Isn't history, after all, written from whomever brought the material to the masses first? Oh, and by the way, thanks for reading this post. ;)

Overall, I highly recommend the experience of "Wicked" and its show-stopping, laugh-out-loud, tear-jerking numbers to anyone that has the chance to see it. I sincerely say that it's the best show I've seen. The entire backstory of the two Witches of Oz also is extremely smart, witty, thought provoking and most of all - great fun! You won't be disappointed. I know because the Wizard told me so.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stay Motivated - Finish Your Project

When I was asked to head the documentary for the San Francisco Bay Area's hip-hop group, "The Experts" back in the early 2000's, I knew it would be the perfect chance to showcase something great. They were artists with real energy, a strong, loyal following and a passion for music. The timing was right to get the potential of this group into the hands of people who, whether they knew it or not, were about to become part of the rise of such a powerful musical force in a city where only a few artists such as E-40, Too Short and Rappin' 4-Tay had that type of local admiration (Green Day too, if you cross genres).

Following Through
However, after principal shooting began, as with most DIY projects that quickly take off on a whim...things stopped. Over time it just fell by the wayside as everyday life took over and the project became something that was pushed towards the backburner. A common misfortune for most DIY ideas. (If you haven't already experienced this, then you've probably either been lucky or you haven't embarked on your own project yet.)

Staying Motivated
Just knowing the potential of something great and not even seeing it get off the ground can be the difference between greatness and obscurity and it'll happen if you let it - that's almost a guarantee. Whether big or small, things won't happen if you're not there to make it happen. One of the most difficult aspects of being part of a project is seeing it through from beginning to end.

Now, if it's a DIY project it'll be even more difficult because you're contributing so much of your own time, effort, money, etc. that it becomes way too easy to call it quits. But you can't allow yourself or your team to do that. It's the downfall of almost every DIY project. I know...I've seen my share of them.

If you don't care enough to keep pushing your project forward until it gets done, who will? Just keep at it and make sure that you do something everyday that'll help get the project done. You'll soon find out that this is what makes or breaks not only a DIY filmmaker, but people in general.

Quick Tips to Staying Motivated and Completing Your Project
1. Set a deadline
2. Get everyone involved with the project to tell as many people as they know about it. This way, they'll feel a bit more obligated to complete it.
3. Don't overwhelm yourselves. Once it starts to feel like work and you're not enjoying yourself anymore - back off! Even if it's a labour of love, you'll need a break from it sooner or later. Step back, relax, recharge and get yourself back into the groove of production.
4. Get other people involved. Their new excitement for the project could be just the boost your group needs to help stay motivated until the end.
5. Take turns motivating each other and keeping the possibilities, rewards, potential and finish line within reach.
6. Stay away from negative minds and negative people. Nothing good ever comes from them.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Birth of DIY Filmmaking

...and I thought that Robert Rodriguez and digital cinema started the DIY revolution.

...I wonder if their shot was worth it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Rose Laguana - "The Next Great American Band" on FOX

It was on my recent trip to Guam that I first read this article in the Pacific Daily News about Guam's very own Rose Laguana, the darling of "DOT DOT DOT". Tonight on FOX's reality show, "The Next Great American Band" I got to see Rose in action. She was absolutely amazing and was made for the limelight. Goo Goo Doll's John Rzeznik and Prince's former bandmate Sheila E. both commented that she single-handedly saved the band from elimination during tonight's performance.

Now, unless you come from a very small town (or in my case a small island), you'll never know how much excitement comes with the feeling of seeing "one of your people" do great things. It's almost surreal. It's almost like you're right there with them, along for the ride, experiencing their moments, albeit vicariously. I mean, I've never met Rose and she's never met me, but just knowing that she's from the same 37 mile-long "dot" in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that I come from, there's an automatic sense of support and a deep-rooted connection that makes me want to cheer her along every step of the way.

The likes of Rose Laguana, Julian Aguon, JR Hattig, Manny Crisostomo and other ambitious Chamorros have done great things and in the process have taken Guam into the spotlight with them. It's just too bad that we feel the need to leave the island to do so. Hopefully that'll soon change. Nonetheless, I'm proud of all my Chamorro brothers and sisters that set out to accomplish their desired goals. It's small town heroes like them that help make our small island feel just a little bit bigger.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Production Boost - Teasers and Trailers

Moviegoers usually have mixed feelings when it comes to deciding on watching a movie based on its trailer. That's because trailers have the potential to be pretty misleading. Trailers can make any bad movie look good. More often than not, trailer editors usually aim to take out the jokes that didn't work, the bad acting and dialogue and cut it all down to a 2:00 minute highlight reel, showcasing only the best parts of the film. Sounds easy enough? It usually is - if you're not the filmmaker.

Experiment with the Story
You have to remember that even on a DIY movie level, the movie business - whether or not you hold the rights to your own material is still just that - a business. And although they are for the most part entertaining, trailers and teasers are to be viewed as tools - marketing tools to help sell your movie. With that said, you're going to need the most compelling trailer you can cut from your footage even if it means experimenting with your storyline for the sake of editing a fantastic sequence for the trailer.

Get creative and give moviegoers a reason to see your movie.
Get them interested and get them curious.

Of course, the more it stays within the storyline of your movie, the better. What good is your movie if people don't see it?

In a nutshell, trailers usually run long - anywhere between 2:00 - 2:30 min. These are usually the common versions that you see in theaters or online. They more often than not portray a very thorough overview of the movie; sometimes revealing too much information. They almost always feature a voice-over artist and soundbites of dialogue from the movie over different music beds. You'll find that most of these have three acts - just like in a story.

Teasers on the other hand, usually run anywhere from :15 sec to 2:00 min and don't reveal too much information. A lot of times they more image or music based.

You should be aware that with most teasers, the work appears to be easier than it is, but be ready - you could have yourself a handful just for the simple fact that you have less time to make a teaser interesting to its viewers. For example, in the Shiro's Head teaser, it's all just music and visuals. No dialogue.

I wanted to heighten and then sustain the viewer's interest at a peak, so instead of the usual 2:30 trailer like you'd find on the Apple Site I decided to cut a teaser first - leaving the viewer wanting more. Don and I have also agreed that we'd like to complement the teaser by cutting two to three additional full-length trailers for Shiro's Head.

Amazingly enough, finding the direction for the teaser wasn't the problem. But scanning through all of the scenes, watching them over and over to find the most compelling clips to connect with this one particular song...this tacked on most of the time spent during the day. We shot over 75 tapes worth of footage (including delted scene footage) so, yeah, it's a handful.

DIY Teaser/Trailer Tips:


Try not to release your teaser and trailer at the same time. Keep your promo timing consistent and release them separately. The worst thing you can do is use up all of your promotional leverage by releasing too much too soon. On the flipside, don't keep your audience waiting too long - especially if it's your first film and you haven't established a following yet. You might easily wear out your welcome. Keep your promotional material on an even keel before the release of your movie and keep the interest piqued.

Remember, at the end of the day when all is said and done, although entertaining - trailers and teasers are tools; marketing tools that are help to sell your product. Ooops...I mean movie.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Production Boost - Pick-Up (or "Insert") Shots

When you get to the point in post production of finally watching a rough cut of your flick, you might become a little disappointed when you notice that some scenes didn't turn out the way you thought they might. If you feel that a scene falls a little short when you watch it, don't react too quickly on your instinct of giving upon its potential by tossing it into the deleted scenes bin. This happens to all filmmakers and not just us DIYers.

This is one of the reasons why post production usually becomes one of the longest phases in the production process. It's a tough job to try to put all the scenes together like pieces to a puzzle so that they fit the way they should. This sounds easier than it usually is.

The Quick Fix
One quick fix that can help this situation of pumping some life into a flat scene is to go back and shoot some pick-up shots for the scene. I'm not talking about going back and re-shooting the entire scene - that would be counterproductive. What I'm talking about is to go back and shoot some b-roll, close-ups, reactions, additional angles to help accent what you've already shot.

What's to Shoot?
For example, just a few pick-up shots of a character's face can help move a scene along in the right direction. But what if you don't have access to any of your actors during post production? Well, you have the option of shooting b-roll of certain key objects in the scene. For instance, a CU of the villain's gun as an insert can add to the suspense and thrill of a scene without using your actors.

You might need a similar hand model, though - but for an insert shot that'll only last a few seconds, you don't need to be too detailed for your audience. You don't even need to be in the same location, you can easily cheat it. Just be sure to shoot the complementing angles.

Haste Makes Waste
So for your troubled scenes - just keep them, play around with the order of the clips if you have to - and try out some new insert shots. It's amazing what a 4 second insert can do to a scene. But remember, if you're still not sure about what to do with the scene even after you've inserted the pick-ups - then get a few more opinions. Have a few different people look at it and get their response.

Follow your gut - if you think you must really get rid of the scene to help the overall movie, then go for it. Just make sure you try all your options before doing so. (The iconic John Travolta dance sequence in "Saturday Night Fever" was on its way to the cutting room floor until they were convinced to remove a few inserts.) Good luck.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Production Boost - Narrating Your Film

In the DIY world, filmmakers are known to be a resourceful bunch. Due to the lack of budget funds for production, we are often left to find creative solutions to boost the production value of our films. Along with the more common elements that DIYers turn to for quick and dirty cinematic worth such as color correction, aspect ratio, graphics and animation, etc., you might want to look towards a more analog/old school method that works every time: Narration.

He Said/She Said
With a bit of third of first-person narration in your film you instantly add a personable connection to your audience, bringing them right into the life or lives of the character(s) within your story - sure to strike an intimate chord with viewers.

More Writing? Ugh!
For writers, it can give a bit more depth to a story and stretch your writing skills a bit beyond what the characters have to say. It can also make the ties that bind your story even stronger for a more complete wrap-up in the final act. For the non-writers, it doesn't have to be profound at all. In fact, realistically, it doesn't have to make too much sense. Here's a quick and dirty way to do just that in just 3 steps...

  1. identify the overall theme/moral to your story (ie. Star Wars = good always prevails over evil)
  2. write 3 short paragraphs about it (2 to 3 liners)
  3. space the paragraphs apart to fit the timing and pacing of your movie, place it over some b-roll and you're good to go!
The beauty of it all is that you can conform your own verison/style to fit your storyline. Once done, viola! You've just added a more personal touch along with more depth to your production that didn't require more money, extra actors, more craft services or PVC pipes! Congratulations.

Check out the following TV shows and movies for examples:

Pushing Daisies, Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy, The Wonder Years, Magnum P.I., El Mariachi, Fight Club, American Beauty (warning: ending spoiler and blood), American Psycho, Bridgette Jones's Diary, Snatch (forward to 04:26 into the clip. warning: ending spoiler/mature language), Million Dollar Baby, etc.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Mom Syndrome is Alive and Well - Scenario #3

Don put up some screen grabs of Shiro's Head on and within a few minutes he was getting swamped with questions of interest from fellow indie filmmakers and the like on the who, what, when, where and how of the movie.

So here it is: the antidote to the "Mom Syndrome" - you should have realistic expectations from the audience/viewer/market in regards to the type of project you're involved with.

Know you're target market/demographic and take it to the people who you know will have it. Don't sell the refrigerator to the kind eskimo and expect him to jump up and down in amazement. If you keep your projects strong, interesting and honest - you'll find your market. If your project's great, they'll find you.

Or...get a real job!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Talent Shortage on Guam?

Before the curtain was drawn, all I could hear from my seat was the mumbling of theater students' complaints of having to see the play for extra credit or something like that. I was there to treat myself on my birthday plus it was opening night. I couldn't miss it. I was one of the few people in the audience who was there voluntarily. How strange...after it all it was Shel Silverstein. Who doesn't enjoy Shel Silverstein? C'mon..."The Giving Tree"?! "Killed By a Coconut"?! Okay, what about "A Boy Named Sue" by Johnny Cash? (Yes he wrote that, too.) Well, the younguns didn't seem to care. At least not yet.

As the curtain draws, the moaning UOG theater students respectfully calm to a soft hush. The first skit was a great performance and the entire show excelled as it continued. By the time the "Wash and Dry" skit wrapped, the same moany/groany students were cheering with applause, laughter and whistles which lasted throughout the rest of the production - from "No Skronking" to "Rosa's Eulogy". Even I was amazed by the players' acting skills. I was most shocked by Professor Jim Seymour's talents showcased in "The Lifeboat is Sinking" skit (which happened to be my favorite along with "All Cotton" and "Do Not Feed the Animal").

The Evening's Highlight
I first met Professor Seymour when Don and I were first recruiting cast members for Shiro's Head in one of his Drama classes. I remember that day. All but one of the students looked as if they were taking the drama course just to get the "easy units". They all just sat around, blank-faced. Based on what I saw from Prof. Seymour's performance, believe me when I say that Guam's talent should be gauged by Professor Seymour's excellent performance in the skit. His flawless comedic timing, his delivery and confidence on stage set the bar for others to emulate.

By the final bow, the entire theater audience was all smiles, applause and even more cheers. It made me think...for such a small island with such raw talent, why aren't there more productions? Whether theater plays, television media or even webisodes? Guam is the place that has the most do-it-yourselfers I've ever seen per capita. DIY mechanics, musicians, shopkeepers, carpenters - you name it - they got it. Heck, I'm a DIY filmmaker. So why not ban together and create an industry? Some would say it's because Guam is too small. I say it's because no one has taken the lead. Yet.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Your Lasting Impression

Isla Center for the Arts at UOG began the exhibit of the Rainbow Series of prints from French-born Japanese printmaker, Paul Jacoulet. This particular series of prints were the results of his tour of the Micronesia islands back around the 1930's/40's.

While enjoying and studying his prints at the exhibit (the one I posted here was my favorite), the thought popped into my head - Where will my works will be in 80 years?

Although we know that long after any artist is gone, their work stands the test of time long enough to make impressions on future generations. But even through we're armed with that knowledge...what contributions will we make?

What will our work say about us as a generation or even just about you as an individual?

It doesn't matter if you're a commissioned artist, a freelancer or a hobbyist - if someone was walking through your exhibit 80 years from now, what would they think?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Mom Syndrome is Alive and Well - Scenario #2

Fast forward six months and I'm sitting in a restaurant having dinner with my parents-in-law. Since the rough cut was pretty much done, I wanted to share the progress of Shiro's Head, so I take out the iBook from my backpack, excited to show a two-scene rough cut. They attentively sat and watched the Inarajan Pool scene and the baseball field scene. When the clips were done, their response was, can I put this...their own.

Weird Silence
No comments, no suggestions, no questions. Just a straight eye-to-eye-to-eye silent head nod.They just sat across from me and nodded silently. Wow - it was the "Mom Syndrome" alive and in concert. I love my parents-in-law and they're the nicest people, supportive and happy. But, as with my own mom, the diagnosis was the same - a case of the "Mom Syndrome".

My wife went on to remind me that her parents aren't exactly the demographic that Shiro's Head was directed towards. I's totally understandable. At first, I thought that it was just the fact that it was the process of "moviemaking" that they didn't really understand or know how to respond to. Or maybe the clips were just flat out bad. But the more I thought about it, the I understood. I broke it down to two possibilities:

That's nice. What's on TV?
#1: They needed to see the scene in its entirety to fully understand the importance of the clips that they viewed.

#2: It wasn't that they didn't appreciate the hard task of's just one of those "you had to be there" moments.The new porch you just built, the money you saved on your vacation, your kid's excellent report one will actually really care as much as you do or be as excited as you are, because they won't understand the journey/effort/time that it took to accomplish it.

But...because all art is subjective, the arts are more susceptible to the Mom Syndrome since most people aren't able to relate to the feelings of expression through a creative entity. It's not that they don't's just that they may not know how to relate. Either that or the material really is bad. Only kidding.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Global Media Awareness (aka "Is It Hot Where You Live?")

I always wonder why the media outlets on Guam seem to never change. After I touched down last night - on the way up to Yigo - I wondered. Everything sounds and looks the same. The radio stations, the television station programming, bumpers and graphics all look the same. The newspaper layout, format and stories look like they did in the 90's.

What's Cookin'?
I've been home to Guam back and forth half a dozen times in the last five years, so I'm aware of the current changes in the media circle. But none that's too mind blowing. Why? Is "good enough" good enough? Maybe on an island rooted so far into its humble, local lifestyle they couldn't care less for the media-hungry/savvy ways of the mainland. But why not? They do it all the time on Guam - they just call it "gossip".

Regarding current media, one of the few notable "changes" on the island worth noting is that the newest buzz seems to come from a radio station that plays oldies. I love listening to KIJI FM 104! Great job Daryl, Ryan and the rest of the crew!

Although the lack of change adds to my homeland's "small-town" charm and timeless nostalgia, the island is also an international hub and melting pot to a new and media-savvy world.

Infrastrucure? Check. Media? Check. Oh wait a minute...
Back road to Andersen is paved and there are talks of building a new island road that connects the northern and southern military bases. A lot is happening before the military arrives in a few years. Because media changes constantly, I think that my beautiful island home needs to consider investing more into the media arena as well - not just for the sake of keeping up the media light for local radio skits, station promotions, political gain and typhoon conditions, but for the sake of commerce - and not the kind of commerce that is dependent on off-island resources (although it can help there, too) - but for the interest in and benefit of - local commerce.

With strong media in such a small, yet active consumer-driven community, the island should utilize the tools that are already in place and maximize the media to its full potential - shaking the island towards new methods of interest in addition to maintaining its traditional ones.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Mom Syndrome is Alive and Well - Scenario #1

Sure it's frustrating for us creative types to explain what it is we actually do to people who just don't get it. But, I think that some people really, genuinely and sincerely just don't get it.

I remember trying to explain to my dear mom that my brother and I decided to put our business on hold in order to devote a year of our time and efforts to making Shiro's Head. She had the usual questions one would have about the process of moviemaking, including trying to understand how we're going to generate an income by moviemaking. So I went on to explain that since we're setting out to do everything ourselves, we won't have any money to begin with and that if we even get to see any money, it'll be after the movie is complete - if it gets completed at all. The puzzled look on her face turned into the supportive, "mom" expression as if to say, "Whatever makes you happy."; classic Mom Syndrome.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"A Date Which Will Live In Infamy " (aka "The Day That They Greenlighted the 'Pearl Harbor' Script")

While making the final descent into Honolulu Intl. Airport en route to Guam, the pilot mentioned that if you peek out the window on the left side of the plane (my side) you'll be able to see the famous Pearl Harbor. I couldn't help but to think about how calm and serene it was. Then, unwillingly, my train of thought brought to my attention Michael Bay's interpretation of "Pearl Harbor" starring Ben Affleck. Then I thought about the movie "Godzilla" starring Matthew Broderick. Then I thought about "The Hulk" directed by Ang Lee. I think you know where I'm going with this...

Dollars and Deadlines
Box office blockbuster movie budgets, although a quick and certain way of improving production value in a movie, don't necessarily mean that it'll win the viewers over, no matter how much marketing you pour in. You'll still need a little thing called a storyline. I remember watching the "Pearl Harbor" trailer in theaters and to be honest, I think that the trailer moved me more in one minute than the movie did in two hours. Unfortunately, "Godzilla" and "The Hulk" fell victim to the same big-budget marketing hype as well, but had the potential to become something great with just a little more imagination. Something that big budgets - no matter how big - can't guarantee.

Care to Disagree?
Let's a take a look at "Batman Begins" and Frank Miller's "300". Both with Hollwood budgets, great visual effects and actors but both also with great imagination and storylines with depth, keeping the audiences in the theaters and filling the seats. This is a strong point for little indies to exploit. The imagination. Not to say that we don't have a choice (imagination vs. money) but more so because we're in a position where we can. With no studio pressures or millions of investor dollars riding on a little production, there is more of the imagination to explore.

I know what you're thinking. I just landed in one of the most beautiful destinations on the entire planet and all I can think of are movie budgets and Hollywood woes? Point taken. Aloha!

One Big Wheelie

The other day, I came across this YouTube video called "Wheelies 101". It features a local Guam guy doing wheelies on his motorcycle (and yes, unfortunately without a helmet).

The more Don and I began to compare filmmaking to motorcycle wheelies, the more we discovered how uncanny the two seemed so entwined (hey...we were stuck in traffic). And we amazed ourselves so much, that I decided to further my amusement and make a list:

Wheelies = Moviemaking

  1. If it goes right, people look on in amazement with congratulations abound. If it fails, you fall flat on your face and no one except friends and family would want to be seen near you.
  2. Both are temporary. You start one and try not to screw it up. When it's done, you do another one - only better this time. Repeat.
  3. Both are extremely risky, but the fun always outweighs the risk.
  4. If you succeed, you're labeled as "skilled" and "talented". If you don't, people just call you a "nut".
  5. Not too many people like watching the safe ones.
  6. Ask someone why they do it and you'll be lucky to get a straight answer.
  7. Just enjoy it and try not to think too much about it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Independent Movies - "Tears of the Black Tiger"

Here's one that's sure to interest you - a Thailand indie flick distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

No matter what genre/style/period piece you desire, "Tears of the Black Tiger" (which my brother picked up from - believe it or not - Hollywood Video) is right up the DIY, never-seen-before, "I can't believe this!" kick in the butt that all no-budget filmmakers would find interesting. Why? Well let's start in the order that it took hold on us.

The Cover
How's this for starters: two Taiwanese guys dressed like cowboys and gripping revolvers, ready to kick some butt and take some names. The blown out saturated colors, deep contrast and fun fonts looked like a cross between "Crouching Tiger" and "Death Proof"!

The Origin and Genre
A Tawainese indie action movie? Enough said! To see that Magnolia signed on to something that - right off the bat looks so foreign (figuratively and literally) made me a happy Guam guy.

The Cinematography and Overall Vibe
It was unreal. No, really. Greescreen and stuff. It was definitely different in the sense that the movie seemed to portray a motion picture "play" than an actual "movie", which I thought was refreshing and surprisingly fun to watch. The color palette was strong, vibrant and eye-catching.

The Storyline
It was foreign, so I expected a few things to get lost in translation. There were a lot of musical numbers (one too many I think) and the editing as a whole could've been more discriminatory.

The Actors
Hey...if they're unknowns, then I already like 'em!

Final Thoughts
I can't remember the last time I was so excited to see a movie without hearing or knowing anything about it. For some reason, I just really liked the way this movie stood out and grabbed my attention and interest without ever crossing paths.

At first, I couldn't figure it out. Then it hit me - it was different.

Not knowing anything about it, ever hearing about it or seeing trailers for it actually enticed me to see it! Everything about it was a new experience. I've come across something that made me feel I just stumbled upon a buried treasure.

If you're in the process of a creating something...whether it's a do it yourself low-budget movie, writing a poem, a screenplay, whatever...think about this: will it make the experience unique? What elements make for an interesting piece? Marketing? Star power? Digital effects? A good ol' story? Most people would say that it all depends on the viewer in question.

From what I gather, just make the experience a unique one.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Brandon Mayer's CD Release Party

Kel's Brandon Mayer Pick
Title: To Feel Love You've Got to Give Love (03:05)
Artist: Brandon Mayer
Album: Nothing Without Love

Last night was a great reminder of just how powerful the spirit of the independent artist can be. We were invited to the CD release party of up and coming artist Brandon Mayer. The album was produced by David Rosa who my brother Don occasionally writes for.

Birth of an Indie Project
Within the same time that Don and I were getting the idea of Shiro's Head from concept to preproduction, Brandon Mayer was just beginning work on his album. Over a year later, the now released CD entitled "Nothing Without Love" reveals the work from an artist who has taken an idea and believed in it enough to put in years of his life's passion.

In the same time, Shiro has gone from preproduction through production and is now in post production as an independent project. Thanks to Mayer's CD release, it's provided an uplifting feeling to actually see the fruition and completion of a work that was born along the same timeline.

Indie Sandwich, Please...

At the release party, the grass roots elements were present. His parents were there for support, his sister flew in from New York to sing a number with the band, the location was cool and the music was great. Call me cheesy, but I thought it was cool to be able to share in the moment of an independent artist unveiling and releasing the work that he believed in and by the looks of it, enjoyed making along the way.

Only if more DIY artists did that.

Be sure to check out his site to listen to an accomplished indie artist in action.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Media Archiving - Storage Space is Prime Real Estate

Thankfully, the fires did not join forces overnight and the "Magic" fire has been about 40% contained, which is great news.

Nero Should've Archived His Home Movies
Being faced with the possibility of losing belongings in a fire puts things into perspective and also raises a lot of questions. "What should I take?" is the first that comes to mind. Regardless of having items insured or not is besides the point, because media is not necessarily a monetary item, it's more of a document of record that, once destroyed, cannot be replaced. So...asking yourself what media is/isn't important enough to archive is a very important question. One that I think everyone - and not just us media buffs - should think about.

Where Do I Put It All?
I have a boat load of digital media that spans the last 10 years. Photos, radio and television archives, web and print archives, film school documents, event videography footage and files and believe it or not, it wasn't until now that I decided to consolidate them onto a central format for efficient storage and access. Most people would just spend the cash and archive on a hard drive, but being a DIY filmmaker, I need all the hard drive space I have for film footage. So, I opted to use the standard 4.7 GB DVD disc for archiving since they're inexpensive, durable and never crash.

While going through my old media, I discovered that I had a lot of neat stuff and some useless junk that I've accumulated over the years (some of which I'll share with you in later posts). I also learned that in order to archive your media efficiently, you really need to be firm about what makes it into the archive and what doesn't. Storage space is precious space.

Making the Band
When you archive and find yourself uncertain as to keeping or trashing something, there's always the "When was the last time I used this?" rationale. Or the "Will I need this in the next 2-5 years?" question. The process of archiving is done out of necessity...not out of desire.

Two good rules of thumb to archiving are as follows:

  1. use your storage space sparingly and archive only what you NEED
  2. DO NOT SACRIFICE YOUR PRECIOUS MEMORIES (in the end, that's all we have anyway - photos should be at the top of the archive list)

Now or Never

I suggest that if you haven't already done a complete, centralized archive of your utmost important media, that you should do so sooner rather than later. Something's gotta give. Don't let your work - or your life's memories - fall victim to unforeseen circumstances. Take the time to do it. I had about 10 years of media to properly archive and it's taken me almost a day and I'm halfway done.

Also, I've reduced my evacuation load from four plastic bins to two. ;)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Magic Touch

There it was on TV. And - I kid you not - a little over a mile away. Unfortunately, the fires are still blazing. Fire officials predict that the fire closest to us, dubbed the "Magic" fire, might combine with two other nearby fires to form one big one. Yikes. They also say that the Santa Ana winds will simmer by tomorrow afternoon which is an extreme relief. Not to make any hasty moves, we're still keeping our items prepared and ready to go since they haven't ordered a mandatory evacuation yet. This means that with our computers and drives packed, we'll be down two days worth of editing. Hardly a sacrifice, thankfully.

Making productive use of the downtime from editing Shiro's Head, I've decided to consolidate and archive all of the personal and professional media that I've collected over the years (photos, documents, software, etc.) onto DVD's and to reduce the clutter by centralizing all of my "important" things for any future events. So next time I'll be able to take a longer shower.

What Would You Take With You?

Anxiously awaiting word from local officials on a very possible mandatory evacuation... with only a few minute's notice, we had what we thought were our life's immediate must-haves - prepared and ready to go.

Stacked in the middle of the livingroom are:

  1. Computers
  2. Hard drives
  3. Master RAW tapes
  4. Important Documents (passports, birth certificates, etc.)
  5. 3 paper bags of files
  6. 4 plastic bins of Photos, software, archived cd's
  7. 1 backpack's worth of clothes
When the news coverage stated that all residents in our area were to prepare for an evacuation, it was a surreal feeling. You see things like this on the news all the time. But of course when it happens to you, it's different. So, faced with the idea of having to gather everything that you think is important at a moment's notice - this is what happens:
  1. you develop the stress of a one-minute all-you-can-grab shopping spree
  2. the thought of "Is that really important?" crosses your mind when you reach for things that you think is important
  3. you can't remember just where all the 'important" things are
  4. you think about your life and what you have to show for it
  5. you forget about all the small stuff that just five minutes ago you thought were extremely important
  6. again..."Is that really important?"
  7. what clothes you want to spend the next week in
  8. you wish you were more organized
The first thing that came to mind when I found out that we might evacuate was to take a shower. Weird. It must be all the years of water and power outages during typhoons while growing up on Guam. It's become some type of "Jason Bourne" reflex to take a shower when subjected to a natural crisis. So after the shower, I calmly went around the house looking for all of the important things that I needed to take with me. While making my rounds I discovered two crucial things:
  1. I wasn't as organized as I thought (Now where did I put my wedding video?)
  2. I own way too much junk
But I didn't have the time to sit and ponder on the validity of each item, so I ended up packing a lot of stuff. Not a smart move. this is what happens when one does not have a contingency plan for evacuation or a quick getaway.

I'm just glad we had the sense to organize all of our film files, archives, tape storage and hard drive mapping from day one, so that all we had to do was easily disconnect the drive from the Mac and box it up. Everything else came in a close second.

So I suggest you take a moment to think about it yourself - without the threat of a wildfire in your backyard of course - and decide what you would take with you. The shower thing is optional.

Shiro vs. California Wildfire

The wildfires here in southern California have been spreading very quickly over the course of the last 24 hours. San Diego, Malibu, Santa Clarita, Stevenson Ranch...all have caught on fire.

I was editing the Shiro's Head rough cut (again) when Don steps in to bear the bad news (again). He tells me to pack it up as the fire was spread to our area and caused an evacuation status. At this point, over 500,00 people have evacuated in San Diego and some in the Santa Clarita, Canyon Country area. That's mindblowing. At this point in the year, the Santa Ana winds are always moody, but this year, it was said to have been the worst and has spread the fire across almost all of southern California.

Homes are destroyed, businesses are destroyed and it's been declared as a state of emergency. They went as far as to say that it's the most worst disaster since Katrina. Unreal. But yet, here we are, packing up our life's work and memories for an evacuation. Yesterday it was Malibu - today it seems as if it's everywhere.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Smoking While Editing


A couple of months ago, I spent a relaxing three day weekend down in Malibu with my wife, Don and his girlfriend. We were able to stay at this great beach townhouse in Point Dume right along the PCH Highway 1 near the beach. Over the course of the weekend, we did the beach, bar-b-q, Guinness, wine and the whole R&R deal. It couldn't have happened at a better time. We were even able to see the famous Castle Kashan for the first time as we were driving around. Prior to the trip, the stress levels were pushing a yellow to red on the frustration meter. Bleh.

The weeks prior to the little trip, we were dealing with the launch of the revamped "Why Go To Film School?" site while simultaneously editing the early rough cuts of the film. And as you may know... once you get going in a productive state of mind, it's tough to get yourself to stop. So...the weekend was able to tear us away from all the filmmaking stress, work and everything else in order for us to just spend time together and enjoy ourselves. Otherwise...what good is it all, right? One of the highlights - Jumping into the freezing ocean at 6am right after sunrise and being pushed by the waves. That was fun.


Hard at working tweaking the latest rough version of the Shiro's Head edit after cutting to a potentially great soundtrack (which I'll talk about in a later post). My brother Don comes in to tell me that Malibu is on fire and that the Castle Kashan has burnt to the ground! Whoah.

Turned on the news and there it was...Malibu is going up in flames. And right along the Point Dume area as well. Apparently, as close as the blaze was to the resident's homes, no one was reported to be injured. And the flames were close - right next to the roadside.

To give you an idea of the scope of this fire - now...Malibu is about a 25-35 min. drive from where we're located. From the time that Don told me about the Malibu fire news to about an hour later, we started smelling the smoke and ash that was coming from the flames at the coastline. From the time the smoke and ash arrived, to about thirty minutes later, the sky in our neighborhood turned dark orange. I mean eclipse style. It was nuts. BUT coming from Guam where we have our share of typhoons and earthquakes; I'm familiar with the occasional hiccups in mother nature's breath.

So, not thinking too much about it...I just kept right along editing the movie, keeping up to date with the news on the Malibu fires. But from time to time I found myself going back to the picture perfect weekend in Point Dume and remembering the castle on the hill, the beach and how lucky we were to experience it all when we did - reminded once again about just how fast things can change.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Why They Call It a "Release"

If you're working on a project - any project - music, movies, paintings as an will you know when you're done? When the divine spirits tell you that your movie is now complete? Or when you just get plain lazy and think your creation is "good enough"? Who's to say. I don't know...but if you're anything like me, you're probably your worst critic and won't be satisfied until your project is PERFECT.

With films as in most media production...especially if it's got some investors tied into it - whether it's a low budget mumblecore flick or a fully funded studio major motion picture, a production is never really done. The movie's production lifespan is usually determined by a number of factors - things like budget, time and executive decisions. I remember a professor of mine at film school mention the term "release" in regards to movie and album "release dates". At first, I thought it seemed obvious - that the latest album "release" or theatrical "release" was just a term for a methodically scheduled PR launch.

But what it REALLY meant was that whether or not the directors think the project is complete, the project will be released on time - not when the auteur says so. At some time, the work will have to be "released" - from the creator to the masses. The financial backers invest way too much dough to continue the project at the leisure of the "creators". Consequently, the movie MUST be RELEASED by its scheduled launch date or else there will be heck to pay.

The reason I bring this up is to demonstrate a point; and my point is this: learn to let go. For the sake of nothing else but your creativity and sanity. That's the beauty of DIY moviemaking. The rewards are so that we are in a position to go it our own pace and strengths. You can only do so much in a no-budget, DIY flick. Just do what's right for you and don't let your passion become a burden. Otherwise, it just won't be fun anymore. ;)

Today I was reminded about just that while watching the 3rd rough cut of Shiro's Head. I was also reminded that sooner or later (more sooner rather than later) it's going to be released. Am I satisfied with the work? I couldn't be more proud. Is it a perfect creation? Of course not...but it is what it is...a solid piece of DIY work from two Guam guys - and it looks like a million bucks.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

DIY Moviemaking: Spending Time vs. Spending Money

In most productions, you usually have just one or the other. And the benefits/drawbacks are pretty obvious, but some are not. For example, when Shiro's Head started to become a reality and not just an idea, we were looking for ways to get it done. "Can we actually make this movie? And if we can, then how are we going to fund it?". We got it! Let's get some investors to supply the finances while we focus on just the creative. This way, it'll allow us to keep our production schedule, move things along faster and we get the budget that we need. Needless to say, it didn't work out that way.

But It's My Baby!

Like most scenarios, the potential investors wanted to make a few adjustments before they jumped on board. Totally understandable. However, our direction of the project didn't gel with theirs and before anyone committed to anything, we decided not to go the route of investors and to just cling to the vision that we had for the project and to do it ourselves.

This forced us to take a long, serious look at what the project meant to us and how far we were willing to go to materialize the production ourselves. By doing this, it meant that we would have full control over the creative content of the project with no holds barred; but of course there's the yin to the yan - we'll have full control, yes - but without any money. Wow. That was definitely a wake up call.

Pondering Your Production

Even though investors might want to make changes, they supply the cash. To give this up means that you give up the luxury of a secured budget. At least the convenience of an instant budget, anyway. And without a secured budget, it compromises alot of the production ideas for your movie - talent payment, wardrobe, props, locations, overall production costs, etc. So before you make the decision to go about it alone...I suggest to take some time and think this part's not always for everybody.

No Money = Creative Cats = Tired Dogs
So once we decided to become a full-fledged do-it-yourself independent production, we had to make the adjustments. This meant that we were now not only writers and directors, we had become the Unit Production Manager, Location Scout, Casting Director, Sound Mixer, Craft Services, Production Coordinator, Script Supervisor, Hair and Makeup and pretty much everything else.

Now...don't get me wrong, being creative guys, we were more than capable of doing everything we needed to do to get this movie made, in fact, it's pretty fun to do everything yourself. However, (you won't realize this until you experience it) by going the route of a DIY flick and becoming everything to everyone - it won't cost you much money, but it will cost you alot of your time.

After the all the admin work and scheduling you'll have to do, you'll barely have enough energy. And if you're not careful, this is where your project will suffer. Then, before you know it, because you're short on energy, you'll grow short on creativity which will take away from your patience which will take away from your mood which will take away from your fun which (worst of all) may become evident and infectious to your cast and crew and before you know it, you'll be so miserable that you forget why you're doing this amazing movie in the first place!

Preparation and Perspiration
So, before you embark on a totally DIY project, do yourself a favor and consider the elements of risk and prepare yourself for it. We were lucky. There were two of us on watch all the time and we kept each other on our toes even when things got bleak. We were able to pull ourselves through it all and maintain our sanity. Sometimes I'll have a relapse here and there (like in my foley sessions), but then I'll be reminded to step back and remember to enjoy it. Heck, some DIY projects start and never finish. So just be prepared; know what it means to go the route of a DIY flick and be prepared for an adventure you won't soon forget.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

About Kel Muna


Kel Muña... co-producer/writer/director of the independent film "Shiro's Head" (official selection of the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival and the inaugural Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival); co-author of the filmmaking book, "Why Go To Film School? - The Beginner's Guide to Filmmaking";

...and has produced content for independent and corporate projects for documentaries/television/radio/print and web for well over a decade.

You can visit the Muna Bros. Official Site, or read his Squidoo Lens, reviews of his book, reviews of his movie and what Google thinks of him.

After positions as Broadcast Director for an advertising agency, Program Director for two radio stations and a position at the San Francisco Bay Area's news channel KTVU, Kel decided to pursue the most fulfilling projects he has known to date - with various creative endeavors as part of The Muña Bros. duo.

Kel graduated as Valedictorian of his film class along with various honors and holds a degree in film and video production from the world famous Full Sail School of Film.

Hafa Adai!

Email is the best way to reach me. It may take a few days to respond since I actually check all my emails, but I'll get there! Thanks for dropping a line.