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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. 🙂

Conan

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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.

Conan

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.

 

Read-through

Read-through

 

 

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.”

Conan

 

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

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

Ahhh, Valentines, a holiday that was created by capitalism.

Yep. St Valentine had no link the concept of Romantic love. In fact, very little is known about St Valentine. Valentine’s day, as we know it, was started in the early 20th century through the sales of greeting cards.

Still, what is sad about this day is it really is an opportunity for single people to look for a little romance, but becomes a day where if you’re single… it gets rubbed in your face by all the couples of the world.

Well, if you let it. 🙂

This year, I’ve decided to have a pretty quiet day and just relax at home. It’s been very refreshing.

Having been single for a long time, mostly my own doing (I am a fussy guy), I often find Valentine’s day a time where I think back on why I haven’t found the one yet. I’ve had five guys I thought were the one, but clearly – I was wrong.

Love is such a fiddly thing to comprehend. Like so many feelings, it has so many nuanced levels and stages. There is the love for family. There is the love for someone you are sexually attracted to. There is the love for someone you admire. And then there is the love for friends.

It’s all the same core feeling, but it elicits different needs and responses based on who it is that you love.

I do sometimes wonder if I will fall in love again. I haven’t had a particularly impressive track record down here – a lot of false starts and little else. But you can’t write the future. There are still a good 6 billion people I haven’t met yet. 😀

The other thing on my mind today is Fallout 3 – mostly because I completed it last night. Wow.

What a crap finish to a great game.

The game ended with a situation that provided a binary solution, despite there being a hulkingly obvious third option standing next to me at the end of the game. And yet, I couldn’t take that option.

How freaking stupid. Then there was the lazy vignette of pictures at the end with a voice over that tried to imply the result of my decision without actually showing how the story ended!

It really pisses me off when game designers do this kind of thing. It’s sloppy and lazy.

As was pointed out by someone on a recent thread, it is important to end your story well – otherwise people will hate you for it. An audience will forgive a lot if you end your story well. The same goes for games. If you cop out at the end, then expect people to be pissed – no matter how well you told the story to that point. Conversely, you can write a particularly average story but have such an amazing ending, people will forgive the shortcomings.

The art of a good ending is a challenging one. Heck, I’ve always found final scenes a tough balancing act. Even now I wonder if The Winding City’s first season ending is up to scratch. (I think it will be)

Yep… that’s all for now. I’m going to go sort out my lunch now.

Conan

Recently I have found myself developing a new web show in my head. It’s another one of my long standing concepts that has been bubbling away for about five years. With the WC Project well underway now, I’m finding myself keen to get STS through the treatment phase.

It’s a bit of a challenge to take on a new show while you’re still working on a project – and I really want to make sure that I get STS roughly sketched out in my spare time. The WC Project’s scripts are now complete, and so from a writing perspective I have a little window of opportunity to start laying the foundations of STS before I have to get on to other WC issues.

But here is the problem.

STS is a comedy-drama set in pretty much real life. It focuses on a single character (partially autobiographical) and how he becomes involved with a large number of people in his search for meaning and love.

The problem is… and this is kind of embarrassing… names.

I’ve been trying to think up names for all the characters – and I’m drawing blanks. I had Sean McCarthy – but that sounds kind of naff. The main character needs to have a kind of iconic name, something that rolls off the tongue and when you hear it you will think of this show.

Like Ally McBeal, Mary Tyler, Chris Rock – those kind of names that no matter how quirky – they just stick in your head.

Then I need to flesh out all of the main character’s friends and family – again, names… but also personalities. I don’t want to just copy-paste people I know.

I want to be making a bit of a subtle statement with STS.

The WC Project is actually carefully developed to contain messages about identity and responsibility – nothing that is in your face or immediately obvious. Instead, if you stop and think about the situation, the characters, the creatures… there is an allegorical/metaphorical tale being told.

I want STS to have something similar – which means that the characters need to be carefully crafted to represent ideas while also still coming across as real people rather than obvious metaphors.

A difficult juggling act, I can tell you. With WC, I have no idea how much of my intended undertones were successfully subtle or even noticeable. STS is, in some ways, even more challenging from a writing perspective.

The thing is I also have two other show concepts that I want to explore as well… so it is proving to be a case of loads of starting points – but a challenge to get any of them fleshed out at the moment…

Anyhow… this week while I’m in Auckland, I’m hoping to develop STS a little further. One benefit of STS is that it would be considerably easier to shoot than WC. No visual effects. 😀

Conan

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