Thursday, December 21, 2006

16 Years ago Tonight or Carpe Per Diem

Tonight is the winter solstice. 16 years and one month ago I was hired to work as a juicer on an ABC movie of the week, 'The Marla Hansen Story'. This was an important gig for a number of reasons not the least of which was that I was broke and concerned as to where my next rent check was coming from. It was a shitty summer for those of us in the film biz cause Ted Turner had some sort of Olympic style games going on here in Seattle and all the car commercials and Movies that would come to town stayed far far away. This was also the beginning of the end of the film business in Seattle as we lost our competitive edge, due in no small part to the games, to Vancouver BC which is now a film making power house thanks to the Canadians subsidising the industry and really making it grow. But that bit of vitriol is for another post.
I had just started dating this woman that I had known for a year or so who was intellegent and cooked and had a cool apartment on first hill with a view of Queen Anne, the Space Needle and Down Town. She also had a great job and made big bucks and was pretty and funny and sang and cooked. We danced around dating since we met but just before Thanksgiving we "hooked up". Bow chicka chicka bow bow
The job was for about 4 weeks and so I dashed off to Portland to shoot this film. I stayed with a friend named Stacy and the show was really cool. It was about a model in New York that had her face slashed up by her land lord because she would not sleep with him. Pretty sick fuck if you really think about it.
John Grey was the director and we were shooting at the same time Gus Van Sant was shooting Private Idaho in Portland. It was cold as it was December and we got one of those regional snowstorms that hit Seattle and Portland.
My official title was with the transportation dept cause I drove the light truck but I was really happy to be there and be lighting a budgeted show for a change. Larry Nielsen was on the show as well as a couple of other buds and the guys and gals in Portlane were the best. Really friendly and good to work with.
So we wrapped the show and as the driver I was asked to take one of the trucks back to Seattle to get the shelving taken out at Seattle Cine and then run it back to Portland. I said sure for Per Diem and a plane ticket back to Seattle. They weasled abit even using Mt St Helens coughing as an excuse to put me on a train but I held out and got the bucks. I think it was 75.00 and a plane ticket. Small Victories.
Now the truck I was moving up to Seattle was a Cab Over Mac with testy brakes. I white knuckeled it up to Seattle in a snow storm in a run that should take 3 hours that took around six.
When I got here it was a winter wonderland. At the time I lived on lower Queen Ann on Roy Street and had to drive a 10 ton truck though snow covered roads dodging the families going to enjoy the nutcracker at the old opera house. Dipshits ignored lights and put their precious ones at risk by crossing in front of a truck on snowy roads. I got home and parked.
Lorraine was expecting me and waiting at my apartment cause we were lovey dovey and missed each others little snoogy woogie kissy faces. I walked in the door and said, "Put on your dancing shoes and red dress baby cause I got per Diem and Im spending it all on you!" we went out and had a drink at Harry's that was around the corner and then off to TS McHughs that was across Mercer. It was snowing. Sean McVicker and his irish band were playing and people were coming into the warm bar stomping snow off their feet and a woman even entered with cross country skis. It was really cool. 16 Years ago tonight.
Lorriane and I both knew we wanted to have kids and we were making kiddie noises and Sean and the band were playing 'Silent Night'. I said, "If we ever get married...let me rephrase that. Will you marry me?" She looked stunned and asked me to repeat it. I did. She Looked stunned and said, "Ok."
We then proceeded to get conspiriatoral and decided to keep it to ourselves until..Im not sure what, but we decided to keep it betwixt us. I went and ordered a bottle of Champaigne, Whidelsy Mark if I remember and told the bartender that I just proposed to my date and she said yes. Next thing the band announces that we had just gotten engaged and suddenly the whole 'keep it to ourselves' thing was just out the window. Many congratulations. We drank the champaigne and in love with each other went home.
16 Years ago tonight.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

We're Back Baby

Pix and so forth to follow as well as the continuation of the movie blogging. Norbert was a real hero during the crisis and had us over for spagetti and booze for saturday night dinner. Yesterday he came up and him a neighbor, John and I got out the chain saws and were manly men doing manly things in a manly way sawing up the tree City Light cut up and left by the side of the road. I got at least a cord of pine out of the deal though I am stiff and sore today.
Laters all and thanks for all the prayers and good wishes.

OH and I rearranged my links to the left. Removed some non posters and added my MySpace link and our dog, Indiana's blog typed by Lorraine. It is an amusing read. I also fixed a couple of broken links and arranged in Alphabetical order.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I so liked this guy

Who's Your 80s Movie Icon Alter-Ego? Find out @ She's Crafty

Monday, December 11, 2006

How I learned to schedule - Or Movies for Mormons

One of the people I met through United Productions was an attorney named Bill. Bill was a decent guy who worked for one of the first law firms in the area to put ads on TV. You know the type. Anyway Bill was a Mormon who wanted to make a film about the teachings if the Mormon Church. It was all well and good and he wanted someone to manage the preproduction and to get some writers to put together a script. He then wanted a schedule and a budget out of all this. Now I had never done this but I was not afraid of a challenge. We hired Mark and Nancy to write a script based on a treatment provided by Bill. I went and attended a couple of seminars on the business of Hollywood. One of which was put on by Mark Litwak. It was basically how, as a writer to pitch a story and how to deal with and what to expect from the studios after you may have garnered some interest in your story. I also researched the teachings and the beginnings of the Mormon Church. For those of you non Mormons that may not know, The book of Mormon teaches that after the Passion, Christ came to the new world to save one of the lost tribes of Israel aka the Mayans. This is why the Mormons take such an interest in converting Native Americans. But I digress. The story to be told ala a 1950s Bible extravaganza, was that of a young Shamoni or Lamoni or something come to drive the wickedness out of the Nephites or the Laminites or something. He found himself called to do so. Needless to say Prophets are never appreciated and I think this one gets the usual Martyr treatment.
So Nancy and Mark take this story and put together a pretty good script and we pay then 100 bucks each for their troubles. But Bill hates it because they are not reverent enough with the material and one of the characters is this jolly old Falstaff. Bill accuses them of making him a drunkard. So they take his notes and move a barely pitch able story to the world of “This will never get made”. The script is done.
Now in the meantime I was researching how to budget and schedule a film. I found a great book by Ralph Singleton. This is a great book for those who are interested in the process. Granted this was back around 1986 or 1987and it was the days before computers were as prevalent as now. So the process was all manual.
It goes something like this. Read the script once just to enjoy it. Read it again breaking it down into scenes giving them scene numbers. In this context a scene is defined as the same people in the same place at the same time. Scene 1 Day Interior Kitchen. Now if the story has the actors move into the living room adjacent to the kitchen, you would have a new scene. Scene 2 Day Interior Living Room. This is because in the context of the scheduling, they are separate places and need to be lit and so forth separately. Now it is kind of a black art because what if the script calls for a steady cam shot following the action into the living room. There is no clear break in the action and it is really all one big scene and should be scheduled that way. But you get the point.
After you have defined all of the scenes you need to figure out how long each scene is in terms of pages and 1/8ths of pages. Given a well formatted script of double spaced courier font an 8th of a page comes out to the width of the standard wooden ruler you would get in school. So you measure out ruler widths of each scene and note how many Pages & 1/8ths next to the scene. I would mark the scenes out with a pencil line across the entire page and measure from line to line. This is not exact but it is close enough for government work.
Now you get some colored pencils or highlighters and with the red underline or otherwise mark every Speaking character in when first encountered in each scene. Then repeat with different colors for Bit roles (Script calls for a juggler to be doing something) and another color for Extras/Atmosphere (A crowded bar). Proceed through each scene using different colors to mark Animals, specific props mentioned, stunts alluded to vehicles mentioned. Essentially you are noting all of the elements that must be present to shoot the scene according to the script.
Then what you do is capture each scene on a separate sheet of colored paper that has squares or sections for each element type as noted above. The colors relate to the time of day and interior or exterior. Day Exterior is Yellow, Day Interior is red Night exterior green and Night interior is blue. I think that is right but frankly I’m not sure if those re precisely the colors. The point is you have a color code for these things.
Then you get what is known as a production or strip board. Now in the days before computers this were literally colored strips of cardboard with room to write down the high level details of the scene, having then sheets of paper to refer to for more details. Along the left side of the board is the header strip which lists name of show Producer / director and other high level show details. Below this is a listing of all the actors / Characters that have speaking parts in the show numbered 1 – n. Where number 1 is the actor in the most scenes and 2 the next most and so on.
Now as can be seen in the image of the strip board the strips are lined so they appear like columns in an excel spreadsheet. So where the actors are listed in the left, you enter the number of the actors playing in a particular scene in their corresponding cell on the strip. Then you start to assemble the board as the script is written. Then you move the strips around so that all the same locations are adjacent to each other. Then you arrange them by Time of day. Then you look at the actors and how they align. Then you user your own experience to break down each days work based on how many pages of script you want to get done. Realistically 5-9 pages is really ambitious. First day less maybe one page should be scheduled as the crew is getting the kinks out. Also maybe you have a couple of crane shots. Schedule them early cause you have money then. The bottom line is you separate each days worth of work that you schedule with black and white strips and viola. You know how many days you will be shooting. Now you have the information to make a budget. And you can twiddle with it. Using SAG actors you have 3 types of contracts. (Or at least back then) 1 day, 3 day, week or run of the show. Now the run of the show is usually a flat rate and reserved for key actors that will be there every day of close enough. I never had to deal with that. But in my day a Day rate was 350, A 3 Day rate was 575 and a week was 1200. The idea being that the more you worked the actors the more money they made but you also got a break. So you are looking at your strip board and you see Jane is in three scenes and they are scheduled out over say a week. You may want to adjust the schedule to make those 3 days contiguous so you get a better rate for Jane’s work. This is really a black art but it is a great tool for helping you as the production manager make the best decision for the show.
So I put together the production board for Bill and came up with a budget of something like 250 K for a 28 day shooting schedule. Of course the film was never made but I learned a valuable skill that I was able to parlay into some paying gigs and it gave me an entrée into the production department. Next I will write about Lessie’s Rainbow where I actually did this on a show that got made. Pretty much.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Greetings all visitors From the Brat!

And welcome. I make no claims to be anywhere near as interesting a writer as The Brat or the others that I link to but welcome and if you wish say hello.

My blog is about my life as a film maker in seattle back during the 80s and projects that I am working on presently. I am currently not working on anythign other the preproduction on a simple show and taking ideas for simple scripts as noted below. Thanks to both Matthew and Iwanski for helping me out. Matt is still working on his script but I really like the story. And Iwanski has sent me a draft that I managed to format last night before I was whisked off to the Neighbors for supper. (See Here's the Thing) There will likely be some editorial process involved in both shows to tighten em up for production but that is to be expected.
These are going to be Consumer grade budget productions so I wont be rentign trucks or cameras and Crafty will likely be what happens to be in the kitchen. and thats cool I want to keep it low key and still come up with good story. For lo, Story is key. So I will use daylight for the exteriors and practicals and my two smith victors for lights and like I said color corrected photo floods. Hey Thats how they lit American Grafitti. If Only I could get Ron Howard.
Anyway I intend to do both shows and have at least on in the can before the new year.
I am disapointed that Yas did not have any Ideas but perhaps she did not see the post.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Perhaps a bit with a dog

[NOTE] I deleted the previouse post as a bud posted a comment with his email asking that I delete the comment after I got it. I was unable to do so so I just deleted the post
Then republished yet
So I am waiting for a story to tell and I was thinking about lighting. I would love to get myself a small assault package that would be close to what we used for Sans Vie but that would be very expensive. But a boy can dream cant he? I have two Smith Victor lights that are 500 watt tungsten (One of the bulbs is borked) but that is pretty much it. Gripy stuff like a few C Stands and sandbags and flags would be cool but are not absolutely necessary. It suddenly occurred to me that all I really need to do is to replace my practical fixtures with color corrected bulbs. They are certainly expensive but no where near as bad as buying lights. With a variety and the Smith victors I could conceivably light my house to do the show.
Matthew says he would let me use a scene or two out of a feature script he is working on which would be cool. I hope that he comes through. But I was really hoping one of my readers that have an idea for a short film could come through. I can execute but I am just not that good a writer. Again something for the kid 12 years old and the spouse to play off each other. More drama than comedy but it can be humorous or at least have a sense of humor. The location is the home/car and perhaps a not too populated exterior / suburban street. Or the park.