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!