Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SHOOT RECAP - Lighting

Was there really any lighting package on this shoot???... Well, that’d be, ah, almost non-existent... almost.
IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS - we pretty much had just this big bounce board, white cards, and a silver/gold reflector. Shooting out here mostly consisted of the usual running and gunning, while making quick adjustments with the little tools we did have. The monitor almost never came outside. 
FOR INTERIORS - there was a couple small lights and c-stands from Gonzo, what ever Kelly had laying around, an arri kit for about eight days, and kino flos  borrowed for the one green screen screen shot in a large garage... rest of the green screen being shot with natural light in a driveway and parking lot. Natural light was used much as possible, making all the necessary adjustments.
Biggest issue we had was fighting daylight, cuz we could NEVER shoot night for day. Some scenes suffered from this, ending up very much lacking in coverage. Same scenario over and over. First scene takes WAY too long to set up and finish. So the last scenes only get one or two takes and next to no coverage. But such is life on the budget of air.
And yet, the biggest advantage of not having much of a lighting rig meant having very little set ups to slow us down. Fighting day light actually acted like a first AD, FORCING us to stay on schedule. Would have been VERY hard to keep making our 10 pages a day if there were lots of lights and almost no crew to set that stuff up. The rare times we did have a lot of set ups, like in the mother of all locations, the Set General just lit the whole set and shot.
Bottom line is if you got a great DP who knows what the hell they’re doing, ya can get results under almost any circumstances. 

Just gotta be a little creative.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Alien Invaders

When Vaughn said he was going to produce another movie, of course I stepped up to the plate. Who wouldn't? His stories are fun, his vision is unique, and his enthusiasm is infectious. I've been watching him perfecting his craft for the last 10+ years, so I knew it would be a winner. "Tell me what you need," I said.

What did he need? My house. A location. Pack-rat by nature, I shuddered at the thought of having people invade my house and move my stuff around. But hey, anything for Vaughn.

I had three weeks off for winter break, so I had time to clear out the clutter in my house. Also in my plans for vacation were to paint a mural of Rivendell from Lord of the Rings on Santino's bedroom wall. I mentioned it to Vaughn and Rob but also that it might not be finished. Rob said, whatever you can do will be great.

So away went my clutter, and up went the mural. Big huge crates housed my extra stuff, and I crammed that into my garage and also my bedroom, which would act as my "untouchable" room; that is, a room where they wouldn't be filming so I was going to leave it in its messy state. We painted the mural--a bit unfinished but enough to present on film.

For the day of filming, I kenneled my dogs for the day and trapped my cats in my bedroom (one of my cats was an actor in one of the scenes so I wanted him on hand). Parking on my street is limited and we needed to accommodate Rob's truck. So, I parked my car strategically and blocked off an area in front of my house with trash cans so the truck would fit. Pia called me when they were pulling up at 9 am-ish, I removed the trash cans and re-parked the car. I felt like I was on the spy crew of Mission: Impossible.

Then came the transformation. When Vaughn and Rob and Neil had checked out my house in late November, I had very little vegetation in my front yard. But on this day in January, my fertile land had sprouted with foot-tall grasses. I told Rob--hey, let me cut that down for you. He reassured me--we're professionals, we'll take care of it. But you know, I wanted to pitch in, so I quickly cut down the green just enough for them to cover it up.

They unloaded the truck. Bags of landscaping rocks, potted plants, shovels, it kept coming. And wow what a job they did--first they laid down black tarp, planted desert plants, put landscaping rocks on top. It looked great. Rob said they'd remove everything before they left but I really wanted to keep it--it looked amazing and was what I wanted in my yard anyway.

Eventually Rob ran out of landscaping rocks, so I made a run to Home Depot to get more bags, the Mission: Impossible theme running through my head the whole time.

I had said to Rob and Pia--take what you need from the garage, and boy did they take me seriously! When I came back from Home Depot, my living room was transformed with wall hangings, boxes and bulky items removed from my garage for dressing the set, you name it. They found stuff I hadn't seen in years. I have no idea where they found that giant pink Care Bear. Rob and Pia said--don't worry, we'll put everything back as we found it. I knew they would-and yet, where did they find all that stuff anyway?

Funny--I spent my whole winter break clearing out the clutter in my house, just so Rob and company could create a more "deliberate" clutter that reflected the character in the story.

That day I made something like seven trips to get food, pick up Santino, pick up the dogs--I was constantly in and out. On my last trip, when I came back they had already broken the set and returned most of my things to the garage. Despite Rob's assurances that they would clean up absolutely everything, I wanted to help a little, so I put a crate into my room.

Sweeping things up, returning boxes to the garage, and then the place was cleared, just as they found it. As Rob made his last review of things in the living room, he counted the crates we had there in the morning. "Seven," he said, "we're supposed to have seven crates and I only count six." That seventh crate was the one I had put in my bedroom. Man oh man, he wasn't kidding when he said they were professionals.

Everyone left, like the end of a huge party. The truck pulled away, and I plopped onto my couch in a state of exhaustion and turned on my fully functioning t.v. The only difference between this and a party, though, was that there weren't puddles of beer and half-full soda cans laying around, and we get a movie out of it too.

Anyway, Vaughn and the crew didn't leave my house the way they found it. They left it BETTER than they found it--spotless floor and careful landscaping. All this for a little film about an alien.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Its poster tag line time, so let us consider something. What the hell is this movie? Is it -

A. An indie comedy
B. An indie slacker comedy
C. An indie slacker, stoner comedy
D. An indie slacker, stoner, sci fi comedy
E. An existential extraterrestrial road romp
F. All of the above

I like D and E, but F works fine too. What's your take?

Please leave your comments, and any ideas you have for the poster images. Don't worry if you're feeling LOST by all of this, because you could compare N.O.T.A. to the hit TV show LOST as well.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

SHOOT RECAP - the camera

This entire movie was shot on a Panasonic HMC150 and HVX200, mainly the 150, which was available 24-7.
The biggest advantage the 150 had for this type of shoot was the convenience and affordability of SD cards. Just a 32 and 16 gig card meant never having to stop to download any footage while filming. The camera’s small size(about 4 pounds) also allowed for inconspicuous running and gunning.
The Panasonic’s have a nice pastel look to them. A little more filmy than the Sony’s, which look so sharp you could cut yourself on the images. The camera’s stock lens is fairly wide angle. The set General HATED the 150 at first, but learned to embrace it’s ‘short comings’, inclusive of a depth of field that keeps EVERYTHING in focus. For the movie’s ‘look’ we kept the focal points consistent and just rocked out with that crazy depth of field.
As for battery life, we managed to just barely get by with one big and small one. The only time there was an issue was when the little battery ‘mysteriously’ didn’t get fully charged(see day 16). 
We used an HVX200 on both big green screen days for extra coverage(see days 14 & 15). But unfortunately in all the chaos, didn’t end up matching the settings with the HMC150, luckily Raz was able to solve that issue in post. They mix pretty well.
The work horse of a tripod was one made by Libec, retailing for less that 200 bucks. Another piece of gear that performed well for the price.
 All things considered the picture looks remarkably pro.
photos by Suzan Jones

Monday, April 12, 2010











DAY 10

DAY 11

DAY 12

DAY 13

DAY 14

DAY 15

DAY 16

DAY 17

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

DAY 17

Last day for shooting actual scenes.... WE HOPE
First round of actors arrive at said location(where we’re ganging two scenes at one place, the Real Deal way). After taking a good think about the lighting options(or lack of) the Set General decides it’s best to shoot the first scene at night rather than dusk.
And so into the car the General goes to shoot some plates for another scene set at dusk.
Upon the his Generals return, Lord and Lady Deal arrive with all the props, inclusive of a VERY heavy pay phone, which has gotta be lugged up a long-high-STEEP set of stairs.
Said fake heavy prop pay phone gets moved around and around until the perfect spot is found for all proper coverage with the least amount of set ups.... in this case two. An actor who’s in the next scene arrives and is immediately put to work holding a bounce card. 
Another actor, coming later for this one set up ‘we might need it’ scene texts. He’s still on another set, running late.
The prop pay phone scene gets wrapped and the crew moves ahead in time and across town, actually about ten feet for the next scene. We’ve been at this location before, and being a house under construction, it looks quite a bit ‘different’. No problem, it’s night, we keep the shots tight, a perfect match... ish.
The actor on the other set texts again. Dude’s gonna be REALLY late. The Set General’s gotta catch an early plane the next morn for Alaska. So a decision is made to punt on the one set up ‘we might need it’ scene.
The actor texts back... ‘what do you mean by punt?’
The martini is wrapped and it’s all hands on deck to strike, including dragging that damn heavy prop pay phone back down those looooong STEEP stairs.
Last people standing are the Deals and General. The Real Deal can’t find one of his sandbags, so a call goes into Suzan Jones, who brought most of the gear. The multitasking wonder pulls over. Yes, she does have the sandbag. 
And so it ends.... oh how we will miss you principal photography
P.S. as a result of Suzan doing make up, sound, and grip work, the only pics we got for this round ‘o shooting was a few taken with some cheap cell phone.