Blog: It Captured My Attention

At times we walk around wide awake and aware of reality, that we don’t allow ourselves to dream about a world that could be. Once in a while something will capture our attention, causing us to dream in the mist of our busy day.
When I was in San Francisco the waitress at Mel’s Diner sat me right in front of an imaged that made the world around me disappear. Suddenly I couldn’t hear what my friends were saying, my eyes were captivated by the image of George Lucas directing American Graffiti. It was like I got a glimpse of what creating a story would look like; working with people who love what they do, allowing creativity to come to life, doing whatever has to be done in order to get it done.

I wondered if others had sat at this very seat and was captured by a dream of creating films. I wondered, “Am I the only one who feels this way when I see pictures of people directing.” Because I am a woman I already cut myself short saying, “Oh I could never do that.” But as I looked at the photo I felt like I have already done that. Not that I created a film but that I’ve directed and created a story. I remember the feeling I got when I was doing it. I felt alive and that I was finally in my own skin. Like I was created to do this very thing. Like a bird singing, or a bee buzzing. Its just what they do.

Maybe one day I will get an opportunity but for now I will do the best at where I am and learn from life.  I guess its up to us to pay attention to when we are reminded to not give up.

“What They Don’t Teach You at Film School” Notes

For some reason I found it hard to get in to this book but I knew it was valuable information that I needed to learn. Its full of great advice about how things work in the film making world. It’s an introduction to what it takes to make a film.

“…it’s not Hollywood’s approval that will determine if you die feeling like a successful filmmaker. It’s your own.”

“Your film is nothing more or less than a conduit for an audience’s own emotional experience.”

“Your work may not be “better” than that of others before you, but it can be unique. Originality is a virtue.”

It talked about film debt, budgeting, being a good director to the cast and crew, keeping things simple during filming, dealing with locations, issues with the script, basically what the author leaned by doing, they put it in the book.

I tend to learn better by mistakes. This is why I found this book useful.

“Your short is, at best, a prompt for them to ask to see more of your work-the kind they can make money on. They want a script. That’s all they want, all they ever wanted, and all they will ever want.

“Think like the buyer, not the seller.”

“No one wants you to experiment with their money, When someone reads your script and gives you money for it, it’s because they’ve seen the movie-in their minds.”

“The good news is that if you’re paying, you won’t need to protect anybody else’s vision but your own. If someone disagrees with you about how something suppose to look, you can listen, but you don’t have to negotiate.”

So much goes in to film making and when money gets involved it can get complicated. Reading about what to do when these situations are reached made me no longer fear them.

The chapters about picking the right cast and crew was full of great advice from other film makers. A few things that stand out is not to beg people to work with you, loyalty, treating your actors with care, don’t lead people on when hiring if they aren’t what you are looking for, making sure the coffee is good, food is always available, confronting issues.

[Directing] “By signing on, cast and crew are agreeing to be led. They’re giving you the power to lead them. Your job is to accept and assume it. With all the side effects and responsibilities.”

“Your crew is giving you more of their attention, creativity, and patience than your main squeese..don’t two-time them by bringing your romantic interest onto your set.”

And finally, pay attention to sound. I learned this important rule since I’ve been the shooter & editor.

“Without good sound you’re sacrificing your film’s potential or even your film, period.”

“You don’t want to fix it in the mix. Not only because you can’t, but also because you need to keep your sound editors’ time focused on the creative possibilities, not the technical harassment, of your film.”

I’m pretty sure what I read in this book will indeed help me from making mistakes.. and for that I am thankful I read it.

Now on to my next book… “The Conversations” 🙂

Seven questions with an Independent Film Maker

Nick Khoo was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia. I met him when I was an editor in Sydney. Even though he was my mentor, Nick became one of my best friends.

Nick is a very talent motion graphic artist and video editor. His first film, The Shot Down recently premiered in a theater in Australia. He wrote, directed, edited, created animation bits and color graded the film.

Nick didn’t wait for permission to create a film. He took a life goal upon himself and worked hard.

He gathered his friends together, picked up a camera and told a story.

The Shoot Down – Trailer

Here are seven questions with Nick Khoo:

1. Why was creating this film important to you?
It was becoming apparently that no one was going to just give you an opportunity to make a feature film, so I decided to make one for myself. I had read Robert Rodriguez’s “Rebel without a crew” and it just energised me so much that I thought that the only thing holding me back from making a film was me. And being from a church background you are constantly being challenged about making your limited resources work to your advantage. So looking at everything at my disposal I thought, well now I really don’t have an excuse.

2. What did you learn about being a Director?
Being a director is hard work. You are constantly planning. I read a little blog about how George Lucas on making the first Star Wars would get up at 6am, drive to the site,shoot all day, come back by 8pm, plan for the next day and be in bed by 1am. Then the whole process started again. Even with such a small team like ours, I found this timetable to be extremely true. The other thing I learned is you need to be a good people person otherwise I don’t think you can get the best performances out of your actors. And being from a post production background I definitely found it advantageous to know what things I could fix in post and what things we had to shoot again.

3. What did you learn being the film’s Editor?
Editing a film of this size requires you to see more of the bigger picture and not get bogged down in the smaller details. But I had worked on 30 minute documentaries before so I was very used to working on pacing for something at least that long. One of the things I learned while editing at church is make sure the you keep the pace. And with anything that is long form, you are constantly making sure that parts of the movie don’t lag or bring the whole story to a complete halt.

4. What type of difficulties did you come across and how did you over come them?
It was insane the amount of things that went wrong during the shoot. Even on the day before the premiere we had so many things go wrong that were out of my control! We had shot the movie during the middle of winter so everyone on the team, minus Sam, got the flu at some stage. We were all very medicated 🙂 We also had a harddrive crash which cost us a mint to get fixed, dealing with short days in Winter, dealing with long days in Summer, organising locations to shoot, feeding our crew, picking up gear, dropping off gear, shooting at a beach at night in the middle of winter.
All in all though, the best thing we had at our disposal was a good crew, and a good plan of action. Without those things, I reckon you’d be stuffed.

5. How did you finances the film?
Finances were generously donated by my folks, Sarah Vickery, Kurt Jaeger and self funded by myself (trust me, it was very cheap film)

6. What type of gear did you use?
We shot everything on a Panasonic HVX202 with a P+S Adapter and Carl Zeiss Lenses. We also had an audio mixer with a Sennheiser boom mic, a set of red heads, dimmer box, a wally dolly and tripod and a few reflectors.

7. What was it like watching your film in a theater?
Watching the film with people in a theatre was quite a rush I must say. It is always nice to watch your work up on a big screen in a dark theatre and hearing people respond to various parts of the film. All in all I am very happy with how people are responding to this film.

The Shoot Down is fun, honest and entertaining. Not sure if Nick is going to release it to the public, but when he does I’ll make sure to let you know.

Connect with Nick:

Website

Twitter

Vimeo

Youtube

Cinematography with Gale Tattersall

I first discovered Creativelive when photographer Jeremy Cowart posted a link to an interview he did with Chase Jarvis. After I watched that interview I must have spent a few hours watching some of Creativelive’s workshops. I then became a devoted student.

I got an email announcing the news that Gale would be teaching a Cinematography workshop with the HD DSLR. The requirement was to send in a video. I for one hate bring on camera but I knew this was a chance in a life time.

My video was chosen and off  I was to Seattle to learn film making from House’s Director of Photography, Gale Tattersall.

Gale was one of the first people in Hollywood to use the HD DSLR for production filming. Word began to spread that these small cameras could produce high-end quality video.

Ending all excuses.

I enjoyed learning from Gale because he not only embraces new technology but has been working on films for years.

Here are some things I learned while in the workshop. You can buy the videos here if you like.

-“To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.” Alfred Hitchcock

-Use the right camera for the right situation

-The HD DSLR was first used on House to solve a problem: Great for filming in tight areas.

-Using more than one camera side by side to get the same performance but different framing.

-Use the depth to field & framing to better tell the story.

-Direct the eye. Control the depth to field, what you want the viewer to look at.

-Use lighting to tell the story, don’t over romanticize every shot. Sometimes things need to be ugly and uncomfortable. Good cinematography is invisible. Make it to follow the story.  It’s easy to take it in the wrong direction. Each scene can have a different “genera”.

-Do camera test. See which ISO works best with less grain. (160/320/1250). Camera test will save you time.

-Set white balance according to the lighting temperature.

-Separate your eye from your brain. See what is really there: color reflections, shadows, white balance degrees, lighting, background, etc.

-Know the rules before you break them.

-Talk with the director and writer so you have a clear vision of the project. The director is the captain. Get on his wave length.

-Play with the subconscious.

-Understand lighting, don’t make it noticeable. It’s all about what kinda film you are making. Use the particle lighting in the scene to light the scene: windows, lamps. Justify where the light is coming from. Direct the eye with lighting. Lighting gives attention. Darken the background and illuminate the subject.

-If film making is in your soul, don’t stop, keep on doing it.

-With the HD DLSR cameras you can “dream less and do more.”

photos by: Creativelive & Michael Kleven

Wow that was a lot.. and so much more. Here is a fun video we created in the workshop. When we were previewing the raw footage Gale complement my shot. 🙂 twice. (@:37/@:58)

 

One Day Music Video

I was asked to create a music video to the song, “Better than a Hallelujah” sung by Amy Grant, by my senior Pastor. She asked me this as she walked by my office. When I say “walked by” I mean walked by. I wasn’t sure what she had in mind for the song but the first time I listened to it I didn’t see much.

Friday she stop by to talk about the project and asked if I could have it done this weekend for the Women Conference The Rock host in the women prisons. In the back of my mind, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for this song but I smiled and let her know we would have something for her.

When Monday came around I began to think about what I should do for the song. Lately, Ive been praying before I work on a video that will be used to reach out to people. I asked God for help and the moment I did I pictured a story. I texted a friend to see if she could film the following day and began to write out my shot list (thanks to my directing class).

Tuesday, my friend text back telling me she wouldn’t be able to do the filming. So I did what any director would do when looking for actors, go on facebook. I found a young girl from my church and messaged her. She text me back and said her and her mom would love to do it. Beth and I grab our cameras and went to film at her house.

Because her mom wouldn’t be free until later in the day, we filmed all of the daughter scenes solo. When her mom got home we filmed her and then the ending we shot them together.

Today I edited the video together and put a color grade and exported it. It amazed me that I was able to get all this done in such a short amount of time. It encouraged me to do more filming like this for my personal projects. Filming downtown made me feel so alive. Its true what Robert Rodriguez said, “Don’t dream about being a film maker, you are one”

Here is the video. Enjoy.

Bobby Roth Directing Seminar

A few weeks ago my sister called and told me about a famous director who’d worked on projects like Prison Break & Lost teaching a class in LA. He plan to talk about working in the tv industry, how he got there, working with actors, and how to direct. I knew this class would teach me what I have lacked. I’ve directed for years on projects but never felt good at it. This class was my opportunity to finally learn from a professional.  I got really excited at the thought of learning from someone who has worked on projects that I enjoyed. A list of questions began to develop inside my head.

Since I do photography professionally, I now have this “creative fund.” It’s extra money that goes to anything that is creative. I knew to get better at my craft,  I have to invest in it.

I took twelve pages of notes. He told us that being a good director is a growth process. One of the major themes during the class was about preparation and doing the homework. He said some thought he was silly when he would have detailed shot list, even to which lens he would use but for him, being prepared made him able to direct better. He did all the thought process before hand so that on the day of shooting, he knew exactly what he needed to capture.  A lot of what he said made perfect sense.

-Have a clear vision ahead of time.

-See it though the lens, every shot.

-Don’t do too many of the same shots, it will wear the actor down.

-Be the leader and a guest when directing on another’s project.

-Use different lens as part of the storytelling process.

-Keep the day of shooting moving forward, don’t allow time to be wasted.

-Casting is key. Don’t base your choice on looks or popularity.

-Look for ways to be re-inspired.

-Don’t miss up confidences, use your own judgment.

-Tie yourself to material that is great.

-Be ready when you get “your chance.”

(Current economics) -There is no longer a safe job, everything is in danger.

-Not just for the sake of it but to tell the story a better way.

-Be comfortable in telling others what to do.

-Find what is best about you and work with that.

So much of the dialog was about his experiences and what he learned from them. At the end of the class we got in to a discussion about the lack of female directors. I really liked what one of the students said, “All of us have our, ‘Oh my God, I’m this.'” I sat there and listened to the discussion and knew what my, “Oh my God, I’m this” is. It’s not the fact that I’m a girl, a mexican, from a low-income area but its.. I’m a Christian. I’m not just a Christian but I’m a seeker of Christ. I live it everyday. I’ve been dumped because I was one, I’ve been dumped by a Christian boy because I was a real one. haha. I’ve had to pass up opportunities on projects because it compromise my morals. Not to say I’ll be uptight about everything, I just know there are some scenes I wouldn’t feel comfortable being apart of.

God has always been faithful and brought better and bigger opportunities for me. We all have our mountains to climb but I know that God will be with me through the journey. “Find what is best about you and work with that.” -My heart for God. My passion and devotion to Him. He’s the Creator who is my inspiration. I don’t know if I will ever be a professional director, but I have a feeling I will be and I have to be prepared for it. One thing Bobby said that ended the class was, “It’s not impossible but it may be hard. Focus on the work, have strength, patience and be professional.”

Update: This morning I had two filmings that I needed to do. I did my homework last night, tested all my gear, packed everything, wrote my thoughts and questions down and got a good nights rest. Today I had the smoothest filming experience of my life. I’m really excited to put these tips in to practice. I’m glad I took the class.

Look for ways to invest in your craft.

Bobby Roth, professional television director and independent film maker.