Monday, July 29, 2013

Raising the Barr

Gosh, I let it die here again. As is often the case when that happens, it's not because nothing was happening, it's because nothing EXCITING was happening. I've got a rough cut in place for that new trailer I mentioned previously. And that's all I'll say about that for now. Much of my time for the past few weeks has been spent working on a VFX shot list for Fred, to aid in his search for a studio to help us out with this beast. There's a reason I haven't posted any progress reports on THAT.

This is not exciting for anybody but boring people. You're welcome, Ben Stein.
With principal photography done, there's not a lot of excitement left to cover. It's going to be largely administrative stuff straight through to the end. But we do have a few odd pieces of filming still remaining, certain minor characters as yet uncaptured. Saturday we rolled... digital once again to cross one more piece off the list.

Scurvy. Check.
As we all know, when Dorothy arrives in Oz she's greeted by the Good Witch of the North as well as three Munchkins. While we filmed the Witch herself two years ago (and Dorothy two years before that, Jesus...), the Munchkins have been conspicuously absent. Until now, that is.

We returned to the storage unit green screen with our old friend Wesley Edge, as his Munchkin mayor Boq is the head of the welcome committee, apparently. Flanking him was... one guy, actually. Richard Barr, a jovial fellow and filmmaker in his own right.

I suppose jovial is a relative term.
In the book, Denslow drew two of the Munchkins looking almost identical. This made me think it would be fun if we had a set of twins in the greeting party, though no mention of this is made in the book. Or the script. It's not a point that's ever addressed, it's just another strange detail in an already bizarre scene.

We filmed the twins the traditional Hayley Mills way; Richard in one outfit, film, lock camera, change outfits, reposition, film. This took us a little longer than it would have to just go with two separate actors, but I think it was worth it. Richard gave two fun, very distinct performances, and I wonder if some viewers might not even notice the gag.

They might just gag, even.
I think we've officially done everything you CAN do in movie, now? We've filmed with men, women, children, babies, animals, puppets, prosthetic make-up, on sets, locations, and green screen... Now we've done splitscreen twins... What are we missing? This could be our only chance to ever make a movie, we want to make sure we nab the whole set.

Once we finished the welcome committee, we sent the Richards on his merry way, and Wesley hung around to film one more minor scene Boq has with Dorothy. With that done, he's now officially wrapped. The exciting thing about what we captured Saturday was that they were the last pieces we truly NEED. The other remaining minor characters are fun and exciting and add a certain amount of texture, but they're not crucial to the plot. We have actors cast, and we fully intend to film them, we just need to sort out costumes and a few other details.

More on that as it develops.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I'll Be In My Trailer

Hello friends. And also hello enemies. And all those varying levels in between. In case you missed it, though I don't know how you could and still be here, we put out a new teaser trailer last week. Yes, a teaser trailer again, I know, you thought we already did that. Well, with Fantastic Films coming on board as distributor we went back to square one in the promotional department. So a theatrical trailer will be coming, but we had to tease you first. Again.

And like all the best teases, we start by removing the least revealing article of clothing.
This time it's a bit less of a tease than last time, at least. You actually get to see Oz in this one. And Kansas is real. Anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the making of the trailer, because that's the kind of thing this blog is all about. I won't talk about the filming, because that process has been well documented on the blog, and you can actually watch some of it happen in our Creating Kansas web-series.

Let me preface this by saying; I did not make this alone. Drew picked up his share of shots and gave me helpful criticism on my own, Lux Angel did the fantastic score, and Michael Musson made mince meat of the sound work. But as this is my blog, as ever the focus will be on what I did, just because... I know how it got done. I did it. I was there for all of that.

We actually started on this trailer back in October of last year. I crafted an edit that was much more teasery than the final iteration, with some input from Sean and Drew. The structure was more or less the same as what's there now, except a different scene was used for the Witch at the end, something even less revealing from the character's first scene in the movie. We also hadn't filmed Kansas at that point, so it picked up right after the house was dropped by the tornado.

That teaser was close to being ready to go online when we were approached by Roxane Barbat of Fantastic Films International, LLC. Once conversations with them began, we put the brakes on the project, holding off until we knew exactly where that was going. When we reached a deal, shortly after Kansas was filmed, we started talking with executive producer Fred deWysocki about the creation of a new trailer, one he could bring with him to the Cannes Film Festival to show his potential buyers.

"We have storyboards... Can you sell them with storyboards?"
I contacted Lux about an adjustment of the score, but he was sadly unavailable for it, which made it necessary on our timetable to maintain as much of the original teaser's structure as possible. This is why the Kansas sequence, which we tagged onto the beginning, has no music over it. You may also notice if you listen for it, after the Yellow Brick Road shot the teaser score fades into a slowed down version of the score from the Wicked Witch scene we put online last summer (it's since been removed, per Fred's request). The teaser score then kicks back in after the Wicked Witch of the West says, "I have a better idea."

"I should probably take a break from terrorizing children and renovate my castle or something."
But we hashed out a cut that Fred was more or less happy with, and that preserved most of the original structure. Michael did some strong sound work that helps carry the Kansas portion, to make up for the lack of music. My job on the sound was to record the ADR with anybody we hadn't already gotten, which meant everybody who wasn't Dorothy, Boq, and the Wicked Witch of the West. Steve Lowry stopped by to record his Gart the Winkie one afternoon. I single him out solely so I can mention that getting that audio, as well as the one other line of his that ended up getting cut, took him about a half hour.

Plus he apparently almost broke the recording equipment when I left the room. This is his punishment.
Time was incredibly tight on this thing. Fred needed the trailer by May 7th at the latest in order to get it to Cannes with him on the 15th. We didn't sign contracts with them until the 8th of April, so we had just under a month to do this work. That's not just VFX, that's pitching the reworked edit to Fred with some storyboards, making those changes happen, getting the sound sorted out, AND getting all the VFX in. And the modified structure cut out nearly all the VFX shots we'd already finished for the original edit, replacing them instead with more complex, attention-grabbing shots.

You're telling me the promise of my corpse wouldn't have put asses in seats?
It all seemed very doable at the beginning. We had actual volunteer help from multiple other talented artists, it wasn't going to be just myself and Drew. That quickly fell through, as with no money to promise these other people any paying gigs that came up took precedence for them, as they should. But that meant I had to take on many more shots than I had initially assigned myself. Drew was still able to cover his five, but I had to complete mine and everybody else's, for a total of twenty. Which didn't help the time crunch on a per-shot basis.

So when you see a ropy composite in the trailer... believe me, I know. That close up of Dorothy in Kansas is barely passable, and I'm completely aware. But spending the time to get that up to the level it could be would mean another shot would pay the price. The goal quickly became to make everything look good enough, and polish the lesser ones as time allowed. Time didn't allow for much. We ended up delivering the final trailer at 10:00 PM on May 7th. In by the skin of our teeth.

"That's stupid, teeth don't even HAVE skin."
What does this mean for you? It means that with more time and assistance, the movie's going to look better than the trailer, or at least parts of it will. Some of it is probably as good as it gets on our budget level, and some of it has room to finesse. You can probably tell which is which. And if you can't... I guess all this is moot anyway, right?

I'll leave you with one final anecdote. Our frequent readers and watchers will know that we recently filmed quite a bit of Dorothy material with Carrie Minter standing in for Mariellen Kemp. The other day while Sean and I were out and about... well, that makes it sound more glamorous than it was... we were in McDonald's. I know, I'm not proud. Anyway, we ran into Carrie's mother, who said hello and told us she'd watched the trailer. And then she told us she thought it was cool, but she wasn't sure if Carrie was in it or not. So there you have it, folks, not even her own mother can tell.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My New Favorite Thing

So it's after midnight and we only just got back from our first ever night-shoot! And also our LAST ever night-shoot, at least on this project. Totally understand why everybody complains about them now. A pain in the ass to set up, cold, hard to light and photograph... A whole slew of new problems.

I'm going to eschew my traditional format in favor of just letting some pictures do the talking. I will give you a little back-story first, though. We have a scene in the Nick Chopper flashback where we see the old woman making her deal with the Wicked Witch of the East. Since the flashbacks are all location we knew this would have to be too, but we struggled with the where.

One day a couple weeks ago I was driving out to an appointment I had down here, and not being a local I had my GPS guiding me. It took me a weird route and along the way I saw this amazing cemetery on a hill, with a bunch of great dead oak trees in a circle at the top. I thought, "man, that would be an excellent place to shoot a movie," but I never thought it would be ours until we were spitballing places to film this sequence.

Sean and I met Marie, our resident witch actress and make-up survivor, at Norm's around five o'clock. She got into costume and then he got her all made-up, and we headed out to the location. Which we DID secure permission to film in, by the way. We weren't about to guerrilla a graveyard. We also brought with us a few extra goodies Norm had prepared earlier.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Top o' the Hat To Ya!

Today saw some additional green-screen photography, though of material less necessary than the Dorothy/Toto interaction. Indeed, this was for footage we already had in the can, as we reshot Oscar Diggs' final scene.

A few weeks prior to filming with Curt Rose in November we had ordered a fancy top-hat online, for use as part of his costuming. What we neglected to take notice of was that the company was located in the UK and shipping times were vaguely horrifying. Which meant the hat failed to arrive in time for our Oz shoot. Not sure about a reshoot situation with Curt, we went ahead and shot the scene without this element. We were never satisfied about the scene's lacking in top-hat, however, so it always lingered at the back of our minds. Fortunately, Curt was agreeable to a reshoot. Which is kind of a big deal, because he had to shave his face and head all over again.

Not that the look doesn't suit him.
Guy came through, and today we managed to capture a little extra bit of texture for the film. It's a small, seemingly unimportant detail, but it adds a great deal to the movie for us. For one, it breaks up the monotony of Oz's wardrobe and adds to his general facade in his farewell of the Emerald City. For two, it's an additional piece of Denslow that we were missing.

For three, it's damn classy.
After we finished with the reshoot of his farewell, we also captured a few safety elements of Curt to grease the edit if necessary, like we've done with all other characters. As we were doing a time-sensitive location shoot outside after we finished with Curt the first time, we were never able to capture those previously. Once that was finished we shot one other little non-Oscar piece on the green-screen, since we were there and had the time.

And the gingivitis.
More on that as it develops...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


And today we were back in the green. Screen. Room. Which was... okay. Turns out sets are way more fun. Locations not as much, with the weather and the noise. But I digress. Once more we have a unit rented at Storage 2000 with our green-screen set up within, and today we captured some small pieces that the film had been sorely lacking.

When we filmed with Mare in 2009, we couldn't get ourselves a Toto. We tried to track one down before we finished filming Dorothy, but to no avail. We were only able to locate one Cairn, and its owners didn't understand the extremely low budget nature of the film and requested that a ridiculous contract be drawn up. We politely declined and instead gave Mare a green stand-in to handle, keeping physical interactions between Dorothy and Toto to an absolute minimum.

Because you can't get this out of a styrofoam ball.
Our regular readers (if such a thing can exist here) will know that last year we found and filmed the perfect Toto; Wiley. We spent a day getting all his green-screen shots, and his owner Glenda has brought him out for two of our location shoots so we could have Toto present with minimal hassle. Today we brought him, and our Dorothy stand-in Carrie Minter, over to the green-screen for one last round of photography.

Carrie's an 18-year-old Marine, but she's tiny, actually probably a little smaller than Mare was in 2009. She's been our stand-in for certain pieces of our Kansas shoots, as you can see in this video and will see more of later. This was the first time we've had her on the green-screen, to get some shots that we've needed for four years.

Only one of these two has multiple close-ups in the movie. Hint: It's the one with the chauffer.
Mostly the day consisted of Carrie holding Wiley under her arm from various angles. There were a few specific actions that we needed to get from him though, like him struggling and then jumping out of her arms. You know what that was for. Wiley was a trooper and we got everything we needed to fill in our little gaps. Then we stepped outside and grabbed a couple more pieces.

First we got some foot shots of Dorothy that also featured Toto, then Wiley took off and we snagged a few more with just Carrie. I had six shots from early in Dorothy's adventures of Oz that were close-ups of her feet in the grass, and the prospect of handling them in CGI was making Drew feel like crying. Exact quote. So we reshot all those in the grass outside the storage unit. So. Magical.

It's like something out of a fairytale.
And that's all she wrote. Or he, all he wrote. Stop mixing your genders up, Clayton. It was a short day, but we accomplished everything we needed to and are officially finished with Carrie and Wiley. And actually Dorothy and Toto, by extension.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Baum Idea: Resurrect Dead in the Land of Oz

So apparently I only post on religious holidays now or something. Whew, been a while I know. Please don't mistake the silence for a lack of activity on our part. There's actually been quite a bit going on, but some of it's not exciting to write about, some of it I can't write about, and some of it's being covered in our behind the scenes web-series Creating Kansas. In case you didn't know about that one. Latest episode is here, you can find all the previous ones on our Youtube channel.

We're rounding the bend into post-production, and with that comes some tasks that I'll be perfectly happy to blog about, so we'll be back to updating regularly here. The past couple of weeks have been occupied mostly by Kansas, which I'll save for the videos, but there was a bit in there that I can get into. So without further ado let's dive in.

You saw us filming in the field on the 26th in that recent video, but what that DOESN'T show is that before we all went out into the mud, Doug and I got up to a little ADR session. I edited the farmhouse scene that we shot on the 24th so I would have it in time for his final shoot, so we could go through and rerecord all his audio. It was his first experience with the process, and I think he had a good time retooling his performance after the fact.

And without hair glued to his face.
But that wasn't my only voice recording for the day. Some days I get stuck cleaning junk out of a rickety old schoolhouse, but some days I get to spend an hour discussing the script with a beautiful model. No points for guessing which days are preferred. Elizabeth Saint came down from DC for an hour to provide the voice of the Lady Oz. She had prepared by devising multiple voice options, which we went through, mashed together, and pulled a performance out of.

And without hair glued to her face.
Always in the background we've got visual effects work going on. Whether it's modeling, developing simulations, compositing, or even certain administrative tasks. Here's an in-progress collaboration between Drew and myself. Book fans can probably figure out where this one's headed.

Obviously a rap battle.
We've got a bunch of shoots and recordings lined up for next week, so expect to see updates here semi-regularly. Norman Rowe's been getting himself prepared for a shoot that will take place at the end of the week.

Getting prepared as only he can.