Thursday, July 27, 2017

What I've Been Doing...

I chopped up all of the "Mad Gathering"'s audio, synced it all, and did an entire assembly edit. The whole thing.

Wow, does it suck.

It is pretty clearly one of the toughest scenes I've ever had to edit.

We shot it all out of order because of the people who had to leave early, then the special effects that take place that we can't shoot out of order because of how different people's appearances are after the effect takes place. I got guys who switch frame sides, and multiple people talking to each other, so keeping shit straight on the shoot was tough.

There are many scenes that require compositing--a couple of scenes where the actor's not even there--gotta put them in. (they're 10, and I wasn't dragging them out to the woods til 5am) Another actor whose face SHOULD have been messed up for the shot, but we couldn't mess it up because we had the earlier scenes to shoot. (I had to have this shot now because we'd be losing people early who you could see in the shot)--this actor whose face should be messed up has to GET messed up via compositing.

Now, the reason I'm not TOO down on myself yet is because it's an assembly edit. They all suck.

There's zero rhythm to them. The sound's not fixed AT ALL, so every edit jumps out and screams THIS SUCKS DONKEY BALLS AND YOU'RE A SHIT EDITOR.

This was basically just getting the form of the piece. Finding the best takes, and where they will fit. Next I'll go back and try to massage it all so it's not so ugly. Ten, twelve more passes and I might even find it tolerable.
But I moved past it for now.

Dove into the main storyline that we shot. First, I edited the last scene of the movie. It involves that complicated shot that almost certainly needs some CGI in order to get the effect done. I took it to my brother's with all the raw footage of the scene, so he can take a whack in Cinema 4D, see what he can do.

Overall I think the scene looks great. It's amazing how simple a shot with one actor and straightforward action can be, right?

Then, went to the beginning. Again, one actor with a simple action--looks good.

Next scene, now with two actors. Looks great. Works out well, the performances seem to be coming across nicely. BUT...I discover a pretty severe issue. I'm not gonna get into it here yet until I make sure I'm screwed--will let ya know.

So that's the first 3.5 pages of the script edited together. It clocks in at 4.5 minutes. Not bad, and scenes always get tighter as you make passes.

I also cut a ton of the audio while I was going through files looking for the first couple of scenes audio. I think I have the next two scenes' audio already cut up, each mic.

I know, you want more pictures....can't really help you. Our cool publicity stills have to be kept for web sites and exclusive promos. The web sites love those, and it's not like I have 300 great photos I can give out.

Tomorrow--another full day of editing. (today was only a partial day, which for me is like 8 hours)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Terrortory 2 - The Main Story Day 5 and 6


I go to sleep late again, and have to get up at 9am to check the weather to see if it's changed. It hadn't. I call Cutting and Zig and see if they just wanna go to the place an hour away when the storm's supposed to hit, and the second it's gone we'll head onto the scene and shoot it.

I walk out the door and it's humid as piss again. I change my shirt into another sleeveless shirt.

The drive takes an hour, as expected. I get there just as rain starts to fall. It pours. Cutting and Zig show up, and we have a pow wow in the car while we watch the doppler radar on Cutting's phone to see how long the storm's going to stay.

Not long.

We get out of the car and--minor miracle--the humidity has really come down. We head to the location. It's a tourist spot, so I'm not sure how many people are going to be there. I figure: It's a Tuesday. It's still cloudy out. A thunderstorm just blew through here not 30 minutes ago...who's going to come out?

As we're setting up, a couple comes out and is hanging out near us. I'm not ready for the shot, so we tell them--if they want to move out to the spot to take pictures, go ahead. Turns out the guy was there to propose to his girl. So they're at the location kissing and chatting, and meanwhile my drone is on standby waiting for me to launch it. Losing battery by the minute.

They take forever, and another girl's wandering around.

Once they're gone I launch the drone. While it's flying, other lookie-lou's come by. I think the drone scares some of them off; it DOES sound pretty frightening when it's going. Like an angry swarm of bees.

I get some cool video. I even get this video accidentally, but now I'm super glad I got it. It shows me going out to plant some props at the very edge of the "cliff". You can see where I have to turn around, and how slowly I do it--it was pretty terrifying for a moment.

Once the drone comes down though, more people come through. We're waiting for them to leave to get shots. Some people go up the trail behind Cutting to leave, but then stop and just have a discussion on a trail. Right in the picture. And loud enough it's on our audio.

Cutting actually asks one group nicely to take it elsewhere if "they're just chatting". They do, so we get the shots.

Off to Five Guy's for a celebratory dinner.

Tomorrow we have that one final shot to make up for. We need to do it when the light isn't terrible, so we're going to do it in the evening. I can sleep in. But I haven't seen a movie in a while, so I'd really like to see the new Apes movie or Baby Driver.

Zig and Cutting are in, so I guess I'll just get a regular 8 hours of sleep instead of the twelve hours I'd like.


We hit the new Apes movie around noon. Me and Zig liked it; not sure Cutting did.

Then Cutting goes for a doctor's appointment across the bridge. We meet at Chik Fil A for dinner, then down to the original location. It's around 6pm when we walk into the woods, and it's still HUMID.

This is not movie sweat, people. This is after a leisurely walk to the location.

It's just me, Zig and Cutting, with very minimal equipment. Didn't stop Cutting from bitching though, and then forgetting to wear the right shoes. So if you see the first scene, and then look at scene 2 and go, "Hey, those weren't the shoes he was wearing..." then you are correct, sir.

It's scene 1. We reshoot the whole thing since it's only like 5 shots, but this time without the horrible sun speckling that was going on.

I got some really cool stills of Cutting here--perhaps my favorite I've ever shot of him. Can't show it yet, but you'll see it on a web site, I can promise you that.

Done--a wrap on the wrap.

Next time--what I'm been up to since then...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Terrortory 2 - The Main Story Day 4

Monday Day 4

They're either texting their parents to say goodbye, 
or perhaps their agents to ask 
"What the hell have you gotten me into?"

I woke up feeling refreshed and not sore at all!

That is a gigantic lie. Just figured I should start off different. I once again reload all the equipment I took out of the car the night before. I fill the cooler with water and ice, and put that in the car. You know, the exciting things involved in filmmaking.

Head on down to the site. I hustle into the woods and get a quick scene done--it's just Cutting waiting for a second in the woods, then he leaves. It's four shots. The humidity is fogging up my lens again. It's super hot--and it's only 8:15 in the morning.

Then we head back to the parking lot, where one of the girls for the next scene has shown up. Then the other two girls show up. We head to the OTHER parking lot for a separate section of the woods and start shooting.

The girls seem game, and cool to do the scene, which I have to shoot awkwardly because it involves prosthetic effects added to their faces at intervals, and then more walking.

On a side note, I sometimes think these actors who have never worked with me will look into my casting notices and then look me up. They see I've done some real movies, things that can be actually viewed. They've got professional posters that look like real-budget movies. Then come to set expecting things like "hair and makeup" and "P.A."s, and in general, a crew.

Since Bounty my sets are more like a college film-shoot headed up by a film geek with not a lot of friends. My crew on this one consisted of LITERALLY two people, Zig and my brother Mike. That's it. We lugged all the equipment in, and anything we couldn't, the actors stuffed in their backpacks. Joe helped out more than an actor should, frankly, and Cutting even carried stuff besides his orange chair. The days Matt was there, he helped out too.

I don't, for the most part, like talent carrying shit. They've got other things to deal with.

But the low budget coupled with my reluctance to ask people to come work for free are both striving to put me in an early grave. Frankly, I think they should work harder.

Ziegler and FX artist Mark Wenger.

Anyway, we shot half the scene then ate lunch--my brother went to the deli every day and got whatever people wanted. So he's doing P.A. work too. Also, they know him at the deli so they treat him pretty well.

We get done and we're not far off the schedule. While we were eating lunch I decide to move the location of the next scene from way off to about 200 feet up a hill from where we are. Because I'm dying.

It's a big Smiling Jack attacks scene. Tess comes back--she was one of the kids earlier. She's super cool, and has no problem falling down, getting her face smushed into the ground over and over, and just in general having fun. I wish I was young again so I could have some fun too, but apparently it's very hard to de-age yourself without drinking the blood of babies.

(and even then it's a very slow process, and babies don't exactly grow on trees)

Will, Matt, Cutting, Tess, me and Zig.
 My brother's taking the picture.

We have a couple of effects that look like they may work, but every time I shoot Jack when he moves his head, I start to have flashbacks to how much frame-by-frame compositing work I have to do to make it look like his head is hollow.

We have one final shot, and we wrap--about an hour late again(at 7pm instead of six). We drag all the shit out of the woods. I'm good to just go home and fall down, but Cutting and Zig and Mike seem to want to order pizza from the local shop that has REAL good pizza, so I say sure. Mike goes to get it, while Cutting and Zig and I go to my parents house to sit on the deck. (Okay, I went in the pool for a couple of minutes, in my jean shorts and all)

We ate pizza, sat there and chatted until about 9pm. Then home to do the normal routine.

We're watching tomorrow's weather because we have a complicated scene to shoot about an hour away from any of us, then we gotta come back the other direction for 90 minutes and fix that first drone shot that was overexposed. A thunderstorm is supposed to be rolling in in the middle of the day. If it moves one way or the other, we may be able to shoot it.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Terrortory 2 - The Main Story Day 3

Sunday, Day 3

I don't wanna bore you with this again, but I am so sore when I wake up that I'd give you my entire silver age comic collection if you'd just let me stay home, and go shoot this for me.

We head in for the opening shot of the movie. It involves a really cool drone shot. Unfortunately it's so goddamn sunny that I can't get it to not blow out white with brightness unless I put the ND filters on it, but if I do that, then it's too dark once the drone comes through the canopy. I can let the drone compensate for it, but it doesn't look great when it does it.

I do some other shots with the regular camera, but the sun is putting bright highlights whenever my guy walks the trail and the sun shines through. It's tough. And still HOT.

And now people are having a party somewhere in the distance where you can hear them partying. And then someone runs a buzzsaw not nearby, but still--it's a buzzsaw. You can hear it. Then a dog barks for like 20 minutes straight. If I was their neighbor I would have either killed the dog, or them.

We move not very far away--I'm beginning to change locations out of convenience. Not a great thing to do, but let's face it--I spent a ton of time in the first film shooting visually-different locations in the woods, but we still had asshats being pissed because "It all takes place in the same location."

Well, first--no it's not. The longest segment of the movie takes place IN A HOUSE. There's another long scene in a warehouse. Then the actual scenes in the woods were shot in radically different places and/or times of the year.

Second, and more important--do these people get pissed when they watch Friday the 13th? Why's the whole movie take place at a camp? And then part 2 and 3?  MORE CAMP. WTF is up with that, right?

Fucking people.

We move to another scene with Smiling Jack. I'm not really feeling most of what I'm shooting, but I refer back to my own rule which is NEVER JUDGE YOUR SHIT WHILE YOU'RE SHOOTING IT.

Still, would love to have the sun go away. For a couple of days.

Then we have some on-paper easy scenes. It's all talking and walking. But Cutting, the lead actor is having a hard time remembering some of the lines, and he's getting frustrated over it, which can kill an actor on set. I pretend it doesn't bother me--and it doesn't bother me that he's missing them, it bothers me that it's so goddamn hot and my arms are dying.

I figure it's cuz Cutting's not getting enough sleep, and if the heat is boiling his brain the way it's hurting mine then it makes sense. Later, after we're done shooting I ask him about it. Because he nailed all those long speeches and exposition in Garden of Hedon, so I was surprised that these short sentence, big paragraphs would give him problems. He says it's because many of the sentences are variations on each other with slight differences.

I dunno, but whatever. We're all doing the best we can under brutal conditions. I remember thinking "Man, shooting outside in July could be bad..." but I really never anticipated it would be like this.

But here I am walking backwards while shooting Cutting and Joe walking toward me, and I have to try to walk around a trail I can't see. My brother is spotting me, tugging gently in directions to let me know where it veers, but still...hard to compensate while also keeping focus and composition.

Again we wrap about an hour late. On the easiest shoot-day we're going to have. I really thought we'd make this one. But between the heat slowing us down, the moves, the stopping for the COUNTLESS planes going overhead ruining our audio(we're not exactly near the airport), and the fact that I have to get a lot of coverage because I'm not positive of exactly what points the lines veered from the script--it all took a lot of extra time.

I actually have been going by my parents' house to jump in the pool after every shoot--sort of a chlorine insect wash. Then I head home, dump footage, back it up, start batteries charging. I don't get to bed until after midnight, and I have to be up again at 7am to head to the set.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Terrortory 2 - The Main Story Day 2

As promised, here's the video of us JUST having gotten to the location--this is approximately 3 minutes later.

Big thanks to Joe--I was thinking the next morning that I wished we'd recorded some of it, and Joe tells me he got a bit. Awesome.

In case you're wondering why we took the next day off, I knew it would go late into the night and all our other shoot days start at 8am. No way were we shooting Thursday night until Friday morning at 5am, then working three hours later.

Anyway, the report continues...

Friday, Day Off

Friday, I woke up sorer than shit. For some reason a few of my toes are numb in spots. Like, I walk and it feels like something is stuck to my toes, but I check and there isn't. It's the numbness that makes it feel like that.

Today is spent re-designing Saturday's shot list to be a little less ambitious, and to include a few multi-camera shots that will hopefully mean we end on time. I have us shooting from 9am until 6pm, but I'm not positive at what time it will be too dark to make the scene seem consistent.

I have to gather all of the props, recharge the drone batteries, the camera batteries, the monitor batteries, clear the cards, make a few notes in thislog(which I flesh out later into what you're reading now) and all the other little minutiae of filmmaking.

Saturday, Day 2

Joe and Cutting, pretending to have fun

We got a slight break in that it wasn't as hot as it was supposed to be, but it was still humid as crap. Lenses that came out of the carrying case--even though they'd been in the woods for 4 hours--still started fogging up. It was cloudy out, which was nice--with the sun, you have to constantly battle highlights and differences in the light for consistency--cloudy is sweet, especially since I have very fast lenses.

We shot the first scene no sweat. We did part of the 2nd scene, and then the actors showed up. It's a group of "kids"--three guys and one girl. We set up for their shots, and knock some out. Get that scene done. We send Mike to go get us lunch before we're done, but the deli is slammed so we decide that while we're waiting for Mike to return, we'll go knock out the next scene real fast. It's only four shots.

Get that done too. Man, it's all going so great that I'm thinking, "Too good to last..."

 Tess and Colin(two of the kids) walk out to her car so she can drop something off with her dad, and Mike shows up a minute later. All of us eat. We're wondering where Tess and Colin are--they come walking toward us from the OTHER side of the trail. They've gone the wrong way and circled way back around.

By the time we're done eating we're only 10 minutes late to start. The sun comes out. It gets very hot. The actors get chatty in between takes. This is something you always get--actors wanna talk to other actors about acting. It's expected. But they really gotta pay attention to what I'm saying, because when I have to repeat myself to come over and act in their scene, well, I get pretty fucking cranky.

At some point during this there's a bit of...drama, let's say, between my brother and Mark. My brother's a super laid-back guy, so I don't know what the issue is at the time. Let's just say it turns out Mike's not interested in helping out on FX any more.

We do some drone shots--it's working fine. I discovered what the problem was. At night the drone can't use its own cameras to figure out where it is, and if it also loses its GPS signal--which it does because we're in no-man's land, then it switches to a really shitty mode that makes it drift, and ignores
you on the joysticks. And you can't turn that mode off, which makes a lot of the people who own this very unhappy, myself included.

I joke that all of my future movies will be shot with me sitting in a chair, operating the drone camera. Because I'm shooting nearly zero tripod shots, which means I'm holding a rig all day long. Wanna try it?

Take 5 pounds of anything, then hold it straight out in front of you. For like 90 seconds. Then you can rest for a second, then do it again. Do it three or four times, then take a five minute break. Then repeat it OVER AND OVER, but for some of those make sure you get down on your knees for some of them.

Also be 46 years old and in terrible physical shape. See how you feel.

We have what I guess you'd call a stunt. It involves someone taking a beer bottle to the side of Smiling Jack's face. Suffice it to say that with complications and my doubt that we can get an intact sugar-glass bottle half a mile into the woods, I concoct a plan to use a REAL beer bottle upside the side of Jack's face.

I first try to weaken the beer bottle in tests. It doesn't work. Then I figure--you know, if we tape a big piece of steel to Jack's plastic head, and the bottle hits there then it's gonna shatter. Matt won't feel anything other than a slap to the head.

So we do it on location.  Brandon is game to try it(he's the actor swinging the bottle). He does it. I'm in the path of the flying glass and feel it hit me. No biggie. Matt's not hurt. But oddly, out of everything I considered, I never figured Brandon might take any shrapnel that would hurt him, but the back of his hand was bleeding.

Not a lot, and he was game for take two. So we have two good takes. On the second take I got hit in the arm by a tiny piece of glass and started bleeding a little. I really wouldn't have thought these shards would be sharp enough to open up a cut just by flying through the air but there ya have it.

We do a couple of FX shots. The first one works pretty well. I'm liking. The second one is a mixed bag. The humidity makes it hard to stick an appliance on the face that stays, so we sorta improvise. I'm not sure how it'll look once I edit it, but I'll make it work.

We're scheduled to shoot until 6pm--we wrap at like 7:10.

This was the largest group of people we had on
at anytime in the shoot.
From Left To Right
There Is No Way I'm Naming Them All

Side Note:
I had a tiny worm, of all things, burrow into my skin. I thought it was just a tiny insect, then I pulled and a 1/4 inch worm comes out. Now the area on my leg is getting all red, and it hurts. What the fuck was that?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Terrortory 2 - The Main Story Day 1

I think I mentioned that Terrortory 2 differs from the first film, and from most anthologies in general. Those have a main story/through story/wrap around story that exists to tie together or give reason for the segment stories to be told.

Terrortory 2 has a main story that will be fleshed out with the anthology stories. The through-story is the reason the movie exists, not the segments.

We shot it all last week. One of the hardest weeks I've EVER experienced, and I'm counting the week I had to watch the Nightmare on Elm Street remake.

Here's the diary I kept:

Thursday July 13th. DAY ONE

I head down to Arnold and meet Joe, Zig and Cutting at the 7-11. We grab some supplies, and head to the woods. As soon as we get to the location, thunder starts. I'm thinking--there was a small thunderstorm that was supposed to be in the area for a REAL short time. Figured it would miss us, or would just rain a little and the canopy would keep us dry.

A DELUGE of rain hits us. Tons of water. Cutting was smart and had pre-bought a tarp, so they all huddle underneath it while I try to actually hang it on trees. I am soaked in about 2 seconds. I mean, as if I just jumped into a pool. (Note: Joe has video of some of this, and I'll post it when he sends it to

It didn't last long--maybe 15 minutes, but all the wood in the forest is soaked and we have to start a fire. I'm completely drenched from my shoes and socks to my shirt and pants. The equipment is a bit muddy, and even after all that it's still fucking humid as shit.

(My brother later tells me he saw the doppler radar and it was this super-intense, super-TINY storm that ran right over pretty much just US.)

I find out VERY fast that I've completely forgotten the lapel mics I use on my shoots now. I have no idea how that could be. My backup(which I run all the time anyway) is the separate shotgun mic that I've used on every movie since Hunting Humans, and a full size Zoom recorder with XLR inputs. It's usually a backup, but now it's my only mic and I didn't bring a boom pole. (I usually put the whole setup in the scene somewhere hidden so I can get other sounds/dialog that I may use)

We try to light the fire and--shocker--soaking wet wood is hard to light. With persistence, and more time than I wanted to waste on it, we get it lit.

We try some drone shots, but the drone's acting funky. When we started the scene it wasn't dark, just dark-ish. I tried to make it look dark, but as it actually GETS dark and we put out the lights behind them, I'm wondering how well it will match what we shot.

We have some more problems in general, but we finish the scene.

We move all the equipment up a STEEP trail. My arms were done from bringing all the shit in at the beginning. Now I'm wiped, and I gotta hold a camera for how many more hours? It's tough.

I'm feeling the trenchfoot--soggy shoes and socks the entire time. The humidity is INSANE, and we get a call from Mark that Fred, The Midnight Clown, is having a problem with his makeup running. (They airbrush it on outside) They end up running to my parents house nearby to airbrush him in the cool basement. (My mom keeps the house arctic, and my brother used to airbrush in the basement all the time, so no big deal)
NOTE: Turns out that they just airbrushed him in the kitchen--my mom told me the basement was a mess. I tell her, nobody would have cared.

This puts us even farther behind though.

I should note--Zig has been sick from pretty much the get go. Something's wrong with his stomach. He throws up more than once on this shoot, I can tell you that.

 He's not talking much, which is how you can normally tell something's up.

I gotta run to the car to get the Midnight Clown's costume, and I mention I'm going to sit in my car for 5 minutes while we're waiting for the clown to show up. I'm gonna blast my AC and try to get cool. Zig quickly volunteers to come with me. In the car the AC is, as expected, the best thing in the entire world. We both agree we could just go to sleep right then.

We don't even get our 5 minutes though, as Mike pulls up with Fred and O'Brocki, who's playing Wade. We gotta carry some shit back into the woods--FX stuff and drinks. I volunteer, for some stupid reason, to carry the most heavy stuff. I think I'm just an idiot. I have to stop a few times to set the container down and take a break.

Fast forward--we're at the new base camp, about to shoot. I've decided to shoot all of Fred's closeups first since the longer it goes, the meltier he's gonna get.


I'll admit that this is one of the harder elements of filmmaking for me. Blocking consists of how you run the scene--where people say certain lines, or do certain actions. In a perfect world, you get time to just run through the entire scene and see the blocking, and then adjust your shots accordingly. For me, even if I had the time, it really interferes with the shooting script I've run, especially if there's significant variation from the way I pictured it.

I'm a big pre-vis guy, in that I have seen this movie in my head over and over, so when we go out there and things don't start to line up the way they did in my head...that's where I run into trouble. I'm working on ways to get better at this, but it's still not fun.

We try to block out the scene, and lighting is, of course, a problem. It's pitch black. I have four big lights, but now that we're not shooting in the order of my shot list--which was broken down so we only have to move the lights once for each direction we're shooting in--we gotta run around putting lights here and there, and it's a hassle.

Also, I'm cheating a lot of positioning because of the way the area we're shooting in differs from what I wrote.

Headlamps on the head make reading your shooting script easy. 
Plus, they're EXCELLENT for attracting bugs right to your face.

We shoot.

And shoot.

And keep shooting.

Because Mark's not there, my brother Mike has to attempt the blood effects, which is a blood cannon, basically. My brother is struggling, because he's been working outside all day in the heat, since like 9am, and now he's out in the woods with barely a break at 3am. For those who can't do math, that's 18 hours of hard work outside in the heat and humidity with only a lunch and dinner break.

We shoot the effect, and I have no idea whether it's going to look good or not. It would be more impressive if it was during the day, that's for sure.

We were scheduled to be out of there at 4am, but we didn't actually walk out until 5:45. The light was coming up by the time we got to our cars.

Carrying all that shit back pretty much broke me. Had to stop four times. Joe carried the heaviest one item--this insane bag full of I-have-no-idea--but I had both light kits, which ain't small and they ain't light.

We're scheduled to be off Friday, but I'd mentioned that maybe we'd go shoot Tuesday's one scene if there's no wind(I can't shoot it unless there's no wind). The weather's calling for a thunderstorm, and we all feel like garbage, so I say screw it. Day off is back in effect.

Either way, I get home about 6:30am, dump footage, take a long shower, and am in bed by 7:30am.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Terrortory 2: One Segment Down...Part 2

Alex was nice enough to come out at 5:30pm Saturday to redo her audio. We also recreated the entire scene without dialogue--so I have a foley'd track I can use when I use any wild audio. If you had the time, you should do this for every scene you shoot--not just because it will save you during your actual edit, but it will make doing an M and E(Music and Effects) track for foreign super simple.

Good news was we got Zig back--he's production manager, but also a jack of all trades. Anything I need, he can get done. Takes a lot of weight off of me.

We hightail it to the woods. Some of our creatures are already there making themselves up. Matt, who plays Smiling Jack is also there. I like people who show up early.

I think this pic is far enough it doesn't give much away

Zig and I stack my dolly up with as much stuff as we can fit, and I drag this dolly through the woods. Matt goes with us so we can leave him at the location with the equipment, and go back for more.

The dolly works like shit. Too many roots, uneven ground, then like 100 feet of uphill sand at the end. The cart flips sideways twice, making us reload it. 

By the time I get to the location I am DRENCHED in sweat. Zig and I go back and get another load, do it again. I drag it again, cuz frankly Zig isn't a big guy and this thing is heavy.

At the end of THAT run, I feel like I'm having a heart attack. 

The thing is, I'm a pretty immature guy. I wear a hat all the time--and have since I was like 20--but the thing is, it hides that I'm actually losing my hair now. So it's these things that make people think I'm in my late 30's. I am not. I am going to be 47 this year, and as much as I kid myself that it's not THAT old, it is. Especially when you do ZERO exercise other than when you're shooting a movie.

We hustle back again to get the last of the stuff and see who else has showed up. Most of our monsters have, but they're going to wait until my brother arrives with the Midnight Clown, who's getting painted, and they'll all come as a group.

Me, Josh, and Zig head into the woods with the last of the stuff and it's at this point that I realize I have made a huge mistake--I am wearing my prescription sunglasses, and I have forgotten my regular glasses. It's getting pitch black, especially in the woods. You see, my wife's truck broke down while I was waiting for Zig to get to my house, so I had to run her to a friend's house to get another car, which made me slightly late. I got flustered, forgot my glasses.

And she's not answering my call now--I was hoping she could bring my glass to the location.

In desperation I call my parents--they're out to dinner, but say they'll do it. Will take them over an hour to go to their house, get our spare key, then go to my house and back to the location.

AH! So many unclear pictures! 
It's like I'm trying not to show anything.

We start setting up lights, trying to light a bonfire, while Mark is finishing up the makeup on everybody now that they've all walked the trail to join us.

The fire does not want to blaze. Maybe it's wet from the storm the day before, but spoiler alert--we didn't get a good fire all goddamn night. Gonna be some digital fire improvement I think. Fix it in post, right?

I shoot some little things--the fact that I can't see so well isn't a deal breaker right away, because I can see fine up close without my glasses. So I can get focus on the monitor no problem. Luckily I don't have to do it too long--my dad shows up with the glasses, and my brother walks the trail to get them 
from him. (we're so deep in the woods that there's no way you'd be able to just walk in and find us)

My plan--and my shot list--is to get all of the shots featuring the creatures done first so we can release them earlier than the expected 3am finish time. 

There are complications with lighting--normally you want to shoot all the shots facing each direction at once--that way you only have to move the lights a minimal number of times.

And then there are FX changes that should be happening, but we can't do them yet because I haven't shot the close ups on the person yet. I run around getting what I need on the shots. At least, hopefully. 

We try to get some cools still too--another FREE FILMMAKER TIP--get them. You need them. Stills captured from video don't look as good, so don't think you're just going to use those. Webs and magazines can tell, trust me.

The way I'm shooting--popping in and out of the scene to shoot what's needed--is very disorienting for the actors. It makes it hard for them to build up the emotions they need. Like, if we had time for a wide master then I would have done it. That way the actors play it through once, then when you ask them to jump to a specific spot then they can.

But so much FX happen during the scene that we can really only shoot about 40% of it.

Rob Tongue in the new costume he made

Much of the night is a blur. The good news is that it's relatively cool--much better than we could have hoped for. There are none of the massive insect and spider attacks. Plenty of daddy longlegs, but they're not a big deal.

At some point we let some of the monsters go. My buddy Rob Tongue stayed, along with Matt and Fred(The Midnight Clown). We got some cool stills with them whenever we had to prep FX or break for something else.

Things start running late. The main creature-guy(I'm being vague on purpose) had his mask on for a long time, and he's hot and wants a cigarette(and probably a water because he's sealed in that thing). So I try to get everything with him shot, then tell him to take a break. Shoot more stuff. Move lights. Change batteries. (Sometimes a light has run down, and I have to go find it in the darkness in order to replace the batteries)

I keep checking the time because we're past 3am now. I know we gotta finish, and we have a bunch of FX at the end, plus some gunfire. (I do practical gunfire--no matter how much work you put in on After Effects, muzzle flash and recoil just NEVER looks right).

We finish Alex's stuff and let her go. She was a trooper, We keep shooting.

Looking down at the shooting script and going:
"But it was only like 30 total shots..."

Finally I call it. It's like 4:15am. We have to truck all this shit out of the woods, and I really don't want to make multiple trips. Mike took Mark, Fred and the main creature guy out when they were done, and they haven't returned. We try to compact everything together and figure out how to get it out in one trip.

Josh is like--just keep putting bags on me. He ends up carrying like 6 bags of shit, plus some other stuff. We stack the dolly, and Matt volunteers to drag it out. Zig and I grab the rest, and we awkwardly carry it out. Mike and Fred meet us halfway and take some stuff off us.

By the time Zig and I are on the road it's like 5am. I get home, dump footage and audio, then back it up and plug in batteries--it's after 6am when I'm done.

Then to bed. 

Hard to sleep because I know I have a lot of work to do, because come Thursday the main production starts, and that's 5 days straight. (Well, one night, then 4 days in the heat and humidity)

And still have a lot of little things to do--find/organize the props, go to the woods one final time to double check the sites with how I think I'm going to shoot, try to pre-viz the shoot in my mind so I can see what I may be forgetting.

Gonna be a stressful couple of days...

The Midnight Clown says 
"No, You Can't Have An In-Focus Picture Of Me."

We left this at the site so anybody walking by would think there's been a murder in the woods.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Terrortory 2: One Segment Down...Part 1

So here goes, the super-honest rundown on how the first two days of shooting on Terrortory 2 went...

Night One
I loaded the car with the fuckton of shit we needed for the day's shoot. Up bright and early at 9:30am to do it. Headed to my parents' house to unload all that shit into another car that I needed for the actual shoot.

Already pretty goddamn hot.

Picked up my brother and we headed across the bridge. Turns out, not so much traffic yet, so that was good. Went to Chik Fila for lunch, then over to Josh's(the lead actor) house. I started unloading equipment and a car pulls up behind mine. It's Alex, the actress in the scene, and she's like 90 minutes early.

I'm like, cool. But maybe a little off my game for a minute. I shoot some drone shots, and my fucking drone all of a sudden says it's only got 25% battery and it's gonna return home. I'm not sure where it thinks home is(normally it's where you launch it)--it heads straight up into a goddamn tree, ignoring me on the joysticks.

Fucked up the blades bad. Awesome.

We go inside and I mic the actors. Here's where I fucked up: I gave the actress detailed instructions on where to place the lav inside her bra, but didn't double check it. See, I listened to make sure it was the right levels, but as I found out today when I listened to the audio, the mic was apparently loose. Whenever she moved, there's terrible rustling of cloth.

To make matters worse, Josh adjusts his tie in the beginning of the scene, so I can't even use his mic's sound for her line, because he's rustling HIS mic.

Fuck's sake. It's totally my fault, but with how short I was on crew(literally me and Mike, that's it), I was doing a lot of shit.

The racking of focus on the steadicam is a pipe dream on anything over 35mm, and even on the 35mm you better have it stopped down past 4(it's a 1.4 lens) to have a shot. The monitor I got is fucking NICE. Especially for how cheap it is. It actually shows you the RGB levels separately if you push a button, and the batteries last a LONG time.

So we got done early on the first scene, which was like 4 pages. I was feeling good and I let Alex go, when I should have done a wild line recording of all her stuff just to be safe.

Josh and his daughter wanted to go to Chick Fil A for dinner, so Mike and I said fuck it--we can eat there again.

This was at 7:45pm. Not even close to dark. I did enjoy the cool lens flare the sun threw in the window, so shot a couple of pics.

Problems start here. See, I had us shooting evening and night scenes between 7-9, but the goddamn sun wouldn't cooperate. Even at 8pm, it was brightly shining through the windows.

We run behind, and Josh's girlfriend gets home and his other daughter, and all of a sudden we're having to pause while they do something between takes. Shots I planned on doing, I simply can't do given the time.

We rush out of there to go meet Mark and some other actors for a scene in the DEEP woods. Like, Naked and Afraid woods.

We have to hump a lot of equipment into the woods--two big light kits, plus my camera and audio gear, plus Mark's FX stuff, plus all the props. There are spider webs EVERYWHERE. And even more scary, you knock them down to put a light up, then turn around to go back to where the other people are, and the spider has built his web again already, in like 3 minutes.

Ticks are all over us. Josh had three on his shirt just crawling on him like, no big deal. All the deet spray we put on, and they didn't give a shit.

Think I'm kidding? Here's a video I shot--I didn't notice the thing on his shirt, but just look at that. There were TONS of them this size or bigger out there.

And humid as fuck. I'm sweating, I'm tired. A lot of my shots, since I'm beginning to abandon my shooting script, aren't feeling great.

We move out of the woods to another section on the edge of a clearing. I head into the woods to place a light, and get the shit scared of out me by a giant deer that bounds off--scared by me I guess, but fuck it gave my heart a jolt.

The stuff in this section is supposed to be done by 1am. It's already 1am and we have the actual FX shots to do still. The bugs are getting into EVERYTHING. A wolf spider in my light kit makes me want to just leave all that shit and go.

We do the FX shot, but I gotta tell ya--I've nearly abandoned sound at this point. Josh has his mic, lav and all, in his shirt pocket. I'm guessing it's not gonna be useable but he doesn't have any dialog. Bad news is clearly I'm gonna have to take him out and foley his breathing and his actions.


Still got a shot to do with 3 cars on the road. I have it scheduled for 90 minutes, because I have a cool shot I wanna try.

All that goes to the wayside as the road I was going to use doesn't work. We go to another bumfuck nowhere. Corn stalks on one side, woods on the other. I cannot, at this point, tell you how exhausted I am. We're going on hour 14 and we only had that one half hour break.

I've been bending my body, crouching, standing, jogging, doing all handheld most of the day with my camera on the shoulder mount. It's not light, especially since I've gone to the AA batteries to power it.

We got a couple of cool shots. Finally I call it. It's nearly 4am.

I head home--feels like the longest drive I've ever been on. And I still have to dump and backup all the footage, and plug all the batteries in.

I make it to bed by 6am.

I'm actually hoping the thunderstorm moves in, because shooting Saturday night feels like a lot of work.

Called off Saturday.  The promised thunderstorm rolled in, and I didn't want wet woods. Besides, I was pretty sure people would lighting off fireworks on the 4th of July weekend, and that would fuck with sound.


I re-learn this rule on every movie, and keep reminding myself. It's been a rock solid rule since the first movie I ever shot, Hunting Humans.

The tip is this: Don't get too stressed if you think what you're shooting is garbage. 

At some point, especially at the beginning of your shoot, you will start to feel like you're really not getting the shots you wanted, the shots you envisioned. The thing is, when you get to see them at home where you're editing, you'll quickly find it's not as bad as you thought. You start editing it together and some of it actually downright works well.

I best learned this when I was on the set of the first Fear of Clowns. We were shooting in the movie theater, and it was the scene where Jacky and Rick are at the door trying to punch in the code. When we shot that night, I felt like we were tanking it. I wasn't sure I was getting the shots that would convey the tension of the scene in the best manner.

Turns out that once I put the scene together it wasn't bad at all. And the movie theater sequence is really the only part of the movie I actually liked when I was done.

The danger of not recognizing that you're not sucking is that it will bring you down, make you second guess yourself, and then you may start rushing, figuring that if your shit's sucking then you might as well stop trying as hard.

Next Post: We just shot the 2nd part of this segment on Saturday(July 8th for my later self that comes back trying to figure out what day we shot)--and I'll go into that with some pics.