Monday, August 31, 2009

TUWOPS: Day Seven

Today was a short day and I wasn’t able to grab any stills, however instead I’m offering something a little different. An image from the church of the flying spaghetti monster. An image that we used in the film today, courtesy of Carlos Diaz.

So today was actually a pretty light day in terms of locations and set-ups, however because we were shooting a portion of the film’s end there had to be extra special focus to make sure that we were hitting the right notes and tone. As I mentioned above, along for the ride was Carlos Diaz, playing a film editor. I met Carlos a few months ago on a feature that I was doing some work on as an editor myself, Carlos was the lead. I knew right away that I’d want to put him in something of mine some day. Thankfully I was able to make good on that sooner rather than later. Carlos is the kind of actor you want to be in your film. He’s a cheerleader. A champion. He’s the guy that when he hears you need extras, he calls all of his friends. He’s the kind of guy that, despite being a well known commodity, gets excited about a one-day-role to the point where he confers on the set dressing for his scene. Not ‘cause he’s an anal bastard – just because he’s that into it. Carlos really really wanted to have a poster of the flying spaghetti monster in “his” edit suite, to the point where he actually got in touch with the company and cleared the right to shoot it for us. Every person we’ve cast in this film is amazing and sweet and wonderful. No established actor does a film for less than scale for any reason other than passion – and our entire cast has that in spades. It’s what you want when you go into this kind of film. Hell, it’s what you need.

So tomorrow’s a big day both in terms of pages we’re shooting and just the emotional requirements. I think we’re up for it and I’m excited to work through it. Tomorrow also pushes us into the halfway point of the film.

And also, there’s some special guest appearances tomorrow…

Sunday, August 30, 2009


So I’ve been going on and on about how amazing our cast is. Today was no exception with Alex joining us again, and the addition of Rosemary, Timm, and Kate. But I’d be remise if I didn’t mention how amazing our crew is. Seriously, over the last six days we’ve gelled. Made up from a combination of people I’ve worked with in the past, recently graduated film students, and other recommended professionals, we’re a lean machine. It’s no small feat to shoot almost 12 pages in a single day, even if we are shooting documentary style. But in the last 6 days we’ve shot around 50 pages of the script without working insane days or really going into overtime at all or compromising what we were after. Through simply a combination of shooting style, and a phenomenal cast and crew, we’ve done what a lot of people told us we couldn’t.

So today saw us shooting all of the scenes with Paul’s family, including a big dinner scene – which are legendary for being nightmarish to shoot, but came off pretty wonderfully.

I’m attaching a shot from our over-night bookstore shoot on Thurs since I couldn’t get it up over the weekend. I’m really excited to start playing with this footage.

This week has us shooting for six days in a row. We’ve scheduled it in such a way that every other day has a short, simpler shoot following a longer, more intricate one. Still a few challenges laying ahead, but nothing we can’t handle. I look forward to them all.

1260 - Henry Fool

I can't recall how this came to be on my ziplist, but here it is. Could be that I was on a Parker Posey kick as I'm not a big enough Hal Hartley fan to rent it for that alone. A film that's intended to be a bit pretentious (I can only assume), while I never cared deeply enough about the characters, I was still curious enough to keep watching. And because it's Parker Posey I'm actually even slightly intrigued by the sequel Fay Grim. Perhaps one day. So all in all, if you're a fan of introspective indies, this will be up your alley, otherwise steer clear.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

1259 - Baby Mama

After a week of shooting and coming off a night shoot I wasn't overly partial to what I wanted to watch so I let Emily choose. We just started watching the second season of 30 Rock, and both Emily and I have a crush on Tina Fey (which is creepy for Emily because she kinda looks like Tina Fey...) When this film is funny it's fantastically funny, great lines and Fey and Poehler are brilliant and a fantastic team. There's some nice plot moves, but by and large the ending is fairly predictable. Worth checking out for a good mild laugh.

Friday, August 28, 2009

TUWOPS: Day Five

So I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m in a bit of a daze. I think that’s the natural state following an all-night shoot. I’m not much of a night-owl at this point in my life, and the hardest thing about a night-shoot is that you look around, you can see how tired people are. Hell, you can feel it – but you still have to get the goods. You can’t settle for a take that’s just ‘good’ because if you’re going to stay up all night and put yourself and everyone else through a little bit of hell, it has to be worth it in the end. If you make everyone pull an all-nighter and then you come out of it with sub-standard footage. Well then, you’re an all new kind of asshole.

Our entire crew were fantastic troopers who worked their butts off (as they always do). We had an almost entirely awesome set of back-ground performers. There seemed to be some confusion about how late we were going and some people were less pleased than others. Completely understandable. And so for all those that came out last night, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Besides the free food and a little bit of money, there’s no reason to be a background performer in an indie film in the middle of the night besides the love and art of film.

So last night we shot all of Sadie’s poetry scenes at McNally-Robinson, a book chain that’s just starting to creep into Ontario from out west. A huge beautiful store that were very lovely to us and gave us the location for practically nothing. Can’t wait to post some stills from last night’s shoot. You can see a glimmer of it in the photo above with myself and Christine. So the worst part of last night was that it was our last shooting day with Christine Horne. I was sad to see her go. What she brought to this film was nothing short of tremendous. I really can’t wait to start cutting her scenes together.

So that marks the end of our first week. We’ve got a break for two days before starting up again. Five days down. Ten to go. This week alone we shot a total of 23 of our 57 scenes, as well as roughly 28 pages (give or take). This week we shoot for 6 days straight – three of them are pretty big long days, three are pretty light. Hopefully everyone can recharge their batteries.

Also I think I keep neglecting to mention the wonderful Kris Holden-Reid, our Paul Shepard, who carries the weight of this film on his back. He’s a gentleman and a joy to work with, a true supporter and ally in this process. I look forward to the week ahead with him. There’s some interesting discoveries yet to make…

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TUWOPS: Day Four

So today was a pretty relaxed day. We had two location moves, but otherwise it was a pretty simple shoot. For the most part the stills I’ll be showing are from a day previous. So the big scene we shot today won’t get into my editing system until tomorrow.

Which leads me to answering a question from a fan of this blog. They wanted to know about our gear and workflow. I can’t recall the exact camera, but the format we’re shooting on is HD-XDCAM, 24p (23.98). I’m editing the footage at high-res on an iMac 2.1 Ghz with 1.5 GB of ram (which I’m probably going to upgrade to 2.5 GB after realizing how cheap that is to upgrade). My DP has a faster computer sitting around collecting dust which I may borrow. I’m just getting slight stutters do to the high-quality of the footage, but nothing monumental. If I do borrow my DP’s tower then I’m going to have to figure out how to get monitors… it’ll all work out…

So for those unfamiliar the XDCAM discs work as both discs and tapes in how you can capture them, so it means that you can dig footage in actually faster than it would take to capture it like a tape. When a disc fills up we try to upload it to my hard-drive. I’m editing on Final Cut Pro, despite the fact that I’ve been using primarily Avid for the last few years.

So onto today’s shoot. Another day with Christine Horne, another fun arty section to shoot. Her character is a poet who knew Paul when they were both in art school and so there’s a piece in the film where we see a collaboration they did. I can’t lie. It’s been a blast to shoot it.

This other shot here is from yesterday’s shoot at a pool hall, which I was concerned about because it’s over four pages of dialogue but Kris and Christine chewed it up and spit it out like it weren’t no thang. You gotta love actors that can make you look good.

Today finished with a session in a recording booth getting down some phone calls, answering machines, etc… that I’ll need down the road. So a pretty relaxed day, which helps since tomorrow we’re shooting all night – so no updates till Friday I imagine.

I can’t finish this entry without giving a huge shout out to Carlos Diaz, one of the actors in our film. We had an issue with one of the extra’s casting agencies earlier this week (in which they basically never confirmed with us, and then so we had no extras – luckily some eager teens saved our butts and played soccer and tag all afternoon). However tomorrow is a scene where we MUST have extras. I put an ad on Facebook seeing if anyone had any ideas for people that might want to earn a little cash being an extra, and within minutes Carlos was all over it like a bar of soap in a prison. He even took his laptop to the set of the series he’s currently on, just to bust ass and help to make sure that we’d have extras for tomorrow night. Huge trooper and huge shout-out.

So my goal is to stay up late tonight and start playing with the footage. Have to condition my body for tomorrow’s night shoot. Should be a blast!

TUWOPS: Day Three

First off I want to apologize that I don’t have any photos to show you from today, we went late and it just didn’t work out. Lots were shot, so I’ll try to upload some teaser images then. But in the mean time here’s something we found while shooting under an over-pass. It’s kinda sorta really really sad:

So today had Christine Horne joining us. She’s playing Sadie, the poet, and this is her week to shoot all of her scenes. Christine is fearless. It could be that three days into this I’ve gotten into a stride, but it didn’t take much to get into a rhythm with her, but wow. Really great. What’s really nice is that all of the people Paul has relationships with in this film really bring a unique and necessary quality. So far we’ve played with three of those relationships, Alex, Sam, and Sadie. All unique, all wonderful, and all wonderfully played by our talented cast.

I’ve gotten quite a few people writing me about this blog (which is wonderfully flattering to know that people out there are actually reading it), and in the e-mails a lot of people want to know the “good and the bad.” The truth is that there isn’t really much bad. And we’ve got a laid back crew so any bad that creeps up gets dealt with pretty quickly. Our crew is a mixture of people that have and haven’t worked together before, so I think that there’s a nice rhythm being built within us as well.

I’m more than happy to go into greater detail about anything specific that people want to know.

Tomorrow – more Sadie and Paul. And to make up for a lack of set photos/stills, here’s a preview of another of Sadie’s books:

Monday, August 24, 2009


And there we are. Two days done! Feeling good (except for the 40 minutes I was stalled on the TTC on the way home).

Today we had what is probably one of the more technically difficult scenes. It’s roughly an eight page scene in a park, and there is a story going on in front of the camera and behind, and we shift back and forth in one long take. Of course we shoot it broken up and through the magic of editing it will look like one big long take. However you’re shooting in a city park and so you have no control over the guy cutting the grass, or the crazy people who’ve decided to sit on your rental bench, or the LOUD LOUD insects. Despite all that, we got through it and with time to spare.

Every day I feel a little more comfortable in my role as a director on this, not that I was uncomfortable going into it, but there’s a nice movement going on. Feels good. All right. Gotta hit the e-mail, I have art work to approve, and I want to try cutting together some of the footage before I go to bed.

Above is a shot from a scene today with the lovely Mary Krohnert, and below is from yesterday.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Just wrapping on our first day. What a ride. Shot seven and a half pages in eight hours. Eight scenes.

What was really fun was shooting the opening scene first thing on the first day. Well, fun in principal. See, we’re shooting this thing documentary style, and on top of that the camera operator is a character in the film so we can’t even do it like The Office where there’s multiple cameras. The majority of the scenes in this film are one long unbroken take. So each scene requires a decent amount of tech to it in terms of camera timing in placing. The best thing we have going for us is that our cast is amazing. They really get the film, and the characters, and so it allows us the freedom to run the scenes as long as we need. That being said, I wasn’t a fan of doing eleven takes on the first shot/scene. The blame lies in outside streetcar noise ruining a few bits here and there.

Despite the near dozen takes on that, and half dozen takes on most other scenes, we kept to schedule and made our day with little effort. And we got almost all of our van scenes done. We gelled the front and side windows with a neutral density filter, which made it look great on camera, but dark to drive in and, I assume, really really illegal. So added to the pressure of getting an awesome scene there was the over-riding chance of getting pulled over by the O.P.P. Shooting in the van also meant that only the actors, myself, our D.O.P./camera op and our sound recordist could be present on the scene. Make-up and wardrobe followed with our second A.D. in another car.

So huge kudos to Alex Poch-Goldin and Kris Holden-Reid for chewing through a serious amount of dialogue and getting some great stuff done. I’m so pumped moving forward on this.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

TUWOPS: Art Work Preview!

I can't resist showing this off:

One of the characters in the film is a cult poet named Sadie and our art department has been busy creating her world, this is one of her book covers. We'll be shooting all of our Sadie scenes this week, so there's a few more books in the works and some other fun stuff.

1258 - Annie Hall

So tomorrow is my first shoot day and so I decided it only makes sense for me to sit down and watch my favorite film. I'm well aware that there are films that I think are better in different ways, but this is a film I can sit down and watch whenever and always enjoy it. Woody Allen has inspired me more than any filmmaker in his ability to get his ideas across by any means necessary. Using different formats, mediums. Get the joke, get the moment. The truth is that without Annie Hall there's a good chance I never would have written The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard. So although he'll never read this, I want to give Woody a big thank you for the inspiration through this and many many other pictures.

Friday, August 21, 2009

TUWOPS: Our Newest/Youngest Cast Member

I'm very proud to announce that the actor's union has agreed to let us use my son, Ephraim in the film, after a search where all the child talent agency's told us we'd never be able to find a union baby, we got the greenlight to use my non-union, but uber-talented, son.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

TUWOPS: Best. Table. Read. Ever.

So that kicked total and complete ass. We’ve got a cast of about twenty-five speaking roles and all but three actors were available to come. In the course of it’s development I’ve work-shopped this script with actors a few times, but you never use a full cast – you have people double up on smaller roles – so it was amazing to have this big, full room of people, and if I may say so, perfectly cast.

I meant to get a cast photo to commemorate the moment, but moreso because it’s the only time that they’ll all be together. I forgot and some people had to slip away quickly. Alas.

I’m excited. New and wonderful ideas are percolating as a result of the read and if nothing else I’m super stoked to be hanging out with a group of such talented actors for fifteen days of shooting. It’s going to be fast and intense, but it’s going to be awesome.

Met with our entire production crew last night and I finally met my script supervisor today, although I didn’t get a chance to really talk to her at all. Nothing like jumping in with both feet.

Being my first feature as a director I know I should be more nervous but I’m feeling really good about all of this, especially after having seen all the pieces of the cast come together. I’ve got some little things to take care of over the next two days, but other than that I’m going to relax, spend some time with the script, and get ready for the ride of my life.

Monday, August 17, 2009

TUWOPS: One Week Till Shooting!

All right, outside of casting it’s been awhile since I’ve done an update. I assume that pre-production stuff is boring to most people, but I’ll fill you in on what’s going on with our last week before we go to camera.

Today we had our first day of tech-scouting. We’ll be doing almost all of the rest of our locations tomorrow, with one or two hold-overs that we’ll see again through-out the week. For those unfamiliar, the tech scout is where the key members of your crew go to all the locations together to start talking about any problems, concerns, etc… For ours we’ve got myself, our producer, director of photography (also representing sound), production designer, art director, set decorator, and last but certainly not least, our first assistant director.

The tech scout is super important moving into our major production meeting this Wed. Our entire crew will be there and we’ll painstakingly go through the entire shoot schedule to troubleshoot anything and everything. When you’re shooting a low budget film, preparation is your best friend.

Thurs of this week is our rehearsal day with the cast, in which we’ll be doing a table read. Again, for those unfamiliar, a table-read is generally done right before the first day of shooting. It’s an opportunity for the cast to meet one another, see who they’ll be playing up against, get a sense of energy, etc… it also gives me a chance to see the scenes with the actors together for the first time, and it gives everyone a refresher of the entire script. Really looking forward to this.

Every day gets us one step closer. Starting next Sunday we begin. I’m going to do my best to provide daily set reports with a fun photo or two. Apologies if I miss a day or two!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

TUWOPS: Casting Complete!

Yes that's right. We're full cast! There's a particular role that we're waiting until we're in post for the film, anyone whose familiar with the script can probably guess it - the character is only even heard, so there's no need to cast them now.

So here are the final members of our cast...

Pat Mastroianni

Rosemary Radcliffe

Timm Zemanek

Aron Tager

and last but not least.... Paul Lee!

We're moving like wild-fire through pre-production. Yesterday I sat down with our costume designer to get to work on that and we shot some great ideas back and forth. I really can't express what a difference it makes to have people focused purely on these kinds of things. Then my producer and 1st AD sat down with me and we went over the entire schedule looking for things that could go wrong and started making plans.

Other than that I'm meeting up with the leads, partially just to get to know them, but to go over their roles and answer any questions they might have. We're still in the process of locking down some of the locations and the schedule in general. On Thurs I'm meeting with our post online facility just to make sure we're doing everything right so post can go smoothly. I find the more problems I can figure out now, the less I have to worry about during the shoot.

So knock on wood 'cause things are going extremely well!

1257 - Swingers

More listened to than re-watched this. Doug Liman and the editor give a great commentary in terms of how they made this film for next to nothing. I had listened to it years ago, but wanted to revisit it while doing some paper work for the film this morning. So if you're looking into making an indie film, this commentary is a great resource, as is the producer's book "Independant Filmmaker's Manual" Check them both out!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

1256 - Husbands and Wives

Anyone that knows me knows that Woody Allen is probably the biggest inspiration I have in terms of being a filmmaker. This film is no exception. As I'm getting ready to shoot the feature I'm re-watching a lot of stuff that inspires me. This film, if for no other reason than the visuals, is pretty close to the film I'm currently making. Shot completely in documentary style, it's an interesting treat, and I imagine liberating for Woody.
As long as you have great performers you can get away with whatever visual style you want to play in. This film is chock-full of great performances, clever writing, and an inspiring direction. So glad I re-watched it - now I have just to convince the crew to do the same :)

Friday, August 07, 2009

TUWOPS: Casting Update & End of Week Review

This whole week has been a blur of activity. Each day has gotten us closer and closer to having a full cast, and today was no exception. All of our offers are out, and most have come back. Just a few stragglers aside that should get ironed out at the beginning of next week. But I have to say, it feels good to have the majority of the cast locked down with two weeks to go - AND to have a cast as amazing as we have. So, here's who officially joined us today:

Zoie Palmer

Alex Poch-Goldin

Tricia Braun

Katherine Ashby

Ace Hicks

and last but not least... Paul de la Rosa

We finally hired a costume designer today, so there's another thing I can sink my teeth into next week. This will be my first time working with a costume designer so it's pretty exciting for me. Next week is going to be a busy one, I'm doing a lot of one-on-ones with the actors, starting to approve art work, props, etc..., and we'll be having a few big tech meetings to make sure that post is going to flow smoothly. Still have to find a good script supervisor, but other than that we've got all of our key crew nailed down.

Fingers crossed that pre-production continues to go well!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

TUWOPS: Casting Update!

I told you this week would see us in a casting frenzy. Today saw the following very talented actors joining the cast:

Christine Horne

And if you live in the Toronto area try to check out Christine's Summerworks' show "Underneath" playing at the Factory Theatre!

Meghan Hoople

Shannon Jardine

1255 - It's Always Sunny in Philidephia: season 3

There are shows that walk the line between good and bad taste. This show looks at the line and dances on it. There's a lot of fun here, and considering that the cast is filled with, what should be, unlikable characters - you really do get attached to each and every member of the cast here. For a show that goes with mostly stand-alone episodes, this show stands in a class of it's own. Look forward to more from these guys.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

TUWOPS: Casting Update!

Today we locked down a whole whack of actors. More to come as the week progresses, but here is who has joined the cast today:

David Tompa

Landy Cannon

Julie Sype

Jeff Teravainen

Irena Huljak

Samantha Espie

and last but not least... Carlos Diaz

Stay tuned, we're still deciding over several key roles and doing more auditions this week. The excitement continues!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

TUWOPS: T-Minus Three Weeks

Three weeks today we’ll be our first day of principal photography according to the current schedule. Just in the midst of locking that down so everyone can adjust their calendars and be on the same page.

This is my least favorite part of the whole process. Creating the shooting schedule. For the most part you need to try and group the actor’s scenes together so you’re not holding them up. It’s normal to shoot out of order, but at the same time there’s just certain scenes you don’t want to start off with, and others you don’t want to hold off. I think especially for a film like this it’s important to start off with scenes in which you can establish tone and then go from there. Hopefully by this time next week we’ll have a much better idea of how close we are to a realistic shooting schedule.

So last week we spent a few days doing auditions. I have to say that I’m blown away by how many amazing actors there are in this city. While some were just not right for what we wanted, there wasn’t a bad actor in the 50+ performers we saw. On Tuesday we’ll start making offers on a bunch of parts. Some we’re still deciding on, but hopefully through-out this week I’ll have some more casting announcements to make. We’re holding another round of auditions this week for a few smaller parts and that should round off the rest of what we need. In a perfect world we’ll be fully cast with a week to spare in pre-production.