One man on the brink of nothing is about to change everything…

Archive for December, 2010

Less than two weeks until shooting resumes…

I wanted to take a moment to post and let people know what’s going on in the immediate future…

We’ll be resuming principal photography in Dillon in a week and a half, and we’re going through all the pre-production on this project right now, just to make sure that this shoot goes off without a hitch.

Something I’m really taking seriously is making sure that things go smoothly in Dillon, and that we have not only a fun time, but an efficient time, and that we get everything done that we need to get done…this is a pivotal scene, as it is Hulser’s transition from the solitary existence we meet him in, into the world that he came from.

Keep watch here, folks – the days ahead are going to fly by, and we’ll be posting details as things move along.

Happy New Year to all you sci-fi fans out there, and be sure and stop by and see us on facebook!


Over the next few weeks…

There may not be as much activity here as there was at first, but I’ll be keeping an eye on the facebook page for this project – if you’re interested, stop by and “like” the page, you’ll be notified when updates do start coming back:

Also, we’re looking for someone in the Colorado area who would be interested in contributing typography work, as well as a possible soundtrack composer, and webwork. We’re lucky to be paying production costs, so paying people to work is out of our budget, but this would be a chance to contribute to something worthwhile, and we would greatly appreciate anyone who would be interested in contacting me at the facebook page.


…and the teaser comes down…

Keep an eye out for visuals through January and February, and an official trailer in the spring, and thanks for all of your support!

Tim O’Reilly makes mention of Cease Fire in his book on Frank Herbert.

Here’s the link:

The mention is 12-13 paragraphs from the bottom, and he speaks to the background of both Dune and Cease Fire; how the weapon developed in Cease Fire creates a situation that the characters in Dune have lived with for some time, and how prohibitive weapons drive a necessity for war to be carried out in other ways, rather than eliminate the actual cause of war.

This is actually chapter 3 of his book on Frank Herbert, written while Frank was still alive, and published in 1981. The book is out of print now, and can be found in its entirety at the website posted above.

Teaser comes down tomorrow…

Anyone who’s interested, please check it out via the links on the right of the page – thanks for coming by!

Regarding transparency, fair use, and the desire to be a part of something beautiful…

When I first picked up the collection of short stories called Eye, I was just out of high school, and was in a place in my life where I felt fairly aimless; with little in the way of family or ambition, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I didn’t want to invest in college without a plan, and I wanted to find something that would really click with me. I didn’t find that for over a decade, but thats another post…

I saw this collection of short stories by Frank Herbert in a used book store on the north side of Boulder, Colorado, around 1995 or 1996; it’s hard to remember, because I started shopping at that book store a fair amount, and bought several books whenever I was there. At any rate, the first time I picked it up, I read the short story entitled Rat Race – finished it in about twenty minutes, and then promptly went and bought the book. I read it whenever I was waiting for anything, and kept it in my backpack pretty much all the time. After a few years, it got to the point where I knew all of the characters inside and out, and since I’m terrible with huge amounts of new terminology and character lists a mile long, these small, easy-to-digest chunks of Herbert lore really sank in with me, and brought me even closer to the rest of his works, including Destination: Void, and the book that brought me to Mr. Herbert in the first place, Dune.

Since I was raised in a pretty conservative part of Oklahoma before moving to the less conservative Boulder, it was not so easy to get a hold of the vast literary works that exist – small town, tiny library, no internet – but movies were easy to get a hold of. I wore out my first copy of Dune on VHS – it sounded like crap by the time I had to replace it, and the tape had been eaten more than once. But, it kept me interested, and I picked up the book my sophomore year. I read it, and, realizing that Mr. Herbert had just turned a reckless teenager into someone who gave a damn about politics, religion, economy and ecology, I started in on his other works, which is what originally led me to Eye.

So, I didn’t go to college for years; I had a ton of crappy jobs, like a lot of people, but I had a ton of them, so they added quite a bit of “flavor” to my life, as well as learning experience. What I really learned, however, was that a regular job wasn’t going to work for me…I need to be part of something bigger than myself, not just make a check so I can come home from work and feed a life of mediocre contentment. I decided that it was time for me to go to college, and I did, and I learned a lot…far more than I would have if I had gone straight out of high school. I originally was thinking about a career in sound, since that had been a huge part of my employment in the years before I had decided to go back to school, but the college I went to first didn’t offer a sound program; what they had was a digital filmmaking program, and after a brief moment of considering what movies had contributed to my life, I signed up for that program instead.

After going through the learning process at the first program I signed up for, I realized that I needed something…more, so I transferred to the University of Colorado at Denver and signed up for their Film program. During that time, I started to think about what I really wanted to do with this choice I had made, and a realization hit me – this is the only time I can pretty much do anything I want and call it a learning experience, so I need to do something that I can not only finish, but do well if given the opportunity.

On that note, I’d like to say something about what is called the “Fair Use” law; in essence, it states that any copyrighted work may be used without permission under three very specific circumstances, the first being the presenting of evidence in a court hearing, and the second being the reporting of news. The third is regarding what is called “learning experience”, and it allows students to use copyrighted material in the process of learning. This, however, does not mean that the student has the right to show that work outside of a classroom setting, and they can’t make a single penny from it unless permission is granted by the owner of the copyrighted work, a situation which would involve quite a bit of legalese and being able to afford to pay people who know how to speak it, along with other costs, for things like story rights.

So, with that in mind, I knew I could do pretty much anything, but at this point in my career, I needed to create a worthwhile reel, and along with that, I wanted to do something that will gain confidence in me from the people I’ll be working with in the future – writers. I also wanted to do something to show my respect for the artists who have shaped my view, but I wanted it to be something that I could share with people everywhere, and I wanted to do it with style.

And so I chose Cease Fire.

Dillon Reservoir, Colorado - location where the Exterior Observation Post scene will be shot.

I knew it could be pulled off with the resources I had; the weather, the sets, the actors, the crew – all were available to me, and I saw all of that and just knew it could be done. But, would it ever make it outside of a classroom? My only thought on the matter – on most matters, really – was to just bust my ass and try to take it as far as it can go. So, I started writing emails, and eventually found the appropriate channel through which to contact the Herbert Estate. After a few emails, an agreement was worked out, but it didn’t just happen like that…I spent months adapting the script for Cease Fire, a time which I found to be very uneasy for me; in the introduction to Eye, Frank himself writes: “What reached the screen is a visual feast that begins as Dune begins and you hear my dialogue all through it.”

Those words haunted me.

Day and night, as I wrote this adaptation, they haunted me, and the devil of self-doubt whispered to me in my own voice…

You really think you can pull this off?

What makes you think you’re qualified to leave that out?

This’ll never work…

…words that you just can’t listen to as a writer or artist. I continued writing, and realized that there was only one thing that was going to make this succeed: Loyalty. So, I highlighted the hell out of the copy of Eye I had been carrying around for so long; I marked everything that I thought needed to be translated into film, and all of the dialogue, and then started piecing it together. Staying up nights in my hot apartment, writing, and then staring at that book, and then writing some more, and then staring at that book some more, until I finally came around to the third revision…it was ready.

The dialogue was verbatim in this version;  the only change I had made in my adaptation was a the change of location, the move in time to 100 years ahead of when the original story was set, and to make Sergeant Chamberlain a woman (sidenote: in the 1950’s, women were nonexistent in the military in the context of combat and infantry, and Frank wrote the story appropriately for the times, even if it was a tale of the future at that point. However, with women being at every level of the military at the present time, and with their presence growing in the military, it would be unrealistic to count them out. That, along with it the original story having a completely male character list, and with the time frame being moved up to 2072, a woman part felt necessary, and so the part of Chamberlain is now cast as a woman, although, in keeping faithful to the story, her dialogue hasn’t changed at all).

With the script written and faithful to the original story, I submitted it, and proceeded to chew my fingernails.

A short while goes by, and after that while, I hear back from the Estate: Add one line for clarification (a blessing, really, as the line was needed to help clarify something that was going to be difficult to translate to film), make sure that any visuals of Hulser’s wife allude to her being pregnant, and that’s it. The script was accepted, and all anyone wanted was for me to add a single line…I was floored. That I adapted a script from a story, stayed loyal to that author, submitted it and succeeded in gaining the approval of the Herbert Estate – it was all a little unreal to me.

But, I’m a student, and just gaining approval isn’t enough – if this script was good enough, I wanted to show it to the world, show Dune fans something outside of what they’re used to and know. That means I need official permission, and after making the minute changes, the permission came through.

I’ve spoken of “contracts” because lately, I deal with many, but there really only is one contract with the Herbert Estate. I won’t post it, but, in the interest of transparency to the fans of the late Frank Herbert, I will say that there is no money involved. I didn’t buy any rights to this story, and the Estate has asked for nothing, except my loyalty to the story and the contract. In exchange for finishing a quality product that stays loyal to the original work, I receive the permission to submit this short film to festivals and contests. I don’t make a penny from this work, and all money covering production costs come solely from the resources available to me…I don’t make any money from it, but I can show it to the world, and that’s enough for me.

Being a part of this is something I can barely describe – the work of Mr. Herbert has filled a huge part of my life, and made me someone that I am proud to be today. He made important things interesting by putting them in a context that broadened my horizons and changed how I see everything. I’m happy to have this opportunity, as I’ve never before been able to truly show thanks on this level, to someone who has touched my life so fundamentally. And for all of the self doubt I heard in my own voice so many months ago, every time that voice came, his voice countered, reminding me that it was his words on the screen, guiding me while I write – I can only hope, that after all of this, that I can do his old ghost proud, and carry on in the spirit of the man who wrote this at the beginning of of his career, so many decades ago.

A little about gear…

We rented all of the essential equipment for the Interior Observation Post scene, and we’ll be doing the same with the future shoots.

The essential things on set were obviously lighting, but the c-track from local rental house LSI really made for beautiful movement.

We’ve reserved what are called “speed rails” with LSI – this system is something they built on their own, although the idea seems to have been around for a while. We’ve also got a few other things in the works, but this is the score for the first exterior shoot.

The cameras and lenses that we are using are listed below,and were provided to us by Pro Photo Rental in Boulder, CO.

EOS 5D Mk II Body

EOS 7D Body

EF 24 f/1.4L II – CA24

EF 50 f/1.2L

EF 135 f/2.0L

EF 85 f/1.2L II

and for the first shoot:

EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS

EF 16-35 f/2.8L II

EF 24-70 f/2.8L

EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS

From a company called Telecorps Sales here in Denver, we are renting a Genus DSLR Mattebox, Followfocus w/ whip, gears, and rail support, as well as a Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun microphone. The Genus equipment will give us precise control over the lenses, and the microphone is one that’s sworn by in the broadcast business, used on many film shoots.

In order to be able to see on SD monitors from the Mini-HDMI output on the Canon 5D MKII and the 7D, we have to use a box called the BlackMagic Miniconverter that converts HD into SD for video monitoring. This box allows us to have a 7″ monitor mounted to the camera, and a 17″ monitor out of the way of the camera.

As for the teaser, it was created using After Effects CS5, along with a plug-in called Particular by a company called Trapcode.

It was edited and text was applied in Final Cut Pro, with the voiceover edited in Soundtrack Pro.

The ambient music was created in a software program called Ableton Live 7,  using G-Force’s MiniMonsta and Spectrasonic’s Trilian, a plug-in called SupaTrigga, and some foley wind samples and choir samples. Putting Supatrigga on the track’s send  in Live gives a pretty tasty layering sound, and works well for anything with dynamic movement in the mid to high frequencies.

Ableton was also used to create the vocal effect heard on the voice at the end of the trailer; we recorded the voice part several times, and then each reading was layered along with the others, giving a very strange echo kind of sound. However, by re-pitching the audio on just some of the tracks, then filtering some of the tracks and adding radio static with a plug-in called PSP Nitro, we end up with the vocal prototype effect for how Sergeant Chamberlain’s voice is actually going to sound in the film.

(if you’re into crazy awesome sound fx, check out the rest of the smart electronix people)

We’ll be shooting set photography with the DSLR’s we have on set, but we’ll also be shooting 35mm prints from a Holga 120n, which produces some beautiful photography.