FilmFellas: Cast One

Zacuto USA brings us a series of table side chats with filmmakers: Steve Weiss, Philip Bloom, Peter Hawley, Steve DaDouche, talking about how the web is impacting filmmaking and anything else that happens to come up.

Descriptions from Author

1. “Web of Opportunities”

2. “A Reel Experience”
The Fellas begin to reminisce on their past experiences, hardships and roles as young filmmakers working in the biz. They discuss how important it is to utilize any avenue of learning such as; film schools, courses, mentors and the internet in order to advance your knowledge.

“Every job you do, you learn something and you become a better filmmaker” Steve Weiss, Director

This time at the table, the Fellas stress that experience and time behind the camera is what counts. So, hop back into the conversation and watch webisode two, A Reel Experience. Subscribe at or iTunes and immediately be informed when new shows arrive. The Fellas will return on February 1st with an all new webisode.

3. “Content is King”

The four course webisodic meal is almost over, but the film chatter is far from complete. Finishing their conversation about the benefits of the internet for new filmmakers, the Fellas move in a new direction in webisode three, “Content is King”. They begin to breakdown the pros and cons of the using the net as a tool to evolve productions, whether to buy or rent equipment and how to differentiate yourself as a newcomer in the film industry. When it comes down to solving the secret of how to launch your successful career on the internet, Steve Weiss has one answer “It’s called being good!”

4. It’s time to pay the check. This is the final part to cast one. Bloom talks about owning gear and what should be called a film as well as the collaborative process. Weiss starts talking about directing styles, screen direction, camera movement, editing and the benefits of creating your style and sticking with it. Hawley talks about David Lean. DaDouche talks about how directors need to have a general knowledge of all of your departments, including editing.

Sony Vegas Tutorial: Lightsaber Effect

This video tutorial offers a slightly different method for creating a lightsaber in Sony Vegas without After Effects, VisionLab, LS Maker, or anything else.

VIA: ShamefulProductions

From the Author:

You have to rotoscope. That’s the only way, regardless of what program you use.

FOR MULTIPLE LIGHTSABERS, you have to repeat the process for the other lightsaber, so if it takes two tracks to make one, it takes four tracks to make two, or six to make three, etc. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass, but that’s what you have to do.

IF YOU CAN’T MOVE THE MASK POINTS THE WAY YOU WANT TO, look to the toolbar on the left of the Event Pan/Crop window. When working in masking mode, at the bottom of the toolbar, you should see a button with a blue line on it. If it’s a vertical line, you can only move the points up and down. If it’s horizontal, you can only move it left and right. If you want to move it both ways, you have to click on the button until the line turns into a cross. That cross indicates that you can now move the points in whatever direction you want.

If you’re wondering why your Vegas doesn’t have the “Mask” thing, it’s because I’m using Vegas PROFESSIONAL. If you’re using Movie Studio or Platinum, you won’t have it, and you won’t be able to do it. You need the professional version.

Now before you ask me how much it costs, the newest version of Vegas Professional is $525. I made this with the assumption that anyone who watches it will already have Vegas.

I assume that the same thing can be done with Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, or any other major editing system. Just don’t ask me about it, ’cause I don’t know. I only assume.

I didn’t bother with sound effects. If you need sounds, go here:

This will work with Vegas Pro 8. It will work with any version of Vegas 6 or later, as long as it’s Pro and not wither Movie Studio or Platinum Edition.

Short Film Distribution Guide

Scottish Screen offers a comprehensive guide (“You’ve Got it Made”) to the ins-and-outs of distributing a short film. Visit their site to download the guide and while there check out some of the other great resources they have to offer.

— Scottish Screen | Visit Site

Writing Loglines that Sell

by Jonathan Treisman

Have you ever been stuck listening to a friend tell you a joke that seems to go on without ever reaching the punch line? Your mind starts wandering and you stop paying attention as the joke painfully loses its momentum.

Pitching your ideas effectively, whether from a script, novel or even your own mind, does not come naturally for most of us. But with a little practice, it can. Once you learn what a “High Concept Idea” is and how to create exciting story “Loglines” for your work.

Why do Writers Need to Learn How to Pitch?

In Hollywood, every movie starts out in the form of underlying material, such as a novel, a screenplay, a comic book or even a great idea. The next step is to convey your idea clearly and succinctly to those who are in a position to buy it. This is an essential tool for any writer working in Hollywood today.

We all know that Hollywood is not a meritocracy where only the best scripts, books or ideas get made into films. You have to learn how to pitch effectively to get your projects purchased in this very competitive marketplace.

What Hollywood Is Looking For?

Let’s look at the types of films that the major Studios are buying these days.

Beyond some of the wonderful independent films that are being made within and outside of the Studio system, Hollywood primarily wants to acquire what they call, “High Concept Ideas”. In layman’s terms, we’re talking about stories that put butts in the seats on a Saturday night.

Stories that are labeled as “High Concept” can certainly be subjective, but we’re not necessarily talking about the crazy, Psycho Ninjas from Mars-type movies. My definition of “High Concept” simply refers to: Stories that all of us can relate to on some tangible and emotional level.

For example, we all want to fall in love; we all share a thirst for adventure; we all deal with difficult moral dilemmas; we all have similar family issues and we all like to watch people make fools out of themselves. That’s an easy concept to relate to, because let’s face it, we’ve all made fools out of ourselves at some point.

Creating Loglines For Your Work

“What’s your screenplay about?” “Tell me a little bit about your novel?” We’ve all heard these questions before. But what is that person really asking you about your work?

What they’re looking for, in Hollywood-speak, is what’s called a “Logline.” My definition of a logline is this: It’s a one- or two-sentence description of the overall idea of the story. It’s the main goal of the story that you want to convey to your audience.

Every year, agents, Studio Executives and Producers receive hundreds of scripts, books and query letters from writers wanting to submit their work, so they have to filter those down into only pursuing the projects that they think would make great films. The clear and concise logline you present to someone, is what will get them excited about reading your work.

For this article, I’ve put together a pitching exercise to get you thinking about how to describe your own work using simple loglines. We will look at five examples of well-known, memorable films and see if their loglines can give us the big idea of the movie.

Pretend for a moment that you’re in your living room with your feet up getting ready to watch a movie. You open up your TV guide and you’re deciding what to watch based on the description or logline of the film. Those TV magazines always do a nice job of breaking down a film into one or two sentences.

In this exercise, first I’ll give you the logline, and then provide the answers at the end.

Logline #1 – The extraordinary story of a thoroughbred racehorse – from his humble beginnings as an under-fed workhorse to his unlikely rise and triumphant victory over the Triple Crown winner, War Admiral.

Logline #2 – A 17th Century tale of adventure on the Caribbean Sea where the roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow joins forces with a young blacksmith in a gallant attempt to rescue the Governor of England’s daughter and reclaim his ship.

Are you getting the hang of it so far? Here’s a few more:

Logline #3 – After segueing from a life of espionage to raising a family, Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez are called back into action. But when they are kidnapped by their evil nemesis, there are only two people in the world who can rescue them… their kids!

Logline #4 – Toula’s family has exactly three traditional values – “Marry a Greek boy, have Greek babies, and feed everyone.” When she falls in love with a sweet, but WASPy guy, Toula struggles to get her family to accept her fiancée, while she comes to terms with her own heritage.

Logline #5 – A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea.


1. Seabiscuit

2. Pirates of the Caribbean

3. Spy Kids

4. My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding

5. Titanic

Make Your Logline Memorable

The main point to remember about this exercise is that you have to try to boil down your own high concept ideas into something that’s easy for people to understand. If you can’t relate to an agent, a publisher, a producer or even a studio executive what your story is about in one or two sentences, then it will be difficult to get them interested in reading your work, and more importantly, wanting to buy it.

Keep in mind however, that a good logline doesn’t tell someone too much. It’s always good to leave a little something to the imagination. In the case of Spy Kids, you want the person you’re pitching, to ask you, “Hey, what does happen when the kids have to save their parents?” And that’s when you can say, “Well, you’ll have to read my screenplay to find out.”

Additionally, when you’re pitching your story logline, you don’t want to sound like a snake-oil salesman by telling someone: “It’s like Die Hard on a bus” or “It’s like The Firm meets The Fugitive.” What does that even mean? However, if you told me that your script was about “A man who is bitten by a genetically-altered spider, and soon discovers that he has unusual powers and the strength and agility of a spider.” Well, I’d say, that’s definitely a movie I’d want to see.

Some may ask, why is the Spiderman logline a high-concept idea? It’s high concept because, while we all can’t relate to what it would be like to be Spiderman, the film has many high-concept themes that we can all relate to such as: unrequited love, parental approval and of course, wish fulfillment as a superhero.

Let Your Passion Rule Your Writing

As you work on your own projects, it’s important to remember that as a screenwriter or a novelist, you should always write what you are passionate about. Do not let people try to pigeonhole your writing and likewise, do not attempt to get into the mindset of writing only what you think may sell as a film. That’s like asking Picasso to use a little more green in his paintings so that they’ll match your couch. You simply cannot infringe on someone’s creativity!

Take Your Pitching to the Next Level

Oftentimes the best films and the ones that consistently win Academy Awards each year, come from the most interesting, emotional and historical backgrounds. But you must still be able to convey the high concept or main idea of these stories effectively to whomever you’re pitching.

Now that you understand how loglines work and what an important tool they can be, let’s take your pitching skills to the next level.

It’s great when writers tell me that their story is too complex to boil down into one or two simple sentences. Here are a five more examples of loglines from great, Academy Award nominated films, that may help you pitch your ideas that you feel are a little more complicated and multi-layered.

Logline #1 – When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by a corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek his revenge.

Logline #2 – An older man is forced to deal with an ambiguous future after he enters retirement and his wife passes away. Ultimately, he finds hope as he comes to terms with his daughter’s marriage and his own life.

Logline #3 – A comedic portrayal of a young and broke Shakespeare who falls in love with a woman, inspiring him to write “Romeo and Juliet.”

Can you see how even these multi-layered stories, whether they are dramas or historical films, can be broken down into simple loglines that are easy to pitch?

Here are just a couple more:

Logline #4 – A journey of self-discovery by a brilliant mathematician once he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He eventually triumphs over tragedy and receives the Nobel Prize.

Logline #5 – An Epic tale of a 1940s New York Mafia family and their struggle to protect their empire, as the leadership switches from the father to his youngest son.


1. Gladiator

2. About Schmidt

3. Shakespeare in Love

4. A Beautiful Mind

5. The Godfather

In conclusion, developing the ability to create powerful loglines for your work is an invaluable skill that all writers should have in their toolkit! As you learn how to pitch your ideas effectively, you will be one step ahead of your peers and on your way to having your material read faster by those who are in the position to buy it.

About the Author:

Jonathan Treisman is the President of L.A.-based Flatiron Films and was the Executive Producer of the Warner Bros. film, PAY IT FORWARD.

Source with permission: The Writers Store

Twitter for Filmmakers

If you’re not on Twitter yet you may be rolling your eyes at yet another blog post about the most hyped technology since the battery powered dildo.

At first glance it seemed to me as a self inflected 1984. At second glance it seemed to me like a dream tool for a million wannabe Paris Hilton’s.

But, after creating our own Twitter Account (you are following us right?), we began to realize it may be a useful tool to reach a wider audience. While we are still exploring how best to use the service it does show potential beyond Facebook or MySpace.

The Project Twenty1 Blog’s article “Why every filmmaker needs Twitter” offers some insights on how filmmakers can use Twitter to make movies, network, and build an audience.

…Say you are a brilliant screen writer, you want to make a movie (or sign up for our 21-Day Filmmaking Competion) but you are at a total loss for cast and crew. We are encouraging you to put out your call for team members on Twitter and use “#p21? (minus the quotation marks) in your tweets. This is known as “hashtagging” and it’s a way that Twitter users (”Tweeps” or “Tweeple” if you’re feeling saucy, adventurous, and like using new geek lingo) to find folks at the same conferences or film festivals. Then you simply use, plug in #p21 as your hashtag and read the tweets that it pulls. See what actors are looking for scripts, what crew are set except for a boom mike operator, etc. Get really creative: send a link to your clip reel along with a tweet hashtagged #p21 and everybody can see first hand what a great film maker/actor/DP/whatever you are!

— Project Twenty1 | Read The Full Article

Colorgrades for Apple Color is a great library of user created presets for Apple’s software Color. The presets listed there are stored in the .colorgrade format.

Color is bundled with Final Cut Studio 2 and is used for color grading film and video.

— | Visit Site

Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Plot

by Linda Cowgill

Ten things to think about to test the strength of your plot:

1. Develop a clear conflict in the action of your story. Identify the forces of opposition.

2. Your protagonist is an emotional being. Know where your character stands emotionally at the start of the story so that s/he can be challenged emotionally early on. This helps in developing the character’s arc.

3. Know what your protagonist wants, why s/he wants it, and what s/he needs. The more specific the character’s want, the stronger the plot potential.

4. Examine the emotional consequences to the conflict your characters face. Determine which ones define your theme and engage the audience’s emotions.

5. Remember: Conflict doesn’t come exclusively from the antagonist. Use other obstacles and complications to reveal character.

6. In dealing with the various problems (the conflicts), the hero must experience setbacks as well as successes to create tension. You define character as much through failure as through success. How the hero copes with these outcomes gives insight and meaning to character and story.

7. Characters are defined by the choices they make. Every story is really a series of increasingly difficult and dangerous choices that simultaneously carry your plot and illustrate your character.

8. Plots need to be based on action and reactions, cause and effect, to lead the audience from point to point. Use cause and effect plotting to make sure each scene leads believably to the next.

9. Conflict must escalate. All your characters have wants and needs, differing agendas, and these raise the level of conflict as your story progresses.

10. Audiences need surprise. The best surprises are the reversal and the reveal. Both must be plotted for. Reversals work best when the audience has been set up for one result and get the opposite. Reveals work best when the revelation has been cleverly foreshadowed early, but not given away.

About the Author:

Linda Cowgill is a screen and television writer who teaches at Loyola Marymount University and the Los Angeles Film School. Her feature film, “Opposing Force,” was released by Orion Pictures in 1986. She has written for such shows as “Quincy,” “The Young Riders” and “Life Goes On,” for which she won a Genesis Award. Most recently, she optioned her script “Honor Student” to World International Network. She received her MFA from UCLA where she won a Jim Morrison Award for best short film. Ms. Cowgill is the author of the popular film school textbook Writing Short Films and Secrets of Screenplay Structure.

Folding Reflectors and Backgrounds: A How-to Video Guide

In this how to video, B&H Maven Joey Quintero shows us how to fold up and store an oversized chroma key background, a circular reflector, and a collapsible background.

Products from this Guide:
Collapsible Reflectors
8×16 Collapsible Backgrounds
Other Collapsible Backgrounds

Citizen Kane: Opening with Bogdanovich & Ebert commentary

The opening scene from Orson Welles’ 1941 film “Citizen Kane”, starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.

Roger Ebert’s commentary on Citizen Kane is without a doubt the best DVD extra ever. Not only do you get the best film ever made, you get the best film school you’ll ever have for under $20. Peter Bogdanovich’s separate DVD commentary track is also great.

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