Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Post Mort

Rich, we've got no printer. I turned 21 yesterday, and I hurt. This is just timestamped proof that it's written - I will bring you a hardcopy as soon as I can feel my eyes again.


Shannon Bennett
Post Mort Essay

The following is a list of the most prominent problems I have encountered during my directing 3 experience, my reaction to them, and how I plan to avoid them as Capstone sneaks up on me.

- Lack of certain types of coverage.
o I attribute this problem to how long it took for me to secure a location for my film. If I’d had a space to diagram much earlier on, I would have been more prepared in terms of a shot list and schedule.
• Next year, I plan to assemble a production team instead of piling all of the responsibilities on one producer. Included in this team will be a Location manager whose soul responsibility will be to secure a location at the head of pre production.

- Dissatisfaction in the performances of my actors.
o I auditioned a lot of people, and made my decisions based on where I saw the most talent. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to create chemistry and comfort between my leads before shooting.
• I will cast early and set aside rehearsal time. I will also research methods of creating the necessary relationships between my actors so that their repertoire is believable. I will also have time to play with improvisations so that recited dialogue will not sound so wooden.

- Random editing blips
o My actors overlapped when speaking.
o There was a serious eyeline issue.
• I could blame my script supervisor for these issues, but honestly, it was a problem that no one caught it. As an editor it’s necessary for me to be more aware of things like that while I’m shooting. Hopefully, because it’s caused such an inconvenience this year, I have learned my lesson.
o Sound was horrible.
• We needed to be monitoring sound during filming. The echo is horrible and some of the actors are incoherent.
• We also never recorded roomtone, which has turned out to be a huge issue in the wake of the aforementioned problem.

- Time for post
o It took me entirely too long to lock picture. As a result, I will not have time for a sound mix or color correction before our screening.
• I will create a schedule with deadlines ahead of time.
• I will assign people to specific jobs with deadlines as well. If I have a date to aim for, I may be more confident in my decisions when I feel like my deadline is sooner than the actual end.

As a final note, assembling my team much earlier will be a huge component to my capstone process. I’m determined to have a team of producers to simplify the process, and pre-production will last much longer.

I also want my producer(s) to be involved in the post process to keep me and the post team on schedule. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I didn’t finish a polished version of the film on time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In the Wake of Feedback

So, these test screening forms are pretty intense. Some of my personal favorites.

- Everything is okay, except for the story.

- The music ... sounded soft core pornish. You might wanna go with another song, or not ...

- Visually is was very nice in general

- Excellent job, if not a bit cliched story. (if anyone knows a story I have cliched, please, please let me know.)

- Was she dreaming, or had she known before?

- Music must be improved! I was wondering if this film were made for the same person because they all have Jump cut that are not clear and they just confused the picture.

- I'm not a fan of romance/fantasy (Sorry?)

- Please change eyelines in cafe conversation.

- The opening ... I didn't understand. Don't like the title, how does that go?

Okay, so, translations are more than welcome.

Seriously, though, some of the feedback is useful, and I loved reading opinions on my film, even if some of them were a bit ... harsh. Or incoherent.

Rich made a good point - you have to read between the lines for useful material.

Now, I'm off to the editing bay to use that eyeline changer tool in Final Cut ...

Saturday, March 31, 2007


Ever watch something so many times that you can't tell what's working anymore? My sound has been thrown off sync, and I'm fixing it, but I need to take a small vacation from my cut so I can approach the thing with eyes fresh enough to know what the hell I'm changing.

Also, the sound thing is a huge pain in the arse.

Happy Holidays.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


I've got a new cut. And it's comin' to class. Brace yourselves.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sleigh Bells

So, updating during post is pretty difficult. I would just post random clips of stuff I'm improving, but that'd take all the shazzam out of showing another cut, which I intend to do.

I've re-cut my opening to Blue Christmas, and I'm rather loving it. Music is becoming really vital to the project, as is displayed in my teaser.

I need to find a sound designer for post to help me with some ADR, and I'll be meeting with Phil soon to get an idea of what we're going to do musically for the fantasies. Right now, we just have sleigh bells ringing everytime one happens, which is actually pretty funny, but I want more (naturally).

I'm not sure if seeing the pure magic of some of the other films (Has Heppe's cut finished circulating yet?) has pressured me to strive for perfection, as it ought, or kind of relieved me, as I now know that our screener will be bested by no one. Regardless, I'm still slaving away, smiting all of my other classes in the process.

Anyway, off to work on my sorely neglected feature.

Friday, March 16, 2007


So, here I am, on campus - doing some editing like a good film student on Wednesday night - and I figure, okay - let's get a CD out of my car and pull some music onto the sequence.

I walk out into the hallway - toward the snack machines - and this guy, in full SWAT armor, complete with visor helmet, swings out from behind a wall with a GUN.

Turns out there was some training going on. The entire team soon spilled out in equally terrifying armor to ask me wtf I was doing at school in the middle of the night (10:30). They told me to leave, and I did, unscathed, but, all the same, I figured I'd share.

Moral: Edit during spring break - get shot.

Be careful kids.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


Okay - so, this isn't a real trailer, because it gives EVERYTHING away. But, this will give you guys a better idea of what I'm goin' for.

Enjoy (and comment)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Window Shopping

This image is perfect as a title card to my film. It sums everything up. So, here we are, a day after shooting, and I have the following to say:

First of all, Desiree has been amazing. I didn't have to worry about anything on set, and she even took care of the equipment return sans moi.

The set went really smoothly. We are missing one vital shot - the coverage of which, in one take, is done with the eyeline in the wrong direction, but I should be able to handle it.

Phil has helped me do a pass of my first half rough cut, and I'm very happy with what we've turned out. We've discussed some of the music ideas we've got - sound design will be crucial in this project.

Anyway, just wanted to pop in. Enjoy some stills from the shoot, I had to brighten them a lot to get them to look decent a la the computer, so I'll fix that tomorrow - I'm going to sleep.

This is the cafe - all Christmased up. It looks fantastic. The frost on the windows was a nightmare to get off, and for the record, I hate that stained glass door.

Jesse was the comic relief on set - thank God. In this photo he's being moderately obnoxious. It's also a fantastic display of the fake Swiss Alps-esque landscape he created with his top-notch production design.

Fantasy Christmas apartment - looking lovely

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Second wind

Yesterday was productive - we had our final production meeting, and assigned last-minute jobs around the table, I met with Johnny (my A.D.) and Jeanette (my 2nd) to hash out the schedule that matches the finalized cafe shot list, and at the end of the evening, I went over to Jesse's to look at some truly spectacular decorations he's picked out for the apartment.

Today, we'll be going to look at stuff for the cafe, which will be minimal, since Jesse's take on this elaborate place is that we'll be getting rid of decor much more than we'll be placing it - and he's absolutely right.

Ginan, my catering manager, may be more stressed out than me. She's got our cheesesteaks and pizza, as I mentioned in class, and I'm sure lots of wet naps, and is hounding Atlanta Bread to help us out as we speak. Hopefully everyone will be well fed on Sunday.

Speaking of which, we've got plenty of extras as far as I know, which is a relief. We'll need holiday shopping bags (if anyone's got some) to pass around, assorted gift wrap, etc.

Anyway, all is looking great. Let's hope it stays that way.

Friday, February 16, 2007


We haven't found the perfect wardrobe for Rebecca yet, but I did want to share some of the shots we got from her at the meeting last night.

Her attitude/look makes me feel really good about what we're going to turn out.

Also, the meeting was a roaring success - we had a creative pow-wow and figured out how to make the location work. I'll be finishing up my rewrite tonight. :)

(note the engagement ring - most likely what we'll use)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Big meeting tonight

Today's horoscope:

Has it ever occurred to you that even if you don't achieve all your goals, you're still better for trying? Compare yourself with people who admit defeat before they even get out of bed in the morning -- you have a lot to be proud of. Your past efforts might not have taken you exactly where you wanted to be today, but they took you in the right direction. The rest of the journey might be laborious, but it will eventually lead to its proper conclusion.

Okay, so, I'm not ga-ga for my location. Maybe it'll work out. I just need to alter things a bit. I have the power to do that (as I keep reminding myself.)

The meeting tonight will help, I think. Quite a bit.

In the meantime, I need lots o' extras. If you know anyone, let me know. Also, I've lost my Script Supervisor, so I need someone for that (now) too.

Here's what I'm going to do today:

My script isn't what we'll use for shooting, so I'm going to break it into scenes for my actors. This will give me an opportunity to rethink positioning and actions while I write - and to revamp dialogue.

News on the meeting soon -

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Falling into place

I found my Gemma! I don't have an online image of her to share, but she's very cute, and almost spot on for what I pictured when I wrote the part. I need to cast around her age range, because she's younger than I anticipated, but she's very talented, and I'm excited about what we're going to turn out.

I'm going to check out our location in a few minutes to scratch up a final shot list. It's beautiful from what I remember, and already has quite a few Christmas lights displayed on gorgeous through-the-floor trees that grow up into the restaurant.

Obvoiusly, I need to make some script adjustments, but I'm super relieved that everything is beginning to come together.

Cast and Crew meeting this Thursday. Will do some make-up tests, establish wardrobe, and get a few screen-test shots out of the way to be posted here.

Still have to find an alleyway, but I'm feeling good about everything.

I've got good maybes for Lillith and the Wholesome guy. Those parts will be easier to cast. I'm thinking about making the wholesome guy a restaurant employee since we coudln't find a bookstore, but I'm not sure if that, plus the collision with Gemma makes for too much of a reminder of my unfortunate Directing I piece.

Anyway, off I go. Location images perhaps later tonight.

Everyone send a "get well" to James - part of him exploded. Had to hurt.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Pushing back

Thank all that is holy, I have more time.

Yesterday was an emotional disaster. Everything has just been lagging and keeping everyone in order was nearly impossible with everything so close. So, like the gracious and merciful diety he is, Rich gave me Johnny's spot.

We had a production meeting yesterday, and it was much more constructive in lieu of a two week grace period than it would've been with all of us sprinting toward this weekend.

Natura is secured as my bookstore for the time being, and I have a shot list to match, but Suppa and I are going out today to look at a few more places before any final decision is made.

I also have my male lead cast, as I mentioned before - here he is. Obviously it would be a bit strange to call him "Tarek," so as I said before, I'm furiously brainstorming for different names.

Anyway, off to location scout - wish me luck


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Approaching the storm

Here's where I am -

I held auditions last weekend, and they went very well. I will be changing Tarek's name, since the best male actor I saw is very All-American, and the name doesn't suit him. He absolutely blew me away, so I feel justified in this decision.

I've been juggling a few names for a while here: Charlie, Luke, etc. Any ideas are welcome.

I don't have a Gemma yet. I saw some definite maybes (very flakey of me, I know), but I'd like to see a few more girls before I make my final decision. Desiree's taking care of that.

I'm going to go check out St. Augustine this weekend and see if I can lock onto a positive location. I'm getting sort of panicky because I'm shooting in a little more than a week, so it's cutting things very close. As it is, I need to get my production book flying toward Lisa last week.

So, it's around 10pm, and I'll probably be on campus for another few hours finishing that business up. I'm going to meet with Desiree later tonight, and bring Jesse along to discuss props, etc.

I met with Rich concerning my script last week, and got some great feedback. I feel comfortable pushing toward the comedic side of my story now, and got some good starting points. I'm going to wait to make my third (and hopefully final) revision until after I see my locations.

I feel like they can be a character in and of themselves, so they deserve a bit of discovery before I lock onto a plan of action. However, sequence will be the same, so I'm good to start planning schedules and whatnot.

Anyway - headshots and location photos coming soon.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Rewrite, etc.

I finished a complete rewriting of my script yesterday. What will probably end up happening is a combination of the two drafts. The story is still exactly the same, but I wanted to play with dialogue and locations.

The story is pretty versatile. I just want to be ready for any sudden changes as shooting approaches. I was telling Desiree that I could really make any sort of social location work for the reality scene. I just need to make sure I can give it the proper seasonal feel.

I met with my DP yesterday too. We got a lot accomplished. Obviously, casting and locations will leave a bunch subject to change and adjustment, but we've hashed out a basic color scheme, etc.

I want the shoot to look powdery. Think eye-shadow tones and consistencies.

As far as locale goes, Drew is becoming attached to the idea of shooting in St. Augustine, and I must admit I think it would bring another layer of fantasy to the piece. The entire city has an otherworldy type of feel to it when one is a visitor, and the ambiguity of time and place perfectly suits the story at hand.

The idea of having a harbor in my film hadn't previously crossed my mind, but right now it seems perfect. Of course, I'm not getting too attached to anything yet.

Well, with the exception of having cobbelstones for my alleyway scene.

Originally, I had pictured something simple, even kind of skeezy - like this:

But wider, of course.

Now, the possibilities of things like the following have got me all a flutter:

(exclude starving orphan from my fantasy shoot).

Anyway, I'll probably use some of these images in my pitch tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fresh starts

Didn't get to pitch this week. However, I'm guessing this will work out in my favor since now that I've seen it done, I have an opportunity to polish up my plans, maybe even make a nifty slideshow.

I had a productive meeting with my Art Director (Jesse Chapman) last night - was supposed to meet with my DP (Drew Suppa) today after colloquium, but he had an emergency to attend to in Tampa, so we've rescheduled for next Monday at noon. I'm going to try to get Jesse in attendance, so the three of us can hash out a basic idea of what we want.

I've decided to dedicate one day of shooting to the cafe/restaurant area. We'll do breakfast and lunch there and wrap before sundown, hopefully without too much light shift. The next day half the crew will convene at the apartment set and begin to get things ready and set up dinner catering, while the other half films the alleyway stuff nearby. We'll get back to the apartment, feed everyone, and wrap after a few of the simplest shots I have in mind for the entire film.

As long as the cafe stuff goes smoothly, I think the plan leaves little room for error.
On a slightly unrelated note, I lost my job today. It's been a while coming, and I can honestly say that I'm a slight bit relieved. However, my ex-boss graciously has agreed to pay me for the next two weeks, which will give me free time to prepare for this shoot and to look for replacement employment.

I couldn't have gotten two weeks paid vacation if I hadn't been "let go," so I'm going to go ahead and look at it as a positive thing.
I've decided I would like to produce one film. I've offered to one in particular that I'm waiting to hear back about, but if anyone is desperate for a producer, please give me a ring.
So - here's my crew list so far:
Producer - Desiree Proctor
Director of Photography - Drew Suppa
Gaffer - John Heppe
Grips - James and Robert Dastoli
Art Direction - Jesse Chapman
First A.D. - Sean Heyboar
Script Supervisor, etc. - Janine Godfrey
Craft Services - Ginan Jobarah
Am I missing something imperative? Aside from filling PA positions, if I'm missing something vital, let me know.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Couple of inspirations I've been turning over in my mind

I've put a lot of thought into how I want this baby to look. Kubrik's Dark Christmas in Eyes Wide Shut has been a huge inspiration as far as mental images I have of the fantasy scenes.

Christmas films share a unique potency - a specific feeling that is only replicated by driving by nativity sets or hearing Silver Bells on the radio. However, more than cheesy moments, there's an intimacy and seductive aspect of the holiday that wraps up most of the known world. It drives people to do things they wouldn't usually do, and want things that would usually only be a passing fantasy.

Kubrik's Gothic take on the holidays is perfect for what I'm going after. Rich, decadent colors that match the overindulgence of the story and the people who will be carrying it.


Now, speaking of indulging - As many of you have heard (over, and over) I have been heavily inspired by a French film released in America as Love me if you Dare.

This story revolves around two very selfish people who love each other, but are trapped in a cycle of vicious attacks on one another to maintain their own upper hand in a game that they've played since childhood.

It's wildly romantic and horribly dysfunctional at the same time, and it has much the tone that I'm going for with Gemma's character.

Poor Tarek (her childhood friend) has never been up to her games, but she's at the end of her rope, and her determination will (hopefully) be what makes us fall for her.

Another thing about Jeux d'enfants that I love is the moments of obvious absurdity and surrealism as an insight more to the character than to the actual physical story. It's something I would love to experiment with, and am, superficially, with the fantasy sequences in the script, but I'd love to have something a bit more fun, like Amelie melting in the Two Windmills or one of the daughter's fantasies from Antonia's Line.

As far as the stuff in the cafe goes, I was thinking rosy and gold to make it look very warm and welcoming in opposition to the assumably cold weather. Of course, Gemma would want none of this, but I think it would have the right feel.
Music will also be important - I can't get the idea out of my head of Gemma and Tarek dissappearing into a hotel room under a high guitar riff of a provocatively sped up "O Holy Nite"

Anyway, to wrap things up, I've been coming up with taglines in hopes of teaching myself to slim down my descriptions.
This is the best one I've got :
Christmas shopping - you see something you like, but the best you can ever do is get it for someone else

Prelude to nervous breakdown

Okay, so at the moment, I'm feeling pretty good about all of this.

I'm a little freaked out about pitching tomorrow, but I figure I'll get a basic idea of what I want to go in with and then let my talented classmates stage me up for an hour or so, so I can rework my approach. I'll go after the break - that's my resolution.

I'm currently swinging between two titles, they are as follows:

- Window Shopping
- Re-gifting (this one's new, so it could very well morph into "The Regift" or something similar)

My story follows an afternoon with a young woman named Gemma (That's Jeh-ma - for those of you who don't know), who is doing her holiday shopping and not enjoying it in the least. She's been conned into helping someone choose a present that he feels he couldn't do justice to - however, at the last moment her partner has jumped ship, leaving her to tackle this duty on her own.

So, we come in toward the end Gemma's shopping day. She's taken a pit stop at a local bookstore that's teeming with a holiday crowd she finds entirely too cheerful, and has taken to a corner of the cafe bar to muse over her lousy luck.

We see her twisting a lovely engagement ring around her finger, but she's not being cheered by the sight of it. She throws a couple of dirty looks to a wholesome looking man who has been trying to catch her eye. Could he be the cause of her bad mood?

However, her luck takes a violent shift when she is surprised by a (very attractive) childhood friend, who recognizes her from across the bookstore. They begin to strike up conversation, old flirtations sparking back to life, and we find ourselves thrust into Gemma's mind.

She and her Blast from the Past are shown in various heated moments - are they flash forwards? flash backs? who knows. Regardless, they are soon shattered by the appearance of a third character - The man's wife.

After some awkward introductions, Gemma wisely excuses herself and watches her hope at reviving the day vanish into a muddle of shoppers.

She catches the eye of the wholesome looking guy and starts after him. He waits expectantly as she reaches him, extends her hand and introduces herself.

We are once again plunged into Gemma's mind, in the exact location as her previous thoughts, with her in the same outfit, engaging in the same passionate activity with the wholesome man.


Yeah, so I suck at the "in a nutshell" thing. It's something to work toward. Anyway, I've made significant progress over the past couple of days.

I've secured most of my crew (Still need a sound guy and various PA type people), and have tentative casting dates set and shooting dates.

Locations are going to be the big challenge here. I will most likely have to get a head start on them myself, as the producer I've met with to date is leaving for Utah on Friday. Asking things from strangers has always been the thing that makes me squeamish about the film biz.

My script is going through a pretty heavy re-hash at the moment. I'm altering some locations from the previously unrealistic original draft and working on some character development and more character-specific dialogue.

Anyway, back to pre-production. Suggestions are welcome (hint.)