Crew Hospitality

Bad-Words-Jason-Bateman

Though working on a Hollywood film set is a sought-after, cherished, and exciting position to hold, it can frequently be a grueling and exhausting one, as well. Whether a day becomes painstakingly slow and tedious on a soundstage, or overwhelming busy out on location, the general moral level of the crew seems to fluctuate accordingly. Sometimes, people feel as if they are unappreciated or, even worse, not respected. Further yet, hectic production schedules often lead to fewer breaks and more meal penalties, which leave people feeling tired and hungry. In moments like these, generous acts of kindness or displays of gratitude really do go a long way.

Each Friday on the set of Bad Words (2013), Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, Bateman provided the crew with a different one of the many unique food trucks that Los Angeles has to offer. For the duration of the six-week shoot, the crew always had a flavor-induced moral booster to look forward to; from the popular Kogi BBQ Taco Truck, to the inventive Grilled Cheese Truck and everything in between.

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Likewise, throughout the course of filming the first season of Showtime’s Ray Donovan (2013), Liev Schreiber repeatedly surprised the crew with various coffee trucks that offered endless possibilities of hot, iced, or blended coffees, teas, and smoothies, all complimentary.

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On a recent project, the zombie-fighting Chandler Riggs donated, on numerous occasions, a lottery ticket to each crewmember, simply as a show of good fortune. I have not heard if any of us hit the jackpot…

Though these are only short-lived distractions and departures from what is sure to prove a long day, they serve wonders to reinforce a positive sense of community and sharing on any film set. Having someone, such as a director or principle actor (who certainly earns far more than most people on the production) show their respect for the crew can quickly restore productivity and motivation.

Happy filmmaking.

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Comfort Zones

DF-11070-Edit - Ben Stiller in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY.

This post serves merely to step forward and acknowledge the unique courage that a select group of artists exhibit from time to time by stepping out of their respective “comfort zones”. In the upcoming film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, actor Ben Stiller looks to take a brief detour from his now-expected whimsical farces towards a more quirky, cerebral, feel-good drama. His appreciated diversion illustrates a daring risk, showing that he is capable of more dynamic performances, or perhaps at the very least, that he is not afraid to engage in the unusual.

Stiller follows in the large footsteps of two notable performers, to me anyways, who are also oft-considered comedic actors; Jim Carrey and Jack Black.

If one recalls, Carrey starred in two disparate non-comedies that revealed a new side of the actor. We all knew that he was capable of a wide-array of characterizations but in the films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and The Number 23 (2007) he really took himself seriously. An ethereal, sci-fi romance and a gritty, mind-bending thriller, are both a far-cry from the Ace Ventura‘s we had seen from him before. In a similar vein, Black excelled in Peter Jackson‘s 2005 epic remake of King Kong. In Kong, Black portrays a cut-throat filmmaker in the 1930s who stumbles upon a rare adventure opportunity. His portrayal is, indeed, a little stagey but necessarily so as his character meshes perfectly with Jackson’s homage to movies of the 1920s and 1930s.

Carrey and Black’s deviations are not reserved for actors alone, though. It was also a pleasant surprise in 2010 when musical duo Daft Punk digressed from their “comfort zone” of chill, lounge vibes to compose the orchestral and cinematic score for TRON: Legacy. Recently, M83, in similar fashion, took a breath from their popular club beats to record the soundtrack for the Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion (2013).

Like the chances that have been before him, hopefully seeing Stiller’s new movie will prove worthwhile. Check out the trailer.

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Viral Marketing Campaigns on the Rise

Trask Ind.

Viral marketing might not necessarily be a new concept, but over the last few months there has certainly been an increasing number of upcoming feature films resorting to tie-in videos to promote their release.

I first noticed the trend back in mid May when a publicity scheme entitled Crisis Zero popped up on the internet documenting an outbreak that may have been discovered all across the globe. What a great idea, right? Is it real?  It gets people talking. Unfortunately though, the video was too little, too late. The trailers for the actual movie, World War Z (2013), had been out for a while. Maybe if they started with the viral campaign earlier, it could have had a stronger impact. A decent model for the future, anyway.

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Having had my interest peaked though, I started paying closer attention and quickly realized that  there were a number of other viral marketing strategies across the inter-webs. I’ve listed three of the most prominent uses below:

RoboCop (2014)

Though, some feel that tampering with Paul Verhoeven‘s original vision may be abhorrent, I say that anything with Gary Oldman in it should be considered a win. By now, everyone should know my affinity for Gary Oldman… Regardless, the upcoming remake of the 1987 classic also sought an avenue in viral promotion, and recently they debuted a video outlining the future defense technologies that OmniCorp has been developing to keep the dystopian, crime-ridden city of Detroit safe. I will refrain from making any bankruptcy jokes.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Director Bryan Singer, and the rest of the folks over at Marvel Comics, thought it might be a good idea to release a video promoting the achievements of a fictional company called Trask Industries, in a very similar fashion to RoboCop. Trask Industries will, no doubt, play significant role in next year’s film. Check out the Trask Industries website for more.

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Godzilla (2014)

Yet another addition in the long line of Hollywood’s recycling program, Godzilla has been  attempting to make waves across the internet. Literally. Their release of multiple mysterious encounters throughout the South Pacific were all working together to build anticipation for their panel at Comic-Con, back in July. For more info, check out GodzillaEncounter.com.

Godzilla

Is viral marketing bringing us all one step closer to an impending movement towards streaming-based entertainment, or rather, what Steven Spielberg predicts as an implosion of the film industry?

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Going Green? Why Now?

Green Screen

VFX Protest copy

Posted in Animation, Awards, Cameras, CGI, Cinema, Cinematography, DSLR, Film, Hollywood, Industry, Movies, Oscars, Technology, VFX | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worth the Wait – Landing a Job on Lincoln

***This is a post that I wrote almost exactly one year ago, but never happened to publish. My thoughts were something that I wanted to write down more for myself than any audience, really. It seems clear, in hindsight, that I was very green and nothing short of excited. It’s funny to take a look back now and see how far I have progressed in a year’s time, and how much I have learned since. So, please excuse my present tense for a past due article and, perhaps, you may share the same chuckle that I did when recounting my first impressions from my first major motion picture. Enjoy.***

Just recently I had my first day of my first “real job”. I write that with quotes for two reasons. For one, beginning a career in the film industry, it’s hard for me to think of anything as work or a job because I enjoy it so much that this is what I would do for fun if I happened to be something else, like… a banker. And secondly, no matter how good a production job may be, it still only lasts for a few months before the need to start booking the next gig arises.

It has been at least the better half of a year since I first got wind that Steven Spielberg would be bringing his talents to Richmond, Virginia, where my parents currently live, to film his long-awaited biopic of Abraham Lincoln. It wasn’t until I graduated from Ohio University, though, that the real anticipation began. ‘Hurry up and wait’ is the common title for the game I played for roughly 4 months after I first submitted my resume. But now, after months of waiting, and a few extra weeks of post-interview call backs, I am now proud to say that I am officially working on Steven Spielberg’s, yes, Steven Spielberg’s next film.

Lincoln (2012) – IMDb

In an episode of Seinfeld, George gets a job with the New York Yankees, and in his disbelief Jerry exclaims, “Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle… Costanza?”

To which George replies, “This is a dream… I’m busting, Jerry, I’m busting!”

I feel like George, right now. (No kidding)

So, as much as I would like to be the provider of some The Dark Knight Rises-esque spoiler info, (Batman-News.com) there is a strict confidentiality policy, and in the interest of keeping my job, I think I’m going to follow the rules. It also just seems like common sense to be courteous and not to spoil the film you’re working on. Instead, I thought I would provide a brief list of things that I’ve learned so far working on this sweet show:

1.) There are a lot of names to learn.

2.) Everyone is pretty friendly. Even the DP isn’t too good to come right up and shake your hand and introduce himself. So, don’t be shy.

3.) Wearing a headset is a quick way to really get a grasp of what’s going on on set.

4.) It feels very official to wear an ID badge with your picture on it.

5.) It’s fun to see actors in costume.

6.) No one is going to yell at you for asking questions.

7.) Never underestimate “Lunch Provided”. Let’s just call it Five Star Dining from 2:17 to 2:47 PM. Oh, and breakfast, too. Get there early. (You should be there early anyways!)

8.) It feels really good to have your name on the same call sheet as Steven Spielberg.

9.) It’s cool to witness the Director working his magic, but it’s even cooler when you wave ‘good morning’, and he waves back.

10.) As much fun as it may be, it’s still a job. Everyone is a professional, so take it seriously.

Well, that’s my life at the moment and I want to thank my family, my friends, and my girlfriend for being supportive and keeping their fingers crossed (and hopefully their arms, legs etc… crossed too) for me.

***Since I was unfortunately unable to attend the crew screening while working on a new project, I will simply have to purchase a ticket just like everyone else when Lincoln hits theaters tomorrow, and then nation wide on November 16, 2012!***

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Live Action Halo Web-Series – Primed for Feature?

I have never really been a fan of the Halo video game series. What’s not to like – it features an interesting premise, gnarly sci-fi aliens, and super-badass future soldiers? I’m not sure. Something just always rubbed me the wrong way. The Halo universe finally caught my attention, though, when news began surfacing a few years ago about a potential feature film adaptation. It was even rumored that Steven Spielberg read the screenplay and absolutely loved it. Sadly, so far nothing has seem to come of our silver screen version. However, that all changed recently. Kind of…

A few weeks ago, Microsoft, the creators of Halo, released a five-part web-series entitled Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn that portray the events leading up to their forthcoming video game Halo 4, due for release tomorrow, November 6, 2012.

Forward Unto Dawn, which Microsoft funded itself, is certainly cinematic and could easily be the first step in Microsoft’s rekindling of the fire to transform Halo into a feature blockbuster. From this behind the scenes video, it sure seems the series was quite the undertaking. The five videos feature some surprisingly good acting coupled with action, fantastic production design, and great visual effects. The filmmakers did an excellent job of grounding this futuristic environment in today’s reality.

Check it out:

Interested in seeing the likes of Halo on the big screen?

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The Fruits of Labor

Almost exactly one year ago I began working professionally in this industry and, unfortunately, up until now, I have not had much to show for it. During that expanse of time, however, I did have the privilege of being a part of two awesome productions; Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, and Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger. Now, with trailers recently released for both of those films, I can finally relish in the fruits of my labor for two movies that I am genuinely excited to see.

Coincidentally, both movies happened to be featured on IMDb’s home page at the same time.

There is no doubt that I will enjoy watching these when they hit theaters but I know they will also be a constant reminder of all of the wonderful people I worked with, the long and exhausting days I spent across dozens upon dozens of locations, and the unforgettable experiences of working in a career field that I love.

Posted in Cinema, Experience, Film, Hollywood, Industry, Lincoln, Movies, The Lone Ranger | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment