Filming the holidays with iMovie trailers

21-Dec-11 11:35 AM by
Filed under Potpourri, Trailers; Comments Off on Filming the holidays with iMovie trailers

When I first saw Apple's iMovie '11 demonstrated, I knew I had to have it. Even though I don't do much video editing, I had to play with this edition of the popular movie-making software's exciting new feature: a trailer-making workflow. By choosing a film genre and dragging and dropping predefined types of shots (wide, group, action), anyone could effortlessly make a coming attraction for the movie of their lives.

My first outing with this functionality was a promotional video for an annual fundraising event. Since the fundraiser had already been held by the time I got my hands on iMovie, I didn't have any footage of my own to work with. I instead downloaded existing YouTube videos and recut them for my purpose, using the "sports" genre of film. When I showed the final product to the original videographer, she responded, "I just saw your movie trailer and I LOVE IT!!  You created a great, professional quality, energetic piece. I might bug you to do this again with what we['ll shoot next year]!"

My most recent trailer is the only one I've shot for fun. On June 12, 2011, two friends joined me in my annual ascent of Mount Monadnock, the world's most-climbed mountain. It was a last-second impulse to bring my video camera, a Kodak Zi8, and I got several candid and staged shots throughout the state park. I originally tried casting it as a horror film, but in the end, it worked best as an adventure.

But the trailer that was most meaningful is the one I made as a gift. I spent Christmas 2010 with friends, and I wanted to show my appreciation for letting me into their home to share this special holiday. Over the course of a week and as innocuously as possible, I shot several clips of B-roll. Most of them were no longer than five seconds, though one, a Christmas pageant, was fifteen minutes. Altogether, I ended up with about thirty minutes of film, which I whittled down to a brief trailer.

When I debuted a rough cut to the friends, they were extremely moved, immediately wanting to watch it again — and again — and again! They shared it with everyone in their immediate and extended family, and I could tell from my online analytics that the video was viewed every day for at least a month. As its audience was not computer savvy, they had no idea that the quality of what they were seeing wasn't the result of me being a professional video editor. Thanks to iMovie, I was able to keep my secret!

Just in time for me to re-create this gift for my own family this year, Vimeo, my video-hosting service of choice, has offered these tips for shooting great holiday video. Their suggestions are simple yet effective and will give you plenty of grist for later editing.

Happy holiday filming!

Read All About It

13-Jun-07 4:16 PM by
Filed under Films, Potpourri; 2 comments.

Potentially working as an extra on Indiana Jones 4 later this month has me thinking about my two previous experiences in that capacity.

The first was Fever Pitch, the 2005 film starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Several scenes were shot in Fenway Park, a small section of which Boston Casting filled with paid extras. Not the whole stadium, though; in any sufficiently wide-angled shot, if you look far enough back, you'll notice none of the fans are moving. That's because they don't have legs. To save money on actual extras, inflatable dummies often fill in the seats that no one will notice beyond whether or not they're occupied.

It took a long time to set up each shot, what with lighting, makeup, cameras, and conferrals among the production crew. Every scene had to be filmed multiple times from multiple angles, so the extras huddled under their jackets, waiting for the call to "Action!" before shedding their covers and acting warm until "Cut!" signified it was safe to warm up again while the crew reviewed the recent footage and prepared for more. No noise was permitted; we mimed our actions, with cheers or catcalls (which may otherwise drown out the main characters' dialogue) dubbed in later. I didn't see Drew Barrymore, but Jimmy Fallon seemed happy to be surrounded by fans. We kept him company that September night from 6 PM to 6 AM — probably the first all-nighter I've ever pulled. (Driving home, I noticed my framerate had dropped considerably.) But it was all worth it:


Fever Pitch
Click for larger image.

The other movie I've worked on was The Game Plan, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I worked as a sideline photographer at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and again at Fitton Field at Holy Cross in Worcester. Each required showing up at 4 AM, which meant rolling out of bed at 2 AM. It was wet and dreary that October, and though I was spared the false enthusiasm of pretending to be a fan in the bleachers, I wasn't able to remain seated like they were, which was exhausting. Hundreds of extras reneged, to the point that Boston Casting desperately offered iPod raffles as an incentive for people to show up. I don't know if I'll be visible when the film hits theaters in September, but, as with Fever Pitch (which I've never actually watched, except for my scenes), the DVD will likely prove more enlightening.

Long hours, crappy food, and minimum wage — I'd decided additional extra work would give me insufficient compensation to warrant pursuing further opportunities; they'd just be redundant on my resume, anyway. But, unlike Sean Connery, for Indiana Jones, I'll come out of retirement.

Extras of the Lost Ark

05-Jun-07 8:30 AM by
Filed under Films; 3 comments.

Best reason to take a day off from work ever.

Don't look for me in my cubicle next Monday; I'll be cracking my whip in New Haven (along with every other actor and bystander in New England).