Buy n’ Return

There is a practice among reality television production and low budget production that seems to be growing that I want to address.

I call it the “Buy N’ Return.”

In this scenario, a production hasn’t thought through their creative needs enough to budget appropriately to get what they want on screen.

Instead of adapting the creative needs or finding more money, the production will send out folks to local businesses to buy items, unpack them, use them, and return them when done.  In essence, free prop or set dressing rentals.

Personally, I find this practice demeaning, and ultimately harmful to all of us.

It costs the store money, by having to resell said item at a lower price since it’s been opened.  That means the store owners, or commission based salespeople all have a little less money to spend on, oh, maybe cable? or maybe for the items being peddled on the television commercials (and when those companies have a drop in sales, they cut back their ad spending).

Beyond that, it’s simply dishonest; and it’s punishing other business owners and their employees for your own bad planning.

I’d encourage business owners in LA to adopt a “no sales to production without a 15% restocking fee” so that you can afford to keep buying the things that ultimately keep television content creators in business – and that is an audience that listens to marketing for products they can afford to buy.

Win-Win-Win, you know?

I Want to Work for the Goog.

Sometimes, a phone call is all it takes to feel the rush of excitement that accompanies innovative thinking, and people. The sense of exhilaration that accompanies people who are truly working on building something new, know it, and are busy trying to keep up with their creation.

That was the heart of a great phone call with someone at Google today.

In contrast to the phone calls we have every day with traditional television and film folks; those conversations are often dominated by risk aversion, and protectionism of our existing business models.

The difference in palpable enthusiasm (even in the face of acknowledged challenges) was noteworthy, and notable.

Goog, you and I are going to find a happy place one day.

Vimeo Video School – Choosing A Camera

Ahead of Produce This’ formal launch in January 2011 (by the end of the month, I promise!), I just found that Vimeo is putting out a series of videos called Video 101!

The things they’re featuring are a lot more basic than the stuff we’ll be covering in-depth on Produce This, so these are a great complement to the videos we’re making here, but their videos are a great introduction to some of the more basic, basics, as it were.


Video 101: Choosing a Camera from Vimeo Staff on Vimeo.

This is Real.

Anyone who doubts that the rise in online media will eventually mean dramatically lower value of cable and traditional television, wrap your head around this: In the 2nd Quarter of 2010, Cable and Pay TV lost over 200,000 subscribers. Today’s episode of theTVnews brings it home.

Where do you think that audience is going? And dollars (both advertising and subscription dollars) go where the audience goes.

Camera Assessment Series – the Results

Since I didn’t actually produce the entire physical camera test itself, and the PGA/ASC aren’t releasing the entire thing online (which was THE primary reason I volunteered 3 years ago – was that when we were done, everything would be open and accessible to the world online; it’s unfortunate that’s not what happened); I figured it’s time to share the media I did produce, and to give my personal opinion of the test results.

Here’s a link to the Behind The Scenes media.

I was fortunate enough to have the time to spend in most of the original Digital Intermediate color-grading sessions at Laser Pacific, and I want to qualify this by stating that I am not a Cinematographer. I am a storyteller.

So as a storyteller, my take away from this entire experiment was USE WHATEVER CAMERA YOU WANT AND/OR HAVE ACCESS TO.

The simple fact is that if you do a little bit of testing with whatever you have, and you can control lighting and compose your shots in a way that elicit the emotion you want the scene to carry; you can create great media with pretty much any piece of equipment in the world.

However, there are cinemaphiles out there, just like there are audiophiles; a small segment of the population that cares a great deal about every nuance of an image. In that group of people, there were winners and losers in the camera test.

My personal favorite in the test was actually the Arri D-21 from an image standpoint, and the Panavision Genesis from a workflow standpoint.

While cinemaphiles can (and did) argue ad nauseum about the advantages and disadvantages of each camera system, the clearest take away was that whatever you happen to have to shoot with (for all of us out there are curious about these cameras not because we’re going to use them, but because we like dreaming about it); learn it’s latitude, and expose it properly.

Proper shot composition is a bonus, and I’ll send you a cookie in the mail if you skip that Dutch angle shot you were thinking about.

The cameras that were included in the test were included because they all recorded full 4:4:4 in 2k resolution or higher.

The bottom line really was that out of all these cameras, they were ALL completely competent to shoot anything you want to shoot. Some practical considerations must be made for the cameras that need to be tethered to a record deck (like you can’t really put that on a Steadicam very well), but in terms of picture rendition, there were all good.

I’d rather leave my opinion kind of open ended, because I’ve actually delivered and sold to market two films, both of which were originated on 3.9mb/s MiniDV. And we were still able to deliver a full set of standard deliverables for a non-theatrical release. Before that, I delivered one originated on MiniDV and filmed out, and it looked great.

It really, really, really depends on how good your DP is with the camera. How well they know the limits, and what kind of time/money and labor resources they have at their disposal to keep the camera within those limits.

As new cameras are introduced almost every week it seems, all I can say is this – if you decide to shoot something where the look is really important to you, test, test, test your cameras AND your post workflow before you begin shooting. That’s the only way you’ll find out if you can get what you want out of the tools you have.

Blast from the Past

We worked hard on a rather expensive reality show we shot in the UK a few years back.  Here’s the behind-the-scenes video I shot and edited somewhere along the ride while line producing the show.

[wpvideo GMhA8nBs w=640]

Principles of Production

As the New Year gets off the ground, it’s time to codify some things that have been kicking around in my head for a bit. I’d love to hear some feedback from the net community about these, and hope they are a living document.

This is a set of principles that I commit to conduct my own business by; after years of being in places where people are not treated appropriately.

Production Principles

I believe that how you do business, is as important as how well you do business.

For that reason, I work hard to adhere to a basic set of principles in every aspect of what I do; because media production is an often difficult and messy process, and it doesn’t have to be.

  1. I believe everyone that contributes to the production should be respected.

    I commit to respecting our teams by being fair in our compensation, and in work schedules.

    I commit to respecting our teams by making sure that I have done as much creative preparation as possible, and clearly communicating the creative objectives to all team members in a timely manner.

    I commit to respecting our teams by giving our them the appropriate resources they need to execute a successful production.

  2. I believe that deals are made to stand by, not break.

    I commit to sticking to agreements made with vendors and freelancers.

    My word means a lot to me, I give it with full acknowledgment of the commitment I make, and expect members of the production team to deliver on their commitments as well.

  3. I believe in surrounding ourselves with people smarter than I am.

    I commit to hiring excellence. I recognize that production encompasses many specialized talents, and strive to hire individuals who know their specialties well, and have a work ethic that enables outstanding production.

  4. I pay production employees, vendors, and contractors on time.

    I believe that not only is this the right thing to do, it often results in directly lower costs of production.

  5. I believe in standing up for what’s right.

    I commit to zero tolerance of bullying, mistreating, and generally crapping upon of any of our production team members.

    If it’s a problem within any departments, or even with our executive team, we give our team members full permission to help us find constructive solutions.

I hope that 2010 gives us all more opportunities to do our work in ways that honor good principles of production.