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Extra Life 2: Electric Boogaloo

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It’s that time again: Extra Life! inDEPTH Media is partnering with Implicted, NOLAnerdcast, to raise money for Children’s Hospital New Orleans!

 

Come join us and thousands of other teams in support of children’s hospitals across the country with Extra Life. Every dollar is donated to the hospitals to help them continue their mission of providing quality care to the many who need it. The money we raise will be donated to Children’s Hospital New Orleans.

When: Saturday, November 5th, @ 12:00pm CST
Where: LIVE STREAM from the inDEPTH/Implicted Offices in New Orleans, LA 

This year for Extra Life’s big day of gaming we will be playing the Gears of War franchise for 24-hours straight. The entire event will be live-streamed on Twitch while regular social media videos, photos, and more will accompany. NOLAnerdcast will be providing the bulk of the running commentary and humor BECAUSE FILM IS SERIOUS BUSINESS AND WE ARE NOT FUNNY.

Aside from watching our gameplay, jokes, and more, there will be GIVEAWAYS! Last year we gave out video games, gifts cards, and more, to our viewers and supporters!

“So what now, inDEPTH Media!? I’m so hyped and want to act NOW!”

Please share this post and follow us as we get ready for this amazing event!

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inDEPTH Media on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

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Implicted on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook!

The Wonderful World of Lenses

The Wonderful World of Lenses

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image from premiumbeat.com

So you want some lenses. You don’t? Wrong, yes you do. Like with the post on sound, forget your camera. Lenses are arguably the most important pieces of equipment in your arsenal and can, quite literally, last a lifetime. “Buy once, cry once” heavily applies here. There are so many options out there and so many numbers/letters to learn, so before diving in to the wonderful world of lenses, here are some basic terms.

Focal length” is the “mm” on your lens. 40-60mm is generally a “normal” look, 75mm+ is  considered a “long” focal length (lenses that see far), below 40mm is generally considered a “wide” focal length (lenses that let you see a wider area around you) and may or may not be “fish-eyed” (distorted on the sides, creating sharp angles on the ends).

“Fast” or “Slow” refers to how open your lens can be – how low can the aperture go (letting in more light, giving a shallower depth of field)? Fast zooms are generally f/2.8 and lower, fast primes f/1.8. It’s important to note that there is no number-definition for “fast” and “slow,” it’s more of a guideline. Fast lenses are generally more expensive than their “slower” counterparts.

So with these terms in mind, let’s get to some things you need to consider when buying a lens.

Prime vs. Zoom: A prime lens is a lens that does not zoom. A zoom lens has an “adjustable focal length,” meaning you can zoom in and out. The advantage with good prime lenses is that they are generally more “precise” than zoom lenses as they do not have the multiple pieces of glass that a zoom needs. Primes are also usually more “accurate” and provide a nice cinematic softness while still being sharp, This does not mean zoom lenses are imprecise, though cheap ones often are (as are cheap primes). Primes are also generally faster than zoom lenses, with most zooms tapping out at f/2.8 and even the cheapest of prime lenses being able to go lower. This makes them better equipped for lowlight situations.

Used or New: Lenses are wonderful because if they are well-built (which many are) and the owner takes good care of them (you do, right?) then they can last a very long time and be great used purchases. Many sites have a strict system for rating a lens. The biggest consideration you should have when buying a used lens is the condition of the actual glass. Does it have scratches? Cracks at all? Any fungus (this happens with old glass)? After that, make sure the focus rings and aperture rings are listed as fully functional, otherwise you’ll have poor or no control over the lens. Anyone worth their salt selling lenses will list EXACTLY the condition it is in and will provide several photos. Return policies are always a huge plus. KEH.com is an extremely popular site with some of the best product grading I’ve seen thus far, and Lens Authority (Borrow Lenses’s retail arm) is also a great site for finding used but well-maintained gear.

What Now? You must ask yourself 3 questions: Do I need a zoom or prime for most of my work? Do I need it to be a fast lens? What focal lengths will I be working at? Documentary/Broadcast shooters often need fast, precise zooms. If you’re “making a movie” (non-documentary) you generally need sturdy, fast prime lenses. That being said, you should never restrict yourself to just primes or just zooms – virtually no one does for all their work.

This is just a primer. There are so many considerations to take into account when one is buying a new lens, but we hope this helps you get started. Now go invest in some glass!

This post is an adaptation/updated version of a previous post done by co-founder Greg Tilton Jr. for 52 Businesses back in April of 2014. 

An Interview with Sound Mixer Eric Rice

An Interview with Sound Mixer Eric Rice

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We conducted an interview with sound mixer Eric Rice, an incredibly talented mixer here in New Orleans. Eric brings immense skill, positivity, and just the right level of humor to our sets. We are very excited to have him on the inDEPTH blog and hope you learn as much as we did from our great friend and colleague. If you want to learn a bit more about to get started, check out our blog post on the basics of field recording. 

 

1. Please introduce yourself, where you’re from, and what you do currently.

Hello! My name is Eric Rice. I’m a born-and-raised New Orleans local sound mixer with an affinity for both gourmet and gas station hot dogs and clean room tone.

2. How did you end up doing sound? Did you start at an early age? Study it in school? How did you land those first jobs?

I’ve always been fascinated by sound. Much like on set, our brains interpret images with highest sensory priority, but we often do not realize how important sound and our ears are to everyday life. Sound is a visceral experience that affects many aspects of our life whether we realize it or not. Sound can affect our moods, provide warnings or comfort, it allows us to communicate with each other through a man-made system of sounds our brains have been trained to recognize as language, our auditory system keeps us balanced and walking upright. If you were to spend time in some of the best designed anechoic chambers (highly reinforced, specially designed sound absorbing rooms) you can hear your heartbeat and the blood flowing through your head. You can hear your joints move. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

I appreciate sound for the same reason I can look through a microscope at a droplet of pond water and see hundreds of things going on that we never think about. There are nuances in sound that are beautiful if you stop and listen. That’s why I love doing sound; I can shape someone’s mood with different sounds and techniques, and I’m constantly observing and learning. I get to do that for a living.

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Truly the attire of a gentleman Sound Mixer

My first sound job came completely by accident. I was in school at the University of New Orleans for film and found a Facebook post looking for non-paying PA’s. I went out just to meet people and get my feet wet. I spent my first two nights in the extra’s trailer on a no-budget web series. About 4 hours in, I got a call to send the extras to set… and that was pretty much my whole day. I then helped out breaking down set and cabling stingers for 2 hours at dawn in the swamp (got my feet wet). AND I WAS ECSTATIC FOR THE OPPORTUNITY. Same for day 2. On day 3, I went to the 2nd AD (who was also the sound recordist) and told her, “I’m going to be YOUR PA.” She had a lot on her plate so I knew I could help, but more selfishly, I knew sound was going to be a part of every shot. “If I follow the sound person, I’ll hear every conversation between director and crew,” I thought. The sound person is like the catcher in baseball (which I played growing up) in that the sound person is at least in the know on every shot. I figured that would put me in a perfect position to learn from all departments.

The next day, the sound person and production parted ways. I show up and immediately asked, “What’s your name again? Okay, cool. You’re running sound.” I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. This was a simple shoot for sound. “Boom into a Zoom.” No real mixing, just swingin’ the boom and making sure nothing clips, but to me, that was my big break. I was with them for a few months and got my first sound mixer credit (technically). From there, I got on a couple other free shoots working as a boom operator or just as hands on deck and it just kept snowballing.

I did a lot of “fake it ‘til you make it” in my first year or two. Eventually, after being fascinated with this new area of information I had to learn every day, I stopped having to fake it. That was that. I still research new techniques and gear every day and try to find new ways to convey the beautiful information that sound has to offer.

3. How would you describe the sound scene and general film scene here in New Orleans? What are some of the opportunities and challenges that come with working in video production here in New Orleans? What sort of improvements/changes would you like to see in the industry, whether local or beyond?

New Orleans film scene is f’in awesome! Every day I wake up, I’m thankful for ending up in the career I have with the people I work with. Think about it, we get to wake up and make art every day. Even if the current project isn’t all that artistic like covering a convention or filming a political ad, we’re still utilizing these long-honed skills to put our artistic touch on whatever it is that comes across the desk that day.

From my experience, everyone I know, love and work with in our independent film scene here in New Orleans feels just about the same. The low budget features aren’t great on the checkbook, but you get 20-30 of us together that have all grown up working on similar project together, and beautiful times are had. We really are a tight-knit community that enjoys spending our days together both on and off set.

We New Orleans soundies have a little different experience than most other crew positions/departments, in my experience. Fortunately, there’s just less of us around for the same amount of jobs that everyone else is vying for. This keeps the sound mixer community very tight. I get more than half of my work from other mixers who are booked on other projects, and I enjoy passing work to them as well. We are always in contact about what jobs are out there, who’s looking for what, what productions may not be the most sound friendly, etc.

We also are unique in that there is only one sound rental shop in New Orleans, Professional Sound Services at 8222 Maple St. in the Riverbend. Justin Ditch and Lukas Gonzales run not only a tip top sound shop but also offer a place where mixers can meet, talk shop, shoot the breeze and nerd out on gear. A lot of time, as a sound mixer, I’m the only mixer on set, so meeting other mixers is sometimes rare unless it’s a bigger production with multiple sound bags running. Pro Sound is like my Cheers. I’ll show up when I’m bored just to hang out and meet whoever walks in the door. The New Orleans sound scene would be severely lacking in many different ways without those guys at Pro Sound.

As far as improvements, I’d like to see producers move away from relying on their “low budget” status to justify paying people less. Yes, some productions are what they are by necessity; I’ll work on any of my friend’s projects regardless of pay if I’m not booked. But I’ve seen too many productions come in from out of state for tax credits, fly in their big wigs, blowing money left and right while offering rates 1/3 of what they should because “they knew kids are hungry for work.” I was actually told that with audible words one time. Pardon my Cajun, but get fucked. It’s a shame some productions see an opportunity to take advantage of locals rather than being thankful for the money they’re saving on tax credits and taking care of the people who made their movie. I did about an hour and a half long podcast with Greg about this that probably won’t see the air because I get pretty heated about this. The whiskey we shared probably didn’t help either.

I’d like to see us independent film makers hold productions to task. I want to see us all making money and having profitable careers rather than taking whatever pops up because rents due soon. It’s tough and everyone’s path is different, but ‘take-advantage-of-locals’ rates really hits my limiters.

4. What are some of your favorite types of projects? Any particularly fun/interesting stories? 

Okay good, a lighter subject. I enjoy different projects for different reasons, mainly just a change of pace is nice. Narratives are great because I can setup a cart or at least a sound world and have some day to day stability in a given location. Narratives give an opportunity to spend a lot of time on a scene and really find interesting sound effects or mic’ing methods; however it does sometimes get pretty boring sitting around recording a conversation at a coffee table for 12 hours which is why I like reality. Every day is something new to shoot and new people to meet, but the hectic-ness can get tiring pretty quickly. It’s a yin and yang situation.

But in the end, as I said before, we’re on set making cool things with (most of the time ) cool people. “A bad day on set is better than a good day in an office.”

5. What’s your favorite thing to do on set? Whether an individual position, a fun practice or tradition you have, whatever. The one thing you always look forward to no matter the production.

First things first, Taco Tuesday.

Secondly, I try to just have fun. I enjoy my job and most others do as well so anything I can do to keep the positive mood. I particularly like the “how many pieces of lav tape can I stick on ______” game. I enjoy shorts or features where we have interns from the local colleges. Those kids are hungry to learn and just want to be a sponge absorbing all they can.

6. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out here in the film industry, especially if they’re just starting out here in New Orleans, what would be your main piece of advice? 

DON’T BE A JERK. It’s so simple but seriously, just be a cool person and you’ll get work. Be helpful – don’t think it’s beneath you to help setup crafty or anything like that. Yes, we all have our department and our own responsibilities, but at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team. We’re all trying to make a great piece of work. I’ve seen some of the most accredited people replaced because they’re jerks. People on set have to be able to work and live with you for perhaps months at a time. If you disrupt the flow and mentality of the set, you’ll be gone real quick.

Meet people. Meet everyone you can. Go to the parties after screening of festivals and pass out business cards. Starting out, just get on a set, any set. People I’ve met as PAs are now my bosses. They call me because we go way back. Get on set, be positive, be great at what you do and make friends. Everyone has their own projects or get calls for other friend’s projects and you want them to call you. Think of it like a tree, your first set is your first branch and you’re going to meet 10-30 people. Impress them and get on another set, that’s another 10-30 people. And so on and so forth. The growth is exponential. If you make yourself memorable as a positive,hard-working, knowledgeable person, it’ll just be a matter of time before your career starts to grow quickly.

7. What are you working on now?

My pride and joy is a show called Big Easy Motors which comes on the History channel every Tuesday at 9pm central. One of my closest sound friends in the area Raam Brousard got me on that when he had to return home to Israel for his family to meet his beautiful baby daughter. We’re both very proud of the work we’ve done on that show and look forward to a second season.

8. Anything else you’d like to add?

Have fun today. Work can suck; more for some than others, but it doesn’t have to and it doesn’t always. Life’s too short to not do cool things each day. Find a way to make money having fun.

And last but certainly not least, shut up during room tone.

Safety first

Safety first

You can reach Eric for sound mixing services at Ericrice20@gmail.com

An Interview with Filmmaker Hunter Thomas

An Interview with Filmmaker Hunter Thomas

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We conducted an interview with filmmaker Hunter Thomas, a young filmmaker and photographer based here in New Orleans. Hunter’s knowledge of film and editing tools, his passion for the craft, and his attention to detail makes him a very technically proficient filmmaker that compliments his very evident talent.  We are very excited to have him on the inDEPTH blog and hope you learn as much as we did. 

1) Please introduce yourself, where you’re from, and what you do currently.

My name is Hunter Thomas, I am a 19 year old freelance filmmaker and photographer currently residing in New Orleans.

2) You are clearly very knowledgable about cameras, lenses, and general film tech. What brought you into the world of cameras and lenses? What eventually led you to take on film/photography professionally? 

I have always wanted to work in film, I was a “Techie” kid, I like seeing how each camera has different functions that do the same thing. Canon & Sony are completely different cameras, organized differently, and used in some of the same situations. I like knowing & being asked how to change settings. It makes me feel needed.

3) Who or what are some of your biggest influences? Is there any filmmaker or film style you draw from in particular for inspiration?

I take inspiration from lots of different styles, but really they depend on the style of production. One of the great things about NOCCA, (Film School I went to) was we studied all the different styles, and our teachers pushed us to try different styles of film making. My next project is a a thriller, I am using a lot of Fincher’s stylings on the project, from the cool color pallet, to low lit interiors, and smooth dramatic camera pans.

I take most of my lighting styling from Storaro, but I like tailoring lighting and camera style for each shoot differently. When I read a script, I see it as an action, and how each shot would cut together with the rest of the scene/film. I’ve working with stylistic choices from a lot of famous directors, Cinematographer’s and Gaffers.

4) Let’s dive a bit into glass. You are clearly a fan of vintage lenses. Right now, as always, there is a ton of debate in film about new vs. old technology, techniques, philosophies, and more, so these decisions reflect a lot about us. Can you tell us a bit about your lenses – brand, type, year, etc. – and what drove you to build the set you currently have? What are some of the thoughts and considerations that go into building a lens package?

I currently own a kit of Vintage Nikon Primes Revised& VariPrimes (Zooms). Nikon coatings were best in 1955. Some of them are 80 years old. I bought all of them from B&H Photo used Dept. My takeaway from the whole vintage v modern debate, I bought 13 Vintage Nikon’s for less than people pay for a modern 4 or 5 lens Rokinon Cine kit.

Since the lenses are old, they aren’t as fast as some modern lenses. Most of them are 2.8 or slower, but they have 180 degree focus throws. I looked at the way I shot with other people’s lenses to pick my set and knew I needed a wide range of focal lengths. I liked the look of the vintage lenses – they have nice roll off on the corners, some cloudiness, and beautiful bokeh. There’s something about them that just can’t be explained and I have yet to see someone try and not enjoy them.

5) Building a bit on that, how do you feel about the “film vs. digital” argument? That is, some people feel that actual film stock is the best method for making films and reject digital cameras, while others argue that digital cameras are as good (if not better) than their film counterparts (and many lie somewhere in the middle). What are your thoughts on this ongoing debate? 

I like the ease of shooting digitally, I think the quality of the cameras have made it to the point where the untrained eye can’t really tell the difference. That being said, we see high resolution of modern cameras outdated every a few years. When I first bought my Canon T2I, 1080p was high resolution, now 5 years later people are shooting in 8K Raw.

6) If you had one piece of advice for someone new to the film/video industry, what would it be?

Any advice I could give would be to a newbie in the industry, is work on as much as you can. Ask questions, but know when you should ask questions and when you shouldn’t. Learn how to network with everyone you work with. You should know what you want to do in film, so if it’s working on camera, try to get on set as a Camera PA. If it’s lighting work as a Grip, or a Best Boy. If it’s directing, try to go as an AD.

If you are unsure what aspect you would like to work in the film industry, but just know that film is where you wanna go, some of the student films I have worked on are small crew, so everyone does a little of everything. It’s a good way to meet people, and work on some great projects. The 48 Hour Film Project & LA Film Prize are great places to work, they usually have Mixer’s and it will give you a chance to meet people and find a team to work with.

7) What are you up to now?

I am currently on a feature called Meta. It’s a high octane action heist film. It’s kinda like Drive, but with motorcycles. I recently worked on a few music videos, another feature and a TV pilot. Our 48 Hour Film Grown Up Stuff did very well at the festival.

8) Anything else you’d like to add? 

I am always looking to work on bigger and better projects, and looking for people to help on my own projects.

Follow Hunter on instagram and facebookIMG_9181 

An Interview with Writer Sarah Shachat

An Interview with Writer Sarah Shachat

Sarah is an incredibly talented writer with one of the most impressive vocabularies ever (seriously, spend five minutes with her and you’ll learn an amazing new word). She has helped us with some of our projects, writes extensively online, and is a member of the brilliant team behind Wolf 359 – a very impressive and entertaining audio-drama podcast. I am thrilled to share some insights with you today from one of my oldest and most talented friends. Enjoy!

1. Please introduce yourself, where you’re from, and what you do currently.
Hi, all! My name is Sarah Shachat. I’m a New Orleans native currently living up in New York City, and I write for fun and profit. Most notably, I’m a writer and producer for the science fiction audio drama Wolf 359.

2. So this blog post is a bit different in that it focuses a little less on video production/filmmaking and more on writing for audio-only dramas. What drove you to the podcast world (more specifically, audio dramas)? 
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Wolf 359 Recording Session

I very much was driven there, as opposed to driving myself. I explored Welcome To Nightvale and Serial as they respectively entered the zeitgeist, and I’ve been a big fan since college of the Mercury Theater on air stuff, War of the Worlds and Dracula and so on. But the wonderful thing about podcasts is a lot of their drive is word-of-mouth, so it was really on the recommendation of friends in the last couple years that I started getting into the podcasts I follow closely.

What’s wonderful about them is that they have such low bar for entry, comparatively. All you need is a mic, a computer, and a guide to figure out how to set up a feed. There were a couple of times in the last few years that I’ve worked with friends on podcast projects that never really quite got going – we’d record a few episodes and have fun arguing about different movies – but it never quite clicked. And yet, all we out were maybe $70 and a few hours of our lives, enjoyably spent.

Then another good friend of mine from college, Gabriel Urbina, sent me this pilot script he’d written for a radio drama set on a space station. It was an interesting script, very funny, and with the potential to be even funnier. After asking him if I could do a pass on it, I pretty much got hooked. Audio dramas, specifically, are a wonderful writing challenge. You have to rely on suggestion in order to tell the story. Very different from the broader building blocks prose gives you, and way more slinky and fluid than the clarity of an image. The show needs the listener in order to make it come alive. So writing for radio isn’t about what you imagine’s going on in a room on a space station, say. It’s about what you allow to be imagined, what’s going on in someone else’s head – that’s the experience.

3. What are some of the challenges of writing an audio drama? What are some of the opportunities it provides? How does it differ from screen writing, novels, etc.? 

Ha, I was sort of winding there towards the end of that last question. But the challenge is that there are strong restrictions placed on what you can convey with sound alone. We (Gabriel, Zach Valenti, and I, who all write for the show) have conversations all the time about how things would be different if we were doing Wolf 359: The TV Show. There are certain actions you wouldn’t think of – one character passes a piece of paper to another character – that are almost impossible to write for radio. But a space mutant plant monster? That’s real easy. So there’s a give and take to it. You have the ability to be big and ambitious and bold on a nothing budget, but you have to go to increasingly difficult lengths to convey smaller moments or transitions, because everything has to come from a distinctive sound.

That’s a little bit why it’s so wonderful, too. You have a very basic toolkit – the actors’ voices, whatever sound effects you can license, music (and in our case we’re spoiled by Alan Rodi’s divine score), and, of course, silence. But by making things that simple and that restrictive, it actually opens up a lot of opportunities. We’ve done audio monologue vignettes, we’ve done an audio montage sequence, we’ve even done an audio montage flashback sequence. The constraints force you past a lazy or easy solution. It forces you to think about the most intuitive, the most effective way to convey information to the audience. And of course, there’s a lot of opportunity for shock and surprise because you can constantly redefine space in a way you can’t if you have visuals. You thought three men were having a private conversation in a normal looking room? Nope, the walls are completely covered in platypus fur. And nope, the lamplight is actually coming from a green diamond. And nope, the men all have three eyes. You have the ability to force the audience to re-evaluate their image of a scene, and that forces them to dive deeper into it. There’s a wonderful intimacy with radio, and good radio dramas get to play with that.

In terms of how it compares to other forms of writing, it’s most like screenwriting. What you as a writer put on page is a blueprint, at best the Google Maps, to the story. It’s actually on the actors and the editor to produce the “text” the listener will interact with. So you do all the same sorts of things you try to do with a screenplay: write scene descriptions that’ll be helpful for the actors/director, locate them physically and emotionally, write good dialogue, create a structure that makes what happens in a given episode both surprising and inevitable, based on who the characters are and what they’re up against. You know, maddeningly difficult stuff.

4. So what’s it like “behind the curtain”? How much of the process involves producers, directors, actors, etc.? Where does the buck stop? How do you decide where to make cuts, story changes, and all the other elements that come with working with a team? 
It’s a very collaborative process, I find, and a very fluid one. But the buck always stops with our benevolent overlord/showrunner. Gabriel is our head writer, directs, and, though we don’t have a credit for it, does the crucial work of editing everything together. So he has the absolute last word, and even if an episode is credited to another writer, the show is very much entirely his vision. That said, there’s a lot of give and take with the writing process. I was editing scripts long before I started writing them, and some of my favorite lines, beats, and character moments which I contributed are in Gabriel’s eps (or Zach’s, or Emma Sherr-Ziarko’s, our second actor to bravely tackle writing an episode). We tend to float ideas and ‘break’ a series of episodes of the show down together in meetings/online conversations/byzantine google docs – right now we’re finishing up structuring the back half of our third season – and then we divvy up the episodes between us. A single writer will outline an episode, get feedback where needed, and then write out a first draft. From there, Gabriel and I tend to trade draft revisions back and forth until we feel it’s ready to be table-read.
Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

The actors don’t ad-lib a lot – though some great suggestions, especially Zach’s, have made it in – but they do contribute in a huge way through the table-reads/rehearsal process. It’s where we can finally hear our words said aloud by people who do that really well, and that clarifies a lot of the issues a script might have/help us cut things down/realize what we were idiots for missing. Gabriel and I will usually do one or two (or six) more passes of a script after that, before it’s “locked” and becomes a recording script. The actors will perform it, and – barring any last-minute adjustments or cuts by Editor!Gabriel – that’s what becomes the episode. So there’s a structure to the creation of the show and a schedule,  but it’s all a very open process. We’ve had actors give us story ideas or had long, involved conversations about their characters, and that’s been invaluable. Usually story changes will come out of that kind of collaboration. We realize we’re missing something or that an episode as it stands isn’t what it needs to be. Usually one of us is just unsatisfied for reasons we can’t quite articulate, and then in conversation we work out what needs to shift.

5. Podcasting has clearly seen a rapid rise in popularity since shows like NPR’s Serial hit the airwaves. In a time where trans-media content is increasingly becoming the norm, do you see any potential opportunities for podcasts working with or within other mediums to expand further? What are some of the ways it could be utilized along side other forms of content? What ways have you seen this done?
What a fascinating question. There’s a history, even as nascent as the ‘podcast,’ is, for commentaries on other media, for sure. The Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul Insider Podcasts, which editor Kelley Dixon runs, are outstanding. The Lindelof/Cuse Lost and Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica podcasts are both, I think, pretty foundational. The Moth and Comedy Bang! Bang! exist out in the real world, of course.  But you’re beginning to see some real crossover. Lore, which is absolutely phenomenally produced, is moving to TV. You’ve got groups like Nightvale Presents and Audible who want to curate audio content, acting as sort of like an HBO/Netflix for podcasts. Audio dramas are on the rise as well.
There are old (“old”) stalwarts like The Black Tapes, there’s Lauren Shippen’s painfully clever The Bright Sessions, and nothing understands/upends the NPR vibe quite like Limetown. So I think we’re probably going to see podcasts not only acting as companion pieces to other media, but jumping into other media. There again, the conversation about how radio storytelling is different from other kinds of storytelling becomes important. Podcasts have the opportunity not only to be in conversation about other media, but tell kinds of stories and offer windows of insight that visual media/prose may not have the capacity to do. In a media landscape where everybody increasingly has to do ancillary content, actually making it valuable and engaging through podcasting/radio is appealing.
6. If you had to give one piece of advice to new and aspiring writers, what would it be? 
The idea of “Just Do It” was always super overwhelming for me. What if I were to look into the howling white abyss of a blank word document and find that I don’t (yet) have anything to say? What is “it” and how, exactly, do I “do it.” Instructions, plz. Alas, as I found when I went out into the hard, cruel world of creative life, them’s kind of the breaks. If you want to do creative work, you have to just do creative work, in addition to whatever you’re doing to feed/clothe/shelter yourself. And if you don’t (yet) know what the work is or have a story idea of your own, then the best advice I can give is find people who are going to push you to be creative in any capacity. Find friends whose opinions you trust who will offer feedback your shitty, half-baked pitch idea. Find NaNoWriMo buddies. Find counterparts who value your taste and your thoughts enough to send you their first drafts.
Creativity is a muscle as much as it is anything else. So find ways to get in the habit of writing so that you’re accountable, and you learn, and improve. If it’s only to yourself, great. I loathe your willpower. If not, find a way to do work that’s accountable to someone else. You’ll not only start bridging the gap between the writing you see/admire out in the world and what you can do, but start being more comfortable with the “doing.” It’ll put you on the road to whatever the “it” is, for you.
7. What are you working on now?Wolf 359

Season 3.5 of Wolf 359 is most of it, honestly. I occasionally review films for a lovely, silly site called Movieboozer.com, and am working on couple other non-fiction-y projects that should start coming out towards the end of the summer. Also, having a job, paying rent, and learning how to cook things that aren’t curry: those are huge parts of what I’m working on now.

8. Anything else you’d like to add? 

Wolf359.fm. It’s cool. Do it.
Check out Wolf 359 and follow Sarah at @shach_attack!

An Interview with Actor Bianca Jaconetty

An Interview with Actor Bianca Jaconetty

Photo by Abagail Clark abagail-clark.com

Photo by Abigail Clark
abigail-clark.com

We conducted an interview with actor Bianca Jaconetty. Anyone who has worked with her can tell you that not only is she a truly talented, hard-working actor, but she is also an incredibly warm and positive force on set. We love working with Bianca and are proud to call her a colleague, so you can imagine how thrilled we were when she agreed to do this blog post. Enjoy!

1. Please introduce yourself, where you’re from, and what you do currently.
My name is Bianca Jaconetty and I am an actor and writer originally from Chicago, Illinois.
2. How did you end up in New Orleans? 
My plan was never to come straight to New Orleans. After theater school I saved up enough money to move to Los Angeles where most of my peers were migrating. A few months before my move, one of my closest friends who lived here, suggested that I try it out. After moving down for a few months with several call backs, auditions and contacts, I made the decision to stay.
3. How and when did you first start acting? What’s your background (formal or informal)? Who or what were some of your biggest influences? 
I first started acting when I was very young. Luckily, I had parents who were very dedicated to sending me to classes where I could explore the world of performance. At a young age I took classes at a small theater called Childs’s Play in Chicago and was a part of the Chicago Children’s Choir. Growing up I went to Lookingglass summer camps and even took classes in Second City’s young adult acting program. From there I participated in high school plays and went to college for a degree in fine arts at Southern Illinois University. My time at Southern Illinois provided me the chance to delve into the world of theater further and was where I first honed into writing and got my first glance at film. Some of my biggest influences were my professors at Southern whose voices still pop into my head when I need advice. They were the ones who helped me grow into the artist that I am today.
4. So acting is one of those worlds that has a lot of preconceived notions/myths about it. What are some of the surprising/unexpected sides of acting world you’ve seen, if any? What are some of the “stereotypes” you’ve found hold true, if any? 
Bianca 2One really big surprise, which seems silly now because of how large and fast it has grown, is how crucial social media has become to casting in films. I was in L.A. for a film that was accepted into Hollyshorts film festival, and was talking to casting directors in the industry who say that Instagram and Twitter are an easy way for Hollywood to see who is popular. The more followers you have shows casting agents that you like to be seen by audiences, and that could make or break you. One actor could be more talented than the next, but if he’s got the backing on social media, they will choose him. It is a craft in itself to master the art of social media and something that I am still learning.
5. Do you find you have to face particular challenges as a woman, not only in the real of acting, but in film/video production in general? If so, what are some of these challenges? 
A common stereotype for actors around the globe is that it is all in the people that you know. If you have the right connection, then you will get further in your career. This, I have found to hold extremely true. Although New Orleans is a completely different beast than Los Angeles or New York, I know that I would not be where I am today without the people I have met and helped while working on a project or even out for a drink. You never know who is going to lead you to your next step, and it is essential to build these bonds, almost like industry karma.
6. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out here in the film industry, especially if they’re just starting out here in New Orleans, what would be your main piece of advice?
I think that women are faced with struggles in all facets of the film industry. Personally, as an actor, my biggest qualm has come from the characters that I play. Many female characters in film are sexualized and lack depth. This came to me as a surprise in my transition to film because I was taught to study strong intricate characters in theater like Lady MacBeth or Martha from “Who’s Afraid of Viginia Woolf?”. To me it seems backward that these characters were written over 50 years ago and by men, where in 2016 we can’t seem to get it quite right.
I have also found that many of my colleagues who work on the other side of the camera are limited to what kind of positions that they can access in the industry. So few women are allowed the opportunity to explore the technical aspect of film, because those positions are already filled by men. Try as they might, they are rarely given the chance to delve into these jobs no matter how capable they may be. They can move a key light, carry a 30 pound mixing bag, set up an advanced rig or prep a camera better than the next guy, if given the chance. That being said, I do believe that there are people out there that recognize this struggle and are willing to help make a difference. I have many friends who see the issue for what it is and I know that the film industry is changing in this aspect for the better.
Put yourself out there! Go to classes, seek any and every audition and make friends with people who are doing what you want to do. The more you work, the more likely someone is going to recognize not only you, but the talent that you can bring to the table. Also, find a good photographer and constantly get new headshots. Having an up to date shot will keep you prepared for anything.
7. What are you working on now?
I just finished working on a music video called “Where is God?” with Worklight Pictures, and an independent film “Alone” directed and written by Michael Lowendick, where I was the lead. I am also finishing up a short comedy that I wrote and directed called, “Magical Fruit”, that was all thanks to InDepth Media, for letting me use their equipment and location. Rules We Live By, my first feature as a lead role has proudly been submitted to film festivals around the country. I’ve been keeping busy writing and collaborating with friends and hopefully will have some fun pieces to show in the months to come.
8. Anything else you’d like to add? 

Acting is hard. It is more than being a pretty face or reading lines off of a page. You have to consistently educate and dig so deep within yourself to pull out a magic that not everyone is capable of. No matter how prepared you are, how many exercises you practice, or hard you push; you will mess up. I am lucky to have friends that remind me constantly that there will be days of defeat, but you have to forgive yourself and not let it destroy your confidence. I allow myself 15 minutes, a very grueling self-dissection of what I could have done better, and then I take my lesson, I put it away and know that there will be worse days, but that I will exceed as an actor from it.

You can check out Bianca’s reel here and reach her at bianca.jaconetty@gmail.com

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From “Rules We Live By,” produced by Flittermouse Films

An Interview with Film Critic Bill Arceneaux

An Interview with Film Critic Bill Arceneaux

Drawn by Zach McGovern, Picture by Leslie Almeida

Image by Zach McGovern and Leslie Almeida

We conducted an interview with film critic Bill Arceneaux, a writer based here in New Orleans.  Bill has been covering films, the New Orleans film scene, and more with a fun, straightforward writing style. He is incredibly supportive of  the film industry here and was a pleasure to chat with.

1) Please introduce yourself, where you’re from, and what you do currently.

I’m Bill Arceneaux, a Metro NOLA native. I’ve been a film critic – working from amatuer blogger to professional writer – since 2011, and a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (1 of 3 in Louisiana) since 2014. I write movie reviews and articles, conduct interviews and produce podcasts from time to time.

2) So saying you are “fan of film” is a bit of an understatement. Clearly you are passionate about movies – what fostered your passion for it? What were some of the earliest films that resonated with you?

To provide a proper answer, I’m gonna have to time travel back to 7th grade. For an in class assignment, we were all asked to write about our best friends. I was the only student to choose a setting, not a person: the movie theater. I’m sure there was some kind of childhood moment that I strive to connect to everyday that is responsible for my love of cinema – perhaps my first memory of movies, which was watching Rocky IV with family – but I just love the public intimacy of watching a film with others. You may be surrounded by friends, neighbors and strangers, but when the lights flicker and fade, it’s just you and the illusion of movement. It’s the most consistent romantic relationship in my life, you could say.

Movies that I loved growing up:

Top Gun
Searching for Bobby Fischer
UHF
– Superman II
The Original Star Wars Trilogy

3) So you’re from the New Orleans area. Do you find it informs how you do your work? Does it impact you professionally?

Absolutely. First off, I do my best to cover films being locally shown at local theaters. This can be pretty difficult, especially if the only regional outlet you write for is in Baton Rouge. However, I do what I can, either through social media sharing or blog writing. Though, I DID just get rid of my most recent blog… Second, I think the laid back atmosphere of New Orleans trickles its way into how I write reviews. I tend to lean towards being cheeky and funny, with the context being that I’m taking the piss out of something instead of straight up negativity. Usually, there’s at least one thing to enjoy in a film. I don’t let the humidity and mugginess of poor craft seep into my attitude.

New Orleans has movie fans and all, but isn’t treated well as a moviegoing (or even movie making) town. We have great theaters, sure, but the culture could stand to be improved upon. If you’re a critic in this area and you’re independent and/or freelance (like me), you write because you love to, not because it pays the bills.

4) You’ve written on several platforms and experimented with various ways of funding your writing, such as Patreon. Monetization is always a challenge for anything writing-based. What have you found to be effective? Where have some of the challenges been with regards to monetizing your work?

Patreon is a wonderful tool if people know who you are and follow you. Or if you’re in a medium that they care about. So far, my campaign has been limited to a network of immediate friends and colleagues. Honestly, finding outlets willing to pay has kept me afloat. This can be a daunting and even depressing scavenger hunt, but I find having an editor to work under only improves my work, with constructive criticism and idea exchanges. I often wonder if potential readers and supporters look at my work and scoff or worse, close the browser tab without finishing. What am I doing wrong or not enough of? How can I better myself? These are always on my mind.

5) What are some of the key elements you look for when critiquing a movie? Are there certain criteria and metrics you use? What are some of the biggest turns-offs for you in a movie? What tends to draw you in and win your approval? 
Only five years into my pro career, I’m uncertain as to the “appropriate” or “scientific” formula for film criticism. I used to treat reviews as autobiography capsules, telling stories about myself that would tie into the movie being written about. I’ve since abandoned that for discussing more of the specific atmospherics of the film than anything. How did it make me feel? What was it trying to make me feel? Was it trying at all?

Brevity and technical cleverness always win out. It’s hard for me to stick with a film when it drags its story on and on, or when there is no flair or mastery of craft (subtle or not) at work. Maximum effort!

6) If you had to give one piece of advice to someone who wanted to write/critique films, what would be your main piece of advice?

Keep an open mind and KEEP WRITING. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t get discouraged. I could’ve started earlier had I really listened to certain people.

7) What are you working on now? 

I’ve begun writing for Occupy.com, doing reviews and columns. It’s gonna be a challenge, getting into political and societal territory. Though, movies ARE a reflection of us, so it’s only natural. I’m also working on a new article series for Movieboozer and a podcast for the local cinephile group SwampFlix.com – stay tuned!

7) Anything else you’d like to add? 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice might be some kind of reverse or misunderstood masterpiece. Consider and reconsider that.

Follow Bill on twitter (@BillReviews), facebook (facebook.com/reelbillreviews), and support him on Patreon (patreon.com/billreviews).

An Interview with Director Ben Zschunke

An Interview with Director Ben Zschunke

Ben Zschunke

We conducted an interview with Ben Zschunke, a talented director/cinematographer based here in New Orleans. We have worked with Ben for a few years now and have been fortunate to not only employ him for our work, but also participate in his projects. Ben brings out the creativity in everyone around him and pushes us all to hold higher standards for ourselves and our work. 

1. Please introduce yourself, where you’re from, and what you do currently.

My name is Ben Zschunke, I am a filmmaker native to Minnesota. I attended UNC School of the Arts and earned my BFA in filmmaking in 2011 with a concentration in screenwriting and cinematography. Afterwards, I moved to New Orleans to find my place in their growing film industry. Today I’m a freelance director, cinematographer, and editor who has worked on videos for GQ, Vice, A$AP Ferg, Ceelo Green, and others.

2. Over the years you’ve experienced film sets across the country. What are some of the practices and outlooks you’ve seen no matter the place? What are some of the key differences?

  • Story is king. If your story stinks, your film will stink. Even B-movies have something compelling about them.
  • Respect your crew. Feed them, pay them, make sure they’re getting rest, shake their hand at the end of the day. I’ve worked for a 1st AD in NC who barked orders all day and it didn’t make me work any faster than when I worked for a 1st AD from New Orleans, the key difference is I enjoyed working for the New Orleans 1st AD more. This goes along with just being a kind person in general.
  • Blocking is more important than you think. Communicate the scene to your keys. If they don’t know what’s happening in the scene, no one does.
  • Treat indie productions like a Hollywood production. If you can be as professional as a seasoned LA filmmaker on an indie flick, you’re just as good plus you proved you can work on a small budget. Once you get the big money, you still do the same thing, just on a bigger scale.
  • Ask questions. Filmmakers love talking about their craft and you can learn a lot by asking them questions over a pint.
  • As much as you love making film, it’s still a business. My producing professor told this to me once and stuck with me since.

3. There is a lot of ongoing debate about film school vs on-set experience. As a graduate of UNC School of the Arts, what were some the pros and cons of that experience? What would you recommend to people who are starting to consider getting involved in video/film production?

I remember having this debate with my roommate in college my freshman year — we could stay in school and spend a bunch of money or drop out to start working on film sets. I’d say it was smart that we stayed in film school, specifically with the opportunities that we were offered at UNC School of the Arts. We had great facilities and equipment, really this was the only reason I chose UNCSA over Columbia in Chicago. Both are great schools but we were shooting on Arri SR2, SR3, Arri Alexa, RED Epic, with Cooke prime lenses, full grip and electric packages, studio space, while under the supervision of ASC and SOC members. We learned about a standard of filmmaking that I strive to reproduce on my sets. Not to mention, now I’m part of a network of alumni. Employers in the industry generally know UNCSA grads are good workers.

Now I’m not saying that it’s the only route. I’ve seen plenty of filmmakers come from non-filmmaking backgrounds or without any higher education altogether and do great work. I’ve even learned quite a bit after college, probably more at this point.

But what people really want to know is it worth the time and money? And I always answer, yes. Not only did I learn a vast amount technical skill but it gave me a giant leap up when applying for jobs or being useful on set. I could’ve been a grip or camera assistant for years before I got to be a director/dp at this current time.

4. What’s your favorite thing to do on set? Whether an individual position, a fun practice or tradition you have, whatever. The one thing you always look forward to no matter the production.

Besides having champagne at roll 100 or doing $5 Fridays, I always enjoy watching the monitor and realizing when something is gold. My whole demeanor changes and I get excited. I think I got it from my professor John LeBlanc while watching the monitor with him.

Not only that but seeing people react to films I’ve done is always exciting too. Blood, sweat, and tears on the screen and we all finally get to enjoy it. It’s really want filmmaking is all about and it’s easy to forget.

5. What brought you to New Orleans? What is one of your favorite video production experiences here in New Orleans? Any good lessons you learned here?

I came to New Orleans on the recommendation of my college roommate and other alums. They introduced me to some who got me a couple jobs. I remember asking myself why should I stay here though, and it was because I didn’t want to live in LA or NY or Atlanta. I wanted to start a career in a city where competition was lower and help raising the bar in terms of video production. It kind of goes hand-in-hand with how people felt about rebuilding this city after Katrina. A lot of the buildings and land was still untouched when I moved here and now I’ve grown with it. I feel like a part of the city.

My favorite experience in New Orleans was probably shooting A$AP Ferg’s video. It was during Mardi Gras and I got a last minute call to meet him out at the tour bus. We went to Hollygrove and shot him in front of a house still untouched since Katrina and then the whole neighborhood came out and got in the video. Then we met Manny Fresh in Gentilly and he was in the video. It was nuts! By the time we were done shooting it was 4am but it was worth it.

6. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out here in the film industry, especially if they’re just starting out here in New Orleans, what would be your main piece of advice?

Send out inquiries. I’ve met so many people that just sent out emails to people who had similar positions on FilmNewOrleans.org and got great advice or started working right away.

Check out Ben’s reel and make sure to follow/support The Polar Bear Club!

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