Category Archives: Filmmaking
Blogs here include my film experiences at industry events, screenings, movies whether they’re mine or other filmmakers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Ross in RAW Awards!
Ross H. Martin screened his short film “The Octo Circus” at the Raw Artists event in Las Vegas. Now you can help him win an award. Voting has begun! There’s a “Vote for me” button on my profile.
Go directly to: Website link no longer connected
Each visitor is required to register first, and are allowed 1 vote per category, per day. Guests can also search for your profile by name, city, category.
The voting is only from Oct 1-17 so vote once a day everyday. The top 3 highest vote earners in each category will be featured artists for the November showcase and could go on to compete for the RAW Artist of the Year and win a prize package! Please help Ross win.
Beauty Bar and the Beast
Being in a new city has its perks. Hardly anyone has seen my films here in Las Vegas. So, when I saw a posting on FaceBook in one of the film-oriented groups seeking short films I decided to check it out. I had been screening a short film I did a few years ago, “The Octo Circus” around town and thought it was time to screen a much older film.
“The Turnaround” was filmed on 16MM in 1995 as my last film while attending Columbia College-Hollywood film school. It’s about a struggling actor that gets mugged in the streets of Hollywood and then confronts the mugger in a bar. The 23-minute film is something I still consider my favorite just like a favorite child even though you’re supposed to love them all the same. “The Turnaround” screened at the IFP Market in NY and was the ‘Best of the Fest’ at the Rochester International Film Festival in Rochester, NY. It screened at other festivals. but never quite got the recognition I thought it deserved. I actually thought this little epic was the key to my film career. Oh, well. I do love the opportunity to screen it and share it with other filmmakers and film fans.
The Beauty Bar in Las Vegas has the old-fashioned seats that women sit in when getting their hair done, manicure, etc. The one in Vegas feels more like a bar then a nightclub if that makes sense. On Wednesday, August 17th, along with a bunch of local filmmakers, we screened our short films from a projector outdoors onto a screen. I hope the Beauty Bar acquires a newer screen as it had some sort of yellow stain all over. The films all had a unique 70’s look to them especially “The Turnaround,” the only film of the night shot entirely on film. The group of filmmakers praised me for that alone. My film screened last and I was very thankful there were still people in the audience. We had to compete a little with the loud music playing inside the bar as there were bands playing, but you could hear the dialogue fine until the door swung open.
I very much enjoyed viewing the other films and getting to know my fellow filmmakers. The title of this post is ‘Beauty Bar and the Beast’ since there was a strange theme that took place with most of the films containing or about drugs, guns and crime. There was a zombie trailer, “Patient Zero” by Rob Sholty and Andrea Walter. Thank G-d! And thank you to Maggie Yeah, Ben Zuk and the Beauty Bar for hosting the event!
To boldy go where this fan had not gone before…a Star Trek Convention at the Rio! I grew up with reruns of the original TV series. Thanks Dad! I’ve always wanted to check out the convention, but never attended. I guess I was not a true ‘Trekkie.’ Avid Trek fans would agree. I don’t follow any blogs or sites online or was I a part of any newsletter or mailing list. (I am now!) I never even went to the Star Trek Experience when I had family living in Vegas. Well, now that I live in Las Vegas, I had no excuse. After all, it was a ‘short trek.’ It was nostalgic as I was accompanied by my father. We only attended Thursday, August 11th’s events. My Dad was geeked out by lunch-time. Unfortunately, most of the panels weren’t until that afternoon. We had walked around the room full of vendors. Honestly, I thought the room would have been bigger knowing the fan-dome of Trekkie fans. I did hear that the space was bigger then the Hilton which had hosted the event for a number of years. While checking out the vendors, I noticed a small crowd forming around a man brandishing sunglasses and a white shirt and white hat. The man in the white hat was directing a small documentary film crew and interviewing Star Trek fans. This filmmaker used to hold the captain’s chair on-board the U.S.S. Enterprise. That’s right! Captain James T. Kirk AKA William Shatner. What a surprise! I didn’t think I’d get a chance to see him as he was scheduled for the stage on another day and I only bought a regular convention ticket. So, this was a treat! After all these decades and many years to not only see William Shatner, but to hear him speak and give direction to his crew members felt like ‘warp speed.’ Exhilarating!
That afternoon, in one of the theaters at the Rio, the DeForest Kelley Theater as the banner says, I attended a special presentation by Larry Nemecek, a Star Trek historian. The presentation was preceded by a short music video celebrating the work of Leonard Nimoy, also known as ‘Spock.’ Nemecek beamed back to the early days of Star Trek history and how “Star Trek” made a come back in the movies and with the spin-off series; “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager” and “Enterprise.”
Writer David Gerrold lead a discussion about the original Star Trek series which he was a part of. A few years after the original series went off the air, in 1973, an animated series was produced using a handful of the original actors to do the voices. Gerrold wrote this animated episode, “More Tribbles, More Troubles.” I very much enjoyed the animated show. It brought back a lot of memories as I recall seeing some of those episodes. I would have been three-years old at that time, but remember seeing reruns later on. Fun stuff!
After two back-to-back presentations in a row, I decided to stretch my legs and wonder the vendors’ booths once more. Yelp had a booth with a local photography company so I got this picture above taken of me. It’s the only photo I feel comfortable sharing. The Star Trek Convention displays signs saying that all photography of the convention is for personal use only. I had taken some photos of Mr. Shatner, but I won’t be displaying them here. I’ve seen other fans already uploading pics to FaceBook. What are they going to do, take them to see the Federation?
Some of the “Star Trek” celebrities were now signing autographs and posing for photos. Olivia d’Abo was there. She looked gorgeous as always. She had bumped into me at a Coffee Bean in Los Angeles a few years ago. Yeah, it’s hard to forget that.
Being a fan of both series of “Battlestar Galactica,” I was excited to see Richard Hatch. The new series will be with me for a long frackin’ time.
The 6PM panel was all about girl geek power. The discussion centered around how women roles have gotten stronger and the audience has gotten wider. The panel touched a little bit on how social media and blogging has strengthened Star Trek’s audience appeal.
I enjoyed the one day I attended the convention. I would definitely consider attending again next year wherever the convention boldly goes.
Leonard Nimoy attended the event later in the weekend. He’s only attending a few more conventions before retiring.
May Leonard, Spock and you “Live long and prosper.”
Skip’s Summer School of Photography
It’s never too late to go back to school. In today’s economy artists are looking to expand their knowledge and add an additional hat to their never-ending hyphenated areas of expertise. Does one become a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ or master one field? With technology today, it’s becoming easier for the average Joe to be a photographer. Digital cameras are becoming cheaper and more user-friendly. Unless you have a true fan-base and a leads machine after having lived in one place, one town, one state all of your life, it’s very difficult to break in to find your niche as an artist or photographer of any kind. Some creatives are switching from stills to videography and vice versa.
My enrollment into Skip’s Summer School at the Mirage Casino in Las Vegas, NV, was for various reasons. I had attended film school in Los Angeles years ago mainly for writing and directing. I somewhat regret not taking the film camera more seriously. I’ve come to terms that I’m a ‘jack-of-all-trades.’ I got into video editing after my initial exhausted pursuit of writing and directing. My editing career was taking off slowly. When I hit a wall, I left LA for Las Vegas to broaden my horizons. In LA, potential clients wanted editors to know motion graphics and effects. After living in Vegas, I found that potential clients are looking for shooter/editors.
While I am trying to learn both After Effects and Photoshop, I decided I should take my ‘point and click’ to another level. I wanted to improve my picture-taking skills. A year ago, I acquired a Nikon D-40. I’ve only taken it out a bunch of times. And now I’m looking to purchase a Canon DSLR camera to gain potential clients as both a still and video photographer. I also want to shoot my own projects. As much as I don’t really want to be a jack-of-all-trades, you have to be unless you can specialize in one field.
So, in adding an additional hat, I need to learn anything and everything about film, video and photography. Skip’s Summer School, in its 3rd year, was started by Skip Cohen. The event took place from July 31st through August 3rd and was championed by some of the best photographers in the business showcasing their work and sharing their knowledge, tips and experience. These photography gurus included Jules Bianchi and Joy Bianchi Brown, Clay Blackmore, Scott Bourne, Bambi Cantrell, Tony L. Corbell, Bob Davis, Doug Gordon, Kevin Kubota, Tamara Lackey, Bobbi Lane, Matthew Jordan Smith, Roberto Valenzuela and Jerry Ghionis. Vincent Laforet, long-time photographer, turned videographer, gave the closing keynote address.
Vincent Laforet’s photos and videos were stunning! Somehow he got into shooting from helicopters. Then his photos and later videography lead him to being strapped to the scariest and highest places on top on outside ledges of New York’s skyscrapers.
It was soothing for me that Skip’s Summer School came to a wrap with Laforet’s work as he is one of the trendsetter’s for DSLR cameras. He talked about using most of Canon’s cameras. He brought up how a videographer could make an amazing still image from a screen grab of the video. He put the thought out there that a videographer could be hired to go out and shoot video and get stills at the same time without knowing too much about talking photos. They wouldn’t have to shoot stills at all.
Canon – Sidenote
Even before this school started on July 31st, I had taken a seminar the day before sponsored by Canon and local camera store, Casey’s Camera, for a local Las Vegas photography MeetUp group, Photographic Adventures Vegas. The event took place at the Clarion Hotel and was an all-day affair focused on Canon DSLR cameras and PIXMA printers by Canon as well. Lance Folden, a Product Educator, shared his great knowledge about the cameras and what they can do for photographers and filmmakers alike. Stacey Foster, a Sales District Representative, was on hand with an array of Canon cameras on display for attendees to handle and answer questions. Kevin Wagner of iFocus Productions added tips on creating promotional videos.
Canon was scheduled to be at Skip’s Summer School as I could see by the list of companies mentioned at the event, but were nowhere to be found. So, in a sense, I was able to take advantage of something no one else could this past week. It added to my photography education.
As a part of Skip’s Summer School, the local Vegas MeetUp for SmugMug, held a meeting for 125 people on a first-come first served basis. People didn’t have to be enrolled in the school in order to attend. The guest speaker was Bambi Cantrell whom would be speaking at the school too. Cantrell, like all of the other photography gurus, shared what equipment she uses. She gave tips on posing subjects. Another tip was to not over Photoshop your images. Cantrell said photographers should ’embrace road blocks’ as they force ‘abstract ideas.’ Focusing on a subject’s best attributes is another good tip. If a woman has long, sexy legs, feature them. Cantrell stresses that the client needs to see themselves in whatever sample photos shared with them from a portfolio or magazine ads. Her motto is ‘Humility over ability.’
Tamara Lackey mentioned that photographers should meet with a family beforehand to discuss how to proceed if something goes wrong as far as a child’s behavior. If the child acts up during the shoot, try to get them alone and simply talk to them. Lackey told the tale of this one fussy boy who was upset about not having his cranberry muffin that morning. In addition, he was spending his last day of summer school on a photo shoot. After opening up and getting his feelings off his chest, the boy found his smile and was content for the remainder of the shoot. Lackey stressed to photographers to sell clients on the positive things about a photo when there are faults to be found. Perhaps the family members are not all still and leaning on each other perfectly. A boy’s hand placement on his mother’s shoulder shows affection. A little girl’s foot lifting sand up shows action, life, in the moment. And as photographers, look for the positives in your own photos. Learn from your mistakes, but celebrate the good attributes.
Roberto Valenzuela will drive you bananas! Well, he often practices with bananas when pre-lighting. He’ll throw a bunch on top of a tripod or stand and look for what shadows it creates. Then he imagines where his subject will be placed. That or he’s just BANANAS! Honestly, his seminar was awe-inspiring! Valenzuela tells the attendees to see things differently and develop an artist’s eye.
“A shadow is an opportunity.”
He had charts he developed that help him keep things in mind such as geometry, symmetry, balance, and color in addition to the typical elements; lighting and depth. I overheard other gurus wanting to start implementing Valenzuela’s charts.
That’s the beauty of this school is that everyone is attending to learn from each other including the gurus. The gurus can learn a thing or two from each other. They inspire the attendees and each other.
One of the inspiring things he shared was how he used dust coming up from a car to add an effect in the background of this rural road behind a couple.
He goes on to say that shooting and event is not practice. Photographers need to practice on their own time and be ready on location to be perfect.
‘Perfect practice makes perfect.’
Clay Blackmore’s lecture was more straight forward regarding how to light and pose subjects. He stressed how shoulder placement is the key to great portraits. Blackmore cautions photographers that the use of a flash flattens the face when used head-on. Blackmore tilts his camera to be slightly different. He poses a subject’s face before he sets the lights. He uses triangle shapes to pose people especially in group photos.
‘Application is the key.’
Matthew Jordan Smith
Matthew Jordan Smith often does a lot of exploring ideas before taking any picture. Smith comes up with very creative ideas and then sets up his subjects accordingly. Smith’s biggest advice is to master one light first. When a photographer feels comfortable using one light then they can move on to an additional light. Smith who’s worked with very famous clients such as Vanessa Williams and Oprah Winfrey does a lot to make his clients feel special before the shoot. He places flowers in their make-up room and plays music to soothe them. He does everything to make his clients feel beautiful. Direct! Don’t pose! Smith suggests not to shoot the same poses everyone else does.
Smith has a conversation with his clients making them feel comfortable and relaxed. The way a photographer speaks or even whispers to his or her client sets a nice tone. In doing so, those life capturing moments will be discovered. Let them let their hair down. He feels that a flash going off in a subject’s face takes them out of the moment.
Make the subject forget they’re sitting for photos especially if they’re dreading it. Smith, knowing ahead of time, told Samuel L. Jackson riddles because he knew he loves them. When Gregory Hines was showing little interest in sitting for pictures Smith told Hines to think about tap dancing in an elevator. And now we all have that visual.
‘Shoot images for yourself no matter what the job is.’
I didn’t have many notes during Tony Corbell’s session. He complimented me on the Who shirt I was wearing. It was a pleasure to watch him shoot various set-ups of that gorgeous model, Danica. Corbell seemed to enjoy shooting her as much as his audience enjoyed watching. Corbell mentioned that when working with ambient light, work to the edge of light.
When Scott Bourne spoke towards the end of the school session he quoted Corbell.
‘I may not be the best photographer, but I may be the nicest photographer.’
Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! shouted the crowd. Jerry Ghionis is a rock star in this industry as I found out. I kept hearing from people as the week started, ‘Wait until you hear Jerry speak.’ Ghionis is very inspiring. It’s one thing to listen to a photographer talk about his or her craft and then someone truly gets you worked up and inspired to go out and shoot anything.
‘Do you know who you are as an artist?’
Ghionis states the importance of knowing your own identity as it speaks volumes when taking on a shoot or project. He encourages photographers to be different, stand out and experiment. He often uses mirrors and rear-view mirrors. Ghionis says to think outside the box. He’ll actually blur out faces in photos if they lack expression. How brilliant is that? Ghionis says to learn the craft before you go breaking the rules. He uses action in stills to create an effect such as a woman shaking her dress. He’ll use natural smoke as an effect. Ghionis will actually underexpose for a dramatic effect. He’s got all sorts of tricks up his sleeves. Ghionis will ask couples or loved ones to hug each other as if it’s the last time. He says to photograph the subject through the eyes of a loved one. A husband may think ‘She’s the most beautiful woman in the world.’
‘If you want to be a better photographer…be a better person.’
Jules Bianchi and Joy Bianchi Brown
They were two cute fast-talking sisters who had to constantly tell each other to slow down as they spoke. Their session on stage was mostly about how photographers can further their business through networking, likeability and marketing. They had some very good tips. If you want to be in the dog photo business, hang out with dog businesses. Don’t eat alone! Meet a potential client or business contact for lunch. Be generous with your time and share your resources. When at an event introduce yourself and give your name. Don’t just say you’re a photographer. Meet people. You never know where it leads. The sisters say that you should be a connector. Help people out whether it forwards your business or not.
The sisters suggest that photographers can do creative partnering for effective targeted marketing. To do this you can hold free community events, do charitable work and teach workshops. Teaching workshops puts you in a position to be looked upon as an expert. Throw a party! You can offer to shoot free photos for their FaceBook profiles. Then follow-up with hand-written postcards. No one mails postcards anymore. Be different and personal. The Bianchi sisters also had some great tips on sales and closing the deal.
Scott Bourne had a lot of similar tips for photographers in his last speech on the last day of school regarding about helping others. Bourne’s main addition is the use of social media, mainly Twitter. Bourne says that just by helping others find what they need may lead to future clients. The example he used was that he read a Twitter post of someone seeking a printer for their wedding photos. Scott knew of a great printer in that area and shared his knowledge with this complete stranger. The hope is that the person will look you up and see your profile. By chance they still need a wedding photographer, they can see that you’re a wedding photographer from your Twitter profile.
I had wanted to sign up for this school months before the event, but didn’t have the money. It’s actually a very good price for what you get back out of it. I signed up a week before the one week school and am so glad I did. It was invaluable. If you know what’s good for you, you should follow Bourne on his Twitter account. (HINT: He gives away cameras. Shh.)
Jerry Ghionis says ‘What’s priceless tomorrow is priceless today.’
Ross @ RAW
RAW Artists Organization is a showcase of various artists from a particular city. It started out on the West Coast and is now on the East Coast and in many cities across the U.S. On Thursday, July 28th, 2011, Raw kicked off its first event in Las Vegas. There were visual artist with magnificent paintings drawings and photography. There were two rock bands; Down the Boulevard and Achilleion, a fashion show, a dance performance and a screening of my short film, “The Octo Circus.” (You Tube)
“The Octo Circus” was the first event to take place at 8:45PM. The crowd at Tommy Rockers seemed to really enjoy it. If you missed the screening it was your only chance. There wasn’t time to screen it again. Perhaps it being the first time for RAW in Vegas created some complications. It was a successful screening though. I enjoyed sharing my little Octo Mom spoof with the artists and others. I loved seeing the work of the other artists. And the bands were very good too. Right before I left that night, the drummer for Down the Boulevard shared his appreciation for “The Octo Circus” and love for clowns by showing me a tattoo of a clown that took up most of his back.
If you’re an artist interested in showcasing your work, beware that artists must sell 20 tickets. I’m not a fan of that, but I went ahead anyway as the exposure is good. So, it really pays to have a local fan-base. A lot of RAW seems to be word-of-mouth as well. I was referred to RAW Vegas by one of the models in the fashion show, Sara Gabriella. (Thanks, Sara!) It’s a tough business and sometimes you need to make sacrifices in order to get to where you need to go. Get your work seen!
My name is Ross H. Martin and I’m a RAW Artist!
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