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October 2007

education and history and standup30 Oct 2007 11:16 am

So, I was selecting a halloweeny themed costume for Freak Train last night. I had a Sheiky getup for a dinner theater gig this week, and leftovers from Talk Like A Pirate Day. So, naturally, I decided to go as an Islamic Pirate. I figured it’d be fun to use that comic costume mish-mash as a justification for talking about the first Barbary war. Unfortunately, I wound up running late, and didn’t manage to get a slot.

So, you should all spend a great deal of time researching the novelty of this little war. It was our first time dealing with radical Islamists backed by rouge states who were operating outside the scope of agreed international law. We handled it by paying them off and supporting them, right up until we turned around and had an undeclared war with them which was all the bloodier because they funded their side of the war using the money we had been giving them. (Sound familiar?)

The war even started when Islamists brought down a tall American structure. When his demands for ransom and tribute were denied, the Pasha of Tripoli “declared war” by walking down to the U.S. consulate and chopping down the flag pole out front.

Our conflicts with the Barbary Coast states even gave us one of the earliest documents explaining whether or not the American government is founded in Christianity. Modern politicians refer to us as One Nation Under God and insist that we have always been a Christian nation. The early leaders of our nation saw things a bit differently: “…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;…” according to the 1797 Treaty With Tripoli. The treaty had unanimous support from the Senate, and was published in newspapers at the time. There is no record of contemporary complaints or public outcry. It was a hundred years after the start of the Revolutionary war before God started to gain any foothold in the government.

Uncategorized17 Oct 2007 12:49 pm

Over on the Indy Mogul forums, everybody is all a twitter about Halloween, so the community is posting all sorts of interesting seasonal tutorials. In particular, WesScog posted a quick “cookbook” style tutorial about doing a ghost effect. He used a green screen in order to accomplish it, which is usually the most convenient way to have a transparent character, but not always the best way. You typically want to use a locked down camera, can’t show the subject’s feet, and can’t have a convenient natural interaction between two different characters when you use the green screen technique. So, I dusted off some footage from Jon Stevenson’s Intercourse, PA which shows a character walking freely in the environment, feet and all, which was shot using a handheld camera.

Some composites are meant to be very subtle, and require a breakdown in order to explain to anybody, such as adding rain into a shot. This one should be a bit more obvious. You can’t just ask central casting to send you a transparent glowing guy.

So, here is my first quick test:
First Ghost Walk

Secondly, here is a full “screencapture” tutorial where I recreate the effect and try to explain what I am doing as I go along. I didn’t really plan what all I was going to say, so it is a bit rough, and I apologize for that. Also, I’m used to having Shake full screen, with an extra viewer on my second monitor. I shrunk down the window so that it’d be possible to watch the tutorial for people without huge monitors, and also to make the size a little smaller. Consequently, I fumble around a little bit, looking for things that aren’t where I am used to them, etc.

Full Ghost Tutorial

And, lastly, after I finished the tutorial, I added a few more keyframes to the rotoshape, and rendered the result. It’s very similar to the first test, but a slightly different color. Figured people would also want to see the actual result of following the tutorial.

turorial Result Ghost Walk

acting and metablogging14 Oct 2007 09:32 am

Those of you who know me, know that I’m pretty laid back. It takes a lot to really get to me, and I’ll usually forgive almost anybody. Maybe it’s that Buddhist upbringing, or maybe it is just because I find it more convenient to go with the flow. Regardless, it’s exceptionally rare that anybody annoys me enough to merit any sort of inclusion on “The Shit List.” Only a tiny handful of people have ever managed to annoy me enough that I would decline to work with them. Even then, I typically hope they will have good fortune in their endevours without me, and don’t go out of my way to speak ill of them.

Rachel Wear has managed to annoy me to such heights, that even as I ponder the situation as intensely as I am able, I can’t imagine any way in which I could be in more sour spirits at the present moment. Any further annoyance on her part, and I would have simply been content to ignore her, resulting in a net decrease in my own level of discontentment. It’s as if she has perfected the art. So, I don’t forsee any circumstance in which I will ever work with her, and if anybody ever comes to me asking my opinion of her, I won’t hold my tongue.

She is a student at Colorado Film School, and refers to herself as being with Devil Cat Productions. I met her when I went for an audition at CFS. Usually, I have found working with people at CFS to be a pleasant experience. With this audition, I was just asked to give a monologue. I wasn’t shown a script, given any information about what exactly I was auditioning for, and didn’t have a chance to discuss characters. This is probably the single worst way to run an audition because you can imagine an actor far more brilliant than myself picking a monologue that is unlike a character for which he would be suited, and then not being considered for the role. What’s more, since I am something of a working actor, I really only have an interest in playing interesting characters with interesting dialogue. That’s the only thing that’s useful for my demo reel, really. That’s why I was willing to drive to Colorado Springs to be in a student remake of a scene from Trainspotting. Or, why next weekend I’m playing a flashback scene of a priest from when he was a young alcoholic drug addict. Or why I played an uptight apartment dweller on a quest to have sex with an Amish woman. Consequently, I have absolutely no interest in being in a production I don’t find interesting. Student films don’t pay anything, so being in a production means donating my time and effort, and gas money to a student film maker. It’s a gift. At this point, I really don’t need to be in any more student films. I grace some lucky student films with the gift of my participation because I am a nice person.

I mean, I have had multiple days of shooting on three different features. I’ve worked on projects that were nationally broadcast, and my work is seen weakly via the Stream of Consciousness network. I’m not famous, and I’m no super star, but at this point I am well enough acquainted with enough people ‘in the biz,’ that it’s not exactly an exciting thing to work on some run of the mill student project. I’m not trying to sound like a braggart when I talk about the stuff I’ve worked on, I’m just trying to explain where I’m coming from at this point.

So, I auditioned for Rachel, by doing a monologue, and then leaving. At this point, she really hadn’t come across as particularly friendly or appreciative of my bothering to take time out of my day to come and give the monologue, nor appreciative of the time I had taken out of the previous day to look up an remember said monologue. Then, I don’t hear from her for weeks. Weeks.

Then, I get a call from her about a week ago asking me to be in a project with her for today. I was busy, so I wasn’t able to get back in touch with her immediately. I kept getting home after midnight because I’ve been working on a project of my own, and I didn’t want to call her that late because I expected it would have been rude. She didn’t even leave me with the name of the character she wanted to play, explain the type of project, or tell my a title. A few days later, I get an email with a script and a call sheet. I’m expected at the hospital set to play a Doctor in a PSA at 8:30 on a Sunday morning. I’ve never met anybody else with the audacity to just decide to put me on a call sheet for 8:30 in the morning on a Sunday without having yet confirmed that I’m available, nor having sent me a copy of the script, nor having told me which character I was being asked to play. My efforts were not being looked at as a gift. Even better, it was for some PSA about how you shouldn’t leave babies in dumpsters and I only had one line.

But, I’m a nice guy. Despite having been booked all day Saturday, and also booked this evening, by a lucky fucking coincidence I had nothing planned for this morning. Except sleep. And, I had been planning on working later last night on the script for my project currently in development, but had to be down unusually early for me to have a shot at being anywhere by 8:30 in the morning. Now, I brought this situation up with several people who’s opinions I greatly respect. Every one of them was genuine surprised that I intended to show up. I was apparently expected, and I didn’t want to leave an aspiring film maker out in the cold, so to speak. I tried calling Rachel Wear with Devil Cat productions a few times, asking her to call me back, so that I could talk to her and confirm things. She never called me back. Now, she had initially called me almost a month after my monologue reading. I called her back in less than a week. Consequently, as near as I can figure it, that makes me about four times as prompt as her. She has yet to return my calls to her from several days ago.

So, in spite of her not having called me back to confirm things, I woke up early this morning, drove all the way across town in cold, foggy, rainy weather with made the going annoyingly slow. I arrived at the location (a large hospital), parked, and called the number that the contact sheet said to call when I arrived. I walked around in the cold rain, looking for any obvious signs of a production, and was told “I’ll call you right back.” So, I continued walking around in the cold for a few minutes, got a call back, and was told that my part had been recast, and I wasn’t needed. I was naturally miffed at this point, but I asked where the location was anyway, so that I could poke my head in, say hello, and shake a few hands. At this point, I was more than annoyed with Rachel, but I expected she might have some crew that would be good to say hello to. Quite possibly some people I’ve worked with before who I am already friends with that I would have liked to say hello to. Also, I intended to, if there was a few moments of downtime, take Rachel aside and privately explain to her my perspective, in hopes that she could learn from it without having to put anybody in the awkward position of acting as a middleman for that conversation. I was told something to the effect of, “I’m sorry, the director says she’s very busy, and has told me not to tell you were we are shooting.” I didn’t write down the exact conversation. So, I tried, as politely and and respectfully, and directly as I could to explain my perspective on the course of events to the young woman with whom I had been speaking because Rachel Wear was “too busy.” I gave her my time and trouble, and she wouldn’t even let somebody tell me come in out of the rain. Maybe it’s a good things I never actually made it on set. I’d have been tempted to just spit in her face by way of an explanation of my perspective.

education and effects11 Oct 2007 11:36 am

Occasionally, people ask me what I do. One of the answers is “compositing.” This usually results in the response, “Oh, I had no idea you wrote music.” In order to clear up some of the confusion, I have created a short explanation video showing a composite, and some of the elements that went into making it.

Read more to see it, and get an explanation. (edited Friday, Oct 12th — see the bottom)

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