Monday, December 7, 2009

Santa Fe Film Festival, 901 Victory, Experimental

Best week ever.

First, the Santa Fe Film Festival. I flew down to Albuquerque, New Mexico, my home town, earlier this week, to screen La Nina del Desierto at Santa Fe. My editor, Dan McLellan, came with.

The festival was fantastic. We got all-access passes and mingled with other like-minded filmmakers and locals. We answered all manner of questions regarding feature versions of the short (currently being written), the history of the short (from high school), etc. It really was great fun.

I also got interviewed for the radio, being a local New Mexican, and that interview is up on the Press section. La Nina ended up being nominated for Best Dramatic Short.

About halfway through the week, we also received news that Dan, Dres Fischer Centeno, and myself won the contest for 901 tequila with our short spec commercial. We get $25,000, a trip to Las Vegas, and I get to put "Executive Vice President of Big Ideas" on my resume. Sweet.

And to top it off, last night I wrapped production on a very short experimental film shot on the RED with Boa Simon, starring Chris Payne and Rachelle Dimaria. I think it'll be neat - we shot downtown LA, the subway system, Long Beach industrial areas at night, and some other places that I think will really deliver, visually.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Ragtime" and "Lincoln" Reviewed

As you may or may not know, two of my shorts, Ragtime Ballad and The Silver Lincoln, are on IMDB and available to watch, in their entirety. Well, thanks to the internet's large audience of people with apparently nothing better to do, both films have received detailed, fair, and somewhat lengthy reviews.

Ragtime is "a job well done," "surreal and funny," and "worthy of a few chuckles here and there," according to one reviewer. Another praises Jenny Putney as "ravishing," and the Dandy's "snazzy top hat and wicked handlebar mustache," as well as Boa Simon's "astute" cinematography and Brian Andrews' "infectiously jaunty and merry" score, which "hits the jolly spot."

Lincoln is "definitely funny" with an ending that is "anything but funny," leaving the reviewer "torn." The acting and direction is celebrated as "fine." The keen critic also noted that "silver-colored coins are actually made of zinc and aren't particularly valuable."

I'm just curious how these folks managed to stumble on my films, and what could possibly make them want to write a detailed review of a little student film. God bless the internet, I guess!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Boa Simon up for ASC award!

Thanks to his inspired work on La Nina del Desierto, my good friend and cinematographer Boa Simon has been nominated by Chapman University to receive an award from the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC). Very exciting!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Another Sketch

Every craft requires practice. A guitarist needs time to fool around with chords and sounds. An artist usually has a sketchbook, not of complete pieces, but on-the-side musings. A writer will often keep notebooks full of stories that will never be seen.

A filmmaker isn't so lucky - between large, expensive productions, what are we supposed to do to stretch our muscles? Well, the best I can do is squeeze in a short film whenever possible.

This latest addition to my Sketchbook was created while Boa Simon, Jenny Hou and I were waiting for an interviewee to arrive for a recent industrial gig. In the ensuing downtime we pumped out this absurd piece of cinema, and while on medication recovering from strep throat, I edited and sound designed it.

So while they may not be flying us out to Cannes for it, it gave us an opportunity to use shots and sounds we've always wanted to use but never had the opportunity to. The shot above, for example, through the bottom of a bottle, was something I've been wanting to do forever. I even dug up the old schematic I drew for it probably five or six years ago:


Saturday, October 10, 2009

DGA and Santa Fe screenings!

On Wednesday La Nina del Desierto premiered at a special screening at the DGA, or Director's Guild of America, in Los Angeles.

It was a really exciting screening, and it was great to see it on the big screen again, projected off real 35mm film this time. The print wasn't actually as nice-looking as when we screened it digitally, which was kind of a bummer. Still, I attribute that to a mis-calibrated theater and not to the print itself.

Santa Fe Film Festival

In other great news, La Nina was accepted to its first festival - the Santa Fe Film Festival, which is appropriate. I'll definitely be attending that. If you want to go too, the festival is December 2nd - 6th.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"La Nina" Screens at DGA

I just received news that La Nina del Desierto will be screening at the Director's Guild of America on Wednesday, October 7th, at 7pm at the DGA's headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
La Nina will be one of the films representing Chapman University at this year's Dodge College First Cut Student Showcase. As part of this honor, I have received the Leo Freedman Award, meaning that the Leo Freedman Foundation will be paying for a 35mm print of my film! This is very exciting news!

Contact me if you'd like to attend - it's free!

Monday, August 31, 2009

New "La Nina del Desierto" Website!

After a long enough time, I've put together a dedicated website for La Nina del Desierto. Check it out by clicking on the morose Javier:

It includes all kinds of wonderful stuff, including the new trailer! And information about the new DVD which is almost complete.

I just finished the making-of doc today, and it clocks in at a staggering 35 minutes. It's the longest piece of filmmaking I've ever put together. It's a very thorough look at the making of the film. If nothing else, it's a good alternative to a scrapbook for myself.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Old Spice Spec Commercial and a Cartoon

We just finished and submitted our entry for Old Spice's spec commercial contest. Check it out:

The concept was by Boa Simon and myself, Boa shot and colored it, Michael Nie was the camera operator, Katy Echols is the lovely leading lady (I'm the bewildered chump at the end), Kyle Bjordahl drove the camera rig and gripped, Dan McLellan edited it together and did the special effects, and Brian Andrews composed the score. I directed and did the sound design.

Here's hoping we win!

In other news, I was digging around in a box of DV tapes I have, and I stumbled across some footage of a notebook in which I'd drawn frames for an animated cartoon. I don't remember drawing them, or filming the notebook for that matter, but I edited it together anyway! Enjoy:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Site Look!

After a very long day, I've revamped the site! It's got a slightly new look, new navigation, and new additions - such as my reel:

Overall I think it's a definite change for the better. The films page is still old, because that's going to require a major overhaul. For now - enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Photos, Old Spice Spec Commerical, Cecils Pics

I spent the last six weeks traveling through Europe with my family - Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and France - and now my Photography section has been updated! Just click the image below to check 'em out:

Shortly after returning from my travels, my good friend and cinematographer Boa Simon called me up about doing a short spec commercial for an Old Spice contest. So yesterday afternoon and pretty much all through the night into early morning Boa, myself, and a skeleton crew shot this absurd spec with an even more absurd rig:

That's a Fisher dolly strapped to the side of our equipment truck, with the camera on the end of it. Boa and Michael Nie, the operator (who was also on La Nina del Desierto), stood back there and shot out through the open back door. The idea was that we get some head-on shots of this sports car driving along. Which is what we got!

Finally, here are some photos of the 2009 Cecil Awards, in which La Nina del Desierto won Best Picture, Best Director for myself, and Best Cinematography for Boa Simon. It was a great evening!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"La Nina del Desierto" Wins in 3 Categories

La Nina del Desierto just won three Cecil Awards - Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography! A host of other excellent films were also nominated and won in various categories. Robert Brinkerhoff and Daisy Robinson, sound designer and production designer on La Nina, got nominated for other films that they did great work in.

The Cecils are Chapman University's awards show, named after Cecil B. DeMille, who gave some large amount of money or did something worthy of having the awards named after him.

What a night!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"La Nina del Desierto" Nearing Completion

On May 2nd, La Nina del Desierto will premiere on the big screen at Chapman University. Until then, we're going to be scrambling to finish. By "we" I mean the editor, Daniel McLellan, the composer, Brian Andrews, and the sound designer, Robert Brinkerhoff. A lot of work has already been done, but a lot is left to do.

In the meantime, here's a poster!

Monday, April 13, 2009

10-Second Film Festival Submission

Some geniuses here at Chapman came up with the 10-second film festival. Here's my submission:

Not including titles and credits, it's exactly ten seconds.

I think this is a great idea - not just for fun, but to keep exercising those filmmaking muscles. Keeps you sharp, and keeps your creativity peaking.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"Silver Lincoln" In NFFTY Trailer!

I just saw the trailer for 2009's National Film Festival for Talented Youth, and The Silver Lincoln is part of it! Check it out below:

We're at the 40 second mark. Check out NFFTY's site.

Monday, March 30, 2009

New Old Miscellany

I recently dug up some bonus material from Silver Lincoln and Variations on the Death of Gerald, consisting of deleted scenes and prank cuts (cuts of the film that are deliberately terrible that we show to friends and peers, passing it off as the real thing. The look on their faces afterward as they attempt to think of constructive criticism is priceless).

I also dug deep and found some old animations from my stop-motion days:

Way cool. They're up on the Archive's new Animation section.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stills from "La Nina del Desierto" Footage

Today we finally got a first look at footage from La Nina del Desierto, and it looks pretty impressive. Here are a few stills - keep in mind that it hasn't been color corrected at all, and in fact these frames are from a poor-quality scan of the film. They scan it at a lower resolution so that we're not editing with full HD footage.

Also note the "burn-in" numbers at the top and bottom - that's because for some reason our DataCine facilities at Chapman scanned our film at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio instead of the 1.85:1 that we shot at. Nevermind the technicality of it, the point is that those numbers will obviously be gone for the final product.

Click on the pic for a bigger version. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

"La Nina del Desierto" Wraps Production!

After two long weekends, La Nina del Desierto is finally in the can.

On weekend one, we shot all the day scenes. We started with a gorgeous sunrise, and filmed Javier waking up. We then moved to a dilapidated shack where we shot Javier's scenes with Costa.

For the next two days we moved to the desert - more specifically, a dry riverbed that had very loose topsoil. This dirt ended up stranding our grip truck and the picture truck overnight in the desert. On Sunday the grips spent - not kidding - five hours digging that truck out of the dirt. And then the picture car wouldn't start.

I mean, I guess that's what I get for writing a beat-up pickup into the script. You get a beat-up pickup. But still. The damned thing wouldn't start. It's like working with an animal that wouldn't do what it's supposed to do. What you're paying for it to do. AAA wouldn't go near it. Bill, the local horseshoer who owns the truck, had to come out himself to tow it.

Still, despite these and numerous other logistical headaches, we made our days - meaning we got all the shots we needed. That became my saying for the rest of production: "Well, at least we made our days."

On weekend two, we shot the afternoon and night scenes. On day one we shot an amazing sunset silhouette shot that I cannot WAIT to show you. Then it was Javier's nighttime camp scene. During the setup for this scene a huge 20-foot by 20-foot muslin (for reflecting light) came toppling over on top of another light, bending one stand and ripping a hole through the muslin. Sometimes I wish there was a way to hold certain key crew members financially responsible for their mistakes. As it stands, I have to pay for everything, and people who rig things up poorly waltz away, shrugging their shoulders.

I don't mean to complain. We made our day.

Day two was at the Four Aces, a gas station movie set, where because of another logistical problem (this one dealing with another truck that broke down) we didn't have a generator on set for five hours. That meant dealing with available sunlight, which isn't necessarily a problem - until the sun goes down.

Like I say. We made our day.

And on the final day, last Sunday, we shot some basic exterior shots of the picture truck driving around. Skeleton crew, nothing fancy. And on the final shot, right as we yelled "cut!", the truck stalled, stopped, and refused to start again. Ever. I guess it decided it had had enough.

Despite all problems, we made our days, the film is in the can, and I had one of the greatest experiences of my life. Working with a crew as talented and skilled as they were was a true privilege. Nobody needed help with what a c-stand is for or how to hold a bounce card. Nobody was intimidated by working with 35mm, which is a rare commodity in student productions. For the most part, everyone had a great attitude and a friendly disposition despite the often disheartening setbacks.

Working with the actors, however, was the capstone. Joaquin Garrido, who has worked with or knows personally most of Mexican cinema's big names like the Cuaron brothers and Guillermo del Toro, who has an IMDB list of credits a mile long, is one of the most egoless people I've ever met. He's very humble, keeps to himself for the most part but offers an educated opinion when asked. I've heard of actors like Ian McKellan physically changing when they get into character, but I've never seen it in action until Joaquin. He is a real artist.

Dani-Rose Gonzalez, who plays La Nina, is a little firecracker of a girl who has boundless energy and a huge heart. She was always willing to play around and have fun, but when necessary, she really snapped into character for the shots. She made trudging around in the desert a worthwhile experience.

Misha Gonz-Cirkl, who plays Maria, put up with a very hectic twelve hours at the Four Aces and a crew and cast that knew each other pretty well already. Like Dani-Rose, she seemed to be a well of energy and enthusiasm, always ready for another take and very communicative with what her problems with the scenes were.

Baxter Smith, who plays Costa, came one day each weekend. He's a very chill guy who brought a lot of great ideas to the table. He even came the second weekend, during a cold night shoot in the middle of the desert shooting a scene in which he doesn't even appear in person. Very generous with his time and his talent.

And of course, it was a blast to work again with Robert Benny, who was Lokesh in The Silver Lincoln, and who brought along his friend Dave Craine to be his partner in crime. They were so into it and so willing to do whatever needed to be done, I really wanted to give them their own subplot in the film. Maybe in the feature version, guys!

I want to thank everyone who made the production of this film possible. I hope to have a new page and stills from the movie up soon!

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Silver Lincoln" Screens in Seattle!

The Silver Lincoln just got accepted to the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY)! It will screen at the festival in Seattle, Washington, from April 24-26.

There's a chance I might attend this one. Could be a lot of fun!