Posts Tagged ‘Eric Harnden’

The First 48 (part 3)

Friday, October 9th, 2009

First Signs of Problems

If you’ve ever been on a film shoot, you know one thing for sure. There is a lot of waiting

One of the first “two-hour film projects” we did was called “Berlin Metro“, not at first but it came to be known as that eventually.

This practice shot was mostly arranged by our Production Manager. Our Production Manager was very good at finding locations and support for our crew as he was “connected”, being a lawyer and all. The first shot was at an empty warehouse that one of his friend/clients had just rented and was currently empty.

The goal of this meeting was to go through the whole process, from random genre, character, prop and line of dialogue selection to writing to shooting to editing.

The basic idea we had was that everyone would be included in the brain-storming process and then after a basic story idea was formulated, the writers would spend time by themselves writing the story. This basically is a good idea and as long as you keep your roles heavily defined, this works.

“Defined roles” are the key words in this case. Who does what and who listens to whom? During the first few meetings leading up to this “dress rehearsal”, we talked about who wanted to do what. I felt it was best to try to let people do what they were most interested in doing, first, then add to that as needed.

What hats were given out? Well there was the “Production manager-writer”, the Producer, the “Director-writer”, the “Assistant Director-writer”, a “Grip”, some “Sound Guys”, an “Editor”, a couple of “Actors (who ended up wanting to be writers)” and a couple of just “Actors”. Oh! And, my two “Writers”. It was all a little up in the air at this point, ’cause you never know who’s going to be with you at the end and I was a little unsure how it would all settle down and sort itself out.

The “pre-production” meeting is still a little fuzzy to me, as it was while it was going on (just because it was a bit chaotic) but I do remember some details and the production and the post pretty vividly! There was some talk about a character and a prop and an escaped killer and the writers started to put it all together. During that time, we started setting up lights in the warehouse and stuff and our production manager kept “writing” with “the girls” (the writers). (more on this later)

While setting up, one of the crew says, “this looks like a subway” and thus the subway shot came into being.

While the girls were writing, our director-writer was doing some writing of his own. He kept popping out and telling the writers, “Okay, this is the story!” He would add, “Oh, but don’t let me mess you up.”

I recall one of the writers saying, “Oh but I like that idea” and eventually they just went with his idea.


Camera blocking, lighting and actions were being set. The first signs of problems weren’t even apparent to me but they were occurring. The 1st AD had set up a way that the lights and fan should be run (for a subway effect) and had someone set up to run them. Then our “creative” production manager, who was running the b-camera decided that he could run the lights instead, to solve a problem of our director wanting more people in the shot. (This would cause effects problems, more about later, but was just another example of his not being able to think outside the box.)

During the setup of the lights, I had my first personal indication of future problems. One of the actors (that really wanted to write too) came up to me and said, “Who’s in charge? I mean who should I be listening to?” She went on to tell me that we were doing a lot of standing around doing nothing and that this was all taking too long. Basically, she was right in her observations but to me it was her attitude and delivery of said communication that rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like, “You know, you just don’t go up to your producer and say those things!” I suppose it was my lack of initiation in “running things” that led to these attitudes but inside, I also felt I should let these things shake themselves out at this stage of the game.

As we shot, and shot and shot, the night became longer and longer and attitudes were starting to show themselves. The production manager kept stewing and saying loudly under his breath that we had to wrap things up. The feisty “actor” kept mentioning how late it was. Our director just had to get another take of that shot. And, I eventually had to say, “Okay, THIS will be the last shot.”

We wrapped and everyone was pretty beat. I thanked everyone for their time and work and the “post-production team”: director, production manager and I went off to “edit”.

Later, I would discover that my 1st AD was very happy with “his experiment” of seeing how people would react under the continued stress of an unorganized situation. That, I would immediately decide was a good idea and continue on with. The 1st AD, the director and I would have many meetings as to what worked and what didn’t and, believe it or not, these personnel “problems” would eventually sort themselves out.

What I learned: Defined roles are defined for a reason. Stick to them!

To be continued…

(Next 48 Hour Installment: The Assassination at India Palace)

The First 48 (part 2)

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

What Worked and What Didn’t
There were a lot of things that worked. There were a lot of plans that we were able to make ahead of time to make things easier. There were things we should have done but didn’t. There were a lot of things that could have been improved. And, actually doing the things we planned to do, would have helped out a lot!

I think we learned what to do next time and everyone seemed excited about doing it again.

First Official Meeting. Only 3 people from this picture continued on.

Pre-event Meetings
As I mentioned before, I started having meetings in June. I think we had 8 – 10 meetings total, including meetups and one field trip. The field trip was a seminar on DIY micro-budget filmmaking by John Putch. That was part of the Pizza & Post series given by Video Symphony, a post production school in Burbank. From those meetings we did three “two-hour film projects”. These weren’t completed in their totality in two hours but some portion of the process was completed in two hours (or so!)

This worked because it gave us a view into what our weak points were. We were able to plan more accurately the schedule that would be the 48 hours. It also worked to flush out “bad” attitudes or people or views that I didn’t want to work with on this project. It was good to see what were at first suspicions, grow into actuality and prove to me that if I ever detect those things in the future, that I am right and to just get them off the team right then and there and don’t waste time dealing with them.

People intimate with the team and its progress will know who I’m referring to but I just want to talk about the particulars so that others reading this can form their own opinions. I’m not saying that those “bad” attitudes are necessarily bad, I’m just saying they didn’t agree with my desires and as such were better off doing their own thing and not butting heads with me.

So this is how that all went down:

First person I met (other than people I already knew, who would work on the project) was a lawyer who had experience creating his own pilot home improvement show. Great guy. Very motivated. But, when first exchanging emails with him, I thought to myself, “I don’t think this is going to work out.” As any successful business person is, he was very passionate and very “right” in his opinion of how things should run. He was also a very creative guy and wanted very much to contribute to the creative side of things, writing and shooting, etc. We met the day before my official first meeting and face to face we had a lot of similar interests and creative contacts even.

Being a bit pushy and slightly over-bearing, I immediately thought of him as a good production manager, someone who could get people motivated or “pushed” to complete their intended project, on time. This I figured I was weak in, so I thought he’d fit the bill for that part.

The next day, I had my first meeting. He attended and brought his secretary, an actress. She couldn’t stay the whole meeting but I figured that since her boss was going to be running the show, I didn’t have to worry about whether or not she’d flake out on me.

Also at this meeting was one person from the 20 projects project (a filmmaking group I co-founded), whom I wanted for my 1st assistant director. He of course stayed until the end of the project.

The couple that would eventually quit to start their own team where there. They were very motivated and seemed willing to take on any role. They were also musicians and it’s always good to have a stall of musicians around. More on why they quit later.

Also, there was one classmate from my Intro to Telecommunication class at RCC and one classmate from an Intro to Pro HD class I took at Citrus College. Two more classmates from my Intro to Pro HD class would eventually be on my team but the first one had to quit because of health reasons.

We had a few general meetings; organizing, talking about genres, trying to figure out who wanted to do what, getting to know each other, going to the 48 Hour Film Project meet-ups, etc. These meetings really just served the purpose of “we’re a group, let’s see if we can stick together.”

Of the 10 actors and 9 crew/actors that ended up staying on the team, they came from these areas:
5, myself included, from my side filmmaking group, the 20 projects project – Roles: Producer/Actor, Director, Assistant Director/Actor, Actor and Actor.
5 from local bands (friends and family of ours) or friend of one of the bands (All actors)
4 from classmates of mine (Two soundmen/actors, one Writer and one Cameraman/Editor)
1 from Twitter friend of mine (Editor)
4 from craigslist ads or as a result of someone they knew reading the craigslist ad (Writer, Actor, Grip/Actor and Actor.)

Not everyone made the meetings on a regular basis, especially the band members and friends thereof but we had a core 6-7 that did. This built a solid foundation of “the group”.

Three of the core members at Pizza & Post

To be continued…

The First 48

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Borrowing from the title of one of the shows I like to watch, I’m going to talk about doing my first 48 Hour Film Project. I’m going to break this down into installments as there is a lot that I have to write on this. So here’s the first.

Crazy Horse, Crazy and a horse

June 22, held my first 48 HFP meeting. This is where I asked people who responded to my Craigslist ad to attend. From that first meeting, I believe I got three new people who stuck all the way to the end of the project. Two other attendees went on to start their own group for the 48 HFP and one more quit near the end and I opted not to bring them back on. The rest just disappeared.

There were more meetings and practice “two-hour film projects” and in the end there were a little over 20 people involved in the project, in one way or another.

The reason I wanted to do this 48 Hour Film Project in the first place is that I have spent the last year and a half studying about editing, video and film making and while reading and doing little practicals here and there, I knew that nothing would compare to actually getting out there and getting my hands dirty with some project with a hard deadline.

At first the group that I co-founded, The 20 Projects Project, seemed lackadaisical about doing the project but as we spent more time preparing for the show, they got more and more excited and active in relation to it.

Around the same time, we got interested in finishing an old project (with a new re-vamped ending) and starting using the practice sessions as “20 projects” projects.

I have studied a few film contests and the 48 Hour Film Project, overall, seemed not so professional that we couldn’t compete and also professional enough that we didn’t feel silly entering it.

I became interested in the Inland Empire 48 Hour Film Project last year but we heard about it too late to really enter and so I put myself on their mailing list to hear about the next year’s competition. Thus I got early emails about it and also had time to get things together in time to enter.

I really consider this more of an experiment in human nature and accomplishment than a film contest. This is a test to see if people working together in stressful situations can actually get a completed product and if they fail, where are the out-points so that they can be improved upon. It was an exercise in management.

I learned a lot of things about myself and different personality types and a whole lot about what not to do. I learned areas that needed improvement and I think we all learned new skills. After all, practice makes perfect and this was really good practice.

There were a reported 25 teams that competed this last weekend and of those, I watched about half. Everyone did a great job completing the task that they set out to complete. I gather that some had the end product that they wanted to achieve. We didn’t.

Stay tuned for more….

ACE’s 9th Annual Invisible Art Visible Artist Seminar

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

American Cinema Editors (ACE or A.C.E. as you see after some editor’s credits) the honorary society of motion picture editors, puts on an annual event every pre-Oscar Sunday Saturday, the Invisible Art Visible Artist Seminar.

This event is a free event but it’s a first-come-first-seated event.

Thanks to Norman Hollyn (, I found about this event and I ended up attending.

My attendance to this event was a series of luck that’s for sure. I had first thought the seminar was a paid event but because Norman Hollyn asked if anyone was going to this free event, I quickly realized it was free and hustled to take the morning away from my day job to attend.

I happened to leave early to go to L.A. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten in. The line into The Egyptian Theatre, where it was this year, wrapped around the block and I got one of the last 40 tickets to get in. Somehow, I also got to tenth row center of the room. I zigged when others zagged.

BTW, Hollywood Blvd. is now halfway closed because of the Oscars tomorrow. The street is all a buzz with Oscar fever.

To find out more about the ACE event go to this webpage: Basically it’s the 2009 Academy Award nominees for best achievement in editing discussing the art of editing. Each editor or team presents one particular clip from their nominated film and talks about the particular challenges of it.

Today, it was Lee Smith (The Dark Knight), Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Chris Dickens (Slumdog Millionaire), Elliot Graham (Milk) and Mike Hill A.C.E. and Dan Hanley A.C.E. (Frost/Nixon). The moderator was Alan Heim A.C.E.

The first question that went around the panel was, “How did you get started?” Some of the good ones:

“…the piece of advice that I give out which I’ll get in trouble for because the police don’t like it. My advice to people getting into editing is to stalk someone!” — Elliot Graham (then he gives his examples) I think he just created a theatre room full of stalkers!

“I went from being a prison guard to an editor.” — Mike Hill, A.C.E. (true story)

The first clip played was from The Dark Night. This was the big truck chase when the bat vehicle turns into a motorcycle and all the explosions and stuff. It was a long clip. This part of the movie was shot on a 65mm IMAX camera and cut on an AVID. There were a lot of special effects and Lee Smith described the timeline having lots of “skyscrapers” on it. (this is to describe the tons of layers/tracks on it)

He also described the lack of music as a choice they decided to use for this scene to play up the action and effects of the scene, which others agreed was a refreshing aspect to the scene. (And a point that my Uncle would love, Lee commented on the center sound channel being low in the theatre.)

There’s no CGI in the scene but there was model work. (1/6th scale models were used on the truck blowing up part of the clip).

The next question for the group: “How do you structure a scene?”

“I approach each scene as it’s own little mini movie and treat it like that with it’s own beginning, middle and end.” — Mike Hill, A.C.E.

“I’m a nervous wreck when I cut a scene.”
“You go with your instincts and you muddle your way through.” — Dan Hanley, A.C.E.

A scene from Milk was the second clip to be shown. This was one that started with Harvey Milk and Dan White (drunk) and ends with Harvey at the podium of the Gay Pride Day Parade/Celebration, 1978. This was a very moving clip. There weren’t too many cuts in the confrontation scene because both actors were just riveting. Elliot talked about the pain of losing great performances with a cut. Dan Hanley and Mike Hill talked about the same and about leaving good performances in. Chris Dickens talked about doc style shooting and holding shots.

The third clip is from Frost/Nixon, when Frost turns the tables on Nixon during the interview. Again, a really great clip. Mike lists some of the great actors Ron Howard has used in his movies. Robert Duvall is in the list. I really like Mr. Duvall, so that was a nice moment for me.

Next overall question was: “Length of the movie, How do you negotiate the length of the film?”
For example, Benjamin Button was 2 hours and 45 minutes long. (This discussion makes me want to listen to the Creative Screenwriting podcast for Benjamin Button!) The Benjamin Button editors and Alan Heim talk about how this movie and Zodiac were both long movies. Lee Smith, whose Dark Knight film was 2 hours and 30 minutes, quips, “Yeah! Those were both really long movies!” He goes on to say that you just have to work to find the “sweet spot”.

Did I mention the kid next to me has “shaky leg syndrome” and can’t sit still to save his life!

Chris Dickens states that Slumdog Millionaire was always intended to be two hours. First it was a contractual situation but when Fox(?) pulled out, it just became a desired time. Especially when screening audiences are fidgeting.

Then comes the Benjamin Button clip. This is the clip where he is a 7 yr-old old man at the revival tent. Kirk and Angus talk about the scene and how it was to cut without the star in the scene. They felt it was flat. They said that Brad Pitt was great at coming in and fitting his movements to the already body-modeled scenes, very few takes. Also talked about the back and forth when there is two editors.

There was some banter about do we really need actors and Alan Heil quotes The Producers, “Next time I do a film, no actors!”

Last clip of the day, Slumdog Millionaire. Chris apologized for the “downer” clip in the company of all these upbeat clips.

This was an amazing clip and made me want to see this movie more than ever! Chris Dickens talked about how much beautiful footage/scenes there were and how it was hard to see them go. Slumdog is from the book Q & A.

That was that on the clips and so the last portion was questions from the audience but were questions read from a woman (Diane Adler maybe?) (Answers are paraphrased here.)

“What was your most memorable day on your film?”

Mike and Dan – the end of the film and the screening
Chris – 1st day in mumbai with the star getting his head dipped in a water bucket.
Angus – the day they screened and I was late and when the lights came up, all the animators were in the room!
Lee – The day they had heard Heath had passed.

“Scenes dropped you regretted losing”
Lee – no, none were dropped! (a joke about how long the film was, I think.)
Kirk – No, we didn’t cut anything.
Chris – Hated cutting the kids’ scenes.
Elliot – No, but glad that some were cut, like this one long montage scene.
Dan and Mike – No

“How has your passion for editing affected your personal life?” (This was my favorite question, as a new editor, I am learning a lot about this sacrifice and am very glad that I have an understanding wife!)

Lee – Lucky to have a supportive wife.
Kirk – You don’ want to be home all the time. My daughter still doesn’t get it though.
Angus – Works with his wife but has two sons. “It’s hard.”
Chris – Wife likes the idea of it but hates the reality of it. It’s hard.
Elliot – I have no life, so no compromise.
Mike – Lives in Omaha, NE so treats being home like being on vacation.
Dan – My wife is probably glad I’m away a lot. Actually, she’s a saint.

“Most re-worked scene?”
Dan and Mike – The opening and all the mixed footage.
Elliot – The scene that starts between Harvey and Scott then to Dan White and to the phone call and then Dan in his underwear, etc. The whole interaction there.
Chris – The opera scene. First it’s in and then it’s out. Back and forth a lot. In the end it’s not there. Just a little tiny bit of it.
Angus – The Mr Cake clock scene
Kirk – Same (It was the first shot, so I think that has something to do with it.
Lee – Joker plants bombs on ferries scene. There was 22,000 feet of just crowd reactions for that scene. There would have been no way to get that (edited) on film. Thank God for non-linear editing!

And that was that.

So, thank you to Norman Hollyn for letting me know that it was a free event and for the contact you directed me to and thank you to ACE for putting on such a great event.

P.S. Since I like free stuff so much, it should be noted that we were handed not only a program but also an And The Winner Is… Insider guide to the Oscars 2009 and an Editors Guild magazine!