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"Calling It Quits" pre-prod


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#1 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 11:50 AM

In a few weeks I will begin my first feature, "Calling It Quits," shooting in and around New York City. It follows the personal crisis of a humorous and sarcastic lead character after he quits his job.

It is low budget (somewhere 350-450k), and amazingly the format is still up for grabs two weeks before our start, which is somewhat my fault. The producers were preparing for HD (F-900) and I started to make the case for Super16 when I became involved, especially in regards to some flashbacks we have that take place in the 70s. I've personally never really believed period photography shot on a video format. I also feel that film (especially 16)is easier to light, faster to work with and gives you a better result. Anyway, I've been persuasive enough to the director that they are now waiting to see what talent signs on to see if they should invest the extra money (however relatively small) in Super16. I'm told the talent question will be answered Wednesday (tomorrow). One intermediate solution discussed would be to shoot the bulk of the movie on HD and then the flashbacks on 16.

Stylistically, we are loosely inspired by some of the Gordon Willis/Woody Allen work of the late 70s/early 80s, particularly "Manhattan," in the way they covered scenes. Our script is dialog heavy and we are trying to devise interesting ways to cover what could be a tiring routine of talking heads and two-shots. So far, we're finding that many scenes can really be done in one shot that evolves throughout it's duration, through either subtle camera movement, actor movement/blocking or both. For others, a carefully composed wide works most appropiately. We are also careful not to get too distant or "Artsy" (for lack of a better term) all of the time, and are trying to strike a rhythm through the scenes between our unconventional approach and more traditional coverage, as to preserve the impact of our more creative shots. The key is finding which approach fits which scene.

Edited by Jarin Blaschke, 10 April 2007 - 11:52 AM.

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#2 John Holland

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 11:59 AM

dialog heavy ! any chance of choping loads of it and try and make more cinematic ? , if not sounds like a HD one to me , not trying to be negative .
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#3 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 12:07 PM

The idea is to preserve the script AND make it visual. I'm not signing off on my job just because it has many dialog scenes.

Edited by Jarin Blaschke, 10 April 2007 - 12:07 PM.

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#4 John Holland

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 12:09 PM

wasnt saying you should , hope it goes well and works out .
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#5 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 12:34 PM

Good luck Jarin. I agree with 16 being quicker to light but you may be sobbing the production in other ways to pay for it. They only have so much money so if 16 costs more they may steal from other areas importnat to your job like locations, art dept, etc. Keep the big picture in mind. I had just a little less than that with 'Quinceanera" and I made the decision to stick with HD after they showed me the 16 budget and I realized I was going to loose manpower and other things I wanted.

Let us know how it goes!
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#6 Hal Smith

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 12:46 PM

In a few weeks I will begin my first feature, "Calling It Quits," shooting in and around New York City. It follows the personal crisis of a humorous and sarcastic lead character after he quits his job.
..........Stylistically, we are loosely inspired by some of the Gordon Willis/Woody Allen work of the late 70s/early 80s, particularly "Manhattan," in the way they covered scenes. Our script is dialog heavy and we are trying to devise interesting ways to cover what could be a tiring routine of talking heads and two-shots.

I had an email conversation with Doug Hart about how Woody shot his movies like "Manhattan", "Stardust Memories", etc. He rehearses the cast alone with only the Cinematographer and Script Super present, no gear underfoot. After he's polished and set the scene they call in the crew heads to set spikes, work out equipment placement, etc. They usually use the "A" team to set spikes because if you use stand-ins the "A" team is apt to change blocking anyhow.

The benefit of this working method is you've got a thoroughly prepared cast before you even get close to the mechanics of filming. That plus killer casts like Woody uses has a lot to do with why his "talky" movies flow so naturally once the action gets up on the screen. I for one have never thought of Woody's movies as being too talky because I'm always much too much sucked into what's going on. I LIKE his gabby people.
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#7 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 01:08 PM

Agreed, Eric. I'd rather have the proper lighting package and an adequate and happy crew than shoot 16 if it really came down to it. I was just told that money might be found if the talent they were able to attach made the investment worthwhile. My inquiry also seemed reasonable given that we are low budget, but still within the range of typical Super16 productions.
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#8 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 24 April 2007 - 07:09 PM

Well, the shoot has gone HD after all. It will be a bit cumbersome with 6 page days, but what can you do?

Production and I came to a stalemate today about lighting budget, as they want to spend 14,000 on electric, grip AND expendables for THE WHOLE SHOW. Tops. I've been asking for a very basic tungsten package (up to 2k), 3 frames and a handfull of rags, 1 x 4ks HMI, 2x 1200s, 1 x 575, 1 each 2x4' and 4x4' kinos, and a basic array of grip gear to handle small scale New York locations. That's kind of it, save for enough expendables to build one soft box and 3 modular covered wagons. An additional HMI will have to day play for an interior day house scene where we see deeper into the house. A larger tungsten package will have to day play for our one night exterior. The last few weeks, I feel like I've slowly been trimming away at the package without any concessions from the production end. The feature is apparently 400k, but feels much smaller on my end - I'm kind of working with a student budget to make a real film. It's becoming apparent that they made up a number long before I came on board and are sticking to it, regardless of the information coming in. I've never fought so hard to get the most basic gear. The one saving grace is an amazing relationship my gaffer has established with a rental house, which may be cutting us an uncanny deal to make the G&E order work. We shall soon find out.
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#9 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 26 April 2007 - 12:17 PM

How many days is the shoot? What kind of lens package will you have? Will you have a B camera body in case a goes down? How big is your staff? DIT? What kind of monitors?

One 4x kino, and one 2x kino? What if one of them breaks?? The question I always ask myself before a shoot is, do I just wait for reality to convince them that we need more stuff, or does that somehow make me negligent, even though I've explained my needs and said "Yes, we really need him, her, or it ..."

Good luck!
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#10 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 28 April 2007 - 02:53 AM

I'm not a fan of kinos at all, so I'm not too worried. They're kind of a necessary evil in my mind. If I have the choice, I'll use a soft box or a covered wagon we built instead. We're just using them for occasions where the ceiling is very low, or for our office scenes, where we're switching out all the indigenous bulbs, or any time we need to get a fluorescent color. That, and you have to appreciate the satisfaction of building the perfect light to your specifications for the scene/film.

Production is a week away, and I'm worried about days where we have to day play, as their budget just covers our basic day-to-day package that we were miraculously able to get at an 85% discount because my gaffer has thrown the rental house some pretty good jobs in the past. The producers continue to be totally unrealistic and still totally inflexible with their impossible numbers. Any DP/gaffer team worth their salt would laugh at what we're supposed to work with - an $80,000 movie with 3 locations, sure, but we're at least approaching a respectable indie budget here.

We have one night exterior where the director wants a pretty wide shot of a city street (the shot size and time of night is integral to the story)- I made concessions as far as accepting a do-able angle and not requesting what would normally be matter-of-course, even for a film of this size: I didn't ask for a single lift or any unusual roof access. And then I get I get questions like "how come you can't use what we have already?" (1x2k, 2x1ks and a handfull of 650s and 300s), or how come I can't get our HMI to match the existing light (sodium vapor!), or do we really need a second team to prelight night exterior as we're shooting the other 7 pages for the day? I could go on and on but I'm really dumbfounded at this point. Hopefully things will be fine once we settle in for the actual shoot.
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#11 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 28 April 2007 - 03:05 AM

Oh yes-

It's a 20 day schedule. The camera side is pretty decent for HD: one body but 5-6 digiprimes and a real 20" monitor. My crew is great (my preferred team) but there are too few of them - ONE AC and a 2 + 2 +1 grip/electric department.

Whenever I ask for realistic gear or (wo/)manpower, I'm apparently not a "team player" in making this low budget film work. Amazing.

I am determined to prevail however. Some how, some way....
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#12 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 28 April 2007 - 05:24 AM

I am determined to prevail however. Some how, some way....


Best of luck Jarin - sounds like it might be an interesting learning experience:) Looking forward to hearing more and seeing some stills.
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