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Rowan is marked up for Visual Effects

Rowan is marked up for Visual Effects

I would have posted yesterday if I hadn’t been so tired. Yesterday was our final big shoot for series one of The Winding City, and what a day it was.


I had, as usual, an insanely ambitious schedule planned – in excess of 11 minutes of footage to be shot over the course of the day, outside, with no lighting.

Just like Saturday, the Fates seemed to shine on us and provided excellent sunlight all day long. Of course this is both a blessing and a curse – as it can cause the image to blow out from there being too much light.

But after having watched through the dailies with Nick, we’ve found the footage to look pretty good.

We were EXTREMELY fortunate to have Phil on location again and helping with the fight scene – which came across amazing. Rowan looks suitably kick ass in the sequence, and once we have added some sound effects and background music, it is going to look incredible.

It helped that Phil is a professional fight choreographer and trainer, and a world master martial artist. He also is a very cool guy who is both patient and friendly. He made a great effort to remember everyone’s names and always made the cast feel at ease.


Rowan fighting the Masques

Rowan fighting the Masques

We had a number of extras this time who all ran and dodged and fell down – they had to spend a couple of hours sitting on blankets in the sun, but when we needed them to be on film, they definitely put their all into it.


Our main cast were, as always, brilliant. Given that this was probably the last time they would be working together on this project for a while it was really cool to be able to get the group together for one last time until the planned launch party.

Yesterday was another day that left me feeling like I was becoming more than an amateur film-maker, thanks to the input from professionals like Bernice, Rowan, Norman, Elliot, Kerina, Phil… At no point did I feel that we were some small group of wannabes making a vanity film – the whole day felt like a genuine professional project. It’s moments like those that I feel humbled rather than full of myself – because I have managed to gather genuinely talented people together to make something that is not some little forgettable project. This really felt like the real deal.

We had a lot of hikers, families and bikers stopping to watch the filming as well – and a lot of positive comments were made about Jackie’s costuming of the Masques – our villains of the piece. She did a fantastic job of designing creepy costumes – and the claws look incredible. 

I even had to ring the police to advise them that we were shooting a fight sequence, which was kind of cool – at that moment I felt like a real producer.

Of course, I worried all day about how everyone felt – that they were annoyed at me for keeping them around rather than letting them go, that kind of thing. But I was constantly being reminded that everyone was happy to be part of the project. Bernice has asked me to help with a project she’s working on – which I am already getting excited about – and Kerina told me that she would be keen to work on anything I did in the future regardless of the future of The Winding City.


Bernice, Kerina, Jenni, Dayle, Lynn and Angeline look on as the fight breaks out...

Bernice, Kerina, Jenni, Dayle, Lynn and Angeline look on as the fight breaks out...



Coming from professional and experienced people in the industry, that is an incredible compliment. Not only of my work on the Winding City as a script, but on how I’ve managed to put together the shoot and the series. As I noted before, I worry a lot about the mistakes I make and it helps to know that I have the talent to grow in this industry and have others confident in my ability. It has been this positive and practical reinforcement that has kept me going thus far, and is driving me to see this show through to the end.

It has also inspired me to start working on the second series of The Winding City now – just the initial treatments, no scripts just yet. I will have more than enough work to do with Post-production.

Something that I have learned that has been advised to me many times now is that you never can afford to be full of yourself. Film-making is  constant learning experience, and there is always something new to discover. I find it interesting to hear about those people in the industry who get cynical about their jobs and position – who kind of buy into their own self importance.

I hope that as I work on this project that I never get like that. While I may be one of the hardest working people on this project – that is solely because I have set that work for myself. Simply put, it takes everyones input to make a successful show. While some people may be the heart, others are the legs, the brains … you get where I’m going with this… 😉

Like I said, when I realise how professional this project has become since the early days when I was just going to do a small 7 minute piece with Gino, I feel humbled. Yes, I’m proud of what I have achieved, and how I have managed to bring it all together.


One of the Masques hangs out for a while

One of the Masques hangs out for a while



But that is because I have listened and learned from people like Dan, Norman, Phil – all the people who have patiently explained to me what needs to be done, how to do it. And also because of a little luck as well. Having a friend like Norman, with his contacts – managing to meet people like Bernice and Kerina who have been able to call on their contacts – Morgue, without whom I would never have met Dan who has been a major driving force behind my work and has been a constant source of positive energy, encouragement and professional advice…

That was what was going through my mind yesterday as we shot a lot of last scenes for many of our cast. The feeling and realisation that we are so close now to having the series in the can and now having a full FOUR EPISODES shot.  There is over four hours of footage on film. If we combine all four episodes is comes to almost over an hour of actual screen time once the show has been fully edited – maybe more!

It’s really exciting! Keep posted as I will be updating our progress now through the post-production and publicity phase. 🙂


Beware the attack of the Masques

Beware the attack of the Masques

Yet another day shot and wrapped. Today was an extra shoot that I was fortunate enough to have both Elliot and Nick agree to come in and shoot the majority of their remaining scenes. Our main goal was to get as much of their exterior’s shot as well as the scene that will hopefully be the “money shot” as Norman calls it.


This is our big reveal shot of the Winding City itself. We also had our first non-visual effect monster – a Masque – revealed. See the behind the scenes shot of Kent as a Masque… suitably creepy looking.

One of the worst things I found about planning exteriors is how much you are at the whims of the weather. All this week the forecast had been for rain, which had me worrying that we wouldn’t be able to get this crucial footage shot before Nick and Elliot became unavailable for the next three or so weekends.

As luck would have it, the day was beautiful with plenty of light. In fact, it was a bit too much light!

The next issue you face is sound. Let’s face it, when you are a small crew like ours, you can’t lock off entire streets for the shoot. Which means we must also deal with the public and other noisy intrusions. We had a number of occasions where a car, truck or motorcycle would drive by at the most inconvenient point imaginable. Fortunately the general public are less of a problem. We found most people to be remarkably considerate of our shooting, often patiently waiting for us to stop for the next shot before walking past.

Hopefully we weren’t too much of an inconvenience for people who were going about their daily activities.

Lee helps Kent adjust his mask

Lee helps Kent adjust his mask



My panic button did hit today though – with me panicking that Lynn and Kent weren’t going to show. Which meant poor Lynn was bugged by regular texts from me asking if she was still showing up!

Once Kent arrived, we had him dress up in the thick Masque costume – which took a little bit of fussing to get it looking right – but when we got there? It was fantastic.

After we finished our shoot – around 2pm – we then had Rowan, Kerina and Kent get some training from a fight instructor friend of Norman’s, Phil.

Phil was amazing, providing very helpful training for our actors and choreographing some very exciting looking fight scenes. I think people are going to be very surprised by the calibre of the fights for such a small project.

Kerina and Rowan practice for their big scene...

Kerina and Rowan practice for their big scene...



Tomorrow – we almost complete our principle photography!


I’ve talked before about the ever difficult balancing that is being a Producer on a volunteer project like The Winding City. While I don’t have a huge amount of experience in film-making, I have worked on television before, in a very minor capacity. Enough though to know how demanding an industry both TV and Film can be.

It is very rare for actors to get call sheets more than two days out from shooting, rehearsals often happen on the day of shooting, sometimes the cast haven’t even seen the episode’s script until the week before shooting.

Part of this is due to television’s tight turn around – episodes are often re-written after polls from the first episode, and even with a few months schedule advance on the screening episodes it is still a high pressure experience.

Film has some benefits – often actors get a read-through and some rehearsals in before shooting. But this can raise other scheduling issues, such as The Winding City is suffering.

I’m currently regretting the weekend shoot format I ended up with. I should have taken a full week out and shot the series in one hit like most other projects. Most other webshows do this – they shoot their episodes in one hit, then release them as they are edited.

This will definitely be my approach with the next project I do. Mostly because of the complexity of trying to schedule people. Already I need an actor to be available on Saturday to do some choreography training for a fight sequence, and he has only now advised me that he is unavailable – apparently having missed my e-mails for almost a week.

This puts me in a very difficult position now as I am now effectively short two trained actors.

I have had another actor advise that he can’t do an entire weekend because it is too much work to ask on top of everything else he has on his plate. Which I appreciate, I have been pushing the cast hard over the last two shoots – because I am aware of how much we need to get this into the can soon.

See, I have a lot on my plate at the moment too. There is something developing at work that I can’t really comment on yet, but it could see me under a LOT of pressure in about two months time and I want this show well into post by then. On top of this, I have to be looking for a new flat for Nick and I – which is a lot of work as it is – and now I have a possible medical condition to deal with too (most likely due to stress and dehydration.)

Sometimes it can get very frustrating trying to organise the show and feel that all I get is “I can’t/I wont/I didn’t…”

It’s not the reality, but the usual kind of sensation one gets when trying to organise large groups of people. I do often feel that many people don’t grasp how difficult it is to arrange these kinds of projects. As the director of the Nines said in an interview – being a showrunner is really a job that is logistically impossible for a single person to do. I know exactly what he means.

Essentially everything ends here with me. If we don’t have the right props. My fault. If an actor is not on set. That’s my responsibility. If we don’t have lights, catering, costumes, scripts – it all falls on my shoulders to organise. It is very easy to get frustrated, and I would be lying if after the last few days I have seriously contemplated just pulling the plug.

We are running out of days to shoot exteriors, and I am currently stressed about what to do if it rains next weekend as the two main actors are not available for over three weeks after. (And by time they are free, I really wont be in a position to manage such a large set of shots.)

But despite all this, when I watch projects like The Guild which started off not that much more than we have set out to do – and when I look over the footage we’ve shot… I know that I have see this project through to the end. Because when it is completed, it will be worth all the pain and hard work. But I also know that if I work on another season of The Winding City, it will be the last for a while. My next project is likely to be less visual effects heavy, or at least less complex a series.

One idea I’m working on should be still fairly visually challenging, but I will be aiming for shots all set in the real world rather than having to create an alternate reality as well. 🙂

I have included the behind the scenes video that I put together using iMovie ’09. (Which, by the way, is not as good as iMovie HD, which is a superior editing suite for a first timer. iMovie ’09 is a bit simplistic and lacks a lot of the useful tools for editing audio. (I found it very frustrating trying to get the audio balanced across the entire video as it was shot on two different cameras.)

In other news, I e-mailed The Guild crew for tips on developing a website for a webseries- hopefully they will come back with some good advice.

And here’s hoping that we have great weather next weekend and manage to get all the shots I need done. I just hope it works. I’m already having to look at ways to generate some more capital for next weekend as my medical bills will be cleaning me out tomorrow. As you can see, it never ends as Producer. There is always something else you need to worry about. 😉


So The Winding City is slowly moving forward as a project. I had a fantastic talk today with Stacey from Film Wellington, and arranged some permits for our next shoot. While I was talking to Stacey, a couple of things occurred to me.

Firstly, the next project I do will be a lot more organised. Don’t get me wrong, The Winding City Project has been organised and is far from the chaotic mess that some film projects have been. But I am making note of where I, personally, can improve my productivity. Permits and timelines. The next project – be it Winding City Series 2 or some other web production – will be a much tighter ship.

Which leads me to my second realisation today. I want to do this on a regular basis. I love the entire process, and if The Winding City can generate enough capital, I would like to leave my job and work on web shows or the like full time. Of course that is wishful thinking, but I will definitely be doing another project once The Winding City has hit the net. I have two series in mind, both are less ambitious in some ways and more ambitious in others.

Talking with Stacey has been very educational. It is interesting to hear how various film crews approach on location shooting. Many are professional and organised, others are film school students who seem to not realise that complexity of organising exterior shoots.

I have to admit, there is this desire to just get out there and shoot the piece – but due to the potential inconvenience and trouble to the public, you need to make sure your ass is covered. That’s kind of what permits are about – it’s about letting the council and public services know what you intend to be doing. Film Wellington does a great job of making sure you get suitable locations and support to ensure both a successful shoot and minimum hassle to the public.

It would appear that some crews believe that 25 people for a shot on a footpath is a small crew. But there are logistics that need to be considered – where are these 25 people going to be standing? What about public wanting to use a public walkway? How many cars? Are there going to be trucks? Who will be making sure nobody gets hit by a car?

We’re going to be facing these issues, and I have  a potential cast and crew of eight people at last count.

And I still haven’t finished organising exteriors… so much work and so little time. 🙂


Ruby, Hunky (Luke), Rupert and Mina are ready to follow in Joss Whedon's footsteps...

Ruby, Hunky (Luke), Rupert and Mina are ready to follow in Joss Whedon's footsteps...

Just as an update – I’ve been put on an antibiotic regime for the next few days due to pain and possible infection. Hence my being up at 3am while waiting for my painkillers to kick in. Yeouch. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to be anything serious – just a delayed reaction to watching Go Girls… I kid. But while I wait, I thought I would share a bit of an experience with you all.

So yesterday Nick introduced me to Demons – a British action-monster show created by ITV, apparently in the hopes of competing with the Saturday night family viewing juggernaut of British television, Doctor Who.

Since Doctor Who has gone on a hiatus for this year – only being released as specials rather than a full season this year – ITV must have hoped to capture that market with something attempting to have the same mix of the fantastical and the humourous.

The basic premise of the series is that Luke Rutherford, a typical London teenager, discovers that he is the descendant of Abraham Van Helsing. When his godfather, Rupert (with an inexplicable American accent) shows up and reveals this he also reveals that Luke – unlike other London teenagers – is destined to be a warrior against the Half-lives/Freaks… That he has near supernatural powers of his own via speed and strength as well as a natural inclination towards the martial arts…

Is this beginning to sound a little familiar?

Maybe it would help if I point out that one of the initial encounters with Rupert has him throw a sharp object at Luke, who intuitively catches it in his hand – ala Buffy the Vampire Slayer Movie.

Yes. ITV has created Hunky the Demon Slayer.


Edward Cullen, I challenge thee to a pretty boy face off! Hunky (Luke) perfects his pout...

Edward Cullen, I challenge thee to a pretty boy face off! Hunky (Luke) perfects his pout...

You think I jest, but the preternaturally pretty Christian Cooke spends a good part of the first episode wandering around with his shirt off at the smallest provocation. Looking all Abercrombie and Fitch, Luke hunts a little CGI demon in his apartment, shirtless and armed with a mop. It’s all, well, odd to watch.


Of course the series is British, and the budget isn’t nearly to the scale of a US show. They have a number of elaborate and expensive CGI shots and sets – which means a smaller cast. So Luke’s friend Ruby ends up pulling double duty as Willow and Xander for the series. She’s the source of the Xander quips and has Willow’s unrequited love, but directed at Hunky. I mean Luke.

Meanwhile there is also the enigmatic Mina Harker, a blind concert pianist who has a few dark secrets of her own and likes to pick on Ruby. She’s very Angelic a character…

Of course there are some differences in the series to it’s “inspirational” source material. But the first episode kind of trundles along and really doesn’t set up a heck of a lot considering it’s a six part series.

Luke learns he’s a hunter. Demon shows up at his home. Ugly Demon Man stalks Luke. Luke accepts that there is something going on. Rupert overacts while showing Luke the way to Van Helsing’s secret HQ – The Stacks. (I kid you not.) Rupert shoots a rat with a hoopy microwave gun just to show that later on he is able to shoot a ray gun at baddies. Luke goes home. More Demons. Ruby and Luke get attacked. Mina is mysterious. Ruby is bitchy. Mina is bitchy. Ruby gets kidnapped. But no Big Bad is hinted at or revealed.

Now don’t get me wrong. This show isn’t bad. And it isn’t as awkward as watching Go Girls was. But, it just isn’t fresh enough in its first episode. There isn’t anything wrong with going for a Buffy-style show with a guy instead of a girl, but at least they could have aimed for a bit more difference and variety. Cribbing entire sequences straight out of Buffy felt less like homage and more like lazy rip-off.

And Rupert. Oh Rupert. Feck off. Something I really hate about Demons is that Rupert is so self-righteous and “we shall smite the enemy” it gets very boring. The show takes the view that all the Freaks are inherently evil and nasty and just need to be smited. End of story. On top of that, Rupert has this ridiculously stupid “Type” category system that, as far as I can make out, has no real measure and is just kind of bandied about to imply the “danger” level of a monster.

I sincerely hope that as the series progresses, that gets turned on its head. Because it really bugged me. I really hate Rupert – he’s obnoxious and, frankly, a prat.

Hunky, I mean Luke, is cute and Christian Cooke certainly does a good job of making him feel like a believable teenager who is learning that his life is not what he thought it was. If only he wasn’t required to take his shirt off so much in the first episode. I mean, I like cute guys without their tops on, but I also like it if it makes sense in the show. Not just the kind of pointless sequence that “Demons” went for.

Having said all that, from the teaser of the second episode, it does look like they have some interesting monsters show up over the course of the show – and it is possible that as it progresses, the series will become more than the first episode implies.

It’s worth checking out – just be prepared for some serious deja-vu.



Enter the Winding City

Enter the Winding City

I am exhausted. Absolutely drained of energy from today. It was our third shoot for The Winding City, and we went full throttle today.


My exhaustion began last night when I decided to transfer a rough cut to my laptop so that we could confer over previously shot footage. Before today we had over 25GB of filmed digital footage that I transferred to my iMac – which then needed to be transferred to Margie’s iPod to allow me to put it on my new macbook. Why? Because the only connector to my camera that I have is a firewire – which the new macbooks don’t support.

So this ended up taking the good part of two hours to organise.

Then Nick P didn’t come home last night – which, in my state of nervousness, made me have anxiety dreams about whether he was going to be on set at 8am when I needed him to be there. (Which he was, and I have never been so thankful to see Nick as I was then…)

The first half of our day ended up being a technical struggle. This has always been an ambitious project, and today was the first big visual effects day. We had a massive green screen set up in Nick C. and Nasia’s dining room, we had a number of digital effects to set up markers and plates for – including setting up Adam’s face so that we can digitally remove it in post…


Adam is marked out for Digital Effects

Adam is marked out for Digital Effects



With all the stumbling around, setting up the new monitor and getting everything ready, we were nearly an hour behind schedule by the time the extras showed up at midday for their scenes.

At this point I was stressing again that we wouldn’t get all the shots we wanted – an ambitious 14 minutes of footage including some complex visual effect scenes. One of the biggest hiccups we ran into was shooting in the hallway. We needed to give the impression of an endless hall, despite having only about 8-9 metres of hallway to use, and only one wall. Setting up the shots and getting them right was a long and arduous task.

I have to take this opportunity to thank the cast and crew for their patience during these scenes. After the crew had set up and organised the lighting for the green screen sequences, we broke for lunch. I was nervous about everyone’s happiness – wanting to be sure that the extras, cast and crew were feeling positive and ready to go again after lunch. Kerina did a great job of giving me a pep talk about how “we’re all passionate about films and acting” which helped me chill out a bit.

Extras and Cast waiting for the next scene

Extras and Cast waiting for the next scene



Then we had to shoot the green screen sequences – which, thankfully, Elliot and Nick P totally owned and was done in short order – which, in turn, got us back on schedule!

We finally got to the scenes with the extras – which were brilliant. When Margie, Nick P and I watched the footage at home, it came across not only as great – but inspired me with a great fix for some scene flow issues I had been worried about. I have to also give props to Gemma, who provides a solid gold B-movie scream when a monster attacks her.

After the crowd shots, we got back into the comedic scenes – which made a nice change from the emotionally tense scenes we shot in the morning between Nick P and Elliot (which, I should mention had one scene so successfully charged with tension, we had to cut and reshoot when Kerina nearly fell out of her chair with excitement watching it on the monitor! Fortunately, Nick P. and Elliot were so well into the headspace and emotional tension they managed to deliver an even MORE intense scene in the next take.)

Once again, we really got to see how well this cast works together as a team. I find a lot of the ensemble scenes pop with humour and vitality – with some great moments from Kerina, Bernice and Rowan. Margie, Nick and I were all laughing out loud watching our comic scenes. I realise now that I should have got more shots of people running around, but it isn’t vital. Maybe we can reshoot some sequences for the DVD. 🙂 Extended edition…

Following the comedy, we had another tense sequence where Bram (Nick P.) faces off with the big bad of the first series. This includes a particularly passionate kiss with his best friend, Tama. This was the scene that needed to firstly be believeable – which much of the tense footage we shot prior successfully laid the foundation for. It also needed to be a pretty darned awesome kiss as it was the payoff for all of Tama’s moping for three episodes.

Nick P. learns his lines for his next scene

Nick P. learns his lines for his next scene



Well, considering that we had two very normal straight guys playing the characters, they delivered a very impressive scene that I feel succeeds in selling the viewer on the stakes held in this scene. And oddly, every woman in the house seemed remarkably flustered and pleased about the shot. Who’d have thunk.

Time was beginning to run out on the schedule, and we still had three scenes to shoot. We went back to another comedic denouement scene for the Faceless monster sequence – which again ran very well. Then it was two scenes that set the foundation for our big confrontation.

Kerina and Adam chilling out

Nick P, Elliot, Adam and the crew had been working hard for over 10 hours by this point. We stuck to our guns and managed to get the last of the scenes shot just in time. Whereas the last two shoots finished two hours early or so, we cut it right to the wire today.

But after watching the dailies, I have to say it was worth it. I love what the cast and crew have managed to do. In just three days we have shot over three hours of footage – and easily 60-70% of the full four part series. That is a truly impressive achievement in and of itself from an amateur production such as ours with many of our crew having had limited experience.


It simply is that passion and commitment to the project that has kept us going up to this point. I am so grateful to have people working on this show who really do believe in it. Who believe in putting their all in and are ready to dive in and pump out a fantastic show. Naturally, if we had money to pay the cast and crew – I would have scheduled much less gruelling shoots – but with the limit we have on time and the lack of money, it is better to churn through the script and get it all shot.

I’ll be putting together some exclusive behind the scenes footage to display on here later this week… just as a teaser to the calibre of the cast and crew along with some hints as to the show itself.


Jenni says hi!

Jenni says hi!



I truly believe that the finished product is going to be something that all the people who worked on it can genuinely be proud of…

Now, I think it is time for me to go to sleep.


Bram (Nick P) makes a point

Bram (Nick P) makes a point

Hooray! Another day of shooting completed. We have shot a large portion of episodes 1,2 and 3 now.

It is always an interesting feeling post shoot – there’s a sense of “I can’t believe it’s over” combined with “THANK GOD, it’s over.” Everyone once again put 200% into the shoot, and we got close to about 13 minutes of footage shot in one day.

I’m looking forward to checking the dailies to make sure that we got everything – and to ensure that we’re set for the next shoot. If one thing is important for next shoot, it will be a monitor.


Setting up the hallway scenes

Setting up the hallway scenes


I’ve included some behind the scene’s photos of the shoot – so feel excited, these are the first photos released to general public of the cast and crew working on the show.

Today’s shoot was primarily in the hall, kitchen and bedroom of our two main leads Tama and Bram. Whereas last shoot was all lounge party with fairly standard sitcom set ups, this shoot was much more a farcical style with several one take scenes with characters walking in and out of camera frame. One particular scene is nearly 3 minutes long and a single take – it was a grueling shoot and a huge demand on our actors. But I’m hoping we pulled it off – it felt like it on set, the dailies will show how well we made it work.

Special props have to go to Jenni and Kerina for their eccentric characters, Elliot for being up to his usual high standard despite suffering from sleep depravation (AGAIN!), Nick for keeping up with the crazier cast and managing to provide some great humour as well, Bernice for some great “Mary” moments – she pinches Nick’s cheek so hard he winces – and Norman for not only being our last minute Kaellos – but actually giving an excellent performance to boot.


Nick meets his biggest fan...

Nick meets his biggest fan...



Finally I have to thank Adam for showing up to be filmed being carried out with a shirt over his head! It’s a great thing to have someone willing to show up and sit around for such a shot – especially when you get dropped multiple times by your cast mates.

The great thing about doing these shoots is how much I am learning about making films – learning to plan out shots, discuss lighting issues, do walk-throughs, set up lights, handle boom operation…

For me, at least, this project is definitely fulfilling it’s intended goal to date – to help teach me about movie-making, get some quality experience and produce something that all of the people working on it can be proud of.

Now this is going to sound a bit full of myself, but the dialogue we shot today has definitely convinced me that I am on par with many professionally made NZ shows. I am lucky to have a cast who have made the dialogue pop and zing along – with many wonderfully funny moments that I am proud to have been the author of.






I am tired, drained and I feel GREAT! At this rate, we are going to have a truly awesome show and I am full of confidence that this is going to be a much talked about series when it goes to “air.”



Sarah (Jenni) and Tama (Elliot) take a break before the next scene

Sarah (Jenni) and Tama (Elliot) take a break before the next scene

March 2009

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