Monday, November 17, 2008

Audio for Short Films, Part 1: Production Audio Recording

An often-overlooked aspect of good filmmaking by many a young aspiring filmmaker embarking on those early productions and short films is sound. Good sound can really make or break a film. You may have a good looking image, but if your sound is not any good, it can quickly become not just a distraction that pulls the audience out of the experience you are trying to create with your film, it can be down right annoying—like fingernails of a chalk board. So, to any new filmmakers out there reading this, let me stress that it is worth taking some time to really learn more about good audio because it will really help your projects stand out (in a good way).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Behind "Cold October": The Making of a HDV Special Effects Short Film

I had already directed a fairly successful short film in the psychological thriller genre titled “Cellar Door,” (click here to read about making “Cellar Door”) so it may come as no surprise that I might want work in that genre again. However, I am prone to trying new things, especially as I develop as a new filmmaker. So, yes, I chose to work on another psychological thriller. Only this one would be quite different from “Cellar Door.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Exploration of the State of Christian Cinema (part two)

“Society needs artists, just as it needs scientist, technicians, workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith, teachers, fathers and mothers, who ensure the growth of the person and the development of the community by means of that supreme art from which is ‘the art of education.’ Within the vast cultural panorama of each nation, artists have their unique place.”
- Pope John Paul II, from “Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists.”

The Christian as Filmmaker

The lights go down. The projector rolls. Light, cast upon a screen, becomes something else entirely. Suddenly, it has a language all its own. An experience. What a moment ago was a strand of still images is now a living thing. It is transformed. A miracle of sorts.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

An Exploration of the State of Christian Cinema (part one)

“I made it as a prayer, an act of worship. I wanted to be a priest. My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing else.”
- Martin Scorsese speaking about The Last Temptation of Christ in Martian Scorsese: A Journey.
What do you mean, “the state of Christian cinema?” one might ask me. Allow me to first define the term “Christian cinema.” I want to approach the topic of Christian involvement in filmmaking from two fronts: (1) Films made by Christians with an openly Christian message, and (2) Christians working in the film industry making films with broad appeal. Thus, “Christian cinema” as I refer to it here seems to have two incarnations (I recognize the irony of using that word). Yet, both mesh into a broader issue, Christian engagement of the American culture through cinema. This will by no means be an exhaustive discussion on the topic, as much can be said, and as I will point out in this entry, much is ever changing. These are merely the observations of one filmmaker/film lover who also is a follower of Jesus.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

New Videos

In light of the fact that I have just moved from the Northern Indiana area to the Boston area, I've had quite a bit on my plate lately and have not had a chance to make more blog entries here in a while. But, I do have a few new videos to present, one being a new version of my director's demo reel. Thus, I thought I might post those here for a some food for thought and possible discussion.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Character: From Concept to Execution

So you want to tell a story? But what is it about? Sure, you can give me the basic pitch and toss out the usual “it’s Speed 2 meets Casablanca,” but what is your story really about. I’ll give you a hint: people. Stories are ultimately about characters. And the truly lasting stories are ones with beautifully crafted characters. It’s the human connection that is needed (even if you’re characters aren’t human, as in the best film I’ve seen so far this year, Wall-E).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Independent Filmmaking and the Bad Economy

“Fifteen years ago, the Sundance Film Festival got 500 submissions. This year, they received 5,000. Virtually all of these are privately financed. There’s only one problem: most of the films are flat-out awful (trust me, I have had to sit through tons of them over the years). Let me put it another way: the digital revolution is here, and boy does it suck.”
- Mark Gill, executive of Warner Independent and Miramax, speaking at the Los Angeles Film Festival financing conference.

In case you haven’t noticed, the American Economy isn’t so hot. Well, actually, the global economy hasn’t exactly been amazing. It’s freighting enough to have to stop and consider what this means for most of us middle class Americans. Unless you are the guy in the huge, gas-guzzling SUV thumping some indistinguishable bass-line for the current pop radio hit that pulls up next me on the street while I’m on my bicycle (yes, my good old mountain bike) on my way to the bank to cash my all-too-small paycheck from my last freelance video editing gig, you too probably have lost some sleep over the economic slump.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rebels Without a Clue: The Downside of the Digital Revolution

The new age of cinema is upon us, right? Well, yeah, sort of. It’s new. But is new always a good thing? Much has been made of the new technology available to the low and no-budget filmmakers out there—people like me. With new HD cameras that cost only a few thousand dollars, more and more young people with big cinematic dreams are being presented with the opportunity to take a crack at filmmaking. And that’s a great thing! Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. After all, I’m one of these big dreamers who has gotten to make some rather good looking short films because of the new HD technology that is available for a rather small wad of cash. However, the fact that my short films have been praised by industry professionals as being beautifully shot and surprisingly polished has less to do with the camera we used than with the skills we have developed.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Light Meter and Digital Video: the Basics

For those of you with a background in still photography, or who may have gotten the opportunity to shoot motion picture projects on actual film, you may have some familiarity with an amazingly helpful tool: the light meter। As digital video cameras continue to develop, many shooters have moved away from using a light meter. Especially as the new generation of videographers develop their skills without ever touching a celluloid camera, a light meter can be a rather overlooked tool. I know several excellent videographers who often shoot without the use of a light meter. But this doesn’t mean it is an outdated device that is no longer applicable to the new workflow of digital cinematography. Quite the opposite! Whether or not to use a light meter comes down to two things: (1) your own working preference, and (2) the type of project you’re shooting. What I’d like to discuss here are the occasions where I do choose the use a light meter (even though I am shooting digitally), why I use it, and how I use it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Making “Cellar Door”: The Creation of an HDV Short Film.

Most of us aspiring filmmakers don’t have the luxury of endless resources. But you shouldn’t let that stop you, especially not these days. What follows is a sort of production diary, detailing how my very small crew and I created a short film for less than two grand, and how this little film has started to create new opportunities for us. Particularly, I want to discuss what we learned on the technical side of making an ambitious and very visual short film for such a small price tag.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Few Changes

If you're reading this blog, you may have noticed the utter lack of activity here in the last few months. First of all, I'm very sorry. Secondly, allow me to explain:

In the last few month, I've been working hard on completing a short film called "Cold October," which I directed. As we wrapped post-production on that film and got it into the hands of the company submitting it to film festivals for us, we launched pre-production on another short film, "Always Reaching." This wasn't something I'd planned on doing so quickly, but when opportunity presents itself, you're a fool if you don't take it. I am now cutting "Always Reaching." Between these two filmmaking ventures and work as a freelance videographer, little time has been left to write posts. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Once in a while, a film comes along that holds a power over me I can’t quite describe. Such films tend to deeply influence me as a filmmaker. I think of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, Todd Field’s In the Bed Room, Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (that’s the original, not the Soderbergh remake, which I admittedly haven’t had the heart to watch yet). These are films that unexpectedly floored me. Some grew on me slowly, and I kept coming back to them and re-watching them because scenes kept getting stuck in my head and playing there in the background of my mind. That was the case with The Thin Red Line, one of the few remakes that is simply astounding, and completely overshadows the original. In other cases, I walked into something I knew nothing of, as is the case with In the Bedroom and Solaris. These films, and many others not mentioned here, reached inside and touched aspects of my personality, my spirituality, that have affected me ever since.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Epistemology of the Reel -- Part Two

Experience, Emotions, and Learning.

I may be justified in believing that there is a tree in front of me by virtue of the fact that I am currently having a certain kind of sense experience, but this will be true only in “favorable circumstances.” If I am confronted with a complicated arrangement of mirrors, I may not be justified in believing that there is an oak tree in front of me, even though it looks for all the world as if there is. Again, it may look for all the world as if water is running uphill, but the general improbability of this greatly diminishes the justification the corresponding belief receives from that experience. (1)

As William P. Alston indicates in the quote above, most often we are perfectly justified in claiming that what we are seeing is indeed something of real substance before us. Yet, this is what Alston qualifies as a favorable circumstance. In other words, there is no reason to believe that I am hallucinating, dreaming, that the objects I see are holograms, and so forth. Favorable circumstances are just part of every-day-life. We seldom (unless you’re a philosopher working too much in metaphysics and epistemology) give much thought to the physical reality of the world we live in. When I reach out my hand for my mug of coffee, I fully expect that my fingers will grip the handle and I will be able to pick it up and bring it to my lips. I do not even think about whether my mug is real or not. (2)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Epistemology of the Reel -- Part One

"Movies cannot be dismissed as mere entertainment and diversion. Rather, they are life stories that both interpret us and are being interpreted by us."

- Robert K. Johnston.(1)

What is Epistemology?

In the quest for knowledge, humanity has developed several approaches to the question: “What can we know?” This field of study in philosophy is know as epistemology, and focuses on understanding how we think and know. As such, philosophers have long presented various theories of knowledge. The mind is ever searching, seeking what it might be able to latch on to as a solid foundation for the reality we deal with day after day. In these philosophical views of knowledge and beliefs, most of the dialogue centers on the cognitive activity of the mind. Laws of logic are used in the discussion of knowledge. Rightfully so, I argue. I am one who holds to the Law of Noncontradiction as a self-evident truth. In other words, once I have recognized and understood what the Law of Noncontradiction states, I cannot help but to know it is true.(2) Knowledge is very commonly looked at as a matter of the mind, and with good reason. We know with our minds, we reflect on the world we live in with our thoughts, and we recall past events with our memory. All of these are phenomena that take place in the mind. It is issues as these that are usual topics of epistemology (an awful lot of thinking about thinking).