“On The Lot”

There have been dancing contests, singing contests, and various other assorted talent contests gracing our TV screens over the past few years.  Now, finally, there is a contest for filmmakers.  It’s about time!

On the Lot is a new FOX reality show “brought to you by reality show mastermind, Mark Burnett, and legendary producer and director, Steven Spielberg.”  It works similiar to the way American Idol works.  Out of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of applicants who submit their short films online, only 16 will be chosen for the show. 

Over the course of a season, they will produce new short films every single week in different genres such as comedy, horror, mystery, drama, etc.  That’s one week to go from script development, to pre-production, to shooting, to post-production.  Whew!  Makes me tired just thinking about it.  Viewers at home will get to vote for their favorites and the contestant with the least votes goes home. The filmmaker left standing gets a $1 million development deal with DreamWorks.

On The Lot will air next spring on FOX, but the search for the 16 finalists has already begun.  Hundreds of short films have already been uploaded to the official On The Lot website located at http://www.thelot.com/

When I’m able steal a few minutes away from other obligations, I love to go to the site and check out the submissions.  Quite a community has developed there already.  Once you sign up on the website, you can rate the films you watch using a star system and leave comments about the films if you wish.  Similiar to MySpace, you can blog, post photos, have a friends list, and a favorite films list, among other features. 

Just like American Idol, people of various talents and abilities are trying out for this contest, from absolute beginners to those who have been making films for many years.  Watching the films and reading the comments is a learning experience in of itself.  Some of the more experienced filmmakers offer constructive criticism in their comments, which can help one develop an eye for what works and what doesn’t in a film.  Whenever I watch one of the films, I find myself analyzing what I think is right and wrong with the film and then I go read the comments and see if I caught what others caught.  Of course, taste is very subjective, so I skip over comments that are personal opinion and pay attention to the comments that deal more with the technical and artistic aspects of filmmaking.

When I first found out about On The Lot, I knew that it would be a must see show for me, but it has become even more now because a friend of mine has entered the contest.

John Meredith is a beginning filmmaker whom I met in a filmmaking class last year.  He wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the film he submitted entitled Boy Trouble.  The film also features his darling daughter and a neighbor girl.  I’ve got to hand it to him, he’s much braver than I am.  He made this film with absolutely no crew!

Many in the online filmmaking community have taken the time to help John out by offering some great constructive criticism.  Whether he is chosen as one of the contestants of the show or not, I know that with his love for filmmaking and his determination, he’ll continue to grow and develop as a filmmaker.

Check out John’s film at http://films.thelot.com/films/1559.

Addendum:  John just read this post and gave me the low-down on the actress (whom I described as a neighbor girl above) in his film.  Her name is Tasha Trujillo. Tasha was second runner-up to Miss California in 2004, is currently host of the nationally broadcast TV show Latin Eyesis a San Francisco 49er cheerleader, a former San Jose Sabercat Cheerleader, and was Miss San Francisco Bay Area in 2004.  She is 25 years old.

Paul Ben-Victor in a “CSI” Rerun Tonight

I’m on my lunch break, so I need to make this quick, but I wanted to let everyone know that Paul Ben-Victor has a guest role on tonight’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.  It’s a rerun, but if you haven’t seen it yet (like me), then you might want to tune in and watch this very talented actor do his thing.

It airs at 8:00 p.m. PT on Spike TV, and the name of the episode is entitled “Killer.”  Needless to say, if you live in a different time zone, check your local listings for the correct time.

The Search for the Man in Red

Mike McCafferty and company are at it again.  This time they invade a shopping mall.  Their mission?  To find the man in red, who isn’t what he claims to be, before they get thrown out by mall security. 

The result of their endeavour is called Store Trek: The Wrath of Klaus

Check out the two versions and watch our heroes try to save an entire civilization from being consumed by mirth and merriment. 

Short Version 

Extended Version

“Larva” Airs on Sci Fi Tomorrow

The Sci Fi Channel’s creature feature, Larva, will be airing tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern/Pacific time.  (Be sure to check your local listings as it airs as early as 8:00 a.m. in some areas.)

Larva stars Vincent Ventresca as a vegetarian veterinarian (I dare you to say that fast three times) who discovers that the town’s meat supply isn’t exactly safe for consumption.  Bet he’s glad he’s a vegetarian; and you might want to become one too after watching this film.  The movie is a mix of science fiction and horror and if you’ve missed it in the past, now is your chance to see it and squirm. 

Larva is also available on DVD and can be purchased at Amazon.com, as well as rented from Netflix.

For you filmmakers, here’s an article on Kodak’s site about how cinematographer Stephen Lighthill achieved the look of the film:

Larva – How Stephen Lighthill ASC Painted One Scary Story

Okay, I think I’ll go have a nice juicy steak now.

10 Day Take

Do you have a great idea for a TV show?  Would you like the opportunity to go to Hollywood to produce it?  Well, then, you might want to consider entering Ziddio’s 10 Day Take contest.

The winner gets flown out to Hollywood for 10 days and is given a budget of $50,000 to produce their TV pilot, as well as access to a team of experts and execs to help with the shooting.

Now, $50,000 is peanuts when compared to Hollywood’s budgets, but what an experience that could be and, who knows, it might even open up some doors and start a career for a budding filmmaker.

Even if you’re not interested in entering the contest, you’ve got to watch the first video.  Doesn’t that remind you of a certain Fry’s Trek experience? 

Lights, Camera, Action!

So last night finished up a directing class that I’ve been taking at a local community college.  We got together and had a screening where we got to watch our work and, afterward, a guest speaker, who is a local production coordinator, talked about budgeting.

During the course of the class each of us had to choose a scene from a script, break it down, create a shot list, and storyboard it.  Let me tell you, I couldn’t draw if my life depended upon it, so it was stick figures for me!  We learned about casting calls, but I missed the day they talked about acting and working with actors. 

Then each of us got to play director and shoot our chosen scenes.  We were running short on time so I opted out of directing my scene.  I don’t have any plans to be a director, but my classmates do so I figured they would need the experience more than me.

But, low and behold, we were short on actors, so guess who got recruited into the job?  Now, the only thing I’ve ever done in front of an audience is public speaking and dancing.  Acting was a totally new experience for me.  But it was interesting to get a small taste of what an actor does:  memorizing lines, repeating the same lines and actions over and over again for each take, taking direction from the director, keeping my movements smaller for closeups.  Actually, when I think about it, there are some similarities to public speaking and dancing.  So would I ever want to be an actor?  Heck, no.  Even though I got compliments on my acting, it was downright painful watching myself at that screening last night.  Nope, no acting for me.  I’ll do the world a favor and remain behind the scenes.

Getting past the pain of watching myself, it was a good learning experience to watch the scenes that we shot.  The teacher pointed out mistakes that are typical for a beginner director.  A few that I can remember off the top of my head are: 

  • In one shot the framing was off and there was too much air space above the actors’ heads.
  • Another time, the actors weren’t blocked properly and it looked like the actress was on the head of one of the actors.  Also, there was no continuity and sometimes the actress was in the shot and sometimes she wasn’t.  It not only looked strange, but the whole reason for the shot lost its meaning without her.
  • The funniest was seeing the fuzzy fur-covered microphone at the top of the shot and one of the lights over to the side.  Oops…another framing mistake.

So maybe by now you’re wondering why I took a directing class even though I have no plans to be a director.  Well, producers have been described as generalists.  They need to know a little about each job, but they don’t have to be experts in those jobs.  But they need to know enough to be able to hire the right people and budget for those jobs. 

So far I’ve taken classes in scriptwriting, lighting and cinematography, directing, film production, and early film history, among others.  Since I’m new to this, I’ve got the double job of keeping the project moving forward while I keep my education moving forward.  I’m always in the middle of reading of a book or two and when one class finishes, I start looking for my next class.  Fortunately for me, I love learning, and this is a job where the learning never stops. 

Joel Bissonnette in This Week’s “Standoff”

I’m really sorry to post this announcement after the fact, but I didn’t find out about Joel Bissonnette’s (Arnaud De Fehrn) guest appearance in Standoff until after the show was over.  Literally five minutes after the show was over, I found out.  And, yes, I missed it.

The good news is that you can go to Standoff’s MySpace page and watch the episode there on demand.  It should be up for three weeks.  How cool is that?

On another note, remember Jonathan Glassner?  To refresh your memory, he was one of two executive producers who came on board after Matt Greenberg left I-Man.  Well, he’s now working as Co-Executive Producer/Director on Standoff.  Interesting how so many I-Man alum end up working together again on different shows. 

If you enjoy the behind-the-scenes stuff, then you gotta check out this cool video in which Glassner takes us through the making of an episode of Standoff