A One-Woman Filmmaking Crew

When the last of my filmmaking buddies left for Los Angeles I was lost. I realized I had a choice. 1). I could mope–which I did for about three weeks. 2). I could start all over making new connections–which is fun but time-consuming. 3). I could become a one-woman filmmaking crew. I chose #3. I had to find a way to make a short completely on my own. That meant I would be writer, producer, director, DP, editing, and craft services all rolled into one. That sounded exciting. But I knew I’d need to scale down the project in size and complexity.

I had wanted to make short documentaries for a while but even that kind of project takes a crew. So I went smaller. I decided to make a micro documentary. I could make a very short film that takes a brief look into something or someone. Just enough of a look to draw attention to it; to tantalize the viewer with that micro glimpse.

Check out my first micro documentary, Poetry On Demand. It’s about the creative students at San Jose State University who write poetry on the spot at their Lit Factory booth.

I had a blast filming, as I always do, and it got me out of the moping. Instead of languishing–I was now doing. After a couple of hours on the set it took two half days of post production to create this three and a half minute film. Even the busiest filmmaker can squeeze out eight hours if they wanted to. I wish I could say that I’ll produce one of these micro documentary projects a month. But six a year is more doable with my current schedule. I already have ideas for the next one. I’ll take what I learned from this film and apply it to the next project. I can’t wait.

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Awards Season Is Here!

I love this time of year when Hollywood is abuzz with excitement, champagne corks are unpopped, and our favorite movie actors, directors, writers, and producers come out of the woodwork to be recognized.  It’s a time to honor the year’s best films and filmmakers.

It’s also a reminder for me to start planning my Oscar party and get caught up on films I haven’t seen yet.  If you’re a movie buff like me—plotting your calendar to make sure you don’t miss any of the fun—here’s a guide to help you find your way to the most popular award shows and to see who the nominees are and view the trailers:

View the 85thAnnual Academy Awards nominees and trailers at: http://oscar.go.com/nominees  Oscar Sunday is February 24, 2013 at 4pm PT with Seth McFarlane hosting.

The 70th Annual Golden Globes airs on Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 5pm PT with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting.  http://www.goldenglobes.org/2012/12/nominations-2013/

Writers Guild of America Awards nominations can be found at:  http://www.wga.org/awards/awardssub.aspx?id=1516  Held on Sunday, February 17, 2013 in Los Angeles.  Televised date TBD.

Directors Guild of America nominations  http://www.dga.org/awards/annual.aspx The winners will be announced at the 65th Annual DGA Awards Dinner on Saturday, February 2, 2013 Televised date TBD.

Producers Guild Award nominations http://www.producersguild.org/news/112661/ The 2013 Producers Guild Award winners will be announced on January 26th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The National Society of Film Critics held their award ceremony January 5, 2013. “Amour” the best film of 2012. “Amour” also won for Best Director and Best Actress.  BEST SCREENPLAY award went to “Lincoln” (Tony Kushner)  See all the categories, nominees, and winners at http://www.nationalsocietyoffilmcritics.com/

Which films are your favorites?  What are your favorite categories?  Share your comments.  Let’s talk movies!


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Lessons Learned From Face Off Part XII

Season Three’s season finale aired last month and I’m a bit delayed posting my thoughts about it.  Rest assured there was drama, tips, and lessons learned.  Here’s a recap of the best quotes from the finale episode…

From Roy: Don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from your mistakes.  Most of his designs were trial and error—and he made it to the final four.

From Patrick: Go beyond. Don’t play it safe and not give it your all– If you don’t win, you still want to be remembered. You don’t want to be bland. Boring is bad. Go for it!

From Neville: The Exorcist horrified him.  He learned what you can do to an audience with make-up.

Lessons Learned from Face Off

Season Three Winner

Season Finale Episode 12

About Laura: “Conceptually, you have stellar designs.” “You stick to your concept and they come together in the end.”  Laura can block out her emotions, which has come in handy.

From Laura: Continue to tweak your design. A last minute decision can take you over the top.

About Derek: “You have the ability to conceive on paper. You’re a great visual artist and good designer. You have a great sense of form and color. You play under the radar and you’re such a likeable guy.”

About Nicole: “Bold design and great application work.”  “Certainly never boring” “relentless determination” “excellent decision making

From Nicole:  She doesn’t want to say “next time.”

The winner was my favorite purple-haired girl – Nicole!

Kudos to all three finalists who taught us a great deal about making it in Hollywood. If you missed out, don’t worry. Season Four begins in January 2013.  You know I’ll be watching.

Notes from Episode XI

Notes from Episode VII


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Lessons Learned From Face Off Part XI

The season finale was a nail biter.  The worst part is I still don’t know who won and the audience gets to call in their votes!  I’ll add to this post after tonight’s airing of the announcement after the voting.  (Or add a separate blog post).  All the characters created in this episode’s challenge held up through a grueling choreographed fight scene.  Here are my lessons learned from Episode 11:


Face Off Immortal Enemies


Immortal Enemies (Episode 11)

  1. When you’ve made it to the finale.  Dig deep.  Find whatever it takes to keep you going.
  2. It is VITAL to get what you see in your head out on paper!  You must be able to communicate your vision to others.
  3. Don’t let the jealousy of others get to you!  Let it go.  Stay professional.
  4. Accidents will happen.
  5. In Hollywood and in life, you’ll encounter people who will try to thwart your success.  I’m just saying, beware.
  6. When others knock you down, don’t count yourself out.  Keep fighting for your dream!
  7. In this business you need to be daring and creative and challenge yourself.
  8. Comments from the judges included: “You created rich looking characters that look like they belong to the same world. They’re cohesive.”  “Nice details, great silhouette for moviemaking.”  And, “The pieces don’t match.”
  9. The remaining three special effects makeup artists are phenomenal creative talents.  Face Off has allowed them exposure that most certainly will open doors for them in Hollywood.  I wish each artist good luck and I thank them for an entertaining and inspiring season.

Click to read lessons from episode 1


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Lessons Learned From Face Off Part X

Cream rises to the top!  I know you won’t believe me because I left out names in all my previous blog posts, but these are the contestants that I guessed early on would be in the final four.  And naturally, these finalists are feeling the stress.  The competition is fierce between them and they’re beginning to second-guess themselves.  It’s anybody’s game to win.  Here are my top tips from Episode 10.


Scene of the Crime Faceoff episode 10


 Scene of the Crime (Episode 10)

  1. When you start second-guessing yourself, shake it off!  Maybe it’s just nerves, pressure, and stress.  Maybe it’s just you missing your spouse.
  2. At one point or another, we all feel like our work isn’t good enough.  Fight through it!
  3. Contestants had to select a crime scene to create a creature that could have committed the crime (how awesome is that?).  Pick a scene (or project) that speaks to you and that will emphasize your talents, instead of highlighting your weaknesses.
  4. Whatever your craft in Hollywood, know how to create ____ (fill in the blank) a creature, a set, a script, a music score, a character… that’s unique, memorable, and functional.  Step Up Your Game!
  5. Balance your time well so you can show off your creativity.  You don’t want to get caught throwing elements together because you ran out of time. Running out of time leads to bad decision making!
  6. When creating a monster, make it scary, fierce, menacing!
  7. Know when to go big and when to be a bit more sophisticated and subtle.
  8. The judge’s comments this week included praise like: “You took risks and gave us intricate work.” “Great work with lots of promise. We want to see more.”  “Your work is complete, evolved.” “He thinks big and he’s willing to take chances.”  And “This is old-school. Great details.” To unfavorable comments: “He made bad finishing decisions.”
  9. The guy sent home, not because he wasn’t gifted and creative, was sent because he always went big fabricating when they asked him not to go big.  The bottom line is they had to send somebody home and the other three gave the judges no reason to pick them.

Click to read lessons from episode 1

Click to read lessons from episode 11


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Lessons Learned From Face Off Part IX

Maybe I haven’t mentioned this before, but Gale Anne Hurd is my all-time favorite producer.  Her films include Aliens, The Terminator, Dante’s Peak, Armageddon, Tremors, The Abyss, and many others, including the TV hit The Walking Dead.  So I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw that she was this week’s guest judge.  The challenge included creating a cyborg from parts found in a junkyard.  The judges obviously wanted to see a fresh take on cyborgs and the contestants dug into their imaginations to produce a zombie cyborg, a warrior princess cyborg, and automated soldier cyborg.  Originality was everywhere except with the contestant at the bottom of the competition. Below are my notes on episode 9…


Lessons Learned From Faceoff episode 9

Junkyard Cyborg (Episode 9)

  1. In Hollywood, and especially in the competitive Faceoff environment, you don’t want a typical concept.  Hollywood craves for the fresh take.  But you need ‘a’ concept to start.
  2. One contestant realized her concept was predictable (predictability is the kiss of death)! Luckily she gave her concept more thought before she was too far committed.
  3. During the walk-through, the judge made perceptive comments on the works-in-progress:  “Don’t come in with a flat surface with things stuck on it.”  (Advice not taken).  “I like the direction you’re taking. Get that zombie aspect going.”  (Advice taken).  And “It’s a strong design. Put that pop on it.”  (Advice taken).  Guess which contestant was eliminated?
  4. Another contestant took a look around at the works of her competitors and realized she hadn’t gone big enough.  She quickly made changes to her cyborg.
  5. When a mask piece didn’t turn out well, that contestant made it work.
  6. One person again tried to do too much and made mistakes, causing him to end up in the bottom looks.  (This same person had been told in previous episodes not to always create big fabricated pieces).
  7. The moral of items #2 thru #6 above is about having adaptability, about having the knack to make adjustments as necessary.  A Hollywood set (and scripts) is dynamic. Versatility is a necessity for anyone on the set.
  8. Of the top looks in this episode, the judges thought one contestant made stellar use of the found objects.  Also, the purple-haired contestant particularly impressed them. They liked how hungry she was and that she trusted her instincts.  She replied, “Before I was giving you what I thought you wanted to see, now I’m doing what I want to see.”  (Huge lesson here, folks)!
  9. The person sent home for not creating a fully realized cyborg had to hear a mouthful from the judges: “You need to know the function of your character, and know the history of your character.” “You’re crippled by not knowing iconic films.” “You didn’t know why your character had pieces or what those pieces were used for or what body part they were replacing.” And lastly, “You were crippled by your inability to make adjustments.”
  10. Remember you don’t get a face-to-face meeting with a true Hollywood legend everyday.  So when you do have the opportunity to show your talent, show them everything you’ve got! This episode’s winner got a surprise invitation from Gale Anne Hurd to join her at Comic-Con.  That’s the best prize yet!


Click to read lessons from episode 10

Click to read lessons from episode 1


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