“Der Wolf”

So I wanted to make a World War II period piece for my 2nd 16mm film at UNCGreensboro.  I may have watched one too many war films and I do believe my favorite back then was “Apocalypse Now,” so I was highly motivated to actually make one. I had a story, I had the equipment, I had the crew, I had the actors, and I had the locations.
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The story writing process took only a few weeks and I compiled the ideas that me and the 2 lead actors had come up with.
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“Der Wolf” is about a lone German sniper dying of TB while he waits for enemy soldiers to wander in his secter. It is basically a poetic piece, as the main viewpoint we hear is from the sniper in the form of narrated journal entries.

For this film I graduated to the CP-16 synch sound 16mm film camera and I got to use 400′ reels (about 10 minutes of 24fps film time) for the first time.

CP-16

Sound was captured on Quarter inch magnetic tape on a device called a Nagra. We used a shotgun boom to mic our sound.

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The crew was made up of my fellow film school compatriots whom I had developed good working relationships with up to that point. Production went wonderfully fast, even though we were a day behind schedule just looking for appropriate rifles from the WWII era. We found them and were on our way. Everything went great until I got the footage back. Wonderful blue scratches were present on a few of the shots from a few different scenes. Looking back on it, it really wasn’t a bad thing and I wished I had actually used the crazy scratched up footage now, but back then I wanted to avoid mistakes like that since I had first experienced these sorts of problems on “Static.” Needless to say I scheduled a re-shoot and had the entire thing in the can.

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Final Cut Pro had just dropped and we got a few new mac G4’s with the software at school. None of the professors knew how to use it, so a handful of us students and grad students got together and proceeded to teach it to ourselves. Other than having to learn a new way to edit, the process wasn’t nearly as bad as one could expect and within a few weeks projects were being copied to miniDV tape and then dubbed down to VHS for departmental screenings at the end of the year. “Der Wolf” was well received, but I was ready to go to much weirder territory in my next film, “F-2.”

I have included a copy of the script along with a link to the finished film. They vary a great length due to what was available. Originally I thought I was going to have access to an old mill by a railroad, but opted instead to use a very cool looking barn in an isolated location. Though now, all these years later, I seem to remember having trouble with the sounds of a nearby blacksmith shop to contend with. Anyway, we got it and it turned out pretty well despite the script to screen differences.

Link to script:

Der Wolf

 

Link to finished film:


 

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“Static”

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Static was the first real film that I had time to actually plan out and develop. I had some of the most exciting feelings during this process, especially during the production phase. For the first time, I felt like this craft was made for me.

I grew up making art. My Mom gave me no choice. She was an art teacher and so at an early age I learned to build castles and fortresses out of card board, paper towel rolls, egg cartons, scissors and tape. What most folks would toss into the trash my Mom would save for me. When I was given plasticine, it was on.

Anyway, fast-forward to Graduate School. I was attending UNCGreensboro and I was taking Introduction to Cinematography.  We were learning how to use and operate the Bolex 16mm motion picture camera. I learned to love this camera over the course of using it for “Static.”
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While I was learning the basics of the Bolex, I was also in pre-production for the project I was going to use it on.

I was really into the rough textures of old WWI and WWII battle footage and dearly loved science fiction. I decided to go with a futuristic world where warring factions fight for technology in a decaying wasteland.  I was highly influenced by “All’s Quiet on the Western Front” (the movies and the book) and wanted to capture that sense of desolation and decay that lay in war’s destructive wake.
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I knew that I wouldn’t have many opportunities in life to make a movie (at least that’s what I thought then), so I really wanted to do this right. Even before I began writing the script I photographed all of these places that I passed by on a regular basis for several years that would make good locations for my film. An overpass over here, an old railway bridge over there, an old coal bin, a dry lake bed, barns, fields, anywhere really that looked like it was part of the world that I wanted to create.

Then I had to figure out what sort of characters I was going to populate this wasteland world with. I knew that it would make things easy if I could come up with costumes that would cover up the actors completely, so anyone could play any part as long as body sizes were similar. I love gas masks and heavy trench coats so I decided I would go to the local Army Surplus store to poke around and see if I could find anything. I found these great Russian and Israeli Gas Masks, Boots, Gloves, Packs, Snake Bite Shin Guards, Plastic Rain Parkas, and East German Trench Coats massive enough to cover the entire body when buttoned up. I added some cool looking medals, tubing, knives, side arms for the characters Agent 1, Agent 2, Agent 3, and the Enemy Agent. The other characters in the film are Mutants, who are covered in rags and burlap bag cowls. So with these costumes I could basically just use whoever happened to show up for call time. I know at least three people played the main character Agent 2.
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I was able to do a bunch of on camera effects, such as a reflection of a monitor in the Agent’s Gas Mask, a door opening on the one wall set of the Agent’s landing craft, and lots of military smoke bombs to create a sort of smokey unfriendly atmosphere.

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The shoots went well for the most part, though injury occurred here and there, but we were able to roll on and learn from mistakes. The main problem when shooting with a Bolex is that you have to open up the lens in many cases to see what the shot is and then close it back down and shoot blind. Not every time, but quite a few. Once I had the short in the can i sent it off to the lab and bit my fingernails until it came back. I love film, but it is too expensive. I greatly welcome this current era of HD cameras and the prospects of what is to come.

Editing back in those days, circa. ’98/’99, was not what it is today on a computer. Basically I put this thing together in the old control track editing method using two Super-VHS VTRs and an edit controller.

You need two VTRs (one to record from and one to record to on a blackened SVHS tape) and an Edit Controller (sets In and Out Points and carries out the edit)

VTR’s
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Edit Controller

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Editing went well and I learned to embrace some problems that happened during shooting. There were a few shots where the film inside the camera wasn’t properly secured which created a very jumpy shot. I was furious at first, but then I ended up loving it because it looked somehow more realistic. A crucial life lesson was learned here. Be patient and sometimes accidents can really reinforce the vision.

We got to screen them in a large theater on campus and it was an amazing feeling to see my film so big in a room with so many people.

“Static” was a great joy to make. I don’t know if I’ll ever get that feeling again. That sense of newness to the world of filmmaking.

…and here it is. Enjoy!


 

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Getting Your Product Out There: Reviews???

Getting Your Product Out There:  Reviews???

Want a review? Just ask. Who’d thought it would be that easy?

backstory:
It actually took a kickstart for me. No, I don’t mean the kickstarter company; I mean it took a friend to hook me up with a reviewer he knew. Since this friend, Jason Ledford, was DP on my new film “the Orbs” and was 2nd unit DP and acted in my first feature “F-3” and happened to be in film school at Western Carolina University (a program I wish I went to, no offense UNCG, your training served me well) and was a friend of a student/reviewer I got the hook up from. The review was amazing and blew me away.

review of F-3:
http://cinemaslasher.com/2013/06/04/psychedelics-not-included/

After I got my first review, I got the idea to begin approaching reviewers online. I just went to google and typed in film reviewers and went down the line. I also altered the search to independent film reviewers as well as horror/sci-fi film reviewers. I found contact information on each site I went to and put together a nice solicitation.

So far I have about 6-8 reviews in the works just from simply asking. I guess it all is just a matter of “jumping off the high dive” so to speak. I was/am terrified of heights, but some times you’ve just got to jump.  Just make sure you have some sort of project crafted together in the best of your abilities first.

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Promo Material and Helpful Internet Sites

Note to self:
Never compose blogs online again without saving a backup to my hard drive (duh). My blog, which I don’t work on that much, was on two sites, the old Myspace and Exposure Room. Myspace got rid of the old material with their new improved and even more confusing setup and Exposure Room shut down without so much as a warning. Anyway, someone can hopefully can learn from my rookie mistake

This reminds me of another time long ago when I was working on a re-write of my 2nd feature length script “Sci-CLone.”  I was working on it in a coffee shop in Henderson NV and out of nowhere somehow, someway I managed to delete my 30 page re-write that I had been pain stakingly working on for about a month and a half. I was really putting to much into the editing process now that I look back on it. I was re-writing every sentence at least 20-30 times (way too much).

I am currently putting together promotional material for Fright Night in Louisville KY.
Here is where the Communication Arts & Design major comes in handy. Not only can I do most of the jobs associated with film making (writing, story-boarding, shooting, lighting, directing, editing, producing,…), I can pull in my graphic design and arts training into making all of my promotional material myself using templates from sites such as Vistaprint.com.

Early Promo material:
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Teaser poster

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Here are some examples of later work that I actually got another artist to create then I resized to the various templates that I downloaded from the online printing service. (The posters are by Jeff Quick)

This is going to be a banner hanging on the front of my vendor table at Fright Night.

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post card (peter by Jeff Quick) – I plan on making stickers with the showtime and room for each fest that will be put on these.
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T-shirt (poster design by Jeff Quick)
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I’ve been making films since 1995, but am just now learning the business side of things and how to get my stuff out there. I’ve begun to realize the importance of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, IMDB, Withoutabox, YouTube, Linked In, Vimeo and now WordPress. These sites have been paramount in helping me to get me where I am today. I’m very much a nobody, but I am definitely higher up the mountain than when I started this journey in 1995.

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