For obvious reasons, lights are some of the most important elements on a film set. Without light, you wouldn’t see what’s in the picture and without the picture, you wouldn’t have a movie! The lighting department is filled with many peculiar sounding crew member titles like best boy, grip and even a griptrician (what you get when you cross a grip with an electrician). Chris Lewis joins us to talk about motivating his department on set and the proper etiquette for running a well-oiled G&E team.
Chris T. Lewis- Lighting Designer, Chief Lighting Technician
Chris started his career in the entertainment industry in 1982 while living in Phoenix, Arizona. He got his basic training by working with a Phoenix corporate and trades production company and learned all the basics of production from the beginning of design concept stages to the end of deep storage wrap. They had a small staff and everyone was cross trained with a hands on approach. Chris then moved to Page, Arizona where he worked on commercials and videos being shot at Lake Powell including the Sports Illustrated 25th Anniversary Swimsuit Video and his first feature film Highway to Hell.
In 1992 he was offered a position on Babylon 5 and he made the decision to move to Los Angeles, California, to work full time in the electrical department. Since then Chris has moved up through the electrical ranks and is now a successful Lighting Designer and Chief Lighting Tech. He owns his own business, Corsair Lighting, which rents electrical equipment.
Chris also stays up to date with his US Passport, is Padi Certified, and Dan Insured. He’s worked all over the world including Africa, Costa Rica, and Prague. He is local to Los Angeles, CA and Kaneohe, Oahu. Currently (2011), Chris is still employed as a Lighting Designer and Chief Lighting Technician.
He has just finished Season 14 on The Ultimate Fighter television series and has upcoming underwater projects being shot at Fantasy II Film Effects in Los Angeles.
Written by: Christina Christensen Lewis
Lynda Lopez- Producer
Lynda Lopez started her career in film as a Production Designer working on student films with friends from art school where she was a Graphic Design major. She then went on to assist some very talented Production Designers on studio films while still working in various capacities on short films and indie films. Due to her fascination for all aspects of filmmaking, she has become more involved with the Production side of things working as a Director’s Assistant and Producer.
Lynda is currently working on a charity project for All Hands Volunteers, a non-profit organization that provides hands-on assistance to survivors of natural disasters around the world. For more information about Lynda’s project to help this organization please visit Film Method’s Facebook page.
For more information on All Hands Volunteers visit their website at http://hands.org/
Jenna Edwards- Producer
Jenna Edwards began her film career in Minnesota where she was signed on as talent with Easter Hailey. Quickly after being signed Edwards was hired by the agency as a full time employee giving her a head-start on her Hollywood education. After two years of rising through the Minnesota film community Edwards made the move to Los Angeles.
Soon after Edwards moved to Los Angeles she was hired by agent Jamie Ferrar. It was while Edwards was working for Ferrar that she developed an interest in the casting process. Before long she had moved from talent agencies to working in casting with such industry leaders as; Sally Steiner (Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Boy Meets World), Barbie Block (Jonas, Pepper Dennis) and Allison Jones (Superbad, The Office).
During this time Edwards was also able to gain valuable production experience working with studios like Disney, MTV, FOX and CBS.
After several years of successfully navigating her career through the Hollywood studio system Edwards made the leap to independent film with her first feature April Showers and has since successfully produced 4 feature films as well as co-hosting the Film Method podcast and teaching producing classes at New York Film Academy.
After her success with April Showers Edwards formed Mattoid Entertainment with partners Jeremy McGovern and Andrew Robinson where they produced the first ever made-for-internet movie, In the Darkness, which premiered on Hulu.com. Mattoid has recently made the leap to distribution, where they have acquired three feature documentaries to be released in 2011. The first, Adopting Haiti premiered as the #1 documentary on Hulu.com.
Aside from continuing to work at Mattoid, Jenna is busy working on budgets for several independent films, producing 2 feature films and developing projects for television as well as teaching producing at New York Film Academy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the 80′s lately and just how much that decade, more than any other, shaped my attitude towards pop culture. I was probably at the most impressionable time of my life in the 80′s, ages five to fifteen, and everything from film, television, comedy, and music, some of the most important things in my adult life, were shaped by this decade. There have been a number of times recently that I’ve heard a song from the 80′s and it will take me right back to a specific time and place during my adolescence, when life was just beginning and every moment, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, was full of all the heightened emotion of the end of a John Hughes movie, complete with emo soundtrack. Everything was new and fresh and vivid and everything mattered. Here is a list of some of the most influential pop culture icons of my day with all its guts and glory:
Pitfall, Adventure & Journey Escape
Video games were a big part of my childhood and that’s probably why I was inspired to write this blog after watching Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World last weekend. About halfway through the movie I knew that the director of the film was my age, or at least within five years of my age. I happened to be right as Edgar Wright was born in ’74 and I came along in ’75. His use of crude video game visual and sound effects took me back to the living room of the first house I lived in where I played countless hours of Atari with my brother, Brian. Some of our favorites were Pitfall, Adventure, and E.T. I remember when Brian beat Pitfall as he completed all of the hundreds of screens (that pretty much looked exactly the same) only to be taken back to the very beginning. That was big. A friend of Brian’s was the first in the neighborhood to get Pitfall II when it was released and I remember that Brian and said friend were nice enough to let me go to his house one day to play it. There were many many more “adventures” in the new game that included the ability for the Pitfall dude to float up many different levels in the caves on a balloon! There was also more than one background! It was huge. I also remember playing Journey Escape, which was based on the band Journey. The soundtrack to that game was the song Don’t Stop Believing, which upon hearing always takes me back to the basement of my cousin’s house, which was the scene of muchas Journey Escape game playing. Atari 2600, you gave us such joy.
Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
In my humble opinion, Star Wars should be on the favorite list of every filmmaker who grew up in the 80′s. This trilogy is probably the main reason that I wanted to be a filmmaker. I was two years old when the first movie came out and probably didn’t see it until I was about six or seven when it played incessantly on HBO. The Empire Strikes Back was released in ’80 when I was five and Return of the Jedi in ’83 (you do the math). Brian and I collected many Star Wars action figures and toys. I had the Death Star (that’s right, a seven year old girl had a toy Death Star) and Brian had the Millennium Falcon and various other ships and things. But besides just having great toys, these films were important for a number of other reasons including, oh I don’t know, maybe its cinematic genius! A New Hope was the epic set-up to a groundbreaking trilogy. There are the obvious grand and brilliant elements such as the earth-shattering score by John Williams and the amazing special effects (yes, those were real explosions) done by ILM that made the film grandiose and larger than life. But underneath all those layers of score and effects was a story; the story of a young man who had suffered great loss and who found his purpose in leading the fight against an evil empire. This team of filmmakers brought us into their world of droids, wookies, and mystical planets and sold us on an oft told and classic tale of good vs. evil. These movies weren’t about special effects and people in strange costumes, but rather those things supplemented the strong story and powerful characters. They immediately pulled us into the magical realm that they masterfully created and compelled us to care about Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, and yes, even Darth Vader. A New Hope proved that it doesn’t take an unlimited source of money to make great movies, but rather a team of people dedicated to excellence and a whole heap of creativity. P.S. Marcia Lucas, wherever you are, Hollywood really needs you back.
Saturday Night Live, Late Night with David Letterman, and Eddie Murphy
My comedy education started at a very young age. I believe I started watching SNL around ’83 or ’84 and Late Night in ’85 or 86. I heard my first Eddie Murphy album at the tender age of nine. I guess my dad thought he was buying us a tape of Eddie Murphy singing the hits, but no, that wasn’t the case. Don’t judge dad too harshly, though, they didn’t have those clever little “parent advisory” warning labels back then. The classic album included hits such as Buckwheat, Doo-doo, and Hit by a Car. Ah yes, those were the days. If it’s any consolation, those bits were much tamer than Eddie’s later material! Some of my earliest SNL memories include the sketch with Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest who play janitors that try to one-up each other with ideas of self-mutilation while completing each other’s sentences and Phil Hartman’s Anal Retentive Chef. Some of the best years in SNL history were from ’87-’89, which included cast members and comic geniuses Dana Carvey, Jan Hooks, Nora Dunn and Phil Hartman. Not surprisingly these are the first years that Conan O’Brien wrote for this legendary show as well. Around 1985 I began watching a revolutionary new late night show aptly called, Late Night with David Letterman. My family had been fans of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson so I guess Letterman was the next natural step. I found his sense of humor to be fresh (from what I knew of comedy at ten years old) and it definitely appealed to my odd and early-shaped comic sensibilities. Although Letterman’s crude interview style offended many, I found it to be honest and refreshing. Carson was the consummate professional and could mock you while making you feel that he was still on your side, but Letterman took brutal honesty to another level while still staying somewhat personable. I believe that Letterman was also the first to bring the concept of the “remote” to late night. He actually LEFT the studio to throw things off of buildings and to meet the employees at the neighboring businesses including the one hour photo mat and the Hello Deli sandwich shop.
Michael Jackson, et al
I have an uncanny knack for remembering which year certain songs from the 80′s were released. Invincible by Pat Benetar from the movie The Legend of Billie Jean: 1985, U2′s With or Without You: 1986, Don’t Dream it’s Over by Crowded House: 1987. Most of my memories of these songs have to do with where I was living at the time of their release. My family moved around a lot in the 80′s (six times and three states between ’84 and ’89) and music became a sort of bookmark in my mind depending on the bedroom, friends, or emotional growing pains I was experiencing at the time. After my family moved for the first time in my young life we had a hard time adjusting to our new town. Brian and I, who were already close, spent a lot of time together during that time as we were trying to cope with the new surroundings. There were a lot of pop culture elements that we bonded to such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. Last summer when Michael Jackson died, there were so many cars that drove down my street blasting songs from his discography (which was awesome and I kind of miss it). When Billie Jean or Human Nature would drive by it would always take me right back to 1984, complete with all the mix of emotions that came with growing through a tough situation at the age of nine. The cool thing about those memories is that they also include the unforgettable time I spent with Brian, who is one of the greatest and most important people in my life. I didn’t know at the time, but those would be some of the last true childhood moments we would share together.
Days of Our Lives
There were many great TV shows in the 80′s, but none more memorable to me than Days of Our Lives. Of all the shows I was taken with in the 80′s including Family Ties, Cheers, Moonlighting and The Wonder Years to name just a few, it’s a soap opera that takes the #1 TV spot of that decade. You may be saying to yourself, “A soap opera was your favorite TV show of the 80′s?” and to that I say, “yes, it was”. Now before you totally loose all faith in my artistic sensibilities, just hear me out. I really think it was a different time for soaps in the 80′s and that there was much more time and attention invested in fleshing out the character’s stories. Besides, this is a list of what was most influential to ME in the 80′s so I get to put whatever I want on it. : ) It was 1986 when I began watching Days of Our Lives religiously and it had to do solely with the super-couple of the millennium, Patch and Kayla. I was eleven years old at the time and had never watched soaps except apathetically with my grandma when she used to babysit Brian and me. The chemistry between Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans was astounding, even for an eleven year old and I was captivated by their characters and their story. It was the bad boy meets good girl story that we’ve seen thousands of times, but it worked because the characters worked and these two actors brought something spectacular and unique to this genre. I recently went back and watched some old clips on You Tube and was impressed with the writing, directing, and of course the acting. I’ve read interviews with both Stephen and Mary Beth where they talked about how hard they worked in those days. You can tell that they completely threw themselves into these characters and that they weren’t just going through the motions because they were on a soap opera. Like a good Robert Redford movie, the story took its time, paid close attention to detail, and gave us as viewers time to get on board with this relationship instead of just throwing us in the deep end and expecting us to swim. One of my favorite things to do with a movie, a TV show, or a script is to break down why something does or doesn’t work. Looking at the old Days clips makes me realize that part of why I liked the show so much back then and why it worked is not very different from why I love Lost today. Both shows (Days then and Lost) invested in their characters to make them multi-dimensional. If it’s not about the characters, then I usually don’t care about the material and don’t get involved. I stopped watching Days around 1993/1994 when I started college and when both Stephen and Mary Beth had moved on to other projects. It seemed like a good time for me to get on with my life as well.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little walk down memory lane. I know I did. I always like an excuse to reminisce about all-things-80′s and any excuse to bring up Lost, which has nothing to do with the 80′s. Stay tuned for more great podcasts!
Craig started his 12 year career in entertainment as an Artistic Director for a black box theater troop. In 2003 he graduated Los Angeles Film School majoring in Directing and minoring in Producing. Since that time he has worked as a Producer, Director, First Assistant Director, Grip, Electrician, Craft Service and Production Assistant in television and film. He has produced two independent feature films, is in pre- production for one and is in development of another, both slated to shoot 2010. He has also Event Coordinated and Produced five world premiere screenings, four monthly networking events and is currently a Producer for the San Diego Indie Festival Film Stage.
Mental Eclectic Website
Mental Eclectic on Facebook
Mental Eclectic Twitter Page
Twitter search- #indiemm
Twitter search- #webserieswed
Kurt Braun- DP/Grip/Gaffer
Kurt Braun brings a wealth of practical know-how including: construction & design, logistics, budgeting, sourcing and mechanics as well as a background in camera & lighting. He has worked extensively with international crews both in the U.S. and abroad as a Production Designer, Art Director, Cameraman, DP, Grip, and Gaffer.
For my first official Film Method blog post I thought I’d write about something very near and dear to me. It’s what I refer to as the “slash” phenomenon. Maybe you’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve read about it. Maybe this is you. I recently worked on a film that was produced by two actors. The two actors also happened to be the producers of the film and one of the actors was also the writer and director. He was the actor/director/writer/producer. That would be 3 slashes and 4 titles in case you’re counting.
I’m not sure exactly what makes people say, “I’ve never directed anything before, so I’m going to start by directing something that I’m also starring in”. Why does this make sense to people? Many times I wonder if these people who have suddenly decided to take the huge leap into the world of directing have been on set in any capacity other than as an actor. Have they ever been a producer, an A.D., a grip, or, god forbid, a P.A.?? I have to say that I’ve learned more about filmmaking as a P.A. then I believe I ever would in any other position with the exception of producer and maybe 1st A.D. This is because you see how every department works and you interact with every department.
Being a film director requires so much more than many of these new directors seem to take into account and this is reflected in the extremely inefficient way the set is run. Planning the shot list with the DP is just the tip of the iceberg. You will also need to work with all the department heads to ensure that everything that’s in frame will fit with the look of the film (art dept, make-up, hair, costumes, props, etc). Have you or your DP done any storyboards? Do you know anything about lighting (you might want to learn in case your DP doesn’t)? All of these things must be considered in addition to knowing how to get the performances you need out of your actors. If one of those actors happens to be you then how do you know you are getting the performance you need from yourself? Are you going to depend on your DP to give you performance notes or will you just rely on camera playback? Have you figured that into the planning? I hope so, or you most definitely will not make your day or any day in your schedule.
Something else I notice when watching these very new directors direct is a behavior pattern that is quite disconcerting. It seems that the less experience they have, the more needy and entitled they act. They are more demanding and less concerned about respecting the crew’s time. This is quite an insult considering that these are normally very low-budget films where most crew-members are working way below scale.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that it can’t be done it’s just rare that it can be done well, especially at this level of filmmaking where everyone is generally very green. I’ve listened to new directors talk about their reasoning behind why they feel that they are the best person for the job and honestly it’s pretty frightening. They’ve written a script and they haven’t been able to find anyone to direct it that will understand their vision. Translation: I can’t find anyone that I will be able to manipulate into doing exactly what I say. If that’s the case, then you’re right, you don’t need a director, you need a P.A. Film is a collaborative art, but you wouldn’t know it from working with some of the people that I’ve worked with lately. If the vision and scope of your story can’t be correctly communicated or translated to another director, then maybe it’s not a story worth telling. If you can’t convince one other person to believe in your vision, how are you going to convince a room full of people at your first screening?
The title of director is a prestigious one, but one, nonetheless, that comes with a heap of responsibilities. Are you ready for the challenge to direct/produce/star/write? If so then I hope you’re ready for the ride of your life. Oh and remember, a little respect goes a long way when it comes to how you treat your crew, so does a good pancake breakfast.
Ever wonder what the difference is between a Director of Photography and a Cinematographer? The answer to that has more to do with film credits than the actual job description. Get ready for a tech geek out as we discuss the ins and outs of the DPs job during pre-production, which includes tasks such as hiring a grip and electric crew and choosing the kind of camera your film will be shot on.
Episode Twenty-Three Guests
Matthew Espenshade- Cinematographer
Matthew Espenshade was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Arizona, endowed with a passion and zeal for filmmaking at a young age Espenshade became an autodidact of the cinema, studying and practicing film method with whatever tools he could find. He moved to Southern California where he attended and graduated from Columbia College Hollywood where he discovered his desired focus of cinematography. Since, he has exercised his propensity for the world of independent cinema by serving as the cinematographer on two feature length films and several shorts, commercials, and music videos whilst continuing to diligently immerse himself in both the technical and artistic aspects related to cinematography.
Nick Oberlander- Cinematographer
Nick was born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota. He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a concentration in Film and New Media and immediately moved to Los Angeles where he’s been working as a Director of Photography, grip, electric, etc. He loves cameras and lights and pointing them at things.
For more information about Nick or to contact him visit his website at www.nickoberlander.com
Jenna Edwards- Resident Producing Advisor
For more information about Jenna see the About page or click here.