Presentations and Filmmaking

The Treasonist

Lately I’ve been reading blogs about presentations, from Presentation Zen to Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero. They’ve introduced a new way of doing PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentations, one that draws a lot of parallels with filmmaking, such as using storytelling and visual images, rather than bullet points.

Unfortunately, we don’t get a lot of chances to do Keynote presentations at the Film School. The only opportunity is during Director’s Prep. Part of the job of the producer is to show photos of the cast and locations. Generally students just show some printed photos that get passed around the table. I like to bring a little more.

Above are a few slides from the Director’s Prep of A Death Down South. Sticking with some techniques from Presentation Zen, I used images to completely fill the background. I also used a different image for each part of the presentation to visually signify sections, and gave everyone who had to say something a title card. I also sent an e-mail out letting the ATL know I could add photos for their part of the presentation. Production Design took me up on the offer.

Below are some samples from The Treasonist.

Treasonist Prep

There is one part I still need to figure out. A big part of Director’s Prep is showing tone clips. Generally we’ll bring in a DVD of the film, and then spend a good minute going through the chapters to find the clip. I ripped the scene I needed with HandBrake, but when I would play it back through Keynote it would play extremely sluggish. I’d like to think my computer can handle it, but I have yet to figure out smooth playback.

I set the presentation up with Keynote on my MacBook, which comes with a remote control that works great with the slideware. Instead of using a projector, I hooked it up to the TV we use to play the tone clips. It works great and is something that will definitely make a return for thesis.

Scouting for a Corner Office

On Monday, my Producer and I finally got around to doing some pre-production work for my F3. The two main locations I need is an open cubicle area and a really nice corner office, one that is soul-worthy.

Most of the downtown area is either government buildings or law offices, with a minimal one or two breaking the twenty story mark. My producer, Justin, did some research into the government buildings, and it seems like the only place we could possibly film is an empty building, but only Monday to Friday, 9-5 (I shoot Friday/Saturday).

So we decided to just walk around downtown, find buildings that look promising, and ask if we can take a peak. I was expecting some serious rejection, but surprisingly everyone was very nice and accommodating.

The first office we went to didn’t have a corner unit, but referred us to two other offices that do (one pictured above). This was probably my favorite building as it’s the only one with floor to ceiling windows.

We then stumbled into one of the larger buildings where we met Ross as we aimlessly roamed a hallway, trying to find a receptionist (turns out this firm is on two floors, we just stopped at the wrong one). Ross seemed really excited to have a distraction from work, as he gave us a grand tour of everyone’s office.

He also liked the story, and says he knows people who have in fact sold their soul, though maybe not quite as literally as the film.

Even people who didn’t fully support the story were helpful, mainly the Catholic Conference. Something about selling your soul and your boss becomes the devil didn’t sit well with them, but they did offer to help as a last resort, as long as we don’t feature where we’re filming.

Today we’re going back to look at another office that looked promising, but we didn’t get a chance to take pictures. It’s in the same building as the top photo, so it has those nice, big windows.

 

Producing Tools

With one producing job down, I’ve already picked up a few tricks to make things go easier for time two. Below are a few free web apps that help keep things organized (a lot were also used during documentary making). Most have a mobile option, which makes them very powerful for some on-set action.

Calendar Google Calendar

I set up a separate calendar for the production and invited all ATL members to it, though it’s most useful for the Director and Producer. Important dates go here, such as meetings, director’s prep, production dates, etc. But I would also coordinate auditions and add them to the calendar, to keep the director and I in sync.

CalendarGOOG-411

I gave this a try when I wanted to do a search for Olive Garden on my phone and the Google search page suggested their free 411 service. Since my phone was being slow, I gave it a shot, and it is amazing.

Simply call 1-800-GOOG-411. They’ll ask for the city and state, and then the business name. It will make a few HAL clicks and beeps and return a list of results. You can then have them connect you to the business, get more details, or get the details sent to your phone. Way faster and more fun than mobile internet.

National Weather Service

If you’re shooting outside, and the weather looks kind of nasty, you need to know if a storm is coming and how long it should last. Just search on the National Weather Service’s site for your area and get all the forecasts you need. But it gets better.

Add the local phone number to your phone. Then when you’re on set, just give them a call and they’ll gladly give you their best guess on what type of weather you can expect and for how long with their real-time screens. The site also has a mobile link, but I haven’t given that a try yet.

Jott

Jott turns your phone into a hands-free command center. Once it’s set up, just dial the number and speak. You can send yourself notes, send out a text message, create a Google Calendar event, create a task with RTM, and much more with many other services. I have a habit of mumbling, but Jott does a pretty good job at transcribing what I say.

Calendar Google Docs

Another useful tool. This is a good place for the ATL to keep notes on different parts of the film – casting, production design, locations, etc.

Remember The Milk Remember the Milk

Still my favorite task manager. I know you can share tasks, but I didn’t try to get the crew using GTD.

No Communication is a Bad Thing

I’m Second Assistant Director (2AD) right now. This is my last ATL job and second to last thesis show. I wouldn’t call this show a disaster…yet.

The main problem is lack of communication. The UPM and I have been kept in the dark about what’s going on from the Producer. Generally, before Director’s Prep, the ATL has a meeting and discuses what locations are needed, actors, extras, production design, and any other outstanding issues so everyone is on the same page. That never happened. I’m not surprised. The Producer is kind of out there, but out of all the ATL meetings he’s had to have been to, you would think he would know that they are a good idea.

He also told me the locations were pretty much secured, but today I found out (from someone that was kicked out of the Film School and is now a sort of an invisible Producer) that two out of the three are not secured. Now I’m racking my brain to think of some locations that could work with my new phantom Producer. We’ll see how this goes.

A Truck Full of Equipment

GripTruck-1

Each production gets a certain amount of equipment that I suppose someone deemed was enough to make a film. This is a standard package that has the camera, big and little sticks, dolly, dolly track, assortment of lights, sandbags, apple boxes, c-stands, light stands, tarps, frames, sound blankets, gels, and miscellaneous grip gack ((Grip gack is an assortment of random parts to mount lights and other objects to almost any surface, such as walls and pipes.)). If you want anything more, such as a steadicam or ubangi, then you have to request it from the Equipment Room (ER).

As is standard with all real world productions, we have to check-in and check-out the equipment for each show. For a feature film, this takes about a week or two. For us, we have about two hours.

Grip Truck-1

The truck is completely unloaded and each department handles their equipment. The ACs (Assistant Camera) build the camera, sound builds the boom, and G&E completely empties the truck and lays out all the equipment. Someone from the ER comes by with a checklist and checks in the gear from the previous show, and then checks it out to the new one.

Everything must be tested to make sure it works. Each light is plugged in, every lens is attached to the camera and focused. If there’s a problem it needs to be caught now before you’re on set and it really becomes an issue. You also don’t want to get a broken piece of equipment and then get blamed for breaking it. “It was already like that,” doesn’t fly.

For some reason, some people decide to show up late to check-out, or not at all. This is not a good habit to have.

I had two check-ins Friday because the two shows I was on last weekend had two different grip trucks. The first check-in had about 3 people show up. The second one had all 6. I kind of liked the second one more.

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