PZ Production Diary #1

Production Diary 1

As we get closer to shooting I thought I would take the time to show you some of my color grading test that I have been doing to prepare for the film.

I love shooting test. It really helps me to learn new techniques and try new ways to manipulate an image. The program that I have been using to color grade is Davinci Resolve 9. The best thing about it is its free to use. The version that is available is a lite version but if you are only showing your film in high definition 1080P then there is really no need to upgrade. If you are outputting to a 2K theatre print however you will need to buy the full version which is $1,000. Not bad knowing that some of these systems used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After studying the program for the past couple of months, I am finally getting the hang of it. Its a great program that myself and my DP Clayton Moore can use to really dial in the look and feel of the film that we are trying to achieve.

About a month ago I shot some footage with our lead actor Charles Cantrell just to get some good samples to use in Davinci. The first photo is the ungraded RAW REDlogfilm version, and the second photo is the final color graded version. We recorded in RED 4K 8:1 Ratio, Edited in Adobe Premiere CS6, Graded in REDlogfilm in Davinci Resolve 9.

VIDEO

Man and Paper GRADED

Man and Paper UNGRADED

In the grade I tried as much as possible to be subtle. If you look deep into the dark colored areas of the image you can see thats its slightly teal/blue. This compliments the red/orange skin tones of our main character. I used a typical look that you would see on a lot of films called teal and orange. This technique is used from giant blockbuster films like Transformers to smaller independent films like Shame. You can go to the extremes in some cases where its very apparent or you can be more subtle just to compliment the colors.

The reason this technique is used a lot is because if you look at a color wheel and look at the teal blue area , directly across from it is orange/red which is where skin tones lie. The color wheel is a vital tool for all departments on set for its helps you identify colors that compliment each other.

Doing these test really helps you to understand what you can do to an image that can really help push the story forward. Color is such an important part of our daily lives from the things we watch, experiences we have, and emotional impacts that certain colors can have on the mind. Studying color and its theories really helps you to choose the best choices to make your film look the best it can be and also enhance the story. I still have a very long ways to go to get better at grading but this is a start.

Thank you very much for reading and I’ll be back soon with another production entry.

-Rob

Starting Over

Hey everyone,

I know this post has been a long time coming but we had some very unfortunate events happen during the Patient Zero shooting schedule and due to these circumstances we had to call off the shoot and prepare over the summer for a re-shoot this October.

Our film had lots of collaboration and many moving parts. We lost a few key people due to scheduling issues and also some of our locations asked us for compensation last minute before we shot which was not in our budget. Unfortunately due to our schedule our main lead actor Michael Vara was unable to complete the project due to other obligations. We wish him the best.

We re-casted our lead role to Charles Cantrell who is a very dear friend of mine. He has played a role in many shorts films that I have been apart of and also was a supporting character in my friend Jeremy Cloe’s feature film Liars Fires and Bears and also a lead role in my old professor at UNLV David Schmoeller’s new feature film Little Monsters. He did a terrific job in both of those films and I felt he was the right fit to take on the role of our main character.

Image

On our 7th day of shooting I saw that things were not going to fall into place, so rather than waste our resources I made the tough call to push back the shoot. It was by far one of the hardest decisions that I have ever had to make, pushing me past the point of tears and heartache. At this point I had given up a lot to make this film. I took months off from work, passed up job opportunities and didn’t really take care of myself health wise. This film really became my life but I loved every minute of it.

Over the summer I had a lot of to think about. One of the biggest impacts this summer was seeing my Dad go in and out of the hospital and seeing all the struggles he had to go through dealing with doctors and a variety of health issues.  Seeing him handle the situation with great positivity and happiness really had an impact on me. Through all the checkups and doctor visits,  his kids were the only thing that mattered to him. From then, I looked at the re-shoot as a blessing in disguise. I decided to take the machine apart and look at possible solutions to make the film better, easier to shoot, and on a schedule that could work around peoples school and work schedules. I had a lot of help from Andrea Walter my producer and also some encouraging words from our Executive Producer John Lauritzen who helped us out tremendously in the Kickstarter campaign.

This summer I went back to the most important thing of the film. The script. I re-wrote the script from the ground up and tried to simplify everything. I talked with my Professors at UNLV and asked them for advice and studied as much material as I could. I studied as many films as I could and I read as many screenplays as I could get my hands on. The main core of the story is still there like in the trailer, but it moves a lot more quickly, its easier to shoot, and overall its just a better crafted story.  I have to give a big thank you to Marc May, Will Akers, David Schmoeller, Francisco Menendez, Warren Cobb, Kynan Dias, Kelley Baker, and M. Simon Lim for all the advice they had given me throughout the entire process. Their words of wisdom helped me get everything back on track to help our entire team make this film the best it can be.

Our plan now is to shoot the film in segments. Before, we had blocked off an entire month of shooting on a 25 day schedule. This proved to be challenging since all of our cast and crew were volunteering and scheduling turned into a nightmare. Some people would say they were free then something would come up then we would be scrambling to try and replace them. Now we are shooting only 2 to 3 days a week making it more flexible for our crew.  It gives my DP Clayton Moore and myself more time to scout shots, more time with my actors, and more time to plan. All in all its a lot better way to tackle this project and all of its moving parts.

Lastly it frees up my time that I wanted to do on the behind the scenes. With the feature moving full speed I had no time as a director to get the BTS that I wanted. Doing the blog was hard after a 14 hour shoot and getting only 3 hours of sleep. Now with the extra time we have I can really spend the time I want to create behind the scenes videos for everyone to enjoy. I love to share my workflow with people and now I will have the time to.

I appreciate everyones patience and I really apologize for finally coming out and talking about the issues over this period of time. It was a tough period of time for our team so I really appreciate all the support. I’m going to throw in some small extra items for all our backers just to thank you all for your patience. Its been a long tough road but I really appreciate my friends and colleagues who have been by my side at the hardest of times. Things like this make you realize who your real friends are and who will be with you until the very end. I can’t thank these people enough. I would do anything for them.

If anyone has any questions I am always available through email @ robsholty@gmail.com

I will have new material up October 5th which is when we kick off our behind the scenes and dive into our reshoot at the end of the month.

Thanks again to everyone that has supported the film and I look forward to making this film experience enjoyable for everyone.

-Rob

Links

Jeremy Cloe’s Feature Film                        Liars Fires and Bears

David Schmollers Feature Film                   Little Monsters

Francisco Menendez Feature Film             Stealing Las Vegas

Music Video I was the DP on this summer  Walker Rose – Midnight Strays

Patient Zero Day 6

Day 6 

Day 6 was a very interesting day. We had scheduled our day to be split in half. A small 4 hour scene downtown with a break then another downtown scene from 11:30 PM to 4 AM. This was our first guerilla shoot for the film and with it comes all types of interesting things. Now I have shot in downtown before and its always fascinating to me how different it is from the rest of Las Vegas. It has such a different type of feel to it than the rest of the city and its always a great place to get amazing production value.

When we pulled up to our meeting place which was the top garage of the El Cortez, the wind had just started to pick up. It was not too bad during the day but it definitely started coming in hard later during the night. We had a small knit crew for that day and I have to give them all a hand because shooting guerilla always proves to be challenge. When you have no control over any aspects of the location you always have to be ready for any surprises along the way. Luckily during the day time we had no trouble at all.

Our first scene was at the payphone on the corner Carson Ave and Las Vegas Blvd. Its really hard to find payphones now so I’m really glad its still there. We had to cover up the phone logo on the front so we took some white gaff tape and the crew had fun making it look like graffiti. It was a Sunday and at the time the streets were pretty empty. We had a crew of ten that day so we blocked out the shots and had our crew cross camera multiple times to make it look populated. I remember taking Professor Schmoellers class when I was still in film school and he always would try to engrain in us to get great production value and always make your films feel populated. I feel that in that scene we achieved what he had taught me.

Now again in downtown you are always going to run into unexpected things. We had people yelling at us thinking we were some reality crew, people crossing camera making faces, buses passing by, super loud motorcycles, drunk people, homeless people etc. Its a jungle out there but the crew and I stuck it out and were able to finish out the first part of our day without any hiccups.

So then after our long break we all met up again at 11:30 PM and got ready to shoot our downtown exteriors. When we arrived the wind had picked up substantially and I remember looking over at our sound mixer Nick Spraul and we both smiled at each other knowing we were in for a rough night as far as sound was concerned.

Now with night always brings out the craziest of people. The ironic thing that happened that night was when we were filming an actual zombie party was going on downtown and we saw people parking in the garage who were all dressed in zombie makeup. I wanted so bad to find that bar where people were going but we had so much to shoot I was unable to get around getting some of those shots.

So on this night we were shooting a scene between the main character Erik and the other female lead in the film played by Savannah Smith. All I have to say about Savannah is that she was amazing to work with. I was a little nervous having her that day for it was only the second time as a director that I was working with a female lead. I have worked with plenty of females as a cinematographer but this was only the second time I got to work with a lead actress as a director. Most of the films I had directed always had a bunch of guys in them so it was a nice change to get the experience to work with a very amazing actress. I really have to commend Savannah for her wonderful work that night. It was a her first night on set and I felt so bad because I felt like I was throwing her into the fire. Her first day on set consisted of improv dialogue, guerilla shooting downtown, a kissing scene, her acting drunk, her being carried by our male lead, bar hopping to different bars, the cold windy weather and being out till 4 AM. Savannah if your reading this I commend you. You did such an awesome job.

So again we had drunk people yelling at us, people cracking jokes at the camera, people asking what reality show we were filming etc. It got a little hectic at times but my crew really pulled it off. I know my DP was getting a little frustrated with me and I was pushing him really hard. In the end though he got some really great shots and I am really proud of the brutally hard handheld work he had to do and the on the fly lighting he had to do with 3 small LED lights and a bounce board. Thank you Clayton !!!!!!!!!!! You did an amazing job.

So as we were going around downtown I really wanted to try and see if we could get into some bars. We had access to a few bars around town but I thought I would try my luck and see if we could get into some actual bars downtown. My producer Andrea Walter really made it happen by getting us access inside Insert Coins and our actress used to work in Don’t Tell Mama Piano Bar. We got extremely lucky that night. Andrea was able to talk to a bartender and he introduced us to the owner. He was super generous and let us have free reign inside of the bar. I was extremely thrilled to be shooting in there. That bar is so amazing and it really helped the film with the amazing production value we were able to capture while inside. We got our two leads taking shots, playing some videogames, dancing on the dance floor. It was perfect. Thanks again to Insert Coins and Don’t Tell Mama for letting us raid your bars in the name of filmmaking. Thank you Thank you Thank you : )

After we wrapped up at Insert Coins we had to shoot our kissing scene. I had thought of a couple of ways to shoot it but then my DP Clayton had suggested shooting it on a super long lens to really show case the amazing lights of downtown. The shot worked out perfectly and after we had staged the actors and I gave them a few notes we were ready to roll. We had the actors walk a long stretch along the El Cortez and they played out the scene with improv until they hit their mark. This is where they had to kiss. Again this was the second time I had a kissing scene but you always get worried since you hope that your two actors will have great chemistry. When the two actors started and I saw what was happening on the monitor I just lost it. It looked absolutely amazing and the chemistry between the two actors was perfect. I remember squatting down and putting my hands on my head and going crazy of how perfect it was. I think this was the first time ever on a film that I was completely in awe of what we had captured on screen. I remember the crew looking at me and they all poked fun at me about it later. It was such a great time.

The next final shots we needed to get were at an elevator and I had such an embarrassing moment when we shot here. In the scene our lead Mike was carrying Savannah as she was too drunk to get to her car and he carries her up some steps. At this time a security guard came up to us and asked us what was going on. I was so in the moment in the scene at this time and he kind of came up behind me that when he said those words I kind of froze and said ” I’m sorry sir we’ll leave” My producers eyes behind me shot wide open for I was the closest to the situation and they knew that they could of handled it. I had to BS my way through it and told him that we were students filming a scene for class and he said it was no big deal and that we could continue filming. He called it in on his radio and he got word from his boss that everything was okay. I showed a moment of weakness and I felt like an idiot and my crew all laughed at me about it for the rest of the night. I guess I won’t live that one down. But come on the guy snuck up on me : ) At least it was a good lesson learned and so the next time a security guard sneaks up on me I won’t freeze like a sheep and bow down. Hopefully anyways : )

So we wrapped up and got all the coverage we needed and we made our day. Thanks again to our amazing cast and crew for sticking it out guerilla style with me on the streets of downtown Las Vegas.

Again thanks to everyone who has been reading and I got one more post to write before I head off to bed and get ready for Day 8 tomorrow.

-Rob

Picture Time. Follow us on Instagram at #patientzero

Patient Zero Day 5

Day 5

Hey guys so I am a few days behind on the blog but I am slowly going back today on our day off and catching up on some writing.

The last three days really have been a rollercoaster. For Day 5 we finished up our time at our apartment location for our main character Erik. Thanks again to Ryan Troe and Brian Merrick for being troopers and letting us raid there house with our entire film crew.

This was our first day scene in the apartment and its always tough to shoot day interiors especially when you do not have the proper equipment to light for it. You really have to rely on the sun and depending on the location of the building you shoot in you have to be very careful in your timing to make sure you do not have drastic changes in the lighting that the audience may notice.

The scene we shot was the first time that the main character Erik runs into his mom. His mom had come into his house and he had not seen her in over three months. I really commend my actors for a great job they did on this scene. Its always tough to shoot movies out of sequence so I think its very good to really talk to your actors before every scene and do your best to get them into a mindset. It can be somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster for the actors and so I try to do my best in helping them get where they need to be.

Like I said shooting day interiors can be very difficult. I had 4 day scenes I needed to shoot for that day and I ended up only getting 3 with one that needs to be re shot. Its days like these that you really need to focus and push your actors and crew to make your day. In this film I have been trying my hardest to try and get the best performances I can possibly get but it sometimes gets me in trouble and we go over schedule. Its really hard and I have been trying to figure out ways in coverage to cut down the time we need to shoot these scenes by removing shots and trying to find the most important elements we need to capture to make the scene work. On day 7 this really worked in my favor in which I will discuss on my blog post for that day. I think you really have to be on your toes to be able to deal with any situation and try to figure out solutions to every problem. I am slowly starting to realize that as a director all of your work is just solving problems. Thats all you do. If your actor is not doing what you think is best for a scene thats a problem. Then you ask yourself, “How do I fix this?” If your running out of light and you really need to shoot the scene thats a problem. How do you fix it?

One of my solutions to these problems was not the best. After we had shot the kitchen scene we tried right away to shoot a scene outside on the stairs leading up to the apartment. In the scene our main character Erik is running up the steps as his mom is leaving to go to work coming down the stairs. Logistically this was a nightmare. You have actors coming and going from the stairs at different speeds, we were losing sunlight every second, we had kids screaming in the apartment complex, airplanes flying over head, and our actors looking to me for all the answers. This is where I made a fatal mistake and its the primal reason we will be reshooting this scene. My fatal mistake was completely rushing everything. I rushed camera, I rushed crew, the actors didn’t get to rehearse and the result was a very sloppy and poorly executed scene. My actors were also not very happy and when I talked to them about it, it was clear that they felt that they did a terrible job. It was then I realized I had to re shoot it and I had just wasted all that time. It will be an easy reshoot but if I had just taken the extra 20 minutes of prep time to make sure the scene and all the crew were on the same page, I wouldn’t have to reshoot that whole scene. These type of things happen and all you can do is learn from your mistakes and move on. To me that is the greatest thing about directing. You learn new things everyday and you get  so much experience on how to deal with certain situations.

Media Management

So like I have been doing with my previous post I like mixing it up between directing and also the technical side of production. In my personal opinion , as a director you should really be familiar with all of your departments to get an idea of what they do so that when questions arise you and your team can tackle it together. I have always loved learning about the technological aspects of filmmaking and it was a great experience putting together a great media management system with my post production team led by my editor Jason Edmiston and my assistant editor Brian Merrick.

As I stated in my previous post if you are just starting to read now, we are shooting on the RED Scarlet and we are shooting at 4K at Redcode 8:1. This means on our 64GB SSD cards we can shoot about 30 minutes on each card. So far I have only been shooting around 2 to 3 hours a day. It really depends on coverage and what we need to shoot for that day. Our process involves 3 SSD 64GB cards. I own two and one we are renting with a huge discount from Michael Su. Thank you Michael !!!! : )

So our workflow starts at camera. We treat the cards like digital magazines just like you would with film. All of our cards are labeled. We have Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. On day one we labeled each card with a Reel number. Our first card Alpha was labeled Reel 001. Bravo labeled Reel 002. Charlie labeled Reel 003.

When we start shooting and a card becomes full we pull that card and put tape over the opening of the card to signify to the crew that this card needs to be dumped. The new card labeled Bravo Reel 002 is put into the camera and Alpha Reel 001 is taken by the Assistant cameraman up to our DIT station (Digital Intermediate Technician) Alpha Reel 001 card is then taken by the DIT and dumped onto two hard drives which we named Columbia Alpha and Columbia Beta. After a week of shooting when those drives fill up we switch to our other dump drives Endeavor Alpha and Beta. We rotate each week. All drives are 1TB each.

Our DIT creates a folder in each drive called Reel 001, Reel 002, etc as the cards come in. After copying the card to each of the hard drives , the DIT checks the actual memory usage on each folder to make sure they match up exactly. For example if one folder is checked and its 64.56 GB , the other folder must match up exactly to 64.56 GB otherwise we know there is a problem.

After the DIT is finished dumping the card he re labels the card in the order of sequence. If he received Reel 001 then he would now label the card Reel 004 since the other two cards are Reel 002 and Reel 003. He puts two labels on the card that read Reel 004 and one stays on the card and one the director of photography peels off and sticks to the back of the camera so that the camera departments and sound know what Reel number we are shooting on.

This process is repeated throughout the day and then at the end of the day our location sound mixer led by Nick Spraul gives his card to the DIT. The sound card can be labeled on the recorder and he follows the same exact folder structure as camera. The DIT combines the sound folder with each of the reels so now each Reel has a folder number and a sound folder to accompany it.

After all data has been downloaded to the drive , one of the”Beta” hard drives goes with the producer to watch dailies and the other drive goes to Post production. With these drives the camera reports that were taken for the day also go with post production to make sure they have all the information about shooting for that day that way all footage is accounted for and post can organize the footage by scene numbers.

From here post production uses a program called Red Cine X to transcode all of the dailies into a edit friendly format in which we are using Apple Pro Res Proxies. The process is very time consuming. You are taking massive 4K files and compressing them into small files that you can use to edit. Sometimes it can take 20 hours to transcode 1 days worth of footage. When the film is finished shooting and we have a picture lock we can then take all the edited material and export it back out to a Coloring program like Davinci, reconnect all the original 4K material and grade our movie in 4K resolution in which you have a huge control over the final look of the image.

So that pretty much wraps up Day 5. I’m going to grab a bite to eat and write about our amazing experience on Day 6. Thanks guys again for reading.

-Rob

Photos from Day 5. Also follow us on Instagram #patientzero

Patient Zero Day 4

Day 4

Hey guys. Here I am back at it again reflecting on day 4. Sorry I am writing this late. It has been a crazy busy day today and I am getting ready and gearing up for Day 5.

So day 4 went by like a blur. We shot a lot of coverage. On this day we had scheduled a lot of the little bits that you would see in a film. We didn’t have any dialogue in these scenes so we had to get very creative to find interesting things that we could do with our shots and performances. This film is a very character driven movie so a lot of times we are following our main character, going thru his day to day life and what he is going through.

Now most of the time I stick pretty close to my shot list but after getting in a groove and feeling out the scene I used only 8 shots out of 32 from my shot list. The rest I just came up with on the fly with my DP Clayton and we kept it really simple by just changing lens sizes and letting Michael our lead just explore his character. In the first scene that we shot our main character had just gotten ready for his day, put on a nice suit, and went to as many job interviews as he possibly could. He felt confident and he had high hopes about potentially landing another job that he so desperately needed. So the scene we shot was when he came home and was completely defeated.

Clayton and I came up with a shot that we dubbed the “security cam shot” which was a Tokina 11-16mm Wide angle lens and placed the camera in one of the upper corners of the main characters bedroom. From this angle I could really see the entire room and our actor was free to explore the entire space of the room. From here I talked to my actor and gave him very simple notes. I didn’t want to confuse him with a lot of different notes. I just wanted him to feel out the scene and really explore. It worked out beautifully.

Michael Vara our lead gave me so many options and it was so unique to see the spontaneous choices he was making on screen. I am a huge fan of one shots and we decided to let him play out the scene as long as he wanted. On average each take was around 6 minutes long. In the scene Mike gave me all sorts of unique things to work with. He was pacing back and forth, messing with various items in his room, picked up his guitar, stared at his college diploma etc. When I shot the scene I wanted to completely cut myself away from my actor and see what he could do. Mike is so used to me being there right next to him on set and I felt being away from him could help him in his vulnerability and help him get where he needed to be emotionally. In the room with him was our DP Clayton, an assistant cameraman, and our sound mixer. As I watched each take I was just so captivated by what I was watching. It was so interesting to watch and you could feel in the scene the absolute frustration and desperation the character was going through.

From here I decided to cut the rest of my shot list and just shoot the same long one shot but now handheld and with various lens sizes. We went with a medium at a 35mm, tighter with a 70mm, and even tighter with various lengths on a 70-200mm lens. We got closeups of his face, his hands, inserts of items, just as much coverage as we could get. All in all it felt so much better than the shot list that I prepared. I felt the handheld really went well with what the character was going thru since his mind was racing and the camera was really reflecting that. A huge thanks to the awesome production designers who effortlessly kept reseting the set after every take. They were super fast which helped keep Mike in character without any distractions.

I also have to say that Clayton did an amazing job operating camera on the handheld shots. Clayton had big lenses on the camera, no weights to counter balance the camera, and for anyone who has ever worked with Canon lenses knows, the focus rings on these lenses really do not allow any error. This guy had 7 takes of pure masterful operating. Smooth handheld and perfect focus all day long. All the footage came out absolutely amazing. The entire dance between Clayton operating and Mikes performance made me so grateful to be working with these two.

Behind the Art

So after all the creative talk I would like to mention some of the people doing all the behind the scenes work that are actually making this production function. There is no possible way that I would be able to spend as much time with my actors and not worry about all the other tasks of making this film without our crew. From its inception my producer Andrea Walter has been working tirelessly to make this film come to life. With her and our other producers Daniel Jaidar and Lauren Oldfield, they have been making this whole production actually happen.

Making an independent feature is hard. Really hard. You don’t realize it really until you are actually in the thick of it. Things are not always going to go right. Location problems, scheduling actors, scheduling crew, wrapping on time, budget constraints etc. I would be lying if I said everything has been going 100% smooth. But our producers and our team have tackled every problem that we have had head on and we have managed to get our shots for our day and overwork any problems that arise.

I think the most important thing from my point of view is that you have to realize what you are actually doing. You are making a movie with very little money. $30,000 from Kickstarter ($27k after fees) might sound like a lot and I have the sincerest of gratitude for everyone that donated, but when you start factoring in all the aspects of production you really have to keep an eye on the budget. You do not have the luxury for everything that you want. Some locations that we tried to lock were asking us for money we couldn’t afford. Some of these locations I absolutely loved. Then they throw numbers at you like it will cost you $5,000 dollars to shoot here. Then your heart kind of drops. You can’t do anything about it but move on and try to make things work. Myself and all the other producers are all positive people so when problems arise we approach it and try to figure out solutions.

I feel I am very lucky to have surrounded myself with like minded people because with the stress involved in wrapping a 25 Day shoot on time and on budget can be very stressful. In this aspect I think as a director you always have to adapt to whatever you have thrown at you. If a location changes I have to adjust my shot list accordingly and figure out either how to cheat the shot or come up with creative ways to make the scene interesting. I think studying many different types of films can help you prepare for some of these things as they can become visual references and also give you ideas on how to shoot a particular scene.

So again I would like to thank my producers for they are making this dream of mine happen. Its damn hard work and I am proud of them every single day. Andrea, Daniel, Lauren you guys are amazing. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So alright guys off to another day on set. Thanks again to anyone reading by blog and I will be posting again tomorrow. Day 5 here I come : )

Also special thanks to Shoot to Kill Media for the awesome shout out in Vegas Seven Magazine. Clayton, Andrea, and I all work at Shoot to Kill and its awesome to get support from our friends Ryen Mcpherson and Danny Lairamore. Thanks guys!!!!!!

-Rob

Here are some pics from Day 4

Patient Zero Day 3

Day 3

So last night we were shooting in a small apartment which always presents itself as a challenge. Since we are in such a tight space, we needed to develop sort of a choreographed ballet between camera, sound ,grip and electric , and the actors. Luckily our DP Clayton and our awesome gaffer Mitch Ebert did a terrific job with the lighting and really helped with the scenes by also allowing our actors to move freely within the already tight quarters we were in.

After the lighting setup we dove right in to a very pivotal scene in the film between the main character Erik played by Michael Vara and his mom Christina played by Judy Ann Price. It was an absolute pleasure working with both actors to really get the scene where it needed to be. When working with a scene like this and having great actors at my disposal I try to get as many different takes as I possibly can get. For example the scene involved a mother who is staying with her son and the son just got choked out by her boyfriend right outside of his own apartment. The mom is a recovering gambling addict and has not really been there for her son. This was a very delicate scene to deal with and my first instinct as a director was to go very dramatic. I then took a risk and decided to go the opposite route and have Judy Ann play the scene in a very light hearted way. I wanted the mother to try and play the entire situation off like its not a big deal but have the son play it in a way that he is very upset about what just happened. Then I switched it. I had the son play the scene as if what happened was not that big of a deal and that he is more irritated and wanted to go to bed and I had the mom play it more dramatic as she felt really guilt about being a crappy mother to her son for the past several years. I also had them try different variations in varying degrees. I find this style very effective for me and its always a pleasure to be able to work with actors that can take your notes and make them believable no matter what way you ask them to play it emotionally. When I first started out in filmmaking , I was mostly an editor and really loved working in post production. Coming from this background really has affected my directing as I like to have as many choices in the editing room as possible. We can mix and match performances and really try to craft the best performance through editing rather than having the actor do the same thing over and over again.

Thanks again to our amazing actors who really brought that scene to life. I was blown away by some of the takes that we were getting.

RED Scarlet X

So on this film we are shooting on the new RED Scarlet X. I chose this camera because prior to shooting this film I had shot some commercials with its older brother the Epic and really fell in love with the look of that camera. My DP Clayton and I had discussed several options on which camera to shoot with and we bounced back and forth between DSLR’s, Sony F-3 with S-Log, Arri Alexa, and the RED cameras. We factored in cost, usability, latitude, flexibility, and we finally decided to go with the RED Scarlet. As far as technical terms go for all you gear heads out there we are shooting this film at 4K Resolution at Red code 8:1. Having worked with this camera system before I knew that we really needed to have a plan as far as the camera and data management was concerned. I bought a really cool app on the Iphone called Katadata which tells you exactly how much hard drive space you need to shoot at specific camera codecs, framerates, hours, minutes etc.

On this film I estimated that I might shoot around 80 to 100 hours of footage and so my editing team lead by Jason Edmiston and I had to figure out a complete system for getting data from off set to our editing bay for backups and editing . I will save some of the more detailed information for a later post, but we developed not only a fail safe system to where we never would lose data, but also a way to where we could start editing the film right away so that we could see if we missed any coverage that way we can go back on an off day and possibly pick it up. Our main actor is from LA and is only available until the end of April so we really have to be on top of our game to get all the coverage we need before he heads back to LA. By the end of our shooting schedule we will have a very very rough cut of the film and be able to see where the holes in the film are that way we can fill in the gaps.

Working with RED footage is also another animal. Its a blessing and a curse at times. You get amazing footage but you also have to deal with the massive files this camera is putting out. For example one 64GB Red SSD Card can hold around 30 Minutes shooting at Red Code 8:1. On our computer we couldn’t afford a Red Rocket card which is a proprietary graphics card made by RED in which you can transcode and watch 4K files in real time. On our computer we are running a Mac Pro tower with a beefy graphics card but nothing as powerful as the Red Rocket. We are cutting in Final Cut Pro so we need to transcode our footage into Apple Pro Res Proxies which can take almost an entire day to transcode one days worth of footage!!!! All the time and headaches though are worth it as my editor has already been sending me rough assemblies of some of our scenes and uploading them to Vimeo for me to view. Its been amazing.

So sorry to cut this short but I need to get back to getting my shot list ready for Day 4. Today was our day off and so I took the time to have some meetings with some of our departments and review my shots for the next few days. Thanks again for everyone reading and I will be back at it tomorrow.

-Rob

Here are a few photos I took while on set.  You can also check out our Patient Zero tags on Instagram if you have an Iphone. Just look for #patientzero .

Patient Zero Day 2

Day 2

Day 2 went extremely well. We were very lucky to have Wine 5 Cafe let us shoot in their restaurant for our scene. It was a very fun scene to shoot since we had over 20 extras and we made the entire place feel like a busy restaurant. Our first set up we staged our scene pointing out towards the window and I really wanted it to feel more like a downtown city. When you look out the window its just a huge Target parking lot and its not very interesting visually. The DP Clayton and myself decided to parallel park some cars on the sidewalks and place some extras to pass by the window. It worked out great and so when our main character was out bringing food to his tables, you could see the cars parked parallel like you would see on a city street and also random pedestrians walking past on the sidewalk. It worked out great and our 2nd Assistant director Trey Tagliaferri did a great job wrangling all of our extras and placing them in the appropriate places.

Shooting a scene like this can sometimes be a little over whelming but the crew that I had working that day did a great job of coordinating with every department so that things ran really smooth. I think its very important to have that communication between departments that way everyone can be on the same page.

This was also my first time working with children as a director. I have been a DP on sets where we had children but this was my first time interacting with children and it was a great experience. It was a very small scene with our child actor Jimmy Greco and he did a fantastic job. He recently had just come off another feature film “Little Monsters” directed by one of my old mentors from film school David Schmoeller. It was a joy to work with him and I look forward to seeing him grow as an actor as he gets older.

Special thanks to the entire makeup and wardrobe team headed by Marisa Miranda, Jenny Egidio and Maricela Cabellero and also our awesome production designers Kelly Schenk, Nikki Skye , and Brandy Thaw for doing an excellent job on making the scene feel like a real restaurant. I love these ladies.

Another thing that was just a joy to watch was my performance with my actors. We shot a very small scene with our lead Michael Vara and Sergiu Iva and they knocked it out of the park. I had talked to Sergiu prior to our shooting and I knew he would be perfect for this small part. Its always hard to get a very talented actor like Sergiu to commit to such a small role but when I had talked to him about the character and how it was important to the overall arc of the story he hopped on board. I didn’t want to BS Sergiu prior to shooting and so I told him my honest opinion. I told him “I need good actors for these smaller parts and you’re a great actor.” Yes I could just cast anyone and that person could do alright , but even the smaller parts I want to try and get the best actors I can that way the story can be told in a way that is more believable. Sometimes you don’t have that luxury and when your doing a small independent movie like this, some actors will turn down the role because they want more speaking parts and some just think its a waste of their time. But Sergiu was game and he added so much to the scene.

So when it came to shoot the scene and I saw the dynamic between the two characters I was blown away. Sergiu knocked it out of the park. So much that I kept wanting to do more takes because it was such a joy to watch. It took a small dialogue scene and some very great looks from both of our actors to totally sell the dynamic relationship between a waiter and his boss.  It was scenes like that that put a huge smile on my face and makes me love directing even more.

So in closing I want to make a shout out to my producers Andrea Walter, Lauren Oldfield, and Daniel Jaidar for setting up the entire production and making it go smoothly.

And a huge shout out to my post guys Jason Edmiston and Brian Merrick which I like to call the gate keepers because they are handling the precious footage thats is coming off of the camera.

Sorry if I forgot to mention anyone and also please forgive me for any grammatical errors I make when writing in this blog. I am trying to write for at least 30 minutes to an hour a day to keep everyone updated. This whole production I’m working 24/7 but I really think its important for me to take the time and write in my production diary.

So thanks again everyone. I am back off to set to film our apartment scene. Wish me luck and I’ll be posting tommorow.  Thanks everyone

-Rob