So this new piece has been rolling around in my head for a long time, about 5 years. I was going to follow up HORRORS OF WAR with this in 2006 if I could manage it. I had 4-5 drafts of the screenplay, and it just didn t come together. The stars were not aligned at the time. The past few months have been much more about waking up, like from a terrible dream (ever see Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom and the whole takes a fire to burn you out of the trance?). 

I made the first couple shorts this year to get my legs back. Making movies is like playing guitar (something I used to do). If you don t practice, you can lose the skills a bit and get rusty, so the shorts acted as my trial run. Both pieces (Refractory and Relationship Card , alliteration unintentional) I am proud of. I have improved on some of my old skills and ideas. I have not only retained some, but I tried new and better things with telling a story with the camera.

This past Saturday, we shot a 5 page script. It was my first real chance to work with Greg Sabo since a 1 day pickup shoot on HORRORS OF WAR and he wanted to play some with his RED ONE camera. We ve talked about working together for a while and this was great. He’s an artisan with the camera and Greg has a lot of big toys.

Now I remember why I wanted 8 weeks of rehearsals with the actors. There was barely any time on the shoot to focus on performance a lot as it takes hours to setup lights (to make it look like you didn t light anything). When the sand starts to drain out of the hourglass, you have to rely on the actors to know what it is they are doing and what you did in rehearsal. There wasn’t a lot of gray area about what the scenes were about and what I wanted, so we had it all smooth as glass. I will definitely rehearse like this again. The worry is that you over-rehearse and kill the spontaneity, but it didn’t since we saved the bigger performances for camera.

Max and Ruth filled in for art department, and they did an incredible job. It helps when you have department heads that take their jobs seriously and really think about the purpose and meaning, as well as how color reflects mood and character.

Shane Howard stepped up to bat for a couple FX shots, especially the bullet hole in a head. He delivered on time, and fast. That helped. Max “Bruce Willis” Groah delivered on a promise that blood splatters would easily wash off walls and carpet and it did.

I brought on the Derek as a producer to help me not have to deal with every tiny detail that wasn’t related to directing. I often short change myself as a director because I produce my own stuff a lot. On HORRORS OF WAR, I had that same opportunity and I squandered it some as I wasn’t as prepared to actually Direct. I don’t want to NOT appreciate things like this, so Derek is da’ man for covering, and also ADing the shoot.

Sound was done well, and I start to wonder how much of Chauncey’s rep is undeserved. Having a full crew of about 20 helped the day not take forever. We lost time in a company move from the house exterior to a different house 3 miles away for interiors, but it was worth it to get the depth.

The RED footage is staggeringly impressive. It has latitude much more akin to film and that is not even taking into account the 4000+ pixel size of each frame. We started at the exterior shoot around 11AM and ended that portion after Noon. The sun baked us but the footage looked great on the monitors. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the digital files after the footage dump, but Greg showed me how much latitude the footage had. REDCINE software and even a version of it within Adobe Premiere Pro 4.1 (with Red 1.7 updates) allows you to put the equivalent of a filter over the footage or an entire telecine colorist in front of the raw R3D files before you use them to edit.

I downloaded all the footage to my internal drive of my computer at home, more as a backup, but I figured I could peruse the footage, albeit slowly since the specs are nowhere near RED minimum. After a 4 hour transfer whilst I slept, I got up at 8:30AM to sneak a peek. The footage set to play at 1/8th quality played surprisingly well. In fact, all my plans to create HD proxies to edit from might be put on hold since the machine at work is a lot faster and more filled with RAM.

If I thought the footage looked great on the monitor, that wasn’t nothing compared to what I looked at today. The detail was staggering. The RED ONE is the most filmic video camera ever manufactured. The depth of field, the lens options, the latitude, contrast, and quality of image all rival actual 35mm film. I can clearly see now what so many TV shows are switching over this fall. It makes sense on many levels. For TV, there is no film print being made (anymore), and the look matches well and it makes everything easier in post production for editing and finishing. The only significant difference now seems to be archival. It is a tapeless workflow and it is all data on drives of various sorts and if something gets corrupted or lost, it is gone as opposed to a tape or a roll of film negative.

Just as I had hoped, this will be the best thing I‘ve ever made. I rehearsed the way I wanted to, played with depth of field for cinematic reasons, and worked with a good crew to meet my goals and everyone exceeded them. Whatever my hopes were for a “look” greatly passed my expectations. By luck, serendipity, inspiration or whatever it was, the color of costuming, paint on walls, randomly selected paintings and lights all coalesced into a perfect image on virtually every frame.

I wanted to thank the entire cast and crew for helping to make something special to me. I hope I put together something that deserves the talent that was involved. I m just trying to make fun of some aspect of humanity that annoys me and I got A-List creative types from our area. I soooooo don t deserve this.

I’ve already started going through all the footage and making my mental edits. I promised myself NO EDITING the first two days after the shoot. Get some distance and maybe even get another editor to take a crack at it. This is akin to the promise I made to myself about NO MORE COCA COLA CLASSIC and GOING TO THE GYM. At this rate I’ll have a rough cut done by Tuesday morning when I promised myself I’d start looking at footage.

Good day Acolytes of Boo!

Categories: blog

Peter John Ross

A filmmaker, a dreamer, and the world's only Dan Akroyd Cosplayer


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