Thursday, September 30, 2010

REUNION teaser vid...

In anticipation of our Kickstarter campaign (launching tomorrow) here's a very (very!) brief teaser (we don't start shooting until next July!)

REUNION teaser from Jeremy Bell on Vimeo.

Check back tomorrow for information on our Kickstarter campaign. You can be a part of this process -- and see your name in the credits as a result!

Also, actors -- keep your eyes peeled the next couple of days. Because I've been contacted by some talented people already, I think we are going to open up digital submissions immediately. More details to follow (maybe Saturday).

Be seeing you...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

$15,000 Monster Movie

Gareth Edwards is a micro-budget filmmaker. And creative. And talented. 

His feature length creature-feature, MONSTERS, was shot by a two person crew (Gareth on camera, plus his sound recordist) on location in various parts of Central America. An editor also traveled with them so scenes were able to be cut together right away, once the day's filming was done. Gareth did the digital effects work himself.

The end result? A monster movie made for the (relatively) paltry sum of $15,000.

Check out this short (3 minute) making-of from Best Buy:

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, because it's a great example of what can be achieved today with a little creativity and know-how. And independent filmmakers like Gareth should be supported. 

I enjoyed MONSTERS quite bit. Whether or not you feel the same way, should you choose to seek it out (please do!), I think you will agree that it's an impressive achievement that further marks the evolution of filmmaking away from a studio-based system to a system that puts creative decisions directly in the hands of those who are actually doing the day-to-day work of making the movie.

Check out the official trailer here:

Be seeing you...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Script breakdown finished!

Finally -- finally! -- I've moved past the procrastination and finished REUNION's script breakdown (see my post on script breakdowns if you haven't already and would like to know what one is for).

With that done we can begin going through the script reports and figuring out all of things we'll need to shoot this baby -- actors, props, vehicles, locations, how many gallons of fake blood, etc. And we can start putting together a budget. Another step forward!

Be seeing you...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Canon 7D and Rig

REUNION will shoot on Canon 7Ds. For those of you unfamiliar with this little camera, this post is for you. You'll meet the camera, see some of its key peripherals, and I'll include some links where you can find more information on the gear shown here.

You'll notice above I referred to this as a little camera. That's because it is.

It's a still camera with exceptional HD capabilities, leading it to be adopted quickly by independent filmmakers of all stripes. It allows independent filmmakers to use interchangeable lenses, much like would be used on larger, much more expensive film cameras, or even the famous RED camera. It's small size makes it ideal for shooting inconspicuously. If you're out doing some guerilla shooting most people will assume you're shooting stills (and maybe you're doing that as well) and leave you to it.

So why are we shooting a feature-length horror film on a still camera? Because it's low (relative) cost will save us a lot of money. By shooting digitally we'll save money by not having to buy film and then have it developed. It will save time on set because we won't have to stop and change film magazines as frequently -- we'll just swap out Compact Flash cards. And then interchangeable lenses will allow us (the director of photography specifically) to have the artistic freedom we'd like to have as we set up our shots. Different lenses create different looks and by being able to change out lenses we'll be able to create different looks for the various kinds of scenes and shots that will make up the finished film. By using different lenses and by setting our own f-stop we will also be able to utilize shallow depth of field. Depth of field refers to how deep the focus field is in a shot. An example of a very deep depth of field would be the look you get from your standard point-and-shoot camera: everything is in focus. A shallow depth of field allows us to choose the specific thing in the frame we'd like to focus on (for instance, a subject's face) while throwing the background out of focus. This is a quick way to draw a viewer's attention to what we, the filmmakers, want them to focus on in a given shot. It used to be that to achieve a shallow depth of field you'd have to spend a lot of money on high end video cameras (or shoot on film). The introduction of HDSLRs like the Canon EOS 7D, the Canon 5D Mark II, and others, has allowed a much lower cost of entry into this kind of independent filmmaking. 

Because I own a Canon 7D, and have access to another one, it is even easier for us. We'll need to rent lenses and other gear (lights, dollies, etc), but we're already set with the cameras.

There are, however, things to consider before buying one of these cameras for yourself. They are not made with the filmmaker in mind. What does that mean for you, as a prospective buyer, or renter, of an HDSLR? It means you'll need a few things in order to fully outfit your camera for filmmaking purposes. The onboard sound on these cameras is notoriously bad. One small microphone is it on the Canon 7D and there's no way to monitor the quality of the sound you are getting. So, you'll need a microphone. And some kind of external sound recorder. 

In the picture above you see the microphone I use on my camera -- a Rode Videomic. It can be found on Amazon(Rode VideoMic Directional Video Condenser Microphone w/Mount) for $150.

In this next picture you can see my external sound recorder, a Zoom H4N. It allows up to four track recording and accepts multiple inputs, including 3/4" phone jacks (like I'm using in this picture) and industry standard XLR inputs. In this picture the Zoom is the little silver box hanging off the back right side of my cage. Find a Zoom at Amazon (Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder).

One negative to recording sound this way, if you've never dealt with non-sync sound before, is that the camera is recording the picture while the Zoom is recording the sound. So how do you get the two back together? I'd recommend the same software I use. It's called Pluraleyes and it can be found here: To use Pluraleyes, make sure you are recording sound on the Zoom AND that the Canon 7D is also recording sound via its built-in mic. Then, once you've imported your footage (with the built-in audio still attached) and the audio from the Zoom into Final Cut Pro, you can use Pluraleyes to sync the Zoom's audio to the audio you recorded in the camera. It's a nifty, timesaving trick. If you need help figuring out how to use the software, the Pluraleyes website has a short video demonstrating how it all works. 

You'll also notice in the above photos the cage the Canon 7D is sitting in. Here's one more:

So what's the cage for? It's a way of attaching all of the extra gear needed to maximize the 7D's filmmaking potential -- the mic, the Zoom, and, eventually an external monitor. It also allows the top handle you see here, allowing for much more flexibility carrying the camera around. I bought this cage from CPM Filmtools. They have a huge variety in what rigs they offer and all of their rigs include a lifetime warranty. Nice!

That's it for me, but here's a few links you should absolutely check out if you're considering jumping into HDSLR filmmaking:

Philip Bloom's Blog -- He's the HDSLR guru online and his site is a great resource, full of great work he's done with these cameras (including his trip to Skywalker Ranch to teach the Lucasfilm crew how to use these babies) and also includes some great tutorials. A must.

Cinema 5D -- A forum for all things HDSLR. Is you have a question, someone here can answer it. If you have a question about gear -- someone here has probably already tried it and given their review. Great, great resource. 

Be seeing you...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

REUNION - A brief history

REUNION began with a letter. It was a number years ago now, and the letter arrived in the mailbox of someone I know. It was unexpected and its contents were a surprise. It was from an old high school classmate and in essence it was a letter of forgiveness. The letter's author was writing to let my friend know that what my friend had engaged in during their high school years together (mocking words directed at the letter's author) had not gone unnoticed. And then the author wrote that my friend was forgiven.

My friend had grown up and moved on, probably not thinking anything about how words spoken in high school might have affected the party the words were directed at. He was embarrassed by the letter, embarrassed by how he had behaved as a much younger person. 

All of this got me thinking. This kind of thing (and worse) goes on in high schools all around the country. Kids get picked on. It happens.

And for the most part it ends with graduation. People grow up, move on. High school becomes a distant memory. But, as the letter proved, sometimes the hurts and scars of high school aren't so easily forgotten. Fortunately, in my friend's case, the person he had once wronged chose to forgive him. It was probably the author's own way of moving on.

But what if that hadn't been the case? 

That is the premise of REUNION. Imagine the letter's author had not forgotten, had not forgiven, and had not moved on. Imagine that those years after high school had been filled with thoughts of one thing -- revenge. And what better time to put those years of planning and preparation into action than the weekend of the ten year reunion?

So if you weren't always the kind person you are today, if you had moments during your own high school sojourn you'd like to forget, and you receive an invitation to a cocktail party the night before your own reunion, an invitation without a return address and no host mentioned... It might be best to politely decline it.

Ten years is a lot of time for rage to build. It's a lot of time to prepare. And should you accept his invitation, you'll find that he's more than ready for you.

Be seeing you...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Early Casting Notice - Seattle area actors take note

If you are an actor in the Seattle area, or if you know an actor in the Seattle area, here's a little piece of info regarding our upcoming casting process.

Keep your eyes peeled in late December or early January for the casting notices. We'll post on all notable casting boards (http://tpsonline.org, etc)and, of course, we'll give you a heads up here too (so if your an actor in Seattle follow this blog or "Like" our Facebook page @!/pages/Reunion-The-Movie/111296185594705?ref=mf) to keep up-to-date.

REUNION is a feature-length horror film slated to shoot in July 2011. We'll be using non-SAG actors so, if that's you, we want to hear from you. 

There are three female roles -- all between 25-35 years old. One lead, two supporting.

There are five male roles, also between the ages of 25-35. Two leads, three supporting.

There will also be five male roles available for teenagers (16-19). These will be the male characters shown as teenagers in a very brief flashback.

In December or early January we will place the notices and ask all interested parties to submit a DVD of a scene showing what the actor is capable of in a horror movie context. Details of what to submit will be included in the actual notices.

Once we've reviewed the submitted DVDs we will ask for in-person readings from actors we want to see more from.

This is your chance to be covered in blood and scream a lot. Hold nothing back!

Be seeing you...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Check out our new Facebook page

If you get most of your online information via Facebook, visit our new Facebook page and click on the "Like" button.

It's one more source for all of your REUNION news. 


We've settled on a logo! 

Simple, clean, and accurate to the movie. Special thanks to Catalin at for the design.

Be seeing you...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Hobbit close to casting its Bilbo?

This just in -- even before locking down a director, it appears the producers of The Hobbit may be zeroing in on their choice to play Bilbo Baggins.

And it's none other than Martin Freeman from the original Office!

I love this casting choice. If you'll follow the link and check out the source, you'll see that negotiations are ongoing with Freeman. Let's hope it all works out.



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

WTF is a script breakdown?

As promised, an attempt to answer the question: "WTF is a script breakdown?".

Let's start by going back a little bit and look at REUNION's own sordid history. It begins with a script, a spec script if we're being truthful. A spec script is a script written on speculation -- speculation that it might be bought and subsequently produced. This is different than a script that is written after the writer has been hired by a producer to write a script. Why? Because a spec is written prior to any money changing hands, because the writer has an idea he wants to pursue. He's doing so without any guarantee said script will ever make money or be produced. Spec scripts have their own formatting style, devoid of camera moves and mentions of angles -- anything that would detract from the ease of reading the script.

When do camera moves and angles enter the picture? In a shooting script, which is a script written for a production. Once we made the decision that we would produce REUNION ourselves, my first act was to convert the spec script into a shooting script. The shooting script is much less fun to read because it's, quite frankly, more awkward to read. Compare the two:



A PRETENTIOUS WRITER sits at his Macbook Pro and types a stupid blog entry.



fly across the keyboard.


squints as he struggles to form coherent sentences.

And now, SHOOTING SCRIPT formatting:


ANGLE ON: A PRETENTIOUS WRITER sits at his MACBOOK PRO and types a stupid blog entry.

CLOSE-UP: His FINGERS fly across the keyboard.

EXTREME CLOSE-UP: The WRITER's EYES squint as he struggles to form coherent sentences.

It's just not as easy to read a shooting script because, by calling attention to camera angles and close-ups, we're taken out of the story we're trying to read. The spec formatting is more elegant because we can call attention to the writer's fingers flying across the keyboard in a way that doesn't interrupt our reading rhythm.

Why shooting scripts? Because by the time a script is turned into a shooting script, it's going into production. Things like camera angles and close-ups become more important because now the script is becoming a true blueprint for a production. Another difference between shooting scripts is that scenes are numbered, ready for breakdown.

So what about breakdowns?

Breaking down a script is essential for budgeting, casting, scheduling, etc.

A script breakdown requires going through your shooting script scene-by-scene and highlighting each element required for the scene (each type of element has its own color-code).

In the example we used above I would highlight the coffee shop in the color appropriate for LOCATIONS. I would highlight the writer in the color for CHARACTERS. The Macbook Pro in the color for PROPS. If the interior of the coffee shop is described in more detail we would highlight those descriptions in the color for SET DRESSING.

As you can see, we are highlighting all the elements that will be needed to actually shoot that scene. We now know we need to cast an actor as the pretentious writer. We know our location scout needs to find us a coffee shop -- or our construction crew needs to build us a coffee shop set. The prop department needs to furnish us with a Macbook Pro. And Apple must be contacted so we can find out if they'll even allow us to show a Macbook Pro in our movie.

This is done for every scene in the script. If there is another scene later in the script that also uses the same elements  (coffee shop, writer, Macbook Pro), it will make sense to schedule the shooting of those scenes for the same day.

Once the script breakdown is complete, you can use it to make reports detailing everything from what actors will need to be hired to what props must be tracked down (or made). As you can see, this will make budgeting and scheduling much easier.

This is a simplified explanation because I don't have all day -- I HAVE MY OWN SCRIPT BREAKDOWN I AM AVOIDING AT THIS VERY MOMENT!

For more information about script formatting check out Dave Trottier's The Screenwriter's Bible. It's essential reading.

For more on script breakdowns checkout:


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Stay tuned!

Just an update on what to expect this week. I mention in my previous post about how handy Celtx has proven to be during pre-production. In that same post I mention breaking down a script.

So, what the hell is "breaking down a script"?

For the purposes of this blog, I am assuming no prior knowledge of the screenwriting or filmmaking processes on my readers' part (are you out there?). 

This week I'll do my best to answer the above question, so stay tuned for that. Also, I'll probably drop a little hint or two about what you, the viewer, can expect from the finished REUNION.

Be seeing you...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Celtx for pre-production needs

I'm a Final Draft user and have been for years. It's always fit my needs as a screenwriter and I've become intimately familiar with how it works. Which works for me. 

However, it is a paid program, and not inexpensive at that. A great free alternative exists: Celtx is a free screenwriting program, but as I've recently discovered, it's so much more than.

It also provides a complete pre-production functionality that I'm only now becoming familiar with. It easily allows you to breakdown your script and, as you highlight specific elements within a scene and mark them appropriately (actor, prop, SFX, etc), it automatically creates reports. Once you enter the report area you will see the scene you've chosen broken down according to all of its respective parts. Open the calendar within the program and setup your shooting schedule. Drag your scene into the calendar and the program will automatically create a callsheet for that date, based on the info it accrued when you originally broke down the scene. Neat trick.

Celtx provides even more, but I'd encourage you to check it out for yourself. Handy videos on their website will further educate you on everything the program can do for you as you tackle your own pre-production.

Remember -- it's all free! 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Does this blog make me look fat?

What's new? I'm bloated. Guys can get bloated, right? 

Also, I just rewatched LET THE RIGHT ONE IN a week or so ago. Great, great vampire movie. It's the true re-imagining of the genre the Twilight films wish they could be.

Set in the early eighties in a dark and snowy Sweden, it's the story of a boy. A boy bullied. Picked on. He's pale, scrawny, and unable to defend himself. Instead he spends his time wielding a knife and imagining the how he'd slice the shit out of his nemesis.

And then a girl moves in next door. She befriends him. From there, things get very, very good.

See it. See it now, before the American remake LET ME IN hits. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fade In:

So this is it. The beginning. Only it's not. This journey began a number of years ago.  It began with a script (at that time called The House). The premise was simple: During the weekend of their ten year reunion, four friends are trapped in a house by the man they debased in high school. And hilarity ensues. If you find buckets of blood funny.

The script ultimately got shopped to some Hollywood studios where it was dubbed "too violent" -- or something to that effect.  Okay. So I'll deal with those jokers later (see above premise).

But seriously -- we decided we didn't need permission. So we're making it ourselves. And that's why this blog is called The Director's Notebook and not The Writer's Notebook. The writing is done. It has been written.

So now I'm going to direct the hell out of this thing. My producing partners Matt and Jennifer are hard at work moving all the pieces into place. In a couple of days our Kickstarter website will go live and hopefully you will decide to join us on this bloody path to cinematic infamy. Once that site is operational I'll post a link here. There you will be able to donate at whatever level you feel comfortable with and, like a good PBS telethon, different donation tiers will be created, each offering its own unique rewards. If you prefer your horror bloody and disgusting -- help us make this happen and pat yourself on the back when you watch the finished product knowing you helped buy all those buckets of blood.

And check back here often. This is where you can track the journey of a first-time feature filmmaker as he struggles to realize his vision of violent excess. Thanks for visiting. Be seeing you...

Jeremy David Bell