Monday, May 31, 2010

Staying Fluid (and A Pair of Short Reviews)

One of the first things we learned about shooting movies was the importance of keeping things fluid. Being able to adapt to situations and react to unexpected surprises are key factors in successful production. If it snows, shovel. If the camera can’t pick up anything in the parking garage, move the scene. If you lose all your audio because it was too windy, rebuild it in the studio. If a key player doesn’t show up because he was too hung over, recast him.

If you weekend plan to shoot a short falls through, know that you will get to it soon.

Also, if you plan to watch Sin Nombre and don’t quite get around to it, don’t stress too much because at least you might have watched an unofficial Australian double-header in The Road and Daybreakers instead. Speaking of which, I watched The Road and Daybreakers last night.

We started with The Road and I’m glad because it was an extremely visceral and engulfing movie, one filled with equal parts dread and hopelessness that would have stayed with me long into the night if I hadn’t scrubbed some of it away before gong to bed. The film was extremely impressive; the story of The Man and The Boy (the evermore dependable Viggo Mortensen and relative newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee) and the lengths they must go to in order to find food, shelter, water, and warmth (not to mention hope and catharsis) as they struggle to reach The Shore through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. While beautifully filmed in a drab pallet of browns and greys, it is a difficult movie to watch, building a steady sense of defeat as the characters wander through an existing that rarely surpasses futility, but one that is almost reaffirming in the end. Garrett Dillahunt turns in a solid performance early on and a nearly unrecognizable Robert Duvall and Guy Perce show up later as well.

On a small side note, Guy Pearce has always impressed me as an actor, but his choice to play a small role in this (probably through his existing relationship with director John Hillcoat, who also directed Pearce’s much more substantial role in the equally visceral The Proposition) and an equally brief part in The Hurt Locker really shows that he is more interested in good stories and roles than good publicity and pay cheques.

Daybreakers is a whole different experience. Written, directed, produced, and special effected by Australia’s Spierig Brothers, it is a fairly unique turn on the classic vampire story featuring decent performances by Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill. With some solid action pieces, decent, if somewhat campy performances, and a unique do-it-yourself approach, the film tells the story about a society in the not-too-distant future where vampires have moved to the top of the food chain and humans have become an endangered species. Naturally this presents some problems and the Spierig’s spin an entertaining yarn that is just different enough from its predecessors to feel fresh. Of course, this should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen their previous feature Undead, the self-funded zombie/alien invasion hybrid that first put the Spierigs on the map.

So I learned this weekend that shooting a film and watching a film require similar levels of fluidity and improvisation. I also learned that The Road and Daybreakers are both worth your time for very different reasons, as are The Proposition (written by Nick Cave) and Undead.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Catching UP

So, I've been pretty much way behind on my movie watching lately. I managed to see Iron Man 2 in the theatre and was pleased with the result, but that was my first cinema experience since probably way back when I went to see The Hurt Locker at the North Bay Film Club. I've caught a few movies at home, but it seemed like there was a long list of films out there that I have been dying to see and for whatever reason, never quite able to get around to.

Last night for example, I finally watched Up and while it was long overdue, it was also definitely worth the wait. There is something about Pixar films that puts them a step above just about everything else out there. It is a rare occassion that I will find myself smiling through an entire movie, but last night, aside from the few times I actually cried instead, I found myself doing just that. The world is a better place for having Pixar in it.

I also caught Sherlock Holmes the other day, part of my unofficial catching up with Robert Downey Junior month I guess. It was a fun movie as well and I was most impressed with the period detail that achieved with Victorian London. Back when Pat and I were first working on The Gloaming, he wanted some reference ideas for his portrayal of Bristol. I provided him with some photos I had taken, but Bristol today is different than the Bristol of our story where they were just setting out to build the Clifton Suspension Bridge. I wound up lending him From Hell, and wile it did the trick, there is definitely a more fitting detail in Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps this is a sign that we should get started on the second volume of The Gloaming?

I can't recommend Up enough and I am happy to be easing myself back into film spectatorship as well as production. It sort of goes without saying that you can't have one without the other. Anyway, I've got a few others on the docket for the next few days and am particularly looking forward to Sin Nombre. I'll let you know how it goes.

And as always, check back soon for more news. I think something might be going down tomorrow. I just have to check with my partner in crime. It seems like a good idea though, although it always does seem like a good idea! See you soon...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Quick Note About New Pages

Hello again,

Sadly, this is just going to be a brief post about some new additions we have made to this page. As many of you will have noticed already, there is a link to our Twitter feed in the column to the right. Straight above, just below the Somerset Production masthead, you will also find new section about our first two "Somerset" Productions About The Girl and The Lake. These areas will provide you with a brief backgrounder on each project as well as their posters, including this brand new version for The Lake.

Sadly, no news on new productions, but there will be some coming shortly. We promise.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Quick IMDB Update

Just a quick update to let you know that our IMDB page for The Lake is now more fully fleshed out. Just a few things to add from our end, and a couple to subtract, but it is looking good so far. Check it out over at:

Of course, there is the small issue of double Patrick Gilberts and the wrong Ed Regan (ours, I'm pretty sure, did not work on Iron Man).

I'll be back soon with more exciting news!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Future of Film Making?

I first heard about this a little over a month ago, but last night, the season finale of House aired...and it was shot entirely on a digital SLR camera - the Canon 5D Mark II. It's almost hard to fathom, but a high profile, internationally recognized television show has actually accomplished something that would have been unimaginable even a year ago. As recently as ten years ago, digital cameras were still new and gimmicky, big clunky boxes with 0.75" view screens that would capture your memories in 1.2 megapixel glory and cost you almost $1,000 to purchase. My first digital camera was a sleek little Casio Exilim that shot at 3.2 megapixels and cost me almost $700. I am now onto my fifth consumer grade digital camera in an era where you can find a 14 megapixel camera for under $100.

The thing that excites me most about this episode of House (find more details on the equipment, lenses, memory, etc. here) is that Pat recently picked up the Canon EOS 7D, a sister camera that shares many of the same capabilities of the 5D (including stunning HD video). We are looking forward to playing around with it in the very near future and have hatched a series of shorts to play around with before we settle into our next "official" production. We are in fact, hoping to shoot something this week, so there should be something new for you to see before too long.

Anyway, it's a pretty exciting development in our world of no-budget film making, and one that I am looking forward to diving into head first in the very near future. In the meantime, here is a preview to last night's Season Six finale of House. It was a breath taking accomplishment and I found myself truly appreciating a show that I have always passively enjoyed. Well done to everyone on the House team.

Sneak Peak - House Season 6 Finale

Friday, May 14, 2010

Welcoming The Lake to IMDB

So, we have actually made the transition into legitimate film makers, if that's what your own page on IMDB (the Internet Movie DataBase) means. Still, it's official, and it's my first listing (although they should be adding a writing credit before too long, and a credit to Pat for the cinematography). Kind of a cool day and for those of you wondering what 312% more popular has meant over the past few days, now you know. Let's see how high we can take it!

To check it out yourself, head over to IMDB. Check back often as the credits pile up and stay tuned for more new developments.

The Origin of "The Lake"

As some of you already know, The Lake started off as a short story that I wrote in high school. It was a loose idea that took some finagling to refine into its current cinematic state. Having revisited it to write the script, I found myself cringing at my adolescent efforts, but for the sake of posterity and the annals of time, I present to you the original (and unedited) basis of The Lake, a short story written by an shy and inexperienced adolescent who was trying to figure out what love meant, without having any practical experience. I think I may have posted it here before, but I do so again now for the sake of those who are curious. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:


A most righteous event has occurred. My good friend M has finally obtained his life's goal; true love. That's right, he recently met the girl of his dreams. The ultimate prize and yet the ultimate price to pay.

M had always been a pretty happy guy though he often told me how he often felt completely alone. I personally believe it had something to do with his struggles in the Questings of Love. He had always wanted a woman whom he could love and cherish and yet, as with most nice guys, he often fell short. Sure, he had his share of lovers but in them (or perhaps himself), he always found something missing, something wrong. M's big problem was that he was never happy with what he had. For him, half the fun was wondering how SHE felt. He spent his nights lying awake in bed wondering if his current "dream girl" liked him or if it was a one sided delusion.

"Sure," he once admitted, "it's agonizing but I enjoy the curiosity. Once I get them, the fun is all gone."

M would often meet great women; beautiful, funny and highly personable yet he would always find some fault. "I don't like her laugh," he would confide in me, "it annoys me. I just don't think we're going to work out." There was always something wrong with M's girls; usually, it was another girl.

"I don't know why but there is always the one I dream of, my Ms. Right but they never happen. It is a depressingly endless cycle. I don't know why I can't be happy, I just can't."

Now don't get me wrong, as I mentioned before, M is of a generally cheerful disposition. I have known him for just over four years and in that time the only sadness was caused by rejections by his "dream girls".

I remember one occasion quite vividly. It was a summer romance (or so he thought) and when it went bad, he took it to heart. He had loved that girl a lot. Who could blame him though, she was small, beautiful, well built and fun. They spent a lot of time together developing a beautiful relationship and when he finally had enough courage to ask her out, she backed off and became cold and distant. M was devastated but he managed to pull through. They are still friends, but things will never be the same.

She was one of the two girls he had ever loved. WAM! right in the heart. An icy arrow that clipped his wings, the Wings of Desire, and sent him crashing to the cold, rocky ground of reality.

He recovered, then he fell in love again. If he was crushed so badly the first time then why risk love again? He said it just 'happened' but I know better. M is a reckless guy and I believe that this was just another risk to take.

He walked up to me as carefree as can be and said, "I fell in love the other day, it was nice.

It was kind of weird and I wasn't sure if I could believe him or not. He told me how he had met a beautifully humorous blonde girl and described her as "the perfect compliment" I realized that he was very much in love and smiled as he described their meeting.

"It was a hot day," he began, a huge grin smeared across his face, "unlike any you have ever known," he continued, "because it was pleasantly hot. I met her on a beach you know. I was walking along with no real destination or thoughts, I was just sort of... walking. Being September, the beach was quite empty. Anyway," he announced, shaking his head as if to clear it, "I was walking along when I heard someone whispering my name. I looked about but there was no one to be seen. Isn't that strange? I remember looking out over the lake..." He paused to collect his thoughts and an even bigger smile passed over his features.

"The sun was setting so at first I saw nothing but the bright orange fear sinking into oblivion," he explained, "then I noticed a silhouette approaching me. She ran her fingers through her long golden hair and the closer she got, the more she came into focus. She's beautiful, really beautiful. More so than the spectacular sunset that had at first, framed her lovely form. She was completely naked and her hand was stretched out towards me. What was I supposed to do? I took it into mine and she looked deep into my eyes. She read me like a book as I looked helplessly into the chasms of her piercing green eyes. They were perfect, unlike any I had ever seen. She talked to me in a soothing voice, tranquil and mild yet full of power." M paused for a moment. "She wants me to return tonight and I want you to come."

I remember looking at M for a long time before agreeing to join him. We got our stuff together and went down to the beach. He chattered excitedly all the way there.

We walked along the sandy beach for a while then M stopped me. "This is the spot," he announced. Soon, as the sun was setting, a figure became visible in the orange glow. She was naked and her body gleamed enticingly in the soft light.

"Hello M," she purred in a voice smoother than silk.

My heart skipped a beat. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. More beautiful even than anyone I had ever dreamed of.

She held her hand out towards M and said one exotic word: "Come." M took her hand and followed her out into the lake. He didn't even look back. I never saw M or the mysterious woman again...

I now live in a small house down by the lake, not far from where M fell in love and in the end, paid the price. He gave his life for an eternity in ecstasy; a price any sane man would be glad to pay.

Every now and then I think I see two people walking out into the setting sun. Two lost souls swimming in a bright orange fishbowl. Year after year I see them and year after year I long to be with them; to know what love feels like with no inhibitions. I long to see through the charade and into the substance.

M suffered through his hardships and found his paradise. I fear he has left me behind on an endless search for ecstasy, not knowing that my paradise is already lost...

It is a different version of the story for sure, but the themes and undertone are the same... I hope you enjoyed it and I will see you all again soon.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

NOMFA 2010: Part Two - The Highlights

We received quick directions to a lounge upstairs where the pre-ceremony wine and cheese was scheduled to take place. Maybe it was because we were all ready feeling a little outgunned, but we decided to take an alternate entrance through a corridor lined with carrels and chairs that looked like it had been set up to fend off a zombie onslaught. Eventually we made it in and were able to meet some of the other nominees (and reunite with Kevin and Darlene). I started with Kris Ketonen and Ryan La Via, two of the writing nominees, and promptly called Kris ‘Ryan’ because I was trying to remember Ryan’s name as he wanted us to submit The Lake to a festival in Thunder Bay – sorry again Kris). Eventually, we were given the heads up that it was show time and the nominees made their way back downstairs for the awards ceremony.

My parents were good enough to save eight seats and we settled in for the ceremony, the nerves on full alert. There were 24 presentations and performances throughout the ceremony and we were slotted in at 4 (editing) and 8 (cinematography), so at least we would not have to wait long to get it over with. The rest of the evening proceeded in a series of highlights, so I will present them as such, starting with the first pleasant surprise:

We lost editing to Ben Bruhmuller’s stop motion award sweeper Vs., but won best cinematography and Pat went up to deliver a nice speech that opened along the lines of: “For those of you that I met last night, well I felt like puking then so you can imagine how this feels”. He went on to say what an honour it was, and to thank Kevin for directing and editing the piece, and Mike for writing such a great story. There was a secondary woo from the far side of the room at the mention of my name. Thank you.

Meeting former DGC President Alan Goluboff following the awards and having a great chat, up until he took a call about an impending birth in the family and I had to make my way over to a frantically motioning and hollering Kevin and Pat who…

…wanted to introduce me to Paul Stephens, who it turns out thought we had managed to secure Liev Schreiber for The Lake. That would be me. I have to say, that’s is a much better compliment than Will Ferrell, although when I mentioned that was the usually reaction, I got some good laughs.

The Nominees and VIP after party at Respect is Burning a unique and fun place where we had a chance to catch up and meet the other nominees (and indulge in a few too many drinks all around). As a writer/filmmaker/actor, it was great to be able to discuss how we do what we do with other people who are doing it (in many cases with more success and funding behind them as well), and also to discuss the similarities between the different forms of art with the incredibly talented musicians in attendance.

Special shout out to Faye Blais who made Jaymee’s night by giving her a CD, and who made mine by telling me how she and her friend had pointed me out earlier in the day as “that guy from The Lake”. It was a somewhat surreal experience to be noticed in that capacity.

To check out some of the nominees and winners, click the respective links:

Faye Blais Best Vocal Performance on a Recording (Canvas); Suzana Da Câmara Best Album by a duo or Group (Proof of Love), Best Songwriter Mike Dell, Randall Savoy & Suzana Da Camara (Il n'y a qu'un homme); Kalle Mattson nominees Best Album by a Duo or Group, Best Songwriter Kalle Wainio (A to Z); Cindy Doire Best Album by a Solo Artist (Chapeau de Pluie); Sarah Craig nominee Best Album by a Solo Artist (and winner last year for Best Songwriter), Larry Berrio nominee Best Vocal Performance on a Recording (Rocktown); .

It was another memorable event this year, and we were very excited to be able to take part in all the festivities and to connect with so many talented people. The north truly is a breeding ground for talented, artistic, and uniquely focussed individuals. Next year, I plan to take in the full event. Also, for those who are wondering how things are coming along with our current and future productions, here is a little something to get you excited. It's just a tease mind you:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NOMFA 2010: Part One - The Way There

I left North Bay a little later than planned, my belly churning with a stew of coffee, sleeplessness and half hatched chrysalises. The Lake was nominated for editing (Kevin Hoffman) and cinematography (Patrick Gilbert and Ed Regan) at the Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards and Pat had left for Sudbury the night before to present our film to a packed house, indulge in the musical showcase, and tie one on in a fury of networking. It was my job to get Jaymee and Nicole there in one piece, and join Pat in the remainder of the day’s activities.

By the time we passed through the not-as-moon-like-as-it-used-to-be dark rocked wilderness and into Sudbury, I had already heard about the warm reception The Lake received the night before; how I could rest assured that my mug looked “pretty good” on a 50 foot screen; how Thunder Bay wanted our film for their festival; and how we didn’t have a chance against the wealth of talent at the year’s event.

For two weeks I had been reminding Pat that our surprise win the year before (in a category that included an IMAX film) might be a sign that we did have a chance – even though we were definitely the untrained amateurs of the ball...

We arrived at the Comfort Inn and quickly chauffeured the ladies out to the mall before speeding back to the hotel for the final information seminar that we had planned to attend. It was a fairly full house and we sheepishly snuck in late and slid ourselves into a row of seats at the back of the room to listen to the CEO of the NOHFC and a pair of representatives from the Ontario Arts Council tell us about available funding. Bill Plumstead was also there, but the room was mostly filled with familiar (but not really at all familiar) faces. When the talks concluded, we moved to the lobby for some networking that resulted in a failed attempt by Pat to introduce himself to Paul Stephens, one of the producers of Oliver Sherman (a film starring Garret Dillahunt, Molly Parker and Donal Logue that Pat had done some art design on), and a successful attempt to introduce myself to Mark Palumbo (after two years).

We decided to head out once we realized that time was slowly slipping by and it would be time for the award ceremony before we knew it. That and the girls were hungry so we picked them up and went for dinner at Montana’s (where we had a brief chat with my parents who had come to see the awards again). Once the girls had been successfully sequestered in the hotel room, Pat and I took a quick jaunt back across town to grab some beer, then rushed back to the hotel.

We changed quickly, chugged a drink, and made it downstairs in time to catch the shuttle over to the university where the awards ceremony would be held in the Great Hall... It was show time and things were about to kick into overtime.

Make sure you come back tomorrow for the conclusion of our thrilling 2010 NOMFA Adventure!