In mid-2015 I was suffering from a crisis of success…rather, a crisis of lacking success. I had been in Hollywood for nine years working to achieve success in the industry and I felt like I had finally made it. I made a well-received first feature film for $6000 and been hired to direct my first real professional project: a series for Hulu. It had a real (though still small) budget, the project already had distribution on a major digital network and I was sure this was going to help launch me into the next phase of my career. I threw myself into it. I moved to Miami for seven months, I sacrificed more than I will publicly admit, and I wrapped the project feeling satisfied that I had met its demands and would be rewarded for it.Read More
When we released Layover back in 2014 we included a nearly 50 minute interview I did that goes through the process we took to make Layover for such a low amount of money. As its been two years and the sales of Layover have slowed to a trickle, I thought it was worth releasing to everyone.
So here it is, in 8 parts, the Layover Q&A!
Enjoy and let me know what you think!
Every time a company releases a new camera we find something to complain about. “There’s no 4k!” “It has 4K but it’s only 10-bit!” “There’s no swivel screen!” “It’s not full frame!”
Recently, Canon released the 6DmkII. It seems like a pretty awesome camera: $2000 gets you a full frame sensor, swivel screen, compatibility with its EF line of lenses, shoots 1080p video, etc. I’ve had the 6DmkI for three years now and would seriously consider updating if I had the cash. All in all, for an entry level full-frame camera, I’d recommend this to people.
But that didn’t stop people from finding something to whine about, did it? What grave error did Canon commit in releasing this camera?
It doesn’t shoot 4K.
Full disclosure here: I love Canon cameras and shoot with them all the time. On occasion, Canon lends me new cameras to test out and will pay me to attend workshops and give advice to people about using their cameras. They have not done this with respect to the 6DmkII or this article. I’m writing this article for my own reasons and it actually doesn’t have a lot to do with any one specific camera. Just to get that out of the way.
So, yes, the camera doesn’t shoot 4K and I read article after article complaining about this fact and it irritated me to the point that I ranted about it on Twitter.
Beyond the fact that people seem to want a high-end feature at low-end prices, my main question was this: Why do you care?
Why do you care that Canon didn’t include 4K with this camera? With so many other options available, why are you spending your time whining about it? Why does it bother you? Why are you even giving it the time of day?
I’m so fucking sick and tired of these resolution arguments. And I think you’re bad at what you do if that’s all you base your opinion on. First of all, while it may be “4K” it may be really terrible 4K (because it has to be compressed and that has much more of an effect on quality than resolution does). And second of all, if you’re worried about whether your movie, that you shot on an entry level DSLR camera, will be turned down by Netflix because it’s not in 4K, you’re probably putting the cart before the horse and should step back and re-evaluate everything.
If your film is good enough, Netflix will not care what the native resolution is. They won’t, because they’ll want the film. If the film isn’t any good, 4k won’t save you. (I know this because my second feature Be Somebody is on Netflix and it wasn’t shot in 4K.)
And that’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? “If I could only shoot in 4k my film would be better.” It won’t be. Resolution tends to have exactly zero effect on the quality of the film (especially since so few people in the US and around the world can actually view 4k content). You know what can have a profound effect on the quality of your film? A camera’s low-light sensitivity, which no one ever talks about because most cinematographers refuse to acknowledge that modern cameras can shoot well above 3200 ISO and maintain a near noiseless image. So, why does low-light sensitivity lead to better quality? Better low-light capabilities in a camra means less time lighting, which means more time shooting, which means more takes, which means better performances from your talent, which means better story and thus a better film. (I know, I’ve seen it first hand.)
Frankly, the easiest format to shoot in is 1080p. Pretty much any computer and editing system can handle it, you can easily color it in Resolve without the threat of crashes and you can scale up to 2k without a noticeable loss of quality. Because of all this, it is ultimately cheaper.
One of the ways I was able to do LAYOVER for $6000 was because I could do everything on my home computer. I didn’t have to rent an editing suite or buy expensive computers in order to handle the footage. I didn’t have to find an outside colorist in order to finish the footage. None of that cost me any money. So I was able to put the money into other places where it might have more impact.
Even though the C300mkII can shoot 4K I prefer to shoot in 2K because I can get a better bit-depth (2K/12-bit vs 4K/10-bit) which gives me more leeway in post and better color.
Eve Cohen, a fantastic cinematographer and collaborator of mine had this to say about it:
‘Cohen had reasons for choosing lower-res 2K technology, and they weren’t based just on budget constraints. She argued that when finishing the picture in post-production, 2K would provide more flexibility since it’s recording at a higher bit-depth and offers more subtly in the grayscale. Cohen says she generally prefers 2K for work that doesn’t require VFX. “I think the 2K 12-bit renders a better-quality image than the 4K 10-bit,” she notes.’
I also shot my third feature film NEGATIVE on the Canon C100mkII in 1080p. Why? Well, for the same reasons I did on LAYOVER. I knew I could personally handle the workflow which would cut on costs and give me greater control.
So, how does this apply to you? In all honestly, it doesn’t matter what camera you shoot on. In fact, you shouldn’t even really be worried about what camera you’re shooting on. Most of them, whether its 1080p or 8k, deliver a quality image. The ‘best’ camera is the one available to you to shoot your film without having to wait on anyone else. If you can get a RED or Alexa then fine, go for it. If you have a budget and can be testing the effect of 1970s Panchro lenses on a RED vs Alexa, good for you. I’m jealous. But many who have come before you didn’t find those cameras necessary or available. And that didn’t stop them.
Lena Dunham broke out with a film that was shot on the Canon 7D. Sean Baker shot TANGERINE on the iPhone. The team behind BELLFLOWER built their own.
So, now I’ll ask you: is shooting on 1080p stopping you from making something? Are you having to now go raise money to buy or rent a camera that can shoot 4k or 6k or 8k because you think your film will be lacking as a result? Again, you’re putting the cart before the horse.
You should be worried about your story and your characters because that’s something no camera can fix.
I wasn’t thinking that my first post on Medium would be about my writing schedule. I’ve long thought of “moving” Hollywood Bound and Down over from its present location on Blogger (where I never post anymore) to here but have been busy and it was always pushed to later. (I have no interested in migrating all my old posts though if someone knows how to easily do that it would be much appreciated).
That said, posting about my writing schedule seems a fitting start for what I hope to be many more post about the creative process behind filmmaking. Mostly, I’ve been trying to figure out what to say and the chaos of moving from Los Angeles to New York has finally given way to silence and reflection that makes figuring out what to say possible.
I’ve spent the last couple weeks trying to write and getting nowhere. I’ve half heartedly pecked at the keys or written longhand in a notebook while thinking about building things and the trail system I want to create around my house. I spent time researching and reading books for the project I was trying to write but I eventually realized I was just stalling.
I knew that I need to make change if I want to going to do this. I had been reading ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King (highly recommend if you haven’t read it) and, as I assume its supposed to do, it inspired me. There were several things I knew I needed to do beyond writing: get healthy with daily workouts, take my son to school, meditate (which I hadn’t done in a while), and enjoy my coffee on my deck listening to the wind in the trees (because if you have that available to you why wouldn’t do something like that?). To do all this and write and keep myself honest about it I needed a schedule. So I created one and I put it on every weekday in my calendar (I have a 3 1/2 year old and 4 acres of property, so weekends are playtime for both of us). And for the past two days (a small but significant accomplishment) I’ve stuck to it.
I feel healthier. I feel happier. Calmer and more at peace. And I think I’m doing some pretty good writing: twenty-one first draft pages on a new script.
Here’s my schedule:
6–6:15am: Wake up, drink water and eat a banana, throw on some clothes.
6:15–7:00am: Take my dog for a walk.
7–7:10am: Make coffee (french press).
7:10–7:20am: Meditate. I use Headspace on my phone. It’s amazing and I highly recommend it.
7:20–8am: Journal. I write about anything and everything. My dreams, how the previous day’s writing went, how I feel, whatever pops into my head. If I feel done, I sit on my deck and listen to the wind and drink my coffee until 8am rolls around.
8— 8:30am: Drive my son to school. Usually takes about 30 minutes.
8:30–9am: Cook and eat breakfast. While eating breakfast I do something most productivity experts say you shouldn’t do: I look at email, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Here’s why: I found that if I didn’t, I would spend my writing time thinking about looking at them and treating it like a reward. Instead, I just get it out of the way in about five minutes, save anything that requires a response for later and forget about it.
9am-12pm: Writing time. I close the door to my office, light a candle, turn on Freedom, which blocks all websites on my computer and apps on my phone, flip on whatever the writing soundtrack is that day and I dive in. I leave my iPad available in case I need to do quick research (it doesn’t have any social media apps or email on it), I have whatever materials around me that I need and I sit there and type. I blink once, an hour has passed; twice, another hour; and before I know it, it’s noon and I’m done for the day. So far, for the past two days, I’ve stopped at noon and haven’t felt the need to keep going. I suppose I could if I were on a roll but I’d honestly rather jot down what‘s next and save it for the following day as a head start (nothing better than knowing exactly what you need to do as you begin writing each day).
When writing a script I almost never outline. I have a simple beat sheet, I have lots of notes, but I’ve found I actually prefer the process of discovery. I don’t like having too much of it mapped out. Sometimes, instead of typing, I’ll write long hand in a notebook what it is I want to write. Something like:
“Okay, so at this point, Sandra has met Alex but we know she doesn’t like him. What’s going to change her mind? Oh, what if this happens…”
And I sort of write it and test it out in the notebook and if it feels good I’ll type it up. In a weird way, this feels easier to me than trying to write in script format. Instead, I make it a conversation with myself and this seems to lead to breakthroughs. Sometimes I’ll back and forth from notebook to computer throughout the writing time. Other times, I’ll write out the plot of the next ten pages in the notebook and then expand it in the script on my computer.
12–1pm: Workout. I don’t do anything crazy but I realized long ago that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t really for me so I try to do what I can. My wife built a home gym in our garage (because she is crazy) which excuses difficult and unconvincing.
1–2pm: Make and eat lunch. Usually, I’ll read a book while I’m eating. Non-fiction since, per Tim Ferris, I save fiction for the evenings.
2–5pm: This is my free time and almost never involves writing (though I can imagine using this time if I have multiple projects going on). I use it for errands, building things in my garage, working in the yard, chopping wood (one of my favorite things to do) or lounging around reading. I use it for my hobbies, which as I note below, lets the writing happen in the background while I focus on something else.
5pm: Pick up my son from school.
5:30–7pm: Prep, cook and eat dinner as a family. Always.
7–7:30pm: While my wife gets our son ready for bed I try to get dishes clean and put away. I hate it, it’s the worst thing having to clean up dishes after you cook but I’ve long ago realize that I hate a messy kitchen. So I soldier up and get it done.
8–10pm: Read a book, preferably fiction, or sometimes watch a movie or show. When we moved, my wife and I ditched cable (finally) and never looked back. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot but sometimes, if we’re into a show, we’ll watch that in bed on the iPad. I use to stay up later, sometimes till midnight, but getting up at 6am doesn’t allow for that, so I try to go bed at 10 and so far have made it happen. I also try to limit screen time to help with sleep which is why lately I’ve been reading more than watching.
Then I wake up and start all over again. It works for me because for the most part, my muse knows when to show up (9am — 12pm) and writing doesn’t consume my whole day (which is great when you’re on a roll and the worst thing ever if you’re not).
As we all know, everyone is different and I hardly expect this schedule to work for you but maybe the point is you need a schedule, whatever it is — some hard and fast times when you’re writing and when you’re not. And when you’re not, you need to stop and do something else. Find a hobby, get out of the house, do a sport, do something that let’s your mind move your writing from the foreground to the background, where it can do its work.
If you’re looking for more inspiration regarding a writing routine, I highly recommend Writing Routines and ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King.
Drop me a line if you have any questions.
I recently had the chance to test out and shoot a short film using the brand new Canon C700 and I posted my thoughts using the camera with guerilla style production over at NoFilmSchool.com. Give it a read and let me know what you think.
If an idea is shit but it was developed by a company internally, they'll do what they can to make it. If an idea is good but not great (but better than the internal idea) and it came from an outside source, the company won't have any interest or will look for reasons to not do it.
Your idea can't just be okay. It has to to be so good that a company is willing to overlook the fact that they didn't come up with it themselves. That's what you're up against.
As many of you know, every year Steven Soderbergh posts a list of the things he's watched and read. After seeing his list last year I thought it would be fun to try and do the same. So, here it is, my read/watched list for 2016!
You'll sometimes notice big gaps in dates. This is primarily due to the two features, digital pilot and short film that I directed over the past year. I wish I had more time to read and watch and it feels like there's a lot of things I didn't get a chance to see yet, especially as we got closer to the end of the year.
In 2016, I saw 60 films, watched multiple episodes of 21 TV shows and read 45 books.
I did not include the 50+ times I saw the movie CARS with my son.
Here's the key:
BOLD CAPS = MOVIE (at home or in theater)
CAPS = TV SHOWS (includes Netflix)
Lowecase Italicized = Books
01/01/16 – JESSICA JONES
01/02/16 – THE BIG SHORT, Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals
01/04/16 – ROOM
01/05/16 – MAKING A MURDERER
01/06/16 - MAKING A MURDERER
01/07/16 - MAKING A MURDERER
01/08/16 – THE REVENANT, MAKING A MURDERER
01/09/16 – MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION, Naked Lunch
01/11/16 – Production on NEGATIVE
01/12/16 – Production on NEGATIVE
01/13/16 - Production on NEGATIVE
01/14/16 - Production on NEGATIVE
01/16/16 - Production on NEGATIVE, BE SOMEBODY
01/17/16 – THE KNICK
01/18/16 – 13 HOURS, THE KNICK, Sheltering Sky
01/19/16 – THE KNICK
01/20/16 – The Sheltering Sky
01/21/16 – THE KNICK, The Sheltering Sky
01/22/16 – BE SOMEBODY, THE KNICK, The Sheltering Sky
01/24/16 – The Sheltering Sky
01/25/16 – The Sheltering Sky
01/26/16 – The Sheltering Sky
01/27/16 – Let It Come Down
01/28/16 - Let It Come Down
01/29/16 - Let It Come Down
01/30/16 - Let It Come Down
01/31/16 - Let It Come Down
02/01/16 – RESERVOIR DOGS
02/02/16 – SYRIANA, Let It Come Down
02/03/16 – BE SOMEBODY, Let It Come Down
02/12/16 – BEASTS OF NO NATION
02/13/16 – Zero, Zero, Zero
02/14/16 – TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY, Zero, Zero, Zero
02/15/16 – David vs. Goliath
02/17/16 – David vs. Goliath
02/18/16 – David vs. Goliath
03/17/16 – CURB YOU ENTHUSIASM, BOSCH
03/18/16 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, BOSCH
03/19/16 – CHINATOWN, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
03/21/16 – BE SOMEBODY, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
03/22/16 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM3
03/23/16 – TOO LATE, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
03/24/16 – Big Magic, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
03/25/16 – Big Magic, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
03/26/16 – Perfidia, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
03/27/15 – Perfidia, OCEAN’S 11
03/28/16 – BATMAN V SUPERMAN, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, CAN’T HARDLY WAIT, Perfidia
03/29/16 – Perfidia, SPY GAME
03/30/16 – DRIVE, Perfidia
03/31/16 – L.A. CONFIDENTIAL
04/01/16 – Motorcycles I’ve Loved
04/02/16 – No Place to Hide
04/03/16 – No Place to Hide, WONDER LIST
04/04/16 – CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
04/06/16 – Lonesome Traveler
04/07/16 – Lonesome Traveler
04/09/16 – Lonesome Traveler, BE SOMEBODY
04/10/16 – The Obstacle Is The Way, NORTH BY NORTHWEST
04/11/16 – The Black Dahlia
04/12/16 – The Black Dahlia
04/13/16 – The Black Dahlia
04/18/16 - The Big Nowhere
04/19/16 - The Big Nowhere
04/20/16 - The Big Nowhere
04/23/16 - L.A. Confidential
04/24/16 - L.A. Confidential
04/26/16 - L.A. Confidential
04/28/16 - L.A. Confidential
04/29/16 - THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR
05/02/16 - THE CONVERSATION
05/03/16 - White Jazz
05/04/16 - White Jazz
05/06/16 - White Jazz
05/07/16 - White Jazz
05/09/16 - HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
05/11/16 - HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
05/12/16 - HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
05/13/16 - GREEN ROOM
05/15/16 – VERTIGO, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
05/16/16 – TO CATCH A THIEF, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
05/18/16 – NEGATIVE
05/19/16 - HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
05/21/16 - HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
05/30/16 – BLOODLINE, CHEF’S TABLE
06/01/16 – BLOODLINE, Between the World and Me
06/03/16 – THE NICE GUYS, BLOODLINE
06/04/16 – ALI, Between the World and Me, A Burglar’s Guide to the City
06/05/16 – ZOOTOPIA, BLOODLINE
06/06/16 – MICHAEL CLAYTON, BLOODLINE
06/09/16 – BE SOMEBODY, Everybody Behaves Badly
06/10/16 – Everybody Behaves Badly
06/11/16 – Everybody Behaves Badly
06/12/16 – BLOODLINE, Everybody Behaves Badly
06/13/16 – BE SOMEBODY
06/15/16 – A Burglar’s Guide to the City, ME EARL AND THE DYING GIRL
06/16/16 – BLOODLINE
06/18/16 – CHEF’S TABLE, FLESH AND BONE, A Burglar’s Guide to the City, 30 Million Words
06/19/16 – CHEF’S TABLE, 30 Million Words
06/21/16 - CHEF’S TABLE, 30 Million Words
06/22/16 - Terrance Malick: Rehearsing the Unexpected.
06/23/16 - Terrance Malick: Rehearsing the Unexpected
06/24/16 - THE NEON DEMON, Terrance Malick: Rehearsing the Unexpected
06/26/16 – MY LIFE DIRECTED BY NICOLAS WINDING REFN, Terrance Malick: Rehearsing the Unexpected
06/27/16 – PUBLIC ENEMIES, CHEF’S TABLE, GAME OF THRONES
06/28/16 – GAME OF THRONES, Public Enemies
06/29/16 – Public Enemies, GAME OF THRONES
06/30/16 – The 4 Hour Workweek, GAME OF THRONES
07/01/16 – ON THE ROAD, The 4 Hour Workweek
07/02/16 – Catch and Release: Trout Fishing and the Meaning of Life.
07/03/16 - Catch and Release: Trout Fishing and the Meaning of Life, The Constant Gardener
07/05/16 – The Constant Gardener, SENSE8
07/09/16 – On The Road
07/10/16 – On The Road
07/11/16 – VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, On The Road
07/12/16 – On The Road
07/13/16 – WALL-E
07/14/16 - The Passenger
07/15/16 – The Passenger
07/16/16 – The Passenger
07/17/16 – Travels with Charley
07/18/16 – Travels with Charley, THUNDER ROAD (SHORT)
07/20/16 – Travels with Charley
07/21/16 – SICARIO
07/22/16 – Travels with Charley
07/24/16 – Travels with Charley
07/29/16 – JASON BOURNE, A Burglar’s Guide to the City, THE THIN RED LINE
08/4/16 – NERVE
08/5/15 – Talk Like TED, BETTER CALL SAUL
08/14/16 – BETTER CALL SAUL
08/15/16 – INSOMNIA, THE WEST WING, BETTER CALL SAUL
08/17/16 – THE WEST WING
08/18/16 – NEGATIVE
08/19/16 – THE NIGHT OF, THE AMERICAN
08/20/16 – MR. ROBOT
08/21/16 – MR. ROBOT, EX-MACHINA
08/22/16 – MR. ROBOT, WAR DOGS
08/23/16 – MR. ROBOT, HELL OR HIGH WATER
08/25/16 – THE LIMEY, MYSTIC RIVER, The Burglar’s Guide to the City
08/26/16 – The Burglar’s Guide to the City
08/30/16 – THE NIGHT OF, Expiration Date
08/31/16 – Expiration Date
09/1/16 – THE NIGHT OF, Miami Noir, The Obstacle is the Way
09/2/16 – THE NIGHT OF, The Obstacle is the Way, Miami Noir
09/3/16 – THE NIGHT OF, Originals, The Night Manager
09/4/16 - THE NIGHT OF, Originals, The Night Manager
09/5/16 – The Night Manager
09/6/16 – 9/14/16 – The Night Manager, Originals, The Obstacle is the Way, The Doubter’s Almanac
09/16/16 – ATLANTA, A Perfect Spy
09/17/16 – ATLANTA, A Perfect Spy
09/18/16 – ATLANTA, The Road to Character
09/19/16 – A Perfect Spy
09/25/16 – BACK TO THE FUTURE
09/28/16 – BACK TO THE FUTURE: PART II
09/29/16 – ATLANTA, The Road to Character
09/30/16 – THE NEON DEMON, Washington: A Life
10/1/16 – Washington: A Life
10/2/16 – Washington: A Life, WESTWORLD
10/3/16- Washington: A Life
10/4/16 – Washington: A Life
10/9/16 – The Unknown Kerouac
10/10/16 – The Unknown Kerouac
10/12/16 – ATLANTA, The Unknown Kerouac, Washington: A Life
10/15//16 – WESTWORLD, Washington: A Life
10/16/16 – BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III
10/17/16 – PORTLANDIA, The Unknown Kerouac, On Writing Well, Washington: A Life
10/18/16 – On Writing Well, Washington: A Life
10/19/16 – Daily Rituals
10/20/16 – PORTLANDIA, Washington: A Life
10/21/16 - ATLANTA
10/22/16 – Ego Is The Enemy
10/24/16 – Washington: A Life
10/25/16 – Ego Is The Enemy, Washington: A Life
10/26/16 – LAST OF THE MOHICANS, ATLANTA, Ego Is The Enemy, Washington: A Life
10/27/16 – MOONLIGHT, WITNESS, PARTS UNKNOWN: MEXICO CITY Ego Is The Enemy
10/28/16 – Ego Is The Enemy
10/29/16 – MAN ON FIRE, Dialogue
11/1/16 - 11/6/16 - Production on CIUDAD.
11/11/16 – Washington: A Life
11/12/16 – GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK
11/14/16 – THE INSIDER
11/16/16 - 12/15/16 - Production and post on New Form Digital Pilot.
12/19/16 – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
12/22/16 – ARRIVAL, Sapiens
12/23/16 – Sapiens
12/24/16 – Sapiens
12/25/16 – NEGATIVE, The Oliver Stone Experience
12/26/16 – The Oliver Stone Experience
12/30/16 – Sapiens, The Oliver Stone Experience
12/31/16 - Sapiens