Saturday, November 28, 2015

Old Enchanted Forest Pictures(Maryland) from Fear of Clowns Location Scout

I'm sure some of you who have seen Fear of Clowns remember the scene in the Enchanted Forest where Shivers watches Jacky, but he hasn't been given the all-clear to kill her yet so he hangs back.

The story that Tuck(Rick Ganz) tells about the Enchanted Forest is my story. My parents took me there when I was very young, probably about six years old. I only vaguely remember it, but I distinctly remember being terrified of the whole thing.

Particularly that whale. Someone was in its mouth I think, and I thought it would eat me next.

Anyway, back in 2000-2001 when I was writing the script for FOC I wasn't sure what was even there. I had heard that there were pieces of the Forest still there, but how much? Was it still creepy?

So Rick and I went out there. We found a hole in the fence--it's the same hole we actually show them going into in the movie--and ventured inside.

I was pretty excited to find quite a few of the exhibits were still there. I recently found some actual photos, you remember, on paper from 35mm negatives. Figured I'd scan them for people to see.

So here you go!

One final addendum I found as I was searching my hard drive for some video we shot there--didn't find them, but found this:

We had no permission to shoot there. I was worried the cops would be called because of the crew and equipment, so I looked up who owned the property. I typed up a permission letter and faxed it to myself so it looked like it was faxed. Then we shot on a Sunday, so I figured even if they tried to call the number on the paper there would be nobody there.

I'm not telling you to do illegal stuff like this if you have to; I'm just saying, I did it all the time. Whatever it took.

I removed the names of the company and the guy, but this is what the letter said:

Marauder Productions has been granted access to the grounds known as “Enchanted Forest” between September 26th and October 7th. The physical location is on Route 40 West behind the “Enchanted Forest” Shopping Center.
The previous permission is granted to Marauder Productions on the following:

  •  Marauder Productions is shooting a video to be used in a classroom setting.
  •  Marauder Productions will not bring more than six(6) persons on the property, and they will not remove or damage any of the existing property. They may take equipment in as long as all equipment is removed when they vacate.
  •  Marauder Productions indemnifies MART from any harm or loss suffered while on the property.
If there are any questions regarding this document or Marauder Productions use of the property, please call me at the number below.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Word About Casting(and Terrortory)

We forgot to take cast/crew pics until the end, so here's who was there at 5am Sunday morning as we finished(Brad has just left). Left to Right in top pic--Me, my brother Mike, Laura and Stewie. In bottom pic on left is Matt Smith.

One of the huge challenges of working on micro-budget flicks like Terrortory is that I've been my own DP(Director of Photography) on all of my segments.

Now on the one hand it's nice because I'm definitely getting as close to the image in my head as possible without having to talk through it with the DP. On the other hand you don't get any of the collaboration that frequently results in better images than you imagined, which can frequently happen with talented DP's.

But the main setback for me that I get from being my own DP is that much of my focus is literally on the focus and the composition, and I'm so intent on that that I am frequently not paying as much attention to the actors as I should.

Actors need feedback and attention. It's not a dig. Acting is a challenging job in the fact that there isn't a right or a wrong way to do it. Actors can only do what they feel is correct for their character in the moment, so they may not understand what your original intention for that character is. At times this can be a good thing, but at other times it's not. And you need to let them know what you were going for, or let them know they ARE on the right track.

And as I'm listening to the audio on the wrap we shot I realize a lot of what I'm doing is being more focused on getting the shots and the focus(because the lenses we used on this shoot were nice, but had very small depth of fields), and I really wish I had had the time/awareness to have given them more.

It's not a knock on them at all. Brad Masters and Laura Kiser were phenomenal, and testament to the Frankenheimer notion that "casting is 65 percent of directing". If they hadn't been as good as they are then this could have all gone wrong.

Luckily, even with the massive setbacks I had--it was the most problematic shoot I've ever been on--I think we came out with some great stuff. Only time will tell, as I've just begun going through the footage but I'm excited to see what we got!

Laura Kiser and Brad Masters

And don't forget to go over and give our Terrortory Facebook page a Like so you get other updates!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Terrortory Concludes(For Me)

Gearing up to shoot the big wrap-around for Terrortory. Some people aren't familiar with what that is, so here you go:

Terrortory is an anthology horror feature, meaning that it has a bunch of short movies in it that are tied together by the "wrap-around" or "through-story".

While I like to say the film is similar to the great Creepshow, that film didn't really have a wrap or through-story. It had more of a bookend, with Billy reading his comic and getting yelled at by his father.

A better idea of a through-story is Tales From The Darkside, which has a witch who has captured a boy and is going to cook and eat him. He delays his death by telling stories to her, and each time he starts to tell a story we see the actual story he's telling as a mini-movie.

That's similar to what we're doing, except our through-story is much better than TFTD. (he said humbly)

I don't want to say too much about it, but it follows through on what I believe Terrortory was made for, which is this: Every story I did, including the wrap, starts out being something you've seen before and takes a (hopefully) unseen turn. Which is why most of the pictures you see are going to look like standard "people go out in the woods and get butchered".

Like, the above pic is just a test photo I did the other night while I was doing a last-minute run through of the main location for the wrap. It's gonna pretty much appear to be a riff on The Strangers.

We have some talented actors coming on--M.T. Smith(pictured above) is actually playing his second masked killer in Terrortory, having played Smiling Jack also.  He loves dressing a Jason and Michael Myers, so this is a lot of fun for him.

Then Brad Masters is playing Tray. He's a talented local guy who I've been wanting to work with for a while. Super-nice guy, which you wouldn't expect from a guy who looks like the studly good-looking bad guy from a lot of 80's movies.

Finally Laura Kiser is an actress coming down from New York. We auditioned a lot of really talented actresses but there was something so natural about hers that I cast her without even asking for a callback.

Wish I could show you what's coming, but we're not far from the finish line now. I'm guessing we could probably premiere it in something like January or February, but nobody wants to schedule a premiere when snow could screw you, so look for early Spring.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Terrortory Interlude

The past year or so I've been working with some other filmmakers on an anthology feature called "Terrortory". I was originally going to do one segment plus the through-story that connects all the segments.

I shot the one I was going to do, called "Smiling Jack". This is him.
You can see some other stills and whatnot on the FB page:

Smiling Jack's done and turned out very nice, starring Johnny Alonso, Melissa LaMartina and Matt Smith.

Anyway it turns out I'm going to do another segment called "Siren". I went out to do a location scout a while back and found what appeared to be a cool meadow very similar to what I pictured. We would just have to chop a dead tree down.

Weeks went by as I prepped other things related to the film(casting, shooting script/shot list, equipment prep), and this past weekend decided to finally go back out to chop that tree down.

When we first got back to the meadow I saw how overgrown it's now become with all the rain we've had lately. It's still doable, but doesn't look as good as it did.

Also: Nobody I know owns a gas chainsaw. I figured the tree's dead--how hard will it be to saw down/chop with an axe? Turns out, very hard.

This tree's not as dead as it looks. That's a time-lapse video of my brother and I trying to cut it down. We spent a good 90 minutes trying to cut it down. We went more than halfway through it with a big notch on the side you can't see(that's where we want it to fall), but it wouldn't go.

Tree 1, Us 0.

The other thing we went into the woods to test was this:
We have a head that's got to explode. We have no electricity this far in the woods so an air compressor is out. Explosives are unpredictable.

So I watched the making of on that Scanners head explosion, which has to be one of the best ever done and it turns out they got it to work by using an actual shotgun. My brother has a revolver that shoots shotgun shells, so I figured we'd test it to see if that had enough power to blow apart the fake head that Mark Wenger(the Terrortory creator and FX guru) is putting together.

We took a honeydew melon into the woods. I figure it probably has about the same toughness that the fake head will have. Here's our one and only try at it:

For those wondering, I did a quick color grade on that first section. The 2nd, even slower version, is shown as shot with a modified Natural setting on the GH4. The first take is 96 frames per second, the second is slowed down by 50%.

I think it's going to work.

Now I'm praying for no more rain because it's still pretty muddy out there and I want it to dry up so it's not so messy.

Anyway, just figured I'd show you how glamorous and fun it is being a no-budget filmmaker. I recommend it to no one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Panasonic GH-4 Firmware Upgrade to Add Anamorphic and more...

This is cool news, though I'm not sure how much it'll affect me. I don't have any anamorphic lenses, but I suppose once they make them I can rent them...

I'm sure there will be other minor tweaks they haven't discussed yet.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Panasonic GH4 Footage with quick grade

So here's one of those snow tests I did but I grade on it, and put in some comparisons to the original footage so you can see the difference.

I didn't spend a ton of time on it--crushed some of the blacks with the Levels, added a contrast curve, and tinkered slightly with the color with the Fast Color Corrector.

Definitely looks better though. The first 11 seconds is ungraded.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Panasonic GH-4 Accessories

So it appears I may be shooting another segment for our anthology horror feature "Terrortory". I figure, this will be a good time to use the GH4, really find out what it's capable of.

Only problem is that I just have the barest kit for it. I have my other lenses plus one MFT lens, and that's it.

That means I have to pick up some more stuff.

First off I need some more batteries. This looks like a good start, and is significantly cheaper than the brand batteries:

Then I need another card:

You may wonder why I'm only getting 64gb cards instead of the 128. I read a lot of information that said you might get drop-out and errors on the 128s, so I think it's safer to stay with the 64gb.

I could use a cheap stabilizer. Don't think I want to lug the dolly/tracks into the woods again. That shit is for the birds. So there's this:

Now it says it's only good for up to 2.5 pounds. The GH4 plus the MFT lens is way under that. It's pretty crazy how light it is.

However when I put the Rokinon on it it gets to about 3 pounds. I can probably make it work either way.

I want to get another lens in the 35mm range. A prime would be nice. But everybody says if you're going to get just one mid-priced lens for the GH4, it's this one:

I think if I get all of these(total cost about $1K) then I'm prepared enough to shoot.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kinonation Update #1

So as I'm filling out the extensive information to submit our film "Bounty" to Kinonation I had a talk with our graphic designer, the incredibly talented Erik Ashley(, who decided to redo our poster.

And man is it cool. I love it. He gave us a version without his credit information for the actual submission, but I put up the other version here 'cuz man that guy should get some credit!

If you want to see the difference, here you go:

Hit him up at his web site above if you need a poster done.

Anyway, there are a lot of things to fill out on kinonation, and I'm not complaining. It's just a lot of work. I've also had to go back to the original Bounty file and pull out the burned-in subtitles(since it's found footage there are some scenes with low audio that we didn't ADR--because that would be "fake" in this real movie, so we just put up subtitles like you'd see on Cops or Dog).

Then I pulled the URL's out of the credits. Mind you, I had to find the credits among my 30 hard drives, load it up--turns out I'm missing fonts and filters since I used CS3 to create them and I'm now on the CC suite.

But I got it all done. Exported a high quality .mp4

Now, their web site wants ProRes which is an Apple-only codec. I don't use Mac. So I emailed them and they said they could probably use something with the h264 codec, which is a very high quality codec. I mean, I could export it uncompressed but it would be gigantic.

I've been trying to find more information--anybody who has had experience using kinonation and the weird thing seems to be this: I've found a couple of filmmakers who claim they've submitted or partnered with kinonation back in 2012.

Then there's no other posts in the blog about it. There are more posts, so it's not like the blog is abandoned. Just no mention of kinonation again. So I don't know what to make of that, but it makes me suspicious. I mean, if those guys made money wouldn't they have blogged about it?

(Full disclosure--one of the filmmakers says he submitted to kinonation, but from his trailer I'm guessing he either got rejected, or they just couldn't sell his film because it looked pretty amateurish)

Anyway, found this interesting blog post by one of the creator's of kinonation regarding Youtube money:

which led me to this guy who is the actual filmmaker that released his film on Youtube. He has tips and stats on how much he's making:

Will update more when I have it.

Friday, February 6, 2015

VOD on your film -- How Much Can I Make? Also, Kinonation

As all of us low-to-no-budget filmmakers scramble to figure out how to survive in this new landscape, the question rises often: "Can you really make money on VOD?"

I'm going to tell you that it's certainly possible given how our newest film "Garden of Hedon" has been doing on Amazon. Have we made our budget back? Hell no. But considering we've done ZERO advertising on it other than a few interviews for online sites it's been doing very well. (and we've also only offered it for sale, not it's actually selling at a $9.99 price point)

Haven't checked it out yet? What are you waiting for? CLICK HERE!
(it's also available on Blu Ray, but it's almost sold out AGAIN)

Anyway, I stumbled onto a site called kinonation--they're an aggregator. If you don't know what that is, I'll try to explain it quickly.

You will not get your movie to Netflix or Itunes or Hulu or any of the other big boys without a distributor...OR an aggregator. For a fee you can submit your movie to the aggregator, and they will then submit the film to any of those sites you ask them to(and have paid them to, as each site costs something different)

The decent aggregators will give you your money back(or most of it) if your film is rejected from the place they submitted it. It's expensive(most aggregators want in the neighborhood of $1500 to submit your HD film)--so believe me, if you're NOT going to get your money back on rejection then it's a $1500 gamble.

If your movie DOES get approved then you get 100% of the profits minus a yearly fee of like $79 from the aggregator.

I have never tried an aggregator.

But kinonation has a new idea. They will take your film and submit it to the various places for NO upfront cost. They take 20% of any money you make on any approved venue.

A much bigger chunk but the much-better way for filmmakers. I feel the same way about producer's reps--you wanna go with the guy who's willing to take a percentage from what you make rather than an upfront fee. He doesn't make a dime unless he sells your movie, so it's incentive for him to pimp your film. It also tells you that he believes in your movie.

Any rep who wants upfront money rather than a percentage is clearly a guy who has no confidence in selling your flick.

So kinonation is relatively new. I can't find any information about their successes. They keep a pretty great blog with a lot of useful information, and I found this interview below with the founder that sheds some actual light on--get this--NUMBERS you might expect from VOD.

Ad Supported Revenue

As a filmmaker it may be mildly irritating to have multiple :30 sec TV spots before, during & after your feature film. But it definitely generates income. Hulu is one of our beta-test partners, and so we already have some good data from the dozen or so KinoNation films that are live on Hulu — and we're adding more every day now. Likewise with Swiss-based Viewster. So what are the revenue factors here? In simple terms, it's the number of ads served before/during/after your films, multiplied by the price of the ad. In reality, ads are sold to various agencies at different rates. So you may have a :30 sec spot in your film on Hulu for BMW, at a CPM (cost per thousand) of $23. And also a Tide spot at a CPM of $19. Plus there may be 9 ad "slots" in your film, but insufficient demand at the moment it's playing to fill those slots, so 2 of the 7 go un-monetized. Hulu suggests an ad slot every 8-12 mins. Which is why in the KinoNation metadata, we have a section for ad breaks where the filmmaker defines — with timecode down to the frame — where the ads are inserted. Much better viewing experience if the ads don't interrupt a scene. So what does this mean if you have a film on Hulu?  Let's say it gets watched a modest 200 times each day. By "watched" I mean someone starts watching it — they don't necessarily finish watching it. In fact, the average time watched may be the most critical metric — not just in revenue terms, but in raw "how engaging is my film?" terms. If they bail (on average) after 20 minutes, you have a problem. If they bail on average after 50 minutes you make a LOT more cash. Remember, it's all about averages — the reality is that some people watch to the end, some bail within the first 5 mins — and most are in between. Anyway, 200 times a day means your film "sells" around 1000 ads. So at a CPM of $20, your film has just made twenty bucks. Which you share 50:50 with the outlet. So you made $10 today. And then KinoNation take 20%. You're left with $8. Doesn't seem like much. But that's $3000 a year from one of many VoD platforms, and my #'s are actually uber-conservative. If you successfully promote your film you can make way more. Meanwhile, with Viewster in Europe we're seeing a lower CPM — around 5 or 6 Euros. Not surprising — less mature market, less premium outlet. But, every view of your film on every outlet is incremental revenue. That's why you need to be on dozens of outlets.

Subscription VoD Revenue

There's a little more dough in SVOD, I think, because you're not a slave to ad rates and CPMs. SVOD means the user is paying a flat monthly (Netflix & Hulu Plus) or annual (Amazon Prime) fee. Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus are part of our beta test, so I can provide some numbers. Amazon Prime is their $79 a year subscription to get free shipping. But it also gives the subscriber free access to Amazon Prime videos. KinoNation filmmakers can select Amazon Instant and/or Amazon prime. Most select both, which is probably wise. Prime pays 10 cents per movie played. So when a thousand people watch your film on Prime, you make $100, less 20% to KinoNation. Again, it's not big money, but the math starts to work for you because of the tens of millions of Amazon users, multiplied by month after month. It's better with Hulu Plus. They pay 18.5 cents per view (defined as a minimum of six minutes.) So a thousand views grosses you $185. Not bad.

Transactional Revenue

Transactional VoD (TVOD) is radically different in psychological terms — the viewers has to pay a flat fee for your film. With most VoD outlets (but not all) you can set the rental price, or at least a price band. It's typically $3-6 per rental, for 48 hrs. You get 70% via iTunes, or 50% via almost everyone else. More on this in future posts — right now we don't have any data.

Pretty interesting stuff. I've applied for an account so I can get a better idea of what they're looking for in deliverables. I was a little weirded out that they claim your movie cannot have any URLS in the end credits...they say all VOD outlets insist on this, but I can tell you that my movie Bounty has a bunch of URLs(not just the movie's, but a couple of web sites I thanked), and we played on Time Warner, Comcast, Verizon, etc.

And I thought most movies have URLs at the end, so I hopped on Netflix and scanned the first two movies I came across. No URLs. So I dunno.

Will update this as I find out. But if you have had any dealings with kinonation please post a comment so we know.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Bought the Panasonic GH-4 (Vs. Canon 5D Mark II)

Figured it was time to own a nice DSLR video camera, and the GH-4 with its in-camera 4K looked like the right ticket for me. I did a lot of research first, and it certainly appeared to be the best you can own for under $2000.

I also bought a couple of adapters so I could use my T2i lenses with it. I know I'm going to need a decent micro 4/3rd lens sooner or later, but figured I'd get the camera and do some experiments with it. Here's just about the first things I shot with it, fully unprocessed, un-color corrected. This is right out of the camera--we started getting snow so I figured I'd shoot it.

Don't forget to up the resolution. The first part is 4K, the next couple of parts are 1920X1080 and I'll tell you why in a second...

I tinkered with the camera a bit. First off, LOVE the touch-screen settings from the LCD--the fully swivelable, tilting LCD. Thank Christ--no more lying down on my stomach to see the LCD to get an ultra-low shot!

I like the feel of the camera a lot. Everything's set up the way I'd expect it. Nothing counter-intuitive about the build or placement of any buttons. There are two swivels on it--one controls your aperture, the other controls your shutter speed. Very nice.

Anyway, all the videos here were shot with the same lens--my 35mm 1.4 Rokinon that I bought for my t2i. I used this adapter to mount my EF-S lenses to the Micro 4/3rd mount. Note that this Fotasy lens mount is cheaper than most, but it still feels like very high quality metal.

(It's cheap enough that I bought two so I could just put them on two lenses and not worry about taking them off for different lenses--and don't sweat the reviews that say they couldn't remove the adapter. If you can read directions, these adapters come off pretty easy)

Now note with this lens--which I have always loved--you have to adjust aperture and focus manually. This is why my younger brother hates it. Me, coming from a film background, have no problem doing everything manually. 

So I was anxious to try some slow mo. True 96fps 1920X1080 slow mo! Make sure you look at it in 720P.

This is using only available light. (there's a spotlight in my backyard on both sides that you can see in this shot:)

Still, it's pretty impressive. Of course I have the bonus of not only the snow reflecting everything in the picture but also my 1.4 lens that is now a 70mm 1.4 lens. But from what I've read(and seen footage of) I can go up to 1600iso and still not worry too much about the grain.

What I can't seem to figure out is why most of the actual micro 4/3rd lenses still seem to imply that if I buy them for a micro 4/3rd mount then their focal lengths will still be doubled(so if I buy a micro 4/3rd 20mm, it will act like a 40mm on the camera).

Anybody out there know if this is actually how it goes? (I understand why this would be so if you were buying a lens made for a large chip sensor and putting it on a small chip sensor camera--is that actually what's going on here? )

Ah sweet slow-mo, I have missed you.

For comparison, here's some footage I shot this summer with my brother's Canon Mark II using his L-glass. Keep in mind that I lit the SHIT out of my backyard for this. I couldn't believe how dark it still was on the Canon. And I think I went up to 2000 iso at one point.

And again, no color correction(or proper white balance--I was a little lazy that night)

Anyway, will update with some more footage once I start really digging in and shooting interesting stuff.