Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Plenty of Fish "Curtain"

Director/producer: Jon Shaivitz
DP: Cameron Dozier
Writer: Dan Sorgen

Why this script/concept? How does it reflect your vision as a commercial director? 

At this stage in my career I am still trying to figure out exactly what kind of commercial director I want to be, and how best to reflect that in my reel. The two spots that I've done so far have been shot driven, rhythmic, and don't rely on dialogue too much if at all. I generally don't like the idea of dialogue doing all the heavy lifting - I much prefer visually driven comedy, especially something where I can use music to set the pacing and overall feel. This script had all of the above – a shot-driven piece where the music could build into a strong punchline at the end. It's kinetic. Exciting. Loud. And above all  it's really funny. 

What was the casting process like?

Though we ended up cutting the actors out of it, the casting process was an important part of preproduction. There is a great website – LAcasting.com where you can post your casting calls for free, review reels, headshots, resumes and get in touch with talent directly for your project. For a small spec production like this it's impractical to hold formal auditions, but a great way around that is to have actors put themselves on tape and email you video auditions. It's quick, convenient, and allows you to see exactly how your actors will perform – before getting on set. 

How did you search for/lock a location?

Craigslist. Because we didn't have a lot of money we couldn't pay for an expensive location, however, nobody needs to know that when you post your ad. We posted an ad for the kind of house we were looking for and told submitters to send their regular rates. If you post your fee and it's low, you won't get a lot of responses. We sorted through the submissions, found the perfect place and negotiated our way down into something doable. 

How did you select your DP, crew?

My DP is my best friend and business partner Cameron Dozier. We've been working together since our time shooting industrials in Washington D.C. going on about four years ago now. The rest of our crew was very small and contained - we like to have a small footprint with only the essentials. And everyone on the crew was working for meals/copy. We had a makeup artist, a couple camera assistants/PA's and a boom op. The single biggest deciding factor on how big to make our crew was – how many mouths do we really want to feed? Every additional crew member is another meal – and that adds up if you go too big. 

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

Shooting went surprisingly well. The biggest challenge we had was getting the most out of only 3 lights. We have three 2k/1K fresnels and even though they provide a lot of light, we are restricted to simple three point lighting setups -- only really being able to light what we need to see without much room for accents. With a spot like this where your subject is the environment, that got a little tricky, but overall we kept it simple and it didn't seem to get in our way too much. In the future - we hope to have a few more lights to sprinkle in and break things up. 

Tell us about editing and finishing.

We shot this a few different ways. As written, with a narrator, with a protagonist reverse shot, without, etc. It took quite a few cuts to ultimately settle on what version worked the best, and in the end we decided on using a title and cutting the on camera narrator. The sound effects also took a few tries to get exactly what we wanted but overall post went smoothly. I basically knew what kind of music I wanted to use before I shot it so picking the music was easy. I had one of those flashes of inspiration where I knew exactly what song I was going to use. Hard to explain that one. We did a little bit of grading, crushing our blacks and making things look a bit more contrasty than the raw image. We edited in FCP 7 and After Effects CS4. 

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

More lights!  

Any other thoughts.

Specbank rocks. If you want good material for your reel there is just no other place to go. 


PGA "Directions"

Click to watch. 


Director: Neil Payne
Writer: Andrew Lincoln
DP: Nate Tieman,
Sound: Kevin Bellante
Actors: Billy Milord, Dave Mihaljevich.

I'm from Kansas and sports are a huge part of my life. We play a lot of golf, so PGA "Directions" had my DNA all over it.

I'm really interested in directing sport spots in the future. I like to cast based on talent first, but I really like to give new actors an opportunity. Being an independent filmmaker, it’s important for me to help and encourage other artists.

I was lucky with the location. I've played golf at Costa Mesa Country Club course a few times. The manager was really great, told me to shoot what I wanted. No charge! Now, that's really cool.

I've been working with my DP, Nate Tieman, for three years now. He's a working DP in the industry and owns the Red Epic camera. So, that really cuts down my cost quite a bit.

The shoot went well. Anytime you're shooting outside, the sun can have a mind of its own. I like a quick turnaround on my spots. My DP edited the spot, so it gave us a chance to finish a lot sooner.

I'm happy with the spot. I try not to over think it and second-guess myself. Obviously, with a larger budget you can do a lot more things. But thinking about that takes away from the spot you just completed. Trying to become a working commercial director has its challenges. But I wouldn't have it any other way.