Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vampires and Costco and India Ink

We have established that Simon Molinar enjoys the Christmas season a great deal. The advent of 24 hours shopping has made it really enjoyable for him. Thus, He's been on my mind while I hustled and bustled about getting the last of my gifts. However, he isn't just on my mind as a writer doing an exercise with a character. I was also thinking about what clothes and household items he would buy that would be seen in the web series. Shopping must continue even as the fundraiser rages on. We'll have to hit the ground running to gather everything in time once the campaign is over.

Where Vampires Shop

We've found some really groovy second hand shops for costumes and props and set dressing. I could see Simon being drawn to the eclectic goods in the window displays late at night and then returning in the final hours that they are open. Shops like these are great for a characters whose tastes would reflect many eras of fashion and style. Everything was very reasonably priced, and that sort of store is likely to buy everything back.

However, for consistency of look and feel, a vampire on the move cannot beat places like Target or Costco. Target is great for basics, but Costco is the place to find some surprising luxuries. There were Italian suits, cashmere sweaters with an incredible softness. There were sheet sets with incredible thread counts. There was even a $1500 bottle of cognac. I don't think Simon would buy a bottle of that, but I think it should be clear that he and Joe shop at these sorts of places. It makes their homes seem more real. Of course, until we can get a product placement deal, we'll have to make labeling that mimics those stores – but not too closely.

Strangely, the place where we found a number of special props that will be very personal mementos for Simon was at a comic book convention. I can't imagine Simon attending one of those as most are in buildings where there are windows in the venue where sunlight can stream in. Although, Bent-con's location last year was in a basement ballroom. The location this year had a lot of light in the lobby and corridors. He could have gotten in an hour or two in the Dealer's room, I suppose. And the parties do start well after the sun goes down. But I digress. One of the dealers had an array of well crafted personal items for very fine prices. They could easily pass for items owned by a wealth gentleman from as far back as the 1800s. He even had leather bound, gilt edged journals. Journals and letters with a custom seal loom largely in the flashbacks for the web series. Actually, I'll have to have our Simon and whomever is love interest is from yesteryear do quite a bit of journal and letter writing with a dip pen. That should be interesting. All I can see is India ink everywhere. Practice is in order.

Rehearsals

Speaking of practice, the podcast interviews brought this topic up. We've decided to have a table read long before the script is locked. There were so many interesting ideas that came out of that Q&A that we thought we'd workshop the script with the cast to sharpen the dialog. That'll be a very interesting exercise. If it's cool with the cast, we'll record some or all of it.

That's it for now. If you want to support this web series, share this link: http://igg.me/p/282567/x/126025 ! Of course, donating would be a huge help!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Update on Updates

There is a lot going on, but I've had no time to write the blog. Stangely, things will be quiet here on Christmas. Look for a blog then with such news as:
  • Why Simon shops at Costco
  • Our best prop source to date
  • How the campaign is gong
If there is enough imbibing of spiked punch at the holiday party tomorrow, there may be a lot of interesting news and photos.

We'll sen our official greeting on Tuesday. I hop everyone is enjoying the season!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Campaign and Blog Update

Forgive us for not posting in some time. Our other projects and assignments along with Thanksgiving obligations have kept us crazy busy. I'll have a new blog up this weekend about shopping for wardrobe and prop pieces. We stumbled across some great finds at astonishing prices in some unexpected places.

New Trailer
We'll be putting up the HD version of the Demonspawn trailer by the weekend. There isn't any additional content. It's just that the images are much sharper and richer. Besides, we shot on HD, we want it seen in HD! I'll put the link up when it goes live.

Funding Campaign
We're off to what is considered a good start in the funding campaign. More importantly, we off to an excellent start for traffic to the page. According to Indiegogo.com, we should hit the front page of the site within the next week or so. Keep sharing and keep visiting! Here's the link: http://igg.me/p/282567/x/126025

Big Endorsement
Jane Espenson of Battlestar Galactica and Buffy the Vampire Slayer took a look at our campaign and then sent this tweet to her 80,000 followers! That has done wonders for our traffic! We've also gotten some interesting queries from actors she has worked with. This could be interesting!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fundraising Campaign is Live!

We've been wrestling with file sizes and freezing PCs. So I'm tired. Here's the link for the cmapaign:

http://igg.me/p/282567?a=126025

As I said in the last blog, please give and PLEASE share! This will be the first of many, many missives on this subject. We need all of you and we are all counting on your support in any way you can give it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

No Spolier Sneak Peak!

I was so tickled by this conversion that I had to share. It is no spoiler because you don't have the voice overs.

Before















And After! And yes, Simon's expression has changed!

Tuesday's Launch Preview

Sharing the process behind mounting Demonspawn has been a lot of fun for us. And we're really pleased that readers have found it interesting and enjoyable. But there was always an ulterior motive for sharing the unvarnished details of this production – transparency. We aren't just building audience interest, we are also establishing a method for our supporters to know exactly what we are doing and why. This is really important as we move to the next phase of production development: Fundraising.

When the teaser goes live, we will also be launching a crowd funding campaign on a site called Indiegogo.com. This site and others posts campaigns of all sorts (charities, film, art projects, etc.). People interested in a campaign contribute at whatever level they want. Donations can be made anonymously or in their name. They take Paypal (very secure) or credit cards. In return, they receive a perk like the kinds of stuff PBS gives during its fundraisers. Levels of contribution can range from $10 to $1,000 or more and every level in between. The campaigns can last up to 90 days. Indiegogo allows a campaign to keep the funds raised even if it doesn't reach the goal. That site and others like it reward campaigns that generate lots of traffic. Sharing links and visiting the campaign page is as important as contributing. When there is enough traffic on a campaign, it gets featured on the main page of the site where millions can see it. Reaching the goal is all but guaranteed at that point. We will be nagging our readers to share our campaign link and visit the site excessively.

Where the Money Goes

I have talked about the various elements Demonspawn needs to produce a great web series. Here is a more thorough breakdown. We will add links to more vendors as we make final choices.

  • Fixed Costs are fees we must pay to legally film in Los Angeles. One is a filming permit. Guerrilla shoots still happen here, but it is very difficult to shoot in public without being asked for a permit. The police here are just too film savvy. Besides, I don't want to ask my professional cast and crew to be on the lookout for the fuzz and hide behind cars when we see them. Permits are also required in any building that is zoned for commercial use. We plan to shoot at Lucy Doty's awesome Central City Studio. Despite her long association with Demon Under Glass and its cast, we still need a permit to shoot at her studio. There are various government officials that pop by and check on occasion. The other fixed cost is Production Insurance. That protects our equipment, our people and any location where we shoot. It can even protect us against problems that prevent us from filming (severe weather, etc) by paying out so we can reschedule the cast and crew for an additional day. These costs means that we need a few thousand dollars before we can even begin. These fees are also non-negotiable.
  • Location Fees are a necessity though we have been rather creative in keeping them down. We have found some government owned sites that have no fees. However, we are required to hire a police officer or a sheriff for security on the site. We may also have to hire a site rep. That is someone associated with the property who has the keys. Those rates per hour are kind of steep. However, it cost a fraction of renting a similar location. The other locations like Central City Studio are giving us a break, but we are taking up a time slot that is valuable. There must be just compensation for that.
  • Cast and Crew Fees are something that we want to pay. We are taking up time when they could be doing something else more lucrative. We may not be paying their full rates, but it's just wrong to ask them to work for free for a week and a half and give us their professional best. We have kept the crew to an absolute minimum which will save us money in other ways. The director and I will draw no pay as this was our hair brained scheme in the first place. However, there is a minimum rate we feel we should be paying our talented and hard working group.
  • Kit Rentals and Make-up Supplies. Certain crew people come with their own equipment and supplies like the make up technician or the Director of Photography. productions rent their equipment or kits along with paying them a daily or weekly rate. This way, they can replenish supplies or make repairs on things that wear out. Additionally, we need to pay to have specialty FX make up created like vampire fangs. For the comfort and safety of the actor, they need to have dental plates that are fitted by a dentist. This sort of thing has become so common because of vampire role playing and cosplaying that the price is a fraction of what we paid for plates 10 years ago. We can get sets for Simon and Joe (dream scenes) and back-ups and still not be paying half of what we paid before.
  • Specialty Crew. There are some fights in the web series. That means, we need a stunt coordinator and his kit (knee and elbow pads, mats, etc). This crew position is for the safety of the actors as much as it is for making the shots look good. Even an actor with lots of fight experience needs a coordinator to watch that the fists are being thrown correctly. We know a number that will give us a deeply discounted rate. There are gory make up scenes with spurting blood. That means that we need an FX make-up artists and supplies that go beyond a basic make-up kit. We are very fortunate to know a really good make-up technician who will give us a great rate on her fees and the supplies.
  • Costumes and Props. We've been the most clever here in saving money. Even one of our leads is excited about hunting for deals on modern clothes. For the period costumes, there are lots of sights where newly made, realistic clothing is available for all eras at reasonable prices.
  • Food and Shelter. It is an adage in all Indie Filmmaker playbooks that lower budget productions must feed its cast and crew well. Fortunately, production catering is a very competitive business. We have quotes that are very reasonable for the tasty and healthy dishes offered. In addition to that, we think it really helps morale if the company has a comfortable place to wait between set ups. The actors also need places to change and get made up. Some of the locations have places we can commandeer, but we'd like to have a modest trailer to make sure we have such an area wherever we go.

Post Production

  • Editor. Our Director is an experienced, award winning editor, but we won't see this series go live before the end of 2013 if he is the sole editor. Free time is that scarce for him. We have an Editor in mind that is very well thought of and is an associate of Lucy Doty's. We can get an excellent rate for his services.
  • Special FX. We admittedly cannot compete with big budget vampire films and TV shows. However, we do have some very good FX people that are willing to give us some nifty tricks for a really good price. We think this will get us good reviews that will raise the profile of the web series. Standing out from the other vampire web series make more seasons likely.

Potential Perks

We've told you what we need. Now, we'll outline what kinds of perks we're offering. This is a preliminary listing that is very much subject to change between now and Tuesday. We also don't have exact prices on the donor levels yet. We're refining them right now. This is a basic list that may get longer before the campaign goes live.
  • Name listed in the end credits. (All levels get this)
  • Oversized, autographed postcard of original art.
  • Custom scrub top for this series.
  • DVD of the web series cut as a film with a bonus message from the cast.
  • Deluxe DVD with bonus scenes that won't run online, behind the scenes extras and the blooper reel.
  • A 'Golden Ticket' to a private screening and after party (Limited number available). Listing as an Associate Producer.
  • A role as an extra and an invitation to the wrap party. (Limited number available). Listing as an Associate Producer.
  • All of the above and a listing as an Executive Producer (Very limited number available).

If there is something else you'd like to suggest as a perk, please pipe up before Tuesday! Extras will get to mingle with the main cast as it is a small shoot and have meals with them. They will also get to work like circus monkeys.

That's it for now. We hope these blogs have made the case for supporting this series. There will be many more to come as we get closer to the shoot. After the campaign launches, I'll do an in depth blog on what is and is not in the script. It will be mainly spoiler free.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Best Wishes and Big Update

Like most Americans, I am in the throes of a pre-Thanksgiving cleaning and cooking frenzy. I'd take a photo, but it is not pretty. Thus, I won't be doing a full blog. I will take a moment to say on behalf of the cast and crew of Demonspawn, Happy Thanksgiving! Everyone be safe and have a wonderful holiday.



Teaser Update

Jon rendered the low-rez version of the rough cut to check it for smooth edits. That seems to have gone well as he is doing a final sound mix, including laying a sound track. He has also asked me for a list of credits. That means that he's nearly ready to render a final, full rez version.

Thus, I am setting a date for upload on Tuesday, November 27th. That will also be the day on which we launch the Indiegogo fundraising campaign. I will post the link for that site -- which is also where the teaser will debut. I'll also have full details on what we're offering in the fundraiser and where we are in the production process for the full series.

To those celebrating, have a great holiday. To everyone else, have a great Thursday!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Intriguing Surprises and the Podcast Interviews

Without further ado, I can announce that the podcast interviews of Garett Maggart, Owen Szabo, Jon Cunningham and me are live at Nosferatu TV's Website. Here's the link: http://notv.webs.com/apps/podcast/
Listen to the interviews first. Then, come on back for our take on some of the statements. Don't read any further, because there are huge spoilers below! 

As I've said in earlier blogs, one of the best parts about working on a film is the collaborative nature of the creative process. Jon and I have lived with Demon Under Glass for a decade. I've been tinkering with the characters since we stopped filming as an editor and a writer. Still, actors find a way of surprising us with something that simple never occurred as a thought. It is certain that the notions that came up on Friday will surprise fans of the film and the stories. Some fans may find the discussion of Joe McKay quite controversial.

Actors Unscripted

It makes sense that an actor would have a more intricate view of the character he plays than the writers. They have to think of the motivations of only one character. They have to form an understanding of these motives and how they change and why they change over the arc of the story. Whereas the writers have to think about all of the characters and why they do what they do.

We'd always posited that Joe McKay was with Simon primarily out of fear of being captured by Delphi. Further, we maintained that he simply found a way to get along with Simon and cope with his situation to keep his sanity. Garett Maggart's take on Joe in the interview has pretty much upended our suppositions about Joe and, for us, in a delightfully interesting way. He has a view of Joe as being a lot darker than we thought he was. He views Joe as someone who completely understands Simon's nature as something so innate and immutable that he would not try to change him. He also knows that Simon feeding on him is not just a daily risk but also something that is likely inevitable. And if our minds weren't completely blown, he further posits that Joe has something in him that is attracted to the darkness in Simon.

Meanwhile, the young and innocent looking Owen is a completely laid back Simon Molinar. He is calmly unapologetic about his nature with absolutely no remorse. I was delighted to see that he had that vague puzzlement over why anyone would think Simon had any thought about his nature. Juxtaposed against that angelic face, the statements were wonderfully chilly.

I was very pleased with the way both actors viewed their characters even as it will cause a bit of re-writing of not only the webseries script bu also part of my current novel that focuses on the fates of Joe and Simon. I know new fans will find the interviews fascinating. I can't wait to hear the reaction of long time fans – and the writers of Demon Under Glass Fiction.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Podcast Outtakes

I've sent the edited interviews off to Nosferatu TV's website http://notv.webs.com/. Meanwhile, I made a rudimentary video of the outtakes. These were my own questions, and I didn't think they fit well with the ones sent for the podcast. The questions were:
  • What era did Simon like best for clothing?
  • What historical figures would Simon have set out to meet?
  • What are you both looking forward to doing -- as actors -  in the web series.
Here's the link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdJN0KMRD-8&feature=g-u-u

I'm doing a whole blog about some of the answers in the podcast. The actors threw us for a creative loop that is most intriguing. I'm really curious as to how Demon Under Glass fans will reaction to their views on the characters. I'll post the blog once the podcast goes live.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wild Surprises, Audio Files and Flashbacks

The word surprise usually isn't welcomed in the film biz. Sometimes, it's a delightful surprise like a funding source popping up from nowhere and saving the day. However, most of the time, surprises range from unpleasant to terrifying. A typhoon hits while filming a big budget movie in Hawaii (Jurassic Park) or the Burmese army invades your location looking for monks that escaped an opium farm (The Quest). This past week was one of surprises. Sandy was not the only disaster we had to deal with this week though it had an impact on a lot of what got done this week. All of the principals in Demonspawn are from the east coast. We all have family and friends who were in the path of the storm. The coverage was deeply troublesome as many hours passed without hearing from our loved ones. We spent a lot of time Monday and Tuesday making calls and sending texts. What wasn't time consuming was certainly distracting. The web series script got derailed. Needless to say, the plans to record for the podcasts were shot to hell by mid week. These things happen. We have a new date that should hold up for this week. More importantly, All of our loved ones weathered the storm pretty well.

Meanwhile, Jon is editing the audio files. There's been a lot of cursing which means that there's some issue that's popped up. Still, he hasn't stopped working which means the issue isn't fatal. It looks like we'll go live next weekend. Please keep in mind that the estimation is tentative. This week has hammered home the point that I should be very careful about putting anything in stone. Aside from the upheaval brought by Sandy, a long stalled documentary project suddenly lurched forward. It is a personal project, but it means a lot to a community that is world-wide. I had to seize the opportunity. Aside from this week, the documentary should not interfere with Demonspawn. I don't have any more shoots planned for that until after the web series wraps principal photography.

Flashback Fun

We plan to have a lot of fun with flashbacks of Simon's life in the distant past. I've mentioned that in past blogs that we will be doing Highlander: The Series style flashbacks on incidents in Simon's life that mirror the current situation he is in. That's great, because we can have all kinds of fun with locations and costumes and such. Also, actors tend to enjoy doing period pieces. We've found some amazing sources for costumes. Our Make-up Diva is working on hair pieces and sideburns. It's going to be awesome on it's own. On top of all of that, there is a fiendishly fun twist to the period flashbacks that everyone is looking forward to doing. However, there is another kind of flashback that we want to do that is far more problematic: scenes from the Delphi Project. We're going to have to digitally recreate the isolation chamber which means that movement within the scene would be limited. Re-doing the 'demon box' will depend on how much money we raise. We really want to re-buld it. It would be fabulous to place Owen's Molinar into the origin story. That would generate new promo art and book covers! That's something Jon and our FX guru are working on. Whether or not any DUG flashbacks appear in the web series depends on the results of the research.

That's it for now. I have one more blog obligation this weekend before I can get back to the script. I may do a blog during the week with podcast announcements, so check back here. You can also subscribe for updates at the bottom of the Menu on the right.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Music Rights and the Indie Filmmaker

The big news is that Jon finished the rough cut of the teaser despite a terrible cold. He's been adding images from the book trailer and working on the opening credits. I should know in a few days when we can upload the teaser. Jon does not want to show anything other than the final cut of the teaser. I agree with him. Past experience has shown that viewers can get fixated on perceived flaws that will be corrected in post and hit the social nets with word of how bad the entire project is. We literally cannot afford for that to happen. Be patient. He's almost done with the images. The last part to get edited is the audio. Then, there is finding and adding sound FX and music. Speaking of music, it is one of the issues that has been brought up a lot lately among readers of the blog. That is complicated matter for indie filmmakers even for something as short as a trailer.

The Right Rights
Websites like Youtube are getting more strict with the use of music in videos. Even if a video manages to evade notice for a time – sometimes for long periods – it can get yanked when the rights holder finds out about it. The problem is that even though the vast majority of videos do not ever get enough hits to make money, all channels are set up to become monetized. Thus, the possibility of making money at all means that having unlicensed music is an infringement. The other factor in these decisions is a legal term called easement. If a rights holder fails to enforce their copyright in any venue, it can be forfeited. So, even when a noticed is placed on the video acknowledging that the material is not theirs and no infringement is intended, that is not protection from being yanked. Have enough videos yanked, and the account goes away.

So, we have to go the route of getting a license from the start. For the teaser, our options are limited to services like freesoundtrackmusic.com, one that I already use for my cooking videos or using parts of the Demon Under Glass soundtrack. We have no money for the teaser. It makes no sense to pay for the rights to music for the teaser. But what will we do for the actual web series? That depends on how much money we raise. There are a couple of composers that we like and would love to hire. Though they are up and comers in the industry, hiring them means that they would have to turn down other paid work to do our soundtrack. Thus, they have to be paid at a rate comparable to the work they would be missing. And while it is true that there are a lot of talented people just dying to get a break in the biz and would work for nothing but a credit, it is a lot of work and time to find candidates that are both talented and reliable enough to finish the job properly. That is the problem with work that is done for absolutely no money. It can get delayed or even abandoned in favor of paid jobs without any real penalty from the industry. Producers can cause a world of problems for a freelancer who walks away from a paid gig, especially since moneys always exchange hands before the job begins. But you can't get much sympathy from professionals about someone dumping a job that involved no pay. We have some really good people in mind that we plan to hire on bigger projects. Which of the composers we hire will depend solely on how much money is raised.

Updates
I'm barreling through a detailed treatment for the script, so that the actors will know what's in store for them before they do the podcast interviews. The plan is to get something in their hands by Wednesday. The interviews are scheduled for next weekend. Worry not, I will post something on the blog that will in no way spoil the other venues where the interviews will air.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Size Matters Except When It Doesn't

My all time favorite analogy for what it is like to work on a film project is from Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park 2. Basically, he says 'First there is the oohing and aahing. Later comes the running and the screaming.' This captures the arc of film making perfectly. And this is true no matter how big or small the shoot is. I hear stories from $150 million sets that make our losing a queen size mattress on the 405 freeway look like genius. Did you know that due to some logistical mix ups, the leads in Pirate's of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest had to wear wet costumes on more than one occasion? I don't mean the costumes got wet, and they had to stay in them. No, they were never cleaned and dried from being wet the day before. This means that Depp, Bloom and Knightley were in soggy duds. On the other side, I'm in forums with a number of web series producers who are reporting problems with SAG or problems with locations to problems with equipment that are the same as any fully budgeted shoot. When it comes to snafus, shoots cannot be judged by their size. However, size can matter a lot. How does that make sense? Read on.

Size and the Home PC

We were thrilled to get our groovy new Toshiba camera that records 1080p video and need minimal lights. What we hadn't thought about was just how big each file is and how that would impact the editing program. To saw that it did not run smoothly in Jon's editing program is an understatement and a half. It ran in a really jumpy manner – not good for finely editing scenes – and it clog the ram on the PC something fierce. I tried to run it in the editing program on my faster laptop, but that editing program (which is newer) had to convert it to a much lower rez to even run clips. Jon had to consult a film making forum he's in to find the answer. We needed a program to re-render all the clips to a lower resolution. He can do the edits on those and then cut the original clips by mating the time codes from the low rez edit. All of this finagling burned up a lot of time. Normally, it would only burn up a few hours. That wouldn't really matter a few years back. However, Jon now has a demanding day job, and we are working on a few other things at the same time. He doesn't have much more than a few hours a week to give Demonspawn. This surprise set us back at least a week. And that was right before Yaoi-con. Sigh. On the bright side, I really like the screen grabs on Jon's machine. I'll be putting some up throughout this blog. I only had time to grab a few this time around.

Size, Locations and Star Perks


While being too big was not ideal for editing, being too small is proving a bit problematic with locations which will impact our shooting schedule. Hangover 3 can close down a California Freeway. That shoot has the bucks to do that and weather the withering criticism of the most dangerous of Los Angeles creatures – an inconvenienced driver. We are too small to get my local library to close early on its shortest day of the week. The library and the groovy gazebo both have to be shot on a Sunday – and not the same Sunday. Some locations are only available mid-week when they are less busy. The sound stages are fine at the moment, but that could change on a dime if a bigger production wants the same space at the same time. Being small is definitely an issue in scheduling. All of my actors are professional and will fulfill their commitments to the production and work hard doing it. However, it's always best for set morale to make sure that actors are treated well while dealing with budget constraints. For instance, actor trailers or Honey Wagons are a great perk if the production can afford it. This gives them a place to be away from the shoot until they are needed and be comfortable. Good food is another perk that we will have at whatever budget level. I plan to get a good caterer that will follow us from location to location. Luckily, there is a lot of competition out here for Craft Services. There will be one that fits our budget. While I will not mention company names of our vendors and locations, I will post photos in this blog and in the info on the fund raising campaign on what the money is going for. In most cases, I can include photographs. And then, there are the scheduling considerations for the actors. Lower budgets means a higher level of consideration of an actor's schedules when we plan the shoot. They may have other commitments we'd have to keep in mind. Also, at that time of year, there are football playoffs and the Super Bowl to keep in mind. Our leads and the producers are avid football fans. It's less stressful for all of us, if the shooting schedule keeps these games in mind.

Size matters in so many things, except when it doesn't matter at all. No wonder there is a lot of running and screaming in the end.

Next time, I'll have a firm date for the release of the teaser trailer and the launch of the fund raising campaign. Also, there will be a preview of the podcast interviews.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Podcast, Locations and Teaser Update

While there still isn't a lot of hard news to report, I thought I'd bring everyone up to date with the progress we've made toward the shoot.

The Teaser

Jon Cunningham, director and co-writer on Demon Under Glass, is editing the short. He's started only a few days ago as we had other obligations that kept him from that task until now. He shot the scenes in a very precise manner with editing them in mind. We are planning on the video going live on the fund raising site Indiegogo.com two weeks from today. At this point in time, we are not sure if it will be cross posted on Youtube. We want as many people as possible to visit the fund raising page, thus cross posting is unlikely. However, we will be shooting an interview with Garett and Owen and possibly other cast members for a Gothic horror pod cast. We will also have an interview about the web series specifically for Garett's fans that will be forwarded to the people who run his web site. Links to those interviews will be posted here. I have some great questions for the podcast. If you have any, pleas ask in the comments or contact us by email. Our contact lists are in the menu on the right hand side of the page. The script for the teaser was approximately six pages. I think the teaser will be somewhere around five minutes. We hope to convey a mix of humor and horror on par with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Web Series Script

The script is still in the works. However, since it stems from two short stories that will appear in the next Demonspawn: On the Run anthology, we know what will be in it. The only addition to those stories is an opening with Simon being very, very naughty and incredibly frightening. We needed an introduction of that part of his nature to establish how much potential danger Joe McKay is in and how much danger the characters who threaten them are in. I plan to have the script done shortly before we do the podcast, in about two weeks. I want the cast to know what's in store for them before we do the interviews. Incidentally, the next anthology will be released shortly after the fund raising campaign goes online.

From the storyline we have, there are ten sets/locations: Operating room (nightmare/flashback scenes), downtown loft apartment, two downtown alleys, city street, public library, gastro pub, fancy hotel suite, town square gazebo, and a downtown roof top. We have priced all of these locations save for the downtown loft apartment. I plan on doing that sometime next week. That is the last unknown to be solved before I can complete budgets. I say budget because there will be an optimal, a minimal and an in between. Indiegogo.com allows it's participants to keep whatever is raised. The amount that we will be shooting for in the campaign is the optimal budget that gives us all the crew and the bells and whistles in post that will make this web series rise above the din and find the widest audience possible. All of these bells and whistles will be covered here, so our readers will completely understand how the production will work. We will reveal some of the clever ways we've found for saving a ton of money while keeping the production values high. And, of course, we will be answering any production related questions fans may have along the way.

That's it for now. Next week, I'll have a firm date for the teaser, updates on the podcast and other goodies!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quick Teaser Update

We're still preoccupied with the prep for the West Hollywood Book Fair where we have a booth. Look for a blog this time next week with a date for the teaser to be uploaded and a timeline for all kinds of extra goodies! The fund raising campaign will begin in a couple of weeks!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Post Teaser Shoot Doings and Plans

The biggest question of the last couple of weeks as been when will the teaser trailer go up? It will be the first or second week in October when we launch or fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.com. The video will only be running on the campaign page until after the fundraising is over. Then, it will go up on DraggonTV's Youtube page. There also will be more images put up on this site, but we will save some for the campaign page. We will also have some mini interviews with the cast. There has to be a reason for fans of all sorts to come to the page, after all.

Meanwhile, we have been very busy scouting locations for the full shoot. I was, in fact, visiting downtown LA locations the week after the trailer shoot. We have almost every location that we need for the script we have in mind. I have one or two more places I'd like to visit before we actually write the script and set the budgets. That last bit brings up a couple of questions we've been asked.

First, we aren't writing the script solely on the resources we can find within out price range. The script will spring from two stories in the upcoming Demonspawn anthology. We expect that to come out in November. We know enough about the elements in those stories to figure out budget items like locations, cast, props, costumes, etc. I completely forgot to mention that in my initial blog about budgets, so the confusion is entirely because of me. And the other question is about the fundraising's outcome on whether or not we actually do the shoot. The reason we're going with Indiegogo.com as opposed to Kickstarter.com is because with Kickstarter if the campaign is even a dollar short of its goal, nothing is paid out. With Indiegogo.com, the campaign is paid out whatever is raised by the end of the fund raising period. Thus, we are building a three tier budget. There is a best case scenario where we are only limited by time to get what we want shot. We would go for a stunt coordinator who does wire work so Simon can really leap about with Joe in his arms. We'd really like to have Simon's fangs done by a dentist like we had for Demon Under Glass. Those are more comfortable and thin enough to allow Simon to speak without a lisp. 

There is the middle budget where we get some of the bells and whistles and cut back on others. And then there is the bare minimum budget where we'd have to get really creative, but we could still get something done and have it look good. Below that minimum, we are not willing to turn the key in the engine. The shoot will be a SAG project, so we want to maintain a professional level of production values and a decent level of pay for cast and crew. It's also important on a shoot that will always be pressed for time that everyone working is well fed and comfortable at the various locations. We're not sure what those levels are yet. We will have basic budget numbers posted as part of the campaign, so donors will know where the money is going.

The next couple of weeks will mean a lot of touring locations and interviewing crew candidates. We're deliberately picking a time of year to shoot when most of the industry is quiet. That gives us a fairly nice sized pool of people to choose from in each position where we have a vacancy. Some slots are already filled. I have found almost all of the locations that we will need. Only one remains elusive. I plan to work on that in the next week or so. I'd prefer a real life location for the gastropub, but Los Angeles is so jaded about shoots. They believe that even if a project is low budget, that couldn't possibly apply to their rates. And a claim of giving a place exposure is met with a roll of the eyes. A good yelp review can be seen by thousands of potential customers without costing an establishment any down time. I am seeing claims by businesses that they are film friendly on the LA film Commission site. They claim is that these businesses want to stem the flow of runaway productions. It sounds good. I plan to check them out with an optimistic outlook.

I'll report on my results the next time.




Friday, September 7, 2012

New Updates Coming Soon!

We've been busy with some of our other hats of late, but the trailer is well under way with the editing. Meanwhile, I have been scouting locations and talking about casting. A complete update will be posted by Sunday.

You can check back here, or you can sign up for email alerts to new blogs by clicking on the link in the menu on the right.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Teaser Shoot Field Notes

As I've said in previous blogs, in a larger shoot, there are department heads who have their own lists to check, double check and final check. For this one, there were three of us. There was Sunshine Lliteras who had some makeup and half of the set dressing. There was the Home owner who lent us the location. He had to sign for the furniture we rented. Then there was my lists which was everything else. Jon Cunningham, the director, had the shot list and the camera rigging. Everything had be be cross checked the Friday before the shoot. We had everything staged for quick car loading before turning in for the night.

The call time for the location was 7am. Jack Donner (Bassett) and Donal Thoms-Capello (Saybrook) had a call time of 8am. We planned on rolling camera on them no later than 9am. Garett Maggart (Joe) and Owen Szabo (Simon) had a call time of 9am. The first glitch of the day was that Sunshine got hung up in traffic and would be late. My first executive decision was to take a cab with most of the items on all of our lists to the location which was ten minutes away. I had not planned to unpack the car and begin setting up everything on my own, but stuff happens and the clock was running. Once the clock is running on a production, a producer cannot let anything stand in the way.

In the cardboard container is that danged sandwich.
Of course, Jack was early. I had him come inside and hang out with Garett who is also always early. I suspected Donal was early, too, but I couldn't spot him in any of the cars parked nearest to the house. I set up the makeup station and put away the food first. I had just finished setting up the mike stand and the one light stand when Jon and Sunshine arrived. Since Jack was there, we had him get into his costume and makeup first. Jon and Garett set up the first room by rearranging the larger furniture. We don't dragoon actors into helping on set. I have had some volunteer on occasion. Scott Levy, for example, was very helpful with the military aspects of Demon Under Glass. Typically, I prefer actors focus on their lines and relaxing. But Owen wasn't due for a while, and Garett is a very handy guy, so his helping was welcomed. Donal had arrived by the time we needed a lighting stand in. We were delighted that he played chess often enough to help us set up the board. By the time Owen arrived, at just before 9am, we were ready to start the Bassett/Saybrook scenes. We rolled camera at 9:15am. A little later than scheduled, but not too bad considering how small a crew we had.

These new digital cameras are a marvel. They look like consumer cameras yet can shoot video at 1080p with ambient light. We had one light that was more for portrait photography than for film. It was enough. The lack of need for light and the camera's lightness made it easy to move from angle to angle without stopping to tweak light levels. That can take as long as twenty minuets per change in camera position. We were able to move from shot to shot almost without stopping. The actors never lost momentum nor got tired. We were able to wrap the room and dismiss both actors by 11am. Unheard of in our previous experience.

During the shoot, I had to dash out of the room to retrieve props like a pastrami sandwich and container of soup. During that time, I got a good earful of how Garett and Owen were reading their lines. I was really pleased at what I was hearing. They also seemed to be bonding on a personal level. That's always great when actors get on personally, especially when they will be spending a great deal of time together. [for more on the food props and on the actor bonding that happened on set, you can read my personal blog about the shoot here: http://dlwarner.blogspot.com/2012/08/pastrami-epiphanies-and-actor-bonding.html. While we were shooting the Bassett/Saybrook scenes, Sunshine was helping Garett and Owen turn into Joe and Simon. As soon as we wrapped the prison breakroom set, Jon and Sunshine started set dressing Joe and Simon's living room. We had black out curtains to put up along with alternative artwork than what was on the walls. The sofa also had to be moved and the sound and lighting equipment placed.

Our small crew moved from one task to another. The routine was familiar enough that instructions weren't necessary. We walked Jack and Donal to their cars after they changed out of their costumes. It's a custom on some sets that when an actor is wrapped – they have completed the job – that the director or producer takes the time to say goodbye and thank them. Sometimes they discuss their acting choices and how they will make the film better. We like to do that no matter how small the production. I think that gesture is more important to smaller projects. Jon was very happy with the first part of the shoot, and he wanted those actors to know why.

The second half of the shoot was all Joe and Simon. It was more complex than the first. There is way more movement from the characters. Rehearsal of movements as well as dialog was necessary, so Jon could figure how to move the camera around the actors' movements. At this point, we could have broken for lunch, but that would have really slowed down the momentum of the shoot. The actors wanted to press forward. We had snacks and fruit for in between takes. Sunshine and I started heating up the meal while the guys rehearsed. We figured that even if none of the actors ate (Jack and Donal opted to head on with the rest of their schedule), the food would be a nice gift for the owner of the house.

The Joe/Simon scenes went much the same way as the Basset/Saybrook scenes with the actors moving from shot to shot with very little time in between. As always, Garett adjusted some of his lines and made them funnier and more 'Joe.' There weren't many blown takes that didn't involve a technical adjustment (moving a light or the microphone). Sometimes, our set doggie got into scenes without anyone realizing it. He was really interested when it looked like everyone was going out the front door. He thought it was time to go bye-bye. We've always had luck with sweet set doggies. I'm glad that held true. Jon was able to experiment with camera angles and the actors experimented with a few different readings of the lines. I was pleased that the blocking caused a physical intimacy between the characters while solving some editing dilemma for Jon. It is clear that these characters have a close relationship. Despite the fears of Agent Saybrook, it is very clear that Joe does not fear Simon at all. It is also clear that, despite the razzing from Joe and the mayhem that follows, Simon is content with their situation so long as no one tried to separate him from Joe. We got what we needed for the teaser by the time that part of the shoot was done. [See Teaser Gallery1 in the MENU to the right for images of Joe and Simon together.]

We also had one more set to dress before we could wrap the shoot and eat. There was a quick photo shoot on a greenscreen that was to be the final shots of the day. This was to be a taste of the flashback scenes that will be a big part of the web series. We had to find a way to hang the green screen fabric that didn't damage the walls. In the end, we used the same 3M Command Hooks that we used to hand the black out curtains in the living room. There we used a thing curtain rod that fit nicely into the hoot. All of those items were deeply discounted at Target which was having a back to school sale. The two windows cost around $15 to dress. We had extra hooks and tabs from our Christmas decorations to use on the green screen. All of the hooks came off without any damage to the paint on the walls. The authentic Japanese table was on loan from Lucy Doty and Central City Studio. Lucy was our medical consultant on Demon Under Glass. She now owns a studio in Downtown Los Angeles. The tea set was a wedding gift. The men's kimonos are mine. I've embraced many aspects of Japanese culture in the last few years. The kimonos had yet to find a use at home. I had to make the sash or obi. Getting them into those kimonos was the silliest part of the shoot by far. The dialog reflects the absurdity of the scene.

As I said in my personal blog, the speed that the shoot finished was astounding. We had the house back to the way we found it and were largely packed three hours earlier than expected. Owen had to move onto another appointment, but the food was enjoyed by the rest of us. The home owner reports that he enjoyed the leftovers immensely as did our set doggie. Most importantly, we have the right kind of footage to give potential viewers and supporters a clear idea of what the web series. We also know that we need more crew including a photographer for the behind the scenes photos. I also must schedule the pod casts we'll do during the shoot in January so that we aren't trying to cram them in between shots.

Next up for Jon is editing. Meanwhile, I have begun actively scouting for the web series and talking to potential crew and cast. But all of that is for next time.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Photo Gallery

The behind the scenes blog is in the works. Meantime, I have more photos. These are all smaller than shown in this gallery. Click on the photo for the full size.

http://demonspawntales.blogspot.com/p/teaser-trailer-gallery-2.html

The galleries are also under the links section in the menu on the right.

More to come.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Teaser Shoot Photos

I will post a full blog on the shoot later this week. Meanwhile, you can find some great photos from the shoot here:

http://demonspawntales.blogspot.com/p/teaser-trailer-gallery-1.html

This link is also in the LINKS menu on the right hand side of the page at the top.

More photos will be uploaded as soon as we can sort through them.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Early Pile

The pile as of 8-13. This covers many of the lists in the last blog.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lists and Piles and Other Fun Stuff

We are less than a week from the teaser trailer shoot. Thus, today is all about lists. There are lots of lists necessary for a shoot. There is even a list of lists. That is what I'm working on right now. The Master List has items like:

  • Cast List (contact information, clothing sizes)
  • Crew List (contact information)
  • Equipment List (every piece of rigging and the support items like batteries, gaffing tape, etc)
  • Wardrobe List (listed by character and by scene)
  • Prop List (listed by character and by scene)
  • Set Dressing List (listed by scene)
  • Make-up list (items listed and character make-up schemes, fangs, blood, etc.)
  • Shot List (ever scene that is to be shot and who and what is in each scene)
  • Still Photo List (the must have images)
  • Podcast List (questions that must be covered)
  • Craft Services list (food, beverages, snacks, plates, cups, trash bags, etc)
  • Miscellaneous (First Aid Kit, cough drops, mints, gum, cigarettes, toothbrushes)

Every production, regardless of size, has lists like these. On large productions, it is the responsibility of the department heads to make sure that they have everything they need and to check off everything on the list. On our feature, it was the line producer and the 2nd AD who made sure that all the department heads handed in their lists with everything check off. On this shoot, it will be my job to go over each list and make sure all the items are where they are supposed to be.

To make filling everything out easier, it's a good idea to have a timeline during which all the items on the list are checked off. For example, I have either ordered all that I needed for the shoot, or I have a shopping schedule that allows for a leisurely and sane acquisition of everything. The timeline also has tasks that must be completed by certain dates. For example, last week, I scouted the location for the photo shoot and made a list of props and set dressing that was on hand and a list of what was needed. Today, I contacted all of the actors to make sure they had kept their availability open. I also needed to verify clothing sizes and find out if anyone has been getting very tanned in the summer sun. This was of particular concern where Simon was concerned. Adjustments in make up would be necessary If Owen turned up in shades of George Hamilton. Tomorrow, Jon and I will scout the location for the teaser. Then, we can complete the prop and set dressing lists. The scripts go out tonight (Saturday), so there is ample time for questions and, possibly, adjustments.

This all sounds very reasonable and trouble free. However, I know from experience that on the Wednesday before the photoshoot and the Friday before the teaser shoot that I'll be running around all day. There is something staring me in the face that none of us can see right now. It's happened with not just every shoot of mine, but every one I've seen from ringside. There is always someone running around looking desperately for something that got missed on a list. As of now, I am not planning on running around too much.

A spoiler free pile. That was difficult to put together.
Once there are lists, soon there will be piles about our home. Piles are inevitable as the items on the list are acquired. They can be inconvenient and even a safety hazard, but piles are far preferable to leaving something behind. Following this sentence was a fifteen minute, mildly intense search for a set of fangs. As it turned out, they were in a bag with some of the items that arrived earlier this week. Turns out, we're more on the ball and far early than is the norm. I still think we need an extra set of fangs. At any rate, it is preferable to move the piles to a staging area at the location as soon as possible. However, that's often not practical. If the location is being rented by other productions, we would have to rent the place from the moment we put down a single bag. And even if that weren't the case, stuff gets lost at a soundstage. Things get moved to make room for other people's things. Then, there is the fact that one producer's bag of props or set dressing is another producer's bag of trash, and out it goes. The move from home to location is a chore, but it's far better than discovering that items on the list have gone missing. The great box and bag relay is just part of the gig like the gallons of coffee and dozens of bottles of water.

That's it for now. There will be some photos posted of the shoots next week, but it won't be a full blog. There will be a blog about the shoots the following week. If all goes well, there will also be a podcast with the actors from the set.

If there are any questions that you want asked during that podcast session, you can submit them in the comments below or via the contacts listed in the menu on the right side of this page. 

Until next time.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vampire Pants, Bonsai Trees and Other Necessities


This has been a crazy week where Demonspawn is concerned. I had to gather up the assets that we could depend upon before writing the script. Early on, I was getting a bit panicky, because the budget for this teaser is tens of dollars. Meanwhile, we have to produce something compelling enough to attract crowd funding. I found myself asking many incongruous questions like 'Do I still have those fangs?' 'Why are bonsai trees so expensive?' 'Why do costume versions of prison jumpsuits cost more than the real thing?' 'Does Simon really need pants?'

The Vampire Has No Pants part two

Those who followed the field notes for Demon Under Glass know that there was a problem with Simon's pants – in that, he had none as of the day before the shoot was to begin. Somehow, they were left off a list of wardrobe items. On the first day of the shoot, Phil McNamara and I had to find a thrift store and find some pants that fit and went with the rest of the outfit. That wasn't the biggest disaster of the day. That would be the queen sized mattress on the 405 freeway. But that's another story. The pants problem this time was a matter of expense. The skimpy budget for the teaser doesn't not allow me to get some of the outfits – even with the frugal methods I detailed in the first blog. I toyed with the idea of only filming Simon and Joe in half costumes. However, that wouldn't help the actors get into character. It would also set the wrong tone for how the web series shoot would be. I also believe that it would cause a lot of frivolity on set while we're on a tight schedule.

It was a puzzler. I had the modern day costumes, and I had one era for period costumes. But I needed one or two more. Then as I was crewing up, the answers began to present themselves. I was talking a friend that goes way back in our filmmaking efforts about bringing him on bard as cast and crew. Robert Lento worked with us on The Privateers. He lead a stage combat troop called Have Sword Will Travel (HSWT) that provided our pirates for the pirates' den. Since then (wow, it's been a long time), he's been honing his skills in front of and behind the camera. In fact, he has a long running, award winning webseries on his Youtube Channel. I realized that his show was set in many eras and that he had a lot of costumes for the troop's performances. Eureka! Simon will have pants and perhaps pantaloons. I can't reveal. Nor can I reveal the part Bobby will be playing in the webseries. The only thing I can say is that he plays Simon's favorite TV character for reasons that confound Joe.

I was also a bit concerned about set dressing. It has to be as period appropriate as possible down to drapery fabrics to dishes and glasses. In present day, the set dressing has to match Simon's taste for the lush and comfy as detailed in the books. Everything must make the shots look interesting. I must admit that set dressing is not a strong suit. I can gather the elements, but putting together a room that conveys a mood or a feel is something else entirely. Fortunately, Sunshine Lliteras is and she is back in Los Angeles. Sunshine was in Portland for several months working on FX for Paranorman (this film premiers on august 17th. Go see it, and take everyone you know). Sunshine is amazing with set dressing. She has an eye for it. I'll collect the items that we need, but she will turn them into magic. That shoot will be a bit of old home week for all of us. Though our productions have been very luck with hiring crew with only an exchange of emails, it will be nice to do such a tight shoot with people we know really well. It'll be fun, too.

Now that we have the production elements in place, I can write the script. It's pretty much all in my head now, so it shouldn't take very long. I will not post it until after the video is online. There are some really cool surprises that I don't want spoiled. Next time, I will go over the character interactions that we want to convey and the tension that we're trying to develop. Although, there may not be a blog next week if we get really crazy setting up for the shoot.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pirate Shirts, Guns and Bikini Inspectors -- The Search for Props and Such


I was looking at pirate shirts this past week. But that isn't really anything new.  In all honesty, I look at costumes quite often. There is a shop called Robinson Beautilities that is on one of my shopping routes. It is a make-up, wig and costume supplier to the film industry. It's a large store for a place that isn't really near any of the studios. I've rented a few costume pieces from them, but mainly I've bought wig and make-up supplies.. The staff is very helpful even for those who have no clue about what they are looking for. This day, I was looking for ideas for period costumes. We have a teaser to prep for and not much time in which to get it done. Browsing helped me figure out what we should and shouldn't try to do. Incidentally, I'm not thinking of making Simon a pirate. It's just that shirts from that era are almost universally called pirate shirts.

Last week, I had a chat with my cast about the teaser shoot. We have set a date for August 16th and 18th . I briefed them on what we had in mind for the script. The reaction was very enthusiastic so far. Hopefully, when they see the actual script, it will match what I have conjured for them. The big challenge is how to spark an interest in potential viewers who have never seen the film while giving a clear and compelling idea of what the webseries will be like. All this has to be in a zippy two to three minutes. The amount of time really isn't the problem. I've learned from shooting and editing my cooking videos that a whole lot of information can be imparted in a surprisingly short amount of time.

The running time is not the issue. It's that we are covering a lot of elements of the webseries. Thus, we have to shoot quite a bit of material in a relatively short amount of time. The script might be five pages depending upon how much description there is. The devil is in the number of scenes in those five pages. Jon has a plan about a framing device that could save us from filming every little insert. We have two sets of actors to shoot. There are Garett Maggart and Owen Szabo – Joe McKay and Simon Molinar in one part, and Jack Donner  and Donal Thoms-Cappello – Richard Bassett and Ethan Saybrook in the other. Minus the time for make-up and wardrobe, I figure we have four hours of shoot time with each of them. By the way, Donal Thoms-Cappello is one of my actor from Cook Like a Uke. His episode was Beef Curry and Beer . Technically, he's the first professional actor I've ever directed. Fortunately, Jon will be directing the teaser.

Time will be a challenge, but there is a more important aspect of the teaser that we will have to fulfill. Just as the teaser must give the viewers a clear and compelling sense of what the webseries will be like for the viewers, this shoot has to give the actors a clear, compelling and positive experience of working on it. To that end, we are doing many things in the pre-production for this shoot. First, the script has both meat for the actors to sink their teeth into and dessert for them to enjoy. I've already thought of some 'bits of business' for the Bassett/Saybrook scenes that harken back to the original film while establishing a new continuity. I've run some of the ideas for the McKay/Molinar scene with the actors and feel confident that we're on the right track. We hope to get the pages into the hands of the actors sometime next week, so they can give feedback before the shoot. In order to pull this off in the allotted time, we're going to have to block out as much as possible beforehand. We won't have an opportunity to to a table read and rehearsal. Some of the cast are not available until the week of the shoot. But this is a very short script where the actors will work in pairs. We should be fine if everything is thoroughly blocked out.

Even though we don't have a script yet, we have enough to go on that I can start ordering costumes and accoutrements. Some of the items on Ebay may take a while to get here. I had to find a replica gun for Ethan Saybrook. That wasn't very difficult in this town. The problem came with a badge and ID. I don't know how many different terms I used for the search before FBI ID brought up something other than Female Bikini Inspector. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, that is lame. The guns were an interesting dilemma. I wanted replicas with a weight to them, but I didn't want guns that fired anything like a real bullet. Even guns that fire blanks can be dangerous. These guns are pure props. They look absolutely real but don't have a mechanism for firing anything. So, Saybrook can look like a proper bad ass, and there will be no accidents. Thus far, the props budget has been within reason, and we should have everything in time.

I won't reveal anymore about the costumes. Those details would be big spoilers for what will be in the script. I'll be doing some location scouting in the upcoming week. I'll share some of those photos in the next blog.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Teasing Scripts and Fund Raising Perks


This week, we're juggling a number of tasks. First and foremost, we're working on the script for the webseries and the script for the teaser trailer. Of the two, the teaser is much more difficult. We need a really compelling teaser for the fund raising campaign. It has to be three minutes or less. There isn't an actual law about the length, but the two entities that run crowd funding campaigns, Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com recommends that teasers keep it short and to the point. Thus, we have to figure out something that captures enough of the story, makes a viewer interested in more and make them eager to donate funds.

We're in good shape with an opening. We'll use the script we used to make the book trailer a while back for part of this teaser. See above. There just needs to be a scene that captures the tone of the series and the relationship between Joe and Simon as they are on the run. It also needs to give some hints at what they are finding along their way and hints about the shows that will be spoofed. This sounds like a pile to jam into a few minutes, but it isn't too bad. I've always thought editing trailers, so that they keep a quick pace is more difficult.

In order to have this teaser finished by the time we start the fund raising campaign, we have to shoot it early in August! That only dawned a day or two after the last blog. There was a flurry of phone calls and some spit balling. There should be a script for the teaser by the end of the week. But the script is only part of what has to happen this week. We also need a plan to create perks during that shoot. The perks can't interfere with the shoot either. Beyond springing for a photographer for some really nice candid pics, I'm thinking of doing a pod cast that I will hold onto until the fundraiser. Thus, in addition to the behind the scenes blog that will run here, contributors will have access to these podcasts during the run-up to the shoot. However, there will be coverage of the teaser shoot in this blog.

This brings me to the perks themselves. There is a graduated scale of perks with these crowd funding campaigns. They begin with a thank you credit on the film and access to an exclusive newsletter with a new photo each day and increase in value to an invitation to a screening with the cast and an after party. In between are perks like an exclusive DVD, autographed posters, etc. The research on what to offer is ongoing. Among the perks being considered are a DVD release that would include the last rehearsal and the bloopers. This is a big deal as there are no plans for a DVD release of the webseries at this time. The DVD is likely to have scenes not carried in the Youtube version. Inclusion of the rehearsal will ultimately be up to the cast. Some actors can't really work through the issues with their parts if worried about fan reaction to a performance that hasn't been refined. It's something that is subject to a lot of discussion before the campaign goes up. I'm certain one perk will be a live podcast with the cast. There is also a screening and reception in the works. There is a book of full color, glossy photographs through Sybaritic Press planned as well. That book will be a limited release that only contributors, cast and crew will receive. We're still exploring other campaigns to figure out what is customary and what we can handle in a timely fashion.

That's it for now. However, I am putting a call out for translators to help us with making the web series available to more of Garett Maggart's fans. If anyone is interested, please let us know. As always, forward this blog wherever you think it will be of interest.

Next time, more on the characters and how they interact, the teaser shoot and whatever else comes up this week.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Actor Input and Eureka Moments


When we first came up with the idea for the web series, we contacted actors who we wanted in the cast to run the idea past them. I sent detailed e-mails with as much description as I could managed without having a script. There were bound to be questions along the way. Before I actually wrote the script, I wanted to sit down with the leads and go over all that we had in mind. In the case of Garett Maggart, it's great to get input from an experienced actor who has lived with the part.

He is familiar with Highlander, the series. That made explaining the flashbacks easy. The plan is that in each of the flashbacks is a way of challenging Simon on his instinctive response toward behavior that keeps his profile low and keeps Delphi off their trail. But Simon is tricky. Those flashbacks are not necessarily what happened. Joe is smart enough about Simon to know that. The flashbacks will not be at all like the ones on Highlander. The viewer will have to look really closely to see the truth and predict what actions Simon will take. There is also a big, twisted twist to the flashbacks that Garett really liked if the evil chuckle was an indication. I will not spoil those in the blog.

The parody TV shows and films met with approval. I was given some details about True Blood that I didn't know about. We also discussed a few more TV shows and movies that would make good parodies. We still have a long list of titles that we'll have to watch before we write the parodies, but I have a good starting point for a few of them. From that lively discussion, I've decided that we should put Garett's talents as a mimic to use by having Joe mock Simon about the shows he tends to watch.

Sometimes, a meeting with an actor will yield a completely unexpected outcome – and I don't mean the kind that involve the police or a restraining order or turning up in my living room wearing only underpants (That's happened twice.). Sometimes, a single comment can ignite the lightning in a bottle that makes a project really special. This revelation also changed a possible drawback to the casting into an asset. Garett said 'So Simon will be that young guy, Owen?' From that, I had a revelation. While Garett is a very long way from being old, he is a silver haired kind of handsome. We could keep him as he is appearance wise* and use the perception of Joe being older as both dramatic and comedic fodder. When looking at Owen's Simon, it's hard to wrap one's head around the vampire being over a thousand years old. Joe will occasionally forget which way the age difference goes especially when Simon acts like a frat boy in his opinion. That is a good source of humor especially when they are stuck in close quarters while keeping a low profile.

Joe's knee jerk response to Simon's youthful appearance also blunts any possibility of a bromance becoming a romance. “Even if I was interested, and I'm not, I'm no cradle robber,” is how I see Joe reacting to any kind of flirting from Simon. We'll have to keep the bromance at broadcast TV levels as we'll be on Youtube which can be a bit touchy about what's uploaded. Joe's age is also a source of danger for Joe. How long will Simon wait before making a move to keep Joe from becoming aged? There will always be that tension between them of whether or not Simon will actor to keep his companion with him forever. This dynamic is something I had never considered, and it will yield some really nice character moments.

We will be able to use the necessity of having to recast Simon to an advantage. As to how we will handle the obvious change in actors, it was decided that we will handle it the way Star Trek handled the change in Klingons between The Original Series and The Next Generation – no one shall speak of it. Demon Under Glass fans are quite an imaginative lot. I'm sure some brilliant mythos will rise that explains the change in Simon's appearance.

Another issue that came up in our discussion was Simon's wealth. I completely forgot to mention the plan to make fake famous paintings using Costco's service at the meeting. We also developed a source for fine jewelry and valuable knick knacks while developing a different project. This sort of finery would show up from time to time, depending on where they are living. Simon's wealth is also why we would be shopping in thrift stores on the west side of LA where the wealthy people live and donate clothing. We think Joe would have a reaction to living in more luxurious surroundings than he is used to. Perhaps, he'll be vaguely uncomfortable at first then grow to really appreciate it over time.

We penciled in shooting dates at the meeting. It's now set for late December between Christmas and New Year's and the first week in January excluding the holiday. That gives us time to nail down the script and run a full fund raising campaign. Speaking of the fund raising campaign, one of the perks typically offered on a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign is a screening and an after party. I chanced upon a lovely restaurant very near my neighborhood that would be ideal for an after party. The chef is from Tuscany. Her husband and co-owner was a regular on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. The food and the atmosphere are fabulous yet it has a homey vibe. It is a stone's throw away from a very nice movie theater complex that does private screenings complete with a red carpet. It is also minutes away from the Sheraton Four Points Hotel where a fan event for The Sentinel was once held. I've sent the restaurant and the theater specs for a quote.

The web series is definitely gaining momentum.

*Unless a production is paying at least the full daily rate or that actor's customary rate, a producer cannot ask them to change their hair color or hair length, shave facial hair or radically change their weight (loose or gain 50 more pounds). The look they have when they are cast is likely the look they feel will get them booked. Asking for a profound physical change could potentially cost them income. It is unprofessional to ask an actor to do that without proper compensation. Unfortunately, that means a producer also cannot prohibit an actor from engaging in activities that are potentially risky. I've just postponed a shoot, because an actor received a face injury while sparring. I'll cover all of this in another blog about casting.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

M is for Miscellaneous


Usually this catch all topic is left for the end of a given process. But I'm not doing these blogs in any particular order, and I'll likely come back to a topic more than once. Today, I am driven by questions from some very kind readers. As you will see by my detailed response, I am open to questions – even if I've covered something before.

Improv vs Scripted

One very fine question was about the script. Since web series are not as formal affairs as film or television, and some web series have mentioned that much on the screen is improv, why are we taking such painful care in writing the Demonspawn scripts. The question is especially relevant when we have a lead actor who is a very fine improv actor. Were I to hazard a guess on why other shows use improv is that they are not paying for sets or locations and they have unlimited access to them. The number one reason I can't even consider improv as the main method of acting in Demonspawn is that it takes a lot of time. Ten minutes of dialog per episode is a lot to come up with on the fly even when everyone is on the same page with their characters. It can take hours before one frame is shot. Time is the biggest enemy in any shoot, because it is very expensive. We will have one shot at each location for under the typical 12 hours of time. I'd say that we'd have 8. We may have as much as 10 if we're lucky. Some of that time will be eaten up with setting up lights, make-up and wardrobe. The clock starts the moment we all arrive in the parking lot.

That said, we aren't adverse to improv at all. One of the best moments in shooting Demon Under Glass was standing in the rain with Garett Maggart and Jason Carter re-doing the whole scene where Simon snatches the caduceus (oh, yeah. We need a new caduceus). And then there was re-writing the fight in the isolation tank between Joe and Simon. We were in their trailer firing ideas back and forth. It was really fun and very satisfying creatively. I don't thins could have happened until the actors were really familiar with their characters. That takes time with a script. To refine the script and give the actors an opportunity for input on the dialog, part of the budget will be allocated for table reads (sometimes known as pizza reads) where we just see how the dialog sounds being read by actors. Usually we find out there is too much dialog. We also want to have rehearsals after the script has been refined. This familiarity with the material will speed up the actual shoots, but it will also make improv easier and more effective. The actors will really know their characters having had more time in their heads. It's great for the actors and makes the shoots run as smoothly as possible. Contrary to popular opinion, actors don't like to wing it. A lack of a script or the barest sketch of a script indicates that the production doesn't have a clear idea of where they want to go or how they are going to get there. SAG certainly won't grant signatory status to a production that doesn't have a real script.

Music

Another question has been what music will we use for the series. Will we use the music from the film? Jon says that each new project is an opportunity to do something different. Thus, we will not be using the compositions written for Demon Under Glass. In doing the cooking videos and chatting with other web producers, I've discovered sites like http://freesoundtrackmusic.com that allows for the purchase of a limited license to original music. Searches of this site can be made by composer, mood of the scene or style of music. These licenses are specifically for Youtube. If we take the project to a higher level of distribution, we can pay an additional fee to keep those selections. There are several sites like this. Each one has hundreds of compositions.

Miscellaneous

While searching for the music sites, I ran across another kind of asset that we may make use of during the Demonspawn shoot. There are companies that offer licenses to use virtual sets. They are 3D computer generated environments into which actors can be realistically composited. The licenses for these assets are very reasonable (from $75 to $450). Fortunately, we are connected to talented people who can do these kinds of composites seamlessly. This gives us some options we hadn't considered for sets and some vampire type FX.

One more question that has come up often is are the actors reading this blog. As of this date, all the actors currently involved in the web series have the link to the blog. I notify them when I put up a new post.  Judging from the questions I've gotten back from them, they are reading the blog.

Until next time.