Sunday, October 28, 2012

Music Rights and the Indie Filmmaker

The big news is that Jon finished the rough cut of the teaser despite a terrible cold. He's been adding images from the book trailer and working on the opening credits. I should know in a few days when we can upload the teaser. Jon does not want to show anything other than the final cut of the teaser. I agree with him. Past experience has shown that viewers can get fixated on perceived flaws that will be corrected in post and hit the social nets with word of how bad the entire project is. We literally cannot afford for that to happen. Be patient. He's almost done with the images. The last part to get edited is the audio. Then, there is finding and adding sound FX and music. Speaking of music, it is one of the issues that has been brought up a lot lately among readers of the blog. That is complicated matter for indie filmmakers even for something as short as a trailer.

The Right Rights
Websites like Youtube are getting more strict with the use of music in videos. Even if a video manages to evade notice for a time – sometimes for long periods – it can get yanked when the rights holder finds out about it. The problem is that even though the vast majority of videos do not ever get enough hits to make money, all channels are set up to become monetized. Thus, the possibility of making money at all means that having unlicensed music is an infringement. The other factor in these decisions is a legal term called easement. If a rights holder fails to enforce their copyright in any venue, it can be forfeited. So, even when a noticed is placed on the video acknowledging that the material is not theirs and no infringement is intended, that is not protection from being yanked. Have enough videos yanked, and the account goes away.

So, we have to go the route of getting a license from the start. For the teaser, our options are limited to services like, one that I already use for my cooking videos or using parts of the Demon Under Glass soundtrack. We have no money for the teaser. It makes no sense to pay for the rights to music for the teaser. But what will we do for the actual web series? That depends on how much money we raise. There are a couple of composers that we like and would love to hire. Though they are up and comers in the industry, hiring them means that they would have to turn down other paid work to do our soundtrack. Thus, they have to be paid at a rate comparable to the work they would be missing. And while it is true that there are a lot of talented people just dying to get a break in the biz and would work for nothing but a credit, it is a lot of work and time to find candidates that are both talented and reliable enough to finish the job properly. That is the problem with work that is done for absolutely no money. It can get delayed or even abandoned in favor of paid jobs without any real penalty from the industry. Producers can cause a world of problems for a freelancer who walks away from a paid gig, especially since moneys always exchange hands before the job begins. But you can't get much sympathy from professionals about someone dumping a job that involved no pay. We have some really good people in mind that we plan to hire on bigger projects. Which of the composers we hire will depend solely on how much money is raised.

I'm barreling through a detailed treatment for the script, so that the actors will know what's in store for them before they do the podcast interviews. The plan is to get something in their hands by Wednesday. The interviews are scheduled for next weekend. Worry not, I will post something on the blog that will in no way spoil the other venues where the interviews will air.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Size Matters Except When It Doesn't

My all time favorite analogy for what it is like to work on a film project is from Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park 2. Basically, he says 'First there is the oohing and aahing. Later comes the running and the screaming.' This captures the arc of film making perfectly. And this is true no matter how big or small the shoot is. I hear stories from $150 million sets that make our losing a queen size mattress on the 405 freeway look like genius. Did you know that due to some logistical mix ups, the leads in Pirate's of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest had to wear wet costumes on more than one occasion? I don't mean the costumes got wet, and they had to stay in them. No, they were never cleaned and dried from being wet the day before. This means that Depp, Bloom and Knightley were in soggy duds. On the other side, I'm in forums with a number of web series producers who are reporting problems with SAG or problems with locations to problems with equipment that are the same as any fully budgeted shoot. When it comes to snafus, shoots cannot be judged by their size. However, size can matter a lot. How does that make sense? Read on.

Size and the Home PC

We were thrilled to get our groovy new Toshiba camera that records 1080p video and need minimal lights. What we hadn't thought about was just how big each file is and how that would impact the editing program. To saw that it did not run smoothly in Jon's editing program is an understatement and a half. It ran in a really jumpy manner – not good for finely editing scenes – and it clog the ram on the PC something fierce. I tried to run it in the editing program on my faster laptop, but that editing program (which is newer) had to convert it to a much lower rez to even run clips. Jon had to consult a film making forum he's in to find the answer. We needed a program to re-render all the clips to a lower resolution. He can do the edits on those and then cut the original clips by mating the time codes from the low rez edit. All of this finagling burned up a lot of time. Normally, it would only burn up a few hours. That wouldn't really matter a few years back. However, Jon now has a demanding day job, and we are working on a few other things at the same time. He doesn't have much more than a few hours a week to give Demonspawn. This surprise set us back at least a week. And that was right before Yaoi-con. Sigh. On the bright side, I really like the screen grabs on Jon's machine. I'll be putting some up throughout this blog. I only had time to grab a few this time around.

Size, Locations and Star Perks

While being too big was not ideal for editing, being too small is proving a bit problematic with locations which will impact our shooting schedule. Hangover 3 can close down a California Freeway. That shoot has the bucks to do that and weather the withering criticism of the most dangerous of Los Angeles creatures – an inconvenienced driver. We are too small to get my local library to close early on its shortest day of the week. The library and the groovy gazebo both have to be shot on a Sunday – and not the same Sunday. Some locations are only available mid-week when they are less busy. The sound stages are fine at the moment, but that could change on a dime if a bigger production wants the same space at the same time. Being small is definitely an issue in scheduling. All of my actors are professional and will fulfill their commitments to the production and work hard doing it. However, it's always best for set morale to make sure that actors are treated well while dealing with budget constraints. For instance, actor trailers or Honey Wagons are a great perk if the production can afford it. This gives them a place to be away from the shoot until they are needed and be comfortable. Good food is another perk that we will have at whatever budget level. I plan to get a good caterer that will follow us from location to location. Luckily, there is a lot of competition out here for Craft Services. There will be one that fits our budget. While I will not mention company names of our vendors and locations, I will post photos in this blog and in the info on the fund raising campaign on what the money is going for. In most cases, I can include photographs. And then, there are the scheduling considerations for the actors. Lower budgets means a higher level of consideration of an actor's schedules when we plan the shoot. They may have other commitments we'd have to keep in mind. Also, at that time of year, there are football playoffs and the Super Bowl to keep in mind. Our leads and the producers are avid football fans. It's less stressful for all of us, if the shooting schedule keeps these games in mind.

Size matters in so many things, except when it doesn't matter at all. No wonder there is a lot of running and screaming in the end.

Next time, I'll have a firm date for the release of the teaser trailer and the launch of the fund raising campaign. Also, there will be a preview of the podcast interviews.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Podcast, Locations and Teaser Update

While there still isn't a lot of hard news to report, I thought I'd bring everyone up to date with the progress we've made toward the shoot.

The Teaser

Jon Cunningham, director and co-writer on Demon Under Glass, is editing the short. He's started only a few days ago as we had other obligations that kept him from that task until now. He shot the scenes in a very precise manner with editing them in mind. We are planning on the video going live on the fund raising site two weeks from today. At this point in time, we are not sure if it will be cross posted on Youtube. We want as many people as possible to visit the fund raising page, thus cross posting is unlikely. However, we will be shooting an interview with Garett and Owen and possibly other cast members for a Gothic horror pod cast. We will also have an interview about the web series specifically for Garett's fans that will be forwarded to the people who run his web site. Links to those interviews will be posted here. I have some great questions for the podcast. If you have any, pleas ask in the comments or contact us by email. Our contact lists are in the menu on the right hand side of the page. The script for the teaser was approximately six pages. I think the teaser will be somewhere around five minutes. We hope to convey a mix of humor and horror on par with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Web Series Script

The script is still in the works. However, since it stems from two short stories that will appear in the next Demonspawn: On the Run anthology, we know what will be in it. The only addition to those stories is an opening with Simon being very, very naughty and incredibly frightening. We needed an introduction of that part of his nature to establish how much potential danger Joe McKay is in and how much danger the characters who threaten them are in. I plan to have the script done shortly before we do the podcast, in about two weeks. I want the cast to know what's in store for them before we do the interviews. Incidentally, the next anthology will be released shortly after the fund raising campaign goes online.

From the storyline we have, there are ten sets/locations: Operating room (nightmare/flashback scenes), downtown loft apartment, two downtown alleys, city street, public library, gastro pub, fancy hotel suite, town square gazebo, and a downtown roof top. We have priced all of these locations save for the downtown loft apartment. I plan on doing that sometime next week. That is the last unknown to be solved before I can complete budgets. I say budget because there will be an optimal, a minimal and an in between. allows it's participants to keep whatever is raised. The amount that we will be shooting for in the campaign is the optimal budget that gives us all the crew and the bells and whistles in post that will make this web series rise above the din and find the widest audience possible. All of these bells and whistles will be covered here, so our readers will completely understand how the production will work. We will reveal some of the clever ways we've found for saving a ton of money while keeping the production values high. And, of course, we will be answering any production related questions fans may have along the way.

That's it for now. Next week, I'll have a firm date for the teaser, updates on the podcast and other goodies!