Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Does anyone read these?

As I am new to this blogging thing, I thought I'd throw out a question:
How do you know if anyone is reading your blog?
I'd hate to think I am wasting my time here, but as there are thusfar no comments, I have to assume that no one even knows I am here.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Editing Agent Emes

editing here refers to film editing, and not the censorship I sometimes have to engage in to keep our many observant Jewish fans happy. But that is a discussion for another time.

There is something very empowering in this day and age, when it is possible to edit an entire movie in the comfort of your own home, sitting at your own computer. It is an enjoyable challenge to put the footage together like a jigsaw puzzle, then trim the pieces to create the tightest, most effective cut possible.

What many don't realize, however, is that before we get to the edit, we have to feed all the footage into the computer in a process called "capturing". I capture just about every take - except for the obviously bad ones - so I have as much as possible to choose from in editing. This process is tedious and time-consuming and very UNglamorous. On production that actually have a budget to work with (unlike ours), there are usually one or more assistant editors who take care of this part of the process. Not so on Agent Emes, where we keep all expenses to a bare minimum.

There is a very cool recent technological development whereby it is now possible to shoot all the video footage not on tape, but straight to a hard drive. The advantage is so obvious, that I believe soon almost everyone will be doing it. The takes are all there ready to be transfered to your computer and worked on immediately.

If and when (G-d willing) I have a chance to upgrade my camera package (which is really pathetic at this point) I will try to procure a system that includes hard drive capture capabilities.

I must be boring the reader, because I know I am boring myself.

In short - today I edited... sort of. What I really did was capture.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The last 3 days

We just did 3 straight days of intensive shooting.
On Sunday, May 21, a group of Sholom Ber's classmates met us behind a local school and we filmed a fun basketball scene. The weather in Shpittsburgh was quite rainy last week (although the past 2 days have been beautiful) and Sunday morning was cloudy and drizzy too. Just when we were about to call of the filming, the sun came out, so we ended up with a great afternoon for filming.

In truth, it was almost too sunny. If the sun is out and shining brightly, it casts very hard shadows and it is difficult to get a good video picture. You are almost better off with an overcast day - which usually results in a better overall picture. There are ways to cut down the effects of the sun, but a very small crew (just me and another guy named Adam), and a very low budget (we couldn't afford to rent the huge silk diffussion we would need to cut the sunlight) we just did the best we could.

At any rate, the kids gave us three hours of their time after school, and were patient throughout, although we did have to coral them occasionally when they got out of hand. Compared to what it was like to film with mostly the same kids for the first Agent Emes (3 summers ago!!!) I'd say it was a vast improvement.

The whole day took about four hours. We still have to go back with Sholom Ber to pick up some shots we didn't have a chance to get. He was really funny in the basketball scenes.

The next morning, Reuven Russell, the very talented actor/performer/chassid who plays "Betzalel", the leader of "Tov Me'od" Headquarters, flew in from New York. We spent the past two days filming seven pages of the script that involved him. The first day we shot in front of a green screen. This is a device that allows you to extract the performers (or whatever your subject is) and plant them in front of a different background of your choosing. Lighting the green screen, an actual 12 foot high and wide piece of green cloth, takes experience, so I brought in Doug S. a guy who has worked on previous AE episodes. He is very knowledgeable, and we got some good stuff. This scene will also be very funny.

The shoot was in the broadcast studio at Chatham College, which is housed in one of famed industrialist Andrew Mellon's former homes. It is a huge building, and they built this studio where Mellon used to have his own personal bowling alley.

Yesterday we moved upstairs to a fancy oak wood room in the Mellon home, and used it for a couple of sets in Tov Me'od. We tried to re-capture the lighting effect we have seen previously in the AE/Betzalel exchanges. One of hte scenes we did happens to have been the conclusion of the upcoming epsiode. There will be BIG SURPRISES in this scene, but I'm not telling what they are.

We finished up last night at around 12 AM, after which I drove Betzalel to a hotel near the airport where he had a very early plane back to NY this morning.

Now I have to go home and see my wife and kids. Ta ta for now. We want Moshiach now!

A director's diary

A lot of rumors are flying around about the current status of Agent Emes - so I thought it best to put the main one to rest: There WILL be an Agent Emes #5 (G-d willing). The series is not over.

We have already filmed roughly half of the 50 page script, and expect that most of the principal photography will be completed by the end of June. It has to be, because Sholom Ber (the kid who plays Agent E) is going to camp on the 27th.

Another thing I can tell everyone is that as the series creator, number five will be, by far, the best episode we have done yet. There will be a ton of action and comedy, and almost every scene holds a different surprise designed to delight the kids and amuse the adults.

Episode number five will also have lots of MUSIC. Some of you may have seen the video we posted after Sholom Ber's bar mitzvah this past January, when he sang a couple of songs. Well we plan to feature him even more in the upcoming episode.