Handling Film Then and Now

RossTurnaround

Paul, Ross, Tony and Joe on "The Turnaround"

Paul, Ross, Tony and Joe on “The Turnaround”

In 1994 -1995, I attended Columbia College-Hollywood film school. The address was 925 North La Brea in Hollywood, CA. It’s the main corner of La Brea + Santa Monica Blvd. The area was a bit more run-down looking back then. There wasn’t this huge outlet mall with Target and a bunch of restaurants. Carl’s Jr. was actually still there on the corner as of the past year or so before they built some apartment building. (I wish I could take back half the cheeseburgers I had there.) Mole Richardson used to be across the street from the school. All of our school’s lights were acquired from there. And Mole Richardson is not there anymore. We hung out at the infamous Formosa Cafe which is still around. There’s too much Hollywood history in that place for it to go away. There used to be a little Mexican Taco stand on the corner too. Gone. And years ago Columbia College-Hollywood picked up and moved to the San Fernando Valley, Tarzana to be exact. The school moved into the old Panavision building.

When I went to interview on Thursday, June 26th, at Richard Photo Lab at 979 North La Brea, a few doors down from where Columbia College-Hollywood (CC-H) used to be, I couldn’t help but think back to those early days of working with film, 16MM film. Wearing thin white gloves, cutting on Moviolas, flatbeds, editing scenes of “Gunsmoke.” “Abby, do you want to go with him or stay with me?” I recall preparing some dailies from a short film I was producing, writing and directing called “The Turnaround.” The lead actor, Tony Assini, was meeting me to view the dailies. Not long before Tony arrived, I had done the ONE THING you never do when handling a film reel, especially larger ones. I held the reel up from its sides. So, if the film or work print as it’s known was tight I might have been okay. But this was not the case. The center DROPPED! Oye! The film unraveled EVERYWHERE in this maybe 10 x 15 foot room. It was probably a bigger room, but looked a lot smaller when filled with 16MM film. So, Tony arrived and was gracious enough to help me weed out the giant spaghetti bowl I had created.

“The Turnaround” was filmed in various locations including CC-H, a bar in Calabasas and on Romaine Ave. Romaine sits parallel in between Santa Monica and Willoughby. It is also where my cast and crew staged a ‘mugging scene’ for The Turnaround near the school.

Action shot of actor Dale Duko mugging Tony Assisni in "The Turnaround."

Action shot of actor Dale Duko mugging Tony Assini in “The Turnaround.”

Ross and Dale discuss scene

Ross and Dale discuss scene

Ross on Set

What are you filming me for?

We filmed an additional scene at the end of this block of Romaine where Tony who plays aspiring actor Daniel Frenzy crosses the street without looking at the on-coming car. The black Eclipse you see in the mugging scene above was used for both scenes (my old car). My mother AKA Set Mom was the driver who mouthed the words, “I’m sorry.” So, I drove a black Eclipse and I wore my Alice In Chains cap. This was roughly February 1995. What a time capsule, huh? Oh, and I’m wearing my University of Hartford sweatshirt from the college I graduated from before heading West.

That photo at the very top of this blog was taken outside The Pelican’s Retreat bar in Calabasas. That place also closed. But that picture represents one of the happiest and most zen-filled moments in my life. I was in film school writing, directing and producing short films….on film I might add. And really thought I was making the film that would launch my career. That instant success never happened from this or any other film I’ve written, produced, directed or edited over the last twenty years. You can lose your mind over the ‘what-ifs.’ Although I haven’t made it yet, I am grateful for the people that have helped me along the way. I could not have made “The Turnaround”

Sean Kinney is SKUNK!

Sean Kinney as SKUNK!

without the exceptional crew I had made mainly of students and one friend, Sean Kinney, who plays Skunk in the film. I did have one project manager who was a tight-ass…so I kicked them off my shoot. And I am so honored to this day, over twenty years later how lucky I got with my cast. This was a student film. No one was being paid. I have worked with many great people on so many projects.

In my first ten years of pursuing a career as a screenwriter and director, I wrote many scripts and there was that traffic movie. Rubbernecking was conceived actually on the 10 freeway on the way to pick up props for “The Turnaround.” Sean Kinney knew a guy who had gun and holster props. Sean and I got stuck in horrible traffic and that became “Rubbernecking.” A few years of us writing and re-writing. Some financing woes. Finally raising enough money. We filmed in the summers of 1998 and 1999. After working with various editors over the next few years, it seemed that “Rubbernecking” would itself never get out of traffic. It was never picked up for distribution.

Turnaround Audition Scene

Turnaround Audition Scene

I think the one regret I have about Columbia College was not mastering a specific skill like camera or editing early on. That way I could get continued work while pursuing my true passions of writing and directing. I did take up some Avid courses early on, but didn’t have connections or leads to work. It wasn’t until 2005 when I started learning Final Cut Pro that I took editing seriously. It was going to be my day job. Well, it was more of my day job to pursue editing work. I got some decent gigs in 2008, but realized my technical know-how was limited. I found it was difficult to learn After Effects. Companies big and small were requiring more and more of editors so I stuck to being a picture editor. I’m a storyteller! Give me a film that has issues in story and I’ll reassemble the pieces into an even better story.

Jobs have been very hard to come by. I’ve worked in real estate companies. I worked at a non-profit charity for the blind. In 2010, I landed in Las Vegas to stay with family and seek out opportunities there. I had some great article writing opportunities, but they weren’t consistent enough. I couldn’t find much editing work there either. I did leave Vegas with some interesting projects; Social Media Film Festival and a short film called You Are What You Eat.” In 2013, I moved back to LA. I had to be where the real action remains. So, I’ve been working part time jobs because I can’t find a full time job. So, when I went into this job interview on Thursday, June 26th, I was seeking a full time opportunity.

Ross on Romaine 2014

Ross on Romaine 2014

They were offering a full time position that was only going to or through November. Bill, the guy interviewing me said, “You’re over qualified.” I told him that I know and that I can’t get hired anywhere because of that. He wanted to know what line of work I was pursuing and I told him editing, but that I was ‘under-qualified’ to get editing work. So, I’m a rock in a hard place. He hired me and I started the next day, Friday June 27th. Now, the job is prepping film after it dries from developing. Film. That’s right. I said film. Photographers are still shooting film. A lot of the film coming in now is weddings. So, when the film comes out on a tray I make sure the film is dry. I cut off the edges with a scissor to clean it up. I match up the numbers on the film with the numbers on the orders. Sometimes the exposure of the film is pushed or pulled so we add the amount on stickers and place them on the film. I really like this job. I love being able to handle film when I thought I’d never handle film ever again. Even though it’s twenty years later and I still haven’t made it as a screenwriter or film director, I am surviving. This job was a blessing at a time when finding work seemed bleak. I had been working at Barnes & Noble since February 2014. It was supposed to be a full time position at a certain pay rate. In two weeks B & N told me that they’re putting the position I applied for on-hold. With that, my $11.50 pay was going down to $8. As if that wasn’t bad enough, my hours quickly went from the 30’s and 20’s to 9 HOURS A WEEK!!!!! What? I looked at it as a paid internship. So, on Thursday night, I decided to go shopping at a bigger B & N store to purchase some books for my niece and nephew and two screenwriting books and some dark chocolate for Uncle Ross. I used my ’employee discount’ one last time and headed to my B & N store in Marina Del Rey to tell the MOD or Manager On Duty:

I QUIT!

Don’t you love quitting a job you can’t stand? The job itself wasn’t bad, but I could not catch a break at this store. Of course it would be nice to make $15, $20, $30 an hour as I have before. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get that money on my next job. But for now, the Summer and this Fall, I will be happily getting paid $10 an hour to handle 135, 120, 220 color and black and white negative film. I work with these two older Thai guys who train me. They talk Thai to each other. And when I speak with them I often find myself guessing what they’re saying back to me. They’re great guys and the whole company seems like one big happy family and that’s how Bill described the team. Bill actually set up a BBQ grill behind our building today and cooked Kiełbasa sausages for the whole company in pre-July 4th celebration. And I made it through my first week. Who knows where this position will lead me? Right now I’m enjoying the work and the journey. I can’t think of a better $10 an hour full time than this one. In 1995, I was looking ahead to where the next 20 years would take me. Physically, I may be on the same street. Mentally and emotionally I am where I need to be. And I still hold on to those same dreams I had 20 years ago. Where will I be 20 years from this point? Hopefully, I will be filling my soul with what I hadn’t filled it with the 20 years before. Happy July 4th!

Ross makes it look good

Ross makes it look good

“Godzilla!” Shouted No One

Godzilla 2014

Godzilla 2014

There are a good amount of movies out now as the Summer movies kick in. The one movie I was dying to see I finally saw tonight. He’s tall, rough and green, but not really that mean. Yes, I saw “Godzilla.” I wasn’t expecting the greatest movie ever, but had heard some good reviews. One thing I had heard beforehand a few times was how good Bryan Cranston is and how he should have been in the film more.

The screenplay is very good. It’s such a great set-up at the start with Cranston’s Joe Brody losing his wife that I felt they could have kept him on to help out. Ken Watanabe’s character, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, points to Cranston’s character, Joe Brody and his son, Lt. Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and says he wants ‘them.’ Really, he wants Joe Brody who knew why things were happening and was tracking these frequencies and seismic events.  Joe Brody was by far the strongest character. Aaron (“Kick-Ass”) plays a solid lead, but the audience member isn’t truly rooting for him like they were or at least I was for his father. There’s this picture Joe finds of himself, his son and his wife when he investigates his old home and then its discarded. It’s cliche, but would have made a nice emotional connection and possible moment for the son to have the photo and re-connect with his mother. We do see that Lt. Brody has a photo of his own wife and son, but it doesn’t ring as truthful. And although Lt. Brody leads some great action, the title of the film is “GODZILLA.” [INSERT LOUD DINOSAUR ROAR HERE]. I felt like the battle between Godzilla and these other ancient creatures, the MUTOs, were more in the background and the military were more in the spotlight. As soon as Nevada was mentioned I knew they were going to Yuca Mountain and sure enough there it was. One of the MUTOS found there goes and destroys Las Vegas, but we see it through TV and other screens. It would have been nice to see and hear the creature damaging casinos and seeing tourists there run for their lives, but perhaps it was a budget call. (I hope the creature left Downtown LV alone as I really like it and Summerlin since my parents live there. Better call Mom & Dad tomorrow and make sure they’re okay. Perhaps Tony Hsieh bribed the ‘female’ creature with a million boxes of shoes. She was pregnant after all. Zappos would probably have to work out the size issue. )

Godzilla Old School

Godzilla Old School

For a moment I thought there might have been an interesting exchange between Lt. Brody and Godzilla as both were battling these creatures, but had some sort of mutual respect for each other. Perhaps this was a missed opportunity for a connection. The only other thing I would have liked to have seen is a little more recognition of Godzilla being a hero. The following is definitely a missed opportunity! This poor Japanese boy gets stuck on the train away from his parents and Lt. Brody looks after him. Wouldn’t it be a perfect callback to have this little boy at the end shout “Godzilla!” He could have been watching it on TV maybe with his parents.

I’m picking on a few things here, but I really enjoyed it. A great popcorn film! I sneaked in some chocolate into the AMC in Marina Del Rey. I wanted to check out AMC and its wonderful luxury seats. Frankly, I had been in a theater like that before. I’ve taken forever to go to this theater as seats are $20!!! I was comfortable and opened the seat to lay down, but I didn’t need the waiters and waitresses interrupting throughout the movie. Water or a Coke shouldn’t cost $5 either. There’s always Pacific Theater down the street in Culver City. (I wasn’t going to make the 7:45pm showing in Culver City so I opted for the 9:30pm show at the AMC.)

I purposely skipped the 1998 Godzilla remake as it looked cheesy. This 2014 version at least makes Godzilla some sort of hero. He’s always been my hero. Godzilla is a symbol for my childhood. I must have seen a few Godzilla films at the Drive-Ins as I remember, but I definitely and religiously watched Godzilla movies growing up. To me, Thanksgiving and some other holidays meant a bunch of monster movies would be on back to back. King Kong, Jason & the Argonauts, Laurel & Hardy, etc. Those were the days. Go go Godzilla!

You Are What You Eat

Ross with iPad Slate

Ross with iPad Slate

It’s not a perfect world and may never be. Perhaps nature is not meant to be perfect. Plants as well as animals adapt to their ever-changing environment in order to survive. And humans are constantly seeking new ways to innovate and make things better such as the process of farming. It’s one thing to try ways to suppress the insects and weeds that overcome our crops. But there comes a time when there’s too much experimentation and too little knowledge about possible side effects that GMOs or genetically modified organisms have on the humans, animals, insects and plants on Planet Earth.

My diet has changed over the years after taking an allergy test when I turned 30. All of a sudden, I was allergic to my favorite foods including corn. Corn was my favorite vegetable and fun to eat as a kid. There’s special little forks you stick into the ear of the corn and you can eat it like a typewriter. DING!  Am I allergic to corn or just GMO corn? Is it just me or are more and more kids getting allergies?

Over the years, various doctors have found additional conditions that made me take a closer look at the food I consume. Before 2012, I didn’t really know what a GMO was. Is there pesticide in all of our crops?

Fish-eye of Set

There seems to be a lot of information being kept from the public and not shared in the mainstream news. You hear small stories about a million bees dying in this town or that town. WTF? You don’t hear too much in depth talk about what makes up the food we eat. Pesticide is in our meat too? Cows and pigs are corn fed with GMO seeds? Do these animals get sick from GMOs? Could humans get sick from GMOs? When the FDA lets the biotech corporation, Monsanto, regulate it’s own seeds, the corporation has no one to report to but themselves. Of course, they’ll pass their own safety inspections.

With what seems to be an increasing amount of diseases taking over America, I decided to make a little short film called “You Are What You Eat” to make people think about the food they eat on a daily basis. With a little humor and a dash of science fiction I hope this film will make people think about where they go food shopping. To go organic or not? I find myself reading labels now for ingredients, looking out for high fructose corn syrup, etc. Will people literally turn into corn? Well, I don’t think people will turn into corn. Will we start growing tumors like the rats in those little known experiments? Shouldn’t our food be labeled as genetically modified? Monsanto’s only fear is losing their money making machine.

Tale gets Make-Up

Tala gets Make-Up

So, on Sunday August 4th, 2013, a skeleton cast and crew of six people including stills photographer, Julie Bergonz AKA The Sin City Shooter, set out to film “You Are What You Eat.”

Anthony & Tala_gmo_sign

Anthony & Tala GMO sign

The shoot involved some colorful make-up, a special wig and a dash of movie magic! While make-up artist Amanda Martinez applied yellow make-up to actress, Tala Marie, Director of Photography, Russell Thomas, and I went outside to film actor Anthony Avery driving and arriving home. I did my ‘Hitchcock’ by walking my dog, Charlie, as the ‘picture car’ pulled up behind us. I was wearing a surgical mask and when the next door neighbors pulled up to their driveway they asked, “Are you okay? Are you sick?”

Russell, Anthony and I then went to grab some shots guerilla-style in front of a grocery store. We filmed Anthony exiting the store and heading to his car. An old man saw us holding a camera and replied, “Take my picture.” By the time we returned to my parents’ house, the main location, Tala had transformed into Amy AKA corn-woman! Before the shoot, I had picked out a few possible wigs at some wig shops. Tala met me at one of the shops. As soon as she placed this yellow beehive-like wig on her head I knew that was the one. It was an awesome feeling seeing a character you thought up come to life in both yellow skin topped off by this crazy yellow beehive wig. A corny comedy was brewing.

Amy and Stan action

Amy and Stan action

The story takes place some time in the near future when air quality is weak and people believe GMO foods are making them sick. (Perhaps it’s not too fictional.) Stan, played by Anthony, returns from the grocery store. When Amy discovers Stan bought GMO corn she’s immediately upset. “You bought genetically modified corn?”

We blocked the action and went to work. We used an iPad app to slate takes. The film was shot with a Canon 7-D DSLR in 24 frames for a film-look. It was a one-day shoot with two locations. Since the film had a positive message about being aware of what you eat, we had Chipotle bowls and burritos for lunch. Chipotle is one of the few food companies keeping GMOs out of their food. If you are what you eat, practice what you preach. Even the corn used as a prop was purchased at Whole Foods.

With the upcoming March Against Monsanto on October 12, 2013, I thought this blog would be timely for both the march and the film as I’m starting to share it with the world. Marches are taking place all over the world. You can check the link above for march locations. For more entertaining research check out the following list of films:

King Corn  (website)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvMxIEgbsIo (film link)

Seeds of Death   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUd9rRSLY4A (film link)

Vanishing of the Bees  http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/vanishing_of_the_bees/ (film link)

Also check out my Pinterest Board for more videos on GMOs.

Amanda, Ross, Tala, Anthony, Russell

Amanda, Ross, Tala, Anthony, Russell

You Are What You Eat Pre-Production

UNLV Coffee Bean, one of two casting locations on You Are What You Eat

UNLV Coffee Bean, one of two casting locations on You Are What You Eat

Finally, I am finished with the casting process. Auditions took place at the Usr/Lib above The Beat Coffeehouse and at the UNLV Coffee Bean.

Today was the start of pre-production on my comedy short “You Are What You Eat.” It’s a corny comedy about GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms. I met with our make-up artist, Amanda Martinez, at Star Costume & Theatrical Supply store. I purchased some yellow make-up and looked at some wigs. Then I went to check out some additional wig shops.

Yellow Make-Up on Hand

Yellow Make-Up on Hand

It feels so good to be collecting all the elements for a new short film. My last short, “The Octo Circus” was in 2009. The film was a spoof on the Octo Mom and the pregnant man. What a strange society we live in.

I’m very excited about “You Are What You Eat.” It’s not just a comedy. It shares a message and a warning about the foods we eat. If corporations are going to continue lying to American consumers, we need to take a stand. Foods are not labeled GMO and need to be. We should know what’s in our food.  Genetically modified vegetables such as corn are being re-created with pesticide and being sprayed on top of that. These poisonous large monoculture fields are disrupting bees natural ability to pollinate and survive. Bees are dying off by the millions. People are getting sicker. Cancer is not going away. It seems to be getting worse. Diseases we didn’t hear about growing up like Autism are in the mainstream. GMOs are being banned in numerous countries around the world, but not America. And the bill to protect corporation Monsanto slipped in when no one in congress was looking. Distractions divert our attention in the news away from the truth or bigger more important news items. Why aren’t there new stories about GMOs in the news? Think about who owns the news. People need to get together whether by sharing posts on social media, marching during protests or make the news. Even boycotting corn! I’m directing a short film. 

Today also happens to be the day MAM, March Against Monsanto, orgs around the world posted videos representing the May 25th, 2013 march and announcing the next worldwide march October 12th, 2013. Here’s the MAM Las Vegas video from GMO-Free Vegas.

3 Years in Vegas

>Run DMZ - I Think I'll Go to North Korea Today

DMZ border of North and South Korea

Wow! Has it been three years since I landed at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas? On July 12th, 2010, I was flying back from South Korea on an ESL teaching job. I only spent 7 weeks there instead of the one year I was supposed to put in. It was a major career turn as I’m constantly seeking ways to make a living. The film business may be easy for some people, but for the majority it’s very, very hard. I used to have larger-than-life dreams about the film industry, but that’s transitioned into making a living in film. And I keep coming back to film no matter how difficult it is. I may not be a master of any one particular job such as screenwriting, directing or video editing, but I love doing them. Sacrifice is a given in this business. For various reasons, I let my first love of screenwriting sit on a shelf for many years while trying to make a living as a video editor.

Ross Directs "The Octo Circus"

Ross Directs “The Octo Circus”

Ross edits TV pilot

Ross Edits TV pilot

My thought was that I would edit film or TV by day and write at night. Directing seems to come with inspiration when I’m totally broke. In 2009, when I was struggling to make a living as an editor, I made a $400 short film, “The Octo Circus” inspired by the Octo Mom. I only entered a handful of film festivals as they’re expensive. The film did not get into any festivals, but has been getting a steady stream of You Tube hits.

At the end of 2009, I took a course in teaching ESL or English as a Second Language course. At the end of May 2009, I boarded a plane from Las Vegas (where my parents live) to Seoul, South Korea. When the director informed me after a few weeks that I wouldn’t be teaching for more than a month, I spent every weekend touring all over Seoul and taking in everything; museums, palaces, tourist traps, the DMZ. It was a great experience.

Viva Las Vegas!

Ross hikes in Red Rock

Ross at Red Rock Cyn.

What am I going to do here? Re-Inventing myself was a topic I spoke on in 2012 at a Delivering Happiness Inspire event. I’m proud of the accomplishments I’ve made here in Las Vegas. Although work has not been consistent, I’ve had some opportunities I might not have had in LA.

Ross writes about Duran Duran for Vegas 7 Magazine.

Ross writes about Duran Duran for Vegas 7 Magazine.

  • Wrote a first person article about my experience attending TribeFest, a gathering of Jewish Federations from all over North America for David Magazine
  • Had a 4 page story about my career in David Magazine
  • Became a RAW Artist as a filmmaker at first RAW event in Las Vegas with “The Octo Circus”
  • Have written and still write concert reviews periodically for Vegas Seven Magazine; Scott Weiland, ZZ Top, Tesla, Matisyahu, Crosby and Nash
  • Have been an active member of the LV Screenwriting Group
  • Incorporated my production company, In Your Head Productions, LLC
  • Founded and was the Festival Director for Social Media Film Festival that took place at The Mirage in 2012
  • Interviewed on various radio stations including the Las Vegas Social Media Show
  • Been involved with various TV pilots as an editor and other film and video projects
Rianne, Rayna & Ross at RAW

Rianne, Rayna & Ross at RAW

SMFF Crew @ Royal House

SMFF Crew @ Royal House

What’s next? Where will I be in the years to come?

Social Media Film Festival was a success, but not the type of success I was hoping for even in its first year. Some more sponsorship and money would be needed the next time around. I do hope to put SMFF on again some day. Currently, I’m teaching myself Avid Media Composer in hopes of making that technical skill and system how I make a living. Either I will find work on TV or film projects back in Los Angeles or some other skill will help me find more work here in Las Vegas. I’m prepping to soon direct a no-budget short film comedy about genetically modified foods. In addition, I am working on a new screenplay. It simply feels good to be writing again and working on a new idea instead of beating my head against the wall re-writing old screenplays.

There are some really cool people here in Las Vegas and I hope to stay in touch whether my work and/or career brings me back to LA or not. We are a little bit passed the half-way mark of 2013. I feel inspired and motivated to make things happen.

Ross Picalum Pose

Ross Picalum Pose

Scott Weiland @ The Pearl

Scott WeilandAll aboard! Former Stone Temple Pilots singer, Scott Weiland, stepped on stage, sporting aviator sunglasses, looking dapper in a sharp suit about 30 minutes late with his band, the Wildabouts. The 90-minute concert showcased mostly STP hits from albums, “Core” and “Purple.” After Weiland rambled about hearing Elvis whispering on stage, he shouted into his characteristic megaphone and launched into “Crackerman.” The 75 percent full crowd in their 30’s and 40’s stood up and cheered as Weiland performed “Wicked Garden.” Some fans enduring seats on the floor eventually snuck up to the stage.

The first half of the show was strong. Weiland worked his strange, wavy dance moves all over the stage and laid down to feel Doug Grean’s guitar solo. At the end of “Dead & Bloated,” Grean let fans run their fingers along the strings. Weiland connected with first row fans, fist bumping, slapping, shaking hands and tossing a pair of sunglasses into the crowd.

Scott WeilandThe second half of the show suffered due to their late arrival and Weiland’s weakening vocals. The Wildabouts seemed to tolerate Weiland’s antics, musings and ramblings. Some fans encouraged Weiland during some hiccups. Because of lost time, Weiland skipped some damn good STP classics; “Interstate Love Song” and “Sex Type Thing.” Weiland seems to too often reach a point when the train is leaving and he must be on it. A loud siren rang before the band’s encore. It was warning fans to lower expectations. Feeling uninspired, “Unglued” and Doors cover, “L.A. Woman” prolonged this train wreck. Weiland missed an opportunity to pay tribute to legendary Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzarek whom passed away earlier in the week. After all his strange babble, Weiland was first to exit the stage with nothing further to say. I guess he had a train to catch.

Some high points were “Creep,” Jane’s Addiction’s “Mountain Song” and David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie” as Weiland took the liberty to climb a large stack of speakers to pull out an American flag from The Pearl’s wall. Weiland paraded his patriotism, flag in hand, marching and dancing around the stage. Love him or hate him, Scott Weiland is the quintessential, flawed rock star.

Vegas Seven Magazine article

 

LV Supermeet 2013

 IMG_2658

Supper Meat before Supermeet

Supper Meat before Supermeet

Video editors, filmmakers and consumers of the post-production industry gather at the 12th Annual Supermeet during the week of NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters, to discover the latest in digital post technology. Supermeet took place at its usual location, the Amazon Ballroom, inside the Rio on Tuesday, April 9th, 2012 to roughly a thousand post-fanatic geeks. Hosting Supermeet as usual were Daniel Berube of the Boston branch BOSCPUG and Michael Horton of the Los Angeles branch, LACPUG. All of the post-production groups make up what’s called Creative Pro User Group with CPUGs all over the world.

Before Supermeet, one needs to take advantage of ‘supper meat,’ the appetizers served before the event. Veteran Supermeeters know to get there early. It may not be fast food,  but it does go fast.

A last minute surprise addition opened the event with DSLR guru, Vincent Laforet, showing off his new toy, the Movi, a small and light enough device that holds DSLR cameras so they can move effortlessly no matter what obstacles get in its way.
 

 

Adobe SpeedGrade

Adobe SpeedGrade

What used to be a main Final Cut Pro soapbox, has become a smorgasbord of NLE systems. Avid showcased its newest features in Media Composer 7 that dropped this week for ONLY $999. Adobe showcased new features in many of its platforms including Premiere Pro, SpeedGrade for color correction and After Effects and its new exciting partnership with Cinema 4-D.  And apparently the Coen Brothers plan on editing their next film on Premiere Pro according to Al Mooney, the product manager for Premiere Pro.

Autodesk’s Smoke wowed the tech-heavy crowd. Filmmaker Anthony Brownmoore did a demo on how he used Smoke on his short film, “REP 5091.” Blackmagic Design and Red Giant had demos as well. Strangely enough, there was nothing new to demo for FCP X two years after its announcement and first look at Supermeet in 2010. Maybe they’ll make the cut next year.

In the middle of the event a break from festivities lets the digital gurus roam the sponsors’ booths and network with other digital post geeks.

Scott Squires and Scott Ross

Scott Squires and Scott Ross

The second half of the show was dedicated to the status of the VFX industry. Perhaps you’ve seen profiles on FaceBook and Twitter turned green. Since the Academy Awards, an issue has risen to the surface that’s been simmering for many years. The VFX industry has been suffering more drastically in recent years. We have seen the end of famous VFX studios such as Rhythm & Hues and Digital Domain among many other VFX companies that have gone bankrupt. To put this all in focus, Scott Ross, the Co-Founder and CEO of Digital Domain and Academy nominated VFX supervisor, Scott Squires, addressed the audience with the facts.

Imagine big visual effects oriented movies without the actual VFX. Scott Squires asked the crowd what “Life of Pi” would look like? A boy in a boat talking to a tiger hand puppet is not going to cut it. Ross added, “Claudio Miranda won an Oscar for best cinematography.” Basically, the Oscar winner shot a boy in a boat in a pool surrounded by bluescreen.  All the truly amazing work that brought life to the FX heavy film was added later.

IMG_2669

More movies are relying on visual effects to return the movie studios’ investments at the box office. That’s fine for the movie studios, but what about the artists working their butts off 60, 70, 80 hours a week and not seeing an amount of pay to reflect it?

“Most countries have a cap of 60 hours a week. We typically start at 60 and go up from there,” said Scott Ross. He added, “It’s not unusual to work seven days a week.”

VFX companies have at times built VFX studios in Vancouver, Canada so movie studios got tax rebates. And then you have the VFX artists moving their families only to be out of work when the project’s over. What do they do then? Visual effects cost millions of dollars. And there’s no union whatsoever. VFX companies have been ‘under-bidding’ to compete with other VFX companies. And movie studios will start outsourcing VFX more to places like India for even cheaper labor.

IMG_2673Scott Ross informed the crowd of a meeting to take place in May in Los Angeles with as many of the top VFX companies as he can to discuss the possibilities of a trade association. The industry needs to set regulations and assist the individual VFX artists with better working situations including perhaps points in the films they work on. It was a very serious note and very appropriate to take place at Supermeet. Scott Ross and Scott Squires received a standing ovation from the very empathetic audience.

IMG_2677Supermeet always satisfies editors’ exciting curiosity of what’s next in digital post-production and the knowledge of where the industry stands. Things happen and change so often now in this business that one needs to stay informed to survive. If that’s not enough there’s always the giant raffle of amazing prizes at the end of the evening. Grown men with busting guts shout at the top of their lungs, run the entire length of the ballroom when their ticket is called after winning something cool. Supermeet brings out the child in all of us.

Additional Article on Visual Effects at Supermeet.

Luxury+ Galaxy Theatres Re-Open with a Bang!

Luxury + Galaxy Theatres

It’s been roughly eight years since Galaxy Theatres closed down in the Green Valley Town Center of Henderson, NV. Thursday, March 7th, 2013, was the night of the Grand Opening. It was a magical kick-off with free popcorn, wine and a ‘yellow’ carpet. I was lucky enough to be invited by an associate, Juergen Barbusca. I had gone to the Galaxy Theatres in Los Angles, CA, but this theatre was new to me in many ways.

A ribbon-cutting started things off. Of course, Henderson is very much a part of Las Vegas. And Las Vegas is nothing without showgirls.

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IMAX-sized Screen!

IMAX-sized Screen!

What makes these eight movie theatres luxurious? Well, for one, you can order alcohol. Two of the eight screens are IMAX size. There’s plenty of room in each aisle. And then there’s the comfy, reclining leather seats! Unless a customer is in the IMAX theatres or watching a 3-D movie, prices will reflect regular movie prices. WOW! And reclining seats include food trays. What else do you need? You’re in movie-going heaven!

Oz, The Great and Powerful

Oz, The Great and Powerful

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the movie the theaters were screening that night was “OZ, The Great and Powerful.”

We got a unique preview of the film before its official opening. So, I did what was natural. I placed my popcorn and drink on the tray.

Then I reclined the leather seat so I could feel at home. Hopefully, the Luxury+ Galaxy Theatres will be open for many, many years to come.

Leather Reclining Seats

Leather Reclining Seats



Leather Reclining Seats CU
    

Reclining Ross

Reclining Ross


 

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

ZZ Top Has Legs

Baby boomers and slightly younger fans crowded the House of Blues in Las Vegas, hooting and hollering with anticipation. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s party time,” said the cute young, blond girl in the video that opened the show. At 10:20pm, those sharp dressed men, bassist Dusty Hill and guitarist Billy Gibbons, entered the stage with their classic long beards, cowboy hats, dark suits and cheap sunglasses. Ready to rock! Beardless Frank Beard, wearing a tee-shirt, pounded the drums. The trio powered through their entire 80 minute set promoting new album, La Futura, without any breaks. Gibbons wished the House of Blues a Happy 20th Birthday. “We’ve been doing this for 4 decades,” he added and the lively crowd cheered.

ZZ Top at HOB Las Vegas

ZZ Top at HOB Las Vegas

The show was a warm and fuzzy look back at ZZ Top’s great bluesy music and rockin’ hits over the years. Video clips, live shots of the band and other visuals enhanced the songs on-screen behind the band. Classic MTV videos played along-side “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Legs” while other songs had visuals such as pretty girls driving cars. Old movie clips of Vincent Price accompanied “Vincent Price Blues.”

At one point in the show, the band took a license plate from a fan. It read: ZZ TOPS. They passed it around on stage to sign. Gibbons then pretended to be an auctioneer, bidding. “Do I hear 25? 25?” The fan got their license plate back eventually.

Folks kicked up their heels to “Tube Snake Boogie.” There was a lot of 70’s and 80’s nostalgia in the air. I purchased that same famous ‘ZZ’ keychain I had and lost over 10 years ago. For their last few songs including “La Grange” and “Tush,” Gibbons and Hill switched out their guitars for those crazy white and fuzzy ones that spin. The only thing that would have completed the experience for me was if they actually spun those guitars live just once. Well, at least the guitars spun in the video clip. This was a solid performance and this is the perfect band for this venue. ZZ Top has legs.

 

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