Alpha Studios offers services in Compositing, Matte painting, Set extension, Match moving, Rig removal, Motion Graphics, Editorial, Color and more. This week, we spend an hour with founder, Kaitlyn Yang, to ask her how VFX work and when and how filmmakers should use post effects.
Starting Your Own Company
How did Kaitlyn go from freelancing to starting her own company? What sort of team did she put together?
Working With Visual Effects
It’s very easy to dismiss that things are happening in a computer but what actually goes into a VFX shot? Or it may just seem like magic.
Kaitlyn helps breakdown the VFX process, what sort of artists you need to get a shot done and how it all works.
When should you shoot something in-camera and when should you use post-production effects?
What’s a common misunderstanding filmmakers have about VFX?
When do you need a team of artists and when you can rely on just one person?
If pulling off Marvel level VFX is unrealistic, what is realistic? Kaitlyn says everyone should check out Miss 2059 for realistic expectations.
Working with Filmmakers
What’s the process, how does a project begin?
When should you bring in a Visual Effects team?
What does a filmmaker need to understand VFX to be good at VFX?
What’s something filmmakers aren’t doing that you wish they would?
Born and raised in San Francisco, Jason’s first “real” job was working as a news cameraman during which he learned how to move quickly and efficiently. A greater interest in narrative and documentary compelled him to leave the broadcast world and pursue work in film. Jason has since shot a multitude of feature, short, documentary and experimental films.
Jason’s Narrative Reel
We talk about how Jason finds his projects, focusing on the narrative and creative projects.
Are you involved in the funding process?
How do you come up with a camera budget?
Working with a Cinematographer
Alrik and Timothy get into the nitty gritty of working with a cinematographer. Here are some of the subjects they covered.
Does a director need to know lenses?
How does Jason like to work?
How do you prefer to approach shot lists?
Do you always need one?
What about Storyboards?
After the recording, Jason sent over a breakdown of shot lists from the magazine ‘American Cinematographer’, here’s what he sent.
From an article written by Jim Hemphill, the quote shown is from Cinematographer Danny Mixer.
What does Jason think of getting coverage?
Alrik saw Atomic Blonde over the weekend and was inspired to make sure to have at least two sytlistic sequences in his film, does Jason think about sequences when prepping a film?
How Many Shoot Days for a 90min Feature?
We take a classic movie and talk about how many days we want to shoot it. We use Reservoir Dogs as an example, which was actually shot in 35 days (we were pretty close).
How many days we’d want versus what we will get…
Advice for Aspiring Cinematographers?
Listen to find out!
How to Find Jason
You can find all of Jason’s work at his website below and on his Instagram page. Sorry, no FB or Twitter for Jason (boo!).
Make a damn movie! Your first movie doesn’t have to be the alternate or spirit machine or whatever, write around your limitations, to make a movie that can showcase your skills, talents, and tell a story.
Guys… I’m not gonna lie, I’m getting a little frustrated.
Tarantino didn’t start with Reservoir Dogs, he made a terrible movie called My Best Friend’s Birthday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6MUbRZSg80 So your first movie might be terrible, but it doesn’t mean your second movie has to be.
Make a damn movie guys! It ain’t hard.
Plus: How Much Should You Get Paid as a Professional?
How do you decide how much you are worth? What should you get paid when you’re first starting out? How much can you eventually make? We discuss all this and more.
After two years of podcasting, Alrik and Timothy finally get into details about how they became working professionals. We talk about how we got our start after graduating and the steps we took to get to where we are now. Plus we respond to the Filmmaking Sucks Podcast about what it means to be a professional.
Hey, guess what? Alrik and Timothy just worked together for the second time this year. Alrik produced and Timothy directed a four day shoot. It was the biggest commercial for both of them.Keep a look out for this commercial campaign in August. We will be sending it out.We talk about the pros and cons of commercial work and whether or not we’d do it again.
Working Professional vs Hobbyist
Back in episode 104 we had listeners dial in, one of those was Lindsay Serrano, a filmmaker from New York who also has a podcast called “Filmmaking Sucks” with Manny Serrano. A few episodes ago, Lindsay and Manny talked about MMIH and we had to respond to a few things they said.
First of all, we may be professionals on paper but we don’t feel like it. We share more in common with Lindsay and Manny than we do with anyone in Hollywood. But point taken, we do work professionally. How does that help us? How does that hurt us? We discuss how being a professional is holding us back and what it means to be a professional. We also point out how the way we work as professionals is no different than being a hobbyist.
Timothy points out that a big hurdle for us to think in microbudget terms is that the crew we have access to costs a certain rate and getting them to work for little to no money is near impossible. The math of microbudget filmmaking for us costs more because of our contacts.
But that’s not to say we can’t do it. Be sure to check out Alrik’s short “Cake” which he made with no money in a short amount of time as part of the Werner Herzog Master Class.
Becoming a Professional
We have two new listener reviews to share this week. One of them contains a question about how we got our start in filmmaking. We answer the question in detail. Thank you R.C. Gates for the question.
How Timothy got his start out of college
In 2000, Timothy graduated college and went directly to being a full time employee
When Timothy graduated he did not have a plan to get into filmmaking
After two and a half years of working for a sailboat company, Timothy found a job at Goodby Silverstein & Partners on Craiglist
And it wasn’t until 2005 until Timothy made his first short film out of college.
In 2006 he moved from facilities to the production department at Goodby Silverstein & Partners
For the first two years in the production department, Timothy was a one-man crew shooting, producing, editing and it wasn’t until 2009 that he got a chance to produce his first TV commercial
He stopped directing commercial projects between 2008-2015 and was only producing
In 2015 he started directing again with the Cisco spot we talked about on the podcast
Trying to get your acting career off the ground? This week we have actor Jackie Dallas on the show to talk about how she launched her career in the Bay Area and landed a role on Stranger Things. Plus, discussions on unions, finances and the challenges of being typecast. Listen to this episode now or visit iTunes to download it to your device.
Jackie Dallas is a full time actor living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here is what the internet has to say:
After going through medical school and working as a resident physician in New York and Chicago, Jackie Dallas decided to step away from her medical career to pursue her dream of acting. She started out as a background actress in random independent films and shorts before landing the role as the Yellow Ranger in a TV Pilot for a dark comedy ‘Power Rangers-like’ reboot Super Power Color Force. She then landed multiple supporting roles in Not Another Zombie Movie, City Council and starred as the lead Pamela in the dark psychological thriller Catching Broken Glass. Her recent work includes a dystopian mini-series Minutes After Midnight, a sexy short horror film Girls On The River and a supporting role in Netflix Stranger Things. Jackie has worked across the nation in cities including New York City, Miami, Chicago and now currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California and pursues acting full time.
You had a career in the medical field, why did you leave it behind?
What drove you to leave your job to become an actor.
What steps did you take to make it happen?
Acting in the San Francisco Bay Area
Why do you think getting started acting in San Francisco is better than going straight to LA?
How do you manage to work full time as an actor, what kinds of jobs are you getting?
How often do you travel for jobs?
Getting The Role on Stranger Things
How did you land the role on Stranger Things?
Was it a difficult process?
Do you still go on auditions for shows based in Atlanta?
Being Typecast Based On Your Ethnicity
What kind of struggles have you faced as a Korean-American Actor?
What do you do when you are asked to play towards a certain stereotype?
What do you think needs to happen to make a change in the industry?
If you want to get in touch with Jackie or see more of her work, check out these links below!
Want to figure out how to get your movie sold, raise the funds or figure out how the movie is going to get seen? This week we have producer/sales rep Ben Yennie on the show to talk over all things film business. We start out talking about AFM, how Ben got the moniker ‘The Guerrilla Rep’ and then dive into everything business! Listen to this episode now or visit iTunes to download it to your device.
Ben Yennie is a producers/sales rep, author, entrepreneur and overall film business pro and has been working in these areas for the last 10 years. Here is what the internet has to say:
As Founder and CEO of Guerrilla Rep Media, where I’ve gotten distribution deals for more than 8 films, that will soon be appearing on Starz and other major outlets across the globe. Ben is also the Founder and Executive Director of Producer Foundry, as well as Producer of more than 50 events on film finance and distribution. Hes worked with people like Lew Horowitz, the inventor of Indiefilm Gap Financing, Jeff Dowd, Exxecutive Producer of Blood Simple, Fern Gully, and inspiration for “The Dude” from the Big Lebowski. Ben co-Founded Global Film Ventures, screened business plans and advised the Film Angels and is the former chapter leader for the San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Vancouver Chapters of the Institute for International Film Financing.
AFM – Should We Go?
Who is AFM for, who should go?
What should you expect out of your first AFM experience?
If you were in our position, would you go?
LOI’s, what’s the deal with these, are they even useful?
Are Films Good Investments?
So it’s very hard to find investors for films, why is that?
Are films good investments?
What kind of value can you expect to get out of a film investment?
What should film investors be thinking about when investing in film?
What Kinds of Films Should We Be Making?
What kinds of films are selling these days?
Is Horror still a top genre?
Is Sci-Fi still as hot as it seems?
What is the top selling genre right now, what movies should we be making?
If you have a movie that you are looking to sell and you want Ben to be your Sales Rep, send it his way! Also check out his books on AFM, Film Marketing and much much more!
For years, Steven Bernstein was the go-to DP for big budget comedies like Half Baked, The Waterboy, and White Chicks. Then he shot ‘Monster’ with Patty Jenkins which inspired him to get back into writing and directing his own films. Listen to this episode now or visit iTunes to download it to your device.
Steven Bernstein is a writer, director and cinematographer, best known for his work as DP on a huge range of films. After years of being the go-to guy for comedies, Steve finally opted for a change and was hired to shoot ‘Monster’ for Patty Jenkins which inspired him to pursue his own passion as a writer and director. His feature film debut as director is ‘Decoding Annie Parker.’
It’s immediately clear when talking to Steve that big budget comedies are not a natural fit. So why exactly did Steve spend so much of his career shooting broad comedies?
When you first start out you assume you can jump backwards and forward but what happens is you become known for doing something well and you become a safe pair of hands. So much of your early career, he says, is based on arbitrary decisions you make.
After years and years of big budget comedies, how did Steve break the cycle and shoot ‘Monster’? It all started while Steve was shooting 2nd Unit Action on S.W.A.T. and thought “I have everything I’ve ever wanted, but I’m not happy.” He says he wanted to jump off the 3rd Street bridge. With the permission of the producers, he left the film and was hired to shoot ‘Monster.’
Bottom line is that as a filmmaker we often have to choose between passion and money. If you only follow one, the other gets pushed to the wayside. On top of that, making the right decision is even harder to do when 9 out of 10 people are lying to you. Alrik asks how we navigate our careers knowing that people may be lying to us.
Should We All Move to Los Angeles?
What’s Steve’s opinion on living in LA to pursue a career in film vs living somewhere else? He says the important thing to have is a production team around you. And if you care about films you need creative stimulation that are oblique and the problem is that everyone in Los Angeles shares the same stimuli. Having said that, you have to weigh the pros of being in Los Angeles like access to a lot of actors and crews, giving you options and allowing you to find the best person for your project.
Getting Name Actors In Your Films
One of the problems Alrik and I have is reaching name actors for our films but Steve says it’s easy: write something good and important. Actors want to be in good films and prove their skills as an artist so if you have great material, actors will say yes.
Sure, but we don’t have an agent or manager, how do we do it once we have that great script? Steve says the key is to get your funding first, then hire a casting director to reach out and book actors.
Lessons from an Experienced DP, Writer and Director
Steve shares some of the lessons he learned from shooting movies including “The atmosphere you engender on set invariably ends up on screen” This works for both comedies and dramas. Timothy asks about working on a comedy set and if things are funny during the shoot, do they translate to comedy in the finished piece? Steve says that in his experience, no, and the same goes for drama. If an actor gives an impassioned performance and the director is crying and the script supervisor is crying, then it’s probably too big, so you have to distance yourself from the situation and evaluate a performance in context of all the pieces.
And we spend a little time talking about what makes for good comedy and for good stories. It boils down to one word: Truth
Steve’s Financing Model
Then we get back to Steve’s model for getting a film made with the actors you want. Traditional fundraising models are contingent on getting the right actor. Steve’s model disregards the actor and secures the money first. Get the money so when you contact agents you can say you have the money and a shoot date. A real offer means actors will read your script and take it seriously, and they would rather work on good material for a little money than not be working at all.
But Wait, How Do You Get Money Without Actors?
You need to convince investors that if you try and secure actors now, you will pay too much. Steve told his investors, that by getting the money first and approaching actors after the funds are raised and shoot dates are set, the movie will get the actors they want, and not just the actors you need. It puts the investors in a position of power. It flips the model. Investors come in on a the movie with a list of actors you want to get and you tell them that with their money you will go to a casting director and access people on this list. The money goes into an ESCROW account and will only be released if you secure one of the actors on that list.
The best thing about this model, he says, is that the investors are not risking any money at all until you secure an actor from the list they agreed to. But it works better than the traditional model because with money you now have negotiating power.
So you get a name actor, will they come prepared? Will they put the work in? What can we expect?
We talk characters vs outlines and the danger of outlining your screenplay.
It’s also important to have a script you believe in and have a vision for. You need to be able to communicate that vision.
If you like what Steve has to say, try one of his on-line seminars. He’s currently offering seminars in screenwriting, directing, cinematography and more. Check out his website for more info: https://www.somebodystudios.com/seminars
What do stand-up comedy and filmmaking having in common? A lot actually. This week we delve into the world of comedy with David Roth and talk about advertising, finding your voice and the struggles of learning a new craft. Listen to this episode now or visit iTunes to download it to your device.
From the outside looking in, stand-up comedy looks like a dream. It costs nothing and you can practice it all the time. Wouldn’t it be great if we could practice our filmmaking at open mic nights? David Roth shares the last 3-years of his experience, from getting his start to finding his voice.
A Career in Advertising
David Roth worked for 8 years as a full-time copywriter including a stretch at Goodby a Silverstein & Partners where he worked with Timothy on a Modelo campaign. He now freelances in advertising but is working to divide his time so he can get more and more experience on stage.
The challenge of being in advertising, he says, is finding your voice because of the different layers of feedback coming from Creative Directors and Clients. And at the end of the day, advertising is not personal. It’s about writing for products. Timothy says he believes the same is true for commercial directors.
During an employee performance review, David’s boss told him “we know you can nail comedy but if you want to be a leader at this organization you need to be able to do all different kinds of ads” and that’s when David realized he didn’t want to do anything but be funny.
“Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t have to be emotional or smart, he just does funny”
So he quit full time advertising and took a class in stand up. He now works freelance and splits his time between advertising work and comedy. Keep a look out for David’s J.B. Smoove and Jim Gaffigan commercial.
Stand Up Comedy
David is currently performing 4-5 nights a week. He tells us about finding stage time and why San Francisco is a good place for him right now. In filmmaking, we’re often told that if we really want to do it we need to move to Los Angeles. Is New York the same for comedy? David tells us about the different reputations each city has and how San Francisco fits into it.
Believe it or not, Alrik has an interest in trying stand up. Does David think Alrik has a chance of being any good right out the gate?
Right now David is getting paid very little for stand up, (sometimes it’s only a half of a sandwich). So if it’s not about the money, what is it about? Well, it’s about finding yourself and finding your point of view. And being funny. The goal is to make people laugh. In filmmaking, we only get to practice our craft on occasion. David gets to practice every week. Can we apply that mentality to filmmaking and try to make a movie every month just to keep our skills honed? We break down the benefits of doing small projects but also the value of scaling up.
Finding your voice
Talk about a healthy goals, David is working towards a stage time and not worried about the money or fame. In short, he’s not worried about the results. He’s focused on the craft and figuring out who he is as a comedian. His biggest struggle is finding his voice. He’s got good jokes, but who is this character he’s playing on stage?
He’s currently going for the lovable loser, but is that working for him? He had a conversation with a friend last night who says it’s not and he should try something else. David admits there’s an inconsistency with his performance and that sometimes he’s crushing it and sometimes he’s failing hard. As he thinks about his point of view and how to perform his jokes we have a conversation about David’s real-life personality versus his stage personality and how he plans to make a decision about what his voice will be.
We apply the same philosophy to filmmaking. There’s the voice you want to be and then there’s the voice that’s true to you. The trick is finding that voice and building your skills onto it. But what is your voice and how do you find it? And is finding a voice a conscious or subconscious activity? How self aware do we need to be?
An insightful conversation with Rob Chester Smith about breaking in as an actor/writer in Los Angeles. Once you’ve reached your goal what do you do with the feeling “I got here, and now what?” Listen to this episode now or visit iTunes to download it to your device.
Rob is an actor and writer from Iowa that currently lives in Los Angeles. He’s been in a zillion commercials and his TV credits include the most recent episode of “This is Us.” His short film I Love You Dad (which Rob wrote and starred in) played at the American Pavilion in Cannes & Rob and Valentyna in Scotland played at Sundance (Rob co-wrote and acted in this one). And let’s not forget Timothy’s short film Man’s Best Friend.
A Breaking-In Story
Rob shares his journey from small town Iowa, to Northwestern University, to Chicago and finally Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting and writing. He moved to Los Angeles when he was 29 years old and kickstarted his career with two things: a role in a Mitsubishi commercial and a recommendation from a friend for representation.
But moving to LA wasn’t an easy decision. Rob hesitated to leave Chicago for many years until his future wife forced the decision.
Next up: How do you get an agent? Rob tells us a few ways you can get a commercial agent and how it happened for him.
We talk about Rob’s mindset when he moved to Los Angeles and his hopes and dreams. His ideas of fame. His ideas of success. The magical thinking “that all you need is people to see you and that will be it.” Rob tells us the story of booking a pilot, getting an agent and manager, taking general meetings, and how it didn’t lead where thought it would.
An Actor’s Life
Rob spends 2/3 of his time Acting and 1/3 Writing. He’s currently writing for FX Movie Download. When he’s not working he spends time with his family.
Rob paints us a picture of his day-to-day life as an actor.
He has a Commercial agent, VO agent, and Theatrical agent.
He acts mostly in commercials and some TV.
How often does he go out for auditions?
What is the audition process like and what is Rob’s advice to actor’s out there?
How often does he get callbacks?
How often does he book a job?
We talk about the isolation of being an actor and writer and the biggest challenge of writing is writing.
“I Got Here, and Now What?”
You claw your way into one aspect of the industry and you have kind of made it where you wanted to be, but at the same time it doesn’t look the way you thought it would. Rob now feels that he’s reached a plateau in his career and he wonders what he’s doing. What’s the next mountain to climb?
“I don’t know anymore what my ideal thing would be.”
Is Rob having a midlife crisis? Alrik, of course, offers some optimistic words and tries to help Rob find his passion.
Is it inevitable that after a certain level of success and experience, everything turns into a job? Is there a way to avoid that? Is this feeling an indicator that something is wrong?
We ask a lot of questions in this section and maybe don’t have a lot of answers for you, but there are going to be a lot of you out there that will relate. Tell us your thoughts. Send us an email or contact us at one of the links below.