Sunday, September 30, 2012


Recap of yesterday: We had the day off and did nothing.  Literally, nothing.  Well, to be fair, our director Johnny, producer Colin and I did go to two bars.  At the first one we did the old "walk in and immediately walk out" move.  There was a guy at the bar in a cowboy hat and sneakers.  Not really my scene, maaaaaaaaan.  Also, you can smoke in bars here, which is totally disgusting.  As those that know me will attest, I own a very limited wardrobe and I don't want my gear smelling like smoke.  The second bar was "better," but still only worth two pints.  I ordered a Guinness and the bartender tried to warn me against it because it isn't as cold as other beers.  Also, I ordered some wings and when they showed up we were all shocked by how large they were.  Remember what I said about the Carboniferous Period the other day?  Yeah, same thing. Anyway, we paid and politely left.

I'm going to keep this update short, because because.

So, today was our first day of shooting with our full crew and the local Tulsans (?) were telling many a story about what jerks the August: Osage County people have been to local film types that were trying to get work on that shoot.  Remember that guy from Die Hard that says, "Hans, bubby..."?  Apparently that's exactly what the their line producers are like.  In short, George "wait, you'd don't own a villa in Italy?" Clooney has struck again.  Way to alienate the locals, dickwad.  Also, there's a rumor that Benedict Cumberbatch has been talking mad smack about me, but to be fair, I may be the person that started that rumor.

Our day was awesome.  First full day with full crew and everyone nailed it.  The local crew kids are great.  They work hard and are willing and eager to learn what they don't know.  We started and wrapped on time and got what we needed.  Couldn't have been a better day.  Except...

The 788T.  Ugh.  Love of my life machine, why have you forsaken me?  Total trouble in paradise.  For the first time ever I had it freeze up on me during a take.  All was well, but when I hit record for a take mid-day it just crashed.  The time code stopped, the take didn't advance...nothing.  It wouldn't even power down.  We had to hold up shooting for ten minutes as I removed every single power source until it just finally ran out of juice.  Now, this particular 788T has been oddly temperamental since the night I had the soft key command problems with it, but this critical failure is completely out of the norm for the model and Sound Devices in general.  I'm going to call Gotham Sound tomorrow and ask Nick (if you ever need to rent sound gear in NYC, do it from Nick at Gotham Sound) if he has any idea what could be causing these ghost in the machine moments with a machine that is usually flawless.  Seriously, it's like finding out that your parents had been Nazi sympathizers.  Total let down in something you trusted.  On a similar note, I've finally experienced the only flaw I've ever heard about the Lectrosonics MM400c series transmitters: the on switch doesn't always work.  Sadly, the only way to fix it is to Arthur Fonazelli them - bang them on a table - to get them to work.  I guess nothing is perfect.  Except my winning smile, which never fails.

BTdubs, indie films run into the strangest problems.  We spent thirty minutes today trying to hide Julie's left nipple and almost an hour searching for a single piece of string.  No joke.

Ugh, tired.  Anyway, last note of the day is that we were all wrong: our G&E team, the Gill brothers, are neither identical nor fraternal twins and are just run of the mill, boring brothers.  But they are both Eagle Scouts, which is super cute.

Lastly, fuck you, Clooney and watch your back, Cumberbatch.  We're coming for you.

Here's the one set pic I took tonight.  It's our leads Johnny, Kerry and Julie (nipple not pictured) rehearsing with my pink-taped boom pole in the shot.  Yup.

Stay gold, Pony Boy.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Here's something you should know about me: I have smooth skin.  Dare I say "perfect" skin.  The kind of skin that a dress making serial killer would obsess over.  And yet - AND YET! - one of Tulsa's giant Carboniferous Period insects has injected me with some kind of venom that has caused my arm to swell up and take on a sandpaper-like texture.  Worker's comp, you say?  No, no, my friends.  This is an indie film and we're tougher than that.  Why would I share this with you?  Because it acts as a very forced segue (by definition, NOT actually a segue) to discuss an even greater personal irritant: Benedict Cumberbatch.  The Sherlock star is in town for the August: Osage County shoot and I must find him.  Cumberbatch has secrets.  He has secrets about the next series of Sherlock that he's not sharing with me (how the hell are they getting out of last series' cliffhanger?!!!!).  And I want them.  Much like the aforementioned serial killer would want my skin.  But I'm biding my time.  In fact, here's a picture of me biding my time, as I try to anticipate Cumberbatch's next move...

(Note to production managers: while the suit doesn't increase my day rate, it does add $50/day to my kit fee.)

Anyway, on to today's wrap-up of Home, James...

Today all came down to one thing: the technical ingenuity of Super Su.  Camera placement is one thing.  Camera placement on the outside of a 1984 Jeep Cherokee as it zips around Tulsa with the driver acting and directing is something else.  I applaud you, Super Su.  Here's are some of the rigging set-ups:

Keep in mind that this is a low budget indie on a night when we only had a skeleton crew.  Take that, Clooney, you pantywaist!  BTdubs, George "Forget the little people" Clooney, way to not credit your sound mixer on IMDB.  Asshole.

On the sound side of things, I had it fairly easy.  The shots always hid one side of the actors' faces, so I first tried to clip the lav mics onto their seat belt straps, which initially seemed like a perfectly acceptable idea.  Unfortunately, due to the amount of movement in the performance, there was way too much acoustic rustle.  So we pulled over, I stared at the actors for a few minutes (awkward!)  and ultimately decided to pull an old stage play move and just taped the lavs right onto their faces.  I used regular 3M medical tape, which is strangely adhesive given that it doesn't really hurt that bad when pulled off, and Bob was our uncle.  However, I have realized one fault with the Sound Device 788T.  While I still maintain that it's the most amazing piece of portable audio gear ever created, I'm not crazy about the "soft key" functions.  While crammed into the back seat of a moving car, it's way too easy to accidentally hit, say, the "stop" key and "forward" key at the same time and inadvertently advance a take number or disable a track routing.  Hopefully a new firmware update comes out that allows you to completely disable the soft key commands for hectic situations.  If anyone reading this knows a way to do that, I would greatly appreciate the info.  Or, I guess I could finally get around to reading the manual.

BTdubs, the portal to a different dimension seems to have closed .  No Godzilla bugs tonight.  Yus!!!  Just a beautiful Tulsa (New Hollywood) evening.

I would also like to thank noted Oklahoma superstar freak Wayne Coyne for lending us his hamster ball tonight.  We didn't need it for anything in particular, but it was still cool...

Tomorrow is a day off, so I may actually be able to take some time and finally figure out the numbering of these days, which I'm sure you're already sick of reading about.  And maybe fix the three (yes, I counted them [no I didn't]) grammatical mistakes I've made since starting this blog.  That doesn't count the one typo.  Night night!!!

Lastly, for the few people that actually read this for the audio info, I'm super curious about SD's new 664 field mixer/recorder.  It has more recordable tracks than the 788T and uses the same world clock TC generator.  However, it's way cheaper, which means there has to be something wrong with it that I'm not getting from the write-ups.  You can read SD's description here: SD 664 Field Mixer

Friday, September 28, 2012 S?: Home, James

I woke up this morning, from another terrifying nightmare, of course - this one didn't have the monkeys, but was actually more disturbing - and realized that this is the iPhone of blogs.  Not in the way that it's super functional, has revolutionized communication or has managed to stay somewhat hip despite being so mainstream, but in that I have numbered these days incorrectly.  Yeah, a guy who's job is largely about media management can't count.  Great, right?  But don't worry, you guys!  I can explain it all now...

Much like the new iPhone 5 should really be the iPhone 6 due to them skipping a number (why come there ain't no iPhone 2?) and then substituting two numbers with "S" for some reason, "DAY THREE: Home, James" is technically "DAY TWO: Home, James," but DAY THREE of me being in Tulsa.  DAY ONE, as marked, really should have been "DAY -1: Home, James," but because of a few too many blows to the head over the course of my life, I didn't think about that at the time.  It's okay.  I totally understand if you turn off your computer right now to go spend a week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers clearing your head.  Anyway...

Call time was 4:30am today...for Super Su.  I got to stay in bed.  This is mainly because, while sunrises look nice, they sound terrible.  Which is my radically novel way of saying it was MOS b-roll, so they didn't need me.  Pfft!  However, it did give me time to ponder why the track naming function on the 788T recorder doesn't seem to be working.  After extensive internet searches for trouble shooting this problem I still came up with nothing.  All I can figure is that it is a problem with the firmware update.  Couldn't possibly be me!  I'm going to run some more tests before this evening's call time (we're making a talkie!) to try and sort it out, but ultimately it's not that big of a deal.  I was only naming the tracks (ie: "James" "Cooper" vs "track 1" "track 2"...) as a nicety for the editor, but it's not worth going mental over.  Although, I do tend to get a certain amount of target fixation when it comes to things I've done a hundred times, but can't get to work suddenly.  Maybe if I yell at the machine louder it will start listening to me.

Here's a better picture of Super Su and our AC, Kali Laird, in the world's most dope camera car...which is also a total deathtrap, as I'm sure you can tell.  Um, let's maybe check the air in those tires, huh?

On a positive note (I'm well known for being positive), the spiders seem to have moved on from the yard, but this guy is back:

His name is Sodapop.  Not sure where Ponyboy and Darry are.

BTdubs, how the hell did never know this existed?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

more...DAY TWO: Home, James

The first day of principal photography for Home, James is wrapped, and we're all feeling good.  Except me.  Mainly because every single flying insect in Tulsa is currently dive bombing my computer screen as I write this.  Like, hundreds of them.  And they aren't small.  Land of the Lost type bugs.  Normally, Super Su sits outside with me to attract the annoying fuckers away from me (fact: biting insects prefer Asian people over us boring, old white dudes), but he's currently "checking today's dailies" or some lame excuse.  BTW, Super Su decided to wear a burkha today for some strange reason...


But seriously, shooting went well, despite a few brief rain showers.  We got what we needed/wanted, and it looks/sounds great.  I did, however, experi....holy shit, that spider's fucking huge!  Ahhhhhhh!  I want to kill all of these insects with fire.  Sorry, moving on...I did experience some strange RF hits on the wireless systems, which is weird because we were in the middle of nowhere, more or less.  My only guess is that those fuckers from August: Osage County are to blame.  Fuck you, Clooney!  It was only temporary, though and didn't cause any major problems.  The talent is great, the crew is great and our catering - the most important part of the day - was fantastic.  I give our first shoot day a solid A.  I would also like to thank the sweet old lady at the wig shop yesterday for covering my ass and selling me some "male grooming tape," which is genteel speak for "toupee tape," a super useful double-sided tape commonly used for securing lav mics...because I forgot mine in NYC.

I'm sorry.  I'm totally distracted by this guy, as he creeps ever closer to me...

Gonna leave you with two things:  The first is a picture of Super Su on his inaugural ride with the camera car.  The second is a short video proving that in Tulsa it's totally cool to suddenly pull over, set up a camera and start the parking lot of a strip club.  The dudes and "entertainers" walking in and out didn't even bat an eyelash.  New Hollywood indeed!

BTdubs, have I mentioned that I've been plagued for the past two nights by nightmares about genetically enhanced killer monkeys?  Stupid Dean Koontz book.


Putting the other spider to shame, this guy just showed up...


Here's a clip from one of the Fashion Police shoots I did recently durning Fashion Week.  In this one Joan interviews designer Chris Benz, Susan Sarandon and Vanessa Williams.

DAY TWO: Home, James


We all know that rain sucks.  Besides waging genocide against earthworms and causing all of that green stuff to grow (mold?  leafy mold?) it has an inherent property to it that is especially deadly to electronics: it's made of water.  Recorders, mixers and cameras don't particularly like water, but they're pretty easy to cover from our atmosphere's "Death from Above" campaign against us.  The real problem is microphones.  A long-tested technique for protecting shotgun/boom mics from rain dates back to soldiers crossing water with their rifles: put a condom on it.  Seriously, a regular, everyday condom.  Preferably non-lubricated, of course.  However, not all microphones were created equal.  Lavs in a condom are like a Tic Tac in a whale's mouth, and regardless of how awesome Lectrosonics' waterproof transmitters are, the elements in the mic itself can short out if they get wet.  Luckily, the nice people in the medical industry had some down time and thinktanked this problem extensively (hey, cancer will still be there in the morning).  Their solution...

Despite being kind of creepy, these will work to protect your smaller buddies from getting, um...wet.  Admittedly, they're a little noisy if you don't secure them well, but it's better than shorting out a mic mid-take, or, like, at all.

BTdubs, the people of Oklahoma are prepared for anything.  Example: in the EXTREMELY LIKELY case that the temperature dropped to -60F, you'd probably want to know, right?  Well, in Oklahoma, they will!  That bird might be fucked, though.

* ha!  Tip!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Still day one, but we just found out that there is a rival film shoot going on here in New Hollywood (Oklahoma's state senate recently declared that "Tulsa" was too boring of a name and almost unanimously - stupid Mike Mazzie - voted to change it).  Anyway, George "Go Screw Yourself, Indie Films" Clooney has set up shop here for the new big budget Meryl Streep vehicle August: Osage County.  This means one thing: a late night rumble between the two crews, Outsiders-Style.  No knives, no guns.  Let's do this one for Johnny!  Our director, Jonathan Rossetti, that is.  Not that twerp Macchio.

Finally, here's my chance to beat some next series of Sherlock spoilers out of Benedict Cumberbatch.  This town isn't big enough for the both of us...or something.
Home, James begins.

DAY 1:

So, it's begun.  I arrived in Tulsa, OK last night to start work on an independent feature film called Home, James.  Travel was a pain in the ass, as usual.  I've been flying out of JFK since my father was TWA's Chief Pilot there in the early '80s, and I can honestly say that I haven't had a single flight leave from there on time since about 1994.  However, after a very brisk walk through Dulles International I made my connecting flight and a few horribly turbulent hours later touched down in the dust bowl.

Tulsa is great.  For any history buffs out there, it was founded in 1967 by noted explorer S.E. Hinton and has many beautiful statues dedicated to its beloved first mayor, Matt Dillon.  Also, Sonic the Hedgehog is from here, apparently.  Or Sonic Burgers.  One or the other.  On the down side, beer here is 3.2%, which is, like, something from the Bible I think.  Our DP, the super talented George Su (henceforth referred to only as Super Su), thinks that's great because he can finally drink more than two beers without falling over drunk.  So, there's something here for everyone.

Anyway, despite some questionable weather forecasts, we're off to a great start.  All of our tech tests have gone swimmingly, except for the fact that the lockit box and slate didn't make it to Tulsa.  But because Dean Lee is such a great guy, not to mention LA's finest sound supervisor, he was nice enough to overnight it to us.  So, no worries.  Principal photography starts tomorrow, so more to come then.

More importantly, Super Su is super stoked with his camera car:

I'm sure that riding around the streets of Tulsa with a camera mount and a Korean guy in the flatbed of this dope ride won't draw attention at all...

Tech specs:
Camera: Red Scarlet
Recorder: SD 788T 
Wireless: Lectrosonics (of course) with those super dope MM400c waterproof transmitters. 

Also, is this not the cleanest (least beat up) Porta Brace you've ever seen?  I would 'effing eat out of that thing.

BTW, the squirrels here are super skinny and have red tails.  Neat!