Category Archives: Filmmaking

Blogs here include my film experiences at industry events, screenings, movies whether they’re mine or other filmmakers.

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

LV Supermeet 2013

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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.

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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.

Registered and Relieved

After years of placing my first passion, screenwriting to the sidelines, I have finally registered a NEW screenplay with the Library of Congress.

I’m fairly sure the last screenplay I registered was for “American Quest” back in 2001 about young Iranian male teens looking to leave the wrath of Khomeni’s 1980’s Revolution. Inspired by a true story. So many years of juggling other projects including feature film, “Rubbernecking”, struggling to work as a video editor, etc.

In the last five years, I started playing around with some screenplay ideas. I’ve been working on and off on two very different stories.

This screenplay I registered today is a dark, supernatural high school drama. You could call this a teaser. I’m not even giving out the title. It’s only a first draft. There will be more drafts to come. But it just feels so good to finally accomplish what used to be second nature to me. It’s been too long! I used to crank out first drafts like drafts of beer. Well, I no longer drink like a fish. There’s nothing like finishing a good first draft and feeling great about the second draft. And look! IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT!

That Brad Garrett

So, last week I’m working at my freelance editing gig at a post facility in Las Vegas. I’m working on a TV reality pilot. The day before I was informed that Brad Garrett was coming in to do some voice over for an upcoming animated feature film. I think it was going direct to video. I was hoping to meet Mr. Garrett. I had two stories I’d like to share with him.

Story #1: At a post facility in Woodland Hills, CA, I met Brad’s step-father, Lionel, who was waiting to pick up some materials. We exchanged business cards. Months later, Lionel and Brad’s mother attended a screening of my feature film, “Rubbernecking.” (Titled “Accidents Don’t Happen” at the time)

Story #2: When the hot new throwback model of the Ford Thunderbird was coming out, Brad Garrett was in line to get one at the Calabasas dealer. Brad Garrett, who stands  6′ 8″ could not fit into the car and ended up not purchasing it. Next in line was my father and he still has that car today although it’s losing its umph.

Unfortunately, I just missed Mr. Garrett as he left the facility. I did hear him enter initially with his distinct animated character voice. Later, I viewed some clips of his filmed performance. As an animated film subject, actors need to be filmed so the drawings of facial expressions can be accurate and give the animated characters the character of the actor.

CES 2012

This was my first experience at CES and definitely not my last. I had a blast! So much to see. So much new technology! Apps, apps and more apps.

108 Shorts…Dam!

In its 8th year, the Dam Short Film Festival puts on a great showcase of 108 short films in a small town setting in Boulder City, Nevada. It was my first time attending this festival and I was very impressed. The wide variety of programs start at 11am in the morning and run until 11pm. Being the Founder of Social Media Film Festival, I opted to get the weekend pass so I could see as many films as possible. I skipped the last programs of each day as it’s a good 45 minute drive to and from my home in Las Vegas. If I had a chance in catching the 11am program the next day, skipping the 11pm program was ideal.

Some films at DSFF I had seen at other local film festivals such as VIFF. They are also some of the shorts I really liked; “Walter Was Here,” “The Southern Belle,” and “Love on a Saturday.”

“Walter Was Here” was a part of the Nevada Filmmakers Showcase along with “Lady and the Chap,” a modern Chaplin-style silent film that came out of last year’s 48 Hour Film Fest.

Nevada Filmmakers

One of my favorite programs was Sci-Fi: Past and Future Friends. “Chorebot” may be my favorite short of the festival. It won for Best Sci-Fi film. “Chorebot” was about a robot and a dog that were neither getting any attention from their master, a man that couldn’t take his eyes off his tablet from minute he wakes up until the minute he leaves and repeating himself when he returns home. The relationship between the robot and the dog is more human than any relationship their master had. Other Sci-Fi standouts were “Shrodinger’s Box” about an cat experiment and a very funny “How to Kill Your Clone.”

“UMOJA: No Men Allowed” is about a group of women in Kenya that leave their tribe to form their own tribe because they’re sick of the way their men treat them like pets. The film won the Best Documentary award and deserved it. I liked it a lot.

Another short I very much enjoyed was “A Finger, Two Dots, Then Me,” a spoken word piece that won Best Drama which sounds odd. It’s more of an experimental film. “Bottle” was my favorite animated film and it won for Best Animation.

Comedy Shorts

The Audience Favorite was “My Good Fortune” about a wanna-bee wiseguy played by director and actor David Silverman (right side of photo to the left). He gets upset because the Chinese restaurant he eats at has no fortune cookies. He goes on this far-away adventure to locate the fortune cookie writer who’s got writer’s block.

“The Proposition” which won for Best Comedy involved a satirical ‘serial’ mom (Tiffany Elle) who wanted to kill her 9 year-old daughter. She hires a hitman played by Todd Stashwick (“The Riches”). Before the hitman can make his ‘move’, the daughter played by Megli Micek gives him a proposition of her own.

Dir. Ed Stein and Megli Micek of "The Proposition"

And finally there’s “Incest! The Musical.” I’ve been waiting for a film to poke fun at “Glee” and the “High School” musical films. The filmmakers hired a real pair of actors with superb voices. Without singing ability this film would have fallen flat. Their power to sing translated to laughs as it was truly a very clever and funny film. Not to mention, it was a student film. WOW! Nicely done!

The Dilinger

I very much enjoyed the film festival. So, if you have not attended the Dam Short Film festival you should plan on doing so next year. The Dilinger, a mob-themed restaurant across the street served very good burgers. You can order the Bugsy or the Capone. So, I’m guessing these really shiny police motorcycles nearby keep a close watch on these Blue Brothers who sit awfully close to The Dilinger restaurant.

The Blues Bros.

The Artist

The Artist

Beware all you filmmakers and sound editors out there when watching and listening to the first 20 minutes of The Artist. (I actually stopped a theater employee walking by and asked if all the soundtracks were functioning.) Most of the time cards would appear to express the characters’ dialogue. Some dialogue did not have cards.

We’re trained to hear separate soundtracks; music, sound, effects and oh, yes, dialogue. I knew very little about this movie going into it. I did not expect a movie with John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell and James Cromwell to have basically no dialogue. About 98% of the ‘film’ is literally ‘silent.’ This black and white throwback to the late 1920’s expresses how glorious film was in its time. Talkies arrived.

Suddenly, it was “Out with the old and in with the new.”

It’s nice to see that The Artist was filmed on 35mm Kodak film negative. My very first film was shot with the same gorgeous black and white film negative at film school in 1994. It goes without saying, the cinematography was breathtaking. And now with Kodak filing for bankruptcy how long will film survive?

The Artist was a good love story as many old films are. It’s nominated for Best Picture, Best Director Michael Hazanavicius, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Jean Dujarden, Actress in a Supporting Role for Berenice Bejo, Best Cinematography for Guillaume Schiffman, Best Editing for Anne-SophieBion and Michael Hazanavicius, Best Art Direction and Costume Design. 

I liked it. Check out the trailer.

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