Saturday, July 31, 2010

Acting and Auditioning

Almost a year ago, I was talking with several local actors and a couple of agents.  This market had lots of education for actors FROM actors.  But very little for actors FROM directors.  I mean, we sit on the other side of the audition table and shake your hand when you come in.  We glance at your headshot and briefly screen the resume.  Then we watch and listen as you put it all out there.  What are we thinking?  Haven't you wanted to know?

When you walk out, what do the director and producer talk about?  How much sway does the casting assistant or the reader have?  Is it wrong to talk too much or to talk too little?

I decided that the local actors needed some straight talk from a director of feature films.  So I created the first seminar-- "Acting: A Director's POV" and also married it with an Audition Workshop where they would get one on one time with me and also sit with me on auditions from this other side of the table.

It was a big hit and I've only done it that once.  Now I'm going to do it again.  We'll have the seminar, only $29 for half day (pick morning or afternoon) on Saturday August 21.  Or be one of the twelve for the audition workshop, which will include the seminar, and an all day, hands on Workshop on Sunday, August 22.  The two day is $150.

Click here for info and registration.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Labor Can Be Longer Than Nine Months

My non-movie-making friends often ask about a movie we're making-- wondering why it isn't out yet and in stores.  Over ten years, I've made five films... So there's the average pace from start to finish, for me, of two years per movie.  Sure I'd like to see that shrink.

In the studios, a director can do two or three movies a year tops.  A producer can do a bunch because he's multitasking and doesn't have to be exclusive for a long time on a movie.

Once we yell "wrap," people often wonder why they don't see the movie in the theaters a few months later.  Here's what happens in the indie world.  My fastest film to distribution from wrap, was about nine months-- "A Promise Kept."  We wrapped at the end of January and it was available through the distributor by October.

The next film "Striking Range," took significantly longer.  We wrapped in early June.  By the next June we were talking with Sony, and in late November, it was released.  So wrap to shelf was 18 months-- double the time of APK.

Right now, we're coming up on the year anniversary of the shoot for "Rising Stars."  We wrapped at the very end of August.  Looks like a late September release in a few select theaters, so wrap to screen time is right in the middle of the average-- 12 to 13 months.

Why so long?  Well first, the filmmakers have to perfect the edit, and this is what can take so long.  Watching it amongst the team... focus groups with others... constantly questioning every little cut in every little scene.  Getting to the locked edit can be three or four months on average-- a lot longer other times.  Then after Lock, it will take minimum of six weeks, but more likely three or four months for sound and music, lab and color to take place.  Then you have your "screener."

So then you schedule distributor screenings and this can take a month or two.  Distributors are thinking and talking amongst themselves-- acquisitions bring it to the team, marketing watches and weighs in, then the big dog decides yes or no.  If a yes, then an offer is made.  Then there's at least a couple of weeks of going back and forth on the offer.

The distributor will need a minimum of five months or so to properly prepare a release.  If you're starting with foreign sales, then it can be the following month (hence the quickness of APK).

Now for studio films, it's different-- they're in an assembly line.  They don't have to try and get the movie picked up.  But locking can take a lot longer and various suits try to justify their studio position by weighing in on the edit.  Movie making by committee.  Ewwww.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Screenwriters are an interesting group.  And for those who write for movies, they call themselves screenwriters-- not scriptwriters.  The screenwriters I know personally all have these babies... born out of a passion to tell a story.  And like real children, these "parents" try to nurture and grow the child, hoping that it goes to child and finds a nice paying job.

To see your child become a fully grown movie, the screenwriter/parent has two primary paths.  They can send the child off to boarding school where the studio will try and take care of him, or they can try and raise the child themselves.

Okay enough with the analogy.

You screenwriters-- you have a script or two (or five) and you want to see them up on the big screen.  Most people work hard on trying to get a studio, or producer to option the script and hopefully see it go into production.  This path is the most common, and as difficult as it is, it's easier than the alternative, which we'll go into in a moment.

For this route, it's as easy as one, two, three... seven.
  1. Write Totally Awesome Script
  2. Find Agent
  3. Agent Shops to Studios and Producers
  4. Agent Fields All The Offers
  5. You Pick the Best
  6. You Cash the Big Check
  7. You Sit At Premiere, Much Richer, and Watch the Big Screen as they Butcher Your Child

Most people can't get to step 2 let alone any of the others.  And actually, most don't get to step one except in their own mind.

So what's the harder, less common second path?  DIY.  Do It Yourself.  Green light your own movie.  (Shameless plug-- get the "Greenlight Yourself" training DVD on how to make your movie by clicking here.)  When a writer just can't wait on agents, producers and directors, she studies about how to make the thing herself.  It's how many indie filmmakers come into existence.  Now instead of waiting on producers, she'll be waiting on investors, but at least she can control the upbringing of her baby.  (Oops, sorry, slipped back into allegory).

So you screenwriters out there, you got two paths in front of you.  Which are you going to take?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top Page for July

Church Movie night is the top read page this month.  More than a year ago, I had started corresponding with Jim David, who had ordered "The Imposter" for his church.  The majority of churches that ordered the movie, were ordered by staff-- pastors or youth pastors.  But here was a "civilian" who's not content to sit on the sidelines.  He wants in the battle.

He took initiative to start a movie ministry at his church and I am hoping people find his story inspirational.  And I hope others start to do the same at their church.  Jesus often taught by telling stories, and the wisdom in this is huge-- you can teach a point by telling the point.  Or you can tell a story that covers the principle--not just the rule.

If anyone needs help in setting up a movie ministry at your church, please don't hesitate to contact me or Jim.

Here are the links to July's top story--
Part 1
Part 2

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Acting for a Living

Many, many people dream of being an actor.  They watch their favorite television shows and movies and see Hanks looking and acting so naturally.  Well, I can do that!  All I have to do is just be me!

Acting, when done right, looks incredibly easy.  But acting is an extremely difficult job, so it fools countless many into pursuing a professional path way outside the individuals natural giftings.  I can't tell you how many times I've had someone come up to me telling me they could really help me out-- they'd come in and save me and be an actor.  You know, now I have the missing puzzle piece!  Thank you!

One individual, who had never taken an acting class in his life, didn't understand why I had hired this seasoned LA actor (who's face you'd recognize).  He could do that!  I just smile and nod and mumble something like, you know how it goes... or thanks, maybe next time.

Now, for the person who determines they're going to make a living getting acting gigs, it's going to be a very tough road.  First, location does matter for this.  If you live in a small rural area, not close to any metropolitan locations, chances are, there's just not enough work.  Even for those that live in Dallas-Fort Worth, there's very few of the actors that are represented here, that actually do this full time.  Most have a day job that's flexible, allowing them to take off to go to auditions or be on the set.

Which brings me to another arena of acting-- the commercials and corporate world.  Landing a national commercial spot can make someone's year sometimes.  It can pay for a child's college education.  And Dallas is a good place to be.  Or New York, LA or Chicago.  After that, good luck.  Also, many actors make a living doing the corporate/industrial gigs.  These don't pay bunches like commercials, but they'll pay more than the low budget indie movie being shot by your buddy.  For this, you need to learn how to be a "spokesperson" (thinks news anchor for corporations).

This is a designation for someone who talks directly to camera, training or selling a company's product or service.  Recently I hired a couple of different local actors to work on a corporate film.  One was somebody I had used a lot back when I did corporate/commercials fulltime.  This guy's a real pro.  And he works a lot.  He showed up, had to basically read cold to prompter, but had very few gaffs or cuts.  He could just keep rolling.

Another one-- not so good.  He had problems saying the client's name.  He would throw in extra "a's" and "the's" and then later exclude them when needed.  We spent about three times as much time on him than the other guy.  I won't be calling this guy back for any spokes work.

If you want to make a living acting, look into commercials and spokesperson work.  Get training in these areas.  The first guy is known around town for having perfected the ear prompter (which we didn't use on this particular shoot).  I think that alone gets him some work.  Take a lesson from him-- get specialized training that gives you a little more edge when a client is looking over headshots and resumes.

Other training includes what a lot of news anchors do-- pronunciation practice, tongue twisters... all that stuff.  Practice, practice, practice.   If you have a regional dialect, there are exercises to eliminate those.  The second "spokes" we had in, had a problem with a few words-- you could tell he was from Texas.  This won't work for a national video.  I had to stop him and redo them.

There's more ways to earn a living acting than just being in movies or television.  So if you want to try this, get training and get experience!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sets Smooth as Silk

On "A Promise Kept", in the production office, everything was running smooth.  The captain of that ship was Susan Kirr, and she had a solid crew.  Locations were found and signed.  Contracts were covered and taken care.  Cast medicals were all done.  Sure, there were some hiccups,but each one was faced and a solution was found.  And for the most part, everyone got along.

On the set, things were equally smooth.  1st AD Joey Stewart did his "white" schedule, and for the first time in his career and anyone else he knew, the strip board didn't change.  We did our scenes and made our days.  Again, there were some problems, but we met the challenges head on.  I heard several crew people say they've never been on such a smooth running set.

The people-pleaser in me has gotten caught up in seeking a smooth and harmonious set above all else.  But I have learned that a set of people holding pinkies and sinking Barney songs doesn't always transfer over to the actual movie.  And likewise, sets where directors and actors are throwing stuff at each other, yelling expletives at every intense moment, sometimes come forth with masterpieces.

I've been reading a book about Dreamworks SKG and what went on behind the scenes and several stories popped out.  First, on Sam Mendes first big movie as a director, Spielberg himself pulled Mendes aside after seeing the first couple days dailies to find out what was wrong.  Spielberg gave Mendes some real help-- but other executives were ready to can him and quick.  For Dreamworks, this little movie Mendes was directing was way on the bottom of the attention scale for their production slate at the time.  They had much, much bigger fish to fry.  And maybe because of that, the executives were willing to allow Mendes to continue-- I think if it had any bigger profile, they'd have canned him.  The movie?  Academy Award Winning "American Beauty."

Also in the same book, the script was being re-written daily on Dreamwork's tentpole, big budget action movie.  The star, Russell Crowe, was problematic.  It was a struggle to find any harmony on that set, from director Ridley Scott to Crowe.  And then one of the chief supporting actors died halfway through shooting.  Do you reshoot?  Rewrite to reflect the character's demise as well?  This time, the stakes were incredibly high and tensions were bursting.  Many people thought this movie would bomb.  Daily rewrites speak to a production that greenlighted before a solid script was ready-- this is Trouble with a big t.  The movie?  "Gladiator."  And in my opinion, a very solid, well done movie.

There is a solid track record of great movies having tension, trouble-filled sets.  "Casablanca" was famous for it's trouble, especially with the script.

Now, my tendency is to use this as an excuse.  For instance, I caught myself thinking, "see?  I can rush into production with "72" before the script is ready!"  No.  No.  No.  Shooting a movie is warfare.  But that doesn't mean you go into the fight without the best weapons.  You can't always count on finding a loaded tank on the battlefield that you can jump into and save the day.

Anyway, interesting thoughts.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"The Imposter"

This past February, our movie "The Imposter" was released in Christian bookstores everywhere and with Christian movie online stores.  For SFilms, this was our fourth movie and our first specifically targeted for the Christian market.  We feel we have made a movie with a very important message-- the effects of wearing masks and masquerades in the church and the importance of needing to pull them out and see the real you-- the beautiful and the ugly, so you can kill that part.

We need your help.  As we gear up for making more movies, the people that can partner with us take a look at how the movie has performed.  So if you haven't bought the movie, please go down to the nearest Christian bookstore or online portal and buy one.  If you have already, they would make a great gift.

It would be awesome if people kept going up to the manager at Lifeway, or Family Life requesting Imposter because they can't keep enough on the shelves.  If you like the movie, talk about it.  Share the link with your friends.  Encourage them to buy the movie.

In the upcoming months, it's critical that the big dollar people see this as the direction faith-based movies can go-- real, honest, where the rubber meets the road, kind of storytelling.  If you agree, we need your help and support.

Write about the movie in blogs and forums... on facebook and myspace.  If you have any ideas you'd like to see from me, let me know.  We gave away a few CD Soundtracks to help build the facebook group.  I'd be open to more things like that.

Most movies, even the bigger Christian films, have a lot of money spent on advertising and marketing.  We've spent very little.  We're hoping that the most powerful form of advertising through the centuries will work here-- word of mouth.  So please help us spread the word.  If I can find a way to recognize our biggest cheerleaders for this movie-- I'd be gad to send a CD Soundtrack or an original script.

Thanks in advance for your support!

Friday, July 23, 2010


Serendipitous FilmsI really like using these guys for printing.  All the Imposter posters, SFilms brochures, business cards and more.  They do a solid job and all online.  They just posted a nice article about us, and I appreciate the call out.

For the article, click this link.  
Also in the news for our world-- we just finished shooting a nice corporate series of videos on Stage B at Studios121 for a new client.  Looking forward to editing them in the next few weeks.

On the home front, tearing off old wallpaper to prepare for texture painting, only to find some sheetrock damage.  Got a feeling I'm about to learn a new skillset.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Upcoming Engagements

I've been asked to speak at several events coming up.  The one I'll focus on today is a faith-based arts conference where I'll teach several filmmaking classes.  Held at CFNI in south Dallas, "Releasing the Light" is August 4-7.  I'll be teaching on Thursday and Friday.

I'll teach from 10:30am to 3pm, with a break for lunch.  I'm going to cover filmmaking, from pre-production to post-production.  If you plan on being there, give me a shout-- would love to hear from you.

Secondly, I'll be speaking as part of a panel on Keith Randal Duncan's "Kamp Hollywood" on August 1, also in Dallas.

And lastly, I'm thinking about scheduling another seminar third week of August.  If you have a request for which seminar or subject matter, please let me know.  For those outside the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, if you have enough people interested, I'd love to set up a seminar in another part of the country.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First day on "The Imposter"

It was a warmish January day.  First shot on "Imposter" was on the side of the Interstate.  A shot of a car passing by.  By this, the fourth movie, I had learned to ease into the shooting-- try not to kill yourself first up.  So we were south of Burleson, Texas, on the side of I-35W, waiting for our hero car to pass by.

We did about three takes.  Ron Gonzalez and I noticed a weird vignetting taking place.  This was my first non-film movie shoot.  We were using HVX200's with lens adapter and PL mounts.  But the PL mount was doing something pretty bizarre.  We eventually went back to our Nikon mount and had no more trouble.

After the car on the highway, we need to shoot the preceding scene, where Kevin' Max's character hitches a ride.  So we did that right there on the frontage road.  Everything went pretty smooth.

We moved to a nearby railroad crossing on a rural road for another shot of KMax traveling.   I remember looking out at the farm nearby and pointing out the cows to Stewart Young, our AD.  Stewart looked at them, then looked at me and said they were horses.  Oops.  Shortly after, I started wearing some prescription glasses.  Oh the joy of growing older.

The day ended at a house nearby, where I had to break the rule and shoot probably the most dramatic scene in the whole movie.  It took a long time to set up and the lighting wasn't great.  Then KMax was still getting settled into acting and overall it just didn't work.  Later, after watching the footage, I decided to reshoot this if we had the chance and two weeks later we did, and it was wonderful-- the lighting, the performance.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mental State

2 Corinthians 10:5 is that famous verse-- taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  Sure, this means a sudden sinful thought hits your mind and you pray.  But I'm dealing with something a little different-- not a wild thought, but a mindset... a mental state.

Having grown up in dysfunction (as you have too), I have fallen into mindsets.  Maybe it's a victim mindset as we discussed the other week.  Maybe is a vindictive mindset.  These mindset's are deeply rooted, and I have trouble seeing them.  They're often blindspots for me.  So it's a little more difficult to take the thought captive when I don't even realize I'm thinking vindictively. 

So when someone points out that I'm a miserable vindictive SOB, I can rejoice-- it is a GOOD thing to know.  Something to work on.  A thought process that definitely needs to be help captive to the obedience of Christ.

One of the sad things about the modern evangelical zeal, is that you come to Jesus, you end your struggling.  But Paul discusses in same book, chapter 5, that we in this present tabernacle do groan, being burdened.  To choose to become a Disciple of Jesus is to choose to work.  And though it's incredibly hard sometimes to find out that I have failed and been failing in a certain area of my life, it's GOOD to see it so that I can WORK on taking those thoughts captive.

Also in chapter 5: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  If I'm the same person I was before I came to be in Christ, then this verse is a lie.  Or I am.  Or you are.  If you are in Christ, your old things are passed away, and all things are become new.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Truth in Advertising

Almost a year ago, it was time in my household to revisit the tv situation.  Having been a DirectTV loyal customer for ten years, I could get a much better deal either going with DishTV or by quitting and rejoining DirectTV.  I tried to get the rate with DirectTV, but they wouldn't do it.  So I quit and signed a two year deal with Dish.  Then I got the exit call from DirectTV.  They had a rate (the rate I begged for).  But now it would cost me much money to bust the deal with Dish.  And BTW, Dish has been great.

The research (not shown here, you'll just have to take my word for it) shows that it's much less expensive to keep an existing customer than to go get a new one.  So why in this age are the consumer industries ignoring this?

Now it's time to review home/auto insurance.  I think the profit-at-all-costs executives look at the numbers-- most consumers just blindly keep renewing and don't check the industry.  So let's jack up the price a little bit more.  The numbers say that the minuscule percentage of customers that ship and leave are critical-- they get more money by taking advantage of their loyal customers.

You might have read the news stories in 2000, when Amazon was accused of charging some existing customers more because of their shopping habits (in other words they knew they could more likely get away with it).  Amazon denied the accusations, then gave refunds to slighted customers.

For you consumers-- I suggest looking at the advertising.  These large companies know they're screwing consumers-- so they mount publicity and PR campaigns to convince you the opposite.  We have a Capital One credit card.  They ran one commercial with actor Tony Hale in which he tries to get a real person on the phone with his other credit card.  CapOne's campaign of "no hassle" meant you get right through.  I've never gotten right through to CapOne.  They're more hassle than all of my other credit cards.  They've been the first to pillage me if I'm a day late or any other problem.

Allstate's "good hands" campaign.  Complete with Dennis Haysbert, who you definitely want protecting you and your family.  The American Association for Justice places Allstate at the top of the "Greed, Fraud, Claim Denial, Deceptive Practices" list.  If I were the executive at Allstate and didn't want to change my company's practices, I'd launch a preemptive strike-- with all the feel good advertising, when you hear something like the AAJ's report, how in the world can that be true?  Haysbert says I can trust them!

Methinks the lady doth protest too much.  If a company is really trying HARD to create an image in your mind, chances are it's because they're the opposite.  A twist on truth in advertising.

Friday, July 16, 2010

First Day on First Movie

I hardly slept the night before.  I was so excited.  My wife had bought me a new pair of nice shorts and a golf shirt to match (and they were too nice of clothes to be used on a movie set!).  But it was a good thing to have shorts, because Day 1 of "The Keyman" was September 5, 2000, and it was 106 degrees.  As I write this, it's 99 right now and pretty unbearable.  I think my excitement got me through the heat.  During that time, we were also in one of the longest periods without any rain. 

I showed up at a recently closed hospital on the east side of Dallas.  It was a perfect location for what we had to shoot.  Lead actress Ellen Locy was first up, then second half of the day was Adam Baldwin, who had arrived two days before from Los Angeles.  The interesting thing about this story was that the lead actor and the lead actress had only one scene together and that wasn't scheduled until the third week.

I remember parking and seeing all the trailers.  Wow, when did they park these things?  Little dressing rooms... bathrooms.  How cool is this!

First shot was pretty easy.  Exterior, Ellen in vehicle pulls into "morgue" parking lot.  I had read somewhere that a Directing/Producing team made a tradition out of the producer clapping the first and last shot of a movie's shooting.  So I had our Producer Susan Kirr on hand to clap the first take.  (She did it again on the second movie "A Promise Kept.")  Doug Bruce, the 1st AD, had everyone ready to go.

After a couple of takes, it was time for the next shot.  Exterior car, dolly as Ellen sits in the car having just returned from the morgue.  She's upset and starts crying.  Now, I had read a lot about Spielberg as a director-- he's not an actor.  He "directs" his actors by who he selects in the audition-- in other words, very little directing of the actors.

So action is called and Ellen, sitting in the driver's seat, breaks down and cries.  We finish the take and she asks me "was that enough?"  "Too much?"  A voice inside my head said "how would I know?"  But I quashed that thought.  But the reality was the same... I really didn't know.  So being the brilliant director, I told her I thought it was fine, then said, try one with less.  Then after that take, try one with more.  Directing by bracketing.  Not so brilliant.  Later in the edit, for the sake of time, I cut this scene anyway.

Then we (thankfully) moved inside, out of the 106 degree heat.  We shot some more morgue scenes with Ellen.  Then we shot a big scene with Adam.  What was really cool here was that I was using my three year old son as a featured extra.  (Also later cut-- so yes I can tell people I cut my own son out of the movie).  My wife was on set of course, almost 9 months pregnant with my soon to be daughter.  What I learned then hasn't changed to this day-- she is not impressed by a movie set and would rather be home.  What is magic to many, is mundane to her.  So she doesn't visit my movie sets much.

Last scene of the day was Ellen, after getting beat up, talks from her hospital bed to another actress.  Everything seemed to go okay and we wrapped.  Two days later, dailies came back, and the DP had opened the iris all the way for that last scene to get focus, then forgot to dial it back.  So it was majorly blown out.  That scene got added to a "re-shoot" list and fortunately, we did get back to it.

The first day of "The Keyman."

(BTW, "The Keyman" get your DVD for only $10 at the SFilms store!  Free shipping right now.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Starting a Movie

So now is the season of starting-- I've got a script (that will always be in the process of fine-tuning) for "72".  I've got to do an official breakdown and budget for it and will do that in the next week or so.  But as we're still in the stage I call "Development", the biggest chore is the one that's the second hardest thing to do in indie filmmaking: Fundraising.

I've raised a little bit right now-- to get started.  But in order to get going, I have to hit a certain mark in funds raised or I will have to push back the shoot date.  How do I figure this math?  Well, it's actually pretty easy if you follow this formula.  How long is the shoot?  For me, it can be 18 days, done by 6 day weeks for three weeks.

So how long do I need for Pre-Production?  My formula is 1.5x where x=weeks of shooting.  So basically 4 and a half or round up to five weeks for prep.  So if I got a check for the budget today, the earliest we could be shooting would be late August.

Now I know that one of the name actors I'm talking to has October free, which suits me just fine.  So I back up five weeks and late August is the time to start prep.  And prep can't begin unless the money is solidly raised, contract with investor signed, and funds in the bank.  So I give myself until mid-August to get to that point.  That's one month away.  Four weeks.

::big breath::  So now I saddle up the ponies and get busy.  I've done this ride successfully four other times (and a couple not successful).  If I don't have the funds raised by mid August, then I push the schedule back to November.  I don't want to... but whatever happens, happens.

As a Disciple, I want to make sure I'm in His will-- this means His purpose.  What if I'm wrong about chasing this movie?  Well, God's purpose can't really be thwarted by me.  I'm pretty sure at some point I'll get that message through my thick skull.  And if it is His purpose, then nothing will stop Him from getting His movie made.  Not even me.

BTW-- if you want to make your own movie and find this kind of info helpful, I do have a 3plus hour DVD on all this and more called "Greenlight Yourself" and you can order it for $99 at .

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Crew Sizes for Feature Films

I'm starting to budget out the next feature film and it's always a matter of figuring out what crew positions are needed.  It's like diagramming the X's and O's of football.  But instead of 11 players, you get to pick based on the economics and needs for that particular shoot.

I'm not really taking into account volunteers or interns.  Usually every movie uses a few to a lot.  And these can either be college students looking to fill their resumes, or can be people looking to get into films.  For instance, on Striking Range, we had a volunteer for assistant hair/makeup.  She did so well, that she now makes her living and is the go to indie film h/mu person for several producers.  You also might find a volunteer who is looking to move up-- somebody that has PA'd in the assistant director's department might volunteer to be the second.  Though more common is to take a pay cut to work upwards.

Some abbreviations: DP= Director of Photography.  H/MU= hair/makeup.  AC= assistant camera.  AD= assistant director. UPM= unit production manager.  POC= production office coordinator.

Extra Small (2)-- Documentary crew: 2 person Director/DP and Sound.
Small (7)-- Director, DP, AC, Sound, Gaffer, H/MU-- Office: UPM
Small Regular (22) -- Director, 1st AD, 2nd AD, DP, AC, Sound, Boom, Gaffer, Best Boy,  Key Grip, Swing, H/MU, Wardrobe, Production Design, Location Mgr, Script Supervisor, File Mgr, Props, Craft Service Person  Office: UPM, POC, Accountant
Small Large (38) -- Director, 1st AD, 2nd AD, 2nd 2nd AD, AD PA, DP, AC, 2nd AC, Camera PA, Sound, Boom, Gaffer, Best Boy, 2 Electricians, Key Grip, Grip, Swing, H/MU, Asst H/MU, Wardrobe Designer, Set Costumer, Production Design, Art Director, Props, Location Mgr, Asst Loc Mgr, Script Supervisor, File Mgr, Craft Service Person, Transportation Captain, 2 Drivers,   Office: UPM, POC, Accountant, Office PA, Office Secretary

Then you have day players as needed, which can include Special Effects (smoke, fire, water, gags, squibs), Stunts, Steadicam, Crane, Weapons Master, special things.  Also, you have vendors like the Caterer that comes with their own crew.  And I'm not counting producers.

The Gaffer's department and the Key Grip's department, which all report to the DP are often referred to by a number.  For instance "we had a 2 and 2 on that last movie."  Meaning a crew of 2 for each sub department.  If you have a script that needs massive lighting and rigging of huge silks and such, you might need a 5 by 5.

Monday, July 12, 2010

They Didn't Get It

For three and a half years, these men walked with Jesus, ate with Jesus, listened to him talk, share stories, preach.  It wasn't a once in a week, for an hour-- it was every day, sometimes 24/7.  They camped out and slept under the stars and in peoples homes.  When you go through that with someone, you really get to know the other person.

Yet, when Jesus was crucified, these people still didn't get it.  He had told them what was coming.  He told them straight out.  He told them in allegory.  He prepared them, yet still they didn't get it.

I think I have a tenancy to hear what I want to hear.  To see what I want to see.  Simon the Zealot probably was thinking all this talk about a new Kingdom was finally about to happen-- that's what Jesus was talking about... "The Kingdom of God is at hand."  Must mean it's time to overthrow those pesky Romans.  (What did they ever do for us?  Well, they did build the aquaduct... oops, I digress, and if asked, I never saw that movie.)

Peter was told straight up that he would deny Jesus three times that very night.  Yet he didn't get it.  Jesus said he would be dead for three days.  Tear down this temple and in three days I'll rebuild it.  But did any of the twelve recall this when he died on the cross?  I'm sure it was a three day gut check for the boys.  They hid wondering if every footstep outside was one coming to take them to a gruesome death.

So today, I haven't physically spent that kind of time with Jesus, but in my arrogance, I consider myself clued in.  That I have a corner on the Truth.  "They didn't get it, but at least I do."  When I think about the twelve, brings back a little reality check, and as I've written about in the past, understanding my true identity is real humility.

I'm not as clued in as I think I am.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Jesus wasn't hip and cool.  Sure people liked Him for his parlor tricks, signs and wonders.  But instead of capitalizing on that popularity, He would preach harsh words that sent the crowds packing.  In John 6, they all leave to the point that Jesus turns to the 12 and asks "what about you?"

In this American church culture, we borrow from the American culture with rules like "if you're well-liked, then you're doing right!"  And "numbers justify whatever you do."  "Don't offend."  Well, Jesus was one that was not afraid to offend.

So what I'm seeing, as I study those that worked hard to be a disciple of Jesus, is that they became lonelier and lonelier.  So here's a word for you today-- do you want to draw closer to Jesus?  Then don't plan to win popularity contests, or be thought of as the "cool" one.  As a matter of fact, the more you chase God's purpose for your life, the more you'll realize the people you thought you shared common vision, just isn't accurate.

Very few people are dedicated to being a disciple of Jesus... sure, many *say* they're dedicated to that, but how many can be convicted in a court by their actions and not just lip service?

Imitate Jesus.  If you dare.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Camcorder RIP

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to pay last respects to HVX200 and so many others like him. Yes, for Mr. HVX, life had been good. He was the one the young filmmakers hung out with. He set the standard. He had uprooted Mr. XL1 as the coca-cola of the industry, but sadly his time is passed.

You see, HVX and all his camcorder buddies are going to disappear. Those upstart DSLR's are taking over. And the manufacturers know it. The shelves are lined with all sorts of DSLR goodies. The HVX accessories are stuff for back shelves and eBay.

I was worried about my friend Red when my DP bought a couple of DSLR's and sold his HVX. My DP also has a Red. Could it be these DSLR's are better? Not even close. If they can ever solve the data wrangling, maybe someday... But Red still has that beautiful 4K going for it. But people are choosing the DSLR's for what the "filmmaker" camcorders were doing. Low budget indies... corporate videos... music videos. This seriously crimps the HVX market.

So project forward, what do you see? I see HVX200's selling really cheap on eBay. I see a world of DSLR accessories. I see Canon all but abandoning their camcorder market for the DSLR market. It's a reemergence for all the still camera manufacturers as they all get into this game.

Yes, the pro line of camcorders will continue-- broadcasters aren't going to change to DSLR's with that unwieldy shallow depth of field... But for the filmmaking side, from commercials, to low budget features, it's goodbye to camcorder and hello DSLR.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Two Christian Artists

The other night, I was driving the family home from vacation, listening to some tunes, and of course thinking.  It's interesting that out of all the Christian recording artists, two of the ones who took some of the biggest stands, died early.  There's been much written about how God took them/didn't take them/accidents/free-will over God's hand of protection... and that's not what I want to cover.

Keith Green died in a plane crash in 1982.  At the time, he was what I listened to the most.  I was an impressionable 17 year old and this death hit me like what I guess it hit die hard fans of Lennon in 1980.  Keith took a lot of stands-- and in the budding CCM industry, none shook like when he decided his albums would be for whatever a person could afford.  That didn't sit well with the "business" side of things.

Then there's Rich Mullins.  His death came in a vehicle accident in 1997, one in which his Jeep rolled and he was killed when he was ejected.   Rich was another one who did it extremely different.  Rich setup all his earnings (which there had to be much) into a trust, in which he drew a poverty line salary from.  The rest went to charities.  Here was a famous Christian recording star who would give his shoes away at the drop of a hat.  He lived what he sang about.

Actually, that best describes both-- they lived what they sang about.  I've known some Christian Recording stars through the years, and if you haven't watched "The Imposter," it might come as a shock to you, but there are lots of imposters out there singing one thing/living another.

Now, these two aren't to be idolized.  But Paul did write to "imitate me as I imitate Christ."  So for you budding Christian recording stars, I encourage you to imitate Keith and Rich as they imitated Christ.

So were they perfect?  No.  Keith, through a moment of Ego, led his two oldest children to death, and abandoned his wife and two younger children, depriving them of a father and older siblings.  His Ego moment was to show off the ranch to a visiting family in an airplane, and further that Ego, by carrying an air of invincibility over the laws of nature.  (The plane was seriously overweight).

Rich, fortunately didn't leave  or abandon a family.  A seatbelt might have saved his life.  Or maybe not.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Church Movie Night Part 2 of 2

This entry continues yesterday's post, by Jim David. He started a film ministry at his church by offering a once a month movie night. I really like his approach and I encourage all you out there-- does your church have a movie night? It can be a real powerful way to get discussion going and a great teaching opportunity.  If you need any help or assistance, feel free to reach out to me.

What about childcare?
Our teens provide childcare during the films (except summer months) for a small donation that goes towards youth mission trips. This really helps to give mom and dad the opportunity for a night out.

Do you recommend doing this to other churches? If so, what are the

Yes. The benefits are widespread: strengthening existing believers, and providing another medium for reaching the community for Christ – all while providing family safe entertainment in a time where it is hard to find good safe options. By doing a monthly film event, your church will begin to get a following -knowing that there is a consistency of good quality films offered each month (as compared to an infrequent movie event offered from time to time). I would say that there are four primary factors that have made the ministry a success:
  1. Our church leadership was behind the ministry and one of the success factors for us has been showing a preview of the upcoming film & short to the entire congregation so that your church family is fully aware of the film offering. Print media in program is good too, but is often overlooked. Showing the preview really speaks volumes as you have a captive audience for several minutes and your people will likely spread the word to their friends.
  2. Form relationships with a couple strong local businesses (Christian & secular if possible) to help you get the word out. This has helped our ministry tremendously in reaching the community.
  3. Carefully choose films that will reach the widest audiences for Christ. If you show a film that is too pushy or cheesy, you may lose your audience for future showings. Always know the content of the film and get feedback from outside sources.
  4. Have a committed ministry team that’s reliable and works tog
  5. ether to provide a consistent outreach to your church and community.
What are your plans for the future for the movie nights?
We plan to continue by showing the latest high quality, impacting films, and as long as there are enough films of quality, we will continue on a monthly basis. We like to whenever possible, to show films before their official DVD release dates and several distributers including PureFlix Cinema provide opportunities to do this.

For two of our films (WWJD & The Path of the Wind) we have been fortunate to have the producer/director come to do a Q&A after the film. We even had our teaching pastor host a Q&A following two documentaries (Lord, Save Us From Your Followers & The Case For Faith) we showed.

For more information and movies they've screened, check out their website:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Church Movie Night Part 1 of 2

Jim David ordered "The Imposter" for his church a year ago.  Since then we have communicated back and forth a lot and so I asked him if he would be willing to answer a few questions about how and why he created this unique ministry for his church.

His church, Willoughby Hills Friends Church in Ohio has this as their Cinema of Faith mission statement:

The Cinema of Faith ministry offers an ecumenical outreach to fellow churches as well as the community as a whole to provide a resource for Christian family entertainment. The films are not only entertaining but are seeded with biblical truths and illustrate the love of Jesus. Our hope is that you leave these films feeling entertained, inspired, and perhaps take a thought or idea to contemplate.

What is it that you do for your church?
I started a ministry with friend Ben Landfeld (a Christian from Czech Republic) called Cinema of Faith.  Each month we show a quality faith-based film with a Christian theme. Rather than just darken the room and hit play, we try to best duplicate the “movie” experience starting with a pre-show that has constant media on the screen with new or future film previews, or some behind the scenes of a previous film we have shown (I found that if we “half darken” the room and have fresh current content, we get more people coming in sooner, and makes coming and going less intrusive).

Then we have a short film that starts promptly at 6:30pm which can run between 10 and 30 minutes (we fill any extra time between the short film and feature with additional relevant content).  Finally at 7pm, Ben comes on stage to welcome everyone, make announcements, and talk a little about the evening’s film.  Then we go right into a “theater like” Coming Attractions reel followed by the Feature Presentation (the coming attractions give a little extra time to latecomers as well).  I have a good friend in the music business from Nashville who put together a drum & bass stinger for this portion to again help mimic the cinematic experience.

After the show we accept a “free–will” offering and sometimes sell DVD’s to help support the ministry( this is not intrusive – rather we just place the offering plates by the exit doors). From a financial standpoint, there are license fees that range from $100-$300/per film, as well as internal marketing expenses, and our main goal financially is to just break even.

Why did you decide to start doing this?

I’ve always had a passion for film media and used to be an editor by trade. When I began digging deeper into my faith 6 years ago, I started seeking out any good Christian media I could find. At that point, I wanted to learn more deeply about my faith. Although I had been brought up in the church, I never really “owned” my faith and really started that journey shortly after my father died in 2004.

The first thing that really grabbed me was when I discovered the “Matthew” film which is a word for word (NIV) dramatization of the Book of Matthew. I found that the film really spoke to me as the pages of the Bible came to life in front of my eyes. I then started seeking more and more. There is a lot of “dated” Christian film out there that the average secular and church audience would gloss over, but I have watched most of it - the good with the not so good, mainly feeding the Bible teachings into me through media. I began to find some wonderful Christian films that most people had never heard of, and I wanted to find a way to share these great films. My good friend Ben Landfeld believed in the vision as well.

We were encouraged and supported by the Teaching pastor at our church, who believed in the idea, and it just began to build from there. The main reason was to let the average Christian and non-Christian alike know that there are some great movies out there that most have never heard of (sleepers I believe is the term). I wanted to raise awareness of the level of quality that is available.

I also wanted to provide our church, neighboring churches, and the community as a whole the opportunity to attend a free film once a month. The film that started everything was on called “The Perfect Stranger” which was an independent film made in Louisville, KY, by Kellys Filmworks & City On A Hill Productions. We actually sold tickets for this first film as we decided to present it “dinner theater” style, so the ticket cost covered the catering cost. We limited the event to 100 tickets as a pilot/test, and sold out. We had such a great reaction to the film that we continued on a monthly basis in the church worship center as free to all who could attend, and we have been showing a film every month ever since.