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Sunday, November 28, 2004

From Ed, Ford Fairlane owner

I received a call about 3 weeks ago from John with Film Cars, asking if I would like to help put together some cars for a movie that was being shot in Bradenton, Florida and Treasure Island, Florida. Stomp! Shout! Scream! is a feature film-- a 1966 beach-party rock and roll monster movie featuring the legend of the Everglades Skunk Ape. The production company wanted about 8-10 60's cars for the shoot. They wanted Fords and Mopars. John had a few cars already lined up. I knew the people with those cars so sounded like fun. I contacted Art Director Lisa Yeiser in Atlanta who was requesting the cars and got more information from her on what they wanted. They wanted a 60's car that could be made into a police car, a car that would be driven and a few cars just parked. For about a week I gather pictures of different cars in the area and talked with the owners asking them if they were interested in their cars being used in a movie. I sent Lisa pictures of around 30 cars. She sent the pictures to the producer who rejected most of them as not being what he wanted. She also asked the rate for renting the cars per day. After all of this they decided on having just a police car and using my car as the driven car in Bradenton, Florida on Tuesday then using my car and friend’s car, a 1964 Chevrolet at a motel on Treasure Island, Florida on Wednesday. Not being able to find a car that they liked for the police car I contacted the Pinellas County Florida Police. I knew they had a 60's police car. After talking with the man in charge of the garage I gave him the information and the lady’s name and phone number in Atlanta. He contacted her and worked the details out on using the Police car.

On Tuesday Oct. 12, 2004 I drove down to Coquina Beach in Bradenton, Florida. I needed to be there at 2:00 pm. I arrived around 1:30 pm. While I was sitting in the park waiting I saw the Pinellas County flatbed truck with the 60's police car on it drive by. After waiting a while to see if he turned around I headed south on Beach Drive looking for him. I found him about 4 miles down the road where he had just turned around. We both stopped and talked then he followed me back to Coquina Beach. After about 10 more minutes the production company trucks arrived. It was decided to go down the street to a small park area where there was a side dirt road that was along the canal. The film company had driven down a old white 60's Ford Falcon Station Wagon that was used as the car the 3 girls were driving on vacation to Florida in the movie. They parked the car on the side of the dirt road next to the canal. The car was supposed to be broken down and they were waiting for someone to drive by to help them. That is where my car came in. It was used as the car the young man was driving and stopped to help them out. The filming took most of the day and into the night. A camera was mounted on the hood with lights inside the car. The 3 girls and guy were in the car talking while they filmed. The car was driven down the dirt road very slowly. This went on for about 2 hours.

One scene called for the young man to open the trunk and put the suit cases of the girls in it. I was watching when he keep looking around then finally had me come over. He wanted to know where the remote trunk release was. After telling him this was a 1965 car and he had to use the key he then couldn't find the trunk lock. Another one had him driving at night and needed to turn the car head lights on. He again fumbled around and when I went up to the car he was trying to turn the lights on by trying to turn the turn signal lever. I had to show him the light switch on the dash.
Later that night they used the police car that came along the dirt road. More shots of my car with the guy and girls in it then my car was finished for the night. I left around 10:45 pm. The police car was still there filming. They cancelled the cars needed at the motel in Treasure Island on Wednesday. They wanted my car back again at Coquina Beach in Bradenton, Florida at 1:00pm for more filming the next day. They mounted the camera on the passenger side door with the four people inside the car. They drove the car up and down the dirt road. The filming took about an hour. The guys that were mounting the camera's on my car took extra care to make sure nothing happened to it. It was covered with blankets and straps that were covered in towels. Was really interesting watching things happening. I would do it again.

- Ed Sluss
Ford Fairlane Owner

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Craft Services favorite: Ramen Noodles, by Arma

It is almost impossible to eat Ramen Noodles gracefully. Fortunately, it is similar to sweating in Atlanta during the month of August. Everybody does it, so no one seems to worry too much about how they look when they ARE doing it. Having said that, there is still always that one person judging whose pit stains are the worst. I am that person. Therefore, the following is a list from most the graceful to the most disgusting consumers of Ramen Noodles.
Cutest Ramen eater: Cynthia Evans "Jody"
Most Graceful Ramen eater: Ezekiel Lewis-Boom Operator. Don't ask me HOW, but they both managed to not gross me out.
Most Normal Ramen eater: Thomas "TK" Kay-Best Boy Grip. He's half messy, half clean.
Slurpiest Ramen eater: John Stephens-Key Grip. He's loud and proud!
Drippiest Ramen eater: Evan Lieberman-Director of Photography. I'd swear it was as if he'd never had them before and the broth caught him off guard.
Slowest Ramen eater: Claire Bronson-"Theodora" She cheated and ate them carefully. Had she eaten in a normal pace, I could tell she would have been wearing those noodles.
Messiest Ramen eater: Me-Producer. I WAS wearing those noodles.
And the honor of most disgusting Ramen eater on our crew:
Aaron Siegel- sound mixer. For the love of all that is good and sacred, Aaron, don't ever eat Ramen Noodles in public again. And, quite frankly, I'd stay away from soup of any kind on dates. (But I love you and you are terrific!)

Arma Benoit
Stomp! Shout! Scream!

(Note: All complaints can be sent directly to Arma. All rebuttals will be reprinted here. -Jay)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Eyemo Camera, Day 4 recap

There’s a few shots that we didn’t get during principal photography. In the script, Theodora and Hector go on a ‘Viva Las Vegas’-style love montage that starts with them on a roller coaster and continues through their day of fun and frolic. It’s an important shot because it’s a turning point for Theodora’s character. It shocks her out of her malaise. Or that’s the theory. Anyway, we didn’t have time to find or shoot a roller coaster during our full production, so I got Claire, Travis, Melissa and Evan back together to grab a couple of pick up shots last Sunday.
We used an Eyemo camera, which is a World War II era camera that’s tiny and virtually indestructible. It’s like a little iron crate that shoots 1,000 feet of 35mm film at a time (about a minute)—perfect for a little guerrilla film making. Here’s some pictures.

Here’s another recap from the shoot:

DAY FOUR (Thursday, October 7)
Location: Fabric Warehouse / The Police Station

This was one of our more relaxed days. That’s a remarkable statement, considering we had to shoot over 10 pages of dialog-heavy script. The only location for the day was the police station interior located in the fabric warehouse where we’d been shooting the day before. We decided to proceed as if it was a 3-camera TV show— that is, light one end of the room and shoot in that direction all day. Eliminating the need to ‘flip the room’ (moving all the lighting and camera equipment to shoot reverse shots) was the only way we could get all of our pages done in a 10-hour day. It seems to have worked. We got everything done thanks to the hard-working crew. I can't say enough about the crew and the actors. Not a flubbed line all day and spot-on performances by everybody. And the film transfers look great—just like a police station in a 60’s film.

I have one more story from the doctor’s office location. Actor Jonathan Green, who plays scientist John Patterson, has a long, ridiculous monologue (complete with flashback) where he tells the story of how his parents disappeared while doing research in the Florida Everglades and how he’s been chasing the Skunk Ape ever since. Zeke, the boom operator, got the giggles and kept cracking up during his speech. He whole job is to be really quiet, so we can get great sound, but he couldn’t keep from laughing. I think he broke just one take, but was stifling laughter every time, which infected the whole crew. That’s definitely a tribute to Jonathan’s ability to delivery the speech in that 1950’s scientist seriousness without it being too flat or emotionless. Brilliant. And encouraging.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Post Production starts, Nov. 7, 2004

Sometimes I am a do-it-yourself-er and sometimes I’m not. If it’s household repairs that requite a big chunk of my time and effort… not so much. I’d rather get a professional to do it right and just write the check. When it comes to editing however, I’m a firm believer in “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” So, I spent just about every waking minute last Halloween weekend at the office loading my film transfer tapes and audio tapes into Final Cut Pro.

Now’s a good time to go completely dorky on technical specs on editing Stomp! Shout! Scream! We shot short end 35mm film (Kodak 5245, 52…I don’t really know), which was developed and transferred to recycled Digibeta tape by Cinefilm, Atlanta (a perk of working for Turner Broadcasting is you can easily find slightly used tape stock waiting to be dumped). Of course, the ultimate objective is to have a film print that can be shown in theaters, but that requires a negative cut or a digital intermediate--- both very expensive propositions. I’m going to start the editing process with that plan in mind, but I can always switch to a video finish using the film transfers I already have. The determining factor there being… money.

Cinefilm provided me with Flex files, which are databases that track the film’s edge numbers and their relationship to the timecode on the film transfer tapes. I’ve never used Cinema Tools (Apple’s film database software), so I spent the last two weeks reading the help file and everything I can find on-line about this process. First, I imported the flex files into Cinema Tools and then exported a batch digitize list for Final Cut Pro. The batch capture worked perfectly, all my clips loaded in a scant 10-hour Saturday. At Cartoon Network, we use the Black Magic Decklink Pro video cards which can digitize 29.97 frames-per-second NTSC video into 23.98 fps QT movies, eliminating the need to use Cinema Tools’ reverse telecine function. I loaded the film with the Black Magic’s 10-bit uncompressed codec, but I’ll be editing on a DV–based Final Cut Pro system in my basement, so I used Final Cut’s media manager to export all my footage into DV. Cinema Tools reconnected all the digitized clips to the database, so I think I’m ready to start cutting and the computer will keep track of the timecode/edge numbers in the background.

And then there’s the footage itself. Thanks to the expertise and very hard work of cinematographer Evan Lieberman, Gaffer John Swindall and all the rest of the crew, the film looks absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It was always our intention to make a fun, beach party, b-movie, horror film, but do it with an acute attention to craft-- believable characters, a good story, professional actors working with real emotions and a professional film crew making beautiful pictures. From the very start, Evan and I wanted to make the film like those '60s Frankie & Annette Beach Party movies. From the look of the film transfers, we’ve definitely succeed in the crafting of beautiful images.

Now preparing audio for edit is a whole other process. Sound mixer Aaron Siegel and boom operators Zeke and Thomas did excellent work in less than optimal conditions. Extra special thanks goes to Mike Filosa and Adam Jones who supplied the extensive audio equipment. Aaron delivered time-coded DAT tapes which sound excellent. We tried to use a smart slate (an electronic version of the traditional film clapper with rolling timecode numbers), but it was a less than perfect model and we ended up using the ‘old-fashion’ slate methods most of the time. Often during shooting, just trying to reset the camera frame and focus to actually read the timecode numbers on the slate was too difficult for our sprinter’s pace of film making. All totaled, I have about 8 hours of film transfer and about 9 hours of audio. Next I sit in front of my computer and sync the two together. I don’t know how long that’s going to take. Traditionally, syncing is considered film maker’s drudgery, but I plan to relish every minute. I am working on a beach party rock and roll monster movie of my own creation.

I’ve heard film makers say that making a bad movie is just as hard as making a good one and it’s impossible to know if your film is good or bad while your in the middle of it. I can certainly understand that statement now more than ever. I’m just going to keep plowing through until it’s done, doing everything I can to make it the best I can.

Here’s another recap of the shoot:
DAY THREE (Wednesday, October 6)
Location: Fabric Warehouse / The Doctor’s Office

Special thanks goes to Matt Hyman, assistant to Art Director Lisa Yeiser, who found and secured our Doctor’s office and the police station interior locations—some spare offices at a fabric manufacturer’s warehouse. These are two of the four interiors for the entire production and the art ‘department’ (Lisa, Matt, and Scott Dupree) did wonderful work. For the Doctor’s office scenes, we took an empty, white-wall business office and dressed it up to be our exam room. Lisa dug up fantastic set dressing, but some of the props came from an old doctor’s house call bag my mom found at an antique store several years ago. We used an existing waiting room to be the doctor’s business office, which was very nicely dressed to begin with (as in, it hadn’t changed a bit since the early '60s). Running a little behind schedule while shooting our exam room scenes, we decided to switch the set dressing, rather than flip all the lights to the other side of the room. In theory, we just had to turn the exam table around, flip our characters positions and put new props behind them. But when you’re dealing with camera placement, character eye-lines and crossing the 180-degree line… everything gets complicated. I think we did everything right, but I won’t really know until I start cutting those shots right next to each other. It’s another example of just trusting the crew to do the right thing.