Archive for category Video
Today I went into Kansas scouting locations for the cow camps for the Chisholm Trail Cattle drive next month. Along the way I saw the Country School Museum.
None of these photos are of the actual cattle drive locations, (one prairie field looks pretty much like another…), but these were some fun shots I took while I was out.
We are gearing up and making plans. All along the drive today, I was (in my head) editing video for the shots that we don’t even _have_ yet.
I love westerns. This isn’t a western movie per se, but it has horses and cattle and saddles and cowboys & cowgirls wearing boots and chaps. It has people cooking over a campfire.
It evokes the mental image of a cowboy playing a guitar under the stars, as the cattle are lowing nearby.
This is a youtube link to a video about the upcoming Chisholm Trail Cattle drive this September.
The governors of Kansas and Oklahoma signed proclamations about the 2017 Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive. Riders have ridden down (south) the Chisholm Trail, taking the ceremonial scrolls with them.
This past Monday, they rode a segment, and I got to go along to film.
[Do you remember that episode of M*A*S*H where they are going to watch an old western movie for movie night – I think it’s “My Darling Clementine”, and Colonel Potter uses the line, “It’s got horses, cowboys and…horses!”]
I smile as I remember that, because on Monday we filmed horses, cowgirls and horses! The ride was approximately eleven miles. It was a nice day, but the wind was high.
When you film something such as this, for a documentary film, as the person with the camera, you take what you can get. You scramble on the fly to find the shot, and you set up and get the shot. Or…not. This isn’t studio filmmaking, where you control every aspect of everything. No…on this one, you try to be as unobtrusive as possible and stay out of the way. Meanwhile, you hope you get some decent shots to use, but there is no guarantee. With this particular shoot, with no environmental control whatsoever…you know you’re going to have wind noise. The audio track from the shoot will be virtually unusable.
Conclusion: we had better come up with something else to use, then.
Tuesday, early, I started working on an idea for the cowboy poetry: The Trail. Cowboy poetry is something I want to explore. I’ve been doing a lot of writing this spring – novels, songs and poems, but not cowboy poetry.
The poem is entitled: The Trail. It came off pretty good. (See previous blog entry.)
Tuesday, I needed the highway shots, so I called a friend who has a utility vehicle that would be much easier to film out of than my car. He was kind enough to help me get the shot I needed, then we drove around in the country, looking for additional shots I wanted.
Wednesday, putting this video together seemed like too big a hill to climb. You know those days…taking on a big project it just too much. I went to lunch and on the way home, I thought of the shot of the Chisholm Trail marker. I drove out to get that, and got a few more shots as well.
Then I started editing it together. Got about 1/3 of the way through, and needed a break. Went to get a coffee and drive around, just as a way to clear my head. Came back, nose to the grindstone, and got the bulk of the video together. It came off well – better than I had hoped. Of course, you always want it to be more. I want more, better, fancier shots. This was what I had, and I utilized it the best I had. I cut the video to the rhythm of the cowboy poetry. I decided I needed some acoustic guitar over the end title cards.
Thursday we had storms. I wanted to run the video by the organizers of the cattle drive. When the first wave of storms went by, I took the computer and we went over the rough cut. I made notes on changes. But, we need more shots. They drove me out to get a shot of some longhorns. In the meantime, the next wave of storms are brewing, and you can see lightning in the background.
We got back before the storms hit, and I didn’t want to be on the computer.
Friday morning, I am not sleeping as usual, and in my head I am going over the list of edits to make. I went to the software and worked on that, and worked to get a render.
This is day five of actual work on the project, but there were perhaps three days before Monday, when I was thinking it through and trying to figure out how to film this.
We will gear up to film a documentary about the Chisholm Trail 150 cattle drive in September. Can’t wait!
The original title of this blog was going to be:
Suffering…for your art!
From time to time, as the opportunity arises…I take on an acting job.
For a few weeks, we have been getting casting notices for a major project that is being filmed in our area. It sounds like it’s a pretty Big Deal. So, I tell my partner “It’d be nice to apply for this (and possibly get hired) and get it at the ground floor (meaning…maybe they’ll use us again.)”
I apply. I get hired. Wow. That is something.
I know the day I will be working, and the city in which I’ll be working. Now, our state is geographically large. And so if you want to be an actor in this state, you make up your mind, “I’ll go where the work is.” That means you better make up your mind, real quick, that you’re gonna have to get in your car, and drive to these gigs. This particular gig was close to my home. Wow. Miracles! For once, I’m not driving Far Away to work.
The day before the gig, someone is trying to get ahold of me. Would I be available to work at 6 am, in another location (of course–this one is much further away!)?
So, I say I’ll do it. That means I’ll have to get up at 3am, in order to roll out to get there. Dressed. Hair and makeup ready. But I am game. I’ll treat this whole thing as a lark. An adventure.
Yeah. It’s early. This’ll be my third day on about 7 collective hours of sleep. But I am an actor. I am in showbusiness. I want to be a part of whatever is going on. So…it’s an adventure. I’ll leave in the middle of the night, and drive to the middle of nowhere, and be an actor for the day.
My call time is 6. I get there at 5am. Sun not even up yet. I kill time outside the set, but go in at 5:30. It’s a field in the middle of nowhere. I park my car. Other people are rolling in. I walk up this lonnnnnggggg driveway and try to find out where I check in.
They direct me to the catering tent…where there is a spread unlike anything I have ever had on acting gigs before: real, amazing food! Carved fresh fruit. Omelet station. Every juice imaginable. Choices. So at 5:30 am, for all this to be ready, what time did catering have to get there and be prepared?
I am used to sets where the extras are kept in a separate area and fed much “lesser” meals than they feed the crew. So for us to be welcome to such food is amazing.
When you are on these gigs, there is a certain way you behave. You do not engage people in conversation. We are all there to work, and ‘bothering’ someone is a disruption. As an extra, you go where you are told. You do what you are told. Either obey instantly…or do not even take the gig.
On this set, as I’m walking up this long driveway, the first person I see greets me and says hello. I say hello back. Another one greets me, then another.
Wow! That does not happen!
This set has the most equipment trucks of any I have ever worked. I’m gonna say probably 20 to 25 trailers and equipment trucks are there.
So, I still don’t know what the project is or what’s going on. They are not allowed to tell us any details. Finally, and not from any official channels, someone tells us what the project is.
And it is a doozy! Much more than I could have imagined. And YES…I want to be in on this, be a part of such a huge thing.
One actor had guested on the current most popular TV show a few weeks ago. One actor is on a show that is on RIGHT NOW. I am watching it on Netflix, right now…and HE IS the reason I am watching this particular show.
This is cool. Trained chefs. Amazing food. Actors that I admire tremendously. Of course, I can be entertained just watching the equipment go by. The setups. The choices they make.
On this scene they are filming cars on a highway, and they have two classic cars there to work with. That is fun!
But they have technical issues. We do not get to work the scene. I understand that. Things happen. But we are in this tent, with access to food, water, bathrooms, and they have ductwork with air conditioning piped in. So, that is pleasant and reasonable.
We got there at six. They have lunch ready before noon. Crew meal time was 1:00, but they let us eat the food that the crew ate – prepared by chefs, all amazing and wonderful and fresh food!
The extras still have not been to set, but at least we have shelter, food, water, provisions and bathrooms.
And after lunch, they start taking it all away. At 1:30, someone came over and said something about “You’ll do xyz paperwork to check out when you leave.”
And that was the last any of the extras heard. For hours. Catering packed up and took the chairs away. We had no shelter, and no access to chairs, baking in that Oklahoma summer sun for hours. No access to food or water. Just there. We all ended up lining up next to a fence, that had some shade.
From 6 to 2, I was having a good day – glad to be a part of something interesting.
From 2pm on….it ceased to be fun.
No shelter. No place to sit. No access to food. No provisions for water. No information.
IT WAS MISERABLE!
I finally went wandering and asked for a granola bar and said that we were baking out there.
Finally about 5:30 I texted the casting assistant (who had hired me, and was not on site), and explained all that and asked what to do. She said that that was unacceptable, and she was going to call them. At about the same time, one of the extras stopped a PA who came over with a handful of water bottles. I said “What about supper and chairs?”
Well, they brought us sandwiches, but still, we are stuck there, with no provisions.
Some of the teamsters had pulled 2 chairs out of a van, and I mean the van seats, and I had a lawnchair in my trunk, which I went to get. But that is not enough for everybody.
In 94* Oklahoma heat, you do not want to get dehydrated. So, up till 2, I kept drinking water and I had a Sprite, just to stay hydrated. So, that means you need to go to the bathroom, A LOT.
Then, they loaded up the bathroom trailer, and took it away.
Stuck: no shelter, most people standing, we had a sandwich, after several hours without – we now have access to water, and no bathroom.
And the extras still haven’t been to set to work.
Later, the PA came over to us, after being made aware of our plight, got some info, and said we can’t leave, because they might still use us in the shot. By now, we are all “over it”.
I don’t want to wait until I am in trouble, so after 7pm, I asked, “What do we do about a bathroom?” I mean, I can get in my car and drive 10 miles to the nearest town, but that means, going down the long driveway and getting on the highway – where they have traffic blocked for filming, and disrupting all that.
Oh…they have a bathroom trailer down at the highway, where they are filming.
It’s too far to walk. I say I can drive my car down there, but I wonder if that disrupts filming? They get a runner to take us there in a van.
As I am coming out of the women’s room, I step down onto the ground, and the star is there. Waiting.
He was the nicest gentleman you’d ever want to meet. They tried to get him to go in line ahead of people and he would not do it. I said, “But you’re working, you go on ahead.”
So, I broke that rule, which is…”don’t bother the stars when they are working.”
The van takes us back to our fence where are standing.
By now, and it is starting to get dark, they come in from the highway. They haven’t used us, and the equipment guys are packing up. We aren’t going to act that day.
From 6am (actually 5am-since I am early) to 2pm, I was fine. After 2pm, it was NOT FUN ANYMORE.
Still, we stand around, when the equipment is being trucked out and we are obviously not going to be used anymore. I go ask, “what do we need to do to check out and leave?”
“You can’t leave yet, not until we get permission.”
The person who had filled out our paperwork got his box and left. Still we are stuck there, no shelter, no provisions, no chairs, no bathroom.
They finally say, “Such and such person will check you out and it’s probably going to be another 25 minutes.”
No shelter. No chairs. No food. No provisions. No bathrooms.
I have HAD ENOUGH!!!!!!
I gather my things, and I left. 8pm. Most of the crew is gone. We were not going to be used in the scene. Still they treat us like chattel without providing the basic necessities of life…..
and I walk.
I got my things, put them in my car, and left.
I wanted to be a part of this experience. But not like that.
I know that things happen. They had major technical difficulties. They were supposed to have this shot and be done by early afternoon. Things happen – beyond their control. I understand that.
They hired extras to play a role and play a part, and we didn’t get to do that. I am okay with that. Up till 2pm, when we still had provisions, I was okay with it. I was there to work, and if I didn’t get to, I am disappointed, but you roll with it.
After 2pm, to be stuck there, without basic human needs being met…That is not acceptable.
It was a miserable day – for everyone. I cannot imagine the brutality of working a crew job. Hours upon hours upon hours with a hugely physical job, in the brutal heat. It didn’t seem to bother any of them to not have a bathroom, but perhaps they had access to a trailer with a bathroom. They knew where craft services was, and could go get water, but no one had made that provision to us.
I soooo felt for the stars. In fact, I was worried about them, out in that relentless heat. Dehydration is not something you want to mess with. Sunstroke. Heatstroke.
I kept texting my partner throughout the day, and it went from “Wish you were here!” to “this is horrible…I’m glad you are not here.”
But later, on the phone, after I had left, I said, “We will never treat people like this! Not on our set!!!!”
What is the takeaway here? I didn’t check out on their paperwork. Do I get paid? I have no idea? Do I only get the base rate they offered, or since we had sooo much overtime, do they honor it?
Have I created a ‘black mark’ on my record with the casting office? I don’t know.
In the Oklahoma film industry, and I have a whole lot of experience there, this is not the norm. Yes, there will be bad days. There will be delays. I understand that.
But in the film industry in general – why are these working conditions tolerated? The crew acted like this was not unusual. I heard, more than once, “In New York, this is normal…”
It is normal to force people to work for hours on end, without basic human provisions?
What kind of industry is this? In every other industry, there are guides and limitations to what you can do to people? I mean…even truck drivers have limitations on the hours they can work at their jobs.
Why is the film industry the only industry lobbying to make people work MORE hours? Without having access to basic provisions like water and bathrooms.
Was it last year, or the year before, when the crew member on the Longmire set worked something like 20 hours, got in a vehicle, fell asleep at the wheel and died in a car wreck?
At that time, there was a lobbying effort called something like 12 and 12. 12 hours on. 12 hours off.
One crew member told me she had worked (I think not on this gig, but a previous one) 20 hours a day, been given 5 hours to sleep and get up and work another 20.
We have labor laws in this country. That is an unsafe working environment, under any circumstances.
It doesn’t take but just a little effort to treat people right.
What is the takeaway here?
All I know is….after getting up at 2:45 am (on less than 4 hours sleep), and driving a whole lotta miles to get to a gig, that I arrived at before dawn….then sat there, on the clock for 14 hours – without working, and I still have a very long drive ahead of me (by then…one of the other extras came by and saw me, and asked “Are you okay?” and I answered…I am worried about being safe enough to drive home.) … when I have baked in the sun all afternoon and gotten dehydrated…
By now – I am worried enough about my health to behave in an unprofessional manner. Yes, I walked out without permission. But if I am concerned enough to worry about my safety to even get home…is it worth it?
Both my mom and my business partner said, “LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU ARE HOME SAFE!”
Is it worth it?
I have had one other acting gig where it was this brutal. And on that one, we were indoors, had chairs, and had water – all day.
14 hours out there. 8 good hours. Then it went downhill. No basic provisions for the rest.
No it’s not worth it. I do not want to work for these people again.
My acting partner, Don Krejsek got cast in a national commercial for Bushnell.
The ad is called “Yes, That’s Covered”.
He is at .06.
We have done a lot of work, together, for our own projects and whatnot. But for someone else to cast him out of dozens of applicants… Then to get hired for the shoot… Then to actually get edited IN the final project: That is Super Cool!
Way To Go!!!
Our most recent project was the Doritos commercial for CrashTheSuperbowl. (It can be viewed here.)
So, let’s break it down. It’s a 30 second commercial. We were in production five weeks. I pitched the idea to my business partner Don. I gave the theme I wanted to hit: The American Farmer. Two weeks went by, while we mull over the plan and think up ideas.
We went out shooting on three separate days. On the first day of shooting, Don comes up with the shot list, and script. So, now we are working to a specific plan.
Day 1 of shooting, we were out for over 4 hours. That counts drive time, planning time, setup time. That doesn’t mean we actually shot for 4 hours, or gained 4 hours of video. But we were out for over 4 hours that day.
Day 2 of shooting, we were out for about 3 hours. On that day, we were trying to line up props from outside, and I talked to people doing research, trying to figure out who to approach.
Day 3 of shooting, we were out for maybe 5 hours. It was long, hot, windy, challenging, and without the help from amazing friends, we would never have gotten the shot.
That night, Don and I were on the phone for over 45 minutes, working on the writing/script/dialog. I was too fried to cut video that night.
The next day, I cut video and got the initial 30 second segment into the computer. That took about 45 minutes. It would have taken a lot longer, but I already knew, from paying attention, what footage I was going to use. So, I didn’t have to evaluate all the footage and make decisions and cut video. I already knew what was in the camera.
If anything, that initial video editing was the easiest part of this whole process.
Then we took 4-5 hours working on audio recording and video post production. That day, we recorded audio, mixed it, output it, input it into the video software. Edited and edited and edited and edited and did post production on the vid, then edited and edited…(you get the picture…)
We output the thirty second commercial (by now, how many cumulative hours are we up to on this project?). Evaluate it. Make sure there are no glitches. I burned a DVD, wanting to view it on something other than a computer screen. Burned DVD is not compatible with my DVD players. Rather than fight that problem, we went ahead and started filling out paperwork to submit.
WE SUBMIT!!! Okay, the video is out there, on its way, ready to be viewed by the world. Maybe this is a ladder rung step towards moving up. Maybe it’s a hiccup in the road?
But, by now, we’ve probably got 18 1/2 actual hours in this project, not to mention the amount of time where you let it mull over in your brain. Those hours are precious, and without them, no project will get complete. For me, it’s the quiet time when you are drifting and aren’t focused, that makes the difference between good art and mundane art.
Then there’s the hours spent cutting and editing still pics, related to the project. We spent probably 1 1/2 hours working on a press release. So…by now, I’m up to 20 actual hours spent on this project. All for a thirty second commercial??
What’s the bottom line? It’s about committing to a project and doing ‘whatever it takes’ to make it happen. I hesitate to use the phrase ‘whatever it takes’. Because our top priority is safety first. We won’t do things illegal or immoral. We won’t “use” people and take advantage of them, in order to further our own agenda.
‘Whatever it takes’ means, no matter how much work we have to do, or how difficult it is to stick with a project. we stuck with it. Whatever challenges we need to face to get a completion, we will meet those challenges.
So, that project is out there and away. When something is the main focus of your life, what happens when it’s complete?
I always have numerous projects in mind, and numerous things “on my plate” as they say.
And goodness knows that creativity ebbs and flows at different rates. No one can be 100% productive all the time.
And yesterday, Monday, was a bad day. I was riding the creative mood swing, so on those days, you just hang on and know that another day will be better.
Today, I woke up and one of my books was in my mind. I have all these manuscripts in various stages of completion, and they are waiting on me to be in the right frame of mind to work on them.
I don’t force it. I heard of one writer who sits at his desk from early morning, to late afternoon, and has the discipline to sit there. Sometimes he writes. Sometimes he bounces a ball against the wall, but that is his process–he makes himself sit at his desk during business hours, even if he isn’t specifically writing.
It doesn’t work that way for me. Some days one form of art is active in me, and some days, another.
Today, without planning, without thinking about it ahead of time…. It wasn’t in current memory being mulled over…I climbed out of bed, went to the computer and opened the file on a mystery I’m writing. This was not in my head yesterday or last week or last month or in the last year. But, I woke up today, and it was ‘there’.
I started writing. It blows me away when that happens. When it’s there. I kept writing and writing, and even outside distractions (they are surfacing my street these last 4 weeks, and it’s very irritating with all those machines groaning) didn’t deter the flow of words.
Words poured out of me. After 7 hours (taking time out for lunch and phone calls, etc), I had written 22 pages, at 7519 words.
Where in the world did that come from?
That experience of words pouring from your soul…everyone should experience that at least once.
Back in some of my earlier writing days, when I’d have a project going, I’d print out a calendar, month by month. On each day, I’d write my word count accomplished. Even at 2500 words a day, that really adds up.
I guess, when I started this blog, that’s part of the reason why. I wanted to be able to say, “Hey, I accomplished something,” even if only a part of the process. It takes many, many days worth of effort to “pull a book out of a human”. It isn’t for the faint of heart.
[Putting it out in the world and being judged is a whole ‘nother ball game, and not what today is about.]
Today is about projects. You finish one and hope for the best. You take pride in your work. You are happy you gained the knowledge and experience of this project. You take it forward.
And you work on the next project, wondering where it will take you.
C’est la vie!
This is our contest entry for Doritos 2015 CrashTheSuperbowl.
Actually, we’ve been working on this for the last five weeks. So, we bought the big red bag, above, to use as a prop. But, after thinking about Doritos, all day, I bought the blue snack size bag to have for a snack!’
I’ve been carrying the big red bag of Doritos in my car, for filming. It’s still there, now! The best part of completing this project today: We can now open the BIG BAG of Doritos.
Hey…you take your fun in this business, where you can find it. 🙂
In all seriousness, Don and I have a lot of fun, no matter what project we choose to work on. We went out filming, on numerous days, to obtain the video for this. Today, having already cut the video, Don came in and recorded VO (voice over) and we did a ton of editing and work and post production and effects. This video looks easy. It is anything but easy.
But, part of the time, you’re patting yourself on the back, for having dug into the software (with such a steep learning curve) (and in truth, not just the software, but the whole of filmmaking) and knowing how to achieve what you want. I think of our first “viewer created” commercial, back in the day…which we created with Windows Movie Maker, and I think about how far we’ve come into this journey we call filmmaking.
This commercial was Don’s vision. I had picked a theme, and thought up some shots and some dialog, but he took the idea and ran with it. On a lot of projects, the initial plan for what we film comes from my head. This all came from Don’s head. And I love his brilliance. The shot list, the filming, the editing, the writing, the acting. It’s all him. All I had to do was show up with a camera, and he told me where to set up, what to film, how to film. It was easily 80% less work than I normally have to do as cinematographer. (And that was fun–getting to do such a great project, and it be not as much mental work as I normally put into a thing.) He had planned each shot to the Nth degree.
Working with the old tractor…now that was a challenge. In order to get the seven second shot, we worked for hours. It was Don and I and two of his friends who “volunteered” (ie-got roped in to! LOL) helping. That tractor and old plow did NOT want to cooperate. As Don said, “Next time I want to work with animals or antiques, – change my mind!”
But, we got the shot!
This is a great contest. They choose a number of finalists, and those commercials get aired on the Super Bowl. The more views you get and the more ratings you get, the better your chances.
So…this being election day and all…when you’re in the Doritos gallery, I’d appreciate your vote!
It’s not enough to live a creative life.
You have to go out and “sell” your work. That word “sell” can encompass many different meanings. But, the bottom line is: You have to tell people about your work. No matter how hard it is to push, or promote, or advertise: Being an artist isn’t enough. You have to TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT.
So, today, we submitted our current endeavor: Project D.
I have been intentionally cryptic about this project on this blog, so apologies for playing my cards so close to the vest. But, this is a video project, and it’s been three intense months of work. To start from nothing, a blank sheet of paper, if you will. And to build that into…something. A whole project. To build every single piece of data on our own, video, script, writing, editing, acting, music, graphics, sound effects…..up to …..character, parameters of production, highs, lows, extremes….to encompass….video settings and compressions, audio settings, ALL the technical decisions that have to be made (any one of which can totally derail the project)…to things like…what’s the next step? Project D is an introductory effort. We have to be ready to go, when the Fates come knocking at the door.
So…making submissions is nothing new to me. I do this every month, and lots of times –every week. I submit songs to people, I submit photographs, I submit stories; articles; screenplays; stageplays; music videos; ideas; books and book proposals. I submit as a live performer, acting and music. So, yeah…making submissions (Putting yourself out there), is a necessary step.
But, what is the toll for putting yourself on the line? So very often, you lay your heart on the line, and, does this affect the human spirit?
I read a book recently, about acting, and someone said, “Acting is a passive business.” You can be good and do your best and…still…it’s about the WAITING until it’s your time. You can do all you can to “make it happen”, but still…those outside forces are like tidal waves, ebbing and flowing….and to some degree…you just have to ride it out.
I’m gonna take a couple of weeks, and give myself a respite. Three intense months of Project D, as front burner, and I feel like I’ve been under water, and now…I’m slowly poking my head above the surface to see what’s around me.
I’ve learned that my life force (chi) flows at different rates. It’s not constant. Sometimes, when you need to be ON, then you’re ON. But, sometimes, when things are at a slower pace, something like a “brown out” happens. Then you aren’t as “on” or as “alive”, but …when the….whatever hits…the need to perform, the opportunity. WHAM!!! You have a double-strength level ON at your fingertips.
I’d love to know how everyone else manages this. What do you do, when it’s crunch time?