glimpses behind the scenes at what creates the magic we experience of film & tv- & other!


Skydance Productions: Co-Producing Star Trek

skydance-logo-700x300Skydance Productions is an American film and television production company based at Paramount Pictures, with whom they co-produce and co-finance films such as Star Trek into Darkness & Star Trek Beyond.

I first heard of Skydance from a blurb in Variety Magazine’s issue on notable women in the male dominated entertainment business. Dana Goldberg was mentioned as being “Chief Creative Officer”, the title of a job created especially for her. Variety said, “Paramount relies on Skydance to deliver some of it’s biggest pics”. Such as Star Trek. That got my attention. So I explored.

Skydance was founded in 2010 by David Ellison, son of the billionaire CEO of Oracle Corp. He was joined by Dana who had begun her entertainment career as an assistant at Hollywood Pictures. She then spent three years as vice president of production at Baltimore/Spring Creek Pictures. From 1998 through 2010, she was a vice president and later president of production at Village Roadshow Pictures.  She certainly has the experience to oversee my beloved Star Trek.


                 some Skydance projects

At Skydance,  Ellison and Goldberg have been responsible for feature-length films including True Grit, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Terminator Genisys and Star Trek Beyond. In television, they have produced Manhattan (shot here in New Mexico!), Grace and Frankie (with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda), and the upcoming Condor (based on Three Days of the Condor). Not too shabby!

In a June 2015 interview connected with their Terminator Genisys premiere, Skydance founder David Ellison said, ” We’ve had an amazing relationship with J.J. Abrams, we’re making our 3rd and 4th movie together, and the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry’s franchise is something that we feel the tremendous pressure of living up to that legacy, and very much hope that the movie does that for audiences when they get to see it next year.”


Dana Goldberg CCO

As CCO, Goldberg oversees all aspects of creative development and production for film and television. While film projects and properties continue to be her primary focus,  Goldberg now also works with the television department.  Television, eh?  One of the questions asked in the interview was if there was a future for a Star Trek TV series.

ELLISON: It’s something that we would love to be involved in. As I’m sure everybody knows, the rights situation given the CBS and Paramount divorce on the Star Trek rights is very, very complicated. The exact status of it is absolutely something being worked on. We would love to be involved, but all to be determined at this time.

GOLDBERG: You’re preaching to the converted. We would love it, both as fans and as people who would want to be involved in the making of them. We would love it. Everything you just said is right. It goes with what we were talking about before with television is you can just take more time to tell very specific stories and it would be fantastic. It’s not something we control, sadly.

Phooey. Doesn’t sound like it will happen soon.
UPDATE!!! 11/2/2015  Maybe Paramount & CBS did get it together! CBS announced a new Star Trek series on their premium channel.  See more here.

David Ellison founded SkydanceDavid Ellison founded Skydance

So what is Skydance Productions – really? How did David Ellison, a man of substantial connections and wealth, come to create the company.  He talked about how Steve Jobs was a mentor.

ELLISON: I had the incredible luxury that Steve happens to my dad’s best friend, so he was like an uncle growing up. …He was a very, very close friend and truly the Thomas Edison of his time, and I was fortunate enough in building this company to be able to talk to him about it throughout the entirety of it. And a story I’ll never forget, because in irony it was actually the day they were launching the second iPhone, we were getting close to closing our deal at Paramount with Skydance, and I told Steve I wanted to talk to him about it. He said ‘why don’t you get on a plane and fly out here tomorrow?’ And I said ‘you’re launching the iPhone tomorrow.’ He was like ‘I don’t care. Get up here.’ I sat down and pitched him the entire company, the way we had been pitching everybody else on our fundraising tour, and Steve looked at me in the way that only Steve Jobs can and he goes ‘this isn’t gonna work.’ [Laughs] And I was like ‘alright, why?’ And he said ‘you know the answer, you’re just not thinking about it.’ And I didn’t, I was kind of floored at the moment in time, and he was like ‘look, why does Pixar work?’ He said ‘the biggest mistake everybody makes about Pixar is that they think we were successful because we created 3-D animation, and nothing could be further from the truth. We simply went back to a world where we found out how to make movies better than anybody else.’


Steve Jobs on why Pixar succeeded

And he talked a lot about how free agency was created because the golden age of Hollywood was when the studios had a very firm handle on the talent, but because they did not treat them appropriately, didn’t compensate them appropriately, that created the free agency, and we live in the world we exist in now. Steve adjusted that by actually making the talent his partners, and by treating everybody well both creatively and economically, and really changing the model. …he talked about the brain trust, really going to that idea where we had a core group of both executives and filmmakers that we could work with over and over and over again, because any one person can make a bad movie. Some of the greatest filmmakers of all time have made bad films, but when you get a group of people together, five really talented people will usually not miss. It doesn’t mean that on their own that would necessarily go differently, but that was really the model.

From that moment on, we went back and restructured the company and changed it, and re-pitched it to him, and he said ‘that’s gonna work better.’ I was very fortunate and truly blessed to have him as a friend and as a mentor and to be able to work with Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross and Don Granger who are these incredibly talented producers and storytellers at our company and to be able to work with filmmakers like J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird and Chris McQuarrie and Alan Taylor and writers like Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, our company is what it is because of the incredible people that we get to work with.

Sorry, they didn’t spill any details about Star Trek Beyond.  There is an interesting link with Terminator Genisys. It features Brandon Stacy, who worked on the first two rebooted Star Trek films as stand-in and photo double for Spock actor Zachary Quinto. Yum!

Zach & double Brandon

Brandon Stacy & Terminator posters









The whole interview with Ellison & Goldberg is interesting. You can read it here.

Lessons Learned from The Chair

The ChairThis time last year (2014) I was riveted to “The Chair” on Starz – a semi-reality, semi-competition in which 2 very different first time directors were given similar budgets and a script and access to mentors.  My interest was piqued since one of the mentors was Zachary Quinto, the new Spock and a superb actor. You can see my initial article about it here.

The effects of The Chair are still rippling out. Recently creators Chris Moore and Josh Shader talked about mistakes typical with first time film makers, drawing from their experience with The Chair and other projects.  I have some observations of my own.

Shane Dawson

Dawson has an over-the-top style

Each director had their strengths, which also turned out to be their weaknesses.

Shane Dawson is a YouTube star, with 10 millions subscribers, mostly teens who adore him and his vomit-gag style of humor. He is self-made and self directed. He cast himself as star and directed every aspect. The flip side is that he got very defensive about criticism. Initially he wanted to break into a wider audience, but he ended up with a longer version of a Shane Dawson vid.

Anna collaborates

Anna collaborates

Anna Martemucci describes herself as a New York style indie. She is schooled in screenwriting and has done a number of shorts and a feature film with her husband Victor, brother-in-law Phil, and friends. She’s more collaborative and more comfortable getting feedback, but the flip side is that she depends a lot on Victor and Phil. People associated with her movie said it felt like there were 2 or 3 people directing, not one.

I assumed from the beginning that Shane would “win” in spite of assurances that popularity wasn’t the only criteria. And he did.  That he could deliver an audience of 10 million was probably a big factor in Starz signing on. Anna had personal connections – she and Victor are long time best friends of producer Zachary Quinto. In the film making world I hear that personal connections count but, as this “competition” showed, they don’t trump the dollar power of a big following.  One surprise was that Anna didn’t realize this and is still feeling she was set up, a pity since it gave her an experience and exposure as a director she otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.

"ZacharyQuinto is a gentleman and a scholar_ He wouldn't swear in front of our little brother_ Thx for coming Zach"
“ZacharyQuinto is a gentleman and a scholar_ He wouldn’t swear in front of our little brother_ Thx for coming Zach”

I was as interested in the mentoring aspect as I was in the differences in the directors. Shane’s initial mentor was Zachary Quinto, a total mismatch.  Shane’s vocabulary is mostly expletives, whereas Zach, in public at least, is very conservative. At a presentation with him in Salt Lake, he wouldn’t even share his favorite cuss word because “there are young people in the room“. Zach’s attempts to get Shane to make a more sophisticated approach fell with a thud. Oil and water.  Also Zach wasn’t physically present much since he was shooting Agent 47 in Berlin during The Chair.

Corey was supportive

Corey was supportive

To the rescue came Zach’s business partner, Corey Moosa. Corey’s style was to support Shane’s vision, rather than trying to improve it. He even lent his cute backside to a mooning scene. So Shane was more open to listening to Corey. Throughout, Corey was superb at gentle guidance. Some interesting lessons were here for those who hope to influence others.

Star Trek on TV??

UPDATE 11/2/2015: A new Star Trek TV series will start Jan 2017 on CBS All Access.  Is it Gummelt’s? No idea!  For more see here.

Oh wow! I may hold my breath or at least cross fingers and toes, hoping for this one.

“According to Trekkie Michael Gummelt, he has officially been asked to come in and formally pitch a new TV series based on his own fan-creation Star Trek: Uncharted:

“I can now officially announce that I do, indeed, have an invitation to come pitch Star Trek Uncharted at Paramount this summer! As far as I know, this is the first time a fan (not an established industry insider) has been invited to pitch a Star Trek TV series. This is, obviously, extremely exciting and I’m doing my best to get support for it from industry professionals. One of my concept cast members has read the script and expressed interest in supporting it, which is fantastic!”

For more on this, go here:

Or go directly here for a taste of the concept:

On TV! Maybe

On TV! Hopefully


#SpockDoc Kickstarter

Spock & Spock - Quinto & Nimoy

Spock & Spock – Quinto & Nimoy

I love Kickstarter projects! They’ve been a way that folks like me can participate in creating the magic – and here’s one I can’t pass up!
For the Love of Spock – a documentary film!  By son Adam Nimoy. With Zachary Quinto narrating!

I’m on board – how about you? Spread the word on twitter with the hashtag #SpockDoc.

How Comics Got Respect

Wonder Woman 1940s

Comics in my youth

comics now - Batwoman by JH Williams III, 2014

comics now – Batwoman by JH Williams III, 2014


How did comics get from here to there?





IDW Star Trek Ongoing #1

IDW Star Trek Ongoing #1

Sure, I read comics as a kid. And while munching pizza in college. A few since. The ones based on the new Star Trek movies got me re-dedicated.  I could get my Star Trek “fix” between movies, especially my Spock fix.  Minor characters in the Star Trek 2009 movie,  “Cupcake” and Keenser, had their own issues, giving them more depth.  That was cool. But even more cool was that the next movie had “easter eggs” from stories in the comics!!  The screen writers and comic writers apparently talked to each other. Maybe not just Star Trek folks – these days a whole lot of the movies and tv shows are based on comics, way beyond Superman and Batman. What’s that all about?

I asked Bram Meehan, a graphic designer, comic author and aficionado who teaches classes on the visual language of comics. Bram laughed, “The producers and writers themselves grew up on comics. Loving comics. Now they’ve gotten into the positions that they can get funding for what they love.”  Aha.  That might also explain why everybody and his brother signs up for even small parts in movies like the Avengers.  Granted, it’s a job. But they seem to be having so much fun!



Watchmen by Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins was acknowledged as literature.

Poking around Big Adventure Comics, my local comic store, showed me that the genre has changed.  When I admitted my ignorance of the visual and story changes, they kindly took me in hand and directed me to Alan Moore’s Watchmen. OMG! I see why they now call them “graphic novels”.  Complex plots and brilliantly complex art! A lot more blood, yes.  Also symbols like that little smiley face that clued linkages.  Shifting points of view. Multiple subplots & time settings intermingled, but I could follow because each had their own graphic style. Graphics in the comics of my youth pretty much showed people doing static stuff while saying words. Here the graphics carried the story even more than the words. Some such as Moore’s Promethea illustrated sophisticated metaphysical concepts.  Plus there are now “trades”, collections of related issues in a single volume – a real book, ideal for people like me who get impatient at the cliffhanger serialization of individual issues.

Bram Meehan in the flesh

Bram Meehan in the flesh


Bram Meehan, cartoon style, by Chris Askham

Bram Meehan, cartoon style, by Chris Askham

I asked Bram: How did all this happen? The sophistication, and also the proliferation of comic inspired movies & shows. Bram answered that not only have comic lovers moved into positions of influence but also the technology became available to realize their visions. As I mentioned, Bram teaches the visual language of comics. He got me looking at how comics have developed over the years.



Those in my long ago youth were not very different from the first full page comic in the early 1900’s.

Little Nemo, 1907

Little Nemo, 1907 by Windor McKay


Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman in the 1930's

1930s:Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster create Superman


I read Donald Duck, but it was  Superman and Batman who had my heart. The superheroes I grew up with developed from Superman’s first appearance in the 1930’s and became their own genre. Even these days, many people associate comics with superheroes.

I had crushes on The Challengers of the Unknown. Bram pointed out that while the Challengers were a team of four, there were none of the interpersonal dynamics that came later with teams like The Fantastic Four.



Jack Kirby helped shape the visual language of modern comics

Jack Kirby added many heroes that became The Avengers & helped shape the visual language of modern comics

The hunger for superheroes comics prompted Jack Kirby, co-creator of my beloved Challengers,  to create more heroes, from Captain America (1940s) to all the guys and gals we now see as The Avengers, appearing on your movie and TV screens!  In his early years, Kirby also developed romance comics, which in the 1950’s seriously warped most of my dating life.  Kirby and Stan Lee co-created many of the Marvel comics, each bringing their own skills.  Stan Lee boosted sales by giving superheroes issues and challenges. Aha! That must have been when I switched my affections to Spiderman and Daredevil!  Kirby’s visual motifs influenced young artists to produce to the Marvel style and more efficiently meet the horrendous deadlines. Writers and artists had to produce 22 pages every month/per issues, some working on multiple issues. Any conventions that helped them be more efficient were readily adopted!  Bram pointed out that Kirby moved comics to more abstract visuals, where “the nature of the art reflected the excitement of the story”. That set the bar for the whole superhero genre.


Mad Magazine started as a satirical comic by Bill Gaines

Mad Magazine started as a satirical comic by Bill Gaines

Gaines started a trend in letting his creative team develop their own style & be credited for it

The 50’s, when I was cuddling up to superheroes, also saw the birth of Mad, which later became a guilty pleasure for many of my college mates. Gaines started a trend in letting his creative team develop their own styles. And he credited them for it.

Creative rights are still a big issue for comic creators.




underground comix scene, later 1960's

underground comix scene, later 1960’s


Censors ruled the 50’s – which of course led to an underground movement in comics as well as everything else.



Will Eisner's 1970s "comics" were considered "graphic novels"

Will Eisner’s “comics” were considered “graphic novels”-Late 1970’s





Comics had other subjects as well. Will Eisner’s Joe Dope was used as a training tool in the military. Eisner wrote training comics into the 70’s and also expanded to short story cycles about Jewish characters in a tenement in New York City, stories about their struggles and disillusionment. The comics with these self-contained stories started being known as “graphic novels”.




Maus coverMaus sampleThe 1980’s were a hotbed of innovation for comics.  Maus won Art Speigelman a Pulitizer Prize.  It was political commentary based on his father’s experience as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor.  People were depicted as animals. (Hmm, remember Orwell’s Animal Farm?)
Bram said Speigelman “.. raised the profile of comics with a book that really rattled the public perception of what comics are. ”



Most comics by Image Comics are creator-owned.

Most comics by Image Comics are creator-owned. Partner studio TMP produces Spawn.

Bram continued, “The comics creators that eventually formed Image Comics in the ’90s, despite their business problems, started the rise of the value of the creator (in their case, generally the artist) in the mainstream. Fans formed around the characters, but now also around the people that made them.” I’m not familiar with Image Comics, so I went to Wikipedia:

” In the early 1990s, several freelance illustrators doing popular work for Marvel Comics grew frustrated …that the artwork and new characters they created were being merchandised heavily, with the artists receiving only standard page rates for their work and modest royalties on sales of the comics... In December 1991, a group of these illustrators approached Marvel president Terry Stewart and demanded that the company give them ownership and creative control over their work. … Marvel did not meet their demands.

“In response, eight creators announced the founding of Image Comics….This development was nicknamed the “X-odus”, because several of the creators involved …were famous for their work on the X-Men franchise. Marvel’s stock fell $3.25/share when the news became public.” According to Image Comics,  “The majority of the comics and graphic novels published by Image are creator-owned.”

Marvel and DC still dominate monthly comics, but Bram points out that “.. a revolution in the printing and production technologies … led to more powerful tools being put in the hands of more content creators, with more cost-effective ways of distribution to smaller audiences, both print and digital.”   Going to some Comic Cons and walking down crowded aisles in the comics section certainly showed me the truth of that!

Breathtaking visuals

Breathtaking visuals

My favorite comic con find has been Mouse GuardThe glorious images grabbed me as I wandered past. No surprise that it won an Eisner Award!  Creator David Petersen was sitting there with a stack of books, under the banner for Archaia Entertainment. Archaia started as a small independent publisher which has since merged with another publisher. I’ve since found that it’s published several graphic novels I follow: Lucid and Mr. Murder is Dead.




Reading order is important! from Drawing Words & Writing Pictures

Drawing Words & Writing

Some of the comics I saw puzzled me. I couldn’t read them! Words & images swirled all over the page in a baffling manner. Heavens, am I that out of sync? Bram grinned. Apparently I’m not alone.  The proliferation of independent producers means that some don’t know what’s needed to guide the reader through the story.  There are rules. Not all comic creators know them. Bram sent me to an article by Eddie Campbell in The Comics Journal: Campbell’s rules address context, completeness, sequence and timing. Ahhh, the comics that baffled me violated those rules!

New developments give independent artists ways to create their own comics.

New developments give independent artists ways to create their own comics.

Bram recommends that those interested in creating a comic dive in.  That’s what he and his wife Monica did. When they started, they realized that they may not have specific training in making comics, but knew how to complete a visual project. “With the changes in technology and our training in it, it wasn’t necessary to follow the traditional method of making comics (the writer/penciler/inker/colorist/letterer system), and so we set out to do our own — and learn what goes into making a comic.” Their comic is Raised By Squirrels (”

Whew! This is a whole complex area of art!  If you want to know more,  take one of Bram’s classes:




Trek Inspired Actor

Joe doubling as Walter White in "Breaking Bad"
Joseph Griffenberg doubled as Walter White in “Breaking Bad”. He can look scary!

 When I took a voice class last summer, I found that one of my classmates was a trekkie – a dedicated trekkie, with a huge collection of trekkie memorabilia! As we chatted I found that Joe has been an extra on a lot of movies & TV shows – and was a double for Bryan Cranston, the star of the acclaimed “Breaking Bad”.  Wow! I know folks who dream of getting on a set in any capacity!  How’d he get there? So I asked him.


Joe played Kirk

Young Joe played scenes with friends

When the original Star Trek aired, young Joseph Griffenberg stayed up late to watch.  He’d stage Star Trek scenes using a local cemetery as exotic set locations, with him playing Capt. Kirk (of course).  He’d use lines he remembered from the series, already showing a love for acting.



        Joe was an extra!

After a tour in the Navy, he returned to his family in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  American Playhouse’s “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” was shooting nearby and Joe got work as an extra.  That led to work on the original Red Dawn, with then unknowns Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen.  Meanwhile Joe had gotten a camera and went around filming everything – even a praying mantis eating its mate! Yuck! He found he wanted more control of a film than he’d have as an actor.  Actors play out the role of the writer/director’s story. Joe wanted to be telling his own stories, so he enrolled in the University of New Mexico, focusing his Fine Arts degree on television production.

Joe's Star Trek collection

Some of Joe’s Star Trek collection

Joe was still a trekkie, starting in the ’80’s a notable collection of action figures and Star Trek ornaments.  Star Trek Next Generation came along. Like me, Joe resisted but got hooked. He’s also followed each of the Trek shows since – Deep Space 9, Voyager, Enterprise. And included them in his collection, filling a whole room! Thankfully, his wife colludes in this “hobby”.

How To Get Picked as an Extra

I asked Joe what advice he’d give to someone who wants to get picked as an extra.

“Persistence! I put in a picture for every call.”  Joe said he follows social media, joining facebook groups that pass the word about calls coming up.  He reminded me that in New Mexico the film industry has a website where casting calls are posted: Joe points out that extras don’t need any special qualifications.  The casting director is simply looking for “a look”.  When Joe hears of a production coming up, he finds who the casting director is and checks out their website. Most will say what look they need.

Look for local announcements of casting calls, e.g.

Look for announcements of local casting calls, e.g.

Joe also recommends building your own network of contacts and your own experience by volunteering to work with school groups and with small indie efforts. “You meet more people that way – and they remember you.” Joe says that half the things he’s done have been through word of mouth.

Joe's imdb pgJoe also maintains a page on IMDb, a site where people in the movie and tv business post their resumes and contact information.  Joe includes on his page pictures showing that he can adapt to several different looks. With all his experience and training, Joe’s page is very impressive!   “I’ve been on set 50 times. Every time I learn something new.” For example, he watches the actors and how they adapt to different directors.  “Some directors let actors do what they want, allow them to improvise. Others control everything, like Alfred Hitchcock did. Like James Cameron does.” Joe also continues to take classes, on the different aspects of film making.  “Even if you know you want to direct, it will help you to know how to act.”

Do you need to have professional headshots?  No! Joe points out that local film oriented organizations usually have a yearly general casting call. Also there will be open casting calls for each show or film, advertised on the local news or local film website. At a casting call, you stand in line, an hour or more. When you get to the front, they have you fill in a card with your name, contact number, type of vehicle (if you’re willing to have it used), your sizes. They’ll take a picture that will go into a file.  They keep it forever!  When a shoot comes up that needs extras, the casting director will scan the file for people who match the need.  Aha! I did this once – and got called a couple of years later! Unfortunately at a time when I couldn’t go.

During our chat, Joe has mentioned several terms: background, stand-ins, doubles. I ask him what each means.

The people in the background are "extras" or "background"

The people in the background are “extras” or “background”

Background is another word for extras. They are part of the background of shots – people walking by on the street, people in shops or restaurants, the crowd.  They don’t speak and don’t need any qualifications other than fitting in with the scene. Let’s say you’re shooting a scene set in Manhattan.  You need people who have the typical clean-cut look to be in the background, just as there are always people around on the street there.  If you’re shooting a scene set in Eqypt, your background people need the darker skin tone you’d see there. If the people have particular clothing, casting will look for extras who can fit the costumes they have.”

So what is a “stand-in“? “A stand-in substitutes for a leading actor for setting up lights and camera angles.  A stand-in doesn’t have to look like the actor, but needs to have the same height and build.  The director or actor may first demonstrate the action needed – ‘walk from there to here”.  Then the stand-in mimics that action over and over while the crew arranges the lights and angles.”

Cranston & Griffenberg as Walter White in "Breaking Bad"

Cranston & Griffenberg as Walter White in “Breaking Bad”

“A double has to look like the actor – same height, weight, hair style, general face type. A double is used in place of the actor for distance shots for shots from behind.”  Joe ran in a Walter White look-alike contest Bryan Cranston held in Albuquerque, adapting his appearance even to shaving his head.  He looked enough like Cranston’s Walter White that he was hired as his photo double.  Having a double is a great relief to an actor since a 20 second scene may take 4 hours to shoot! Makeup and costume tried their effects on Joe first to get them finalized before replicating them on Cranston. So Joe got to hang out with Cranston a lot more than an extra or stand-in would.

Can you be an extra and still hold down a regular job? How much notice do you get? “The amount of notice depends on the situation.  One casting agent called me for the next day. I couldn’t work it out that quickly with my day job. For ‘Night Shift’ I got several days notice.  When they contact you, they’ll tell you when to be there and how many days they’ll need you. Maybe if you turn them down a few times, they’ll stop calling – I just make sure to send in my picture again.”

Make-up may want you dirty!

Make-up may want you dirty!

What’s It like as an Extra On Set?

Let’s say someone has done what you suggested and has gotten a call to be an extra on a picture.  What’s it like on location? Joe laughed, “It’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’.  You might arrive at 5am and sit for 13 hours without ever being called. At least you still get paid. Bring a book and your cell phone – just don’t take them on the set!”  The tone of the location varies. Joe’s experience was that on Night Shift they were pleasant, knew his name. Others may treat extras like cattle.  I ask about makeup. Joe says that usually background people need to come “hair and make-up ready” – looking acceptably generic. If it’s a western, someone from make-up may make you look dirtier.

Joe emphasizes that observing good location etiquette is key to getting more work. “How well you get along is more important that how good an actor you are. Make sure never to burn your bridges.”  The rules of set etiquette include:

Worse than this will happen if you disrupt a set!

Worse than this will happen if you disrupt a set! (Pugh appears courtesy of the Daily Mail)

  •    Whenever you hear “Camera rolling!”, shut up. Don’t wait for the “Action call”.
  •    Never go up to the star and talk to them. Never ask for an autograph or photo. Some stars will chat with the crew,  but let them initiate it. Not you!
  •    Listen and follow directions.  For example, when you arrive you have to fill out paper work – W2 info, proof of residency. They’ll write on the form when you arrived. At the end of the day, you have to return the form or you won’t get paid.  If you get props or a costume, they will take the form until you bring them back.
  •    Never look at the camera when on set!  If the scene shows someone making eye contact with the camera, they’ll have to cut the whole scene.  Be careful you don’t introduce any unplanned elements into the set – no whispering, even when you’re to look like you’re chatting in the background; no smoking; no ringtones!
  • Don’t touch anything on set unless directed to. Don’t move anything. It’s probably a carefully placed prop.


So are you ready to go out and fulfill your dream of being an extra, just as Joe did?  If you are, let me know how it goes – and where to look for a glimpse of you in the background! And if you hear of any Star Trek shoots in New Mexico, let Joseph Griffenberg know. He’s ready!Joe BeABorgPhotoApp

Fascinating Behind-the-Scenes of Directing a Movie

The ChairIf you’re interested in Behind-the-Scenes movie making, tune into “The Chair” on Starz, starting Sept. 6.  Two novice directors compete with each other in creating a movie.  The directors are Shane Dawson, a prolific YouTube personality, and Anna Martemucci, writer/actress in “Breakup at a Wedding” and other vids by Periods Films.  Both were given a starting script and a budget to go forth and create.  Their process was captured – that’s what the Starz series shows – their actions and anxieties as well as the coaching they get from the more experienced producers.  Their resulting films will be judged by the audience.

Chris Moore, Shane Dawson, Anna Martemucci, Zachary Quinto

Chris Moore, Shane Dawson, Anna Martemucci, Zachary Quinto

Both had available high-class coaching.  Chris Moore (“Goodwill Hunting“, “Project Greenlight“, etc) brings his experience of a lot of hits under his belt.  In contrast, the Before The Door coaches are newer to the scene, yet have already created two Oscar nominations – “Margin Call” and “All Is Lost”!   Before The Door is the production company of  Star Trek’s Spock, Zachary Quinto, and  his business partners Neal Dodson,  Corey Moosa, and Sean Akers.  I’m as interested in their coaching as I am in the directors’ processes.

Martemucci & Dawson

The competing directors

I attended a panel for “The Chair” at the San Diego Comic Con 2014, where we compared how the directors addressed the same scene.  Zachary Quinto and an actress read the scene as originally written by Dan Schoffer. Then Chris Moore showed Dawson’s  and Martemucci’s versions of the same scene. I was amazed at how different they were!  For example, Dawson’s focused more on him – he played the character and most of the camera was on him. Martemucci’s focused more on the story, on getting across the situation and relationships. My guess is that Dawson will only be able to “do his own thing”, which is probably just fine to his many followers. Martemucci is my bet for a more versatile future as a director. She appears to have the discipline to be able to give form to someone else’s idea. We’ll see, eh?

You can see the entire SDCC panel here.  There’s an interesting review of the series here.

Tune in – and let me know your impressions!

Holodecks Are Coming!

early virtual reality

1990’s virtual reality images


Oh my!  I’ve been fascinated by virtual reality since seeing demos in the early days. It was crude. Very crude.  Not enough computer space for any but the most basic block images.  I had to wear a heavy helmet and stand in one spot. But still. I could fly!!




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen I found Disney Quest and could fight pirates (I kept getting sunk) and ride Aladdin’s magic carpet.




Now a step closer to a real Star Trek holodeck is happening!  Still crude by Next Generation standards, but a step that would have been unbelievable a few years ago!

“The closest thing to Star Trek’s ‘Holodeck’ – a large scale tracking lab with VR headsets used to develop everything from redirected walking to quadcopter control algorithms.”

I’m not even sure what all those words mean, but check it out!  Thanks to Sara for alerting me to this YouTube vid:

San Diego Comic-Con 2014



UPDATE: At SDCC2014, I found out there really was a man inside of the 10 foot high robot!  I hadn’t though so, but at a demo of another big active model, I met Zennie Abraham, who had watched the robot setup last year. Zennie is a prolific blogger and did a great interview with the man behind the robot. It shows how the man & machine come together:

Check out Zennie’s blog at

JULY 2014:

I’m off to Comic-Con! I have tickets for only 2 days but just seeing what is going on outside the convention center is worth the trip. Here’s clip of something I wandered into last year – a “rehearsal” of a 10 foot high robot!!  Robot

During the demo, they unhooked the robot from its support, making sure it could balance itself.  Then they tested how well it walked. What fascinated me about the robot was how sophisticated its balance was. It didn’t stand like a statue; it stood like a human, with all the little motions and adjustments we do automatically.

You can see a little of that here: Robot

Once they’d tested the basic movements, they rehearsed a brief scene – an interaction with a person.  The robot’s motion and voice were controlled remotely. If you’re a total robot geek like me, you can see all 16 minutes here:

I have to admit I kept thinking of all the movies in which a robot being tested started attacking the crowd. In this case, me!