Review 1: Monsters vs Aliens

Wow, just wow. I should have picked somewhere else in the list.

Now, that movie wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good, it was…….predictable. It had the most generic plot ever. Girl gets superpowers, loses her whole livelihood, then makes new weird friends while saving the world and getting used to her new powers. At least vary the plot a little. Don’t make every character have one gag or be a stereotype.

And do not get me started with the 3D. Yes, I saw this today, no it was not on my 52-inch HD 3d equipped TV. I don’t have one. Didn’t mean that the creators weren’t trying to poke me in the eyes with each action scene. This is how you make good 3D: Immerse us in a world where everything looks just as real as if it was here, not by shoving and throwing things at the camera and making bits the key focus point. I life for the day I can watch a 3D animated movie and they don’t clutter it up with gimmicks.

Well, this was supposed to be a review, not a rant. So here it is: While Monsters vs Aliens strove to be a heroic epic between good and evil while remaining funny, it instead became a pandering of actors and stereotypes mixed together. Take one scoop of A-list comedians, add Marvel plots, generic characters, and sprinkle in some bad 3D. Mix unevenly. May leave bad taste in mouth.


Next one should be better. I’m thinking 80’s…

Safety on set

This should be one of the most important things on set, and yet, it is the most overlooked.

When you’re on a set, everyone should keep an eye out for safety. There’s usually too many things to trip over, hit someone else with, or cause an accident that will ruin someone else’s day.

Example: On my first set, we were filming in someone’s basement. We also had a ton of lights plugged in everywhere. If you know electronics, you know where this is going. The massive amount of lights that we were using tripped the circuit breaker, plunging us in darkness. Thankfully we could reset it. And we moved the lights onto a different circuit in the house. Rule 643: Don’t overload the circuits.

I think it was the 60-watt bulb that threw it off.

There was a similar time on a shoot in February in a ghost town in the mountains called Nevadaville. First off, it was amazingly cold. an extra 3,000 feet in elevation caused the temperature to drop to about 10 degrees. Then it started to get dark. And windy. And snowy. Until we called it at 3 am with no footage shot.

About this cold. The white you can see outside the window is snow.

But sometime between darkness and getting home I saw something go terrifyingly wrong. We had a 2500W light hoisted up on a C-Stand, and it was raised all the way. So, this high-powered light was about 30 feet in the air. Then, I noticed that there is a power line supplying power to the four houses that are still occupied. It was lower than the light, and about 3 feet away. And the wind started blowing. Instead of watching what would have been an impressive fireworks show, I told the director to cut for safety, and make sure it was resolved. No explosions happened that night.

So, in short, keep your eyes open to what’s happening around you. The extra five minutes you take will save you hours and dollars down the line.

Movie List

Rule number 12 of being a filmmaker is: Observe your craft. In other words, watch movies! Lots of them! Both good and bad movies can teach you a lot about storytelling, cinematography, how to reach an audience, among other things.

However, I have not followed this rule well. There are tons of movies that I have on my ‘list’ that I need to see, yet haven’t.

Well, the excuses end today! I resolve to watch the movies on my list, and learn about them. All movies on this list have never been watched by myself, yet have come recommended, and I want to watch them. In no particular order, the list is:

  1. Mad Max
  2. Aliens
  3. Planet of the Apes
  4. Cowboys and Aliens
  5. Sucker Punch
  6. Moulin Rouge
  7. The King’s Speech
  8. A Clockwork Orange
  9. Gamer
  10. Citizen Kane
  11. Black Swan
  12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (both parts)
  13. The Social Network
  14. The Aviator
  15. Full Metal Jacket
  16. Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead
  17. Platoon
  18. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  19. From Dusk Til Dawn
  20. Mariachi
  21. Machete
  22. Avatar
  23. Monsters vs Aliens
  24. 2012
  25. True Grit (2010)
  26. There Will Be Blood
  27. 12 Monkeys
  28. No Country For Old Men
  29. Fargo
  30. Barton Fink
  31. In Bruges
  32. Seven
  33. American Psycho
  34. Scarface
  35. The Godfather (Part 1 and 2)
  36. Coraline
  37. Batman (1989)
  38. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  39. Seven Samurai
  40. 28 Days Later
  41. Live and Let Die
  42. Body of Lies
  43. Nine
  44. Pirate Radio
  45. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  46. The Departed
  47. Amelie
  48. Being John Malkovich
  49. Requiem for a Dream
  50. Saving Private Ryan
  51. The Usual Suspects
  52. Goodfellas
  53. Dirty Harry
  54. Die Hard
  55. The Davinci Code
  56. Surrogates
  57. Deja Vu
  58. Jonah Hex
  59. Vantage Point
  60. Moon
  61. The Invention of Lying
  62. The Losers
  63. Memento
  64. Brick
  65. Taxi Driver
  66. Modern Times
  67. The Maltese Falcon
  68. Planet Terror
  69. Donnie Darko
  70. The Truman Show
So, there it is, 70 movies that I intend to see. Soon. Maybe within a year. Once I watch one, I will post a review.

Mailing lists you should be on

Like with every industry, you have to stay current with what’s going on, lest you be swept behind by those who are more cutting edge than you. Somebody famous said that.

So, in this digital age, one good way is to sign up for email lists. But with so many lists floating around, how do you know which ones that are legitemate and won’t flood your inbox? I’m on two separate lists, and you should be too.

Cynopsys is a site that notifies you about all the happenings in the film industry. Want to know when Christopher Nolan was signed on to a movie? It’ll let you know. Need to know what series Discovery is optioning in 6 months? Got it. It’s great for giving you daily information about literally anything happening with movies, studios, and actors.

Withoutabox is a site that connects filmmakers to film festivals from around the world. You no longer have to go searching around the internet for a screening that’s nowhere near your target location. Even better is that the weekly email from Withoutabox notifies you about new festivals and festivals that are closing registration soon.

What are you waiting for? Go get educated!

First steps

I get asked a lot about how to get into filmmaking. Not everyone will see Steven Spielberg on the street and be cast in the next action thriller instantly because you have a good personality. It takes time and many introductions. Here’s a few things to get you started.

First, start educating yourself. Take some acting classes. Go to film screenings. Go to a community class on appreciating film noir. Look up online for  Get to know other people doing film in the community. This way, when you get to the second step, you will be a more valuable asset.

Second step, start volunteering for film sets. Plan to be fetching things at first. You’ll get the hang of it, and start to be trusted with more and more things. But, you’ll get some valuable experience. Alternatively, if you’re an actor, start by volunteering for student films, extras casting calls, and local theaters.

Third step: Continue doing this. If you’re good, you’ll be invited to more and more things. Always keep an ear out for shorts happening in the area. Subscribe to some groups. Work hard at whatever job you do.


More to be continued…

Why Does a Small Business Need Video?

Why Does a Small Business Need Video?

Most small businesses look for good ways to promote themselves on their website. Ask yourself, “Is having a video on my website worth it?” The answer is a resounding yes!

First, most of the internet’s users are currently watching video. 70% of people on the internet visit some website with a video embedded in it. Youtube is now the number two search engine, complete with people searching for content that is educational, informative, and helpful.

Secondly, having a video online can boost your page ranking on Google. When you search Google, it automatically populates videos that relate to your search. Why settle for a low page ranking when you can rank on the front page?

Thirdly, most customers will stay on a website longer if there is a video. Without a video, they will stay an average of 52 seconds. With a video their interest is piqued, and will stay an average of 6 minutes, browsing your site and learning about your services. Video is more visually pleasing, and easier on the eyes than a massive wall of text.

Lastly, online video marketing is not a new idea. Most business owners think that they should do traditional advertising in print media such as a newspaper. However, with today’s new media, people spend more of their time online instead of looking at print media. Not to mention the cost of placing an ad in a newspaper, magazine, or even on a billboard or on TV. Once you create a video, you can post your video on any site and with any social networking tools that your business uses.

Online video is the new way for businesses to advertise. This media levels the playing field; small businesses can advertise using a video, and keep it on their website for a fraction of the cost that SEO, TV ads, and print media campaigns cost. And at ten times the effectiveness, your video stays up as long as you wish. Businesses can track exactly how many people visit their videos, and see how they are linked to their webpage.

The question remains: Do you want to increase your business and draw customers, or do you want to be left in the dust?


Film term glossary

Are you new to the set and want to me taken seriously? Do you want to show up and be treated like you have some knowledge? Then go to this site and learn all the lingo that you could hear on set.

Some of the most used definitions: C-47: clothespin. Stinger: extension cord. Lamp: a general term for lights.

Note: Not a full dictionary of terms. Terms may vary depending on whose set you are on.

Worst Moviegoing Experience

My list about what not to do during a screening reminded me of one time when all the rules were broken, and resulted in an abysmal night.

The Movie: The Lord Of The Rings, The Fellowship Of The Ring.

The Setting: A summer evening, around 2003.

This all takes place in Red Rocks Ampitheatre, where once a month in the summer, the Denver Film Center shows a popular film. It’s quite an amazing venue; an ampitheater carved into the rock. The acoustics are perfect. I highly recommend going sometime. It’s a wondrous thing to be able to watch a classic movie under the stars surrounded by nature.

However, this was not one of those magical nights.

First off, this was a sold out show. Meaning that there was about ten-thousand people there crowding around the aisles. I’m not a crowd person. Especially not at 7 in the evening when there’s 100-degree heat radiating off of the rocks and cooking everyone in the ampitheatre. We arrived too early.

Because they know that people arrive ungodly early, the event coordinators brought out a band to entertain the crowd. It would have been good if we could hear them. Apparently, they didn’t hook up to the red rocks amps, and thusly, couldn’t be heard beyond the fourth row. The acoustics need something to work with…

Finally, when dusk hit, they changed the stage to accomodate a giant screen. It was almost movie time. So, let’s bring out a boring comedian to amuse the crowd for another half hour. I think he got three laughs. And then he decided to close by reading off a list that he was emailed. Please don’t insult my intelligence. I’ve been using a computer since I could crawl, and I’ve been forwarded your stupid list twenty-six times. And it wasn’t funny the first time!

Oh, there were some good parts during the night. I saw my first cosplayers. Mostly people wearing green coats with furry feet. And of course it was a good movie, despite seeing it for the fortieth time.

But by this time, I started to get uncomfortable, literally. I have a back injury that keeps me from sitting in bleachers withous some form of back support for long without hurting. And Red Rocks is all bleachers. It was hell.

The row behind me were hell too. Somehow, they brought in a suitcase of cheap beer, and had finished half before the movie started. So, the most rational solution to cure thier boredom and ADD was to create an impromptu mosh pit. Way to go douchebags. I think they got thrown out by the second act.

Of course by the second act, we were treated to the most ear-piercing shrill sounds that can only be emitted by fire alarms and teenage girls. Orlando Bloom had the audacity to show his face on the screen. Multiple times no less. And each scream was just as loud as the first. This completely ruined the movie for me by this point. I think I started to cheer for Sauron at this point.

I now have more things to add to my list: Don’t have crappy pre-movie entertainment, uncomfortable seats, drunken mosh pits, or screaming teenage girls at a movie. Or Orlando Bloom.

So, what’s your worst movie experience?

Video copilot

If you have a powerful enough computer and the right software, you can create some amazing works of art. The folks over at Video Copilot have been doing special effects for years in Premiere and After Effects, and want to show you how to do it on your own. Better yet, pick one or two tutorials a week and go through all of them. Practice often!