GADZOOK FILMS Producing independent film in Seattle, Los Angeles and beyond.

30Jan/13Off

Old Tricks Revisited

Years before TV shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm, GadZook Films made a short that brought fairy-tale characters to life in the real world. That short was called "Old Tricks". I wrote a bit about it when we premiered it at Local Sightings at the Northwest Film Forum back in 2007.

This is the first time the short has been available via YouTube and Vimeo, and also the first time in its original HD.

In that post I described how we shot the film, using a Cinevate Brevis 35mm adapter. They don't even make them anymore otherwise I'd link you to Cinevate's site. Due to the technicalities of getting the adapter to work on the camera, a Canon HV20, it left an inconsistent vignette around the image. As we were short on time my editor and I chose to add a full block vignette around the entire image. This made for a more consistent picture but chopped out about 10% of viewable area from the image. We knew going in there were potential downsides to the format, but overall it created a really dream-like image. Almost 16mm in it's effect.

Nowadays HDSLRs are all the rage and cost a fraction of what the adapter and HV20 cost and do the same job. And that's awesome! There are certainly other tools out there to enhance images; hacks for cameras, DIY steadicams, etc. The bootstrap appeal to indie filmmaking has kept me in the game.

Tell me about tips and tricks you use to get the look you're after! And please don't forget to rate the video on YouTube/Vimeo as well! Thanks!

19Jul/12Off

When to “Sell Out”

This is the first of what will be an ongoing series documenting my attempts to get "House of Yhargoth," my Lovecraftian webseries, made. Some key details may be omitted as I'm actively in talks and I don't want to hurt my chances. But I'll fill you in as soon as I can.

Now, I hate the term "sell out" not because it's a derogatory term for anyone who appears to hold money above art but because it appears to be applied indiscriminately to anyone who accepts a paycheck rather than simply "doing it for the love." What many people fail to recognize is that art costs money, and love alone cannot pay the bills.

This post sprung to mind as I saw many of my fellow filmmakers successfully raising some funding via crowdsource websites like these guys for instance. And they're not alone. If you're one of the many hundreds of creators who have been able to fund your projects yourself, or with the support of friends and family through crowdfunding initiatives, congratulations! If I may be so bold, I'll assume your projects are restrained in scope to a degree you know you can fund and produce well. Or you just have a lot of fans and a good product. Or... you're terrible at budgeting and take a lot of the work on yourself and possibly burden your crew and overstretch your resources. Bottom line is you're making something and for that you should be congratulated!

Now back to me... I've debated using something like Kickstarter to launch my webseries for a long time now. In fact, I have extensive spreadsheets noting best times for starting campaigns, best practices once they're launched, ideas for pledge tiers, sample tweets, interested parties, and more. Lots more. Suffice to say if I were to start a campaign tonight I could probably whip up a pretty good one.

Would It Be Enough?

Here's where things get tricky. I've shot dozens of short films. I've budgeted & scheduled everything I knew would cost me more than $100 and take more than a day to shoot. I know how much things cost and I know how long things take. After going through the script for my Lovecraftian webseries and consulting with line producers galore, I came up with a budget and schedule. I had a number now... and that number did not scream "CROWDFUND!" to me. It was too large in comparison to my meager (but loyal and awesome) fanbase. And even if I was able to excite the audience the show was intended for, I wasn't positive I could get enough of them on board the crowdfunding train.

What Other Options Are There?

Here's where "selling out" comes into play. If you don't have the funds and don't have the network to get those funds, you need to go outside that network. To that end I've been seeking potential distributors to sell the idea to (with the intent of staying on board as producer with Faye as head writer). Shock! Gasp! I can hear you choke.

After you choke I can hear you guffaw: "But Dom," you manage through stifled laughter, "Just make something cheaper!" To which I retort, "Why?" I've played in those trenches and I'll definitely be back but I can't make this show in that field. I recognize that the level-headed amongst you will shake those level-heads and wonder why I don't simply prep a smaller, more intimate and affordable show to start out with. Frankly I find those types of shows are not my cup of tea. I got in this business to make shows like House of Yhargoth.

"Why don't you just shoot a piece of it, and see what happens?" I'm terrible at analogies but let me try to explain this one: Imagine having a piece of a pie. It tastes good. So good you want to tell everyone you know about it. You run out, send emails, and notify everyone you've ever met that you just had the best piece of pie in the world. When everyone comes back to try some you find the pie has been decimated by time, eaten away by flies and rats and is no longer edible. You can make a new pie but by the time you're done everyone has moved on to cake.

See, the internet is fickle - that pilot may hit like a hot poker and wow everyone. But if you have nothing to release the following week you're destined to lose any support garnered from the pilot. Crowdfunding for a single pilot is possible, but as I said it's how one can follow that up. There are ways to make this work, of course, but they revolve around having money... I'll reveal in another post.

Why sell off the idea you are so passionate about?

Well to be honest I'm SO passionate about this idea I'm not going to do two things:
1) Make it for anything less than it's worth.
2) Not make it.

That means I need to raise money somehow. Next!

Does That Make Me A Sell Out?

Depends on who you talk to, I guess. There are people who take great pride in eschewing the Hollywood system. It's a tricky tightrope to walk - retaining independence or paying people. And I don't say that blithely. Salaries are the single largest component of film budgets - and the reason why so many modern indie filmmakers become a jack of all trades doing the editing, shooting, writing, directing, etc. themselves. While I enjoy that component and it's certainly made me a better overall filmmaker, I prefer to use pros when possible. Wouldn't you?

Why Is It So Important?

My dream is to take this back to Seattle. At the budget level I'm proposing it would be a not insignificant project for the local community. Money would be fed back to local businesses and people - people who helped me out when I was just starting by donating their time, equipment, and a whole lot more. This is a sustaining project as well, being episodic and all. Not to mention Seattle has all the built-in locations a story like ours needs. It just works.

So that's what I'm doing right now and why I've been fairly incommunicado since my last major post about the show. Not much to report when at this stage it's all unreturned phone-calls or passive-aggressive e-mails. But that's gonna change...

23Jan/02Off

The Night Shift Premieres!

Hey all, the first episode of the new season of the Night Shift airs THIS Friday (1/25) at 10:30pm on Seattle Public Access (channels 29/77). This show is extensively revamped from last season, features a great cast and lots of Seattle crew and talent. Check it out... and then go to http://www.empire-productions.net and let us know what you think on our message boards!

17Nov/01Off

Early film equipment

We've completed filming of the first episode of the new season. Today we're having a professional photographer come and take publicity shots of the gang for the website and PR materials. We're big-time. πŸ™‚

My good ol' Mac is currently undergoing retro-fitting to allow it to edit the show and future projects. It's not too shabby for a 3 year old Power Mac. Shortly I'll have most of the basic equipment needed to edit my projects. Still looking for an inexpensive DV VTR, if you know of one (preferably $500 +/-).

Otherwise... my audition for ReAct theatre felt like it went well. No call from them yet. I also auditioned for Showtunes! Musical Theatre. That went well too, but the next morning I had three e-mails in my inbox from the same person from the theatre all with the same message: thanks, but no thanks. Overkill? πŸ™‚

Listening to Tenacious D, Superman Lovers, and Sarah Mclachlan now. Catch ya later... have a great Thanksgiving.

24Oct/01Off

New Agent

Moving on then. The Night Shift has begun filming and so far everything's looking superb. The cast and crew is excellent and it's really shaping up nicely. A new Empire Productions website is on its way as well, and more detailed info about the new cast and crew will be available then.

I have since signed on with the Actors Group and have been to a few auditions and callbacks, much to their delight. Always good to make a good first impression. Making the callback is almost as good as getting the gig... well, duh. But it really is! It means you impressed the CD enough to even call you back, which means they saw enough in you to make them think you were worth it. It's a good thing all around.

That's about it now. Things are picking up on the acting end with the agent now, and the Night Shift is occupying much time. Hot Crotch is beginning to get a little attention in the graphic design end. A poster has been floating around and hopefully I can post that soon.

4Aug/01Off

Push towards Professionalism

Ah... "Nobody Does it Better." That's the song I'm listening to right now on my James Bond Greatest Hits. The 5th episode of the Night Shift aired last night, and I'm getting ready to air the 6th and final episode for this season. Next? Well... I'm really trying to solidify Empire Productions into the Seattle filmmaking society and I think the Night Shift could get us there. So I'm revamping the whole thing, bringing on more crew, more actors, more writers, and generally making a huge push towards professionalism.

Hot Crotch is in the can, and I just got the pictures from my photographer. They all look great, and now it's a race against time getting the pictures we want before my photographer leaves for Europe for a month. It'll get done. πŸ™‚ Anyway, I'll post pics here and at the Empire site once they get developed.

I can't wait to open my next play. It's good to be back on the boards. I feel quite comfortable with this gang, and I think the plays will reflect that. If you're a casting director or agent, expect a postcard and invite in the mail soon! πŸ™‚

29Jul/01Off

Wherein I try to use the blog to pickup chicks and wax poetic

Why hello there! Sorry about the delay. I've been pre-occupied with about a billion other things. Hot Crotch Duggins has finished principle photography, and the footage that I've seen so far is very funny. It's good too! Now my problem is getting the money needed to start logging the footage and editing. I want to be able to edit at home, and recently purchased a used Apple Power Mac 8600/300 (for you Mac afficianadoes). I plan to upgrade that. If you would like to contribute $2000 to me, that would more than cover the cost of the upgrade and also help me enter film fests. Tell your friends.

I have been cast in several shows over the next few months, as the MAIN page says. So free time has quickly dissipated. Add on the extra hours I've been putting in at my normal job in order to make the extra money for Christmas (yes, I'm thinking that far ahead), the business I'm trying to support and help grow, the rehearsing and filming of the Night Shift, and various other odds and ends, and my social life amounts to nil.

But know this... I am single and looking. I'm cool, clear, responsible, daring, and fun. If you have friends you'd like to set me up with, just e-mail me their info (with their permission of course). If you'd like to set YOURSELF up with me... do the same thing. I'm now taking applications. I'm so lonely. πŸ™ So come on... boost my ego... help me out! And let's go bowling!!

So auditions continue for me, but now seasons are getting cast and I'm starting to make long-range decisions. If you want me for your project, get while the gettin's good. I'm making a concerted effort to fortify Empire Productions into a formidable independent studio. I'm gathering a good team, making decisions, and I welcome help and advice and most importantly investors!

So that's it for now. My birthday is in a little over a month and as I quickly approach nearly a quarter of a century on this planet, I have to start thinking about making me happy, while also helping my fellow man, and the planet itself. I don't want to sound preachy, but it's something to dream about. Good luck in all that you do... and if you get a chance... let me know about it. Take care... I'll write again soon.

12May/01Off

Onward!

Welcome back! Sorry for the long delay. Life is extremely busy. I've been taking classes from Jodi Rothfield to help prepare me for commercial-life. She's an excellent instructor, and I highly recommend the class. Not only is it good exposure, but she really helps break down your problem spots, and gives you an honest outlook on your performance. Call and see if you can get into her next class! Okay... advert over.

I've been busy collecting, hiring, setting up, drawing, planning and otherwise WORKING MY ASS OFF on my film, Hot Crotch Duggins. It's been an awesome ride and I'm learning a great deal. The Night Shift has prepared me very well for the rigors of producing. I think I'm a producer at heart. πŸ™‚ It's also been very fun directing - a profession I never thought I'd find myself in. I'm a perfectionist at heart, and I can run myself ragged wanting to act, write, direct, edit, costume, light, etc. Of course, I can only do a couple of those things really well. The others... I'm smart enough to get other people to help me out with! What's tough is finding the right people. For continued info and development about Hot Crotch Duggins please go to Empire Productions.

Along with all that, it is the height of the audition season here in Seattle. I've been running my tail up and down Puget Sound. So far I've auditioned for the Seattle Children's Theatre, and the Tacoma Actors' Guild. The remaining auditions are: The Village Theatre, The 5th Avenue, and the Theatre Puget Sound Unified auditions which includes the Seattle Rep, ACT, the Intiman, and more! So needless to say, my stress level is high! 😐

I'm also taking voice lessons from the talented Rebecca Castelli. She's helped me improve my singing immensely, and I actually feel like I have a shot with these theatres! So it's been amazing. But with a very tight schedule, and even tighter funds, it's very hard to continue to follow my dream and live life! But I survive. I always have, and I always will. Hopefully I'll keep you all updated more frequently. Take care...