Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Finished Rough Cut

As more proof that I am a horrible blogger, it has been months again since my last post. However, finally the first rough cut of Dinosaur World is complete. Of course there will be many subsequent cuts of the movie. There is still plenty of work to be done in the way of re-edits, ADR work, color correction blah blah blah. But it feels good to finally be done with the first cut. Soon there will be a screening of Dinosaur World for select invites. Perhaps someday this film will see the light of day. As of now I've been working on it from concept to post production for about a year which I think is a decent time line for a no-budget film made by folks who all have day jobs.

More as it develops.


Friday, December 4, 2009


It seems I have been a poor webmaster/blogger in that it's been nearly two months since my last post. For this failing I apologize. However the time has not been spent idly I assure you. I've been hard at work on the rough cut of Dinosaur World. I will do my best to update more frequently for all who are interested in the film.

Now on to the real reason for today's post. It seems our little film has received it's first free press. A couple of months ago I spoke with Doug Magditch of KSPR (ABC affiliate) news in Springfield. Doug was interested in doing a story on Dinosaur World, the actual park not our film specifically. At any rate Doug was nice enough to drop a link to the site in his news story from December 3rd. Thanks Doug for the support! Check out Doug's story on this abandon road side oddity. Complete with HD video of the park!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dinosaur World Trailer

Here is the first trailer for Dinosaur World. You've got the option of a youtube embed or the vimeo version in case one or the other doesn't work for you. Don't worry the content is safe for work. I certainly hope you enjoy it and if you do, don't forget to pass the word on to your friends.

Vimeo version

Dinosaur World Trailer from Christopher Smith on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Just a quick update

I see we now have 6 followers. Amazing. Don't forget to tell your friends about Dinosaur World the movie.
It's very late so I won't go into great detail in this post. I only wanted to say that principal photography for Dinosaur World is finally complete! It's been very exhausting and very rewarding and a lot of fun. I've been cutting a trailer together for the film which I hope to have posted in the next day or two. Along with more cast and crew bio's and production stills and perhaps some more videos.

Thank you to the entire cast and crew of Dinosaur World for all of your hard work. I won't lie here, I got a little teary eyed as I was packing up the equipment on the last night of shooting. Everyone who worked on this film certainly helped make a dream come true for me as corny or cliche as that sounds. The dedication everyone showed means more than I can express. I only hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.

And thanks to our six dinosaur world followers, only three of which I believe actually worked on the film. To you other three, two of which I don't know, thanks for joining us and again please pass the word on to your friends. Word of mouth is the best way to get this movie to wider audience.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Camera Man

Now that you've seen some video, I suppose it's time to introduce everyone to the cast and crew. (Even though I'm fairly certain that right now it's predominately the cast and crew reading this blog).

First up. Chris Heeney

CODE NAME: "The Business"

Let me first point out that we don't actually have any code names on set. However if we did have code names, or if ever we felt it was necessary to create some code names, I'm pretty sure I would insist that Chris' be The Business.
I have been making movies, in one form or another, with Chris for nearly ten years. Of course that's a bit disingenuous considering that we weren't really filming anything new for many of those years. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I BEGAN making movies with Chris almost ten years ago. The first movie we made had a cast of only three characters. Two of them were Chris and myself narrating improvised dialog directly into the camera. The other main character of that first film was a stuffed "Playboy" bunny. I suppose you could say there were four characters if you count my girlfriend at the time acting as our "tripod" for one shot.

After that first short film we continued to make completely improvised, skit type shorts using a Sony 8mm Handi cam. We shot almost everything we did in black and white because we felt it looked more acceptable than using the color feature on the horribly cheap camera. For anyone unfamiliar with an 8mm handi cam , remember those cameras dads used at basketball games circa 1998? Basically a home video camera with horrible picture quality and even worse on-board sound. For about a year, or a little over, Chris and I (along with one other fellow Dinosaur World citizen whom I'll introduce in a later post) made a handful of these short films.

Back then it was not possible for us to edit anything. This was before the days of Final Cut Pro or any the other non-linear editing suites currently available to the public at bargain basement prices. At least it was before the time that a 19 or 20 year old could afford such things. So the only thing we could do was to shoot everything in sequence and edit it in camera. This sounds like a disaster but Chris was a genius at it. Everything we shot took only one night. We typically started by devising a basic and horribly stupid plot line. Then we would rough out, via group discussion, what character each of us would play and what we would do. Mind you this was all a verbal writing session. I think we only ever wrote down one actual script. After discussing the idea, the characters, then the story, we simply pointed the camera and began acting. Chris was almost always in control of the camera except when he needed to be in front of the camera. After a sufficient amount of time improvising had passed Chris would cut the shot. Then he would cue up the tape for the second shot, we would discuss what shot would cut in well with the previous cut and then hit record again. Rinse and repeat. This would go on anywhere from 4 to 10 hours. Usually we shot at night and stopped at sun up. Then after an 8 hour overnight shoot we would all gather in front of the TV and enjoy our work. Then we would promptly forget about it and move on to something else.
Eventually Chris did get his hands on an editing suite. By today's standards I'm sure what he had would be considered unacceptable but it meant that we could put all of our shorts on a DVD. Which Chris did. And I still have them. And I still watch them occasionally. I continue to be impressed by the fluidity of each one. Yes they are dumb, and the acting is often horrible. But the camera work is solid. The cutting techniques really quite amazing considering no editing has been done.
Chris is practically a film encyclopedia. Movie quotes, directors, writers, actors, titles, I can name a lot. But Chris goes a step further. Want to know who did the score for a low budget French film made in 1974? Chris could probably tell you. He could probably tell you who the cinematographer is as well.

The Business harnesses the power of
the mighty Chimera light.
Those things are great and they make for wonderfully fun conversations for which to annoy our wives. However, Chris is invaluable to this production for so many more reasons. Number one of which is his camera work and amazing eye for detail. I hold the camera like a drunk with the shakes, but Chris is like a surgeon. Not only that his eye for composition is far beyond anything I could dream up myself. It goes beyond just his technical abilities though. Chris and almost always understand each other. I don't have to say much before he get what I'm talking about, and vice versa.
He also helps balance me out. If I'm losing my mind, or getting frustrated or feel like I'm hitting a wall, or if I just don't know how to do something or even what it is I want to do, very often Chris steps in and makes the suggestion or finds the solution. I couldn't imagine doing this without him.
I have only ever made one movie without Chris' involvement and honestly I don't think I'd want to try and make another without him. This sounds like a love letter to the guy, I guess it kind of is.

Now Chris and I are working on second feature length film. We have more actors, more locations, a better script, lights, camera, external sound, editing suites. It's wonderful. Hopefully in ten years we'll still be making films, whether anyone is paying us to do it or not.

In short....Chris Heeney: the stone pillar of Dinosaur World.

Stay tuned for more cast and crew bios.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rained Out

I had hoped that this weekend would be the final shoot for Dinosaur World. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. I spent most of Saturday in a field building a fire pit. If you watched the video I posted last time you saw a section of the video I entitled "fire light test footage". The scene too be shot is to take place around a larger than usual camp fire. Since we are shooting on Mini DV lighting is crucial in order to get the correct exposure, that is to say we need to be able to see what is going on. Typically we light everything. If it's an interior location, no problem, we can usually have the lighting done for an interior location in less than hour. If you're shooting outside things become more problematic but not impossible. If you're shooting a night scene outside things become even more problematic. To shoot a night scene you have to have light no matter what. Obviously the goal in any movie is to make sure the lighting seems natural, you don't want a harsh 1000 watt light source blasting your characters in the face if you're characters are meant to be standing in a dark alley or a field. If you're shooting on a front porch or a parking lot, no problem. You can take some time and position your lights in such a way as to fool the audience into the thinking the light source is natural. A street light for example. A street light doesn't give off enough light to successfully light a scene for shooting, but you run a 1000 watt light up a pole and angle it so that it LOOKS like it might be coming from a street light, no one will know that it's not.
However, shooting in a field in the middle of the night artificial light becomes a lot harder to hide. If everyone is meant to be basking in the warm red-orange glow of a camp fire, you don't want a blinding white light shinning down from out of nowhere lighting there faces. If you're making a movie with money you can purchase certain add on fixtures for your lights. They have lighting kits specifically designed to simulate fire light called flicker boxes. Or you can use array of colored gels to make your artificial light seem like natural fire light. Unfortunately we are not making a movie with money. Our budget for Dinosaur World falls between the ranges of 0 dollars to whatever amount I can afford to withdraw from my checking account that week which is usually a pretty small sum. So the only way around it is to actual build a fire and use all natural lighting.
The test footage was an experiment to see how much fire I would need. I built that fire in a charcoal grill behind my house and had my actors stand in various locations in proximity to the fire. I concluded that I would need a huge fire, close to bonfire size. The point of this overlong explanation of lighting on a budget is to say that we didn't get a fire started. We didn't even get the equipment out. After spending the day begging for the rain to let up long enough to film, I dragged all of my cast and crew to an empty field only to say we had to cancel. I'm pretty sure I was the only person totally disappointed. I wanted very much to be finished with filming this weekend but it just wasn't in the cards. So instead we had a PRE-WRAP wrap party. Which basically consisted of me and the cast and crew playing rock band until the wee hours of the morning and thinking very little about the movie. It turned out to be a nice relaxing time with zero stress involved.
Of course now we must rally the troops and try it one more time. Which we will. Nothing can stop a group of penniless, desperate, and determined artists. Not even mother nature.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Short Video

We had a very productive weekend of filming Dinosaur World.   We had a great time and despite some poor weather were able to complete about 5 scenes. As promised, I took some time and cut together a little video. 
In this video you'll be treated to Aaron Tinnin, my lead actor, discussing his obsession with Ghostbusters era Sigourney Weaver and various between take hi-jinx and still photos.  I must apologize to my sound guy Ross though as he was too busy working to get in front of the camera so I couldn't find any still photos or video to put in here, sorry Ross.  Also I want to say thanks to Eddie Riebel sacrificing a Sunday morning to wear a cop uniform which, lets face it, was way too tight. 

We've got just one more weekend of principal photography left on our feature and then will likely be working on post for many months. I'll continue to post updates as often as possible. If you stumble on this movie blog and are entertained please pass the link along to your friends. Low budget movies need all the free advertising they can get!