Category Archives: Behind The Scenes
A couple of weeks ago, David Quakenbush invited me to participate in a short experimental film project, which he developed with local Denver artist Sophia Rose, performer Morgan Elizabeth Weaver and make-up artist Adrianna Veal. The project was filmed at Xcentricity Arts gallery in the Highlands.
I was one of the camera operators on this film, which was shot with several cameras (RED Epic, Canon T2i, Canon 7D and even a GoPro). The Epic, I believe, was running at 120 frames per second and HDSLRs were not too far behind at 60fps to produce the beautiful, smooth slow motion shots that you see in the finished film. Everyone did an amazing job with set decoration, lighting, music, camera work, and of course – Morgan’s performance was the key to the whole concept.
STRING THEORY premiered last night at the Bug Theatre as part of the monthly Emerging Filmmakers Project and was very well received.
It was a fun experience being on that set, both inspiring and rejuvenating to work with such creative local talent. My role on this project was pretty small, so I shot a little bit of behind-the-scenes stills and video footage between takes, which I edited into a short “Making Of” video below. Enjoy!
On The Set Of STRING THEORY – a behind the scenes look at the making of the short film:
This year’s Vail Film Festival seemed a bit more low-key and intimate than some previous fests, which isn’t a bad thing. While Michael and I still kept pretty busy shooting screenplay readings, red carpet interviews, film screening Q&As, parties and sponsor material, it was nice to not be constantly rushing around and actually have a chance to enjoy and partake in some of the festival activities a little bit more. This was also Michael’s first year at the VFF as a filmmaker and a short film competition co-director, as well as the festival’s official cinematographer; a triple-duty which he endured quite well!
Some of the guests this year included Fred Schepisi (the director of VFF opening night film The Eye of the Storm, as well as The Russia House and Roxanne, among others) and Krysten Ritter (Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, Breaking Bad).
As for me, some of the highlights of this year’s fest included chatting with Fred Schepisi, filming and hanging out backstage at the incredible sold-out Friday night concert featuring Sara Bareilles and the amazing musicians from LA’s Hotel Cafe (Cary Brothers, Buddy, Harper Blynn, Javier Dunn, Greg Laswell and Laura Jansen), seeing Michael’s short film Baby Shoes on the big screen, bowling at midnight, swimming in an outdoor pool at a swanky resort hotel and generally enjoying the unseasonably warm weather for Vail. And, of course – reuniting with all of the awesome people that I haven’t seen since last year. This was my 6th year of filming coverage at the VFF, and, as always, it was exciting to be a part of it.
Below are some photos I took at the festival. Be sure to check out my Flickr gallery or watch the slideshow at the end of this post to see the rest, including lots of party pics, red carpet coverage and beauty shots. Meanwhile, the 40+ gigabytes of video footage I shot will eventually be processed and included in the 2013 Vail Film Festival promos and other materials. Stay tuned!
In January, I filmed and edited a product demonstration video for a local company in Denver called Bath & Granite 4 Less. The client wanted to set up a shoot in their warehouse using a white seamless backdrop. The background needed to be completely blown out in order to achieve a clean look, similar to some of those popular Apple commercials.
It was the first time I had to shoot this particular lighting set-up and it turned out to be a great learning experience. The client provided a white backdrop, so I didn’t need to worry about renting one. However, in order to blow out the background completely to the point where it was pure bright white, while still having a properly exposed subject in the foreground, required a lot of lighting. I ended up using almost every single light I had at my disposal, except for the large Dynaphos softbox!
My set-up for lighting the background included:
3 x Clip-on lightsusing energy-saving 23w CFL bulbs:
The subject was lit by an overhead fluorescent light. This set-up provided just enough power to completely blow out the backdrop, while having the subject properly exposed and separated from the background. Check out the result below (make sure to select 720p or 1080p if you would like to see the HD version of the video). It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a cheap light kit thrown together with items from your local hardware store!
Do you need an affordable custom video created for your small business, non-profit or community organization? Contact me!
Director David Quakenbush posted this short behind-the-scenes look at compositing and some of the special effects work in Automaton, which is currently in post-production. It’s fascinating to see how much work is going into a single shot that is only a few seconds long!
If you haven’t read my previous posts about Automaton, I was one of the extras in the film. If you squint, you can even spot me as Android #4 in this video below :) Enjoy!
In June, I was contacted by PETA to shoot a short video for their “Ink, Not Mink” PSA campaign, featuring a photo shoot with Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen of the Denver Nuggets. Excited for an opportunity to work on that project, I jumped on it without hesitation.
The photo shoot took place in a spacious aircraft hangar at the Centennial Airport in Denver, with most of the crew flown in from Los Angeles. It was a pretty spectacular location, even though you only get a small glimpse of it in the finished video.
My job was to get b-roll and behind-the-scenes footage of the photo shoot and then film a sit-down interview with the Birdman himself. It was a great experience to observe an amazing photographer at work (Robert Sebree) and also to meet Chris Andersen, even though I’m not a huge basketball fan myself (shh, don’t tell anyone – I don’t even like sports). However, it was especially rewarding to play a part in supporting such a good cause and I’m thankful for the opportunity. The ads and the video were finally released last week I think they turned out pretty great!
WARNING: Some of the footage in the video below (the parts not shot by me) features unforgivable animal cruelty and is quite disturbing, so viewer discretion is advised.
I finally had a chance to edit a short behind-the-scenes video from the footage I shot on the set of Automaton last summer, where I was an extra. Between takes, I would whip out my little Canon PowerShot SD780 and grab random shots for fun. I had a great time on that set and it was exciting to see the inner-workings of a low-budget sci-fi film production.
Automaton is currently in post-production and is scheduled for release sometime in 2012.
In the summer of 2000, I got an opportunity to work as a grip on a 35mm low-budget indie horror film that was shot outside Colorado Springs, called Suicide Run. At the time, I was still a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, studying film production. Shooting on location 3 weeks turned out to be an amazing experience. It was like a filmmaking bootcamp! I learned so much on that set, from technical know-how about various types of motion picture lighting and diffusion (assisting John, who owns GripWorks) to general workflow of an independent feature film production. I had a blast and met many awesome people, some of which I became good friends with and still keep in touch to this day.
Ashley Haglund, the director of Suicide Run recently uploaded the entire film to Vimeo, making it available for free streaming and download. While I admit – it’s just a cheesy slasher flick that looks like a bad 90-minute student film, Suicide Run was an incredibly fun learning experience for almost everyone involved (most of whom were, in fact, students). Having said that, there are some cool gore practical effects and a twist ending. If you have time to kill and have a love for B-horror movies, give it a watch!
I scanned some of the behind-the-scenes photos I took during production of SR (using an APS-C film camera – that’s before the digital days, folks)! I thought it might be fun to share them here.
Of course, I couldn’t resist putting my hands on the 35mm Arri camera:
There is a funny and terribly embarrassing story that involves myself, this cute little bunny rabbit, a mountain road and crashing the director’s car:
Last night, the 34th Annual Starz Denver International Film Festival kicked off at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House with the premiere of Drake Doremus’ new film Like Crazy.
I try to go and see at least a couple of films at SDIFF every year, but this was the first time I attended the red carpet opening night event. I liked the film a lot, which critics are calling a love story for the new generation. I’m not sure if I would go as far as to compare it to 500 Days of Summer, as it has a very different and slightly more melancholic vibe. However, it’s on-and-off relationship subject matter is familiar, and I definitely found the film very moving and engaging. Amazing work by the lead actors (Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones), which didn’t feel like acting at all.
Here are a few bad cellphone snapshots from the red carpet – forgive me for not bothering to bring a proper camera :)
Saturday was the final day of principal photography on Automaton (a sci-fi film project, which I recently blogged about). After we wrapped shooting, I asked Andrew (the AD), to take a snapshot of us, extras, in costumes. It became a running joke throughout the shoot about which of the extras will last through the end, as some people were dropping out since production began. For retro-futuristic humanoid robot servants, I think we’re looking pretty handsome!
My very first real experience in the film industry was being an extra in a small independent feature called West of Here, which was shot in Boulder around 11 years ago (if you look closely, you can briefly see me in the audience during the concert scene where Mary Stuart Masterson plays guitar and sings). At that time, I had just recently started film school and was thrilled to have an opportunity to be involved in a real film production, even if on a small scale. It was a long night of shooting with a lot of waiting around between shots, but I remember having a blast and being fascinated with all the things that went on behind the scenes. The ADs running around with walkie-talkies and wrangling people, the make-up and wardrobe area, the lights and all the equipment being carried to the set from the big trucks outside. It was a scene of organized chaos, and being there reinforced my feelings that filmmaking really was what I wanted to do.
Since that day, through my graduation from film school and beyond, I have worked on numerous film and video shoots as a grip, production assistant and camera assistant. One of the more memorable shoots was Suicide Run, a low-budget feature-length independent horror film that was shot in Westcliffe, Colorado. The film itself was never picked up for distribution, but working on that set for 3 weeks, I learned so much and have met so many great people, some of which I’m still good friends with to this day. It was an incredible experience that had even led me to some paid production gigs later on.
However, eventually I had to get a “real” job to start paying off all those student loans I have accumulated. Shortly after college, I got a master control position at a big cable TV broadcasting facility and ended up staying there for almost 8 years. I continued pursuing freelance videography and photography projects on the side, but for the most part, I stopped working on creative film shoots due to lack of time I could dedicate to them. My motivation was also growing a little bit thin – after spending all day in a dark windowless room staring at TV monitors and computer screens, the last thing I wanted to do is more of that when I got home.
Finally, last year I made the decision to take a risk and leave my comfortable but soul-sucking job in order to continue pursuing my dreams. I dived into freelance video production and photography full-time, shooting anything from nightlife to small business promos, corporate videos and events. And while I admit, it has been a somewhat scary and uncertain time financially, I have been feeling exponentially more happy, relaxed and fulfilled in life this past year than I have in almost a decade. I’ve only been missing one thing – being involved in narrative filmmaking and feeling that movie magic vibe; something that I haven’t experienced in many years.
This past weekend, I feel like I have come full-circle. I got an opportunity to be involved in an ambitious independent science fiction film project, a brainchild of the local director David Quakenbush. I’ve been following the development of Automaton on Facebook for months, and when I asked David if there was anything I could help out with, he mentioned that they already had a full crew, but that they needed more male extras. I thought to myself – why not?
Coming to a real film set for the first time in many years and seeing all those lights, green screens, camera equipment and all the usual commotion that happens on any serious production, I admit – I got a little giddy. Once again, I felt a sense of complete belonging and a bonding that I haven’t experienced since my film-school days. Being on the other side of the camera was a little weird, since I am not used to that, but still really, really fun. And once again, I met a lot of really cool people.
Automaton is a twisted love story set in the distant future where much of the human population has been displaced by robot servants. Being a fan of serious, thought-provoking sci-fi, this concept appealed to me from the beginning. David, the film’s director, has a vision of the future inspired by such iconic films as Blade Runner, as well as the Grimm Brothers tales and Greek tragedy. Much of the film is shot against green-screen backgrounds and will involve a lot of visual effects and intensive post-production. I really can’t wait to see how it turns out!
I took some snaps and a little bit of behind-the-scenes video with my little Canon SD780 between takes, but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post any of that material until the film is done (which probably won’t be until sometime next year). So, here are just a few snapshots from the set of Automaton.