More stills

The good and the bad of shooting in a nightclub

After finally reviewing all the footage we shot in Vanguard, I gotta say, for a couple of yahoos who didn't really know what to expect from our run and gun technique of shooting in an open popular nightclub, we got a lot of fantastic footage like this (yes, she is wearing a blindfold!):

But, you can't win em all. We also got some footage that's not quite as pretty like this:

Thankfully, 90% of what we shot in there falls into the fantastic category and we're already brainstorming some exciting ideas about how we'll redo the one scene of less desirable footage outside the club in a set-like situation where we have complete control over lighting. That scene opens the entire trailer so it will be worth any effort it takes to get it perfect.

So while I may have been a bit disappointed that everything didn't turn out exactly as intended, I've come to realize that leaving Vanguard with .900 average ain't too shabby. We couldn't set up lights. We couldn't control the venue. Plus we were crunched for time and we had no monitor to actually see footage as we shot it. All that noted, it's astounding we did as well as we did.


A few stills from last wkd

Stills from the shoot look a thousand times better than what my little camera was able to capture. Here's a few from Day 1 just over a week ago.



Wow..we actually did it. We got through both weekends of shooting and it all actually turned out a little OK. For starters, despite our worries and fears, NOTHING went wrong at Vanguard. We got all the footage we expected to get and more. Probably one of the more classic moments was when Gregg, who's playing the role of Gabe--Royer's exboyfriend and sometimes slimy promoter--started giving fake drink tickets to people in the club as we filmed it. This was totally his idea and it played really well. I'm curious to know what happened when these poor saps tried to get a drink at the bar with one of these things.

We had a few hiccups today regarding The Standard. But in the end we still got our crew up there and got some gorgeous footage at this really spectacular location. We didn't get footage of Royer behind the turntables because the roof mgr shut us off. He was under the impression that we were only shooting the DJ, all our following of these two girls around the space probably gave it away as something else. He informed us that the location costs $30,000 per DAY to use and then we were done. Check out the cover image for DAY FOUR below and it's clear how even just the bit of the gorgeous footage we got up there will play beautifully. (And...as luck would have it, it poured rain about 15 minutes after we left so even if the manager had been cool with it, the Gods thought we had better places to be). Back in Hermosa we spent the rest of the afternoon shooting the girls rollerskating at the beach in some funky retro gear. They looked great and it'll work really nicely in a montage.

So that's it for this phase. We shoot a day or two more in late September but with four days wrapped, this thing is looking very, very promising.




Everyone needs to pray to the gods of indie film

Did the walk through at Vanguard tonight. Half of me is relieved that we got things sorted. Other half of me is as nervous as can be that the whole thing will be a disaster or we'll be thrown out for being disruptive. Only time will tell. The fact that we're able to shoot in there at all is a massive achievement in and of itself.

So tomorrow between 830PM and 3AM pacific time (1130PM to 6AM for you fools back east) we need everyone we know to be sending good thoughts, energy and wishes. I've never been one for the mumbo humbojumbo, but if there was ever a single time to try and use it, that time would be now.

And just to be clear, my anxiety about the shoot tomorrow night at Vanguard is not a negative reflection on the shoot as a whole. If we walk out of that place with not a single frame of usable footage, we still will have enough good stuff to make this work. But it doesn't matter, because this whole thing has power behind it and tomorrow night we're going to rockstar that place. Look out world, here I come!

Start at 1045 tomorrow morning. 9 hours from now. And then we shoot for 9.5 hours before we even arrive at the club. It's going to be a loooooooooooooooooooong day.


What a busy week...

Wow...I intended to write some sort of long descriptive account of the shoot last weekend but it just never came to be.

Work has been crazy busy. The one week when I probably could have used for things to be slow has of course been the polar opposite. In the last five days I wrote six television spots for Jitterbug and rewrote the entire instruction manual for their phone. It's been exciting work and I'm glad to have projects like this to do...just gotta love the timing. Oh well. The ads get presented to the client next week. Here's to hoping they actually like one.

And when not working, it's been prep for the shoot this weekend. I tell you what, it's going to certainly be interesting. Saturday night we shoot in Vanguard and there are soooo many variables beyond our control that it's going to take a good amount of luck to walk out of there with everything we need. Not to mention the 1500 people who will be there just looking to have a good time. "OOOOOOO CAMERA...LET ME STICK MY FACE IN FRONT OF IT AND SCREAM!" On Sunday we'll be at another big party...this time outdoors on the roof of the Standard Hotel. You'd probably recognize the place even if you've never been there as countless shows, movies and commercials have been shot there. We happened to have a lucky set of convenient circumstances that will allow us to get some fantastic footage for free.

I'm less anxious going into this wkd even though there's a lot more that can go wrong. It's good to have a few days of shooting behind us to know everyone involved is capable of pulling it off. Plus it's nice to know that even if nothing we do at vanguard works, we'll have enough stuff shot elsewhere to make at least something work.

I'll pull some stills from the footage to post when I have a chance. It looks really good. A lot of work went into what we did last weekend and it was entirely worth it. How we pulled off making a ghettofabulous pool look like a hollywood party is still beyond me but we somehow did. And without Liz running the show at the house and doing all the little things I couldn't do all week, it would have never happened. No one else would run to 15 stores looking for rollerskates on a Friday afternoon. If this was a real feature with an actual budget, Liz would have been doing the jobs of three assistants. I'm incredibly blessed to have her do it...and while she'd never ask, I'll be sure to figure out a way to make it up to her when this is all over.



Took a lot less pix today...but here they are...



Check out the album from today's pix. I'm exceptionally happy with how it all turned out. Lots of stress and a bit of drama but we got some insanely good footage.

This thing is gonna rock. I'll post more pix after tomorrow's shoot and write about it all monday after I breathe.

DJ Girl


T-Minus hours

As we crunch down to the start to this saga that had a seemingly endless prologue I'm excited, nervous and a little scared. It's been an interesting day of ups and downs in much the same vein as every day this week.

By day's end, we had our makeup artist for sunday confirmed...making it the last outstanding item for the weekend.

Now it's time for bed before an intense morning of prep, followed by an intense afternoon of party. Let's just hope our party guests understand what it means to shoot a movie with dialogue (HINT: It means no music).

So here they are...the cast of DJ GIRL

Jamie Tisdale is Royer Adams

Sierra Fisk is Davina DeVine Phillips

Brendan Hines is Dylan

Mikka Dergel is Mona

Gregg Rogan is Gabe

Todd Herman is Gunther


T-Minus Two Days

We had our final pre-production meeting today and surprisingly everything seems to be going smoothly. *knocking on wood now* Everyone is ready to go on Saturday. We got a fabulous hair and makeup person today so that's taken care of. We went through the shot list and seem to have a good grasp of what we need.

As for Sunday I just need to confirm hair and makeup and we're otherwise good to go.

Liz has been a godsend helping to prepare the house for the shoot. As I have the day job goin', this wouldn't be possible if she wasn't on school vacation and willing to help so much.

I'm not so much stressed now as I am tired. Sleep is for the weak.

Day after tomorrow!


T-Minus 3 Days!!!

So it's official. We've officially landed Vanguard for the date we need to shoot there.

I know, I know...last week I said kinda the same thing. But our approval was for the 18th and since needing to switch to the 25th we've been in an assumptive mode. As of today we're in a confirmed mode. How we pull off what will be an exceptionally challenging shoot in the midst of a live, open nightclub as a couple of inexperienced filmmakers is another question all together.


T-Minus Five Days

It turns out the last minute actor issue has been resolved as favorably as could have been possible. Thanks to some generous schedule shuffling, our original cast remains in tact. What a relief!

Prepping our house for a party and a shoot has been a unique exercise. It'll be interesting to see how it all goes down. Liz is taking on the role of party host because it's far too much for me to handle solo.

And now I'm just overly tired...


Blank canvas

All I know is that I can't get a record contract, we cannot get a record contract unless we take those tapes to the record company. And granted, the tapes themselves are a uh um oh, you own them, all right, but the magic that is on those tapes. That fucking heart and soul that we put onto those tapes, that is ours and you don't own that. Now I need to take that magic and get it over the record company. And they're waiting for us, we were supposed to be there a half hour ago. We look like assholes, man.

-Reed Rothchild, Boogie Nights

T-Minus Eight Days

Well I had an update written yesterday but I pulled it. I'm not going to go into why right now, because there's more important things to focus on. What I will say is this, today was one of the more stressful days I've ever had as we had an unexpected crisis where one of the lead cast members needed to be replaced last minute.

Let me tell you it's not even remotely fun to deal with trying to fill a role last minute when you have a busy day job and no official resources like a casting director to help. I've been stressed enough as it is, leaving work and either going to a preproduction mtg or just working on prep stuff at home until well past midnight. When I found this out I actually had a moment where I was ready to give up--for personal reasons and the overwhelming nature of the whole thing. I slept on it and decided in the morning that all I can do is forge on and deal.

So today I pushed forward and we'll try to figure it out. It's added a pile of extra work at a time when I couldn't need it less but way it goes with the world of independent film. Fortunately I have friends that jumped the second they heard the news and put out an APB to help us find a replacement. We're talking to one actor on Sunday and there's a few more that I hope to meet this wkd as well. I can only hope that one of them is actually right for the part.

As for the personal side of it, I'm kind of numbed by the whole thing. Not really sure what to make of it all. I can't really get upset now because that's an additional distraction I don't need. We'll see how I view these events in three weeks when these four days of shooting are behind us.

Fortunately I have some friends that have practically thrown themselves into this to help me in every way they possibly can...often without me even asking. I'd never get this done without them. I've only been talking about this for nine months so it's good to know there's people there when I need them most.

OK....enough about the sucksauce....

Marc and I had a fantastic meeting last night and I'm feeling more and more confident about our ability to pull this off. The list of little things to do seems to grow when it should be shrinking, but that's OK.

Tomorrow we have some details about how many people to hire for sound to deal with. Our DP thinks we need a twoman crew and I don't think we can afford it. But bad sound will kill us, so we need to sort that out. Don't even get me started about how we'll get good sound in Vanguard. That's week two...I can't think about it now!


T-Minus Ten Days

We decided today to shoot the pool sequence at my house on day one. It's a relief in some ways because we have complete control of the location. It's a challenge in others because we need to throw a party and make sure all our friends acting as extras are having a great time. 11AM is early to convince people in LA to show up for something, we'll see how well that works out.

As my post a few days ago indicated, we did have Vanguard secured for shooting on the 18th. Unfortunately, as things must always be difficult, the lead performer that night is a band rather than a DJ and the stage will be set up in an unusual configuration that won't work for us. The name of the movie is DJ GIRL, not BAND GIRL, so having a stage filled with keyboards and drums wouldn't be appropriate. We're hoping to shift that shoot to 8/25 so keep your fingers crossed that we'll secure clearance.

Ten days, wow.


On August 19, we will be shooting here...

From DJ Girl recor...

Steve Chipman, Location Manager

His day job may be COO for Mobile Storm, but it seems our height blessed friend also has an ability to convince people to do what had previously seemed practically impossible.

I don't want to go into specifics until everything is confirmed, but should it all pan out, our amateur location manager will have saved the day.

More to come...


The bigger update

On August 18, 2006 we start principal photography for DJ GIRL (the trailer). Yup, it’s finally true! It was just about seven months ago that I sent out a letter requesting your help to make it happen. At that time I naively anticipated that we’d be shooting in March. Then March rolled around and I thought it’d happen in April. Then in April, well, you get the story. Needless to say these last seven months have been a massive learning experience. From realizations about the complexity of doing something that seems so simple to understanding that despite your ambition, a project that requires the teamwork of others won’t always move at the pace you hope for.

I wish I could say that all the questions are answered and every problem solved as we move forward, but we’re not quite there yet. I suppose that’s part of what makes it exciting and, from what I understand, it’s completely typical of the indie film process. We still don’t have approval to shoot in our key location-the nightclub. It’s been this single sticking point that’s kept us from shooting for the last six weeks or so when we were otherwise ready. Finally, I decided that we could wait no longer. While I’d been itching to get started for quite a while, I think the catalyst was when Sierra, the supporting actress playing Davina, checked in to see if I cared if she cut her hair short since we didn’t seem to be moving forward. It seems like a silly little point, but it exemplified a fear I always had-holding only raises the risk that you’ll lose key members of the cast and crew due to availability after you worked so hard to find them. If we have to pick up this final location in the weeks ahead, so be it. It’s easier to schedule a big group of people for one day of shooting than it is for six so with the most of the other footage completed, we’ll be in much better shape than if we hadn’t otherwise started. Waiting now could have meant waiting forever or even never doing it at all. There’s always some little reason or factor to not do it. It’s a good feeling to finally stop and declare that you’ll suck it up and move forward and just deal with the problems as they come.

I’ve also come to understand the need to be flexible when doing this kind of thing. In our case I think that’s going to work to our advantage. After we were turned down to shoot in a nice house for a party scene, we shifted the location to the pool behind our apartment. We’ll dress the grungy place up and it’ll feel like a Hollywood Fashion party (think Entourage) Plus it’ll be nice to have our first day of shooting be at a place we know and control. Over the course of the final two wkds in August we also plan to shoot at a record store, an office, the beach, the roof of the Standard Hotel in downtown LA and other random places. On the 29th of September we plan to pick up some footage of our two lead ladies at a massive outdoor rave party. Somewhere in there a club (hopefully our first choice) will fit in.

Darrin, as an editor, has been a great help suggesting what we need to do to ensure we have the best footage possible for our trailer. Little things that we may have never thought to shoot like close-ups of shifting eyes or fast, blurry camera pans to use as transitions will save us and ensure this thing is successful. (Think back to recent trailers you’ve seen and these two elements will probably seem familiar)

Over the next few weeks Marc, myself, and our DP will be mapping out the shots we need and probably arguing about what toys we can afford to get these shots. (Believe it or not, I’m the voice of reason!) We have a couple locations to still nail down and one small part yet to cast but we’re in good shape. It’s going to be an interesting month.


What we still need

OK...these are the places I still need to secure. If you or anyone you know has access to any of these places then PLEASE let me know asap. I'm looking to get these scenes done on 8/19, 8/25 and 8/26. I included how long we'd need for each one. We can be flexible with that if need be too.


1. An office. Ideally it would be as non-descript as possible with boring cubicles. That said, with the time crunch there's some flexibility here. We'd need 4-6 hours. We could come in day or night whenever is more convenient. Friday evening could also be an option if it's all that's possible. This is an essential location. We have lots of flexibility here as far as how it looks. If any of you have access to a space like this or know someone that does and would be willing to help, your assistance would be appreciated.

2. A guitar center-type store. This can be a consumer electronics store of any kind though. The scene is our main character buying DJ equipment. We can fake it should the place not actually sell that stuff but still feels right. This set up is really basic and non-obtrussive. We just need to pick up a couple lines of dialogue. I'd say two hours should do it. We can shoot it anytime, late at night, early morning, it's very flexible. This is also an essential location. If you know anyone that owns or knows someone that owns a store like this, please please please help us out.

3. A record store in LA. We already have permission to shoot in DJ Culture, Simply Jeff's store on orange county. That said it's less ideal because it's in OC and we can only shoot there on a Monday. I have no expectations here, but on the off chance that someone has an inside connection to a local store that would be open to letting us in, it'd be a great help. We'd need about six hours. Early early morning before they open would be ideal. If we're doing it afterhours at night, we'd probably need an additional hour or two to light it. EDIT: DJ Culture is perfect. We met with one of the owners today and he was incredibly accommodating. Despite the distance, it's a fantastic location and we shoot there on 8/19.

4. A backup for vanguard. We've been working to get approval to shoot in vanguard for almost two months now. We haven't been turned down, but we haven't been green lit either. Any ideas of workable options for backup club locations would be appreciated. We'll need to be able to film in the space for up to six hours before it opens and then more with the club actually open to the public. We can trade HD footage of the club for access.


We're dressing a grungy pool to look like a hollywood fashion show so we need hip, cool sponsor banners to cover a shitty cracked wall. If one of them happens to be a beverage company that can contribute some booze for our pool party and all the extras, that'd be even extra cool.


An older woman who is our lead character's coworker. 50's+, kinda conservative. She only has one line so it's more appearance than acting ability. In fact she doesn't at all need to be an actress. We'll need her for the office shoot only.


August 18, 2007

is the day that DJ GIRL (the trailer) starts shooting.

(no, we haven't yet secured the club, but screw it, we're moving forward anyway!)