Archive for Film

The Pre-Pre-Production Come-Along of January

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

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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…

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Like the Boomerang That Won’t Quit

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

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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.

TURN THE STRANGE – An Excerpt

Posted in Blog, Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2016 by Rathan Krueger

I’ve been pretty busy lately, and I wanted to show you a few pages of a script I finished recently. It’s about Emily, a woman guitarist who’s trying to start a Heavy Metal band with a handicap she won’t allow to get in her way. I had a lot of fun writing it, she’s a lot of fun, and I hope you have a lot of fun reading her.

FADE IN:
INT. EMILY’S BEDROOM – MORNING
An old alarm clock goes off, glass absent from its face,
ringing its bells like a caffeinated woodpecker. The woman
it’s trying its best to win the attention of currently has
her head buried under a pillow. A feeble attempt to stop the
day. She eventually gives up and tosses the pillow at the
clamor. Or rather, tries to. She overestimates how far the
clock is by a few feet. She then lets out a defeated sigh
and sits up.
EMILY VERDA’S hair sticks up at all sorts of angles,
compliments of sleep. She sits on the edge of her bed, hands
on thighs, wearing a simple spaghetti-string top and pajama
pants. After slapping her legs rhythmically, she almost
immediately switches from being exhausted to being wide
awake, then turns off the alarm.

EMILY
You’re gonna get them today.

INT. EMILY’S BATHROOM – MOMENTS LATER

EMILY brushes her teeth while humming the same four notes
over and over. Faster, slower, higher, lower. The fingers on
her free hand, black nail polish chipped, rap upon the
mirror at the same tempo changes. Her eyes in the mirror are
unfocused, yet there’s still thought behind them.
She locks onto a particular tempo, repeating it twice, then
smirks before she spits into the sink.

INT. EMILY’S BEDROOM – MOMENTS LATER

A proper view of the BEDROOM shows amazing organization
skills. Apart from the pillow slumped in the corner and the
messy bed, everything is exceptionally neat and tidy. Three
other stand-out features are the lack of closet doors, of an
entrance door, and of any mirror. Just outside the doorway
is an astroturf rug.

At the closet and in a terrycloth robe, EMILY chooses
something to wear for the day. Her hair is now combed flat,
and her lips are painted black. She quickly flicks through
hung shirts, pants, t-shirts, skirts, and dresses, giving
some a stroke or two before passing them up.

She goes to a window and opens it. She then licks a palm and
sticks into the world…

EMILY
Pants and a button-up.

…then gets what she needs while wiping her hand on her
robe.

INT. EMILY’S KITCHEN – MOMENTS LATER

EMILY sits on the counter, twixt the sink and toaster, as
she tosses the last bit of one waffle in her mouth. A laptop
sits on the table. She then snatches another waffle from the
toaster. She tears off pieces and eats them, avoiding her
lipstick. While this is going on, she hums the melody she
came up with in the BATHROOM while tapping her bootheels on
the cabinet.

Until she almost chokes on a waffle bit.

She tosses what’s left of the breakfast pastry in the
garbage, in a fit of betrayal, then briskly washes her hands
in the sink. Her boots make the plastic mat on the floor
click and pop.

INT. EMILY’S LIVING ROOM – MOMENTS LATER

Sliding on her armor, a well-loved frock coat, EMILY
prepares to leave her apartment. Next, she tucks a pocket
recorder and a flipphone inside the coat. By the door is a
beaten-up guitar case ready to be slung over her shoulder
like a sword. On a short bookcase is her helmet by way of a
top hat and sunglasses. Both are vertically-striped black
and white, with the hat having a bit more business. The
black stripes are felt, the white are like silk, and a ring
dangles from the brim. A finger can easily fit through it,
which she does as she positions the hat so that the ring
hangs over her left ear.

Ready to face the day, she grabs one last thing: her folding
cane.

EXT. STREETS – MOMENTS LATER

EMILY walks with a little pep in her step as her cane goes
TAK-TAK-TAK-TAK, making sure that she doesn’t bump into
anyone (while not really caring if she does).

She points a twirling finger in the camera’s general
direction as she taks and trots along.

EMILY
‘Ello, dear viewer. Emily’s my name
and I was put on this planet for
two reasons: shredding guitars and
bumping into furniture. If the cane
didn’t give the game away, I’m a
bit blind. Don’t feel sorry for me,
though. You’re the ones who have to
see the state the world’s in.

She takes her finger away and continues walking to…

INT. QUEST CAFE – MOMENTS LATER

The bell over the door DINGS as EMILY enters. After folding
her cane, she approaches the register while getting her credit card.
At the counter, a clerk waits with a mug full
of the hot stuff.

CLERK
Ms. Verda! We ran out of white
chocolate last night, but we have a
nice–

EMILY stops in her tracks, flicks straight her cane, and
doffs her hat.

EMILY
I bid thee good day.

CLERK
Just kidding, just kidding!

EMILY
Don’t toy with my heart today.

EMILY folds her cane and continues her morning routine
towards her white chocolate mocha topped with whipped cream
and coconut sprinkles.

CLERK
I’m a wage slave, I have to get as
much harmless fun as I can to pass
the 9-5.

EMILY
And normally, I’d understand. Nay,
I’d encourage. But I need all my
strength for later.

EMILY swipes her card and enters her PIN as the CLERK
extends the mug.

CLERK
Oh? Why? Oh yeah, you’re still
doing those auditions. How long
have you been holding them?

EMILY
Doesn’t matter.

EMILY takes the mug and her receipt.

EMILY
(cont’d)
I’m gonna get them today.

CLERK
How many are you meeting?

EMILY
Two, but two’s all I need. Thanks
for letting me post my ad here.
That’s how they found me.

CLERK
Ah, no problem.

EMILY
Kayley and Leslie. Gonna have a
chick band.

CLERK
You just be sure to play your
second gig here.

EMILY
“Second”?

CLERK
Who’s ever great their first time
out?

EMILY
Har har har. I was gonna leave a
tip, but now…

CLERK
You can’t tip plastic. Besides, you
already swiped your card.

EMILY
Maybe I was gonna get a few
macaroons.

CLERK
Were you?

EMILY starts to step away as she sips her coffee, then turns
back to the CLERK.

EMILY
Do you know Kayley and Leslie? All
I have are texts that my phone
reads aloud.

CLERK
I only know you because you’re a
creature of habit and this place is
lucky enough to be within sniffing
distance of your apartment.

EMILY
Heh, too true, too true.

EMILY continues to an empty booth, but not before…

CLERK
Good luck today, Emily. Really.

She gestures a salute with her mug, then sits. She then
takes a big gulp, points a circling finger towards the
camera, and sets her mug down with a big whipped cream
moustache on her face.

EMILY
I know what you’re thinking, but
chick bands rock. No, you’re
thinking that other thing and, yes,
I know it’s there. No, no, you’re
thinking that OTHER other thing,
and we’ll never know if Neo
would’ve knocked over that vase.
It’s best to just let it go, I’ve
lost far too much hair over that.
Roy Orbison and José Feliciano.
Drawing blanks? I’m drawing
circles. They’re two of the best
guitarists to have ever lived. They
also found that blindness didn’t
take away frets and chords. Herman
Li is a beast with a guitar THAT HE
PLAYS WITH THE WRONG HAND, just
like Hendrix! So my heritage has
that covered because we all come
from the same womb. Joan Jett,
Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Nancy
Wilson.

She brushes the dairy facial hair off with her finger, then
eats it with a grin.

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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

Daily Dialogue: Money-Shaped Holes

Posted in Dialogue, Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2015 by Rathan Krueger

Forty minutes a day, I write the musings of a couple of made-up women.

Jaden
How’s life?

Ingrid
…meh.

Jaden
But you’re alive.

Ingrid
…meh.

Jaden
Everyday above ground is a good day.

Ingrid
Tell that to the ones with spina bifida.

Jaden
So, what you’re saying is that this day isn’t one of your best.

Ingrid
…meh.

Jaden
Why so glum, chum? Cham? Chimmy? What’s the female version of chum?

Ingrid
I’m broke.

Jaden
That’s not– Oh. You’re always broke, what’s your point?

Ingrid
But this time, I’m really, really broke.

Jaden
How are you really, really broke?

Ingrid
It’s like the woman who grew up nude and didn’t know she was nude until someone said, “Bitch, you nude, girl.”

Jaden
“Bitch, you nude, girl?” Wait, are we talking about Nell?

Ingrid
Nell?

Jaden
You know, that movie with Jodie Foster where she lived in a forest until that guy from “Taken” found her.

Ingrid
I prefer to think of him as Darkman. And no, I’m not talking about Nell. I was speaking generally, and you ruined it.

Jaden
Sorry. The video store near my house is closing and I’ve been buying discounted DVDs like mad.

Ingrid
And you didn’t tell me?

Jaden
Well, you’re broke. Really, really broke.

Ingrid
I’m really, really broke!

Jaden
See? I didn’t wanna rock the boat even more.

Ingrid
All their DVDs?

Jaden
Yup.

Ingrid
Even the out-of-print Criterions?

Jaden
Yup.

Ingrid
Oh, damn your eyes!

Jaden
So, why are you being all Nell about money?

Ingrid
Because of things like that, and my sucky job, and bills, and–

Jaden
I got it, I got it. Get a better job.

Ingrid
Yeah, maybe when Rosie the Riveter was new on the scene.

Jaden
What?

Ingrid
Y’know, Rosie the Riveter? “We can do it!”? WWII?

Jaden
Oh yeah, her. What’s she got to do with anything?

Ingrid
I was pointing out that WWII had jobs for days, unlike now.

Jaden
It also had a lot of death. And sexism. And racism.

Ingrid
Yeah, but I would’ve had a better job!

Jaden
Doing what?

Ingrid
I dunno. Anything’s better than being a desk jockey. I’d work in a factory. Or be one of those models who gets painted on planes.

Jaden
Vain much?

Ingrid
Hey, those girls had class. And any reason to wear hot pants is ok with me.

Jaden
Can you still fit in hot pants?

Ingrid
How dare!

Jaden
I’m just saying. You seem pretty mopey and I see that… two-pound bag(?) of Twizzlers is almost gone.

Ingrid
Hey, licorice is low-fat.

Jaden
Not that kind.

Ingrid
What talkin’ ’bout?

Jaden
Black licorice is the low-fat treat. Ditto celery.

Ingrid
Maybe because your body rots a little after eating them? Yuck.

Jaden
You’re gonna have such a muffin top in those hot pants.

Ingrid
Fuck you, no. I still have the washboard tummy with a little flab that hot pants love.

Jaden
Little flab? I can see your ribs when you stretch.

Ingrid
Which means my Twizzler diet this week isn’t gonna ruin me. Ha, says I. Ha ha, even.

Jaden
Was there anything in particular that sent you on licorice binge? Because it seems you can still afford candy.

Ingrid
Food stamps. I just saw that there were a few things that I wanted, which turned into a lot of things.

Jaden
Typical American…

Ingrid
I wasn’t talking about clothes, cars, or juicers.

Jaden
Oh. What then?

Ingrid
Books I need, mostly.

Jaden
Books? Like which?

Ingrid
A few from Japan, some about psychology, etc, etc.

Jaden
And you need those?

Ingrid
Don’t take my books away from me, my wrath will be terrible.

Jaden
Ok, ok.

Ingrid
I could sell your DVD collection and make a few bucks.

Jaden
Hey. There’s a line. You’re one Amaray case and a bookmark away from crossing it.

Ingrid
Just putting things into perspective.

Jaden
I’d rather you not with my life, please. But I see your point.

Ingrid
And bills HAVE to be paid, for some reason.

Jaden
Slices of modernity. I doubt you’d wanna read your books in a tent by lanternlight.

Ingrid
Outside? With rain and dog pee?

Jaden
So you’re stuck with bills in a water-free existence. Apart from your plumbing.

Ingrid
What am I gonna do-o-o-o-o? I want those books…

Jaden
Save up?

Ingrid
There’s a big sale going on that’ll be over by the time I’d have change to spare.

Jaden
Oh, what a tangled web you weave.

Ingrid
And I’m not stupid enough to borrow money from a friend because that’s the kind of thing that ruins lives.

Jaden
Worse than in “War of the Roses.”

Ingrid
You have that? It’s been years since I’ve seen it.

Jaden
One of my many treasures from that store.

Ingrid
Oh, I hate you so much.

Jaden
How’re you gonna get that money?

Ingrid
Donating blood’s not gonna get me enough.

Jaden
Plus, you bit the last person who tried to stick you with a needle, I hear.

Ingrid
Donating eggs takes too long.

Jaden
Plus, it’s too weird. And you’d be screwing the world over more with you adding to the overpopulation. For shame.

Ingrid
Won’t do porn.

Jaden
You freak out whenever anyone’s home when you shower.

Ingrid
So, what else is there?

Jaden
Rob a bank?

Ingrid
I’m not gonna rob a bank to buy a few books.

Jaden
Why not? People have done it for less.

Ingrid
I’m not that desperate. Or clever.

Jaden
Casino?

Ingrid
Have you seen my love life? That kind of luck doesn’t stay in one place.

Jaden
Science experiments?

Ingrid
Because I really wanna grow a boob on my back.

Jaden
You can use it for dancing.

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.

Tiny Victory

Posted in Blog, Making-Of with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2014 by Rathan Krueger

I was looking back on how prolific artists were and thought about why they were able to do so much as opposed to now. Figured that it was because they didn’t waste time with touring and interviews. I love the concept of fan interaction and don’t wanna be the asshole who rarely shows up to things, but I’ve got many things to create. I’ll find a way to perfectly manage my time. Someday. I also don’t wanna come off as a workaholic. I believe in work and rest and 12-hour workdays with six-day workweeks are fucking stupid. That’s when you get to the point of diminishing returns. I just wanna prove that the workhorse mentality in the current art industries is broken and that there are better ways to work. Time-management and proper preparation and stuff. Someday.

I finished the Doctor Who short story yesterday. Well, almost. Well, it’s more of a superfluous addition. Well, it’s what I had in mind since the beginning. Little world-building and character details need to be added… three, actually. Plus a few time-traveling tricks that made me wanna tell the story in the first place. I’ll add them before the day’s out and e-mail it to the proper folk and hope it gets selected. It was my first test of a few things. Telling a light-hearted story, telling a story with a plot, telling a story with no elaborate fights, and telling a Doctor Who story. According to a few folk who’ve read it, I did a good job. I wish I could share it but rules of the contest say that I can’t. My training helped, though. I knew that I could do a good plot back when I decided to be a storyteller, but I was worried that I couldn’t do good characters. Not to say that I thought my writing was weak, but characters are almost more important than plot so I wanted to make sure that characters flowed easily. You could watch a film with a shitty story if the characters were interesting, but the most beautiful tale ever told is worth jack and shit if no one cares about the characters (and Jack left town). But they’re fine so that’s great.

Gonna apply for Kickstarter Tuesday. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and I bought new shoes.

I thought up a fucked-up way to add zombies to “Academia”. I wasn’t thinking about adding zombies. I’m actually not a big fan of them (vampires, yo). But I was watching “Doc of the Dead” and remembered how much I missed the zombies of the Evil Dead trilogy, or Deadites. Undead creatures that exist solely to torment those around them. So I’ll be modifying the concept of Deadites so I don’t get sued and putting one in “Academia”. Hooray!