CLAW Award for “Banks of the Vltava”

1 11 2011

Copyright 2011 Walk in the Park Pictures, LLC

Banks of the Vltava is a short film project that I shot for frequent collaborator, Dan A. R. Kelly.  It’s a very near and dear project to my heart, as every member of both the cast and crew put 110% into this project to make it happen.  From the first read through of the script, we all knew that it was going to be an ambitious film to complete.  However, everyone involved was committed to the story and the determination and drive that exuded from writer/director Kelly spilled onto all those involved.  One of the most ambitious elements of the story is the fact that it takes place in Prague in 1943, but was of course to be shot in Greensboro, North Carolina in 2009-10.  This required numerous period costumes, props and other pieces to sell the time period.  On a large budget production, acquiring these items isn’t a problem, but on a smaller budget it’s much more difficult to secure.  Furthermore, the project required a large ensemble cast, an array of visual and makeup effects (as it is a horror film) and almost a complete schedule of night shoots.

Production spanned over, I believe, about a 15-16 day shoot over nearly a one and a half year period.  As stated earlier, nearly all of these days, outside of about two, were night shoots (6pm-6am).  During the time we shot this production, the commonality of DSLRs had not yet hit the market.  If you wanted a shallow depth of field and cinematic look on a lower budget camera package, a good old DOF adapter was really the way to go.  So, the film was shot on my HVX-200 with a Redrock m2 adapter and Nikon glass; this yielded a relative ISO of about 100.  For those of you not familiar with film sensitivity ratings, it takes A LOT of light to properly expose an image at 100 ISO when you are shooting at night.  We only had HMI availability on two nights, so the majority of the film was lit with an array of 1k and 2k fresnels, 1k PARs, a pair of Blondes, a Redhead, various smaller unit fresnels, a pair of Kino 2-4ft banks and a 750 ZIP light.  There are times where all units we had access to were being powered by a set of generators out in the woods.  In the end, I feel we did a good job of pulling it all off, and some of that was validated this weekend, which is really the true point of the post.

Over the weekend, the film screened at two festivals: the Terror Film Festival in Philadelphia, Penn. and the Buffalo Screams Film Festival in Buffalo, N.Y.  We were very happy to be nominated for awards at both festivals!  At the Terror Film Festival, nominations for their CLAW Awards were given to Best Horror Short Film, Best Specials Effects for the brilliant work by Shane D. Smith, Best Actor to our lead Rami Rothstein, and Best Director of Photography for myself.  At Buffalo Screams, the film was nominated for Best Makeup Effects by the talented Gretchen Adams.  Late on Saturday night, as I was watching an episode of Storage Wars on the couch with Maddie, I got a text from Dan, who had gone to Philadelphia to represent the film at the Terror Film Festival.  Turns out, we won the CLAW award for Best Director of Photography.  Needless to say, it was very exciting news and always a good feeling to be recognized for your contribution on a film.  It was also a very special film, personally, to be recognized for, because of the extra mile that was gone on all of our crew and casts’ behalf to get the film produced.  Also, as with anything, it’s a collaborative effort and I had a wonderful crew to support me in achieving the look I was implementing for Dan.

Check out more about this film and other WiTPP productions at: http://www.walkintheparkpictures.com

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I’m as Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take This Anymore

7 10 2011

The title will probably be the closest this post gets to a film.  Rarely do I speak bluntly about my personal beliefs or core values on this blog, outside of the spectrum of film/video production.  But, recently, I have been invigorated by the protests that are going on in their third week on Wall Street.  People, many my own age, taking their time to stand up for what they believe in and show that the working and middle class Americans are tired of being treated as second rate, while we continue to line the wallets of those in the 1%.  Being in North Carolina and bound to work commitments and other obligations, I can’t make it to Occupy Wall Street to share in the warmth of the fight for what is truly right.  What I can do is offer my opinions on how to grow this front into something that truly evokes change.

One of the primary criticisms of the movement itself is the lack of focus in what the protestors are demanding.  However, in contrast to many protests of the past, this is not a protest that demands one single point of change.  We, as a people, have not been wronged by one single wrong.  We have been exploited and denied to an amalgam of rights including, but not limited to, a fully integrated healthcare system that provides for one and all, a refund on the billions of dollars from our pockets that bailed out greedy banks, an education that doesn’t set us behind financially before we can even start our adult lives, homes that can be manageably paid off and protection of our valued possessions in times of struggle or need that is beyond our control, the removal of money from our politics, and an equal tax code in regards to taxation on the rich and corporations.

Though the suits on Wall Street laugh and chide over the protestors’ “meaningless” rants and the Bill O’Reillys of the world refer to our cause as “liberal sludge,” what they don’t understand is that we are the true voices of the nation.  These types of people, however, people that are hinged on one thing and one concept: the growth of their material wealth, can only be educated in the same manner.  Hence, to get the true message across and truly incite change in our country without lending to violent behavior, we have to hit these people where it hurts the most: their pocketbooks.  How might we do this?  Who consumes their goods?  Who truly has control over the markets on a day to day basis?  Us, the 99%.  We are the backbone and the foundation of the country that keep everything from completely falling apart.

How then might our numbers truly hurt these people of power?  Shut it down.  That’s right, let’s just shut it all down, press the “off” switch, quit consuming.  A strike that involves this entire nation.  We’re not asking for justice and an economy that works, not only for the wealthy, but for the working class and middle class people as well.  No positive change was ever introduced without the willingness for taking a risk involved.  I’m not saying muddle your lives to the point of misery, but the foundation of a capitalist economy is consumption and we, the United States of America, are the biggest consumers in the world.  Continue to go to work, continue to provide food for your family, and continue to provide the necessities of life.  If we could cut out the “wants”, however, and I mean completely quit consuming or drastically cut down our daily consumption as much as possible, then the markets would start to reflect the degradation in purchasing.  The longer we could stand without, the longer we could hold off on buying extraneous goods/toys/services that are truly not needed for basic survival, the more the companies, the wealthy, the politicians, and the economy itself would feel it.  We need to show that if they will not listen and abide to our appropriate demands, then we will not abide to their greedy desires and continue to line their pockets.  They can either accept a just amount of wealth, or we will strip their capitalist economy to the bone and they will all suffer losses they have never dreamed of.

If you believe in the idea of this post , please pass along and share with others.  If you feel you could elaborate on this idea, please comment and discuss.  I’m tired of how our country is running, this is not the country I love and I want to see positive change happen now so that my children will be able to be proud of the country they live in.





Project Log: UNC-Greensboro Text Campaign Shoot #3

5 10 2011

My final project on the “Text” campaign for UNC-Greensboro’s Office of Online Learning and my final project during my tenure at UNCG in general has been released.  The idea behind this entry into the campaign was to mimic the trailers of 1950s horror films such as The Blob.  Various ideas were thrown out on how best to go about the project, which was to feature the idea of “Text” (representing text on a page Web sites for educational learning) taking over the country and rearing its ugly face across the nation and beyond.

The first idea was to shoot on the RED One and filmize the footage with grain, color correction and motion blur to help sell a 1950s film look.  Being the DP, I highly recommended that we don’t go that route.  The problem that arises, no matter how well done the digital manipulation is, is that it isn’t film.  There is no way to make the response of added grain natural or the motion blur properly controlled.  The second idea to implement this project was to take public domain footage from various B movies from the Prelinger Archives and other sources and cut the trailer in this manner.  After hours of looking through various footage on Prelinger and other online archives, we found that most of the footage was terribly compressed and, even though there was a plethora of B movie material available, little had the exact moments we were hoping to capture.  At this point, I recommended we just shoot on 16mm film with an older camera and older lens.  This way, there is no lifting in post; the film, mixed in with the older camera movement and 40 year old lens technology, would sell itself.  Patrick, our Multimedia Lead, brought this idea up to the Marketing Director at the Office of Online Learning, Jaap-Jan van Duin, and he gave us the greenlight as long as we could keep the budget under $1,000.  We enthusiastically agreed to keeping in budget and were excited to shoot a project for the division on 16mm film; something very few companies or organizations are doing in this day and age at all.

The first order of business was where to find a camera.  I contacted a few people I knew who owned various film cameras, but most were either hesitant to let it go for little or no pay, or had not run film through it in so long that they couldn’t assure functionality.  Having matriculated though the UNCG Media Studies program years ago, I knew they had a few Bolex H-16s in tote, so I called the Operations Manager, Ken Terres, and asked if we could borrow one for the shoot.  He was very kind and let us have one of the H-16s with an Angenieux 12-120mm lenses for the week.  Over the course of the week, we shot 600 ft. of film (Kodak Vision 3 500T and Vision 3 250D) for our little trailer in about 4-5 different locations.  Throughout filming, I tried to light in a manner reminiscent of 1950s B movies, so many of scenes are lit with hard light and very little diffusion.  Furthermore, there are a decent amount of shots that went handheld to give the extra horror “cheese” factor.  The film was subsequently sent off to Cinelab in Massachusetts, who unbeknownst to us at the time was in the process of a move.  Because of the move, it took longer than usual to get the film back, but we were very happy with their price and job on the processing and HD transfer.

Patrick Griffin and Bryan R. Higgins, by this point the only two members on the Multimedia Team at the Office of Online Learning due to state layoffs, did the edit and VFX work on the piece.  With great pride I give you the final product of our efforts:

WHEN TEXT ATTACKS!  (and you can see the Behind the Scenes here).  I love feedback, comments, criticism and questions, so let me know what you think!

 

 

 





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

 

 

 

 





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.








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