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The White Knight, The Brass Ring, and the Red Camera

I end up talking about a subject in the forums quite often, but I never bring it up myself, so it always ends up hijacking another's thread

I don't post about this often for the same reason guys like Chill often intercept me. (no problem, I understand clearly why you are doing that, and I don't question your motives at all) Because kids starting out might get discouraged if they hear this type of talk, and of course, that's a bad thing.

Right here I'd like to say that this is an R rated thread, and not for the kids. Bad spoiler alerts for the plot-line of life.

A little history might help more than anything to explain my opinions (and that's all they are people)

On a clear and sunny day in late 2007, I stepped into best buy with a sparkle in my eye. I had figured it out, I had the magic formula. I proceeded directly to buy a Canon 30d for a couple grand. And a Sony HDR-1 for a grand and a half.

I went out that same day and began shooting. First I shot with the HDR-1. Even with zero experience, the footage was so bad that I knew I would never even watch a short made with this. I used it to do some SFX tests and then quickly discarded and sold it. The canon's still images were great. I shot a million great pictures with it, some were really good. I went to sell still images and uploaded them to several large sites, filling out dozens of pages of paperwork to do so. An email comes. Your footage is now for sale! I go to the site. There are 381,000 pages with 100 results each. I check through the first few pages, and it's not there. I do a search for the names of my clips. I look through 17 pages of results for the exact name of my clip. I find it, and locate it's category. I go to just that subcategory, and I search through pages until I fall asleep without finding it.

This isn't working. I ponder. Let's amp this up. I shoot time-lapse. Beautiful 6 hour sequences that watch evenings evolve in the city, an eclipse, famous landmarks. I send it in. Page 15. My clips are 10 pages back from the last clip making any money.

Ponder. Level up. I spend 8 months making a feature length film shot at 3k resolution in 4:4:4 color-space on the canon. People say its fantastic. I can't sell it. I end up making back the budget, my personal overhead has negated that 3x over in that time span. It opens some doors for me, get's people to listen. Some become real fans of the film. I make connections with others in the traction-less low end of the industry.

Ponder. Level up. I need more volume. Web advertising. Corporate backing. I go to Vuze. I establish the #1 show on the entire channel of 10 million daily viewers. Several times a week I put out a good 22 minute HD show reviewing just one game in a cinematic fashion. I get over a million ad sponsored HD downloads, I'm invited to corporate headquarters, I get the personal phone and email of the head of the network, we become friends, I'm promoted actively. In the final days I was on the start page of the corporation. I got a check for 400 dollars. One of the guys at vuze told me they all chipped in so the check wouldn't be so small. I'd lost about 30k in overhead in that time.

Ponder. I'm bleeding out now. Think hard Nate, you won't survive another year. I'm too broke to buy equipment now. I've sold my camera to stave off eviction. I switch to CGI. I find that I can sell CGI commercials for sometimes several thousand a piece. I start getting more regular work doing commercials, and target the content weak signage industry. I learn to create a website and custom art to strengthen my image and organizational skills.

I've had to move in a roommate now to make rent, but I'm becoming stable. My work is good, and there's little competition. I approach a larger company. I call the guy, and make friends with him. I take a strong stance and push my agenda, always pinging on the cash benefits to him. I'm in. I do the best work I can, but within a year I know corporate work will not help you build a film reel, or the money to fund a project.

I'm stuck. This isn't where I want to be, and despite a crazy amount of thought and effort, I'm so close to square 1 I can reach out and touch it.

I sit at a bar one day talking about film. A grizzled 55 year old man that still wears band t shirts is half drunk at 5 pm. Overhearing, he chimes in. "I've been doing film and video my whole life" He smiles at me, revealing several missing teeth. Just got the newest prosumer camera, gonna go out and film the art fair. 200 dollars, in the bank"

Please god no, I think, not me, I was supposed to be somebody. I buy him a drink, he doesn't realize it's a consolation prize for not winning at life.

I'm thinking harder than ever now, desperate, knowing that the rubick's cube does have a solution, but not seeing it yet.

Between jobs, I'm studying hard. Finding the answer. I've gotten so much experience now, but every case study I look at where someone is profitable in film is miles above my financial range. My next area of study is financial range. I watch Buffalo 66. A guy that looks and thinks like a gas station attendant has thrown together 1.5 million dollars. Scratch head.

First I clarify the final motive. Blade Runner, LA Confidential, Casino, Predator, Avatar, Star Wars, Minority Report. I know already that I won't be truly happy until I'm there. The Brass ring. A movie that exits to entertain an entire world of people, a movie that audiences love and watch over and over.

Second I look at where I'm at, where we're all at. A crusader for the underdog, a guy that wants to say yes because they know how tough it is when everyone is saying no regardless of your effort. The White Night is optimistic, kind, accepting, a person that wants to believe in himself, and others in the same situation. But I'm looking over on box office mojo, and imdb, and there aren't any stories about people that made a great film and money with my 250 dollar a month budget. I study what cameras, lighting, actors, financial setups, investment scenarios, workspaces, editing decks, matte boxes, filters, plot devices, scene blocking, foley elements and everything else that the people that are winning are using. I dont see any information about friends in my back yard and a camera from best buy.

I work crazy hours on any job I get and buy the Red Epic. I get a pro lighting guy, a famous author, 2 famous artists, a sytheyes guy, several investors, and then ally with another production company that has put together similar resources and has also made a feature. I get famous directors on the phone and befriend them. We start seeing the possibility for a large joint studio emerge from the excel spreadsheets.

The epic is a big deal to me. It means I have a siege gun capable of hitting the brass ring if I can learn to aim it well enough (metaphor). But it turns out the camera is even a bigger deal to others. With my name attached to a real movie camera, more people start listening. The camera is sort of like an A-lister you can buy, and put in your passenger seat. It gets me into meetings with people that wouldn't otherwise listen. I get immediate respect and a callback from other filmmakers. It's a bargaining chip with crew as well. The footage is breathtaking. Not "perfectly good" like a DSLR, but breathtaking. You can just aim it at a fountain at night and hit 300fps, and it's instantly the best footage you ever produced.

My ultimate conclusion was that the White Knight had to be left behind to reach the brass ring via the red camera. A good attitude and cheap equipment, letting in every friend I met at the bar, saying yes to everyone, walking into an investors office with that naive happy look in my eye, none of it would work. I wanted to be that guy, but the choice became mutually exclusive.

Today We have 3 Reds coming in, a set of Ziess super primes, some angenuix zooms, and a crew of over 25 coming in over the next 2 years. We're lobbying for filmmaker tax incentives, building a real studio, and connecting to great people across the world.

They say if you're not a rebel at 20 you have no heart, but if you're not establishment by 30, you've got no brain. So I'm doing things their way now. Using their cameras, submitting scripts in their format, and talking to bankers about the bottom line. And there's a light at the end of the tunnel now. Flickering in the distance.

In 2007 she called me, and I would have called back, Just a little more money, just enough that I didn't have to draw someone into my financial quicksand. Just enough to support a family. I'd call her back as soon as I had it. As soon as I wasn't a bum anymore. She was so intelligent and beautiful, she deserved better than, "can I borrow some money"

I bought into the DSLR hype, I bought in to the web show hype, I bought into hope, and last year she got knocked up by some guy that keeps getting arrested for beating her.

Things could have been different. Thanks DSLR hype. Thanks web idiots that tell each other there's money out there. Thanks optimistic knights of the people that shout down anyone saying you have to spend a lot, or work super hard to get this. I listened to all of you, once. But time ran out for me, as I listened to 100 versions of "you can make it with nothing"

If anyone posts, "story is whats most important", I swear to god, I swear to F&*&&*&g god. I've spent 5 grand licensing a bestseller from a world famous author. So Im growing a bit weary of this uninformed kneejerk response every time I mention wanting to get some screen resolution. (anyone that talks screen qualtiy has forgotten story? WTF?)

If you were me, and had gone through what I've gone through, you'd be a little offended too.

So that, is why I talk to people about better equipment, about borrowing money, about not doing small scale projects with no payoff. To help them avoid loosing those years of life that I lost.

Does a beginner need this advice? No, absolutely not. But for some of you out there, this is a good talk about the nature of reality. I lost a lot through my mistakes, and try to help others avoid them.
 
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This is the original raw file. As you can see it looks great coming off the epic. Yes to all above, lighting and set is important. I did mention them.

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These two above are done with the "Nate" setting, where I just dial it in how I think it should look

Here's a more matrix look, not perfect, would need different lighting

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So when I look at these images, I'm thinking, wow, this is what I wanted since the first day I started filming. I should also mention that I cropped these, and they are 1/4 res or so. The different shots are from the same frame. They just gave me two raw frames.
 
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Further images

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Here's a 300 look, though you don't get it exactly if you cant control the lights

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Above is how you can create a universe backdrop with some dust. The downrezzed image just does not do this justice. In fact a still does not do this footage justice. Full res it really looks like a galaxy in certian frames.
 
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You are enjoying some great success, but it isn't the camera. It's you. Your determination and discipline got you where you are, the tools are simply tools. If you had not gone through all of those failures, you would not have garnered the experience you need in order to parlay your gear into success.

Murdock hit the most important take-away from this thread though. It is important to be clear in this business about your goals, and then to let nothing stop you from getting there. I'm actually a complete fucking failure at that second part - but that is another story entire that deserves no further mention.

That point is; however, why I always ask what people ultimately want to do when they ask what camera to buy. If the answers is "I want to direct." I suggest spending their camera $$ on their film, and finding people with whom to work. In fact that's my suggestion for anyone who answers anything other than "Ultimately I want to be a DoP." Cinematography is a specialty, so buying a camera to learn how to use it only to ultimately become a writer seems counter productive.

You made a lot of good points here, sorry it took me so long to answer,

Paragraph 1, yes, it's determination, focus, and above all discipline that create any non-fluke success story

Paragraph 2, Yes Murdock has encapsulated the entire thread in a sentence (no sarcasm) Taking something sprawling and detailed, and making it brief and concise without loosing meaning is a true artform. I salute you sir.

Paragraph 3, My motivation was even simpler. I started out saying the most uninformed thing in the world.
"I want to decide what the movie is"
That's all I cared about. I didn't care about imported glass or warehouse rental or crew salaries or tax incentives or re-labeling bottles with fake company names or what a living wage was in Seattle or anything. In my mind at the time, it all blurred together like that run on sentence.
Yet even after all my education, I just stuck to that basic wish, even though many roads are easier and more sensible. Especially when plotting a career future tactically. You are basically applying to every job or investor and writing in "president of the universe" as "minimum acceptable position"

And yet, it can be done. I'm maybe 40% there, with tons of possibilities for failure left. Ultimately, this is more about money than anything else. The artists, the writers, the talents, are out there to make a great film. The question is, can you fund it, or can you get them to fund it. And that, will lead you off into all sorts of craziness that has little to do with the original desire to decide which classic novels were adapted. Really I should go into real estate and become a producer. But I love cinematography and creative filmmaking, so now I'm really hooked on the process.

Great post David, persevere, I'll invite you out to a shoot next year, when the camel spiders arrive.
 
Really I should go into real estate and become a producer. .

I have always thought this the most sensible thing for a person who wants to make movies in Hollywood. Get rich doing something else THEN go to Hollywood and you're an instant player. I know people who have done just this, sadly their movies have been epic fails. But they really do walk right in the front door and talk to people who matter. Money talks, DLSR's get in line.
 
Paragraph 2, Yes Murdock has encapsulated the entire thread in a sentence (no sarcasm) Taking something sprawling and detailed, and making it brief and concise without loosing meaning is a true artform. I salute you sir.

Thank you. What a nice thing to say. And I mean that in the most non-agressive way possible.;):D I'm decent at Haiku(ms) as well.:blush::lol:
 
I have always thought this the most sensible thing for a person who wants to make movies in Hollywood. Get rich doing something else THEN go to Hollywood and you're an instant player. I know people who have done just this, sadly their movies have been epic fails. But they really do walk right in the front door and talk to people who matter. Money talks, DLSR's get in line.

IMHO this is very true. Alas, still working on the rich part.
 
They say if you're not a rebel at 20 you have no heart, but if you're not establishment by 30, you've got no brain.

Good saying. Good Post.
But - story might be the most important thing for a film, not necessarily for the career.


Murdock - your avatar is intimidating me, can you tone down the aggressiveness a bit?
 
There are actually a significant number of ways that you can become wealthy from cinematography, which makes all this a bit more possible. Not all of it is so great, but for example you can film weddings professionally and break 120k a year.

Stock footage libraries are an option if you have higher end equipment.

Basically you aren't going to be able to avoid going into business and finance. It's completely integral to film.
 
Interesting video Murdock, I think a lot of people are this way, or the reverse of it.

I'm a little scary when you first meet me, like the illustrious mr Cohn mentioned in the video(not ray)

I meet a lot of people that have this inside out though, and they are the ones you have to worry about. Here in California, there are a lot of the nicest acting, most politically correct people, and when you really get to know them they are completely rotted out at the core, typically, almost universally, by self centered thinking.

I work with these two guys that illustrate the personality inversion pretty well. I have one guy that treats me like family on the surface, but shortchanges me on every transaction, and changes the rules as he goes so that he always gets an unfair advantage.

I have this other guy that points out my faults mercilessly, and Just says whats on his mind regardless of whether that's flattering. Often I think the guy doesn't even like me. In my dealings with him, he has been 100% fair and honest. But he doesn't do lip service, or go out of his way to make a situation look better than it is.

I consider the second guy a much more solid friend. He may not shower me with compliments and false hope, but I can trust him, and the honesty of his behavior, and that, is everything.

The point here is that the happiest looking people are often happy because they are succeeding at screwing everyone over, and the unhappy looking people are frequently unhappy because of how hard it is to succeed when you are truly an honest and fair person. So things are often the opposite of how they appear.
 
Interesting video Murdock, I think a lot of people are this way, or the reverse of it.

I'm a little scary when you first meet me, like the illustrious mr Cohn mentioned in the video(not ray)

I meet a lot of people that have this inside out though, and they are the ones you have to worry about. Here in California, there are a lot of the nicest acting, most politically correct people, and when you really get to know them they are completely rotted out at the core, typically, almost universally, by self centered thinking.

I work with these two guys that illustrate the personality inversion pretty well. I have one guy that treats me like family on the surface, but shortchanges me on every transaction, and changes the rules as he goes so that he always gets an unfair advantage.

I have this other guy that points out my faults mercilessly, and Just says whats on his mind regardless of whether that's flattering. Often I think the guy doesn't even like me. In my dealings with him, he has been 100% fair and honest. But he doesn't do lip service, or go out of his way to make a situation look better than it is.

I consider the second guy a much more solid friend. He may not shower me with compliments and false hope, but I can trust him, and the honesty of his behavior, and that, is everything.

The point here is that the happiest looking people are often happy because they are succeeding at screwing everyone over, and the unhappy looking people are frequently unhappy because of how hard it is to succeed when you are truly an honest and fair person. So things are often the opposite of how they appear.

Haha so true.
 
I have this other guy that points out my faults mercilessly, and Just says whats on his mind regardless of whether that's flattering. Often I think the guy doesn't even like me. In my dealings with him, he has been 100% fair and honest. But he doesn't do lip service, or go out of his way to make a situation look better than it is.


You should have this guy read your script. If you post it here in the screenwriting section, you'll have some constructive feedback.

What happened to the Jon Stewart documentary? Has that been permanently shelved?
 
You should have this guy read your script. If you post it here in the screenwriting section, you'll have some constructive feedback.

What happened to the Jon Stewart documentary? Has that been permanently shelved?

My script this time around is written by two guys that have more experience than anyone on this board. One wrote Soylent Green, the other Sid and Nancy. They'd probably shoot me if I posted their script.

I wouldn't say the Jon Stewart documentary has been PERMANENTLY shelved. We had something really cool going on there, for an ultra low budget movie with some market potential. The decision to shelve that project came not from bad news, but from good news. Our abilities and finances began to escalate to where a better project came in range. A group decision amongst my people was made to switch to the more ambitions undertaking. Harry Harrison's "Deathworld". It is a massive meteorite of awesomeness, and once we started looking at the project, we simply couldn't look away.

The first two pictures are me (with no red camera, guys that are saying I'm buying talent) and the second two are by Ignacio, a concept artists on our team.

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"He could never be as bad as his first impression."

I like that.


I love Aaron Sorkin (particularly Sports Night). But I have a feeling that if I ever met him he would probably just insult me - accurately and cleverly. :)

I have this other guy that points out my faults mercilessly, and Just says whats on his mind regardless of whether that's flattering. Often I think the guy doesn't even like me. In my dealings with him, he has been 100% fair and honest. But he doesn't do lip service, or go out of his way to make a situation look better than it is.

I'm a lot like that. I (mostly) won't do it unless it it's asked for or it directly affects me though. Lately I've been thinking a lot about the notion presented in that Troy Duffy thread/documentary. Thinking maybe being an asshole and being persistently honest are the same thing..

Afterall - EVERYTHING is about relationships, not just careers. Most situations it's best just to bite your tongue..


And for some of that honesty -

Nate, I'd see that movie (whatever it is/turns out to be) based on those four images alone.
I'd see a Jon Stewart documentary too.

which - to get back to the original topic - perhaps you have to have all of the above, everyone's friend/work ethic/Good Story/No freebies/Mr. Red - but most importantly the ability to make smart decisions about which takes priority in any given situation..
 
The most pleasing and revolutionary works are the ones where no one can imagine it *working* beyond the *how* of it's presentation...ie: the form follows perfectly with the work's function....that this art piece could not have been presented any other way and deliver the same impact. That's how, say, an artist can construct a simple piece of paper into a breathtaking form no one has ever seen before. I cannot describe such a concrete thing other than to say, once an artist discovers his/her particular aesthetic, it will be revealed in all their works. May take a lifetime for this epiphany, may come as a flash in the pan only to burn out as fast as it came. JMO

This guy is a genius

"this art piece could not have been presented any other way and deliver the same impact"

That's right, and you can say that about any great work of art that has stood the test of time
 
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