Archive for directing

The Pre-Pre-Production Come-Along of January

Posted in Blog, Making-Of, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2017 by Rathan Krueger


Last month was a bit of a preparedness overkill, knowing that making WAKE UP ALONE is gonna be as much of a one-man show as possible. After taking care of The Most Important Part of Filmmaking, copyrighting the script, I made a list of things to do each month leading to the first day of filming (Mayday). January was dedicated to:

  • Looking into the average cost of locations, crew, and equipment
  • Checking The Knife’s “Marble House” for availability
  • Forming a producer list and sending inquiry letters
  • Building a budget
  • Storyboarding
  • Making a style guide [got bumped from February]

Everything got handled except for two things. I didn’t check the Knife song because I wanted it to run through the ending credits… but there wouldn’t be enough people in the credits to use the whole song. The whole song was important because of the idea I had for the credits needed all five minutes and eighteen seconds of it. WAKE UP ALONE isn’t gonna be the only film I make and I highly doubt that I’m gonna forget that ending, so it’s not a big deal. Plan B was for me to make a song, and I have an idea of what to create. The other thing that didn’t get handled was storyboarding, partially because I wanna lock a location before settling into visuals and partially because storyboard notebooks for the 2.35:1 format are expensive for me right now. “Buy a 1.85:1 notebook and draw matte boxes, dummy.” I said expensive for me right now. Once the money starts coming in and I lock a location, I’ll bite the bullet and buy what I need.

Something I’ve learned this year is that the world wants you to succeed, yet is indifferent to whether you do or not. It offers you SO many avenues to do whatever you need, but it’s up to you to take advantage or not. I raided producers’ info for query letters all month with IMDbPro’s free trial, for instance. I’ve found so many great sites that talk about average costs and making budget sheets, and Maureen A. Ryan’s PRODUCER TO PRODUCER has quickly proved invaluable. Spending years absorbing filmmaking info from DVDs, Blu-rays, YouTube, Vimeo, and books, the one person I’ve heard the least from is the producer. Ms. Ryan’s book tears down that wall for the indie producer. Or the indie writer-director-editor-producer. However, there’s an aspect of producing that I dislike. Ms. Ryan’s book goes into detail about how to write a proposal for investors, and I loathed the part where I had to break down WAKE UP ALONE into an economic statement. Not planning the budget (I liked that a lot), describing my film as a product and doing a fucking fantastic job of it. Art is resistance, but it is also commerce.

Making the style guide is one of the most fun parts of this. A style guide is making a folder of pictures that represent clothes, hairstyles, make-up, locations, and cinematography choices for the film. I do NOT want a shitty-looking film just because it has a micro-budget. I’m as far from the mumblecore movement as one can get. Closer to bargain-basement Rococo. Some might feel that it restricts the creative process, but I’d rather everyone know what I want than wasting time trying to figure things out. I’m open to further discovering styles and such, but I also have a very stable foundation for them.

This month has a lot going for it, so I better get to it. There’s a BIG gamble that I’ve been dragging my feet about taking because of the attention, good and bad, it’ll bring. Fortune favors the bold and all that jazz…


Like the Boomerang That Won’t Quit

Posted in Blog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2017 by Rathan Krueger


I’m making a film! This year! May! What does the pic up top of the dearly departed have to do with it? Lots, but not at all in the way you’re thinking.

Early-Summer of last year, I decided that I finally had enough experience behind and around the camera to make my first film (look at that IMDb page). There have been a few false starts over the years, and even a start that came up shorter than I wanted it to because I wasn’t quite ready to wield the camera long-term. I don’t have a problem with waiting ’til I’m ready for something. I could’ve made films ten years ago because I had a strong visual sense and knew I could show a good story. But I couldn’t tell a good story yet. The only reason I wanted to be a director is because I could write scripts for me, and my writing didn’t match quality the pictures I could make. So I chose to focus on making it easier for me to make characters more defined as well as make better dialogue. Somewhere around there, I realized that although I enjoy a good plot-driven tale and could easily write more than a few, my home was with character pieces. It’s much more interesting for me to see people deal with each other instead of giving them something to do. Then I found women more enjoyable to write than men and never looked back.

I knew that I wanted my first film to be a generational snapshot (like Easy Rider or Clerks). There hadn’t been one for my ilk yet, and I knew that it’s bound to happen sooner than later. I’d rather be part of the “sooner” crowd, so it was a matter of finding out what about my generation I wanted to say. As I think about what I wrote, I feel that I’ve said enough but I’ve left out a lot. Maybe next time. Isolation was the thing that caught my attention the most, so I followed that train of thought. The ending is one of the first things I think up no matter what story I tell. It’s something I realized recently, wished I knew a lot sooner, and was grateful for knowing at all. Lucky, lucky me, what ended up being Wake Up Alone had an ending that came to me briskly. I wanted it to start with drama and end with horror, and the ending didn’t disappoint. Why is the end so important to me? It gives me something to work towards and earn. You’re not gonna be able to figure out how it ends, but you’ll also see that it couldn’t have ended any other way.

And now, we get to Ms. Winehouse. In the early planning stage, I quickly latched onto naming the main character after her and titling the film after a song that felt right. So Amy became the star of Wake Up Alone. I changed her name to May because of a subtle(?) joke involving her name and the names of two other characters. But the Winehouse goes deeper because the film, in a way, is a nod to the “Rehab” lyric, “I just, oh, I just need a friend”. There are a few other big and little nods to her, but I’ll let the film show you them.

After lots of thinking and planning and writing, I finally finished Wake Up Alone… and it clocked in at 63 pages, I think. My intent was to get some producers interested, and no one’s gonna read a script that’s around 60 pages. That’s basically a short film, in their eyes, and they don’t make money. I decided to put it away for a little while so I could look at it with fresher eyes and see how I could add more pages. I was worried about doing that because it’s such a tight script. Every line lead to the next, so to add anything new could’ve fucked everything up. While I was distracting myself, I reread Mick Rock’s excellent Metallica biography, Enter Night, and read a Tweet that changed the rest of my year.

While reading the book, the idea of a blind woman starting a Heavy Metal band came to me. As I kept reading, the idea started to congeal. I was gonna resign it to my idea notebook and come back to it later, then I saw her bump into a wall and say “Wall.” just before she did it and knew I had to write her story double-quick. How could I ignore a blind woman Metal guitarist who’s comfortable enough with her handicap to knowingly bump into a wall? I’m not at all someone who’s constantly writing scripts. If I’m writing it, I intend on directing it soon. Or at least doing something with it. Then I read a Tweet from BBC’s Writers Room, a site the channel has that fosters writers (more things should do this). It said that it would be accepting unsolicited, one-hour, dramatic scripts in December. I was glad and worried at the same time. I’d been waiting for that, but didn’t have any ideas. Then I remembered my blind guitarist. Writing her was more instinctual, and I quickly found out that I wasn’t interested in writing a dramatic story about her. It was more interesting to write something lighthearted because anyone could do the “woe is me” tale about a blind woman trying to do something. Not many would not let her handicap get in the way. Fewer would make her a leader. But the BBC thing would want a dramatic script. Then I realized I could give them Wake Up Alone since it was around 60 pages and make Turn the Strange my first film.

If I could go on a tangent, I’d like to talk about how Doctor Who, Wonder Woman, and Supergirl allowed Wake Up Alone and Turn the Strange exist the way that they do. I’m a huge fan of the Sturm und Drang. The bleaker the story, the better. However, those three characters injected something in my storytelling palette that I wouldn’t have put on my own: the dreaded c-word, “compassion”. I didn’t know it was there, but I also didn’t try to get rid of it when I looked back. Wake Up Alone is about three women, and two of them fit quite well in my house of malaise. The third, though, is definitely a by-product of the Gallifreyan, the Amazonian, and the Kryptonian. She might’ve popped up a few years ago, but she would’ve been someone the film made fun of. Instead, she’s an integral part of the tale and as fucked-up and bleak as the ending is, it’s also full of compassion. And I wouldn’t have bothered with Turn the Strange’s blind Emily if I wasn’t such a geek. My storytelling hasn’t changed completely because compassion was added. What’s happened is now I have an opportunity to create richer stories. I also get to see me war against compassion with nihilism. Should be fun.

So. Back to Turn the Strange. I wrote it and had a great time and accepted that Wake Up Alone was gonna be made by someone else. Then I started location-scouting (finding places to make a film) and making a style guide (a portfolio that shows ideas of clothes and things as well as cinematography). Metallica’s new album came out the day I was location-scouting, so that was a particularly fun and karmic time. Then December hit and the BBC started taking scripts. Two funny things happened. I realized that sending Wake Up Alone to them would’ve been like spending time getting to know a woman who was really into me, telling her that she should date a stranger when she’s ready to go on a date, and think “They sure look great together. Wait a minute…” The other thing that happened was, unlike other script things they had, the BBC was only accepting scripts from the UK. Thus, my decision was made on two fronts: Wake Up Alone is mine. But I also had Turn the Strange. After moping for a few minutes, I told myself that I now have a second film script already ready and felt groovy. Well, there was another script idea, but that’s for another blog.

I now had my original problem with May and friends: how the fuck was I gonna pump the page count up without making the script bloated? I hate deleted scenes. If there was more attention paid to the script, those scenes would’ve been taken out and not wasted lots of time and money. So if I was gonna add more scenes, I had to be sure that they HAD to be there. One of the characters is damn verbose, so I wanted to try avoiding her scenes because they’re exhausting to write. Her scenes were the ones that would’ve suffered the most from adding, anyway. Because I walked away from the BBC thing, I got to make things more adult, which was nice. Those lines of thought made me develop scenes that I wanted to kick myself for not think of initially, but I’m glad I found them at all. Then 63 pages became 75, and things were groovy.

Starting today, I get the gears going for Wake Up Alone on the intense road to get behind the camera on May 1st. I’ve got a schedule set up, so it’s just a matter of tenacity and ingenuity. I’ll update when I can, so I’ll see you when I have more to say.

Death is for Losers! And What It Takes to Make a Short Film

Posted in Blog, Making-Of with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2016 by Rathan Krueger

It’s been four Summers since my first attempt at making a film. For reasons mostly involving me, it turned into a short film that wasn’t close to what I wanted it to be. I didn’t mean for the gap twixt one directing gig and the other to be so long. I’ve tried many times to get another film off the ground, but it’s damn hard to convince people to give you money if you have nothing to show (but I had nothing to show because I didn’t have money [oh, you vicious cycle…]). I did get a chance to direct again last year, but that was more of a sketch than a drawing. I’m still proud of it, though.

I decided to back away from being a writer-director, for a while, and became just a writer. Almost immediately, things started happening. I wrote a feature film that led me to being part of a production company, Artigianale Films. I made a few industry connections. I got two IMDB credits by way of shorts I wrote. I wrote a dark comedy web series that’ll premiere in September.

I got to write and direct DEATH IS FOR LOSERS!

Here’s the script, too: Death is for Losers!

And the IMDB entry.

The story behind it, like most things, is interesting. The web series has one director and I thought that I could direct an episode. To ease the burden and to get behind the camera. But he said, and I agreed, that things are better with one voice. There was a brief period twixt auditions and filming for the web series where, if I really wanted to, I could squeeze in a short film. And I really wanted to. So I started thinking about what to make.

I knew that it had to have one location, two actors, and very few camera set-ups to comfortably do it in the time I had. Three weeks, from conception to final edit. I wanted to make a comedy (or what passes for a comedy) because I wanted a pallet-cleanser from my usual brand of Sturm und Drang. I quickly latched onto the idea of two women plotting to kill a man, which led to the original title: HOW TO FAIL THE BECHDEL TEST (AND HAVE FUN DOING IT). Because a way to fail the Bechdel Test is to have the female characters do nothing but talk about men. The women were gonna gripe about a man in their lives and settle on killing them. Then it became one woman killing hers and the other killing him in a song. Because of that, one became a martial artist (Ileana) and the other became a musician (Freya). Then I changed the title to DEATH IS FOR LOSERS!, because they were gonna kill/”kill” the losers in their lives. Then Ileana became a lesbian and a musician.

I thought about why they’d kill, and quickly latched onto Freya having a terrible father. With Ileana, I didn’t wanna fall into the trope of a psychotic lover. But I wanted her to have, from her perspective, a strong reason for murder. That’s when I thought of objectophilia. To be left for an inanimate object is grounds to at least entertain the thought of murder, methinks. Then I changed it so they both kill with a song. If I kept the original idea, Ileana was gonna slip more and more into derangement, Freya takes her outside for a smoke, and they pretend like everything’s ok. But since they’re “killers”, it felt better to leave them on the stairs.

Them talking about the worst things in their lives came about because I wanted to make a 20-minute short and needed a way to fill the time. I also wanted to build up to Ileana’s dramatic reveal. Another thing I wanted to do throughout the short was to show sex in a positive as well as a negative light. Usually, sex is A Very Bad Thing, and I wanted it to be A Thing. Freya masturbates and doesn’t feel guilty, Ileana loves burlesque shows, Freya had a bout of incest when she was wee, Ileana’s lover left her for a roller coaster… Oh, and even though Ileana (rightfully) has bad feelings about her ex, I didn’t wanna make fun of objectophilia. It’s an easy joke, and I didn’t think that mocking a fetish was funny. If it’s not child-endangerment or snuff, I don’t see the problem with kink.

Albert Brooks once said that he’s funny in the way people are funny and not the way comedians are funny. That always stuck with me. A comedian has to make everything funny: it’s their job. People don’t have to be funny all the time. That’s the kind of “humor” I was going for twixt Freya and Ileana. If something makes you laugh, great, but I wanted them to keep your attention rather than make you chuckle. Now, sometimes I go for the funny, but I’m content with you not cracking a smile while you watch.

I wrote the camera angles in the script because I was directing and I wanted everyone to know what I wanted.

After writing (and reading aloud what I wrote to make sure that it’s easy for the actresses to say), I put out an ad on Craigslist. I hear the site gets lots of flack, but it’s been nothing but good to me, so far. I put out character descriptions, what I was able to pay (nothing, but I’d make lunch and give IMDB credits), and when auditions would be. I got a few replies… then I sent parts of the script and got fewer re-replies. I knew that was gonna be the case, though. Freya and Ileana weren’t traditional women, so I was prepared to see a nice drop-off in interested actresses. I wanna point out, though, that I wrote in the ad that I was looking for any race, and that the age range was 20s-40s. I don’t write with anyone in mind, though I do have traits tucked away. It’s a matter of finding the right person for the role, to me, not the right name.

Over a Saturday or a Sunday, I saw a few actresses. One stood out to me as a great Ileana, though she came in for Freya. Lexi had an energy that I thought counterbalanced Ileana’s gloom. Imagine if Fairuza Balk played Lydia, and you have an idea of my mindset. Freya was a character who WAS the spotlight, so having a high-energy actress play her could’ve tipped the scales. Luckily, Lexi understood and latched onto Ileana. Later, she thanked me because, after reading the script, she felt that Freya would’ve been harder for her to pull off. Freya came by way of an actress who almost couldn’t be at the audition. The day that I was gonna reserve the rehearsal room for x amount of hours, I got a reply from Nadia asking if there was space left. She wasn’t sure which character was right, then settled on Freya. Her audition was interesting because she almost talked herself out of it before she started. As a director, you have to be the calm in front of any storm that comes your way, so I just had to be reassuring and patient.

Soon after auditions, I had rehearsals. Part of casting is finding the right performers for one another along with finding the right performers, so I was glad that Lexi and Nadia were friendly as soon as they met. The first day of rehearsals was in a big room with three chairs. I didn’t want them to get too used to acting in the space because the location was a living room. They might plan their routine with chairs in a big room when they’re supposed to be on couches and stairs in a living room. The point of that day was to get them to know their characters and lines so that when they got to the location, they were ready.

I had specific ideas of what I wanted, but casting the right way meant that I didn’t have much to say. It might’ve been weird for the actresses, me not giving lots of direction (especially during filming), but they were doing most of the things I wanted already so all I had to say was “Yeah, that’s fine.” I’m not at all one of those dictatorial directors or asshole directors who feel the only way to get what they want is to scream or treat people like shit. I’ve learned from the best that the best way for actors and actresses to give a great performance (a director doesn’t get great performances) is to make them comfortable. That doesn’t mean be a pushover or let them do whatever the fuck they want, it means to let them feel that they can do anything and be safe doing it. Martin Scorsese and David Lynch don’t get people wanting to work with them again unless they create safe environments, because their films are so intense and demanding.

What surprised me most about Lexi and Nadia was what happened after rehearsals. We only had about a week left before shooting, and they took it upon themselves to rehearse with each other, with no provocation from me. They went to a place that had two couches and rehearsed for a night, then called each other to rehearse throughout the week. They wouldn’t have done that unless they thought the script was good, so I had to make more than sure that I wouldn’t let them down when it came time to direct.

We had a day and a half to shoot, which was whittled down from three days due to life getting in the way. I would’ve preferred to have shot in sequence, but because the first day was the half-day, we had to shoot the stair stuff first. We rehearsed that a few times, but it was hard for them because, y’know, it was the end. They made it through, though, and we finished up on time. The second day was everything else, and we shot that pretty much in sequence. Instead of moving the camera back and forth, we shot all the stuff with one angle, then moved to another one, and on and on. The ladies rocked it so well that we ended up finishing three hours earlier.

Then came editing. I was really up against the clock (two days, in all) because the web series was starting soon and the computer I was editing on was gonna need the space. It wouldn’t have been so bad if my hard drive didn’t make all the footage skip during playback. You can imagine how I felt when I was cutting together Freya talking about Rusty and her half-brother. Luckily, the skipping didn’t mean the rendering was gonna skip, too. What also sucked was that the clips didn’t snap together, so I had to zoom in a lot to make sure they were connected in the work area. There were a few slight hiccups during filming that I knew I could fix in editing, that’s why there are black cards with words during certain shots (to hide the two takes). Then I noticed there was a gap towards the beginning, so I had to slide EVERYTHING incrementally. Then the footage was shorter after that point, so I had to stretch EVERYTHING incrementally. There was a little vignetting added and I wanted to add some grain, but the rendering would’ve taken too long. Then it was just a matter of putting in the credits and the songs I made. Then gloating while feeling geekily proud because I finished editing the same day that SUICIDE SQUAD did.

I burned the short to a DVD and was ready to show it to the world… then I saw that the DVD split the file so that there was an 18-minute clip and a two-minute clip. I fixed it soon after, and released it. It’s submitted to one festival, and I’ll submit it to another at the end of the month. I’m so proud of it because of what I did, and also because of the people involved. Hope you enjoy it and whatever else I do in the future.

Death is for Losers! - Poster

Commentaries on Short Films About Distractions and Killers

Posted in Blog, Making-Of with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2015 by Rathan Krueger

Late last year, I directed a short film and starred in another. I’ve been waiting until I got the ok from a festival to post my short, and for my friend to post his. Amazingly, both happened at around the same time. What this post’ll be is a sort of commentary track. An actor commentary for Timothy Manning’s short, “distraction,” and a director commentary for my short, “A Real…”

Here’s a YouTube link to “distraction” and I’ll do my best to remember what happened.

A little prehistory before I begin. Timothy asked if I would help him make a short for his film class. He’s one of the Anchors Four (back in ’07, “Dark Knight” was filming in Chicago and through a long and miserable series of events [mostly involving standing outside a pub called Twin Anchors], we met Christopher Nolan) and I’m a sucker for standing around doing nothing for cinema, so I helped. I didn’t know to what extent, but that was fine. It turned out to be a very small shoot, with he and I, and another of the Anchors Four, David Gall. Timothy  was directing and David was the cinematographer (the person who decides how to light a scene and what lens to use [lenses involve what’s in focus and can go from having everything in focus to only your fingernail]), but I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do. I mean, I figured that I’d be a grip (a person who helps with equipment) or something along those lines.

The shoot started in Timothy’s room. He and I set up the room by moving stuff, putting up lights, and checking his storyboards (drawings that represent each shot). Since David runs on WT (wizard time: “A wizard is never late, Mr. Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”), we were… “gifted” some time to do loose lighting tests so that no time was wasted. A lighting test is when you set up a shot’s lighting and refine it. I was near the chair that was being used, so I became the stand-in (someone who stands in for the actor for various reasons, from nude scenes to drug parties). Timothy was gonna be the actor, but it would’ve been cumbersome for him to be a director and his stand-in. David came in around this time with his camera gear, so the two started doing camera tests (same as a lighting test, but with a camera). Being a director, it became clear to me that it would be best if I acted and Timothy directed because it’s a mess jumping back and forth, especially with the shots he had in mind. So when it came time to shoot and he was about to start his game of musical chairs, I took the acting one.

From here on, I can only talk about the acting side because it’d be insulting to him, and all directors, if I tried talking about the thing I had nothing to do with. So if you wanna know more about the directing side, drop him a line on the YouTube video. Onward to the first scene.

The stuff in the bedroom was the only thing we shot that night because the majority of the short took place in the day. The hoodie is courtesy of Timothy because he told me to wear it and I didn’t wanna look like me (hence the messy hair [it’s real, just a lot less combed than it would be] and lack of glasses). Part of the fun of acting is not being me, and part of the fun of a director acting is knowing what actors feel like (never forget how actors feel, directors). The scene was, as you can see, a quick one. I don’t think there’s much to say, acting-wise, here except that I hear my greatest contribution is the eye twitch. Ideas come from all over the place and if the director is confident in themself, they at least listen. They don’t have to execute it, but listening helps. Another acting thing, although this is more of a me thing, is that I was a fucking idiot for wearing those shoes. Me not shaving helped the look of the neurotic character and I tried to show the arc of his madness with his hair, but that didn’t work out, to me. The coat is also Timothy’s. I dress like a walking drawing. Onward to the next scene.

Ah, the first scene of the next day. David ran on normal time that day, so I was the late one by a few minutes. The short was shot in relative chronological order (usually things are made out of order for reasons involving locations, actors, and other things), which was another reason why I wanted that madness arc. Oh well. I hate when people on commentary tracks complain about the weather, so I’ll simply say that it was cold and my shoes were like wearing a thin pair of socks. It helped with the character, though, because there was a miserableness on my face that came naturally. It wasn’t because of the acting and the company I kept, they were fun. My original idea was to act more like Henry from “Eraserhead.” Very afraid of the world. But Timothy wanted more Al Bundy, and the director’s always right. I probably wanted the nervous twitching as a feeble attempt to stay warm on camera. The swing was a bitch because I couldn’t figure out a way to sit on it and swing in the way Timothy wanted, but David helped with that. The shot of the dog was the last thing of the day because he wouldn’t do what Timothy wanted (Timothy’s sister’s fella helped with that). My regret of that head-shaking shot is that I didn’t make my eyes increasingly more panicked. Onward to the next scene.

Being a director, I knew how to speak the language all directors wish their actors would. “Like this?” “Look where?” “Sure, for a dollar.” Very quick and to the point. Anywho. It was my idea to lay the seat down and bring it up for dramatic effect, but I’m not sure I pulled it off properly. The bird poop was sour cream and pepper, the bird was a mangled craft eagle stuffed with… pennies, I think. I also think he used one of the later takes (a take is the time between “Action!” and “Cut!”) When the bird fell because my first take was of genuine shock. And I probably giggled. Timothy probably doesn’t want this mentioned but a director must always be humble… In setting up the shot in the back of the truck, he had to climb through the back and the door being up helped with the (natural) lighting. He got distracted during one trip around and… Onward to the next scene.

Actually, I’ll talk about the driving shots by the trees first. Although they’re spread throughout, they were done in one go. I can confess this now because Timothy survived. During those shots, I drove without my glasses just in case the camera saw me. Under normal circumstances, I don’t have the best depth perception when I drive. There was a shot he wanted with his truck coming towards him and the camera as quickly and closely as possible before swerving around him. But, like I said, Timothy survived. Hooray. Him sticking with only directing helped out the strongest during these shots because he thought of a few that he couldn’t have if he was juggling two hats. Onward to the park.

This was the longest scene to do because he wanted the train in the background and we didn’t know the schedule. It was one of the first and last things we did that day. We had walkie talkies that picked up some strange conversations you’ll have to ask Timothy and David about someday. This scene is the only time I’ll say something as an actor and as a director. The shot of the train going by went on for a lot longer and I acted out a building frustration that ended with my head in my hands, and I thought I did good. From a director’s standpoint, I would’ve let that shot play long because it would’ve been a break from the rapid cutting. The cutting works very well and the short doesn’t need any breaks, but it would’ve been nice to have one. I can’t say anything else as a director except that Tim did great because it’s not the kind of thing I would’ve made. My characters are tormented, not anxious, for one.

Oh yeah. That is a dogtag from “Battlestar Galactica” hanging from the mirror. Adama’s, I think. And the car driving alongside me is David’s, with the cinematographer driving it. Onward to the last scene.

There’s not much to say here. I did a little march but I don’t think that comes across. Stepping over the table and dropping was my idea. I’m more glad than I probably should be that my lip quiver registered. And I’m very glad that Timothy and David made some art. Hope they do more.

Now. Where’s my director’s hat…

Here’s my surreal short, “A Real…”

A little prehistory. I felt that I had to direct something before my birthday otherwise I’d be a failure as a director, so I did. I actually shot something with the intention to make a short out of it, but it was more therapy than anything narrative. So, with my friend, Marcus Harmon, I made a short film. We didn’t have a cinematographer because we didn’t need one. We had one lens and natural lighting. I did storyboard, though. I think the theme of making the short was “succeed no matter what.” The first night went fine, but I had to start later than I would’ve liked the next day, so I had to rethink my shots. I made sense of it all in the editing and my next intention was to record a voiceover, but the acting and the music I made did enough of a good job. Words would’ve only gotten in the way. Because of all these things, the short ended up far more surreal than I intended. Like with “distraction,” I can only talk about one aspect of “A Real…” so if you wanna know about acting, track Marcus down. I think he’s usually camped outside of Tom Hardy’s house with a butterfly net and a case of Red Bull. Onward to the first scene.

The scene was always planned the same, it was just a lot shorter and in a different place. Originally, it was gonna be on a road with an overpass behind him, but the road was used. Luckily, there was a side street seconds away that no one was using. The short as a whole became longer because of the song I made. I really liked it so I had to find clever ways to extend things without the end result looking like shit. The subtle fades work well in the shot of Marcus in front of my car, right? Well, it’s the same few seconds over and over and over and over again. The quick cuts to daytime were supposed to slowly change color, but I couldn’t figure out a way to do that. I truly hate the overuse of blue in cinema. I would’ve loved to have used red, but the nighttime shots have an orange tinge and the quick shots are supposed to represent the character’s opposite, so I used blue. For the first and only time. One of my proudest editing moments is when he stands up blillowing my coat, and the cut (going from one shot to another) happens on a flap. I should mention the wardrobe. It was a choice made by me. Maybe obvious. But I wanted the character to seem darker and more restrained during the night scene (the trenchcoat acting as a sort of body brace), and brighter and more free during the day scene. Marcus did the smartphone shot himself because I couldn’t put a camera through him without murdering him, and I had more short to shoot so I couldn’t. Hence the focus is off, but it helps the aesthetic (he was reading “Pinocchio,” if you’re curious). One of things I do as a director is not say action or cut. I like the performers to take charge of their work, so I say “whenever you’re ready,” and “that’s enough for now” (Eastwood does it and he started that when he did Westerns because shouting action spooked the horses). If I want them to be a little competitive, I say “surprise me” and “thanks” or “try again.”

The exterior moving shots were done on the way to the forest preserve for the next scene. I thought they’d be good to have later so I stuck Marcus and his camera out the window while I drove. The shots saved me when I realized I couldn’t get the shots I wanted. The first exterior shot has a strange filter because the character is going to a brighter place but it’s strange to him and he’s not ready yet.

The plant shot had a lot more before and after it, but we got there too late. It was actually inspired by another shot. It was a quick one, with him snapping a twig or plucking a leaf, so I made a scene out of it. Yes, I wanted it out of focus. He doesn’t know what he is yet. Another proud editing moment was making this scene as abstract as it is. It was a lot of fun cutting it into pieces and scrambling them. The camera was on a tripod and the light was Marcus’ smartphone wielded by yours truly. There was a particular attitude I wanted from the light and it’s hard to convey such things. Plus, Marcus was busy learning to murder and I was the only other person there. My direction to him was to think of the plant tenderly and slowly, hesitantly destroy it. As you can see, the brightness is sneaking in, with his clothes and the light, but you only see so much of him because he’s not whole yet.

The second exterior scene is speedy because he’s rushing to who he wants to be. I wanted to go backwards but the editing program couldn’t do that.

The park scene was fun because I doubt anyone knew what the fuck we were doing. Marcus was dancing around the camera to Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” while I spun it around. The spinning shot was supposed to have more but the ground was uneven and the shot dipped at points and annoyed me. I think my hat was in frame a few times, too, so only one half of each spin was used. I mirrored a few shots so that he wasn’t going in one direction. It helps because he’s happy and psychotic. There was gonna be more after he spun around the post but I felt it was good to end there. He was supposed to see something off screen and become really excited, and you see that it’s a playground full of children. I didn’t cut it for censorship reasons. Heavens, no. The flow of the short made the shots superfluous, and I got the idea to make the short cyclical.

Well, that’s it. Big thanks to Marcus for acting and letting me use his camera.

And Mistakes… I’ve Made a Few

Posted in Blog, Making-Of with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by Rathan Krueger

OK, now to get a bit more routinely.

“Nostalgia Season” is tucked away in a binder. It’s not complete, but it will be someday. However, it won’t be a novel. It’ll be a graphic novel, also known as a really thick comic. I’ve already written a novel and the process of going through that again was a bit boring. Coupled with the need to draw again, turning it into a comic sounded like a great idea. But that’s not for a while. A long while.

Early last month, I decided that I was a filmmaker above anything else. The pit stop into novel-writing started turning into the journey. The war drums of “Quagmire” began beating intensely as I was working on chapter four of “Nostalgia Season”. It got to the point where I had to stop fooling myself and just write the damn thing. So I spent a few days plotting it out with my handy-dandy corkboard. What I had in mind and what I ended up with were two slightly different things. My original idea was to write a 140-page script because a page equals a minute of screentime and I liked the idea of a 140-minute film about the subject in “Quagmire”. It was also gonna slowly turn into a horror film, and I was gonna write it in three weeks. Two weeks into writing, the film told me that it was finished on page 100 and that it was gonna throw out being a horror film. Which was fine. Plenty of stories to tell and plenty of life to tell them. Anyone who says that life is short is wrong: it’s the longest thing you’ll ever do.

I feel proud of what I’ve written. I’ll look back on it with more refined eyes someday with a slight bit of embarrassment for a few reasons, but I’ll stay proud for a while. A few losses aside, I managed to do what I set out to. I also see a few faults o’ mine. Scripts are supposed to be descriptive about certain things. Actually, I don’t think it’s a fault. The eventual film takes place in one location and it’s a pretty standard one, so I felt that I didn’t need to constantly detail it. And I feel that actors and actresses need to stick to the words in a script but are free outside of that to do what they want, so why should I detail their actions? They’re gonna get enough of me banging the words and camera angles into their heads, I don’t need to cripple their acting choices completely. I can always write a novel or comic, or make an animated something, if I want complete and utter control over acting.
I love how different the characters are and how their dialogue flows. Talking like this, it seems like I’m full of myself, but I can easily separate myself from my material. I can jump from creator to audience and critique myself, or enjoy the end product. I know that rehearsals are gonna be important because there are some parts that will be actor-dependent, and they can easily fall apart if I’m not careful. But that’s all part of the fun, right?
Once I copyright the script today, I’m gonna quickly dive into getting it made. I’ve learned a lot from my first filmmaking experience that was “Dirty Thoughts”. Next week and the week after, I’m gonna look into two places for actresses and a location. One place I’ve passed for years driving to Indiana, but the other is in the city where my favorite writing-directing team came from. After that gets settled, I’m gonna set up a crowdfunding thing. I wear too much black to go outside for money. But seriously, I tried the door-to-door thing before and it left me with a whole lotta nothing. The thing I’m not looking forward to is thinking up rewards. If I was established or had things to give, great. But I’m a nobody (for now) with nothing (ditto). Luckily, I’m also a researcher. I have an interesting idea to get people interested, too. Sadly, there’s a good chance that it’ll work because my script’s a tad too topical these days. I hope to be in at least preproduction by the end of August. With many more blog posts along the way. Hopefully happy ones.

Next week, I’ll also be working on my Doctor Who short story in earnest. It’s due on the 28th. I have a great concept and, given a day, I’ll have enough of it plotted to blaze through it soon.

Outside off all this productivity, I’m reading “The Art of Neil Gaiman”. It’s a sorta history a book about the author with photos, clippings, and excerpts. Just made it to the “Sandman” section. I’m also getting back into anime with “Hell Girl”. It’s about a site that allows you to send someone to Hell, but you also go there when you die. The other anime I’m watching is “Kill la Kill”, about a girl fighting her way through a high school to get to her father’s killer. It’s A LOT goofier than it sounds. I’ve also rewatched “Attack on Titan”. Gotta love my depressing stories. Gonna try to watch “Orange is the New Black” over the weekend, between making-of docs about filmmaking. Never stop learning, kids.

I should try doing the social black-clad thing more and go to those clubs, buy those magazines, etc…