House Call – Independent TV Show Pilot

 

Back in February, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the production and post-production teams for a local Phoenix, Arizona independent TV show pilot called “House Call”. Written and Directed by Jonathan R. Millard and Chancellor J. Lastra, and photographed by Joshua M. Lambeth, House Call is an independent production by their company, Second Chance Productions. This 13-minute video is only the first part of the approximately 45-minute full TV show pilot that Second Chance intends to film the rest of later this year. My role during production on the show was as the Boom Operator. And during post-production, I was the Sound Editor and one of the Film Editors. I designed and edited the opening main title sequence, as I previously posted here on my blog.

We recorded the sound (i.e. dialogue) on the shoot using a Sennheiser shotgun boom microphone (rented from Broadcast Rentals) attached via XLR cable to two different digital audio recorders: the Marantz PMD-661 Professional Portable Flash Field Recorder and the Zoom H2 Handy Recorder). We primarily used the Marantz recorder for most of the sound, but also recorded some sound on the Zoom H2. In post-production, using Avid Pro Tools 8 LE, I mastered, mixed, and edited the sound for the entire production. I found the recorded sound from the Zoom H2 to be lesser in quality than the Marantz unit. Now it might have been partly due to two different Sound Mixers who each provided their own digital audio recording equipment, one with the Zoom H2 and one with the Marantz PMD-661, or it might have just been the lesser quality of the Zoom H2 recorder. I’m not 100% sure, but my gut tells me that the Marantz is a better sound recorder since it’s a higher end piece of equipment from a more professional sound company. I’m leaning towards getting the Marantz recorder for my own production gear.

While not a “perfect” professional sound mix, I’m pretty pleased with what we did in a very short time and with the budget (basically zero) we had. The sound is better than most zero budget amateur/independent productions. I assisted with selecting music for the show as well. My contributions for music included choosing the opening track during the main titles, which is “Tribulations” by LCD Soundsystem, and choosing “Scheming Weasel (Faster Version)” by Kevin MacLeod from http://www.incompetech.com (a royalty free music site), which plays during the breakfast house scene. I also worked with Chance in music editing for “I Need A Doctor (featuring Eminem and Skylar Grey)” by Dr. Dre, which plays during the opening jail scene. The other music choices that we chose as a team include “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith (off the Armageddon Soundtrack), “Right Round” by Flo Rida, and “Whiskey On The Mississippi” also by Kevin MacLeod from http://www.incompetech.com (which plays during the birthing scene at the end). All of the mainstream music are placeholders to give the pilot the emotional feel that we were looking for, but the rights to use that music have not yet been obtained. Obviously if this show gets picked up, alternate music would need to be selected/created, or the rights obtained to use the music we selected.

While not the typical type of TV show or film work that I would create on my own, House Call was great to be a part of the team on. The guys at Second Chance Productions are all professional, talented, and hungry to put their skills to work in Hollywood, as I am. I’m pleased and proud to have been a part of this project and hope to continue collaborating with these guys on future productions.

House Call – Main Titles

I’ve been extremely privileged this past month to be a part of the production and post-production teams for a local Phoenix, Arizona independent TV show pilot called “House Call”. Written and Directed by Jonathan R. Millard and Chancellor J. Lastra, House Call is an independent production by their company Second Chance Productions. My role during production on the show was as the Boom Operator. And during post production, I’ve been one of the Film Editors and the Sound Editor. One of my jobs as a Film Editor was to design and edit the main title sequence for the show. Co-Director and Producer Chance Lastra shot a bunch of video footage in Las Vegas, Nevada that he wanted to use for the title sequence since the show was set there. The footage was all shot in partial HD on a mini handheld camcorder. Shot at night, most of the footage had a rough, out-of-focus look, but with an incredible kaleidoscope of light and color. Upon first watching it, I immediately had the thought that this video footage looked like it was shot by someone driving through Vegas as a tourist. My concept for the title sequence was simple: to embrace the fast, choppy, abstract, and artistic look of the handheld video footage and use it in a quick-paced edit set to quick-paced music.

This 44-second main title video uses my favorite bits of Chance’s footage. The video starts with a royalty-free HD clip of time-lapse aerial video over Las Vegas from DigitalJuice.com. But everything else was shot by Chance. All the work putting together this motion-graphics video sequence was done in Adobe After Effects CS5. For the titles themselves, I chose a font called “spotlight” that had a neon sign look, apropos for the Vegas setting. The music is “Tribulations” from LCD Soundsystem, which is the “placeholder” music that inspired me for this video and what I cut too. The music will get replaced eventually since we don’t have the rights to use it for the show, but it definitely had the feel and beat that I was looking for. I’ve gotten pretty attached to it now, but I’m sure we can have something with a similar tone created for the show. Or maybe we can get LCD Soundsystem to let us use their song? You never know!

The Sunset Limited

FILM RATING:  3 stars

HBO’s new made-for-TV film The Sunset Limited (2011) starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson is a fascinating and fresh look at just pure philosophical, spiritual, and psychological conversation. Much like HBO’s outstanding TV series In Treatment, starring Gabriel Byrne. Directed by Tommy Lee Jones, The Sunset Limited is a VERY simple, almost theatrical, concept. It’s two men, Black (played by Jackson) and White (played by Jones), in a room talking about life. White is a professor who was saved from Black earlier in the day when he was trying to commit suicide. Black is a reformed ex-con who was in the “jailhouse”, as he likes to call it, for murder. Black believes in God and the Bible. White doesn’t. Over the course of this 90-minute movie, Black and White go back and forth at each other, throwing out crisp, intelligent, yet hard to comprehend dialogue like you’d expect from writer Aaron Sorkin in The Social Network or on The West Wing. While much of what was said is wrapped in riddles and hard-to-digest ideas, The Sunset Limited really gets you thinking. It’s a the kind of film I’ll have to revisit a few times over the years to really get. Much like the internal struggle we all have in our own heads, Black and White battle back-and-forth and don’t end with any real answers. They just end the conversation for the day.

Both Jones and Jackson give very good performances here, really showcasing their acting and dialogue abilities. I wish there was more emotional depth to these characters and to the film itself, but this is really just a head game and its best to not expect anything more. The production design, lighting, and cinematography are interesting and give the film a nice gritty context for Black and White to play out. I like that they don’t go anywhere and that both actors are forced to make things happen in this one-room set. I give The Sunset Limited 3 stars and suggest you check it out on HBO now, or down the road on Blu-ray/DVD.

Top 10 TV Miniseries

(Updated on February 11, 2012)

These are simply the best TV miniseries of all time as far as I’m concerned. Other miniseries that I considered for this list include: The Stand (1994), Angels In America (2003), and Return To Lonesome Dove (1993).

10.  The Martian Chronicles (1980)

9.  Generation Kill (2008)

8.  V: The Original Miniseries (1983)

7.  Into The West (2005)

6.  Broken Trail (2006)

5.  From the Earth to the Moon (1998)

4.  John Adams (2008)

3.  Lonesome Dove (1989)

2.  The Pacific (2010)

1.  Band of Brothers (2001)

HBO is clearly leading the way when it comes to television miniseries. They’ve put studio movie level money into producing some of the most incredible miniseries of all time. It all started at HBO in my mind with From The Earth To The Moon (1998) by producers Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. This epic miniseries took the incredible movie storytelling that Hanks and Howard put to great effect in Apollo 13 (1995) to use on television to tell the rest of the stories behind NASA’s epic missions to the Moon. And after the success of that series, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg did the same thing with Band of Brothers (2001), using Spielberg’s masterpiece war movie Saving Private Ryan (1998) as the catalyst for that World War II series about D-Day and fighting the Germans. Band of Brothers is revered around the world as one of the greatest miniseries of all time. And it’s clearly at the top of my list…just above it’s “sequel” miniseries “The Pacific” and the epic Western miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989). There was something magical about Lonesome Dove when it came out in the late 80’s. It was like nothing we had seen on TV in a long time. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones brought that series to life with their incredible chemistry as two former Texas Rangers. Duvall still claims today that his role as Gus McCrae is his favorite out of his incredible body of work.

The Pacific (2010) is the “sequel” to Band of Brothers, telling the story of the other half of World War II. It does so in the same incredible fashion as Band of Brothers, but the battles in the Pacific weren’t quite as epic of a story as fighting the Nazis in Germany. And not to be dismissed is John Adams (2008), the incredible story of the founding of the United States of America, from the point of view of our 2nd president. This incredible miniseries covers our Declaration of Independence like no other movie or television show ever has. John Adams is by far the best story of how America came in to being, showing us the real history behind the characters and the story of our independence and early government.

It’s going to take an incredible new miniseries to break into the Top 5 on this list. But I wouldn’t put it past HBO. They seem to be so strongly committed to telling epic stories that deserve more than a 2-hour film, that anything is possible. There are a lot more great stories to be told in the same fashion as these strong miniseries. We’ll see what comes in the next few years.

Public Speaking

HBO has some of the best documentary films showcased on its channel. What grabbed me about this particular documentary are the title graphics. I just love them! I’m not a follower or fan of Fran Lebowitz, the author and speaker whom this film is about. I don’t think I had even heard of her before I saw the ads for this documentary on HBO. But the title graphics caught my eye and got me interested. Unfortunately, after watching about half of this documentary, I can’t say the film is very interesting. But the graphics are inspirational to me!