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

Posts tagged “Star Trek

Somebody at MAC Sure Loves Star Trek!

huge MAC display at STLV50

Costumes and makeup have been big in Star Trek since the beginning – how else to get all those alien and futuristic looks pre-CGI?  Fans chime in, having a glorious time with cosplay (costume play).  STLV50 teamed up this year with cosmetic giant, MAC Cosmetics, both at the Star Trek Beyond premiere at the San Diego Comic Con and at the 50th Anniversary celebration at Star Trek Las Vegas.  Their  exhibit re-booted the whole vendor area with an Enterprise feel.

huge MAC display at STLV50

I posed with Seven of Nine - and can swear that her form fitting suit didn't have a wrinkle in it!Look that this huge display! You’re only seeing a third of it here – the engineering section, complete with “warp core” – and with “Seven of Nine”, an actor wearing the original hideously uncomfortable costume. She posed with us fans and surprised us with scenes from Star Trek Next Generation. She’s a good actress! Stayed in character the whole time. When I posed with her, I asked if the suit was hotter than H…. Seven replied, “It is very efficient” in those unmistakable Seven tones.

Engineering was one of the make-over sections, with artists giving free make-overs to feature the new Star Trek theme line. Yeah, I know. The blue light is hideous for doing make up.  But Nicole did a great job on me. But before I tell about that, look at the rest of their “ship”!

 

Data & Deanna on the MAC bridge

Another third was like the bridge of the Enterprise, complete with Data and Deanna, actors made up with MAC cosmetics who posed with fans and periodically enacted scenes from STNG. In the main hall – The Leonard Nimoy Theater – MAC demo’d make up for their new looks, based on Uhura, Deanna Troi, and Seven of Nine. They also showed the layering that created Data’s and Gaila’s skin, how it followed the contour of the muscles with shadows and highlights. Let’s face it, Star Trek fans aren’t generally looking for personal make up tips, but wiggle cosplay tips under their noses and they’ll sit up and listen!

MAC's bridge at STLV50

The third section was the transporter.  You could pose on the transporter pad for photos.    And pick up any makeup you bought.

MAC's Transporter, where cosplay teams can strike poses as they teleport in and out.

MAC’s Transporter, where cosplay teams can strike poses as they “teleport” in and out.

Gaila dancing in the transporter room

Gaila dancing in the transporter room

Actors playing Uhuru & Spock in the transporter room

Actors playing Uhura & Spock in the transporter room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course I had to try their transporter effect myself! Cool, eh?

MAC has a new line of makeup with a Star Trek theme

I’m not so much into cosplay myself, but I’m vain as a peacock. I wanted to see what MAC’s new Star Trek line of cosmetics would look like on me.  The make over’s were free – and the lines weren’t overwhelming so I bellied up.

 

Starting the make over...

Starting the make over…

It was fun! Being in the Star Trek worldDay 2 make-over for a few days I threw restraint to the winds, telling artist Nicole to “go for it!” I’m no spring chicken so I held my breath. The starting me is here on the left – and behold! Nicole created magic! Day 2, she went for a dramatic look. Wow, those eyes! Great fun! Thanks, Nicole!

The colors are inspired by Uhura, Deanna Troi, and Seven of Nine. By the end of the convention they had sold almost everything they brought. Sorry folks, these won’t be available to the public until fall 2016.

Speaking of make-up – but totally unrelated to STLV –  I found this interesting tidbit about the history of Spock’s hair and brows:  http://www.vogue.com/13461690/star-trek-beyond-spock-hair-eyebrows-history/

Live Long and Prosper!


“The Thing That Star Trek Never Let Go Of Was Hope”

Whoopie's 1st ST Convention

Whoopi’s 1st ST Convention

There seems to be some common spirit that links the people attending the Star Trek 50th anniversary convention being held this week in Las Vegas,  but I couldn’t pit my finger on it.  Whoopi Goldberg did, here at her very first Star Trek convention. Interviewer Scott Mantz asked her , “Why Star Trek? Why are we still here 50 years later?” Whoopi’s answer -“The thing that Star Trek never let go of was hope” – points to Roddenberry’s dream that we could solve our problems eventually and build a society in which all races would participate as equals, with enough resources for all.

The feeling here is exuberant. I’ve meet people who have come to  STLV since the beginning and some here for the first time, drawn by the 50th anniversary.  Many are from the US, but I also met a Brit, an actor from France, a scientist from Spain. Costumes abound – “cosplay”- such as a delightful group in starfleet uniforms who get together to play out different scenarios.

Borg regeneration station

The look of this convention is gorgeous!  The ones I went to in 2009 & 2010 felt a little…well, dusty, worn. In contrast the entire wing of this convention is brightly decorated & full of interactive photo ops. You can pose with a pile of Tribble,  in a Borg regeneration station, coming through The Guardian of Forever, and more.

wp-1470360980487.jpg

Surrounded by tribbles!

me coming through The Guardian of Forever

The Guardian of Forever

 

 

 

 

 

 

huge MAC display at STLV50

Gorgeous MAC display dominated the exhibit area

The exhibit area is lit up with a huge display by MAC – engineering bay, transporter room,  bridge – where Make-up artists do makeovers using the brand new Star Trek inspired products. Plus there are scenes and photo ops with actors representing major Trek characters and a neat transporter effect. (see http://www.startrekmagic.com/2016/08/10/make-up/)

Whoopi had wonderful stories about her experiences – what a wise & delightful person!   I’m very glad I came.  This is a treasure box experience I will long hold in my heart.


“a TINY taste of Beyond”

Michael Giacchino seems to having so much fun scoring Star Trek and other blockbusters! I love how he shares tidbits with his followers.

 

Did that leave a grin on your face?

Here’s another.

Adding the final touches on our last day of recording for Star Trek Beyond…

A post shared by Michael Giacchino (@m_giacchino) on

 

It was a delight of watch him with the San Diego Symphony at an outdoor showing of Star Trek at San Diego Comic Con in 2014.   IMG_20140726_225215325

 


Blast from the Past!

Roddenberry’s company is releasing pieces from their “vault” about early days of Star Trek.  One letter shows some of the considerations in having Klingons as the heavies in the future.   Good heavens! Might we have lost our Klingons???? By this time, 1973, the original series had been cancelled and was entering immortality under syndication.  The animated series started in 1973.

Letter - Klingons 1973 p1

Letter - Klingons 1973 p2

 

 

I wonder what in the guilds meant Klingons had to be “fully humanoid”.

If you’d like to see what else these “vaults” have,  check out “Roddenberry” on Facebook.


#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-face-rorshack

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.

 

 

ReadingOrder

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: http://www.tcj.com/campbells-rules-of-comprehension/. 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 (http://www.raisedbysquirrels.com/).”

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

 

 

 


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.

 

red-dawn

        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: http://www.nmfilm.com/Casting_Calls.aspx. 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. Backstage.com

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

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!  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2445713/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1   “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


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!!

 

Pirates_396

 

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:   http://youtu.be/7ZPs7knvs7M


Harsh Realities of VFX Business

Spock into volcanoWe all know that our favorite Vulcan wasn’t really lowered into a volcano in Star Trek Into Darkness. We know it was a visual special effect – VFX.  If you’ve seen a movie in the last 20 years, you know that VFX have played an increasing role in movies.  What you may not know is that the business model in VFX and in studios has driven an appalling number of VFX companies out of business.

 

VFX Life of PiOne of the most bizarre examples is the brilliant company Rhythm & Hues,  creator of VFX since 1987, including such beloved movies as Babe and Life of Pi.  As Life of Pi was winning an Oscar, Rhythm & Hues was entering bankruptcy.  How could this happen??

This video, Life After Pi, talks about what happened: http://youtu.be/9lcB9u-9mVE

If you’ve ever run a business, you know that being held to a fixed price while the scope grows will give you nightmares. Early in my training career, I made my mark as a project manager by refusing to expand scope without more pay.  Too often people feel they can’t do that, especially if their client is the “only game in town” or can blackball them.

timeline

Typical Movie Timeline

Adding to the problem is that in spite of the long time it takes to develop VFX, directors hesitate to define what they need until the last minute. If some new effect captures the public’s attention, they want to be able to include it in their movie.

As the video mentioned, no longer do directors do the detailed planning up front that used to be required. I’ve found that many people in the business recoil in horror if I suggest project planning – “Oh my god, it would stifle our creativity!!” Hmm, research scientists in weapons and pharmaceutical organizations have said the same thing when their unlimited expenditures were curtailed.  Instead they got more creative AND learned to plan their work.  But right now we have enormous amounts being spent on studio tentpoles – and their suppliers being forced out of business. Hmm.

ContractWhile we’re on the subject of strange business practices, I asked a Hollywood contact about accountability – wouldn’t the studio be held accountable if they used deceptive business practices on a movie? No!! Each movie is done as its own corporation – which is disbanded at the end of the movie project.  Sure you could sue, but by the time anything happens in the judicial system, the work is done and that company no longer exists. Good luck on getting any judgment that has teeth, no matter how flagrant the violation!

Seems change is overdue and inevitable.

 


CosPlay & Demons at SDCC!!

The convention center - main site for the San Diego Comic Con

The convention center – main site for the San Diego Comic Con

The Mecca for Sci Fi geeks – Trekkies & others – is the San Diego Comic Con.  Over 130,000 people gather annually to celebrate graphic novels,  TV shows, movies, cosplay, video games, Dungeon & Dragons – and heavens know what else!  My very first San Diego Comic Con was overwhelmingly a blast! The people! The costumes! The panels! The exhibits!

Actress Laura Stephens getting ready as Lolita Capt. America

Actress Laura Stephens getting ready as Lolita Capt. America

If you don’t know about SDCC, a big part of the fun is that people dress up – “cosplay” – costumed role playing – and others take pictures of them and with them. One of my roomies, actress Laura Stephens, got nationwide coverage for her Lolita Capt. America costume.  Costumes and SDCC go together!

I had to ask what "steampunk" meant.

I had to ask what “steampunk” meant.

 

A very hunky Wolverine

A very hunky Wolverine

Demon on the loose in the Exhibit Hall! Photo from Heavy.com

Demon on the loose in the Exhibit Hall! Photo from Heavy.com

In the exhibit hall I got to get a close-up view of an awesome and huge demon, complete with wings and horns.  Whew!  He was at the booth for the Cinema Makeup School. For a closer look, click this: http://youtu.be/4FTtCq2IQrw

I talked to Katie from the school about who they were and why they were here.  Katie said the school is based in Los Angeles and teaches everything from beauty makeup through airbrushing, photo hairstyling, character makeup, prosthetic and more. Classes run from one week to 4 ½ months. Their website is www.cinemamakeup.com.   Oh man, I wish I could go hang out in LA long enough to take their full course! So far my own makeup specialty is bullet holes and blood, small potatoes to this crew.

Makeup students were at the booth applying bruises and small injuries for people who stopped by. Apparently each day they demonstrated a major effect, like this demon and on another day, an arachnid femme fatale.

This demon is the creation of Wayne Anderson, a graduate of the school who was featured on SyFy’s Face Off. To get the actor into the makeup this time took only about 2 to 2 ½ hours, but it took a couple of months to put the whole effect together. The horns were made of resin. Each piece was molded.  I must admit I was a little scared to talk to this otherworldly fellow directly, but I bet it was hot in there. He literally had a wing man, who made sure passersby didn’t impale themselves on the wings tips. I wonder how much the whole thing weighed!

Lots & lots of people in the SDCC exhibit hall!

Lots & lots of people in the SDCC exhibit hall!

 


Adventures of a Production Assistant con’t.: Working On Star Trek

16 hr day darkWe’re continuing our interview with Kerry who worked as a Production Assistant in Hollywood, including working on Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and the First Contact movie – and some other productions as well.  You can read Part 1 here: http://www.startrekmagic.com/2013/07/06/adventures-of-a-production-assistant

We asked Kerry what it was like to work on a Star Trek set. Here’s what she said:

“My time on Star Trek:Deep Space 9 was wonderful.  The cast and crew were some of the most enjoyable people I have had the pleasure of working with, and this show was one of the best working experiences I had while in
“Hollywood”.  We had very long hours and I loved that… film and television production is one of the few jobs I’ve held that is challenging enough for me.  DS9 Production Assistants were allowed by our Unit Production Manager Bobby della Santina to work up to 16-hours per day, but the Voyager PA’s were limited by their UPM Brad Yacobian to 12 hours, which meant I also ended up very familiar with all the Voyager cast and crew and sets.  That was a nice perk… especially since the Voyager craft service table (free food!) was MUCH better than the DS9 one!  As someone with A.D.D., I enjoyed the physical work of the long days, but I especially liked that the energy of my life was going towards something that mattered to people.  When I work, I want my
contribution to make a difference in the world.

There were two PA’s at a time on each Trek (two on DS9 and two on Voyager) and our responsibilities were varied.  As the “bottom of the food chain”, we did all the “go-fer” work.  The two Treks were large productions and our various departments were all over the Paramount Studio lot, so we did a lot of running and bike riding.  The production office and the sets were on opposite ends of the Studio, so it was nice… I could eat ANYTHING I wanted and not gain a pound!  Some days I wore a pedometer and was running/biking 15 miles per day easily.  It was fun!

We divided the Studio lot into a North Half and a South Half and we switched with our partners every episode, so we covered the entire lot.  Each half had about 15 – 20 stations where we 04_23_10_TSAP_Lot_Maphad to deliver scripts, dailies, deliveries, mail, production reports, call sheets, and whatnot.  We stayed late many nights to wait for scripts to deliver from Graphic Services (the on-lot copy shop basically) and then sent them to cast member houses by delivery drivers.  We ordered, picked up and delivered lunches and dinners to crew and production people, and we stocked the office with drinks and snacks.  We also gave tours of our sets to special guests – and it took a lot to get onto our sets!  I have given set tours to dying children, Secret Service and CIA agents, and astronauts.  That was one of the more fun aspects of the job, especially since we did DS9 AND Voyager tours.  We also did cast errands occasionally and did basically whatever the production needed.

One more task was babysitting the office phones.  It was usually mundane, but occasionally a “fun” call came in.  I remember one call from a farmer somewhere in a fly-over state who “just wanted to borrow a big mother transporter for a few days to move some machinery from one corner of his large farm to another”.  He’d return it promptly he promised!  Another memorable call was from a guy who insisted quite adamantly upon speaking with Captain Kirk.  We referred him to the Production Offices of “Rescue 911”, who probably didn’t really appreciate the call!

The DS9 cast and the Voyager casts were very different.  Generally speaking, the DS9 actors were more introverted,  retreating to their trailers after shooting, and the Voyager cast were more outgoing.  After dark, when the rest of the Studio who worked more “traditional hours” went home, our little corner of the Studio woke up – we knew there weren’t tour groups going through or fans wandering around.  A lot of time working in production is “hurry up and wait” so I spent a lot of time hours of down time (waiting for scripts or errands) – and I’d play football in the street with the Voyager cast or listen to the DS9 people talk about their projects, books and philosophy.

DS9 castOn DS9, I got along well with Sid and Nana, as you can imagine, since I met them first and they helped get me the job.  Terry Farrell was a fun person to work with; I wish I could have spent more time with her.  One memorable afternoon, we spent sitting on her trailer steps giving away a few dozen roses that her boyfriend had given her because she was mad at him.

The trio of Armin Shimmerman, Rene Auberjonois and Andy Robinson were a blast to work with.  They are so amazingly talented!  And just genuinely NICE.  I loved to watch their transformations from just actors into ALIENS!  Their whole personae changed in the makeup chair.

Mr. Brooks was incredibly intimidating.  I think we PA’s were all a little bit scared of him.  And he was always “Mr. Brooks” – not a first name.  I could have listened to him talk for HOURS… what an amazing voice.  And he sings.  Very occasionally.

Colm Meaney was rarely casual when he was there.  He was usually in his trailer when not filming.  I think he’s just shy and intense.  He was doing work in addition to DS9 at the time, so he was very much in “work mode” when he was filming his episodes or his scenes.

My favorite Director was LeVar Burton.  LeVar taught me how to smoke cigars.  One day he was directing DS9 and we were up on Stage 18 (which held the Defiant and the caves and any sets built specifically for that episode).  He was standing outside the stage smoking and as I went into the stage, I caught a whiff of the smoke and told him I loved that smell.  He told me to come back out after I was done inside and he’d give me one.  So, I did.  He taught me how to clip off the end, light it so it makes a small hot cone on the end and to not inhale.  I sat out there smoking with him very companionably until my boss came riding up on his bike and did a double-take to see his PA out smoking cigars with the Director!  He said incredulously, “What are you doing???”  and I handed the cigar I was smoking back to LeVar, who was collapsed with laughter, and ran away as quickly as I could.  I often wonder how much that cigar cost!  I also loved our 1st Assistant Directors:  Paul Lawrence (who taught me about call sheets and call times/scheduling), and B.C. Cameron, but my favorite was Jerry Fleck over at Voyager.

Michael Westmore at work

Michael Westmore at work

It was really amazing to get to work with the talented Westmore clan of makeup artists. Mike Westmore is a genius!  I loved taking stuff to his office because you never knew what alien you might run into that day! I remember having more than one makeup head of some fantastic alien in my bike basket to take to Rick Berman’s office for approval… oh, the looks we got from folks on the lot!

DS9 and Trek in general has attracted such a talented group of people in every department… it was such a learning experience to work with people like Mike & Denise Okuda, Rick Sternbach, Doug Drexler, Joe Longo, Herman Zimmerman, Jonathan West, Kris Krosskove, Marvin Rush, Bob Blackman, J.P. Farrell, and Judi Brown.  These folks are so talented and taught me so much about television and film production; I owe them a huge debt.  They are true professionals and are wickedly good at what they do.  I can’t imagine a better place to basically apprentice than on DS9 – and I knew absolutely nothing about it when I started.  When I left, I had a very good basic education on how episodic drama television works.  Brilliant!

ds9-promenadeThe sets themselves were another character – it is impossible to talk about DS9 and all Treks without mentioning them.  I firmly believe that the Promenade is one of the most beautiful sets ever built.  Rumor has it that they were bulldozed at the end of the series, and that breaks my heart.  It was an intricate and complicated setGDS9UpperPromenade with pull-apart walls and three stories!  Quarks Bar was simply stunning.  It was easy to imagine that it truly was a station orbiting a distant planet.  You know how Jake and Nog always sat on the second floor dangling their legs and watching all that went on?  Well, the PA’s did that also often enough!

The other set I really liked was Ops.  It’s kind of claustrophobic, but you can believe it’s a real center of Operations.  Maybe it sounds weird, but what I liked about Ops was how it sounded… the sounds of boots/shoes on the steps and the buttons etc.  I also admit I have a blurry picture of myself in Sisko’s captain’s chair on the Defiant (another awesome set) somewhere in my photo boxes!

My favorite moment on the sets was the moment when I was taking a short cut from Wardrobe to the other stages and cut through Stage 4, which held Ops and the Habitat Ring and Corridors.  I came in the south entrance and cut through…. And for a moment, just a moment, I was in the Habitat Ring corridor and all I could see was the station… and I was THERE.  It was suddenly NOT a set, but the actual station.  And then reality intruded and I had to continue to haul butt to deliver my scripts or pages and continued on, but for a split second I was actually on the Station.  Remembering that moment STILL gives me goose bumps.

After the wrap of Season 4 of DS9, I found myself out of work – and extremely tired!  Two years of 12–16 hour days catches up with you when you are running 15 miles each day on average.  After sleeping for a couple of weeks, I was finally ready to start looking for work.  The Next Generation movie “First Contact” was already filming, but they needed a PA who knew tstartrek_unionhe Paramount lot… and that was me!  Jerry Fleck, 1st AD from Voyager, hired me on as a PA for a 3-day shoot in Union Station in downtown LA, shooting a holodeck scene where Captain Picard shoots up a bunch of Borg.  I’d never worked outside the studio lot before, so that was something new!  It was much more challenging, especially since we had a whole bunch of Extras to wrangle.

Apparently I did a good enough job that when the show moved to the sound-stages, they invited me back to PA for the Borg portion of the show. It was to my advantage that I am an incurable morning person.  A large portion of the time I worked on 1st Contact, I was the early person on set – my call time often was 2:42am.  I did a lot of AD-type work, probably more than I was really supposed to, but my AD and the Trainee just could not wake up fully before 6am, so from 3 – 6am I ran the show!  That was early even for me – especially since I lived in Pasadena, a 45-minute commute.  Work a 16-hour day with a 45-minute morning commute and a torturous 1 ½ hour commute in afternoon rush hour traffic and it’s hard.  Still, it was one of my most enjoyable experiences.

Working with the Borg was interesting and gave me different things to do than I had done as a Production Assistant on DS9 and Voyager.  My jobs on this film were to get breakfast for about 35 people – makeup artists, hair stylists, AD’s, Borg, Stuntmen; get lunch for about a dozen (Jonathan, and a dozen or so production crew who viewed dailies at lunch), run scripts and pages around and do general errands.  I also had a large petty cash float – $500.  One day after paying for breakfast and some other things, I was 10 minutes late getting to the film accountant’s office to get the float renewed – and she refused to do it.  I panicked because I had to buy lunch very soon.   I went to the stage to find my 2nd AD David Ticotin, and ask for help.  David didn’t know what to do, so we discussed options.  While we were doing so, Jonathan Frakes, our Director, overheard us taking about it.  He gallantly offered to use his credit card to pay for lunch until I could reimburse him and get my petty cash turned around.  While we three were making these arrangements, the UPM Marty Hornstein overheard us.  He was NOT amused.  I wanted to die right there and then and sink through the floor when he yelled for SILENCE on the set while he called the production accountant assistant who had refused to renew my float.  He must have yelled for 10 minutes at the top of his lungs at this poor woman.  Then, he demanded my petty cash fund be doubled so it never happened again.  I was the first PA at Paramount Pictures to be given a $1,000/day petty cash float.  I was mortified, but it did make things easier!

Michael Dorn & Patrick Steward in "civies"

Michael Dorn & Patrick Stewart in “civies”

Speaking of meals, a meal could have cost me my job my first day at the Studio.  Ooops!  I was required to get the cast breakfast, and had it all taken care of…until I saw Patrick Stewart walk onto set.  I did not have his breakfast!  He had a later call time than the rest and I had clean forgotten, and I had not tracked him down earlier to take his breakfast order.  I sucked it up and walked over to him to introduce myself.  “Hello, Mr. Stewart, my name is Kerry and I am your new Set PA.  I also forgot your breakfast, can I go get you anything?!”  And this charming man said, “Don’t worry about it, darling, I know where the Craft Service table is and will get myself a coffee and croissant.  We’ll try again tomorrow, shall we?”  I could have kissed his feet!  He was such a gentleman – he could have made a big stink about it and gotten me fired then and there, but he didn’t.  Thank you, Patrick!

Another pleasure was working with Jonathan Frakes as a Director.  What a fun set we had!  Even on the longest, most miserable days, it was tolerable because of his levity and compassion for everyone working with him.  He never criticized and always had something positive to say.  His sense of joie de vivre – the joy of living – carries over into the finished film.

Borg QueenI worked part of the time with the Borg, part of the time with Alice Krige the Borg Queen, and the remainder of the time with the other cast members.  I was responsible for basically arriving at the Studio at 2:42am and getting 6 – 12 Borg actors and/or Stuntmen through Hair, Makeup, Wardrobe and Electronics for a 9:00am shooting call.  I also had the pleasure of helping Alice Krige when she was on set.  Poor Alice… I remember her trying to drink one day without getting water all over her makeup and went on a frantic search for a straw. When I found some and brought them back for her, her eyes literally got teary in gratitude!  What a gracious soul.  Besides Borg, I also worked primarily with “the guys” – Patrick, Jonathan, Brent, LeVar and Michael.  I only worked a few days on the Bridge with Gates and Marina, so I really didn’t get to know them at all.  The rest of the work was all the Borg work in the hallways and Engineering, and that was “the guys” nearly entirely.  A group of Marines trained the background extras and our cast how to use the new Starfleet rifles properly, and how to go around doorways with weapons in a realistic manner etc.  We also did a lot of work on that horrible deflector dish… I’m sure it tortured Patrick, Michael and Neal McDonough to be in those suits.   I also remember working with Jamie Cromwell, who played Zefram Cochrane, in the small set of the Phoenix.  He is incredibly tall – I come up about to his bellybutton.  He is a towering presence!

Frakes & B queen laughing“The guys” were really fun to work with.  Watching them work together was seeing a well-oiled machine plow through the day and still laugh at the end of it.  Each is so savvy in his craft, that it was easy to make this movie.  AD Jerry Fleck and the other AD’s also made it a good experience.  How lucky I was!

To be continued. In Part 3, we’ll hear about Kelly’s experience working on Ellen DeGeneres‘ tv show and others.


Adventures of a Production Assistant

 (or How to Get into the Film/TV Business)

blogimage112509_productionassistant1If you have a lot of stamina, tons of initiative, and a willingness to be a reliable Go-Fer for what may be 16 hour days, and if you can put aside any ego defensiveness – plus run into a bunch of good luck – you too may be able to get your toe into the entertainment world as a Production Assistant. Hard work, to be sure. But PA’s get to see a lot and learn a lot. A production can’t get along without them.

I wanted to learn more about what a PA really does and was fortunate enough to encounter a former PA, Kerry, who had worked on Star Trek. I was fascinated by her tales of being a PA, a job that while at the bottom of the food chain  in film and television production is nonetheless necessary for the smooth functioning of a set – running errands, making deliveries and generally doing whatever is asked.  Plus meeting a whole lot of actors and others. Wow!!!  My first question was “How’d you do that? How’d you get the job?” Here’s Kerry’s story.

“I fell into film and television production – it wasn’t something on my radar AT ALL while in college. While I was working and going to the university, some friends dragged me to my first Star Trek convention…. nearly 20 years ago.  I remember vividly that the speakers were Jonathan Frakes and Nana Visitor.  Nana was working on the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine at the time, and sometime during her talk, she mentioned that she was looking for a new nanny for her baby.  So I went home and sent her my resume and a cover letter care of Paramount and didn’t think much else of it.

Kira mirror“Three weeks later, she called me.  Now I know these things SELDOM  happen, but this is the story of my life. Synchronicity seems to happen  to me a lot. We ended up doing three telephone interviews and I drove to Los Angeles to meet her and her (then) husband Nick Miscusi.  I met Nick and we chatted for a while and then we drove to the Studio at Paramount Pictures.  We met Nana at her trailer… and she was in full “Intendant Kira” in the alternate universe make up and wardrobe!  Talk about intimidating to be interviewed by the Intendant, ha!  Actually, she and Nick had just recently relocated from New York and were enthusiastic about living in LA.  They gave me a list of “things to do and see in LA” and I settled in for a weekend of sight seeing.  And I liked what I saw.

“So, I came back to Reno and started looking for nanny jobs in Los Angeles.  I called a whole bunch of churches to put ads in their bulletins.  One I called was Bel Air Presbyterian Church  and they let me place an ad… and then told me that there was a couple already looking for a nanny.  Again, that synchronicity at work.

“I called them, they called me.  They flew me down, hired me on the spot, I gave my two weeks notice at work and moved to LA two weeks later.  The dad was a movie producer (ABC Family Movies) and his wife was a film accountant.  I had the care of their two little boys for nearly a year.  It was fun, but very lonely… so I joined Nana’s fan club, and then Sid’s (Alexander Siddig) in order to meet people in LA.
“Then the Northridge earthquake struck.  My nanny family decided to move to Florida, and invited me to go with them.  NO way!  I hated Florida… so the producer dad got me an interview with a friend of his who had a new show… at Paramount.
Paramount Studios

Paramount Studios

“Off to Paramount I went.  Again, the amazing lining up of the stars… the production office for the sitcom “Platypus Man” was in the Cooper Building… and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was in the office right next door.  Over the couple of months that we filmed the sitcom, I made sure I met every person coming up and down those stairs.  I also let Nana and Sid know I was there, and we kept in touch distantly.  I worked my BUTT off.  We had horrible hours.  Our writers were night owls, so we ended up having two shifts – a daytime shift and an overnight shift – which swapped every week.  It really sucked coming in to work at 6pm and leaving at 8am, let me tell you!  The show didn’t last long and we got cancelled by UPN, but I’d been seriously bitten by the production bug.  The biz was in my blood.  I LOVED working 12 – 16 hour days and being on the go much of the time.  I have Attention Deficit Disorder and I simply thrive in this environment.  It was wonderful in a way that working as an early childhood educator was not.  I loved the creativity and the magic.  I was hooked. I was in my young 20’s, healthy, strong and hungry. When the sitcom was cancelled, a Production Assistant job opened up over at DS9 at the same time.

I’d always liked Star Trek… I remember watching the original Star Trek (TOS) as a kid in reruns and occasionally running around with phasers. I have to admit a fondness for a certain captain’s British accent!  I liked the emphasis on a positive future and people working together to make the world/Federation a better place.  I loved the inclusiveness and the diversity of the characters and the morality they portrayed. I was very excited to be a part of this positive vision of the future.

Fans I had made friends with Heidi Smothers, the Production Coordinator, and I immediately took over my resume and staunchly stated I could start immediately.  After a couple of interviews, Heidi told me “it wasn’t looking good” – because the producers had discovered that I was a member of Sid and Nana’s fan clubs.  Production generally has a very love/hate relationship with fans.  They see only the freaks and nutcases, so it definitely colors their views of fandom.  Luckily for me, Sid  and Nana laughed and told the producers to hire me immediately!

“I started on DS9 on an episode called “Through the Looking Glass” (another Intendant episode, conveniently enough!) in Season 3 and ended on an episode called “Broken Link”, at the end of Season 4.  I have always thought that was apropos.  I did indeed go through the looking glass and leaving was definitely a broken link experience.  I had a great time working on DS9, which was a challenging hour-long drama series to work on because of the complexity of the show and the hours.”

Continue with Part 2: http://www.startrekmagic.com/2013/07/25/adventures-of-…g-on-star-trek


Star Trek Into Darkness – behind the scenes

Just in case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a fascinating look at the movie process:  http://youtu.be/EQutDk1yecI


What Do Editors Do? (Part 2)

Terry_Rubicon

Terry Kelley, acclaimed Film & TV editor

This is part 2 of an interview with noted movie/tv editor Terry Kelley. If you missed part 1, you can see it here.

You started editing with movies, and then moved to editing TV shows?

Now there are not as many movies being made. There used to be 700 feature films a year.  Initially the major studios had movies locked in, in the ‘40’s. But when they had to divest [in 1948,after antitrust suits], a lot of independent studios started. They made many of the indie films for under $1 M, especially in the 60’s & 70’s – such as Easy Rider, Raging Bull.   The Writer’s strike [2007-2008] and the crisis with the hedge funds cut back on those. A lot of the funding of the indies came from hedge funds.

From the standpoint of editing, what is the difference between editing a feature film and editing a TV episode?

The art is the same. You have more time to work in feature films.  These days with digital cameras you don’t have film with its expensive processing. So you may have 2 to 5 camera’s rolling. You get as much shot per day, whether film or TV. But a TV episode is shot in 7 to 8 days. As editor I have to deliver a 45 minute show in 6 weeks.  For a feature film, I would have 6 months.

That’s a lot to do in a short time! How can you do that?

Practice! (laughs)  Different directors shoot in different ways. A new director may give you one of their shows or one that they like from someone else: “I’m thinking of using this kind of style.”  So you know exactly what they want.  I’ll be editing while they are still shooting, so I have to be on the same page as the director.

How did you come to work on Deep Space 9?ST DS9 Past Prologue cropped

I had been working on several Paramount shows. They had already put together a team to work on Deep Space 9. Usually editor #1 works on the first episode, editor #2 on the second, etc.  The editor who would ordinarily be working on “Past Prologue” was cutting the pilot so couldn’t work on this one. I was brought in as a swing editor, then became editor for other episodes.

How did working on Star Trek compare with working on other TV series?

In a way it is like any other series. But it had a more leisurely schedule.  Star Trek scripts were locked down like iron. The whole season was known in advance.  If you drop a line of dialogue, you have to make sure that it doesn’t interfere with something down the line.

In comparison, Homeland has an arc for the season – so you can’t mess with that. But you have more flexibility. It has a “mystery” structure – clues unveil the situation, but there is some flexibility. Often actors like to contribute their own dialogue –  but they may not be good writers. They can’t think ahead in terms of the overall plot as well as the writers can. They can help with the delivery of a line of dialogue – suggest a change in wording that can make it more realistic. With Deep Space 9 scripts they couldn’t do even that. So it was very rigid for the actors too.  That’s why in the first few episodes,  the actors were wooden – less spontaneity.  Later they could get more relaxed into their roles.

How were the Deep Space 9 episodes shot?

The episodes were shot on film.  The film was then digitized on a Rank [Cintel machine] film scanner, which sent the film through a gate, where a chip captured the image. The image was transferred to DigiBeta [short for Digital Betacam, the single most successful professional broadcast digital recording video tape format in history]. This video data was then bumped down to ¾” tapes, less expensive tapes to work with.  A strange process – analog film converted  to digital, then transferred to an analog tape.

Old editing room

                                   Old editing room

How has the technology changed during the time you’ve been an editor?

I started taping film together by hand! Absolutely different today. In the old days, a visual effect, say a dissolve, might take 3 or 4 days to do.  With digitizing, it can be done immediately.  Very fast, more options.  Let’s say I wanted to make a shot longer. With film I would have to find what I had cut from the film and splice it back in. With many little snippets of film that have been cut out, finding the one needed is difficult.  But now with digital cameras, I don’t lose the pieces I cut out. They are still in the computer.  And I can extend the shot via the computer itself.

Used to be that some people felt digital was a lower quality than analog. Do you find that true? Is there a tradeoff for easy of editing?

No. The quality is so much better now that there isn’t much of a trade-off.

What about 24 vs 48 frames? What Jackson is using for the Hobbit?

No, that doesn’t matter to an editor.  Actually Douglas Trumball [who did ground-breaking special effects in 2001, Andromeda Strain, Close Encounters, etc] experimented with film speed. He shot at different rates and played back at various rates – and measured emotional reactions such as galvanic skin response, respiration, etc. He found that the optimal speed for visceral response was 60 frames – both recorded at 60 and played back at 60.  Using 70m film  and shooting/playing back at 60 frames gives a very realistic effect, but is very expensive. I’m not sure it’s worth it. It’s more useful for certain kinds of action sequences, but not much good for dialogue scenes.

Kelley likes this editing tool

Kelley likes this editing tool

What software do you prefer?

Final cut Pro version 7. Also Avid. They both have versatility – deep feature flexibility of the programs. They have thousands of features – which is a lot to learn.

It is common to get 2 or 3 video tracks plus 15 audio tracks – takes up lots of space! I use a Mac workstation – 8G RAM (16 is faster), 8 to 12 processors. 8 to 12 terabytes (1 terabyte = 1000 gigabytes).  I have some 4 terabyte drives in my computer drives.

Terry has been working on Homeland. Over the season break, he worked on “Bathroom Diary”. It’s a short film to be used as a presentation promoting a full feature about a probation officer with a sick father who becomes a drug dealer, then an addict. This spring he is cutting a pilot for “Gang Related”. The story revolves around a gang member sent in to infiltrate the San Francisco Police Department who must balance his obligations to his crime family and his new family, the SFPD’s Gang Task Force. 

Thank you, Terry Kelley! You’ve given us an interesting look behind the scenes. I know that, thanks to you, I’ll be looking at shows with a different eye.  And I’ll look for your name in the credits.  Live Long & Prosper.


What Do Editors Do? (part 1)

Oscar editing winners & nominees share tidbits on what they do: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2013/02/25/oscars-sound-editing-mixing-cinematography/

I knew directors had a lot to do with how a movie or tv episode turns out; what I didn’t realize is that editors have just as large a role.

One extra on a DVD of Star Trek: Generations was footage of an alternate ending.  I frankly was struck with how boring it was. No music.  The camera faithfully followed Picard and Kirk’s movements, for every step from point A to point B. Seemed very slow. Aha! In the final movie, usually there’s a closeup of one, then of the other. I see one start forward, then the other move. The viewpoint moves back and forth and cuts out some. Editing! I was watching footage that hadn’t been edited!  Big difference!  So how does an editor create that more dynamic feel?

Terry Kelley_

Terry Kelley, editor

I had the good fortunate to connect with Terry Kelley, a long time professional editor who  edited Deep Space 9: Past Prologue, and is editor for Showtimes’ acclaimed Homeland series. His final episode of Season 2 has been nominated for a best editing award from American Cinema Editors (ACE), an honorary society of film editors. Mr Kelley is a master of his art – and graciously agreed to an interview.

What is the process of editing?

“An analog is what you probably did in school. You have an assignment to read chapter 11. You take it away and read it and, as you read, you underline parts that strike you as important.  That’s what an editor does.  Takes the script and notes what’s important or key. I may note what framing would be important. For  example, if there’s a part that’s more intimate, I note that I’d want a close-in shot. Or there may be part that suggests a faster pace – more cuts.

“In feature films,  an editor looks at footage and says, “What did the film say to me? How can I let the film speak?”  Everyone is involved with the script. I can read the script and imagine how to edit shots together. For example, consider a scene where the point of it is “she meets the guy – their eye’s meet.”  I can see in my eye how that scene would be cut. A far shot showing the location. A medium shot of him. A medium shot of her. She’s looking at something. Shifts her look beyond it. Sees him. “Hm, he’s attractive”.  He sees her. Close shot on their eyes reacting to each other.

homeland_the_choice1

Kelley’s Editing of the S2 finale is nominated for an Eddie award!

“So I take the film that’s shot and look for what I need. The director will shoot the scene once from a far shot. Then reshoot with a medium shot on her. Then reshoot with a medium shot on him. Then reshoot with a closeup on her. Then reshoot with a closeup on him. Then a tight shot on his eyes and one on her eyes.  A scene will be shot many times – direct shot, over his shoulder, over her shoulder – again and again from different angles and framing.  The editor’s job is more a matter of building to a blueprint than it is searching through a pile of lumber to see what you can put together.”

How do you work? In what kind of environment?

“I work by myself in a dark room. No, I don’t need to meet with the director or go on location. I can get any direction I need from the director by phone.  He’ll say: ‘This is a funny comedy. I want to make it fast paced and colorful. Just keep the actors alive.’

“The first step is the editor’s cut – or rough cut. It isn’t so rough any more – [with modern technology] I can smooth out the sounds and do color correction. I put in everything. This is the longest cut.

“The director then cuts out what he wants. The Director’s cut. The studio may cut still more, even if the director objects. Directors can get attached to certain scenes, even if they don’t further the story much.Eddie award banner

“As to how long it takes, the Director’s Guild has rules – for example the director can demand 3 weeks to do the editor’s cut and 10 weeks more to finish the director’s cut  – before showing the film to anyone!!  Actors & others can see the dailys, but not the way it’s coming together.”

Wow! That’s quite a process. A skill that Mr Kelley has developed over many years.  Coming up in future posts on this interview: what it was like to work on Star Trek and how the process of editing has changed over the years. Stay tuned!!


What Do Directors Do?

Tim Russ

Tim Russ, Director of Star Trek: Renegades

Tim Russ,  who played Tuvoc in Voyager and Deep Space 9, is also a director.  He is now working on the pilot of a Star Trek web series, Star Trek: Renegades. He chatted about this with The G & T show and mentioned some fascinating considerations and constraints about directing Star Trek:  http://www.gandtshow.com/?p=1944

He mentions that it is the director of the pilot who sets the “look” of the series – that each series has it’s own look that instantly conveys which one you’re seeing.  Aha! I have noticed that, but didn’t think about it. In flipping channels, I’d never even briefly mistake a Hawaii Five-O episode for an Star Trek episode.  Tim Russ mentions some factors in creating this look. For example,  in directing “Living Witness” for Voyager, he had to be careful about camera angles – there were angles that the executive producer hated and would not let into the show!

Tuvoc

Tuvoc

Star Trek: Renegades takes place 11 years after Voyager, which lead to some interesting discussions about how things might have changed in those 11 years. Russ said they wanted to look more modern without losing the audience’s understanding of what was happening. You can’t make a weapon look so different that the audience doesn’t realize it essentially is a phaser.

I also wasn’t aware that Paramount, as owner of Star Trek, insists on approving everything using the name or concept.  That includes books, graphic novels, toys and other products, the fan-produced movie Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, and the proposed Renegades web series.  I found that Lucas does the same with Star Wars.   Renegades could have been developed as a separate Sci Fi story line, but as Russ points out, anything Star Trek has such a large built-in fan base.

Wow! It seems directors do a lot more than tell actors where to stand!

 


CGI or Make-up?

Remember the OB nurse in the beginning of Star Trek 2009? The one with the big eyes?

Are her eyes make-up or CGI?

Are her eyes make-up or CGI?

I wondered how they did that. A friend found an interview with the actress in which she talks about it.  Check it out!  http://totalscifionline.com/interviews/3512-sonita-henry-doctor-in-space


Spock’s Ears

Lr in ears 072

Getting my own ears at STLV 2009

I’m a sucker for Spock. And for Spock’s ears. Even got a pair of my own at a Star Trek con.

I was delighted to find out more about them from the SFX person who made them for the Star Trek movie, Sam Neill. On his site,Sam talks about first getting asked to do the ears. “You want to make Spock’s ears?”  http://sneillfx.com/page4

Sam still makes ears from his original mold! You can even buy your own from him! (I may have to do this.) He shows how they are made and how to apply them. http://sneillfx.com/page10


Acting in Different Media

I don’t often hear actors talking publicly about the technicality of their art. But Chris Pine gave some interesting insights in a recent interview. He was particularly talking about the challenges of doing voice work for animated films, in this case his role in Rise of the Guardians. He also mentions how theater work is different from film.

Pine talks acting

New Kirk talks acting

Take a look: http://www.sofeminine.co.uk/understanding-men/chris-pine-interview-rise-of-the-guardians-star-talks-loneliness-and-being-lucky-n212531.html


Film vs stage: Cameras etc

Not only is the shooting schedule out of the sequence of the character arc. You know those deep intense looks from Zach Quinto’s Spock? For example, when he attacks Kirk?

What we as the audience do not see is what is all around Quinto as he does this scene.  Yet as a well trained actor, he seems to ignore it all and lets us only see the furious Spock.

shooting a scene
Try ignoring this!