Archive for Films

The Pre-Pre-Production Come-Along of January

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

filmmaking1

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…

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.

Cinema. Comics. Piracy. “Dreams and Things”.

Posted in Blog, Making-Of with tags , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2014 by Rathan Krueger

Or, what I’ve been up to since July.

Ahoy, all. Whew, I can smell the formaldehyde and abandonment all over. I guess I should get the obvious out of the way: “Quagmire” was a bust. The crowdfunding didn’t do much of anything except give me a few bucks. And a new appreciation of how selectively apathetic the world can be. But nay! This shan’t be a post of wet blankets and razor blades! I just need to say a few things before moving on. Hopefully, I can stay chipper. Yeah, two things and I’ll be fine. One: the “Quagmire” project wasn’t a perfect fit for me. Fuck, I doubt it wasn’t even a shrunken sweater of a fit. The film had things I’m drawn to (imperfect characters and lots of talking), but what didn’t work, ultimately, was the subject matter. I thought that I could convince myself that I could write something about teachers. Or rather, hold the enthusiasm it takes to move a film from page to screen. Two: I don’t like crowdfunding, as a funder or fundee. I could write a blog about that alone, but I’ll just say that there needs to be a better way.

I didn’t mean to be away for so long, but I didn’t wanna come back until I had definite things to talk about. Few things are as bad as someone always saying “But THIS one will be different!” with fuckall to show for it. There was a lull when I had absolutely nothing, which is why I’m forcing myself to always be creative somehow. Sucks to have an imagination with no engine to drive it. My first almost-return involved my first album. I’ve been making songs for a few years now, but none with the intention of presenting to the world alone or as a piece. “Her Revenge Will Be Vicious” looked like it was gonna be my Neo.
It was gonna be a concept album because they’re a lost art and I wanted to give people a reason to listen to the whole thing. It was gonna be about a woman who’s stalked by a bastard of privilege., frontloaded by his part in her story. It would’ve been a tactic to weed-out reactionaries. My hope was that the clever people would see the title, hear the first songs, and know that the second half would be all about comeuppance. I’d bait the reactionaries, too. The bastard’s songs would’ve been misogynistic and poppy. Trust would take them to the dramatics and the vicious revenge. It wouldn’t have been misogyny for misogyny’s sake, though. Poppy as they would’ve been, they’d also reveal a very pathetic character (sans sympathy).
So what happened? I wrote all the song titles and structured the album, even wrote the first song (“Exploding Sun”)… then I realized it wasn’t time. There’s one piece missing. Perhaps a female vocalist.

My second almost-return involved my short film , “A Real…” I got tired of being a director who hadn’t directed something they were proud of. I’m proud of the opportunity for leaning that “Dirty Thoughts” presented to me and the help I got, but I’m not proud of the end result. So I swore that I’d make something prideful by my birthday. And I did. Even started sending it to film festivals (three, so far). The problem was that I wasn’t sure if I could post it to the world yet. I’d rather not shoot that opportunity in the foot, so I chose to keep it secret/safe.
I felt that I should have a script ready, just in case, so I dug out “Academia” and started readapting it. Instead of being something heavily-inspired by “Battle Royale”, it became a meditation on suicide. Not mine, I’ve too much to do. Alongside that, I was preparing another novel. A very intellectual spy novel with flights of fancy. Metal Gear Solid fans will know what I mean. Alongside that, I found out that once in a while, BBC accepts unsolicited scripts (here). A backdoor into “Doctor Who”: are you fucking kidding? Granted, it’s implied that one should write an original thing, which this one will. I just hope to amaze enough that the TARDIS doors’ll crack open a little for me.
So I was juggling (successfully[!]) preparing… when an old friend reentered my life and ruptured a new path for me.

I gave up comics almost a decade ago for lots of reasons (none of them female [I never understood why people give up something that means a lot to them for the prospect, not even the promise, of a piece of ass… sex is great but it’s not worth giving up an important part of yourself for]). The state of comics was bland and there were attachments to people I couldn’t shake off in my head. It wasn’t until earlier this month when I was presented with comics’ state of the union address and my head was held still by two characters: Harley Quinn and The Twelfth Doctor. I have a very particular sense of humor that Harley’s comic serves up with ginger ale. The Twelfth Doctor (of the “Doctor Who” medical professionals) is the first Doctor I could say was My Doctor, so I support him however I can, within reason. When I got Harley’s graphic novel and the first issue of Twelve’s comic, the four-color flame burned brighter than the Batsignal. It was like reconnecting with an old friend.
Since then, I’ve been buying mainstream and indie comics, reflecting my tastes in films. If you can get beyond the title of Alan Moore’s “Saga of the Swamp Thing”, you’ll be rewarded greatly. “Wonder Woman” is great because it’s, among other things, a nurturer’s take on war. And the art doesn’t sexualize her:

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At least, until issue 36:

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“Daytripper” is a great comic about the life of an obituary writer. It was particularly important because of my new venture by reminding me that Americans want stories like this, too. Rewatching “Chasing Amy”, I was inspired at one point to write a scene with two women talking. I didn’t have anything planned, I just knew that their names were Vicki and Tracey. An hour later, I had pages of dialogue of what would become my first comic: “Dreams and Things”. I say comic, but I mean graphic novel. I hate single issues and monthly schedules. Anywho, it’ll be about two women who live together in a loft, and one gets the idea to make a horror comic. “Dreams and Things” won’t be a horror comic, I just needed Vicki to make a comic and I didn’t want it to be a superhero one. That and I love the challenge of making a horror comic since that’ll be in the graphic novel, too. I’m in the planning stage and I’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve drawn the two gals and I’m stupid-excited to get to the end of their book.

There’re SO many things in my head going into planning DaT. It’ll be about two women, obviously. It’ll also be about making a comic. I’ve come across a few narrative features about making films. I’ve seen series’ about making anime. The only narrative books I’ve read that are about making comics have come from Japan (“Comic Party” and “Genshiken”). Plenty of how-to-make-comics books stateside, but nothing making a story out of it.
DaT will also be an incredibly selfish endeavor. “Lie” was a selfish novel, but I also wrote it for women. Although people’ll be inspired by the comic-making portions of DaT, I’m doing them for me. To show myself how I made it and to save myself questions about how I made it. Vicki’s path is mine (or “mine”). But that’s not my only bout of shameless selfishness.
I also wanna present sex in such a way that it’s character-centric and non-distracting. The only way creatives figured out how to do that is with sex addiction and prostitution. Shame and dismay (I’m not knocking sex workers, only pointing out how society feels about them [they fulfill a need like any other kind of worker, they’ve been around since time immemorial, and they’ll be around long after you’re dust: cope, puritans]). I love a good action scene, but I have to admit that it’s absurd how you can show a woman getting her heart ripped out on network TV, yet the camera cuts away away if her boob flops out. It’s just flesh, and I know from firsthand experience that it appreciates attention.
Another bout of selfishness involves me watching myself improve my drawing ability. I dunno how long DaT with be, but 300 pages doesn’t seem absurd to me. Oh, before I go on, I wanna say that I haven’t given up on filmmaking. I’m still sending “A Real…” to festivals and “Academia” just needs the ok to be made. Anywho, 300 pages is quite an amount, pregnant with potential to grow as an artist. I’ll be pushing myself throughout, but my goal is to make it all seem like stylistic choices and not someone who’s learning. Turn the negatives into positives.
DaT, like all the tales of this mythmaker, will be multiracial, but there won’t be any fucking pandering. They’ll just be people who look different.
As a System of a Down fan, there’ll be a subversive thread. As a System of a Down fan, I’ll make sure that it’s too fun to complain about.
There’re also so many other character, story, and tertiary things that I’m gonna stuff into “Dreams and Things”… but I hope the end result is something like this:

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…instead of something like this:

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Piracy. As an artist of the 21st century, it’s something that I need to deal with. I had the fortune in 2008 of seeing “Punisher: War Zone” in theaters and thinking that the person behind that was a genius. Then I saw “Green Street Hooligans” and thought that the genius had range. It’s so hard to find a comic book movie that unapologetically has the tone of its source material. It’s also very hard to get me to sit through anything involving sports. Lexi Alexander managed to pull off those feats so well that I thought she could do no wrong as a filmmaker. Then “Lifted” came out and then… nothing. I wondered what happened to her and figured that she left the game. Shame, but it happens a lot.
When I decided to join Twitter, I did what any cinephile would do: track down directors and wait for 140-character-sized chunks of wisdom. On a whim, I looked up Lexi Alexander. There she was. And angry.
Turned out that she didn’t leave the game. Turned out that the game remembered that it was a boys-only club and shut its doors on her. Turned out that she was beating on those doors. Not out of desperation or a plea to be let in. Each fist slammed was a shout that bellowed “YOU FUCKING SEXIST BASTARDS!! YOU’RE RUINING IT FOR WOMEN WITH FUCKING STORIES TO TELL!!” Each kick was a rallying cry that echoed “WOMEN, LET’S STOP PUTTING UP WITH THIS BULLSHIT!!”
But the bastards ignored.
The women were frightened and complacent.
So an exhausted Lexi Alexander let her bloody hands slide down in defeat and her sticky soles took her home.
Along the way, she saw something in the distance. As she got closer, she saw a person being arrested for stealing a movie. Made by those sexist bastards who routinely spat on the faces of the workers who helped make them billions. Made by those sexist bastards who have been selling the same movie for years and strangling creativity. Made by those sexist bastards who would rather their industry burn than adapt to the changing winds.
So Lexi Alexander became piracy’s Wonder Woman and like Diana of Troy, enlightened and inspired others to address piracy in the changing world. People like me. If you go to her blog (here), you’ll read lots of explanations of what’s happening with piracy on both sides of the argument. I can only talk about my feelings of piracy. That and laugh at Disney, wondering if they don’t see the irony yet.
It’s a lot like a library. People take things for free and if they like it, they can go to a store and buy it. If they don’t like it, at least they didn’t waste any of their money. If they like it and don’t buy it, keeping it instead and feeling that artists don’t need to be paid, fuck ’em with a two-headed dildo that spews fire and glass shards and screams at them.
“Dreams and Things” will be a thick book, which means it’ll cost a few bucks. It’d be wise of me to give people a free option. Make a PDF or something with enough pages to entice people and throw it in the torrents.

Well, that’s enough for now. Thanks for reading and if you feel like doing something good today, donate to Action Against Hunger.

This Week’s Podcast: “Avast, No Pickles”

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2012 by Rathan Krueger

This Week’s Podcast: “Avast, No Pickles”

This Week’s Podcast: “All the Fucks Are in Escrow”

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2012 by Rathan Krueger

I wanted to have more to talk about in the making-of portion of the podcast, so this week will be interview-only with bubbling screenwriter, Marcus Harmon.

http://soundcloud.com/gambitofdesires/003-all-the-fucks-are-in