The Glove Box - The Screening

So there it is, The Glove Box was screened last night at the Valley Art Theatre, one of 24 entries in the Phoenix Film Project 2004 Fall Film Challenge. We didn't win any awards, but it was cool to see the film on the big screen. The audience reaction was pretty good. Who knows, if Gabe and I had actually voted for our own film, we might have won something.

The other films demonstrated that there are a lot of creative people making films in Phoenix. I tend to always see the effort and creativity that goes into the work, even if the end result is not stellar. Bearing that in mind, I liked about 75% of the films screened. "Manscare" stood out as the most memorable film of the evening, a close-up night-vision of sheer terror in the face of banal activities, such as making coffee, and opening the fridge, with a highly original piano score. This film was totally unexpected and instantly lovable. "The Netherbeast of Berm-Tech Industries" won the competition, and was indeed the best directed, written, and acted piece of the night.

The other films showed a lot of creativity in the selection and composition of shots, overall looks, and others complex editing, some of them packing in scores to hundreds of shots in the three-minute format. It really brought into perspective areas that we need to improve on in the future, which I'll touch on later.

I got to catch (and Tivo) the piece that was done on the Arizona News Channel. Yes, there were John and I standing in line, and I walked behind an interview. Having been there to see what was behind the news coverage highlights just how out of touch and watered down local news really is. On the up side, they showed clips of a few films, and I was struck by the image quality of them all. The projector in the theatre really mangled the images, resizing and causing all sorts of weird banding effects. At times it didn't seem the films were even running at full frame rate.

OK, so on to some constructive self-criticism. That's self-crticism, because even though this was Gabe's movie, I was there for the duration and could have provided more constructive input throughout. I'm sure Gabe can take it in the best way. We can only get better at this by being honest with ourselves. Seeing our film side-by-side with others highlighted areas we can improve in. So, here goes.
  • Look - The look of The Glove Box was the absence of any kind of look. We shot with the goal of getting the best possible pictures, consistent and lit as well as we could. Other than that, it was pretty straightforward, no special effects or filters. I think we achieved what we set out for, the finished product looks very good, the look is consistent, just not very interesting. There is a lot of room for creativity, and most of the other films did indeed have unique looks that had to be planned out and thoughtfully executed.
  • Shot Selection - Again, we stayed fairly conservative in this regard. The shots we did told the story effectively, but nothing really jumps out as very agressive, creative, mind-blowing, etc. The time lapse got a decent reaction, but it was subtle enough that you might not have noticed it. Perhaps it could have been accentuated by a sound effect? The slow zoom back and forth between Gabe and The Glove Box was nice and the switch to handheld for the climactic scene were effective, but very subtle.
  • Editing - The editing was very natural. The performance flowed and was consistent from shot to shot, such as the interior car scenes. However, the editing wasn't really out of the ordinary or agressive. The "Homocide: Life on the Streets" homage during the first scene, in which Gabe pulls the door handle a number of times from a number of angles was actually so fast, I don't know that anyone could catch what was going on. The final scene with Gabe in the car was timed and executed well, and that was probably the most important scene. The rest of the film could have been better, but only with more source material to work with, which would have require much additional forethought to shoot.
  • Wardrobe - This is one of those areas where attention to detail can really set the production apart and create that elusive suspension of disbelief. In this case, I think if we had stuck to our guns and had Gabe dressed up in a real smart looking shirt and tie, very go-getter executive type, it would have been a very different production. Guys in t-shirts are a dime a dozen, sorry Gabe.
  • Locations - Another key area. Some of the other films stood out because of the interesting locations or the lengths they must have gone to get a shot. The dunes in "Tempus Fugit", the lake in "I'm Dead", the carnival in "Lost Dreams" come to mind. Much like the last point, people's livingrooms, cars, and parking lots are a dime a dozen. When we do get to an good location, across from the airport, the whole scene is more interesting. Our parking lot was good for what we wanted to do, but if there were other things going on in the distance, it could have been a lot better.
  • Music - We had some good music, and it fit well and enhanced the film. However, it wasn't a score per se, so didn't really hit all the points we would have wanted it to in a perfect world. The switch halfway through from one style to another seems a little drastic in retrospect. Maybe we could have faded up The Casket Lottery song a little slower.
  • Acting - I saved the best for last. Gabe's acting is probably what stands out the most. Having just a single line of dialogue, he uses subtle physical acting throughout to convey the mounting frustration and tension. It's a thing of beauty. He pounds a glove box like no one else.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really pleased with our film. I just wanted to illustrate that there is room to improve and really kick it up a notch on a lot of fronts. If we do this again, and I hope we do (we should each direct a short for the Spring challenge!), we should really be open to collaborating and encouraging each other to make every shot, every cut, every stitch of clothing, and every prop, the best it can be. Let's get crazy!


I Still Don't Believe

The Boston Red Sox won the Major League Baseball World Series last night... or so they would have you believe.

My first exposure to baseball was the 1986 World Series and Bill Buckner's gaffe. I am shaped from the start by haunting memories of tragic failure. I am not unique in this; it is how generation upon generation of New England youth came up.

That is how, during game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees, I sat quiet and motionless as the Red Sox won, without celebration. And again, how I was silent and frozen last night during game 4 of the World Series, as the Red Sox completed a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. I just couldn't get excited about it.

It was great to see fans parading around carrying "We Forgive Bill Buckner" banners. It was, in a way, a victory that made all those tragedies seem OK. So, why can't I fully enjoy it? Becaused I still feel that somehow, someway, the Red Sox will find a way to blow this one.


Graveyard Shift

Derrick and Amy Ross, AKA Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl, are on the road headed to Cedar City, UT to kick off their Graveyard Shift tour. This is the highly anticipated Fall follow-up to their Summer Minimum Wage tour of the Western United States. They'll be back in the various small towns and bigger cities from last tour, and are adding stops in McCall, Spokane, Bellingham, Vancouver, Eugene, Ashland, and San Diego.

They're going North and back down the coast and taking far longer than most bands would take on the same route. This is not without reason. They're passing over the big cities, like SLC, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in favor of more frequent stops in between where real people can connect to their really good music. They have a good grassroots vibe going with fans and friends made on the last tour helping promote this one.

We hope you check them out, buy their album, and introduce yourself. Here's the route:

10/23/04 SAT The Grind Coffee House Cedar City, UT
10/25/04 MON Royal Palace Spanish Fork, UT
10/27/04 WED Starry Night Provo, UT
10/28/04 THU Common Ground McCall, ID
10/29/04 FRI Quarter Moon Books Missoula, MT
10/31/04 SUN B-Side Spokane, WA
11/02/04 TUE Grant's Brewery and Pub Yakima, WA
11/03/04 WED Toad Mountain Coffee Bellingham, WA
11/03/04 WED Backstage Lounge Vancouver, BC
11/04/04 THU The Meow Meow Portland, OR
11/05/04 FRI Interzone Corvallis, OR
11/06/04 SAT Intaba's Corvallis, OR
11/07/04 SUN Sam Bond's Garage Eugene, OR
11/08/04 MON The Mobius Ashland, OR
11/09/04 TUE Six Rivers Brewery McKinleyville, CA
11/12/04 FRI Scolari's Office San Diego, CA
11/13/04 SAT The Paper Heart Phoenix, AZ

Off He Goes

I leave in the morning for The 18th Annual Bridge School Benefit at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA. The forecast is for cold both days and rain tomorrow, the day we have lawn seats. It should be interesting. If the weather is bad, this will be Angie's first experience with it. It's usually cold for the late-October festival, but usually at least pleasant.

The one really bad year was 2000, when it rained basically the whole weekend. The entire lawn was quickly stripped of all grass and topsoil, and became a very steep mudslide. You wouldn't want to sit it the stuff, but standing wasn't exactly easy, either. Entire sections of people would fall in one big grasping, fumbling cascade of humanity. They handed out garbage bags at the door as makeshift ponchos, but the water seemed to get inside, somehow. It was steamy and miserable and cold and eight hours long, and yet I remember the bands vividly: CSNY, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Dave Mathews Band, Foo Fighters and Tegan & Sara. It's almost as though the physical memory is disconnected from the musical memory.

I'll be back Monday and let you know how it went. Just confirmed, Eddie Vedder has joined the lineup.


The Glove Box - Final Cut

Yesterday I finished the final audio mix on The Glove Box. Gabe came over last night to approve the mix and get a tape for the contest submission.

While mixing the audio, I was afraid the film wasn't going to come across as interesting and frieghtening as we would have liked. In the end, it all came together. I even get tense and jump at the right parts, even though I know they're coming.

The first pass was to clean up the audio from the shoot. I ended up not using much of the original audio at all, as it was rather noisy, didn't match levels from cut to cut, and often had chatter from the crew. I mostly used field recordings we did last Saturday on my DAT deck, mostly ambient soundtracks of starting the car, stopping the car, driving the car, driving on the freeway, slowing down, car stopped with the windows closed, with the windows open, car off with the windows open and closed, etc. At this point it was nice and clean, but not very interesting, and with very little mood.

The second pass was to add sound effects to give our antagonist a little personality. I won't divulge what we used to achieve this, maybe someone can guess after they see it. This added some interest and tension, but the raw sound effects on the cleaned up basic tracks weren't all that convincing.

The final pass was to add music. This was the icing on the cake, and brought it all together. I was able to use the intro to Fatigo's "Spicy Nova" for the first half of the film, just over a minute of instrumental jazzy, bossa nova that could easily be the theme song to a sixties sitcom. I see a young woman in a big city tossing her hat into the air. The light, playful air of this song is a good counterpoint to the building tension of the film. Quite by accident, there were a number of changes that matched up with visual cues.

Gabe got permission from The Casket Lottery to use one of their songs, and wisely chose "Getting By" a creepy, sinister little number. We cut this song up into some key parts and used them to punctuate the action.

The world premiere is Thursday, October 28 at 7:00pm at Valley Art Theatre in Tempe, AZ. It looks like this theatre seats only 150 people. I hope we don't have another 48-Hour Film Contest screening debacle where some people get shut out.

As we speak, my workstation is on its 14th hour of rendering out a 24fps filmic version of The Glove Box. It should be done by the time I get home. We'll see if looks any good and possibly use it for a DVD release. Thanks to Panasonic, the footage looks absolutely amazing, and should lend itself well to the further processing.

Thanks to Angie, Brock, and John for their input and hard work, and to the bands for contributing their music.

Too Good To Pass Up

How about the complete first season of 24 for $14.99? Sounds ludicrous, right? Click here. I didn't get into 24 until season three, so I've never seen these before. I may just have to pick this up.


Officer William Yanco

We don't believe!? Ha! My reverse jinx worked out just as I had planned. The Sox are in, baby! Of course, all that means is that they're going to lose in the World Series instead of the ALCS, but its all good.

Turning our attention to music through technology for a moment, I was deep in thought this evening, reaching way back into my long-term memory to pull out something I thought could be special. I had one of those Google Desktop Search moments; you know you've seen something on your computer screen before and you have to track it back down. Unfortunately, this occurred before the invention of Google Desktop Search, so that doesn't do me much good.

So I just reverted to the classic Google search and found exactly what I needed. You see, 12 Brothers has been sitting stagnant for a while and its anybodies guess when Joshua will actually complete the music or stir up some motivation to begin the 12 man, cross country recording project. Thus, its time to move on.

This project, which I assume will become another EP (as yet unnamed, but you can probably guess what I'm leaning towards), is in the extremely preliminary stages. I'm not even sure if it will come to fruition. For the time being it will have to be just research, research, research.

I don't want to give it all away, but I'll leave you with the juicy tidbits below. Enjoy!



We Don't Believe

Have you been watching the Red Sox the past few days? If you're planning on having a heart attack don't visit Boston. I hear the hospitals are already full and the bill has been shipped to John Henry. The Boston Globe reports that he's having Theo work it into the 2005 salary numbers.

The last two games have been perhaps the most thrilling baseball games that I have had the privilege to witness. Of course, my heart has stopped beating so they may also be the last games that I ever see.

Two games. 25 innings. Over 10 hours! Game 5, clocking in at 5:49, was the longest game in baseball's postseason history. It was uncanny watching game 5, because it was practically a mirror image of game 4. The Yankees take a 4-3 lead. The Red Sox make a move in the late innings to tie it. They have a perfect chance to win and blow it. Ortiz proves he's perhaps the clutchest hitter in the league right now.

But you know what? I'm sick of these "We still believe" signs. I, for one, will be honest. I do not believe. The only thing that I believe in is the fact that this team will break your heart once more. In my mind they are only prolonging the suffering by taking the Yankees deep in this series. They're just toying with the good folks of Boston; setting them up for more emotional injury.

Let's face it, losing in 6 games is harder to take then losing in 5. Why? Because they've given you new hope and then they dash it. Losing in 7 obviously is worse then losing in 6. Frankly, what could be worse? The only thing I can think of is having to watch Mr. "Who's Your Manny?" at the plate for another crucial at bat, with that look on his face like its batting practice.

Hey, Manny! These games count, you know!

But then there's Ortiz, who now owns Boston fans to greater extent than any New England athlete since Larry Legend. Big Papi! I knew it was only a matter of time before the Sox fans would come up with something clever to counter their counterparts' "Who's - your - dad - dy? - clap - clap - clap clap clap" chants. For an Ortiz at bat we got "Who's your Papi?" Of course, there were others, like the "Who's your dealer?" chants for Sheffield, referencing those Balco suspicions. I was waiting to hear the "Je - ter - has - AIDS - clap - clap - clap clap clap" chant, but I guess they leave that one just for the t-shirts (I swear I'm not making this up).

So now the Red Sox season rests on the ankle of Curt Schilling. Why don't I have that warm, fuzzy feeling?

Comcast High Definition Digital Video Recorder

I just wanted to mention that I now have DVR service from Comcast. Overall I've been pretty happy with it and I would definitely recommend it to a friend. That certainly doesn't mean that its perfect, and I can't comment on it in comparison to TiVo, but my needs are met.

The box is by Motorola and its rented from Comcast. Because I already had a high definition cable box the price increase is only about $8/month. Not only is TiVo an extra $13 more a month, but I'd have to buy their high-def DVR (rather than renting), and from what I last heard the price was hovering around the $1000 range. I don't have that kind of spare cash to lay down in one shot.

Again, it does what I want it to do. I have basic needs. Plain and simple, I just wanted a way to record high-definition programming. Comcast provides a pretty easy to use interface, though its not laid out in the best possible way. You can pause live TV, do the instant replay, the whole bit.

There are a few drawbacks. For one thing, when you set up a recurring recording it doesn't understand when things get pre-empted. I had set it up to record Pardon the Interruption on ESPN HD every weekday at 5:30 p.m. Too bad the next day ESPN nixed PTI for a round of golf. What happens to the DVR? I get the entire 4 hours of golf recorded for me. Great!

Also, there no dual tuner, so you can't record one thing and watch another or record two things at once. I'm told that TiVo can do this. On the flip-side, at least you can record something and watch something else off your DVR. Or, something that I do frequently, record something and start tuning in before its over. All you have to do is start viewing the program from the beginning while it finishes recording it. This can really cut down on the time spent on a program, too, since you can fast forward through the commercials and watch an hour program in 45 minutes.

There's four speeds of fast forwarding, which is very nice. At first I thought it was irritating, but then I realized the benefit of the slow fast forward (oxymoron?). For instance, I watched the entire Patriots game on Sunday in about 45 minutes. I had a great system. FF when the Patriots are on offense; FF2 when the Pats are playing D; FF4 through commercials, halftime, possession changes, etc., etc., and so on.

Again, its flaws are minor and don't make much of a difference. The only real complaint that I have is space. You can only record about 9 1/2 hours of HD programming (as opposed to about 100 hours of regular def). This is a severe limitation. I've already run into issues where I want to record a movie and I have to clean house on my hard drive. Its a pain and highlights the need for a standard HD DVD format to be brought to market at a reasonable price. DVR is your short-term memory and DVD is for the long haul.

The true test of the DVR, though, like anything, is how Darrell reacts to it. Let's just say that it was love at first sight. He was ready to get on the phone and order his own after one quick demo.

Anyway, I have Gattaca in beautiful widescreen HD sitting on my DVR box right now. I'll save it on there for when Joshua and Angie come out. There's nothing like seeing extreme close-ups of body matter falling to the ground in glorious 1080i.


The Glove Box - Day Two

Just wrapped on photography for The Glove Box. Got all the juicy close-ups, reactions, reverse angles, and menacingly slow zooms you could want in a three minute horror/suspense short. I learned that Gabe can say a single line thirty different ways. I figured out how to work the camera's remote wand. All in all, a good day.


The Glove Box - Day One

I was so tired last night, I accidentally clicked Save instead of Post...

Just returned from the first day of shooting The Glove Box, our entry into the Phoenix Film Project Fall 2004 Film Challenge. Gabe wrote the excellent screenplay, under pressure when no one else was feeling particularly creative. I'm serving as the cinematographer, and Brock as a creative consultant, since he has numerous film commitments for school (he's already in high demand). Angie and John were the all-around crew for the day, keeping equipment at the ready and holding reflectors for fill light. Jeremy contributed a few ideas long-distance. The hooligans were played by honest-to-goodness real life hooligans!

I couldn't wait to see the footage, so we watched it a few minutes ago. Good news, it looks great! The colors are vibrant, and overall it looks very slick. The ND filter came in very handy in the bright afternoon sun (I could have even used a much more powerful one if I had it available, I'll add it to the list of things I need to buy). We got some jumbo silver windshield covers and used them for fill light, to great effect. Many of the in-car shots would not have been usable without the added light, and the fill light was just enough to cut down the contrast of the in-car light and the bright sky.

The cameras manual controls were also used to great effect, and resulted in three distinct looks to match the three main sections of the screenplay. With the exposure locked for the duration of a each section, the visuals stay very consistent and professional-looking. The first section is predominantly in the mid-afternoon, with lots of blue sky from inside and outside the vehicle. The second sections is late afternoon, with beautiful golden sunlight and long shadows. I also turned the sharpness down (to reduce DV jagged edges) for this section, and we moved to mostly handheld to add drama (note we didn't use handheld throughout, so it stands out and serves it purpose when it appears). The final section is at night, and the lights we used were a very pure white, making the night look almost black and white.

We shot a lot of coverage and we should have more than enough footage to make all the aspects of Gabe's vision come to life. We even took a stab at an admitedly ambitious concept, one that took hours to pull off and will result in mere seconds of visuals in the final cut, but should really set this production apart.

Gabe's acting was subtle and superb. He handled freeway and city driving duting while simultaneously doing primarily physical acting. He even did some high speed stunt driving! He came away with a few battle scars, only flesh wounds.

We got more than expected from our impromptu hooligans. Much more. That could be a post in and of itself.


You Are Cordially Invited ...

... to join Gmail.

I recently received one myself and signed up. Finally, I can return the favor. I have five invitations that I can send out (I had six, but had to hook Joshua up ahead of time). Just let me know if you want one.

This will be a first-come, first-served basis, though I do reserve the right to reject anyone. What can I say? I love power.

Let me offer a warning first, though. Gmail is not all that its cracked up to be. I had heard grand experiences from Gmail users about how it would change the way that you use e-mail. In fact, its pedestal was so high that it almost had no chance. Granted, it does have some nice features which improve upon what you've come to expect from Yahoo! and the rest. But this is not world-shattering type of stuff, people; this is, "Oh, that's kind of cool, but this kind of just looks like Yahoo! Mail did four years ago" kind of stuff.

Of course, the 1GB feature does trump everything else, if you have a need for that sort of thing. Beware WAP users, as I have yet to find a tried and true provider of WAP access to my Gmail account (though here's one that looks pretty shady, if you're into that sort of thing). Google certainly doesn't offer one.