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Tag: Filmmaking

Film Gear: Clamps

by on Jun.08, 2012, under Gear

Looks like you’ve got Clamps.

Clamps are often the silent heroes of the grip department.  Sure, a C-stand can hold up anything, as long as you have enough of them, and room to set one up on the floor.  But what about when you can’t put anything on the floor because you want to do a 360 pan around.  Or maybe you need to hang a light from a rail.  Who ya gonna call?

Clamps are champs

I generally don’t like buying a lot of gear.  It’s expensive and heavy to haul around, and small stuff can sometimes walk away on a big set.  So when I add something to my kit, it’s almost always because I was on a shoot where that item was either missing—and sorely missed at that, or the item was there and saved the day.  The fact that I have several types of clamps should indicate just how often the right one can save your keister.

(continue reading…)

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Kicking Off the Richard Fairbanks Documentary Project

by on May.24, 2011, under Projects

I’ve been working on a number of projects lately but wanted to share some footage from my latest: a documentary on influential American art potter Richard Fairbanks.

This will be a longer term project which I’ll shoot in bursts as exhibitions of Richard’s work and interview subjects become available.  Here is a snippet of an interview with art critic Matthew Kangas, along with some images of Richard’s work–all of which I recently filmed at an exhibition at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum.

To say that I’ve been connected with this story for quite a while would be quite an understatement.  Richard was one of my mother’s art professors at Drake University.  (And without my Mom’s influence and art lessons since before preschool I doubt I’d be pursuing an artistic profession today.)  My wife, Ahn Lee also edited one of the first books written about Richard fifteen years ago.  And our family has known Richard’s widow Dixie Parker-Fairbanks for many years.  So when the opportunity came up to make a documentary film about Richard’s work, I was in. Richard and Dixie’s story is remarkable: bridging the worlds of art, international relations, and intrigue.  There’s also an inspiring human story at the center of it, so I’m excited to see how it evolves and takes shape.

This documentary is also a great example of the “new model” of filmmaking…namely all the jobs being done by a lot fewer people than they used to be.  The economics of this project dictate that I do all the jobs of lighting, shooting, running sound, interviewing, and of course, packing up the truck at the end of the day.  (Not to mention all the post-production.)  The “new” part of this equation is that the equipment that’s available today makes it possible to actually capture the quality that a project like this demands. With two Panasonic GH2 HDSLR cameras, a Tascam DR-680 recorder with mics, and a couple lights and stands, I can get professional results from a film studio that fits in the back of a Saturn Astra.

The "new model" of guy does everything.

I’ve been doing a number of one-man-band shoots lately and I’ve come away with two realizations.  First is a deepened appreciation for what a true dedicated professional brings to each job on set.  The second is amazement that one person can actually pull off a nicely lit, two-camera shoot with quality sound and no nasty surprises in the editing bay.  This is certainly not the way I’d like to work from now on; every moment I’m on set I feel like I’m just barely capturing what is required without really bringing the art or sophistication that one could if they were to focus on just one or two jobs.  However, many of these projects are the kind that simply would not happen if I had to wrangle vehicles, equipment, and personnel.  They would be missed opportunities.  And I’m usually pleasantly surprised (and very tired) at the end of the day to discover that the work I spent all day worrying was less than my best still looks pretty good.  Especially compared to something that just wouldn’t exist at all otherwise.

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Edit by Mail

by on Feb.19, 2011, under Filmmaking

Long-distance's the next-best thing to being there.

I’m working on two big editing projects at the moment and for me they’re a great reminder of how far the technology of editing has advanced in recent years, but also what may have been lost along the way. Editor Travis Bleen, writer-producer Andrew Stoneham, and I have just locked the cut on our new short film Coffee & Pie just in time to do the sound and color correction for our premiere in about two weeks at the Bermuda International Film Festival.  And of course, post-production continues on Divergence with editor Tony Randel, assistant editor Mike Canon, and my co-creator Dan Southworth.

The way I work on most editing projects has changed drastically in the past few years.  Once upon a time, editors literally cut and spliced strips of film, so they had to be in a room where the film was.  There was no duplicate set somewhere else for another editor or the director to muck around with.  The editing happened in the room and it was generally a two-person job because while one was cutting and splicing, the other was going and looking for the right piece of film.

Thank goodness those days are over. (continue reading…)

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Open Source Entertainment

by on Sep.04, 2010, under Filmmaking

Hey look a bunch of LEDs on a computer chip. Let's call that Open Source!

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of Open Source Entertainment and just what that mash-up of different worlds could be.  …if anything.

Open Source, of course, comes from the open source software movement where a bunch of people from all over the world to work together in a sort of human cloud computer of developing new software.  Linux is the granddaddy of open source software but there are now numerous applications.  OpenOffice is an open-source Microsoft Office clone.  Blender is an impressive open-source 3D modeling application.

What’s interesting to me is the thought of applying open-source principals to creating filmed entertainment.  Part of the reason I’m considering this is my upcoming action/sci-fi series Divergence.  The first season of Divergence is being produced in a manner that has a lot of similarities to open source—that is, a lot of people working together  with the goal of creating something great, rather than immediately profiting.  In that way, low-budget filmmaking and open source software development have always shared a core key idea. (continue reading…)

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What to Wear: Director’s Edition

by on Feb.18, 2010, under Questions

Here’s a question I made up because I’ve never seen this issue covered:

Hey Douglas,

Amazing site!  Here’s my question:  Everybody talks about how to direct, but no one addresses the really important stuff, like what a director should wear.  Any advice?

– D.H.

Wow, what an amazingly insightful question!

For an indie director, what you wear matters, because you’re going to be in it all day.  (And possibly all night when you collapse in a stupor at the end of the day.)  It’s important to be comfortable all day long…and it’s a long day we’re talking about, especially on location shoots.  (Isn’t every independent film a location shoot?)  What I walk out the door wearing is probably what’s going to be on me all day long.  I’ve found that anything I take off during the day usually ends up lost or borrowed.  While making smart choices about what you wear on set may not seem all that crucial the first day or two of your shoot, by day 17, little choices can translate to big differences in your ability to push ahead without your body going into revolt. (continue reading…)

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