Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In Defense of Aquaman...

Emily is going as Supergirl for Halloween this year. Anyone who knows me would naturally assume this was a result of much coaxing on my part, but believe it or not, she actually came to me with this idea herself.

This seems to indicate at least a temporary reprieve from the years-long "Princess" phase. Though when she found out that Wonder Woman was both a princess and a superhero, I think she mentally checked that off for next year's Halloween costume. But enough about the heroines, this is a story about Aquaman…

Emily's newfound love of all things superheroic has had a dramatic impact on her television viewing habits. Pretty much all we watch these days are Superman The Animated Series, Legion of Superheroes, and The Batman. She loves Teen Titans too, she's seen every episode at least a dozen times. However, as cool as the Teen Titans are, this is a story about Aquaman…

Emily's been home sick the last couple of days with what I like to call "vomit-itis". This translates to extensive television viewing (between the bouts of vomiting). In no time at all we burned through every episode of The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians DVDs that we picked up at Target on Saturday. Since she was feeling better today, we headed over to Borders at lunch to score us some new Superfriends DVDs. After much debate, but we settled on buying Super Friends, Volume Two. I really wanted to get Challenge of the Super Friends because I knew it featured the Legion of Doom, but Emily was completely captivated by the image of Superman in a cage surrounded by robot cowboys on the back of the Volume Two box.

How can I argue with that logic?

Aquaman is of course, a member of the Superfriends. I don't think I need to recap the grief the poor Sea King has endured the last few years. Needless to say, he's been the subject of much ridicule in the popular media. It makes a lot of folks, myself included, wonder why this character had or continues to have any appeal whatsoever.

Until today…

So, here we are, one or two episodes into Disc 1 of the Superfriends Volume Two. Classic stuff. The specific episode we're watching is entitled "Battle at the Earth's Core".
Summary (from tv.com): Jayna and Zan disappear while on a trip out to sea. When the Superfriends go to find them, they are pulled into a whirlpool and are taken to a strange subterranean land at the Earth's core. There they must battle dinosaurs and tar creatures in order to save the Wonder Twins.

About halfway into the episode Batman and Robin find themselves deep below the surface of the Earth in the Bat-Motorcraft (or something like that) near an underground river. Of course, since they are near water, Aquaman is conveniently with them.

Aquaman: This river's unlike any I've ever seen. The water's florescent.

Robin: That's not all, Aquaman. Look. The river's flowing uphill.

Batman: It seems that gravity works a bit differently under the Earth.

(Um, sure, different gravity…whatever you say, Caped Crusader.)

Suddenly, a giant jellyfish attacks them. Luckily, Aquaman is there. He uses his aquatic telepathy to call some other bizarre sea creatures to fight the giant jellyfish. For some strange reason (probably the gravity), Aquaman's aquatic telepathy works in reverse and the sea creatures attack him instead of the jellyfish. Always the quick thinker, Aquaman uses his extraordinary underwater mobility to dodge the sea creatures causing them to slam into the Bat-craft, thus freeing it from the monstrous jellyfish. The Superfriends live to fight another day.

At this point Emily turns to me with a look of absolute wonder and says, "Dad, that was soooo cool!"

As my geek heart fills with warmth, all I can say through my smile is, "Yep, Aquaman is pretty cool."

I can't neglect Nate, so in case you were wondering, Emily decided he is going to be Man of Steel for Halloween.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tim Robbins Peed on my Camera (Shelter Run Days 3 and 4)

We didn't have to be at the Bowling Green Warren County Human Society until 11AM on Saturday so all of us got to enjoy sleeping in. Add on the fact that we were in central time and I think that was the latest I've slept in years. Good thing too, because we were all going to need that energy for the trip back that night.

The BG shelter was largest and best maintained shelter that we visited. It was nice to be able to get some footage of dogs in kennels that wasn't sad looking. The animals had a lot of open space outdoors to exercise in as well. Spent the first part of the visit getting the now standard b-roll shots of the shelter. I also picked up some good shots of the Rogers' crew with some of the animals we were taking back to PA with us, including the animals that some of my traveling companions would be fostering. A lot of happy faces on Day 3.

This shelter was also the busiest that we had encountered so far. Lot of animals were brought in just during the time we were there, including a stray dog that was found on the side of the road that had to be one of the saddest animals I've ever seen, emaciated to the point of starvation.

The rest of the visit included a quality interview with Deana Wehr, the shelter's assistant director and filming the Rogers' crew as they prepared to transport dogs back to PA. Lots of crates to assemble, paperwork to double-check, and animals to crate up. Once we got all of the animals on the vehicle it was time to hit the road. We left BG around 3:30PM central time.

At this point we were running about an hour behind schedule, which was bad because we needed to get back to the other KY shelters before they closed to pick up some more animals. Luckily, Donna from the Anderson shelter was able to pick up the animals from the Mercer shelter and meet us off the highway which helped us get back the time we lost. She also gave us a ton of cookies for the road.

Now we had the long drive ahead of us. Up until this point, I'd been riding in the crew van with four other people, but I really needed to get some footage of the actual transport van so I switched over to ride with Jen in the van with all the animals. Wasn't nearly as stinky as I had been led to believe and the animals were amazingly well behaved. A little whining here and there, but no barking. I road with Jen and the dogs until just before midnight when we rolled into Clay County, West Virginia for our final pickup. At this point we were running a little early so we had to wait for the shelter we were meeting to arrive. Just after midnight we got our last couple of animals and got back on the road. Jen was done at this point so I took over the driving duties on the transport van for the next four hours. By 4AM on Day 4 I was too tired to drive and everyone needed a pit stop so Marianne took the wheel of the transport van and I grabbed a couple of hours of sleep in the passenger van. Woke up at about 6AM somewhere in MD at our next pit stop.

Finally we arrived at the Stabler drop-off point in PA around 7:30 AM on Sunday morning, an hour ahead of schedule. This was the same drop off that Andy and I had filmed a few weeks back, but this time we were on the delivering end of the process instead of the receiving. Time to uncrate as many dogs as we could and let them run and relieve themselves. I was so exhausted at this point that I shot hand held for the drop-off. Luckily, we'd been able to let most of the rescues that were meeting us know that we were running early so people soon started to arrive to claim the dogs and take them to their foster families.

Marianne was taking two dogs back to her house to foster, and since she drives a mini-Cooper we needed more room. Her husband, Layne had come up to the meeting spot to get one of the dogs, that Marianne had dubbed "Tim Robbins" to go with the other foster she was taking, Susan Sarandon. We were still waiting for the final rescue to arrive to claim the last dog, so I hitched a ride back to Marianne's house with Layne and Tim Robbins. About five minutes out from Marianne's place, Timmy decided to relieve himself in the car. Mostly on the floor, but also on my camera bag. Fortunately, I'd foreseen this possibility and covered the bag with my jacket so he only got a bit on the strap. The jacket didn't fare as well. Figures, four days surrounded by dogs and I finally get hit in the last five minutes of the trip. Of well, I guess it goes with the territory.

Packed up my gear, except for reflector I'd left in Marianne's mini (I'll get it back some other day) and head back to Jersey. Got back into town around 10AM and stopped at Small World for a couple of cups of coffee since I knew we didn't have any at home. Emily came running out to meet me as soon as I opened the garage. A good welcome home. Exhausted at this point, I unload the gear and immediately took a shower because... I really stank. It was good to be home, but I think the lack of sleep and a sore body made me pretty cranky for most of the day.

All in all, it was a great experience and I think I got some great stuff for the film. I'm really happy that the Rogers' crew let me be part of the trip (not to mention covering my expenses). I shot over 6 hours of footage over 4 days. Need to get those backbone interviews on the schedule soon. I think I'm also going to try and find some time to interview some of the ladies from the trip one-on-one and also film some of the dogs in the foster environment. Will probably try to start logging a few tapes a week for the next month or so with the goal of beginning the editing process in November. I'll try to post some choice video clips once I get going.

I know there's Rogers' blog of the trip out there somewhere as well as some Flickr page. I'll try to get those links up here too.

(Update 2010-01-21 - Here's the link the Flickr photostream from the trip. Thanks Claire!)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Shelter Run Day 2

Day two on the Shelter Run shoot was a lot less driving with a lot more shooting. We started off the day in Paris, KY. where we met up with some people from the Paris Animal Welfare Society for breakfast at a little diner called Louie's. Then it was off to the shelter.

Once we arrived, the gang from Rogers' got down to the business of animal rescue diplomacy while I worked on filming everthing. Trying to do a good job of picking up establishing shots of the building, little b-roll things, etc. so that the footage from this trip doesn't just end of being all dogs in cages. I also had some really great interviews with some of the volunteers at the PAWS rescue.

From Paris we went on to two more shelters, Anderson County and Mercer County. Pretty much the same story there, though these shelters seemed to be a little more on the remote side than Paris (which is near Lexington). Had a great interview at Anderson with the shelter director. Anderson was also the first time I got to go into a animal "control" center. Very different than the humane societies and animal shelters. Animal control is pretty much dog jail. I was only able to bring my Canon pocket HDV in there, but I got a few shots. It ain't pretty. Some of the dogs were pretty bad off.

I didn't do that much taping at the Mercer shelter which was the smallest we've seen so far. It was definitely the neediest shelter and just didn't seem to be as well off as the others. It was here that I learned that some shelters use inmates as workers to clean and manage the animals. The inmates came out and unloaded all the supplies the Rogers' gang was bringing to donate to the shelter.

Then we drove on down to Bowling Green, KY, our final stop on the trip. I didn't know BG was on Central time until we got here. Anyway, we checked in about 8pm last night and grabbed some steaks and beers at the restaurant next door, a throw peanuts on the floor, bucket of beer joint. I miss those, they don't have many in NJ.

As I'm writing this, it's actually the start of day three. Day 3 is going to be the most taping (and driving) yet. But I think it's also going to be the best footage because we will actually being doing rescues and transports today. I'm supposed to meet the gang downstairs for breakfast in a half hour. Then it's off to the BG shelter where apparently we'll be spending a few hours (and donating a washing machine and other supplies). Then it's time to load up some dogs that are going back to PA and into the rescue/foster/adopt process. We're planning to back track the entire route, stopping at most of the shelters we've visited to pick up more dogs for rescue. Then it will be the all night drive back to where we started. Should be back in PA by 9AM on Sunday, back in Jersey by 11:00.

Anyway, hungry, gotta finish packing and go eat. The next time I blog, I'll probably be back in Jersey with a lot of footage to log and sort.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Canine Rescue Doc Update 6: Shelter Run Day 1 (and the Transport Shoot)

(Update 1/12/2009: If you're looking for the sneak peak of the film that includes footage related to this post, click here.)

Well, I'm on the Shelter Run with the gang from Rogers' Rescues. It's been a long day and I'm really tired so this will probably be a short post. Left the house at 5:30AM on Thursday so I could meet Marianne by 6:00. Then we drove up to Bethlehem, PA to meet the rest of the Shelter Run crew which consists of Marianne, Nancy, Lynn, Dee, Claire, and Jen (I hope I got those all right). We've got 2 big vans full of stuff to give to all of the animal shelters we'll be visiting over the next three days, including a washing machine.

From Bethlehem, we departed for a really long drive to Parkersburg, WV. On the ride I tried to pick up some footage just to document the trip and I was also able to interview some of the gang about their rescue experiences. We rolled into the Parkersburg shelter around 4PM, about 90 minutes later than we had planned so I had to scramble to get setup for shooting. A little tougher this time because I'm operating solo. In the shelter, the director gave us a tour and I was able to get some really good b-roll of dogs in the shelter, something the film desperately needed.

By far, the high point of the shoot was getting to interview Summer Wyatt, the current Miss WV who was there doing an autographing event to promote awareness about animal cruelty and family violence. She was great on camera, really well spoken and said some fantastic things that I'm sure are going to make it into the film. I also did an interview with a well-known rescue volunteer, Debbie Hines, who everyone calls "Mama Hines". She was so passionate and was the first person to cry on-camera while being interviewed (so far). It was great stuff.

After the shoot wrapped around 6PM, we got back on the road for the 4 hour drive to Paris, KY where we are going to be visiting the PAWS (Paris Animal Welfare Society) in the morning. Tomorrow is going to be super busy, because we'll be hitting two more shelters after that. Then we'll be making the long drive to Bowling Green (Kentucky, not my alma mater in Ohio) to visit another shelter and pick up some dogs to bring back to the rescue. On the 12+ hour drive home we'll be stopping and picking up dogs on the way.

This has been the best shoot of the film so far. Hoping I can get some more one one time with each of the rescue volunteers I'm travelling with tomorrow. I really want to get their personal stories on film. I watched some of the footage on the ride to KY and it looks pretty decent. It's hard to manage all the details when you're trying to interview, run camera and do sound. Thankfully Marianne is always eager to help out with the interviews and the boom if I need it. The only bummer part of the trip so far is that I apparently have lost my driver's license. Don't know when, don't know where. Last time I remember seeing it was over a week ago. Hopefully it will be easily found when I get back to Jersey.

I'll try to post another blog tomorrow night. Someone from Roger's is also keeping a blog of the trip and has pictures. I'll post the link to that on my blog when I find out what it is.

I guess that wasn't a short post after all.

PS. I know I never blogged the transport shoot. Here's the short version: Andy I followed a big van of from PA to MD. In MD we picked up a bunch of dogs from a whole bunch of different shelters and took them back to PA. Then a bunch of rescue people came and got the dogs. We filmed it all. Got some great interviews. It was all very covert and underground railroad-ish. Good stuff. I ower Andy big time for helping and doing all the driving. Here's a picture of Layne, Andy and Marianne at the pickup spot in MD. I have more photos from the shoot in My Pics. Apologies for the quality. My old Kodak DC290 seems to be on the fritz. Eventually, I'll get around to posting some of the 10 hours of footage I've shot for this film.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Canine Rescue Doc Update 5: Running with the Pack

After a month long hiatus caused by paying gigs and a lengthy vacation, I'm finally able to turn my attention back the unnamed Canine Rescue Documentary. Fortunately, Marianne has been keeping things moving behind the scenes so I've got a ton of stuff on the agenda.

This Saturday we're finally going to get to film a dog transport to make up for the shoot that got scrubbed at the beginning of production. Like we hoped, this one is going to be better than the original because we're doing the actual transport. Marianne and her hubby Lane are going to be driving the transport and I'll be tagging along with my camera. Our first stop will be Bethlehem, PA where we will pick up the van and all of the supplies for transporting the dogs. Then we will head out to a location somewhere in Maryland where a number of shelters will arrive and give us dogs to transport back to PA. Then it's off to an "undisclosed location" somewhere in PA where a bunch of rescue organization will come and collect the canines for entry into the adoption process. It's like the Underground Railroad for rescued animals. Should be really good stuff for the film.

But that's not all! Marianne's also been working hard on setting up some other shoots. The one I'm most excited about is "The Shelter Run". This is a four day trip in October where a number of the Rogers' volunteers (including Marianne) travel around visiting shelters in West Virginia and Kentucky to promote the rescue mission and also transport some more canines. Turns out that the current Miss WV, who is going to be named a national spokesperson for the Human Society, is friends with one of Marianne's rescue buddies (a former Miss WV herself) and wants to be in the film. So, we'll probably get to interview her for the doc while on the trip. It will be great to get some celebrity clout into the film.

Those are the two big things happening soon. There's also a chance that we might be able to squeeze another celebrity into the film later this month, but it's still very preliminary. I'll be sure to post if any news breaks on that. Marianne's also going to be fostering two dogs next week so I'll be covering that as well. Busy, busy.

At this stage, I'm feeling good about where the film is headed. I think after these two big shoots all we will need to do is get some of the backbone interviews from key Rogers' Rescues personnel and we might be ready to start editing this thing. Might have a film by the end of the year if all continues to go well.

And of course…. I could use some help this weekend (and in October) if anyone is interested and available. I'd love to have a copilot for the transport drive since it's a lot of driving, and to just help out, no filmmaking skills needed. Taking still photos would be cool too. It's an early start (6:00AM) but we will be done by dinnertime. All I can offer is food, fuel (if we use your car), fun, good karma and a credit in the film. Let me know if you're interested.

I'm also looking for a partner for the Shelter Run which is Oct 4-7. That's a bigger commitment and involves LOTS of driving and overnight stays. For that shoot I can pay all accommodations and most likely a meager day rate.

I'll try to get a new post with pictures of the transport shoot out as soon as I can.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Wrock [Video]

This is just a quick follow-up on my earlier wizard rock post. Seemed unfair to spotlight the Remus Lupins only, so I after a quick search on YouTube, I found this clip from the actual concert. It's the Whomping Willows playing a song about how Harry and Draco secretly want to make out.

If you are eagle-eyed, you might spy Emily sitting on the floor along the back wall with the other munchkins. She's sitting at the feet of the woman holding the baby.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Flash! AH! AH!

I just got around to watching the pilot episode of the new Flash Gordon series on the Sci Fi channel.

I'm pretty darn forgiving when it comes to bad tv sci fi. I have Sliders on DVD, I watch Tom Baker Dr. Who whenever it's on local PBS and I can't resist an episode of Gil Gerard Buck Rogers. All of which means I'll be keeping this thing on the Tivo season pass for at least a few more weeks.

I'm not going to waste blog space dissecting the pilot episode. Nor am I going to criticize the stilted acting, bad dialog, lack of special fx, missing actions sequences, or the heavily-borrowed-from-Sliders plot devices.

I have only one true bitch about this show. And it's the lack of this:

C'mon Sci Fi! You've been teasing us for weeks with promos playing little snippets of this classic theme (albeit a cover version) and you don't even use it in the show! Not even in the closing credits! Don't you realize that all classic sci fi shows have killer opening credits and theme music?

Would BTVS still rock without the Nerf Herder title sequence?

Would Star Trek be as cool without the NCC-1701 zipping through space?

Would the Greatest American Hero or Buck be as awesome without their opening themes?

Would classic BSG have even been a good show without its theme music?

Word of advice to Sci Fi Channel: Next week, Flash better have some opening credits, and they better KICK SOME ASS! Ah! Ah!

...ok, before you start blasting me, I realize that the new BSG and LOST both lack awesome credits and theme music, but they are so awesome, I forgive them.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Wrock on! [Video]

Ok, first for those not familiar with this musical movement, a quick definition courtesy of the all-knowing-but-not-always-accurate Wikipedia:

"Wizard rock is a musical movement dating from 2002 that consists of at least 200 bands made up of young musicians, playing songs about Harry Potter. The movement started in Massachusetts, though has grown internationally. The lyrics are usually humorous and simple, and many bands write songs from the point of view of a particular character in the books, usually the character who features in the band's name. If they are performing live, they may also cosplay, or dress as, that character."

I'd heard mention of this movement in various media outlets during the latest frenzy surrounding the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and last night I got to experience it in person when I took Emily and Nate to a free concert at the Princeton public library. The concert featured three bands, The Whomping Willows, The Moaning Myrtles, and The Remus Lupins. After the 2000+ person turnout for the book release block party a few weeks back, I was worried there wouldn't be room to swing a kneazle, but rain forced the show indoors which I think kept the crowd manageable. According to Em, the Myrtles are now her favorite band. What can I say? At four and a half she's already into girl power.

For lack of a better phrase, I can only describe it as pretty cool. Solid music, clever lyrics and great theatrics. Being an almost-grown-up, I probably won't be following the wizard rockers on tour anytime soon, but as a geek-at-heart, I can definitely admire the sort of extreme fandom that has spawned this musical movement. If the Potter-era had been during my own teenage years I'm sure my pals and I would have been wizard rock devotees. Seeing all these Potter-fanatics over the last few weeks brings back warm memories of being first in line to see Batman (circa 1989) wearing a batsuit cobbled together from bits of vinyl and an old scuba mask with my pals, The Joker (Scott) and the Riddler (Dex), by my side. Not to forget the time my fellows geeks and I dressed as the cast of characters from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. And there's not enough space in this blog to cover all the Renaissance festivals and comic con shenanigans, but I will pass on this tip to future costume wearing crazies: No matter how authentic you want your superperson mask to be, you should still cut some eye-holes in it.

Yep, wizard rock. All of the bands I mentioned are on MySpace as well as many more. Oh, and did I mention? The Remus Lupins rock. Check 'em out.

(For disclosure's sake, this video is not from last night's concert. We actually didn't get to stay and see the Remus Lupins, so I went looking for them online. After hearing their stuff, was bummed we didn't get to stay for their set.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

SunDance is waiting for the tooth fairy!

Not much new to report yet.  Working on trying to focus the film into more of a story than a simple show and tell of the rescue operation. Need to get another shoot on the schedule so I can keep the momentum going on this thing. I did get this email update today on SunDance. Marianne forwarded it to me from Nancy, the Rogers' Rescue vounteer who is currently fostering Sundance(and who we interviewed at the last shoot):

SunDance did well at Alpha Vet today getting what was left of his broken front canine removed.  They also removed some excess gum tissue around the area that was sent out to biopsied to make sure its nothing serious.  Alpha vet had the same thoughts that Anderson did ... that SunDance was likely kicked in the face as he's missing all the small front teeth on the same side as the broken canine.  Something hit him hard in the face ... I can only imagine what ..
Anyway, on a positive note, he's doing well ...  slept most of this evening, and did eat his dinner right up.  He's a little whiny when he's up, but I'm sure he's not feeling his usual self ...  
Alpha gave me the tooth to keep (I never knew the canine roots where sooooo long!) ... and so we are putting it under SunDance's pillow and hoping the tooth fairy brings some goodies :)

Pretty sad stuff.  Who kicks a dog in the head? I really think SunDance is going to end up being a major character in this film.  I wish we had gone on the vet visit and gotten some footage.  I think I'm going to see if I can line up an interview with the vet who did exam.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Canine Rescue Documentary Update #3: "The Sundance Story"

We wrapped our first day of shooting yesterday afternoon and things went smoothly.  The hardest part of the day was finding the pet store in the shopping mall sprawl that is Newtown, PA.  We shot for about 3 hours at the adoption event and while we certainly still need to capture more footage and interviews to tell this story, it feels good to at least have something on tape.

I wasn't sure how things were going to go at first.  Normally I do a lot of preparation for these kinds of shoots ahead of time.  Other than Marianne, I hadn't really spoken to anyone who was involved in the rescue so I didn't have any questions prepared. It was also a bit strange because I'm not typically the guy behind the lens so I can usually focus on getting the interview and not on getting a good shot. Fortunately, Marianne was there to act as the interviewer and talk to people so Andy and I could focus on the picture and sound.  I won't say it's the best footage ever, but for shooting in a mish mash of fluorescent and daylight with dogs barking and people talking, I think we did pretty well.  The wireless mic setup was a major plus (after Andy and I figured out that we had initially put the batteries in upside down).  Navigating through the cramped store aisles would have been tricky if we had been connected by cables.

At the end of the shoot, we had about 60 minutes of tape shot.  Surprisingly we ended up doing a lot more on camera interviews that I had anticipated and less b-roll of dogs.  The event was pretty busy and other than the 3 or so dogs that they had it was really just a table setup, so not all that visually interesting. Also, with the crowd that gathered, doing a lot of b-roll would have meant a lot of release forms.  We talked to 2 or 3 people from the rescue group who were there and got some good background on why they decided to become involved.  We also got to speak to a couple of people who adopted from rescue groups or who are in the process.

Probably the best part of the shoot was getting to meet Sundance. Sundance is a rescued canine who was at the event but wasn't there for adoption.  He was there to work on being socialized to human contact.  They're not sure what his life was like before he was rescued, but obviously it wasn't great because he's really afraid of people. Not hostile in anyway, just scared.  He spent most of the day hiding in a shelf.  Sundance is probably going to be a dog that we'll try to follow through the entire foster/adoption process.  We've also got a lead on getting some footage of Sundance from the shelter he was in before he came to Rogers' Rescues. I think that could be a pretty compelling story if we can tell if from beginning to end.
And c'mon, Sundance? Any filmmaker has gotta love a name like that.

Well, that's all for now.  I'll be sure to post when the next shoot gets scheduled or if anything else exciting happens.  In the meantime, keep those title suggestions coming. You can also check out some stills from the shoot on my MySpace page.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Canine Rescue Documentary Update #2: "Project Yellow Light"

Ok, I still don't have a working title for this film yet, but I decided "Canine Rescue Documentary" sounded a bit classier than "Dog Documentary".

I spent a lot of time this week trying to get the project moving. After all the legal concerns that cropped up before the first canceled shoot, I whipped up a dandy of a proposal for the Rogers' Rescues people to review with their legal council that basically outlines the approach to the film and how we plan to distribute it. It also clarifies a bunch of stuff about copyright and ownership, releases, etc. and so on. Word from Marianne is that is was well received by the board and is just getting a final scan from their lawyers before they officially endorse the film. Hence, the film sort of has a "yellow light" status at this point.

Writing the proposal was also really helpful in the sense that it forced me to clarify some vision for the project. Here are a couple of juicy excerpts from the treatment:

The objective of the film is to raise awareness about canine rescue by telling the story of Rogers' Rescues, an all volunteer companion canine rescue organization dedicated to preventing and ending the unjustifiable execution of adoptable companion canines in U.S. shelters by providing them a chance at becoming permanent, loved family members. The film will present a positive message about concerned individuals and organizations that donate their time and resources for the betterment of other creatures and individuals. Some of the topics he film hopes to address include:
  • How animal rescue activity and awareness are gaining momentum on a local and national scale
  • The history behind how Anne Marie Rogers founded the Rogers ' Rescues organization
  • The difficulties some animal shelters face in finding homes for dogs because they are located in remote or poorly perceived locations
  • How over population and low adoption rates force shelters to euthanize healthy companion animals ready for adoption on a daily basis
  • The "all breed" aspect of the Rogers' Rescue organization
  • The "virtual rescue" aspect of the Rogers' Rescues organization
  • The day-to-day operation of Rogers' Rescues including the dog transport, foster volunteer, and adopter approval process (possibly through the form of actual case studies or foster/adoption stories)
  • The historical and ongoing success of Rogers' Rescues including the number of canines rescued to-date and the approaching milestone of the 1000th adoption

The proposal contains a bunch of other info, but that's a pretty good summary of what we're hoping to cover.

The best news is that even with our unofficial yellow light status, we've got our first shoot scheduled for this Sunday in Newtown, PA. We're going to be on location at a PetValu store to film an adoption event. I'm hoping to get some nice b-roll of canines in need of adoption and interview some folks with Rogers' Rescues as well as people coming into adopt. Crew and gear is all set to go. We're going to be shooting with my Sony PDX10 DVCAM which is nice because it's super small and doesn't attract a lot of attention, but it also takes a sweet picture. I was also fortunate to get the gang over at Riverview Studios to loan me a wireless mic setup at no charge. And to top it off, my Sticky Wisdom co-director Andy Howe has volunteered to help out as my soundguy. Having an extra hand and a wireless boom mic is going to make shooting much simpler.

So there it is. Real progress has been made and after this weekend we will hopefully have some usable footage in the can. I'll try to post another update shortly after the shoot.

Now that I think of it, if anyone out there has a great idea for a title for this film, I'd love to hear it. Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Dog Documentary Update #1: "I see lawyers."

Well, this new documentary has not gotten off to the most auspicious start. In fact, the dog transport shoot that was supposed to happen this Saturday in PA has been scrubbed. Seems there are too many legal hurdles to clear in too short of a time to secure the location release we would need to actually use the footage. The guerilla filmmaker in me says, "Screw it. Let's go and shoot anyway and we will find a way to get it cleared later." But the producer in me knows that we can't afford to tick off the rescue organization because we need their full cooperation to make this film.

Getting the location release was just one of many legal obstacles and uncertainties that started popping up once the rescue group got over their initial excitement about the project. Apparently many dog rescue groups operate in some kind of legal grey area and they're cautious about exposing too much of their operation to the public. Not to worry though, they are still supportive of the film and 100% want to do it, but understandably being a business (even a non-profit), they've got to cover their behinds. Looking at the bright side, this means the project is being taken seriously and it also forces us to be a little more organized from the get go. So, I'll probably spend the rest of this week and next working on a proposal/treatment, budget, legal review of all releases, schedules, etc. The kind of numb-your-brain stuff I deal with all the time, but was hoping to skirt on this project.

But the important question is, "How am I am going to make up for losing this shoot?" Problem already solved. We've got another, smaller dog transport that we can tape later in the year that we know we can get the location release for. There is now also a possibility that Marianne and I will get to do a ride-along on a transport, which will be super cool (though I'm told it is very smelly).

So there it is. Dog Doc update #1. Still got the adoption event on the 15th on the shooting schedule so I've got a lot to do between now and then. Maybe after next week this project will have a title.

Now that I think of it, if anyone out there has a great idea for a title for this film, I'd love to hear it. Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Until there are none...rescue one.

Greeting blog readers,

It's an exciting Monday. As I learned from reading Dale Newton's fabulous book Digital Filmmaking 101 the first step to producing a movie is to start telling everyone that you're going to make a movie. That way, when people start asking, "Whatever happened to that movie thing you were going to do?" the shame and embarrassment of not completing your project will motivate you to keep working on it.

So, as I promised back on June 10, I'm going to be making a new movie this summer and I'm starting today. There, I said it.

What's it's about? Well, doing all this work for NJN lately has got me itching to do some doc work of my own, so the film is going to be a documentary about dog rescue. I'm teaming up with my colleague and friend, the super-talented Marianne Ahern who is actively involved with an organization called Roger's Rescues to make it happen. The group is rapidly approaching a big milestone, the adoption of their 1000th dog, so this is likely going to be the angle for the film. Other than that, we don't have a crystal clear vision for the film, but some of the distribution ideas we've kicked around are making a piece to submit to Current TV, using it as a promotional film for the rescue organization, or making a longer film for submission to doc fests. In true doc fashion, we're just going to start shooting a bunch of stuff and see what we can make out of it.

Marianne and I are having our first pre-production meeting this afternoon and we're going start shooting on Saturday when we travel down to Kutztown, PA to film a dog transport. This is where a HUGE box van full of dogs from a shelter in Bowling Green, Kentucky arrive and a bunch of different rescue groups from NJ and PA meet the van to pick up the dogs they have previously agreed to foster. My understanding is that this event is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, so I'm hoping to get some good stuff. Then the following week, we're going to try and shoot some footage at an adoption event in Newtown, PA. I think we're going to try and follow one dog (or several) through the entire rescue-foster-adoption process which could take some time (weeks to months).

Anyway, I'm really excited to be working on a new self-funded project. I don't think I've been this psyched about a project since the first NYC Midnight Madness contest. I'll be keeping a production diary of the film here on my blog so you can follow the progress of this new endeavor and I'll definitely be posting some clips(if not all) of the film as soon as it starts to come together.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Maybe people peeing on things isn't funny... [Video]

Greetings Subscribers!

Since I probably bored the pants off of everyone (except Kerr and Kruse) with that last mind-numbing (but passionate!) post about ISO dating standards, I felt the urgent need to move something else to the top of my blog.

Truly, I'm not into shameless self-promotion, but here's a not-so-old video from the early 21st century that most of you have probably already seen. I remember after we made this we were shocked that so many people found the finale distasteful, but after watching a recent episode of On The Lot, I think I might finally agree that the gag was a bit of a cop out. Oh, who am I kidding, we knew it was a cop out from the start, but Andy and I wrote this in like two days and it needed an ending. Still, it has its moments including masterful performances by the actors who did this thing with zero rehearsal and no pay. It is also historic in that as far as I can recall, this was the first (and last) time I ever asked anyone to take their pants off for the camera. Charlie, you are truly a slave to your art.

And I promise, the next movie I post will be a new one. Really. I'm going to make one this summer. I mean it.

Sticky Wisdom

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Dating Standard Dilemma

I never realized what a problem date formats could be.

One of my clients has a worthy obsession with templates and naming conventions, including date-stamping all docs. To that end, they employ the non-standard US date format: mm/dd/yy at the end of all file names. Since they don't use any separators (hyphens, etc.) this results in strange numbers at the end of documents (e.g. 060407) which are not immediately recognizable as dates. Frankly, I don't see the this kind of confusing date stamp adds any real value.
Anyway, being a bit of a standards-junky myself, I've now switched to using ISO 8601 format (CCYY-MM-DD) for all dating of my business documents, invoices, proposals, etc.

A couple of interesting links on the subject:

"11 Good Reasons to Use ISO 8601"

"FAQ: Date formats"

The Date Interpretation Quagmire"

This works pretty well for documents where the date is just data or metadata, in spoken and written word I still lean towards writing out the date as it would be spoken (e.g. June 5, 2007) and avoid abbreviations altogether. This makes even better sense when working on a project that will later be localized.

Oddly, this is a HUGE problem in software training/localization and I'm astonished all software isn't using the ISO standard. A project I'm working on now is actually French software being translated to English where they've had to switch from the European DD/MM/YYYY to the U.S. MM/DD/YYYY. If they had just used the ISO standard from the start, there would be no confusion to begin with and a lot less work to do.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Revenge of Revenge [Video]

Since all of my friends (well two of you anyway) got a good chuckle out of my last bad filmschool flashback, I figured I might as well go ahead and post the other film that I made back 1992 in my 8mm film class.

Since crafting this masterpiece, I've learned the following:

  • Footage looks better when you focus the camera
  • Fluid heads on a tripod are really useful
  • Bad digital video effects are better left in the last century
  • If you only have one lighting instrument you should put it on the talent instead of using it for that awesome backlight-coming-through-the-door effect
Enjoy! I promise my next post will contain real substance.

Media Effects

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

MySpace, the place where old movies go to die... [Video]

Well, now that I finally got around to tweaking out my profile, I figured I'd get around to doing this blog thing. What better way to start than by posting some embarrassing videos!

This is the 2nd film (if you can call it that), that I ever made. Ok, not technically, I made some even worse films in high school but I don't have copies of those. Anyway, I've had this little gem sitting around on my desk for some time now and not been sure what to do with it, so I decided to throw it up here for everyone's viewing pleasure.

A little history about this film. This was made as a project for an 8mm filmmaking class I took at BGSU way back in 1992 with the help of three classmates, Shane Perkins, Brian True, and Katie Johnson. It was shot on a really old Sankyo Super-8 camera in just one day. It only screened one time, at the prestigious 1992 BGSU 8mm Film Festival. We got an "A" on it, but I'm pretty sure Dr. Doug was grading on a curve.

When I first dusted off this old VHS copy I thought, "Hey, I'll digitize this thing, color correct it, fix the bad edits and camera flops, and put together a nice DVD for Shane, Katie and Brian." I even have some behind-the-scenes footage, bloopers, and some commentary from all of us that got picked up on the VHS tapes when we transferred from 8mm. Then I realized that might offend film purists so I decided to go with the raw version. Ok, I just don't have the time to spend screwing around with old movies and I have no idea how to get in touch with Katie, Shane and Brian. Still, if someone out there  wants to score a new soundtrack, I'm game!

One final embarrassing tidbit about this film is the fact that this was actually on my demo reel when I applied for my first internship at Pinnacle Productions. Not sure if Bill Monks was amused by the effort or just took pity, but I ended up getting the gig, and the rest is history.


Add to My Profile | More Videos