Tuesday, March 26, 2013

First Video Out of the Gate

Here we are, folks!

The first CME video to go up is actually the third we shot.  One of the actors we've worked with, Selase Botchway gave me a call and basically said, "I want to make a fanfilm.  Can you help?"
Of course, I said "Yes".
Selase is in incredible physical condition, really.  And he makes for a perfect superhero.
We also emplyed the incredibly beautiful Giovannie Cruz.
Unfortunately, we had an incredibly limited amount of time to shoot this, and, in fact, split the day so we could shoot this AND another video, too.  That makes for a pretty hectic schedule, but we did it.

The only thing I don't love about the shoot was that we had so little time, and the wind was so high, we had to cut the dialogue and make it a music only video.  That isn't the case of the others we will be presenting.
Keep an eye out as we continue our journey.
Because it's going to only get more violent, and crazy from here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cheapest Tools Ever!

A lot of people are interested in programs that will help them get their video out there and on the web, looking good, and being creative.  I am a fan of technology, but tend to think too many people believe that a program will save them instead of just being creative and doing what they can with what they have.

That being said, I want to talk to you about a few programs that are free or very inexpensive, and well-worth taking some time with to help create the fx you want.

First off, let's talk about Photoshop.  Yes, I know, it isn't free.  But it isn't the program I'm going to talk about so much as what can be done with it.  Photoshop can allow you to do some very nifty things in video, such as create mattes, virtual sets, shadows, blood spurts, etc.  But the program is expensive, and, let's be honest, not terribly easy to use.  However, there's an alternative.  It's called Paint.NET and it's a free program that is actually very powerful and very easy to use.  And it is ideal for creating some wonderful fx.  I am using it to create virtual shadows (which can REALLY enhance a scene), mattes, blood spurts, etc.  About twenty minutes of YouTube videos had me up and running, and I was able to create some excellent fx.  You can get it at http://www.getpaint.net/  I do suggest downloading some of the plug-ins to help enhance your effects and comps.  A read-through of the forums doesn't hurt either.  Is it exactly like Photoshop?  No.  However, it's a nice, inexpensive asset to have on your desktop.  Unfortunately, it's Windows only.

How about After Effects?  Man, that is a fantastic program.  And, again, expensive and difficult to use.  However, there's an alternative.  It's called WAX 2.0 and it will do much of what After Effects does, comping, rotoscoping, etc.  However, it does not have a motion tracking engine, and can be a little unweildy when lining up your compositions.  The answer then is to keep your camera locked down when shooting your effects (that running gunfight you wanted, well, you may have to compromise by shooting it in several locked down shots instead of an unsteady hand-held or dolly).  You can add shake of some sort in your editing program.  You can find WAX 2.0 here http://www.debugmode.com/wax/  You can also edit in WAX, but it will only edit in .AVI format, which can make for some frighteningly large files.  I suggest only editing the footage with the effect on it in this product.  But you can now replicate those awesome Freddiew style gunshots without spending the money on After Effects.

Let's talk about editing programs now.  I use Avid Liquid for the most part, though I am learning to use Final Cut Pro, as well.  I prefer Liquid because it is a fully integrated system, very powerful, and it does much of what I need to do more efficiently than any other program I've ever seen on the market.  The problem with it?  It's no longer available.  I could explain how Avid bought up Pinnacle, and then buried Liquid almost immediately in order to stop it's encroaching on Media Composer, but there's no point to it.  Now, in order to use my beloved Liquid, I had to add a step to my workflow so that I could edit AVCHD footage with it.  But, honestly, it's not that big of a deal.

So, what about the people who want to make a movie, but can't afford to purchase a system like Final Cut, Media Composer, Liquid, Edius, or Sony Vegas?  Well, at the lowest end of the spectrum, you have Windows Movie Maker.  My only real issue with WMM is that it isn't really frame-accurate.  It's a little like editing between two VCR's without a flying-erase head and no edit controller.  Which is to say, it's old school and not accurate.  It also has very poor audio controls.  BUT, if it's all you have, USE IT!  Use it until you can't stand using it anymore.  Use the hell out of it!  You can learn the basics of editing from this program, and it's free.
Or, you can use Videospin, which is also free.  http://videospin.en.softonic.com/  Pinnacle, the makers of Liquid, created this free editor to introduce people to editing.  It used to have its own website and forum/tutorials, but those are gone the way of Liquid.  It's still out there though, and it's ideal for the beginner.

So, now let's talk about the ones that will cost you a bit.  Not too much, though.  If you're a young person, we're talking around the cost of mowing 6 yards in your neighborhood (if you're charging at least $20 per yard).  I've suggested these programs and seen some people do very cool work with them.

Magix Movie Edit Pro - this is an all-around good little program, fully featured, easy to use, fun to work with and extremely stable.  Depending on which version you buy it will cost anywhere between $59-$129, and it will do much of what you need it to do.  It has good effects, decent color correction, a good audio editor, and the ability to output to directly from the timeline.  I like Magix products, and often use their Music Maker program to create incidental music, stings and sound effects for my own videos.

Pinnacle Studio - Again we're back to Pinnacle.  There are a number of reasons I love their products, mostly because they are very easy to use, fairly powerful, and come fully loaded with lot's of effects.  Studio also comes in three versions ranging in price from $59-$129, and this is one I suggest going the higher end route for.  Why?  Well, let me put it this way. Red Giant Toolkit.  Yep, this one comes with an integrated version of Magic Bullet Movie Looks and a powerful Motion Graphics toolkit.  Again, easy to use, fully featured, and very powerful.  They also supply a green screen with the purchase, which is cool enough, I suppose, though I'm not sure I would call it Free since you're paying more for the program.

Premiere Elements - It retails for about $100, and it's fairly easy to use.  I'm just not a huge fan of the Adobe product line, even though I always say that if you can use Premiere, After Effects, and Photoshop, there is nothing you can't do.

There's another product out there called Hitfilm, and I'm extremely impressed with what it does.  Basically an integrated graphics/compositing/editor system, it's a bit more expensive than the others, but I've seen some extremely cool things done with it recently.  It seems to work like After Effects, but the cost is quite a bit lower as it ranges from $149-$574.  They have a free trial which I keep wanting to download and play with if I ever get some free time.

But, here's my rule for making cool movies.  Don't worry about tools you don't have.  Use your creativity instead.  If you want to create a cool monster, make a cool monster suit in your garage or patio, and go out and shoot with it.  Or use stop-motion animation to create it.  Or a puppet.  Use whatever you have.  Making movies, especially in the beginning, should be about the cool stuff you can do right now, using your brain and what you have.  Your toolkit will grow as you do.

By the way, just to let everyone know...the first Cheapest Movies Ever! trailer will be premiering on Halloween.  Of course we'll put the link here, but we're also going to plaster it all over the place.  I can't wait for you to see it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A few notes on Special Effects

When I first started my fascinations with movies, I wanted to be Ray Harryhausen.  Not just an animator, but  the greatest animator in the world, a man who captured the imaginations of three generations.  I wanted to make monsters that stalked city streets, and magical skeletons that could carry on an epic sword fight, and creatures from myth and legend that would interact with my human characters.  I wanted to BE Ray Harryhausen.

There was only one problem.  I didn't have the patience to be Ray Harryhausen.  I tried.  I did, but my animation was herky-jerky, my models began leaping around the set, teleporting rather than moving.  I just...I wasn't good at it.  Now, I can actually take the time, and add a little animated piece to a feature, but then, no way.

So I began learning about special make-up effects.  I'm not the greatest sculptor in the world, but I can still create an effect that works.  I can also create miniatures (left over from my wanna-be animation days, I suppose).  But somehow, while learning and working on effects, I got into acting, which led to directing.  I've always, through it all, been a writer.

So, I wanted to show off a little of those talents in our Cheapest Movies Ever! concept.  I decided our first movie would be a monster film set on a distant outpost hidden in some Godforsaken location.  I live in Dallas, TX.  I like it.  I don't consider it Godforsaken.  But I was going to need to show our distant outpost.

I built a miniature.  I built this miniature on four pieces of cardboard, to which I had taped down an interesting piece of plastic packing material.  I built up the landscape
using that home-haunters favorite, GreatStuff Foam, and then I also
added cheap dollar store kitty litter for additional landscape material.
Painted the whole thing black to create shadows, and finished off
with a drybrush of light brown on the rocks and blue/grey on the building.
Add a dollar store LED flashlight into the port and you have a distant outpost.
Now this photo does not have the lighting we'll use in the short, or the particle generated dust-storm, but for a few hours of work, I have a location that is three dimensional, and takes up only three and a half feet in my storage closet.  And I really had a good time creating it.

I need a monster next.  Something gross and nasty but unique.  Something that will startle people, make them uncomfortable, but, remember, folks, it's got to be cheap.  How about $27?  Yeah, that could work.
Now, I'm not going to show you the whole suit here (you'll have to see the short which shoots on the 22nd of September), but I will show you the monsters head.
The materials to make this head cost about than $15, folks.  But it took some time.  I went to a hobby store and purchase a foam pirate hat for...that's right, $1.  Cutting the brim of the hat off, I had a helmet that I could glue the face onto.  The face is made from two different monster masks that are vacuform plastic.  They were both too small for an adult to wear, but by carefully cutting them up I was able to remove the jaws and split the face.  I was also able to cut the devil horns and the eyebrow section from one and glue it onto the other at an angle.  Now comes the time-consuming part.  Using a package of dollar store napkins (100 pack, you can use toilet tissue or paper towels as well, but I find napkins prevent you from having to tear sheets off a roll, which adds to the process), I would paint white home exterior latex paint (the cheapest you can find, mine was about $4 at a home repair store) in a thin layer over part of the mask, and then apply a torn sheet of napkin to the paint.  Then, using very little paint on the brush, glue down the edges of the paper towel in an outward motion.  This prevents the napkin from bunching up, and if the layer is thin enough, it will begin to dry while you're preparing the next area.  With more latex paint on the brush, gently paint the napkin so that it is coated in paint, but not dripping with it.  This creates excellent detail on the skin of the mask, tiny little vein-like texture.  Overlapping the napkins, continue this over the entire mask.  Where there are holes (such as the brows protruding from where I had glued the front edge, leaving a gap at the back edge near the temples) fill with cotton balls by painting a thin layer of paint and adhering the cotton to the mask.  A light layer of paint on the cotton (this is tricky to do, but you will get used to it quickly) prepares it for more napkin skin.  Certain details, such as the aggressive cheek lines, were created by tearing small strips of napkin and rolling them up into a line, painting them on, and then adding a little cotton at the top and bottom to blend them, and then adding more skin on top.  I used a dollar store jello mold of a brain (there are much better molds out there, but they are more expensive), liquid latex painted in thin layers into the mold and after about three layers reinforced with paper towels, to create the exposed brain of the monster.  At the edges of the latex brain, I used cotton to blend it in, and skinned the whole thing.  It took a few days to do the entire head.  For the cheeks, by the way, I used pieces of foam from the brim of the hat I cut off.  Next up, I spray painted the whole thing black (spray paint is $.99 a can at Wal-Mart), and used the same light brown latex paint I used on the miniature to drybrush the skin.  The light brown is a more than reasonable skin tone on this mask.
For the record, my can of light brown paint is oops paint from Wal-Mart.  I've used it to create a Crypt-Keeper for a friends Halloween party, and now this.  It's still VERY full.
I think that's enough for now, don't you?  And I really don't want to reveal to much until the show comes out.  But let it be said that the dollar store (especially the incredibly fine people at the Everything Is .99 Store) is your low-budget movie makers best friend.  It's Halloween season, and stocking up on items they have now will save you a ton of money down the way.
Until next time.

Monday, September 10, 2012

From this moment on...

The posts are going to focus on the particular webisode (what an odd term, but I was told today by the extremely nice people at SAG/AFTRA that our internet distributed idea should not be referred to as a short or an episode, as those do not fall into our "New Media" contract) we are working on.  Our next update will focus on the special effects we will be using on our first webisode.

These effects will include miniatures, a monster suit, digital effects and mechanical effects.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Casting Concerns Revealed

So, I have to admit that I was fairly concerned about how we were going to cast for such a large group of actors willing to work for free.  My hope was that we would get  maybe 15 or so.

Of course, I tried posting in the Craigslist Talent Gigs.  I learned a lot about CL by doing this.  I learned that advertising for a sugarbaby is considered the same as advertising for a model or actress.  I also learned that "Busty" is considered a talent.  Who knew?  I didn't.  I thought at best it was genetics, and at worst it was just lucky.

But then I found a site that features Texas-based actors.  I put up an open call for talent and waited.  I didn't have to wait long, either.  I started getting emails fairly quickly.  A few told me straight up, despite saying in the original listing that this was a one-day shoot and would have no pay, that they would not work without payment.  A couple said they would "do the first one" without pay, but would expect payment from then on.  Let me tell you how that normally works, guys.  A talent like that will usually show up for the shoot after accepting the role, they might even do half of the shoot for you.  At that time, they will demand money to finish, or they will walk.  Anyone who didn't seem to understand that we were going to shoot for about 8 hours, and give them featured roles, well-shot, and well-edited that they could freely use on their reel, but we weren't going to pay them, didn't get a response.

Speaking of responses, I wrote three of them.  These could be broken down into three categories.
1) What are we doing?  This explained the style of the shoot, the time it would take, and what the project actually was.  I ended it with "Let us know if you're still interested."
2) Why are we doing this?  This basically explained our reasoning behind making this project.  It showed the benefits to both the project and the actors.  It was completely honest.  It was based on reassuring our actors that we weren't somehow secret adult film-makers ready to steal actors and sell them into the adult movie business, or something.  I guess it made sense because we had originally posted in the Craigslist Talent Gigs where "Busty" is a talent.
3) How we expected our talent to respond.  This was a response to our actors who had questions about scheduling, and a couple who decided they wanted to be a little diva-ish.  I told them the truth.  I explained how to respond when they were offered a role, and the time limit they had to respond.  I again tried to reassure them, but I was firm about it, too.

Here's the funny thing.  The response wasn't good.  It was overwhelming!  It turns out that a couple of the local talent agencies got wind of the project and began sending their actors that didn't have much on their resume or reel to us.  It made sense, too.  You can more easily get someone a job if you have something to show them, and we're offering footage for a reel with very little time to give up for free.  It is a totally symbiotic relationship.  We also made contact with musicians, and crew people, as well as a couple of writers who were also interested in the project.

So after three VERY grueling days of merely contacting actors, I was able to put together the cast for our first shoot in two weeks.

AND, we have a talent pool that only appears to be growing.

Next up, we'll talk about special effects.  See you soon.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Show Goes On...FINALLY!!!

So, life kicks us around, and eventually, tired of being kicked, we stand up, dust off our ideas, and kick back.

Which leads us to where we are today.
So, a couple of years ago or so, I posted that we were going to make five movies, in five months, for $1500.  Yeah.  Well, as we all know, that didn't happen.
Here's what IS happening!
One year.
26 shorts (that's one every two weeks, by the way.)
Distributed freely through the internet.
Cost?  $1300.

Why the change?  Money, mostly.  Losing my job made it impossible to afford the $1500 going out of my account so quickly.  But $100 a month?  I believe I can afford that.  At this time, I'm not going to look at Crowdfunding.  However, if it turns out that people really like our shorts and trailers, we may consider that to fund an entire film based on whichever trailer people most want made into a movie.
Right now, though, I just want to make a few cool movies to put on my reel.

I need to take a moment here, and thank some people who have kept me pushing towards this.

Joe Sherlock is an independent movie-maker who has been a follower on this blog for awhile.  We've never met.  But he's also a friend on Facebook, and he's been very supportive, never pushy, but...It's obvious to me that he wants to see what happens with this.  Because he told me so.  Thanks, Joe.

My daughter.  Yeah, I know, it sounds cheesy, but Lil has been really wanting me to make another film, and she doesn't care what it is, she just knows I'm not happy unless I'm trying to be creative.  Here you go, honey.  I think you're going to enjoy this.

A few years ago, I bought this book called SHOCK FESTIVAL by some shmoe named Stephen Romano.  It's a fictional work about the exploitation business from the late 1960's to the present.  It's fake, but "true", if you get that.  The book was my original catalyst for trying to form Cheapest Movies Ever in the first place.  I got to meet Mr. Romano, and not only is he NOT a shmoe, he is one of the coolest cats I've ever seen.  Just awesome, passionate about exploitation, and a whirlwind of information.  I told him about CME, and he said "Whatever happens, man, make sure you send it to me.  That sounds awesome!"  So...I'm wanting to send it to him.  Because he supported me without even knowing it, and then he supported me when he met me.

Fred Olen Ray.  Fred Olen ray barely knows I exist.  I've been a fan of his for years, used to chat with him on his forum occasionally, and every now and then I get updates from him through his Facebook Fan page.  Fred Olen Ray is simply one of the most bad-ass film guys in the world today.  He doesn't sit around waiting for some suit to decide to give him money to make a movie.  He makes movies.  ALL THE TIME.  He makes action, horror, sci-fi, T&A, kids movies, and now, even light romantic comedy.  He grew up at the drive-in, he likes exploitation, and his commentary tracks are the single most informative, no bullshit things you'll ever hear.  I owe him.

James Esely needs to be on here, too.  James is a great actor who has been waiting patiently for me to get off my ass and do something for two years.  I'm going to kill him this year.  In fact, I'm going to kill him a lot. Just you wait, James.

And finally, I owe Adam Gaulding a ton.  He's a bad-ass too.  This is partly for you, Adam.

Now.  I have a monster suit to make tomorrow, and I need to get to bed.  Keep your eyes open, true believers.  Because there's some stuff on the horizon.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

One year later...OR WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED!?!

It's interesting when things fall apart, isn't it?  Kind of sad and lonely, and terribly depressing. However, it isn't the end of the world as long as you can pull yourself back up, get your head on straight, and try to re-organize.

Things fell apart, folks.  Life, work, home...all pretty much went to shit.  My kids are fine.  My girlfriend and I broke up.  My job took a drastic and odd change.  And I had to move out of my apartment.

It's a year later, though.  I have pulled myself up.  I am dusted off.  My head is mostly on straight.  I am re-organized.

CHEAPEST MOVIES EVER!!! is back in business!  Let's get rolling!