Right Back Where I Started From

The above is a line from the song “California” if you didn’t already know. It’s also apropos – I’m in Los Angeles, where I lived for 10 years before I moved last year to New Haven to help run the Visual Law Project. So I’m back where I started from, roping together a wedding, a few film related meetings, and visits with relatives.

Yesterday, I met with a couple of my fellow collaborators Marcus Cano and Don Presley, as well as some other friends and fellow filmmakers, to discuss how to raise money to shoot our feature The Infected in early 2013.

There’s something nice about setting a date and aiming for that. Deadlines, it’s the only way things get done, it seems.

We also stopped by University of Southern California‘s incredible (and second best in the world to my alma mater) film school. Totally rebuilt since I last went – the place looks and feels like production suites at Universal or Warner Bros. It’s incredible. The equipment is probably better than you’d find at those studios, I’m guessing.

We met with people at USC’s recently created Media Initiative for Social Change that is trying to foster and encourage filmmakers who weave messages and storylines that help advance social causes.

Spent the rest of the time meeting people about possible teaching at film schools – something I’ve been wanting to do for a little while now.

Tomorrow will have a couple more meetings about various projects. It’s great being in LA.

Pinwheel of Doom

We’ve been editing our Visual Law Project film The Worst of the Worst on Final Cut Pro X. And I use the word “editing” lightly because what we’re mostly doing is waiting for that infuriating pinwheel to stop spinning.

I don’t think I can go into a rant that’s too detailed until much later. (It’s… it’s too soon…) But needless to say, this has been an excruciating process trying to edit this film. Volumes have already been written about the new FCP X and it’s shortcomings, and much of it is about very drastic changes in professional work flow and functionality. That holds for me, as well, but my biggest complaint is speed. I know that I’m not the only one who has encountered the following problem: after every single move – shifting the timeline, changing the volume level, or inserting a clip – the pinwheel comes up for 15-30 seconds.

Now, that doesn’t seem like much to get all tied up into knots about, but imagine that I do hundreds and hundreds of small moves an hour – those lost minutes add up. But it’s more about momentum. It would be like writing an email and after every sentence you have to wait 30 seconds. It would be enough to make you resort to actually calling someone on the phone.

And this isn’t because we have an old system – far from it. We bought a brand new iMac that was configured only for using FCP X by Apple’s own standards back in November. We’re also using the highest speed drive – G-Raid 7200 rpm drive.

So this is partially why the film isn’t done yet. I can’t extrapolate just how much time has been wasted on what I believe is Apple’s worst piece of software ever made, but it has to add up to an order of weeks lost.

Okay, so it was a small little rant.

We’ve been trying to get a rough cut into shape to apply for some additional funding, so hopefully I can finish before my flight to LA this week. Depends entirely on the Pinwheel.

Creative B-Roll Shoot

This weekend, we took some time to shoot new b-roll for The Worst of the Worst. We’ve been reusing a lot of imagery, and now that the cut is getting closer to being complete, we took a chance to get creative and shoot some new stuff to augment our existing footage.

We surreptitiously filmed in a diner, then in a mall (where we were told to scram, but we already had enough stuff so it was fine). I even used my phone‘s 720p video camera for some HD footage that is actually usable, to use alongside the HVX200‘s.

Then we headed back to our editing suite at 40 Ashmun – which is a building that is both a dorm for Yale undergrads and the fourth floor is law school offices, including ours. And let me tell you the building has some terrifying corridors, hallways, and basement space that we used to its fullest. (A horror film can definitely be shot within 40 Ashmun alone.)

We then do some creative work filming glorified product shots of cans of blueprints, pepper spray, a battery, an extracted razor blade from a safety shaving razor, and a busted plastic spork handle. It all relates to the film, I swear!

Also, did you realize that pepper spray and mace are two different things? Mace is illegal in the state unless you’re law enforcement. We found this out at an army surplus store where we got two cans of the spray. The Visual Law Project is now totally protected from potential assault.

We also took images of the prison that’s the subject of the film, exported it to Vimeo, then played it on a computer to a projector, projected it on the wall, and then filmed that. It’s a cool effect, gives the images some dimension and distortion. We also projected it into blueprints, and as a background for the dismantled battery we shot.

Then we filmed my feet as I ran down terrifying corridors. All of these are things mentioned by people in the film, but put together in one shoot it totally seems arbitrary.

Oh, I also cut my thumb (accidentally), but I shot the blood so that might end up in the film as well. No one can say I didn’t bleed for this project.

Now, we’ll see how it looks spliced into the film. I think it’ll look good.

Chipping Away

Nothing terribly new to report. Still cutting away at the unfinished rock that is our film The Worst of the Worst. Getting closer though.

We’re actually going to do a small shoot this weekend to film some additional b-roll in places where we think it might help. It’s great, I’ve done this before – get the cut relatively close and see what additional stuff you can shoot to fill in some gaps or to prevent you from re-using the same cutaways. This is the advantage of making a lower-budget documentary, the flexibility to keep working on it to get it right. Valarie and I did this on Divided We Fall – but there I shot b-roll with 8mm film. It was really great and I think added texture and additional artistry to the film.

So, that’s this weekend. Still hoping to shape this rock into at least an unfinished statue within the next two weeks before I go to Los Angeles.