Sunday, February 27, 2011

Photo Gallery from "Courage Too Late"

After the last two (intermittent) posts regarding filming the short film "Courage Too Late," I wanted to finish it off with a photo gallery of the film. So let's get this (peep) show on the road.

(The opening image of the film, shot at the very end of the first day.)

(The Russians, posing for our period-photo.)

(As Gregory, ready for action. Note the leather pouch holding maps and papers.)

(Amanda and I wait in the trees for the camera crew to arrive. So we can shoot them.)
(Between takes, we also killed a lot of time having thumb wars. This scene does not appear in the final film.)

(Donuts provide energy. Russian energy. Russian, sprinkle-based energy.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Russian film shoot, Part II

So, it was almost a month ago, but the second day of shooting CTL started with trekking out to the location that had been built. The most fun part was taking all of the equipment through a foot and a half of tightly-packed snow. And by "most fun part," I mean, of course, I'm joking. When we got the location, we learned that the small layer of snow on the ground had turned into a fine coating of ice. So the first step of the day was to take shovels and hammers to the ice so we could shoot the movie without hurting ourselves.

(Christopher works on the ice a little harder than the rest of us.)

The second day involved shooting the hand-to-hand combat that is the center of the film, as well as a final ambush that involved a lot of pretend gunfire. I was looking forward to shooting some blanks from my gun, but then the production team announced they would be adding the gunfire in during post-production. Bummer. But I still got to knife a few soldiers. Score.

The shoot also involved a lot of filming with the German soldiers, so the Russians had a chance to sit around, smoke, and hang out freezing our toes off before we were called over to the set. At least we had donuts to keep us warm. Well, we weren't actually eating the donuts while freezing, but
(The Russian army, slightly relaxed.)

After filming the fight scene, the German scenes, and some scenes of the Russians sneaking through the trees, it came time to film the major scene of dialogue that opens the movie. My costar/scene partner Amanda and I had been running the scene all day, so we were ready for our close-ups. When the scene was up next, the director asked if we wanted to take a minute to look over the scene. We informed him that it wasn't necessary because we had memorize the scene and had been working it all day. He seemed genuinely impressed (and slightly surprised) that we were off-book for the scene, and we went to shoot.

After the first two takes, the director and the script supervisor were very complimentary on the work we were doing. The writer even commented that he liked actors who could take the "not-so-good" words he had written and make them sound great coming out of our mouths. It was great to have the filmmakers praising our work right there on the set while we were filming. We wrapped the scene up, did a few more coverage shots, and then we had to schlep all the equipment back to the cars so we could get back on the road and back to Kurt's house so we could return all our issued army gear.

For two days of moviemaking, it was a lot of fun. I know I've recently come out and said that I'm not interested in continuing my career as an actor - (all the details can be found right here) - but I am all about the short-term, single-day, projects that excite me as a performer. It's not that I'm not interested in acting anymore, it's just that I'm only interested in acting when it is on my terms.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Vill Crush You

Two weekends ago, just after I found out this news (for those of you keeping score at home), I headed up to Bucks County for two days to play a young Russian soldier in a short film set on the Russian front during WWII. I had been looking forward to it as a little project on the side, but when the shoot days finally arrived, I was ready for some fun to take my mind off other things.

The first hour of the first day was spent collecting our gear and our uniforms from the weapons master/production manager, who I'd previously worked with on both The Chrononauts and Rendezvous. His basement is full of all sorts of WWII uniforms, and he can tell the difference between Nazi uniforms from 1941 and 1945. And he also has them both. As well as everything in between. It's quite extraordinary. After we were all geared up, we were given our weapons, and the entire look was finally starting to come together. Here's a picture of me as the Russian soldier Gregory:

When we all headed out to the location, knee-deep in snow, we started shooting. I had never worked with the filmmaker before, but we fell into a nice rhythm. I liked how fast he tried to shoot things, and I liked that he was letting us be very relaxed and very conversational with our lines. He even encouraged us to improvise some of the lines, but I stuck pretty much to what I had already memorized. It's just easier that way.

On this first day of the two-day shoot, we did a lot of the middle of the film, and then the final pieces as well. We worked straight up until sunset, and I literally watched the sun set while I was on camera. It's going to be a very cool shot to end the film. The day was a lot of fun, even if it was freezing cold by the time we were done. My leather boots (while really cool!) didn't provide a whole lot of insulation against the cold, but they were also the only part of my body that was cold. This is a picture of me trying to keep my toes warm, through willpower alone.

Also, please note that I did not get to fire my weapon. I had to pretend. But my costar Amanda got to fire off several rounds with her sniper rifle. I was pretty jealous of that, and she wanted to keep doing take after take of that scene. She was a little disappointed when they told her they had the shot, so she celebrated by firing off a few more rounds. Okay, maybe she didn't, but that's certainly something that I would have done. It's the easiest way to empty the clip!

Our shoot day ended at dusk, we got out of costume, and we got ready to come back for another day on Sunday. I'll post again about the next day of filming, the day that involved the hand-to-hand combat, lots of slipping on the ice, and actually acting an entire page and a half of dialogue as we raced to beat the setting sun yet again.

Okay, well, that's a lot of the stories in fact. But in more detail... NEXT TIME!

More fun that I remembered

I am going to be busy for the next few days - rehearsals, travel, film-making. So in order to hit my deadline for the next episode of The Stray Dogs Project, I sat down last night and tried to do as much as I could. I wasn't sure how much I was going to do, or how much I really felt like doing, but the focused effort and the amazing vocal tracks inspired me to push forward. I ended up finishing the entire vocal track, and I was just about to start layering in some sound effects before a friend called on the phone and I lost my momentum entirely.

But until that happened, I was really grooving on the project, and I was really enjoying the editing work I was doing. In another blog post not long ago, I talked about how I wasn't feeling the work for RHP anymore, about how it felt like just another job and my heart wasn't in it. Well, now I'd like to recant that position almost entirely. It just took the first episode to get the energy and momentum building again, but with that one online and behind us, I'm feeling the fun again.

It might be a passing thing, as I'm already feeling a little overwhelmed again on this Thursday afternoon, and tomorrow will be a challenging day at work. But for last night, everything was going great. I'll hold onto that feeling, and take it with me through the darker times. Which are sure to return. But I feel like I might have a torch now, which can make all the difference in the darkness.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Since the end of December, I have been in the running for a position in Philadelphia that would have suited me very well. The position was for a science-based non-profit organization, and I would have been working with their magazine and their podcast. It would have combined my long-time interest in writing and editing, and my newly-discovered interest in producing and creative directing. Salary, benefits, and the sort of job that I would have loved going to every day.

By now, you've probably noticed I am using the past perfect tense. "Would have.." So it's no surprise for me to tell you now that I wasn't offered the job. I found out on the Friday before the Valentine's day weekend, when I was booked to shoot a short film with a young filmmaker. (More information on that movie will be coming to this blog soon. Stay tuned...) So I did have something to take my mind off the bad news at first, when I headed out to Bucks county and had a great time shooting a short film. But when that film was over, I went right back to my somewhat exhausting, temp-jobbing life.

On one hand, nothing has changed. But on the other hand, the only change is that a possible "yes" has now become a definitive "no." I have to go out again and find a new job opening, apply, interview, etc, and hope to make it far enough to be considered for the position. And that's a daunting task, especially when I have to return to my temp-jobbing weeks. I am applying for some summer courses as well to help me realize my goals, so there is a long-term plan in place that I'm running toward. But that still doesn't make the day-to-day any easier.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

From the vaults

Over the weekend, I was talking with a friend about horror movies. Specifically, bad horror movies. And that got me thinking again about a very old script that I had been working on with my writing partner Rob. We came up with a story that played with the idea of a group of ghost hunters (like the guys on the SyFy show "Ghost Hunters"), and in the course of their investigation on an haunted prison/jail/hotel, they would stir up some less-than-friendly spirits and a horror movie would break out. We had plot turns, jokes, great horror bits, and a twist to the film that is something you never saw before.

We had originally written the script a few years ago, working with a producer who had worked with Rob on a WWII documentary. She was interested in his idea for the horror film, so he and I spent a feverish ten days writing most of a screenplay so we could read it at a meeting at the producer's house. We finished most of it, outlined the rest in an exciting paragraph of action, and then pitched it. Everyone involved liked the idea, including our own twists. We talked about the next steps to take to make the film, but ultimately the project fell through. And, true to form, Rob and I never went back to work on it, since we were no longer planning to make the movie.

And, unfortunately, that has emerged as a habit for me. I dedicate a lot of energy into a project, and then when that project takes a downward turn, or when another project replaces it in the front of my mind, the older one simply falls by the wayside. As a result, I have a whole pile of never-finished scripts as opposed to a pile of finished-but-not-edited scripts. I'd like to be better about following up on these projects; you never know when an old completed script will come in handy for a new project or as a writing sample. But we worked hard for that week, and we don't have a finished screenplay to show for it. I've actually been thinking about dusting off those old notes, seeing if I can give it some shape again and try to write the ending. Just for fun.

If I do, I'll tackle it next week. This week is a busy one with RHP work and temp work, and I barely have enough time to cook, learn my lines, or have a social life. So next week... Perhaps...