The Fenix is Rising!!!

3 10 2011

No, I didn’t misspell the title, it stands for the new production company I am affiliated with that is starting active promotion today, Down Fenix Media.  The principals of Down Fenix Media, outside of myself, are Patrick T. Griffin, Bryan R. Higgins and Jon Fredette.

We were the backbone of the UNC-Greensboro Office of Online Learning Multimedia Team from July,2010, when Patrick came on board, until July,2011, when Jon and I left.  Finding a great deal of satisfaction in working together, as well as realizing the product potential, we decided to work on several projects outside the confines of UNC-Greensboro.  Following an award-winning short film entitled “Eat Me!”, which I have provided a link to on a previous post here on the blog, and several projects we collaborated on for various clients, we came up with the idea of starting our own company.  Talks began early in 2011 and the ball/idea has continuously been rolling, but it is just today that with great pride I announce the official beginnings of Down Fenix Media.  Our business cards are in tote, our Web site is live and our readiness to produce amazing content for a diverse client base is insatiable.

So, without further ado, I give you Down Fenix Media:

WWW.DOWNFENIXMEDIA.COM

 

 

 

 

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Shorts and Festivals

13 09 2011

Copyright Walk in the Park Pictures, LLC

At Walk in the Park Pictures, LLC, where I serve as the Technical Director, we currently have two films that are making their festival runs.  The first is Dan A. R. Kelly’s Banks of Vltava which, based on folklore, tells the story of a young Rabbi during World War II who uses ancient mysticism to rise up against the Nazis and protect a group of Czechoslovakian Jews.  The second is my directorial debut, Beyond the Door, which is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story of the same name.

Banks of the Vltava has screened recently at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival and ConCarolinas.  Just yesterday, we found out that it has been nominated for four CLAW awards at the Terror Film Festival in Philadelphia.  The nominations were for Best Actor for our leading actor Rami Rothstein, Best Special Effects for Shane Smith, Best Director of Photography for myself and Best Horror Film.  Writer/Director Dan A. R. Kelly and family will be in attendance at the festival and we are all excited about the opportunity of presenting this wonderful short to audiences up north!

Beyond the Door received its first Official Selection from the ITSA Film Festival this past week.  This festival takes place in Groveland and Sonora, California over Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, 2011.  We are also very excited about this film’s acceptance to the festival and look forward to submitting this short to more festivals in the near future.

It’s an exciting time at Walk in the Park Pictures, LLC (www.walkintheparkpictures.com)!  I’m glad to be a part of such a wonderful collective here in the Triad region of North Carolina and look forward to future opportunities to screen these films, as well as produce new projects in the future.





Our Official Entry into the 48 Hour Film Project Greensboro: “Eat Me!”

4 08 2011

About six weeks ago, I put out a post based on my experiences with the 48 Hour Film Project.  Subsequently, a few weeks later, I posted on some administrative changes to the Greensboro 48 Hour Film Project that I felt were pertinent for continued success of this filmmaking collaboration in our region.  As of yesterday, our entry into the 2011 Greensboro 48 Hour Film Project has been posted online at vimeo.com.  I have provided a link below for all those interested in viewing the film in it’s entirety.  Do note that a few extra sound effects were added that were not in the original entry; however, other than those minor changes, all is the same.

I hope you enjoy and can’t thank my collaborators enough for a wonderful 48 experience on set!  If anyone has any questions related to production of this short or how the 48 works, just post them into the comments section and I will do my best to answer.

Our criteria was as follows:

Genre: Comedy

Line: “Where did you go?”

Prop: Crayons

Character: Plumber – Don or Donna Hastert

 





One Door Opens as Another Closes…

25 07 2011

An extremely pretentious shot of the author.

I officially started my new job today as a Multimedia Specialist for Novant Health. Well, kind of; I have two days of orientation before reporting to duty early on Wednesday morning, but for all intents and purposes, today was my first day. I’m excited about the opportunity to expand my horizons by working on multimedia projects in the healthcare industry and becoming a new addition to the Novant family.

For the past year and a half prior to this position, I served as the resident Director of Photography on the Multimedia Team at UNC-Greensboro’s Division of Continual Learning. I began my tenure briefly under the leadership of Multimedia Lead Greg Robbins, whom I’d worked with previously on various projects and who was a colleague in the undergraduate program of UNC-Greensboro’s Media Studies Department (in our day it was called the Broadcasting/Cinema Department). Greg took a job in NYC about two weeks after I began, where he still resides and continues to produce outstanding work. The core original team I worked with was with Bryan R. Higgins, Matt Newton and Jon Fredette. Newton, subsequently, made the trek up to NYC himself in July of last year; congruously, Patrick T. Griffin was hired as the new Multimedia Lead.

My job with UNC-Greensboro entailed shooting/lighting all the projects they shot, whether it be educational courses, marketing content or promotional material. However, because we were a small team, I also had many chances at producing, directing, editing and doing visual effects on certain courses in which I was the multimedia liaison. Yet, in looking back on my time with UNC-Greensboro, it’s not the course work that I am most proud of (though there was one nursing course that I was able to do an amusing music video for). My most satisfying work with the institution were the commercial and marketing projects that we had the opportunity to work on.

My first marketing project with UNCG was shooting the UNCG in 3 commercial that was aired throughout the state of North Carolina in 2010. This, my first project with DCL (not counting some contract work a few years prior), was Greg Robbins’s last project for the division. Following that, several months later and now under the direction of Matt Newton, we completed the Office of Online Learning commercial. It aired before movies in several theaters in Greensboro, N.C.; it also won a UPCEA Gold Award for Interactive Marketing. Another project I was quite fond of was a marketing piece for the All-Arts Sciences and Technology Camp, in which we incorporated many aspects of the various classes in fun and exciting ways using Adobe After Effects.

My final three projects worth noting with UNCG have been a series of “viral” campaign videos. Two of these videos I have already posted here and given a background write-up for: “Text Storm” and “Textris”. The final installment in these videos was shot one week before my final day at UNCG; it was shot on 16mm film with a Bolex H-16. An in depth look at this project will be posted once everything is wrapped and it is released online.

I got to work on some great projects at UNCG and immensely enjoyed working with the other members of the Multimedia Team. In addition, I got to meet and work with many other wonderful people at the DCL office and beyond. I also couldn’t have asked for better supervisors than Patrick, Greg and our senior supervisor, Chris Dunst . Sure, as with any job there were times I wanted to pull my hair out, but all-in-all I enjoyed many parts of my tenure in the position. I am looking forward to the position ahead of me and hope to continue to grow in it as both an artist and technician.





48 Hour Film Project Greensboro Needs Some Changes

22 07 2011

Firstly, congratulations to all the winners and fellow filmmakers that produced wonderful films under such an extremely tight deadline.  I am always amazed at the level of talent located in this small Southeastern area known as the Piedmont of North Carolina.  Hopefully, one day, more producers and projects with budgets to speak of will realize the amazing potential of our local crews and locations.

Our team walked away with a couple of accolades last night, including Best Writing, but that’s not really what this blog post is about.  I don’t participate in the 48 Hour Film Project for the awards anymore; we faired well in 2007 and won for our city and went to the international competition in 2008 with a film entitled Cadence.  I participate in the project for the joy of making a film with my contemporaries and the exercise in craft.

However, this year, I am saddened with certain aspects of how the competition was run.  I will address two major concerns; one of a personal nature and one of a general nature.  For those of you not familiar with how the 48 Hour Film Project runs, I will explain.  Teams from different cities sign up and pay an entry fee to compete.  On Friday night of the weekend the project is being held, teams draw their genre, which can be a number of different things including: comedy, drama, dark comedy, thriller, suspense, musical, western, etc.  Then, all teams are given a prop, line of dialogue and a character that they must incorporate into their films verbatim.  The teams then have 48 hours to write, cast, film, edit, add visual effects, score, compress and burn a copy that must be received at the drop-off point by 7:30 p.m. Sunday night.  Films that are late are disqualified, as well as films that are missing or do not properly incorporate the given items of prop, line of dialogue and character.  Screenings are held about a week later and then a “Best of…” screening a few weeks after that, with judging done in the interim.  Awards are given at the end of the “Best of…” screening.

My personal complaint regarding our film Eat Me! is as follows: we turned in two copies of our film by 7:30 p.m. to the 48 Hour Project drop-off point.  One copy was brought about one hour before the other and included the words “Oh S%&t Copy” on the cover, meaning that this was the copy to use only if the other copy didn’t arrive on time.  This copy was most definitely a rough cut and did not include our score, proper ending credit video clip or several other sound design fixes.  Our proper copy did make it on time and was clearly labeled on the front of the copy “Preferred Copy”.  We even mentioned to our City Producer that this was the case and she said she would make sure the proper one made it at the screening.

Well, guess what?  When the screening arrived for Group C the following week, our “Oh S%&t Copy” was the one played without score, proper visuals and sound fixes.  No worries, mistakes happen.  So, we alerted our City Producer to the problem and then followed up with a series of emails from several members of our team.  She assured us that the judges would see the preferred copy and that if we made it to the “Best of…” screening, the preferred copy would also then be shown.  At last night’s “Best of…” screening, yet again, our rough copy was shown.  We alerted her to the this after the screening; she replied, “Oh, so sorry, I forgot.”

As a City Producer, it was her right to make sure that this concern was fixed.  Our composer, Jon Fredette, put a lot of time and effort into a score that no one got to hear.  Furthermore, his score at the beginning was timed to the picture to help drive the edit and create the tone for the rest of the story.  Without the score, you loose out on the fact that this is indeed a dark comedy until halfway through the film.  If you are that disorganized and aloof, then I recommend not taking on a position that requires an extreme amount of organization and stress.

Now, on to the general complaint.  For the last couple of years, there have been judges that have had conflicts of interest.  Seemingly, several people need a definition of the etymology of this concept.  A Conflict of Interest is, as defined: occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other.

The past two years have seen judges that have been former participants in the project and have either lost or won to present competitors.  Furthermore, there are several judges who are friends, co-workers and even co-owners of production companies with current participants.  I would not judge the character of these people, as I am sure they made the best of decisions and used their best judgement.  However, the fact alone that these judges have ties to participants that could be drawn into question is very disconcerting.  If they choose their friend or colleagues film as the best film and it is not, this is a problem; likewise, if they don’t choose their colleague’s film because they are worried that a backlash might ensue, this too is a problem.  The only way to have a properly judged competition is to put up a panel of judges where none of this is an issue to begin with.

Maybe everything was judged properly, and I’m sure, more than likely, it was.  However, why instill a situation that presents questions like this and leaves discomfort and bad tastes in other competitors mouths?  Don’t even let the questioning of such motives itself be raised.  Also, I think it is of the general opinion that two films this year were the best bet for representing our city’s interests in the international competition.  Neither of those films were my own and I only know the heads of those teams by name and acquaintance , so I have no reason to stand up for them on personal merit.  They were the best films, and they didn’t win.  Could poor organization and conflict of interest be a part of this?  Maybe, maybe not, but why even let the questions arise?

Out of my four years being involved in this wonderful filmmaking experience, I doubt I will return next year unless major changes are made.  Conflicts of interest, poor organization and poor management have no place in any judged competition that people pay good money to participate in.  So, until some things change for the Greensboro division, I hate to say I will not be a part of it.





Recent Shoot Log: UNC-Greensboro “Viral” #2 – Textris

16 07 2011

Our second entry into the UNC-Greensboro “Viral” campaign was released yesterday.  To recap on the campaign ideas itself: in a world where text-on-a-page Web sites, documents, etc. are taking over our lives in this digital age, we were commissioned to design a marketing campaign promoting our multimedia-infused alternative.  The end result are a series of videos that will show text literally bombarding everyday life.

In this installment, a young woman is playing the iconic puzzle game “Tetris” on her computer in a public park.  After some intense play, she unlocks a secret level called “Textris”.  In this bonus level, the blocks form the word “TEXT”, but more interesting than that, they literally have invaded the young woman’s real life space.  These giant blocks of “TEXT” are not only coming down on the screen, but piling up in the park in front of her.

We had a bit more planning time for this one than usual and our Multimedia Lead, Patrick Griffin, was able to fully shot list and plan out all the shots he wanted.  It turns out that this was a lucky thing, because on the day we ended up shooting it was miserably hot at nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Knowing that mid-afternoon would only see the heat get worse, we planned to meet at the office to load gear at 6 a.m., so that we could be at our location (Center City Park in downtown Greensboro) by 7 a.m.

Upon arrival, our small four man crew, which in addition to Patrick and myself included our Editor Bryan Higgins and Audio Specialist Jon Fredette, began unloading gear from the two vehicles we brought.  We found a park table that suited our needs with a proper background and foreground, and started setting up the equipment we needed, primarily a 12×12 overhead silk and a 16 ft. Snapcrane with MC-100 remote head.

The sun was beating down hard that day, so the 12×12 silk was up to help diffuse the harshness of the sunlight.  However, I did want her to have a bit of a controlled backlight, so we set up a 1.2k ARRI HMI off our actress, Lilly Nelson’s, back left corner.  That one setup was all that we used for the entirety of the shoot with several adjustments throughout the day on the overhead and HMI.

Our first shots were a series of crane shots that then moved into a series of shots on a tripod, mainly for inserts.  Though it was a hot, difficult day in the morning, by about 11 a.m., the heat was bordering on unbearable.  We were all going through entire bottles of water in minutes and energy levels were falling fast from the heat.  This strain was especially compounded by the fact that we only had four people doing double duty on a multitude of set positions.

We finally wrapped in the early afternoon and were packed up and back at the office by 3 p.m.  I think we all left early that day to get some much needed rest and re-hydration.  Though we were originally going to shoot the piece on the RED One Digital Cinema camera, we opted for the smaller, more durable Panasonic AF-100 with Nikon Primes.  With the heat and small crew, we knew we needed something more mobile than the bulky RED package.

This was our first time using the AF-100 on a shoot.  I think it came out with a good image, though in retrospect, there are a few things I would have done a bit differently.  Primarily, I would never use the SnapCrane again with a camera that uses interchangeable lenses without some kind of remote focus unit.  The Depth of Field was constantly an issue and we had no way to control focus on that crane without a remote unit.  Because of this, several of the crane shots were scrapped because of an ever so slight soft focus issue.  I did my best to remedy the situation with wide lenses, high f-stops and DoF calculations via the pCam Digital, but the calculations were hard to get precisely accurate because of the crane’s vertical fluctuations.  Secondly, some of the crane shots blew the highlights on the camera a bit.  I will admit, I like to push digital cameras because I like an image that has some bright highs and low blacks, but on several of the crane shots, I pushed it a bit much and got some blooming.

But, you live and you learn.  Also, to be completely honest, I think by noon when it was 100 degrees and humidity was at like 77%, we just wanted to wrap out for fear of getting sick from the immense heat.  Following the shoot, Bryan Higgins, our editor and vfx supervisor took the piece, cut it, and then started layering in the elements from After Effects and Cinema 4D.  Jon Fredette, our Audio Specialist, took the project from there and did an awesome rendition of the classic Tetris theme using both an 8 bit and metal mix on the iconic Russian folk song.

Our third entry into the series, which was shot on a Bolex H16, is currently awaiting processing and HD transfer at CineLab in Massachusetts.  Look out for it next month, but for now, here’s our “Textris” entry:

 





48-Hour Film Project Greensboro 2011

27 06 2011

Quick snap off iPhone while setting up for a dolly shot. Co-Director/Writer Dan A. R. Kelly is explaining the scene to the actors.

I was asked this morning to do a little write-up for our company newsletter, The Cube, and I was planning on documenting my 48 experience on this blog as well.  In addition, there is a blog on the 48 Hour Film Project Greensboro’s Web site that they like filmmakers to recount their experiences.  So, to kill three birds with one stone, I am going to write up the complete experience, post here, post on 48’s Web site and submit to the company newsletter.  How’s that for efficiency?

I was part of Frowned Upon Media’s team this year.  It was my fourth year working on a 48 team, some of our members first year, and we even had someone who was participating for their sixth year.  The kick-off ceremony began on Friday night at 7 p.m.  Our team leader, Patrick Griffin, and our Editor/Co-Producer, Bryan R. Higgins, were at the ceremony to draw our genre and find out what the other required components of the film would be.  Our genre ended up being Comedy and the required elements for all teams were: Character: Don or Donna Hastert, plumber; Line of Dialogue: “Where Did You Go?”; and Prop: crayons.

Following the drawing, Patrick alerted everyone via text or phone call what the essential elements and genre were, and we began brainstorming for ideas.  Most everyone met up at our sound designer, Jon Fredette’s, house (I was in via Skype) and we brainstormed for about two hours.  By 9:30 p.m., we had our idea good to run with.  Also, by this time, we knew how many characters we needed, which ended up being 10 overall.  Patrick and Dan began locking down actors from both our standby list and some cold calling.  Our Writer/Co-Director/Co-Producer, Dan A. R. Kelly, went home to hole himself away in his office with his laptop and begin writing the script.  At midnight, we had a first draft, and by 2 a.m., a final draft.  Also, by this time, we had 8 of our 10 actors locked; two female roles were all that remained to be filled.

For the story, we needed an elegant house to play as a mansion.  My uncle Mike has always had nice houses; one of his favorite past times is buying and re-decorating elegant homes and then moving on to the next “project”.  I called him at about 10 p.m. to see if we could take over his home in Bermuda Run West until Sunday morning at the latest.  Luckily, he agreed!  With our sole location locked, we planned out what time everyone needed to be there.  I, who served as our Director of Photography, Co-Director and a Co-Producer, arrived at 3 a.m. with my brother Patrick, who served as a bit actor and G&E, to tech scout.  Patrick Griffin, Production Coordinator, Co-Director and Co-Producer, arrived with most of the rest of the team at 4:30 a.m.  The final lot arrived at 5:30 a.m. and we immediately began shooting what we could.  Unable to fill one female role, we nixed the part and went with 9 overall actors.  Most of the actors arrived between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., with the last ones arriving by noon.

Our film was in the can completely by 10 p.m. Saturday night.  Several runs to our editor were made once certain sequences were shot, so that he could stay busy and move forward on the cut.  Higgins continued editing through the night Saturday, while the rest of the production crew got some much needed, but small amount, of rest.  Our Sound Designer, who also composed music, arrived back on the scene around 8 a.m. Sunday morning for duty.  I arrived at 11 a.m. and worked with Higgins to tighten the cut from a directorial stand-point; the other two heads of our directing team arrived soon after me and added their notes.  We had picture lock at 3 p.m. Sunday and I began color correcting while Jon layered in score and did post-production sound design.  Shane D. Smith, who was a G&E member on set, took our title sequence shots and finished the title sequence Sunday afternoon.

I finished Color Correction by 5 p.m., tweaks on the cut were done at 6 p.m., Shane arrived just after 6 p.m. with the title sequence and Jon worked diligently until 6:30 p.m.  At this point, we rendered what we had, minus score and sound design, and Dan A. R. Kelly went to the drop-off location with paperwork and an Oh S#%t copy, as we like to call it.  We continued layering everything in and began a burn for a final copy at 6:50 p.m.  Because of a codec difference in the timeline, the export started going REALLY slow at 89%.  I went ahead and got my car, turned it on and got Jon to ride with me as a navigator.  When the export and burn finished at 7:15 p.m., Patrick flew out of the door, handed the DVD off to me and I sped out of the driveway.  We made it to the drop off point with the better copy at 7:21, 9 minutes before cut-off.  Our film was in on time and the best version we could do in the 48 hours was received.

You’re probably asking yourself why I haven’t given any of the storyline away?  Well, I don’t want to spoil any of the film or the fun!  Screenings for the 48 Hour Film Project are on June 29 and June 30, divided into three groups.  Our group is in the Group C Screenings, which will be on 9:30 p.m. Thursday night.  Tickets are $10 each and there are about 15 films per group screening, all ranging 4-7 minutes in length.  If you can make it out, we’d love to see you there!  Otherwise, if you know one of us personally, I’m sure you’ll catch the film in due time.  Screening limitations are definitely in place currently, but as leniencies open up – I’m sure you can catch it.

From the beginning, we decided this wasn’t one person’s film.  Like any filmmaking endeavor, it’s a group process and, because of this, we decided no one would get a producer or director credit.  Instead, we simply gave that credit to the team, Frowned Upon Media.  This was our team: a super talented cast including: William Davis, Rachel Brittain, Dan A. R. Kelly, Edwin Wilson, Lee Armstrong, Karen Price-Crowder, Annabell Simpson, Robbie Pitchersky and, Patrick Mandarano; crew including: A Story by Patrick T. Griffin, Dan A. R. Kelly, Matthew Mandarano, Jon Fredette, Bryan Higgins, Shane Smith, Robbie Pitchersky, William Davis and Brook Corwin; Writer, Dan A. R. Kelly; Production Coordinator, Patrick T. Griffin; Director of Photography, Matthew Mandarano; Sound Designer and Composer, Jon Fredette; Editor, Bryan R. Higgins; Title Designer, Shane D. Smith; Grips and Electricians, Shane D. Smith, Robbie Pitchersky and Patrick Mandarano; and a VERY Special Thanks to D. Michael Hendrix, my uncle, who let us take over his beautiful home (which is for sale by the way!) for a day and a half.  Frowned Upon Media is Patrick T. Griffin, Matthew Mandarano, Bryan R. Higgins, Jon Fredette and our Honorary Member Dan A. R. Kelly.

We had a great team, I think a great film and a great bunch of actors to bring it all to life.  I can’t thank every member of this wonderful cast and crew enough and am looking forward to the wonderful films our fellow 48 filmmakers have produced.  As always, it was a wonderful, yet tiring, experience and one I hope to be a part of in years to come.  Until next year, that’s a wrap!





Recent Shoot Log: UNC-Greensboro “Viral” #1

16 06 2011

It’s been months since the idea of shooting some marketing content for the UNC-Greensboro Office of Online Learning started talks.  If you’ve never worked for a state agency before, then you don’t know what the term “lots of red tape” means.  It takes lots of patience, time, meetings, more meetings, discussions, vetos and did I mention meetings? for ideas and projects to fully get off the ground.  Luckily, however, our division’s new marketing head and team are persistent and do a great job at pushing these projects down the line to let them be the best they can be.

In a world where text-on-a-page Web sites, documents, etc. are taking over our lives in this digital age, we were commissioned to design a marketing campaign promoting our multimedia-infused alternative.  The end result are a series of videos that will show text literally bombarding everyday life.

The first video for this campaign was carefully thought out between Patrick Griffin, A. J. Lee, Brooke Corwin, myself, Bryan Higgins and Jon Fredette.  We decided that the first one would be more of a “draft” than anything.  It was still unclear whether the idea was exactly what the higher-ups were interested in, so we decided to go with one of our many ideas that was the least daunting.  The idea ended up being of a girl, in her cubicle at work, who is caught in a raining “text storm”.

Pre-production was pushed through fairly quickly and we locked a location in our offices; the location ended up being coder, Colin Dai’s, cube.  We had to sissify his cube a bit since it would be a female actress playing the lead role.  The principal role went to actress Elise Duquette (apologies if I spelled this wrong, Elise!) out of the Charlotte area.  With a little time and bringing a female’s touch for a little help, we had a well-dressed location.

The project was lit with a variety of instruments.  All overhead practicals were turned off because of being a low quality fluorescent.  A Jokerbug 800 with 1/2 CTO was bounced off the ceiling for a bit of overall ambience, a 500-watt Lowel Rifa light was used as a key over the front cube wall at an angle, backlight was a 650-watt ARRI with diffusion rigged on a C-Stand in the cube behind, a 250-watt Lowel Pro Light with 216 was placed on the desk to keep exposure on the face when the umbrella went over and two 500-watt Lowel Omni’s with Opal diffusion created the slashes on the cube sides during the pull-back.  To add a bit of spice to the scene, a practical china light was placed on the desk and allowed to highlight out a bit.

A RED One was used to shoot the project in 4k 2:1 24fps mode with a shutter of 1/48.  The original shot was an actual dolly shot that was beautiful, but due to compositing factors, a static was used with a digital zoom added for practicality.  To all you budding cinematographers out there, sometimes it’s not always your favorite shots that get used, but sometimes it’s for the better of the project.

Bryan Higgins, our effects heavy lifter here, spent many hours compositing each of the little “texts” falling.  Afterwards, Jon Fredette did the sound design and I did very minor color tweaks on the final image.  All-in-all, it came out to be a nice little draft; nice enough, in fact, that the division decided to use it as the first of the campaign and commissioned us for two more.  Our second in the series has already been shot and is in the editing phase, and the third (which will be shot on 16mm film) will be produced in the next week.  Updates and posts on those two will be forthcoming.  The video for our first campaign is below (don’t know why the thumbnail looks so funky, but it works out when you play it):





“Beyond the Door” Cast/Crew Screening Last Night

23 05 2011

"Beyond the Door" Official Poster Copyright 2011 Shining Rock Productions

Last night was the first semi-public screening of the short I directed last fall, Beyond the Door.  Invites were sent to all the cast and crew of the film, as well as to select supporters, local filmmakers and other industry personnel for a premiere screening of the film.  Being that the film itself is still in the process of festival submissions, many of which have strict guidelines for screenings, this event was not wholly open to the public and was a free screening for only those closely involved with the project.

The event was held at Aperture Cinema in downtown Winston-Salem which is a small, independent movie theatre that shows arthouse films, foreign movies and other selections that the area multiplexes usually don’t screen.  It was a perfect atmosphere for the screening and I strongly urge anyone who is thinking of a Piedmont, North Carolina screening to consider this quaint two-screen theatre.

Needless to say, my nerves were at an all time high.  For projects that I shoot I usually get anxious, but nothing compares with being a producer/director in the hot seat during a first screening.  The screening was to start at 8:30 p.m. and I think I started feeling butterflies in my stomach about noon yesterday.  Relaxation didn’t fully set in until the opening title credit appeared on the screen.

Before the screening, I took some time and thanked the many people involved with helping get this film made.  I feel the silliest and most pretentious thing a film can promote is the “A film by ____” credit, because filmmaking is most definitely a collaborative effort from many technical and creative personnel.  As a director, it is my job for a singular vision to be achieved; however, this film is not “my” film, it is “ours”.

I was elated to sense an overall warm reception of the film last night and am greatly looking forward to its continued life.  The film, which is based on Philip K. Dick’s public domain short story of the same name, has already been submitted to a handful of festivals and more submissions are going out with each passing week.  After a festival run, a limited DVD edition will be available for sale to the general public and, eventually, marketing through various outlets on the internet.

A sincere “thank you” to all of those who were able to make it out last night for your kind words and support!  I look forward to continued life in this project for the next year to year and a half and am already bouncing around ideas for future films.  Don’t be mislead, however, as I am still a DP at heart and am continuing to shoot projects.  I will be shooting with a team for this year’s 48-Hour Film Project in Greensboro in June and in talks with several other directors about upcoming short and feature length projects as a Director of Photography.





Calling Final Cut on My Film

25 04 2011

So, for of those you who didn’t know, I began the process of producing/directing my first short film (well, at least first one of actual substance and production value) last summer.  The film, entitled Beyond the Door, is based on a Philip K. Dick short story of the same name.  Being a huge fan of Dick’s work, I was elated to find that this particular short story was in the public domain and that no serious effort had yet been put forth to make it into a short film.

The story plays out like an old Twilight Zone episode and is confined to one primary location and three actors: perfect for a short film.  I began adapting the story into a screenplay in April of last year, finalizing a draft in July.  I then began the process of getting locations, cast and crew secured for the production.  Being new to the whole producing/directing side of filmmaking, I got many pointers and help from longtime collaborator Dan A. R. Kelly (www.danarkelly.com), who ended up coming on board as my co-producer and first assistant director.  I’ve had the pleasure to shoot the last six shorts Dan has directed and will say there’s no one better than Dan for help in getting a short made; he’s one of the best at producing great product on tight budgets and constrained timelines.  Keep an eye out for his latest film Banks of the Vltava, which is currently in the festival route.  Next screening for it is 10 p.m., April 30, 2011, at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival in Wilmington, N.C.

The one location needed for the film was a suburban house setting.  Luckily, my eldest brother, John Mandrano, is a landlord in Greensboro, N.C.  He owns many historic properties in the Aycock district which he rents at greensborohistoricrentalhomes.com.  One home he has on East Hendrix Street is currently not in rental because my nephew, Art, is living there while attending college.  I talked with John and explained that we were hoping to film over Labor Day weekend.  He had no problems with allowing me to film there and even helped along with my brother, Patrick, to move furniture he had in storage into the location which definitely helped the production design!

Cast and crew were the next order of business.  To me, the most important decision, was who was going to shoot my film.  With producing and directing (in addition to the writing and editing) I knew I didn’t want to try and shoot the film myself.  So, I asked Jeff Stepp (steppfilms.com), a very talented DP whom I’ve worked with on several occasions to shoot the film for me and he agreed.  I think’s Stepp’s photography on the film, which we shot in black and white and in HD (we wanted film, but budgets are always a consideration), looks amazing.  Between Jeff, Dan and myself, we rounded out the crew with some University of North Carolina School of the Arts students, graduates, UNC-Greensboro grads and some of my co-workers.  I couldn’t have asked for a better crew on my first film as a director; I hope to work with all of them again in the future.

As for cast, I needed two men and one woman; two principals and one supporting.  I held auditions and knew immediately from her first read that Lisa Sain Odom out of Greenville, S.C. would play the part of Laura.  She had an amazing audition and elicited exactly what I was looking for in the character of Laura.  However, after the auditions, which took place over a weekend at Altair Casting in Winston-Salem, I still hadn’t found the perfect fits for the characters of Larry or Bob.  I had remembered Reid Dalton’s audition from an audition several years prior for a project that never came to fruition and had been impressed with Elijah Chester’s performance in a spec piece I shot for Dan for Massify.  I contacted both of these actors; I met with Reid at Greensboro’s Cultural Arts Center and Elijah sent in an audition video.  I had Larry and Bob – the cast was in place, the crew was in place, the locations were in place – the ball was definitely rolling!

We shot the film completely over Labor Day weekend 2010.  The first day was a 13-hour day, the second a 16-hour day and third was a 15-hour day.  Everyone was working for minimal pay, funded out of my own pocket, but all gave it 110%.  Outside of badly spraining my ankle falling down some steps outside on the first day before the first shot, everything overall was very smooth and we got some great footage to take into post.

Once in post production, I decided to edit the film myself.  It took some time syncing all the video and audio because, though we shot HD, we were using double system sound with slate.  Once everything was transcoded and synced, I began the process of actually cutting the film together.  Picture was more or less locked by November.  From there, the multi-talented Jon Fredette took over for sound design and scoring.  The sound design was completed for the most part by late-December.  Being state employees, we got off for Christmas break, so we took a break from the grind of post-production over Christmas and got back to work in early January.

The sound from set was, for the most part, useable.  There were a couple lines, however, as with any film that needed to be ADRed (automatic dialogue replacement).  So, Jon went through the process of scoring the film and we brought in each actor for an ADR session when available.  All parts were complete by late February.  Since then, it has been tightening up, working with sync, lowering levels, raising levels, adding bits of sound, cutting some picture, etc.  I can’t thank Jon enough for the many hours of time he has put into this project.  If you live in North Carolina, you should definitely check Jon out if you need a sound guy at jonfredette.com.

Finally, last weekend, I had a DVD burn that worked for me with no glitches, problems, sync issues or needed changes.  I called a final cut and began the process of submitting the 17-minute film to festivals.  The first batch of submissions went out last weekend and, though there are still some credits to add, we have our IMDB page up at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1907623/.

I have, admittedly, left out information about the plot itself because I hope you will get a chance to watch the film when available.  Hopefully, more posts on the film will follow.  Also, please, please check out some of the Web sites I’ve listed in this posting.  If it weren’t for these wonderful, talented people, my film would not have been able to be made.








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