Warmer Than Hell

This is a slighly off topic, but not really...

Spinal Tap is REUNITING for the Live Earth concert in London on July 7th. That's right, all the original members too... Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls. All together once again.

And, with a new song for the event - "Warmer Than Hell".

"This is Spinal Tap" is one of my favorite all time movies. And the director Rob Reiner will also be at the reuninon show in London. AND, the coolest part, he's directed a new short film about the band and what they've been up to recently. The film is actually going to premiere next week at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Al Gore (of course, who else?) will be hosting the opening night events at Tribeca.

Read the full story at Yahoo!

I hope the new film goes to 11. ;)


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RED Commentary

Okay, so I went to NAB in Vegas this year really to check out HD cameras and some accessories. I was very impressed with everything I saw from the prosumer models...

1. Canon HDV - I like the XH-A1
2. Sony HDV and their new XDCAM EX (competition for Panasonic's HVX)
3. JVC HDV - I like the HD110U

And all the way up the line...

1. Dalsa 4K
2. ARRI D-2
3. Grass Vally Viper
4. And of course RED ONE

I have been very skeptical of RED since it was announced last year. Why? I'm really not sure. It just seemed too good to be true that you could buy a 4K camera for $17,500. As it turns out, it was, for the price anyway. The body does only cost $17K, but then you need a hard drive, a viewfinder, an LCD monitor, a lense, etc., etc. - so really the $17K camera will end up costing around $35K - $40K. So, that does kinda suck. Well, not really.

You're still getting a 4K camera - a complete camera package - for the price of an old broadcast Betacam rig.

While it will knock a few indie folks out at this price point, the majority of people who understand what high-end stuff cost will be all over this thing.

Onto the RED booth at NAB... I mentioned I was skeptical, and I was - until I went to the NAB booth. My filmmaker friend David Maddox is a reservation holder (#600 something). He plopped down $1000 last year to pre-order an unknown, not yet even built camera. I wouldn't have done that. But he did, and I'm now very glad he did.

The line to just GET IN the RED booth was about an hour wait. It was busy to say the least. We waited and got inside and first thing we were shuttled into a theater. It seated about 40 people and had a 20 ft. or so wide screen. Everyone sat down and then Jim Jannard (the founder of RED and of course Oakley Sunglasses) introduced the screening and in no uncertain terms said that if anyone taped what we were about to see on a cell phone (or whatever) and posted it on YouTube they would get the "shit" beat out of them. So I calmly and every so quietly put my Razor phone back in my pocket... Jim is a pretty big dude.

The lights go dark and up pops a logo for "Wingnut Films" in New Zealand. I'm like, "What?". I thought this was "test footage". Well, as it turns out the "test footage" was a 12-minute short film directed by PETER JACKSON. Yeah, THE Peter Jackson of "Lord of the Rings" fame, etc. He evidentally asked Jim if he could shoot some footage and as it turns out it was an entire short film set during WWI with tanks, explosions, tons of gunfire, aerial shots of old bi-planes, etc. Think of the opening to "Saving Private Ryan" (without the shutter angle and all the blood) and that's how parts of it felt. It was GOOD. Oh, and it looked even better.

I was amazed at what I saw. This from a partially working set of "Alpha" cameras. The theater was projecting on a Sony 4K projector. It looked like Super 35mm film without the grain. I was impressed to say the least. VERY impressed.

On a side note, we ran into Shane Caruth at the booth too. If you don't know Shane, he directed the indie feature "Primer", which WON Sundance in 2004. If you haven't seen his movie definitely check it out. It's not for everyone, but it is good. And, it was shot in Dallas and he still lives in Dallas (gotta get those Texas plugs in you know). Shane is also a reservation holder. He's 200 or so behind my friend David. Shane set next to me and my other filmmaker friend Cliff, at the screening. I can only assume he has a project in mind for RED too?

Anyway, after the screening we checked out several "working" models and I was very surprised at the size of the fully loaded camera (see photo in previous post). It is BIG. Reminds me of a 35mm rig in many ways. This is not a small "run and gun" camera. But that is good. It looks and feels very sturdy. My feeling is it will stand up to the hard work of feature filmmaking duties.

David's RED camera is supposed to ship in August or September. I am planning to shoot a new feature this fall and I'm producing another one. I'm now highly considering shooting both of them with the RED camera.

Like I said, I'm now a true believer. Long live RED. :)


P.S. Soon I'll post about Apple's new toys released at NAB. Very cool stuff AND they are working with RED as well.

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I just got back from NAB and will soon post some commentary on the RED camera and also the Apple announcements. All very cool things for indie filmmakers!


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Good News for Texas Filmmaking!

News from Hector Garcia, TXMPA President:

HB 1634 passed today unanimously. We are so thankful to Representative Dawnna Dukes and the co-sponsors of the bill. Next, the companion bill, SB 782, will be heard in the Senate. We will send updates on SB 782 as soon as those details are available.

So, what does this mean? Read the following piece from the Dallas Morning News...


Action, lights, cameras?

TV/MOVIES: House OKs bill that would fund incentives to bring
productions to state

12:00 AM CDT on Thursday, April 12, 2007

By KAREN BROOKS / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – After a cliffhanger in the Capitol last week led to a shaky premiere for Texas movie incentives, the House approved legislation Wednesday that would shore up an incentive program to bring films and TV productions to the state.

The idea of helping Texas compete with other states to bring star-studded, multimillion-dollar productions and cutting-edge video-game projects is popular, so it was never a question that lawmakers would eventually create the program.

The nail-biter was whether it would be funded.

But this year, the House budget includes $20 million in incentives for a program advocates say will cement the state's status as one of the best filming locations in the country.

Not to mention, supporters say, stop thousands of production jobs from moving to other states every year.

The bill, endorsed by the House on Wednesday on a voice vote with no objection, would let producers apply for reimbursements for a percentage of the money they spend in the state if they use mostly Texas crews and can illustrate, after the production has wrapped, what kind of economic benefit the project had for Texas.

"The movies that are being shot in Shreveport that are about Dallas, or in Manitoba that are about South Texas, or in New Mexico that are about El Paso – we will be able to bring all those productions back home," said Rep. Dawnna Dukes, the Austin Democrat who sponsored the bill.

After a final procedural vote today, the bill heads to the Senate, where an identical measure is awaiting a hearing in a committee.

Texas' TV, film and video production industry employs about 18,000 people each year but has lost 4,500 jobs to states with incentive programs. About $700 million in production budgets have gone somewhere else, and in the nearly five years since states began creating incentives to lure productions – some tax breaks, others reimbursements – Texas' share of the regional production market went from 85 percent
to 18 percent.

The incentive program was created in 2005 by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, and Rep. Peggy Hamric, R-Houston, and originally promised to reimburse up to 20 percent of wages paid during a production.

The program had plenty of fans, and it won legislative approval two years ago with no objection. But lawmakers provided no money. Gov. Rick Perry's office was pushing for $30 million in incentives to fund it but met resistance from budget writers who were trying to find a way to fund the state's public-school system and had local priorities they were trying to pay for.

Ms. Dukes' bill changed the existing, unfunded program to base it more on how much money the production brings into the state – forcing filmmakers to prove, after production wraps, that they had a positive impact on the state's economy before they can get any money from the program.

The change of heart in funding came when lawmakers began to realize that movies, TV shows and commercials want to come to Texas but can't always afford it. And that spending money to bring Texas to the silver screen – instead of New Mexico or Louisiana or any of the other nearly 40 states with incentive programs – wasn't a job welfare program.

But a political dispute threatened to hold the bill up last week. Once it was resolved, lawmakers agreed to provide $20 million for the program, with the assumption it can be expanded later.

The new, performance-based approach "is changing legislators' minds about the value of the industry to state coffers," said Austin lobbyist Lawrence Collins, a former budget director in the Capitol who is pushing for the program to be funded.

"The industry will have to perform," he said. "We've made no bones about that."


Good stuff.


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Cool HV20 Stuff

Seems the Canon HV20 camera I bought is already starting to get some buzz.

Check out this link at DVInfo...

A DP out in LA rigged the camera with a Redrock M2 lens adaptor. He has some stills posted of the footage he shot in 1080p24.

I just can't overstate how impressive this is for an $1100 camera!


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Palm Sized HD

I recently bought a new "consumer" HD camcorder. I put consumer in quotes because while yes, it is a one-chip camera, and no, it doesn't have XLR audio inputs or an HD-SDI connection - but the features it does have and the images it produces are up there with cameras many more times expensive than it - so I'd call it a "prosumer" camera for a "consumer" price.

The camera is the brand new Canon HV20. Click here for a link to the Canon website.

The main thing (for me anyway) that sets the camera apart from anything else remotely close to it is the 24p capabilities. This is the first camera in this price range offering TRUE 1080p24. This is not some "cinemode" or frame blending technique. This is real 24 frames per second. And I must say, it looks really, really good.

The camera also offers a myriad of other "pro" features like manual white balance, manual focus, manual audio adjustment, and manual exposure.

In the 24p mode (or even in the interlaced mode) you can switch between several different gamma settings to achieve a more "filmic" look. This again is very nice and has never been available on this level of camera. The 1080i video looks great too. Especially in bright sunshine.

Earlier I mentioned the camera only has one-chip. And this is true. But, don't think that means bad image quality. The chip is CMOS instead of a CCD. I won't get into the technical mumbo jumbo here, but I will say that all the major high-end HD cameras like the Viper use ONE-CHIP CMOS setups. The Viper was used most recently to shoot David Fincher's "Zodiac". Now I'm not saying my HV20 can produce those kinds of images. Not at all. What I am saying though is that one-chip cameras are a lot different than they used to be.

A few weeks ago I was in Mexico on a corporate shoot and our crew was shooting at the Pyramids at Tulum (near Playa Del Carmen). We had a JVC HD100 HDV camcorder and couldn't take that in (too big), so we had a second, smaller camera - a Sony VX2100. The officials at Tulum let us bring that in (for a $35 fee), but as we were shooting a security guard approached and said the camera was "too professional" (we had put a wireless mic on it) and they confiscated the tape. We fought it, but as of this writing it has not been returned (even though it was supposed to have been).

So why am I telling you this story? Well, obviously I wish I'd had my new Canon HV20. There were many tourist there with small palm sized cameras and NO ONE said a word to them. EVEN THOUGH the HDV ones will shoot a better image than most of the mid-sized SD cameras.

I personally own a JVC DV500 camera. I bought it in 2000. It has been a GREAT camera for corporate style work (and I shot my second feature on it too). The camera has three 1/2" chips. So it produces nice images. But I gotta tell you, I shot some test footage with the HV20 and I think it looks better. Of course it's HDV and not standard def DV, but the clarity, etc. was just plain better.

The JVC costs me roughly $6500 and the new Canon cost only $1100. Crazy.

Of course understand that I'm not planning on using this new Canon for my main camera on my pro gigs. I mainly bought it for scouting locations, shooting behind-the-scenes footage, and for cast/crew interviews for DVD extras, etc. I also might use it as a "B Camera" on a shoot or two to match in with my main camera.

I'm attending NAB next week looking for a new primary HD camera. I plan on taking the HV20 along to shoot some footage in Las Vegas. Maybe I'll shoot some HD video of my new HD camera? Isn't technology great? :)


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The New Movie

As mentioned in several earlier post, I am developing a New Movie and it's going pretty darn well I must say.

Tonight, the writer I've hired and working with on the screenplay, is flying in from LA (to Dallas) to meet with me and our Life Story person (we optioned the Life Story from someone to write this movie). The meeting is tomorrow night and hopefully it should be our last one before the final screenplay is done. Our goal is to have the script finished by May 1st. And we are on target.

Next up, we'll start sending it around to a few select actors and gauge their interest in the project. Would love to make an offer to a couple of folks we have in mind almost right away.

Other main thing we're going to do is have a big "fundraising party" and make an announcement (to the press) about the actual project. We've kept it pretty quiet thus far. Our development money has been secured (that's how we hired the writer, etc.), but our main finances are still being worked on.

IF, and that's a big IF things go well I'd love to be shooting in the early fall. We'll see though. This one is going to be a tough one to cast. You'll understand once you find out the subject matter. :)


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Who Am I?

I'm a filmmaker who's produced & directed five feature films including the comedy SPILT MILK (available on iTunes), the new horror/thriller PHOBIA (on iTunes) and the action/thiller KILLING DOWN (which you can buy or rent at pretty much all the usual places).

I also created the Streamy and Webby award-winning web series PINK, which to date has been viewed online around 10 MILLION times at places like YouTube, Hulu, Koldcast and TheWB.com. And speaking of TheWB.com, I also produced and directed an online thriller for them called EXPOSED. It was released summer 2010. And most recently I created a new online sci-fi series called CONTINUUM, which is part of the online indie TV network JTS.tv - Just The Story and NOW available via VOD through indie platform Distrify.

Oh, and I don't shoot weddings. Thanks for asking though.

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