Posts Tagged ‘chapman university’

Shots from a shoot

July 16, 2014

I worked background (as a film extra) last night, on a feature film shooting night for day in an LA coffeeshop. Now anyone who’s ever worked as cast on a film set knows you spend most of your time waiting to be called to set, and we were stationed on the sidewalk to make space for the shooting and setups inside. So I divided my energy between wandering around taking pictures of what I could find in a 30 foot radius, and reading a novel called Jamesland (pretty good, if you like stories about messed up women) on my kindle.

The great thing about Beverly Blvd is it’s paradise for sign-bloggers. Stenciling has taken off, and is very hard to remove from pavements. Obscure alterations dot traffic signs. And there’s always someone with a lost dog or something weird to sell you or tell you.

A stencil on the ground shows a guy reading a book, but it looks like he's peeing. In the background, a member of the cast takes a break.

A stencil on the ground shows a guy reading a book, but it looks like he’s peeing. In the background, a member of the cast takes a break.


Stingers curled around a cool stencil saying “Publish Enemies”. It’s a viral (probably illegal, but I’d bet the fine is less than doing it legally) campaign for a comics / TV brand you can follow on Twitter as @publishenemies


“Sheep needs a facelift. Draw here.” I think personally, I’d rather be a live sheep than a dead crosswalk activist. But I’ve seen mothers using their kids and babies in strollers as human shields to jay-walk, so perhaps I’m just not as trendy as they are.



I am convinced this is a joke. But in Hollywood, you really never know. All I can say is that if this dog is “like their child” I hope we never have to watch the live birth video of its exit from the vaginal canal, because that would be gross.


Found another day, just up the road. I actually spotted this guy (without any dogs) a few days later.

Found another day, just up the road. I actually spotted this guy (without any dogs) a few days later. He looks happy, but not like the type to wear pearls or care about cash.



Grumpy Cat says more money should go towards providing shelters for homeless animals, but Republican cats think this will only encourage more cats to be homeless. Snapped on La Brea on the way home from set at 6am.

As massive as LA is, as huge a hub as it is for the film business, I was struck by how small it was when I arrived on set to discover that half the crew (including the Cinematographer) were from Chapman too, and the producer was South African. You can always tell when a set is full of Chapman alumni because of the singing and friendliness that comes with the hard work and long hours. And despite any gripes I may have against the school, I say that with some pride in my former film school.

Shooting in a Foreign Language – Korean-American filmmaking

July 28, 2012

Film is a universal language, but English is not. And even the universal language of film is spoken differently in the USA and in Korea.

I’ve been taking a travel course, for which I directed a short film called “FORMALDEHYDE” in Korea, in Korean, shot by Nuttanai Lertpreechapakdee (a US student from Thailand) and key crewed by students of various nationalities from my school, Chapman University with the Dongseo students taking oddly-named but essential roles and supporting us in every possible way. It was an amazing experience relying on someone else – Director’s Assistant Woong Yoon, the best English speaker on the Korean team – to help me direct actors. For a director, your performance is your most important (but not only) job. So he and I built huge trust over there, which is coming in very handy as I production design their film and we try to make our days with the ever even-headed Tom Derr keeping the clock while Woong doubles as translator and AD. It’s also taught me to trust my instincts over my intellect when it comes to what is truthful behavior from actors and what is “acting”.

Saving the planet, one plastic reusable cup at a time… we write our names on them and pour our soda into them from big bottles. Also prevents people leaving cans all over the show and losing their drinks!

PD isn’t really a key role in Korean student film culture, so I’m executing their vision creatively at the last minute more than I’m truly production designing in this case. I make suggestions, they make the choices. Now and then I dig in my heels about continuity. We have a five minute argument about the number of sausages that should be in one shot today. When it comes to sausages, I tend to get stubborn and autocratic.

In a way, there are two directors, two producers, two cines, two everythings, on each of our productions. It’s if we each have a Korean or “American” counterpart who doesn’t quite do the same job we do, or even the same job we think we do. (PS. My Cinematographer Nate/Nuttanai Lertpreechapakdee is Thai and I’m South African but for these purposes, we’re all from the USA.)

We bought a chicken on a stick in Busan, for use for eyelines. Now it seems there’s a rival on set… The Chicken’s not gonna like that.

The chicken who’s not going to like that. Pics of Chicken and rival by Nate, which is why they’re so awesome.

We made our day today – more or less. Three more to go and “NEIGHBORHOOD” (Directed by Jaehwan Lee, working title) is looking good. There have been times both on Neighborhood and on Formaldehyde when I’ve struggled with doing things a totally different way. But in the end, working with people creatively is all about accepting that you can’t have it all your way all the time, and that to do what is best for the film, you should always, and always will, work as hard as you have to, and keep smiling.

Yeah, I’m inspired.

Some final films of the fall semester at Dodge College, Chapman

December 18, 2010

The pros and cons of movie making… what I learned from the last month of filming all our final projects.

How many filmmakers does it take to change a light bulb? Depends on the gaffer, I guess.

Well let’s start with the cons: You can never control the results as much as you’d like to. The hours are long, and always longer than you expect. You don’t get to sleep. Creative egos are bound to lead to clashes. And technical stuff will always trip you up at the very last minute. So, nothing I’m not used to from working as a journalist!

The pros make all the cons worth it: The end result of what you made with other people is better than anything you could do alone. It doesn’t matter how long filming or editing or writing takes, because you love every minute of it. Sleep is overrated, unless you have nothing better to do. Creative egos challenge you to do your best. Technology allows amazing new things to be done every day, reviving that sense of wonder you had as a kid.

I took a whole bunch of photos of signs, but I’m sure you’d rather watch movies than look at photos. So I’ll post links to those I was involved with. And a few I just happen to think are really good, too.

Mine – Steal My Heart
I wrote, directed, edited and produced this – on a $30 budget. But I could not have done that without the help of my amazing cinematographers, actors, and everyone else who helped me out – all credited. Not bad for a 4.5 hour total shoot time. The editing took a little longer!

John Nodorft – Rifle Ave.
We talked about it a lot, and I co-wrote the screenplay with him. He did what every writer dreams of having done – he made it happen even better than I could have imagined. He is now my hero forever.

Ezra Lunel – Lucky Guys
Very much a work in progress. But I love what he’s doing with this so far. He and I workshopped his initial idea in a over coffee. Then he let me go mad writing, gave me frequent and fast feedback, and made me star in the movie at the end. It was great working with him – the actors will back me up here. And the movie was shot by John Nodorft – so it looks fantastic. Designed to be watched full screen.

John McKay – Punchline
Suspect you’ll only be able to watch this if you are his friend on Facebook. I helped write the screenplay, and learned a lot about how collaboration works in the process. Sometimes you got to just let go, and let the director make the final decisions. The results may surprise you.

That’s what I can find. I guess I’ll add others as they show up.

I had nothing to do with these, but I like them

Kennedy Phillips – Autopilot

Daniel McDonald – Sorry I Forgot Our Anniversary

Mike Fitzgerald – Niko and Claudia

Nikolas Passaris

Also liked but can’t embed vimeo on stupid wordpress.

Sarah Wilson Thacker – Freeze Dance

Windsor Yuan – The Day After

Charles J. Gibson – First day

Bruce Meyers – Cousins

Cemeteries of the soul – behind garage doors

December 5, 2010

Garages are the attic of a man’s world. While the photos of you when you were a kid, the first drawing of a dysfunctional / smiling family in front of a house, the blonde doll you alternately loved and tortured and your dead puppy’s collar might end up in Mom’s attic, Dad has his own cemetery of the soul.

Garages have always fascinated me. I shot my first production exercise in one. It’s full of mistakes (I’ll never zoom again as long as I live, I swear). But I still love it.

Here, dreams and pride gather dust. Stuff that might belong to many people, dumped there for safekeeping and never collected. If you ask to borrow something from garage, the answer will almost always be “yes”, and quite often becomes: “As long as you never bring it back.” In South Africa, an organisation I wrote about called Men at the Side of the Road raised funds partly by clearing out people’s garages and re-purposing their junk.

And I’ve never been in a garage you couldn’t write a movie about. Happily for me, we were shooting Sarah’s 789 (that’s Dodge-speak for “five minute short”) in an actor’s garage last night, after mine turned out to have no electrical plug for the lights.

A shovel. A ladder. Some unidentifiable stuff. Mattresses? And wait... what is that?

Ronald Reagan signed photo

It's a signed photograph of Ronald Reagan. The president who called a 1988 strike on Iranian ships "Operation Praying Mantis". He was one creepy guy. And look who all's in the background!

And this cat. Loved enough to have its portrait taken and framed. But now the picture's on the floor behind a mattrass, gathering grime. Who was Kitty Cat?

Take 5, Shovel. Starring Dan McDonald, Daphne Karpel and Will Kasson.

Being American seems to involve owning copious amounts of American flags, which go all over the place. On matches. Above the creepy crawly spare pipe. On cupboards, cars, post boxes, doors... Above a box of golf clubs that don't seem to have made it out onto the green for a while.

Why I’m here

September 21, 2010

People often seem surprised that I came all the way to Chapman in California to study film. Now there are of course some obvious reasons, like…

1. There really isn’t a dedicated, world-renowned screenwriting program in SA. This isn’t because there aren’t great teachers or screenwriters there… but there just isn’t the money to pay for it. My fees are about 20 times more than they would be in SA.

See this awesome fountain thing? Ja, I'm helping to pay for that. Well at least there's an SA flag there (top right).

2. It’s good to be 25km from LA, and be taught by people who work in the industry there. My teachers are all really, really good. And they work hard. One of them even split the class into two and teaches it twice now, as he feels we deserve more one-on-one attention for that three hours.

mi casa mexican food

I got lunch here today... a burrito. Really good. The inside of the restaurant is amazing too - definitely going to sit down there for some food and drink one day.

3. The Mexican food is really good. No seriously. Even though I know the pigs are treated badly and stuff, cause I read Eating Animals, I can’t help myself around Carnitas. Carnitas. Carnitas. Oh, jesus, oh… jesus. Carnitas. Save me, for I cannot say no.
4. California is beautiful in its own way. It’s not Cape Town, but it’s nice to look at. It’s… you know… it’s got a good personality.

Pretty, safe, flat, friendly, windless, warm. Socal, they call it.

5. Also, this sounds cool, right? “I’m studying screenwriting in California”. Even if it does scream “What the fuck are you going to do if THIS doesn’t work out? Move to Kommetjie and invent some kind of curative massage nobody’s thought of yet?”

As a journalist who worked for South Africa’s biggest website, with some of its best journalists and editors too, I’m used to being surrounded by talented, opinionated, young people. So the fact that the talented, opinionated people I hang around with now are a little younger than the average intern at doesn’t bug me. In fact, I mostly quite like it.

So here are some of the cool things that I’ve done in the first two weeks at “school” as they call university here.

Assignment one – portrait of a character or location.

I didn't really do much. Mostly watched Ryan Broomberg - he's in my class - do stuff. You can watch the results here.

The In Memory of 911 sign is visible from the Stadium drive. This Fire Training centre is near the Angles Stadium. The day we were there they were training oil rig workers - not firemen. You could tell they weren't firemen cause they weren't *hot. *management would like to apologise for this bad joke.

My own assignment wasn’t as awesome but I learned a lot by doing it. The task: A portrait of a location in under a minute. I made a few mistakes, the most obvious of which was the use of zoom. I mean, I know better. Anyhow, here you go, Ma.

Assignment two: Moment of decision

Next up was: Show a character making a decision. Same time – 1 minute limit. No dialogue allowed, again. My major mistake here was to show him changing his mind back and forth rather than just progressively changing his mind, says my production teacher Gil Bettman. He’s right, of course. I tend to overcomplicate everything I do.

There were many other good ones. Many were posted on facebook video, and can’t be embedded. Here’s mine…

After we shot mine, we all helped shoot this one – we work in small teams to do these assignments in order to pool some skills and resources, each taking turns to play director / camera and producing, writing and editing our own assignments of course.

So that, my friends, is why I am so far from home. Of course, it’s not all a simple case of happy learning. I’m half way through writing tomorrow’s assignment. A personal reaction paper to the movie The Blue Lagoon. I’m comparing Brooke Shields’ performance unfavourably to that of the movie’s dolphin trainer and Brooke’s body double, Kathy Troutt (seriously), who according to the boys in my grade 7 class was the true stars, narrowly missing the top spot in that decade’s Tosscar Awards. Kathy lost first place to Bambi Woods. But only just. Now this would all be fine if I were writing it for South Africa’s online audience of drooling morans (their spelling not mine) because I am used to them hating me. But unfortunately, the director of the movie might be grading my paper.

I wonder if it’s possible to get a DD?

911 Orange Alert: Democrazy Days

September 12, 2010

Orange, CA is famously one of the most consistently conservative places in the USA. Now I’m not going to pretend to know the USA, but aside from Atlanta its the place where I’m most aware of the the fact that the USA is at war. Now it’s NOT okay to joke about it, at all, of course, so Americans organise war-related events like “Holes for Heroes” (saw the ad on TV). You want to geuss what that is? I know … it sounds like a sick joke, doesn’t it. Or at least something involving strippers… It’s not, though*. How could you think that, you DISGUSTING TERRORIST-LOVER-FAGGOT!!! Now you go ahead and have a nice day now!

Pulled pork is a big favourite in Conservative Orange, where real men pull pork. WARNING: May not contain traces of irony.

Everywhere you go in Orange, you’re reminded that being in the military is good and right, and a sign of manhood. It’s kind of weird that it’s a university town filled with people with no plans to go and fight for their country’s oil supply. on behalf of helpless women in burkahs for freedom and democracy.

Advertising at The Block - a mall that's fairly trendy due to student specials at cinemas, proximity to colleges, good bars, and a skate park.

It's quick. It's easy. It's the law. A sign at the post office. WARNING: May lead to sudden death.

Of course, the people of Orange aren’t very fond of Chapman University, because not only do we have rights to use their public land to build educational facilities for student film-makers, but also we tend to be left of their medium right, we don’t go to sleep at 9.30pm like the good people of The Towne. So they call the police. Seriously. They call the police on a bunch of post-grads standing chatting quietly in the back yard about film, with no music playing. True story. Happened to me last night.

Although this is not in the California Drivers Handbook, I can tell you what it says: "Motorists please yeild to hungover student who may be high crossing road with energy drink in time for 10am class." The people of Ye Olde Towne Orange don't think it's funny.

But, having said all that? America is a hard place not to like. Even though I complain about Orange, and run away to San Diego to get some oxygen, I would far, far rather be living in Orange than in say… Kabul.

* If you’re one of the people who can still walk around, you might want to take a nice vacation and play in a golf tournament, called Holes for Heroes. Yes. Nothing funny about that. Step AWAY from the obvious joke. It’s a fundraiser to pay for prosthetic limbs for soldiers who lost their arms and legs in the War on Terror.