Filmmaking Innovations

November 30th at 6:30pm, the Woodbridge campus of NOVA will be hosting a panel forum of four filmmakers, who will share their stories, their creative processes, and answer questions for all those involved.  It is completely free and open to anyone interested in attending.

The event will take place in the Lakeside Theatre on the first floor and it should be a wonderful opportunity to find out what it takes to be a movie director.

We hope you can attend.

Summer Filmmaking Project (Take 3 – Planning)

I want to write a post about something I emphasize to my students all of the time: the importance of pre-production.  This project was a great example of what is lost without planning.

Some things that help elevate a student film into a more polished video is lighting and audio.  Often, students just wish to run around with a camera and are quick to want to edit the footage afterward.  However, audio and lighting are two factors that can make a video look either like a student video or like a low-budget independent film.  I discuss both of these in my PHT 130 course but what we don’t get to spend enough time on in class is pre-production.

Pre-production is about more than just writing a script…it is about planning for everything and anything.  Here are some things that were done in pre-production for this project:

  • Shots were planned for each of the seven spoofed videos.
  • I hired hair and makeup and discussed designs for each video segment (photos were sent to the artists to plan skin tones and so forth).
  • Actors and actresses were recruited around campus.
  • Locations were scouted (got permission to use Padrino’s Pizza as diner shot).
  • Post-production was already considered since some scenes (“Take On Me” spoof) would require special effects.
  • Dry ice was purchased and tested as a ground fog effect for the “Thriller” video (also had to purchase a special cooler, rubber gloves, and a scoop and tongs for the dry ice).
  • Ordered matching dresses online for Robert Palmer video.
  • Rented wide angle lens for elevator shoot since it would be needed in close quarters.
  • Did test shot at night with tungsten lighting.  Edited the results with color grading to see if day for night or real night shoot would work best for “Thriller” shoot.
  • Recruited dancer to choreograph the zombie dance in “Thriller.”
  • Recruited other dancers for “Thriller.”
  • Purchased a Micheal Jackson “thriller” jacket along with other 80s clothing and accessories.
  • Borrowed 80s clothing from different people.
  • Borrowed and tested a small generator from school for the night time shoot.
  • Discussed U2 shoot (which we did not end up doing) with campus police to find out the use of the officers (also secured permission to film on the roof of the building).
  • Attended rehearsal for the dance choreography.
  • Bought bungie cords and ties to be used as a tether system for the car mount (as a back up safety measure).
  • Bought a polarizing filter to film inside of a car.
  • Found two car owners willing to let us use their vehicles for the Whitesnake shoot.
  • Got hair and makeup in line for the Duran Duran shoot.
  • Tested the monitor with new cable hookups for the jib to be used on set for “Thriller.”
  • Recruited a tutor (Piero Franco) to sketch the pictures to be used on the “Take On Me” shoot.
  • Worked with theatre director in the transformation of the theatre.
  • Recruited tutors to build the sets to be used in “Take On Me” and “You Can Call Me Al.”
  • Worked on the theatre lighting design for the in-house shoots.
  • Borrowed and tested smoke machine from theatre department.
  • Bought an additional smoke machine.
  • Bought materials to transform smoke machines into fog machines for low hanging fog.  Constrcuted the machines and tested.
  • Constructed gutter trench system to place the dry ice on the “Thriller” shoot.
  • Bought headstones and decorated the graveyard setting of “Thriller” and buried the gutter system.
  • In anticipation of rain for the “Thriller” shoot, brought protective gear, including trash bags, tarps, hand-held lights, and a pop-up canopy.
  • Ensured the band brought additional musical instruments for “You Can Call Me Al” and Palmer video.
  • Ensured “zany” costume and prop accessories were brought for the “Love In An Elevator” shoot.
  • Secured a skeleton arm for the “Thriller” shoot.
  • Ensured there was fake blood and zombie flesh created for the shoot.
  • Got extras for many of the scenes that were shot.

There were many other things that had to be planned in advance of these shoots as well but you can see how important it is to get a gameplan before filming and communicate your needs to others.  Then, when you expect the worst, you can course-correct later.

For example, we originally planned to shoot the “Thriller” scene on Wednesday, August 1st and we brought about seven dancers, the band members, hair and makeup, and six or seven students from the Filmmaking or Tutors Clubs.  Everyone was to meet at 6pm to start setting the scene or getting into hair and makeup.  The first complication happened at 3pm when I was informed that the young lady who was to play the “girlfriend” in the “Thriller” shoot was no longer going to be a part of it.  With three hours until hair and makeup, I was scrambling around for a replacement (we eventually got a friend of one of the dancers).

Then, we had a delay in securing parking passes on campus and did not get them until almost 5pm.

I transported all of the equipment to campus and we worked to get everything set up for the shoot (about one-quarter of a mile away from the main campus building).  We were ready to shoot at 8:30 and waiting for it to get dark at 8:45 but we never got a chance because it started to rain.  Everyone quickly took down the cameras, the lights, the fog machines, reflectors, etc. and got it covered up.  Yes, we were watching the weather but this was not reported.  At 9:30 the rain stopped and we started to set things up all over again.  I worked with the police to ensure we could get back into the building up to 11pm.  Right as we were about to shoot again at 9:50pm, a HUGE thunderstorm erupted from the sky and we had to, again, take everything down.  In fact, the storm was so bad, a few of us got stuck in the storm, huddled under the small space of the canopy, hoping the lighting would not strike the metal poles all around us (jib, light stands, c-stands, etc.).  The storm lasted until about 10:15 (again, the weather forecast blew this one) and we were forced to cancel the entire shoot for the evening.

We spent the next 45 minutes cleaning up from all of the wetness and drying each of us out (wringing out our clothing).  With the shoot not happening that night AND with all of the planning beforehand, I still lost over $400 in services and goods that were to be used that night that went to waste.

We were able to successfully conduct the shoot two days later but we had to sacrifice some of the planned footage and call in some favors just to get things done before the rain came around 11pm and police and security finally kicked us out of the building (they were wonderful to let us stay that long – truly, the police were great allies in this film project).  Even so, we still had two less dancers (we replaced one at the last minute) and we had to have yet a different “girlfriend” for the shoot.  The humidity was so bad, we had to wipe the lenses between each take.  Also, since I was not happy with the tungsten setup from the original shoot attempt on Wednesday, I rented some daylight-balanced lights for this shoot (another needed planning step but extra time and money).  Also, the fog machines were not working as intended but I could not devote my time to troubleshoot, so I had to go without them (again, wasted the time I spent in advance creating the ground fog machines).  Dancer Lara Kenney was fabulous in assisting in hair and makeup and everyone hung in until the bitter end to get things cleaned up.

So, why did I feel like writing this long blog post?  Simple…I want everyone reading it, especially my students, to realize that the more planning you do, the better the results and the least amount of wasted time and resources because one can only plan for the worstkase scenario and hope to get the best results in the end.


Summer Filmmaking Project (Take 2)

While I have an opportunity, I just wanted to thank some folks who helped the members of the Filmmaking Club with this project:

Our dancers: Lara Kenney, Jenna Owen, Nyeem Braxton, Andrew Buning, Paola Gil, Mike Sherman, Mariah Dillard (and thank you to Lexie Heller and Corine Dillard for acting assistance).

Tutors (helped with acting and behind-the-scenes work): Heather Jackling, Salma Roshdi, Ahmed Roshdi, Terri Miller, Kavya Kothapalli, Piero Franco, Angel Le, Truc Nguyen, Lucky Giron, Cara Brower and Bibiana Cornejo De La Mora.

Thank you to the makeup artists of TDR Artistry.  Additional makeup by Lara Kenney and Rosa Rivas.

Thank you to the campus facilities department (Tony Harbert) for the use of the genertaor and other allowances.

Thank you to the campus police for their continued partnership.

Thank you to Eric Trumball for the use of the campus theatre and other props.

An extra special thank you to Wendy Gazzelli of the Filmmaking Club and her daughters, Megan and Alyssa, for their assistance throughout the production with many odd tasks, errands, and requests.

If I left someone off this list, it was not intention.  However, when there are not many funds to go around to hire personnel for these tasks, it is great to see a campus pull together to help each other.

Summer Filmmaking Project (Take 1)

It has been a long time since I have had the opportunity to post her eon the blog but that is because I have been involved in another filmmaking project here on the Woodbridge campus.

I was working with the Filmmaking Club to create another music video for the band WorstKase Scenario.

It did not begin as an endeavor to make a music video but it is an example of the way things snowball.  We received new Canon 7D cameras in the spring and I wished to test them out well in real-world situations.  So, I got the idea I would do another project, as to not waste the time spent on testing this equipment.  I partnered with Dave Bausch again and decided to do a no-budget music video.  Then, in order to really test the cameras, we wanted to put them through different situations and the idea (somewhere, somehow) of spoofing 1980s music videos became the foundation for this project.  And, finally, the Filmmaking Club was invited along to participate.  So, what began as a simple little task became another full-blown project.

However, I will confess that the cameras got quite a workout and the original test was accomplished but it has cost me a lot of time, money, and stress on what should have never been such an ordeal.  But the students got to see real world conditions, decisions, and all of us got to network further in the industry.

We completed our two weeks of shoots this past Friday and post-production will be strating soon.  Hopefully, we will have a finished product in the coming weeks.

In addition, I will be using this production experience to post a few blog entries about the experience so prospective students have an idea of what it is like in the trenches of filmmaking on no budget.

Music Video Documentary

One assignment of the PHT 130 class this past spring was to create a behind-the-scenes documentary for the film production of the Dangerous Girl music video.

The students completed it just in time and it is a humorous look at their take on the class and making the video.

Thank you again for all of the hard work of all the students involved and a special thank youo to Eddie Gomez for compelting the edit and the creation of the documentary soundtrack (though he misspelled the name of every one of his classmates – oh, well, do one thing and do it right).

Again, I hope all of the viewers can see how much fun these students had in class and, more importantly, how much they learned about film production.

Special Thanks for a Wonderful Experience

I just wanted to send a special list of those individuals I wish to recognize and thank for the completion of this special video project we piloted in the spring 2012 semester of PHT 130 (Video I) here on the Woodbridge campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

First of all, I want to give a very special THANK YOU to all of the students in my class who worked very hard on this project (in alphabetical order):

Carl “Doc” Bentley, Kelly Coe, Joeseph Emerson, Eddie Gomez, Kat Hemphill, Sarah Hicks, Anthony Hyter, Meghan Oney, Lorraine Pino, Isidro Ramirez, Selestino Rodriguez, Danny Salzberg, Allan Setash, Darious Thomas.

Special thanks to Eddie for the rough edit of the music video.  Also a special thanks to those of my students who also acted: Selestino and Darious.  And to the students on set who worked so hard: Allan, Eddie, Doc, Kelly, Kat, Meghan, Lorraine, Isidro, and Danny.

Thank you to our other actors:

Shea Davies ( a professional actress from NYC made the trip to help the cause) – fish vendor

Kim Irwin (one of our own students) – flower vendor

America Twiggs (daughter of one of our campus tutors, Kellee Twiggs) – little girl

Jack Mourad (auditioned for the part) – little boy

And thank you to these individuals who were the extras (in order of appearance): Paul Martin (NOVA student – who knew how great of an actor he would be); Broc Pulley (NOVA student and former PHT 130 student – talented filmmaker in his own right); Dennis Sullivan (one of NOVA Woodbridge’s excellent counselors AND a former student in PHT 130); Mitch Gibson (NOVA student and a great looking fisherman); Megan Gazzelli (NOVA student and a member of the NOVA Woodbridge Filmmaking Club); Wendy Gazzelli (NOVA student and also a member of our Filmmaking Club); Kathryn Nordan Lynch (NOVA student and a Woodbridge tutor); and Bharti (NOVA Student and a new, undiscovered talent).

I also wish to thank Tim’s Rivershore resturant, including our contact, Amy Riggleman, for the use of the restaurant and its property for the actual film shoot.  The food is delicious, so if you have not made a trip there, do it quickly before the summer is done.

Thank you to John Ruffino and the board of the NVCC Educational Foundation for approving a small grant to assist in the payment of 522 productions for their dedicated partnership.

And, of course, thank you very much to 522 Productions for agreeing to volunteer their time, their staff, their equipment, and their knowledge to the completion of this project.  They agreed to work at cost (probably at even less) just to help the cause with the actual film shoot and the color correction of the final edit.  Each student enjoyed the experience!

We hope each of you viewing the vdieo also enjoys the hard work and passes it along to someone else so they can continue to enroll here at NOVA Woodbridge and build the demand for our film classes and increase our film course offerings.

Drum Roll Please….

The music video that was created for the song Dangerous Girl by WorstKase Scenario is finally completed and uploaded to thsi site.  Please view it and the accompanying documentary on the video page of this blog site.

The students from the PHT 130 class worked very hard to finish both projects and to hone their skills they learned in class throughout the spring semester.  they also had the opportunity to work with 522 Productions on the shoot, learning from industry professionals.  We are very thankful to 522 Productions for their time, generosity, and patience.

We would love to hear comments on the video as we continue to prmote this class to prospective students who are considering taking the course in the future.

We also understand there are some minor mistakes in the music video but please know we were on an extremely limited budget and schedule (we did the entire shoot in one long day).  However, I am very satisfied with the professional quality of the completed work and I am extremely proud of all of the students from the spring 2012 PHT 130 course.

There are many others to thank for their time and I will do so in a separate post but I wanted to get this video on-line.  We will eventually load it on YouTube, as well as, the personal Web site of the band and the site of the band’s label.

We will let you know all of those details later.

Raffle Winners

Congratulations to those who entered the raffle contest.  We selected four winners last week in a random drawing of those students who signed into the music Website.

Matt Sita was our big winner of a brand new Nook eReader.

There were also winners of AMC movie tickets, Tim’s Rivershore restaurant gift certificates, and exclusive WorstKase Scenario demo CDs.

Thank you to everyone who participated and I hope we can continue to do contests like this in the future.